Continuing our journey up to the North Island
06.10.2011 23 °C
We hope you are all well at home. We will dive right in and pick up where we left off last time, which was Invercargill. We hope you enjoy our latest entry!
So Invercargill...we only spent one night here and in truth we did very little. It was here however that we decided on the route we were going to take up to Dunedin. We agreed on driving up the beautifully dramatic Catlins. The scenery on this coastal route was magnificent, enhanced even further by the sunshine. We stopped off at Curio Bay, which is best known for its petrified forest and the extremely rare yellow-eyed penguins. After a bite to eat (sandwiches not penguins, we didn’t manage to get a glimpse of them) we also had a wander over to Porpoise Bay which was stunning. Later in the afternoon we took a short but steep trek to see Mclean Falls; so it was a pretty busy sightseeing day all in all. :-) We wanted to spend the night in a DOC campsite that we had read about, but after trying to find it for a good hour and driving down the longest gravel road in existence with no result...we gave up. Haha. We settled instead for a holiday park at Kaka Point.
We woke up early in Kaka point and enjoyed some tasty bacon butties before heading off in Bruce again, this time to Nugget Point to see the seals and take in the northern side of the Catlins coastal view. The seals were quite far away and to begin with we had trouble seeing them, however another tourist leant us his binoculars so we could have a peek – they kind of looked like big slugs sunning themselves on the rocks from that distance. Lol. On the way back to our holiday camp we stopped by Roaring Bay, in the hope that this time we might see some penguins, but we were unlucky again. Doh.
From Kaka Point, Dunedin is about 90 minutes away, and this was our next destination. On arrival we parked up in the city centre to have a look around. Funnily enough it was here we ran into Martin Johnson and Mike Tindall, we’re not big rugby fans so it was just a quick ‘Hi’ and ‘Bye’. Lol. We grabbed some lunch and had a look around before heading to our campsite, the ‘Dunedin Holiday Park’ which was overflowing with English Rugby fans all excited for the England v Romania game the following day – to which at this point we were planning to go but still didn’t have tickets.
Our first point of call in the morning?? Cadbury World of course. We joined a short tour and spent the morning in the factory learning all about different chocolate and tasting plenty of examples. Mmmmm. Even liquid chocolate. Our second point of call was to get our tickets for the rugby match. Luck was on our side that day as just as we walked into the ticket office 2 category B tickets became available, what a result. This meant paying just $51 each instead of $97. After we purchased our tickets we joined the 1000s of England and Romania fans for a few drinks before walking down to the recently built Otago Stadium. The game was great with an electric atmosphere, even better with a 67-3 win as I'm sure you all know. After our win we walked back into Dunedin centre and enjoyed a Vietnamese food banquet and some drinks, it was a fantastic way to end our day.
The next day we began our 3 day journey up to Picton ready to catch the ferry to the North Island. On the first day of this leg we stopped off at Oamaru, a preserved historical city where we had a look round their farmers market and old fashioned candy shops, toy stores and cafes. Later in the afternoon we continued to Ashburton where we stayed at a Holiday Park overnight. It took 2 hours the next day to continue our drive up through Christchurch and onwards to the seaside settlement of Kaikoura, and as the weather was glorious again we enjoyed a hike through the lovely coastal alpine scenery which was overlooked by snow-capped mountains, it was just gorgeous. We spent the night at another DOC campsite before making the 2 hour journey to Picton the next morning and catching our Interislander ferry to Wellington at 6pm later that evening.
We arrived in Wellington and drove just outside of the city to Harcourt Holiday Park where we camped for the night. The next day we went into Wellington to have a look around, making use of the free internet at the library to let home know we arrived safe. We then decided to carry on driving north, as our time in New Zealand was starting to run out and we had a lot of miles to cover before our flight onwards on 4th October. We made our way to the small town of Dannevirke for a overnight stop, and then continued to Napier, by this time we had racked up about 5 hours driving on the North Island so were ready for a break.
At Napier we had a look around the main town centre and walked along the beachfront, apparently it's the Art Deco capital of the world. We were chuffed as we managed to get a free sausage buttie and some free sweets from a local bank doing some advertising, literally 2 minutes from where we parked - it was just meant to be!
Having spent some time enjoying the sunny weather we departed for Taupo in the centre of the island, or thats what Phil made Kayleigh think! The region of Hawke's Bay is famous for its wineries, so Phil drove to the oldest winery in New Zealand, Mission Estate, surprising Kayleigh in the process, haha! The winery was set in its own picturesque surroundings, we walked in and did some free tasting before buying a bottle to take away with us. :-)
Two hours later we had reached Taupo, which is famous for being set on the biggest lake in New Zealand (it's huge!) We made our way to the main info centre to see what camp sites were in the area, and luckily enough they had some free places to stay due to the Rugby World Cup being on, result! That night we cooked off some spaghetti and watched Brick on Bruce's dvd player, a strange film we had picked up from Jucy Rentals, we wouldn't recommend it though!
Being up nice and early the next day, we headed into Taupo to check out the place. We parked up at the lake and watched tourists try their best to do the lake's "Hole in One" challenge, although it looked way too difficult so we decided against having a go. Later on, we drove out of town to see the lookout, which gives you a view of the whole town, it was just ok really (nothing on the views at Queenstown to be honest!)
The highlight of the day was going to Huka Falls, where you can get pretty close to a waterfall on the Waikato River. The falls themselves aren't the highest, but its impressive none the less as they aren't very wide and absolutely loads of water flows through (apparently 220,000 litres of water a second!)
After a relaxing evening in the van and a bit of breakfast the next day, we left Taupo and drove up to "Sulphur City", Rotorua. The place stunk of rotten eggs, as its a geothermal area shaped by volcanic activity, nice! We headed for Waimangu Volcanic Valley, where we did a 6km trek past smoking craters, geysers and bubbling pools, it was like a whole other world. The highlight for us was the inferno crater, which had an amazing sky-blue colour.
We had been advised not to stay overnight in Rotorua (mainly due to the smell), so we drove further north to Matamata, where we set up camp for the night at the Opal Springs Holiday Park. We chose this site as campers get free use of their natural hot spring pools, so we pretty much just parked up and jumped into lovely 38 degree water, bliss!
The other reason we chose the site at Matamata is its really close to the Hobbiton Movie Set (www.hobbitontours.com), where the 'Lord of the Rings' Shire-scenes were filmed. The next day we went for a tour of the set, and unfortunately we had to sign a non-disclosure agreement for the production company, so we can't upload any photos or give much detail on it, but we can say we had a great time.
By now our time in New Zealand was running out, so we had to make the 2 hour trip to Auckland where we stayed just outside of the city close to the airport. The following day we had to say our goodbyes to Bruce and give him back to Jucy Rentals, which was a shame although we are really glad we rented a van as it enabled us to have a lot more freedom and we got to see so much of New Zealand. After we had dropped Bruce off we grabbed a lift on a shuttle to the airport where we booked into a cheap hotel for the night, so we were close by for our flight to Nadi, Fiji, the next day.
New Zealand has been incredible, there are hardly words to describe how beautiful this country is and how pleasant and welcoming its people are. This is definitely somewhere that we would like to visit again as even with as much as we did manage to cram in we barely scratched the surface.
And with that our New Zealand adventure was over, and our Fiji one was has just begun. We are in Nadi at the moment in a small hostel called Bamboo on the beach. Early tomorrow morning however we are catching a Catamaran out to Nacula Island in the Yasawas, one of Fiji's most attractive group of islands - and we can't wait.
Thanks for reading everyone, we hope you enjoyed it. We will catch up with you all again soon, probably from the states.
Lot's of love
Kayleigh and Phil