Auckland and end of NZ

I am heading to Auckland where I will return my campervan. After clearing my stuff out of the van I hold my breath and await for any “damage” charges, especially since I broke and replaced those two dishes. Luckily everything is fine….I guess I have trust issues with car rental places.

They provide a ride but it doesn’t go very far and I need to get to Auckland proper. They drop me off at the train station though. I carry all my junk (plus extra things I haven’t yet tossed) on the train to the city center.

I check into my hotel and I am exhausted. Not really sure why but I feel sick but not sick if that makes sense. I had been planning on meeting up with a couple women I have met in past travels but I can’t seem to have the energy to nail down plans. I pick the wrong time to want to rest!

To be honest I really don’t do much in Auckland. I walk around only to get a couple meals. Otherwise my time is spent lazily. I am having another one of those lulls again. My laziness doesn’t end anytime soon because I start my really long travel in a day or two. I am changing to another continent and time zone, more about that in a little while.

I craved a bagel and it was nearby this sign that pretty much sums up my mood.

I do stop for some sushi and crayfish by the water. The crayfish is super expensive and I am disappointed. I waited this long to try this? It must be better in other regions of the country?


My last meal in New Zealand is a salad – I am craving Halloumi once more but this salad grosses me out since the chicken looks and has texture like it is undercooked. The café insists the chicken is fine but it grosses me out.

I head to the airport. I am flying to Santiago Chile to recover from my jetlag. My next destination is South America. The flight to Chile seems like the shortest most reasonable place to stop to recover. I schedule a couple days here and hope I have time to do at least some city sightseeing or a wine region tour but I do almost nothing except sleep and go out to get a meal or two. I do end up watching the Superbowl at the hotel bar. The game is all in Spanish but it is a good time to brush up on the language since I am heading to Colombia next.

Hotel room menu

My time is totally wasted in Chile (unless you count restorative sleep) but I really hope to return again someday.


When I planned my trip to New Zealand I didn’t include any Lord of the Rings (LOTR) locations even though it is probably one of the most popular things to do in the country for tourists. In reality it was a different story – I ended up visiting the Weta Workshop in Wellington and also Hobbiton, the filming location of the hobbit village in LOTR. Hobbiton Movie Set is on the way to Auckland and it is too tempting to not stop for the day.

Tickets need to be booked in advance because they only let smaller groups in at a time. Luckily I am proactive about it. I give myself ample time for commuting since I am driving from Rotorua and I can never trust to how long it should take.

As usual I arrive early and hang out at the visitors area until it is time for me to catch the coach to the movie set.

We have a tour guide that takes us around. Unfortunately you are not allowed to wander on your own. I guess it makes sense. It is a movie set, not a playground.

The attention to detail is amazing. You really do feel like you are in a hobbit village.

Towards the end of the tour we stop at the Green Dragon pub to try a beer brewed for Hobbiton. It is said the cast and extras were rewarded with beers sometimes after filming.

After our visit we catch the coach back to the visitors center. It is a great visit. The only thing I would have liked to to spend more time relaxing at the pub while overlooking the Hobbit village.

Even though it is my last night with the campervan, I choose to stay the night at a motel. This gives me a chance to organize and re-pack my backpack. I also need to figure out what I am going to do with the extra items I bought for comfort that are impractical for backpacking and impossible to carry.

I finish my evening by walking to dinner down the street at a local pub to get some more green-lipped mussels.

Tomorrow I am off to Auckland and to return the campervan. My visit to New Zealand is almost done.


Whakarewarewa the living Maori village

Today is a busy day since I visited Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland this morning and now I am heading to a Maori village experience. I’ve been interested in the Maori and have been waiting to do some cultural and educational event to learn more about the culture. My campsite in Rotorua recommends Whakarewarewa as a more authentic village to visit.

I arrive late afternoon and catch a tour a few minutes in. Unfortunately I miss out on a Maori geothermal cooked meal since I am late for lunch.

Our tour guide takes us around the village and explains the typical life of a villager.

Steam box for cooking
Sleeping hut

We learn about two unique ways of cooking: one is in a steam box another is in a steaming hot lake.

Hot box
Boiling Lake
Food is placed in a bag, attached to a rope and lowered into the water to cook.

We also learn how the geothermal heat is used for bathing.

We are taken further through the village where we are taken to a community building.

There is another geyser nearby and I am here just in time to see it erupt.

I didn’t arrive in time to taste a geothermal cooked meal but I am there in time to see a cultural show. It is nice to see the dances, some with props.

I finish my visit trying some corn.

I head back to the campsite to rest for the rest of the afternoon but it is hot out.

Van life is getting old.

I think it could have been the long drive the day before, or maybe it was the fact that I couldn’t get my milk for my coffee in the campsite kitchen until 7 AM (kitchen is locked overnight) – van life has taken a toll on me. I’m beginning to think that this might not be a long-term solution for me. I like the freedom and simplicity but sometimes the discomfort of van life is too much especially when you’re not feeling well. Yesterday and today are pretty hot and after a long day of sightseeing outdoors the last thing I want to do is go back to my van and sweat. The nail in the coffin is when I somehow run out of my 1 GB of free data even though I am barely on my phone and laptop the whole entire time I am there (wifi at campsites is lacking or spotty at best, most charge extra). I’m leaving the campsite and getting a hotel room. I can’t do this right now. This is technically my last night of van camping since I have a hotel tomorrow night and return the van in Auckland the day after. I could tough it out one more night but I just can’t do it tonight.

After a mix up I finally get a motel room. I have AC and wifi, the only downside is now I can smell the sulfur smell, even with the windows closed in my room. Luckily it doesn’t bother me too much.

At some point a couple days prior I stupidly drove off with a glass on the counter of my van and broke it (broken dish number 2 – they really should provide plastic dishes in these things). Luckily I returned to the same chain in a different city and replaced the broken glass with an almost match. Don’t tell the rental place! Hopefully they won’t notice the difference.

Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland

People visit Rotorua New Zealand for a couple reasons but one of the big ones is to witness the geothermal activity. Driving into the area you will notice small clouds of smoke coming from the ground and the distinct smell of sulfur. The smell is almost everywhere but I get lucky when my chosen campsite doesn’t seem to have the strong scent. There are other disadvantages to camping there, which I will talk about later, but the smell is not one of them.

First on the agenda in town is to visit the Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland which at the time of this post is currently closed for renovations. Luckily it is open while I am in town.

I arrive in time to see the geyser, Lady Knox Geyser, which is made to erupt daily at 10.15am.

A ranger puts a concoction in to stimulate an eruption. It can erupt on its own but to get a determined showtime they force it along. The size of the eruption can vary due to different weather conditions. Luckily today it put on a good show for us.

After the show it takes a while to get out of the parking lot since everyone is leaving at once.

Once inside the geothermal park I walk along a path and witnesses little areas of smoke and colored rocks due to all the different minerals.

I walk by some mud pools. Too hot to swim in but I bet that mud will make me look beautiful.

Finally I start reaching the pools with all the different colors such as this large Champagne pool.

I wander further and see some art along the trail.

While walking around I notice little bubbling pools of mud. They gurgle and I am sure they will burn to touch.

I come across a lake. It is nice and peaceful to rest there for a little while.

The yellow sign is not scary at all <sarcasm>.

I love the patterns on the ground.

More pools

There is a bright green pool … almost looks toxic.

At the end I end up a shopping fool at the gift shop. I buy everything mud and stock up on the moisturizing sunscreen that I love.

The visit is nice but it is time to head over to Whakarewarewa to learn about Maori culture. More on that later….

Te Papa Museum

I am still in Wellington New Zealand for one more day. I have heard good things about the Te Papa Museum so that is today’s destination.

First I stop for a fancy breakfast and coffee.

The museum is in walking distance from my hotel so I stroll around town on the way there.

I am obsessed with these crossing lights. The stop is a man and the go is a lady. I am the weirdo taking pictures of the walk signal.

Te Papa museum is by the water.

The first section I visit is the Nature section, or the section dedicated to things natural to New Zealand such as volcanos, earthquakes and birds and other wildlife.

I am obsessed with this slimy sucker, something out of a science fiction movie.

And of course I have to check out the kiwis, birds I still have not seen alive.

And some bigger dumb birds with little or no arms.

The star of this exhibit is the humongous squid. It is what nightmares are made of.

It’s the biggest colossal squid ever caught! 

There is a very impressive Maori exhibit. (For the most part photos are not allowed inside). I learned many things about the Pacific peoples who came to inhabit New Zealand. I even tried to learn some new words

Rongomaraeroa Te Marae (communal meeting place)

I loved the section that contained portraits of Maori tattoos. The exhibit explained the meaning behind the tattoos. They were beautiful to see.

Kaleidoscope: Abstract Aotearoa

The modern art exhibit bursts with color.

While at the Weta Workshop yesterday I heard our guide mention the Gallipoli exhibit at the Te Papa. The workshop is responsible for designing the characters from this exhibit that shows the struggle troops from New Zealand dealt with during World War I.

It is also at this museum that I learn that I can probably never immigrate to New Zealand due to my “advanced age”. Maybe I’ll end up in a highly desired employment someday or some cute kiwi wants to help give me citizenship 😉

After the museum I stop at Mr Go’s restaurant for some Asian dishes.

I wander some more around town.

And stop for one last beer at Fortune Favours at their nice upstairs taproom.

It is back to the hotel for me to pack up and get back on the road tomorrow. I head next to Rotorua.