North Island-A race to Auckland

(The end is in sight! New Zealand was great but these posts have been so boring to write!)

Day 21:

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Not sure you can see this but the day started with some cheeky sparrows picking at the leftovers of our breakfast potatoes.

We had one day in Wellington and this was it. It is the self proclaimed “smallest capital in the world” and it is a great friendly little place. The only downside is parking is an absolute nightmare. We quickly gave up on the centre and headed for the summit of Mount Victoria. Unfortunately we got to the summit at the same time as an entire cruise boat so we didn’t linger at this cool spot. Instead we headed down the mountain in search of Weathertop (well the under hang of it).

It was a good walk though, the mountain is covered in running/walking paths and bike trails, it’s pretty cool.

After our jaunt around the mountain it was back to town where we luckily managed to find parking close to the waterfront. Hurrah!

Then a top up of the shopping before making our way back to the Catchpool campsite.

Day 22: We were rapidly running out of time we had 6 days until we flew out and still had a lot we wanted to see so our next stop was Napier- again this had not been on our list to do but decided to add it in based on the recommendation of a coffee guy, plus it was one of my dad’s favourite wine regions so we had to go and do a wine tasting! (Or at least that was the plan anyway).

First stop was Rivendell, well Tararua Forest Park where the set for Rivendell once was.

En route we passed a Norse town….

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The weather got steadily worse as we approached Napier and once we got to the campsite is was raining hard. Horrible. On the upside we did try a new fruit….

Day 23: The following morning we headed into Napier, its another of New Zealand’s themed cities but for a rather tragic region. In 1931 much of the city was razed in the Hawke’s Bay earthquake, so they rebuilt the city in the style of the time, Art Deco. By this time we had used all of the internet on our NZ sim so after a coffee we headed to the library to try book somewhere to stay in Buenos Aires when we arrived. The rest of our plans for the day didn’t really pan out. Unfortunately the weather was still terrible and the thought of drinking Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay looking out over beautiful vine terraces framed by gloomy grey clouds and a strong drizzle, didn’t fill us with joy so not ideal wine weather.

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So we continued on towards Lake Taupo, an extremely touristy place like Queenstown, after a quick stop we continued on to our campsite for the night, Ngaherenga Campsite (DOC)- for those interested it is perfectly situated for the Timber Trails surrounding the area there.

Day 24: The following morning we headed for Waitomo, stopping off en route at the i-Site in Te Kuiti where we booked our tickets for the Spellbound company (recommended as we didn’t get on a tour till 3 pm- the last one of the day). Of the three companies (Caveworld, Waitomo Glowworm caves) we felt they were the best value for money plus if it’s good enough for Sir David Attenborough, its definitely good enough for us! Also it was properly amazing! But first we had some time to kill and luckily being in New Zealand there is stuff to see all over the place (and for free in most cases).

When the time finally came around for our tour of the magical caves of Waitomo. Our guide was Emma and for the 25 minute drive to the caves she explained how Waitomo got its name. It is from the Maori language with wai meaning water and tomo meaning sinkhole. The whole area around Waitomo it covered in sinkholes, the farmers did ask the government for help but at the time they were told to find their own solution, which eventually became one of the top things to do in New Zealand.

Once we returned to Waitomo village, we headed northeast towards Matamata. As the next day we planned to go to Hobbiton we managed to get the closest non-contained campsite to Hobbiton. A small place called Brock’s place. It was very cheap at $5 pp but only had one toilet and one shower in the same room. I don’t know what some people think when they build their facilities. Anyway the following morning (Day 25), we arrived at the ticket office at 10.15 am. The next tour was 10.35 am or 1.30 pm! Lucky timing! So a few minutes later we were on our way on one of the massive coaches to the Hobbiton Movie set….

We lost half our group on the way round but there was pretty much a tour bus every 5-10 minutes-so many people!

Anyway after this we continued our journey onto Rotorua, an area ringed in geothermal activity. Here you can visit things like geysers, hot springs and boiling mud pools ( I got vetoed on visiting the more temperate ones). So we decided to visit the most flashy thing here “Wai-O-Tapu– a thermal wonderland”. They also had a geyser but was only “active” in the morning. So we chilled out at our campsite (Holdens Bay Holiday Park) and caught up on the exciting activity of laundry. Oh and arguing with Vodafone UK who I had cancelled my contract with (on the 30th December) and rather than move me to PAYG (on the 30th January) as they assured me they would, they cancelled my number. It took weeks (5 to be precise) to sort it out as their customer service contradicted each other. It was beyond frustrating, especially with the lack of internet.

Day 26: We set off for Wai-O-Tapu! We were advised to avoid the logging roads but unfortunately there was no avoiding the large campervans blocking the traffic by driving at an eye wateringly slow rate, combined with roadworks it made for a very stressful drive. According to flyers we needed to be there by 9.30 to get our tickets, and we were! After all the rushing about the lady at the ticket booth told me we had 30 minutes to wait so we may as well go see the Mud Pools (as it’s free).

So that was quite fun in a sulfury boiling kind of way and after 20 minutes of so looking and listening to it blob and glob away we drove to the Lady Knox geyser.

On finding out what the trick was for the very punctual eruption, Gav described it as the disappointment you get when you find out there is no Santa Claus. It pretty much summed it up. Also it means that there is a glut of people into the park right after it. Luckily the rest of the park was so different to everywhere else we had seen that we quickly forgot about the geyser. Lots of mineral present here- gold, silver, mercury, sulphur, arsenic, thallium, antimony, chlorine and iron. The rest of the periodic table was probably there too.

With time rapidly slipping through our fingers we nipped back into Rotorua for a few hours before heading north to Auckland. We did get a chance to try out the thermal waters with a free foot spa in the park.

En route to Auckland we stopped in Hamilton briefly….

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Riff Raff. A tribute to Richard O’Brien and Rocky Horror. He worked in Hamilton for a time in the local cinema (I think).

That night we camped at a rugby club south of Auckland. Nothing massively exciting there.

Day 27: Our last full day, we continued on to Auckland, we had quite a nice afternoon wandering about.

Also a friend of mine, Brendan, from uni moved out here 10 years (or so) ago and I hadn’t seen him since graduation. Luckily both he and his girlfriend, Marie, were free that evening so we had a chance to catch up over dinner and a few drinks (plus they kindly put us up for the night). All too brief alas but hopefully will see them next time they are home.

The following morning we dropped off our van at Lucky Rentals (a nightmare to find) and headed for the airport for our next adventure-South America and Bonita Buenos Aires.

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