Thursday, 23 December 2010

Diz and Hagar's New Zealand Adventure

As you may know, dear reader, my big trip officially finished in Sydney but as I was in this neck of the woods I had decided to append a New Zealand excursion to make this an even bigger trip.  What you probably don't know is that my gorgeous work colleague Louise was joining me for this.   What you also probably don't know is that some of my colleagues at work nick named me Hagar after Hagar the Horrible but I am not a shaggy, scruffy red bearded viking so shows what they know.  Louise's nick name is Diz 'cos she's blonde so they do know something although I'm not sure what.  I also need to remind the reader that what goes on tour stays on tour so by necessity this update will contain very little of what actually went on.

The lucious and long legged, Louise landed (cool piece of alliteration!) the day after I arrived in Auckland and I collected her from the airport, took her back to our room at the hostel in Auckland and got down to the business of having fun.

We spent the next day and a half exploring Auckland and the surrounds during which time we went on the Skytower Screamer which is a bungy based ride.  You sit in a very nice and comfortable chair in a cage of sorts.  A couple of bungy ropes are hoisted to the top of two towers (one on eaither side of the cage) and when taut some nasty bugger releases the catch and blam!! you end up 150 feet in the air spinning and bouncing around.  It is quite exciting and I should add at this point that being a gentleman I refrained from bad language.  The same could not be said for Diz. If you want to view the video (at least the interesting bit) click here

1 min 47 seconds into the bungy ride


As well as looking around Auckland we took a ferry ride out to Rangitoto Island which was created from a number of volcanic eruptions some 600 years ago and is one of 50 volcanic peaks around Auckland.  The Island is a short ferry ride from Auckland and the walk to the summit has some great views across the bay.

Rangitoto Island

 Auckland from Rangitoto Island

The Monday morning saw Diz and I pick up our campervan where we were going to be spending the next month travelling around New Zealand.  I didn't realise at the time of booking that I had got a camper from the Happy Campervan company (bit ironic really).  The camper was small and bijou but had everything we needed.  Once the paperwork was signed we took to the road with Diz driving (naturally).

I'm next to the gorgeous blonde

Our route around New Zealand was planned with precision timing in mind and to allow us to see and do as much as we could in such a limited time.  We planned to travel from Auckland to Wellington visiting some key places on the North Island in the meantime and then travel down the West Coast of South Island (with a side trip to Milford Sound), round the bottom and up the East Coast returning to Auckland via the Coramandel.

Our route around New Zealand (sort of)

By the time we signed agreements, fueled up and bought stuff to eat we left Auckland in the afternoon and headed for Rotorua where we spent our first night in the campervan together ('nuff said!).  The next morning we visited Whakarewarewa (Wh in Maori sounds like an F so I leave you to work out how to pronounce this name). Whakarewarewa is also known as the 'Thermal Village', where we saw geysers, mud pools and hot springs which pretty much encompassed all the geothermal activity in the area in one place.  

 Hot pools with sulphur deposits

 The Prince of Wales Geyser (supposed to look like three feathers - use your imagination, I did!)

The life cycle of a mud pool bubble

 Brown splodge is a Kiwi

Maori warrior doing the Haka

From Rotorua we headed south to the Tongariro National Park camping in a free campsite in the Purorea NP passing Lake Taupo and some stunning scenery on the way. 

 On the way to Tongariro

In the Tongariro National Park there are some stunning walks.  Diz did the Tongariro Crossing which is quite a hard walk and because of my bad knee (good excuse eh!) I spent the day strolling around through the bush taking in mountain views, a waterfall and forest scenery.

 Mt Ruapehu

 Mt Ngauruhue

The Taranaki falls including 'arty' shot

The bush plateau which is very like the moors.

The forest lower down in the Tongariro NP

Diz relaxing after her walk

The next couple of days were spent driving to Wellington then taking the ferry across to South Island and proceeding down the West Coast to Franz Josef.  We stopped a few times on the way to look around, do some walks and generally take in the scenery.  There were some other highlights but being a gentleman I can't divulge what they were but one stop involved chocolate (say no more!).



On the way to Franz Josef

After leaving the inter-island ferry at Picton we followed the main highway down the west coast  through Nelson, Westport and Greymouth and arrived at Franz Josef where we took a helicopter flight over the sothern alps for a birds eye view of mounts Cook and Tasman and the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers.

Southern Alps, Mt Cook and Franz Josef Glacier from the air

 Franz Josef Glacier

Fox Glacier

The area around Franz Josef is home to New Zealand’s rarest Kiwi, the Rowi, and with less than 400 in the wild it is seriously endangered.  A kiwi breeding and egg incubation programme (Operation Nest Egg) is being run in conjunction with the Department of Conservation (DOC) iout of the Wildlife centre and here we saw some Rowi Kiwis and although we weren't supposed to take photos I managed to get off a quick snap (did get told off!).  We also saw a newly hatched chick in the incubation cente (Diz so impressed she took a photo of the egg!).

 Kiwi egg (given the size of a kiwi this must bring tears to its eyes when laid!)

 Kiwis in the breeding centre

Diz and a Kiwi

From Franz Josef we continued along state highway 1 towards Haast and Wanaka and from there onto Queenstown where we parked up for a few days chilling and doing exciting stuff such as a canyon swing and some white water rafting.

Interesting fence decoration on the way to Wanaka

On the way to Queenstown

We arrived in Queenstown, which is on the banks of Lake Wakatipu, looking forward to a few days R & R taking in the sights and doing some adrenalin rush activities such as the Canyon Swing and white water rafting on the Shotover River.  


Lake Wakatipu

On the first of our Queenstown days I went to Milford Sound with the hope of seeing dolphins and maybe penguins I saw some seals instead.  While I was on my cruise around Milford Sound Diz was exploring the shops in Queenstown (she really really likes shopping).

On the way to Milford Sound

Milford Sound

Our last full day in Queenstown was spent doing sdrenalin stuff.  We first did a canyon swing and then went white water rafting on the Shotover river.  There are no photos of the white water rafting as Diz felt that the wetsuit and other equipment (helmet and life vest) were not really suitable for a lady to be photographed in.  I, on the other hand felt that distributing a photo of me in a wetsuit and other equipment (helmet and life vest) was tantamount to social suicide.

 Me doing the swing

 Diz doing it too

It was clear that Diz found the canyon swing more frightening than the screamer in Auckland as she didn't use one swear word just a scream but even so she wanted to take the plunge with me (being the strong silent type I made her feel safe - Hmmm) if you want to see us do it together then click here

 Us doing it together

From Queenstown we proceeded to Invercargill which is the southerly most city in New Zealand.  Its claim to fame (the only one as far as I can tell) is that Burt Munro came from Invercargill.  So, who is Burt Munro I hear you ask, well he is the man who in 1967 at the age of 68 set a world record for streamlined motor cycles under 1000cc on his 1920's Indian Scout.  The story of his setting the world record was made into a film with Anthony Hopkins called 'The World's Fastest Indian'.  I'd seen the film and so thought it would be cool to see the bike which is on display (with others) at Hays hardware store (there's no museum and the bike is privately owned).

On the way to Invercargill

The Kingston Flyer historic steam engine

 Burt Munro's original 1920's Indian Scout

Replica of Burt Munro's bike with casing as used in the film

From Invercargill travelled onto Dunedin which took us past some fantastic coast line and we spent much of the drive stopping and looking for penguins (didn't find any), dolphins (didn't see any) and seals (saw loads of them).  We started the day going the wrong way but fortunately Diz was navigating and spotted the error before we got too far  (well I followed the signs to state highway 1 - there are two shown on the map!)

Our first stop on this marathon day was at the Waipapa Lighthouse to see some sea lions (which we didn't).  From there we carried on to Slope Point which is the most southerly point on South Island.  It was here we hoped to see some dolphins but we were disappointed as they weren't out playing (must have been doing something else that day!).

 Waipapa Lighthouse and the view from the cliff top (wouldn't see dolphins even if they were there!)

Views from Slope Point (the wind was something else!)

Sign showing distances to Equator and the South Pole

From Slope Point we continued along the Southern Scenic Route past Curio Bay where we didn't find the petrified forest and then on to Nugget Point where we saw the fur seals but not the penguins or the sea lions.

Seals around Nugget Point

From Nugget Point we continued to follow the coast keeping our eyes open for penguins and spotted a seal on the beach.  We stopped to take some photos and Diz spotted a Paua (Abalone) shell which looked to be in good nick and being the gallant chap I am I went down to get this for her. Unfortunately it couldn't be reached from the road and so I walked down to the beach to collect this treasure for my mate.  I decided that whilst going to collect the shell I'd stop by and take some photos of the seal.

The seal on the beach

Whilst trying to circumnavigate the seal, which was between me and the shell (whilst still taking the odd photo), it clearly got pissed off by being the subject of a paprazzi (me) and decided to see me off.  If you want to see how I evaded this wild beast then click here

Its getting a bit agitated

Its really pissed off so photo taken whilst beating a hasty retreat

On the way to Dunedin

We arrived at Dunedin fairly late (11pmish) so we decided to find a rough camp and after driving around for a while selected a salubrious layby in which to stop for the night.  The next morning we drove into Dunedin to visit Cadbury's chocolate factory (Diz felt this was necessary) and the Speight Brewery which has a public water point outside that it seems the locals are hoping one day will deliver beer rather than water.

Diz trying to hijack a delivery truck (she was really upset when she found that it was simply a decoy!)

We left Dunedin and started to make our way north along the east coast once again looking for penguins and the odd shag (that's a bird!).  Still  no penguins but saw yet more seals.  As we continued along the coast we stopped to see the Moeraki Boulders which are unusually large and spherical boulders lying along a stretch of the coast between Dunedin and Oamaru.  According to WiKi the Moeraki Boulders are 'concretions created by the cementation of the Paleocene mudstone of the Moeraki  Formation, from which they have been exhumed by coastal erosion. Moeraki Boulders are concretions that were created by the precipitation of calcite from pore waters within the Moeraki Formation' (clear as mud hmmm)

Moaraki boulders

Shags at Shag Point

We arrived at Oamaru with high hopes of seeing penguins but it seems that as there is a colony of over 200 penguins nesting here the DOC have decided to charge NZ$ 25 to see them and at the same time not allow photography as it disturbs the birds (like hundreds of people traipsing all over the place doesn't!).  Needless to say we didn't pay and so still didn't see any penguins.

From Oamaru we continued north but turned in land in order to pass by Lake Pukaki to get views of Mount Cook then onto Tepako and Fairlie where we spent the night.

 Mt Cook and Lake Pukaki

 Lake Tepako

 Church of the Good Shepherd and the memorial to the sheepdog

The following morning on our way from Fairlie to Kaikoura via Christchurch we got chatting to an American who was travelling around New Zealand on his Honda Goldwing.  During our chat he suggested Diz have her photo taken on his bike and in his eagerness to get her on it forgot to tell her which side to mount from and as a result Diz dropped the Goldwing and he darted forward to 'rescue' her grabbing bits that left him apologising to her profusely.  Anyway I helped him right the bike and as nothing was damaged all was OK and we parted on good terms.

Our American friend and his Goldwing

 Earthquake damage in Christchurch

On the way to Kaikoura

We arrived in Kaikoura looking forward to our Whale watching trip the following day where we were hoping to get good sitings of whales and possibly dolphins.  We were not disappointed! The weather was good and the sea reasonably calm so the outlook was good.  We left port and headed out to sea and deep water.  It wasn't long before we saw the first of the three whales we were to see.  The most common whale in this area is the sperm whale which surfaces to re-oxygenate before diving and staying underwater for upto 45 minutes at a time.

Close encounters of the first kind

Second encounter

Unfortunately our third encounter was from a distance and too quick to get any decent photos so we had enough time to look for dolphins before returning to port.  We were very lucky to quickly find a pod of Dusky dolphins that were cavorting (cool word!) and playing to the audience (unlike the blasted seal!).

Dusky Dolphins cavorting

The day after our fantastic views of whales and dolphins Diz went swimming with the dolphins while I had a look around the Kiakoura area and surprise, surprise saw more seals who were also cavorting.

Seals cavorting (look like they are chilling really)

 Around Kaikoura


From Kaikoura we continued on to North Island via Blenheim where we visited a vineyard and Diz took time out to taste the wine before buying a bottle to drink with her Xmas dinner.  In addition to the vineyard we visited a vintage aircraft museum and had intended to visit a chocolate factory but Diz was disappointed to find out that this was the same one as we visited when we arrived on South Island (ah well, such is life).

Kaikoura to Wellington

Diz tasting the wine (relaxed isn't she?)

Now that's what I call a campervan!

Now that we were back on the North Island it became clear my big trip was shortly to end and as fate would have it the weather turned and so my trip ended pretty much as it had become with drizzle and rain being the order of the day.

We left Wellington and headed for the Coramandel with the hope that by the time we got there the weather would have improved and our last couple of days could be spent in the sun.  Diz was particularly concerned that her tan was not good enough and needed topping up.  Unfortunately it was not to be and we were beset by rain all the way back to Auckland where despite the weather forecast saying the rain would clear it hung on in there right until the day we left for home.

Wellington to Auckland

While travelling back to Auckland we came across a couple of interesting signs.

 Sign on a crossing in Tauranga (I think) which claims to be a pedestrian friendly city - Hmmmm

 Just goes to show I thought we were in New Zealand


Think the owner is irritated with the insurance company

Once we arrived in Auckland we realised our New Zealand adventure was pretty much over although the reports of Heathrow being closed due to shed loads of snow made me wonder if another adventure was to be had getting home.  As it transpired this was not to be and Diz and I returned to good old blighty with nairy a hitch.

So, dear reader, I would like to thank you for following me on my Big Trip and I hope it inspires you to travel too and as Lau Tzu said 'A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step' so I urge you take that step and see the world..  All that is left is to wish you all Merry Xmas for 2010 and a Happy New year.  

Trip Statistics

For those who are interested here are some 'interesting' statistics.

UK to OZ

Total number of days: 229
Distance in total: 44,202km
Distance driven by Adam in the truck: 38,287km
Hours actually driving in truck (not counting loo stops, borders etc): 699.5
Average speed 54 kph (around 34 mph!)
Rough camps: 58
Campgrounds: 31
Hostels/Hotels: 116
Overnight travel: 4
Days where it rained: 32 (14% of the time)
Shortest Distance Over Longest Time: 135km over 14.5hr - Everest Base Camp Day
Longest Day: 16.25hrs - Uluru

New Zealand

Total number of days: 31
Distance in total: 5,766km
Distance driven in the campervan (mostly by Diz): 4,980km
Average speed 105 kph (when Diz was driving), 50 kph (when Hagar was driving)
Rough camps: 2 - Car Park in Wellington, Layby outside Dunedin
Free campsites: 1 -  Pureora National Park
Campervan sites: 16
Hostels/Hotels: 2
Days where it rained: 14 (45% of the time!)
Longest Day: 13hrs - Invercargill to Dunedin (lots happened!)

From these stats we can see; 
  • New Zealand is wetter than the rest of the world
  • Diz drives faster than Adam
  • Campervans are faster than 40 ton Mercedes trucks
Matt (now miserable at home)
Phone now on although unlikely to be answered
Still thinking of you all (NOT!)