Glowworms and Mount Doom

22 - 24 November 2012. Filed under category Travel.

After spending three weeks in Auckland, I got a call from a friend, Samira, who I know from my hometown in Sweden. She was driving from Auckland to Wellington the next day, and I decided to tag along. It is an eight-hour drive which we finished in three days, taking our sweet time to explore some of what the north New Zealand island has to offer!

Before I describe the specific spots we visited, I just wanted to mention that the drive. New Zealand serves up miles after miles of rolling green hills, covered with grass, trees and flowers. Visually, it is beautiful, if a bit repetitive. Audibly, however, it is a nightmare. I don’t know what they use to pave the roads in New Zealand, but the car hums a constant, monotonous and loud noise when driving. Occasionally, the surface changes to something quiet, but only for a minute, so you never ever get used to it.

The Glow Worms of Waitomo

The Glowworms of Waitomo

Our first stop was Waitomo, a patch of land riddled with caves. These caves are home to Arachnocampa Luminosa, or glow worms. As grubs, these insects nest in the cave ceilings where they spin sticky ‘fishing lines’ in which they catch insects brought in through the subterranean rivers floating underneath. They attract these insects by glowing a soft blue light. There are thousands upon thousands of these insects, so looking up, both insects and nomads are easily fooled into thinking that what they are looking at is a starry night sky. The insects fly towards this and then get stuck in the webs and eaten by the grubs. Nomads just appreciate the beauty as the boat they sit in slowly drift along the subterranean stream.

There are two ways to see the caves. The cheaper option is to take a tour on a boat. The more expensive way is to wear a wet suit and float down the stream in a little rubber ring. Sounds a lot more fun, but I couldn’t afford that.

Turangi Walks

Samira and I spent our second day walking a few trails near the town of Turangi, located on the south end of Lake Taupo. It was a decent day, but I wouldn’t recommend stopping here as there are better places close by. Still, I got some good photos that I thought I’d show you before moving on to more fun stuff!

Tongariro National Park

Mount Tongariro Erupting

In New Zealand, you do not hike, you tramp, and the best tramping I’ve done in a long time was in the Tongariro National Park. The park is home to three volcanic mountains. The most popular walk is the Alpine Crossing, a 5-7 hour tramp through a mountain pass. However, we couldn’t do that since Mount Tongariro erupted shortly before we got there and was still steaming while we were there, so the crossing was closed.

This turned out to be a damned good fortune as it forced us to explore some lesser-known tracks, and I wouldn’t have wanted to miss these gems!

The Taranaki falls is a two-hour loop track through plains and forests. The highlight is the Taranaki Falls. Having been to the Iguazu Falls, I am quite jaded when it comes to waterfalls, but I quite liked this one since you could walk right to the top edge or behind the falls at the bottom. (Best place I ever ate a cheese sandwich!)

A shorter trail leads to another waterfall, Tawhai. This is a shorter waterfall than Taranaki, but it is also more beautiful, enclosed in forest and forming a clear mountain pool at the bottom. I was so bewitched by the scene that I simply had to strip to my underwear and go for a spontaneous swim in the freezing snowmelt water!

Fans of Lord of the Rings will of course recognize Tawhai Falls as the place where Gollum catches and eats a fish.

For lunch, we stopped at a cute little café in the middle of Mordor. A mere ten minute stroll away is a ridge from where you get an adorable view of Mount Doom, or Mount Ngauruhoe as the locals call it. This is the very spot where many of the Mount Doom scenes were shot. It is an easy spot to get to but a hard one to leave as it is breathtakingly impressive.

There isn’t much more to say so I’ll let the picture speak for themselves.


What did you think of Lord of the Rings?

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  1. Crys Klier-Hoffman says:

    ” MY PRECIOUS! ”

    as usual, extraordinary photos which put a great big slice of the puzzle of the story into perspective.

  2. Craig Brown says:

    I loved Lord of the Rings, but I REALLY, REALLY love that you jumped into that *deceptively enticing* pool of snow melt!! Three cheers for those of Viking blood! I’m so happy that you were able to make three days of the journey, saw the gloworms (on your appropriate budget), and wow, a great photo of Mt. Doom. I’ve told you personally that a piece of my traveling heart lies in New Zealand.
    Oh, and by the way, as Samira was driving down from Auckland to Wellington, as she glanced to her side…she saw no empty seat 😉 There was the modern nomad to share her adventure!

  3. kimera azriel says:

    If there is a waterfall Rich will go there. He is right now very excited about NZ.

  4. Jon says:

    You are, right now, living in Hobbit central. But is any cinema showing it in 48fps? So far as I can tell I have to go to Manchester! Not sure if that is worth it.

  5. Phil Stevens says:

    Great pictures Gustav, what enticingly wonderful places your travels lure you to. I found the Glow Worms of Waitomo intriguing, particularly in their seemingly celestial beauty, yet another example of the wonders of the natural world. I assume that you felt somewhat ‘refreshed’ after your courageous dip into the snowmelt waters, brave boy!

  6. Phil Stevens says:

    The film or the book? I enjoyed both. Either way it’s message of universal appeal in overcoming adversity and what appears to be insurmountable odds stacked against you, proves that faith, courage, determination, truth, honesty and the support and love of others will win through in the end. I’m thinking that you might possibly identify with and be inspired by this notion Gustav, am I right?

    1. I guess I do to a degree. It certainly is true that my exploration into the nomadic lifestyle has taken a lot of “faith, courage, determination, truth, honesty and the support and love of others”. But as for the battles, well, most of them have been against shadows, self-created fears of uncertainty and a over-valuation of money.

      You absolutely do not have to be a special person, like ‘the chosen one’, to do what I do. It’s not that hard, once you get past your own demons and fears.

  7. Phil Stevens says:

    That’s what I was infering, the intrapersonal aspects, which you mentioned (demons and fears and the battles to overcome them). Interesting, thankyou for your response on that Gustav.

    By the way, I think you are a special person in that you have undertaken this nomadic lifestyle with the intent to prove to yourself and others that it can be done, that an alternative way of living is sustainable whilst remaining truly happy and you are living it, experiencing it and embracing it with gusto, that is exemplary. It is also contributing towards your own personal growth and development, you are giving your life meaning and purpose, all of this = compassion, which others have clearly been touched and affected by (as an example, I’m thinking of Crys and her son Josh and the charity work you did in LA) plus, you only have to look at the comments of your readers, this speaks volumes. So you see Gustav this is part of your destiny, you affect others in many different ways by simply doing what your doing and being who you are wherever you are, you continue to inspire – that makes you special.

  8. Yeity says:

    This IS a really well designed site – trying to vote for you for Webbies but having brain farts and can’t figure it out.
    PS- looks like you stripped down to far more than your undies for that glacial dip

    1. He he, no no. I kept my undies on as there were lots of people around. Well, four or five.

      The Webby is over, so no more voting. But thanks for the sentiment! Come back next year. Or subscribe and come back next post!

  9. Andy DelliColli says:

    It’s such a beautiful country, I got to have a tramp through some rain forest that was being studied On North Island when I was a teenager.

What did you think of Lord of the Rings?

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