A Travellerspoint blog

New Zealand

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)

White Island

We had an early start out of Rotorua as our transfer to Whakatane where the the ferry would take us to White Island and allow to get up close and personal with a live and active marine Volcano! The driver was giving us info about the area as we drove through it but unfortunately Sarah and I both nodded off. When we got to the harbour everything was in full swing as the boat we would be taking had at least 40 passengers.

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The boat was called Pee Jay 4 and was fitted out nicely inside. We chose to sit out the back so we could get a good view. The harbour was quite small and at its end point there is a statue of a women which commemorates Wairaka who saved a canoe of women from being washed out to sea by breaking tribal bans on women paddling, and safely bringing them into the bay whilst shouting out ‘Kia Whakatane au i ahau’ (I will act the part of a man) and the story goes that this cry was the origin of the towns name. Maori Girl Power!

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As we reached the end of the harbour we had to slow down as one of the passengers was late. With the extra passenger on board we set off and it was only 9am. It wasn't long before we drifted off again as the boat ride to the island would take an hour and a half.

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I woke up half hour later and on the speaker the skipper said we had Dolphins coming towards us so Sarah and I jumped up and had a peek. These guys were pretty excited and whizzed along with the boat for at least 5 mins before deciding to head in the opposite direction. Even after our dolphin experience it was still a rush to see them, one even jumped full body out of the water which was awesome to witness.

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After that excitement we begin to see the white steam cloud of the volcano rising in the distance.

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Upon seeing the island the resident pirate aboard the boat called 'Land ho! :-)

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It was so cool to see the island get bigger and bigger and the cloud above it rise further and further in the huge sky. At this point we were given the safety rundown and were handed safety helmets and gas masks! ...perhaps this was a little more dangerous than we thought? ....As part of the contract the company had with the government, they required that all customers to wear the gear but it didn't mean it was totally unsafe. Even so, it was odd to be handed a gas mask as part of a tour. White Island has a volcanic alert level 1, indicating constant background activity. The sulphur that the volcano dishes out in the air can be irritable to breathe with and so with the gas masks we would be able to walk around with ease.

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As we go closer to the island it was interesting to see that a large colony of birds were living here. They picked one of the better spots as the volcano was situated around the otherside. We approached one of the bays and would all need to be ferried in a small speedboat to the old jetty that was built when the island was originally used for mining. Back in the day the sulphur from this island was in high demand due to it being an important mineral for fertiliser when farming.

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As soon as we reached the jetty you could instantly smell and see the sulphur. The smell is like rotten eggs and the intense yellow colour that was all over the island was clear to see. It was really eerie and felt like we were walking on another planet!

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Our guides Vicky and a guy (who's name I didn't quite get, and also was a dead ringer for the professional golfer Rory McCilroy) showed us around explaining the geological facts, history and any dangers that we should be aware of.

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It was important that we stuck to the track as on either side. There were mounds that looked ok to walk on but these were known as 'blisters' that would collapse instantly under any weight so you would fall into a pool of boiling hot sulphuric liquid which would be quite painful, so we adhered to their advice.

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As you walked around the island you could see many vents with hot steam coming out of them, some of which were like a boiling kettle, whistling away. The sulphur crystals, which are the stronger yellow colour, form at 94 degrees, so you can imagine how hot the steam was.

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We walked further towards the volcano crater and the guides explained that this area had been changed due to recent explosion....eh ....what? .... Its ok, it was in 1912, and had left its mark on the landscape with big boulders scattered around the island whereas before it was a flat plain. The eruption occurred when mining was still going on and sadly all people on the Island at the time died, with the exception of Peter the cat. He somehow managed to get away from the action and stay safe on the other side of the island, his story was later presented the rest of New Zealand and he became a bit of a celebrity.

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Unbelievably, years later the island was reopened for mining due to the demand for sulphur and workers would still come to the island because the pay was much better and during the depression it was a good enough incentive. We heard that generally the workers would have 2 or 3 year contracts and would leave after that. But one guy was documented as having worked on the island for 8 years, which is crazy when think how potentially dangerous it is. That being said, none of the workers were recorded as having any long term health issues apart from their teeth turning black as the enamel was worn away by the acidic atmosphere! The acidity of the gases that are released in the air from the volcano meant that clothes would slowly disintegrate as well as the enamel of your teeth meaning they would go black!. Not an ideal side effect.

We later got to the rocks edge and peered onto the volcano crater which was pretty amazing considering the power that was coming out from underneath us.

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The noise of the gases being released was a loud roar and so you definately knew that there was activity going on!

Leaving the crater we headed for the old mining factory that was situated near the bay and as we made our way back the guides told us that there were two different streams that run past us to out to sea both with different tastes due to the types of minerals in the water. The first tasted a bit like that metallic taste, or a bit like blood due to the iron in the water. The other tasted more citrus like with a different ph level to the other. It was quite remarkable that these two streams could have such varying differences considering they flowed from the original source.

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As we approached the old mining factory the guides explained that the process for obtaining the sulphur was based around breaking up the rock and placing into furnaces which would heated up to 110 degrees in order to extract the sulphur in a liquid form, it would then by cooled and kept in a silo to be shipped backed to the mainland. The factory had fallen apart over time but you could still get a idea ofwhat it would have been like.

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It was also here further away from the vents spewing out the acid into the air that we found a plant! A stark contrast to the rest of the barren landscape.

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We left the island for our boat and as we were handed out a packed lunch we were given a short tour around the island to see where the miners had set up home on a new location the second time they came to the island. We left the island to head back for mainland and were pleased that we had made the trip and witnessed a natural wonder!! YES!!

Stay tuned for more tales

Dan

Posted by doyledan 00:46 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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