Travels Around New Zealand's North Island
Our journey around North Island began with a stay of ten days in Wellington, New Zealand's capital, where we lived in the Downtown Hostel, once the elegant Art Deco Waterloo Hotel. We toured the Government Quarter, learning a bit about the operation of the government and Kiwi politics, visited the wonderful Te Papa Museum and the City and Sea Museum, went to a 'NetBall' game (like basketball), and took bus rides and long walks around the neighborhoods and much of the city.
Then we boarded the Overlander train for an all day ride up through the center of North Island, past the volcanic peaks of the central plateau, over viaducts and through tunnels, around a great sweeping spiral to traverse the gorges and plains of the Waikato River. This was a dramatic ride!
After one night in Auckland, we met Ross, a good friend we met in Turkey last summer. He took us for an exploratory ride through the city, including a trip up to the top of Mount Eden, one of Auckland's many green volcanic hills, for a panoramic view of this city that drapes the hills around two harbours, Waitemata and Manukau. Then, heading north, we escaped the suburbs to arrive in Snells Beach, a quiet and scenic town with views to the ocean and surrounding hills. We spent the next days alternating long chats with day trips around the Northland, a region of green hills dotted with sheep and cows, steep bush covered slopes, small villages, and deserted wild beaches.
We also planned a road trip to enable Ross to share the special places of his country south of Auckland. On the first day, we traveled south, through Auckland's sprawling suburbs, Hamilton and on, past green rolling hills to Lake Taupo, the largest lake in North Island. Looking across the blue waters, touched with white caps, the ghosts of great volcanic peaks hidden by mist.
Next morning, the mist had lifted to reveal the shining snowy peaks, an awesome sight! That day, we circumnavigated the volcanic plateau, passing the volcanoes, Tongariro, Ruapeho and Ngauruhoe, each shining with fresh snow and surrounded by clouds and attempted to imagine what this region had endured when these volcanoes were exploding with hot lava and ash.
Next day, we visited Huka Falls, formed as the pressure of the waters of Lake Taupo fell through a narrow chasm of very hard rock, to become the source of the Waikato River, New Zealand's longest.
We continued our ride, east to the coast and the Art Deco city of Napier. Following an earthquake in 1931, Napier's courageous citizens rebuilt their ravaged city in the Art Deco architectural style that was the great innovation of that day. Now, after 80 years, this small city welcomed visitors to stroll and admire the well preserved buildings, then to enjoy the beach side esplanade. Adding to these charms, Napier's surrounding countryside offered vineyards and wineries with open cellar doors for tasting. Ross volunteered to be the designated driver so we could taste the most delightful vintages on offer.
Continuing, we rode into the geothermal Rotorua valley to view steam vents, geysers, boiling mud pools, and bubbling rock cauldrons of strange colored mud and water, resembling features of the Yellowstone Park region in the US.
Following our road trip, we spent two weeks exploring Auckland and then returning to visit Ross for our last three days, before returning to the US.
Click on the links below to view Flickr galleries of our photos (each opens in a new window).
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