From Taupo to Melbourne - via central & North

Trip Start Nov 09, 2012
Trip End Mar 04, 2013

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What I did

Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Sunday, February 17, 2013

We arrived in sunny Taupo - just a short hour and a half drive from Rototura and found our campsite - around 5km from the town centre.  We went for a quick 3km stroll to Countdown to buy some supplies before heading back for a chicken pasta tea.

The next day we headed over to Huka Falls for our 14km walk to Aratiatia Rapids - where there is a damn used for generating Hydro-electricity and every 2 hours, they let a massive gush of water through as the intake basin has only limited capacity.  For the first 7 or so km, the walk was nice, next to the river and through forest, but we then left the river and cut in land through deforested areas and past some farms with no shade from the mid-day sun - and things got pretty hot and boring quite quickly.  Soon enough though we arrived at Aratiatia Falls and got in to position at one of the lookouts for the 2pm flooding and were treated to the rocks on the other side of the dam flooded and turned into rapids - it was quite amazing.

We then walked back to Huka Falls and had a well deserved ice lolly - I had my favourite lemonade lolly - yum yum yum.  Then we headed back to camp for a shower and to wash our clothes, before sitting down for another chicken pasta tea.

The following day we had off, chilling at the campsite by the pool and doing not much at all :-)

The next day we travelled to New Plymouth on the East Coast for a coastal walk and a visit to Mount Taranaki.  On the way, we stopped off at Waitomo Caves for a tour around a million year old Glow worm cave which was good fun - although not as long as our tour in Te Anau.  The day after was our mamoth 20km coastline walk in New Plymouth which took in the coast line all the way to the port and back again - and by the end we were very stiff and ready to shower and get into bed :-) But first we had to check out Mount Taranaki - at the Edgemont National Park and drove up some very steep and windy roads for a fantastic view over the west coast before heading back down for pizza in bed :-)  

Then we hit the road again and made a trek upto Orewa Beach, just south of Auckland - first stopping at Waitomo again to see about joning a 2 hour limestone cave tour - but unfortunately we didn't have time - so we headed west to MataMata which is the home of Hobbiton - one of the sets of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films.  Actually based on a part of a farm, we saw the hobbit holes, gardens and pub (stopping for a drink) and it was very very cool - we were proper starstruck!  After the tour we headed up to Orewa Beach to stay for the night before our trip into the Northlands.  The campsite was right beside the beach which had some wicked waves and we bimbed into town for some fish and chips before heading back and getting our heads down.

Then it was upto the Northlands - which is north of Auckland to Russell in the Bay of Islands for some sun and scenery.  Russell's only accessible by ferry so we trundled across on something like an old WWII landing craft and made our way to the campsite, first stopping at the peninsula's end to dip our toes in the sea (it was cold!)...  The campsite has fantastic views over the bay and we can sit around the camper of a nighttime and watch the waves and boats in the harbour.  The evening that we arrived was spent investigating the very small town and finding the best hot chocolate shop in the world...  Fact!  Before deciding we should spent some time in the pub and had a few drinks sat beside the bay listening to live music.  Lush...

On our first day in Russell we went on an Eco-dolphin watching boat and spent 3 hours hunting down dolphins.  When we caught up with them they weren't really interested in our boat and were playing amongst themselves but we saw them jumping around and playing silly buggers. 

Today (24/2/13) we went on a day trip to Paihia on the ferry (about 20 minutes from Russell) and visited the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, where the treaty was signed between the Maori and British in 1840, and caught an excellent Maori cultural performance with lots of singing, dancing and some Haka, before bimbling around the coastal town and heading back to the camper for some beer.  On the ferry ride back we saw a pod of dolphins playing in the bay, jumping out of the water and doing acrobatics and generally showing off... It was fantastic to see and a highlight of the day.

Tomorrow we head to the capital of the Northland - Whangarei for some shopping (not long left for souvenirs) and to visit a Kiwi house before heading back to Auckland the following day to hand back the camper (only 2 sleeps left in the camper van!) and flying to Melbourne for a visit to the little blue penguins, an open air cinema to watch Les Mis, some shopping and a visit to Max Brenner's chocolate restaurant - oh baby...

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