Tuesday, 16 July 2019

NZL Travelogue: Waitomo Glowworm Cave, Hobbiton Tour & Rotorua Night Market

And day 6 of our NZL road trip was yet another crazy packed (of driving) day as we're booked for a 2-hour Ruakuri Cave tour at 11am at Waitomo Glowworm Cave and need to reach by 1030am. Oh, did I mention that it's a 3 hours' drive away?

The initial plan was to stop by Pullman Park PDS (20 minutes drive from Maverick's Yard) to topup freshwater / dump greywater before heading to Nikki's Kitchen along the way, which is nearly an hour's drive away from Mount Wellington, to pick up some breakfast and coffee. There was some mixed reviews on their coffee, but the reviews on their pies has been unanimously good.
However, as we're running low on petrol, we decided to head to Mobil Service Station Wiri instead, which was about 10 minutes' drive away, and has a PDS at the back corner of the station. There's also a freshwater tap behind the rubbish bin at pump number 5, but do note that the taps here do not fit the hose provided by Jucy (not sure for other CVs), and you will need to hold the hose in place and be prepared to get a little wet.
And so, to further save up on time (googlemap's estimation of driving time is horribly optimistic at all times), we also picked up some cabinet food and bottled milk coffee at the petrol station for breakfast.
Mammoth Supply Co coffeemilk isn't too bad too!

And by giving a generous 1.5x buffering time to googlemap's estimated driving time, we reached the Waitomo Glowworm Cave ticketing area promptly at 1030am. Now, although the place is commonly called Waitomo Glowworm Cave, there's actually two other caves which you can visit other than THE Waitomo Glowworm Cave (no photography allowed), and that's Ruakuri Cave and Aranui Cave (photography allowed in both caves). And after comparing the main attraction points of all 3 caves, I decided on Ruakuri Cave, which is a 2 hours' walking trail tour and ticket price totaled up to $150.96 NZD for both of us.
For more information on the various tour experiences, updated ticket prices and combo packages, visit their website HERE.

This is my not very happy face after the cave tour, taken right outside the cave, and I shall tell you why.

And so now, here's the best way to dampen my mood and spoil my entire day of excitement (because it was Hobbiton right after the Glowworms, and I can't wait!).

Because I was rushing for a toilet break, I passed the printed e-tickets (reservation slips) to the BF and asked him to go to the ticketing counter first to check in. But who knows, because the reservation slip was done in an e-ticket format, the BF assumed that we need not check in, and didn't tell me that he didn't check in with them. When I came out of the washroom, he simply told me that the reservation slip is already our ticket (because it really looks just like a ticket with barcode and everything) and we should head in. Over at the waiting area, we also showed the staff our "tickets", not once but TWICE. Once to double check that we're waiting at the correct area, which he checked (our slips) and said YES (but in fact, IT WAS NOT!). And the second time to get our "tickets" scanned and enter the cave for the tour.

And it was only upon entering the cave premise, when our guide for the day reminding us of the "no photography allowed" rule, did I start to feel that something was wrong.
Did they change the photography rule without updating their website? 
And then, it was about halfway into the cave when the tour guide mentioned that we will end the 45 minutes tour (like what? I paid for a 2 hours' tour!) with a boat ride did I finally realise (and confirmed) that we have joined the wrong tour that's priced at a fraction of what we've paid for.

And well, it might not be THAT bad if I have just left it like that. Because I was so darn sure that they were the one who messed up (still had no idea that we didn't do proper check in in the first place), I went back to the ticketing counter and informed the staff that they've ushered us to the wrong cave tour, expecting them to give me a refund for the Ruakuri Cave tour.

HAH, in my dreams.
Because the very first thing that the staff asked, was if we've checked in with them at the counter with the slips. And before I could nod my head yes, the BF replied, "No...."
*insert dramatic music*
And so instead of this being their slip-up, it ended up being our own mistake. And they didn't care that their colleague inside at the Glowworm Cave has technically checked our slips TWICE, it's still not their fault and so, NO REFUND FOR US. And not only that, because we've joined the Glowworm Cave tour as well, WE ALSO HAD TO PAY FOR THAT.
So yeah, "2 caves for the price of 1" type of promotion is too common for us. We've got swag, we go for "1 cave for the price of 2" kind of thing, you know?

Sorry for the rant, but even a 9 months' buffering time for this incident hasn't doused a single bit of the annoyance in me for their utter lack of flexibility and unwillingness to put themselves in their patrons' shoes. I felt absolutely no sense of empathy and no form of help from the staff at all. All she cared was to make sure that we paid for the Glowworm Cave tour (which we ended up joining partly due to their slip-up), that's it.

And so, after a miserable 45 minutes Waitomo Glowworm Cave tour that ended up being ridiculously overpriced for us, we set off with a heavy-heart (wasted my money! T.T) for our Hobbiton Tour booked at 430pm.

But before that, since we now have an extra hour's worth of time on hand, we dropped by Rora Street at Te Kuiti for lunch, which was a 20 minutes' drive away. The few eateries that's hot(ter) on the internet radar for this area will probably be Wool Press Cafe, Youngs Seafood & Takeaway and Tu Kuiti Bakery. But after walking down the entire street of cafes & eateries, the BF decided on a random, spacious and simple eatery instead.

And after a hearty, reasonably priced lunch, we hopped back onto our Jucy Chaser and set off on our nearly 2 hours' drive to Matamata, where we're booked for a 430pm 2-hour Hobbiton Movie Set Tour that sets off from The Shire's Rest, which is priced at $84 NZD per pax.

There's a variety of different tours (that sets off from different locations) and combo packages (with meals) for you to choose from, and price adjustment from April 2020 onwards so do check out their updated tour package offers HERE and make your online reservations.

If you're a fan of the LOTR + The Hobbit movie series, you definitely got to make your way down now. I mean, I'm not even THAT big of a fan but I truly enjoyed myself on the tour. Our tour guide for the day has a very strong cheerful vibe and made the tour exceptionally enjoyable despite the fact that the tour group can get a little big (there were 20 over of us?) and with pretty young children among us. Sorry, I'm really not a fan of kids

The guide will also tell us some interesting BTS stories that happened during filming of the movies, and we ended the tour with a complimentary beer/cider/hot drinks (coffee or tea) at The Green Dragon Inn

By the time we're done with the tour and driven back to The Shire's Rest, it was already past 630pm and we quickly hopped back onto our Jucy Chaser, hoping to be able to catch the sunset at Lake Rotorua, which is an hour's drive away.

But we couldn't make it.

So scrape that sunset, we're off to the Rotorua Night Market at Tutanekai Street, which takes place every Thursday night from 5pm to 9pm, for some awesome street food dinner!

The official opening hours as stated was 9pm, but probably due to the pesky rain, many stalls were already closed/closing at 8 plus when we reached the place. I can't be sure if the stalls are always the same every week, but if they happen to be, you really ought to try the BBQ meat skewers!

And after packing back loads of yummies for dinner, we headed back to our Jucy Chaser in the drizzle and decided to scrape the initial plan of staying at Rotorua Family Holiday Park and went for the free campsite at Lakeside Rotorua car park (you can find the location on CamperMate app easily) instead. However, there's only THREE designated parking slots for overnight CV parking (with the CV logo drawn on the ground at the parking lots) and if you're parked on any other parking lots, you're deemed as illegal camping. So you either have to be extremely early (review states before 4pm) to snatch a spot "legally", or you can head down much later at 8 plus, nearly 9pm and wait for the DOC guy/guard to come and "chase" you away. The guard will basically round up all the "illegal parkings" and bring you further to the end of the road, right beside Lake Rotorua, where you'll be allowed to park overnight, but with no form of facilities at all.

We're parked right up to the edge of the lake and it would have been an amazing night if not for the CRAZY NUMBER OF SANDFLIES, OMG.

I'm not sure if it's because it was raining for the entire day, or that area is just home to millions of trillions of sandflies at that time of the year (October), but after opening up the doors of our CV for ventilation to cook up something simple (MyKuali Hokkien Prawn Mee) for our dinner (I took barely 30 minutes, I'm sure), the ENTIRE interior of our CV was filled with sandflies flying around the light sources, sticking on the walls, crawling up my arms, on my tee, in my hair, in my nose, in my mouth....
Yeah, #tmi but you get it. IT WAS PURE NIGHTMARE.

So while you can get really scenic view in the morning, I highly advise you DO NOT open the doors/windows of your CV at night when camping here overnight. Do prepare mosquito nets to stick over any ventilation openings (regardless how tiny, even 1mm) you may need for survival.

Here's our yummy dinner for the night, MyKuali Instant Hokkien Prawn Mee, BBQ skewers, Nutella crepe and blueberry tart!

And here's the amazing view we had the next morning in exchange of our sandflies battle that night.

More amazing shots of our next morning at Lake Rotorua coming up in my next post! So do stick around!

Day 7 is now up! 

Till then,
Mia Foo


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