North Island Journey - Day #7

21.02.2014 - Taupo - Wellington

After checking out at around 7:30AM I started the last drive on this little North Island trip. As per usual
accompanied by beautiful nature and at the start of the drive clear skies. Passing by the Tongariro
National Park, a really unusual area looking almost like a desert. In the centre of the park the three
volcanos Mount Doom / Mount Ngauruhoe from LOTR, which is actually just a side cone of Mount
Tongariro and Mount Ruapehu, which erupted just a view years ago and is still highly active.

The rest of the drive to Wellington was nice even though it was getting cloudier the closer I got to
Wellington. After putting my bags in my apartment and a quick shopping at New World to fill up the
empty fridge I drove to the Wellington Airport to return my rental car. Kinda sad, gonna miss the
sound system and having a real car with some horse power instead of the little white car barely
able to make it over 80kph and only providing a wacky sound system.

Was a really nice tour. Now I’m sure I can leave New Zealand without having the feeling to missed
out on something important. Still plenty of stuff to see if I’m gonna be back and places to stay longer at.

North Island Journey - Day #6

20.02.2014 - Rotorua - Taupo

This morning I left stinky city and arrived after an hour drive in Taupo. First thing I checked out was the
Huka Falls, I mean it's pretty easy to catch me with everything water related but this was fucking amazing.
I think I could have spent hours just staring into the water rushing by. So much detail, so many shapes,
so many colours. Incredibly beautiful! I did a one hour walk in that area and than headed off to the Aratiatia
Rapids, where I wanted to see the opening of the gates of a dam. I wanted to make it there in time for the
12pm gate opening and see how the water rushes through the narrow gorge there. Parts of what’s happing
there was also used in the Hobbit 2. To be honest I expected something more spectacular, don't get me
wrong it was still really beautiful but I was expecting MORE. Got spoiled by this country, ordinary beautiful
is suddenly not enough anymore. ;)
After I watched the water for a while I left and drove to another thermal area. They named it pretty spectacular
to catch as many tourist driving by on the SH1: 'The Craters of the Moon'. Well it was a nice 45min walk in the
sun, the weather meant it really good with me today and pleased me with temperatures around 28 degrees.
So with the sun above, no shade and the thermal heat from below it was a pretty sweaty walk. It was basically
a large field with some craters with bubbling boiling mud and holes with steam coming out.
Luckily it was not as smelly as in Rotorua!

Time to check into my motel, the last one on this trip and what can I say, I think it's the best one on my tour
battling for gold with the motel in Coromandel. If I would be able to split myself into multiple persons I could
sit on the toilet, sit in the spa and lie on the bed with having eye contact. They built some sort of pass-through
between the bathroom and the bedroom. Funky! Well, that feature was wasted on me. Still having a spa and
a shower is really cool. Not like in Rotorua where I had to shower in the spa which is not really practical and
let to some weird postures while showering.

Anyway, I just booked a boat tour on Lake Taupo which will last two hours and starts at 5pm. Till then I'm just
gonna sit here at the beach in the shade and enjoy the beautiful view over the lake with the mountain range
in the back. More when I'm back from the cruise.

Well the cruise was really nice, as usual I loved cruising on the water. The colour of the water was a clear
deep blue and green and looked very tempting to take a refreshing swim in it. We were told some stuff about
the surrounding area and the city of Taupo and of course the lakes history. If I remember it correct there are
5 still active craters on the bottom of the lake heating up the water down there to 45 degrees. The lake is
pretty massive with the size of Singapore. Not hard to imagine that this lake was formed by the last super
volcanic explosion that happened on earth by now. Luckily that happened a while ago, not really keen in
experiencing such an event.

If would like to do some relaxing vacation here on the North Island Taupo and Coromandel would be the
places to go. Good weather, nice temperatures and water, lot’s of water.

North Island Journey - Day #5

19.02.2014 - Tauranga - Rotorua

Since I have to wait for my boat cruise for an hour I thought I use the time to write a bit. I'm sitting next to
a volcanic lake surrounded by Germans. Yes, they are everywhere!
Was a really nice walk up to this point, I guess it's a good thing that it is not to hot today cause the geo
thermal activity heats up the ground a lot. I actually expected it to be way worse with the sulphur smell.
It's not that bad and barely noticeable after a while.
Next to the path I could see all sorts of boiling water coming up in small water holes or in small lakes.
Steam coming up everywhere and sometimes a stream of hot air coming my way. Since I have a huge
blister on the back of my left foot I decided to not do the hike cause it's painful enough already just walking.
The lake that I'm about to do the cruise on is really nice and I kid you not has at least fifty black swans on it.
I haven't seen that many in one place before, really beautiful!
Slowly but steady there are coming more and more people to that place waiting for the next boat tour and
I kinda get the feeling why the Germans are considered to be loud ... they are. At least when they are in
groups, definitely louder the groups of most other nations.

They talk about Schiller, Karstadt, Bananas in the DDR and how fancy the backpacks are. Now they are
leaving with the bus - suddenly … silence and the cicadas concert is getting more prominent now.

I'm gonna stop now and continue writing later.

Later ... Well it seems like the sulphur smell is way worse in Rotorua than in the volcano valley itself. Did
not expect that! Good that I'm only staying for one night. Rotorua didn't make quite that big of an impression
on me anyway. Seems like an ordinary city, the lake is 'just' nice, everything else I've seen was not interesting
enough to rectify a longer stay here. Missed the geyser though, erupts every morning at 10:30am. If I had know
that earlier I could have stopped by first before going into the valley. Well seem like I have to wait for Iceland
or Yellowstone till I see a real geyser. The lake cruise was nice, went by pretty close on some steam cones. I
could actually feel the heat from the stone, was like standing close to a fire. Quite impressive!

North Island Journey - Day #4

18.02.2014 - Hobbinton / Waitomo

First things first, even though the door to my apartment here is not round the bed here in the motel seems
to be made for Hobbits. My feet were hanging mid air all night and it's not like I'm a giant with 184cm!

Today I got up early to be at 9:00am at the Hobbinton Movie Set. It's about a one hour drive from Tauranga
and it was a good idea to do the first tour there in the morning. It was cloudy and rained on my way there
but luckily it didn't rain at all at the movie set. Driving there was a bit like being back at home in Germany,
the landscape is pretty close to the landscape where I'm from. Well Waldböckelheim sounds like it could be
in the shire and Jörg also said that it looks like the shire there. Only thing missing here were the vineyards
and the vegetation is of course a bit different but the general look and feel is pretty much the same. :)

The tour was nice but more or less what I expected. It's nice to see it but it's not really a MUST see when you
are in New Zealand. They did a pretty good job with the set and being there first in the morning has the huge
advantage to not have hundreds of tourist in your pictures. So I got some nice pictures of the set and a touch
of being back at home so all in all it was worth the trip. Don't know, maybe I'm to close to this whole movie
shizzle to be super impressed by something like that.

After the Hobbinton tour I drove to Matamata to see the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. Well the cave was pretty
cool but the tour felt really short and smaller groups would have been nice. But I guess it's the main tourist
season and they also try to make a living ... it was still really nice. The glowworms at the ceiling looked really
beautiful almost like the night sky that I love to look at so much. If I had to choose between Hobbinton and
Waitomo, Waitomo for sure is the better choice. Nature triumphs over movie set without a doubt! Next time I
would probably do all the cave tours there and not just the one.

Coming out of the cave the sun also decided to come out from behind the clouds where she was hiding the
whole day. So I had really nice weather driving back to Tauranga and I decided to deviate a bit from what
the navigation system told me to do and drove a lot over small roads with almost no cars on it. Loved it!
A convertible would have been nice for the ride back to Tauranga.

North Island Journey - Day #3

17.02.2014 - Coromandel - Tauranga

Checked out of the lovely apartment in Coromandel at nine and drove down south towards Tauranga.
Did a small detour to check out the Waiau Falls and the Kauri Grove. The waterfall was just a 3min walk
from the gravel road and had a really nice pool. Would have loved to just jump in but I guess the elderly
couple following me would have been disturbed by the look of me skinny dipping in that waterfall pool.

I drove for another 15min on the gravel road, passing some, what I can only describe as the cliché
Redneck accommodation. There were rotten cars standing next to rotten but still occupied houses, pigs
crossing the street ... just missing some Redneck weirdos with a chainsaw chasing some blond
cheerleaders. ;) I did the short Kauri walk of 45min since I wanted to do some more stuff further down the
road to Tauranga. The Kauri trees were pretty impressive and it was a nice walk through the woods
accompanied, as always here up north, by thousands of cicadas trying there best to make you leave with
a Tinnitus. On the way up to Coromandel I already experienced them after realising that the constant
buzzing sounds I was hearing while driving over a gravel road, listening to Drum and Bass was actually
coming from Cicadas flanking the street. Incredibly loud!
Since the weather was a bit unstable and I was a bit late already I skipped the hot water beach and drove
straight to Tauranga. Not the worst choice since the weather here was fantastic with around 26 degrees
and blue skies. After checking into the motel, which was ok but not great, I drove to Mount Maunganui
which is located on the tip of a peninsula in Tauranga. Oddly you have to cross through some industrial
harbour area to get to some wonderful beaches and the mountain. It took me some more time than the
stated 45min that the roundtrip should take but I couldn't resist to just sit here and there for a while watching
the waves crashing onto the rocks and enjoying the breeze and the salty taste on my lips. The beach next to
the mountain really looks fantastic, not the kind of remote beauty like in Abel Tasman or Coromandel but
really nice for a city beach.

North Island Journey - Day #2

16.02.2014 - Coromandel

I left the house at half past eight to drive up to the northern tip of the Coromandel peninsula to Fletcher
Bay. It's just a 56km drive but more than half of it via a gravel road. Since my Toyota Corolla isn't really
a 4WD it took me about 3h or so to arrive at Fletcher Bay. The road was really narrow and curvy and
one had to be careful to not slip down at the side. And again I could experience how the slow driving
Kiwi transformed into the rally driver. It's almost like the less you can see on these curvy roads and the
narrower it get's the faster they go. And so every curve is kind of a highlight cause you never know if
there is a Kiwi just trying to break a record by cutting the curve and almost ramming my car of the street.

At one point the gravel road crossed a little creek and I saw myself already going all Colt Sievers with
my Corolla but I decided that it may be better to just drive trough it instead of jumping over it.

Fletcher Bay is a really remote and beautiful place and well worth the adventures drive up there. Almost
no one is up there and so I only meet four people on the one our hike I did there. On my way back from
the hike I spent an hour sitting on a beautiful beach enjoying the waves and the breeze only sharing it
with a seagull. After I got back to the camping site where I parked there were two camper vans parked
next to my car and one had the Bavarian flag covering the rear window. The Bavarians are everywhere!

Fletcher Bay and the drive up there alone is worth the trip to Coromandel. Next time I would take a bit
more time up there and take someone with me to share that experience. Seemed almost wasted to just
be there on my own and it just doesn't sound as weird saying out loud 'that's so fucking beautiful' if
someone's next to you than just saying it to yourself.

North Island Journey - Day #1

15.02.2014 - Wellington - Auckland - Coromandel

Today my little North Island Adventure started with a flight to Auckland. Since it wasn't possible to get a
hotel from Saturday to Sunday I had to skip a visit to Auckland and drove straight up to Coromandel.
Took me about 2,5hours to get to Coromandel, driving along the Pacific Coast Highway. The weather
was fantastic so I had, even though I was driving, a fantastic view. The Coast Highway is a curvy, narrow
road only a view meters from the water. Was a lot of fun driving up there! My accommodation was really
nice on a little peninsula on a hill, so to the left and right of my room I could see the Pacific Ocean. Even
better, the moon came up behind a small mountain opposite of my apartment. So lying on my bed I could
watch the full moon rise opening for a starry night. Loved it!