One month to explore the north and south islands of New Zealand
24.01.2013 - 23.02.2013
New Zealand has been all about activities more then learning its history (for obvious reasons). I flew into Auckland and was met by my friends sister Becky who lives in Mission Bay, I am staying with her before and after my hop on off bus. Just had the one day before I started the bus adventure which was so different from the Australia tour. With Contiki you stay with the same people the whole way but with Kiwi experience you can stay in places for as long as you like and just book yourself onto their next bus with spaces! New Zealand is beautiful, such dramatic landscape in both islands, it changes on each coast too...
So here is 24 days in brief!
Day one...Auckland to Hot water beach
We set off early to our first destination Hot Water beach which is about 2hours outside of Auckland. Once at the beach we were suppose to dig a hole in the sand but ended up borrowing ones already in place as the tide was coming in! Once you dig a hole and if you have picked a good spot the water that comes up in the sand is boiling hot! So hot that you end up scolding your feet if you are not careful. Didn't stay for long because I signed up for kayaking which I instantly regretted when we got to the location. The waves were huge! I thought it was meant to be a nice kayak to Cathedral Cove but no, it was such hard work even with being in the instructors kayak! I thought a few of us were going over quite a few times but when we made it to Cathedral Cove it was really pretty beach, cold but nice and I am glad I didn't bottle out of the activity!
Day two...Hot Water beach to Waitomo
Next stop, a town called Waitomo which didn't have much there but it had glow worm caves. I went to a cave called Riakuri to see the glow worms, this cave has spiritual Maori culture and the tour lasted for about 2 hours.
Day three...Waitomo to Rotorua
The first thing you notice about Rotorua is the smell...it is disgusting! It is the smell of sulphur as you are surrounded by geothermal activity, it is also said to be the town where most Maori's chose to live. We were taken out by a local Maori who was friends with a Finish girl called Tuuli who was on the Kiwi bus. Her friend, Jade, was lovely, so good to us. Jade took us to a Maori village which was located around geysers, we had a tour and learnt how the Maori people used the hot pools to their benefit; for cooking, washing and chores. This thermal village use to hold title to the longest name - Whakarewarewa. We visited the lake which was beautiful and then the museum which was an old Victorian bath house. After we said goodbye to Jade we headed to a Maori culture evening which was amazing! If anyone ever goes to Rotorua you should go see it. The evening starts off with a Hakka performance and then you move into the recreated village to learn old Maori games and traditions such as carving. You then have an amazing show with songs and dances before going to dinner which was so good, you don't have to tell backpackers twice at you can have seconds!
Day four/five...Rotorua to Taupo
Taupo is beautiful and we had two nights here. Before arriving in Taupo we stopped at Huka falls which means frothy water and is fast moving water which you would not want to get caught in! I headed straight to the lake for some sunbathing once we arrived in Taupo, is lake is the largest in Australasia and is big enough to fit Singapore in it. We had a bus night out which resulted in slightly sore heads the next day so it was a relaxing day of looking around e town and then watching the sunset over lake Taupo.
Day six...Taupo to River Valley
En route to River Valley we stopped in Tongario National Park for a 2 hour walk to a waterfall then carried on through to our destination via very windy roads. Once at the farmhouse location five of us went on a horse trek which was in an area where lord of the rings had been filmed close by, if you have seen the films you can imagine the view of rolling hills. The sun was slowly setting as well so it was even more beautiful!
Day seven...River Valley to Wellington
The morning was spent lazing by the river before dreading of to Wellington. We stopped on the way in a town called bulls, many of the towns shops have signs on them with the word bull, so on the police station they have 'constabull' etc! We have timed Wellington with the rugby sevens (I seem to be following the game around countries!). It is a big night in Wellington but we only had the one night there due to lack of room availability. Everyone was in fancy dress apart from us it seemed and the costumes we saw were amazing! My favourite were the snow globes, each person was a different country with plastic over them to create the globe! On e way back to the hostel we came across some young buskers who were playing instrumental versions of pop songs which had everyone dancing in the street, we stayed for about 2 hours dancing away!
Day eight...Wellington to Kaiteriteri
Today we headed over to the South Island on the ferry which took about 3 hours, pretty views from the window! Kaiteriteri was really nice and the afternoon was spent on the small beach there.
Day nine...Kaiterteri to Westport
We were able to go to Abel Tazman National Park for a quick walk in the morning before leaving. Such beautiful views on the walk just a shame we didn't have long to do it. Nothing much at Westport so we had an organised three legged pub crawl which was fun!
Day ten...Westport to Lake Mahinapua
Very rainy day today but so far we have been so lucky with the weather. It started to pour when on a walk at Cape Foulwind to see a seal colony. Fancy dress party tonight, the hostel was in the middle of nowhere so his is the entertainment Kiwi have come up with... Our theme was 'what you wanted to be when you grew up' so I went as a ballerina, not original at all but easy to do in the 3 hours we had!
Day eleven...Lake Mahinapua to Franz Josef
Franz Josef is beautiful! Snow capped mountains all around and we had clear blue skies so we were not too cold as the weather had definitely dropped. Didn't do much this day, just had a loom around the town and some lunch with the girls.
Day twelve...Franz Josef
I got to go on Franz Josef glacier today and to get up to it we had to go in a helicopter, I got to go in the front because I am small so had really good views. So happy I did this activity, the glacier was beautiful, scary because it changes so quickly so you are trusting the guide a lot. We were taken through a very small gap that was really difficult, you had to twist your body to squeeze through the ice but once through you had a tunnel to walk through which wasn't as bad! We were up there walking for about 3 hours, again if you are ever there you should definitely do this hike! Included in the price was entry to hot pools which were opposite the hostel, so nice to spend a couple of hours in the pools. There were three all at different temperatures 36', 38' and 40'.
Day thirteen...Franz Josef to Wanaka
First stop of the day was Lake Matheson which had mirror image in the water of mt Cook before headin through to Wanaka. I love Wanaka, so pretty and annoyingly I had only organised one night stay so had hardly anytime. We lazed by the lake for the afternoon and then went to the cinema in the evening but it wasn't a normal cinema it had sofas as seat and an interval where you could buy a hot cookie!
Day fourteen...Wanaka to Queenstown Days fifteen to seventeen...Queenstown
On the way to Queenstown we stopped at Puzzle World, i had been looking forward to this place not really sure why i was so excited but it did not disappoint! There was a maze, illusion room and many more things that confused and entertained you! Queenstown is the place where people on the bus stay for different lengths of time so odds were you wouldn't be with many people you had been travelling with so we had a couple of big nights here. Not sure what I was expecting with Queenstown but I did not think it was going to be so pretty, right on the water it is stunning and has botanical gardens which are also beautiful. As I passed on sky dives and bungee jumps I felt I needed to something out of my comfort zone so it was time for the canyon swing! The video dis up on Facebook to watch. It was a free fall drop of 60m above a 120m canyon! So scary and I would never do it again! Also tried a furg burger on the same day, they are massive but so good! I went on a day trip to Milford Sounds on the Sunday in Queenstown, very beautiful part of the country but a long day on the bus.
Day eighteen...Queenstown to Christchurch
Leaving Queenstown we headed for a full day of driving to Christchurch and on the way we passed mt Cook wi no clouds, perfect blue sky which was so lucky! Christchurch is so quiet, it is really sad to be there and I would have loved to have visited before the earthquakes. We only had one night there so we quickly headed out into town to see the shopping centre made from shipping containers which was really cool. We met our friend Tuuli who picked us up with her family and they drive us to a few places so we got to see a lot in one night. We drove up to a view point which looked over Christchurch and as the sun had gone all the street lamps were on, however there was a massive black patch in the middle which was where the city centre once stood. We also drove through the red zone where people had been told to leave their house and not to return because it was too dangerous. They had to leave everything they owned in the houses, it was a very spooky area.
Day nineteen...Christchurch to Kaikoura
Kaikoura is a mother small town, we went to a viewpoint where you could see tow seas either side of the coast. It was really sunny when we arrived but then the clouds rolled in and we ended up with a really cold afternoon, the fire at the hostel was even put on! So a few of us spent about 3 hours playing crds to pass the time until a pub quiz that night in the town!
I decided to do two nights here which meant I had one full day, really glad I did this because the following day was beautiful. Me and Melissa went for a walk, went slightly wrong and didn't walk along the coastline but along the road but it was still really nice! We ended up at a seal colony and you could climb over the rocks and get within 10m of them, we saw about 5 pups there too, so cute! The walk took us about 4 hours the walk back was the hardest.
Day twenty one...Kaikoura to Wellington Day twenty two...Wellington
Picking up people from another hostel I bumped into Claire Austin, she was just starting her Kiwi bus but I was heading back over to the north that day but we had a couple of hours on the bus to catch up! Another ferry ride which went really slowly and then pulled into Wellington early evening, I stayed two nights here too because I did not get anytime on the way down. On my free day I went to te papa museum which was free entry, I ended up in the for about 4 hours and I hadn't even finished, I only left because I was hungry, so much to see in the museum, really good place to go.
Day twenty three...Wellington to Taupo
Travel day back through Taupo, stayed one night and spent my time at the lake again!
Day twenty four...Taupo to Auckland
And so my adventure is over, we pulled into Auckland in the afternoon and I made my way back to Mission Bay for my last few days before moving onto Singapore!