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stray new zealand

New Zealand

North Island, NZ – Rotorua

A great night’s sleep at the Marae refreshed me for my visit to New Zealand’s North Island Adrenaline Capital… Rotorua! Only a short drive away from Stray’s unique stop – the Marae, Rotorua offers a selection of adventure activities to the traveller. I planned on stopping off in Rotorua for 3 nights – to visit the Peterpans Rotorua team, in addition to take advantage of everything Rotorua has to offer – adrenaline, scenery, culture and more!

When I arrived into town, I went straight to the Peterpans Rotorua shop – here is where Tessa, a good mate of mine from Sydney has recently relocated for work! We both travelled on the Stray North Island Agent Famil a couple weeks before, but it was great to catch up with her and spend a few nights at her house.

Kaitiaki Rafting – Kaituna River

Kaitiaki Rafting are the leaders in adventure rafting in North Island, New Zealand. My day with Kaitiaki rafting took me down the Kaituna River in a thrill-seeking fashion! This trip is definitely not for the fainthearted! In addition to the adrenaline aspect that Kaitiaki provides, the crew incorporates a cultural feature which pays respect to the people of the river; Ngati Pikiao- by the way of karakia (traditional prayer) prior to entering the river and while travelling along. Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 11.08.50 AM

Kaitiaki Rafting takes you on a Grade Five rafting experience, as you pass through remarkable steep, narrow, bush clad canyons and across 14 rapids! During the hour I was on the river my group rafted down 3 waterfalls, one of which being the 7m Tutea Falls … the largest commercially rafted waterfall in the WORLD! My raft group managed to conquer the waterfall with the whole team staying safe and sound in the raft… this isn’t always the case though 😉

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As mentioned before, Kaitiaki Rafting has a big focus on providing you knowledge on your surroundings while floating down the river. The fully trained guides ensure to give appreciation to the land and the original owners of the river wherever possible. It is fascinating to hear the Maori stories, about how this river was originally used back in the day.

While rafting with Kaitiaki, you are fully geared by the staff prior to entering the river with wetsuits, boots, helmet, splash jackets and a thermal jumper. You don’t need to have any experience rafting and all you need to bring along for the day are your swimmers, towel and a positive attitude!

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I had such a great time with Kaitiaki Rafting – and not to mention… one of the raft guides found it quite humorous to pick on me along the way and push me out of the raft a couple times! Is this rafting protocol… or was he just flirting with me?… we’ll never know!

Agroventures

Agroventures has been somewhere I have been looking forward to experiencing since beginning at Peterpans Travel. I am always up for a thrill, and Agroventures delivers that!

Agroventures Rotorua offers a selection (5) of different adventure activities that you can choose from – it really is no surprise that Agroventures is known as New Zealand’s premier adventure theme park!

Offering complimentary pickups/drop-offs (based on availability) one of the lovely crew members from Agroventures picked Tessa and I up from the Peterpans shop to head to the park for our morning of adrenalin. When you arrive the crew welcomes you with a smile and provides you a summary of the various activities you can choose from while visiting Agro. I went for the “go big or go home” package, which was all 5-adventure activities – including the Shweeb, Agrojet, Freefall Xtreme, Swoop and Bungy!

As the Shweeb was something that I had never tried, yet alone heard of before, I was keen to give it a go first! The Shweeb, only one of it’s kind in the world was originally created as a futuristic model for transportation. As you enter the “capsule” sitting on your behind with your legs propped in front of you, you will begin self-propelling yourself around the 3 loop race track. Speeds of up to 45km/h have been reached, and your legs purely generate this! To add an extra bit of incentive, you can race against the clock and the previous world record speeds. If you shattered the world Shweeb record you can bring yourself home $1000 dollars!!!

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The next activity I took a go at was the Freefall Xtreme. Agroventures is the only place in New Zealand’s with an outdoor wind tunnel and the only place in the Southern Hemisphere where you can body fly! The crew at the Freefall Xtreme geared me up in a full jumpsuit and goggles prior to entering the wind tunnel. You are taught the basic flying position, and all the tricks/techniques used to manipulate the air and move yourself while flying. Once you get going, you will be flown up to 2 metres high by speeds of up to 220km/h! Your guide will bring you up and down, side to side and may even take you for a spin in the tunnel. You will be able to watch all yourself fly on the GoPro footage they capture throughout the experience but be forewarned… you may have a bit of drool at the end of your flight!

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Similar to the Minjin Swing I did a few months ago in Cairns, the Swoop will swing you up to 130km/h towards the earth! The best thing about the Swoop is you have to release your own rip cord… from 40 metres above the ground!!! I found the Swoop really puts your mind to the test as you have control of your own destiny. Being the adrenaline-junkie I self-proclaim myself to be, the Swoop was a favourite activity of mine at Agroventures!

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The most extreme activity at Agroventures is the Agro Bungy! The bungy at Agro is 43 metres high which provides you with approximately a 3 second free-fall. Regardless of how many times I have bungy jumped, I always get a bit nervous. It is very unnatural of the body to feel comfortable throwing yourself off a platform headfirst. Regardless of how unnatural it is, when you get up to the top, I find that one sec of insanity and take the plunge! Bungy-jumping is truly a mind game, and something that will challenge you beyond what you could imagine.

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The last activity… that I intentionally prolonged was the Agrojet; New Zealand’s fastest jet sprint! For some reason (not quite sure why) I have always had a strange fear of jet boating. I have never understood how these boats can turn on a dime, and how they can be so agile. With heaps of encouragement from Tessa and the crew at Agro they managed to get me into the boat. The professional driver will take you around the 1km track 3 times, reaching speeds of 100km/h in 4.5 seconds! After all I was psyched I gave it a go, and ended up loving it in the end!

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With all 5 activities complete and under my belt – I left Agroventures buzzing off adrenalin and with the biggest smile on my face! Agroventures is the perfect place to visit for travelling through Rotorua and looking for adventure. It’s great place for all ages, adventurous levels and budgets!

Hobbiton Movie Set – Matamata, NZ

With my 23rd year of life rolling in (October 9th) while travelling through New Zealand, I couldn’t think of a more unique place to spend my morning than the infamous Hobbiton Movie Set, in Matamata!

Experiencing Hobbiton is a bucket list item for many travellers. Lord of the Rings and Hobbit fans from around the world travel near and far to see what it’s like to be a Hobbit for the day.

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I was picked up from the Rotorua CBD shortly after 9am for my journey to Hobbiton. When you arrive at Hobbiton, our group had the chance to explore the gift shop, buy some postcards and grab a coffee from the café. Once we were all checked in, our guide directed us to the buses that would escort us to the movie set – a short scenic drive down the road. On the journey to the set, we travelled along the beautiful country landscapes while our guide explained a few things – one of which being why this farm was chosen by Peter Jackson (Director) as the perfect location for his movies.

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When we approached the entrance to the movie set, you instantly feel like you are in the movies. Everything is placed exactly as it appears in the films – from the real life crops being grown in the gardens, to the colourful selection of hobbit holes surrounding the area. I found it extremely difficult to pay attention to the information the guide is telling you about, as I wanted to take photos of everything! Apparently the record for photos taken while visiting Hobbiton was 2000+ photos… in just over an hour!!!

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Though I have never seen all the Lord of the Rings, or Hobbit films, various people in my group would point out different hobbit holes that bring them back memories of a certain part of the movies. A few die-hard LOTR fans in my group insisted on reenacting some of the scenes that happened at that particular part of the set. As I made my way along, I knew exactly what I would be doing when I got back home… Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movie marathon.

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The last, and in my opinion the best part of the tour was pass the “Hobbit party field” and then the visit to the Green Dragon Inn! At the Green Dragon we had the choice of a complimentary traditional ale, cider or handcrafted ginger beer to toast off to a great day together!

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Looking back on my time in New Zealand, I can concur that Hobbiton was the most unique and ‘strange’ thing I have done. For those who are huge LOTR/Hobbit fans a visit to Hobbiton is a must… and even for those who aren’t die-hard, you’ll unquestionably find yourself enjoying your day at the movie set!

From Rotorua, my Stray group was off to Lake Aniwhenua – where I could continue to celebrate my 23rd birthday, kick back relax and stuff my face with a traditional hangi dinner!

Until next adventure;

s.c

New Zealand

North Island, NZ – Raglan to Mourea

Our first night as a group on Stray New Zealand was a complete success! A few people noted that being on the Stray bus is like entering First Year University (College). Everyone is there with different hopes, expectations, apprehensions and dreams – when you jump on the bus you are signing yourself up for the ride of your life! There are so many new experiences to be had, so many new people from all over the world to befriend, and new life challenges to accomplish!

Stray is something that all those travelling through New Zealand should part take in as it not only takes you off the beaten track “geographically,” it tests you as a person and takes you to lengths that you never thought possible.

Waitomo Caves and the Glowworms

When we left Raglan, we made our way to Waitomo. Waitomo is home to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves, which are an absolute MUST when travelling New Zealand. These caves are very special to New Zealand, and more specifically Waitomo.

Waitomo Adventures Ltd offers 5 amazing adventure options – everything from half-day black water rafting trips, abseiling and rock climbing trips to full day Lost World ultimate caving experiences!

When visiting Waitomo I specifically chose to participate in their “most concentrated ACTION activity”, the Haggas Honking Holes. The Haggas Honking Holes is for those looking for a bit of thrill – it is adrenaline-filled, energy pumping and action-packed to say the least. Throughout your Waitomo adventure you will do 3 abseils of different heights down cascading waterfalls, rock climbing as well as many “army style crawls” throughout the cave.

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We arrived at Waitomo Adventures in the morning and got completely geared up. We were provided with full wetsuits, gumboots, helmets and a headlight. After a few safety drills, we were ready to hit the caves! Our group entered the cave through a small hole, which led us to our first abseil of the journey.

At certain points in the experience, you will be taken to depths of 70 metres underground, facilitated by various abseils, and rock climbs. Whilst traversing the underground playground you are surrounded by the infamous Waitomo glowworms.

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Throughout the trip, our guide would tell us to shut off our headlamp to take in the surrounding thousands of glowworms! Not only is this a physical experience, it is very educational as well. The guide gives you heaps of information on “what actually is a glowworm,” as well as you will be to told about how the various formations found in the caves, including Stalactites, Stalagmites have been formed.

The Haggas Honking Holes is something unlike anything I have done in my life. There are moments when you are in the cave that put you in a state of complete amazement, as you are 70 metres underground. The Waitomo Caves and the Haggas is the perfect adrenaline activity for those travelling through the North Island of New Zealand.

Pictures don’t do the place justice so you might have to go check them out yourself!

Evening in Mourea

The night at the Marae has been something I had been looking forward to since I was introduced to Stray New Zealand. Having the chance to be immersed into the Maori culture by staying with a family is such an incredible experience.

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When we arrived at the entrance of the Marae, (since I had previously been welcomed into their home) Ruth automatically allowed me to enter the house and sit amongst her family. The welcoming ceremony at the Marae is very special and spiritual – as you approach the house from the car park you are guided through spiritual “chant” from one of the family members. Before entering the house you must remove you shoes, and the file into the provided chairs. As soon as everyone has found a seat, the whole group sits down as one unit. With the males sitting at the front and the females at the back, one member of the family recites a Maori speech, which goes with the welcoming ceremony. Once this speech is complete, all the members of the family (including myself as I have previously been on their land) stand in a line and begin a “nose-tapping” ritual. This is a personal hello to all those who are being welcomed onto the land for the first time – ‘Kia Ora’ followed by two taps on the nose by each person is the practice. As this concludes, it’s time to eat – which finishes off the welcoming ceremony!

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Following afternoon tea, members of the family performed for us with traditional Maori singing and dancing – showcasing the Huka, and the technical manipulation of the Poi. The family sang us a few traditional and well known New Zealand and Maori songs that speak to the history of their culture. You can’t help but smile while you watch the performers – its beautiful to watch how proud the family is of their native culture.

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Dinner was served shortly after the cultural show which consisted of a massive portion of chicken, roast vegetables, garlic bread, peas, carrots and a delicious dessert. This meal put me straight into a food coma, which made it easy for me to settle into the Marae stay for the evening. Once dinner concluded the group cozied up in the Marae (meeting house) for a night of story telling and a good nights sleep.

Staying on the Marae is a once in a lifetime experience that I found quite powerful and spiritual. It is definitely something that sets Stray apart, and goes alongside with their motto that they can take you off the beaten track.

Until next adventure,

s.c.

Imagining yourself here? For 5% OFF any Peterpans Adventure Travel Package, use the promo code: SAMNZ on the peterpans.com.au website, email the call centre at info@peterpans.com or visit one of our many shops and quote SAMNZ to receive the discount!

New Zealand

Bay of Islands – New Zealand

The adventure begins… in the Bay of Islands!

Bright and early in the morning I am awoken by my excitement about heading up to the Bay of Islands. A short walk from Nomads is the Stray New Zealand office, where my guide for the day picked me up, Muesli! All the driver guides have funny names that coincide with a funny story that happened when they first started with Stray. You’ll just have to join in on a Stray trip to find out what they all mean.

The drive up the Bay of Islands is extremely picturesque – I would best describe it as driving through a postcard… over and over again! Along the way to Paihia, often called the ‘gateway to the Bay’, the driver makes sure to point out the points of interest across the vast landscapes. Make sure you look closely… because you may see a sheep or two along the drive;)

We arrived in Paihia in the early afternoon, giving us time to settle into the hostel (Base Bay of Island), walk along the beautiful Bay harbour and grab a bite in the hostel bar. Base Bay of Islands has a nice tiki bar sort of feel to it – it has a very welcoming atmosphere to it and the staff strive to make you feel right at home.

There are various beautiful walks and treks to do while staying in Paihia. Depending on the amount of time you have, you can choose between coastal walks that take up to 3 hours, to shorter walks along the boardwalk, which could take you about an hour. Whichever you choose, you will be blown away by your surroundings!

A trip to the Bay of Islands with Stray is perfect for those who have a couple extra days spare in Auckland and want the chance to experience the magic of Northern New Zealand.

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Day Trip with AwesomeNZ to Cape Reinga (via 90 Mile Beach)

It was early mornings start for our group headed up to the Northern most point of New Zealand… Cape Reinga!

At 7am, our Great Sights – AwesomeNZ driver guide (an ex Stray driver) greeted us outside of the hostel with a beaming smile! After everyone jumped onboard, we were on our way to Cape Reinga! Shortly into the drive, we had the chance to stop at the “Top Bakery in NZ” (pun intended) to grab morning tea, and lunch for the day! The drive up to Cape Reinga is quite beautiful. Our driver ensured to point out all the hot spots, and points of interest to us along the drive – to keep us awake after an early morning wake up 😉

Some of the main highlights from the day were driving on 90 Mile Beach with the bus! You can actually drive directly on the beach… but you need to be careful to not hit the soft sand … you may get stuck! One sign that we found on the drive that I found quite humorous was… “DANGER, Drive faster…” to ensure you don’t get stuck in the sand!

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90 Mile Beach

Another highlight of this trip was the Te Paki Sand Dunes where we had the chance to participate in some rapid speed sand boarding. The final main highlight was the journey to Cape Reinga.

To give you some background info, The Te Paki Sand Dunes are some of the biggest sand dunes in New Zealand! Depending on your bravery level you can choose between small dunes, to massive sand dunes! It is such an exhilarating feeling as you are flying down the dunes, feeling the wind in your hair! Out of all the sand boarding experience I have had (Rainbow Beach, Kangaroo Island), this experience takes the top spot! Having a GoPro handy to capture some of those moments also is a plus!

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Wippeee!!!

Cape Reinga is the pointy part of the North Island that oversees the gathering place where the Tasman and Pacific Oceans meet. Legend holds it that it is believed to be the departure point for Maori souls leaving NZ and going back to their spiritual homeland.

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When we arrived at Cape Reinga, we were given some time to explore our way down the coastal boardwalk, which eventually brought you to the Cape Reinga lighthouse. Looking out from the lighthouse, you can see the sea go on for miles.

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Cape Reinga Lighthouse 

My day on the Cape Reinga, via 90 Mile Beach Adventure with AwesomeNZ blew my expectations. I highly recommend for those with those couple extra days in Auckland at the beginning or end of your Stray New Zealand adventure, a short trip up to the Bay of Islands will not disappoint!

Hole in the Rock – Dolphin Cruise

Our day in the bay couldn’t of been better. We departed from the pier in Paihia shortly after 9 o’clock, and from there we began our half day cruise through the 144 islands.

The Great Sights cruise boat held over 220 passengers, had 3 viewing decks, and a café/bar on board. My group decided to take a spot on the main platform at the front to get a full panoramic view of the Bay.

While cruising, we had the chance to take some scenic shots of the various islands, ships in the harbour as well as… the dolphins!

One highlight of the Hole in the Rock cruise for me was seeing the dolphins swimming and jumping out of the water directly underneath the boat. There must have been over 10 dolphins that found interest in us, and put on a little water show! It was incredible to see the dolphins jump out of the water simultaneously, and swim at speeds that keep up with the speed of our boat. In addition to being able to view the dolphins on board, you can also choose to experience a more personal wildlife encounter and you can swim with the dolphins as well!

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Another highlight of this trip was cruising out to the end of the peninsula (Motukokako Island) to see the Hole in Rock. At one point of the cruise the water got a bit choppy and led to a very fun and bumpy ride! You need to hold on tight! When we made it to the Hole in the Rock, we had the chance to look out on the horizon and see for miles. The view was spectacular and with bright, clear skies, we couldn’t of asked for a better day for pictures!

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On the way back to Paihia, we stopped at a beautiful island called Urupukapuka, for a little wander. As we cruised in, the first thought that came to my mind …are we in the Caribbean? Crystal clear waters drew us into the beach, and the grass on the hills was perfectly green. We were given just around an hour to make our way to the look out point, which gives an amazing panoramic view of all the Islands.

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Urupukapuka lookout to the Bay of Islands

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We made our way back to Paihia pier in perfect time for Stray to pick us up at our hostel and head back down to Auckland! The Hole in the Rock Dolphin Cruise was an amazing experience and opportunity to see the Bay of Islands from the water. There is nothing better than feeling the wind in your hair as you cruise along one of the most beautiful parts of the country!

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Until next adventure,

s.c

Thanks for stopping by! For a limited time ONLY! For 5% OFF any Peterpans Adventure Travel Package, use the promo code: SAMNZ on the peterpans.com.au website, email the call centre at info@peterpans.com or visit one of our many shops and quote SAMNZ to receive the discount!