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May 21st 2009
Published: May 23rd 2009
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Maori ArtMaori ArtMaori Art

Auckland Museum
Wow wow wow wow wow! If we had a pound for every time we'd said that over the past 2 weeks it's fair to say that we'd have a few quid in the bank! The scenery here is like a cross between Austria, the Lakes, Sweden and Asia...rolling hills, amazing mountain backdrops and unexpectedly fine beaches. It’s got the lot, shame about the weather though 😊

We started our New Zealand adventure in the North Island with no real plan at all. After a rainy day in Auckland we'd hatched a plan and picked up our campervan which we thought would be the best way to get around and do and see as much as possible here (as cheaply as possible). Luckily when we arrived at the Britz office we were told that we'd been upgraded to a Maui van, instead of the Britz we had booked. Maui is the Rolls Royce of the camper world so we were well pleased!

Our first destination was the Coromandel Peninsula. The main attraction (except for the beautiful landscape and beaches) is the hot water beach and Cathedral Cove. We arrived at the hot water beach on a cold but sunny day
Hells Gate Hells Gate Hells Gate

Like walking on Mars!
thinking that no one would be there at this time of year. We were so wrong, the beach was full of people digging away, trying to compete for the best hot water "bath". Thermal hot water comes up through the sand to fill the holes.

We hired our shovel and joined the competition but after 5 minutes of digging our neighbors left so we cheated and jumped in theirs! The water was boiling hot so we discovered positioning was extremely important, we had to dig a channel to the sea which was freezing! We jumped in for half an hour then made our way back, shivering to the van...very strange experience.

After lunch we drove to Hahei, where the walk to the Cathedral Cove started. After hiking for about an hour we decided it was well worth it when we saw the cove. The beach was beautiful with some spectacular rock formations.

On the way down towards the main tourist resort of Rotarua, we stopped for a night at Mount Maunganui which overlooks the beach next to a small town. After an exhausting run around the mountain we spent the evening in the next door thermal pools
A strange rockA strange rockA strange rock

at Cathedral Cove
(lots of things are thermal around these parts, due to New Zealand being made out of loads of volcanos!). This was really nice, again it was freezing but the outdoor pools were 40 degrees.

We smelt Rotarua before we officially got there! Named "sulphur city" the town is built on a volcanic landscape of thermal springs, geysers and bubbling mud pools, its also rich in Maori heritage. We booked all of our activities at the tourist info office and had a great couple of days there.

First stop was the luge. This is basically like skiing/boarding down a mountain but instead of skis/snowboard, you have a little go-kart with two controls, push the stick forward to go, pull back to stop, no motor...just gravity! It was awesome, we had 5 goes haha.

There were three different gradients, scenic, intermediate and "s**t this is bloody steep!". We were laughing all the way down (about 2 km) and couldn’t wait to take the ski lift back up for another go. We'd highly recommend this to anyone coming here!

The next day we went to Hells Gate, a thermal park to experience the volcanic landscape. It was like being on the moon, steam, bubbles and volcanic craters everywhere. Even in town you see steam everywhere you look. Its really interesting but very very smelly!

We also visited the redwoods forest and saw the tallest trees in the world, 110 metres and as wide as buses, impressive again.

That night we got picked up for our very own Maori experience at Mitai Mauri Village which was a highlight. First our group had to choose a chief to lead our tribe "of many nations" and then we were shown the feast cooking away in the ground, in what they call a Hangi.

Then our chief led us to the river where the Maitai warriors arrived in a big wooden canoes, feeling a bit sorry for them as we had about 10 layers on and they had a loin cloth, and where we followed them to their village. After they performed various dances and the Haka (think New Zealand Rugby dance) which of course we also tried, we went for the Hangi and what a feast, it was the best meal we've had in ages.

After dinner we then went on a tour through the forest to see glow worms, all in all a cracking tour. "We used to eat you guys about 100 years ago" one of the warriors told us "But prefer a Big Mac these days!".

Next stop was lake Taupo, New Zealands largest lake, formed by one of the biggest volcano explosions ever. Another thermal pool night and then a quick stop at the amazing Huka falls before making our way down the Volcanic Highway (of course) and via the Dessert Road which curves round the mountains which featured Lord of the Rings, to Napier.

Here it was surprisingly warm, around 20 degrees, which was a nice change from 5-10 degrees in Taupo. We had two lazy days here chilling out...England are now 2 - 0 up in the mini golf tournament, but Sweden are winning 3 -2 at table tennis and leading the Shit Head (card game) table by miles!

The weather changed for the worse when we left Napier for the Capital City of Wellington, gales and heavy rain, it felt like the van was going to blow over one night. Wellington has apparently been compared to San Francisco but we're not so sure, isn't San Fran supposed to be cool with loads going on? It wasn't that bad really.

The first day was pretty fun, there was a Eurofest exhibition in the main arena which we stumbled across, stalls from all the EU nations showing off their tourism brochures and cuisine. We had a Swedish waffle with jam and cream, a Polish sausage, and a Hungarian sausage (no jokes please) while watching Polish dancers and Maltese singers, not your typical day in New Zealand.

We also took the old tram up to the botanical gardens and after a freezing walk back down again opted for the cinema to see Angels and Demons.

The next day we took the 3 and a half hour ferry across the Cook Straight to the South Island where the strangest thing happened. I was buying a magazine when I heard someone calling my name and turned around to see some friends from Bradford.

It was very surreal, the last we'd heard they were supposed to have moved to Dubai. We spent the ferry ride chatting to Michaela and Steve and made plans to meet up later on as we were going in different directions.

Well so far we've been here in the South Island for 3 days and already can see why everyone recommends this over the North, the scenery is even more dramatic.

We saw something amazing yesterday but you'll have to wait to see what that is when we post the next South Island blog. We're opting for a car here instead of the van as its getting really cold now so we want the comfort of a Hotel or B&B instead.

Will write soon, hope you're all well.

Love Maja and Steve x

Additional photos below
Photos: 50, Displayed: 27


Maja and SteveMaja and Steve
Maja and Steve

No we're not following the Korean couples matching fashions, the jumpers were on sale! haha

23rd May 2009

wow and wow again
What amazing pictures. It really makes you realise what a great big world it is out there and how little of it we have seen. I am so glad that you took this opportunity to see and experience all the wonderful sights and different cultures so far removed from our own. It makes me wonder if you will ever be able to settle down again. Take good care of yourselves. Love Grandma
29th May 2009

Hi kids, thanks for another great blog, fabulous photos again! You both look great again! It must be really weird when the weather is cold and you are standing on hot water under the sand, you really seem to be enjoying New Zealand. What is the next blog going to be??? Is it Fiji?! I'm glad you're going to Fiji before you start work, I was going to suggest having a few days in a really posh hotel before the job started but this weeks holiday should be fantastic, good luck! Everything is good at home, the weather is lovely for a change. We missed the Man Utd game because of the quiz. It was nice to see Stephen and Helen again, we havent seen them for over a month and they were asking all sorts of questions about you two. Mum is having her 1st weeks holiday after only working for 2 and a half weeks! In 6 weeks she starts her 6 weeks holiday! Thats all for now, hope your tour of the south island is going well, I wonder which you prefer north or south. Bye for now. Missing you. Love Mum, Dad, Anna and Oscar (Anna is as daft as ever but at least she hasnt mentioned a new car for a while) xxxx
31st May 2009

Hej på er, hörde av Erik o Kicki att ni har förlovat er. Ett stort grattis till er båda! Vilken härlig, fantastiskt resa ni verkar vara på och vilka fina bilder. Kul att följa er på färden! Kram/Krister

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