New Zealand – North Island

Ten days on the South Island left us with only four days on the North Island but it was enough to do what we went for, a bit of skiing and surfing! After flying from Christchurch to Auckland (the cheapest way of getting there, tickets worked out at 50 NZD each – to get a ferry and bus would have cost us almost twice that much), we rented a car from Ace rentals that even my old Corolla would have given a run for it´s money, but it was cheap and better than relying on the NZ public transport which wouldn´t have worked given the time we had. We left the airport and and headed for Whakapapa, the main skiing area about 6 hours drive away.

The scenery on the North Island is very different to the South, not as pretty (or at least for the parts we managed to see) but very green nonetheless. After doing a few food and coffee stops (the Kiwis do great coffee, make sure you try their ´flat white´ if you´re over there, it´s like a latte but with more coffee and less milk), we visited the Huka falls for a look. Huka falls aren´t very high or wide, but the volume of water that passes through them is ridiculous (about a quarter of a million litres per second!) and worth experiencing – not somewhere you´d want to fall in.

Huka Falls

We arrived at our hostel called ´The Park´ later that night, which was really nice and more like a hotel than a backpackers. It was in the style of a log cabin that you´d see in Austria or Germany, complete with the open stove to sit around, nice and comfy. The next morning, we got ourselves skis and boots and made our way to the ´skifields´ which are actually on an active volcano. The setup was pretty different to what we were used to in Europe – there were lots of different runs on the mountain, but no trees and very few boundary markings so it was a bit like skiing on one big piste. We´d been lucky with the weather again (one of the locals reckoned that they´d had the best conditions in ten years) and once we got the ski legs back we had a good session – a lovely way to spend my birthday. I have to say though, skiing for me is as much about the apres ski and the craic and it wasnt the same going out without the usual gang and a fuzzy head from the night before!

Peak near Whakapapa

There was a snowboarding competition down in the village that night, so we headed out for a while to watch the local talent strut their stuff. The organisers had gone to the trouble of bringing a lorrlyload of snow down down from the mountain since there was none to be found on the streets.

Local talent competition Local talent competition Local talent competition

The following day we made off for Raglan, a charming little town and New Zealands best known surfing area which was another days drive away. We stopped off at Wai-o-tapu to break the journey, a geothermal area near Rotorua which was worth a visit to see the mudpools and hotsprings (the colors were fantastic).

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Bubbling mud

When we arrived in Raglan later that evening, I got chatting to the chef in the local pub who gave me a loan of his wetsuit which saved me a few bob. I hired a board the next morning and headed for Manu bay which is supposedly the longest left hand break in the world, but I didn´t have too much joy even though the conditions were great – the board I had was too small for me and after a while my arms were like lead :-( It was a Saturday too and the break was fairly crowded which made catching good waves even harder. When I got out I decided to swap the board for something bigger and return early the next morning, but the swell had picked up a lot overnight and I couldn´t even get out the back! I left Raglan and New Zealand later that day determined to spend as much time as I could in the water at the next opportunity to build up my paddling arms, roll on South America!

Raglan Lefts

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