the d.i.y. tourist

there are times when refusing to buy into the package tourism industry is so unexpectedly gratifying. for example, the other day we were leaving rotorua and started to head towards taupo with the hopes of doing the tongariro crossing hike (one of nz’s “great treks”), but the weather was looking increasing crappy, so we decided on a whim to veer off to waitomo instead. waitomo is principally known for two things: caves and glow worms. both j and are are somewhat non-plussed by caves at this point, but we were interested in seeing the glow worms and the scenery the area is reknowned for. as we drove, we passed through mile after mile of emerald knolls and valleys, lakes and ponds nestled in the foothills, and plush forest packed with firs and giant ferns. as j said, “it hurts your eyes trying to take it all in”. we arrived in waitomo and found it chock-a-block with “adventure companies” offering (expensive) myriad opportunities to see the glow worms while spelunking/abseiling/tubing through the caves. to be honest, neither of us fancied the disneyfied tours, and we’d decided to try to save our mad money for snowboarding on the south island. so once again we decided to strike off in search of the road less travelled.

we wound our way up the narrow little backroads to see the spectacular vistas from high above the town. we found our way to the remote but truly impressive marakopa waterfalls. we did a d.i.y. tour of the spooky piripiri caves. we browsed through the nearby town of otorahanga and did some souvenir shopping. and at nightfall, we headed down to the banks of the waitomo river, where we explored the deep gorges, limestone caves and tunnels (in the dark!) and yes, even saw thosands of the glow worms, scattered amongst all the nooks and crannies and ceilings like tiny blue fairylights. the sounds of the forest settling down for the night, having the trail to ourselves, and the growing dark all combined for an wonderfully atmospheric twilight experience. we had such a memorable time, and it was so much more rewarding than shelling out gobs of money to be hustled through with a hoarde of gawkers.

sometimes the best things in life really are free.

One Response to “the d.i.y. tourist”

  1. Amity
    August 9th, 2006 22:09

    that sounds amazing.

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