I am getting slow it seems with my updates. Not sure what, if anything, that is indicative of. Perhaps getting slower as we get closer to coming home. I am not sure.
In my last update we were leaving Ruby Bay on our way to Picton. We were still on the South Island but it was the last couple of days. We did not spend much time in Picton at all. By the time we arrived it was shortly before dark. Our ferry was the next morning. Always good to leave some things to see and do when we come back some day.
The ferry ride was good. It takes about three hours but it is pretty comfortable. The first little while on the ride is quite picturesque. You pass through a smaller version of sounds like Milford Sound. Soon after you are in open water. A couple of times one of the crew said there were dolphins alongside us but we never saw them.
We arrived in Wellington on the North Island at shortly after 2pm. Wellington is the capital of New Zealand. It is a big city really. Parking is crazy expensive in the city. We booked a backpackers outside of the city. Before we headed there however we spent a little time in the city.
First we went to a very cool museum called Te Papa. It is definitely a must-see in Wellington. It is free admission and is a combination between museum, science centre, and art exhibition. One could easily spend an entire day exploring this place. You can learn about the volcanoes and earthquakes that are so much a part of NZ geography. They have a house that you can go in to feel what a 6.0 earthquake feels like. They have on display the largest squid ever caught. It is about 20 feet long I think. Another cool thing on display is clothing from a wearable art contest they have every year.
After a few hours in Te Papa and a wander around the town for a while we headed to our hostel which was in Plimmerton. It is about 20 minutes from Wellington. It is a pretty little town and our hostel was a highly rated house hostel. We picked up some amazing fish and chips in the village for our dinner.
The next day we did our run along the beach. It is not that big so to run our 10k we had to go back and forth a few times. After lunch we took a train from Plimmerton to Wellington. It saved us the hassle of parking and allowed us to have a beer or two in Wellington. We stopped into a travel agency to ask about places to stay in Fiji when we are there. We ended up spending quite a bit of time with Stephanie who was very helpful with providing us with advice.
We had a nice steak dinner at an Irish pub. It was such a big steak that we had enough left over for steak and eggs for breakfast the next day. After wandering around Wellington for a while we took the train back to Plimmerton.
The next day we drove to National Park Village. This is a small town on the doorstep of Tongariro National Park. This is a picture postcard kind of place. Tongariro is the name of a volcano in the park that last erupted in 2012. People come here to do what is tauted as the best one day hike in New Zealand.
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a 19.4km hike that takes about 7 hours. We took a bus from our hostel to the start of the trek. You hike up and in between two volcanoes and weave in and around multiple craters. Some of the craters and lakes within the craters steam gasses venting from the volcanoes or releasing boiling water that has made its way from deep in the earth to the surface. Some of the water is pure blue, some emerald green, and some milky grey. The colour tells you what minerals are in the water.
The hike was amazing. While it was not cloud free the whole day it seemed like the skies cleared at very convenient times for us. We took some very cool pictures along the way. We stopped to eat our pack lunch on the lip of a crater lake. On the way down we passed close to the most active crater that is described throughout the area as the possible eruption site. At the end we were about a half hour early for the bus back to our hostel. You start and finish at different places so you need to take the bus unless you have two vehicles.
The day after the crossing we drove to Lake Taupo. I figure when we end up doing very little it is because we are tired and need to relax. It rained when we were in Taupo but frankly the rain might have just been an excuse to do little. Actually we did a few things during our two days there. First, we drove to the lake for sunset. I bought a bucket of golf balls at a driving range at the lake where you hit the balls at a raft green 112 yards into the lake. The owner snorkels for the balls every day. The next day we went to a movie. We saw Bad Neighbours and we were the only ones on the theatre.
On the day we left Taupo we went for our morning run. We ran past the free natural hot pools and up to the waterfalls. It was quite an uphill run. On the way back however we stopped at the hot pools. I stripped down to my skivvies and enjoyed the natural hot water. It would have been harder for Nic so she just took off her shoes and socks. Again, I find it amazing that this is just there in nature. Maybe I am most amazed by the impact of geology and volcanoes.
After our run we drove from Taupo to Rotorua. It is only about an hour drive. In Taupo someone told us about a website bookme.co.nz. It is a groupon like website for activities in New Zealand. We bought two for Rotorua. The first one was for Whakarewarewa, the Living Maori Village. This is a village in which 28 Maori families live. The village is set upon the steaming vents and muds of a volcano. People cook their meals called hangi by wrapping their meat and vegetables in aluminum foil and placing them in steam boxes in the ground within the town. The natural steam from the ground cooks the food within about two hours. Some of their vegetables are placed in the boiling hot pools in town and cook in minutes. They bath in hot pools twice per day.
There is a geyser that erupts beside the village every couple of hours. This tour that we did cost us $35 for the two of us which was half price. There is a different place on the other side of the geyser that costs about $114 per person but it includes a meal. Regardless of the meal it is expensive.
Part of the tour includes a Maori dance performance. It is quite good. Three men and three women perform traditional songs and dances all in the Maori language. Nicola went up on stage to learn a traditional poi dance in which the ladies spin a poi (a soft ball on the end of a string) in different patterns and moves. No chance for the men to go up though. The male performers also did a traditional huka song and dance. This is what the All Blacks do before their games.
Rotorua (I am driving Nicola nuts because I keep trying to say it with a kiwi accent the way they do ~ Ro ta ru a ~ rolling the r’s) is a very active geological and volcanic area. It smells like sulphur throughout the town. Steam escapes from the ground and below the shores of Lake Rotorua. The second bookme we did in Rotorua was go to the Wiamangu Volcanic Valley. This is on the site of an eruption in 1886. The eruption ruined beautiful silica terraces that drew tourists to it before the eruption. The area has grown back with plant life and silica starts to collect in different areas. It is about a 4km hike mostly downhill. In some areas the water that escapes the earth is too hot to touch or is too acidic to touch. Another spectacular sight to see.
On our last morning in Rotorua we did our regular run. On the way back we ran back past a spa with hot pools. We stopped briefly to check out the price. We decided to come back after we checked out rather than having a shower at the hostel we would use the hot pools. Some of the pools are alkaline which is supposed to be good for your skin. Some are more acidic which is supposed to be good for joints. They range in temperature between 38 and 43 Celcius.
We spent about two hours in the hot pools. After we were done, I was shaving in the bathroom when I heard a loud bang around the corner. I looked and found a man who had collapsed. He fell into the urinal (the kind that goes down to the ground). He was out cold. I yelled for someone to go get some help. I lifted the man’s head up out of the water. His face was in the water (hopefully just urinal water) while he was unconscious. He came to and I asked him if he had slipped. He told me that he got dizzy and blacked out. The staff came in and took over. A little excitement for the day and a lesson about the importance of drinking lots of water when you are in a hot tub.
Next we drove to Tauranga which was north of Rotorua. When we arrived in Tauranga we climbed Mount Manganui. It is less of a mountain and more of a large hill. The view from the top is a spectacular 360 degree panorama. We didn’t really do much more in Tauranga but we planned on a day of driving up an area called the Coromandels. The hostel we stayed at seemed to be all Germans who were working as kiwi pickers in the area.
The next day we drove from Tauranga up the eastern side of the Coromandels. We stopped a lot along the way. The two big attractions for us were Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove. Hot Water Beach is just that. We rented a small spade. We dug a hole in the sand and hot water from below seeps up into the hole thereby creating your own hot pool. You have to go around low tide. It was very crowded though because everyone goes at the same time.
After Hot Water Beach we went to Cathedral Cove. The start is only about ten minutes from HWB. It is about a 40 minute hike one way. When you arrive, you find a large hole that has been eroded through the rock and you can walk right through. It is a very picturesque place but it was hard to get pics without anyone in them. I am sure you could spend a few more days exploring the Coromandels but it was getting dark and we needed to get to Mangawhai Heads by midday the next day (by the way, in NZ words with wh like in Mangawhai are pronounced as f like we pronounce ph as f – so, Mangawhai is pronounced Mangafi). We drove to Thames which is on the other side of the Coromandels at the bottom.
We arrived in Thames after dark so really just slept there. The next morning we drove from Thames past Auckland and to Mangawhai. It was about 3 hours of driving. We got to Mangawhai shortly after 11am and stopped to check out the Saturday market. It was a cute little market. We each bought a book to read on the beach in Fiji, shared a pork belly sausage on a bun, shared a smoothie and then bought some fresh bread and a couple of veggies. Along the drive we also stopped a few times and bought some fruits and veggies on the side of the road.
Finally, we found our way to our next housesitting gig at Mangawhai Heads. We haven’t done much yet so I will leave our experiences here for my next post.
A couple more weeks in New Zealand and then a couple of weeks in Fiji. Then we will back in Canada. This adventure has gone by so fast. It is coming to an end very soon.