23/07/10 New Zealand
3.00 was dreadful time to check in, we were both shattered and the check in woman was a power hungry b**** and refused to accept my e-ticket which I showed her on my net book. She told us that she couldn't accept it unless it was printed out, she sent us to the customer service desk which didn't open until 4.00.
4.00 I told the small chappy my predicament but he wasn't for helping us stating that this seems to be a common occurrence with us travellers, I felt like having an argument with this 'little toerag' but managed to keep very calm considering the fact I was tired and moody, after all I needed his help. I told him that I have a usb stick with the pdf document on it but he was quick to state that the printer was broken. "OK" I replied "you must have a system in place, after all this is a common occurrence, isn't it?" the dwarf of a man went off to a dot matrix printer and started to print something out. He presented me with a small piece of paper with both Lloyd's and my flight details on it, "perfect" I said, still trying to be exceptionally pleasant. We walked back to the queue of passengers and tried to check in again, the lady who sent us to customer's service walked over to us and told us to jump the queue; she had almost had a personality change and was now my best friend.
7.00 We set off on our 3.5 hour flight to New Zealand. The in-flight entertainment was one of the best I've seen; touch screen display with a choice of movies, games, documentaries and much more, the only problem was that I was shattered. I had my scrambled egg and bacon breakfast and watched a short Mark Knopfler concert whilst watching a beautiful clear sunrise. I didn't sleep much and before we knew it we were descending, touching down in Aukland at around 11.00 (+2 to Australian time and +12gmt)
We caught a free shuttle bus to the Britz Camper Vans headquarters, it turned out that Maui, Backpackers and Britz are all under one roof and (I think) the same company. I told the friendly receptionist that I had a quote but would like to see the vehicle before we set off. A young lad took me to the van and also showed me an alternative camper van which seemed huge, onboard shower and toilet, hot water, kitchen and all the trimmings. I thought the bigger van would be a lot more expensive but he told me that he could do it for $10 more (£5). I told him that if he could do it for $7 more we'd take it, he agreed and we signed the paper work for the much bigger VW TDI van. We opted out of the excess reduction scheme, the only reason we paid a little extra in Australia was because of the roo's, in New Zealand all we have to look out for is Kiwi's and sheep which are often behind fences. Talking of sheep New Zealand is home to over 90 million giving each resident nearly 9 each (New Zealand's human population is around 4.5 million).
On the road the van seemed huge; our first stop was a nearby supermarket where we had to straddle 2 parking bays. The supermarket seemed far more reasonably priced than the Australian ones; we even treated ourselves to Guinness and a couple of bottles of red wine.
We needed a bigger road map but decided to find the Pacific Highway (no.25) with the small map provided. Before we knew it we were driving on unfamiliar roads in the dark, after a couple of hours we stopped off in a place called Miranda and decided to buy a better map the following day.
Cheese and toast and Guinness for tea, hot shower then bed; we were so tired that by the time I got out of the shower (which lasted around 2 minutes), Lloydy was fast asleep.
Woke up at 12.30 after a marathon sleeping session, the weather was a little chilly but much warmer than Melbourne. Once we unpacked our belongings we drove through Miranda which was small but quaint, and over a group of hills towards the Firth of Thames which boasted impressive panoramic views; it was like the Lake District on steroids.
We stopped off in Thames and picked up a cigarette socket splitter so I could charge my net book and listen to music through the radio transmitter, at the same time. My book warned us off Thames stating that some of the rough bars aren't worth the hassle; however everyone I spoke to seemed super friendly.
We popped into McDonalds, hoping to use the wifi, however they informed us that they didn't have all the Mc D's services; we still left with two cheese burgers each.
Following the coast line to Coromandel, the view became even more attractive, route 25 hugged the coast line; in fact I don't think we've ever driven so close to the sea before.
16.30 We started to ascend a steep road and found a lay-by just before Coromandel and decided to spend the night there. The view point was beautiful and free, we poured ourselves a Guinness and watched the sun go down; our first day was a relatively short one but a great introduction to New Zealand.
In the evening we cooked a lamb curry and plotted our chosen route on the new map we purchased earlier in the day.
8.30am I drew the curtain back and opened the condensed window to take in the magnificent view. After a spot of breakfast and a bell brew which was excellent compared to the rubbish bags we had bought in Australia we hit the beautiful 'route 25' through Coromandel where we stopped to use the internet.The 'Driving Creek Cafe' was a laid back and welcoming hideaway with great coffee, it had beautiful views from its veranda and wifi.
Back on the road again we headed anticlockwise around the North Island hugging the coastline round mercury bay, named by Captain Cook who stopped here in 1769 so that his party of scientists could observe the planet passing across the face of the sun. We stopped off for lunch in Whitianga, mounting the small curb onto a stretch of grass overlooking Buffalo beach.
Our next stop was Hot Water Beach located about 40km from Whitianga and on the other side of the bay near Whenuakite. We parked the van and headed into the stylish Hot Water Cafe which had live entertainment playing, the small band had 2 sax players which were superb. We rented a spade from the busy elegant establishment, stripped off into our shorts and headed towards the beach.
Everyone reading this will probably think that Lloydy and I are a little old to be playing on the beach with a spade; however the spade was used for something other than building sandcastles or digging pointless holes. We followed the beach around to some rocks where we could see more people with spades. We started to dig a hole and believe it or not hot water and steam started to fill the pit, Lloyd and I had checked out tide times and knew that we only had about 30 minutes to enjoy the natural phenomenon before the cold water from the sea dominates our hole. After about 20 minutes of relaxation a huge wave breached the wall we'd built around our pit. The two of us headed back to the van stopping off at the very cold beach shower where we tried to wash off the sand, which was now everywhere. The sun helped us dry off as its rays penetrated the thin ozone layer above us, in the summer the rays often catch tourists out.
Once dry we headed south stopping in Waihi which is famous for its gold mine. We pulled up next to the old pump station which is based on a Cornish design and walked up to the viewing area. From here we could gaze down at the vast pit, where laden trucks were dwarfed by the sheer scale of the earthworks; I don't think I've ever seen a hole in the ground, as big as this one. We took a slight detour to Waihi beach which is 8km of golden beach and is apparently one of the safest ocean beaches in the country. We couldn't spot any 'no camping' signs so decided to stop there, beach view with pleasant surroundings.
In the evening we cooked a sausage pasta dish washed down with a bottle of red wine.
Woke up with a beach view however it was slightly overcast and pretty cold. We had no water and our pans from the previous night's meal were stacked up in the sink so the first port of call was a petrol station. We headed toward Touranga first filling up our water reserve and then spending a bit of time in a cafe near Mt Maunganui.
Further south we stopped in Rotorua which is one of the most concentrated Geothermic areas around, where twenty metre geysers spout among kaleidoscope mineral pools, steam wafts over cauldrons of boiling mud and terrace of encrusted silicates drip like stalactites. We could smell Rotorua well before we arrived there as Hydrogen Sulphide drifted through our windows as a result of the regions thin crust.
Everywhere we looked had evidence of volcanism; birds on the lakeshore are relieved of creating a nest as the ground is warm enough and tombs dominate churchyards because it would be too dangerous to dig into the ground because of the abundance of hot springs.
We picked up a bit of literature from the information centre, located in the centre of Roturua before driving through the quaint eggy spa town (small city). I was driving along Ranofl Street when I spotted steam coming from the ground, Lloyd and I jumped out of the van and into Kuirau Park where we watched as ponds bubbled releasing steam into the atmosphere. In fact the ground felt pretty warm and when we touched you could have cooked and egg on a couple of nearby rocks
I wanted to park up near lake Roturua which was a huge impressive lakeat the heart of the town however the Government Gardens seemed to be a 'no camping' zone, however we found a little spot on the water's edge without any signs so parked the van there - I'd guess we'd wait and see whether the police came knocking.
In the evening we ate grilled lamb chops and salad washed down by a New Zealand red. 22.00 still no sign of being shifted from our five star site. Within an hours time a couple of other large camper vans had joined us.
9.30, the other camper vans had disappeared so we also moved on, not wanting to push our luck. We headed to the tourist information centre and booked the luge, we didn't really know what it was however a friend from college thoroughly recommended it. We paid $40 which gave us 5 luges and a return trip to the car park via a gondola.
We caught a ride up the steep hill via the gondola which gave us great views of Roturua lake and the city; the city looked like it was smouldering in areas due to the geothermic action present.
It was this geothermic action that attracted the Maori people to settle around the lake thousands of years ago using the heat to cook, bath and build their houses on; the warm ground would drive away the winter chill. The ancestors of modern Maori arrived from Polynesia on double hulled canoes between 1200 and 1300 AD.
The luge was basically a modified sledge type thing with wheels and a bike style handle bar to clutch on to, if you pull the bike handle towards you the luge moves forwards and if you pull it even further towards you it breaks - simple, we thought. We swiped our 5 pass card into the machine and jumped into our rides, a woman gave us a 30 second briefing and pointed towards the scenic route. There were 3 routes to choose from, scenic, intermediate and advanced, the scenic ride was a fun but a little lame and it wasn't until we rode the intermediate track that we realised how quick these things could go. We raced round hair pin bends, through forests and into chicanes before loading our luges back onto the chairlift and riding back up to try the advanced. There was no one else on the advanced probably for a good reason, from the start the luges started to pick up terrific speed and we both plummeted into the first corner crashing into the wooden curb. We soon got the hang of it and were flying into corners and even catching on a couple of occasions.
Back at the top we realised that the barrier was unattended so we sneaked a free go, however Lloyd got his comeuppance. My luge was slightly quicker and I gained a bit of ground and the only way Lloydy could make up the ground was to avoid breaking on the corners, this didn't go to plan. I heard a yelp and slammed on my breaks which released a strong smell of rubber in the air, I turned back and glanced up the hill only to see Lloydy crawling out of a sandpit; his luge up sided. He shouted that he was ok so I could now laugh out (loudly), he struggled to make it down to the bottom as his luge wheels were now completely clogged with sand and his left hip was in pain.
Apparently a few people have been seriously injured when racing on the luge, Lloydy wasn't seriously injured but resorted to a hot mineral spa followed by a hot shower later that afternoon. The QE Health Spa which seemed to double up as some kind of medical centre looked slightly run down as the sign outside was covered in dirt. Things didn't improve much inside, the establishment had an 'old people's home' feel to it and it stunk of egg (this was actually the sulphur from the hot springs not the old people who seemed to be wandering around the place). However for £5 Lloyd and I weren't for complaining as we had the whole pool to ourselves, apparently the pool is primarily used for rheumatology patients to increase their circulation and flexibility. The pool named 'Rachel's Pool' or 'Rachel Spring' is named after the notorious London cosmetic known as 'Madam Rachel' who claimed 'to make the plain pretty, to make beautiful exquisite, and to make the age of golden youth eternal'; incidentally Rachel was jailed for fraud in 1878.Lloydy and I left the spa feeling exceptionally clean but also very tired so drove 30km south to Wai-O-Tapu which is a renowned geothermic hot spot. The following morning we had plans to visit the the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland and to view the bubbling mud and lively geysers which apparently erupt on queue every morning.
Later that evening we had a spot of tea and wrapped ourselves up for another cold night, we aren't even in the south island yet and I was wearing a t-shirt, long-sleeved technical top, Berghaus fleece, pj bottoms and thick booty socks in two sleeping bags. We were chatting to a bloke in a campsite earlier that day about other options for staying warm; we could get more specialists clothing, extreme sleeping bags or stop being tight arses and pay for a campsite, that way we'd be able to plug our heater into the mains however we're on a budget and trying to stick to it. I mentioned a gas heater to the friendly chap in the camp shop but he told us that three friends stopped in a log cabin a few weeks ago and fell asleep with the burner on; the burner depleted the O2 from their room killing two of them. I think the trick is to wrap up warm, and if we get desperate get amongst the sheep.
9.30 The car park had started to get a little busy so we jumped out of the van for a look around, to our surprise it was actually warmer outside that it was in the van. We made our way to the Wai-O-Tapu information / tourist centre and paid a $30 (£)15 entrance fee for visiting what I can only describe as a mini national park. The woman advised us to jump back in the van and drive further down the road to the Lady Knox Geyser, we showed our ticket to the bloke manning the car park and headed down a narrow path where a few more people had already congregated. 10.15 The same bloke who was manning the car park jumped over the fence and gave us a bit of a speech about the geyser (which looked like a mini volcano) before pouring some soap flakes into its aperture; at this point he speeded up his speech and hurdled back over the wooden fence for safety. The mini mound started to bubble and froth and you could hear a deep gurgling noise and within minutes the geyser spurted hot water about fifteen metres into the air. This must have gone on for around fifteen minutes and would normally happen naturally, however the soap speeds up the process reducing the surface tension of the water resulting in a jet of superheated steam and water.
Back in the van we drove back to where we had slept the previous night and into the main entrance of the park which was cleverly located through a tourist shop which we quickly bypassed. The park was pretty amazing we walked for over an hour through a landscape I've never come across before; we passed by small lakes which had taken on a tint of the minerals dissolved in them - yellow from sulphur, purple from manganese oxide, green from colloidal sulphur, white from silica, red and brown from iron oxide and black from sulphur and carbon. We walked by the gurgling and growling black mud of the Devils Ink Pot and a series of the Artists Palette pools and the gorgeous effervescentChampagne Pool, a circular bottle green cauldron wreathed in swirling steam and fringed by a burnt orange shelf. The water of Champagne Pool froths over the terraces which results in the formation of lime silicate that glistens in that glistens in the sun.
Apparently Wai-O-Tapu has been associated with volcanic activity dating back about 160,000 years and is located right on the edge of the largest volcanic caldera (depression) within the active Taupo Volcanic range. We kind of got use to the constant eggy smell which seemed to linger in the air, however the gasses had taken its toll on the surrounding vegetation; the green pigment on plants (chlorophyll) had been replaced by a bright orange pigment known as Trentepohlia, which is classified as a type of algae.
After our thermal adventure we headed further south to Taupo (the skydiving capital) and picked up some information about the Tongariro Alpine Pass which is a one way (grade - challenging) day trek from Mangatepopo to Ketehahi. It is often described as the best one day hike in New Zealand and will give us an opportunity to experience some of the most scenic and active volcanic areas within the park. It climbs to Red Crater (1886m), then drops down to the vivid Emerald Lakes. After passing Blue Lake we will turn back and head back to the car park - this should take a full day to complete.
The only problem was that its winter and the peaks are covered in snow, both tourist information centres asked us if we had crampons I told them we had good boots and strong legs; I have a half decent pair of boots, Lloydy will be attempting the trek with his £3 pumps on.
We drove around Lake Taupo which is a 616sq km lake (Windermere is 16sq km - approx 10 times smaller) is formed by volcanic activity thousands of years ago, then on to Turangi where I purchased a pair of fleece pants from a camping shop (primarily bought for the south island but I'm already feeling the cold at night) before driving into the Tongariro National Park. The drive was especially breathtaking it was just like a scene from Lord of the Rings in fact Mount Doom and Mordor were mainly shot here.
The small car park said 'no camping' however it was getting dark and the road was pretty rough so parked up and started to prepare our kit for the trek ahead.
Later in the evening we had pasta a high carb meal and turned in for the night - I set my alarm clock for 7.00am giving us enough time to draw the curtains before any other visitors or rangers arrive.
7.00am, both up dressed and having breakfast. The tourist information staff had told us that all organised trips where off today because of bad weather. I had read a different weather report stating that the morning would be fine and clear, when we jumped out of the van the weather was beautiful, cold but with blue skies. The sun must have risen but was shielded by Mt Ngauruhoe (2287m) and Mt Tongariro (1967m) resulting in a multitude of shades and colours over the landscape. We were already to go a backpack each containing additional clothing, ski gloves, torch, whistle, cameras, food and water, we left a sign on our vehicle saying "if we aren't back by sunset please send for help".
The one way trek length is 19.4km and would normally take around 6 - 7 hours and in the summer thousands of people attempt it, however we were attempting it in alpine conditions, the peaks themselves were now classed as an alpine climb and looking at the car park it would seem that we were the only people attempting it.
Initially the path was pretty easy and very man made however the further we went the more difficult and rugged it became. We stopped off at some natural springs before ascending up a steep accent, there was a sign at this point warning people of the dangers which they would encounter should they carry on any further, one of the warnings gave brief instructions on what we should so if we hear the volcano start to rumble and the ground begin to shake, this statement sent a cold chill down my back but we pressed on regardless.
Still following icy steps we climbed even higher, stopping once in a while to catch our breath and take a photo. The wooden markers which were set out to mark out the track had a thick coating of ice on them, so thick that I could detach the ice and use it as a toy light sabre or javelin - I know very juvenile. We eventually reached the south crater, a huge circular plateau with an eerie carpet of snow drift blowing around its base, I really felt like I was an explorer and that me and Lloyd were the first people up the mountain. We walked across the crater which looked like a huge frozen lake following the wooden markers before attempting the climb to the red crater, which I'm guessing is normally red but today it will be definitely white. We started our slow ascent to what would be the highest point on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, but things got off pretty badly, I was struggling to find a footing in places and Lloyd was climbing up on all fours and things only went from bad to worse. We were about half way up when we both started to slide towards the edge, I'm guessing this is now the time where you would use an axe, Lloyd and I used our nails and sheer determination to ascend even further.
10.30 I arrived at the top and was breath taken by the views, I could see frozen lakes, more craters, and clouds in the distance that were lower than me and an array of colours. I looked back down to see how much progress Lloyd had made but he was stuck clutching a rock, his pumps couldn't grip the ice and 10m seemed like 100m for him. The ground had weird ice formations over it which looked like inverted water droplets that had been shaped by the wind. I slid back down to Lloyd but he had already made his mind up - he was turning back, I knew that the summit was only a two hour round trip from that point so I gave Lloyd the van keys and told him that if I wasn't back by 4.00pm send for help.
I climbed back up to red crater and watched as Lloyd slid back down to the southern crater. I ate a chocolate bar and speeded up my pace, I was now off the Tongariro Alpine Track but still following red markers along a snow ridge. All I could here was the wind howling past my ears and every so often the sound of ice cracking beneath my feet, I was more scared of an avalanche than I was of the volcano however the ice was pretty compact and I tried to walk along the eastern side which was less steep. In the distance was a huge cloud and the wind seemed to change direction bringing the cloud closer to me, I was so close to the summit I didn't want to turn back now so I speeded up even more so until I saw the final marker. I'd been walking on the sides of my boots for the last stretch of the walk and my feet were starting to burn but I gave myself one last push to the marker before climbing up the peak. I wanted to walk over the peak but the snow was now up to my shin and I really didn't know whether the crater had a huge hole in the top of it or not. The huge cloud was now on my head drastically reducing my visibility; I didn't dare go any further as a little bit of panic set in. I quickly took off my shades and gulped down some very cold juice before making a rapid descent to the red crater. I was right in the middle of the cloud and on a couple of occasions I struggled to see the next marker however I could see my foot prints. Whilst making my way back to the red crater a multitude of emotions where running through my head; I was missing home, my family and my girlfriend, I don't think I've ever felt so isolated however my next thoughts were - what a lucky b****** I am to see the world like this
At the red crater I made a sigh of relief, I was now slightly below the cloud and could see a group of walkers crossing the southern crater - I knew I was home and dry. I put my shades back on as the snow glare was starting to hurt my eyes and started my decent to the southern crater. I really didn't want to fall down in front of a group of walkers so I took my time, eventually making it to the bottom. I arrived at the bottom before they had even started their accent and I think they were quite shocked to see my coming down from Tongariro peak without an axe or crampons, the group of ten had everything from gaiters to avalanche bags. I walked past the group with my headphones on and said good morning to them; they were probably thinking amateur, I was thinking suckers for paying $100 an organised trip.
The walk back to the van took a lot longer than I thought, my legs were getting tired but I was excited to get back to the van for a drink so I pressed on. At lower altitude I noticed that a lot of the ice had melted away forming streams and muddy paths. 13.30 after six hours of climbing I arrived back at the van exhausted, both Lloydy and I needed a power nap before attempting to drive anywhere.
After our power nap we exited the national park and turned right, following the SH47 passing Lake Otamangakau and then Lake Rotoaire. We dropped onto the SH1 and drove over Desert Road which is named for its baroness; it's not actually a desert because of the rainfall it gets.
We passed through Waiouru passing by the war museum which boasted an eclectic range of tanks that dominated its car park and then onto Taihape. We carried on driving in the dark towards Utiku and followed signs to Gravity Canyon which is an extreme sports centre, offering a range of activities including a bungee, swing and flying fox - all of which involve a bridge and a huge canyon.
Not too much later that evening we ate a black pudding and egg butty before climbing into our cold sleeping bags.
8.30 The van was frozen over and it was one of the coldest nights yet, however we both managed to have a half decent sleep. I turned the engine on and accelerated slightly to warm up the engine which would then blast hot air into the van. I left the engine on and had a quick shower before making us a brew, the shower isn't too bad but we have to alternate the days in which we use it because the water reserve is pretty small. We took our brews outside and warmed up in the sun; we gazed up at the blue skies and let the sun energise our bodies.
We headed down to the extreme centre / cafe area and walked out to the viewing platform which overlooked the beautiful canyon and the bridge that linked the two sheer sides. The bungee looked pretty scary but I've already done the world's biggest so I ruled that out, the swing also looked fun - it was the biggest I've ever seen, you walk beneath the road along the bridges construction as though you were performing a bungee but instead of dropping vertically you swing outwards. However I wanted to know what the flying fox was, Lloyd and I soon worked it out, two of the wires stretched up the canyon to a hut on top of the cliff and the other end of the cable did the same in the other direction - the flying fox was some kind of zip line.
I chatted to Ryan, one of the guys working in the centre and on queue he pressed play on the dvd and I watched all the activities on the big screen. The flying fox was a kind of zip line but you travel down the 1km cable head first reaching speeds of 100mph, I was tightening up the buckle regarding my spending whilst in New Zealand but for £60 quid it was something that I couldn't resist.
I made my way over the bridge and trekked up to the hut, two of the staff members would meet me there. Lloyd stood on the bridge with one camera, within half an hour I'd be flying beneath him; I took the other camera with me hoping to film it from my eyes. I reached the top and was now pretty sweaty; the guys did a few safety checks and then proceeded to help me with my harness, fox suite, goggles and camera. The staff gave Lloyd the signal to start filming; I started to film with my camera and couldn't wait to fly as my head was now filling with blood. Ryan gave me a final thumbs up before pushing the button which resulted in me plummeting towards the bridge in the distance; the acceleration was incredible. My first instinct was to yelp but within seconds I was enjoying it and taking in the breathtaking views around me.
Back on safe grounds again I trekked back to the cafe to view the videos and make the most of the free internet there. One of the girls working there started to chat to me about this and that and told me that she was into husky racing, and the silly looking bike outside was hers, I'd noticed the bike on the way in, it was basically half mountain bike and half scooter. Her and her friend asked me if I'd like a go, I wasn't that bothered about riding along on a scooter but felt obliged to have a go little did I realise that she had her dog with her as well. The b**** husky had striking light blue eyes a beautiful coat and lots of energy. She tied the dog to the scooter and told me to get on, at first the dog was more interested in the grass around us but then all of a sudden it responded to its owner and set off running across the same bridge that I'd just flown under. The dog was picking up so much speed that I had to use the break and slow it down, once I'd crossed the bridge I gesticulated for the dog to run back to the cafe, it looked at me as if to say "you're kidding, I've just come from there" but the exceptionally well behaved dog turned around and headed back to the cafe - all in all an amazing morning.
14.00 We left Gravity Canyon and drove further down south passing through lush green hills which looked like giant mole hills, beyond the hills we could see snow tipped mountains. We followed the SH1 down to Palmerston and then on to Levin where we stopped briefly for some extra bedding before carrying on to Otaki which is famous for its superb hikes and featured in the Lord of the Rings as the Shire.
We cooked another pasta dish and called it a day. In the morning we were hoping to tramp through some tough grounds and needed as much sleep as possible.
Had a good nights sleep but had to sleep in two sleeping bags, my new duvet, PJ bottoms, fleece bottoms ,t shirt, long sleeved top, fleece, gloves hat and thick socks. I sat in bed for awhile typing up my blog and a few emails but had to make a brew because my now exposed fingers were freezing.
We packed a few essentials and headed out to explore the gorge; the gorge was situated 19km out of town and a great place for tramping. We followed a designated circuit which took a couple of hours and gave us plenty of views of the Otaki River and the Tararua Forest Park. It was a complete contrast to a stroll in Australia; Australia had huge animals bouncing around, killer insects, crocodiles and nasty things in the waters, New Zealand on the other hand had birds, and soft things that live in and around the sea like penguins and seals. We couldn't believe how close New Zealand was to Australia and how much the countries differ.
We looked down at the car park from a view point and could see other vehicles congregating in the car park, when we arrived back we realised that one of the van doors was ajar, however lucky for us nobody had entered our home / van.
12.30 We had a quick bite to eat before making the scenic trip back to the SH1. We followed the SH1 to Paraparaumustopping off at the Lindale centre to sample free cheese and a couple of scoops of ice-cream. After I depleted the blue cheese samples we left and headed south to Wellington which is the capital of New Zealand and home to around 400,000 residents. Tight hills restrict Wellington to a compact core, mostly on reclaimed land. We drove straight through the centre of the city which is made up of bustling water front with beaches, marinas and restored warehouses. All this is overlooked by Victorian and Edwardian weatherboard villas and bungalows, which climb the steep hillsides to an encircling belt of parks and woodland which acts as a natural barrier to development.
Lloyd and I headed along the Oriental Parade and up Mount Victoria which gives panoramic views of the city and its surroundings. The spot was so good we decided to stop there the night, it was pretty windy due to the prevailing winds that accelerate through the Cook Strait giving Wellington 173 days of winds over 60kps (32 knots), but the views definitely made up for wind.