mount ngauruhoe
New Zealand

New Zealand week 2 – from lighthouse to volcano

BAM! Week two in New Zealand has passed. I don’t dare to think how fast time is flying and so I just won’t do that. My second week in New Zealand was one to remember. I drove an incredible number of kilometers, had a tiny accident and made one of the best hikes ever.
After two nights in Whangarei it was time to head further up north. I broke up my camp and hit the road to Cape Reinga, the most nothern point in New Zealand that’s accessible for travelers. This is where the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean meet and all the way at the end of the road you will find a lighthouse and a distance indicator. My original plan was to hike the Te Paki Coastal Track, but during my hike at Whangarei Heads a fellow hiker informed me that the weather was going to be really bad the next few days, or as she described it, a weather bomb was on the way. Doing some research on the upcoming weather, it indeed turned out that the weather was not going to be all that good, yet I still decided I wanted to see Cape Reinga. While I left Whangarei with clear skies and sunshine, the further north I drove, the gloomier the weather got. When I arrived at the cape, it was very misty and so I decided to find a place to pitch up my tent for the night. I found a nice spot at Tapotupotu Bay and after setting up my camp, I drove up to Cape Reinga, just a five minute drive away. When I arrived, I got a little sad because man … it was incredibly busy there. There were busloads of people there and a thick mist obstructed the view of the lighthouse. I had somehow imagined this spot to be a little bit more idyllic, however I ended up pretty disappointed. Eventually the weather cleared a little and the lighthouse appeared out of the mist so I quickly shot a few photos. Then I walked to the west a little so I could see Cape Maria van Diemen, the other cape up here. Since I could not hike Te Paki, I actually planned to hike there but the poor visibility and long drive up made me decide not to. Instead, I found a spot to sit down for a while and as I closed my eyes, I heard the waves from both oceans crashing into one another. This was truly spectacular and with my eyes closed it even felt like I was there all by myself for just a few seconds.
cape reinga
I knew it was going to be a special night at Tapotupotu Bay and that the weather bomb could hit any time. And so I made sure I was well prepared. I had an early dinner, wandered along the coastline for a bit and made sure most of my stuff was already in the car in case the rain would hit overnight. During the night the rain started pouring and never stopped for the next 48 hours. The wind was quite unrelenting too, almost blowing my tent away at times. At 07.00hrs I was tired of it and so I decided to get up. I ran back and forth between the car and my tent a few times, broke down my tent and eventually stepped into the car, entirely soaked. #OnlyHappyWhenItRains
The drive to Auckland was not that interesting really. It was some 400 kilometers which took me about 4 hours, mostly because of the windy roads and the incredible downpours. That night in stayed at an Airbnb in northern Auckland. The next morning I had a very special meeting planned, with Murray and his wife Joy. Murray and I have been friends on Facebook for years and share a passion for travel, hiking and New Zealand. They live in Auckland and visited me for a cup of coffee. They were super kind and inspiring and I sincerely hope that once I reach their age (they are pensioners) I will be in such good spirits.
After meeting Murray and Joy it was time to drive down to Taupo, once again through the most horrific weather. I set aside my idea to camp and instead checked into a hostel. I ended up staying for six nights, finally moving on to Wellington and eventually Picton today. I figured that, once the weather was bad anyway, I might as well stay in a town with nice coffee bars and a hostel with good wifi. After two days the weather cleared up and I decided to make a short hike to Huka Falls. This is where it went wrong because while walking I fell and sprained my right ankle. Just while doing a really simple walk, which made me realize how vulnerable you can be once you’re hiking on your own. I felt an intense pain straight away but since I was somewhere in the middle of nowhere, I decided to continue walking to the falls. At that time I still thought I could continue my trip as planned, however during the evening my ankle started getting more and more swollen. The next day I just made sure I cooled it and put it up and for a little while I thought I’d have to miss my hikes in Tongariro National Park. I was incredibly sad because the Tongariro Crossing is also known as the best day hike in New Zealand. I had already hiked it before as a part of the Tongariro Northern Circuit, but not in good weather. Since the hike is closed quite often because of poor weather, I aimed to go on Monday for almost a week in advance already, because that was supposed to be the best day to come for a while.
huka falls taupo
That night a miracle happened and my ankle almost recovered. The next day I visited a doctor, who wasn’t too helpful to be honest, but I wanted someone to check it out anyway. He basically said I should take it easy for the next three weeks (say what? I don’t think so mister!) and he gave me an elastic sock for extra support around my ankle. Since I already felt much better that day, I eventually ended up visiting the Craters of the Moon and doing a short hike there. Craters of the Moon is a geothermical park north of Taupo and totally worth a visit if you are ever in the area. The hike went just fine and so I decided to still do the Tongariro Crossing. I’m quite a good hiker and can usually set my own boundaries and I thought I would be up to it. And when it turned out the weather was going to be quite awesome that Tuesday, I booked the Tongariro Shuttle and decided to go for it. I wore my elastic sock, my ankle high boots and made good use of my hiking poles. It turned out to become quite a memorable day.
Tongariro National Park is an amazing nature park in the central northern island and in the park are three major volcanoes: Tongariro, Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe. This last one inspired Peter Jackson for Mount Doom while filming the Lord of the Rings movies. Entering Tongariro National Park feels a little like entering Mordor. The landscape is dry and empty, plumes of smoke rise from the bizarre colored mountains and you’re surrounded by a surreal moon-like landscape. The Rangipo Desert looks sinister and Red Crater bubbles and smells like rotten eggs. The highlight of the hike definitely was seeing the famous Emerald Lakes, just below the summit of Red Crater. It was truly stunning and … quite busy. Yet I knew it was going to be like this because it’s the best hike in New Zealand for a reason. A full blog about this hike will ofcourse be made later on!
emerald lakes tongariro crossing
I’m currently on the Interislander ferry to the South Island. Apparently the Cook Strait is quite rough today so I’m hoping to finish this blog before the weather hits. I’ve spent a few hours working on We12travel and from tomorrow I’ll travel to Nelson Lakes National Park for a couple of days, where I plan on hiking the the well known Angelus Hut.
I do get quite a few questions how I like traveling by myself, as a while ago I mentioned I was dreading that a little. In all honesty things are going just fine and I don’t mind traveling by myself at all. I’ve not been very lonely yet and have been meeting a lot of new people. I even ran into a Canadian girl who had actually read my New Zealand blogs, such a coincidence. I’m also in touch with friends and family back home a lot and overall I’m quite busy each day. So to cut things short, I’m doing really well and am generally in good spirits!
For now I’ll end with my video of Huka Falls (filmed after I fell, you’re a blogger after all) and the Craters of the Moon. Enjoy!

See you next week and love from Wellington, New Zealand
Want to read more about my previous New Zealand adventures? You may also like the following posts:
New Zealand week 1: about jetlags and getting lost in the bush
New Zealand travel tips for first timers
Hiking in New Zealand – the best places
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