6-11th July 2016
We left Taupo early Wednesday morning and headed to the other side of the Lake to the Tongariro National Park. When getting back on the kiwi bus we were with a new group of people but bumped into Nicola who was from our last bus, and who we have actually been with for the last couple of weeks now!
When we arrived we had the choice of either going for a walk or having a look around the visitor centre. We chose the visitor centre as we were so cold and couldn’t face an early morning walk – lazy I know! The visitor centre was actually really interesting and I learnt a lot about Mt Ruapehu, Mt Tongariro and Mt Ngauruhoe and the most recent and past eruptions. Afterwards we went for a hot chocolate in the Chateau Tongariro – where all the rich people stay!
The drive to River Valley was beautiful, we passed so many snow capped mountains it was incredible. We finally arrived at River Valley Lodge (literally in the middle of no where) late evening and checked into our 30 bed dorm! We had the choice of having a group roast dinner that evening, which most of us did and it was really good to have proper food! It wasn’t quite as good as our hangi feast at Tamaki though!
The next morning we had the choice of two activities – horse riding or white water rafting. Although I’ve never been rafting I decided to go with horse riding as I absolutely love it so it was an opportunity I just couldn’t turn down. The ride was very different to what I’m used to – they train their horses using natural horsemanship training techniques meaning that the horses don’t have a bit in their mouth they only have a halter on. The morning started with us being given a brief introduction to how natural horsemanship works both on and off the horse. It was really interesting to learn a new style of riding and also new techniques to handling the horses.
After a couple of hours it was time to go out on the ride through the foothills of Pukeokahu. My horse was called Spunkles (I’m sorry but what a stupid name) and he was really lovely and well behaved until it was time to go out on the hack. As soon as we started heading out the paddock he kept trying to go back to the yard and wouldn’t do as he was told. About 10 minutes into the ride he was still messing about and when we came to the first open field he bolted and then proceeded to buck and rear until I came flying off into a thistle bush! Luckily I was fine and Lizzy, our instructor said she was really impressed at how long I managed to stay on and said it was a pretty spectacular fall! Anyway, completely unphased I jumped back on the horse Lizzy was riding and carried on with the trek. My new horse was called Alfie and he was a beautiful little thing. He was only 5 so he still has lots to learn but he was so well behaved and such a lovely horse to ride.
We left River Valley at lunch time and headed to Wellington, New Zealand’s capital. It was a long drive and we didn’t arrive until nearly 7pm. Me, Daniel and Nicola all had 4 nights in Wellington which meant plenty of time to explore.
Friday we headed down to Te Papa, New Zealand’s national museum (which is free!) and spent the afternoon looking around. The main exhibit at the moment is ‘Gallipoli – the scale of our war’. This exhibit was incredible – it tells the story of the Gallipoli campaign in WW1 through the stories of 8 New Zealanders, each with their own unique story and also many interactive boards and maps. We spent hours in this exhibit, it was phenomenal. We also explored the rest of the museum and visited many other exhibits to do with NZ’s history, the earthquakes and volcanoes, nature and sea life. If you are ever in Wellington you definitely need to head over to Te Papa!
Saturday the three of us decided to walk up to the summit of Mt Victoria. Although it’s only 196m to the top I still nearly died (not sure how I climbed 1,717m up Mt Batur) but the end was rewarding and provided us with 360 views across Wellington. On the way back down we walked some of the trails where the Lord of the Rings was filmed. It was very disappointing as nothing was signed so we wernt actually sure what we were looking at!
That afternoon we headed down to Wellington Museum. It’s definitely worth checking out as it is very interesting but Te Papa is definitely better! On the way we stopped at a little underground market and had a look around at the stalls – they had some really lovely bits but as I’m on a budget I had to walk away!
Sunday was our lazy day and consisted of netflix, netflix and more netflix. Having said that we did have a walk down to Cuba street which was supposed to be a quirky trendy street with shops, bars and cafes but all I could compare it to was walking through Hemel high street (if you haven’t been don’t…)
Monday we were up early and back on the kiwi bus ready to catch the ferry across to the South Island. The crossing itself took a total of 3 hours across the Cook Strait and through the Malborough Sounds – described as one of the most beautiful ferry rides in the world.