What's that Smell......???

Trip Start Sep 04, 2012
Trip End Aug 02, 2013

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Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Hello everyone, Kala here again!

So after nearly getting knocked over in Sydney airport by an over-eager Chinese man (some things never change!) we landed in Auckland and picked up our little Daihatsu Sirion aka 'The Bubble', our ride for the next month.

Auckland is built on around 50 volcanoes and although they are not all dormant, they are not very likely to erupt during our visit. First on the agenda was to visit One Tree Hill (mainly because U2 wrote a song about it!) which should now actually be called No Tree Hill. Back in the day Maori tribes used to fight over villages built on the city's volcanic cones and this site was considered the best place to be as it has a 360 degree lookout over the city. (Location, Location, Location!!). The Maori's had a sacred native totara tree on the hill which the British settlers decided to chop down and replace with a foreign pine tree. The tree stood for nearly 150 years before the Maori activists got their revenge and destroyed it. For our visit it provided the perfect place for a stroll up to see the views of the city. Next up was Mount Eden, auckland's highest volcanic cone. This one had an absolutely massive crater where it had previously erupted and again had excellent views of the city. We finished Auckland off with a walk round the city, a stop to watch people 'Skyjump' off the Skytower (New Zealand's tallest building) and a walk round the harbour. Although it is New Zealand's biggest city it is not hectic and rushed like other cities we have been to. It is chilled out and has a nice vibe to it. We like New Zealand already!

Our next stop was Hamilton to see my old college mate Ricky! This is New Zealand's fourth biggest city and Ricky asked us to meet him after work in the 'Central Business District'. It was literally just a high street!! About the same as Victoria Road in Cleveleys!! A round of 'happy hour' drinks (for Ricky) and then a round of 'bloody unhappy hour' drinks - £5 a PINT (for Paul!!) brought the night to an end! It was great to catch up!

On Friday we drove to Rotorua. Now this place was like nothing we have ever seen before! A whole section of the country is 'thermal' and Rotorua is covered in boiling hot springs, bubbling mud pools and erupting geysers! We had a wander round the town, the local park and the government buildings and sure enough there are fenced off pools bubbling and steaming all over the place! I was speechless!! Well I was speechless for about five minutes until questions filled my head.....how can this be possible?.......how deep must these pools be for the Earth's core to heat them so much?......why hasn't all the water evaporated?......do these nearby houses get a discount on their hot water??? I even felt the surrounding grass to see if that was hot....but it wasn't! I was absolutely gobsmacked!!

The amazement continued on Saturday on our trip to Wai-O-Tapu, a park packed with geothermal features including Lady Knox Geyser which 'erupts' at 10.15 am precisely every day!! We were a bit sceptical about this and wondered if someone was down there with a hosepipe, however, a guy with a mic came out and explained how the early settlers used to wash their clothes in this hot spring which seemed to erupt whenever they used their soap! To add to the fun they built up some stones around it to increase the pressure which over time have been covered in a white mineral from the water. Nowadays they pour an organic soap into the geyser to make it erupt so that everyone can see it. Without any interference the geyser would naturally erupt every 24 to 72 hours when the temperature and pressure had built up. We were happy with the story and enjoyed the show! Next we went into the park and wandered round the various pools. There were a few that stood out, Devil's Bath was a weird lime green colour, Champagne Pool was a 62 metre deep massive blue steaming pool with a bright orange edge and Artist's Palette (my favourite) had areas of different colours depending on what minerals were present there. The only downside of all this is that the whole place absolutely stinks of sulphur which actually smells like eggs!! Paul "no I haven't farted, it's the sulphur!" didn't seem to mind this though!!

That afternoon involved us (and a few litres of water) rolling down a hill inside a big inflatable ball! Yep, Rotorua is where Zorbing was invented so it would be rude not to!! After struggling with the run up and dive through the hole to get in the thing it was a great experience! Very very funny!!!

We paid Wellington a very brief visit on Sunday. It is extremely windy, has a lot of one way streets and has an excellent lookout point!

Wellington is the gateway to the South Island and where we got the 3 hour ferry to Picton. Now transport makes me sleepy so I took the opportunity to have a little snooze whilst Paul 'celebrity spotter' Ryan noticed that Ian Botham was a few tables away!! OMG Ian Botham has seen me asleep on a chair catching flies!!!

A night in Picton brought us yet another beautiful lookout point and what has got to be our best hostel yet - FREE CHOCOLATE PUDDING AND ICE CREAM EVERY NIGHT!!!!!!! That's Paul's root canal up the swanny then!!! Yes, of course we went back for seconds!! Yes, of course we have booked a room there again before our return ferry!

Our drive to Christchurch on Tuesday took us through a beautiful place called Kaikoura where we stopped for our two tins of tuna and six slices of bread and Paul made friends with the seagulls!

Onto Christchurch itself and it was not what we expected at all. We knew that there had been an earthquake here two years ago but we did not realise the extent of the devastation it caused. 181 people died but hundreds more have been affected in the aftermath. The whole of the CBD is shut down and cordoned off and most, if not all of the buildings there will have to be demolished. We saw buildings with roofs missing, buildings with walls missing and a wall with a building missing which was just being propped up by shipping containers. It seems like the government have turned the disaster into an opportunity to start the city from scratch and after asking for ideas from the locals they have come up with a regeneration plan. It is going to be a slow process but in the meantime they have created the Re-start Mall just outside the old CBD which is loads of shipping containers, painted and decorated and converted into shops, banks, cafe's and a post office.

What we have seen of New Zealand so far has been beautiful and we think the best is yet to come..........
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