As we hadn’t had time to visit Waitomo whilst we were on our travels around the North Island, we decided to make the two and a half hour trip from Auckland to this subterranean world of glow-worm caves, blackwater rafting and abseiling. We really had no idea what to expect, but knew that this was one of the favourite destinations on all the tours of the Island.
On arrival, we were disappointed by the apparent amateurism of the set up, allegedly caused by a fire four years ago which damaged some of the buildings associated with the commercialism of the site. Considering that half a million people visit the caves each year and the astronomical charges involved, it’s surprising that things are not back up to speed by now. To say we were astounded by the level of admission costs was an understatement. All the caves have been separated into their own activities (and charges) and for a couple to see the three main caves would cost well over one hundred pounds (quite apart from all the adventure activities available). We opted to see just the glow-worm cave, which consisted of a walk through the underground cave viewing stalactites etc, and the Cathedral cavern before being led by our guide on a silent boat ride through the unlit, but spectacular Glowworm Grotto, where we could see thousands of tiny lights produced by the glow-worms on the ceiling of the cave. We were not permitted to take photographs inside the caves, as of course, commercially produced photographs were available to be purchased in the temporary gift shop, at ridiculous prices. Despite what I have said, we did enjoy seeing the glow-worms, but left feeling that we had been taken advantage of, which sort of spoiled it, considering we had travelled almost 200kms to get there.
It was then back to the house to play ball with the dogs for a while before making our way into Auckland city centre to enjoy the New Year firework display from the top of the Sky Tower. We were stood less than 100 metres from the tower, with full unrestricted views…so effectively we were underneath it when the fireworks erupted! The display lasted about five minutes and the streets were packed with friendly revellers for hundreds of metres around the tower. As you can imagine, hot smoking residue from the fireworks was littering the surrounding streets as the crowds dispersed. No one seemed to mind, and there were no apparent injuries! Auckland is the first major city in the world to bring in the New Year, each year, and it took us quite a while to make the journey home through the traffic jams. We arrived home just in time for a celebratory drink and to watch the Sydney firework display at 2am our time! Happy New Year everyone!