Hey and welcome to part 5 of the megga update.
I'm beginning to wish that I kept on top of things now!
So after leaving Patoka and making my way over the Kaweka's I made it to the foot of Tongariro National Park, and amazing place in which there are three large volcano's Ruapehu, Ngarahoe and Tongariro. I skirted along the eastern edge of the park making my way towards Turangi for the night, before walking the Tongariro Crossing (most popular day walk in NZ). The hostel I stayed in was not all that great but hey it was only serving as a bed really before I rose early the next morn to start my walk. I decided to get up really early in the morning and start the walk from the opposite end that all of the tour buses go to as I did not want to share the track with hundreds of other people. Arriving at 7am I started the steady climb up to the top of Tongariro. What a walk I first started off in thick forest on the lover slopes of the volcano before making it out into the scrub and bushy stuff. Along the way I passes the Ketetahi hot springs, belching out huge plumes of steam from stinking fumaroles, before making it to the summit. Oh boy what a sight, two huge volcano's stretching off into the distance, brilliant emerald lakes, steaming vents, red craters, WOW! Stretched before my eye's was a scene that wouldn't look foreign on the surface of Mars, or at least that's what I thought! I was incredibly lucky at this point to have the whole thing practically to myself, but as soon as the thought passed my mind hordes or people started appearing in the distance. OH no! I practically rushed up to the summit of Tongariro so that I could have the peak to myself without having to share the view with dozens of others! Well after reaching the summit and heading back down I got talking to a Swiss chap all the way down the mountain back to my car, it was great talking to him as he had just arrived from the States, so I was trying to extract as much information as possible from him!
Arriving rather tired at base I took off some rather hot clothing and changed into something a little more comfortable before making my way up to Lake Taupo, one of the main destinations on the North Island. To be honest I didn't know what all the fuss was about really, yes the views were beautiful as they are all over New Zealand, but there was not much to do in the area unless you had either a bike or a boat, of which I had neither. Well I met a nice chap called Richard from the UK and we went out for a few beers in the evening; as it turns out he was heading the same way that I was so he and I ended up travelling together for the next couple of days. After having a quick nose around Taupo I rather rashly decided that it would be a great idea to do a bungy, hurling myself off a 154ft cliff attached to a glorified rubber band! What a nutter I kept thinking, it didn't actually sink in til I was standing on the platform all strapped up and It was my time to go! I do not know how I did it I got the the edge looked straight ahead, 3...2...1...JUMP! whoosh. I distinctly remember plummeting towards the waters surface before getting dunked, WOW what an adrenalin rush, super cool. I will definitely be doing one of these again!
On our way to Rotorua we stopped off at Huka falls for a bit of a nosy, quite cool, the Waikato river, 100m wide, all of sudden gets squeezed through a gap that's about 15m wide, as you can imagine this produces some quite spectacular flows! Well after a short drive we arrived at the rather pungent town of Rotorua, famous for both its Maori culture and extensive volcanic activity in the area. Rich and I spent two days here visiting some hot springs and boiling mud pools, climbing some of the local hills and frequenting a Maori cultural show. Now these cultural shows are not normally my scene as they are ofter incredibly busy and incredibly tacky, you know they just have that 'fake' air around them. However fake it felt it was a good night, interesting to see some of the Maori dance and war chants as well as tucking into a Hangi a traditional Maori feast. One of the best things that we stumbled across was Kerosene Creek about 20 minutes south of Rotorua. It is a hot river that you can sit in, boiling in fact, it stings to get in before you get used to the temperature. Its a magnificent place, like a giant outdoor hot pool, certain parts of the river bed were too hot to even stand on!
After a couple of nights in Rotorua, I said goodbye to Richard and made my way to the Corremandel Peninsula via Mt Monganui. The drive itself was a short and easy one but it got incredibly busy when I made it into Mt Monganui, a mega popular holiday destination for Kiwi's. I stopped off for long enough in the town to walk along the beautiful beach and climb to the top of 'The Mount' for some incredible views of the coast. Not wanting to stay I continued on my journey north to the Corremandel, heading straight for the Corremandel Forest Park. The park was extensively logged for Kauri (a great Kiwi tree) in the 1800's and as such there is a great network of loggers tracks through the forest up to the 'Pinnacles' an area of mountains formed by volcanic activity millions of years ago. I made it to the park by late afternoon and on the advice of the warden I parked up and missioned it up the mountain to camp for the night before heading out to summit the Pinnacles the next morning. I was lucky enough to be gifted with beautiful weather on the way up there affording great views across the park, I could even see the coast! Unfortunately the next day the weather was not so great, a tad overcast and a spot of drizzle, miraculously though once I summited the mist cleared enough for me to see all around the park.
After summiting in the morning I rushed back down the mountain to my car, packed up and continued on my North Island whistle stop tour. I was anxious to get to Auckland and get the car on the market just in case it did not sell very fast. Well my driving tour of the Corremandel Penisula was very nice there were lots of opportunities for me to stop off along the way and take some lovely photos and just generally soak up the view. I did stop off along the way at Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove. Unfortunately I was not going to be around at the right time to truly enjoy Hot Water Beach; this place is amazing, you literally take a shovel and dig a huge hole in the sand at a certain point and hey presto HOT TUB! Speaking to people who did get a chance to go in, they said that the spring water was SO hot they were having to get cold seawater to cool it down! Why oh why can't England have some super cool places like this, its just not fair! Well after packing up here I headed towards Auckland, camping for the night on a quiet roadside adjacent to a tidal flat. I was graced by a beautiful sunset which I thought was a lovely symbol for my last ever night in the dove wagon.
Well I wanted to avoid the Auckland rush hours so I set off at about 10 to make my way into the city. I was not really looking forward to this bit as I knew that I would be incredibly bored in Auckland; the 'city' is quite literally just one street, Queen St. I checked into a rather nice hostel with very comfortable beds and set about getting the car ready, clearing it out, washing and hoovering it, packing all of my stuff away; this as you can imagine took a considerable amount of time. Cutting a long and boring story short, the car sold in only 2 days, for a profit too, I was cuffed! It could not have gone any better, well it could of, the guy could of offered me a stupid sum of money for the car ;) ! With all this fresh 'dosh' in my hand I decided to book myself on abus tour of the Northern most point of NZ as this was the only part that I had yet to see.
Setting off on the bus was a strange feeling, I felt like a true grockle and I didn't like it but I got used to it. The general route of the bus took us from Auckland to Pahia/ Bay of Island, Cape Regina and back and then back to Auckland. Its like a hop on hop off system, you can stop off at any point for as long as you wish. I decided to stay up in the Bay of Islands for longer as I had met an American and Dutch guy up there and we were having a laugh. It was a pretty cool trip, I was able to see some massive Kauri trees, hugh sand dunes (which we boarded down!), Cape Regina (where the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea meet, you can actually see this!) and the Bay on a kayak. The Bay of Islands is also home to Waitangi, which is a very important place in NZ history, it is were we Brits signed a treaty with the Maori Chieftains declaring sovereignty over the lands in exchange for protection and British citizenship for the Maori tribes. As you can imagine it didn't quite go to plan and there are still troubles and debates about the legality of the Crowns claims to this day. It was a great last few days in which to end my trip!
On the the way back to Auckland I also met up with a guy called Dave Jewel who I used to go to middle school with years ago, I ended up staying at his place for a couple of days which was great. It was nice to catch up with some familiar faces. The funny thing about this meet is that Dave and I both left the British Isles on exactly the same date, but we took slightly different routes.
Well heading back to Auckland I had a fairly uneventful last two days before getting on my flight; now here is where the story does get a little more interesting! So I arrived at the airport fairly early as I wanted to check in and get myself a good seat in the aisle over the wings. Well it turns out that my travel company - STA - had indeed changed my flight but they'd only made a reservation for my place and not actually produced a ticket! This meant that Air New Zealand were unwilling to let me board! Boy was I fuming, and to make it worse STA travel UK were closed, so I couldn't get a ticket number. STA travel UK open at 09:00 GMT, check in closed at 22:15 GMT +13, this meant that I had 15 minutes in which to call STA get a ticket number, check in, go through security and board! PHWAR! Guess what I made it! What an end to an eventful chapter that was NEW ZEALAND; good bye!
See you next time from the United States of America!