Day 1: Arrive, hike to Orokawa beach and visit Karangahake Gorge.
Most people leave the Northern Hemisphere on a Sunday evening and arrive in Auckland early on Tuesday morning. You’ll lose a day to the dateline – but you get it back on the way home! We’ll pick you up in central Auckland at 9.30am, or at the airport at 10am on our way out of the city. From Waihi Beach, well beyond the city limits, we’ll hike around a series of headlands clad in native Pohutakawa trees to the impressive and secluded Orokawa Beach where, if the weather’s nice, we’ll have a swim in the warm South Pacific waters. Then we’ll head to Karangahake Gorge, for a hike though a spectacular landscape that has a rich gold mining history. After the hike, we’ll travel further south through kiwifruit-growing country to Rotorua. There’s a great deal of geothermal activity beneath Rotorua, so you’ll see steaming pools of mud, fumaroles and smell the distinctive whiff of sulfur that characterizes this town.
Accommodation: Rotorua lodge, Rotorua (L,D)
Day 2: Hike Lakes Okataina and Tarawera, Maori feast and culture.
Today we’ll explore the virgin forest around Lake Okataina and hike alongside its deep blue waters to explore the site of an ancient Maori settlement. We’ll then continue over the ridge to Lake Tarawera. The entire area has been sculpted by intermittent volcanic activity, which continues in various forms to this day. Mt. Tarawera was the scene of an enormous eruption in the late 19th century and we’ll see the effects of this cataclysmic event during our time here. Tonight you’ll get to know a bit more about the local Maori culture and share a traditional Maori feast – called a hangi – prepared by the Ngati Rongomai tribe. The meal is prepared by wrapping the food and burying it in the earth to cook over hot stones. This method is very healthy – akin to steaming – and hangi food has a wonderful smoky flavour. Vegetarians, of course, are well catered for.
Accommodation: Rotorua lodge, Rotorua (B,L,D)
Day 3: Mountain bike Whakarewarewa Forest, hike to Huka Falls.
Rotorua is the centre of Maori culture in New Zealand and the influence of the Maori people can be seen everywhere. Although it’s a well-known tourist spot, there’s plenty going on behind the glitz that is worth checking out. We’ll show you our favourite highlights of Rotorua before heading out for some biking on the trails in Whakarewarewa Forest. We have biking options to suit all abilities, and the biking is a real highlight on the Kauri trip. If you prefer not to bike, there are other options available, such as visiting the local mineral spas for a relaxing soak. We then go hiking along New Zealand’s longest river – the Waikato – to the impressive Huka Falls before heading south to Turangi. We’ll follow the shores of Lake Taupo, the biggest volcanic crater in the world, to this evening’s accommodation. Our hosts, Richard and Jill, are a lovely local couple who’ll point out some of the best walks and fishing spots in the area. We’re right next door to the Tongariro River, New Zealand’s most famous trout fishing river, so this is a great chance to cast a line! Tonight your guide will prepare a good old Kiwi BBQ dinner.
Accommodation: Local lodge, Tongariro (B,L,D)
Day 4: Hike Tongariro Alpine Crossing, soak in hot pools.
Just south of Turangi are three massive volcanoes – Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu – as well as Tongariro National Park, New Zealand’s oldest park and the fourth oldest national park in the world. Here you’ll have the opportunity to do what is considered the best mountain day-hike in the country, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Not an easy day, this hike takes around seven hours unguided through arid volcanic terrain. Mount Tongariro offers remarkable volcanic landscapes including emerald lakes, cold mountain springs, lava flows, active craters and steam vents, so it’s unlike anything else in New Zealand. If you prefer to do an easier hike, you can walk through native tussock to a waterfall at the base of the highest active volcano in New Zealand, Mount Ruapehu, and around an isolated mountain lake in the middle of the virgin prehistoric rainforest. However you choose to spend your day, we’ll all head to some thermal springs tonight to soak tired muscles in natural hot water. Dinner tonight is a Kiwi favourite – fish and chips with plenty of fresh salads for our last night together.
Accommodation: Local lodge, Tongariro (B,L,D)
Day 5: Caving at Waitomo Caves, depart for home.
For our last day together, we’ll head over the spectacular Pureora Forest Range through groves of huge native trees, then into sheep farming country, before arriving at Waitomo Caves. After lunch, it’s an afternoon of caving (a.k.a. spelunking). Or if you prefer to stay dry, you’ll take a walk through Ruakuri cave to learn more about the geological significance of the area. For the more adventurous, you’ll head ‘down under’ to explore an underground cave system. You’ll be fitted with a wetsuit, helmet, headlamp and rubber tube in order to float down a subterranean stream, slide down waterfalls and at one point, switch off your headlamp to check out the incredible glow worms that live on the limestone ceiling of the cave. After a shower and some hot soup, we’ll head back to Auckland, where we’ll have you at the airport in time to catch evening flights back home, or down south for one of our South Island trips. (B,L)
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