New Zealand is one of the most beautiful locations in the World. It takes more than thirty hours to get there from Europe. I enjoyed this country very much. But as a team of travelers, we f….d it up. The post is on goods and bads of a New Zealand trip. A subjective one. But if you travel there, do not repeat the mistakes we made.
NEW ZEALAND DIARIES. PART TWO
SLOWLY HITTING THE ROAD
Well rested on 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 the 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 window directly into the car.
The jet lag 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 in 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 ride. On our way, we managed to stop for more than one hour yet again to take photos in the city of Rotorua at the volcanic lakeside. The day was warm and sunny, with a light breeze blowing. The views were overwhelming. I caught a bit of color on my chicks. Just the sunny vacation during European winter, I thought.
At the Rotorua lake
NZ STYLE HAMBURGER. DELICIOUS
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 burgers, but as it is one of the New Zealand specialties I wanted to taste them at least a couple of times. The tavern looked like time would have stopped there. An interesting place. Our host, a nice elderly woman with multiple tattoos. A colorful jukebox drew out attention. As we entered, it was empty. Not a very good sign. But within half an hour it was full of 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, New Zealand’s hamburger characteristic feature.
WAI-O-TAPU. DEFINITELY ON A MUST-SEE LIST
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 taking photos. The colors we saw earlier on pictures were the colors we saw in reality. You walk a forest and bushes, and from time to time, you stop at a lake of not-typical color 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 colorful (hot and toxic) lake at Wai-O-Tapu
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NZ CHEESE AND WINE. DELICIOUS
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.
DAY 2 ROUTE
AN ULTIMATELY NOT NEGLECTED THUMB RULE
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 traveling, you should take care of yourself. If your plan involves a long-walk in the mountains, you have to eat breakfast and grab 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 the 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 …
TONGARIRO OR THE GLOW-WORM CAVES?
On the way to the Tongariro, we stopped once or twice to take a photo. On approach to the mountains, you feel true 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 the aftermath, one of the most attractive 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 a 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 to the other cave gave me a much better traveling experience. The visit to 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 varied outdoor activities. A first 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 take photos. For the last of our fellows, we had to wait an 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 a hundred kilometers away. The views were beautiful.
The aftermath. After having seen the photos my fellows made in Tongariro, I regret not coming with them, even at the cost of additional training in the gym to prepare. I would, however, take their advice to descent on the same side of the mountains that they approached them. The advantage would be a possibility to make photographs with sunlight in a different position. The visit to 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 genuinely a scenic one. In 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.
WRONG PLANNING OR LACK OF TEAMWORK?
This was the first time 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 real 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 sprinting at 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 a decent meal. Taking into account the daily activities we planned in, the distance between hotels booked turned to be too long. On this day we also realized that already the second of us is sick. Thankfully this night was planned as a longer one. A good night’s sleep of eight hours allowed us to truly rest.
DAY 3 ROUTE
Three of us made a long walk in the mountains. The remaining ones hit the road making there and back more than 300 km. Out of those four, I was the only one who spent a long time on sightseeing caves. In the aftermath of three of us, the day was about forty minutes of sightseeing on foot and around eight hours in the van.
A DAY LOST
On Wednesday directly after breakfast, we hit the road. This should be the day as we cross to the Southern Island. The crossing was at four pm. As we departed, and the first time stopped at a view-point to take some pictures, I did not give it much thought. For around two or two and a half hours, we drove through beautiful locations stopping yet twice. Once to photograph sheep on the field and the other time for coffee. I think the small coffee shop and a small camping field was run by a Maori woman. The coffee shop was very colorful. I took some pictures to remember. My coffee was delicious. Yet again, I took a ‘mochaccino’ – coffee with chocolate and milk. Rested and in an excellent mood, I got into the van.
Somewhere in the Wanganui National Park. A beautiful place. Either stay for a day or skip. Only window sightseeing – not a good idea
As we all were inside, we realized that we are not going forward, but we head back. ‘We had plenty of time, so I took a side road in a scenic valley. We now come back to Wanganui to make the way to Wellington’ we heard. My good mood suddenly disappeared.
It took us all together yet around three and a half hours to get to the capital city. In the aftermath, altogether five or six hours in the van, with three short breaks for photos and coffee. As we got to Wellington, we had an hour and a half before check-in and boarding time onto the ferry. The lady at the check-in proposed to us that we take an earlier ferry. But, we had to tank diesel before we returned our van to the operator. As well as to repack our main luggage to somehow fit the camping equipment we had with us (loose in the trunk) into it. Only hand luggage was allowed on board. To at least see Wellington, we made a fifteen-minute round. Yet we had to wait another half hour or so in the ferry departure lounge till the boarding time.
This was the first time I had second thoughts about our planning. Yesterday most of us spent almost the whole day in the van. Yes, indeed, the roads were the scenic ones. But this was our fourth day in New Zealand. Most of the roads we took were scenic ones. Stopping at various views or road overhaul points to make beautiful photos rarely works. There are usually bushes at the forefront that hinder a clean shot. In the aftermath, during our two weeks journey, we stopped only at a few viewpoints, where the view was truly clean. Three weeks before we had the same problem in Norway. Beautiful views are seen through the window, but rarely an occasion to take a photo at a truly photogenic site. Taking yet another scenic road in the morning there and back, we lost four hours of our time. Practically we had no time to walk the streets of Wellington, not to mention to grab a bite. We had only time to grab some sandwiches in the ferry departure lounge. I was disappointed, but it was not up to me to decide.
No to lose the day, most of the ferry crossing I spent moving from one deck to another to contemplate the views. Most of our journey was through mountainous fjords. The sky was covered with clouds. I made many photos. But altogether it was not a good time to make beautiful photographs. Just some to remember the trip. The ferry crossing took us three hours. As we arrived at Picton, we had to pick up yet another rental van. We all were hungry. All-day was on snacks. Already the second in the row. But it was late, around eight or nine pm. Yet another time, we had to realize that kitchens close early in New Zealand.
Finally, we found a restaurant. The day ended with a delicious supper. I took the domestic mussels. New Zealand is known for its seafood. Yet another specialty from my bucket list. My day was rescued.
Yet again we got into the van. And yet again on this day a communique: ’till we reach our hotel in Richmond, it will take us two maybe two and a half hour.’ It was not only me in the van, who had an adverse reaction. To be frank, I was angry. More than half a day lost on a car ride and waiting, and yet two hours drive.
Now in a hotel in Richmond, after two or three hours exhausting car trip. I am tired. The loud music in the car caused me a headache. Even not considering the loud jokes on how our two (sick) fellows must not fall asleep and must wake up. ‘Sleeping you will be at home’ we have heard. I think I still slept for an hour or so. As we arrived, it was shortly after midnight. I was too exhausted and disappointed over the day to care. My stomach is still full of late supper. I should decide: ‘sip of wine or painkillers’. I feel so bad, I will not fall asleep.
A glass or two of red wine made my muscles ease. I am dehydrated. Drink one glass of water after another. Yet I realize I am getting sick, too. Probably I caught the virus from my two sick fellows. All-time we spend together in the van and later in the same apartment. Or is it a lack of sleep?
DAY 4 ROUTE
Day 4 route included a three-hour ferry crossing from Wellington (Northern Island) to Picton (Southern Island). With no breaks, it was still twelve hours en route. Added to eight hours for most of us on the day before, wrongly planned in the aftermath. Even if the next day was intended as a ‘physical’ one. Of less than 3000 km in initial planning, during the first four days, we did theoretically more than a half. Four hundred km daily on average.
We already know that because of a storm hitting West Coast and the South we have to skip our plans for Thursday. Our plans for tomorrow/today (it is 2 am) will depend on the weather. We know we can sleep longer in the morning. A relief. Some vitamin C and a painkiller should be enough … I hate to be sick while traveling…
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