Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Waitomo Cave and a Maori's Promise

A tribute to my Kiwi friend, the late La Peres

My Kitakyushu friend and an English teacher who chaperoned her high school students to New Zealand recommended, "You shouldn't miss the mysterious Waitomo. Once there, even the noisy students sat quietly during the tour."

Waitomo is a famous stalactite cavern full of glow worms. Glow worms are a kind of fly. After they hatch from eggs, the larvae spins a nest out of silk. They hang down threads of silk which glow through bioluminescence to attract their prey. The cavern tour proceeds in a boat without any lighting. The guide advances the boat by pulling on a guide rope. When you enter this mysterious world, it seems like you are seeing the shining stars and the Milky Way.

One can choose a full-day bus service to Waitomo from Auckland or an overnight stay at the cavern hotel. I was on a tight schedule, so I arrived at Otorohanga at midnight and stayed one night. I visited Waitomo the following morning and returned to Otorohanga to catch a noon train for Wellington.

I had to tackle two basic problems. One was the hotel at Otorohanga and the other was transportation to and from Waitomo. I found a hotel in a guidebook and showed it to my Auckland friend. He said that it wasn't listed in the hotel source directory and therefore was not recommended. I ignored his advice. When I arrived at Otorohanga, the station was just a platform. All the stores were closed and a taxi was out of the question.

I walked to the hotel street with my luggage on wheels. I saw a group of dark figures gathering around shabby cars. The hotel was a bar. The bartender called a middle-aged woman who took me upstairs and showed me a room. She said, "No rooms with private bath and toilet." I nodded and asked if I could call a taxi early in the morning. She then introduced me to "Cee," a young dark-skinned Maori who was the bouncer of the disco-hall. He patted my shoulder and said, "OK, get in disco if you wish before sleep." I wasn't in the mood, returned to my room and lied down. The music downstairs was loud and noisy but faded off with my heavy eyes.

When I woke the following morning, the upstairs hotel rooms were mostly occupied. Some doors were open and I saw some women sleeping. I thought that maybe they were disco sleep-overs. I went downstairs and found the cleaning woman. I asked her if "Cee" could come to pick me up. She said that someone would come. I packed my things and waited at the entrance.

A little before 9 a.m. a Maori woman and boy got out of a pickup truck. They went into the hotel and said nothing to me. The Maori woman talked with the cleaning lady. "Let's go," the Maori woman shouted as she came out. It was a godsend to me that the Maori was true to his word. The ride was only about 10 minutes to Waitomo.

I made it to Waitomo just as I planned, but not in an easy, convenient way, even ignoring my friend's advice. I will not forget the Maori's help nor the mystery and delight I experienced in the cavern. I telephoned my friend from the Otorohanga Station that I made it.

La Peres

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