Welcome to post #4 in my New Zealand Adventure travel series. I’m the vicarious traveler and mom of Chris, my son who decided that college and a career were good, but it was time for new experiences. So a few months back he resigned from his job, got a year work visa to New Zealand, and ever since has been pretty fun to travel vicariously through! This post has OVER 50 FUN PHOTOS plus a couple videos of his adventures in exploring New Zealand’s North Island. If you haven’t been privy to the previous posts, they’re all linked at the bottom of this post so be sure to check them out.
Left behind the familiar to venture out into the unknown…
I have to say how much I admire my son for having the guts to live his dream. He packed his things (after getting rid of pretty much everything other than his fishing poles) and took off for a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, far away from home, and has never looked back. He went with a general plan, and now just lets the pieces fall in place as he meets people and sees sights. He lives within his means, and focuses his life around experiences rather than things that can be bought. Life is supposed to be fun, and he’s doing a good job at that!
Exploration Continues – Keeping Up With Chris
Lots of changes since the last post that described his work at a vineyard in Blenheim and life at the hostel.
First, he had a bit of a fender bender that totaled his backpacker vehicle. It doesn’t take much damage to cause more than the $2,000 the car was worth, thus it was as deemed totaled by his insurance company. He really liked his car because he could camp in it when exploring different areas. So he wasn’t real thrilled to have to search for a new car to buy. However, he found a van that is “even more sweet.”
The van is a 4wd Toyota Estima. The previous owner had a cabinet maker create a large storage area that also acted as the base for a mattress. In the far back (behind the back seat) there is a meal prep area. He can stand outside and chop up ingredients for gourmet meals…or in his case, it’s a bench.
The next big change is that he put in his notice at the vineyard. He decided to join a group of 6 Germans who were heading out to explore the north island. His travel mates are friends he met while staying at the hostile in Blenheim. As the trip continued, a few more people joined the group and some dropped out.
Whirlwind Road Trip of New Zealand’s North Island
The self-drive tour began on March 9, about 1 1/2 months after Chris left the U.S. They left from Blenheim, which is located in the northern area of New Zealand’s South Island. The group had a total of 4 cars, and they got on a ferry to get to the North Island.
Wellington, New Zealand
Wellington was their first stop. His impression of the city was that it was similar to San Francisco. There were lots of houses built on big hills along a big bay. According to Wikipedia, “Wellington is the capital city and second most populous urban area of New Zealand, with 412,500 residents. It is at the south-western tip of the North Island.”
In Wellington, some of the group got a room in a hostel, and the ones with sleeping cars slept in their car. The hostile charged $20 NZD per night to “camp” in the parking lot, but then you got use of their bathroom and facilities.
Napier, New Zealand
Their next main destination was Napier. The city of Napier is located on the east coast of the North Island. Its long hot summers and mild sunny winters helps make the area a fertile agricultural ‘food bowl’ and known as one of New Zealand’s leading food and wine regions.
Taupo, New Zealand
The town of Taupo is near the center of New Zealand’s North Island. It’s known for Lake Taupo that was created nearly 2,000 years ago by a massive volcanic eruption. The lake drains into Huka Falls, which as you can see in the photos below has amazing crystal-blue, rushing waters that are said to have 200,000 liters of water plummet through the narrow gap every second. Surrounding Taupo are hot springs like the one in the video below.
Tongariro Crossing and Mount Doom
Like several places in New Zealand, Tongariro National Park was made more famous by its appearance in The Lord of The Rings trilogy. Tongariro National Park is located in the North Island, 50 km south of Lake Taupo.
Chris and his travel mates made it to the top of Mount Doom located in Tongariro National Park – not an easy climb! It’s really called Mount Ngauruhoe, but it was coined Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings that was partially filmed there. In the movie, it’s the mountain Frodo imagined doom to be like. Mount Doom is very steep and difficult climb because of the loose rock that moves underfoot.
Will he drop the One Ring?
For the entire Lord of The Rings trilogy, Frodo and Sam are trying to get to Mt Doom in order to destroy the infamous ring. Here’s their fun video remake that shows off the “moonscape” like ground:
New Zealand’s Tongariro Alpine Crossing is known as the world’s greatest single day hike.
Onward to New Plymouth located on the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island.
“The city of New Plymouth is known for its sunny climate, art galleries and beautiful parks. It is also New Zealand’s ‘oil town’, with offshore rigs extracting natural gas and oil. The conical shape of Mount Taranaki provides a dramatic backdrop to the city, a constant reminder that the hiking trails of Egmont National Park are just a short drive away.” (Source: newzealand.com)
They wanted to climb Mt. Taranaki but the weather didn’t cooperate and they got rained out. They did manage to take in some beautiful views at a few roadstops.
Rotorua, New Zealand
Rotorua is home to the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world, Tutea Falls.
Matamata: Home of the Hobbiton Movie Set
Are any words needed?
Tauranga, New Zealand
The city of Tauranga is located on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island, and is surrounded by amazing waterfalls. Tauranga is New Zealand’s fifth largest city and is one of the country’s main centers for business and international trade.
Coramandel, New Zealand
“Renowned for its natural beauty, green pastures, misty rainforests and pristine golden beaches, The Coromandel is blessed with hundreds of natural hideaways, making it an ideal place to escape. ” (Source: TheCoromandel.com)
Auckland, New Zealand
As you can see in his SnapChat, he arrived in Auckland. However, this is where I’m going to stop this post.
In the map below you’ll see that Auckland is located in the northern part of New Zealand’s North Island. All of the travels described above (from Wellington in the southern-most area of the North Island to Auckland in the northern area) took the group a good three weeks.
My next post will be about Chris’ travels in Auckland and further north into the region called the Northland. I know there has been some changes in how the group is traveling, but I’m not sure of the specifics. Because they’ve been in more remote areas, reception has been spotty and we haven’t communicated with Chris much this past week. His inchoate plan always seems to turn out filled with fun!
Frequently Asked Question: Where does Chris stay at night?
About 5 nights out of the first 3 weeks of travel the group stayed in a hostel. At their stop in New Plymouth, they stayed at the home of a local Kiwi who they had met at the hostel in Blenheim. Most of the time the group camped. The guys with cars (like Chris) slept in their backpacker-modified vans, while the others pitched a tent. They were usually able to find a free campsite but sometimes paid $10-15 NZD ($8-13 USD) per night. Some were better than others, but free is nice when you’re exploring on a budget! The most important thing (in this momma’s mind) is that they managed to get some sleep between what seems like an awful lot of fun.
Thanks to Chris for sharing his photos. Every so often he finds a library with free WiFi to upload them so I can share them with all of you as he continues his adventure. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. I hope you enjoyed traveling vicariously through Chris while he explored New Zealand’s North Island. Check back soon for the adventures in New Zealand’s Northland.
Please feel free to leave questions for Chris or comments below – your comments mean the world to me and I appreciate each and every one!
Read More Posts in this New Zealand Adventure Travel Series:
- New Zealand Travel Adventures as Told by Mom
- New Zealand Work Visa: First Few Weeks
- New Zealand Adventure: Fly’n Solo
- This post! New Zealand Adventure: Exploring the North Island
- (Updated) New Zealand’s Northland: Hiking & Picking Kiwi
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