Friday, July 11, 2014

Waitomo & Rotorua Experience

The end of our glowworm boat ride

New Zealand is much more than it being Middle Earth. While I was still in Auckland, I booked an all day tour with Great Sights to see Waitomoto and Rotorua.  Waitomo is famous for its glowworm caves. In addition to the incredible limestone formations, we went on a boat ride through the pitch dark area of the cave so that we could see all the glowworms on top of the cave. It felt like a night sky filled with stars!  It was incredible. Of course, these glowworms, Arachnocampa luminosa, which is unique to New Zealand, live in complete darkness so no photograph is allowed.

After the Waitomo Glowworm tour, I went on a farm tour at Agrodome Farm. You know I couldn't come all the way here without visiting a farm. I actually looked into farm stay as an accommodation option. Unfortunately, it would be difficult for me to get to the farms without renting a car, so I ended up staying in city centers for all 3 stops. At the farm tour, I got to witness the process of shearing a sheep, sheep dog demo, hand feed a bunch of wooly sheep, and visit the baby animal nursery.

The dog was incredible. The training started at 3 months old, and he is now 3 years old with the ability to herd 500 sheep all by himself!  He doesn't bark at them. He just stared them down and ran back and forth to gather them together.  For the demo, only 4 sheep were used. The dog was calm and extremely focused.

Sheep dog working

After the dog demo, we all go on a trolley  that was pulled by a tractor so we could go around the farm to visit various animals. The dog went on the farm tour with us, too. I sat next to him, so I could pet him. The farm animals totally knew what was going on when they saw visitors coming by in trolleys. They all quickly ran up to us because they knew they were going to get treats!  While some guests were turned off by the smell of sheep, I loved it!  You know I am a farm girl at heart. I was so excited at the sight of the fluffy wooly sheep running up to me. They were all over me within seconds to get the pellets in my hands.

After I said goodby to the sheep, the tour took me to Te Puia, a Maori culture institute, in Rotorua. The history of Maori people in New Zealand has a lot of similarities as our indigenous people in the States. We started our tour with a welcome ceremony from Maori people in their traditional attires. After we were invited into their meeting house, they did a performance for us. After the fabulous performance we got to tour the rest of Te Puia. They have a kiwi house on site, and there I finally got to see 2 kiwi birds!  Rotorua is covered with active steam vents! The steam and sometimes water coming out from the vents is extremely hot.  It's an incredible sight. People use the steam to cook, to bath, and to heat up their homes.

I would definitely like to spend more time in Rotorua area when I revisit Middle Earth.

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