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Published: November 21st 2008
After a few more days enjoying Ian's hospitality (and teapot) we were back on the road heading to the North Island. To do so we hired another vehicle on a bargain basement relocation deal from Christchurch to Auckland. This time our mode of transport was called a Spaceship, a bright orange people carrier which had a fold down bed and a wee stove. Not quite as sophisticated as our campervan... or quite as comfy but perfect for our needs. We only had ten days to get to Auckland and then we were meeting back up with Ian for a week's holiday together.
After a smooth crossing on the ferry north from Piction to Wellington we decided to stay a couple of nights outside of NZ's capital to explore the city. As we tried to navigate our way from the ferry terminal to the campsite we were struck by how big the roads were and how many cars there were. The North Island has a population of over 3 million people compared with a population of around 1 million on the South Island and most of these people live in the capital so it shouldn't have come as a surprise that
Beware of the Kiwi!
Unfortunately this was as close as we got to seeing the elusive Kiwi
it felt so busy, but it was a bit bamboozling after the peaceful places further south. From our brief glimpse of Wellington it seems like a lovely chilled out, cultural city on the sea. We visited Wellington's Te Papa Tongarewa museum which translates as "the place of treasures of this land." We would hugely recommend this as it was full of interesting exhibitions. Our highlight was the Mauri displays which had fascinating artefacts and interesting information on their history and culture. The Mauri suffered many injustices at the hands of the colonial powers in the past, the loss of land to name but one. But these days the balance is slowly being redressed for the better with heartening efforts to maintain the heritage and culture.
After Wellington we made our way up through the middle of the island, staying at pretty campsites and passing through some quaint villages such as Whakapapa which lies at the base of Mount Ngauruhoe, also known as Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings films. Unfortunately during our short visit to the area the mountain (which is part of an active volcano) was enshrouded in mist the whole time, so we never actually
got to see its iconic peak...oh well, perhaps it's best to leave it to our imaginations.
One of our favourite areas was around the town of Rotorua, this town lies on an active geothermal area. The town is surrounded by steaming lakes and bubbling mud pools and several active volcanoes! As we drove around it was not uncommon to see vapours of steam rising from the grass beside the road! One day we visited a river called Kerosene Creek, here the water is heated by the underground thermal activity so it is a popular spot to take a swim. We found ourselves a pool below a waterfall that we could enjoy on our own, it was a special experience to sit in a natural pool that was warm, it was just like sitting in the bath! It was very different from the thermal pools we visited in South America, particularly because we were actually sat in a flowing river! We also visited an area of geysers called Moon Valley, so called because the landscape looked very lunar with steaming geysers skooshing out from craters in the earth. Walking around here you could feel the heat from the earth, in
The flora here is specially adapted to live in areas with high levels of sulpher.
the past people have been burned by getting to close to the geysers or falling through the thin crust, but thankfully we made it out unharmed. The eggy smell of sulpher added to these experiences hence why Rotorua is nicknamed 'Sulpher City.' Another memorable day out was spent walking through the nearby Redwood forest with the majestic giants towering above us. It gave us a chance to do some tree hugging!
After all this thermal fun we travelled towards the coast to explore the Coromandel Peninsula, a hilly and green outcrop of land jutting out from the mainland. While not that large an area it took a while to explore because of the extremely winding roads. But the scenery was rugged and the roads were blissfully free of the heavy traffic we had experienced elsewhere in the North Island. We spent some lovely nights at a beautuful campsite miles from anywhere in a secluded location. As night fell we were soon ensconced in our cosy bed with the moonroof (a big sunroof at the back of the car) open to the sky. We lay back and enjoyed the glittering display of stars and the moon above us. This was
Trees at sunset
One of our nights under the stars
something we enjoyed most nights, we saw the orange glow of planets, tiny satelites making their orbit over the night sky and the occasional shooting star. It was the perfect way to spend the evening chillaxing.
We met Ian fresh off the plane and got straight down to business, we exchanged our wee Spaceship for a car and set off further north for the aptly named Northland, a huge peninsula reaching, well, north. Ian was eager to know what plans we had for the week ahead for his holiday, only our plans consisted of... heading north, and that was about as far as we had got much to Ian's consternation. However we did have a few places in mind that we wanted to visit and a hasty route was soon developed so we were off on the road again in no time.
First up was a nice stay in Baylys Bay. We got a wee self contained cabin and had ourselves a few nice cuppas. The beach was stunning, miles of sand and massive surf crashing in. As the sun began to set we watched some surfer dudes skillfully tackling the breaks, it made for a wonderful evening.
Father of the Forest
This is the tallest Kauri tree in NZ
Karen also seemed to attract a nice wee pooch, much as we had done on countless occassions in South America, he stayed with us for hours as we wondered around!
One of the highlights of the journey was a few stops in and around the historic Kauri forests of Waipoua. These ancient trees are only found in this area of New Zealand, once they were widespread but logging has vastly reduced their numbers in the past. Tāne Mahuta, Lord of the Forest, is the largest living kauri tree in New Zealand, and Te Matua Ngahere, Father of the Forest, is the oldest tree in New Zealand. We enjoyed some fine walks to each of these through some gorgeous woodland. It was awe inspiring to be in the presence of a living thing that is estimated to be over 2,000 years old!
We spent a couple of days chilling out in a sweet hostel called Endless Summer Lodge set on another lovely beach. From here we explored the surrounding area with a trip right to NZ's furthest Northern point called Cape Reinga. In this area there is also some vast sand dunes as you can see from the pics!
Catch a Wave
We had a really fab time shooting down them on some sledges. It was tough going with sand flying in our eyes, we had a bash at standing up with only limited success but we all had a good laugh! The whole area was actually quite surreal, to be surrounded by that much sand, it was truely like a desert.
Our last stop was a stay in the Bay of Islands, an arc of land filled with countless Islands. Here we relaxed, we even had a match of tennis each day for some exercise in the hostel's tennis courts. Ian kindly paid for a boat cruise among the Islands one day and this took us to the well known Hole in the Rock formation. A massive hole which our boat actually sped right through, it was exciting as the waves smashed against the rocky cave around us.
That was that really for our last week, it was certainly one of the best weeks we had while in NZ. It was nice to spend some extended time with Ian and explore some interesting and beautiful places, not to mention eat some lovely meals russled up by Karen and Ian
with Tony as the sous-chef! We owe a massive thank you to Ian for his help throughout our time in NZ, we simply could not have achieved as much as we did without him.
In General the North Island simply doesn't compare with the South for us. It is just too busy with too many people and vehicles. To be honest the scenery and landscape is simply not as wild or picturesque. Of course this is not to say we did not enjoy ourselves, we did, we certainly hope you can see that from the blog!
As has often been the case it is difficult for us to describe our experiences or how they have made us feel. NZ is a fantastic place filled with interesting and incredible scenery with which we have fallen in love. One day we would love to return, maybe even for a longer stay.
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