My first road trip in New Zealand is to do Tongariro Alpine Crossing and explore around the region. We started off from Rotorua, a renowned town that smells like rotten egg when you enter the area. It is located at the north island, and famous for its geothermal activity and Maori culture. When you are in this region, few things that you must not miss. In this little town, you will see a lot of mud pools surrounding you. What comes to your mind or what can you associate with when I mention geothermal activity? Yes, you got it right, it is hot spas and lots of natural hot pools. As a budget traveller, we didn’t pay for hot spa, we opted for natural hot pool, kerosene creek. You just have to type the name on google map, it will lead you straight to the natural hot pool without paying a single pence. Of course there are plenty things to do other than immersing your torso in the hot pools. You could visit Wai-O-Tapu, about half an hour drive from Rotorua town. The colourful geothermal attraction which draws thousands of tourists from around the globe.
Then, we ensconced ourselves at Lake Okareka DoC Campsite the first night. The fee for staying a night will be 15$ (New Zealand Dollar) per adult and 7.50$ per kid. You may wonder does it worth it for paying 15$ in a campsite, you may as well add another few dollars to get a more comfortable and cosy hostel room. Trust me, 15$ for sleeping under a billion stars and get to see the unreal Milky Way with your naked eyes, what more could you ask for? Not to mention waking up with a scenic lakeside view, that is a plus!
In the next morning, we headed to Taupo after having a refreshing swim in the lake. New Zealand is well known of its scenic view along the roads. Immerse yourself in the stunning landscape while driving, you can even pull over for a lookout along the journey. Visit Huka Falls when you are in North Island. It’s hard to tear my gaze away with its torrent and its crystal blue water. If you have no budget constraint, you can take a jet boat trip up close at the base of the impressive falls to have some splash of the torrential water.
We didn’t make any rush throughout the road trip. Instead, we enjoyed the quality time spent together, kept our own pace, enjoyed the wonderful sunset by the lakeside.
After having our breakfast the next morning, off we went for my first hiking in my life. Before we start the journey, let me give you some insight about this track. It is 19.4km long, it takes between 6 – 8 hours to complete the trek and have two starting points, you can either start from Mangatepopo carpark to Ketetahi carpark or vice versa. The weather in Tongariro National Park is unpredictable, it is best to visit information centre to gather all the information needed for this hike. Along the hike, you will come across Mount Ngaruhoe, an active stratovolcano, if you’d like to conquer this summit, you may need a trekking pole to avoid any knee injury incurs by the hike especially when the weather is not promising. After hours of trekking, finally we reached the peak, overlooking the emerald and blue lake, that was the most beautiful nature view I have ever seen. The hike to the peak was a bit treacherous due to the steep saddle and strong winds, if you encounter this, the best posture to steady yourself is to bend both knees to avoid being blown away (no hyperbole to those light-weighted human). How tiny we are when we stand next to the majestic mountain.
One of the best things in life is to sit by the lakes, emptying your mind and enjoying the stunning view of Tongariro National Park in front of you.
Time flies when you’re having fun, a week of road trip just passed in a snap of fingers. The whole trip didn’t cost much as we slept in the campground, showered in the river and prepared our own meals, everything split by two. As what aforementioned, it was an unforgettable road trip as I got to experience a lot of my firsts, my first time to camp, to shower in a river for a week, prepare meals in the campsite, first hiking and etc. Don’t let the unforeseen circumstances hinder you from trying new things, it may turn out great when you least expecting it.