One place we had to visit was Kawiti Glow Worm Caves, in the Waiomio Valley, a short drive south of Paihia. I have photos at home from a previous visit, but they asked us not to use our cameras this time. (Yes, of course I tried to sneak one, but chickened out.)
There are thousands of glow worms mostly on the ceiling of the cave, so looking up reminds one of the night sky. One area is named The Milky Way for obvious reasons. The lamps we carried this time were electric, probably safer than the petrol(?)-driven hurricane lamps we had before!
Our guide, Jess, is the daughter of our guide from 25 years ago. She represents the fifteenth generation of the family associated with the caves.
The stalacmites and stalagtites were impressive too, possible half a millimetre longer than when I last visited. It’s a slow process growing them, one drop of water at a time.
The caves do flood from time to time, and apparently they cancel the tours when that happens.
The glow worms do have predators: nocturnal weta and some spiders. At which point, many of the group began to scratch non-existant itches. We hoped the plops on our heads were water drops, not something with a biological origin.
Having walked through the caves, we followed a bush trail. It was much shorter than advertised: 44 minutes rather than an hour!
We heard plenty of birdsong but didn’t see any exciting wildlife. Except for this lizard. And even he wasn’t real. We did come across this sign. Martha is our much missed granddaughter back at home, but this was named for Jess’s grandmother!
Ooh, look… just as we were leaving the area, look who we saw.
The kiwi Twelve Days of Christmas concludes with a Pukeko in a Ponga Tree, I don’t know if we still have the book at home. (Probably in one of the boxes we still haven’t unpacked.)
Kawakawa railway station was the venue for our coffee and carrot cake. There is some fascinating rolling stock here and we were delighted when an actual working train pulled in, with passengers. We thought about going for a ride but decided not to, in favour of another walk later on.
We currently have no need for such a service, but if we ever do need a proper man to come round and fix something in a manly way, I now know who to call! I won’t even mention the…
We thought we’de hike to Haruru Falls as it was such a gorgeous day and we’d so far only had leisurely strolls through a cave and along a small main street in a small town.
It was less than a 5-minute walk from the car park to seeing falls in their full glory. A magificent sight, a miniature Niagara Falls. The water probably drops less than two metres.
Back in Paihia, we walked along the promenade and this is the view we had of the Bay of Islands when we sat down.
This bush thinks it’s the tall bloke with the large head who always sits in front of me in the theatre.
We moved on and had a ‘rest’ on our blanket on the sloping grass. (I put ‘rest’ in quotes because I could hear you saying, “a rest from what, exactly?” and you’d be perfectly correct!) What we needed was a cricket match. We were too late for this one, even if we were in the right place!
This is Williams House (William is Martha’s brother so it’s only fair he gets a namecheck too!). It’s been used as the local library since 2003 and next year marks the building’s centenary.
It’s a relatively short walk from our abode in Paihia to Waitangi, where the (in)famous Treaty was signed.
We didn’t visit the Whare or the Waka: they were so much more accessible years ago. The touristy visitor buildings are quite new (2015?) and it’s a shame that the actual historical site is hidden from view, unless you pay. We don’t mind paying but sometimes the price is just too high, sorry.
A sign warned that this path is slippery when wet. But what an innovative solution: put some rubber mats down on the slippery path to make it a little safer!
We’ve seen this in a few places in the area, so let’s hope it catches on. (Holloway Hill in Godalming: I’m looking at you. Generations of school children walking up and then sliding back down again. Oh, just me then.)
And I suppose they have to make it safer, if they’re encouraging us to walk 10,000 steps.
Bingo fans will appreciate this picture, even if the subjects aren’t as close together as I would have liked. Trying to herd ducks is like trying to nail blancmange to a wall.
The gulls know this hawk isn’t real so they were not at all deterred from invading the café area.
Not enough birds? Well, on the way back to Paihia, we saw more oystercatchers on the beach and standing on the rocks, a couple of shags drying out their wings. They were too far away to see properly, but we might have seen dotterels, a gravely endangered species, at the far end of the beach. Or they may have been sparrows.
You want more birds? OK then. While we were sitting on our balcony, a car drove by with its box of fish and chips supper on the roof. Until the box slid off onto the road right in front of us, that is. We watched a flock of seagulls (actual birds, not the ’80s band) devour the meal in five minutes and then put the box and wrapping into a rubbish bin. I may have made that last bit up. But it was good to see seabirds cooperating in the consumption of street food without too much bickering.
Stats fans: yes, we did walk 10,000 steps today and I can confirm that at least one of us has walked over 2,000,000 steps since we left home: that’s well over 900 miles.
The Bay of Plenty consists of 144 islands, some are inhabited but many are really just big rocks with a few plants, birds and guano decorating them.
We went on a boat trip hoping to see some dolphins and to visit the famous Hole in the Rock, one of the big rocks just mentioned but with a hole right through it.
Our catamaran was named Dophin Seeker but I think a more optimistic name would be Dolphin Finder, Guaranteed.
In any event, it would be very difficult to miss the cruise ship Celebrity Solstice in the Bay. Its 3000 passengers and 1500 crew are on their way to Tauranga, Wellington, Akaroa, eventually Hobart and Sydney. It’s big, it’s huge, it’s probably not for us but, never say never.
Our captain and pilot also provided the narration which was very entertaining. After encountering other sea traffic, he said, “Do you know what I like about jet skis? Nothing.”
We did see dolphins. Ridiculously exciting, really, but we encountered a juvenile pod and watched a Mum and her calf for a while.
“Did it [the dolphin] just jump? I taught it to do that” said our guide.
He also told us the story about Captain (then Lieutenant) Cook’s discovery of New Zealand and him sailing around to prove it was an island rather than the suspected southern continent, Terra Australis.
“When Lt Cook’s crew visited the island, they rowed backwards. This led the Maoris to think they had eyes in the back of their heads.”
We sailed on to Motukokako or, as it’s known, the Hole in the Rock. We passed by Cape Brett Peninsula, Rakaumangamanga, on top of which is located a lighthouse. It is now unmanned and the light rotates in an almost frictionless bath of mercury.
Whether or not the tourist boats go through the hole is decided by the captain each time, taking into account such variables as current, tides, wind and whether he likes the passengers. We did find our way through on this occasion.
A long but smooth ride back to Paihia took us close to the parasailors. What we thought were parachutes the other day are in fact the ‘sails’ towed by a speeding boat with one or two people holding on tightly as they soar into the air, above the sea. Us? Well, never say never…
We found our land legs very easily and wandered back to our Paihia penthouse suite.
How did Paihia get its name? Well, the Reverend Henry Williams wanted to build a church somewhere and this looked like a good place. (His old house is now the site of the local library, mentioned above.) He was always hungry though. He was forever stuffing his face. He kept asking the locals where to buy a kebab, or fish and chips. Where are the cakes? Who makes ice cream? Do you sell doughnuts? Can I have a pie, here? Well, someone misheard and thought he said “Can I live in Paihia?” So the name Paihia took over, as a joke at first, but eventually the name stuck. Far-fetched? Here’s the official version:
In further wildlife news, we did find a dragon drying his wings in Paihia today.