I could write a ridiculously long list of reasons why I love New Zealand, and probably will end up doing so by the time it comes to leave the country. For now, I’ll just share one with you: I love the way the landscape changes so much within just a few hours of driving.
In the space of a few days I drove from the geothermal hot spot of Rotorua, to the largest lake in New Zealand in Taupo, past Mount Doom, before heading down to the idyllic River Valley, and finishing in the capital city of Wellington.
As the bright green Kiwi Experience bus drove to Rotorua, our driver explained it was the Las Vegas of New Zealand – it’s jokingly referred to as Rotovegas. As we drove through the town, I tried to spot any similarities and struggled. Rather than the hot action of the Strip, I saw steam rising from grates. Apparently it can ‘kick off’ at night, but I had an early night. Who knows? Maybe I missed the party of a lifetime.
I didn’t mind only having one night there. The next day, my friends and I paid a visit to Te Puia, a geothermal valley known for its impossibly huge geysers. Back in Rotorua I had been impressed by the geothermal park in the centre of town.
Te Puia was something else entirely. It was full of bubbling hot pools and huge geysers, which filled the landscape with steam, like something from the Jurassic ages.
Once we arrived into Taupo, things cooled down. I had a lovely few hours chilling by the lake and exploring.
I’d been to Taupo once before. The place hadn’t changed, but it felt so different this time around. The time around I had such a good group of friends. We made fajitas and nachos together, eating them on the hostel’s balcony as the sun set. It was such a lovely little moment to be a part of.
Outside of Taupo is the Tongariro National Park. Some people had done the Alpine Crossing the day before, but due to cloudy weather warnings I had decided to give it a miss. I was more than happy to just walk around the mountains, rather than climb them, and take in such a majestic setting. I saw Mount Doom and my not so inner Lord of the Rings nerd had to constantly resist the urge to play the soundtrack.
After our walk through the Tongariro National Park, it was time to set off to River Valley. The day and night we spent there was a strange combination of serene and drunken debauchery. River Valley was a notorious night on the Kiwi bus and I lost track of how much wine was consumed. I remember slow dancing on the makeshift dance floor near the dining tables, and desperately wanting crackers at 3am.
There were certainly worse hangover spots and we spent our afternoon by the riverside.
I briefly swam in the river, it was nerve-bitingly cold but good Lord it helped with the wine. As did the brunch my friends and I cooked at 12pm.
Part of me didn’t feel ready to leave such a picturesque part of New Zealand and return to the world of work in Wellington.
“Wouldn’t you want to live in this part of New Zealand?” one of the girls asked me, as we walked alongside the river, surrounded by rolling green hills. It was a fair enough question, why choose a city when you have something like this?
“Sometimes,” I replied.
However, there was another part of me which felt ready to go back to the city. It may not have geysers, lakes or misty mountains, but Wellington held more for me than these pretty places. It held people, my friends, my love and comfort. It was time to go back home.