I here come to New Zealand from the 6th to the 19th for Brad’s wedding my dear friend I met during my Contiki trip in Southern US in July 2009. I would then meet my sweetheart on the 19th in Melbourne for a month trip in Eastern Australia.
As travel lovers, Brad and I had made the promise that whenever one would get married we would invite each other to our wedding! Promise held! Brad and Emma invited me this beginning of year and with lots of positive thinking, courage and trust, I finally made it to my friend’s beautiful country!!!
After 2 days of travel starting from Geneva – Amsterdam – Abu Dhabi – Melbourne to Auckland, Brad came to pick me up early in the morning of December 8th to go to his home in Matamata. I wasn’t that tired to my surprise…
I met Emma who I liked right away and after a little lunch we went with Brad for an excursion at Blue springs, a natural spot where very clear water flows down a stream.
We then headed back home where we had an amazing chunk of lamb (famous in New Zealand) and I headed right to bed at 7:30 pm as I was completely jetlacked with some 12 hours ahead of Switzerland… it was a fantastic first day!
Second day, I woke up with a beautiful sunrise at my window.
Brad finally showed me his huge chicken farm he had been working for many years! It was very exciting and I got the chance to go inside and see the chicken who were only 8 days old.
We then headed back home a few hundred meters away and after taking a little suitcase for 2 days we left to meet Brad’s sister. I liked her right away and I had no idea she was going to show me some of the most beautiful places in New Zealand.
We first went to see a beautiful cascade
to then drive for about 1,5 hours to the North East coast of New Zealand to visit a place called Cathedral Coves.
We first went to see the beach of Whangamata and headed then to Hot Water Beach were the tide was too high to dig into the sand and enjoy the hitted water. We had then mussels with green shells and had a little walk on the beach before heading to Cathedral Cove.
The pictures will talk by themselves.
I just spent 30 min of writing and nothing got uploaded… Huge frustration…
Well. back from the start…
After that beautiful day, we drove back to Tauranga were the wedding would be.
I got picked up by Emma’s brother in law and headed to their adorable family members in a beautiful airbnb in the hills were we had diner together. I was then brought to spend the night with Brad’s family. The following day, after a little bit of yoga and meditation , we headed for some “shopping” where I finally tasted New Zealand fruit and more especially New Zealand golden kiwis which are delicious!
We then headed to prepare ourselves for the wedding and arrived at the wedding place with lots of rain. Fortunately, the ceremony did not lose an inch of its charm and Emma’s aunt who directed the ceremony had the incredible talent to make us laugh and cry during the 20 minutes it lasted.
Emma and Brad were gorgeous and very moving.
We then headed to the diner place where we had a delicious meal (lactose free for me and my two table neighbours – with whom I got along especially well during the night).
There were then a series of funny and moving speeches from Brad’s and Emma’s bridesmaids, groomsmen and family members. I was very touched to hear my name as they named people who had come from far away for the wedding.
We then left back to the room were we danced our heart out for the rest of the night!
Here are a few pictures that talk by themselves…
I had a blast and did not feel asleep at all after the two coffee glasses I had taken. the atmosphere was at its best and everybody danced and laughed (not to say drink :P) a lot…
The following day, I woke up quite fresh and after saying bye to Brad’s family, Brad and Emma picked me up to go have brunch in a beautiful place next to Tauranga were we took a few pictures on the beach.
It was a beautiful day. We then headed back home were I offered Brad and Emma’s wedding gifts, typical presents from Switzerland such as Swiss knives and chocolates and we started to plan our 3 following days where Brad and I would do a trek and Emma would join us the 3rd day for other fun activities.
Looking forward to it all!!!
So this morning, we left at 9am to go to a Maori cultural site – Te Puia, in Rotorua (the native people of New Zealand – which was in a volcanic site with geysers and beautiful nature around. I saw what a kiwi bird was even though I felt a bit sorry for this poor animal to be left by himself in a dark room for tourists to see.
The Maori culture show made me a little bit uncomfortable as it was nothing but unauthentic, but still it was interesting to get a idea of it.
We then headed to a beautiful other natural volcanic site – Waimangu volcanic valley (which high price really made me upset, as I think it is outrageous to commercialise nature as it is similar to make us pay for air or water… – which I am aware lots of places do). However I forgot about it quickly and we enjoyed a beautiful moment of breathtaking volcanic sites and birds (such as the black Swan on the last picture).
Last but not least, we finished the day in a local spa -the Waikite Valley – with thermal water surrounded by nature. It was a nice moment after all the activities we had done. We met two nice Israeli girls with whom I was able to practice my Hebrew and who had come to New Zealand to work and travel.
We now just packed our stuff to leave at 5h20 in the morning to trek the beautiful Tongariro Alpine Crossing of 19,4 km. (6-9 hours of trek).
After waking up at 4:20am, we drove 1,5 hour to start our trek at around 7am. We were told that the temperature was up to minus 6 and that we needed very good clothing. Fortunately, I had some good gear but still missed good pants and gloves (we shared Brad’s gloves, one each :P). It was not the prefect preparation but we had enough of everything to keep us going for abour 9 hours as our last bus was at 4:30pm.
Tongariro, for those who know Iceland but have never been to New Zealand, is the Landmanalaugar of Iceland with similar gorgeous volcanic sites. The lunar landscapes as well as the beautiful sulphuric and silicate coloured lakes are just breathtaking.
The sun was rising when we started our trek behind the Mount Ngauruhoe, the 2291 meter high volcano who erupted last time in 1977.
Lots of people from all over the world were walking as well. It first seemed to me as it seemed an easy trek given the population that was there (lots of Chinese unprepared people that were taking lots of photos)… Brad and I arrived at the Mount Ngauruhoe and had not decided yet whether we wanted to rise it. I was fine with just continuing but Brad was sure at 98% that he wanted to rise it as climbing a mountain was some kind of premiere for him. With such a high pourcentage I just couldn’t refuse.
So we rose this volcano which took us 3 hours in total. It was not easy to say the least, but the view at the top was very rewarding.
Brad going down the volcano like nothing.
After finishing this hike, we were obviously exhausted but still had a little more than 4 hours of trek to go. So we continued our way rising and going down very windy and cold hills to finally arrive to Emerald Lakes and Blue Lake which were to me one of the most amazing things I have seen.
We left quickly as we were quite tight on time. We then walked down Tauranga for approximately 2,5 hours and the fascinating this about this descent was the changes in vegetation going from toundra like plants to more furnished low vegetation to finish in a jungle at the bottom were after speeding our pace we arrived only 15 min before our bus departure.
I loved this trek and would recommend it to anyone (without necessarily Mount Ngauruhoe as it is a bit difficult and you get quickly short on time).
Nine hours back to back in total… I’m happy to go seep now and am not looking forward for the sore muscles tomorrow even though it was totally worth it.
Here is a last beautiful picture of Tongariro and the Mount Ngauruhoe that was taken from the sky by a friend of a painter we met later in Taupo.
Tomorrow is my last full day with Brad and hopefully Emma and it’s gonna be again very rich and interesting in discoveries…
So after waking up and trying to do a little stretching to let go of the terrible sore muscles, we left for merino shopping (very famous wool in NZ). On the way walking to the shop, we found an art gallery with a very nice man Graham Moeller, whose paintings of New Zealand AND Switzerland were breathtaking (cf. the picture of Tongariro from his friend). He advised us to go to the Huka falls and then to the dam a few kilometres above that releases its water every 2 hours.
We left on the spot for those two beautiful sites.
We then went to Wai-O-Tapu in Rotorua which is another gorgeous volcanic area with breathtaking colours.
Final activity of the day (we were a little worn out, but Brad was nice enough to still go on), we went to the redwoods tree walk (redwood trees are also called sequoia trees). We walked into this beautiful forest for half hour before finally coming back home and have a nice diner out with Emma.
(Last Photo from Brad)
Tomorrow, I am departing for another adventure in the Bay of Islands for 4 days with Kiwi Experience bus.
Thank you so much Brad and Emma for such a wonderful stay at your place!!!
Love you both very much and looking forward to receiving you soon in Switzerland! 💖
This morning (Thursday Dec 15th), we left at 4am with Emma to catch the Kiwi experience bus in Auckland at 7am… not to say how grateful I am towards Emma!
After 5 hours of bus that went quite quickly and a few bus stop including one at a beautiful cascade, we finally arrived at Prihia beach and the Bay of Islands.
I left for a 2 hours walk in the bush next to the bay which felt very relaxing. Lots of different birds and vegetation such as firn and tee trees. The cascade (another one) was also beautiful and relaxing as well.
I was very tired and sore from the Tongariro walk and was grateful to have two German women drive me back home…
My room: 8 beds and one bathroom…
Living the backpacker life for real 😂
On Friday, to my surprise after having slept super well and deeply, I left to the beach for a little yoga and meditation.
I then went to the pier to take the beautiful catamaran that would take us to the Bay of Islands. We were I believe only about 20 people and I cannot tell you my joy for having changed the first cruise I had taken (supra touristic – the cream of the bay I think it’s called), for this one (Carina). The crew was composed of three women that were really cool and positive.
After not even an hour of sailing, they stopped the catamaran and put the sails and then told us that there were dolphins just a few meters away.
Indeed a few seconds later we saw a dozen of dolphins jumping everywhere with one little baby next to its mom doing funny jumps and showing us his tail while jumping. It was absolutely breathtaking. I was amazed about how New Zealanders are so respectful of marine life (at list this crew). They obviously have guidelines to respect, but still the crew told us that they never pushed the dolphins to do anything, they always let them decide if they want to come and play or follow the boat. We can swim with them in the sea only if they want and do not have a baby to feed every 5 or 10 min.
Again 45 min of work unsaved…
A captive dolphin lives about 15 years while a wild one 70 years according to what they said. Some we saw had 40 years old… The crew said that if we had the opportunity to swim with them, it is up to the dolphins to come and join play with us. They never force them to do anything, which sounds quite respectful and do not follow them too long.
A while later, we arrived to an island to snorkel a little for some of us (including myself).
The water was 17 Celsius degrees which was freezing cold. I was happy though to see a few big fish, a starfish and and ray! After warming myself up, I walked up the hill to see a beautiful view over the bay of islands and our boat.
We then got back back on our boat and had a barbecue with fresh local beef sausage which was quiet good.
All of a sudden, just after having finished lunch, we saw a shadow in the water. we thought it was other dolphins, but to our huge surprise those were not dolphins but … orcas! chasing the rey I had probably seen an hour ago… it was absolutely breathtaking!!! the crew was just excited as us if not more as orcas are seen only every 5 to 6 weeks! Beatrix one of the crew women who was a little younger than me was as excited as me.
We followed them a little (BTW those orcas are not dangerous) and there were 2 babies with them!!! this was another beautiful surprise…
We finally left to not make them feel harassed and had another 1 or 2 hours sailing back with our beautiful catamaran.
It was a marvelous day and I think the participants and the crew all felt equally blessed and lucky to have seen such beautiful wonder of nature!
I befriended with the girl from the crew Beatrix (from Singapore) who had been working for only 5 days and as I met her twice by surprise during the evening, we went for a drink together whose company felt really nice.
The following day – Saturday – we (some backpacker friends and myself) took the bus to Cape Reinga which is the North tip of New Zealand. Our bus driver was the most hyper person I’ve ever met in my life. He would talk in his headset microphone constantly to only say funny things, giving us also loads of interesting information. To get an idea of his craziness, he would stop the bus on the road, jump out of the car and congratulate a man who was going huge bubbles! To be honest even if it was a little dangerous, it was really hilarious…
We then went straight to the kauri trees which are huge giant trees that can live up to thousands of years.
We then headed to the lighthouse I’m Cape Reinga which is a sacred site to the Maori people and where the tasman see and the Pacific ocean meet.
Then we left for a a little sand surfing in the dunes which was really funny! A man of about 65 years old was also doing very well with the younger people. It was a very fun moment!
We then left to drive on the beach (which was pretty surprising) and went for pipis (shellfish) fishing in the sand. It was so abundant I was amazed at how many there were….
Lots of lamb on the road. Three lambs for 1 new zelander but most is exported.
Here is my friend Mel who made me two beautiful braides.
I cooked the shellfish the following lunch which were actually really good and had some last time lying down on the beautiful Paihia beach.
I then came back to Auckland and spent the evening and night with Emma and Brad in a very pretty airbnb. We enjoyed our last dine together.
Next day Brad and Emma brought me to the airport and I left for Melbourne to meet my love with whom I’m gonna spend 1 month travelling in the east coast!!!
Thanks a lot Brad and Emma for everything and hope to see you soon in Swizterland! 😙