A Travellerspoint blog

July 2010

Fourth week of New Zealand

More exploration of the cold South


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!


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!


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!


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.


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.


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!


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!


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…


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!


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!


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!


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!!!

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!


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.


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.


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:


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.


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.


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.

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 :-).


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.


End of week!!!

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

Week dos in New Zealand :-)

Adventure time!!!!

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.


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!!


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!!)


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.


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.


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!!


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!!


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!

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.


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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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!


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!!


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

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