Andy - Hi there everybody
We are in Chiang Mai (cultural capital of Thailand) just now, but in our hopelessly out of date blog we have just left Rotorua in New Zealand, and Vicki's birthday excitement. The next morning we packed up stinky one (the tent) and set off in stinky two (the car) and headed for the Art Deco Town of Napier. As usual it was a spectacular drive back out to the east coast of the north island. We continued through the town of Taupo which is a backpacker haven but apparently is actually of little merit, unless you are 17 and are eager to throw yourself out a plane.
We were heading for Napier as it is meant to be an interesting art deco town. It was largely destroyed in the 1930's by an earthquake and the local architects went a bit art deco mad in rebuilding the town. This sounded pretty groovy but we were a bit dissapointed by what we found. The town was pretty much all art deco architecture but I think Vicki and I were expecting to be transported back to the 30's and that everyone would be doing the Charleston, riding on the sides of cars and having prohibitions or whatever happened in the 1930's, alas it was pretty much a contemporary town with normal shop fronts etc. However, upon reflection, we both realised that we had perhaps expected too much so we felt bad for being a bit harsh on the poor town.
Anyway we left after a wander along the beach and headed to a wee town called Havelock North which is quite posh and didn't really find much there. But we travelled a bit further towards the coast and did an interesting walk up Te Mata Peak which has great views over Hawke's Bay and over the sea. If you drink New Zealand white wine then there's a good chance it comes from Hawkes Bay. So now you know.
When we got back to Stinky 2 we headed off to Hastings where we camped for the night. It was a nice wee campsite and we met a couple of aussies who were travelling around NZ on motorbikes. So we spent the evening eating and drinking with them.
The next morning we got up early as we were travelling to the middle of the north island to do a walk through the Tongariro Crossing (which also doubles as Mordor LOTR fans). We set off in pretty grim weather but were not concerned as it was still a couple of hours until we would get to the national park and the start of our walk. We decided to take a short cut through some forest roads rather than the long route back up via Taupo. While it did save us a few hours poor Stinky 2 and his inhabitants were almost shoogled to bits on the bumpy roads. We later discovered that you're not meant to take normal cars on these roads. We did get some funny looks from people passing us in their 4 by 4's
Anyway we got to Ohakure, a wee town which is the entrance to the Tongariro National Park, by late morning and the weather was looking pretty bad by now. We popped into the tourist information dressed in t shirts and said, "Hiya, we wanna go up that big hill, do you have a map?" The kind lady looked at us with pity and said, "aint no folks going up that there hill today or the next day or next. No siree, its howlin wind and snow up there, visibility's down to centimetres." We were flabbergasted. Not by her strange way of conversing, which was merely artistic license to amplify the farcical nature of the scene, but by the shock that we would not be going up and had not entertained this possibility.
So we had a decision to make, should we just get some accomodation where we were and spend the day in the pub or should we be good travellers and try to get somewhere else and do something worthwhile with our time, see new sites, experience new things... Shockingly we did the latter. We looked at our maps and decided to continue to the west coast and headed to a funny wee town (they're all wee towns in NZ) called Wanganui. Wanganui does not have much to commend it, we went up a tower and almost got blown away by the wind, then went for a nice walk in a wee park and that was the highlights done. We decided to go back to the campsite via the supermarket and make a nice dinner with some ubiquotous red wine and plan our ever nearing south island trip.
By now we were on a course for leaving the north island and the next morning we were driving down to the capital, Wellington at the southern tip of the island. We headed into Wanganui town first and both got smashing new haircuts and then were off on our way to Windy Welly.
The drive down to Welly was, as usual, very scenic and we were getting over the dissapointment of the previous day. We got to Welly by mid afternoon and eventually found our hostel. We were staying in the only hostel that would let us camp in its back yard which meant we could save more money for beer.
We headed straight into the city centre to check it out and really liked what we found. We spent what remained of the day wandering around the groovy Cuban Quarter and then from pub to pub as we decided to have a bit of a pub crawl. It was expensive but fun and we topped it off with a nice pizza as neither of us could be bothered to cook.
The next morning we were up early and headed for Te Papa musuem down by the waterfront. It was probably the best museum I have visited, really interesting and lots of interactive stuff to keep us entertained. We spent a good four hours there learning about the world, nature and Maori culture. By then we were ready for lunch and went to another wee groovy cafe for some smashing burgers. That afternoon we took the cable car up to Wellington Botanic Garderns and spent a few hours wandering around there which was worthwhile. We were finding that botanic gardens around the world are a good way to spend a few hours and not spend any money. We wanderd back through town to the hostel and passed the Beehive, which is the Parliament building for NZ. Apparently its design caused a bit of controversy. We thought it was interesting although could see why people would find it offensive. Hey, why not look it up yourselves, see what you think.
We got back to the hostel and met a nice couple from New Plymouth, on the west coast of the north island. They told us we were idiots for going to Wanganui and should have gone to New Plymouth instread. Nevermind.
We spent the rest of the evening completing our plans for the south island. We were getting the ferry there the next day and the next leg of our journey would begin.
We enjoyed Wellington. It was very windy and had a nice vibe.
That's all for now, next stop the south island.