A Travellerspoint blog

New Zealand

New Zealand - North Island

Route: Napier – Ohakune – Taupo – Rotorua – Whakatane – Katikati – Whitianga – Coromandel – Thames – Warkworth – Paihia – Pukenui – Donnelly’s Crossing - Auckland

APRIL 2016

Back on the North Island, our first destination was the east coast town of Napier. Our main goal for our visit was to see the Gannet colony, one of the worlds largest. There are no roads to the colony and access is via the beach. So instead of the 20km round trip and the threat of being caught by the tide, we opted for a beach tractor tour. This turned out be great fun and allowed us more time with birds.

Cape Kidnappers Gannett Colony

Cape Kidnappers Gannett Colony

Gannett

Gannett

Tractor ride to Cape Kidnappers Gannett Colony

Tractor ride to Cape Kidnappers Gannett Colony

From Napier we headed inland to the volcanic region and to our first stop the quant town of Ohakune. The drive there was the first highlight, with constantly changing scenery and probably the most beautiful so far, followed by the second, our accommodation. For the price of a motel room we had been able to secure a whole house. And not just any old house, entered up its own private gravel drive, it was set in acres of mature gardens with ponds and streams, had four bedrooms (we chose the one with a volcano view, on-suite and walk in closet), massive well equipped kitchen, large entertaining area, Pool table and a resident cat called Paris (which we found out had a big appetite, as we were required to feed her). We had three nights in our mansion, and with so many activities on our doorstep and great accommodation we could have stayed longer.

View of Tongariro NP

View of Tongariro NP

Our accommodation at Ohakune

Our accommodation at Ohakune

Our first day was sunny with clear blue skies, so we decided to climb the volcano. The volcano in question was Mount Ruapehu, listed as dormant and hadn’t erupted since the 1990’s. The climb began easily, a drive to the ski station then a chair lift ride. But then it got tougher, now at around 2500 meter and at altitude, we were on boulders and scree, but the effort was worth it when we finally got the view at the top.

Mt Ruapehu

Mt Ruapehu

View from Mt Ruapehu

View from Mt Ruapehu

View of Mt Ruapehu

View of Mt Ruapehu

Our second adventure was a hike along an old coach trail, dating back to the 1880’s, to reach an old railway viaduct, built in 1907. A walk mixed was history and nature.

Old Coach Trail Viaduct in Tongariro NP

Old Coach Trail Viaduct in Tongariro NP

It was then time to leave our mansion and move on. Our next few days were spent between Taupo and Rotorua, in the heart of geothermal country. This area (as does Ohakune) lies on a fault line where two tectonic plates are pushing against each other, forming steam vents, geysers and bubbling mud pools. These geothermal actions are happening all over the region and we spent a few hours exploring one such place. Amazing the power of nature. The rest of the time was spent hiking along rivers and forest tracks to explore the area.

Craters of the Moon at Taupo

Craters of the Moon at Taupo

Craters of the Moon Taupo

Craters of the Moon Taupo


Huka Falls in the Wariakei Park

Huka Falls in the Wariakei Park

We did however do something unusual for us, we joined an organised tour to visit a traditional Maori village. Although fearful of the commercialism, we really wanted to learn more about the Maori culture and this seemed like a good way. To our delight, the evening exceeded expectations. We learnt a little bit of Maori history, culture and their traditions, before being treated to a culinary feast at the end of the evening. As people may have witnessed on Facebook, I (Malc) was selected as chief for our tour group, supposedly an honour but I am still not too sure. The reason for this is, in times gone by when one tribe visited another the chief of that tribe would be required to accept greetings and lead his followers through all the various ceremonies. Therefore to put some authenticity to our visit to the village our tour group needed to function like a visiting tribe.

Tamaki Maori Village

Tamaki Maori Village

Tamaki Maori Village

Tamaki Maori Village

Tamaki Maori Village

Tamaki Maori Village

Whakarewarewa Forest

Whakarewarewa Forest

Whakarewarewa Forest

Whakarewarewa Forest

From geothermal country we headed north to the Bay of Plenty. The coastal town of Whakatane was our base and the White Island was our main attraction. The White Island is the only active marine volcano in New Zealand and is located in the Bay of Plenty, about 50 kilometres off the coast of Whakatane. The boat ride each way took around an hour and a half and on route we were entertained by a pod of common dolphins. We landed on the island in what was a blown out crater. All around us were steam vents and bubbling mud pools, and in the middle a lake pumping out vast amounts of steam that formed into a cloud above the island. With our guide we were able to wander around and get a closer look at the activity. Because of the gases being emitted we were provided with masks and in case of eruptions or rock falls, hard hats were provided as well. All very necessary as the island had experienced a 4.1 earthquake just before we arrived.

Cormorant

Cormorant

Whakatane

Whakatane

Dolphin in the Bay of Plenty

Dolphin in the Bay of Plenty

White Island

White Island

White Island

White Island

Breathing on White Island can be difficult

Breathing on White Island can be difficult

White Island

White Island

White Island

White Island

White Island

White Island

White Island

White Island

Wahakatane Sunset

Wahakatane Sunset

Driving northwest around the Bay of Plenty our next stop was the small town of Katikati. The reason for this stop was to catch up with some friends we hadn’t seen for 15 years, Colin and Mandy. Our journey then took us onto the Coromandel Peninsular where we spent a couple of nights at three different locations; Whitianga, Coromandel and Thames. This allowed us plenty of time to fully explore the region. Exploration meant lots of beautiful coastal walks to deserted beaches and into protected woodlands.

Cathedral Cove walk

Cathedral Cove walk

NZ flora

NZ flora

Cathedral Cove

Cathedral Cove

Grouse

Grouse


Kauaeranga Valley

Kauaeranga Valley

Our next and last region of discovery was also a Peninsular, the region of Northlands. This sub-tropical region is the most northerly in New Zealand, and allowed us to visit the most northern point of mainland New Zealand, Cape Reinga. The approach was similar to Coromandel, with four different locations (Warkworth, Paihia, Pukenui & Donnellys Crossing), which allowed to fully appreciate the region. This peninsular was very different to Coromandel and best described as one giant sand spit. This phenomenon was most evident the further north you went and in particular the massive dunes on the west coast. However, it wasn’t the dunes that impressed us the most, but a small regional park called Tawharanui for its beauty and wildlife.

NZ340.jpgNZ351.jpgTakahe

Takahe

NZ358.jpgNZ357.jpgNZ363.jpgNZ367.jpgBrick Bay Sculpture Trail

Brick Bay Sculpture Trail

Cape Reinga

Cape Reinga

Tepaki Giant Sand Dunes

Tepaki Giant Sand Dunes

Starfish on 90 Miles Beach

Starfish on 90 Miles Beach

90 Miles Beach

90 Miles Beach

Praying Mantis

Praying Mantis

Big Tree

Big Tree

Auckland airport was our final destination in New Zealand. Next stop New Caledonia, a Pacific Island 3 hours flying time north of New Zealand. However, this is not the end of our New Zealand experience, as we have 3 days in Auckland as part of our return journey.

Personal Observations & Interesting Facts

Supermarket in New Zealand:
Now when you shop in a supermarket in NZ be aware that you might find same products in different places in the shop. Example, you are looking for cheese, simple yes, but no, there might be 3 or 4 different places in the store where you would find it. I asked a kiwi who confirmed that’s the case. You might have the imported cheese in one place, the expensive ones in another place, the cheaper ones in another place, etc. You get the idea. But it’s not just the cheese; the same goes for bread and cold meat. You learned to walk the whole store before you choose what to buy.
Still on the supermarket theme, this is one country in the world that still provide plastic bags for your groceries and also a packer. As we had our own bags, I gave them to the lady who was doing the packing. I explained that in quite a few countries now in Europe, store don’t give away plastic bags anymore to pack your groceries. She was a bit horrified and a reaction was “does it mean you have to buy rubbish bag now for the bins?” yep!
Alcohol: you can buy alcohol in supermarket but only if the alcohol content is low, which means anything can be bought except spirits.
In the south Island they call a trolley a trumbler in the north they call it a trolley.

Posted by MAd4travel 01:54 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

New Zealand South Island

Route: Te Anau; Milford Sound; Te Anau; Invercargill; Dunedin; Twizel; Akaroa (Banks Peninsula); Bealey Spur (Arthur Pass); Motueka; Picton.

22 °C

MARCH 2016

We were now in the heart of Fiordland and in the small town of Te Anau. The Fiordland has a reputation for receiving a lot of rain, so for our first full day there we were pleasantly surprised to be greeted with a clear blue sky and sunshine. This was good, as we had planned to walk the famous Kepler Track that day. I say walk the Kepler Track, we were only doing a 4-hour section, the full thing takes several days to complete. Even so, our half-day was really enjoyable with beautiful scenery as usual.

Te Anau Keplar Track

Te Anau Keplar Track

Keplar Track

Keplar Track

Keplar Track

Keplar Track

Te Anau Lake

Te Anau Lake

Te Anau Town Statue

Te Anau Town Statue

Next it was Milford Sound, one of the most famous destinations on the South Island. The drive from Te Anau was spectacular, gradually climbing into the mountains before plummeting down to the small inlet village of Milford Sound. En route we explored, small lakes, gushing waterfalls, rivers, forests and a very basic road tunnel that looked like it had been hacked out by a pick axe and not properly finished. By the time we arrived in Milford Sound, it was tipping down, we shouldn’t have been surprised as this is the wettest part of New Zealand and it rains most days. However, our spirits weren’t dampened, as we were here to embark on an overnight cruise around the inlet. The cruise got underway in the pouring rain but this didn’t stop us putting on our wet gear and going out on deck to admire the scenery. One advantage of the rain was the resultant waterfalls. By morning the rain had stopped and the sun was trying to break through and we had a totally different environment, so we got the best of both worlds. We docked back at Milford Sound by mid morning and drove back to Te Anau the same day.

On the road to Milford Sound

On the road to Milford Sound

On our way to Milford Sound from Te Anau

On our way to Milford Sound from Te Anau

Milford Sound

Milford Sound

Milford Sound

Milford Sound

Milford Sound

Milford Sound

Milford Sound after the rain

Milford Sound after the rain

Milford Sound and no rain at last!

Milford Sound and no rain at last!

On our way back from Milford Sound to Te Anau

On our way back from Milford Sound to Te Anau

Tunnel on our way Milford Sound

Tunnel on our way Milford Sound

Ferns, one of many types

Ferns, one of many types

More fern

More fern

After the rain

After the rain

Te Anau was the end of Fiordland and the West Coast for us, as we headed southeast to Invercargill. Invercargill was to be our base to explore the Catlin Coast and visit Stewart Island (accessed by ferry from Invercargill). However, our first day’s activities we compromised by a storm that brought 140kph winds and heavy rain, so Stewart Island was cancelled. Blown away from the coastal activities we headed into the rainforest for a walk. Beautiful as it was, we were soon in dense forest, ankle deep in mud and making slow progress. This was the kind of walk where you ask yourself, “Why I am doing this, am I enjoying it, etc.?”. But 3 hours later we had completed the circular walk and proud of our achievement, even if we were so muddy that we had to remove most of our outer cloths before getting into the car. The next challenge then loomed, the drive back to Invercargill. The wind had strengthened and the drive back was not easy, passing the wreckage of at least one vehicle (a campervan) that had been blown of the road. The following day the wind had dropped and we were able to enjoy the Catlin Coast more fully on the way to Dunedin.

Catlin Coast

Catlin Coast

Light House on Catlin Coast

Light House on Catlin Coast

Petrified Wood on Catlin Beach

Petrified Wood on Catlin Beach

Catlin Coast

Catlin Coast

Muddy walk (the nice part and only for a very short time)

Muddy walk (the nice part and only for a very short time)

The weather for our Dunedin stay was beautiful and we took full advantage to explore the Itago Peninsula (including a sighting of a Royal Albatross). Dunedin also gave us the opportunity to take in a Super Rugby match. Saturday night we went to the Forseth Bay Stadium to watch the Highlanders take on the Lions (South African side). The Highlanders (Super Rugby current champions) beat the Lions so the locals were happy. We managed to get great seats, just above pitch level and around half way for a very reasonable price, but the cost of beer and food made Twickenham look cheap. It was a great night, and a lasting memory.

Itago Peninsula

Itago Peninsula

Itago Point

Itago Point

Blue Penguins

Blue Penguins

Fur Seal

Fur Seal

Albatros

Albatros

Rugby game in Dunedin

Rugby game in Dunedin

From Dunedin we headed back inland to the small town of Twizel. The reason for the visit was to see Mt Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain. Upon arrival, our host suggested we visit Mt Cook that day, as the following day’s weather looked iffy. We took her advice and had a great afternoon and early evening in the mountain range. We then spent the next day in our bungalow out of the constant deluge that persisted all day. However, in this instance, being confined by rain was not a problem. Our bungalow had everything we wanted, it was like a small house, we had plenty of provisions so spent the day listening to music and generally relaxing.

Lake before Mt Cook

Lake before Mt Cook

Alpine Lupin

Alpine Lupin

Mt Cook NP

Mt Cook NP

Mt Cook, highest summit in NZ

Mt Cook, highest summit in NZ

Next stop was back on the east coast, this time just south of Christchurch, on the Banks Peninsula in the town of Akaroa. Akaroa is a small coastal town with a French feel to it, set in a small inlet and surrounded by rolling hills. As you can imagine, here was a challenge, we had to climb to the top of the highest hill. This could be accessed from our motel, so the following day we did just that – summit and back in around 4 hours plus two aching bodies.

We hadn’t finished with the mountains just yet though, and headed back into the interior to Bealey Spur, just outside of Arthur Pass for our final adventure in the Southern Alps. Unsurprisingly we were met with intermittent rain, but this didn’t stop us exploring the mountain trails around us. More of a nuisance were the Sand flies which seemed to present everywhere, even up here in mountains.

Castle Hill near Arthur Pass

Castle Hill near Arthur Pass

Castle Hill near Arthur Pass

Castle Hill near Arthur Pass

Bealy Spur walk

Bealy Spur walk

Toadstool

Toadstool

Bealy Spur

Bealy Spur

From here it was a complete change of scenery as we travelled up to the north coast and a lovely town of Motueka in Golden Bay. Here we spent three very enjoyable nights, manly thanks to the accommodation and our host. The best way to describe our accommodation would be to say “dream of you ultimate self catering accommodation, and then find that your dream had come true”. But it wasn’t just our accommodation; we also had an amazing visit to the Abel Tasman National Park. The park is only accessible by boat, and we picked ours up in a near-by village and were dropped off in Bark Bay. We then had a 4 hours walk ahead of us, and if completed on time, we would be picked up at Anchorage Bay and returned to civilisation. As you have probably gathered we were there on time and made it safely back after a hard but very enjoyable walk.

Abel Tasman NP

Abel Tasman NP

Abel Tasman NP

Abel Tasman NP

Two nights in the pleasant town of Picton then followed, before catching the ferry back to the North Island, and a completely new adventure.

Picton

Picton

Picton timber

Picton timber

Personal Observations & Interesting Facts

Sheep v Cows v People:
Some say that there are more sheep than people living in New Zealand. Its true, as there are 40 millions sheep to 4.5 millions people. However, we have seen a lot more cows than sheep, I wonder how many cows there are in New Zealand.

Transport:
There seems to be two types of transport for tourist; either you have a camper van (never seen so many camper vans on the road before, they are everywhere) or you have a Toyota Corolla, generally grey in colour. We have hired a grey Toyota Corolla and Malc seems to take great pleasure in parking it by a similar one, then watching me try and get into the wrong car. By the way, we are very happy with out Toyota Corolla it suits us perfectly.

Shower or bath:
New Zealand people prefer to shower then bath. How can I say that you ask? Well everywhere we have been, be it private accommodation or motel/hotel, there never seems to be a bathtub, only shower. I conclude after 6 weeks traveling, that they don’t like baths and prefer to shower.

Posted by MAd4travel 01:52 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Start of The Journey: Canada & New Zealand 2016

Route: London – Calgary – Harvey Heights – Vancouver - Auckland – Otorohanga -New Plymouth – Wellington – Picton – Westport – Hokitaki – Okarito – Haast – Queenstown

sunny 22 °C

FEBRUARY – MARCH 2016



It was dull and damp in London for our departure and around 12C, what you would expect for February in the UK, which made the -10C in Calgary a bit of a shock to the system. We had just over a day in Calgary to acclimatise, before meeting up with friends and journeying into the Rockies. This gave us a bit of time to get over the jet leg and tiredness from a month of emptying and packing up our house.

On our third day in Canada we met up with our good friends, Carole, Olivier, Carol & Fred and headed of into the Rockies for the main event. The reason for us all being here was to celebrate the 50th birthday of another very good friend, Guylaine. Guylaine and her husband Glenn had arranged for us to stay in a cabin (called The Palace), close to their place and in the Rocky Mountain hamlet of Harvey Heights (very close to Canmore).
By the time we reached the Rockies, the weather had become a bid milder and we were able to enjoy the snow covered valleys and mountain views that surrounded us. A week of fun then followed with snow trekking, tubing, drinking and silly games the order of the day.

Ice & Water Canmore

Ice & Water Canmore

Sunny Day on a frozen Johnson Lake

Sunny Day on a frozen Johnson Lake

Birthday Party

Birthday Party

Lake Louise Canada

Lake Louise Canada

Winter Snow Canada

Winter Snow Canada

Sunset on Canadian Rockies

Sunset on Canadian Rockies

All good things must come an end though, and at the end of the week it was back to work for everyone, that is except for us. This was just the start of what we hoped would be a 5-year travelling adventure. Our next stop was a night in Vancouver, before taking our flight to Auckland New Zealand.

After a 14:05hr flight across the Pacific Ocean we landed in Auckland. This added further jet lag to the one we hadn’t yet shifted from the Canadian leg. We had even lost a full day (Saturday 13 February) during our flight across the Pacific.
We started our New Zealand adventure a couple of hundred kilometres south of Auckland in the farming town of Otorohanga. By now the weather has changed considerably. We were enjoying temperatures in the high twenty’s and plenty of sunshine. Otorohanga is renowned for its caves and hilly scenery as well as a secluded natural harbour. For those who know the “Lord of the Ring”, the landscape is very reminiscent of the Middle Kingdom. You expect to see a hobbit coming out of its burrow any moment. Our time here was spent getting to grips with a New Zealand way of life, a bit of hiking and cave journey under the surrounding hills.

Hangatiki Scenic Reserve near Otorohanga (North Island NZ)

Hangatiki Scenic Reserve near Otorohanga (North Island NZ)

Hangatiki Scenic reserve near Otorohanga (North Island NZ)

Hangatiki Scenic reserve near Otorohanga (North Island NZ)

Otorohanga

Otorohanga

From Otorohanga we continued down the west coast of the North Island to New Plymouth. There we spent a couple of days enjoying the waterfront walks and hiking in the Mount Taranaki National Park, home to the volcano that dominates the skyline from all around the region. Next stop was Wellington, with a day to see the city before catching the ferry to the South Island. We will return to the North Island later in the trip to explore it more fully.

New Plymouth Street Art

New Plymouth Street Art

New Plymouth Sculpture

New Plymouth Sculpture

Wave Bridge in New Plymouth

Wave Bridge in New Plymouth

Mount Taranaki

Mount Taranaki

Mount Taranaki

Mount Taranaki

Hiking in Mount Taranaki NP

Hiking in Mount Taranaki NP

Kai Iwa Beach (means black sands)

Kai Iwa Beach (means black sands)

The weather for the ferry journey was beautiful, which allowed us to appreciate the stunning Queen Charlotte Sound as we arrived in Picton, on the South Island.
Overnight in Picton, then southwest to the coastal town of Westport. Our pace has now slowed down and we were able to explore more fully the regions we are staying in. Westport offered us a variety of scenery, from the coastal walk to reach a seal colony, to a hike along an old mining rail track into the heart of a mountain gorge.

Crossing the Cook Strait from North to South Island

Crossing the Cook Strait from North to South Island

Prince Charlotte Sound

Prince Charlotte Sound

Arriving in Picton (South Island)

Arriving in Picton (South Island)

Fur Seal

Fur Seal

Weka NZ

Weka NZ

Westport

Westport

Hiking along the Ngakawau River

Hiking along the Ngakawau River

Hiking in The Ngakawau River along the disused railway line

Hiking in The Ngakawau River along the disused railway line

Cape Foulwind

Cape Foulwind

A bit of perspective at Cape Foulwind

A bit of perspective at Cape Foulwind

Blow holes at Punakaika NP

Blow holes at Punakaika NP

Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki National Park New Zealand South Island

Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki National Park New Zealand South Island

Our journey then continued down the west coast, with an overnight in the Greenstone (Jade) capital of New Zealand, the town of Hokitaki. Before continuing down to the beautiful isolated coastal village of Okarito. Okarito had lots to offer, with the glacier region on our doorstep as well as mountains and coastal lagoons. A visit to both the Franz Joseph and Fox glaciers was fun, but also a reminder of how global warming is affecting the planet – both of these glaciers are shrinking at an alarming rate. The other days were spent hiking in the mountains and to hidden lagoons. However, the highlight must be seeing a Kiwi in its natural environment. This sighting was made possible by a specialised trip with a local ranger, at night, in a nearby forest. It also required a lot of patience and total silence. Not an easy thing to achieve, with mosquitoes all around you (we did have protective clothing though) and barely moving for several hours, but it was worth it.

Franz-Josef Glacier New Zealand South Island

Franz-Josef Glacier New Zealand South Island

Franz-Josef Glacier

Franz-Josef Glacier

Franz-Josef Glacier

Franz-Josef Glacier

White Heron

White Heron

Three Miles Lagoon Okarito

Three Miles Lagoon Okarito

On our way to Trig Viewpoint Okarito

On our way to Trig Viewpoint Okarito

Cuation Kiwi (Okarito)

Cuation Kiwi (Okarito)

Fox Glacier New Zealand South Island

Fox Glacier New Zealand South Island

From Okarito our route took us further down the west coast to the town of Haast. The town itself didn’t have much to offer, but the journey there allowed us to witness some unique flora, and beautiful coastline scenery. It was just one night in Haast as our target destination was Queenstown in New Zealand’s famous Fiordland.

New Zealand Forest

New Zealand Forest

Lake Walk

Lake Walk

The Ukuru Estuary

The Ukuru Estuary

On the road to Haast

On the road to Haast

Ellery River

Ellery River

Mount Aspring National Park pass

Mount Aspring National Park pass

Again the scenery was fantastic and we took the opportunity to view it from as many vantage points as possible. However, it wasn’t Queenstown that impressed us (in fact we were a bit disappointed – far too commercial for our liking), but the hidden gem of Arrowtown. Situated not far from Queenstown, the village sits in a picturesque valley with buildings that give the impression that things haven’t changed much since the late 19thcentury. Queenstown also provided an opportunity to renew an old friendship. I hadn’t seen Bob, well at least not to have a good chat to, for almost 40 years, so we had a lot to catch up on. The three of us got together on two consecutive nights for a drink and a bite to eat, before it was time for us to be moving on.

Lake Wanaka from Mount Iron

Lake Wanaka from Mount Iron

Endemic bird of NZ

Endemic bird of NZ

Lake near Queenstown

Lake near Queenstown

Arrowtown New Zealand South Island

Arrowtown New Zealand South Island

Personal Observations & Interesting Facts

We had planned to book accommodation as we progressed through the islands, but were strongly advised against this approach by locals we spoke to. They informed us that getting the right accommodation was no longer as easy as it used to be. They explained that over the past few years, the number of Chinese visitor had increased enormously and because of this the supply of accommodation was struggling to meet demand. With that advise we changed our plans and started to book our accommodation well in advance of arrival.

Posted by MAd4travel 01:51 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 3 of 3) Page [1]