Hello from New Zealand!!
We are very far behind so this is going to be a long one! It's difficult getting to an internet cafe when you're travelling and sleeping in a van - no more hanging round in hostels and waiting for buses!
So, here goes....
We've been here just over 3 weeks and are quite tempted to stay!! It's absolutely beautiful here - imagine all the best bits from IOM / Scotland / Wales / England with nicer weather (well, most of the time) and no people!! The roads are empty, the towns are small, even in cities a traffic jam lasts no longer than 10mins!! It's great!
So on with the story! As Nick said we arranged to buy a van, then changed our minds and rented instead, and we're so glad we did. The van is much bigger than the one we planned to buy so we can stand up in it to cook and although it's cramped there's just enough room for Porscha too.
A lot of our time has been spent driving around saying WOW! at all the beautiful scenery so I'll try not to bore you with a day to day account.
We left Auckland back on 3rd March and headed South towards New Plymouth where Leah had recommended some good walking and where Nick's friend, Chris is living at the moment. Our first night in the van was pretty eventful. We found a beautiful spot by a lake at Raglan. There was a no camping sign but the other English couple there said that they had free camped loads of times and never had any problem. So, obviously, a ranger came round in the morning and threatened us with a $40 fine each for camping in a no camping area!!! So now we know ... don't camp where it says no camping!
The next day was spent continuing our journey to New Plymouth stopping at all of the short walks and view points on the way. We saw some beautiful waterfalls, wierd stone formations and a very dark cave! On arrival at New Plymouth we met up with Chris at the bar where he works and he took us to his friend's house (Mick, Gail and James) Market Bosworth-ites who move out around 6 months ago. We had been invited for dinner then planned to find ourselves a campsite for the night. However, when we got there not only did they provide us with a lovely bbq they also invited us to stay ... for 2 nights!!! Thank you very much The Donaldsons!
Unfortunately the weather wasn't as hospitable and we couldn't do the walk that we had wanted to do up Mount Taranaki (a dormant volcano). Because of the heavy mist we could only walk half way up, across and back down again. It was still a nice walk but would have been better with clear skies. However, as it was torrential rain all morning of the next day I'm glad we didn't put it off! Because of the rain we spent the day with Chris, visiting the local museum, looking round town and the zoo and eating exceedingly good pies!
The next couple of days were spent driving and seeing nice countryside, in very changeable weather, on our way to walk the Tongariro Crossing.
The crossing is considered the most beautiful one day hike in NZ so we didn't really want to do it in bad weather. Unfortunately the weather on the mountain was crap for the next 4 days - but don't worry we kept ourselves amused! A trip to Turangi to visit the hot springs actually resulted in us spending the afternoon rafting on the Turangi River, a grade 3+. It was really good fun and a very good river to raft as its rough all the way down so there's constantly things to do.
The next day we headed to Taupo where we watched a few bungy jumps then drove out to visit the local tourist attractions, a dam, some rapids and a geyser field.
We soon decided that watching bungy or just doing a bungy wasn't good enough so the next day we signed up for Air3. A deal where you do bungy, skydive, flying fox and bridge swing for a bargain price!
So, Wednesday was bungy in the morning, walking in the afternoon. The bungy is the highest full submersion bungy in the World (Nick was fully submerged but I wasn't). It was great fun but over too quickly!
Thursday was Skydiving in the morning and a visit to the national Trout Centre in the afternoon. The skydive was from 15,000ft, the highest commercial jump in the world and was amazing. My tandem partner decided to somersault out of the plane so it took me a while to figure out which way was up, but the view was amazing, really beautiful. Nick found the Trout place interesting but there's only so much trout I can read about!
Friday we finally got good enough weather to walk the Tongariro Crossing. It definitely deserves its reputation! The views were amazing. We walked through moorland, across a crater, up the side of a volcano, past amazing lakes and through forest. The colours were out of this world - it just didn't look real! That area was actually the setting for Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings. When we started walking it was quite misty and as we walked, Mount Doom kept appearing and disappearing through the mist! Very surreal!
Saturday we did the flying fox and bridge swing at Gravity Canyon, part way between Taupo and Palmeston North. Flying fox is a 1km long zip line which you're strapped onto and fly down head first, Superman style. Really good fun but not that scary for hard core adrenaline junkies like us!!!! The bridge swing is a bit like bungy but much more scary. You're strapped on to the end of a rope which is attached to a cable further along the canyon and basically dropped so that you swing down into the canyon. Really scary as you can probably tell from my squeal on the video!
So, next it was on to Palmerston North. We visited a wind farm on the way which might sound a bit dull but was absolutely beautiful. I wish people would allow them to be built in the UK, they're so majestic! We also visited a vintage car rally there and were going to go to a free music concert but it looked a bit rubbish!!
Then it was time to collect the Porscha! We stayed over night at her Aunts, who very kindly let us shower, wash our clothes and use her internet, then continued on our journey South. Our ferry to South Island was booked for 17th so we spent a day slowly winding our way down to Wellington stopping at all the sights on the way.
Ok. That'll do for now, I'm bored of typing! I'll finish this off later today.