The Year Of My Life: Travelling Aotearoa New Zealand. Today: Crossing the North Island

Sometimes, setting foot into a new country makes you feel a little awkward, stupid even. Everything is new, everything is different, and I keep embarrassing myself by asking: “So where is it that you live during winter?”

My laughter echoes with the Kiwis around me, as I first lay eyes upon their comparatively “thin”, single-glazed window houses in Tauranga & Taupo. “What, here of course”, they laugh even more as they look at my startled face. I decide to push aside the thought and look for my first address instead, crossing New Zealand’s North Island for the first time: Tiki Lodge is located right in the middle of the city of Taupo, set by Lake Taupo at the foothill of mighty volcanoes. Here, I am welcomed to …

The first Hongi of my life! The first Maori legend, told against the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen – up until then, that is. Travelling New Zealand, you tend to keep talking in superlatives!

Ok then. But what on Earth is a Hongi?!

Ankommen - aufleben. Der Marketing-Spruch der Österreich Werbung gilt für mich in diesen ersten Tagen in Neuseeland.

Having arrived: Drawing a deep breath in the city of Tauranga. When you visit, I recommend you walk up Mount Maunganui (seen behind me on the photograph): The views from this ancient volcano are spectacular, and as far as I remember, the volcano has gone quiet, too …


Zu Besuch im wunderschönen Taupo gehe ich gleich mal los und erkunde die wilde Natur rund um die Stadt: Hier die sogenannten Huka Falls, welche tosend Richtung Lake Taupo donnern.

Visiting Taupo, one of my first activities is exploring the gorgeous wildlife and nature surrounding the city, such as Huka Falls towering towards Lake Taupo here.


Am nächsten Tag gönne ich mir spontan eine Bootsfahrt auf dem gewaltigen See (knapp 200 Kilometer Ausdehnung hat Lake Taupo!), allerdings in einem weniger luxuriösen Boot als diesem ...

Right on the next day, I join a boat trip across Lake Taupo, nearing 200 kilometres at its widest point: A large, gigantic and utterly beautiful lake.


… um zu diesen berühmten Felsschnitzereien der Maori zu gelangen: Wirklich eindrucksvolle Zeichen einer lebendigen Kultur in Neuseeland.

Here, you can check out great Maori stone carving: Really impressive for me as a first-time visitor, I must say!


Zurück in der charmanten "Tiki Lodge", meiner ersten richtigen "Backpacker-Experience", begrüßt mich die Maori-Besitzerin mit einem traditionellen Hongi: Dabei wenden sich zwei Menschen mit der Nasenspitze zueinander, sodass diese einander fast berühren, und tauschen symbolisch den Atem zur Begrüßung. Eine schöne Geste wie ich finde!

Back at my charming Tiki Lodge, my first ever backpacker’s lodge in this country, I meet with the owner and share my first, fateful “Hongi”: Two people greet each other by symbolically sharing each other’s breath while their noses almost touch. Next to our shaking hands or exchanging kisses on the cheek, I think it is a beautiful cultural expression of welcome.


Der erste in einer langen Reihe traumhafter Sonnenuntergänge in Neuseeland …!

The first in a long row of gorgeous, mind-blowing sunsets in Aotearoa New Zealand …!


Just how exactly the Maori legend of the volcanoes around Lake Taupo goes, I do not remember for sure. I do, however, remember there is a “female mountain” north of Lake Taupo (looking north from the lake, you may indeed see the silhouette of a woman complete with “breasts & belly” in the hillsides). This lady mountain was fought over by the “male volcanic mountains” Mount Ruapehu, Mount Ngaurahoe and Mount Taranaki, the latter one losing the battle and being hauled by Mount Ruapehu far into the West. There, it still stands tall today as a perfectly shaped volcanic cone rising high into the Kiwi sky.

Parallel to all this, I read in the “Rough Guide to New Zealand” (I didn’t buy “what everyone else was buying” and opted for this guide over the Lonely Planet, not being disappointed) about the mountains altitude, geothermal activities and what is perhaps the most famous day walk of the country: The so-called “Tongariro Crossing“. The day lasts up to twelve hours (including transfers, ascent & descent as well as breaks), requires a good level of fitness and is quite demanding, however offering just amazing insights into a wholly new world – from a European point of view. Wow!

Blick auf den Mount Ngaurahoe, dem "Schicksalsberg" aus Herr der Ringe und Heimat der berühmten Tageswanderung "Tongariro Crossing". Schlechtes Wetter oder mangelnde Zeit haben mich den Tag leider noch nicht erleben lassen: Ich hoffe, dass es beim nächsten Neuseeland-Besuch klappt!

View upon Mount Ngaurahoe, Mount Doom in the Lord Of The Rings Trilogy and home of the famous day walk “Tongariro Crossing”.


Zwischen Tauranga & Taupo liegt auf der Nordinsel das "Kiwi Country", 360 Kiwifruit Experience in Te Puke. Lohnenswert für alle Kiwifruit-Fans !!

Between Tauranga & Taupo, you may visit “Kiwi Country”, 360 Kiwifruit Experience in Te Puke while crossing New Zealand’s North Island. It is worth seeing for all Kiwifruit fans and quite an experience to face the enormous kiwi orchards here.


“Windy Wellington”: New Zealand’s capital city is the country’s gateway to the south and offers a lot of cultural and festive activities.

If I had to choose a Kiwi city where I always felt happy and at ease, it would be Wellington. The capital of the Kiwis is home to the parliament building called “Beehive”. Wonder why? I will tell you in my story. And “Windy Wellington”? At the lower edge of the North Island, facing the infamous sea passage of Cook Strait between the country’s two main islands, strong winds or even storms are commonplace. However, I was always lucky not to have experienced one of those: My times were always rather tranquil!

What you should not miss in Wellington is a visit to Te Papa Tongarewa, New Zealand’s national museum. This museum offers unique and very interactive ways of cultural interpretation. I remember having read and studied about it even way back during my cultural tourism studies, hence I had quite some expectations prior to my visit. The best thing about the museum: I have not been disappointed, on the contrary. My expectations have even been exceeded!

Angekommen in Wellington: Erst mal ist es Zeit für einen gemütlichen Stroll entlang der Cuba Mall, Wellingtons "cooler" Hauptstraße mit zahlreichen Läden, Bars und Restaurants.

Arriving in Wellington, I recommend you take a comfy stroll past Cuba Mall, Wellington’s “cool” main street with lots of bars, shops and restaurants.


Cuba in Neuseeland ?? Erst ein halbes Jahr davor war ich dort mit meinen Eltern zu Gast, umso spannender daher diesen Zusammenhang hier wieder zu finden.

Cuba in New Zealand? Very cool!


Das neuseeländische Parlamentsgebäude ähnelt tatsächlich einem "Bienenstock", die Namensgebung also ist gelungen.

The New Zealand parliament indeed resembles a “beehive”, hence the name.


Im Te Papa Tongarewa "sprechen echte Maori" mit uns: Diese und viele weitere anschauliche Beispiele machen das Museum zu einem lebendigen Ort der kulturellen Begegnung.

At Te Papa Tongarewa “real Maori talk to us”: These and more modern facilities make for a very interactive and appealing national museum.


Direkt aus der Innenstadt führt eine Bahn hinauf in einen Park mit einer wunderschönen Aussicht über die Stadt und den Hafen - lohnenswert!

Straight from the inner city, a cable car leads up a small hill with beautiful views over the entire city and harbour of Wellington.


Wenig später heißt es auch schon wieder Abschied nehmen von Wellington & der Nordinsel - zumindest fürs Erste: Meine Zeit bei "Creative Tourism New Zealand" beginnt, das Hauptquartier befindet sich auf der Südinsel des Landes. Auf mit der Fähre von Nord nach Süd also!

A little later, it is time to bid farewell to Wellington – at least for a while. My time working with “Creative Tourism New Zealand” starts, its headquarters located on New Zealand’s south island. Onboard the Inter Islander Ferry then!


Arriving at the South Island, I see: Vineyards. Forests. Large and beautifully carved bays … My life in a dream.

I remember those first few days on the South Island bathed in summer sunlight and full of warmth. What a lovely welcome by my new Kiwi family. The astoundingly beautiful natural surroundings make me gasp and stay mesmerised. Large fern trees like out of a book about dinosaurs next to somewhat familiar, yet seemingly endless vineyard lanes typical of the “New World”, a small city called Motueka at the gate to what may be the most beautiful national park in the country, Abel Tasman National Park …

Right after my arrival, I knew that sooner or later I would have to get a car in order to stay flexible and keep exploring. And didn’t I read that “this is what you do, just like that, in the New World – buy a car as if nothing“?? Maybe, I am very “Old World” indeed. Back then, I certainly could not imagine it yet, neither many of the other things that I will tell you in my next series of articles, “The Year Of My Life: Travelling Aotearoa, New Zealand.”

Stay tuned! 😉

Ich setze den ersten Fuß auf Neuseelands Südinsel und sehe … Wein. Wohin das Auge reicht. Schon mal vielversprechend als alte, österreichische Weinliebhaberin ;)

I first set foot on New Zealand’s South Island and what is it that I see? WINE. Promising, coming from a renowned Lower Austrian wine growing region myself 😉


Ich bin angekommen: Mein neues, entzückend süßes kleines Zuhause am "Kereru Estate" der Familie Raymond in Neuseeland!

I have arrived: My pretty little home for a few months, staying with Denise & Crispin Raymond, of “Creative Tourism New Zealand” helping to develop and continue the network around New Zealand.


Mein Haus, mein Garten … Was für ein Traum !!! Noch immer ziehen diese Bilder ganz stark an meinem Herzen, soviel Freude und Glück über diese Zeit hier verbinde ich mit dem Aufenthalt bei Denise & Crispin Raymond und Creative Tourism New Zealand.

My home, my garden, all this beautiful light of the southern summer sun … Wonders to my heart! Still today, looking at all those photos makes me feel warm inside, all the comfort and happiness of leading a new, adventurous life in Aotearoa New Zealand still fresh in my mind.

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