we arrived in north island after a, thankfully, very calm crossing of the Cook Strait. Wellington is rather large and it took us a while before parking up for the night. the next day we drove back to Wellington central and went to NZ's National Museum- Te Papa, which is really good, we especially enjoyed the Earthquake simulation and the HUGE section on volcano eruptions in the North Island, this put Caroline's already irrational immagination into over drive with the idea that there was perhaps a 1 in 5 chance of surviving the island! We then got the old cable car up the hill and walked back to the city via the botanical gardens and houses of parliament, which look iffy at best! We then set off North via a tasty ice cream/cheese shop (of course).
The next day we arrived in Tongariro National Park, which is in the centre of North Island and part of the Taupo volcanic region, we were delighted to be informed that three volcanoes in the park are not extinct and that one of them is in fact showing signs of increased activity, again causing caroline grave concerns! One of the volcanoes was used as Mount Doom in the Lord of The Rings films which was really cool. We did the Taranaki Falls walk, which was lovely. We later completed the rather novel drive to Taupo via a freee Geothermally active area of steam vents, boiling mud and pools etc, a GIANT carrot and a strange town called Bulls, which doesn't have a police station but a Const-BULL house and some other novelty insertions. we later camped at a YHA and took advantage of a gym that looked like Catain Cook might have been the last person to use it- dusty!!!
The next day our usual run a r ound transport of a limousine came to pick us up and whisk us off to Taupo airport for Neal's skydive. As he says it was amazing, so much fun, but not as scary as a bungy jump! he got great veiws of the above mentioned volcanoes and Lake Taupo on the way down and had an amazing time. We later drove up to the Huka Falls look out point and then to Craters of the Moon Geothermal area. The Craters site has now started charging entry thoughand as a result we didn't go in!! instead we turned up to a hydro-electric dam to watch the doors open, however after a minor oversight from Caroline we were 2 hours late!!! we later took advantage of Taupo's free campsite, YES!
The following day we went to Wai O Tapu, which is a "Thermal Wonderland!" and saw a very impressive geezer, boiling mud pools, champagne pools, silica terraces, sulphurous deposits etc etc etc... overall it was very impressive and a surreal experience, similar to being on the moon (we imagine!!)we then drove on to Rotorua which stinks of sulphur/rotten eggs and had a look around at one of the Maori churches before driving on to Waitomo.
Today we went caving/black water rafting in one of Waitomo's famous caves- Raukuri. Despite it being very cold, and even colder in the water and cave we really enjoyed our three hour expedition, which involved hiking through bush, caves and wading through water. as well as jumping off water falls and floating through beautiful glow worm caves which make it look as though you are under a perfect star filled night sky. We later went to the Glow worm museum and did one of the best short walks in the country in and out of dry caves. After this we set off to Te Aroha making a stop/trespassing on the farm which was used as Hobbiton in Lord of the Rings on the way.
Having slept in a lay by we woke to climb half way up Mount Te Aroha, however, due to the very low cloud it looked like we had climbed Mont Everest or something which was excellent!. We then rewarded ourselves with a dip in one of Te Aroha's famous natural spas... And then drove on to Karanghake Gorge to do another awesome walk over the site of an pold gold refinery (we looked everywhere and there wasn't even a microgram of gold anywhere- unbelievable!!!!!). There was however, some excellent artefacts and an old rail track used for the mine carts which went through some very long and dark tunnels. the torch we have with us is just about powerful enough to light up 1 metre ahead of you, so naturally Caroline took that! We then drove to Whangamata on the East Coast of the North Island on the Coromandel Peninsula.
The following day (our 2 year anniversary!) we went to a cool little place called Hot Water Beach. it is in the middle of nowhere and you take a spade down to the beach at low tide and dig about a bit to find one of the outlets for a natural hot spring under the beach, once found, dig a small pool for yourselves and wallow in your hard work! it is excellent, when the tide rudely came in to wake us up and cool us down we returned to the car park and took advantage of the showers there (while evryone else was gingerly washing sand off their feet we took out the shampoo!!!!- you need to take advantage of free showers when you camp on road sides and beaches!) we then moved on to Cathedral Cove for a gorgeous walk in the kaarst beach scapes of the area. Finally we set off towards Auckland for our remaining few days.
We arrived at Jack and Adrienne's house at AMraetai beach just outside of Auckland and were fed, washed and cared for as though we were a charity, it was excellent! The house is beautiful and has amazing views of the Auckland city scape but is right on the beach and next door to a regional park. so after a very relaxing day we ate... a lot! the following day we drove in to Auckland and said a teary farewell to our Superheroes van, and met Kylie (from the Africa trip).
Started off by having fish and chips (of course) and a few drinks with lana as well (also from africa trip). then arranged a two day road trip to the Northland!
Set off nice and early and went to Piha with its gorgeous black beaches. then off to Kawakawa with its "world famous" toilets!!!! then to Paihia were they send the treaty of Witangai and the Bay of Islands which is lovely... then on to a forest with HUGE Kauri trees, and finally to rainbow falls scenic reserve- again very nice. YES, it was a whistle stop tour! but an excellent one. It should be pointed out at this juncture that so much was crammed in to one day because Neal realised when we were 7hours into Northland that we were infact flying 24 hours earlier than we all thought (fool!) and meant we had to leave at 6am the next day! oopsy! we spent that night at Kylies dad's farm which was great.
The next day we set off at 6am and made it to the airport with about 2minutes to spare and commenced our 17hour epic journey to Thailand, Bangkok.... Woohoo!
hope you are all well?