What an amazing past 3 weeks it’s been! I originally planned on doing more updates as I was traveling, but kind of went on Internet hiatus instead. I’ve made it back to the South Island (for good this time) and the hostel I’m in at the moment is awesome–nice people, nice atmosphere, and one of the few places I’ve been in NZ with free unlimited WiFi. So now that I have proper connection again, I can catch up on where I’ve been.
After leaving Paihia I took the bus to Taupo where I met up with my companion, Servan, whom I had gotten to know while in the Bay of Islands. I really liked Taupo. It’s a small town situated on the shores of a huge lake right in the middle of the North Island. Across the lake there are some nice views on a clear day of the volcanoes at the nearby Tongariro National Park. While most people come here for bungee jumping, skydiving, mountain biking, and other extreme outdoor activities (there’s a reason why Taupo is called the “adventure capital of the north”), we mostly spent our days in town doing a few hikes along the Waikato River and swimming in the lake. Huka Falls is the most popular free attraction in town, so naturally we went there. The area is also known for its geothermal activity, so we went to this place that some friends recommended where a hot spring flows into the main river. The water from the spring was actually really hot, so we had to find the “goldilocks zone” where the water was warm. A nice little local secret worth visiting!
We also spent a couple of days doing some activities outside of Taupo, including the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (which I’ll save for another post) and a rafting trip on the Kaituna River near Rotorua. We found a good deal for the rafting on BookMe (New Zealand’s version of Groupon) and had heaps of fun with that. It was a short trip (only 50 minutes or so), but the river flows through this beautiful, narrow, lush green canyon with a few big drops. The river is best known to have the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world at 7 meters (21 feet). Overall, it was a crazy fun ride. Here’s a video of the falls! It’s not mine unfortunately, but it was definitely one of those times that I really wish I had a GoPro.
After leaving Taupo, we took a bus to Tauranga where we spent a few days at the beach and hiked Mount Maunganui. After that we rented a car for 5 days and drove up through the Coromandel (where more hiking and hanging out on the beaches ensued), followed by a very long drive out to the East Cape to Gisborne and down to Napier. There’s really not a whole lot to say other than we did a whole lot of driving, swimming, and lazing about on some really beautiful beaches…despite it being officially autumn in New Zealand, it still felt like summer in the Coromandel. Napier was also nice, with its famous architecture and unique style. Back in the 30s a big earthquake destroyed the city, so when it was rebuilt it was designed in art deco fashion. We noticed quite a few classic cars driving around as well, so walking through the city felt like a little trip back in time.
After returning the car in Tauranga, we bused back to Auckland where we spent a few days in the city and a couple out on the west coast at Piha Beach–a popular surf spot for Aucklanders. These were Servan’s last days in New Zealand as the time eventually came when he had to go back home. It’s never easy saying goodbye and this one was no exception. After weeks of being together 24/7, sharing all these incredible experiences, it felt strange being on my own again. Fortunately, I managed to reconnect with another friend in Auckland and now another as I write this in Picton on the South Island. That’s one of the things I love about New Zealand. It’s a small country–small enough so it’s easy to travel around and you’re never too far away from your friends!
So at the moment I’m back on the South Island again ready for the next adventure, which will hopefully entail some wwoofing (working on a farm) or finding some volunteer work at a backpackers around Abel Tasman for the next few weeks.