Long drive to Waitomo Caves, but what an experience when we get there! Down long staircases into the vault-like caves, then a boat through a pitch black chamber (steered by the guide standing and gently moving hand by hand along cables, to remove the need for light and to ensure silent movement) into a cathedral-high space whose roof is illuminated by millions of glowworms. We’d been told not to talk, as sound disturbs them, but I honestly believe everyone was speechless with the other-worldly beauty of the sight.
Our hosts had arranged lunch at Tongarira chateau under the peak of the Tongarira volcano, but it was so wet and cloudy we couldn’t see the end of the chateau grounds, let alone the volcano. Nice food, though.
It took most of the rest of the day to drive back to Wellington. So many of the small towns looked like Wild West townships – single-storey wooden houses and shops, on short stilts with hand-painted signs. One town had ‘Sieg Heil’ graffiti’ed on the first building we saw as we entered.
I kept thinking I recognised landscapes from Lord of the Rings but on looking later at a book about the filming I don’t think we were actually in the same places.
Billboard by the side of the road – a smiling cow with the legend ‘Peach teats – calves love’em’. I googled it when writing this, and, sure enough, there’s a website, peachteatnipple.com.