We have to jump back into time quite a bit, to the moment where I left Kaitaia and traveled to the Bay of Islands. I keep a list of people who gave me rides, but the specifics can get a bit fuzzy after such a long time unfortunately. As such this post will be rather short.
It took me 5 rides to get to Paihia, which is the tourist town from where you can do a ton of different things throughout the Bay of Islands, including kayak tours, dolphin watching tours, a helicopter tour, as well as a tour that takes you through the Hole In The Rock. I stayed in Paihia for about a week, walking around town. I did a Dolphin Watching Tour. It guarantees you get to see dolphins, but when I went I only saw 2 dolphins for about 1 minute. The tour operators decided this didn’t count, and so they gave me a voucher to return at another date, and I decided to go again the next day. The vouchers are valid for a good long time, as the captain told us they once had a person return after 16 years from Germany. The second time we were luckier and we found a big pod of dolphins which we could follow for a longer time. You can only stay with them for about 15 minutes though, so that they don’t feel harassed for too long. This would upset them too much, and we were not the only tour boat in the area. The tour also occasionally lets you go swimming with the dolphins, but only under certain conditions: the pod may not have young animals in the group, it may not be feeding, and it cannot be traveling, because they will be gone by the time you get into the water. Unfortunately the dolphins we encountered were traveling, and they didn’t stop. After the allotted time was up we had to leave the pod, and they kept traveling towards the horizon. We didn’t encounter another group for the duration of the tour, which was about 5 hours. At least I did get to see a big part of the Bay of Islands, though I missed the Hole In The Rock.
Some pictures from the boat trip. A video can be found on the bottom.
As you can see some dolphins got really close to the boat! :)
I also decided to do a hike close to Russell, which is a town right across the water from Paihia. At the end of the hike you might be able to see the Hole In The Rock.
I checked out of the hostel I had been staying at and shouldered my backpack, and headed across the water to Russell. I hitched out of town, and two rides later I found myself at the start of the trail. I hiked for some hours until I found a nice bay where I decided to camp for the night. I went for a swim in the evening, though several boats had parked themselves there too which meant I couldn’t go skinny dipping (I prefer that because it keeps all my stuff dry, it’s easier to just let your skin dry under the sun). That night I had an accident however: in my sleep I rolled onto the drinking tube of my Kamelbak, and it drained the entire thing into my tent. My sleeping bag and some of my clothes got soaked, and I was without drinking water. I spent the morning drying my stuff, and then I had to return to Paihia to retry the trail at a later date. It took another two rides to get back to Russell, and then I took the ferry back across to Paihia.
I decided to hang out in town for a day or two before giving it another go (the hike took me up big hills for long stretches of time, and carrying my 25kg pack quickly exhausted me). Unfortunately it then started to rain for an entire week, and I was stuck in town.
The beach in Russell
Some pictures I took on the trail
The bay I camped in on the night I spilled all of my drinking water into my tent.
Letting my swimwear and towel dry for the night
The following morning
On my way back
When I finally could give it another go I went back to Russell and hitched out of town again. This time it took significantly longer to get to the trail, and it took three rides to get there. The last two people told me it was at least an 8-hour hike to reach the end, and I was already quite late: it was 3 o’clock or something like that. That meant having to walk in the dark, using my headlight. I quickly set off and started hiking. I started at a different location this time, and a different trail that would at some point merge with the one I had originally used.
This new trail was even more brutal than the one before, going up for hours on a very steep hill.
It took a long time before I reached the point where the two trails merged, and at this point I had to make a choice: go on to the end of the trail, or go back and camp for the night before returning to town. I had already reached the top of the hills at this point, and I could see the distance lying ahead of me: it was a lot more going up and down instead of a nice hike along the crest of the hill, and I had already noticed several extremely slippery areas on my way up. That meant there were more such areas up ahead, and traversing them in the dark, even though I had a headlight, didn’t seem smart. I needed to turn back on the other trail and possibly try to make it back to where I camped on my first try. It was a hard choice to make, and it bummed me out, but in the end I know I chose the right thing. I ended up at a different beach in a nice little cove and I had the place completely to myself, and so I went for a swim to clean off the sweat.
The next day I had a long walk back to the road, though along the way I did check out the ruins of an old whaling station. Wasn’t much left to see but it was interesting.
I ran out of water again by the time I got back to my first campsite, and here I ran into a bit of luck. A man in a small boat with a motor was cruising through the bay, and we ended up talking for a little bit. I asked if he had any water in his ship, and he said he would fetch me some. He returned with two wine bottles filled with water, giving me about 2 liters. When I made it to the start of the trail I still had to walk a little further to get back to the main road, and from there I set to hitching back to Paihia. I got a ride that took me a few kilometers in the right direction, and a second that took me all the way to Paihia instead of to Russell. This was a big detour for them, as they were originally going to Kawakawa which is in the other direction. So big shout out to Sasha and Dylan!
Some pictures from my second attempt
An overview from the crest of one of the biggest hills
This would be my personal beach for the night
The next morning
Some remaining buildings of the old whaling station
All in all I found this to be a sad, melancholy place. Hunting whales is bad, mkay?
But to end on a positive note, here is me with two wine bottles of gifted water! :)
The next day I decided to try and find a job in Kerikeri, and I managed to hitch there with a single ride. I had a long conversation with the guy who gave me a ride, Arnold, even after we arrived and he dropped me off at a hostel. I inquired about getting a job with the hostel owner, and he told me that he didn’t have anything right at that moment, but that he would find something for me as soon as possible. That happened to be two days later, when he found a job for me in Kaitaia... And so the next day I went back to the place I had already spent the most time of any place here in New Zealand. The owner had set up a German guy up with a job there as well, and he arranged for me to ride along with him. He wasn’t talkative at all, leaving me to do most of it, and at first I thought that maybe it was me. But over the next 3 or 4 weeks of working he didn’t really seem to like anybody, and he kept to himself almost always.
Me on the other hand, I made some friends while working. The job we were hired to do consisted of weeding Kumara fields: 6 days a week, 11 hours a day of bending over and ripping undesirable plants out of the ground. That left a lot of time to talk, because it was boring as can be. There isn’t much to tell about the time we spent at work, because most of the time we worked, and once we came back we showered, ate, and went back to bed pretty soon after that.
But the time was sufficiently long enough to become friends with two girls, Nesrine and Elodie, and two guys from France, Nico and Louis, and after our job ended we went on a little road trip together before we found another job.
The weeding crew in Kaitaia
I als went Toboganning while I was working in Kaitaia :)
We traveled down to Whangarei to view the waterfall there, and later we traveled down to Te Puke where we hoped to find a job. Te Puke is a small place close to the bigger town of Tauranga, and it only had one hostel that we could find. This place was very small and cramped, and it didn’t appeal to us at all. Moreover they told us they didn’t have a job for another week or two, and so we decided to move on the next day. This was a big relieve to us actually, because honestly the place was rather depressing. We all decided to head further down to Rotorua, where we would meet up with a couple who we had been working with in Kaitaia but who had left a week or so before we did. Their names were Antoine and Laurie, also from France, and we would travel together with them for a while. I was now surrounded by French people haha, but they did their best to speak English most of the time. We spent some time in Rotorua, having a look at a park there that had geothermal pools in it. We became quite familiar with the smell of them, which is quite a lot like rotten eggs. We spent the first night on a campground close to a big lake, but the second night we wanted to camp for free, and so we drove out of town to ask around the farms if we could camp on one of them for a night. We got lucky, and found a nice place with a really good view.
The next day we drove to Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Park, which is exactly what it sounds like: a big park that you can walk around in for an admittance fee. There were a huge amount of geothermal pools here (you can even smell them in other places, as this area has the most volcano activity in New Zealand), and they were beautiful to watch, though horrible to smell haha.
Pictures from Wai-O-Tapu
Anyone care for a dive in the Champagne Pool?
Now THAT is a strange water color.
After we drove to our next goal: the Tongariro Crossing, which takes you across the shoulder of the mountain that was used for Mount Doom in the Lord Of The Rings movies. We camped out in the woods the night before the big hike, which was supposed to take about 7 or 8 hours.
The next day we got up fairly early to make our way over to the start of the trail, where we left our cars. The hike up the mountain was hard at first, but this time I wasn’t weighed down by my backpack, all I carried was water and food, and this made a great difference. After the first hour and a half or so we came across a small waterfall, and I half-drenched myself when I slipped after I tried drinking from it. This turned out to be a blessing for the rest of the climb up however, as my now wet T-Shirt kept me cool. It dried up quickly after we reached the top.
The entire hike took us longer than expected, about 10 hours I think, but I felt really good afterwards, though tired!
The start of the trail
Mount Doom ahead
This is off a side-trail, a nice little waterfall
A sideways look at Mount Doom
Mount Doom in the background
Looking back on Mount Doom
After passing the next ridge you get a great view of several lakes in the mountainrange
Unfortunately the wind kept blowing up the rim of my hat :p
Our lunch spot
From here we could see the way down
A last rest stop on the final leg of the hike
We drove to Taupo after we were done, and we found a campground to stay in. At first we planned to sleep in our tents or cars respectively, but after a while we decided we could all collectively rent a little cabin. There were almost enough beds for everyone, though one person had to sleep on the couch. We settled on it with a game, and I ended up on a bed. We had successfully crammed 7 people in a 3x2m cabin, and we all slept very well after we had all taken a shower and I had finally done a load of laundry. I was greatly looking forward to this moment, because it had been several days since I had a shower (since we left Kaitaia, actually), and had almost run out of clean stuff to wear. I was very refreshed the next day, and we headed to town.
We had booked a boat tour on Lake Taupo that would take us to a big Maori carving on a cliff that could only be seen from the lake. It was a 2 hour boat ride, and we were able to go for a swim close to the carving, which was quite magnificent. I took some pictures and video’s of it, because it is very hard to describe. There is a lot of detail on it, and it looks great.
The water was amazingly clear too, and the boat crew gave us a glass of water from the lake to drink. It was completely unprocessed and unfiltered, yet it was as clear as water from the tap, and tasted better, even though there’s boats and people on the lake all the time.
The awesome Maori carving!
We also went to see the Huka Waterfalls, which looked like an awesome rafting or kayaking spot!
Nico and Louis
After Taupo we decided to head further down to Napier, where we were told the apple picking season would start soon. When we got to Napier we found a hostel called the Aqua Lodge, and that is where I have spent the last two months. It took me one week to find a job in a vineyard, which lasted me for a few weeks, and then after I found work on an apple orchard. I haven’t been picking apples though, but rolling up reflective white sheets that are spread out on the ground between the apple trees so that apples on the bottoms of the trees are also getting colored by the sun. I had a few days off where I went on a hike in the area. The first one was to Te Mata Peak, and the second one to Cape Kidnappers. These were nice short day-hikes with some really nice views. Apart from that however, most of my time here has been spent working, though of course in the weekend there were parties, and I went to the movies a few times as well. I did go on two day-trips, one to Te Mata Peak and one to Cape Kidnappers. I forgot my GoPro on the way to Cape Kidnappers though, so I only have pictures of Te Mata Peak for now.
On the peak
But now, after just over three months of working, I finally am ready to move on again. The plan is to go up North one more time, to see the Coromandel, Hobbiton and probably the Waitomo Caves too before heading down to the South Island before it gets too cold. I might already be too late for that, because reports of snow are starting to come in. So the plan is to get a move-on and up the pace a bit until I get to the South Island.
I made a good start yesterday, managing to make it all the way past Rotorua. At first I started walking out of Napier, but before I got where I wanted to go a truck pulled over to offer me a ride. Todd helped me get to the edge of town, from where I could get a ride to some other city. It didnt take long for a guy called Danny to pull over, and he drove me just past Taupo. That was a big stretch already, a drive of nearly 2 hours! Sep then helped me get past Rotorua, and here I got stuck for a while because at this point the sun was starting to go down, and it was growing dark. I tried hitching till just past 6:15, and at this point I decided I wasn't getting any further than here and I picked up my pack to look for a camping spot. As I walked down the road to look for one I decided I might as well try catching a ride as I walked, and lo and behold: another ride showed up, and Phill and Ritz, two Maori guys, drove me to some town that I don't know the name of. They were going to Whakatane, and dropped me off at their turn-off point. I went to get some food at a local fish and chips place before trying to find a camping spot. It took some walking in the dark to find a spot, and after half an hour I still hadn't found anything that wasn't private property. But I had found this:
A little tin shack that served as a bus stop!
This looked like as good a place as any, so I holed up here for the night. Unfortunately the ground was covered in glass shards, and so I had to try and put my mattress on the bench. It was not wide enough to lie down on my back comfortably, but it was good enough for lying on your side, and this I managed to do.
As demonstrated here.
Blog updates should come in a bit quicker again from now on, so I will leave you with some pictures of me and friends in Napier, and hopefully I will talk to you all again in the not so distant future!
On the way to Te Mata Peak!
Nesrine, Elodie, Fabian in the back
Met an old Japanese friend from Kaitaia while in Napier:
Nico, Louis, me, and Hisaichi (Pizza!)
A going away party for Antoine and Laurie on the beach