The next day we flew up to Auckland and had a day shopping for some warm clothes ready for America. We met up with our old friend Kris, headed out for some Japanese food at a little restaurant called The Don and then continued the Japanese theme with some karaoke! It was such good fun and we were very, very drunk! The day after we paid a visit to Hangover Central, so we had a lazy day, only venturing out to get a McDonalds! New Zealand has been amazing, we've done so much that we may not do anywhere else in the world, now for a few days of relaxation in Fiji.
29 January 2017
Lake Tekapo was up next, it had the bluest water I have ever seen, we stopped at the very small but very busy Church of the Good Shepherd which sat at the lakeside. Later we hiked around the Lake and up to the summit of Mount John, very tiring and hard work but the views were spectacular. It wiped me out and I had about 12 hours sleep that night! We then drove up to Christchurch for our last day/night with our kiwi experience tour. We checked out the re:start mall which was built using shipping containers following the 2010 earthquake, and walking round the town you could see the rebuilding work still going on all around, it was like a brand new city. I had a jog around Hagley Park and the botanical gardens, then we went out with some of the group for drinks and pool, a final farewell.
27 January 2017
4 nights in Queenstown was a bit of a change from the 1/2 night stops so far. We started with the kiwi bar crawl which was ace, even making a drunken stop at the legendary Fergburger at the end of the night. The day after was a bit of a quieter one, a nice lie in followed by the best minigolf ever! We also did the luge down Queenstown Hill, there was no video or photographic evidence but I'm man enough to say I was well beaten by Laura, a complete whitewash actually, 4-0! The views from the top of the hill over Queenstown and the lake were amazing. That night we had a bit of a date night, cocktails and beers followed by a journey round town to find a Chinese restaurant, unfortunately they were all closing so we settled for a pretty good pizza at Fat Badgers. Our last day in Queenstown a group of us played some frisbee golf which was fun, unfortunately me and Laura weren't very good and came in last place!
25 January 2017
In Wanaka we visited Puzzle World where we cracked the outdoor super maze after a lot of walking, doubling back and only a tiny bit of frustration! Inside there were different attractions, one where you seemed to be going uphill, one where the faces followed you round the room, a few optical illusions and the room where you grow to the size of the door... or do you?? A bit of a different morning but a good laugh!
24 January 2017
On the way from Franz Josef to Wanaka we stopped at the amazingly reflective Lake Matheson, it was a bit cloudy but you could still see some great reflections from the trees and the mountains. We also had a quick photo stop at Thunder Creek waterfall, it was good but probably better if it wasn't raining and I wasn't being bitten by hundreds of sand flies! Wanaka itself was a fairly small town but had a huge lake next to it (as most of the town seem to), apparently the tree is the most photographed tree in the world although we struggled to believe that.
23 January 2017
Ice, ice baby!! In Franz Josef we took a helicopter ride on to the glacier which was so much fun (they actually land on the ice), we then had a couple of hours walking round on the ice through crevasses, caves and cracks. It was a pretty surreal experience and one of the best we've had so far! We thought we'd relax after our hike in the local hot pools which was much needed... then we played some paintball, our team got well and truly beaten and we still have the bruises to prove it! Not so relaxing.
21 January 2017
A quick stop at Nelson Lakes before heading to Westport where we just stayed for one night. The whole group went down to the beach for a bonfire - there was actually more driftwood than beach but it was a really cool night with toasted marshmallows and bottles of wine! Next day we travelled to Lake Mahinapua, with a brief detour to Greymouth to pick up some supplies for the fancy dress party that night - it was a P party, so anything starting with the letter P. I whipped out my remarkable sewing skills to make a ping pong table and Laura fashioned a Pocahontas outfit, I think we did pretty well! We had a tequila/jäger-fuelled night dancing to all the classics including 5ive, b*witched (one girl being too young to remember them which made us feel really old), black lace (superman!) and a perfectly executed macarena. The next morning we surprisingly felt ok and had a nice walk out to see some fur seals!
17 January 2017
Last couple of stops on the North Island were River Valley and Wellington. In River Valley we didn't take too many photos but we had a good party night from what I can remember, then the following morning we crossed the river on a very precarious pulley carriage thing (the photo isn't of us, it's our new friends Emily and James but you get the idea). In Windy Wellington we went to the Embassy Theatre to see Passengers, definitely the fanciest cinema we'd ever been to! We didn't have long there so only time for a visit to the Te Papa museum which was really interesting and gave an insight into New Zealand history, nature, pop culture and art, and then a windy picnic in the park (it was so windy) and a go on the climbing wall (again, very windy).
15 January 2017
Next stop Taupo where Laura thought it a good idea to throw herself out of a plane, luckily there was a parachute attached! Apparently an unbelievable experience and she really enjoyed it, despite having to lead the line and jump out the plane first. I did a real good job holding the bags. On Lake Taupo we had a go at the hole in one challenge with a chance to win $10,000, I managed to win a free go but nothing else, although I did win a free round of minigolf by getting a hole in one on the 18th - look out Rory!! On the way out of Taupo we had a very scenic walk in Tongariro national park, under the watchful eye of Mount Ngauruhoe, better known as Mount Doom. We hiked up to Taranaki Falls which was stunning and the weather was perfect to get some amazing views from the top.
13 January 2017
In Rotorua we did some awesome white water rafting which included going down the highest commercially available waterfall in the world (7 metres). We had a real good laugh with the rest of the crew, I rode the raft like a bull, we surfed down the rapids, we recreated scenes from titanic (not the sinking part) and we got to experience the rapids whilst in the water and clinging to the side of the boat, brilliant experience. Rotorua is also known for the amount of geothermal activity in the area so we got to see some of the hot pools and geysers, we even had a boiled egg cooked in one of them! We also checked out some of the beautiful government gardens and had an amazing breakfast at the artisan cafe (it made my top 5 of all time).
12 January 2017
Next stop was Hobbiton in the beautiful sunshine - we learned about the location and which parts were included in the movies, we saw all the hobbit holes including Bilbo's house, we messed about under the party tree and we even had an ale in the Green Dragon! In the evening we had a Maori village experience where I had the honour of being the chief for our group (and Laura miss chief), we learned some more about Maori life and history, we watched a cultural show and then had a traditional Hangi (a meal cooked in the ground). I even had to perform a Hakka with the other chiefs in front of everyone!
As promised, a few from our underground adventures!
10 January 2017
After Paihia we had an overnight in Auckland before moving on to Hot Water Beach - at low tide we dug holes in the beach to find the hot water, a pretty weird but fascinating experience! Unfortunately it was around 10pm so we didn't get any decent photos of that. We also had a walk to Cathedral Cove which was quite a busy little beach area with some great views out to the ocean. On the way to Waitomo we stopped off for a walk at Karangahake Gorge which was another beautiful location and a decent hike that took you threw the old gold mining tunnels. In Waitomo we did a 5 hour 'Black Abyss' caving activity - photos to follow - but that was really good fun, including a 35 metre abseil into the cave, a zip line in the pitch black, tubing down underwater rivers whilst looking up at the thousands of glow worms that live there, and then climbing 2 waterfalls to get out of the caves.
7 January 2017
First few days in New Zealand, a brief overnight in Auckland before heading north to the Bay of Islands where we stayed in Paihia. A couple of picturesque hikes through the mangroves and the forests, as well as a drink in New Zealand's oldest pub in the small town of Russell. We also had a day trip to the most northern point in New Zealand, Cape Reinga, which was beautiful and had some stunning views out to where the Tasman Sea met the Pacific Ocean, on the way up we drove along 90 mile beach (an actual public highway) and stopped for "fush and chups" in Mangonui!! Our driver taught us some old Maori songs that we all had a go at on the bus ride back down to Paihia, we all gave it a good go but I'm not sure we'll be on New Zealand's got talent any time soon!