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  • Writer's pictureshielasesbreno

The North's Face

Updated: Apr 25, 2019

In the next days, you will be able to hear my chronicles about my trip to the "Middle Earth". I endeavour you to keep checking this blog on a daily basis as the trip is a product of year's worth of travel planning and immeasurable enthusiasm. Walk with me, will you?

12 Apr 2019, Sydney, NSW. I just checked the weather forecast for the places that we will visit in the next 10 days. I did not expect for the Tongariro National Park to be this cold. The rest of the spots that we will go are normal autumn days except for Day 3-4 which seems like thermal clothes and heaters will be put to great use. Alpine hikes will be amazing then as it is a first for me!

Sydney International Airport.

13 April 2019. Today is flight day for Auckland. I woke up earlier than usual for 9:55am flight. Everyone seems to be wanting to go out of Sydney for upcoming Easter holidays as departure area is packed yet no one seems to be rushing, including me. It is my first time to fly via Air New Zealand (thanks to free flight from SQ's Krisflyer miles), surprised to see them so efficient in checking in all passengers. It was a breeze for me so I still had time for brekky and had patience for long queue in immigration checkpoint.

09:25am: Announcements were given that our flight will be delayed by 15 minutes due to luggage loading machine outage. I just hope that my luggage will show up in Auckland.

03:05pm: I arrived in Auckland and so did my luggage, only 5mins delayed. I was picked up in the airport by my church friends and as they are locals, they knew where to bring me. We went to Mount Eden for the perfect sunset photo and had very good steak dinner by the harbour. Mount Eden has a scary deep yet now grassy crater. Apparently, it is a sacred crater. It also gives you a 360 degree view of whole Auckland. The harbour feels home for me as the view is like Sydney's Darling Harbour with the yachts parked and restaurants lined up. Ain't this view awesome?

Wynyard Wharf.

14 April 2019, Auckland, NZ.

1015am: Church day for me in East City Pentecostals Church, before I meet my friends who are coming to Auckland from the Philippines.

07:55pm: Friends from the Philippines arrived, all together now and ready to conquer NZ!

15 April 2019, Waiheke, New Zealand.

05:32am: No sleep at all for me last night. Our room in Kiwi International Hotel is opposite the lifts so it felt for me like we are in 24/7 security room, regrettably, as I can hear all the sound of the guests entering and leaving the floor. Now, time to hunt for a better room.

09:28am: We are off to Waiheke Island aka Wine Island, for the zipline, dine and of course wines.

16 April 2019, Tongariro National Park, New Zealand.

815am: En route to our 2nd stop and stopping over at Lauren's Lavender Farm in Taumarunui.

530pm: We did short hikes in preparation for tomorrow's 6-8hrs hike along Alpine crossing. These are the views from the famous Lord of the Ring locations: Mount Doom, Gollum's Pool and Mount Ruapehu.

17 April 2019, Tongariro National Park, New Zealand.

8:49am: We started the hike for Tongariro Alpine Crossing. For medium fitness hikers, it is estimated to take 7.5hrs to finish the whole 19.6km track. Weather forecast today is good so the shuttle driver told us that there is no reason to turn around unless in emergency situations.

445pm: We missed our pick up. We finished past 5pm. This was the hardest yet most beautiful, most life threatening yet life changing in a good way, memorable climb I had! In some parts of the hike we didnt have a choice but to just slide down and wish that we won't fall off the cliff. "From one rock to another!" was my guiding principle and it worked wonders! It was a tiring day but was worth the 23km, almost 40 thousand steps, 8hr hike! Tongariro National Park is the oldest national park, is a dual World Heritage Site and was first to receive a cultural heritage site status. Tongariro Alpine Crossing has unique landforms which includes volcanic peaks of Ngauruhoe, Ruapehu and Tongariro, making it one of the famous treks in the world. We saw steaming vents, glacial valleys, ancient lava flows, alpine vegetation and vivid crater lakes.

18 April 2019, Ohakune & Rotorua, NZ.

730am: Left Ohakune after the 10mins wait for the demisting of the car's windshield, it was 1 degree celcius! Snowhaven accomodation and Osteria, an Italian restaurant, in Ohakune are highly recommended.

1015am: We did leisure walking around Wai-o-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, despite whole body pains after our hike yesterday. 3 hours around the park is enough to see all the sights so we head to Rotorua for lunch and groceries shopping. Planning for barbie for dinner!

5:07pm: We made it to Ohakune, the gateway to White Island which is the only active marine volcano in New Zealand. We had barbie, baked mussels, creamy potatoes, salad and sweet melon for dinner and even managed to prepare wraps for brekky from the wagyu beef dices that we grilled. It was a chill night and we enjoyed the much needed rest.

19 April 2019, White Island, NZ.

830am: Boarding Peejay IV for today's White Island Tour until 2pm.

11:00am: Started the hike around the most active marine volcano in New Zealand that is White Island. This island and Tongariro Alpine Crossing are by far the places that should put North Island on one's travel bucket list. Each spot on the volcanic island is picture worthy and can blow geek minds, literally and figuratively. The 1.5hrs trek around the crater is definitely an unusual kind of day! According to Wikipedia, the full Maori name of the island is 'Te Puia o Whakaari' or 'The Dramatic Volcano'. It was discovered by James Cook in 1769. It is continually being monitored by volcanologists as it has erupted last 2000, 2012 and 2013. It is still, however, highly attractive to scientists and tourists. The pictures here will definitely explain why.

615pm: We were picked up from our motel in Rotorua for the Maori cultural show. It was a night of much learning and appreciation of Maori culture, dance, cooking, games and ceremonies.

20 April 2019. Rotorua, NZ.

11am: After souvenirs shopping and enjoying treewalk adventure in Redwoods, we went to Hobbiton Movie Set for the 4pm guided tour. It was the best way to conclude the trip.

Hobbiton Movie Set

21 April 2019. Coromandel, NZ.

640am: Since my friends from the Philippines already left for their flight back home, I am off to join a group tour of Coromandel on my own. I can't remember what is in store for today but for sure it will be a long day. With me in the van are the usual types of travellers: couple holidaying, solo travellers like me, father and son tandem, weirdly talkative guy and a heavy snorer. Oh geez, it will be a much longer and tiring day for me for the snoring inside the van.

1030am: Hiked Paku Hill which was inhabited by Maori tribe in the old times. I had an amazing time as well chilling at Cathedral Cove, read 3 chapters of my book and enjoyed the seabreeze. Arrived at the hotel around 645pm with slight annoyance to my tour guide as she almost skipped my stop and made me walk. I didn't allow her though. Day ended good still.

22 April 2019. Devonport and Auckland, NZ.

930am: Met up an old friend for brekky. I was so happy to finally see her after a decade. The chat was short but the attachment is deep. She dropped me off in Devonport so I managed to explore the area and even went to North Head until the rains pushed me to come back to Auckland, for my 730pm flight.

716pm: Writing this piece on my blog while I am seated on the plane. My last minute shopping in Devonport and Auckland plus one new blog that I finished are my high notes for the day. Thank God I am finally going back to Sydney. I miss home. ❤

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