Waitomo & Auckland – New Zealand

 

This will be our last post on NZ. It was an incredible adventure, but as the last few days loomed before us we were ready to slow down and hand back the campervan keys.

Day 30-31 – Whanganui – Needing Some ZZZZZZ

We once again took Blue Bridge Ferries to cross to the North Island. Pro-tip – If your vehicle is under 5 meters it falls under the van category and will cost slightly less compared to a campervan. With no real plan of where to go, but with our hangovers from NYE still tickling the back of our brains, we decided to stop in Whanganui. The town itself was very odd. There’s not much to see, it’s definitely a little bit older and more rundown than the other NZ cites, but it has a great i-site with free Wifi. We settled in and did some research for our arrival in Waitamo the next day. We stayed at the Seaside Holiday Park for $35 CAD with a powered site and free unlimited Wifi. Surprisingly, this was probably one of the best motor parks we had in all of NZ in terms of what you get for your money.

Day 32 – Waitomo – The Descent

Kik's turn!
Kik’s turn!
Smile! Corny photo time.
Smile! Corny photo time.

There’s almost too much to see in Waitomo. You can go abseiling, tubing, rock climbing, or a combination of all three (Best deal – Kiwi Cave Rafting). We would definitely have done this if there had been availability but because we didn’t book in advance and had to have the car back to Auckland the next day we settled for only tubing with Caveworld. Pro-tip – Always check i-sites or websites like BookMe.com and GrabOne.com for discounts. We spent the night at Juno Hall – BBH for 35 CAD (non-powered site). It was actually pretty nice. No Wifi but a really good central space and a salt water pool.

The light at the end of the tunnel!
The light at the end of the tunnel!

Our tour guide for the cave tubing was a slightly disgruntled older man, but he ended up being quite the story-teller. He would gather the group and have everyone turn off their head lamps. In complete darkness and silence, the cave had an eerie feeling to it. Then…BANG…the tour guide would slam his tube on the water. The noise would scare the shit out of us but also cause the glow worms light to intensify. It was like star-gazing on a clear night. The tour was two hours, the water was quite cold, and if you’re claustrophobic you’ll either need to gather your courage or choose another adventure. At one point we were 100 metres below the grass above.

Auckland – 33-38 – No More Driving!

Riding a high from our tubing adventure we settled in good ol’ Shitty for our finally ride. We felt pretty good handing in the keys.  Driving through NZ was an incredible way to see the country. Although, renting a campervan is really expensive, we’re so thankful it completed the trip without any major issues. We also sold our stuff to Backpacker Car World. We probably had about $100 worth of camping gear (blankets, pillows, kitchen stuff) and we only got $15 for it! Better than nothing I guess.

We booked an Air B & B in the suburb of Orakei, which is a really ritzy part of Auckland, ($85/night). Our host graciously offered to pick us up from the campervan rental shop, which was near the airport. She easily saved us a $50 cab ride.The rented space was a detached studio overlooking the city centre and Bay. We’d wake up every morning by opening the French doors and having our breakfast on the balcony while enjoying the spectacular view. We ended up staying here for 4 days and would’ve stayed longer if it was available. The only downside to our place was that it was quite far from downtown. It was about a 90-minute walk and the public transport system in Auckland is not as sophisticated compared to other cities we’ve experienced. We didn’t go too far to explore and just sat around our place catching up with family/friends. Kik made plans for the next morning to meet up with an old U of M buddy who recently moved to Auckland.

Nice guns Clair!
Nice guns Clair!
Downtown Auckland from across the Bay.
Downtown Auckland from across the Bay.

If there’s one thing everyone knows about Kik, it’s his inability to BE ON TIME! By the time we’re walking out of the condo, we realize we should be on the ferry. In the rush to catch the next ferry, we finally hail a cab. During the process, Kik manages to lose his phone. On top of that, we’re now quite late and miss his friend. It wasn’t a good start to the day. We continue with our plan to tour the area of Devonport. The ferry across the bay was $10 CAD/pp with return. Our host suggested to check out the Cheltenham Beach and North Head Historic Reserve. The weather cooperated, which made for a wonderful day lounging around on the beach.

Meeting up with an old friend.
Meeting up with an old friend.

Still having two more days before our flight to Australia, and our current place being reserved by other tenants, we booked our last nights in a hotel off Queenstreet, the main drag of downtown Auckland. We stayed at Ascotia Off Queens for $100 CAD/night. We wouldn’t recommend it. Nice room with a fridge but the buffet was terrible and they only give out 1GB of free Wifi. Seriously? The location gave us the chance to further explore the downtown. We would recommend Revel, a cool hipster coffee shop. Kik once again made plans with his buddy, Richard Sylvester, and this time we were on time!

Our last few days in Auckland flew by and before we knew it, we were organizing our travel to the airport. We chose to use the Auckland Sky Bus, which stopped just outside our hotel. We recommend you purchase your tickets in advance online (15 CAD/ticket). After touring NZ for over a month, we were excited for a change of scenery. It would be a quick trip through Australia, starting with 4 days in Sydney. Clair’s parents were treating us with accommodations they selected through Air B & B in the area where they worked and visited over 30 years ago. We can’t wait to tell you more about it in our next post.

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