Friday, December 10, 2010

New Zealand - North Island

I already blogged about my adventures on the South Island of New Zealand - the north side had to wait a few months longer.  When planning my trip, I had heard with only a week there, you should pick one island and stick to it.  At first I was convinced that it should be the South Island.  Then I read about the North Island - both had so many amazing different things to see and do!  I really couldn't pick, hence the roadtrip through half of each.  Maybe I didn't get to the most amazing parts (which seem to be at the extreme ends of the country but the middle is pretty awesome as well.  I figure I saw enough to know where I'd want to come back to and where I could skip.

North Island! Wonderful, windy Wellington!  The ferry came around and entered the Harbor (where also enters the Antarctic Winds - yikes!) and I caught my first glimpes of New Zealand's capital city, which soon became my favorite.  Despite the sweeping landscapes that make NZ so incredible, I am still a city girl at heart.

We checked into our hotel, where once again, we were offered milk.  Sometimes they don't even ask - they just hand you a small carton of milk with your room key.  I was really confused, but it's tea time!  And they assume you will need milk with your tea.  Of course!  I don't even drink milk, but at this point, it's just easier to take it and not protest or ask questions.

For dinner I think I really wanted to eat at Wagamama; something about hot noodles in a soup sounded really good.  Unfortunately, after Google Maps and walking around, we still couldn't find the place.  I think it was buried back in some shopping center near the water.  At least we got to explore and walk around a bit.  With only one night in a place, you've really got to make the most of your time.

Wellington has a great nightlife scene - restaurants and bars - and sadly I didn't really get to do any of that.  I was more than a little bummed that I didn't get a great night out on Cuba St, but all the more reason to go back!

The next morning we checked out of the hotel and drove down to Te Papa, the National Museum of New Zealand.  I am not always the biggest fan of spending time in museums - usually I'm down for the quick tour - but I actually really loved this place.  Might be one of my favorites 'round the world.

Wellington has a really great cultural scene, and I'm super glad it was such a beautiful day!

The most well-known exhibit at this museum is probably the Colossal Squid, which is truly enormous, looks like an alien, and freaked me out completely!  It's soooo gross to look at, yet captivating.  The have a video playing that shows the capture, how the moved it, preserved it, etc, and you couldn't have paid me enough to touch that thing.

I've never once wanted a tattoo, but after being in New Zealand, I decided that if I ever did get one, it'd have to be a Maori decoration of some sort.  I love the designs and colors of their artwork.  These painted beams go up in a house to form the roof.

After a quick morning at the museum, we worked our way through downtown to catch the Cable Car up to the Observatory and look out points.  It seems every major city around the world has some sort of funicular, and I always have to ride them.  It's usually worth the vantage point!

Wellington really is such a beautiful city - the San Francisco of New Zealand - and I really hope to get back there (just not when the Antarctic winds are rolling in).  I could've easily spent a handful of days here.

But onward and northward we go!  We had a few hours of driving ahead of us and didn't want to miss the scenery after daylight.  We followed the coast for awhile on Highway 1.  Highways in NZ = 2 lane roads (sometimes with a passing lane) that are quite curvy and hilly at times.  At this point we had driving on the left down pretty well.

There was a pit stop at KFC at one point.  Not as good in NZ.  They don't have the green beans!

I really wished I had more time to leisurely meander through the countryside.  One of the highlights of the North Island is the volcanoes at Tongariro National Park.  We started driving though as the sun was starting to get low in the sky and the clouds were covering the peaks.  This is definitely a place I would stop on my next trip.  You can hike in the summer and ski in the winter - nevermind the active volcanoes!  One of them played Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings.

Just near sunset we stopped at one of the most beautiful areas of the whole trip - Turangi - the fly fishing capital of the world.  My dad would've been in heaven!  We pulled over into a little area and got out of the car.  There was a little house for sale and directly across the street was the fishing stream.  My parents so should've bought it.

We were almost to Lake Taupo, our stop for the night.  I got in one sunset picture just as my camera battery died - sad!

After arrival, it was time to hunt for food and go through the town's grocery stores trying to find Banoffee Pie Cadbury bars for Karen (not successful, as the motel owner mentioned they were a limited edition thing).  But I'm always willing to look - international candy is usually just better somehow!

I remember grabbing a quick dinner to go at Subway, since we were pretty tired from the long drive.  My excitement over the pizza sub on the menu (long since gone from the US menus, though a favorite memory from high school) came quickly to gross disappointment as I was reminded on first bite that marinara sauce in other countries is merely a ketchup-like plain tomato sauce.  Do you like ketchup with your pepperoni pizza?  Didn't think so. I was kinda grossed out and did my best to scrape it off.  Sad dinner.

It was a beautiful clear morning the next day and the lake was nice and blue, as expected.  We took off towards Auckland via Tauranga, with a couple awesome stops along the way.

First stop, Huka Falls, which was one of the highlights for me.  Something about big, rushing water in a beautiful blue color could keep me occupied for hours.  Huka is the Maori word for foam, and there was lots of it!  I'd definitely spend a couple days in the Taupo area on the next trip.  Really, there just isn't enough time to see things properly with one day in each place.

Next little roadtrip stop - Craters of the Moon!  This area of the North Island is known for its geothermal activity - think natural hot springs, boiling mud, and steaming craters!  For a few bucks we got to walk around  a hot field for an hour or so.  Kind of a cool thing, I'm glad we stopped.  If you haven't ever seen boiling mud puddles, you should really try and find some.

We made it to Tauranga, which also would've been a lovely place to spend a couple days.  Sadly, we only had a couple hours.  Just enough time to have a true Kiwi lunch (a couple bucks from a local deli!) - a meat pie and an L&P, the world famous in New Zealand soda.  The soda comes from natural spring water in Paeroa and some lemon and other ingredients are added.  It's a bit like 7-UP, only better!  I really need to find a US distributor.

We walked through some shops down to the water and a park for lunch, then had to head back to the car and continue our journey to Auckland.

Somewhere along the way we took an exit for a little pit stop, ending up in an area where we couldn't get back on the highway and instead had to explore some fields and cows!

Finally, the last city of our road trip!  Trying to get through half of New Zealand in just 6 days is not recommended.  Thankfully we had 2 nights to spend in Auckland before hopping over to Sydney.

I have a work friend in the Auckland office (she's from California, and she's one of the few coworkers I'd met in person), so we planned to meet up at some point during the weekend.  Friday night was out though, as we were pretty tired.  We did venture out for some food and saw most of the major downtown action on Queen Street.

On Saturday morning it was time to ferry over to Devonport, a small village on the north side of the Auckland Harbor.  There are three small volcanoes on that side, so it's quite hilly to walk around, but some of the views are nice and it was a beautiful day!

During the afternoon C-squared had scheduled a jump off the SkyTower - craziness!!  I was perfectly happy to watch from below.  We had to go to the top while he got outfitted in the cartoon-like jumpsuit, then one of the workers took me down to the target landing pad so I could watch.  There were only 3 people in the jumping group, and they weren't that busy, so the instructor girl said the group could again for free if they hurried back up; I think they all did it again!

I'm just not a thrill-seeker!  Looking out the windows from the top was enough.  The glass bottom freaked me out a little, so I just had to remember not to look down.

After a nap, it was time to get out and go out!  Not to bash on traveling companions, but after you've been with the same person, 24 hours a day for a week straight, it's nice to have some other interaction.  I'm too social to be confined in that way.  Adonica's bf, Steven, picked us up at our hotel and took us to Adonica's place.  She lives with this lovely family in a beautiful home in Parnell, gorgeous backyard and deck, perfect for entertaining!  We started the night there before heading out for a night on the town.
Jamie (above, left) is a Scotsman who grew up in Oman - amazing!  Oman has been on my Top 5 travel list for quite awhile.  Strange to meet someone who grew up there, Scottish in origin, and living in New Zealand.  I love the world.  

Also in the bunch was Andrew, who used to work at the same company as me, and we worked together via phone for a brief period.  Despite his job change, he lived just down the street and had stayed in touch with Adonica, so he came out with us for the night.   Fun times ahead!

We started near the harbor at Pasha for a lounge vibe, danced for awhile at Bungalow 8, at which point C-squared headed back to the hotel for sleep.  The rest of us cabbed to Ponsonby (or Pon-snobby, as it's locally known) to hit Longroom, which was definitely my kind of place.  I've been known for some international flirtation, and the gang almost had me convinced to go talk to a couple of the All Blacks that happened to be there. Sadly, I passed up that opportunity.  Another reason to go back?
Another cab down to Ink, then on to Supper Club, which is pretty much open starting at 6am til ?  The sun started to come up and it was time to bid adieu to Auckland after such an amazing time.  Quick walk back to the hotel, since we'd essentially made the full loop of the city, a shower, pack, and off to the airport for a flight to Sydney.  See you in OZ!

1 comment:

nerak said...

I can't tell you how much I appreciate the effort to find me Banoffee Pie chocolate. Seriously.

Um, and Lake Taupo looks incredible. I. Must. Go. Back. Asap.

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