Deserts And Volcanoes

Volcanic Rock

We left Rotorua in pouring rain that continued all day long without letting up at all. We joined back up with the Pacific Coast Highway and cut inland through the Waioeka conservation area to Gisborne. It was billed to be a 'scenic' drive, but due to the rain and low clouds we mostly didn't see anything more than 4 or 5 metres in front of us. Gisborne itself was another fairly large town and from what we saw of it, it didn't look particularly inviting or attractive, being given security tags to get in and out of the site facilities and notices having been put up all over the place about not stealing other people property kinda added to the first impressions we had of the town. The rain continued throughout the night, it was so loud on the campervan roof that it kept us awake and John had visions of us being washed out to sea!!

The reason for coming to Gisborne had been to drive out round the East Cape loop, which lays claim to being one of the most scenic drives on North Island, but with the rain and low cloud which accompanied the following day we decided that it would be pointless as we would once again spend the day not being able to see anything. Given the weather conditions when we were ready to go, we changed the plan and drove inland again and up to Taupo.

Thermal Reserves And Dead Bodies


It had been raining since we arrived on the North Island, but this morning we woke to brilliant sunshine. After a breakfast of raisin, lemon and sugar pancakes we drove to Waiotapu where there is a thermal reserve. I was really excited about going because the wonder of earth and it's natural power is of constant fascination to me.

As you drive along the road in this area you can see trails of steam rising through the trees and bushes that has been released from deep within the ground. On arriving at the thermal reserve we read the information board outside which said we should allow 1hour and 15 minutes to get around, subsequent to our visit I have no idea how anyone could see it all in such a short space of time, we were in there for well over 3 hours.

Introducing Bella


An interesting thing happened when we flew to Auckland, I wasn't anywhere near as nervous as I usually am. It could be coincidence, or maybe – just maybe – throwing yourself out of a plane at 12,000 ft does indeed cure you of a fear of flying!!

We headed straight into Auckland to pick our campervan up, got a few supplies and drove out along the Pacific Coast highway in the direction of the Coromandel peninsular. This time we have bright pink and blue flowers painted on the side of the campervan, we've named her Bella, but Bella hasn't been looked after anywhere near as well as Zilly and could really do with some TLC.

Saying Goodbye To Zilly


The next two nights we based ourselves in Fairlie and drove out to Mount Cook Village and Lake Tekapo. Mount Cook Village, being near the base of Mount Cook provided more snow capped mountain scenery and we spent the whole day round the area, stopping to have a picnic lunch and have cuppa's. It goes without saying that the scenery was once again stunning. We'd decided to have a few quiet days and this was perfect, just mooching around and taking the landscape in. The next day at Lake Tekapo was much the same, just wandering round, taking a few photos, having a picnic lunch out in the beautiful sunshine, all very peaceful and relaxing.

For our last night in Zilly we decided to return to Akaoroa where our adventures with her began. I reflected on the time we've spent on the South Island and it's been amazing, simply amazing.

Moeraki Boulders

Moeraki Boulders

We ended up staying in Queenstown last night, we didn't get back into town until around 6:30pm, so we decided just to head for the campsite we stayed on last time we were here and get a spot for the night. We spent the whole evening and all of today talking about our sky diving, trying to piece it all together. This morning we went back into town to pick up our photos and DVD's of the sky diving. The man in the shop seemed amused by us, he asked us where we were heading today and when I told him that we were heading back out to the East Coast where we were originally going yesterday he laughs as he says “right, so you thought you'd just drop in, throw yourselves out of a plane, then move on?” “urm. … yep, that's about the sum of it!” it made him laugh.

We had breakfast out this morning as we didn't get chance to get anything yesterday and needed to get to a shop. We sat over breakfast looking at the photos and laughing about some of the faces pulled. Then we were dying to see the DVD's, so we quickly drank the rest of our coffees and headed to an internet café, where we could view and copy the DVD's. It was great fun watching them!!

Embrace The Fear

'I must not fear, fear is the mind killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over and through me, and when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see it's path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.'

Fear by Frank Herbert


A few weeks back when we were sitting in Zilly one night I told John I was going to do a sky dive, yes that's right, jump out of an airplane 12,000ft in the air and freefall through the air till the parachute is opened. His response was a natural one “but you're afraid of flying and of heights!” True though that is, I had decided that it was time to face these fears head on. John said that he wasn't sure he'd be able to do it and over the next few days, once he'd got used to the idea, he said that he wanted to give it a go as well. We had decided that we'd go for it when we get to the North Island.

Doubtful Sound

Doubtful Sound

We felt like kids going on a school outing yesterday morning, we were so excited with our cameras and packed lunches. We'd selected a small family run business rather than the 'big boys' in town so we had a personal service where the mum Paula picked us up around 8.15am and took us to their boat jetty in Manapouri, whereupon we were greeted by her daughter Stacey to guide us and the skipper John.

We headed out on Lake Manapouri, which was beautiful in itself to West Arm, where we took a look around the visitor centre while Stacey went and got the coach to drive us across the Wilmot Pass to Deep Cove. Deep cove is where we boarded the boat for our 3 hour cruise of Doubtful Sound. We were both hungry when we got on the boat, so while they were untying the boat and manoeuvering out of the harbour area we ate parts of our picnic, packed the rest away and got up outside on the top of the boat – the only place to be!

A Golden Nugget

Nugget Point

Yesterday morning when I woke up, I could actually sit up properly in the bed without the excruciating pain that had accompanied this action over the last few days. It was a great feeling and a sign to me that I was getting better. I've got some cuts and bruises that'll be around for a while, but my back, neck, legs and ankle are actually starting to feel a little bit like they belong to me again!!

We rounded the bottom of the south island and started heading up the east coast. We drove along the road out to Nugget Point, which was spectacular coastal scenery, in the hope of seeing more seals or sea lions. At Nugget Point we went for a stroll out to the lighthouse, which wasn't at sea level this time. Along the way we were looking down the cliffs to the sea and saw several seals and sea lions, but all a bit far away to see them properly. After this we headed along to Roaring Bay, where I'd read there was a hide where you could look out over the beach with the possibility of seeing penguins.

Moving On To The South Coast

Waipapa Point

When I woke the next day I could barely move, I was in serious pain from head to toe. We'd had all sorts of ideas about trying to get out to Doubtful Sound today, but it was fairly quickly obvious that I wouldn't be able to do too much at all. I knew it would be best to try and get myself mobile, so I suggested that we walk into town, which wasn't far away, to get breakfast out. We walked very slowly and gingerly to a place that sold a 'bowl of latte' – that took my attention, I felt like I needed a serious caffeine injection!!! After breakfast we headed back to Zilly for a while and then went out for a couple of strolls during the day to take some photo's and to try and keep myself moving.

By the following day I was still in a great deal of pain and having no idea how long I'd remain in this condition I suggested that we move on and skip Doubtful Sound, so we did. It was a serious wrench to leave it behind, knowing that I really wanted to go and take a look at it, but with limited time left on the south island it seemed the right decision.

Coming To Earth With A Bump

 John On Thomas

This morning the weather was still fine so we decided to book ourselves onto a horse riding trek this afternoon. We were picked up from the campsite and headed off in a van to the farm where we would have a brief introduction on the few instructions for our horses that we would need today – go, stop, left and right. It turned out that me and John were the only two booked on, so the staff out numbered us. Rose was our guide and she had three girls that were travelling and had decided to help out at the stables till the end of the season in a few weeks time, who also came with us. Rose got us mounted on our horses, me on Albie, John on Thomas, then took us through our commands. We'd both been given really placid horses as we'd only ridden once before, in fact we'd actually said that we hadn't ridden at all before, as an hours trek along a beach a few years back in Morocco, whilst a truly great and memorable experience, we didn't feel qualified us to say we'd ridden before.

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