We only stayed the night in the capital before heading back back out on the road in the Kiwi bus, this time our driver was a great guy called Bods who said ‘sweet as!’ a lot. Unlike our bus to and from the Bay of Islands, this bus was completely full and we were lucky to get seats near the front (Yeah, we did a LOT of bus travel on this trip despite me not being great with coaches). We set off on our journey through the flattest part of New Zealand to a place called Hot Water Beach, with a couple of comfort and supermarket stops along the way. Bods had told us that there was an oven in our accommodation so we got excited and bought some Linda McCartney sausages and veg to roast with microwave rice for dinner. Side note: having an oven may not sound that exciting but practically every hostel only has hobs and a microwave, limiting what you can have for dinner every night. Anyway, you might be wondering why the place was called Hot Water Beach… well it’s exactly that as the water underneath the beach is geothermally heated so when the tide is out you can dig your own hot tub.
We checked into the holiday park we were staying in before changing into our swimmers and walking down to the beach as the tide was already out. There were lots of pools there already so we didn’t actually have to dig a hot tub ourselves, but I was surprised just how hot the water was – there were even warning signs up in some places so you didn’t burn yourself. We stayed for a while and relaxed in the pools with some other people from the bus, before drying off and heading back up to the campsite; Bods had promised to take anyone interested on a walk down to a pretty spot called Cathedral Cove:
As we didn’t have much time at the beach, we debated whether to go back down to the beach at the next high tide, which was between 1-3am (no ta!) I was determined that sleep was more important so was content with having our yummy oven-cooked dinner, playing cards with Demi, Beth, Jade and James and finishing off a internship application before hitting the hay. Katie and Rhianna however, had sweepingly promised to go in the middle of the night with another girl from the bus, but as the evening went on were less and less sure. In the end they went down to the beach around 11pm, but didn’t get far as they met some people on the way coming back from the shore saying don’t bother as the tide was too far in. So they came back after all, getting less sleep than I did. No regrets.
We were only here for one night, so the next morning we checked out of the holiday park and clambered back on the bus after a quick round of toast for breakfast. After an hour or so in the bus we stopped off for a walk, guided by Bods. We even went through some glowworm caves in some old mining tunnels where we had to hold onto the shoulder of the person in front to guide us through as it was so dark – an incredible experience! Walking through the forest, Bods told us lots of cool facts about the landscape and woodland which was awesome to have a tour guide and bus driver all in one.
After a refreshing walk, we got back on the bus with our muddy boots to continue our journey to Waitomo, our next destination.
We signed up for Black Water Rafting on the bus for that afternoon, which turned out to be an amazing experience! We were staying in another lodge which was lush because there were no bunk beds and rooms of four – dreamy. The three of us shared with Emily who we’d met on our first day on the bus up to Piahia. We had time to chill out for a couple of hours before it was time for us to head down to the caves – our group was the last of the day. We got picked up in a minibus and taken to the centre where we got given a long wetsuit, thermal fleece, wetsuit jacket, wetsuit socks, white boots and a helmet with a light to change into – the main wetsuit was the hardest to get on because it was cold and wet! We also got given a rubber ring before we were back in the minibus to the cave entrance. We had two guides to lead us as we waded down into the cave.
We clambered through the caves, taking care of footing due to the running stream of water on the cave floor. At points there was so much water we even jumped backwards off two waterfalls – except I didn’t have proper grip on my rubber ring the second time before the guide pushed me so I just fell straight into the water – luckily I was unscathed! The best part was when turned off our head torches and all linked up together by holding onto the person behind’s feet; we floated down the river in the cave just looking at all the glowworms. There were so many of them they looked like constellations of stars. To say it was magical is an understatement.
When we got to the end of the cave tour we were taken back to the centre for a quick shower to warm up, with hot tomato soup and bagels as we were freezing by the end of the tour. We got dropped back at the hostel where we got changed and made dinner in the kitchen – unfortunately we’d picked that evening to have soup and crusty bread for dinner so we were full up on soup!
Our only option for entertainment that evening was to head down to the bar so after dinner we met a group of people from the bus there. We got there just in time for the end of happy hour and managed to draw some tables together and sit by our new mates Jade, James, Beth and Demi which was great fun. However, when it was time to walk back up to the lodge, the heavens had opened. We stayed longer in the bar to see if it eased up but it was still raining so hard that we just had to get utterly soaked. Thankfully the room was warm enough, with a radiator to dry our wet clothes.
We only stayed in Waitomo for one night, preparing to head on to Rotorua for a couple of nights early the next morning – this moving on everyday thing is tiring!