As we begun our trip to New Zealand I was excited just to be in an airport again! I miss airports here, I’ve got used to flying all the time at home. So I spent my time trying on perfume and browsing duty free. The flight seemed to go really quickly- perhaps due to the onboard entertainment systems. I’m a big fan of having my own personal screen for shows and games even though the flight is only 3 hours. They should introduce them on trains and buses!
So we arrived in New Zealand around 12pm and caught the airport bus into Auckland where we had booked to stay the night in Nomads. The hostel was extremely noisy as it was right above a club but I was so exhausted I slept right through it until our alarm went off early in the morning so that we could catch our 7.30am bus to Rotorua. This first bus was actually a Great Sights tour bus so we had a really good driver who was telling us all about everything we passed. The countryside is very similar to English countryside. And there were a lot of cows –many more than sheep, which was unexpected. Our North Island bus ticket had included a stop at Waitamo Glow Worm Caves. They were amazing! At first it just seemed like a standard cave tour, in a huge cave with normal rock so nothing too exciting there. We were then shown some small patches of glowworms and some that were low down so that we could see the lines they put down to catch food. After this we went down to the river that flowed through the cave where we all got in a large boat that was going to take us out. As we travelled along the river the amount of glow worms was amazing. The cave wasn’t lit in this part so the glow worms really stood out. It was just like looking at the stars in the sky –just really up close! It was so beautiful.
We then got back on the bus and carried on to Rotorua where were greeted by a horrible smell of egg due to all the sulphur produced by the geothermal activity. We stopped there for a few days but never really got used to the smell. At least it wasn’t very strong in the area we were staying. It was amazing to see the bubbling, steaming pools of water and mud though. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It’s so strange to think that the water I was standing by was heated by the centre of the earth. You expect that sort of thing to be impossible or a volcano. We spent the rest of the day wandering round the town and visiting the park with the hot water pools. Then in the evening there was a night market on which we had a little wander around before claiming our free drink from the hostel in the local pub.
The next day we slept for ages and then got up to have a wander by the lake where there were baby black swans! They were so, so cute! We didn’t really do much this day, but we’d been so crazy busy lately it was nice to have a rest and a chance to actually sleep in. We arranged to go to Hell’s gate park and spa the next day. We were picked up by a minibus in the morning and taken to Hell’s Gate Thermal Park. We firstly walked around the park where we saw all the various thermal pools –all different temperatures, pHs and colours. It was interesting to see the variety of it all –we even saw a hot waterfall. Where usually you see spray from the falling water, steam was rising. Very strange to see. Some of the pools were so hot they would bubble ferociously up into the air –even metres high! After the walk we came back to the Wai Ora Spa where we had a mud bath! It was so much fun sitting outside in a warm bath covering ourselves in mud! I think everyone should probably play in mud more often. We stayed in the mud bath for 20 minutes before having a cold shower and getting in the Sulphur pool. A large hot bath where the sulphur water is supposed to have healing properties. From the sulphur bath you could look out over the hot pools where the water was taken from. It is quite a surreal experience sat outside in New Zealand in geothermally heated sulphur water looking out at the bubbling pools and rocky landscape. I think this was definitely the highlight of the trip, and really the geothermal activity was the reason I went to the North Island. It is like nowhere else I’ve ever been. After our time in the spa we looked around the shop and tried our hand at wood carving. It looked surprisingly good after the carver fixed it up for me [Symbol]. We then headed back to the town for some lunch and a wander around. That night we had nachos in the pub with the free drinks which was quite delicious.
The next day we went for a walk around the lake but came to a part of the track that was completely flooded –we had managed to make our way around the puddles up until now but now the track was completely covered and water would have been up to out ankles. So we decided to go back and walk through the golf course. I think we would have been dryer wading through the puddles. The golf course was completely waterlogged and our feet got drenched! But at least at the end of it we got to see the baby swans. Someone started feeding the birds bread and it was so funny to see all the geese run over with their wings spread wide. The birds were crazy stealing bread off each other and there were so, so many of them!
That afternoon we got the bus to Napier where we found a nice hostel to stay in that seemed more like a house. Somehow the dorm room we paid for turned out to be a twin so that was a bit of a bonus too. Napier is interesting because it was more or less completely destroyed by an earthquake in the 1930s and was rebuilt in the art deco style. Although to be honest I never worked out what that was but whilst we were there we had a good game of mini golf, spied on the seals through the fence of the closed sealife centre and walked up to the top of a hill to lookout over the coast and the port. I later rolled down the hill which was great fun, something I have not been doing enough of. I even started a small craze as some teenage girls saw me doing it and then went to have a go. I also somehow managed to have my picture taken with a random Asian guy at the lookout. I accidently walked down a path into his picture so he decided he would have it with me. It was quite amusing and he seemed a nice chap who was studying something that I couldn’t quite understand in NZ.
From Napier we travelled on to Wellington, which I think was my favourite place we went to on the trip. We checked into a hostel right by the station when we arrived before having a wander into town and then a look around Te Papa museum. The museum was really quite good we went in an earthquake room where it’s as if you are actually in an earthquake, and we saw the only colossus squid on public display. It was huge- many metres long and apparently has the largest eyes in the world. It is even supposed to have shrunk since the found it, but it was truly massive. It was caught accidently by Antarctic fisherman when their line caught the fish the squid was eating. As they pulled the fish up the squid just did not let go and ended up coming up to the surface from the depths of the ocean. It was really interesting to see it.
The next day in Wellington we had tickets for the city sights bus tour that had come free with our bus pass. So we got the bus at 9.30am and were driven around the city. We saw the wooden houses that people still live in and the way Wellington is expanding up into the hills rather than outwards because it is constricted to the small place in the valley. People who live there have to walk up hundreds of steps or use cable card to get from the roads up to their houses! We got off the bus in town and then caught the cable car up to the top of the hill. We then went to the Carter Astronomy where we sat in reclined chairs to watch a film on the ceiling of the dome about the stars and how the universe was made. It was really interesting and really cool how you were surrounded by the film. I would definitely recommend it. We then had a look around the exhibit before going to the cable car museum where we sat in one of the old cars that used to be used. We then walked through the botanical gardens, stopping at the duck pond and to see the rose garden. We then got back on the citysights bus to go to see parliament. As we walked in we had to go through metal scanners and leave our bags in the cloakroom before we could go on the tour. Luckily one was just starting as we got there. It was actually so much more interesting than I had anticipated. We learned how absolutely anybody can write in to have an audience with the committee as they make their decisions on which laws to pass and I was made Queen for the day as I stood exactly where the throne is put if any of the royal family are ever there. I think I’d now like to do one of these tours in London but I wonder if you even can there… There was also an Anne Frank exhibition at parliament which was interesting to see.
From parliament we walked into town and did a little shopping before heading back to the hostel where we played pool with a couple of guys and I even managed to pot a few balls! Later we went and ate tea by the harbour looking over the water. I was sad to leave Wellington and in hindsight we should have planned an extra day there instead of in Auckland but at least we made the most of our time there. We got an early bus to Taupo but on the bus encountered the most awful, ridiculous girl I think I’ve met. The bus was really full and me and Ryan had managed to get the last pair of seats together. At a later stop a girl and her boyfriend got on but had to sit apart as there weren’t any seats for them and this girl ended up sitting in front of us. We stopped for a quick loo stop and me and Ryan had both got off the bus, literally only for a few minutes. But when I got back on I saw this girl moving my bag and sitting in my seat. Giving her the benefit of the doubt I told her she was sat in my seat (perhaps it was an accident) but all she replied was “So?”. I asked her to move and she refused and then started to call her boyfriend over to go and sit in Ryan’s seat, but all of our stuff was still there. I looked at him to see what he was going to do and he at least acknowledged that it was our seat and told the girl to just stay where they were. But she was so stupid she just refused to move and then other people on the bus started to get involved telling her to move and eventually she did but really what did she think she was doing. As she moved Ryan had got on the bus so I told him what had been going on and then got threatened by this girl that she would “punch me in the head” if I kept on talking about her. She was crazy. At the next rest stop other people were commenting about her to us and telling us to get on the bus quick so she didn’t steal our seats again!
Thankfully we were able to get away from her at Taupo. We checked into a hostel and then went for a wander around the town. Down by the lake there is a hole in one golf course where the hole is out in the lake. We watched a few people having a go but no one managed to do it. The next day we got up quite early and had a morning game of pool in the hostel before heading out to walk to Huka Falls. The waterfall was amazing! The water was travelling ridiculously fast, but it’s not like a normal waterfall. The fall forms as the river is constricted because the type of rock changes to one that is not easily degraded. The water speeds along, shooting into the air and off rocks before it makes it to the ledge of the waterfall (which is really actually quite small in comparison). At one point the water seems to form an inverse wave as it hits a bump and is forced backwards over itself. I have never seen such powerful water -you would easily go along the 100m length in about 10seconds if you fell in but you would nearly definitely die on the way. We walked back along the path to the hot water stream where geothermally heated water joins the lake so you can sit in it as if in a bath. Although the heat is a bit more patchy and less consistent. Weirdly as we sat there rocks were floating by us. Apparently they’d all been washed down in a storm. These porous stones were easily carved so we sat there in the river bath making stone shapes. It was lovely. On the way back to the hostel we walked through a park and found a zipwire to play on. Some Asian people also found it at the same time and the granny Asian even had a go! It was quite funny.
The next day Ryan was watching the rugby so I went shopping when it was on and then we went to play crazy golf. Which I won and amazingly we both got hole in ones on the last shot which meant we won a free round. It was quite amusing because Ryan’s went straight in to the hole whilst mine bounced off the sides for a while before going in. But I clearly meant for it to happen like that. Unfortunately we didn’t have time for a 2nd round so we gave the tickets to reception to give to the next people to come in before going to catch our bus to Auckland and our final stop in New Zealand.
When we arrived in Auckland we checked into the first hostel we saw (which turned out it wasn’t that nice as we had a boiling hot room in the basement with no windows) before going to a little chinese restaurant for tea. I decided to try something new so I had wonton noodle soup. It turned out I liked the wontons but not the soup, it actually made me want to be a little bit sick. Anyways, the restaurant was located opposite a reverse bungy so we were able to watch crazy people getting shot up into the air. We didn’t really do too much in Auckland, there wasn’t really anything to see. We spent the first day wandering around town and down to the harbour.Where there was actually a giant rubber duck that was really cool. But when we went into the iSites even though couldn’t tell us anything we could do without spending loads of money. We thought about going up the skytower but as we were walking in someone walked out going “That was definitely not worth it”. So we thought perhaps we should save our dollars. When we went back to the hostel we asked the staff there and a funny gay man recommended walking up the volcano Mount Eden. So that’s what we spent our evening doing but it took so long. We had been told it would take 40mins so me, Ryan and 2 Swedish guys we’d met in our room headed out. It ended up taking us hours, we seemed to have walked halfway across town and out into the suburbs before we were anywhere near, and by that time it was dark so we had to scramble up the side of the volcano and every short cut we took seemed to be the complete opposite. It was a very beautiful view from the top though -definitely worth going to instead of the sky tower. It was cool to see the crater as well -a huge, huge dip down like an inverse hill. You could barely even see the bottom of it, although it was pretty dark by this point.
The next day in Auckland was spent looking round the shops, using the internet (trying to find a house) and then getting a bus to the seaside. It was pretty average there though. I had a paddle but decided it was too chilli for a swim. Stupidly we had decided to go the airport early for our 6am flight rather than staying in the hostel so we spent our night not being able to sleep in an airport.
New Zealand was great but it seemed to end on a bit of a low note with Auckland being so disappointing. I’d really like to go back though -next time to the South Island to see some glaciers!