New Zealand's North Island: history, scenery, and fun facts

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February 29th 2012
Published: March 1st 2012
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Reflections in the waterReflections in the waterReflections in the water

Whakarewarewa Forest
New Zealand has been a wonderful journey. You can tell this country was colonized less than two hundred years ago. The relationship the New Zealanders have with the native culture is very different from anywhere else I have been. Maybe because they had more experience with taking over the locals or because the Maori were cannibalistic and cooked a few unsavory European interlopers, but Europeans didn't eradicate the culture of the Maori. Maori is recognized as an official language of the country and they are allocated seats in the government. Of course, that doesn't mean Europeans didn't try to take as much land and resources for themselves as they could. But there is definitely a much more prevalent Maori culture here than, for example, Aboriginal culture is in Australia.

In the last two weeks I have seen so much and done so much. I usually don't travel as fast as I have here but since I booked a ticket with the 'Kiwi Experience' company it makes it easier to move everyday or two. This company is advertised as a hop on and hop off service, but it mostly feels like an organized tour. On the plus side they pick you
My Rafting CrewMy Rafting CrewMy Rafting Crew

I am on the far right.
up at your hostel and eliminate all that excess hauling of luggage. Despite the fact that I left about 15 pounds worth of stuff in a locker in Brisbane I still feel like I am hauling too much stuff around with me. I am not sure what I could possible do without though.

From Waitomo we traveled to Rotorua, the town of sulfur gas and geothermal parks. There is also a pretty lake there and a fun weekend market I got to sample. My hostel there had its own natural hot spa which I enjoyed during a rain shower. This is home of Zorbing, which if you don't know is where you put yourself inside a Giant inflated ball that is inside another Giant inflated ball and then roll down a hill. It costs $40. You can also 'Luge' here. I am still not sure what this is, but I think it is like non motorized gocarts that you race down a hill.

From Rotorua we moved on to Taupo which is considered the adventure capital of the north island. (Queenstown is the adventure capital of New Zealand proper.) You can do bungy jumping, sky diving, Jet boating,
Waitomo CavesWaitomo CavesWaitomo Caves

An the Ruakuri Reserve walk.
and the Tongariro Crossing (to see Mordor and Mt Doom). I didn't do any of that, but the Lake and River were pretty.

From there we went to River Valley Lodge where you can do horse back riding and White Water Rafting. I opted to do Rafting, because it is always something that I always wanted to do but I figured I would never have the chance and I didn't want to do it enough to seek out places at home. But there I was escorted to the rafting lodge. I would have had to go out of my way to avoid it. (They charged NZ$149.00) It was truly amazing and I will definitely have to find a chance to do it again. The river we rafted down was called the Rangitikei. We went as a group of 17 novice backpackers and 5 guides. My guide's name was Ants (short for Anthony) don't ask me why. There was a girl named Hilary, a German guy whose name I don't remember and a guy named Nobu from Japan. Nobu is actually a river guide from Japan, so our raft had a good ratio of people who knew what they were
Ruakuri ReserveRuakuri ReserveRuakuri Reserve

The same river that runs through the caves and gives so many people Black Water Rafting adventures.
doing. (this may be why our raft never capsized) Our guide gave us a lesson on how to survive our experience and basically consisted of simple commands like 'paddle forward' 'paddle backward' and 'get down!' You can tell that these guys are used to initiating idiot backpackers. The scenery around the river was very beautiful and the river itself was crystal clear. I am pretty sure that all the rivers I have ever seen in Illinois are the consistency of sludge, so I have no desire to swim or float or raft in them.

After River Valley we moved on to Wellington. This is the capital of New Zealand and according to a recent survey its inhabitants are the most affluent and the least happy. I know it as the origin of the "Flight of the Conchords." And you should too. The national museum Te Papa is here, but I have to say that despite its having 6 floors I liked the Auckland Museum more. Te Papa was more like a children's natural history museum than anything. There was a small selection of art, but nothing inspiring. I did like that it was free.

Well, now that you
Kuirau Thermal parkKuirau Thermal parkKuirau Thermal park

In Rotorua, this same park had a murder three weeks before. We were advised not to venture through at night. Warnings like that make me feel like I am back in America.
know what I have been up to on my travels I will leave you with some New Zealand fun facts mostly taken from my Lonely Planet and Kiwi Experience Guides.

Most common international New Zealand associations:

1) Lord of the Rings locations

2) Bungy Jumping

3) Milford Sound

After visiting for a few weeks I would also add

4) sheep

5) Rugby

Population of 4.4 million
International Tourists 2.4 million per year

native mammals: 2 bats

approximate number of sheep: 35.2 million

New Zealand is also know as 'Aotearoa' meaning 'land of the long white cloud' in Maori

From 1917 to 1967 pubs were required to close at 6pm. Now they close at 6am.

One of the first countries to enfranchise women in 1893.

Additional photos below
Photos: 34, Displayed: 25


Sulfur PointSulfur Point
Sulfur Point

Sulfur dioxide gas permeates the entire town of Rotorua giving it a general rotten egg smell.

The traditional boats of the Maori people. This one is on display in Rotorua.
Clear Water Clear Water
Clear Water

Whakarewarewa Forest
California RedwoodsCalifornia Redwoods
California Redwoods

I haven't seen a Redwood in California but I have seen them in New Zealand.
Lake Taupo with Mt Doom in the backgroundLake Taupo with Mt Doom in the background
Lake Taupo with Mt Doom in the background

Mt Doom is actually Ngauruhoe in Tongariro Park you can take a $80 day trip and hike 8 hours to the top. This was as close as I got.
Giant FishGiant Fish
Giant Fish

In the park near Lake Taupo
Heart Sculpture Heart Sculpture
Heart Sculpture

In the park near Lake Taupo
Waikato RiverWaikato River
Waikato River

near Lake Taupo

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