New Zealand: 4/2 – 4/8

(New Zealand) New Plymouth >>> Taupo >>> Lake Okaro >>> Rotorua >>> Oruatua >>> Whakamaru >>> Bethlehem

4/2- Waitomo Glow Worms Cave!
4/3- Bungee Jumping, Hot Springs, and Huka Falls
4/4- Thermal Wonderland and Kitty Wonderland!
4/5- Walking Amongst Giants!
4/6- Gearing Up for our last week of Adventure!
4/7- Hiking the Famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing and Mount Doom!
4/8- McLaren Falls and Fun in Mount Whanganui


4/2:
Waitomo Glow Worms Cave!
+ Woke up and immediately drove towards Waitomo in morning. Since it was going to take almost 3 hours, we decided to just get on our way and eat in the van.
+ Used BookMe to get a good deal on a BBQ and salad bar lunch at a restaurant called Roselands. Corey had a steak and Liz had the chicken and they were both really good. Plus, we had unlimited access to the rest of the buffet so we really pigged out and made sure we were nice and full for our upcoming underground adventures.
+ Now it was time for one of the top 5 things we had been excited about when coming to New Zealand- The Waitomo Glow Worms Cave tour!
+ Once we arrived at the tour office, we found out that it was going to essentially be a private tour since it was only the two of us. Our guide Laure had a thick French accent and was from Tahiti!
+ This tour included abseiling, cave tubing, glow worms, caving, and rock climbing! First abseiling. We descended really far down into the cave on a rope as we controlled how fast we dropped. Then we started exploring the big cave both on the left and right sides!
+ After wading up river through the darkness a bit, we went caving through some narrow passages and eventually came to a big pool area. Even though the water was freezing our guide jumped right in and swam to the other side, motioning for us to follow. Once we reluctantly obliged, we somehow made it across without freezing to death and then climbed the slippery wall up into a crevasse where we turned around and slid all the way back down into the water again.
+ After playing with the large amounts of mud, we wandered through the cave some more and eventually stopped at a place where we turned off our lights and admired the thousands of glow worms up above us on the ceiling. It truly was incredible!
+ To get out of the cave, we sat on our tubes and were floating and even bouncing through some rapids! Eventually we came to a spot where we abandoned the tubes and then did some hiking/swimming through a different section of the cave. We again looked at glow worms (this time up close) and then Laure surprised us with a break for chocolate and glow worm juice (warm Gatorade- ew)! Since she had brought enough chocolate for a large group, we each got about an entire chocolate bar. Yum!
+ Then we returned to the cave entrance where we had to rock climb out of the deep canyon back to the rim of the cave. We were all surprised (including Laure) however to find that it was now dark! (Due to daylight savings which had just started today, the time the sun was now setting was wayyy earlier!) So this was the first time the guide had to make this climb at night and we felt extra bad-ass for making the climb out at night!
+ After the tour a nice warm shower was included and we took full advantage! Soap, shampoo and everything!
+ Back at the tour office we had some nice hot soup and bread while we looked at the pics Laure had taken and signed their wall.
+ From there we drove an hour and a half to Taupo and cooked a small late dinner in town (in the countdown parking lot lol).
+ Slept at Reids farm outside Taupo.

4/3:
Bungee Jumping, Hot Springs, and Huka Falls
+ The morning started with a bang as we woke up and rushed over to the river area where Corey had an appointment to bungee at 9:30! He was actually the first one to jump today (Since the Korean tour group in front of him with TV pop stars all chickened out!). Due to that, the rope wasn’t stretched out yet and Corey didn’t touch the water this time. But he’s a bungee pro now! He got harnessed up and then jumped so fast!
+ Drove to Spa Thermal park and cooked a brunch of hotdogs and coffee. Lol. It was nice people watching and dog watching though.
+ Then we walked over to the small hot spring there. Corey went for a quick swim but Liz was content just watching.
+ Stopped into town and renewed our car registration at the AA office.
+ Next we went over to another Liquid laundry and did a huge load of our stinky clothes and bedsheets. Ahhh so fresh and so clean clean!
+ From there we drove to Huka falls just outside of town. Huka Falls is more like a huge rapid not a waterfall. It was impressive to see the relatively calm river basically slam into this thin canyon causing a really long and extremely powerful rapid. Corey and I had a good laugh as we imagined if we tried to run this in our canoe. It was a nervous laughter bc we are 100% sure the canoe would have exploded and we would be dead. The rapid was THAT powerful.
+ Drove north towards Wai-O-Tapu. There weren’t any free camping spots so we ended up going a little north of it and camped at Lake Okaro.
+ Cooked Mexican burgers in the back of our van and they were deeeeelicious!
+ Later that night the rain started. Little did we know it would never end! (or at least not for the next 3 days)

4/4:
Thermal Wonderland and Kitty Wonderland!
+ Woke up to more rain. We are getting leftover rain bands from Cyclone Debbie and many activities were canceled! So we were having to shuffle around the itinerary we had planned out for our last few weeks in NZ.
+ We did decide to brave it out for at least one activity and headed to Wai-O-Tapu. This place was popular due to it’s extremely unique geothermal activity. This was due to the Earth’s crust only being 16 km thick in this area! That’s it! In fact, the area has been deemed the “Thermal Wonderland” and is one of the best in the whole world for geothermal activity.
+ We dressed in our rain jackets and rain pants so we were ready for the continuous downpour. We arrived early to see the Lady Knox Geyser erupt as it does everyday at 10:15am. Little did we know that the eruption happens at that exact moment because they pour surfactants into that the geyser! Duh! Of course that causes bubbling and shooting water!
+ After that slightly underwhelming show, we walked the rest of the 3km trails in the park. Although it continued to rain the whole time it was still cool the see the different colors of the mineral deposits and craters and things. There were so many different features to see inside Wai-O-Tapu but our favorites were the iconic Champagne pools and the bright Yellow-Green Devil’s Bath.
+ Once we finished and went back to the parking lot, we noticed someone dented our bumper 😦 . Dang, we had avoided damage any damage this whole time and now this when we were so close to finishing!
+ After we had some quick snacks we drove north to Rotorua.
+ Corey surprised Liz by driving directly to the cat cafe instead of the I-Site! It was so fun and a great rainy day activity to play with the cats. Most were ragdolls- adults and kittens. There was also a few other breeds but they were much more timid. There was even one little munchkin cat! Lol! We had a lot of fun relaxing with a hot drink and playing with the cat toys and kittens.
+ After about an hour and half we left both totally in agreement that Tumbles is still the best cat we have ever met and we miss him so so so much.
+ It was still raining so we headed down the road to the I-Site. Then with our new stack of brochures we drove over to Carl’s Jr. to do some internet stuff and take advantage of their free soda refills!
+ Too rainy to cook outside so we had to settle for Domino’s for dinner. Hooray!
+ Camped at Lake Okaro again because the two free sites right in the city were full super early! (like 2pm early!!)
+ While parking for the night, we almost got stuck in the mud as soon as we arrived at the campsite (same spot as last night but now much wetter!) but Corey got us unstuck like a champ!

4/5:
Walking Amongst Giants!
+ Just like yesterday, we woke up to more rain. At least there wasn’t thunder and lightning like there would’ve been back home though!
+ Refusing to be deterred, we headed to the Whakarewarewa National Forest to view and hike amongst all of the giant Redwood trees! They were California Pacific Redwoods and had been imported long ago. Now they had grown into monsters, but still were much smaller than the ancient ones in the U.S. Nevertheless, we really liked hiking through the pretty trails in the park.
+ Since we wanted to stay in Rotorua tonight, we decided to go check out the parking area even though it was so early. It’s a good thing we did because we got the very last overnight camp spot at 1:45pm! The middle of the afternoon! Already full!
+ To mix things up a bit, we went to a Burger King this time to do internet stuff. Corey worked on the blog and Liz worked on our 2016 taxes.
+ Walked back to our van and cooked in the rain. Well our open hatch door in the back mostly blocked us. Ate some yummy couscous, peppers, and chicken.
+ Then it was speed trials to see how fast we could hop into the van getting as little rain on the bed as possible!
+ We watched some Flight of the Conchords on the tablet that night and had to use headphones to hear since the rain was so loud outside that even with the volume all the way up, we weren’t able to hear it without headphones!

4/6:
Gearing Up for our last week of Adventure!
+ Finally woke up to sunshine!!!! Hooray! It seems as if the Cyclone had finally passed. Ate some breakfast next to our van and tried to let some of our wet stuff dry out.
+ Tried to play Frisbee golf at a nearby course but it was too flooded to get past hole 2.
+ To make Liz feel better since we couldn’t play her favorite game, we went and got Fro-Yo at the mall!
+ As we ate our sorrows away, we used the internet and sorted more housesit stuff. Now we could finally book some of the activities we’d been postponing.
+ We then drove around the lake and did the Hamurana Springs loop hike. It was pretty short at only about 30 minutes but it was really pretty and ambled alongside a crystal clear creek and through more Redwoods.
+ When nightfall started to creep in, we started driving South. Stopped to refill water and cook dinner in Taupo.
+ Kept driving south and eventually stopped and slept at Oruatua next to the moonlit lake Taupo. Fell asleep to the sound of the waves crashing on the shore. We needed our rest because tomorrow we were hiking Tongariro!

4/7:
Hiking the Famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing and Mount Doom!
+ Had to wake up really early to finish the drive to the end point of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing trail. This is where we’d be picked up by our shuttle bus and taken to the starting point.
+ When we arrived the place was packed! Since this was the first day the crossing was open since before the Cyclone, everyone had been waiting to hike and now it was a madhouse! We had to park 1/2 mile down the road from the parking lot!
+ Once we’d been picked up and driven to the start, we began our journey on what is deemed as the best day hike in all of New Zealand and possibly the entire world!
+ Hiked the entire Tongariro Crossing trail in just under 9 hours! We managed to finish just before dark. It was decently tough but certainly not the hardest hike we’d undertaken here in the Southern Hemisphere. Thankfully we had rented hiking poles to assist us in this journey.
+ Around 1/3 of the way through, we reached the point where you could split off and hike the infamous Mount Doom! It would be a tough 3 hour undertaking that involved scrambling up and down the very steep mountainside on loose volcanic rock. All while avoiding other rocks and boulders tumbling down on you from the mist above. As much fun as that sounded, Liz chose to sit this one out. So while Corey started off on the hike, Liz stayed back to read her book and enjoy the crisp mountain air (aka try not to freeze to death!).
+ Corey managed to make it to the top in just over an hour, despite getting lost in the dense cloud a few times. This was due to the fact there was no real trail but just a thousand different paths from people attempting the climb before him. If it was a clear day it would’ve been no problem but with the cloud you couldn’t see more than 20 feet in front of you!
+ At the top, the weather unfortunately stayed the same and there were absolutely no views out over the beautiful valley. Just a sheer drop off and tons of ice everywhere! He stayed for a while in the below freezing weather to see if it would clear up but once all his fingers were blue and numb, he decided to start heading back down.
+ Along the way, he had to empty the mounds of rocks from his shoes multiple times! Then he reached Liz and they continued the crossing trail.
+ Luckily, the weather only got better and better and by mid afternoon there was nothing but clear blue skies! We could look back and even see all of Mount Doom now!
+ In the end, we agreed it definitely was the best day hike we’d done here in NZ. Besides the Alpine mountains, we passed by gorgeous geothermal lakes and pretty “fairy” type forests. So worth it!
+ Drove back to Taupo to return the hiking poles. Then popped into Coffee Club for a warm drink and to use wifi.
+ Slept at Lake Whakamaru Reserve. Nice forest next to a lake. Really quiet. It was so calm and peaceful outside (plus perfect temperature) that we almost went to bed with the back door wide open! Lol! We’d never done that before. It wasn’t until after watching 2 whole episodes of FotC that we realized it was still open!

4/8:
McLaren Falls and Fun in Mount Whanganui
+ Enjoyed a delicious pancake breakfast (with chocolate in the pancakes!) with our picture-perfect setting. Then we sat outside enjoying the sunshine and watching the huge black swans swim by. (They were big, but still not as humongous as the Australian ones!)
+ Drove to McLaren Falls. The falls were more like a series of falls and although they were powerful, they were only a fraction of what they could be when they released the dam!
+ Then we drove into the park to the frisbee golf course. To our surprise, there were sheep on the Frisbee course! We only played a few holes before we ran out of time and decided we needed to drive to town.
+ Drove to Taupo and used our BookMe coupon to watch Beauty and the Beast. In Australia and New Zealand all of the movie theaters were super fancy and offered wine/beer and nice meals. Not just soda/popcorn/candy like in the U.S. This meant that the tickets could be super expensive though! Our coupon was a great deal though and included a glass of wine and some ice cream too!
+ After the movie we drove to Mount Whanganui. Parked and hiked most of the way up the giant rock. Got some good views of sunset and both cities before turning around to head back down in the dark.
+ Ate dinner at a Mexican place called Burrito Brothers (another BookMe). It was delicious! Probably the best Mexican food we’d had in a loooong time!
+ Used wifi in town for a bit from a Spark box.
+ Slept at Wairoa River and walkway (near Bethlehem).

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