My road trip started as all road trips start- turning around 15 minutes after leaving because I forgot something. In this case, I forgot my hiking shoes.
First Stop- Tauranga, which is 250 kilometers southeast of Auckland, right on the coast.
A few points before I proceed:
1. Gas is expensive here (you probably guessed as much, let’s just say EVERYTHING is expensive here and leave it at that). I paid $2.17 NZD per liter of gas. That equates to $6.84 USD per gallon, which is about double the price of the US. Total gas cost was $130 NZD for 444 miles traveled.
2. Besides directly around Auckland (within about a 20 miles radius), all highways are 2 lanes. Total. 1 lane in each direction. They wind around and go up and down and generally are not conducive to fast driving. You average about 60 km/ hr.
3. In NZ you drive on the left side of the road. The first time I drove I was terrified, mostly about right turns. I was scared I would forget that a right turn crosses traffic and I have to look in both directions before going. Luckily you get used to it quickly. It feels totally natural now. The one thing that does not feel natural is getting in the drivers seat on the right side. I’ve walked to the left side of the car an opened the door countless times.
Moving On. Tauranga. It’s beautiful. My hostel was right on the water. View from the balcony.
Though there were a lot of good things about this hostel, there were a lot of things I disliked. For one, there was a bathroom in the bedroom. This sounds like a plus, but when you have 8 people in 1 room there is a lot of bathroom use and it creates a lot of extra noise, especially late at night when people are trying to sleep. Additionally, there were signs everywhere warning you about things and telling you not to do things. Also, I found the people there not as friendly as at other hostels.
Regardless, they were all very nice and the hostel was good enough.
Thursday I went to the beach in a nearby town. Though Tauranga is right on the water, there isn’t a beach in the town. You have to drive about 10 minutes to get to the closest beach. Kind of a bummer but the beach was lovely. NZ lacks a thick ozone layer so the sun is very intense. Even though the air temperature was about 65F, the sun made it feel like it was in the 80s.
That night we made plans to go to some waterfalls the next day. In the morning, I went on a hike. It was probably 12.5 kilometers and I ended up jogging the last 7 kilometers. Crazy. I don’t know what got into me. The hike/ run was around an estuary, basically just a really big loop.
Friday afternoon we drove to McLaren Falls where you can cliff jump. 8 of us ended up going. I only jumped off of 2 cliffs, one was about 3 feet, the other was about 6 feet.
2 of the guys jumped from the bridge, which had a sign that said “People die jumping from this bridge. Do not do it”. They did it anyway.
We were only there a few hours before heading back. The water was frigid and all the rock jumping and swimming made me super tired. After dinner, one of the guys, Sven, asked if anyone wanted to go to Mt. Manganui and watch the sunset. I said yes so off we went on Sven’s motorbike, meaning motorcycle. It was terrifying. Then it was thrilling. I never understood why people love motorcycles, now I totally get it. It was so much fun.
The ride to Mt. Manganui was only about 10-15 minutes, then we had to climb it, which took about 35-40 minutes. It was nice though and the view from the top was incredible. Sadly, there are no photos.
Once the sun set, we went back to the hostel. Sven actually works in IT and as we were walking back I asked if he could make it look like I had a US IP address. He said yes, that’s pretty easy to do. Hey Oh! The world the championships for gymnastics were going on at this time and they were being live streamed, but only if you were in the USA. Sven worked his magic and I got to watch the women’s AA final on Saturday morning as the sun was rising.
After that I took a walk across a railroad bridge that was also a pedestrian bridge. Unfortunately, once on the other side there’s nothing really there, just a small, small farm town. After a few kilometers I turned around and walked back.
Sunday morning I left Taraunga for Rotorua, and thus ends the first leg of my road trip.