From bikinis to thermal pants

Auckland Travel Blog

 › entry 8 of 18 › view all entries
Four weeks of action packed, adrenalin filled good times! If ever there was a playground designed for big kids its this country.

I didn't get off to the best of starts....having arrived in Auckland in a very sorry state feeling a little like I wanted to be put down after suffering near alcoholic poisoning at the hands of my evil co-workers in Melbourne I joined the Kiwi bus heading north to the bay of islands. For someone whos travel so far had been independent to get on a tour bus came as a bit of a shock, a very annoying guide who loved himself more than a lot too much, coupled with the hangover from hell were not a good combination. Once I got away from all that though it was the start of a whole lot of fun.

Time in the bay of islands was spent cycling around some very steep hills and cooling off in the sea - how excited was I that I didn't need my thermals (hmm I say cycling to be fair it was a lot more pushing a bike up some very steep hills!) I love the way that having a bike means you automatically have friends in other bikers, certainly in that type of area I think its the joint recognition of insanity, but whatever, it works for me I got to spend the day with a nice kiwi bloke that wasn't some over excited 18 year old.

Back to heading south (fortunately with a different driver!) after swinging out to Mercury Bay we headed off to Rotorua. Interesting place, evil smell though. Spent the afternoon lugeing, basically a plastic sledge on wheels flying downhill on a very bendy track - awesome! Though I'd try a bit of culture in the evening so spent the night at a Maori concert. Really like seeing all the dancing but just can't help but want to laugh in the Haka when they start sticking their tongues out...sure thats not the desired effect.

After a morning spent at Te Puia (the geothermal reserve) wandering round boiling mud pools and steaming rocks and feeling a bit sick from the smell we set off for Waitomo. Had an awesome day there black water rafting. A 40meter abseil down into a hole opened out into a massive underground caving system where a combination of zip lines, plunge pools, floating down an under water river on a car innertube in darkness; only illuminated by glow-worms (stunning), before finally climbing out of the darkness up a waterfall back into the forest. Had a lovely guide, Ross, don't know if he thought he had the short straw though having to put up with 5 girls...he kept feeding us chocolate - think he just knew how to shut us up. Has to be one of many highlights of my time here.

From Waitomo it was on to Taupo and the Tongariro crossing. I'm told its one of the best day walks in New Zealand with amazing views over emerald lakes and dormant volcanoes. I had great views of about a 10 meter radius from where I stood...hmmm. The walk was great though, hard work, but great, its one hell of a test of fitness when your companions an 18 year old boy, theres no way you want to show yourself up as un-fit or significantly older, think I managed to hold my own - either that else he looked at me, decided he didn't want to have to carry me down so eased up a bit.......I'd rather think I held my own though!

After a nights stop off and relaxing in a hot tub to ease some very aching muscles, in the middle of nowhere it was onwards to Wellington for a very brief over night stop before getting the ferry to the south island at some un-godly hour the following morning. Still, had a very nice evening feeling quite civilized eating out and catching up with some friends I made in Vietnam.

Finally arrived in Nelson mid afternoon and hooked up with Jamie….within hours I’d started drinking again – I always knew she was the bad influence!!! We took a walk to the central point in New Zealand to have a beer watching the sun set. It happened to be up a very big hill – wasn’t too sure I’d ever be forgiven for that but hey we’re still talking 3 weeks later, maybe it was the beer at the top that numbed the pain!

Spent a couple of days in Abel Tasman national park, was very excited to be in our own little house, no more dorm rooms, yeay…. not sure what sort of people they were used to but plastic covered mattresses are not so comfy! Got the sea shuttle up the coast and saw some pretty cool things including George the friendly dolphin; think the picture I got of him jumping was definitely more luck than judgment, some seals and some big rocks. Walked back through the park which was very pretty, and fortunately without hills.

Onwards to Greymouth for the night. Stopping on route at Punakaiki (the pancake rocks) holding our breath and crossing our fingers that the petrol would last. Filling stations seem to be very few and far between and when you’ve been driving on the red for a very long way it gets a bit unnerving……especially with my car history, still at least it wasn’t quite as isolated as Oz. Carrying on it was getting late and there was a gorgeous sunset, after coming to a skidding halt and nearly taking out a road post got some real nice pictures.

Hmmm Greymouth – very drunken! Went out for dinner, the wine was good so one bottle turned into two and then by the time we got back to the hostel it didn’t matter that what we had was goon. Tried to do a very perplexing puzzle, don’t know if it was the alcohol that made it so hard or if it really was impossible. Got talking to a couple of girls that turned out to be Korean so Jamie had an impromptu language lesson, she looked so serious(as much as a drunk person can when trying to be sober!) and was trying really hard, but alas lesson and drinking don’t go together and all was forgotten in the morning……think I have it on video somewhere though!

After a dirty great fry-up to soak up some of the hangover we set off for Franz Josef. Stopped on the way at Okarito, on the coast, and went for a walk to get a view of the southern alps. Hangover, big hill, lots of steps…….don’t think I was forgiven for that one! Got half way down and saw there was another walk that would take about 1.5hours each way – needless to say I was on my own for that. Loved the views when I got there but jeez the walk was stressful! Was a track that was closed in by real dark overgrown forest on both sides……what is it about the demons in my head that they think then, when I’m on my own and feeling quite isolated and vulnerable, is a good time to start remembering every scary movie I’ve ever seen! This walk that should have taken about 3 hours return took me about an hour and a half, didn’t think I had it in me to run – especially not in trousers, sandals and a flimsy top…..still least if someone had tried to jump me they would have been knocked out of the way by my assets!

Time in Franz Josef/Fox Glacier was awesome. Not too sure though whats happened to me in the southern hemisphere, never really been academically intelligent but always prided myself on having common sense by the bucket load – not so on this side of the world! Having spent the better part of the day walking to the bottom of Franz Josef Glacier with Jamie and then spending a bit of time on the internet I decided I wanted to go for another walk. Just a short one, it was 4pm after all and would be dark in a couple of hours. So off I set, through the forest (not as scary as the one the day before as it wasn’t so overgrown) and up the river, got to the swing bridge where I should have stopped but not noticing the time or that the sun was starting to go down I carried on. About 20 mins later having disappeared up to my ankles in mud several times, had to crawl under and climb over fallen trees (it was like an assault course); I realized that it was getting a bit dark, didn’t fancy going back the way I’d come, after all I knew how bad it was, I decided that I’d keep going. I knew the path came out at the car park near the glacier and I could either try to hitch a ride or just walk the road in the dark. I just needed to be out of the woods before it got dark, the path (debatable if it could really be called that!) was hard enough to find in the light. So, it was back to running but this time over slippy rocks and mud, don’t know what I was more worried about loosing the path in the dark or falling over and breaking my ankle and no one knowing where I was. Eventually got to the car park with a bit of daylight to spare, even walked all the way back to town. Decided that fitness is greatly increased by adrenalin – what according to the signs should have taken about 6 hours took me just over 2!!

Following day it was up onto the Glacier for me. Thankfully the legs weren’t aching too much from the previous day. After a walk up to the glacier that saw us walking through streams and climbing ladders over cliff faces because the river had flooded, we finally got to the strapping on crampons point. It was a pretty cool day (quite literally too), climbing up ice faces that looked way to steep and through blue ice tunnels. Was knackered by the end of it!

To numb the muscle pain and replace the calories used rather vast quantities of vino were consumed that evening! Not sure how but we managed to get locked out of the hostel (and it wasn’t just us being drunken fools, the guy inside couldn’t open the door either). The pair of us ended up bottles of wine in hand and giggling like school girls climbing through the kitchen window….oh good times!!

From arriving in New Zealand its always been my plan to skydive Fox Glacier, unfortunately the weather hadn’t been good the previous days. Woke up to the start of a hangover but still feeling a little merry to blue skies. Theres nothing like throwing yourself out of a plane at 12000ft to cure those feelings! It was the most surreal feeling, what little of it my brain actually took in was so good, and to do it with the views I had….it certainly lived up to expectations.

Te Anau was next, several days of short walks (no running in sight), and relaxing, it was so nice when the wind was up and with snow toped mountains to just curl up on the sofa under a duvet to watch a movie. Also had a room to myself for the first time since Christmas, was complete with double bed and electric blanket…….I could have stayed longer just for that! Went to Milford Sound for the day, very pretty, and very surreal seeing it from under water too, some real ugly fish down there!

Onwards to Christchurch and Jamies house, was like home from home and really nice to be surrounded by pets again. They have the most amazing dog, his head was some where near chest height on me – I’ve never had a dog make me feel small! Went out on the Quad bike round the paddock, so much fun. Went to Akaroa for lunch and passed a car driving, quite oblivious to any harm, on the wrong side of the road. Both commented how stupid the old man was but didn’t think any more of it till we saw in the paper a couple of days later that someone had managed to flag him down and it turned out he was having some sort of seizure – oops!

Final night with Jamie was a night out in Christchurch. Started very civilized with a meal in a Japanese restaurant, was very good. Much as we’ve sampled the odd bit of wine along the way I’m not sure I’m ready yet for real drinking sessions after Melbourne. Before even doing the first shot the thought of it had my poor stomach doing summersaults. I think I am quite glad it was Anzac Day and everywhere closed early – not sure I would have had the stamina to keep up with Jamie and Mon. Was a good night with lots of dancing in a place of two extremes; on the one hand I was asked for ID, which I’m taking means I still look young so I loved it, on the other the people in the place we were in could have been my kids in another universe……to be fair I would have been a teenage mum but even still someone that young grabbing your ass…..I felt like a dirty old woman…and it wasn’t even me doing to grabbing!

Having said bye to my partner in crime am now heading back up north to Auckland filled with nervous excitement for the next step…..a few more days and I’ll be in Chile…….Hasta luego
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
photo by: Fulla