Published: January 21st 2006January 21st 2006
It's been a while since the last blog because I've been so busy covering over two thousand kilometres of both North and South Islands of New Zealand and haven't had a chance to sit down at a computer for a proper internet session until now!
I arrived on 6th January and met Rachel Borer at the airport the same morning. How we managed to coordinate my flight from Santiago and hers from London is a miracle and we have shown none of this organisational spirit during our journey since then! We hired a car and it's been a spontaneous whistle-stop tour, spending 10 days on the North Island before crossing over to the South. New Zealand really is a beautiful country and the three weeks I have don't do it justice. My main impression is that it is wonderfully underpopulated, with only around 4 million inhabitants. The people obviously love the great outdoors and are very environmentally concerned, for example with major efforts to recycle everywhere. Shamefull how a country like the UK with much more need to recycle is nowhere near as advanced in its policies but fingers crossed we'll catch on soon.
Started our tour heading North out of
Multicoloured mineral deposits at this thermal area near Rotorua.
Auckland to the beautiful Bay of Islands, where we cruised around and saw penguins and dophins and spent a wonderfully relaxing afternoon swimming in the sea and relaxing on the beach in the cute little village of Russell. Every town here seems like a tiny village to us (it's almost impossible to believe that Wellington is a capital when you can easily see its boundaries from almost any point in the city)!
South-West of Auckland, the glowworm caves in Waitomo were amazing - you take a boat trip into the stalagmite and stalagtite caves and the whole roof is lit up; although it's something that you can't photograph, I think the image will remain with me for a very long time! We did a nighttime walk in the forest nearby and saw even more of them covering rock walls alongside a stream and waterfall. Very magical, although unfortunately didn't see any hobbits. Speaking of which, the landscape in general does look soooooo Hobbity/Lord of the Ringsy and we even did the famous Tongariro crossing day walk that takes you across a volcano ridge, past the one they used as Mount Doom in the films. Fortunately didn't encouter any orks (guess
they were all safely back in Auckland - sorry, dreadful I know...).
The volcanic area around Tongariro was amazing because you come across very active geysers and mud pools all over the place! Apparently the earth's crust is the thinest in this area, which explains why there's so much thermal activity.
In the South Island, we've "done" Abel Tasman National Park, which has beautiful white sandy beaches and clear blue bays. Unfortuately it poured throughout our 9 hour walk but it's been our only rainy day so far so we can't really complain and on the positive side, for those of you from Trevelyan, we bumped into "Kev" along the way! So cool to see her, especially since we'd tried to arrange meeting up and had failed due to general disorganisation!
Whizzed down West Coast (although being very careful to avoid further speeding fines after I was pulled over by the police in my first day in the hire car to receive a hefty fine!) and stayed in a basic but gorgeous little converted schoolhouse in Okarito, next to a lagoon where it joined the pounding Pacific. Took a quick peek at the massive Franz Josef glacier on our way
onwards to Wanaka, an idyllic little town next to a lake and that's where we woke up this morning. We've been walking for most of the day through a very picturesque valley up to the Rob Roy glacier and tonight we pushed on to Queenstown, yet another beautifully situated town. More walking tomorrow and on towards Milford Sound for an overnight boat trip after that...
No camera with me tonight but will try and add photos next time I find an internet café!
There are more photos below