North Island, Kiwiland

Published: June 22nd 2017
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Geo: -41.2865, 174.776

We were very nervous as we were flying into Auckland. We'd been looking into the best and most financially viable option for transport and accommodation around New Zealand and still hadn't really 100% decided what to do. We'd looked into buying or renting a camper or a car, we looked into bus tours and we looked into air b and b and hostels. We decided (with a bit of persuasion from and a kick up the arse from a friend) that we'd hopefully save money and have an awesome time buying a camper and travelling around for 10 weeks on the road and selling it for a slight loss at the end of our road trip. This was easier said than done. We were looking at campers and converted vans with all sorts of pro's and con's and trying to weigh up what we'd sacrifice for other priorities in a camper. We found one camper that looked great, but it wasn't due back into Auckland for another 4 or 5 days. We were in Auckland already for a few days while we were attempting to figure out how to get out of it (nothing nice to say about Auckland unfortunately), staying in awful hostels when as fate would have it, Adele partly helped save our sanity! She was playing over the coming weekend and all of the hostels were booked out. As we still had no camper and we were pinning our hopes on this one, we decided to rent a car and head to Northland. This was the best decision we could have made. Apart from the car we rented being a pile of s#@!, we had a wonderful few days driving up to cape reinga and back down past 90 mile beach and it's HUGE sand dunes, down through the bay of islands, visiting some lovely towns and staying in the best accommodation we've had so far on our travels. Sooz couldn't believe how green everything was. Rolling hills as far as the eye could see. It was stunning and we met some wonderful hosts that spoilt us rotten. Northland was a fantastic first glimpse of New Zealand and we couldn't wait to explore the rest of it.

It came to returning to Auckland and we were nervous and excited to finally get on the road properly. We met up with the couple who owned 'Dora' and they proceeded to show us around what could be our home for the next 2 months. Sooz noticed fairly early on in the tour that there were a lot of ‘well that doesn't work' or ‘you have to jiggle this a bit to get that to work' or ‘oh yes, the door falls off so you'll have to watch that'. Phil also found a bit of a chunk out of one of the tyres. When they told us that it didn't have it's electrical warrant of fitness updated, we had a chat and decided that this wasn't the van for us. We were gutted and all out of options. There were no other vans we liked the look of and after actually getting into Dora (she had a high top), we realised how small they actually were. We like each other, but not that much!

We were pretty lost and a bit frustrated after that. We felt like we were wasting time in Auckland trying to figure this out. We turned to renting. In the end we got a very good deal on a motor home rental for 60 days. It's huge (Phil can stand up in it with only a slight tilt of the head), has pretty much everything we need and it's very, very comfy.

So off we went! We were setting off roughly a week later than we'd hoped but we still had another 9 weeks to explore the two islands. We began our trip in the Coromandel peninsula. The weather hadn't been the best so we faced a lot of land slips as we drove out which meant that sometimes we just had to dodge the big pile of mountain that had fallen down, or we had to divert completely. Once we figured all of that out, our first stop, hot water beach. It is a beach where you can dig your own hot pool in the sand as the thermal springs rise up to fill it. It's a fine balance! When you don't have the thermal springs, it's pretty bloody cold! Or if you're too close, it can and will scald you. It was a fantastic experience. We sat there until the sun started to go down and the tide began to rise, flushing out all of the hot pools and sometimes the people sat in them. We drove around the Coromandel peninsula stopping off at various places such as cathedral cave, a beautiful waterfall and even a pig farm! (It was pretty much just a fella who really likes pigs and has a lot of them for pets/ family!). Unfortunately one of the bigger walks that we would have liked to do was closed because of the land slips and bad weather so we were gutted about that but we ploughed on. The coastal drive around the peninsula was just beautiful and we camped in some gorgeous spots.

Our next intention was to head to the Waitomo caves. We had been recommended going here by someone we met in Australia and were sold. As it turns out, one of our friends that we met in Cambodia just happens to be a guide for the ‘Legendary Blackwater Rafting Company' at Waitomo and he offered us a free tour! We headed over that way, taking in Hamilton, another waterfall and a classic car museum (the kiwi's love their classic cars!) on the way.

The Waitomo cave tour was fantastic. We abseiled down into the cave system and zip lined deeper in before we jumped into the freezing cold water and proceeded to drift down the caves in rubber rings. We paddled and drifted and pulled ourselves along the narrow tube of cave until we reached an area where we were told to turn off our head torches. The caves lit up with glow worms. They were everywhere, surrounding us with their little green glow. Our guide then pulled us back very slowly through the glowing cave, serenading us with his beautiful voice as we laid in our rubber rings wondering how we were so lucky to be here. Glow worms, as a matter of fact are actually maggots and the ‘glow' is their poo… we came to the conclusion that ‘glow worms' sounds a lot nicer than ‘shit maggots'! They react to sound and make the excrement glow more to attract food. Very interesting, and still amazing but maybe not so romantic when you realise what it actually is! We then went on a little caving tour and after exploring the caves for a couple of hours we emerged. Definitely an experience we will never forget. We can't thank Ben enough for giving us that experience and we definitely envy his job!

The following day we explored the local area (yes, more waterfalls, they are incredible) and set on our way the day after. This time we headed towards Tauranga. A port town in the bay of plenty. The tail end of cyclone Debbie was headed to New Zealand and when we looked at the weather radar, this seemed to be the only place it was going to miss! So off we went! The weather was glorious. You get to the town by driving through the biggest port in the country. It just seems like a massive industrial site as you're driving through which was strange, and then you emerge into this lovely seaside town of Tauranga. We spent a little bit of time chilling out in the sun and then headed up the extinct volcano called Mount Maunganui. It was tough (we chose the difficult route up) but so worth it when we got the almost 360 degree views at the top.

After Tauranga we could hardly contain our excitement as our next destination was hobbiton (another tick off the bucket list). We were going to the movie set where they shot the scenes of ‘the shire'. We decided ro do an evening tour which consisted of a tour around the set with loads of fun facts and interesting things being told to us about the set up and the actors etc (plus a lot pf re-enactment from some of the more hardcore fans). We then went the the ‘Green Dragon' pub where we were treated to a drink of ale or cider and they put of a massive hobbit-style banquet! We were then treated to a lantern-lit tour back through the shire before we headed back to the van. We had a fantastic time. The staff were great and we were very lucky to be on a tour with some real fanatics with a great sense of humour. It was brilliant!

After hobbiton we headed to Rotorua. This place is famous for it's geothermal activity (and the rotting eggs smell that goes with it!). While here we went on a bit of an activity adventure (also what Rotorua is famous for). We went luging and rented some mountain bikes and went on a pretty crazy mountain biking course. Both were epic. One of our most fulfilling days so far (especially after eating a hobbit full of food at the banquet a couple of nights before!). We both fell out of the luge (Phil got a bit battered and bruised and we caught Sooz's on camera- you must pay for access to this video) and we had an amazing day.

Taupo was the next stop, more geothermal activity and more waterfalls (they are, truly stunning). And unfortunately we had another walk up a mountain scuppered by bad weather. It's fine! Onwards and downwards we went to finally meet some of Phil's long distance relations in Palmerton North.

We spent a couple of days in the company of… lets just say ‘cousins' (when you start getting into first and second cousins how many times removed plus that many kiwis divided by Ireland multiplied by 35, it starts to get confusing) who were amazingly hospitable and lovely to us. We had a wonderful lesson on the family tree and exchanged some stories had a fantastic time with them. Unfortunately we had to move on after a couple of nights but we wish Norah, Anna and family all the best and we hope to see you again soon.

From Palmerton North we headed to Wellington. We only gave ourselves a day and a half here which was probably a bad decision but we have vowed to come back and spend extra time exploring the place. Once again another cousin opened up her home and offered us accommodation and board. She also took us on a wonderful tour around Wellington. As far as cities go, this one is pretty cool. So much life and soul and we can't wait to get more of a taste when we return. We also went for lunch with some more Irish/ Kiwi family and just had a fantastic week overall getting to know such generous, caring people who you have no ties with but a great grandparent. We hope in future that they or their children come to Europe and we will try our very best to return the wonderful hospitality that we have been on the receiving end of here.

Apart from the slight hiccough at the beginning we have had a truly amazing experience so far in New Zealand. We cannot get over the jaw dropping beauty of this country as every day we have something that makes us say ‘wow'. Words cannot describe this country and how much fun we've had with the activities and people. unfortunately pictures just can't quite capture the engulfing beauty of the place either. We keep getting told to wait for the south island if we want to see real beauty so we can't wait to see what the South Island has to offer us!

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9th May 2017

Wow what an experience, sounds fantastic and so up to date! Some stunning pictures in there as well!
9th May 2017

Fantastic scenery you make sound like New Zealand is a heavenly. Thanks for your wonderful detailed blog. Take care of yourselfs
9th May 2017

Once again, a wonderful 'blog'. It makes me envious, but very pleased that you are having such a glorious time. You make me regret not emigrating out there when I had the chance (if I had you would not be able to have the experience!!).
I keep reading all the 'blogs' with enjoyment, you make an old man happy.
9th May 2017

As I read this blog I felt so envious of you guys, I love caves and waterfalls !!! And I said ' oh wow' lots lol a great blog and amazing pics ! Thanx guys xx
9th May 2017

Finally got round to catching up on your blog. Just read from Vietnam to NZ! What amazing experiences you have had. Thanks for sharing your adventure. Xx

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