Caught up with my mate Paul, who I met in Samoa. Paul only has a week before heading off to Oz (he plans to cycle from Perth to Sydney) so we hired a car and have raced round some of North Islands key sights. On Monday we went cave tubing through the Waitomo caves. A select few got to see the distressing sight of me in a wetsuit, but it was good fun doing some caving, seeing glow worms (weird lifecycle) and swimming underground.
We then drove to Rotorua and arrived late but in time to see England scrape through against Wales. Up next day to see the mud pools, hot springs (boiling hot) and geysers before heading south to National Park taking a quick look at the Huka Falls on the way there.
Up early next day to catch the bus to the start of the Tongariro crossing, a 17km walk through some volcanoes with an 800m climb at the start and a 1200m descent at the end. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t kind with low cloud making visibility very poor and with strong, cold winds. It meant we didn’t really get to see the key features at the top, but the weather cleared on the way down. It was almost surreal to be tramping through a snow field in one of the craters so soon after being on a tropical island.
Paul & I had cooked double portions of food last night so all we had to do was heat up some soup & bolognaise sauce for dinner and uncap a couple of beers. The next day we were fairly slow to get going so headed back up to Rotorua to soak sore muscles in the hot springs and to be ready for Thursdays activities.
Paul was determined to go Zorbing, which is basically being closed into a giant inflatable hamster ball with a few buckets of water and then rolled down a hill.
We then did an off road experience where you drive a little Suzuki 4×4 over a course, swapping between 2 drivers. There is one point where you come down a waterfall and have to take your foot off the brake for the 6 foot final plunge and another area where you skid down a 5 meter drop with you wheels sliding in metal channels. Adds a bit of adrenalin to the mix. I then went and raced a 1500cc buggy round a circuit in the pouring rain for a few laps setting the fastest time of the day so far.
We then headed back up to Auckland so that Paul could catch his flight early next day. We decided to stay in Parnell, a district to the east of the centre for a change. There are worse places to stay as a backpacker but I’ve yet to come across them. The problem is there is only one pub that isn’t a Bar / Restaurant and even that is prefab Irish place. In addition the only place that is suitable for eating alone, as I had to the next night, was a burger place (however Burger Fuel is an excellent burger joint) and the hostel was the dullest yet. A hint to all hostel owners, do not put a TV in the only common area with comfy seats as it means lot of guests sitting with the lights out and not talking to each other.
Click here to get Paul’s version of events.
On Saturday night I caught up with Marcel & Cam from the Green Tortoise trip. We headed back to their place with a few drinks to watch the New Zealand vs Australia semi final, which unfortunately the All Blacks lost without looking particularly threatening. Sunday I joined them at a Big Boys toys exhibition full of modified cars and electronic gadgets. It was good to be reminded that the Aussies continued the tradition of making good, basic, V8 engined, rear wheel drive cars of the type that the US used to excel in before they forgot how to make cars in the 70s.