New Zealand · 39 Days · 86 Moments · February 2019

New Zealand

12 March 2019

Day 127 Time to say bye to New Zealand!! Can't believe this trip is over, gone in a flash! We were up super early at 3:45am for our flight to Melbourne. It wasn't a pleasant start to the day but hey ho, cheaper flights come at a cost! However, our flight was with Virgin, worked out as the cheapest/best time for us and what a treat! Got breakfast and could watch films on the app, was great! Once in Melbourne we went for some food and then whilst Ross was getting some travel vaccines I had a coffee and did some research. We also caught some new street art that had just been done! We met up again with Aidan and Amy, as tomorrow morning we are off to Tasmania for 10 days! We've hired a big campervan to explore in which we are all excited about. We stayed together in YHA Metro hostel, Ross and I stayed here last time we were up early for a flight. It's the easiest route to the airport from here, and as there's 4 of us we got a 4 bed room which was nice, no random roommates!

11 March 2019

For dinner tonight we met up with Jamie, a friend of Aidans that we got to know when he came travelling to Europe last summer. He stayed with us for a while so he returned the favour and picked us up and took us to a nice spot for the evening. We picked up takeaway burgers and ate them by the beach. Jamie then took us to a spot in St Heliers to see the skyline at night which was pretty cool. It is weird to think that a big majority of New Zealand's population are in this city, and yet that's only 1 million here!!
For the afternoon we decided to use the time wisely and catch up on things like journi and planning. Ross stayed at the swanky house while I made the most of the lovely weather and went for a walk around the area. I treated myself to a coffee and sat by the water, I was tempted by the swing in front of me so had a quick go! 😂 It was really nice to sit in a quiet spot on my own, I think both us enjoyed time alone for once in a long while!!
Day 126 Today we drove back down south to Auckland. A long 5 hour drive, setting off early to be able to get the hire car back before 12. It was nice to come into Auckland when it was sunny, could actually see the skyline a bit better! We stayed in a lovely modern Airbnb south of the city, close to the airport for our flight tomorrow. It is a really swanky house! Ross is in awe of the cool techy things they have like the doorbell; the owner is at work but answered the door from the camera on the doorbell and let us in!! It is nice to have a homely stay after a very busy few days driving around.

10 March 2019

Yet another drive for today, but the final leg! This time heading south to Ahipara where we are staying the night. Our last beach of New Zealand!! We can't believe how quickly this trip has gone, it has been a pitstop tour of the North island for sure! Its lovely to see as many places as we can but we have both said how tiring it is, and sometimes all the driving slightly takes away the fun and enjoyment! Ahipara beach is so pretty, the waves here were super long and noisy, I kept thinking there was thunder! Our hostel endless summer lodge was opposite the beach. It's a really old house with a lovely outdoor area and our room was nice and modern. The bathroom was also a pleasant surprise - super clean and modern, a nice treat! They grow bananas, chillies, limes etc which was cool. Again it's a shame we are only here for 1 night, not even a full day! Another reason to come back though, would be great to sit in the garden here and listen to the ocean.
Our last spot to have a look at was Cape Reinga. The most northern point of New Zealand. It is where the Tasman Sea and the Northern Pacific meet and it was amazing to be able to see this. There is a definite line where you can see the colour differences in both bodies of water and when they meet they create waves. Really cool to see! The lighthouse was pretty too, with the signposts showing the distance of places around the world. Strange to see that the South Pole is only 6000km away, it doesnt really seem that far! Especially when London is 18,000km from here!
2 hours later and we reached Te Paki sanddunes. This place was so surreal, we felt like we had arrived in a desert!! The dunes were so high, and the fun thing that everyone does here is sand boarding from the top! We hired boards at the bottom and trekked our way up. It was like doing a HIIT workout class as you get so out of breath climbing up through dry sand! Some of the slopes were really steep when you were ready to push yourself down, but it was such good fun. Ross hit a few bumps and got a sand shower so ended up with a sandy beard - so funny! We took a little break and sat at the bottom and got chatting to 2 other travellers. It was nice to have a rest and here what other people are up to in the area!
Pitstop for a real berry ice cream! There are a lot of berry farms around New Zealand and they make ice cream with their blended fruits. So yummy!
Day 125 We made the most of the free to use kayaks at the hostel, and went out early for a quick paddle. It was really nice and calm, and lovely to get out and do something before 10am! After drying off we continued up north, another big drive today. There is a lot to see up in the Northlands but unfortunately we only have 2 days to see it all! So lots of driving around! Our first stop was Haka falls. A pretty waterfall that you could get really close to. It was also nice to see the cockrels, chickens and little chicks that live around the falls.

9 March 2019

Paihia (pronounced pie-here) is another pretty spot in the Northlands of the North Island. It was a pretty sunset when we got there so we grabbed a drink and went and sat by the water. It was so nice, especially as a guy was playing his guitar next to us - good playing but questionable singing voice! Our hostel was fairly nice (despite reading old reviews of bed bugs from back in 2017!) Luckily no bugs found, but Ross and I were late to the dorm room so by default had the top bunks. Not usually a big problem however these ones didn't have sides!! I was slightly nervous going to bed, and did wake up right on the edge at one point!
After lunch we hopped back in the car and drove about 30 minutes to Oke Bay. This place was recommended to us by Amy and Aidan, and we were definitely impressed! It was a stunning little bay with super clear blue water. The rain hit us hard on the drive out there but amazingly it cleared up after a few minutes of waiting, and the sun came out and it was lovely and warm. We went for a swim and snorkel, didn't see much but it was nice to have a refreshing swim. The sun didn't stay long and so we left about the same time it disappeared behind a big dark cloud. It was then back to the ferry and to Paihia where we are staying the night.
Day 124 We were up early today for a long drive up to the Bay of Islands. It took us a just over 3 hours to get to Opua where we took the ferry over to the islands. It was quite comical when we arrived at the 'port'. We quickly realised it isn't a big ferry as we drove right up to the edge of the harbour and waited for the boat! It was a short 6 minutes to get across! Enough time for a quick picture. The weather wasn't great on our way up, lots of rain which worried us as the bay of islands is beautiful if sunny!! We cross our fingers and headed to Russell. A sweet little township, with a few restaurants/cafes and a beautiful front. The water here is so clear and blue!! We decided it was a good spot for lunch, despite it being slightly chilly in the wind without much sunshine!

8 March 2019

After about 3 hours we got to Auckland, we hit traffic entering the city and it was strange to see more than a couple of cars! I have got so used to the one lane roads recently that I got a bit flappy with all the lanes and lights in the city! We stayed in Mt Eden in a hostel, it was a lovely old building and even had house cats! The dormitory was 6 beds (no bunk beds yay!) but very basic and we had some interesting room mates. One young boy had an irritating cough, obviously we just had to put up with it but this older guy had other ideas. He got up and went over to his bed and told him off!! Was rather awkward, I just was happy we were only here one night!
Day 123 Time to leave the coromandel sadly, we would have loved to stay here for longer. The drive was really pretty, the road hugging the coast. We stopped in Thames town for a coffee, a sweet little town out of the way of any busy cities etc. The cats in the coffee shop garden certainly enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere!

7 March 2019

We made sure to get back to our lovely cabin in time for dinner for the animals 😁. They have beautiful miniature ponies too, and they loved the long grass we found for them - it hasn't rained here properly since last year!!
After a lovely start to the day, we headed to the East coast of the Coromandel Peninsula. There is a lovely beach hidden away from the tourist trails called New Chums Beach. It was a tricky climb over the big rocks on the first beach, and then a walk through the forest. Such an amazing view when you reach the clearing and see the white sandy beach and lovely blue water. It was pretty much empty too, so quiet and relaxing. The water was warm so we enjoyed a nice swim. It was great to be back at a beach again, doing what we do best - sunbathing and swimming! We ate our lunch here and made the most of the rare few hours of rest after a very fun, but exhausting time here in New Zealand.
Day 122 I think this was the best breakfast view I've had since travelling... the sheep!! They were so sweet, all came up for some food that Donna and Alan had left for us to give them. It was great!

6 March 2019

This was the perfect Airbnb to rock up to late in the eve, after a busy day! As soon as we opened our door Alan, one of the hosts says "want a beer?" - err yeah! It was so funny, barely could introduce ourselves before he was ushering us through for a drink. We love airbnb's for this reason; you get to know the locals and see how much they love their area. Alan and Donna showed us to their gambling cabin, built by Alan as he retired. It's so impressive, and such a lovely little unit overlooking their little farm! We had a BBQ for dinner and enjoyed being in the peaceful surroundings.
A very, very windy gravel road! There were no other cars on this road making us question if it was a 'main' road!
Our next stop was to see Cathedral Cove. After speaking to a local guy we kindly named 'grandad' he recommended going here this afternoon as the tide will be right. We wanted to see it in the sunshine but equally wanted to get to our accommodation before it got too late. Grandad sold it to us though so off we went. It was a short shuttle bus to the beginning of the walk. It took us roughly 20 mins, and per usual we were quicker than the suggested time. I think they allow for ample photo stops! It was beautiful here, quite touristy but we still got a great feel for it. We managed a quick 10 minute swim before the sun disappeared.
Day 121 Today we headed further North to the Coromandel. We were under a slight time constraint to get to Hot Water Beach for midday due to the tidal times. This beach is known for the hot water that oozes out of the sand. Everyone grabs a spade and builds their own little hot pool to relax in. We were up for this challenge (and workout!) and joined everyone else. It was quite hilarious watching so many people crammed in a small spot digging away, it looked like an organised archaeologist dig!! Ross and I dug a good few holes with no luck. Apparently if you dig your feet into the sand you will feel the warm water and know you're in the right spot. Well that didn't happen for us and so we ended up digging someone else's hole after they left! It was like a fire, had to keep maintaining it to keep it hot! We made some friends in the process and it was a nice friendly atmosphere. It was lovely weather today, so we actually enjoyed the cooler ocean swim in the end!

5 March 2019

After Hobbiton we left Matamata and went to Katikati where we were staying! Obviously I was slightly excited by the name of the town 😉 This Airbnb was AMAZING! I always bang on about wanting to stay in a treehouse/hut and I my wish was granted! It was so cute, a little hut in someone's huge garden with views over the Kiwi orchard and surroundings. The bathroom was cool, proper outdoorsy - amazing views whilst you shower! We cooked on the BBQ for dinner and stood stargazing as the sky was SO clear. We could see the milkyway - Ross and I always feel like such city goers as we find it so amazing to see a clear sky full of stars!!
For the afternoon we headed to Matamata to Hobbiton! We were excited for this tour around the infamous Shire, and it lived up to expectations! It was a 2 hour tour with a guide who told us so many cool little facts about the filming of the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit films. For example the hobbit holes come in 2 sizes; one normal sized for when hobbits were filmed in front of them and then a much smaller one for the non hobbits. They were so cute! I love how they maintain it all even the vegetable patches. The end of the tour was a drink in the Green Dragon, with pretty views over the lake. Such a great afternoon!
Day 120 Another glorious day in the North Island, today we had a slow morning which was so needed! It's been a hectic time moving around so fast that a fee hours in one place was just what we needed. We had the morning at a coffee shop, doing our usual catch up on bits (journi!) and planning our next few days. This trip has been a last minute decisions kind of thing, today we booked 2 airbnb's for the next 3 nights, they look great! We had a lovely lunch spot overlooking Lake Roturoa, watching the world go by. We made the most of it before jumping back in the car again!

4 March 2019

For dinner we went to a really nice Indian restaurant in the only busy looking place of Roturoa! Its quite a quiet town it seems! The sunset was lovely tonight 😊
After an exhilarating trip down the river we changed it up for a relaxing early eve in another geothermal pool. This one in Roturoa was boiling! We actually couldnt stand in the main river, had to go round to where the hot river joined the cold one and find a spot just right! It is such a strange feeling being in a river the temperature of a bath, so surreal! Roturoa is known for it's funny eggy smell around, nicknamed "sulfur city" due to the geothermal activity in the area. There are lots of these rivers/pools to soak in and the minerals in the water are medicinal. Apparently not for silverware though, I totally forgot to take my jewellery off and it turned my silver necklace gold and ruined my pandora! Horrified I turned to my friend Google and it turns out toothpaste is the answer! After a fiddly clean my jewellery is as good as new, phew!
Day 119 After an amazing breakie at the Airbnb we headed to Roturoa. It was a relatively short journey of 2 hours, and once there we had a quick lunch before our white water rafting trip. We sat in the lovely sunshine before the guys gave us our life jackets, boots and helmets and we headed to the river. On the way they told us about the area of Roturoa and the significance the Kaituna River to the Maori people. We hopped into our boats and had such good fun being thrown down little and very big waterfalls! Okere falls is 7m high making this course the highest commercially rafted course to do in the world!! I won't lie I was slightly concerned about the idea of going head first down a waterfall in a boat that is easy to fall out of! But all bar one of us stayed in, which our guide said was pretty impressive! He made the trip really fun, at one point we all jumped out and floated down the super fast river, was great! Wish I could do it all again!

3 March 2019

After a busy day it was so nice to check into a lovely Airbnb surrounded by orchards and great views. We loved this place, cooked dinner on the bbq and had a drink whilst sitting in the hot tub! It was definitely too warm today for a hot tub but we felt we had to milk the Airbnb for all it's worth! We also picked plums from the orchard and lapped up the attention from Jack the lab. (Should be the other way round but it was more us wanting the attention from the dog, although he was definitely interested in our food!). We had a lovely relaxing evening, I even managed to spill all my glass of wine down myself so clearly I felt right at home 😁.
The best activity of the day was going to a Glow worm cave. In Waitomo there are hundreds of caves with this species of glow worm only found in NZ. We booked a caving trip with a family run small business. They have their own cave within their family run farm, so missing all the touristy areas. This was great, Ross and I had a tour with Heath who was fab, we learnt a lot about the caves and the area from him. We went through lots of different paths within the cave, some with no light at all so when we turned off our torches it was pitch black! Such a bizarre feeling, and also very claustrophobic! Especially when Heath decides to get us to imagine what it was like for those poor boys trapped in that cave in Thailand. Standing there I couldnt believe they were in total darkness for 12 days.. I could barely cope with 2 minutes! It was an amazing experience though, the glow worms were so cool. Like staring at a starry night, Heath let us lie back and watch them for 10 minutes - magical!!
Huka Falls Where 200,000 Litres of water falls every second! The Waikato River from Lake Taupo (the longest river in NZ) narrows from 100m wide to only 15m through a volcanic rock ravine. The sound of the water falling down the 11m drop is immense, so powerful!!
Day 118 Time to keep going up the Island, with a few different visits in one day! Firstly we went to the Spa Thermal Park just outside Taupo, where the hot Otumuheke stream flows into the cold river draining from Lake Taupo. We were so shocked at how warm it was, feels like a hot shower sitting under the waterfall! As we got closer to the cold river, it was nice to lie with a warm upper body and cooler feet! It was amazing, we could have relaxed here all day!

2 March 2019

Our second walk of the day. Also in the Tongariro National Park, but a gentler walk than the crossing. This one was about 2 hours and had a really pretty waterfall (Taranaki Falls) half way round the loop. Again there were old lava flows and you could really see where the lava was due to the different colours in the ground. We were ready for a sit down after this one! So we headed back to Taupo, cooked some dinner and had time to relax before the music started again downstairs 😅
Day 117 A busy day ahead exploring the area around Lake Taupo. Our first stop was the Tongariro National Park, we walked part of the Alpine crossing. This covers 20km and takes 6 hours. We didn't feel up to that today, as we are still recovering from the Kepler Walk - Ross's blister gives me goosebumps just looking at it! So instead we did a gentler walk to the Soda Springs, an easy 8km return taking us 2.5 hours. It was a much more pleasant walk than what we have done in the South Island, and was cool to be up close to Mt Ngauruhoe volcano. This volcano was created 2500 years ago and last erupted in 1975. The walk is along old lava flows and the bright red soil makes it feel like a desert. The spring at the end was really pretty. A bright green wall with water trickling down it. We were expecting something bigger but I think the lack of rain in NZ for the last few months has had a big impact! Part of us wanted to do the whole crossing, but I think our feet would have said otherwise!

1 March 2019

We finally arrived in Lake Taupo late afternoon. We checked into our suspect looking hostel named Bob's Hostel (Beds Over a Bar) and it as the name clearly says, was above an Irish Bar. A rather basic room needing a bit of a spruce up, but it did have a sink and we've learnt you have to take all the small wins you can get while travelling! It was our 7th anniversary today so after the day of driving we treated ourselves to a nice beer watching the sunset, followed by dinner at an Italian in town. The sunset was amazing, Ross had to drag me away to go for food, it kept changing and looking even better! The Italian was great though, we both felt stuffed! Back at the hostel the fun evening came to a sudden end when we realised the walls were super thin and we felt like our room was on a dancefloor! It was so loud, could even hear the awful singing of people having a fab night out at the Irish bar! The Hobbit film drowned it out for a bit, wasn't the best sleep we've had that's for sure!
Carried on driving and came across this big ol' boot! There's some interesting town landmarks around New Zealand and this is one of them! Not a welly, but a gum boot as they call them. We fulfilled the touristy role and stopped for a picture, why not!
Lunch stop at Foxton Beach We stopped for lunch at Foxton - a lovely long beach, which you can drive along if you have a 4x4! Our Lara isn't quite there yet, so we kept her in the carpark and ate our lunch overlooking the beach.
Day 116 Time to leave Wellington, with all our belongings in a few bags we went to the airport to pick up another hire car. This time we were a lot happier with our car, named Lara, she has central locking and you can open the boot without the key - so flashy!! From Wellington we hit the road and headed up to Lake Taupo, a 4 hour drive along the coast.

28 February 2019

After the Weta Workshop we went to the museum of New Zealand. It was free entry, and we quite enjoy learning about the culture and history of the countries we visit. It didn't disappoint, they had a great exhibition about the Battle of Gallipoli which I had never heard of. Learning about the conditions all the soldiers lived in whilst fighting to hold their position against the Turks. Part of the exhibition was about the nurses at sea on board the SS Maheno. I recognised the name and was really wowed when I realised it is the ship we saw washed up on a beach in Fraser Island! It was used in the war, taking injured soldiers to various hospitals around Europe. On its way back home, it sunk and ended up in Australia. It was odd to think we had seen it on Fraser, and then coming to the museum today we saw its purpose and history. What was also cool to see here, was the huge soldier sculptures. They were made by Weta for the museum, so realistic, each real hair sewn into the silicone!
In the afternoon, we caught the bus and headed over to the Weta workshop. This is the birthplace of many special effect characters and props for many films such as the Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Avatar and games such as Halo. We had a tour around the workshops, showing us how they make such props and how realistic it all is. The effort that goes into the films we watch is unbelievable, it made Ross and I understand why films cost so much to make!! For example, they made all the weapons for Lord of the Rings. Most were made out of PVC and were obviously really light and blunt. Perfect for actors holding them all day filming. But for all the close ups, they made real steel swords to make it that bit more realistic. It took them 2 years to make all of the costumes/props for the 1st LOTR. And a lot of the things made weren't even used, or Peter Jackson on the day of filming would decide he wanted a taller orc for example. So the workshop would often have to make things last minute!
Day 115 Our only day here in Wellington so we tried to see as much as possible. Firstly we climbed Mt Victoria to the look out and we were treated to a lovely view over Wellington! The sea was so blue! It was really windy and quite chilly up the top, Wellington is known as "windy Wellington" and even their welcome type sign reflects that! It is the windiest city in the world, due to being so exposed; it's just the Pacific ocean out to the East and no land mass until Argentina! We got a nice feel for Wellington, probably the biggest city we have visited in NZ and it had a bit more going on compared to other places. We would definitely come back here if we had the chance, and stay for a bit longer.

27 February 2019

Day 114 We said goodbye to Todd in the morning, taking our rental car back for around 10am. Rather annoying time as our flight wasn't until 3pm! Amy and Aidan came with us, they were flying to Aus at 2pm. We had a bit of time together and we did some organising for our trip to Tasmania in a couple of weeks. After they went through to the International lounge Ross and I got researching and booking things for our North Island trip. We only booked our hostel for tonight yesterday! Our flight with Air New Zealand was really good as flights go, we boarded super quick and were off almost as we sat down. It was only 40 minutes to Wellington with stunning views over the mountains. After arriving we checked into our hostel (trek global) and went out for dinner. We went to a lovely Thai restaurant and I was really surprised to see my friend from work there! Lucy is also travelling and we didn't think our paths would cross in NZ, so I certainly wasnt expecting to see her across a restaurant!

26 February 2019

Day 113 Our last day in the South Island! The weather was lovely today, not super warm but the sun was shining. After a morning sorting out our washing and packing our bags we spent the afternoon at Waikuku beach, only 10 mins from Todd's house. It was almost empty, so made for a peaceful few hours relaxing. Ross and I had a dip, and both said how nice it was to be back near the sea! I think we got used to it being always near the coast in Australia! We had a last bbq with Todd, the boys had a proper chargrilled steak due to the size of them creating a big fire! It was a lovely warm evening so we sat outside with a beer whilst playing monopoly deal.

25 February 2019

Day 112 The weather was a bit better today, so Amy and I ventured out for a walk with Willow. It was sad to learn that James and Sarah got Willow only by chance, as she was left abandoned on the side of the road as a pup. As a result she gets very anxious when she realised everyone is going out, I havent heard a dog cry as much as her! But she gets lots of love, and she certainly enjoyed more friends staying for a few days. For the afternoon, we carried on our LOTR marathon (see I'm becoming a big fan; abbreviating already!) After getting through half of the film we then had to make our way over to Todd's family home. There we were treated to an amazing roast cooked by his mum. It was lovely to have a good roast after so long - we didn't even have one for Christmas!! Todd's mum is also a hairdresser so the boys got a free trim which was really kind of her. A nice relaxed day, just what we all needed 😊

24 February 2019

Day 111 Today was a bit miserable, much like it has been for the last couple of days. It even got as cold as 6 degrees overnight! It felt like a day back home, wet and chilly! So due to the weather, us girls opted for a nice coffee and cake whilst some of the boys went mountain biking. Ross went into Christchurch and bought a new laptop, after his last one was faulty. He was quite pleased with his new purchase! It was nice to have a lazy Sunday, the boys went to the local for a few drinks whilst we made some dinner. After patiently watching the boys play Halo, we then all watched Lord of the Rings. I was the only one who had never properly watched it! I am determined to get into it, only because it is all set in beautiful New Zealand! It was also nice to have dog cuddles again, I think Willow missed me whilst I was away 😊

23 February 2019

Day 110 Today back in Christchurch the activities didn't stop! Todd has out done himself with planning fun things for us all. Him and his housemate Kevin took us all out driving in their 4x4s. They always take 2 cars out so if one gets stuck they can tow it out! We did indeed get stuck but it was so fun! We each then had a go driving Todd's truck which was very trusting of him; I was quite reluctant to begin with just in case I damaged it! It seemed like that is all part of the fun for them as they have both paid a lot in repairs over the years. One activity wasn't enough for today so after a yummy dinner, off we went to watch the rugby for the evening. It was Christchurch Crusaders against Wellington Hurricanes and the local team won. Unfortunately for me I didn't really have much of a clue what was going on, even more so because I lost my glasses back in Australia! I did wear my prescription sunglasses to start off with but I couldn't pull that look off in the dark!!

22 February 2019

The Blue Pools. A quick stop on the way back. Much needed stretch of the legs and a beautiful little spot to have a wander!
Day 109 Today was our last day before heading back to Christchurch. We had booked last night to do a helicopter tour and hike up to the Franz Josef Glacier this afternoon. Only 4 of us wanted to do it, the others drove home early morning. However, after the awful storm overnight there head been a big landslide further up the road. It completely blocked the road, was 20m long and 4m deep! It is the only way north from here, so the journey home suddenly became a 9 hour journey back down south to where we had just been! We waited until 1pm for the heli-hike to then be told it was cancelled due to the weather. We were all gutted, one because we wanted to do it (well, I was slightly pleased I got out of it!) and two because we now had to do the 9 hour drive that we could have begun hours ago with the others! A good few snacks and some nice views got us through. We shared the driving along the way, and finally we were back by 11pm. Amazing how a few podcasts can help the time fly by!

21 February 2019

After puzzling world, we drove up to franz Josef, our last stop of the tour down south. The drive was beautiful! We were driving through a rainforest with waterfalls right on the roadside! It took 4 hours to get here and we arrived early evening. We decided to go straight to the hot spring pools around the corner from where we were staying. It was really relaxing, and nice to ease off our aching muscles. For dinner we cooked at the guys apartment, they had a nice space that we could all sit in. The weather was awful this evening, didn't stop raining, we even had a brief power cut mid card game! Ross and I had to sprint round to the hostel we were staying in. It was a really cute place, we got some complementary soup as a pre dinner snack and they even had a hot tub! We were back to the bunk bed set up, had a few room mates on the other bunk too. It was a noisy night with the storm, I don't think I've ever heard rain like it, it woke me up a good few times!
Day 108 After a lovely evening in Lake Wanaka, we were quite sad to say goodbye to a lovely accommodation that we could have stayed in for longer! Before we left, we went to a place called Puzzling world. It had lots of elusions and cool stuff to see. We all enjoyed it, clearly we are all big kids!

20 February 2019

A relaxing afternoon at Lake Wanaka. Was chilly when we first got in, but felt so refreshing especially when you remember its fresh water and not the sea!
Skydive part 2! I was dreading that feeling of falling that I had when Amy and I did the swing. It terrifies me! But I was so surprised when we jumped out of the plane that it didn't feel like I was falling to the ground. Max explained that due to the speed at which you fall (60m/second!) you cant feel yourself falling. Due to this I LOVED it!!! It was amazing, we did a few flips, and the 45 second free fall felt like 10 seconds, it was crazy. The gliding part was awesome, the views over the Lake and the mountains were so beautiful. I even got a go at flying! I've never held onto something so tight, and then he said let go!! I was thinking err are you sure?! Such an amazing experience, I felt elated for the rest of the day. So pleased I did it, and so impressed with myself for actually doing it!! I would do it again in a heartbeat, now I never thought I'd be saying that! It was great we did it early as we had the rest of the day by the lake, sunbathing! What a fabulous day 😊
Day 107 The day I have been dreading, skydive day!!! I've really wanted to do a skydive whilst travelling, we didn't get to do one in Australia due to the wet weather so Lake Wanaka was our 2nd attempt. We booked it for today as it was the only nice day of the week, and it didn't disappoint - clear blue sky and the sun sure did have his hat on! It was an early start, we were exhausted from yesterday but off we went. Once at the centre we donned a red jumpsuit and a fetching black hat. We felt quite the part! We met our tandem divers and got straight in the plane, it was the quickest boarding of our lives! As distraction from being on a tiny plane, I chatted to Max the whole way. I hope he didn't mind! Once at 12,000ft the door opened and we felt the cool air. Ross was 2nd to jump and I was almost last. It was surreal seeing everyone disappear from the door! I was told to wrap my feet around the plane, head back and then Max my dive buddy pushed us out of the plane!

19 February 2019

After the toughest day we've had travelling, we were straight back in the car for another journey. A quick change into dry clothes and a wet wipe of the back of my muddy legs and we were off. It was a muscle stiffening 3 hour drive to Lake Wanaka our next stop. We were all hobbling around when we got out of the car, quite funny to watch! We are staying in a lovely converted garage type building. Although once we dropped some bags off we didn't stop long; to the pub we go! We were all craving a nice cold beer and we definitely deserved it! On the trip home we picked up some takeaway pizza, again definitely well deserved!!
Day 106 - 2nd and final day walking! After a cosy night in our tent, we were surprised and elated to find that we didn't get wet overnight! It rained from when we got to Iris Burn Hut, and it didn't stop when we left. It made for a rubbish start to the day putting the tent away when wet! We all set off again around 8am, waterproofs on and heads down as the rain was awful! It was a big endurance challenge today, it was all through the forest so you couldn't tell how far you'd come or how far to go. And the miserable weather didn't help! We all just wanted to power on through the pain of blisters and our hips rubbing from our heavy bags! The blessing today was there were no big inclines! It was almost all downhill, almost the little hills felt like a bigger challenge than yesterday! We covered 22km today and it took us 6-7 hours. For the last hour it was just Amy, Nadia and I. We helped each other along and were so glad to see the end! The rain stopped as we finished, typical!

18 February 2019

The second leg of our first day on Kepler was a lot nicer than the first part. Now that we were 1400m high, we had incredible views. We were thankful for the nicer weather, if it had been cloudy we wouldn't have seen anything! We thought we were done with the steep inclines but in fact there were still a good few more hills to get over! We walked another 6 hours after lunch and finally made it to Iris Burn Hut at 6pm, covering 28km today!! Arriving just at the rain started! Luckily the camping area is under trees so our tent was sheltered somewhat. We had a slight dilemma as campers aren't usually allowed in the hut, where the guys were staying. We were all cooking smash and sausages for our dinner so I was pretty miffed when we were told by the ranger we're not allowed in! Luckily in the end he was kind enough to let us in and eat with our friends and we all enjoyed a basic but worthy meal! Before an early night we listened to his talk about the area and the native Kiwi birds here.
Day 105 Today is the day we walked ALL day! We were up early before 6am when it was still pitch black. Ross and I had to creep out of our hostel room and we packed all our gear into the cars. A quick porridge breakie and we did the short 20 min drive to the start of the Kepler Track. The sunrise this morning was unbelievable; the sky looked like it was on fire!! We took it as a good omen and spirits were high despite starting so early! Off we went, heading to the Luxmore hut where we planned to stop for lunch. It took us 6 hours, and it was mostly up very steep tracks. I really struggled here, especially as everyone else with longer legs was way faster than me! Ross kindly held back with me and we took regular stops, it was a sweaty few hours even though the temp was sub 20 degrees. We climbed up to 1200m, and we were wowed by the views! The effort was definitely worth it from here onward! It made such a difference seeing how high we had climbed. 13km completed by lunchtime.

17 February 2019

A few more photos on our journey back to Te Anau. The boys enjoyed a snooze on the drive back, after a few funny photos at Knobs Flat. Oh, and a test run of putting up our tent for the Kepler Track walk tomorrow! Todd's housemates kindly lent us lots of camping/hiking accessories!
Mirror Lake
Along the drive to Milford sound there are a few great stops. We stopped at The chasm; a rocky valley carved by the force of the rivers current. Over many years, the water picks up gravel and small rocks and as it swirls through the valley the debris sculpts the rocks. It made for a very pretty waterfall!
Day 104 Today we set off to Milford Sound. It's a 2 hour drive through beautiful scenery into the Fiordland National Park. Here we had booked a short cruise through the fiord, and despite the overcast weather it was still so beautiful. Seeing waterfalls cascade from the top of the mountains and seals sleeping on the rocks was just awesome. The boat even took us right up close to some of the waterfalls and we all got soaked from the spray! It was an unforgettable trip and I am coming to understand the real meaning of the saying "a photo doesn't do it justice". We have taken some amazing photos but actually being here and experiencing these views first hand is something we won't forget.

16 February 2019

After an adrenaline filled morning, we all got back in the car and drove away from Queenstown towards Te Anau. Here we stayed in a cute hostel called Barnyard Backpackers. It had a real cosy feel to it with old features and a few families enjoying dinner together in the common room. Down the hill from the main building were the cabins, where Ross and I were in a 5 bed whilst the other guys shared a family room. I was a little jealous they were altogether, only because I know we are getting up super early for our big hike in a few days! A highlight of this hostel was of course the dog, an fluffy old lab called Zac who bless his heart is deaf so doesn't hear you coming but is pleased when you do say hello! 😊
Day 103 BIG day today for the adrenaline levels, we jumped into a canyon!!! Amy and I braved the Nevis swing; 134m high and a swing of 300m going at 120kph! It was totally terrifying. I am still shocked I did it!! A fear of heights and this swing don't mix well! The feeling of falling was indescribable, but the worst bit for me... being pulled back up slowly to 134m! Amy was loving it, she definitely got the buzz from it, arms dangling and all! Me, nope.. I didn't let go of the harness and potentially even closed my eyes when we got back go the top! 🤣 I recorded it on my gopro and my scream actually echoes into the valley!! It was definitely worth it though! Whilst we were swinging, Ross was doing a bungy on the other platform! Unfortunately we couldn't see him jump but he got photos to prove it! Of course he wasn't terrified, he was excited to jump once stood on the edge.. crazy!! I am very impressed, he certainly seemed to enjoy himself! 😊

15 February 2019

Day 102 Today we were able to rid ourselves of any hangover, by going luging!! It was a short ride up the mountain on a small cable car followed by a chairlift. From the top we jumped on a luge and raced down the track taking in the amazing views where we could! In the afternoon, we climbed aboard TSS Earnslaw; a century old coal fired steamship which took us up Lake Wakatipu. It was the best way to see the amazing scenery surrounding Queenstown, and equally cool to see how the engine works. We could go into the engine room and watch the men throw more coal into the fire - a rate of 1 tonne an hour!! After a short journey, we hopped off the boat and had an incredible BBQ style buffet. We all certainly made the most of it, I think I tried almost everything there! And of course I had one of each of the puddings on offer 😋 Afterwards we had a talk by a local farmer; he showed us how he sheers his lambs, and gave us a demo of his sheep dog herding in steep fields. It was really cool!
A few more photos of Queenstown. 10 photos isn't enough to show how much fun we had here! 😍

14 February 2019

Dinner for our first night in Queenstown was a Ferg burger! The most sought after burger here, the queues were absolutely huge!! It didn't disappoint though, burgers the size of our heads! We finished the night with a Valentines drink or 3 at a few different bars around.
Day 101 Today we drove 2 hours to Queenstown, another scenic route around the mountains. We're here for a few days, staying at Absoloot value hostel right in the centre. The name doesn't do it justice, because it's actually a really nice hostel, possibly the best we've stayed in!! The views from the kitchen honestly felt like a green screen, it just doesn't look real! Ross and I are in a separate 6 bed dorm, and the other 5 are in one together. We were late to the party with plans, as they all planned this trip months in advance. Queenstown is a ski village in winter and you can really tell. It has a cosy feel to it with a small number of shops and bars. The view over Lake Wakatipu is beautiful, although today the rain tainted it slightly! It didn't stop us though, our first activity in adrenaline junkie Queenstown was jet boating in a 770 horse power boat! We think the rain made it even better, or so we like to tell ourselves after we had to put goggles on due to the water spray!!

13 February 2019

After a busy day, we settled in for a night in Twizel at the High Country Lodge and Backpackers. It really reminded me of a residential trip as a kid, long corridors of rooms and a communal kitchen in a different block. It was a pleasant stay until we were awoken in the early hours of the morning to an incredibly loud alarm/horn. I honestly thought maybe this is the sound of the earthquake alarm!! Ross got up and checked it out and it was in fact a local alarm for the neighbourhood. We asked Nadia, Todd's girlfriend who is a Kiwi what it was and she said small towns have alarms for the volunteers in the area. If there is a fire or big incident like a car crash they sound the alarm to notify the volunteer fire fighters. The rest of us just can't understand why a pager isn't more effective and slightly less terrifying!!
For the late afternoon we visited Aoraki/Mount Cook, New Zealand's heighest Mountain at 3700m. (Aoraki is its Maori name). We did the 3 hour return walk to the base. It was so beautiful, seeing a snow topped mountain is just breathtaking. We could see all the little waterfalls running down from the melting ice and then collecting into the lake at the bottom. There were even big chunks of ice that had fallen and were just floating. I was advised by Sarah to soak my new walking boots in the water and then as I walk back and let them dry whilst still on, they will mould to my feet and shouldn't cause blisters. Well, I did that and it was flipping freezing and I got a fair few looks!! I started to think she was having me on and by the end of the journey back to the car I was certainly not then sitting with them on to dry! Fingers crossed this trick works though, I put a lot of trust in an experienced hiking Kiwi! It was a stunning little hike, a good warm up for hikes to come!
Lake Pukaki, with Mount Cook in the background.
Lake Takapo for a packed lunch on the 'beach'! These lakes are so big you really feel like it is a beach! The bluest water I've seen yet 😍
Day 100 (woo!!) After a rather patient start to our day, we left Sefton for our adventure down south. Last night Amy was packing her bag in the boot of our rental car, a saloon type boot only opened by the key. Whilst organising, the key was next to her stuff until she had finished and she slammed closed the boot locking the key in the car leaving it unusable! "Where's the key Amy?!" "err....crap!!" It was rather funny, until we actually couldn't get in and we then had to organise a mechanic to come and break into the car this morning! It was all resolved though, our journey wasn't too delayed and our insurance covers 'lost' keys! Poor Amy, but a sigh of relief was heard on our journey towards the beautiful South!! First stop Lake Takapo for some lunch!

12 February 2019

I've found a good friend in Willow, she was even super sad to see us go ❤ Here are photos of how our friendship has blossomed over the last few days 😁
Day 99 Today was our last day here in Sefton, before our roadtrip further south. We took a trip to the beach, back to Ashworth where Amy and I went yesterday. Again the beach was empty so we enjoyed a few hours soaking up the sun. We visited the site where James and Sarah are building their own house. It's common over here to buy a plot of land and build your own house, even if it's your first buy. I was slightly jealous of the quiet lifestyle they'll have, living with a beautiful view over fields, some of which they own! We had a lovely bbq for dinner, and cracked open some Gin - bliss!

11 February 2019

Pizza oven dinner and Nadia's amazing chocolate orange brownie!! Oh and Dog cuddles 😍
Day 98 Amy and I have come to realise we are living in a mans world here in Sefton, I thought I'd just share a few extra photos of the joy these boys are having here! Its Todd and his friend James, who is also originally from the UK, living here with James' girlfriend and Kevin a housemate. So 3 guys and 1 girl! The boys had already planned an xbox marathon for the time here, hence our beach trip to escape the noise! 🤣 They also have a pinball machine as part of the furniture and we saw a nerf gun looking well used in the kitchen. Turns out, after a demonstration from one of guys, that said nerf gun is used to kill the flies! Instead of a foam bullet the gun is filled with salt and fired at the flies, quite ingenious really! However for me personally, the aftermath isn't so favourable - an awful lot of salt on the floor.. everywhere!! We had at least 6 flies in our room before bed, so Ross decided it was a good idea to get the gun, low and behold I had a lovely showering of salt! 😂
Day 98 Back in Christchurch we headed into the centre which is about 45 mins away from where we are staying. Todd and his friends live in Sefton, a tiny little place basically in the middle of nowhere! It has 1 local pub that we visited this evening, the cheapest I think we've seen alcohol! $10 for a jug of 2 pints, about half the price of what we have been used to! Anyway, before the pub Ross, Amy and I went to the shops (I know, sorry I'm shopping again!). But this time for a good reason!! Ross took his faulty laptop back, and Amy and I did some warm clothes shopping and to find me some proper hiking footwear! Those Nike trainers aren't doing a great job, so I found a bargain pair for $69 - result! I also got a new jacket after losing my hoodie on the last walk 😂 Bets on what I lose next, its bound to happen!! After a successful trip, Amy and I went to the local beach and left the boys to make the most of the local pub! We had the beach to ourselves, it was great!! 🤩

10 February 2019

Day 97 Our last day in Collingwood and the Golden Bay. We spent the morning having a go on the quadbike and motorbike, both of which seem to be a staple part of life living near a beach in NZ! It was so much fun, I wasn't brave enough to try the motorbike; I had enough to think about with changing gears on the quadbike! (Never knew gears even existed!) All I could think was wow, what a life they have here doing this for fun on a standard Sunday morning! I know I'd easily become accustomed to a life outdoors! The afternoon wasn't so fun; we drove 6 hours down south to Christchurch. It felt like a very long tedious drive. This time we took the inland route so it was constant tight corners, winding up and down the mountains. I drove the first 2 hours or so, then Ross drove the rest. I'm not as comfortable in the wheel as him, I get a bit bored and restless! Ross would happily drive the whole trip - quite handy really! 😅 It is nice to be back driving again every so often though 😊

9 February 2019

Day 96 Today was another scenic Hike, this time along Farewell Spit to Wharakiki Beach. It was certainly a challenging one, lots of rolling hills so steep inclines and then equally steep declines! I had my Nike trainers on which are not hike worthy so I did slip a lot! I'll need some proper 'tramping' shoes as they call it in NZ, for our 2 day hike next week. It was a beautiful walk along the coast, we saw and heard lots of seals and had great views in every direction. We could see the end point in the distance which kept us going as we were looking forward to a refreshing dip in the ocean! We had lunch on the beach, had a swim then got back to our cars and drove back to Sandy and David's house. It's been lovely staying with them, they're really friendly and even cooked us dinner tonight! We then had another evening of card games and a few drinks, perfect end to a great day! 😊

8 February 2019

Day 95 For the afternoon today we went to pu pu springs, the clearest water I've ever seen! It flows underground and comes up here. You can see to the bottom and it is so so blue. You're not allowed to swim in it or even touch it to preserve its clarity. We all was wanted to just jump in though! After this walk we then headed to a salmon farm. Here we all had a go at casting the rod, and ross and I caught one each. With the help of some pellets to encourage them all! They're quite pricey, $27/kg so we didn't want to all catch one! They then smoke it and cook it for you so we all tucked in to our fresh fish - was lovely!
Day 95 Today we got straight out and kayaked whilst the tide was high. We started right at the bottom of their house, how amazing to just have the ocean at your door! We had a few sea kayaks, a blow up double and also 2 ride on kayaks. The latter were rather difficult to control! The boys had a go first and were bobbing all over the place! Amy and I had a go last as we started kayaking back, against the tide going out. It was a workout and a half! Felt like you weren't moving and the ride on ones like to just spin round after a few seconds! We definitely earned a beer after that!

7 February 2019

Day 94 The second day of our walk across Abel Tasman, the sun was shining for us today! It still had a nice cool breeze which was lovely, perfect conditions for tramping up hills! Today we covered 17.5km and boy it was a tough one! Lots of steep inclines but amazing views to stop and catch your breath at. We walked across a few almost empty beaches as part of the trail which was beautiful. I of course dropped my hoodie without noticing, and it wasn't anywhere close to us so funnily enough I didn't retrace my steps too far back! It was a nice hoodie for the 2-3 times I've worn it in 3 months 😂 We finished the walk around lunchtime and we were starving! There's only so long you can survive on cereal bars and jelly sweets! We stopped for a quick dip in the sea and a relax in the sun before our drive back to Collingwood. Dinner tonight was a well deserved BBQ, Todd has excelled himself so far! Finished up with a game of monopoly deal and graveyard!

6 February 2019

Day 93 The weather wasn't great today, drizzly and cloudy. We had a lazy morning sorting our bags out and a nice breakie, then we started our journey over to Abel Tasman. We stopped at a waterfall along the way as a warm up for our walk ahead! We dropped the cars off at the carpark, and began walking the national park to the hut we were staying in for the night. It took us about 2 hours covering 6km. The hut was interesting, no electricity and a thin mattress to sleep on! We cooked our beans and sausages on a small stove, took us 2 hours 😂 It was quite chilly too, we went inside for the evening and used all our phones and a head torch to help us play a card game or two! Everyone else in the hut seemed to be asleep by 9pm, they must have had a busy day - we heard snoring early on! 😂 We had a cosy night the 6 of us, and a older couple. Most of us didn't have sleeping bags but luckily it wasn't too cold!

5 February 2019

Day 92 We get to see Amy and Aidan after 3 months! I've been so excited for this day, and for the trip coming up. We've missed them after 2 years together!They got the ferry in at 11am, Ross and I waited at the port in the sunshine. Once they arrived we started our uncomfortable 4hr journey to Golden Bay. Our rental car is small so fitting 5 peoples bags in was interesting! Ancell, Aidans friend from home is also joining us as he is on holiday for 3 weeks. We headed to Collingwood where we are staying at a friend of a friends house (making use of all the free stays where we can!). We met Todd, another one of Aidans friends who has lived here for 8 years. He's basically our tour guide for the next 3 weeks! It was about 6pm by the time we got here and we went straight out for dinner. A nice local pub, even ate some local bugs, cicadas! The really noisy ones everywhere. They leave a shell when they die, we were told it takes like toffee.. it definitely didn't! 😂

4 February 2019

Day 91 Today we got back in the car and drove a long old way! We were heading for Golden Bay from Kaikoura, but last minute we ended up stopping and staying the night in Picton. The drive took about 5 hours, and it was another awesome drive! We saw seals along the way!!! And some great views, with lots of hills and crazy corners! We stopped at whites bay for a break, and a sun stop. It was here that we spontaneously decided to stay in picton, only 20 mins away. We could then pick up our friends from the port there in the morning. It saves our other friend an 8 hour drive tomorrow!! We stayed in a hostel by the port, a very cosy hostel and this time we had a private room. It was nice to not stay with other people, the highs of travelling right here! We cooked dinner tonight - tuna pasta, what a treat 😉 It was then an early night, episode of luther to aid the dreams for the night!!!

3 February 2019

Day 90 Our first day driving the sights of New Zealand! It was a slow morning waiting for our rental car to be ready, our 2005 Nissan Tilda wasn't quite what we were expecting but here goes! Ross is sure he selected a newer model but of course they challenged that! It's actually quite smooth to drive, we love an automatic these days! We left Christchurch after lunch and headed towards Kaikoura where we are staying for our first night. On the way we stopped at Hanmer Springs. A sort of center parcs type place, with outdoor thermal springs. It was a beautiful day so getting into 37-40 degree water wasn't easy! Once in it was lovely, very relaxing. I stayed out of the sulphur pools as I didn't want a smelly bikini for the next few weeks! It stinks of egg, reminds me of being at home at the back end of Bella or Alfie! 😂 We spent a few hours here before heading to Kaikoura. Once there we grabbed some fish & chips - only £15 for us both! It's so beautiful around here, mountains everywhere!

2 February 2019

Day 89 Our first day in New Zealand! After an eventful journey, we made it to Christchurch. It felt like a long journey after we jumped forward 2 hours. We are now 13 hours ahead of the UK! We headed to our hostel, Kiwi Basecamp which is on the outskirts of the main city. I say city but it didn't really feel like one to us after our first look around. Once we dropped off our bags and met our 2 roomies we took a walk into town. It didn't feel that busy and bustling especially for Saturday afternoon but it was still nice, I like the old style trams. We headed to the shops (shock!) but this time for an actual reason. 😂 We needed to buy some warmer clothes. We've been used to 30+ degrees so low 20s feels chilly! It was windy today and in the shade it was quite nippy! We decided to get some under layers and I bought another pair of leggings. We know we'll he doing some hiking and it could get quite cold higher up. After shopping we grabbed some food and headed back for an early night!