Email written on the 31st May 06.
New Zealand..... The most beautiful place ever!!!
I recommend EVERYONE to go to NZ it truly is an amazing place.
We landed in Auckland on the North Island and the race began!
5 weeks to see a country with sooooooooo many great places to visit!
We caught a bus to a hotel that had been recommended to us, but so used to just rocking up somewhere and getting a bed the ‘No Vacancy’ sign was a bit of a shock to us! We checked out another couple on the same road that were also full! Ooops!
We began wandering around the suburbs of Auckland with no map, our backpacks feeling heavy on our backs and the rain coming down!
We wandered for a while hoping to stumble upon a bed for the night but no joy, instead we stumbled upon a car rental pace. We had planned on hiring a car at some point so no time like the present!
We hired ourselves a little green Ford Festiva (Freddie) and off we went!
We stayed in Auckland for a few days enjoying city life, a trip to the cinema helped us remember normality! I got really home sick in the supermarket! It was so disorientating being back in a western country.
We wandered around the supermarket for ages before realizing that we hadn’t put anything in to our basket, we were just staring at everyone! Then it hit me, it was just like home; car, food shopping, English speaking, everything very familiar bit without the gratification of seeing friends and family! I sobbed at the checkout! Silly me, I soon got over it!
Its funny how much joy we got from being able to self cater! We can cook for ourselves and wash our own clothes. Finally the lady by the river doesn’t have to bang the dirt out of our clothes anymore – how our buttons and zips have survived I’ll never know!
From Auckland we headed North exploring the east coast to the beautiful bay of islands and the most northerly point of the island: Cape Reinga.
We explored the bay of islands on a stunning Catamaran and went diving for the biggest green-lipped mussels ever!
We enjoyed Cape Reinga at its best – in a storm. The clashing waves of the Pacific Ocean meeting the Tasman sea – spectacular!
We stopped in a place called Henderson bay (pink sand beaches!) and took a nice walk along the shore.
After a while the tide started to come in and we were expecting a path to appear to lead us off the beach. No path appeared and so I had the genius idea that we would climb up the rocks behind to get off of the beach. It was probably too late to wander back with the tide changing anyway!
Great idea – I got half way up and froze! I couldn’t go any further up and I couldn’t move back down! Poor Adam – he climbed around me like Spiderman trying to maneuver me off the rocks! In hindsight it is very funny – however gripping rocks with sweaty palms was not quite as amusing!
We had often been told to whiz through the North Island and get ourselves to the South Island – the problem was that we were loving the North Island!
We didn’t want to hurry away from it.
We headed south down the beautiful west coast – the kauri coast. We saw the biggest Kauri tree in NZ, it really was BIG!
We found ourselves in a strange little town called Dargaville in need of a bed and so found the local hostel – a primary school!
The dorm was the school hall. I had children’s painting up and everything. We had dinner in the staff room and the tiny kids sized outside toilets were interesting!
We headed to Taurunga where I met up with a kiwi I know from home and her boyfriend Jody and Shane.
Jody marched us to the top of the local mount where the views were outstanding. We took the time to catch up before Shane’s parents welcomed us in to their home like we were their own children. We were pampered. I was so nice to feel ‘mothered’! We were fed, given the luxury of the guest bedroom, hot showers and ever packed off with food from their cupboards! We were both smiling for days feeling al fussed over!
From Tarunga we headed to Waitomo caves. We spent an evening walking through the woods admiring the glow-worms (it’s actually their poo that glows!) Then the following day we pulled on lycra suits, caving helmets and attached ourselves to big black tubes and went black water rafting in the caves! It was great but freezing. It was a lot of fun exploring the caves, but throwing ourselves backwards off of waterfalls in the dark was certainly an experience! It was probably at this point that I realized that NZ was out to turn me in to GI Jane!!
Next up we headed to the smelly town of Roturua – home of the most extraordinary geo-thermal activity. It smells of rotten eggs and there is no escaping it! It drove me mad! We saw bubbling mud pools, steaming craters, an erupting geyser and many other examples of how amazing nature can be – ever town has its own volcano!
We also took time to learn about the Maori culture. Adam was thrilled to see the Haka performed live, and I loved the singing and dancing of the traditional arts.
Before leaving Roturua we headed to a high, steep hill and took part in an activity called Zorbing! Have a look at www.zorb.co.nz
It really was the funniest thing ever!
You climb in to a giant rubber ball, which contains lots of water and roll down a hill. I imagine its what being in a washing machine might be like… but fun! Trying to stand up is almost impossible!
Next up we headed to Taupo to admire the biggest crater lake in NZ! We also paid a visit to the Huka Fals. I guess we’ve seen so many waterfalls over the last 5 month that we have stopped expecting much (we’re waterfall snobs!) but as our eyes caught sight of these falls we realized that everything in NZ is in a different league! Just glancing in to the churning water makes you grip the rail a bit tighter! It’s so strong and fast.
And so finally we headed to Wellington, last stop on our North island exploration.
Everyone loves Wellington – except me and Ad.
It just wasn’t our sort of place. Again we made the mistake of rocking up in town with no hostel booked. I know we should have learnt but booking means having a schedule and that is NOT what backpacking is about.
After railing around loads of hostels that were full we noticed the extremely posh ‘Cambridge Hotel’ listed as having budget accommodation. Turns out they have cornered all markets. Along with the posh hotel, casino and bar they had fitted a backpackers in as well! Backpackers had to use the side door of course (riff raff!) but we decided to give it a go! We secured ourselves a couple of dorm beds and couldn’t believe our luck.
How wrong we were. We entered our room, an 8 bed dorm, to find ourselves in the messiest bedroom in the world! The others staying there had been there months and had moved in! The carpet had disappeared amongst the sea of clothes, plates and cups were hiding under every bed, it was disgusting! We dumped our bags and tried to laugh, reassuring ourselves it was only for 2 nights.
The kitchen followed suit and was a tip, we didn’t think it could get any worse until we met our fellow roommates. They started the evening with a party in our shoebox size room and then thankfully hit the town. At 4am the party came back.. They were such slobs! One guy looked like he hadn’t washed in months, it was confirmed in the morning when he grabbed some clothes off of the floor, threw them on, grabbed his toothbrush off of the floor and without water or toothpaste ran it around his mouth and then chucked it back on the floor! Then off he went out!
Finally we left Wellington and caught the ferry across Cooks strait to the south island. Wow!
As you approach the south island you can see how breath taking it is. Every corner that you turn in NZ is a stunning landscape!
We headed to Abel Tasmin National Park where we decided to explore the par by Kayak. It was stunning.
We paddled alongside gorgeous coast and in and out of beautiful lagoons.
One lagoon was like a lost world – so quiet with turquoise water and lush green trees growing out of the sheltering cliffs.
As we paddled in we were greeted by a very playful group of baby seals!
They were rushing around us playing with our paddles and resting their heads on our kayaks!
We decided to drive the rugged west coast of the south island to the beaches and powerful surf.
We stopped at the magnificent Franz Josef and Fox glaciers! (By now we were wearing fleeces and wooly hats!)
We explored the glaciers starting with a full day hike up Franz Josef! It was hard work and at times scary learning to trust the spikes on the bottom of my snow boots whilst walking ip sheer sheets of ice, but I loved it! We had our own ice axes and learnt to cut steps as we went!
Next up we explored the Fox Glacier by throwing ourselves out of a plane above it!
(Considering the kiwi is a flightless bird strapping ourselves to one and jumping out of a plane might have been given a bit more consideration!)
The skydive was awesome and I recommend it to everyone!
Unfortunately I made a drastic mistake… I opened my mouth during the free fall This meant I not only increased my cheek flapping I also dribbled a lot! And yes it is all very clear in the DVD so you can all laugh at me looking extremely graceful flying through the air!
When the parachute opens everything goes silent and you take in the view whilst floating back to earth! I was smiling for hours afterwards living on the adrenaline – I was like a little kid who drank too much fizzy pop!
Next up we headed to the adventure town of Queenstown! You can do every adventure activity under the sun in this one town! I really liked Queenstown but it is easy to get sucked in to the buzz of doing EVERYTHING! We opted for Jet-Boating through the shot over canyon! It was great fun – flying through the canyon almost hitting everything and experiencing the famous 360-degree spins!
We then quickly left Queenstown before I blew our entire budget on adrenaline!
We left Queenstown and headed to a completely different environment upon the Milford sound.
We took a boat trip along the sound awestruck by the countless waterfalls and beautiful scenery. We were warned about the dwarfing effect and it really happened! Everything was soooo big that it all started to look small or at least normal sized! (Make sense? I hope so!) It wasn’t until we saw another boat next to a waterfall that we had just seen that we realized how HUGE it really was!
We headed east to the start of the Catlin coast, famous for its nature. We drove through the winding scenic roads (complete with sheep of course – 4 to every person!) admiring the stunning coast, stopping at beaches to have a wander and see what creatures were living there. We saw hectors dolphins riding the surf whilst we were strolling along one beach! We also saw lots of seals. At a place called Roaring Bay we silently waiting in a hide on the beach at sunset and watched the yellow eyed penguins arriving back from a hard days fishing! It’s hilarious to watch them swim up on to the beach and then waddle up the beach to their nests!
We arrived in the student town of Dunedin and felt instantly at home! It’s such a laid back place with great bars that you can sit outside and admire the city!
It’s an old town (for NZ standards) and it was nice to see some buildings that didn’t look like plastic lego! They even have a stunning cathedral.
We stayed in an old mansion house hostel called Hogwartz! It was beautiful!
From Dunedin we took a drive along the Otago peninsula to visit the albatross colony.
On the way Ad spotted a sea lion lazing on the beach, so we stopped and went for a closer look. It was soooo big! It seemed quite contented relaxing on the sand while we hid in the dunes inspecting it! I decided to go for a closer look despite Ads warnings…… when the sea lion started chasing me I was scared! I ran down the beach yelping with Ad not sure whether to laugh or help me! They are actually very aggressive and so I guess I had a lucky escape!
The Albatross colony was wonderful, we were extremely lucky to see 2 adult birds in flight and a fluff little chick! It was fascinating learning about them. Their wingspan is up to 3 meters! We also visited a penguin colony on the peninsula and again giggled at the comedy of the beautiful birds!
With our time in NZ evaporating fast we got our skates on and headed to Christchurch. We had one last trip to make before settling here to catch our flight.
Kaikoura – home of the humpback whale. We arrived at our booked hostel and were shown to our dorm. They failed to mention that they only like girls on the phone!
Ad was put in the shed! I joined him much to the disgust Im sure of the old lady running the hostel!
We decided to go whale watching….. in a storm!
I love boats and have never been sea sick before. I was on the boat 10 minutes and I turned green! I tried to focus on the horizon but the waves were bigger than the horizon! The lady behind chucking up in a paper bag wasn’t helping the situation. 2 hours and 13 miles out to sea an my head was spinning.
A whale could have come and sat on my lap for all I cared – I was no longer capable of opening my eyes. Finally the captain made the decision that the whales had gone off shore and it was dangerous to go out any further in the storm.
We headed back with me clutching Adams arm trying to hold down breakfast!
So no whales. Hopefully we’ll get the opportunity somewhere else.
Back to Christchurch to pack up ready to fly away.
With much mention of the kiwi, we felt it only right to go and visit a kiwi house during our time in NZ. It was here that we met Percy the one legged kiwi! He gracefully displayed the art of hopping around his enclosure for us which resulted in him toppling over and elegantly rolling around the floor! Not only flightless but legless! Poor Percy! It still makes me and Ad laugh whenever we remember Percy!