A stop in Auckland, New Zealand — well worth the flight

By Chris A Hale

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Sept. 22 2012 3:00 p.m. MDT

We returned to Auckland sleepy and ready for bed. We wanted to get as much rest as possible before our next exciting day.

It was on our long drive south that Amber and I saw the rugged beauty of New Zealand. Abundant rolling green hills, bisected with craggy rock formations and hedges, seemed to be endless. Some of the scenery before us reminded me of the Shire from Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, which was filmed in the same general area. Sheep grazing in a glen by farmhouses gave way to spotted forests.

We were surprised by some of the man-made things we came across unexpectedly. For instance, not too far away from Rotorua, we could see a turboprop cargo plane sitting on a hill. Since there were no airports around, we investigated further only to find we could rent a room for the night inside the plane if we wanted.

The target of our second day of travel was the Waitomo glow worm caves located 200 kilometers due south of Auckland. The reward at the end of the drive was definitely worth the time spent getting there. The glow worm caves were something best seen to fully understand what is there.

After a short walk from the ticket booth to inside the cave entrance, we boarded a large boat that was propelled through the open space by a guide standing on the rear seat and pulling us along an overhead rope. When we were in the chosen location, the lights were shut off and nature offered the only illumination.

Thousands upon thousands of bluish glow worms hung from the roof of the cave. As we were pulled along from chamber to chamber, the creatures reminded me of the icicles that hung from the eaves of my roof while growing up during Utah winters. Unlike the fireflies of Texas, the worms did not blink on and off but consistently glowed in the stark darkness.

New Zealand is truly unique. The natural ruggedness coupled with the vivid greens and glow of the hills, the impressive blues of the sky and the Auckland Harbor and the pristine effect influencing everything is spectacular.

The people are among the friendliest I've ever encountered. In addition, there is so much to do and see even if you never leave Auckland.

There is the mammoth-sized Auckland Museum, where you can see anything from ancient Maori artifacts like a war canoe to a Japanese Zero from World War II.

Another stop we made was the Kelly Tarlton's underwater adventure. Not just another aquarium, but the structure is literally underground and was once part of the Auckland sewer system. Talk about adaptive re-use. Now there are rays, penguins and other sea life thriving in the converted habitat.

We miss Auckland and hope to someday return. The rewards at the end of the flight were well worth the effort to get there.

Chris Hale is an aviation maintenance technician for a major airline who has traveled extensively with his family. In his spare time he writes novels inspired by places he's been. Find out more about his books at www.Chrisahale.com

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