"Kia kaha, kia maia, kia manawanui. Be strong, be brave, be steadfast."

After 7 weeks on Te Waipounamu, we arrive in Te Ika-a-Māui (North Island). First we enjoy Wellington. A bit of a change after all the beautiful nature we have cycled through in the past weeks. Still it is laid back. We visit the Te Papa Tongarewa museum, where the geological and the Maori sections are real highlights for me. It feels great to be in a city again. Vibrant, historic buildings, people, a nice Turkish meal (a welcome change to the simple meals we cook on our camp stove). After a few days we take the train to National Park and cycle to Whakapapa village.

We leave the bikes on the campsite and will hike the Tongariro circuit in the next 3 days. We have read it should be one of the nicest and and most popular hikes in New Zealand. However, the weather is cooperating. The first day we hike in the mist. In a few rare moments we can enjoy the whimsical landscape, but overall that day is wet and misty. The second day gives bright blue skies and we enjoy the magnificent scenery. We pass the bright green Emerald lakes. We did pass them the day before, but never saw them. We decide to hike up the flanks of Mt. Tongariro to have a view on the giant South crater and Mt. Ngauruhoe. Magnificent... until we hear a big bang and see some steam coming from the crater of the giant cone shaped volcano. A bit scared and realising we are looking at one of the most active volcanoes in the world, we decide to keep on hiking. This is a great hike in a desolate and intriguing landscape.

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After the hike, we cycle on in the direction of Taupo and Wai-o-tapu to visit the 'Thermal wonderland'. A hotspot with all kinds of colourful (sulphur) lakes and pools and a geysir called Lady Knox. For me, the geysir is a commercial flop. It erupts every day at the same time... when people help nature using detergent to activate it. I think this is a shame. The pink and white terraces, sulfuric and mud pools (with names like The Devil's home and Boiling Mud Flat), and of course the amazing Champaign pool are all worth the visit though. Back to the campsite I break my speed record on bicycle with 77 km/h. I must be crazy.

We visit Rotorua, a lovely town with lots of Maori woodcarved buildings, before we really start cycling again. The traffic is much more busy compared to the South Island, sometimes even scary. We try to avoid the I-routes, but that does not always work out. We get a tip to take a footpath for a bit. It is raining anyway, so not busy at all and the scenery is much nicer. We arrive on Coromandel peninsula. At Hahei we take some rest, hike along the coast along a beautiful, empty beach with a white cliffs to an archway called Cathedral Cove and build a giant sand castle.

We pass Auckland to head to Whangarei on the Northland peninsula. We cycle around in the Bay of Islands, take a tour to 90 mile beach, hug a giant kauri tree and visit Cape Reigna, the most northern point of the Northern Island. After 10 weeks of cycling I feel I am a bit done and book a day of scuba diving at the Poor Knight Island. It is great diving in this area, with underwater arches and lots of kelp weed.

We end the trip in Auckland. I enjoy the city, buy the book Lord of the Rings (not knowing the movie was filmed here just a few years ago) and prepare for the trip back home. It has been a very interesting holiday in many ways. I found my limits and overcame them, I started loving a country and its people and realise I love travelling. Photos of my trip >>

"Kia pai o koutou haere, kia ti toki kia koroi - until we meet again"