A Travellerspoint blog

Best Of's

What we enjoyed the most

It's been tough to decide what we enjoyed the most. There was so much that we didn't get to due to not having enough time, such as the Tongariro Crossing - a 12-mile trek, often called "the best one-day hike in New Zealand". We'll have to go back!

Anyway, here's our top picks!

Top interesting places…
1 Everywhere, North & South Island (every corner was another Kodak moment)
2 Milford Sound, South Island
3 Franz Josef Glacier & Mount Cook, South Island
4 Bay of Islands, North Island
5 West coast, South Island
6 Haast Pass, South Island
7 Thermal pools, Rotorua, North Island
8 Caves, Waitomo, North Island
9 Queenstown, South Island
10 Napier, North Island

Top Activities...
1 Blackwater rafting, Waitomo, North Island
2 Hiking on the glacier, Franz Josef,South Island
3 Drive along 90 Mile Beach, North Island
4 Bungy jump, Queenstown, South Island
5 Sand surfing, 90 Mile Beach, North Island

Top eateries...
1 Crayfish & lasagna at Murrette & Gavin’s, Wellington (requires special invitation)
2 The Station, National Park, North Island
3 World Famous Fish Shop, Mangonui, North Island
4 Thai Restaurant, Kaikoura, South Island
5 Any place with stone grill service

Lastly, we've started a new battle cry... 'SA-TEN' - South America in 2010

Posted by Ali-Mike 16:44 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Auckland

City of Sails

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Due to our impending return to the frozen north, it became necessary to load up the Getz-mobile and begin making our way to Auckland for our homebound flight… but not too quick. The west side of the North Island remained unexposed to our inquisitive nature. But before the west coast could be enjoyed, we wanted to pay a visit to this little seaside town on the Tutukaka coast. Looking at the tourist info map that was given to us, it looked as though we could pass through it and continue south and westbound thereafter. After about an hour navigating the twisty turny back roads to reach this quaint settlement, we’re stopped at the bridge where the road on the other side continues. Unfortunately, the bridge was a foot bridge even though the map clearly shows the road crossing here. Questioning a local revealed that the only way around to the other side was to go back the way we came. We were tempted to use the carrying handle on top of our Getz but that would mean disrupting all of the people fishing and swimming from the bridge. Oh well, back from whence we came. Anyway, we still had plenty of time to get to Auckland. Here’s some snaps from around that area including surfers:

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Arriving in Auckland, we went to this hotel that had been recommended and the person behind the counter quoted us $20 more than we’d been told earlier. So we passed on this place and went to the i-Site (tourist info bureau) just around the corner from this hotel and see what they could suggest. So we were surprised when they suggested the same hotel and got us our original nightly rate. Now you’d figure that they’re gonna get a commission and that the hotel was perfectly willing to offer the room at a lower rate and pay a finder’s fee out of it. Ya gotta wonder why they didn’t just offer us a better rate to begin with. Anyway, we were back at their desk with our reservation in hand.

Auckland is a world class city and they’ve done a great job with their waterfront. The cruise ships bring throngs of tourists and there are lots to see and do. Our one day and night in this city wasn’t enough. Here’s some pics from around Auckland:

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It just by pure coincidence happened that the boat show was on, so a trip to the waterfront was next. The yachts that they had here were big… I mean huge… and expensive. Some of these beauties were 150’+. Ouch on the pocketbook! So, no new boat… yet!

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They also have the New Zealand KZ1 built by the kiwis to challenge the 1988 America’s Cup. 116’ length, 26’ beam, 21’ draft and 38 ton displacement. The San Diego Yacht Club responded by entering a 60’ cat. Of course the kiwi boat was soundly beaten when put against a cat. Lots of legal battles ensued from this challenge. Now the boat’s mounted at the waterfront by the Marine Museum in Auckland.

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We were also treated to a look at Rainbow Warrior, operated by Green Peace.

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Dinner: They have these restaurants in Zland that offer what’s called a ‘stone grill’. This is basically a piece of ceramic heated up and they put a piece of raw sirloin on it and bring it out with all the fixin’s on the side. You cut off a piece and grill it ceramic until it’s just the way you like it. From there, it goes nice and sizzling right into a salivating mouth. So they offered a 200g side of sirloin… not big enough. They also offer a 400g size… still not enough. I pigged on a ½ kg of prime angus beef. I ate the whole thing with all the fixin’s. Alison was aghast when I suggested dessert. Anyway, the cost for this meal was ~$23cdn.

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One of Auckland main attractions is a tower right downtown just like we have. We call ours the CN Tower; they call theirs Sky Tower. Ours is bigger which explains why they bill theirs as the tallest free standing structure in the SOUTHERN hemisphere. Cost to go up to the top is $25, but if you go to the revolving restaurant, all you gotta spend is $20 and you still get to play at the top. Nothing better than Chocolate Mousse, a good merlot and watching Auckland below go past our table. Our last night in Zland: Can it get any better?

Here’s a pic of someone taking the jump off the tower’s observation deck – ya, they actually sell tickets for this. You’re suspended by cables for the 630’ drop. You’re supposed to get a 14 second rush of free fall. You can just make out the person (spec) and the cables.

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Alison didn’t want to me to mention this, but when she was packing for this trip, she managed to grab two right shoes from her stockpile of footware. She shlepped these puppies half way ‘round the world and couldn’t wear them. Poor girl!

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In the morning, we’ll be sitting on our suitcases to get them to close again… something that we haven’t had to do since we left Toronto one month ago. Time has flown! Our last entry which we’ll post once we get back is to make our list of the Best Of's for our time in New Zealand. You know: best meals, best adventures, yadda, yadda.

Posted by Ali-Mike 14:27 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Aye, aye Cap’n Glen

A sailing we will go…

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New Zealand offered so much in the way of activities and scenic vistas that we’d not focused on sailing at the Bay of Islands. We’re coming down to our last days here and it seemed that our trip here would not be complete without some sailing, even if it was just a day sail. It would have to do. We found a 40ft Whiting, a boat we’ve never heard of before. Turns out it’s a locally designed boat similar to Catalinas back in the 80’s. So, the two of us and eight other soon to be newest friends boarded the boat. While it was nice to get out on the water, enjoy a little bit of snorkeling and sea kayaking, it wasn’t much of an adventure. Sure the boat was sturdy. Sure we had ~10 knots or wind with flat seas and an abundance of sunshine. Sure the skipper let me play at the helm, but the other crew on board were more interested in sunning on the foredeck than actually sailing, so Cap’n Glen kept the boat understandably reined in. Where was the rail in the water, ocean spraying over the deck? Yawn!

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We stopped at a pristine beach for lunch which consisted of bread and water. Well, OK, sandwiches. This seems to be a common type lunch here in Zland. Having suspected that, we came better prepared. One bottle of Merlot and lots of chocolate. We shared the Merlot with other eager glasses, but nada on our chocolate.

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Scenery from the top of the hill in our bay.
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That's our boat, the one at the front.

The sail back was a little more interesting as our good skipper was talked into hoisting the spinnaker. Maybe there’ll yet be some excitement. We actually got that boat to 7.5 knots, but no spray which I’m sure would have caused hollering and howling from the crew baking up at the pointy end. It was a little more exciting. Probably the highlight of the trip was sailing by the blue penguins that were floating in the water. No dolphins, but there were some rays and Cap’n Glen claimed to have spotted a shark although I didn’t see it.

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Not sure yet where we’re heading to tomorrow. It’ll be southbound toward Auckland. Only thing we know at this point is that we have to catch our flight home on Sunday evening.

Posted by Ali-Mike 11:51 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Playing in Paihia

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The weather’s looking good for the next number of days. Now we can head back to Paihai and enjoy the sun and play in the Bay of Islands. Since Paihai (the center of all things touristy in the Bay of Islands) is only 70km from Doubtless Bay where we were and with a full tank of gas and being on the road at 9am (thanks Alison), we decided to take the long way back, through the Kauri forests on the West Coast. Just the drive over to the West Coast, through the Mangamuka Gorge was worth it. Through the curvy switchbacks, I managed to get the Getz-mobile’s tires screeching in my right ear and Alison screaming in my left. She swears that the two wheels on her side were getting air. Another biff and schmuck from Alison - after she unclenched her hands from the door and dash. Hope they don’t notice the claw marks on the dash when we return the car.

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This traverse along the West Coast included catching a ferry that runs once an hour according to our guide book. We raced to the ferry landing having 18 km and 15 minutes to do it in – you do the math. We caught up to another car going the same way and cursed since there was no way to pass on that winding road. Following him, we joked that his car would be going onto a 20 car ferry with 19 already parked onboard. With only seconds to spare, our two cars came up on the ferry ramp and guess what: there was only room for one more car. But the Year of Mike was strong with our Getz and the ferry man waved us on as well, but sideways. I’m obviously over-estimating the size of our Getz.

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Where in the world is Alison? Can you spot the Getz-mobile?

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We went to see the Four Sisters. No, not the nuns from the Old Convent who would be seeking my repentance – probably due to the pear tree and sheep fiasco. No, these are massive Kauri trees. And I mean massive – just the trunks are over 40m high (and that’s not counting the canopy) and 13m in diameter. Now that’s a lot of firewood, or chairs if you’re a salivating furniture maker. We’ve got pics but they just don’t capture the size of these babies.

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Tomorrow, we have a sailboat chartered for the day. We’d initially thought we’d have enough time to go out for three or four days, but Zland had so much to offer. Anyway, we’re gonna get to sail lots in a few months back home. That’s if I can get all the new gear installed and working.

Posted by Ali-Mike 12:07 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Life is a beach…

… the longer the better

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The northern most point of Zland is Cape Reinga. Since our rental car company had explicitly banner us from taking our Getz-mobile up that’a way, we booked ourselves onto one of those touristy ‘adventures’. You know, the one where they stop at every trinket and bauble and toilet facility along the way. It amazes me that people actually want to (or have to) stop at each and every place and browse through the debris being offered. Why can’t people ‘have gone’ before gettin’ on the bus or why not go all at once at one stop? Anyway, after 100+km up the winding road we reached the head land. And what a spectacular view! I guess we can forgive all those fellow ‘adventurers’ for having to line up at each souvenir place to buy their ice cream and memorabilia.

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A lunch on the beach was included and Alison and I took the opportunity to frolic a bit in the surf. Water wasn’t as cold as I’d expected.

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For the return trip, our driver took a side road which ended at a river bed and promptly wheeled us out onto it. Like there was water flowing under us. This, it seemed, was the start of our way home. Imagine, us in a 50+ seat Greyhound dawdling along past a 4x4 who was going the other way. The look on his face said that he’d now seen it all. We took a turn and next moment were thundering along at the bus’s top speed of 90 clicks, the surf crashing on our right as we headed south along the beach.

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Admiring the giant sand dunes that we were passing by, we then stopped and the driver disappeared into a back compartment. OK, we all know about snow tobogganing, but sand tobogganing? What better way to come down a sand dune? After one hell of a climb up one of the monster dunes, we lay on a surf board on our bellies and with head pointed downhill, let loose. What a blast! We had two goes at that, with Alison doing a face plant into the sand on the last run. And she’s still finding sand in places that the sun don’t shine.

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Posted by Ali-Mike 11:57 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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