A Travellerspoint blog

Taupo: move on please, there's nothing for you here!

After a morning stroll around Rotorua's very picturesque lakefront walk in the mildly sulphurous air its back on the bus to head towards Taupo on the shore on New Zealands largest lake.
Outside of Rotorua we pass through a large area of geothermal activity where a significant amount of power is generated. Next stop en route is a hot sulphurous mud pool where the popping of the heavy mud is accompanied by large amounts of steam and occasional photogenic patterns in the muds surface.

Mud, mud, glorious mud

Mud, mud, glorious mud


The mudpools give birth to a ninja turtle

The mudpools give birth to a ninja turtle


During the last few days there had been much talk of the forthcoming adrenalin fuelled adventures and, due to its reputedly fantastic scenery from great heights, the Fool had decided to try a tandem freefall jump in Taupo. Unfortunately as we approached the town we received news that the weather had deteriorated and that, due to increasingly high winds, all sky based activities had been cancelled - a crushing disappointment and yet quite a relief too.

Onwards into the Taupo area where we encounter the powerful Huka Falls.

Huka Falls from above

Huka Falls from above


The Fool at the business end of the falls

The Fool at the business end of the falls


Although only 11 metres high these falls focus the mighty Waikato River into a channel about 20 metres wide resulting in a powerful and fast flow which, every three seconds, delivers enough water to fill an olympic swimming pool, probably a bit quicker that Thames Water will achieve during the forthcoming 2012 games!
Whilst at the falls we are visited by our guide for tomorrows proposed Tongariro Alpine Crossing, possibly the highlight activity of the whole North Island. He explained that, with it being winter and that the route is across the mountains, the conditions can be very dangerous and can change extremely quickly - despite these warnings a show of hands revealed a 100% take up from the bus. At this point he said that he would see us very very early the next morning with a weather and status update and then he departed, presumably to prepare some ropes and sharpen the ice axes.
Safely ensconced in the new hostel its time to chow down on the cheap meal cooked by the hostel staff and to watch the last of the 3 test series between the All Blacks and the plucky Irish. As it happened this was a massively one sided affair with the Kiwis routing the Paddys, bad news for the pragmatic Karen Duffy but even worse for Lisa who had travelled to Hamilton for the game!!
Despite the impending early start Miss P leads a group of us to a new Irish pub where shots and cocktals flow, local pool experts are hustled by Sophie and the Fool, and Oily Bastard Rich focuses all of his snake-oil salesman charms on Katharina for the evening.
Returning at a modest hour the Fool climbs into his bunk only to discover a handwritten note purporting to be from his nemesis and stalker, Jessica. For full details of this "note" readers will have to trace the photo posted by Rich Brown as the whole episode still causes this scribe involuntary shudders.
Scary message from the Uruk-hai

Scary message from the Uruk-hai


Not so bright but very early next morning (5.30am) some of us have stumbled down to the lounge/kitchen to be met by our grim faced guide who advised us that, regretably, the crossing was cancelled due to 80kph winds which were expected to increase along with a deterioration in the weather during the day. Whilst some returned to bed at least those following the Euro footie had the consolation that we were able to see another live game.
Spirits suitably subdued we passed a quiet few hours until it was all aboard the skylark to drive, with an unusually quiet Miss P. to Tongariro National Park. So long Taupo, site of cancellations 2 & 3 and easily the most disappointing stop so far (and with hindsight, of the whole trip). Heres hoping that things look up when we descend on the Tongariro National Park.

Posted by RoystonBoyston 18:15 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Stray tour - Raglan - Waitomo - Rotorua

Caves, glow worms and the cancellations begin!

An early start sees us piled into the bus and headed off to the caves at Waitomo, famous for their glow worms and 100 metre deep caves. Whilst most of us opt for black water rafting (sitting in a big inner tube floating down underground waterways) Rich and Briggita chose the more adventurous Lost World tour which included the 100 metre abseil and assorted ladder and rock climbing.
Suited and booted for the caves

Suited and booted for the caves


We were driven into the hills, stopped off to don very snug wetsuits and rubber wellies and then marched across some fields to the mouth of the cave complex. Our guide wasnt kidding when he said the entrance was tight - something akin to a condom clad member entering a virginal passage. Once down in the cave we fumble along various terrain types (water, silt, rocks, stalagmites) whilst being enlightened about various formations that have been created over the millenia, this was very enjoyable as well as informative. Further along the underground trail we negotiated assorted depths of flowing water which progressively invaded our wetsuits (more so for the shorter members of our group) before turning off our head torches and seeing our first glow worms in the overhead.

N.B. please note that it is at this point that we are advised that New Zealand tourism has been very flexible with the truth and that these glow worms are in fact fly larvae who use their glowing waste products to attract their prey into strands of web hanging underneath them! Still, you cant argue that they glowed!!!

Onwards we battled until we reached the part of the trip where we sat in tractor inner tubes and drifted along with the current under a canopy of twinkling fly butts! After a rest stop (which included hot orange fanta and a couple of Freddo chocolate frog bars each) we all squeezed through a small, dark, angled, rock passage which our guide likened to experiencing "rebirth"!
Our route underground

Our route underground


Due to high water levels we were unable to raft the last part of the course so, after more clambering over water formed terrain and bodysurfing down skittle alley, the finally see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel and clamber into the afternoon sun. After shedding our sartorially elegant rubber outfits its back to the caving HQ to resist the temptation to pay a small fortune for a few pictures and then hop on the bus to continue our tour.
As a new experience I can wholeheartedly recommend this tour however blackwater rafting doesnt quite live up to the expectations conjoured up by the name.
They have a road sign for everything here!

They have a road sign for everything here!


Disappointingly our numbers at Raglan the previous evening were insufficient for us to book the traditional Maori experience at Maketu so we headed to Rotorua where we enjoyed an evening in the Crash Palace hostel, firstly in their outdoor hot tub (nice) and then in the dining area where they kindly provided a drum and base DJ who appeared to have at least 4 tracks that he spun out for a couple of hours, followed by a comfortable nights sleep in a warm dorm (except for Rich who followed the DJ to his night job in a local bar, returning in the small hours to collapse, fully clothed, on his bunk.

Posted by RoystonBoyston 21:25 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

The Stray Cats start to strut

On the orange bus around the islands

sunny

Wednesday night, back from the Coromandel with Richard, Pete and Piglet, I find myself in the library in Auckland trying to catch up with everything in the modern technological world.  Lei Tan and his laptop enable me to transfer some photos, tunes and films onto the trusty tablet but the nagging desire to keep moving on cannot be ignored so its back to Base to book myself onto the Stray Tour starting the next morning.

After a final meal with Lei (who may or may not be back in China when I arrive later in the year) its a very early start where I meet our bus driver, Davina aka Miss P, Lisa, Holly, Rich and the rest of our group.
Miss P our driver and guide!

Miss P our driver and guide!


First stop is the Bridal Veil falls, very picturesque and a huge hint of what is to come for the rest of the trip (New Zealand has many, many, many waterfalls which present photo ops for us travellers).
The falls in all their glory

The falls in all their glory

Refreshing

Refreshing


Raglan, famous for its surf, laid back vibe and some great views. Sadly I missed catching up with Hubble due to Facebook Lag, ( something I was destined to experience on a number of occasions in the future).
Most of our crew at Raglan

Most of our crew at Raglan


Our time in Raglan was somewhat brief, in town long enough for a coffee and some crisps and 5 minutes of free wifi outside the library before we are driven to the hostel out in the hills. Our hostel was hidden in a bush setting and was a pretty cool place after the factory that was Base Auckland.
Some of the famous Raglan rollers

Some of the famous Raglan rollers


After checking in we headed to "Inspiration Point" which failed miserably to live up to its name/billing followed by a jaunt down to the shore to watch the breakers ridden by a few hardy rubber clad surfers. Back at the hostel its time to check out the small but very effective sauna followed by a bloody freezing cold outside shower. Evening repast devoured and its off to bed to prepare for the glow worm caves tomorrow!

Posted by RoystonBoyston 19:50 Comments (0)

Daytrip to Devonport

sunny

Last full day in Auckland and its on with the sea legs and board the ferry for the short hop over to Devonport on the north shore.
Can you tell what I want to see today?

Can you tell what I want to see today?


Devonport quayside

Devonport quayside


A delightful and quaint little place with a village feel, the main street is easy to navigate and heads to the base of Mt Victoria. Just 15 minutes after docking the Fool stands atop the old volcano soaking up both the glorious afternoon sunshine and the sumptuous 360 degree view of the whole Waitamata Harbour area. The old fortifications up there include a massive 64 pounder muzzle-loaded gun emplacement which was installed to fend off the Russian navy many moons ago and air vents for the underground fortifications cunningly disguised as the mushrooms from Super Mario!!
Super Mario Bros world?

Super Mario Bros world?


Old school Citroen for sale - any takers?

Old school Citroen for sale - any takers?


Following part of Old Devonport Walk I chanced upon an old french Citroen and,  never one to miss on a photo opportunity, I whipped out the old point & click machine. From behind me a ladies voice posed the question of would I like to buy it? Turns out that she is the owner and may be open to offers on her ancient gallic jalopy. Having explained my situation as a traveller and politely declining to bid on the car I headed off back down the hill towards town and some more points of interest along  the walk.

Arriving a little late to tour the recently opened Naval Museum I settled instead for a coffee and the chance to capture a great sunset as the golden orb descended beneath the horizon close to the Mountain. Once the sun had gone the temperature plummeted sufficiently for the Fool to hotfoot it back to the ferry terminal and back into the bosom of Auckland City Centre for the last evening.
Now that is a sunset!

Now that is a sunset!


Top jaunt that in winter would merit a good half day followed by a warming mug of hot chocolate back in Auckland.

Posted by RoystonBoyston 23:12 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Coromandel calling

Roy and Richie's Roadtrip

Friday finally arrived, the Spanish had effectively sent the plucky Irish home from the Euros and I checked out of Base Hostel in Auckland to start south.

Rich decided I needed some cultural imput so after a couple of cheeky beers we did a tour of the museum which is quite rightly lauded for its Maori collection - any museum that includes a full size meeting hut and a 30 metre war canoe gets my vote.

After swinging out to collect Laurence, a top Samoan mate of Rich's, we headed off to the Coromandel peninsula and the family holiday home. The road to Coromandel quite literally hugs the  rugged coast so the ride in the back of his Integra was a little cramped and quite exciting in the dusk - almost rally like in fact as we chased a 4 wheel drive pick up towing a wide trailer through a fine sunset.
Sunset on the way down

Sunset on the way down


Even though we arrived in the dark the first impression of this holiday home was BIG, it has 6 or 7 bedrooms, an amazing top floor room with panoramic views and sits about 70 metres from the beach - wow!  The first evening consisted of wine tasting and playing cards, between the three of us we managed to taste the entire contents of 5 reds and a white, Rich proved to be the King of cards playing Arsehole and numerous smokes of varying exotic content were puffed by the boys before munchies were satisfied by some excellent pasta. . . . . . and so to bed to the sound of the ocean (ps it gets right cold at night so remember to wear an extra layer).
Richie's back yard!

Richie's back yard!


Saturday was kick back and relax day, mooching on the beach, taking photos and taking in the views lit by another warm winter sun.
Beach fishing

Beach fishing


On the beach was a motorised fishing set up that consisted of a 2km drum of line that had been anchored in the sand and the baited hooks had been dragged about 1700 metres offshore by a battery powered "sub" that looked like a floating torpedo with a flag on it. The rig also had an electric motor attached, whilst we were mooching about the owners came onto the beach in their pickup, connected up the battery and consumed some cold beers while the motor chugged away for about 25 minutes.
Supper has landed

Supper has landed


Eventually the hooks started to come ashore and the catch was revealed - 2 snappers (one large), a couple of hammerhead sharks (returned) and 3 decent sized kahawai, one of which was offered to the Fool for supper. Rich and Laurence returned to Auckland leaving me in the beach house to fend for myself.
At this point I would like to advise that there is an art to filleting a fish and that the kahawai is a tough seafaring fish - lacking both technical skills and a very sharp knife to cut the said fish into delicate pieces I think that as a fishmonger I would make a great butcher! Still, butter, lemon juice and a hot pan resulted in a fine fish supper.
Nice, neat fillets

Nice, neat fillets


Sunday saw the return of Rich with Pete in tow, along with provisions for the next couple of days. Another fine day we decided to venture to onto the beach, followed by some further cards, alcohol (starting with mohitos and ending with rum & cokes), exotic smoking grasses and a decent dinner.
Monday saw a change in the weather with winds, cloud and a moody sea. A quiet day was spent chilling and using the laundry facilities followed by evening of barbeque, smokes and alcohol.
the boys on barbie night

the boys on barbie night


A fine day to leave

A fine day to leave


Tuesday opened with really poor weather and a return to Auckland beckoned for various commitments (like returning Pete to the bosom of his family) but not until we had visited Whitianga for fish and chips and a drive. The journey back to the city was just as much like a video rallycross game as our outward one but as ever Rich was more than happy to show off his considerable skills whilst Pete slept in the back!
Pete sleeps through the bends in the road home

Pete sleeps through the bends in the road home


Returning to Base hostel for the last time I was determined to sort out onward travel asap and booked my place on the Stray bus with a Moe pass for thursday morning.
A big thank you to Rich for his generous hospitality and my thoughts and best wishes go out to his family re his very poorly gran - Rich, good luck with the studies, Bunny and life in general.

Posted by RoystonBoyston 02:53 Comments (0)

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