Welcome to Middle Earth !

I am sat writing this in Taupo, Whakahoro National Park; quite possibly the greenest, most remote, peaceful and ‘natureful’ place I have ever seen! I’m totally having a Beatirx Potter moment, sat up in the hills, writing in the wilderness! However Beatrix got the Lake District and I get New Zealand! Just went for an amble alone and didn't see another human for at least 2 hours, a rare occurrence when travelling!

Now I suppose I should get down to mentioning some of the crazy stuff I've been up to in the North Island. Call it a cliché but words really can't do justice to some of the cool things I've seen and done.

First stop after leaving Auckland on the 'Stray' bus (a travel company who "stray further off the beaten track", and my chosen travel method) was a coffee shop, but the first stop worth mentioning has got to be 'Bridal Falls.' There's a tendency to get pretty accustomed to waterfalls here but this one was definitely rather spectacular. The whole point of Stray is that they randomly pitch up en-route at the side of the road. From there we pitched up to Raglan, a cute little surfers town which has one of the biggest 'left-hand breaks' in the world! This didn't actually mean much to me other than the fact it meant I was more likely to drown, nevertheless I've been told it's impressive! So when the opportunity arose for a surf lesson, who was I to turn it down?! It wasn't until we were down in the sea (which was a mission in itself as the winds were so strong the surf board kept wanting to go in the other direction) that we were told that conditions were a tad too rough for beginners, but in true Kiwi tradition, it was 'sweet as bro, give it a go and see what happens!' so in we jumped. I ached in places I didn't really know existed the next day and swallowed so much salt water I'm surprised I didn't have a heart attack but amazing fun!

From Raglan we cruised on down to the Waitomo Caves. This was incredible. Basically you go into some caves that run all the way through the hills (after some pretty epic/ heart stopping off-roading in a minibus!) and once you turn off your headlights the ceiling of the cave is illuminated with millions of green stars which are actually glow worms! Looking at them with the torch they're actually highly unattractive and but with the lights off they're beautiful.

Next we headed to Maketu for a 'cultural experience' on a Maori Maurie! This was for sure an 'only available in New Zealand' experience if there ever was one! At 5.45 in the morning while it was still dark and freezing cold, in the spirit of grabbing every opportunity, we decide to go paddling in a waka (Maori canoe). Going down a river in a traditional Maori canoe, watching the sunrise; it doesn't matter how cold you are, it's priceless! And that was the start of, what was possibly, my best day in New Zealand so far!

Have you ever swam in a creek where one stream that feeds into it is freezing cold, but the other is really hot? I have! Sit in the pool which is literally at the side of the road and watch the steam rise off the water...closest I've come to a bath in a long time! Here's another question, have you ever jumped...well, fallen...well, been pushed strapped to a man and a parachute out of a plane at 15000 feet over Lake Taupo? Again, I have: been there, done that, got the hoodie! The only way you'll ever really be able to appreciate how it feels or what I saw is to do it; it's worth every single penny. What a day; watching the sunrise from the river and the sunset from the sky!

A lot of people will tell you that there's not that much to see in the North and that it's all happening down South, but I have experienced nothing but spectacular scenery and beauty in the last few weeks! Mountains, waterfalls, beaches, sunrises, sunsets, lakes, bonfires, stars, caves...could you throw anymore natural beauty in there?! Now after having experienced so much Lord of the Rings culture over the last few weeks, I've concluded that Mr. Tolkien, through the voices of his characters, said some pretty wise stuff! For example, Frodo says to an apprehensive Sam:

“Remember what Bilbo used to say: It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

This is very true. But imagine being swept onto a bright orange bus or out of a plane, you're certainly not going to know where you're heading, but you have the most fun that way!

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