|Pahia New Zealand|
Visiting New Zealand has been for ages the number 1 on my bucket list, I always wanted to explore the North Island with all its volcanic activity as well as the glaciers, fjords and rainforest on the South Island. In 2002, my wife and I finally decided to go. I spend quite some time planning our trip and reserved up-front all our stays through BBH, mainly in backpacker hostels. We combined our trip with a 2-day hike in Rotorua of the International Marching League as well as with visiting my aunt and her family in Christchurch.
24 - 25 February:
We started our trip on the 23rd of February and arrived in the morning of the 24th of February in Auckland. Although it was early morning, it was already quite warm in Auckland ... there we were two tired Belgians wearing winter clothes, arriving straight from the cold European winter. On top of that my suitcase did not arrive with us, so I had no other choice than to walk around for a while in my wife's pants and shirt while my clothes were washed, I can ensure you this was quite embarrassing ... Luckily my suitcase arrived in the evening but I learned a good lessons here: never put all your clothes in one suitcase but divide them over two suitcases.
After 25 hours of flights and stopovers in London and Los Angeles, we could use some exercise. We hiked the coast to coast walk - a beautiful and panoramic 16km hike taking you from the one coast to the other - from the Waitemata to the Manukau. As Auckland is built upon a field of about 50 extinct volcanoes, we had to do quite some climbing and descending.
|View from Sky Tower|
We visited two main attractions in Auckland, the Sky Tower and Kelly Tarlton's Antarctic Encounter & Underwater World. Both are definitely worth a visit. The 328 meters high Sky Tower is the tallest building in the southern hemisphere. From the 360° viewing platforms on the top, you can enjoy breathtaking views up to about 75km in each direction. We passed for the Sky Jump - a base jump by wire from the tower in a superman costume - which looked very spectacular. It also guarantees excitement and fun for the spectators as they let these daredevils hang for a while in front of the viewing platforms.
Kelly Tarlton's Antarctic Encounter & Underwater World was wonderful, visiting the penguin paradise and going through a tunnel between sharks and rays was an amazing experience.
We thought to get a good deal for a rental car on the spot but this did not work out because many people landed in Auckland for the triathlon and therefore no rental cars were available. So I ordered one for the 2nd of March and we decided to take the coach to Pahia in the meantime.
We arrived with the coach in Pahia which will be our base for the next couple of days to explore Northland. Rental car companies prohibit driving on dirt roads and as there are many dirt roads in this area, it turned out not to be a bad thing that we did not have our rental car yet. We stayed in a self contained cabin in the backpacker hostel we booked. We also learned that we didn't have to take so much luggage as nearly every backpacker hostel is equipped with a washing machine.
On the 27th we spend nearly the whole day on a catamaran around the Bay of Islands. We sailed into the Hole in the Rock and went swimming with dolphins on the way. What a unique experience! We had a picnic on one of the uninhabited islands. If you bring your tent you can also spend the night here by putting a small donation in the box on the island. Don't forget to bring enough food and water as there are no shops at all on the island.
|Te Paki Sand Dunes Pahia New Zealand|
On the 28th, we left very early and took a coach to the northernmost point of Northland, Cape Reinga. We made a stop in Puketi Forest to admire a native tree, the kauri. These trees can become up to 1500 years old.
In Cape Reinga, the Pacific sea and the Tasman sea flow together. We were lucky to have a calm sea cause during a storm the waves become easily ten meters high. We had to wait a little for low tide, so the coach could drive through the Te Paki river. We had a lot of fun sliding down the Te Paki sand dunes with a toboggan.
|90 mile beach New Zealand|
After the toboggan fun, we continued our trip to 90 mile beach. Driving with a speed of 100 kilometers an hour over the beach next to the Tasman Sea is quite a trill. On 90 mile beach, our driver taught us how to catch shellfish with your bare feet: stand with your back towards the sea, heels up and once the waves come in put your heels in the sand. Indeed most of the time there was one under our feet. This way we ensured a huge delicious shellfish dinner for our driver :-)
|Ancient Kauri Kingdom|
On the way back, we visited Ancient Kauri Kingdom in Kaitaia. Here you can find lots of handmade wooden objects made from kauri trees which were excavated out of the swamps, where they were buried for more than 50.000 years. You can buy a complete dining room, a bench ... as everything was extremely expensive we were satisfied with buying 2 wooden egg cups. We ended this wonderful day in Northland by buying some delicious fruit in Kerikeri.
On 1st of march we visited Russell, the first capital of New Zealand which had a very bad reputation caused by drunken sailors, whalers, escaped convicts and prostitutes and was therefore nicknamed "The hell-hole of the Pacific". Because of this bad reputation Auckland became the next capital, followed afterwards by Wellington.
In the afternoon we visited the Treaty House where on February 6th, 1840 the treaty was signed between the Maori chiefs and the local representative of the British Crown. You can visit here the Maori Meeting House and the largest Maori war canoe. A recommended hiking trail in this area is the hiking trail which goes from the car park through the mangroves to the Harura Falls.
Tomorrow we will take the coach back to Auckland and pick up our rental car after which we will drive southwards.
About the Author: Roger Renders is on retirement, loves hiking and has done more than 75 multi-day International walks from the International Marching League (IML) for which he was officially honored by the IML and received the title International Walker. He did multi-day hikes in many countries including Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Finland, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, England, Ireland, Switzerland and Austria.
In addition, I'm very proud to say he's my father. I for sure got my love for hiking and traveling from him. Stay tuned to read about the rest of his trip on the North Island in a next guest post.
Freya Renders - Holiday Nomad