06.12.2012 - 16.12.2012
After saving enough money to start travelling again we packed the car up and headed south back to Auckland to pick up a few things. When we were half an hour away from the city centre the clouds turned very dark and the rain started to hammer it down, so much so that everyone on the motorway was going 10kph! When we turned off into the city centre we had to stop, as we couldn’t see anything out of the window. Later that evening we heard on the news that at the time we were in Auckland a tornado had hit and hundreds of people had been evacuated from their homes.
After the fun events in Auckland we headed to the Coromandel Peninsular. Unfortunately the bad weather was always one step ahead of us so the apparently spectacular views were hidden in thick cloud. Thankfully for us there were a few breaks in the cloud and we got some nice photos of some beautiful bays.
Once we arrived in Coromandel Town we were both quite tired so checked into a backpackers room, had some diner, walked around the small town and then had an early night as we need to get up early in the morning.
The next day we headed over to Hot Water Beach where for 2 hours either side of low tide you can access an area of sand in the middle of the beach where you can dig a hole and hot water oozes out and you can make a very hot bath in the sand. Below this area is an underground thermal spring. It was a great experience, 7.30 in the morning getting into your swimwear and getting in a nice hot sand bath on the beach!
After Hot Water Beach we slowly made our way down the East coast of the peninsular stopping off at several beach towns and finally arriving in Mt Maunganui, a cool beach town right next to the city of Tauranga. We found a great campsite right under the mount and only a few steps away from the beach. The bad weather was still with us but was starting to clear up. We pitched our tent, and settled down for the evening.
The next day was glorious! The sun was out so we decided to have a wonder around the town and along the beach. This town was unlike any we had seen in NZ so far, it was modern with an arty feel to it. So far, apart from Auckland NZ has looked like what I would expect the south of America to look like. One small high street where the single road state highway travels through, and a few houses around.
After lunch we walked around and up the mount to experience the magnificent views.
After a few relaxing days we headed off to stinky Rotorua, the most dynamic thermal area in NZ. The town was a bit dead so we only had a quick look around then headed over to see some sulphur rich spurting geysers. We refused to pay $40 each to see the big one so walked around the corner and saw a few smaller ones for free!
Once we had had enough of the eggy smell we drove over to the Blue and Green lakes to do a small trek. We walked around the Blue lake, had some lunch and then set off to start the long journey around the East Cape on the Pacific Coast Highway.
We had planned on staying the night in a place called Opotiki but after driving on gravel tracks for an hour we couldn’t find the free campsite so decided to carry on until we found somewhere further along the coast. When the sun had almost set we found a campsite in a small village called Te Kaha, it was very basic but all we needed for the night. We met an English couple doing the same as us but they had run out of petrol a few miles before they got to the campsite.
We rose early and headed to the most easterly point in New Zealand, Eastern Cape where there is a big white lighthouse that we climbed up to. The views from the top were amazing, made even more magnificent by the beautiful day.
Once we left the lighthouse we started to drive all around the East Coast on SH35, it took us inland and along the rugged coast. The roads were dead which made driving for me wonderful, well except for the logging trucks, which sped past at well over the sped limit! The next place we stopped was Gisborne. The town itself it nice but not that different from most of the other towns in NZ that we have visited. We stocked up on a few essentials and headed over to Mahia Bay and hour south of Gisborne where we would camp for the night.
The next morning we headed over to Napier, this town has a little more character as it was destroyed by a big earthquake in the 1930’s and rebuilt mostly in an Art Deco style. The whole place and the people seemed to be a bit more arty and creative.
We couldn’t stay too long though as we had to get up to Lake Taupo. We arrived and found a nice campsite in a hostel garden in the centre of town which was good.
The sun was shining so we wondered around some of the lake which is the size of Singapore, it is a very peaceful place with views of Tongariro National Park in the distance. We wondered around the cool town too, checking out some of their boutique and outdoors shops.
The next morning we decided to walk to Huka Falls on the Waikato River. The walk was through bush land along the river. Once we arrived we decided to keep going along the track to the Aratiatia Hydroelectric Dam. The walk was a lot further than we anticipated but we reached the dam 20 mins before the scheduled 12pm opening. We walked to the view point and watched the water crashing through the dam turning a small stream into a rampaging river of rapids within minutes.
Once the excitement was over we had lunch and headed back to Taupo. When we got back to our tent we were knackered but worked out that we had walked about 22km in 5 hours.
We wearily got up after a rain affected night and drove over to Tongariro National Park. The weather didn’t seem like it was going to clear any time so we treated ourselves and rented a cabin for the night. As we were at 1100m the temperature was a lot colder so it was nice to have heating and a comfortable bed.
After a good nights rest we woke early and drove over to the start of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing track. The weather was still very cloudy but we were glad that it was dry.
We started walking at about 7.15 am, only half of the track is open due to one of the volcanoes erupting a few weeks ago but as we have to return the same way the distance is about the same in total.
It took us about one hour to reach the soda springs, the landscape was wild and desolate and as the clouds were so low it looked kind of spooky.
We kept going, climbing up quite high to reach the Southern Crater, we didn’t realise we were walking in it until we realised how flat it was around us. There was even snow on the sides so you can imagine how cold it was.
After the Southern crater we had to climb some more to reach the rim of the red crater and to see the Emerald lakes below. Unfortunately this was the end of the line for us, and the weather was just getting worse with the wind speed getting up to 70kmph. We took a few photos and headed back down, this time with the wind in our faces, eek! All in all we walked about 18km in 5 hours.
Now we are in Porirua, a neighbouring town of Wellington in the south of the north island. The weather is fine, but a little windy. We went into Wellington yesterday, it’s a really cool and vibrant city with loads of coffee shops and boutique clothing stores.
We walked around the windy harbour, had some lunch on a little beach and hit the shops for some window-shopping.
We are heading over on the ferry to the South Island tomorrow. On Tuesday we will be starting the Queen Charlotte walking track in Marlborough Sounds, can’t wait!