The pace definitely did not slow down in our last week of the North Island. Despite people saying the north is quite lackluster in comparison to the south, we still managed to have a ball. Between caving adventures, climbing the infamous Mount Doom (Actually called Ngurahoe, but Doom is just so much cooler), finding our own personal hot spring and eating at a restaurant made out of busses, we bearly had any down time.
Following our epic drive down from the north, we started the next day off bright and early heading to Waitomo (Pronounced Whytomo, people seem to look at you funny when you say whatimo) caves. Here we set of on a three hour black water rafting trip, which was absolutely incredible. Jumping off waterfalls, looking up at glow worms and drifting through a pitch black river it was one hell of an experience. We even got to eat soup and bagels at the end making it fantastic from start to finish.
From there we headed to Rotorua, the worst smelling town I have ever encountered. Thank god we only spent one day there as breathing for me eventually became difficult :P but nevertheless we had a sweet time. The foul smell did indeed come from the famous hot springs throughout the area but for some reason we decided to get as close to them as we can. We swam in a hot waterfall known as Kerosene Creek, got our Gandalf walking stick on as we did our first serious hike at the Te Aukhere track to another waterfall and watched as white water rafters flew over some serious drops at Okere Falls.
We also went to a cold water spring, known as Hanumara that was incredible from start to finish. Starting with a short hike there in a massive Redwood forest, I would have been happy not even making it to the spring. However I'm glad we did as the spring was just as spectacular. It was the clearest water I have even, well that was until we decided to dive in. We didn't last long though as the water turned out to be a mighty cold 10 degrees. My favourite spot however was a place located outside of Rotarua that we visited not once, not twice but three times whilst we were in the area.
Known to the locals as simply Hot and Cold, this is the type of place we need at home. Not only is it a hot spring, which is fantastic in itself, but it connects to a following river of cold water making the water temperature as adjustable as you want. Feeling a bit chilly, move over to the spring side, having too much of a schvitz, just drag yourself to the river. What more could you ask for. This place is not known to many, spread only by word of mouth, as such you get quite the interesting group of people down there. We met Maoris, Canadians, Chinese, Poms, Yanks, Germans and more. Everyone had a story to tell and we learnt a lot about the world from them which you can ask us about later.
As if that is not enough, the one evening we went there we really saw this place sparkle (quite literally). As the sun set, people began to head off, leaving us and our Canadian friends (more on them later) to eat pizza and kick back with some beers. With nothing else to do that night we decided to stay late and hang out in this perfect pool. That's when the show began. As we looked up we saw more stars than we had seen in our long lives. We saw shooting stars, planets, satellites and were just in utter amazement. We stayed there for hours only heading home when another couple joined us, who we could tell wanted some alone time ;).
From Rotorua we headed to Taupo, a city just an hour away. An absolutely gorgeous little town, situated on an amazing lake, we arrived there at sunset just to see the sun disappearing over the water. Here we did a lot of the same as in Rotorua, just a little bit different. We watched a hole in one competition over the lake, swam at a hot water beach, ventured on another hike to the amazing Huka Falls and went to a honey factory to get drunk off honey liqueurs. At our hostel we also ran into some peeps we had met in Auckland and became absolute besties. We introduced them to Hot and Cold (it is between Rotorua and Taupo) and stuck with them for quite a few days. Well Done Anna and Miriam, you cracked it into the blog, dont underestimate this honour :).
On our final day in Taupo, we did unfortunately separate for a bit as we headed off to do something we had wanted to ever since we started planning this trip, climb Mount Doom. Now I do have a confession, we didn't exactly climb Mount Doom, we may or may not have only climbed the volcano next to it, known as Tongariro and just get an absolutely amazing view of it. But don't let this seem like a let down, the climb we did still took us a good 7 hours of trekking, across almost 20kms of the steepest terrain we have ever climbed (Even steeper than my mountain where I was rescued back in the states).
Whilst we couldn't do the whole path due to it being a very active volcano (erupting just last year) we walked to the summit and then back down the same path. We also managed to include a NFL game and a risky rock climb during the journey. It was one of the hardest days we have had in a while, pushing us to our limits but majorly rewarding us was some phenomenal views throughout. Mount Doom did turn out to be a climb restricted to those with some serious climbing skills or serious rocks in the head. It was an insane mountain to summit and I have no idea how Frodo managed. Tongariro still impressed us and I implore all who travel to NZ to do the climb if at all possible.
From there we headed down to Wellington, our last stop on the North Island. Anna and Miriam even loved us so much, they begged us to allow them to come down in our gorgeous Pegasus just so they could spend more time with us to which we gladly obliged (May not have happened). Arriving in Wellington in the pouring rain we didn't really get up to all that much. We sadly farewelled Pegasus, a beast we managed to get almost 2500kms out of without a single issue. Peggy, we will miss you and hope you stay out of trouble.
We also headed out to what I can safely say will be our only museum this trip, known as Te Papa. It was actually turned out to be really cool having an interactive Video Games through the ages exhibition (which we used to determine our Campervans name) and the only captured Giant Squid in the world. Not like there was any other possibility but I smashed the boys in our naming competition that consisted of games ranging from Singstar to Pacman. For those who don't already know, I named our lovely green camper Mike Wazowski, from Monsters Inc.
Unfortunately we did also have to say goodbye to the girls as we headed out on our flight that afternoon. After some hugs and tears (mostly from the boys) we made sure they knew what they were going to do when they got to Australia in a couple weeks and that we knew where they lived for when we head over there. Girls, I hope the rest of your trip is awesome and we shall see you soon :).
Bring on the South.