New Zealand

A Trip to Paihia

When I was in New Zealand, I caught up with a friend of mine, Triona, who I had met in Thailand. When we met for the first time, we hit it off straight away and became good friends in a short space of time. When we parted to go our separate ways, we were so upset but we knew we would see each other again.

Paihia, New Zealand

After Thailand, Triona went to Australia and I to New Zealand, but she was coming my way, so we arranged to meet in Auckland. On the day, I remember it so well, I was so happy to see her again, so much so, that I arrived at the airport to meet her way too early. I sat there fidgeting in my seat, standing up to look at the arrivals board countless times, and trying to contain my excitement. I think I had a huge smile on my face even before she came through, but, finally, after what seemed like a hundred years, there she was, running towards me, actually more like leaping and bounding, I was the same. We hugged and squealed like we hadn’t seen each other for years, it had only been about a month or so! Everything was good in the world.

Our first night back together consisted of walking down K Road to see if there was anything exciting happening, nearly falling over laughing because I said “I need a pew,” talking about a seat, but Tri thought I said “I need a poo!” and returning to the hostel and drinking vodka until 3.00am. The sort of things long lost buddies do when they get reunited.

After a couple of nights in Auckland, we boarded the Magic Bus for Paihia, in the far north of the North Island of New Zealand.

We checked into an average hostel and set off to explore, by renting two kayaks. We kayaked to a small island not far offshore, took a few photographs, did some beachcombing and generally had fun. It was easy to row on the way there, but on the way back it was a different story because the current was against us. We panicked a bit, we thought we were going to be stranded on the island unless we managed to row as hard as we could. But, we were strong and we eventually made it back and took ourselves off to the local bar to recover from our afternoon at sea.

 

At the bar, we were in for the treat of our lives. We met the locals! Two ageing gents, who went by the names of Fred and Alf. Fred was 76 and Alf was 80 years old. I thought I could drink, but, then, I had never met these two before. They kept buying us shots and matched us drink for drink. I hope I am still as sprightly as them when I get to that age. We had a lot of fun with them even though Alf kept calling me a pom bitch! His way of flirting I believe!

Paihia, New Zealand

The following day, we travelled up to Cape Reinga which is not quite at the northwestern-most tip of the Aupouri Peninsula, but far enough that the road ends and much of the journey was travelled along 90 Mile Beach. Reinga, in Maori, means the underworld, and legends have it that this is the place where the spirits of the dead enter the underworld. It’s a place of, not just, rugged coastlines and huge sand dunes, but it’s also the place where the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea meet, causing huge swellings in the sea. Nature at its most spectacular.

Cape Reinga, New Zealand
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Meeting_point_of_Tasman_Sea_and_Pacific_Ocean.jpg

In the evening, back in Paihia, we met Fred, Alf and a new crony, Rose and we repeated the shenanigans of the previous night. Our trip to Paihia was made all the more memorable by having the privilege to meet these three wonderful people who, although they literally drank us under the table, made us feel so welcome. I really hope they are still there enjoying themselves.

 

Save

Talking to My Past Self

When I went travelling back in 2008 I sent emails home to keep family and friends updated about where I was and what I was up to. I kept all of the emails so I thought it would be amusing to recall some of the things I wrote and what my present self would say to my past self.

Subject: I have arrived
Date: Fri, 18 Jan 2008 10:03:26 +0000

Thailand

• Hello from Bangkok and I didn’t get out of bed for 17 hoursLAZY COW! You’re in THAILAND! OK blame it on the jet lag.

My hotel is ok, it looks better on the internet, the shower is just a nozzle in the toilet, no cubicle or anythingThat’s Thai bathrooms for ya.

The best thing is the bed it is triple sizedSo easily pleased (I still am!)

What’s the weather doing over there? 29 degrees again today, the only thing is I had to cover up as went on a temple tour- OH poor you-one should cover up if one is visiting a temple!

I have only been in Bangkok for 2 days and already I have come to the conclusion that you have to be laid back and not a worrier! (Talking about the seemingly lack of organisation when going on a tour to Ayutthaya)- It took two days?

I went to an elephant farm and had my photo taken with one. He was on his knee and he gave me a kiss, got covered in bloody sticky slobber!Are you talking about the elephant?

I am gonna try and put my photos on Facebook but may have to put em on cd first!- Photographs on CDs? That’s a thing of the past.

The heat is UNBEARABLE- have nearly died of heat exhaustion- You will visit a hot country, wont you?

We then went to the Tiger Temple. These huge cats seem so docile and most of them were sleeping but they could take your head off with one swipe! – No shit Sherlock!

Seriously bought too much stuff with me, will have to chuck some stuff to make room for the bloody souvenirs. Can I not buy the biggest picture I could find today?! Idiot!Yep, you got that right- think before you act!

Went on a canal trip this morning, it was hilarious! The guide told us what the sights were etc., but then we had to wait for some sluice gates to open, and she became a walking, talking ad for Bangkok! She went from tours to floating markets, to steamed rice, to nightly shows, back to steamed rice and shopping. It was funny, I was chuckling to myself!You had to be there!?

Well what can I say, I have been here just over a week and I feel like I have been here ages! I love Thailand and already into the Thai way of life. Even speaking a bit as well- It doesn’t take long to fall in love with Thailand.

Thursday I left BKK and 3 hours later got to Hua Hin. Can I just say as well it is so cheap! The bus journey cost me 2 quid!!!! Equivalent of going from Northampton to Liverpool!A bit more exciting though.

We went out for dinner and he took me to a couple of bars he knows and introduces me to some people he knows- Jennifer who looks all woman but has a couple of extra dangly bits between her legs! That’ll be a lady-boy then.

I even outran all the boys on Friday. One of the lads has already dropped out, loser!-Competitive streak anyone?

There is something very fanciable about a Muay Thai boxerIs that because they are half naked or because you actually admire their skills and courage?

Went to Erewan National Park and trekked up a mountain. We went to see the 7 tiered waterfall and my god it was stunning and worth the trek to the top. You could actually get in the water behind the waterfall, amazing, never have I seen anything as stunning and wanted to cry!It’s a waterfall!!! (But, seriously, always get a bit emotional at a good waterfall.)

Chewy, one of the kids was training in the boxing ring and he stumbled backwards and his heel connected with my ankle! Had to fight back to tears! Cry baby- at being hurt by a teenage boy as well!

Three weeks into boxing and still loving it have lost just over a stone and spend all day with half naked boys! Easily pleased. Yep, thought as much (see comment above about boxers being fanciable.)

Seriously love it in Thailand and would like to live here You do.

Went to the zoo all day. We got there at 8.30am and stayed there all day. We found a bench and went to sleep for couple of hours. How random! That is why I love Thailand so much!Sleeping at the zoo, like you do! (I still love the random things that happen occasionally.)

We only gatecrashed the Monks party and were getting free shots of whiskey and dancing with the locals.Cheap night then? You gatecrasher! Go find your own entertainment! (ahh the randomness!)

We got onto the vodka red bull buckets and drinking them really fast! all of a sudden felt like I was gonna pass out. Got really hot and started crying so got carried back to my room. All the way I was bawling “I don’t wanna go bed.” It was only 10.50pm!Alcoholic! That’ll be the M150s. (The Thai version of Red Bull but about 10 times stronger.)

Ended up having a good couple of days in Chiang Mai, didn’t think much to it though- What are you talking about? Are you crazy? Chiang Mai is beautiful.

We were in BKK for the Songkhran festival and it was absolutely crackers, we all got wet and covered in flour! We had water guns and everything, it was manic. This went on for four days, one is enough!How true is that?!

I had a wicked birthday and the best present of all, not only have I three good friends here, but they have been plotting and scheming for 3 months and arranged for my mum, brother and sister to come to celebrate with meWhat a very special memory.

It is raining on Koh Tao so hopefully will still be able to dive!You’re gonna get wet anyway right?

I am still having a great time here, I love Thailand so much, am def coming back next year! You did!

Vietnam

Seriously was so glad to leave, can’t imagine my life as a nun! If I had to stay there another night I would have been scarred for life!An overstatement to say the least.

Thursday we trekked up Tam Dao Mountain. On the way down I nearly went over the edge and at one point landed on my arse head first!Work that one out.

New Zealand

Just a little note to say I have arrived ok, checked into a nice hotel, bit of comfort. NOT HAPPY it’s cold and raining and I can’t muster a smile!Get over it already!

Have to wear bloody shoes and coats now! God New Zealand sucks!- Didn’t you love it three days later?

I just feel a little lost and lonely having spent the last 7 months with peopleSeriously there are people in NZ!

 
I have met a few good people so far and we have had fun this weekSee what a difference a week makes.

Watched someone do a bungee jump, idiot! No way would I do that!- Idiot? Tut tut each to their own.

We went to a Maori culture show, which was good the men did the Haka, which is the war dance the All Blacks do. There were some nice men to look at, with hardly any clothes on!FLOOZIE!!

Answer me one thing? why oh why do I choose the night before I cross an active volcano for 8 hours, to get pissed and not get to bed til 1.30am, when I have to get up at 5.30am!- Never had much sense.

Tonight there is a salsa party in YHA so me and Annette are going to pub, cos as far as we can see, it’s a kids party and I don’t do kids!She says currently working as an English Instructor!

Oh I have been travelling with a German lady called Annette. She is really nice and the same age as me but she isn’t the same age as meHuh? Work that one out.

How come I walk over an active volcano, up a glacier and not ache? But 5 hours on a horse and I can’t move!!!!The laws of the universe.

Travelled over to Dunedin. Am on my own again but I don’t mind as I have spent the last 2 weeks with peopleMake up your mind!

Forgot to tell you about the strange experience of Angora rabbit shearing, in Waitomo. This poor bunny got strapped to a rack and stripped naked of its fur, very wrong indeed, I couldn’t stop laughing! It gets sheared because otherwise it would become too hot and die! Shame!It’s a poor rabbit!- heartless cow!

Jasper now also thinks I am an alcoholic, he said I don’t need beer, I said neither do I but I LIKE it!You tell him!

Had a little cry (pissed) oh and I watched Booze Britain, and saw the drapery, in Northampton!You need to get out more.

Am feeling a little fed up and I am missing home and all my friends today! Still I am in New Zealand ay?!Yes you bloody are!

Wasn’t as good this time as only for one hour and horse knew what it was doing so I wasn’t really in controlHA, beaten by a horse.

Then I went for a Thai meal. This is the first time I have been able to go into a Thai restaurant, without shaking and hyperventilating from withdrawal symptoms of Thailand!What a bloody drama queen!

I had 2 bottles in my brown paper bag that I had bought from the winery! ha ha it was quite funny but you had to be there!Yeah you sure did!

What would you tell your past self if you had the chance?

Tekapo Onward

Tekapo

On my tour of New Zealand a few years back I visited Tekapo which is located on the South Island. When I arrived it was covered in two metres of snow and I realised it was a small place with not really that much to do when you compare it to somewhere like Auckland or Queenstown. But it was a charming little place nonetheless. It is nestled among some spectacular mountain ranges and on the banks of Lake Tekapo.

Lake Tekapo
Lake Tekapo

The town consisted of a few shops, one pub and a supermarket. I didn’t want to stay in my accommodation and cook for myself so I walked up to the pub where I spent a few hours drinking beer. After a while I went outside to have a cigarette and started talking to this guy, Corley. He invited me to join him and his mates. These interactions are great but it depends on how I am feeling at the time as to whether I will take the offer up. Sometimes I just want to sit by myself but this was not one of those times. I played pool with the guys. Not just any pool but the best pool I have EVER played in my life and ended up having a great night.

Lake Tekapo
Lake Tekapo

One of the guys called Christian was the biggest guy I had ever seen. Huge, like a rugby player. He was hilarious- he kept saying sorry to me when he had a bad shot and he was drinking out of a glass, smaller than a half pint glass but because he was so big it looked like he was a giant and the glass was a pint glass. I was dying to say that to him but felt it was better to keep that amusing little thought in my head.

5 am sunrise over Lake Tekapo
5 am sunrise over Lake Tekapo

Christchurch
Christchurch is a lovely city with lots to do. On my first night I had a wander to get my bearings followed by dinner and drinks. The next day I had a cultural day- arts centre, craft market, museum and botanic gardens.

Botanic Gardens, Christchurch
Botanic Gardens, Christchurch

I visited the Antarctic Centre which is very interesting The centre tells you all about what is going on in Antarctica and you can see daily pictures from Scott Base there. There is information about the history and why the projects over there are so important. You can also experience what the weather is like there in the “storm room”. The room is -8 degrees normally and when they start the wind up to 46km/h, the temperature goes down to -18 degrees. It was absolutely freezing even though we were kitted out in thermal trousers and jackets and had our faces protected. It was positively tropical when I came out of there. In Antarctica it can get as cold as -80 degrees and if you were not prepared for the conditions you would die within one minute.

Antarctic Centre, Christchurch
Antarctic Centre, Christchurch

I took a day trip from Christchurch to Akaroa- a very pretty little village town located in between some beautiful green countryside. The town is so small you don’t really need a lot of time there and I was there for the day, so after I had wandered around and taken some photographs and then walked to the lighthouse, I decided to go on a harbour cruise to while away a few hours. There was all manner of nature on that boat trip-seals, penguins and little hector dolphins. As a nature lover I was in my element and tried to take as many photographs as I could but the animals were darting here and there in the water so quickly that it was hard to take any decent photographs.

Orana wildlife park is another good day out. It’s like a safari park but it is a zoo. Let me explain- the animals are in enclosures (like a zoo) but they are large, open enclosures so the animals have more freedom and can act more naturally (like a safari park). It’s one of the best I have been too. All that separates you from the animals is a moat and electric fencing-apart from the big cats and wild dogs for obvious reasons. You can hand feed the giraffes which, I thought, was quite cool so I asked the keeper to take a photo. She didn’t manage to get a proper one so I took one of myself and the giraffe- I am not sure who looked better (it looked like we had been separated at birth). I found this quite amusing-little things always make me smile. Then to add to my amusement I got to the water buffaloes and found I was more interested in taking pictures of ducks and rainbow trout. Being on my own all that time I was bound to go a little mad.

IMG_0883
Separated at Birth?

I did meet a human friend-Ian- he was the bar man in a little bar I found in Christchurch’s city centre. He was really friendly and he kept me company for a few nights while I was there on my own- even got me involved in the bars weekly quiz night (which I was rubbish at). It’s always nice to meet a friendly soul to chat to, especially when you are travelling alone. It beats ducks and fish any day.

 

Kaikoura
Next stop Kaikoura- a beautiful little sea-side town on the east coast of the south island. I went there to do some whale-watching but it was cancelled two days on the trot due to weather conditions- the weather in the bay was very pleasant and sheltered but the coastguard said that there were three metre swells in the open ocean. The whales were even heading off shore. If they were buggering off because of the weather, then I certainly wasn’t going out on a boat. The coastguard told me that there had been a trip the day before and everyone was sea sick. So I gave up with that plan and found other ways to amuse myself.

Kaikoura
Kaikoura

I walked to the town’s resident seal colony- Peninsula Seal Colony at Kaimokehu. The New Zealand Fur seals, who bask on the rocks during the day were so close. I could have reached out and touched them. Obviously, I didn’t, I wanted to keep all my fingers. Just offshore lies the Hikurangi Trench and due to the trench’s steep sloping seafloor and currents, the trench provides nutrient rich water which attracts the seals, whales and other wildlife that frequent this area.

IMG_0981
Peninsula Seal Colony

I walked back to town and went on a tour of the Maori Leap cave. The history behind this cave I found very interesting. It is a sea cave formed from limestone, which had a natural entrance to the sea but this collapsed about 6000 years ago. Bones found in the cave, thought to be from birds that used the cave, have been dated to around the same time. The name, Maori Leap, comes from a legend of a warrior choosing to either be captured or jump for freedom when a hostile group invaded from the North Island. He chose to leap. Another legend is of lovers who came from different tribes. They were prevented from being together and jumped to their deaths to be together forever.
Afterwards, I went on a winery tour, which included a few tastings, YUM-wine, and a tour of their underground cellar, which they use for weddings and functions. I had a couple of glasses and bought two lovely bottles, one red and white.

Maori Leap Cave, Kaikoura
Maori Leap Cave, Kaikoura

On the way back I came across a Thai restaurant so I decided to go in and have dinner. That was the first time I had been able to have Thai food without shaking and hyperventilating from withdrawal symptoms of Thailand! OK, that was a bit of an exaggeration but I did miss Thailand a lot. I thought that the food wouldn’t be as good but I was pleasantly surprised. I had yellow curry and it was delicious. I was so excited that I made a complete mess of the table. Then I got sad because it reminded me of Thailand. What a drama queen!
I nearly had heart failure when I asked for a glass of wine and the waitress told me they didn’t have a liquor license. But she told me that I could “bring your own” (BYO), and lo and behold I had two bottles in my brown paper bag that I had bought from the winery. Drinking from a paper bag? What a lush. But no, thankfully she bought me a glass and I poured my own. It was quite amusing and I was chuckling to myself all the way back to the hostel where I finished off the wine.

Kaikoura
Kaikoura

Mount Maunganui
After Kaikoura I headed back to the North Island to Mount Maunganui, located in the Bay of Plenty. Mount Maunganui is also the name of the extinct volcano that stands majestically over the town. The volcano is known by its Maori name- Mauao, which means “The Mount.”

Mount Manganui
Mount Maunganui

I spent three days there and during that time I walked up to the top of Mt. Mauao. It was quite steep in places but the views from the top are worthwhile. Afterwards , I went to the local outdoor pool and relaxed in the salt water pools to ease my aching bones. This place also offers excellent views of the Mount.

Sunset in Mount Maunganui
Sunset in Mount Maunganui

Whitianga

The next day I left Mount Maunganui and headed to Whitianga, on the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula. 12 km south east of Whitianga is Hot Water Beach, so named because of underground hot springs that filter up through the sand between high and low tides. Most visitors take a spade so they can dig large holes to wallow in the thermal water, which can reach around 64 degrees C.

Hot Water Beach
Hot Water Beach

Next stop- Cathedral Cove, or to give it its Maori name- Te Whanganui-A-Hei. A walk down from the car-park ends with this beautiful little cove and its natural rock formations- including Te Hoho Rock a natural rock stack which looms out of the blue water. Narnia fans will recognise this place as it is where the Pevensie children first re-enter Narnia in the movie- The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.

Waitomo

After Whitianga I arrived in Waitomo for a few days en route to Auckland. Alone again I decided to do some walking, so I opted for the 2km Waitomo Walkway. This is a real highlight of this area because the walk takes you over lush green farm-land, and shady forest, and the real beauty? I did this during New Zealand’s winter so there was no one else there-just me and nature. Although it was rather muddy, the walk is easy to navigate as there were marker posts with directions. The track follows the Waitomo River to the Ruakuri Caves and Bush Scenic Reserve. The reserve has native bush, limestone outcrops, caves, tunnels, gorges and walkways high about the rushing water. Everything a nature lover could want. It’s a great way to experience the natural beauty of the place.There are viewing platforms where you can look down into the caves to see the huge stalactites and stalagmites.

The next day I went cave abseiling. It was awesome. I abseiled 50 metres down into a limestone cave, climbed back up the ladder and down again. It was a bit scary to start with when you have to let go of the platform but I really enjoyed it. Then after some lunch I went Black Water Rafting or cave tubing- basically floating through the caves on an inflated rubber inner tube. I jumped backwards off a mini waterfall and went down a slide all in the darkness underneath the ground. And apart from the tiny glow worms that light up the walls, it’s mostly completely black and very quiet. Quite an eery feeling. Words cannot explain how thrilling it actually was.

Cave Abseiling
Cave Abseiling
Black Water Rafting Map
Black Water Rafting Map
Black Water Rafting
Black Water Rafting

I loved my time in New Zealand, and I said before that I probably wouldn’t go back- a case of been there, done that. But I have since changed my mind and would love to go back one day. The scenery is just stunning and I truly had an amazing time there.

Nelson to Queenstown

Crossing the Cook Strait on a ferry I left the North Island to continue my journey around South Island, New Zealand.

South Island
South Island

IMG_2057

Ferry Across the Cook Strait
Ferry Across the Cook Strait

Myself and another woman, Annette, decided that we wanted to go to Abel Tasman National Park so we stopped at Nelson for one night. Nelson is named after Admiral Horatio Nelson who defeated the French and Spanish in 1805 and is located on the eastern shores of Tasman Bay. As we there to visit the National Park we made Nelson our base so we didn’t do much else there.

Abel Tasman National Park is located at the north end of the South Island and is named after Abel Tasman who was the first European explorer to sight New Zealand in 1642. Annette and I planned to go for a hike to do some exploring so we went to Kaiteriteri, which is the gateway to the national park, and about one hour from Nelson. We met the guy who was going to take us on a water taxi to drop us off so we could walk back to the starting point, where he would pick us up again at the end of the trail.

We set off on the boat and on the way we passed a seal colony at Tonga Island and a bunch of sea-birds hanging out on “split apple” rock- so named because it looks like two halves of an apple have been split clean down the middle (Maori legend has it that it was the result of a fight between two brothers).

Water Taxi
Water Taxi
Tonga Island
Tonga Island

It was raining that day and the sea was really choppy so when we got dropped off I was promptly sick and didn’t feel so good. But the walk made me feel better. The walk started on a deserted beach where we picked up the coastal trail at the far end, and then made our way through the forest. During that season (July) there was nobody else about, so we had the place all to ourselves, which is kind of special. The trail climbs around headlands and lush forest with so many different species of trees, which are beautiful. It opens onto several gorgeous beaches and estuaries which show the diversity of the place and there are a few waterfalls on the way as well- being the winter season there was a lot of rainfall. It was a splendid way to pass a few hours.

Seals at Tonga Island
Seals at Tonga Island
Split Apple Rock
Split Apple Rock

Having only been in New Zealand for two weeks by this point I felt like I had seen and done loads and it wasn’t about to stop and the beauty of the magic bus is that you really can go where you want and see what you want to see.

So after leaving Nelson I arrived in Greymouth for a night but there was not much going on (it was just a pit stop really) so we went on a tour of Monteiths Brewery where we got to taste seven beers and then pour a pint of our favourite one.

IMG_2087

Waterfalls
Waterfalls
Estuary
Estuary
Abel Tasman Coastal Trail
Abel Tasman Coastal Trail
Deserted Beaches
Deserted Beaches

We then arrived in Franz Josef where the coolest thing to do is to hike the Franz Josef Glacier. The glacier is 12 km long and located in Westland Tai Poutini National Park. We were supposed to be doing the glacier hike the day after we arrived but when we got up it was raining so hard that we decided to put it off for another day on the off chance that it would be a nice day. And we were glad we did because the following day was perfect for hiking- it was amazing- very cold but it was worth it, the views were stunning. We had to wear crampons on our boots as walking in normal boots just would not have worked. We were on the ice for a good 6-7 hours and it was tough going in places- squeezing

View from the Abel Tasman Coastal Trail
View from the Abel Tasman Coastal Trail

through tight ice passages and using our ice picks to haul ourselves a bit further up the glacier but completely worth the effort- in places the brilliant blue colours of the ice were incredible.

Next stop-Queenstown- the party place of the South Island. Don’t get me wrong you can party anywhere you want but Queenstown is renowned for being the liveliest place and the skiing is good in that area, so I was told. It was raining again but that didn’t dampen our spirits when, on the way, we were treated to more seal colonies and pancake rocks where we got off the bus to have a look. Pancake Rocks are located at Dolomite Point, near Punakaiki on the western coast of the South Island. In this area as well the sea explodes out of vertical blowholes at high tide and there is a walk-way where you can see the rocks up close-the rocks are limestone rocks created by pressure on hard and soft layers of marine creatures and plant sediment.

There is so much stuff to do in Queenstown so one of the days I was there I did a day trip to Milford Sound- it was absolutely stunning. It is a fjord in the south west of the South Island and has been judged as the world’s top travel destinations (2008 Travellers Choice Destinations Awards by Trip Advisor) and hailed to be New Zealand’s most famous tourist stop. We had a perfect day- still very cold but the sun was shining although it was very windy on the boat and I nearly got knocked off my feet. The boat leaves the port and makes it’s way through the fjord to the Tasman Sea and back again- it is surrounded by sheer rock faces rising to 1200 metres on both sides. We saw dolphins and seals and there are two permanent waterfalls- Lady Bowen Falls and Stirling Falls.

Blow Hole
Blow Hole

The last thing I did when I was in Queenstown was to go horse riding in Glenorchy, which is about 45 kilometres away. I love horse riding so when I found out that there were stables nearby I jumped at the chance. We rode out through the Rees Valley amidst a landscape of rocks and glacial fed rivers with beautiful mountains all around. The scenery is just incredible. In fact the mountains were the“misty mountains” from Lord of The Rings and the guide showed us where they had filmed the Isengard scenes. I rode for three hours in the morning, on a horse called Cecil, who was very well behaved. They dropped me off for lunch at the local cafe, and picked me up later to go for another two hour ride. Cecil was a bit friskier in the afternoon and kept bucking his hind legs, which took me completely by surprise and as such nearly had me off a couple of times but I managed to stay in the saddle. Afterwards I did wonder how come I could spend the day walking over a volcano and up a glacier and not ache in the slightest but five hours on a horse and it was a very different story. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful way to spend the day- just you, your horse and nature all around you.

 

Kia’Ora from New Zealand

This post was originally done as a guest post for www.processingthelife.com but I thought I would share it on my own blog as well.. Hope you like it!

Having spent the last seven months in my beloved Thailand, I flew to Auckland, New Zealand where I would spend the next seven weeks. This was all part of my travelling plan but when I first got there I hated it! I had left behind some good friends and my gosh it was so cold. I hadn’t worn any winter clothes, let alone proper shoes, since leaving the UK in the January. I knew I would feel better in a few days but for the first few days I couldn’t muster even the smallest smile and I mooched about in a state of self-pity! I was missing the friends, that I had made in Thailand, the weather, the culture, everything about it- I just felt a little lost and lonely.

auckland

Auckland
Auckland

However, that feeling changed when I booked myself onto a “Magic Bus” tour. This bus takes you round the whole country, you can get on and off where and when you want, and get picked up again from where you are to continue your trip, and you see loads of cool stuff. There are different tours you can go on, but I chose the one that took me round the whole of the north and south islands. And depending on what you want to do and where you want to go, you can either stick with the same bus or, if you want to spend more than one night in a place, you get picked up by the next bus on the same journey.

The Magic Bus
The Magic Bus

And it is a great way to meet like-minded people. You naturally start talking to people and I made friends with a few good people and we had a lot of fun together.

So my little tour began-

The first destination was Rotorua, which is about 230 km southeast from Auckland and it is a major tourist destination, due to its geothermal activity- including Lady Knox Geyser, and several hot mud pools that bubble away amidst a very steamy atmosphere. And because of the hydrogen sulphide emissions Rotorua is also called “Sulphur City”- it smells of rotten eggs everywhere you go.

Rotorua Mud Pools
Rotorua Mud Pools

Along the way the bus stops off at various places and, on the way to Rotorua, I watched someone do a bungee jump. Kirsty, one of the girls I met, tried it- she got all the way to the edge of the platform and couldn’t do it. It does look amazing, especially when you get dunked in the water below, but throwing yourself off a platform, with an 80 foot drop below is not my idea of fun.

Lady Knox Geyser
Lady Knox Geyser
View From the 80 foot Bungee Jump
View From the 80 foot Bungee Jump

I went to visit Tamaki Maori Village where I was treated to a Maori culture show, a traditional Hangi feast and a walk around the village to learn about Maori art forms, traditions and ways of life. The men also did the “Haka”, which is an ancient war dance, something that the All Blacks rugby team begin a match with.

The next stop was Lake Taupo and here I visited the fast, powerful and beautifully coloured Huka Falls. Later we took our bus driver, Terry, for a few beers at the local pub. I don’t know why I chose this night to have a few beers and not get to bed until 1.30am, when I had to be up at 5.30am the next day to hike across an active volcano.

Tamaki Maori Village
Tamaki Maori Village

So 5.30am the next day, feeling a little hung-over, I started on the hike across Mount Tongariro- Mount Tongariro is in Tongariro National Park (New Zealand’s first national park and one of the earliest in the world). It is a beautiful volcano located in the Taupo Volcanic Zone of the north island. I had five layers of clothing on-it was that cold-and it took about eight hours to cross from Tongariro to Ngauruhoe.IMG_1923

Friends
Friends

The scenery is dramatic and in parts covered in snow, especially higher up, but parts, lower down the mountain, had running mountain springs and plants that were growing up out of the melted snow.

Mount Doom
Mount Doom

I climbed up the side of

Tongariro Mountain Springs
Tongariro Mountain Springs

Mount Doom which, for Lord of the Rings fans, is very, very cool! At the summit I had lunch and literally felt that I was on top of the world- it was such a sense of achievement having reached the summit- it was not an easy climb up- and the views would have been awesome but the clouds were covering the peaks of the mountains. (Literally a feeling of being on top of the world)

The way down was rather amusing as the slope was steep and the easiest way was to inch your way down, much like when you’re on skis, but on that particular slope the ground was covered in hot rocks, rather than snow and they were really slippy- the only way down was to slide down on my backside! Anyway, I slid, fell on my arse, ended up in a heap with five other people and none of us could move because we would have all slid down the mountain. We eventually made it to the bottom, not without some hysterical laughter on the way down.

A View From The Summit
A View From The Summit
Made it to the Finish
Made it to the Finish

I went to Wellington- the capital of New Zealand- where I had a great night with my new friends, making it one of the best places so far. I had turned into a proper backpacker- sleeping in YHA dorms, buying my own food and staying in! We went out to supermarket and we (we being- myself, James, Sheena, Nicholas and Annette- a few friends I had made on the

The Way Down
The Way Down

way) made a lovely spaghetti bolognaise and happily chatted about our travels so far. I had been living like a princess in Thailand, staying in hotels, eating out every night but no longer could I afford such luxury-nor did I want to because some of the best times you have are the most simple ones.

Wellington
Wellington