August 11th - We landed at Auckland at 4am after a long 13 hour flight, they only showed a couple of films and there were not personal screens in the backs of seats so it seemed to drag quite a bit. We were so excited to be in New Zealand, somewhere we both thought we would never get to. By the time we had got our bags (Emma's arrived safely) by decided to have a drink at the airport as it was still not 5am and so we knew we would not be able to check in to the hostel yet. We finally got on the bus to the city centre at about 5.15am and were in the hostel reception by 5.45am! We were told we would not be able to check in to our room until 1pm so we had a 7 hour wait in the hostel in front of us.
They stored our bags and we got about an hours sleep in on the couches, this was by far the biggest hostel we had stayed in, they had about 30 computers in their internet cafe, travel agents on site, a kitchen with about 10 cookers...., we then went on the internet for a bit, then went for a walk and looked around some shops about 10am before getting a sandwich in Subway for lunch (this was to become a very regular thing for Neil) and finally we checked in to our dorm room at about 12.30pm. The room was really nice, big with a fridge in there as well, we chose two beds and decided to have a couple of hours sleep. We didn't wake til 6.30pm and had something to eat and just stayed in bed and read until about 10pm when we went back to sleep until next morning.
Tuesday 12th August - As we were jet lagged (we'd had to put our watches forward 16 hours on the flight from Chile) we woke up early and had had our breakfast by 8am.
We skyped Emma's mum and dad and spoke to them for a while and was able to see them really clearly on the webcam before we done a big washing load that we had been waiting to do for a while. We went for a walk along Queen Street (the main shopping street in Auckland) and had a look around. We then went to try and find the supermarket but it took us so long to find and it was pouring of rain that we gave up! We decided to go back to the hostel for a while to chill out and then once the weather was better we went out and found the supermarket in the afternoon and bought our dinner for the next couple of nights. In the evening we just chilled out in the hostel and went to bed quite early again still recovering from the journey from South America.
Wednesday 13th August - This morning we got up and checked out of our dorm room at 10am and moved into a private room in the same hostel for the next 3 nights.
After breakfast we then went out and jumped on the free local bus that circles the city, unfortunately it didn't go to where we wanted, so we jumped off and then got on another bus. This bus took us a long long way around Auckland which was good as we saw a lot of the city, until we finally arrived where we wanted to go at Auckland Museum. The museum was really good with so much to see, there were sections on Volcanoes, the Oceans, Space..... We walked around for about 2 hours before we caught the bus back to our hostel in the city centre. In the eveing we went next door from the hostel to Globe Bar and had a few drinks and played some pool, we decided to not stay out too late though as we knew we'd be having a big night for Neil's birthday the next day.
Thusday 14th August - Neil's birthday! We woke up quite early and Neil opened his presents, new trainers, a Chile football shirt, an Australian travel book, sweets and a Subway Gift Card! We had breakfast and then Neil called his mum and dad before we left the hostel about 11m.
The first stop of the day was to go up the Sky Tower which was very close to our hostel, this building is one of the highest in Australasia and probably New Zealands most famous landmark, the view from the top was amazing and we could see for miles, we were also able to see people flying past us outside the glass as you can do New Zealands highest bungee jump off the top of the tower. We had a coffee in the cafe at the top before Emma said we had to leave to go to our next surprise of the day. We walked for about 15 minutes down to the harbour and at 1pm we arrived at the Minus 5 degress Ice Bar. We were dressed in big thick coats with furry hoods and two pairs of gloves each and were led into the bar, it was fantastic. Everything in the bar is made of ice, including the bar, the seats, the statues and even the glasses you drink from! You have 25 minutes in there and we were the only ones there.
You are given a free cocktail to start and we then bought another one each. We had lots of photos taken, and we bought two of these after. And Emma was very pleased as when she booked it she mentioned it was Neil's birthday and that meant he got in free! They also forgot to charge us for our second cocktail as well. After leaving there, we walked back nearer Queen street and found a nice bar/restaurant and Emma treated us to lunch, I had a steak and Emma had fish and chips with mushy peas. After lunch and a couple of beers, we walked around the shops for an hour as Emma wanted to get a denim skirt but couldn't find one. We then got showered and changed in the hostel before going out about 5pm to go to the Bluestone Rooms bar where we had arranged to meet Paul Sawyer, the guy we both knew from HSBC who has emigrated to NZ.
We also told a few people we had met on our travels about it who would be in Auckland, and Jonny a guy we met in Rio showed up as well with a couple of girls he had met in Auckland. We stayed in this bar for a few hours drinking (lots!), Neil had a tower of beer which was a wooden stand that held 8 different glasses of beer. From there we decided to go to an Irish bar that Jonny had found but on the way we passed a bungee cage! Neil and jonny went on, it was a cage that basically throws you up at hight speed very high into the air before then coming back down and bouncing back up.....they were both quite drunk! We then stayed in the Irish bar for a couple of hours before going back to the hostel, Neil was very drunk but had had a great birthday!
Friday 15th August - We both felt quite rough when we woke up and basically stayed in bed the whole day sleeping off our hangovers, Neil had another surprise in the evening and all he knew was that he needed to be ready by 6.
30pm, we he had first woke up his only thought was that he hoped whatever we were doing it didn't involve drinking but once we were ready and showered we went to the Globe Bar next door and ordered a jug of beer. We then left there and went to a really nice Belgian bar and then walked back down to the harbour. All Emma had said was that we had to get bus somewhere but as we got to the harbour we went into the Harbourside Restaurant, a really posh restaurant overlooking the harbour in Auckalnd, Neil's sister and Mum and Dad had organised the meal and Jo had left her credit card details with the restaurant, so a meal and drinks on them. We had a really nice night and the food was lovely - we had mussels and tiger prawns to start, then Neil had a ribeye steak for main couse and Emma had a fish trio (3 different types of fish).
After the restaurant we went back to the hostel as we were really tired.
Saturday 16th August - We checked out of the hostel at 10am and just had a lazy morning until our bus at 1.15pm. The bus took about 4 hours and we arrived in Rotorua at about 5pm. We checked straight in to our hostel which was right next to the bus station and went out for a look around the town. There was a funny smell in the town, which we had been told about as the area is a thermal area with lots of volcanic activity so gases etc. We went to the big supermarket and then cooked our dinner. Later on in the evening we went to a local bar for a couple of drinks which had a live band on which was fun.
Sunday 17th August - We got up quite late and it was really raining heavily, it had been a lot since we arrived in NZ. Rotorua was a really quiet place and like one of the towns we expected in NZ, we understood why a lot of people think it is like England about 50 years ago, but we both really love it. Halfway through the afternoon we decided to go to the Polynesian Spa which had been recommended to us. It cost NZD$20 each for entry and we were able to use about 8 spa pools all out in the open which varied in temperature, it was a lovely setting, all natural springs with a view out over the Rotorua lake. We just sat in the pools and chilled out for a couple of hours, knowing this was not something that we would be doing very often. In the evening we just stayed in the hostel and watched the Olympics.
Monday 18th August - We checked out of our room at 10am but left our bags in the hostel as we were not getting our bus until 4pm. We had a walk out to a park just out of the town centre which was filled with natural mud pools, that are all sealed off but you can look from the side, but there are signs up saying "Danger - Thermal Area". The pools are really amazing with liquid mud just bubbling away. We caught the bus at 4pm which only took an hour and we arrived in Taupo at 5pm. We walked to our hostel which was quite a way and took about 20 minutes, when we arrived we found out we could have had a free pickup from the bus station! We had chosen this hostel as it had its own bar, but were very disappointed as it was closed as the hostel was nearly empty as it is the off season - in the 3 days we were here there was only us and three other people there, and 2 of them were in our dorm with us! This night we just walked in to the town centre and went to a couple of bars.
Tuesday 19th August - We got up and spoke to the girl at the reception and we booked our Skydive for the next morning! We asked her what we could do cheaply and she gave us a few things. We decided to go on a long walk whick took us through some really amazing scenery along the side of a river and we walked for about an hour and a half before arriving at Huka Falla - not as impressive as Iguazu obvioulsly but still really amazing. We then carried along the trail and visted the Honey Hive, a bee farm where we were able to try lots of different honeys as well as some honey wines and liquors, Emma bought a small jar of honey. We then walked back along the same trail, it passed a natural hot spring on the side of the river where there were some locals just sitting in the hot pools, one woman even had a bottle of wine with her and was just chilling out! In the evening we had dinner in the hostel and watched a dvd in the hostel lounge which was really nice, we had it tour ourselves and drank lots of tea which was complimentary!
Wednesday 20th August - We got up about 10am both apprehensive as it was the day of our skydive.
We were so pleased to look out of the window and see totally clear blue skies,probably the best day we had had since we had been in NZ. We sat around a bit nervous and were picked up about 11.40am to be taken to Taupo airport where the skydive companies are based, we picked up 4 other people on the way and then drove out to the small airport. When we arrived we were given a brief talk, then were weighed and had to decide which package we took, you could jump from 12000ft or 15000ft and could have it with video footage or without etc. We had decided to save our money as it was nearly double the price to have it with the video so chose to jump from 12000ft. We were then led out into the hanger where we met our Tandem Master (the guy who would be strapped to our back) and were then kitted out in a jumpsuit, harness, gloves, hat and visors.
It was really good as there was no real waiting around and before we knew it we were being led out in a line to the small plane, there were 7 of us jumping with 7 tandem masters and then 1 camera guy who was jumping to film one of the girls in our group. The plane was really cramped on the way up, we were both sitting close to each other. At about 5000ft the guy straps you to him and tightens all the buckles etc and gives you another quick talk about what to do when you jump, where to put your hands and legs etc. Then before we knew it, the door at the back of the plane was opened and the first person was jumping out. You are oushed to the edge and the guy dangles your legs out, Emma was first. You get to the edge and then have to look over your shoulder where a camera takes your 'exit shot' and then before Neil knew it Emma had gone, Neil then quickly followed straight after her.
As you leave the plane it is probably the most scared we have both ever been but after a few seconds you are plummeting through the air at 200km/hr and it is the ultimate thrill. At 5000ft the parachute is opened, we both agreed that it is a big sense of relief when this happens. You then float down for about 5 minutes to the ground, Emma enjoyed having a go at steering the parachute, the scenery around lake Taupo which is what we did the jump over was amazing. Neil was able to see Emma land below him and when we were both on the ground after a smooth landing we wanted to do it all again, we absolutely loved the whole experience. We had a few photos taken with the rest of our group and then after changing out of all the gear we watched a dvd that the company makes showing us getting ready, going up in the plane, landing and afterwards, we bought this dvd and posted it back home.
We were taken back to our hostel and spent the afternoon just chilling out and getting over it. We stayed in the hostel agin in the evening and watched a couple of films.
Thursday 21st August - We woke up and had breakfast and stayed in the hostel until about 12.30pm where we got our free lift to the bus station for our 1pm bus to Napier. This journey was 2 hours and the coaches here as so good, all the drivers are in their 50's/60's and give you running commentary along the way about scenery and the history of the roads etc. We arrived at our hostel which is right on the seafront in Napier about 3.30pm which again is very quiet, we hope most of the travellers are on the South Island! We went out for a walk around the town which is really nice, it was totally destroyed by an earthquake in 1931 so has been rebuilt in an art-deco style so it is really nice.
About 6pm we walked along the beachfront to the spa which was a lot cheaper than in Rotorua, only $NZD7 each but was not natural. It was still really nice sitting out in the open in a really warm hot spa pool. We spent some time in the steam room as well before going back to the hostel and having dinner and wtaching the Olympics.
Friday 22nd August - Emma got up early and went for a run along the beachfront, she enjoyed it but noticed she hadn't done it for a while as she got quite tired. We then both went for a long walk along the beachfront and up a hill to the Bluff Hill lookout point which looks over the Napier Port and harbour. The views were really nice and it was good to go for a long walk. We then came back to the hostel for lunch and spent the afternoon just looking round a massive shop called Warehouse, it's a bit like Makro.
In the evening we just stayed at the hostel.
Saturday 23rd August - We were up early and had some breakfast before walking round the corner for our 8am bus to Wellington. The journey took about 5 hours and the weather changed so much on the way from windy to rain then to nice clear blue skies. We arrived in to Wellington about 1.15pm and walked about 20 minutes to our hostel. We checked out stuff in to our 6 bed dorm and then went out for a walk. We had been recommended by a few people to go to the Te Papa museum in Wellington while we were here so we spent the afternoon there. It's a brilliant museum over 6 floors with so much to see and do - it has a lot of the same sort of things as the Auckland museum but just on a bigger scale. It takes you through the history of New Zealand and a lot about the Maori culture, there are also exhibits on natural disasters, the ocean, interactice zones etc. We came back to the hostel which is a good one and chilled out a bit. At this hostel when we checked in we were given free meal tickets, included in the price of the room is a free meal every night, that meal is quite small but you can pay the equivalent of about 1.50 pounds and upgrade it so it is the size of a proper meal which we did, it was fish, chips and salad and it was really good. We then got showered and changed and decided to have a night out as it was saturday so we went on a bit of a crawl around Wellington's bar streets, we had a good time and went to about 6 or 7 places!
Sunday 24th August - We got up late, after midday as we were both a bit hungover. We then went out for a walk but as it was raining heavily we decided to just chill out in the hostel for a bit and then go back to see the rest of the Te Papa museum. Tonight we will probably have a cheap night, Emma is going to skype her Grandma and we will then have an early night to be up for our 8am ferry across to the South Island in the morning.