It’s been a while since my last blog update, but I’ve been traveling. We have a three-week break in the middle of the semester for Easter and Anzac Day. The first week I hung out in Christchurch and wrapped up some homework stuff. We also spent two nights in Kaikoura, a cutesy little coastal town. On Saturday the 19th we left our flats and headed to the North Island for a road trip. My flatmate Sarah and another friend Rachel joined me on our excursion.
Day 1: Five-hour drive to the Picton ferry at the top of the North Island. A couple days earlier (while we were camping in Kaikoura) New Zealand had another impressive rain storm so there were mudslides and flooding in the ditches all over the place. The ferry was impressive--and I’m quite used to ferries. The other two girls couldn’t get over the fact that we were driving cars on a boat. The Marlborough Sound and Queen Victoria Strait were absolutely stunning. We camped in Kaitoke Regional Park, north of Wellington. They filmed parts of Rivendell in this location! And surprise, surprise, it poured down rain on us yet again.
Day 2: Five-hour drive north to Lake Taupo. Lake Taupo is the biggest lake in New Zealand, and the second biggest lake in Oceania
Day 3: On our way from Lake Taupo to Rotorua, we stopped for a bit at Huka Falls, at the beginning of the Waikato River draining out of Lake Taupo. Enough water pours out of the falls to fill up five Olympic swimming pools a minute! We also stopped at a canyon where they filmed the barrel scene in the Hobbit. Rotorua is a big tourist town and as it is situated on top of geothermal features, the whole town smells like sulfur. Yuck! We camped on the shores of another lake, Lake Okareka; this time the lake was much smaller, but still gorgeous.
Day 4: There is a redwood/tree fern forest outside of Rotorua so we walked through that for a bit. You kept expecting a dinosaur to march across the path, because the whole forest looks like something out of Jurassic Park.
Day 5: So many adventures! We went zip-lining and on a tour of the rainforest canopy. The company that we went through is all about conservation and sustainability of the rainforest. The forest is one of the few remaining virgin forests in all of New Zealand. The location of the zip-line course is secret and they remove pests (possums, rats, and weasels) so that the native birds can begin to repopulate. We continued on to Tauranga, which is on the North coast. We camped at another DOC (Department of Conservation) campsite. This campsite had a glow-worm forest! They have caves where you can pay a lot of money to go see the glow-worms, but this forest was free and they were awesome!
Day 6: On the Cormandel Peninsula we wanted to see Cathedral Cove, but we arrived exactly at high tide and couldn’t go down.
Day 7: We woke up early and got to the beach at low tide so that we could see Cathedral Cove, which is a bit of Narnia! In Prince Caspian, where the four Pevensies enter Narnia from the train station under a cave, that is Cathedral Cove. That night we camped in Matamata and our campground had its own hotpools to soak in!
Day 8: Hobbiton!!! Hobbiton was awesome! They have 44 hobbitholes in two different sizes, one size for your average Hobbit (3’7”) and the other for the film extras (had to be under 5’5”). It was very well done and we finished up our tour with a free drink at the Green Dragon pub of the Shire. From Hobbiton we drove on to Auckland and stayed in a very loud hostel. The three of us shared a room with five British boys
Day 9: I’m not a fan of Auckland--it’s too much of a big, loud city for me to be comfortable. I was quite happy to pick up and drive down to Tongariro National Park in the center of the North Island. We camped again, and guess what? More rain! So much rain… By the end of our journey we had perfected the best set up to stay dry. One tarp underneath the tent, a smaller one on the inside floor and a giant tarp over the top staked down at every grommet.
Day 10: We were supposed to hike the Tongariro crossing, but the nasty weather conditions closed the track. A good thing too: none of us were keen to do a 6-hour hike in the pouring rain and blasting wind. We ended up driving down to Wellington a day early.
Day 11: We indulged our inner nerd and explored Wellington, the capital city. We went to the national library, the archives, had a tour of the Parliament building and went to the national museum. I liked Wellington because it was very historic.
Day 12: Back to Christchurch! The ferry crossing was much rougher going back down and I ended up sleeping to stave off the seasickness. I wish I had been able to get up and walk around because it was absolutely beautiful views!
All in all in was a once-in-a-lifetime road trip. I got see more of this beautiful country, and that’s exactly the reason why I chose to come to New Zealand.