Boats, Ducks and Heading North

We woke facing the snow capped mountains and left early to catch the boat back to Wellington and the North Island. Arrived with a good hour and bit to spare. This time I had the dodgy boat journey (‘tis only fair we share these things). I really am going to miss the southern island.

We stayed at Otarki and I slept like a trucker. The trucks, trains or ducks didn’t stop me getting my beauty sleep. Matt however didn’t fair so well and the ducks were waiting for us as we left. We had a 5 hour car journey towards the Waitomo caves which we are both looking forward to exploring tomorrow.

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Penguins, Wallabies and Seals

The weekend has flown by and was full of animals so my favourite kind of holiday. We had a couple of days in Omaratu, and then headed north to Lincoln, and then back to our lovely holiday cottage in Waikoura.

On the way we captured our third wild seal, 209 blue penguins that travelled across oceans in rafts of 5-20, and I held a baby wallaby and my heart melted after feeding another 50 plus (a few of which slobbered over my hands as I fed them). We also found a few great book stores and fairs, so will have to buy a suitcase to get them all home.

We woke this morning in Lincoln and a great town that had a Famous Grouse Whiskey hotel and today hugged coastal hills and watched the sun go down over snow covered mountains.

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Bluff or Bust

Today we were planning to drive to Invercargill (which was about 2.5 hours each way) and we ended up at Bluff the very end of the Southern Island.

Interesting we came across a young lass who really didnt know what a veggie was. She thought the bacon filled sandwich was ok, and then offered “chicken salt” on chips. What the heck is Chicken Salt??

Matt bought an amazing warm hat in Invercargill - his Nokie Hat.

Had lunch at Zookeeper Cafe and coffee with pink fish (chocolate marshmellows) at the Oyster Cafe at Bluff.

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Cows, Shocks and Seals

We didn’t have breakfast, we just craved a lie in so that is exactly what we did. We plugged in the next location in Dunedin where we are staying for two whole nights. It is a two bedroomed cottage with a full kitchen and comfy sofas. We would arrive a few hours before check-in so stopped off at a couple of towns on route. Our favourite town so far Oamaru.

Rewinding a little we had breakfast (a cheese roll which is a rolled up cheese sandwich) and latte at a little place called Butlers Berry Farm and then searched for an empty church that was bought 18 months ago but hasn’t been earthquake proofed and proofing it, will weaken the building. When the earthquake hit a few years ago it was described as a train that rumbled and shook for a minute.

I then shocked myself feeding cows - I can tell you I wasn’t a bright spark.

We then went to Oamaru which was picture perfect - and included the Steampunk HQ which was fabulous, and I climbed on the roof of a train. We then hunted but failed to find the famous penguins - they may have been on a bridge but they could also have been posh magpies.q

Overheard at Steampunk HQ:

Teacher: and your Dad called her a slut?

Kid: Yup

Teacher: and was she a slut?

Kid: Yeah

Teacher: well that is alright then

On the way to Dunedin we saw a real live WILD seal. Oh yes it was a bit epic.

Now supping New Zealand wine and planning head for tomorrow.

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Into the South Island

We woke to a cooked breakfast, and then into Wellington to look at boats and water races, to go into the portrait gallery and then meet up with one of Matt’s scrabble friends (who was very lovely indeed).

We checked the car into the ferry queue and booked in. On arrival we booked a room so we could rest. The views on desk were epic on leaving Wellington and arriving at Picton. We arrived over an hour late which speaks of the very choppy and rolling waters. We then picked up our tire heels, chasing the sunset but did stop to grab cow pictures (thank you Matt) and a beach with waves twice the height of Matt. The holiday cottage is beautiful and faces mountains so our view is breathtaking. The owner talked of the road being cut off for 18 months as the cliffs and earthquakes ripped away the roads. We were escorted in convoys on sections of the road as a new road is carved into the mountainside.

Today, we are heading to Queenstown by lunchtime (about 2 hours drive away) and then another 2.5 hours to Timeru. The landscape is dramatic. Our view from the cottage is snow covered peaks of mountains.

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The Capital + The Zoo

Wellington couldn’t have been more different to how I imagined it. It is a large seaside town built around a pretty harbour, rather than the capital city. We shivered to the Library where we saw the declaration, Parliament (which had a building that looked like a darlek), a zoo in the hills and the studio for The Hobbit and other films.

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So rare, it felt lucky just getting the shadow.

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Putting the Whitby in Whitby

Oh yes, as days go - this was a highlight.

We woke to the threat of rain which didn’t disappoint. It rained so much that it hid mountains with sharp pointy bits. Curtains of rain gave way to a little blue sky and then dark again, by the time we got to our hotel, the rain was snowy and turned into a storm and full on mighty wind (let’s get the veggie jokes out of the way now).

I had a cheese scone and latte (without the coffee) at the Heavenly Cafe and Matt hoovered up a sausage roll stuffed with the good meats. He even played the organ at the entrance. He said it made his legs ache to peddle air into the organ but it did sound heavenly.

Those 10 jumpers are looking pretty cosy right now. Even my socks are wearing extra socks today. Yesterday Matt booked tickets for the ferry to and from the south island at a cost of about 518 kiwi dollars. So far, we have travelled 726 km. I worked out the south island will be about 1800 km in a week… It is going to be a mighty challenge.

The ferry had been cancelled for today, which is a worry, the crossing is a bit rough apparently and was last cancelled 6 months ago.

We then found a little town that was a photography magnet and we stayed a while as the rain paused. Then onto Whitby where the librarian was amazing and happy to chat about the local area. It is an area around 30/40 years old. They even have a Brady room in the library. We bought dinner, took lots of Whitby photos and then onto the hotel for a couple of days until the ferry scoots us over to the South.

Pics below.

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Respite, Mordore and Feilding

It has only taken four days, but we are able to sleep through the night. To celebrate we are up to conquer coffee. The Guide mentioned a place called Respite which didn’t open until 8am. We spent a little while exploring the town and capturing wall art.

Some fun facts: Police cars are red and Ambulances are the same as the UK. We have no need for either.

Repleat in Tapau is super. I ordered another epic breakfast but we are here for the coffee and it didn’t disappoint. The music was also ear-pealing as was the little bird that kept popping in and out to pick up crumbs and tidy up after us. Breakfast cost 37 New Zealand Dollars and the petrol cost 71 for half a tank.

We then set off to find Mordor, the journey winding around the lake which is an enormous volcanic crater (which I couldn’t seem to get my head around because I repeated that fact several times until it sunk in), the journey was very pretty. We climbed into the Torango National Park and towards Wakapapa. We found clouds, rain and more rain. No views and no photos. We did get a free coffee though as a young girl was in training at a cafe. The coffee came with a slab of fudge. On the way back down the mountain, I read the film script Matt and I are writing and pondered next scenes.

Below the cloud and drizzle the skies turned blue and we could again see the snow covered peaks of the volcanoes.

We took a few turns to snap pictures, and we found Harrods (see Matt’s pic) before pointing the car at the next town called Feilding which was about 2.5 hours away. A bone freezing alarm screamed across the town at 12 noon (either it was lunch or an early warning system for the volcano). Either way it stunned me to the spot. There are now way more sheep than cows and because it is spring most fields have lambs leaping about.

On the hotel-bound journey I managed to take out my legs from under me as the uneven ground swallowed my foot in a hole while taking pics. I took out a chunk of plastic from the front of my camera and bruised the palm of my hand BUT all is ok. My camera now has Character.

We are settled into a motel and had broccoli soup for dinner with pine nuts, cheese and sun-dried tomatoes and planned the visit to the South Island - ferry is booked for Sunday morning.

Tomorrow we head to Whitby and have a day or two to kill in the capital of Wellington.

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Maori !

We were awake especially early (still not acclimatised as we are a gorgeous 12 hours ahead of you guys back home) and wrote postcards to parents over breakfast. We have not had dinner this week as we keep zonking out and missing it. Today we will crack that nut and have vowed to not sleep until at least 10pm tonight. Breakfast today was a gastronomic affair. I had a hash brown stack which was avacado, poached egg, caramelised onions, cheddar cheese and hash browns. Matt consumed The Big Duke (a hearty full English) and declared it “amazing” (rare praise indeed) .

Today we were tracking down the source of the stink and seeing the Thermal Areas at Whakarewarewa Valley.

We went to the Te Puia complex which is an extensive park with a centre of Maori culture and hunted out Kiwi (there are two onsite) and burping mud puddles which was pretty active today as it was a little wet. The highlights were meeting the Maori familiy, and the masters of carving and weaving as well as the Geysers. This is the largest geyser area in the southern hemisphere and the second largest in the world after the one in Russia. A smaller geyser called an indicator predictably builds up to the Pohuto (Big Splash) which lifts up to 100ft. Oh yes, and I got on stage and waved a tassel on the end of a rope with a ball at the other end. I was NOT Maoni dancing. Uh uh.

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We then drove (accidentally past) Hobbiton and ended up the day at Tapau (that isn’t how it is spelt… I will correct it later. There is a whole area we zipped by where Matt wondered if this was where the Telly Tubbies originate from.

Hobbiton goes on the list for the return journey.

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First full Day

We were headed to Rotorua and then I picked up the Guide and changed direction a little towards Coromandel Bay and were not disappointed, blue green seas met coral covered rocks and trees with roots pulling out from the bank to dip toes into the sea. On route we discovered a closed antique store and passed across an ancient iron bridge meant for half a car. Breathe in.

We took a little break at Bugger Cafe for a welcome break and spent much of the time looking at photos depicting one pickle or another to pass the time. On the counter was a jar of red sweets labelled “If you’re a Jaffa, help yourself to a Jaffa” with kids helping themselves to one when leaving. I commented that maybe Jaffa meant good in some way…. nope. Jaffa is short for ”from Auckland”. Do pop to their website at www.buggercafe.co.nz (unsure if this will blocked by work firewalls though).

We have picked up a phone - just need to register it and work out the number. Will be good for emergencies especially when we hit the south island. Looking up the going rates for calling home.. tis about a pound a minute.

The roads are less motorway than I was expecting and more wavy, as they skip across hills. My stomach kept pace for a few hours. I am convinced we saw a kiwi bird as ALL cars stopped for it as it skittered/waddled/hopped across the road. Another couple of birds danced in front of the car and they were the brightest red/green and blue I have ever seen - that is going to remain a puzzle for a while. If anyone can shed light on what this could have been, do let me know. The fauna and flora here in New Zealand is diverse, most gardens and fields are chock full of different types of trees… some look like they have been planed upside down, others bright pink (my favourite). We spotted ancient wide trees that would take a group of people to hug.

30 mins near to our destination for the night we needed to rest and grab a late lunch and the omelette didn’t disappoint. The cafe also played host to chickens, birds and a stonkingly happy donkey called Barney. Matt surprised me with bags of food. Barney had two goats for company and one was called Pig who tried to climb out of the fence to get the food. Now I know why they called him Pig. Patient Barney got his share but between them my hands turned a gippy colour. Scrubbed hands twice while chatting to a German tourist, and sharing my story of growing up in her part of the world. She must have told all the others as they all were then waving goodbye as our car pulled away.

As a side note, this area of NZ is mainly cows…sooooo many cows. I have only spotted a handful of sheep.

We are now in Rotarua. Approaching the town I suggested we stay a second night but honestly the stink can peel paint off the wall. I am not sure I can last an hour never mind two nights. I fear it has embedded itself into my DNA and I will be called The Stinky One. You may think I am being a little dramatic - but I am holding back. Dramatic would be Swamp Monster. The hotel have upgraded us but that just means there is more room for the smell to fill. Across from the hotel in the Gardens host bus fulls of tourists laden with selfie sticks taking quirky pics amongst flowers. The Gardens also host the Prince’s Gate Arches which were designed to represent the royal crown, they were erected in 1901 to honour the visit of the Duke and Duchess of York who later became King George V and Queen Mary. These are wooden structures that have survived and now grace the entrance to the Gardens along with carved warriors. At the side of the garden is the Rachel Pool where the temperature of the spring reaches 212 degrees and is a giant boiling pit with waves of steamy rotten egg that feeds many of the vaulted steam baths surrounding it. There is no escape.

Rotten egg pool...  Last one in is a ninny.

We explored the little town and chatted to friendly people whilst picking up stamps and postcards and headed back to the hotel to fill them in. Matt debated whether they would arrive home before us.

Tomorrow we head south towards Taupo.

New Zealand

Air New Zealand is super comfy. Thicker blankets a whole sized pillow AND deep reclining chair that lifts your legs up. Winner. I was quite alarmed as a toddler escaped the restraints and was dancing on her chair as the plane was pelting down the runway on takeoff. A toddler on the loose does not invoke calm. I had a flashback to Romania where donkeys, trucks and tuk-tuks played dare on tight winding mountains without speed limits as kids were unrestrained and hanging out of windows with giant smiles all round. (also referred to as 12 hours of nails dug into palms). After a rapid burst of Chinese from the air stewards the child was at least restrained in the arms of her father as there was no time to buckle up. See I told you take offs are scary.

Prior to the flight, my Matt handed me a beautiful jade rabbit that melted my heart, and we had an excellent chat with Geoff from Wellington who should have been on a flight the day before. In the queue for boarding he shared his love of New Zealand and I now know to look for a seal colony creche between Pictain and Blenheim (both of which I am sure I have spelt wrong), and that the highest mountain is now 12 meters shorter following a rock fall. He advised us to pick up a burner phone (which sounds wickedly nefarious) and never to leave anything in the car.

The flight was filled with Ted Talks and Documentaries. Slept a few hours too.

The sights of New Zealand as we approached was breathtakingly beautiful. Blue green seas, beaches, dotted islands and mountains to the south.

We picked up the car and pointed it in the direction of sheep. I liked the guide reference to Shaky Isles, “New Zealand is perched on the Pacific Ring of Fire", a collision zone between two gigantic chunks of the earth’s crust. Here, the plates grind against each other to create new landscapes. Aotearea is the land of the long white cloud and Maori is taught in schools.

Our first night is spent at Ramarama and its like Yorkshire on steriods. The home we are staying at has Emus! and baby Emus (they are a world apart from the big ones - for a start they can’t kill you with a kick). Sheep, a horse that no longer gets ridden, chicks, turkeys and lambs. Yup - I have arrived at a zoo and I am in heaven.

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A quick stop to get coffee, milk, eggs and cheese for dinner and we settled to catch up on the blogs. I will come back add photos but we are sharing the ‘puter and Matt’s photos are way more compelling. Fell asleep at 4pm and woke at 10pm to chat until 1. The farm animals woke us at dawn and we ready to now eat the dinner from last night.

China

Still Sunday   

Once off Plane 1, we were pointed in various directions for single word questions like Transfer?  The more steps away from the plane, the less understood we became.

The cavernous halls stripped with taped areas to corral people was a sight to behold.  China had planned for thousands to fill the halls and only 8 tuned up but China kept us as long as possible to make up for that.

Dropped off bags the airport hotel.  Sadly the airport didn’t do the tours, that would be the other airport – but we were not daunted.  We got this.   Had a shower and got in gear for exploring, sleep would wait. The room had a weird glass wall… So I creeped out Matt. This could be my new facebook picture.

Spooky!

Spooky!

Even the picture in the bathroom depicted the Chinese characters falling over.

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The MAGLEV is totally amazing, it reached 301kph and skidded into the city within 8 minutes.  Had an iced coffee and walked in a straight line through City Garden going click crazy with the camera (even man holes were different).  City Garden was essentially a circle of pretty tower blocks.  I spotted my first Chinese nature – a sparrow.

People were lovely and we got a great nod from a security guard in the Gardens.

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Sleep now needed as flagging on my feet, so heading back.  The Maglev was the highlight of the holiday and as a bonus we could read the word!

Next flight is in a few hours.  It is so weird being in China but we are still not there.  Currently I am 7 hours ahead of the UK.  I am your future.  On that note, I fell asleep.

Lift off!

It will take us two days to get there.  We have never been that far from home before.   Having not slept, (a habit I really need to break out of) I watched the sun come up in the company of Wombat.  We were hours from being flung across many oceans.

We took Wombat to Niki and Melanie, he is staying in a much much larger area, which is such a delight and I as immediately put at ease.  I did a head shake (Wombat speak for overjoyed) and we both did a little dance.

Headed home to plate of cauliflower cheese for breakfast (I know, I am a maverick).  Our taxi to the airport was punctuated with breaths of silence as the driver held court in the front seat. Man alive he couldn’t stop talking and he had multiple opinions on everything.  The journey took an extra 1 hour 20 mins so we were scraping into the airport with minutes to spare for check in close.   We lifted our heals and scooched through ALL the queues.   

We clinked glasses of bubbly and waited takeoff.

I hate takeoff.   Soon we will leave the rain behind and climb above the clouds.   Mental thought – it wont rain above the clouds : sunshine or starlight.

Dinner is mushroom risotto.  I have been screwed.  However the lovely chef indicated that the mushrooms were off (you don’t need to tell me)!!  Whoop.  I gave a suitably gutted look and they rustled up an alternative pasta thingy.  Resulto!!

 Now sipping cognac.   I am soooo going to sleep on this flight but first watching Deadpool 2.  Am epic journey.

I didn’t sleep on plane 1.  That is going to bite me later.

Focused

My holiday always starts the day before and I gotta tell you, it flew by.  I was on my own but not alone as phone calls blurred and the team was epically brilliant and flattening deadlines.  Just about everything came together.  Walking home I recall only having one thing on my urgent list that didn’t get done – I will take that hit when I get back.

I arrived home with bags of greens for Wombat, let him loose to dance and release his pent up energy and then flop down beside me (that pretty much summarised was my day too).   After making Matt’s hair shorter I threw more stuff into the suitcase, it was time to call it a night.

And so it begins...

Matt and I wanted a road trip but we wanted a break from Trump's America.  Next on the list was across Europe but three weeks of dodging sheep's brain didn't appeal.

A lovely chap in work suggested New Zealand and I was sold on the photos alone.   Next challenge was to see if Matt was up for it..  I didn't say where - I just gathered the photos together and we played  quiz.  Who knew there were two islands... I didn't.   I am confessing that I didn't know it was Australia's neighbor either - let's get the mocking over now.

We are already mentally packing.

Matt and I then watched lord of the rings, I know we are 17 years late to this party but I liked it a lot.  Matt liked the scenery.

Facts:

No vaccinations

2 visas

15 to 20 thousand earthquakes a year

Parrots that like to play in the snow

The Southern Lights (the northern lights just upside down)

for every pound you get two New Zealand dollars

4 million people and a few shed full of sheep

Flights are now booked, 35 hours there with a  stopover of 12 hours in China (so we can stretch our legs). and 28 hours back.