Day four consisted of breakfast with our hosts, Johnny's parents and Misha and Elise. Because downtown was still swamped with Ironman tourists, they knew exactly where to go to avoid the crowds. I was surprised, actually, when we pulled up to what looked like a foreign Home Depot. As it turns out the back of the store contained a breakfast bistro and coffee shop. I enjoyed a lovely Vegetable Fritata with a side salad. I had never had salad for breakfast but it was just as good as it would have been at noon.
After breakfast we went back to the house and packed up to prepare for our drive back to Auckland. We asked Johnny and Maaike if they had any recommendations for a stop on the way back north. They both strongly suggested we stop by the glow worm caves in Waitomo. Misha later heard we were thinking of touring the glow caves and he was quick to give his own suggestions of how to see the glow worms, which included tubing down the caves in a form known as black water rafting. His suggestion was so exciting we decided we'd try it, but when we reached Waitomo we found that the raft tours were done for the day.
The two hour drive to Waitomo was both beautiful and painful. It was beautiful in that the entire drive was full of countryside, livestock grazing on big beautiful hills and lots of interesting trees. It was painful in that the beautiful curvy roads nearly triggered my car sickness multiple times. Though I could have taken a Dramamine, I didn't want to be drugged up for the caves so I toughed it out and luckily made it through without getting sick. It took a few extra stops and a lot of cold air conditioning, but I made it work!
The glow worm caves were a very unique site. First the tour guide led us through a cool dark cave and talked about the history and the stalagtites and the stalagmites. Then she turned the lights out on us and told us to look up at the ceiling. I gasped and awed as I saw what looked like a night sky but was actually tons of tiny worms glowing from the top of the cave. It reminded me of lightning bugs, only they were stationary and up very high.
After the glow worm caves we were back in the car for another two hours to Auckland where we would be staying for the night. We drove through two or CD's worth of music on my phone, and I think Matthew was just about to get tired of my Stevie Nicks karaoke moves when he suddenly swerved the car and yelled while pointing at a motorbike parked across the street. Before I knew it we were pulling in and Matthew was swearing he saw Misha. I'll be honest, I thought there was no way we were already running in to one of the four people we had met in New Zealand, but sure enough, as the helmet came off, Misha's huge smile was right there staring back at us.
I couldn't decide who was more excited, Matthew or Misha, but both were so happy to run into each other again I couldn't help but giggle. Misha had been at a friend's house when Matthew and I left Taupo so he didn't get a chance to tell us goodbye. He voluntarily wrote his name, number and address down and insisted that if we ever make it back through Auckland we had to stay with him and let him plan out a South Island adventure for us.
Everywhere in New Zealand people were just that friendly and that helpful. Everyone wanted to help and everyone was smiling and happy. I absolutely love the kiwis. They are a wonderful people.
After miles and miles of missed turns and confusion, we finally found our Auckland AirBnb location around 9:45p.m. Pui was our host and she was the proud mother of a 17 month old who greeted us with a big smile and throwing a bottle at the wall. We didn't' get to visit with Pui at all hardly because we showered and went straight to bed, sleeping for only a few hours before waking up and heading back to the airport for our next flight adventure.