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New Zealand – Waitomo

The icing on the New Zealand cake (or Pavlova if you believe they invented it first)

semi-overcast 23 °C

Waitomo sits in a limestone area of the North Island which is riddled with more holes than a block of swiss cheese. The soft limestone has been eroded away by millions of years of rain seeping into some incredibly vast underground rivers allowing us to take to the tunnels armed with a head torch and tyre tube under our arm.

Leaving Christchurch, we headed up to Picton via a lunch stop in Cheviot. We also quickly stopped in to Kaikoura. We helped out the backpacking community on our way out of Kaikoura by picking up two French blokes who were looking for a ride up to Picton. New Zealand seems like it is a pretty good place to hitch hike as we saw lots of people on our way round trying to thumb a ride. They were nice blokes and we had a good chat with them on the couple of hours drive up to Picton.

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After dropping the guys off at their hostel we pulled into our campsite in the town, got some dinner on the go and relaxed. The following day the weather wasn’t the greatest so we ended up doing a bunch of research into what we needed to do for our visa´s in Asia.

The return ferry journey to Wellington wasn’t so great. The nice calm waters of the inlets were hiding the rather large swell in the Tasman, and when we got into open water, I lasted about 15 minutes before making a visit to the bathroom. I spent the rest of the journey out on the back deck feeling under the weather. If you have read any of the other blogs you will notice that travel sickness is a pretty common thing for me, but even Tanya wasn’t feeling well on this journey, so I felt a little better thanks to that. We were given a slight reprieve when we were stood at the side railing and spotted a group of dolphins coming towards the ferry in the distance. We ended up seeing about 4 or 5 different pods all come over and play around in the wake of the ferry over the journey.

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Back on the north island we put in some solid hours driving past ‘Mount Doom’ before getting into Waitomo. We booked in for our cave tubing for a 9am start the following morning.

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Out at ‘The Legendary Black Water Rafting Company’ we got suited up in our attractive wetsuits, posed for a photo or two and then drove out to the caves entrance. Being the first group of the day we were lucky to be stepping into dry wetsuits, but that didn’t help much when we did our practice jumps into the river and the freezing cold water trickled down our back.

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We descended into the earth via an innocuous gash in the ground, had some more photos and then started on our caving adventure. The water running through the labyrinth of caves has not seen the warming rays of daylight at this point so was nice and cold as we waded through it.

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Armed with our head torches, the two guides sent us through a maze of tight tunnels to try and find our way back to them before we hopped into our rings and started floating down the river. We floated under a very low hanging bit of rock by doing some tube limbo, jumped off of a waterfall and waded through some more of the caves.

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The main drawcard of the Waitomo Caves area is not actually river tubing but the glow worms that make the caves their home. We got to a long open section of the caves and floated down with our head torches switched off and the roof of the cave was amazing. It was like looking up into the night sky full of stars. In fact this is the tactic that the worms use to catch their food.

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The guides actually gave us the lowdown on the worms while we were sat admiring them. They are the larvae of a fly which lay their eggs on the roof of the caves. Over the first few hours of their existence they cannibalise other eggs and smaller larvae to get big enough to suspend a sticky thread below themselves and wait for a mosquito to come into the caves and think that the glowing lights above them are the night sky. The worms use bioluminescence to make the light from the food that they eat. Instead of expelling the waste from their food, they burn it off instead as the visible light. So actually they could be called ‘Cannibalistic Maggots with Glowing Shit’ but somehow the marketing people didn’t think that would sell quite so well as Glow Worms.

More jumping, climbing, floating and gazing followed as we wound our way through the tunnels 60m below the forest floor above. After about 90minutes underground we popped out of the caves into daylight again. A warm shower back at the headquarters followed but hot tomato soup and bagels were just as good as the trip itself.

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After warming back up we went back out to the location of the caves, as there was a nice little walk around the forest where we could look into a few more of the caves where the roof had collapsed over time. It was a nice little walk and I especially liked playing around on the Tarzan vines.

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We hit the road again and spent our final New Zealand night in another good camper park on the outskirts of Auckland ready to drop the camper van off first thing in the morning. It was with a touch of sadness that we gave back the keys to our home for the last 3 weeks. She wasn’t flash, but the old girl had served us well (clocking up a mere 3400km) and made New Zealand even more enjoyable to see.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Daniel – The caving was well worth the entrance fee, it was a really awesome experience floating down the river in complete darkness when we turned the headlights off. It was like looking up at the night sky. New Zealand as a whole has been amazing, will certainly be back in a few years to get to some of the places that we couldn’t fit in over the last 3 weeks.

Tanya – The caving was a fun way to end our tour of New Zealand. We covered alot of ground but managed to take in so much scenery with plenty of activities. There are too many highlights to remember, we have had such a great time.

Posted by dbgomes 18:47 Archived in New Zealand Tagged new_zealand round_the_world Comments (0)

New Zealand – South Coast Loop

semi-overcast 23 °C

Over an ambitious few days we planned to cover some serious kilometres to loop along the south coast and back up to Christchurch. This would take us through million year old forests, windswept cliffs, penguins, seals, dinosaur eggs and to a shaken city. That sounds more varied than Lady Gaga’s wardrobe, so we were looking forward to it all.

We hit the south coast around Waihoaka and the wind was seriously blowing. The high sided camper van was getting a good working over by the winds and a quick stop at the cliffs to get some pictures nearly blew us off our feet.

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We drove a bit further to the southern most point of the South Island at Slope Point and then Waipapa point. The farmlands around this area had some great real estate to farm on, but the shape of the trees gave away the harshness of the wind down here

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Next stop was at the petrified forest at Curio Bay. So this basically is where a subtropical forest was continually flooded back a little while ago... 130 million years to be precise!!! The floods carried ash from the active volcano and that ash buried the tree stumps turning wood to stone! This was really interesting to see and apparently one of the most extensive fossilised forests in the world. We timed it perfectly at low tide and from the lookout, it was plain to see straight away.

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Notice the logs running from bottom right to top left

I was expecting not to be able to get close to the petrified forest, but you can walk all around on the rocks checking them out from close up. We found it fascinating with the long tree logs and tree stumps all over the place. These may just look like photos of rocks, but hopefully it’s easy to see the wood from the trees... or rocks.

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While we were walking around the rough seas and local penguins gave us more things to look at than just the rocks. After our penguin encounters in Antarctica, we figured we should add a few more species to our viewing list. These were the rather shy yellow headed penguins, although spending your existence on a human filled island being clubbed and hunted might make you that way inclined unlike the ones we found in Antarctica which didn’t give a toss about us being there.

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We made our way further around the Catlins Coast calling in at the Purakaunui Waterfalls and Jacks Blowhole. The blowhole was the most impressive of the two as we walked further than we were expecting past some great cliff edges and stumbled across it 200 meters inland from the cliffs. Measuring 55m deep, 144m long and 68m wide it was a sizable gash in the land.

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Don’t be a sheep, make your own path!!

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We stayed at little coastal town campsite and headed off first thing in the morning to Nugget Point for some more spectacular coastal scenery. Thankfully named after gold nuggets rather than what I was thinking, it was pretty impressive looking down from the lighthouse to a bunch of seals swimming off the nuggets and playing in little rock pools.

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This seal dived under water just as i got the camera out

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We put a few hours of driving in and reached the bigger city of Dunedin. We drove through the city stopping for some shopping and fuel and noticed the Victorian and Edwardian architecture that it’s known for. We headed back out of the city along the bay and the Otago Peninsula.

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Looking back at Dunedin

Heading a little bit further north we stopped at Shag Point, not for the obvious, but for a look at the seals that call this place home. There was lots of sleeping going on, a bit of fighting, but very little shagging! Take a good long hard look at yourself seals!!!

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We stopped in at probably our best camping location of the whole trip just a little bit further north than Shag Point. What didn’t look like much from the roadside was a long camping area right on the beach. We didn’t have any other campervans nearby and felt happy for our decision to go with a camper van in order to spend nights in locations like this!

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It was another interesting geological stop in the morning at Moeraki Boulders which looked like massive dinosaur eggs the way that some of them were cracked open. These developed from minerals forming around small pebbles on the sea floor millions of years ago. This whole country has been like one big geology field trip with all these things we have seen!

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We stopped at Oamaru where we were hoping to add the Blue Penguin to our list of penguins that we have seen. Unfortunately they spend the day out at sea, and only really get seen at dusk returning to their beach shelter. I did manage to snap this one photo of two which were remarkably still for a long time. Check, im ticking it off the penguin list!

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We did get some more close encounters with seals here in Oamaru so it wasn’t a complete loss!

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Christchurch beckoned and geez, it’s amazing what a massive earthquake does to a city. Driving through the suburbs we didn’t see anything to suggest that there had been 2 major earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. But once you get to the city centre, it was like a ghost town. Hardly anyone around except the demolition workers and building repairers in the fenced off ‘No Go Zone’ that was once the city centre. We heard a lot of radio discussions on about the delays in the rebuilding process and a lot of people suggesting the city centre be built on more stable ground to the west. The people of Christchurch lost a lot on those days including 185 lives! Hopefully it can recover back to vibrant city.

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Then

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FINAL THOUGHTS

Daniel – Ancient tectonic movements have been responsible for a lot of the amazing things we have seen in this country but seeing Christchurch reminds you how terrifying and devastating it is to live through one of these movements!

Tanya – We were able to finally slow the pace a bit for this leg of the trip realising we had an extra day or two up our sleeves. It was nice just to meander along the roads and pull over to see anything that looked like it might be of some interest. I’m not sure if the sea container shops and cafes in Christchurch are temporary or not, they are a really clever idea – I think they should stay.

Posted by dbgomes 02:03 Archived in New Zealand Tagged new_zealand round_the_world Comments (0)

New Zealand – Milford Sound

Listening to the sound of silence

rain 17 °C

After the slight letdown of the Glacier Country a few days back, I was thinking that maybe this might turn out the same. After all, we have already visited the Norwegian Fjords that lend their name to these southern waterways. Setting off from Queenstown, we spent the night at a free campsite in Te Anau before heading up the only sealed road into the Fjords. The rain that welcomed us in the morning also made us think twice about our intention of walking a few hours of the Milford Track.

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The last views of Queenstown

After clearing the farmlands on the way from Te Anau which were covered in New Zealand’s 4 legged best friends that go Baahhhh, we got into the forest covered mountains of Fjordland. As we crossed ‘The Divide’ we dropped down into the valleys and realised that our apprehensions were completely blown away. Somehow this was different, a bit more rugged and jagged peaks than Norway. And the heavy torrential rain that was falling had turned every bare bit of mountain face into cascading waterfalls!

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After climbing back up to the Homer Tunnel, we passed through solid mountain and popped back out on the other side to a massive valley teeming with water. There were more waterfalls here than a certain TLC song from the 90’s!

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We stopped in at ´The Chasm’ for a quick look at an impressive waterfall which shows the power that a little water and rock can do!

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We finally pulled into Milford Sound which was equally shrouded in thick cloud that was spewing out plenty of rain. Although we think it was just as spectacular in these conditions as a blue sky day. The towering Mitre Peak and Mount Phillips with their skirts of cloud looked like imposing, rugged, timeless mounds of solid earth hiding all their secrets just out of sight of us puny human beings. Even though the carpark was full, there weren’t any people on the waterside by us and the sound of complete silence except for the patter of rain on the calm water topped off the whole scene!

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Our initial plan was to do a few hours of the Milford track just to get a taste of the walk and be amongst the serene landscape, however there is only so long that walking in rain that hard is fun for before you get over it. Plan B was to hop on one of the boats that cruises along the fjord, but after checking out the prices and comparing that to what we would be able to see on a day like today, we thought that we were awestruck enough by the beauty of this place from what we had already seen.

Instead we got into our home on wheels, cracked out all the condiments that our fridge had to offer, opened the books and spent a few hours snacking, reading and looking out at the silence of Milford Sound.

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What Milford Sound looks like on a clear day thanks to Google pictures

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Dubbed ‘The Cracker Completo’ by myself combining everything on offer from the fridge!

We headed out of the national park back through all the cascading waterfalls aiming to get as close to the south coast as we could for the night pulling into a campervan park in the small town of Tuatapere.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Daniel – Had the weather been forecast a lot better we could have spent a few days walking the track and enjoying this place even more, but the little taster we got has been enough to make us try and time some fine weather next time we come back when ever that is.

Tanya – There aren’t many people who get to see Milford Sound on a sunny day, but our chances would have been far better if we´d opted for the 4 day trek. With the little time we had, one day was still enough to appreciate the beauty of this place. Driving through the mountains and surrounded by waterfalls we were simply dwarfed by the greatness of this place!

Posted by dbgomes 01:52 Archived in New Zealand Tagged new_zealand round_the_world Comments (0)

New Zealand – Queenstown

Adrenaline pumping city

semi-overcast 24 °C
View Round The World on dbgomes's travel map.

You can do practically anything here! Jet boating, sky diving, canyon swings, bungy, rafting just to name a few of the seemingly endless list of advertised activities. We knew this is what Queenstown is about and were intending to tick a few off the list!

The drive from Fox Glacier took us by some more stunning coast line and then into what I would call proper Lord of the Rings country! Driving along Lake Wanaka we almost expected to see Peter Jackson around doing some filming. As we later found out there have been lots of scenes from the upcoming Hobbit move filmed around here, so Peter Jackson may be have been in town.

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Swinging into Queenstown, it was a lot smaller than we were expecting. More like a ski town rather than a city, but considering its known for its ski season, that’s probably what we should have been expecting. The views around town are certainly pretty impressive. We parked up at the campervan site and walked into town deciding on the way to stop and have a meal out rather than cooking for our self.

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We went into a nice place on the waterfront and i had been hanging out to try the green lip mussels that i had seen around the whole of New Zealand. These things are big suckers, and were a tasty starter! Tanya sampled some of the New Zealand lamb and can confirm that they are a healthy breed this season!

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The following morning we were booked in to do our first high adrenaline activity... skydiving. Tan has done it before and loved it. Also she has teased me about not wanting to do it in Switzerland in 2006. Planning to put that to rest finally, I was all for doing it here in Queenstown! The morning was welcomed by rain on the roof of the campervan and a call into the office at 7.30am confirmed that the jump was on hold until 12. This wasn’t a bad thing as the 7am alarm seemed a bit too early for our unemployed bodies so we rolled back over and had a few more hours kip.

Checking in again at 12, the weather wasn’t much improved, so the lady said we could try again at 4pm or book for the following day. We decided to free up the day and go for tomorrow. This gave me the opportunity to tick something else of the list... Bungy Jumping. The very first Bungy was here in Queenstown so i thought it was appropriate to go to where it all started at the A.J Hackett Kawarau Bridge.

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Despite the mocking about sky diving, Tanya cannot bring herself to do a bungy, so i was on my own for this one. A quick weight check and indemnity signature and I had my slip of paper to take to the bridge. Before I knew it, I confirmed that I wanted to hit the water, my ankles were strapped and I was on the edge of the platform. The bloke behind me said ‘A wave to the camera over on the left’

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Then he said ‘right on the count of three, one , two, three’ and that was it, without a thought I went!

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At the instant my feet left the platform, I distinctly thought hmm, was everything connected? A short yelp and the valley was rushing past my peripheral vision and the water coming. That’s when the adrenaline kicked in and I can’t actually remember anything but tilting my head waiting to hit the water before being jerked back skyward. I was told that I had experienced ground rush (what Bungy is all about) which makes everything go faster thanks to the adrenaline. Wondering why I hadn’t hit the water, the guy in the boat said I did a good looking jump launching from the platform, but that makes it harder to hit the water.

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What a rush, that was WICKED!!

It was still early afternoon so we decided to head down to a little lake on the way back from the bungy. Hayes Lake was really nice as the sun came out and gave us some good views to read our books to.

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The following morning skydiving was on hold again when we made the early morning call, but things were promising, so we met at 10am for transport to the drop zone. On the way out the guy driving us pointed out a number of spots where filming has happened in the area including a spot by the lake that will feature in the upcoming Hobbit movie. We stopped for some views down to Glenorchy where the airfield is.

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At the airfield we waited while 2 British girls went up for their jumps first. We then were suited and booted in the attractive jump suits and rigged out with our harnesses. Then it was time to get airborne.

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Climbing up to 12000 feet, the views around us was amazing! The mountain peaks, the massive lake and the high hung glaciers were breathtaking. Enjoying the view was stopped in order to get rigged up ready for the jump. Tan would be going first and then me to follow. Before we knew it the door was open and the wind was rushing into the tiny aircraft.

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Tanya and her instructor shuffled up to position and they were hanging out of the plane. Then it was really strange to see them jump. To anyone who might have been a little nervous, it would probably send you over the edge because the wind and movement of the plane makes it seem a bit alarming.

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I shuffled over with my tandem master and hung my legs out the door where you really notice how fast you are going as your legs seem to get taken from you. A quick word from the tandem master and this is what happened for the next 45 seconds

The first instant of falling out was a real rush as we fell upside down and you see the plane leaving you. But then as we came around and righted and i let my arms out, there was no panicking or alarm, it was just a pure rush! I would even go so far as to call it calming as the mountains and horizon take up your entire vision as you kind of feel like you are suspended in air!

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The freefall didn’t seem too short or too long, just like 45 seconds and then the canopy was up with a jolt. We had a slight twist but that righted itself soon enough and then we were floating. My tandem master pulled a few twists and turns before letting me have a go. It only seemed like another 45 seconds and we were back on terra firma.

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Another awesome experience, and in a pretty damn good place for it too!

That afternoon we hung around town still buzzing from our jump and had a famous Ferg Burger. This is a Queenstown institution, and you will know the place as people are always queuing out the door! The burgers were massive and real tasty. We stayed around town until 7pm to pick up my skydive DVD then hit the road heading for Milford Sound

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FINAL THOUGHTS

Daniel - Bungy and Skydiving were AWESOME! I wish I had been able to take it in a bit more on the bungy, i was on the edge for only seconds before jumping. Maybe that works for nervous people. The freefall on the skydive was wicked amongst all the peaks and spectacular landscape. I was on a high after both of the activities, but if I was going to do either again, I would do another bungy first! Only because I found that more intense with all the scenery rushing past you. On the skydive, apart from the wind, the landscape stays relatively stable. Couldn’t have picked a better location for the skydive too!!

Tanya – The included scenic flight was brilliant, what a great place to skydive! I regret not doing the bungy, but our budget is getting tight... Anyway, Queenstown was a great little city to spend a few days either relaxing or buzzing!

Posted by dbgomes 18:18 Archived in New Zealand Tagged new_zealand round_the_world Comments (0)

New Zealand – South Island West Coast

Pancakes with some Ice on top

semi-overcast 20 °C
View Round The World on dbgomes's travel map.

New Zealand’s geographical and geological situation means that the south west coast receives about 30meters of snow per year. This over a long time means that it is chock full of Glaciers. The two most famous ones were on our list to see, but we made a quick stop in to see the pancake rocks of Punakaiki

We hit the road as soon as we got back from kayaking and made a few stops along the road before pulling in late to roadside stop somewhere along the coastal highway. We actually got told from a guy at the petrol station to make sure we didn’t go all the way to Punakaiki during the dark as the coast road is really picturesque. We were glad to follow his advice as the following morning we had these great coastal views.

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We got to the location of the Pancake rocks around about 8.30am thinking that we had missed high tide and the blowholes that come to life at high tide. The pancake rocks are interesting with multiple layers of rock showing the timeline of the sea floor in the area.

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We went back to the carpark and saw a sign saying that high tide was actually at 9.45am so we decided it would be fitting to pass the time with serving up some pancakes in our van until high tide to catch the blowholes. The pancakes were yummy, but the blowholes weren’t getting their groove on this morning. When we went back to have a look, there was one chimney spout that gave us some shows, but the main blowhole was not doing much as the swell wasn’t as high or at the right angle or something. A lady showed us some video she got the night before and it was a lot more impressive then.

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Luckily the early morning clouds were starting to break up though with the passing time and we got some more shots at the rocks and along the rest of the coastline.

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As we got further south into Glacier Country the higher peaks began to rise from the countryside. We pulled into Franz Josef town and checked out for details of the glacier at the information centre before deciding to just go out and have a look at the glaciers rather than paying to hike on them as we have done it before in Norway.

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Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier are really accessible being only a 30 min walk from the main road. We walked up to the face of Franz Josef in the afternoon of our time in the area then visited Fox Glacier the following morning. They were cool to see, but we both agree that Perito Merino Glacier in Argentina was much more impressive. The unique thing about these glaciers is unlike the others we have seen around the world, they don’t finish in a big lake, they just crumble onto the rocks and have a little stream coming from below them.

FRANZ JOSEF
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FOX
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Queenstown was the next destination with some high adrenaline activities on the cards!

FINAL THOUGHTS
Daniel – The west coast was very picturesque and similar in many ways to the pacific coast drive that we did in California. If you are only going to see one of the glaciers in the area, Fox glacier was a bit more impressive I thought

Tanya – Similar to the Pacific Coast, but also at times like Death Road in Bolivia, beautiful. Other than fuel it was good to have a few easy days on the budget.

Posted by dbgomes 02:31 Archived in New Zealand Tagged new_zealand round_the_world Comments (0)

New Zealand – Abel Tasman National Park

Life on the waves

sunny 29 °C
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New Zealand’s smallest national park is big on beauty! This little chunk of land sticking up into the tasman sea gets lots of sunshine and after a few days of driving in the rain, we were glad to see the weather forecast showing a spell of sunny weather. There are two main options for seeing the national park – trekking or kayaking. We chose the water bound option.

We got to Wellington at a decent time for the ferry crossing south to Picton and had time to relax and watch a movie while queuing for the crossing. The weather had been clearing up and we had beautiful views of the crossing. We were welcomed to the south island with impressive views through the channels leading to Picton. The mountains just rise up from the water and we had nice weather to go out on the deck and watch the mountains go by as we arrived at the south island.

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That afternoon we drove along the coast as far as Richmond where we stayed for the night. We initially intended to do the Abel Tasman trek. The Abel Tasman national park, although the smallest in the country, is also the busiest, the stunning coastline making it picture perfect. As we´d wet our appetite for kayaking recently, we were keen to give it another go and the ´freedom kayaking´ option suited us perfectly, so we sorted out our reservations for the following day and just explored some of the bay for the remainder of the day. We found a lovely beach to have our lunch by and just take in the sunshine and the scenery on a midweek day while enjoying not being at work!

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We´d been told about a reserve on Ruby Bay that had $6 campsites so we headed there for the night. It was a beautiful spot right on the beach and the cold showers weren’t too bad.

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The following day we went to the kayak company and were issued with our tents and camping supplies and we packed these into our kayaks along with our food and clothes for the next 3 days. We then had a brief tuition with another 3 blokes who were renting for the day. Dan and I managed to push out through the waves without a hitch and were feeling pretty confident. We turned around and saw that everyone had made it past the breakers but the guy in the single kayak unsteadied himself somehow and flipped over. Not a good way to start, I certainly didn’t fancy doing the same! After the instructor was confident we knew what we were doing we were let loose on the open ocean.

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Low tide called for transport assistance for the kayaks and water taxis

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Dan making the final adjustments

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On the water!

We had a map of the coastline and the islands and had a lot to explore. There were a few islands along the way which we circled around. One had an amazing sand bar. The tide movements change the water level over 3 meters so sandbanks formed and the rock formations were very impressive.

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After a few hours of leisurely exploring we had to take on the mad mile. This was a stretch where the headland juts out into the ocean making for rougher waters. I will comment that the whole area we were kayaking in was in the large Nelsons bay so somewhat protected already. We definitely noticed a difference in the waters and the mad mile was tough work. We were relatively lucky that we had a helpful south easterly behind us.

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Along the mad mile we pulled into a pretty and secluded cove for a break and some lunch. Unfortunately we´d forgot to get lunch out of the fridge and had to settle for fruit and muesli bars which was fine although Dan was suddenly ready to eat our 3 days worth of supplies and somewhat worried about the smallish rations, which I found quite funny.

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We had decided to set up camp at Mosquito Bay which is one of the quieter campgrounds away from the walking track and set in a very picturesque bay. It took a bit of negotiating around the almost invisible sandbar which changed the island on the bay into part of the mainland. This island, we claimed as our own little island!

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We managed to set up camp in a good little spot and get some dinner going early in the hope of avoiding the mosquitoes. Unfortunately, there was to be no avoiding them.

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The next day we didn’t have to be anywhere or set up camp so after a bit of a sleep in we went in search of the seals to the north. The winds were not in our favour for heading north but at least they would help us return to camp. After a tough paddle around another headland, we made it into the calm wasters of Tonga island. Fortunately for our tired arms, that’s just where a few of the fur seals were resting so we got to sit back and enjoy the wildlife for a bit.

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We had been told that more seals hide out on the north side of the island so we decided to venture back into the rough seas to circle around and see. Moving around into the direct winds we went into very difficult choppy waters, but we were so lucky as there was a seal playing around in the water pruning itself. We got a few pictures but it wasn’t easy taking turns fighting against the waves trying to hold the kayak in position while the other took photos.

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Navigating around the rest of the island became much easier with the waves behind us and we had a few more seal sightings.

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We still had plenty of time to explore some other areas. After stopping for fresh water to take back to the camp we negotiated our way into a river which took us to a swing bridge that crosses the river.

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We had to go to the river late in the day to time it with high tide. Our paddle through the river was lovely and calm and negotiating our way back out again was fine until we had to get back into the ocean. The sea was breaking over a now covered sandbank and we had to carefully time when we would try to negotiate our way across it through the waves. Making our way back to camp was just as difficult as we fought to get around the headland. By the time we got back we were spent and happily called it a night early on.

The tide movements were crazy here with the two shots showing high and low tides of our island

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Our final day on the ocean was much calmer and we had a great sunny day to slowly make our way back. We repacked the tent and all our gear and headed out. Wed not done a good job of packing and had a rather lopsided kayak, but it was hardly a chore to pull into another oasis to reshuffle a few items.

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Last view of our island

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We also find the time to stop for lunch and a nice swim, it was a lovely relaxing day. We ended the day messing around in the surf and catching some good waves in, our shoulders were pretty sore by this point by we’d had another amazing adventure!

FINAL THOUGHTS
Tanya – This is possibly one of the most memorable activities of our holiday to date. It was great to set out on our own and explore in a different way from the water. We got a decent bit of exercise too which we haven’t had in a long time! I won’t be forgetting this experience for a long time.

Daniel – We have had some pretty bad weather up to now, but we happily endured that in order to be rewarded with some cracking few days of sunshine when we needed it most. A beautiful part of the country and i think we made the right choice to see it from the water! Mental note - Next time remember to pack more supplies... I was considering waking up in the dead of the night and eating our stash of food!

Posted by dbgomes 16:10 Archived in New Zealand Tagged new_zealand round_the_world Comments (1)

New Zealand – Rotorua & Hawkes Bay

Rotten eggs on the nose, Crushed grapes on the tongue

rain 17 °C
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Driving into Rotorua the sulphur smell hits you early on before you drive past the steaming mud pools! This volcanic town has a bunch of things to do in amongst its beautiful natural scenery. We would try to fit a few things in.

First stop on the adventure trail was for some Zorbing. In case you haven’t heard of it before, you hop inside a big rubber ball and get thrown down a hill. We went to the location of the first ever Zorb just outside of Rotorua. You are given three options
1. Straight track, zig-zag track or big drop track
2. Solo or with a friend (friends only on the straight track)
3. With water or strapped in.
We both selected the solo ‘water’ version on the zig-zag track which was said to be the most fun of the options.

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After being taken up the hill Tanya was first to go and after a superman dive into the zorb which is filled with nice warm water she was kicked down the slope and all I could here were screams as she bumped off the sides on the way down.

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I was next in and managed to get this video while in there.

It was a lot more of a buzz that we were expecting and I guess the closest feeling to being in a washing machine. You had no idea where you were going or when a big bump and turn were coming. We were both happy to check it off our adventure activity list!

We stopped in at the bubbling mud pools and steaming hot lakes right in the centre of town to check out the volcanism at work, surprisingly it wasn’t overly smelly down here compared to the road into town. Maybe we were just getting used to it or something.

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We then took a ride up the cable car for some views over the city and to ride on the luge carts that they have up there. The views going up over the city were great but really that was just a side attraction to having some fun on the luge tacks. We got a deal for 2 rides and started off on the ´scenic track´ which we were hoping to skip thinking that it would be a boring one to figure out how to use the luges. I was wrong, this was arguably the best of the bunch and we got some photos and video after a few stops down the long track. It was an awesome ride and the luge was definitely faster, wilder and even more fun than I was expecting.

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We took the chairlift up and hit the advanced track which was even faster to the point of getting air over a few of the humps.

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Having had a blast on the luge (I think they should do one in the hills in Perth!) we checked into a caravan park which had its own thermal pool, perfect for a relaxing break before cooking up some food.

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The next day was welcomed with some horrible weather. We drove out to the Blue Lake and Green Lake just outside Rotorua but they were both a distinctive shade of grey today!

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With the dim weather we headed south to Lake Taupo stopping into the Huka falls for quick look before a few hours solid driving to get to Napier and Hawkes Bay. The weather wasn’t much better down here and we couldn’t see more than a few hundred meters out into the bay, however the weather didn’t stop us doing a bit of wine tasting, for which the region is well known.

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That night we did our first freedom camping picking a spot by the side of the highway and pulling in there to spend the night. We cooked up some hotdogs and enjoyed a bottle of red that we had purchased at the winery. There are plenty of rest stops just like these on the New Zealand highways and it was great to have the countryside to ourselves – well the passing traffic also.

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FINAL THOUGHTS

Daniel – Zorbing was great and the luge was a bunch of fun. I know my brother and cousin would have loved it too and it would have been cool to have them here for it, as Tanya didn’t really enjoy me overtaking and bumping into her luge :-) I’m loving having the camper van, you have so much more freedom with it to go where ever you want, when you want!

Tanya – More excited about going skydiving at a later date I wasn’t expecting much of a thrill from the zorb – maybe the claustrophobic element adds to the buzz, it was great fun. The luge had some very impressive tracks and was brilliant fun, even for us bigger kids!

Posted by dbgomes 23:45 Archived in New Zealand Tagged new_zealand round_the_world Comments (0)

New Zealand – Coromandel Peninsula

Welcome to Ein Zid

all seasons in one day 26 °C
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The home of Middle Earth, the Rugby World Champions and a little black bird - New Zealand is our closest destination from Australia (although not really from Perth) but this will be our first time visiting this dramatic country.

The first thing we noticed on arriving at Auckland airport was just how friendly everyone was! While we have found people friendly everywhere, it was just even more noticeable here. Right from the bloke in customs, the girl at the mini mart and the bus driver from the airport – really cheerful and straight away offering help. The second thing we noticed was a lot of retail shops from Australia that we hadn’t seen for 6 years, it was like being back in Perth but with a slightly different accent!

After having the 8th of February 2012 disappear into oblivion as we crossed the international date line, we got into Auckland feeling pretty good. We took a stroll down to the harbour side passing the sky tower along the way. We settled down for an afternoon beer overlooking the water enjoying the feeling of being back in summer.

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The following morning we were due to collect our car to drive up to the Bay of Islands, but in the morning checking our emails before we left, the car company said that they didn’t have the car available and were refunding our money... Great!! Commence hunting around for plan B. We had initially decided on a car over a camper van, but over the last couple of days we were wishing that we had actually gone for a camper van, so we saw the cancellation as a blessing in disguise as we started to go down the route of looking for a camper van. The only problem now was that everywhere was all booked up given we are only just out of peak season. A few phone calls round and we eventually found one that we could take from the following day and at a higher price than booking a few months back, ohh well money can be replaced and all it meant for our schedule was dropping Bay of Islands off the destination list.

At 8am we were out at BackPacker Rental Van’s office watching a briefing DVD on how to use our camper van. By 9.30am we were on the road heading for the Coromandel Peninsula. After stocking up the fridge and pantry in the van, the drive took around 4 hours and we headed straight for the beach town of Hahei. The drive was beautiful and very much reminded us of the UK. Green, rolling hills and raining. We could have easily been in Scotland or the English Lake District. Although once we got to the coast line of the peninsula, it was a different story.

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We called a kayak company on the way there and booked in for an afternoon sea kayaking around the coastline. Having rain in the morning in Auckland, we had thought that maybe we weren’t going to have such a great day. Luckily, on this side of the mountains, it was beautiful and sunny with hardly a breath of wind.

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We were onto the water in a little group of 6 with our guide. She said that we were really lucky as the water was amazingly clear and the wind was so light. We set off for the island off the coast, I can’t remember what it’s called, but it is representative of the nose of the first Maori settler in the area!

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The only underwater shot we got before the Sony battery died

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Circling around the island, the water was crystal clear and really calm. We kayaked through one of the caves on the island and it was a great way to be able to see it up close and from the waters perspective.

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Heading back to the mainland, we landed at Cathedral Cove which has stunning rock formations with a big tall rock and a large tunnel through the headland. The beach was beautiful with nice white sand, calm warm water and these great natural rock features. We messed around for a while getting photos before having a beachside coffee and heading off.

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Paddling back we stopped at a few more of the little bays and then landed back at the Hahei beach. The guide told us that with it being low tide we were perfectly timed for heading round to the Hot Water Beach, which as the name suggests, has a thermal vent right on the beach leaching out hot water. When we got there, the tide was starting to come back in and the few self dug bathing pools were full to the brim with lots of backpackers down there for the same thing. Without any room to hop in we resorted to just standing with our feet a few inches in the warm hot sand and water.

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A bathing frenzy

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This one was actually cold, but needed it for photographic purposes

We got back into our home for the next few weeks and headed for our first camp ground leaving this beautiful area behind.

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FINAL THOUGHTS

Daniel – Only spending 1 afternoon in the whole of Coromandel Peninsula was simply down to our limited time in the country as a whole. This won’t be the last time we visit New Zealand, so we will definitely be back to this part, it was beautiful!

Tanya – Sea kayaking was fantastic. My shoulders are a little sore, but it was a great way to explore the coast. The only other way to get to beautiful cathedral cove is a 1 hour hike so we definitely made the right choice. If we’d had more time we would have returned to hot water beach earlier (based on tide times) and taken a shovel. Oh well, we will just have to come back here too!

Posted by dbgomes 21:55 Archived in New Zealand Tagged new_zealand round_the_world Comments (0)

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