November 20th, 2007:

Over the hills and far away

Today we find ourselves in the sleepy town of Greymouth and the plan is for a nice relaxing night in.  It’s been a hectic few days so I’ll try to recap what we’ve gotten up to.

As mentioned below we went to the Waitapu Thermal Village where we got to see all sorts of different volcanic activity – from a geyser that shot water 50 feet into the air to boiling pools of water and bubbling hot mud.  It has to be said that the place stank somewhat – the sulfurous gases made the entire place smell of rotten eggs.  Good news is that the wind has stopped.

From Taupo we headed south into the town of Palmerston North – mostly just a stop off on the route south but the town was nice enough with a picturesque village green in the town centre surrounded by some nice restaurants and cafes.   The accommodation here was something else though – we were the only guests of the Riverhills boutique b&b and what we had made us reluctant to leave.  From a really nice bedroom we also had the free usage of the lounge, business centre (for internet mostly) and the hot tub.  The lounge was really special – decorated that morning for Christmas it was a massive room with huge windows looking out over the river and comfy sofas, armchairs, roaring fireplace, 8ft projector screen, music etc.  Not to mention the piles of sweets left everywhere.  I almost had to remove Kathryn with a crowbar following her home made porridge in the morning.

We did manage to leave though and travelled on down to the capital cit, Wellington.  Here we went to the museum which had all sorts of exhibits detailing Maori culture, the discovery and occupation of NZ by the western world and the natural geography of the country.  We also went along to the West Pac stadium where we watched an A League football match between Wellington Pheonix and Sydney FC.  Ex Palace captain Tony Popovic played (and was sent off for Sydney) and the game ended 1-1 when Sydney scored with an injury time penalty.

From Wellington we had an early start as we caught the Interislander ferry to Picton on the South Island before a drive down into Kaikoura – whale watching capital of the world.  We had a nice evening meal and Kathryn took advantage of 2 for 1 cocktails during happy hour.  Another early start saw us go whale watching and we managed to see 3 sperm whales and a huge pod of dusky dolphins playing in the bay.

Continuing our busy travels we headed further south into Christchurch which could have been any town in the UK and we walked from our b&b through the parks into the town centre.  We jumped on the tram for a short guided tour around the centre before stopping at a mexican pub where we had a big helping of chicken wings, potato wedges and fajitas.  Nothing like embracing local culture 😉

Another long drive saw us crossing the country via Arthurs Pass – the road that disects the country from East to West before arriving in Greymouth and that’s where we now.  It’s been hectic but great fun so far.