New Zealand

Trip Start Nov 25, 2009
Trip End May 31, 2010

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

After leaving San Francisco on the Monday we finally arrived in New Zealand on the Wednesday! A long busy flight with a rude air steward resulted in me disembarking the flight with a free bottle of champagne with a botte of red thrown in! (Didn't even need the CSD Mum!)
Finally landed and Wendy was there to meet us at Auckland airport. Great to see her and grateful for a lift home to her swanky NZ pad. Got settled in and then it was time to hit the streets and check out some coffee culture and then some sauvigonon culture later. Spent the next few days checking out what Auckland has to offer. A super clean city, surrounded by beaches. Beautiful if it wasn't for all the rain!!
Our last night here was spent with Wendy and her ex-pat friends as we joined them for the 'Ponsonby Curry Club'. A gang of us enjoyed Aucklands finest ruby at 'Oh Calcutta!'. A great night and loved the chance to meet Wendy's friends- Thanks for having us guys!
Next it was time to leave Auckland as we joined the "Magic Tour Bus", our transport for the next 3 weeks as we travel south from Auckland to Christchurch.
First stop was Rotorua-home of all things Maori and a host of geothermal activity.Tons of walking around mud pools, hot geysers and steaming rocks, surrounded by a strong smell of sulphor.
After 2 nights we moved on to Taupo. On route stopping at Waitomo. A chance to see some stunning caves packed with stalagtites and stalagmites before ending with an underground river trip through caves lit up by millions of glow worms on the ceiling. Quite something, but saw it all with my hood firmly up! We arrived at Taupo later that day and got our first taste of hot southern hemisphere sunshine-no wonder they don't sell less than factor 30 here!
We saw some spectacular views of the sunset over the lake that night, with mountains and volcanoes in sight across the water. The next day was more adrenalin packed. The sky was perfectly clear so it was the ideal opportunity to sample some of NZ's famous activities with a skydive!. After making a call to book that morning, by 2pm we were suited up and learning our free fall position! Whatever nerves there were soon vanished when you jumped out. The views of Lake Taupo below you made it even more special. One of the most amazing experiences ever! I can't recommend it enough!
After Taupo we moved to Wellington and the next day caught the ferry to South Island where even more stunning scenery awaited. From Nelson we decided to do the Abel Tasman National Park Trek. A 12km walk through lush forest and picturesque beaches. Well worth the effort, even if we were eaten alive by sandflys!
The next stopover was Greymouth and wow was it grey! The West coast is notoriously wet and wild and Greymouth was no exception. That evening, with very little else to do we took cover at the cinema to watch Inglorious Basterds.
The next day took us to see the Franz Josef Glacier. Unfortunately the rain made some of the walks impossible so after a look at the glacier it was time to head home and crank up the heating and dream of Oz!
Queenstown was our next stop and once over the other side of the mountains the weather soon eased off and warmed up. Tha road to Queenstown was again packed with fantastic scenery. Lots of stops for photos and finally a stop at the worlds first bungee site at Kawarau Bridge. Now the smallest one, but still, neither of us fancied it! Instead we chose to spend the next day taking a jet boat down the Dart River before stopping for lunch in the mountains and the funyacking (canoe/kayack combo for 2) back. A great day out, even managed to stay aboard despite a few close calls with rapids and the odd tree! Queenstown is one of the most popular areas in NZ so decided to check out the nightlife on our last evening here. The cocktails here come in teapots and our 'tea-party' soon turned slightly madhatter! True to our track record we had a great evening but unfortunately missed the bus the following evening! Oops! It was time to find out how sparse NZ's transport system really was. Managed to get booked on the only bus leaving that evening and after a long, hard, dehydrated day we finally caught the group up in Dunedin at midnight.
Up early the next day, keen not to repeat yesterdays mistake, we travelled to Lake Tekapo. More beautiful scenery and a small church on the edge of the lake. That evening we had a huge BBQ for everyone that was there. A great opportunity to meet other travellers and swap stories.
Our final destination was Christchurch. NZ's most English looking town. A cathedral, beautiful parks and rivers made it more Cambridge rather than Wigan!
New Zealand has been a fantastic part of our journey. A lot of distance to cover in 3weeks, (sometimes felt you were driving through Wales for days) But overall the scenery and surroundings were stunning. On the other hand the weather has been completely unpredictable so roll on the hot sunny days on the sunshine coast!
Stay tuned.....................
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