Upon reaching Taumaranui, my ‘travels’ in New Zealand were officially complete – I had gotten back into familiar territory and had no plans to see or go anywhere I hadn’t already been before. But that isn’t to say my time in New Zealand was done just yet. Oh no, I still had several weeks to fill, so I did something akin to a ‘highlights’ tour on my way back to Auckland.
First, was a visit to one of my former WWOOF hosts, Rosemary, who had moved from Helensville to a new plot of land in the Whanganui/Tongariro area. She had just finished building a brand new home on a big plot of land, so I detoured out there to spend a few days helping around the house.
Turns out that I’m still pretty soft when it comes to outdoor work. 2.5 days of shovelling dirt and helping build a shed, and my hands were in tatters. Several blisters and cuts scored both hands. Her food was still uniformally excellent and the company very enjoyable.
From there I headed towards the Tongariro area, intent on seeing the trio of volcanic peaks one last time. The weather had other ideas though, obscuring all views and depositing small amounts of snow along the side of the roads. I continued northwards towards Taupo.
Taupo remains one of my favourite towns in New Zealand. I just enjoy the feel to it. This was also the first time I had stayed in a hostel here – I had camped previously. Turned out that the hostel wasn’t much warmer. I could see my breath in the bedroom by morning. On the bright side, the plummetting temperatures had also brought clear skies.
Saying goodbye to the volcanic peaks of the Tongariro one last time, I made my way north to the volcanic town of Rotorua. There, I met up with Keith, another former WWOOFing host. We shared a joyous lunch, dinner and part of the next day. Besides the highlight of catching up with a friend, I got to enjoy the best caramel slices in New Zealand (at Fat Dog Cafe):
These things are ridiculous. I had it twice more during my time in Rotorua, that also included a return to the Redwood forest area for some more hiking.
After 2 lovely days in Rotorua, I continued north. Mt. Maunganui was the final stop on my agenda. Climbing to the top one final time, I enjoyed the warmth of the winter sun from the peak of Maunganui, then wandered back down. 2 days later under the cover of heavy rain, I drove the rest of the way back to Auckland. Travel in New Zealand – Done.