Spring Break: Loyola Trip to Rotorua and Taupo (day 1)

Thursday April 19th

On Wednesday I did exactly what I wanted to do; slept in, did laundry, worked on a paper, and got ready for the next leg of the most epic spring break ever!

Thursday we woke up bright and early and were met by Hester and out bus driver for the weekend in the Huia parking lot. Our first stop after a couple of hours driving was the Waitomo glowworm caves. It felt so good to get off the bus and into the sunshine. Unfortunately there was road work along the way and we were running late and missed our tour time—but they did let us go on the next one. After a brief walk through a densely wooded area we came to the mouth of the cave and met our very enthusiastic guide. It was made abundantly clear that he not only loved his job but did so theatrically. He made the whole excursion ten times more fun. We weren’t allowed to take pictures in the caves because of their sacred significance to the Maori and the damage the flash could do to the population of glowworms—so I’ll just have to do my best to describe it to you!

The tour started with a walk through the limestone caves full of stalactites (which hang down from the ceiling) and stalagmites (which grow up from the ground) in all stages of formation some of which were 24 million years old!!! It takes about 100 years for these formations to increase just 1 cubic centimeter. Some of these “decorations” as our guide called them, were shaped in all kinds of ways, there was one that looked like an elephant, a group that looked like a family, even a Bob Marley look-alike. The cave really opened up and looked like a cathedral. The acoustics were great and apparently a lot of really famous singers (including the real Bob Marley) have come and sung there. Our guide asked if anyone wanted to have the honor of singing to the ancient creation and of course we made Chris do it (he is in the Chimes, an acappella group, at Loyola). He did a great job and made quite the impression on everyone in the cave. Next we moved on to the glowworm grotto. In its larval stage the glowworm gives off light to attract its food (other flying insects) that gets caught in its silky spider-like threads. They need a very specific environment to thrive: humidity to keep from drying out, a sheltered surface to hang from, a calm atmosphere to prevent their lines from tangling, and darkness so their lights can attract the food. To really get the full effect of the glowworms we silently got into rafts and floated along the underground Waitomo River to the deeper parts of the cave. It was pitch black and really creepy because we had to be silent. After a few moments it was as if the cave had been taken away to reveal the clearest night sky covered in stars. The glowworms were everywhere. I’m glad no one could see me because I was gaping, head back, in absolute awe. Coming back into the sunlight was a strange, almost unnerving feeling. A quick walk back through the woods ended out time at Waitomo and it was back to the bus.

It was a short drive to Roselands Restaurant and Farm for lunch—which was a real God-send. This place was wonderful. First of all, one of the first things you discover when you walk in the door is one of the biggest bunnies you will probably ever see. He was huge! We learned later that he gets sheered just like a sheep does and one of the women who works on the farm actually spins his fur and knits it into hats and gloves for children. It sounds ridiculous, but after petting that huge fluffy (“he’s so fluffy I could DIE!”) bunny it all made sense. We got to eat outside in the sunshine which was fantastic since it was so nice out, the land we were on was gorgeous, and the food was unreal—especially after the continuous pb&js that were consumed in the South Island. Most places we eat at as a group do their best to put on a nice buffet, which is greatly appreciated but doesn’t often lend itself to a “typical” New Zealand meal. But at Roselands they gave us a host of options for our main dish (including steak!!!!) and provided a buffet of salads, sides, and fresh baked garlic bread. I was very happy. We took our time and actually enjoyed the meal together. Dessert was coffee and traditional cookies and breads that you would find in any house along the countryside (carrot cake, cornflake cookies, the works). After we finished we started wandering around the property and the owner came out to meet us! He asked if we wanted to meet his animals, which of course, we did. All of his animals were friendly and we got to feed and pet them. He had a mini horse and it took every fiber of my being to stop myself from going for a ride (which would have been really funny to watch…). We saw sheep, llamas, goats (who were very feisty), a brand new calf, and some very interesting cows. You have to check out the pictures for this one. This may sound odd, but after a week of some pretty intense adventures it was really refreshing to be somewhere so normal and homey. Eventually Hester had to herd us back onto the bus to make the last leg of the journey to the hotel, 4 hours to the Lake District of Taupo.

We got to the hotel by 4ish and dinner wasn’t until 7 so we had some time to relax and get settled in. I was seriously looking forward to sleeping in a nice big bed, all to myself that night and I absolutely didn’t mind sharing the room with Brianne since she was one of the girls who went to Australia instead of the South Island—we had a lot to catch up on! Once we put our stuff in our rooms and freshened up I went and hung out with the other girls who went to Australia since we hadn’t really had a chance to chat yet. We swapped stories until it was time for dinner. Dinner was delicious, we had a fixed menu to choose from, but it took about an hour between each course. We were sitting in that dining room for a long time—some of us got ants, I just got flat-out tired. After dinner we went off, some to the hot tubs, some to bed. I hung out for a little while but Bri and I decided to enjoy the comfort of our warm beds after a while. It was really funny actually because instead of 2 beds that were the same size in each room there was one single bed and one double. When we walked in our room the first time we just died laughing. Brianna graciously let me sleep in the big bed. We fumbled with the TV for a bit until we found a movie to watch (we found out that just about everyone watched the same movie). It was one of those fake adventure films that was about caving and turned out to be 1) really bad, and 2) REALLY fake and inaccurate, and 3) really gross and intense. Anyway, Brianne ended up sleeping with me in my bed that night. I just had to shake my head and laugh about it. It was a funny night.

For pictures from this day: www.photobucket.com/erb_in_roselands
Fun Fact: Waitomo means ‘water entering a hole in the ground’ and under the surface of the town is 50kms of caves and passageways with incredible rock formations, and of course, the amazing glow-worms.

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