North Island – #NZL

It’s the start of the summer  in New Zealand – the water’s not yet warm enough and paddling up near the Bay of Islands was worse than the Bristol channel in October, in other words COLD!! Staying on The Rock (an awesome floating hostel) and snorkling in the Bay of Islands was, ahem, bracing to say the least, diving in physically stole the breath from my body.

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The team on the boat were so welcoming, once we were on board the ice-breaker was a competition of who could hit ‘Lee’ the evil duck who was attached to the back of the boat bobbing along in the water (whilst we were moving) and all of this done with a paintball gun. One of the best icebreakers I’ve ever come across and I’ve had to organise enough events the last few years… We also went kayaking at night under the stars, I almost wish I could have just lay down and watched the stars all night, the sky was so clear and the moon so bright with the Southern Cross lighting up the sky.

Didn’t hug the Kauri tree we visited 🙂 but it you could smell it’s distinct sap some distance off! It was enormous in width and height at 1,000 years old.

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Kauri Tree

The scenery here is incredible – expansive and extraordinarily beautiful. A gorgeous backdrop against sandy beaches and crystal clear waters. At least when the weather is clear and the sun is shining.

I remembering landing on a Wednesday but the days are already blurring into each other – it feels like I’ve been here a lot longer than a week or so, more like a month already. To the point I have already had to charge my camera more than once! We have done so much already I can barely keep track.

From the boat we stayed in Paihia, the first proper example of relaxed New Zealand. Waitangi Treaty grounds – this place is a must visit if you want to delve into New Zealand’s shared history with the Maori. On my #historygeek list. Waitangi is where the treaty that formed New Zealand as it is today was initially signed and then taken around the country for Maori chiefs to sign. The story behind the differing translations is a facinating one I enjoyed learning about.

Visit to the Maori village and Waitomo Treaty Grounds:
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It was a few days after than the Treaty Grounds, we visited Rotorua and a traditional Maori village ‘Ohinemutu’ where we were greated in the traditional but informal manner and had to touch noses with those greeting us, Shaloh and Nick. We toured the village and the hot mud pools – far to hot for anyone to go in mind you – most were near 100 degrees in temperature! We even learnt the Haka, often used by the New Zealand rugby team before matches. Wish there had been a video, it was so much fun!

I wouldn’t be me without coming to New Zealand and continuing to follow the rugby world cup and trust me to find the other Welsh person in the bar… I watched the New Zealand v South Africa game in Auckland near the hostel. The atmosphere was amazing – all the New Zealanders cheering on the players so the noise was everywhere. Rugby can translate across the world and there is no animosity between fans and as teams have been knocked out of the world cup, those fans have supported the remaining teams with gusto. It was so early in the morning I barely managed to get out of bed and dressed, let alone take my camera with me to capture the atmosphere. I can fully understand why NZ and Aus supporters were grumbling about the scheduled time of the match!

We followed up with even more #yolo activities in Raglan – a surf lesson in the morning, and Sea Kayaking in the afternoon. Surfing was exhausting; learning to manage the board underneath you and stand up? I might be a natural in the water but not on a surf board, I just about managed to get up onto my knees and feet but standing was just out of my league… Sea kayaking was great fun, if hard work after a morning surfing! We crossed the harbour in our kayaks and saw the almost completely uninhabited beaches up close and personal.

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Seeing the rugged limestone landscape that close is amazing and awe inspiring. While at the accomodation in Raglan some of us wandered up to ‘Inspiration point’ – spectacular views with the mountains behind and the beaches in front with the tiny town and surrounding areas just spreading out beneath your feet.

Seeing the Waitomo Caves, full of Glowworms was something incredible to behold, its not often you get to enter the dark recesses of the world, created by the power of nature. I took part in the fairly sedate Spellbound boat cruise through the caves, tunnels lit up like Christmas by the glow-worms light. We even got tea and cookies to warm us up.

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Conquering Volcanos – if only I could. The downside to this trip has been my wariness of damaging my back yet again and as New Zealands top trek is the Tongarino crossing, a 19km hike up the side of a volcano, I wish I could kick my spine into gear! Though the weather has been so changeable that the walk was cancelled for the rest of the group then put back on. Instead of the walk I was supposed to do the flight but cloud cover stopped that 😢. The smaller walks in the surrounding countryside and the taranaki falls, however, almost made up for it:

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Pit stops in both Auckland and Wellington meant a dash around the streets to take in the sites the cities had to offer including visiting the Te Papa museum in Wellington, NZ’s National museum. Taking in some more of the Maori and geological history of the country.

We finished the New Zealand Encompassed tour back in Wellington and I couldn’t resist paying a visit to the Weta Cave, a unique glimps into the world of movies and film, told from the perspective of the makers, artists and craftspeople behind the special effects, prosthetics, armour, weaponary and so much more. They were the team behind the amazing cinematic feats of Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Avatar and so many more.

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