A Travellerspoint blog

November 2008

Not so happy campers

New Zealand South Island

rain 20 °C
View Gary & Vicki Ponder-Payne tour 2008 on GPonder76's travel map.

We don't want to sound like whinging Pomms or anything but the excitement of camping is wearing thin on the soggy South Island. It has been raining continuously for the last four days. I have never seen it rain so hard for so long!

Our first couple of days on the South Island were brilliant. Our first stop was the Marlborough wine region where we did a full day of wine tasting with a small fun group. The Sauvignon Blancs went down very well indeed.

It was a warm and sunny day and in the evening we found the only restaurant in town where we had a great fish meal and still had room for desert.

After Marlborough we drove up to Nelson, this is when it started to rain :( In Nelson we walked to a point which is the exact center of New Zealand which is very conveniently located at the very top of a hill which has a great view over the town. A playing field at the bottom is also where the first game of rugby was played in New Zealand.

From here we moved on to Abel Tasman National Park (so did the rain!). We took a water taxi around the coastline and hiked for four hours back to camp. We got absolutely drenched but still enjoyed the views of mountains, sandy bays and waterfalls.

The next day was a monster ten hour drive down to the Franz Joseph Glacier. On the way we stopped at Buller Gorge to cross the longest swing bridge in NZ at 110 meters long. The river below was raging with all the recent rainfall and I didn't think that Vicki would want to cross the bridge, so I was very suprised when she suggested the flying fox return!

The rest of the drive was quite a challenge as the rain was comming down so hard and many of the roads were flooded, and there were even some land slides that bloked some roads. But the upside is that due to the heavy rain there were plenty of waterfalls to see.

We are currently in Franz Joseph but are unable to visit the glacier because it is closed due to the bad weather. We are keeping our fingers crossed that the weather is better tomorrow and we'll be happy campers again :)

Posted by GPonder76 18:11 Archived in New Zealand Tagged luxury_travel Comments (0)

Happy Campers

New Zealand North Island

semi-overcast 26 °C
View Gary & Vicki Ponder-Payne tour 2008 on GPonder76's travel map.

After a long flight from Hawaii to Auckland we arrived at midnight and checked into the airport hotel. Not particularly exciting but it is notable as this would be the last time we would sleep in a nice big bed and have an en suite bathroom for quite a while.

The next day we picked up or campervan and headed north to the Bay of Islands. Driving in NZ is great! Most roads are just one lane each way with lots of twists and turns through mountains with stunning views of forests and so many rivers and waterfalls - and sheep!

Our first campsite was right next to a river looking out on to Haruru Falls where we kayaked up to the waterfalls and then along the river. Along the river we saw lots of fish, jellyfish and cormorants. There is also a bird in NZ that sounds exactly like R2-D2.

From the nearby town of Paihia we took a boat tour around the bay to see all of the islands and a stop off at Urupukapuka island where we walked up to the lookout point. It was a sunny hot day and the water was very blue, and we felt very lucky to see this beautiful area, and we can see why New Zealanders holiday here.

As soon as we got out into the bay a large pod of dolphins swam up to our boat. It was great to see and we were very lucky as another Dolphin tour boat had been out for about an hour looking for some dolphins. Our boat took us out to the Hole in the Rock which is a former cave which has eroded through to the other side of the island, the skipper drove us through wich was quite exciting. It was a narrow fit and on the other side was the Pacific Ocean so it was quite bumpy too.

The following day we got back in our campervan and did the 8hr drive to Rotorua. As we arrived a strange smell began to waft around the van but this time it was not Gary. The source of the offending odour was the sulphur from the thermal geysers and mud pools. We held our noses and went into town for some Fush & Chups!

Our tour of Te Whakarewarewatanga O Te Ope Taua A Wahiao park (know locally as Whaka) got us up close to the impressive active geysers (Price of Wales Feathers and Pohutu), mud pools and boiling pots, but by this time we had grown used to the smell.

Back in the campervan again and ahead warp factor six to Lake Taupo where we watched the hydro-electic dam open for 30 minutes and send 90,000 litres of water per second thundering down a gorge and creating some awesome rapids and waterfalls.

A few drops of rain began to fall in Taupo so we got back aboard the van, engaged thrusters and drove to Tongariro National Park (where much of The Lord of the Rings was filmed) but when we arrived the rain was so hard and it was so foggy that we could not see much past the front of our van. The forecast for the next few days was much more of the same, so unfortunately we didn't get to see 'Mount Doom' so we decided to move on down to Wellington.

Vicki's map reading had been "fairly good" up to this stage of the trip, but her navigation onto a short cut which appeared to be fairly straight on the map turned out to be a wrong move. We drove 50km along Akatarawa Road, a seriously twisty and narrow road over a mountain where passing points were rare and sheer drops plentiful! There was no where to turn around so on we went, it all added to the adventure and at the end we were still friends. But after this Gary employed a new navigator.

In windy Wellington we met some Payne relatives, my grandad Bill's brother Arthur's grandson David and his wife Sarah and 3 children Hannah, Samuel and new born Katy. And 5 rabbits, 3 cats, 2 dogs, 2 chickens and frogs - quite a collection. We had a wonderful evening getting to know each other, sharing stories about family and a lovely meal. We would have liked to have spent more time with David, Sarah and family but our schedule is too packed, so hopefully our paths will cross again, maybe in sunny Sittingbourne.

The last morning in the North Island we hiked along a disused railway track and through a long railway tunnel, before taking the interisland ferry over to Picton on the South Island.

We throroughly enjoyed our time in the North Island and hope the South Island is as good.

Posted by GPonder76 14:22 Archived in New Zealand Tagged luxury_travel Comments (0)

LOST in Hawaii II

Back on Oahu

sunny 32 °C
View Gary & Vicki Ponder-Payne tour 2008 on GPonder76's travel map.

Back on Oahu island Gary took a surfing lesson and did extremely well and stood up every time (but for varying lengths of time), but boy did he ache afterwards.

We spent quite a bit of time on the beach this week now that we have started to acclimatise to the heat, but we still hide from the midday sun (blog time!).

At Hanauma bay (a stunning bay which used to be a crater) we snorkelled with lots of friendly colourful and quite large fish and a sea turtle swam right up to Gary.

On our return to Oahu we discovered further LOST locations to see so after the visit to the snorkelling bay we drove to the North Shore and to Mokulei beach which was the location used for the plane crash site in the pilot episode. The beach was stunning and really steep due to the fierce waves and strong current - Vicki nearly LOST (pardon the pun!) her shoes to a surprise massive wave whilst taking a photo. Check out the tree below - LOST fans, do you recognise it?
Does anyone recognise this too?

We watched some impressive surfing on the West coast of Oahu and Gary played in the massive waves and ended up with pockets full of sand after being dunked.

That afternoon we did something a bit different and rode some cool slides at the Waterpark. One called Tornado tipped you down a steep slide into a massive funnel, it was wicked.

It's our last day in Hawaii today and we feel we've been everywhere we want to go and driven most of the roads on the island. This morning we hit the beach and tried Body boarding which was fun.

We've both really enjoyed our time here and we will definitely return to Hawaii.
"We have to go back, we have to go back!!"

Next blog entry from New Zealand.

Posted by GPonder76 17:14 Archived in USA Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Lava lava lava

Hawaii Big Island

sunny 20 °C
View Gary & Vicki Ponder-Payne tour 2008 on GPonder76's travel map.

Our few days on Hawaii's Big Island started with a visit to the small town of Volcano Village at the top of the mountain, just outside the Volcano National Park. Our accommodation was a lovely rainforest lodge with a fantastic fish pond in the middle full of koi carp and a huge games room / lounge area. It was quite a bit cooler up there on top of the mountain and very misty at times, we later found out that the mist was volcanic gases known locally as 'vog'.

On our first day we went into the national park and hiked for a few hours around the rim of the active crater. Unfortunately part of the road around the rim of the crater was closed but we were shown a video why. In March 2008 a vent appered in the crater and a huge explosion threw ash and rocks nearly 2 meters in diameter into the road. Since then the vent has been steadily steaming and increasing in size and explosions are unpredictable. This did give us the chance to witness the volcano in action which was quite spectacular.

There is also a dormant crater which has a path right through the middle. It was facinating to walk across the solidified lava at the bottom of the crater and see the different whipped cream shapes. From a distance it looked like mud but it felt like walking on charcoal.

Just outside the other end of the crater there is a lava tube, an underground tunnel created by a hot lava flow. We walked through a 200 meter section that was lit, but at the end there was an optional further 300 meter section that was not lit at all. Gary enjoyed this pitch black section but Vicki was terrified. :( Gary wanted to turn off the torches and hide and scare other visitors, but wasn't allowed!

That evening we drove our car back down to the coast and walked across a solidified lava flow from 19.... to a viewing point where you can still see the lava flowing out of the volcano and running into the sea. This creates a huge plume of steam which glows red after the sun has set. Again it was so spectacular to see.

On day 2 in the Volcano park we drove down the Chain of Craters road where you get to appreciate the vastness of the volcano and the destruction that is causes. As you drive down the 30 mile road you see more craters and huge lava flows on the side of the mountain from erruptions over the last 200 years.

Our last day on the Big Island we drove for a few hours around the coast to see some beautiful waterfalls including Rainbow falls and Akaka falls.

We also spent the afternoon Imiloa Astronomy centre where we watched a 3D film in the planetarium about black holes and learnt about the scientific work being done at the observatories at the top of Mauna Kea (14,000 feet). Like the science museum in London there were lots of interactive things to play with and we had a great time.

Posted by GPonder76 16:19 Archived in USA Tagged educational Comments (0)

LOST in Hawaii

sunny 30 °C
View Gary & Vicki Ponder-Payne tour 2008 on GPonder76's travel map.

We both spent the journey from Lima to Hawaii making emergency dashes to the toilet. Fortunately our stopover hotels in Lima and Los Angeles were a better place to have an upset stomach rather than in the Jungle and it didn't interfere with our trip.

We have a lovely hotel and restaurant right on the beach at the quiet end of Waikiki. (Romantica!)
Stomach troubles aside, we are both struggling with the portion size of the meals here. On our first morning we ordered pancakes, when they arrived there were three pancakes the size of the whole plate (or an Amazon moth). Between us both we wouldn't have made it through one portion. We quckly learned to share.

Our first trip in Hawaii was to Pearl Harbour to see the sunken Arizona and a tour around the Missouri battle ship. Both very moving and lots of history.

The next day we hired a car and drove around the coast up to the north shore of Oahu. We stopped at all of the points of interest and lookouts and also some of the locations where they have filmed LOST. We found the nose section of the plane, but it was completely covered - boo! We also trekked up to the top of Waimea Valley to the waterfall at the top (where Kate & Sawyer found the Halliburton case).

It was Haloween and we were impressed by the effort these Americans put into their costumes (although some of them just use it as an excuse to dress up kinky).

After the dissapointment of the nose section being hidden, we were delighted when we stumbled across the prop storage at the back of the Hawaii film studios the next day. We were on our way back from our trek to Diamond Head Crater when Vicki noticed a red telephone box in a yard. As we looked closer Gary spotted the Santa Rosa Mental Heath Institute sign (...and nearly wet his pants!). We could also see some seats from the plane, the hatch, the bars that made up the dome computer room and the frozen donkey wheel and much more! (this probably will not mean much to most of you but it will to people who watch LOST).
A guy saw us looking and told us where they were filming that day, so we hopped on a bus to Honolulu and watched as they filmed a car chase scene.

Posted by GPonder76 19:35 Archived in USA Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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