A Travellerspoint blog

New Zealand - Rotorua & Auckland

Geothermal heaven & big balls.

sunny 23 °C

We alighted the ever trusty Intercity in Rotorua and... oh Jesus, what's that awful smell..? We were soon to learn that Rotorua is an absolute hive for geothermal activity and natural springs resulting in a constant smell of Sulphur (eggy farts) in the air.

We spent our first day wandering around. Rotorua is the spiritual home of Maori so there is plenty of opportunity to learn more about the Maori culture but it was the geothermal activity which we got really into. As we strolled through the park there are these massive pools of natural hot bubbling mud - now you don't see that alot at home. We spent the evening at the Polynesian Spa where they have numerous natural springs varying in temperature from 37 degrees to a whopping 43 degrees - pretty hot stuff.

The next day we went on a trip to Wai-O-Tapu a thermal wonderland. Our first stop was at the Lady Knox Geyser which erupts everyday at 10.15am prompt. Initially I was mighty impressed that the Geyser operated like clockwork until we arrived and discovered that they put some soap into the Geyser which generates a reaction which causes it to erupt. Non the less 600 tourists a day turn up to see it in action. It looked just like a water fountain once it was going but it was good to see and hear the build up.

Lady Knox Geyser

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After the Geyser we headed into the Wai-O-Tapu park where there is a collection of some 25 natural wonders. My personal favorites where the Devil's Bath - a massive crater filled with florescent yellow / green water a result of excess water mixed with Sulphur and ferrous salts and also the Champagne Pools a spring measuring 65m in diameter and 62m deep. The surface temperature is 74 degrees (you don't want to accidentally fall into this one) the bubbles are caused by carbon dioxide and it has all these mad colours caused by various minerals such as mercury, sulphur, arsenic and thallium.

The Champagne Pools

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Geothermal activity at it's best

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After being dazzled by Wai-O-Tapu the following day we decided to go Zorbing. The Zorb is a massive inflatable sphere which you climb inside. It is then filled with water, sealed and you are rolled down a steep hill. Sounds silly? It's exactly that but we had so much fun we did it twice. At first you are told to stand up and run the down the hill but its not long before you are sliding all over the place and plop out at the end a soaking, giggling mess.

We're off

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Thumbs up to Zorbing

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Got to do that again!

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Auckland.

We headed up to Auckland as our last stop in New Zealand. We'd heard alot of bad press about Auckland, mainly people saying it wasn't that good a city. I don't mind it too much, I mean it isn't as good as Wellington and it doesn't blow your sox off but we have spent the last 4 days here quite easily. We made a visit to the Sky Tower regarded as Auckland's premiere tourist attraction and it is bloody high, infact 328m high making it the tallest tower in the southern hemisphere. We went all the way up to the top and were blessed with a clear day so the views were pretty spectacular.

Sky Tower views

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Auckland from Waiheke Island ferry

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We also made a trip over to Waiheke Island a 35 minute ferry ride from central Auckland. It offers a good mix of white-sand beaches, green farmland and top wineries. It was a welcome change to the "bright lights" of Auckland City. We had some crackling weather so we got some decent walking done and spent the rest of our time chilling out.

So that's New Zealand.

Our Next stop - Raratonga.

Posted by greggers 19:55 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

New Zealand - Taupo

Throwing ourselves off / out of things.

sunny 21 °C

We were heading to Taupo for one reason and one reason only - to Skydive over Lake Taupo. We headed straight down to the I-Site centre and got ourselves booked in for a 10.30am jump the following day (weather permitting). We went to get something to eat and pondered over how to spend the afternoon when Mark pipes up with "fancy a bungy?" "why not" I reply and off we trot to throw ourselves off another high ledge.

The bungy site is set in the volcanic Waikato River Valley and is regarded as one of the world's most spectacular bungy sites - it really was stunning. Ofcourse when you arrive it always looks higher than you think (it's 47 metres) but I liked the idea of it being over water and getting dunked.

It was pretty quiet so we got weighed, signed our lives away and went to get shackled up. We opted for a tandem bungy was a way of celebrating our 7th month of travelling without killing one another. We hobbled to the edge, nervously smiled for the camera, then 3-2-1-BUNGY off we popped. Although it wasn't as high as the Canyon Swing I did in Queenstown I would say it was scarier as your hurtling down head first. We hit the water and bounced around a few times before being collected by the little boat. It was definitely a thrill and we both had that adrenalin rush afterwards when you've done something abit scary.

The bungy site

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We went back to see the photo's and watch the DVD. We ended up buying the DVD as it is pure comedy - we are so thick about everything. First we can't locate the camera for the photo and one of the guys has to grab Mark's head and physically turn it to face the camera. Then there is quite alot of swearing as we make the jump. Finally, the guy on the boat hold out a long stick for you to grab hold of as you are lowered into the boat. Mark grabs it and he pulls us in then guy says "Ok you can let go now" Mark still holds on "Ok mate - I've got you, you can let the stick go" Mark's still not letting go. In the end he has to pries his fingers off the bloody stick one by one.

Taupo - The Skydive

We are relieved to wake up the following morning to a perfect blue sky and no wind. There is always a risk the jump will be cancelled if the weather isn't good. We get picked up and its a short drive out to Taupo Airport. I'm feeling pretty good at this stage - no real nerves. We get weighed and paid up then there is about an hour of waiting around so we watch other people coming in to land - I'm getting excited now, everyone who lands says it's awesome. Our names are called so we go and get our jumpsuits on and harnessed up, we are jumping with two birds from Sheffield and a Japanese couple.

The plane

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In our jumpsuits

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I get introduced to JK my Jump Master who I'll be jumping with and we all climb aboard the smallest plane ever. It takes about 20 mins to reach 12,000 so I'm just looking out the window and I feel we are getting pretty high. JK taps me on the shoulder and I think he's going to say get ready we're almost there, but no he shows me his watch which revels we are only at 2,000 ft another 10,000 ft to go - you've got to be shitting me!

Exit shot - perhaps my goggles ate abit tight..?

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The land below finally disappears, we're beyond the clouds and we eventually reach 12,000 ft. Time for final safety checks, the harness is so tight I can hardly breath. I'm the 5th out of 6 to jump but before I know it I am sat on the edge of a plane at 12,000 ft with my legs dangling over the edge. Smile for the camera, wait for the green light and then we're off. The feeling is absolutely amazing, at first you tumble through the air and as I look up I can see the bottom off the plane we've just come from. Then we steady horizontally and JK taps me on the shoulder to indicate that I can hold my arms out. We freefall from 12,000 ft to 5,000 ft in 45 seconds accelerating up to 200 kmp in 9.8 seconds. It's seriously the best rush ever, your just hurtling through clouds and trying to take in the scenery. It feels like you can see the whole world you are so high, you seriously think you are the frickin' Daddy!

At 5,000 ft JK opens the parachute and we start to float, he keeps pulling the cords so we spiral and traverse from left to right. The views are amazing and it is so peaceful. The last 5,000 ft lasts for about 8-10 mins but it all over far too quickly. Soon your back safely on land but you are on the biggest high ever. I would recommend it to anyone.

Our next stop - Rotorua.

Posted by greggers 20:11 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

New Zealand - Wellington

We made Party!

sunny 19 °C

I was mighty impressed with the ferry which escorts you from the South to the North Island. It was a proper Titanic affair - apart from we didn't sink which we were pleased about as in my opinion there were nowhere near enough life rafts. We passed the three hours chilling on the top deck taking in the views until it got too cold so retreated to the TV lounge and chilled out watching Martha.

We chanced upon Katie who we originally met at the Arts Factory in Byron whilst on the ferry so we arranged to meet her and some of her Kiwi Experience mates that evening for drinks. Wellington is the first place in New Zealand we've visited which resembles a proper city, lots of cool bars, cafes and restaurants. After a hearty Nando's we ploughed into the beers and proceeded to get a little bit very drunk - but I still have all my teeth so it wasn't quite my best effort.

The following day is a complete haze, we were both sporting world championship hangovers so we just kind of wandered around Wellington doing absolutely nothing. Thankfully, soon it was time for bed so we retired safe in the knowledge that we will be feeling human again when we resurfaced.

We faired better on our 2nd day in Wellington and threw ourselves head first into sightseeing. First up was the Te Papa museum which is without doubt the best museum ever (and I have seen more than my fair share in past 6 months so I recon that's fair comment) It is absolutely massive and has lots of wicked interactive exhibits - for example you can go into a mock-up of a house and they replicate what it feels like to experience a earthquake. There was also lots of information about Maori tradition which was really interesting. Next we took the cable car up the hill so we could get a panoramic shot of Welly.

Wellington Cable Car

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We planned for another quite night as we had an early alarm call in the morning but deary me, we got completely seduced by the bright lights of Wellington's night life (again) and rocked in at 3.30am.

Napier

Our next stop was Napier a little Art Deco city a few hours north of Wellington. Napier was pretty much destroyed by fire following a massive earthquake (7.9 on the Richter scale) on Tuesday 3rd February 1931. The city was rebuilt in the style of that era and by the end of the decade Napier was the newest city on the globe - wow!

Radioactive Fountain

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Art Deco Church

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I really liked Napier although we only spent a few days wandering around as there isn't anything in particular to do - it was a good opportunity to dry out.

Our next stop - Taupo.

Posted by greggers 19:25 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

New Zealand - Kaikoura

Picton - Nelson - Renwick

all seasons in one day 18 °C

Translated from Maori to English Kaikoura means "Eat Crayfish" it is one of the best places in the universe for Crayfish apparently, unfortunately I don't eat any fish which isn't tuna and Mark has a allergy to fish which makes his face explode - he wasn't sure if this was covered in his travel insurance so decided best not to risk it.

It wasn't all bad though, Kaikoura is also famous for it's whale watching so we were straight down the whale watching centre waiting to board our vessel with multiple like minded nature enthusiasts. Typical of New Zealand the tour was exceptionally well organised, our vessel was brand-spanking new and fully blinged out with all the very latest whale located gadgetry.

We cruised out for about 15 minutes as the guide set our expectations, on average 1 or 2 whales are spotted per trip, if we got a "no show" (highly likely given our track record) a 80% discount is given. No fear though, the GPS had already picked up our first candidate and it was a millions knots ahead before it disappeared under the surface again.

There she goes

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The whales appear every 45 to 50 minutes to breath on the surface for roughly 10 mins before they dive down again. You only see 10% of the whale above the water but they are enormous measuring up to 60 feet long and weighing in at a colossal 40 tons - it was hard to believe we were so close. The guide got on the mic after a few minutes and advised us to get our camera's ready "She's going down" and then the whale took a massive dive and flung it's tail in the air for the money shot. We were lucky enough to see a further two whales so we finished our stint in Kaikoura mission accomplished.

Picton & Nelson.

We continued north to Picton to book our ferry to the South Island in a weeks time and spent two day's doing some walking around the Queen Charlotte track.

Picton scenery

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Nelson was much the same although we thought it may be abit more lively. We took the opportunity to book some flights to Raratonga for Xmas and toyed with the idea of making a trip to Abel Tasman National Park only to discover it was a pricey affair - cue brainwave.

Renwick - Marlborough wine region.

We realised that we would pass through a tiny village called Renwick on our way back to Picton to catch our ferry and decided to spend two days doing the wineries. The Marlborough wine region is New Zealand's most important wine area famous for its Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.

Our first stop in Renwick

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The lovely lady at our hostel gave us a map of all the wineries in the region, furnished us with two bikes and sent us on our merry way. Our first stop - Cloudy Bay probably the most well known in the UK (well to an amateur like me) and incidentally my Mum's tipple of choice. The Holland clan have endured many a cloudy head after a bender on the Cloudy Bay. Well it wasn't long before we were swilling, smelling and slurping like proper wino's. We visited six wineries in total sampling Chardonnay's, Pinot Noir, Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grit. To think we spent 8 weeks in Oz drinking goon by the gallon is criminal - we've come a long way!

So we had a great day getting drunk for free - it was a fitting end to a great month in the South Island.

Our next stop - Wellington.

Posted by greggers 20:16 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

New Zealand - Fox Glacier

Skating on thin ice...

all seasons in one day 16 °C

At 13kms long Fox Glacier is the longest of New Zealand's coastal glaciers with it's peak rising to over 3,000 meters high, it now forms part of the South Westland World Heritage Area. The glacier constantly advances and retreats, held in delicate balance by the accumulation of snow gained in the upper glacier and ice melting in the lower part. Overall Fox Glacier has been advancing since 1985.

We arrived in Fox, found ourselves a cosy little hostel for the next few nights and went to go and book our glacier hike for the following day. It turns out we were sharing a dorm room with two aussies (Sarah and Steve) who were also doing the glacier hike so we were all up early the next morning for hearty hikers breakfast and making our packed lunches. We headed over to the hike centre to get kitted out with boots, thick socks, hat, gloves, rain jacket and cramptons to attach to our boots when we reached the glacier - we looked like extra's from Touching the Void.

It was a short bus ride to the glacier where we were spilt into two groups of 12. After an initial hour long hike through the forest we were ready to get onto the glacier so we all stopped to get some extra layers on and most importantly attach our Cramptons. Our guide was a guy called Chris who was really knowledgeable so as we were walking to the glacier he enlightened us to all the geography behind the glacier and its movements.

Fox Glacier

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We had decided to do the day long hike as we've done alot of walking on our travels and it meant we got to go higher onto the glacier for better views and ice quality. It felt pretty weird at first as you are literally just walking on ice but Chris had told us how to use the Cramptons effectively so we didn't slip all over the place. There were pre-cut steps for the majority of the path's we used in the morning up until lunch time.

Chris cutting our path

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After lunch it got alot more exciting as Chris used his pick-axe to cut our path as we walked - we were proper off roading. The views were amazing and the ice alot better quality, it has a really nice light blue shine to it, a result of it being so tightly compact - I suppose that is where the term ice-blue comes from. Chris took us on a walk through some really narrow crevasses which was really cool (literally) they were really narrow and cold (obviously) but an excellent experience. There were also really deep natural crevasses which you had to be really careful to not slip down otherwise you could get trapped and die.

The hat isn't mine!

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In the Crevass

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We all made it back safe and sound and abit tired after a long day and celebrated with a few Speight's.

The TranzAlpine

The following morning we got the bus to Greymouth so we could ride the TranzAlpine to Christchurch. The TranzAlpine is regarded as one of the most scenic journey's in New Zealand crossing from the West coast to the East. We travelled through the fields of the Canterbury Plains, spectacular gorges and river valley's of the Waimakariri River and climbed the Southern Alps. It was a welcome change to the bus and well worth the $$$'s invested.

Christchurch
where's da Craic at?

The largest of the south islands cities, we hoped it would be hardcore party time in Christchurch. We've searched high and low but to no avail - no Craic was not to be had. We have whiled the past few days away with a combination of city tours, walks up more mountains and trips to the cinema. Today we ventured as far as Hanmer on a day trip to the thermal pools and spent hours sitting in 41 degree sulphur pools until we felt faint - now we just smell of rotten eggs.

Our next stop - Kaikoura.

Posted by greggers 22:22 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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