Update from the North Island!
Here follows an update on what we've been doing so far on the north island:)
Wellington-Otaki: Took the Picton-Wellington ferry on Saturday 20. December in pouring rain. Took a travel sickness pill, and read afterwards that you should not drive a car after doing so....hehe! So instead of just continuing driving north from Wellington we had a short stop and went to the cinema to see Madagaskar 2....funny!!! In the evening we braved the car again and drove to Otaki and a basic DOC camp where we spent the night.
Otaki-Taranaki: Woke up to puring rain again and some funny noises outside the car. I jumped out and almost onto a huge rooster which was just standing outside our car and he was not at all surprised to see me. Me, on the other hand gave out a scream and hurried into the car again to think about what I just saw...hehe! Seems like every stop or small camping ground on the north island has a gang of roosters/hen or ducks. Since it was raining we just got in the car and drove to the nearest settlement for coffee and newspaper. Read the weather section to find out where the nice weather might be, and decide to go to Taranaki Vulcano northwest from where we were now. Arrived in the afternoon, but the clouds were so low that we could not see the vulcano at all. Decided to just sleep outside the visitor centre at the north entrance, which was a pretty good choice as they had toilets and running water there!
Taranaki-Tangariro: Woke up to fantastic sunshine, and an amazing view of the vulcano! Had a cosy breakfast and went for a 2 hour hike towards the summit. As it is still snow on the top we could not go all the way- apparently you need ice axes and whatnot to go up there, but we were pretty happy with the 2 hour walk. Decided to go to Tongariro nationalpark to see some more vulcanoes and took the forgotten world highway to get there. Driving that road was like stepping 50 years back in time, but it was pretty interesting with old buildings and farms. And almost no cars!! Stoppet in Whangamomona- which is in fact a republic with a boarder guard (an old toilet). Had a coffee at the old hotel and had a small walk around to see the old buildings. Nice! Arrived at Tongariro Nationalpark in the evening, and since all the DOC camping grounds were full so we had to go to a commercial one, which was quite nice since it had been some days since we had a shower now:)
Tongariro crossing: Brrrrrr! Woke up to frost on the window, and could NOT get our asses out of bed until 7.30- which was apparently already quite late if you wanted to do the crossing. We have not done a lot of planning for our trip, and so far it has not been a lot of problems. But if you are doing the crossing you have to arrange to be picked up at the other side of the mountain and driven back to the starting point where your car is. According to the visitor centre this is NOT normal, as most people take shuttle busses from the Whakapapa village back and forth. It was now 10 o'clock and the last shuttle had left at 9.......The not so nice lady then gave me a card with a number to a shuttle company which MIGHT pick us up. And long story short- finally got a hold of them and they could pick us up at 17.30- no worries! So we started the crossing at 10.15 and it was AMAZING! Walked through vulcanic landscapes, in and out of craters and between emerald green lakes! The photo in this blog is of the red crater- it was pretty scary walking down that road! The Tongariro Crossing is listed as one of the best one day walks in NZ and it truly was! If you are ever going to NZ you have to do that walk! I will try to post some more photos from the walk next time I'm online :)
The crossing took us about 6 1/2 hours with fantastic views all the way. We were incredible lucky with the weather, it was almost no clouds and sunshine. A little bit cold on the top, so glad I took my jacket with me, its pretty windy at 1900 meters! Oh, Tangariro crossing is where the Mt. Ngauruhoe is by the way- the mountain also known as Mt. Doom from Lord of the rings! Very cool!
After the crossing we were pretty tired and just drove 1 hour and spent the night in Turanga.
Turanga-Bay of Plenty: Christmas eve!!! We did not have any christmas spirit at all, so we just bought a christmas stocking with chocolates to celebrate later, and of course a better dinner consisting of chicken and rice:) Drove northeast towards the Bay of Plenty, and the roads and the weather was crazy that day! Seeing 2 car accidents and the crazy traffic getting in and out of Taupo, we decided to try to avoid the christmas rush in Rotorua. Took a gravel road instead, which was very bumpy but had no traffic. Drove through some small towns in the bay, and went towards Opotiki and the eastern side to find a DOC camp which was supposedly around there....And had a REALLY hard time finding it, drove on some pretty bad roads high over rivers so I was very happy when we finally found it in the darkness!
Opotiki-Coromandel peninsula: On Christmas day we woke up to sunshine again (the weather in NZ is VERY unstable) and took a christmas bath in the stream nearby. We thought that everyone would be at home celebrating christmas today, so it would be a nice day driving. We were wrong!!! Seems like the kiwis also like to spend christmas day at the beach and the roads were again pretty busy! Decided to spend our day like the kiwis as well and drove from beach to beach in the bay and had a nice dinner near the beach in Mt. Maunganui. Very relaxed day! Decided to see the Coromandel peninsula as well, and arrived in the evening at Whangamata and spent the night there.
Whangamata-Coromandel: Drove up to Hahei which had fantastic beaches! Rented some snorkeling gear and snorkeled around in Gemstone bay for a while. But the sight was not so good and there were too many jellyfish for my liking, so we got out and went to Stingray bay where we relaxed some hours in the sun and worked on our sunburns! Afterwards we drove by hotwater beach, but the tide was high, so didn't see anybody burning their butts in the sand:( Drove further to Coromandel where we have now spent the night!
Right now we're in Thames, which is a not so nice town in the western gateway to the peninsula- but it was the only place with internet :) We will continue through Auckland now and further north, hope to be at a nice beach somewhere this evening!
Hope everyone has had a nice christmas back home!!!!!!!! :)