Wednesday, 29 August 2012

New Zealand...North Island

Venturing across the Cook Strait, we landed into the port of Wellington. The wind howled and the swell of the boat rocked. After going sick only twice on the boat journey, I felt slightly dazed and not so fresh. Luckily we had planned to stay in the city for the night, meeting up with our friends Sam & Steve. We rolled into the hostel and felt so happy to just chill in the city for the next 2days. The evening we spent wandering through the glistening lights of Wellington, taking it all in...sounds, smells, sights of a bustling city! Our second day, we hit the cultural spots and did the Te Papa museum, which is an amazing place, it would take you 3 days comfortably to see it all. We opted to head out of the city and more North, as wanted to spend the night in the camper.

We took our time over the next 4days working our way up towards the Tongariro National Park. We stopped off camping along the way, enjoying the outdoors and slightly different landscapes the North Island had to offer. At first, we found ourselves contnually comparing everything to the South Island. I must admit, only when we reached the National Park and witnessed some beautiful mountains that I felt more at ease. After spending our days walking and exploring, we opted to push on and see Taupo, the weather wasn't so good and we where greeted with rain, wind and grey skies...sort of like England! After two nights in a cool free campsite (lots of hippies live there for free!), we felt we where more than due our weekly wash. The decision to visit Rotorua was a must!

The first thing that hits you if the glorious sulphur smell in the air, or more like the stale egg smell. It was not so nice, but the natural elements this place has to offer is magical. The natural springs steam everywhere, on our way into Rotorua we could just see random steam floating upwards in fields, so we knew we where close. We stayed the night and the second day, spent our whole morning relaxing in the spa. This was a beautiful spa, which had over 9 thermal pools, of which all was outdoors...feeling one with nature! After I became all crinkly and prune like, I decided I was clean as I could ever be and also relaxed, its a very theraputic experience. We where both keen to see the Coromandel and North, so we pushed on in our camper. We spent a good few days exploring the Coromandel and I have grown to realise it was one of my favourite places in the North Island. Not many people where around and we would travel for hours along a bending road edged to the cliffs to find our campsite and watch sunset as the waves crashed in, total tranquility.

As time was creeping upon us, we only had one week left in our campervan and before we headed to Fiji, we managed to head to the North of the North Island. We mainly stayed along the Northern strip, visiting lots of quaint towns and beautiful beaches. The climate up here is so different to that even in the South of the North Island. Up here you see palm trees and golden sands, its really special. After staying in some beautiful spots in the North, it was time to say goodbye to our campervan and enjoy our last few days in New Zealand. Luckily, I have family in New Zealand, so we called in to stay with them in a beautiful town called Warkworth.

My cousin Tim, his partner Sasha and son Alex live in a lovely little town just North of Auckland. I had never met Tim in person before, so was lovely to finally meet my family and spend some quality time with them. Me and John loved staying in there lovely home, especially spending our evenings over food and conversation. Alex is brilliant, he is bright, playful and a happy boy, me and John felt at ease playing cars or chase with him and the cat anytime of the day. Tim and Sasha took us to some beautiful places around there region and it made us appreciate a different type of experience, one from a 'home' perspective. As we are always generally on the move and only relish in places for a day or so, it was lovely to base ourselves in their home and see what their daily lives are like. There is so much open space, fresh air and things to do, we felt so happy.

The day before we left, we headed for our final day to Auckland city. I felt really sad to leave my family, as I loved staying with them and I knew it just made me want to come back here for sure in the future. Our final evening in New Zealand was spent with our lovely friends Emma & Gillion, who we'd originally met months before randomly in Cambodia and then ranndomly again in Bangkok. They are brillaint people who are so funny, they welcomed us in to their apartment in the city and we all spent the evening enjoying fish and chips and a beer or two. I felt so happy and content when leaving New Zealand, the excitement began to grow on our journey the airport.... not only the thought of John having a shave and to finally get rid of that awful beard but moreso the thoughts of beaches, palm tress, sunshine and kava that made me smile and think...'now Fiji'.

Exploring Wellington, off to Te Papa Museum

Enjoying the freshair at Tongariro National Park

The oozing smell of Rotorua

Squeaky clean after our thermal baths

One of our nightly meals rustled up in the back of the campervan...delicious!

Just one of many quaint towns in passing, this is what this town is famous for...

My lovely family, Tim, Sasha and Alex enjoying Matakana Market

John, Me and Alex doing some tree hugging...

Enjoying some traditional fish & chips

Enjoying the Marine Reserve in the Noth

Me and Sasha having a laugh and making sure not to get wet!

Sticks...makes a man feel strong! This pose followed conversations on world peace & Lord of the Rings

Alex joining in with his stick too!

The beautiful landscapes along the North Island

The array of colours of night time Auckland

Don't worry it's not a homeless man, it's John with Emma & Gillon

Reflecting in the morning overlooking Auckland city...

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

New Zealand...West Coast and North

As we cruised up along the West Coast of the South Island, we witnessed some amazing beaches, wildlife and landscapes. The West is famous for its spectacular glaciers, the world famous Fox Glacier and Franz Josef. We enjoyed our time travelling Northbound, visiting and doing our own walks upto the Glaciers and witnessing this wonder. 

The one thing that sticks in my mind is the Southern Apline mountains, especially during sunset, the sun bounces off the snow capped mountains and creates an ambiance of calm and warmth in the air. All I could do is stand and stare! As we ventured North, we visited lots of towns and met so many nice people. The amount of cows, sheep and deer we crossed paths with along our journey was unreal, the landscape is so full of life. 

We ventured further North towards Abel Tasman, a huge National Park region at the top of the South Island. This was a magical place, filled with lots of colourful plants and blue clear skies. We spent our days, enjoying the scenic views and brisk walks. As we concluded our South Island journey, we reached Piction, the place to catch our car ferry across the Cook Strait in order to arrive in the North Island of New Zealand. We cherished our last few days in the South Island, its so hard to express what I experienced. The landscape is so inspiring and its hard to believe it has so much to offer on one small island. As we waved farewell to the South Island and looked upon the North Island in the distance, I felt slightly queasy, not because I was sad to leave but more about the rocking of the boat and my urge to throw up...

Enjoying a walk along the beach, stopping off along the West Coast

Admiring the sunset in the South Island

A little jump after walking upto the Glacier (behind me!)

Loving the Malborough Sounds in the North

One of my favourite sunsets on my whole journey

Waking up and this is my view...tranquility

Tucking into my morning breakfast...porridge and honey!

The beautiful North of the South Island of New Zealand

Saying farewell to the South Island of New Zealand...

Monday, 6 August 2012

New Zealand...Milford Sound, Queenstown & Wanaka

Arriving into Te Anau, I felt happy. The journey up was relaxing and the weather was good even though it was chilly. The place we opted to stay was a 'free' campsite, so I didn't feel on edge to sneak out early in the morning, I could truly relax. After driving almost 20km on a gravel track to reach our site, we arrived and the first important thing we needed to do, was put the kettle on.

This was a secluded little spot, which was tranquil, calm and peaceful. That was until we suddenly heard the thunder of a chopper helicopter above our heads, carrying along with it lots of dead wild deer. Venison is big meat over here, one of which we became to enjoy on many occasions cooking at the back of our camper. Later that evening our friends Sam and Steve joined us and we relaxed in the peaceful setting Te Anau. We all booked onto the Milford Sound boat tour, so we shared the tricky ride West, weaving through the mountains, creeping through mountain tunnels and witnessing some of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. We all opted to stay the evening there, we where due our weekly wash by that time anyways, so I indulged in a hit shower and clean hair! The boat cruise was brilliant, witnessing the sounds looking tall, majestic and inspiring. The tranquility remains and was something I enjoyed so much. This was one of my favourite places in the whole of New Zealand. Truly magical!

After spending some time in the Fjorlands, in which we camped by the world's deepest lake, we headed to the big place of 'Queenstown', this is a huge tourist hub. The seasonal resort is a vast location for all winter sports and reminds me so much of an alpine town with character and cold weather. We experienced the buzz of Queenstown and explored the many attractions, we decided to head ourselves North, as I was really keen on travelling up the West Coast. 

After departing Queenstown we called upon a quaint town called Arrowtown, lots of vintage shops and traditional homes, I felt like I was time travelling back 100 years. We opted to take the scenic route and drove through the Crown Ranges, this was a magnificent drive, so much to see. I literally weaved through the mountains constantly looking around myself, admiring all the beauty I was surrounded in. It has an awe factor in every place I visit, that's when I began to realise New Zealand was creeping into my heart. Lake Wanaka greeted us with a clean crisp air and we explored the lake and town, taking it easy in the afternoon. Heading to our evening campsite, I reflected on the beauty this country holds and how happy I was on my travels and in life. Waking to a magical view in the morning, we pushed on to head to the West and finally North, feeling I never wanted my South Island experience to end...

With Steve, Sam and Steve enjoying the landscapes of New Zealand

The beauty is endless on the South Island

The magical Milford Sound...

The four of us on our boat enjoying Milford South

Taking a break from driving through the Crown Ranges

Waking up to this beautiful scene, the deepest lake in the world

Joking around in Lake Wanaka

Making my way North, admiring the beauty as we drive on...

Sunday, 5 August 2012

New Zealand...Oamaru, Dunedin & The Catlins

We enjoyed our journey going across the inland areas. We opted to a route that ensures you can see some of the 'sights' and call into small quaint towns along the way. After spending a night camping besides a huge dam, sneaking in late at night and leaving at first light (not to pay!) we journeyed over to Oamaru. This was the next biggest town along the coast and this place I really liked. The town itself oozes character, its almost as though it is stuck in the Victorian Times. All the architecture of the town is very classical and colonial and lots of Victorian artifacts still remain. The people are so friendly all across the South Island and here even more so, the original plan was to push on and not stay here the night but that soon changed. After chatting to a local woman she mentioned we could park up and stay close to her house which looked out onto the sea. So, that night we spent the evening admiring the waves crashing in and parked ourselves near the edge of the cliff. As the evening approached we made our way to the lookout point close to the beach, it was here that we where able to full enjoy the experience of watching the penguins return home. They spend all day at sea catching fish swimming around and as dusk approaching after a hard day at work then come home and make there way back to land. The yellow eyed penguins where lovely, so cute and small. We watched how they swam back ashore, hopped out of the water, shook themselves down then gradually wandered back to home for the night, really fascinating. New Zealand does a lot with conservation and I admire how much is given to protect the natural landscapes and the animals that inhabit the lands.

After our morning porridge and honey, we head along the coast. We always make time to stop whenever we want and take in the beauty. That is the best thing with a campervan we have the freedom and opportunity to go wherever we want. As we approached Dunedin the hills and roads began to roll, this is one steep place. The city is big and you notice the roads becoming busier as you approach. As it is such a built up area, our choices to stay and camp for free where limited so we headed to the Coast and paid for a holiday park campsite. That was just in time for our weekly shower and washing of clothes, much needed by this time. Life on the road can generate smelly people and I'm not ashamed to say I was one of them! Dunedin is a nice city, you sense the big Scottish influence here and like any city has lots going on. We opted to do something we normally wouldn't do and that was go on a tour. The tour we chose to do was to 'Cadbury's World', it was like heaven to me! To learn how chocolate is made and along the tour have constant free chocolate, I must admit I may have influenced and swayed John into doing this tour. After cruising the city for the day, we felt ready to leave and head towards a place not many people venture to. This place is where a lot of tourists bypass and for us it was one of the most beautiful places of the South Island. 

As we journeyed along, we arrived into the region known as 'The Catlins'. This is an area where not many people live and the outdoor landscape is untouched and natural. Along your journey you see so many cows and sheep, but this place is full of animal life. The green is what strikes you first, the outdoor fresh air is pure and the cold and I mean really cold wind bites you. The further south we headed the colder it became, but we loved it. After not feeling the cold for so long this was something different for us. We cruised along the campsites, enjoying the outdoors and not seeing many people at all the whole time we where here. One day, we reached a sight of interest it was the most 'Southerly Point' in the South Island, the weather on this day was treacherous. The wind was extreme and the gales blistered your skin, we headed to the edge and I felt a sense of danger, the waves where crashing over the rocks so heavily, it was a scary situation. That's the beauty of this place, so much natural elements graced instantly around you. After a couple days of cruising 'The Catlins' we headed across the Coast and began to make our way towards Te Anau. We had made plans to meet our friends Sam & Steve here and we where all to go to Milford Sound together. So, after filling up on a cup of tea, we hopped back in the campervan and cruised West...

Enjoying the mystical landscapes

Overlooking Oamaru in the rain

Observing the yellow eyes penguin return from a day at sea

Making the bed in our campervan

Visiting Dunedin's historic railway station

Making our morning cup of tea in the wilderness...we English do love our tea!

Friday, 3 August 2012

New Zealand...Hamner Springs, Lake Tekapo & Mount Cook

You know when you have arrived into Hamner Springs and that is because you can smell you have arrived. The unpleasant sulfur creeps through the air and the smell is something similar to rotten eggs, not so nice. The town itself is small and set within lots of mountains and rivers. We headed to the campsite on the edge of town and settled in for the night in our campervan. I must admit I was happy to use a campsite that was not government owned as we could have a 'real' wash for the first time in a week. It's strange because I now appreciate the smaller things in life, things such as a hot shower, a place to cook food easily, a normal toilet and not just a wild bush! 

After resting up the night, we headed out to a forest walk early the next day, we headed upwards towards a waterfall. The weather was rather cold and wet and the walk proved to be slippery and steep. When we finally reached the waterfall it was lovely to sit down, enjoy our flask of soup and bread and listen to the wildlife and peaceful surroundings. It makes the walk worthwhile being able to take time to sit and reflect and enjoy the experience of being in the outdoors. Heading back towards the campervan, I had only one thing on my mind...The hot pools! 

As a treat to ourselves we headed to the famous 'Hamner Springs Hot Pools', these are naturally built outdoor thermal pools. The water bubbles with heat as the sulfur rises, the smell is not so pleasant but it is a relaxing place to be. We creeped out into the cold and headed for the first pool, it was like heaven. We did not leave the first pool under we had wrinkles on our fingers and then made a dash to the next outdoor pool. We did this in all of the 6 outdoor pools, it was a great experience being outside when it was cold, raining and miserable and you are boiling it up in bubbles of natural warm water. It was very therapeutic and relaxing and this made our whole journey here worthwhile. 

The next morning we decided to head South. We cruised past Christchurch once again doing a loop on ourselves, then headed along the coast and then embarked more inland. Our aim was to reach Mount Cook. As we didn't want to spend all our days just driving and wanted to fully enjoy places we made the journey slowly, stopping off along the way and camping at different campsites each night. The weather we noticed was getting wetter and colder, I was so thankful I invested in a $7 hot water bottle! As we cruised towards the centre area of the South Island, the landscapes once again change and this time it was something mystical. We stopped off along the way at Lake Tekapo, a really calming place, where the lakes sleep in tranquility and you notice all the tree's shedding as Autumn flourishes. Further on we headed towards a mountainous plane. The mountains in this area are the biggest of the whole country, the famous 'Mount Cook' being the biggest at 3,754m. All the mountains surrounding are of similar ranges and you feel so small and delicate as you wander amongst these giants. The great Kiwi explorer and first man to conquer Everest 'Sir Edmund Hilary' used Mount Cook for his training before embarking on the mighty Everest. We loved this area, as you are amazed by the snow capped mountains that look so rugged yet so pretty. That night while sleeping at the base of Mount Cook, a thunderstorm rolled in. This was an eventful night, the roar of the thundering clouds, the violet sky that forked with lightening and the heavy rains that shot down, it was almost a scary sound as you try to sleep. The next day the weather remained the same, so we had no chance of heading out on the planned walk we where hoping to do, so we drove out 10mins and before you know it, you are greeted with blue skies and sunshine. New Zealand weather is known to change quick and fast and many regions have their own micro-climates. Around the mountains the huge stormy clouds remained yet 10minutes drive away you are welcomed to sunshine and blue skies. You have to be prepared for all weather conditions anytime of day throughout the year. With the beautiful sunshine blessing us, we stopped at a nearby lake, nobody around and it was so peaceful. From here, we did a small walk around the landscape and made the most of this sunshine filled day. As the evening approached, we opted to head East again and make our journey back towards the Coast when heading South. So, after a quick snack and rest we zoomed on in the Jucy Camper, wondering what other sights with grace us along the way...

Enjoying some wine tasting after Hamner Springs

The cold air on Lake Tekapo

Exploring the landscape in the South Island

Waking up in the morning and seeing this makes me love New Zealand

Enjoying an afternoon walk with Mount Cook in the distance

Thursday, 2 August 2012

New Zealand...Christchurch, Akaroa & Kaikoura

Arriving into the crisp cold air at midnight into Christchurch airport was something of a surprisingly enjoyable feeling for me. After spending many months in the warmth air, humidity or sunshine filled skies, I arrived into a cold almost freezing destination...with the temperature rolling in at a brisk 3 degrees.

We enjoyed a splendid two days in Christchurch, staying in a place called New Brighton. We spent one of our days exploring the centre, it was a real surreal feeling entering into the city. The whole of the main city area is cordoned off and is known as the 'Red Zone'. It's almost eerie as the shops lay full and abandoned and have not been touched since the fateful day of the huge earthquake that hit the city back in 2011. The weather was beautiful, a crisp autumn day so we opted to stroll around the wonderful Botanical Gardens. It was a great place to reflect on what had occurred in this city and how the people have dealt with the event of earthquakes and constant aftershocks even happening to this day. As our two days passed, we became even more excited and this was to go and see and pick up our new 'home' for the next 6 weeks. We would be travelling around the whole of New Zealand in our own Jucy Campervan. 

Once we collected our beauty, the Jucy was a great camper...kitted our with a pull together bed, a mini fridge, cooker and sink. We had drop down curtains and the luxury item for me was the built in dvd player. So with all the food stocked up and everything we needed, we called in at my long lost auntie's, Marion for a quick cuppa to say hello and catchup. This was nice to have good chat and she noted straight away that I looked the spit of my dad...must have them 'Beautiful Newman Genes'!!ha! We then departed late afternoon and headed to the Banks Peninsula, to a quaint town called Akaroa, which is a French colonial town. All the street names are written in French and the whole architecture and vibe of the place is very French style. As it is illegal to Freedom Camp anywhere here, as it is all private land, we had to hide ourselves down a dirt track. Driving down bending roads in the darkness was slightly scary but then we found an old boat landing area so opted to stay the night there. The morning air greeted us with freshness and a new day, we slept really well and I was so happy to start our adventure on the road. We had decided to try and meet up with our friends who where themselves travelling around New Zealand. They are a great couple called Sam and Steve, they are from just outside Portsmouth and we first met them back in December in Thailand. Steve completed his PADI Diving Course with John and we had all experienced great nights out in Koh Tao. So, we decided to head North along the East Coast first, then do a loop on ourselves and travel South around the Island anti clockwise in couple of days time. 

So, after a pleasant couple of hours driving, we reached our destination of Kaikoura. This is a beautiful place, its the home to marine life. There are plenty of dolphins, whales and seals that not only visit this Coast but live here all year round. Kaikooura is a special place that makes you instantly smile when you look around, admiring the vast Kaikoura Ranges and what beauty this place holds. After spending a couple of days resting up here, I feel fresh and so happy to be in New Zealand. Next stop is down to Hamner Springs where hot smelly bubbly baths await me...

Enjoying 'New Brighton' beach in Christchurch

Enjoying the Kaikoura Range Mountains

Admiring a seal chilling in the crisp air

Enjoying a walk in the fresh New Zealand air

The lush countryside of Kaikoura