Walking in a Thermal Wonderland…

We’ve just arrived at the Kauri Coast Top 10, about 30km north of Dargaville in Northland. This, and the nearby DoC campsite in Trounson Kauri Park, will be our home for our last three nights in New Zealand.

After getting the water pump looked at yesterday morning we drove north, across the volcanic plains that make up the centre of North Island, around Lake Taupo and eventually arrived at a campsite beside Lake Rerewhakaaitu.

This morning we went to the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, which is a collection of geothermal vents north of Taupo. There’s an amazing collection of hot springs, sulphur-encrusted craters and boiling mud pools all within a very small area, linked by boardwalks. Really fascinating stuff, although I still can’t quite get the smell of sulphur out of my nose!

After that we had a very long drive north, through Hamilton (and a very long sequence of industrial estates selling absolutely everything in the world you could ever imagine buying), past a rain-shrouded Auckland and finally into the lush forests and farmland of Northland, where the sun finally broke through to create the most vivid rainbow either of us has ever seen.

Tomorrow we’re off to explore Waipoua Forest, the largest remaining Kauri Forest in New Zealand, and hopefully see some more kiwi on a guided night walk.

News from the North…

Another lightning update – we’re just getting ready to head off to a garage (nothing serious, just a slight problem with the van’s domestic water pump) and then we’ll be driving towards Lake Taupo. Our itinerary has changed around a bit over the last few days as we’ve managed to fit so much in already – after Taupo we’ll be going straight to Trounson and probably staying there until it’s time to head back to Auckland.

We had a great ferry crossing – the Cook Strait didn’t live up to its fearsome reputation and we had great views of the Queen Charlotte Sound. On Thursday night we went to Zealandia (a fenced wildlife sanctuary in Wellington) where we had some great views of Little Spotted Kiwi, Tuatara and Weta. Yesterday we went to Kapiti Island, a predator free reserveĀ  off the west coast where we caught up with some of the birds we’ve missed so far (Whitehead, Stitchbird, North Island Robin and Saddleback) and also saw wild Takahe for the first time.

Time to hit the road!

Catch up…

So much to write about and not nearly enough time! Here’s some of the highlights since the last update…

  • Watching Royal Albatross swooping past just a few metres away at Taiaroa Head
  • Flying into the beach at Mason Bay on Stewart Island in a tiny Cessna 185
  • Staying up until past midnight hunting for kiwi…
  • … and finally seeing one!
  • Hiking across Stewart Island
  • A very wild water taxi ride back to Oban in a 2m high swell
  • Spending 2 hours photographing and recording Kaka (New Zealand parrots) in a tiny pocket of forest just outside Oban
  • Driving the amazing road to Milford Sound and back, including a stop to see the Keas and a trip through the Homer Tunnel after the lights were turned off for the night
  • Doing the Key Summit walk from the Milford Road – a stiff climb, but great views from the top and amazing mosses and lichens as well.
  • Being woken by a Morepork calling right outside the camper in a remote DoC campsite by the Eglinton River
  • A spectacular day of driving from Te Anau to Lake Wanaka

Tonight we’re in a Top 10 campsite at the Franz Josef glacier – after a couple of nights in DoC wilderness campsites we need to service the van and enjoy a hot shower! In the morning we’re planning to walk up to the glacier, and then drive north to Westport.

A few photos…

We’ve been having a great time – here’s a few (unprocessed) snaps from our trip so far. Watched Little Blue Penguins coming ashore at Oamaru last night, this morning off to the Royal Albatross colony at Taiaroa Head.

Finally here!

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In New Zealand at last after 39 hours of travelling. We’ve checked into our motel, been out and had a very good takeaway (from the Wok On Inn!) and stretched our legs by walking round the local sport fields. Lots of European bird species everywhere, in fact we still haven’t seen a native one!

Off to bed now – in the morning we’ll be picking up our camper van and heading to the Willowbank kiwi reserve.

Gone fishing…

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Waiting by the indoor koi pond at Singapore Changi for our onward flight to Christchurch. Tropical thunderstorm rumbling outside. Our flight from London passed over Iran and Afghanistan during the night, before meeting the dawn over Kashmir. Great views of the smaller islands around Singapore on the final approach… First time I’ve ever seen mangroves!