A Travellerspoint blog

Day 51: Monday 22nd April 2013

On The Move

rain 15 °C

After booking the ferry last night for Tuesday morning today was tasked with getting somewhere close to the ferry terminal for our 8 am sail to the South Island.
The lay by we had chosen to sleep in last night was literally a stones throw from the local waterfall which was on most coach tour itineraries. As we could see it through the trees from our camping spot we chose to avoid the entrance fee and head straight into Taupo. Here we frequented our first 'pak and save', I say first because it is likely to be our supermarket of choice ovr the next few weeks because it is so very cheap, well in comparison to the cost of food shops at the other stores anyway.
After restocking we dropped into McDonald's for a hit chocolate, well and to use their wifi....our first reason was to use the toilets, second to u the wifi and we felt guilty so decided to buy something! After McDonald's we stopped in the carpark by the lake and had a picnic on the benches: the rain stopped briefly to allow us this luxury of a picnic table with a view before we got on our way properly.
The landscape en route changed quite considerably, from lush green pastures to open moorland, what remained consistent was the backdrop of mountain ranges, the name and shape of the range may change but mountains were never far from view. The moors were the most memorable for me: so baron, covered with furn and heather in more shades of brown and orange than I knew existed. The rain was relentless: I guess we had chosen a good day for driving, well at least being stuck in the van!
We have a game/ challenge that we play when driving: the longest free wheel. This came about in Australia in order to conserve petrol where Martin held the record for a 2.4 km free wheel (no gas just clutch, obviously downhill) well today I managed a 3.7 km smashing his record....which made up for not coming close to it in ziggy our old van.
We reached the outskirts of Wellington and picked up signs for the ferry: it is actually situated 15 km from Wellington which we found a little confusing as the map implied it was quite central. We found an on site campsite, right one docks but it was $50 per night....alot of money for less than 12 hours of camping before we would need to check in. We opted instead to find somewhere to stay for free, despite the hook up and smart toilet block looking very tempting.
We drove for 15 minutes and found a fabulous spot overlooking a bay: a room with a view, they even had toilets: what a luxury! We bedded down for the night after a nice supper.

Posted by Jolley-Jarvis 01:38 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Day 50: Sunday 21st April 2013

Hot sand, cathedrals and kiwifruit

all seasons in one day

We both woke early in pain, my knee was still a little sore and Sarah's calf was moaning at her excellent efforts. We grabbed the hired spade and headed down to the beach. It took a little while to find the right spot. So in the end asked a local and he pointed us to the right spot. Where in fairness as the wave wet out you could see the water bubble with heat. So we started to dig.

At times it was very hot underfoot and both our feet got a little tender. But we kept digging. Each time we dug a wave would come in and wash fresh sand into our hole. In deterred and in the knowledge the tide was going out and the waves would soon allow us to dig a proper hole. A hour later and the place was full with about 60 people, with us in prime position and still digging. We tried multiple techniques, like building sand walls, even sitting in the hole when a wave comes. We eventually just sat in the sand and enjoyed a few minutes of hot from the geothermal followed by cold water then hot again. But eventually it was clear the tide was coming back in and so it was fruitless to keep digging and full of sand and cold we headed back to the campsite.

A shower and breakfast later we were back on the road to cathedral bay. A much talk about rock formation which was only accessible with a 40min walk. The walk was slow and steady going with both of us in pain from yesterday's efforts. But we made it to the most beautiful bay, with clear blue, but cold looking sea. And on the edge of the bay was a huge arch dug out of the rock with a long cavern creating the image of a cathedral. It was beautiful and where were in the 'cathedral' the amplified sound of the sea gently lapping against the shore was akin to a giant storm without the angry energy.

After cathedral bay was a long drive back down the forth island to Taupo, a lakeside town on the edge of lake Taupo strangely enough. It is the largest fish water lake in new zealand. We stopped for light lunch on route and took in some pretty breathtaking scenery.

We stopped off on the way at a kiwi fruit factory and tourist shop. Seeing for the first time kiwi fruit trees and tucking into beautifully fresh kiwifruit as well as trying kiwifruit juice and liquor. We bought some lush fruit for cheap and had a look at the unbelievable large varieties of kiwifruit related souvenirs.

Finally we pulled into a lay-by / stop off near Taupo a good many hours later. where we cooked dinner of New Zealand (on special offer) lamb and sweet potato. Yummy.

Posted by Jolley-Jarvis 16:34 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Day 49: Saturday 20th April 2013

The run

all seasons in one day 19 °C

We woke early at 5.30am to get ready for our run. With it being early it was cold and a quick breakfast was had. We called into a coffee shop on route and had a hot drink, to warm us up before parking up and waiting for the bus to take us to the start line at 7am.

We arrived at the start line in torrential rain, thankfully there was a gazebo to keep u dry. But unfortunately it was woefully inadequate for 30+ people. We sheltered in the rain for the 40min before the race. Joking about the poor conditions and talking to other runners. What was pretty evident was that we were unprepared for such an event. 90% of people had off road trial running shoes and raised an eyebrow, when they saw our beaten and well used trainers. Undeterred with equipment we waited for the start. Thankfully almost as if our prayers had been answered, the rain stopped 10mins before the race.

The race started and we were running along steep incline and decline trials along the rocks and through the trees which hugged the sea. It was beautiful area to run in, but very dangerous, thin pathways and slippery edges. People going off very quick and then slowing up, adding to the obstacles. The rain drain offs created mini rivers running over parts of the track in an effort to get back to the sea. These beautiful view and challenging running took up the first 5 miles of the race.

Unfortunately for me I had taken one slip too many with little tread on my running shoes, that my knee was becoming increasingly painful especially downhill. Perhaps 6 days after the tough mudda was a little ambitious too. The trial running ending and moving to farm land tacks amazing rolling hill countryside. Unfortunately after 10 miles, the pain in my knee got too much and I stopped and taxi'd a lift back to town for the st johns ambulance to ice it for me. Having being passed by pretty much everyone on the course, getting very cold and walking no where fast.

Sarah on the other hand did spectacularly well, cruising past me and stopping for a chat, before I forced her to continue her own race. She completed the very tough course in a good time, coming 16th out of the women and i was made proud.

After the race we used some vouchers and had a couple of drinks in the pub, chatting to some local blokes in their 50s about the race and swapping stories of our tour and their lives in nz. They were really friendly and offered for us to have a shower at one of their houses.

After that we drove up to a campsite at hot beach, a northern beach which is famous for its hot geothermal sands, which you dig into and sit on the beach with the cool sea water being warmed by the geothermal heat. As we arrived low tide wasn't till 9 which meant a few hours to kill. So we had long overdue showers and an afternoon snooze, before tucking into fish and chips at the cheap chip shop on site.

At 8 we headed down to the beach but was soon trying to find our way in the pitch dark and and pouring rain made us rethink and reschedule until tomorrow which was due at 8.30am.

Posted by Jolley-Jarvis 16:29 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Day 48: Friday 19th April 2013

Hobbit Holes

overcast 20 °C

We were up early, Martin went for a quick run whilst I chatted to family on Skype, we then packed up and got on our way to Waihi via Hobbiton: the movie set for lord of the rings and the hobbit. We were both very excited to be there, the price of the tickets was steep but we weren't going to miss out on the chance to see the village.
We had to wait less than 10 minutes for the next tour, we got on the bus and our tour guide was quick to start his talk. The set is situation on a working farm with over 13000 sheep and a large number of cattle. The bus wound its way through the fields where its inhabitants were happily munching the grass. About 5 minutes later and we were on the edge of the set with the facts coming thick and fast: there were over 300 different animals; horses, chickens and number of other species including 'stunt sheep' which were texel sheep rather than the New Zealand version you find here.

We were dropped off by the bus, still unable to see the village illustrated on our brochure. We walked through a narrow passageway and were met with the full view of the village, complete with hobbit holes. We were able to wonder around, following our guide as we heard more about the filming, the construction of the tree on top of Bagend, the scaling of the hobbit holes based own at they are filming and the journey to the film set tour it is today from what was just pasture land.

After visit Bagend and having our photo taken in a hobbit hole doorway we went to the newly open green dragon pub. To get there we walked over a quaint cobbled bridge past the little running water mill. The pub had only opened on the first of December, it all looked so new. We had 20 minutes and quickly took our places in two comfy armchairs next to the fire to drink our complementary drinks: a draft beer and a cider both made for the pub and not available anywhere else: they are designed to be to a hobbits taste....I must be a hobbit then because the cider tasted fantastic, very sweet and light, just lovely.

After the pub we made our way back to the start and rejoined the bus back to the visitors centre. It had been a great tour, giving us an insight into how the filming took place, the tricks that were used and the beautiful scenery.
Back at the visitors centre we had lunch at the van before getting on our way: next stop Waihi. We arrived late afternoon, checked out the finish area for tomorrow's run, which hugged the side of an open quarry, a dramatic old pump house building sat behind the finish line, it would definitely make a welcome finish. We collected our race packs from the local pub, there were a number of free food items such as pop corn, beef sticks, energy jelly beans and a vast selection of tinned chicken! We helped ourselves and then settle in the pub for a drink, waiting until early evening to take up the spot next to the playground which we had already ear marked.

Once it had gone dark we drove to the playground, which even had public toilets! We sorted ourselves out with a pasta dinner and settled in for the night, once again attaching one of the many films on our hard drive.

Posted by Jolley-Jarvis 16:24 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Day 47: Thursday 18th April 2013

What a Pong!

rain 20 °C

We were up early and after a brief visit to the sights in Taupa we arrived in Rotorua. We have a strange tracker box which you plug into the cigarette lighter which works through the radio in the car. The service is tourist radio and it lets you know information about New Zealand and some of the key places you are passing. It told us about Rotorua as we approached and it mentioned the smell which accompanies the hot spa and other delights centred around the volcanic activity in the town. It was immediately noticeable but thankfully most of the time it wasn't too offensive. It's the smell of rotting eggs, which accompanies the geothermal sulphur smoke.

We checked into the campsite, being a little bit naughty in order to save money Martin checked in and I hid in the van to save on incurring the extra person cost. Mission completed we headed straight to the free thermal park in the centre of town. It was a sight to see, gas bubbling from water and mud pools, steam coming out if the side of the main road, people's gardens and ponds it really was impressive.

In the centre of the park was a lake, the steam rising and swirling in the wind made an impressive sight, difficult to capture with a camera. Next stop it was back to the campsite to drop off the van and then straight into town to look around. We ended up at the lake, looking out over the water, beyond the black swans was a beautiful set of hills, which we later found out to be the edge of the volcano.

We wondered back, I spotted a Pizza Hut which does buffet lunch on the way back, I made a mental note to find one of them again soon; we were saving ourselves for the evening activity we had booked that morning: an indigenous cultural evening at the famous Te Po geyser with a buffet of hangi which is food cooked in the ground. It was expensive but something we both wanted to experience.

We got back to the campsite, had a small lunch and then used the campsites mineral pools; one at a warm 37 and another at a hot 40 degrees, I found the 40 a little too hot, a little bit like goldilocks the 37 was just right for me. We had showers and freshened up; the camp toilets were fabulous, they even had music, lets hope that all the sites in New Zealand are as good....a little less extortionately priced would be helpful though! Once ready we drove to Te Po for our evening of entertainment.

First on the agenda was a tour of the site, we had got there so early, in order to make the most of it, that we went around the gallery and gift shop at a snails pace waiting for the tour to start. We were greeted by a vey friendly member of staff who took us around, showed us the resident Kiwi birds, which are extraordinary bird/ mammal creatures; the only thing that makes them a bird is the fact they don't suckle their young: they don't even have feathers!

We went down to the geyser but got there just after the main eruption, we didn't mind though as the talk en route was so informative, explaining the different types of native plants and the plight of the kiwi in coping with introduced predictors: New Zealand only had birds before the colonials arrived.
Our tour finished at the training schools, next to the indigenous village. We had time to look around the schools, the wood carving school was all shut up, but we were able to look though the glass at some of the intricate work: I was surprised how they we such large scale projects, the carving, so delicate must take months to complete. The weaving school was still open so we had a look around the displays: again housing intricate and time consuming work before we made our way back through the gift shop and through the entrance once again to congregate around a large central jade stone.

Our guide for the evening tour was a very confident, and surprisingly slender looking Mari (they tend to be large and stocky) he talked us through the area we were currently congregated in and then whisked us over the to hangi where the men uncovered the lid of the 'cooker', removed all the damp cloth that had been wrapped around the food in the brick lined oven. It smelled mouthwatering!

Next we conducted the Mari greeting ceremony as if we were a visiting tribe, it was all well done and each stage was explained to us. Once the treating was conducted we were welcomed into the hall for the dancing and entertainment. It was all very well organised and choreographed. At one point women were invited up to the stage to do a Poi dance using what looked like a solid Pom Pom on a string (a poi) we followed the movements as one of the ladies stood at the front to demonstrate, it was easier than I expected - they were very kind to us, but I did struggle to catch the Pom Pom which you had to do repeatedly throughout the song but I enjoyed myself non-the -less and was thankfully joined by a number of other women from the group so was saved the embarrassment of attempting it on my own!

Next it was the gents turn to join in with the war dance: the Hakka, they went through the various steps, Martin was in the front row right in front of me, they made them do the scary war face, with the tongue sticking out which signals aggression, and then some other chest and leg slapping movements as well as some foot stomping, they then pieced it all together: it was very impressive to see, even if they were all dressed up in jeans and shirts rather than bare chested with woven skirt like garments!

The next dance signalled the end of the performance....and time for the feast! We were invited over to the restaurant area where the food was blessed, Mari style, before we began the mammoth, but exciting, task of eating our way through the piles of food on offer. There was seafood, salad, the hangi which included sweet and regular potato which had been cooked in the same way: in the ground, as the meats. Then there was potatoes in cream, rice, pasta and a plethora of deserts; yum!

After dinner we took a little golf buggy style train down to the geyser where we sat on hot stones and drank hot chocolate whilst watching the steam and water plume from it. Against the night sky it made a spectacle to see, the hot stones kept us more than comfortable on a very clear and cold night, the only thing you had to watch out for was steam coming from the cracks in the stones.
Around 9 pm we returned to the main entrance again by the golf buggy trains before setting off back to the campsite: we had an amazing time, although it was expensive it had been well worth it.

Posted by Jolley-Jarvis 15:10 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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