A Travellerspoint blog

Wellington - Oh happy days are here again

By Kt

We are in the lovely city of Wellington, we have a room with our own bathroom and... a TV. wooohooo. shallow I know - but we've had tv for only 2 nights in fiji (with only 3 channels) since leaving at the beginning of december. I've missed it. I like that brain dead feeling. I welcome it back. Even if the TV signal is a bit dodge and is anything but clear, in fact all channels are like they were when you had an upstairs tv in the 80s with it's own ariel - it is still TV!!!

Anyhow, so since my last blog my mood has improved, mainly due to having some time in dullsville mountain lodge to get online and sort out a ton of stuff. I have also come to the conclusion that I am going to do things my way. The main bit of advice that I saw and got over and over again before going travelling was to just book a few days somewhere and then decide what you'll do and where you'll go from then. The idea being that everything is flexible and you can just live a wonderful, impromptu life going where ever the wind takes you. Well, let me tell you, that has not worked and has not only caused stress it has cost money! I am by nature a bit of a control freak so I normally like to have things in order when it comes to accommodation etc. But, I'd realised that I had to change. I was prepared to let the fear go and go with these travel gurus. Well, it worked fairly well in Fiji. It's a laid back place and you could pretty much do things on the fly. But in New Zealand, it is not working. I have since learned that in New Zealand and Australia, these days, that demand outweighs availability. So, having not booked things even 3 or 4 weeks in advance, all the best and cheaper options are getting snapped up, leaving you with lack of choice and costlier options. I think this is even more so for booking the private rooms, there probably is much more flexibility with the dorms. So, I'm going ahead and booking the rest of New Zealand and a fair chunk of Australia - and boy do I feel happier with that decision. Of course it'll backfire at times, but we've already experienced not being able to stay places we like as long as we'd like and being stuck longer than we liked in places we thought sucked - that's just the nature of the travel. You can't avoid it - not least because in most countries you need to show an onward ticket to prove you're not going to stay in their country longer than they want. And inflexible flights are cheaper. Oh it's a vicious cycle is it not?

Anyhow - turning back into an early 'booker' has cheered me up, as has finding some solutions to my Australia dilemma. The hostels in Australia are all hideously expensive and to add insult to injury they all sound awful. I don't want to spend 60 quid a night on places that are dirty and noisy. Barely a decent review for any hostel in Adelaide, Melbourne or Sydney. So, I decided to have a look on 'airbnb'. This is a site I joined a few months before we went away but never really looked into properly. It's a basically people renting out rooms in their homes, or sometimes the whole home, to people who are members of airbnb. They don't have to accept your booking if they don't like the look of you. You can get recommendations from people who know you (thanks Lucy n Rach!) and also when you have stayed with people they can review you.
Anyhow, there are some fab properties out there. Mark thought it would be a bit weird to stay in peoples homes and share their kitchens or whatever, but then I pointed out that every time we went to a new hostel we felt awkward and had to share with multiple strangers who can change everyday. We've also decided to slow down our travel and booking places on a weekly rate can be a fair bit cheaper than nightly.
To cut a long and I'm sure by now you're finding, boring, story short. We have booked some fantastic places to stay in Australia for same price or cheaper than a scummy hostel. The first place in Adelaide is in a gorgeous house, converted from part of a 1970s juice factory, about 20 mins from city centre. Colour me happy!!!

So, we left the lodge place to drive down to Wellington and as we were leaving and we were glad to be leaving the cold. I found the landscape fairly boring and thought could see the same anywhere, until Mark pointed out that one of the mountains was in fact a volcano, which we don't see everyday. Oops - oh yeah! Still, the first 3 hours of our journey to Wellington was pretty boring. Fields of cows and sheep and trees and mountains and winding roads. For HOURS! As we got a couple of hours away from Wellington, it got much more appealing. Lots of cute little towns. There was even a vintage car event in one of the towns, so for miles we passed an interesting array of lush vehicles (I lurve vintage cars). The towns of Bull and Foxton (although that made me think of the scumbag estate agents) were particularly charming. I so wished we'd travelled a couple of hours further than the lodge and stayed in one of these places. The sun came out and we followed the coast with the sea sparkling and made Wellington in really great time.

Our first delight was our hostel - which is a gorgeous converted art deco hotel so our room was like a normal hotel one. As mentioned above, we were super excited about the TV and having our own bathroom for the first time since Fiji. The first floor is the old restaurant and bar and we have the old hotel kitchen available to cook in which is cool. It has one of the big walk in fridges and tons of work stations. Proper Masterchef I thought!!


Posted by KtandMark 01:06 Archived in New Zealand Comments (2)

National Park Village - middle of nowhere in the rain

by Kt

I picked our next hostel (yes, me, Mark doesn't really get involved in such practicalities, he likes the surprise - which normally finds him disliking it for the first hour or two but loving it by the time we leave), because it was on the way down to Wellington and it was quite remote, with internet, so we could spend a bit of time, not distracted by the world and catching up on stuff. With the macbook dying in Fiji, I didn't really get a chance to do any planning for New Zealand and have found that, at time, has been quite detrimental, in particular, I have found the hostels get booked up early, so I don't know how anyone does the 'fly by the seat of their pants' / 'see which way the wind takes you' type travel. Actually, I do, the dorms are pretty straight forward, it's the double rooms which get booked up early and can be horribly pricey.
Anyhow, I really have to take some time to think about what on earth we are going to do in Australia before we go as that is going to be a bit of a scary one, seeing as it is horrifyingly pricey. I thought New Zealand was expensive, but Oz double rooms seem to be about 25% percent more expensive that here even. I have a sinking feeling that doing the three months we'd hoped for might not happen, if we're going to keep travelling for more than a year. Anyhow, that has left me with a bit of a munk on. Have you noticed, how steadily my days have more mention of moody and grumpiness? I was naive enough to think I'd be skipping around picking daisies and singing everywhere we went, but I waexpect to be quite so fed up, quite as often as I have been lately. I think the moving about, not being able to do anything, like cook, wash and even sleep easily can get a bit tiresome. Not to mention trying to live to budget. I will try, however, not to litter the blog with moaning, as I can imagine that would be pretty annoying for anyone stuck in the cold/at work or both.
But if it makes you feel any better, we have arrived in a very cold and wet national park. The fact that the nearest bathroom means going outside, and then walking for 5 mins - I won't even mention that in case it sounds like moaning. Marks pretty un-impressed and a bit bored at this point (I'm hogging the netbook, obviously). It is incredible the effect the weather has when you are travelling. If it was just as sunny and lovely as it has been the past few days, this place would feel, heavenly. We'd sit out on the decking, reading enjoying the warm and looking around thinking what a lovely setting we are in. But it's raining and it's cold so we are in our room with the heater on, feeling miffed that we have to walk such a long way to make a cup of tea and wondering if am going to be able to find anything suitable to cook the chicken breasts in later (I know that doesn't sound like slumming it, but trust me, chicken and veg is the fanciest meal we'll have cooked so far - most places don't even have ovens).
On the upside, we can't really spend any money here. Well, that is if we can manage to stay out of the tavern place down the road.
Plus, as well as catching up on correspondence (chasing the insurance company about our broken macbook and arguing with Groupon NZ about a badly described voucher I bought.... oh it does feel good to get it all out), and scouring the internet for cheap ways to do Oz, we can also catch up on those long missed tasks. I believe Mark, for instance, is going to cut his finger AND toe nails. I may tackle that hard skin on my feet and perhaps even pluck my eyebrows. Oh the glamour!

Posted by KtandMark 19:07 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Not such a diamond geezer... then a deluge of fun

by Kt

Is that the worst title I've done so far? Mm. Ah well, you can blame Mark for those suggestions.

Anyway, we had a second day of activity - believe it or not. Mark and I getting off our backsides - two days running.
We had an early start to go to the Wai-o-tapu thermal wonderland which basically was a huge space, half an hour south of Rotorua which had tons of stuff going on in a geo thermal kind of way. There were volcanic craters and various pools in various colours, doing various different kinds of bubbling and spurting and stuff. Am I selling it? Probably not, but it was amazing. The smell, however, was way, way stronger than the places we had experienced so far and a couple of times I was actually retching. The normal, holding your breath and not breathing through your nose thing didn't always work so you'd kind of get a mouthful and could taste the smell. Difficult to describe, but was seriously nasty. The worst point was when we were walking back along past a vast area called the 'Champagne Pool' and the wind blew the huge amount of steam directly at us and it took a good 30 seconds to walk through. A fog of grossness. Yuk. Much as it's all been fascinating, I am definitely ready to leave the smells behind. I usually have such a strong stomach, but these really get to me for some reason.

At 10.15 each day one of their geisers, the 'Lady Knox' (not named after Amanda, despite Marks distasteful suggestion) would go off, so everybody rushed down the road a bit to watch this happen. We'd heard rumours in town that this was given a little helping hand, but when the 'show' started they did fess up to this and they apparently add some organic matter of some kind to get it going at a set time, rather than wait for the sporadic 7 - 72 hours it would do on it's own. It felt a little wrong and I wasn't expecting an amphitheater type setup, but I'd never seen one before so thought would give it a go. Mark thought it was a bit lame, but I don't know what he was expecting - something natural spurting water 20 foot in the air is pretty impressive, I think. Maybe we've all become a little spoilt by man made things, like the Bellagio in Vegas. If only nature could be so entertaining!

After the geiser (hence the title by the way, if you hadn't guessed), we did some further trails around - some of them pretty steep to give some amazing views at some of the larger expanses. We were particularly thrilled when one cameras battery died and the other one ran out of space.Ah well, after my favourite, the green pool, nothing quite lived up to it anyway. I do like a bit of colour, but much of this thermal stuff is brown and grey - gets old quickly. I'm really rubbish with my attention span for this nature malarkey.



We then went to the do the Luge. This is something that was invented/designed by a guy in Rotorua and is kind of like the luge, in that the thing you are driving in slides down a sloped track, but you can steer it and you have breaks. You first had to get a 'gondola', which was basically a cable-car, up the mountain to a kind of mini amusement park, which had a restaurant and a few ride type things you could do including the luge. The view up there was pretty impressive, looking out over the huge lake Rotorua.
To start off our luging, we helmeted up, so you looked a total numpty and then started on the mandatory beginners ride on your luge.
It seemed good fun at first, you could control your speed to a degree and you were going through some nice scenery but it was a a bit trickier than it seemed as you had to hold the handles pretty tight and they kept slipping away from me and if they fell out of your hands completely you came to a stop. About half way down I came to such a stop and didn't really know how to get going. I now know I could have just gotten out and shoved the thing, but there hadn't really been much safety info before hand, other than showing you the brakes, so I wasn't sure if I was supposed to. So, I just sat there for a while, trying to shake it into action, like a total muppet, as a few people whizzed by. I eventually got it going and got to almost the end, before it came to a stand still again, this time with a queue of kids behind me, most of which managed to siddle past, while in the distance Mark laughed at my being stranded and my grumpy face. I scrambled out, in the end, muttering to myself as we'd booked 5 luges each, at not a cheap price and I hadn't enjoyed it one bit and was generally huffing and puffing. Where you ended the luge, you were half way down the mountain and the only way of getting out was back up on a chair lift. My mood wasn't improved when I didn't hit ours in time, not having been on one before, trying to jump on as it took off with Mark, was not very successful. So, on my lonely ascent back up the mountain (ok, not that lonely, Mark was within shouting distance), I calmed down a bit and enjoyed the scenery and figured I'd give it another go and then give the rest of my luges to some kids as they seemed to all be having a ball.
So, second go, we decided to go on the intermediate run, and amazingly, this time, I had a ball. I had a slightly different luge car (or whatever they might be called). I won't bore you with details, or blame my bad run on the car, although, this, I did believed, was paramount to my initial rubbishness. The intermedidate run was faster and with more hear raising corners, and as Mark put it, he didn't have time to go to the toilet and have a cup of tea, whilst waiting for me to get down this time (for the record there was no toilet or tea facilities down there - pah!).
We did all our 5 luges, the last two on the advanced runs and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and I got much quicker and generally less embarrassing each time. It was a bit pricey for each luge, so we decided to call it a day, which involved the stair lift half way back up the mountain and then the gondola all the way down.


Posted by KtandMark 19:00 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Rotorua - a few things rolled into one

by Kt

After a rather dull 7+ hour drive (New Zealand, as we've driven through so far is pretty much same as UK countryside - bit uninspring), we reached Rotorua which is kind of north of the middle of the North Island of New Zealand.
It's slap bang in the middle of tons of geothermal styleee activity so is a tourism mecca and quite soon upon arrival we got our first whiff of sulphur. It's a bit like when I worked in Slough and you'd get the smell of chocolate from the Mars factory, faintly on the wind, which I didn't find very pleasant either, but this is the faint whiff of - well the only thing I can liken it to is stink bombs. Do kids still have them? But it's really like that - not nice.

The hostel is interesting. We really like it - it's kind of a bit tired, but painted brightly and has on murals on the walls and in the kitchens and in the hallway everyone can use marker pens to write/draw whatever they like.
If anyone remembers when we did similar in our bathroom, Mark has drawn one of those creepy men - he's called Peter apparently!!
We also have our own little thermal bath in the backyard. It's a yucky brown colour, but that is just the nature of them, it's not dirty. \
It is, however, pretty warm and you can't stay in it for long, not that we've done much more than soaked our feet.

Our room was a bit of a shock. I had fallen for booking a 'Twin' room. Having done this in Fiji no problem, I hadn't realied that in New Zealand this often means bunkbeds. Our room, Mark thinks, basically looks like a prison cell. Admittedly, it's not the cosiest but luckily there's loads of communal places to hang out. It's actually not like the unsturdy, thin bunkbeds I remember from my youth, it's remarkably stable and pretty wide and actually quite comfy. I opted for top bunk, which I'm rather regretting, not just because it can be a bit of a bind clambering down in the middle of the night, or in the morning when not feeling so fresh, but mostly because Mark finds it highly amusing to poke me from below, through the slats, or lean his hand around the back and pull my hair. Oh the hilarity. I find it so funny. Everytime. Really I do!

Upon wandering around Rotorua centre, our first afternoon, we weren't overly impressed. Obviously you're not here for the town, as such, but it was a bit on the cheap and tacky side, a bit like Blackpool or Niagra. Not awful, but just that special way that such places can be.
On the upside, cheap is what we needed. Drinks were a bit cheaper than we'd had in a while, so we celebrated, by, well, having too many. Big suprise, hey? Ending the night at Joe's diner where Mark burgered it up and I had a cheese and tomato toasty - blinder.

The next day we decided to be a little more cultured and did a couple of hours walking around the town in the route suggested by the guy in our hostel. There is a big park in the town which had fenced off areas for the geothermal activity and it was amazing just walking around there. There were boggy bits, different coloured bits, bits that were literally boiling. All rather cool and, of course, smelly. We then wandered around down by the river. Considering it's still summer season it was terribly quiet. Some jet boats, sea planes and helicopters knocking around without much action going on. We made our way over to the next geothermal area, behind the museum and came across the Blue Baths. This is a place that was built in the 30s for pleasure bathing and has a big ballroom that opens onto an outdoor pool. They'd recently done it up, after it had closed in the early 80s, but not too much 'newness' thankfully and it was kind of a bit crumbly but in a good way. The main pool was thermally heated, at 30 degrees, which was divine. It never went over 4'7 in depth, as it is meant for having fun more than swimming and then they had two smaller, dipping pools either side that were 40 degrees which is hotter than it sounds.
The whole time we were there they were playing 30s music which made it all the lovelier. The whole vibe of the place was just old skool, cheeky chic and I so just wanted to just drape myself over the edges of the pool, drink a martini and call everybody 'darling'.


Posted by KtandMark 17:52 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

New Zealand - Up in the Northlands - KeriKeri Farm Hostel

by Kt

We have a car - yey - first time in over 6 weeks and it feels very liberating.

A long and quite boring drive brought us up to the north of the north island to KeriKeri. There were supposed to be amazing beaches here so came with Mark diving in mind, but unfortunately the cost is just crazy so he couldn't, even though he really fancied doing the sunken Greenpeace ship, the Rainbow warrior. But 130 quid for a couple of dives - just crazy. It was costing about 70 in Fiji and that was pricey.

Anyhow, no matter as we are staying in the most divine hostel ever. It is the KeriKeri Farm hostel and is a small holding who grow organic oranges. As if orange orchards and free oranges and tangerines aren't fabulous enough, we have a couple of lovely dogs, odd looking chickens, some with chicks, a sheep and a 2 Kune (pronounced kooney) pigs, who are a proper new zealand, mauri breed and are gorgeous as!!! (I have a weakness for pigs and rabbits). It's a laid back place, all wooden and cozy, and decked with a small pool. It's just a lovely place to be and we added and extra day to our stay here and only wished we could add more.



We've not done a whole lot - most of the boat trips and stuff is uber expensive and it's so nice on the farm, we wanted to make the most of staying there - though it does seem ridiculous after a 4 hour drive up here.

The one place we did go to was the Glow worm caves. I think there are 3 or 4 instances of these around New Zealand, but I'd heard this was a good, family run and cheaper one. It was very cool. Glow worms actually do rock. When the lights are turned out in the cave it's like looking up at constellations of stars and all it is are these funny worms hanging off the ceiling via webs.
Cool glow worm fact 1 - they are very territorial and if one gets on anothers turf they will eat them!
Cool glow worm fact 2 - after all this wonderful existence as a glow worm, once they hatch and become flies they live for 3 days - that's rather sucky.
Cool glow worm fact 3 - and the best as far as i'm concerned - they glow brighter the more hungry they are!!! I want to glow bright when I am hungry - great diet plan or what??

Posted by KtandMark 01:02 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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