As promised, this is the last post about our gallivanting around the North Island during our summer holidays.
Two things of note.
Firstly, my 3 lads discovered a love of pumice carving! We would go exploring at least one beautiful beach each day whilst we were at Taupo. Because Taupo is actually a sleeping volcano, many of the eastern beaches are strewn with pumice from volcanic eruptions thousands of years ago. It's incredible to hold a piece of pumice and realise that there is a piece of history in your hands! And then the boys would carve their way into history!!!
L particularly was mesmerised by the concept of pumice carving. He was first inspired by his dad carving a fishing hook. L would pick interesting pieces of pumice off the beaches and bring them home to finish his carving. Each morning, the first thing he would do after breakfast, would be to sit on the deck and continue his carving work. His tools of trade were the flotsam and jetsam off the beach – bits of driftwood and the like. I was so touched, that the first major artwork he sculpted, was for his mom! Isn't it great, ange2ange?!
Secondly – a major highlight for us all, was our trip to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves.
The name "Waitomo" means – 'water entering a hole in the ground'.
At Waitomo, there is an enormous underground labyrinth of ancient caves which have developed over thousands of years. Amazing limestone formations, humungous caverns, beautiful glowworm grottos, impressive stalactites and stalacmites, underground rivers, hidden waterfalls, etc all lend themselves to a truly subterranean adventure. And adventures, you certainly can have – from abseiling & rappelling hundreds of metres into the inky blackness, conventional caving, rock climbing, or going black water rafting. Or you can take one of the many fascinating tours around this area. Many years ago when I was young and fancy free, a group of friends and I went blackwater rafting. It was a lot of fun and I'm glad I did it then cos I'm not sure that I would be as persuaded to do it now! And I've always wanted to try the "Haggas Honking Holes" adventure, described as 'Indiana Jones Caving'….but the prerequisite that "participants are to be fit and brave" was a wee deterrent!
We were totally wowed by the tour we went on. I know the boys were as spellbound as we were with the magnificent formations, vast caverns, spectacular underground tunnels, and gorgeous glowworms sparkling all around. For me, the highlight was "The Cathedral" - an enormous cavern with amazing acoustics where many famous people including Pavarotti have sung. As we stood in The Cathedral, a group of Korean tourists stopped and broke into song. It was THE MOST spinetingling, beautiful, clear sound I have ever heard (and I was glad for the darkness to hide my tears of emotion!). They sang a Maori love song called "Pokarekareana", made famous by many including Dame Kiri te Kanawa, and Sir Howard Morrison. And they sang it perfectly in about 8 part harmony. It was truly beautiful. We all stood in total silence as a sign of utmost respect, as these Koreans sang our native song. Only later, did I find out that the Koreans consider this song to be their native song too! It appears, that the Maori soldiers taught it to the Korean soldiers during the Korean Wars.
We were floated by boat into an underground system of caves which had the most wonderful glowworms. It was surreal, sitting in pitch blackness on an inky black river, in total silence, with only the lights from the millions of glowworms above. An unexplainable feeling. I suffered terribly with not being able to take photos of all the gorgeous cave decorations and caverns we explored! Photos not allowed! So you will just have to imagine. However, as soon as we were able, I whipped out my camera. This was a photo of our boat disappearing back into the cave from which we exited.
We arrived home tired and happy and glad to have been able to give our boys a taste of some of this beautiful country of ours.
There's plenty more to see…but that, we will have to leave for another trip!