With all that’s happened over the past few weeks, I haven’t really had a chance to write anything at all about our recent adventure in NZ. We arrived back in Nam, 2 months ago, jumped straight back into a new school year, with all the bullshit and politics that entails and then, in the midst of the second week had to fly urgently back to Scotland to mourn the passing of someone very dear to me. Since we got back it’s been nonstop and I have been remiss in my writing. So now that I have a few minutes, its time to relive the adventure for all to share.
For the longest time it’s be mine and my fiance’s dream to scoot down to New Zealand and check it out. Obviously being teachers in the northern hemisphere, the only opportunity have is in July; winter in a place not too far from the Antarctic! We bit the bullet, as we were never likely to be close enough that the flight would be less than 2000 bucks each. We decided on a campervan as being the best way to see the country without forking out thousands in transport… we were wrong; at least the thousands part anyway. The adventure didn’t begin at the airport as per usual. Instead it began 2 days earlier when upon checking my booking I discovered that the ever-efficient Jetstar Airways had decided to refund the entire cost of the tickets back onto our credit card. Peculiar I know, so after many phone calls and language stretching from pleasant to downright vulgar, we discovered that this lovely and competent airline had entire fucked things up. They promised it would be fixed before we got to the airport but, to our utter lack of surprise, it wasn’t and we spent the best part of an hour trying to get the equally inefficient and incompetent Vietnamese agents to sort it. All shenanigans aside we managed to get on the flight, having to pay for it a 3rd time and were on our way.
Landing in Auckland, we were greeted by the cold horizontal rain: the first of many a weather phenomenon which reminded me of Scotland. Auckland itself, like many commercial centres, had a few sights to offer but the biggest attraction for me was draught cider! After months of being in Vietnam, a country which for some insane reason doesn’t believe in the magical restorative power of fermented apple juice, I was delighted by a cold pint, regardless of the outside temperature.
Picking up our campervan the following morning, we began the real part of our adventure. We headed north out of Auckland, heading for the Paihia and Bay of Islands. We stopped off in Whangarei to raid a supermarket for supplies and continued on. 7 hours of driving in one day was about to become the norm. I realised that New Zealand was not as small as it seems, however I didn’t fully realise how long it would take to drive between places.
We spent our first night in Paihia, absolutely freezing in our little van, which thanks to the wonderful people at Wicked Campers was poorly appointed with whatever pre-loved and generally crappy bedding we could find in their ‘help yourself’ pile. Not entirely what was advertised at the time of booking, might I add. Unfortunately at this time I found out my Dad’s best friend, my godfather and all round great bloke, was very unwell.
We spent the following day exploring the Bay of Islands, which even in winter was beautiful and welcoming. The next few days we spent exploring the northern tip of NZ, all the way up to Cape Reinga, the most Northerly point, before a marathon 10 hour drive back to Auckland. After a necessary night on Auckland’s North Shore we made a Bee-line for Rotorua. You can smell Rotorua long before you see it (wind direction permitting of course). The whole town and surrounding countryside is permeated by the odour of partially rotten eggs, due to its geothermal activity. Rotorua itself is a pretty enough town, and we found cheap campsite right on a lake before heading back out to check out a Maori Thermal Village: Whakarewarewa. The tour and cultural show was definitely worth the money and though I faced more than a few Hakas on the rugby field, it was still entertaining and impressive. What was not so impressive was being ripped off on a Ta Moka (traditional Maori tattoo design), but that story doesn’t come into play until later.
After a day of exploring the thermal awesomeness of Rotorua and its surroundings we headed again south to Lake Taupo.
Taupo is one of those lovely holiday-towns that’s busy all year round. The lake itself is massive and enjoys almost as much thermal activity as Rotorua. We camped for the night, met up with a friend from work (a Kiwi, back home on holiday) and prepared our Itinerary for the next day. We were going to see Mount Doom!