We took the same path we did coming North, as going South. We didn’t plan on going to see Auckland, this trip was an outdoorsy trip, but we couldn’t help and stop to take a few pictures of Auckland and how beautiful it is.
The drive to the caves was 4.5 hours from our marina “campsite” and made for a long day in the car. With only a few stops for pictures and lunch, we made it to the caves, just in time for our 4PM tour. If you are familiar with cave tours, this one isn’t too much different. They talked about how the caves were formed billions of years ago, shut the lights off so you can see how dark the caves can get, and discuss how the cave was discovered. For this cave, it was discovered in 1887. After this, it got really interesting. We were then taken further down the cave to a river, where we got into a boat and the tour guide used ropes hanging to move and steer our boat down the cave. It is here that we saw thousands of glow worms. It looked like a holiday light display – truly amazing! That part of the tour lasted about 10 minutes, which was enough time to take it all in. We exited the cave through a river exit, and were only able to take photos of that exit. We took a nearby hike to the top of a hill where we got to see the entire area. New Zealand was really proving itself beautiful.
We hit the road heading South towards Tongariro National Park. A famous National Park for those that love Lord of the Rings – hint, you can find Mordor! We planned on staying at the Mangahuia DOC camp, but once we arrived around 7PM, all the sites were taken. We had no choice but to drive further South (farther from the park’s entrance), to find the next DOC camp, Mangawhero. The drive to the next camp was about 30 minutes, and had one spot left just for us. We set up camp for the night, and even looked around for some Kiwis – none spotted.
Stay tuned, as we explore Tongariro National Park!