Hey there! I’m sorry, I know it’s been a week since I took my first weekend trip here in New Zealand and some of you have been patiently waiting to hear more about it. Blogging takes a lot more time than I expected! This first adventure’s destinations were Taupo and Rotorua which are known for Lake Taupo (the giant lake in the North Island) and hot springs!
I will put a little disclaimer in and say that the pictures just don’t do it justice!
Friday: I started off the day by taking an early trip to the Salvo on the hunt for a cheap winter coat. It was huge and kinda dirty but hey, whatever gets the job done! Then we all met up in town, packed the van up full and headed off! Although everyone that went on the trip was from The States, we didn’t meet until orientation and became friends quickly. The diversity of the landscape made the drive enjoyable and always entertaining. We eventually ran into a big traffic jam but it at least allowed us to get out of the van and play in the snow a bit!
After getting back in motion we finally made it to Lake Taupo! We stopped at the first lookout we saw and spent time admiring the beautiful lake with giant snow capped mountains in the background. It made me really want to go tubing and kayaking… maybe when the weather is a bit warmer
Our first hiking (or mini-hike) stop was at Huka Falls. It was here that I first noticed how blue the water actually is, looking a lot like icy blue glacier water. I was expecting it to be like normal tall waterfalls but it was more like beautiful raging rapids. The power that ran through the falls was incredible, I doubt anyone would ever be able to raft on them. After snapping some pics of Huka Falls we ventured onto the trail that eventually led us to the calm waters and unexpectedly ran into some natural hot springs filled with other bathing visitors. The guys decided to jump in while us girls kept to the side… we concluded that it’s much easier to the guys to take a swim not having brought a bathing suit than it is for girls.
Since the gate to Huka Falls closed at 5:30 (by the way, it’s so dark by then) we had to head back to our hostel for the night. This was my first hostel experience and I was lucky to have such a great first experience because it was much nicer than I expected! It worked out nice that we had a pretty even amount of girls and guys so we could have a girls room and a guys room without having to share with other random people. Once we got settled in we began cooking a big pasta dinner. We may have overestimated the amount of pasta we would eat along with a poor pasta to sauce ratio. I’ve been trying to do gluten free the last few weeks so I brought my own special pasta that Chandler so kindly cooked separately for me. Being gluten free is such a struggle here with so many bakeries and the famous meat pies! I don’t think I’ve actually gone a day completely gluten free cause I just can’t resist but hey, I at least avoid it when I can!
That night we decided to venture out in search of some more hot springs. The girl that ran the hostel gave us directions to some good ones but we ended up getting lost quite a few times and wandered through the dark woods for well over an hour. We finally came by someone’s house and two of the guys went in to ask the man living there for help finding them. With his directions we found the hot springs… eventually. Unfortunately I didn’t get any good pics of the hot springs since it was night time but believe me when I say it was incredible! Chandler was the only girl to actually bring a bathing suit and towel so the rest of us girls had to wear sports bras and shorts or really whatever we had along with sheets from the hostel as towels. With it being so cold out, it felt wonderful getting into that hot spring. For a while we just chilled in the “natural jacuzzi”, had some wine and gazed at the wide blanket of stars above us. What made the hot springs even better was that there was actually a small waterfall flowing into the hot spring that most of us climbed up and checked out the even smaller pool at the top. Eventually we got out and thankfully made it back to the car only getting lost once.
Saturday: After a good night’s sleep, we got to enjoy a FREE breakfast at the hostel. I’m still trying to get used to instant coffee and master the art of making it actually taste good. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss dad’s fresh and strong coffee ready for me every morning.
I’m not sure if we actually had a specific plan in mind when we left the hostel but we were able to make a pit stop at Huka Honey Hive. They had free honey samplings and didn’t even have a limit of how many kinds we could sample. I absolute love raw honey especially when it’s locally made so of course I ended up buying a little bottle of it for $8 but I don’t regret spending that much at all. They also had some honey meade samples which were so delicious but quite expensive. If it was cheaper I definitely would have bought some to bring home as well.
After leaving Huka Honey Hive, we had our way to Kerosene creek which of course had more hot springs. No one from our group got in them this time but there were other visitors enjoying them. The whole walk had such a mystic feel to it with the hot steam coming up from the water and glistening in the sunlight.
The next stop was our big hike up Rainbow Mountain. A lot of the rocky cliffs were white and red due to all of the sulfur and clay (I think at least) which was a nice pop of color in addition to all of the greenery. It wasn’t too difficult of a hike but me being so out of shape, I was dragging behind a little. I’m definitely inspired to try running in the park by the river so maybe the next big hike won’t be so bad for me. The view at the top was well worth the hike! You could see a different view from every angle and each was just as beautiful!
Once we got back to Rotorua, we were all so hungry! Most of us craved to have some of New Zealand’s famed fish-n-chips so we wandered into a little corner shop with tons of delicious and CHEAP food (mostly fried anything). It was the best dang fish-n-chips I’ve ever had! Not to mention it was Cat’s first time ever having them…
I think we were all pretty tired after the hike and decided to just chill at our next hostel for the rest of the night. Some went in the very heated pool, others watched a movie in the lounge, and I floated between the two. Since I’m pretty much always hungry, Maclean and I walked down to McDonald’s (which is much better than in the U.S. by the way) to grab a bite to eat and hang out for a bit before settling down for the night.
Sunday: As much as we didn’t want to leave, it was time to head back to Palmy before classes started on Monday. There was still so much more to explore though so we managed to squeeze in some time to explore the Redwood forest! You might be just as shocked as I was when I first heard about California Redwoods being in New Zealand but it just proves how they really have everything! The trees were so grand and beautiful!
And finally, our last stop was the Aratiatia rapids which is one of the filming sights for the second Hobbit movie, more specifically the scene where the hobbits are thrown down a waterfall in barrels. Since it’s actually controlled by a dam, the rapids only flow every 2 hours. We just missed the 12 o’clock release but waited around for the next one at 2. It was cool to see the giant rocks hiding underneath the raging rapids and see the whole thing fill up!
By now, it sadly was time to get back to Palmy and we eventually made our way after yet another traffic jam. I am so grateful to be included on a trip with such a wonderful group of people!
Next stop: glow worms? surfing? kayaking? mountain climbing? who knows! Stay tuned…