Missing me blog readers? Well New Zealand has many virtues but sometimes wifi is a little difficult to get or too just expensive.
From Franz Josef we travelled via Lewis Pass to Kaikora on the west coast. Now on this long day of some 500 Kms, I know it does not sound very far but in a campervan believe you me it takes an age, we were running very short on fuel and with 100 km to go we had two options namely a main road or the alpine way. My not so trusty navigator said the latter is the way to go and silly me I obeyed. The route was lovely however 1:4 hills on a single track road tend to gulp the petrol so whilst the scenery again impressed we were running on fumes when we arrived. A word on New Zealand diesel prices they can vary enormously between garages with prices varying between 1.49 and 1.85 NZ dollars a litre.
Back to Kaikora a town made rich from whale spotting. The organisation behind it was started and is still managed by Maori people. We paid our money and set off for the day . We were not disappointed and saw two sperm whales as close as 50 meters. Awesome as the happening dudes say. Our photos do no justice to the event.
Kaikora however saw an even bigger event, her indoors hair cut. I was off course banned from the event but had to say it looked lovely thereafter. When asked if it looks nice who would say otherwise !!!!!!!
A short drive to Blenheim where we stayed for two nights. A full day was spent on bikes (please refer to previous blog for Wiggo audit which was embarrassingly repeated. We did contemplate using a tandem but her indoors made her quickest ever decision with an emphatic never, no etc.
We cycled all day gradually getting a little more tipsy and making silly comments in wineries about gooseberry aftertaste with just hint of lemon. Great fun none the less. Interestingly all the wines we get in the UK from New Zealand are cheaper in Sainsbury's than the winery, madness.
Another short drive to Motekua where we arranged a two day kayak of the Abel Tasman national park. We had a two person kayak which was a little worrying as her indoors is known to take great stall in keeping a dry paddle. Still with a guide and two other people we started this sea kayak. Firstly it has to be said that the scenery with sand, forests, clear sea makes for a fantastic experience. We kayaked for some 5 to 6 hours and then made camp on a beach to be served a three course meal finishing with chocolate brownies with strawberries, cream and chocolate sauce, most enjoyable. Next day we started early and after an hour or so spotted a few other boats together, we quickly (well as quickly as myself plus the dry one could manage) went to see what was going on. Well we were lucky to say the least, as we we're surrounded by a pod of Orca whales (they are really dolphins I'm told). Now many have seen these lovely creatures but not many in a kayak and to have one going under your craft and surfacing next to you is a once in a lifetime experience, the guide had only seen Orca's 6 times in as many years and only close like this once before. Fantastic end to a fantastic two days.
We then travelled to Picton for the ferry to North island having travelled 2900 Kim's on the South Island.
On north island after a freedom camp stop, free but with limited toilets and no showers, we arrived at Tongariro national park. Here we prepared to undertake the best one day in the world, well according to the NZ tourist board anyway. We were bussed to the start at 5.30am and told in would take 7 hours and that the temperature would drop to minus 7c with winds of 65 Kms. Ho hum and off we went in four layers of clothing with 5 liters of water etc etc. The walk is 20 Kms and climbs some 750 meters descending 1150 meters. High point some 1900 meters. The highlight of the walk is viewing all the volcanos some of which are still active. Great walk with stunning views of lakes, mountains, forests, volcanos. The NZ board might just be right. We took some six and a half hours not bad for a couple of old ones, with admittedly perfect weather.
Next destination the area around Rotorua which is famous for the geothermal activity and hot springs. We lucked out with the Waikete valley hot springs campground and spent an enjoyable evening and morning lounging, almost on our own, in pools of up to 42 degrees. We then visited a hot stream where all the locals go ( inside info from kayak guide). After visiting local attractions including Huka falls which are really impressive we moved north and stayed by the sea in a little hamlet called Kaiaua for one reason only , it has an award winning fish and chip shop. Onward to the north where we then stayed at Waipu, on the beach again, next to the nudists but nothing too interesting, why is it always guys who go nude I wonder ?
To Paihia where we spent Christmas Eve and day. On the eve we wandered the town and took a local ferry to Russell across the bay. Russell in NZ terms is old, dating from the mid 1800's and retaining some charms from that era. Christmas Day we spent in the Bay of Islands aboard a 80 foot maxi yacht named Lion NZ. She was commissioned in the 1980's and has come second in the round the world race and won I think the Sydney to Hobart race. It was superb with us grinding (her indoors manages to grind us all down daily so found this easy ..) and getting an opportunity to steer . Sounds easy but when the whole yacht is one side and you are high siding the other it is a responsibility. The day was fantastic with good winds which helped creat a real feel for the craft. Finished the evening with some bubbly and The Naked Gun, can't be bad.
Now heading back towards Auckland. But first we have visited the Waipona national park to look at the enormous Kauni trees which have a girth of some 18 meters. They are endangered, a real treat to see.
As we prepare to leave NZ , well three days to go , what are my impressions. New Zealand is much like England but bigger with more reliable weather, it's clean, safe, warm , stunningly beautiful and not that expensive. You can also get Sky, so what's not to love?
It is with sadness and a heavy heart that we learned of the death of my dad, Terry: husband to my mum Anita for some 62 years. Dad was a great dad with a good sense of humour and was incredibly generous and we will miss him.