Leaving Auckland – Travelling Real New Zealand
It’s nine months since I left Auckland, this blog post is very late. This is probably the longest I have gone without updating this blog since I started it. That changes today. For now it is the day before my birthday (the 23th of July 2016) and I am sitting on my balcony in a quiet resort on the main island of Fiji.
I’m not going to write about Fiji yet, I’m going to recap the bulk of the second year of my working holiday visa in New Zealand, which has fast become my home.
If I could give anyone coming to work and travel one piece of advice when visiting New Zealand it would be this. Don’t get stuck in Auckland. Auckland is a big bulky poor man’s version of Sydney with less offerings and less opportunity.
As I’ve said before, the minimum wage after tax in New Zealand is unsustainable and this is why so many kiwis work in Australia. You simply can’t survive on hospo wages and save up for forward travel in this country, so don’t make that mistake.
And that’s exactly what I didn’t do. Instead I worked for the largest media agency for 6 months in Auckland divising the SEO strategy of the largest companies in the country. This was completely consultative. Imagine pointing out the flaws of multinational websites to busy marketing teams or super talented developers. It was never going to be a long term thing and that was for sure.
There are so many misconceptions as to what SEO is and especially what it is to large websites and big business. Everyone fears what they don’t understand and if you don’t have the time to embrace and understand then it gives people like me the opportunity to capitalise, especially in an emerging (internet) market like New Zealand.
But the stresses of corporate life in Auckland were simply not what I wanted so I created an exit strategy at the start of December 2016 and with my girlfriend, my brother and his partner; we left Auckland forever with our basic travel gear and 2 bikes in a station wagon.
I was so happy to be on the road again, but the exit of Auckland was unfortunately very stressful and leaving my flat was also very challenging – but it taught me one thing. I will never live in a high-rise block of flats or apartments ever again. It sucks the life out of you and you feel an unseen pressure seeping in from all four walls when you lay in bed at night.
Our first stop after leaving Auckland was the Corelmandel. Just two hours down the road it’s an amazing beautiful part of New Zealand. In summer this reminded me a lot of inland Australia, especially around Thames. It was here that we explored abandoned mineshafts and met our first Cave Wetas. The strangest looking critters you cant find anywhere else on the planet.
If your heading to the Corelmandel make sure you check out New Chums beach. It’s a bit of a walk to get to but the reward is probably one of the most picturesque beaches in the whole of the country. As with most of New Zealand, the water is still cool but the scenery on this beach is remarkable and it certainly makes up for it.
Corelmandel is also home to Cathedral Cove which is very touristy but a nice beach all the same. A little way from here is also Hot Water Beach. This is also a tourist nightmare but well worth checking out as it’s such a unique experience.
You walk on the beach and boiling hot volcanic aquifers bubble out right on the beach and you can dig out your own bathing pool in the beach and when you get too hot go for a swim in the cooler sea. Be careful though, very easy to burn your toes in the hottest parts.
We spent Christmas at the YHA in Whitianga (On the Beach Backpackers) We had this awesome 2 bedroom studio and it was very nice being able to cook an Xmas roast dinner in the cool summer of New Zealand.
After Corelmandel we headed to Tauranga and lucked out again with an amazingly cheap campsite that also had 3 natural spring hot pools. This was on the other side of town to the main shopping areas but was well worth it just for the sunny hot pools.
We were going to spend New Years here, but had a last minute change of plan and travelled inland to Rotorua. Rotorua smells of eggs. It’s one of the weirdest sensory invasions I have ever had to deal with and it’s kind of hard to get used too. I probably wouldn’t want to live there because of it.
We wanted to visit the hobbit houses in Matamata before we went any further south but all of the tours and everything was so booked up at the height of summer we could not get anything for four people. The cost of the tour is very high also so you have to consider if it is actually worth seeing as there are very mixed reviews for the tour itself.
It was here that we took a little detour to see the glow worm caves at Waitomo. The glow worms are amazing but the boat ride is crammed with noisey tourists and is very short itself. If you want a better experience get the double cave tour package and go to the Ruakuri caves just down the road, the tour is much longer and is fantastic.
After Rotorua we headed to Taupo and it was busy, noisey and full of boy racer cars. We drove around the main lake and headed to the southern area where we got a campsite that had 2 novelty VW Campervan caravans. We made these our home for one night and then took on the might of the Tongariro Crossing the next day.
It was the height of summer and the Tongariro Crossing was very busy but even with the busyness it was an amazing experience. You get to walk past the ominous mount doom when you are on the trial and it sort of hangs there towering over you like the eye of Sauron.
When you reach the top of the crossing on the main walkway it is an awesome spectacle. You are standing on an active Volcano you can see snow and all sorts of strange landscape features. Definitely one of the highlights of New Zealand.
After Tongariro we raced down to Wellington as time was running out for my brothers girlfriend and she wanted to see some of the south. First we stayed in Blenheim for one night and then headed from there to Rangiora, the home of my partner. On the way down I was amazed at how different the landscape was. The texture of the land was almost arrid, even if the climate was colder. We stopped at Kaikora where there is an abundance of seals and other native wildlife.
We all went separate ways from this point onward and Kate took showed me around the Christchurch area. We left Christ Church and headed down through Wanaka and Queenstown. The views and scenery around here and absolutely world Class. Looking across Lake Wanaka and seeing the view of Mount Cook was absolutely incredible.
We detoured to the east coast at this point and drove down through Dunedin, the Caitlins and finally onto Invercargill. One of the best parts of our trip was going to the Settlers Museum in Dunedin, really puts the South Island in perspective and is an amazing museum. Once we had got to invercargill we were planning on heading back up to Queens town and spending some time there but unfortunately it was the height of summer and it was so busy that all of the roads into Queenstown were blocked due to roadworks and we could not even get into the area.
The weather turned bad at this point so we decided to drive the entire length of the West Coast up to Greymouth. This part of the journey fascinated me. The west coast was a desolate place. Very few people living there and lots of overgrown and unexplored bushland.
We missed the Frans Glacier as it was late at night when we passed through so we carried on from greymouth to end up in Nelson. We made Nelson our home for 3 weeks staying in Richmond with Kates relatives. We very nearly ended up living in Nelson permanently but it was just a little too small town for us. We craved the convenience and job opportunities of the big city and although Nelson was very similar to Norfolk (my home in the UK) I desired more that it could offer.
There was only one other place that we had not tried properly. The one place that gets the worst rep from anyone you talk to in Auckland. That place is Wellington. So we decided to get back on the Ferry and head to Wellington to see what adventure we could find there.