North Island Touring

(Aug. 23) We left ACB at 8am on the Magic Bus with 6 other backpackers. The morning's itinerary included a quick stop at Mount Eden, a dormant volcano on the outskirts of Auckland, from which we got a good view of One Tree Hill. And, yes, the bus driver confirmed that One Tree Hill is in fact the basis for the U2 song One Tree Hill on the Joshua Tree album. Apparently, one of the original U2 roadies was from New Zealand, and while they were on tour in NZ, he died in a car accident, so they wrote a song commemorating one of his favorite places.

After that, we continued on down the road to the famous Gloworm Caves of Waitomo. The caves are pretty interesting in and of itself, and the final part of the tour on a boat into the caves where you see the gloworms spread out above you like stars is excellent. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures, since they forbade cameras within the caves.

From there, it was on to Rotorua, where we attended a Maori hangi, featuring Maori song and dance, as well as a Maori feast. Well-done performance, and all-you-can-eat food is always appreciated by backpackers. Unfortunately, I wasn't rude enough to stand up to get good pictures, and my flash was being flaky, so all my pictures sucked. You can see a blurry version of their haka war dance to the left, though. After the feast, it was back to our hostel for the evening, Cactus Jack's, which is notable for having the smallest room of our entire journey, and for being kinda scary looking.

The next morning (Aug. 24), we in the bus were taken to a little forest walk. A redwood forest walk. The redwoods had been transplanted from California with the idea of growing them for lumber in New Zealand. Unfortunately, they didn't grow very well, so they just kept them around as a nature walk. So Sonia and I thought it was funny that we had flown halfway around the world for a nature walk we could have done essentially in our backyard.

After that, it was off to the Wai-o-tapu Thermal Reserve, featuring the Lady Knox Geyser which blows at precisely 10:15 each morning. We wondered how this was accomplished. Turns out that the guy you see talking in the first panel below dumps some soap into the geyser, which disrupts the convection currents or some mumbo-jumbo like that, and causes the thing to erupt, as seen in the second panel. The Thermal Reserve also contained a variety of craters and thermal pools with a bunch of interesting colors. The Inferno Crater is seen in the third panel. Worth a quick walk around, but not much more than that in my opinion.
We then drove onwards to Taupo. On our way there, we stopped by a high ropes course, which was a lot of fun. Then we stopped by the Huka Falls, which were pretty but nothing to write home about. After that was an abortive attempt to skydive, which fell through because of the weather. A brief stop for groceries, and it was on to Turangi, our destination for the evening.

The next morning (Aug. 25) was uneventful except for a beautiful rainbow. We drove on, skipping most of the sight-seeing because it was cold, cloudy and rainy so none of the "stunning" views were visible, arriving in Wellington in the early afternoon.

Back to Eric's New Zealand 2002 page.

Eric Nehrlich's WWW home page /