Travel Notes 9 - New Zealand

Travel Notes #9 - New Zealand

18 May 2005 to 4 June 2005

My last travel notes were too short and rushed, so this time I thought
I would spend a bit more time and do these better. It does help that I
don't have to watch the clock of an internet cafe while writing these.

One thing I should mention is that the YHA is not the only chain of
hostels around. There are plenty of other hostels around that may or
may not accept the "Youth Hostel Association" card. In Australia and
New Zealand the popular card is the VIP Backpackers
( Generally these cards will give you
a small discount on the prices offered. Also, if you know that you are
going to be in a place more than a couple of days you may be able to
get a discount on the price per night.

Previous notes can be found at:

and photos at:

** Auckland

My flight from Sydney to Auckland was meant to leave at 11:30 AM, but
ended up leaving an hour late. On arriving in New Zealand I found
myself a hostel to stay in, through the airport, and then took took
the airport bus to the hostel. By the time I arrived at the hostel it
must have been around 19:00, so there wasn't really time to do much. I
went to get something to eat and then walked around a little, spending
a bit of time in a bookshop that closed late.

The next day I walked around parts of Auckland, visiting the harbour,
visiting the Skytower and getting a local "pay as you go" account for
my cell phone. I returned to the hostel to find out about options of
travelling around the north island and booked myself onto an open tour
style bus, with a company called "Magic".

ACB Hostel:
Sky Tower:

** Auckland to Rotorua, via Waitomo

I checked out of the hostel and got on the bus. On the bus, we had two
guides: the first being Donna our bus driver and the second was Loran,
a trainee driver/guide who was switching routes. On the dashboard they
has a few stuffed toys, one of them being a pink sheep. The pink
sheep, known as Babara would have to be carried by anyone who was late
getting back on the bus. Once we had finished picking everyone up we
went along, with our two animated guides, to our first stop in
Waitomo. Here we went to the 'The Shearing Shed' to see angora rabbits
beings sheared and then onto the Waitomo caves.

The visit of the caves involved donning a wetsuit, gum-boots and a
helmet. Our guide for the expedition enjoyed playing pratical jokes
and was very sarcastic. Once suited up we got into a van and drove a
short way to a field. The weather that day was fairly cloudy with some
rain and it must have been around 13 degrees C. From there we picked
up some inner-tubes in a wooded section and walked on to the entrance
of the cave. The cave was in its natural state and involved wading
through water in some sections, floating on our inner-tubes and
crawling in another. There was one point where a slide was installed
and another where a ladder had been installed. One of the hilites of
the cave were the glow-worms. When the lights were turned out it
looked like we were looking at stars in the night sky.

Once we were out of the cave we returned to get changed and enjoy a
well-deserverd cup of soup.

Our next destination was Rotorua, which is considered to be the
cultural centre for the Maori and also a town which is surrounded by
hot springs. The latter leave a noticeable smell of sulphur in the
air, which is best described as that of rotting eggs. There I stayed
in the Kiwipaka YHA hostel and at around 6pm went with the group to
see a Maori concert and Hangi ( in
reproduced Maori village.

Waitomo Caves:

** Rotorua to Taupo

The next day we got back on the bus and stopped along the way to see
some bubbling hot mud pools, a geyser and then to visit the "Waiotapu
Thermal Wonderland", which is a park encompassing a number of
different hot pools.
Another stop along the way was Huka Falls, throwing over 20 000 litres
of water each second and then at Taupo Bungee to watch people throwing
themselves off of a platform with a bungee cord tied to their leg.

We also stopped to visit "Taupo: Rock and Ropes", to test our fear of
heights. The first of the two activites was the trapeeze act where you
had to climb to the top of a telegraph pole and jump for the trapeeze
swing (you were attached to a rope). I ended up just jumping to get it
over and done with, since my fear of heights was not going to let me
try to make the bar. The second activity was a giant swing, where you
were attached by the waist. You jumped off the platform and swung
until the momentum peatered out. I don't know what I was thinking when
I accepted to take part, but I did it.

Our final stop was Burkes Backpackers, my accomadation for the night.
Later that evening I went with other people who were on the bus to a
local bar to drink and celebrate someone's birthday. (Note: on the bus
we had all put some money into a bag and whoever's name was pulled out
of the hat, that night would be their birthday and the money would be
used as their drinks tab and they could not buy anyone else any
drinks). Afterwards we spent the rest of the night at the night club
next door drinking and partying.

The next day I decided to stay a Taupo, hoping that I would be able to
walk across the crater. The only problem is that the weather was bad
and the group that I could have gone with said that they weren't going
because of it. So that day I ended up not doing too much. Some other
people on the bus had stayed another hoping that they would be able to
go sky-diving, but because of the weather it was a no-go for them.

Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland:
Lake Taupo:
Taupo Bungee:

** Taupo to Hunterville

The next day I got back on the bus with a different group of people
and got off at Hunterville. Hunterville wasn't a regular stop, but I
got off their because I had cousins living in the area.

The next few days were spent on the farm with my cousins. While I was
there I got to see the land and helped out a bit. The time at which I
was there they were waiting to shear the sheep, but because the
weather had been damp prior to my arrival they had to wait for the
sheep to dry - the shearers won't shear wet sheep.

** Hunterville to Wellington

On the last day that I was there the sheep were in to be sheared, so I
got to see the process. I would have seen more, but I had been told by
the tour company that the bus was arriving at around 11am, when in
reality it was more around 4pm - I ended finding that out when the bus
didn't turn up. I spent the time waiting speaking with the owner of
the local ice-cream and smoothie store and trying some smoothie

When the bus arrived I got on. It was quieter than the other buses,
partly because there were far fewer people and partly because this bus
was coming from Rotorua, which made for a longer day. The bus driver
was there with his wife - a German woman, and they had met while she
was backpacking around New Zealand.

When we arrived in Wellington, late in the evening I checked into the
Base backpackers hostel. Because the Kiwi Experience bus (another
backpacker tour company) had just arrived I found myself having to
wait a little before I could get my key and get to my room.

** Wellington

I had originally planned to stay in Wellington two days, but because
of me missing my bus and then having no bus the next day, I ended up
spending four days there.

The first days in Wellington was spent visiting the Te Papa museum -
free entry :) . This covered everything from Maori culture, to the
treaty the British Crown signed with the Maoris, to naturual history
and modern design. That night I decided that there wasn't much else to
do, so I went to the cinema and watched Star Wars Ep. 3.

The next day I walked around Wellington and also went up to check the
observatory. In the evening I went to look through the telescope,
where I got to see Alpha Centuri, Jupiter and a nebular. I should note
that most of what I could see was very faint, or small, and nothing
like you would see in a copy of National Geographic.

The day after I walked up Mt. Victoria (a mini mountain) to see some
views of the city, in spite of the constant drizzel. Having met
someone else who was also trying to get some good photos, we walked
towards the otherside of Wellington to take some photos near the
airport. The return trip along the coast proved to take longer than
going up the mountain and crossing over, so it was already getting
dark by the time I got back the hostel (maybe around 6:30pm). That
evening I went for a drink with some of the other people sharing my
dorm room.

My last day in Wellington was rather uneventful. I took the time to go
write some notes and postcards over coffee.

Te Papa:

** Wellington to Napier

Finally I managed to get going again, taking the bus from Wellingto to
Napier. Along the way we stopped off as Mt Bruce Wildlife Centre to
view the Kiwi and see the Tuatara, of which we didn't see the latter
since it was probably a bit too chilly for it, since the temperature
felt like it was around 6 degrees centigrade.

Our next destination was the town of Napier, where we would spend the
night. This town had to be rebuilt after an earthquake in the 1930s
and is now referred to as "The Art Deco capital of the World". The
hostel I stayed in was called " Napier Prison Backpackers", since it
was an old prison that has now been converted to serve as a hostel. In
the afternoon I went to take some photos along the beach and had
something to eat. In the evening I made myself something to eat in the
kitchen at the hostel.


** Napier to Mt Maunganui, via Taupo and Rotorua

Taking the bus again we stopped off at Taupo Bungee, so one of the
people on the bus could go for a bungee jump. We then stopped of at
Rotorua where some of us went Zorbing. Zorbing involves getting into a
big rubber ball and going down hill. The version I tried was
hydro-zorbing where the ball is filled with a small amount of water to
reduce friction and then you roll around as it went down a zig-zag
track - fun :)

After that we went to Mount Maunganui, on the northen coast of the
north island. I did not doing anything there that night, except eat,
watch a film and then go to bed.


** Mt Maunganui to Auckland, via Thames

The bus takes us along the road to Thames, where we stop for an hour
and do our own thing. The main reason the bus stops here is to connect
with the bus, which came down from the area north of there.

We arrived in Auckland and I checked into The Fat Camel hostel. I
spent the remaining time in town doing a little more sight seeing,
visiting the Auckland museum and even an Auckland to Suva (in Fiji)
yacht race getting ready to leave ( )

I took the plane from Auckland to Nadi, in Fiji, on the 4 June.

Fat Camel:
Auckland Museum:

written 1 July 2005, while in Vancouver