Somehow, I have already been in New Zealand for over a month now (this post is a little late, oops). It’s crazy how fast time goes by. In all honesty, I don’t ever know what day it is, or how long I’ve been in a city for. Everything just kind of blends together. I wake up every day and I know where I’m supposed to be, I just don’t know what day it is.
While technically I have moved to New Zealand to live, I haven’t done that yet. I have been travelling since I got here, and I am still planning on travelling for another month or so before moving into my house on January 19th.
I am looking forward to eventually being settled and having a bit of structure to my life again, but for right now, I am enjoying the freedom, no responsibilities and all the of the things I am doing, and people I am meeting.
I already wrote about my first two weeks in New Zealand, which were spent in Auckland. If you haven’t read that post yet, you can read it here. Since Auckland I have been to Paihia, Russell, Cape Reinga, Tauranga, Rotorua, Taupō, and Wellington.
Bay of Islands
After all the hustle and bustle in Auckland I spent a week relaxing in Paihia, which is part of the Bay of Islands. It’s North of Auckland.
From there I did a couple of day trips, including a day trip to Russell (which was New Zealand’s first capitol, and it holds the oldest liquor license in New Zealand). I also did a full day trip with Great Fullers which took me to Cape Reinga, which is the most northern point in New Zealand.
The day trip to Cape Reinga also included stopping at Puketi Forest, sandboarding at the sand dunes, driving 100km/h down 90 Mile Beach, and of course visiting Cape Reinga. I still think to this day, it was my favourite day since being in New Zealand. It was such a fun filled day, and Cape Reinga was just so beautiful it’s hard to not consider it my favourite day.
After my very relaxing and enjoyable week in the Bay of Islands, I had a very long travel day to get to Tauranga. A five-hour bus ride to Auckland, followed by an additional 4-hour bus ride to Tauranga.
Tauranga – Mt. Maunganui
I was only in Tauranga for two nights and I had a very specific reason for going to Tauranga. Let me start off my saying Tauranga is nothing to write home about (so I won’t ha. Get it? No? okay). However, Mt. Manganui, which is a short 20-minute city bus ride away is well worth the trip. I spent the entire day in the Mt. Maunganui area.
I had a fantastic breakfast at The General, then I made my way to Mt. Maunganui itself. I hiked up the hill to get a 360-degree view of the city below. It was not an easy hike though.
If I thought my cardio was bad before, New Zealand has reconfirmed that.
Once getting back down to the bottom I spent the entire day at the beach.
I then had a great idea to hike the mountain again (in the same day) to have views of the sunset. I knew what to expect this time so it made climbing the hill slightly easier. Unfortunately, the sun set on the opposite side of the mountain. It was still beautiful though, and it was a clearer view then when I had gone up earlier in the day. So, I guess that was a win.
The next day I made my way to Rotorua, or “Rottenrua” as the tourists like to call it. I dropped my bags off at my hostel, and then I made my way to Starbucks to do some blog writing, because it was still too early for me to check-in to my room.
While I was Starbucks I met two other Canadians, Adam and Chad. We decided to go hike at the Redwoods forest that afternoon. I had originally planned on doing nothing that day since I hiked Mt. Maunganui twice the day before, but I prevailed.
I had it in my head that we would be doing a 5km hike or something around that distance. Apparently, Adam had a different idea, he made the executive decision and we hiked the 12km trail. By the end of it I wasn’t sure if I’d ever be able to walk again. Dramatic much? Ha.
The next day I went on an excursion to Wai-O-Tapu, a geothermal something. Because of the sulphur, it smelt bad, like really bad. I don’t know if I’ve ever smelt sulphur before so I really didn’t know what to expect when I got to Rotorua. But the best way I can explain it is rotten eggs amplified about ten times. However, Wai-O-Tapu was really cool, it was neat to see all the different colours.
After clearing myself from the smell of Sulphur, I got up early the next morning and made my way to Hobbition with Adam. I hate to admit this… But… I have never seen any of the Lord of the Rings or Hobbit movies… But I still went to Hobbition…
The way I see it, is I was there, one day I may see the movies, so I had to go. Logical, right?
Turns out, roughly 40% of the people that visit Hobbition have never actually seen the movies or read the books. So, I wasn’t alone!
Hobbition was surprisingly (or not so surprisingly) really cool and so cute, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The tour obviously made more sense if you’ve seen the movies, but most of the tour was actually talking more about the set itself.
The tour also actually made me want to watch the movies now. At least one of them.
The next day was my last day in Rotorua, so I decided to take it easy, because I knew I would have some busy days coming up. Chad had raved about the Polynesian Spa, so I figured that would be a great spot to relax for the day. I went at 10am on a Tuesday, which really worked out in my favour. I had the place almost to myself, and every pool I went in, I was the only one in them. 6-10pm is apparently their busiest time, as people tend to go after work, so I was really lucky to be able to enjoy it all to myself.
It was $30, which I didn’t think was that bad. However, there are free hot springs in Taupō, so if you don’t want to spend the money for man-made hot pools, you can go to the free ones in Taupō. There’s actually some free ones in the Rotorua area as well.
Next stop, Taupō. I loved Taupō. It was a very small town, and I honestly don’t know what I loved so much about it, might have even just the people I spent my time with there, but I loved Taupō.
There is a hostel chain in New Zealand called Haka, and they have five hostels in New Zealand, Taupō was my third Haka hostel that I had stayed in. I had loved my two previous Haka stays, so if it’s not broke why fix it?
My first day in Taupō I just kind of relaxed and got situated because I was going to be there for the next five nights, and the next day I had to be up early to do the Tongariro Crossing.
I’m not going to lie, I was really nervous to do the Tongariro Crossing. For starters, it was about to be the longest hike I’ve ever done (the crossing in 20kms). 2) I was doing it on my own. I wasn’t the only one doing the Tongariro Crossing (it’s the most popular day hike in NZ) however, I was personally doing it on my own. 3) I get dehydrated. Quite a lot actually. I also get heat stroke easily. So that made me nervous for this hike, because you are exposed to the sun the entire time.
The next day I was up at 4:30am. I had 3L of water, plus a Powerade and enough food to last me the day. I caught the shuttle at 5:20am with six other people from my hostel, and we made our way to the Tongariro Crossing. We arrived at 7:15am and that’s when the day really started.
Getting off the bus you’re just hit with a very cold and strong wind. It was quite nuts. The sun was hidden behind a few clouds, but our bus driver ensured us the sun would come back out.
He was wrong. The wind never stopped, it actually got worse, and the sun didn’t come back out (until the last hour and a half).
My worries prior to the hike were completely set on getting dehydrated, sunburnt and sunstroke. However, due to the elements of the day those were the least of my worries.
It was so cold, that at one point I honestly feared I would lose my fingers. The fog was so thick you couldn’t at any point see more than 20 feet in front of you. And the wind was SO strong that going down the Red Crater was probably the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life.
Picture this. A mountain that is made of loose gravel and rocks, and is only about 10 feet wide, going straight down it at a 45-degree angle, having fog so thick you can’t see anything in front of you, and wind so strong that you could honestly get blown over the side of the mountain.
I could feel myself starting to have a bit of a panic attack, but I prevailed and I just kept an eye on where I was going and I took my time.
Going down the Red Crater is when you typically get to see the Emerald Lakes. I didn’t. You could not see the Emerald Lakes. The Emerald Lakes are Tongariro Crossing are the number one picture opportunity of this hike.
I wanted to cry. I hadn’t even hiked halfway yet, but the main picture worthy part of the hike I couldn’t see.
While standing in front of the Emerald lakes the fog started to clear, but it literally only cleared for 5 seconds. I am so glad I had my camera ready as I was able to capture this picture.
Because it was so cold I didn’t stop for long. As soon as I got that picture I kept trekking, because at that point I just wanted to be done.
The last two hours/ hour and a half of the hike finally started to clear up. The sun was shining, and the fog had cleared, making my way down the mountain slightly more enjoyable.
They say the Tongariro crossing takes 6-9 hours to complete. It took me just over 5 hours, and I think part of that is because with the fog and the cold, I didn’t have any views, therefore I didn’t have any reason to stop along the trail.
As bitter as I was, it was an amazing (but difficult) hike. I felt so accomplished completing it, and I do plan to do it again while I am here.
I think the hardest part was that everyone else that had done it before me and after me had beautiful views, so I got to hear about their experiences all week. BUT, my overall day, just adds to the experience of all of this.
That night Anna and I treated ourselves to $5 pizzas (yes, you read that right. Dominos and Pizza Hut have $5 pizzas). The we spent the rest of the night playing cards with Raphael and Luke.
The next day I took it easy as I was quite sore from the hike the day before and I went on a Barbary Sail to the Maori Rock Carvings, in Lake Taupō.
During the sail, I had met a couple from Wellington. They were on holiday, and were driving back to Wellington that day, but wanted to enjoy one more thing before ending their holiday.
I spent most of the sail talking to them, and before leaving they had asked me if I wanted to go to their house for a home cooked meal when I got to Wellington. After eating pasta every single night, I couldn’t turn down a home cooked meal (I’ll talk more about this later).
While I don’t have a legit bucket list of things I want to do in my lifetime, I know in my mind there are things I want to do, see and experience before I die. Skydiving is one of those things.
After some research, it seemed as though Taupō was the best place in NZ to Skydive.
Mum specifically told me she did not want to know if and when I was going skydiving, so I had to do a bit of lying that morning. Only two people back home knew that I was going Skydiving, but I had to make sure someone knew in case something somehow happened.
Skydiving was amazing!! Stuff like that doesn’t typically scare me. Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love adrenaline, so I honestly never felt nervous. I can’t really put into words what it felt like to skydive, but it was incredible, and I highly recommend that everyone must do it at least once in their lifetime. You won’t regret it.
My nights in Taupō were so much fun. It was always just a big group of us hanging out, drinking, and learning about everyone, and just having honest conversations. The friends you make travelling are always so amazing, and you have a different bond, then with your friends back home, because you’re all experiencing the same thing, and you understand what one another is going through, and you understand the whole backpacking life.
Monday morning, I was set to catch a bus and head to Wellington, however the night before leaving I met three Swedish guys who had a van that were driving to Wellington the next morning and the offered to drive me instead of taking the bus.
Without hesitation, I accepted their offer. It’s experiences like that that really make the travelling experience. Spend time with strangers, step outside of your comfort zone, be uncomfortable, but be comfortable being uncomfortable.
It’s experiences like that that are the most memorable. I had so much fun on the drive, and I made three new friends and now I am reunited with them once again in Nelson.
If you follow me on social media then you would have already read about how a family from Wellington invited me over for a home cooked meal.
Much like my experience with driving with the Swedes, this was a something I just had to say yes to. These are the moments that I will remember forever when I think back to my time in New Zealand.
A family that I had only met for two hours on a boat invited me in to their home, and made me a home cooked meal. Not only that but they picked me up in the city, they accommodated my dietary needs, they drove me back home, and the whole time they kept asking if there was anything else I needed.
Marie and Roger may never see this, but I will forever be grateful for their generosity and kind hearts.
I’ve spent exactly five weeks on the North Island of NZ, and I am now on my way to spend some time on the South Island. I am getting ready for spending my first Christmas away from home, but also my first Christmas in a hot climate. I’m then going to be celebrating my 24th birthday with new travel friends, and then ringing in the new year by camping.
If you made it to the end of this post thank you for reading about my time in New Zealand so far. Every day here has been an adventure, and an experience of its own. I can’t wait to see what the next 11 months bring, and I hope you will continue to follow along with my journey.
Wishing all my readers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.