Hey everyone, sorry it's been a while since we last updated, have had a job on getting any decent internet connection anywhere. Hopefully you've had a chance to look through the photos at least, so heres what we've been up to...
We left Auckland to start our Kiwi Experience trip at the back end of January. If you don't know, the 'Kiwi Experience' is a bus company that operates a hop on/ off service, basically buses run from place to place 6 days out of the week and you can get on and off pretty much wherever you want. We started from Auckland with our first stop being Hot Water Beach out to the east in the Coromandel region. We stayed there for 3 nights in a purpose built lodge at a Top 10 holiday park. The lodge itself was only 18months old so everything was pretty much brand spanking. The room itself was an 8-bed dorm with a little ensuite kitchenette and toilet/ shower area. We didn't do too bad for roommates on any night bearing in mind there was a daily turnover from other Kiwi buses, although the early morning departures meant we didn't get much in the way of lie-ins! We were only a couple minutes walk from hot water beach itself, so called because of the volcanic fissures that spread underneath the sand. At low tide its possible to dig your own hot water pool, the water heated by the magma within the fissures below. At around midday on both of our full days there we rented shovels from the campsite and went down and got digging. The first day we didn't really have much success but on the second we managed to get a fairly big hot pool dug and sat in it for a good hour or so until the tide came back in and destroyed it. In certain places you could actually see the water bubbling and steam rising from it, definitely too hot to sit or stand in those particular areas! Being in the middle of nowhere, there wasn't really much else to do so we pretty much spent our time there on the beach, and just chilling in the TV room at night, doing the meeting and greeting with every new bus load that came through. Even more surprisingly, we dried out for the three days, not touching a single drop of alcohol between us!
From hot water beach we moved west towards Waitomo, famous for the vast network of glowworm caves that run underneath it. Again, it was a bit middle of nowhereville where we stayed, but the hostel was clean and tidy, and as they were running short on dorm beds, we ended up with a twin which made it nice and quiet. We only stayed the one night, opting for a nice little walk around the hills and fields there as apposed to paying a fortune to do a 5hour cave rafting expedition. We had a few drinks in the hostel bar that evening, sitting with a bunch of agricultural students from our latest bus.
Next up was Rotorua as we made our way down the north island. We were in Rotarua for 4 nights, and spent the 1st evening at a traditional Maori evening at a Maori village. We got picked up from the hostel and taken to the village where we were greeted by the Maori, and our chief, a geeky Dutch kid, accepted a peace fearn from the Maori chief after they'd done a kind of dance to intimidate us and determine whether we were friend or foe. Upon our acceptance of the peace fearn, the Maori women sang an incantation to bless us so were would be accepted to cross the sacred ground into the village. Once inside the village we spent a bit of time walking through various little huts where the Maori taught us about various traditions and customs including the Haka, dancing with Poi, training for war, and traditional wood carving. After all that, we watched the Maori perform traditional songs and dance in thier hall, before partaking in the Hangi, a traditional Maori meal cooked using volcanic stones and buried under ground. We had lamb and chicken with al the trimmings and kiwi pavolova for dessert before getting taken back to the hostel where we all hit the bar next door, and had a god old round of ring of fire making the most of happy hour. Next day we went on the cable car up the mountain for a spot of lugeing, the little plastic carts that propel you down the mountainside tracks pretty damn quick. We got the top package and got 5 runs down the 3 tracks, with the ski-lift back to the top between each run. It was bloody good fun and added bonus, neither of us fell off, although I came pretty close a couple of times, deciding the breaks were optional not compulsory! Day three we had a nice little walk around Lake Rotarua and a sunbathe by the hostel pool in the afternoon, and on our final day in Rotorua we went to a Polynesian Spa with 7 outdoor pools allfilled with different water - sulphur, mineral, acidic, alkaline etc, which are supposed to have healing properties for your skin, bones, joints, etc and finished our time in Rotorua off with a few drinks in our hostel bar again, making the most of a two for one offer, and tried to get an earlyish night in as the following day took us into February and on to Lake Taupo......
Woohooo Lake Taupo what an amazing place it ended up being! So we arrive on Friday 1st Feb, to a place called 'Camellia Court' we had a huge place with three rooms. We then went for a short walk around the town then headed back to the motel, and to be honest I was sooo sleepy I fell asleep in the afternoon so not too much to say about that day. The following morning I woke up earlier than Lee as I had been snoozing all late afternoon yesterday. We made tea and coffee and chilled on the sofa. Lee then suggested we took a stroll to the lake, so we got ready and headed out to the lake. We took a long stroll towards Lake Taupo and found a beautiful spot to sit in. There were black swans, cute little birds bouncing around and a lovely lake. After about 45 minutes Lee then asked me to stand up and started saying how he loved me, and how the last few years have been so good and the last few weeks even better. He said he would always keep me safe, never hurt me and keep me happy for the rest of my life, he then reached down and pulled out a dimond ring and asked me to marry him. Oh my gosh I went crazy my legs went wobbley and I was crying with happy tears, I said yes then grabbed on to him and just hugged for like five minutes, when I finally calmed down a little he put the ring on my finger and we sat down. We talked about how it was exciting and we would plan a wedding etc, I told him I needed to get to a shop to buy credit so I could call Mum and then the girls, and somehow try get hold of the girls back home so we walked to the shops and got credit. We then strolled back to the motel holding hands with huge smiles on our faces, we managed to stop and get some bubbly to celebrate. When we finally got back to the motel I opened the door and saw balloons on the floor I thought he had got the motel guy to put them there which was really sweet until I looked up and saw Ruth and Scouse at this point I screamed and fell to the floor, I couldn't believe they were in my front room just after I had got engaged, it was just perfect I was so happy crying and screaming and shaking! Ruth then told me she had got me a dress to wear for the meal in the evening which we were all going too, so I walked into the spare room to look at the dress I looked up and my mum and Jerry were just stood there!!!! In the room!!!! I thought they were in Australia, I literally just stood there frozen, and once again crying my eyes out, I really could not believe what was happening. Mum then told me she had been here since Friday and when Lee and I were on our walk yesterday she had gone into our room and hidden the ring in Lee's bag. I was in a state of shock I could not believe that Mum, Jerry, Scouse and Ruth were all here to see me straight after my engagement and to top it off they had Alex on skpye ready to chat! I can honestly not describe how amazing that feeling was, I just cannot believe how Lee and everyone had planned it all, I am truely so greatful. We spent the following hour drinking Moet and other forms of bubbly the girls and mum told be all the secrets they had kept with Lee and the fact they had all met up in the morning. We all then went for a stroll around Taupo and pointed out where we got engaged, then that evening went for an amazing Indian meal with plenty of drink and good food. They were so good there they gave us free shots and puddings and drinks :) (I actually just cried again writing this and thinking about everything!)
The following morning Mum treated us all to a day at Hobbiton, which was amazing, we took a bus to the actual set which is kept in perfect condition with all the props left out, it was such a pretty day and a beautiful way to continue the celebrations! We ended up in the 'Green Dragon' from The Lord Of The Rings and had a free drink! We then said goodbye to Scouse and Ruth as they went back up to Auckland and Mum, Jerry, Lee and me went back to Taupo for another night. That evening we chilled after all the excitment and had a noodle canteen for dinner and finished off the bubbles. The next morning Jerry drove us all the way down to Wellington for Lee and I to get a flight to Christchurch, Mum and Jerry were meeting us a day later in Christchurch.
When we got there Dave picked us up from the airport drove us around pointing out all the areas destroyed by the earthquake and then we checked in to Jailhouse Hostel and old Jail House....hence the name, it was pretty good actually, one of the best hostels! Later on we then met up with Dave and Kirsten for a drink and some food. Dave lent us his car so we could explore a little the following day as well as get mum and Jerry from the train station. We picked mum and Jerry up the following day and that evening we all went to an Italian and for some drinks before starting out campervan adventure.
Our first trip in the campervan was from Christchurch to Twizel, although the first thing we had to do was go back for mums phone charger that she had left at the hotel oops! We stopped at 'Lake Tekapo' and 'Lake Pukaki' which were both beautiful lakes with bright blue water. We parked up in Twizel and the guys started trying to work out how to use the campervan, whilst mum and I had a nice drink of wine. That evenng Lee and I cooked a spag bowl and we all took a stroll to the local pub for a drink, although when we were walking back I realised I had left my bag in the pub so Lee ran very fast back to get it ...ooops :O
The next part of the campervan journey went from Twizel to Dunedin. After a good breaky of beans on toast we headed off in the campervan stopping at a few points for photos. At one point Lee and Jerry jumped over a barbed wire fence to get a better picture, mum and I decided not to follow! Lee managed to get over another fence later on in the day to take pictures of Mauori carvings. We stopped for lunch at 'Moerala Boulders' (huge round rocks), actually very pretty!That evening we stayed at Dunedin Holiday Park, Lee and I cooked a stir fry then we drove out to try and spot some penguins. After 30minutes stood in the freezing cold I thought we were never going to see any, then I asked a guy walking past us if he had seen any, he straight away pointed one out to us, they were so small we didnt realise they were even there! It was so cute seeing two penguins in the wild waddling along! Mum and Lee love penguins so they were both really happy and took loads of photos and video.
Our next day went from Dunedin to Queenstown. A drive of 285km for Jerry but at least it is a really pretty country so there is always plenty to see. After a short stop for ice-cream we found Cromwell with a good spot to eat lunch by Lake Dunsten. There were loads of ducks around us with little babies, they all ran when they saw us and the little ducks got lost in the toilets so I tried to get them out and help them, one refused to get out and kept attempting to fly but was not doing so well so I got Lee and Jerry to help too. We reached Queenstown and saw how pretty it really was, Lee and I went to check in at Base as we had a night to use up, and it gave us a break from the Mum and Jerry snooring!!! hehe. We strolled round the town altogether, mum bought Lee and I some earplugs for when we are back in the camper to stop the snooring noises! Later on we went for a meal in Queenstown which was really nice, we then went to 'World Bar' where I bought my mum a famous Teapot Cocktail.
The next day was from Queenstown, through Wanaka and ending at Lake Hawea. We stopped on route in Wanaka to see the 'Puzzling World' with a maze and optical illusion rooms, they were really good and if you look at the photos you will see some of the illusions. We had lunch by Lake Wanaka and then carried on our journey towards Lake Hawea. We checked in and saw how pretty this area was, we all sat by the lake had a drink to celebrate one week since the engagement and eight years since mum and Jerry got together, that evening was also really good because Scouse called me to say Jamie had proposed, so a very good day!!!!We had a BBQ that night in the lovely weather!
Franez Josef was our next location, we had a few stops on route as it was a really long drive but when we finally got to Franz Josef we went to see two glaciers... the Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier (like the mints) They were so fantastic and beautiful to see. That evening we stopped at the Rainforest Retreat, a beautiful place. Mum, Lee and I had a dunk in the hot pool, then we had a dinner of chicken, pepperoni and pasta. We then played the name game when Jerry and I beat Mum and Lee....woohoooo.
Our next day took us to Reefton. We drove north towards Greymouth and stopped at a place called Ross ( a gold mining village) with an old jail house and a little shop of Jade, not much else to be honest. That evening in Reefton we strolled into the town, which really wasn't much so we hired a few DVDS to watch '24 movie' and 'Red', after a few drinks and a pork and veg meal we headed to bed.
Woohoo up and ready to move on to Kaikoura, a place we were all really excited about! We stopped on route at Hanmer Springs, we all went in the thermal pools place were there were loads and loads of pools to relax in, Mum really enjoyed the lazy river! After a good time there relaxing we had lunch then carried on driving towards Kiakoura. We could not decide where to stay that night as there were a few places, but in the end decided on a place I managed to wangle for 100$ for two nights for all of us... very cheap! We took a break from cooking in the campervan and went out to dinne. We first tried a pub but they pretty much had run out of all the food on thier menu, so we then found a lovely Italian called 'Passione', we got back and went to bed and early night ready for an early start.
Our early start was at 7.30am when we had to be up and head to Kaikoura Dolphin Encounter. We were given wetsuits, flippers and snorkles to get changed into, although it was still 50/50 if we would actually be able to leave because of the weather, but luckly we were actually the last group to be able to leave! We spent the morning swimming with wild dolphins, it was so amazing, we saw around 400. Mum had a few issues with her wetsuit as it kept making her float and rotate in water so I stayed with her and helped her out. The day was truely magical and when we return to the UK we will show you all the pictures and videos. We had to make silly noises for the dolphins to come near us but they did, they were inches away from us. That evening Jerry made us a chicken tikka and rice meal with pita.... yum yum.
Our next stop was Wellington sadley the last stop with mum and Jerry :(. We got up early and headed to the Ferry stop in Picton. We were early so were able to stop a few times on route. Our first stop we saw loads and loads of seals including baby seals. Our second stop was in Picton itself, a very pretty town with cute shops. We got the Ferry across Lee, Mum and me just sat reading our Jack Reacher books. We got into Wellington and that night because it was Val Day and two years since Bampy had died we went out for a meal in a Turkish Restaurant called 'Cafe Pasha' and had a fantastic meal with BYO wine :) We had a toast to Bampy and headed back to the campervan.
Our next day was the last full day with mum and Jerry :(, we were still in Wellington. It started off with Lee shaving Jerrys hair (only a number 4). We then headed out to the shops, and took a ride on the Wellington Cable Car' to see beautiful views of Wellington. Mum bought us a dolphin pandora charm to remeber Kiakoura then we went for lunch in a food court where we could all get different foos. Jerry and I had chinese, mum had a jacket potatoe and Lee had a sarnie and cookie. We strolled back going via Base to get our Ferry ticket for the next day back over to South Island. In the evening we all got ready and headed to the Westpack Stadium to watch England vs New Zealand 20/20 Cricket. We drank wine, beer and ate food whilst watching England easily beat New Zealand, I actually really enjoyed it and jumped up and cheered everytime we scored!!! At the end England were awared the cup as we had won 2 of the 3 games. I went down to watch it, and managed to get 8 England cricketers to sign the flag for Lee. After a brilliant win we headed back to the campervan for our last nights sleep. Before waking up early the next day for the dreaded goodbyes again and to continue our journey on the Kiwi bus.
And we got up really early to head off, it was sooooo hard saying goodbye to mum and we both got emotional again... at least next time we see each other we wont have to say a long goodbye!
Thats an update for now guys, the next one will be the next part of our adventure on the Kiwi Bus and our time with Dave and Kirsten back in Christchurch.
Hope all is well in the UK,
Zoe and Lee
( you may notice we both wrote a bit of this each as it was a lot to tell you about)