Wonderful New Zealand
We are driving back to Auckland in bumper-to-bumper traffic, along with all the locals coming back to the city after a weekend on the beach. It is true, that time flies when you are having fun, and we are definitely having lots of fun. If this was our regular vacation, we would be now getting ready to fly back home. Instead, we are getting ready to explore Australia.
God is watching over us, and protecting us. We had plan to go to Japan, and even looked into starting there. We might have been in a lot of trouble. After the earthquake and Tsunami we decided we are not going there. We are sad that we won’t go this time, but we are sure we will one day. Our hearts go out to people in Japan. We are now spending an extra week in Australia and 9 days in the Philippines.
Our New Zealand adventure was focused on the North Island, The South Island had an earthquake earlier this month, and therefore, we decided to stay here. We heard from fellow travellers that the South Island is so beautiful. We will have to come back one day and see it.
Our trip started in Auckland, the biggest city in New Zealand, even bigger that Wellington, the capital. We rented our economy car AKA 10-year-old Nissan Sunny (Sentra). Ryan’s motto was “the right side is suicide”. He kept repeating it until he got used to driving on the left. New Zealand has great information centers for tourists, they are called i-Sites, I bet Apple is not happy about that. (Ryan says my joke is not funny)
We drove for 9 days and it was not enough time, we only had a glimpse of New Zealand. We only spent 1 day in Auckland, where we did the Architectural tour recommended by Lonely Planet. We encountered some nice modern architecture especially in the Auckland University campus. Later we went to the Sky Tower, the tallest structure in the southern hemisphere. The views from above are beautiful. In looking for a cheap/safe parking garage for our uninsured rental car, we entered a $5-a-day parking Garage, not far from the center. We noticed a group of people standing around and looking at broken glass on the ground. Many cars had been broken into, and one was stolen. We quickly decided to leave and park at the $10 a day parking garage. New Zealand looks like a safe county but you always have to be careful and aware of your surroundings. It was a blessing that this happened at the beginning of the trip, because we are now more alert and we even skipped some stops when we saw broken glass on the ground.
The next stop was Bay of Island, a 5-hour drive from Auckland. We decided to stay overnight in Whangarei, pronounced “Fangarei”, here we had our first encounter with hostels, and backpackers; kind of, we luckily had the room all to ourselves. The next day we continued to Bay of Islands, where we embarked in “The Rock”, a budget overnight cruise that included day & night kayaking, fishing, swimming & a visit to one of the beautiful islands. This was the highlight of our trip. I even caught a fish that we later eat for dinner. Aboard, we meet really nice people and started experiencing backpacking at its best. People shared their journeys, most of them, travelling for months. We were sad to leave, but we had some much more to see.
We headed to Raglan a well-known surf Spot in New Zealand, but the drive was too long and we were tired, so we stop along the way in a small town called Waipu. Here we ate the best fish ‘n chips and fried rice ever! It seems like all the restaurants in New Zealand are owned by Asian people. This small “take away” AKA Take out sold everything: burgers, Chinese food, fish ‘n chips, fried chicken, ice cream, OMG. We ordered fried rice, but Ryan thought it was not going to be enough, so he ordered fish ‘n chips also. We ate the fish ‘n chips and we were really full. So we saved the fried rice and we ate it in 3 different meals, it was such a great deal!
We finally arrived in Raglan late afternoon. Ryan rented a wetsuit and a surfboard and we headed to the rocky beach. He caught some waves while I took pictures. We stayed at Solstice, an eco-retreat, It was a really cool place. They took train carriages and converted them into dorms also they sliced some of them to make independent little rooms. They also have teepees and camping sites. We had to clear the room from crickets and spiders, before going to bed.
Waitomo caves were next on the list; we had to do black water rafting at least once in our lives. The tour was interesting; Ryan and I kept waiting for the moment when the climb through the cave was going to get easier or relaxed… it didn’t. The water in the caves was freezing and the wetsuit were in such a bad shape that the water got in. Each step was nerve-racking, especially for me, while everybody was normally walking; half of my body was under water, hahaha. I guess it was a nice experience, but just not relaxing. The highlight was seeing the famous glow-worms while in the caves.
After the cave’s tour we left to Lake Taupo, the biggest lake in New Zealand. We arrived to the hostel after dark and for the first time we had to sleep with other backpackers in a dorm. The room was a mess with clothes on the floor and 20-year-old kids coming in-and-out of the room. I was getting excited about skydiving and Ryan about bungee jumping, after all Taupo is the world’s capital for extreme sport; however, weather did not collaborate with us. That was the first gloomy day we had since we arrived. We decided not to jump, and drive around the town and then drove to the botanical gardens, Huka Falls and Aratiatia rapids, all free!!! Finally a day within our budget!!!! We also visited craters of the moon a thermal area, where you can see steam coming off the ground. In the afternoon we went to a hot pools park which was very relaxing!