Undaunted by our last failed attempt to visit Waitomo Caves, we braved the long trip again, this time with reservations. Though we were not allowed to take pictures, I am allowed to tell you that the caves were very cool. The worms made the cave ceiling look almost like the starry night sky. Our first boat trip through the caves was interrupted by a very upset baby, so the tour guide let us go through again. Bonus! Here are a couple generic pictures of the caves in case my description was not poetic enough.
There are a few places and things that seem to be iconic to New Zealand. Waitomo Caves is one, but perhaps something that more people might think of is the Lord of the Rings. Since we would probably get reprimanded for not seeing at least one of the locations that was used for the movies, we visited Hobbiton. As expected, it was very touristy, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a magical place. It was incredible to listen to the tour guide tell us how much attention to detail went into building Hobbiton. For instance, the leaves on a fake tree were slightly the wrong color, so each leaf on the huge tree had to be individually painted. That is just insane. At the end of the tour we had drinks in the Green Dragon, which felt very authentic.
In order to make it to these two places, we had had to back track a bit, so we were late getting into New Plymouth. As a result, we didn’t spend much time there, instead heading off the next day for Wellington.
Among other reasons, traveling without being with a tour group was a great idea because if we were to, say, see a random lighthouse on our way, we could just go there. And that we did! It turns out that it wasn’t a functioning lighthouse, but that didn’t diminish it’s worth to me. It was manned by a couple of old men who were very kind and took us on a personal tour of the non-lighthouse lighthouse. For more details, ask my mother because it seems that my attention span is quite short.
Another random side trip of the day occurred when we found a nice walking beach and decided to take a break from driving to enjoy the ocean. Understand that this trip involved A LOT of driving. I couldn’t even tell you how much, because we were dealing in kilometers, and I still don’t have a good grasp of the conversion, but just know that it was an extensive amount.