After relaxing a few days in Auckland I was ready to see some more. Daniela and Manuel, who I met here at the hostel, were up for that as well. We rented a car for three days and hit the road. On our first day we stopped at the Waipu Caves, one of the most amazing places I’ve seen in the past one or two weeks. They are undeveloped caves, so you can go inside without paying an entrance fee. They are pitch black and have a river running through it, so at some point you need to get into the water to continue. To get up to that point it’s quite an adventure, because the rocks are covered in mud and very slippery. We definitely had to hold on with both hands. Once we were inside and switched off our headlamps the whole cave was illuminated by little glowworms, which looked like stars on a night sky. Absolutely fascinating!
The next day we picked up two others, who we met in Auckland before – Jen and Martin. Together we had a look at the Rainbow Falls and once again had a bath in the cold water of the river basin at the base of the waterfalls.
Even further north we encountered more giant sand dunes (even higher than those at Little Sahara), but this time the board rental was a rip off but still worth it. On my last ride down I tried to stand up on the board, but I fell down somewhere in the middle of the slope. What I didn’t notice was that I lost the cars to our rental car in the process. I was lucky though, because Martin found the needle in the haystack when he fell down at the same spot on his last ride…
Cape Reinga was our destination for that day and we reached it just before sunset for a nice view of the sea, where South Pacific and Tasman Sea meet. Unfortunately we had to drive back to Paihia for the night.
On the last day of our trip we stopped at the Wairere Boulders. They are lava rocks that have eroded over time by the acid waters created by the ancient Kauri trees. As a result, the rocks have a grooved surface. This geolocial feature is unique and hasn’t been registered anywhere else in the world. But it’s not only the rocks that make this place worth visiting, it’s also the amazing forest that surrounds them.
On Thursday I had to say goodbye to Eiko – six weeks of travelling the red continent have gone by really quickly. For the next few days I’ll be on my own. Not really alone though, because I met already quite a few nice people at the hostel in Auckland.
Kevin, one of my roommates for the first two days, and I went on a free tour around Auckland. It was not like the other free tours so far, it was more like a promotional tour for the different activities that you can do here. We stopped at the Sky Tower, where they gave away a free Sky Jump from the tallest building in NZ. Unfortunately I didn’t get further than the first round of heads or tails and someone else won it.
Instead I tried something else. I saw a T-Shirt for NZD 130 and I really liked it, so I got it and a free bungee jump with it! The jump was from the Auckland Bridge (40m) and Kevin decided to jump as well. It was really funny when I jumped and screamed – and when I couldn’t scream anymore I was still falling…
And today we went with Daniela (who was also on the free tour) and two other guys to Waiheke, an island close to Auckland. There are quite a few people living on the island, but you don’t realize it when you go to the beach or for a hike. The people are also very friendly and offered us a lift from the end of a hiking trail to Palm Beach, the village where they live.
After driving many miles we’ve arrived in Sydney. It is the last part of the journey for Eiko, but not yet for me. The girls are staying a few more days in the area before heading in different directions.
Before we got to explore more of Sydney we decided to take a little detour to the Blue Mountains. They are not real mountains but it looks quite like it. Actually it is a big rock plateau that has eroded over time.
We started off with the Wentworth Falls and the Three Sisters. They are two of the most famous sights in the Blue Mountains and therefore it was way too crowded to enjoy it properly. So we went for different spots which had less visitors.
To our astonishment the Scenic World was one of those attractions. It consists of the Scenic Skyway, Railway, Walkway and Cableway. Each ride takes you to different parts of the cliff – to see it from above or to walk through the ancient rainforest midway down the cliff.
Back in Sydney we were invited to a barbie (=barbecue) by some Australian friends of Clara’s neighbor back in Germany. When we returned to the hostel past midnight it was too hot to go to sleep so instead Eiko and I walked around downtown Sydney and took some nice pictures while waiting for the sunrise (5:40).
The first sight we visited together was Naracoorte National Park, another world heritage site. The visitor center has a really great little museum showing extinct creatures that have lived in the area several thousands of years ago. The models of marsupial lion, giant goanna and Diprotodon australis (a mixture of koala and grizzly bear) were quite fascinating. The wet cave was not really worth the money, there are way better caves in Germany.
Next stop were the Grampians, the first landscape we saw in Australia that could actually be called mountains. Almost all of the peaks are covered with forest as most of them do not reach a height of a thousand meters.
Clara, Rika and I swam in a little pool at the bottom of an ice-cold waterfall and all of a sudden the already cool air seemed to be much warmer…
After staying one night in the mountains we drove back to the sea. The Great Ocean Road was waiting for us. In the beginning we stopped at every viewing point until we had enough of it. Our
highlights were the 12 Apostles at sunset (with funny penguins) and a spot with dozens of koalas in the trees.
After seeing it all we conclude that it’s better to go the other way around for an increase in awesomeness. However, this impression may also be due to the reason that the weather was cold and gray on the last part of the trip.
After our return to Adelaide we had enough of sandwiches for lunch. Therefore we decided to get some real food. And where do you go for that around Adelaide? Exactly, you head out to Hahndorf. It is a little village that was founded in the 1840s by German immigrants. The houses on main street are mostly made out of stone or in the half-timber house style as found in many parts of Germany.
And of course they have lots of good food. So much of it that we decided to go for lunch and dinner. First we got a cheese platter at the local cheese factory. For dinner we went to the German arms hotel and got a Jägerschnitzel, a rump steak and of course German wheat beer. Best of all was that they also had a strawberry field in town where you can pick your own (“But only eat one or two!” – “Of course!”).
The next day we got an invitation from Tanya. Her daughter is going to Germany next year for three months, so she got to try some of her German phrases. Tanya had seen our post for rideshares and offered us to stay at her place. Due to our tight time schedule we were only able to have breakfast – toast and eggs from the chicken in the garden.
We had to leave again pretty quickly to pick up Eva-Maria and Clara, two German backpackers that want to go to Melbourne or Sydney with us. The four of us drove down to Millicent to pick up yet another German girl, Rika.
We arrived at half past five, when dinner was still in the making. We were not expecting anything, but it seems like they (distant German relatives from Rika who have been living in Australia for more than 50 years) were expecting us. There was lots of meat, potatoes, salad and good tips for the next few days. We were truly amazed by the Australian hospitality!