Chris had the inspiration to replace our Eastern European tour with a trip to New Zealand. I was so busy with many other things that for the first time I was very passive in the planning stages. We left October 10 and spent 21 days in a continuous state of surprise and awe. The three weeks were divided: one in the North Island and two in South Island.
First Stop – Auckland
Mount Eden gives a beautiful view of the city and from there we enjoyed some really nice walks into the centre.
Next Stop – Waitomo Caves
There is a multitude of options and tours for the caves in the area. We chose a pretty basic combo and we visited two caves, the Glowworm Cave and the Ruakuri Cave. At the end of the Glowworm Grotto tour we were in a boat with all the glowworms shining above us like a green Milky Way; this was a highlight. The Ruakuri Cave tour was overall brilliant from start to end. The enthusiasm of our lady guide, B made it even more fun. She was excellent and full of contagious positive energy.
Next Stop – Rotorua
I enjoyed the mud/thermal lake smell in Rotorua. It is not a perfume but for some reason my body was getting comfort from it. The highlight here was the Thermal Wonderland. The name should be enough to give you an idea. It was incredible to see all the activities of the earth expressed in so many forms and colours. There are a few Maori experiences around and we went to one in the Whakarewarewa Village. It was a brief introduction and a really touristic view of a new culture, but a good opportunity to see some intricate wood carvings, green stone jewellery and some of the common traditions.
Next Stop – Lake Taupo
We stopped here so we could easily access Mount Ruapehu. On the way to Lake Taupo we kept stopping at various lookout points to snap some photos of the really beautiful blue water and scenery. The drive to Mount Ruapehu had really amazing moments. At one point the volcanic scenery, the deep valley and waterfall, made me feel like an ant. We aimed to visit the Knoll Ridge Café at the top but the weather did not favour us and we had to leave it for next time.
Next Stop – Whanganui
The town was not necessarily a must but the drive around the Whanganui National Park was well worth spending a night in Whanganui. A great part of the drive was accompanied by a dramatic mountainous side on the left and a deep, abrupt valley on the right where the Whanganui River seemed in a hurry to flow at a faster pace than us. I love Chris’ calmness in these situations; my heart jumps at every curve, I squirm a bit and give some valuable driving advice and he calmly keeps driving.
Next Stop – Wellington
After days embracing natural wonders, it was fun to get to Wellington. The Te Papa Museum was recommended as a must. I mentioned before my love of walking tours and guides. A knowledgeable tour guide will turn me into one very happy tourist, full of questions and curiosity. The museum organises guided tours and we were lucky to get Paul, who had the patience to answer all our questions and was generous to go well over the allotted time. After half a day spent in the museum we rolled out a bit tired and managed to catch some rest at the Circa Theatre. While there we ended up seeing The Truth Game, a play about the digital world taking over the traditional newspaper. An excellent dinner afterwards wrapped up a perfect day and our first week in New Zealand.
It seems that there is more general touristic hype about visiting the South Island and after spending a bit of time in both I can understand the excitement for the south. However, I could easily and equivalently revisit any of the places in the north. Plus we still need to make it to the Knoll Ridge Café!