It's been almost two weeks since I first landed in Auckland after a rather uneventful, but exceptionally long flight. I'm lucky I can sleep on planes, and I'm also lucky that I managed a successful bid on an upgrade to premium economy on my Air New Zealand flight.
Here's a recap of my travels around the North Island...
Day 1 - Auckland to Hamilton
This was pretty much just a "get acclimatized to driving on the wrong side of the road" and find a place to sleep day. I did manage a drive out to Bridal Veil Falls for a quick bit of sightseeing.
Day 2 - Hamilton to Taupo
I visited the Kiwi House... which was nice, but with the stupid Kiwi birds being nocturnal they won't let you take a picture of them (I'm assuming that's because most stupid tourists don't know how to turn the flash off on their cameras). Then it was off to the Wiatomo and Ruakuri Caves. In all honesty - if you have to pick one cave, pick Ruakuri. Better caves, small groups, and you can take pictures. The Wiatomo caves were very touristy and you can't take pictures.
Day 3 - Taupo to Rotarua
The morning started off with a boat cruise on Lake Taupo out to a large Maori carving that you can only get to by boat. We had great weather, so the pictures turned out really well.
Day 4 - Rotorua
Today I did a 5km hike around the Waimangu Volcanic Valley during the day, and then saw a Te Po in the evening.
The Te Po was great... I saw a cultural show (including the famous Haka), and ate food cooked in a hangi, a pit in the ground. The Maori culture is fascinating!
Te Puia is also home to a couple of geysers, that we got to see at night enjoying a hot chocolate on a naturally heated staircase.
Day 5 - Rotorua to Whangarei
Hobbiton day! Also the longest driving day yet...
I decided to go north of Auckland, rather than drive down to Wellington. Stopped in a town called Kawakawa that is know for a public bathroom designed by some eccentric artist that apparently likes to break pottery...
Day 7 - Paihia to Kaitaia
Visited the Waitangi Treaty Grounds - this is where the original treaty between the Maori and the British was signed. Saw another cultural show (with another Haka), and wandered the grounds. I also decided to take a three hour detour to see Cape Reinga - awesome decision. The Cape is where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet, and is pretty much the most northern part of New Zealand. Almost lost my camera a few times from wind gusts though!
Day 8 - Kaitaia to Dargaville
A must sea on this part of the island is Tane Mahuta - the second largest Kauri tree still standing. I expected it to be taller... since it is about 1700 years old!!
I stopped at the Kauri museum on the way back to the city, and was treated to an excellent chat with an older gentleman that worked there. We talked trees, history and more trees. It's talks like that one that have made this trip so far.
Day 10 - Auckland to Christchurch
I explored Auckland a bit in the morning before my flight to Christchurch. Because the weather was so good, I decided to head up the Auckland Sky Tower, since the last time is been through the city, it was so foggy I couldn't even tell there was a tower, and didn't want to chance crappy weather when I returned in a week.
In all, a great first leg of the trip. 1960 km driving on some of the windiest roads I've ever driven on, eight different accommodations, and three waterfalls seen!
I'm currently on the South Island, and will write all about it when I'm back in Auckland next week.