04.04.2009 - 15.05.2009
Well Déjà vu! I've just spent over an hour on this damn computer writing our New Zealand entry and loosing every word of it. Give me a pen and paper, technology really gets my rag. I guess I was the idiot for not saving it, hey!
Anyway rant over!
Flying in to New Zealand in the Autumn season was a suprisingly time of year to visit. We was lucky enough to follow the good weather around most of the time. From a creative point of view a good time to be lifted by the rich variety of stunning colours that the autumn leaves on the trees provide.
Hearing so many great reports about New Zealand, it was hard not to build high expectations of this place and we was unsure of where to start first with so many choices. We was not let down by others impression of this beautiful country - we can see why you love NZ so much sis and Jamma. The North island being our first port of call, before heading down to the South and back again. It was in the North I realised that I love to visit very mountainous areas for holidays and inspiration, but prefer to live in undulating countryside where you can see long distances. Living in the flat Fens had more of an impression on me than I realised! When high mountains tower over you, you loose alot of daylight hours in the shadow of a mountain, and i found myself missing the good light - natural for an artist I guess.
Starting our journey in Auckland, we done a good deal of preparation and planning here for the next leg of the journey as well as visiting the popular and worthwhile Sky Tower. 360 degree views over the city as far as the eye could see, eating mouth watering food in the revolving restaurant. Visiting in the late afternoon allowed us to see the city in the daylight, it transforming gradually as the sun sets and the whole city lights up. Beautiful.
We decided we wanted to see a bit of culture initially, away from the usual touriust areas and more off the beaten track so headed over to the East Coast perninuslar.
Travelling to Tauranga and Mount Maunganui along the way. We stayed in Papamoa a quiter area, known for its stunning long beaches. Here we caught up with Katie and Mark, friends (and chiropracter) from home. Funnily enought they are also away for a year and Katie has had a dramatic new hairstyle too-like it Katie! We do not recommend climbing the mount in flip flops!! (Not our intention - we took the wrong path). Its a steep climb but worth it with great panoramic views from the top. Visiting MacLaren Falls and kayaking in the lake during our stay there. As the sunset we paddled up the lake past the turbulent currents of the powerstation in to the still waters of the gorge. By this time the stars were out and our eyes had adjusted to the moonlit night. The gorge only a few meters wide, long and very dark. The main form of light now that the moonlight had been lost from the high walls of sheer rock face was from the mass of glowworms. Magical. Later learnig that the light emmited from their little bodies was actually feases - not quite so magical! The chilled down stream float back to the lake looking up at the large night sky was perfect.
Driving to the East hugging the coastline, shouting for attention with its constant hissing and smoking vapour, was the beautiful White Island. An active off shore volcano.
The further we drove towards the East Cape the more rugged and amazing the scenery got and the more evident the Maori culture was. It was not unusual to see a teathered horse, sometimes their only form of transport. The Maori cravings to the entrance of homes and meeting places became more noticable and intricate. At first we felt almost as if we were intruding with no smile or greeting being returned. Later learning that eye contact is not common practise there - and with the bad way the Westerners have treated these people and their land i'm not suprised. With an insight into the lifestyle of the community of these private people, we began to respect them rather than feel uneasy. One of our favourite areas being Hicks Bay, families would turn up on the pier to fish. Charming.
Heading for the Capital we passed the Raukumara range and Napier. The range quite a symbolic part of the journey - Mount Hikurangi being the first place on earth to be touched by the sun each day - a very calming area. Napier known for its Art Deco - The Cathedral the biggest draw for me dissapointingly closed! I have never quite understood how Religion and an "open" House of God can have opening hours? But the architecture still impressive from the outside.
Wellington was a brilliant City. Lots to do and the people friendly. We had our Chinese and Indian visas to obtain here too, so gave us a good opportunity to get to know the area. Whilst on our travels in the south we met a guy hitchhiking. Mark was from Wellington whom we later met up with for the evening. He was in a band, Sons of Midas - good if you get chance to listen and also gave us a great insight to the music scene in Wellington.
From there we went down to the South Island, Picton via Charlotte Sound. This area was so beautiful and picturesque- pretty much like the rest of the whole of the South Island - absolutely stunning, all of it. I could go into real detail about everyting here but im sure youve got things to be getting on with and we have got the rest of the year to be enjoying!! So here's some of our highlights in brief.
Kaikora - The quadbiking here with Alistair was so much fun. His farmland consisted of many hectares set upon the hilly coastline where he takes you up and donw valleys through creeks and on random dusty dirt tracks - getting covered in it!
Lake Tekapo and Mount John Observatory - Amazing view from the top looking over the lake and towards Mount Cook-worth the steep climb and long walk back. Visiting the observatory at night was incredible. Seeing Saturn up close, many galaxies and shooting stars. The solar system just jaw dropping from the darkness up there.
Mount Cook Range - Wow! Nothing else need be said.
Queenstown, Nevis Bungy - On of the scariest things ive ever done 143m jump from a bit of string in to a valley (Sean agreeing that the first few seconds fear hit - longer than that for me!). Brilliant - big smiles!! The luge is worth a look too, fun karts on a downhill track and the view from up thyere good.
Sea kayaking at Milford Sound - Just the drive down to the sounds was so memorable and epic, snow capped mountains lining the skyline at times. The sea kayaking was the most scariest thing Ive experianced. A storm whipped up whilst we was out in the sounds and battling against the 3ft waves was terrifying. We capsized and I couldnt get my skirt (rubber water protector) to release and was underwater for what felt like eternity! Sean said that I had forgot how to breathe when I surfaced and quickly come to my support. Memorable in more than 1 way!
Doubtful Sound - A mixture of sun, mist and rain (usual) made it a perfect day to explore the area by boat. Mystical and very magestic, rainbows galore lined the curved tops of the islands and mountains.
Ice climbing at Franz Joseph - Fun and good preparation on a rainy day for the adventure ahead on Fox Glacier.
Fox Glacier - Booking a helihike was the best option. Unsure of wether it would run at all due to bad weather and landslides from the previous 5 days we was lucky enough to be the first on the glacier in days. The helecopter ride amazing taking you to the top and dropping you 1/2 way down thye glacier for the treck. Exploring was such a buzz, especially as the guide didnt know the teritory himjself as it had changed so much over the past week. Stu (guide)managed to seek out a new cave, carved out by water that went on for as far as you could see and wiggle into the glorious blue ice passage. An incredible day.
Pankake Rocks and Punakaki area - Interesting and mesmerising rock formations. When we was there the wind was in the wrong direction for the blow holes to create a blast but a beautiful area anyway. We spent quite a bit of time exploring the beaches around here and laying on picnik benches at night star gazing.
Able Tasman National Park - Spent most of our time in one area here. The costal bays stunning, very thought provoking and as the tide of the sea goes out your drawn in to the false sence of security that the shaw is not too far! Strolling for long distances along the sand with a backdrop of lush mountains and the odd horse being ridden past you. So easy to while away the time here not realising the tide has changed and surrounds you fast. Beautiful.
From there we headed back up to the North Island as we flew out from Auckland on to the next part of our adventure- borneo.
Tongariro National Park - although we didnt get to climb, it was quite bad weather on the mountain tops and was unsafe to do, but the views were unbelieveable. The top being covered in cloud initially we couldnt make out if it was covered in snow or the reflection of the sun off of the rock. Snow, and although it didnt look cold outside once you stepped out of the comfort of a heated car you definately needed several layers of thermals on! You could tell winter was on its way. A gentle reminder of what we have to welcome us back on our return in December!
Orakei Korako Thermal Cave and Park - Being accessed only by driving off the beaten trac and then getting a small boat over the river. This was a serene place full of dramatic colours formed from an active volcano. Silica, algae, bubbling water, mudpools, pungent sulphur, unusual rock and spurting steam made us wonder around in amazement. A wonderfully bizarre experiance.
Coromandel Perninsular and Cathedral Cove - A dense green area of rolling valleys and mountains. We spent a good to spend a few days relaxing here and walking the Cathedral Cove. Walking along the track you catch the odd glimpse of the turquoise sea and steep cliffface that awaits you. Down the steep cliff track to the cove is covered overhead by large trees the cove only being revealed in your last few steps before hitting the sand. Wow....... this place has to be see to be apperciated. We spent a long time here thinking, chatting and creatively talking about some new ideas and designs for our glass - missing my artwork I set about a bit of sand drawing.
We managed to catch up with another friend in Hamilton who is from back home, Will who has now moved to NZ. He is loving it, looks happy on the NZ air with only good things to say about it. Everyone in New Zealand seems to have a nice slow pace of life and a friendly additude. A county that has alot to offer and a charm of its own - This is another one to add to the ever growing list of "would visit again!".
We did have some very sad news towards the end of or time here. A good friend from home passed away. Our thoughts and hearts go out to Morris and Sylvia. You'll always be rembered for the good times we spent together and your happy personality Sylv, Rest Peacefully. Hugs and take care Mo xx