Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Part Two - New Zealand, North Island

New Zealand trip outline:
Days - 12
Places visited - Auckland, Bay of Islands, Raglan, Lake Taupo, Wellington, Blenheim/wineries, Franz Joseph glacier, Queenstown, and Christchurch
Active pursuits - kayaking, surfing, fishing, glacier hiking, golfing
Miles covered - approx. 1800

We left for New Zealand 5/28, Thursday morning. It was a great feeling to get out of Tonga for the first time since we came last October. We love it here, but really needed a break. When we stepped out of the Auckland airport the weirdest feeling was the air - it was so thin and crisp, unlike our hot muggy air all the time we’ve gotten used to. Walking through the airport I also noticed the soft cushy feeling of carpet I hadn’t felt for so long. And everyone was whizzing around, hurriedly trying to get to their destination. I guess we’ve gotten used to the slower pace in Tonga, no one ever speed walks here. Our first two nights of the trip in Auckland we stayed at a five-star hotel, the Langham, it was amazing. We all went into town and shopped a little, it already felt really cold and knowing the south would be colder I found a cheap winter coat at a thrift store and a warm fleece at the Warehouse. Lisa’s boyfriend flew in later that first night, and we went out to eat at Davinci’s right across the street from the hotel. The next morning we had the buffet breakfast at the hotel, it was delicious! I filled up my plate as full as I could and stuffed my purse with leftovers. Then we did some more shopping, and caught the ferry to Devonport, a cute little town on a peninsula across from Auckland. We walked around there and had lunch on a sidewalk patio. Then spent time in the hotel’s hot tub before going back to the waterfront in town for dinner at Foxes Irish Pub, the food there was really good, I had a salami and cheese melted sandwich.
On Saturday, the third day of our 12 day trip, we picked up our huge campervan and drove up to the Bay of Islands, about 4 hours north of Auckland. The campervan was really nice inside, with a table sitting area in front and another in the back with a kitchen, and had three beds (Lisa or Adam took turns sleeping on the floor on a mattress but it fit all six of us pretty well). The ride was really bumpy, the vehicle was so huge that it swung all around. But it worked good for getting all of us around, and for sleeping in. On the way up to Bay of Islands we stopped in a little town for lunch and had really good pizza, and we stopped at Abbey Caves just before dusk. It was a little hike down to the caves, but was worth it. Inside the cave there were lots of glow worms, they look like little specks on the top of the cave that glow a neon green/blue. The drive up was really pretty, lots of fern trees and lush tropical looking forests and hills. We pulled in after dark to the Beach View Holiday Park and stayed in the campervan that night. The Holiday Parks were pretty nice, and cheap at $15 to $20 NZ a person throughout New Zealand. They all had hot showers, laundry area, common kitchen area and plug-ins for campervans. The next morning we got up and us, Lisa and Adam hiked a little trail from the campsite towards town with pretty views of the Bay and some islands and beach area. Then we met up with my parents in the campervan and drove into town, Paihia, it was a cute touristy town. We found a place along the bay to rent kayaks for only $10NZ/hour per person and all went out kayaking, Brett and I did a double kayak. We made it out to a little island then turned back as it started to rain a little, but it was fun. We had lunch in the campervan on the side of the road, then headed south to Raglan, on the west coast of the north island. It’s a well-known town for surfing. On the way we stopped at a pretty waterfall. Since it’s fall now in New Zealand a lot of the trees were changing colors- red, yellow, oranges, and loosing their leaves. It was pretty and nice to see a change of season since we don’t really get that here. In this trip and coming back to Tonga we’ve had three seasons in just a couple weeks - fall, winter to summer!

We got to Raglan around 9 or 10:00pm and were starving since we couldn’t find any little towns with restaurants open that late - it was Sunday night. We checked into a hotel that someone had recommended to us in Auckland, called the Palm View motel, we got the last unit. It was a one-bedroom with kitchen and living area, and a couple beds in the living area so we stayed in there with Lisa and Adam and my parents in the campervan. We ran into town and found a restaurant on the main street, they had really good burgers. All over New Zealand we realized they don’t heat places like we do in the States. A lot of restaurants and stores weren’t even heated, or had little space heaters, and they don’t heat hallways or bathrooms sometimes. In the restaurant in Raglan they had those pole heaters you usually see outside, inside the restaurant to heat it. Our campervan also only heated the front cabin, and not the back area where we all sat. So a lot of the trip we felt a little cold. On Monday morning we headed towards the beaches just north of Raglan, and Lisa, Adam and my dad all rented surf boards from Raglan Surf School for really cheap. I couldn’t believe they made it out into the ocean, it was freezing!! My mom, Brett and I were bundled up in winter coats and hats on the beach watching them in their wetsuits surfing. The beach was really pretty, darker sand and really wide beach area, and big hills behind it- we were at Wainui Reserve. Afterwards we went back and had lunch in Raglan at a cheap cafeteria style place, then headed to Lake Taupo in the middle of the north island. We stayed that night in our campervan at DeBrett’s resort/camping where they had hot springs pools, spent time in the hot springs then went out to eat in town.

That next day in Lake Taupo the guys went out fishing on a boat in the lake for trout, and Lisa, my mom and I shopped around town and had crepes and coffee. The views around the huge lake were pretty, snow-capped mountains. The guys came back with three rainbow trout which we later cooked up on the roadside on our way out of town. They turned out really good - steam cooked them with brown sugar and lemon pepper. We drove all the way down to Wellington that afternoon, I think it was around 6 hours or so, we got to the coast after dark. We stayed at Halswell Lodge in Wellington, they had 2-bedroom units with a kitchen. We had dinner at the Capitol just down the street from the hotel, it was one of the best meals, really gourmet looking plates. I had a ravioli and Brett had risotto, it was nice to not have to cook meals and eat out!

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