Exploring New Zealand, Part 1, North Island

We are joined by Jessica Mather, outdoor fanatic and keen traveller, who tells us about her incredible adventures in New Zealand.

New Zealand has always been very high, on the ever expanding list of places I'd like to travel. After spending the past few years exploring the Himalayas on high altitude climbs, I fancied a change. I craved an all-round adventure holiday, with the opportunity to tackle as many bucket list adventures as I could.

The dream started to become a reality in September 2018. New Zealand is the adventure capital of the world, so I didn’t find it hard to form a list of adventures to be had.

The plan was to travel from North to South Island. After much debate, I decided to travel via a hop on/ hop off bus. This way I had flexible transport, and could meet likeminded travellers along the way. I used a company called Stray Travel, who have a great reputation for taking you off the beaten track, and they sure met that expectation! It was easy enough to book through the ‘Stray’ app. I could choose destinations I wanted to stop at for longer. This just meant meeting a whole new set of travellers when I hopped back on!

 

 

Auckland

After a long 26 hour journey from Manchester, arriving in Auckland Airport at 5:30am was such a buzz. Getting through customs was the first challenge. I got lectured from a security officer as my hiking shoes weren’t clean enough - lesson learnt!

Auckland was a beautiful city, full of tall buildings, stunning harbours, with a real city vibe. I hadn’t gone to New Zealand for the city life though. On the first day we explored some quiet beaches outside of the busy city. In the Ponsonby region, there were a number of quiet coves, where it seemed the locals went to relax. This was a perfect way to recover from the jet-lag.

On my first full day in Auckland, I took on the AJ Hackett Auckland Bridge climb and bungee jump. This was certainly one way to kick start the adventures! The bungee was 40m underneath the Auckland Harbour bridge, and I could choose whether I wanted to be dunked if I was able to adopt a certain technique. My first bungee was exhilarating, the rush of adrenaline was insane! I continued on to climb to the top of the famous bridge, and peered down on all the traffic below.

 

 

Hahei

Hahei is a beach resort on the Coromandel Peninsula. Well known for beautiful beaches and forests, famous tourist spots, and a relaxed vibe.

What a beautiful place! The white sandy beaches, blue seas and outstanding coastline were breathtaking. We jumped on the Hahei Explorer; a boat trip that passes small islands inhabited by beautiful wildlife, and ventures into mesmerising sea caves. This is where I got my first taste of how beautiful the nature and wildlife really was. During the evening we headed to Hot Water Beach, where at 2 hours either side of low tide you can dig your own hot water spa with the temperatures hitting 64c.

 

 

The following day I couldn’t resist a 7am run along the beach and up to Te Pare view point. It was so tranquil, and the sunrise was beautiful. A short hike to the famous Cathedral Cove followed. A tourist hotspot, but beautiful never the less. The walk was beautiful, and we explored some secluded bays along the way.

 

 

Rotorua

Next stop was Rotorua. We were warned about the smell of Sulphur (smells like rotten eggs!). The warnings were certainly warranted! Walking around a city and seeing Geothermal activity taking place was surreal. Local parks with exploding geysers and steaming mud pools. We took a walk through a Kuirau Park, where there were barriers around boiling mud pools and steaming lakes.

 

 

From here you could go to Waitomo. We chose the Black Labryinth’ tour with The Legendary Black Water Rafting co. We were given a black rubber tube, and headed into the Glow Worm caves. We saw some friendly Eels in the water as we were heading through the caves. There were waterfall slides and jumps and then we sat in silence with the headtorches turned off, watching the Glow worms glisten on the cave ceiling.

 

 

Lake Aniwhenua

Leaving Rotoura in the morning, we visited Champagne Pools, to experience some more Geothermal Activity, before heading to our first off the beaten track stop. Lake Aniwhenua, which was our Maori cultural experience.

 

 

We met our Maori guide and went through Maori greetings, before going to see some ancient Maori rock carvings in a forest. We were staying with a Maori family at Kohutapu Lodge. There were a range of activities that we could complete. Eel fishing, flax weaving and learning the Haka. Of course, learning the Haka was a must. We had a Hangi dinner, a traditional Maori dinner, where the food is cooked underground and served with a warm family spirit.

 

Taupo

In Taupo, a sky dive with Sky Dive Taupo was first on the list. I booked the Sky Dive without knowing what height I was jumping from. It turned out I had only booked the 12,000ft, and that wasn't going to cut it. So on the day opted to go for the 18,500ft jump, after a lot of "are you sure?". I hopped into the plane and off we went. It was fun to see people completing the lower jumps. What I liked about the sky dive is that you have no choice. Once your tandem partner is ready, you're out of the plane and free falling through the air, with no time to think. A bonus of taking on a higher jump is more free-fall. This was easily the best bit and well worth the extra cash. I had amazing views over Lake Taupo and the mountains in the distance.

 

 

For the first taste of tramping in New Zealand it had to be the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing, one of New Zealands Great Walks. A 20 km hike, with the highest point being Red Crater, at 1800m. We passed through volcanic craters with Volcanos towering above us. Luckily we had great weather. The walk was pretty straight forward for those with good fitness and a sense of adventure. I could see why this was one of the Great Walks of New Zealand. It also made me want to hike more in this beautiful country, as the range of multi-day and day hikes available is incredible.

 

 

We passed through several places as we headed South into Wellington for the ferry. This Included a place called Blue Duck Station, where you stay in beautiful farmland and can do a range of activities on the farm, such as hunting and horse riding. Wellington was a beautiful city, known as the windy city due to the wind corridor between the North and South Island. This is where you catch the ferry over to the South Island.

And so the South Island adventures commenced...

 

Don't miss out on part 2 next week.

See and read more about Jessica on her Instagram page @jessicamather91

If you're feeling inspired for more check out The Journal for more epic adventures and stories. 


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