new zealand north island - backpacking around the world in 333 days
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around the world in 333 days

REPORT 23 - April 2001

New Zealand - North Island

The North island of New Zealand, with its simmering volcanoes, Maori history and geothermal activity has a different set of attractions than its picturesque Southern counterpart. More populated and urban, it makes the most of its thermal activity and its other major draw card, Auckland, makes sure that all roads lead north. We set off in our campervan to explore the natural wonders and see if the spurting geysers and thermal pools could match the mountains and lakes of the South island.

New Zealand has a lot of lakes, the focal point of seemingly every inland town. If it's not by the sea or near a lake, the Kiwi's just don't think it fit for residence. Some of the lakes are amazingly scenic, landscapes and colours that would stand out on any artists easel, but we were eager to leave behind the one lake towns of the South island. Our first stop, Taupo, which boasts the largest lake in New Zealand, earned only groans but we were soon pacified by the breathtaking Huka Falls (Maori for white water). Caused by the Waikot River channelling through a narrow gorge, the power of the falls is amazing and surely only Harrison Ford could escape a drop into the spiralling currents and white water below.

From one natural wonder to the next and impressively eerie Craters of the Moon were only a 2-minute drive away. An explosion caused this steam filled landscape when the drilling of a borehole caused several acres of land to collapse. As we entered, we thought we heard a witch cackle in the distance. Smouldering craters hissed and boiled and the smell of the rising steams was surely a spell gone wrong. The steam rising off nearly every innocuous patch of grass warned of the danger that lay beneath us; eruptions can happen at any time and we left in awe of Mother Nature.

Our campervan quickly sped us up to the tiny village of Waitimo, which while offering no lake or thermal attractions is still a large cross on the tourist map. For over 100 years, it has been offering guided tours of its rambling network of caves to see their bioluminescent residents, glow-worms. We stopped off for the night and decided to go off in search of some glow-worms (actually flies) in the dense forest. Torch in hand, huddled together, we followed the footpath to the banks of the river and switched the torch off. Like the plugging in of the Christmas tree lights, the darkness was illuminated by thousands of tiny blue specks; suddenly the night sky had fallen all around us. We went on the guided tour of the caves the next day, but it lacked the adventurous edge of our nighttime escapades.

Adventure abound in Rotorua, the heart of the North islands thermal activity and will always be set in our minds for the putrid sulphur smell that greeted us on our arrival! We visited the tongue twisting Whakarewarewa thermal village, a Maori village still being lived in today. They use to utilise the steam and boiling pools for everything from bathing to cooking, but now only really serves as a tourist attraction as modern technology has left even Mother Nature obsolete. Apart from the boiling mud pools and spurting geyser, the highlight of the village was the performance of the 'Hakka', the traditional war dance made famous by the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team. It was scary stuff as they rolled their eyes and stuck out their tongues at us while chanting and dancing, we were nearly ready to run away!

We left the smell behind and 1300km later we finally made it to Auckland. The campervan was still in one piece and we now know the words to all the Beatles number ones due to having only 1 tape to play for the whole journey. We knew when we had hit Auckland; we suddenly found ourselves on a road resembling a motorway and the sky tower soaring from the skyscrapers left us in no doubt. Just like Sydney, Auckland stands out as being a very big city in a country of small towns. The 'City of Sails' lives up to its name - the harbour filled with hundreds of yachts waiting to be set free to roam the seas. Auckland may be lacking in major sights, but it has all the shops and services to show that New Zealand has the cosmopolitan to go with the charm.

The Harbour city was our last stop in New Zealand and we were hesitant to leave an unexpected 'paradise found', but more than ready to swap the meagre living quarters of our campervan for a beach and a hotel room. Hiring the campervan made a big difference, giving us freedom to go where we wanted and at our own pace. A totally amazing and beautiful country, New Zealand surprised us with its variety of attractions and its mind-boggling scenery. We had not enjoyed the North Island quite so much as the South, but possibly because we did not give it as much time. Action packed and easy on the wallet, New Zealand is very easily overlooked, but not so easily forgotten.

Jon & liz
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Auckland Sky Tower

The Craters of the Moon

Lizzie and a Smoking Crater

Huka Falls

Whakarewarewa Village

more pictures below

The Beginning 14 - THAILAND Bangkok
01 - INDIA Delhi 15 - THAILAND Bridge Over the River Kwai
02 - INDIA Agra Taj Mahal 16 - THAILAND Chang Mai - The Long Necks
03 - INDIA Jaipur 17 - AUSTRALIA Kakadu National Park
04 - INDIA Camel Safari 18 - AUSTRALIA Ayers Rock
05 - INDIA Mount Abu 19 - AUSTRALIA Great barrier Reef
06 - INDIA Goa 20 - AUSTRALIA Fraser Island
07 - INDIA Mumbai (Bombay) 21 - AUSTRALIA Sydney
08 - HONG KONG 22 - NEW ZEALAND South Island
09 - PHILIPPINES Boracay & Panglao Island 23 - NEW ZEALAND North Island
10 - PHILIPPINES Bohol Chocolate Hills 24 - USA Hawaii Oahu Island
11 - PHILIPPINES Banaue Rice Terraces 25 - USA San Francisco
12 - MALAYSIA Kuala Lumpur 26 - USA Washington DC
13 - MALAYSIA Penang, Georgetown 27 - USA New York
  28 - UK - THE END
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Produced by John Bentham - Copyright 2000/01 Jonathan Enoch & Elizabeth Wigg / John Bentham

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Lizzie and Glow Worms

The Haka War Dance