Day 2 - Raglan to Urenui


Day 1 - Arrival
Day 2 - Raglan to Urenui
Day 3 - The Long Road to Levin
Day 4 - A Day with Granny
Day 5 - A Wellington Wander
Day 6 - The Tour to Taupo
Day 7 - Rolling to Rotarua
Day 8 - The Redolence of Rotorua
Day 9 - The Beach at Bowentown
Day 10 - Outtrip to Ohope
Day 11 - Meander over McLaren Falls
Day 12 - Mission to Mt. Manganui
Day 13 - Shopping the Strand
Day 14 - Wistful in Whangamata
Day 15 - Cruising to Coromandel
Day 16 - On the Road to Orere Point
Day 17 - Departure

Sunday, March 17

The morning came with sunshine and broken cloud, the storms of the previous night were gone. Richard took advantage of the camp site's shower room, we had a leisurely breakfast and then broke camp - which is to say, we packed everything into the camper and drove off.

During the evening we had discussed how far to go the next day - the goal was to get to Levin (and Great-Granny Stanton) as soon as possible, while still seeing as much of New Zealand as we could. Waitomo Caves were a must - we had originally thought we'd get there the first day, now we were sure we'd be there this second day.

In our search for RV camps, we'd also discovered that there was a Kiwi House in Otorohanga, right on the way to Waitomo caves. That looked to be our first stop, as we drove back up the road eastward from Raglan toward the highway and then south to Otorohanga.

Alex gets the first photo of the morning, a look at some serious rain clouds off to the south as we drive out of Raglan. But the road ahead looks sunny!
Look! Cows! Thirty seconds later... Look! Rain!
Seems those clouds to the south were headed north after all... Richard drives with both hands in the rain. Looks serious, don't he?
A few minutes later, there's a break in the clouds... ...and sunshine peeks through on the endless green hills of New Zealand.
Alex spies the rare and elusive kiwi bird, right in the cabin of the RV! "All right Kiwi, no funny stuff. Tell us where your house is!"
After about two hours of driving in variable weather, we arrive in Otorohanga. We stop to study the map of the town to find the Kiwi house. Turns out it was right ahead. A few blocks further down the road we make it to the parking lot for our first stop of the day.
Caitlin peeks into the cab of the RV. "Are we here? Are we here?" Stacy in the parking lot. "We're here! We're here!"

The Kiwi House in Otorohanga is a large aviary that houses all sorts of species of birds, many of which are unique to New Zealand. The stars, of course, are the kiwi birds. The Kiwi House is part of a breeding and reintroduction program trying to help increase the kiwi bird population in the wilderness areas of New Zealand.

The kiwi is a flightless nocturnal bird with hairy feathers. It lives in deep forest, eating insects and grubs off the forest floor and rotted wood. One of the most amazing characteristics of the kiwi is its insanely HUGE egg - the female bird is larger than the male, but is still only a three pound bird. But it lays a two pound egg!

A kiwi bird diorama, showing male, female and baby in a natural setting. These are stuffed birds, the real ones live in an environment too dark for photographs. A picture comparing the sizes of eggs for birds. The largest egg is the ostrich egg (second from the right), the middle egg is a kiwi egg!
An x-ray of a female kiwi carrying an egg, a day away from laying. Makes human pregnancy look easy, doesn't it?  

Right beside the kiwi show room was the kiwi house itself. The kiwi is a nocturnal bird, out for only a few hours each night. The Kiwi House has reversed day and night for the kiwis, and has two pairs for show - each pair is only out for four hours a day, one pair in the morning and one pair in the afternoon.

There is very dim light in the kiwi house, only enough to see the outline of the kiwis as they explore their artificial forest floor for worms and grubs and such (and they're in there, somewhere). There were also a pair of owls perched in the back of the house, flying around periodically. We got a good look at the female kiwi, who was close to the front of the house and using her long, thing beak to explore the floor and some rotted logs in the enclave.

Flash photography was not permitted in the kiwi house, it would scare the birds. We took a number of photos with the flash turned off, the pictures turned out black, perhaps with some light enhancement tricks, we'll be able to bring out some detail of the kiwis we saw.

Leaving the kiwi house, we came out onto a path that led past a series of different habitats for birds and other New Zealand critters...

Right outside the kiwi house, a Tuatara lizard evaluates the prospects of capturing a small child for breakfast. Another Tuatara lizard, this time just kinda... hanging out.
A pair of geckos wait for breakfast. This is an Otago skink, they live only on Otago island.
Here's another Otago skink, apparently they are one of the largest skink species in the world. In the next cage over, a Duvaucel's gecko hangs from the cage wall, apparently in the middle of a molt.

That was the end of the reptile portion of the show... it was back to birds.

Although the picture is a bit dark, hidden back there is the New Zealand falcon. Another New Zealand falcon. They are kept it relatively small cages because they fly at such high speeds when given room that they seriously injure themselves on the wires.
This is a harrier, quite a bit larger than the falcons, nastier looking too. Further down the path we find a water bird area... some of the birds are strangely familiar, being rather mallard-like. However, all the species here are New Zealand native.
In a cage for rare birds, there was the kiwi version of a kingfisher. This is a variable oystercatcher, one of three species of oystercatcher unique to New Zealand.

The next area we entered was the kaka and kea display. These are New Zealand-native parrots.

This kaka is right at the back of the cage. They are forest-dwelling parrots. Another look at the kaka, likely named for its harsh call.
In the kea habitat, the keas were doing what parrots do, climbing on everything, as well as flying back and forth and calling. This kea sat and responded to the other kea's calls.
The clown of the group, this kea hopped back and forth along the floor, peeking through the cage. Suddenly he hopped up on the cage and spotted something of interest...
The kea spots a fellow aviary viewer's lunch in a plastic bag... This part of the viewing area is made of plexiglas, the kea has obviously scratched at it for some time.
Finally he notices he's being photographed extensively... ...and says something rude in kea-ese.
Momentarily distracted by Alex's pink shirt, he hops away from the plexiglas. He's only a few inches away from Alex. Then its back to begging for lunch again... there's no doubt who would have had that bag if he could have gotten through the plexiglas...
In the last part of the walk, we went into a domed aviary, where water birds and parakeets lived... are the parakeets. There were also lots and lots of mice running around.

We left the kiwi house, ready for a bit of lunch. Back on the main street of Otorohanga, we found the cafe that Richard and Stacy went to last time they were in New Zealand (May 2001). Lunch also offered an opportune moment to fill out some postcards that we'd bought from the kiwi house.

Caitlin writes on a postcard... ...Daddy write in the address.
Caitlin smirks... ...and then mails off the postcard.

And that ended our visit to Otorohanga. Next stop - the Waitomo caves! They were only a brief drive from Otorohanga, down a bit of a twisting road. The parking lot itself was very steep as well... making Richard's life interesting.

Alex climbing out of the RV in the parking lot at the Waitomo caves. The girls read about glowworms while waiting for the cave tour to start.
Caitlin grabs a hug from mom before the tour begins. Wandering up the path toward the cave entrance.

The Waitomo caves are made of limestone, and, being caves, are normally completely dark. The introduction of light (and humans) causes the caves to grow fungus and other nasty stuff. To try and minimize the impact of the visitors, the lighting in the cave is very dim, and no photography is allowed of any kind. Richard even quietly asked the guide if he could take some photos without a flash and was refused.

And yet, somehow, a few black pictures came out on the camera, both in the large halls of the caves and in the glowworm caves themselves. Later processing might bring out the pictures, for now they're just black. The glowworms line the ceiling of the caves where the river runs through, after walking through the caves, we all boarded a boat and were pulled over the river by the guide using ropes strung through the caves. In the main glowworm cave, the combination of the blackness of the caves and the glowworms made it seem like it as night time on a clear day, the sky covered in stars...

On the dock outside the caves, the girls pose for a picture. Spot the crayfish!
Heading back up the path to the parking lot. Driving back to the highway, we pass an ostrich farm...

With our touristy-type things done, the only task left to us for the day was to find a place to park for the evening. We had decided we wanted to be by the beach again, so we were watching for the ocean and any RV parks close to the water... finally we settled on an RV park in Urenui a half hour out of Plymouth and right on the beach.

Our first peek at the ocean! Parked at the Urenui RV park.
Alex rolls up her pants and puts on sandals for a wander on the beach. Caitlin gets mom to help her with the same set up.
The girls discuss how to actually GET to the beach. Stacy and Alex take to the rocks.
Caitlin clambered down a sandy face and got to the bottom first. Heavy cloud cover, strong waves, light rain...
...don't diminish the girls fun at all... ...or Stacys!
Stacy dips her toes in the Tasman Sea. Alex and Caitlin try it too.
The girls wander down the beach together, exploring. A find... is it a ruined water balloon, or a teeny little man-o-war?
Further down the beach, the sand changes to river rock. Looking back whence we came.

After a fine bit of beachcombing, we retired back to the camper for dinner... only to discover we were all but out of fresh water. This was easily remedied by a nearby hose, but it meant that our grey water tank was full. Tomorrow would be a plumbing day.

That night, the rainy weather turned violently stormy, blasting the camper with strong wind and rain. We battened down as best we could, every window closed tight. It was a tough night's sleep. So much for camping on the beach. Tomorrow we'd make for Levin.