9 Days in New Zealand Arriving in New Zealand was actually a lot more stressful than we were expecting. As soon as we got off the plane, (which had been delayed for 5 hours in Chile), a customs dog bounded towards us. We figured it must have been after Lisa's oreos. We were wrong. As we went through customs we were asked to step aside, we thought perhaps to have our boots cleaned (they do that). But no, as the customs officer started asking more and more questions about how we'd enjoyed ourselves, how we must have met lots of people, been out to a lot of clubs.... Well we slowly worked out why we were there. "Yeah I think it's Ice" the man said into his radio. Next thing we knew all our bags were out, our credit cards being SWABBED for traces, and still more and more questions thrown our way. It was actually quite intimidating. Needless to say the guy was a lot friendlier after having found a whole load of nothing at all on us, though he did seem a little disappointed. We even got a bit of free tourist information from him! So, more than a little shaken, not least as we had had little sleep and were barely aware of the time or even the date, we set off to find our hostel and explore Auckland. We only spent a small amount of time in Auckland but it was a pretty cool city, though they have this huge creepy looking Father Christmas statue thingy that winks and beckons you nearer with a finger, weird. Anyhow onto the interesting bits; we escaped the city and headed north to the Bay of Islands, a lovely place made up of 144 islands with lots of dolphins, fish and sun. First port of call was dolphin watching, hopefully with a bit of swimming thrown in. It didn't quite go as planned though. Apparently the day before we arrived there had been orcas around, so now the dolphins were in hiding! They stayed hiding from us for another 3 attempts, 12 hours altogether! We are patient however, and they were well worth the wait, as you can glimpse from the pics. They were loads, about 40 in the pod we saw and they performed for us indeed - check out the dolphin doing a gigantic leap out of the water. We even got to lie down on the very front bit of the boat, close to the water and could almost touch them, Absolutely amazing, unfortunately no swimming with them as there were juveniles in the pod and is against law to swim with them. Having finally spotted dolphins after much searching, we decided to unwind on a 24 hour cruise around the Bay of Islands. Out accommodation was a strange looking, but very lovely houseboat called 'The Rock' and the staff and everybody were great. We got straight into the activities with a shooting competition off the boat, unfortunately not aiming at seagulls, but a plastic decoy. Gem got to the final, but luck wasn't with her, so onto the next activity... Night Kayaking. Once darkness had fully descended Gem, being an experienced kayaker (with one previous attempt), rowed into the dark night to see the phosphorescence, little did she expect what was to come. To see the phosphorescence, you have to go right into the complete darkness, even out of the light of the moon, not something she would normally do! Anyway, the kayaking was going fine, and the sea was lighting up wonderfully (sorry no photos) and even some fish started to jump out of the water, all lit up green and beautiful... until one jumped straight into Gem's lap! Fortunately she didn't freak out and capsize, although there might have been some screaming... The shrieks from Gem were heard from the ship and a hot tea and toasted marshmallows awaited her after her ordeal, to prepare for the next days fun and frolics. First up was a refreshing morning dip into the Pacific Ocean in our bikinis. Bad idea. That ocean is cold - we couldn't even form words! It was with this wisdom we wet-suited up to dive for mussels. This was definitely the highlight of our trip. Snorkels and wet suits on we jumped into the middle of the ocean and started to search for mussels attached to a protruding rock. Once we (well ok someone else) caught a mussel, we smashed them open and the fish, sensing food, would come and eat out of our hands. An amazing feeling, a bit too much for Lisa, who as soon as fish touched her would chuck away the mussel in panic! After all this excitement we went to a gorgeous island for lunch and did a bit more snorkelling and a bit of day kayaking. It really is a picturesque place. All knackered out, we drank a few beers and waited to eat the fresh mussels that we had helped catch earlier. Gem was very excited, as they prepared all the food in front of us and was determined to, once again, convince herself she likes seafood. Lisa is of course much braver with this sort of thing, and even volunteered to be the first to try the raw eggs cut fresh from a live sea urchin. Surprisingly they weren't very nice! Next and last stop in New Zealand was Lake Taupo (the lake's as big as Singapore). It's a gorgeous place, with lots of adventure activities and is the place where we decided to get hardcore and go white water rafting. Having been on a walk the day before to the dam and seen some full on rapids we were pretty nervous, but determined. So, after signing the disclaimers and being given a lesson on how to stay in the raft and how to get back in it etc it was time to roll - straight into a grade 4 rapid (the second strongest)! It was wicked and we managed to actually stay in the raft, something Gem was happy about, but bizarrely Lisa actually wanted to capsize - she's a weird one. Still waiting for the photos of that. That was all we could fit into our 9 days, and there is so much more to see, especially in the South Island. After a rough start to the New Zealand experience, it really enchanted us, far more than we expected and would recommend it to all. No time to mope about leaving, Australia awaits.....