14 October, 2013 – North Island, New Zealand

I Spent the day on a one way Great Sights bus tour to Rotorua, with stops at the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves, Agrodome, and te Puia.  I think there were about ten fellow Canadians on this trip!  None of them were part of any larger, organized tour, we just all happened to be singles/couples/small groups who happened to be on the tour at the same time.  We took up about half of the bus!  It was just kind of neat. :)

Geothermal ValleyThe commentary provided by the driver throughout the trip quite interesting. He was pleasant and answered questions freely.  We were served a breakfast snack of fresh fruit at the start of the tour to eat on the bus which was yummy and much appreciated as I didn’t take the time to track down breakfast beforehand.  I believe that was included in the regular cost of the tour.

Our first stop was the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves.  Unfortunately, I have only postcards of that.  We were not allowed to take photos inside the cave.  The surroundings are beautiful and the cave formations themselves wonderful. And then there are the glow worms! The boat ride on the cave river was an interesting experience, and the finale – the glow worms – did not disappoint. The little guys were scattered across the roof of the cave like a thousand bright stars on a clear night.  I also enjoyed finding out more about the history of the caves and Maori people in the region.

I paid extra for lunch to be supplied on the tour and received that upon arriving back at the coach after the cave. It was delicious! I highly recommend paying for this add on as there is not really a lot of time at this location after the cave tour. It is probably possible to grab something from the on-site cafeteria, but one might have issues on a busy day, or prefer to take in the wonderful surroundings instead.

I continued on to do the Agrodome and te Puia tours.

At the Agrodome, we watched a sheep shearing demonstration, had a little tour around the farm, and finished it up with a talk on wool spinning. It was interesting hear about the history of one of New Zealand’s most important industries and who doesn’t enjoy playing with farm animals? It was definitely enjoyable to watch the children on the tour interacting with the animals.  I really have no complaints about the Agrodome per se, but given the choice, I would have preferred to skip it to allow more time at our next stop.

Maori Meeting House
Maori Meeting House

That next and last stop was te Puia – my favourite stop of the day. With a little something for everyone, I feel that this is a must do for anyone visiting the region. There was the environmental component – with the beautiful surrounds, geothermal areas and geysers. I would have loved to be able to spend more time exploring the trails around this area. We were treated to a Maori cultural performance that included just the right amount of audience participation.

Carving School
Carving School

Te Puia houses schools of traditional Maori carving and weaving which we were free to look around and ask questions about. Our guide gave us great insights into the region’s history, culture, and customs.

The Haka
The Haka

In this photo, the warrior from the home tribe is greeting the warrior from our tribe (a man selected from the group). Previously, the host warrior offered a palm leaf, which our warrior accepted.  As we went into the meeting house (where our warrior still had a few things to do), our warrior, with his family behind him (the woman and girl also in the photo) followed the host warrior with the rest of the tribe (us) following a few yards behind.

And then, of course, there was the kiwi enclosure!! Kiwis are actually nocturnal so are quite hard to get a glimpse at.  The enclosure at te Puia (as with others, I would assume) was in a small, round hut. the viewing area is completely dark, with just a faint moon-like light inside to (hopefully) give you a glimpse of the cute little birds.  I saw two!

A yummy afternoon snack was provided after the tours. We were dropped off at our hotels around supper time.  After I checked into the hotel, I went into town for supper.  There were so many choices!  I settled on Lewisham’s Pub, which I’ve heard has since closed. Of the three I was most interested to try, this was the only one with WiFi.  It was very European, which I wasn’t really expecting (I thought it would be Irish or something) and I had a yummy Hungarian hotpot soup, beer and tiramisu. Two days into the tour and I already started telling myself to slow down! lol Food’s expensive when you have to eat in restaurants for three weeks.  I was rarely in one spot long enough to purchase food from a grocery store.

Wrap-Up

Impressions: My one complaint about the day would be the Agrodome. While there was nothing really wrong with it, I didn’t feel I got anything out of it. While it was fun, it felt like wasted time. I would have rather used that extra time at te Puia to have more time to explore the Maori village or trails around the Thermal area.

Daily Casualties: None! :)

Walked: Not very far

The Rest of the story:

Aurora Announces her trip!
Aurora’s Australian Pre-planning
Working with a Travel Agent
My Trip Down Under:
– Day 123 – The Journey
– Day 4 – Auckland
– Day 5 – North Island Culture
– Day 6 – Rotorua
– Day 7 – Wellington
– Day 8 – Wellington
– Day 9 & 10 – South Island Scenery
Day 11 – Queenstown
Day 12 – Middle Earth
Day 13 – The Last Day
Day 14 – Great Barrier Reef
Day 15 – Alice Springs
Day 16, 17 & 18 – The Outback
Day 19, 20 and 21 – Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road
Days 22 to 25 – Sydney and the End
Down Under Assignments

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