Well I guess it's time for another update from me, after all it's been nearly 2 weeks since I wrote last time and as always a lot has happened since then. For one, we are now in New Zealand and well on our way to the South Island.but let me go back to when we first arrived (Friday 13th).
Our flight from Sydney should have been pleasant seeing as it is only 6 hours, however as it was Friday 13th (the only way I can explain it) we had the most annoying French family sitting in front of us. And as most of you would agree the French are rude, obnoxious and think they are masters of the universe - all traits that rub me up the wrong way!!! Anyway during the course of the flight we became embroiled in a heated exchange of words which culminated in me threatening to. well, you get the idea.
This whole episode really pissed me off but all that was forgotten when I got to Auckland. Contrary to all the big cities that we visited in Australia, we fell in love with Auckland straight away. It really is beautiful and I certainly could see myself living there one day. We spent the next couple of days exploring the city and even ventured out on Saturday night to the viaduct to watch the footy at 1.30am.
By Monday 16th we were ready to start driving and hit the road as soon as we picked up our car. We started driving west towards Karekare and its black sand beach. This was the location for Jane Campion's "The Piano" in 1993 and so you would think that it would be extremely touristy, but it wasn't. In fact apart from a few local surfers we had the beach to ourselves.
The sight of black sand on the beach is truly remarkable and it feels so surreal to walk on. It was a bit of a chilly day so we refrained from getting the swimwear out and instead played hide and seek on the beach! We hung around for a bit and stopped at a few lookout points before making our way north towards Cape Reinga.
Cape Reinga is not quite the Northern most point of New Zealand but it is pretty close to being so. The name of the cape comes from the Māori word 'Reinga', meaning the 'Underworld'. Another Māori name is 'Te Rerenga Wairua', meaning the leaping-off place of spirits. Both refer to the Māori belief that the cape is the point where the spirits of the dead enter the underworld.
The drive was too long to do in one day so we stopped along the way for the night before continuing the next morning. We were almost there when suddenly we came to a flock of sheep on the road and before we knew it we were in amongst them! It was a pretty amazing sight looked like the scene from "Three Men and a Little Lady".
I should just explain that since we've been away we've invested in a little potable DVD player, there was only so much Ludo we could play before it started getting too competitive, and we've only got a few films. So I have now seen Father Of The Bride and Three Men and a Little Lady around 150 times, thanks to Sally!!!
Anyway, we negotiated our way past the sheep and made it to Cape Reinga. The lighthouse on the cliff was beautiful and the views of the cliffs and endless ocean were stunning however we were both a little disappointed as the drive isn't really worth the end product. In fact I think the highlight for both of us was getting caught in the flock of sheep!
So after taking a few snaps we made our way to the Bay of Islands. I'm sure everyone who hasn't been there has seen the pictures, it's probably in every catalogue and brochure about New Zealand and in my opinion it is completely over-rated. Unless you avid water activities person - and by that I mean sailing, fishing etc then in my opinion it's complete waste of time. I really don't understand what all the fuss is all about and why so many people go there, it doesn't even have a nice beach!
But I really wanted to give this place a chance and so we took a speed boat out on Wednesday to see the islands. We were on a boat called "Mac Attack" and I have to say that the boat ride was more fun than the islands we saw. Apparently the highlight was the world famous "Hole in the Wall" rock (I know I had never heard of it either). Our speed boat did the customary thing and drove through the Hole in the Rock and we were on our way back. Great thanks for that!!!
We left the same way and drove down to the Coromandel Peninsula. The next morning (Thursday) we drove to the Far North Coromandel which is a National Park and took a very scenic around the park on a coastal road. The drive was probably one of the best I have ever done and besides the endless cliffs and beaches we passed we also at one point climbed right to the top and had the most amazing views of the valleys below us. We literally drove until we ran out of road before turning around and heading back.
One thing which is nice about coming to NZ after driving in Australia is that distances are so much shorter and so we are getting to our destinations in couple of hours. So by that same afternoon we had arrived in Whitianga - a lovely beach side town which has a real mellow feel to it. We checked into our hostel and drove to Cathedral Cove.
Cathedral Cove - this has probably been one of the highlights of New Zealand for me so far. The sign in the car park says the walk is around 40 mins, which is about right, but what they don't tell you is that on the way back most of it is uphill! But I suppose you are on such a high about having seen somewhere like that, that you don't really notice the walk back. The walk takes around on a cliff down to a cove which is completely surrounded by cliffs apart a tunnel through rock face to you your left to another beach. Needless to say that the place was a little busy but it still was a beautiful sight, I can't really do it justice by describing it so I will try and upload photos for everyone to see.
On the way back I also took a quick detour to Stingray beach - which had beautiful white sand and was completely empty (I was the only person on the beach). And the fact that you had to climb over rocks to get to the beach made it even more amazing.
By the time Friday had come round we had been in New Zealand for a week. We had a fairly busy day planned and it all started at the hot water beach. This is basically an area on the beach where hot water from underground reservoirs comes up to the surface 2 hours either side of low tide. You dig yourself a hole on the beach and voila you have your very own spa. The water can get seriously hot - in fact we both almost burnt our toes when we first got there (I'm not kidding if you dig far enough down the water can get to 64 degrees). It is really weird when the tide comes in because you are standing on sand that is really hot and you have the sea water which is cold! Thankfully we managed to get away without any burns and started driving towards Thames.
Thames was and still is a gold mining town and we decided to do a tour of the mines while we were there. We had a walk around the mines and were shown had the rocks are crushed and gold is eventually found. Our tour guide was a real old timer who obviously worked in mines. This was really interesting and we heard some really great stories. Having wetted our appetite about cold, dark and damp places we headed to the Broken Mountains for a bit of hiking which included some tunnels.
The walk wasn't long - around 1 hour and we went through some pretty cold and dark tunnels and before long we were back in the car and heading back towards Whitianga. On the way we stopped and had a quick game of crazy golf - Sally won (by luck) but the highlight was my hole in 1 on the 14th!!!
Wow, what a day, so after we arrived at Whakatane the next day we decided that we needed a couple of days of just chilling out and so spent the next couple of days hanging out in or near our hostel. On Sunday we did drive to a near by beach and have a stroll but were soon back at our hostel and in front of the tele.
We left Whakatane on Monday and drove Rotorua and along the way stopped at a place called Te Wairoa and the "Buried Village". Te Wairoa Village, in a valley above Lake Tarawera, was established by a Christian Missionary in 1848. It was abandoned during the land wars of the 1860's, then repopulated a few years later as the staging post to the Pink and White Terraces. This was a huge tourist attraction and people travelled from around the world to see them. However, on June 10 1886, in the early hours of the morning, the volcano over-shadowing the local villages erupted and four hours, rocks, ash and boiling hot mud bombarded the area. The eruption was New Zealand's greatest natural disaster and the explosions were seen and heard as far away as Auckland.
The eruption destroyed the Terraces and buried Te Wairoa and two smaller villages under hot heavy ash and mud before they were excavated in the early 30s. So now you can walk along and get a glimpse of life in the 1800. This doesn't sound like a lot of fun, but some of the stories we were told by our guide were fascinating.
We spent the night in Rotorua before going to Wai-O-Tapu and Geothermal Wonderland on Tuesday. Located close to Rotorua, this is New Zealand's most colourful natural volcanic environment. Our first stop was the Lady Knox Geyser which spouts out water at 10.15am every morning to a length of up to 20 meters - and after that we started our walk around the park.
We spent a couple hours walking around this park which is unbelievable. You are walking amongst active volcanoes and everywhere you look there is either steam coming out of the ground or boiling hot water or colourful lakes. After we got over the awful sulphur smell (like rotten egg) of the area we had a great time wondering around and exploring the park before heading to Taupo.
Phew, that was a long one today, but now I'm all up-to-date. Well almost.I'll tell you about today in another blog.