40 hours after leaving the farm in Temuco, Southern Chile, Matt and I touched down on the tarmac of Auckland airport, on monday 4th February. It was 4am, but the jet lag meant that it felt like noon. Former Reigate Grammar School gap year student Mike Ryan met us at the airport, and after a short drive through Auckland we arrived at his house. I then relised that I'd lost my passport, documents and traveller's cheques. After lots of looking, worrying and calling various people at the airport, Matt gave them back to me! I think its fair to say that wasn't too impressed!
We spent the day looking around Auckland, which seemed modern and trendy (and about the size of guildford!), jumping off things into the sea (including a lighthouse), and renting a car for the rest of our time in NZ. Conveniently, we managed to be in town when the superbowl was on, so we watched it over a nice cold beer.
The following day we played some golf in the park next to Mike's house (where there was no actual course), chilled out and then went to Eden Park to watch the England Vs New Zealand 20/20 cricket, which was excellent (especially as we stuffed the Kiwi's!). Mike and his friends took us out in Auckland afterwards, where we had a few beers, played some pool and almost got our heads kicked in by a rather substantial and aggressive maori gentleman.
On Wednesday 6th January we got our road trip underway by driving down to Rotorua, which appeared to be dull and old, with very little going on. We checked out some of the lakes surrounding Rotorua, which were very picturesque. The whole city (which was smaller than Dorking) smelled terribly of sulpher, which was very potent, and for those who don't know, sulpher smells like a rather pungent fart!
On Thursday we drove down to Waitomo - meaning "water entering a hole in the ground" - to see the glowworn caves. These were a real spectacle, with approximately 30,000 glowworms on one of the cave ceilings, which lit up the cave like a particlarly dense starry sky would at night. We then drove to the Tongariro National Park in preparation for the Tongariro Crossing the next day.
Friday began at 6am for Matt and I, with out coach to the start of the crossing being at 6:40am, and the walk beginning at 7:30am. The Tongariro Crossing is an 18.5km walk over Mt. Tongariro, which is a gruelling hike involving a lot of uphill climbs and the rare plateau. And then the descent afterwards. Parts of this seemed like we were on the moon, as the surroundings just look like volcanic craters. The way up is known as "The Devil's Staircase" because of its tough incline.
After conquering this we moved on to the bottom of the North Island, to meet up with Matt's parents at their rented holiday home near Paraparaumu, about 1.5hours north of Wellington. Great sleep, meals and company for the remainder of Friday and Saturday saw us on our way to the ferry to South Island on Sunday morning.
North Island, on the whole, was a little disappointingcompared to what we had expected, but the scenery was still gorgeous and the people friendy, as well as being an eye opener to New Zealand in general. The cities are more like UK towns, for example when we walked across Rotorua in 12minutes, and we drove through 4 "towns" without a single petrol station until we were running on fumes and literally rolled into one in Te Kuiti. North Island was definitely still a beautiful place, but wasn't quite what we had expected.
Bring on South Island!