White Island in Bay of Plenty (North Island) is the only active marine volcano in New Zealand. It is located close to Whakatane and 30 miles from the coast and the only way to get there is either boat or helicopter. Our day trip to the volcano was a guided boat tour. Well, I think if you are visiting an active volcano site, having a guided tour is a good idea isn't :P
The guides took us around the volcano and told us stories of how so many mining operations tried their luck to mine sulphur there but sooner or later, their attemps failed. We saw ruins of an old mining factory on the island just rusting away. It was hard to believe miners would stay there for months, on a lonely island. The fumes of sulphur, the mud pools, the volcanic rocks, the huge crater with boiling water....all of it seemed unreal. The surface of mountain showed signs of aging, been there was generations, seen it all and probably wondering when mankind would cease to be greedy and start living in harmony with each other and with nature. More often than not, I wonder that too....and just pray, someday we will.
Tongariro National Park, North Island is New Zealand's oldest national park. It is the home of volcanic peaks of Ngauruhoe, Tongariro and Ruapehu. It is beautiful, spectacular, majestic and unique. I could say that for every national park in New Zealand but this one is special. It has a unique mixture of different landscapes and landforms. And this is where you can experience all these different forms while hiking 19.4 km (12 miles) on Tongariro Alpine Crossing - New Zealand's best day hike. We both are so proud that we did it a week ago!! Yes, it was a long day, yes it took us seven hours to finish it and yes our feet were sore for next two days....but it was ALL worth it! It is the hardest hike we have done so far....we climbed up 800m (2,600 ft) in elevation. We were out of breath after probably twenty steps we climbed, but again, ALL worth it :)
Our mother earth is mysterious....after all, as humans, can you imagine creating so many microclimates in a stretch of 20 km (and no, I do not mean in a laboratory)! You start with barren land covered with volcanic ash and rocks....bare minimum landscape....you walk a few kilometers and there it is - a snow covered mountain standing right behind, staring at you. Slowly as you climb up and come across a narrow stream of water with lush green plants next to it. You walk further and you see a really high hill with rocks and sandy soil that you have to cross next. You think in your head....are you serious! You somehow manage to cross it and the view that you witness is mindblowing! You walk more and more and you end up in a rainforest! Every step you take, every view you see is different than the previous one. Craters, lakes, snow, huge trees, little plants, uphill, downhill, it is a constant roller coaster! We both were amazed and just out of words to experience it all.
Cathedral Cove - a must visit if you are in Coromandel. It is a short but steep hike to get there....and the views are amazing along the track and once you get there. Check out the pictures and you will know what I mean :)
One of the amazing things about New Zealand is zillions of walking tracks and tramping (hiking) opportunities everywhere you go. Doesn't matter if you are an amateur or a seasoned hiker, there is something for everyone.
We both do not claim to be seasoned hikers but we do hope to get to that level while staying here :) So one of the highlights of our NZ trip will be hiking wherever we get a chance. Sharing the pictures of our first short hike in Coromandel - the Coromandel Coastal Walkway.
We completed only one-third of the whole track, about 4km (2.48 miles) but it was steep! We walked along the coast, over the hills....amongst the trees. It was like walking in a rainforest....surrounded by huge trees, walking while listening to the birds chirping,
small streams meandering and falling over the rocks.....it was peaceful and strenuous at the same time. The view at the end first section was breathtaking! We knew our legs will be sore the next day but it was all worth it! :)
So far, some of our most memorable moments in New Zealand have been the ones that were spontaneous.
One such moment was the day we reached Coromandel town, a very small but beautiful town in Coromandel Peninsula. The hostel owner casually suggested we drive to Long bay, which was only couple miles away. We went to the town searching for dinner, found a takeaway burger joint and decided to go back
to our camp and have dinner, after going for a short drive to Long bay.
It was evening so we tried to hurry up but as soon as we reached Long Bay, that plan changed quickly.
Long Bay was a campsite next to the beach and our timing couldn't have been more perfect. It was almost sunset. So our short drive and takeaway turned into a memorable dinner at the beach while watching sunset :o)
Simple moments of life are the most memorable ones, aren't they!
October 10th - We set our feet on kiwi land late at night. We stepped outside the Auckland airport all bundled up....after being in Houston for so long and now Fiji, the spring season here feels like winter!
As we waited for our hotel pickup to arrive, I looked up, smiled and took a deep breath. Here I am, finally, standing on this beautiful land that I have only known thru google and tripadvisor.
Kia ora New Zealand!! Can't wait to wake up tomorrow and begin our forty day journey in this paradise!
WOW! We have been in New Zealand only a week and that is one word which we both have used the most. And we haven't even been to South Island yet! If you enjoyed the natural beauty of Fiji, wait till you see our New Zealand pics. The beauty of this place is unbelievable!
Our backpacking journey in New Zealand started a week ago in Auckland (North Island) where we rented a car. For next forty days we will be driving from North Island to South Island, making stop overs in different towns....sometimes staying in hostels, some days in holiday parks and rest of the days trying to camp in this chilly weather :) Since it's two of us, renting a car made a lot of sense since it will give us the flexibility to plan our trip and not be bound by the times and destinations that bus tours offer.
One thing to note, in New Zealand, distance between points does not mean much because the speed limit and the road conditions pretty much determine how long it will take you. It is funny that whenever you ask someone how long will it take to reach to a certain point, they will tell you in hours not kilometers. It took us a while to get used to this :)
Our first four days in North Island were spent driving from Auckland to Coromandel and then Thames. Both of these towns are in Coromandel peninsula, which is surrounded by ocean on all sides. When we drove from Auckland to Coromandel, we were spellbound by the views. Every where we turned our head all we could see was lush green hills, flowers, trees, ocean, sheep, farms and cows. The roads were winding....it was like watching a suspense movie....we did not know what spectacular view we would see next. I don't even remember how many times we stopped our car to take pictures and just admire the surroundings.
If you are a nature lover like we are, New Zealand is the place to be :)