So we've made it to the north island of New Zealand (don't mean to gloat but it's country number 9!). The Quantas crew again looked after us well on flight from Sydney to Auckland and thankfully there was no turbulence. I have no idea why I have turned into a nervous flyer and you'd never believe that I used to fly every day for a living! On arrival in Auckland we immediately noticed the change of temperature in comparison to Australia and Australia wasn't even that warm! We weren't exactly dressed for the occasion donning shorts and flip flops, or thongs as the aussies call them - guess it sounds a lot more interesting. So there we were in windy Auckland with our thongs on unsuprisingly freezing our butts off! Our first stop was the bar in the hotel where we made some new friends with some fellow pommies who had just moved out there. They took us out to many of Auckland's drinking establishments all of which we can't really remember, but we had a great night so I guess that's all that matters!
The next morning the weather had taken a huge turn for the worst with the
worst gale force winds Auckland has seen for a long time. We decided to brave the outdoors for a couple of hours to have a look around, dodging falling trees and flying road signs. We only managed to check out the harbourside and marina before heading back to view the city from the hotel lounge on the 12 floor! Auckland's famous skytower was closed so this was the next best thing.
Next morning the wind has died down and we picked up yet another camper van. It wasn't the best van we've had but hey we're on a very long holiday! We headed straight to the sulphurous spa town of Rotorua to try and warm up in the steaming pools. Unfortunately tour bus loads of Koreans and Germans had the same thing in mind so it wasn't as relaxing as we'd hoped. We also visited some exploding Geysers and caught a cultural Maori show where the blokes pranced around in thier maori attire, pulling some really scary faces - we even got a rendition of the Haka which was pretty cool.
Leaving the eggy smell behind us we trundelled to Tongariro National Park famous for Mount Doom and
various scenery from the Lord Of The Rings films. Unfortunately we didn't see any of this on the way there as it was pouring down with rain. The next morning we were awoken with glorious sunshine and a spectacular view of the surrounding mountains that we had no idea were there. So we explored the walkways and took in amazing views of Mt Ruapehu (Mount Doom) which is an active volcano, it hasn't exploded in a while so we felt pretty safe. Just as well because we didn't pack any running shoes.
Next stop was Waitomo to check out the glo-worms. We climbed 100m below the ground to see thousands and thousands of glo-worms on the roof of the cave - pretty amazing stuff. It looked like a whole new galaxy down there!
From there we headed to Matamata a.k.a Hobbiton. Which I hasten to add was not for my benefit but for my geeky boyfriend.. only joking! For the benefit of the few of you who have no idea about Lord of the Rings, Hobbiton is where Bilbo, Frodo Baggins and all the hobbits lived. New Line Cinema had not got round to ripping out all of
the set due to bad weather and the land owners managed to come to some deal with them to leave the remains there - apparently it's never happened before. So we spent an afternoon exploring the hobbit holes and the rest of the remaining set. I'm not a huge Lord of the Rings fan, but I had a great time anyway - sad!
From there we planned on heading back to Auckland to the Bay of Islands stopping off at some lovely beach side locations on the Caromandel Peninsular and Goat Island marine reserve. The great thing about New Zealand is that you can park up in your camper practically where ever you want. So if you fancy a night listening to lapping waves on a beach, you can, if you fancy a night of listening to a babbling brook, you can, if you fancy being right outside the pub, you can!
We braved the icy waters one day and did some scuba diving off a group of islands called the Poor Knights. Named by Captain Cook because apparently they looked like his porrige breakfast that was known as a poor knights breakfast. Anyway, the diving was amazing.
Jacques Cousteau, a famous scuba diving frog, quotes it as one of the best sub-tropical sites with one of the largest known underwater caves. It was certainly a different kind of diving than we were used to, but there was so much cool stuff to see amongst the kelp fields and in the cave. Unfortunately/fortunately we didn't get to see any orka (killer) whales that have been known to frequent these waters. For those of you who dive this is an absolute must!
Having defrosted our toes we drove further north to a lovely little historic town called Russell in the Bay of Islands, then headed back south back towards Auckland through the Kauri forests and making a stop at NZ's largest Kauri Tree which was, suprisingly enough, pretty huge.
We joyously handed back our skip of a van back to Britz in Auckland and headed to a cosy hotel for the night before flying out to Christchurch in the South Island.
To be continued......
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