New Zealand. The journey continues

Just spent some time at one of the most beautiful locations in the World. It takes more than thirty hours to get there from Europe. I enjoyed New Zealand very much. But as a team of travelers we f….d it upThe post is on goods and bads of a New Zealand trip. A subjective one. If you travel there, do not repeat mistakes we made.




Well rested on the Monday morning we took us time to start the day. We repacked our luggage. On longer journeys it is good to divide things so that if your main luggage gets lost you can live a day or two on that you have in your hand luggage. But while on spot it makes practical sense to sort things out differently.

The breakfast was offered by the hotel. On our departure we saw New Zealanders packing. For a moment I observed a couple, who cleared their room through the widow directly into the car.

The jet leg is slowly disappearing. Our first stop on Monday is the Paradise Valley Springs animal park. Less than an hour in the van. The animal park is in fact a small zoo located on a widespread area. We spent there a couple of hours, slowly walking the paths. With the food provided by the park operator it was allowed to feed some of the animals. Quite a nice experience. My last zoo visit, many but many years ago, was not a pleasant one. I disliked the way the animals were held. This place was just the opposite, clean and spacious.


Feeding the animals in Paradise Valley Springs animal park

On that day we did not have much riding planned in. Our next stop was only at less than an hour of ride. On our way we managed to stop for more than one hour yet again to make photos in the city of Rotorua at the volcanic lake side. The day was warm and sunny with a light breeze blowing. The views were overwhelming. I caught a bit colour on my chicks. Just the sunny vacation during European winter, I thought.



At the Rotorua lake


The highlight of the day was still to come. While on the road we called in at a local tavern This was the first time we tasted New Zealand style hamburgers. I rarely eat hamburgers, but as it is one of the New Zealand specialities I wanted to taste them at least couple of times. The tavern looked like as time would have stopped there. An interesting place. Our host a nice elderly woman with multiple tattoos. A colourful juke box drew out attention. As we entered it was empty. Not a very good sign. But within half an hour it was full with locals. The hamburger that I took with a local beer was delicious. Besides traditional ingredients, it had slices of beetroot inside. As it turned out, the New Zealand’s hamburger characteristic feature.


The late afternoon we spent in Wai-O-Tapu, a reservation covered with collapsed craters, boiling pools of mud and water. The place was great for making photos. The colours we saw earlier on pictures were the colours we saw in reality. You walk a forest and bushes and from time to time you stop at a lake of not-typical colour from dark mud to candy green or blue. As most of the waters are hot, fumes are all around you. The place is on a definite must see list while in New Zealand.


A colourful (hot and toxic) lake at Wai-o-tapu


Our hotel was somewhere around the city of Huka Falls. Our original plan was to go to our lodge hotel and rest, while enjoying self-made snacks of cheeses and some other delicacies we discovered in New Zealand and some local wine. But on that evening something did not work out. The original plan was broken by some of our fellows. We landed in a local pizzeria. As we finally arrived at our hotel it was already dark. I sat down in the living room on a comfortable sofa for an hour or so sticking to the original plan – enjoyed New Zealand cheese and wine, while looking through photos I made on that day. Fell asleep like a baby before midnight.




The Tuesday morning made me clash with one of our fellows. The day plan was that we split. Three of us were supposed to see Tongariro Alpine Crossing aka Mordor taking a 20 km route in the mountains. The remainder, including me, was to see glow-worm caves. The clash was about breakfast. While travelling you should take care of yourself. If your plan involves a long-walk in the mountains, you have to eat breakfast and take some food and water with you. It is a thumb rule. I did not take ‘no breakfast, we have to hurry up’ for an answer. In aftermath we departed only fifteen minutes after the original plan, all after breakfast. That time I still did not think of that what just happened. But a couple of days after, because of wrong planning most of my fellows departed on a glacier climb without eating any food ahead …


On the way to the Tongariro we stopped once or twice to make a photo. On approach to the mountains you feel indeed as you would getting closer to the Mordor of the Lord of the Rings. We left our fellows, and hit the road. We were supposed to pick up them in seven or eight hours. Joking we promised them a barbecue just after their descent.

To get to the Waitomo glow-worm caves we needed more than two hours ride. The distance was 170 km. On the way there and back we were sightseeing picturesque green hills. In aftermath, one of the most interesting scenic roads we saw in New Zealand. It remained me of Scotland. But the green hills in New Zealand are somewhat different.



En route From Tongariro to Waitomo. The scenic views

As we arrived at the caves it turned out that the sightseeing of the caves including descent lasts only 45 minutes. For that long ride we made, and the prospect of the return way it was too short for me. We had surplus of time. So, I asked my fellows whether I can visit another cave. ‘Yes’, they said. ‘In the meantime we will grab a bite. We are not feeling well. It might be too cold inside’.


Inside the Ruakuri caves

The glow worms in the first cave were fascinating. But the sightseeing tour was indeed very short. My decision to go the other cave gave me much more better travelling experience. The visit in Ruakuri caves 60 meters below the surface was worthwhile. It lasted altogether one and half hour that went by before I have noticed it. On this day I understood the first time, while New Zealand is recommended for all who would like to enjoy versatile outdoor activities. A special path was prepared for visitors, the tour was very well planned and our lady guide was professional. We had to follow strict safety and environmental protection rules.

After sightseeing caves, we had to pick up our fellows, who were trekking in the mountains. The 19 km route took them more than the planned eight hours. The times indicated by the park operators do not include longer stops to make photos. For the last of our fellows we had to wait additional forty minutes. For twenty minutes or so I went up the mountain to encounter my colleagues. Each person who I met on approach asked me ‘How much time is still to the parking place’. ‘Exhausted they are’, I thought. But later I was explained by my fellows, that the descent is an unpleasant and lengthy (means borrowing) one. For an hour or more you go though bushes with no true view around. The views inside the mountains are however spectacular.

It was late. We had to hit the road. Our hotel was around hundred kilometers away. The views were beautiful.

JMA_New_Zealand_010_Tongariro_National_ParkOn the way back from Tongariro National Park

The aftermath. After having seen the photos my fellows made in Tongariro I regret not coming with them, even at the cost of additional trainings in the gym to prepare. I would however take their advice to descent at the same side of the mountains that they approached them. The advantage would be a possibility to make photographs with sunlight in different position. The visit in the glow-worm caves provided that you take the extended tour but not only the basic one is worthwhile, as well. The road between those both locations is truly a scenic one. At this part of New Zealand our planning failed. We should have stayed there for two days and all visit both – the Tongariro park and the caves.


This was the first time as we failed as a traveling team. We had only some snacks in the van. Even if we were planning a barbecue for our hungry fellows, we did not think about the time schedule. In our planning we neither counted in bringing some true food to our tired fellows nor the fact that restaurants close early in New Zealand. This time we spent the night in a regular hotel. Making us a decent supper was not possible. We ended in running quickly around ten pm to a supermarket that was almost closing. As we had to wake up early to bring our trekking fellows to the mountains, it was the first day as we deprived us both of sleep and of decent meal. Taking into account the day activities we planned in, the distance between hotels booked turned to be too long. On this day we also realised that already the second of us is seek. Thankfully this night was planned as a longer one. A good night sleep of eight hours allowed us to truly rest.



Three of us made a long walk in the mountains. The remaining ones hit a road making there and back more than 300 km. Out of those four I was the only one who spent longer time on sightseeing caves. In aftermath for three of us, the day was about forty minutes of sightseeing on foot and around eight hours in the van.

 Back to PART ONE  >>>           Forward to PART THREE  >>>

A photo gallery and index of posts on New Zealand >>>