New Zealand - 13th Feb - 20 March 2011


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Oceania » New Zealand
February 28th 2011
Published: March 23rd 2011
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Kia Ora!
New Zealand, wow what a country!

We landed into Christchurch airport and got a shuttle to a nice hostel with really comfy beds! Unfortunately, they didn’t supply bedding (well it was $2 more per night and we didn’t want to pay that), and we assumed we’d be fine with our sleeping bag liners and stolen Jetstar blankets (from the aeroplane), how wrong we were! New Zealand is COLD! We had 2 nights here to explore the city, and the first thing that struck us was how small and empty it felt! We treated ourselves to a meal out on Valentine’s Day, in the romantic setting of Wagamamas! We also hit the shops in search of winter clothes – Laura bagged a bargain – some brand new Levis jeans for £11 from a charity shop - result! She also managed to find some walking boots for $40 (£20) which were an investment for the Inca Trail (Dan didn’t have such luck and is walking bootless). We walked along the Avon River, wandered around Cathedral Square and didn’t really do a lot else. We had booked ourselves onto a ‘Kiwi experience’ bus tour which does a loop of South Island, meaning we expected to return to Christchurch in a month’s time, so we were saving the Arts precinct and The Port Hills for then.

We were picked up by the big green Kiwi Experience bus and were driven north to a small eco-town called Kiakoura (Kia meaning food and Koura meaning crayfish), famous for its marine life. There is a nutrient rich canyon less than 1km off shore, this unusually rich habitat supports abundant populations of dolphins and whales. Unfortunately we saw neither - again we had to pass through Kiakoura for a second time, so thought we would speak to people about how good the tour was to see if we wanted to spend money on it. Instead we spent the day walking along the coast to a seal colony, which at first was disappointing without a strong pair of binoculars, but was immensely improved when we found 2 seals sunbathing in the bushes by the car park, one of which chased us – they’re very territorial. We were surprised at the end of the day when we had sunburnt faces, turns out the sun is still pretty powerful here even when it’s chilly.

The following day we moved on to Blenheim, a town in the Marlborough region – famed for its wine producing credentials. We had arranged to meet with Lucy and Phil here (the guys we met in Fiji). They had hired a campervan, aka the Batmobile! Being enthusiasts of Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, we were keen to get around as many wineries as possible for some free tasting! Lucy kindly offered to be our driver, so we set off to winery number one (and one of Dan’s favourites) Withered Hills. We felt a bit out of place arriving in the Batmobile when the car park was full of more prestigious motors, but we didn’t let that stop us. We got to sample 8 different wines, some of which are not available to buy at home. We also saw some reds maturing in the oak barrels in the cellar. We purchased one bottle and moved on, next stop, Cloudy Bay (another firm favourite, so we couldn’t resist buying a bottle there as well). Next we visited Hunter’s winery, where we got offered to try the ‘backpackers wine’ i.e. the cheapo range - the lower price allowed us to purchase two bottles. The final stop was Saint Clair where we rounded our tasting off by buying a bottle of bubbles. A good day out!

That evening we joined Lucy and Phil at their holiday park to have a BBQ and enjoy our purchases. The BBQ didn’t really happen and instead we had to cook over the one gas stove from the Batmobile. The van was only designed for 3 people – 3 seats, 3 plates, 3 bowls etc, so Dan had to eat his dinner off a chopping board using 2 sporks as cutlery, something we would have to become accustom too for the next few weeks.

One night was all we spent in Blenheim, before we begun travelling in style in the Batmobile, no more big green bus for us for a while! With Dan perched in the back (we realise this wasn’t the safest method of transportation, but we weighed it up against our Asian experiences and decided it was worth the risk!) we set off along the Queen Charlotte Drive, a stunning stretch of coastline with great views of the Pelorus Sounds. The beauty of having your own transport (or piggy backing on your friends) is that you can stop at each lookout to admire the view and take photos, something the Kiwi Experience didn’t allow much of. We arrived into Nelson, and found a beautiful beach to have lunch on. We also sampled the local ice cream – hokey pokey (basically honeycomb), which we highly recommend. We took a visit to one of the many ‘i-site’s’ that are found in all towns around the country that provide free helpful advice on things to do. We wanted to tramp (trek and camp) in Abel Tasman National Park, and the i-site helped us arrange it. We checked into a hostel for the night, into ‘The Loveshack’ (their name not ours!) It was basically a shed they had put two beds into, but it was a nice hostel with swimming pool, free soup , noodles and breakfast, where as Phil and Lucy were parked up in a nearby field with no shower, haha.

The next morning we headed to Marahau - the start of Abel Tasman National Park, where we hired tents and sleeping bags. The weather was beautiful as we set off on the 17km walk to our campsite. It was a fantastic walk along the coastline where we had amazing views of beaches, bays and kayaks in the sea. We stopped for lunch on Anchorage Bay Beach – one of the best we had ever visited, much to our surprise given we’d just come from Fiji. Our afternoons walking took us over a tidal zone called Torrent Bay during low tide, although it was still pretty wet in places, meaning Dan had to give Laura several piggy backs (Laura had been suffering with horrible infected blisters that appeared after our hike in Fiji, over 2 weeks ago by this point. We’d strapped them up, put on the new walking boots so she didn’t want to take them off for fear they wouldn’t go back on!) We arrived hot and sweaty at the Bark Bay campsite, quickly erected the tents and headed for the sea, which proved to be more refreshing than we had hoped! The campsite was pretty basic, just a tap and some toilets, so dinner was another picnic and we spent the evening playing our new favourite card game: nomination whist.

After a pretty good sleep, we got up and realised that Laura’s feet were in a bad way and the walking boots weren’t going to be going back on. Luckily, there was a water taxi which we were able to get on to. So we took the quick and easy route back to base, enjoying the views along the way, whilst Lucy and Phil hiked all the way back. We were reunited and drove through some stunning scenery to the small town of Murchinson. Again, we checked into a hostel whilst Lucy and Phil set off to find a holiday park. This hostel – ‘The Lazy Cow’, run by two English expats, was something to write about! It was the most homely hostel we have stayed at, with nice touches like sweets on your pillow and free chocolate and courgette cake - we wanted to stay longer!

We awoke to another beautiful day and drove to the Buller Gorge which is home to New Zealand’s longest swing bridge. We continued on our way, stopping several times for photos and lunch, and to read our books by the river in the sun. Unfortunately the rumours we’d heard about NZ sand flies were proved true here and they became a pest to the point of annoyance. As it was a Sunday, we’d purchased the materials to cook ourselves a lovely traditional roast dinner. Our excitement was short lived when we checked into our hostel and saw there was no oven! Super noodles for dinner again then...

The next day we hit the West Coast, the most stunning part of New Zealand in our opinion. We drove through Westport and other than a quick trip to a pharmacy to get Laura’s blisters looked at, we decided there wasn’t much to keep us there and drove on. We timed our journey to reach Punakaiki at high tide, to see the pancake rocks (layers of limestone have weathered by stylobedding to resemble a stack of pancakes) and blow holes at their signature moment. We enjoyed the short walk and found the unique coastal scenery stunning. We were slightly disappointed that we didn’t get to witness the blow holes explode as on all the postcards, but our frustration was short lived when Dan spotted a pod of dolphins out at sea! We watched them for ages trying to get the perfect shot of them jumping out of the sea. We continued driving to Hokitika and had a short trip to the beach to view the unusual collection of drift wood sculptures which was followed by a team effort to cook the long overdue roast – the first we’ve had this year!

Our luck then ran out with the weather, but we still managed to fit in a short scenic walk to Lake Kaneira where we found some unusual bright blue and red mushrooms! We were also lucky enough to come across a kiwi – a dull brown flightless bird that is the NZ national symbol and is now very rare. Lunch was eaten inside the Batmobile to shelter from the rain and keep the sand flies at bay, and then we visited Dorothy Falls which were nice, but not as impressive as the ones we’d seen in Bali. That afternoon, as we continued driving south, the devastating 6.3 earthquake occurred in Christchurch. Lots of people we met on the West Coast felt it, but we didn’t (which might say something about how smooth the ride in the Batmobile was!) We checked into a hostel in Franz Josef and sat in shock watching the live news reports. Places we’d photographed just 7 days ago were now reduced to rubble. It was really sad, and there was a tense atmosphere around the place as people were trying to contact friends and family they knew where in Christchurch.

The following morning was the start of one of the best activities we have done yet. We’d booked to do the full day glacier hike on Franz Josef. We checked in and received our snazzy waterproof outfits and crampons, and after a briefing were bussed to the start of the walk. The 60 or so people were then split up into ability groups and we walked the 2km to get to the terminal moraine. This marked the steepest section of the walk but we were able to rest as we donned our crampons. We stepped onto the ice and started our accent. It was simply stunning and completely unlike anything we’d ever done before, we loved it and even the rain couldn’t dampen our spirits. We walked through cracks and learnt to side stepped through smaller crevasses in the ice. We even had to crawl through ice tunnels at one point. We walked higher up the glacier than our instructor had ever stepped foot before and got to see a Himalayan Thar standing on the ice which is pretty rare apparently. We made it back to base by 5.30pm thoroughly exhausted, in need of a good warm shower, but feeling thoroughly satisfied after a brilliant day.

The next day marked 25 years of Laura! Dan made surprise bacon and brie rolls for breakfast whilst Laura got to skype Amy, Rach, Els and Alex back in England. The Batmobile came to get us and we drove the short journey to Fox Glacier where we had planned to skydive. Unfortunately, despite it looking clear, the weather wasn’t right and all jumps had been cancelled. Instead we headed to Lake Matheson where we took a walk and enjoyed the stunning scenery in a very tranquil environment. Birthday lunch was comprised of pancakes with a range of fillings cooked in the car park! We returned to Franz Josef and spent the afternoon soaking ourselves in the Glacial Hot Pools, which ranged in temperature from 36ᵒC – 40ᵒC. Back at the hostel, Dan prepared birthday cakes, and Phil and Dan cooked an amazing chilli for dinner. We washed this down with the remainder of our wine from Marlborough and plenty of beer. Later on we headed out to sample the Franz Josef nightlife which was unsurprisingly not very busy, but we made our own entertainment which was enjoyed by all (at least it looks like we were having fun from Laura’s embarrassing ‘hamster’ dancing videos that we found after that night!) Franz Josef marked the longest we have stayed in one place in New Zealand, a whooping 3 nights!

The next day wasn’t so great with everyone feeling the effects of the night before, some more than others! Dan started the day by buying a kilo of bacon to ease everyone’s recovery! We drove south to a small town called Haast which has a gorgeous beach which we had to ourselves (and some more blasted sand flies). Dan and Phil went for an extremely quick dip, then saw sense and retreated to the comfort and warmth of dry land.

We continued our journey the following day, arriving in Wanaka by midday. We stopped at the airport and luckily enough blue skies and no wind prevailed. After a quick light lunch then entered Wanaka Sky Dive centre and before we knew it we had been issued jump suits, harnesses and been introduced to our instructor whom which we were to be strapped to. Then we were herded onto the small plane which was to take us to 12,000 feet. The view on the way up was spectacular, we could see Mount Cook and the surrounding mountains, although the noise from the rattling slide door was overpowering. Dan was first out followed by Lucy then Laura and Phil. We had a 45 second freefall followed by 5 minutes of slower descent once the parachutes had been deployed. It was a truly great adrenaline buzz, an amazing experience and we were all left craving more! We headed to Wanaka town where we checked in and spent time relaxing by the lake eating celebratory ice creams. Some of us braved the cold temperature and went for a swim whilst Laura watched the bags on the beach!

The next day we set out for a walk up the Rocky Mountain, not a particularly long climb, but a steep one. Well worth it though, as the views from the top of the surrounding mountains and lakes were spectacular. Later in the afternoon, we popped to a place called ‘Puzzling World’; we didn’t stay all that long as we only tried the free bits. That evening we treated ourselves to a BBQ watching the sun set over Lake Wanaka, beautiful. Wanaka was one of our favourite places in NZ.

The following morning, Laura woke up feeling ill with a horrible sore throat and ear ache on one side. We drove to Queenstown along some steep and windy roads through the Cardrona Valley - lots of striking ‘Lord of the Rings type’ scenery. This turned into a bit of a nothing day where we briefly looked around the town and spent most of the day napping (in Laura’s case) and using the free wifi (something we’ve struggled to find in NZ). We were however productive in buying ourselves a 3 man second hand tent from some fellow travellers – a bargain at $30. Laura didn’t feel much better the next day either, but we managed a walk along Lake Wakatipu, around the harbour and a spot of window shopping, whilst Phil and Lucy went white water rafting. We’d heard through our travels that the place to be, come dinner time was a place called ‘Ferg Burger’. The legendary burgers lived up to expectation, Dan enjoyed a ‘Cockadoodle Oink’ whilst Laura went for a ‘Southern Swine’ burger, this helped her throat no end! Queenstown is also renowned for its night life, which Dan and Phil took full advantage of (Laura retired after 2 diet cokes), and it still remains a mystery as to whether they had another late night ‘Ferg Burger’ or not!

After 2 nights in Queenstown, it was back in the Batmobile and time to put the tent into action. We had a fairly long and scenic ride, with poor old Lucy doing the driving, whilst Laura sat muted by her throat in the front, and Dan and Phil snuggled up in the back of the van in recovery from the night’s activities! We arrived at the camp site in the middle of nowhere, located right by Mount Cook in the Hooker Valley. Unfortunately it was almost hailing, but we wouldn’t let that stop us, so when it eased up a bit, Dan, Lucy and Phil rushed to erect the tent. It was freezing cold and blowing a gale, and nearly as soon as the tent was up, we realised this wasn’t a good idea. This is the closest Laura has been to checking into a nice hotel for the night! Making the most of the bad situation (the only accommodation was a 5* hotel – not an option) we set about making dinner of vegetable curry on the camp stove, sheltered in a hut. We put on all of our clothes and where still freezing! Dan went back to check on the poor tent, and discovered it missing. The wind had blown it away and some kind people had found it and covered it flat with rocks further down the camp site. Dan braved the elements to leave it drying out in the recycling hut. We realised the only way we would make it through the night was body heat, so the 4 of us snuggled up in the back of the Batmobile and settled in for the night, which ended up being quite funny and pleased Lucy no end!

We awoke to more pleasant weather and went for a tramp along the Hooker Valley Track, where we had some great views of Mount Cook. We had to cross two pretty hairy swing bridges – the wind was so strong that we were worried about being blown away! At the end of the track, we came to a grey looking glacier fed lake which had an ice berg floating in it – we were told this was probably there as a result of the earthquake causing a lot of ice movement on the glaciers. We’d planned for two, but decided that one night at Mount Cook had been enough, so after some lunch we drove onto Lake Tekapo. It was much warmer here and we set about playing some crazy golf (Laura got a hole in one!!) That night the tent finally got used at a holiday park (we’d been smuggled in, in the back of the Batmobile to keep costs down!) The sky at night was stunning – with no big towns around emitting lights, you see so many more stars, it was spectacular. We were rudely awoken at 5am when the wind picked up once more and some remedial repairs needed to be made to the porch area of the tent! At least it had been another cheap night, if not the best night sleep!

We drove on to a town called Geraldine, and Laura finally decided that after 5 days of suffering she’d go to the doctors. This was a surprisingly painless experience. We turned up with no appointment, got seen by a nurse straight away who confirmed antibiotics were needed, and were fast tracked through as the first patient after the doctor returned from his lunch break! It put the NHS to shame.

A highlight of this day was visiting a cheese and fudge shop with free samples! Phil purchased some Mount Peel Blue cheese and it was so good, we returned the following day to invest in some more! That night we exercised our right to freedom camp, something that is not very common in NZ. We were the only ones using the field which was great. Dan, Lucy and Phil took a dip in the cold natural pools nearby and collected fire wood. Against the signs clearly telling us fires were banned, we thought we’d have one in an old oil drum which had clearly been used for this purpose before. It had been alight all of 2 minutes when the only car to pass us that afternoon and evening arrived and told us to put it out! Oh well! We cooked a surprisingly good meal here, with all the bits of random ingredients we had left. Dan called it: ‘a sweet corn based, chicken noodles, sweet fruit spiced chutney with a Mexican flavoured vegetable stir fry with a mixed herb seasoning!’ It tasted good!

The next day we had a long rainy drive north. We drove through the outskirts of Christchurch – no signs of earthquake damage – most of the destruction was in the CBD which is all closed off. We had a lunch stop at a beach just north of Christchurch where we cooked savoury pancakes, even though it still wasn’t Shrove Tuesday! We drove all afternoon and eventually arrived back in Kiakoura, having done a complete loop of the South Island (minus the Milford Sounds bit). We treated ourselves to the luxury of bunk beds (so comfy after 2 nights on the hard ground) and fish and chips for the last supper. Randomly, we read the visitors book in the chip shop and Dan found someone he knows from the swimming club in Clacton! We left Phil and Lucy here as they were returning south to fly to Auz from Christchurch whilst we were destined for North Island. We had a brilliant time travelling as a 4 in the Batmobile and can’t thank them enough for letting us tag along, thanks guys!

The following day it was time to get back onto the big green bus – the ‘Kiwi Experience’. We drove north to Picton and caught the 3 hour ferry to Wellington – the capital city. The crossing was pretty choppy and the weather wasn’t great so we sheltered inside for the journey. We spent two nights in Wellington, the highlight of which was a visit to the Te Papa museum – one of the best we’ve been to. It was modern and interactive so very interesting to visit. We also found some cheap cinema tickets so went to see ‘The Kings Speech’ (highly recommend it if you haven’t already seen it). The cinema was a converted theatre – really impressive building and was where the premier of ‘Lord of the Rings – The return of the King’ was held. The name of each celebrity was written on a plaque of the seat they had sat in!

The following day was a 3 hour bus journey to Turangi, with a short stop in a funny town called Bulls. Turangi is tiny, and the only reason we went there was to complete the Tongariro Crossing, a 19.4km walk through volcanic terrain. We got picked up from the hostel at 7.30am and driven to the start of the track in Mangatepopo car park. It was a lovely sunny day which was great, although it made the walk pretty busy with other tourists. The scenery was great, and completely different to anything we’d already seen in NZ. We had to climb to 1967km up the ‘Devil’s Staircase’ which was pretty hard going, but good training for our fore coming Inca Trail. We were rewarded at the summit with stunning views over emerald and blue lakes, red volcanic craters and Mount Ngauruhoe, which was used as Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings films. It was great, except for the smell of sulphur which we’d liken to rotting eggs! After 5 hours we completed the trek and were pleased that we hadn’t suffered too many blisters (seems our feet are really soft after constant wearing of flip flops for the last 6 months) although Dan had found it pretty slippery in places as he was walking in trainers.

The Kiwi Experience then dropped us at our next stop, a short trip around the largest lake in NZ (you could fit Singapore in it and still have room to swing a cat apparently) to Taupo. Here we visited the Huka falls – impressive not because of their height (they’re tiny) but because of the volume of water passing through – enough to fill 5 Olympic swimming pools every minute. We also bathed in the natural hot springs on Waikato River. This was nice but again the weather was lovely and sunny so it was almost too hot! We stayed two nights and explored the town, took a walk along the lake edge (and decided it wasn’t half as nice as Wanaka) and it was then time to move on once more.

Next stop was Rotorua, famed for its geothermal activity. The bus stopped on route for us to look at some mud pools, they stunk but it was fascinating and you could see and feel the heat coming off of them. We arrived just as a Saturday market was underway so we went and brought some fresh fruit and veg. We’ve been eating a lot of kiwis, although they all seem to come from Italy disappointingly! But avocados are dirt cheap compared to what they are back home so we made the most of that! That afternoon we were collected from our hostel and taken out to Kaituna River where we were to white water raft. We’d tried it in Thailand and couldn’t wait to have a go again, so were pleased to learn that this river was classified as grade V, the most powerful you can get. The reason for this classification is the 7 meter waterfall (Tutea’s Falls) you have to raft down! We got kitted up and were quickly told to jump into the river and climb into the bright yellow raft – we were soaked from the start! We passed through lots of white water and successfully managed to navigate the 7m waterfall without the raft flipping, although we came pretty close! It was a great experience, but we would have liked it to last a little longer. We were on the water for an hour; compared to Lucy and Phil in Queenstown who were on for 2 and a half hours, but then they paid double what we did so I guess you get what you pay for. There were some really good photos taken of the rafting, but as with all these things, you have to pay a lot to buy them so sadly you won’t be seeing us in action.

On our second day in Rotorua we walked through the Government Gardens and along the Sulphur area called Te Kauanga of Lake Rotorua. Dan was getting pretty bored of the smelly geothermal activity where as Laura found it fascinating!

It was now time to move onto Auckland, and it was a pretty long journey by NZ standards. We had a lunch stop in the town of Matamata which is where the Hobbiton set was for the Lord of the Rings films. You can pay to do a tour, but the film crew dismantled the real set and it was recreated for tourists, so we didn’t bother and instead just took a photo by the sign. When we arrived in the city we headed for the ‘cool’ part of town where our hostel awaited. The Kiwis seem to be pretty proud of their ‘Bohemian’ parts although they have nothing on Camden Town. That afternoon we had headed out to try and find the South American Lonely Planet in a second hand book shop (because we refused to pay extortionately high tax on new books $83, no thanks!). We must have visited over a dozen shops so far on our travels in NZ with no joy. As luck would have it the first second-hand shop we visited had almost brand new copies of every Lonely Planet ever published at good prices – job done, finally! We took a stroll down by the harbour and had a look at some of sites. The NZ Harbour Bridge looks like a tiny and less impressive version of Sydney’s...

The next day we went to the War Museum, it was set in a grand old building in the Domain Park. Unfortunately we had been spoilt by Te Papa in Wellington and didn’t find this as interesting, although we did still spend a couple of hours navigating our way through the great halls of Maori culture, prized stuffed animals and war memorabilia. We worked our way back through the Winter Gardens and across the busy playing fields where there was a cricket game taking place, which we stopped to watch. The Auckland Arts Festival was taking place across the city during our stay, staging lots of different events, shows and musicals. We found an open air cinema event which was taking place at the Unitec campus – and it was free! So we caught the bus out there and settled ourselves down with blankets and sweets to watch Avatar which was being projected from the back of a converted Hummer.

We had learnt about these free tours which the bus companies run in Auckland to promote their trips up and down the country. This was too much for us to resist so we booked onto one run by ‘Stray’ (we weren’t loyal to the ‘Kiwi Experience’). We were picked up early and met by a very hospitable tour guide. Twelve other people joined the tour and we headed to the sky tower – NZ’s highest building. We were quickly introduced to a game of heads and tales (something we are familiar with thanks to Frinton Cricket Week). It is basically a game of chance where the winner gets a prize - the type of games we are both usually really unlucky at. Typically Dan went out in the first round, but then something strange happened and Laura succeeded through to the next round of three people, and she won!! Still not knowing her reward, Laura was whisked off where she was told she was to jump off the building!! At the observation deck, 192m up there were two cables running down to a landing pad at the bottom, it’s a bit like a bungee, but your harness is attached to your back not your feet so you don’t fall head first. After being dressed in the correct attire and strapped to the cables they took her to edge where the view was amazing. Dan waiting on the ground could just about make out a figure high above; luckily there was a TV screen where we could watch all the action from – although we might as well not had it, as we could hear Laura scream all the way down at 90km an hour! It was a pretty hairy experience but really good fun (although I wouldn’t have wanted to pay the $200 to do it!) - A good start to the day! We were bussed around some of Auckland’s highlights (some of which we’d seen the day before). We visited Michael Joseph Savage Park where we were learned some history - the Maori tribe had once owned the land, they lent it to the Kiwi government who decided to later try to turn it into real estate. This prompted a 532 day sit in protest from the Maoris’ who eventually took the government to international court and won the right to keep their land as a park. It was then onto Speight’s Ale House for lunch and beer tasting. In the afternoon we headed to the harbour bridge where we were given harnesses and walked out to the middle to watch some people bungee jump (we decided not to jump for financial reasons, and it was only 40m which we didn’t think was worth it). This ended our tour but we were very glad we did it, especially Laura!

One other thing we had got out of the day was a free ticked to go up the observation deck of the sky tower from which Laura had jumped that day. We waited till the evening when it is supposed to offer better views, and Laura kindly (having already seen the view) offered the ticket to Dan to head up and take some pictures.

We had previously tried to bring our flights forward a few days as we had missed out Christchurch on the way round South Island, so had some free days. We were told that all the flights to South America were full so we had to stick with the 20th and make alternative plans. On the advice of Lucy and Phil who had been north of Auckland, we headed for Paihia (pronounced pie here) in the Bay of Islands. The cheapest option to get there was the Naked Bus (another of the many bus tour companies) so we hopped on and made our way north. We arrived to a beautiful day and check into one of the best hostels we have stayed in. We made our way down to the beach and spent the afternoon relaxing, reading and sun bathing – it’s been a while since we have done that believe it or not! The next day was pretty grey. As the bikes were free to borrow, Laura had the great idea of going for a nice relaxing ride. We headed for the Haruru Waterfall, via some pretty steep hills on route; there was lots of puffing and panting going on by the time we reached the falls. Instead of having to retrace our steps back along the road, we took the Hutia Creek Mangrove Forest Board Walk, putting the ruggedness of the mountain bikes to good use at times! We returned tired and muddy in need of a good shower and some long overdue lunch!

The weather let us down on our final day in NZ so we spent it doing washing, repacking, watching dvds and enjoying our last bottle of Marlborough Pino Gris for a while (thank you Withered Hills!). The alarm went at 6.30am the next day so we could catch the 4 hours bus back to Auckland. We then had to get to the airport where we had a 5 hour wait before we boarded our LAN flight to Santiago - a long day!

We had such a brilliant time travelling New Zealand and have so many fond memories of our time there. It is such a diverse country scenery wise – mountains, beaches, glaciers, lakes, volcanoes, rivers and geothermal pools, all in a country not much bigger than England! We’d love to come back and revisit some of the places again, maybe in the winter to sample the ski resorts. We’d put it up there with Cambodia and Lombok as one of our favourite countries visited so far. Thank you New Zealand for a brilliant 5 weeks!




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