Saturday, January 08, 2005


The Land of NZ

Here I am in Christchurch at last - a little haven of civilisation that could almost be British except that it's far too civilised. My mum and my little bro have flown back home where they are getting on with normal things like work and study, while I am let loose once again into the world of backpackerdom. We've just had a lovely couple of weeks touring round in rented cars, eating good healthy food and staying in little wooden cabins. We've argued about everything from the merits of Lonely Planet v.s. Rough Guide to the recipe for cheese sauce. Somehow we've managed to find time to see a bit of New Zealand in between. My brother Alex insists on calling it 'The Land of NZ' (pronounced NUZ) and even though it's not even slightly amusing, the habit is catching - hence the title of this blog entry.

Here is a link to our New Zealand Pics (it's same one I sent out on email recently)

Having caught the airport shuttle into Auckland City centre, I checked into the YHA, still mourning the loss of my macademia nuts. I managed to find out which room mum and Alex were staying in and seeing them again cheered me up no end. Next day we picked up our campervan and started driving up the east coast (after spending a good half hour trying to get on the motorway in the right direction). The Weather was reasonably warm and fine and we found a decent motor park (campsite) in Waiwera (literally 'warm water') a few ks north of Auckland. As the name suggests there are Hot springs nearby and we spent a relaxing morning messing about at the thermal resort.

Our first big adventure together was a diving trip in Tutukaka. People don't normally associate New Zealand with diving but this place was awesome. It wa definitely worth putting up with initial sensation of chilled water seeping into our extra thick wet suits. We swam through forests of kelp, home to giant stingrays, giant stargazers and some very inquisitive multicoloured fish whose name I don't know. Here's me and Alex getting ready to dive:

Next stop Bay of Islands where we spent Christmas and Boxing day. Our Christmas tree, looked like this:

I got loads of presents, mostly books, oh and a new digital camera, so if you notice the quality of pictures improve from here onwards it doesn't necessarily mean I've become a better photographer. I got a chance to test it out the next day when we went on a sailing trip and saw some dolphins:

We stopped off on our journey to visit Waitangi, where in 1840 the brits somehow managed to persuade a load of Maori chiefs to sign over the entire Land of NZ. It was fascinating it has to be said and we had a chance to see a Maori tribe doing some Haka (dances). They were really great. Most of the dances were kind of happy sunshine dances, unlike the haka made famous by the NZ rugby team. It made me wonder why the Maori settled in a place with such a rubbish climate (the weather has been shocking since we arrived).

The weather thwarted my attempts to take us out fishing for a day, sea kyaking and 'blo-karting' were cancelled for the same reason. So we carried on up the coast, finally catching some good weather at north tip of the north island where we took pictures of the lighthouse before heading back down the coast again. We spent New Year in Thames in the cutest wee caravan you can imagine. I was knackered after a long drive and went to bed soon after midnight, only reading half a page of Dave Gorman's book "Are you Dave Gorman" before falling asleep.

We spent the next morning on Hot Water Beach which is a bit of a misnomer if you ask me - the water was freezing cold. Having said that, there were plenty of surfers out that day. We had a bit of a paddle and congratulated ourselves on having made it to 2005 while our friends in Europe still languished in 2004.

video of a surfer on hot water beach

Next stop Rotorua, land of geysers, boiling mud pools and steaming rivers. We saw loads of hellish sights whilst sniffing the sulfurous air. I took a few videos with me new camera. You'll need Quicktime installed to see them (available from Apple's website)

bubbling mud
Pohutu geyser
alex letting off steam
boiling lake
boiling pool at hells gate

Rotorua is also famous for rafting and we were supposed to be going but some idiot screwed up our booking grrrrrrrrrrr. Well, if you can't go rafting, I recommend a game of boiling pooh sticks:

From here we went back to Auckland. Alex flew home to London and mum and I flew to Christchurch in the South Island. Mum only had a couple of days before she needed to be back in the UK so we took a short trip down the coast to Omaru where the main attraction is penguins. There are 2 colonies of Little Blue Penguins one of which live next to a public viewing platform. We weren't allowed to take pictures here but there are Yellow Eyed Penguins just around the coast and we could take pictures of them, from a distance. This is the best shot we managed to get:

After waiting 2 hours to see this little fellow penguining his way up the beach we went to watch 74 Little Blue Penguins coming home after a hard day's fishing.

Next day we carried on down the coast the beach at Moeraki to see some huge boulders that look like they have been laid by diplodocuses:

According to Maori legend, the boulders are gourds washed from the great voyaging canoe Araiteuru when it was wrecked here 1000 years ago. The scientific version is a bit boring and probably wrong anyway so I won't bother repeating it.

So, mum's gone home and I've just met up with Krissy, Dan and Carlin who used to be my housemates in London a few years ago. It's great to see them again, so much has changed. Dan looks stockier, Carlin looks taller and Krissy has a huge belly - well she's pregnant so that figures. We've been catching up and discussing our plans for the future.

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