From Wellington to Auckland
Trip Start Jan 29, 2008
13Trip End Apr 30, 2008
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The next day we headed for the Tongariro National Park which reminded me more of the south island scenery. Up to the national park was a lot less spectacular than the south island drives that we had done. That afternoon we headed up to the top of Mt Ruaphu on the ski lifts. The actual crater top was another two hour hike from where we were dropped but we didn't have the gear to go hiking and it was getting late
The next day we started heading up to Taupo. We should have maybe taken into account it being Easter Saturday, but it wouldn't really have bothered us much at home. Over here however, everyone seems to go away for the long weekend and everyone stays in hostels! Before we realised this we went first to the airport. They have the cheapest skydives in New Zealand at Taupo and the view over the lake from up there must be pretty good. They managed to book Lois straight in that afternoon and she was up and out (literally) before she knew what she was doing - probably better that way.
Taupo looked like a lovely town, but our first priority at that stage was to find somewhere to stay that night. No look in Taupo so we chanced a drive to Rotorua, another 70km up the road. We tried everything from hostels to motels to full on hotels - there wasn't a room anywhere to be had. So we ended up sleeping in the car fully clothed, as gross as that sounds. Anyone who knows me knows that this is not my style. Hostels and the campervan was about as low as I thought I'd go but this was something else
Easter Sunday we woke up and went for coffee and some internet time to make up the time till our hostel was ready. We got in and showers were an obvious priority. They had a market down by the lakeside so we had a wander around that but it was (obviously) very quiet in town so we had a quiet day.
Easter Monday we were up early and heading out in the car to get down to a geyser about 30 km back towards Taupo. Unfortunately we hadn't realised that you have to pay a full price ticket to get into the nearby thermal park to get to see the geyser and that wasn't on our plan so we missed that. We had also planned to visit the only hot spring that is available free which was near the geyser but our hostel manager, Sonny advised us that it's too hot during the day to swim in it so it was turning into a bit of a disaster all round! We went back to Taupo instead and had a wander round the town, which was a bit busier and livlier than Rotorua was. That night we'd booked ourselves into the Tamaki Tours Maori Hangi (meal/festival type thing). It was quite intimidating to start with - we had to force a volunteer on the bus to come forward as our chief - it was a necessary tradition for each bus to have a chief. The chiefs had to stand their ground while having Maori warriors dance aggressively in front of them - there was plenty of tongue showing, shouts, grunts and stabbing actions with spears etc
Our next day was spent making our way up towards the Bay of Plenty. Firstly Sarah was not going to be outdone by Lois's recent Skydiving activities. She's been there and done that before so this time she decided to try Zorbing. It was quite amusing to watch. We then headed to Hells Gate. It's a thermal park where GEORGE BERNARD SHAW went to visit with friends and a local maori tribe. He was an atheist but believed that if there was a god that this would be the gate into hell and he believed that his friends had brought him here to try and prove the existence of a higher power. The maori's were so impressed with the Irish author that they allowed the region to be named in English, along with a number of the pools within the region. It smells, obviously - rotten eggs, although we were used to that after staying in Rotorua, but it was pretty fascinating to see boiling pools of water and mud and to think what was just under the surface to cause that
We had a quick wander round Auckland the following day, although Sarah slept through most of the day. I found a local park (I'm good at finding those) and had a wander round behind the Auckland Sky Tower. People actually voluntarily jump off that and freefall down on some kind of contraption. Scary stuff.
That evening we met up with our cousin Gemma Stephenson who's in Auckland short term waiting for her 5 year Australian visa. We haven't seen much of her as she lives on the East coast of England, but we used to visit each other as kids. She says that we're to blame for getting her and her sisters into horses when they came over to plod around on our ponies during the summer! We met her boyfriend, Sinj who's a really sound guy and we spent the evening reminiscing and doing a table quiz in one of the local bars. The questions were really hard, so we didn't win anything, not even close but it was fun anyway. The poor guys had to get up for work the next morning so we didn't leave it too late. The next day we were moving out to a hostel closer to the airport ready for our flight so unfortunately we couldn't meet up with them again the next night. Fingers crossed they'll get the city they want in Australia (Sydney) and we'll have a great excuse to get over there again!