Friday, 30 October 2015

Our Kiwi Road Trip Part 5: Waihi Beach to Auckland

Sorry for the late delay inposting the last part of our New Zealand trip, but here goes...

Day 16:
A leisurely start this morning before leaving Waihi Beach to reach Hot Water Beach. 
Hot Water Beach claimed its name due to two springs that sit directly above a hot rock, when I say hot, I mean 170 degrees Celsius hot! However they are 2km below the surface and the springs are known as Maori and Orua and their temperatures are between 60-65 degrees Celsius. The hot water then rises through the fractures, so by digging a shallow hole in the tidal area you can create your own natural spa. The springs are usually accessible two hours either side of low tide, so we needed to time this visit accordingly. Low tide was at 3pm, as we arrived at the beach by 12pm, this gave us a perfect amount of time to grab some lunch before heading down to the beach. There were lots of people with their hired out spades digging their own holes, but we found you didn't even need to dig to feel the heat beneath our toes. We buried our feet under the sand and at points it was too hot to even keep our feet buried a few centimetres under. It was such a bizarre sensation and I can totally see the attraction, but word of advice to anyone going to visit. Get there early!

After warming our toes, we headed towards Cathedral Cove where parts of the film Narnia was set. To reach the cove we had to complete a 45minute trek up and down the mountainside. Before arriving at the isolated beach. The waters were crystal clear and the sand was so soft between our toes. Luckily we arrived during low tide, which allowed us to walk through the cove in the rocks to admire the views beyond. There was no quick way back, so we had to retrace our footsteps. However the weather was beautifully warm today so we didn't mind as much.

We had completed exploring the area by 3.30pm and decided we didn't want to set up camp already so we decided to drive to Coromandel. The road to get to Coromandel weaved in and out of the mountains, so we took it slow in our 7.2metre long wagon as some of the turns were pretty sharp. 
We arrived at Coromandel by 5pm, popped to the supermarket and then set up camp.
We are slowly making our way towards Auckland, but we have a few more days until we have to take the wagon back. So we are defiantly going to make the most of it.

Day 17:

We had read about the Driving Creek Railway and Potteries in a few brochures, so as we were a 2 minute drive from the place, we thought we might as well give it a visit. The centre is home to New Zealand's only narrow gauge mountain railway which snakes 3km up the mountain to a lookout at the top. The track was originally built for Barry Brickell, a full time handcraft potter, to be able to collect his raw materials to create his projects. Now to captailise on the site, even though it is still a full time pottery, they allow visitors to ride that same train line. The views were pretty spectacular, as well as the track itself with all its decorative displays along the way. A pleasant start to the day. We took lots of photos, mainly for Leigh's nephew who is obsessed with trains. He would have loved this place.

The train ride finished at 11.30am, so before heading off on the drive ahead we grabbed a nice healthy lunch at the Saloon, a pizza. The drive to Auckland took 3 hours and like all motorways, as we got closer to the city centre we came to a slow crawling speed. It seems motorways don't differ what ever country you are in.
We found a caravan site at Northcote, on the Northshore of Auckland. We didn't get here until 4pm, so we went for a little wander around the area before settling down for the night. We decided we were going to explore Auckland in the morning, that should give us time to catch the bus because there is no way we will be getting this size wagon parked anywhere. So until tomorrow... Goodnight.

Day 18:
We got the bus into Auckalnd city centre this morning, after a slow lazy start. We still had plenty of time to explore, however when we arrived it was pouring down with rain. So we chose to take a trip to Auckland's SeaLife Centre to see all the amazing creatures on display. The free shuttle bus wasn't arriving until 1.30pm, so this gave us plenty of time to grab a bite to eat before heading out. Even though the aquarium wasn't the biggest we have been to, it still had a vast selection of different creatures. I loved seeing the King Penguins and I never realised how big they actually were. There were lots of penguins sitting on their eggs, as well as a few new fluffy chicks waddling about. Obviously seeing the Sharks is a highlight for everyone, but I loved the turtles and the octopi. Hopefully we get a chance to see these animals in their own natural habitat at some point during our world wide trip. 

The rest of the day was spent grabbing a coffee, catching the bus back to the site and then cooking dinner. One more full day left tomorrow before our New Zealand trip draws to an end.

Day 19:
We decided to move campsites this morning so we would be a bit closer to the depot to return the motorhome tomorrow, also we would get to see a different part of Auckland. So we headed just South of Auckland, parked up and then headed out. There was a shopping outlet easily accessible by bus, so we thought we might as well go have a look. We spent most the morning and afternoon wandering around the shops, picking up a few pieces for when we head back to Australia. 
The bus took an hour to get there and an hour to return. So this shopping trip took up all of our last day in Auckland. I cannot believe our trip has finally come to its end. Tomorrow will be a sad day for us both.

Day 20:
Today is the day we say goodbye to our wagon and head on back to Australia. We dropped off the motorhome by 9am and caught the bus to the airport. Mid journey, Leigh realised he had stupidly left his wallet in the van, so we took the trip back to the depot. 
Take 2: We arrived at the airport by 11am. Checked in and headed towards the gate. We have both had an amazing time in New Zealand. We have been to some beautiful places and seen some amazing sights. I would recommend New Zealand to anyone thinking of travelling this way. I certainly will be returning at some point in the future, as I know there is still so much to see.
So for now New Zealand, see you soon for it is time to go meet the parents in Sydney!

Monday, 21 September 2015

Our Kiwi Road Trip Part 4: Waitomo to Waihi Beach

Day 13:
We left Rotoura this morning and headed to Waitomo. Waitomo was only 170km away, so we were booked in and set up by 11.30am. We grabbed lunch before heading out for a stroll around Ruakuri Reserve walking trail. The trail wasn't very long, but was a lot more interesting than some of the walks we have been on. Crouching through caved tunnels, crossing bridges which pass over the fast current rivers and we even stepped into a darkened cave with a mighty drop below, it was well worth the visit.

We have been in New Zealand for 13 days and still haven't seen the countries most sacred and endangered animal, the Kiwi. So as we had time to spare (As we booked a day full of cave tours for tomorrow), we headed down to the Otorohanga Kiwi House and Native a Bird Park. I didn't realise Kiwis were nocturnal creatures, so the display was in darkness with a few lights dotted here and there. This meant it was quite tricky to begin with to find the Kiwi's, but luckily enough one came wandering right past the window. The are very strange creatures and a lot bigger than we initially thought they would be. But now we can finally say we have seen one. Whilst exploring the rest of the park, a giant wood pigeon literally dive bombed by head, twice. I knew there was a reason why I didn't like pigeons. 

We then headed to Curlys Bar, just opposite the caravan site, for a quick beverage before heading back to chill for the night. 
We have 3 cave trips booked for tomorrow which should keep us busy for a bit.

Day 14:
Our first tour of the day didn't start until 10am this morning, so we had a little lay in before heading down to Waitomo Glowworm Caves Visitor Centre to catch a mini bus to the first cave of the day.
The first cave was the Ruakuri Cave, which to reach you had to walk down a darkened spiral entrance. The cave was full of different cave formations, shawl-like limestone formations and crystal tapestries which had been created over millions of years. We also got up close to glow worms and learnt about their life journey. It was a pleasant 2 hour walk through the snake like passageways which once formed a river. We learnt that in New Zealand, if a cave passes under your piece of land, technically that part of the cave belongs to you because you own everything below to the centre of the Earth. How crazy is that, but of course the government can tax you for it. So as always they are still making money from you.

We then stopped for lunch before visiting the second cave of the day, the Aranui Cave. The Aranui cave was the last cave of the three to be discovered. The cave was full of huge stalactites and stalagmites, as well as very high chambers and flowstones. The structure seemed very different to the Ruakuri cave, due to no river running through it so different formations were formed. The cave was also home to lots of cave dwelling wetas, which were large crickets like creatures with very long legs.

The final cave of the day was the main tourist attraction to this area, the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. Lots of the information shared by our guide was information we had learnt from the previous two guides. So this trip was more for just viewing the beautiful surroundings. We wandered around the cave for a bit, before boarding a boat where we silently glided through the cave. We rode under thousands of magical glowworms which, until today, never realised how big glow worms actually were. The boat ride didn't last long, so it wasn't long before we were back at the Visitors Centre.
Unfortunately we could not take any pictures during this tour, so there is little to show you of the glowworms. 

We have both had a brilliant day exploring the different caves, next time (Beacuse we will definitely come back in the future!) we will take to the black water rafting through the Ruakuri Cave, as this seems to be a more thrilling way to view this magical place. 
But for now, it is time to chill out for the evening as tomorrow we will finally get to see the world famous Hobbiton!

Day 15:
The day has finally come to take a visit to Hobbiton. I literally cannot wait!
We left the caravan site by 9.30, Hobbiton was only an hour and half way so it didn't take us long to get there. We had booked a tour for 1.30pm but arrived by 11am, eager beavers I know. But it gave us time to grab a coffee and cake from the cafe, as well as an opportunity for us to wander around the gift shop. We still had loads of time to spare though, but luckily the lady behind the ticket desk was able to change our tour slot for an earlier one. Perfect.

The tour lasted about 2 hours and we were taken by coach down to the Shire. That is where the magic began. We were guided on a walk through the Shire consisting of 44 different Hobbit Holes, as well as many other well known sights within the Shire. Only one Hobbit Hole was open for us to peek inside, not that there was much to see as all the filming inside the Holes was filmed in a studio. Nonetheless, the outside of the Hobbit Holes remained the same as in the movies. Even the miniature clothing lines still had miniature clothes pegged onto them, as well as having gardeners to keep fruits and vegetables growing in the garden patch all year round.

Within the shire there were only 5 doors which were 100% in size (Meaning they were the same size as a regular door), all the rest were 60% in size as Hobbits are only meant to be 3 feet tall. The larger doors allowed the producers to adapt the film so the actors and actresses didn't look out of proportion and we could realistically believe they were 3 foot tall. 
Our guide filled us with loads of information about the area and the filming. After The Lord Of The Rings films were finished, by contract the company ripped out all of the Shire, unaware that they would need it again to film the Hobbit later on. So they had to rebuild the whole place to make it look exactly the same as it had in the films before. This required them to artificially build the tree above Bilbo Baggens Hole, because they had killed the last one by removing it. They only had to wire on 200,000 leaves individually! I would not have liked to have that job.
Near the end of the tour, we got to grab a beer or cider from the famous Green Dragon Inn, which has specially brewed drinks only available to buy there. It was nice to get inside in the warm where the building inside was laid out just as you would picture it would be in the films.

Once the tour was finished and we had raided the gift shop for souvenirs, we needed to find somewhere to set up camp for the night. We drove another hour and a half to a place called Waihi Beach, which is situated on the East Coast. We got a perfect little spot right by the sea, however it was extremely windy and cold. Where has the lovely sunshine gone? Hopefully it will be back tomorrow when we head to Hot Water Beach.