This evening is beautiful and so was this morning. I think the middle of the day was too, but we spent much of it underground continuing our visit to the Waitomo Caves. Photos will follow, or at least I hope they will, I haven’t looked at them yet, so not tonight.
The caves are astounding. Beautiful natural creations of lime, stalactites dripping slowly onto you as you move along the walkways, stalagmites, growing slowly from the floor; one cubic centimetre per hundred years. You mustn’t touch, but looking is enough. The guide on our final tour this afternoon told us how when the caves were first opened and visitors were guided by candlelight, taking around six hours to cover an area we were in for a sixth of that time, they were allowed to break bits of the stalactites off as souvenirs. Then she told us that one passageway had recently been closed to visitors as some had not respected the place and had also been snapping bits off.
On this morning’s tour we watched as the group doing black water rafting drifted by in the water below us. I wasn’t tempted. The landscape is a network of caves. The Waitomo caves are managed by the descendants of the tribes who lived in the area, and our guide this afternoon was a descendant of the man who had first found the entrance into that particular set of caves. Yesterday’s trip to see the glow worms’ (more correctly maggots) was busy. Apparently they can take up to 50 people a time on a tour. By contrast for this afternoon’s tour the group size is a maximum of 18, I don’tknow what the maximum size was for this morning’s tour but we were lucky to be ina group of seven. It was the guide then who said they should more accurately be called maggot tours, but that doesn’t work for the marketing.
We’re back at the motel now where we shall eat our evening meal. As motels go, this one isn’t the most prepossessing. The bedspread in my room is of a supreme ugliness. The mattress slopes to the middle. I unplugged the gurgling fridge in the night after it repeatedly woke me.
However, it has a secret weapon. Or rather two secret weapons.
We elected to eat in the restaurant last night. The dining room is basically a good one, but rather tired and in need of an update. The view over the road to the field of cows attracted us much more than the silent television on the wall.
The manager on duty, a young woman called Kelly, was exactly what you want when you go somewhere. She was friendly in a professional way, had a welcoming smile, arranged for an item of the menu to be adapted for me to have a vegan meal. Any business would be lucky to employ her. I’m surprised she hasn’t been headhunted from what is essentially a truckers’ base.
The second secret weapon is the chef. We didn’t see him, though Lyn saw a reedy youth emerge from the kitchen.
My quinoa falafels with a generous and tasty mixed salad were excellent. Lyn and Malcolm both had the fish, red snapper, and loved it. We watched as other meals were carried to tables. This is a chef who takes pride in his work. Malcolm had the good thought of ordering a side of chips, cooked to perfection.
We might have left the table and gone back to our accommodation, but the puddings started to appear. The man who eaten his steak (medium), had a three scoop ice cream topped with a fantail wafer, one of those twirly chocolate wafers and strawberries. Similar concoctions were brought out. We resisted, but unsurprisingly we have decided to eat there again tonight. We’ve been checking on the results of of the mid term elections throughout the day. Our buoyancy has faded to nail biting. Last time I looked the Republicans only had to win two seats to retain control. If the Democrats make a last minute surge and can finally mountan effective opposition to Trumplestiltskin we might be unscrewing the lid of a bottle of wine shortly.
Tomorrow morning we part company and I head off on the train to Wellington. I spoke to the train company earlier to see if I could book a seat. I can’t, though he took a note of my preferences for when the seats are allocated. He did tell me the train is sold out, so I am expecting a busy journey. Maybe time to charge the noise cancelling headphones.