This post was originally done as a guest post for www.processingthelife.com but I thought I would share it on my own blog as well.. Hope you like it!
Having spent the last seven months in my beloved Thailand, I flew to Auckland, New Zealand where I would spend the next seven weeks. This was all part of my travelling plan but when I first got there I hated it! I had left behind some good friends and my gosh it was so cold. I hadn’t worn any winter clothes, let alone proper shoes, since leaving the UK in the January. I knew I would feel better in a few days but for the first few days I couldn’t muster even the smallest smile and I mooched about in a state of self-pity! I was missing the friends, that I had made in Thailand, the weather, the culture, everything about it- I just felt a little lost and lonely.
However, that feeling changed when I booked myself onto a “Magic Bus” tour. This bus takes you round the whole country, you can get on and off where and when you want, and get picked up again from where you are to continue your trip, and you see loads of cool stuff. There are different tours you can go on, but I chose the one that took me round the whole of the north and south islands. And depending on what you want to do and where you want to go, you can either stick with the same bus or, if you want to spend more than one night in a place, you get picked up by the next bus on the same journey.
And it is a great way to meet like-minded people. You naturally start talking to people and I made friends with a few good people and we had a lot of fun together.
So my little tour began-
The first destination was Rotorua, which is about 230 km southeast from Auckland and it is a major tourist destination, due to its geothermal activity- including Lady Knox Geyser, and several hot mud pools that bubble away amidst a very steamy atmosphere. And because of the hydrogen sulphide emissions Rotorua is also called “Sulphur City”- it smells of rotten eggs everywhere you go.
Along the way the bus stops off at various places and, on the way to Rotorua, I watched someone do a bungee jump. Kirsty, one of the girls I met, tried it- she got all the way to the edge of the platform and couldn’t do it. It does look amazing, especially when you get dunked in the water below, but throwing yourself off a platform, with an 80 foot drop below is not my idea of fun.
I went to visit Tamaki Maori Village where I was treated to a Maori culture show, a traditional Hangi feast and a walk around the village to learn about Maori art forms, traditions and ways of life. The men also did the “Haka”, which is an ancient war dance, something that the All Blacks rugby team begin a match with.
The next stop was Lake Taupo and here I visited the fast, powerful and beautifully coloured Huka Falls. Later we took our bus driver, Terry, for a few beers at the local pub. I don’t know why I chose this night to have a few beers and not get to bed until 1.30am, when I had to be up at 5.30am the next day to hike across an active volcano.
So 5.30am the next day, feeling a little hung-over, I started on the hike across Mount Tongariro- Mount Tongariro is in Tongariro National Park (New Zealand’s first national park and one of the earliest in the world). It is a beautiful volcano located in the Taupo Volcanic Zone of the north island. I had five layers of clothing on-it was that cold-and it took about eight hours to cross from Tongariro to Ngauruhoe.
The scenery is dramatic and in parts covered in snow, especially higher up, but parts, lower down the mountain, had running mountain springs and plants that were growing up out of the melted snow.
I climbed up the side of
Mount Doom which, for Lord of the Rings fans, is very, very cool! At the summit I had lunch and literally felt that I was on top of the world- it was such a sense of achievement having reached the summit- it was not an easy climb up- and the views would have been awesome but the clouds were covering the peaks of the mountains. (Literally a feeling of being on top of the world)
The way down was rather amusing as the slope was steep and the easiest way was to inch your way down, much like when you’re on skis, but on that particular slope the ground was covered in hot rocks, rather than snow and they were really slippy- the only way down was to slide down on my backside! Anyway, I slid, fell on my arse, ended up in a heap with five other people and none of us could move because we would have all slid down the mountain. We eventually made it to the bottom, not without some hysterical laughter on the way down.
I went to Wellington- the capital of New Zealand- where I had a great night with my new friends, making it one of the best places so far. I had turned into a proper backpacker- sleeping in YHA dorms, buying my own food and staying in! We went out to supermarket and we (we being- myself, James, Sheena, Nicholas and Annette- a few friends I had made on the
way) made a lovely spaghetti bolognaise and happily chatted about our travels so far. I had been living like a princess in Thailand, staying in hotels, eating out every night but no longer could I afford such luxury-nor did I want to because some of the best times you have are the most simple ones.