New Zealand (north island)

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Day 70 - Wellington

It's the capital city, but it's more like Nottingham than London.

Went to the science museum, then to a party with a travel friend of Michelle's.

 

Wellington

Michelle & Lizzie

Amazingly, at the party was the kid that used to live next door but one to me at home in Leeds.

Don't worry, the anecdotes get more exciting than this...

Richard Smith from number 1, Moorside Walk!

 

The classic volcano shape of Mt Ngauruhoe

Day 71 & 72 - Taupo

Up at 5am for a long hike across volcano country. The Tongariro crossing is very scenic, across the area the used in Lord of the Rings for Mount Doom. ...Apparently.

Steaming mountainsides

Michelle and her hunky instructor

Day 73: Sky dive

Really fab. Compared to bungy, it's longer lasting and not as scary, so therefore it was more enjoyable. I was strapped to Tom Selleck who luckily knew what to do. Getting out of the pane was a surprising non-event. When you're sat in the doorway you're already in a 100mph wind so you don't notice the falling much. Then you get about 40 seconds of, well, it's like being stood still in a really strong wind - the ground stays an infinite distance away so there's no real feeling of falling. Under the canopy was more fun than expected, especially

It's surprising that tiny blue chute slows us down enough...


Coming in to land

after I'd goaded him into "showing me what this baby can do..." We did some really severe high-G, fast falling turns which were really cool. Then when it came to landing he said "I assume you want a fast landing?" We came in from about 70ft up in a fast turn and skimed the ground for ages before crashing down far too fast and we tumbled over each other into a laughing heap.
...too fast!

 

Ready to unleash the universal car repair tool.

Attempt to drive to Rotorua

The car had been running fine for a while but our luck was to run out. When we came to turn the key, there was nothing. I may be an expert on 1 litre Fiesta engines (especially the rare and exclusive Turbo model) but I know nothing about 3 litre V6 Mitsubishi engines ...and the only tool I had was the hammer I bought in Oz. However this problem had the symptoms of a seized

On the chair lift up the luge track

starter motor relay... the cure for which is to thump the starter motor with a hammer! Never go anywhere whithout a universal car repair tool...

When we got to Roturua there was another luge track. But Michelle kept beating me on that, so it's not worth talking about.

 

Geyser, set off bizarrely by pouring soap powder into it

Day 74 - Rotorua

Maybe the best day yet. Firstly Wai-O-Tapu thermal wonderland where there's geysers, boiling bubbling mud pools and lakes filled with every food colouring agent ever invented.

Boiling mud Coloured volcanic pool of hot water

The zorb

Then onto 'Zorbing' where you roll down a big hill inside a giant plastic ball. Quite tame but good fun. Especially the wet one where two of you get in with 50 litres of water. A bit like being in a washing machine. (I assume!)

We then stumbled across a sign that said 'come and see our baby lions' ...so we did. It was the best decision ever. We were almost the only ones there so we had them to ourselves. They were really playful and

It's just a big washing machine...

It may look cute and cuddly...

How come every time we play 'Lions and antelopes' I have to be the antelope?
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Leah and Luka, 4 months old

were very rough. I got on my hands and knees to take a photo of one of them but unbeknown to me, the other stalked up behind and pounced on my back. Apparently I screamed like a girl... (hmm, unlikely). We got to know the The daddy. roaring like a... well, a big lion...

keeper chap and after closing he let us in to the adult lions compound to see them being put into their sleeping quarters for the night. We were 2ft away from a giant male lion roaring. Awesome. Didn't fancy wrestling him though...

 

Day 75 - Waitamo glowworm caves

Going into a cave to look at glowworms seemed a bit tame, so we did the extreme version which involved abseiling into a cave to look at glowworms and then being frozen to death.

It was called 'Blackwater rafting' so I assumed it was whitewater rafting in the dark - which sounded great. Instead it was paddling yourself along, sat in an inner tube, and then lots of pot-holing and swimming in freezing water.

The highlight was pouring warm coffee out of a flask into my wetsuit to try and delay my death from hypothermia.

Entering the cave on a 110ft abseil

 

Day 76 - Whitianga on the Coromandel peninsula
It started off a great day, then ended really badly. We went to a really scenic beach called cathedral cove which has a giant archway on the beach. There must have been a recent storm out to sea because the waves were huge and it was impossible to get through between each wave.

The chap who owned the hostel had a plane and he took us on a flight for just the fuel cost. He even let me fly it (this isn't where the day turned bad!)

Cathedral cove

Our new toy

Relaxed while I'm flying it Relaxed while I'm flying it...hmmm 30mins flying for 10 each!

Scolding water underfoot

Then in the evening we went to Hot Water Beach, where volcanic heat causes hot water to come out of the sand. It's only revealed at low tide and you have to dig your feet in before the next wave comes in. The waves were huge and every now and then a really big one would come in and send everyone scurrying up the beach. Foolishly we'd taken the camera with us (You're one step ahead already aren't you...?) Michelle was stood next to me while she fiddled with the camera. We weren't paying attention to the
Just one of the sore bits

absolute monster wave that came in unannounced. It was so big that it went over my head but I managed to stay standing, holding onto a rock. Worried about the camera, I looked to see if Michelle had somehow kept it dry, but the camera had vanished. And so had Michelle! She'd been bowled over and swept up the beach and into the rocks. She didn't stand a chance and was covered in scrapes and bruises. The camera was destroyed. For sale. One camera. Hardly used. One careful owner. Comes with free sand and salt all over the inside.

 

Extreme shell collecting...

Day 77 - 79: Paihia and Cape Regnia (the very top bit)
It's very pleasant, but not exactly exciting. A bit like Lands End I suppose. There are some giant trees there which were interesting. (Well as interesting as trees can get...)

Kauri tree with staircase inside

 

It wasn't cold, we just have a rubber fetish...

Day 80 - Diving Poor Knights Islands

Supposedly one of the top 10 dive sites in the world. Visibility was excellent, but having been spoilt on Ningaloo reef, there was nothing new here. Except stone fish which were quite cool.

A stone fish. Ok, so we didnt have an underwater camera...

 

Day 81 - 83: Auckland

Giant city. Not very exciting unless you're into big buildings and traffic congestion. You can jump off the Sky Tower fastened to a wire, but we've had to buy a new camera and we couldn't sell the car so we're a bit over budget, so we gave it a miss. (...and I've had enough of scaring myself!) There's more mozzies in our room than in the whole of Africa.
South America is next which promises to be cheaper and rougher. I've heard guinea pig sandwiches are even better than jam sandwiches...

Auckland's Sky Tower

 

Next country - Chile