A Travellerspoint blog

May 2015

Taupo, New Zealand

Volcanic beauty

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Technically the next day was a 'travel day', but we made the most of the stunning scenery by calling in at Lake Taupo and Orakei Korako on the way.

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The weather was gorgeous, as hot as any summers day in the UK, and typically when this happens Jason starts to crave golf. There was a driving range area at Lake Taupo where if you got a hole in one you won $10000... but unfortunately he didn't win despite hitting the float a few times. I think he enjoyed having a golf club in his hands again and I'm pretty sure this won't be the last I hear of playing golf in New Zealand (especially as you pass a course every few kilometres).

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We drove up to Huka Falls to view the waterfall there... spectacular! 220,000 litres of water flow through it every minute. The water is crystal clear and bubbling in the sunlight. If we had more time I would have liked to take the Waikato riverside walk all the way from Taupo town to the falls, instead we walked a small section of it and stopped for a picnic along the way.

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On the way back we managed to see one of the jet boats that speed up the river to view the falls. This would be something I'd like to do at some point... maybe Queenstown (we'll see if we have enough pennies?!)

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The land between Taupo and Rotorua is bubbling with volcanic activity and we were informed that Orakei Korako is the best place to see the silica terraces, geysers and sulphur mud pools in New Zealand. As you park your car you're met with a beautiful view of Orakei Lake and the steaming terraces.

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You catch a short boat across the lake and then you're left to explore the area via a well preserved walkway. When I asked if it was possible to dip in the hot pools I was virtually laughed out of the visitor centre... "DO NOT STRAY FROM THE PATH, IT'S EXTREMELY DANGEROUS!" Hhhmmm, I now see why, the temperatures reach boiling.

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We were lucky and caught one of the geysers erupting with hot water and firing it into the air.

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Dad did not take to the sulphur eggy smell and needed a minute to take in the views of the lake instead.

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Next stop... Rotorua.

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Posted by bloorsontour 22:43 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Napier, New Zealand

Mum in the drink

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It was a shame to leave Green Olives Cottage as there's plenty to do in the area and it would have been nice to see out the bad weather and enjoy it in the sunshine. We were on a tight schedule and needed to drive to Napier on the East coast.

The drive itself was beautiful again (all the landscapes seem to be impressive in New Zealand). We followed the Manawatu gorge road and stopped for a cafe break at The Bridge where I enjoyed a date and lemonade scone in their beautiful cafe (I'm hoping to go back there and try more of their menu when we visit a friend in a couple of weeks time). Again, it was a bummer it was raining because they had a lovely garden.

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More driving... but it wasn't long before we reached the wine region of Hawkes Bay and mum NEEDED a stop. Ash Ridge was the first of many wineries we'd be visiting and my parents needed holding back from buying a bottle of everything they had to offer... "We're on holiday!" was their reply. I think their pinot gris was our favourite.

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We quickly checked into our holiday park and went to see what Napier had to offer. It's known for its Art Deco buildings that were re-built in that style following a devastating earthquake. The high streets' really nice because most of the shops sit below beautiful Art Deco architecture. We filled a couple of hours walking around and stopping by the beach for some more 'jump mid photo' poses before enjoying a curry at a nice restaurant (although mine was 'blow ya head off' hot).

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Our evening consisted of playing card games. We taught my parents how to play S**t Head, which they ended up enjoying, but mum insisted that she couldn't call the loser a S**t Head so instead it became Muffin Head... I'm not sure which is worse?!

I, unfortunately, was designated driver for the day in Hawkes Bay wine region... Boo! It was too early for wine tasting... Yes, even dad agreed that 9am was too early for alcohol... so we drove up to a viewing spot at Te Mata peak. You can do a nice walk midway to the top, but as it was raining we took Graham all the way up instead and enjoyed a good brew and piece of cake in the car (mum loves it when it's raining outside but she's cosied in with a cuppa). I'm not sure the photographs do it justice, but even with the rain the views were stunning.

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It still wasn't an acceptable time for wine tasting so instead we went to a honey producer. It was actually surprisingly interesting and we got to try a lot of honey at the end of the tour. We purchased some manuka honey and a honey baby soap for Evelyn's first birthday back in the UK... I hope she liked it?

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OK...now it was wine tasting! First stop was Te Mata winery. All of the tastings we did in Hawkes Bay were free and consisted of between 3-7 wines... some very liberally poured. From this vineyard mum and dad treated me to a bottle of viognier (one of my favs... I'll look forward to enjoying it on a chilly night in the van, thank you).

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Next stop was Brookfields Estate. We'd arrived at the perfect time. Dad was asked what his perfect wine would be and he replied "a full bodied red".....perfect! There was a bottle on the table with no label on it and we all tried it and absolutely loved it. The man then took us behind the back and explained that this malbec wine had only just been bottled and was awaiting labeling, we were only the 4th group of people to try it. Mum got a chance to pick her bottle from the store and put her own label on it... I'm not quite sure it's on straight mum!? We caught the eccentric owner pinching a glass of the malbec to have with his lunch... If it's good enough for him, it's good enough for us.

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There came a break in the wine tasting and we needed some lunch... Oooops, it only happened to be at a cider producers orchard. Wine tasting turned into cider tasting. Dad and Jason shared a tasting set and we all enjoyed a meat & cheese platter for lunch.

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After lunch the wine tasting continued and we visited a couple more wineries...

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By the end of the day I was really looking forward to enjoying a glass of wine with my evening meal. We were hanging around waiting for a takeaway restaurant to open so that we could grab a quick meal to enjoy back at the holiday cabin. Mum, dad and Jason decided to get some fresh air and go for a quick walk on the beach while I waited in the car for the restaurant to open. I'm gutted I stayed in the van because I think I missed the funniest moment of the whole holiday!!! There was a tap on my van window and there was mum, stood motionless with a frown on her face, in soaking wet clothes and no shoes on..."what on earth had happened?!" Behind her, 20 metres down the street, was Jason and my dad in fits of giggles, uncontrollably laughing. Mum had fallen in the sea! She'd had to walk through Napier town centre with wet clothes on and a squelch in her feet. Even now (I'm writing this a few weeks after the event) Jason bursts out laughing at the thought of mum lolling about in the sea in all of her clothes. I think we all saw the funny side... although mum did break her camera. Too much wine mum?

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The evening continued to be one of amusement everytime Jason or my dad looked at mum. We played muffin head, drank some wine and had an early night ready to make the Farmers Market in the morning. Even though I was the chauffeur I'd had another lovely day with everyone.

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Posted by bloorsontour 22:16 Archived in New Zealand Comments (2)

Wellington, New Zealand

Jump...losing your spring with age

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It worked out that mum and dad had about 10 days total in New Zealand and we therefore decided to get the longest leg of the driving out of the way (Auckland to Wellington) on the first day; giving mum and dad an opportunity to catch up on some sleep in the car.

The journey took about 10 hours... Yes, it was a VERY long day! We stopped off for a picnic lunch to break the travel up a little bit...

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We also took a slight detour around a scenic driving route to make the journey a little more interesting. The Whanganuni River Road winds its way through beautiful forested hills and small iwi villages where we took advantage of the lookout opportunities dotted along the road.

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It gave mum and dad a chance to master the 'jump mid photo' pose...haha! Apparently you lose your spring as you get older.

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Finally, after a heck of a long drive we arrived at our beautiful accommodation, Green Olive Cottage. It's surrounded by olive trees and loads of other fruit trees, which if they were ready for picking you could take whatever you wanted (we managed to get passion fruits and fejoas). There was also a natural pond in the garden that you could swim in but unfortunately the weather was awful when we were there, plus I don't think we'd have had time anyway. We arrived at nighttime and the boys got straight on with a BBQ, which we enjoyed with a bottle of bubbly and even a bottle of wine...we were in holiday mode after all.

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The weather couldn't have been any worse, torrential rain! Luckily we were planning on visiting Wellington's museum anyway; Te Papa is free and has some amazing modern and interactive exhibitions about New Zealand.

My favourite part was the colossal squid. It had been donated to New Zealand by the Antarctic fisherman that had caught it by mistake when it was trying to eat a tuna that was being pulled in. They are incredibly rare to see because they survive in the deepest blue waters, so once it had reached the surface it was unable to survive. It was donated to the research teams and then preserved in jelly in the museum so that everyone can see it.

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There was an interesting Maori exhibition where I particularly enjoyed learning about the haka I now understand the history and meaning behind the warrior dance that you see the All Black rugby team display before a match. Also, the importance of Maori tattooing, living arrangements and the Treaty of Waitangi. You really need to spend a couple of days there to see everything.

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Not to let the weather put us off we went for a walk around the city centre and called in for a spot of lunch at a nice cafe. Then took the cable car to the top of the botanical gardens, where on a clear day you have spectacular views of Wellington and its bay (as you can see, we only managed to get a view of heavy cloud and rain... nevermind). We walked around the botanical gardens, which mum seemed to love as she took photographs at every opportunity.

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There was time for one last look around the museum before we left Wellington to cosy in at Green Olive Cottage for the evening. We had a chilled evening, taking advantage of being in a proper house with snuggly sofas and of course... a bath! Bliss! It's nice to spend time with mum and dad, just chatting about the 'goings on' at home and what everyone is up to.

Posted by bloorsontour 04:10 Archived in New Zealand Comments (2)

Auckland 2, New Zealand

The Parents' Arrival

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I woke up VERY excited!!! Luckily my parents' flight was on time and and they got the biggest hugs of their lives when we saw them in the arrivals lounge. I'd not seen them for 6 months and I'd been mega excited to have these next two weeks with them. Bless them, they were both so tired after their long flights over to New Zealand from the UK but really keen to make the most of their first day here. Eek, I think I wore the biggest smile on my face for the whole first day of their trip!

Graham sat waiting on the airport carpark for my parents. He was as clean as he was ever going to be at 20 years old and we just hoped that mum and dad would like him. Luckily I think he exceeded my parents expectations and started first time.

Mum had been great and organised all of the next 10 days accommodation in advance. For our first night we were staying in a holiday park in Auckland; we were in the van and they were sleeping in a cabin. Dad and Jason got straight on with the celebrating and enjoyed a beer in the sunshine whilst we waited for their cabin to be cleaned. I thought the place was really cute and Jason was over the moon with all of the freebies he could get his hands on there; He racked up teabags, coconut cream, lemon juice, ginger, porridge oats, ketchup, spices... and probably much more.

I'd got a little pile of post delivered to me, courtesy of mum and dad, and it felt like my birthday had been extended. It was now time to celebrate it with loved ones. Thank you to everyone who sent a card/present for me, unfortunately Jason wouldn't let me decorate our van with all of the cards...

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Mum and dad had a quick freshen up and then they said they were raring to go. We went to Mount Eden in Auckland, which is one of the city's volcanoes, and had a short stroll up to the top. We soaked up the views of Auckland and enjoyed the autumn sunshine.

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We then headed into Auckland centre to visit the Toi o Tāmaki art museum. It's quite a nice museum, lots of modern art and historic Maori culture, but it was a very sedate activity to be doing with two people with jet lag.

Instead we went for a walk around Auckland city, did a little bit of retail therapy (Mum needed flip flops because it was hotter than she'd expected) and stopped for an ice-cream by the harbour front.

I thought Mum and Dad had done well to stay up for as long as they had and made the most of their first day in Auckland, but they were well and truly ready for bed... snoring in the back of Graham on the way home. The only thing that woke them up was the prospect of calling at a fish and chip shop for supper. An early night was in order as we had a long drive to Wellington the next day.

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Posted by bloorsontour 03:54 Archived in New Zealand Comments (3)

Mount Manganui, New Zealand

Catching up with Dan

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I used to live with Dan at university and since I'd last seen him he has lived in Canada, where he spent his days snowboarding, and now lives in New Zealand, spending his days surfing. We'd got a couple of days free before my parents arrived and it was the perfect chance to catch up with him and his girlfriend Freya.

The drive from Auckland to Mount Manganui was beautiful. There's lots of fruit orchards, growing anything from kiwi fruits to avacados, plus plenty of wineries en route. Graham (our van and home) made his way through stunning riverside scenery and breathtaking coastal roads on our first trip out in him.

Mount Manganui towers above its flat seaside town when you drive into it. The area feels very expensive and I likened it to being in a scene from Desperate Housewives. The roads are pristine, everybody's lawn is well groomed, people seem to have plenty of time to sit in coffee shops and all the drives are filled with expensive cars.

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Dan greeted us into his lovely home; a beautiful beach front flat that he shares with his girlfriend and two other housemates. We were looking forward to spending our first night in Graham but couldn't refuse the offer of an actual bed... I'm sure we've got plenty of time to be sleeping in Graham over the next three months. It was just like old times; whisked away to 7 years ago at university when Dan was definitely the house joker (I'm not sure I can write what practical jokes he used to play on us girls on this blog page) and we spent plenty of time chatting about what each of us had been up to since then.

On our first afternoon there Dan showed us around Mount Manganui town (which included a burrito stop... delicious) and also an evening stroll around the mount at sunset. Me and Jason let Dan get on with his work for a few hours and we enjoyed a couple of hours on the beach sunbathing and playing bat and ball. I could see why rich Aucklanders come and spend their holidays here.

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We enjoyed a morning strollstroll around the lower part of the mount at sunset.

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It seems that the locals' active life revolves around the mount. The next day Dan took us on a morning walk up to the top where we were overtaken by loads of people doing their morning exercise routines. The sun was out and you could see for miles, a perfect wake up call.

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Dan had some work to be doing and me and J had a few things to sort out for the van, so spent our day separately. We bought some essentials for our road trip, including tea towels, fleece blankets, a frying pan and food supplies. We had a little time to spare so visited a local waterfall and swimming spot called Kaiate Falls, which was pretty but too cold for me to swim in. It didn't put off some of the local lads from back flipping into the refreshing pool though.

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Our day was finished off with a steak tea and some red wine, which Jason rustled up as a thank you to Dan and Freya for hosting. And then a really good night out with one of Dan's housemates, Ian, to a jazz DJ set at a local bar where we had a boogie after some complimentary drinks from Ian (as he used to work there).

We thought it best to make our way nearer to Auckland rather than stay with Dan so that we knew we were only a short drive away from the airport in the morning. Can you imagine my mum and dad's faces if we dare be late to collect them from the airport after a +24 hour journey to reach us?! I wasn't about to risk it. We left Dan and Freya (but not before Jason got some free avacados from the Farmer's Market) and spent the night at a beautiful free campsite next to the sea. I have to say, I LOVED spending the night in Graham; cooking our evening meal on our portable stove, watching the stars through the moon roof in our car as I fell to sleep and then waking up to sunrise over the sea...perfect! Let's hope the novelty of sleeping in a van doesn't wear off.

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Posted by bloorsontour 01:04 Archived in New Zealand Comments (3)

Auckland, New Zealand

Finding a home

We've moved from country to country a lot over the last 10 months, but I found the arrival into New Zealand from Indonesia the strangest. It felt like a VERY long way from home (which it is), but weirdly it also felt like home. There were pavements, rain showers, cool breezes and cars stopped for us at zebra crossings. Where had the pollution, crazy scooter drivers and humidity gone?!

We had 6 days to buy a van in Auckland before my Mum and Dad arrived for their two week holiday. We'd told them "No problem, we'll buy a van and chauffer you around New Zealand in that"...it turned out to be a little more stressful than anticipated. Lots of vans were for sale, but unfortunately for us most of them had been converted into full sleepers and had no passenger seats in the back of them anymore. Jason spent hours scouring the internet, local hostels and public notice boards to try and find a van. We also went into rental places to see about hiring a car or van for 2 weeks while my parents were visiting, but "no", they were all fully booked for the Easter holiday. Now for anyone who knows Jason, he is usually very laid back and stress free... so to witness signs of worry and apprehension was very uneasy to see! I was actually the one staying calm for once. We were sat in an internet cafe researching vans, when two Israeli boys came in to put up a 'for sale' poster on the notice board...you guessed it...it was for the perfect van!

We viewed the van and both knew that it was the right one for us. Unfortunately there was a small hurdle to overcome before we could purchase it. There was a chip in the windscreen that needed replacing in 2 days time, but that was fine because the Israeli boys were going to get that sorted through their insurance. The main issue was that the garage doing the windscreen didn't have time to do the WOF assessment (WOF is a sort of MOT that all cars have to have every 6 months in NZ). We didn't feel it was a good idea to buy the van unless we knew the WOF had been done. I gather the Israeli boys had a very stressful day ringing around Auckland garages to find somebody to do the WOF ASAP; we'd told them that we needed the car the next day because of my parents arrival and the fact that it was the Easter Weekend and no post offices were open to do the vehicle registration conversion. Time was running out!

We signed all the paperwork for the car, a Toyota Lucina 'luxury' 1996, and Jason named him Graham.

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Apart from van research, viewing vans and buying a van, we didn't do a lot else in Auckland. We were staying in a really nice hostel in a suburb called Ponsonby, just in a dorm room because that was all we could afford. The price difference between New Zealand and Asia was stark... we were no longer arguing over pence but more £££. There were some really nice shops, restaurants and bars. The main street reminded me of my university days on Ecclesall Road in Sheffield. We walked around Auckland centre and along the harbour front. I wasn't much of a fan of the main shopping centre but the posh part around the wharf was lovely (although everything was out of our budget).

By the time we'd sorted the van we had three nights free before Mum and Dad arrived... what to do?!

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Posted by bloorsontour 00:28 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

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