We met our tour guide, Kyle, at the Visitor Centre on Waitomo’s main street. We were a small group of 10 which added to the intimacy of the tour. Saying that, it was still 10 new people for Kyle to get to know and he remembered everybody’s names!
Pretty impressive in my opinion.
After hopping into a mini bus we headed out to the countryside and to the cave. Kyle gave us a bit of an introduction to the area and the history of the caves as we drove towards them.
We drove past a variety of farm animals as well as some alpacas on a local farm, where you could book to stay at the farm house! You simply wouldn’t know that the caves were underneath you.
We pulled up at the car park and headed into the bush. As we did, Kyle pointed out various different types of fern and other plants and explained to us what their uses would have been when the Maori people still lived in these areas.
The group walked through the bush, through different varieties of fern and a unique tree called the Kawakawa. The Kawakawa plant would have traditionally been used for medicinal purposes. Some leaves of the Kawakawa had lots of little holes in them, which signified the most concentrated medicinal properties, so these are the ones to go for.
Kyle explained that we would later be trying a traditional tea made from these leaves, that would have been used to treat all sorts of ailments such as digestive, circulatory and rheumatic complaints. Kawakawa leaves were also chewed for toothache.
The entrance to the Footwhistle cave recently became famous by photographer Stephen Patience who won the titles of 2018 and 2017 New Zealand Geographic time-lapse photographer of the year! You can watch his time-lapse of the cave entrance and glowworms in the link below.
Isn’t it incredible? Take me back!