Our final week in New Zealand was action packed and in fact absolutely exhausting. When our visitors jetted off home, we of course picked up one last campervan. The driving was exhausting as we were trying to get as much in as possible, but nowhere near as exhausting as the black water rafting, caving and mountain climbing that we decided to put ourselves through!
Upon picking up this van, we realised we had been conned with our Rusty and that maybe a complaint might be in order! She was lovely and clean and had lots of extras that whilst very helpful, were sadly not used in the few days we had her. We christened her Scratchy to match her paintwork (James wanted to name her Esther to begin with because of her number plate, but I wasn’t sure how his auntie would take having a bashed up backpackers van named after her!). Our first journey took us South to Waitamo where we booked on to a black water rafting tour for the following morning. With the afternoon to spare, we found a campsite with both a farm and a bar (brilliant combination) and spent the afternoon in the sun feeding the animals and feasting on stew! We accidentally stumbled across a pig in labour so ran and told the owners before spending a while watching the minute old piglets wandering around and squealing. If you know either of us at all, you’ll know that an afternoon at the farm is quite a treat anyway so this addition really added to the already exciting experience!
Waitamo is known for two things – glow worms, and black water rafting. Other than that, the tiny village thrives on the tourists through cafes and a couple of tourist souvenir shops. Our trip with the Black Water Rafting company allowed us to do all of that! The next morning we arrived nice and early to put on our wet and cold wetsuits, and wetsuit socks and be equipped with boots, a hard helmet with head torch and some wellies. Aside from their protective element, the attire was utterly flattering and I’m so disappointed to not have a photo to share with you..
The trip really was incredible, and had me facing my fears a limitless and stepping out of my comfort zone. We waded through water into the dark caves, climbed rocks, tubed through the freezing current and jumped backwards down not one but two waterfalls! As well as the exciting element, the caves were full of glow worms! Although they were clear to see from the moment we entered the cave, they were truly magical when our head lamps were off and they provided the only light. Looking up whilst sat in my tube it was quite disorientating. Had I not known the perilous route I had just taken into the cave, I could have easily believed that I was looking up into the clear night sky.
As aforementioned, I have no photos! Our own cameras weren’t allowed and although they did take a couple of extremely attractive shots of us suited up and jumping, neither of us were prepared to pay the $30 for the visual memories – even if it did include some lovely pictures of everyone else to pop on the mantlepiece too. Instead, we took advantage of their warm showers and enjoyed complimentary soup and a bagel to warm us through before we continued further south on the roads. If you’ve no idea what activity I’m talking about, type Waitamo Black Water Rafting into google and it’ll soon become apparent!
The next adventure on the list was to visit and climb Mt Taranaki. It seemed like a wonderful idea to trek to the top of the dormant volcano, however the closer we got, the more we realised what a task this would be. We had orginally set our alarms to get up at 3am in the hope of being high in the sky for sunrise. Whilst I’m glad we woke to see the gorgeous nights sky at 3am, we decided not to tackle the walk at such an hour. Hindsight is a wonderful thing – knowing what we now now, climbing in the dark would not have been advisable!
The walk took us 10 long, hot, sweaty and gravelly hours. We were overtaken by people on many occasions and it became even more embarrassing when much older women were striding past (in skirts I might add?!). We both knew that neither of us had the fitness level of an Olympian, but I don’t think either of us anticipated the walk to be so gruelling. The paths were steep; the safe and well trodden routes almost non existent the further up we went and at one point we had to rock climb. It was certainly not for the faint hearted. I’m not ashamed to say a few tears were had, and also a small anxious episode when I realised how high we were above the clouds. This however, is what makes me most proud. Both myself and James have done a fair few weird and whacky things since we have been away, but the feeling of accomplishment that I got from this climb and from conquering my fears is something that makes me beam with pride. That, and the fact that we both made it up and down alive and with only a few breathing difficulties.
The climb/slide down was almost as awful as the ascent. The part we struggled climbing the most proved to be just as difficult to get back down. “The scream” is an area covered in ashy remnants from the last time the volcano erupted and every step is a lucky dip as to whether the ground will hold you or whether you will slide back down and be caused to scramble. It was in fact at this point that the older lady was gaining on us.. I’m still not sure how she managed it. This however provided us with many unwanted souvenirs from our hike including some filthy clothes, ripped shorts, and very sand and stone filled shoes. As if that wasn’t enough, I’m also now sporting some impressive war wounds as proof of our achievements. One fall in particular left me with a bleeding elbow and an impressive bruise on my bum. It is now a wonderful mixture of green, yellow and purple and got some looks at the pool yesterday! Whilst I’ve shared this attractive new feature with a few of you, I think I’ll refrain from putting a picture of my behind on the internet for now.
Having not booked a flight for after we handed Scratchy back, we arrived at Auckland airport to play a game of flight roulette which resulted in us boarding a plane to Kuala Lumpur! It’s safe to say that our last week in New Zealand was a memorable one and whilst we were absolutely destroyed by Mt Taranaki, we are not defeated. A few days rest is definitely in order for our poor legs though!