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16 March, 2013

The North Island, Taupo to Wellington

Marlborough Sounds Cook Strait
Marlborough Sounds
From Taupo to Wellington, a post - based upon his travel diary - by Roger Renders:
After our trip from Auckland to Pahia, we returned to Auckland to pick up our rental car and continued to explore the North Island of New Zealand. I got quickly used to driving on the left side of the road although I often found myself on the wrong side of the car to get in. We arrived in Taupo on 2nd of March 2002 together with the arrival of the Iron Man. We stayed in a hostel about 200 meters from Lake Taupo, a huge lake in a caldera created by a massive volcanic eruption more than 25.000 years ago. From the rooftop bar we had a stunning view on Mount Tongariro behind the lake. 


Craters of the Moon Taupo
Craters of the Moon
On the 3rd of March we drove to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves in Otorohanga . We first went on a guided tour in the caves admiring the limestone formations after which we took the boat ride through the Glowworm Cave. This was truly an amazing experience, a boat ride in the complete darkness under thousands of glow worms, it looked like a beautiful bright night full of stars. Next we went to the Kiwi House in Otorohanga, in a special nocturnal enclosures we saw for the first time the national bird, the Kiwi. We also saw lots of other native birds in a huge aviary. Walking through this dome aviary felt like walking through a forest, very impressive. We also saw for the first time a Tuatara, a reptile that looks like a small dinosaur. 

On 4th of March we walked from Taupo to Wairakei Park. We first took a rest on the Hot Water Stream where the thermal water from the mountains flows into the Waikato River. When you go into the water, you can enjoy the mix of hot thermal water and cold river water. We continued our walk and had a picnic at the impressive Huka Falls, just the two of us and lots of sparrows waiting to be served :-) Afterwards we walked to the famous Craters of the Moon where we did a geothermal hike, an unique experience. 

Ngauruhoe Summit Togariro Crossing
Ngauruhoe Summit
We had a very early start the next day and took the bus to the starting point of the Togariro Crossing armed with four layers of clothing, raincoats, sunscreen, hat, food and water for the whole day. Before we started our hike, we had to put our names on a list. This is general practise for every Bush Walk or Mountain Hike, once you return you have to sign off on the list again so they know whether they need to start a search in case someone did not return on time. They dropped us near the Mangatepopo Hut where we started our 6 to 7 hour long hike by walking next to a little stream that we had to cross a couple of times. We took a small detour to visit the Soda Springs, once back on the trail we climbed the South Crater. The climb was steeper and much harder than we expected. The walk through the South Crater was comparable to crossing a desert. Once we made it out the Crater, we continued our way to the next one ... a beautiful vision ... the Red Crater. You can hike to the summit of Mount Tongariro here which will take you approximately 1h30 extra. 

We ate our lunch while having a stunning view on several lakes in different colours, green, blue, champagne colour ... The descent was quite hard as our shoes kept disappearing in a thick layer of ash. Everywhere around us steam came out of the ground and the smell of sulphur was always present. After a four hour descent, the last part through a forest, we made it to the end of the trail. We checked out and took the first bus back. In the evening we went to the roof top bar of our hostel to have a beer and looked back at an exhausting but magnificent day. On 6th of March we had a very relaxing day, walked around a bit in the town, went for a nice dinner and of course we went again to the roof top bar for some beers. 


Rotorua Lake NZ
Rotorua Lake
On the 7th of March, we arrived in Rotorua, Sulphur City. We walked to Lake Rotorua and Ohinemutu. We also visited the beautiful Maori Church, through the glass window you have a nice view on the lake. We continued with visiting Te Whakarewarewa thermal reserve and a small artisan Maori village where we admired the beautiful wood sculptures. 

The next day we visited Wai-o-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, all its different colours made this the most beautiful thermal area we have seen so far. The Lady Knox Geyser erupts daily at 10:15 exact ... with the help of a little soda ... they discovered this by chance when former prisoners washed their clothes over there. We also visited Tamaki Maori Village where we got a traditional welcome, followed by a walk through the forest where we watched artisans at work. In the evening we enjoyed a wonderful concert and the Hangi, a traditional Maori meal prepared on hot stones. 

The last two days of our stay in Rotorua, we took part in the two-day International Walk of the International Marching League (IML). At 8:00 am in the morning, we were ready to start our 20 km Bush Walk. We started in Whakarewarewa State Forest Park where we walked through ferns of 15 meters high. There are also lots of Canadian Redwood trees of 65 meters high, these trees get even much higher in Canada, very impressive. We kept following the track which sometimes disappeared in the forest. We took clothes with us for every weather conditions but it was very hot the whole day, luckily the forest provided some shelter against the sun. In the evening we went to the IML banquet where we enjoyed a good dinner followed by a few dances on the dance floor. 

The next day, we walked again 20 kilometers, this time the trail went through the city and its Thermal Parks. In the morning it rained a lot but around 10:00 am it stopped raining and it got really hot again. In the Thermal Park, we saw the steam rising from the ground between the trees and around the lake. People in this city live around boiling mud pools.


Cable Car Wellington NZ
The 11th of March in the morning we took the State Highway number 1 to Wellington. Wellington - the capital of New Zealand - is surrounded by steep hills and located on Cook Strait, the passage that separates the South Island and the North Island. The wind blows really hard in Wellington also known as Windy Wellington. The next day we took the cable car to the look-out over the city and walked back down. The Cable car is in service since 1902 and goes through several tunnels and even under some houses. In the afternoon we visited Te Papa, a wonderful museum in a futuristic building. Of course we also went to Cafe Leuven, where you can choose between lots of Belgian beers, Stella, Hoegaarden, Leffe, Duvel, Gueuze, Belle-Vue ... plenty of choice.


View from InterIslander NZ
View from InterIslander
On the 13th of March our visit to the North Island came to an end, we had an amazing and unique time here. Next stop will be the South Island. We took the ferry for the three hour crossing to Picton on the South Island. Once we entered Marlborough Sounds, we admired the most beautiful scenery we have ever seen ... a fjord, numerous stunning little bays, mountains ... everyone stared in awe at these beautiful nature miracles.

About the Author: 
Roger Renders - my father - 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 honoured by the IML and received the title International Walker.  

Freya - Holiday Nomad Travel and Photo Blog


  1. Replies
    1. It sure is hope to see it myself one day

  2. Beautiful photos, they all look so peaceful thanks for sharing.

  3. Beautiful photos. I'd love to go to New Zealand one day.

  4. Lovely photos! You sure got to see and do A LOT!

    Your trip sounds pretty similar to my first visit to New Zealand! We also saw the glowworm caves and the Kiwi House in Otorohanga, visited the Huka Falls and did the Geothermal Hike at Craters of the Moon! We then drove back to Auckland and flew down to Wellington before catching the boat south.
    I would have loved to do some hiking like you did but it was a family trip and my parents' weren't in good enough shape for it.
    I returned 2 years ago and did the Tongariro Crossing with my sister who has done it 6-7 times! (she lives in Auckland.) She says you can't do the full crossing now because of the recent volcanic activity. You have to turn around once you reach the lakes. Can you imagine climbing back UP to the Red Crater?! Ow!!!

    1. When I visit New Zealand, I will for sure follow the same route as well. It all looks so beautiful.


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Freya - Holiday Nomad