Published: August 2nd 2010May 20th 2010
And so here I am, in the land of the Kiwi. The Kiwi, if you didn’t already know, is a shy bird that cannot fly, not particularly cute, awkward looking with its teeny tiny stumps that are their wings and a ridiculously long beak, which of course serves some purpose. They spend 20 hours a day sleeping and only forage at night. We do hope to find a few in the wild…….so heres hoping!!!
We decide to hire ourselves a little campervan. Well, I booked it back in Oz in a bit of a hurry, so booked what we found to be the cheapest, which was a Toyota Estima, kitted out for camping. In hindsight we could’ve had a much better camper, but hell, it was still great and was gonna be home for the next couple of months. The only slight downside is that the van has ‘Blow Jobs’ sprayed down both side of the vehicle!!! God I hope people don’t think its on offer?!!!!
We start in Auckland on the North Island and begin to head North and after leaving the city we confronted by the stunning landscapes of New Zealand! They are simply
North Island, NZ
breathtaking and green….very green. All different shades of green. It brings back memories of Vietnam for me, the tropical plants and trees…..the North Island is beautiful. Full of valleys, lakes, and fjords, beaches, yep you can see why this place has inspired so many filmmakers. Oh, and many many sheep too!!
NZ roads are a lot like the UK. Similar signs and I instantly feel at home driving here. But the main difference being the roads are virtually empty!! What we do see is the odd fellow camper, taking advantage of the quietest time of year for campers, the beginning on the country’s winter season. Which, for me, is the best time to visit NZ. Ok, so its quite cold (not compared to UK) but the scenery is even more breathtaking as you see the green hill, snow-capped mountains, beautiful frosty mornings…..ah, this place is awesome.
We now start to head back south and towards the centre of the North Island to Lake Taupo and the Tongariro National Park. This part of the island was used to shoot scenes of Mordor in that little known movie Lord of the Rings (something like that?!!). Again, as with the rest of
the island it is simply stunning with many waterfalls. We arrive at the foot of Mount Ruapehu (2797m) and we’re looking forward to undertaking the famous hike of the transalpine. Alas, it wasn’t to be. The weather had been so bad, so wet and cold that the route was closed off for hikers!! L I’m gutted. And as we have quite a tight schedule if we’re to see as much of the islands as possible, we cannot stay around ‘til it clears. Not only that but the 3 mountains that make up this park are covered by mist so we cannot see them. Ah bugger it!! Hopefully it’ll pass by the morning.
Anyway, the latest weather reports are not favourable and the route we were planning to take has to be changed due to severe flooding. So, we change the route slightly, with the intention of coming back in the direction we were planning to go. But, the weather is improving, so fingers crossed.
Anyway, we reach the southern part of the North Island and get ready to cross the seas to the South Island. The sea is stormy and the crossing full of the highs and lows of
the stormy sea. Quite unbelievably I’m unaffected by this crossing and take some time on deck to watch the other boat cross alongside us, its nose getting completely buried in the huge swells of the ocean. Very impressive indeed. And then, the calm…..as we enter the south island waters of the Malborough Sounds….which is fantastic. What a treat, even under the grey skies the numerous islands that make up the sounds are a real treat to behold. What a great start to our South Island journey.
Enroute to Kaikoura (east coast) we drive along the coastal road, so close in fact that you feel a little nervy as the sea is raging and smashing against the rocks, throwing itself up and over onto the road. Its extremely exciting and we laugh and scream (not me!!) as the water crashes around us. One eye on the road and one eye, according to the warnings of the road signs, on the seals that shelter from the stormy seas on the road side. We stop to say hello and grab the photo opportunity alongside these gorgeous beasts of the seas. We reach Kaikoura, 5th in the 101 must do things in NZ.
The view is breathtaking. The seam the snowy mountains of each side and the seas, home to the whales & dolphins (which we didn’t get to see).
As we toured through the east coast we saw a petrified forest, and by chance we found a colony of yellow-eyed penguins (very rare, apparently they are endangered and exist only in NZ) who decide to return home after a hard day hunting fish. I took some shots, but distant, as it is forbidden to approach, or they get scared and hide back in the water for a few hours, which can be dangerous for them
We head to Milford Sound, numero uno on the 101 must do things in NZ and, to be honest, we were really disappointed. We hadn’t realised that this was the drop off point for those tourist who can afford to spend upto $300 to take a cruise or a flight over the sound. Ok, so its still very beautiful but No.1?? Not in my book. The road that takes a couple of hours to drive offers far more beauty if you take the time to stop off at some of its beauty spots. Some seriously
North Island, NZ
North Island, NZ
tranquil areas along the route.
We continue on regardless toward Queenstown, a road that winds gently alongside Lake Wakatipu. It is stunning. Worthy of a much higher position than the No.47 in the list of 101 things. The water is a gorgeous turquoise under the bright blue sky and in the distance we see Queenstown. A place well positioned at the foot of the mountains and in front of the lake. Ski season is due to start so the place is starting to liven up. One ca only imagine what its like once the snow has fallen and the skiers & snowboarders arrive in abundance. But they are many other things to do but time is not on our side. Oh, and its expensive!! We stop over and meet friends for a well deserved break, pizza and beer. We continue on towards the magnificant glaciers of Fox & Franz Josef before stopping off for some fun, cross a suspension bridge and then take a zipline back across the gorge at 160m!! weeeeeeeee…………love it!
We head back to the North Island, taking the ferry across again, this time less violent but ultimately 3 hours late!!! We head back towards Auckland
North Island, NZ
North Island, NZ
and then over to the Coromandel coast, which is stunning. Surrounded by such beauty its easy to get a little blasé at the sights surrounding us.
After I say goodbye to my friends I head back into Auckland to visit and stay with some good friends for a little R & R. It gives me a chance to write up more blog notes, sort through my thousands of pictures and generally reflect of the journey so far. I had a fantastic stay, getting to know the village a little and sorting through my plans for the next leg of my journey.
There are more photos below