With an early woke up call, I gathered my stuff and scurried to the pick-up point. On the bus, I started chatting to those around me to speed up the journey through Hamilton, all the way to Raglan. We stopped off along the way for a break and to take some group pictures of the views.Then we took a short drive to our accommodation in a pretty, unique lodge. Here, we checked in, dumped our bags and just chilled before heading out again. We got dropped off high on the cliffs, where we walked down a sloppy path through woodland area to the beach. The view was picturesque with hills, sea and black sand.
While being wind swept, we dipped our feet in the freezing cold sea and strolled along the grey sandy beach with the sand swishing around my flip flops. We climbed back up the hill to the bus which took us back to our hotel.
We chilled for a bit, catching a bit of wifi before the driver headed back down to town to collect our dinner.
A few girls left earlier to do Yoga up on inspirational point before we joined them. On the way to the hill, we got slightly lost walking way further than we needed to then we turned back. Eventually we found the place, where we had originally missed the turning. Luckily, the food hadn’t got there yet. On the hill, we sat in a circle with our delicious fish and chips, and corn fritters in the middle, where we tucked in together, admiring the view of Raglan and the ocean. It was just so peaceful and a time to get to know each other, knowing we would probably be together for a while adventuring the North Island.
Once we were satisfied, we wandered back to the hostel to gain some warmth, sitting, lounging and playing pool. As I was hanging outside, I suddenly felt faint with a blurry vision in front of me and unable to balance. I sat down and for about five minutes I had my head between my legs, trying to feel normal again and less dizzy, whilst the driver talked at me to make sure I was okay. It was a weird sensation and something like this hadn’t happened for years. There was no reason for it. I was fine after a while but still feeling spaced out.
I went back inside and lounged by the television before heading to bed to get some kip.
In the morning, we woke up quite early to get some breakfast and shower just before jumping back on the bus to go to Waitomo. Driving through the majestic scenery along windy roads, we arrived at the caves. I was so excited about the day.
We signed our lives away and then hopped on the shuttle bus which took us to the equipment centre. We had two male tour guides who would take us around to explore in the cave. We geared up, stripping to our swim wear and putting on our wetsuits, wellies, jacket, helmet and head torches. We were ready to go.
The guys explained our route that we would be taking in the underworld. After a short walk over the hills, we reached the tube where we entered the cave one-by-one.
Inside, we waited until all 12 of us were down before we started caving. With our headlamps on we trekked through the cave, over rocks and through tight holes. It had a distinctive smell where my nose soon quickly adapted. Our first stop in the caves was Glow Worm tunnel, where we turned off our lights and stood mesmerised by thousands of little glow dots surrounding the arch. We were given information about the life cycle of the Glow worm, which was fascinating.
We carried on walking over spikey rocks with stalactites and stalagmites hang around our heads. I was so glad I had a helmet on as I was constantly bashing my head on the walls around me. Then we had the tubing area. I grabbed a rubber ring, stood high on the ledge with my back to the water and my bottom wedged in the tube, and flung myself into the water. One-by-one, we linked our feet and arms with each other so that we could get pulled through the water in an enclosed tunnel. I can’t remember what this tunnel was called but apparently because of the echo and vibrations your singing voice is on point. Naturally, we all decided to blare some old cheesy classics out.
After floating through the water, we ambled on, crawling through different holes. Then, braving the cold, we swam, well more like floated on the water, shivering. Luckily, it wasn’t too long. We stopped in the ‘Hard rock café’, where we were provided some hot orange squash and a chocolate bar to warm us up and give us some energy. From here, we staggered to where we picked up some more tubes. This time on our bellies in the pitch black, we pulled ourselves along with a rope, trying not to hit our heads on the ceiling. The guide decided to take my tube away from me at the end, where I was spun under the water, feeling a rush of coldness. The rest of our trek was more hiking over different, odd shaped rocks and taking in the atmosphere of the cave. At the end, light floated my eyes, making it hard to focus, before headed back to the changing area to warm ourselves up with a hot, powerful shower and get dry. It was so much fun in the cave and definitely an experience not to be missed.
We took the shuttle back to the reception area, where we chilled for a bit before the stray bus picked us up. We drove through the countryside to Mourea to start our cultural experience night.
We were welcomed by a Maori lady saying ‘Kai ora’ (meaning welcome), who spoke to us for a while at the entrance of the complex. Inside the huge hall like area, covered in maori paintings and architecture, the females had to walk in first but sit at the back, whereas the males did vice versa. The chief blessed us with Maori words, spinning his weapon for concentration. Then we were told maintenance rules and regulations. Once we had taken our bags off the bus, we relaxed in the kitchen area eating tea and biscuits.
Not long after, we were served a home-cooked meal, which was incredible. It was like a roast dinner with potatoes, peas, carrots, sweetcorn, pumpkin, sweet potato, fish and thick gravy. I was in heaven. I was totally satisfied. After having fruit and chocolate for dessert, we went back in the main room to watch a show. Six maoris sung and danced, showing us the haka and poi (turning balls and hitting them against their arms). Together they taught us Maori words for different body part, we did a version of the hoki koki. We split up into males and females, where we were taught the poi and the guys were taught the haka. We practiced a couple of time, whilst laughing constantly, before performing to the others. Spinning the ball was a lot harder than you think, especially trying to sync with each other to a beat. It was a lot of laughs and giggles.
We got mattresses out to lay on the floor of the huge room to sleep on along with sleeping bags, pillows and sheets, All twenty of us were sleeping in one room tonight but at least we had started to get to know each other. I was mainly hanging out with an older English girl (who has been living in Kenya), two other English girls, an Irish girl and a Dutch guy. It weird to think I have known them only a couple of days but feel like we have been good friends forever.
Once we were all set up and ready for bed, We had story time, where the Maori lady told us about one of the carvings on the wall and her ancestors. It was interesting to find out about a different culture especially because I had no idea about the Maori life or people. New Zealand has two official languages with a lot of Maoris still following traditional ethics and traditions. Majority of them have different tattoos on their arm symbolising their life and connection with their family. They are very much family orientated with large families within different tribes, always supporting and taking care of each other.
After story time, I just curled up in my bed, reading before falling asleep.