East As and Waitomo

East As:
East As is an add on section to the main route of the Kiwi Experience Bus, taking people to an area which many people skip over. It takes you to a peaceful area of NZ, where most people know everyone in that happy small town way, where everyone prides themselves around their love and respect for their ocean, and where silent bays and empty fields do not terrify visitors, but welcome them with open arms, inspiring creativity and energy. I am glad I spent three extra nights exploring more of what NZ has to offer as I was able to experience more of its landscape and see an area of NZ people very rarely get the chance to see. Stopping on our journey to gather peace offerings to the eastern spirits, we embraced ourselves for what lay in store.

Kiwi East as Bus East Coast East Side

The next stop on this trip was Gisborne– where the sun rises first in the entire world. We stayed up all night drinking under the billions of stars, and then dragged our tired bodies to watch the sun rise arrogantly and proudly, beginning its long and waited journey around the world, waking all the different people and nations, warming backs and warming crops, all to a new day. We spent the day shark cage diving with Mako Sharks. It was an incredible experience, swimming in a cage to such terrifying beasts which snapped around us and gorged on floating tuna. This experience thrilled me and made me want to swim with great whites.

First Sunrise in the world Shark Cage Diving

Our last stop on this beautiful trip around the east cape was Te Kaha, a small town by the shore where we were welcomed as if members of the family. We reflected on our wonderful experience whilst we warmed ourselves in the hostel hot tub under the stars.

Famous Rugby Player East As

Waitomo:

Waitomo, a small area of the North Island in New Zealand, is recognised by tourists whom venture here from all over the world, to visit the magic and mystical Waitomo caves. The 120 year old giant caverns are filled with waterfalls; stalagmites, and stalactites that are unequal in stunning natural caves to any other in the world. The most beautiful aspect of this wondrous labyrinth of tunnels and deep dark waters are the millions of glow-worms that are unique to the natural surroundings of New Zealand. They cover all of the cave ceilings, glowing en masse in perfect unison as if imitating a mirage of a night sky, creating a starry wonderland. You can marvel at mother nature’s creation in a number of ways; either on a individual boat by yourself to gaze in silence, or on a shared boat to admire in unison, fiercely rock climbing, or nail bitingly tubing in the dark. However you decide to explore the caves, one will always be intrigued by the fascinating way of life for these organisms, and feel the serene atmosphere they create.

Not my picture
Not my picture

 

Mercury Bay and Rotorua

Mercury Bay:

Mercury Bay was a one night stop over en route to Rotorua from Auckland organised by the Kiwi Experience Bus tour. We stopped off at Cathedral Cave this picturesque hidden beach (quite a trek away but worth it) in The Coromandel. The area is filled with odd shaped rocks cut and shaped by the elements. Another interesting sight to see, and one that highlights the array of New Zealand’s geothermal activity, is the Hot Water Beach where you can amusingly spend time digging holes into the sand and warming your feet up with the hot water that flows underneath.

Rotorua:

Rotorua is rich in stunning landscapes and is a hive for geothermal activity. The land is filled with 18 sparkling lakes, exotic forests, bubbling geysers, boling mud pools and smelly hot springs, Rotorua is certainly the most active (underneath the ground) town that NZ has. The first thing that people notice when arriving here, which is hard not to, is the stench of sulphur, as if a million rotten eggs have been hidden in various part of the town centre. Although pungent at first, you do get used to this wafty aroma, only noticing its gone, when you too have gone. As well as Rotorua being the epicentre of geological and environmental experimentation through a number of forms, Rotorua is a vital cultural cog to the wheel of Maori culture of NZ.

Geothermal Activity Rotorua

There are many guided walks, villages and food trails one can immerse oneself in, as Rotorua is the most populated city of the Maori people. Head over to the traditional Maori village of Tamoki Maori Village, which unlike other tourist traps, paints Maori people in a true and respectful light. Here you learn what daily life was like in a Maori village, as well as experiencing the true Haka, and feasting on an enormous dinner cooked over a clay pit. Rotorua is also the best place to organise Lord Of The Ring Tours, to visit the Shire. Visiting at the time of the filming of “The Hobbit” was enthralling, as well as the set makers attention to detail- but the die hard fans were intriguing enough. It being a pricey tour, but not actually being a massive fan myself, I found it a little dull at times- but it was great to see the set!

Rotorua Matamata Hobbitown The shire

In Rotorua I had my second experience of couch surfing with a local Maori and his daughter. I am happy to say that this experience was much better then my first experience. I slept in a dorm bed in his daughter’s room and I spoke about London to them both, as he said he wanted his little daughter to learn about the rest of the world. We went to the local market that night and he bought me dinner, whilst I made friends with his daughter and her friends. The next day on his way to work he dropped me off and I walked around Rotorua and its many gardens it has to offer. I was very grateful for his hospitality and still am, it was fantastic to chat to him about his culture and how it has changed over the years, and so with this in mind, it reminds me that there are people in the world willing to share.

Couchsurfing

 

Auckland and Bay of Islands

Auckland:
Auckland was my least favourite place in NZ. Why? Auckland is a concrete jungle in a environmental paradise. You are thrown back into high rise buildings, bustling motorways and garish chain stores. A rude awakening. Some areas outside of Auckland are pretty quaint village towns with lovely independent cafe’s and boutique shops, like in Northhead or Mt.Victoria, and the harbour has fancy restaurants with rewarding views over the harbour, I still don’t like Auckland. Taking a free city tour with the Kiwi Experience Bus allowed me to see the whole of Auckland and why it was named the “City of Sails“, which still left me feeling empty and disappointed at the most populated city in NZ. It looked like any other city, no unique flair or character, and so unlike the rest of the beautiful country of NZ. Head out of Auckland as quick as you can, to see what the rest of NZ has to offer.

Auckland

Bay Of Islands:
Included in my Kiwi Experience Bus Pass was the Bay Of Islands tour which takes you right up to the northern part of NZ, Cape Reinga. We stayed in Fusion Hostel in Bay of Islands where the beach was a short walk away and was a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of Auckland. Bay of Islands seemed to be a holiday destination that resembled the beaches of the Philippines, with its 144 islands, one is transported to the white sandy beaches of Asia. However, here there is much more scope for water activities, fishing and sailing to be had. Leaving the spectacular beauty of Bay of Islands behind, Cape Reinga is at the most northern tip of North Island and is used as an entrance post of the material world, to the spiritual world. It is incredible to see the blue horizon link with the land of the north where a twisted and ancient tree sits right by the sea. Here, we were told is where Maori spirits come to when they pass away, to jump off into the other world and meet with their ancestors from Hawaii.

This insightful and peaceful location, to me, is was one of the most beautiful and serene places in the world, and it made me jealous that this would be the last place they see of earth.

Bay of Islands

 

Wellington and Taupo

The best way to explore the entirety of New Zealand is to rent or buy your own van and create your own adventure around the country. With its jaw dropping remarkable scenery varying from volcanoes, to ice glaciers, white beaches and rolling hills one finds in a famous hobbit movie, travelling at your own pace and time is the best way to see NZ. If young, wild and free- like I was, and wanting to take an easier and more organised way, buy a coach ticket.

Coaches here are in the form of hop on hop off buses, which combines the ease of travelling around the country and taking in the ever changing landscape at each stop, meeting new and interesting people in a manageable environment, a personal tour guide, and personal unique stops within the country on your chosen route. Before my trip, I organized the latter with a coach company called ‘The Kiwi Experience Bus‘, and boy was it an experience. The drivers and tour guides are equally as bonkers and care free as those who decide to join the bus, meaning the entire trip is a manic and enjoyable ride. Each night the driver makes sure the entire bus is fuelled with alcohol, and those who don’t join in, are shamed until they do so. Developed for a young crowd, or for those who are young at heart, the trip is a blur of incredible sights, and incredible hangovers. If partying every night inst you thing (after 2 months of my trip it surely wasn’t), then there are other buses such as Stray and Magic that offer similar packages.

Wellington:
Wellington is windy. Really windy. It is actually named the windiest city in NZ which I think is most definitely true. Although Wellington is the capital city of NZ, it seems unusual for many as one wouldn’t think it. With its picturesque port docked with bobbing boats, laissez faire style of attitude towards the people, and its diverse night-life (that is the best in the whole country), one argues why an earth does Auckland feel so superior and snooty, when Wellington is such a beauty? Wellington is the under dog of cities, and filled with an extensive art gallery, peaceful parliament and friendly beaches, I enjoyed my time here. I recommend walking up to Mt.Victoria’s Summit, (I got excited about the name) and seeing the entire view up there over Wellington, it is worth it.

Wellington Feeling Tough

 

Taupo:
Taupo is yet another beautiful lake set in a thriving countryside of rolling hills. Its an ideal spot to fish, para glide and even sky dive over. The main reason why many tourists visit is to hike the 20k Tongario Crossing. Now I had just spent 5 months partying every single night in Australia and the South Island of New Zealand and any exercise filled me with dread, especially 20k’s worth. I made friends with a nice German girl en route to the crossing and we agreed to walk together through the hike. I’m so glad I met her, otherwise I don’t think I would have made it. Looking back now, I have no recollection of her name or what she does but I am so grateful for her constant chatter and continuous ability to walk on as I never got a chance to sit and moan. The terrain is beautiful, and from this day is the most diverse and rewarding hikes I have ever been on. The scenery constantly changes in front of you, from soggy marshland to rocky out crop that is dark and volcanic, lava flows and active craters, loose gravel that makes you slip and slide, emerald coloured lakes that sparkle and shine, mountainous flowers growing in jungle; everything you could imagine. The walk was incredible and I urge you all to do it. You know the saying pictures are a thousand words? Just take a look below.

Tongariro Tongariro

On another trip to Taupo myself and some of my friends went to some Hot Springs just a 30 minute walk away from our hostel (the locals said 10 mins but that wasn’t the case) which for all the backpackers going on the cheap, I recommend to visit- its free!

Sunburn