We took advantage of no firm plans today and slept in, which we always seem to do on the days that I write. We woke up finally to the sounds of the Wiggles and Cat scratching at the door to our bedroom wanting some cuddles, which is actually a pretty terrifying way to wake up. To the sounds of scratching and heavy bodies throwing themselves at the room you are sleeping in.
After a quick breakfast, we headed off to Whangarei, the nearest town to the farm we’re staying on to see the local sights. We had heard from Angie the night before about a botanical garden in an old stone quarry, some caves that make for some good exploring, and a waterfall. We started the day at the botanical gardens and were really impressed with how far this place had come from a dusty stone quarry. Every once in a while we would come across some concrete ruins hidden among the beautiful flowers to make sure we didn’t forget. We even got to see some bonus animals in the way of a Monarch Butterfly and a small rabbit hopping away from us.
After the gardens we drove across town to the Wharangei Waterfall. New Zealand seems to be the land of waterfalls we are learning as everywhere has at least one. The falls were quite lovely and we did a quick circle of them before heading into town to find some lunch. After missing the turn into the parking lot, Lynn tried to circle the block to get back to it but in fact ended up finding us free parking at the city aquatic center. Good on you Lynn.
We didn’t know our way around the town so we just kind of ambled around for a while until we recognized where we had eaten lunch a week before on the way up to Cable Bay. There were a fair bit of restaurants around so we chose a Thai restaurant and had a meal that was lacking in both the spice and sweetness we have come to know as real Thai food. And call me traditional, but I don’t think Red Curry is supposed to have peas in it, maybe an appeal to the New Zealand market, though it still wasn’t bad.
After lunch we failed at some Christmas shopping before giving up and heading off to Abbey Caves for some afternoon spelunking. We found the caves with no issue and pulled in alongside a row of cars parked along the side of the road. We had been warned that flowing water in the caves can get up to waist deep which sounded cold, dangerous, and not very pleasant so we decided to forgo any submersion should we come across some. We grabbed some torches, as International Lynn has taken to calling them, and headed off down the short trek to the caves.
The first thing we came across was a very large warning sign that did not put us at ease. It seems no one has ever really checked out these caves for safety but you’re still free to go ahead and do what you want in and around them. We would later learn that in New Zealand you can’t really sue anyone for anything so this sign was even more of a courtesy than most places give. Regardless, it put Lynn off a bit on the whole going inside of dark caves, with possibly deep rushing water, that may or may not collapse on you.
We had some trouble finding the first cave and continued on to the second and third, which I went ahead and picked my way across the tumbled stones into. Lynn responsibly volunteered to stand watch outside in case there was a cave in and she needed to go get help. Both caves looked pretty dry and there wasn’t even any water to be seen really. I quickly learned that standing water in a dark cave is very hard see, even if you have a headlight, and I was suddenly standing ankle deep, shoes soaked in some rather chilly water. Having lost that battle I explored a little more before coming out to a waiting and relieved Lynn.
We made our way around the rest of the grounds, coming across some lovely fields of carrot weed and some cows munching on it before trying to find the first cave again. This time we had more success and I managed to make it pretty far into the cave where I even saw some glow worms on the ceiling. Eventually it got a little too dark and confining for my liking and I headed back out. Satisfied with our caving, we headed back to the car and home to do some laundry and relax before heading back to Auckland tomorrow.
Back home, we rested, read, and played with the animals before another amazing dinner. This time was a stir fry with beef and vegetables from their garden. Over dinner we discussed vacation, health care, and lawsuits with our New Zealand hosts, and they were shocked what we put up with in America. We are too. Another homemade cake followed dinner while we watched TV. We ended the night all laughing hysterically at a British stand up comedy show, Live at the Apollo, and particularly at Danny Bhoy who everyone should see and or listen to.
Daily Walking Mileage : 6.7 miles
Fun Facts :
- UB40 is having a Red Red Wine Tour, hosting shows at vineyards throughout New Zealand. We will sadly miss all of their shows.
- Whangarei, the town we’re staying near, is pronounced by locals as Fungaday, which has definitely led to some confusion.
- On the news today there was a story about Air New Zealand’s new direct route to Houston that began today. They interviewed some of the first passengers, asking them what they know about Texas and resulting in the lovely soundbite that became our title today. We are also supposed to inform everyone in America that the flight is 13 hours, not 41 as some very stupid Americans thought.