Long time no speak! The internet in New Zealand is a little hit and miss, not to mention you have to pay for it in most of the hostels, so writing any sort of blog post has been almost impossible!
Can you believe it’s been an over a month since I left the UK? My bank account can.
I’ve been travelling around for a month and a half now and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel like a good couple of months. I ended up paying for the Kiwi Experience bus pass to get me around the country and it has been very full on.
Now that I’m heading down to the South Island and my first month of travelling is coming to an end, I thought I’d do a little look back on all the places I’ve been and what I’ve learned so far (there is a hell of a lot, trust me).
Exploring the North Island of New Zealand
Our first week here started in Auckland, one of the countries most populated cities, yet not one of the busiest or city like (it’s very odd). As I was booked on a Working Holiday programme, I joined other IEP Visa people for an orientation week, which saw us head north to the Bay of Islands. If you love sun and heat, this is the place you need to be, however I am not one of those people, so a few days was more than enough!
It was definitely one of the most beautiful places I’d ever seen though and we even got to jump on the Rock Cruise overnight around the islands. However, my first week wasn’t quite as energetic and fun as I had hoped.
The plane over to Hong Kong and then New Zealand pretty much killed me off with a chest infection. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been so ill. I ended up having to get a doctors appointment and antibiotics on my very first day in New Zealand. An excellent start to my year!
It wasn’t all doom and gloom though, even though I wasn’t well enough to do all the fun stuff like kayak or snorkelling, I still saw dolphins! That’s my takeaway from that first week. Not to mention, I met awesome people who I’ve ended up travelling with and meeting up with when we are all in the same place.
Jumping on the Kiwi Experience
After getting back to Auckland, the Kiwi Experience bus took me from the city to Hot Water Beach, a place where not much happens but you have no choice but to relax.
At Hot Water Beach, it’s a must to head down to the beach, dig yourself a big old hole and sit in the extremely hot water that fills it. The beach is thermally heated, so once the tide goes out, you can dig yourself your very own hot tub, lie back and watch the most amazing night sky you’ll ever see!
I think, even though there wasn’t much to do, that’s one of the experiences I remember most so far. Plus, it’s completely free to do, all you need is a spade! I’d also recommend a waterproof bag to put your stuff in whilst you soak, as the tide has a way of creeping up on you and washing your clothes out to sea… as we experienced.
Visiting New Zealands smaller towns
I always thought of myself as a city person, I lived in Cardiff for 3 years during Uni, I lived and worked in Manchester and loved every second, but now I think I may want something a little more laid back.
I’ve experienced two of New Zealands biggest cities now and even though I loved both of them (Auckland and Wellington) I felt most chilled in the smaller, slower towns.
Rotorua was definitely a place you need to add onto your travel itinerary, even though the geo thermal activity makes the town smell like eggs 24/7. It is also the Maori capital of the country and it is obvious the minute you step foot into it. It’s here that I had my favourite experience yet, even more than hot water beach.
The Tamaki Maori village
One of the activities that the Kiwi Experience bus offered was an overnight stay in the Tamaki Maori village just outside the town centre. This included afternoon tea, games, a show, dinner and overnight stay with hot tubs. It was as awesome as it sounds.
The first thing we did was take part in a traditional blessing/greeting with our two guides, which saw us having to choose our own tribe chief and singing a song of our choice. We chose We Will Rock You… thank you Queen for your easy to perform song.
We then learned a Maori alphabet song, which included dance moves that I’m still repeating to this day. We had to perform it for 150 people at the dinner as well, I thought our guide was joking when he said we had to perform it later that evening… he was not.
Moving on from the singing to something a little more terrifying, our tribe formed a large circle in which we were handed long sticks, a bit like broom handles and told that we were going to throw them at each other.
But we weren’t allowed to look where we were throwing them.
I’m sure you can guess how well that went, but we did end up smashing it in the end! Our tribe managed to complete the game without dropping a single stick! Just once though, the rest of the time we were ducking and diving to try and not get knocked out by flying broom handles.
Not only was the show amazing and really helped you learn about the Maori culture, but the food served for dinner and afternoon tea was unreal! The dinner was cooked using the geo thermal heat from a hole in the ground and it gave it a delicious BBQ flavour. Plus, all the staff and guides were so friendly, funny and welcoming. I’d do it all again in a heart beat.
Experiencing true Kiwi hospitality
After Rotorua, we headed to another small town called Taupo, which sat right on Lake Taupo (who would have guessed!). We wanted to relax a little, so we didn’t plan too much, but a friend had a (very very loose) contact in the area and he offered to take us out on his boat to see some Maori carvings in the side of the cliffs.
None of us had met this man before, my friend had spoken to him briefly on the phone and he seemed nice, plus offered to drive us anywhere in the area and show us around. We ended up on a very cool speed boat ride with John and his young grandson and it was amazing!
They also offered to have us around for a BBQ with all of his grandchildren and son and daughter in law. When we got there, it was as if we were just a part of the family! As a British person, I found this very strange. There is no way someone in the UK would invite three backpackers they barely knew to their family home for food. Plus, it was someone’s birthday and engagement celebration!
I can’t thank John enough for his hospitality and his family for being so welcoming, I want them to adopt me a little bit.
Making my way to the South Island
There’s so much more I could talk about, like seeing the Redwood forests, visiting Hobbiton, staying in a lodge in the middle of a canyon with no internet or phone signal, or finally seeing the culture rich city of Wellington.
Now though, I need to prepare to see the apparently surreal landscape of the South Island. Not to mention, try and get a job before I’m living on the streets eating super noodles. Stand by for a lot more New Zealand goodness!