I'm going on a trip :-)

on January 10, 2011

It's almost half-time. I came to New Zealand July 14 and in the past half year have done lots of weekend trips to the north. I've seen the northern most part Cape Reinga (for which the post is still missing I'm sorry) where - as the Maori believe - the souls of the dead go to to start their very last journey to Hawaiki where everything begun. I've been to Kai Iwi Lakes, Waipoua Forest with Tane Mahuta, seen many beaches along the east and west coast of Northland, the northern most region (kind of like a province) in NZ.

I've also been to Auckland a few times, the nearest major city. The furthest south I've been so far was a weekend trip to Rotorua where Daniel and a few of our friends were participating in a half-ironman.

So there is still a lot to see and do in this wonderful country that I'm hoping to make my new home. Since the school holidays won't be finished until the end of January I'm able to take a few days off (thank you Pia & Philip!!!) and explore. Johanna - a Swiss Au Pair - and I are leaving on a big trip this Friday *woohoo* We'll go all the way down to Wellington at the very bottom of the North Island. There Johanna is probably deserting me while I'm heading back up to Whangarei.

Here are a few things we (I) will see on our trip...

Coromandel: This peninsula in the northeast is known for some of the most beautiful white-sand beaches in New Zealand. There a few former gold-mining towns, muddy wetlands, forest and mountain ranges. We're going to start our trip here with a few awesome walks experiencing nature at its best. Must-do-stop: Hot Water Beach (dig your own thermal pool!).

Tauranga: Good spot for swimming with dolphins and probably a good chance to spot whales too! A walk up Mt. Maunganui (232m) is on the list as well as the views should be spectacular. The mountain is surrounded by beautiful beaches :-)

Rotorua: I've been here before, but only briefly. We'll definitely stop at the geothermal wonderland with its geysirs and hot/mud pools (not to swim in - a few days ago an 8 y/o boy died because he fell into one of the pools which can be up to 100 degrees Celcius hot!!!). Beware also of the slightly rotten egg odor that lies in the air. Comes with the sulphite from the geothermal activity that makes this area such an attraction for tourists.

Whakatane: Another great spot for sighting dolphins, seals, orca and other whales. Kepp your fingers crossed for us (I'll share the pics with you!)...

Gisborne: "It proudly claims to be the first city on earth to see the sun." - That's what the Lonely Planet says. It is definitely blessed with heaps of sunny days throughout the year. The city on the east coast also has an interesting mix of architecture with Edwardian buildings next to five-story skyscrapers, "modern" buildings from the 1950s and some Art Decó houses. Important historical fact: Captain Cook - British explorer and the first European to discover Aotearoa - first set foot to New Zealand right here in October 1769. Also the area is famous for its wines and we might have the chance to do some FREE wine-tasting =D

Napier: Further down the east coast are the twin cities of Napier and Hastings. The latter is not supposed to be that spectacular so we'll skip it and just have a look at Napier which was almost completely rebuilt after a deadly earthquake in 1931. Lots of Art Decó buildings around and some more wineries that offer free tastings *yummy* Lucky me we are staying over night because I'm the driver and I surely don't want to miss out on that...

Wellington: It's the capital (with 164.000 people!!!) so of course we're stopping here... Obviously Wellington will be a bit like Chicago - windy. At least the city is also called "Windy Welly". It's the major travel crossroad between the North and South Island and Johanna might hop on a ferry further south. I'll just take a few days to explore the city , probably hop into Te Papa - the "Museum of New Zealand". It has huge Maori collections, its own marae (the traditional meeting house of the Maori) and some high-tech exhibitions.

Wanganui: Well-known for glas-blowing and art studios. Other than lots of activities are available here like kayaking, canoeing or jetboating. After all Whanganui River is the longest navigable river in New Zealand.

Tongariro: There are heaps of walks and hikes throughout New Zealand. The Tongariro Crossing is supposed to be the easiest of the one-day-hikes and by far offering one of the most amazing views ever. So I've signed myself up for it! It's going to be loooong day though. The shuttle will take me from the hostel to my starting point at 6.45am (!!!) and then I'll have between 8 and 9 hours to do the track. If you want to read more about Tongariro here's the official website with all kinds of information. I'm still looking for someone to join me so if you don't have anything to do Jan 26 let me know!

Hamilton: After my hike I'll just take it easy and make my way back home. Probably will stop in Hamilton on the way, relax at a few beaches and see if I can find some small gemstones along the way that are worth a visit...

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