Gosandra travels round the world

Travel time: March - June 2007  |  by Sandra Goritschnig

New Zealand - North Island

The temperature shock wasn't quite as harsh as I had expected, from the sweat-inducing 30+ weeks in Asia I arrived at Auckland airport to sunshine and balmy 23 degrees. It should get a lot colder, especially overnight and in the mountains... well, its the New Zealand winter after all.
I picked up my rental car (ezy, jucy or whatever you may call it these days) for the next two weeks, shopped provisions and headed southeast to the hot springs of Rotorua. First shock: sun sets at 5:30pm, now that's a bit early... well setting up my tent on the campground next to the lake while it was dark wasnt a problem and next morning I had a very lovely sunrise to watch over lake Rotorua, which is also an indicator as to my time schedule for most of my stay: early to bed - early to rise, thats what you get for camping in the winter.
I spent the first two days around Rotorua, being amazed by the very lively volcanic landscape, hot springs, boiling mud pools and newly established countrysides. One of my favourites was the Waimangu volcanic valley, which was shaped by a volcanic eruption in 1886, which buried a nearby village and very pretty hot spring terraces. Quite amazing how quickly life spreads again, makes humankind feel very little. Very entertaining also the nice geysers all over the place, and simply the fact that steam is rising from almost every corner. You're basically sitting on a boiling teapot.
After two days of sunshine I made my way down to the Tongariro National Park, a must on my list. Pitching my tent in Taupo at the free campground of Reid's farm (where I shared some homebrew with a bunch of locals around a nice fire, yes it was the time when it got pretty cold at night), I found out that the weatherforecast wasnt very promising for the next couple of days, so I decided to head for the Tongariro crossing the very next day. It's New Zealand's finest day walk, and the Kiwis are very keen on walking, so that actually means something. So up I get at 4:30 in order to be at Whakapapa Village for the shuttle at 7am (for the hike is not a roundtrip) and wearing my warmest clothes (which is layers, I only brought one warm sweater, brrr) I'm heading up the mountain. It's a hard climb up the Devil's staircase (I guess that's where it got its name from) and freezing cold, strong wind and with the wind chill I'm probably down to -10 degrees or less. But before I get blown off the rim of Red Crater the clouds part and all of a sudden there's this WOW view of volcano, emerald lakes and Mordor in the distance. Spectacular! still cold though and so quickly heading down to the hut, taking pictures with frozen fingers.

Back down in National Park I stay at the backpackers, in desperate need of a hot shower and not fancying setting up a wet tent in rainy weather with predicted cold temperatures. The next day I decide to go south, in search of sunshine and closed shoes (only brought sandals apart from hiking boots, and neither are necessarily comfy for normal walking), so I head down to Wanganui, check out their (not so) fabulous shopping street and their nice little museum. I'm halfway down to Wellington when the sun starts to shine very nice and brightly and I decide to turn back, cause the mountains were so nice and I wanted to see them without clouds. Not this night though, because the nice weather didnt yet extend all the way to the national park, so I slept in the car (not fancying putting up tent in rain etcetc...) But the next day, it cleared up, and wow, how it cleared up! First I checked out the ski area of Mt. Ruapehu, cool from up close, then I drove around the park up the desert road (SH1) and there the sun got me! It was still early in the afternoon and I wanted to see Mt. Ngauruhoe (to some better known and certainly more easily spelled as Mt. Doom) without clouds, so I hiked into the park from the east to Waihohonu hut. There I met a guy who was doing the whole northern Circuit in two days, and he and the weather forecast inspired me to do the same. So, off I go next morning 7am, starting as I did the crossing but then heading east to Oturere hut, climbing the top of Mt. Tongariro and walking through an area that totally looks like the land of Mordor. and all that in brilliant sunshine! Quite the difference! A wonderful sunset and sunrise in the mountains, and I'm on the long day back to Whakapapa village where my car waits. Very much enjoyed it, can very much recommend, although I'm not sure how it would be in the summer with millions of people doing the same hike. I mean it was almost winter and the hut where I stayed was still almost full.

anyways, the next day I went north, deciding that it was too much of a hassle and too much detour to also go to hawke's bay for the wineries. I still visited some on the way in Tauranga and stayed again at a nice holiday park with nice hot spas, and a group of schoolkids on a trip. nice!
The next day I drove all those windy coast roads (why don't Kiwis make roads straigt, I wonder?) until i reached Whangarei in Northland, booked into the Dive shop at Tutukaka and spent two days exploring the fantastic underwater world of the Poor Knights Islands. What can you see there? everything! best sub tropical diving in the world! warm current from Oz (EAC, dude!) brings tropical fish, visibility is spectacular, over 25 ms, temperature is moderate (19) and everything is covered in bright green/red/orange stuff. Awesoome! So, that's where all my money went.
Only 3 more days to go, and I'm exploring some of the rest of Northland, staying at a lovely DOC campground in Whangaruru (again probably overcrowded in the summer, but nice and empty at this time of year), checking out nice little coves, lovely coastal roads, gravel roads leading to very old, very big Kauri trees. My last night I spent in Opononi, sad to leave, especially in view of the huge sanddunes that one could surf/sandboard down. Next time.
I made it to Auckland just in time for the car dropoff, had some spare time to send my postcards and off I am on my Air New Zealand flight to San Francisco, 12 hours, but thanks to their great inflight entertainment I spend most of it watching all three episodes of Lord of the Rings! Ahhh the landscape!
So much left to see there! It was quite very nice!

oh, and btw: I will upload pictures tomorrow so you see what I'm talking about

You are here : Overview Australia & Pacific New Zealand New Zealand - North Island
The trip
Very exciting times ahead, I'm gonna do a trip around the world! Starting from London I'll do South Africa, Singapore and South East Asia, Newzealand and the North American West coast and back to London. Wow! I'm looking forward to sharing my experiences with you!
Start of journey: Mar 03, 2007
Duration: 4 months
End of journey: Jun 20, 2007
Travelled countries: South Africa
New Zealand
The Author
Sandra Goritschnig is an active author on break-fresh-ground. since 17 years.
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