Dizzy Swallows

Honeymoon: Otorohanga and Waitomo

Honeymoon: Otorohanga and Waitomo

June 4th, 2014

After our second day in the waters of Raglan, we hopped straight from the surf and into the car, arriving salty and sweaty at the doorstep of our next abode, the incomparable Kamahi Cottage. This luxury B&B is tucked up on one of the pastoral rounded hills of the tiny Otorohanga district, adjacent to Waitomo, famous for its glowworm caves.

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I can’t say enough good things about Kamahi. Our hosts were hospitality incarnate, sweet and attentive, yet respectful of privacy. Their home and the cottage preside over the family’s working farm, a massive spread of hundreds of acres that has been in their family for generations.

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The cottage itself was perfectly appointed for comfort and pampering, with a beautiful half-story bedroom and the most divine amenities, right down to wooley socks and complimentary whiskey.

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Guests can opt for a gourmet dinner cooked by owner Liz, either delivered to the cottage or served in their home. Scrumptious, made to order breakfasts (included in the price) were delivered to us every morning, along with a daily supply of sweet treats, always so thoughtfully including gluten-free options for me!

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We thoroughly enjoyed our salmon dinner (Liz graciously put up with our snobby Northwest request for it to be on the rare side), and the dessert of ethereal meringue topped with a caramelized sugar shell and passionfruit/mango puree was incredible.

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My dearest memories of Kamahi are of the hammock chairs on the porch. Swaying softly in the fragrant breeze, overlooking the golden corn field and soft hills below, sipping on wine or coffee, enjoying a quiet moment to read, or sharing in conversation with my sweet husband.

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Heaven.

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Did I mention the breakfasts?

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breakfast

Though we were sorely tempted to hole up in the cottage for the duration, we did venture out for a tour of the Waitomo caves. Choosing a smaller company over the circus of the main caves, our tour consisted of a half day spent in first the “wet” glowworm caves, then in the “dry” caves. Our guide described how the hilly landscape is in fact not unlike Swiss cheese, riddled with innumerable sinkholes and caves caused by volcanic activity and the shifting crusts of New Zealand’s very active tectonic plates.

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Many of the caves were discovered by farmers, after losing hapless cattle down the gaping maw of such sinkholes.

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We hiked down towards such a cave, entering with headlamps and helmets like so many eager miners. Once deep within, we were instructed to turn off our lights, and were soon greeted by the extraordinary sight of thousands upon thousands of glowworms.

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Previous to this expedition, I had no idea what a glowworm was, despite its endearingly romantic name. Imagine my surprise therefore when I learned that really, a glowworm is only a larva of sorts with a glowing, er, bottom. They spend months in the larval stage, attracting unwary pray with their starry light, and ensnaring such sorrowful individuals in the sticky, acid laced strings which crowd below them. Their brief life as adult, mosquito-like insects lasts only long enough for reproduction, and with the absence of a mouth themselves, the adults typically end up as food for their younger relations.

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Imagine if you will an interior night sky, filled with bluish green constellations swirling just overhead. This dreamlike adventure continued as we boarded a little boat and glided in hushed wonder down an underground stream, with the twinkling lights spreading in whirls and spirals above. Photographs hardly do justice to such a sight, but if you are curious, you can see images here.

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The dry caves were enthralling as well, though again, I’d been somewhat spoiled by the Lewis and Clark Caverns of Montana. One of the most fascinating sights, however, was a partial Moa skeleton, complete with beaked skull.

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This being our final evening at Kamahi, upon our return we cracked a bottle of wine we’d been hoarding since Hawkes Bay, and brought it out to enjoy from the comfort of our hammock chairs.

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Dusk was just falling, and as a sharp sickle moon rose over the fields the clear voice of our host’s bagpipe came thrilling up to meet it. A fitting farewell serenade for a memorable stay.

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To be continued…

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