A Travellerspoint blog

New Zealand

Kiwi come, kiwi go, kiwi stay by the looks of it!

Queenstown to Auckland Day 194 - 206

rain 14 °C
View World Wide Wander on millfred's travel map.

Chess score = Brazil 6 England 0 (Typical)
Weight of scroggin' mix (nuts, raisins, chocolate raisins and peanuts, chocolate buttons, smarties) consumed = 4kg
No. of meal breaks on the Franz Josef to Nelson bus journey (10 hours) = 6
No. of kiwi fruit for the equivalent of a pound = 15

After our day in Milford which was the highlight of our NZ adventure so far (did we mention the all you can eat buffet on board the cruise ship?) we decided to hotfoot it up to Franz Josef Glacier on the west coast of the sound island mainly because of the fear that we’d spend the rest of our budget on shotski’s (four shots of suspended in one ski)! We we’re joined on our bus journey and subsequent night-time glow worm hunt by brazilian chess wizard Felipe. The next day we tramped up to the foot of the glacier all the while amusing ourselves with the 20 questions Animal game (scraping the barrel, I know, but our lanky brazilian compadre is a vet so it seemed apt). Its was a great site even without shelling out for the guided tour.
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After a strenuous days hiking I thought I (Richard) would laud it up in the Sauna that was advertised by our hostel as a bonus freebie. However instead of a steaming paradise I ended up sweating for 45 mins in what resembled a garden shed with a couple of electric heaters strapped to the walls. (I couldn’t duck out of it after committing the manager to set it up for me!)

A longer bus journey awaited the three of us (Felipe in tow) the following day as we wound our way north to Nelson. What could have been 5 hours turned out to be 10 due to the insistence of the bus company to provide their drivers with a meal break every 40 mins. Its was like we were on a Café tour (most of which had a hunting theme to Pauline’s dismay) that also happened to take us to our destination. This would have been right up my street if I could afford it or hadn’t just pilfered half the items on the hostels free food shelf! To top it all our hyperactive driver (think Danny Devito in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest) and his high pitched, village idiot, sidekick sitting behind him wouldn’t stop telling grandad jokes all the way. I had to restrain Pauline who turned to me with death in her eyes and commented ‘I think I might murder him’.

After all that the city of Nelson turned out to be a nice, chilled out stop. We checked in to ‘The Palace’ hostel (bit of a contradiction in terms maybe, but one of the best we’ve had) and were immediately offered the owner’s car to take on a day tour for free, even though we hadn’t yet paid for our room! This amused Felipe no end. We therefore hopped in the old Nissan estate the following morning (complete with our Portuguese linguist and another English traveller – Gurnam - who we hunted down after meeting her on the bus) and drove to the Abel Tasman National Park to walk the much hyped coastal track. After witnessing 3 hours of torrential rain we turned back.
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We thought we’d make up for the disappointment by getting a few free tasting sessions in at the area’s famous wineries but they we’re all closed. In the end we had to settle for a self made beer tasting in a local pub (I’m trying to make it sound better than going for a quiet drink alright!)

An early morning start took us back to the North Island and the capital Wellington on the ferry.
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Here we said our goodbyes to the kiwi fruit guzzling samba star. We spent an afternoon nurturing our minds at the vast museum as well as getting to know two old ladies after chancing upon an event where you had to hold hands with a stranger and chat whilst a blob of plaster hardened in between your paws. DSC_0054.jpg
Strange I know but it’ll all be part of an exhibition in a few weeks so we couldn’t resist leaving our mark here.

Heading north on the North Island we entered our next destination of Lake Taupo (an ancient Super volcano caldera) for one reason alone. Bungy. I decided to throw myself off a 47m high platform the next day and I definitely don’t regret it. It’s worth pointing out that I picked this site over the more famous Queenstown jump because I had a voucher for 30% off (my ma would be proud) but found it to be a more picturesque location anyway. Not that you notice on the way down. I did have another jumping with me, although it wasn't Pauline but her soft toy travelling companion Boss strapped to my arm!
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We’re now in back in Auckland and stuck because of some volcano erupting in Chile so the next blog might be all about supermarket arguments and hostel gripes. What’s that? Can’t wait. Until then folks.

Posted by millfred 14:54 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

# Never been this far away from home#

Auckland to Queenstown via everywhere in-between Day 175 - 194

rain 10 °C

Number of degrees below freezing at night in our camper = 5
Number of nights spent camping in NZ = 16
Number of other people camping in NZ at this time of year = 0
Number of cm snow in ski resort NZ = 0

We started our New Zealand tour in Auckland. Found a great hostel and we didn't exactly exert ourselves on arrival, we just took the opportunity to recharge our batteries. We took the ferry over to Devonport and strolled around some extinct volcanoes and enjoyed yet another coastal walk. A well established feature of this trip, we are map geeks at heart and like walking around the edge of countries. We soon learned how fast the weather can change over here and rain nearly put a stop to out tomato soup lunch break, just as Richard had a genius flask design idea, can't tell about that yet. Pauline found the perfect rain shelter in the form of a kid's puzzle shop. We nearly missed the ferry back!

From Auckland then we headed south in our oh so cool camper van. The Toyota 'Bongo' as it was named was far from luxurious but gave us licence to roam the beautiful countryside and stop wherever we liked. We paddled in thermal (eggy) pools and marveled and giggled at bubbling mud geezers in Rotorua, found amazing waterfalls and chatted to really friendly locals. Most of whom seemed to have visited the North East of England at least once and one who'd even played a bit of Rugby professionally in Newcastle. We have been bowled over by the Kiwi hospitality, not to mention the 'sweet iz' accent too. Most of all we just enjoyed driving on at our own pace, which in the bongo was usually about 50kph, if we were lucky, there are a lot of hills here!

To keep costs down, The Department of Conservation have been kind enough to provide us with basic but very very picturesque campsites. I say 'us' because we are yet to share a site with anyone else crazy enough to be sleeping in a camper/people carrier in winter! Honestly though, you couldn't ask for more beautiful surroundings. Although the picture perfect sunrises over mountains in remote spots still aren't enough to get Pauline out of bed before one hundred 'snoozes'. Richard is permanently on brekkie duty. We carried on down SH1, unfortunately it stands for State Highway and not Super highway like Pauline thought. Super would be a better word for it. We toured the national parks there stopping in both Kaimanawa and Tongariro. I'd like to say that those nights spent at one with nature have developed my adventurous side but to be honest I was mostly petrified after dark. Sheep look so innocent in daylight, but menacing in the moonlight!

We crossed the Cook Straight on a beautifully clear day and as we were slightly tied to getting the Bongo back to Christchurch on time wasted no time heading south. We did however find the time for a spot of wine tasting in the Marlborough Region, be rude not to. The campsites got even better and we enjoyed views of Cloudy Bay and the stunning East Coast from our beach front camp. This time we had company from real people as well as a nosy hedgehog. We spent the last day or so driving the 'Top Gear' esq coastal roads in Kaikoura and then arrived in Christchurch.

We weren't prepared for the extent of the damage there, it felt very strange. The whole of the CBD is still entirely inaccessible and the destruction caused to buildings and roads is all too visible. There is a very real sense of the loss and it seems it will be a very long time before the city and its inhabitants are ok. After a very small aftershock during our second night there, we didn't hang around.

Camper van number 2! We took our time heading South West across the South Island, following the old Gold trail. Didn't find any unfortunately! Highlights included spotting Yellow eyed penguins in Oamaru, cycling a section of the Otago Central Rail Trail around Omakau and stopping to meet the locals in the many tiny towns. Mostly drunk farmers.

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Now we are in Queenstown, tearing up the runs? I hear you ask, Nope. More snow in The Sahara we think. Disappointing but it's hard to be mad at such an amazingly beautiful part of the world. Crystal clear lakes and Mountains galore, and there are benefits to unseasonably fair weather. We have tramped (hiked in Kiwi lingo) the Routeburn Track and walked along the shores of Lake Wakatipu. Although we still have 10 days left, it's possible our New Zealand adventure reached it's peak today with a trip to Milford Sound. Wrong time of year for the full on 5-day trek so had to settle for a pretty long day trip. So much information en-route from 'Wayno' our guide. Right through the dramatic mountains and waterfalls to the famous sound. Breathtaking scenery to be seen on the boat-trip but the photo ops were almost forgotten when a pod of dolphins took the opportunity to play around in the slip stream of the catamaran for well over 30mins in the freezing rain. They must have thought we were all crazy for watching for so long but it was hard to turn away, especially since they had their youngest member in tow. Definitely one of the best days yet!

More pics soon... we forgot to bring the hard drive!

Posted by Po Gallon 02:05 Archived in New Zealand Comments (5)

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