Screw the weather, we going to do it anyway

A little downbeat from the dissapointment in Kaikoura, we arrived in Wellington hoping for some fun and adventure up north!

First stop, the Tongariro crossing, one of the best walks in New Zealand apparently! Well, actually first stop was Dominoes! We needed some sustinence to prepare us for the 6+ hours trek. So we bought 2 large pizzas! Well, they were only £3.50 each!! Sweeet!

Driving north up the island, it felt very different to the south island. To start with, there were other people on the road. What was that all about?! There was a town every few km and McDonalds, subway and the like were in abundance. This was like a whole new world.

After a couple hundred km we settled into the north island beauty and appreciated the contrasting nature of craters presumably from old volcanoes mixed in with green mountains and plains that lined our route. Sunshine guiding us to our destination, this was a good start to our north island adventure.

Unfortunately, that’s where the good luck ran out I’m afraid. We stopped off at the gumboot capital of New Zealand, thinking we’d book our shuttle to the Tongariro crossing for the next day only to find gale force winds were going to blow our plans out the water. Niiice!

It’s all good, we’d just reroute. That’s why we’d got a camper right?! Head over to Taupo for the night, and the following morning make our way to Rotorua after checking out the amaaaazing Huka falls. Hmmm..

Well, we did do that. We had a fabulous camp site on Lake Taupo, where we could see the moon glistening in the lake water. A fabulous place to rest up before our next fun packed day!

Huka falls were um, interesting… Ok, no they really are interesting. Its a mass of fast flowing water that passes through a very narrow escape and is eroding away at the land underneath it forming a powerful but small waterfall. The contrast in colour of the light blue water through the passageway to the deep blue as soon as the water falls is awesome.

The rain started pumelling us around then so we headed over to Rotorua, thinking that if we were going to get wet we may as well do white water rafting and REALLY get wet! Hmmm…

Little did we know that this rain was so intense that it had flooded the river. Rafting was cancelled for at least 2 days… And any chance of doing, well anything else was also cancelled. Rain = go to a museum or sit around on ya ass. We selected the later.

A quick indian lunch and kotch session in Starbeebs! Sweeeet! But, a few hours of playing black jack with Rish whooping my ass every bloody time was enough! Time for a change. We went to the cinema to watch Source Code (pretty good I’d say esp if you think Gyllenhalls a hotty). It was just what we needed, a nice rejuventation day.

The next day, the heavens were kind to us so we managed to go to Wai-o-tapu thermal park. This place is seriously mental. You feel like you are in another world, walking past craters of steaming hot water, mud pits bubbling away and fluroescent green pools.

It stank like poo but was totally worth seeing the amazing nature that lies beneath us out there in the open, just touching distance. Also if you go, at 10.15 every morning you get to see the Geyser spurt out hot mineral water upto 30m in the air…

Very cool! It really felt like we got to see something totally different, something that made us say “Wow!”

(uh… thought it would be funny to act like a witch and that be my cauldron! lol… video is even better…)

Yay, things were getting better. Next stop, Waitomo caves…we had booked in for the infamous Black water rafting Abyss trip, 5 hours including abseiling, zip-wiring, glow worm watching and floating down on a tube in the water cave as long as the rain didn’t flood the caves. Fingers crossed! The night before was looking promising, all we had to do was find a good parking spot for the night… What better than the entrance to the 30 minute trek through the jungle which lead to the Rukakuri caves? And while we are there, why not walk through that forest in the pitch black with no-one around (we hope) to see the glowworms??! I was shitting it, what if there was a serial killer or mugger just waiting for us in there… But ultimately it was a spectacular experience.. Once you walk through the jungle and arrive at the swing bridge, you turn your torch off and let the magic commence! There are hundreds of glow worms just lining the trees and the bridge. It was like something out of a Midsummer Night’s Dream! Obviously, I was still scared and insisted we leg it back to our car, fast!

We survived the night, no knocks on our windows from serial killers but inside the sound of beautiful rain battering down on us!! Faaantastic. Luckily the cave trip was still on! Whooo!

The tour is super duper awesome..

First you abseil down into the cave which involves some VERY tight and some very dark passages.

Once your down, you walk further into the cave before you are attached to a zip wire which you speed down, in pitch black darkness, guided only by the light emitted by the glowworms above and around you .. After chilling out there with some hot cocoa and flapjack, the adventure continues as you jump from a height into the bitterly cold black water with a tube held to your butt!

We traipsed, swam, floated, and manouvered our way through the cave, stopping to check out glow worms, little gaps in the walls and take funky photos!! Being a small group, we were lucky to go into areas the other’s couldn’t and venture through little cave ‘nookies’ (I’m sure that’s the technical term) bigger groups wouldn’t!

To top it off, you end the trip by climbing over and up waterfalls. My god, do you feel the force of the water as you search for rocks to grip onto with your hands and your feet! That was definitely our favourite part of the super cool tour.

(Note to campervaners: we also loved the hot showers and soup and bagel they gave us afterwards… Much needed.. Whoop whoop!)

On a high, we made our way back to Rotorua.. After all this good luck, what would we do next??

Nothing! The Tongariro crossing had predictions of gale force winds, rains and potentially snow… Probably a no go then? But ah-ha, rafting would be running the day after tomorrow. Wicked!!

We spent the Saturday excited for the rafting the next day and weren’t even too bothered that our trip to the volcanoes didn’t happen that day! We vegged out in Starbeebs for starters, fulfilled our appetite with a Mexican for main course and sat staring out at Lake Rotorua for desert.

Sods law kicked back in on Sunday though. We were up, dressed in swimwear and psyched for rafting, only to arrive at the raft centre to find a measly A4 printed sign saying that the trip was cancelled due to flooding! AARGGGH!! The sucky part was the fact that it was in fact a gorgeous sunny day.

Determined not to let it get us down, we sped off to the Coromandel peninsula. If nothing else, we would see hot water beach. And that we did. Yeup, we saw the beach, but had missed low tide, the time when you can dig a hole on the beach and it fills up with hot water, which is kind of the reason to go there! .. At least the views were beautiful.

Absolutely stunning views of the coast as we made our way over and around the coast to ‘Thames’.

In true backpacker style, we went to a Thai restaurant where I’m certain she tried to put us on a table which kept us out of the main seating area (so as not to put off the real customers) lol and seeing as we had time we watched ‘The King’s Speech’ in their teeny old school style cinema.. Very good movie fyi. Stupidly at this point we thought to go to a small town to camp for the night, little did we know that all the towns in the area were basically people’s farm land homes!! We drove around for a good couple of hours before giving up and parking in a layby!

The next morning, after our regular morning ritual, we hovered by a payphone and called the rafting people until they confirmed YES, rafting was on today!!

Yaaay, we drove all the way back to Rotorua again hoping a sudden change in weather wouldn’t dampen our plans again!

You’ll be happy to know that at 12.30 that day, we did indeed white water raft and even more exciting, we rafted down a 7m waterfall… amaaazing.. In fact I think I still have whiplash from it! Lol.. That bit was great but have to be honest that the trip overall was, well shit! Rapids didn’t seem to be rapids in the traditional sense and the guys made too many sleazy and pervy comments. We are glad we did it so that we have now experienced a grade 5 river and the waterfall fall but wouldn’t recommend it compared to other rafting trips we’d been on before!

Pleased we’d achieved something but aware that we should shower! Lol… We spent the evening at the Polynesian spa.. It was different to the Franz Josef one as it has 7 pools, is open air and a couple of the pools look out on to the Lake. We went pretty late so it was quiet and I have to say it was magical. Lay back, look at the stars while your body is being treated by 41’c thermal mineral water. Or how about when the rain falls and you can feel the coolness of that against the heat of the pools. Fantastic! Need one of these bad boys back home!

Unfortunately, it was now our last full day in New Zealand. I’d wanted to horseride here at least once but we hadn’t got round to it.. Rishi kindly looked it up and we booked on to do a 1.5hr trek in the farm lands overlooking Lake Okarewka and a volcano name forgotten, doh!).. I hadn’t been on a horse for 10 years since I broke my arm falling off one so I was a little nervous but at the same time keen to get back on..

The horseride was just SUPER, awesome, fantastic.. Can’t explain exactly how amazing it was and good I felt to be riding again. It was just like getting back on a horse! Haha. We cantered up some high hills to peaks over looking the lakes, we rode through fields of sheeps, we trotted back past the paddocks. It was stunning and thrilling. I’m not suggesting everyone may find it as exciting but given that this was a sport I was good at and enjoyed when I was younger but had to stop due to an injury, it felt great to be back and overcoming the fear that had built up over the last 10 years!

I must mention that Rishi did really well too especially as he has only horse-ridden once or twice in his life!

We were soaked by the time we got back to the stables though as rain had released itself on us once again! We thought we’d change our clothes before driving to Auckland… Uh except, I didn’t have the car keys… Uh… Ooo shhhh@*, they had fallen out of my pocket on the ride! Yeup, not funny, seriously I had dropped them.. Could not believe it. Last day! Whyyyy?

We hung out with Lucy, the owner of the farm and the horses, soaking wet, until we were rescued by some locksmiths for a sizeable chunk of cash, not covered by insurance… Rish has taken photos to remind me of my stupidity.. Thanks Rish…

Luckily the rest of the day was uneventful, well apart from the fact that I have potentially been caught on a speed camera (oops!) and we went to a random woman’s house in Auckland so I could have my eyebrows threaded.. Safety first hmm

The final morning, we cleared and packed up the campervan and made our way back from the random town we’d stay at to Auckland… Feeling a little sad that our trip was reaching its final destination, my mind may have been averted or Lord knows what excuse I have for the fact that I had my first car accident! I was braking for some unexpected motorway traffic but just didn’t break hard enough and slowly slid into the car in front. To be fair I was trying to stop car behind me crashing into me and the one’s on the lane next to us slamming into Rish.

Atleast it was the last day, we were unharmed and the car rental company had to deal with it.. Right? And as Rish said, it’s an experience in itself! Lol

We have safely made it to the airport now and are enroute to Fiji. Bring on the sun, sand and sea!

New Zealand, we will meet again.. We’ve loved being here but have some unfinished business… will definitely be back… So until then… X

Loo in Rotorua aka our bathroom! 🙂

Bitter Dissapointment

New zealand so far has been exceptional and would say its up there as one of the best countries we’ve visited (equal to Japan)…soooo much to see and do it’s insane!

However one activity, which has been on my list for years (which I’ve always wanted to do) is swimming with dolphins! And when I heard that Kaikoura is meant to be the best place in the world to do it, I was over the moon.

Apparently when you go out, you will find up to 1000 wild dolphins all together jumping high out of the water with excitement and laughter in and out of the water playfully! A stunning view!

And to top it all off, you can be there in the center of them and have them swimming all around you, passing you, under you, everywhere!

And guess what, it is pretty much the only place in the world where you can swim with this many dolphins. So it was no surprise that others who had done it said it was their best experience in NZ so far. Even Anj, who had swum with dolphins before (though it was with no where near as many) told me how much she loved her experience.

So you can imagine how pumped I was for this!

Well we arrived in Kaikoura at 12.25pm with only the afternoon available for us to do the swim. But unknown to us, the final swim that day left at 12.30 and so we arrived to find it fully booked! But what was worse, it was completely booked for the next two days!

I was gutted! The one thing (apart from the bungee) that I was truly looking forward to the most.

However Anj insisted we put our name down on the waiting list for the next day, hopeful we would maybe clinch some last minute spaces and sacrifice a day elsewhere.

So we did. Low and behold at 5.30pm, as we sat at the Seal Colony watching the seals wake up from their nap, yawn and then jump into the water, we were told we would be on the next day’s 12.30pm Dolphin swimming tour!

Woooohooo! I was over the moon! How amazing! Especially since the next day predicted sunshine ahead. Even our car battery dying didn’t get me down (well done Anj!)!

However since we wanted to catch up on lost time, we woke up the next day after our freedom camp to the beautiful clear skys and sunshine and rushed to the dolphin centre to see if we could even get on the 8.30am swim! But sadly it was not to be. It was still fully booked!

Well at least, we would be on the 12.30pm, I said to myself excited for the trip ahead!

However from clear skies at midday, the thickest fog you’ve ever seen descended over the ocean within just 30 minutes! You could barely see anything!

I was shocked! And as much as we hoped and prayed, the trip was cancelled.

This time I was seriously gutted, I couldn’t believe it! I felt crushed I couldn’t do it here, especially since this is pretty much the only place in the world you can swim with over a hundred wild dolphins! I couldn’t have an experience like that anywhere else!

But we had to leave. There was no more time!

So we left, grudgingly, towards our next destination. Even so some of this bad luck continued. The drive from Kaikoura to Picton is a beautiful Ocean Drive and apparently one of the best in New Zealand, but due to this fog we just couldn’t see it.

However, we had been given a top secret tip to stop at the Ohau walk which is just a few kilometres past Kaikoura. It only takes 10 mins to do, but with every few steps of this pathway you find yourself stopping to admire the extremely playful seal pups in and out of the water. But whatever you do, you have to keep going!

What you find at the end is just pure awesome! There’s a wonderful waterfall, where at the base you find hundreds of pups playing in a small area, jumping high out of the water, playing, even battling each other on the rocks! In fact we saw one pup knock out another and it fell into the water! Don’t worry it was fine, they were just playing 🙂

It’s nothing like I’ve seen before and you definitely won’t find this in any zoo! These are wild seals, yet they come within touching distance of you! This is natural wildlife at it’s best!

It did make us think about how amazing the dolphin experience would have been, but we were lucky to see this, as many have not even heard of it!

So with a sigh, we headed to Picton on our 2 hour journey and arrived on time to watch a beautiful sunset. (Although, we were probably more engrossed in playing cards!) Very nice!

Well tomorrow we leave for the North Island. However, I can’t lie, It feels like the South Island is incomplete.

And normally I feel I’m quite good with handling disappointment, but missing out on the Dolphins was a big blow! I’m still working on getting over it!

But on a positive, I know we’re going to definitely come back to NZ for a longer trip some time in the near future, so I know I’ll see them soon! And being honest I can’t wait! 🙂

See ya next time guys!