Traveling New Zealand’s North Island
So we caught a flight from Sydney, Australia to Auckland, New Zealand on China Airlines the next day. I had always thought Australia and New Zealand were very close to each other. However, the distance between these two cities is 1,340 miles (about the same as from Los Angeles to Dallas, Texas).
We had to pass through customs again but this time everything went much smoother. Kayley put her hair down and we had our hotel reservation so we could tell where we would be staying when we left the airport. They did require we have made reservations for a flight leaving New Zealand, so Kayley put us on standby for a flight which we could change later when we actually decided when we would be leaving.
We headed south the next morning in our rental car … the only one available in the entire airport. We asked all the rental companies why the demand was so high for that day but no one could explain.
Driving on the Opposite Side of the Car and Road
New Zealand drivers sit in the right side of the cat and drive on the left side of the road. I have been driving in the United States for 45 years. Most of my driving habits had to change (thank goodness the pedals are the same). I don’t know how many times I turned my windshield wipers on and tried to pull into the right side of a street only to hear Cindy and Kayley yelling at me to, “Stay Left!” I almost killed us a couple of times!
Once we were on some country roads I managed a little better. We drove straight to Matamata … the location of Hobbiton (the movie set where much of the footage for the Hobbit movies was recorded) and later on to Rotorua … our home for the next few days.
The next morning I set out to do my first mountain biking of the trip in the Whakarewarewa Forest, just five minutes south of our Air B&B house in Rotorua (See Rotorua Mountain Biking).
I thought I might want to bike the day after my Rotorua ride but my body told me No Way! More than thirty miles of distance and almost 5,000 feet of climbing did me in. I could have just coasted on the downhill parts but I prefer to ride as fast as I can for as long as I can.
So, after returning the bike to the rental shop I returned to our temporary home to rest and type. Later that afternoon we decided to go zip lining in Rotorua with Canopy Tours. We loved the tour and learned a lot about the wildlife in the local native forests.
The next day we decided to go white water rafting. But first we had to continue our journey to the south. Our next stay was an Air B&B in Taupo but the rafting was a bit farther south, on the Tauranga River. So we had to backtrack to Taupo after the rafting.
The big deal on the rafting was Cindy joining in. Kayley and I have rafter various times but Cindy had always declined due to a rafting catastrophe we had when we were just married (I took her, my brothers and their wives on the South Fork of the American River … in a thin recreational raft. Our raft disintegrated within the first quarter mile and we had to be rescued from a rock in the middle of the rapid called Meat Grinder).
The Tongariro River was beautiful and challenging. Although having only class 3 rapids this river required some pretty fancy maneuvers.
Our guide Sean said he would soon be traveling to the South Fork of the American River to guide during California’s summer. Yes, he was quite familiar with Meat Grinder!
After our raft trip we returned to our Air B&B in Taupo, then made the long drive south to Wellington the next day.
Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, was cloudy and windy. We manged to get in a late hike and spent a night in another Air B&B. The next morning we turned in our rental car and visited the capital building.
I had been looking forward to the three-and-a-half ferry ride from North Island to the South.
However, the weather was horrible, featuring wind blown rain, low hanging clouds, and freezing temperatures. Instead of standing on the deck enjoying the view we sat inside and played a lot of cribbage.
We exited the ferry and picked up our new rental car near the dock. Next we drove to Nelson, our first stop on South Island.
Heaps more to come … check back later!