We left Fiji on a mid afternoon flight with Pacific Air and duly arrived in Auckland NZ at approx 1830, after making it through 'biosecurity', where we discussed how much mud we had on our shoes, we made our way out to arrivals and where we greeted by Ian, it was a nice moment, as soon as we left the airport we were engulfed into the 16c cold of NZ ( a massive difference to 30 odd degrees of Fiji)
We chatted and 'caught up' with ian and the Kiwi Hendersons on the way back to Hamilton then when arrived in Totara drive got a welcoming "hi" from Bron and a very shy hello from the boys, overall it was awesome to be back in company of me older bro and the time with him and the Kiwi Henderson's was priceless.
Over the next four days we dilly dallied around the area, we had a leisurely drive around some highlights of the North island, these included the Te Aroha mineral baths, Mount Manganui and Raglan these days out were interspersed with spending time with the kids either in the house or having picnics by rivers, and of course not forgetting helping ian with the swings n slides at the farm of Bills (Brons dad) friend, or also known as getting to know a Kiwi way of life!!?
Then on the morning of the 31st Oct we got a bus up to Auckland then a flight to Christchurch in the South Island, leaving the airport we were stuck with a problem if how to get to the van renters, after speaking to info office it transpired there was no other way but to ridiculously pay a cab $20 for a 5min trip!!? Grrrr!? ....after then duly getting ripped off with insurance at the rental office we left a little wallet stung, along with our new travel companion 'bob', we trundled off and went to a pak n save (supermarket) to get some budget foods before making our way to try and find a DOC site, after trying one near a beach which turned out to be a no go we ended up at one in ye hills near Christchurch where had our first experience if campervan camping and South Island living which specifically was good but with loadsa bloody bugs!!
After a reasonable nights sleep we decided to return back to Christchurch fora quality insect repellent, groceries and gas for the stove all of which were discovered requirements from last nights camping. Once sorted we began again and headed out across the Island towards Arthur's Pass, where the mountains got higher the weather cloudier and the sheep plentiful, after a good hour or so's driving we decided on a break and cuppa and stopped at an awesome little lay by with a small track running down to an alpine river with leading views up to the mountains, loved it so much we considered staying the night but decided against it due to fear of being moved on!!? We continued driving for another hour before finding our planned site, a DOC site called Klondyke, and as soon as we pitched up 2 dark green parrots (later found out to be Kea birds) joined us, they were great, persistently heckling each other for 1st dibs in our dinner scraps , they were both daring, cheeky and obviously hungry birds, so we played with them a little before slowly getting more and more irritated by their persistence and unrelenting theft attempts of our food , so thrn spent the rest of the cooking shooing them away, that with the wafting of arms trying to swat the bloody sand flies away, dinner was less of a culinary experience more of a pest control experience.
After a good nights kip we packed up and set off to finish the rest of Arthur's Pass and get over to the West coast, we continued in to Hokitiki and this time a paid site ($20) as needed power in the fridge we found one out of town north of the village and set up there, showered ourselves and tried the tv in the van....nothing, not even quality fuzz, frustrated I opened the laptop and decided to watch a movie I had downloaded from when at Ian's, it was then that the laptop decided to let loose its virus, not last nite when we happily used it and watched a film, no, now, ......grrrrr!!? Though in hindsight I think someone was trying to tell us something!! And after such a defeat, an early night and Bed was well received!
Waking early to high winds and rain we decided to set off to the Franz Josef Glacier, we went for a walk up to the glacier, which was a nice wander over dry river bed, but due to some indian dude last year getting too close and being hit by falling ice, you were now being kept 500+ ft away, so took some snaps and set back off for our campsite at Gillespies beach down a 12k long track drive (and very scary for Jen) to camp at a very windy n very cold carpark. We enjoyed it hugely though due to the raw nature of the location, the huge pounding waves right on the beach, the drift wood bent and shaped into unnatural shapes along with the backdrop of Mt.Cook, the glaciers and the Southern alps, together all this soon excused the drive and we settled into the evening well with a few glasses of vino and a windy wander on the beach.
Next day was off to Lake Wanaka (Wan-aah-ka) and again great views of snow capped mountains next yo a lake and very windy lakeside setting.
The next day we took a wander to some clear blue pools, the bloody sandfly bugs were biting hard so it was only a short visit and then off into Wanaka and to puzzleworld, where we wandered around a series of rooms with mind numbing images then into a maze for a few hours, although i agree it sounds a bit dull and tedious (which I thought it would be!!!) it was actually quite fun almost like an international maze competition with couples from every nationality trying to find the exit, We, England were 4th (obviously), with the Japs winning Kiwi's 2nd, Aussies 3rd ( tho they cheated and got out through the emergency exit) ...so felting proud of our achievement and after lots of walking we decided on not cooking and had fish n chips for dinner, yum yum yum and then drove onto Queenstown although not stopping as it was late-ish and we needed to find our site for the nite (Moke Lake DOC site)awesome vistas AND with no bugs)
Next day was spent in Qtown, wandering around and booking activities, sitting by lake generally sunning self in the loveliest of locations.
The following day was Luge day, 5 trips down the track, me n Jen racing each other like it was for the F1 crown, it went 1- nil to Jen, 1-1, 2-1 me, 2-2, down to the final race and I set ofF a belter looking totally unbeatable, until I take too sharp a corner and slow myself to a crawl, Jen then coming whomping past me all smiles and giggles and winning, GUTTED!? (Great fun tho!!?) after a beer n wander we made our way back to Moke lake for a nice dinner and few drinks enjoying the sitting outdoors with no bugs to swat scenario.
Up early again (!!) (unfortunately starting to make it a habit), we set off for our booked 160ft Nevis Swing (the largest in the world), awesome fun though s'pose need no further comment as already been made on fb video. That night camped at Q box in Qtown(backpackers site)
Early to rise (again) and leave Q.town and drive off to Te Anau arrived late tho found lovely DOC site next to river ate dinner and got settled for night, we were just about to turn lights off when we get a knock on door from warden telling us the site is closed and we gotta move on, b*****!! so off we drive fir another 40k to another (not half as good) DOC site.
Next day was spent booking activities in Te Anau then driving over to Milford ready for a 6am start the next day to Kayak at Milford Sound. Milford was a bit if a foreboding place, inplace of the expected hotels, boutiques n b and b's were boat sheds and car parks, that's about it. The weather also was not expected, it was awesomely windy and horizontally rainy with the vertical cliffs all around spitting waterfalls from high up into the clouds, it was an impressive sight as if delivered straight from the soul of mother nature herself!! We got ourselves settled into our paid van site, showered and sorted ourselves before sleeping early due to the 6am start. When the morning came we opened the curtains to see that the weather had not changed at all from the previous evening, with the wins still howling and the rain still pouring we both agreed were going to be in for a bit of extreme sea kayaking today. After meeting the instructor and him giving his 'pep talk' we all set off with 4 others (2 Norwegian girls and a couple from Cali) we began paddling in calm quiet waters until we reached a bend in the fjord and it was then that the wind picked up along with the waves in the lake, with the instructor getting more and more animated you could see that his professional ability was being stretched to the max, he made the decision not to go further about an hour into the paddle stating that continue would be suicide as the waves and winds would only get bigger, and do we cut across the fjord and into Harrison cove where the wind abated a little, it was while resting that we saw the 'lesser spotted'' fjordland crested penguins hopping around on a rock looking clumsy as hell on land, great e fun to watch though. We set off from the cove on a return trip, again into the melee of waves and wind, we still needed to cross back over at some-point and as we were hugging the shoreline it was evident the instructor wasn't looking forward to it. As the waves were now reaching 2/3 ft on the shoreline the instructor made the decision to cut across with him supporting the Norwegians and us and the yanks paddling together we made our way back across; even though the instructor was shouting out from time to time "stick close", the Norwegians were getting further and further behind, then the inevitable happened, they capsized, fair play to them for lasting so long to be honest but in 3ft waves and 75kph winds it was only to be a matter if time. Once they had been rescued by the instructor we all set off again only for the yanks to go over a few moments after, it was only our experience in kayaks and knowing how and when to put support strokes in that kept us from rolling over ourselves, anyway, after a further 45mins of 'panic paddling' by all we made it back to the shore. With the instructor half laughing half talking gibberish it was evident he, more than all of us, was happy to be back on solid ground again, a truly unforgettable fantastic morning. Back at the can site we had a cheeky shower before setting off driving again, it was still pretty early so we decided to drive until we were tired which then ended up driving to Dunedin in the other side of the island, i think we were so buzzed from the paddling adventure we used that invigoration to keep us awake.
We camped at a DOC site just south of Dunedin called 'Trotters' though this was no Del Boy location ;-) (sorry) and was in a limestone gorge like something out of LOTR.
The next day was spent in Dunedin and as it was rainin we we t to the cinema to watch 'Loopers' then returned to camp at trotters where we noticed the sign that said may flood in rains!! We got on the site without a prob and then saw it was totally empty so we had dinner and a few prayers asking for it not to rain too much and that we can leave in the morning.
I guess out prayers were answered cos in the morning we went to go have a look a the 'flood' and it was fine so we decided to have a walk to the caves (which turned out more like an indentation in the rockface than an actual cave, on the way back we 'conserved' a few paths after tge rains had sent the rains into the path, that evening we went to go and see the famous blue penguins in Oamaru, getting there we saw a $25 charge each to enter (no way, we thought) and sat and watched from a breakwater before being asked to move on (obviously they didn't like us getting a view for free and had to move us before their $25 paying idiots/customers didn't like it) so we moved off to the jetty and just as we thought we would leave we saw two little blue thing waddle up completely oblivious to the hordes if photo snapping tourists. The next day was also spent in Oamaru where we wandered around a Victorian desolate town, made and ate dinner in local car park and at 6pm went to the yellow eyed penguin hide where we, from a 100m distance, watched penguins waddle up a beach to their hides n chicks. We left late and Camped nearby in car park outside a place called Waimate.
We set off early the following morning to Christchurch to meet a friend of Jens who's husbands brother was getting married nearby we camped at paid site in Christchurch that nite as went out in what was left of the city, a lot if the streets are all closed off and you can still see buildings half collapsed. A sad sight indeed.
The next day, the 15th was a recovery day and we spent the day taking advantage of the electricity and made it a washing clothes day.
The was a long drive day to Kaikoura we drove to a point where we had heard you could see seals up close, however we didn't realise how close as when we drove into the car park we saw one 2ft off the tarmac which then waddled itself off the grass over the tarmac and into the bush at the side if the road, we spent the most of that day then se spotting before retiring to our site called puhi puhi !!! (Which it wasn't, was actually quite nice, small and very busy)
Again the next day we spent in Kaikoura drive a little further North to another site and saw seals all over the place, on beaches, on rocks amd right next to road, lots of photos taken before camping at DOC site called Okiwi
While at the site we decided to make a day and climb upocal 'big' hill called Patutu all 1125m of it !! Knackered doesn't cut it it was literally up hill ALL the way with the last 200ft being near vertical and in the clouds, very exhilarating though, after a long walk back down we (the tired twosome) camped at Okiwi next to sea, great day !!?
We left Kaikoura the next morning and saw the loads of seals at the Ohau colony on the way through they were dotted all over the rocks with the males all vying and battling for the best spot, aggressive b*****s when they bare their teeth too. We continued on our journey and trien to cover some miles by getting back towards Christchurch for the flight the next day, deciding to stop off at another DOC site, this one at a place called Grey River, according to the info it was 10k down a gravel road and into the forest, I think that we went near on 20k and still hadn’t found it, just as we were rraching the point of turning around and going somewhere else the DOC Site was on us, we ummed and arrd whether to stay as there was no one else about, the rain was pouring and the sand flies biting and there was a risk of flood in the area, not a good comfy nite recipe. We decided to stay all the same and head off early in the morning and pray that it doesn’t flood and we get stuck.
The next morning we woke and found that the gods were on our side and the rain had abated overnight and that the river hadn’t quite reached full flow, however, when we were setting back down the 20k track the heavens opened and we thanked looked at each other as if to say “Phewy”
We chugged on back to the airport dropped off the van and then contentedly boarded the flight back to Auckland then caught the local bus to arrive in Hamilton in the evening and were welcomed at the Hamilton bus station by Bron, Tom and Heath.
Next day was a welcome return to normality at Ians with some additional fun of washing clothe and sorting our bits out and to be quite honest enjoying some well received hospitality
On the 25th we were welcomed for a Bbq lunch at Bills, with a tour round the machinery sheds and a first for me of driving a tractor, with Tom sitting on my lap, I’m not sure who enjoyed the day the most, me or Tom!!
A day was then spent organising stuff and planning to go camping and see the sights of the North Island, we headed out to Taupo to start and made a beeline for the Huka falls, which is a river that is fed from the lake that cuts its way through the rock in huge volume with a ‘Falls’ thundering over a 20metre drop, we camped a little up from the falls at a free place called Reids, a lovely site albeit busy (obviously)
On the morning we packed up and spent the day wandering up the volcanic valley and in and out of hot pools and waterfalls, it was a little surreal to start as the streams looked like your every day UK stream and was weird to simply sit in it, but the water was hot, and oooooh so relaxing, and a bit smelly!! That night we made our way to Wangerkaarai lake a ‘nother’DOC site. Our final day out and about was spent mountain biking in Rotorua Redwoods, this was an awesome Mountain bike track, one of the best in the country (if not world!!, some may argue), we got a fantastic deal arranged by Ian for a couple of top end Mountain Bikes and at a v cheap rate, we planned for about 2 hrs biking the trails, however, the ride initially seemed tough for Jen to ride but as she got used to it she got better and better at it and I would dare say that she enjoyed it in the end, though bet she would never admit it!! We camp our final night at a paid site on the banks of a lake in Rotorua . Th next day we returned back to Hamilton and ‘again’, did more washing!! (Thanks Bron)
The Saturday was then arranged for us all to visit Bron’s Bro in laws farm, we arrived at the farm after a hour or so drive on metaled road followed by a half hour of driving up the dusty farm track trying to keep a tab on where Ian was going and also trying to see through the fog of dust he was spitting up behind him.
Soon after arriving at the farm Dean offered us to go and shoot some clays on the back of the field, he drove his truck up to a hill at the back of the house and mounted the contraption sending the clays firing over a dip, we all had a go at shooting and I don’t mean to blow my own trumpet but I was far the better marksman. Using both his shotguns and his rifles we fired off a load of cartridges which must have cost Dean a fortune, so Thank you very much Dean, after a hearty NZ lamb bred dinner we then went back out in the truck for some drive by shooting (of rabbits out of the back windows of the truck, very ‘farm gangster’, and loads of fun.
The next few days were spent packing up for the next leg and more washing before a trip ‘black water’ rafting (sitting on a inner tube through a cave) this turned out a little disappointing as it was far from what we had expected it to be and was just caving with an inner tube under your arm until the water was deep enough to float on, although I must say seeing the glow worms was good and I don’t want to sound ungrateful as we did get a huge discount on it thanks to Ian.
We returned back to Hamilton that night where we packed our bags up ready for the flight to Oz the next morning.
I guess that should have been the end of NZ trip adventure stories but as its Me and Jen there had to be one more……On leaving the house and making our way to the bus station, it was showing that time was not on our side as we got closer to the Bus station we started thinking that were going to be cutting it fine (as we seem to always do I hear y’all say!!) as we got to the bus station with less than a minute till the bus was due to leave, we saw the bus, our bus, start his engines and leave the bus station as we pulled around the corner, with frightening alarm we realised that our bus, the only bus, had left. Ian turned the car around and in sped after the bus, hoping we would cut him off at the lights……..we didn’t and the bus began making some ground on us, eventually about 5 miles out of the bus station we….(Ian) managed to pull alongside the bus in motion and I leant out of the window waving like a loon to a startled bus driver, after a few minutes of me trying to convince him I wasn’t a loon and was genuinely just someone who had bad timekeeping, he pulled the bus over, told us that he is not allowed to stop and that were very lucky people though he didn’t need to tell us this!! As sweat poured from me we said a hasty Thankyou and Goodbye to Ian and hopped on the bus, after having a while to calm and relax on the journey to the airport I had a while to reminisce about my time in NZ and with the Kiwi Henderson’s and although I felt sad to be leaving them I was happy to have had the opportunity to see Ian and Co and to spend some QUALITY time together with them.