A Travellerspoint blog

The final New Zealand post

being written on the ds so apologies for poor grammar etc...

sunny
View Travels 2010 on jo.kris's travel map.

We very gradually made our way up the coast to Fox. The journey involved lots of stops including to see some blue pools,more waterfalls and a beach full of driftwood/stones. Written on these stones were messages and signatures from hundreds of travellers who have passed by the beach; someone had even left a dirty pair of knickers which wasn't so nice!! Our final stop was for a lunch of sandwiches on amazing bread meaning that we finally arrived in Fox around 4pm.

This meant that we had just enough time to go and see Lake Matheson before the sun went down. The lake is a magnificient mirror lake set with a background of some of nz's biggest mountains; it certainly was an impressive sight. We walked all the way around taking in the views in considerably less time than the 90 minutes the signs said it would take. We finished just in time too as it was beginning to get quite dark especially in the bush parts of the walk. The only other highlight of the day was experiencing yet another power cut at the hostel! Seriously starting to feel like they are following us around!!

On Thursday morning we were booked to do a half day glacier walk. Instead of getting a good night's sleep beforehand Kristian got up between 2am and 4am to watch the football - crazy nut! It meant that getting him out of the warm bed and into the freezing room at 7.30am was a serious struggle.

Eventually we managed to get ourselves sorted and booked ourselves in at Fox glacier guiding. Our host was a fellow called James and he was being assisted by a work experience student who shared the same name but looked like a hobbit with some very strange facial hair! It sort of stood at a 45° angle to his face...

Also on our tour were a Filipino couple and Australian family - we were the only ones prepared with boots and coats etc so looked like proper walking dorks. The mum of the family was unfortunately somewhat overweight so we had to do a lot of waiting around for her; her face was even bright red from the ten minute walk along the valley floor!

It took us about 45 minutes or so to walk up to the glacier. From here we were given wooden poles to aid walking and it was also time to put on our crampons. Walking on the gravel in these was certainly interesting but we both managed to get onto the ice successfully. The fox glacier moves 1m a day and for the past 6 months or so has been retreating. Its crazy to think there is this colossal volume of hard, compacted ice pushing that much forward and eating up rock on it's way. On the glacier itself you can see dark lines where a crevice has opened higher up and rocks have fallen into. As the pressure and force builds further down this crevice is closed swallowing up all the rocks inside it. At least if something gets lost in a crevice it will turn up again when the ice has melted at the face!

The walk itself was relatively easy and we were following a preformed track with steps cut into it. The steps could be quite slippy so we were thankful for the crampons! We stopped at a cave like area where in pairs we went down for a little explore. This was where we saw the bluest ice which was by far the prettiest part. I hadn't expected the glacier to look so dirty but I guess it makes sense with all the rocks falling in and those it grinds against. It was while waiting to go down again that I managed to fall over from standing still - some things don't change!! Meant that I had a really cold and wet leg for the journey down.

After this little interlude it was time to head back; it was amazing how different the glacier looked from a different angle. What a place to work where your environment is always changing and is never the same. We had a bit of time to kill when we got to the bottom and so James took us to explore a cave at the face - it was a bit like a giant mouth! We crawled inside and were now underneath the entire glacier which weighs billions of tonnes. That could have been messy...This was a great way to end our glacial expedition! We were even awarded with a certificate to confirm that we had done it; think we should have been given an extra special one since we were the only ones organised with our own gear!

All that glacier conquering made us really hungry so we snuck back into the hostel to quickly warm up the remains of the previous night's chilli and toast some pitta bread. We quickly consumed it in the car so quickly that I swear it didn't touch the sides before filling the car with some super expensive fuel so we could get back on the road. We stopped off at the Franz Josef glacier which was only 20 minutes north of the Fox Glacier and had to walk for half an hour just to get a view of it. It's shorter than the Fox glacier but more steep - we were pretty happy with the decision we had made.

We didn't stay long and got back on the road towards out next couch surfing destination. It was only 100km north of Franz Josef so it only took us an hour or so to get there. We drove straight past the little gravel road that led to the house so had to reverse. The first house we passed was huge and set back well off the gravel road in the middle of farm land. We foolishly hadn't written down the name of the farm, only the number which becomes rather redundant on a road with barely any houses! We had a peek in the postboxes (as you do) before deciding to carry on a bit further. Up the road there was a lodge so we popped in there to ask for help; the guy told us that they were the only two houses on the whole road meaning it was indeed the one we had driven past... He also told us how to get down onto the beach which only meant one thing - exploring time! We foolishly chose a fence which we couldn't open and therefore had to climb over it...always fun especially when it is moving about everywhere. Once over and through the fences we struggled to find a pathway which led to the beach; just as we were about to give up though we spotted a gap in the bush. What a fantastic sight! The beach was completely deserted and practically untouched and to boot the sun was just starting to set. We stood and admired the view in complete awe of the beauty of nature. Once our eyes were full of sunset we felt we ought to make our way to meet our hosts.

They were a family of four: Annie, Ted, Katie and Jess and their house was beautiful. Our "couch" was actually a whole room complete with double bed, lounge area, kitchen and ensuite bathroom. We felt like we had landed in a palace! They cooked a lovely dinner for us which involved beef from one of their cows! Maybe the best beef ever!! After dinner it was time for a pampering session and 9 year old Jess took great delight in painting Kristian's nails pink and blue! He looked dashing. Jess is such a character and full of so much personality for such a mini person. They also taught us how to play fast scrabble which is a fabulous little game for which you only need the scrabble letters - I imagine it could get quite addictive!

We slept great which was to be expected in our palatial surroundings and after a bit of a lie in/pure laziness we realised how beautiful a day it was and that we were wasting it. If only Winter was like this in the UK! It was when we left the house that we met the family's pet "lamb" - it is actually a fully grown sheep which thinks that it is a dog. Ted was telling us how he had been rounding up the cows with the dogs and the sheep was running around chasing them too, the only thing it can't do is bark but I'm sure in time it will learn to! Very funny indeed.

We took the short drive into Hokitika and visited one of the many Jade shops/factories before taking a trip to the Gorge. I saw none of the scenery on this drive as her head was buried firmly in a book Annie had lent to me about couch surfing which I was determined to finish before leaving them. Once at the gorge, we ventured over the flimsy swing bridge and over the rocks. It was once here that I decided I needed the toilet so ran back to the car park; Kristian was determined that we would explore on the rocks together so waited there expectantly. Once I returned we did indeed have a little explore but we were both being eaten alive by sand flies so it didn't last long!

From the gorge we headed for the Kaniere Lake. This time our exploring took us to Dorothy Falls where I managed to fall into the creek when crossing on the stones not just once but twice! This was the end of my exploring as my feet were so wet and cold they felt like they might fall off :-(!

We stopped further round the lake for a bite of lunch and then found some swings to play on. This returned us to childlike euphoria before we felt sick with dizziness. It was at this point we decided it a good idea to return to the house for another evening with the family.

We were sad to be leaving Annie and her beautiful home but it was time to adventure to new pastures. It was the day when we would visit Arthur's Pass which so many people had raved to us about. Unfortunately this meant it had a great deal to live up to!! It was a reasonably short drive inland where we crossed a rather impressive viaduct. There was also a special funnel bridge thing which channeled any debris from land falls - at least this way the road would stay open. When we arrived it was necessary to pile on the layers again as we had traveled from a beautiful sunny day with no wind to somewhere with a fresh layer of snow on the ground. Fortunately though the sun was still shining. It wasn't as pretty a place as we had been expecting but then again Mount Cook's beauty was still in recent memory...

After a bit of debate about whether or not we would stay the night we booked into the YHA. Feeling free of our bags it was time for a little walk along one of the many trails around the village. It would appear that the people we had been speaking to must all have been avid walkers which would make the place paradise! We decided to do the hour walk to the Devil's basin to see yet another waterfall. Personally I think that New Zealand should be rechristened to be called "New Falls". No matter where we seem to be or driving to there is at least one waterfall! Anyway this walk was a steep incline of many steps (we all know how much I love steps!) and we played the word association game on the way up. This was probably one of the highlights of the walk; unfortunately because we have seen so many waterfalls this one rated somewhere around average. Plus hills and steps never really make for the most enjoyable experience. Feeling somewhat deflated we decided to spend the remainder of the afternoon nice and warm in the hostel, gazing outside at the cold mountains through the window with a mug of hot chocolate in hand. Lovely jubbly.

Sunday morning had us driving back towards the coast after our little adventure inland, this time for Greymouth. New Zealand is a strange place on a Sunday; everything tends to be closed and the towns are like ghost towns. We are yet to fathom where exactly everyone goes.

We book into Global Village which has a rating of 93% in the BBH guide and is therefore really nice. The owners are obviously into Africa as there is African memorabilia everywhere. To boot the hostel have free bikes for us to use which we take advantage of (its not like there will be much else to do) in order to bike down to the sea. It is an easy cycle and a welcomed bit of exercise for us both! he seagulls are really funny where we cycle too as they are all lined up in a row along the wall; unfortunately I soon scared them away with my elephant feet. We then cycle into town and in the spur of the moment decide to go and see the final Shrek film. This gives us half an hour in order to hunt down some food which isn't the easiest feat and as to be expected we pay over the odds for a sandwich. When we return to the cinema we consider if this was a good decision after all it is a family movie and it is Sunday afternoon. There were children everywhere all high on red coloured fizzy drinks! Fortunately the film was enchanting enough to keep them quiet and satisfied throughout...!! Once the film was over we decided it was perhaps time for something a little more and so headed to a pub to while away the remainder of the afternoon.

Monday morning has us travelling up the coast to Punakaiki. We were there in no time at all which was somewhat frustrating for us as we had a lot of time to kill. We stopped at the Pancake rocks which were a bit of a disappointment. Not the most exciting thing we have ever seen although it may have been had the sea been rough. Instead the sea was extraordinarily calm so there weren't even any action from the blowholes :-(. We pondered about and got a bit silly in order to make the walk a tad more entertaining. Among other things this involved Kristian doing press ups on the walkway bars and hanging off the rocks. I was only slightly tempted to stand on his fingers and watch him fall into the sea.

Once we had faffed our way around this main attraction and visited the gift shop we soon discovered that this was all Punakaiki had to offer. Therefore we took the decision to drive to Westport. This was a highly unexciting place where everyone looked cheap, nasty and as if they may rob you! Needless to say we didn't really get out of the car. Instead we drove up to Cape Foulwind (yes that really is it's name) for our picnic lunch of ham, cheese and crisp sandwiches which we'd had everyday for about a week. After a brief visit to another seal colony (New Zealand almost has as many of those as it does waterfalls) we drove back to Punakaiki for a play on the beach.

Once we had decided it was substantially late enough in the day we headed for our next couch surfing adventure. This time we were staying with a single guy called Mike who was in his forties. Considering how Punakaiki is in the middle of nowhere and it is the nearest hub to Mike's home at 10km away you can imagine how remote we were! I think it would be fair to say he effectively lives in the wilderness. Nevertheless it was relatively easy to find regardless of his rather confusing directions which told us to drive to a bridge then turn back on ourselves to go back the way we had come!

Mike's home was somewhat in contrast to that of our previous hosts with it esentially being just one room. The view, however, was no less spectacular! Micheal's bed is in the corner of the room and we were going to be sleeping on the leather L shaped sofa which turned out to be fairly comfy! Through an archway was the kitchen and a bathroom which was kept closed by a fork - genius! The strangest thing for the two of us though was the fact he had the same paintings on the wall that White Stuff use in their shops; it really is a small world.

Once he had finished on the phone he took us out for a stroll on the beach. It was getting down onto the beach which was the hard part as a couple of time we had to hold onto some leaves, slide and just hope for the best. Needless to say this meand that I slid too far and landed on the bum of my freshly washed jeans!

Micheal was at first quite difficult to hold a conversation with as often he was very slow at processing what we were saying especially if the conversation veered off in a different direction. We'd later learn a history of his life and hear how he had been a bit of a feature on the party scene in Christchurch for a number of years. This meant, as to be expected, that he had taken and tried many drugs and his exploits involved a four year addiction to methampetamine. With this information it all suddenly clicke3d! I cooked a tuna pasta bake for the three of us and while it was cooking two od Mike's old friends turned up. Their past drug abuse was also apparent with one of them rather resembling Keith Richards!! We had seen a photo of him earlier in the evening from the 80s where he had suspicious looking stains around the crotch of his trousers. Fortunately he'd cleaned himself up a little bit in the intervening years.

It all made for a very interesting and funny evening as well as one which was completely unique to us in our adventures so far.

It was raining when we woke up on Tuesday morning which made the landscape seem even more dramatic. The waves too were somewhat wilder than they had been the day before so it took us a while to will ourselves away from the place. We eventually managed it once Kristian had fed the Wakea - if you hold the bread at waist height it jumps up to get it. These are funny little bired which don't really have wings so its quite amausing to watch. It was to be a day of travelling first up the coast then through land to another coast and then up some more! With a very steep and windy mountain which took forever to go over in the middle. The only break in the journey was when Kristian woke me up to "face some fears"/ This obviously meant walking accross the longest swing bridge in NZ - fun!! Once over the bridge there was a strange 15 minute loop walk with some random abandoned vehicles! It had been a long drive and a long day so once we got to the hostel we shut ourselves away in our room and chilled out.

The lethargic feeling carried over into the next day but eventually we were on the move in time for an explore around Golden Bay. First we drove just outside Takaka to see the clearest freshwater spring spring in the World. It really was remarkably clear and would have looked like a freshly run bath if it wasn't for the dark stuff lining the base. There was also some rather cool luminous green plants under the water but we've no idea what they were exactly. After this we drove on a bit further before stopping at a beach which firstly had us completely in awe because of the sky/clouds and their reflections in the sea. Once we were on the breeach we discovered hundreds and hundreds if the prettiest shells which had us searching and collecting for far too long. By the time we eventually dragged each other away I had a while glass full of shells! Not that I would be able to keep them :-(.

We hurried on up the coast so that we would reach Whakitiri (?) beach with enough daylight still. Once we parked up there was a short walk through some field which brought us face to face with some sheep! At one point it loked like Kristian and one of the sheep were have a staring contest - needless to say the sheep won! Haha. We were impressed as soon as we caught our first glimpse of the beach. There were impressive sand dunes and caves as well as ahuge expanse of beach. Off came the shoes and we were off running down a sand dune! This took us onto the breach p[roperly and we first walked over to explore a cave. As usual, I wasn't paying attention and so walked straight into the wall of the cave hitting my head in doing so,. Such a fool! Kristian adventured up onto the rocks as he like to do but I chose to stay on steadier ground before I cause myself anymore damage.

With the cave fully explored we walked along the beach where we bumped into an annoying German girl who wouldn't leave us alone and was obsessed that we should go with her to see the seals. As uf we hadn't seen enough sealas already! We meandered along to them but didn't loiter which fortunately shook her off! Instead we paddled in the freezing water, entered more caves and clamboured over rocks to see how far we could go. Just as we finished adventuring the sun was starting to set which was possibly the best sunset yet! The sun was reflection i the water which was sitting on the sand so very cool indeed. We figured we ought to journey back before the sun went down but we were definately very sad to be leaving this wonderful beach.

Thursday had us on the move again and back over the most wiggly and steep mountain imaginable. This time we were heading towards Nelson where we stopped off to break up the jounrey a bit. Fro here we booked our ferry for the next morning before wandering around the town. It was in Nelson that we eventually bought one pair of sunglasses and a funky splitted for the ipods. a successful shopping venture on the whole! After refuelling at Starbucks we jumped back in the car and headed for Picton. Here we staed at the Tombstone Backpackers (Rest In Peace) which was literally a stones throw from where we needed to catch the ferry. This was a really cool hostel - even the enterance door was shaped like a coffin! The lady was lovely and she gave us a lush double room for the price of a dorn which was just heavenly. Definately up there with New Zealand's best hostels!

Having checked in and eaten we spent the remainder of the evening playing pool and darts! Pool was certainly interesting as the table was on a slant making life even harder for me since I am already rubbish! Somehow managed to win a couple of rounds of darts though :-).

Friday was yet another travelling day. It started early as we had to be at the ferry terminal by 7am. Long!! We watched a couple of really rubbish movies on the ferry which at least helped to while away some time. When we finally got to Wellington we were relieved to retrieve our passports from the Indian High Commission complete with INdian Visas :-) success! Then we got on the road toward Rotorua which was a long haul. The only diversion to journey was a short stop in Bull where they put Bull in the name of everything eg toilets were Relieva-bulls! Once we finally arrived at Rotorua we booked into the YHA and set off to find the Nando's for dinner! Yum! With our tummies sufficiently full we were still feeling tense from all the driving and so paid a visit once again to the Polynesian Spa....!!

We realised that we hadn't actually done anything cultural since being in New Zealand and so decided we should probably go and see Te Puia. This is a place run by a Maori tribe where we could learn alal about Maori history and culture as well as seeing the World's (I think) biggest Geyser. Seeing it erupt was really quite impressive as were the mud pools in comparison with the one's in the park. We also went to see a 45 minute cultural show where they were in full traditional dress. The show included a welcome ceremony and a variety of songs/dances including a haka. Was pretty cool to watch it all up close - those eyes and tongues really are quite intimidating!

Having had our fill of culture we were on the road up towards Whitianga. This was yet another 3-4 hour drive so we were feeling fairly sick of the car by this stage! We more or less drove straight there but we stopped at Hot Water Beach which is about half an hour south. We were lucky to reach there when it was low tide which meat we could go onto the beach and experience the hot water under the sand. We didn't have a shovel or spade but Kristian optimistically picked up a piece of wood to dig with. Fortunately when we got there there was a pre dug hole we could use so we didn't look like complete fools! The beach was really busy with quite an array of people and different temperature pools. We sat with our feet in our pool obviously observing everyone for quite a while. Opposite us were a really funny couple who were throwing buckets of water over each other! The whole experience at the beach was rather mesmerising and fascinating. Once our feet looked like prunes we decided it was probably time we left to find a bed for the night.

Overnight the weather changed somewhat dramatically. A storm was forecast with heavy rains and strong winds so we crossed our fingers and hoped our little car would survive. It took a few hours to reach Mangawhai Heads but we were fortunate enough not to encounter much of the bad weather. This set in as the day went on; the wind howled around the house, shaking the trees and the rain poured! Definately a stay inside sort of Sunday. Jeannette was throwing a dinner party for some friends so we enjoyed some super yummy food! Although Kristian tried an oyster and I'm not sure he'll be having any more of those anytime soon!

The storm had passed through by lunchtime, not that it mattered for us as we had no plans. Instead we had a proper sorting out day of everything we had been putting off! Kristian took on the massive task of cleaning the car and I caught up with the scrapbook. We decided to cook dinner for the three of us to thank Jen for her hospitality and as we couldn't track down a chicken burritos were on the menu! Yes all we can cook is chilli!! Haha.

Our last full day in New Zealand was a ridiculously lazy one. So lazy in fact that we didn't even get dressed until 4pm! Think that it was well deserved and required though. Once we had finally got dressed and it was actually a nice day we felt we ought to go and see the beach. We enjoyed a pleasant stroll along it and were impressed by the numerous people surfing - they must have been freezing! Kristian almost got soaked by a wave when standing on a rock and also decided to jump off some rocks and scrabble up the other side before the waves came in. Fortunately he made it otherwise he'd have been rather cold indeed! When we had finished messing around on the beach we had to return to the lodge to pack. The car was going to be sorely missed as now everything had to be in our bags :-(? Thankfully Jeanette provided us with a break from packing in order to eat an amazing steak dinner!

As we had chosen to stay in Mangawhai this meant we had a super early start to get to Auckland - we were in the car before 7am! Quite a contrast to the day before. We didn't encounter too much traffic but we did struggle to find the car rental place. By the time we did find it it was dead on 9am - perfect timing! The guy at the counter gave us some not so good news though - we had a speeding ticket! Ironically it had been issued within the same 24 hours as our parking ticket in Dunedin. What really was ridiculous though was that the fine cost $8- and the company charged a $60 administration fee to process it. Cheeky buggers. This was the only way we could find out about a fine and the only way we could pay it so our hands were tied - sneaky sneaky!!

There was a shuttle bus to the airport though which was helpful and once there we realised we were hungry hungry people! McDonalds breakfast it was! Seems to be becoming an airport tradition. Leaving New Zealand was much smoother and easier than it had been leaving Fiji and we were on the plane to Sydney before we knew it!

Spologies for typos and spelling errors. This has been finished with a MASSIVE hangover!! :-( Serves me right I know but my body can't hack it anymore I'm getting old :-(xxx

Posted by jo.kris 00:00 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Fourth week of New Zealand

More exploration of the cold South

sunny

We got lucky and had our four bed dorm to ourselves, it was a bloody cold room though and a really long walk to the toilet. We were booked onto a cruise at 9.55am which would last until 12ish. The weather was good as was our guide which always makes for a better experience. He drove the boat under one of the waterfalls and we placed a cup underneath it so we could taste the water. It was surprisingly tasty if a little on the earthy side. After this we saw yet more dolphins with one swimming right under the bow of the boat and turning round to show us its belly! Then of course there was the colony of seals to see…!

Once the cruise was over we decided that we were Milforded out and so set off along the scenic road. This time, however, we had acquired a passenger – a German guy who was hitchhiking and had been very forward in asking for a ride the night before. He hadn’t even told us his name which is perhaps why it still eludes me now! The highlight of the journey has to be Kristian getting frustrated because the guy didn’t know the one German word Kristian knows – the word for protractor! This led onto Jo attempting to draw which just seemed to confuse matters more which is perhaps to be expected with her awful drawing skills! This helped to pass the time of the drive anyway which wasn’t quite so interesting a second time in so many days. The remainder of the day then got sucked into scrapbooking.

For Thursday we had booked a full day trip to Doubtful Sound. We got picked up at 8.45am with our packed lunch which contained an excessive amount of food – it had been a last minute rush job therefore everything got thrown in. The bus took us to Manpouri from where we had to catch a boat across the lake. This took about 50 minutes and we were dropped at a visitors centre while the driver went to collect the bus for the next leg of the journey along a road which is only accessible by water. Before this through we were learning about the power station which creates 14% of New Zealand’s electricity. Once he had returned with the bus we drove 3km underground so that we could see the power station itself. The tunnel was quite amazing and we were warned that (ironically) the most likely thing which could go wrong was a power-cut! We met our tour guide, Frank, who took us into the main room and told us the history of how it has come to be there etc. We also saw the most amazing photo of when they had been setting the final explosion for the tunnel; there had been more dynamite than needed and it had blown off everyone’s hardhats! The photographer had caught the moment at the perfect moment when the hats were about two inches off everybody’s heads!

After this strange little galavant into the world of hydro-electricity we were back in the bus for another hour of so. Now we were driving through the rainforest and caught our first glimpse of the fiord – it was huge and mystical looking as there was a haze of cloud floating over it.

Then it was time to board the next boat of the day which would house us for the next 3-4 hours and had the most chocolate orange cookies! Doubtful Sound was amazing – so much wilder and more awe inspiring than Milford had been. It is also much bigger at 44km long. Some of the sides are so incredibly sheer and yet somehow still have a wealth of trees growing on them although the land is marked with scars from landslides. It is just the most fascinating place to swallow such a fascinating landscape. The boat took us right out to the Tasman Sea where we saw yet more dolphins and seals – we are beginning to feel like they are following us around as it is apparently quite rare to see them in the Sounds/Fiords!

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We were both ridiculously tired after the day’s travelling and sightseeing and as a result we ended up staying another night in Te Anau – three nights somewhere where there is very little – instead of doing the two hour drive to Invercargill.

We set off for Curio Bay finally on Friday morning and weren’t especially sad to be leaving. As we were now heading off in the daytime we took the longer and prettier Southern Scenic Route down and along the coast. We dawdled along taking in the sights and stopped at Blue Cliff Beach for a wander and to look for pretty stones! Next stop was at McKracken’s Rest where we took a highly unattractive photo of us both with our bum cracks showing – apparently it’s the done thing here!

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Then we eventually arrived in Curio Bay mid afternoon. We fond the backpackers and read the board to discover that two cats would be our hosts with instructions to move in and make ourselves at home. It was a lovely, cosy little cottage right on the beach and we chose to stay in the room at the front. The room had two walls of windows with doors opening out onto the beach – true bliss! It was even more fantastic than our hut in Fiji had been!

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We went in search of bread and milk before heading to the Petrified Forest. This is where an entire forest has been flooded and then covered in ash to then be turned into fossils millions of years later. It is really fascinating as you can actually see the grains of the wood and it looks like it should be wood/bark. It is only when you touch it that you discover it is actually solid stone; very strange indeed.

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We watched yet another amazing sunset from here and then hung around for dusk in the hope of glimpsing some yellow eyed penguins. These are incredibly rare, with only 6000 or so left and can only be found in New Zealand. We sat and waited patiently and were in luck! Soon three penguins were waddling up the beach towards us. They moved slowly and took lots of breaks but were very funny to watch: they looked like three little old men. We sat and admired them until we were too cold before heading back to the cottage.

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Once there we got a fire going which made the place feel even more homely and most certainly warmed us up! Unfortunately another couple turned up so we didn’t have the place to ourselves but it was still by far the best place we have stumbled upon so far. We were both pretty bummed that we had no more cash (with there being no ATM for miles and miles) otherwise we definitely would have stayed another night.

Anyway this wasn’t to be and after a very peaceful night’s sleep and explore along the beach we were on the road to Dunedin. Before getting too far we stopped at New Zealand’s Niagra Falls which had obviously been named by someone with a great sense of humour!

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Our next stop was to see the more impressive and picturesque Purakanui Falls which are a tiered waterfall. It was on the walk to these that Kristian managed to slip on a step and dirty his hands and knees, sill thing!

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Our only other stop was at Jack’s Bay where we ate lunch on the beach and took a half hour walk to Jack’s Blowhole. This was an impressive piece of landscape, 200m inland and 68m deep! You certainly wouldn’t have wanted to fall down there…

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We then continued onwards to Dunedin realizing ¾ of the way there that it was rugby night; All blacks vs Wales in the last ever test match to be played at Carisbook. It wasn’t until we arrived that we understood the implications this would have on us; trying to find a bed for the night was a bloody nightmare! We tried at least four places before having to settle at a hostel where we had to stay for two nights with beds in separate dorm rooms. And these beds were lucky! Our choice was either this, a 4 hour drive to Queenstown or sleeping in the car . Needless to say we took the room but it was a nice enough hostel at least. We didn’t have any food and couldn’t be bothered with the supermarket so took the expensive option for eating. Having found a bar serving food we settled down in order to watch the rugby. Our chicken, chorizo and rocket pizza came quickly and the bar gradually filled up the closer it got to kick off. It was a good match with Wales looking the stronger team to start with before the All Blacks found their confidence and completely mullered Wales! Until we wouldn’t realize until a later trip this was to be a very expensive 24 hours – not only did we get a parking ticket but also a speeding fine! Doh!!!!

At least we could lay in since we were staying for two nights. Well that was the theory but in practice Kristian chose it to be a day to be alive and energetic first thing in the morning. So he made himself useful and went off to the supermarket to acquire us some breakfast. Once our bellies were full with bacon sandwiches and our eyes had taken their fill of the morning papers, we set off for a daylight explore of Dunedin. We wound up taking a visit to Cadbury World. Our guide had a distinctively English accent despite supposedly being a Kiwi and it turned out he’d lived in Kristian’s part of London for many years. He was a rather enthusiastic old man in the most amazing purple dungarees! He gave us some interesting New Zealand style chocolate including a marshmallow fish and chocolate covered banana stuff. The tour was shortened since it was the weekend so we wouldn’t get to go into the factory but we learnt all about how they make the chocolate. We also learnet all about a Kiwi favourite – Jaffas – which we stills haven’t had the opportunity to taste although they do sound amazing!

We were taken up a tunnel to see a ton of chocolate be dropped in a waterfall like fashion which was purely and simply a tourist attraction. More a waste of some damn good chocolate if you ask me! The good thing though was that we got to taste some yummy liquid chocolate before an opportunity to win more chocolate! We both managed to get a couple of questions right which spelt the end of our tour. We had a photo in the old fashioned car and bought a bouncy ball from the gift shop as you do at a chocolate factory!

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We were feeling rather fat by now and though we should work off the chocolate by climbing the steepest street in the World. First of all though we thought we’d test our little car and drive up it. We didn’t think she would make it but fortunately for us she did – coming down was a little hairy though! We started out climb and it was easier than you would have expected. All in all it made a rather enjoyable interlude to the day – even more so because it was free!

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The remainder of the day was remarkably chilled out – just as a Sunday should be. But we did manage to do two things we had been putting off: food shopping and getting Kristian’s haircut!

We left Dunedin on Monday morning and set off on the long drive to Queenstown. It was a fairly lengthy drive compared to most around NZ but we were there by 2ish. We booked into a hostel then went in search of the amazing mini golf Kristian raves about any time anyone mentions any form of golf. It was just a five minute walk away over a waterlogged rugby pitch-nice! The first hole was set in an airport which involved striking the ball through a plane before potting it. Other highlights included: a castle; a ski hill complete with ski lift which the ball rode to the top before “skiing” down the mountain; a volcano; a river rafting course where the ball came down the rapid; a rollercoaster and a candyshop which you got a lolly from when you potted your ball. Kristian lost the game which he is still feeling bitter about! Haha. It was close though with Jo scoring 87 and Kristian 92 – it’s just a shame that par was 68!!!

Having enjoyed our lollies we went for a wander round the town to see what was going on. We bough a set of travel chess (geeks) and settled in a cosy bad where we played a game (Jo won again so it wasn’t just a fluke!) and watched the NZ vs Italy game from the night before. After leaving the car we found another fudge making Remarkable Sweet Shop and fell for their tasting tactics – this time we fell for the lemon meringue version. With fudge in hand we realized that we were hungry, therefore it was time to pay a visit to the infamous and mighty Fergburge. We both order a Tropical Swine which consisted of burger, bacon, cheese, pineapple, lettuce, relish and aioli. The air between us was silent until we had both devoured the huge monstrosities – they just tasted so damn good! The burgers are so good and soooooo big that they are more than you need but it feels criminal to leave any!

With our tummies very full we meandered back to the hostel via the off license where we picked up some vodka. Once at the hostel we had a couple of drink and used the internet before heading back into town. We hit the World Bar and bough a teapot full of Smoochable. As it sounds this was a very sickly drink which we had to drink from shot glasses. We didn’t stay too long once we had finished this sickly drink and like everywhere it was rather quiet. We considered going elsewhere but everywhere was equally dead so we headed back to the hostel to warm up in bed.

Tuesday took us back to Wanaka where we had a super chilled out day. Kristian played football with some guys from the hostel that weren’t very good but it was good to have a kick around none the less. Once he was done we had a moment of insanity and decided to jump in the lake. Not altogether advisable in the middle of Winter! It was bloody bold and completely took your breath away when you hit the water – exhilarating though. Was a very strange feeling as you turned all tingly with warmth afterwards but we were very thankful to jump in a warm shower back in the room!

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After cooking chilli for tea we were off to Wanaka’s “must see” cinema to watch “The Hurt Locker”. The cinema is really cool and full of comfy sofas with a yellow Moris Miner at the side! Lovely and homely. We enjoyed some homemade ginger cookie crunch ice cream and a freshly cooked, warm chocolate chip cookie in the interval. Was strange having an interval at the cinema but a welcome relief from the intensity of the film!

Posted by jo.kris 17:12 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Onto the third week

We make it to the South Island!!!

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View blablah! & Travels 2010 on jo.kris's travel map.

Wednesday was a nothing sort of day and all we did was take the 3 hour ferry to the South Island. It was time for some different adventures....

We booked into the nicest hostel yet in Kaikoura which we felt at home in as soon as we walked in. After an amazing night's sleep in a ridiculously comfy bed we were up early on a search for some animal watching. We found out the whale watching tour was running at 10am for $145 and they pointed us in the direction of the dolphin tours. The dolphin lady told us we might not get to swim with the dolphins as they hadn't been out for two weeks due to bad weather but we still chose to go ahead on their tour. We were up early enough to catch a beautiful sunrise over the mountains and sea: Kaikoura's scenery is just spectacular!

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Once we were wet suited up we caught a bus to our boat where once again we were on the open water. We boated for 30-40 minutes without seeing anything but the odd flying albatross. Then up in front of us the skipper spotted what appeared to be a sperm whale, the biggest toothed whale. We stood and watched it for a few minutes before it dove back down to feed. This was the moment we had been waiting for and what a spectacular sight that great fin is in the air!! Kristian got super lucky and took an amazing photo in which "even the horizon's straight.

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We'd had some news through that some dolphins of the dusky variety had been spotted and so we sped over to see them. Unfortunately they didn't seem to want to play with us and were travelling too fast. No swimming for us :-(. It was a massive pod though and we followed them for ages; they even treated us to some of their fabulous acrobatics. We found out how one female was once recorded mating five times with three separate males over the course of just 2 and a half minutes - what an efficient little slapper!!

After the dolphins the boat turned round to see some albatross which are pretty huge - they have a wingspan of 3 metres! They are pretty humorous when trying to take off because they are so heavy that they sort of jump across the water in order to gain momentum. We didn't hang around here too long and this time sped off to see a seal colony. It smelt just the same as they do at a zoo - so fishy! Not something Jo enjoyed as she was already feeling tender from the boat; not too sure what it is about these Kiwi waters :-( All in all though it had been a bargain as they charged us just $80 each!

Once we had our seal fill we headed back to land which was somewhat of a relief. Felt so good to get changed out of the sweaty wetsuits. We headed back to the hostel for some lunch and a shower before exploring Kaikoura's shops. It is such a beautiful little town in such a mesmerising setting. After a trip to yet another i-site we grabbed the car and drove out to the peninsula. her ewe saw even more seals but these were rather more entertaining than the others had been. One of them was full on sprawled out on the walkway not willing to move for anyone. We even saw a cub which was really cute but Jo managed to scare away with her concrete feet before we could get a picture.

We took a walk up the hill for some fantastic views over the town and of a bay which looked like a perfectly formed bottom! We were a bit early for the sunset and so we drove to the fireplace in the sea where we sat with the waves crashing around us. We stayed until we got too cold and had grown bored of the fantastic skies which were entertaining us (as if)!

Back at the hostel there was another power cut - seems to be a running theme with us! And so we sat down to enjoy some beers by candlelight. The people who run the hostel were cooking up a Mexican feast for us all and the power had returned before it was ready. The meal was yummy scrumptious with chocolate pudding and ice cream for dessert. We were two very happy souls as I am sure you can imagine! The after dinner entertainment was very musical - out came the ukuleles along with a wide array of other instruments. All made for a good jamming session. In the band we had five ukes, 2 guitars and a drum before mixing it up a little for a bit of an Irish jig. Kristian finally got his guitar into the right key and Jo didn't gloat too much about being right about this!! We worked through a number of songs and Jo even learnt some new chords for her ukulele. All in all a very well spent end to a wonderful day.

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Once we had finally willed ourselves to get up and leave we ummed and ahhed about where we should go next. We decided against going to Hamner Springs as we had heard mixed reviews about it and it sounded like all we could do there would be to visit another hot pool. So we were off to Christchurch.

When we got there we booked into Foley Towers (yes it was a play on words) and went for an explore around the town as it was yet another beautiful day. Christchurch on the whole was rather disappointing - New Zealand's cities just don't compare to the rest of the country at all, its rather sad. We wandered down to Cathedral Square and had a nosy at some market stalls before headed off in search for the World music shop. It was a cosy little nook of a shop with an interesting assortment of instruments of all shapes and sizes; after some deliberation we decided to leave with a mouth harp. Perhaps by the time we get home we will have figured out how to get some decent noise out of it. After leaving here we trawled the streets looking for a coffee shop which was much harder than it ought to have been. Then it was off to use the internet which involved a frustrating attempt and failure to upload some photos. frankly I think we both wanted to turn round and return to Kaikoura.

Since it had been such a frustrating excuse for a day we decided to treat ourselves to a Wagamama's for tea which was a bit of an extravagant expense but more than worth it! We then headed off to the cinema where Kristian had the honour of watching SATC2 where he was one of the only males in the cinema; some girls even laughed at him when we were leaving!

There wasn’t much chance of us hanging around Christchurch for any longer and so we set out on the road to Lake Tekapo where we spent a much better day. It didn’t take too long to get there so once we were booked into a hostel we had the whole afternoon to play with. Lake Tekapo is a really pretty little village which had a fresh layer of snow covering it. Damn cold though so we piled on the layers to avoid freezing. It also has a famous little church which has the best view from the window:

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We headed up to the resort and bought two tickets to go snow tubing. This was a ridiculous amount of fun – definitely up there with the activities we have done so far. Our passes lasted for an hour in which we got a fair few runs down the hill. The walk back up was great exercise to boot! We soon discovered the quickest way to go down was joined together but you had to watch not to get a foot in the face! It was mainly children going down but we didn’t mind because it was jolly good fun!

Then it was time for another soak in a hot pool, not quite so earned this time but it sure did warm us up! We spent most of night with Kristian teaching Jo to play chess which has since become a newfound obsession. As a little treat before bed we drove away from the village and out onto the road where there was no light pollution. From here we could see the most amount of stars that either of us has ever seen – we could even see the Milky Way! It was a truly magical and beautiful moment.

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Our next journey took us into the mountains and along icy roads to Mount Cook where we arrived about lunchtime. The lady at the information centre was being deliberately unhelpful and after milling around there we decided to walk to Kea point which would take about an hour. It was the most beautiful scenery which we have been through to date. There was a thick layer of sparkling snow covering the ground and the sun was beaming in the sky. The first part of the walk was through trees and bushes which were weighed down with snow formed beautiful archways around the path. It was like being in a Winter Wonderland with added mountains. It was much warmer then Tekapo despite the snow and we were soon shedding some of the many layers. It was a time also where we seriously mourned having no sunglasses as we spent have the walk blinded by the sun and snow meaning we therefore missed out on the fantastic landscapes.

The view of Mount Cook from Kea Point was spectacular: the mountain was perfectly framed. We stopped for a little while admiring the view and cursing ourselves for not bringing a picnic.

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The walk back to the centre was even more pleasant for now we were even able to see where we were going as the sun was behind us. We decided not to hang around for the night as the ice had cleared from the roads so we started the two hour trip to Wanaka. This was another spectacular drive through the mountains if a little slower than necessary due to the ice/grit. We also caught a wonderful sunset on the final part of our journey before arriving into Wanaka.

We could have been mistaken ourselves for being in England as at the supermarket it was the only accent we heard! It seems to be the destination of choice for those from the UK who are doing a season in NZ. We soon had full bellies and put on our abundance of washing; the people in the hostel were really nice and friendly so we settled down with them to watch the last 4 episodes of Band of Brothers with them.

The first point of call on Monday morning was the i-site so we could get a weather update in order to establish what our next move would be. The weather looked good at Milford Sound and so we decided this to be a sensible place to head.

But first of all there was more important things on the menu: Puzzling World was calling out name!! We ventured into the Great Maze and had to find the four corners in any order (this was the easier version). We’d found all the corners in less than 20 minutes which we were rather impressed by and then spent a further few minutes on the upper tier trying to fathom where the exit was. We were out in half an hour which we didn’t feel was too shabby! Our reward was a wee in a Roman toilet with some Romans: our first experience of some rather cool illusions. From there we headed into the rooms, the first of which was the hologram room. Some of the holograms are wicked as they have multiple exposures which means the image changes as you move. One of the freakiest had to be the once with five variations of clown which sat about a meter away from the wall!

Feeling as if our distance perception was out we decided to leave the room and go to the Room of Faces. In here they have 160 concave moulds of famous daces from floor to ceiling. As you move around the room the whole face follows you – not just the eyes! The weirdest once is the top ones as they are proper looking down at you and the strangest thing of all is that they look convex!

As we are now a bit spooked out from being glared down by Nelson Mandela we head into the “Ames Illusion” room. This is a technique which they use to make people look smaller and taller than they really are and was what they used to film LOTR. This was rather peculiar on the whole to see the two of us looking like giants – first for everything at least! The final room was a generally messed up room with a wonky floor. This really affects your balance as nothing is as it seems. We first of all messed up our eyes by looking at a Black and White board of squares which looked like they were vibrating before seeing a ball roll up a pool table. We also climbed up some steps to stand horizontal but we look wonky because everything else in the room is so screwed up. Our last adventure in the room as on an upwards ride which was technically going down…think it is fair to say we were both now feeling a bit queasy and were wishing for more even ground! We sat in the café and played with some of the puzzles before setting of on our journey to Te Anau. This journey had us see another amazing sunset but that was the most exciting part of the evening – the rest of it was spent playing chess again.

We set out at about 10am for Milford Sound. The drive to it is quite spectacular and very scenic with a number of lookouts along the way.

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The coolest part of this road is a tunnel through a huge mountain which was started in the Depression which has been done by hand. It is visible from the chiseled walls and is certainly the most charismatic tunnel I have ever seen! It’s also amazing when you get to the other side to believe you have just travelled through something so huge!

The journey took a couple of hours and we dumped our bags off at the Lodge before going for a little explore. We tried to do the walk the guy at the Lodge had recommended but got turned away because it has been closed for four years! Instead we explored around the peninsula before heading down to the harbour/fresh water basin for a nose. After this we thought we we’d have a little chill out until sunset and Jo finally beat Kristian at a game of chess!! Woop :-).

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We went back out to the peninsula for the sunset and were able to go further our as the tide was out. We were the only two out there pretending to be adventurers – Kristian’s eyes were glued to the floor looking for “good rocks”. This meant that Jo was leading the way and led us to a piece of driftwood we had to walk across. Needless to sat it was very slippy and we both fell off towards the end meaning we had lovely soggy socks! The sunset on the whole was a bit of a let down and so we headed back to the lodge to spend the evening scrapbooking.

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End of week!!!

Posted by jo.kris 04:47 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Week dos in New Zealand :-)

Adventure time!!!!

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View blablah! on jo.kris's travel map.

The only other person in our room on the Tuesday night was somewhat a sleep talker; he kept muttering on about passports in different voice as if having a conversation with other people! It was another rainy day and after a tin of peaches for breakfast (the electricity was out!) we drove down into the very mall village of Waitomo. At the i-site they gave us a map and directions to the bush walk we'd been trying to find the night before - we had almost been there!! For good measure we decided to do the 45 minute walk in spite of the weather. Turned out to be pretty good fun. We found out a bit of history about the caves, didn't get too wet and also has the opportunity to explore the nooks and crannies of some small caves. This wet our appetite for caving so we decided to pay to go inside one. Being the cheapskates we are we opted out of doing an activity and instead paid to visit the Glow-worm cave and Arundi Cave.

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We hit the glow-worm first and were by far the youngest people on our tour; everyone else had at least 20 years on us with the majority at least 30 years!! Certainly made us feel we should have been abseiling in that's for sure! Our guide was a little odd, he spoke really slowly and told very unfunny jokes which seemed to fly over most of the group's heads! We learnt a little more cave stuff and looked in awe at the stalactites which surrounded us learning that they take 100 years to grow 1cm!! The trip ended with a ten minute silent boat ride through a part of the cave where we saw thousands of glow-worm - it was like being outside looking at star. Due to the heavy rainfall though we couldn't leave through the normal exit which was a shame. All in all the boat ride was by far the best part of the tour even though we seemed to be the only one's being dripped on - hopefully it was just water and not glow-worm poo!!

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After the cave we tried, and failed, to find a sandwich for lunch and eventually had to grab an expensive wrap from the glow-worm cave; we did get some real good banana cake for $3 though! Our tour of the next cave started at 1pm and we were allowed to take pictures in this one therefore we have loads of photos of the same thing! Again we were by far the youngest on the tour but among our fellow tourists were a very tall Japanese man and a really, really annoying American lady who kept stopping and taking up the whole pathway to take photos. Our guide was better with a good sense of humour and he pointed out a huge 5m stalagmite. We also got to hold a piece of the cave, it was so much heavier than you'd expect. Jo got hic-ups on the way back out of the cave which was quite amusing as they echoed around the cave sounding even louder than normal!

Feeling rather caved out by now, we were ready for another car journey; Rotorua here we come!! On the way there we actually drove through the end of a rainbow which was pretty damn cool - no gold though unfortunately :-(. At Rotorua we booked into the YHA after some deliberation. We then hit the i-site before they closed to book an exciting day of activities. The rest of the evening wasn't too exciting but we cooked an amazing chilli which would last us the next three dinners!

We were up early for our fun filled day of activities; the rafting people were picking us up at 8.45am. They drove a funny red bus with a number plate that read "Raft me"! Among the people we picked up were a group of 3 Indian men - one father and son plus a friend. the dad was probably in his mid 60s at least with a funny limp and a very shiny, snakeskin-esque red shirt - and he was coming rafting!!

The base was about half an hour out of town and the rest of the crazy rafting people were waiting for us there. They gave us a sexy (and smelly) fleece to wear along with a wetsuit and some funny boots. The boots were horrible to put on because they were cold and soggy with little puddles in the bottom of them. Once we had that gear on it was time for life jackets and helmets - at least here they had one to fit Jo's small head! Then it was time to get back on the bus where a dread-locked guy called Jamal went through some safety stuff and tried to freak us all out. All I can remember is that practically every other word was "sweet". Turns out that the old Indian guy had barely understood a word that he had said - reassuring eh? It took about ten minutes to reach the start and then we were ready to go.

Jo was feeling pretty apprehensive by this stage but there was no turning back. Our captain for the day was called "Tricks" and he went through a couple of important bits and pieces. We were told to sit on the outside of the raft, not the inner "chicken seats". Jeremey, the guide at the front of the raft, kept calling Kristian a pussy because he kept on sitting on the seats - was pretty humorous. The first few rapid were pretty sweet and got us relaxed into the flow of things. Next up were two waterfalls, one 2 metres and the other 1.5 metres. It was around here that we learnt out Captain didn't really know what he was doing and that Jeremy was actually training him on the job - we were feeling perfectly calm about this...not!!!

The waterfalls were good fun but more importantly good practice for the big one which was a bit further downstream. By the time we reached that we were exchanging lots of nervous glances as it became apparent how little this guy knew - he'd already taken us into some rocks a couple of times! We had to paddle right up to the edge of the 7 metre waterfalls and as a result Jo didn't manage to find her handle to hold onto in the middle of the raft. Kristian realised this and tried to help her find it therefore letting go of his cord. By this stage we are halfway down the waterfall and the photographer got a perfect shot of us where it looks like we are holding hands!! As neither of us are holding on this means that when we land at the bottom and the raft is submerged into the water, the rapids take hold of us and we both fall out of the boat! The photographer gets another photo where it looks like Jo has come out of Kristian's side.....ooops! Being in the water is really disorientating and feels like being in a washing machine; both of us aid later how we thought we may be dying! It was also pretty cold in there. Trying to remember everything we had been told to do was a test in itself and as we both emerge from the water we see the rafts up ahead. We float into a caved area where we are pulled back into the boat with Jeremy saying "And there you have the bloody English who don't listen!" Was certainly a relief to be back in the boat though.

A couple of rapids down, Kristian and one other guy get out of the boat to "swim" down the rapid - pretty weird experience. Soon after that it is finished and we are back on the bus feeling rather wet and cold - if exhilarated. Was certainly good to get out of the wetsuit and back to base. Once we were dry, dressed and a little warmer we were back on the bus to the hostel.

It was a lovely day so we decided to grab some lunch quickly and then head off to do some zorbing. Once we were weighed and issued with a certificate it was time to get back into our damp swimwear :-(. We tossed a coin to decide who was going to go first (Jo) and she then waited for the jeep to come down and pick her up. At the top she decided to go down the zig-zag track and is still trying to decide if that was the best option - straight down would've been faster but perhaps you wouldn't be thrown around quite the same. Getting into the ball was strange an like being in a big plastic prison or womb. It was full of nice warm water which was lovely when you are just in swimwear (it is winter!!)

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Before you really get your bearings the lady has zipped you up and pushed you off down the hill. Kristian spent the ride trying to avoid the entrance as he thought it might hurt as well as trying (and failing) to stand up. Jo made some pretty weird noises until about halfway down where it seemed to really speed up and she felt so peculiar that she couldn't make any noise at all. Jo felt it quite a disconcerting experience while Kristian thought it pure fun! Would be interesting to do it again together in the same ball. Getting out of the Zorb ball looked like the ball was giving birth to us as we came out along with the water (womb juices) - the only difference being that you come out feet first. Being back on firm ground and in fresh air is quite disorientating.

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Feeling full of adrenaline we decided to go off and do the Luge - it was such a nice day that the views over Rotorua would be really good. In the gondola up we shared the ride with a guy who worked there who told us a little history of the rides etc. We had five rides down the track and started off slowly down the scenic track before tackling the intermediate and advanced tracks. Kristian spent the first couple of rides urging Jo to faster and to take the corners like she does in the car (Jo is rubbish at driving an automatic car and insists on driving on the wrong side of the road even though it is the same side of the road as in England think she's just trying too get out of having to drive). The chairlift back up each time was freezing so we certainly weren't upset about not having to ride that again but it would've been fun to go down the track a few more times.

It was time for a bit of a relax after all this excitement and once our bellies were full with an amazing chilli and pita dinner we headed off to the geothermal spa. There were seven pools which we could go into, all set at different temperatures. The 41 degree pool looked out onto Lake Rotorua which was really cool especially since it was a clear night and the stars were out. A perfect end to an exhausting day.

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The highlight of the spa has to be from our experiences in the changing rooms where Jo witnessed the reserved Japanese ladies strip off completely naked and do a strange vagina dance in the shower. On the other hand Kristian got the excitement of seeing the smallest penis that he has ever seen!!

Being so relaxed and exhausted we were hoping for an amazing night's sleep. Unfortunately this wasn't to be as a strange, old man who barely spoke any English had joined us in our room. He was a prolific snorer and made some of the strangest noises you have ever heard from a person. Not impressed to say the least; I think the three of us from the room all wanted to suffocate him with a pillow! He also seemed to have major issues with getting into the room and made so much noise in everything that he did. Sven, our other room-mate, witnessed him doing some peculiar sit ups blocking the top of the stairs and Kristian saw him moisturising his face and hair with Oil of Olay hand moisturisers in the toilets.

Friday meant it was time to leave Rotorua and we set off for Taupo but first paid a visit to the Redwood Forest. We stopped off for a short walk through the forest where we found lots of opportunity for photo frolicks. The walk was a lovely, peaceful way in which to start the day; the trees in there are ridiculously tall!!

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After getting a little lost we made our way back to the car for the short drive to Taupo. On the way into Taupo we stopped at Hukafalls which is "probably the most photographed waterfall in New Zealand." The rapids leading up to it were really strong and every minuet 5 Olympic swimming pool's worth of water pass over the falls. Couldn't imagine rafting over this one at 11 metres!!

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We went down to the i-site in Taupo once we had booked into the YHA and met the least helpful staff yet :-(. We decided to go for another walk, this time round a place called "Craters of the Moon". It was an area with geothermal activity so there was steam coming out everywhere. We were the only two doing the walk and it looked like a battlefield so we ran around [pretending to have guns...as you do! Kristian criticised Jo's hand gun and so taught her how to do it "properly". The walk took us far longer than it should of done as we were behaving like five year olds but it was certainly fun!
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On the way back we had a little drive round Lake Taupo and stopped off in Acacia Bay to watch the sunset. The lake is huuuuuuuuuuuge!! It is 160km all the way round and apparently the same size as Singapore - pretty crazy. The sky above the mountains was so amazing and was really red which we think was perhaps because there was so much red rock in the landscape. We stayed until we were too cold and so headed back to the hostel to prepare for the next day.

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We were up at the crack of dawn in order to catch our bus; in fact it was earlier than dawn because the sun hadn't even come up! The bus took two hours and stopped to pick various people up from various places and we tried to get some more sleep but it was hopeless. We stopped off before we got to the start of the track so that we could take photos of the area we were about to walk across...

We started the walk at 8.20am and were glad to be on the move as it was damn cold! The first part of the walk took us towards Mount Ngauruhoe which was by far the easiest part of the trek. It was all quite flat and easy with the first 4km taking just an hour. After this lovely, brisk start to wake us up we started a climb uphill; the groups of steps on it were real killers! It was by far worth the effort though when we got to the top as the view was amazing. We choose not to climb Ngauruhoe which is the volcano they used as Mount Doom in LOTR.
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So we proceeded on uphill further and into more snowy landscapes. We were glad for the flat bit which came next but it meant another change of clothes as it was rather nippy again.

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After the walk through the flat, open plane we were clambering on rocks up to another peak. From the top of this one we could see the area we had just walked over on one side a vast valley on the other, twas rather fantastic! Kristian risked his life by climbing to the edge and Jo stood there with baited breath; she eventually convinced him to join her back on steadier ground and so we continued our walk uphill.

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This next part was steeper and much more challenging - it had us wishing for those killer steps again! The ground was covered in heavily compacted snow which made it slippy and the foot holes we were using had been made by someone taking giant steps...not good for us shorties! To our left was a very steep drop which would certiainly spell the end of us had we fallen off it :-(. We took it very slowly, in Jo's case at snail's pace sometimes more crawling than walking. She certainly didn't enjoy this part and genuinely feared for her life. This climb seemed to be neverending but we finally reached the ridge from where we could see the Emerald Lakes; this would be the highest peak of the walk.

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You would think that going down would be easier but Jo spent even more of her time on her bum coming down than she had done going up! At least the snow had cleared on this side but it meant we both had grubby bums (yes Kristian slipped too) and Jo's boots were full of gravel by the time we reached the bottom. The path was similar to stoney sand and you literally slid down it - was like surfing on rocks! Kristian was getting impatient as it was taking Jo so long and was therefore calling not very helpful messages of "encouragement" to Jo before she eventually joined him.

We chose to adventure a little and took a different path from everyone else down to the edge of one of the lakes They were such beautiful colours and the water was peacefully still.

After this beautiful little interlude it was time for another open plane and uphill climb a we made our way to the biggest lake. When we reached it, we stopped for a while to admire the beauty of it. Kristian was especially taken in by it and we both had a moment of silent contemplation. Jo finally managed to drag him away and so it was time to begin our descent.

Between the two hills ahead of us it looked as if a sea of cloud was storming towards us. It was simply mesmerising. At each corner it looked like we were going to walk into cloud but this didn't actually happen for quite sometime. The descent at this stage was gradual and the hut where we were going to stop looked really close. Unfortunately it took ages to get there as the path wound around the mountains so much. We were walking in yet another type of landscape by now and it felt as if we could have done three separate walks.

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We stopped briefly at the hut to have some lunch and a wee before rushing off downhill so we'd be able to catch the 3.30pm bus and not have to wait around until 4.30pm. The descent got harder and harder on our legs and the final part was through thick bush. This part was the most painful and seemed to take the longest. Jo's feet were hurting and she had a blister on the sole of her foot - ouch! The downhill steps were bigger killers than the uphill ones and they felt like they were wrecking serious havoc on our knees.

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We were incredibly thankful for the parts now which went uphil! How things change...We finally made it to the bottom just after three where we settled
down to wait for the bus to take us back to Taupo.

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After a little rest and the remainder of our lunch for tea we set off to find some more hot pools to relax our aching muscles in. We chose to pay the $3 more for the private pools where was the best decision of the day! So relaxing! We stayed a couple of hours (after Kristian had gone down the big slide into the freezing pool of course) before taking our weary heads and legs off to bed.

The next day can be summed up by one word - ouch!! We set off around 10am for Napier, the Art Deco Capital. Once there we struggled to find a hostel as it was Queen's Birthday weekend (how come we don't have one of these) and therefore a national holiday but we eventually wound up with a room on the seafront which was just lovely.

We ate some not so yummy tinned pasta for lunch before braving the rainy weather to explore what the town had to offer. Just down the road from our hotel was a place called Opossom world! They had lots of scary looking stuffed possoms in compromising positions alongside explanation of why they are awful creatures! Was a very amusing little visit where we got to see some pickled baby possoms (yuck) and got to have a go at shooting some (not real!) possoms for $1. Once we were all opossomed out we headed for yet another i-site where a lovely lady helped us.

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We opted to save crazy golf for another rainy day and instead drove 10 minutes to visit a winery. It was called "The Mission" and was actually started, and is still owned, by a branch of Christians known as Maryists. Took us a few minutes to discover this and we were rather confused as to why a winery would have a chapel attached! We tasted some of their wine before leaving which was good - especially as it was free!

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There was a N68 routemaster bus sitting outside the winery. Jo asked how they got the bus to New Zealand which was a very stupid question!! Kristian found it hilarious obviously.

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We then headed back into Napier town centre and contemplated visiting the museum. Neither of us were in the mood for a museum so we headed back to the hostel. just as we were thinking of cooking dinner the hostel had a powercut. It appeared to be just our hostel so we went in search of internet access. Spending two hours there meant we were by now starving but the power was still out at the hostel. Looked like we were going on a food hunt! We got fish and chips from a shop called Munchies which was run by a very friendly Egyptian man who seemed happy to have some company! We chatted to him for a while then took our meal down to the colourful fountain by the sea and proceeded to take far too many photos of it. We arrived back at the hostel just in time for the power came back on - pity it was bedtime!

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As per usual we didn't set off as early as we had planned but never mind! This time we were headed for Wellington but first we stopped off at Te Mata peak. The road up to it was crazy and very windy which our poor little automatic didn't like too much. The views from the top over Hawke's Bay were quite spectacular and there was a cool mountain bike track which made Kristian green with envy.

The drive to Wellington was about 300km and we just stopped off at a place called Masterton. We first of all visited a winery called "Paper Road" where we met a lovely Aberdonian man called Colin! Randomtimes. We left with our hands full of two bottles of Rose and after a little stop for lunch we carried on the rest of the way before arriving just before 4pm.

This evening was to be our first couch surfing experience and we were staying with a lovely lady called Janet, a man called Ian (not sure what their relationship was?) and their dog Roxy. Their house was typically Kiwi, meaning cold, but they were really friendly with a hint of hippyishness About them. They cooked us some amazzzzzzzzing food and we passed the blustery evening getting to know them.

Last day of this entry...finally! To follow the tradition from the previous Tuesday we slept in late before heading down into Wellington. We managed to find the Indian High Commission; it was so different from where we got our Chinese visas in London. So quiet!! Was really easy and they said they would hold onto our passports so at least we don't have to worry about loosing those in the South Island. It was a truly foul day so after booking our ferry for the next day we hit our first museum of our trip, Te Papa. here we learnt lots about volcanoes, the World and experienced and earthquake in a house which was rather cool. We then went on to find out about NZ immigration and we played a game where we had to get a boat full of immigrants to New Zealand at a profit without killing too many of them! We both managed to make a profit so perhaps that is where our future lies!! The last thing we saw before leaving was a real collosal squid. It was pretty darn mahoosive and quite a sight to see.

By now it was really cold and windy outside and we toyed with the idea of going to the cinema. However, we didn't have Janet's number so thought we had best head back there and check in. Good job we did as they were cooking a roast chicken - yum yum. It wasn't a night for doing anything, the wind was proper howling round the house, so it was lovely to be inside by a fire!!

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Posted by jo.kris 01:34 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

New Zealand Week One

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View blablah! & north island on jo.kris's travel map.

It was so good to land in New Zealand and even the immigration man was nice - he was telling us where to go and what to visit...such a difference to in the US!!! We booked into the ACB Base and went out for a little explore in the rain. We had a Mexican for tea and then made our first journey to the tower before returning home to bed in our windowless room. The guy in our room told us of how he'd had his bag stolen the week before from his room when he was sleeping so now we're being even more precautious!

We moved rooms in the morning and it still didn't have any windows!! We headed straight off to the i-site information centre where a guy called Ashley helped us to find the best deal for our car hire; we booked something with him straight away :-). We were on a high as we hadn't expected it to be so easy to sort the car out. For lunch it was time to experience our first pie of New Zealand and some Tam Tams which are the NZ equivalent of penguins. As the car had been so quick and easy to sort out we had to contemplate how to spend the rest of the day. Wound up being a really silly day with lots of laughter and giggling before deciding we ought to go up the Sky Tower since we had walked back and forth from it so many times in the past 24 hours.

It was just before sunset when we headed up which was the perfect time as we saw it in daylight and nightlight. Just meant that we had to hang around quite a while. Saw a couple of people jump off the building (organised not suicide!) which was really impressive and some people doing a skywalk around the rim of the building.

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We tried to go and watch a band in the evening, however, we were turned away because we weren't dressed well enough. Pretty upsetting and not very traveller friendly!! Instead we headed off to a comedy club and managed to catch the second half. Here we experienced a very racist comedian who managed to offend the majority of the audience and was actually called racist by an audience member. None of the comedians were very funny unfortunately so it was a bit of a waste of $18.

We were picked up just after 9am to go and collect the car by a guy who refused to speak more than two words to us so it made for a slightly awkward car journey. We opted to take the full car insurance (just in cases!) and so the little pink car was our's for the next forty days :-).

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We droce off to find some maps and food before leaving Auckland via the bridge in order to head North. We went to Mangawhai Heads on the off chance that Jenny had replied to our e-mail; turned out that she had but would be away until 11pm and so we continued our drive North. We stopped off at Paihia, the gateway for the Bay of Islands, and booked into the Pipi Patch. But beforehand we stopped off to see the famous Hunterwasser toilets in Kawakawa - they are quite ridiculous!!

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After a little wander around, we grabbed some fish and chips for tea which we devoured by the sea. Afterwards we felt we deserved some ice cream since we were on the coast and it felt very much like we were in a warmer Scotland but it was still a bit nippy to eat it outside. After a trip to the supermarket, we showered and sorted out our "T" fancy dress for the evening's festivities. We eventually decided to go as a Tourist (Kristian) and a Toga Lady (Jo) but we did flirt with the idea of going as Tranvestite Twins!! Kristian looked wicked with his shorts rolled up, shirt tucked in and his white sock/flip flop combo.

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The money belt and camera set did set off the look though! The night started off slow and we got chatting with a Dutch Tina Turner...! After a few rounds of cards and a free teapot from the bar (think it was basically just Pineapple juice) the night started to liven up a bit as a Contiki tour joined the proceedings. After a game of "suck and blow", which we quite frankly sucked at, we did some more drinking and dancing. The next activity was the fancy dress judging which Kristian came fourth in!! Unfortunately a girl dressed as tiolet roll won the skydive - she did look amazing though. We got another free teapot out of it at least. The rest of the night is a blur with our photos shedding more light than our memories.....

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As a result of the night before we very almost slept in!!! Jo managed to mess up setting the alarm...so it was just chance that we did wake up in time! We rushed to the bay n order to make the boat which we did, thank goodness :-). We boarded the yellow boat and set off on the four hour trip around the islands; not a reccommended thing to do with a hangover! We found some dolphins pretty quickly which was really cool - they were much biggger than any we'd seen before. Unfortunately they didn't seem to want to play so we weren't able to swim with them :-(. By the time we left them there were about twelve of them swimming around and under the boat.

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Once we had left them, Kristian decided to feed the seagull which was flying alongside our boat - we got some pretty amazing photos of that and it certainly seemed to keep him entertained for a while! Meanwhile Jo had headed back inside the cabin as she was feeling a little worse for wear; a couple of sick bags later and she was starting to feel a little better!

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Next stop on the tour was to the hole in the rock which we were lucky enough to get to go through - the boat behind us bypassed it as they obviously thought it was too choppy. We stopped off at the biggest island for an hour where we had a bite to eat and a walk to a lookout point. The view from the lookout was really good and so we decided to make an attempt at some jumping photos! After a little ride round some more islands we were headed back for steadier ground.

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Once back on firm land we decided to drive right to the top of New Zealand, to Cape Reinga. Took about three and a half hours to get there but we arrived at one of the best times. There weren't many people around and when we got to the lighthouse we were actually the only two there! Pretty darn cool to say we were the two most northern people in New Zealand for that period of time. It was looking really stormy out at sea and Kristian got a bit obsessed with taking photos of the clouds and the sea.

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We had a bit of a joke around with the camera, making the most of having such an iconic spot to ourselves. We should've stayed there for the sunset but it was rather wet and windy so we droce down a bit and then stopped to watch it. Was a really good sunset what with all the storm clouds. As Jo was feeling a little bit more human by now she drove the hour and a half back to civilisation where we could get a bed for the night.

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After spending a night at a backpackers in Kaitaia, we were back in the car again. We first of all headed to Ahipara to see the start of the Ninety Mile Beach - was pretty impressive. We were kinda gutted that we couldn't take our car down onto the beach and drive along it :-(.

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Then we were back in the car for another ninty minutes to Kohukohu where we caught a ferry to Rawere. We were very lucky to make it, we had moments to spare, otherwise we would have been sitting around in a place where there was nothing for an hour. The ferry was just 15 minutes and we headed round towards the coast to see some good views of Hokianga.

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Next stop took us to the Waipoua Forest where we first of all saw Tane Mahuta, the God of the Forest, and then largest known Kauri tree. It is pretty impressively massive! After we were satisfied our eyes had seen enough of this tree we drove 1km along the road to do a short walk to see more huge tress. We walked for forty mintues to see "the father", the second biggest known kauri tree, before turning around and stopping by to see the four sisters. By now we were feeling like we'd seen enough trees for one day and so we jumped back in the car and made our way back to Mangawhai heads to meet Jen.

We arrived at her lodge at about 4 where she very kindly offered to put us up for the night. We dragged in all our bags and enjoyed a beer/a cup of tea out on the verandah before it was too chilly and the sun went down. She has the most fantastic views out onto the beach and the hen and chicken islands - a very lucky lady! Jenny cooked us meatballs for tea - it was sooooooooooo good to have some homecooked food! The night was very relaxed, full of stories about Kristian's mum before we settled down to watch some good old crime dramas on TV.

When we got up on Monday morning we learnt the weather forecasters had been right and the weather had turned for the worse. The rainy morning seemed to call for us to catch up with people at home...so we did! At 2pm we went for a horse ride along the beach which was rather exciting! The guy who was with us was rather weird and the part that he led along the beach was kinda boring. As we were just out for an hour the Japanese lady took us off into the dune for the ride back. It was once in here that we made an attempt at cantering. This proved to be problematic as Kristian's "gentelmanly" horse didn'tseem to want to go any fater than a walk! He got a few trots out of Geri but that was about it - was very funny indeed.

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We tried quite a few more times but never to much luck. Both of our horses seemed to be hungry and we were almost thrown over their heads a couple of times with their angst to eat some greenery. All in all it was a rather amusing way to pass the afternoon - Geri, nor us, seemed to want our hour to end as he stopped outside the gates from inside the yard. All that jo and the lady could hear was Kristian saying "Come on Geri, come on now...." This went on until the lady had to go round to get them which is when Geri seemed to understand his fun was over for the day.

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After a really long lin on on Tuesday we were sad to be leaving Jeanette and her amazing hospitality. Hopefully we'll be able to return again sometime in the future. This meant it was time to pack again before we were on teh road once more. The day as a whole was a bit on a write off as it was dark by the time we arrived at Waitomo. We booked into the YHA and cooked some tea before making an attempt to find a bushwalk where we'd get to see some glowworms. It was so dark and quiet and our maps were rubbish so eventually we gave up and called iot a night.

And so concludes our first week in Kiwi Land.

Posted by jo.kris 23:17 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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