Published: March 8th 2009
February 5th 2009
Arriving in NZ had shades of Oz about it and whilst the immigration peeps weren't as in your face....(or your groin in the case of the sniffer dogs as there weren't any)..they were pretty damn thorough and after my trainers had been inspected to ensure there was no contamination...I was thro and able to meet Palin. Christchurch
The excitement of seeing the car that I would spend the next 3 weeks in grew as we approached the car park especially as Palin's last NZ car was a dead ringer for the 'General Lee'...Would it be a Corvette, a Mustang or would he have gone for the the camper van experience? Sadly none of the above and my hopes were shattered as he led me to a.............turqoise cinquecento....cos it was 'the best deal they had'. As I chucked my rucksack in the boot I noticed his hiking stuff which of all things included some walking poles, 'bit gay'.. I thought..
First up then was the tour of the town, and on reflection I don't think the 'Palin Walking Tours of Christchurch' would ever properly take off as a business venture.....mainly due to having no route as such.....more
and our kayak
a case of getting lost and then just bouncing into pubs and fast food 'establishments' before also getting lost (again) on the way back to the hostel.
Just before we fell into the 'Darwin trap' of 5 days/nights of beer and gash food, Palin rolled out the itinerary that would involve a drive to Abel Tasman National Park with a strict leaving time of 08.30 hours.
As this NP is on the coast you can walk it or kayak it. We opted for the latter (I say 'we' altho those hard core blog readers amongst you will remember my Laos and Vietnam kayak adventures wouldn't have me gagging to get back in one) but I didn't have the heart to tell him. Especially as the pride evident on his little face told me that he had given a lot of thought to this. And anyway I had already plotted on getting the back seat and with a view to taking it easy. If this worked out I thought it may even be less strenuous than the walk. Result. And anyway it was only a day trip and I also hoped the river would be pretty flat.
had mixed emotions then as on arriving at the place we signed up for a 3 day 2 night 'sea' kayak adventure... Abel Tasman National Park (3 days)
Prior to setting off we had a safety briefing (cos we would be without a guide) whcih involved the following essentials: being given a rubbish map, being shown what to do during a capsize and checking that no-one was staying at 'Mosquito bay' ....everyone chuckled.... except us that is, as that was where we were safely booked in there on day 2...hmmm. Clue, title....hindsight....hmmm..
As we set off, the current was kind to us and helped us along and we witnessed some great coastline and beaches. So much so that we graced one of the beaches with our presence whilst stopping for a nice cup of tea. We then headed off to our day 1 campsite 'Anchor bay' and dined on pot noodles that evening under the stars. Jealous? You should be. Altho pot noodles do taste the same the world over.
Getting out of Anchor Bay the following morning proved difficult cos of the steady string of water taxis, the swell, but probably (and most
importantly) cos I was at the front of the boat. Anyway, once out of the bay it was more amazing scenery some islands but no seals.....
Mosquito Bay was actually a top top place but after we dropped our tent we headed back out to sea in search of the seal colony. The current, swell and wind all battled against us for this bit but we survived and the views of the seals and their pups were all the more sweeter when we did finally get there.
The third day saw us set off early in order to kayak the same distance that we had covered on days 1 and 2. Once again we we lucky with the sea breeze and got back in time without getting any speeding fines along the way. 3 days was actually a good amount of time plus it meant that we didn't get to go as far as 'shag harbour' which, with the size of our 'alleged' 2 man tent, was probably a good thing..
It was then up to Picton to catch the ferry up to Wellington, but before this it was a night in the best hostel ever: Tombstone
Backpackers. It was next to a graveyard but played on this with its front door (a coffin lid) and its slogan ('May you rest in peace') - I certainly did after an outdoor jacuzzi, amazing power shower and sound proofed rooms. next up was the ferry crossing to Wellington thro Marlborough sounds, again great views.
As I hadn't done many hikes (compared to Palin) I was keen to start off with a gentle one altho I was confident that I could do anything after having 'done the gibbon experience' (Blog 3)...Altho when trying to gauge my hiking experience Palin asked 'What other treks have you done?'......'Lots' I said (altho the last one b4 this trip that I could remember was a half day school outing over the Malvern hills as a 15 yr old...).. 'Yeah lots', I continued 'including lots in Asia...yeah'.
As a bit of bedtime reading before the big day I picked up the Lonely Planet to see what they made of this Mount Taranaki....'don't underestimate this mountain as it has claimed 63 lives...' it began....hmmmm. Mount Taranaki (2108 metres, day walk)
As we began to set off the following morning I
the last few steps to the summit, not happy...look closely
noticed how many other people also had hiking poles, 'more people showing off' I thought.
After a while it seemed that those with poles were going a bit faster and no more evident was this the case than when a man in his 50s eased past me after about an hour.. Luckily for me this walk was just one big circuit and there could be no chance of him lapping me. It actually reminded me of time I was overtaken by and old lady doing breast stroke in swimming pool once..after just 3 lengths. She didn't have hiking poles tho. Anyway back to the hike....
After some steep steps and about 2 hours I came across some scree. Actually it wasn't 'some' scree, it was more like a wall of the stuff. Yeah a big fat wall of scree. So up I started walking...well trudging would be more accurate as it was a case of 2 steps up one step back.....and quite a few stops...After about another hour however, it became 2 steps up, one step back and 2 stpes to the side as rocks and stones often came tumbling down. It was a bit like Donkey Kong
with the but with instead of barrels it was stones/rocks and there wasn´t a gorilla at the top chucking them down, it was other hikers dislodging them (probably with their poles hmm).. I also couldn't really pause the game and go off and order a pizza or something. The sun kept coming down and on I trudged, slower and slower...with more breaks...
I could feel myself nearing the top, and as I did one chap coming down piped 'Nearly there mate.... . just over an hour.' .....This was meant as a phrase of encouragement was anything but as by this stage my legs began to cramp with every single step. Yes really. I'd not experienced this before as goal hanging was never this strenuous....
When I got to the snow, I annoyingly discovered that I was still not at the top. For this bit I was going even slower and you know when some people say 'you're as old as you feel' (normally old people) well that at that point I was exactly 87 yrs old. As I saw the summit the last thing I wanted was a chirpy Palin at the top waving at me and taking
pictures of me. For the next few mins most of the words that left my lips were after the watershed nature. So after 4 hrs and 15 mins of pure hell (and no lucozade sports to balance my body fluids) I made it. Woo.
After lunch with fabulous views and aching limbs, it was time for the descent before the clouds came in. Altho this was easier it still took around 3 hrs and a fair bit of cramping as I navigated down the scree.
Back at the hostel and the only thing on the itinerary for the next day was to buy some 'gay' hiking poles in time for the next hike.. Tongariro Northern Circuit (3 days)
It is possible to do the 'Tongariro Crossing' day walk but we thought 'When in rome' and went for the 3 day 'Northern Circuit' version (taking in the TC on day 1) We would have done it the day earlier but I needed 3 whole days to recover from Taranaki, oh yes.
The legs were still a bit raw as we set off but managed to hold out and were rewarded with some great views
of lakes and rock formations. Why are the lakes so blue? . I haven't looked this up yet, wikipedia someone, anyone....?
The next day was just a short one but that evening all those in the hut saw a great sunset....and an equally amazing sunrise the following morning. The day started off cold and windy but was clear enough to see some more mountains and lakes en route to the ending point 'Wakkapappa'. Which we did quicker than the rest of the group. Not that it was a race. It wasn't? Seriously? Heading North
That was it for the walks but still had some cool things to see as we headed north. Firstly the thermal springs place. I can't give you the geologist's take on this but the place it on a fault line or something and there are a series of hot water springs that smell of sulphur. And for all those immature ones out there, yep none of us tired of the ' have you dropped one?' gag that ran all afternoon that day.
Then it was up to the Coromandel (beach area) and the famous 'Hot water Beach'. The beach is
on an underwater hot spring and the thing to do here it to sit on the beach, dig a hole (til you reach the piping hot water), then mix in the sea water to find the right temperature, ie a primitive 'mixer tap', if you will. All good in theory, but when my digging bore water....it was cold ........I didn't bother mixing in more cold sea water. Back to the car then. Bay of Islands & Waitangi Day
This would be the most northern part of my NZ adventure. The Bay of Islands is pretty much a coastal area with (shock horror) a series of islands off the coast which you can go and see via a boat tour, or your own boat if you're filthy rich. Another cool fact about this place was the chance to swim with dolphins, so I thought '...When in Rome' (again).
I went for the eco tour (or something similar) where you get your money back if you don't get to go in with the dolphins. Whilst we saw a few (and it was excellent) we didn't get to go in the water as they were swimming
At Bay of Islands
with their babies so it was money back central (well 30 dollars) which I put towards a meal at 'King Wah's' Chinese restaurant that evening. Result....well kind of.
Before we went our separate ways it was time to check out these Whaitangi day shennanigans that were going on that day. Basically it is a celebration of the treaty between the Maoris and the British back in (date someone?) so we checked it out and left before we got found out for not getting a ticket.
Next up, the South Island (on my own) so stay tuned...
There are more photos below