Erin, Tyler and I all got a good solid night of sleep, but we were all up early due to the time zone change.  The owners of the bed and breakfast we were staying at had mentioned that there was a short walk to see some glowworms just a mile or two from our room and had suggested we go after dark.  Since we had all fallen asleep very early, that didn't happen, but I realized since it was about 5:00 when we woke up, we'd have time to go see the glowworms before sunrise.  We quietly got ready to go so we wouldn't wake up my parents in the next room.  (We found out later they were already up and we should have gotten them to go with us.)  We got in the van and drove a few minutes to the start of the trail.  We used headlamps to guide ourselves down the trail.  It was pretty eerie walking through the trail in the dark in a very unfamiliar forest.  We managed to scare a possum and he took off down the trail.  It only took about 5 to 10 minutes to get to a bridge that crossed the river.  We knew the glowworms would be down by the river, so we turned our lights off and let our eyes adjust to the darkness.  We could see tons of stars in the clear night sky and the Milky Way was clearly visible.  After about a minute, we started to notice the glowworms on the side of the riverbank.  They were really cool to see, but almost impossible for me to photograph.  I tried numerous different settings on my camera, but the best I came up with was this:

Bad shot of glowworms

We stayed and looked at the glowworms for awhile then headed back to the hotel for breakfast.  We met up with my parents and had some breakfast.  We were going to go to the glowworm caves as our first activity of the day and already had purchased our tickets.  You can purchase discounted tickets online here before you go.  The tickets were about $180NZ for the five of us with the online discount.  The tickets were open to any tour during the day, but we had read that it got pretty busy later in the day as the tour buses arrived, so we decided to shoot for the first tour at 9:00 am.  After breakfast, we had a little bit of time before our tour, so Tyler got to play with some of the toys that they had to use at the B&B.  I think it was exactly what Tyler needed after the long travel and sightseeing day before. 

We drove to the caves and waited for our tour.  I will give you a word of warning, the parking lot there is extremely steep.  Since it was empty, I parked on the flat part on the bottom and we headed up to wait for our tour.  The tour was about 45 minutes.  It started off a little slow because the actual cave that you go to see isn't anything all that special if you've been to other caves.  But after about 10 minutes we were seeing the larvae of the glowworms.   They don't allow you to take any pictures in the caves, so you'll have to look at their website for pictures of the caves.  Once you get into the boats, they ask you to be quiet so you don't disturb the glowworms.  We pushed off from the dock and went into the main glowworm chambers.  I only have one word to describe the experience, AMAZING!  I've never seen anything like it in my life.  Everyone was astonished.  It looked just like a starry sky, but you were underground in a cave.  If you ever go to New Zealand, you really need to go to at least one glowworm cave.  The Waitomo Caves are the most famous, but there are others that you can find.  The tour lasts about 45 minutes and then you simply row out of the cave in the boat.  It is a short walk back to the gift shop where we got some postcards and stamps.  Tyler got 1 for his friend and 1 for his class.  We mailed them a day or two later, but they both took 2-3 weeks to get back to Iowa. 

Our next stop was the Raukuri Bush Walk.  This was the same trail that we went on to see the glowworms that morning.  We wanted to do it because it was a nice short walk that everyone could do and it was supposed to be very scenic.  It looked a lot different during the daytime.  We could see the dense forest as we walked down the trail.  I grabbed several shots of the forest and some of the rock formations we saw. 

Views from the Raukuri Bushwalk

The trail itself was very fun.  It had lots of small hills, caves, and views of the stream.  Eventually we came to a large cave/natural bridge with the stream running through it.  We also found a really large tree.

More awesome sights on the trail.

We continued on the trail and looped around back to the start. On our way back we noticed some people climbing up out of one of the caves.  There are a lot of other tours available at the Waitomo Caves.  Most of them involve getting wet and a lot more adventure than we could do with the five of us.  These people were just getting done with their tour.

People on a more adventurous cave tour than we took.

Overall, the trail took us maybe 30-60 minutes, but it was a great little trail, and I'd highly recommend it to anyone.   Here's a few more pictures:

More views from the Raukuri Bushwalk.

After the bushwalk, we headed off towards Marokopa Falls.  Marokopa is often said to be the prettiest falls on the north island.  It was about 45 minutes west of Waitomo Caves.  As we were driving, we had to stop for a few minutes for some farmers to move their sheep across the road.

Sheep traffic jam.

We got to the parking lot for the falls.  It was a much smaller parking lot than I was expecting.  It is about a 10 minute walk down to the falls.  Tyler had fallen asleep on the drive to the falls and we couldn't wake him up, so we went to the falls in shifts.  We were not disappointed in the falls, they were very impressive.

Beautiful Marokopa Falls.

We had one last stop after the falls before we started the drive to hour hotel for the night.  There was another little trail on the road west of Waitomo Caves that had a natural bridge and some fossilized oysters on it. 

Views from along the trail.

It only took about 5 or 10 minutes until we got to the natural bridge.

Natural Bridge.

As soon as we got through the natural bridge, the views changed dramatically.

Fossilized Oysters.

The fossilized oysters were in some large rocks.  Overall, the trail was great, especially for how short it was, but the oysters weren't that interesting to me.  I would recommend doing it for the views and the natural bridge.

We got back into the van and drove to National Park Village.  We spent the next two nights at the Tongariro Crossing Lodge. We had two adjoining rooms booked for a total cost of $295NZ.  We got into National Park Village just before dinner time, checked in and went to dinner.  We had a little bit of time after dinner so we took a quick walk around the small town.  We got a weather report from the hotel manager and then headed off to bed.

Continue to Day 3

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