We arrived at Wellington by ferry from the south island. The city is known as the hippest and most trendy one in New Zealand, so we did some sight seeing in the city center. We found a lot of nice little coffee places and some really good restaurants – if you like restaurants, Wellington is the place to be in New Zealand. So later that night we indeed enjoyed wood oven pizza almost as good as in Italy.
Because the weather forecast looked good for the next day we decided to do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing hike. It might sound a bit boring to do so many hikes in New Zealand, but this time, the landscape was again completely different and we walked past some still active volcanos.
During the walk we met a Dutch couple with whom we spent the entire hike together.
As we didn’t have any plans for the next days, we also got some nice travel tips, so we went for rafting the next day (thanks for that at this point!).
We really liked and recommend the rafting in the Tongariro national park. Compared to some rafting we did before, this time we actually had to help paddling and steering to keep the boat on track. And even though it was close a couple of times, no one went overboard :).
In the middle of nowhere of the north island, you’ll find Hobbiton, the old movie set of lord of the rings and the hobbit. To see the different houses and gardens you have to book a guided tour. The movie makers and gardeners really put so much effort in every little detail. They even got an artificial tree – the one above Frodo’s home – which was constructed leave by leave within nearly a year.
To finish the tour, we were allowed to take some pictures in the local Hobbit bar, see the result for yourself below…
After visiting the Hobbiton, we drove over to Hamilton to see a Rugby match: The Hamilton Chiefs against Bulls from Cape Town. It actually was the first rugby match for both of us. And after seeing we’ve to say it’s true what they say: Compared to soccer, rugby players are really not half dead after each foul, even though they might really be half dead. And rugby players have definitely more elastic t-shirts than the Swiss national football team at the last world cup 🙂
Other than that, the atmosphere and the hakas were really great! It won’t be our last rugby match.
After Hamilton we drove to Raglan, the most famous surfer town in New Zealand.
And when we arrived in the evening, the waves were really firing! Hard to describe, but when we looked at the different spots from a lookout, there were nonstop perfect waves coming in… A surfer dream coming true 🙂 So the next days the waves were smaller and we enjoyed surfing and relaxing in Raglan for 4 days.
We’ve to tell one more story though: As you know we were travelling by a camper van that allows you to do freedom camping in New Zealand. That basically means, you can put your van everywhere you want, unless in areas where a sign says camping is forbidden. But we learned over the weeks that freedom camping is not so nice if the locals don’t like you. Our first night in Raglan we stayed in the nature and next to a gravel road with the next houses around 20 minutes away. But apparently we still disturbed some people. At 5am some guy went crazy and was continuously honking at us for 5 minutes, flashing his lights and spinning his wheels… At 5am! We woke up scared and not knowing what this was about. After that we could not really sleep again especially because there were even more idiots that morning honking at us. We still don’t understand the reason, since we definitely were not blocking the road, but we have the feeling that some local people feel that their peace is disturbed by all the campers coming to New Zealand.
After a few weeks in the nature Auckland felt even bigger and full of people. We just did a little bit of sightseeing and shopping. Of course we also tried some restaurants but we felt they were not as good as in Wellington. Still, we liked Auckland with its relaxed atmosphere and for some reason it reminded us a bit of Zurich in the summer.
Our conclusion of New Zealand:
The nature in New Zealand is simply great and extremely diverse. Sometimes you drive for 15 minutes and the landscape changes completely. With the mountains in Switzerland, there are some similarities to New Zealand’s south island. But for us the main difference is that you feel a vastness in New Zealand not only in the mountains. While in Switzerland the streets and houses are sometimes built right into the nature, in New Zealand it felt they are building rather around the nature. And not only because we’ve been driving endless serpentines with our van in 4 weeks 🙂
What we didn’t like so much… there seems to be not much left to explore on your own and every little lake, hill or waterfall seems to have become a big attraction which everyone is notified about with plenty of road signs. So sometimes even in a camper van with freedom camping it’s difficult to find that ‘loneliness’ that the commercials are advertising so much – Simply because you mostly got 5 other camper vans right next to you :). Seems to be the result of a huge amount of tourists over the last 10/20 years, which made tourism the number 1 sector in New Zealand.
Nevertheless, we’ve to say, the nature is really unique and definitely worth a trip.