Posts Tagged With: New Zealand

Our 9 favourite things about New Zealand

We’ve spent five and a half months travelling and working around New Zealand, been to both islands twice and loved every minute of it! Here is a quick list, off the top of our heads, of why we’ve loved it:

1. It’s so beautiful
There are mountains everywhere! And incredible lakes, beaches, forests, rivers, waterfalls, gorges. The whole country is just stunning.

2. It’s not too big and not too small
You can get from one end to the other fairly easily and it’s packed with good stuff to see!

3. The accent

4. There’s no one here!
Well hardly anyone, relatively speaking. There are only 4ish million people in New Zealand, compared to the UK’s 63 million. We have been to so many beautiful and interesting places where we are the only ones there.

5. The New Zealand Frenzy Guidebook
This book is the most awesome guide book ever. It’s full of free, off the beaten track type activities and we have used it everywhere we have been.

6. Helpx
We’ve seen and done things and met people we’d never have experienced otherwise; including sheep shearing, wall building, motorbike riding, cow mustering, fruit picking and of course, scrubbing!

7. The DoC
Everywhere you go, in the towns or in the middle of nowhere, you can usually rely on there being a green and yellow Department of Conservation sign leading to a walk, waterfall, tramp, view or something awesome.

8. It’s actually Middle Earth
Excluding a few towers and citadels, New Zealand looks pretty much exactly like it does in the Trilogy. We should know, we’ve been to ALOT of film locations.

9. The people
People here are so welcoming, laid back and nice. Strangers say hello to you in the street (in a nice way, not a crazy way).

New Zealand is the best!

New Zealand is the best!

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Bye bye New Zealand

For 2 years we’ve been planning our epic trip to New Zealand, and tomorrow we say goodbye. Nooooooo! We were originally planning 10 months here, and although we’ve ended up shortening that and adding lots of Asian fun at the beginning and a USA road trip at the end, NZ still seemed like the main destination for us. So it seems weird and sad to be leaving, even though we still have 7 exciting weeks left.

Cooking up a good feed for our anniversary

Cooking up a good feed for our anniversary

We’ve had a brilliant last week here though, which included celebrating our first wedding anniversary in a little farm cottage in the countryside near Waimate. It was one of my favourite houses we’ve seen here (I still can’t quite get my head around wooden architecture) and we had a lovely few days chilling out together, eating quality cheese and watching our wedding video. We are are definitely very lucky to still be on our honeymoon!

My favourite house in Kiwiland

My favourite house in Kiwiland

Year long honeymoons are the best!

Year long honeymoons are the best!

After leaving Waimate and saying hello to the resident wallabies, we spent a night in Timaru, before driving to the Banks Peninsula and staying in the very French influenced town of Akaroa. The town is in an extinct volcano and has a beautiful harbour, and some lovely little streets and shops to wander around.

Akaroa on the Banks Peninsula

Akaroa on the Banks Peninsula

We did some easy walks and took a scenic drive around the peninsula and along the crater ridge which had some spectacular views.

Driving around the rim of the extinct volcano

Driving around the rim of the extinct volcano

We even treated ourselves to some beersies to watch the sunset with.

An Akaroa sunset

An Akaroa sunset

We are spending our last night in New Zealand in Christchurch with Martine and Tim, some very distant relatives who very kindly put us up twice during our stay. And tomorrow we fly to Fiji to enjoy some sunshine, snorkelling and turning 29…!

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The Van – Part 1

Not long after arriving in New Zealand, somewhere around day 2 of being stuck at a motel in Kawerau, we realised that having a car here is quite useful. You can drive and stop and where you want, and they use the proper side of the road. So, for the last week or so, we’ve been roadtripping around the South Island, driving and stopping where we want, in a camper van.

Our new home

Our new home

We picked up our van in Christchurch, and just as the city’s worst floods in years were hitting we drove away across the Canterbury Plains. They are beautiful wide open spaces apparently, but I was too busy wrestling to stay on the road through the wind and rain to notice! The weather calmed down as we got inland though, and for our first stop we drove over a cheeky few kilometres of gravel roads to reach Mount Potts Station.

New Zealand roads...

New Zealand roads…

There were no other tourists around, and the place is quite off the beaten track. It also happens to be home to Mount Sunday, the location used as Edoras, capital of Rohan in The Two Towers. It is one of the more iconic locations of the trilogy, and required very little CGI. So when we rounded the last bend, we saw the flat valley, ringed by snow capped mountains and the smallish, stump of a hill in the middle, exactly like the films, I worried the trip had peaked too soon! We walked from our campsite to the hill and climbed, and were the only people in sight. We didn’t get to use replica swords like the official tours, but having Edoras to ourselves was pretty magical.

Edoras, Rohan, Middle-Earth

Edoras, Rohan, Middle-Earth

Enjoying some privacy in Edoras

Enjoying some privacy in Edoras

The next day we moved on to Lake Tekapo, camping at the base of Mount John. The lake is stunning, amazingly blue and green and reflects the mountains around it. That night was nice and clear, and the area is famous for its big sky and lack of light pollution – the stars were amazing, even if the lack of cloud cover meant it was a bit chilly in the van! We got up early the next day and hiked quickly up to the top of Mount John for the 360 degree views of the lakes and mountains, and then were rewarded with a half price trip to the hot springs!

Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo

From Tekapo we drove to Aoraki/Mount Cook, the tallest peak in Australasia. We camped right near the base of Mount Sefton, and spent the next couple of days tramping and walking around the mountains, rivers and glaciers in the area. At the end of one walk, we reached a lake formed by a glacier retreating. Mount Cook was right in front of us, and at the far end of the lake the glacier was slowly breaking off into icebergs which we sat and watched float around. It was stupefyingly awesome.

Mt Cook

Mt Cook

Mini icebergs, glacier, Mount Cook. Whatever.

Mini icebergs, glacier, Mount Cook. Whatever.

After filling a memory card with photos that will never do justice to the views, we headed off back to the east coast, going against the tourist traffic, and drove all the way southeast to Oamaru. After being in the wild for a few days it was nice to be in a coastal town, especially one famous for its cheese factory (we had a few samples), it’s very Victorian architecture, and most bizarrely for steampunk. We also visited Dunedin, a really cool university city which we will definitely try and get back to, where we did some learning of our own at the excellent Settlers Museum, all about the early Scottish colonists who founded the city.

To end our first full week, we spent a couple of days driving around the Catlins National Park, way down in the southeast. It feels pretty end of the worldy in many ways, and there are very few other tourists (or even people) down there. Law found us an awesome little campsite to park at in a place called Curio Bay, where we were in an enclosed area of flax grass right on the edge of the cliff overlooking the sea. Curio Bay is on one side of the headland, and is famous for its 180 million year old petrified forest of fossilised tree stumps (amazing), and even more amazing, it’s Yellow-eyed Penguin colony! Wrapped up warm against the roaring 40’s wind, we watched for a couple of hours as penguins got out of the sea and waddled inland to their nests.

#PenguinSelfie

#PenguinSelfie

On the other side of the headland is Porpoise Bay, a perfect sandy, half-moon crescent beach which gets it’s name from the Hector Dolphins that play around in the surf. We watched them jump and swim for a while, before I decided to brave the cold (it’s not that far from Antarctica here) and go for a dip. I swam around for a bit and two of the dolphins got gradually closer, until I could see them about 5 metres or so away. I was the only person in the sea. It was amazing.

Me and the camera-shy dolphins

Me and the camera-shy dolphins

Basically, in just over a week we’ve seen and done loads, way more than I can fit in here. The scenery is stunning everywhere, literally every bend in the road is photo-worthy, our bed is nice and comfy, cooking on the gas stove or in the camp kitchens is fun, we climbed Edoras, saw glaciers and icebergs, saw penguins, swam with dolphins, climbed around at Aslan’s Camp, visited the very end of the country and we still have two weeks left in this van.

Elephant Rocks AKA Aslan's Camp

Elephant Rocks AKA Aslan’s Camp

Lunchtime

Lunchtime

Van with a view

Van with a view

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The awkward moment when your in-laws gate crash your honeymoon…

After our long weekend in Sydney, we flew to Auckland to spend just over 5 months in Middle- Earth itself, New Zealand. As our special guest blogger Mr B has explained, the Bowers met us at the airport with their excellent homemade sign, and we were hugely impressed that they didn’t vault the barriers and run towards us as soon as we got through immigration!

This guy was also waiting for us at the airport

This guy was also waiting for us at the airport

We’ve been here for 2 weeks now, and each week couldn’t have been more different! After being reunited, we drove out to the Coromandel Peninsula to spend a week in a Bach, a house overlooking the beach and the sea with spectacular views through the wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling glass and balconies on every level. After 5 months backpacking and hostels, this place was heaven. We had a proper cup of tea, then some crisps and dip, and just like that, we didn’t miss the rice and noodles any more.

A nice change from rice

A nice change from rice

The week flew by too quickly, and we had a great time. The nearest beach was just a short walk down the cliff path, and the ‘busy’ days had about 20 people on it. On our second full day, I drove a car for the first time in months and we went from Tairua, where we were staying, up to Whitianga – before our wedding we bought Mr and Mrs B a voucher for a scenic flight over the peninsula from there.

Still better than AirAsia

Still better than AirAsia

After waiting about 20 minutes, a little plane landed and the pilot, who looked younger than me, hopped out, gave the Bowers a map and let them decide on their own route over the area. I think they were suitably impressed! That afternoon we drove over to Hot Water Beach, so-called because under a certain part of the beach at low tide, a thermal stream over the sand. People rent a spade, dig a pool, and in an area about 30 metres square, everyone sits in their own handmade hot spring!

Spot the bit with the hot water

Spot the bit with the hot water

Hail to the chef

Hail to the chef

During the week, we also went kayaking in the local estuary, visited the amazing Cathedral Cove (the walk there along the cliffs was spectacular, and the archway in the cliffs is awesome) and ate a lot of amazing food. One night, we went out for a meal and after we’d eaten went to watch a band, and the small audience of drunk oldies singing along turned out to be mainly from Cornwall as well – small world.

Cathedral Cove

Cathedral Cove

Amazing views

Amazing views

The only drawback was the wifi – there wasn’t any at the house we were staying in, so we had to go down and sit outside the local library to use it. Whilst this wasn’t a bad thing in itself, one morning that Law and I went down and left Mr and Mrs B at the house, around 5 minutes after we left a pod of dolphins swam past and essentially performed in the bay the whole time we were out. Bottle-nosed jerks.

Using the only wifi in the village

Using the only wifi in the village

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A guest blog from Dad

Well, we have joined up with the Honeymooners….seems a bit weird,but it is great to see these two wild-looking travellers, healthy, tanned, slimmer, and happy.

We embarrassed them straight away by greeting them with a lovely sign, welcoming them to Auckland. They came out of the Arrivals area and walked straight past. Oh well!

Welcome to New Zealand!

Welcome to New Zealand!

We have been in New Zealand for two weeks already. What an amazing, beautiful and completely indescribable place. We feel so relaxed and Sam and Laura too have got straight in to the way of life.

Staying in a 'Bach' in the coromandel

Staying in a ‘Bach’ in the coromandel

We are staying in Tairua in a beautiful apartment overlooking the Pacific and the coast towards Hot Water Beach, which we tried this morning. Took us a few minutes to get it but after scalding our feet we finally made a pool and, basically, had a hot bath in the sand. The water seeps up from a thermal well on the beach and people bring their spades and dig and wallow…sheer bliss. The first beach we have been to where we have had to sit within 100 yards of other human beings.

Hot springs on Hot Water Beach

Hot springs on Hot Water Beach

Sam and Laura bought us a scenic flight over the Coromandel peninsular. It is hard to describe the beauty and the sense of uninhabited wilderness that you get from the air.

Scenic flight over the Coromandel

Scenic flight over the Coromandel

It is great spending time with Sam and Laura. I have spooked Sam a bit by showing him the Maori sign of respect between men (and some of these Maori men are huge).
If you are reading this then we have managed to get wifi by sitting outside the town library in Tairua, bars and restaurants do not automatically have wifi (maybe a good thing!)

Tairua beach

Tairua beach

Thanks for reading this, the longest piece of writing I have done since an essay I wrote in 2nd year at school.
Pete Bower (Father/Father-in-Law)

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