Almost into my 3rd month here and feeling the pressure as I only have a month left in NZ! Poor me eh? Have been doing so much and loving it all - so here I am already almost in the middle of the north island having been to Wellington and Napier and Taupo - where I'm sending this from -in the last week!
Wellington was a shock after the south island - a big city although it has much less than 1million people - (just checked and its 164,000 in the city and 424,000 in the region) I had a very rough ferry ride across Cook Strait but thanks to gravol managed to survive - Wellington has a wonderful water front/ harbour with its highlight being the TePapa museum - the Monet exhibition was there so not only did I get amazing NZ history art and culture but a look at some great impressionist art - -I visited the mueseum 3 times int he 4 days I was there it was so great - lots of interactive computer driven displays - really loved it! Also0 loved the botanical gardens and the fact that the city is surrounded by hills so the views are great - the botanical gardens were up the hill of course! Also visited the Kaori Sanctuary which is a place in the city where they have put a rodent/psssum/cat proof fence aound the 9km perimeter and now have all these birds and the Tuatara which is a lizzard from prehistoric times native to NZ - actually saw them mating so that was super cool - saw brown teal which is one of the most rare ducks in the world with its 5 little ducklings - unfortunately while we were standing there a black backed gull descended and scooped up one of the babies - endangered indeed - guess the fence doesn't keep seagulls out! It was sickening.
I was the only one on the 2 hour tour and it was great - there are more of these sanctuaries being developed using this special fencing - there are lots of kiwi there but I didn't see them because it was still daylight - lots of Tui, Kea the native parrot, heard the grey warbler and the saddleback. Also went for a wonder bike ride - about 40 km around the waterfront - past surfing beaches and little waterfront communities - I had been told about this ride by the owner Adrienne at Miners Bay, one of the places I stayed on the Queen Chalotte track - it was really a highlight too.
I stayed at the Cambridge Hotel in Wellington - thought that was approprite - it actually is a backpacker place - $23 a night in a dorm room - can't beat that in the middle of a big city with kitchen facilities -
Left there to take the bus to Napier which is the art deco town - It was hit with a bad earthquake in 1931 and all the brick buildings downtown were levelled so it was rebuilt at the time of art deco - this has now become their great tourist attraction - The other thing to see around there is a huge gannet colony - so cyled back to Clive and out to where the road ends and then walked along the beach to Cape Kidnappers which is where the birds are - the beach walk was tide dependent byut fortunately fit with my schedule! It was about 25km ride each way and must have been at least 8km walk each way as I was really striding it out to get back to Napier in time for the art deco tour! Made it in time! Not a moment of that day wasted either and I did get the idea that this retirement thing is work! I love it!
So since then I arrived here in Taupo which has the largest lake in NZ - the former crater of one of the volcanoes - of which there are lots around here - in fact yesterday I did the Tongararo Alpine crossing - Bus picked me up from the hostel at 6.15 - started on the trail about 8.15 - its a 20km walk with 850m elevation over old volcanic craters and past still active volcanoes - smoking vents and tourquoise sulphur pools - quite challenging but not as bad as I had been led to believe - not a wilderness experience though - there must have been more than 500 people walking the track - a steady stream of people - like they were on their way to Mecca! Super neat coming down and seeing the vegetation go from virtually nothing, getting taller and taller and then literally walking through a "gate" into the native bush - and beside a bubbling stream -
Lovely day -
Today I met up with Lottie who I went to Norwich High School with - she lives in Taupo and we both marvelled that we had grown to be well functioning adults in spite of Bartho! She has lived here since 1974. We had quite a bit in common so that was a good visit.
So I have missed the bit out between Golden Bay and Wellington and it was lovely too - I loved Nelson as a city - again on the water with hills all around - nice downtown area, lovely market and one of the things they are famous for is the WOW display - Wearable Art - a crazy fashion show that was established there and now happens each year in Wellington - much to the displeasure of the local Nelson people. Inspiring costumes of all sorts - I loved it!
Actaully went to Circu Oz which was in town - thinking of Laura and the circus in Vancouver and of course Cirque de Soliel - was not quite that! in fact costumes and presentation were a bit disapointing - have been spoiled in the circus department I fear - it was nice to be out with the locals though! Also stopped for a recommended pub the "Sprig and Fern" - best beer ever and next door is a pizza and fish and chip shop which will bring your order over to the pub! what a neat idea! Unfortunately I didn't have time to do tht as I was going to the show but I did have a great chat with a local guy who was a cyclist etc - people are so friendly and the place seems full of "my sort of men"!
Headed down to Nelson Lakes the next day and stayed there - hiked up Mount Roberts and had wonderful views and a great alpine experience - would have liked longer up there - anyway it was lovely - the only thing that did make it a bit different was that the jet boat competions were there so the town wasn't quite as quiet as usual! Another element of NZ all together with lots of motor bikes and big 4wd trucks!
Back to Picton to regroup and organize to head over to Wellington - Stayed at Dee's again whcih was great and got invited to a real NZ barbie - including white bait - not bbq'd though - quite delicious little skinny things which you eat eyes an all - lovely hospitality from Joan and Scott -
Left the next moring on the rough ferry!
So think I'm up to date - a brief version of course - not going to bother proof reading so excuse the misteaks!