Our first night as a group on Stray New Zealand was a complete success! A few people noted that being on the Stray bus is like entering First Year University (College). Everyone is there with different hopes, expectations, apprehensions and dreams – when you jump on the bus you are signing yourself up for the ride of your life! There are so many new experiences to be had, so many new people from all over the world to befriend, and new life challenges to accomplish!
Stray is something that all those travelling through New Zealand should part take in as it not only takes you off the beaten track “geographically,” it tests you as a person and takes you to lengths that you never thought possible.
Waitomo Caves and the Glowworms
When we left Raglan, we made our way to Waitomo. Waitomo is home to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves, which are an absolute MUST when travelling New Zealand. These caves are very special to New Zealand, and more specifically Waitomo.
Waitomo Adventures Ltd offers 5 amazing adventure options – everything from half-day black water rafting trips, abseiling and rock climbing trips to full day Lost World ultimate caving experiences!
When visiting Waitomo I specifically chose to participate in their “most concentrated ACTION activity”, the Haggas Honking Holes. The Haggas Honking Holes is for those looking for a bit of thrill – it is adrenaline-filled, energy pumping and action-packed to say the least. Throughout your Waitomo adventure you will do 3 abseils of different heights down cascading waterfalls, rock climbing as well as many “army style crawls” throughout the cave.
We arrived at Waitomo Adventures in the morning and got completely geared up. We were provided with full wetsuits, gumboots, helmets and a headlight. After a few safety drills, we were ready to hit the caves! Our group entered the cave through a small hole, which led us to our first abseil of the journey.
At certain points in the experience, you will be taken to depths of 70 metres underground, facilitated by various abseils, and rock climbs. Whilst traversing the underground playground you are surrounded by the infamous Waitomo glowworms.
Throughout the trip, our guide would tell us to shut off our headlamp to take in the surrounding thousands of glowworms! Not only is this a physical experience, it is very educational as well. The guide gives you heaps of information on “what actually is a glowworm,” as well as you will be to told about how the various formations found in the caves, including Stalactites, Stalagmites have been formed.
The Haggas Honking Holes is something unlike anything I have done in my life. There are moments when you are in the cave that put you in a state of complete amazement, as you are 70 metres underground. The Waitomo Caves and the Haggas is the perfect adrenaline activity for those travelling through the North Island of New Zealand.
Pictures don’t do the place justice so you might have to go check them out yourself!
Evening in Mourea
The night at the Marae has been something I had been looking forward to since I was introduced to Stray New Zealand. Having the chance to be immersed into the Maori culture by staying with a family is such an incredible experience.
When we arrived at the entrance of the Marae, (since I had previously been welcomed into their home) Ruth automatically allowed me to enter the house and sit amongst her family. The welcoming ceremony at the Marae is very special and spiritual – as you approach the house from the car park you are guided through spiritual “chant” from one of the family members. Before entering the house you must remove you shoes, and the file into the provided chairs. As soon as everyone has found a seat, the whole group sits down as one unit. With the males sitting at the front and the females at the back, one member of the family recites a Maori speech, which goes with the welcoming ceremony. Once this speech is complete, all the members of the family (including myself as I have previously been on their land) stand in a line and begin a “nose-tapping” ritual. This is a personal hello to all those who are being welcomed onto the land for the first time – ‘Kia Ora’ followed by two taps on the nose by each person is the practice. As this concludes, it’s time to eat – which finishes off the welcoming ceremony!
Following afternoon tea, members of the family performed for us with traditional Maori singing and dancing – showcasing the Huka, and the technical manipulation of the Poi. The family sang us a few traditional and well known New Zealand and Maori songs that speak to the history of their culture. You can’t help but smile while you watch the performers – its beautiful to watch how proud the family is of their native culture.
Dinner was served shortly after the cultural show which consisted of a massive portion of chicken, roast vegetables, garlic bread, peas, carrots and a delicious dessert. This meal put me straight into a food coma, which made it easy for me to settle into the Marae stay for the evening. Once dinner concluded the group cozied up in the Marae (meeting house) for a night of story telling and a good nights sleep.
Staying on the Marae is a once in a lifetime experience that I found quite powerful and spiritual. It is definitely something that sets Stray apart, and goes alongside with their motto that they can take you off the beaten track.
Until next adventure,
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