Location: North Island, New Zealand
I hope everyone is looking forward to the posts on New Zealand! I am going to keep them a bit briefer than the Australia ones.
After our 3.5 hour flight Florence and I landed in Auckland. It was around 8pm after we got through customs. We had to declare the mud on the bottom of our walking boots. They take their border safety very seriously, not just with drugs etc, but with organic material from overseas that can carry harmful bacteria, fly eggs and other things that can harm the environment.
We made our way, by taxi, to the campervan rental place to collect the van. Its in essence the same camper we hired in Australia, just a little older and not as high spec. We got lost a few times on the way to the campsite but found our way none the less. We grabbed a few things from the supermarket, ate some food, and then got into bed. It was quite a cold sleep in the van as the temperature is far colder than Australias.
It was great to be on the move and travelling once more. We packed our gear up and heading into Auckland to have a look around. Truth be told, not a huge amount to see in Auckland, and we hadnt been told by anyone to spend any time there, so we headed southward to Rotorua. On the way we stopped at a really pretty café set in a beautiful orchard with lemon trees. Had a bite to eat then continued on our way. LUCKILY Florence spotted that we had entered HOBBITON!!! This is the home of the Shire from the Lord of The Rings/ Hobbit movies/books.
Instantly we pulled over, found the nearest campsite to us and booked a trip the following day to visit the movie set of the Shire.
We were picked up in the coach and taken to the word of Hobbiton. We had a tour guide take us on a walk around the Shire, we were shown Bag End (Bilbo & Frodo Baggins Hobbit hole), went in a hobbit hole, and ended the tour with a drink in the Green Dragon pub (featured in the movies) and a visit to the gift shop to spend a little bit of gold on merchandise.
After our fantastic day being hobbits we continued to Rotorua where we took a walk through a geothermal national park, had a mud bath and sulphur spa. By the end of the day, we and everything we were wearing at the time absolutely stunk of eggs (the smell of sulphur if you didnt know)!
Rotorua was followed by a trip to the Taupo region, where you will find Lake Taupo, the largest lake in New Zealand, and the largest lake I think I have ever seen. Its 196km around and beautiful. I took a good few photos so when Im back ask me to show you them. Also we wondered whether it was salt or fresh water so I took a sip and its fresh water! So if anyone brings up lake Taupo, I will forever on say I have drunk from it!!!
Next our trip took us to the Waitomo Caves. A small town populated all year round by 41 people, with a lot of tourists stopping on their travels. The reason for us coming here was to visit the glow worm caves.
We went with a small company named Spellbound. It was a really fantastic trip. We went into a cave wearing hard hats, walked into it a bit, and then got in a little boat. The guide told us to turn our lights off. Now this was real darkness. Florence was sat right next to me; about 2 inches away and I could not see her or anything else. Over 10 minutes the night vision kicked in and there were thousands and thousands of little lights above us. It looked like a million stars in touching distance. These were the glow worms. For about half an hour we were in the boat, and then left that cave to look around another one. It was a really great trip that is very worth doing if you ever get the chance.
We drove to Whanganui after Waitomo. Not really for anything in particular as there isnt much to do there. It just split the drive from Waitomo to Wellington. At our campsite you could literally see the Milky Way Galaxy in the sky. Thousands of stars of sparkling in the sky. A phenomenal sight. You can look at the pictures the Hubble telescope takes of the universe and be impressed, but until you have seen a galaxy with your own eyes in real time, youve not seen it all!
Finally we arrived in Wellington. We spent one night relaxing at the campsite (it was a bit too far out of the city centre to go in), and we watched the first Lord of The Rings movie, so we could see where we had visited!
The next day we drove into Wellington and parked at an overnight car park for campervans right on the dock so to be close to the ferry port for the crossing the next day. We took a walk around Wellington, had some of the best coffee we have ever tasted and then met up with some of Florences long lost family for dinner. They took us to a really cool bar to start with. It was tucked away in the heart of Wellington, and unless you knew it was there, you would never find it. The bar was followed by a lovely Italian with HUGE pizzas. It was a really great evening.
Now it was time to get on the ferry and travel to the South Island.
Post soon to follow!
Sorry that it has been so long since my last post. I wouldnt be surprised if anyone is even checking this page anymore!
I believe I left you last at Fraser Island. I think that from the length of the last post you may have noticed how much I loved it! If you need some inspiration for your bucket list add Fraser Island to it. I will definitely be returning to the Island of Wonders.
So after 1770 we headed to Airlie Beach to meet up with Kat and Dave. Airlie beach was really pretty, the home of the Whitsundays. We spent a few days in Airlie Beach, the campsite was really nice.
Now it came to the time to get a move on and get up to Cairns to do the Great Barrier Reef! Cairns wasnt anything special, however the campsite we stayed in was. It was called the Big4 Cairns Coconut Resort. It had a couple of swimming pools, a café, kitchen, minigolf, outdoor cinema, a gym and much more. Florence and I took a look around Cairns in the morning, then headed back to the campsite, bought 2 pairs of swimming goggles and played the parts of Big Kids very well! Kat and Dave joined us the day after at the campsite and the Big Kids role we were all playing was taken to a whole new level. Firstly we were queuing behind 5 year olds to go on the slide, playing in the waterpark that was full of little children (whose parents were looking on disapproving of us) to Florence getting on my shoulders and Kat on Daves shoulders in the pool and having a match to see who could push the other of the others shoulders. It was great fun and ended in a 2-2 draw.
It seemed that our Gladiator Battle angered the Gods, as a huge storm followed only 30 mins later. And when I say storm, I mean STOOORRRRRRMMM!!!! Huge sheets of lighting lit up the sky, rain the size of 2p coins crashed to the ground so rapidly that the whole campsite was flooded in a matter of minutes. To be honest it was quite scary, but fun at the same time. All 4 of us headed to the camp kitchen to wait it out. After a while it seemed apparent that the storm was only growing in strength. So we all played a game of rock paper scissors to decide who would be cooking dinner, unfortunately I lost, so I cooked us some pasta whilst we played cards having a really enjoyable evening.
As we awoke the next day, all evidence of the storm had been dried up by the 40c heat. This gave us ample opportunity to decide which company to explore the Great Barrier Reef. After a while of sales pitching to each other over the one each of us thought was the best choice, we settled on heading a bit further North to a town called Port Douglas, where the reef is meant to be a hundred times better than from Cairns.
In convoy the four of us made our way to Port Douglas, a truly beautiful drive. Mountains and Rainforest one side of the road, diamond ocean the other.
We arrived at the Port Douglas campsite to see another childrens waterpark, which made both me and Dave very happy! We didnt waste much time in giving it a crack. There were 2 big (big for kids) slides that we gave a go. The first was a windy slide that both Dave and I were far too big for. There would be about 2 bends in the slide before we had even gone through the first bend, so it was a spine cracker. The second was fun, however the pool of water at the bottom (to slow you down) wasnt quite long enough, so we ended up crashing into the base wall of the slide and was then flung a few feet onto the floor. We learnt our lesson after the 3rd or 4th time and left the play area. That evening we went into Port Douglas for some dinner and then went back to the campsite to get to sleep.
After an early start and lots of scrambling around, we made it to the pickup point where the coach would take us to the dock. We were seeing the reef with a company called Quicksilver.
It took roughly 45mins-60mins to get the first of the three reef sites. We got our wetsuits, flippers and snorkels on, jumped in the water to find a whole world beneath us. The coral was spectacular, the fish were quite sparse, but the ones we saw were colourful and elegant. We visited 2 more reef sites which all had their own unique properties. We had an underwater camera so when I get home I will show you the pictures we took. I would recommend that if you were to visit the reef, you scuba dive. Although the colours are more pronounced from shallower waters, the big fish are deeper! I would have scuba dived but it was quite a bit more expensive for us, also we were on a travellers budget.
The reef was fantastic, but our trip north didnt end there. Florence and I jumped in Kat and Daves car to drive to Cape Tribulation area, to stay in Daintree at a place called Crocodilas. This was in essence, a real life version of Im a celebrity get me out of here. We paid to stay 2 nights in a camp that was pretty much a tarp covered hut made from wood, in the middle of a rainforest. Spiders, cobwebs, Komodo Dragons, snakes and many more critters that make your stay less comfortable!
It was really fun and unique to be so at one with nature. After the first sleepless night we went on a river cruise to see crocodiles. Unfortunately we didnt see any, so the boat driver allowed us to go on the later trip free of charge. Again we didnt see any crocs but it was very beautiful none the less. We visited a creek (I did a rope swing into the creek), went to a beach where the rainforest literally meets the water and had a really nice time.
After this we headed back south to pick up the campervan and begin the long drive back to Brisbane to see Jon. We met up with Kat & Dave at Rainbow Beach to have a bit of a parting night out. It was really nice to spend the time with them, and they gave us stubby coolers. These are foam insulators for your beverage. Keeps your drink warm, or your drink cold but your hand warm.
Finally we arrived back in the Gold Coast. Actually we spent the last few days at a campsite there with Kat and Dave, we gave them a present of the UNO card game and a new pack of playing cards (we played cards with them almost every evening, so it was our thing), said our goodbyes which was surprisingly sad, and carried on with our individual plans.
After dropping the van off we made our way back to Jons to spend some time with him whilst we looked for our own place. It was lovely being back in a proper bed. Jon, as ever, was a great host to us and made us feel right at home. We also had Dyolf there with us which was an added bonus.
Christmas Eve and Christmas day were spent at a hotel called The Mantra Legends Hotel in Surfers Paradise. Having a nice hotel room, a restaurant and pool was really a nice treat for us. However after this was getting back to reality. We had a few job interviews lined up, needed to buy a car and find an apartment.
Luckily we both got interviews at restaurant/bar venues and both got the jobs. I started work at a place called Compadres Mexican Restaurant & Bar, whilst Florence succeeded in working at a venue called The Groove Train. We managed to buy a 2000 Hyundai Accent GLS for $800, and after the New Year got an apartment at a student accommodation style apartment block called Varsity Towers for $275 p/w.
Things seemed to be falling perfectly to plan
Or so we thought!!!
We signed our apartment lease for just under 4 months, and in that time there wasnt that much to talk about.
Florence and I were working as much as we could to save up money for our New Zealand trip.
We had a few bits of bad luck with the car. The aircon wasnt working, and then the darned thing wouldnt start half the time. The passenger side electric window stopped working so things were not looking great in terms of luck.
I thought, with the advice of others, that the reason the car would not start was a starter motor issue. So we bought a new starter motor, and I fitted it over about 4 hours at Jons house. This wasnt the problem. So went to the Halfords of Australia, who said it sounded like a battery issue. After buying and installing the new battery, presto, we had a working car. I bought a new window regulator from eBay, fitted that, so everything apart from the aircon was functioning.
When the apartment lease was expiring we started to try and sell the car. I managed to sell it to someone at work, who was very happy with the car.
Now it was time to leave our jobs, hop on a plane, and get over to New Zealand!