Another two weeks into our family world trip adventure. It seems like time flies. During the last days we have done some heavy campervan sightseeing across New Zealand’s northern island. New Zealand is a stunning country. The combination of natural beauty, cultural heritage and many different people with different origins make this country unique. In the beginning we spent some days on the Coromandel peninsula north-east of Auckland. Then we went to the center of the northern island to visit Hobbiton and the Waitomo caves. After that, we explored volcanic activity near Rotorua, before heading back to Auckland for the last two days. Honestly, I would have liked to stay a little longer and explore this amazing country further. However, life goes on and so does our trip. Tomorrow we are off to Chile. With 11h this will be the longest flight on our trip.
Starting our second Camper Experience
The morning after we arrived in Auckland, I went to get our new campervan for our second camper experience. By ‘new’ I do not refer to the car’s state. It was so old, I was afraid it would fall into pieces during our ride. Although the engine behaved weirder with every kilometer we got closer to Auckland on the last day, nothing broke. Actually, this campervan was smaller than the one we had in Australia, but somehow much better organized. Apart from the shade shield we did not miss anything. Maybe it was due to practice, but this time we tidied up everything much quicker before heading the road again. This was very helpful, because opposed to Australia, we drove every day at least a little to explore the country.
Cut off from the Rest of the World
Our first stop was the Hot Water Beach on the Coromandel peninsula. The second half of the way the road leads through a gorgeous valleys and across pretty mountains. It is actually a beautiful journey. However, it is a very winding road with numerous turns and curves. I tried to drive as carefully as possible. However, some stomachs are just not made for such roads. Therefore, we had to stop more often than we planned. The sun was already setting when we finally arrived at our campsite. The campsite at the Hot Water Beach was very nice and clean. The only flaw was the internet. Neither the campsite’s Wi-Fi nor our mobile internet worked. We felt being cut off from the rest of the world.
Digging our Pool at the Hot Water Beach
The next day when the tide was low in the afternoon we rented a spade and walked down to the famous Hot Water Beach. When we arrived many people were digging their pools already. We looked for a good spot in the middle and started to do alike. It was fun digging our pools and even more fun to construct a little canal that led the hot water into our pools. We constructed the canal so well, that shortly after the hot water starting pouring into our pool, we could not stand the heat anymore and left. The water from the underground river was not just hot, but boiling. Over time we learnt to control the temperature and had a pleasant time. Never before have I experienced anything like that. It is only possible when the tide is low and the river flows towards to ocean over ground.
Spectacular Cathedral Cove
The Hot Water Beach is a must-see for everybody who visits the Coromandel peninsula. Nonetheless, there is much more to see in the area. Therefore, we decided to go to the nearby Hahei beach the next day. Hahei beach is pretty, but not extraordinary. However, there is a stunning coastal walk which leads to Cathedral Cove. Cathedral Cove is a picture postcard like beach with a tunnel under the rock in the middle of the beach. When the tide is low one can walk on sand through the tunnel. The coastal walk from Hahei is a long, partially steep walk, which is exhausting for kids. I had to carry Diego in the carrier where he slept almost the entire time. Both, the coastal walk with its amazing views and Cathedral Cove are awesome and an absolute must-see.
Leaving the Beaches for now
When we left the Coromandel peninsula, we also left the beaches. Ever since we started driving around with our campervan in Australia, we stayed at beaches. Now, it was time to spice things up a bit and move to the center of the northern island. The next stop was a little town called Cambridge – not to be mistaken with the famous university town in England. We stayed on a basic campground in Cambridge. The city itself is not very interesting. However, it is close to two sites, we wanted to visit the next days. I wanted to visit the ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit’ movie set at Hobbiton and we were eager to see all the glowworms in the glowworm caves at Waitomo.
Magical fantasy World of Hobbiton
Hobbiton: a place I had read about long before we planned our family world trip. When it became clear, that we visit New Zealand I knew we had to go there, too. The movie set of ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit’ has been turned into a permanent magical fantasy world. For someone who likes these movies this place is fascinating. Although it was rainy I loved walking around the shire and seeing all these little Hobbit houses. They are beautifully arranged – on this Carolina and I agreed. Carolina is not much into this type of movies, but thankfully she joined the tour. The kids still have no idea of the movies, but they loved the houses. In Hobbiton they are just about the right size for them, what they adored. The experience in Hobbiton makes one wanting to watch the movies again – funny.
Like a Million Stars in the Sky
The day after Hobbiton we were on our way to a completely different adventure. Roughly one hour away from Cambridge is Waitomo, a fascinating underground cave world. There are many different, and I believe interesting, caves. However, as we still had to drive down to Rotorua, we decided to only visit the famous glowworm caves. It was a good decision. The glowworm caves are spectacular. Never before have I seen a cave with millions of glowworms on the top. They do not light up the cave, as I had read somewhere. Instead they look like millions of stars in the sky. The last cave, by far the highlight, we passed an underground lake slowly in a boat. Above us several millions of glowworms. It was jaw-dropping! All of us loved the glowworm caves. Unfortunately it is not possible to take pictures inside, but the memories remain.
Learning about the Ploynesian Triangle
As mentioned above, the next stop was Rotorua. There is a lot of volcanic activity going on below this area. The largest active geyser of the southern hemisphere is in Rotorua. Additionally, Rotorua is also well-known for Maori culture. Here, we have learnt a lot about the traditions of the Maori, the native New Zealand population. Mistakenly, I had always thought they are related to Australia’s Aborigines. However, I could not have been more wrong. New Zealand is part of the Polynesian triangle, which means the Maori are related, amongst others, to Hawaiians and Tongans, but not to Aborigines. When we visited Rotorua this became very obvious as the Maori costumes appear very close to what we relate to Haiwaii. Once again it became clear, that there is hardly any better way of education than travelling.
Getting closer to Maori Culture
The first day in Rotorua we went to Te Puia, an area with many different geysers, boiling mud pools, ponds and lakes. Te Puia is a fascinating park. It is indeed so fascinating, that we spent the entire day there and Leandro was angry with us, when we had to leave. In the morning we walked around one side of the huge area, before joining a traditional Maori show. The Maori show consisted of greetings, dances, songs and fights. Although it was just a show, it was marvelous. After enjoying a great lunch buffet and paying a visit to the Kiwis, we walked along the other side of the park. There we saw Pohutu, the southern hemisphere’s largest active geyser, erupting. I had seen such eruptions only on TV before. Therefore, it was beautiful to watch the eruption in reality. Te Puia is an absolute must-see!
Luge Race at Rotorua Skyline Park
We were very lucky when we visited Te Puia, because the weather was good. This changed over the next two days. The day after our visit to Te Puia was still ok, which is why we went to nearby Skyline Park. By cable car we went to the top of the mountain. There are two pretty and short walks up the mountain. Coming down the first one we passed the start of some luge tracks. We could not resist the temptation and decided to go down once. Diego came with me and Leandro went with Carolina. It was great fun for all of us and I believe at least the kids would have loved another round. I have to admit, it is addictive. Instead of one more round we went for yet another superb lunch buffet with a spectacular view from the mountain down to Rotorua Lake.
Slow Sightseeing in Auckland
On the last day in Rotorua it rained heavily the entire day. Thus, we could not do much. On top of that I caught a nasty cold, which was very annoying – especially when camping in such weather conditions. The cold still has not passed, but it got much better. Now, we are back in Auckland where we decided to take it slow. The days on the road here in New Zealand have been full of adventure and excitement. It was great, but also a bit tiring. Hence, we did no big sightseeing in Auckland. We went to the harbor, which is a beautiful, but not like the one in Sydney. We also went to the Auckland Skytower, which on the other hand is far more interesting than the Skytower in Sydney. However, it does not match the excitement we felt on the Mahanakhon Skywalk in Bangkok.
The Beard Update
I also used the time in Auckland to finally visit a barber shop. Carolina told me, that by now I look a lumberjack or even homeless. The big question for me was to shave it all off or simply bring it into shape. I decided for the latter and the result was approved by Carolina and the kids. Our time in New Zealand is almost over. As stated before we love New Zealand. We liked to see, that the identification with the Maori culture is very strong. We experienced very mixed weather, but for most parts we managed well. For us, it is time to leave the left-hand traffic and English speaking countries. From tomorrow on we will have to manage in Spanish. In Santiago, our destination in Chile, I will take some private Spanish lessons to get started. Stay tuned…