We are off to New Zealand. Should be fun, except we are too chicken to bungy jump, too cold for white water rafting and we've been on a jet boat before. Hoping to see a Kiwi, one of the feathered variety, otherwise we could have gone to Bondi.




DAY 1 Tuesday 18th September
Home to Auckland

Late night packing the last of our stuff... that is becoming a theme to these trips... We have good intentions but getting everything ready didn't go to plan as the weekend had been very busy. Into bed at 1am, alarm going off at 5am... arrgghh!!! Anyway we left 1/4hr later than intended but had a good run and were at the airport in under an hour. Caught the courtesy bus from the long term carpark to the terminal and checked our luggage. The flight was uneventful (always a good thing) except after discussing who was sitting where, it was determined that Nige had the ticket that had to sit across the isle. Luckily just about the only vacant seat on the plane was next to him. Yeah!

Picked up our Apex hire car, a 2010 Corolla with just 61,000 odd kms on the clock and followed our GPS's commands into Aucklands CBD to our hotel. Dropped our bags in our room and went for a walk to have a look around and to buy some breakfast supplies. Along the way we wandered into Sky City Casino and noticed a buffet which the boys thought was a good idea for tea. $129NZD later we walked out feeling ill having eaten way too much. Not really worth that much but we tried to eat our value. Strolled home and watched some boxing on Sky Sport.



DAY 2 Wednesday 19th September
Auckland

After our homemade breakfast (a choice of 2 cereals with milk) we went for a walk around Auckland. Had a pie (the boys had sausage rolls) for lunch at a shop that sold about 20 varieties. Next we went up Sky Tower to the viewing deck. Corey wanted to do the SkyJump (a 192m controlled base jump) and the SkyWalk (walking around on a platform) but the rest of us were too chicken (and it's very expensive). We watched a guy sail down and he was grinning afterwards for he thought it was fun. The view was pretty good even though it was a bit overcast. As we left the SkyTower building Valerie Adams the NZ shot putter was having her photo taken. She was to receive her Gold Medal later that night after the 1st place competitor was excluded from the event for failing drug tests.

Had an early tea (kebabs) and drove ourselves to StarDome. Had an informative presentation of the sky on a screen that was the roof with super reclined seats. Too add to the presenters humerous description of the stars, it was World Speak as a Pirate Day so he did that for the whole 40 mins. It was very funny but we learnt a little as well. Unfortunately the sky was full of clouds and we couldn't look through the telescopes at the real stars.

We drove up One Tree Hill to look at the city lights then drove back to the hotel.



DAY 3 Thursday 20th September
Auckland to Tauranga

Left Auckland and headed for Tauranga via the scenic way. Had planned to go via a coastal road but we left the motorway after seeing a sign that said to take the next exit only to be deposited in a newish housing development. Tried ignoring the GPS for a little while but when the only road swung back around to where we started we figured it knew more than whoever put the sign there. Ended up having to make a substantial detour to get back onto the motorway as there was no on-ramp where we got off. Decided to follow the GPS's instructions and pick up another road further south. Ended up in a town called Thames where we had some lunch. Followed the coast road north but after awhile decided it was going to take a long time to do the whole loop. The map showed a minor road cutting across to where we wanted to go so we took the turnoff and it wasn't long before it became very narrow turned into dirt. We saw a pheasant, rabbit and a lot of potholes. Eventually got back onto the sealed road and headed south towards Tuaranga. Rest of trip was uneventful and we found Dad & Viv's house ok. As they are in the process of selling the house and the agent was bringing someone through, we headed out to a local Chinese Buffet for tea. All stuffed themselves silly as you do, but Corey took the award for most visits to the prawns and sweets sections.



DAY 4 Friday 21st September
Tauranga to Taupo

Woke up to the smell of bacon cooking which got us out of bed quicksmart. After breaky we went for a look at Dad & Viv's likely next residence, then for a look at Mt Maunganui. We climbed the path to the summit while Dad and Viv grabbed a coffee. We took a bit over an hour to climb, take a few photos then decend. Not sure what's harder, going up which works your heart hard or coming down which uses leg muscles not usually used. Had some lunch on the way back then packed up and headed for Taupo via Matamata which is where the Hobbits village was created for the Lord Of The Rings movie. Asked at the infomation centre for directions but was told you had to go on a tour as it was 3 miles in a private property. There was a tour to depart in an hour or so but it went for 2.5 hours and would have cost nearly $200 for the family. We chose to top up the car and grab an ice cream then be on our way. Got to Taupo and found our accomodation for the week. After dropping our stuff off went into get some groceries and tea. After tea tried out the thermal pool each unit has. Was hoping to watch the footy but it wasn't on, had to follow the scores on the internet.



DAY 5 Saturday 22nd September
Taupo

Today we did some local Taupo attractions. First off was Craters of the Moon, a self guided walk around various bubbling craters, mud pools and steam vents. We ate our lunch on the way to Aratialia Rapids where the gates of the hydro dam are suposed to be opened at set times during the day but they were already open so we walked to the various viewing locations and took our photos. On the way back we stopped at a glass blowing exhibition which the boys found interesting. Last stop was Huka Falls. Viewed from a lookout then drove down to a nearby carpark where you could walk down to get a good look. For tea we cooked steak, mash & vegies. The boys were thrilled... NOT! However they did enjoy another soak in the thermal bath.



DAY 6 Sunday 23rd September
Taupo to Tauranga via Katikati

Early start for us today as we were travelling to Katikati to visit Pauline & Ken, Glenda's exchange family from 1984. Yes we have seen them since then but not for a couple of years. Back then they were dairy farmers but now they run a kiwifruit farm. We had a tour of the farm with all the workings explained. Getting up in the middle of the night when the frost alarm goes off sounded a bit rough to us office workers. After lunch we headed off to the Bowentown Boat Club to see The White Goat band, which include members of the family. The drummer is an Aussie though so they were pretty good. Ken got up and sang a couple of songs along with Gerald taking over drumming duties. We thought they weren't going to get rid of him. Afterwards we headed back to Tauranga to Dad & Viv's for the night.



DAY 7 Monday 24th September
Tauranga to Taupo via Rotorua

More bacon & eggs on toast for breakfast. We could get used to this. Left Dad's mid morning for the drive to Rotorua to breath more smelly air and see the Pohutu Geyser at Te Puia Maori cultual site. The geyser 'erupts' a few times an hour so you don't have long to wait. We then waited for the cultual show to begin and Nige got picked to be the group chief. Duties involved accepting a silver fern from a warrior and leading the crowd to the Meeting House, then performing the greeting ceremony which involved shaking hands and touching noses with each of the warriors. Would have preferred greeting the womenfolk! He performed his duties and the group was accepted for the show. The boys enjoyed the Haka and performed their own version later on in the day. Next was a walk around the site viewing the bubbling mud and steam vents. Lastly we visited the kiwi house where we watched a kiwi scratch around for something. There was another in a log but we could only see it's backside as it wriggled around. The enclosure is very dark and no photography allowed but luckily there was a model of one in the gift shop we could take a picture off. Headed back to Taupo and cooked up some beef snags with potato salad and coleslaw for tea.



DAY 8 Tuesday 25th September
Taupo

Had a rest day today. Slept in, lazed around and watched some tele. Nige went back to Huka Falls to see if he could get a good picture of the jet boat zooming around but only succeeded in falling over into a puddle. Went down like a sack of spuds but managed to protect the camera he had in his hand. He was checking out where two fisherman had appeared from carrying freshly caught trout.



DAY 9 Wednesday 26th September
Taupo

Were planning to visit some glow worms but decided not too so it was another lazy day catching up with washing, a little shopping and we even washed the hire car which we had parked under a tree and had been covered in bird poo! Went and watched some people bungy and ride the giant swing. Corey wanted to bungy but he was too light, you had to be 45kgs or more. Us over 45kgers had no intention to try it! Also took Brendan to see a doctor as he had sore ears. Doc decided he didn't have an infection but his ear drums were a little inflamed.



DAY 10 Thursday 27th September
Taupo to Wellington

Left Taupo for the drive to Wellington. Visabilty was poor with a low cloud having moved into town and our drive past the snow capped mountains was less exciting than we hoped. As we were decending, the clouds disappeared enough for us to get a glimpse. Looked fantastic and we looked forward to seeing the mountains along the west coast of the South Island. Our trusty navigator (the GPS) lead us to the hotel with a minimum of fuss. We checked in then went to see where the ferry terminal was as we had to be there at 7:15am at the latest. Back in the room we decided the non-smoking room had been a smoking room not too long in the past and it stunk, so we asked to be moved and they moved us too a much nicer smelling room. We then walked down to the Cuba Mall for a look and to find somewhere to eat tea.

Decided to go into the Te Papa (museum) since it was free entry. Has a quick look around although it deserved longer as it was very interesting. Next we wandered up the street argueing over where to eat. Chinese... no... Kababs... no... Fancy International... no... Noodles... YES... concensus... yippee (actually Corey got out voted... no way we were going to his choice... Burger King!) The noodles turned out very nice and we were all happy! Had an ice cream on the walk back to the hotel.



DAY 11 Friday 28th September
Wellington to Westport via Interisland Ferry

Very early start to the day to be at the ferry terminal on time. Breakfast was Maccas to the boys delight. Sat in the waiting queue while they loaded the trucks on first, then the motorhomes and finally us. Visibility was still poor so the voyage wasn't the sight-seeing extravaganza it is spoken of. The entrance into the Queen Charlotte Sound is pretty narrow considering the size of the ship but we made it through. Thankfully once we had disembarked and driven further south the sky cleared and it was a nice day.

Drove past more snow capped mountains and could see them this time. Stopped at a long swing bridge and for $14 they let us walk across. Another $30 let the boys zoom back on a zip line. The road got interesting with many one lane bridges and a few section with traffic lights. We found a room and headed up the street to find tea. Decided on the pub and had nice meals.



DAY 12 Saturday 29th September
Westport to Franz Josef

Headed off to the glacier at Franz Josef but first went to see some seals at Tauranga Bay. There were lots including baby ones to watch as they went about their business. Stopped at Punakaiki to view the pancake rocks and blowhole. Some of the weirdest rocks formations we've seen. Unfortunately the blowhole was very quiet and not putting on a show.

Grabbed some groceries in Greymouth and unsuccessfully searched for a ice cream shop. Ended up finding one in another town further along the road but it wasn't quite as nice as the previous ice cream stops. The rest of the journey to Franz Josef consisted of Glenda taking pictures out the car window or demanding to stop for more photos of the snow capped mountains.

Once at Franz Josef we stopped at the tour company to confirm our trip onto the glacier the next day. We then went to our hotel and checked in there. Very nice room and the boys have seperate beds which means they get to sleep better, with less annoying each other. Luckily the AFL Grand Final was on a channel on the tele and we sat back and watched the match. Afterwards we had a large pizza ($35 ouch!) which because it was in a pub, cost another $10 for a couple of drinks while we waited for it.



DAY 13 Sunday 30th September
Franz Josef Glacier

The weather forecast wasn't the greatest but it looked ok when we headed up to get kitted out ready for our glacier walk. The guide explained if our trip got cancelled you'd get a refund depending on how far into the trip you got, we were hoping that didn't happen. We were booked on a 8:45am trip but didn't leave in the helicopter until almost 10:00am but we were glad we were still going. Once on the ice we fitted our crampons and followed our guide Nicky up the glacier. Nicky explained various aspects of the glacier as we climbed higher. There were a number of narrow crevices we had to get through and a tunnel or two to crawl through. There had been a few drops of rain as the clouds rolled in but we managed to spend our alloted time before it was time to catch the helicopter back down. It had started to rain harder and the afternoons trips had already been cancelled so we were lucky.



DAY 14 Monday 1st October
Franz Josef Glacier to Queenstown

The rain was still bucketing down so we were both happy & lucky we got to do the glacier walk the previous day. As we had a long drive we got up and were on our way just after 8am. Drove up the Fox Glacier access road but other than a distant view through the trees you couldn't see much and since is was still raining we pushed on to our next stop, Lake Matherson. It had stopped raining so we made a dash to see the famous reflection of the mountains in the lake. Not quite like the scene in the brouchures but worth the walk. It started raining again as we got back in the car. Drove the rest of the way to Queenstown admiring the scenery along the way.



DAY 15 Tuesday 2nd October
Queenstown

Drove to Glenorchy as it was supposed to be good scenery of the lake and the mountains, which it was. Next destination was Arrowtown, an old goldmining town where the buildings have been preserved and restored. Most were tourist orientated shops. Tried to drive to the original AJ Hacket bungy site but got turned back due to an accident and ended up finding the Shotover jetboat site. Watched for a while but decided $400 for 10 mins fun was a bit rich. Drove back to our hotel then walked up to the town centre and had noodles sitting watching the world go by in a nearby park.



DAY 16 Wednesday 3rd October
Queenstown to Milford Sound and back

Up early to beat the buses to Milford Sound. Had read the road is interesting (windy) and didn't want to get stuck behind one. Left just before 7am and saw several in the town centre waiting to head off. Traveled the 300kms in under 3.5hrs so made good time and decided the reports about the road were mostly unjustified as there was only a couple of narrow sections.

The weather was pretty bad but the lady in the petrol station reckoned it was a good day for seeing the sound as the rain meant there would be lots of waterfalls running, which is what happened. We made it in time for the 11am cruise which meant we weren't in with all the bus loads of people. Our boat had only a small amount of it's capacity so we got seats inside the cabin and could get up and move around at will.

Drove home in about the same time although had to get past a few slow moving vehicles (not just buses... some people can't drive!). This must be the sheep capital of New Zealand as we counted sheep on the way home and although we might have missed a few, came up with a total of 1,034,254,635,423.



DAY 17 Thursday 4th October
Queenstown

Caught the Gondola up to Bob's Peak and the Luge Track. After much trash talking on the way, Nige was found to be the fastest... probably due to gravity and weight. Einstein would be able to work it all out. Corey came close to wiping out after ignoring the hairpin bend sign and nearly going over the edge of the track on two wheels. Great fun was had by all, including Go Fast Glenda, who kept reminding us of her go-karting days.

For lunch we lined up a Fergburgers to try out the burgers that were attracting huge queues. They were ok but not as good as the crowd indicated. We all decided there had been too much sauce applied.

Decided to drive up to Coronet Peak to have a look and to see if we could have a snowball fight. We watched a few skiers and snowboarders come down the fairly bare runs but there was nowhere for us to have a snowball war (Corey's term) so we drove down the hill again. On the way back to town called past the original AJ Hacket bungy site and watched a couple of thrillseekers. Corey still wanted to have a go but he hasn't put on the neccessary weight yet!



DAY 18 Friday 5th October
Queenstown to Home

Pretty simple day today... get home! Updating this from the departure gate in Queenstown as they've got free WIFI. We have to go via Wellington so it will be a long day...

Home now... and it was a long day... quick update but will add some pictures for the last couple of days soon

After boarding the plane they informed us that due to weather (wind and air pressure) that the plane couldn't get of the ground with all passengers and luggage, so they weren't taking any checked luggage and if you wanted to get off, now was the time. We had a quick think about what was in our luggage that was neccessary when we got home and decided we needed our supply of contact lenses and the boys runners as they had Litle Aths the next day. We were allowed to retrieve these from out suitcases (on the tarmac under the plane wing.... it was raining) and reboard the aircraft. After over an hour while they sorted out what was happening, we took off with the warning it was going to be a bit bumpy for the first 10 mins or so. That was the case and they turned off the seat belt sings after awhile. Corey jumped up and was first into the toilet. Just as he got back to his seat the plane suffered more turbulance and he just got his seat belt done up in time. We suffered another bout of strong turbulance before it was time to descend again. About this time two ladies sitting just in front of us returned to their seats after having been the next in the loo after Corey. Not sure where they were during the plane flapping it's way all over the sky but they were sort of laughing about it. Coming into land at Wellington they warned us about strong winds and as the plane made it's final appraoch it seemed to be lurching all over the sky. We touched down (not as hard as we anticipated) and the passengers broke out into applause. I was still thinking, where still doing 200kmh and haven't stopped yet... hopefully we're still going in the right direction... you lot might have 'gone off' prematurely... but the pilot had it under control and we pulled up in a staight line, glad to be on the ground.

As we were 1.5hrs late into Wellington, we got our boarding passes for the flight to Melbourne and had grabbed some lunch, then it was time to board our flight home. This was much smoother and 2 movies later, we were at Tullamarine. Had to go and see the QANTAS baggage desk to register our missing bags which the lady said was fairly common occurance out of Queenstown but they'd find them and courier them out to us. Hopefully that happens as it will save a drive back to the airport. It did emphasie the importance of keeping our car keys on us and not in our luggage, as otherwise we wouldn't have been able to drive home!

And to complete this tale, our luggage was sent on an Air New Zealand flight the next day and couriered out to us, so well done to QANTAS for finding it and saving me the extra trip out to the airport.