Waitomo is famous for its caves and glowworms, so we had to check it out!
We again seemed to be driving for longer than our GPS initially told us, so I found the number for Glowing Adventures and gave them a call to let them know we might be late for our caving tour.
“No worries, ma’am. The three of you are the only ones booked on the tour so we won’t leave without you.”
“Oh! OK…” I hung up the phone and told the girls who looked at me wondering what kind of tour company we had signed up with if we were the only people on their tour.
We pulled into the drive of a small home and two women sitting on the porch drinking tea. I had no idea what to expect, but I chuckled inside knowing this was already turning into an adventure. We went inside and they had us change into a new pair of clothes so we wouldn’t ruin ours. My outfit was striped pajama leggings with shorts and a long-sleeved fleece top! Added some rubber boots and a hard hat, and I was rockin’.
As it turns out, Glowing Adventures is a family-owned company with tours on their acres of land that have been passed down for years. This is a neat clip of history from their website:
“In 1910 Henry (Harry) Boddie was among the first hardy pioneers to move with his family to Pākeho, which was then a long ride from the nearest town of Te Kuiti. Harry, then his eldest son Gordon, then later Gordon’s two sons, farmed the land in Pākeho for over 100 years. The land has now been passed to a fourth generation, and we’ve decided to share our little piece of paradise with you. The cliffs, gorge, forest and caves at Pākeho are untouched — there are no concrete paths or electric lights! — so we invite you to come and enjoy them, just as we did growing up in this amazing piece of New Zealand.” (https://www.glowing.co.nz/about-us/)
Soon, all of us were dressed and we headed out with our tour guide, who was an intern for the summer. I felt like a kid again. as the description says, there is nothing commercial about the tour… we traipsed through the fields and down steep muddy paths (they did have ropes to hold onto) into a breathtaking, luscious green gorge. It was a beautiful sunny day, and we explored the gorge before going into the cave.
We entered into a massive dark cavern and our adventure began as we climbed over rocks and through passages to more spectacular caverns. Our guide told us all about the caves and stories of the kids in the family who caved in them all the time growing up. One of the boys and his friends used to go in with two matches each. They would explore as far as the could before using up their matches… I MIGHT try this if I went a few more times with my handy flashlight…
At one point, we turned off our lights and the cave ceiling lit up with thousands of tiny “stars”. The glowworms. These fascinating little creatures have glowing heinies to attract bugs from the river that runs through the cave. The bugs fly towards the light and become dinner for the worms.
I’d never been caving before and now I don’t know why. It was so.much.fun.
After a couple hours, our eyes adjusted back to the sunlight as we hiked back to the house. Inside, we changed and sat around drinking tea, eating cookies and listening to their stories about all the interesting people they’d met since opening. There was a map on the wall on which all their visitors had marked their hometowns. There were markers all over the world – what an awesome way to meet people of so many diverse backgrounds.
It was later in the afternoon at this point, so we looked for the nearest town to find some food. Have I mentioned that restaurants are open whenever they want to be? We finally found The Thirsty Weta – an adorable town bar with amazing burgers. The people were incredibly friendly and told us all about the smell in Rotorua… our next destination.
– Glowing Adventures: I can’t say enough good things about this tour. There are plenty of other big tour companies you can book to see the caves and glowworms, but I can’t imagine any of them beating the intimate experience that Glowing Adventures provides. I was a little nervous about being claustrophobic, but the guide made me feel completely at ease and I didn’t have any issues. That said, one of the girls struggled feeling this way with some of the climbs, but once we were through she was fine and I think she’d do it again! (https://www.glowing.co.nz/)
– The Thirsty Weta: stop here! Great food and friendly service… AND they’re actually open in the afternoon. (http://www.theweta.co.nz/, 57 Maniapoto St, Otorohanga 3900, New Zealand)