We made it to Rotorua, and marveled at the hot springs in the area. The entire town smells of sulfur- in fact, it’s nickname is the “Sulfur City” – and there are hot pools everywhere. We spent some time out of our hostel exploring the huge park in the rain and was shocked to find the amount of mud pools and other geothermal activity in the park alone.
After checking out the city, we booked a great deal for black-water rafting in Waitomo. New Zealand is a country of adrenaline junkies, and it’s almost necessary for anyone taking a trip here to do one crazy blood-pumping activity, whether it be sky-diving, bungee jumping, and the like. We chose to focus our money on this uniquely New Zealand experience- rafting in a cave, including abseiling down a rock face, tubing, caving through tight squeezes, rock climbing out and turning off our lamps and seeing thousands of lights like the night sky illuminate the cave ceiling as we saw glow worms. It was an incredible experience, and we were really stoked to explore the caves and ecology around Waitomo.
After spending time in Waitomo, we had to make it to Wellington, the capital city, to catch a ferry to the South Island. Although we didn’t get too much time to explore the city, we enjoyed what we saw quite a bit: the architecture and parks in the city are beautiful, and the history of the capital is expressed readily while adapting with a more modern city atmosphere. We explored the gorgeous skyscrapers and sculptures before catching a ferry for the 3 hour trip across the Cook Straight to the Northern tip of the South Island.
Landing in Picton, the drop off point from the ferry, we had made it to the South Island. The beauty here was different- not the temperate rainforests and tropical beaches we were used to, but rugged rivers, glaciers, and snow-capped mountains that reminded us of home. It is much more rural- 3 million people live in the North Island, while only 1 million live in the South Island. We felt this difference in Picton, which had a classic small-town feel.
We finally tried to see a little of the South Island before we had to get back to Auckland. We had a much harder time hitch hiking, possibly because of the smaller population and possibly because of the more conservative mindset in the South. However, after a full day, we made it to Nelson, the largest town in the Northern part of the South Island. We got a room above a pub, and the next day found some of the attractions of the area, like the spot of the first rugby match in the country, the center of New Zealand (in a surveyor sense) and the breweries in the area.
We now will explore Nelson for a couple more days before trying to hitch back to Auckland in our last week here. We hope to make the most of this last week, seeing more of Wellington, the Marlborough Sounds, and hopefully Lake Taupo. It isn’t too late to take in more of this beautiful country. We have loved every ment of it and don’t want the last leg of the journey to be slow!