I recently made a trip to New Zealand with Pure New Zealand #therealmiddleearth which is definitely the highlight of my year 2017 so far. Blessed with a landscape that does not even begin to be described by the grossly inadequate word ‘beautiful’, New Zealand is possibly the most fascinating country I’ve traveled to. I’ve often said that my heart is in the mountains and on the trail and New Zealand has plenty of those places where I’ve left little pieces of my heart. Traversing the length of the country from the North Island to the South Island I got to experience everything that makes for an unforgettable trip with a never ending treasure of natural wonders unlike anywhere else.
I flew from New Delhi with Air New Zealand and landed in Auckland, first stop of my crazy solo adventure which had just begun. The city has so much to offer that one day is not enough, the beautiful beaches, harbours and the markets they all are worth exploring. On the very first day I was upto myself, exploring the city on foot, I went to the Viaduct Harbour which is the city’s major harbour and has some of the best restaurants lined up. I had one of the best burgers of my life, super juicy and tender at Big Boy Burgers. Next I headed for some adventure, If you go to Auckland you got to do one thing for sure, that is Sky Walking at the Sky Tower. No matter where you are in Auckland you can always see this iconic city tower and as you get closer you can watch people sky walking and doing bungee jumping from the top. That view itself will drive you insane and want you to go and experience that adrenaline rush, just like it provoked me. After the thrilling experience I had a nice walk at one of my favourite markets in the city, Queen’s Street This street reminds of Union Street in San Francisco, the fast city vibe and a beautiful blend of old and modern architecture.
Next day on my itinerary I headed for a scenic drive to the famous caves in Waitomo. These world famous caves go down in the history of New Zealand and is a major tourist attraction. The first cave to explore was Ruakari, Maori legend has it that the cave was originally discovered about 400-500 years ago by a Maori hunter who was attacked by a pack of wild dogs at the entrance of the cave. Hence the name ‘Ruakuri’, from the Maori ‘rua’ for den and ‘kuri’ for dog. Talking about the geological processes that had been at work, ny guide Steve led us deeper into the cave, through winding passageways flanked by limestone formations, stalagmites and columns that formed over 30 million years. Ruakuri Cave is New Zealand’s longest guided underground walking tour it totally left me awe-struck and humbled by the sheer majesty of nature.
Next it was time to experience the Glow Worm Caves, I was literally very excited to visit this one. Over the past year I had seen countless images of the Waitomo Glowworm Caves with their illuminated ceilings, right out of a fairytale.Led by our local Maori guide, in a group of 8 we slowly trickled into the upper level entrance of the cave. To make our way into the Glowworm Grotto, undeniably the most awaited part of the tour, our guide asked us to step onto a wooden boat and maintain silence so as not to disturb the natural ecosystem of the glowworms. As our boat slowly glided along, my eyes adjusted to the darkness. I looked up to the ceiling and gasped. Not even the glowworm colonies in Ruakuri Cave had prepared me for what came next. I was looking at millions of luminescent glowworms hanging by fine threads, their glittering formations looked like faces, maps and fantastical shapes against the dark roof of the cave. I was like a lit galaxy inside a cave. The intensity of their luminosity varied and flickered and the entire roof seemed alive and breathing. With nothing but pitch darkness all around, so much that we couldn’t even see each other, there was nothing else but the brilliantly lit roof of the cave to gaze at.
I left the Waitomo Caves that day, almost in a daze, feeling blown away by the surreal celestial experience. The pictures had led me there but none of them came close to the real thing that I had been fortunate enough to experience. There are few places in the world that can evoke such a childlike sense of wonder and appreciation for the creative genius of nature and Waitomo is undoubtedly one of them.
Cc Shivi :*