Round the World trip
November 2014 – May 2015
week 12 of 24
We had to spend one night in Auckland at both the start and end of our trip to the North Island. I’d visited Auckland as part of a post-graduation trip in 1998, and hadn’t exactly loved the place. I was keen to see if this impression was unfair, but a quick stroll along the deserted streets and past the 1960s blocks of the city centre made me think that it wasn’t. In the evening we went out to Auckland’s answer to Shoreditch, Ponsonby Road, which was only marginally less deserted (but who would go out on a Friday night – also the start of the bank holiday weekend for New Zealand Day – after all). We did find a couple of bars on K Road, and on our return through Auckland an excellent restaurant.
From Auckland we took the bus to Rotorua. Xavi was very keen to visit the Hobbiton movie set – a bargain at just under £40 each for a two hour tour. This was pretty meaningless to me – I had been unable to stay awake during my one attempt to watch a Lord of the Rings series film, and hadn’t tried again – but it was clearly very, very exciting for a lot of people. The highlight of the tour was the “free” drink at the Green Dragon pub, where we were permitted to linger for about 15 minutes before being loaded back onto our coach and invited to spend yet more money at the souvenir shop, a temptation I found strangely easy to resist. [Note from Xavier: it was actually brilliant.]
Rotorua is also at the centre of an active volcanic zone and we visited a number of geothermal attractions, including the ambitiously named (and even more ambitiously priced) ‘Wai-o-Tapu Geothermal Wonderland‘. This has some moderately interesting geothermal features including boiling mud pools, weird-coloured crater lakes, and numerous strange smells. The alleged highlight is the Lady Knox Geyser, which erupts promptly at 10:15 each day, with help from from a bag of soap. After another night in our rather strange hostel, it was back to Auckland.
In summary we thought the North Island lacked the breathtaking scenery of the South Island but was even more breathtakingly expensive. Good thing then that our next stop is famously cheap French Polynesia.