A Travellerspoint blog

Understatement, overstatement

Are they sure about that?

sunny 30 °C

We have noticed that there is a tendancy to overstate in Kiwish (well what would you call the NZ language?) We have eaten 'the best pie in the world', drunk 'the world's tastiest wine' and seen more' world famous' sites than you can shake a stick at. So you can imagine my surprise when I found our one and only example of understatement since our arrival - namely the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

But I get ahead of myself slightly - I left you with the crazy clouds in Okahune. We had headed to the region to visit Tongariro National Park - otherwise known as Mordor to all LOTR fans. As opposed to all the green scenery laden other parks - this is basically volcanoes and craters and sulphuric lakes. In other words - pretty stark. We couldn't go on the walk on the first day as the winds were too high - this should have been my first clue - so we headed slightly north and went for a mooch around the south western shores of Lake Taupo (the biggest freshwater lake in the Southern Hemisphere....of course!) Noush was stunned by the pumice shores which made it feel like you are walking on rice krispies and entertained herself for a fair while throwing the stones into the lake and watching them float......I think she may be relaxing!!

Boats

Boats

We had read about the Tongariro National Crossing and as it's one of the 'best one day treks in the world', thought we should give it a go. It's 19.4 kms (about 12 miles in old money) and we like walking so thought it would be fine. Having now looked up the word Trek I see that it says to 'travel with difficulty' - my second clue.

The reason I haven't written about this in the last week is because I was confident that with time I would look back on the experience with happiness and a certain amount of pride - having forgotten the feeling of crying on top of a volcano!!!! Long and short is that I have never done any rock/mountain climbing....in shorts......in gale force winds........thankfully Noush is more experienced than me at all this as she literally had to talk me down. But it was stunning - in a completely different way. We were picked up at 6am and were walking before the sun had completely risen - advisable as there is no vegetation and therefore no protection from the sun.

Early morning

Early morning

Our highest point was about 2000m - we decided not to add the summit walk at an extra 2 hours and left that to the masochists. There are three emerald lakes and one huge blue lake which are gorgeous to look at and STINK! Coming down the other side of the mountain was my low point - although Noush did fall on her arse to entertain me.......nb. laughing on a shifting mountain side in high winds is really tricky.

Now where did I put that ring?

Now where did I put that ring?

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The trek took us 7 hours in total which is about average - and in retrospect I can say it was worth it. I had to entertain Noush in the last 4 kms as she started to lose the will to live and we both had aching glutes, calves and thighs for about four days afterwards but yes, it was an experience to be remembered.

Lava flow

Lava flow

Posted by Dani Parry 20:45 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Windy Welly

Little known home of ravioli

sunny 25 °C

We decided that we should spend a couple of days in the capital to absorb the feel of it, the culture and taste the variety of food on offer. We arrived early evening so drinks and dinner were first priority. We found our only gay bar of the trip so far, which was pleasantly understated, although we did have to decline the advances of The Duchess who tried to get us to join in the bingo. We then came across what I suspect is Noush's highlight of the trip so far - Scopa, an Italian restaurant in the trendy Cuba St area. Once Noush discovered their homemade ravioli there was no going back.....or rather there was as she made me promise that we could return the next night so she could eat exactly the same thing! In her defence, the food was really gorgeous. My gnocci with peas, spinach, proscuitto and cream was splendid as was the fennel and orange salad.

Wellington views

Wellington views

Anyway - aside from that we also spent an enlightning if a tad exhausting four hours in Te Papa, the Museum of New Zealand. A relatively new museum, it has the most interactive and modern displays that I have ever seen. The whole premise is where New Zealand is today and how it got here - be it geographically, geologically, historically or anthropologically. We loved it (we really are geeks!) and I only wish I could have taken photos to show you but they weren't allowed. If you are interested though you can have a look at their website www.tepapa.govt.nz

After another delicious dinner we decided to head to the movies...again! This time the oscar contender was Black Swan and all I can say is OMG!! If you don't like blood and gore do not see this film. I thought it was brilliantly done but I watched from behind my hands A LOT! Gorgeous to look at though - glad I'm not a ballerina....was an option obviously.....

  • *GEEK ALERT**

What I can show you photos of is Zealandia. A 550 acre 'island' right by the city, where thanks to some inspirational ideas and a bloody good fence, they are aiming to recreate the New Zealand of old. A safe place for all the endemic species that have been reduced in numbers at an alarming rate due to predators; possums, rats, wasps, stoats, cats et al. To be brief - many of NZ's most famous residents, including of course the Kiwi itself, are threatened with extinction due to these predators that were in the main introduced by the 'white man'. The 500 year plan is to create a space completely free of threat where these species can repopulate.

Kakariki

Kakariki

This endemic bird (ie found nowhere else in the world) had become extinct on the mainland and is now involved in a breeding programme at Zealandia. Its a beauty too - and just one of the amazing birds that we saw and heard on our trip. We would have loved to have gone on the night tour to have had a chance to see a kiwi but cost prevented us as we've taken part in so many tours and trips as you know.

Tuatara

Tuatara

This 'living fossil' has been on the planet for 250 million years - its the nearest living relative to dinosaurs on the planet. And it's weirdly cute! There are other geckos and skinks and frogs that are also being regenerated thanks to the amzing mammel proof fence.

Oh - and it's also an amazingly beautiful place full of native forest.....

Zealandia

Zealandia

OK I know, enough enough. I apologise if you were expecting tales of crazy drunkeness and instead have my witterings about wildlife - Noush falls over in the next blog if it helps. But until then.....look at these weird clouds!!

Pancake rocks in the sky

Pancake rocks in the sky

Posted by Dani Parry 22:43 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Goodbye to the south island

Kaikoura rocks!

sunny 22 °C

We had arrived in Kaikoura around 4pm and for once it was a really gorgeous sunny day. We found the place we were going to stay which was a quick walk back into the main street and set to work finding a place in the sun for a beer. Kaikoura means Lobster Coast in Maori as it is an area famous for it's crayfish - or rock lobster (anyone else go straight to the B52s?). I think it may be my favourite town in the south island that we stayed in - quite hippy, a bit arty, amazing coastal scenery and wildlife and good food - what else does a traveller need?

Anyway we found the beer at Strawberry Hill - a quirky pub run by a local....... by way of the Midlands. Have I mentioned just how many Brits we have met here - especially in the food and drink industry - ie we're all emigrating and waiting tables but clearly loving it!
Strawberry Hill garden

Strawberry Hill garden

As I'd said, we were a bit non-plussed by the lack of scenery around CC - so you can imagine our horror at being faced with this on the way back to the campsite.

Another horrible view

Another horrible view

The next day we were booked on a whale watching expedition so headed to the WhaleWay Station (no joke) to get our boat. To be honest, this was all my idea and I had been really excited about it, being quite a sealife nut but once I got to the meeting place I was a bit disheartened by the number of people waiting to get on the same tour. However there is of course a reason why Kaikoura is famous for whale spotting and that is what we hoped to do. If you're interested the reason is this......The head of the Kaikoura canyon is just 1.6km off the Kaikoura coast, where the water depth plunges to 1000 metres. The canyon extends northeastward to join the Hikurangi Trough, which in turn connects with the abyssal Kermadec Trench, one of the deepest spots on earth (10,047 metres at it's deepest point). As a result it is perfect for large whales to be able to feed just off shore - especially sperm whales which is what we were heading out to see.

Firstly, hats off to the tour guide who had a full audio visual display and talk going on - it was proper geeky and Noush and I loved it! We were informed about the geology, geography, sea life, plant life, bird life, you name it. Our guide had been given a sperm whale tooth by his tribe (they are only ever passed on as a gift, never sold) and was kind enough to let us see it. The sperm whale is the largest toothed whale alive, with a huge throat and a tiny tongue....see? Fascinating!

Good job whales don't believe in the tooth fairy.

Good job whales don't believe in the tooth fairy.

Anyway, I fear I may be overdoing the marine talk so let's just say we did see a whale - one of their regulars, Tiaki. And sperm whales are so called because the original discoverers thought the oil in their brains (about 1.5 tonnes of it) was sperm....until they cut open a female and realised that was a stupid idea. By then the name had stuck. Tiaki came up and hung around between dives for about 20 minutes which was lovely to watch - and then he was off again.

Saying goodbye

Saying goodbye

We were also lucky enough to see a massive pod of dusky dolphins, some more fur seals, albatross and numerous other sea birds. It was great - even for cynical old me.

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That evening we participated in Kaikoura's other speciality and went to a seafood van for some crayfish. See if you can guess where we heard about it?!

The Crays

The Crays

And then it was time to say goodbye to the south island - I can't believe how much we have done and how far we have driven in just two weeks - it's mindboggling.

Thankfully we still had time to go to the Omaka Aviation Museum in Blenheim on the way to the ferry.....! It was actually much more interesting than I had imagined and, as with all museums/exhibits we've been to in NZ brilliantly put together. It's a collection of original and reproduction WWI planes and memorabilia......it looks a bit like this.

DH-2

DH-2

And now we both know all there is to know about the death of the Red Baron - so that's good....

Posted by Dani Parry 23:23 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

South Island part 5

To Christchurch and beyond!

sunny 25 °C

After another night in QT and a really fantastic meal (we treated ourselves after all the exertion of the morning), we headed across the country with the aim of getting to Christchurch on the east coast.

Our journey took us past more beautiful lakes, especially Lake Tekapo, from where you can look over to Mount Cook - the tallest mountain in NZ. To be honest, we weren't entirely sure which one it was, as once the peaks are in the clouds you can't tell which is the biggest, but they all looked rather marvellous anyway.

Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo

While there, you all be excited to learn that I bought my first NZ cookbook! So there'll be lots of kumara salads and gems when we get home.....it's also called the Tin Goose cookbook which is quite appropriate (Lea!).

And then a funny thing happened.......the mountains disappeared. Completely. We were, for the first time, surrounded by flat countryside, green fields, no lakes or rivers. It was quite disconcerting and we realised that we were only used to NZ as a rugged and wild and massively mountainous country and all this flatness just wasn't on at all. Didn't bode well for poor old Christchurch.

They say that CC is the English city in NZ, it's a lot more conservative than the rest of the country. The poor city has obviously been through the ringer recently which you could see in the amount of buildings being held up by steel braces. It was a Saturday night though and it felt quite flat. We found a cool little place for dinner called the Bicycle Theif (thanks Lonely Planet) but were left a little underwhelmed.

Sunday was a bit drizzly but CC did redeem itself a bit with markets and art gallerys and the locals definitely like to brunch - glass of Pinot Noir before midday - good work!
Tram....and Routemaster!

Tram....and Routemaster!

We then headed to a small beach town called Sumner which was way cool...dude? Great shops, more great cafes and a very sweet cinema where we took ourselves out of the rain to watch / cry at The King's Speech. Lovely film. Well done Colin....and Geoffrey.....and even Helena.

Surf cafe....literally

Surf cafe....literally

Next stop and tea time was spent in another cool little place where the beach was unfortunately replaced with massive docks called Lyttleton. And Monster Teriyaki. A great, small little bar where they cook a variety of teryaki skewers over Japanese charcoal or something. Bit of sake, some wasabi dressed grated cabbage with sesame seeds and a few skewers (prawns wrapped in bacon with plum sauce anyone?), surrounded by monster art......great way to spend a Sunday evening.

Monster Teriyaki

Monster Teriyaki

Hats off to NZ for it's cafe culture. 90% of places we've eaten in have such great imagination, warmth and atmosphere with great staff and food. It makes the occasional souless establishment really stand out.

Anyway.......another day another location and it was time to leave the CC environs for some real coastal action in Kaikoura. We travelled via Hamner Springs, a huge collection of thermal pools and sulpher pools and hot springs - not a bad way to spend a couple of hours and the sun was shining - hoorah!

And then on to Kaikoura - where we are presently. So I'll fill you in next time......but I will tell you that we saw a whale today!
And I don't mean this one.

And I don't mean this one.

Posted by Dani Parry 22:52 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

From Queenstown to Milford Sound

It's a fiord actually.

sunny 23 °C

Wanaka was lovely. Really chilled - like a posh surf town in Cornwall (a bit too posh for us maybe). The cinema rocked - the film didn't really but the experience was great and so were the nachos at intermission. We didn't sit in the Morris Minor but we could have done!

The first thing we did on arriving in QT was to book our jetboat trip as clearly we were missing our adrenalin rush - guess we've been in NZ too long and need to know where our next fix is coming from! Not sure how much Noush appreciated me asking to be at the front of the boat - where you get flung around the most. But she gamely jumped in and anyway, surely she wasn't going to get wet in her Harry Potter style wet weather gear........

Feeling GOOD!

Feeling GOOD!

I loved this boat ride! LOVED IT! We travelled out from QT harbour in pretty choppy waters and got dumped on in a way even our amazing driver/guide wan't expecting. All four of us in the front were soaked in the first 5 minutes - hilarious! Then we spent the next hour hurtling along the Kawarau and Shotover Rivers with two V8 engines roaring away (don't know what that means either but it sounds fast eh?) at speeds of up to 90kph. These boats - designed by a kiwi naturally - can travel over just 3 inches of water - and can do the equivalent of 360 degree handbrake turns. AWESOME!!!!!!

Unflattering picture alert.....

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The scenery was stunning (told you this could get repetitive) but really it was all about the whoops and yells that you inadvertantly make when your entire body leaves your seat - it's an hour long funfair ride really. I've got a movie but I'm going to try and upload some of them when I'm not working from random wireless hotspots next week.

Other honourable mentions in QT included our fab home from home at Creeksyde holiday park - the quirkiest place we've stayed. It's got really high eco ratings and a lot of it is made from reused bits of stuff basically - it was like Alice in Wonderland meets .....I dunno - some really industrial looking movie!

Cooking area

Cooking area

QT is great - the largest town we'd been in since for a while and therefore more pricey (this exchange rate is killing us!) but it was a nice change to actually have a choice of things to do and places to eat of course!

The next day we drove to Milford in preparation for our sunrise kayaking adventure on the Sound. Pretty intense drive - not sure Erk enjoyed it too much. We also discovered that, despite their scarcity (now 100 breeding pairs in NZ), the Kea is a pretty friendly / cheeky bird and they flock to where humans are as we feed them. (This is BAD by the way) We went through a pretty scary mountain tunnel (with basically no lighting), where the signal changes every 15 minutes and people get out of their vans to look around. And the Keas here are relentless. We only saw a few - but pretty up close and personal.

He's after the pretzels

He's after the pretzels

Milford Sound lodge is the only place that you can stay in Milford and we parked in a sandfly infested bit of forest for the evening. The lodge itself was lovely though with a huge lounge and highly recommended hot chocolate!

6am start the next morning as we were collected at 7am by Whitey (who knows!) who was to be our leader for the next 5 hours in the water. He took us to get ready and learn how to steer our kayaks (when did they get pedals and steering??). Have realised that we can look at this trip as a series of adventures or a collection of silly outfits - you decide.

Nice. Different. Unusual.

Nice. Different. Unusual.

What a trip though - once you are out on the water (and away from those bastard biting flies), you are blown away by the size of it all. Miles of water and mile high moutains. Mitre Peak is just over a mile high from the sea floor making it one of the biggest sea moutains in the world. Sitting two foot high in a kayak is a pretty trippy and humbling experience.

Photos can not do this justice

Photos can not do this justice


Milford Sound

Milford Sound

We were on the water for about four hours and covered about 10kms. We were investigated by local adolescent fur seals who swam along side us for ages - much to Noush's great delight - and mine of course. It was beautiful - stunning - awe inspiring. A part of the world that I have always wanted to see and it totally lived up to expectation.

Oh yes - and it's not a sound, its a fiord. Something to do with glacial movement and U shaped valleys. Misnamed by a Welshman apparently!

Happy camper

Happy camper

Posted by Dani Parry 12:32 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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