From Auckland to Tauranga we got the “NAKEDBUS” which is basically similar to “MEGABUS” that we had used in the USA. It cost us 12 NZD each for this 6 hour journey – amazing. One thing I noticed about the trip was realising how clean everything was. No rubbish anywhere! The bus journey was fine however no wifi or powerpoints on bus so not quite as good as NAKED BUS! The bus stopped about 3 mins away from our hostel which was great.
Tauranga in General
This place was like a small seaside town. It featured bars n restaurants along the seafront. It was so nice stepping into a bar and it actually being and looking like a UK bar (rather than the bars in the USA where everyone just seems to eat in them). This place was very clean and had lots of shops. We got told that there was a FISH n CHIP shop close by called Bobbys Fish N Chips. We went there hoping they would be like the UK.. Me n Bec waited for like half an hour for our order and when it finally came unfortunately it disappointed us! Again they were like oven chips…n their tomato sauce comes in a can??? So the hunt for true fish n chips continues…
Time To Open A Bank Account
So since we were going to work here, we had to have a bank account so we opeend a WestPac account. This was ok however if you didnt use a Westpac ATM it would charge you $1 per transaction and that includes if you just wanted to check your balance.
Our Hostel – Harbourside Backpackers Hostel
On arrival the receptionist was great. She was very friendly. The hostel was located right on the harbourisde so when you went upstairs to the chillout area the balcony view was really nice.
The kitchen area was large n the seating out on the balcony was very cool. A twin room had 2 bunkbeds in it with an ensuite n this cost us 40 NZD each which was around £19 which was cheap. The great thing about this location was the stuff to do.
Whilst in Auckland we had decided that we wanted to do things like Swim with Dolphins n Glow worms etc n all this stuff could be done in or around Tauranga so this was a perfect setting for us. All these kinda trips you could book from our hostel too.
Cycling and walking up Mount Maunganui
So one of the free things that our hostel did was loan you out bikes for the day. So we decided to bike it to the Mountain nearby. I had put a bottle of water in the freezer the day before so that it would be a block of ice the day after. This was so nice as when we stopped for a drink it had melted ice in it making it sooooo refreshing in the 24 degrees heat!. Cycling to the Mountain was easy enough as on all the roads they had a bike lane signed well. It took us about 30 mins to get there. The town that surrounds the mountain is very beautiful. Its more of a beach town. The beach was long with white sands.
We locked up our bikes n found the route that took you to the top. The walk itself made me sweat like a right bitch.. also had to stop a few times. Bec had a better stamina than me. It was cool thow as half way up you walk threw this like forest area where there are lots of crickets n weird animal noises. We heard one noise that sounded like that Dinosaur off Jurrasic Park…the one that spits at you…however this later turned out to be a blackbird.
After an hours worth of walking we were at the top – Hurrar!! Views were great as you could see the harbour on one side and the beach on the other. We the other route down and this was alot easier however I wouldn’t of liked coming up that route as there was like a million stairs – very steep!
When we made it to the bottom we noticed a campsite there. I enquired and it was only 150 NZD a night to rent a cabin and around 8 NZD for camping. It was in such a great location too!
We cycled along the harbourside and came across a Fish N Chip Shop (yes another one). It advertised as having curry sauce on chips – wow this was a must…we had it and they were slightly better chips than Bobbys however the curry sauce was like actual curry sauce rather than the stuff you get at a chippy in the UK (man i sound like i miss the UK food so much!!). We then cycled to an Irish pub called Rosies which was really cool in there. After 3 pints of Guinness and 3 wines we cycled back. This journey killed me for some reason. Maybe the heat n alcohol got to me. Grrrr
Kayaking and Glow Worms
Tour Company: www.glowwormkayaking.com / Clear Water
Cost: 79 NZD each
Duration: 3 hours in total with transport
Clothes Worn: Hiking boots with socks, swimming shorts, t shirt, waterproof coat.
So this was a must do. Our hostel had a new company come on board who offered tours to it for 79 NZD each which was by far the cheapest. We booked and waited for collection at 8pm outside the hostel. The van turned up on time with 2 Kayaks attached to a trailer. We got into the van where we were introduced to James our tour guide…and guess what???? He was from Wolverhampton my home town! The first person from where I live so far lol. He told us that it was only us 4 tonight. He took us to Maclaren Falls which was about 15 mins away from our hostel. When we got to the entrance he stopped and told us about the bridge where the local guys used to jump off it into the pool below however there had been quite a few deaths so they fenced it off…however there was a hole in the fence showing that still some of the locals want to jump down there.
We then continued to the gate that allowed you into the park. It was so dark there. There were a few campers. We got off and James talked us threw the safety procedures and how to paddle a Kayak. He gave Bec and the other girl a head torch as they would be in front. He told them to only have the red light on not the full beam otherwise it attracts mosquitos. I was at the back for me n Bec and was in charge of stearing (which I wasn’t too good at). He put us in the water first then him and the other girl followed.. he then went in front and guided us to the cave where we would see lots of Glow Worms.
Along the way all you could see was this small red light in front of you (which was the head torch at the back of James head in the other Kayak) and hear animal noises like ducks n shit around you. There were some strange ass noises ive never heard before but were obviously things like birds. So we continued to cruise down the river in complete darkness with only the odd tree appearing when your eyes adjusted to the darkness. We then approached the caves. The tours only allow one tour in at a time which was cool so we waited until the tour before us had come out then James come to the side of our Kayak and Bec held us together whilst James paddled us threw. At this stage James told us to pick our ores out of the water n place them in the Kayak as there were quite a few rocks about.
As we cruised in there it wasn’t long until they revealed themselves. There were millions of the little feckers. To the right , to the left above you, all around you! It was amazing and kinda reminded me of a ride youd go in on a small boat and have someone commentate n tell you about the history as you went along.. James then told us about the Glow Worms. He told us that they are not worms as such but lava that turn into Moths. The “Glow” is actually the lavas shite. Its used to attract flies to their webs surrounding them so that they have food to grow. Often they cluster together so that theres more light n more chance of them all catching prey. They will then hatch after a few months into moths and then only live for 24 hours (kinda pointless really).
James then took us out the cave n back onto the river where we became 2 seperate kayaks again. Now the way back me n Bec crashed into trees onto the side as I couldn’t see shite, nor hear Bec say “don’t paddle” due to my bad ear, n so we ended up crashing. . it was funny thow just nearly took our heads off.. n due to it being dark you couldn’t really see the branches until they were cms away from you.
We then got back to shore n me n James grabbed the Kayaks n he loaded them onto the trailer n we headed back.
I did get bitten a few times by Mosquitoes however this was to be expected as there’s lots of bush by lakes out there plus its warm. I would deffo spray myself with bug spray if I went again!
It was a great evening and something that will be remembered. James was a great tour guide and open to many questions. There’s something surreal about it all when you see them as this is really something rare in my opinion to see.
Hobbiton – aka The Shire
So being a fan of Lord Of The Ring a ding dings, this place was a must. Lucky for us our hostel could book this trip for us. We had saw lots of tours involving Hobbiton however they were very expensive. Our hostel did entrance and transport via coach for 105 NZD each which was deffo the cheapest.
We caught our Intercity bus from Willow Street at 7:30 which was around the corner from our hostel and went to a town called Matama. The journey there took around 1 hour and the views were rather cool – no mountains with snow on top but still cool views. We got to Matama and the bus dropped us off outside the “I-Site” there. Now the first thing you notice was the “I-Site” office…since this town is not far from Hobbiton, the I-Site is done out like a hobbit house – its so cool seeing the thatched houses etc. We waited around until 9am when the office opened and then went in to validate our tickets. They then give you an “official” orange Hobbiton ticket and your then told to wait for the Hobbiton bus that comes at 10am. Our bus arrived and “Hobbiton” was plastered all over it and out walked John, our old and local Bus driver. We got on board and then off we rode to Hobbiton.
Hobbiton was only around 20mins away from the main center of Matama. We got to the drop off point which was the souvenir shop. We had a look around there and I purchased the magnet – it had to be done! We waited for ten minutes when our 3rd bus arrived and you are introduced to your tour guide. They then take you out into the middle of the fields and 3 minutes later Hobbiton reveals itself. . . and WOW does this place look cool!!! When we got off the bus the tour guide took us up to the Hobbiton sign where she tells you that she will take you around the movie set and tell you abit about the place stage by stage. After a pic next to the sign, it was now time to start the tour!
This tour was so cool, we got to see the path that Bilbo runs down screaming “I’m going on an adventure”, we saw all the hobbit holes and learnt that they are indeed just external houses meaning you cannot go inside them. The insides were filmed in the studios at Wellington. We moved slowly threw the Shire and witnessed the field where they had the Bday party for Gandalf in the first Lord Of The Rings, Bilbos house which actually has a huge fake tree above it as they had to match the description in the book, so the tree thats above it is fake and made out of wire etc. You can tell thow the closer you get that its fake as the leaves are way too bright green, however none the less really cool to see.
There are the odd hobbit hole where the doors open, so you can have your pic taken inside the doorway, however it kinda ends there, there is just wood behind the door. They made certain ones open so that in the films the actors could be seen opening the doors.
The tour came to an end as we made our way over the bridge to the Green Dragon Pub…now this was an amazing place. The tour guide leads you into the pub and you get a choice of ginger beer, light beer n a few other drinks so me n Bec obviously had the beer. The inside of the Green Dragon is like it is in the film. Apparently 2 years ago the pub was just a standard looking pub inside, however 2 years ago Peter Jackson wanted to do the pub our hobbit style so they agreed…so now the pub has old style barrels in there, lots of dark wood and open fires (this was really my kinda place) and then you go outside onto the beer garden where there’s flags and lanterns attached to the trees (as if there’s like a fete or party) and you overlook the lake and working mill house along with all the hobbit houses around you. Irish folk music plays in the background to give that folk / hobbit feel.
This place is so amazing. You really do feel like its a village as you cant see anything beyond Hobbiton as your kinda in the middle at the bottom of a valley / fields kinda thing. I would have loved to stayed in the pub for ages as it was so pretty, however we had to move on and taken back ready to be picked up by our driver and taken back to center of Matama.
I loved this trip so much and the Green Dragon is my 2nd favourite pub (Goghertys being my first) however was close to taking 1st place.
Hobbiton is an amazing movie set, however they have done so well in making it look and feel like your actually in a Hobbit Village. You can imagine people living there its that well done. Little things like washing on the lines outside houses etc are amazing touches. I deffo rate this trip 10/10 n would actually do it again – mainly just so I get another drink in the Green Dragon!
When we got back to the I-Site we decided to have a McDonalds in which I had a steak and cheese pie with chips n a drink (NEVER HAD A PIE AT MCDONALDS BEFORE!) oh and it was the first time I had seen a McDonalds do family meals.
Mclaren Falls and Kaite Falls
So since we were staying in Tauanga along time due to waiting for kiwi picking, I decided it would be cool to see what else the Bay has to offer. I had heard about waterfalls in the area so I decided to google that shit.
First of all I found out about a place called Mclaren Falls. This was only about 30 mins away from the hostel. Alina our hostel manager said we could use the hostel van anytime (bonus) so we decided to do a day trip to the falls. I had read that there were multiple bbq spots around the park so we went to Pak n Save and got lots of burgers n sausages and off we went in our van.
You know your there as you have to cross a small bridge where the main waterfall is. Apparantely locals liked to jump off the bridge into the water, however after a few deaths they decided to fence it – however there is a small hole indicating that maybe people still do this at night. We cruised into the forest and there are lots of different areas you can park. Each section is labelled. We found a spot with a BBQ. We got out and the BBQ was rather weird looking. It was like a huge metal plate. It was free to use and powered by free gas, however this BBQ was not working so we found another area (cherry falls I think) where we found a working BBQ. It only took 6 mins to heat up then we plonked our stuff on it. A chicken thing came over to our table wanting food. He reminded me of Rod Stewart so naturally his name then became Rod. He was a cool dude! The lakes surrounding the BBQ areas are ok, well one of them were however our spot was rather shite as there were dead ducks and grime in the dirty lake so not the best scenery however was a good day out. The original spot with the none working BBQ had an amazing view over the lake as it was higher up – shame that. We then cruised to the “waterfall path” and after 10 mins walking we got to the waterfall. It was rather nice…nothing amazing however still nice. Naturally we had to have our photo next to the waterfall as a group…oh and also a photo next to Bessi our van.
On another day I suggested we try out Kaite falls as apparently it had a better waterfall plus you could swim in it. Again it took us about half hour to get to it. When we got there it was alot more straight forward than Mclaren as you literally just park at the top and follow the trail down alongside the waterfall and your there (unlike Mclaren where there are multiple spots to drive too). The waterfall was rather cool here and at the bottom theres a clear pool where there was a rope swing so clearly this was where people would swim. Jack n Chris were the only ones brave enough to go in as the sun was not shining on the pool at all which meant one thing…COLD. They dived in and as we suspected it was freezing, however this did not stop them from jumping in from a higher rock distance. The day here was alot shorter than Mclaren however the waterfall is better. I think if you got there around mid day then the sun would be at the top shining on the pool so would be alot better. Since this place is shielded by trees either side you literally need to time it right so that the sun is in the middle where you can see the sky etc.
Watch The Video On Tauranga