A Travellerspoint blog

Wellington

sunny 22 °C

Having slept rather uncomfortably the night before, E-J was exhausted and Sam wasn't much better, but we decided to head off early to try and get to Wellington for mid morning.

The journey was pretty smooth with E-J singing along as the CD player blurted out "There may be trouble ahead". If only we realised how significant that tune would be. By 11am we were in the city centre. We decided to park it in a multi story car park, we figured that it would be safer in an indoor place rather than out on display for the whole of Wellington to see. As we drove past the two men standing at the front desk we enquired whether it would be all right to park the campervan there. Being as cheery as all New Zealanders we had met so far, they gave us a warm smile and said, "yes it's fine, it's fine, have a good day". The next obstacle was then finding a parking space as the place was chocker blocked, but as we reached near to the top, some spaces became available. We then did our usual check that all the windows and doors were locked and nothing of any value was out on display. In hindsight, we wished we'd locked our bags together with a chain like we usually did but for some reason, whether it was because we were tired or distracted, we forgot.

For the next four hours we wandered around the city taking in the sights and spending some much needed catch up time on the internet.

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At about 3pm, we headed back to the car park, wanting to move the car to a less expensive parking space where we had seen a load of campervans while walking around. As we walked up the levels, Sam managed to walk out onto the wrong floor and in a panicked voice, said the van had gone. E-J, more reassuringly told him to calm down as it was on the next level.

As we walked to the van, we were joking away about our equally terrible driving skills and the challenge of managing twenty more days in the van without any major incidents. We didn't notice a thing. It was only when E-J jumped into the drivers seat and as she slammed the door, heard the shattering of glass. Shocked by the noise, she turned round to see that the two back windows had been smashed in and all our bags had gone. All she could say was, 'Our bags, our bags, they're gone...."

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The next hour or so seemed a bit like a blur as Sam contacted the police. A sweet girl who happened to be there when we discovered the break in, went down to contact the staff on the bottom floor. The two staff were already aware of the situation as they had already been up there and cleaned all the glass away from around the outside of the car. This explains why we didn't notice the damage at first, but also makes us wonder why they didn't think to contact the police when the break in was first realised.

E-J at this point was in a state of shock, but Sam took control, giving a full account to the police, the car hire company and insurance. What E-J couldn't believe was that the police said there was no point in coming to the crime scene as only the windows had been smashed and as there was no blood anywhere, they wouldn't be able to find any fingerprints.

E-J started to take things into her own hands, walking into the offices next door, where she had noticed people having cigarette breaks in the car park. She started to ask whether anyone had seen anything, but sadly to no prevail. She then proceeded to walk around the building checking all the rubbish bins and in the alleyways around the building, but she found nothing.

The irony was that these buggers hadn't bothered to look in the glove box where they would have found an ipod of value. We had also hidden our passports and credit cards in a separate compartment that they hadn't bothered to look in either, so all that they had was a load of worthless clothes and junk, but to us it was priceless memorabilia.

By now it was 4:45pm and we had to drive the car round to a garage by 5pm. Getting slightly lost, Sam started swearing at all traffic as E-J sat in the passenger seat with tears of disbelief and heartache.

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All we were left with is what can be seen in the picture above, simply the items that we hadn't packed away. We wish we'd been a little messier, so that more would have been left...

We took what possessions we had and headed to a nearby hostel. All we had with us were our camera, passports and wallets, two sleeping bags, a jacket and two jumpers and the clothes we were wearing that day. Poor Sam was in a t-shirt and shorts and to add insult to injury, he wasn't wearing any underwear!

The next struggle was trying to find a hostel, as everything was booked up. On our final attempt we finally got into a twelve bed dorm, which we knew would be pretty unpleasant.

A few more insurance calls later and one more large check around the car park, we then retreated to a bar to drown our sorrows. Our two glum faces attracted the attention of two girls, called Sue and Sina. On hearing our story these two proud Wellingtonians couldn't believe it. They insisted on showing us the proper Wellington the following evening and offered us the chance to stay in their home.

That night we both slept badly. With the robbery still fresh in our minds and sharing a dorm with loud, drunk eighteen year olds meant E-J started the day at five thirty.

The next day was all about organising ourselves and realising just how much needed to be replaced. This ranged from the mundane items such as buying pants and everyday basic clothes to buying something to be able to wash with. After a day of painful chores, speaking to our banks about security issues, picking up the campervan (which now had perspex in place of the glass windows) and dealing with the ever-unhelpful insurance companies, we managed an hour and a half of intense shopping. This is when we constantly saw the genuine sympathy of the Kiwi public. So many people took it upon themselves to help us; the pharmacist gave us a load of free sachets of cleansers, shampoos, etc, the jean shop gave Sam a good discount on his jeans, the phone company gave us a free charger and Sina, one of the girls from the night before provided us both with two rucksacks to put our new belongings in.

Feeling as though we had hit rock bottom, we finally met up with Sue and Sina. With it being Friday night they insisted on showing us the town and raised our moods straight away with a few drinks in the pub before we headed to see the local rugby team, the Wellington Hurricanes.

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When we got there the queues for tickets were enormous but somehow we were luckily able to get tickets quickly. We then found our seats and with a few beers watched the Wellington Hurricanes beat the Queensland Reds.

Although the game wasn't the most incredible, E-J thought there was something special about being at a live game and feeling the atmosphere of the stadium. E-J also complained constantly about how poor the teams cheerleaders were and how she would be so much better. Sam observed as E-J's views on this opinion became stronger and stronger with each glass of white wine she had. As we left the ground E-J danced through the aisles ready to hit the town!

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After the match we made our way back into town to enjoy some more drinks. In the first bar we stopped in we happened to bump into Graham Henry, the All Black coach, which was an incredible feat for Sam. With Sam trying to talk to him about the new laws being introduced, E-J insisted on telling "Henry Graham" how she had been robbed! Sadly for Sam this ensured Graham wanted to make a quick exit! Then afterwards Sam explained to E-J who he was, as she had no idea.

The rest of the night was spent enjoying more drinks and E-J in her usual state of excitement became more and more out of control on the dance floor until finally at 2am Sam decided it was time to pull her away from the floor and thanked the girls for a great night and for uplifting our spirits during our time in Wellington.

Sam's comments: Should have worn some underwear! When purchasing new ones picked up the wrong size and am now a proud owner of 2 pairs of XXL navy blue boxer shorts!

E-J's comments: Wellington to me will always be associated with a sad time, but also an example of just how kind and thoughtful the Kiwi community can be. People were generally devastated to hear our news and willing to help in any way they could.

Posted by E-J 09:12 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Hawkes Bay

Having adjusted to our new routine, we woke up relatively early and enjoyed a hearty breakfast of cereal or for Sam, badly heated bread on a camper gas cooker. After this, we made our way down the rest of the coast to Hawkes Bay, where we would be staying with friends of E-J's family, Muff and Selby for a couple of nights. As we drove along the empty roads we continually came across signs warning us about wandering cattle and before long we found our selves surrounded by an abundance of sheep, which must have escaped from one of the nearby fields. Carefully weaving our way through them, we successfully avoided any sheep casualties and drove on.

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After a quick stop in Gisborne to buy some CD's for the car, we arrived at Muff and Selby's around 6pm and enjoyed a delicious dinner party along with an incredible American couple who were staying with the Palmer's. They were both over 80 years old and had far more energy than us two put together. After a boozy evening we slept very well that night!

The next day, having been recommended to visit some places by Muff and Selby, we did some exploring of Hawkes Bay. First, we drove over to Selby's farm and almost got lost, but eventually found it and we had a look around. Sam decided to drive into a field surrounded by thick grass and thistles. E-J not feeling too confident that the campervan would make it through this, decided to jump out and walk the rest of the stretch of field. Meanwhile, Sam managed to take out a few thistles, avoided a few sheep and finally almost wedged the van in a crevasse. After a few panicked reverses, wheel spins, skids and bumps, he finally got it free and quickly drove the van onto the gravel path.

After this, we then visited a few of the local beaches, which we are sure on a fine day, look absolutely stunning, but while it was raining and gloomily overcast, we really had to use our imagination. After this brief tour, we met up with Muff and went to her Cheese Factory for lunch. It was a lovely place and what was more interesting, was to learn just how expensive cheese is in New Zealand. In fact it is thought of as more of a delicacy than a necessity. The cheese here was delicious!

Muff then drove us up to the most incredible viewpoint. We could see for miles and were able to really take in the beauty of Hawkes Bay.

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The day was ended with a few drinks back at Muff and Selby's gorgeous house, which is situated on top of a hill, so that it looks out across the most splendid view of vineyards, fields, trees and mountains. It really was a very special place.

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In the evening, we were treated to some lovely tapas down in the village at one of their local haunts.

In the morning we said our goodbyes and thank yous for a wonderful time in Hawkes Bay and headed to Napier to enjoy a day of cricket. The weather was incredible, and as E-J sat on the green basking in the sun, she began to think, that just possibly, she might be able to get into this whole cricket, spectator sport thing; well, provided she had some sun on her anyway.

After a brief appearance on the TV screen as an English supporter, E-J was in her element and enjoying the beers too as Sam had offered to drive.

England was playing brilliantly and by 5pm we had to leave the game just before the end, in order to get to our next destination during daylight.

We headed to a small village called Feilding (yes, spelt this way) just outside Palmerston North where E-J wanted to meet a friend she used to work with. After a couple of hours catching up and exchanging news and stories it was time to say our goodbyes and head to bed.

Sam's comments: What a great game of cricket, Paul Collingwood smashed the fastest fifty by an Englishman!

E-J's comments: Hawkes Bay is such a wonderful place. It was just such a shame we didn't get to see it in the best weather, as I'm sure we would have been blown away by its beauty.

Posted by E-J 09:11 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Hamilton, Rotoura and Hicks Bay

overcast 20 °C

We arrived back into Auckland around 12pm and met up with friends of ours from London who were heading to Chile that day. After a brief lunch and exchange of places and ideas about South America, New Zealand and Oz, we said goodbye to our friends, Dave and El and headed to the campervan company.

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After a brief instruction on what and what not to do, Sam managed to successfully reverse the van out of the drive.

We were then on our way and within two minutes E-J managed to get completely confused with the directions to the supermarket! We stopped less than a mile from the campervan depot, so that E-J could drive and Sam could direct! Next was buying food supplies. On first parking the car, E-J decided to change spaces pretty quickly, when she noticed the porche parked next to her had a white scratch mark on the door, which looked uncomfortably similar to the colour of our van! After a brief and successful shop, we escaped the supermarket to finally hit the road!

Next was finding somewhere to stay and being novices at this campervan malarkey, we decided to play it safe and stay in Hamilton just outside Auckland in one of the lonely planet recommended campsites. Finding it with nearly no problems, we thought the place looked a bit depressing with all these other campervans parked up around us. We decided this wasn't going to destroy our joyful spirits, so tucked into a good bottle of wine and enjoyed a ready cooked roast chicken and salad. This was the life!

By 8:30 am the next day we were on the road and heading to Rotorua to do the first of our many dare devil challenges, a Zorb ball. For those of you unaware of what this is, it basically looks like a hamster ball, which you get inside and then throw yourself down a hill at great speed.

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When we got there we were advised to do the option with water and after the necessary briefing and reading the small print that if you were to die it was not the company's fault, we were driven up the hill to begin our experience. E-J at this point was starting to go slightly white and feeling terribly nervous. Having just seen children of the age of 10 and 12 years old throw themselves down a few minutes earlier, E-J felt she really couldn't bring herself to pull out at this stage. E-J decided to go first and then Sam followed. E-J could be heard the whole way down, screaming for dear life. The guide informed Sam that he hadn't seen someone so petrified all day! Sam was silent and unimpressed with the lack of thrill factor involved. As we left this place to continue on the journey, E-J could feel her neck seizing up and realized she had somehow managed to crick it and was in complete agony! This left Sam the duty of taking the wheel!

We decided that we wanted to see as much of the North as possible so chose to follow the highway 35 all the way around the East Coast. This was quite a long distance to our night's destination at Hick's Bay, but we took great delight in taking in the lush scenery and indulging in the rather empty and windy roads.

By the time we reached Hick's Bay, it was 7pm, so we found a campsite for the night and Sam cooked a delicious carbonara while E-J indulged in a bottle of white wine to numb her pain!

Sam's comments: Hitting Route 35 across to the East was beautiful. With Hellman's mayonnaise in the fridge I couldn't be happier!

E-J's comments: I'm loving the freedom of having a van. It's great to be able to take off whenever we want rather than having to wait for a bus as we had, had to do in South America. Also, despite the fact that the bad weather keeps following us, I am still enjoying the beautiful green countryside and the sparseness of cars on the road.

Posted by E-J 09:11 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

The Bay of Islands

rain 22 °C

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At 8:30 am we were on the bus to the Bay of Islands in the North, excited that we were going to see some beautiful beaches. Immediately, we noticed the difference in the style of New Zealand buses compared to South America. Firstly, no food or drink was allowed on the bus, making it all feel and look immaculate. Secondly, the bus driver continually made announcements over the tannoy about places, who was getting off at what stop and any other trivial pieces of information we might like to hear. Our greatest highlight was when the bus purposely stopped halfway through the journey for a morning tea break. We absolutely loved this and took full advantage of it.

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As the journey continued the weather started to deteriorate and as we looked out to the green fields and grey over cast skies, it reminded us so much of England!

By the time we arrived in the Bay of Islands the rain was torrential and after finding our hostel, we found a bar to sit in and have a beer, dwelling on the weather. Actually, only E-J could have the beer as poor Sam was on antibiotics.

After much deliberation, we finally got round to booking a boat tour around the islands for the following day in the hope that the weather might improve and ended the evening in a pleasant restaurant called 35 degrees South, which looked out over the ocean. The mussels there were ridiculously huge!

We awoke the next day to relatively bright skies and kept our fingers crossed that it would hold out for the day. The boat trip that we had organized was called the Cream Trip, which was once a boat trip that Captain Lane would do to pick up dairy products from lots of farmers around the bay. Now the boat delivers papers and other necessary items to the people who live around the bay.

Lunch was spent on the Urupukapuka Island, a beautiful bay with golden sand and blue water. We gazed out at the incredible view as we ate our typical backpacker lunch consisting of crisps and water!

Before we set off for Brett Cape we enjoyed an underwater boat trip around the bay to view the coral and fish. Due to the poor visibility the tour wasn't too memorable but the shout from the skipper to an American tourist who was slow on getting on the boat of "hurry up love or I will feed you to the fish" had Sam in fits of laughter!

We then set off for the Bay of Island landmark known as Cape Brett, which has the original nickname of "whole in the rock".

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When we got to the hole in the rock, the weather was beginning to get a bit choppy, so we couldn't go too close to it, but then a group of dolphins suddenly appeared with a couple of baby calves. The captain was sure they would come and play, especially since there was also a massive shoal of fish around the boat, but they suddenly darted off and the captain could only imagine that there must be a shark within the shoal and the dolphins had left to protect their young. It was fascinating to see something blue under the water attacking the fish, but no one was sure it was an actual shark.

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When we finished the boat ride we decided to spend the evening exploring the quaint little town of Russell, which has the oldest building in New Zealand. This happens to be a mighty 200 years old...

After listening to a live band and having a bite to eat, we headed back to our hostel for a relatively early night, before heading back to Auckland the next day to collect our home for the next 3 weeks, a campervan.

Sam's comments: I wish E-J had reminded me to put sun tan lotion on! My face resembled the middle of the Japanese flag!

E-J's comments: This place is really something special. I would have loved to see it in the blazing sunshine, but we were lucky it didn't rain the entire time. The hole in the rock was pretty special and seeing all the dolphins was rather special too.

Posted by E-J 09:10 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Auckland

overcast 19 °C

Our plane arrived into Auckland thirty minutes early and after a smooth customs, we made our way through the arrivals lounge and to a taxi.

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On first impressions, we were amazed to find just how sparkling clean everything looked and so new. Also, it was strange to suddenly be able to communicate with people without having to translate it first in our heads.

When we got to our hotel, it was 4:30 am and the guy on the desk informed us that check in wasn't until 2pm (though he thought we could probably get in by about 10am). Reluctantly and exhausted we left the hotel and found a 24 hour internet cafe to waste the next few hours.

By 10 am we were finally in our room and after showers and the necessities to stop ourselves from feeling like complete zombies, we decided to explore the city. We walked down to one of the wharfs and had a drink in a bar looking out to sea. In the port there was an absolute abundance of boats. We had been warned that there were more boats in Auckland than people and seeing this, we could believe it.

After a stroll around, we made our way to the Sky Tower to get a panoramic and impressive over view of the city. We were not disappointed, as it was fantastic.

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From the top, we were able to see how Auckland was originally formed by a load of volcanoes, with the lava forming the flat ground, which is now totally built up with houses. We found out that the volcanoes are not extinct, but actually dormant, though they haven't erupted in over 600 years. It is however possible that they could erupt at any time again.

Looking down across Auckland, we could really appreciate how it is literally made up of land and sea. The sea surrounds everywhere and this reminded us slightly of Rio, although these Volcanoes are not quite as high as the mountains in Rio.

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After we had spent a good time up in the Sky Tower and enjoying a drink in the bar, we made our way back down to the port area and had the most delicious seafood supper. By 9pm we were on our knees, so decided that considering that Chile was a good 15 hours behind New Zealand, we were doing pretty well with the jet lag and could call it a day.

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The following day Sam woke up in agony, due to a mosquito bite on his foot, which seemed to have become seriously infected. An hour later, a very grumpy Sam left the walk in clinic with antibiotics for the infection and was instructed not to walk on the beach or go in the sea until he had finished the treatment. Although E-J tried to reassure him this would only be a week and we still had three more weeks to indulge in lots of activities, he was determined to stay in a depressed mood for the rest of the day. This was slightly exacerbated when E-J insisted on going to the local aquarium, which ended up not only being ridiculously expensive but also rubbish!

Sam and E-J's moods were finally lifted when they found a lovely restaurant that evening and indulged in some more fine, fish cuisine.

Sam's Comments: I struggled with the jet lag and often still find myself speaking Spanish! The Doctor was worried that I didn't understand what she was saying when I was prescribed antibiotics.

E-J's Comments: Auckland seems incredibly modern and clean, a real shock to experience after being in South America. The people here are also incredibly friendly and immediately make you feel right at home.

Posted by E-J 09:10 Archived in New Zealand Comments (2)

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