NEW ZEALAND 2

The glow-worm caves are numerous and the largest is busy and expensive. You get a total of 45 minutes for your $25. However, for $37 you could have a half day trip with Norm in his transit minibus with half a dozen other people

to a quite cave wtih a scenic (if not a little hair-raising) drive around the countryside. Norm is about 50 at a guess and doing this for a while now - of all the "guides" that we have encountered he actually managed to make the same words he does day-in, day-out sound off the cuff. Including his "Guess what I did for a living before this...............I changed clothes 3 times a day, sometimes a suit and tie, sometimes casual" After the obvious guesses and the final "Stripper" coming from the back of the van he announced that he had been a funeral director. Later he explained that someone eventually comes up with stripper and he always slams on the brakes and sticks his leg on the dash to say "with legs like these ?????". Anyway, I digress. The glow-worms are wonderful to look at - in the total darkness in the caves they shine brightly - blue. The picture above shows the sticky threads that they dangle to ensnare passing bugs.

From Waitomo we headed for a small place near to Papriki (this itself being in-accessible without doing serious gravel roading). We had read of a place called "The Flying Fox" that had camping facilities so we went in search of it. The map shows that it is just a little way after the road becomes gravel - OK so 500-1000 metres is bearable. We hit the gravel, came off of it onto tarmac and hit more gravel when we asked a passing driver where the Flying Fox was - "Oh, you've missed it - it is back there, before the gravel starts, on the other side of the river"................"What do you mean the other side of the river"................"Ah that's why it is so famous - you can only get across by cable car over the river". Bugger we thought. We found it and indeed it involved a crossing by wire in a small basket to the place - not going to get a bike on that we thought. Plan B - stop at the free campsite we noticed earlier just a few miles down the road. By free we mean free - water and a rather dodgy spiders den (toilet that is) are provided but that is it. We arrived, pitched our tent and went in search of firewood - this idea only striking us as we noticed ashes piled high. Cliff put on his caveman hat and went forraging for firewood - which he did in a rather convincing manner - rummaging and grunting in the woods :-) We set ourselves up and were shortly joined by a German couple in a campervan. Later in the evening we lit the fire and invited the Germans over to share the warmth and light. A few wines later and the conversation was roaring, despite the constant russling of Possim's in the undergrowth.

Not the best quality photo ever done but it shows our inferno.

From here we headed straight for the ferry to the South Island. We just made the last one at 5 p.m. and landed in Picton at 8.30 p.m. The next morning we left, in the drizzling rain, for Collingwood - the farthest North-Western point of the South Island. However, we had our first road-side breakdown. Jenny's inlet manifold rubber split making the bike sound good but not run too well. After an hour and some super-glue we decided that it would be best to head for Nelson, the next large town, and try and find a spare. As luck would have it there were 7 of these rubbers in the country and the BMW stockist could have one by the following morning for us - very lucky for us. Once the bike was fixed the next morning we decided to have a look round and see what Nelson had to offer - not a lot really - the highlight being watching model sailing boats down at the quay.

We finally made it to Collingwood and further on to Farewell Spit - a strange piece of rocky land that protrudes from the land out for around 20km in a thin strip that is covered in sand and windy. It is also home to several different birds but the only way onto it is by guided tour so we took a walk to the beginning of it and along the beach either side. One side of it being sheltered from the winds and the other permanently blowing a gale, which proved difficult to walk against. We stayed at a small campsite in Collingwood right on the sea front - the tent being around 5 metres from high tide. The seagulls here seemed quite happy with the interruption and in fact we saw one swimming within 3 feet of a woman swimming in the water.

Winds driving the sand towards us on Farewell Spit - dot in the distance is a tour bus !!!

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