Friday, December 22, 2006

Christchurch – Cheviot – Kiakoura – Picton – Wellington – National Park – Rotorua

So we left Christchurch after another two nights at Casa Steve and hit the road for Cheviot, just south of Kiakoura. The dolphin swimming was booked for the morning that we wanted to go so we had some time to kill. After a few beers and catching up with Nath from work we go to Cheviot and decided we could go no further! We stayed in jail for the night – a cool 1900’s jail that they have made the two cells into rooms – they did add an extra window, but thoughtfully left the original window, complete with bars and original door, complete with little hatch to talk to the criminals through!! Very amusing!

So we got to Kiakoura to be greeted by rain and wind – our hopes for 5am dolphin swimming diminishing quickly. We got up at 5 and gave them a call – the trip was on as they had less wind than expected – so we rushed down there, got suited up in 7mm two piece wetsuits, with hood, and jumped on the bus to the boat. Once on the boat we headed out to one of the bays where they usually see dolphins, but after about 10 minutes they decided it was too rough to continue and we headed back to the shore, got back on the bus to the base, got out of the 7mm two piece wetsuits, with hood, and returned to our little room to watch dvd’s for the rest of the day as the weather was just foul. We re-booked for 5am the next day though and we made it to the bay second time. Just after we had got into the bay the captain said the swimmers should all start to get ready as the dolphins were about – then they blow this big horn and you all start jumping off the back of the boat into the 14oC water!

The dolphins are totally wild, so you have entertain them to get them to stick around, they don’t get fed by the company, so they don’t hassle you, they are just interested in you. It’s all very strange – they like it when you duck dive down (no chance of that happening in water that cold) and they like to swim in circles around you and stay about longer if you spin around looking at them while they swim around you. You are also encouraged to make noise as they find that interesting. A great experience and we are both so pleased we got to go – well worth the waiting around. By the end of it we felt a little sick… beware – treading freezing cold water for 30 minutes in a swell while spinning around and making noises can make you feel sick as a dog!
The photos don’t nearly do this amazing experience justice, but you get the idea…

Set your camera on continuous photos and take about 50, you’ll end up with one or two with dolphins actually in the air!

Unfortunately the visibility wasn’t great, it looked better than this in real life!

So from Kiakoura we headed north to Picton. We had planned to walk the Queen Charlotte Track, but we both managed to pick up some sort of bug from somewhere and only managed to do a tour in the car. Very stunning area...

From Picton we got the ferry over the Cook Straight to Wellington – it was super windy, but a calm crossing (thankfully!) – despite the wind, when the captain announced that he had seen Orcas off to the front left of the ferry everyone braved to wind to try and catch a glimpse – sadly they had moved on already! In Wellington we visited Te Papa – the national museum and then headed north to Wanganui to try and find out about canoeing the river there.

We got there as the information place was closing but the nice man let us in anyway and sold us a 3 day adventure down the Wanganui river in a Canadian canoe. We had another couple of hours drive up to National Park where all the tours went from and we were treated to some spectacular views on the way…

Mount Ruapehu

The three days canoeing were perfect! The weather was awesome sunny & blue skies for all three days (resulting in burnt heads / knees / feet etc!) and it was very entertaining being in a big open Canadian canoe rather than the regular sort. It made for interesting times when we came to the rapids!! We camped the first night and then stayed in a hut the second night. Over the three days we covered about 90km of river, a slab of beer, a bottle of wine and mountains of food – a job well done.

We did a side trip (about a 40 minute walk) to ‘The Bridge to Nowhere’, which is a bridge to nowhere, in the middle of nowhere! It was supposed to be an area developed for farming, but by the time the bridge was finished everyone had moved to greener pastures and now it’s just there, in the middle of nowhere!

A constant source of amusement throughout the trip – the feral goats!!

We decided to stick around in Nation Park for the next couple of nights and do the Tongariro Crossing, hailed as the best one-day walk in NZ. I did this walk last time I was here and it was wicked so I’m glad we got the chance to do it. The weather was perfect – again (don’t worry, we are currently paying for those 4 days of perfect weather!) and there are too many photos to chose from! A great walk if you get the chance to do it.

From National Park we then entered the rainy days again and didn’t get a good look at Taupo Lake and the nice view you get there in the sun, or the good views of Rotorua. We had decided to go an see an old school friend of Rob’s the next day so we had to find something to do for the morning. Rob picked white water rafting (our 3rd time this trip) on the Kiatuna river. This one is special because you raft over the highest commercially rafted waterfall – a whopping 7m (~21ft). Now I wasn’t too excited about this – but the trip is only 45 minutes so I figured it would at least be over quickly!

There were four of us in the raft with two guides. So one of the guides was in the back – then it was the other guide and Rob, then the next couple and then me at the front. On my own! I wasn’t very happy about it!! But once we got in the raft and got going I wasn’t too bothered, that was, until we came to the bit with the waterfall. He took us near the edge and then got us all to stand up to have a look – you couldn’t even see the bottom where you would land – very scary. I totally tuned out when he started saying about how you have to go into a little ball if you fall out of the raft as the waterfall will suck you under and blah blah blah. I wasn’t very happy about being in the front on my own at this point. Anyway – over we went and upright we stayed, although you can see from the photos we disappeared for a bit!

After that bit it was all OK – for one of the rapids I even got to sit on the front of the raft with my legs over front bit, holding on with one hand, the other in the air – just like a crazy bull-rider! Sadly no photos of that bit! All in all an excellent activity and I will certainly recommend it to people!

Me and the other chick doing the Titanic as the guides made our raft ‘surf’ the rapid!

After this we called in at a 4WD place where we had a go at scaring the crap out of each other by driving up, down and through scary things!

So we had a lovely evening visiting Rob’s friend, a chance to wash things (everything smells clean!) and sleep in a real bed (ahh, the luxury!) and now we are back in Rotorua before heading to Waitomo to ‘do’ the caves tomorrow afternoon.

Other stuff:

We went to watch the new James Bond film – despite thinking the new dude wasn’t James Bondy at all – it was awesome! Go and see it if you can.

We have changed our ticket (mainly due to us wanting to go to Tonga, the Fiji coup & the great deals to Tonga!) so that we don’t have as much time in Fiji as we did (one month down to two weeks) – this left us with a spare two weeks so we are heading to Tonga to explore! Less than three weeks until we start our South Pacific tour!!!

It’s the 20th today and we still have no plans for Christmas, we are not even sure where we will be! This must be the most un-Christmassy I have felt ever! We have booked diving for 30th Dec, but again have no idea where to spent New Year, holidays like this should be scrapped when you are traveling!

Well, now it’s the 22nd and we have a vague plan of what to do for xmas, we are hoping to get booked into one of the DOC campsites here on the Coromandel afer purchasing our tent and trying it out (successfully) last night in Hahei. Photos to follow! Have a great Christmas everyone!

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