On March 20th I traveled to Pahia Bay of Islands for two nights where I took a day trip to Cape Reinga and the 90 mile beach. Personally, a lot of it reminded me of Australia so I didn’t feel like I’d visited anywhere different but it was nice spending the day with everyone. In Pahia I stayed at the hostel Base Bay of Islands which was such a good laugh, why can’t all Base hostels be this small!?
Whilst in Pahia I tried horse-riding for the first time which to be honest was quite daunting to start with because my horse being a bit mischievous! Thankfully Horsetrekn are with you throughout the trek so once I understood how to control him more it was a nice experience.
I then headed back to Auckland where I spent one night at Nomads Hostel, it’s not the best hostel in Auckland but I spent most of the night in Habana Joe’s which is a cheap backpacker bar before getting up for Hot Water Beach in the morning.
Just a 10 minute drive from Hot Water Beach there is a 2.5km walking track which takes you to Gemstone Bay, Stingray Bay and Cathedral Cove – famously recognised from the film The Chronicles of Narnia. If you have a sunny day like myself then you should definitely check it out because it’s a pretty walk, I almost felt like I was in Thailand again!
I then headed to Hot Water Beach Holiday Park where we spent the night drinking until it was time to head to, you guessed it, Hot Water Beach! We walked to the beach around 21:00pm because if you arrive at high tide the hot springs will be underwater. You can dig your own hot water pool but it’s quicker and easier to jump in a pre-made one. The hot pools certainly lived up to their expectation because our pool was boiling hot (they say it’s around 64 °C (147 °F) which made it great to relax in on a cold evening.
The next day I headed to Waitomo for one night where I visited the famous Waitomo Glowworm and Ruakuri Caves. I couldn’t take pictures inside the glowworm cave but if you look online I am sure you’ll find some.
The next stop of my travels was at the Maori culture capital of New Zealand, Rotorua on March 25th for three nights. On the way we hopped off at the Hobbiton Movie Set which was a great experience! you also have a tour guide who is knowledgeable about the film production so any die hard fans can put them to the test. I’m not going to lie I really need to re-watch the movies it’s been a few years!
In the evening I went to the Tamaki Maori Village where I learned all about the Maori culture, the whole evening is very interactive and includes a traditional hangi buffet meal which you can eat as much as you want. The dinner and desert is seriously amazing! so amazing that I ended up being sick because I was a greedy little piggy but it was totally worth the pain.I also checked out Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, an active geothermal area in Rotorua with Headfirst Travel. If you have time you need to visit because it is seriously fascinating. The next day I went white water rafting with Kaitiaki Adventures in the Ngati Hinerangi & Ngati Hinekiri river. It was my first time going rafting and it’s safe to say when I saw the first raft flip over down a 7 metre waterfall I got a little bit anxious but thankfully both myself and the raft survived.
Unfortunately whilst I was in Rotorua I received news that my Granddad passed away which isn’t ideal when you’re miles away from home and surrounded by strangers. I debated coming home but after speaking to my family we agreed that I should stay in New Zealand and continue my travels.On a more positive note, the next stop was Taupo, home of the largest freshwater lake in the southern hemisphere. I originally planned to stay for two nights but because the weather turned to shit I extended my stay so I could do the Tongariro Alphine Crossing. On a plus side the bad weather gave me an excuse to hide in the library and update this, how very exciting.
On Friday 31 March I left at 5.30am for Mordor (Tongariro National Park) and to reach Mount Doom (Mt Ngauruhoe). With the last shuttle being at 16.30pm I decided not to climb Mount Doom because with it adding an extra 2 1/2 hours onto the journey myself and my hiking side-kick Pippa would not have had time to stop for a break (or twenty) and trust me the crossing is challenging enough! I am actually surprised you’re allowed to climb up Mt Ngauruhoe but I guess they do advise that you should only go up if you have a high level of fitness. Overall Tongariro National Park is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited, you genuinely feel like you’re on another planet because it’s so diverse. One day I’ll come back with a car and climb Mt Ngauruhoe so I don’t have to worry about the stress of getting stranded in Mordor.
After waking up and feeling like I couldn’t walk, it was time to head to River Valley, but not before Kiwi Experience took us on a slighly shorter 1 and 1/2 hour walk in the Tongariro National Park. Unlike half the bus who refused to do anymore walking, I forced myself through the pain because I knew it would help in the long run, go me! The drive to River Valley is very scenic and the lodge itself has no wifi or reception which makes a nice change. You’ve probably heard about River Valley because it’s the lodge with the “orgy room” ie 19 beds basically together. Thankfully the only thing I caught that night was about a million sandfly bites.
My last stop on the North Island was Wellington where I visited the famous Te Papa Museum where you learn almost everything you can think of about New Zealand, even dinosaurs!. The museum has six floors and it’s very interactive so you can spend a good couple of hours checking it all out – which is good when your first day in the city is when the remnants of Cyclone Debbie arrive!
On another note, if you’re looking for a nice restauarent, Masala do a good lunch meal for $7.80 which includes a curry, rice and nan. I promised myself I’d cook healthy meals in Wellington because I’d be in Base for three nights but yet again I’ve been eating out and drinking everynight, why let old habits die hard eh.