We have returned from a travel experience I hope never to repeat. But in the midst of all the pandemonium, we think it is important to take a little time to talk about all the really cool things we did and saw in New Zealand. Of course, we would have rather stayed on and had the trip we signed up for, but that was not to be. Still, we had a great time! The people of New Zealand are incredibly open and warm and seem to have a zany sense of humor. We loved Auckland. The waterfront area was reminiscent of the waterfront of Cape Town. The city is gearing up for the next America’s Cup when New Zealand will be the defender club. We spent a few hours sitting in an outside bar people-watching while enjoying the late summer/early autumn day and quaffing a glass or two of a fabulous New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. The City of Sails also serves up some mighty fresh and fine seafood.
On our first day in Auckland, we traveled to the countryside south of the city. Since New Zealand is situated on the Pacific Ring of Fire, there have been many volcano eruptions over time and the soil is quite fertile, making farming a big part of life there. We drove through the beautiful countryside to the Waitomo Glow-Worm Caves. The local Maori people knew about the limestone caverns for at least one hundred years before they showed the entrance to a couple of Brits. The caves have been open to the public since 1889. They are spectacular. There is a stream flowing through the cave system as well as several small lakes that are home to eels. The largest chamber of the cave, the “Cathedral,” is said to be acoustically perfect and they often hold concerts in the space. But the real show most days is put on by the glow-worms. Arachnocampa luminosa is the species that light up the caves. These little guys are unique to New Zealand. They are actually not worms; in reality they are maggots. No one would be interested in visiting if they were called the glow-maggots, so they call them glow-worms. It seems that worms are not as repulsive as maggots to the public. It was just phenomenal to see how they illuminated the cave as we took a boat ride through what is called the Glow-worm Grotto. Their glow is their way of attracting other insects as their food source. From their tiny bodies, a long strand of a sticky substance snares any approaching prey. We were not allowed to take pictures or talk during our boat ride, so I can only show a picture of a postcard.
The following day, we drove out to the rugged western coast of the North Island to see one of only two mainland gannet colonies in the world. The birds were totally oblivious to the throngs of people. It was interesting to see the birds, but I would say that the view of the coastline was equally impressive.
Although our fabulous adventure barely got off the ground before world-wide pandemic panic hit, we had a great time while we were there. I want to remember the fun we had and the people we met and not let this trip be defined only by the insanity and hype surrounding Covid-19. When the whole world isn’t on lockdown, we will go back and cruise through the South Pacific. I know Australia and New Zealand are not on everyone’s list of places to visit because of the great distance and that’s too bad. It’s a truly beautiful part of the world.