Wednesday, 12 December 2012
Waitomo is a small village roughly 120 miles south of Auckland. It has a population of about 50, and a couple of weeks ago its only pub burnt down ("Patrons stopped to pay their respects..."Where am I going to drink now?" one asked"). So there is almost no reason to go there at all; except for the thousands of metres of caves. Which is why I went there.
I booked myself onto a black water rafting thing, which basically involves spending three hours navigating underground streams and rivers on an inflatable black rubber ring with a bunch of other suckers. The first challenge was getting into a wetsuit.
This was the most undignified thing I did all day; until about an hour and a half later, when I was floating through a cave sat in my rubber ring and my butt got grounded on a rock. All attempts to either paddle or stand up just resulted in a lot of desperate splashing and limb flailing. Ultimately I had to resort to a mixture of butt hopping and butt shuffling. Smooth.
But the bits where I wasn't flailing about like a moron were awesome. For a variety of reasons (but mostly just common sense), we weren't permitted to take our own cameras down there; so the following images have been ruthlessly purloined from the internets and cleverly edited so that I am in them.
We eventually emerged blinking into the sunlight, having not succumbed to ravenous glowworms, eels or monsters; then it was back to base for a hot shower, mug of soup and a toasted bagel.
With just the afternoon left to play about with, I decided to whizz around and tick a few other crap tourist boxes. Just a few miles down the road from Waitomo is Te Kuiti, "the sheep-shearing capital of the world", where every year the main street bears witness to death-defying acts of bravery in the fearsome Running of the Sheep. At the end of Rora Street is the "Big Shearer", a seven metre high, seven and a half tonne statue celebrating their proud sheepy heritage.
On the way home I stopped briefly in Hamilton to check out another famous statue. The life-size statue of Richard O'Brien (in the guise of Riff Raff from the Rocky Horror Picture Show) stands over the former site of the Embassy Theatre, allegedly the birthplace of the cult musical and also where he worked as a hairdresser for a number of years in the late 50s/early 60s.
The next day I managed to get back to Christchurch without too much trouble. My housemate came to collect me from the airport; we also managed to pick up a nice old lady whose lift had fallen through on her. She didn't live quite as near to our house as she originally suggested... but we gave her a lift anyway, and she repaid our kindness/gullibility with a big jar of runny homemade marmalade, which we have no chance of finishing before we have to head back to the UK.
This all left just enough time to get beer and pizza, and to decorate DeathCar2000 with some totally sickass Hawaiian Air graphics that I had acquired legitimately from the Auckland office.
Sinister foreign confectionery this week: Moro Gold.
It's kind of like a Boost bar, but with less girth.