Living and working on Waiheke for the summer was great, but by the time March rolled around I was itching to get out and explore this beautiful country. I bid adieu and hit the road, with a tag-along companion in tow!
Michael and I were taking the same ferry to Auckland so I offered him a lift. As we were then heading in the same direction, it made more sense to travel together – and I really lucked out with my first road tripping side kick. Not only did he hold my phone and navigate, but we we had good conversation, and he actively ENJOYED my belting along with the tunes. It was great that we had the same taste in music – he even put the Shrek Broadway soundtrack on!
After exploring Auckland a bit and dragging him with me to the Pop Up Globe’s hilarious rendition of As You Like It (my all-time favorite Shakespeare show, and this version was all male), where we were brought onstage to play goats, we headed over to check out the Coromandel Peninsula. Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove were on the list, as well as a few stop offs at some other secluded beaches and a lovely little cafe. I also recall the sunset as we drove down closer to Rotorua for the night was particularly stunning, though we weren’t able to pull over to get a good shot of it.
For “camping” I used a brilliant app called Wikicamps – well worth the $2 as it has a ton of different filters that show you all different places to camp around NZ. As I slept in my car, I always needed to find a proper Non-self contained site, and Michael had a tent, so we also needed a place he could pitch up. A bbq and bathrooms were always rather essential, and free was high on the list. Thankfully, North Island is very easy to camp on – I never paid for a single night of camping, and on the whole the sites were fantastic – large, clean, and usually in stunning areas. I’ve never camped or grilled before, so it was nice to have Michael with me to get used to things (though he did show me how to set up and take down a tent, I’m glad I had my trusty Shadowfax to abide in, instead).
We stopped at the beautiful Blue Pools on our way to Rotorua. The colours are insane and the number of Power places I came across, particularly on North Island, was absolutely wonderful. Photos really don’t do the beauty of this country justice.
We were only planning to spend one day in Rotorua, but the first day was incredibly windy, so Zorbing had to be rescheduled. Not to worry – there’s plenty of stuff to experience and explore in Rotorua, so we just headed to some natural hot springs, instead!
The next day, on our way back to see if we could finally Zorb, we stopped off by Lake Rotorua to make breakfast and see the dozens of black swans (NZ is to black swans what Ireland is to white ones). We met a Scottish bloke who told us about a clear spring near there. We of course went to check it out and ended up walking through a young redwood forest before we came to the deepest, fresh water spring in NZ.
After our little side adventure, we continued on to Zorb. Zorbing is where you roll down a hill on a track (we both did the ziz-zag, but there were several options) inside an inflated ball filled with water. Watching from below, it didn’t look very impressive, and I wondered if it was one of those over-hyped tourist attractions. My friends, how happy I was to be proven wrong! It was seriously one of the most ridiculously fun things I’ve done!! Well worth the $25 deal I found online – but I wouldn’t have paid $40 the company charges.
Right around the corner from Zorbing was aMAZEme – a cool little place with a hedge maze and a ton of other games to bring out the inner child in you. No lie, we spent most of the afternoon here. To my chagrin, Michael beat me to the center of the maze, but it was all good fun, and we had a blast playing checkers, volleyball, trying the stilts, and other various activities. The girl at the counter also told us about an animal farm down the road, so we went to check it out and got to feed an ostrich!! (FYI, it was terrifying/exhilarating/totally awesome, but don’t try it at home, kids, seriously).
And did I mention we played mini golf on a course covered in Flemish rabbits?!?!
We then checked out the Rotorua Night Market, which was utterly delicious.
The next day was spent at a wonderful cafe called Abracadabra sussing out our next steps. We decided to part ways as I was headed further east and he needed to get back to Auckland to catch a flight.
I love how travel brings strangers together – many times it amounts to nothing more than a day or two, but sometimes you walk away with a new friend 🙂