NZ Road Trip Stage 2 - 25.10.10 - 13.11.10
We are now at the end of our New Zealand road trip and have had an amazing journey. Mum is arriving tomorrow lunch time and I just can't wait. We have managed to cram so much in to stage 2 of our trip and here are some of the highlights.
Kaikoura: After we left Matt and Sarah's farm we headed up the east coast to Kaikoura where we saw the gorgeous coast line and right but where we parked to go on a coastal walk we saw seals just sleeping for the day, I nearly stood on one as it was so well camouflaged.
Hamner and Maruia Springs: It was then onto the springs set in a gorgeous alpine setting. We decided to go to Maruia springs but they smelt so badly of sulphur we struggled to stay in very long.
Abel Tasman National Park: We then headed to the north of the south island and decided on a 2 day kayaking trip at Abel Tasman. This was the highlight of our entire trip, it was just amazing. We had a brief safety briefing, were given a map and headed out from a town called Marahau along the coast to enter the national park. It was stunning, there were lots of gorgeous tiny golden sandy bays that were waiting just for us. We landed with our kayak and stopped to enjoy the views. We had been told that it was quite choppy as you head around the headland where we were to sleep for the night by the beach. However, choppy was an understatement and we hadn't realised that the conditions were actually really bad and the others from our group didn't even make it! The waves were lashing over me and the front of the kayak and landing as far back as Adam, it was at least an hour of really hard paddling but we made it. We set up the tent and put our kayak to bed for the night as we went for a beautiful walk inside the park., The next morning the weather was perfect and the sea was so calm, we idled along towards Tonga Island where loads of seals with pups were swimming around us and lying on the rocks. The pups are really inquisitive and we thought one was even going to jump onto the kayak, it was amazing. We finished at Onetahuti beach where a water taxi took us back to Marahau, not without taking a diversion to where a group of dolphins were playing in the sea. They were jumping around and following our boat, it was really quite an emotional end to a fantastic trip.
Nelson, Blenheim and Picton: After becoming thoroughly grounded we were back on the road. Only a quick stop in Nelson, we had heard bad things about the town then to Blenheim where we visited a few more wineries - I was having withdrawal symptoms. Highfield winery was a big pink castle and the wines were lovely but we were really impressed with the organic wines of Seresin, owned by the director of Midnight Express, a real change in career path I thought! The drive to Picton took us through the bottom of the Queen Charlotte sound which was just incredible. All we had to do now was wait for the boat!
Wellington and Rivendell: The 3 hour boat journey between the south and north island was lovely though near the end it got a bit rough. We arrived in Welly safely and had a nice look round at the government buildings and in the town. It was a pleasant, anything goes city but had nothing much to keep us there so we carried on. Just north of Welly is where Rivendell was shot, pretty cool to think all these famous people had been standing where we were taking in the amazing scenery.
Napier and Hastings: A major earthquake in the 1930s devastated much of Nelson and the rebuild was done in the fantastic art deco style of the time, the buildings were really cool. We went to Mission Estate Winery and enjoyed the views and wine.
Taupo, Huka Falls and Rotorua: Lake Taupo was formed by a huge earthquake a very long time ago and it's bigger than Singapore in size. However, we were more interested in the fantastic and powerful Huka Falls which pump through an incredible amount of water, enough to fill 3 Olympic size swimming pools in 1 minute. We headed north in the centre of the south island to Rotorua which has wicked thermal geysers and pools, it is here they also have Maori cultural shows where we enjoyed seeing the traditional dances and the Haka.
Waitomo and Bay of Plenty: Before heading north we went east to the Waitomo caves. This is an underground cave network with thousands of stalactites and stalagmites but the highlight was the glow worm cave where we went into a boat and sailed in the pitch black under what looked like thousands of floating stars. From here to the north is the Bay of Plenty, so called because when Captain Cook sailed past he saw that the land had so much potential. It is the best region for growing Kiwi so we had to go on a tour but came away with more avocado than kiwi as it was the wrong time of year. The coast line was beautiful. We also stopped here for a spot of blo-karting, yes that's right, a go-cart powered by a sail, what great fun and invented right here in Papamo, New Zealand.
Coromandel: This was close to Abel Tasman in terms of being our favourite part of the country. The coastline is stunning and the views from every angle were out of this world. We loved it. We headed to Cathedral Cove which was a big hole in the side of the rock in a bay of white sand and bright blue waters. It felt like James Bond was going to come flying out of the water at any moment. We also went to hot water beach where we hired a spade to dig a hole in the sand and at low tide it filled up with warm and sometimes scalding water depending on where we dug, it was wicked.
Bay of Islands: This area is well known all around the country as being the most beautiful and it certainly was though we had already fallen in love with the Coromandel. The town of Russell was once the capital of New Zealand and the site of the wars in 1845 spurred by disagreements of the treaty of Waitangi. Waitangi itself is right next door so we visited the treaty grounds and saw where the first English resident, James Busby, lived.
Cape Reinga and back to Auckland: We headed up the big long sticky-out bit called Northland driving past 90 mile beach, more like 64 mile beach but still pretty impressive. We stopped at the Te Paki sand dunes where we went sandboarding. Basically, you throw yourself down 100 metre dunes on a boogie board, it was great fun. At the tip of the island stands a lighthouse and a sign to remind me just how far from home I am, a mere 18029 km It was then back down to Auckland so we could wait for the arrival of the one and only Lesley Garrett, what an amazing journey with our perfect van Stella and still so much more to come.