A Travellerspoint blog

A Right Good Kiwi Experience

A week with a bus full of strangers, exploring the North Island

Kia Ora. Hope you all had a good Christmas.

In early October my Kiwi Experience tour of the North Island began. I had booked a hop-on, hop-off tour with them for 2020, but thanks to a little thing called Covid, that never happened, and I also lost my money on it as the company I booked it through went bust. Happy days. I was hoping for a bit more luck this time.

Cathedral Cove aka entrance to Narnia

Cathedral Cove aka entrance to Narnia

I won't lie, the early vibes they gave off were disorganised and a bit chaotic. The incredibly basic "itinerary" we were given said to meet at a particular hostel in Auckland, which when you googled, said it had been permanently closed for a while. A few emails later and I was advised they had opened up a new location (so new that there was no record of it on the internet). We were told we'd be sent more details a week before the tour, but when that didn't happen, there was a small part of me that worried I was being mugged off. Ok maybe not that small.

I got to the new location after the given time, and was told the rooms weren't ready yet. Good start right, but at least the place existed and they knew of our existence so my anxiety over that decreased at least. When I came back I met a few other people from the group, and it seemed like we were all pretty clueless about any details. I was given a room key, and was expecting to open my door to a hostel room full of bunkbeds, but instead what I found was a brand new hotel room, complete with a slightly shocked roommate... As the dorms weren't yet ready we were upgraded to these fancy twin rooms, complete with a TV and an en-suite! We were the first (or possibly second) group to ever stay there. Ok I'll take that.

That evening I had a few house viewings to fit in, so I was worried I would miss out on some big first-night group meeting or socialisation, but it seems nothing was planned which was a bit odd. Even at breakfast in the morning there was no real tour introduction or briefing. Maybe a bit naively I thought the "small group tour" would be around 15 people, all doing just the North Island like me. However I quickly realised that was not the case. There were 24 of us, and most people were doing both islands, meaning I'd be leaving the group halfway through.

As much as we all hate that group introduction cliche of "tell us your name and an interesting fact about yourself", I thought it was a bit odd that there was nothing like that, and we had to do our own networking. In such a big group that was not my comfort zone! Everyone seemed really nice though.

Late night at Hot Water Beach

Late night at Hot Water Beach

Our first stop (besides the supermarket to stock up on snacks and booze) was Cathedral Cove, which is a stunning sandy beach on the Coromandel Peninsula. It's a bit of a walk down from the car park, but it's so worth it for the views. It was a beautiful day and the beach was mostly empty except for us, so it was a great chance for swimming and loads of photos.

The walk back up was admittedly a bit more of a struggle, but we all made it. We headed to Hot Water Beach Holiday Park, where we had cute little cabin dorms and a decking area where we enjoyed the fruits of our earlier alcohol shop. Hannah and I opted to cook our own banging dinner, and we were only a tiny bit jealous when everyone else appeared with their fish and chips.

For Hot Water Beach, you have to go at low tide to be able to dig your hole in the sand. As we'd missed the morning tide, that meant we headed to the beach at around 10pm, torches, spades and beanies at the ready. It was definitely chilly, but once you get down beneath the sand, the water is, in some places even boiling hot. Such a weird but cool experience. You can create your own hot pool due to the hot springs underneath the beach. The digging is quite hard work though, and the temperatures can vary massively. You can have one lovely warm foot and the other is scalding hot. Some of us stayed pretty late before braving the freezing cold dash back to our towels, and the chilly walk back the the campsite. A swimsuit and a beanie hat is certainly a look.

The next day we stopped at Karangahape Gorge on the way to Waitomo, where a lot of us went black water rafting. After donning our sexy thick wetsuits, helmets and wellies, we practised jumping into the water backwards on our little rubber rings, and forming a human chain, before heading down into the caves. I didn't really know what to expect, but wading through underground caves, jumping down waterfalls and floating down a river is actually a lot of fun, plus we saw more glowworms which was awesome.

Welcome to my House in the Shire

Welcome to my House in the Shire

Next up on the tour was Hobbiton. The ultimate New Zealand tourist destination. Can you really say you've been if you haven't got a photo outside a hobbit hole? The former film set is massive, set amongst the beautiful rolling hills of the countryside. Although it is pretty expensive, it is a great little tour, and even those in the group who had never seen the films (IKR?!) enjoyed it.

From Hobbiton we made our way to Tamaki Māori Village in Rotorua. For me this was such a pleasant surprise. I was expecting it to be a bit gimmicky and cultural appropriate-y, but the whole time we spent there was amazing. We learnt so much about the Māori culture, and the Chief and his family were so friendly and welcoming. The hāngī feast was incredible (the food just kept on coming), and even sharing a sleeping house with the rest of the group was not as bad as we thought it would be.

Couldn't go to Rotorua and not smell the smells of the sulphur. Te Puia geothermal park was full of geysers and mudpools, a bit of a throwback to my time in Iceland. We also saw some kiwi birds in the conservation centre. They look so cuddly!

Onto Taupō, where we visited the crystal-blue Huka Falls, and walked along the river to the Spa Thermal Park. We were told we might have time to go bungy jumping on the way to Tongariro, so a few of us considered it as we wouldn't be going to Queenstown with the group, where there's an even bigger bungy jump. We stopped at the bungy place hoping to watch someone else before we made up our minds, but there were only people doing the swing.

If you look closely you'll see Spider-Man

If you look closely you'll see Spider-Man

I signed up, did a nervous poo then got into my harness and waited on the platform. This is when everything my mum's ever said about bungy jumping went through my mind. I decided to attach the cord to my waist rather than my legs, to at least avoid her broken ankle scenario. Out of our group I was the first one to go. They attached the rope and then left me sat there for a couple of minutes. I remember some heavy techno music playing and saying to them, "this is not very relaxing". Their response - "it's not supposed to be". Also I did not realise I was on camera as I was merrily head bopping away to said music. I found that out later when I got my video.

When I went skydiving in Australia, the scariest part was being sat on the edge of the plane. But that was over so quickly and the instructor would make the leap so you weren't in control. With bungy jumping you have to make yourself jump off the ledge. The office lady said to me, the longer you stand on the edge, the scarier it will get, so I really took that to heart and just jumped. The bungy guy told me to dive off head first, so I put my arms above my head like Tom Daley and then proceeded to just jump off feet first anyway lol. For the few seconds of falling, I looked like Spider-Man with my legs just flailing around.

It was 47m high. The falling part is over in a few seconds, although it does feel like much longer. Then comes the bungy part when you hit the bottom and suddenly bounce back up. The fun part for me was just swinging around and bouncing up and down. They pull you down into this boat and the guy there said I was way too chill. He asked me how it was and I just replied, "Yeah good, thanks." I watched Roshni's jump from below before our hike back up to the top to watch Hannah and Rhi. I'm glad I did it in a group rather than on my own.

The Kiwi Gang

The Kiwi Gang

Before we got to Tongariro National Park we found out that the guide said it was too dangerous to do the Crossing because of the weather conditions. I wasn't sure I was going to do it anyway as my fitness was not at its peak, shall we say, but it was a big shame for those that were as it's supposed to be a New Zealand highlight. After the drama of no breakfast at the hostel, we did do a shorter walk nearby, which was nice, although you couldn't see any of the mountain scenery due to the cloud and rain. Other than hiking and skiing during winter, there is not a lot to do around there, so we did spend a lot of time at the pub next to the hostel those two nights...

My last night on the tour was at River Valley Lodge, which was lovely. Although it was a bit rainy, to be able to finish white water rafting and head straight to a sauna and hot tub was very nice. The white water rafting was my highlight of the trip. A little scary at times when they would tell you how dangerous a set of rapids was, and what you would need to do if you fell in and couldn't reach the boat. But then we would get through the rapids really well. Go team! Unfortunately my camera decided it only had enough battery to take photos and not videos for most of it.

We had another great meal there, a bit emosh as some of us were leaving the group the next day. Although we splintered off to our separate hostels in Wellington, most of us met up again that evening for food and drinks of course. It was quite sad to say goodbye to everyone!



The few of us that were left in Wellington met up the next day to hit the sites. Te Papa Museum was very big, very interesting, (and very free). We also rode the cablecar and did a tour of the Parliament building which was cool. Did not spot Jacinda for my fangirl moment though. Other than an absolutely horrendous snorer in my hostel room both nights, like, actually horrendous, he forced a guy to sleep in the corridor, Wellington was pretty cool, and I realised I liked it more than Auckland. Just a shame I was about to start a job there for 6 months...

Before I could embark upon my overnight bus back to lovely Auckland though, we did climb Mt Victoria. The bus ride would not have been my first choice, but I had one day left before starting my new job, the flights were expensive and the trains only run 3 days a week. So bus it was. 11 hours, arriving in Auckland at 6am before even Denny's Diner was open. An unforgettable journey, you could say.

After 2 nights of no sleep due to sharing a room with a drunk rhino, and then a night on a bus, I had one night in an actual bed in an actual house before starting my job on the Monday. I was absolutely (not) buzzing and raring to go!

Posted by EMCAT 19:27 Archived in New Zealand

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Sounds as if your having a great time .your description are so interesting. Hope you job goes well and we look forward to your next chapter . Happy New year have a good one xxx.

by Fran

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