Rotorua – Redwood Forest

After arriving in Rotorua in the late afternoon, I didn’t have much time to do any exploring yesterday. I settled into my hostel, The Spa Lodge (which is mad cute, by the way) and went to a local pub, Pig and Whistle, for some live music in the evening with my dorm mates.
Ohhhh, my dorm mates.
My 8-bed room is mostly German, with the exception of 2 undeniably American Americans. They are like a walking stereotype. Gator skin boots, camo, a tattoo of Texas, star spangled banner swim trunks, the whole deal. After spending a few hours together, one of them pointed out I was the first person they’ve met on the road who didn’t ask them about Trump. I had absolutely zero interest in having that conversation with them, because I knew exactly how it’d go. Having been raised on political discussions around the dinner table, I have developed strong opinions and a love for debate. However, I don’t see this one going well.

We all spent the night dancing and talking about literally everything else, having a grand ol’ time, but once back at the hostel we slipped up, something sparked a discussion, and a heated argument broke loose. One of the Germans acted as a moderator while the Americans and I hashed it out…until 4am. Oops.

So this morning I’ve gotten up to meet the Germans for a hike through the Redwood Forest, unsure of whether or not the Americans and I are still cool. They’re still asleep so I won’t know until later.

Most travellers I’ve met here in New Zealand have rented or bought a car. All the best spots are often far from the city centre and it’s really the only way to get around. Buses can take you between major locations, but otherwise you have to go with a tour package and I have no interest in doing that. Even though the Redwood Forest is relatively accessible from our hostel, there’s a difference of an hour walk or a 5-minute drive. Luckily, one of these guys has a car.

It’s a rainy morning which has brought out the contrasted colours of rusty red and lush green in the forest. I’m not a botanist or anything, but I never expected Redwood trees to grow in the same area as these giant, Jurassic Park-resembling fern trees. It makes for a super interesting trail. Entrance to the park is free, unless you want to follow the hanging bridges that are hung up in one small area of the forest, which looks pretty damn cool, but it’s also $25, so no thank you. We follow the arrows for a 3 hour route, which ends up taking us a little longer because we get lost more than once. I swear someone has stolen some of the arrows off the posts just to confuse us. Rude.

The 3 people I’m hiking with are all lovely. One thing I’ve noticed about German people when traveling is that they are really considerate of the language barrier and will speak to each other in English even when I’m not necessarily involved in the conversation, just to be polite. Usually other people revert back to their native languages which doesn’t bother me in the slightest, but I still think it’s really nice of them to keep me in the loop.

By the end of the hike my legs are pretty tired and I’m dreading how I’ll feel tomorrow. I’m a city walker; flat surfaces only. I can’t handle this incline business. Fortunately, our $20/night hostel has its own geothermal sulphur spa pool! and it’s free!In the morning, before it’s filled

We take a dip to relax when we get back to the hostel, and I run into the Texans. We have a quick awkward like, “heyyyy sorry ‘bout the yelling…I stand by everything I said….but we good? Yeah we good. Good.”

We vow not to talk about it again, though.

Costs for the Day
$20 hostel
$20 dinner
Free park entry
Free ride
Free tea/coffee at the hostel

Total: $40

Take me there!

Rangitoto Island

Guys. I have to tell you about how much I love this cafe. It’s my new home. There’s a “take a book, leave a book” shelf, couches, solid wifi, a decent selection of teas, a giant window I can sit in with my laptop, and a random little vintage pac-man arcade game in the corner. I’m obsessed. This is where I spend every morning.

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I’ve been operating without much of a plan each day. The only problem with this is that all the activities around Auckland require a bit of travel time and therefore a bit of planning. I decide it’s a good day for hiking, and look up ferries to Rangitoto; an island visible from the Auckland port, and home to a dormant volcano! It’s not painfully expensive at $33 return, especially when you consider that’s the same price as visiting the Sky Tower (Auckland’s imposter CN Tower – erected 20 years later, I might add).
A volcano hike seems like a pretty good bang for my buck!
The last ferry heading to the island is in an hour, so I rush back to my hostel to change into some more appropriate hiking gear and walk down to the ferry terminal.

Before boarding the boat, we’re asked to clean our shoes off on these little brush things stationed outside the entrance, and to check our bags for rats, mice, and ants. Yeah, alarming. Apparently people find them in their bags “more often than you’d think” and I am horrified to even look. Thankfully, I’m clean.
Rangitoto has a fragile and well-contained ecosystem that New Zealand is working hard to preserve while still allowing for tourism. There are no shops, hotels, cafes, or anything on the island. Not even a place to fill up a water bottle, so they advise you to bring all the water and/or snacks you might need for the day. I didn’t know this in advance, so I’m extra stoked that I thought to bring my reusable water bottle, and filled it before I left!

In half an hour, we’ve arrived on the other side, and I head straight for the trail. It’s 1:45, and the last ferry back to Auckland is at 3:30 so I want to get a move on. It’s possible to leave after the last ferry, but it’s an extra 50 bucks, and that’s a hard no from me.

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arriving on the island – I don’t know what’s in the little house!

I follow black trails lined sometimes with unfamiliar trees, and at other times with nothing but stark black volcanic rocks. The higher the trail takes me, the better the view becomes. It’s an easy walk, especially for the first half as it’s pretty flat. I’m a city walker; Toronto has no hills. I’m not used to all this stair and hill climbing, and it’s roasting hot out. If this path weren’t partially shaded, I might have died from heat stroke. I apply my weak 30SPF sun screen twice during the walk, just to be sure I don’t burn.

Once at the top there is a view point that looks out over the old volcano crater, which is now entirely covered in greenery. Without the sign post to tell me what it was, I’d never have known. The real sight though, is the 360 degree view around the island. You can see Auckland off in the distance, and epic teal blue waters all around. Pretty fantastic for a 1 hour hike.

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You can see the fake CN tower from here!

I soak up the views, finish the rest of my water, and head back down. I end up chatting with a nice elderly couple from Malaysia on my way down, who start a conversation by calling out “where are you from!?” as I pass them on the trail. We talk about Malaysia, Canada, and they tell me all their opinions about “Mr. Trump”. They’re pretty adorable.

I’m back down to the pier by 3pm and have 30 minutes to spare, so I find a shaded bench where I can lay down and take a little siesta, but set an alarm so I don’t miss the last ferry. Not that spending the night here wouldn’t be rad af.

When the boat arrives they have so much trouble docking due to the high winds, that they have to try 3 times. I’m a little concerned about the choppy waters back to the city, which weren’t this bad on our way over this afternoon.
They make an announcement on the way back that “If anything should happen, life vests can be found in the lockers”…which I notice are secured and tied up with ropes, so if this ship starts goin’ down, I’m pretty sure I’m done for. R.I.P.

After more trouble docking back in Auckland, we make it safely off the boat and I head back to the hostel. I have to double take when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I look like a god damn tomato. Noooooooooooo! I applied my sunscreen! I tried to be responsible! I am heavily regretting leaving the 100SPF in my drawer back in Canada. I brought that Nicaragua a couple years ago, and came back just as pasty white as when I left, so I didn’t wanna go totally tan-less again. Huge mistake. I knew about the absence of ozone layer down here but… I thought double sunscreen would do it. Nope. How embarrassing. Now I gotta walk around like this for the next few days. So much regret.

Aside from the burn – solid day.

I go out at night and try to get a look at this blue moon/super moon/eclipse thing, but it’s too cloudy, which is tragic.

Costs for the Day

$16 breakfast at Remedy Coffee

$33 return trip to Rangitoto

$16 for 2 pints at a pub in the viaduct area

$8 fast food wrap for dinner

$20 hostel

Take me there!

Tinder for Travel

Yesterday was a SHIT day. I was in such a state. Basically, I walked 4km into town in the hopes of renting a scooter and driving up to the Shipwreck lookout point. What actually happened, is that I walked all the way to Laganas just to be rejected by at least 8 shops because I have a Canadian license. Top of the list of tasks to accomplish when I get back to Canada: Get an international license. Continue reading “Tinder for Travel”

Shipwreck Beach

Alright. Round 2 of trying to make it to this Shipwreck Beach tour. Today it’s at noon instead of 9am. Bless.

I get picked up hitching and make it early to the pick up spot. This is conveniently located in front of a super market, where I go in quickly to buy some fruit for breakfast/lunch. Continue reading “Shipwreck Beach”

Turtles and Caves

Committing to an 8:30am tour feels like the biggest mistake I’ve ever made. I didn’t go out last night, I had a very chill day, but I haven’t had to get up early in weeks. My body clock is rejecting this. But hey! I’m goin’ to see a cool beach (famous Shipwreck) and some caves so I do eventually drag myself out of bed.  Continue reading “Turtles and Caves”