Going aStray on the North Island
After having spent a good few weeks in Auckland and the north of the North Island of New Zealand I decided it was time to go see what the rest of the country had to offer. I booked myself onto a hop on hop off tour bus that travelled from Auckland to Christchurch stopping at various places along the way. I’ll do a brief note on the places I went and the highlights of the trip. I met so many different and cool people along the way and had so many great experiences. We were on the go constantly doing different things everyday. Soo..
Auckland to Hahei (8th Novemeber) - I got on the bus at 7:30am to leave Auckland. The company says it likes to take small groups but my bus was a 40+ seater! Everyone is roughly between 18 and 35 so a big age gap in a way. I was one of the first people on so sat by myself until the bus started to fill. The first person to sit next to me was a German girl, surprise surprise! I think the whole of Germany is in New Zealand! Anyway she was nice and we settled into the bus routine. We got to Hahei and I went for a hike with a Swedish guy and English girl to Cathedral Cove which some of you might recognise from the Narnia film apparently. I had no clue! It was amazing anyway, big white beaches looking out at islands and huge rock formations. We had a bbq that night so people could get to know each other.
Hahei to Raglan - Raglan is a pretty cool surfing town, we checked it out but didn’t spend to long there because our hostel was up in the hills. The weather wasn’t great and the waves were small so I decided not to surf but to go for a walk to the beach with a Dutch girl, Swedish guy and two English girls. (There are so many Europeans out here its crazy!) I made a spag bol that night with a Dutch, German and English guy. Obviously showed them up with me eating abilities!
Raglan to Maketu - This was a long drive across from the West coast to the East. We split it up by visiting some caves where they had glow worms which was pretty cool. We stayed at this traditional Maori house that night. The people that worked there did some traditional dances and greeting for us and we had a Maori hangi meal. In the evening they taught the guys the haka and the girls some poi dancing. We had to perform the haka in front of the girls. It could have been embarrassing but everyone got into it so it was a good laugh and we scared the life out of the girls! We went and had a fire on the beach and then I decided along with a couple of others to sleep outside under the stars. That was pretty cool!
Maketu to Taupo - We left early and went to Rotorua which stank of eggs because there is a lot of geothermal activity there. We got to Taupo and some people did a sky dive etc but I didn’t want to there so I saw a mountain in the distance and decided I’d try and go and climb it. The woman at the hostel said it was about 1 hour away so I ran there. Got there and couldn’t find a path up so Bear Grylls’d my way half way up the mountain running over fields and jumping over fences then hacking my way through fern until I couldn’t go further. I had to climb up a tree to take a photo back down the hill looking at Taupo. Taupo is a really cool town next to a huge lake and surrounded by mountains. Really stunning scenery.
Taupo - Whakahoro - Whakahoro is in the south west of the North Island and in a pretty remote place. We drove down windy lanes through the mountains next to the river. It was an amazing drive. Kind of reminded me of home with the green mountains and loads of sheep! The place we stayed was a kind of ranch called the Blue Duck Station where the guy had a load of things going on to save New Zealand’s ecosystem etc. Pretty interesting. I went on a walk to a waterfall with a crew from the bus. By now we had a little group which was cool Richard (Eng), Christian (Germany), Sabine (Denmark), Kitty (Eng), Geoff (Holland), Ali (Canada), Helen (Eng), Tim (Eng). I had a great time at the lodge it was really cool, did things like Axe throwing and made a fire which is always fun!
Whakahoro to National Park - Tongariro Crossing!! - We left the Blue Duck Station at 7am so we could go to do a 7 hour hike across the Tongariro crossing. The crossing goes up through a valley and around some mountains, one of which is Mt Nguruhoe or Mt Doom as most people now know it. Me and 4 others decided we couldn’t just walk past the mountain but we wanted to go up it. I asked the woman who was taking us up on the bus and she kept saying “many have tried and many have failed” so this obviously annoyed me and made me and the others want to do it even more. The crossing takes around 7 to 8 hours so the bus was picking us up at 5pm. Doing the extra hike up Mt Doom would add another 3 hours or so onto our trip and the woman said we had to be back by 5pm or pay $200 for another bus to come get us. We nailed it! Me, Sabine, Tim, Richard and Ali powered up the walk to the foot of the Volcano and started going up. It was the hardest climb I’ve ever done, it was all lose rock that fell every time you took a step up. Tim had to quit halfway up because his trainers weren’t good enough but Sabine, Richard, Ali and I made it to the top. It was amazing! There was still snow on it in places and because it is a Volcano we stood on the rim at the top looking down at drops either side. We were in the clouds so didn’t have a great view but it was well worth it! Going down was much easier we kind of stone surfed all the way to the bottom. We powered the rest of the walk quickly stopping for photos, jumps, snow angels and Lord of the Rings re-enactments along the way. The scenery was incredible! Turquoise coloured lakes, snowy mountains and huge ridges. We got back at 5 bang on time and you should have seen the woman’s face! It was so good to prove her wrong! The hike was one of the best things I have done since being here!
National Park to Wellington - Wellington was the last stop on the North Island and I decided to get off the bus to catch up with Nikki and Christine my Scottish friends I met in Fiji. I spent the last day with the Bus crew at Te Papa Museum, up the Cable Car hill, at a Mexican Restaurant then finished the night in the only Welsh Bar in the southern hemisphere! It was amazing in there! Welsh flags everywhere and pictures of famous Welshmen and women who had been to the pub. It is actually a converted public toilets in the middle of a 4 lane road! Classic welsh pub! We had a great night, played scrabble and pool and the bus crowd wrote out Huw don’t leave us on the scrabble board which was pretty cool of them. I was sad to be leaving the group because we had a great time together!