After a brilliant visit to Hobbiton, we started to make our way up to Auckland, where we’d be leaving New Zealand behind. Our first stop was Raglan, followed by the Waitomo Caves.
Raglan was something of an impulse overnight stop, but I’m so glad we did. The artsy, vibrant vibe was not dissimilar to Byron Bay and – like Byron Bay – Raglan is most famous for its surfing but also has a rugged but pleasant seafront.
Just outside Raglan (10km to be precise) is Bridal Veil Falls – a stunning waterfall well worth a stop and a hike down the 290-odd steps to the bottom.
A fun game to play before setting off is “let’s not fill up the petrol tank before hand” – a 24 km detour in an incredibly inefficient camper van sans fuel is an activity guaranteed to get the blood pumping. Pouring with sweat, we drifted into Raglan with less than five litres of fuel in the tank.
Raglan’ main street is filled with lots of interesting little side streets with coffee shops, nooks of cool boutiques and tasty bakeries. We went for an interesting couple of strolls, one of which took us to the pier – a 20 minor or so amble away from town. There we found a little fish and chip shop doing some of the freshest fish I’ve had in a long time. Even Craig, a Hull native who knows a thing about fish, was impressed. Especially since two portions was $12.
The next day we reached Waitomo – famous for its glow worm caves. Craig had found us a bargain through (last time for this – promise) BookMe and got us about 40% off a tour.
We donned our very, very thick wetsuits and descended into the dark caves, following the little glow from our head torches and trying not to look at the piles of bones inexplicably sitting at the side of the path.
Sinking into the cold water and perching precariously on a black rubber ring, we turned our headlamps off. Gradually, as if turned up by dimmer switch, a starlit canopy of glow worms appeared across the roof and down the walls.
We inched our way through the freezing black water for about half an hour, gasping every time it found a new crevice to fill in our wetsuits and marveling at the show above us. It was like drifting through space. Highly recommended!
And that, I’m sad to report, brings our time in New Zealand to a close! Next stop… Fiji!
If you want to visit the glow worms…
We went with Cave World via BookMe. We paid around £35pp, a hefty discount from the usual rate of £70. We found BookMe often had availability for caving, but as with anything on that site it’s worth looking and booking ahead, especially if there is a group of you.
You don’t need to be a strong swimmer (in theory at least, you sit in the tubes the whole time) but it is dark and cold, so not great for people who are claustrophobic or very scared of the dark.