Waitomo Glowworm Caves, New Zealand by da-AL

We’re a long way down in the Waitomo Caves.

Really I’d like to sound official, truly scholarly when I describe these magnificent caves. But I’d be faking it. I was too busy trying to keep my eyes in their sockets as I took in all the amazing sights to retain whatever our hard-working guide endeavored to teach us.

A mineral formation can be as delicate as a veil.

Here we were in New Zeand, and everywhere we visited was utterly beautiful and entirely distinctive from the prior site. Auckland wasn’t at all like Rotorua, which resembled neither the Redwoods nor Huka Falls, and Craters of the Moon wasn’t like any of them.

And — the Waitomo Glowworms Caves were all their own too. We walked down, down, down, and then down, down, down some more while trying not to get bugs in our hair or smack our heads on nature’s sculptures along the way made of limestone and fossils.

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“The limestone formation in the Waitomo Glowworm Caves occurred when the region was still under the ocean about 30 million years ago … These cave decorations take millions of years to form given that the average stalactite grows one cubic centimeter every 100 years,” according to Wikipedia.

This photo might look like nothing — but those pinpricks of light from glowworms! They exist in New Zealand! What you can’t see because without electric light its so dang dark down there, is that the GLOWWORMS give off spiderweb-like strings to ensnare their dinners.

The white dots in the immense darkness are glowworms.

Looking for an adventurous new job? They’re always looking for explorers to map out new tunnels. These are just mannequins, but they give an idea of what’s required…

The explorers who map out the caves are quite heroic.

Have you visited a limestone cave?

Video: Craters of the Moon, New Zealand by da-AL

Crater at Craters of the Moon, Taupo, New Zealand.

Nowhere is it more evident that New Zealand owes its geography to tectonic uplift and volcanic eruptions than at any of its geothermal parks. Our visit there began with Auckland and Rotorua, then the Redwoods and Huka Falls.

Steaming burbling craters galore behind Khashayar and da-AL at Craters of the Moon, Taupo, New Zealand.

Along our drive to Taupo, (before we’d view the Waitomo Glowworms Caves) we stopped at the aptly named Craters of the Moon.

Straying from the path isn’t advised at Craters of the Moon, Taupo, New Zealand.

Heat and steam from below percolate up to uncork land, leaving behind jagged craters, some of them huge. Visitors are told, not asked, to keep to the trails, lest they become boiled and billowed…

Do you have craters near you?

Video: Great TV, an Inspiring Author, and a Humble Tango by da-AL

My husband I do a little dance for our dear cousins.

Someone said that a good story makes you both laugh and cry. To me, a remarkable story does all that while capturing the nuances of how each of us can be wonderful yet flawed. Bramwell, a TV show I only recently discovered, does it all. It’s from the 1990s, which apparently is so old that the closest to a trailer for it that I could find for you is this opening…

I’m discussing Bramwell to tell you about the inspiring screenwriter. Wikipedia notes, “Lucy Gannon once worked as a military policewoman, a residential social worker, and a nurse, and lived in a concrete council house with no central heating. She later moved to a converted barn in Derbyshire and now lives near Cardigan, in Wales.” Here she describes how she came to writing…

And here, my friends, is a tango that my husband and I danced for our dear cousins in Gold Coast, Australia…

What makes great writing for you?

Video: Huka Falls, New Zealand’s Longest Falls by da-AL

Huka Falls bridge, New Zealand by Khashayar Parsi.

Green, lush, and filled with surprises. Everywhere we went, New Zealand amazed us! From Auckland, we drove to Rotorua and then hiked the Redwoods. (Later we’d visit Craters of the Moon and the Waitomo Glowworms Caves.) Next, we visited Huka Falls, where water waits for no one!

Up to 220,000 liters (just under 5,300 gallons) of water rush down the series of falls per second. They begin at New Zealand’s longest river (Waikato River) and drain the country’s largest lake (Lake Taupo).

Panoramic of Huka Falls bridge, New Zealand by Khashayar Parsi.

Have you visited any waterfalls?

Happy Sounds Video, New Zealand Redwoods and Corrugated Pets by da-AL

Turn your sound up high to listen to the ASMR happy sounds of redwood trees creaking in the wind, sounding like old-fashioned rocking chairs…

Most people know of the redwoods of California, where trees are so awe-inspiring that they’ve got names and their Avenue of the Giants. But did you know that New Zealand has its own redwood forest? For our New Zealand vacation, we’d seen a bit of Auckland, then Rotorua, later Huka Falls and Craters of the Moon and Waitomo Glowworms Caves. Now we got out of our car and hiked up, up, up…

da-AL strolls up to New Zealand’s redwood forest.

Back in the early 1900s, New Zealand officials admired our redwoods — and then planted some of their own! — resulting in the Redwoods Forest of Whakarewarewa. New Zealand soil is so dense with nutrients that the trees grew faster there than they do in the U.S. Like California’s, New Zealand’s big trees provide homes to an abundance of wildlife, including endangered creatures.

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Trees actually talk to each other, creating an ecosystem among themselves that feeds everything from below their roots to far into the air! Redwoods can live for thousands of years — unless humans cut them down or pollute them to death. Alas, the largest was felled around 1945. The most massive tree on earth now is the General Sherman, at 83.8 meters (275 ft) high by 7.7 m (25 ft) wide. The world’s oldest tree lives in California too — a bristlecone pine that’s 5,068 years old. Let’s hope we don’t kill them or their kin.

A little further along, we stopped to pet corrugated animals in the city of Tirau!…

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What’s the biggest tree you’ve ever seen?

Rousing Rotorua, NZ by da-AL

We landed at Auckland Airport early, rented a car — and learned how to drive on the ‘wrong’ (har-har-har) side of the road. A quick look around and lunch later, we headed south for Rotorua (after that we had a great time at the Redwoods and Huka Falls and Craters of the Moon and Waitomo Glowworms Caves).

Rotorua is lovely, including its historic district.

Breath in! That rousing scent, which is e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e (even where no water is visible), is that of healing minerals permeating the air! In unscientific terms, New Zealand is the result of volcanic activity. Hence, the region teams with gurgling springs from where steam plumes and billows. Some are pleasingly warm to soak one’s body in, others are hot enough to cook in.

During the late 1800s, officials saw tourism money in those spas. They erected buildings, planted gardens, smoothed out sports greens, and more — all with the intent of creating a resort destination.

Here’s the historic district built in the late 1800s/early 1900s, which still attracts busloads of visitors…

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Part of the historic area pays respect to the indigenous Māori (who, by the way, fought valiantly in World War II)…

Elsewhere in Rotorua is a marae, a Māori meeting grounds complex set within a residential neighborhood. If you ever find yourself at one, remember that visitors must be formally invited inside.

A Māori meeting house in Rotorua.

Rotorua’s current mayor is Steve Chadwick, a long-time politician born Stephanie Anne Frizzell, was into her 60s when she was elected into office.

Who are the indigenous people where you live?

Video: Hail! Hail! All Hail Hail! by da-AL

My doggie and me on a sunny day.

Hail in Los Angles is highly unusual. Hail that lasts longer than a minute or two basically never happens.

But that’s what we got on the first day of Spring, a.k.a. Persian New Year! A hailstorm that lasted twenty minutes and was followed with brilliant sunshine!

Surely this means we’re off to an interesting season — or year — ahead! As you’ll hear my husband talking on the video, even our doggie shivered with anticipation…

How often does it hail where you live?