on April 25, 2006
This bus service acts essentially as a shuttle to get people from their home base in Rotorua to Waitomo for a day trip. I was very easily able to book this at the Rotorua Information Centre, and was picked up promptly at 7:45am the morning of my trip, from just outside my hostel (the bus makes a loop of all major accommodation in Rotorua). This bus even operates on major holidays (except, I'm assuming, Christmas), since the day I chose to travel was Easter Sunday.This bus does not include any activities in Waitomo itself; it is $40 one way or $65 round trip from Rotorua. The round-trip is open, so you can go all in one day, like I did, or go and come back a few days later after you've exhausted every possible form of glowworm-watching in Waitomo. The bus does leave early enough so you can squeeze in a couple activities in a day, including one big caving/tubing trip, and they get to Waitomo before all the major companies' trips leave.There were 5 or 6 other people on the bus with me, and none of us were particularly awake at that time in the morning. However, we did wake up rather quickly after a few minutes on the bus, because the bus driver was so chatty and, in general, just happy. She had lots of little tidbits to tell us about the area and various landmarks along the way, like the Fitzgerald glade, which totally enveloped the road we were driving on at one point. She also stopped us in at one of her favorite bakeries (which was actually open!) along the way. I wish I could remember the name, because I had quite a good breakfast sandwich there. All I know is that it was in Putaruru, a place name that I, for some reason, remembered from my hitchhike across New Zealand in my first trip.On the way, besides seeing lots of fog, we saw a couple pretty funny things—namely, the giant rainbow kiwi on top of a building in Otorohunga and the toilets that we stopped at that were labeled on each side with various terms such as "the dunny" and "the throne". When we finally got to Waitomo, I was dropped just outside the Black Water Rafting Co, where I was booked on a trip, and told where and when to meet the bus again (3.45pm outside the Waitomo Visitor Centre).After rafting, I managed to get a ride to the Visitors Centre with one of the groups from the Rafting Co, where I, later in the day, caught the ride home. We had a different driver on the way home, but he was equally as amiable. Back in Rotorua, he even let me pick up my stuff at one hostel and then drove me to the next hostel I was staying at so I wouldn't have to walk 1.5kms. The WW was definitely good value for money.
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