When I last left you, it was almost exactly one month ago and we were about to take a cruise through the Bay of Islands then onto the Kauri Forest and Sheep World.
Unfortunately we didn't get to go through the hole in the rock on our Bay of Islands cruise (the surf was too rough) but the scenery was still fab though.
From Russell in the Bay Islands, we headed north along the east coast to 40 mile beach at the crown of the North Island. While it's not really 40 miles long, it was pretty big. It was also mostly deserted; a nice change from the tourist packed Bay of Islands. Unfortunately, finding a place to stay on this deserted coastline proved trying (plenty of dorm beds at the backpackers - but we didn't want to subject Helen and Andy to that) so we continued on down south.
The next stop was the giant Kauri forests - Kauri trees used to cover the whole of the north end of the North Island until the time that the Europeans arrived and decided that these magnificent trees would make great ships spars (due to the fact that they are all straight and knot-free up until about 50m in height). Currently there are only a few acres of these guys left - so the wood trade has been reduces to digging up old trees that were buried in the swamp for the last 20 thousand years. Real neat. I also found out that I am alergic to kauri gum - the sap from these trees which is used for all sorts of things including varnish for kauri wood furniture. I was in agony - I couldn't breath for all of the sneezing and had to go to a clinic for medical help.
From the kauri forests, we headed back through Auckland to Rotorua. We missed Sheep World as the timing of the shows was off for our visit. Rotorua still stinks - Greg claimed credit for it but I think that even SGK's brother Joe would have a hard time laying an egg that we could smell all the way from Auckland. Whilst in Auckland we went to the Gates of Hell (a geothermal park - remember this place Eric?) and took SGK's parents to a Hangi (Maori Luau). We also did the alpine slides - Andy loved it, but Helen wasn't sure. But before we hit the alpine slide we checked out the zorbing. Zorbing is a thing unique to Rotorua - you get inside a big plastic sphere full of water and get rolled down a hill. Sounds great, but while we watched, it didn't look that fun as the hill was so small that you never gathered up any speed.
We also hit "The Agrodome" - An animal husbandry exhibit. The best value tour that we have done in NZ. for a lowly $20.00NZ (under $10US) you got a sheep shearing demonstration, a live show with about 20 different varieties of sheep - and get told what breed is for what, a sheepdog demonstration, and a guided tour around the farm where you get to see and touch other staples of NZ animal husbandry - cows, deer, and alpacas. Great value and highly recommended.
From Rotorua we headed south to Lake Taupo - a bit disappointing - and through the desert to Turangi - home of the NZ army and a great big snow covered volcano that is one of NZ's most popular ski resorts. Very cold but extremely pretty.
Next stop - boring old Wellington for the ferry to the South Island. Once again it was raining in Wellington - as it always is when I'm there, but we did have time to hit their great outdoors stores. The Ferry ride wasn't as spectacular as it should have been due to the rain, but good nonetheless.
From Picton (the southern terminus of the ferry) we were off down the west coast of the South Island. Boy oh Boy what a fantastic drive!!!! Puts Australia's Great Ocean Road to shame. It even makes California's Pacific Coast Highway and British Columbia's Sea to Sky Highway look shabby. We drove from one amazing view to the next. Along the South Island's west coast is also Franz Joseph and Fox Glaciers. SGK and I put crampons on and gave it a go climbing Franz Joseph. Glorious!
Next stop after the wild and wooly west coast was world famous Queenstown - a traveler's ghetto for adrenaline sports. From Queenstown, we went south to Te-Anu and the glowworms, and thence to Milford sound. Milford has to be seen to be believed. The scale of the place is just incredible. The cliffs rise out of the Fjord to reach heights of over a mile and plunge into the depths for thousands of feet down. You are tiny compared to this majesty. The volume of water pouring over the sides of these cliffs into the Fjord is something to behold. It is so great that the top 5m of water in the sound is salt-free! Wow.
From Milford we headed out to the east coast where we are now.
Where do we go from here??? Well, after checking out the Yellow eyed penguins and Dunedin Castle, we are heading up north to Christchurch for My and SaraGraces birthdays (the 28th and 25th of April respectively - we expect emails full of birthday wishes!!!!) and plan on catching up with my old friend Jo and her husband over a Super 12 Rugby match, and finally meeting little Miguel (Peter and Ava's child) before winging out to Fiji!
Saturday, April 22, 2000