This summer I and Stéphanie got married, now it's time to get away on our honeymoon for one month around the world. New zeeland is the main destination but we also visit Sydney and Los Angeles during the trip.
After a few hot and sunny days in Sydney, a road trip with more than 5000 km driving on the New Zeeland roads through marvelous landscapes and finally seeing Los Angeles the trip has come to its end. I must say that it would be really hard to be more lucky with the weather than we have been on this trip. We never know what adventures that wait for us but this trip have for sure been a perfect honeymoon for us.
What a nightmare flight, at least for me since I needed to endure headache, pain in ears, sore throat in dry air and nose blood at the same time. The only good thing with this flight was probably that it were many empty seats which made it possible for us to share three seats and in that way be able to lay down. If the plane would have been full it would however been a cramped flight in economy class with Wamos in this B747-400, the seats literally overlap with the seats in front of them and forget about reclining the seat. In the first class section it was a lot of space and a few seats got a front view out since the pilots were sitting one floor above. Now we have landed in Stockholm and it's soon time to get some sleep in our own bed.
From the beginning the flight with Norwegian was supposed to leave Los Angeles with us on board at 18:00 but during the last 24h both the flight company and takeoff time have changed. Now we are just sitting at the airport, expecting to takeoff with Wamos Air at 00:35. It have been said that the entertainment system also will be limited without any compensation other than the possibility to cancel the flight for a full refund. Any cancellation would of course be impossible since we wouldn't be able to get another flight the following days without paying twice as much, so the tablet is prepared with downloads from Netflix so we at least have some offline content to watch.
My cold didn't exactly become better during the last day and I have barely been able to sleep so it was no point in trying to do any activity outside. Luckily enough our host had a good TV with Netflix.
A must see in LA was of course Universal Studios and it was also part of the reasons to choose the room we did, since it was very close. It isn't clearly stated at the website but if you purchase the tickets for a specific date you are automatically allowed to entre early, which is one hour before the rest. We of course used that opportunity and combined with the fact that the school holiday had come to its end the conditions were perfect to get few people in the park. To top that we even got good weather, not though it would have stopped us no matter the weather. Stéphanie made a plan to cover everything in the most effective way and since I didn't cared which order to do what we just followed that, starting with the partly simulated and partly roller-coaster like Harry Potter attraction. This was followed by all other attractions, each time with a que time less than 15 min. The Simpsons roller-coaster was the exception with a little more than 30 min wait, depending on when you stop counting since there are screens with Simpson characters filling your time while you stand in the que. The best ride was Transformers but the studio tour could share that place even though it is not a ride in same sense. When it comes to shows we really liked Waterworld, both the performance and equipment was done to their limits. Ending with a walk back to Hogwarts to buy some Harry Potter decorations that only could be bought at any Universal studio made us also see the castle in darkness, light in the right spots really does its thing.
I got a cold so the energy to do activities went down close to zero but we went to Regal cinema to see Star Wars the last jedi in 4Dx, a cinema with moving chairs as well as some environmental effects. I highly appreciated the small movements but in some faster scenes the chair movements felt too strong or too fast so it is some work to be done before I would call it perfect for the movie.
Relaxed was the word that was supposed to describe this day but a short walk in the neighborhood turned to be a longer and longer walk while looking both at buildings and in stores. After a while we stopped on IHOP (International House of Pancakes) to get a delicious meal before we headed back to our room. The host needed to ask twice about which IHOP we walked from and then finished with the words, that was a long walk.
101 Coffe shop were located just around the corner from the house and seamed to be a perfect place for our first american breakfast. I expected more to choose from but I can't complain about the taste, it was a tasty way to start the day.
Everytime we searched on Uber for a cab from the airport the priced increased due to many requests, something that just felt like total fake since there were so many taxis standing still. We got tired of it and ended up taking a bus instead, it showed to be stopping very close to our place anyway. Finally we got checked in. With the help of the time zones this day became really long since we continued by taking a shower and after a while finding a really nice restaurant named Tao. Inside it was all about the decoration and perfect service. Of course it was a little expensive, but we also got what we paid for.
It became sweaty for a while when we got to the airport and put our check in luggage on a scale to see the weight before checking in, both bags each had a weight of more than 24,5kg but we were only allowed to bring 23kg. Some repackaging to the carry on luggage, some clothes in my jacket and soap in the trash did the trick. Ironic enough they didn't even check the weight when we got the bags to the bag drop section. Everything really moved on really fast and eventually it was time to leave New Zeeland, so with this message we have just been flying to Auckland since 20:00 to switch to a larger plane with heading to Los Angeles. It have really been an amazing time in a landscape with unique features around every corner. For me the top 3 experiences in New Zeeland was the Nevis bungy, trekking in a 560m long cave along a water stream as well as walking up to the mount Cook glacier lake. For Stéphanie the top 3 experiences were too see wild dolphins from land, rafting in the Tongariro river and Waitomo glow worm cave walking during the evening.
Time zones are funny things, anyway when it makes you going back in time as it is defined locally. In this case we landed several hours before we left New Zeeland despite flying for 11 hours. The plane was a B777-300W from New Zeeland airlines and I must say that the entertainment system really was top notch. We were able to see our position, buy things with card with a card reader in the screen, play a bunch of games with short loading times, share screen with neighbors when watching a movie (didn't synchronize well unfortunately), see pretty much all of the latest movies and the TV series had a fairly big library as well. You could even chat with other passengers through a built in chat room, nothing that we tried but probably good if you are a bigger group sitting apart from each other. The food was ok but when it comes to the wine it was something special, even sitting in economy class we could choose between flavors and I ended up with a Pinot Noir from New Zeeland.
A better botanic garden than in Sydney but not as good in Singapore if it should be compared to other places, nonetheless a nice place to chill out for a while while looking at big trees and beautiful flowers.
A little while ago we left the house in Akaroa after a cozy stay in it for two nights. We had Christchurch in sight but on the way it was impossible to not stop and just enjoy the view, something that makes driving in New Zeeland really special.
Today we were all set for going out along the coastline with a kayak but the wind was strong and the sea was rough so it was not possible. Instead we took off to a trail along the coastline, so pretty much at the same place but on land. It was nice views along the trail that we shared with quite many sheep and after a while we found a nice spot to stay at while taking a snack.
A day full of rain but for the last days in New Zeeland we had rented a house, which is called "Amazing Akaroa" by the owner, in a quiet environment in Akaroa. It was a good place to just relax in, which started by watching Vampire diaries season 7. The TV didn't have Netflix but the soundbar had Bluetooth connection so we could watch our tablet with better sound.
Traditionally this food would be eaten during the New Zeeland winter without salad, so it was made as a summer version for this occasion by the hosts for the accommodation in Little River.
First we walked around for a while in the Akaroa harbor but in the end it was nice to just rest in a sofa outdoors.
After a for me warm and for Stéphanie cold fun experience in the ocean it was time to eat lunch and for that some special burgers did the trick.
At first it felt disappointing to jump into the water with not more than seeing a dolphin fin at a distance of about 100m away. We got up into the boat again and tried at another spot, this time with more activity in the water but mostly in front of another boat. But when that boat left it finally started to be more exciting, not less than three dolphins showed up right beside me and only 1-2m away. Some time later two dolphins showed up next to Stéphanie and made her day by just being there. The dolphins we got to see were the Hector's dolphins; with a length of up to 120cm they are the world's smallest and rarest oceanic dolphins. Their skin constantly regrow and for that reason they shouldn't be touched but they were swimming around us all in the water and from their perspective humans in the water must not feel much faster than a leaf floating on the surface.
Tiny is a good word to describe the village Little River, but at that place we found a good place to stay for our first two nights close to Akaroa. We checked in and ate food together with the host as well as another guest before getting a good night of sleep.
Before doing this cave walk we read through the instructions that were available for Cave stream, a pure safety precaution that anybody that would like to enter any cave should do. If the water was above the waist in the entrance the water stream was said to become to powerful in the cave and we had water just above the waist, so we continued into the 560 m long pitch black cave. With a strong waterproof flashlight and a spare battery in a sealed back we headed into the darkness, following the waterstream and looking on the many cavities. In this environment our wetshoes were really showing their performance, protecting our feet while providing perfect grip. Real trekking shoes were recommended on the information board outside the cave but we both believe our wetshoes would outperform the trekking shoes any day in this environment. Without the flashlight we wouldn't see even the slightest light coming from either direction so to be extra on the safe side with the batteries I dimmed the light to half level, which is still quite much. The first waterfalls were easy to just walk through by walking on the stones in the stream but at one point we came to a more narrow channel where the water was pushing us back hard and there were no stones sticking up, so Stéphanie got up first by stepping on my knee and then I could climb up between the walls while she got to hold the Gopro camera. In the middle of the tunnel we there was a big stone to walk under and at about the same time two people catched up with us from behind, they were going faster to catch up but after that we all went as a group on a line. All lamps together provided plenty of light at that point and after a while we reached the final waterfall, a 3 m high fall with steel bars bolted to the tunnel wall so we could get up and out into the sun again.
Seeing the rocks sticking up from the grass covered hills was like getting to a completely new place, nothing like the other mountains. There were a lot of rocks to stand on, walk in tunnels between or just find a good spot in the sun while taking a snack. It was a good place for whole families but there was a significant risk of people falling down the high cliffs at times due to careless individuals.
Before going on new adventures we of course needed to start the day with a good breakfast.
It was hard to find somewhere to stay close to Mount Somers to a reasonable price but in Ashburton, a town closer to the coast and not very much more driving we found a very nice Airbnb home. The owner of the place had already been hosting guests for several years and when we arrived we had a nice conversation with her throughout the evening while drinking wine and eating blue cheese.
With a partly cloudy sky we were walking along a trail at Mount Somers, leading to the entrence to an old coal mine at the top. We noticed that the way up on the easy trail should take one hour and about 20 minutes in on the trail it split up into two trails, of which we chose the standard trail. After been walking in the inclined trail for 55 min we were at the top, had the sun shining at us and could see some equipment from the old mine. It wasn't allowed to walk inside it and it was sealed of so it shouldn't be possible either. Stéphanie had some snacks with her so we could just sit up there and enjoy the view for a while as well as giving her a nice time to read. While she was reading I found the alternative trail down with a sign stating that it would be 10 min faster than the track we chose so it seemed to be a good way to walk down that one to get another view. That was what we did but it was both steep, slippery and in the end it took us 75 min to get down, not precisely a good estimation since the sign on the top stated it would be 30 min down. At least it was a very good view point in the middle and in the end we were walking side by side with flowing water.
Quite fun to see various crazy steampunk machines, clothes, equipment and just random stuff but I would have wanted a larger exhibition. It was however cheap so it was totally worth it.
To feed these Wallabies was a task that was very fun and it was kind of a social behavior, many of them seemed to like being scratched on its back. It was about 5 other people there at the same time so it felt like being alone with the Wallabies since it was 60 of them divided into paddocks with 2-5 in each one. It was easy to notice a hierarchy between some of them so at least one time I had to give food in two directions at the same time, otherwise the leader would have taken it all. They also got quite excited at times and even jumped over my shoulder to get first in line for the food but even though they have long sharp claws and teeth they were always careful enough to not even scratch me. One of the smaller ones did a really cute thing, it shaped the claws gently around one of my fingertips to hold my hand steady while eating.
This year I can say happy new year much earlier than last year or say that the year 2017 was extra short.
There were several cats and one dog at the place where we checked in yesterday evening and they were all more and more social after time. The one that liked to cuddle the most was the cat Perceus and he seems at times to never get enough.
Unfortunately we couldn't get a time slot in the observatory to see the stars but the landscape view from the observatory would also be great, so we drove up to its café named Astro café. It is possible to walk up along a trail but taking the car cost $8 and even though I think it should be free to drive up if you anyway will buy something to eat on the top I think it's worth it. The vegetation on the mountain itself look boringly flat and it's a long way up so I don't think we would have enjoyed the trail. At the top we got a perfect 360 degree by walking around the café and I can't complain about their delicious carrot cake.
It was slightly better to sleep in the car this time since we were better prepared but it's nothing I recommend. It was however worth it to get out on the mountain Mount cook since we got to see the nature in its glory without a bunch of others hanging around at the same time. It was sunny with a slight breeze while walking up and when heading back the clouds covered the sky while the wind increased in strength along the way.
Since we got some experience from the last night in the car we made sure to prepare the car as much as possible this time to get more space and hopefully a better sleep. When all that was done we headed for the first viewpoint at the walking trail to see it during the evening, walking the trail was an activity we saved for the next day. The sunset wasn't so special at this place since there were mountains on all sides but it was still nice being out in the nature and just taking in the views. Eventually it was however time to prepare to sleep, so we went back to the car and put the tablet on the dashboard as well as an extra speaker between us. With a towel covering the front window we watched TV-series in the car, of course we thought downloaded them from Netflix in advance since at a remote location like this the internet connection would just be a dream.
Our next destination was set for the camping site at the foot of Mount Cook but we stopped both to get some fresh Salmon and to enjoy nice views along the way.
During the goldrush a little village named Arrowtown was a busy place, but many houses from the time still exist and we were there to see them. After walking around the houses for a while we couldn't resist to buy some Boysenberries ice cream.
Waking up this morning was cold and we didn't get much sleep. The next time we sleep in the car we will prepare more to get us more space and clothes to be warmer. Even though the location was remote the warden for the area was already walking around to check the guests and waiving goodbye when we left.
When not finding a place for the night was a fact we finally decided to sleep in the car at a camping area, unfortunately it would not be allowed just to sleep anywhere as we don't have a vehicle that is self contained and around Queenstown freedom camping is not allowed. It was however still a cozy evening out on a remote camping spot, perfect for stargazing. We took some photos at the sky, watched Stranger things on Netflix and leaned the seats back as much as possible when falling asleep.
It became late and we combined a nice dinner at a tapas restaurant named Eichhardt's. After eating a few tapas, looking at the sunset and a enjoyed a dessert we ended it with a cheese plate before leaving the place.
It was an early start at 05:45 when going to Doubtful sound but we had some hours to rest in a bus and when it finally was time to look at the view we weren't tired any more. Doubtful sound have about 200 rainy days each year, adding up to about 8000mm water, that is a huge amount of rain. Despite that we got sun the whole day; so with the benefit of stronger colors and better photo quality as well as the drawback with less water in the waterfalls we travelled through fiordland in a very stable catamaran from Real journeys. It was a beautiful nature and we got to see both seals as well as an albatross but no dolphins, apparently those had got babies and then they stay away from the boats. After a full day in this landscape we got back to Queenstown, filled with new memories.
I have never jumped bung jump before, it have always been a question if it would be worth the money or the scenery being too boring. I have always been in the mindset that it should be something special if I should do it and this time I found the right place for that experience. The Nevis bungy jump platform was hanging in the air between two mountains with a river underneath and a great view both for the jumper as well as the spectators. With its jump of 134m it was also the highest bungy jump in New Zeeland. I geared up for the jump and Stéphanie got a harness as well to be able to get out on the jumping platform for the best spectator view. I was super excited when it was time to take a mini gondola out to the jumping platform; in the small group preparing at the same time I was even the only one to shout that I'm excited when the instructor asked the group how we felt. The rest of the group was just quiet, except one guy who more or less whispered that he was scared. But before going out to the platform my weight was checked one last time to make sure it wouldn't have been mixed up with the others. Out on the platform the bungy rope was adjusted according to my weight and the harness attached to the rope in two points, one of which I would be able to disconnect while being weightless to get to an upright position instead of continuing to hang in my feet after the jump. It was then time to do the only thing that felt ridiculous about this, to walk out to the jumping platform edge while both feet were ties together. It was some small funny steps but during the time Stéphanie had already started the video recording to not miss out on a second. The bungy jumping company AJ Hecket had cameras both in the platform, outside the platform and on the next mountain to make the memory last forever. I was standing on the edge, the instructor told me that I was allowed to jump in 3...2...1...and my knees bent deep to directly after push me out and up as far as possible with my stomach facing down. I had a Gopro camera on a stick in my right hand and was weightless, I was holding my arms stretched out to the sides shooting video from the side and after been falling about 3 seconds and being rotated to a vertical position to the ground I moved my hands back to have my arms parallel with my body and shoot video in my falling direction. After about 7 seconds I bounced up and became weightless again, then I bounced again and it was time to pull the sprint in the upper fastening point. It got stuck, but one bounce later I pulled it as hard as I could and got it to unlock. I changed direction and the instructor started to get me up to the platform again, what an amazing experience. At last I was up in the platform and could get back to Stéphanie, who both seemed much more worried than me about me jumping but also a little tempted to do it herself when my jump was complete.
Since we tried to raft a grade 3 river before, with good result, it was time to bring it up a notch and raft a grade 5 river. So we headed to the Shotover river and got Rob from Go Orange as guide. Unfortunately it have been very little rain lately so the water level was low and as a consequence of that the rafting grade was 4 instead of 5 according to Rob. It was however some real nice drops and maybe it was good that the grade was 4 instead of 5 since the other members in our team didn't understand english that well, something that make all commands take a little longer time to work. Rob quickly placed me and Stéphanie in the front since we are the ones to then listen first and the rest of the team should always be in synchronization with the one in front of the seat position. When it really mattered everybody however was paddling hard and we never flipped or dropped anyone. Out of 6 boats 2 of them flipped so it feels like we did a good job. It was very fun and when I raft again it will for sure be grade 4 or 5 again but the last place we rafted was less of a tourist place compared to this and the organization of everything here felt like it suffered from being too crowded.
The activity was rescheduled due to hard wind but we found a nice restaurant for the evening instead. Captains restaurant had a cozy environment and several local dishes, which were exactly what we were looking for. I ordered a South island venison; smoked beets, feta cheese, fondant potato, broccolin and cherry jus. To that the suggested wine, a Kuru kuru central Otago Pinot Noir. Stéphanie ordered a Duo of pork; cider braised pork belly, pulled pork arancini, parsnip puree, Asian salad, Chipotle aioli and jus with the wine Arahi karera. Everything were delicious and especially Stéphanie liked her wine very much so we will try to find it in a store as well. With full stomachs we quickly ignored that feeling and ordered a dessert and that we didn't regret after getting the taste.
Activities are planned since yesterday but confirmation is needed so we combined looking around in the city with confirming the bookings at each office. From the beach we got a good view of the mountain we were going on the Luge ride yesterday but the Luge cars couldn't be seen from here. Stéphanie of course needed some clothes, or at least be looking at them, to be satisfied and then I used the time to write this. It is quite windy a little higher up at the time of writing but I hope it will decrease in speed since it affect when or if I can perform the next activity.
On the top of the mountain there are mini cars that you sit in and drive down a track to the gondola top station, called Luge cars. We thought about taking the gondola up and then have some fun in the Luge cars but it was such a long que to the gondola so we took the Tiki trail straight up instead. With a hight difference of 470m and just a narrow steep trail it was not the easiest way up but offered a great view through the forest half way up. It took us 45 min to get up but then we could first enjoy the stunning top view as well as ride Luge cars. It was really a lot of people up there so we only did 2 rides before it was closing but it sure was fun. Afterwards we looked at the sunset from the gondola viewing deck before walking down to our hotel to eat dinner, a walk along a service road that was much easier to walk down on.
It was raining a lot but we didn't going out from the room, I mean Netflix in the bed is not too bad as an option. Some planning were also needed to know when it would be possible to do different activities. We also had both food and snacks ready so we just stayed in the room.
It was a very welcoming start at our stay in Queenstown when all guests and staff in the lodge joined up for a barbecue during the evening.
To get to Queenstown we got to pass really cool scenery along the way on roads going in steep slopes and sharp turns. Sometimes the turns were so sharp so the recommended velocity through them was only 15km/h. It was barely we could make it to the checkin time so we wrote a message along the way that we would be a little late, which was not a problem at all since the one who worked there was going to stay for a barbecue anyway.
At this point we had very little time to stop due to latest checkin to the next place was said to be 19:00 the latest. We however needed to stop, rest and look around a little on this beautiful place. It didn't take long until I told Stéphanie I saw a fin and she was directly super enthusiastic about it and how big it was. We continued to try to see it again and the we saw it, it was a dolphin. At first it didn't show so often but I had my camera zoomed just in case and was looking on the side at the same time. Suddenly two dolphins jumped at the same time and I pressed the shutter button even though I wasn't looking in the viewfinder. The dolphin jump was catches in the photo and even though it would have been better at closer distance this really made our day. What a Christmas present from the dolphins.
This place require a sky with no clouds or only clouds higher up than the mountains as well as as little wind as possible for the best photos to be taken of the lake. We had non of that but had a nice time in the restaurant instead.
Merry Christmas to all who read this blog. For us it is a little strange not to see any snow on the ground during Christmas but the Christmas trees on many places remind us about the Christmas feeling.
Time to sleep before continuing along the road, so we checked in to a room in a house in Whataroa.
This place is named Hokitika Gorge and have a really blue water. It was beautiful to walk around the area but as beautiful it was it was equally enjoying with a lot a small gnats taking bites on us all the time.
What better place is there to eat pancakes than at Pancake rocks café.
Just about a 10 min walk from Pancake rocks a cavern was just waiting for us to explore it. I took the flashlight in my hand and lit a path where Stéphanie could walk before me and we headed into the cave. First we turned right and looked around in quite a big room, but couldn't really walk any deeper on that side. Then we turned left and followed a path marked with reflex to guide us about 100m into a high path that became more narrow for each step forward until it ended in a big room. If you are afraid of getting lost in caves this one is recommended for you, since you can only walk straight in a out without any possibility to start to walk in circles.
Cliffs looking like flat pieces stacked on top of each other in piles one after the other make you understand why this place is named pancake rocks. It was nice to see the stone formations but in particular it was fun that it were enough waves for the water to be pushed up through blowholes like powerful jets.
While driving we suddenly saw a sign pointing to a seal colony 14 km beside the road and then I turned, heading for it. It was good choice, the view was amazing and it were a platform at a place where we could see the seals playing around without being disturbed by any human.
We needed to stop to sleep before starting to explore the west coast and in Westport we found a little cottage that was just perfect. After Westport cell phone connection can't be expected at many locations and gas stations are not as common either, the gas stations even have closing times. These things were also reasons to stop here first and prepare.
The road itself had many beautiful places on the sides and we couldn't stop each time but I recommend this road for others that would like to go from the west or east coast to the other side.
I know I have seen this view in photos before but I didn't think about where it was located, I did however recognize it directly. Driving along this road only once and not stopping here is a failure in the plan, it was an amazing viewpoint and a perfect place to sit and eat our own meal. We unpacked the cooling box and made sandwiches and enjoyed a smoothie before continuing along the road.
First driving along a narrow road with many turns along the cliff edges beside the coastline and then a 5 min walk an a trail with stairs through the forest took us to an almost empty beach, Split apple rock beach. In the water a big rock, split in two halves, give meaning to the name. On the left side of the beach there were several caves in the water and with calm water from the sea it's possible to swim into them, this would however quickly be dangerous if the waves would be high since the rocks have very rough surfaces. We both entered the water but Stéphanie were satisfied with staying on the beach while I first headed for the caves and then continued by swimming out to Apple rock. It was very fun and felt luxurious to be on such a secluded beach.
Tide make a big difference in some areas and along this road we could see it clearly. First it was mostly very shallow water along the road but after a while water started to flooding through tunnels from the sea to the other side of the road, creating a beautiful scenery on both sides.
Walking around in Berryland to fill cups with berries was one of the tips we got from James and in this warm weather it was a both fun and tasty experience. We topped the experience by eating berry ice creams in which fresh berries were crushed into the ice-cream mix, delicious.
James were up the same time and us so we ate breakfast together and he gave us good tips where to stop along the way. He was also the first one introducing me to Vegemite and despite so many people not liking it I must say it's not the best thing but not either the worst to have on a piece of bread, I could easily be eating it again. After the breakfast we also got to meet the 6 years old hen, she was really calm and didn't mind me at all as it seemed. We shared some travelling stories during the morning and now it's time to head on.
It was hard to decide upon how to start the journey through the south island since there are so many things to see but we decided to stay the first night in Nelson. We booked a room in a house while driving, a room that seemed to have all what we needed for a night but without earlier reviews. It showed to be two very nice hosts, James and Allie, at the place with plenty of space in the room we got. They had two dogs, Pipe and Henry, that greeted us as soon as the door opened. I can't do other than recommend this when you want a simple, yet good place to sleep in. After some fun conversations with the hosts we got to bed, time to sleep and be prepared to explore.
In the store it not only things for sale, it is also like a mini museum of props to Hobbit, Avatar and The Ghost in a Shell.
Our room here was more than we needed in terms of space but it could have been a lot cleaner in the bathroom. One night is however not a problem and we drove 2min to the beached to enjoy a nice view directly after the sunset.
It was time to start getting to Wellington but we decided that we will stay over night at Foxton beach on the way. But we didn't drive to Foxton without stopping, it's beautiful nature here so we stopped at several locations to do mini hikes.
The first hours of the day started with rafting in the Tongariro grade 3+ river, a perfect start before taking on harder rivers. We had the guide Jonny, from raftingnewzealand, and he was really great, he really created a good team spirit in the boat. The team worked great together and after about the half distance we stopped to make some jumps from a cliff before we continued with the last rapids. Jonny also told us about how the hummus rock was created during extrem pressure in a volcano eruption, it's a rock that we could pick up from floating around in the water. Yes you read right, it was floating.
It was truly amazing taking the evening tour in a glow worm cave with guiding from Caveworld. Our group was very small, just 5 persons, and the guide felt very enthusiastic when telling us about the nature. All was not about the glow worms, we also got told about a black wood tree that is fire proof and leaves with probiatic, antiseptic and similar features. It was the leave Kawakawa and you can both use it in tea as well as like protection over wounds or rub it against a spot that hurts. But the best thing with the evening tour was to walk out from the cave and see all the glow worms fill up all the walls all the way beside the stairs to the top. That is something that is only possible when it is dark.
Before heading towards the glow worm cave we found a place to to a short hike. We parked our car there and at about the same time another car also parked there and it didn't take long until we heard a voice in Swedish saying hello. It showed to be a nice couple, Carolien and Anders, that we both had fun conversations with and great help in taking pictures. First we went through a big tunnel in the mountain and later we continued with car to take a look at a waterfall.
Here we stopped just to try out natural hot pools and it really was hot water not just warm. It was some other people at taking a bath where the water got out in a river so we chose a place higher up to be alone, but the reason nobody else was taking a bath there must been the temperature. It was so hot I could barely continue to stand in the water when I only had water to my knees and Stéphanie couldn't do more than dip her toes. Closer to the other people the water had cooled of slightly and was just a little warmer than a really warm massage pool. The most comfortable place was actually to sit in the cold river in a small hot waterfall.
What a difference compared to the last room to get to this place, we didn't stay at a bad place before but this gave directly a luxury feeling. It's a separate little house next to the big house that we stay in and next to it we can also use an outdoor bubble pool.
On the way to our next place to sleep we first made a quick stop at the Wairakei falls.
When we left Rotorua, to get to the Orakei Korako cave and thermal park, it started to rain and did so during most of the drive. That was probably the reason the thermal park was empty when we arrived, it was only two others who went over the river to the park at the same time as us so it was easy to take photos without others being in the way. Beautiful formations had been created by the water and at one place we were looking at big mud bubbles that exploded one after the other. After walking around the whole area it was time to get back to the other side with the boat but I said I wanted a last photo on a cliff were it now was sun so we went there an extra time first. It was lucky that we did because just at that moment a geyser started to blow up a waterjet. That particular geyser blow up water every 2-3 hours and sometimes not at all during much longer times, spectacular.
Fast growing is a good description for redwood trees. something I didn't know before we visited the redwood park in Rotorua. The trees were huge despite being planted just about 150 years ago.
Some driving, some ice cream eating, a quick stop at Huka falls, some food shopping and then we arrived at Rotorua to check in.
Instead of heading directly towards Rotorua to check in at the next place we made a visit to an old gold mine in Karangahake to hike for an hour. It was beautiful and we we don't regret for a second that we took the detour, the hiking did however take 110 minutes instead of 60 due to no sign at the endpoint so at we continued in a longer trail until we noticed on the GPS that we was off track.
The Hobbiton movie set tour started 09:10 and we think it was a good time of the day to be there because it was not so many people that had arrived yet so it was easy to park the car in the shadow as well as probably slightly less groups walking around in the valley. The less people the better since I want good photos but at a place like this I would say that it is impossible to be alone without buying all tickets. It was mostly sunny, with a few clouds, so the landscape looked wonderful but at the same time it got hot quick. So if you plan to do this, bring water. Our guide was super enthusiastic when telling all the stories and it did never feel like we needed to rush. It was interesting to hear about how and why each thing was built, for example a tree with 200 000 fake leaves attached to a fake tree by hand. In "The green dragon Inn" I got a dark stout and Stéphanie a ginger ale, both specially brewed only for this place and not sold anywhere else. The ginger ale was possible to buy in the fan store when the tour ended so we bought one to use later on the trip. After walking around in Hobbiton for 2,5 hours we were very happy that we made sandwiches to eat the day before and that the juice in the cooling box in the car was cool.
Time to leave this place but it was relaxing in the pool and nice to meet the 2 dogs and 3 cats in the house. Now we are just eating breakfast in the car before we continue towards Hobbiton.
Today we made our own dinner as well as sandwiches for tomorrow's trip.
As we will travel around quite a lot we started by going to a store to by a 12v fridge this morning followed by eating breakfast at a cafe outside the closest shopping mall. It was a little place called Columbus and I can recommend their big and tasty smoothies.
Starting by eating breakfast in the apartment and once again feeding the parrots it felt like a good start even though we will leave this nice place to get onto the next adventure. We searched for an Uber car but each searched increased the price for some strange reason and we ended up taking a usual cab to almost half of the Uber price. At the airport it was quite fun to walk through the security check since the guards thought they saw a screw driver on the x-ray of Stéphanies bag, which ended up in several rescan of separate parts of the bag until it was completely empty and the supposed to be screw driver actually showed to be a pen. Now we board the plane and continue to Auckland in New Zeeland.
In the apartment the owner Phil had prepared tips on good restaurants, one of them being Berta. This one was extra good when it comes to wine according to his tip and we decided to try it out. Even with a GPS the restaurant was almost not found due to no other sign than a little name on the door but don't let that fool you, the dinner was very tasty. Each dish is intentionally smaller than you expect to eat but not as small as if you eat tapas, resulting in 2-3 dishes will be a good meal. When I asked for a wine recommendation I first got the questions "Do you prefer white or red?" and "What flavors do you like". I wanted white to this food and something with a strong flavor, which in turn led to a recommendation, but since that wine often can be hard to find I also got a tip of a similar wine to look for later. All in all a very good place and a nice way to spend our last evening in Sydney.
Manly beach is reached easily by boat from the city center but we chose to start with a gerrymandering at Pyramont wharf instead to get a little more sightseeing on the water. Unfortunately Manly beach was closed due to strong currents but after a 15 min walk we got to another beach that we were happy with. Some surfers of course didn't care about the warnings so from time to time we could see jet-skis going out for them. After eating some delicious fruit and playing around at the beach we continued to Taronga zoo. One thing that impressed me was that for the animals that mostly are active in darkness it was a dark viewing room to see them, with instructions to be quiet and not use any lamps at all. This way we could actually see night animals close up.
We woke up early and started to look at the TV-series Travellers at Netflix before starting to do anything else. After a while we heard some birds and when we looked back out the window two parrots were sitting there. The owner of the apartment had food for parrots prepared since they show up at his apartment quite often. I of course filled my hand with food and held it is still as possible close to the parrots, but none of them dared to take it so I dropped a few pieces next to my hand. As soon as they had picked the dropped pieces up one of the continued to my hand and grabbed one as quick as possible. They could then see that it was still safe to eat and then both of them started to eat from my hand. Stéphanie followed by reaching out her hand and then the process restarted with the parrots moving forward slowly to take the first piece before seeing it as a safe way to eat. At one moment I accidentally dropped a piece under my thumb but since the parrots now saw me as safe one of the pushed the head under my thumb to get it. This was a very fun experience since and not the same thing as meeting birds in a zoo, wild bird do what they want and only as long as they want it.
The devonshire was the target for this evening, a restaurant with a quiet environment and tasty food in the middle class price range. It was perfect service and I would recommend it to anyone that want a great restaurant without the requirement of the perfect view. The street outside is old and so the buildings, it is not much to see through the window but while sitting in the restaurant you quickly forget about it. We chose the taste menu to get a little taste of many different things and it even ended with two desserts.
Starting by bying some water and then taking a bus to the city central station we were ready to walk through the botanic garden, entering from the Opera house. It was nice to walk there but it was more like a usual park, at least compared to the botanic garden we visited during the backpacking trip earlier. With constant sun shining at us and with an air temperature of 33 degrees Celsius the water was really needed despite some wind that helped us to cool down. After the walk and eating some ice cream we headed back for our room where we were greeted by hundreds of flying bats over the main street outside. As the sunset were in progress and the bats were flying fast in ever changing directions it was not easy to focus on a single bat with the camera but it was fun to see.
During the day we visited a park but after walking around for a while we went back to the room and slept a few hours instead, it was simply too many hours during the flight time that we were awake. At 21:00 we went out again to see the city in the darkness. The plan was to go through a park and end up at the harbor but the park was not lit and I got a spider on my left foot just after being out a short time so we decided the park was not the best way forward and selected another route. While walking by the park on the outside we saw that the fence also was closed, not allowing anyone to enter during night. After some time we reached Sydney Opera house and got a great view of the bridge on the other side of the water. It was commercial about a light show on the roof 21:00 every evening so we will probably get back another evening as well to see it because now we left the place 23:43 to get the bus home and that was of course too late to even see the end of the show.
We have now just got into the apartment were we rent a room. It was a 12,5 hour flight from India and it was once again good food served by air India bit really strange time to eat it. We got to sleep according to the Australian time zone to wake up fresh and ready to go but we woke up in the middle of the night because they served food the time it would have been served in India which resulted in no long sleep period no matter which time we would choose to start sleeping. Getting through the passport check was superfast, since we used the digital passport check and like 99% of everybody else waited to be handled manually. Outside we got that nice vacation feeling while waiting for an uber taxi and 30 min later we could pick up our keys at a little Cafe, the owner of the apartment arranged it like that since he couldn't be at home. Once in the nice looking apartment we took a quick shower, added some sun lotion and then headed out to get some lunch.
What a perfect start of the trip; the flight was smooth, it was a big meal served up in the air and with my new noise cancelling headphones from Sony on it felt like we were standing still. After 5878 km we reached Delhi airport. I woke up 20 min before the landing and the breakfast was waiting on my left arm rest. The security check into the airport was probably one of the slowest and most inefficient I have been at but now we are sitting in a lounge just relaxing.
Bags packed and now we are just going to eat lunch before we leave our home for an amazing trip. At first it will be many hours in the air but we are excited to land in Sydney.
It was hard to find somewhere to stay close to Mount Somers to a reasonable price but in Ashburton, a town closer to the coast and not very much more driving we found a very nice Airbnb home. The owner of the place had already been hosting guests for several years and when we arrived we had a nice conversation with her throughout the evening while drinking wine and eating blue cheese.