Ciarán & Elaine's Travelog

Thursday, June 29, 2006


After staying a couple of nights in a lovely hostel in Waitomo (our hostel had a pet pig and a pet goat!) we headed towards Mt Taranaki to see the snow. It was a beautiful drive to get there but to be honest we could've been driving through Wicklow - it was exactly like home!

Eventually we got to Mt Taranaki and saw the snow - woohoo! Couldn't wait to get up there and jump around in it. It was about two foot deep and freezing!

Then it was a quick overnight in Wanganui before setting off again for Wellington.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Haggas Honking Holes

Anyone that's been to NZ knows that Waitomo is famous for one thing only - caves full of glow worms. Now, glow worms are cute & all but not really that exciting, so we decided that as we were in New Zealand we should make sure that our caving/glow worm trip involved a bit of adrenallin. With this in mind we booked ourselves onto the Haggas Honking Hole, 1/2 day adventure which includes abseilling, caving and rock climbing.

We were picked up from the office and driven through the countryside to a little farm which is owned by Mrs Haggas. At the farm we were kitted up with wetsuits, safety harness's, helmets and head lamps.

After a bit of time getting to grips with our abseiling gear we headed to the caves.
To get into the cave we had to abseil down 27 metres in the pitch black - really scary considering we'd never abseiled before and we couldn't see where we were going - just had to hope that the harness was on correctly! We had two more abseils to do which were down through waterfalls and finally we were 'dropped' on our harnesses down through a particularly narrow vertical cave - a fantastic experience. Our guide did decide to show off at one stage and ran down a 25 metre drop face first - looked pretty cool! Eventually we were about 80 metres under ground with just our headlamps and our guides to lead the way.

We spent a couple of hours squashing through crevesses and wriggling through caves. Some of the caves had rivers running through them and only enough room to put your face to one side to breathe until you got out the other side (where they took this picture!).

Then it was time to see the glow worms - ooohh! and before we knew it we were on our big climb back to the surface. This was quite an adventure as we tried to get footholds in the cave wall and cling on with our fingertips. The highest wall we had to climb was about 20 metres and I really felt I'd achieved something when I got to the top and saw sunlight again.

It was a brilliant experience - I think I could really get to love abseiling, can't wait to try it again.

Monday, June 26, 2006

I believe I can fly....

We've just jumped 12,000 feet with nothing but a man strapped to our backs and a piece of cloth to prevent us from plumeting to a gruesome and painful death - and it felt amazing! Woohoo!!!

We thought it was the most terrifying feeling when you know it's booked, followed by a sleepless night and a lift to the airport with a guy who jokes about the safety record 'not being great' but we were wrong. The real fear happens when they slide open the plastic door of the plane and you crawl over and dangle your feet out over the edge, then they hurl you forward and you tumble out of the plane. Those first few seconds when you don't know which way is up and the freezing air rushes into your lungs are unreal. After about 5 seconds (feels like 5 years!) you relax a bit and enjoy the freefall. Falling at 200kph for about 40 seconds is amazing but to do it in Taupo over this huge lake surrounded by forests and snowcapped mountains (even Mount Doom!) is just fantastic. Feels like you're really flying... After the freefall they release the parachute and then it's about another 5 minutes floating downwards, twisting and turning to really take in the amazing scenery. It's so cool to see the little teeny tiny cars suddenly start to get bigger and bigger on the road below. Then it's in for the landing and for those who've seen my first skydive video I was much more graceful this time round you'll be happy to hear! Ciaran came in great too even managing to land on his feet - not bad considering we'd just jumped from about 4km's in the sky!!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Oi, Geyser!

We left Rotorua this morning and went to the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland park. There's a geyser there (called Lady Knox Geyser) that erupts at 10.15 every day so we had to run to make sure we would see it. It was totally worth the effort - so cool to see stuff like this that you could never see at home. However it was a bit surprising to find out that they actually make the geyser erupt at 10.15, we presumed it just happened naturally. A guy throws a bit of soap into the cone and as he explained a bit about how geysers work, it started bubbling behind him. After about 2 minutes it just started spurting water into the air and it went up to about 15metres high! It was cool and really amazing to see all this hot water (150°c) gushing into the air in front of you. Naturally, it would erupt every 48 hours or so but I guess they make more money if they can guarantee visitors that it's going to blow at a certain time every day!

We then went for a walk around the thermal park. We saw some crazy things that you just can't see at home at all like bubbling mud pits, huge holes where the rock was melted away by the volcanic fumes below it, and really cool champagne pools which looked brilliant. There was steam everywhere and the smell was rotten but it was a great day.

On to Taupo...

Friday, June 23, 2006


We're back in Rotorua at the moment. We were here over Christmas and we like it even more this time around, although the place still smells like rotten eggs! Its in a real geothermal area and I don't know if I could ever get used to seeing steam coming our of the ground and mud bubbling away in the parks!

We're staying in a great hostel called Treks and just chilling out - no major plans to see or do anything here which is great! However it's still nice to get out and about so we've been to see the Blue & Green lakes which were really amazing and gone on some nice walks through a giant Redwood forest which was cool.

The weather is getting much colder now. Its officially winter and some parts of the South Island have been snowed in without electricity for the past 2 weeks. We really can't understand why 99% of the buildings don't have central heating and just rely on log fires for heating.

I'm making sure I'm seeing all the World Cup football I can though. The live matches are on way too late, but I can usually catch the replays the next evening. My head would be wrecked if I couldn't see the World Cup!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Middle Earth!

No trip to NZ is complete without a trip to a Lord of the Rings set or shooting location, so with this in mind we left Tauranga in search of Hobbiton! To be fair it wasn't particularly hard to find, as it's all set in a little town called Matamata about an hours drive from Tauranga. This is officially Middle Earth and Hobbit country down here! We took the Lord of the Rings tour which took us to a farm that was used for all the Hobbiton scenes in the films. Looking at the landscape its easy to see why this location was chosen - the rolling hills and lakes were beautiful and most importantly (or so the tour guide tells us) from the bottom of the valley you couldn't see anything man made at all - not roads, not poles or wires and not houses, which according to the guide makes NZ's little Hobbiton a mini miracle!

Most of the set was dismantled after filming but some of the Hobbit Holes were still there and at least now I can say that I was in Bag End - where Frodo and Bilbo lived!(Here's us looking outthe windows of Bag End!) Our tour guide was trying to get us all to have a dance on the Party Field - but there weren't any takers! Some of the things that were done to make the film were unreal. For one part, they bought an old oak tree from a neighbouring farm, cut it down piece by piece, labelled it all, brought it to the set and re-assembled it then they got 100,000 fake oak leaves sent over from Taiwan and stuck them on to the tree. It must've taken weeks to do and cost a fortune yet it was only in the film for about 15 seconds!

We really can't wait to see the films again now to see do we recognise all the places that we were standing!

Tauranga & Mount Maunganui

We left Auckland for the last time (sniff - Ciaran/at last! - Elaine!) after our car trouble and headed towards Tauranga on the east coast.

Tauranga is a smallish town on a lovely bay right beside Mount Manganui and the drive there from Auckland was really lovely with the sun setting and wide open roads - feels great to be out of the city. The hostel was fairly packed with loads of people who are working there at the moment picking kiwi fruit. They bring home bags and bags of them after every shift, there was one girl there who must've ate about 20 kiwi's in a row, then she proceeded to make kiwi jam I thought she was going to turn into one by the end of the night. Were not complaining though cause we were given a big bag of free kiwis - keep us healthy for a week or so!

We spent the morning walking up the Mount from where you can see some beautiful views of the beaches and surrounding coastline. The colour of the sea over here is just breathtaking. We had a nice picnic and then just back to the 'Just the Ducks Nuts' hostel for a chilled out evening.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Ireland V All Blacks

Well, Waitomo has been put on hold for a while due to some car trouble (the brakes went and all 4 had to be replaced). The car was with the mechanic for a few days but Georgie & Barry invited us to stay with them so we had a grand weekend back in Auckland. We're a couple of hundred dollars lighter though, so thats not great but at least now we know that the brakes are good and we're not likely to die at any minute!

The highlight of the weekend was the All Blacks V Ireland game on the 17th in Eden Park. It was absoloutely freezing cold and lashing rain but that didn't stop us shouting our lungs out - especially Elaine (I don't know how we made it out alive she was screaming that much!). The game was brilliant to see except for the result of course, but the team played well in the hard conditions. It was really great to see the Haka in real life and seeing all the Irish there all dressed up and flags flying everywhere was cool. Here's a picture of the Irish lads up against the All Blacks Haka. We went to the Fiddler afterwards and it was like being out on St Patricks day - everyone dressed in green and a few leprauchauns thrown into the mix aswell!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Back on the road again...

Well we've been fairly rubbish at keeping the blog up to date over the past few months but now we're unemployed backpackers again we'll have loads of time to bore you with all the stuff we're doing and able to mail everyone again - so mail us back!!

We've just travelled all around Northland which as the name suggests is the most northern area in New Zealand. We set off from Auckland and headed first to Goat Island which as the name doesn't suggest has nothing to do with goats! Goat Island is one of the best places to snorkel on the north island and really lives up to it's reputation. We saw huge big snapper, blue maomao and tonnes of other fish.

From Goat Island we stayed in Mangawhai Heads and next morning went on a trek up the cliffs and back along the beach, took about three hours and it was a beautiful sunny day so we really enjoyed it.

Then it was on to Whangarei which is the biggest town in Northland, with a population of 45,000 you couldn't exactly call it a sprawling metropolis but compared to all the other little one horse towns it was massive!

After Whangarei we went to Paihia in the Bay of Islands. We had spent a day or two here last November but it was great to go back. The countryside around this area is just beautiful and it's great to be beside the sea. The bay has something like 140 islands dotted around it so we wanted to go on a boat trip to see some of them. We found a trip that brings you on a high speed dash around the bay - Mack Attack! Crap name we know but it was a great trip. The boat travels at about 100km per hour and brought us out as far as Cathedral Cave (the water was the most amazing colour green I've ever seen and crystal clear) and to the Hole in the Rock which as the name suggests is a big hole in a rock! It's much more spectacular looking than it sounds, especially with the sun shining through.... On the way back we were so lucky to spot dolphins, the boat driver stopped the boat and about twenty dolphins surrounded us, swimming all around and under the boat and jumping in the air - absoloutely amazing!

From Paihia we went to Kerikeri which is just a gorgeous little town with great coffee - something we've become addicted to after 7 months in Auckland. Then it was on further north where we stayed on a farm in Pukenui, it was really lovely to be out in the countryside and we were lucky to have the little hostel all to ourselves for a couple of days. From Pukenui we travelled to the very top of New Zealand - Cape Reinga.

Cape Reinga was amazing because you can actually see where the Tasman sea meets the Pacific ocean . All the way out you can see a row of white water as the waves from one sea breaks against the other - really spectacular and we were lucky because there had been a storm that morning so the sea was even rougher than normal although the wind felt like it could've blown us off the cape!

From Cape Reinga we went to ninety mile beach where you could sandboard down the massive dunes or drive down the beach although the tide was in when we got there so we couldn't drive it.

Next we went on to Bayleys beach, on the way you have to drive through a Kauri forest which is home to a 2000 year old Kauri tree - naturally we had to get out to have a look - it's massive! The trunk of it is about 20 metres wide, I've never seen anything like it.

Next stop is black water caving in Waitomo - can't wait!

Monday, June 05, 2006

Last weekend in Auckland

We're just recovering from our last weekend in Auckland - what a blast!

On Friday we treated ourselves to lunch in the revolving restaurant at the top of the Skytower. The Skytower is the tallest building in the southern hemisphere so I'm sure you can imagine the views from the top were amazing and as it revolves we had a chance to see all of Auckland for the last time. Here's a photo of me standing on the glass floor - I'd fall 328 metres if it cracked so this explains the look of panic in my eyes!

Saturday night out with all the gang was great craic, there's not much to say about that - I think the photo's speak for themselves!