Quick round up
10.08.2010 18 °C
OK... so we are so far behind on our blog that in order to catch up a bit we´ve decided to do a quick round up with highlights. Here goes...
Introducing new pals - Baz and Ali
So the night of Neets birthday is just as good as the day, we find a little place where we have pizza, wine and apple pie. Whilst there we meet our soon to be new friends Baz and Ali. We get talking and soon enough they help us plan the rest of our route through the South Island and into the North Island. We will meet again along the way but we would never have imagined that it would be in the amazingly coincidental way that it did...
On the way out from Fox Glacier we pass through Greymouth and Park along the way next to a beach for the night. In the morning I noticed that we were really close to some amazing rock formations that jutt right out of the sea. It blew me away. Greymouth was the area where my second hitchhiker pick-up occurred. This time we collect a couple of guys making their way up the west coast. It`s a good laugh and we stop along the way at a spot called Hoikitiki where Baz and Ali have advised us we can pick up some good Jade. True to their word, the place is awash with Jade factories. This stuff is expensive but we find a place that has bucket loads of off-cuts that they dont want and are selling at crazy prices. We sort through the boxes finding some ridiculously large peices that are maybe just a little too rough or unpolished for the store but will make great gifts. We buy quite a few stones and decide to make them into necklaces ourselves. The only problem is, how do you put a hole into a lump of jade? The question is answered soon enough as we pass a workshop and chat up the owner who eventuallyallows me to use his equipment and drill the holes into my stones! How about that, a totally unexpected experience has presented itself and I jump at it. All said and done, I am very pleased with my first attempt behind the stone carver`s drill, without any instruction, I managed to punch perfect holes into all our peices of Jade, Neet then made the necklaces out of braided peices of string. The result! A peice of jewellery that normally would cost upwards of 150 quid, for about 25 quid! Bargain!
On the subject of rocks in general, we also stopped along the way at a place called Punakaiki where the rocks have formed for reasons unknown to science, in pancake like stacks. It`s truly bizzarre but spectacular...
Worth a mention is also the amazing Takaka, which was every bit as secial as everyone had been telling us. Quiet, serene, historical and religiously and culturally of enormous significance to the Maori, this place basically rocked! (Sorry for mentioning rocks so much...). Takaka is like a place where you would expect fairies and pixies and elves to live. These pics will show you what I mean...
Marlborough Wine Tasting
We decide to spend a couple of days in the South Island in the Marlborough region where we are forced (err hmm) to go wine tasting. By now there is a bit of a pattern emerging which is that as soon as we decide to do something outdoorsy - kayaking, trekking, wine tasting the weather just turns and quite literally as soon as we set foot outside it pelts it down like there is no tomorrow. We had decided to take some bikes out for the wine tour but of course the weather has other plans and instead we take Wilma (try as we might we can´t seem to get away). We get to our first winery and meet a couple of northern lads - Liam and Karl who seem to be on the same circuit as us. We decide to meet for lunch later. Neither of us are big white wine drinkers but we change our minds as we learn a bit more. Liam and Karl give us a tip for the Forrest winery which is just closing when we arrive but as we get chatting to the manager Jim we are convinced we should return the following day. With full stomachs and buzzing heads we head back via a chocolate factory where we manage to snaffle quiet a few freebies before returning home. What a perfect day...wine, fine food and chocolate!!!
The Queen Charlotte Track
We spend our final days in the South Island with a trek along the Charlotte track, the trek is about 4 hours for the unexperienced walker (which we are) and is awesome even though we finish well after dark and are a bit scared as we only have a small torch and mobile phone for light. Nonetheless we make it and pick yet another beautiful spot to free camp right on the pin-head of an amazing view of the Queen Charlotte Sounds. The next morning we wake up to an amazing sun rise and in honour of an amazing time in the South Island, we have a party after breakfast, Gav opens up the back doors and we blast out Michael Jackson and Drum and Bass loud enough to shake the mountains. It has to be said the sense of freedom and soaring spirit with all windows and doors open and dancing to Michael Jackson whilst overlooking a beautiful lake is undescribable. Maybe its the hippy in me or maybe I am just feeling very lucky to be feeling on top of the world.
We set off feeling as high as kites and make our way into Picton to catch the ferry. Since we are early we stop off in town to explore and end up stumbling into a Fair Trade shop where we meet Margaret, the greatest old dear we´ve met on our travels. We talk for ages about Margaret´s amazing life, NZ and UK politics and she told us about some of the social problems in New Zealand. New Zealand´s beauty is perhaps its downfall to a certain degree to as there is a high level of alcholism and of course all the problems that go with that. There are two sides to everything and New Zealand is no different to anywhere else.
With a heavy heart we leave the South Island, I love the South Island so much that I secretly pledge my heart to it and promise it that I won´t like the North Island. Gav`s not sure why I would make such a statement but I`m convinced all the same.
South to North
So you remember we were telling you about Baz and Ali who we met at Fox Glacier. Guess what, we bump into them on the ferry crossing from Picton to Wellington! Baz and Ali run a Harley Davidson Tour company and were taking some bikes from the South Island back to their home in Waihi in the Coromandel. We all get on like a house on fire and they kindly invite us to stay with them when we get to the Coromandel. Who are we to refuse such an amazingly kind offer!
North Island Adventures
We arrive in Wellington and see more cars and people than we have seen in the last two weeks. After spending a couple of days in Wellington we begin the drive up North. The drive to the first stop Mount Tongariro is breath taking. The North Island is so different to the South Island, it is welcoming with the rolling green hills. It feels like the North Island welcomes you with open arms whereas the ruggedness of the South Island commands respect. Of course I feel guilty about breaking my promise but I am captivated by the North Island in a totally different way to the way I was with the South Island.
We had planned to do the Mount Tongariro trek but of course the weather has other plans... We go to book our spot and we are told that all treks are cancelled due to the heavy snow that has been forecast. With dampened spirits, we go forth to Lake Taupo and decide to check out Craters of the Moon as well as the Hukka Falls walk which ends with a dip in the Hot Water spring. Just five words for Hot Water Spring....best jacuzzi in the WORLD!!!
After our first taste of geo-thermal activiti in the natural Jacuzzi, we head to the real deal, a geothermal reserve between Taupo and Rotorua called Orakeikorako. There are no words to describe this place except weird. Having never seen landscape like this the experience is somewhat like landing on the moon. WTF keeps repeating in my head. How amazing is this planet? Very.
After a night time drive through Rotorua, we manage to find ourselves camping at a town which is a ´Haven for the over 55s´ Very surreal...it is very quiet and exceptionally clean. If it wasn´t for the few old ladies sitting outisde their front yards catching a few rays while selling the produce from their orchards, it would for sure feel like a bit of a ghost town.
Up and Round the Coromandel
We make our way to the Coromandel region and once again the weather has it in for us as just as Gav puts the shovel to the sand there is an almighty shower combined with gigantic waves which scupper our plans for a dip at the hot water beach. With soggy spirits we make our way back to the van totally convinced that we are everything is conspiring against us to spend the next two weeks together inside the tiny van. No offence to Wilma, but we need space and we need to get out and about. We try and cheer ourselves up and think of a plan B...we make our way to Catherderal Cove for a long walk. Luckily, the weather clears and we manage to go there and back without any problems.
We decide to loop back along the west coast of the Coromandel, the only way to do this stunning drive is windows down, music blaring and not a single care in the world. As you go down the small mountain road with mountain on oneside and sea on the other it is very difficult not to let the beauty consume you. We felt a sense of freedom and abandon that we hadn´t anywhere else on our travels.
There is a great sense of relief when we take Baz and Ali up on their offer and spend a night out of the van. Our hosts welcome us with wine and we spend some time in their hot tub before dinner. We also meet the apple of Baz´s eye in their beloved dog Buller who is as soppy as they come, a real sad face which comes to light when he gets a bit of attention. We have dinner and an early night as England is playing Germany in the world cup so we plan to get up at 1.30am to watch it. Its the first world cup game that we are watching and well the less said about the result the better.
The next morning Baz takes us through our route again so that we make the best of the next week or so. After breakkie we head down to the giant hole which is the gold mine in their town. It is surreal sight, a gigantic hole and inside you can see what look like tonka trucks going back and forth. After, I get a real treat as Baz offers me a ride on his Harley!!!!!! I get kitted out in Ali´s gear and off we go for a spin. I´m pretty sure I don´t look as cool as biker chick Ali but it is truly super cool and I am so grateful to have been on the back of a Harley. Why do Baz and Ali have super cool Harleys I hear you ask? Well, if you want to discover New Zealand by Harley, Baz and Ali are the people to go to, they will organise everything for you. Baz has an incredible amount of knowledge on all the cool places and for sure you won´t be disappointed. Baz and Ali, thank you so much for welcoming us into your home, giving us a load of information and helping us to have an amazing trip, we love you guys, you really are the best
Te Matua Ngahere and Tane Mahuta
Our trek up North continues with a trip to the Trounson Kauri Park where we bow before the giant Kauri trees. We see both the oldest and tallest and are stunned by their presence. There is Te Matua Ngahere – 'Father of the Forest' rumoured to be over 2000 years old and 1200 year old Tane Mahuta which is 'The Lord of the Forest'. We are not allowed to hug them due to there delicate root systems, nonetheless, they look so wise and beautiful and if it wasn´t for the weather having it for us again we feel we could just sit, admire and talk to them for ages.
Rainbows and Dolphins at the Bay of Islands
After a trip around the grounds where the Treaty of Waitangi is signed we book ourselves on a tour of the Bay of Islands. Despite the dark clouds we have an excellent time, the trip to the hole in the rock is a little choppy but we enjoy. The journey back is one we will probably never forget...as the boat is making its way back we see no less than 6 rainbows just one after the other. Soon after the captian notices a few dolphins by the rocks and we make our way to them. Gav and I count about 12 dolphins but we are told that there are actually about 30 altogether in the pod it just that we can only see the few that are close to the surface. We follow the dolphins for a good half and hour and its a real treat as they some and play beside the boat showing off with their belly rolls and flips. In the distance we can see how the pod is circling the fish under the water for feeding. It feels so special to see them so close up that maybe there is a glimer of hope that not eveything is against us...
Au revouir New Zealand, Catch you later friends, Good bye Wilma
We make our way back to Auckland with a stay at my cousin Amu´s place. It feels so good to have some home- cooked food, clean clothes and a fresh bed. Also on the way back we visit my friend Nadia from college whom I haven´t seen in 15 years. It is a touching moment as old friends catch up and look at how far the other has come, we have Wilma and she has three stunning boys who we both instantly fall in love with. Gav shows then around Wilma and they absolutely love her begging their mum to let them come with us. With heavy hearts we say goodbye hoping its not another 15 years until we see each other again.
Our journey back to the airport if fraught as we get lost, we have to give Wilma back and check in for an international flight. With a tense and heavy atmosphere we make our way towards the airport and are hopelessly lost as we see the minutes ticking by. Eventually John from the rental company agrees to meet us at the airport for the handover. It all feels very rushed but we manage to give Wilma a good pat on the back, she´s been great but we are in no hurry to see her again! We make a quick dash to check in for our flight only to find out that it has been delayed for four hours. Maybe New Zealand doesn´t want us to leave after all... With bags checked in we make our way to the lounge for a big fat chill out before the long flight to Santiago.