North Island Story
Bijgewerkt: 14 jul 2019
The days went so fast that our stay of 32 days in New Zealand is already over. What an amazing trip has this been. We have experienced so many beautiful things in these days and would like to share that with you. To start with North Island:
After a 'transfer day' of more than 24 hours and a time zone difference of 12 hours we arrived at the airport of Auckland at night. The time went very fast, because we flew with the night flight and also mostly slept (Inge, I just watched movies). We knew that everything was expensive and we were immediately confronted with that. BAM! EUR 40, - for a taxi ride of approx. 10 min. !! Arriving at our motel in Auckland, we could not sleep yet, because the overnight stay for the next 2 days in Auckland still had to be arranged. Now this is normally not so difficult, but if all affordable hotels (about EUR 75,- per night) are full because of high season you start to pinch him a little. In the case of pure coincidence, Airbnb luckily had an excellent room, just outside the center of Auckland. "Finally we could go to sleep".
Auckland is at its best to explore by bike. Renting is not as easy and smooth as in the Netherlands, everyone goes by public transport or by car and there are only a few companies that rent bicycles. And that is logical in itself because Auckland is built on several volcanoes and the roads are far from flat. Even with a good condition it is not a 'walk in the park'. And if you had a few drinks, don’t take the bike, hahah.
Auckland is called 'Tāmaki-Makau-Rau' in the local Maori languages. Currently 14% of the New Zealand population call themselves Maori. You see and hear many Maori elements in song, dance, tattooed body parts, language and place names. Auckland is the most densely populated urban area, located on the North Island. The area has over 1.5 million inhabitants, about one third of the entire New Zealand population, of which more than 450,000 live in Auckland City.
As we can’t see everything due to our planning, we focus on enjoying the centre where we, at a Swedish bar, have deliciously wine and in the evening fill our belly at Mekong BABY, which is situated in the Ponsonby district. For starters delicious marinated chicken wings, main course a butter-soft fish curry and a Vietnamese rice dish with pulled pork with a crispy crust. What a treat, especially after, only having Zebu, zebu and again zebu the last 3 weeks.
After waking up at 3:30 in the afternoon !!!!! Whaaaatttt? Yes, you read it well, at 3:30 in the afternoon. Aftermath of the jetlag perhaps? We were not very happy with this since we were planning to go to Waiheke Island to enjoy our first tour in New Zealand. Now the day was filled with breakfast at 5 o'clock in the afternoon, shopping and planning our trip for the coming days.
Coromondal is the area to the right of Auckland (when you look at the map 😊) and starts from the town of Thames all the way up to Fletcher Bay.
With our brand new Ford Focus Turbo Sport 2.0 (We ordered the cheapest car, but received an upgrade from the rental company as there were no cheap cars anymore), tent equipment in the trunk (you can buy this cheap at the Warehouse ... .WE LOVE YOU WAREHOUSE) and a bag full of groceries (PAK 'n SAVE is by far the cheapest supermarket and the name says it all ... .packing and saving) we drove to our first destination 'Port Jackson'. Via the coast you drive from Auckland to Port Jackson in 4 hours. And what we had hoped to see in the landscape in Madagascar, we got back here and there.
Green rolling grass hills with enormous herds of animals, high mountains with large pine trees, rainforest with dozens of different trees and small villages where you can eat delicious oysters. Of course, we also tasted this, beautifully wrapped in a coffee cup.
The last 25 km you drive on a gravel road that runs right along the sea with huge Pohutukawa on the left and right (also called Christmas Tree because of its red flowers).
Port Jackson is a nature reserve at the very tip of the Coromondal Peninsula and consists of nothing less than a beautiful stretch of beach surrounded by a vast landscape of true natural beauty. The campsite is right on the beach (between Christmas and February this campsite is fully booked). For $ 20.00 (NZD) per night you have a very nice view over the sea. If you, like us, only have rain, then you have to make sure you get away, because there is nothing else to do than swimming or hike.
We planned to stay in Port Jackson a bit longer, but due to the weather conditions we wanted to move to a destination where the sun would shine. And that it did at Hot Beach, located near the town of Hahei. Hot Beach is a huge tourist attraction (as Inge puts it nicely: "188 cooked chickens on a small piece of beach"). But what makes Hot Beach so special, is that it is a beautiful beach where surfers can enjoy themselves with the high waves, small islands arise off the coast and it is surrounded by mountains. The best part is, is that underneath a part of the beach lava runs through. You can make your own hot pool when the tide is low, just take shovel with you. From temperatures that can reach up to 60 degrees, it can get pretty hot under your feet.
HOBBITON, GLOW WORMS
After a detour via Raglan (a surfer’s village) hoping to find no rain but sun, we were again disappointed with the weather. So we decided to continue to our next destination, Waitomo. This destination is known for the many caves with glow worms. We had a tubing tour (sitting on a rubber while moving along the stream of an underground river) booked to see these glow worms. Take your swimsuit with you as you will get wet even though the tour organisation will get you dressed properly with a suit and helmet.
A guide then takes you into the caves where you have to bend down, crawl and dig through the water and then reach the deep water where you sit in your rubber band and are taken along by the current. On the way you see thousands of glow worms giving light to attract their prey. Now we are too big for these insects, but flies, mosquitoes and other insects are lured by the light and are caught by a tentacle hanging down the glow worm. After several slides and a jump from a staircase you are outside again within the hour. Afterwards we continued our way towards Hobbiton.
We arrived in Hobbiton just on time to take the last tour. Luck was on our side, because the sun was shining, which is good for the pictures. With a van we drove past fairy-tale like hills (with too modern sheep for the film according to Peter Jackson) to the world of Hobbits, called the Shire (Lord of the Rings). Because we did not expect too much from this, we were positively surprised when we actually came into the world of the Hobbits. Several Hobbit houses loomed up in the hills with Hobbit gardens, Hobbit trees, Hobbit laundry racks and at the top of the hill the house of Frodo. The Shire really came to life!
In two hours you will be guided through The Shire and you will receive background information about the films and which pieces did and did not made the movie. After the tour you will walk to the Green Dragon (the pub in The Shire) to have a Hobbit beer before you leave.
Because the evening already fell, we decided to stay near Hobbiton at a campsite at a farm 5 km from the tour for € 6.00 a night. It was not so much a camping site, but rather a piece of pasture where the cows grazed. And it took a while before we realized that we could actually stand here. But what do you expect for € 6.00 a night. You do get a clean toilet and shower.
But what this site especially made in worthwhile was making friends for life, Sander and Christiane. We had not yet set up our tent and we were already chatting about travelling, daily life and everything else that was interesting to talk about. What turns out: They are also on a world trip and they even going to manage a lodge in South Africa. How cool is that?
This town is also known for its smell of rotten eggs, at least that is how our noses describes this place. However, this odour comes from sulphurous gas that rises from the ground around Rotorua. Rotorua is the centre of volcanic activities. In addition to sulphurous gases, there are steaming hot springs, explosive geysers and mud baths. So look out where you are walking, because before you know it, the steam flows straight up just in front of your feet.
The area is famous for its spas and as we had some cold and weary days behind us, we had to pamper ourselves for a bit of relaxation. In this spa you will find no ordinary whirlpool baths or swimming pools, no the water in these baths comes with temperatures of 100 degrees Celsius out of the ground and is brought up to temperature in different baths, each bath with its own temperature (from 36-42 degrees). Besides the warm water, there are also different acids and minerals that all have a good or healing effect on the skin or body.
After a relaxing afternoon we again met our friends from Hobbiton at our campsite with a fantastic view over Lake Rotorua. After a night cap with some other Dutchies, it was time to mentally prepare for the rafting of tomorrow where there is a drop (of a waterfall) of 7 meters!? Whaaaaaaaaa .... are you crazy? Yes, we are!
After seeing hundreds of YouTube videos, studying the river, measuring the speed of the river, thoroughly checking the materials and going through the instructions in detail, we were finally ready to put our lives on the line. With trembling legs, we set our first step in the boat. We have our peddle firmly in our grasp (as if our life depended on it), feet firmly clamped in the boat, while anxious sitting on the edge waiting to set off. After a few strokes we were, of course, lord of the river and we showed our companions in crime how to raft. The first one small waterfall was a breeze, and with each rapid we called "HARDER!" Until finally we arrived at the monster of the Kaituna river. Seven meters high and because of this the river is classified as a grade V. Photos already showed us that you would make a 90-degree angle and that we would drop vertically. There was also the chance that the boat would fall over (on top of us). We saw the fear break out with our campions as the signal was given to go for the drop. Concentration 200% ... ..3 ... ..2 ... ..1 ...... aaaaaaahhhhhhhh ... .splash. After a few seconds under water we came up again, but someone was missing. Tense we looked around us and fortunately we saw the missing person (a girl) crawl out of the water a bit further. The power of the blow was too big to stay and even though Chris caught this blow with his NOSE, he could not prevent her from falling into the water. To confirm our sense of euphoria, we looked at the waterfall. What a very cool experience it was.
Because we can’t get enough of our Dutch neighbours (Chris and Sander), we decide to travel together in the coming days. Our destination: Tongariro National Park. Especially known for the many hikes you can do here and, in the winter, it is even a perfect destination for skiing and snowboarding.
With our app Campermate we look for a suitable campsite near Tongariro NP. This app shows almost all campsites including reviews. You can find luxury campsite with hot showers, washing machines and kitchen for € 25 per night or campsite with no more than a 'dump toilet' (which you do not want to visit) for € 7.50 per night. Besides campsites you will also find supermarkets, petrol stations and things to do. The best tool for your holiday in New Zealand.
But back to Tongariro. The most famous hike you can do here is the Tongariro crossing. Around 60,000 to 70,000 people a year do this hike. The hike lasts between 6 and 8 hours (depending on the circumstances) and takes you from a height of 1000m to 1900m over a volcanic terrain (created by eruptions of Mount Ngarahoe and Mount Tongariro).
We arranged transport for the next day via our campsite. At 6:15 am we would drive away, but some Gestapo did not let us into the bus. We did not have a raincoat with us. Food, good shoes, hat and gloves were not important ... no no no, it was only a raincoat, a Gortex (pretty pricey) one at that. People were even refused who did have a raincoat, but apparently did not meet the requirements of this Gestapo lady. Left alone with our good intentions, 5 layers on top of each other, 3 pairs of socks, hat on ... ..what do to now?
We got the tip to go to the city centre and to inform if we could go with another tour organisation. Fortunately, there was a backpacker's hostel who took care of the transport and also rented raincoats (This seems to be a must, because the weather in the mountains can very quickly turn from sun, to rain, to freezing).
We arrived at 7:30 am and could finally start the hike. On the way we were faced with heavy gusts of wind that felt like they were below freezing point. Shortly afterwards the weather changed into blue sky and sun and it became so hot that we took of layer after layer until we were only wearing a t-shirt. Our Gestapo was somewhat right when she said that the weather could change rapidly.
At 12 o'clock we were finally at the highest point and when the clouds disappeared we were treated to a dazzling landscape with 3 green / blue lakes (the Emerald Lakes) next to each other, each with its own colour. After another 5-minute walk we were surprised by a large crater with a lake inside that was bluer than the sky. Something like that can’t easily be described. But not only the lakes make this hike beautiful also the diverse landscape of steaming vents, crazy rock formations and craters that form a kind of lunar landscape.
After the crater lake the path takes you further down the mountain and in a couple of hours we arrived at our pick-up point around 3:30. Our hike of 19.4 km was over. Perhaps a tip for future travellers: you can also drive to the starting point of the Tongariro crossing yourself. From there you walk to the various lakes and then you turn back again. The most beautiful part of the hike is in the beginning until the lakes and you save € 35.00 p.p. on transportation.
From Tongariro it is a 5-hour drive to get to Wellington. If you are lucky, you can participate in an activity on the go:
'Spot the Cops'. Costs for participation: € 75, - "ROASTED !!". Inge who tries to sweet talk the cops, but does not succeed, 'priceless'.
Wellington is the capital and is located in the southern tip of the northern island. It is known for the Te Papa museum (the national museum of NZ) and the number of bars and cafes that this city has.
There are several cafes and bars where you can enjoy the view while in the sun. A good lunch, if you like burgers, can be found at Ekim Burger (recommended when you are in Wellington) and for a good night out, you can go to Courtenay Pl, whereas restaurant / bar the Library (decorated as a library) also can’t be missed.
We have spent a day here and after a night’s rest we take the ferry to the South Island. More on South Island in our next blog.