|The packing finished we set off for Waitomo. The drive took us back around the East of Mt Taranaki and we found the familiar road works as soon as we reached the main highway 3. It must be near the end of the budget year and the roads board have to use up the annual budget figure!!!
We stopped for coffee at Mokau and bought some lunch to eat later.
We expected the road to be rough but not until after we left the main highway but at Awakino there were major road works and we waited for ages for the traffic to come through from the other direction.
Turning off State highway 3 we weren't too sure how long it would be before the sealed road changed to a gravel road but it wasn't as bad as we expected. It took just over the hour to get to Marokopa on the coast and only about 15 minutes was unsealed. Christine got a little excited when we skidded round one of the bends on gravel and it took a bit to bring the car back to the right direction but that's the fun of driving on these roads!!
We soon reached the Marokopa falls where we enjoyed a short hike through the bush to reach the waterfalls and then had lunch. A little further down the road we found the natural bridge but had to compete with another road gang for space in the car park where they were stopped for lunch. The Natural bridge is a double natural stone bridge formed many thousands of years ago when the rivers were running much higher.
We drove on to Waitomo and checked in to the Waitomo Caves Hotel which we found had gone downhill a lot since the 1970's. Driving to the caves we found we were just in time to take the last tour for the day of the Ruakuri cave which is an underground guded tour of almost 2 kilometres of caves lasting over 1.5 hours. We saw the crystal cave tapestries, shawl like formations as well as the stalagmites, stalactites and glowworms. We also saw some of the blackwater rafters below us on their rubber tube rings which alison did while she was in New Zealand.
Returning to Waitomo we got the last tour of the day through Waitomo Glowworm caves and were led by a guide that was retiring that day after over 20 years. This included a walk through the caves including the cathedral cave and a boat ride through the glowworm grotto.