I’m writing this post while enjoying being sitting down on the couch. I went today for the City2South run in Brisbane. 14.5km run that I completed in 1h13m07s. I was happy with the run but my legs are exhausted!
It has been said more than once that traveling is similar to drugs, you easily get addicted. Well, for the least I can tell about traveling (because the other one is not my department), it is true! Wanting to enjoy an extended long weekend in the Pacific region, I prepared once again my backpack for a short trip to New-Zealand along with my good mates Alex and Benoit. The initial plan was to go in Uluru (you know the big red rock in the middle of Australia), but for value for money and my friend Alex moving back to Montreal made me chose BNE-ACK instead for 4 days.
Knowing me by now, you already know that our itinerary would be quite intense and so it was!
Day 1 – Brisbane – Auckland – Hamilton – Matamata (Lords of the Ring Film Set)
I left Thursday morning 6:00am from Brisbane to Auckland on a 3 hours flight that would bring me to my 14th visited country. Benoit was already there and pick us up from the Airport. Sadly, it was quite long to get through customs and everything and we got up only by 3:30pm. It was initially plan we visit Matamata, where the Hobbit Shire from Lords of the Ring was filmed, but we got there past 5:30pm and it was closed and already dark outside. We went in Hamilton for dinner and we slept in Matamata in hope we could visit early morning before heading to Rotorua.
Day 2 – Matamata – Rotorua – Taupo – Tongariro National Park
We woke up really early for a huge day ahead. We stopped at the Hobbiton film set again but unfortunately it was still closed and opened only at 9:30am. We decided to keep going to Rotorua instead. At least, we could take few shots of the really nice shots of the sun rising over the green plains of the farm land around.
We drove down to Rotorua, the great geothermal area of New-Zealand, about an hour away. Our first stop was Te Puia in Rotorua to check our our first mud pool, steam vent and the biggest geyser of the area and some element of the Maori culture. Quite impressive and smelly too! It feels like the earth going to explode of an excess of egg sandwich 😉
Delighted of the visit to Te Puia, we headed to Waimangu Volcanic Valley for a nice hiking trail (5km) through the valley surrounded by active volcano. One of the most famous, Mt Tarawara was responsible in 1886 of New Zealand’s largest eruption and killed over an hundred people. The landscape was beautiful and impressive but the most impressive feature of the place was definitely the Frying Pan Lake, the largest hot spring in the world.
The lake looks as if it is constantly boiling but it is the gas which mostly give it that appearance of a frying pan. Although the average temperature of the lake is around 50°C the hottest areas are almost boiling.
Next stop was a short drive south to Wai-o-Tapu mud pool and Geothermal wonderland, another spot for witnessing the dramatic and extraordinary force of the nature. This place was also incredibly beautiful with the full colors created by the world underneath our feet.
Having walk so much we needed a rest and what better than a natural and hidden secret hot spring? We took a small unpaved road as indicated by a colleague of mine and discovered that really nice spot where we relaxed for a while.
The water and he soil were really warm but outside is was getting quite cold so as soon as we got out we quickly went back to the car put the heater on and drove toward Taupo for dinner and then Tongariro National Park Backpacker hostel for what was left of the night! With lot of driving and walking so we slept well but we had to wake up at 6am for one of the nicest hiking trail in the world, Tongariro Alpine Crossing…
Day 3 – Tongariro Alpine Crossing
As planned, we woke up early and were picked up by Sarah, our very friendly local guide from Adventure Outdoors. After a little preparation, we started off the hiking trail for Tongariro Alpine Crossing in Tongariro National Park, 19.4km with an altitude of approx. 2000 meters. Apparently, this is one of the most beautiful hiking trail ever. In this time of the year, it is usually necessary to have crampons and ice pick as the mountain is icy and with full of snow but everything had melted for us so we didn’t needed special equipment.
Frost was now covering the most resilient plants around this area, but the contrast with the black dirt and rock was beautiful. As we climbed up, layers of different rock colors were astounding, black, red, yellow, orange. The landscape was dramatic, with craters, dry lake but also mysterious with the clouds moving down the frosty edge of the mountains like a slow motion waterfall.
Sarah our guide was keen and confident that the weather may clear up once we reach Tongariro summit. So we decided to try making it adding an additional 3.5km to the trip, 1:30 hours return. We pick up a icy ridge in the clouds, having to ditch our feet in the ground to not fall. Having gone away a little to far away from the path, I let myself go in a controlled descend back to the path. That could have went wrong but it wasn’t too bad in the end. As we keep climbing up the weather cleared up to a absolutely beautiful view. We had a little snack and rested at the summit for a little bit, 1978m.
Returning from the summit the weather has almost completely cleared-up. We headed next to the red crater where we had lunch sitting on the warm ground. We then moved to the emerald lakes.
Notice in the last picture the lava flow turned to stone during a previous eruption. The next part of the hike was quite impressive too because of the eruption that occurred the previous year in August that blown off a part of the mountain. The valley around was literally bombarded with large rock and looked like a mine field with full of small craters. A refuge was damaged by falling rock and the room with two bunk-beds was destroyed by a rock that pierced the bed! Luckily no one was hurt as the eruption happened at night in the low touristic season.
The last part of the trail lead us to an interesting sub-tropical forest. 22.4km and 10 hours later, we were pick up by the bus around 5pm and brought back to the backpacker hotel. At night, exhausted but happy, we had few drinks with our guide and friends and watched the Rugby game between France and New-Zealand All Black that was happening in Auckland.
Day 4 – Lord of the Rings movie set third try, Auckland and around
6:00am time to go! We drove up back to Matamata to visit the Lord of the Rings movie set where the hobbit “Shire” was filmed. The tour was quite interesting especially for those who enjoyed reading and/or watching the movies.
We drove back to Auckland to leave Alex at the airport. Then we headed exploring north the narrow roads toward Waitakere Ranges National Pack and Piha.
We ended the day visiting Auckland downtown and having dinner. Visiting the city was not really the purpose of the trip but I still enjoyed visiting Auckland.
Short night of sleep in a dodgy motel, I woke up at 4am for a shuttle pickup for my flight back to Brisbane. New-Zealand, you were great and I shall see you again!
In summary, the trip was very short and we drove a lot to make sure we could see the main features of the North Island we wanted to check up. Although we had a very limited time to visit, I must say that it was incredible. New-Zealand is beautiful and I’m looking forward next year to go visit the South Island for longer.
Thank for reading,