After my return to Auckland I went through 2.5 busy days of cleaning, shopping and organisation. So I was more than ready for a vacation!

My friend Eva arrived on Monday and we started out with an easy day in Auckland doing some sight seeing and acclimatisation. Funny, that I am the experienced Auckland tour guide already. It also feels like home. For sunset we went up on the Sky Tower to get a good view over the city.

Next morning we picked up our car in the city and went to one of my favorite breakfast places in Takapuna. Last time I had been there was with my tent when I camped right in front of it during my stretch through Auckland. On the way south we had a quick stop on Mt. Eden and made our way to the Coromandel Peninsula. Quite a scenic and curvy drive. Unfortunately the short days limited the views for us in the late afternoon. Next morning we went to do the Creek Railway Tour – a private railway through native bush which was originally used to get clay for pottering out of the mountain. Touristy but still fun to do. I also made new friends 🙂

I dragged Eva through a little Kauri forest on the way to show her these beautiful and gigantic trees.

Next we were off to the hot water beach – hot springs right underneath the beach push water up so you can form pools and mix the hot water with cold sea water to get your perfect temperatured hot tub. This only works during low tide (informing oneselves in advance helps… :-)). But therefore we had the beach to ourselves.

Next stop: Cathedral Cove. A beautiful rock formation which we also had to ourselves. That’s the big advantage of traveling off season.

Last to do for this way was to drive down to Matamata to be close to our first attraction tomorrow morning. And finally time to give back. The first hitchhiker on the road! I had told Eva already that we will pick up every single hitchhiker along the road – the least I could do after what I had experienced the last five month. So the Swede was chucked in the car and taken down the road. Felt great!
In Matamata we used the heater for the first time. it was kind of chilli when we came back from dinner. The morning showed we were not wrong – ice on the car! Ice scratching with the credit card 😉

After a decent breakfast in the “Cafe Florian” we set off to Hobbiton. We both wanted to see it and play Hobbits. It was expensive but worth it. Really cool to be in the original setting after I had walked through the rest of setting already during my journey.

After our “free” drink in the Green Dragon we continued to Rotorua. The city sits on top of a big caldera and is therefore steaming and bubbling everywhere. Mud holes, hot springs and sulphur smell everywhere. We strolled around the city and had a look around. A little bit scary though. Why does it only steam and not blow up completely?

At night we went to the Mitai Maori Cultural Experience Show. Warren had recommended it and also organised a sensational deal for us. Thanks! The show started out with the arrival of the tribe in a traditional canoe and was followed by a show in which the tribe showed some of their traditional instruments, weapons, local songs, dances and more. While we were waiting to enter the “show room” one of the organisers asked for a volunteer who would represent the “tribe” of the visitors. I stood in the first row and Phil, the funny manager of our hotel who coincidentally also went to the show, just pushed me in the middle and after that I couldn’t get out of it any more. Thanks Phil!
When the show started one of the guys came to me and told me that I would have to go on stage in a minute. I was supposed to stand still and wait for the chief to do his speech and ritual. He told me that at the end he would drop the leave of a fern I would have to go to pick it up as a sign that we come in peace. He also said “Do not move back no matter what he does and always look into his eyes!”. So I went up and did as told. The chief ran towards me with his weapons, swung them around and screamed at me. After I had picked up the fern everything calmed down. But I was still not released. The chief just gave his speech when the guy told me that I would have to to a speech as well in a minute introducing us to the chief and explaining what we are about, etc. Well, what can I say. I did. And as also this was accepted I did a Hongi from a real Maori chief. How cool! Well worth it 🙂

Next morning we went to the Waiotapu Park which houses the Lady Knox Geyser which always goes off at 10.15am (with a little help of a friend called soap :-)) Still a cool spectacle. And afterwards we explored the park with a little tour. It hosts some iconic terraces and pools. Amazing variety! Some of the highlights as the Champagne Pool and Devil’s Bath.

Next stop Taupo. At this point I have to quickly drop the info that after leaving Auckland and having a few showers we only had blue sky and sunshine the entire trip. It was cold sometimes but always sunny. And this is what we got when we approached Taupo. A beautiful view on one of my favourite spots in New Zealand! Lake Taupo with the Tongario Park in the background and snow covered Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe. What a beauty!

We walked to the Huka Falls which are part of New Zealand’s longest river – the Waikato River which has its origin in Lake Taupo. And afterwards we had a bath in one of the many public hot springs in this area.

We had dinner in a good steak restaurant and the waiter made us have one of their best deserts:

When we went for breakfast the next morning and wanted to order at the bar we looked at the waiter – it was the same girl who had served us the night before in the steakhouse. How funny…
I had “worked” on Eva for a few days already and she had thought about it herself as well: Skydiving. Taupo is a famous spot for skydiving. She was still a little bit hesitant to jump out of a proper working plane for now reason ?. We still just went to the airport to check it out. And what can I say. It was a beautiful day, the view over the lake and the Tongario park was just perfect to jump. So we did…

With a big smile on our faces we drove to Tongario. But of course not without stoping at the cool golf platform to hit a few balls. I miss playing golf… But I still know how to do it though. 14 out of 25 went on the platform – the rest was close. More golf the next weeks!!!

Since the weather conditions were not the best, very cold with -12C and still ice and snow on the Tongario Crossing, Eva and I decided to do it the easy way today. We chartered a small plane and did a scenic flight over the park. Just have a look yourself. Eva was so kind to let me have the co-pilot seat. Now the pilot license is on my bucket list as well. I need more time – this is not going to fit into one year… ?

Well worth the investment! Afterwards we did a little walk in the park. So funny to be back as a normal tourist walking in fancy cloth and with a take away coffee here. Last time I still looked like a proper hiker and now…?

On the way down to Wellington we picked up another couple and gave them a ride down to Bulls for a couple of ours. Collecting karma ?. We stopped in Paraparaumu to visit Belinda and Tony – the Kiwi couple I had met in the Pueora Forest one day after my birthday. Already there on the Wereroa Peak we could stop chatting. So we stayed for dinner and caught up on our Te Araroa experiences.

The next two days we enjoyed Wellington and its surroundings. We enjoyed food and drinks and took it easy. We accidentally walked into an cafe which was run by an Austrian family. They had the best stuff ever – bread, Tyrollean sausages, cheese and even Kaiserschmarn. What a great business idea in the land of white toast bread. This one went on the list for further job options…

We also could see the South Island – the Richmond Ranges where I fell and caught up with Team NOBO are now covered in snow…

I tried to find a spot with a better view on the South Island and by this explored the entire surroundings of Wellington in the west – of course without finding the perfect spot. Well, we enjoyed the beach and the scenery anyways. Hipsters on the beach:

We continued up north again and managed to catch a beautiful sunset in Paraparumu before we continued to our destination for the night: Hawera.

Next morning we continued on the “Surf Highway” and circled around Mt. Taranaki. I wanted Eva to get a close view of this beautiful mountain and we were lucky to get it before the clouds pushed in.

After a quick stop in New Plymouth we continued to our second attraction of today – the Waitomo Caves. They are very famous for their glow worm caves but also offer many more cave attractions. The entire area is made of limestone and due to the geology of the area there are holes and caves underneath the entire are which have not been discovered yet. After our first tour through the astonishing glow worm cave the tour guide did not pick us up for the second tour in the Ruakuri Cave. Since we insisted on going we received our private tour with Steve. He was a real funny freak! We didn’t know if he was just joking or eating us alive the next second. Being locked in a cave with a freak is quite scary ? The tour though was great but we both were relieved when we were out alive again…

Well, and then there was the 2.5h drive left to Auckland. We spent the last night in town and had a great dinner at the waterfront. What a trip. While writing this I realised how packed the last days were. I think we probably outperformed any Japanese or Chinese tour group with our program ?
Even though it was packed it was great to visit so many places I had missed out on during the trail. And after only spending little amount of time with most of the people I have met during the last month it was great to spent ten days with Eva and catching up.

After a sad farewell the next day Eva took her plane back home and I actually felt the need for a vacation after the stressful last ten days. ? Thank you for taking on this long journey, the great trip and joint time we had. To sad that you have to go back to work… ☹️
But I guess now I don’t get around the planning and decision of my next steps anymore… Let’s see how this goes.