The New Zealand adventure begins!

Trip Start Apr 17, 2006
Trip End Apr 16, 2007

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Saturday, July 8, 2006

Hi all...Bugger, its cold!!!!........ Arrived in New Zealand slap bang in the middle of winter! A bit of a shock to the system from being in Fiji! Not to complain though as we couldn't wait to get here and get stuck into all there is to offer! To be fair though, the weather so far has been pretty good.. The sky has been clear blue and sun has been making an effort as well. Sure things will change when we head further south though! We arrived into Auckland on the 18th June and decided to spend just under a week checking out the city and its surroundings. The centre of the city doesn't have a massive amount of things to occupy a travellers time. There is pretty much just one long street for shopping etc......., but Auckland itself is a massive city, that is very spread out with suburbs. We checked out some of the volcanic hills, for amazing panoramic views of the city and there are plenty of smaller areas called Newmarket and Ponsonby, which have good shops and things to see. Auckland is a massive sailing city (its called 'city of sails') and the marina/harbour is a mass of sail boats and cruisers etc. After a few days of Auckland we headed up to the Bay of Islands, which is famous for its stunning costal scenery and has 150 separate islands off a small costal town called Pahia (A lovely town). We headed up the great drive from Auckland to Pahia and spent a few days relaxing, as well as a few nice walks. After returning to Auckland we started our adventure, down through the North Island. We have booked a full country bus pass with a tour company called 'Stray'. They specialise in young travellers and going to parts of New Zealand that most tour companies do not go to. The good thing about the pass is we can hop on and off when we like and stay for as long, or little time as we want in each place. All we do is just wait for the next bus on the route to pick us up, which can vary from a day, up to 5 days. Stray is also a good way of meeting other travellers and being taken to the best places.
The first leg on the route was from Auckland to the Coromandel Peninsula. This area is densely forested and lots of coastline, accessible by empty, winding roads. It's a half day drive up to a small town called Hahei, located on a dramatic stretch of coastline. We stayed in a beach front camp ground for a night. The reason for being in this area was mainly for the hot water beach... What a wicked place!! It's a small stretch of beach, which has hot brewing thermal water just beneath the sand! Visitors here are able to dig there own Thermal spa for free!! Very cool! The only downside is the fact that the water can get pretty hot and have to keep getting out, or in the sea to cool down (Lovely in the winter). We moved on the next day to a small surf town called Raglan (North West coast). It's famous here for having the longest left hand break in the world (it's a surfing term apparently). The lodge we stayed at was really nice. It was situated in the bush and was really relaxing. For a hostel it had a lot of good facilities. There was a pretty nifty zip line (called flying fox) which was quite fun in the dark, whilst drunk of course! Lou lead the group of other drunks from the lodge to the Flying fox and it turned out quite difficult to get Lou off it. After a while the turns on the zip line got braver and braver, but as people realised that it could potentially get messy, we retired to the lodge for further liver crushing drinks. For the meal that night we had a 4 meal made by a world famous chef! He was a resident of Raglan and there in his own time to make us poor backpackers a decent meal. Lou was pleased that a veggie lasagne was served up!
The Waitomo caves were next on the agenda. This is an amazing area of countryside that is inundated with a huge system of caves. The big attraction (other than the adventure activities here) is the chance to see millions of resident glow worms. The trips ranged from nice easy walk and boat trip through a glow worm cave, to full on abseiling and rafting through the caves. We chose the dry and warm option. It was a great trip. When you are in the pitch black, you look up and there are thousand of small lights dotted over the caves ceiling. It's like looking up into the night sky full of stars. After this few hour trip we headed to our first big destination, which was Rotorua. If you have never heard of this place, it's famous for its thermal activity. This place is a mass of thermal springs, boiling mud pools, geysers, natural spas and loads of adventure activities! The slight downside to Rotorua is the ever present stink of sulphur coming from the manic Geo-thermal activity that exists fairly close to the surface. Rotorua started fairly tiring, due to the fact that we stayed up to watch England getting knocked out of the world cup!! So that was the whole of the second day wiped out. We did redeem ourselves by getting an adrenalin fix, in the way of a white water rafting trip! Just to make our first rafting experience interesting, some of the river was a grade 5 (the highest it can get commercially) and to add just a little treat, the end of the trip required a plunge (in the raft) over a 7 metre waterfall!! (Check the pictures and our faces to see how crazy it was). They say that 1 in 5 rafts flip over and is not very pleasant this time of year. Luckily we didn't flip though. Well...What a wicked few hours and for so much cheaper than it would be in the robbing UK! It seems that all of New Zealand is in constant search of new thrills to keep people occupied! There is a thing called the Zorb in Rotorua, which basically is getting inside a big transparent ball and being rolled down a large hill! We didn't do this. Too tame we thought. Think we'll wait for a 15,000 feet sky dive and 150 metre bungee! Woo Hoo!!! Well we're off to Taupo next and hope to keep up the fun. It's been fantastic in New Zealand so far. What an incredible country. Every place is so different and nature is displayed at its most fierce and dramatic. The country is pretty unstable in regard to whats going on beneath the surface! The volcanic activity is pretty touch and go, not to mention the severe earth quake risk. They say that soon enough this place is going to get annihilated by some form of natural disaster. For now though, you can experience stunning coastline, wild forests, waterfalls, snow capped mountain and real nice people, all in an area the size of England. Amazingly the population is under 5 million, whereas London is over that alone. It's so fresh and clean here and no place has overcrowding or much pollution. Even better though is that Lindemans Chardonnay is less than 2 per bottle (LOUS IN HEAVEN!!!). The weather is turning a bit funny though, so should be interesting.... Well that's all for now. We'll be sending another NZ pod out soon, so keep an eye out... Lots of love and talk soon and enjoy the sun back home!!!!
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