Day 1 heading south from Auckland was an early start (8am) but we kicked it off the right way with a Macca’s breakfast. There were about 100 people waiting for the coach, so Jack and I were trying to suss everyone out and make a mental note of the people to avoid – many of these we actually ended up getting along with 😂. Everyone was really friendly and wanted to chat which was great. The bus drive wasn’t that far and we arrived in Hot water beach around lunchtime with a stop at the supermarket on the way. This was our first introduction to pak n save – the ultimate supermarket with super low prices. Jack bought a six pack of beers for about £7. The accommodation was at a holiday park and we were given the option of either dorms or glamping. We obviously chose glamping and were allocated a teepee type tent which was so comfy. Hot water beach is known for its natural hot springs at the beach. Around low tide, everyone flocks to the beach to dig holes which create personal hot tubs. The water was sooooo hot so we didn’t actually end up sitting for long and ran into the freezing sea. After drying off, we headed to Cathedral Cove (a really pretty beach setting with a cove perfect for pics) on an hour walk with our new roommates. The walk is so up and down, with some really steep bits, and was pretty tough in the heat but some great exercise. After cooking up some pasta (a backpackers fave), we had a few beers and watched the live band on the lawn. It was such a cute evening and a great way to start the trip.
The good thing about the kiwi bus is that most days involve a morning walk to stretch our legs and also do something free. Today’s walk was at Karangahake Gorge (an old, disused gold mine) which involved wobbly rope bridges and caves. After the walk, we headed to Waitomo. Waitomo is famous for its caving system and gloworms so we signed up for black water rafting. Our driver guide, Kyle, did explain the tour but we weren’t entirely sure what we had signed up to until we were there pulling on wetsuits, wellies and jackets. The tour was amazing and well worth the money. It mainly involved floating through the caves on inflated tyre tubes, jumping off small waterfalls into the rings and looking up for gloworms. We had a great group which helped forget how cold the water actually was (I was grateful for the hot shower after). I’m still yet to get the photos so you’ll have to trust me on this one and have a go. We didn’t get back till around 7pm so a microwave meal was perfect. We then headed to the bar to catch up with the rest of the tour – as you can probably tell by now, there is quite a bit of boozing involved. I’ve given myself an alcohol ban every 5th day (although this week it was day 6 😂). Our accommodation was so nice and had 4 beds and 2 floors (2 beds on each floor so it was practically a private room).
Again, we started the day with a walk called the Ruakuri walk, involving waterfalls and caves. It was a pretty walk which took about 45 mins, but we were too excited for Hobbiton to get majorly enthusiastic. Hobbiton (the film set of the Hobbit village from Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit with my babe Martin Freeman) is such a funny place as it’s actually set in the middle of a working farm. On the hills surround the set are cows and sheep which is quite weird to see. We were given a tour of all the hobbit holes including a visit to Bag-end (Bilbo’s house), took loads of photos and even had a drink in the Green Dragon. It was expensive but was definitely worth it if you are, like me, a fan of the films. Day 3 was such a busy day as Hobbiton wasn’t our only tour of the day. We had a couple of hours of downtime and were then picked up to head to the Tamaki Maori village tour. We were shown traditional games, learnt about the culture and watched some of the guys learn the Hakka. Part of the tour included a pre dinner show. This was so good and amazing to see all the traditional songs (and how the Hakka should actually be done). Dinner was also a highlight of the evening and probably the first time we had had a proper balanced meal in ages. The all you can eat buffet was full of chicken, lamb, fish, potatoes, sweet potatoes, veg, stuffing and most importantly gravy! Pudding almost topped it with pavlova, peaches, steamed pudding, cream and custard. What more could a girl want! My dad would definitely be proud of how I utilised the buffet. Some people stayed over night, but as we are on a budget and weren’t bothered, we stayed at base. It was only to sleep anyway. The first three days were pretty full on so we were looking forward to downtime in Taupo where we were spending two nights.
Today was the Redwood forest walk. The forest was so pretty with all the red wood trees. The coffee cart at the end also makes the walk worthwhile. After the walk we headed for a photo stop at Huka Falls. The name is a bit confusing as it isn’t actually a waterfall, but a fast flowing river. Apparently 220,000 litres pass though this stretch of the river every second. It was a lovely day when we made it to Taupo so I took a walk to the lake, not that it was far as our hostel was pretty much on the lakefront. From the edge of the lake we could see the mountain range which included Mt Doom, one of which had snow at the very top. Earlier in the day we had booked a sunset sailing cruise, mainly due to the fact that it was BYO and included pizza. We were picked up at 7.15 and boarded the boat (at the same time as the pizza). Jack played DJ as we ate pizza and sipped our drinks. The sea was pretty choppy, so we adopted very flattering ponchos to keep dry and warm. After an hour or so of cruising, we were told by the skipper that the battery on the boat had died. This meant that we sadly couldn’t get to the Maori rock carvings, but hey, we didn’t really sign up the the cruise to see that (more for the pizza). The broken battery made for some interesting sailing, including approaching the marina at high speed, but the skipper managed to negotiate the mooring perfectly and we were all very impressed. We carried on the party at the hostel bar that evening, which was good fun.
Being our lazy day, it didn’t really matter that we didn’t get up until 11am due to nursing a slight hangover. I’m not much of a fan of being in bed all day, so was starting to get a bit twitchy. No one in our dorm wanted to do much, but Jack and I dragged ourself to the hot pools (40 min walk) for some free jacuzzi action. The pools sit on the edge of the river which make some parts of the river freezing, and some pretty warm. The pools themselves were so hot that you couldn’t sit for long, but were so relaxing. On the way back to our hostel we were met by a really friendly dog with no collar who was darting in and out of traffic. After asking about, we (Jack) carried the pup to the local vet. Things like this always happen to us. We stopped another dog getting run over in a Melbourne and I found two runaways in my street a few years ago. Dogs just love me obvs. After boring everyone with the story, we went for dinner at the hostel bar, mainly to take advantage of the 50c wings. This obviously continued to drinks with the other people on our bus and learning new ring of fire rules.
The McDonalds breakfast cured yet another morning feeling grim and got us to some half decent wifi. The weather was so miserable so we spent the majority of time on the bus whilst driving through to River Valley, we did however manage to watch Zoolander en route. The drive was long, but very scenic with rolling hills and lots of sheep (about 30 million in NZ alone). The main reason for visiting is the white water rafting, so we booked on for the following morning. Our accommodation was an adventure lodge which looked like a ski chalet and was in the middle of nowhere with no signal or wifi. This was actually quite nice for once. We opted for the cheapest accommodation, which was the funniest thing ever. Imagine a bunk bed which sleeps 16 people, then double it! Basically two massive mats in one room- hilarious and so funny! We didn’t really get much sleep but it was worth it for the story. We spent the afternoon chilling out and jumping off a suspended platform into the freezing cold river- the GoPro video was hilarious. We had a “summer” roast dinner (chicken, potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, peas, coleslaw and gravy) which was yummy and great as a change from pasta. It was also very funny to see non-brits try to work out what a Yorkshire pudding was. Jack and I had a night off from drinking, but joined in with all the games etc.
I hope you guys are still enjoying the blog.
Love as always xx