A whistlestop tour of New Zealand!
04.01.2011 - 15.02.2011
We are still alive! Just too tight to spend money in net cafes in New Zealand keeping up to date with the blog. So here is a whistle stop tour of our last six weeks (this will probably be a long one). So the first thing is to say a big thnaks to everyone who kept us afloat in NZ with all your suggestions, Xmas presents and general gee-ing up. We didn´t think it would be here that our travelling started to take it´s toll. But as we journied through God´s Own Country it became clear that the more western somewhere is does not necessarily make it easier to survive there.
We touched down in Christchurch and headed out East whilst waiting for some parcels to arrive. Christchurch is a dowdy city with nothing much there except phenomenally high prices, which after living on around $20 a day came as an unwanted surprise (1.50GBP for a can of coke – Henry didn´t know where to put himself.) After a few days we realised our budget here was something we had really overlooked. We maybe would be able to survive here but all the activities were well out of our price range. We started looking at changing flights immediately...NZ was going to have to go some if it was to redeem itself. Oh it also it was freezing.
After a week of meandering close to Christchurch things started to look up (marginally), one of Henry´s parcels turned up, we talked ourselves into spending 35 quid on a Lonely Planet and we found the marvellous Pac n´Save (basically, Aldi). So armed with some new info and trying to be everly optimistic we set off South to the Otago Peninsular, first stop Oamaru.
Oamaru is famed for its colonies of yellow and blue eyed penguins. I think we maybe saw a yellow eyed penguin but it may have been a crow. The DOC make sure you can´t get too close. There is a blue eyed penguin sanctuary (60GBP for 1 hour) but if you wait around after dark all the little fellas come wandering out of their enclosure to give the cheapskates a free show. We waited around in the dark and saw about 15 of them all crossing the road to get to their nests. Very cute and very close up and very free. We moved down through Dunedin and to the tip of the Otago peninsular where we had our first failed fishing attempt (windspeed 30knots, no snapper that day). We had more up close encounters with Penguins and spotted some albatross. We did a walk that was meant to last a few hours but we got lost over hours and hours of sand dunes, I cried and we hitched home.
Further South after much Pac´n Saving we were able to afford our first activity – a boat trip into a glow worms cave in Te Anau. There were thouasands of them and they were a few centimetres from your nose, the boat went round and round in the dark to give us a really good look. They look like little stars and the hungrier they are the brighter they glow. Our next trip was on another boat into the Milford Sound. We stayed overnight at a DOC managed site – these are wildnerness sites with loos and usually in very pretty places. I didn´t see any whales on the boat in the sound but lots of fur seals and the scenery was stunning.
Carrying on round the bottom of the South island to Queenstown – this is where all the bungy jumping happens. Needless to say this wouldve taken 2 weeks budget so ínstead we did a tame gondola ride up the central hill and rode little buggies down. It actually was scary enough for a non-driver. At this point we were in the middle of a fight with STA and Quantas none of whom would change our flights for less than GBP270 despite us being told it was a 30quid flat rate before we left. We were missing asia quite a bit. Travelling and counting pennies gets tiresome and is stressful. We argued, our parents had phonecalls and we generally made a bit of a meal of it at times. We were just so used to easier travelling. Nothing was quite as accessible in NZ – miles of empty land with no one selling you everything you needed for pennies. We were having to be resourceful.
We reached the glacier country and did another massively tiring walk. This time the terrain was rocks and they were slippery as hell. I fell over a few times. The walk was posted as a 4 hour but we took 8. We were overtaken many times but valiently continued until we were above the Franz Josef Glacier and could see tiny people wandering on it. This is one of the hardest walks I´ve ever done. And we definitely deserved the fish and chips we had at the end of it. Do they give you fish and chips on Machu picchu? We soaked off our muscles in some natural hot pools. We were staying close by in Okarito and did a bit of kayaking the next day around some lagoons where we saw some white herons which are supposed to be quite rare..?
Next was onto Kahuranghi National Park and a DOC site that was 37km of gravel road up the side of a mountain with a sheer drop at the side. It was a terrifying drive and I was really trying not to give any form of instruction except the odd intake of breath which apparently wasn´t helpful. We made a big fire in the desserted park and had hot chocolate watching one of the clearest skies we´ve ever seen. The climate is subalpine in that region so it was freeezing at night with such a clear view of the stars. We wrapped ourselves in 2 sleeping bags in the tent. It was here that I fear we caught the bed bugs. These feature heavily for the next few weeks of our holiday as we spend time and money trying to elimate an infestation of the little bastards. Everytime we thought we got rid of them we awoke with more bites. Having seen other traveller´s little wandering bites on arms and legs it seems NZ may have a bit of an epidemic. They even manged to follow us to the North island and into our camper van...
We managed, somehow, to change our flights for free leaving us just 2 weeks with a camper on the North island. We had had a really good middle few weeks in the South island but had been driven mad by bedbugs at the end and now i was ill again through the antimalarials (esophogytis, nails coming off and blistered hands and feet). We took the camper to the doctors and 100 quid later had some tablets and could finally get on our way. Without a lonely planet we were just cruising along finding our own way. We had a couple of nice days at some beaches in the Northland, Maitai beach and Spirits bay up at Cape Reinga. We met a guy from Bedford who we camped with for a couple of days and gave us some good beachy info and we just chilled out. We bought a fishing rod on day 4 and headed to Paua for failed fishing attempt 2. Some Danish guys helped us out by catching us live bait – I belive I had a kingfish at one point but it snapped my line. They lad caught us a nice Kharwhai for our tea and i cooked it into a lovely risotto in our little camper. By this time we had started designing our own campervan to live in when we get home. Henry thinks a Ford Transit will do the job.
We then set off for the coromandel peninsular in search of the hot water beach. This was one of my highlights of New Zealand. You grab a spade and wait for the tide to go out then dig a big hole in the ground, hot water springs up from the ground a creates your very own spa. We went late in the evening when it was a bit chilly and the water was boiling hot. It was bizarre and serene.
On our way back to Auckland we had a couple of days to spare, we had an argument over what to do which ended up with us stopping on a grass verge not knowing where to go next. A car came past and told us to pull the camper into the house on the hill, the guy said some other stuff but in such a strong kiwi accent we barely understood him so we stayed put. Next thing, 3 people came rallying up to us in a flintstone mobile honking the horn. They introduced themselves and we piled into the vehicle. Henry moved the camper. Then we were off to the nearest beach and plied with beer and wine. The guys were farmers and locals with a lot of money, they had just caught fresh snapper and kharwhai and did we wwant a BBQ? We had had 5 failed fishing attempts by now so we agreed. We ended up staying for the nicest BBQ of fresh fish and salad. Ray (the farmer) owns 2 Mustang Shelbys, a Ford mark 1 Zodiac and a hot rod (7 litre V8 based on model T Ford) that he races at weekends. And 2 lovley doggies. We ended up staying over in a little holiday cottage over the road and hanging out for a couple of days. The next day Henry went to help work on the Hot Rod and I went swimming with Liz (one of the neighbours who kindly lent us the holiday home). The swimming was cut short due to a very close shark sighting. They were lovely people and we had a good laugh with them – it was a good way to end the NZ stint.
Overall – it was a trying yet interesting 6 weeks. We saw more wildlife than I´ve seen in all my life, stingrays, Keas, sealions, sharks, penguins, albatross. But then there were the bees and mossies and bloody sandflies! The insects were worse than in Asia. The scenery was absolutely stunning and yet at the same time the land lacks an atmosphere that other places have – all the buildings feel too new and are made of ugly timbre. The architecture and the lanscape lack a certain symmetry and there is too much onus put on protecting every inch of the land to the point of not being able to enjoy it. We´re glad we went and have good memories but don´t worry, we won´t be moving out there!