New Zealand: The North Island

Repeat Alert: If you have recieved an email from me recently then this is just a repeat of that!

If not then please read on…

We hit Auckland in New Zealand on the 20th of August and spent quite a few days checking out the city as well as sorting out a camper van. This took a lot longer than we expected and cost us a little more than we budgeted as the damn thing needed a lot of work done on the engine and its brakes, however once these were fixed we found out that the bloody van needed a new engine because when we tried driving it away it kept cutting out every time we slowed done for traffic lights etc! At this point Bobbie and I became quite stressed and just wanted to get the hell out of Auckland. Our dreams came true about 3 days later when we were told our van was all fixed and that we only needed to pay $150 because the $650 was being paid for by the Backpackers Car Market from whom we bought the car. Out of interest if you are planning on visiting NZ and want to buy a car please be careful when using Backpackers Car Market as we are now certain that there was some kind of shady dealings going on between the market and their mechanic. My advice is get a second opinion by an outside mechanic before agreeing to new engines etc!

Anyway from Auckland we quickly swept out of the city up to a place called Paihai where our friends Matt and Michelle (who we had met in Fiji) had been waiting for us for at least 3 days whilst we sorted out the van. From here we travelled north to a little place called Kaitaia where we went on a tour bus that took us onto 90 mile beach, parked at the bottom of a massive giant sand dune so we could all do a little sand tobogganing, drove us to the farthest point north called Cape R
enga and then visited the place where a huge Kauri tree forest stood around 150,000 years ago before it was destroyed by a tsunami a kilometre high!

From Kaitaia we travelled south on the west coast to Waipoua Forest where the god of the Kauri trees stands. We then moved onto a town called Dargaville, here we treated ourselves to dinner out and a few drinks to break the claustrophobia of sitting in the van day in day out! From Dargaville we headed south of Auckland down to a place called Hot Water Beach in Whitianga. As the name might suggest, Hot Water Beach is a geothermic beach where if you dig down into the sand in certain spots, hot water rises to the surface and people can then create hot water spa’s right on the sand! Its quite a strange experience seeing almost boiling water on a beach when the sea 3ft away from you is freezing cold.

From Hot Water Beach we travelled south to Rotoroua which is a geothermic town and you actually smell the town before you see it because of all of the sulphur that gets released into the atmosphere. The rotten egg smell is some times very overwhelming! In Rotoroua we visited a geothermal national park which smelt even worse than the town but we got to see a geyser burst into life and quite alot of stinky mud pools (check out the photos!). We also managed to do a Maori evening, where we received a traditional Maori greeting and a traditional Maori dinner cooked in a Hungi or underground oven.

Once we had enough of smelly egg we travelled further south to a beautiful place called Taupo. Taupo is placed around Lake Taupo which is actually a massive active volcano, it is a very picturesque place and I would recommend it to anyone. I would also recommend the sky dive Bobbie and I took part in, if you haven’t seen the photos go check them out. We also have a DVD which we will be putting on when we get back! It was a totally amazing experience, something I would really like to do again but from 15,000 feet instead!

Once our knees had stopped knocking together we travelled down to Napier which is a famous wine region, of course we had to go on a wine tour to do a little sampling and of course we all ended up a tad pie eyed and a few dollar lighter where we had bought our samples back to the van!

The next day we were back on the road and on our way to Whakapapa, home of Mt Doom from The Lord of the Rings. We spent a few days here checking out the sights on of which was doing a Tour of the Rings. This took us around quite a few film locations and even took us on to the ski fields of Mt Ruapehu. We saw such locations as Mt Doom, the sacred pool where Gollum fishes illegally, a section of rock where Frodo & Sam slept before Gollum attacks them from above and where Frodo & Sam hid from Orcs whilst dressed as them. It was a really touristy thing to do but is was great fun and we also learnt a bit about the history of the area!

After Whakapapa we made our way down to NZ’s capital city, Wellington. We spent around 5 days here checking out a few sights like the city zoo and the cable car before setting off on the ferry that brings you to the south island.

The north island of NZ was great fun and we saw and did some great stuff, we can’t wait to do it all over again in the south. We even hope to get some snow boarding in before the season ends!

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