Published: November 30th -0001November 12th 2010
Saturday 30th October
Our flight from Nadi to Auckland (pop 1.3 million) only took two and a half hours and the international arrival process seemed to take longer than the flight itself. After customs checks and many questions later we are picked up by our tour operator, a company called Magic Bus who have organised a free shuttle bus to Auckland city centre.
On arrival at Auckland YHA we are given our travel packs which consisted of 28 days accommodation vouchers, travel guide and all the information we will need for the next 4 weeks of our travels.
The Yha hostel is quite big but essentially its clean, tidy and has good facitlities such as a large kitchens, laundrette, hi-speed internet rooms, tv lounge and reading room.
We went for a walk through the city and it was really busy as they were having a Indian festival along two of the main streets and nearby park.
There were lots of stalls along the way selling mainly food so we grabbed some munchies and headed towards to the harbour area.
Auckland, locally know as the city of Sails, is not what we expected but then again we have been
on a desert island for the last 7 days and are a bit spaced out with it all. We got to the harbour and there was a large cruise ship docked there and theres a constant stream of boats coming and going offering trips to some of the smaller islands.
We walked along the piers and headed back to the Yha hostel as i feeling a bit unwell as ive suddenly felt cold and shivering a bit. Probually the change in climate hasn't helped the immune system.
We decide that tomorrow is going to be a day of organising our next 26 days here in New Zealand as we've not the chance up until now due to the lack of internet on Fiji.
We get back to our 4 bedded dorm room to find our new roomies who are two young french guys from Montpellier who are ok but their English is rubbish so not much is said and we bunk down for the night.
My legs are in agony and it dawns on me that the bites from Fiji have turned red and are starting to blister up into septic sores.
Tonight was the worst sleep
ive had in a while as i had repetitive nightmares, hot sweats and uncomfortable pains in both legs.
Sunday 31st October
Im a bit stiff today as my legs feel heavy but being me I just take it easy all day sitting around helping Jill organise our New Zealand trip and i managed to make dinner.
My bites and cuts from Volleyball are now pussin badly and walking is a daunting task. Jills told me to go to the doctor but im being a bloke thinking ill be all right after some panadols.
We begin our tour in the morning with the Magic Tour bus and will be picked up at 745am.
I cleaned my wounds with alcohol wipes and put on proper dressings and banadaged them up before i went to bed.
Monday 1st November
Another 3 hours sleep in total and I agree to go to a pharmacy later today to see what i can get over the counter or even get looked at.
We are greated at the front door by our driver Glenn from magic bus. Glenn is a very funny lad from North Island, about mid 30's, who introduces himself after loading
the bags up. He proceeds to drive through Auckland telling us what he has in store for us for the next 4 days on our route down to Wellington. His wit and jokes on the microphone are endless and we are constaly in fits of giggles as his two favorite sayings are ' Sweet as m8' and ' happy as a box of fluffy ducks!'
Jill and I are sat right at the very front of the bus and its not long before he's nicknamed me Scottie.
He tells us Auckland is pretty rubbish compared to the rest of Nz so he proceeds to drive out of town towards our first stop, Mount Eden.
Mount Eden provides us with stunning panaramic views of the city and Auckland is a large city indeed as we can see as far as the shore in one direction and in the opposite the sprawling residential areas.
Once we are on the main road out of Auckland Glenn asks me to grab the other mic at the front of the bus and introduce myself to everyone on board and then Jill does the same. One by one the rest of the bus do the
same, telling us where they are from and what they would most like to do when in NZ.
It helps breaks the Ice a little as we soon realise that there is a good mix of people on the bus. Out of the 32 people on the bus we are the only two Scots. We have two from Hong Kong, Germans, Dutch, Irish, American, Chinese, Korean, Japanese and English.
We are sitting at the front talking to Glenn who's totally off his rocker to be fair as he's constantly yelling out his window to passer by's that he thinks he knows. He keeps saying 'Is this the London Tube?' as not much people are talking and he's desperately trying to scrounge a shot of some ones Ipod for a change of music because his one's 'full of crap music'. Every now and then people come to the front to ask him questions to which he happily answers followed by 'sweet as!'.
We pass some lovely countryside in the Coromandel Penninsula and stop in a small town called Thames to pick two passengers up and stop for tea and coffee which is good for me as i really need to
try get walking on my feet as my left leg has seized up.
We carry on our journey and im feeling crap but the buzz of the journey is keeping me going as it lovely and sunny.
We stop in Paeroa which is 'world famous in New Zealand' for producing L&P Lemonade. Lemonade and Paeroa is made from therapeutic Peaeroa Springs water discovered in 1900, which, with the addition of a squeeze of Lemon became know as New Zealands very
own soft drink. Its a really fine tasting lemonade which tastes ten times better than sprite or 7up and we buy 4 cans and then cross the road to take a photo of the large bottle in the garden beside the Factory.
I get Talking to Glenn outside the bus as he's a bit wound up as he's talking about the asian people that have been sleeping on the bus since Auckland. "its like the London Tube mate, people sleeping and talking on their mobiles. Im not going to bother with them mate, it's their holiday. Sweet as!"
After we leave Paeroa, we head into the spa town of Te Aroha, meaning place of love.
Our next stop
is Matamata and lunch at the 'Shire's rest'gateway to the hobbiton movie set, immersed in stunning New Zealand farmland and overlooking the Kaimai Ranges. The suns out and its really lovely and warm and we arrange to book a tour around the lord of the rings hobbit movie set.
While we wait for our shuttle bus to take us on the tour we feed the sheep and lambs that are all around us and Jill gets to bottle feed one of the Lambs. The sheperd working here tells us he shears around 200 sheep in 8 hours a day. Wow! Apparently the world record is 780!!!
We walk or hobble in my case over the road to our waiting shuttle bus which takes us to hobbiton. Thats all i can say im afraid as we had to sign disclaimers before doing the tour. Because the Lord of The rings hobbit village is being rebuilt for the up and coming two movie's called 'The Hobbit' we had to sign disclaimers that we would not speak, publish or show photo's online or in person to anyone what we were about to see or else we would be sued by Peter Jackson,
the director of the movies. Its all understandable and at least we are allowed to take photos.
We walk around the set which is about 70% completed and its all very interesting as we are pointed out scenes from the first Lord of the Rings films and it eay to place the part of the films here!
We got lots of photo's outside most of the new and old hobbit houses and also some memorable tree's from the first films.
Im skimming the edge of my agreement with hollywood here so we'll leave it at that.
We finished our tour and headed to Rotorua for the night. I must get to a Phamacist in the morning as walking is painful and jills fed up with me. :(
Tuesday 2nd November
We were awoken at 4am to the sound of a fire alarm which turned out to be false and then the alarm started blaring at 7am which was not good either as this was a false alarm also. I didnt sleep a wink all night as i was in severe discomfort.
First thing in the morning I got to the pharmacy and showed the person working there
my legs and they instantly knew i had been bitten by a spider!!! Oh dear!!
I have to go to a Doctors so i ask Glenn the bus driver to help and he got me an appointment in Lake Tepau where we would finish our trip later on in the day.
We set off from Rotorua through the geothermal landscapes of Waiotapu which reminded us a lot of Yellowstone Park due to the distant steam clouds and mud pools.
We stopped of at a hot mud spring ands its actually very cool indeed as its very active and we seen lots of pockets of mud being splattered into the air, it's alot better than the Yellowstone mud pots only due to the much hotter weather here today making the mud much more thinner and the bubbles bigger!
We stopped off at the Lady Knox Geyser which erupts at 10.15 everyday as they actually shove soap into it to give mother nature a hand so people can see a geyser erupting. Being in Yellowstone not so long ago, we are a bit bemused by all this as. There is a large crowd gethered and they do the business of
placing organic soap in and it erupts of water ten metres into the air and everyone is pleased.
There are plumes of steam in a lot of places as we travel onwards towards Lake Tepau.
As normal Glenn is on form and telling us about up and coming tours we can do or dont want to do 'its your holiday, I only drive the bus!'sweet as'.
We are doing the Hukka Falls Jet boat which is powerboat tour up the Waikato River which stops at the large Hukka Falls upstream.
The Waikato River is the longest river in New Zealand. In the North Island, it runs for 425 kilometres from the eastern slopes of Mount Ruapehu, joining the Tongariro River system and emptying into Lake Taupo, New Zealand's largest lake.
We are dropped off at the riverbank and issued with safety jackets and watch as a jet boat with a full load of people goes blasting past us in the water and then does a 360 before coming to a stop at the jetty. Oh dear, we will get be getting wet, very wet!!
We are introduced to our boat driver who gives us a brief code
of conduct and also shows us the hand signals we need to watch out for such as the im going to do a '360' sign. We are sitting up front with the driver and we have two metal bars to hold onto and no seatbelts!!
The boat has twin supercharged 275hp enignes pumping out 550hp of thrust and it only needs 10cm depth of water to propel itself on!!
Its go time and we are instantly pinned back into our seats with the force of acceleration and before we could regain composure the driver signals his hand for a 360 and we are whipped around and then a large splash of water engulfs the boat as we bob about in the water...wow!! He says' thats a gentle one to start with' and carries on up the river getting faster by the second and then cutting into corners at break neck speed. Its an adrenaline rush as he's now doing roughly 70 knots and skimming over shallow reed banks and cutting in past trees narrowly missing the trunks, but you know he's in control as he's constantly smiling at us and asking if we are all ok.
There's the signal
for 360 again and we are going fast and this time we spin 360 quickly and the G force is quite fierce but fun as no sooner are in we a spin then we are out of it and hurtling towards the cliff sides of the river bank to once again brush past with inches to spare!!
We come to a stop and he asks if everyone is ok and gives us a brief history of the power station located here that uses the hot water from the geothermal springs to provide clean green power for 5% of Nz.
You can feel how warm the water is here when you touch the water and the steam is everywhere and its no surprise that they have thermal spa's available in which you can immerse yourself in for an unique experience.
The jet boat powers up and we are off and gunning it down the banks of the river again in the opposite direction and ducks are diving for cover as we zoom through tree branches and clip past wooden posts marking the way. Its seems like we are turning blindly into thick overgrowth and bushes but as we broadside
into corners the way becomes clear and we are hanging on for dear life! I dont know if we are laughing in the face of fear or if its the buzz of the boat ride!!
We then do another 360 and slow down a bit as we can hear a distant roar of rushing water. We turn a bend on the river and are now face to face with the Hukka Falls. It looks awesome. The mouth of the Falls is aboiut 20 meters across and is perfectly cut into the hill in front of us. 200,000 litres of water are pouring out every second! The currents and swirl of water in the plunge pool here are so dangerous that not even a life jacket would save you.
We scoot over the plunge pool and are almost under the waterfall and the boat is using most of the engines power just to keep us there without being washed downstream.
The driver powers us away from the falls and stops a little down stream to tell us a little bit of information about the falls and the surounding area. Then at full speed we are off down the river side
again brushing the cliff faces which are coming straight at us with every turn.
Its relentless and after around 6 or 7 minutes of this we reach our base and do a quick 360 and land beside our jetty as quick as that!!
Our legs are still shaking as we board our bus and its not long before we reach Lake Taupo, our next overnight stop.
We have stopped at a local bungy and swing jump center as some passengers have signed up to do the jumps. Rather them than us as it looks far to dicey as the bungy is about 60 metres and the swing over the canyon looks about 200 metres long.
We watched as a few people from our tour bus jumped off on bungee and on the swing and it looks great fun but I dont think we are up for it...yet!
Lake Tepau is lovely. The lake itself is so big you could fit Singapore in it. Lake Taupo lies in a caldera created by a supervolcanic eruption which occurred approximately 26,500 years ago.
The Mountain range in the distance looks awesome and you can recognise Mount Doom from the lord
of the rings movie. We are heading that way tomorrow, something else to look forward too!!!
Glenn has just told me he has got me an appointment with the doctors at 3pm and he takes me there and drops me off which was really good of him as i dont think I couldve walked it from the Yha hostel.
Ive been given Anti biotics. The bites have become infected and the cuts and scrapes from the volleyball have also become infected. A lot of infected areas in close proximity is whats caused me the grief and pains of the last three days.
Doctors always hit you with worse case scenarios so im hoping the antibiotics should do the trick but if they dont ive
been told to come back in two day as Cellulitis could be the cause of my pains which could mean hospital and drips.
I actually managed to hobble back to the Yha and gulped down two tabs straight off and then another two before bed.
At least Ive made lots of friends as people have been asking why im walking like John Wayne!
Wednesday 3rd November
We've a 7am start today as
we are heading for the Waitomo Caves before we head to our next overnight stop at the Tongariro National park.
I slept most of the 3 hour journey to Waitomo. Last night was pure misery for me and probually my bunk mate Jill.
The scenery in the North Island is very nice and is mainly used for sheep farming and dairy. Glenn's telling us a lot of
interesting stuff about the Waitomo cave region and we are to stop here for a tour of some caves and hopefully see some gloworms. Waitomo means watercave in Maori. Some passengers opt for the cave tubing and some are doing horse trekking but most of us on the bus are doing the mellow walk through the caves.
After a short walk through the bush and forest covered gorges we arrived at the cave mouth and venture down into the cave systems which felt much safer than we've experienced in Guatemala. They have candles lighting some of the way plus electric lighting on the stairways and theres hardly any water underfoot which is a bonus.
We are only ten metres into the cave and we are thrilled to see green glowing
dots all around us and up above on the cave roofs. Gloworms are about an inch long and look like grey slugs but only their tails contain the bioluminescent chemical that glows in the dark and they look like green stars when you look up at the cave roof.
They use their glow to attract tiny flies which fly towards the light. The flies would then get tangled in the gloworms single strand of web that hangs two inch below them covered in sticky residue, good night fly!!
We go deeper into the cave and see some staglinites and various limestone formations which are pretty cool. We also see the cave tubers pass us by in a stream below and its very cold standing here so i guess the water must be just as cold for the tubers.
We had only travelled about 400 metres into the cave where we had come to a dead end on the path which meant our journey into the cave was done so we doubled back to the surface where we waited for all the troops to arrive back on the magic bus.
We arrive at the Tongariro national park and stopped
at Whakapapa village and Tongariro Chateau. We gaze in amazement at Mount Ngauruhoe also know as Mount Doom from the lord of the rings movie. The volcano lies between the active volcanoes of Mount Tongariro to the north and Mount Ruapehu to the south, 25 kilometres to the south of the southern shore of Lake Taupo. Ngauruhoe erupted 45 times in the 20th century, most recently in 1977.
The weathers not great as its coming and going with clouds and the odd spot of rain which it tough to see the mountains in their full splendour. Maybe tomorrow we'll get some shots of it.
We stay at the national park YHA and we have an excellent view of Mount Tongariro in the distance.
We decide to go for a bar meal next door to try and get a hearty meal in the belly to see if will lift the spirits and it was really fine as we both had fish and chips. Glenn joined us for dinner and we shared stories until it was bedtime. Im sharing a room with a couple other girls and Jill tonight and one the roomates is a nurse so i ask her if
its ok to take sleeping tablets with my antibiotics which turned out to be ok. Great!
Thursday 4th November
That turned out to be the best sleep ive had in many a moon and ive actually managed to walk to the bus and back with my bags.
Im still in pain but its subsided a little bit and I feel much better mentally. Walking's fine once i take a few steps and get past the initial pain.
Today we are headed for the Capital city of New Zealand, Wellington (pop 389,700), also called the windy city.
We arrive in Wellington at lunchtime, check into our hotel and then have a walk around the city. There are lots of tall skyscrapers around the financial district and we walk all the way down to see the famous beehive building.
The top floor is occupied by the Cabinet room, with the Prime Minister's offices on the ninth floor. Other floors contain the offices of cabinet ministers.
It was designed by a scotsman in 1964 but wasnt officially opened until 1977.
On the way home i got my haircut in a barbers and it turns out the guy that was
shaving my hair was from Bellshill,Glasgow and had moved over here some 35 years ago.
We then walked all along the seafront which was really nice as the weather was sunny with strong gusts of wind and there's plenty of activity such as boats, fishermen and sealife to keep you occupied as you stroll along the waterfront.
We took the free tour around the National Museum of New Zealand which was ace as we got to experience the Earthquake room which is a informative tour through the history of earthquakes in NZ. It has a room set up in a small house which has been rigged up to shake like a earthquake has hit. There videos are being played from actual earthquake footages of previous tremors and disaters which adds to the effect.
Earthquakes occur regularly in New Zealand as the country forms part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, which is geologically active. About 14,000 earthquakes, most of them minor, are recorded each year. About 200 of these are strong enough to be felt.
There was an earthquake just 6 weeks ago that had a magnitude of 7.1. A lot of damage was done to christchurch and
the top of the south island but the most important thing is no one was killed as it hit at 5am which prevented a worse case scenario.
We then visited the giant squid thats set in formaldehyde and its massive indeed! It was caught by a fishing boat in 2008 by a local fishing boat. The squid, weighing an estimated 450kg, took two hours to land in Antarctic waters.
The squid was frozen in the ship's hull and brought back to New Zealand for scientific examination.
We went up onto the roof of the museum and took some photos and had browsed through the rest of the museum.
Its time to head back to base as ive overdone the walking today and i promised to cook a fine meal tonight as a thank you to Jill for putting up with me the last few days.
We have another early start tomorrow as we will be leaving the North Island by ferry which will be a nice change from a bus.
There are more photos below