A Travellerspoint blog

Moving on to South Island!

Abel Tasman and Hangliding!

Nursing some sore heads we somehow managed to get up early to grab the shuttle to the ferry that would be taking us to the South Island. This passing had been rumoured to be somewhat treacherous at times so we were hoping that we wouldn't have to deal with any sea sickness as well! Having checked in and waited around for a while we all got on board and I had to laugh a little because the quality of these ferries was so much better than the ones we had taken in Indonesia. It almost didn't feel right to have this luxury with comfy seats and couches, big screen tv's showing Ironman 3 etc.

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The seas were not at all choppy and we had a gorgeous day to cruise along towards the South Island. A couple of policemen we had met whilst enjoying the hot tub in Tongario had said that you must be awake for the approach the South Island as the inlet you take towards the harbour town of Picton is beautiful. And they weren't wrong, as we got closer and closer it got better and better.

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Once in Picton we got on a new bus and got settled in to the long drive to Abel Tasman National Park which is the oldest National park in New Zealand. Despite the prospect of being on the coach for a large amount of time we were excited that we would get to do one of the activities we had planned to do here Hangliding!

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For once the weather was on our side and we would be able to do it that afternoon! We got dropped off at a small airstrip and met Trevor our pilot, there was 7 of us wanting to take flight so we had a really quick intro as the sun was already beginning to lower. I went second and Sarah would be forth so fortunately for me she could take some shots of me getting ready.

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It's funny as you get strapped into a pouch and then suspend yourself horizontally above the pilot in tandem. A lot of hangliding involves running off a mountain to get airborn but here we would be pulled along by a small motor plane to get us up in the air!

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The take off was so cool, being zipped along and ascending to 2500ft and then the cord is cut and you a drifting, or as Buzz Lightyear would say 'falling with style'.

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Needless to say, it was epic! I was really lucky that the weather was perfect and so the Richmond Ranges were in full sight as well as the Abel Tasmen National Park where we would be heading later.

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Trevor was a good pilot and did a few dips and turns which made the experience even more fun. I was belting out R Kelly's 'I believe I can fly' and extending my arms out like a bird! Like I said, EPIC!

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The descent was really fun as well and as we got closer to the landing site I could see Sarah below taking photos!. With a breezy land I got my final photo and ran back elated.

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Sadly, after other Dan had gone up the pilot of the motor plane hit a bird on the propeller damaging it which meant Sarah's and the others flights were called off! Obviously after all the issues we had with missing stuff it wasn't the best thing to happen. Sarah was all geared up and ready to go and had mustered up the strength to take the hangliding considering she was suffering from a nasty cold and so obviously was disappointed.

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The plan was to get the propeller fixed and everyone who could come back in the morning before we left. So we were shuttled back to the accommodation outside the Abel Tasmen National Park and relaxed for the evening.

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What followed the next day really felt like the unlucky streak was taking over as the whole day was a wash out.

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The rainfall was constant and relentless for the best part of the day. We had been told that bad weather was possible, but still hoped we could do some of the walks in the parks. This wasn't the case and everyone had to sit it out either in their rooms or in the movie room (some people watched the whole Lord of the Rings Trilogy extended version, all 12 hours of it!).

We did get some sunshine towards the end of the day and Sally, Irene, Sarah and I went for a walk.

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We stopped off at the local artist/hippy outdoor exhibition/shop which had some amazing wood carvings and a random guy was playing the piano as we walked around enjoying the artistry.

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We ventured out on the coastal walk to check out the beach and got a few snaps, so we felt like we had least made a decent attempt to see the park.

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I caught up with a few of people on the bus in the evening but Sarah's cold had got worst and she had to just rest. It wasn't the best couple of days to be honest, something had to change and we hoped that the rugged western coast with mountains and glaciers would bring us back on track!

Stay tuned for more tales.

Dan

Posted by doyledan 00:34 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Onwards to Wellington

Moving on from Tongariro was tough as we missed out on an experience but the show must go on and we headed on to the capital Wellington, to see what it had in store for us.

The journey is one of the longest you do on the bus trip and there isn't much in between apart from farmlands.

To break up the trip and boost morale Possum made a couple of stops on the way. The first involved stopping in a small town which is famous for making gum boots so of course a Wellington boot toss competition (or Welly Wangin' as we were informed by Lauren), with alcohol rewards on offer, was called for!

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Safe to say I was terrible at it and Sarah wasn't awful but not that great either, and it was left to the big German Stefan to take the winnings which wasn't bad because it was his last night in NZ (we let him win, honest!)

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This is a 'shamel' a cross between a sheep and a camel.... Although I think Possum was pulling our leg here and its a llama or alpaca or something :)

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The second was a small town that has a playground with climbing frames, hamster wheels, swings and see-saw. It was a good way to break up the monotony of the bus trip and we released the inner child on the swings.

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When we finally reached Wellington the sun was shining and the advice by our driver was to check out the national museum called Te Papa. We had planned to visit Weta Cave, which is a studio where they produce props and special effects for films including Lord of the Rings but we hadn't realised it was a half hour bus ride to get there and was only open for another hour and we had no extra time! This recurring theme was beginning to drain us a little bit!

Fortunately, Wellington is a pleasant place to hang out especially when the weather is good.

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Being a harbour city you get that good mix of city and nature. We even spied a cat fish!

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The bar scene is supposed to be very good and we thought we should at least enjoy a glass. But before that we headed to the museum. There are five levels in the museum that cover all things New Zealand. We headed for the first floor that covered the geology and the natural history. This is where you can experience what it would be like to be in a house when an earthquake is causing it to move and shake. (It wasn't that amazing but I suppose it is hard to replicate the real thing). Wellington is one of a a number of places in New Zealand that are prone to earthquakes. Due to its location sitting in between the tectonic plates that move and shift and can cause serious damage to cities. In fact there was one that was over 6 on the Richter scale a few days before we arrived! It was interesting to read about the disasters that have occurred especially the most recent that was in Christchurch, a destination we would be visiting at the end of our trip. It was also interesting how the earthquake activity had caused other parts of New Zealand's landscape attractions to react. Two of which being White Island, and the Tongario Volcanic plateau....I guess we should be thankful that there was no activity when we were there.

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Feeling a bit unenthused about reading more and wanting to be outside in the sun we didn't venture further into the museum. Instead we headed to one of the bars and enjoyed the sun and a bit of D and M.

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The plan for the evening would be to get free dinner at a Nomads bar and stay there to get the drinks in and say farewell to Nora and Stefan who were heading home to Germany.

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The night was pretty epic considering we hadn't really done many drinking nights with the bus.

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Lauren taught us the snake high five where you shout the Zulu word for snake! The bar put on drinking games involving pegs on faces, gum though trousers.

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The party atmosphere was infectious and we all got on to the tables and chairs to dance our arses off!

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The boat ride to South Island could be a little tricky after this one!

Stay tuned for more tales

Dan

Posted by doyledan 23:53 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

You Shall Not PASS!!

Tongario National Park

We left Blue Duck station in good spirits having enjoyed the beautiful scenery and were eager for our next stop which was the National Park where we could take on the Tongariro Alpine crossing, which is an 6-8 hour walk across a volcano plateau. This was going to be one of the highlights of our trip and would not only allow us to view crater lakes but would also take us past Mount Ngauruhoe which was used as Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings Movies. Woohoo!

Sadly, on arrival we were told that the crossing would not be possible due to the weather, not rain this time but the wind! The winds at the top of the crossing were gusting over 85km per hour making it too dangerous and as it was summer the walks are unguided and there was a chance you could get in trouble being blown off the pass. In the winter, when snow has covered the area the national park provides guides (for a fee of course) but in the summer this isn't necessary.

It was a big blow as it was one of the main things we wanted to experience as it was supposed to be one of the best walks in the world! Due to the somewhat annoying timetable that Stray has and the fact that it was the busiest month, we had no flexibility to stay another night and go the next day. It was a bit tough to take as we had previously been able to make decisions on our travels without the time pressure... But C'est la vie.

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The national park is still a beautiful place to visit and the hotel we stayed at was very nice and so we decided to use the now unnescessary park fee to upgrade to our own room as we couldn't do the walk. Our driver explained that there is a shorter walk to Taranaki falls so after we had checked in and some of the others rearranged their stay to do the alpine crossing the next day we all got back on the bus and were driven to the Taranaki walk. The walk was signposted as taking 2hours round trip with the a Waterfall being the end point before turning back. So we headed off on our mini adventure.

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Despite the disappointment of not doing the crossing the walk we did was still really nice, with some fantastic scenary and great company. Sarah was ahead with the girls and I decided to be photographer for the day and with the help of our Dutch friend Sally we managed to get some cool landscape shots.

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Sally and I caught up with the rest and we were all rewarded with a cool waterfall.

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We even got a glimpse of the alpine crossing mountain range that we would have passed on the walk and also the mountain that was used as 'Mordor', the lair for Saramon in Lord of the Rings Trilogy for those movie geeks out there.

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Leaving the waterfall we set foot to path through woodland and passed over rivers all of which had similarities to walks back in the UK.

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We had worked up an appetite and headed back to the hotel for some lunch, Sarah and I also took advantage of hot tub and the rest of the evening was spent in the bar. Good times.

Stay tuned for more tales.

Dan

Posted by doyledan 21:45 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Blue Duck Station

The Blue Duck station is a working farm located in Whakahoro and would be an opportunity to see what life is like on a station and if you wanted to there were activities from horse riding and clay pigeon shooting to hunting your own goat for dinner!

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With a focus on conservation they are striving in particular to save the Blue Duck which lives only on white water so by rapids and waterfalls.
We were given an enthusiastic introduction into the reasons why there are conservation issues for native animals to New Zealand.

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Before the introduction of animals such as stouts and cats there were no natural predators to the animals on New Zealand, in fact the only mammal on this land was a type of bat! This meant that birds could nest on the ground and have chicks with little defence without any real concerns. This is the case for the kiwi which lays a huge egg and once this hatches they leave the chick to their own devises. We were told that people didn't come to New Zealand until 800 years ago bringing with them predators too which has impacted on the native wildlife.

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To try to combat this they put out traps across the station, I think you can sponsor these traps as the ones we saw had people names on them.

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Blue Duck station is beautiful and you really feel that you are in the middle of nowhere. We would be staying in lodges on the station and making friends with the many dogs that call the station their home too.

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Our favourites would be Little Roy...

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and Trev Shepherd who is such a Legend he even has his own Facebook page.

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Trev is a New Zealand Huntaway, a popular breed for farm dogs due to the loudness of their bark and their ability to learn quickly. They are mainly used for driving sheep and an in area as large as the Blue Duck Station you can see why as they can send the dogs up the hill to drive them back down. Apparently Trev knows over 7 whistle commands that tell him which direction to go. Clever boy!

Check out the size of his feet!

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We decided not to get involved in any of the activities on offer as we had some more expensive things coming up we were holding out for, and so opted for a walk around the station to a waterfall instead, and if we were lucky we would spot the Illusive blue duck!

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It was a great walk walking past fields of sheep, cows, the odd pig and lots of beehives that looked like multicoloured filing cabinets. They used the bees to make the famous Malouka Honey that apparently has healing qualities and is good for you.

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We didn't spot any Blue ducks but dan did find this huge dragon fly which was as big as his hand!

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This is the Bridge to Nowhere... So after this we turned around :)

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After all that walking we were pleased to have the meal cooked by the lodge and settle in for some drinks around the fire, a great place to chill.

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Sxx

Posted by doyledan 21:22 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Roturua to Taupo

We had a great few days on excursions out of Roturua and forgotten to mention the town itself, which is an oversight as its lovely if you can put out of your mind the eggy fart smell which permeates through the town from all the geothermal activity in the area. This is not the place to be with a hangover and just when you think you have got used to it a more pungent waft will hit you.

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Rotorua in Maori means 'second lake' and this area used to be famous for the Pink and White terraces which were the 8th wonder of the world but this was destroyed in 1886 when Mt Tarawera erupted destroying villages and killing 120 people.

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We stayed at a fantastic hostel that Dee had found called Central Backpackers, it was really homely and a bit like a rabbit warren inside as it was several terrace houses linked together. The owner was really helpful and friendly too.

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We took a walk to Kuirau park to check out what was causing all the smells. It was a strange place to be as you would be walking over green lawns turn a corner and see a plume of steam coming out of the ground invariably with a bubbling mud pit underneath it!

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Taking advantage of the naturally heated water there are pools that you can dip your feet in. It used to be that the locals here all used this water to heat their homes and have their own spas at home but this has now been regulated.

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Our next stop was Lake Aniwhenua were we would be having another cultural experience. Apparently this one would be better than the last one and we would have the opportunity to learn some Maori skills like weaving with flax and eel fishing. We waited for over an hour for the bus to pick us up only to then be taken to the supermarket round the corner where we waited for another hour, something wasn't right that morning. Turns out that the place we were going to stay had had a power cut and so without running water which they can only get from using generators they weren't able to have guests.

This was really disappointing for everyone and we all felt it was a morning wasted hanging around for bad news. We wouldn't be going to Lake Aniwhenua but would stay in Taupo instead.

On the way we stopped off to check out the Huka Falls which is on the Waikato river is flows out of Lake Taupo. With the water channelled into this narrow gap it has a lot of force and shoots out over the falls. It is the speed and amount of water going over the falls that make it famous and 200,000 litres of water go over the falls every second which is the equivalent of filling 5 Olympic size swimming pools every minute! The force of the water is so strong that it prevents fish and eels from navigating upstream, this is why there are no eels in Lake Taupo.

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The colour of the water was an awesome chilly blue so it was mesmerising to look at.

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Competing with the roaring noise of the river were the cicadas. Its incredible how loud these guys are and one decided to take a closer look at Dan!

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Taupo is famous for its HUGE lake and it is massive! It is the largest lake in New Zealand and covers the same amount of space as the whole land area of Singapore! if you didn't know it was a lake you would think it was the sea. Back in 181AD there was a massive eruption which created this huge hole that filled with water. The crater eruption was so large that red skies were even reported over China in its wake.

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By the time we got to Taupo it was already late afternoon so there wasn't really time to do anything and we didn't have the skills to take on the golf challenge in the wind so we decided to cut our losses with a drink at the pub and hope for a better day.

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Sxx

Posted by doyledan 01:07 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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