Friday, 31 August 2012

Abel Tasman

Our first stop on the South Island was Marahau – Abel Tasman. This is one of the South Island’s most popular locals for sandy beaches and beautiful coastline. Our accommodation here was Old MacDonalds Farm. We stayed in small cottages overlooking an alpaca field. Many ducks and a rooster greeted us in the morning looking for any breakfast leftovers we may have had.

We had a beautiful day to do the Abel Tasman Coastal Track and stopped at many great beaches along the route. We collected about 4 lbs of mussels at one stop and all helped in carrying them on the track. Later we prepared them with white wine, garlic, and butter. They were the freshest saltiest seafood we've eaten.

We have a great crew on the bus: Italian, Swiss, Aussie, German and Dutch. Friends for life!

A view from the track. You can hire water taxis to take you to many parts of the coast. It is a large track and so that is the best way to see it all.

Jeff and Sara cleaning the mussels.
Our human pyramid. Can you spot the Canadian Geese in the back ground?? Now we know where they vacation...

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Wellington & Our Ferry ride to the South Island

We made it to “Windy Wellington” on a beautiful and wind-less day. We toured the local museum and strolled the streets until we found a nice looking Italian restaurant for dinner. It was an early night because we had to catch the early ferry to the South Island. We thought Wellington was really nice and will be back on the return leg of our tour.
Main harbour of Wellington

Some pictures from our ferry across the Cook Strait. We saw a pod of dolphins go by, but were not quick enough to catch them on camera.


Sunday, 26 August 2012

National Park & Blue Duck Lodge

National Park
After Rotorua we went to Taupo for a night. Taupo is beside the world’s largest Crater Lake. We really liked Taupo but it wasn’t photogenic so we caught up on some laundry and in the evening our driver took us to an amazing natural water fall hot springs. There were two guys including Jeff, and 12 women making for a fun night. We brought beer and glow sticks to light up our grotto.
The following morning we drove from Taupo to National Park. We were interested in doing the Tongariro Crossing but this was closed due to recent volcanic activity. The photo below of Mnt. Ngauruhoe was taken across from our accommodations; which was used in Lord of the Rings as Mount Doom.

Blue Duck Lodge
The weather started to turn around and we were off to Whakahoro, (pronounced: fuck-a-whore-oh). Our next stop was Blue Duck Lodge, a great big plot of land where the owners and volunteers are working hard to promote bird conservation. Mostly they are focused on the conservation of the Blue Duck...hence the name.
On the way Jeff and our driver stopped to checkout some bee hives. Standing so close Jeff could feel the vibrations of their wings. The honey made from the pollen of Manuka, (tea tree), is very sought after for its medicinal qualities.

The cool part about New Zealand is that all mammals are pests brought from over seas, so you are allowed to hunt wild goats, wild boar, and wild deer at Blue Duck Lodge. We were unsure whether it would be worth the expense to hunt, but we ran into a couple of guys who went goat hunting and some of the guides brought back a wild boar. If we have the chance to go back we will because it was a reasonable price and sounded like a great time. We ended up skeet shooting instead of hunting and we were both happy to hit our targets half the time.

A small group of us walked to a near by water fall and on the way found many sheep and lamb covered hill side. We aren’t veterinarian’s, but we came across the sheep pictured below and are sure it was in labour.

Our next stop is Wellington and across to the South Island.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Raglan & Rotorua

Raglan was a cool surf town where Jack Johnson & Ben Harper own property together. We stayed at a little out of the way backpacker lodge where we were upgraded and had our own room. A short walk away was Whale Bay where we watched some local surfers catch some waves. We wished we had put shorts on because it was a great day to chill in the sun.

On the way to Raglan we stopped at Bridal Veil Falls where we each took a drink, (Neal and Laura we are kicking your butts on forced perspective pictures).


Our bus driver is notorious for taking random side trips, so this next stop was a nice surprise. The pictures are not edited, the water was this beautiful clear color and it was easy to spot the springs coming up from below.

Rotorua was our next stop. We were here for a half day and that was all we needed. It is the most active geothermal area on the island with many hot springs and mud pools. There is also a Maori Village that we avoided because we had our fill at a previous “Maori Cultural Experience” where Jeff became Chief of our bus tribe and lead the Haka. It was horrible. It took three days for people to stop calling him Chief. You can imagine Jeff’s excitement. Oh yeah, and Rotorua smells like fart.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Waitomo Caves: Lost World

Our first legit adventure on the bus tour of our trip was a "Lost World" 4hr caving adventure in Waitomo. It was a pretty rainy and miserable day so it was a perfect opportunity to spend the day below ground. We were the only people on the bus that were interested in the “Lost World” cave tour so we ended up having our own private guide.

The tour starts with a 330 foot abseil down into the tunnel system. From the top you can see the stream that runs through the tunnel system. The highlight of the trip was definitely the abseil. After the 30 min decent we scrambled through the tunnels (safely clipped to an anchored guide rope). To get back out of the tunnel you start with a 100+ foot climb up a ladder. This was really cool because the guide left us at the bottom to prepare for our ascent. After Jess was on her way up the ladder I was left at the bottom to enjoy the glow worms that cover the roof of the cave.

It may not have been as extreme as some of the other experiences in New Zealand, (Bungee, Sky diving), but I prefer less expensive things that last a little longer where I don’t need to clean the crap out of my pants after.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Auckland to Paihia to Cape Reinga & Back

The first leg of our tour is North of Auckland in the Bay of Islands up to Cape Reinga. On the way up to our hostel in Paihia we stopped and checked out a bird sanctuary and met Sparky the amputee Kiwi bird. He is pretty hopeless hopping around on one leg but was very cute and acted like a domestic cat.

Jeff enjoying the luxurious accomodations at Base Pipi Patch Hostel. We stayed in an 8 bed dorm but only had 4 of us our entire stay. The shower was great and the internet was fast, we paid $8 for 24 hours of use.
The second day of our trip we did the Cape Reinga via 90 Mile Beach tour from Explore NZ. The morning started off slow with a GumdiggerPark tour looking at Kauri trees – a young tree is less than a 1000 years old.

Our next stop was Cape Reinga the northern most point of New Zealand where the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean meet. The views were stunning and while we were there the weather started to clear up just in time to do some sand boarding down some very steep dunes. The hike up the sand dunes was an intense one, but the thrill of racing down made it worth it. Our 4 wheel drive bus had no problem driving up a stream bed to 90 Mile Beach and taking the short cut home racing down the beach for around 70 km.

You can see the waves where the Tasman & Pacific collide.

If you look close you can see his racing stripes adding to his speed.

After a couple of stops to pick up snacks in the surf we headed to Mangonui for the “Worlds Best Fish& Chips”. The fish and chips were so good that we actually ordered a second round.

Our last day in the Bay of Islands we took the ferry across to a place called Russell. It is one of the oldest ports in New Zealand that has become a sleepy harbour town. We walked up a viewing point overlooking the harbour.

The weather has been great and we are actually enjoying the hostel lifestyle. We have a one night stop in Auckland before we continue south.