One Step at a time

Trip Start Jun 12, 2011
Trip End Oct 22, 2012

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Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Tuesday, January 31, 2012

 We arrived in 'Windy Welly' and headed out to explore the town. We stumbled across Cuba Street – which is the too cool for school type area and totally reminded us of Brighton (in a good way). We found a funky little club and caught a couple of local bands and Will spotted that Immortal Technique (Peruvian/American hip-hop artist) was playing the following night so we ended up stay 2 nights instead of one.

After Welly we made our way up to visit Chris and Kelly in lovely art-deco Napier. We were treated to a good ol New Zealand BBQ... yum! They also took us to visit the winery where they are getting married in March (The Mission) and we tasted some wine of course (rude not to!).

We then wound our way up to Lake Taupo where we stopped for 4 days – we needed a break after dashing around to fit in so much – and decided we weren’t going to get around all of NZ so we slowed down the pace and concentrated on meeting up with friends instead. Having said that, while in Taupo, we visited the turquoise waters of Huka Falls, sailed on Taupo Lake out to the Maori carvings on the Barbary yacht which was once owned by Errol Flynn, and went to a place where you watch honey bees making honey and did a honey tasting and bought some of the famous local honey too.

While in Taupo we also did the Tongarriro Crossing which is said to be New Zealand’s best day hike. It takes you up the ridge over the mountains which are visible from Taupo town across the lake. We were picked up from our campsite at 5am to drive to the start an hour and a half from Taupo. The trek itself is 20km and is by far the longest amount of walking I have ever achieved in one day. The scenery is breathtaking though and it was an amazing experience even though my knee gave way after 14k and I was in agony when I bent it from then on (the last 6 k included a lot of steps which didn’t help).

When we started there was a thick morning fog and we couldn’t even see a few metres in front of us let alone see mountains which was a bit worrying but as the sun came up it burnt off the cloud and the mountains revealed themselves. You start in scrub land with beautiful waterfalls and streams trickling past you. As the morning dew was still there all the spider webs glistened in the sun. It then became more and more ‘moon like’ as we approached the Devils Staircase. The first few hours are up a gentle gradient until this point. After that we made our way past the mountain that was used as Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings and with its sides stained red you can see why they used this site. At this point you are way above the clouds and working around a ridge with drops down either side with the wind increasing until you get to the top to be rewarded with epic epic views as far as the eye can see. Over another ridge and the blue and emerald lakes appear amid all the dusty red rocks, glistening in the sun. We stumbled down the steep scree slope past the emerald lakes, stopped for a spot of lunch at the blue lake and then commenced the relentless decent winding back and forth down the grasslands and through the woods. EPIC.

After that it was ‘sweet as’ to head to Rotorua and catch up with Stacia from home and have a good ol catch up over several ciders and wines :-) While in Rotorua we also sampled a Maori Hangi (YUM! meat and sweet potatoes (kumara) cooked on hot rocks underground), chilled out in the therapeutic but somewhat smelly thermal pools at the Polynesian Spa and checked out the geysers, thermal and mud pools at Wai-O-Tapu. We also hooked up with Jono and Leanne again for Leanne’s bday. It is true what they say about Rotorua - it does smell (due to all the geo-thermal activity), but it comes and goes and is worse some days than others. At the Hangi meal we also learnt some more about Maori culture, their weapons, poi and about the moko (facial tattoo) which for this tribe is made up of 4 native 'birds', the kiwi, the bat (if its flies its a bird apparently), the parrot and the owl. The women only wear the owl on their chin. We were also taken on a bush walk to see what plants they used to use for what and also see a fresh water spring and a ton of glow worms.

We went with Stacia to her friend’s place in Papamoa by the beach and had an awesome day celebrating Stacia’s birthday. Matt and Lorna also joined so it was like a mini Brighton gathering by the Papamoa beach which was awesome. On route there we passed thorough Stacia’s hometown of Te Puke which is where all the ‘kiwi fruit’ are grown (not just ’kiwi’s’ as that would mean the bird not the fruit) and stopped at the giant kiwi fruit there.

Our last stop was back to Aukland, gutted we didn’t have time to head into Northland or to dive Poor Knights Islands but vowing to return. Jono and Leanne kindly put us up and Jono took us fishing. Will caught a ton of fish which would have been legal in South Island but fell a couple of cm short of North Island law so they all went back :( We (Jono) caught 2 kahawai and a nice snapper and we dredged up a ton of scallops. A few hours later our tums were happily full of fish n scallop BBQ...nom nom.

We totally fell in love with New Zealand, who wouldn’t! I urge anyone who hasn’t been to go and can be sure that we will be returning. To be continued......
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