November, 2007:

Nearly Dun

Last night we stayed in Dunedin and during the day we visited a penguin sanctuary that allowed you to get close to the Yellow Eyed Penguins due to the network of tunnels they had built for viewing and we also did the Cadbury World tour.

Back last Tuesday we left Franz Josef and headed for Wanaka where we decided to have a relaxing day following a long drive and we enjoyed a meal over the banks of Lake Wanaka.  The next morning we visited the brilliant Puzzling World and enjoyed the maze and the puzzle rooms.  It was great fun.

After Wanaka we headed south to Te Anau where we crossed the famous Crown Ridge Road where you cross the highest public road in the entire country. We stayed at a small cottage on a farm just outside the centre of town and Kathryn was excited to be able to feed the pet sheep.

We had a second night in Te Anau and on the morning of the second day we took a bus tour to Milford Sound but on the way stopping for a strenuous mountain walk and a few other sights. We then had a boat trip around NZ’s most famous fjord, Milford Sound. Despite the weather it was spectacular and a lot like being back in Alaska. Slight problem was when we reached the end of the fjord and out into the open Tasman Sea where my seasickness really kicked in with a few big waves. This after I got soaked when the boat sailed under a waterfall – my fault really, they did say we’d get wet but I didn’t realise to what extent!

From Te Anau we headed back up to Queenstown, adventure sports capital of NZ and the weather really brightened up for us. It was shorts weather for the next few days.

In Queenstown we took the gondola up to the mountains above the town and road the Luge ride which was great fun for such a simple ride. The views were spectacular and you could see one of QT’s famous Bungy jumps. The next day we road the famous Shotover River Jetboat which gets you very close the the canyon rocks at great speeds. The wind was bitter and Kathryn got brain freeze but it was amazing fun and we seriously considered having a second go. We also went along to see one of the other larger bungee sites. I wasn’t tempted but Kathryn considered having a go. I suggested we sky dive instead but in the end we did neither. There is so much to do in QT you really could do a different activity every day for weeks.

From here we headed east on our final stretch and thats when we ended up in Dunedin. We are now in Oamaru where we plan on seeing the Blue Penguins as the come ashore tonight. This could be our last blog from NZ as we’re heading up to Christchurch tomorrow before flying home on Friday.

Ice is nice

For the second time in 2 years we find ourselves looking up at a glacier. This one isn’t quite as big as some of the ones we saw in Alaska but the Franz Josef glacier is impressive nevertheless. We arrived into the town of the same name this morning with hopes of doing a helicopter or plane ride around the glaciers and mountains but thick cloud cover made that impossible.

We enjoyed a couple of hours walk up to the glacier but to satisfy our thirst for adventure we went out on Quad bikes on a trip that wound around the rocky river bed, through the melt water and finally winding among the rain forest. Kathryn and I were the only couple on the trip not sharing a quad but I reckon we had more fun that way. Following quads we went out for a tasty meal where I had some of the biggest ribs I’ve ever seen and Kathryn had a great chicken burger. We might have a bit of a snooze in the morning before setting off on the longish trip south to Wanaka.

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.

Bad Case of Wind

It’s not that we’ve eaten anything dodgy but yesterday we arrived into Taupo – home of NZ’s largest lake with a major wind blowing.  Waves were crashing, dust blowing and it was bitterly cold.

Previous few days have seen us go out with dolphins although we didn’t get to swim as there were baby dolphins in the group and they have strict rules about when you can and can’t swim with them.  We were very lucky though to encounter a mega-pod which is when several pods join up in a big group.  Our pod of 80-100 apparently only happens maybe 3 or 4 times a year.  Think we got some good photos and Kathryn did some great work filming while leaning out over the bow of the boat.  Has to be said the trip was worth it just for the trip around the Bay of Islands which is a stunning location – certainly a place I could retire too!

We travelled further north into Coopers Beach before heading back south into Auckland where we had a really nice studio apartment about 500m from Sky City and the Sky Tower.  Naturally we went up there and took some great photos.  The view was awesome although we didn’t do the Sky Jump.

We then headed out to Waitomo Caves where we stayed at the Hobbit Motel and did the excellent Lost World Epic Adventure – go here for the video to see just what we got up too as photography was very limited.

We’re now in Taupo and about to head off to see some of the thermal areas near Rotorua and its nice to not check out for once!  Catch up soon!

We’re in NZ!

We’re currently sat relaxing at the Kingfisher Retreat in Keri Keri writing the first of our New Zealand blogs. After a long flight we arrived yesterday morning in Auckland and it has to be said that the customs and such were so much easier and quicker than in our country.

We got picked up in our rental vehicle and then the good old GPS took us right to the door of our first hotel. Turns out that Auckland is hosting the World Netball Championships and two of the teams are staying in the same hotel (Fiji and Jamaica for anyone interested).

Slight problem this morning when we discovered our shiny new Kia Sorrento had been reversed into overnight and the lovely driver decided to hit and run. Only minor damage so I guess we’ll sort that out when we hand the car over but we’re not going to let it spoil our holiday.

Booked to go out for a nice meal tonight and tomorrow we go swimming with dolphins prior to heading north to Coopers Beach. Touch wood the weather has been exceptional so far. The car driver even told us it was the nicest day in Auckland in weeks.

We’ll update next time someone leaves their wireless internet unlocked 🙂

Better late than never

We’ve not updated in a while but a lot has happened.  Dave completed his triathlon, the wedding is booked and we’re 3 days away from our trip to New Zealand.Â

Wedding is booked for 20th September 2008 in Llyswen near Brecon with the service at a local church and then the reception at Llangoed Hall.  We’ll be sending out invites in due course and when we do we’ll provide more details of local hotels and B&Bs for those who want to stay the night.

Oh yeah, I’ve got a new job – starts the Monday after we get back from NZ.  Tuesday is my last Logica day!