Last Days in New Zealand
15.05.2015 - 19.05.2015
I hadn't realized when we left River Valley that morning that in only 4 days, I'd be sitting on a plane leaving New Zealand behind me. Only 4 days left and I was still in the middle of North Island. Because of the minimum of time I was running on, I pretty much rushed through the rest of the trip to get back to Auckland in time for my flight. Nevertheless, I tried to get the most of the little time I had left.
The bus drive that morning was dominated by Ruahine and Taranua Forest Park. They accompanied our group along the way south to NZ's capital - Wellington. Shortly after passing through the town of Otaki, we could see Kapiti Island. Once home to one of the most feared of all Maori chiefs, Te Rauparaha and his warriors, the island is now a native bird sanctuary with a great kiwi-breeding program.
Not much later we were in Wellington. Located directly on a major earthquake fault line, the biggest earthquake in the region was recorded in 1855 with 8 on the Richter scale. Luckily we didn't feel any seismic activity the one night we stayed. Upon arrival, we moved into the rooms and were surprised to receive a meal voucher from the receptionist. Another day we got cooked for. After we ate, we were up to some sight seeing. Wellington is home to the NZ government, capital of culture, the arts, dining and nightlife. The city is also known as the film capital of New Zealand with famous movies like The Lord of the Rings, King Kong, Avatar and The Hobbit being made there.
One of the most notable buildings in the city is the Beehive. It serves as the office of the Prime Minister and Members of Parliament. A small group of us spent the evening walking around the town, checking out some of the cool statues and arts.
Most of the rest of the group was taking the ferry the following day over Cook Strait to the South Island. I however, was joining the next group going back up north with the bus. One night was definitely not enough time to explore Wellington and the surrounding area, but we had still a good time.
The last week I spent discovering the North Island from north to south. In the following two days, I drove the same way back - up and down NZ's North Island in just over a week. We drove the same way I and the group took just the previous day, passing Kapiti Island, Ruahine and Taranua Forest Park, the River Valley Lodge until we reached Lake Taupo. In Taupo, I partly took over the role of a guide and hiked up the northern hillside of Taupo with some others of the group. Even though we only had a few days together, the new group bonded quickly.
Making our way quickly northwards, we only stopped shortly in Rotorua. Some travelers left the group for the night in the Maori village and others for the Waitomo caves. Just outside of Rotorua we had another stop at Kiwi Encounter. It is a recovery center for the iconic, flightless native bird of NZ - the kiwi bird. All earnings from the entrance fees go towards saving the bird. The stay wasn't long, but we got to experience some of the unique animals only to be found in New Zealand.
And then I was where I was a week ago - in Auckland. To save some money for my time in Singapore, I couchsurfed again. The host, Rakeeb was truly nice and even paid for dinner one of the two nights I had in Auckland. As I had already seen Auckland, the last days in New Zealand I spent preparing for my next adventure in Singapore.
New Zealand was beyond what I imagined it would be. Everything about it was an amazing experience. The groups on the KiwiEx bus, the adventurous activities like bungy jumping, learning about Maori culture... I could name it all, but that's what I wrote the blog for - to always remember and have a chance to look back to it. Thanks Aotearoa for having been such a terrific host. I make sure to come back one day!
The next day, I would be on my way to the last destination before heading home. Singapore was calling me.
Haere ra - goodbye.