It didn't look that far on the map
04.05.2007 - 25.05.2007
Well 21 days later and we've finally finished the New Zealand leg, apologies for the delay but I was just too busy in New Zealand to write this. New Zealand was an amazing place, yet we only had 3 weeks to do it in, in that time though I reckon we saw 3 quarters of what she had too offer. We did everything from climbing glaciers and volcanoes, to sailing down fijiords and even a sheep show. What follows is an attempt to fit everything in from memory using the Filofax and the guide book....
So after a crazy flight we landed in Auckland airport at 4am, minus the 3rd May. Also disappointed as the plane had absolutelty pants films and my tv didn't work for like an hour, all I can say is that my customer survey definately brought the average down. So anyway by the grace of god there was a book shop in the arrivals lounge with a guide book. So it was actually between the hours of 4am and 8am, waiting for a shuttle bus, that we actually planned the whole thing, ish. Which I think is pretty impressive. The plan we'd figured was hire a car and make it too Christchurch for the 23rd May for a flight on the 25th. Now one problem which didnt make itself apparent was the distances, the map in the Lonely Liar wasn't too accurate, something which we would learn the hard way. So the distances didn't look too bad, that was until the night before we got the car when we brought a REAL map. Also as I was the only one driving it meant Chris would have to navigate, this being the same guy who managed to get lost in Buenas Aires getting to my hostel from his (a 10min straight walk turned into 1 hour 50 minutes detour around Buenas Aires' slums). Thus a few last minute lessons were in order (actually he did a bang up job in the end of it).
So anway we spent a couple of days in Auckland, which I thought was a really nice city, there was only just over a million people there (only 4 million in the country). Checked out a few of the museums, the National one was pretty good. Watched the sunset from the sky tower, basically the biggest tower in the southern hemisphere, built primarily for tourism and to outdo the Aussies. Didn't do anything too eventfull as it took us two days to get over the flight, we'd worked out that we were 15 hours ahead of where we'd just left in South America, talk about a killer. We did arrive for the start of the NZ Comedy Festival, ended up seeing Dougle from Father Ted.
So, we picked up the car on the sunday (we ended up calling her Maggie as we had a history and a polotics graduate there), and decided to head south to the Waitamo caves. Now in regards to the car we weren't expecting anything decent, it only cost us $33NZ per day for the car, about 6 quid, not including petrol (but then it only just us just over $40NZ to fill her up). She wasn't too bad though, a crappy 1.3 Daiatsu Siern, yet it did have a CD player.
So we set off to these caves, stopping off in a place called Hamilton, whose sole claim to fame was a big garden.
The Waitamo Caves we actually pretty cool, we went to the ones where Attenbrough filmed part of the TV series called Planet Earth. It was pretty cool when we switched the tourches off the whole caves were lit up by the glow worms. Pretty amazing thing to see. So did that in the morning, however when we got back it was unfortunately too late to see the daily shaving of the Angora rabbits at the Angora rabbit place, dam.
So we headed to the Tonganiro National Park that night to hike the trail the following day. An 8 hour trek over one massive volcano, the one next to was classed as 'dormant'. That one was actually Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings. The whole trek was pretty amazing, except it stank or rotten eggs due to all the sulphur. You could see the steam coming out of fissures in the rocks. The sulphur lakes were another pretty impressive site.
Arfter that we then headed to lake Taupo, then onto Rotorua the next day. As we were in a bit of hurry we didnt stay long in Taupo, however again it was a pretty cool place. Checked out the massive lake which had a few small thermals running into it. In parts on the shore when you touched the water in the lake it was actually warm because of it. It was also here that we randomly ended up finding the worlds only inland thermal fresh water prawn farm, now thats one I can tick off the list finally. We ended up shooting golf balls overt the prawn pools or fields or whatever you call them, also had the nicest prawns of the trip.
So after that we headed to Rotorua where we managed to catch a sheep show, was actually pretty good (also where we picked up Dolly the mascot, went Zorbing (absolute quality) and had a go on a race car (got the fastest lap of the day and only spun off twice). It was after this that we decided to head across to Napier. Now here was where lonely liar became a massive pain in the ass. On the map in it, it has a main road going straight from Rotorua all the way to Napier, which was our next destination. Great we thought. However this 'main road' consisted of over 100km of dirt roads and gravel treks which snaked road mountains and through valleys, you dont want to know big some of the drops were, and the route it took had little if no ressemblance to the book.
You don't want to know how far down that was. So what should have been a 3 hour trip turned into a 6 hour mission. Yet we did see some pretty cool stuff and I managed to refine my powersliding skills, the back end just loved to come out. We ended up finding this stunning looking lake which no one really knows about.
I believe this is called Lake Waikaremoana. It was actually a pretty cool detour as we saw things that no one else gets to see, also managed to have some fun on a gravel track in a hire car.
So anyway we got to Napier after 6 hours driving, its a town on the Eastern Coast of the North Island. It was a pretty nice place as well. Nothing too exciting happened there, we did play a bit of crazy golf though, the Pacific Pro Am to be precisie.
This is from Bluff Point looking out over Hawkes Bay.
After that we headed down to Wellington but stopped off in a place called Palmerston North as it was too far drive in one go. Now this place sucked ass. Apparently John Clease, i.e. Faulty Towers, took the piss out the place on a podcast last year while he did a tour of it. To be honest though he was pretty right when he claimed it was the suicide capital of NZ. However the locals didnt like it too much and decided to name a rubbish tip after him, seriously it even made the evening news while we were there.
So the next day we headed to Wellington to get the ferry across to the South Island. Wellington wasn't too bad a place, kind of like Auckland but with less people in it. Didn't do too much there, caught Spiderman 3 though.
So we caught the ferry over on sunday morning, ended up bumping into these Irish guys I'd meet in Buenas Aires, then again on the flight over to NZ and now again on the ferry.
The trip across the straits was alright, got to watch the F1 highlights. So basically the ferry stops in this tiny ass place called Picton, which we soon discovered was not all that tiny for the south. Apparently more people live in Auckland than in the whole of the South Island.
The plan was to head off and do one of the glaciers which meant driving along the West coast. We were going to stay in Nelson for a day but it made more sense to get out to a place called Westport. We did drive though Nelson and it did look quality, the problem was that we were just so pressed for time. So hooked up in Westport, not very memorable, got out as soon as possible the next day. We managed to stop off in a place called Greymouth for a few hours, again not a very memorable place, to sort out the glacier stuff. We decided to check out Fox Glacier just cause it was cheaper.
However going back to the stretch from Westport to Greymouth we did see some pretty cool stuff.
Also found these buggers near the car, kind of like kiwis but not.
So after Greymouth we headed down to Fox, and did the unusual thing of actually spending two nights in the place, everwhere else we'd only spent one. The next day we did the full day hike thing on it, was pretty cool actually but bloody cold at times even though it was sunny.
The following day we set off for Lake Wanaka, which I thought was pronounced Wanka. It was actually a pretty scenic drive through all the valleys and lakes. Heres another lake, no idea which one though.
It was that evening that we rocked up in Lake Wanaka, which is a really nice place, a month later and we'd have hit it for the ski season. It was here that Chris decided to do his skydive, but as it was too windy the first day we ended up spending two days there. Again this place has a lake next to it, a pretty nice one as well.
When we saw the video of his skydive it was pretty funny, he looked like he wet himself a couple of times on it.
Unfortunately as we spent too long in Wanaka we had to cut time short from Queenstown as we had a tour on the Milford Sound to do. Which meant we had 4 hours there, talk about a whistle stop tour. Heres the view of Queenstown from the Skyline Gondola.
Pretty amazing, and Im not just talking about myself, also round the back they had a luge track, not the ice one but with tarmac and sleds with wheels. Some guy gave us a family ticket as he'd run out of time, quality. That was so much fun, also discovered that Chris is not a natural driver. It was also here that we bumped into the same Irish guys again, I swear they must have been stalking us.
So after the whirlwind tour of Queesntown we headed to Ten Anau to do the Milford sound thingy. Basically you drive through these crazy valleys and see some quality sites, then end up at this Fijord where you sail about there for a bit then come back.
Pretty cool but after all the sailing stuff Ive done I actually found the bus trip more interesting. While back in Ten Anau we stayed two nights as on the 2nd night it was their anniversary and they were having a free BBQ, never turn down a free meal. It was also here that we had the Spagetti incident, where by I cooked some spag bol, only Chris wanted to do something so I left him incharge to do the pasta as he was making a big fuss. Only to come back 30 mins later to find the sauce burning with the kitchen smoking and Chris starring at a pan full of boilding water insisting that it was not yet boiling. Looking back it was actually quite funny.
After Ten Anau we decided to take the Southern Scenic route, its a highway which goes directly south till the coast and then follows this all the way round till you get up to Dunedin, through the Catlins. It was along here that we saw some pretty amazing sites.
Such as these guys we found on Shag Point, well we thought the name was funny. We also saw an albotrose and a load of pengiuns coming off the beach at night.
While this bits self explanatory.
We also managed to spend the night in an extremely lush place which we got for bugger all as it was low season. Made a pleasant change from crappy dorm rooms.
The last stage was a particular high light of the trip just because we got to chill out a bit and see stuff that nobody else gets to, basically the real New Zealand.
Unfortunatelty though all things come to an end and so we had to get back to Christchurch to drop Maggie off. It was while driving down that we read the contract and nearly shit ourselves, they wanted $50 to clean her. Now after 18 days of driving over dirt roads and mud tracks, involving numerous hand brake skids, she was absolutely filthy. She also had a good deal more scratches and chips, luckly the guy never noticed them, including the marks underneath where I'd managed to beach it on a curb. However we did find a car wash and vacuum thing, best $8 I ever spent. So we managed to drop her off, and as she was nice and clean we didnt get screwed over and the guy never noticed the extra chips we'd added.
So New Zealand... well we had a quality time, a bit rushed, but still an amazing time. We saw so much stuff and did so many things I've lost count. In the end it worked out that in 21 days we'd driven nearly 4000km and seen 28 sperate towns/cities. Crap thats a lot.