I’ve nearly completed my second and final week of my trip around the North Island of New Zealand. I have loved the time I’ve spent here, travelling all the way down to Wellington in the south and back up again. I’m coming back in December to travel around the South Island and to visit Auckland, can’t wait! Have put together a video with the highlights of my trip if you should so care to watch!
As soon as I reached Wellington, the capital city of NZ, the weather took a turn for the worse. Wellington has a reputation for that kind of thing. However, it did not spoil my time there. I started by visiting the national museum ‘Te Papa’, which is is well worth a visit. It has some great social history exhibitions including a great one on immigration, as well ones on earthquakes and Maori culture. It is all free too. They also do great vegetarian sushi in the cafe! The setting is fantastic too, right on the waterfront.
I then took the cable car up to the botanical gardens and I also drove to the top of Mount Victoria, which has spectacular 360 degree views of Wellington Bay.
One of the most interesting things I did was tour the NZ parliament (free). I learn that NZ has a proportional representation system which gives smaller political parties more chance of being represented in parliament, which seems entirely sensible to me (unless it were in the UK whereby the hideous UKIP would get more seats)! I also toured the iconic ‘Beehive’ extension, added in the 1970s and designed by British architect Sir Basil Spence.
I stayed with an old university friend which in Wellington, Richard. We had a fun evening reminiscing about uni life and looking at old photos! See the photo below, we barely look older than the day we graduated 😉
One of the things I love about travelling is discovering towns and places that aren’t necessarily on the tourist trail but are interesting in their own right for what they show you about life in that country. One of these places is Whanganui.
It was meant to only be a stop on the way to getting somewhere else, but I really liked this place. Set by a wide river, it is a quiet town (most NZ towns are!) with not much traffic and leafy parks. I stumbled across a cultural festival which was a real highlight. Groups from various cultures, such as the Cook Islands, India and China were performing music, singing and dancing. It was so great to watch, particularly the Pacific Islanders dancing and singing, all very colourful!
I also got to sample some great Sri Lankan curries and got chatting to a boy about how great it is to be vegetarian! He was so happy to meet another veggie 🙂 Go veggies…!
I also got the weirdest underground elevator to the top of Durie Hill, apparently the only example of its kind in NZ! It was so old and shaky I feared for my life :-0
Taupo is situated on a large lake in central North Island. Famous too for adventure stuff like skydiving and white water rafting – neither of which I came close to indulging in.
I did however visit Huka Falls, an impressive huge torrent of water created where the Waikato River is funnelled through a narrow opening of rocks. The video at the top has some footage of the falls, here are a few photos too.
I also drove past the impressive Mount Ngauruhoe and the famous Tongariro crossing. Mount Ngauruhoe is an active volcano and apparently was the setting for Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings.
Rotorua and the geothermal highway
The geothermal highway connects Taupo to Rotorua. Along it’s entire length there are loads of geothermal sights to see. I chose to go to Wai-O-Tapu. Quite expensive to get in but well worth it. There are loads of things to see, including the famous ‘Champagne pools’, which are multi coloured pools, the colour being caused by mineral deposits from underground coming to the surface.
The whole place smells of rotten eggs (the sulphur) so takes a while to get used to that. I also saw some amazing mud pools bubbling away. I kept wondering what would happen if there was some big eruption (answer – I’d probably die). It was very interesting to walk around, there are a few photos below plus some footage in the video at the start.
Rotorua itself is a lovely little town, also on a lake. The Government Grounds house the impressive looking museum and are sacred to the Maori people.
Some thought on New Zealand
During my two weeks in NZ, I have noticed a few things about the country and the people…
- Kiwis drivers are some of the worst in the world! I’ve never seen so many overtaking attempts on windy roads. I even asked some Kiwi friends who agreed! Slow down people, what’s the hurry?
- Kiwis are also some of the friendliest people in the world. Everyone says hello, which can be disconcerting at first to an introverted Brit like me!
- There are loads & loads of German tourists here. Not sure why they love it here particularly. I even asked a German girl and she did not know why either. I’d say 50% of people in hostels are German.
- Wellington has it’s own weather system. The rest of the North Island was glorious. Wellington, not so much.
- The Coromandel Peninsula is stunning. Why it is not world famous beats me. But heh, I like it quiet so don’t tell anyone else.
- Maoris have a very proud and strong culture and they seem pretty integrated into Kiwi life, a lot more so than when I was in Australia and witnessed the dispossession of the Aborigine people.
- Kiwi food is pretty good, very fresh and the coffee is ace too!
- New Zealand has some great small towns, off the tourist trail. I’d recommend anyone to adventure further off the tourist map and see the real NZ.
- New Zealand TV – I tried it for ten minutes and gave up.
- The nature, the wildlife, the emptiness. If you want to go somewhere that is beautiful and where you can lose yourself, you couldn’t go wrong with New Zealand! And to top it off I’ll be back in December to do it all again…