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On the twelfth day of our New Zealand trip we said goodbye to the South Island with its beautiful steppes, plains and forests. With a ferry it went from Picton to Wellington - a journey of 3 hours duration. You can read about what happened on the South Island in the previous article.
Welcome to Windy Welly
Arrived in Wellington we received our new rental car, which this time was not even equipped with numerous scratches, but with leather seats ;-). After a short sightseeing tour and a good meal as well as a few jugs of beer in a local sports bar, we went to the hotel, which was very centrally located in the centre of Wellington. The next hours we relaxed a little and went down to the harbour again in the evening to welcome the new year. The city organized a wonderful fireworks display over the sea, but unfortunately I have to owe photos, as they all turned out to be nothing.
After the successful start into the new year we continued a little later than usual on the following morning. At the beginning we drove with the local cable cars up to the observatory and botanical garden of Wellington. In the observatory we visited the local museum and a show that brought us closer to the southern constellation. Altogether this was a quite interesting excursion, but could not keep up with the following museum visit - the Te Papa Tongarewa.
The Te Papa with its free entrance is about comparable to the German museum in Munich, but a bit smaller. In general, however, it is very exciting with various exhibitions on certain mostly domestic themes. Among other things it was about the Maori culture, the fire belt in which New Zealand lies and owes its earthquakes, the colonial era and other topics. A special highlight was the current paid dinosaur exhibition with an original model of a T-Rex as well as other dinosaurs and various interactive elements. For a better impression, take a look through the Flickr Stream.
The day began with a special highlight - a visit to the Weta Caves. This company, founded by Peter Jackson among others, is responsible for the digital and technical tricks of movies like "The Lord of the Rings", "The Hobbit", "Avatar" and many more. Unfortunately we could not get a guided tour through their workshops, but nevertheless the visit was worthwhile due to numerous interesting exhibits.
We continued to Virginia Lake in Whanganui where we stayed overnight in the Fiesta Court Motel. Thanks to the local motel owner we were able to extend our beer knowledge by Japanese rice beer, which is altogether quite enjoyable, like some beer sorts imported in New Zealand and also brewed by ourselves.
A day like any other? Not in New Zealand, because today we had to climb the 2797m high Mount Ruapehu - at least almost, because we took the Skyline Ridge, which led us to 2300m altitude difference from the 300m lower starting point - a cafe for hikers in summer and skiers in winter. To the cafe we came by ride with the ski lift where we enjoyed a great view. By the way, this led us to the area called Mordor by the Lord of the Rings.
Afterwards we continued in the direction of Rotorua which is known for its geothermal activities. However, we did not visit them until the following day, as we arrived late at our destination after having made a few stops on the route dotted with several pass roads.
The crater lake Lake Taupo, which extends over an area of 616 km² in the middle of the North Island of New Zealand and the Huaka Falls are worth mentioning. The latter waterfall is located in the only outgoing river, the Waikato River, of Lake Taupo. In the Flickr-Stream you will find some pictures of this spectacular waterfall with its rapids, but unfortunately only the real closeness can reflect the true feeling when experiencing this natural wonder. Just one more reason for every reader to visit this amazing country. :-)
In Rotorua we continued the following day with the visit of the Geothermal Wonderland. This area offers a round tour through various volcanic phenomena, some more and some less interesting, such as mud pools from which rising gases cause mud fountains to bubble up again and again, water pits containing a lot of sulphur, boiling water in small pools up to bigger lakes and even a geyser with water fountains up to 3m high. The latter is brought manually with an admixture of certain chemicals to the outbreak.
Next we went on to the Skyline Park in Rotorua, where after a gondola ride on a higher hill with a magnificent view over the city we drove with so-called Ludges at a breathtaking speed into the depths. Ludges are probably the best comparable with sledges, but with the possibility to steer the speed and the direction in these. However, the speed only results from the downward movement into a deeper region of the hill. A participation in such a ride is recommended to every visitor of this area who wants to feel a little thrill.
After the already eventful day before we went on to Whakatane where we went in the early morning at 7:30am with the ship to White Island. White Island got its name from Captain James Cook, who baptized this island because of its color. The island itself is an active volcano which last erupted in the year 2000. Thus we had the unique opportunity, equipped with helmet and gas mask, to enter such a volcano and have a look into one of the craters full of boiling water. The general smell and the strongly sulfur-containing gases of the island made it indeed necessary to wear the gas masks. On the way to the island we again had the opportunity to see some dolphins in the wild.
Back at the place of origin we continued to our next destination, the Quarry Park. This park, built by volunteers, is located on a densely overgrown hill near the city of Turanga on the east coast and is apparently not visited much by tourists and locals. At least this left the impression, as we were apparently the only visitors at this place. But this is surprising, as the park itself left a wonderful impression and how the trip to White Island can be absolutely recommended. Further to Matamata we reached the motel for the night in the late evening.
On the fourth last day it was finally time to visit Hobbingen. This quasi obligatory excursion was just at the right time, as the vegetation was at its highest level and the village with the last Hobbit part was even enlarged again. A total of 44 caves can be viewed and one even entered. Hobbingen left us with a grandiose impression, as the place is even more beautiful live than one could imagine in the movies. After visiting the village we stopped at the "Green Dragon" and enjoyed a British Stout beer. Returned to Matamata we continued our road trip and drove on to Waitomo to visit the caves there.
The following day began with a visit to two caves in Waitomo, known for their fireflies. One of them was even used by the BBC for "Planet Earth". The first cave was still quite unspectacular and we only saw a skeleton of a moa - ostrich-like and extinct birds - as well as some other animals, which fell down from holes in the ceiling of the cave and died. However, the second cave was much more interesting and offered a spectacular view when we were guided by a ship through a cave and thousands of glowworms were courting their attention on the ceiling and walls. I can recommend the tour itself in any case without hesitation.
Following it went for us to the inspection of two nature attractions in the proximity. One was a natural bridge, which was located above a gorge and gave a sensational impression. The next destination was the Moroccopo Falls, another waterfall in New Zealand, which was no less interesting. But just have a look at the photos in the Flickr album to get a small impression.
Slowly our journey came to an end and we continued to our final station - Auckland. The biggest city of New Zealand is also the one with the best road construction. After all, there was the first several kilometers of contiguous highway (motorway), which nevertheless allowed a maximum speed of 100 kilometers per hour like all roads.
In Auckland we visited the zoo in order to see some living kiwis in the land of the kiwis. Beside these animals, there were also numerous others from elephants and giraffes to penguins and tigers. Altogether a rather quiet day, which was rounded off with a fantastic dinner in the evening.
The final day was relatively relaxed in comparison, as we already had to leave our car in the early afternoon. The time before we spent in Auckland with its currently 1.4 million people and the evening in the motel at the pool. In summary, the holiday was grandiose and fulfilled all expectations we had of this great country. A trip here is absolutely recommendable in any case.