Land of the Long White Cloud, Part II
Trip Start Jan 16, 2012
26Trip End Aug 24, 2012
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We docked in Wellington and piled back into the camper ready to explore the city. We had read in one of our many pamphlets that there was a famous museum called Te Papa, kind of a science museum but well known for having a preserved giant squid! So we headed there, having lots of fun on all the interactive exhibits like the inside of a whales heart, or an earthquake simulator. The squid was particularly impressive, we read his story and stood marvelling at his size for a while before going to explore the NZ history rooms. When we were all museumed out, we started to plan our journey up through north island. We were to visit Woody in Masterton, an hour or so north, later that day, but after sending him a Facebook message had yet to hear back from him. So we cruised around the city for a while making use of the many wifi hotspots, doing our food shop and mainly just driving aimlessly before pulling into a cargo loading area and making dinner
Next morning, after finally being told where to go to meet Woody at lunchtime, we went and played a round of mini golf to fill in the morning. Gore the reigning champion had a nightmare and completely messed up the last hole, leaving me to steal victory (my first and only!). As it still wasn't 12.30, we went for a wander in a little park which was gorgeous, all big trees with bright orange autumn leaves and a river full of ducks with little wooden bridges over it. We kept ourselves amused for a while throwing leaves around and trying out death defying stunts on a kids zip wire, then we went to meet Woody in a coffee shop in town. Masterton had a small town centre with lots of little shops and cafes, really cute. The four of us stayed in the coffee shop for a while chatting before following Woody in his terrible but very funny old car, back to the school where he was working. It was a big boarding school set in beautiful grounds, Woody had his own little flat and we met the house matron who was lovely, and said we could stay inside the flat rather than being relegated to our camper in the car park
The next day Woody was able to take the day off to spend with us, and he drove us to a place an hour or so away called Castle Point, which was like a huge flat sand plain with a lighthouse on a hill overlooking the ocean. The view was amazing, it was such a beautiful place. The boys had conveniently brought a rugby ball so threw that around for a bit while I read. When we got back to the school we left Woody to it and made the move further up north toward Taupo and the nerve wracking skydive which was booked for Saturday!
On the way up to Taupo we stopped off at the Tongariro crossing, which is like volcanic country where a lot of the Lord of the Rings were filmed. It is also the location of Mount Doom! There were so many long hikes you can do there, some lasting days, but we were so short on time that we just did a couple of the shorter trips, to check out a scenic waterfall track and a rocky, volcanic track, then we had to leave the area to make it up to Taupo that night
The whole time we were there we stayed at this incredible free campsite called Reid's Farm, which had no toilet or shower facilities, but it was free so who's complaining?! We used to a public shower place in the town centre, which was great! The only problem was the campsite was full of those spiky conker shell things so if you jumped out to go to the toilet by the tree in the middle of the night you got a horrible surprise
The next day we spent wandering round Taupo some more, and took a trip to the waterfall there, the Huka Falls. Although it wasn't a steep, tall waterfall, the speed of the rapids was amazing.. We played some poo sticks there, made some hilarious videos, and wandered round the tracks a bit before getting ready to meet up with Leo that evening. After driving up to his house (not there) to his work (not there), back to his house, (probably freaking out his housemate by appearing like crazy stalkers), we eventually met Leo in an Irish bar in town. It was great to catch up, he had been working for a skydive company as a video editor, and so as a cheeky bonus had managed to get us all a discounted jump! We all spent the evening bar hopping a little bit, avoiding Leo's many psychotic exes, haha, but it wasn't a late night as he was working on the Saturday and we had our jump at 10am...
Next morning dawned cloudy :( and was still cloudy after we emerged from our handy public shower block. We went to the Taupo Tandem skydive offices to see what was going to happen. They sent us away until 11 due to the clouds. When we went back later on, it was unfortunately still cloudy, but they briefed us, took payment and dressed us up in our jumpsuits in anticipation for it clearing up that afternoon. Me and Snellers went for a package that included photos, so a camera man would be jumping out ahead of us to capture the whole terrifying experience on film
The next day was our last in Taupo, and we spent it pretty hungover, at the natural thermal hot springs with Leo, followed by a pub lunch. After that we said bye to the guys and hit the road again towards Roturua.
Roturua has a reputation for being really smelly, due to all the sulphur emitting geysers around the town, and to be honest it didn't disappoint
Next morning we headed for the luge, hoping to emulate the fun had at Queenstown! This luge was like a more extreme version, with more tracks, which went a lot faster and had some dangerous corners! Needless to say the boys zoomed off again and I was left tootling along by myself ha. It was lots of fun although nowhere near as scenic as Queenstown, and for that reason I have to say Qtown was better. We also went to do a bit of souvenir shopping on the main street, and me and Snellers finally found a post office that wouldn't charge arm and a leg for sending a parcel home, so were able to send home the masses of random souvenirs we had accumulated thus far. That evening we cooked dinner in the campsite and watched tv in the common room, the boys were glued to a program about american rednecks doing competitive pumpkin tossing, (when they exploded everyone would, shout "PIE!!!!" very strange), so I left them to it and went to bed!
On the Tuesday we went to a traditional Maori museum called Te Puia, which I'd highly recommend
That evening we had to leave Roturua, which surprised us by being quite pleasant and lots of fun despite all the horrible reviews we had heard about it on the way up north island, our destination being Waitoma, where there were caves full of glow worms I really wanted to see. On the way up we detoured to a little town called Matamata where the boys were desperate to tour Hobbiton, the Lord of the Rings set. It was pricey, but so worth it. We were taken in a bus through miles and miles of farm land to the set, where a lady walked us through and told us all about what scene had happened where, who lived where, etc. I have only seen the first movie, but even I found it interesting! The houses are literally just the doors, with nothing behind, not the contents of a hobbit hole like expected. We were also shown the new part that has been built just for the upcoming The Hobbit movie which was pretty impressive
Next day we left early to the caves to squeeze in a tour before heading up to our final stop, Auckland. The tour was only 45 mins long, but our guide was really informative and we got taken through some amazing cave and rock formations, before finally riding in a little boat through the glow worms hideout. It was like millions of stars in the sky, really beautiful. Could have done with maybe being a bit longer though, as it wasn't that cheap! Then it was time for our final big drive, up to Auckland. The drive took no more than three hours. When we arrived we got a map from information and tried to figure out a cheap campsite to stay the next two nights. The only official campsite we could see were like 30dollars a night, unless we wanted to stay right out by the airport in which case it would be 25! Reluctant to pay so much, we were sat debating whether to just try our chances pulling up somewhere, when two parking officers knocked on our window
In the morning, after a good nights sleep safe in the knowledge we weren't going to get knocked on and told to move, we went to the city centre to walk around. After forking out 12 dollars for parking, we wandered around checking out some shops and having a nice walk along the harbour looking at ridiculously expensive boats! To be honest there didn't seem much more to do in Auckland, as is the case with most large cities, so we went to the cinema that evening and despite me campaigning desperately for the new Avengers movie, ended up going to see a terrible film about people being eaten alive by wolves in Alaska
So the day of reckoning finally arrived, and it was time to bid farewell to our casual travelling buddy and go back to going it alone! We dropped gore off at his hostel for the night,as his flight wasn't till the next day, and drove out to the airport to return the camper. This was an emotional time I'd rather not write about, but suffice to say I was feeling pretty gloomy as we made our way into the airport, despite our new adventure in south America looming. New Zealand was just indescribably good, I'm writing this blog over two months late, and it's probably still our favourite country.. North island surpassed expectations and shocked us by having so much to do that we needed more than the allocated 1.5 weeks to see it all, more fool us for thinking the smaller island needed the lesser amount of time hey! The three of us had some massive laughs, shared the pure fear of both the bungy and the skydive, dodged a fair few parking fines, saved a LOT of money on campsites, saw some of the most incredible views in the world and loved every second! I already know I want to retire out here and have a massive farm full of sheep, and Snellers I'm sure is planning his next lions Tour trip with the lads which when the time comes I will be extremely jealous about
New Zealand.. Happy Camper.. Jonathan Gore, it was a pleasure!
A week ago we discovered that my tandem master Alan was killed during a base jumping accident in Europe :( such sad news, he was great to me during my skydive. R.I.P x
This is the link to Snellers skydive masters accident if anyone is morbidly interested