New Zealand North Island
15/02/2008 - Antipodes
Day 37 Rafting GPS S38.2640 E175.1258 Alt 85m
Waitomo Holiday Park S38.2593 E175.1105 Alt 96m
We got our camper van! It's very cool, cosy, just room for us to sleep in the back and painted in a variety of colours, see piccies! Headed straight down to Waitomo as we had booked in on the Black Abyss tour that afternoon. With no idea exactly how long it would take us to get there it was more by luck than judgement that we arrived with twenty mins to spare. The Legendary Black Water Rafting Co was hosting our tour and we were soon kitted out in wet suits, extra jackets, shorts (to protect the wet suit?), minging wet-socks, boots and helmet with a light. Suited and booted we were driven ten mins down the road to the cave entrance - a 35m abseil straight down in to the dark depths. We had a quick practice with the equipment on training ropes, and then it was off in to the unknown. Nicky was the first of the group of 8 to descend out of sight, wriggling through the small gap in the rock and then making way in total darkness to the cave floor. Cameron swiftly followed as the others in the group shifted uneasily (especially those whose partners had signed them up for it)! Once everyone was safely down and after a short scramble over some rocks we made it to the flying fox (zip wire) for a 30m journey down (again in total darkness - and turns out later we had been passing over a subterranian river!). Once these two were ticked off, our guides Andy and Jeremy magically produced tea and flapjacks before we continued... a 12ft drop off a ledge in to the river with our rubber ring... no mean feat to hurl yourself off & it was freezing (we realised upon or hard landings). We paddled along in the dark and above us were huge numbers of gloworms, really amazing to see them, just tiny specks of light all over the cave. Eventually we got to shallower water, and we waded along the uneven bottom of many underground streams. We stopped once again, this time for hot juice and chocolate - Superb Idea! With that extra energy on-board we headed for the surface, how you may be asking did we do that?...Simple, we just climbed up 2 freezing waterfalls! An amazing trip which we both really enjoyed, and celebrated with pizza in Waitomo and a few drinks in CURLY'S Bar which was just over the road from our camp site, before settling down to our first night in the van!
Day 38 Zorbing GPS S38.0827 E176.1884 Alt 330m
Thermal Geysers S38.1660 E176.2502 Alt 339m
Rotorua Holiday Park S38.1365 E176.2408 Alt 314m
Alfresco breakfast in the sunshine, and then it was off to Rotorua with Cameron taking the helm of the vengabus today. After a couple of hours drive, nearing Rotorua we spotted a sign for Zorbing, so we didn't need a 2nd invitation. People were rolling down the 200 metre hill in large inflatable plastic balls, with the added bonus of water in with them too! This sounded good to us, so we signed in, got changed and headed up the hill. At the top we were loaded individually in to our balls, they are about 10 foot in diameter on the outside and an internal 5ft capsule in the middle for the person. A couple of inches of (thankfully warm) water was added, the entrance hole sealed up and we were off. Just imagine it being equivalent to being in the drum of a washing machine on a spin cycle, (just like all those daft kittens that climb in and grace local newspapers from time to time looking a little bit fluffy and confused) ; you had no control, were completely soaked and were just along for the bumpy ride to the bottom - Fantastic! Once dried off we continued on into Rotorua itself, and headed for the Geo-Thermal Area. Easy to find :- just follow the horrible smell of rotten eggs! Here a very camp Maori guy led us on a tour of the site passing bubbling mud pools, a couple of active geysers, loads of steam vents coming up from the ground and a nocturnal Kiwi house where a couple of them were scratching around in the dark. We also got to witness a Maori ceremony in their meeting house which involved a lot of singing, chanting and much to Nicky's delight a Maori stick dance similar to the one in the Finchampstead Guide Gangshow of 1988! We decided to cook this evening so off to the local supermarket where we found beef and venison steaks for our BBQ. A very civilised evening, topped off with a few cold beers and bottle of wine.
Day 39 Kennedy Top 10 park S39.5048 E176.8993 Alt 22m
After waking up and opening our van door, we were quickly reminded of where we were as the lovely scent of sulphur filled our nostrils again. Today we travelled to Napier, a city on the East coast famous for its Art Deco style of buildings ; the city was completely flattened by an earthquake in 1931 and rebuilt shortly after with a whole new consistent style. On our way, we stopped off at the Huka waterfalls and watched a raging torrent of water get pushed through an extremely narrow gorge and fall out the other end. We did plan to stop by the lake in Taupo for lunch, but as we arrived the heavens opened and we decided to continue on instead! Arriving at our campsite in Napier we abandoned our trusty van and headed on foot to the city centre where we picked up a walking map of the Art Deco trail, and set off about the town. Some very interesting looking buildings, and a cinema with a giant King Kong sticking out of its roof. Carrying and ice-cream obviously! Just as we finished our tour it began to rain, so we took shelter in a nearby tavern, 2 hours and a few beers later it was still pouring down, and we got a taxi back to camp. We huddled in out steaming up van for another couple of hours in the hope the rain might stop, but eventually gave in and drove to a nearby Indian restaurant for dinner! Still raining by the time we came out, do you know when it stopped? Of course - as soon as we went to bed!
Day 40 Lunchtime picnic Greytown S41.0896 E175.4497 Alt 73m
Hutt park camp site S41.2354 E174.9108 Alt 27m
Top of Cable car S41.2844 E174.7682 Alt 155m
All morning and early afternoon was taken up with a long but scenic drive down to Wellington, frequent stops for photo opportunities and a picnic lunch along the way. The twisty mountain road coming down through the Hutt Valley was especially cool. Our campsite tonight is in Lower Hutt which is a half hour bus ride from downtown Wellington. We jumped on the bus and once in the city headed up the Wellington Cable Car from the top of which we got amazing views of the city and we also found by chance, the Scout Hut of a friend of mine, Warwick. We walked back down to the waterfront through the Botanical Gardens with its cool sculptures and enormous rose garden. The Waterfront itself is full of bars and restaurants, and is a great place to wander around in the evening - it's fairly typical of a harbour/dock regeneration area and is thriving! We were highly amused to spot a cruise liner in port, the SAGA ROSE which we first saw on Easter Island and then again in Tahiti, we feel we are being stalked!! (Cameron's note : in actual fact Nicky was horrified to see this, and kept saying 'I see dead people' and other such really derogatory remarks about seniors. I tried to stop her, I really did, but she has a heck of a prejudice here). Anyway - dinner tonight was a meal in the Hog's Breath Cafe (much nicer than the name leads you to believe!) before catching a bus back to camp.
Day 41 Mt Victoria S41.2965 E174.7938 Alt 330m
Bit of a lie in this morning then we hopped back on the bus to Wellington and booked ourselves on an afternoon tour of the city. An Irish Kiwi called Terry was our driver and guide, and gave us a very amusing trip with anecocdotes about the city, it's people (especially politicians) and its surroundings. Highlights included Parliament buildings, Mount Victoria from where you get a fantastic 360 degree view of the city, several houses perched high on the hillside with their own private cable cars to get them to their front doors, and Jonah Lomu's house when he played for the All Blacks and Wellington Hurricanes rugby teams!! Tour over, we visited the Te Papa, home of the New Zealand Museum. We spent an interesting couple of hours experiencing what it would be like to live though a major earthquake amongst other things (nothing like as bad as the Dudley earthquake in 2003 though!). In the evening we had arranged to meet up with Nicky's mate Warwick from last years World Scout Jamboree, it was great to see him again and to meet his partner Sue. We went out for some food and then 10 pin bowling with them. Which Cameron won! Yay. Top night!
Tomorrow we cross on to the South Island for the next 10 days!!