Now onto the big stuff! We set off to traverse Arthurs Pass, and it was a lovely sunny day, and as we crossed the Canterbury plains we could see the Southern Alps looming towards us. Our intention was to drive over to the west coast, but when we arrived in the village, we were warned of an impending snow storm. Not having full winter gear, we decided to go as far as the Otira viaduct, 10 minutes past Arthurs pass and meet the Kea’s. Fabulous cheeky little fellas, though don’t leave them on your car too long, they’ll have it in bits! We then got chased back to Christchurch by the snow storm, and took comfort at the Dux de Luxe pub. Great real ale!
We then headed down to Queenstown on a short internal flight. We stayed right on the lake, about a 10 minute walk into the town. This place is known for outdoor pursuits, and everywhere you look there is bungee and other mad pastimes for sale. The place has a nice atmosphere, but it may be a bit too “rad” in peak season. We went for the gentler pursuits, including a lake cruise with great scenery, and mulled wine!
Then it was Phil’s highlight – the Shotover Jet boat! All you can say is 'wow' – you have to do it. The following day, our last in Queenstown we were due to take a scenic flight to Milford Sound. Unfortunately the wind was too strong for the light aircraft, so we weren’t able to get there. If we’d taken the coach tour option we would have got there, possibly worth considering if you’re there off season like us. Oh well, we’ll just have to come back!
That was it for the South Island, we then headed to Auckland and the warmer north. We stayed in Auckland for a few days and enjoyed the great views from the Hilton, right on the waterfront. We toured the city on the free bus, and did a harbour cruise. We then had an early morning pick-up for our Bay of Islands tour. This tour is excellent, combining a cruise amongst the magnificent coastal scenery of the Bay, with some historical insight into New Zealand’s development at the Waitangi Treaty grounds. On the cruise, we were visited by a pod of ORCA’s. A whole family unit including a baby swam right around our boat, fantastic. On our return, we ate in the Viaduct area, and if you get chance, try the mega bacon butty at O’Hara’s here.
Now back under our own steam we set off for Rotorua and stayed right on the lake. We then went to Hell’s Gate, one of the many sulphur pools in the area. Weird, it’s like an alien planet, and hard to believe the Earth was all like this at one time. As the light faded we had a mud bath and relaxed in the warm spring waters. (Warning – wear something old – the smell of sulphur never comes out!).
On our way back to Auckland, we drove through the Bay of Plently area. We first stopped off at Mount Manganui, which is a nice beach resort with a lovely wide beach. We then saw the Kaituna River jetboat. Well we couldn’t resist another go, but this time just the two of us, wheeeeeeeeee! It was also interesting to see the kiwi fruit orchards in this area.
On our final day in Auckland we took a local ferry to Devonport which takes about 10 minutes, we had a late breakfast and had a look around. Later on we went to see a Maori cultural show at Auckland museum, which was very entertaining to say the least - note the photo with the scary Maori's! We then took the evening flight to the Cook Islands.