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Part 6 - A Tour of New Zealand

1 British Pound (GBP) = 3.15 New Zealand Dollars (NZD)

Lake Taupo | Picton | Nelson | Hokitika | The Glaciers | Haast | Queenstown | Dunedin | Christchurch | Wellington | Auckland | Rotorua | Coromandel Peninsula | Bay of Islands | Auckland Again

Lake Taupo (Saturday 14th November)

Today was beautiful and sunny - not a cloud in the sky or a care in the world as we set drove out of Auckland, heading South down Highway 1 for Lake Taupo. Both of us are pretty glad to get out of Auckland after spending such an unfruitful month here, but we're on the road now and I'm sure it will be lots of fun ! Our hired car is a 1992 Toyota Sprinter with automatic transmission and a full set of instructions in Japanese. At $28 a day, it's quite a good deal. Gav and I are sharing the driving this time as there is no nasty excess for drivers under 25. This is good as it breaks the monotony of long drives, but I still have to get the hang of the automatic transmission. It's a bit like driving a dodgem car, but every time I start or slow down my hand reaches for the gear stick and my foot presses on the missing clutch.

We arrived in Taupo early afternoon at the Taupo Motor Lodge where we'd booked a cabin for $38 a night. It's a basic wee cabin - you have to supply your own bed linen and pillows, but that's fine for us as we've come equipped with our two pillows, duvet and sheet. It's really central, right next to the lake and a few minutes from the centre, with parking right outside the cabin. The only thing worrying me is the fact that there are around 18 cabins (all twins and doubles) and only one shower in each of the male and female toilet blocks. That's 1 shower per 18 people ! Can you imagine the queue in the morning ?

This afternoon we took a walk to Hura falls, approximately a 10km round trip from the town centre. On our way we passed the Taupo Bungy which is set over a very scenic river, and watched the Bungy jumpers in action for a while. Gav is planning on doing a jump in Queenstown but being the big scaredy cat that I am, I'm going to give it a miss. Give me white water rafting, Zorbing or doing back flips any day, but bungy jumping, no way ! After watching the bungy jumpers, we walked to Spa Park where the trail to Hura falls starts, beside the hot stream where people can bathe. The walk was really nice and it was good to be out in the fresh air with all the sunshine and trees, not to mention get a bit of exercise. I've gone from someone who has spent the last couple of years going to the gym every working day without fail, to being a complete slob who only gets the occasional walk and eats too many pies ! I told Gavin that we'll have to start doing some walking every day, but he aint into that idea at all.

Tonight we had a huge tasty (and healthy!) chicken kebab from the takeaway in Taupo and it's going to be an early night tonight. The combination of the driving, walking, fresh air and getting up at 8am (much earlier than usual) has tired us both out. Until tomorrow ...

Picton (Sunday 15th November)

We're in Picton at the moment, but I can't say much about it as it was dark when we came in from the ferry. The drive down from Taupo was around 400km and very scenic with forests, mountains and volcanoes, all of which I can't remember the names ! It took us around 5 hours including a stop for a picnic lunch, then the ferry journey was 3 hours and very pleasant with great views of the Malborough Sounds.

We're staying at a very nice backpackers place called Juggler's Rest (8 Cantebury Street, Tel (04) 5735570). It's a small place with one double room View of the harbour in Picton (which we managed to get - $32) and a couple of dorms for $14 a person. The house is lovely and cosy with a good atmosphere, lots of books, juggling balls and clubs, a kitchen, living room area, garden and pool. The owners are professional jugglers and did a fire eating and juggling demonstration for us at night. Gav was the lucky victim chosen to stand in between two of them they juggled burning clubs ! The scary thing was they hadn't done it for a few months, but he survived. After that everyone had a go at eating fire (including myself and Gav). It was pretty frightening as the flame was really big (apparantly bigger than the flames that most fire eaters use !) but I did it and it wasn't painful - just a horrible kerosene taste in the mouth after ! I'm not sure if the photos will turn out though. Anyway that's all for now, as we need our sleep. Tomorrow we're spending the morning in Picton then it's of to Nelson in the afternoon.

Nelson (Monday 16th November)

This morning we wandered around the lovely little town of Picton. It's very picturesque with the harbour, the Sounds in the background and a grassy area with palm trees in front of the water. We had some lunch at a nearby cafe - Gav had a huge BLT toasted sandwich and chips for $4.50 and I had a big plate of spicy potato wedges with sour cream for $3. When you convert that back to pounds by dividing by three it's excellent value. We took a walk up the hill next to Victoria Domain for some great views of the area and then started our journey to Nelson some 140km or so away.

Nelson is the top holiday destination in New Zealand and has the highest number of hours of sunshine in the country, lots of nice beaches and scenery. We're staying at the Nelson YHA (59 Rutherford Street, Tel: (03) 545 9988) which is in the town centre and costs $40 for a twin/double room. It's clean and modern with cooking facilities, lounges, garden dining and an internet access point. we didn't get up to much this afternoon, just walked around Nelson and went to the beach for a while.

Hokitika (Tuesday 17th November)

Another sunny day and another long drive. This time we headed down the west coast towards our destination, a small town called Hokitika. We're basically going to Queenstown but splitting our journey over 3 days and stopping at points of interest along the way.

First we drove through the Buller Gorge, the road winding round the tree covered cliffs by a sparkling turquoise river. We stopped off to walk over a thin metal suspension bridge over the river which was a bit scary. Every morning when we set off on our drive we see lots of rest stops (i.e a place to stop with picnic benches) then when we decide to have our picnic lunch we don't see any - typical ! Today we ended up having lunch in the car, but it was at a beautiful stop overlooking the river. Guess what we saw afterwards after a couple of minutes of driving ? Yes, a rest stop ! One annoying thing that we have noticed about driving in New Zealand is the large number of aggressive tailgaters on the road. Today I was behind a slow moving campervan on a winding road, keeping a safe distance behind it, and the driver behind me insisted on keeping right up my behind until there was a passing lane and I could overtake the campervan. I mean, what is the point ?

After leaving Buller Gorge we came on to a coastal road where the scenery was amazing - lots of palm trees and Rainforest plants covering all the hill and fields and the clear blue sea with long white beaches. We stopped at the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes, so called because of the way the rocks are stacked up like pancakes and at high tide the water shoots out the holes in the rocks, squirting the water up high in the air like a geyser. Unfortunately we missed the blowholes performing because high tide is around ten in the morning and at night. It was very photogenic all the same.

Tonight we are staying in the Mountain Jade backpackers (41 Weld Street, Hokitika, Tel 03 755 8007) We have a double room which could actually sleep three as there is a bunk bed above the double bed. It's $40 and there's dorms for $16 as well. It's a clean tidy place with spacious cooking and common areas). We were good and budget conscious tonight by cooking our own tea, then we had a couple of drinks at the bar around the corner and were practically the only customers. A pint of beer and a G&T only cost us $6 (2 pounds !) Hokitika itself is a quiet little town (under 4000 people stay here), with a beach covered in huge pieces of driftwood and a Quay. Greenstone (Jade) is big here and there are lots of craft shops selling it. This stone is very impostant and treasured to the Maori people of New Zealand.

The Glaciers and Haast (Wednesday 18th November)

Today we drove the 350km or so to Haast, our designated rest stop for the night (only because it's around halfway between Hokitika and Queenstown). On the way we stopped at both the Franz Josef Glacier and the Fox Glacier for a look and some photo oppurtunities. The Glaciers are basically huge rivers of ice between two mountains coming down the valley towards the sea. They have both advanced closer to the sea than any other glacier on earth. We took some photos and had our usual picnic lunch, then drove on to Haast, a tiny tiny town in what seems like the middle of nowhere. We're staying at the aptly named Wilderness Backpackers, which is a nice clean place with bigger double rooms than the last two places we've stayed for $35. Dorms are $15 (Pauareka Road, Haast, Tel: 03 750 0029 or freephone 0800 750029 for bookings only).

It's pissing down with rain outside at the moment so we're feeling quite at home ! We drove to Jackson Bay, late afternoon today in the hope of seeing some penguins on the beaches, but despite stopping about 4 times on the beach along the way and getting the binoculars out, we didn't see any. This is the only place I've seen a roadsign with a warning - Penguins, next 5km ! Tonight we didn't get up to much at all - had a nice unhealthy meal of burger and chips at the tearoom round the corner (one of two eating places in Haast), then lazed about reading books for the remainder of the evening. Tomorrow we're off to Queenstown for 3 nights - the Adventure Capital of the World (apparantly).

Queenstown (Thursday 19th November)

We arrived in Queenstown early afternoon after a journey through scenery that reminded us of the north of Scotland. Just to make us feel even more at home the weather was rainy, windy and pretty cold ! We stopped at Stuart Landsborough's Puzzling World just outside Wanaka for a look at the holograms and the tilted houses. The tilted houses were great - I can't explain it, you have to go in to understand what I mean. There's also a 3D 1.5km maze which we never bothered with as the weather was so crap.

Queenstown is a lovely place with an Alpine ski resort feel to it, set round a lake against a backdrop of mountains. We wandered around the town in the afternoon and Gavin booked a bungy jump for tomorrow morning at AJ Hackett's Skipper's Canyon location. He's going to throw himself off a 72 metre high bridge. I'm giving the jump a miss (yes I'm a big scaredy cat !) but I'll be there to watch. There are three other bungy jumps in Queenstown, the highest being 102 metres, so there's plenty to choose from and lots of other adrenalin rush sports are catered for here - white water rafting, high speed jet boating, sky diving, fly-by-wire and parapenting to name a few.

Tonight we stayed in for dinner - Burritos a la Suzanne in the Youth Hostel's huge kitchen. We've got a room in Queenstown's YHA for the next three nights ($44), just by the lake and a ten minute walk from the town centre. Tomorrow it's an early rise as we have to be at AJ Hackett's bungy office at 8am to be transported to Skipper's Canyon. Goodnight !

3-2-1 Bungy ! (Friday 20th November)

We were up at the unearthly hour of 7.30am today and out into the chilly air to walk along to the bungy office. At 8.30 we were driven to Skipper's Canyon in two 4 wheel drive vehicles. The journey was around an hour and most of it was on a winding narrow dirt track through the hills. On my first sight of the bridge all I could think was that I'm glad I'm not doing the jump ! Everyone got harnessed up and Gav found out that he would be one of the last to do the jump as he was one of the heaviest, giving him plenty of extra time to get nervous ! We watched everyone else jumping, some of them going off the platform backwards, then it was Gavin's turn. I was so busy trying to snap photos of him at every angle to see much of his jump, but I was glad to see him being pulled to safety ay the end ! Gav's reaction - he wasn't that scared, but on the first couple of metres the thought running through his head was "What the hell am I doing this for ?!" It wasn't the biggest adrenalin rush he's ever had , but he wouldn't do it again. I'm still glad I never did it !

Gavin Bungy Jumping

In the afternoon the sun came out and we had a walk, some lunch, picked up Gav's Bungy photos which were excellent and fed the ducks. The ducks here are not scared of people for sure - they were practically stepping on us and ate the bread from our hands.

We had some pasta and a bottle of cheap vino at a BYO restaurant called Avanti's in the evening, then ended up in an internet cafe for a couple of hours. Oh what internet junkies we are to go there on a Friday night !

Last Day in Queenstown (Saturday 21st November)

Today was a relaxing day - went up the skyline gondola for magnificent views of Queenstown and the Remarkables (a mountain range) then had a go on the luge - going down a hill on a sledge with wheels and no snow. The luge was great fun and we settled for two shots since the advanced track wasn't open. The one we were on was called the scenic track but still quite fast with bendy corners. The Gondola costs $12 or $22 including 5 shots on the luge or it's $4.50 for 1 luge and $7.50 for 2. The famous Ledge Bungy jump is up here too but nobody was jumping. I think they only jump from here at night.

For lunch we went to the foodcourt in the shopping mall. It's more expensive than the ones in Auckland with not as good a choice (we are food court experts now, you know). I had a horrible Burrito from the Mexican stall - beans in a runny sauce slapped on to a flour tortilla, folded in half, microwaved with cheese and tomato puree until it was soggy and finished off with a big dollip of sour cream in the top. Enough to give Mexican food a bad name - he couldn't even do a proper burrito fold (even I can manage that one). I felt like going over and telling him a thing or two about Mexican food, but I restrained myself.

For the rest of the afternoon we lazed in the sun, I got a well needed haircut - about 2.5 inches chopped off the end and we wandered around Queenstown Park and by the lake. It's such a picturesque place, especially when the sun is shining. Tonight we're cooking oursekves a chicken Korma and not getting up to much else as we've gone over budget today. Tomorrow we're off to the city of Dunedin, the most Southern point of our whole trip. I've enjoyed our stay in Queenstown, but ir's easy to spend lots of money here !

Dunedin and the Otago Peninsular (Sunday 22nd November)

We're in Dunedin now and it's bloody freezing ! Dunedin is the old Celtic name for Edinburgh and was originally founded by Scottish settlers. This probably why a lot of the streets are named after Edinburgh streets - Princes Street, George Street, Queen Street, Great King Street, Dundas Street, Hanover Street, Frederick Street - you get the picture. We've not actually seen much of Dunedin yet to get a feel for it - It's a University City and seems nice enough, although not as lovely as Edinburgh !

We drove up the Otago Peninsular this afternoon to a place called the Penguin place, a conservation area giving tours, allowing you to view the Penguins in their natural habitat on the beach, in the sea and in the bush area by the beach. They have lots of camoflagued trenches which you can walk through and watch the Penguins from. we saw lots of Penguins in their nests and waddling around and we even saw a huge fat sea-lion sliding out of the sea on its belly. All of the Penguins are of the rare yellow-eyed variety and the number of penguins has increased from 8 pairs to 40 pairs since the project started. It costs $23 for the tour and includes a talk (20 minutes) and sighting of the penguins. If you like penguins, I'd highly recommend it.

We're staying at Manor Park backpackers tonight in a dorm (shock, horror), but there's nobody in it apart from us which is just as well as there's not a lot of floor space and I like my privacy (I had enough of dorms in my inter-railing days !). It's $15 each for a dorm bed and doubles are $36 for the room (I think). It's a nice big old villa, but freezing cold so I've spent most of the evening in the living room with the heater on full blast.

Tomorrow we're going to have a look around Dunedin a bit before we head up to Christchurch, but if it's still pissing down with rain and freezing cold we may give it a miss. I wanted to do the Cadbury's Chocolate factory tour today, but they don't do tours anymore - I'm so upset ! I was speaking to a girl in the hostel and she said they have closed it to the public due to hygiene reasons as people were sticking their fingers inside the vats of chocolate. I guess the temptation was just too much ! We did manage to drive up Baldwin Street today though. It's the steepest street in the world with a gradient of 1 in 1.256 !

Christchurch (Monday 23rd November)

Today we arrived in the lovely garden city of Christchurch after a long drive through the pouring rain. We're staying at the Stonehurst Hotel/Motel/ Hostel which could do with a good lick of paint on all the walls and doors and a new carpet, but we've got a double room for $40 with a TV, Fridge and private shower/toilet so it's a very good deal. There's a bar/cafe, kitchen, laundry, lounge/dining room area and even a swimming pool, but given the weather I some how doubt we'll be taking the plunge given the weather. It's on 241 Gloucester Street (near the centre, tel (03) 379-4620).

We haven't really done much with our day today - we left Dunedin quite quickly due to the old and the rain, stopped to look at the Moeraki Boulders on the way. These are a group of giant boulders on a beach, apparantly caused by erosion from the mud cliffs behind them. Interesting to look at for a few minutes, but I wouldn't go out of my way to see them ! This evening we went out for a wander around Christchurch and had a tasty big Greek Chicken Souvlaki froma a takeaway called the Greek recipe. I manages to spill the sauce all over my freshly washed sweatshirt, so it was back to the hostel quick. We spent the rest of the night making up for our absence of TV for the last week. Hopefully the weather will be better tomorrow ...

Out and about in Christchurch (Tuesday 24th November)

Today we had a blissful lie in until 10am and then wandered down to the Antigua Boatsheds by the River Avon. We hired a couple of canoes for $5 each, then spent the next hour paddling along the river, saying hello to all the ducks and ducklings as we went. After lunch we spent an hour or so in the Canterbury Museum which was quite interesting. They have a good Antartica exhibit and one on the Moa (an extinct New Zealand land bird). We walked round the boptanic gardens for a while after that then went to Molten Media, an internet place which charges $6 an hour. That was our day - the weather was fine and Christchurch is a lovely city, nicer than Auckland I'd say.

Tonight we went to this mega cheap Thai restaurant called Thai Tasty on Gloucester Street where all the dishes were $5 or $6 and huge plates of Jasmine rice are $1. We had Spicy Chicken with Cashew nuts and veggies, Penang chicken curry, two plates of rice and a couple of cans of coke for $16 (about a fiver !). It was nice and tasty and we finished today under our target budget (our target is no more than $120 a day, excluding car hire). Guess what we're doing tonight then ? Yes, you've got it - making the most of our TV. One good thing is that we've not been drunk for weeks and weeks. Our livers must be thanking us for it, but I'm sure that will all change when we meet up with Judith on Friday !

All the way to Wellington (Wednesday 25th November)

A minor truama this morning when we left Christchurch - our car wouldn't start ! A flat battery caused by Gav leaving the lights on the other night ! We're so used to driving a car that goes "beep beep beep" when the door is open and the lights are on. Luckily we have AA membership included in the cost of our car hire so we phoned them and they arrived in 20 minutes. The drive up to Picton was pretty boring - about 350km and torrential rain for much of the journey. We stopped in Kaikoura for some lunch at a cafe. This town is famous for its Dolphin swimming and Sperm Whale spotting trips and is the best place in New Zealand for it.

We arrived in Picton with a couple of hours to spare before our checkin time of 5.30 (an hour before it leaves) and didn't get up to much really - wandered around, checked our email and ate choccie cake.

We stayed at Maple Lodge tonight ($36 for double), a nice enough place which we found only by luck - it was dark and we couldn't see any street signs.

Wellington and Te Kuiti (Thursday 26th November)

We spent a very brief morning in Wellington - breakfast at McDonald's, then up the cable car for some views of the city and harbour. It was a bit cold and windy (Wellington's nickname is actually "Windy Wellington") so we didn't stay up there for very long. We bought the Lonely Planet guide to Queensland before heading back to the car. The published date is January 1996 which makes it almost 3 years old, but we decided to get it anyway as it is the only guidebook for Queensland - all the others cover the whole of Australia and aren't as detailed. The new edition comes out in January so we're just missing it.

It rained as usual for most of the drive up the North Island and I had the annoying experience of being stuck behind a car averageing about 40km/ph on a narrow winding road for almost an hour.(the speed limit here is 100km/ph). Every time I came to a straight bit of road and had the chance to overtake, the driver floored the gas, then slowed down again on reaching the bendy bit. Very frustrating ! Our designated stop for the night is a small town called Te Kuiti. Not for any particular reason, but it is less than 3 hours drive from Auckland and we don't want to be too far away as we're picking up Judith from the airport tomorrow. Tonight we're staying at Casara Mesa Backpacker's which is very nice. It's a private home in the countryside (Address RD6, Mangarino Rd, Tel (07) 8786697)) and tonight we are the only guests. It's $15 per person for a bed (with linen), $20 for bed and continental brekkie or $23 for bed and cooked brekkie. The rooms are really nice. There's nothing else to say about today really - we had dinner in a pub, then it was reading and bed time. Unfortunately we left out alarm clock in the room at Maple lodge, so we will have to rely on our body clocks to get us up tomorrow ! I'm looking forward to seeing Judith - another girl to talk to !

Back to Auckland (Friday 27th November)

Today started off bright and sunny and we had a bit of a lie in. We ended up sitting up chatting to Don (the owner of Casara Mera) last night for a while, who was really nice and said we didn't need to be out early this morning which was good. We drove up to Auckland Airport, stopping in Hamilton for a couple of hours on the way for lunch and a new alarm clock. Predictably the weather turned cloudy and windy so I had to change back into my jeans.

We met Judith off the flight from Melbourne and it was great seeing her again - a familiar face from home ! She's just spent the last fortnight in Melbourne staying with friends and going to a wedding and she had a great time and lovely sunny weather. A bit of a shame she had to arrive in Auckland to wild, windy, rainy cold weather ! We stayed in Parnell International Backpackers (Alan's Place), which I have to say was the least attractive place we've stayed in New Zealand so far. It's an old blind hospital and very run down, with dirty horrible bathrooms and lots of loud beer drinking Germans. The kitchen is of industrial proportions without a plate or a mug in sight. The sheets were clean though and we're only staying for one night so it's not the end of the world. Tonight we went out for an Italian meal - Judith's treat which was nice, then had a few bevvies and caught up on each other's news. We've decided to spend tomorrow in Rotorua followed by two days on the Coromandel Peninsula, two days in the Bay of Islands and back to Auckland for our last night.

Rotorua (Saturday 28th November)

Today we drove down to Rotorua, a large geo-thermic area and tourist hot spot, about 3hrs south os Auckland. Gav and I have already been here, but thought it was worthwhile going again to see the things we missed and to let Judith see all the steaming pools and bubbling mud. We never managed to get rooms in a backpacker's place so we went to a motel called the Forest Court Motel which was really nice with a really friendly and helpful owner. The unit had a living area with double bed, TV, kitchen and seperate twin room and a shower/toilet for $65 between the three of us ($55 for 2 people). There's also a hot spa and outdoor heated swimming pool.

We had a walk round the thermal park near the town centre looking at all the steaming pools and crater lakes, then came back to the motel for a dip in the swimming pool. The weather has been cold and cloudy all day, but the pool was lovely and hot and we just floated around with all the kiddie's inflatables, trying not to let too many body parts stick out of the water into the cold air !

Tonight we went to a traditional Maori Hangi and Concert at the Lake Plaza Hotel ($43 each). A Hangi is a traditional Maori feast cooked in a hole in the ground and it consisted of chicken, venison, eel (yuck!), lamb, lots of different fish, salads, potatoes and veggies, followed by sticky pudding, custard, fruit salad and pavlova - very tasty. Unusually I managed to contain myself at the buffet and not eat everything in sight. After that it was the concert - Maori singing, dancing, throwing of sticks and scary war type gestures. My favourite part is always when the men make evil faces (used in war to scare the opponent off), stick their tongues out and shout at the top of their voices.

Later on we ended up in a bar which had a good local band (I forget the name of both the bar and the band) and did lots of drinking, then stumbled back to our motel via the garage for some crisps and fizzy juice !

Traditional Maori Dancers

Traditional Maori Dancers

The nightmare from hell drive up the Coromandel (Sunday 29th November)

We all had hangovers from hell this morning and could have easily lay in bed until lunch time, but it was up and out by 10am as you have to do when staying at a motel for 1 night ! We started the day with a much needed cooked brekkie, then it was off to the Polynesian Spa for a dip in the hot pools. It was very relaxing, despite the rain which started to pour down, just as we settled into the pools. We lasted about 45 minutes before we started to feel a bit hot and dizzy (no thanks to our alcohol consumption last night !).

Next, we went to Hell's gate, to match how we were all feeling ($10 each). This is another geothermic area just outside Rotorua. We saw lots more steaming pools and excellent bubbling, thick, slurping mud pools (my favourite). Lots of fun.

It was after that that our fun drive up the peninsula began. We headed North via Tauranga and up the east side of the Peninsula, driving through the wild winds and rain. We were about 40km from our final destination of Whitianga when we came across a huge flood, covering the surrounding fields and the road. Some of the cars had attempted to drive through the water, got stuck half way and had to be pulled out by a pick up truck, so it didn't look very promising for us. We ended up turning back and started to drive the 130km or so across to the other side of the peninsula and up to Whitianga via Coromandel Town. It was dark and windy, the rain was pouring down, visibility was a few metres, then we hit another flood. Luckily this time it was shallow enough to drive through. When we arrived in Coromandel the mist came down and the road turned into an unsealed dirt track for around 25km. We had visions of breaking down in the middle of nowhere in the pouring rain, but Gavin did well with the driving and got us to Whitianga 4 hours or so later than planned, but in one piece.

It was around 9.30pm when we arrived at the Coromandel Backpacker's Lodge and the owners were a bit stoney faced because we were late (I had phoned them to let them know) and because we'd booked two double rooms when there were only three of us (?) Anyway, the place was really nice and very clean. It's a converted motel and right in front of the beach. We drove to the town centre in the hope of some food, but this place must shut early, so we resorted to noodles and ham, to be cooked into the kitchen. What a day !

Whitianga (Monday 30th November)

Today was lots of fun and we had sunshine - the first Judith has seen since she arrived here ! We wandered around the beach and the harbour for a while, had some lunch and drinks outside in a cafe overlooking the harbour, then went to a bone carving workshop to carve ourselves a piece of jewellery from a bone. We started off with a rectangular piece of bone and chose a design from over 100 examples (budding carvers can design their own). I decided on a simple fish hook pattern as I'm not really the artistic type ! We used a rotating tool to cut the pattern of our design, then another tool very like a dentist's drill to tidy it up and do the more detailed patterns. When we were drilling it smelt exactly like being at the dentist. After all the drilling and the occasional bit of help from Maurice our instructor we sat for what seemed like hours, filing away at all the surfaces of our design with sand paper, then with a finer grain of wet sand paper and finally polishing it until it shined. I must say, I was quite impressed with the result of all my efforts - much better than buying a ready made carving. It took about 2 and a half hours to do and cost $37 - well worth the money. I can now wear my necklace and proudly state that I made it myself. The workshop is at Racecourse Road, Whitianga.

This evening we went to a restaurant overlooking the harbour called On The Rocks. The food was nothing special, a bit bland actually. Judith is not afraid to tell people what she thinks, especially in restaurants, so she told the waitress that she thought the food was disappointing and not very tasty. The waitress told us she would pass it on to the chef and was scared to speak to us again ! We had a few glasses of vino after our meal and then it was off to bed. Gav and I had to creep through a sleeping dormitory to get to our room as usual.

Paihia, Bay of Islands (Thursday 1st December)

Not much to say about today really. We left the hostel around 9.30am and drove all the way up to the Bay of Islands, to the little town of Paihia. Paihia is very pretty and there are lots of activities like swimming with the dolphins and kayaking. We booked ourselves on a "Swim with the dolphins" trip for tomorrow lasting four hours (cost $85 or $72.50 with YHA card), then sat on the balcony with a takeaway pizza and a bottle of vino for company. We're staying in a self contained apartment studio that sleeps four people, with a TV, microwave, fridge, kettle, toaster, sink and private toilet/shower in the Cantabay Lodge for $77 a night between us ($65 for two people). It's very nice.

The Dolphins (Wednesday 2nd December)

We had a lovely long lie in this morning. Gavin was no doubt feeling the most refreshed as he kept Judith and I awake last night, snoring like a pig ! Judith got up at one point threatning to shake him if he didn't stop. Gavin, oblivious to the world stopped shortly after I rolled him over on to his stomach.

Our dolphin trip was very good - we saw only common dolphins, but there were around 20 of them swimming and jumping in the air, coming really close to the boat to swim under the bow. Unfortunately we didn't get to swim with them, as they were travelling, but it was a great experience . If the dolphins are feeding, travelling or with very young dolphins there is no swimming allowed (by law). On the way back the boat anchored at honeymoon beach, so named because there is only room for two people on the beach. We had some tea and coffee and one person was brave enough to go swimming in the chilly water. Without the incentive of the dolphins in the water, nobody really wanted to get in !

Tonight we went to a Swiss restaurant for dinner and surprise surprise, some more bevvy on the balcony, sending us off to bed a bit later than planned.

Back to rainy Auckland (Thursday 3rd December)

Today the heavens opened once more and the rain chucked it down from morning till night. Our plans of getting the ferry to Russell were swiftly washed down the drain and we headed back to Auckland, since there's a bit more to do there when it rains.

Judith up the Sky Tower In Auckland we wandered round a few tacky tourist shops (for Judith's benefit), stopped in an internet cafe for a while then went up the Sky Tower ($15). The visibility wasn't very good because of the rain, but the views were amazing. They have a couple of sections of the floor made out of glass, which you can stand on, 300 metres above the ground and very scary, but I managed to do it. There's a sign saying that the glass is just as strong as the concrete. After that we went to the Mexican Cafe for some food then back to the Kiwi International at the top of Queen Street where we're sharing a room for tonight.

Tomorrow we're off to Oz and Judith goes back to wintry weather.

Round the World Journal Index | Pre-Trip | USA (East) | USA (West) | Fiji | New Zealand 1 | Australia | Bali | Lombok | Bali 2 | Singapore | Malaysia | Thailand 1 | Thailand 2

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