Published: September 30th 2007September 30th 2007
Hello everyone, well we have almost come to the end of our time in Aotearoa New Zealand. And it wouldn't be complete without one last short blog. In our last blog we were at the tip of the South Island and we were very reluctant to leave. We fell so in love with the South Island that the North Island seemed like a foreign country. It certainly has some cool parts, but not the breathtaking scenery in such abundance as the South.
After leaving the Abel Tasman national park, we delayed our departure from the South in the little port town of Picton, where you catch the ferry over to Wellington. We stayed at a gorgeous hostel called the Sequoia lodge, which apart from being very laid back and comfortable, had a real cedar spa and chocolate pudding every night so I was happy. We checked out the Queen Charlotte Sound by taking a Mail Boat cruise around the various islands in the Sound. One of the points of interest was monument at the point where Captain Cook spent 101 days in total. We also checked out an island that was a predator free bird sanctuary. Even if you are
not a raging ornithologist, it is hard not to be impressed by the bird life here.
Eventually we dragged ourselves onto the ferry to Wellington and said our goodbyes to the South Island. We had stayed in the city last year so this time decided to stay in the small seaside village of Plimmerton, about 30 minutes out of the city. Not having had our fill of wildlife just yet, we visited the Karori Wildlife sanctuary, which is a haven for threatened native birds, reptiles and insects. Predators are kept out by an immensely long pest proof fence which encloses 1 square mile of sanctuary. One of the coolest creatures we saw up close was the Tuatara. The Tuatara is a prehistoric reptile which existed at the time of the dinosaurs, but was wiped out everywhere but NZ approximately 65 million years ago. It managed to survive on several of the islands surrounding NZ, and the first was brought to the sanctuary in 2005. They are incredibly hard to see in the native bush so we were lucky to spot one. We spent the rest of our few days in Wellington checking out some of the nearby beaches, having
Capt. Cook Monument
Ship's cove, Queen Charlotte sound
a wander around the very impressive Te Papa museum, and hanging out in the quirky cafe Chocolate Fish, apparently a favourite hang out of the Lord Of The Rings cast.
After Wellington we made the long drive North to Waitomo caves , where we had booked in to do some caving. The place we were staying was next to a Kiwi sanctuary and we got to see actual kiwis. I know, I know, too much about birds, but kiwis are really cool to see as they are endangered, nocturnal, flightless birds, who usually stay well hidden until after dark. They are also a fond symbol of NZ so we thought we should pay homage.
The Waitomo caves were the reason we were here and they didn't disappoint. Rob, myself and a nice Danish couple got kitted out in very attractive full body wet suits, welly boots, helmets and harnesses and abseiled down into the deep dark underground cave one by one. I had done a bit of abseiling before but that was when I had a surface to put my feet against as I descended. This was a totally different experience rappelling into thin air. But very fun!
After tramping through part of the cave system on foot (through freezing cold water) we came to a cathedral like cave where we could see thousands of tiny green glow worms on the ceiling. After we switched our headlamps off it took a while for our eyes to adjust but when they did it was pretty amazing. Even the fact that the "glow" from the glow worms is essentially the poo of fungus gnat didn't take away from the spectacle! After admiring the luminous poo, we hopped into giant inner tubes and rafted back down the water in the cave. Next came the caving part of the adventure. It was very fun but pretty challenging. Our guide had us crawling through various holes in the rocks, chosen depending on our size. I had to have a lot of trust in him when I felt completely wedged sideways in one of the holes. You just have to keep making really small adjustments to the position of your hips and shoulders until you squeeze through inch by inch. We made it through the caves our guide challenged us to......but definitely not for the claustrophobic!! Our final challenge was a rock climb back
Kaka (Bush Parrot)
A cousin of the Kea, this one lives at lower altitudes.
up out of the cave. We were glad to get out of our wetsuits and into some hot soup and showers afterwards.
That same day we made the last long haul up to Auckland, our last port of call where we are now. Auckland seems to be a city that you either love or hate. It seems like a lot of people here are either waiting to get out of Auckland and see the rest of the country after arriving here, or waiting for their flight home. As cities go it's pretty nice, but not why most people come to New Zealand. That said, we have had really sunny weather since we've been here so we've been able to get out on the water and check out some of the islands and volcanoes in the surrounding Hauraki Gulf. Our favourite place was Waiheke island, a 40 minute ferry ride from the city. Waiheke is 3-5 degrees centigrade warmer than the mainland, and definitely has a tropical feel to it. It is also famous for producing some fabulous wine and olives so we decided it would be rude to visit some of the wineries and do some tasting. We visited
"the living fossil"
Cable Bay and Mudbrick wineries and tasted some pretty nice varieties including Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. After a few glasses of wine, we decided it was time to splash out on a very nice lunch at Cable Bay vineyard. After living on a budget it felt like a huge blow out to dine at a fine restaurant, but the location was second to none so it was worth it. Rob tasted black pudding for the first time which he enjoyed as I knew he would.
Another one of the islands we visited was Rangitoto, which is actually the most recently erupted volcano in the area (last erupted 600 years ago). It will definitely erupt again which will be bad news for Auckland, but hopefully not before we leave!
So now we are heading out to celebrate our last night in New Zealand before jetting off to see our families and friends again which we are looking forward to. Hope to see some of you very soon.
E noho ra Aotearoa!
There are more photos below