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Carol and Thomas around New Zealand

Carol and Thomas around New Zealand

Finally arrived in Auckland on the 7th April after a very long flight! Had read many good things about Malaysian Airlines but all in all they were not that great! And Thomas was dissapointed after the rumours of how fit the air hostesses were didn't ring true! Anyway, we were shattered by the time we landed and couldn't be bothered with the whole hassle of immigration. Thankfully the immigration dudes' philosophy was stamp and go. He didn't ask us any questions about proof of funds or onward tickets. So we jumped on a bus and headed for the hostel, Albert Park Backpackers! Hostel was good enough and we settled in much easier than we did in Canada, knowing what to expect now. I even learnt to pool there (well kind of!) You'll see from one of the photos above that I aint much good although getting better!

Auckland is a really cool city with a good buzz about it. Although the rumours we had heard about the drivers are true, their nuts!! Loads of restaurants and cafe bars etc to chill out in. We were expecting NZ in general to be a bit behind the times but Auckland is a really fashionable place. While in Auckland we visited the museum, walked round some of the parks and went to Waiheke Island for a day (see photos above hopefully if I can fit them in). We also went to a rugby league game which was lots o' fun. The Warriors (NZ) v The Knights (OZ). Realised that night just how serious everyone takes their rugby out here. Considering it wasn't for a cup or whatever there was lots of shouting and swearing. Was going to ask some guy behind us to take our photo but realised he would probably chop our heads off if we interrupted his game! Plucked up the courage in the end, photo on the front page of the travelogue.

So although we really enjoyed our time in Auckland neither of us were tempted to settle down here and work. It was a bit too big and could really have been any city anywhere. So after our 3 days there we headed on down to Wellington on the Overlander train, an 11 hour more about it soon. For now I'm off to kill Thomas, he's been winding me up the whole time I've been writing this!!!!

Carol and (a soon to be deceased) Thomas xx

So after a very boring 11 hours on a train we finally arrived in Wellington, not realising that it was to become our home for the next few months! We had an instantly good feeling about the city and immediately starting discussing what it would be like to live here. We stuck to our plan to head down to Nelson a few days later but we knew that if things didn't work out there then we come straight back to Windy Welly. For the few days in Wellington we stayed at the YHA which was a great hostel and highly recommend it to anyone. We spent our time exploring the city and, seeing as the weather was still very sunny and hot, spending a lot of time down at the waterfront. We went to see Lord of the Rings at the Embassy theatre where the world premiere for the movie was held. Each seat had a name tag of the person who had sat there at the premiere. We tried to nick one but it didn't work, only kidding! Someone had put chewing gum on Orlando Bloom though, how cruel! Wellington is really small for a capital city and walking up a street you can have high rise office blocks on one side and residential homes on the other. It's a good size and everything is really accessible. Courtenay Place is where all the action happens. It's got an amazing buzz about it at the weekend with loads of pubs and restaurants and there never seems to be any trouble there. Most of the bars here are open until about 5 or 6am so there's no need to go to a club and some nights we don't actually go out until about midnight. The whole city has a great feel to it and there is always something to do to keep us entertained.
So after those first few days in Wellington we left with a really positive feeling about the city and knew that Nelson would have to be pretty special to beat it. Anyway, the next day we got the ferry over to the South Island to check out Nelson....

Ferry ride from North to South Islands
An early start this morning to catch the ferry from Wellington to Picton on the South Island. We had high hopes about what we might see from the ferry but didn't want to get too excited incase the most exciting part of the journey was me bringing up breakfast over the side (thankfully I didn't!). But as the ferry departed the sun was shining and the sea was calm. And soon enough we spotted some sealife. Still not sure if it was a fur seal or a sealion but whatever it was it having lots o fun chomping down and attacking some fish by the side of the ferry. But the best was yet to come. About an hour or so into the journey we spotted a few common dolphins coming towards the boat...then a few more...and more...and more...until there must have been about 80 dolphins swimming along side the ferry and then playing in the waves it left behind! It was an amazing sight and we could see them all so clearly. And before we could calm down from that experience another pod of 80 came splashing by and stayed with the boat for a good few minutes. It was great and everyone on the boat was out to see them. We then entered the Marlborough Sounds and were swept away by the amazing scenery. It was spectacular with the lush green hills and the sparkling blue sea. The weather was perfect for our trip and it's still one of our favourite days so far in New Zealand...

arriving in Picton we jumped on a bus for the 2 hour journey across to Nelson. It was still lovely and sunny so we got some great views to keep us entertained. As we approached Nelson I kept thinking, this can't be it, it doesn't have a beach! I don't know how we managed it but all the travel guides etc had fooled us into thinking that Nelson is situated right on a beautiful golden beach. Anyway, it isn't, it's surrounded by a great big lovely mudflat. Not quite the same thing! So, first impressions weren't that great! A pickup from the hostel met us at the bus station and took us up to where we would be staying. I'm not surprised they offer a free pick up as it is up one the steepest, darkest, creepiest hills I have ever climbed in my entire life! Club Nelson advertises how it is only 5 minutes away from the town centre, what it doesn't tell you is that you're likely to die trying to get back!
So we checked in, dumped our bags, stumbled down Everest and explored the town. I think we knew pretty much straight away that we weren't going to settle here. It just didn't have the same buzz as Wellington and had a very small town feel about it (fair enough, it is a small town but hey!). I think it would be fantastic in the summer but by the time we arrived everything was dying down for winter. Anyway, we decided to stay there for a few days and just enjoy it before heading back to Wellington to settle down.
And we ended up having a fantastic time! On our second night we were walking down the street when who did we stumble across but wee Jim Downie fae Montrose!! Thomas couldn't believe it, it was one of his best school friends' Dad!! We went out drinking with him and had a great laugh and Thomas got to catch up on all the news from Montrose. We ended up spending most of our time in Nelson with Jim and he gave us and a Canadian girl we met a lift back to Picton in his hire car to catch the ferry.
We ended up having a great few days and didn't worry or stress at all about having to start again on the job and house hunting. We bode farewell to Jim and jumped on the ferry back to Wellington, hopeful that everything was going to fall into place...
P.S sorry we don't have any photos on CD to post off Nelson

Back in Wellington
As soon as we arrived back in Wellington we knew that we had made the right decision. We love this city and were pleased to be back here. We moved back into the YHA and started the hunt for an apartment. After only a few days (and a bit of stress after we signed a lease for a place and then decided it wasn't right and had to make up big excuses as to why we couldn't move in) we found the perfect place! It's right in the heart of the city and everything is literally on your doorstep! We have absolutely stunning views across the bay, over the city and up towards Mount Victoria. It's so easy to spend all your time out on the balcony, chilling out, especially as the weather has been amazing. The flat is really cheap and our rent includes all bills, furniture, sky TV and the Internet (which i'm using just now, yeah!) And best of all really is that we get on really well with all of our flatmates. There is Antoine, our little French buddy who is over here doing a Phd in Physics (he's only 23!) and he is soo adorable, cute and hilarious! He's coming along to the Scotland v Samoa rugby game with us next week and he's got his See you Jimmy hat all ready! Then there is Christine and Josh, both Kiwis and really cool. So easy to get on with and have a laugh. Then we have Sarah who is really quiet and pretty much keeps herself to herself but is really friendly and laid back. It's a great mix of people and we all get on really well which is a major relief!

So, we soon got moved in and the job hunting began...I'll write more about that soon, my hand is sore now from typing xx ...
The Foreshore Wellington
The Foreshore Hikoi (Maori word for gathering) was an exciting wake up call to us one morning! We knew that it was happening that day but not really much else. But then we woke up to shouts, chanting and lots of blowing of homemade trumpets! So we rushed downstairs and started to follow the march. We marched through the streets of Wellington, with approximately 15,000 other people, most of whom were dressed in traditional Maori outfits and performing the hikoi, it was some sight!! Little old Carol and Thomas from sunny Scotland getting in the way of a 6"6, 20 stone maori bloke, yiedling a big stick, baring his butt and wearing a grass skirt, nice!! Just like a normal saturday night out in Ayr then!!

We followed the march up to Parliament where we settled down to watch a good old slagging match, with the march leaders slating most of the members of Parliament. I'm still not entirely sure as to what they were arguing about. Everyone we spoke to that day gave us a different answer. But it is along the lines of the government attempting to claim ownership of land owned by the Maori's since the signing of the Waitangi and rightly so, the Maori's are working hard to keep it their own.

Lake Taupo
Having 3 days off work in a row (well Thomas did, I was still an unemployed bum at this point!) we decided to hire Nancy and head on up to Lake Taupo for a couple of days. So we packed a bag and set off on the 5 hour drive north. And we were suitably impressed when we finally arrived, with the mountains acting as a stunning backdrop for the lake. Our hostel, the Rainbow Lodge, was good and I would recommend it but it's maybe slightly out of town. Didn't bother us as we had Nancy. The two highlights of the trip were most definetely horse-riding and the Taupo Hot Springs (in that order due to the fact that after horse-riding I could hardly walk and therefore the springs were a very welcome soother!). The morning was a perfect time for riding and we got clear blue skies the whole way. I was a smart-ass and bombed off leaving Thomas to 'fast-walk' to catch up! Don't worry though, he got his own back, taking great delight in waggling chocolate, rum and deep heat just out of reach while I lay crippled in bed after pulling all my muscles! And so the hot springs were well needed and we spent 2 hours turning ourselves to something resembling a couple of old prunes.

The next day we headed down to Fielding, just out of Palmerston North to spent the night with Lorna and Sav Saville, friends of Thomas' parents. We had a great night, with a few glasses of wine and hearing lots of stories about their time in New Zealand. Thomas enjoyed getting to catch up with them and talk 'shop' with Sav. We spent the night in their guest house which is gorgerous and we can't wait to go back there, hopefully some time in the next month or so. The next morning (as we were searching for Thomas' wallet which I lost, but found again, in a Police station, whoo!) Sav, who is in the NZ RAF gave us our own personal fly-by in his fighter jet!! I'm used to getting an old beep of a car horn when I see someone I know so this was pretty cool!!

So, Lake Taupo was a great few days away and we'll definetely be back there in the summer. I was ever so slightly tempted to book a wee skydive but we'll see...

Scotland Vs Samoa Rugby Match
Whahey, all this way from home and we were off to watch Scotland take on Samoa at the rugby! It was a fantastic night, one of our best yet since we arrived in New Zealand. Made all the better by the fact that Carly, a mate from home was arriving in Wellington that day with her boyfriend Joe and her mates and had decided to come to the game with us. And Antoine, our francois flatmate, was made an honourary Scotsman for the night! There was a great atmosphere all day before the game. Walking down Lambton Quay at lunchtime I came across several drunken Scotsman getting an early start. That evening we all got ready with a few coruba's, wine, beer, and got the See you Jimmy hats and the face painting kit out. We were going to do this in style!

It was great to be able to sing (wail!?) along to Flower of Scotland and settle down with our beers to watch the game. And it was made all the better by the fact that we won by miles!!! I spent almost the entire game jumping about like a looney trying to get on tv and it finally paid off 10 minutes towards the end of the game when Scotland scored a try. The camera stayed on us for a good few seconds and our smiley, drunken faces were shown to all those lucky Sky Sports viewers.

After the game we headed along to the pubs on Courtenay Place and got talking to loads of folk from all over Scotland, including Troon, Islay and Howick! Thomas met some guys who knew all the people he had met while doing his research in Islay and at the game he bumped into his old boss, Rhona, from a bar he worked in while living in Montrose! You Montrose people get about!! One of our friends, Viv, then told us that all the Scotland players would be heading to the sports bar on Courtenay for drinks so we trotted (staggered) off there. They were actually walking in the door at the same time as us and I took the chance to go up to Gordon Ross, give him a big cuddle, and say 'good game mate, we're all proud of you!!' before stumbling back to Thomas to double check with him that it was actually a Scotland player I had been molesting and not some random kiwi! I then decided it would be a great idea to go up and hug as many Scotland players as possible, congratulating them on the game, and bugging several of them for a photo! I'm sure they just loved me!!

Anyway, it was a fantastic night, with us both ending up, rightly so, in a drunken heap at the end of it!!!

Kaikoura Whale Watching
In July we headed down to Kaikoura for a weekend away and to get out on the whale watching boat. We caught the Bluebridge ferry from Wellington to Picton at the very sociable hour of 3am and tried to convince ourselves that the humming and vibrating of the boat engine would lull us into a wonderful sleep - yeah whatever!! We basically got shunted off our seats evert half hour or so because of the vibration. The best place to get comfortable was the bar which wasn't even bloody open, how rude!! Very responsible though seeing as we had to pick up our hire car at 7am when we arrived in Picton.

It took us about 3 hours to get to Kaikoura and the drive was stunning with more of the mountains becoming clearer after each corner. Our hostel in Kaikoura (the Dusky Lodge) was gorgerous with lots of log fires, massive kitchens with huge oak tables and an outdoor deck looking out toward the mountains.

The weather was absolutely perfect for going out on the boat, clear blue skies and no wind whatsoever (but I still took my ginger tablets just incase!) so we headed down to the ticket office to catch our trip. The 2.5hour trip was fantastic!!! Not entirely sure of what to expect we defintely came away happy. We saw 4 sperm whales. Each one came up for breath for about 7mins before diving again. This is when we got to see them splaying their tails out of the water, it was an amazing sight! It was also incredibly quiet and still out there so you got the chance to appreciate them fully with no other distractions and with the mountains in the backdrop.

With about 30mins to go before the end of the trip Thomas noticed a couple of dolphins about 100 metres away from the boat (He is a fantastic spotter, much better than the people who worked on the boat!!). As our eyes adjusted we realised there was actually hundreds of them, coming at us from every angle (I make it sound like it was Jaws!!). There were about 400 Dusky Dolphins in total, all extremely acrobatic and putting on a great show for us with their jumps, dives and leaps. It was absolutely fantastic!!!! It's definetly one of the highlights of the trip so far and we might try and go back again in the summer depending on what type of whales are passing through then.

Mt Ruapheu Snowboarding
Okay, I'm goofy footed but ace at j-turns and know what my toe side and my heel side is!! Yip, I am now a fully fledged pro snowboarder bunny, ayee! Some may disagree but we refuse to listen!

Last weekend was my first time ever on a snowboard and I totally loved it!! As did Thomas and Miriam (who was a ski bunny) who I went up with. We hired a car and left Welly for Ohakune at 5am to make the most of the day. The drive up was uneventful apart from me killing a sparrow, oops, but not us thankfully (I was chief driver as you who know me will be surprised to hear). We keep getting automatics out here but I'm getting used to them now. First time I drove one I kept slamming on the breaks at 100km/hr thinking it was the clutch, that kinda hurt.

So we arrived in Ohakune (it's famous here in NZ for having an extra big carrot, you'll see it in the photos, it's not that impressive, really!) and dumped our stuff in the Turoa Ski Lodge which was very dainty for us lil backpackers. We were slightly worried however by the fact that we couldn't actually see any mountains! But we headed up there anyway hoping it did actually exist and we had a ball from the second we got there. We got all our gear on, the pants were pretty darn cool. Thomas and I left Miriam to go for our 1.5hr lesson. The teacher was typically hunky, tanned, fit type so much pleasing to me. We got our j-turns etc and he said he was "very pleased with my progess, excellent work". I was expecting a gold star to be pulled out at any minute. So we spent the rest of the time flying down our lil baby slope and running back up it with one foot still attached to the board (excellent work out if anyone is looking for new exercise). We could see ourselves making progress which was encouraging and I did actually feel like i had some control over where the board went. We are both totally hooked on it now and def want to try and get up at least one more time before the season ends. It was very tempting to run off down to Queenstown and become ski bunnies for the rest of the winter.

Anyway, suitably knackered we headed back to Ohakune and went straight for a dip in the hot pool which was the best thing ever! After we were suitably prune like we got out and ready for a night on the town. For having a total of 3pubs where we were it was very lively. One bar was excellent and it's the first time I've ever actually noticed the DJ for his music skills. Then we proceeded to crash out at 2am in our poly pro's (thermal underwear as we know it!) as hostel rooms aren't the warmest. We were dying to go back up the mountain the next day but the car had to be back in Welly so it was a no go. We did stop in the weirdest town i've ever come across though. It was called Bulls, had a massive tacky statue of a bull in the middle of the town, a bizarre little Dutch shop (in a redneck town in NZ, c'mon!) and every shop was determined to cash in on this whole bull thing by ensuring that the name of their shop ended in a "ble" work\d. Examples:::
Mc'Valu-BULL (Maccers)
Bank-a-BULL (the local bank)
Valu-a-BULL (the strange little dutch shop)
Const-a-BULL (the local bobby should be cracking down on such shenanigans, not taking part)
Comfort-a-BULL (local redneck motel) and the list just goes on and on and on... It was just bloody weird man.

Abel Tasman National Park
Well we're off on the road again! After 8 fantastic months in Wellington it was time to head off on our travels again. It was sad to say goodbye to our flatties (you know who you are!!) and leave my job (dirty boys - you know who you are!!) but we were also looking forward to moving on and seeing new places and summer was finally on its way!

So on Friday 3rd December we left Wellington and caught the ferry down to Picton in the South Island. We picked up our hire car up and drove on to Motueka, the gateway to the Abel Tasman National Park. We stayed at the Bakers Lodge hostel, it's fantastic and I would highly recommend it to anyone visiting that area.

The Abel Tasman is known for it's golden bays and turquoise waters. It's a popular hiking track so on Saturday we packed our backpacks with clothes, food and the camping gear and headed in. The weather was absolutely perfect with clear blue skies and no wind. I wasn't too sure about having to carry all of our gear with us while we walked but I managed ok surprisingly. As we walked along the track we kept catching glimpses of the bays below and headed down to a few to stop for a break and some lunch. We arrived at Anchorage bay 4 hours later. It was roasting hot so we donned the swimmers and headed for the sea. It was still a bit chilly for swimming but we stuck with it and swam out to a little cove where we could jump off the rocks into the sea. This was to be our base for the night so we set up our little tent and we were both looking forward to camping. Then the sandflies came out!!! I thought it would be a good idea to spray the insect repellent onto me while inside the tent but I only ended up nearly choking myself to death and stinking out the tent for the rest of the night. So we then cooked dinner on our little stove (pasta, cheese and salami incase you were wondering, minus the tomato sauce which Thomas forgot to put in the bag!) Looking forward to our first nights kip in the new tent we bunked down where I was soon to realise how bloody uncomfortable camping is!! I felt like I was sleeping on concrete and all I could smell was the bloody fumes from the fly repellent! So it was a long night, and the birds kept pecking at and fluttering past our tent so I managed to freak myself out good and proper thinking the bogey man was outside while Thomas slept like a baby next to me!

When we got up the next morning it was pretty cloudy but we decided to go ahead with another 4hour walk to Bark Bay where we planned to camp again. However, about 5mins after arriving there is started absolutely pouring down so, not looking for an excuse or anything, I suggested we head back to Motueka by catching a water taxi, rather than camp in the pouring rain! The next day was blue skies again thankfully so we headed out on our kayaking trip with Southern Exposure to explore the park from the sea. It was absolutely stunning!! We kayaked out to an Island for morning tea (DIA - the muffins weren't nearly so tasty!) and then on to Appletree Bay for a huge lunch and a quick dip in the sea. The weather was picture perfect and the sea was so calm that the kayaking was easy work. Then on the way back to shore we pulled our kayaks together and used a hand held sail to blow us back to shore. It has got to be one of our top days of the travels so far and the photos don't do the place justice. After another night in Bakers lodge we would be heading down to our next stop, the Franz Josef Glacier...

Franz Josef Glacier
We left Motueka early on Wednesday morning for a long 8 hour drive down the rugged West Coast to our next stop, Franz Josef Glacier. We had perfect weather driving down the 1st half of the west coast and stopped off to check out the Punakaikai Pancake rocks. Then it was like being back in wintery Scotland again as the clouds came down and the drizzle started (the west coast of NZ almost always pours with rain!) until we arrived in the town of Franz Josef and checked into Montrose Backpackers! (Thomas asked for a locals discount but the guy behind the desk was a bit thick and didn't get the joke!)

The following day we went on a half days guided glacier hike. With our ice tallons strapped on we were guided up onto the glaciers steep ice face climbing steps hacked into the ice by our guide. It was pretty dodgy going seeing as the steps were pretty slippery and there wasnt much to hold onto. Once we got up the main face it flattened out a bit and we got some great views looking up the glacier and back down the valley it had been carving out for thousands of years! The ice was pretty grubby with morraine at its lower levels but higher up it was a lot cleaner and icy blue in colour. Also further up was ice which had been there for years and had been squeezed, crushed and melted into some amazing glacial features such as crevasses, ice caves and hollows. Our walk took us through some cool examples of these features aswell as leading us passed some massive deep cracks and huge ice pinacles. We also saw some Kea- really inquisitive alpine parrots found only in New Zealnd.

After about 2 hours on the ice we started making our way down which was even harder than going up. The steepness of the steps made it difficult to keep your balance and meanwhile there were bits of falling ice and rock tumbling down towards us as it melted higher up! All great fun though!! Anyway the desent was fine and we had had an amazing time checking out Franz Josef Glacier!

From the glacier we then drove on down to Wanaka to spend a few days there. We stayed in Bullock Creek Lodge which was actually more like a cheap motel than a backpackers but we did have our own bathroom which was nice and we got very excited to see there was a tv in our room but, of course, it didn't work, as you would expect from a cheap motel! So we ditched our bags and went to pay a visit to Puzzling World, a tourist attraction based on puzzles and illusions funnily enough. It was kinda cool with lots of optical illusions and such like. Later that day we bumped into Iain and Stacey, a really nice couple we had met previously in Motueka. So we arranged to meet up with them and headed out that night to a bar called Shooters for a few drinks. The next day was good and sunny so Thomas and I spent the day chilling out down by the lake and topping up our tans. And, basically, that was about it! Not a very exciting couple of days but good to just chill out in one place for a couple of nights. I think Wanaka would be great in the ski season but in the summer (well at the start of it at least when it can still be a bit chilly) there isn't too much really going on. So we were looking forward to getting down to Queenstown and seeing what was happening there...

Next stop on our trip was Queenstown, the adventure activity capital of New Zealand. We were looking forward to our stop here as we had heard so many good things about it and Queenstown def lived up to our expectations. The obvious comparisons to Whistler in Canada were made (we worked there for 3 months in 2001) but they are both fantastic in their own way. We stayed at the Butterfli Lodge, a really nice hostel a 5 min walk for the centre of town. The weather was a bit dodgy when we arrived so our first afternoon there we spent having a look around town and trying to decide which activities we wanted to do. So the next morning we headed off to go on the Shotover Jet, a power jetboat ride down the Shotover River and through Canyons, made all the more exciting with a few 360 degree turns next to few sharp looking rocks!! It was fantastic fun and certainly got the heart going for the rest of the day. That night we bumped in to Jen, Emily and Katherine, 3 girls who had been stalking us and vice versa since Franz Josef so we headed out on the town with them and sampled the Queenstown nightlife, in particular a pub called Winnie Bagoe's (Winnie's for short and Gran I tried to get a t-shirt but they were sold out!)

The next morning we decided to go parasailing on the lake and went up on a tandem harness. It was a clear day so the views over Queenstown and the Remarkables was amazing. Also got to see some insane guy doing a parabungy! Lots of bungy jumping going on around Queenstown. We went out to Kawarau Gorge to watch people do it and I did get very tempted to give it a go but then I remembered I had some lemon meringue fudge in the car and decided to go and have some of that instead!

We also went out on a fishing trip that afternoon, determined to catch that nights' dinner. It was lovely and hot too so I was determined to top up the tan. Our fishing guide was a bit of an old perv' who I wouldn't have minded throwing over to feed to the fish but I was supposed to be catching the fish, not feeding them. We ended up catching 2 rainbow trout and 2 salmon, all of which were very tasty for dinner that evening.

The next day it was time to head down to Te Anau, the next stop on our journey...

Milford Sound Cruise
From Te Anau, our base for this part of the trip, we drove down to explore the area surrounding Milford Sound. Milford Sound is known for it almost always being wet there, receiving around 9 metres of rain in a year! So we were pretty pleased when we set off without a cloud in the sky! The drive was absolutely stunning with lots of mountains, glaciers and waterfalls. The cruise through the sounds took 1.5 hours and was amazing! Mitre Peak, the highest of them all was stunning and there was also plenty of waterfalls. A few seals too but no dolphins for Thomas!

Well, what can we say about Dunedin! It is supposed to be the Edinburgh of the South (that's the very far south, not England!) but it is blatantly nothing like it! However, it could be mistaken for any average grey UK city, which isn't exactly a good thing! And they have a massive statue of Rabbie Burns in the centre of town and feeling quite possessive of old Rabbie I felt like he had been nicked from little old Alloway! But on the up side we did find a Scottish shop that sold Irn-Bru and Tablet so all in all the day was good! The fact that it was pouring with rain didn't help remove the feeling of a UK city but things did improve when we went on the Speights Brewery Tour. For $15 we got a interesting tour around the brewery and of course, lots of free beer at the end! I have since discovered that I like stout that tastes of chocolate (of course)!!

We also went on a trip to see the Yellow Eyed Penguins which were very cute and funny, and we went out to the Otago peninsula to see the Albatross that nest there. They are massive birds and thankfully it was a really windy day so we got excellent views of them flying (you can tell it is Carol and not Thomas writing this part!).

We also went to see Ocean's Twelve which wasn't nearly as good as the first one, just get it on video!

Akaroa is located on the Banks Peninsula and is themed like a small village in France. Those who found it were French. It is really picturesque with restaurants all the way along the waterfront and palm trees on the beaches.

The main thing to do in Akaroa is to go and see the Hector Dolphin. This is the smallest and rarest dolphin in the world and Thomas was obvioulsy really keen to see them. So we booked on to a swimming with dolphins tours just as watchers as the swimming was fully booked. We felt pretty stupid when we turned up and it was only the two of us who were watching and the rest were swimming but we headed out anyway. But it totally worked out for the best as when the swimmers jumped into the sea is was total chaos!! They couldn't see anything under the water and had no idea what direction to turn to see the dolphin. At the same time Thomas and I were on the boat getting a picture perfect view of all of the dolphins so we def felt quite smug!

After about an hour the weather started to take a big turn for the worse so we started to head back to shore. Thinking we would be better going underdeck (we were sitting outside on the top deck) Thomas went down to have a look and came back up looking a bit green! Everyone on the bottom deck was being sick!! So we thought it best to stay on the top deck where we got absolutely soaked and nearly blown overboard just to avoid the spewy people. It wisnae nice like!

Sorry there aren't really any photos of Akaroa, I forgot to get them put on to CD when having them developed, oops!

After Akaraoa it was on to Sumner Beach to celebrate old Saint Nick dropping by...

Christmas day in Sumner, Christchurch
Our first Christmas Day in New Zealand!! We were spending it at Marine Backpackers on Sumner Beach, near Christchurch. After a few beers on Christmas Eve we got an early night so that we wouldn't be rough for Santa coming! At about 5.30am on Christmas morning I jumped up in bed and loudly let Thomas know that "Santa's been!!!!". Then I felt something at the bottom of the bed and he had put a stocking full of goodies at my feet (Thomas that is, not Santa - although he does exist kids!!) So we got up at that unhealthy hour and opened all of our presents before getting some more shut up.

The sun even managed to make an appearance after several days of cloud and rain so we put our santa hats on and had croissants and champagne for breakfast and then headed down to the beach for some ice-cream before cooking a massive traditional dinner, eaten out in the garden with our sunnies on!

The evening was spent playing a rather drunken game of pictionary with all the other travellers in the hostel and glad to say that our team of Scots and Irish won!! The poor German guy didn't stand a chance, "eeh whatz deez theez meeen??"

Wasn't the same as being at home for christmas, especially after hearing that most of you got a white one this year. There wasn't nearly as much hype and I def missed all my cheesy christmas songs and tacky baubles!

Christchurch - the final stop on our South Island trip! Chrischurch was actually a lot nicer than expected with real nice city square, river and botanic gardens. The weather was good and hot so we did a punt down the river (how romantic) and also kayaked on it which wasn't quite so romantic as it had a squint and we could only go left!

We also met up with Dave and Wendy, old friends of Thomas' from uni, while we were there. They are currently working there for a few months while travelling so it was good to see them and swap stories and we even got a lift to the airport the next day from "Thor" their very friendly car!

So on the 28th we left the South Island and arrived in Auckland for our trip around the North Island - by bus, yuk!

Cape Reinga, the winterless north, Northland
From Auckland we travelled by bus up to Kaitia to then go on a bus trip to Cape Reinga, the most northern point in New Zealand and where the Tasman sea meets the Pacific. This area is known as the Winterless North - WHATEVER!!! It rained constantly on the 6 hours bus ride to kaitia and when we arrived at Cape Reinga the following day we couldn't even see the lighthouse and there was a distinct danger of falling off the edge of the cliff and straight into the tasman! Thankfully the rain cleared for about a minute so we got the obligatory photo. The afternoon was better though and we managed to go sandboarding on the dunes which was awesome!! It was a fair old hike to the top but worth it to fly back down them on your sledge and hope you didn't get ditched in the stream at the bottom! Then we cruised back to Kaitia along 90 mile beach which was pretty cool although if the bus stopped for any length of time it would start to sink!

Waiheke Island
Due to the wettest summer in over 100 years our plans of chilling on the beach in Bay of Islands went quickly out the window so we had to find a plan B. So after a few frantic texts and a 6 hour bus journey we managed to join up with our Wellington flatties Christine and Josh and their friends on Waiheke Island, just out of Auckland. We stocked up on the beers and a bottle of Jack and started drinking in the New Year, an evening that involved smashing oysters open with hammer and chisel, midnight swimming, and putting a plastered joshy woshy (and his 3rd nipple) to bed.

Much fun had by all and a very Happy New Year!!

Whitianga, Coromandal
After a day of recovery on the 1st January it was another bus ride to Whitianga in the Coromandel region for a few days of camping. The tent and camping gear had become a bit of a burden by this point but we determined to at least get some use out of it before trying to flog it. So we arrived at our campsite and pitched up and would you know it, I learnt some very useful skills there. The most important being how to eat a pot noodle using only half a bread roll and a straw! The campsite provided no cooking or eating gear whatsoever and it cost 10 cent for a 5 min shower so I wasn't too impressed! We ended up hitting the vodka and coke but had to drink it out water bottles cause we had no cups :-(!

Thankfully the weather was nice so spent a day at the beach and also went on a little boat cruise to see the bays and caves etc, the most spectacular and well known of them all being Cathedral Cove.

Rotorua and the smell
From Whitianga is was another bus trip to Rotorua, known for its Maori culture and constant smell of eggy farts due to the volcanic land that it is on. It really was stinking when we got off the bus!

Our few days in Rotorua was amazing and where we experienced a Maori Hangi and Zorbing for the 1st time! The Maori hangi is basically a display of Maori rituals and dance followed by a traditional meal cooked in the traditional style, i.e everything is cooked underground. The Maori concert was absolutely amazing with the haka and several other songs and chants displayed. We even recognised a few of the guys from the Hikoi we went to in Wellington, although one of guys displayed just a little too much flesh for my liking! I guess that's what happens when you wear a few leafs as underpants!

The zorbing was amazing fun! It's basically like a huge hamster wheel, you jump into it, a bucket of warm water is thrown in afer you, the entrance is zipped up and then you roll all the way down a 200metre hill, slipping and sliding as you go! A tad expensive at $35 for one go but worth it for the buzz, it was hilarious and we were thoroughly drenched after it!

After our couple of days in Rotorua is was time for the final bus back to Auckland, our last stop on the entire New Zealand trip!

Auckland and the end of our adventure
And so we're back where we started. It is almost 9 months to the day that we arrived in Auckland ready to start our adventure in New Zealand and now it has been and gone. It has been 9 truly amazing months that we will never forget. We've met so many fantastic people and seen some jaw dropping sights. From the nervous touchdown in Auckland, to finding the perfect job (for me at least)and flatties in Wellington, to eating pot noodles with straws, to walking through Wellington city with 15,000 maori guys wearing thongs, to climbing a glacier and forgetting our pasta sauce, to the whales and dolphins of Kaikoura, to christmas in the sun and midnight dips at new years, to 10c showers and beer that tastes like chocolate, to giant fruit and shortland street, and most of all to the people and the places that have made our 9 months in New Zealand as fantastic as they were!

See you in Sydney, we're hopping over the Tasman mate!

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