Our flight to Auckland from Tahiti was a sleepless one. We only left at 01.30 in the morning, and the 6 hour Air New Zealand flight was spent pressed into each other. Let’s just say we had a person sitting next to us, who should have booked the other seat as well…
Sleep deprived, we landed in Auckland, and picked up our car. We drove to Auckland, and went on a walk in the city centre. On the main square, we ran into a Taiwan cultural festival, with dragon dancing and all!
After some breakfast, we continued on to Otorahanga. We made a stop for lunch in Hamilton, and found a 1kg pot of fresh NZ mussels for only 10NZD (5 EUR). New Zealand is really kind on our budget it seems:) We walked through the town afterwards, and discovered it had quite interesting statues…
We drove on, and arrived in Otorahanga in time to visit the Kiwi House. This is one of the best places to see NZ’s national bird. In the large dark enclosure (kiwis are nocturnal), we spotted 3 kiwis! Pretty nice!
From there it was only a 5 minute drive to our lovely AirBnB for the night.
After a long night of sleep, we started our day by driving to the Glow Worm Caves. The visit starts by walking through the caves and learning all about the tiny animals. Then, you’re put into a boat, and silently float below what seems like the brightest night sky you’ve ever seen. It was truly a magical experience! No photos were allowed inside the cave unfortunately, but this is an experience we won’t soon forget!
From the caves, we left for Rotorua, stopping along the way at some scenic spots.
In the afternoon, we arrived in the village, and decided to check out Kuikua park. Our walk started off like any typical park…
But then, we smelled sulfur, and suddenly we walked through clouds of steam. This came from lakes boiling from thermal activity.
This also meant we could take a thermal foot bath:)
From there, we drove to Rotorua’s lake, where there’s a Maori village.
The next morning, we went to Wai-o-tapu, a half hour’s drive. Here you can find Geyser park, with an active geyser and more thermal lakes and pitts.
After a short but wet visit to the thermal park, we went on towards our next destination: Tongariro National Park. This park is used as the land of Mordor in Lord of the Rings! Here we’ll do the Tongariro crossing, a long hike which also comes past ‘Mount Doom’…
When finally arriving in the Park after driving many hours, seeing below sign is priceless!
We were supposed to do the Tongariro crossing the next morning, but as the weather forecast was horrible, we moved our hike to the next day. After reshuffling our program, we went out to see the area by car instead.
The next day, the weather indeed looked much improved. We got up early, and after 45 minutes, arrived at the start of the Tongariro Crossing hike. The hike is quite tough, as it has 1100 meter elevation gain, and is 20k in lenght. To top it off, the temperature would be around minus 10 at the summit today… Fortunately, we stocked up on thermal gear while in Rotorua:) Let’s go!
Even the grass is frozen!
We made it! Gosh what a hard climb… In this lava gravel, taking one step up means taking half a step back again, really tiring.
After one final crater edge climb, we made it across and we standing at the other side of the mountains, looking into the valley below.
Back in the bus to National Park, we agreed this was one of the best hikes we’ve done so far. Happy, we got in the car to drive to Wellington, where we will take the ferry to the South Island.
Couldn’t leave you before showing this picture of a MacDonalds airplane we found along the route in the middle of nowhere!
Up next: the South Island!