A Travellerspoint blog

New Zealand

Fjords, Glaciers, Seals and Sales!

From Doubtful Sound to a tearful farewell...

Hi again everyone and hope you're all ready for a bumper update this month as we're flying to Fiji on Sunday and don't know when we'll be online again!!

As previously mentioned, we'd booked an overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound, part of one of the most beautiful Fjordland areas in the world. We were lucky to get this trip, as it was only scheduled due to the boat which runs on the nearby Milford Sound breaking down!

As we crossed Lake Manapouri on our way to Doubtful Sound, the weather was extremely cold with sleet and snow (not unusual for this area - the 2nd wettest in the world by all accounts, getting around 9 metres of rainfall per year!!) and we wondered just how much of the Fjord we would actually get to see! Luckily, the weather improved as we went over the pass towards the Fjord and by the time we alighted our boat, the Fjordland Navigator, it was a calm and moody evening amongst the imposing mountains and deep waters of this ancient area. After exploring the fjord on the tendercraft, we settled in for the night as it began to snow outside.

We were both up and out on the deck by 6am, keen to see the sun rise over mountains as we headed out to the Tasman Sea. The snow had stopped and it was a beautifully clear morning, meaning that the scenery was even more stunning as snow-capped mountains came into view as night turned into day with the rising sun.

We stopped next to some huge rocks on the edge of the ocean to view a seal colony before sailing back along the length of the fjord. Rather than try to describe the scenery, I'll let the pictures speak for themselves...




Having been extremely lucky to get such great weather on this trip, we then headed back up to the Fox Glacier in the hope that we would be equally as lucky 2nd time around here, having had our first attempt to walk the glacier rained off.

Stopping overnight at Arrowtown, we continued north over a somewhat icey and treachurous Haast Pass to arrive in Fox, where we promptly booked the glacier walk for the following morning, having received a favourable weather report.

As predicted, it was a lovely sunny (and very cold) morning as we set off on a half-frozen bus to the base of the Fox Glacier, which was to be reached by foot. The conditions were very icy and we had to tackle some interesting terrain in order to reach our goal, including 800 steps, a steel ladder up a boulder and some extremely narrow paths around cliff-faces (don't let go of the chain or look down!).

It was well worth the effort and potential broken bones once we set foot on the glacier though. Amazing aqua-blue ice surrounded us which was shiny, smooth and had formed into the most wonderful shapes imaginable. A team of diggers had been on the ice at 6am to maintain the steps in the ice which helped us negotiate ridges and visit the center of the glacier where ice caves, tunnels and other amazing sights awaited.




After these two rather expensive excursions, we decided to once again base ourselves in Arrowtown for a week in order to get our finances back in order. Arrowtown is a lovely little place and good for local walks with some great views of The Remarkables mountain range and Lake Hayes.
Speaking of Lake Hayes, we got lucky when we left the lights on the car and went for a 3 hour walk, returning to find poor Sharona's battery as flat as a pancake. No, that's not the lucky bit! 10 mins after making this discovery and a spectacularly unsuccessful push-start, along came a lovely Kiwi couple in a big 4x4 with a tow bar and rope which were used to great effect to give Sharona a 'pull-start'! We said 'thank you very much' with Roses by leaving a box under their windscreen wipers as they walked the lake!

We then decided to cross the south island to visit Dunedin, a town with heavy Scottish influence in the south-east of the island.

The number one attraction here was, of course, the Cadbury Factory Tour, where we gained an interesting insight into the processes involved in making our favourite brands, as well as a few local specialities, in addition to lots of free goodies which always goes down well!

With no time to waste, we then drove further north along the east coast in order to get to Christchurch for the weekend, where we had tickets to watch the famous All Blacks play Italy, courtesy of Natasha for Richard's birthday!

Along the way, we stopped at the Moeraki Boulders - huge spherical rocks formed on the beach by time, pressure and local geology. They were once part of the cliff face which has now eroded some distance from these impressive stones.


Arriving in Christchurch on an extremely cold but mercifully dry evening, we walked from our hostel down to the Westpac Stadium in excited anticipation of seeing the All Blacks and their famous 'haka'.
We had some great seats behind the posts for the game as our thermals and hot coffee kept us warm inside and out!
The Italians looked a little concerned after watching the 'haka' (their anxious faces illuminated on the giant video screen for the gloating Kiwis to mock) and as soon as the All Blacks scored a try, they never looked like they believed they could get into the game.
New Zealand ran out comfortable 27-6 victors, much to the delight of the majority of the crowd.


After this great experience, we headed north again - this time to the small town of Kaikoura, well-known in these parts for whale, seal and dolphin watching.
We explored the area on foot for a few days before getting a top tip from the manager of the hostel about a lesser-known waterfall and pool which serve as a nursery for baby seals when the ocean gets too rough.

This really was a special place, rarely do you see so many baby seals together in one place and they're extremely interested in people without being aggressive or territorial like their adult counterparts.
Take a look at this photo to see what we mean!



Look closely at the photo above, how many baby seals can you spot in the water?! It was packed!

Also while in Kaikoura, we had a New Zealand mid-winter Christmas Day (hey why not?!) and also sold the mighty Sharona the Corona!


Having been given a top tip about a website to advertise the car on, we had around 10 people lined up in Christchurch to view here. As luck would have it, a family drove to Kaikoura and offered us $1000 which we gladly accepted, having paid $1400 for her 3 months ago.
We were however sad to see Sharona drive off with her new owner, as she was a great little car to share our adventures with!

With the Fiji fund now looking healthy, we caught the trans-coastal express train down to Christchurch, passing some lovely scenery without having to keep an eye out for those crazy Kiwi drivers!

Which brings us up to present day. We've been relaxing in Christchurch for the last week or so, taking in the local sights. It's a lovely city - the cathedral, arts centre, art gallery, botanical gardens and Rivon Avon are all lovely.
We caught an excellent improvised comedy night at the Court Theatre called 'Scared Scriptless', which was loosely based on the TV show 'Whose Line is it Anyway'. It was so good that we plan to go again this weekend!




All we need to do now is fit everything back into our rucksacks and we're ready for the sun, sea and sand of Fiji!

We're missing you all and hope to hear from you soon. Keep in touch!

Posted by rioandlucy 19:28 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Crossing the North South Divide

Taupo to Queenstown and everywhere in between

Hi again everyone, sorry it’s been a while since we last wrote, but hopefully you’ve had chance to look at the pictures? Anyway, here's another update for your reading pleasure!

Since our last exciting instalment, we've had a mixture of very energetic and very lazy days to go with the very mixed weather we've been having! Have you ever heard the song '4 seasons in one day’? It’s pretty apt here - the weather can be very changeable, especially when you're walking up mountains which are 3,000 feet above sea level!

On May 20th, we attempted to walk the Tongariro Crossing, one of New Zealand’s most famous walk past huge mountains and active volcanoes with breath-taking views to boot. Sadly, having rose at 6am and got all geared up to go, the road to the crossing was closed by snow.

Not to be deterred, our very helpful hostel owner showed us a walk we could do which afforded equally as spectacular scenery without the danger of being caught in dangerous blizzard conditions should the weather worsen.

So we walked past the Taranaki Falls in brilliant early morning sunshine on our way in-between Mt Ruapehu (2797m) and Mt Ngauraho (2287m), the latter used for the infamous Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Our aim was to reach the Tama Lakes by 1pm, in order to give us time to eat lunch and get back to the car before dusk approached. With snow partially obscuring the markers and ice everywhere, this wasn’t somewhere you wanted to be walking around in the dark!


We reached the Lakes on time, sitting to admire their strange green colour while eating lunch. We began to notice clouds approaching on the horizon and so decided to make haste back down the mountain – we’d taken more than enough photos while the visibility was good in the morning.


Around an hour away from the car, the clouds confirmed our suspicions with heavy snow and a real drop in temperature, at this point we were especially glad for our merino wool thermals and waterproofs! Our party of 7 all got back to our cars looking like snowmen but everyone agreed it had been a fantastic walk and well worth the sore feet!

After a well earned rest we drove north to Taupo, after finally summoning up a small amount of energy to explore we were advised that the Huka Falls were quite a spectacle to behold.

We walked through an attractive park, the trees in all their autumnal glory and the river below steaming where a geothermal pool joined its cool waters. Following the river along, we heard the falls long before we saw them. The falls are long and narrow with only a 10 metre drop, but the volume of water passing through is equivalent to 400 tonnes per second!! The sight and sound of such power is truly awe-inspiring.

We spend a couple of days relaxing in Taupo before venturing south east to Napier, famous for its art-deco architecture. Following a devastating earthquake in 1931 – the largest in New Zealand’s recorded history the city had to be rebuilt. Unfortunately we only see rain clouds here so move on quickly to Wellington in search of drier weather.

After looking at the dire hostel reviews for Wellington we decide to stay outside of the city in the coastal town of Plimmerton just 20kms up the road. On arriving at the Moana Lodge we’re happy with our decision, it’s one of the nicest places we’ve stayed, with just about everything you could want for, they even baked a birthday cake for Richard!!

We had fun exploring the area, just outside Wellington there is a seal winter ‘Haul out’ where the males come out of the sea to re-condition over the winter months, generally feeding and lazing on the rocks all day!

While in Wellington, we dragged ourselves out of bed at the crazy hour of 5am to drive into town to watch the Champions League final between Manchester United and Barcelona in an Irish bar. Unfortunately, the game didn’t quite go to plan and United lost 2-0. That’s all Richard can bear to type about that!

On June 3rd we bid a fond farewell to the north island and caught the Wellington to Picton ferry. It was a lovely sunny day, so despite the biting wind we sat on the front deck and admired the gorgeous scenery as it unfolded in front of us – clear blue water, lush forests lining hills with sprinklings of cloud at their peak, dramatic sweeping coastlines with islands liberally dotted around and inviting little bays with sail-boats moored up and tiny boardwalks. A wonderful introduction to the south island, which we’d been told was even prettier than the north and we were starting to believe it.


The following day we took a 6 hour walk over the Queen Charlotte Sound to further linger on the sights we’d enjoyed on the ferry. Again we were lucky with the weather and took some great photos.


We then decided that we’d like to travel south to try and walk the Fox Glacier and enjoy an overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound, both activities potentially requiring us to wait until the weather permitted us to enjoy them, as the west of the south island is notorious for its wet weather.

We spent a couple of days in Nelson, where we sampled a Kiwi Saturday morning food market and also visited the geographical centre of New Zealand!

Travelling south again, we stayed overnight in Greymouth before heading to the Franz Josef/Fox Glaciers area to enquire about walking up one of them. Unfortunately, the forecast for the whole of the next week was rain and more rain, so we stayed overnight before heading down towards Queenstown on the Haast Pass, one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring drives we’ve ever experienced.

We’re currently staying just outside Queenstown in Arrowtown, which is an old gold mining town and has a wonderfully preserved high street from its former prospecting days. We decided against panning in the river, it looked a little too cold!! The town also has a fascinating restored Chinese settlement where we explored the old storehouse and tiny dwellings made form old tin sheets and built into cliff faces.


Queenstown itself is a little commercialised, geared towards party-goers and thrill seekers but nonetheless is beautifully situated on Lake Wakatipu and overlooked by the imposing and magnificently snow-capped Remarkables mountain range. It has the feeling of a small alpine ski resort, rather than a town in New Zealand.

Tomorrow we drive to Manapouri, where we will stay prior to our over-night cruise on Doubtful Sound, one of the most remote and beautiful fjords in the country. We’re crossing everything for good weather, though we have heard it’s still a striking place in poor weather.

As always we hope to hear from you soon, take care of yourselves

Richard and Lucy

Posted by rioandlucy 20:36 Archived in New Zealand Comments (2)

Geysers, glow-worms and great walks!

Rotorua, Waitomo and New Plymouth

Hi there everyone, we hope you're okay and that life in the UK is treating you well. Have you remembered to get your expenses claims in on time like those loveable MPs who 'run' our country?!

Anyway, we've been a busy pair of bees here in New Zealand, so we're sending you this update from coastal New Plymouth on a damp Monday afternoon.
We're now sipping mochas on comfy sofas while using the wifi in a coffee shop to send you this - it's a hard life!

Since our last update, we left Hamilton and drove south to the geo-thermal area that surrounds the touristy town of Roturua - the smell of rotten eggs greeting us as we found our accommodation and decided what to see in the district.
Interestingly, the area sits on a volcanic fault-line that stretches all the way to the alps - once there was an eruption in the area that wasn't recorded by New Zealanders, as nobody lived here at the time, but it was recorded in Rome and China due to the huge dust clouds that could be seen!
Luckily, nothing quite so dramatic happened while we were there.

We did however visit Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, we saw a mini-explosion in the form to the Lady Knox geyser, which erupts with the help of a few soap flakes poured into the top every morning at 10.15am. It's a real sight to behold, first it foams at the mouth then the water really starts to jet out reaching a good 10 metres high!! we stayed down wind and dry thankfully!!
After the excitement we drove back to the park itself to take in the sights and smells that were on offer! As we drove through the bush we could see steam rising around us, it was a cooler morning which made it seem all the more dramatic! We saw so many different brightly coloured pools and heard the hubble-bubble of the mud pools, the Champagne pool was probably the most dramatic with its boiling turquoise waters surrounded by a bright orange encrusted rim steaming in the sun! The finale was the devils pool set in a white ash crater, where even the surrounding trees have been bleached by the fluorescent green waters. We visited the boiling mud pools on the outer road and giggle at the spurting pools and the noises that we're treated to!

The following day we visited Whakarewarewa, a Maori settlement set in some highly active land, we took a guided tour by Paola a former resident whose family still live in the village and where he still enjoys his early morning al fresco bathe in the hot waters. We also got to see a cultural performance which included some really beautiful songs and of course the Haka! It is extremely intimidating when seen up close, you can really understand why the Maori people would use it as a way of discouraging the enemy from battle!

Leaving Rotorua and it's lovely aroma behind us we drove to Waitomo to get a glimpse of the wonderful caves in this area and their curious inhabitants - the Glow Worms, known to most of us as maggots!
Our hostel was a couple of wooden cabins set on the top of a hill, we enjoyed fabulously clear nights and saw so many stars due to the remoteness and lack of any light pollution.

We drove out to see the Mangapohue Natural Bridge, accessible via a boardwalk through a tropical gorge. The bridge is actually an old cave which has gradually eroded over time, leaving a stunning archway which you can walk over and watch the river flow through below.


Passing through the bridge, we came across a field with large rock formations which held fossils of giant oysters (the size of dinner plates) from when the whole area was actually a sea-bed, around 30 million years ago!
With the afternoon light fading, we jumped back in Sherona and nipped down to the Marokopa Falls, widely regarded as one of the most stunning falls in the country with a multi-tiered fall where waters cascade 30 metres down before thundering into a large pool below - the lush vegetation around these falls shake and sway as the spray from the falls throws them around.


The next morning we departed early to join our tour guide Norm to begin our 'Spellbound' glow-worm and cave tour in Waitomo.
After being bounced about in the back of our minibus along rugged countryside and rolling hills into a farmers field, we descended a cliff on foot to arrive at the entrance to the first cave to be explored.
Jumping in a large dinghy, all lights were turned off so that we could experience total darkness and our night vision could kick in, meaning that the glow-worms would be much more visible to the naked eye.
We slowly floated through the underground cave, silently gliding along - the drips from overhead the only sound as the glow from above became brighter until it seemed we were staring at a starry night sky.


The second cave we visited on foot, walking through as sections were beautifully lit by Norm as he talked us through the geology and history of the caves. We arrived in one particularly dark area where the lights were then turned on to reveal a huge cavern called the 'Cathedral', where the ceiling displayed huge stalactites high above our heads and the echo was a fitting tribute to the cavern's name!


After visiting the local museum of caves we drove out to see the Ruakuri Natural Tunnel, this track and canopy boardwalk takes you on a fantastic bushwalk through some spectacular short tunnels, eventually leading to an impressive and huge cave where the Waitomo Stream appears to gain momentum as it thunders through beneath your feet.

Having exhausted all the attractions in Waitomo, we headed south-west to the city of New Plymouth, situated on the coast and next to the imposing (or so we've been told when the weather is clear!) Mount Taranaki!
We attempted one of the many walks around the mountain this morning, but were put off by the torrential rain and warnings that the little streams on the maps might now be raging torrents but 'probably passable'! Okaaaaay.

Yesterday we walked around the lovely Pukekura Park near our hostel, which even has a well-kept petting zoo including monkeys, tropical birds, alpacas, lemurs and of course a glum-faced donkey!
Wandering onto the waterfront, we watched waves crashing in while taking a look at the 'Wind Wand', a huge work of art by Len Lye which is essentially a ball on the end of huge stick which bends to the wind as it roars in off the Tasman Sea.

We're moving on to Lake Taupo and hoping to do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing this week, weather-permitting of course!

Take care for now and hope to hear from you all soon!

Lucy and Richard

PS Better late than never, here are the videos from our sand-sledging adventures up at 90 Mile Beach for your viewing pleasure!

Posted by rioandlucy 20:38 Archived in New Zealand Comments (3)

From Endless Rain to Endless Summer

Bay of Islands, 90 Mile Beach and Hokianga

Hi again everyone, hope you're all well. Here's our latest update from the north island of New Zealand!

After leaving Whangarei, we headed north hoping to see some marine life. However, when we were in Paihia in the Bay of Islands, you'll no doubt be happy to hear after all our boasting of glorious sunshine in California, it did nothing but rain and so we missed the best of the area, which was a shame as it would have been nice to snorkle or take a boat-trip but nevermind.

After that the sun came out again as we continued north to the bottom of 90 Mile Beach, staying in a tiny village called Ahipara, just west of Kaitaia. We went to the Endless Summer Backpackers intending on staying for a night and ended up there for 6 days!
The place was gorgeous - right on the sea front, decked out in Kauri wood from top to bottom, big rooms, massive beds (from ours you could lay back and watch/listen to the Tasman Sea rolling onto the sandy beach across the village's only road) and lovely friendly Kiwi hosts.

They lent us some free sledges which we took to the Te Paki dunes, just next to Cape Reinga.
We didn't fancy taking Sherona the 1991 Corona over the 25 miles of incredibly bumpy unsealed road that led to the top of the Cape, so we pulled off early and spent 4 blissful hours cimbing up and zooming down the dunes, which were good and firm after some rain the day before and so were perfect for sledging down.
We'll show you the videos we took when we get back! Unfortunately, the incredible car-crash tv footage of Richard wiping out on the biggest dune of the lot was mysteriously 'lost' shortly after filming!

In the evening at the hostel, we would stroll onto the beach to watch the sun go down or sit on the porch with a coffee and do the same - it was idyllic! We realised that we might never leave after the 6th day there and so bid a fond farewell to it before heading south again.

We caught the cute 24 car ferry across the still waters of the Hokianga Harbour to Omapere, which is beautifully placed across from the Bay of Islands on the west coast - it was a good base to visit the giant Kauri trees in the Waipuoa Forest, and had a stunning coastline where we sat watching the waves crash in from the head of the bay while the sun set over the ocean horizon.

We then stopped overnight in Mangawhei arriving in Hamilton yesterday, which is a small city about 125km south Of Auckland. We've decided to really need to start heading south if we going to see the best of the rest of the north island before getting the ferry over to the south island in a couple of weeks time.

Anyway, we've both decided to become bums and travel the world until we're too old and need to come home for the free healthcare, assuming it's still around. Hope this is okay!!

Love to all as always.

Lucy and Richard.


Posted by rioandlucy 16:38 Archived in New Zealand Comments (4)

Arriving in Auckland and exploring Northland

Jet lag recovery and discovering the north island.

We arrived in Auckland at 6am after a sleepless 14 hour flight during which we somehow missed Monday altogether and lept straight from Sunday to Tuesday!
We then somehow managed to stay awake for the whole day (in order to get onto local time), doing a very good impression of the living dead until we finally crashed out at 8pm!
Our first week in Auckland was spent getting over the jet lag and attempting to formulate a plan for the next 3 months in New Zealand!
On Saturday 18th we made the bold move of buying a 1991 Toyota Corona from a couple of backpackers who were leaving the island - we're hoping it will do another trip around the country for us! Renting and insuring cars is really expensive and so it's a gamble worth taking! Check out 'Sharona the Corona' in all her glory below!
On a rainy Monday we left Auckland and travelled North along the scenic and lush east coast to Whangarei.
On Tuesday we walked along the river flowing from the Whangarei Falls to a state park with a treetop canopy walkway, finding some huge Kauri trees (it seems that big trees have been a main feature of our travels so far!) and great views along the way.
Yesterday we drove out to the Whangarei Heads, electing to climb the imposing Manaia mount. This was no mean feat, taking 2 hours to ascend through thick forest and undergrowth to reach the rock formations at the summit which are steeped in Maori history and legend!
It was well worth the effort, the summit offering amazing panoramic views of gorgeous sweeping coastlines and pretty harbours in the Whangarei area.
Take a look at the photos below and the gallery to get a feel for these excursions!
We're planning on heading north again in the next few days to visit the popular and scenic Bay of Islands, before heading to the tip of the north island to see the 90 Mile Beach!
Let's hope it's sunny!
Take care everyone, missing you all (but not the weather!)
Richard and Lucy.

Posted by rioandlucy 18:45 Archived in New Zealand Comments (3)

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