Life Recast - Part 2 travel blog

Auckland Skyline and Space Center

Henderson Beach, Aupouri Peninsula

Thermal pools throughout the North Island

One of the "small" ones, Tongariro River

Waitangi Marae

Carvings and wall decorations inside a Marae

Largest Maori Waka in existence

Redwood at Hamurana Springs, Rotorua

Fishing the famous "Big O"

Waiting for a haircut

Coastal scenic route to Russell

Cape Reinga, most northern point in NZ

Red Crater, Mt. Tongariro

Emerald Lakes of Tongariro Alpine Crossing

View from top of Mt. Tongariro

View into the Land of Mordor

Here we are, in the land of the Kiwi’s! Easiest travel we’ve encountered so far … first-world country; English speaking; travel & tourism infrastructure; recognizable food & shopping … kind of feels like travel in the U.S.A.

That is until you get behind the wheel of a car or look at the price of just about anything, then you know you’re not “home” anymore and there’s a price to pay (literally) for comfort, convenience and familiarity. Would you believe $6 for one gallon of gas?

New Zealand is a country of two separate islands, the North Island is a mis-shaped blob with a finger at the top. The bottom island, or South Island, is a long paddle shape. We arrived in Auckland, the largest city in New Zealand, located near the top of the North Island, on November 1st. The entire country is home to just under 4.5 million people, and one third of them live here in Auckland which makes it a big city with all the noise, energy and traffic you’d expect. Our goal for Auckland was to sort ourselves out for the rest of our journey here and head for the hills! So, we wasted no time in buying a new computer; buying a cell phone and opening a “pay as you go” account for it; and, renting a car for the duration. No buses for us here!

We set out for the very northern tip of the North Island, thinking that would be the least populated, the best chance at warmer weather, and give Dan time to get accustomed to driving on the left side of the road. All of which turned out to be absolutely right! It takes quite a few times around the “round abouts” to get used to this traffic pattern, but Dan is now a driving pro for both sides of the pond!

The northern tip is narrow and surrounded by the ocean and, so, it is one beautiful bay or beach after another. Though not warm enough for swimming, we spent most of our time walking along these beautiful beaches and through the forests along the bays. Quiet, serene and beautiful.

We followed a couple of scenic driving routes back down, past Auckland, to the middle of the North Island where vast open lands dotted with the iconic New Zealand sheep and kauri trees compete for your attention with the surrounding hillsides and steaming clouds from the active thermal pools. There is not one piece of flat land here and the roads are narrow, twisting, winding beauties that remind you this is a very young land, designed by volcanoes that aren’t quite done yet!

Maori culture is easiest to see and experience here in the North, we were told. There were no shortage of unique, authentic Marae’s to visit, the Maori’s version of community centers; the fabulous Waitangi Treaty Grounds; and staged Haka performances, as fierce and intimidating as they were designed to be. The Maori language and culture is included and supported (with news channel, schools and seats in Parliament) and accessible to anyone wishing to understand and learn their history.

The North Island’s Central Plateau just happens to be the “Trout Fishing Capital of the World”! And that fact stopped us in our travels. A 2-day stop, turned into a 2-week stay, purchase of a country-wide fishing license and new fly-rod and waders! The water is gin-clear, the trout are the size of our salmon and the rivers, streams and lakes are uncrowded, completely open to anyone with a license and without the need for an expensive guide. Most amazingly, the fishermen here are more than happy to share their favorite spots, and even move over to give you a chance to catch “the big one”! As they say, “no worries mate, plenty of fish for all of us”!

We were lucky enough to get a "tip" on a place to stay in Turangi - the center of trout fishing. Upon our arrival at the "Tongariro River Motel", before being assigned our cottage, Danny was measured for a pair of waders and a choice of fly rods to use during our stay all inclusive! Although the managers were leaving the next day on their own holiday, they made sure Dan was set up to fish and introduced to the temporary manager, Brent, who was only too happy to fish with Dan, map out unique pools and share his knowledge of these prize fish. As Brent remarked more than once ... magic! This perfect set-up of a 2-bedroom home of our own, great fishing & an attentive "guide" were the reasons for our extended stay (and possibly a return before we leave New Zealand). If we've convinced anyone to come try New Zealand's fishing, make sure to stay at here!

This is also the location of one of New Zealand's much promoted "Great Walks" - the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Hardly a walk, it was an 8-hour, 12+ mile hike into the world of Mordor and alongside Mt. Doom of the Lord of the Rings movie fame. Mostly volcanic rock and loose scree, it's an other-worldly landscape. And then you get to the top, on a clear day, which we had, and you see for miles. Simply spectacular!

On arrival in Wellington, New Zealand’s capital and the North Island’s southern most city, we headed for the Immigration office and arranged for an extended visa. Should the hiking and fishing on the South Island live up to the hype we’ve been hearing from the locals, we’ll be able to explore and enjoy it as we like.

So glad you're still enjoying these entries and photos.

MERRY CHRISTMAS, a PEACEFUL and HEALTHY NEW YEAR to all ... we'll be thinking of you!

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