Time flies when you’re having fun, but this week on New Zealand’s North Island has gone slowly simply because we’ve packed in so much on the Kiwi Experience bus. Normally I’d write about food, but our backpacker budget has dwindled down to canned goods and apples (no complaints. NZ has a wide range of juicy, crunchy Pink Ladies. Crisp bite; firm flesh; aesthetically pleasing pink-green hues. An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Haven’t met any Kiwi docs yet. 10/10 fruity experience). Side note: kiwis are also juicy and delicious.
Our first impression of this country was customs at Auckland airport. There’s an amnesty box for forbidden goods like honey and muddy boots – they want to keep New Zealand clean and green. Everyone talks about the lush landscapes and fresh air here, and the rumours are true: stepping off the plane in to the crisp winter air opens your lungs right up in a way that nowhere else can. On our second stop, a little town called Waitomo, I went for a run (Year of Sexy: the sequel) and found myself taking breaths deeper than I knew were physically possible.
Luckily, the Kiwi Experience keeps you moving. The daily bus journeys (Kyle was our driver, always in a sunny mood) prevent you from wasting any days, with a limited winter timetable meaning that most of the time you have to stay at that day’s stop for either one or four nights. In a week, we’ve been through:
Auckland – NZ’s biggest city, with 1.5 million people. Also known as Dorkland
Bay of Islands – we were the last customers in a bar at 8.30pm; moved on to another where we played pool with friendly locals, one of whom is in trouble with the government for trying to expose the Illuminati (apparently)
Hot Water Beach – geothermal activity makes natural hot springs/bathtub, and a lot of photos with a beached whale vibe. The hostel had a resident cat named Harold
Waitomo – here, Katy went black water rafting in the glow worm caves. She loved it, and said the worms were friendly with a good sense of humour
Rotorua – stinks. More geothermal activity and a permeating stench of sulphur. You get used to it, though, and can then enjoy wandering around steaming pools and Lake Rotorua, which was amazingly still and calm, much like the nightlife
Taupo – home to NZ’s largest lake, over 70km long. From our window, you had a direct, stunning view of Mount Tongariro and Mount Doom. We walked 15km around the bay and enjoyed a bev at sunset, as well as numerous games of pool (we’re not bad)
River Valley – in the absolute middle of nowhere, deep in the countryside. We stayed in a wooden adventure lodge and drank wine by the fire. Pleasant until Katy’s grey hangover
Wellington – we have all of twelve hours here, but the sunset drive in along the waterfront was gorgeous and the Snapchat geotag says ‘Wellywood’
Our ferry to the South Island is at silly o’clock tomorrow morning, but it will be worth it. After this week, it’s hard to believe that the South is the ‘beautiful’ island: the walks and views seem to improve daily. We’ve got a lot to look forward to, including a 2-day trek, surfing in practically Antarctic waters and the legendary Fergburger in Queenstown… That, and more apples.