For our 10 day stay on Waiheke Island, we had booked a work-away at “Yvete’s Place” – a small permaculture farmlet. The proprietors were Yvette and Tom, an older couple who were still very sweet on each other. Yvette was an very kind and generous lady who worked hard at her perfect life. She had grown up “off the grid” in Australia and was now a weight loss coach, a salesperson for “Usana”(a line of all-natural supplements and products), as well as a certified yoga instructor and permaculture designer! Her husband Tom was a soft spoken, intelligent British fellow who worked in an office downtown but retained a socialist and activists heart – apparently Trump is not too popular in NZ either and the American electoral folly was popular conversation material. The farmlet consisted of a quarter acre of fruit trees, veggie and herb crops, and five chickens (“chooks” as Yvette called them). Yvette was very loving (and conversational) to her chooks and our main task while working for her was building/extending a chicken fence. Yvette asked us to work four hours per day, and in return she supplied us with permaculture tutoring, a comfortable guest house and an endless supply of heathy, organic food(highlights included oatmeal fruit and nut parfaits and farm fresh eggs!). On our days off, we went for many coastline hikes filled with spectacular views(check the previous e-mail I sent, or Sam’s instagram), as well as well earned beach breaks with cold ocean swims. This island could be paradise. I would recommend a two week stay with Yvette to anyone looking for a cheap vacation and not afraid of a little hard work. We had so much fun, we forgot to plan our road trip down to the South Island until the last minute!
Back in Auckland, we managed to find a rental car for $240/week – pretty good price considering it was to double as a hotel room as well as transportation. On our way out of Auckland we stopped at K-mart for $3 pillows and $5 blankets to furnish our comfy temporary home. Driving on the left, I only turned into the oncoming lane once! (Maybe twice..)
We made our way to Rotorua the first night and drove around for a while looking for a place to park/camp for the night. Eventually, we settled in on a dead end road in the industrial sector of town. It was a bit of a restless night, but no matter, we were up bright and early the next morning to check out some hot springs!
The Kerosene Creek Hot Springs are about a half hour drive out of town (and free). A short walk through the lush forest led down the river to a pool fed by a small waterfall. We enjoyed the warm, mineralized water and helped ourselves to a nice massage/shower in the waterfall. Pure paradise! After our digits had become sufficiently pruned, we drove down 20 minutes down the highway to another (free)Hot Springs location. The one was not quite as nice, but a little more bit warmer.
That night we made time for my special request- UFC 205 (the biggest card of all time) was playing at a local sports bar and I couldn’t miss it. Too many drunk and rowdy Kiwis though. Had to get out as soon as the Pay-per-view was over. After a delicious dinner of raw veggie wraps prepared in the car we headed south to Rere.
The drive was sunny, spectacular and constantly twisted and turning through the mountains. S-curves, banked hairpin switchbacks, continual elevation changes, what a perfect race course! The road made me wish I still had my Subaru STi (or anything rather than a rental Corolla really..)! Not to forget the view mind you. The picturesque mountains were highlighted with breathing greenery, occasional waterfalls and an icy blue river. As the day grew hotter, my lack of a shower that morning made itself apparent and I resolved to take advantage of those flowing crystal waters. We pulled over to a rest stop and made a short walk to the river where I promptly stripped my ass naked and took a dip. “I’m in New Zealand!” – no other choice was sensible. That river was cold though! “Like with laundry??” – Elaine (Seinfeld).
The Rere rockslide is a gently sloped waterfall over a “smooth” rock surface. There are communal boogie boards and inflatable rafts sitting at the top of the falls and it was great fun to slide down the slope into a pool below! Check out the video of me careening down the slide on facebook. Afterwards, we followed some locals upstream to a nice cliff jumping spot and jumped into some cleaner water than was at the falls! Great fun and cleanliness – wooo!!
We drove on that night and woke the next morning at a roadside rest stop. Lots of rain, wind and some neighbouring sheep! More breakfast in the car and we were off! Our next stop was Lake Taupo, more specifically, Spa Park Thermal Pools. These (free!) thermal pools were right off of Waikato River – nice and cold! Not to mention it was raining that day. We spent nearly 3 hours there going back and forth from swimming in the freezing river water to soaking in the hot pools, to sitting under a heavy, hot waterfall (one of the best massages I’ve ever had!) and over and over again! This might’ve been the best thermal pool we visited, not only because of the hot waterfall, but the icy cold river. How can you appreciate the hot if you don’t feel the cold? (I said to an older German tourist afraid to venture into the river. He took my advice, with some shrieking along the way). Afterthought prolonged soak, we went upstream to view Huka Falls. An awe inspirational view of the rivers power! It was raining even worse though, so we didn’t stick around for as long as we would have liked.
We had originally planned to do the Tongariro Crossing (billed as New Zealand’s most spectacular hike) the next day, but a look at the weather forecast on Tongariro Mountain predicted -7C and snow showers – Nope!! Instead we decided to check out a place called Orakei Korako Thermal Park.
We awoke from another comfortable sleep in our rental corrolla, ate breakfast (we are getting good at rental car culinaryisms) and headed to Orakei Korako Thermal Park. A stunning landscape of hydrothermal geysers, craters and landscapes accessible by ferry over Lake Ohakuri only. The beautiful hike through emerald terrace of silica took about 2.5hrs and we were constantly astounded by the views of bubbling fountains of crystal clear water, mud pools caused by corrosive acid meeting clay soil, fault scars flowing with steaming water, and beautiful rock formations in a flowing myriad of brown, orange, green, pink and white colours. One highlight was “The Ruatapo Cave” – one of only two geothermaly situated caves known in the world with “Waiwhakata” – The Pool of Mirrors resting serenely at the bottom.
After coffee and lunch, we set out south for Wellington. About 30 minutes we stopped at an ocean side rest area to take in the view. We were just leaving when we saw a familiar figure doing yoga beside his camper van. It was Axel! Our Argentinian friend from Kawai Pura Pura. (After a couple of big hugs) We found out he was on his way to Wellington too and we absolved to meet up again there! What a coincidence/serendipity/fate! As we drove south that day the majestic mountain scenery turned to rolling, swailed hills, glowing green and littered with hundreds upon hundreds of fluffy white sheep. I know I say amazing/beautiful a lot but… wow!
We woke up at a rest stop 45min out of Wellington and I did some quick yoga in the jungle. We drove into town with the plan of a dual purpose trip to “Les Mills Gym” – workout and shower, and a $5 Hare Krishna lunch at the University of Victoria. The (heavy bag) workout was good, but not great – I was very rusty at the beginning and too tired once the rust was gone. A hot shower and shave afterwards was amazing! We spent a long time looking for the Hare Krishna food stand at the university campus only to find it closed. Snubbed once again by those creepy, ponytailed zealots! We eventually found a (Malaysian, vegan) lunch spot on Cuba street – Aunty Mena’s and ate like a couple of white savages! We then did a bit more grocery shopping and met up with Axel at a rest area at the top of Mount Victoria. We cooked a great meal of dirty rice, lentils, and veggies and salad. Good friends, good conversation, and good food. What could be better!?
The next morning we had a nice breakfast of oatmeal, bananas and raisins with Axel. For our tourist day in Wellington, we went to the botanical gardens and smelled the roses, then to the museum and art gallery. Afterwards, we went walking/window shopping around downtown and ran into Axel selling his handcrafted jewelry at the market. I bought a new wedding and Sam got a bracelet. We had a great dinner of street food at the night market (chicken dumplings, breaded prawns, sate chicken roti wrap, vegan homemade snickers bar – I went all in on the carnivorous aspect of my diet, and evened it out with the snickers bar). We fly to Christchurch tomorrow!