Hanging out with the Kiwis
Trip Start Feb 06, 2011
25Trip End Jun 01, 2011
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Wednesday we made it to Queenstown and checked into Black Sheep Backpackers Hostel. Queenstown is very fun ski town that somehow manages to be laid back and an all night party at the same time. There are tons of shops, restaurants, bars and ski stores.
There is a gondola that takes people to the top of a 1200 meter mountain overlooking the town. We decided hike up the mountain instead. At the top there was a beautiful lookout, restaurant and a luge. We both went on a couple luge rides, which were a blast! Unfortunately it didn't seem safe enough to ever have one built in America.
In the afternoon we went on a boat tour around Wakutipa Lake. I was shocked to hear that the lake, like the mountain looking over Queenstown, is also 1200 meters. He told us the old Maori tale of how the lake was created from a sleeping monster.
Thursday we took a charter bus 5 hours to Milford Sound
Friday we flew to Auckland and rented a Jucy Campervan. The bright green 2006 Lucinda minivan complete with a dining room table that drops down to a bed, a sink, mini-fridge, and propane stove top, had 120,000 miles on it and drove like a semi- and it was our home for the next week. We drove around Auckland and saw Sky Tower, the tallest building
Saturday we finished our drive to Rotorua. Rotorua is a small city with a large amount of tourism. The area is one of the worlds greatest areas of geothermal activity. The city is a tourist trap of shops, museums, restaurants and bakeries. Since we were exhausted of being 'tourists' we rented bikes and spent half the day mountain biking at a National Forrest outside of town. We had a blast! Luckily (and surprisingly) we didn't break anything. The only thing our campervan lacks is a shower, which left me desperate after all the mountain biking. Ben drove around a campground while I used their shower house. In less than 5 minutes I was showered, back in the van and we bolted out of their like a couple of bank robbers. I don't know if shower stealing is a felony in New Zealand, but we felt guilty. We went to a microbrewery called the Pig & Whistle and enjoyed hog lager and snout stout
Sunday was the European Champions League Championship. In Africa we followed a lot of the season, so it would be a shame to miss the championship even if it was on at 6am due to the time change. We cheered Barcelona onto victory over Manchester United with a large crowd of sleepy but faithful fans in an Irish Pub. We then enjoyed a home cooked (or minivan cooked) breakfast at the beach before going to the driving range. We shot some golf balls and Ben dominated the batting cage. We reluctantly took the gondola up the the luge. In Queenstown we were able to hike up to the luge course, but Rotorua makes people pay for the gondola. The course wasn't as intense as the one in Queenstown, but was still scary! After the luge we wend for a hike in the Redwood Forrest. We had a picnic lunch at the forest before going to the Rotorua Museum. The museum covered the history of the area and how people from all over the world would come there for their healing natural spas and mud baths. Then we went for our own soak in the natural baths at the Blue Baths which gave a feeling of what it would have been like to be there a century ago.
Monday we made nutella-banana crepes for breakfast and were the first ones at the Tau-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. The walk between 25 craters, pools & mud pools took us twice as long as the estimated 1.5 hours. We watched the Lady Knox Geyser erupt which they sprinkle with surfactant to trigger every morning. They let the spectators be surprisingly close to such a large geyser. In the afternoon we drove back towards Auckland stopping at a few National Forests and the city of Hamilton to hike
Tuesday we spent exploring the western coast outside Auckland. Unfortunately it was a cold, drizzly day. We stopped at Bethel's Beach just in time for to get rained on. The pelting, sideways rain added to the ominous feel of the black beach. We ended up running back to our van and changing out of our drenched clothes. We stopped at various little towns for a cup of coffee, souvenir shopping, and bakery sampling. We stumbled across a little gem called Hallertaue Restaurant. It was a fun restaurant with a retro feel that served unique fruit wine from Pukeko Groves Winery. The flavors included: kiwi, boysenberry & feijoa. Ben tried their Hallertaue microbrew sampler. All of it was delicious and a great way to spend a rainy day! We stopped at a driving range on our way to Devenport. There we climbed Mt Victoria during a break in the rain for a beautiful view overlooking Auckland across the bay. That night we were cold and tired so we went to the theater and watched The Hangover 2- not worth the $9.
Wednesday we boarded a ferry to Waiheke Island with a couple bikes we rented for the day. Within 40 minutes we had arrived on the island and started our scenic tour. We biked all morning then went for a walk on the beach and had a picnic overlooking the bay. In the afternoon we stopped at a few wineries, what the island is known for. We went to Gold Water Winery and Cable Bay. We enjoyed a glass of wine and the sunshine while we read the paper in their vineyard overlooking Auckland. We caught the 4:00 ferry back to Devenport then fought traffic driving into Auckland. We got a pizza and ate it while watching a DVD in our van on Mission Beach.