This is the way the Kiwis entertain their visitors.
Of course it's all very "ho-hum" for us sophisticated Australian travellers!!
These people are heroes! This is us enjoying one of the beaches on Auckland harbour the following afternoon.
Melissa, Madeleine (2), Bernie and Ross.
We looked like this. Of course outside the cave, the wetsuits got rather hot, so plunging into a bath of cold water was a treat!
Next stop - Friday 8th now - was Turangi, at the southern end of Lake Taupo, and close to the Tongariro National Park which contains the highest peaks in the North Island. We planned to do the Tongariro Crossing walk the next day, reputed to be "the finest one day walk in New Zealand". We stayed at a very pleasant B&B in Turangi, and the people there helped us with local knowledge, planning, and even extra water bottles, as the water in the mountains is either too high in minerals to drink, or needs to be boiled. It was a full day on Saturday, but quite enjoyable, walking through scenery which is spectacular, and of course unfamiliar to us, as active volcanoes are not easy to find in Australia!
Postcard-like photo opportunities surrounded us all day.
Fortunately, on our return, we were able to enjoy some time immersed in a natural thermal hot spring bath - private rooms with pools at 41 degrees or thereabouts - at a little place called Tokaanu, which was just 5 kms from our B&B. A home cooked meal provided by our hostess, good conversation, and collapse into bed. A lifestyle anyone could get to enjoy!
Next day we rode the chairlift as far as it went up the side of Mt. Ruapehu, which is the highest in the North Island, and a ski resort in winter (last erupted in 1996) but were not tempted to climb further as the top was in cloud. Then we drove to our next overnight stop - a motel in Taupo, at the northern end of the lake. The next day we watched people bungy jumping over the Waikato River, and then went off for our own thrill on the river, which you see at the top of this page, near the Huka Falls.
We continued on to Rotorua for the night. Lots more volcanic activity to see here, and also Maori culture on display.
Wednesday 13th. A long drive, north through Auckland to the Bay of Islands, which is near the north end of New Zealand. We planned to spend our last three days relaxing on or near a beach, but the weather did not play fair. Up till now we had experienced no rain, but here in Paihia, the heavens finally opened up! We did more driving than sailing or swimming, but we did manage to visit a few heritage sites, taste some New Zealand fruit wine, and ride in a slow boat (ferry across to historic old Russell) and a fast boat (speedboat trip to, and through, the "hole in the rock"). We also did a "Swim with the dolphins" excursion, on which we certainly did some closeup viewing of these fascinating animals, but because there were some baby dolphins still with their mothers, we were not permitted to go in the water with them.
This is what the Bay of Islands is like when the weather is good.
We want to go back and try again for the sailing and diving.
A night in Auckland with our friends the Hendys, and then a 4am alarm for our flight back to Melbourne - this time no aircraft faults and no trouble-making American movie stars!
Keep tuned for our next thrilling adventure.
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