New Zealand – North Island
I arrived in Auckland weary and tired from my flight and the last 8 days in HK where I got very little sleep. I spent most of my time sleeping, walking around the city centre, shopping and trying to figure out how I would get around New Zealand.
Auckland was alright but really lacked any character. But still, since I spent most of my time not actually looking to explore the city, I will give it a chance and look forward to seeing more when I get there.
The next stop was Rotorua, a town famous for its geothermal activity. It has many natural hot springs over the city and it reeks like sulphur. I took an expensive gondola ride where I got a nice view of the town.
It was actually very windy up there, but I braved the elements in order to watch the sunset and see the town flooded with lights once darkness hit.
Next was Taupo where I was hoping to the Tongariro alpine crossing. Unfortunately, a windy storm hit and the crossing was closed. The town was very small and all the stores and attractions were contained in an area of what seemed like 10 square metres! The hostel I stayed in was VERY overpriced for what I got. First, they left the windows open in the bathroom which left it unbearably cold. Second, the room was also very cold and the tiny heater, which couldn’t even heat up the entire room, was on a timer and turned off after 30 minutes of use. I wanted to stay a few more nights to do the crossing but since the weather did not look to be clearing up, I moved forward. I will go back to Taupo again later anyways.
And then I headed to Wellington. The Taupo-Wellington journey was enjoyable as you got see the bucolic beauty of New Zealand: undulating hills of green peppered with cute white sheep. Before I entered Wellington city centre, I had a lovely view of Wellington from the summit of Mt. Victoria. There you could see the town, the harbour, the Cook Strait and the airplanes landing in the airport.
Wellington is slopey and quaint. The hills have colourful houses, and if you ignore the weather and the town at the bottom of the hills, the scene looks like it could be taken from a brochure on the Mediterranean.
I was given a city tour by Andrew, a Kiwi-cum-American I met in my Hong Kong guesthouse. He showed me the Bohemian side of Wellington. We ate at a nice vegetarian cafe, and had the best hot chocolate Wellington has to offer.
The weather was bad again on my last day in Wellington so I spent most of the afternoon in Te Papa, NZ’s national museum. It had an informative exhibition on the ecology and geology of New Zealand. It is in a precarious position: on top of two tectonic plates grinding against each other by the pacific ocean. Consequently, it is prone to earthquakes, volcanic activity and flooding.
Here are a few more photos: