At first I thought I’d boarded the wrong plane and had accidently arrived back in the UK – Masses of rolling green fields and terrain resembling the lake district only on a larger scale. However, it wasn’t long before I realised I was on the north island of New Zealand with hundreds of volcano’s (active and dormant), fantastic wild surf beaches and yes, the sun out in full force (in between the rain!).
Hiring a car, camping with the locals and staying with friends was definitely the way forward. Nice to get away from the whole backpacking crowd for a bit.
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After Kerry did an excellent job of showing me around Auckland in a couple of days and dragging me to the summit of the Rangitoto volcano, we head up to Northland to have a fantastic time catching up with the Sherriff twins, the house isolated halfway up a large hill with spectacular views of the bay. It felt like Heidi should come yodeling down the hill at any time.
From Northland to the airport to pick up my partner in crime we head to Tauranga where my adrenalin junkie friend Mike took us body boarding to refresh us at Mt. Maunganui – It certainly did the trick!
Lots of national parks, beaches, massive kauri trees, a fantastic wedding at Cape Kidnappers (not mine!), beautiful lakes, hot springs, boiling mud pools and sand dunes later, we land back at the little house on the prarie in time for a boat trip to the Poor Knights Islands to snorkel to our hearts content among a carpet of jelly fish that luckily were of the non-stinging variety!
Also in Northland we visited the Bay of Islands which provided a good base for a dive trip to the Rainbow Warrior, 30m underwater. Fantastic coral and fish with a long swim through the wreck, stopping off at an air pocket to get a lung full of the stale rusty smelling air – Nice!
The day after was spent swimming with the dolphins only by the time I got in the water the dolphins had swam off! They had obviously been pre-warned about me!
After driving nearly 2000km’s in 7 days doing all the scenic stuff, I was ready to get back on a bus in search of the adrenalin rush that NZ is famous for providing. First stop was at Waitomo where we black water rafted through a glow worm cave, very nice but not quite the thrill we were in search of. However, in Rotorua the next day we woke ourselves up by white water rafting down a grade 5 river with a 7m waterfall in the middle as the highlight!!! After this as a warm up we go straight to the airfield to put our lives in the hands of a complete stranger for a scenic flight of the surrounding area encompassing some 17 lakes. However, only paying one way we are pushed out of the plane at 12000ft, free falling for 50 seconds before the parachute hurtles you back up in the air like a reverse bungy. Loved it!!!!!! Can’t wait to do it again. What could beat that??? Ludging, that’s what! Ludging involves going down a very steep gravel hill in a 3 wheel contraption that has a breaking system that really doesn’t work very well. A very scary experience which I did not want to repeat but did! In between all this stuff we did manage a mandatory Maori cultural evening which was actually quite good. Still lots to do and see before returning to Sydney on 2nd March for Mardi gras.