14 Apr Highlights: Auckland to Taupo
Day 1 – Auckland to Hahei
Leaving Auckland we stopped at Mount Eden, a dormant volcano, for views of the city and the famous nearby Rugby stadium.
We traveled through the Coromandel Peninsula to Hahei, a beach town most notable for its spectacular Cathedral Cove. As we made the drive to Hahei, I realized that New Zealand is much more tropical than I had thought. It’s pretty close to Fiji, and it looks like it! One moment you’ll be driving through pastoral, green rolling hills, and then you’ll go over a hill or make a turn and find yourself instantly in a lush rainforest filled with palm trees and tree ferns with dramatic mountains like you’d find in Hawaii.
That afternoon, I kayaked in the sea to get a different perspective of Cathedral Cove.
After exploring a bit we settled into our campsite and all pitched in for dinner and barbequed together. Traveling this way, we often stop at grocery stores so people can pick up whatever they need for dinner, but it was really nice having a group BBQ, especially the first night. We all trekked out to Hot Water Beach after dinner and felt the geothermal hot springs that pop up on the beach if you dig a big enough hole. But I couldn’t stop looking up… the stars made me stop in my tracks. I have never, ever seen stars like they are here; the Milky Way was actually completely visible! I didn’t realize that stars could be this clear and numerous. I wish I could take a picture to show what it was like, but I guess my only description is that it was like the most insane planetarium show you’ve ever seen. Only it was real.
DAY 2 – Hahei to Raglan
Today we went from one beach town to another, this time to Raglan on the west coast. Known for having New Zealand’s best surfing, we arrived fairly early so people could partake if the wanted. (Fun Fact: Jack Johnson and Ben Harper both have houses here.) I didn’t surf and opted instead to do a hike to the base of the Bridal Veil Waterfall, which was a really tall waterfall set in the rainforest. It was a hearty hike to the base, and it was worth it to get the amazing views.
In Raglan we stayed at a surf-lodge that overlooked the ocean. It was a really unique place to stay with an almost jungle cabin-like feel, and I had my first experience actually cooking my own dinner in a communal backpackers kitchen! (The key is just keep it as clean as it was when you started. There’s no antibacterial soap here, but everything seems clean enough…) I made pasta, and have a packet of ramen noodles in my backpack for another night. It’s like college! The only downside was the outdoor shower that often turned cold… but at least it kept the showers short!
DAY 3 – Raglan to Maketu
We left early today and I was excited to get to see the glowworms in the Waitomo Caves – one of my 55 Places in the world I want to visit! (#43!!!) It didn’t disappoint; the glowworms were really cool. They’re not actually worms, but larvae who glow to attract prey to fly into their sticky silken strands. Evidently they glow using the same mechanics as a lightening bug. Whatever it was, it was really interesting and beautiful to see. Of course, none of the pictures of the glow worms actually glowing turned out, but at least I’ve got my memories, right?