New Zealand, North Island--------- Part 1

New Zealand's flag
Oceania » New Zealand » North Island » Wellington » Lower Hutt
February 23rd 2014
Published: February 23rd 2014
Edit Blog Post

Thursday 13th

We complete our packing and leave for the airport in plenty of time. Check in goes smoothly and we board on time for the flight.

The flight passes quickly and we arrive in New Zealand around 5.30.

That’s when the problems start ! We que for 45 mins just to get through immigration and go and get our luggage. We then all have to que again for checking we’re not carrying prohibited items such as soil, plants and food etc. Another 45 mins go bye and because we have walking boots we are then directed to yet another que to have them inspected.

This que has dozens of people in, mostly Chinese bringing in food. It takes over an hour before we are called for inspection. The chap takes one look at the boots and waves us through ! It has taken over two and a half hours for just two small plane loads of people to clear the airport ! I think of the problems these people would cause at Heathrow! The airport would come to a stand still.

We find the correct bus for the city centre and after a short wait we board for a half hour journey and get dropped off at our hostel, Base Backpackers just off the main street.

The hostel’s huge but very well set up and we have a small corner room on the 6th floor.

After finding a snack we settle for an early night. The transfer from one country to another fairly easily completed.

Friday 14th

This morning we go and sort out a new sim card and dongle and then replace our watch which we left on a beach. It’s been hard to keep track of time for the last two weeks, good job it’s not very important

We then drop back to the hostel and Christine sorts out the washing as we’ve not had any chance of doing any and we’re both running out of clean clothes.

It’s a pretty dull day but these things have to be done.

We then have a walk into Albert Park where there is a Lantern Festival to celebrate Chinese New Year. It seems a bit late as it was at the end of January ! There are a great many lanterns and a stage where acts from China are performing. There’s also a martial arts arena where we see Ti Chi and many other demonstrations followed by small children doing a dragon dance. It’s a good watch.

There are lots of food stalls but we nip off into town for dinner and when we return the Festival is packed. We haven’t seen this many people in 6 months ! The lanterns are now all lit up and many look really good. The martial arts area is now being used for Kareoke which the Chinese love but are terrible at. We don’t linger !

We return to the hostel and finish packing ready to leave in the morning to collect our next camper van.

Saturday 15th

We leave our hostel fairly early and get a taxi to the campervan depot. The cost is double what I have been told it would be. To make matters worse the campervan people say that they could have arranged a cheaper taxi but didn’t tell me !

We start to take delivery and suddenly lots of extra charges are suddenly applied. When I question them I’m told that they are shown in small print on the 19 pages sent to me. I’m not happy. The upshot is that it costs us about £800 more than we thought.

We get our van and it’s almost brand new and include a tv which we didn’t know about. Later we find we can’t get a signal to make it work ! but it is a nice van complete with shower and toilet.

We drive off and pull into he nearest supermarket and stock up. The morning’s gone already.

We set off and drive around the coast called the Firth of Thames and pull in for the night in Thames. It’s a fenced in car park run by a husband and wife who are really nice to us.

The scenery along the way has been good but not spectacular. Tomorrow will be better day !

Sunday 16th

Our drive this morning takes us through Karangahake Gorge and onto Tauranga a city (town) larger than we thought it would be. We stop for some tourist info and then drive the short distance Mount Maunganui, a dormant volcano. We walk to the top, a bit of a struggle in some places and get great views out over The Bay of Plenty and the islands within it. At the top we stop and watch several paragliders soaring about 500 feet above the volcano. Something we won’t be trying !

We then drive on towards Rotorura and stop off to see the Okere Falls and watch some people raft down them. It looks a lot more exciting than our rafting.

We arrive at Rotorura early and find a site.

My leg’s been hurting for a few days and I now need to go to hospital. It had to happen sometime. As with my record it was unlikely I’d go a year without some problem. I think a mozzie bite has turned septic and needs treatment.

I go to a private clinic and they suggest the hospital who will treat me free under the NHS reciprication scheme. I book in and tell then it happened in Fiji a few days ago. Wrong move. As it didn’t happen in NZ they will be charging me $200 plus any medicine. Luckily I see a young doctor from Edinburgh who’s more interested in our trip than anything else and says he won’t be charging !

I’m now on 7 days antibiotics, the bad news is that I can’t drink any alcohol for 7 days. I doubt if Christine will have left any for me by then !

Monday 17th

The morning’s a disaster ! After taking my antibiotic pill before breakfast we leave site for the morning and discover we can’t find my pills. Twice, three times we take the van apart and still can’t find them. One of us has put them some where safe and can’t remember where.

In desperation I go back to the hospital and emerge two and half hours later with a new prescription. The morning’s been wasted.

We drive out to Hells Gate Geothermal Park to look at the Rotorua’s most active thermal mud ponds and springs. There’s a sulphur smell everywhere. The place look’s like a lunar landscape. Mud boils all around and steam escape from the ground all over. Some water reaches 100 degrees ! It used to be a special place for Maori warriors.

On the way back to site we stop off at the giant Redwood forest and take a 4k walk through it. There are some impressive trees to see.

Back at site we see that many people have their own mud and hot water tubs. Steam comes out of the ground everywhere including the road drains. Even at our site there are two natural hot tubs and walking to Lake Rotorua we see mud boiling in pools and hot water coming out of the ground at the edge of the lake. The Earth’s crust is very thin here.

As we unwrap the duvet my pills fall out ! About the only place we hadn’t looked.

Tuesday 18th

We get up very early this morning intending to visit one of the thermal parks but as the weather’s overcast we decide instead to go to Hobbiton in nerby Matamata. It’s the site of the film set for The Shire from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films.

We arrive and get on the tour bus which takes us into the set. From there we walk with our guide Tom, a none too enthuseastic guide. We see Hobbit holes, there are 44 of them and most are for background shots only. There’s also small washing lines with clothes on and we get told about tricks for making the actors appear large or small. The detail on the set is incredible. There’s an artificial tree that’s had every leaf separately wired on !

The tour finishes at The Green Dragon pub and we get given a complimentary drink. The tour has lasts about an hour an a half and has been really good. We take a quick trip round the souvenier shop and much to Christine’s dismay it’s not possible to buy Hobbit feet ! Their missing a trick I think.

As we head back for the car we see a line of 1920 and 1930 Bugattis that are on a rally round New Zealand.

As we go back to site we stop off at the Rotorua’s town park. It’s full of fenced off areas enclosing boiling mud holes and boiling ponds with hot steam coming off them.

We get back to site early and prepare for going out for the evening. We are picked up and taken to the Tamaki Maori Village outside of town. We are to see a cultural show and typical daily pastimes. We are met by the “chief” who does a welcoming dance before us. We are then invited into the village with the shout of “Kia Ora !” Welcome. We see various daily activities like club fighting, speed training for warriors and weaving. The actors make it good fun. We then see how food was cooked in earth pits before going to see traditional dancing and singing. Every few minutes they shout out Kia Ora, it wears a bit thin after 99 times !

The evening ends with a traditional dinner that’s more like a Sunday roast but it tastes good.

It’s been a good day.

Wednesday 19th

Another early morning and today the weather’s better so we drive out to Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. We’ve come to see a geyser erupt. It happens every day at 10.15. A guide explains all about the geyser, Lady Knox and says that it will naturally erupt between every 48 and 72 hours however by adding a substance they can make it do so every day. It’s good for business !

He adds the chemical and up she goes ! Only about 7m but it’s still impressive. After watching for 20 mins we leave her to subside.

We then go into the rest of the thermal park. There are dozens of highly coloured boiling lakes. The colours are formed by minerals in the soil. There is steam hissing out of the ground and the pools everywhere. We spend about an hour walking round.

At lunch time I take the plaster off my leg and despite the antibiotics its got worse. I decide to go to the hospital in Taupo our next destination. Two hours later I come out with a prescription for another type of antibiotic. I have 12 tablets a day to take ! I just hope these do the trick as I’m getting to visit every hospital in New Zealand.

We go into Taupo for some shopping and then drive to a free camp site down by the river. It’s really nice and nearly full of young people.

Thursday 20th

First thing we drive to the Haka Falls.They’re impressive for there aggressiveness. 200,000 litres per second falling 19 m.

We then continue around Lake Taupo to Turangi. The lake is massive and we get some wonderful views over it on the drive. At Turangi we call into the tourist office and get some info on walking trails.

We drive round to Whakapapa Village and pull into the camp site. We then walk to the Taranaki Falls which is about an hour each way. It’s not a hard walk and the falls are quite large and ferocious. It’s hot so we paddle in the pool at the bottom of them.

The walk back is easier and we make good time by returning in about 45 mins and reward ourselves with an ice cream !

Late afternoon and evening we rest up for tomorrow’s walk.

Friday 21st

Up at 3am to take another pill. I’ll be glad when my leg’s better.

We get up at 6.45 and get ready for our day. For today we are going to walk the Tongairio Alpine Crossing. It’s 19.4 K and often described as New Zealands best one day hike. It’s also the longest walk we’ve done in two and half years !

We’re picked up at 8am and driven to the start of the walk. The type of walk is hidden in the title, Alpine !

The first 4.4k is a gentle up hill to Soda Springs and we make respectable time of one hour. From there it’s much steeper to South Crater. A defunct volcano crater we walk across with lava everywhere. We get great views of Mount Ngauruhoe another volcano and featured in Lord of the Rings.

It’s now getting very steep as we climb to Red Crater and get views over to Emerald Lakes. We’ve reached the top of the walk at 1886m. We start to come down and it’s scree all the way for 1k. Many fall and Christine comes down part of the way on her bottom. It’s not a nice part of the walk.

At the bottom of that section we get to see Central Crater and Blue Lake. The views everywhere are spectacular.

We’re starting to fall behind time and the next section is a very long gentle downward winding path to Keteahi Hut where lots of people are resting.

As we continue down there are signs warning that we are in an active volcanic area and there is sulphur pouring out of the ground.

From the Hut it’s 6.4k back to the car park and we’re expected to do it in 1.5 hours. That’s optimistic ! We do the first 3.3K in 50 mins but we’re starting to flag. The last 3.1 is real hard work and Christine’s down to shopping shuffle speed !

We arrive in the car park at 4.05 and have missed the bus by 5mins. We have to wait until 5 for the next one.

We do some stretching exercises and have impressed others who copy us. We then sit down and wait. Bye the time the bus comes we can hardly move ! The journey back takes about 25 mins, just time for a nap ! it’s a great walk but we’re shattered.

A quiet evening ahead.

Saturday 22nd

We rise slowly with a few aching muscles, a good job it’s a day for driving south. We get under way and it’s pretty hilly and like a switch back all the way to Wanganui. The scenery is wonderful of all the mountains in the background. We stop at Wanganui and stretch our legs, they’re a bit stiff !

We continue down to Bulls and the landscape’s now fairly flat and is all used for farming and sheep.

We eventually pull in at a motel and park in their car park. We’ve arrived in Wellington !

We hop on the bus from opposite the site and 10 mins later we’re in the city centre. We have a short walk around, it’s all our legs will do and get some useful info from the Tourist office for tomorrow.

We have dinner out, a rare treat but the offer of 2 for 1 is too good to pass up. Then an ice cream at Mac, it’s the cheapest around at 1 NZD for a cone with a flake ! Then it’s a bus back.

Sunday 23rd

A day for sight seeing. We catch an early bus into Wellington and first off are the Parliament Buildings. We take a tour.

We are taken into the Bee Hive. The new part of the buildings. It’s mainly used as offices and is the worst of 1960’s and 1970’s architecture. All concrete and aluminium. It’s awful but they’re proud of it.

We progress to the earlier buildings of the 1890’s and 1900’s. They’re much better and have a lot of character and charm. They have earth quake proofed the old building and that was interesting ! The tour lasts about an hour and is okay. The guides like a politian, all gloss and no substance

We then have a walk along the water front and some how miss the the Museum of Wellington City and Sea. It’s considered to be a good museum. Perhaps better signs are required.

We then call in at the Te Papa Museum of NZ. It’s the national museum and has all sorts of things in it.

We visit the natural section and see the worlds largest squid. It’s over half a ton and 4.5m long and preserved in a liquid. It would have made a lot of dinners! We then go up the the top floor and see lots of Maori things and the treaty signed by 750 chiefs and Britain in the 1900’s to form NZ.

On the way to lunch we call in at a chemists for more plasters for my leg. Today’s the first time it’s showing signs of improving. The pharmacist says it’s a spider bite. A White Tail spider, quite rare in NZ. Just my luck after surviving all the poisonous things in Australia !

In the afternoon we take the cable car up to the Botanic Gardens. They’re well laid out on a hill side but our legs are still weary from the long walk and we find walking up and down quite a strain. I fall a sleep on a bench and Christine goes off to look around.

Finally we catch the bus back having seen and walked enough.


23rd February 2014

Hi your log has just clicked in, will read it during day. Half way round and still having a good time. Spring is now arriving, started ridgeway walk yesterday. The sun was actually out. Speak to you soon Ed& Helen
24th February 2014

hi Hope you enjoyed you're walk and are not as tired as we were after our Alpine one ! Hope you're both well and that we can Skype soon Steve
23rd February 2014

I want to go to Hobbiton!
Hi you two:] Great to read your blog and find out where you are and what you are up to. New Zealand looks great. We loved it when we were there. I really want to go back now to see the Hobbit houses! Hope your leg clears up very soon Steve. Trust you to get bitten by a spider!! the story of the pills in the duvet did make me chuckle! All good here. We've braved the storms and floods....VW virtually unscathed apart from a few trees down. Weird to see Egham and Staines on the BBC news every night terribly flooded. Carry on having a ball:) Love Deb Neil and boys.....oh and Ruby!
23rd February 2014

Water water everywhere !
Hi Debbie Great to hear from you. We have been looking at the flooding on the BBC and glad we're not at home. We're still having a great time and it's flashing past ! We're catching the ferry to South Island today and will be there 4 weeks before returning to North Island for 1 more week. Bloody spiders ! Steve
23rd February 2014

In my footsteps
Hi Chris and Steve. Interesting to see how you are getting on around North island. We visited Hells Gate and the giant redwood forest but it looks like a different Maori Village although the format seems the same. We only had 5 days in North Island so we restricted ourselves to Rotorua and the surrounding area. How much longer are you in North island? Roger
23rd February 2014

Follow the leader ?
Hi We've had a good time on N.Island and catch the ferry to S.Island today for 4 weeks and then back to N.Island for another week before flying to Chile on April 1st. Still having a good time despite the spiders ! Steve
23rd February 2014

We are reading this on Sunday afternoon 23rd Feb. It has been so tiring that we have to return to the sun bed to recover!
24th February 2014

Back to basics !
Sorry to disturb your slumber ! It's hard work doing nothing. Hope to catch up with you soon. Woking had a great result on Sunday

Tot: 0.487s; Tpl: 0.022s; cc: 21; qc: 65; dbt: 0.0225s; 1; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 1; ; mem: 1.5mb