26.04.2012 - 15.05.2012 22 °C
After spending 5 days in a cool apartment in the centre of Auckland we started the adventure of travelling around the north island of New Zealand!
We picked up our new home a couple of days earlier than we originally planned and when we saw it we wasn't disappointed. It was a hundred times better than the previous two we had in Oz, with lots of space and some luxuries that were missing on the other campervans (heating, shower, toilet, tv & hot water). Our first stop was the supermarket to stock up on essentials for the road trip (beer, wine & food). We decided to start the road trip by heading north, hoping we could get to the Bay of Islands the same day but what we didn't account for was Gem directing us south and not north then me taking a lot of wrong turns trying to avoid the toll road! The sun disappeared behind the mountains along with any chance of us getting to the Bay of Islands that day so we found a campsite in a town called Whangarei and Gem put together a glorious lamb pasta and we had a good night sleep.
The guy who served us at the campsite recommended a visit to the Whangarei water falls as this was one of the towns main attractions. We arrived at the falls with the sun shining and the falls looking really cool, so we took the walk to the bottom of the falls to get a better view. After the morning site seeing it was back on the road to get to the Bay of Islands. As we arrived with the sky blue and the sun beaming down we pulled into Beachside Campsite in Pihia (yes it was on the beach in a cool little cove).
I woke up around 6am, like a kid in a sweet shop because today I was diving the Rainbow Warrior ship wreck (my first ever wreck dive and also my deepest dive to date). The Rainbow Warrior was attacked by French spies in Auckland harbor where they set off two explosions which killed some of the crew and sank the vessel. Before my pick up I had breakfast (bowl of museli) less than a couple of meters from the sea and watched the most amazing sun rise. The day involved two cold water dives, one a reef and one the wreck. I really enjoyed both and couldn't believe how clear the sea was, inbetween the dives we stopped off on one of the 100 plus islands for lunch and the views surrounding us didn't disappoint.
We woke up to another glorious sunrise with clear blue skies which was perfect as today we were going sailing aboard the 'She's a lady'. Gem and I had never sailed before and didn't really know what to expect but it turned out to be a really good day. We sailed to one of the 100 plus islands for the first couple of hours where we stopped to explore, try some kayaking and have some lunch. Again the views were unbelievable and the trip was excellent, I even played captain for a while steering the boat. After we docked back at the harbor we decided to make a mad dash north to Cape Reinga, it certainly took longer than we expected and driving up and down mountains in the dark is not much fun but we managed to find the DOC campsite.
That night I heard a constant buzzing and I woke up to some crazy bites (about ten on my forehead). We must have found over 50 sandflies, which had some how managed to join us in the van through the night. Operation kill sandflies started at 7am and was still going strong at 8pm. The views at Cape Reinga didn't disappoint, the walk to the lighthouse took about 30 mins and watching the two different oceans collide was pretty amazing. We spent the next 5 hours traveling south and finished in a town called Orewa for a nights rest.
We woke up to another glorious day and headed for a leisurely stroll through Orewa town center which finished on the beach with a bag of chips covered in salt and vinegar. We then went for another long drive and headed to Rotorua with a quick stop in Hamilton to pick up a pair of walking shoes at the shopping outlet.
Rotorua has a very odd 'eggy' smell caused from all the sulphur escaping from below the ground and even out the lake. We had our breakfast next to the lake and watched smoke floating up which made for another great view. We wanted to do our first trek so we visted the I-center and they recommended the blue lake which is a 5 km walk. Again the scenic views around us were amazing and we finished off with a couple of beers and a BLT sandwich sitting on the lake edge. The day ended with us bathing in thermal spa's at the Waikite campsite.
The day started how yesterday ended, us back in the thermal pools relaxing. Our next stop was Waiotapu mud pools. Seeing the mud pools was pretty weird as mud was boiling and exploding and creating this crazy steam. The skies had filled up with clouds, so we jumped in the van and continued south passing through Taupo and into Tongariro in preparation for the Tongariro Crossing the next day.
After an early start and having made a flask and sandwiches we were greeted by the minibus with disappointing news that the weather was too bad to do the 8 hour walk and it wouldn't get better for several days. We were gutted as it's supposed to be one of the best walks but we couldn't hang around for the weather to change so we continued our trip on an interesting road called the 'forgotten road' to New Plymouth.
After a night spent freedom camping in New Plymouth we made the journey to Waitomo caves. We found a lovely campsite so set up there for the next 2 days.
After booking our trip for the next day we had a free pass into the Waitomo museum so we walked over from our campsite and took a look. After we treated ourselves to a hot chocolate in the restaurant near by.
We booked an adventure trip with Kiwi adventures where we did absailing, black water rafting, caving and rock climbing within the 5 hour trip. After being given our outfits which involved a wet suit, harness, boots, hat and some overpants (yes leight opted for the pink pants) we were driven to a field where the cave was hidden below. After a short practice on the harness we were literally absailing 36m into the cave! We waded through the water into the caves where we squeezed through some holes and saw the eel that lives in there....yes there really was an eel! Then we saw saw what Waitomo is famous for..the glow worms! We all turned off our headlamps and lied back on the rocks looking at the thousands of glow worms. The only way to describe them is like a sky full of stars twinkling. On our return we had a black tube and floated through the caves still seeing glow worms on our way through. After 3 hours in the cave it was time to rock climb our way out...the only way out! The guide (very muscley) made a quick demonstration climbing to the top and it was then a case of attaching yourself to the safety rope and climbing up! Leight went first whilst I anticipated how the hell I was going to get up as it was literally a 36m vertical wall and I was quite tired after wading through water for 3 hours then having the harness on etc...I felt quite restricted! Anyway I went for it and didn't look down. I got to the last bit where I struggled to find a foothole but with some direction from the guide I just managed to pull myself up and saw leights relieved face! I made it but my legs were like jelly so we headed back to the van for a nice hot meal and an early night.
Before leaving Waitomo we did the Ruakuri bushwalk which only takes about 40 minutes.
After planning to go Waitomocaves we hadn't planned where else to go so we started driving and decided to go up into the Coromandel peninsula as someone we met in Fiji had mentioned a beach to visit that is pretty amazing. We set up camp for the night and set the alarm to get up at 7am!
After waking up at 7am we put our swim cozzies on and drove down to the beach where there was a beautiful sun rising! As we walked along the beach we could see the steam rising from the sand and shallow water. This was 'Hot Water' beach where the volcanic activity below heats a section of the beach and therefore heats the sea upto 60oC.
It was a great sun rise and we managed to take some great photo's!
We drove further and stayed in the Coromandel park for the night where Leight enjoyed the skysports channel at 2am watching football and I enjoyed the big trampoline!
We flew from Auckland to Christchurch on 15th May and started the second part of our trip in New Zealand's south island where people kept telling us it was even more beautiful than the north!
If we could sum up our visit to the north island in 5 or so words/statements.
1) Loved the campervan
2) great day sailing
3) amazing views
4) bizarre seeing natural gases/bubbling mud pools
5) can't wait to go back!
Random sights/things in NZ
1) Lots & lots & lots of sheep
2) exploding mud....hot water on the beach....smelly gases.....!