Goodbye New Zealand

Photo above taken on our last day in Auckland, New Zealand.  The sun was shining warmly and spring was in the air.  November 2002.

Never in my life had I not wanted to leave a place and return home than during my two weeks in New Zealand.  The pure beauty and laid-back, carefree life of New Zealand was effecting me in an utterly positive way.  Going back was not only depressing but a dreadful thought.  For it was the start of a long, cold Minnesota winter and worse yet, I was heading back to perhaps the worst job I’ve ever had in my life.  Even more depressing of a thought!

Have you ever had a job that was so miserable that you could barely crawl out of bed each morning?  A job that left you in tears as you walked out the door?  That was the job I had back at home and the last job I have on my resume before becoming a full-time mom. It was one of those awful situations in which I was tainted forever about working for small companies.  I am thankful every day that I don’t have to go there and try to erase the entire experience out of my memory.

Anyway, if I could go back to New Zealand I would be sure to visit a few key areas that I never had a chance to see:  Cook Mountain, Abel Tasman National Park and of course I’d do the Tongariro Crossing.  Since the world is such a big place and there remains so many other interesting countries to visit, I don’t know when I’ll be back.  But someday I will!

Stay tuned…countdown to Guatemala is now five days.  I will be flying to Guatemala City and taking a bus (I am hoping now a “Chicken Bus”!) to Xela in the highlands.  I am doing a home stay, taking Spanish classes in the morning and volunteering “up the mountain” in the afternoons at an indigenous school.  I am also really looking forward to meeting fellow WordPress blogger Lucy Brown of LocaMotion!  See what happens when you blog!  Friends around the world and if you are lucky, you can even meet them in person!

If you don’t hear much here on this blog, I may be using thirdeyeworld instead to do some “postcards” while I’m away.  We’ll see! 🙂


Adventure Travel New Zealand TRAVEL BY REGION

Day hike in Waimangu Volcanic Valley

With an unexpected, unplanned day ahead of us due to bad weather at the Tongariro Crossing (see earlier post), we discussed our options with our B&B hosts Peter and Grace who enthusiastically informed us of nearby Waimangu Volcanic Valley located near Rotorua.

Waimangu Volcanic Rift Valley is the hydrothermal system created on 10 June 1886 by the volcanic eruption of Mount Tarawera, on the North Island of New Zealand. It encompasses Lake Rotomahana, the former site of the Pink and White Terraces. It was the location of the Waimangu Geyser, which was active from 1901 to 1904. The valley contains Frying Pan Lake, which is the largest hot spring in the world. – Wikipedia

The world’s youngest geothermal system and the “must-do” tourist attraction in the area, Waimangu Volcanic Rift Valley is definitely a thrill to see.  There are tons of tour agents offering daily visits to the area but of course Paul and I wanted to do it on our own and chose the best way to see the area:  A hike.

We drove first to the town of Rotorua, whose abundant thermal activity makes the entire place smell like rotten eggs!  (Perhaps you get used to it when you live there!).  The town was way too touristy for my liking yet it was indeed fascinating.  Our stay was short, however, as we wanted to get a hike in and knew that most of the tourists would not be following us.

We followed the trailhead for a short hour and a half hike up and back.  There was not a soul around, the way I like to hike and the views were impressive.

Start of the hike.  

Hot steamy water.  Wouldn’t want t take a swim in there!

Interesting greenery given the location! 

View at the top of the Waimangu Volcanic Valley.

The park proved to be a great day hike.  It was my first visit to a geothermal valley and I was amazed by the lava lakes, hot volcanic streams and the unique curiosities the place.

As the afternoon skies began to clear we wished we had one more day in the area to do the Tongariro Crossing.  That night we saw it, finally, while we were eating dinner at a restaurant in Taupo.  We took a sip of our cold beer and thought…next time.

Here it is, the Tongariro Crossing in the background.

Stay tuned…one last post perhaps on New Zealand. Then I’m off on a new subject if time permits before heading off to Guatemala on March 3rd. This time I will remember to take loads of pictures! 🙂

Adventure Travel New Zealand TRAVEL BY REGION Trekking/Hiking

The tramp that wasn’t meant to be

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing in Tongariro National Park is one of New Zealand‘s most spectacular tramping tracks, and is considered the most popular one-day tramp in New Zealand.   The Tongariro National Park is a World Heritage site which has the distinction of dual status, as it has been acknowledged for both its natural and cultural significance.

The crossing passes over the volcanic terrain of the multi-cratered active volcano Mt Tongariro, passing the eastern base of Mt Ngauruhoe which can optionally be climbed as a side trip.  The 19.4 km (12.0 mi) walk is renowned for its barren yet beautiful “moon like” volcanic landscape, unusual geological features, visible volcanic activity and views of the surrounding countryside below.

-Description per Wikipedia

Photo of the Tongariro Crossing accredited to Wikipedia Commons. 

Adventure Travel New Zealand TRAVEL BY REGION Trekking/Hiking

In the North Island: A visit to Lake Taupo

Today was the day that we were heading back to Auckland to begin our exploration of New Zealand’s North Island.  We had already used up well over half of our vacation in the South Island and were reluctant to leave because we loved it so much.  The South Island of New Zealand is a magical, beautiful place that is a true outdoor enthusiast’s heaven.  We could have easily stayed there forever but of course had to get back to reality and move on.

Our flight from Christchurch to Auckland left bright and early which was a good thing because we really didn’t leave much time to spare in our itinerary.  We arrived at the airport, proceeded to gather our luggage and rental car, and then were off once again heading North to Lake Taupo, in the central north part of the island.

The drive was as beautiful and serene as we’d come to expect with New Zealand.  Honestly, we were getting quite spoiled.  Yet, the surrounding landscape of the North Island was quite different than the South Island which made it all the more pleasurable.

The major reasons behind the differing landscapes has to do how each island was formed.  The North Island was formed by volcanic activity whereas the South Island was formed by glaciers.  As you can imagine, the terrain is vastly different.  While the South Island is lined from north to south with the snow-capped mountains of the Southern Alps, the North Island is graced with extinct volcanoes, geysers, hot springs and less lush vegetation.  It is more rugged and raw while the South is more lavish, green and majestic.  The stark contrast between the two islands make it a necessity to visit them both.

The drive to Lake Taupo took a little under three hours and we timed the drive so we could play a round of golf upon our arrival.  With the exchange rate being so incredible (this was 2002 remember), we were able to play the Waikai International Golf course, rated in the top 20 in the world at the time, for only $50 each!  Although we were both out of practice, we still enjoyed the challenging course and I tried not to get too incredibly frustrated by how poorly I played.  The sky had turned gray and overcast yet at least it wasn’t raining.

We arrived at our B&B “The Loft” which was located outside the town of Taupo around seven o’clock and were pleasantly welcomed by the owners Peter and Grace.  The B&B was outstanding and by far the nicest one we had stayed at during our trip thus far.  It had only three rooms and felt more like a house than an inn.  Our hosts Peter and Grace were wonderful and a tremendous help.

By the time we got back to town for dinner it was approaching nine o’clock and we were famished.  I started to get rather agitated as I’m known to do when I don’t eat on schedule (I know, not a good habit, but my appetite is rather routine).  I was about ready to start eating my arm when the waiter casually walked over and saw my look of distress.  Instantly  a bewitching smile crossed his handsome face as well as a look of concern.  Kiwis cannot stand stress and they generally want everyone to relax and enjoy life as the Kiwis do.  So what did he do?  He turned around, left and came back with an ice cold bottle of local Sav Blanc (my favorite) and set it down on our table.  This is what he said:

You’re in New Zealand.  You’re at a great place, with a great guy.  So why don’t you just relax.  Here’s a bottle, on the house.

Then he gave me a wink and left.  Wow, I tell you, did that make my night.  I could never imagine a similar scenario playing out at home in the US.  I loved the laid-back, carefree life of many New Zealanders.  I wondered why I had fallen into that American trap of worrying too much about everything and not just letting go.  Ahh…I wish I could live in New Zealand!

We had an excellent dinner at Nannie’s, right on Lake Taupo.  The wine flowed steadily, the conversation was light and hearty and I learned a valuable lesson that night.  That sometimes it is time to stop and smell the roses.  Otherwise life will just pass you by.

Stay tuned…Next post:  Our big day!  We are scheduled to rise before dawn to do the eight-hour Tongariro Crossing hike.  It is rated one of the top hikes in New Zealand!  

Adventure Travel New Zealand TRAVEL BY REGION Trekking/Hiking