Thursday, March 25, 2010

24th of March 2010

The other day I arrived at what I thought would be middle of nowhere, a dead end road. But it turned out several hiking tracks was starting there leading to different huts and other tracks, I felt all warm and fuzzy inside!
All around New Zealand you can find this, huts and tracks everywhere. Often passing or leading to rarely visited waterfalls or hot springs, the sad thing though is that DOC isn’t getting enough money to maintain all of them and so one by one they get closed down and eventually overgrown. Most tourists only ever hear of the 9 famous great walks despite there are so many other nice ones out there.
From Waihi I hitched just down the road 5km until I came to Karangahake Gorge which used to be one of New Zealand biggest gold mining regions, DOC has done a beautiful job restoring most of it and you can walk through the picturesque gorge passing swing bridges, old train tracks and old mining tunnels. I hiked through to a river campsite where I stayed the night. Was planning to stay more nights but seeing 4 rats while just going for a short walk and finding them at my tent when I got back I decided to keep going the next day to Waihi beach instead. From here I walked along a hiking track north for about 2 hours until I got to Homunga bay. I was expecting a beautiful beach for myself but it turned out there was already some 10-15 surfers there and humongous waves! I cooked my dinner and watched the surfers before I went to bed, the next morning I found that my bread had been eaten by rats (or possums). I still stayed the whole day on the beach and this day only one couple came by during the whole day, so nice and quiet. Stuffed my food just next to me outside the mesh of the tent (tent is to small to keep things inside) and went to bed only to wake up during the middle of the night to find that a rat was munching on my oats just 20cm away from me, cheeky bastards! Haven’t had any problems with the animals before when I hitched, don’t know what’s up with this sudden wildlife assault on my grub.
Next day I hiked out to the road, hitched back to Waihi then north and had a freaky day of hitching. First I made a quick stop at the library in Waihi and there just next to me sat a guy from Hawaii that had given me some bread at Tongaporutu, some 350 kilometres to the south, just 7 days before. I hitched north and got picked up by German girl that had been riding with a kiwi guy and was the first couple to pick me up leaving Tongaporutu at the same day as I met the Hawaiian! But it did not end here, a few rides later a polish couple picked me up, and guess what. They were the couple that picked me up the same day just when the kiwi and German girl had dropped me off! Weird..
The destinations of the day was Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove, both are quite known and popular places and that it was Saturday didn’t make it better. Hot water beach is a beach where you have hot water coming up from the ground at a certain area during low tide, so people dig their own small little spas in the sand. But it was very crowded and I headed on to Cathedral Cove instead which probably is one of New Zealand most famous beaches and starred in the second Narnia movie. It has a natural tunnel and several huge pillars as well as beautiful blue water, white sand and islands in the distance. When I arrived there was hardly anyone there but soon people started pouring in, on the north side there was a big beach party with about 30 people and on the south side where I put my stuff some 20 American youngsters came to camp the night. But I stayed anyway and slept the night under the stars on the sand, was a beautiful night. But still no peace from the wildlife! During the night I woke up by a mouse running over me and the next morning when going for a swim the seagulls went for my lentils!
I hitched back to Waihi because I found myself a wwoofing host there and that is where I well spend some time for now. This is quite a different host, more like a community, the hosts are a young couple, Brazilian and Aussie and there is plenty of other wwoofers staying in the house, 5 French, 3 other Brazilians, one German girl and me at the moment. The work we do is selling local fruits from the side of the road in a van in the surrounding towns; actually I quite like it because it reminds me of hitchhiking! Sit on the side of the road looking happy and tidy showing what you’ve got. And as soon as someone stops try to be as social as possible to get them to buy extra stuff. Just like hitching! :D

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

17th of March 2010

I have realized something lately. People usually ask me what I think of their country and I always have positive things to say. But in reality this is because it’s only nice and friendly people that pick me up, the grumpy, stressed and scared ones would never let me into the car to start with. This leads to me getting an image of a country that everyone is really helpful and great which isn’t in reality true. Good thing or bad thing? Well I can’t complain because I don’t have to deal with the sour apple, but it still gives a kind of warped image of the countries I travel through.
From Tongariro I hitched west to Mt Taranki which is another big volcano, but this one is on its own which makes it quite impressive and I am pretty darn sure it will be used as the Lonely Mountain in the upcoming movie The Hobbit. Sadly the weather around Taranaki is extremely unreliable and I didn’t see the whole mountain once during the few days I spent in the region. I did go for a short hike in the rain halfway up the mountain and slept for free in a hut before heading north. It was the WOMAD music festival starting in the north Taranaki region so tons of cars and hitchers were going through so it wasn’t to hard getting a ride. I headed north to Tongaporutu and the three sisters where I stayed two nights so I could catch the low tide and have a walk on this incredible beach, black sand with towering cliffs nearby, huge white cliffs in the distance and if I had been lucky Mt Taranki in the backdrop.
I headed further up and inland next heading for the Coromandel region. I did a few stops on the way, among one of them the highly commercialised Waitomo Caves, didn’t pay to go into any caves though. Other then that the only thing that was quite extraordinaire on the way was seeing my first Kauri trees which are these huge native trees.
For my birthday I stayed in Waihi, which is a gold mining town, in a shabby hotel with quite cheap rooms. Not exactly what I had in mind but the evening turned out quite fun anyway. Spent it with the 3 other hotel guests, one 70 year old aussie builder, one 60 year old kiwi with some weak version of Parkinson? And one middle age Indian guy. So I had myself a proper feed and shared a bunch of beers talking about all kind of things.
The last few days I have been a bit sick of being on the road so the upcoming weeks I think I will just generally drift around the Coromandel area, I don’t feel like stressing around to see different things. Maybe I will go wwoofing somewhere.

Friday, March 12, 2010

11th of March 2010

I will try to keep this entry as short as possible and let the pictures speak for themselves instead.
I started the hike 10 AM on Monday morning and finished it at 4 PM yesterday, Wednesday. About 2/3rds of the walk I was accompanied by a nice French guy, Gerome, which I also met at the camp ground the night before leaving.
I walked about 60 kilometres and with an elevation of over 1150 metres.
The first day the weather was great with a clear blue sky. The second day it started out well but when we reached the top of the red crater around noon it started getting really cloudy so we decided not to try the Mt Doom summit. The next day we hiked back and it looked really well but 50m from reaching the summit (after a 600m climb up the mountainside) the clouds rolled in and ruined all our views! Still I am very happy I did go to the top and got to see the crater and do the “run” down the mountain afterwards!
This has definitively been the best multi day hike I have done and one of the best hikes ever.
Enjoy the pictures!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

8th of March 2010

The area around Taupo and Rotorua has quite a lot of sights, so here is yet another entry with new pictures!
After having a steaming bath once again in Kerosene Creek I hitched to the area just north of Taupo and first checked out the Aratiatia Rapids which is created when they open the gates of the hydro power plant letting the water flow through the canyon, they do this about 4 times a day. From there Craters of the Moon was pretty close, an area covered in collapsed steaming and hissing craters where you walk around on a planked walkway for about an hour.
Next I camped in the nearby area at one of the most popular freedom camping areas in NZ, Reids Farm, just north of Taupo and the morning after when I woke up I hiked 30 minutes north to Huka Falls which is quite impressive, not a very big drop but it have some really strong rapids and is spewing 200 000 litres of water over the edge every second. From there I hiked south on the other side of the river (campsite was on the west side) until I came to the Spa Park Hot Springs which joins the river just north of Taupo. Because they are mixing with the river you can select yourself just how hot you want the water to be. The rapids, waterfall and spring all are part of the Waikato river which is the longest river in NZ and just amazingly blue!
Next I hitched south and into Tongariro National Park which is a World Heritage Area of both cultural and natural importance and the worlds 4th oldest national park (NZ oldest). Within it is 3 big volcanoes, the most famous being Mount Ngauruhoe, aka Mount Doom from the Lord of the Rings trilogy! Last eruption from one of the volcanoes was in 2008, so they are still very active. Mt Doom hasn’t erupted since 1977 though. This is the place I looked most forward to on the whole trip on the North Island and today and the upcoming days I will be walking the Tongariro Northern Circuit which is voted to be one of the top 10 hikes in the world (either this one or the Routeburn, another NZ track, is always on those top 10 lists).
By the way, people who get divorced should travel to NZ and climb Mt Doom and throw that evil ring that have control over them in the crater so they get rid of it once and for all!! Mwuahaha, nerdylicious!
Edit: Lots of pictures in this entry, and because I have a lower resolution on my netbook compared to a normal computer it may look right for you guys reading this with all the pictures, but oh well..

Saturday, March 6, 2010

6th of March 2010

From Rotorua I headed about 25km south to Rainbow Mountain where I hiked to the top for a beautiful view of the surrounding areas.
The area of New Zealand which I am currently travelling through is one of the most active volcanic areas in the world which is quite cool, because every here and there you can see steam rising from the forest and weird coloured lakes or just small bubbling mud pools.
I headed down the mountain and further down the road and onto a dirt track for about 2km and arrived at Kerosene Creek which is this beautiful stream and hot springs waterfall, and oh yeah, because of the volcanic activity the area is also littered with hot springs, quite awesome. I set up my tent and started fixing dinner when this grumpy Maori guy showed up and told me I couldn’t camp there, so I had to quickly pack my stuff again. Didn’t even have time to go for a proper swim or take any photos because it was already dark. But this girl Danielle and her mom just came by for a swim so they gave me a ride and we went to a nice spot by a lake for the night. Next morning though we were told to leave pretty early because 200 people were coming in for some event.
From there I headed south a few kilometres until I got to Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland, a commercial thermal area. I usually don’t like paying for these things but I find this stuff really interesting so I went in and had a walk looking at all the craters and bubbling lakes and the amazing champagne pool which is this green coloured really deep pool with orange edges and water bubbling like champagne and steam rising! Afterwards I looked up this well hidden hot spring waterfall in the area for a quick dip then I went over and looked at a huge mud pool spluttering and making weird sounds. From there I got a ride to Wakite Valley Thermal Pools which is a hot pools complex with 6 different hot pools between 35-42 degrees Celsius, they are fed directly from a huge hot spring sprouting out 50 litres of boiling water every second. You can also camp next to the complex and get unlimited use of the pools for only 16 $ which I did, chilling in the pools most of the evening. Today I will try to go back to Kerosene Creek before I continue south towards Taupo.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

3rd of March 2010

The next morning I continued north to Waipatiki beach and from there I walked over to Aropaoanui beach, both were quite nice beaches but nothing out of the extraordinary. However I did find some nice Paua shells there to take with me. Then I backtracked a couple of kilometres and went Northwest until I arrived by the Tarawera tavern, halfway to Taupo. Close by there is an awesome hot spring. The signs says it is closed, but it really isn’t, but DOC (Department of Conversation) have stopped maintaining it so they had to put up the sign. This means very few actually go over to the springs so after putting up my tent and having a few beers at the tavern I headed over there while the sun was still setting and then enjoyed 4 hours of very hot relaxing, would guess the water is 45 degrees, takes quite a while to get used to! During the evening in the spring I had a Possum walk by just 1½ meters away from me! Possum is a native in Australia, but never managed to see one over there in the wild. In NZ they are considered a pest though.
New Zealand may be extremely dramatic and beautiful country littered with waterfalls, hot springs, beautiful views and beaches. But one thing is missing, and that is exciting animals! There are none, whatsoever, native mammals on NZ (ok, that’s a lie. There is actually 2 species of bats that are native). Neither is there almost nothing dangerous or poisonous out here (2 very rare spiders). So all the mammals that you can find in the country have been introduced. For example wild pigs, goats, deer as well as Possums. One thing NZ have though is several quite unique birds; personally I never found them as exciting as mammals though.
The next day the hitching slowed down, and it took the whole day to get back to Napier and then hitch 100km north to Wairoa, the last guy to pick me up though was this Chinese teacher Jian, whom told me I could stay at his house if I wanted which I did. I was rewarded with a nice Chinese dinner cooked by Jian.
The following day was another really slow day of hitching, but I did get picked up by a dude named Chris who bought me lunch and while he was on a meeting in Gisborne I tried to find a boogeyboard to buy, sadly I didn’t find one and after the meeting he drove and dropped me off outside town. Then it took me 6 hours to get the 40km I wanted to go next. So I arrived just before dusk at the Rere Rockslide.
Next morning it was raining, but it stopped around 10 so I got up and checked out the Rockslide. Rere Rockslide is this amazing 60m long natural slide, just like a giant waterslide in a theme park, just made by nature!
I found a half broken homemade boogeyboard which I used and broke even more after a couple of fun rides. From there I walked back on the road for about 2,5km to Rere Falls which is another beautiful waterfall that you actually can walk in behind, quite cool. While I was there an Irish couple came by and they gave me a ride back to Gisborne so I could get out on a road with some proper traffic again. I headed northwest for quite some time and eventually got dropped of in the small town of Te Teko. It was starting to get late and I was looking for a place to put up my tent walking through town when a police car came by and asked me what I was doing there. The officer told me this was probably one of the worst areas in NZ I could be in because of Maori Gangs so he gave me a ride further down the road to a hidden away campsite by a lake. He dropped me next to a campervan that was already there and an older fella that was in it came out and had a chat with me. His name was Jim and later on in the evening he cooked me dinner with some nice trout he had caught the same day and afterwards we shared a couple of glasses rum and coke while discussing all kinds of things, turned out Jim was quite the bushman and had lived a very eventful life.
The next morning he gave me a ride to the Soda Hot Springs and gave me another piece of the trout to cook for dinner. The Soda Hot Springs which used to be a nice free spot had been commercialized just last year and I decided not to go in there if I had to pay. I hitched west to Tutea Falls and did a hike along the stream watching people white-water raft going over the world highest commercial run drop of 7 meters. I also managed to see a Tui here, which is quite a unique and native NZ bird. Next I hitched down to Rotorua and found a hostel so I could recharge my camera and more. Also cooked myself quite a feast this evening and got me some more insect repellent for those annoying sand flies, tomorrow Ill keep heading south into one of the most thermal active areas in the world.