A Travellerspoint blog

Day 15-16- Hiking & W(h)ining!

Rain, Roy's Peak & Wine!


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Today’s plan was a serious hike, one that’s been on my list pretty much since we decided to come to New Zealand. Having spent most of the night hearing the rain hammering on the roof of the van, our alarms startled us awake early. We abruptly decided this wasn’t hiking weather! Trying to decide what there was we could do for the day in Lake Wanaka that wasn’t out in the miserable wet, we decided to go play badminton in the leisure centre. This decision was largely made due to the promise of a free hot shower afterwards!

We came to New Zealand for Christmas to escape the English winter, yet it feels pretty wintery. We’ve really enjoyed camping; we’re used to Glastonbury style camping (cramped in a tent waking up to almost suffocation from the heat and a bad back from a deflated air mattress, with a mother of all hangovers) so in a van is quite a luxury for us. However, when it’s raining it quite quickly becomes a little claustrophobic.

After an hour of badminton, we enjoyed the novelty of a real shower and not a basic campground shower block. Back in the van hiding from the rain we had an hour to kill before our wine tasting so set up a quick game of banagrams, which ended up being a little longer than ‘quick’ and somehow having done nothing for the day we were late...as always.

Driving like a maniac to the vineyard we realised we’d booked the tour for yesterday and not today so we were more than a few minutes late. We were a whole day late! We rearranged it for the following day and head to a put to warm up and dry off a bit.

The rain finally stopped in the middle of the night and we woke up to clear skies.

Getting to the base of the mountain we consumed our croissants and hydrated on juice, packed a bag with a lot of water, snacks, pack lunch and some treats. Within a couple of minutes we were both silently reconsidering our decision, it was an instant incline which continued consistently the entire way; within five minutes I was wanted a stop. We took the wrong tactic of walking fast in short bursts, realistically we should’ve just ambled up.

The hike was 6km (3.7miles) up to 1,578meters, we cut it in to sections of thirds (1.3 miles) milestones- not that it made it any easier. Two and a half hours later (felt more like 10 hours) we were at the viewpoint. The view was incredible, felt like you were on top of the world. We had stopped hundreds of times on the way up and murmured how impressive the view was but being at the top was something else.

There was a queue to the best spot for a photo so we waiting in line. After snapping a few shots (standard, arms in the air) we found the perfect spot out of the wind for our pack up. We couldn’t believe the view and before we knew it we’d spent two hours at the top and it was time to head back down.

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As soon as we started the descent my knee twinged which wasn’t great for the distance we had to go. Towards the bottom my ankles and big toes were hurting and knee was agony. Due to the heavy rain there was a couple of super muddy spots that spanned the width of the path. Andy being the agile being he is managed to step in to the worst part and slipped off the path, due to the steep mountain side I panicked, Andy covered in mud and sliding further he managed to scramble back on to the path.

Take two for the wine tasting, we made it with enough time today and both excited to try some of this New Zealand wine we’ve both heard so much about. There was five different wines to try, an Osteiner was up first- a sparkling white wine, very sweet and easy drinking. A sauvignon Blanc, a rose, a Pinot noir and a Reisling. All very delicious, the host was telling as a lot of information about the vines, the weather, the different types of soil and how they affect the grapes. It was interesting. Having been on a wine tour before where we visited three vineyards, this half an hour was more informative then any of the others, plus it was free! The view wasn’t bad either I guess! We purchased a bottle of our favorite (the ostinger) to bring the family for Christmas and headed for a well deserved rest. Hoping we wouldn’t ache too much in the morning.

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On the way back we took a few photos at Puzzling World- another Wanaka attraction!

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Posted by Bears on Tour 15:15 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Days 11-14: Hikes, Waterfalls, & Lakes

Abel Tasman > Arthur's Pass > Lake Tekapo> Lake Wanaka


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Waking up next to a very blue river we continued our drive to Abel Tasman. We pulled over about 10 minutes before getting there to a remote shore covered in rocks taking the opportunity to have a swim in the refreshing blue water and eat some lunch in this perfect and private spot. We headed on further to the nature reserve and picked which walk we wanted to do and set off. Unfortunately, the tide was out so there wasn’t too much to see other than a lot of sand. But it was a pretty walk nonetheless.

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The following day we made our way down to Arthur’s pass; passing more impressive views on yet another lengthy drive. Learning our mistake from Abel Tasman we googled an exact start point for this walk. Doing the ‘Devils punch bowl waterfall’ was a great walk with a crazy huge waterfall, no photo could do it justice the juxtaposition of the elegance of the water falling and the aggression of it smashing into the rocks at the bottom. Someone had pointed out a track to the right that apparently had the best view of the waterfall so on the way back we found said track, that basically went vertically upwards, much more of a climb than a walk. After about 20 minutes scrambling up we decided a pit stop for rehydration and a choccy bar. Hoping it wasn’t too much further we continued until the path was one foot wide with a rather large fall the other side. We came to a bit of an opening looking out over the surrounding mountains. We were on the wrong side for the waterfall and decided to turn around as the rocks were getting looser and looser and we still had to clamber back down.

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Heading further south still, we stopped mid way between there and the next stop and set up camp. The campsite had a kitchen and lounge with a tv, including a resident watching Britain’s Got Talent while we made dinner. It was strange watching it feeling connected to the real world, and the world back home.

We were up early to head to Takepo, we’d sourced a great deal for some lake water hot pools in the mountains. They had four different pools at different temperatures. Everyone knows we are both huge water babies and love being in the water, we spent a couple of hours floating around. It started raining, which was strangely refreshing in the steaming waters. After lunch, we headed back in, since the sun had come out after the rain we ventured to the cooler pools before deciding we couldn’t prune much more. Lupins (flowers) are in full bloom in Tekapo this time of year. Apparently these are not native and were brought into NZ and are now seen as a bit of a nuisance, however you can't deny they look pretty.

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We braved our first free campsite and tested out our van's stove; both of which were a relieving success. Cooking pasta on gas like a pro and looking bloody cool doing it! With Iz not feeling great we had a start slow to the morning and drove to Wanaka. Looking at things to do we came across a tourist attraction called #thatwanakatree, intrigued we went to have a look, it appeared to have no explanation so we concluded... it’s just a tree. The lake was impressive but I feel the view had been hampered due to low clouds. Wanaka is the most touristy town we’ve come across in a while, and again we ended up sucked in to a gift shop and acquiring yet another Christmas decoration after we’d already banned ourselves from anymore.. Today has been a bit of a rest day but you definitely need some days like this to catch your breath of nothing else before the next adventure.

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Posted by Bears on Tour 21:37 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Day 10 continued- Wellington & Crossing to South Island

Running & more running!


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After a quick Google and remembering the recommendations given we decided to look around the famous Te Papa museum in the free time available below the ferry crossing. In a mad panic we booked onto a guided tour commencing in 3 minutes! Meaning a sprint to the building, except the entrance wasn’t at the front, panicking more we ran the whole way round the building before finding the entrance. Running in, there was no obvious ticket counter! After asking someone and dodging so so many people (typical there’s an entire school trip there) and up a flight of stairs we got to the kiosk, through huffing and puffing I explained we were supposed to be on the 12pm tour (it was now 12.07 ????) and the guide looked blankly at me ‘we don’t have a booking’! Desperate for my phone to load the website to show her the confirmation it was stubbornly refusing! Finally, we decided although we got confirmation it hadn’t actually gone through (maybe because we completed the transaction at 12.01; after it should’ve started). Ok panic over! We bought tickets for the 1pm tour instead and went to scavenge through the gift shop, we do love a gift shop. Typically, we ended up with hands full of goodies; another Christmas decoration, a general decoration of a kiwi for our next home and a pair of kiwi earrings. Like I said, we’re a sucker for gift shops and kiwi's apparently!

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Wasting an hour in the sun looking out at the docks and discussing how ridiculous it is that no one likes or is interested in Christmas, let alone excited.
Back to the kiosk for a tour we’re actually booked on this time. There was only the two of us and one other woman. Turns out we paid for some speed tour consisting of ‘this is x exhibition, feel free to come back after the tour in your own time’, what we then realised is... entry is free and we could’ve come in at anytime and not wasted an hour wondering pointlessly around, or paid for this ‘tour’. She told us a couple of facts we wouldn’t have known otherwise but nothing ground breaking. We’d been sucked in to the tourist trap ???? unfortunately we only had about 10 minutes after the tour ended before we needed to get to the ferry. Which was a shame as the museum was amazing and we would have loved to spend more time reading about New Zealand and the Māori culture. Cue a bit more running round the exhibitions we wanted to look a little bit more at, mainly the Māori one and the wildlife one (well Andy wanted to look at the wildlife one).

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Even more running, yet while back in the car I remembered that during our original run I had received an email from the ferry company but hadn’t read it. Turns out our ferry was delayed from 4pm to 7pm... so we did have time to look around Te Papa and none of the running had been needed, typical! We’re always running late so not even questioned when we have to... or don’t have to in this case! We made some pack up for lunch and went to eat at a more leisurely pace on the dock before heading back to the museum for the third time. One highlight for us was an art installation demonstrating a never ending celebration with 200,000 individual pieces of confetti suspended in air/time. The effect was magical.

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There’s a few different breeds of birds in New Zealand that don’t fly because they never evolved wings as they were never prey before humans came to the island so had no need to fly away. Although an interesting fact it does mean there is so much road kill since they can’t get off the road quick enough.. well and a lot of possums clearly ‘playing possum’ when they see a car so end up under the tyres!
The Māori part was clearly where Disney had been for a day trip for inspiration for Moana! Moana's outfit, the ocean swirl in her name and even a boat with a pig and a chicken were all witnessed in the museum. However unfortunately photos were banned in this section.

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The museum really was well done and we would recommend it to anyone of any age. You could have spent all day in there and a few more hours did whizz by but it was now time for a beer, especially after all the running we had been doing! Once on the ferry for our revised time we headed up stairs to the passenger deck and in search of plugs, one thing while traveling you forget is general first world luxuries, like electricity! Andy came back with a treat of nuggets before we settled in for the four hour trip. Once the blog was up to date and with hunger setting in we made our way to the food court, for some surprisingly reasonably priced! We tucked in to our hot meals deciding what to do for the remainder of the crossing. We downloaded a series on Netflix before we left the UK and decided to make a start on that, it’s strange that saying it out loud doesn’t seem much of an adventure (especially in comparison to the adventure we’re on now) but how doing such a simple thing with your best friend can make you so happy.

Arriving in Picton and getting off the ferry gone midnight (we were supposed to arrive at 7pm before our delay!), I had the joy of driving half an hour to the campsite up and down mountains with crazy corners which I couldn’t drive any faster than 20mph around (photo below). Guided by the light of the moon and praying nothing came the other way we made it safely to our campsite for the night; all tucked up for bed ready for our hike around Abel Tasman tomorrow. Life is pretty good!

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Posted by Bears on Tour 20:17 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Day 9/10 A Trip into Middle Earth!

Geeking out at some LOTR filming locations!


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Next day we had a bit of lie in... Yeah two days in a row but it is not something we have done too often on this trip! Yet we knew we would need it before our 6 hour drive. Today's mission was to head down towards Wellington with a stop at the Putangirua Pinnicles aka the LOTR filming for The Paths of the Dead!

With a midway stop to Pak n Save, our new favourite shop, for lunch eaten in a carpark we found the site. Driving through New Zealand really is magical and although we were heading for an exact LOTR filming location the whole country looks like you've stepped into middle earth. Every scenery you drive through feels like you have been sucked into a postcard. The views are just breathtaking and I'm so pleased we get to drink them in as we drive through at our own pace. It really is like nowhere else we have ever seen.

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Right by the sea front and with a bit of difficulty we found the pretty hidden entrance. It had taken us a little longer than planned to get there and it was already 6pm. But we, mainly me, really wanted to do this hike into the atmospheric rock pinnacles and saw we should be able to get back before the sun went down.

Although we found the start of the walk, finding the right path to where we were heading was it's own challenge as we stumbled over rocks following the river. But when we got to the right part it was unmistakable and easy to see why Peter Jackson chose this spot for this section of the film. It was eerie, especially as it was now getting to dusk and we hadn't seen one other person. Your voice even echoed off the unique pinnacles formed by years of water erosion.

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After completing a bit of role play with a staff and cloak (although yes I am aware Gandalf did not feature in these scenes) we thought it best to head back. After deciding to not stay at the campsite at the foot of the pinnacles we drove a little closer to Wellington and stopped at yet another beautiful and most importantly cheap campsite!

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I would hate to think what £8 camping for two would get you in England... Probably a drive way! Here it literally gets you the home of elves! Yes another LOTR filming location. However this was not one we planned or knew about it was just a happy coincidence that we had randomly selected a campsite in a national park where they shot the Rivendell scenes (Kaitoke Reginal Park). And proof Iz is only as tall as Gimli!

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Although none of the set remains and the scenery was heavily enhanced with CGI there was a short walk with photographic evidence of the park's involvement! In addition there was a sizeable swing bridge which we enjoyed replicating "I'm a Celebrity..." style poses. As you can see below Iz pretended she won the show while I did my best Ant & Dec impression. It must have been pretty convincing as mum believed it was the actual bridge... You know despite knowing we are in the wrong country!

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Next stop Wellington... We intended to hit the Weta Workshop (where a lot of the graphics and models for a number of films but most importantly LOTR were created and filmed!) but as we hadn't booked we couldn't get on a tour! This was slightly disappointing and showed the downside of being spontaneous and not booking ahead. However you could see a snippet of the models etc in the free museum which we made the most of before trying to locate an alternative activity to compete in Wellington for the few hours we had to spare before our ferry crossing! I think Iz makes a pretty convincing Lurtz... Jackson if you ever need a stunt double call her up!

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Posted by Bears on Tour 18:27 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Day 8- Kia Ora to our Māori Experience

Learning about Moana's family!


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A well needed lie in was enjoyed, a couple of life admin jobs sorted in the sunshine of the Tavern's patio. Although a boring way to spend a day in such a beautiful country, with 9 months away there are going to be a few days like this.

We decided to go for a little walk before our adventure in the evening, so headed for some hot pools I’d (Iz) seen on Google a stream off the beaten track thinking we could sit in for a little while and enjoy a beer. We both reveled in the fact we are lucky enough were walking through the countryside on the other side of the world with the early afternoon sunshine beating down on our back with no worries. After clambering through some bushery, I could see where we wanted to go but couldn’t work out how to get there. We walked up and down for a while before counting our losses and heading back to camp.

Back at base we showered and changed, ready for our evening immersed in the Māori culture. All ready to set off... and... once more, the van's battery was dead, urgh! Last time was annoying however with nowhere to be it was not too much of an issue. Yet this time we were on a tight schedule. Luckily we had planned to leave two hours earlier than needed to look around Rotorua first. Using the phone in the tavern to call the breakdown service and beg them to just change the battery (in the knowledge this would just keep happening otherwise), they said the engineer was about 90 minutes away. Panic sets in as that left such little time to actually get to our pick up spot. Although our nerves were saved as the woman in the Tavern was extremely helpful and informed us that the village was actually just down the road and we could probably drive straight there in time rather than going in to town to be bought back out again.

After what felt like a lot longer than an hour and a half we were back in business with a new battery saftey tucked under the hood. Actually, this kind of turned in to a blessing in disguise as we’d only have a 10 minute trip back to the campsite later instead of the planned hour. Being the first to arrive we were met by two Māori's and were given a low down on protocol for the traditional welcoming we were about to experience; including no smiling or laughing and no talking. Apprehensive about what we about to witness we headed in alongside the coach arrivals.

Walking through to the outdoor auditorium we heard the distance sound of drums and chanting before (from every angle) members of the tribe sprang up and performed their Haka; a traditional battle dance. Three people from the tour had been elected to be ‘chiefs’ to the packs. Once the welcome ceremony had been completed (which included three dropped leaves being retrieved by the cheifs) then pressed noses, twice, and we were finally accepted into the village.

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The set up was different huts explaining different parts of the culture.

The first was about history, art and tattoos. The second was about women dancing, our chief had to pick three women to go up and learn how to use the Poi (basically a ball on the end of a piece of rope). I was picked (unfortunately), yet going up I was optimistic. She made it look so easy... first move she taught us she said was the most simple; hold the end of the rope in your right hand, swing the ball clockwise and catch with your left hand. Anyone who knows me, knows my left side of my body doesn’t co-ordinate with my right side (you should see me do Zumba! ????)! During a five minute demonstration, I didn’t catch it once. Luckily, the other two weren’t very good either! I was pretty happy though as two minutes before we got there Andy said he couldn’t work out how to video on the camera, so there wouldn’t be any evidence- this appeared to be a lie... unfortunately!

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We carried on to a hut teaching us about the Hāngi (a way of steam cooking food in underground ovens) and their use of reeds to make clothing, fire light and decorations. We watched some traditional stick games and Andy learnt how to do the Haka; which was only slightly more coordinated than my attempts with the Poi. We also found out that the reason behind the sticking out of their tongue at the enemy was to signify that once I beat you I will eat you, once I’ve eaten you, you will come out the other end...so in short the tongue gesture means I will shit you out.

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Our dinner was dug up from the Hāngi and sent off to be prepared for serving, while we had some performances by all the villagers; traditional dances and songs. It was a really great show! Sitting down for dinner was a feast and a half, we filled our plates with chicken, lamb and every vegetable imaginable, all covered in gravy. We sat and ate nattering away about the Māori culture and how much we love learning about different people and that’s what this trip is about for us..... well and the waterfalls, beaches and cocktails!

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Posted by Bears on Tour 23:53 Archived in New Zealand Tagged poi maori hangi haka Comments (0)

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