Natural spotlights and the wrong Whanga
Sat 29 Apr 2017 23:53
It was good to be back at Juno Hall Campsite and Backpackers Hostel and Dave was in good form along with his little side kick, Max the Jack Russell with a lion’s mane, although the weather looked very changeable. Our little tent was pitched in no time and we were enjoying a hasty lunch in the camper before setting off for the Spellbound Cave trip when the driver of another camper nocked on the window to say he needed room for himself and two other campers in a space barely big enough for one.
Well the juggling took a while and was threatening our arrival time for the trip, so Dave leaped to the rescue by emptying the back of his estate car and taking all six of us along with Max riding shotgun and Henry and I sitting in the back of the vehicle in to Waitomo. Jimmy was our guide once more and I was so happy about this because he was a perfectly laid back chap with a gentle way about him, I just knew the children would have a great time. Once in the people carrier he turned on his mike and treated us to a calm and relaxed commentary all the way to the caves and back.
“Welcome everyone, ok lets see, what are your favourite animals, ok from the front, yeah?” His commentary was tailored to the conditions. The river that passed through the wet cave was raging after the rains and there was no way we were going to see the eels by the little bridge as we had last time. This river passes over a man-made dam in the wet cave so the water our little inflatable moved along was calm. But ahead we could hear the water crashing over the dam ahead of us and as we moved closer it became louder and in the darkness this created an interesting sense of impending danger. Hang on to those ropes Jimmy! Ruby was sat with me in the front row along with a couple. We held hands and gazed up at the ceiling of spot light glow worms, thousands of them and I treasured the fact that we were able to show the children something so unique and beautiful, the culmination of much planning and effort of all concerned coming to fruition.
In the dry cave Jimmy did not play the ‘turn torches off...........BOO’ game, perhaps he thought it might frighten the children. Instead he made Henry our leader. He had to hold the handrail and lead the group forward in the darkness as we each held the left shoulder of the person ahead of us. Brilliant. We were all engrossed, a charming American couple and a family from Thailand, the young son is a pilot, he looked about 22 years old. While Jimmy dished up our hot drinks and biscuits in the sun shelter we chatted easily with the others and Henry and Ruby found their own level happily taking in everything around them.
We were lucky with the break in the weather so we could scramble along the hillside tracks back to the vehicle but it wasn’t to last. My hopes of a relaxing time with the family beside the beautiful little pool at the camp were dashed by a cool, wet change in the weather and as rain was forecast for all of the next day we decided we might as well spend it travelling to Whangarei and giving ourselves an extra day around Zoonie and our ‘home town’.
After a few minutes on the road something did not feel right. The sun wasn’t in quite the right place for a journey north. I couldn’t find any of the little towns named on the roadside on the road map I was studying for our route. That morning I had gone through the usual routine of giving Gary the next address for the satnav. But you know there are just so many towns beginning with Whanga that when Gary relayed back to me Whanganui Top 10 Camp, I just said “yes” and could not have been more wrong. It was in the diametrically opposite direction. Then I found the latest town we had passed on the map and that confirmed it. Rob overtook the camper and we turned right into a nice big ox bow car park so Gary would have turning room for the camper. I rushed to the window and gave him the correct name and we were back on the road, this time in the right direction towards home and the Easter Weekend with all that would entail!
The mighty Waitomo River had broken its banks and in places only the man made flood banks prevented the water from flooding the road, the river level was at our eye level. Mature trees stood in impromptu lakes and the lashing rain glistened on shiny flax leaves. Rain caused a thousand riverlets down seeded fields depositing mud where it should not be. We must have been high up as we could see the Auckland Tower, 45 miles away where we stopped for lunch between Bombay and the Pukehohe Road. The sat nav took us on a number of detours, all it transpired were for good reason, road works, accident and floods. Mental note, I must trust the sat nav.