A Travellerspoint blog

February 2019


sunny 27 °C
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Day 1
We got to our hotel at about 1:30pm on Sunday (UK time 12:30am Sunday). My room was ready which was great, and meant I could shower and stick the air con on really, really low, as it was about 26 degrees already! Once we had dumped our stuff and refreshed we walked down to the ferry terminal and got on a short ferry ride to an Auckland suburb called Devonport. Compared to the city centre it was so peaceful and quiet, and you could see why people may want to move there. The views were beautiful. We did consider walking up the North Head reserve however once we started the small incline to even get to the bottom of the hill my legs protested and pretty much refused to work.
So we slowly wandered back to our hotel, picking up a burger for dinner on the way. I was in bed by about 9!

Day 2
The next day in Auckland was very full on. We went on a free walking tour at 10am which took us through many different parts of the city. It was cool seeing how things are joined together, plus we saw someone bungee jump off the sky tower (it's a guided jump as you wouldn't be able to properly bungee down with skyscrapers either side of you...). There are also loads of green spaces around where you almost forget you are in the middle of New Zealand's busiest city (about 1/3 of the population live there or in the surrounding area!).
DSC_0027.JPGDSC_0031.JPG ==This is to celebrate the fight for women's votes.


Later on we walked up Mt Eden which gave us amazing views of Auckland and we could see just how big it is.

Posted by pkaplicz 22:03 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)


Road Trip time!

sunny 29 °C
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Day 1
We got to the car rental agency at just past 9 to collect our rental car. We had been upgraded to a fancier, bigger car (a Toyota Corolla) with a reversing camera and everything! It was a very useful upgrade as Laura brought a large and heavy suitcase with her. I was the first to drive, and I have never driven an automatic before, so before even starting we had to look up in the booklet how to change from park to drive... I kept reaching for the gearstick and trying to press the clutch. Driving out of Auckland was a little stressful but I did it! Our first stop was Mangawhai heads which is a beach area with some large cliffs. The waves are great for surfing and we saw loads of people either surfing or body boarding. At first it was quite cloudy however within 15mins sunshine came out and this set the precedent for our whole trip

Our next stop was a quick stop to buy food and then just 5 minutes from the centre of a small city are Whangarei falls. What was great was that there is a pretty view from the top and then you can walk down to the base of the falls too.

Waitangi Treaty grounds is the place where the first treaty between Maori people and the British Crown was signed. It was one of the places I really wanted to come to on this trip, however unfortunately we only had 40 mins there so we didn't get to do a tour or see the cultural performance. The museum was great and really informative.

The last stop of the day was Haruru falls, another beautiful waterfall.

On the drive to Mangonui Laura pulled over to let some people pass, and I spied this church through the window, so had to take a picture!

More views on the way:

We stayed the night in Mangonui, was really lovely peaceful place with a fantastic and well known fish and chip shop. I had a fish called hoki. On the walk there we saw the harbour, which was absolutely stunning.

Day 2
I got up really early today as we were leaving at 8am to drive up to Cape Reinga, another important place in Maori culture and also at the tip of the Northland. Waking up so early meant that I got fantastic views of the harbour.

The drive up was long but very pretty (also very windy in places a bit like on a rollercoaster). Cape Reinga is said to be 'the place where spirits go home'.

There is a tree at the bottom of one of the cliffs which survives despite sticking out into the sea, which can get very rough at times. It is said that spirits use the roots as steps into the underworld.

Cape Reinga is also cool as you can see the point where two oceans meet, leading to the waves you can see in this picture.

We took a brief little side trip to Rawara beach which was absolutely stunning and much nicer than I had expected. It's the sort of place that you could spend all day at, but unfortunately we didn't have all day!

We broke up the drive back with a quick stop at Omapere just to see the harbour.

Our final stop was the Waipoua forest to see the kauri trees, which is another stop that I really wanted to do. These are ancient NZ trees that are currently endangered due to 'kauri dieback disease'. This means that many of the pathways through the forest are blocked off, and when they are open there are stations for cleaning and disinfecting your footwear before and after you enter the forest. We got to see Table Mahuta, the largest kauri tree in New Zealand, also known as the 'lord of the forest's. Tane is known as the 'life giver' and all living creatures are his children. The total height 51.5 m (with a trunk of height 17.7m and girth 13.8m)!!!

Once we arrived at the holiday park we had a quick dinner of soup and bread, and then went to the beach for sunset. Baylys beach is part of New Zealand's longest drivable beach (obviously rental cars are not allowed). The cliff walk was already pretty special, but sunset was something else.

Day 3
This was the last day of our car hire, and we had to get back to Auckland. We stopped off first after 2 hrs of driving just to have a little break at a waterfall called Omeru falls. It was quite weak due to the lack of rainfall around recently. A woman with a dog started chatting to me, and she said that she is moving somewhere where there is a waterfall and water hole nearby!

We got to Karekare at about lunch time. First we walked up to the waterfall which was really tall. It was an easy walk for such a great view.
We were going to go to the beach too, a black sand beach, but I injured my foot a few days before and so had a wound that I didn't really want to get sand in (I'll spare you all the slightly gory details...).

The final stop of the day was another surprise hit. We stopped at the Arataki visitor centre which has amazing views over the Wiatakere ranges, which are absolutely beautiful. We learnt lots more about the Kauri trees and the problems the forest's have faced, as well as all the work being done to preserve this amazing environment.

I was so exhausted by the evening that I didn't go to the Chinese lantern festival on in Auckland. Instead I crashed at about 9 (after very nearly choking...) ready for the long journey tomorrow.

Posted by pkaplicz 22:13 Archived in New Zealand Tagged cape_reinga mangonui baylys_beach arataki_visitor_centre Comments (0)


sunny 24 °C
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We said goodbye to Auckland and caught the intercity bus to Rotorua. It wasn't as bad as people have described even if the bus was 30mins late picking us up! The drive was pretty uneventful, and I just listened to music most of the way. Once we got to Rotorua it was so hot (30!) and our hostel obviously doesn't have air con, so we didn't really feel like doing much. Had a great lunch/dinner at the Fat Dog cafe, then did some shopping. Managed to stay up until about 9pm then went to bed, as it was going to be an even earlier morning the next day...

Day 2
Woke up early to meet at 6:20am for our tour to Waitomo caves. This is a set of 3 caves that are open to visitors, and a very popular choice for people coming to New Zealand. Our tour was for 9:15, but when we arrived at 9 they were having a fire drill, so obviously had to go through all the formalities including getting the fire brigade out to clear everything. We got in very quickly though and it was a nice cave to walk through. The best bit though was the boat ride at the end where you get to float in the dark under loads of glow worms.
The next cave, Ruakuri, is the one where you can take pictures. It involves walking through a cave for about 1.5 hrs, and there are loads of interesting formations, plus glow worms too. I took so many photos. This was one of my favourite parts of the trip so far, and I'm very glad that I chose the 2 cave option rather than just doing Waitomo on the drive through to Rotorua (this is an option).
After the cave I had a 1.5 hr break whilst waiting for some people to get back from their cave experiences, and Laura went with another group to Hobbiton. We had to stop back at Hobbiton anyway to drop of some luggage, and then was finally back in Rotorua by 5pm!

Day 3
Today we had a much needed leisurely day. We went to breakfast at the Fat Dog cafe, which had massive portions and very tasty food. It was very busy (especially as it's a Sunday). Then we wandered around Rotorua, going to the lake and then to Kauri park, which is a free thermal park at the edge of Rotorua. It was really cool to look around.

We went back to the hostel for a bit of a rest and then headed to government gardens, a very pretty part of town also at the lake's edge. Finally, we got ice cream at a place called Lady Jane's.

Really we needed more time in Rotorua. Even though we saw a lot it would have been nice to go to one of the bigger thermal parks, but on Sunday's the public transport isn't as good. I also would have wanted to go to one of the Maori cultural evenings, as that's one of the things that really interests me about New Zealand.

Posted by pkaplicz 00:03 Archived in New Zealand Tagged rotorua waitomo_caves Comments (0)


An Art Deco City

sunny 29 °C
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Day 1
We had a nice bus journey down to Napier, arriving at about 3:30pm (left at 11 - so had a lie in!!). The weather was nice as it was hot and sunny but there was a gentle breeze from the sea which helped cool us down. The first thing we did was go to our motel to dump all of our stuff. The motel was surprisingly nice and we even had a 'spa bath' which was absolutely massive. I sat in it and my toes only just reached the end if I pointed them! We went for a walk to the supermarket to get supplies for the next few days and had an early dinner of garlicky tomato pasta and garlic bread. In the evening we went for a walk along the sea front and got a lovely feel of the city. I already liked it and only saw a tiny bit!

Day 2
Today we had a tour booked in the morning with the Art Deco Trust. Napier is a city that was hugely damaged by an earthquake in 1931, and they rebuilt the whole of the centre in just 2 years, meaning that it is mostly in the art deco style. We found out that we had just missed a huge art deco festival that they hold every year by 1 day, which was a shame as it sounded incredible especially as I love that style and time period. Never mind. The tour was absolutely fantastic, even if we were the youngest on it by about 30 yrs! The tour guide was very informative and pointed out lots of features of the buildings that we wouldn't have noticed otherwise.

We quickly popped back for lunch and then headed out again to see the Sea Walls: Artists for Oceans murals which are dotted around the city. They are absolutely beautiful and also hold a very important message.
Finally we went for ice cream which was absolutely delicious. The guy at the counter was very nice and even recommended some things for us to do in Wellington, which is where we are headed next.
I absolutely loved Napier, far more than I thought I would, and would definitely suggest that any goes there!

Posted by pkaplicz 23:15 Archived in New Zealand Tagged napier art_deco Comments (0)


The Capital

overcast 21 °C
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Day 1
Today was mainly a day of travelling. We left Napier in our bus at 8am and finally arrived in Wellington at 2pm. What a change in weather! It was very windy and clouded over. After such a long journey we didn't feel up to much... We simply got to our Airbnb, did some food shopping and then spent the evening chilling out!

Day 2
I got up early this morning because I had to do my laundry! Laura had a bit of a lie in, so whilst she showered I went out for a quick wander around. I walked around an old cemetery that is set in a wooded area underneath a motorway pass. It is the city's original cemetery, opened in 1840, but was surrounded in controversy in the 1960s when the motorway route was proposed. Around 3,700 burials had to be exhumed. There was a lovely peaceful feeling to the place despite its busy location.
I managed to have a little time to pop up to the NZ parliament, but unfortunately we didn't have enough time to visit them this time (a running theme).
Laura and I then got the cable car up to the Botanic Gardens. By then it was quite warm but with some clouds in the sky. This made it a pleasant journey, and we wandered back down to our airbnb via the gardens.
After a quick lunch we went to see the Te Matatini Kapa Haka festival which was going on in the Westpac stadium. This is the event that I was really excited to see and the reason why we were in Wellington on these dates. Teams from all around the country perform and compete, and it was amazing to watch them (even if we didn't understand what was being said).
Finally we went out into the city centre for nourishment! Firstly we headed to a cocktail bar that had been recommended to us by the guy in the cafe in Napier. It was called The Library and was nicely furbished with a lovely atmosphere. I only had one cocktail but it was delicious, and I particularly liked that they brought a glass of water to your table and kept refilling it. Next was dinner. We went to a really tasty Malaysian place called Little Penang. I had a dish called claypot rice and it was so delicious.
After dinner we wandered to the 'performance arcade' happening on the waterfront. It was very abstract artsy and also had a live band performing. We decided to head back quite fast though as there were ominous looking clouds in the sky in the direction we needed to head and a forecast of potential showers.

Day 3
Today was dedicated to one thing really, the Te Papa Museum of New Zealand. We had a bit of a lazy morning (well deserved after the busy day before) and headed there just after lunch. We managed to get tickets to a temporary exhibition with the Terracotta warriors (also recommended by Napier cafe guy) at 2pm, so we went up to the 6th floor of the museum and then made our way down. The viewpoint over the city was pretty cool, although the strong wind made us quite quickly go inside!
My favourite part of the top two floors was the piece of art that was created by the first Maori artist to get a fine arts degree.
Then we headed to the Terracotta warriors exhibition.
It was very interesting and there was lots to see, but it wasn't the main reason why I wanted to come to the museum. I loved the rest of the exhibitions on the 4th floor, as they were about the history of Pacific people in New Zealand, stories of immigrants and refugees, and the world of Maori. I absolutely loved learning about Maori history and way of living. Unfortunately (but completely understandably) you can't take photos in this part, so you will just have to go and see it for yourself).
The rest of the exhibitions were also cool, with one about how New Zealand's landscape and environment has and is changing, a celebration of 125 years of women having the vote here, and New Zealand's involvement in WWI.
We spent a total of 4 hours in the museum but easily could have spent much longer, as we had to hurry through seeing the exhibitions to leave before closing time!

Posted by pkaplicz 23:26 Archived in New Zealand Tagged wellington haha capital_city Comments (0)

Christchurch - Twizel

Start of the South Island Road trip

semi-overcast 17 °C
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We made it to the South Island!!! After a very relaxed time at Wellington airport, where some lady asked me where my trousers were from, we boarded our Air NZ flight to Christchurch. We picked up our hire car (and got upgraded to a Toyota Corolla again) and were making our way out of the airport by 10:30am! Today our destination was Twizel, as a half way point between Christchurch and Queenstown and a way to get to Aoraki Mount Cook the next day. Shortly after leaving Christchurch we got to a viewpoint where we pulled over. On a nice day you would be able to see the Southern Alps from there, but unfortunately the weather was not on our side. I did find a familiar place though!
Thankfully as we drove on the clouds cleared and we got some more of that lovely sunshine that we have gotten so used to! Our first stop was Rakaia Gorge, which was much nicer than I expected and definitely worth not going via the main highway.
We went for a walk to get a better view, however about 3/4 of the way there was a section where you had to climb over some tree roots with a fairly steep drop on the other side, so I let Laura go ahead. She got all the way to the second viewpoint - which is supposed to be 1 hr from where we were and she did it in about 30 mins!
We stopped in Geraldine to pick up some jam, and then at a bakery in Fairlie to get some pies for dinner (they were absolutely delicious - well, I know mine was)! We pulled over a few times to take some photos of the view, which was fantastic.
On we went to Lake Tekapo. This is a very popular spot to stop and there were so many people around. But, once we walked a minute or so further, there were very few people! The sunshine made the lake show its famous beautiful blue colour and it was stunning to see.
We also went inside the little church, which had a gorgeous view and was so peaceful (you can't take photos there).
Finally, we got on with our drive to Twizel. Along the way we stopped at a few viewpoints, which was definitely worth it for photos of the blue Lake Pukaki and the snow capped mountains in the background.
We had an early night (again), to be ready for our much anticipated visit to Mt Cook.

Posted by pkaplicz 00:04 Archived in New Zealand Tagged landscapes lake_tekapo road_trip christchurch twizel Comments (0)

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