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Published: September 4th 2013
This blog is long overdue considering it is over a year now since we first visited New Zealand. However, even though we are back in the corporate world these memories remain fresh. And it is never too late to complete our blog!
To be honest I did not know too much about New Zealand before we arrived. I was in Fairfield University in Connecticut with two Kiwis who regularly reminded me of how great New Zealand was. It is funny because the Americans were always saying to me "oh Ireland is so beautiful" and the Kiwis would be saying "a what about New Zealand, it's even more beautiful". And after spending a month in New Zealand travelling around I have to agree with them. I love Ireland and the amazing scenery we have, particularly our coastal scenery, but New Zealand is one of nature's gems that will always have a special place in my heart!!!
Anyway, this a brief recap of our time on the North Island. We arrived in Auckland on February 20th 2012. We stayed in a cool hostel in Mount Eden, close to Eden Park, one of the stadiums used in the rugby world cup. There
was a really sound Scottish woman running the hostel. As you know from our previous blogs, we caught Dengue fever in Indonesia and shared a tough experience in hospital in Malaysia. So New Zealand was like a sanctuary for us! We did very little in Auckland other than sleep. The hostel had a full kitchen so we were so happy to be able to cook all our food. We definitely never had so much tea and toast!! The weather was a bit like Ireland which actually was a really nice change. I don't think we could have handled the heat. We rented a Toyota Prius which was great. It took a bit of getting used to been back driving again but I got the hang of it.
My backpack and my clothes all stank of Asia so I threw most of my stuff out. Bit like a bad hangover off a certain drink and you can't be near it again. 😊 But seriously what happened was because my bag was closed for so long it must have trapped the smelly mosquito spray they use in Asia in my bag. It's awful stuff, so pungent. I washed all my clothes
and there was no getting rid of the smell. So I threw most of them out. Salvaged a few things, including my Liverpool jersey. We ended up driving to a shopping mall and I bought all new clothes and a new suitcase. So technically I was no longer a backpacker!! I also went into a barber to get my head shaved. After five months of not cutting my hair, it look fairly rough. Definitely thicker on the sides 😊 It was fairly funny though the level of effort they put in, head massage the whole lot. The gay owner couldn't get over my "transformation". Aoife got a good laugh off it.
Health wise we were doing a little better at this stage. I was still taking an antibiotic for a throat infection that I picked up in hospital that caused me to lose my voice for awhile. A blessing for Aoife who didn't have to listen to me😊 The dengue fever weakens the immune system so we were still very weak and tired easily. Even just crossing the street was tiring. Also, my head was still a bit all over the place, and it was common to get a
bit light headed every so often. But still it was nice to have our appetite back again. On the 23rd, we drove to Coromandel, about 2.5 hours outside Auckland. This is where we really started to make a recovery. We then drove to Opotiki in the Bay of Plenty where we stayed a few nights, in a cabin close to the beach. It was amazing, so peaceful. In the summer I would say it is even more beautiful. But we just recuperated over this first week in New Zealand, slept and ate. The owner of the cabins in Opotiki was a true blue Kiwi, sound out. One interesting thing we noticed in New Zealand was how common it was for people to walk around with no shoes, even in supermarkets and shops. Straight out of the hobbit!!! My Kiwi friend justifies this by saying we were brought into the world without shoes!
From Coromandel, we really started to experience New Zealand as we began to return to full health. We drove down to Rotorua, famous for the geothermal parks and the geysers. Rotorua
is known as the heartland of Maori culture. It is the ancestral home of the Te Arawa people who settled there more than 600 years ago. Rotorua sits on the Volcanic Plateau. It has one of the world’s most lively fields of geothermal activity and sits squarely on the "Pacific Rim of Fire". Due to the gases released it can smell pretty bad at times, almost like rotten eggs. Of course Aoife blamed me but I swear it was from the geothermal activity!!
We went to the Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal park which was amazing. This natural spectacle was thousands of years in the making. The landscape is so unique with a myriad of colours bringing the place to life. The geysers are so impressive, just raw natural power forcing water high into the air!!
We stayed in a hostel in Rotorua called Cactus Jacks which was only okay. The main reason we stayed there was so we could get Sky Sports as Liverpool were playing Cardiff City in the the Carling Cup final. It was a bit of an ordeal but we did get to watch the game at around 5am in the morning and Liverpool did manage to
scrape the victory. Still it was a victory!!
In Rotorua we also went to the Animal Park. I spoke with one of the lion keepers who also works in Zion wildlife park. Apparently the main guy in that "Lion Man" show is actually not a lion man after all. He has declawed 27 big cats, an act of cruelty against these amazing animals. She also was there when Dalau, the South African lion keeper was killed by a tiger. It was very interesting talking to her. I hit her with plenty of questions 😊 We also got to pet the lion cubs. Some paws on them!! There was loads of other animals as well which made it a fun day.
After Rotorua we ventured toward Taupo to see Lake Taupo and Huka Falls. The scenery while driving in the North Island was very much like Ireland although they have a lot more rolling hills. It's beautiful. Apparently, Lake Taupo was created nearly two thousand years ago by a volcanic eruption so big it darkened the skies in Europe and China. Just north of Lake Taupo is the majestic Huka Falls, where "more than 220,000 litres of water thunder
over the cliff face every second". It is an impressive sight to say the least.
After Taupo, we spent one night in Wellington which is known as the "Windy City" and for good reason. We stayed in a hostel right in the centre so we got to see most of the city and we were impressed. Aoife's friends lived in Wellington before so they gave us a few things to do and we got a nice feel for the city. We went up to Mount Victoria to get a great view of the city. This location has been used for Lord of the Rings.
On March 1st, we took the ferry across the Cook strait to the South Island which was a rocky journey with huge waves throwing us about the sea. Dolphins swam beside the ferry which was really cool. At this point in the trip we were really starting to fall in love with New Zealand. It had helped nurse us back to health after the Dengue fever and the continuous stream of amazing scenery was bringing us to new highs. Little did we know that the South Island was to be even more breathtaking!!
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