Getting There: Due North!

Moving from the South Island to the North Island was relatively uneventful in terms of sights, but all the more hectic when it came to my allergies. The North Island clearly has issues with me.
Heidornmännchen on a campsite suffering from some serious hay feaver.
3 days of massive hay fever really got to Chris. Weeks without problems and then this? Luckily it subsided after a few days.

So a couple of days ago Tina gave you a quick recap of how we finally completed our tour of the South Island. We ended up in Blenheim for one last night before catching the ferry back to Wellington the next morning. But what we thought would be our last, relaxing night on the South Island turned out to be the beginning of something really bad for me: Allergies!

Return of the Hay Fever!

Ever since we arrived in New Zealand, I haven’t really had any major issues with allergies. To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure to expect because very often the vegetation in other countries simply isn’t the same. Back home in Germany, my worst time of year is the period of mid July to end of August. That’s when my worst allergies kick in, mostly thanks to mugwort/woodworm (“Beifuß” for the German reading this) and some grasses.

When we arrived on our camp site in, it was relatively windy. Nothing special really, we’d had plenty of wind the previous weeks. But this time was different. Something was in the air. I can usually tell when my sneezing is being triggered by allergies rather than something else. And it wasn’t good. So my night in the tent wasn’t really a particularly good rest.

But wait, it gets worse.

The North Island Doesn’t Like Me

So the next morning after Tina went for her Parkrun in Blenheim, we headed off to Picton in order to catch the ferry to Wellington. My symptoms had improved a little, but I still couldn’t fully shake it off. And you never really know where all the pollen may have ended up. In the car, in the text, on your clothes…it’s hard to get rid of the stuff.

We arrived in Wellington fairly late and still wanted to head up the west coast to one of the nicer camp sites next to a beach. We eventually chose Himatangi Beach, just west of Palmerston. It was a really great holiday park. But most of all, they had cabins. There was a slight forecast of rain and it was very very windy around the camp site. No way in hell was I going to spend the night in a tent with gusts of wind whilst still drowsy from the last night.

And it was a good decision. Not only was I luckily able to get a decent night’s sleep. But the next morning when I stepped outside our cabin, the sneezing kicked off again. And boy oh boy, was it intense. Whatever was in the air, it was bad and my hay fever was in full bloom.

I checked the New Zealand pollen calendar but I couldn’t find anything that resembled my allergies from back home. I also didn’t have any of the usual medication (antihistamines) with me to help with the symptoms. So there was only one way to go….into the car (air-conditioning helps filter the air) and away from this place.

Maybe We Should Get Away From the Coast

We had already decided that we would drive towards Taupo that morning and so I was kind of hoping that the allergies might get better as we move further inland. One can always hope for the better, I guess.

As we drove north, we passed through Rangipo Desert. It was really interesting to see the landscape and vegetation suddenly change so much. It really did feel a lot like a desert and you could see a lot of smaller cyclones whirling sand and dust up into the air. Unfortunately we don’t have many great photos of this section because it was a relatively busy road with very few spots to stop at.

During that stretch of the road you also pass by Tongariro National Park which is home to Mount Rapehu as well as Mount Ngauruhoe. Particularly the latter is well known, at least amongst those who have seen The Lord of the Rings. It’s an active volcano and was used as the model for Mount Doom in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

The National Park also happens to be very well known for it’s famous 1-day hike called the “Tongariro Alpine Crossing“. It’s a 20km hike up, along, around and down the volcanic landscape surrounding the mountain. You see rock, small rivers, cold lava flows, steep inclines, red craters, crater lakes, ash and forest….all in one day, with temperatures ranging from scorching hot to around 12°C with winds of up to 55km/h. Most people hike this in about 7-8 hours.

We actually decided to do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing ourselves and we’re super happy we did. But Tina will tell you all about it in a separate blog post with tons of photos. She put together a really nice summary of our day.

Taupo to Rotorua

After our long day hike we headed for Taupo, a somewhat bigger city right next to…..*drum roll*….Lake Taupo. It felt like a place where a lot of people come to for a holiday and wander around the Huka Falls area. A lot of younger people seem to come here because the city prides itself for the cheapest skydive in all of New Zealand. We weren’t planning on going skydiving….we just needed some rest.

Huka Falls near Rotorua, New Zealand
Huka Falls near Rotorua, New Zealand

We were staying at another backpacker hostel here. It was ok, mostly because we had our own double room. But to be very honest, a lot of the backpacker hostels here remind us of the chaotic and badly managed hostels we’ve seen in Europe and many other developed (read: expensive) parts of the world. Lots of longterm people and complete utter chaos in the kitchen. That’s something we’ve generally noticed here.

View from the garden of our backpacker hostel in Taupo
View from the garden of our backpacker hostel in Taupo

The more expensive a country is, the more cooking will take place in the hostels because eating out is usually not an option for people on a budget. And unfortunately a lot of these mid-twenty millennials have a very different concept of hygiene…..or just a really high tolerance level. Half of the hostel feel like a training ground for running a decent household. It’s all very different from what we’ve experienced in many parts of Asia.

Either way, we knew we were going to leave for Rotorua soon and would be staying at a holiday park again. Most of which were under far better management than the hostels here and most of the guests also treat the facilities much better. Either because the rules are stricter or out of respect for the other people staying there.

Sulphur Point in Rotorua, New Zealand

As we finally arrived in Rotorua and drove onto our tent site at the holiday park, we could already smell the reason why so many people seem to come here….sulphur! Stinky, stinky sulphur basins and mud pools. We actually had an active mud pool right next to our tent site. It actually wasn’t as bad as you might imagine, but it still wasn’t a pleasant smell.

But that’s the main reason why people come here and it’s really quite interesting if you’ve never been to a place with volcanic activity. However, I will say this….if you’ve been to Yellowstone National Park, none of this will be new to you and you can probably safely skip it (sorry my dear Kiwis…the US wins this one). It’s obviously different here, but it’s all a lot smaller and the geysers here are far less dramatic than at Yellowstone. But hey, if you’ve never seen anything like this and are travelling through New Zealand, then it’s still quite a treat.

Wrapping It Up

So that brings us to the end of this recap and since I’m skipping through some of the less interesting parts, we’re slowly catching up with our travel schedule: Yay, finally! 🙂

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