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My Travel Diary
  April 1st, 1999
Auckland City

Auckland Skyline At Night Connie flies in to Auckland from Abilene, Texas at some ungodly hour of the morning (I vaguely remember a four being the first digit on the alarm clock). To delay waking my flatmates up we drove to Bastion Pt to watch the sunrise and listen to the sparrows farting. Knowing she would be feeling pretty tired from the long haul down here we had a fairly cruisy day, doing some of the standard Auckland touristy stuff - One Tree Hill, Mt Eden, Devonport and along the waterfront which is near where I live. The strength of Auckland itself as a tourist destination is pretty much confined to it's great harbour, other than that it's just another city...

  April 2nd
Kelly Tarltons, Piha

Auckland Skyline At Night After dragging Connie out of bed we headed to another popular Auckland tourist trap, Kelly Tarlton's Antarctic Encounter & Aquarium. Built underground in some old sewer storage tanks this is certainly one of the best of its kind and very innovative. The most interesting part is of course the penguin colony they now have there - those babys know how to move (and also how to stay still).

Then it was time for some fresh air out on the west coast at Piha, with a climb up Lion Rock, and several walks through the bush around Karekare offering various other nice views and waterfalls. A chance to try to break in those new boots before the Milford Track! Essential viewing that night was to introduce Connie to NZ's number one passion - watching rugby on the big screen. I felt the need to establish a pattern early in the trip so as to prevent any possible disharmony later, a theory which fortunately proved to be unfounded as she enjoyed it as well (or did a great good job of faking it!)

  April 3rd
Waiheke Island, Sky Tower

View from the Sky Tower restaurant There are a few ways to see Auckland's harbour, one of the most popular being a 'day' trip to Waiheke Island which happily coincided on this Easter weekend with a Jazz festival. Unfortunately that also made the island look far more trendy, busy and overpopulated than it normally is, however once you get to the more isolated parts of the island it has lovely beaches and views - it didn't feel like such a bad life sitting in the sun at the beach with ocean views listening to live jazz! The highlight of the day though was definitely the surprise I had planned for Connie (as thanks for being the carrier of an obscene amount of new camera gear I mail-ordered from the USA), which was dinner up the Sky Tower Orbit restaurant. The best views in Auckland, it was well worth the money - don't expect the top restaurant cuisine in Auckland but we enjoyed it.

  April 4th

Time to start the real trip. Whilst I would have loved to take Connie up north to the Bay of Islands, or to the Coromandel Peninsula, being Easter weekend it was better we avoid those popular spots. So it was time to pack up the car (filled to overflowing thanks to Connie bringing her entire wardrobe in at least 5 suitcases) and head south. After spotting my deliberate error in leaving a rather essential key behind in the house half an hour into the journey (necessitating a turn around) we nailed it down to Waitomo for the Haggas Honking holes adventure (just one of the options of how to see the caves). Basically it is abseiling, rock climbing, squirming, crawling, splashing and drowning your way through the limestone caves with the odd look at and stalactites, stalagmites and bug poo (aka glowworms). It was a blast - after all, who couldn't have fun in a wetsuit which was last cleaned in 1986 and a pair of gumboots? After an all too brief shower we headed to Rotorua for the first of our hostel stays. The actual Rotorua YHA was recently closed down and this place took over the clientele - nice facilities including a spa but perhaps theft has been a problem there as the fridges are locked and deposits required to get plates to eat off...

  April 5th

Tuatara Tourist time in Rotorua - a very popular place for many visitors to NZ. We did the compulsory Rainbow Springs visit (nicely done, trout, kiwi, and lots of native trees/ferns). Next was the Skyline Gondola which in my mind is only the necessary prelude to the real action - the Luge! Time to feel like a big kid again - sit on a cart, point yourself downhill and go like the clappers on the concrete track doing your best to retain the family jewels in the case of a required emergency stop. My rules are simple - braking is purely optional and to be discouraged at all costs, nudging is to be encouraged, air-time is essential and he with the greatest mass wins (in comparison to the frustrated Connie who despite being of a similar speed demon mind did not have the necessary body weight to keep up on the long stretches). Superb fun - get a 5 ride ticket with your gondola ride. Next it was off to the Orakei Korako thermal park (on the way from Rotorua to Taupo) for the compulsory boiling mud, geysers, terraces etc and quite a cool cave. Craters of the Moon (free thermal area) and Huka Falls were the last stops for the day before the Taupo YHA.

  April 6th
Taupo->National Park->Wellington

Tawhai Falls A day I will never forget - for the wrong reasons. Grotty weather meant the detour to National Park to see Ruapehu was not as spectacular as it should be, with only a hint of the mountain visible beneath the clouds. We decided to drive up the Whakapapa side to the bottom of the ski fields to check out the views (not being particularly inspired to go walking in the cold wet weather). Being my first week with my new camera I decided to experiment with a shot of the surrounding landscapes in the gloomy weather - unfortunately I underestimated the strength of the wind and while turning around to get my camera release my tripod (only inches high off the ground) was caught by a vicious gust and blown over. Smash. Crinkle. Sob. Wail. My 20mm lens was trashed (the filter broken glass scratched the front elements). The camera appeared to still work other than the DOF preview button causing an error on the screen each time it was pressed. So don't press it I hear you say.

Connie The Photographer You can only imagine how peeved I was - thousands of dollars worth of gear potentially wrecked within 6 days of owning it. I didn't know how much internal damage was done. Needless to say after crossing my fingers and testing some more shots with the camera with another lens (thankfully I took all 3 with me) I was not in a good mood and the car bore the brunt of the frustration - 180km/hr is only 6,000 revs in the Nissan GTS-T with plenty in reserve... We arrived in Wellington a little quicker than we should have and stayed the night at my Aunt's place who was away (thanks Ngaire!).

  April 7th

InterIslander Time to head to the South Island - always going to be the highlight of the trip with the bulk of our time being spent there. To get there I had us booked on the Lynx ferry (the fast one at 1.5 hours) - unfortunately as per usual the Wellington weather was grotty (as it was the previous night) so we had to stay inside the boat. It was at this point I remembered that I had not brought any sea-sickness pills (I suffer from severe motion sickness). To reduce my distress Connie had introduced me to a card game called Nerts - which basically involves an ever changing set of rules depending on how much she was winning by. Being sufficiently distracted by the nagging calculations in the back of my mind of the distance to a barf-safe zone she proceeded to kick my butt and hence make the trip even more miserable. Nonetheless I did survive safely in Picton with breakfast still progressing through the digestive system.

Being cloudy weather we headed straight through Blenheim to Nelson - where we were met of course by sunny weather (one of the sunniest spots in NZ). The immediate objective was to get my film 1-hour developed to check how bad the damage to the camera was - fortunately other than losing the DOF function it appeared to be working fine. A casual several hour stroll along Tahunanui Beach proved to be just the tonic to unwind again. The Nelson YHA was one of the best of the trip, a decision possibly influenced by the fact that it gave us internet junkies a chance to catch up on our e-mails...

  April 8th
Abel Tasman National Park

Nelson Sunset Nelson Sunset

Our original plan was to do a half-day kayaking at the Abel Tasman park, however there appeared to be a bit of an ocean swell which was enough to discourage many kayak companies (let alone my stomach). Instead we piled in the car, drove to Marahau and following my nose ended up just in time for a water taxi (boat) to go up the park. It is a 3 or 4 day walk that can be done in smaller sections by this method for those in a hurry - catch a water taxi to a drop-off point on the track and walk to a prearranged pick up point.

We actually walked from Bark Bay to Anchorage Pt which is supposed to be the best part of the track. It is gorgeous - golden sands, emerald seas and heaps of small private bays. We actually had to run part of the way to make sure we got to our pick-up point in time (we chose the further of the two pick-up points and as the tide was in we had to go the long way around to get there) - which was another good test of the boots and the fitness. Stunning beach scenery through here and I wouldn't mind going back to do the whole walk one day. On the way back to the YHA we stopped off for some sunset photos along the waterfront (my first shooting of slide film). So much to learn about photography... so little time...

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  Last Updated June 22nd, 2002