Monday, January 28, 2008

North Island

The Tongariro Crossing was our next stop off point after about a 300 k drive. We stayed in National Park YHA which is really a ski town but becomes a stop off point for this walk. The walk is through a volcanic area whith 3 dormant Volcanoes around it but there were numerous bangs during the day which I amn't sure were mini tremors or rocks falling. The walk was fairly testing but I stubbornly admit it was well worth it. Funnily the uphill I found to be the easier of the trek with the downhill at the end being a killer. Also got dull enough here as you couldn't see anything bar the trees and you had no idea how close you were to finishing the thing. We also spent the second night here as we were shattered from the trek. We were lucky with our weather here as after we ledft I think it was going to be called off for the next 3 days due to bad weather coming in.

The next day we headed for Rotorua via Lake Taupo. The Huka falls here were really impressive with 250,000 metres passing through the gorge every second. Here is a thermal area and this was the start of seeing thermal baths and bubbling water. First stop on this geographical journey was the Craters of the Moon park outside Taupo. They also have a Geothermal power plant here which was deadly looking.

Onto Rotorua after this but the nightlife here was not going to live up to Queenstown. It was raining the night we came in and to be honest it looked a dreary enough place by night but during the day it looked quite nice. New Zealand in general is quiet enough on the nightlife front but it more than makes up for it with their daytime activities. The next morning we headed to the Polynesian Spa first of all down by the lake. Was nice enough. We then headed for the buried village. The guide in the museum here was very good and while the walk around was good it didn't really live up to the Pompei of New Zealand. We headed to the Maori show later that night. This was fantastic. Chiefs were elected from the tourists party to pay homage to the Maori chief. It went through the steps in visitors being invited to a Maori Marae meeting house. They did the Haka and I tried to get involved. Caroline took part in the Poi swinging which are like Pom Poms. It was a great night and we got a Maoro Hangi (this is food cokked in the ground, cooked in the hot springs in our case). The follwing morning we headed for Hells gate which is another Thermal Park but much more more spectacular. Last but definitely not least was the Zorbing which is a ball filled with water that you go down the hill in. It's wild craic. You'll see videos here and I'll also add my photos later:

We headed for Mount Manganui next for a surf. It's very scenic here as well. Great surf. They're building an artificial reef here which is is costing $1.5 million. According to the local surf school this is a waste. I think it is too as the surf was good enough here as it was.

We headed for another surf spot after here too in Whangamata. Here the surf was better again. This spot is in the Coromandel. Superb area.

It was going to be painful getting to the next area after this with the bank holiday weekend in the Auckland area. In the end it took us 5 hours to get to Whangarei which was only really a transit point to the Bay of Islands.

Finally we made it to Russell via a car ferry to the Bay of Islands. This is a beautiful spot. We don't appreciate it as much after all our travel but the fact that we can appreciate it after all our travel says alot for the place. Russell was a real old looking place but it's full of yuppies as we were to discover that night at the Drifters trbute band. Russell is also the place that the British flag was chopped down by Hone Heke 4 times. More than enough to recommend a place in my book. We headed across to Paihia by Ferry to also get a look at this town. It looked a much better town and it was actually our preference but it was booked out with the weekend that was in it. We headed up to Waitangi that night for a play that re-enacts the history of New Zealand through the dialogue between a grandson and his grandfather. We also had to be welcomed into the Marae house like in Rotorua so we needed Chiefs. Me being the natural born leader I am, I was a chief. The protocol is that the Maori chief comes down to you swinging his spear and shouting like a good thing and lays a leaf before you. By you taking it you signify that you are a friend and accept his greeting. You have to real serious, almost funeral like otherwise the theory is that if he thinks you're not being respectful he'll stab you with his spear or nowadays he'll swing the spear close enough to your face taking off your grin and anything else if he miscalculates. Also this was where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed which is the basis of Maori and Europeans living together. As usual the British are at their tricks. The Maoris believe that they gave away governance while the British believe they signed away Sovereignty. Having said that the Maoris are much better respected here than the Indigenous in Australia.

The Trounson Kauri forest was our next stop to do a night walk to see Kiwi. It was absolutely amazing. The Kiwis are amazing but they make enough noise. It;'s easy to see how they're endangered. They're being wiped out by introduced wildlife though which includes the Australian possum. These were introduced to export the fur trade to NZ. As with the introduced rabbits in Australia they're wiping out the wildlife/Environment. Also the problem with the Possum is that they breed like rabbits and have no predators. This is outside Dargaville. The tour is very good here but the people providing the accomodation are a rare breed who I wouldn't mind seeing on the endangered list.

I'm in Auckland now and am due to fly back to the Gold Coast in Australia tomorrow. I'll miss New Zealand. The people here were fantastic and were much more friendly than Sydneysiders. We'll see if that extends to other parts of Australia. Hopefully not as the West Coast and Melbourne had great people. Here are some more photos.

Rotorua, Bay of Islands

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