Kia Ora!

November 9, 2008 - Auckland, New Zealand

Kia Ora one and all, which means "be well/healthy" in Māori language!

We are now nearing the end of our stay in New Zealand, after a hectic few days.  I think we have driven about 1800km - Queenstown to Auckland, via Arrowtown, Wanaka, Haast, Franz Josef, Nelson, Wellington, Levin and Rotoroua. We managed to stay in our campervan for 2 nights, but it was extremely cold so we bottled out and stayed in basic motels/hotels the other few nights!

We've uploaded some more pictures from our time in New Zealand, including some from the 'Minus Five Experience' ice bar in Queenstown. Everything was made of ice (including the glasses) and we were well equipped with big warm jackets and gloves. The actual temperature in the place was -7.6C but that wouldn't be quite as catchy a name I suppose!

We left Queenstown on Tuesday (we think!) and headed towards the west coast, stopping off at Kawarau Bridge which is the 'home of bungee' where nutters can jump off the 43m high bridge - needless to say we both declined the offer! We moved on from there and stayed the night in a small place called Haast near the coast, shacking up in a campsite in the back of the van which was an experience! The driving was pretty horrendous thanks to heavy rain for most of the journey and the windy single carriageway roads - we barely passed another vehicle for most of that evening so it could have been worse.

After Haast, we continued north and stopped off at Franz Josef to visit the glacier there. At this point there was very heavy snow and unsurprisingly the temperature had dropped dramatically. Unfortunately it was very cloudy as well so we decided against taking a scenic helicopter flight over the glacier and mountains as we'd not have seen anything. We managed to walk up quite close to the glacier via one of several footpaths in the area so at least got to see it and also saw a large kea bird up close which had landed at one of the viewing platforms.

From Franz Josef, we continued on up the coast on the same quality of roads but through some spectacular mountain scenery. We managed to make it up to Nelson on the north of the South Island that same day and stayed there in the van for another night. Next morning we were awoken by planes coming into land at the nearby airport (every little town here seems to have an airport!) so headed of reasonably early to Picton where we took a 3 hour ferry crossing to Wellington on the North Island. We just had a few hours to look around Wellington that evening which seemed like a really nice place, if a bit cold and windy! We didn't manage to find Wellywood unfortunately (the Hollywood of New Zealand apparently)!

We continued on north and reached Rotorua, after a stopover in a place called Levin. Rotorua was great, with loads of activities to do and sights to see although thanks to the geothermal activity there the place stinks of sulphur. We visited Te Puia where there are loads of thermal springs, boiling mud pools and a few geysers as well. We timed it well and saw the Pohotu Geyser erupting - the waters reach 80 feet at its strongest - which was quite a spectacle.

That evening we went to the Polynesian Spa in town where we had a delux private pool for half an hour, with views out over the lake. The water was fantastically hot (around 38C) and it was great to relax in, though Cara still found it a bit chilly! The heat got to me though as when we came out I fainted and found myself back in the pool when I came too! Fortunately my first aider was on hand to help out and after a bit of recovery everything was fine.

Next day we went to Whakarewarewa Thermal Village which is inhabited by about 74 Maoris. We took in a cultural show which consisted of lots of traditional Maori song and dance, including the Haka. After that we were taken on a very informative tour around the village where we saw how they use the hot springs and pools for cooking, bathing, etc. It was all very impressive.

We then set off for Auckland, stopping on the way at the 'Agrodome' where more extreme activities are on offer such as a bungee swing, jet boating, extreme freefall and zorbing is on offer. I tried out the 'shweeb' which is a cross between cycling and a monorail, with glass capsules hanging down from a monorail track that you peddle around, getting up to about 60km/h. It was great fun, though pretty exhausting and quite sore on the legs!

And here we are now in Auckland where we've had one night's stay before we fly to Rarotonga this evening. We've seen a bit of the city centre and are going to hop back in the van in a short while to see a bit more of the city before making our way to the airport. After all that driving we're in need of a week of relaxation so hopefully Rarotonga is the place to get it.


Ric's Mum & Dad:
November 9, 2008
Glad your driving is over, sounded fairly tedious and sleeping the night in the cold in a Camper Van...not good at all, been there got the T shirt as they say!!
Sorry but relieved you didn't do the Bungee or the Helicopter!!
Just had a look at photos of Rarotonga on the web and have to say we are VERY jealous of you both, the sea is so blue! Trust you'll manage to be well and healthy while you're there and no more fainting Richard - but then 38C is very hot!
Remember Gran talking about Rotarua when she visited New Zealand in 1974 I think it was...
Lindsay (Ric's sis):
November 9, 2008
looks fairly unpleasant.....
hope no sharks?
Mum & Dad McElhinney:
November 10, 2008
Yes I agree you deserve a nice relaxing time for the next week - we are glad your driving is finished - poor old you Richard (hope you not trying it on so that you can be on the sick when you get home) he!he!
Enjoy the white beaches and blue sky - we sooooo jealous!!!! xx
William Coleman:
November 10, 2008
I know what you mean about the cold in Queenstown,
I just about broke my neck while walking about on icy pavements! However it is great to hear about your adventure, the places you have been to are amongst some that we have been to and it is nice to be reminded of them and also to see your pic's of the places that we have still to visit, like Cambodia and Vietnam. Anyway, thanks for the pic's they are fabulous! Might save us some money on travel expenses! However, as a confirmed Gypsy, I love to trave and see for myself. Thanks again for including me in your blogs, wish I had managed to join in sooner.

Auld Honourary Uncle Bill.
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