I can hardly believe that we left the UK just a week ago; since we touched down in New Zealand we haven’t stopped exploring. Each day has been crammed with new sights and experiences; from night kayaking and fishing to bathing on a hot water beach and trekking to the top of a volcanic island. We’ve driven 1,100 Kilometres, slept in five different beds, cooked in three different kitchens, got injured (Amy) and sunburned (both of us) and overall, had an amazing time – here’s the story of our first week on the road in New Zeland’s North Island.
We flew into Auckland and spent a disorientating first day and night battling exhaustion and jet-lag. It was so strange to arrive in a country which on first glance looked so similar to England but yet was so far away from home. It definitely took a while to get our heads around the fact that this was it, we’d finally escaped the rat race and made it out onto the road; we took a walk into Auckland that first evening to try and let the reality sink in.
Paihia and the Bay of Islands
On day two we hopped straight in our rental car and headed up north to the beautiful but tiny sea-side town Paihia. On the way we got our first real taste of the famous New Zealand scenery and marvelled at the lush green forests, mountains and then the turquoise ocean as we drove along the coast. We didn’t have much time in Paihia before setting out on our Rock Boat Cruise.
After an action-packed trip on the Rock Boat we drove the short distance to Kerikeri, a beautiful area crammed with orchards, farms and vineyards. There we stayed in our nicest hostel yet, set on a farm and orange orchard it came complete with pet dogs, a cat and pigs and chickens. Our stay was peaceful and relaxing; we had fresh eggs for breakfast and spent our first day there visiting waterfalls and forests. Our second day we went to Rewa’s Village, which is a reconstruction of a traditional Maori settlement and stopped at a blueberry orchard for ice-cream on our way back down to Auckland.
Auckland Take 2
Back in Auckland the sun was well and truly shinning, with temperatures reaching up to 26 degrees. We took advantage of the clear skies to gaze at the awesome view of the city from Mount Eden before catching a Maori cultural performance at the museum, which included a very ferocious Haka. We discovered that Auckland has beautiful parks as we strolled around the Pasifika festival and caught the ferry out to Rangitoto island, which was formed only 600 years ago by a volcanic eruption. We took a steep, hot climb up to the summit and were rewarded by yet more fantastic views.
We spent the last part of our first week in Tairua, where we took a walk to Cathedral Cove and finally found time to relax on Hot Water Beach, where you could bathe in 60 degree water heated by carbon dioxide from the ground. We weren’t as impressed by this as we’d hoped; given that there were hundreds of other people digging all around us with spades it kind of ruined the mood!
So what’s next? We’ll be visiting Raglan, checking out the glowworm caves in Waitomo, chilling out at the thermal springs in Rotorua, hiking the Tongoriro crossing (aka Mount Doom) and heading down to windy Wellington – stay tuned!