NZ part 3 spas, seals, whales and wine!

Trip Start Aug 08, 2011
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Trip End Jul 22, 2013


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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Sunday, December 9, 2012

Think the last time I updated you was whilst we were in Lake Tekapo. Feels like ages ago as we have done lots since then! We really enjoyed our cycle around Lake Tekapo. Possibly one of my favourite places although difficult to choose just one! The ice hike is still our favourite activity so far although there are lots of runners up! 

That evening we drove to Hanmer Springs. The scenery changed to more rolling hills, a few smaller mountains and more evergreen forest. Just as pretty but very different to the huge mountains and aqua lakes we had got used to. We also said goodbye to the beautiful lupins which only seem to grow in the mountainous regions and only for a few months so we were lucky to see them - they are pretty photogenic! Hanmer Springs was a great day. After all our rushing around up to that point, we had an indulgent relaxation day. After a quick look around the pretty town, we went to the hot pools which makes the town well known. It was a lovely place to relax on rocks in water hated up to 40 degrees with a book. There was also jacuzzis, a lazy river and a cooler lane pool which we used to get a few lengths in. Once we were feeling relaxed it was time for a massage for both of us. The spa was the nicest I have been in and we were spoilt rotten for an hour. Definitely worth the money. Especially as my shoulders and back were a little achey from sleeping in the camper! We wound up our relaxation day with fish and chips at a seaside town called Kaikoura. We stayed at a DOC campsite out of town again being rewarded with beautiful views of the sea when we woke up. As it was pretty remote, we slept with our curtains open so the sea crashing on the rocks was the first thing we saw in the morning - lovely. And the smell of seaweed reminded me of beaches at home. Not so much seaweed in Byron!

So the next day we went on a walk around the coast to find the seal colony. It was amazing how close you could get to huge NZ fur seals. We were literally a few feet from them as they slept on rocks or played in the sea! That afternoon we went on a boat trip to see the whales. It was an expensive trip and I was slightly hesitant considering our very unsuccessful whale watching trip with my parents! But this time we got lucky, getting close to 3 sperm whales. They were absolutely huge! They also took us to another sea colony and we spotted some albatross and several dolphins who were jumping out of the water beside our boat! Kaikorua is known for its sea wildlife viewing opportunities but it is also in a beautiful location with snow capped mountains arising directly from the beaches. So after our boat trip we headed to a view point over the town for a few pictures. We then headed north up the coast headed for wine country! 

That night was not a highlight of our trip! We arrived late at 11 pm and went to try and find a DOC campsite which turned out to be quite some distance from the town and in the middle of a forest. idyllic you say? Um perhaps not... It was our 2nd DOC site in a row so we had already arranged an early check in the following morning at the next campsite for showers and to wash clothes and charge camera batteries. So we figured we'd just find a place to legally park up to sleep (there are restriction on this in the towns and some rural places and the fine is hefty.) The first problem was that the campsite had a barrier which went down after 8 pm. This seemed unusual as we often arrive at sites late at night with no problem but we decided to sleep outside the camp so we could atleast access some toilets. Being set in a wood we were careful not to let the mozzies in but turns out they are determined little things. We woke in the middle of the night to hear the ominous high pitched buzzing so we put a light on and wyn set to swatting what he thought was 2 or 3 mozzies. 20 mozzies later we decided to give up on our idyllic forest location and head back to town. Lucky really as when we put on the light we saw at least another 20 waiting for us! So at 4am we drove the 30mins back to the town centre, had to sit in the freezing cold with the van doors open near a bright light  which worked quite effectively and then had to sit in the front to avoid being fined for overnight camping! So it was not the most refreshing nights sleep! And the next day we discovered the damage! Wyn had got away with about 10-15 bites but I had 20 just on one arm before I gave up counting! Seems I have tastier blood!! My bad luck did not end there as I stupidly managed to run into the van without ducking knocking my head for the 2nd time. This time with such impact it knocked me straight back landing on my head again! According to Wyn it looked like a comedy sketch and I certainly have a comedy conker on my head to show for it! 

Anyway things improved from that point. Except the weather. We scrapped the idea of a cycle trip throughout the wineries and booked ourselves onto a bus tour instead. We are so glad we did as I don't think we had perceived the enormity of the wine region for cycling around and the rain persisted for a few hours although the sun came out late afternoon. The tour was fantastic. Reasonably priced (about 35 quid) and there was just 7 of us. The tour leader was fantastic, took the effort to get to know each of us and introduced us all properly so the afternoon was pretty sociable. We visited 5 wineries including Cloudy Bay - my favourite. And wyn discovered that he likes wine more than he thought he did even buying an expensive bottle of wine which claimed to taste like lemon meringue! We also got to taste some dressings, oils, fudges, chocolate and ice-cream! All very yum! That evening with the weather much improved, Wyn and I headed to a local german beer garden with 3 of the guys we met who were travelling like us. One of whom decided to quit the UK rat pack and left everything including the house he owned to move to NZ with absolutely no [plans for the future. He was very interesting to talk to and had had many adventures along the way! 

The following morning we headed to the city of Nelson. We didn't do much there really. It was more of an organisation day where we washed clothes, booked trips and bought food. We camped up near Abel Tasman at another DOC site. this time we were the only campervan in the middle of nowhere! Again a lovely location and we had a little walk along a stream that night. 

The following day we explored Abel Tasman National park. We had booked on to a kayak and walk trip so we kayaked for the first few hours stopping at a little island on the way. we saw another seal on the rocks - unfortunately he was not inclined to swim over to us as apparently often they do and also saw a little penguin bobbing in the water. When we stopped at a little island, I was very surprised to hear my name called by one of the only 2 people on the beach. Turns out it was a girl called Charlotte who I trained with in Cardiff - what a small world!!  After lunch at another secluded beach and a quick boat trip, it was time to walk a little of the costal path which runs all along Abel Tasman. It forms one of the national great walks of new zealand and takes 3days so we only saw a small 8k portion of it but it was very pretty! A lot more tropical than the wild west coast! If we had more time we would have liked to have done a few of NZs great walks but with only 3 weeks, the best we will manage is small portions of a few of them! 

Today we drove back to Picton where we were due to pick up a ferry to cross to the north island. But first we had time to soak up the beautiful Marlborough sounds and did a little walk to a secluded beach. It was really nice. Were now on the ferry due to arrive in wellington very soon. We are sad to leave the south island behind. Most people tell us it is the most scenic! But we have a lot of fun stuff planned in the north. We are heading to the Tongariro area tomorrow. We had hoped to complete the tongariro crossing ( the only 1 day great walk of NZ) but the volcano has recently erupted so only part of the track is open so we may only do part of it. But we'll have to go to the tourist info centre first and check out its safe to go at all. From there we are off to Rotorua to see the geysers then to hobbiton (from LOTR set) going caving, hopefully getting to see some friends from the UK then heading to the bay of islands for a spot of sailing and dolphin swimming before we head home. It will only be a week then until christmas which is disturbing me slightly as I have done absolutely no preparation whatsoever! I'm sure it'll all come together at the last minute as usual! 

Before I sign out (wellington ferry terminal is pretty close now) I have one piece of good news. i have passed stage 1 of the GP application process! It was the easiest, little more than form filling and there are  much harder stages to come including a written exam and a practical exam/interview. But fingers crossed! 

Anyway, more to come soon from our adventures in North Island! 
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