Apologies for the long gap in my group emails and the lack of blog updating… My only excuse is that we've been having too much fun!
I can't actually remember when I last updated the blog or sent a long group email, so hopefully I wont repeat myself too much. I think I wrote up until Sydney.. Anyway, this is from when we flew to NZ…
First we flew into Auckland and checked into a nice hostel, and started looking for a camper van. This took more time and effort than we first predicted (and hoped) but it was well worth it. We looked at a few bangers and also dreamed of some really plush ones….then we found Stan. Stan the van. Stan was being sold by a nice couple in Tauranga so we made our way there. Tauranga is the original place we wanted to live - where my dream job that appeared months ago never materialised. I spoke to Cath (friend who moved out here a year or so ago) who advised me to just phone the hospital and ask, and lo and behold my ideal job was about to be advertised again! So our trip to Tauranga was on…
Tauranga's in the "bay of plenty" which it really is - there's lovely beaches with good surf, a small-medium sized town, decent mountain biking for Jimmy, good walking, and hot springs! It's only a few hours from most places in the north island too - the Coromandel, West coast surf spots (Raglan), Mountains for snow sports in the winter, Hobbiton (the Shire in Lord of the Rings!), Auckland, Rotorua etc… so lots of weekend trips in Stan can be planned!
So I met the physio manager at the hospital and applied for the job, then had to wait a few weeks while the formal shortlisting and interviewing process went on. And found out just the other day that I got the job!! Subject to all the health screening stuff, so fingers crossed that'll all be tickety-boo.
And we bought Stan so we could begin our NZ travels for good!
See photos to see Stan - he's a 4WD Mitzubishi L300 for those of you who are interested. It's got a pop top which is ideal - low when driving, but tall enough to stand when we're camping. There's a fridge, a sink with running water, a 2 hob cooker, lots of storage, a seat which converts into a bed, and… wait for it… a hot shower!! Perfect for those après surf rinse offs. Ooh and a heater for those chilly mornings - luckily we haven't had to use it (much) yet!
So we headed north of Tauranga up the East coast of NZ, passing by some beautiful camping stops. Highlights were staying near Waiwera and meeting the most amazing old lady (reminded me of Ninny in the film Fried Green Tomatoes) who we helped move some stuff into her house - she ended up being a very interesting, slightly nutty and very eccentric religious pianist and artist who persuaded us to come back in the morning and have a dip in her volcanic natural spa in her back yard (not with her, I must add) and she even got me eating a smoked mussel! That might sound like a strange highlight, but it was certainly fun, and she was pretty cool.Another highlight was definitely our day sailing trip in the Bay of Islands - the weather was a bit dodgy towards the end of the day but it held off long enough for us to stop off at an island for a walk, some lunch, a snorkel, and a kayak. We even saw a stingray! I exited the water fairly swiftly with Steve Irwin in mind.
We made it to the north of the north island, and stayed at the most amazing campsite in a gorgeous bay. We did a lovely walk, and saw the lighthouse and the waves where the Pacific and Tasman sea collide. Then we headed south down 90 Mile Beach (which is actually only 83km) - actually driving on the sand - go Stan! This was really cool and we had the whole beach to ourselves for most of it. As far as we could see anyway!
On our trip down the west coast of the north island, we stopped off at quite a few places, but one of the most memorable places was called Lake Kai iwi. This was the most crystal clear lake we've ever seen, it actually looked like a swimming pool because the sand was so white! This is the one in the photos which I couldn't remember the name of - if you read the captions. It was perfect for swimming, so we dusted the cobwebs off our goggles and stretched our arms again which felt great! Must get back into swimming when we settle down into a routine again. Beautiful sunset there too - again, see photos.
South of here we stopped off at Raglan and did some surfing, Jimmy had some great waves at a nearby beach but it looked a bit scary to me, but I still had some fun waves at the main beach there. South of here we stopped off at Waitomo caves and did a caving trip to see the famous glow worms! Turns out they're actually maggots with poo that glows I the dark due to some strange chemical reaction -nice. It was great fun though, we went down there with huge wetsuits, boots, helmets and rubber rings! There was lots of clambering around and getting wet (and cold), and scary moments jumping backwards into dark holes to land with a splash into our rubber rings! All topped off with lashings of hot soup after so we could defrost!
We didn't have time to do other parts of the north island, for example Terinaki and Lake Taupo, but we'll get around to that one day! So we made headway to the south island… First stop being Picton where we did some fun mountain biking - some of it a bit tricky for me but I tried my best and got a sweat on! Then after some wine tasting and a stop off at a wild rugged beach campsite, we headed south down the east coast, to Kaikora. Here's famous for whale watching, so we headed out on a boat trip and had a really successful trip of whale and dolphin sightings! We saw 4 or 5 sperm whales (huge things but from the boat you only sea the tip of the iceberg really) and a pod of hundreds of dusky dolphins jumping about and surfing the bow wave. One sperm whale even breached right next to the boat, it was incredible, and really gave us a picture of how massive they are!
We then headed inland across to see Jimmy's old buddy Chris, and his girlfriend Erica. On our way there we stopped off in Christchurch (very nice - felt very English!), Lake Tekapo, and a funny old town called Geraldine! This place was hilarious - home of the largest knitted jersey (see pictures!!) and some other strange achievements, and it also had an amazing chocolate shop - mmmm. Wanaka was lovely - Chris and Erica run a lodge there so we got to stay with them and soak up some spectacular views of the lake and mountains, and had a long walk (or "tramp" as the kiwis call it) up to see the Rob Roy glacier. From there we went off for a few days to see Queenstown and watch the crazy people do bungee jumps, then to the famous Milford Sound. It was a long drive but well worth it - the boat trip there was stunning, and we were so lucky with the weather there! Apparently they have 7 metres of rain a year there, and it's usually a very wet trip, but we had blue skies and amazing views. We also did another steep tramp to a place called Key Summit, which was really amazing - there was a lake/big pond at the top of a mountain! Very picturesque - see photos, they say it all really.On our way back through Queenstown we got the gondola skyline thing up the hill, and had fun "Luging" (a bit like go carts down hills), and even bumped into a friend from home! Small world. Still wasn't tempted to join in the bungee jump craze there though, so moved swiftly on back to Wanaka.
From there we made our way up the west coast stopping off at the Fox and Franz Joseph glaciers - we walked up to them both (as close as we could get but the terminal faces were fenced off as a few people got injured by falling ice) but didn't actually do the glacier walk. Lucky really as someone was injured the next day by falling ice on an organised walk! We seem to keep missing disasters quite closely - like the train in Australia derailing the day before we were due to go on it, and the bushfires in Melbourne when we were due to be there (if we didn't take our last minute detour to Tasmania), and now this!
Anyway, I'm rambling again, sorry. Hope you're still with me. From there we continued up the aptly named wild west coast, through some ropey rainy weather, saw "pancake rocks", did a few nice short walks and stopped very briefly in a few towns to pick up fuel and food supplies. We made fairly quick progress up through the buller gorge towards Nelson, so we could get to Cath and James' for the weekend! We had a nice look around Nelson and it's Cathedral and quirky cafes, then headed just up the road to Motueka, where Cath and James live. They have the most amazing house in a great spot overlooking the beach! We had an awesome day yesterday sea kayaking around the abel tasman national park - it was really stunning. Got some good photos so will add them to the blog later on to make you all jealous. This morning we checked out the local market, and now James and James/Jimmy have gone off mountain biking while Cath and I do some catching up and baking! Boys will be boys and girls will be girls!
We're going to get the ferry back to the north island on Tuesday morning and make a swift trip back up to Tauranga to sort ourselves out with a house or flat, especially as I'm due to start work on the 1st April! Will keep you posted on that…
Better go, hope you're all well and happy, and enjoying the lovely springtime! Keep the emails coming, still loving hearing any news from home. Jimmy/James sends his love to you all, and so do I of course.
Love, Liz x x x