12.08.2012 9 °C
Okay so we have been useless at keeping this up to date, but here we go in retrospect!
So after arriving in Auckland, we jumped aboard the Kiwi Experience Bus and headed to the Coromandel Coast, where we first stopped at Hot Water Beach. Here, at low tide, you can dig holes in the sand, which fill up with geothermally heated water and make your own hot pools. This was a very cool thing to do on one of our first mornings as the sun rose. We then headed onto Waitomo, where we expored the limestone caves, and then Rotorua, where we visited the Mauri Village of Tamaki. Here we were shown many things about the Mauri culture, including how to do the famous Haka dance! We then had an incredible Hungi dinner, which is a feast cooked underground by fire. After here we headed downwards to Taupo where we had planned on doing the Tongararo crossing, a 9 hour hike in the snow between a range of volcanoes, however it was closed due to bad weather. The weather, however, did not stop Vicki from doing her skydive; jumping out a plane from 12,000 feet! This was such a terrifying, but enjoyable experience, with 45 seconds of free fall before a 5 minute parachute down with views over the entire of the North Island and the huge Lake Taupo. We spent the next night in River Valley, in a tiny lodge in the middle of nowhere, with an interesting sleeping set up of giant 32 people bunk beds! Then it was onto Wellington before heading onto the South island.
Once on the South Island our first stop was Kaiteriteri in the Abel Tasmin National Park. Here we did a short walk along the coast, before having a competitive game of mini-golf and then fish and chips in the pub! The next town along was Westport, a funny little place, which was just an overnight stop before getting to Lake Mahinapua, better known to all Kiwi Experience travellers as the Poo Pub. Here we met the wonderful Les, an 89 year old publican who holds the infamous fancy dress party. The night started with an awesome BBQ cooked by Les himself, before the fancy dressing and drinking began. Our theme was a T Party. The costumes were ridiculous, with our winner being Darren dressed up as the Tooth Fairy! The next day, with some horrific hangovers, we headed onwards to Franz Joseph. Here we turned into ultimate "flashpackers", jumping in a helicopter and flying onto the Franz Joseph Glacier. We were appropriately dressed in winter jackets and waterproof pants, with crampons on our boots, ready for a 3 hour hike across the glacier, climbing through ice tunnels and caves as we went. The views were spectacular and it was our highlight of New Zealand.
Our bus then took us onwards to Wanaka, and then Queenstown, where we settled down for a week. This is known as the Adventure Capital of the Southern Hemisphere, and rightly so. We both went skiing (which was fun, despite the lack of snow!) and Vicki did a canyon swing across the Shotover Canyon. Queenstown is also known for its amazing nightlife, and it didn't disappoint, always finishing in the infamous World Bar! Here we said a sad goodbye to our original bus, and the few who remained headed up to Christchurch. This is still a devastated city from the Earthquake in 2011, with a large "red zone" in the city centre, which is still unsafe and is waiting to be demolished. However it was interesting to see the Re:Start shopping mall made from shipping containers, and we spent one evening at the temporary stadium watching a rugby match, where the Christchurch Crusaders were victorious over the South African Bulls. From here we headed upwards through Kaikoura and back into the North Island to Auckland before flying onwards to Fiji for some sunshine and beaches.