Winter In New Zealand - Rain, Rain & A Bit Of Sun

Trip Start Mar 31, 2008
Trip End Jul 14, 2008

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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Hi all from New Zealand! We've just arrived in the South Island after touring around the North Island for the last 12 days and covered nearly 2000 km! We arrived in NZ after a very long journey from Hawaii, as we had to get from the Big Island to Honolulu, wait in the airport for around 6 hours and then get on a 10 hour flight to Auckland! All went well with the flights until Rob remembered that, in a fit of craziness, he had ordered the special Asian meal when we were booking the tickets online. So when all of the nice regular dinners & breakfasts were being handed out, Rob ended up with carrots for dinner and carrots for breakfast. He was not impressed since scrambled and sausages were being served all around him!
We spent the first couple of days in Auckland, acclimitising to the winter! It was very weird getting to Auckland and realising that it's the middle of winter here after spending the last few weeks in the summer in the USA. The day after we arrived in Auckland, NZ were playing England in Eden Park so we got a couple of tickets for that and headed out there on Saturday night. The atmosphere was great there and we got talking to a few NZ fans. They obviously thought Rob was one of them in his new All Blacks hoodie!
The following day we picked up the camper van and hit the road up north. We had booked a small-ish 4 berth van but when we arrived we were told we'd got a complimentary upgrade and would now be driving a gigantic 6 berth monster! Rob has been doing all of the driving, including on some very dodgy narrow one lane roads, while Karen has been navigating - not easy after getting used to our little Garmin GPS in the States but so far we havent gotten too lost. The van also has a tv and dvd player so we've built up a bit of a dvd collection to keep ourselves entertained as it gets dark here around 5pm and the other day we invested in some old school entertainment - scrabble! We've also had to get used to cooking and cleaning again after nearly 3 months of staying in motels and eating out!
We'd read and were told that the Bay of Islands was worth visiting so that was our first destination, however by the time we got out of Auckland it was nearly getting dark so we stopped off in our first campsite in a place called....Sheepworld!! Where else would you find it but NZ?! The campsite was actually really nice, we even had our own en suite bathroom and shower beside our campervan site - luxury!
The next day the rain started! We have seen a LOT of rain since we arrived so this was a sign of things to come. It was lashing out of the heavens so we didnt stop to see the Sheepworld sheep shows and just kept going. Unfortunately the rain kept up when we arrived in the Bay of Islands so we didnt see very much that day. The following day it had cleared up a bit so we went to a place called Waitangi to brush up on a bit of history as it's where the Maori and English signed a treaty 150 years ago. The rain disappeared for a while so we were able to get a few nice pics of the Bay. We headed on North to 90 Mile Beach and got there just in time for sunset which was lovely. The following day we started heading south then back towards Auckland and our next stop, the Waitomo Glow Worm caves. Amazingly it wasnt raining there (not that it mattered as we were underground!), and the tour was great. You walk down into the caves which are cool and then get a boat trip out the other side but of course the main thrill is seeing thousands of glow worms on the roof of the cave, really amazing!
From Waitomo we headed to Rotorua, home of lots of hot springs, boiling mud pools, geysers and probably the smelliest place we've ever been to! We'd been warned but it's still a bit of a shock to the senses every time you walk outside and get a whiff of rotten eggs! Still we got to see some cool steam action and geysers and best of all our campsite had it's own thermal mineral hot tub! We decided it to give it a go, Rob full of enthusiasm hopped in and stuck his head underwater and even attempted a bit of swimming which was fine..until our neighbours in the pool beside us asked us had we seen the sign saying not to put your head underwater as there is a risk of amoebic meningitis from thermal pools...yikes!! Neither of us have displayed any symptoms yet....
The coolest thing in Rotorua was definitely the Kiwi Encounter, where we got to see some real kiwis (the birds, not the fruit!) up close. It's basically a conservation project where they breed kiwis and they let you into a special display area to see some of them. The display area is really dark as kiwis only come out at night, but you are so close to them you could reach in and touch them which was brilliant. The only thing is that kiwis are not at all friendly so you cant actually touch them or make noise as they dont like humans! Still it was definitely a highlight of our trip so far!
After Rotorua we went down to Lake Taupo and Tongariro National Park however we didnt see much there as yet again it was lashing rain!! It was amazing really as Tongariro has 3 huge volcanos and we drove right past them through the national park and couldnt even see an outline of them through all the rain. A bit disappointing but it is the middle of winter here so cant be helped.
We decided not to wait around for the rain to go and just kept going south. We arrived in Wellington yesterday on a lovely sunny day, dropped off the campervan in a campsite near the city and got the bus into town to explore ...only for the rain to start as soon as we got on the bus! We strolled around in it for a while and then gave up the ghost and went for a few games of pool in an Irish bar!! This morning we were up bright and early to get the ferry to Picton on the South Island. We are staying in a place called Blenheim tonight which is in the middle of the Marlborough wineries so we just might have to go and visit one or two of those tomorrow! 

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