New Zealand was quite the whirlwind… we had just five days to explore as much as possible and kept to the North Island to visit friends and family that live in the country. We began our adventure by hiring a car (as the kiwi’s would say) and heading down the coast to see the most of the country.
We hiked beautiful mountains, explored vast beaches, trekked awe-inspiring thermal landscape and found more than our fair share of sheep… and more sheep… and then even more sheep!
Day 1: Auckland, Coramandel and Bay of Plenty.
On this leg of our trip we adjusted to the serene and (quite deserted) lush landscape by driving mile after mile through the most spectacular green hills. When we reached the coast, we walked the beaches of two beautiful coastlines.
One specific area was called ‘Hot Water Beach’ which had warm water just below the surface of the sand that was fueled by nearby thermal activity — it’s quite the contrast to the freezing waters found here. Unfortunately it was high tide when we visited and we weren’t able to dig down deep enough to reach the warm goodness (it’s really quite a funny site when you come across the beach for the first time — tons and tons of people in their own little holes, butts down and legs and arms sprawling out of the mini ‘jacuzzis’).
Day 2: Rotorua
On day two we set out to raft the world’s largest commercial rafting drop in the world — and almost landed near head side up! It was spectacular despite the rough ride and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
In Rotorua we walked thermal landscape that was just spectacular — boiling water just below the surface caused bubbling mud and springs that resulted in 200+ degree sulphuric landscape with incredible colors.
Day 3: Tongariro Crossing
We crossed the most intense landscape on Day 3… we woke early (3:30am!) to begin a 19 kilometer (11 mile) trek across one of the most famous day hikes in New Zealand. We met intense lava landscape, thermal lakes, grassy plains and rainforest.
Truly phenomenal landscape… the craziest was the very top of the volcano where winds peaked at about 60 mph, you could barely walk and had to practically crawl over the peak. It was QUITE the hike – my legs were more than sore the next day!
Day 4 & 5: Wellington
We spent our last two days with friends and family in Wellington where Kevin, my husband, had cousins who were living in NZ as well as old friends from an exchange trip years ago.
The city is nicknamed ‘San Francisco 2’ because of the perfect little hills lined with neatly stacked houses and the beautiful bay. It’s a wonderful city to visit!
And of course… has it’s fair share of the sheep and farm animals! We loved these guys.
New Year’s celebrated with friends. Thank you again for listening in on our little trip — hope you are having a wonderful start of 2010! Take care.