Exploring The Central North Island

New Zealand has so much to offer that it feels there's not enough time to do everything you want. When my friend Fraser arrived for three weeks of travel, I decided we definitely had to head to the centre of the North Island. It offers something unique, unlike anything else you'll experience in the world.

Due to the high amount of volcanic activity in the region, steam comes from craters in the ground and boiling water bubbles up to the surface. It doesn't feel like you're on Earth at times, but another, more hostile planet. Definitely something to experience.

Our first problem though was how to get there. From Wellington it's five or so hours and we knew a bus wouldn't allow us to explore freely. After comparing prices from a number of rental car services, we found a great deal through Omega for a budget car. We knew the car would be a little old but when we got it we were impressed with it's condition. It still looked brand new inside and out, having everything we needed for travelling. Most important it had air con as we were travelling on the hottest weekend of the year.

We set off first for Tongariro National Park, where giant volcanos tower above you, threatening to explode at any time. With this in mind we decided for some reason it was a good idea to go for a hike over one of the volcanoes. We spent a day walking the Tongariro Crossing, one of New Zealand's best day hikes.

Starting the hike late in the day, in the sweltering heat, was probably a bad idea. But the amazing views more than made up for the sweat on our backs and pain in our legs. When we finally finished, 19 kilometers later, we were glad to see the car and it's air conditioning. No more walking for us.

Next we made our way to Rotorua, a town where steam comes up from the pavement. When you arrive the first thing that hits you is the smell. You'll turn a corner and suddenly the smell of rotten eggs will hit you. The high amount of sulphur nearby means the whole area stinks.

But the geothermal activity isn't all bad and allows you to bathe in natural hot springs and bubbling mud. Perfect if you want a spa treatment. Since we were on a budget though we did the next best thing, heading out into a forest to swim in a hot stream. That night we set-up camp nearby and the heat from the ground kept our tent warm all night. Just another perk of a volcanic region.

After a sweaty night of sleeping, we decided to refresh ourselves in Lake Taupo, New Zealand's largest lake. It was the perfect weekend to go for a swim in the crystal clear waters. I was surprised to find the lake was quite warm, but it still cooled us off in the summer heat.

Soon it was time to head back to Wellington but we had one last stop to make along the way. We made a short detour to Manawatu Estuary. One of New Zealand's biggest estuaries with Sahara style sand dunes and a wide variety of bird-life.

After such a busy weekend we were relieved to get back to Wellington for some rest. Travelling can be hard work sometimes.

This story is from Omega customer, Dan Baird, who has kindly shared his holiday story and pictures as part of Omega's Summer Holiday Writing Competition. We love the story and especially appreciate the picture of our car in such a scenic location!