Monday, June 06, 2011

Day 6 (Tuesday 7th May 2009) – Last Leg

We didn’t loose any legs. It was our last day of our road trip. The day began early. We cook prepared food for breakfast, and packed some for the road. After successfully stuff all our things into the small car, we checked out of the motel. We had one more destination on the list.

First on the wheel was Ma Hen. After two hours drive, a couple of stops at the scenic look-out along the highway and snacking at the stops, we finally reached our destination: Waitomo or more specifically, Waitomo Cave.

We registered ourselves at the entrance, and waited for our turn. You can only enter the cave with a guided tour. The cave itself is actually a system of tunnels and caves carved out by water seeping through lime stones for thousands of years. As they are lime stones, there were lots of stalactites and stalagmites – I never thought those Geography lessons learned eons ago could be used in real life!

As the lime stones formation is still forming, with water dripping here and there, we weren’t allowed to touch any of the cave walls and pillars. There’s also one cavern called the Cathedral, for its excellent acoustic properties. Some famous artistes had performed in the cavern. We were also told by the guide, that during Christmas, they have some choir groups coming in to sing the carols.

What so special about this cave that made us drive all the way there? Glow worms. Or if you are a biology buff, that would be Arachnocampa luminosa. What’s that? There are some tiny worms hanging on the walls of Waitomo Cave. These worms, only found in New Zealand, emit luminescent lights. Unfortunately, I didn’t have some cool lens to take photos in low light conditions. Using flash wasn’t allowed. We walked pass plenty of stalactites and stalagmites before we finally reached a small wooden jetty.

From there we went onboard a boat. A strong kiwi man wearing a cute beanie hat was our boatman alias guide for that leg of the tour. As he quietly row the boat, we all looked up. Lo and behold, above us lights littered the limestone tunnel. It was as if we were looking up upon the stars. Engrossed in our wonderment and amazement, the boat ride ended before we knew it. We made a short stop at the souvenir shop then continued to the car park down the hill.

The colours of autumns were beautiful. It was a cool balmy afternoon. Leaves in various shades of brown strewn on the green grass. Naturally, the next thing to do is to hog the cameras – there were at least four cameras, one for each of us. We took turns being the photographers and the models. A very geeky-touristy thing to do.

We then open our map – the hard copy that Aunt gave us – and decided on the route to take. We had the option of either of taking a route that by-pass the town of Hamilton, or to take a route that will allow us to stop at the town. Being a group of geeky-tourists, we decided that we should check out how Hamilton looks like.

AD was next on the wheel. Ma Hen was feeling a bit under the weather (interestingly, Ma Hen was fine during the camera hogging session) and sat at the back seat with me. D was the appointed navigator. A few minutes into the drive, Ma Hen fell asleep. AD, D and I chatted to keep AD alert. But we soon ran out of things to talk about and fell into occasional silences. Every now and then I would ask AD if we need to switch driver which was replied with the same answer: No.

D had fallen asleep. I was looking at the scenes through the car’s window. My mind was away. We almost reached the town of Hamilton, when suddenly AD ran over a curb. It jolted me back to reality, and woken D. Ma Han only stirred and went back to sleep. AD drove a few metres before stopping. AD and I went out to check if there any damaged to the car. No visible damages. However, I still have my reservation. My main concern was flat tires or damaged wheel – both, if any, would only manifested much later.

AD continued driving to Hamilton Central Shopping Centre. We stopped. Ma Hen was in her elements again. She felt better. While they shopped, I wandered. The mall wasn’t that big. But it was one and a half hour later that we finally left the mall. We headed to Roose Commerce Park for a picnic lunch.

We ate our lunch and decided that it was a nice day for a walk. The park is actually the land that runs along the river bank. The Waikato River was clean. There was a canoeing club house and a small pier. Trees are shaving off their leaves in preparation for fall. The small park was beautiful. About half an hour later we were ready to continue our drive.

After a little logging heads with AD who had insisted that she was still fit to drive, she finally yielded to my ‘silent anger’. I know the strain long distance driving has on the driver. The driver may not feel physically tired, but the brain may be tired. The first telltale would be decrease in the alertness level. AD had shown that by running over the otherwise non-obstructive curb. And so, after checking the car again for any possible flat tires, and found none, I took the wheel and we made our way back to Auckland.

An hour on the highway, we spotted a beautiful rainbow. We could see the two ends of the rainbow ‘rising’ from the ground. Warned by Aunty not to simply stopped by the highway, we were on the lookout for a suitable stopping area. I swerved to the right, and went into a small country road. Unfortunately, by the time we parked and got out of the car, clouds had swept over our heads. There wasn’t much of the rainbow to be seen.

On our way back to the highway, we were stopped by a good looking Kiwi in uniform. He was conducting a survey on the usage of the small road we were on. I was disappointed; I thought he needed a ride. Anyway, after answering a few questions, and accidently flirting with him a little, we drove away.

Around 7pm, we finally reached our home base and completed our last leg of our road trip.

Distance traveled: approx. 345km
Total distance for the road trip: approx. 960km