Rather than heading straight back to Auckland, I’ve decided to spend some time in Taupo and Gisborne. I really want to do the Tongariro Crossing in the Summer, and go see the rays in Gisborne. Sadly, in what is clearly becoming New Zealand tradition, these plans wouldn’t quite go the way I planned.
First off, I arrive in Taupo to pretty awful weather. When we drove through the National Park the mountains were covered in stormy clouds. I’m booked to do the crossing tomorrow, but it’s clear it’s not going to happen. In fact, the first day it’s possible to head into the park is going to be two days after I leave Taupo, making my stop here relatively pointless. I make the best of it, walking alongside the lake (which is still a beautiful place to see) and checking out the awesome natural hot spring just outside town. It’s a few small waterfalls of piping hot water falling into a pool that eventually mixes with the icy cold water of the river, so you get both extremes after the other. It’s one of the best hot pools I’ve been to, and blows most of the things in Rotorua out of the water (no pun intended).
With Taupo being such a bust, I head North to Gisborne on the bus, stopping in Rotorua for a few hours (where I make friends with a few other travellers also heading to Gisborne, who I sadly lose the contact details for a few hours later) before heading far East. Gisborne isn’t quite what I expected, being fairly industrial despite being an ocean town. The walks along the coast are pretty nice though.
Sadly, the snorkeling with rays isn’t running due to weather, but I can still do the coastal tour. However, what I don’t know is that the company who does the manta ray tours isn’t actually IN Gisborne. They are in fact along the coast, on a route that has no bus or charter. My only option is a taxi…which costs almost as much as the tour itself. Thankfully, I can hitch a lift back into town with other people on the tour.
That financial blunder aside, the eco-tour is well worth doing. You arrive at the building and get kitted out with socks and wet gear, before grabbing a stick for balance and heading out into the submerged rock pools where the rays are congregating. We’re just about knee height in the water, and the rays basically swim around us, sometimes kissing out boots while they look for food. When we feed them, we get a chance to brush a hand over their velvety skin, before they try to slip through the cracks between our legs and keep hunting.
We also have a very large and very territorial fish that loves to steal the rays food, and has bitten just about every person working with the rays due to his speed. The guys have even started trying to teach him tricks due to his intelligence, and can sometimes get him to swim backwards with enough motivation.
I really wish I could have snorkeled with them, but the tour was well worth doing, even considering the additional taxi fare. At least it meant something went right on the last leg of my trip.
This luck sadly didn’t continue once I got back on a bus and headed for Rotorua for one night. I’m staying at the Crash Palace, since I really liked it, and it has excellent WiFi to help get me ready for my last few weeks. So naturally, when I get there, my laptop can’t register the WiFi. Even with the IT expert working at the bar helping me out, my laptop just doesn’t register the connection, and after 2 hours I give it up as a bad idea and hit the hot tub as a consolation prize.
So yeah, it took a while to write this down, since all things considered my last week of free travel in New Zealand was pretty disappointing. Nearly everything went wrong and left a sour taste in my mouth, especially considering how much I enjoyed the South.
Perhaps it’s bad to say, but I’m kind of looking forward to leaving New Zealand and returning to Australia for a few weeks. I’m glad I came to experience New Zealand, but I am so glad I’m getting out too.