The last thing we did in week 9 was go to Tiri Tiri Mantangi, an island an hour and a half off the coast of Auckland. Up until the late 20th century, this island was one big farm and all the native birds there were either completely driven away or nearly gone. Their were tons of pests like mice and rats on the island. It was transformed into an animal and plant sanctuary in the early 1980s. To this day, both bird and plant populations are still growing and the island is doing a great job at preserving lots of nearly extinct New Zealand wildlife.
Early Saturday morning we left for our week trip across the North Island. we started off by going to Raglan, a small coastal village south of Auckland. The village had one very high bridge, about 10 meters high. Jenni, our biology teacher and tour guide told us to jump off off it, and so we did. The hostel we stayed in had a pool table, and we spent the first night playing pool, having dinner and drinking some beers while getting to know new people from all over the world. the next morning we went surfing at a beach. it was my first time surfing, but it actually went quite well. after being completely demolished by some of the bigger waves in the back, I decided to try some smaller waves closer to the beach, and I managed to get up and stand a good few times.
In the afternoon we traveled to Waitomo, which is famous for its glowworm caves. I had already seen glowworms on the weekend trip so I decided not to go, but some friends of mine did go and said the caves were very different and incredibly beautiful. they rafted through the dark caves which were solely lighted by the glowworms.
The next day we went to Taupo, the center of the North Island. It has a huge lake with lots of famous rivers leading into it and tons of activities around the lake and on the rivers. We went on a trip in a Hamilton Jet Boat across the river where both the Hobbit and Yogi Bear were filmed. We had a blast. Our very skilled driver got us real close to the rocks on the sides, did some powerful turns and dove with the whole boat into rapids. We ended up being completely soaked and we had enough adrenaline for a few days.
In the afternoon we went to some natural hot springs, pools with water up to 45 degrees Celsius in which people were just swimming around. It was very relaxing, even though the hottest one I could handle was only 30-something degrees Celsius.
The next day we were supposed to go on an eight hour hike, but the pass was deemed to dangerously by authorities because of wind speeds up to 85 kilometers an hour. Some of us then went bungee jumping of a 50 meter high bridge and others went on a swing from that same bridge. It was quite a sight to see everyone just free falling of a bridge so high up.
after that we went on a different hike along the same river we went Jet Boating on and hiked all the way up to the Huka falls, one of New Zealand’s most famous tourist attractions. It was only a small hike up there, and the view was well worth it.
The next day we went to Rotorua, where we visited a traditional Maori village, which had some enormously hot natural pools and geysers. These pools were so hot that some were even boiling and all were used to cook their traditional food, but also eggs and corn. This is possible because only 30 meters under the ground, there is still hot lava flowing. It was almost surreal.
After that we went to Hot Water Beach, a beach on which we could dig our own hot pools. beach was on some places so hot that I just couldn’t stand on it. turns out I really can’t handle hot water, because some of my friends didn’t really have much trouble with it. We also boogie boarded some more and had fun in the water once again.
Next thing we visited was Hobbiton, the famous film set for both Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit. It represents the town as described in the books and seen in the movies. It looked just like it, and you felt like you were in the movie yourself. we even got to drink some hobbit beer in the Green Dragon Pub. It’s a must see for everyone visiting New Zealand.
We then went to Crystal Cove, a nice secluded beach were we did some swimming and jumped off some cliffs and also snorkeled for a bit. This is when we realized that this was our second to last day in New Zealand and we had to start heading back home.
The next day we did some paintballing where I got severely injured (not really, just don’t take your shirt off completely). We ate some ice cream, my friend Dante ordered and finished the biggest one you could get and ended up on the wall of fame.
That evening we had our last barbeque and the next day we started our journey home. I had 30 hours of flying to look forward to, and I wasn’t too happy about it. after being interrogated by the San Francisco customs officers for about two to three hours, I was getting pretty tired. We then had another 2,5 hour flight to Seattle after which I got to say goodbye to my new friends. I will love you guys forever, thanks for making this trip awesome! The next morning I had my last 10 hour flight home and I am currently still recovering from a terrible jetlag. I can’t wait to go back there. This trip was an experience of a lifetime and something I will never ever forget.