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Oct 28

In the Otorohanga Kiwi House at just the right moment

Along SH1 (then 3) we head first for Hamilton but while driving through we decide not to stop because the town with a population about 130,000 doesn't appeal much to us. So we move on to Otorohanga, an iconic one-street Kiwi town. The highway is the main street of the town with shops and cafes. It's all Kiwiana here – from Māori carvings to Buzzy Bee to a shop with All Blacks items. In the cosy outdated antique shop Gold 'n' Kiwi we browse extensively between salt shakers, jewellery, barbie dolls and furniture.

Otorohanga Otorohanga, Maniapoto Street · more Otorohanga pictures more pictures

Afterwards, we visit the Kiwi House Otorohanga with a native bird park – and are really lucky. A woman tells us that just now the Large Spotted Kiwi is awake and leads us into a darkened room where we can see the bird very close behind a pane of glass while she tells us some facts: the bird is female and she sleeps twenty hours a day, hidden in her hole in the ground. Kiwi are shy but when they have to defend their territory they can get really vicious. «Kiwi have the same figure as most women in New Zealand» the woman jokes. Nevertheless the flightless nocturnal birds are fast runners, able to detect food in the form of insects very deep in the ground with their long thin bill. Kiwi can't see well but they have a good sense of hearing and an extremely well developed sense of smell. We are hooked and watch with fascination. The kiwi is quite big with strong legs and a very unique and special way of moving. The woman is the kiwi's keeper and we realize she is really attached to the bird. She's pleased by our interest and enthusiasm and we are allowed to stay alone with the kiwi, we should just close the door when we leave. Later on we realize that no one else is allowed to see the kiwi. She shuts the door and says it's sleeping, protecting the bird from too much disturbance. At 4 pm there's a feeding of two smaller Brown Kiwi which is very crowded and quite loud (which is unwelcome because kiwi are sensitive to noise). We take a walk through the nice little park and the bird house where parrots fly around our heads, then we drive to Waitomo just 16 km away.

Otorohanga Kiwi House Otorohanga Kiwi House · more Otorohanga pictures more pictures

We choose the camping ground near Waitomo Caves. When we arrive, the place is still quite empty. In the late afternoon it's taken over by Britz, Maui and other motorhomes. The facilities are clean and modern, there's a small hot pool and some trampolins. When we enter the campsite office our host asks if we'd like to prebook Black Water Rafting for tomorrow. Die Toten Hosen (German punk band) had been rafting, too – proudly she presents the photo on the pinboard. Funny. We want to think it over and have a look at the leaflet. It's just that you get quite wet and it's much more expensive. We'd rather do the boat trip through the Glowworm Cave because there you can see more glow-worms and that's what we're here for. We spend the evening in the Waitomo Caves Tavern on the other side of the road. The pub has 11 beers on tap and a 2 x 2 m screen where they show rugby matches. And once more today we are lucky: the top match All Blacks vs. England is live on screen. The spacious pub is frequented by locals and tourists, the atmosphere is relaxed. There's a pool table and a jukebox which is free. We enjoy this place and spend the evening in a good mood and with Steinlager, rugby and old hits.

Waitomo Jumping high in Waitomo · more Waitomo pictures more pictures

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