A Travellerspoint blog

Paradise Island is Closer Than You Think

Actually its about 30 minutes away by ferry

sunny 28 °C

The great thing about Auckland is that it is easy to escape Auckland, without going very far away at all. There are several islands just a short ferry ride away from the Auckland central business district, and yet they feel like you are in a completely different part of the world.

One such island, one of the larger islands, and one with permanent towns and development is Waiheke island. It is pretty much my definition of paradise. Small towns, deserted beaches, well preserved wilderness, and vineyards. So many vineyards.

Joe and I met at the ferry terminal bright and early in the morning and caught the ferry. On the way, as the Auckland skyline faded into the distance I arranged with a local to rent a scooter for the day.

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We were picked up at the ferry terminal and driven into the nearest town where our scooter was waiting. After some paperwork and a small test run by Joe before I hopped on, we were on our way.

Our first stop was to Rocky Bay where we found the best ever wild camping site after a short bush walk. Upon returning to the scooter and having a small panic after having some troubles getting the motor going again, we were soon on our way. Next stop…. a vineyard. And on Waiheke island, there are plenty of vineyards to choose from. After saturating ourselves with wine (but not too much wine for Joe since he was the driver) we went on the search for a tapas place that was recommended to us by the guy at the scooter rental place. It was absolutely amazing and of course, we had more wine.

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Joe and I at the vineyard
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Palm Beach

The rest of the day was spent exploring all the roads and points and beaches of the island. Which isn't hard to do in just one day if you have a scooter. My all time favourite beach however was Palm Beach. There was a pretty rowdy party going on at one end of the beach, but at the other end it was pretty much deserted. After soaking up the sun we did some more exploration, had a picnic, and a nap at yet another beach.

On our final course of scooter assisted exploration we came to a steep hill where two people were chatting at a picnic bench. We stopped to take in the views and ended up in conversation with the others there. One of the people there was Reece, an English guy who had recently come to New Zealand on a working holiday visa. After some chatting we exchanged contact details, and Reece will become a central character in some of our later adventures.

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Posted by Jadabond 15:12 Archived in New Zealand Tagged auckland waiheke Comments (0)

Rotorua - A Geothermal Playground

sunny 25 °C

A city where steam shoots out from the cracks in the ground, mud boils, lakes are hot to the touch, and water shimmers with incredible colours. Oh, and the smell of rotten eggs. It's Rotorua.

Rotorua is one of NZ's biggest tourist draws with its unique geothermal activity, which is caused by the rotor caldera, which is one of the many volcanoes in the region.

In early December, Anne and I departed for our geothermal adventure. We drove the three hour journey to Rotorua with ease despite having printed off the google maps wrong and having to rely on the dodgy lonely planet.

As soon as we arrived we headed to a holiday park to set up our borrowed tent (as I had not had to time to pick up my magical orange tent yet), and then headed to a nearby park which had massive amounts of geothermal activity going on … all for free. Each small fenced off area would have steaming water or boiling mud or some sort of strange attraction. The rest of the evening was spent trying to sort out what to do with our time in the region with some very helpful people at the tourist information office.

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Boiling Mud
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Steaming water
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Colourful water created by the different minerals present

The next day was a full on tourist activity day. In the morning we drove out to the pretty blue and green lakes and did a circuit hike around them. The blue lake is a popular spot for jet skiing and wake boding, but the green lake is sacred and so it is not used for recreation.

After our time at the lakes we picked up another German girl, Lisa, and headed to the rainbow springs kiwi experience. This organization has a sort of petting zoo set up, but they also run a program which helps protect the threatened kiwi birds. Due to introduced predators such as stoats and dogs, most kiwi chicks do not survive to adulthood. This organization tags the birds with locators and when they seem to be sitting on a nest, the eggs will be collected and the chicks raised until they are a size that can better defend themselves. We got a tour of the area which does this, and also got to see a kiwi chick being fed. Kiwi's are much larger than I suspected them to be, with the adults being slightly bigger than a chicken. Despite how cool the conservation program was, the whole rainbow springs experience was still sort of a waste of money, and I would recommend not wasting your time and just donating some money to help save the kiwis instead.

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Blue Lake

In the evening we headed out to a Maori village for a cultural performance and meal. The meal was the traditional hang, where the meat, vegetables and stuffing are placed over hot rocks in a pit in the ground, then covered with cloth, and then covered with dirt to keep in the steam. The effect is a meal with a deep earthy flavour which is so so so delicious. The cultural performance was what you would expect with the haka and poi being performed. It was sort of tourist kitsch, but I must admit I learned heaps about Maori traditions from the performance.

The next morning I had to depart early to catch a bus back to Auckland in time to go back to work, while Anne and Lisa continued on their adventures.

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Posted by Jadabond 17:47 Archived in New Zealand Tagged rotorua Comments (0)

Operation Not Drown

Surfing at Muriwai beach

sunny 25 °C

In the coming week of working full on and not having a very interesting life, I will try to catch up on my blog of all the interesting things I did in the last month or so when I was too busy being awesome to blog about it.

My New Zealand motto is to go outside of my comfort zone more. And nothing is more outside of my comfort zone than water sports. Ok, no. Driving a motor vehicle is more outside of my comfort zone than water sports.

So anyhow. Water sports. They are outside of my comfort zone for a good reason. I failed red in swimming lessons like three times before being moved on to maroon probably mostly out of pity before failing that countless more times before my mother got fed up and took me out of swimming lessons full stop.

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Remco and Joe, probably risking their lives

I can float though. And doggy paddle. And tread water. So I reckon my chances of surviving in the water are not the worst…. I am still a stronger swimmer than, say a, paraplegic.

Anyway. I figure the best way to get better at water sports is to just throw myself in head first. Which is exactly what I did my first time surfing at Muriwai beach. I went out to the beach with Joe, Nils, Remco and Jenny. After renting our wet suits and boards we were given a quick surfing lesson on the sand by Joe before heading out to the water.

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Nils and Remco in the water
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Jenny and I after getting too tired from surfing and giving up to play in the waves

Ok, I'm just going to say it. I was not very good at surfing. I fell off heaps of times, and each time as I was under the water - not knowing up from down - I thanked God for the massive floatation device (i.e. the surf board) which was conveniently strapped to my right leg. However, I did eventually get the hang of it and managed to ride several waves on my stomach, which I probably could have stood up with, but I didn't have the courage.

It wasn't long before I was completely tired out, so Jenny and I took our boards to the beach and just splashed around in the water instead. When the others returned from the surfing we relaxed and napped on the beach before hiking up a small hill to see the gannet colony. I love the gannets….they are awesome.

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The rest of the evening was spent picniking on the beach and enjoying the incredible sunset before setting back home to Auckland. Operation not drown… a success!

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Posted by Jadabond 18:00 Archived in New Zealand Tagged muriwai Comments (0)

Bay of Islands

sunny 28 °C

After our two days spent hiking around the beautiful Cape Reinga, my friends and I parted ways. They continued on to hike another day, and I took advantage of the fact that our campsite was connected by road to the main highway to hitch a ride to the bay of islands.

My first ride was with an American couple who gave me heaps of advice regarding different hikes around New Zealand. They drove me to where the highway splits off in Awaniu. From there I only waited about 30 seconds before Craig, a Maori medical scientist pulled up in his van advertising blood donating. Craig supervises blood transfusions and helps third world countries upgrade their medical labs so we had heaps to speak about. We also had a really interesting conversation comparing how the various commonwealth countries treat their indigenous population. He drove me to Katikati where he was to do another transfusion. From Katikati about two cars passed me before two Kiwi girls on a vacation from school pulled over and offered to take me the rest of the way to Paihia - the gateway to the bay of islands.

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They dropped me at the main information centre where I could buy tickets for a yacht adventure the next day. I soon met up with James who had hitch hiked out of Auckland that day and we set about adventure number 1: find a place to set up the tent. After walking across the town several times looking for an affordable place to set up camp and either finding things too expensive or all booked up, we finally got a life saving tip which pointed us in the direction of a women who allows tourists to set up tents on her lawn for a small fee. Grateful to have a place to sleep we quickly set up camp. I am pretty much a professional at setting up this tent now. My poor tent is however, dotted with dozens of little blood spots after I quickly escaped and mosquito army and rolled the tent up on them the previous morning. Suckers.

The next day we headed out onto the water on the Gunga II which is captained by a man whose mother was born in Winnipeg. East Kildonan to be exact. The bay of islands is incredibly beautiful, but I still think the similar tourist attraction of 2000 islands in Halong Bay, Vietnam is more impressive. You decide.

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Halong Bay, Vietnam
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Bay of Islands, New Zealand

Mid way through sailing (I did not get seasick once I must add!) we stopped for a break and a chance to swim, snorkel, kayak, and explore a nearby uninhabited island. I kayaked to the island and almost made it before a wave capsized me. Also on the way back, when trying to balance two people in a once person sea kayak we also tipped over. Both times due to my "keep hair dry" instinct being stronger than my survival instinct, I managed to keep my head dry.

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The next morning we packed up and prepared to hitch hike back to Auckland. Our first ride was with Charlie from South Africa who took us to the next town and gave us heaps of tips about hitch hiking. He dropped us at a good spot, and it wasn't long until Helen and her Maori partner whose accent I could not understand despite all best efforts picked us up. They were heading to Whangarei, but dropped us in Kawakawa so we could see the famous Hundervasser toilets. After seeing Hundervasser's other work in Vienna, this was sort of novel for me. From Kawakawa, Hannah and three of her six children picked us up. Luckily I got shotgun and could speak with Hannah while James entertained the three very loud youngsters. Hannah took us to Whangarei where she was going to visit her Auntie. From there we probably only waited another two minutes before Deb and Paul from Auckland picked us up and took us all the way back to the city. Success!

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Posted by Jadabond 12:25 Archived in New Zealand Tagged paihia bay_of_islands Comments (0)

Hiking Cape Reinga

Adventure in Northland

sunny 26 °C

I have several days off in a row! And you know what that means.... Adventure time! The two days previous I worked double shifts, so left my two poor American friends in charge of sorting out the whole trip. Thank god for them and their amazing planning job! We ended up renting a car and leaving Auckland around 11am Sunday morning. I slept in the car in various awkward positions until we reached the start of our hike six hours later. The start of our hike was at Te Paki stream, well, actually the start of our hike was a 45 minute walk in from the stream but since it was a stream...and not a road... we consigned ourselves to the added time to our hike. Luckily, about fifteen minutes in, a 4x4 truck came driving down the shallow stream. We wondered... is it possible to hitch hike a stream? Well, it is. With our feet dangling off the tailgate we enjoyed a bumpy and slightly frightening ride to the start of our walk on 90 mile beach.

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Sand dunes by 90 mile beach

90 mile beach, which is actually 55 miles (88 kilometres) was a pretty each part of the hike. However, that all ended when we had to climb a small hill which had steps built into it. Steps...combined with about 30 pounds on your back, is really....really...unpleasant. I would much rather walk up an incline than walk up steps. But, I made it, after realizing just how dreadful my fitness level is. The next section of the walk consisted of walking along the ridge of the hill, where we enjoyed an incredibly beautiful sunset before reaching twilight beach... in the twilight. By the time we made it to the wild camping site at the north end of twilight beach it was already dark and we needed to pull out our headlamps in order to find the campsite, which was basically a flat piece of grass. We decided instead to camp on the sand, not realizing the horror that are sand fleas. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talitridae). I don't think they bite, but we did do a sand flea hunting expedition to clear them out of our tent before going to sleep. That evening we met a lone German who was also doing the walk, and who we adopted for the second day of our adventure.

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The next morning I woke to being boiled alive in the tent, but got to cool off with a bath in the Tasman sea. After taking our time with breakfast and packing, we began the second leg of the hike. After about an hour of walking through scrub and massive flax plants, we emerged to a desert landscape of massive sand dunes. The sand dunes eventually descended to Cape Marie Van Diemen. This is easily, one of the most beautiful places I have seen in my life. We hiked up to the lighthouse through the massive flax, and swam in the ocean on the side of the peninsula with gentler waves. After much relaxation we continued our hike. Up the sand dune. With our packs on. Challenging! However, after walking up a sand dune, you get to walk down. and that was quite a bit more fun! At lunch we converted the ever doubtful German to the magic that is peanut butter and jam sandwiches... Although they were actually peanut butter and jam tortillas, as bread would get too smushed in our bags.

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Cape Marie Van Diemen, the most beautiful place I have seen so far
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Walking to Cape Marie Van Diemen after ditching the bags
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Hiking up a sand dune is most harder than hiking down one....

After lunch we descended onto yet another beach and had to quickly climb up some rocks while the tide licked at our feet before the steep climb up to Cape Reinga. I don't think I have ever sweated so much in my life. From the top of Cape Reinga we could see the waves in the middle of the sea where the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean were meeting. And after a short break at the light house, we began the last leg of the day's journey. Down a very difficult slope, and then up the steepest climb ever. The entire time we were doing the descent, I kept thinking of the time when I was younger and I would take my grandfathers racehorse out on trail rides and my mother would be constantly worried that I would "break the horse's spindly legs." Well today I had the same fear, but it was for my own spindly legs. By the time we reached the final beach where the campsite was located, we were all completely knackered. This campsite was a DOC one, which means it had toilets and showers and a shop where one could buy beer. It also had many other campers who we were able to borrow a pot from so we could cook a huge pot of spaghetti to congratulate ourselves on completing the eight hour trek. The next day, Bryan and Jen continued onwards, while I hitch hiked out to the Bay of Islands for yet another adventure.

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Quick! Before the tide comes back...! Me trying to run and jump with 30 pounds on my back.....
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The lighthouse at Cape Reinga
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Just another of the amazing views you can get after walking up a steep hill...
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Exhausted hikers head towards camp

Posted by Jadabond 02:21 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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