So as you can see from the last blog, Duncan and I arrived in style to Christchurch. My aunt Theresa and cousin Paige arrived at the airport to find Duncan and I sitting on the floor, bags unpacked and everything covered in wine…. bit of a shame as it was a gorgeous bottle. However the best bit about the whole situation was our conversation with our airline.
Duncan: Your baggage crew broke our bottle, the bag had a fragile sticker on it given by your ground staff
Airline: Did you receive and fill in a ‘fragile form?’
Duncan: No we never received one?
Airline: Ok then, well that means we are not liable.
Great thanks for that Jetstar! Anyway, after that drama we were whisked away to do the family tour. We were taken for a drink in Jamie’s (another cousin) pub and met Uncle Tony, Lyn, and Gabrielle. Then over to Shannon, Sharon, and Alaria’s for cheese and a trip to Karioitahi black sand beach. It was brilliant to meet everyone again, and some for the first time. A bit daunting for Duncan but he survived thanks to a trip in Shannon’s Chevrolet.
The next morning was a lazy start after having a decent night sleep in a real bed, in a real house. We all headed out for a tour around Matamata. We headed to ‘Blue Springs‘ for a gorgeous walk along the path, it was simply stunning. During our walk there was a number of rocks with a poem carved named ‘dust if you must‘ – I normally hate poetry but the poem sums up the purpose of our trip rather nicely.
We then headed for a pub lunch and to the ever famous Hobbiton. Hobbtion was great to see, it was wonderful being in the little Hobbit village and a must for anyone who enjoys Lord of the Rings. Unfortunately our host spent more time moaning about her job than touring us, but luckily this wasn’t Aunty Theresa and David’s first time so we had some local hosts. The day was so stupidly hot that by the end of the tour we were glad to sit in ‘Green Dragon’ with some cider and ale – a lot nicer than Harry Potter’s butterbeer.
The next morning we were back on the road and heading to the smelly town of Rotorua. Rotorua is famous for its sulphur spas and therefore everyone asked me if I had a peg for my nose. Honestly, it wasn’t too bad. We started the day by visiting the local market which is all run by gipsys. A strange concept when you live in the UK, but some of the art work was beautiful.
We then went for lunch by Lake Rotorua, such a beautiful stunning place. We sat outside, with gorgeous food and gorgeous views in the gorgeous sunshine. Get the picture? Gorgeous.
Finally we headed to something I had been looking forward to since our mud spa in Nha Trang, Vietnam – Hellsgate. Before heading to the spa we completed the guided tour around the hot springs, some of them so hot they reached 100°c +! During the tour we learnt a lot about Maori history, they are heavily regarded in New Zealand, and have some interesting traditions and stories. Then the girls headed to the sulphur spa and then the boys headed to the pub – the perfect afternoon. Despite the water being around 40°c it felt lovely. Unfortunately however, my skin smelt of sulphur for a few days after despite a few scrubbing showers.
The next few days were spent with the family and touring Auckland. It has been so wonderful spending time with all the family this side of the world. Despite living just under 12,000 miles away from each other, when together you can tell we are family. It feels like I’ve grown up with them.
Auckland is a beautiful city. We headed straight up the sky tower to see the views from above. While there isn’t as many sights as ‘the Shard’ it was x10 better than Sydney’s tower. In the heat of the moment we even got Paige to lie down on the glass floor – not bad for someone who is petrified of heights. Even I felt a little giddy at the top and I’ve jumped out of a plane!
We spent the rest of the day touring the city including the lego christmas tree, with santa in beach clothes (it’s still strange!) and a number of community projects set up for children to do outside. Compared to the UK – its brilliant for families. Finally, we went up Mount Victoria to see Auckland from a different view, an overall touristy day.
The evenings in Auckland were spent with family and enjoying Christmas. Paige, Jamie, Duncan and I headed to a small street in Auckland where two houses put on a Christmas lights show for free. However, it has got so popular the police now have to provide security. The show consists of the houses in a competition to out do each other, it lasts over 30 minutes and runs twice every night for the whole of December. Pretty decent commitment from the owners! We also joined the local pub quiz, this even had a few British questions including ‘which county is this’ – ‘Sussex!’
Whitianga is where Duncan and I got back to our usual speedy travelling, however this time joined by Paige. After a long drive and a failed trip to Hot Water Beach (the shop was closed to rent the spade) we spent the evening with prosecco, beer, fish and chips, and Bridget Jones.
The next day we were up and out and back on Segways (yay!) Our tour took us along the cost of Whitianga, and the 4×4 wheels allowed us to go up and over hills and even on the beach. Honestly, we were just excited to back on the segways. Any excuse. It was Paige’s first go and she did pretty well, only falling once. I however fell twice – once trying to save Paige, and once being overly cocky and watching the views and not the path. Of course, I have a nice bruise to remind me of this.
We then jumped on a boat and headed to Cathedral Cove. The boat trip was brilliant fun, especially as Duncan and I have now learnt that the front of the boat is normally the driest! The ride along the coast line was beautiful and once again you can see why people hike the trip. Nevertheless, the best part of the trip was going along next to wild dolphins. An amazing experience and we even caught some underwater footage…
We then took a trip back of Hot Water Beach, pre-purchased shovel in hand, and dug ourselves a spa. The trick is to walk along until you find a hot spot. We were not having much luck however a wonderful Kiwi/American family joined in with us and together we built a giant hot tub. The water was beautifully warm and we kept being topped up by our neighbouring pools when the wall’s ‘fell down’. Oops.
The next morning before our trip home we visited the Driving Creek Railway and Pottery. Our journey there was a bit of a disaster after Paige asked for directions and thanks to Google I took her on a narrow gravel road. Thankfully we made it in one piece and so did the car!
The Driving Creek Railway and Pottery was a cute little private track that took you on a little scenic up hill ride to get a great view of the Coromandel. A peaceful way to end our little trip.