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Welcome to the Active Travel Adventures podcast where you'll find inspiration to lead a bigger life through adventure travel.

On each show we explore exciting multi-day active vacations from around the world where you have to MOVE!  You'll have to hike, bike, paddle, horseback ride (sometimes in combination) to propel yourself to the next destination.

If you're tired of typical vacations and are looking for a more authentic experience by exploring the landscapes and meeting the locals on your vacation, then this is your podcast!

All adventures will be doable for someone reasonably fit (I'm a 58 year old woman and I have to be able to do them).

Be sure to visit activetraveladventures.com to see photos and get more details, plus you can download the FREE Travel Planners for each destination!  These handy summaries summarize the tips and provide all sorts of helpful links to help you plan your trip.  You get them automatically if you subscribe to the newsletter.

Jun 25, 2019

Part III - New Zealand Adventure Series : The North Island

The last two podcasts focused on the South Island, including Milford Sound, Mt Cook/Aorika, Queenstown, Kaikora Pennisula, Pancake Rocks and much more.
 
My original plan was to spend one week exploring solo, join Active Adventures (one of my affiliates) on their two week 'Rimu' tour and then continue solo once more for my final week in New Zealand.  However, I had so much fun with Active and my group, that once I found out that several of my tour-mates were going to catch the back half of Active's North Island 'Kauri' tour, I decided to scrap my plans (and prepaid accomodations and flight) and book the tour to join them.  Best idea I've had in a while!

Many people just explore the South Island, but seriously, make the time to head north!  It is completely different in landscape and feel, and isn't as crowded.  It was the perfect finale to an EPIC holiday!

Links Mentioned in this Podcast:

New Zealand South Island Part I

New Zealand South Island Part II

Costa Rica Adventures

Australia Adventures

Visit Te Aroha, hike to Wairere Waterfall
Our guides, Jo and Andy, picked us up in Auckland and we headed up the coast.  After a short bit, we stopped in Te Aroha, a cute town famous for its soda waters and Mokena geyser.  Jo said we were going to take a 'wee' hike.  Her idea of 'wee' and mine are quite different, as the trail through the moss covered trees and over several bridged covered rivers was a bit steep. Well worth it when we reached the base of the Wairere Falls, where we were not only treated to a great view of the waterfall, but also a panoramic view of Auckland down below.

On our way down, we took a swim in a river to cool off, and while we saw several other hikers, we had the river to ourselves.

Once back in town, Jo fixed us a wonderful picnic lunch that we ate in the town square.  Then we headed up to Rotorua, the spiritual home of the Maori people (the original people ("tangata whenua") of the land who came over by canoe from Polynesia ).  Rotorua is considered the heartland of the Maori people (pronounced something like MOUWRDEE, not MAYOREE, as you might think).

The town of Rotorua is ALIVE!  And not just with folks on adventure on the land and lake:  The tectonic plates below the surface have slid under each other and the steam vents from the soil all over the place!  You'll see steam curling up someone's fence, or next to a garage, etc.  It's cool and looks like a nuke bomb oddly went off sparing the people and the buildings.  A bit surreal!

There are hot pools and mud pools all over the place along this lakeside town, then lake itself a collapsed caldera filled with water.

Mountain Bike Whakarewarewa Forest
 I step outside my comfort zone and go 'REAL' mountain biking in the Whakarewarewa  Forest.  We arrive at the bike rental shop that has a cool coffee food truck outside, so we can enjoy a cup while we are getting fitted for our bikes.  Nice bikes.  Very expensive bikes.  Do they realize that my only experience mountain biking is on a $15 yard sale bike?  Apparently not, so after our guide gives us instructions in the parking lot and we get to ride in circles, we head out to the equivalent of the 'Bunny Hill' for him to assess us.  Our group does great and we quickly move up the skill level to intermediate.

 The Whakarewarewa Forest is pretty close to Rotorua making for an easy to get to, fun outing!  The forest features over 130 km of well-maintained trails for all skill levels.  You can also hike and trail run these pretty well maintained paths suitable for beginners to expert.  You can even bring your horse! Get a guide or a map and the trails intersect each other.  This is world class for mountain bikers. 

Te Puia Geothermals
In the afternoon, we checked out Te Puia in the Te Whakarewarewa geothermal valley.  I thought we saw a lot of steam in town - NOPE!  THIS place has A LOT of steam.  Plus mud pools, hot pools and geysers to boot.  Interpretive signs help us to understand how come the land is erupting.  Hot mud pools and natural baths are used by the Maori people (some of the really hot ones - over 200 degrees are off limits to non-Maori).

Back in town, if you have time, check out the Rotorua Museum to learn more about this land, its people and history.  The architecture of the massive Swiss Tudor-like building looks a bit out of place in this town of steamy fissures.
 
Maori Cultural Visit and Hangi (Traditional Pit Steamed Dinner)
Be sure to take time to explore the fascinating Maori culture and the various tribes that came over by canoe from Polynesia in several waves from around 1250 -1300.  They developed distinct language and traditions still practiced today.

While in Rotorua. attend a Meeting Hall ritual where you will experience a 'Welcome' offered to guests and the warrior dance.  To intimidate guests, the warriors bulge their eyes and stick out their tongues.

Afterwards, the women demonstrate a ball and string dance and chant, and then ask for female volunteers.  I went up and did my best to do the twirling and clacking balls as instructed.  Afterwards, you'll have a traditional hangii dinner which has all sorts of delectable meat and veggies in a buried pit that is pretty much steamed, offering a healthy dinner.  They put out a massive buffet not only of the hangii foods, but a huge assortment of western foods and seafood.

Active Adventures (similar name but different company than Active Travel Adventures), the company I did much of my visit with in New Zealand, is an affiliate of ATA.  Please use my links if you decide to use them, and at no additional cost to you, you'll be helping to support this podcast and website - Thanks!  Kit

Hike Rainbow Mountain, hike to Huka Falls
 Just when I think  it can't get any better - it does!  My group hikes pretty fast and we conquered Rainbow Mountain, named for its multi-colored layers of exposed soil, and Huka Falls pretty quickly.  The vegetation is starting to re-establish on Rainbow Mountain, but you can still see the beautiful colors.  At the top, you'll see forest as far as the eye can see.  Once the largest specialty timber forest, since replanted.

 You reach Huka Falls after following the ice blue Waikato River upstream (New Zealand's longest river).  Once the main means of transport, now you can take a Jet boat up, or walk up as we did.  As with all glacial water, the sediment suspension gives the water an unnatural crystal blue look. From here, we coast over to a hot spring for a dip.

This is cool not only because it is nice to soak in a hot spring, but also because a regular cold river meets here so you can go back and forth between the hot and cold waters for a refreshing break.  There's a changing room so you don't need to hike in your bathing suit all morning.

Because we are ahead of schedule,  Jo and Andy ask us if we want to raft the world's tallest commercially navigable waterfall, the Tutea, located on the Kaituna River.  We say "YES"!  Not only is going over a 21' waterfall super fun and exciting (and less dangerous than it sounds - you plunge into a deep, rock free large pool, so even if you fall out, as I did, there's nothing to get banged up on).  You float through a beautiful rainforest with several falls and rapids.  My best rafting trip EVER and I've don't the Pacuare in Costa Rica and the Tulley in Australia.

Tongarino Alpine Crossing
 New Zealand's favorite day hike!  Epic in grandeur.  Located in New Zealand's first national park, the Tongarino National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, this approximately 20 km hike starts out easy enough before you start hiking up to the ridgeline where you'll see remnants of previous eruptions and several glacial lakes with their eerie crystal blue or teal colors.  Like much we've seen on the North Island, steam vents abound!  Always hike prepared for all climates as the weather can change rapidly without notice.  You end the hike back down under tree line in a magical rainforest.  Allow about seven hours and bring PLENTY of water - though you'll see lakes and rivers you cannot drink out of them, even if you treat it.

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