New Zealand! My love, my dream, place where I want to settle down and raise my children (as for now), anyway you get the picture… I really really like this country and I always wanted to go there! Lucky us, Dan has a family over there, the loveliest hippie kind and caring people in the world – Auntie B, Uncle Lawrie, Lucy in the sky and little Johnny! These people made our time in this beautiful land of bush walks and kiwi birds. Already after we arrived Uncle Lawrie on the way from the airport took us to One Tree Hill from top of which we had our first panoramic glimpse of Auckland and both harboursides. The rest of the day passed on family reunion, sharing great music, eating great food… oh no, wait. I actually managed to scar for the rest of heir lives poor Kiwis by serving them one of Dan’s favourite dishes he discovered in Poland – steak tartar. I cannot recall what kind of thoughts were running through my head then but as a true wild child I greeted my new friends with raw meat and raw eggs, hell yeah! But that’s OK, I think they just assumed I might be insane but they still loved us much and helped us lots. Sitting with our maps and guides they advised us what to do and where to go and helped us arranging our time in the north island.
The next day was a day with Auntie B. In the beautiful sunshine we went for a ride around Devonport, gorgeous suburbs of Auckland, where we have been staying. Admiring from a top of an old inactive volcano a stunning cityscape of Auckland from one side and Pacific Ocean from the other side. Then we hopped back to the car and headed towards Wawairewa hot springs where we chilled for a long long time in different pools heated geothermally to a different temperatures while a cold wind was stroking our faces. The following day our little geeky dream came true thanks to Lucy, who drove with us to Mata Mata to visit Hobbiton. The drive itself was stunning, especially the part where we were driving alongside the tectonic rift which looked pretty much like a sudden long wall that appeared out of nowhere! Later on gorgeous green rolling hills took over the landscape. When we reached our destination we purchased an overpriced tickets (60NZ$) for a tour around a Hobbiton farm and before the bus came to pick us up we fed some sheep with a sheep food we got from the office staff. For the next few hours we were strolling among little round-doored hobbit houses and tiny gardens. Unfortunately houses were fake, behind the door there was nothing inside, but from the outside it looked marvellous! We listened to a story how Peter Jackson loved this farm from the first sight but there was one crucial element missing and that was a tree on Baggins’ house. Originally on the hill there was no tree, therefore Jackson got himself created a fabulous artificial tree and employed a painter to paint every leaf of the tree in the different shade of green. Last point of our tour around Shire was a visit in Green Dragon where weirdly first time in my life I tried ginger beer since there was a free drink included in a ticket price!
As Auntie B says, like in Crowded House’s song – Four seasons in one day, that’s what you get in Auckland. Beautiful sunshine in the morning, cloudy and grey while strolling around Piha, probably the most popular Auckland’s beach, and worst downpour on the way to Anawhata that we couldn’t even get out of the car without getting instantly soaked. But we had fun anyway! We ate pies and drank Just Juice. Like Auntie B says New Zealand is famous for a few things – pies, beef, white wine, best juice (Just Juice), Whittaker’s chocolate and Tim Tams. And if there is one thing I know, peanut butter Whittaker’s stole my heart! After all those fairly local experiences the time has come to head north. Thanks to Lucy’s cousin we had a place to stay in Russell in the Bay of Islands. We got the bus to Paihia and from there ferry to Russell and then we had the loveliest two days! Trekking Tapeka trail in the sunshine, climbing hills, walking on the beaches, eating fresh mangos, coconuts and best Pad Thai ever and of course getting Maori tattoos. For me it was a first tattoo ever, unfortunately it wasn’t a traditional Maori tattoo done traditional way by Maori but nevertheless it was beautifully done by a great artist from Bay of Islands INK . I am still super happy with his work and I am planning on expanding it. Tattooist told me about the tradition of ‘growing’ tribal tattoos along with life experiences, unfortunately I do not remember a Maori word for that but it’s definitely going to happen!
Eventually we needed to say good bye to the Bay of Islands that we enjoyed much and head back to Auckland. After sorting out some issues with Dan’s visa to another country on our route we hopped on a different bus to Rotorua. There we met with a lovely friend of Lucy – Pippa, amazing hippie girl who took a great care of us and showed us the area. Boiling mud pools surrounded by fence to prevent from suicidal jumps, steaming hydrogen sulphide lakes, gorgeous mountains and smell of rotten eggs, YIKES! No, actually I really loved it, especially since I have never seen anything like this before. We visited Burried Village, befriended a cat over there, trekked an amazing bush trail and admired the panoramic views of lake Tarawera. Afterwards we enjoyed a lovely picnic with exciting Wonka’s triple chocolate whipple by the Tikitapu the Blue Lake, right next to the Rotokakahi – the Green Lake! 🙂 At the end of the day we have been watching sunset at Pippa’s place and it was the sweetest spot to live in, on the steep hill by the lake surrounded by mountains. Next morning I very much wanted to visit Wai-O-Tapu park to see stunning colourful geothermal lakes and geysers but the problem with New Zealand is that it is veeeery expensive country and to see those major crazy natural creations like these just mentioned, or others like glow-worm caves tourists need to pay a lot of money for tickets to parks. As you may guess, as poor students travelling on a shoe string we didn’t have money to see even few of them. But there comes Pippa with a solution! She took us to a place called Rainbow Mountain, free of charge great walking trail from which you can admire beige, brown and red colours of the rocks contrasting with a intensely turquoise colour of the lake beneath.
Here comes the last stage of our stay in New Zealand. Uncle Lawrie picked us up from Rotorua and together we headed down south to the Tongariro National Park. We stayed in a lovely cabin nearby the park that belonged to Uncle Lawrie’s friend. The whole next day we spent on trekking the trails of Mordor. Actually we unfortunately didn’t trek to Mordor and the Mt. Doom since we have been on the other side of the national park. Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a trail that you need to accomplish with a ring in your hand on top of Mt. Ngauruhoe (Mt. Doom). We have had a sneaky glimpse of Ngauruhoe when the clouds uncovered a bit of horizon but trail-wise we have been trekking on the side of Ruapehu where normal people would usually go skiing at this time of the year. Actually there were two different trails we wanted to do but we did not have much time therefore we had an exciting off-trail short cut from one to the other. A few calming hours of amazingly ancient forest, rivers, little bridges and waterfalls – highly enjoyable! And that’s it. Next morning we headed back to Auckland, packed up, exchanged good byes with everyone, chilled a bit more and the day after got on the plane to Sydney.