Last Hike in New Zealand

Our last morning as a group – back on land we had the opportunity for the last hike for this tour – starting at Haruru Falls going through Waitangi Forest and mangrove all the way back to Paihia – from where we left for Auckland in the early afternoon.

Waitomo Caves – where the glowworms roam …

From Rotorua we continued to Waitomo, where we went straight to some serious caving.

We – once more – changed into wet suits and made our way into a cave with a tube each. The tour included it all – from crawling through tight holes (too small for Michael), jumping of cliffs, going down a waterslide – and most important sitting back and relaxing in an inner tube watching the glowworms on the ceiling.

Later on, a few of us (including myself) went for abseiling in the dark. We did a first abseil into a canyon with lights on to get the feeling … and then a second one in darkness – to then fully appreciate the beauty of the canyon with all the glowworms in there.

— No photos — unfortunately —

Te Puia – Volcanos for Beginners

This morning we visited Te Puia, a Maori Arts and Crafts Institute and natural thermal valley (complete with mud pools and a geyser field); we joined a guided tour and had a walk around.

Compared to what we had seen on White Island yesterday … the attractions of the natural thermal valley felt a bit like a joke. On White Island it all been a bit more intense and – of course – without those Chinese tour groups, we constantly had to walk around …

Maori Cultural Show & Hangi Dinner

Once we got back from our trip to White Island, we had a short break to change clothes and get showered – in order to get that crazy sulfur smell of our bodies (I actually ended up throwing my pullover away … even washing did not do the trick).

Anyhow – after that break – we went for a Maori cultural performance and hangi dinner. The whole setup was quiet touristy, though provided some insight into maori traditions – from the waka (the traditional war canoe), to the moko (traditional tattoos) and their meanings, an overview of traditional weapons – and of course dancing and singing. All that was followed by a traditional hangi dinner (ground cooked meats and vegetables) and a jungle walk after dinner.

Huka Falls Walk

We left Whakapapa and continued further north for Taupo – where two brave souls had the urge to jump of a cliff – only secured by a bungy cord.

Afterwards we continued to Huka Falls – where some of us continued for a walk starting at the falls to a natural hot spring – for a well deserved soak (especially after the big hike yesterday).

Wellington to Whakapapa

We left Wellington in the early afternoon, following the west coast (with a rare view of Kapiti Island on the way) straight into the – warm and beating – heart of the North Island – the central plateau with the distinctive peaks of Mt. Ruapehu, Mt. Ngauruhoe (starring – and better known – as Mt. Doom in the Lord of the Ring trilogy) and Mt. Tongariro – all active volcanoes.