Monthly Archives: May 2014

The Kiwi Farmstay

We knew we’d have a good few days at the next help-x as soon as we arrived. Beth and Graham have a farm outside of Wanganui, in a place called Mangamahu, but when we started they were picking kiwi fruit in their orchard in town. We arrived, got strapped into our bags and went straight to work – and it was really good fun. These particular kiwi fruits were hanging nicely at head height, so we joined the group of pickers and zoomed around the orchard and filled our bags. It was a really nice atmosphere and felt like a bit of a work out too.

Low hanging fruit

Low hanging fruit

Crib time

Crib time

After work, we followed Beth out of town to the farm, a truly epic drive. It was one of the most scenic and spectacular drives we’ve done in New Zealand, and we’d never have come close to it if it weren’t for help-x. Winding along the valley and river, with paddocks and hills and fields, we made it to the farm and then got the best news yet; the accommodation awesome! Our own place, big comfy bed and TV. Not to mention, it was set in the most amazing farm scenery. Hills rolling all over the place, forests, the river, mountains. Awesome, and a nice change from campsite cabins and backpacker hostels. We told Beth and Graham that they should charge for the authentic kiwi farm experience!

The farm

The farm

Sunrise over Mangamahu

Sunrise over Mangamahu

During our week we had a great time, doing a couple of full on days picking kiwi fruit, and then spending the others around the farm. Feeding chickens, playing with the dogs, riding around on the buggy and just walking around the place was awesome. Watching the sunrise through the misty hills was a pretty darn good way to start the day. And after a hard days picking, we relaxed in the spa.

Man's best friend

Man’s best friend

The chicken whisperer

The chicken whisperer

They also put us in touch with their neighbours, so we spent one afternoon watching sheep shearing and mustering over the most mountainous farm (in my humble opinion) ever. I even got to drive the quad bike – again, awesome.

That'll do Pig, that'll do

That’ll do Pig, that’ll do

Mustering country

Mustering country

It was a bit of a wrench to leave, but as we cruised north to Taupo we had a decent enough view. The Tongariro National Park appeared, and we passed Mounts Ruapehu, Tongariro and Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom). They were all snow-capped, and we had to stop several times to take photos. In Taupo we spent a couple of days with Cat, who is exploring New Zealand for the month before heading to Asia, and she’ll be back in UK just before us. It was really nice hanging out around the town, cooking in her hostel kitchen and of course the real highlight; watching Godzilla. It’s not a patch on the Broderick version.

Tongariro, Ngauruhoe, me and Ruapehu

Tongariro, Ngauruhoe, me and Ruapehu

Lake selfie

Lake selfie

After Cat left we did a hefty 20km tramp along the lakeside to Kawakawa Bay, and then treated ourselves to some half price hot pools to sooth the aching bones. The next day we left Taupo for Napier, and following the advice of our Frenzy guidebook we found some more hot pools, these ones for free! We were the only people around, perched on the side of the gorge looking down along the river. Good thing we ignored the DoC warning signs.

Over Kawakawa Bay, about 13km in!

Over Kawakawa Bay, about 13km in!

Too hot for some pool

Too hot for some pool

Before arriving in Napier, we detoured north a bit, again following the Frenzy book. In the middle of nowhere, with no one around, we parked and headed into the bush for Shine Falls. The walk itself was great, through fields divided by towering granite cliffs and then into the bush. When we arrived at the falls it was just awesome. Nearly 60 metres tall with a nice pool at the bottom.

On the way to the falls

On the way to the falls

The guide book suggests that you skinny dip here. No comment… Other than it was very cold.

Shine Falls... Chilly

Shine Falls… Chilly

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Categories: New Zealand | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

South of the North

Cruising out of the Marlborough Sounds, we were a bit sad to be leaving the South Island but really excited to get back to Wellington. We’d had a good time there back in February with Jon, experiencing the sights, wind and the Weta Cave (twice) in just a couple of days, and so were glad to have a sorted out a helpx there.

We had the best week with Tony and Lynnda. As soon as Tony picked us up from the ferry, we hit it off, and were happily chatting on the way back to their place. They live in Johnsonville, a suburb just outside Wellington, in an amazing house. It sits up the side of a hill, and has ceiling to floor windows with spectacular views across the valley, where we were able to see a few good sunsets and some pretty intense wind and rain!

Our lovely Wellington. Helpx hosts Tony and. Lynnda.

Our lovely Wellington Helpx hosts Tony and Lynnda.

Tony and Lynnda made us feel right at home, and we had a lot of great food which we’ll now need to walk off a bit! They made sure that we made the most of our time Wellington, and really emphasised the exchange part of the programme. We did a variety of odd jobs around the house and garden (which is also amazing), hopefully helping out enough to earn our excellent part of the bargain.

On the windy and rainy days they helped us out loads with planning the rest of our time on the North Island, giving us tips and hints on some great free things to do and see. They’ve also travelled extensively on the West Coast of the US, so we did a lot of planning for our time in the States in July and August. On the nicer days, we went out into Welly, walking around the harbours and visiting the museums. We also walked up Mount Kaukau, which we could see from their house, and from where we could see 360 degrees of Wellington, out to sea, across the Cook Strait all the way down to the Kaikoura mountains and north across the hills.

The view from Mount Kaukau over to Wellington city.

The view from Mount Kaukau over to Wellington city.

We got on really well with Tony and Lynnda, and are really thankful they picked us. The trip out in Lynnda’s Hot Rod was a definite highlight, but hanging out and chatting, as well as playing with the grand kids, was just as much fun!

Cruisin' in the Hot. Rod

Cruisin’ in the Hot Rod

After we said our goodbyes and struck out on our own again, the first thing was to pick up our new car. We got a super cheap deal, working out at around $15 per day, and for the first time all honeymoon we got upgraded so this car is actually quite nice. We drove all around the Wellington harbour peninsula, stopping for a quick sightsee up Mount Victoria (Kaukau’s view is better) as well as a third trip to the Weta Cave. Just as awesome as before.

The Wellywood sign

The Wellywood sign

We then left Welly, heading out and the looping South down toward Cape Palliser, the North Island’s most southerly point. Considering we’re so close to the capital, this area has a really wild and rugged feel. On the way, we detoured to Kaitoke Park and hung out where they built the sets for Rivendell. It felt quite geeky wandering around with our LOTR locations book, but it was a really nice and homely spot.

Hunting for Hobbits

Hunting for Hobbits

Rivendell in Kaitoke Park

Rivendell in Kaitoke Park

We stopped for the night at Lake Ferry, which has a real edge of the world feel to it. Whilst the few houses there seemed empty and we were the only people at the campsite, the hotel / pub’s open mic night was surprisingly busy! We left as they started the duelling banjos… The following morning we ventured all the way South, and to another great LOTR location – the Puturangi Pinnacles, which featured as the Dimholt Road. Amazingly weird geological features of rocky spires shooting up the valley along the riverbed.

The Pinnacles aka The Dimholt Road

The Pinnacles aka The Dimholt Road

The way is shut

The way is shut

We also enjoyed Martinborough, Masterton and a really nice walk through the Manawatu Gorge, and then head to another help-x for a few days to look after animals and pick kiwi fruit in Wanganui. Our CVs are getting better all the time!

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Top of the South

After saying a fond farewell to Wanaka, where we’d felt semi-local after our one month working there, it was nice to head off exploring on our own again. Although our first day involved covering ground we’ve already seen, we had our first experience of hitch hiking, which was surprisingly easy and didn’t end up with us murdered in a ditch! After less than 10 minutes of smiling nicely and trying not too look dodgy, we were picked up by 6 friendly guys in their camper-van who kindly took us to Queenstown to pick up a hire car. Easy peasy.

Hitchin' a ride

Hitchin’ a ride

We then headed north for the top of the South Island to explore the Marlborough-Nelson region which we haven’t seen yet. Luckily for us my Mum’s cousin, Amanda and her lovely husband Matt and children Jess and Joel emigrated to NZ ten years ago, and even though we’ve never met, they very kindly looked after us for three days. We had a lovely time, being fed some wonderful home cooked food, discussing Tolkien and Doctor Who and were given a locals tour of Nelson – a beautiful city right on the sea and surrounded by mountains. We can definitely see why they chose to live here!

Meeting extended family in Nelson

Meeting extended family in Nelson

Sunny Nelson

Sunny Nelson

We also spent a day walking part of the Abel Tasman Great Walk, which is in a stunning national park, with incredible golden sand beaches and green forests which come right up to the waters edge. We took a water taxi 12km to Torrent Bay and walked the coastal and bush footpath back to the start.

Split Apple Rock

Split Apple Rock

Heading off on the Abel Tasman track

Heading off on the Abel Tasman track

The Abel Tasman National Park

The Abel Tasman National Park

We then headed off on our own into the Marlborough Sounds and went via the Pelorus river where the barrels scene from the Hobbit was filmed. It looks just like the movie (minus a few dwarfs) and was really beautiful.

Pelorus Bridge

Pelorus Bridge

We then stayed in a cabin right by the water for two nights. We had a fun time in the owner’s boat, after working out how not to sink it by remembering to put the plug at the bottom in.

Gently down the stream

Gently down the stream

Sunset in the Marlborough Sounds

Sunset in the Marlborough Sounds

After a few grey days, we had some beautiful sunshine and climbed up to an awesome look out point where we could see over a huge amount of the sounds and over to Picton where the Wellington ferries arrive. This is a beautiful area and definitely one to spend more time in one day.

The look out over to Picton and the interislander ferries

The look out over to Picton and the interislander ferries

We had a final night in Picton before saying goodbye to the South Island for the next 6 weeks – we’ll be back to watch the All Blacks in Dunedin in June. We caught the ferry in the sunshine and headed onto our next place of work in Wellington.

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