Flying Away – So Long New Zealand

Well, it has been 4 full weeks of traveling New Zealand and we have boarded our plane home.  We have explored both islands of New Zealand and seen some incredible things.

From the still present earthquake damage of Christ Church to the majestic beauty of the mountains and oceans, we have seen so much of this country and yet have only scratched the surface.

Traveling with our children has been tough but rewarding and we have seen them grow so much on this long holiday.

For now, we board our first flight from Auckland to Las Angeles in hope of getting some sleep along the way.

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Our first plan of attack to airport and flight survival is being realistic.  Our children are 3 years and 9 months old.

We always get to the airport super early.    It was so interesting to see our flight status as “Relax” (a term that is used by my husband would not have the same effect”

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I don’t like spending any more time here than I need to but I also know feeding, diaper changes, security, feeding them again, finding a place to play, and so on takes a lot of time.

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We found this quiet out of the way little spot, super clean and the wall toys entertained both kids!  Now that Scarlet is crawling and of course putting EVERYTHING in her mouth, finding a good hangout location is a little more tricky/requires WAY more paying attention to what the hands put in the mouth!!

We play to our sons wants a little more when we travel.  So when he says he wants a $9 smoothie, we go with it.  A fed child is always a happier child.

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And yes, he loved it, and yes, he did require cleaning after…

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We also know that he loves to watch anything with wheels so we try to find a spot to park with a good window view.

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Beyond that, we just try and have fun.  We play with toys and usually find other traveling families to hang out with so our kids can play and we get to have Adult conversations!

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For long flights, we book our seats with no one in front of us and the ability to get a bassinet on the wall.  When we first flew to Australia Scarlet was 6 1/2 months old and not crawling yet.  The bassinet on the wall was AMAZING.  Now that she is 9 months, she is so much more mobile. I desperately tried to keep her in it so I could eat dinner but she just moves too much.  It was still great once she fell asleep but I had to keep one eye open if she woke up and wanted out.

Our other survival method for these crazy long flights is to take advantage of screen time.  As much as I might hate Roland totally zoning out with a screen and the tantrum that ensues when it is withdrawn, it does help us all get through such a long journey.

We are so fortunate out children are excellent travelers.  Any child will cry, complain, run, and just be a kid because they ARE A KID.  Our kids are by no means perfect and I still feel like crap when they cry, scream, throw food, kick the back of a seat and so on and so on but they are just trying to cope with the boring plane as best as they can and the more you fight it the worse it will be.

Keep little tools and tricks (Like a Busy Book) with you and survival is possible.

What are your go to survival tips for traveling with kids?

We Lost Teddy!!! – Auckland, New Zealand

Yesterday I packed up everything in the camper and we moved into a hotel for a few nights.  Then, at 2 am after both kids had woken up and taken forever to go back down, it dawned on me.  I haven’t seen Scarlet’s Teddy!!!  The Incredible Shrinking Teddy!  Her “First Teddy” from Grandma and Grandpa!

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We have been using this teddy from birth to show just how much she grows.  We did the same thing with our son and now Scarlet’s Teddy is gone.

Now, apparently my brain was actually functioning at this odd hour and I immediately remembered the last picture we had taken with the dynamic duo.

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We had been visiting the Weta Workshop (http://wetaworkshop.com/visit-us/workshop-tours/)  for a tour and some cool photos with the Troll.

We put Teddy down for the tour and never picked it up again!!!

Now again this is 2 am so there was nothing I could do about it, so I went back to bed and called first thing in the morning.

I called the gift shop, it seemed like the right place to start my search.  They were SO EXCITED when I called.  Apparently, they had been looking for us and were about to start a Facebook campaign (kinda wish they had, now that would have been cool!!).  There was something about Teddy getting around the shop but I didn’t understand what they meant at the time.  I enquired about overnight shipping it to the hotel and if it might arrive before he left for the airport (thankfully it was an evening flight home the next day!)  If there is any business that knows how to get something where it needs to be quick, I figured a prop studio would know how!

It would cost a whopping $8! (HAHA I would have paid soooooo much more than that).

That brings us to Today.  We waited until checkout and still no Teddy.  We paid for a few more hours and that got us our room until noon.

Still no Teddy.

All packed up and sitting in the “Lobby” and still no Teddy.

Dan, getting nervous about time, asked me when I thought it would arrive.  Being optimistic I said 1.  It will get here by 1.

A few false alarms (clean sheets got delivered) we finally saw our “Knight in Shining Armour” (Postal Truck) arrive and boy were we excited!!!

 

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Now we can head to the airport and I feel like the weight of the world has lifted!

Getting Prehistoric – Auckland, New Zealand

As I returned the camper yesterday, I spied a sign for this little place by the airport called Butterfly Creek.

With the morning a bit wet we ate leftover pizza for breakfast and splashed in some puddles.

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We took a quick 10 min cab ride and arrived only to get attacked by a giant dinosaur.

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Don’t worry.  This momma knows how to take a dino down to protect her babies!

We headed inside grabbed some tickets and headed off to explore!

Filled detail some of these dinos even move and roar (a little too much for Roland)

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There is an informative display too.

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Dan and Roland saw this raptor trying to escape so they tried to keep him under control.  Unfortunately, there was a large hole in the cage where both Roland and Dan got out.

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Roland got bored of his usual family and joined this one for some Jurassic fun!

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There is plenty more than dinosaurs here.  There is a Farm and other animals too.

We got to pet a Guinnie Pig and I got some awesome Rat cuddles from a boy named Dave.  There are also bunnies, birds, goats, pigs, chickens, sheep and a wallaby plus the resident black lab who is all too happy to get his ears and belly scratched.

This is the enclosure they have built for the goats – at first glance, I though it was a high ropes course!

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By the cafe (great food by the way) there is a playground too.

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King Roland finally found his throne!

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And don’t forget, no matter where you go and what you do, your child will always want to play with the box.

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Good Bye Beast 2.0 – Auckland, New Zealand

Today we say goodbye to “The Beast 2.0”

We woke to some spectacular fog.  A truly beautiful gift from mother nature on this early morning.

Every minute the landscape changed.

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Today we return “The Beast 2.0” our camper that has been our home for the last month.

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Our plan of attack for returning the motorhome was going to be far less stressful than how we did things in Australia.

Step 1: get other people OUT of the camper.

SO, while I packed and Scarlet slept, Dan took Roland to the Museum of Transportation and Technology.

 

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Step 2: Get everything into carrying bags of some kind.  This was not our final packing.  We still have a few days in a hotel and access to laundry.  I separated the dirty and clean clothing. Kept the “electronics” together and bagged up the leftovers (our hotel has a mini kitchen too).

Once the boys were back we ate a quick lunch with leftovers in the fridge and headed off to the hotel.

Step 3: Drop off all our stuff at the hotel BEFORE dropping off the camper. It was SO much easier dropping everything off there and leave Dan with the kids.

 

Step 4: I dropped off the camper and simply walked the 1Km back to the hotel!  We had extra liability insurance so there was no walk around to check for damage and we had also purchased the express return package so I did not need to fuel up or dump water/sewage.  Easy Peasy.

I spied this while returning the camper.  This place looks interesting….perhaps tomorrow.

 

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A day for Play – Auckland, New Zealand

We woke up this morning to one of those brief few peaceful moments with our two young children playing together.

Happily sharing the same toys with no tears or bloodshead.

With nothing major planned today we took our time and gave Roland every opportunity to play.

There was a park close by.

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And a quick google search showed a Chipmunks play place close by.

By the time we arrived Scarlet was fast asleep in her seat so Roland and I left Daddy and Scarlet behind.

 

We grabbed some lunch down the road and happily found a small outdoor playground in the shopping center.  Chatting with some other parents we got a great tip on visiting the Museum of Transportation and Technology.  Could be something fun to do tomorrow!

Kelly Talton’s Sea Life Aquarium – Auckland, New Zealand

When your 3 and your days starts out by seeing a Shark Boat, you know you’re going to have a good day!

Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium is perfectly located right on the shores of Auckland.

 

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We started our tour with the Scott Base exhibit.  It looked really interesting with all sorts of artifacts and reconstructed rooms.  Roland, however, had no interest so I have no pictures for you.

He did, however, love the Penguins!  These King Penguins are huge!  They can weigh as much as 20 kg or 44 lbs (That’s bigger than Roland!)

And if that wasn’t enough, they have huge fluffy babies!!!!!

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There are also Gentoo Penguins, they are the fastest swimming penguin out there!

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We were mesmerized watching them swim around the large tank.  I was surprised how cold the glass was but I guess that is real temperatures for them.  It was also real snow in their enclosure.

Past the Penguins we found these cool looking globes.  They gave such a good view into the tanks.

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Not too far into the Aquarium, we found the kids area.  By now Roland was on full over stimulation mode or something because we couldn’t keep him still.  There were these cool stations with colouring pages of fish and this wall was lit up with an aquarium scene.  There were even a few spots you could touch the wall and things would happen.

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What you could do was colour your very own fish, scan it below and it would start swimming on the wall!  How awesome is that!!

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Roland, however, was not interested apparently.  This is the room we lost him in and somehow he snuck out of the room.  It didn’t take long to find him, however.  He simply made his way to the play area because he “needs to play” as he always says.

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The cafe was well situated with the play area and lots of fish to see.

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Both Roland and Scarlet really enjoyed the underwater viewing tunnels.  Scarlet should have napped, as she usually does, in the carrier as we walked around but she did not take her eyes off those fish.  In face, Roland liked it so much we went around on the loop more than once!

The tour was rounded out with a few for aquariums and a seahorse exhibit.

We really enjoyed this place.  We spent a few hours and easily could have spent more just playing in the kid’s area.  Our tickets did allow re-entry so we didn’t feel the need to stay for lunch.  Parking was limited and not the best for motorhomes.  We also saved some money by getting out tickets online the night before we went.

 

 

Sheepworld – New Zealand

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Not to far north of Auckland, you can find a place called Sheepworld.

Now I know what your thinking.  “HA! Sheepworld!  Isn’t that ALL of New Zealand already?!?!”

Well, your kind of right.  Back in the early 1980s, there were over 70 million sheep.  The numbers have declined to about 27 million since though.

We’ve seen our share of sheep along the way and we through it would be a great day to actually learn about Sheep Farming.

There was a lot more to this place than just sheep though.

We found a whole farm full of pigs, ponies, goats, bunnies, alpaca, deer, cows…

Oh and birds.  Yeah.  Roland is not a big fan of most birds.  he enjoys pointing them out, seeing them from afar or approaching on his terms.

 

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This duck has the most perfect duck shadow, silly I know, but I just love it!

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However, when the birds are accustom to being fed by every single person holding a brown paper bag….

We tried to get Roland chasing the birds like a Dinosaur to scare them off.  Sometimes it worked.  This kid does not like birds!

You can buy these bags of food that is safe for the animals to eat.  Super cheap and lots of fun.  We had a great time feeding everyone.

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The thing that truly makes the Sheepworld is the show they run twice a day.  This is where you learn about farming.

We got to watch the sheep get rounded up and herded into the show barn.  It turns out there are two dogs.  The well-known dog that goes out, runs fast and silent, convincing the sheep where to go with nothing more than a stare.

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Then there is the loud guy.  Best for close quarters and great at getting the sheep to go places they would rather not.

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That’s this guy on the right.  A mix of English Fox Hound, Labrador and Whippit or Greyhound.  They are loud, fast and driven.

Enter in our new friend Teryn.

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She even got us working.  We helped to sort the sheep by colour.

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She taught us all about the markings used to keep track of gender, age, and ownership of each sheep. Then she sheared a sheep for us.  You can make some pretty good money sheering sheep but you gotta be fast, it’s piece work and hard work.

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After all that work, HA! we got rewarded with the cutest experience you could hope for on a sheep farm.  Just look at the enjoyment of Roland’s face!

 

We spend at least a few hours here with the show and wandering around.  So, we headed into the aptly named Farmer’s Wife Cafe.

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Dan said the Shephard’s Burger is quite possibly the best he has had yet (he didn’t know it was lamb either)

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Plenty for the kids to play with,  Roland gave Scarlet this one.  See the purple dress below?  I bought that one for Scalet.  I’m thinking First Birthday.

 

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We had a great day and now we drive back to Auckland.  We don’t have much planned for the rest of the trip.  We will go to an aquarium and generally hang around the area.

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Auckland Habour View

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I don’t think I have ever seen this many boats.

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I don’t know what it is but we get such a kick out of driving over a bridge.  Perhaps it’s Roland’s excitement.

 

 

Coromandel – New Zealand

After visiting Hot Water Beach we decided to take the scenic route around the top of the Coromandel Peninsula.

Named after the HMS Coromandel who landed here in 1820, the rugged nature of the peninsula has limited its potential growth, despite being relatively close to Auckland.

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We stayed the night and had breakfast in town before heading out towards and past Auckland.

 

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Sorry about the Google Image.  Apparently, we didn’t take any pictures at breakfast.

I have a love-hate relationship with cooking VS going out to eat.  I cook and it’s cheap vs the EXPENSIVE price of eating out. But, when we eat out we have some of the very best experiences and there are NO DISHES.

Today Roland had a blast with two ladies having tea.  He brought them magazines, cutlery and told them stories about feeding dolphins, swimming at the beach and anything else he could think of.  He generally bounced around and we all had a good laugh.
Scarlet worked on her crawling, pulling up to standing and I’m showing her how to use the couch to practice walking.  She shined her best smiles for the ladies and anyone else who dared to look at her.  She is such a ham for the attention.

We headed off in the direction of Auckland with the intentions of going right past.  We will leave the big city for another day.  For now, we are headed to “SheepWorld”!

 

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You say To Mata, I say Te Mata…

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Bugger!

We have such a hard time with pronouncing the names in both New Zealand and when we were in Australia.  We have taken to making up the names.  Puke Hole, for example.  Sorry.

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Thinking of home with these names.

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Massive number of ships

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Crazy Toll fees! (HAHA, someone should show this to the 407 at home)

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Interesting bridge

 

Middle-Earth – New Zealand

Most people have seen or at least heard of, Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.  Most recently The Hobbit movies were filmed and all the movies were filmed in New Zealand.

It’s really no surprise when you think about it.  Middle Earth is an old world with the flare of magic, towering trees, and mountains.  Green hillsides and horse-drawn carts.

Although the movie was filmed all over both the North and South Island, here in the north was where the Hobbits live.

And you can visit the Shire.

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Walk down the very path where Frodo ran yelling “I’m Going On An Adventure!”

and enter into the Shire, home to 300 Hobbits who live in 44 Hobbit Holes.

The set was built for the Lord Of The Rings movies and torn down after production was finished.  So when the land owner was approached for the filming of The Hobbit movies, he suggested that the set should be built for a more permanent purpose, allowing people to visit after filming was compleat.  There is even one Hobbit Hole that you can enter!

Take a walk through the community garden and see what’s growing.

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Do you see that tree, the smaller one on the top of the hill?

It is a very special and unique tree.

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The tree you see up there on the left is not actually real.  It has over 200,000 fake leaves on it and every few years someone has to go and repaint each one.

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There are also some VERY real trees.  A few, in fact, are over 100 years old.  This one, below, started to loose a few limbs while people were on tour so it needed a trim.

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Down the hill and over a bridge you will find  The Green Dragon Inn.  You can put your feet up by the fire, have a drink or even dress the part for some pictures.

 

The area around The Shire is just as breathtaking.  The locations is actually w working sheep farm.  They have a special kind of sheep known for having twin lambs and they are just about ready to pop!

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Naturally, there is a gift shop and a cafe.

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It is from here that you actually start and end your tour.  From the ticketing office, you will hop on a bus to take you on your way.

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With breakfast at the cafe and the tour, we spent a solid 4 hours here.  The tour is one of the more expensive things we have done but it is well worth it.

 

There are a few different places to stay if you are in a campervan like us.  There are even people in the area who have put their driveway up for rent on the Campermate app.

We chose to stay at the Opal Hot Springs and Holiday Park. (they have three different pools and two are natural hot springs!)

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Glow Magots in Witomo – New Zealand

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Disclaimer: I have done my best to remember the history about the cave and the Maori Tribe who lived here.  This is my interpretation and it may not be fully accurate.

The legend of the Ruakuri Cave or Den of Dogs dates back some 400 or 500 years ago when the Maori people discovered the cave while hunting.

Picture this.  You are out hunting.  Returning with freshly caught birds for dinner, you proudly head back home.  As you pass by a cave some ugly scary looking creatures lunge out at you. You’ve never seen anything like them before. They are growling, snarling, and running after you.

The story goes that while hunting, a warrior passed by the cave opening and some dogs (rather vicious looking ones) came lunging out after him.  Afraid for his life, he threw the freshly caught birds to the dogs and ran back to tell the Chief.  The unhappy Chief, at losing his supper, sent his men back to kill the dogs.

The dogs became supper and they made a cape for the chief out of the hides.  The chief wore this cape and it became a symbol of his strength and ability to win land battles.

The cave being good shelter on journies to and from the ocean and was also a good strategic location where you could launch an attack or see one coming.  The cave also became a sacred burial ground for the Maori and is where that chief (Tanetinorau) was buried.

To read more I recommend a file I found dated April 29, 1989.

http://www.ruht.co.nz/documents/publications/archive/Ruakuri_cave_wahi_tapu.pdf

 

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Tours started operating out of this cave back in 1904.  The only dry entrance into the cave was the burial ground.  Out of respect, the cave was closed in 1988 until it was reopened in 2005 with a brand new entrance. NZ Day 22

The wheelchair accessible spiral ramp was carved straight down into the earth.  It is lit and descends down to a large stone with dripping water.  Here it is suggested that you wash your hands before and after visiting the cave, to wash away any negative energy.

Guided through the formations, you will see “Curtains”, “Cauliflower”, “popcorn” and more.  There is even a whale bone that has been discovered.  Still under water and with more rock being carved away, perhaps more ancient animal bones will be discovered.

 

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stalactite and cave curtains 

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“popcorn”

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Sea Shel embedded in the rock shows how this was once the sea floor.

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New stalactite starting to form

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During our tour, we came upon this pipe.  Oddly located, or so you might think.  We were asked to guess what it was for…

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You could see daylight, so far away it was merely a dot.

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It turns out that the supplies for the new path and the new lights needed a way to get to the workers.  You see.  The people working here had to swim to work.  The only dry entrance was sacred and off limits, so swimming was the only way in or out.

Now, a lot of the new paths are concrete, something you’re not going to send under water.  So, they would use this pipe as a delivery system.  Dropping the dry concrete down to be mixed up below and used for the construction.

I give credit to the keepers of this cave as they have put so much effort into minimizing the impact people have on its natural state.

 

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Spoiler alert (they weren’t real people)

Waitomo is known well for its glow worms.  There is, however, no such thing as a glow worm (other than the toy I had growing up).  They are actually fly larva or maggots.  Not such an appealing name or thought.

This is the best picture I can muster with the good old iPhone.  There are these beautiful little glowing dots like stars on the walls and roof of the cave.  The boss of this tour company is known to spend all night trying to photograph these little beauties.  It takes a full 30 min exposure to try and capture something of good quality.

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Now I’m sorry but I’m gonna wreck the little glow maggots a little further for you.

Yes, they are beautiful and Yes, you should go see them.

The glow is produced by their kidneys as they excrete waste.  They have glowing butts.

They actually use this glowing to attract food.  As they are maggots and stuck in one place they require food to come to them.  They actually make these hanging threads covered in more gross nastiness with neurotoxins mixed in.  As the prey gets stuck and shocked, the maggot will vomit on it and suck out the insides that turn to goo.

Yeah, sorry, but I warned you.  They are still super cool to see. Just watch your head.

Now back to some lovely cave formations…

This hole in the cave is actually being made from the bottom up.  Sorry, I cannot remember what it is called.  The picture is of water dripping down onto us.

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A rare family picture.  Scarlet is sleeping but still made it in!

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This is Demi.  She was our tour guide and Roland’s new best friend.

 

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Being a little nervous of the dark new world we dragged him into, he was feeling unsure of his surrounding.  Naturally, he wanted nothing but to hold mom’s hand.  Since I was already wearing Scarlet and the path is narrow, this proved to be doable but awkward.

In steps Demi.  She talked to Roland, offered to hold his hand and then won him over with the offer of pushing a button.

With his new best friend, off he went.  Happy as a clam, holding her hand and listening to every word she said.  He stayed on the path, kept his hands to himself and was the best behaved little man we had ever seen.  Demi is now our new best friend too!