Spaceship

Thinking of Hobbiton . . .

With the release of the final The Hobbit film this week it got me thinking back to our visit to the amazing place that is Hobbiton back in May 2013. Being big fans of The LOTR trilogy and the newest The Hobbit films we were really keen to visit the land of hobbits and took our chance whilst touring both islands of New Zealand in our Spaceship for 9 weeks (during our amazing year living there).

I wrote about our wonderful day at Hobbiton right here on this blog last year.

It also featured on my Top 5 things to do in New Zealand blog post I also wrote last year.

Hobbiton really does look exactly like it does in the films! We feel really privileged that we were able to visit during our time in New Zealand. We loved every second of our time there and also felt lucky to have visited on such a wonderful sunny day.

Hobbiton really is a magical place so if you are interested in visiting take a look at the official website for tours now!

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Categories: Activities, Flashback, New Zealand, North Island, Photographs, Spaceship | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Living in a Spaceship for 9 weeks: 7000km, ultimate freedom and amazing New Zealand adventures

Spaceships - awesome!

Spaceships – awesome!

“That’s the longest anyone has hired a Spaceship for!” – is what we were told when we collected our Beta 2 Berth Spaceship (Mysteron) from the Queenstown Spaceships depot.

So we are trailblazers! Awesome! 9 weeks is a long time – but the only way to spend enough time exploring New Zealand fully and we wouldn’t have shortened our time in our Spaceship by even a day.

Spending a year in New Zealand my husband and I had been doing a mixture of work and travelling. We planned a well-deserved holiday as a break from work and decided to return to some of our favourite places as well as explore places we hadn’t yet seen.

Our awesome Spaceship

Our awesome Spaceship

For us, Spaceships was a pretty easy choice. We didn’t want a huge monster of a camper-van, but also wanted its freedom – being able to sleep in it and cook food. Having seen them driving around we looked Spaceships up on their brilliant website – and they were the perfect solution! We chose a Beta 2 Berth model Spaceship which are really unique and an amazing mix of a campervan and a rental car.

On the road to Milford Sound

On the road to Milford Sound

We really had the most incredible 9 weeks in our Spaceships Beta 2 Berth. We travelled all over New Zealand and saw such wonderful sights. Some real highlights on our Spaceships Adventure for us included: waking up at the stunning Moke Lake after our first night in our Spaceship, the amazing road to Milford and a brilliant boat trip out on Milford Sound; finding off-the-beaten-track hidden delights such as Gemstone beach in the Catlins and Clay Cliffs near Omarama; seeing yellow-eyed penguins come ashore and watching hector’s dolphins play in the surf in the Catlins area; being able to access Cathedral Caves at low-tide as dawn was breaking; seeing the morning mist drift across the Otago Peninsula; exploring the Otago Peninsula’s gravel windy roads to get to stunning Allan’s beach; seeing the majestic Mount Cook on the drive alongside Lake Pukaki; exploring the wonderful West Coast and walking to Franz Josef glacier and seeing Lake Mathieson’s incredible reflection; taking a helicopter trip over Queenstown with snow landing; relaxing in the thermal hot pools of Hanmer Springs; taking our Spaceship over on the Interislander from south to north island; travelling to Cape Palliser lighthouse along the scenic coastal roads; meeting Manukura the amazing white kiwi; spending time in sunny and picturesque Napier; having geothermal adventures in Taupo and Rotorua (including an awesome trip to Orakei Korako); walking where Frodo and Gandalf had exploring hobbit-holes at amazing Hobbiton and having a drink at The Green Dragon, and witnessing the beauty of the Coromandel peninsula’s beaches.

Being in the Spaceship also provided me with an amazing opportunity to do research for my own travel consultancy company – Blue Penguin Travel – helping people have their own amazing off-the-beaten track adventures in New Zealand! 🙂

Picnic near Cape Palliser

Picnic near Cape Palliser

As I am sure you can imagine, living in our Spaceship for 9 weeks was an incredibly long time – as you certainly have to know the person you are staying in it with well! 🙂 It is compact sleeping in there, but really designed so well, it is comfortable and just a genius design. For those of you that have followed my blog throughout our 63 days you will know we didn’t spend every single night sleeping in it – as needed a TV for the odd important football game when in Rotorua, or just a little more space. But that is another amazing thing about the Spaceship – it is the size of a car so can be parked anywhere.

We were also lucky enough to have a bond with two spaceships – as we swapped Mysteron halfway through (because he needed a well-deserved service) for the even more awesome Draco!

In summary, some of the main positives from our Spaceships adventure are:

  • Fantastic customer service: From pick up through to drop off (including the demonstration and customer service on the phone) the communication from Spaceships was amazing – they were incredibly knowledgeable and helpful.
  • Complete flexibility and freedom: Spaceships allow you to travel wherever you want and make up your own unique itinerary. You can picnic amongst nature and stunning scenery. We camped at beautifully scenic DOC sites – they are cheap and offer a convenient loo and fabulous scenery!
  • Small enough to drive comfortably: The spaceship really drives like a car and does not feel cumbersome. We covered 7000 kilometres and many of the roads were gravel, windy and narrow and our Beta 2 Berth Spaceship allowed us to travel on them comfortably and with ease (where large camper-vans would have struggled).
  • Innovative features: We loved the unique features – especially the fridge and DVD player. We spent many a night snuggled up in our Spaceship listening to waves or a nearby river outside watching a film.
  • Dual battery system: This was an incredibly useful feature – we could power our fridge, DVD player and internal lights off a second battery. 
  • Amazing value and a low cost option: The price we paid was comparable to hiring a car and they offer a huge amount more than a hire car so was exceptional value.
  • It is the ‘Swiss army knife’ of campervans: Spaceships really can do everything!

Spaceships offered us the freedom of a campervan with the advantages of a car – and it definitely suited to us! We will always think of Mysteron and Draco fondly. Spaceships really gave us some of the most memorable adventures of our whole lives and we would recommend Spaceships unreservedly to anyone considering hiring one! 🙂

Me and Mysteron

Me and Mysteron – our Spaceship

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Categories: Accommodation, Activities, Blue Penguin, New Zealand, North Island, Photographs, South Island, Spaceship | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

The beautiful Coromandel peninsula

Beautiful Hahei beach on the Coromandel peninsula

Beautiful Hahei beach on the Coromandel peninsula

Days 59 to 63: Coromandel peninsula to Auckland and Spaceship drop-off!

The time had come – Day 63 was finally here! Time to say goodbye to Draco . . .

Whitianga

Whitianga

Let me take you back to a few days before that and our last few days in our lovely spaceship. We had now been in our spaceship (check out Spaceships website for more info) for almost 9 weeks and the last part of our adventure was to come. We left Rotorua, and took the long drive north to Whitianga. Once passing nearby to Thames the road soon became much windier and the scenery prettier. Back in 2010 we visited the Coromandel peninsula on our honeymoon (staying in Hahei) and loved the pure beauty of the area, so decided to come back and stay a few days in our Spaceship. We were basing ourselves in Whitianga this time around (as last time Hahei was very beautiful, but completely dead off season) as we could do day trips from here.

Us at hot water beach

Us at hot water beach

As you will see from our photos unfortunately we were really unlucky with the weather – although did have a beautifully sunny last day. Despite the wind and rain we made the most of every second of our time there. We spent time in Whitianga, and also drove over to Hot water beach and despite having missed the chance to dig a hot pool on the beach (because of either very early or very late low tide times) we still loved walking up the beach and taking a few photos.

A muddy spaceship adventure

A muddy spaceship adventure

On a very wet day we decided to take the scenic 309 drive over towards Coromandel with the plan to loop back round the top stopping at Whangapoua beach. This road was mostly gravel and pretty windy and despite John having driven on so many crazy NZ roads this was a bit of a test even for him! We had planned to walk to Waiau falls, but the track was closed for repairs, so we had to make do with a glimpse from above. As it was so wet the road was quite muddy and our spaceship got a bit dirty! Although this was soon washed away by the rain later that day.

Whagapoua beach

Whangapoua beach

Heading back to Whitianga we headed for Whagapoua beach and even in the rain this was one of the most beautiful beaches we had been to! The rain was pretty heavy by this time and the wind very strong, but we got out the car, braving the weather and walked down the steps to the completely deserted beach. We absolutely loved wandering all over the beach – there is something about a deserted beach in the wind and rain that we really love!

Last day in the spaceship at Hahei

Last day in the spaceship at Hahei

On our last morning – day 63 – we awoke to the bright sun shining down on us, and we were delighted as hadn’t seen it for quite a few days! We decided to head to Hahei on our way back to Auckland. The beach here is absolutely stunning and we parked up our Spaceship and spent time sitting on the beach enjoying the beautiful weather and gorgeous scenery.

We spent time reflecting on our 9 weeks in the spaceship – the incredible highs and a few lows, but wouldn’t have changed a thing. The next post I will write will be a review of our time in the spaceship. Next stop after Hahei was Auckland – where we headed to the Penrose depot to drop off Draco. As always Spaceships’ customer service was awesome and the drop off was very easy – although we were very sad to say goodbye to Draco. They called us a taxi which picked us up to take us to Auckland for the next chapter of our NZ adventure  🙂

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An amazing day at Hobbiton!

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit . . .”

The day had arrived – we were finally going to Hobbiton!! Being big fans of both the LOTR and The Hobbit myself and John hadn’t yet visited the home of the hobbits and chose the perfect day to go. We checked the weather while staying in Rotorua, and decided to visit on a sunny and clear blue sky day which was just amazing.

We headed off early in our spaceship Draco from Rotorua towards Matamata and were there within about an hour. We parked up and went into the shop to pay. It cost us $75 each, which I know some people might find expensive, but we thought it really was worth every dollar! The area around the car park has a Welcome to Hobbiton sign which is quite cool, and The Shire’s Rest Cafe is up some stairs. There isn’t much else in this area and you need to go on the tour to see where the magic happened. A partnership between Peter Jackson (who directed LOTR and The Hobbit) and the Alexander family who own the farmland on which Hobbiton is built, has made these tours possible.

We booked onto the 10.00am tour and took a few snaps while waiting patiently for our bus to arrive. We were really excited and hopped aboard when it turned up. It was certainly a retro bus! I had read some people’s comments on Trip Advisor complaining about how old the bus was and I think if they are complaining about something as small as that they were definitely in the wrong place! We loved how quaint and old it was 🙂

Our driver was great and did well to negotiate the steep and windy gravel roads that took us to the start of the tour. The army built the road down to Hobbiton especially for the films – it had to be pretty sturdy to take the weight of hundreds of vehicles needed for filming.

We were dropped off by the bus and our guide introduced herself – apologies for forgetting her name, but I blame the excitement of the day! She was absolutely brilliant and did a fantastic job at explaining all the details fans would want to know without talking too much. She also gave us plenty of time to explore, as she led us into the centre of Hobbiton. We had time to take some photos in lots of different areas all around Hobbiton and it was great fun exploring. We saw lots of hobbit holes, including Sam and Rosie’s and Bag End. We were also able to go inside one of the hobbit holes, although it was empty (they film the hobbit hole interiors in Wellington), but still fun to see! We saw the pond, and the famous party tree. It was wonderful to be able to climb right up to Bag End and see Bilbo’s view down over Hobbiton. We also saw the bench where Bilbo and Gandalf blow smoke in the film. It was all so exciting!

We rewatched all the Hobbiton parts of LOTR when we got back and saw so many different parts that we walked right through as the actors did – we really were right in the heart of so many places they used in the films.

A real highlight of the tour was still left and we had been really looking forward to going to The Green Dragon pub after it had recently opened. We were so happy to be walking across the famous bridge – as seen in the films, to be faced with The Green Dragon. On entering we were offered a complimentary beverage – we chose ginger ale, which was delicious! We sat right by a wonderfully warm open fire (it was a pretty cold day!) and enjoyed our drinks. We also spent time exploring inside, looking at the fantastic attention to detail (the interior shots in the film were filmed at a studio in Wellington, but they have recreated the interior exactly here), and the area outside around the Green Dragon, which had also been beautifully and thoughtfully decorated. We had around 20 minutes here and really didn’t want to leave! It was unfortunately all too soon time for our tour to finish, so we left The Green Dragon and walked back to be picked up by our bus. We did get the opportunity for some more awesome photos looking across to Hobbiton as we left.

It really was an incredible tour – we loved every single second and it was a true highlight of our year over here in New Zealand on our amazing adventure.

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The wonderful and varied Rotorua

Days 54 to 58: Rotorua

Mud pools

Mud pools

Next stop on our amazing Spaceships adventure was Rotorua. After a brilliant few days in Taupo including an amazing trip to Orakei Korako we took the hour long drive from Taupo up to Rotorua. On the way we stopped at some mud pools (which we had also seen on our honeymoon visit back in 2010) to have another look and take some photos. We loved watching the mud bubble up and spit great big bubbles – I captured a few using the action setting on my camera. Good old Draco (our awesome Spaceship) then took us on to Rotorua. We decided to treat ourselves here after a long time in the spaceship – so stayed in an apartment for a few days (Quest Rotorua). It was so lovely to have a base and having stayed in loads of different places in NZ this was certainly one of the best! It was run by such a lovely couple called Colin and Lisa. Also, the really cool thing about our Beta 2 Berth spaceship is that if you do decide to spend the odd night not sleeping in it, then because it is the size of a car it can be parked anywhere! So we easily fitted it into the undercover secure parking at Quest – where a larger camper-van definitely would not have fitted!

Rotorua museum

Rotorua museum

One of the main reasons for staying here was so we could try and watch my husband John’s football team (Crystal Palace) play in a really important game – the play off final – where the winner gets promotion to the premier league. It was such an important match and being huge football fans we didn’t want to miss it! Colin from Quest couldn’t have been more helpful and arranged so that we would be able to watch the sports channel in our room 🙂 The game kicked off at 2.00am New Zealand time!! We did manage to get some sleep before and then set our alarm so we would wake up in time. A few hours later and Palace had won 1 v 0 (after extra-time)!! They were in the premier league 🙂 We were also in touch with my parents back in the UK who were holidaying in Cornwall when the game was on. They were listening on the radio and also cheering Palace on – they had their own drama with flattening their car battery whilst sat in the car listening to the game but that is a whole other story! We were delighted Palace had won and it was worth being awake at such crazy hours. We were also really grateful to Colin and Lisa for arranging for us to be able to watch the game.

Exploring underground

Exploring underground

Back to our time sight-seeing in Rotorua. We spent 5 days there and due to the location of our apartment were able to walk to quite a few places which was great. One of the best things we did was visit Rotorua Museum. We also took a lovely walk through the park to get there where we saw pukeko. We felt the museum entrance price was a little steep at $20 each but we still really enjoyed our time there (especially considering London’s amazing museums back home are free!). We loved the introduction video which was also part-ride and included a section which shook the audience to resemble the Tarawera eruption. It was great and really added to the learning experience! We also loved exploring the underground section which showed the old mud baths people used in the past. And we walked up all the steps to the lookout at the top of the museum which had great views.

Kuirau park

Kuirau park

We also took a lovely walk along the lakefront, as well as a trip to Kuirau park. This a free park completely open to the public where they have geothermal activity. We enjoyed having a wander and looking at the various steaming bubbling parts.

Blue and green lake viewpoint

Blue and green lake viewpoint

Places a little further afield that we drove to in our spaceship included the blue and green lakes. We took a nice drive there and parked up on the blue lake waterfront. We also enjoyed a lovely walk around the lake, before driving to a viewpoint between the two lakes. From here you could see both lakes, and apparently their distinctively different colours (although the cloudy weather when we visited made this a little difficult!).

From there we then took a drive to Lake Tarawera and read all about the 1886 eruption of Mount Tarawera. We took a few photos from a viewpoint and also drove down and parked alongside the lake itself which was beautiful.

Redwood trees

Redwood trees

The final place we visited in Rotorua was the Redwoods where we saw Californian redwood trees. The park is really well planned out and there are loads of great walks. Each walk is colour-coded and well signposted and they are at varying levels of difficulty. We took a 30 minute walk through the woods to see the redwoods and really loved exploring. They were huge trees and it was lovely and sunny too so made for a lovely afternoon out.

Like Taupo, we loved the time we spent in Rotorua and did a whole variety of different things which were brilliant. We also visited the amazing Hobbiton from Rotorua, but I will post about that separately as it was an incredible day and certainly warrants it! 🙂

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Terrific Taupo!

Days 49 – 52: Taupo

So you may have already read about our fantastic trip to Orakei Korako or our rain-filled night camping in the Tongariro National Park, but the next stop on our Spaceships adventure was a few days in Taupo. One thing we learnt while staying there and exploring is the pronunciation of Taupo – we had always pronounced it quite differently, but the correct way is toe-paw. We watched a cool video at the Taupo museum about this, and I have actually found the video online (courtesy of http://www.indiefilm.co.nz) and posted it below:

In the retro caravan!I think it’s great and pretty funny! 🙂 The museum was one of the many things we did in the Taupo area. It only cost $5 to get in and was great value. I have included a few pics in my gallery below, but I enjoyed learning about the geographical history of the area and looking in the retro caravan.

Me at Huka Falls

Me at Huka Falls

We also visited the super famous Huka Falls – which is the most visited waterfall in the whole of NZ. You can see why, as it is really easy to access – no walk required like most other waterfalls – with a good sized car park and it pretty spectacular. A bridge over the falls provides excellent views both ways and there are a number of other viewpoints further along. It is a pretty powerful waterfall making a loud rushing noise and I read that up to 220,000 litres of water gush through the gorge every second! You can also take the walk from/to the centre of Taupo to the falls – which takes about 1 hour 30 mins. We didn’t actually do this as had our spaceship to get around, but it looked a nice walk.

Aratiatia Dam opening

Aratiatia Dam opening

The same day we visited Huka Falls we also visited the Aratiatia dam to see the opening of the dam gates. This takes place three times a day in winter – at 10am, 12pm and 2pm. We went to see it open at 2pm and took some photos. On advice, we took the decision to walk to the highest viewpoint to see this happen. You can alternatively see the opening from either on the bridge that crosses it, or a viewpoint lower down. We were quite far away where we were, but did get the see the water make its way all the way down the river, so it was good from that point of view. If we visisted again we would probably watch the opening from close up on the bridge and then quickly walk to the lower viewpoint to see the water pass through.

Milkshake at Dixie Brown's

Milkshake at Dixie Brown’s

Whilst in Taupo our favourite place to eat was Dixie Brown’s, where we enjoyed a couple of meals – they did absolutely delicious milkshakes! And yummy pizza and chips. The service was usually really good too and they were always super busy which is a good sign – especially considering there are a lot of places to eat in Taupo.

The shores of Lake Taupo

The shores of Lake Taupo

We also enjoyed just spending time on the lake shores. It is a huge lake and is actually the largest lake in NZ and the largest freshwater lake in the whole of the Southern hemisphere – so it is pretty impressive! When we briefly visited Taupo on our honeymoon back in 2010 we took a helicopter trip up over Taupo and saw just how huge it is from above.

At Craters of the Moon

At Craters of the Moon

Another place we visited whilst in Taupo was Craters of the Moon where we did the geothermal walk. It is signposted on the road out of Taupo heading to Rotorua – about 5kms north (on Karapiti Road). We parked up and paid the $8 entrance fee, which we were happy to do. We also got chatting to a lovely fellow British woman who worked at the entrance kiosk, which was nice. We spent a good hour doing the loop walk and although not as spectactular as somewhere like Orakei Korako it was still full of steam and mud pools and we really enjoyed our time there.

Overall – we loved the four days that we spent in beautiful Taupo and really made the most of all it had to offer!

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The wonder of Orakei Korako

Orakei Korako

Orakei Korako

“Possibly the best thermal area left in New Zealand and one of the finest in the world” (Lonely Planet). 

Us at Orakei Korako

Us at Orakei Korako

Next stop on our Spaceships adventure was Taupo (and I will write separately about our time in Taupo), but the first thing we did while staying there was visit the geothermal wonderland of Orakei Korako – and we would wholeheartedly agree with Lonely Planet’s above statement!

Getting the ferry across

Getting the ferry across

Having visited other geothermal attractions in the area – Wai-O-Tapu being the most popular which we visited back in 2010, we definitely think that Orakei Korako is the best in the area. It feels so much more remote, wild and real, whereas some of the others are much more touristy.

Silica Terraces

Silica Terraces

We deliberately chose a clear blue sky day to visit, as thought it would look its best, and are so glad we did as got some great photos! The drive up from Taupo took about half an hour and was a lovely drive once off the main road. There was only one other car in the car park so we knew it would be pretty quiet! We headed inside to pay (it was $36 each which we thought was really well priced) and then took a walk down to the dock to catch the small ferry across Lake Ohakuri to the geothermal area – the ferries run on request throughout the day. We could already see steam rising ahead of us and it was very exciting! We were the only ones aboard and took the short ferry ride – which took a couple of minutes – across the water. It was a cute system, as when you wanted to return you just pressed a button and the ferry would come across to get you!

Rainbow Terraces

Rainbow Terraces

We then spent a few hours wandering all around the whole geothermal area. There were a few steps to climb up and down, but the walk wasn’t too strenuous and we enjoyed every second! Highlights included walking down to the Ruatapu Cave (apparently one of only two caves in the world known to exist in a geothermal field), seeing the bright orange Silica Terraces (believed to be the largest of their kind), seeing the colourful Rainbow Terraces and Artist’s Palette covered in geysers and hot pools, and the noisy Soda Fountain.

View from high

View from high

There was geothermal activity everywhere we walked, and just lovely peace and quiet so we could hear the birds and listen to the hissing and bubbling all around us.

To go back to the meaning of the name Orakei Korako – ‘O’ means ‘the place of”, and ‘Rakei’ meaning ‘adorning’, and ‘Korako’ meaning white glitter (describing the sinter flat), so Orakei Korako means ‘The glittering place of adorning’ – it was simply beautiful and a highlight of our Spaceships adventure!

 

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Gollum’s waterfall and a night in the rain

Tawhai Falls

Tawhai Falls

Day 48: Tawhai Falls and Mangahuia DOC Camping Ground

Today we took the long drive on the next step of our Spaceships adventure from Napier, past Taupo, towards Tongariro National Park. Last time we were in New Zealand for our honeymoon back in 2010 we spent time in this area hoping to spot the spectacular Mount Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom LOTR fans!) but were unlucky with the weather back then. Unfortunately we were unlucky again with the weather and didn’t manage to spot the elusive Mount Doom! Despite the poor weather we wanted to go back to one of our favourite NZ waterfalls – Tawhai falls – which is Gollum’s waterfall from LOTR. We parked up and headed down to see the waterfall which was just as lovely as we remembered.

At our DOC campsite

At our DOC campsite

Next stop was the Whakapapa visitor centre to get warm, where we spent time looking at their fantastic displays about the area. I was particularly interested in the natural disasters information – especially about the recent eruptions in the area. We also used the ‘flushing loo’ for the last time before heading off to our campsite. We arrived at the Mangahuia DOC camping ground, paid our fees ($6 each) chose our spot – in a nice little corner by the river and close enough to the loo. We liked this campsite, as all the pitches for campervans were separate and had trees and vegetation separating them, so you felt cosy and private. One thing we didn’t like was the smelly toilet! As with many of the DOC campsites it was a long drop, but this was definitely the smelliest we had come across! It might have been because despite being quite remote this camp ground was quite popular so lots of people were using it. By this point the heavy rain started and didn’t give up and was torrential all night!! We had chosen quite a sheltered spot for our spaceship and were glad of this, because the rain was so heavy it was pouring through the trees and making a really loud noise on our roof and this would have been even louder without some shelter! We were also glad to be near the loos, as we still got soaked dashing to the toilet in our waterproofs but watched as people got soaked right through coming from sites further away. Oh the joys of camping! So it was quite a sleepless night, with the loud rain on Draco’s roof – but a real adventure nonetheless 🙂 For more info on our lovely spaceship check out the Spaceships website and the Beta 2 Berth model which we hired. When we awoke in the morning there was flooding all around our spaceship, so we took a quick trip to the now unbearably smelly toilet, brushed our teeth and were on the road again heading to Taupo, Unfortunately due to the heavy rain Mount Doom eluded us yet again, but this is just one more reason we will have to return in future!

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A relaxing time in beautiful Napier

Days 46 and 47: Napier

Evening on Napier's beach

Evening on Napier’s beach

We spent a wonderful few days in Napier as part of our Spaceships adventure and were so lucky with the wonderful weather we had. Leaving Masterton we headed for Napier (seeing Manukura the amazing white kiwi on the way!) and arrived in sunny and scenic Napier. We spent the evening down on Napier’s beach which looked just beautiful in the setting sun. Over the next few days we explored Napier and saw some of its many Art Deco buildings. Napier has quite a concentration of 1930s architecture and we only saw the buildings that were within walking distance (there are other bus tours etc.).

Napier

Napier

We learnt about the famous 1930 earthquake that levelled most of Napier’s buildings. We also visited Clive Square that is a really lovely park with lots of plants, trees and benches and was a nice place to sit and watch Napier’s world go by.

Mini golf by the sea

Mini golf by the sea

We spent time on the beautiful beachfront with its darkened sand and effervescent waves – one afternoon we sat for about two hours just watching the waves break on the shore in the sun. We also really enjoyed playing the mini golf that is right on the shore – called Par 2 Mini Golf. We played the ‘blue’ course here and loved it! The water features around the course were great and it was quite a unique course. Napier was somewhere that had been recommended to us by a family friend, and we are really glad we visited. It was a really relaxing time where we could enjoy some sun and sand and beautiful buildings!

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Beautiful Cape Palliser and a wonderful car museum

Cape Palliser lighthouse

Cape Palliser lighthouse

Days 44 and 45: Car museum at Paraparaumu and Cape Palliser

So my last post also covered day 44 with a brief stop in Paraparaumu, but I thought posting about the wonderful car museum there and our trip to Cape Palliser fitted quite well.

Southward Car Museum

Southward Car Museum

On Day 44 we headed up from Wellington (after getting the ferry the evening before) to Paraparaumu and visited the amazing Southward Car Museum. Named after its namesake – Sir Len Southward – this is a wonderful collection of over 400 cars and bikes and really is a fantastic place to visit! Admission was only $13 which we thought was really reasonable. We spent a good few hours having a wander round and looking at all the vehicles. They were in beautiful condition and really well presented in a huge exhibition hall. They also had a lower level down some steps underneath which housed yet more cars. While by no means a car expert I do love looking at old cars and my Dad also loves cars so I must get it from him! We really enjoyed our time here and would recommend to all. I did get a little carried away snapping photos so have chosen a few (ok, more than a few!) to display in my gallery at the bottom of this post.

252 steps up to Cape Palliser lighthouse

252 steps up to Cape Palliser lighthouse

On leaving Greytown on Day 45 we took the drive down to the South coast heading for Cape Palliser. The road along the edge of the cliff was very scenic. There was a section that had been affected by a slip so extreme care was needed here. As we neared Cape Palliser the road condition worsened and involved crossing quite a large pool of water, as well as driving along a very narrow and incredibly bumpy road in pretty bad condition.

Views from the top

Views from the top

We have driven our fair share of scary roads in NZ and this is definitely up there! The good thing is the really bad section didn’t last too long, we didn’t meet anyone on the way and Draco – our amazing spaceship – got us there safely. It was really worth it too! We parked up and then saw the enormous row of steps heading straight up to the Cape Palliser lighthouse! We braved it and – despite not being a fan of heights or scary high steps – started the long journey up these 252 (yes 252!) steps to the top. To be honest it was pretty tough but we made it without passing out (!) and took in the wonderful panoramic views from the top – simply beautiful. After some time at the top we headed back down the steps which was far easier than coming up, and explored the beach near where we had parked where we saw some seals.

Draco by the sea

Draco by the sea

We then took off in Draco back along the coast and found the perfect picnic spot – right by the beach with an amazing view of the waves. We set up our camping chairs from our spaceship and enjoyed a lovely picnic here. I loved just watching and listening to the waves break on the shore in front of us. One of the great things about the spaceship (rather than just a normal hire car) is that having a fridge and cooking utensils you can just set up anywhere and have a lovely picnic – where others might have to eat out or at home. It gave us real freedom and we have had lunch at some really lovely spots over the last few weeks.   It was the perfect end to a wonderful day!

Picnic by the sea!

Picnic by the sea!

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Categories: Activities, New Zealand, North Island, Photographs, Spaceship | Tags: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Saying goodbye to South island and hello to North island

Baby seals at the waterfall

Baby seals at the waterfall

Days 43 and 44: Kaikoura to Picton and Wellington to Greytown via Paraparaumu

Baby seal on a rock

Baby seal on a rock

Day 43 of our Spaceships adventure had arrived (yes more retrospective writing!). We awoke in Kaikoura and headed for Picton. On the way we stopped to see the lovely baby seals at the waterfall. This used to be something of a well-kept secret, but was fairly busy so word must have crept out! Admittedly I did blog about it back in October when we visited but am certain the visitors hadn’t all read my blog!! It was even better this time around though because due to it being winter this is the best time to see the most baby seals and we saw loads! They were all playing in the waterfall and it was wonderful to watch them.

Coastal road on the way to Picton

Coastal road on the way to Picton

The lighting here made it notoriously difficult to photograph them (as it was last time) so we mainly videoed them and just watched. Definitely a wonderful stop off on the way to Picton. On arriving in Picton we received a message from the Interislander ferry company to inform us they had cancelled the ferry we were due to get tomorrow morning. So on hearing this news we decided rather than staying in Picton until tomorrow afternoon at the earliest that we would get the evening ferry over to Wellington. We booked on to the 6.30pm departure, which would arrive about 9.40pm. There was such heavy rain while we hung around Picton in the afternoon but luckily the crossing wasn’t too rough. We queued up in Draco our spaceship quite a bit before our final check in time of 5.30pm as given to us by Interislander. We also got 10% off the cost of our ferry due to the Top 10 card we had (and luckily we hadn’t burnt it after our awful experience at a Top 10 holiday park back in April!). The crossing is still pretty pricey though at $228 for our vehicle – way more than flying – but quite a unique adventure. It was fine parking our spaceship on the ferry as it was really organised and we weren’t too crammed in – one of the many advantages of hiring a spaceship over a bigger campervan!

The Interislander’s scale rated the sea conditions at ‘Moderate’. Being a travel sicky person I don’t usually travel on boats too well (plus we suffered incredibly on our 5 hour ferry to Great Barrier island back in October), so I wasn’t taken any chances so took two strong travel sickness tablets (Drammamine). I think they really helped, as it did rock a fair bit during the crossing, but they took the edge off – plus I felt quite out of it due to their strong drowsy-causing ingredients so don’t remember too much of it!

We sadly waved goodbye to South island and said hello to North island on arrival in Wellington. Apologies for the lack of photos in this post by the way – we didn’t really take any (for a change!).

The next morning we awoke and headed up the Kapiti coast to Paraparaumu beach. We had a brief stop here to look across to Kapiti island and then decided to drive to a place called Greytown (rather than stay in Paraparaumu) so we would be closer to Cape Palliser which we could do the following day. The road up was actually incredibly windy!! We didn’t expect such crazy roads in North island, but it twisted and turned so much as it climbed up and down the mountains. On arrival in Greytown despite being on a strict budget we treated ourselves to some well deserved and very cheap but yummy takeaway chips.

Having been to North island before we know it is different to South island – the weather is warmer and in our view the scenery is not as spectacular, but we are excited and looking forward to all of our north island adventures ahead, starting with Cape Palliser tomorrow. 🙂

Categories: Activities, New Zealand, North Island, Photographs, South Island, Spaceship | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

A relaxing return to Hanmer Springs and Kaikoura

Hanmer Springs

Hanmer Springs

Days 38-42: Hanmer Springs and Kaikoura

Relaxing in the hot pools

Relaxing in the hot pools

We awoke in our brilliant campsite at Waihi gorge and as I said on the last post enjoyed a nice breakfast beside the river. We were soon on the road again listening to one of my many Spaceship mixes and were heading for Hanmer Springs. We stopped for a picnic on the way and after a pretty long drive we arrived in Hanmer Springs. We had decided to treat ourselves here (we are in the spaceship for 9 weeks after all!!) and stay in a cheapie holiday house – as they had a special deal 3 nights for the price of 2 so it worked out close to a powered site at some camp sites! Crazy really!

Hanmer

Hanmer

So we had a couple of days to relax here which was lovely. We bought a 2 day pass at the Thermal hot pools, which we had visited back in September when we arrived in NZ. We loved relaxing last time we were here so decided to visit again. We went in the morning on both Monday and Tuesday and both days were pretty quiet as it is very much off-peak (Tuesday was almost deserted and we had most pools all to ourselves!). We were also blessed with beautiful weather on these two days so the pools looked even more inviting. They have 15 outdoor pools to choose from – including 3 sulphur pools. Our favourite were the adult-only aromatherapy ones that had a variety of jets and massagers – very relaxing. We also enjoyed spending time in the town exploring during our few days here.

Kaikoura

Kaikoura

We left here on Wednesday and drove over to Kaikoura. We actually decided to take the inland scenic route (the 70) from Hanmer, and it was a pretty interesting road! We had definitely driven our fair share of crazy roads and this would probably be included!

Seal at Kaikoura

Seal at Kaikoura

It wasn’t so much a bad surface or that dangerous but just so so windy! I sometimes suffer from travel sickness and this really tested me! But it was scenic and part of the adventure 🙂 Kaikoura was another place we loved when visiting back in September so we decided to spend a couple of days here again. We enjoyed walking along the beach and seeing the seals. We also walked up to Point Kean and took in the coastal views. One of our favourite ever pizza restaurants is here too – Black Rabbit pizza. Their pizza is just sooo delicious so we treated ourselves while we were there! We really enjoyed going back here and loved taking in the fresh coastal air and wonderful views!

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Back on the road and a fantastic campsite!

At Lake Tekapo

At Lake Tekapo

Day 37 – Leaving Queenstown (via Lake Tekapo) and staying at Waihi gorge campsite

On the road

On the road

On Day 37 of our Spaceship adventure we sadly departed beautiful Queenstown (after making a quick stop in the town centre before we left). We were back on the road today with quite a few kilometres to cover – but were in good hands with Draco who was as reliable as ever. We were planning to arrive in Hanmer Springs tomorrow so had planned a stop off tonight at a DOC campsite near Geraldine called Waihi gorge. The drive up is quite a scenic one, and there had been snowfall on the mountains the night before so we saw lots of snow-capped mountains along the way.

Mount Cook lookout

Mount Cook lookout

We passed through Lindis pass which actually had snow at ground level. It had been cleared from the road which was lucky as we hadn’t been given snow chains! It looked really pretty in the snow. We took a stop at Twizel at a great place to eat called Shawtys – who do really delicious ham and pineapple pizza (my favourite!). They are always really busy too which is a good sign of a great place to eat. We have used trip advisor a fair bit to find good places to eat and so far we have found loads of good places this way. Next stop was a lookout with views towards Mount Cook.

Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo

Even though the place of the sun at that time made photos a little difficult it still looked beautiful. We also stopped at one of our favourites – the ever-beautiful Lake Tekapo. They actually were experiencing a power-cut when we arrived so everywhere was shut! This waylaid our plans to pick up a coffee for John as it was a long drive! Crazy. We took some photos here though and enjoyed the sunsine. We stopped a bit further down the road at Fairlie for John to get a coffee and finished our journey on a gravel road up to the DOC campsite at Waihi gorge.

Waihi gorge DOC

Waihi gorge DOC

We loved camping here! It was a really peaceful and pretty campsite. We chose a great spot right down by the river with our own picnic table and not too far from the loos. We enjoyed a nice picnic here before settling down for the night to watch a dvd in our spaceship. It was also our first night camping in Draco since the swap. We actually found him more comfortable than Ron (sorry Ron!). This was mostly due to the fact that the bed was lower down in the back (he is a slightly newer model) and as such there is a little more headroom. So you can actually sit on the mattress and your head can fit as you sit upright.

Camping in Draco

Camping in Draco

We also found the shape of the bed was different and worked better and the slightly different configuration in the back worked better too (our water was in a different place so we had a bit more space). Of course we were still sleeping in a car so of course it was small! But the little things can make all the difference and we actually had quite a good night’s sleep. We did take one early morning trip to the loo in the dark and managed to step in quite a few sheep droppings on the way back! But it all adds to the adventure and it certainly was a memorable time there. We enjoyed a nice breakie by the river in the sun before getting back on the road and heading for Hanmer.

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Spaceship swap – goodbye Mysteron, hello Draco!

Mysteron meet Draco

Mysteron meet Draco

It was a difficult day, but also an exciting one! So now well into our Spaceship – what we call our camper-car – adventure, I will take you back to May 5th (yes I am posting retrospectively again!) we headed to Qbox in Queenstown (their spaceship depot) to swap one spaceship for another – both are photographed above. Due to the fact that we had covered so many kilometres Mysteron just needed a good old service so we were trading him in for a different spaceship – this one called Draco! I’m sure everyone reading this knows Draco is named after Draco Malfoy – Harry Potter’s nemesis 🙂 We were very sad to see Mysteron go – for anyone that doesn’t know Mysteron is named after a race of aliens from Captain Scarlett and as his namesake is rather random we affectionately named him ‘Ron’ instead! We had some wonderful memories in Ron and he had taken us to some amazing places. With just over 3800 kilometres on him in just over a month he had served us well. So I am posting one of our favourite photos of Ron on the way up to Mount Cook as we wish him goodbye:

Goodbye Ron

Goodbye Ron

And say hello to Draco – who we are sure will also take us on many more amazing adventures!

Hello Draco!

Hello Draco!

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The hidden delights of Hokitika

Hokitika Gorge

Hokitika Gorge

I have got quite behind with my blog (please forgive me!) as we have been really busy on the road in our Spaceship, but I will slowly be updating it as and when we get good wifi.

This post focuses on the wonderful hidden gem of Hokitika on NZ’s West Coast. Understandably the two glaciers get lots of attention – however I believe that Hokitika is well worth a visit and let me explain why!

We spent one night here, as a brief stop whilst spending time on the West Coast and found it a lovely stay! Things we did whilst here we loved included:

  • On Hokitika Gorge walk

    On Hokitika Gorge walk

    Hokitika gorge walk – this is a beautiful walk which starts about a 30 minute drive south of Hokitika. It is signposted relatively well and the drive crosses farmland with views around. Once parked it takes 10-15 minutes to walk through to the gorge – including crossing a 6-person swing bridge. When we were there we didn’t see anyone else and had it all to ourselves! On reaching the end of the walk we were greeted with the beautiful views through the gorge. Despite the fact the weather wasn’t perfect and the water wasn’t the colour it could be it still looked beautiful. We really enjoyed the peace and tranquility of this area.

  • Pizza at Fat Pipis – this truly is delicious pizza! A very popular cafe in Hokitika it is well worth a stop. They do a whole variety of toppings (including the famous white-bait) and as a self titled pizza connoisseur (I eat it a lot) this is up there with the best.
  • Hokitika Museum – entrance costs $5 and we were greeted by a lovely man working there who gave us a very informative introduction. We spent a good hour looking round the excellent exhibits and watching the movie giving information about the history of the local area. An excellent hidden gem of a museum and well worth a visit.
  • Hokitika Beach

    Hokitika Beach

    Hokitika Beach – spending time in the town it is easy not to realise you are right beside the beach, and just a few minutes walk takes you to the beach. It was wet and wild when we were there but still scenic. We had to be careful as erosion was clearly wearing the path away as we witnessed large chunks falling into the sea! Definitely worth a few minutes walk to reach the coast here.

  • Dorothy Falls – a real hidden gem of a waterfall. Access was a little scary at times, as is along a very narrow gravel road and we met the odd local lunatic, but John was ever-the-amazing driver and we made it there in one piece. Again, no one was around when we visited, and a minute walk from the car park brought us to this gorgeous waterfall. We took some snaps here, as well as getting wet sitting on a rock to pose (that was me). There is also a stream walk that brings you alongside Dorothy stream to Lake Kaniere.
  • By Lake Kaniere

    By Lake Kaniere

    Lunch at Lake Kaniere – this rounded off our wonderful trip to Hokitika, as we parked up our lovely Spaceship beside the lake on our way back from Dorothy Falls. We were joined by paradise decks and some lovely pukeko (the first we had seen in NZ!). The views of the lake were wonderful and it was a nice spot for some lunch – which was made even easier by our convenient fridge and food prep gear in our spaceship.

Hokitika is a real gem of a place and certainly somewhere worth visiting and making a bit of an effort to go off-the-beaten-track!

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A wonderful West Coast road trip

Days 23 – 27: West Coast (Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers, Hokitika, Lake Mathieson)

Lake Mathieson

Lake Mathieson

The West Coast is one of our favourite areas of New Zealand, and having taken a wet and wild trip there back in October we decided it was definitely somewhere we wanted to go back to in the Spaceship. Last time we visited the weather wasn’t the best and so we had some unfinished business!

Lake Hawea

Lake Hawea

On Day 23 we drove up to the glaciers from Wanaka – which is a really beautiful drive. There are wonderful views of Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea on the way up. We also stopped at Boundary Creek for great views of the lake. The weather was really kind, and the views were amazing.

Ship Creek

Ship Creek

We made a few stops along the way, including Thunder Falls which looked pretty impressive because of the rain the previous day (there was a storm the previous night) and the gorgeous off-the-beaten-track beach at Ship Creek. We hadn’t found this gem on our previous trip but were delighted to walk just a few minutes from the car park to find such a beautiful place. We also stopped at one of our favourites – the wild and windswept Bruce Bay, where we took some photos of the awesome trees and waves. We soon arrived at Franz Josef after a pretty long drive and set about making our plans for the days ahead.

Us at Franz Josef glacier

Us at Franz Josef glacier

Over the next few days we had a wonderful time exploring the West Coast. We took a walk up to the Franz Josef glacier – another activity we had never done before. The weather wasn’t too bad as it was fairly cloudy but not raining and we still had good views of the glacier.

Glacier close up

Glacier close up

The walk starts at the car park, taking you through rainforest for about 10 minutes, and it opens out to the most wonderful view of the valley floor ahead of you. We were then able to cross the valley floor and walk all the way up to the glacier and get within 300m (the last part of the walk being pretty steep!). The views from there were brilliant. There are also some beautiful waterfalls just before you reach the last part of the walk. I only had my small older camera (due to the unpredictable weather) but still managed to get some good shots. We also enjoyed a nice hot chocolate at Full of Beans cafe in Franz later that day.

Dorothy Falls

Dorothy Falls

Another place we visited on our trip was Hokitika, and we really enjoyed the day and night we spent there so much I have decided to do a separate blog post about it – which I have added. Highlights included the Hokitika museum, Hokitika gorge walk, Pizza at Fat Pipis, Hokitika beach, Dorothy Falls and lunch by Lake Kaniere.

Following our trip up to Hokitika we then headed back down to Fox Glacier. This is quite unconventional I know as most people pass through either heading North or South (as we did last time), but we had made the decision a few days before that I would like to spend my 30th birthday (which is just a few days away!) in Queenstown so wanted to head back down there for that. So to Fox we headed and were rewarded with some wonderful weather there! The morning of Day 27 we awoke to stunning clear blue skies and quickly headed out to Lake Mathieson. After a short walk from the car park we came to the first viewpoint and we were completely awe-struck by the views here!

Reflection at Lake Mathieson

Reflection at Lake Mathieson

Last time we visited back in October the weather was quite poor so we hadn’t been able to photograph the amazing reflection. I have posted below two contrasting photos (not quite taken from the same spot) to show to the difference between our visit last year and this time around.

Lake Mathieson back in October

Lake Mathieson back in October 2012

Lake Mathieson in May

Lake Mathieson in May 2013

We then continued on the rest of the walk to take in more amazing views. It is a fairly long walk to complete the circuit – about 1 hour 30 mins but worth every second! This included taking the steps up to the ‘view of views’ and also walking down to see the views from Reflection island. This was honestly one of our favourite places we visited – with such amazing views and I was so happy to be able to take some great photographs. From here we then took the long drive back down to Wanaka. This is definitely one of our favoruite drives in NZ – as the views are gorgeous – heading both along the coast and inland through Haast pass and finally alongside the stunning lakes coming into Wanaka.

We ended a wonderful day with a walk along the shores of Lake Wanaka and a beautiful sunset.

Wanaka sunset

Wanaka sunset

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Relaxing time in Wanaka and Queenstown

Days 17 – 22: Wanaka and Queenstown

Beautiful Wanaka

Beautiful Wanaka

We have spent a relaxing time in Queenstown and Wanaka. Apologies for being behind with my blog, but I am updating as and when I get internet and when I can.

Autumn colours

Autumn colours

We left Omarama on Day 17 and headed briefly back up to Lake Ruantaniwha to look at the lake and some of the beautiful autumn trees. We had a drive around this area which was completely deserted and took some photos of the trees which looked really gorgeous – even in the rain! From here we headed back up to Twizel to have some more delicious pizza from Shawtys. Then we drove on to Wanaka and spent time in the area before settling at our camper van site for the night.

Stopped on Crown range road

Stopped on Crown range road

The next day we took a drive round to Glendhu Bay before setting off for Queenstown, travelling over the Crown range road (one of our favourite roads). We had lunch at our favourite place – Winnies and spent the afternoon in Queenstown before taking the beautiful drive round the lake to Kingston and our accommodation for the night at Hectors.

Glenorchy - one of our favourite places

Glenorchy – one of our favourite places

Over the next few days we did various things in Queenstown including: the wonderful peninsula walkway, taking another of our favourite drives up to Glenorchy – which looked especially beautiful with its autumn colours, enjoyed a nice hot chocolate at Chocolate Patagonias, spent time exploring the lakefront and Frankton arm in Queenstown and John finally had a famous Fergburger (those of you who know me know I am not a burger person, but John enjoyed it!).

Following yet another stay in the Queenstown area (which we loved) we headed back up to Wanaka for a further night at Aspiring Campervan park before our big trip up the West Coast.

Where we spent time: Lake Ruantaniwha, Twizel, Wanaka, Glendhu Bay, Queenstown, Kingston, Glenorchy

Aspiring Campervan park

Aspiring Campervan park

Where we stayed: Aspiring Campervan park (Wanaka) – we loved this campervan park! It was really well-run, with a beautiful view of the mountains just a few mins drive from Wanaka. Everything was really well thought-out, with great showers and bathrooms and all-round good facilities.

Hectors at Kingston – this was in a quiet location and was quite a quirky campsite. The showers were quite small but the bathrooms were ok. The camper van spaces weren’t too close together, and we saw the Kingston steam train pass in the morning!

Shotover Top 10 in Queenstown – unsurprisingly NOT recommended – just read my blog post here (mouse and all!) to see why.

Where we are headed next: The West Coast 🙂

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There’s always one . . .

Our visitor

Our visitor

So the story starts with a mouse and ends with the most unpleasant man we have come across in the whole of New Zealand in our 7 months here.

Let me take you back to Wednesday 24th of April in Queenstown. As many of you know me and John are travelling around the whole of New Zealand for 9 weeks in a spaceship (a camper-car!). We have been staying in campsites and next stop on our trip was Queenstown where we had chosen the Shotover Top 10 holiday park. We had done lots of research comparing all the campsites in Queenstown and this seemed the best – but we were very wrong. I will tell you more! We decided on this occasion – mainly because my husband is currently working from home and needs power and a good base to work from – to treat ourselves to an ensuite cabin for a couple of days. This would be a break from the spaceship and sharing showers/sinks and would give us some space.

Next comes the ‘mouse’ incident. It was the evening of Weds 24th of April and me and John were relaxing in our cabin. John got up to make a cup of tea and suddenly asked ‘what’s that?’ – and looked over at the bin. I looked over and saw the lid of the small swing bing in our kitchen was moving. It moved again and as we both watched in horror a mouse jumped out of the bin, ran across the floor and under our fridge. As I am sure you can imagine we were both incredibly shocked to see this! Now, neither of us likes mice particularly (John especially) – who does? – so were quite freaked our by this, and decided we need ed to leave the cabin asap and go and tell the holiday park people who would sort it out. John spoke to the on-call duty manager (who we later discovered was also the owner) as it was after hours and his response was very poor –  he didn’t even apologise for the incident. He just asked us what we wanted him to do about it, and when we suggested possibly moving offered us a downgrade to a basic cabin. Obviously, this wasn’t suitable and we were not keen on staying there after what had happened. The response of this person was really disappointing – at the very least we would have expected an apology, and for him to come out in person to us to apologise and to come and look in the cabin with us or show us an alternative. Following this quite incredulous response we decided to leave the holiday park. We had to go back into the cabin (mouse and all!) and quickly pack up our belongings. We then called around to secure alternative accommodation and swiftly left.

The following morning (25th April) I received an email from the owner informing me of a $100 refund because we had left early – no mention of the mouse incident! At the very least I would have expected a phone call with a very heartfelt apology for such an incident like this and a discussion with them regarding this matter. We felt $100 insufficient compensation for what we went through and when we had spent $300 in total staying there for 3 nights – and only stayed for 1 night.

I then rang the holiday park and asked to speak to the owner – and was informed by the general office he wasn’t in and would be in later. I explained I had just received an email from him and wanted to speak to him, so only then did they give me his direct dial number. I called the owner directly and explained the situation and how unhappy we were to find out a mouse in our cabin. I also explained that having spent 7 months in New Zealand this was by far our worst accommodation experience and also that having extensively read reviews for the whole country on Trip Advisor we had never read any that mentioned finding a mouse in their room/cabin.

His response was awful really – he was very evasive, and said he didn’t really want to discuss it on the phone. He asked me to send an email with my concerns – when my main concern and desire was for an apology for this incident. I also explained I was an avid user of Trip Advisor and rely on it to make my accommodation selections and that following our incident I would be posting about what happened – mainly because I didn’t want want anyone else to experience what we have. He said I was entitled to my opinion but it didn’t mean they agreed with it! I asked him what justification they could have for having found a mouse in our cabin? I asked him how they could possibly ‘disagree’ with my opinion that finding a mouse is completely unacceptable. I explained that I was very disappointed in both the incident and the extremely poor way he was speaking to me and dealing with the issue. He then told me the way I was speaking to him was poor and unnecessary. At this I told him I was going to make a formal complain about it – as it certainly warranted it – and put the phone down.

We then sought external advice from local bodies in Queenstown – who shared our disgust – and who suggested we email the park directly to give them a chance to respond. We then wrote a simple and rational e-mail outlining our reasons for our complaint. The response we received to this was frankly disgusting! In this email the owner the owner the audacity to completely avoid the issue at hand and instead invent some story about me having a mouse phobia and needing to seek professional help for this – questioning my mental health in the process!! Utter utter craziness in our opinion.

I was in shock to be honest to be personally attacked by the owner of the holiday park when they were so far in the wrong!!

Anyway, we have posted to both trip advisor and rankers as don’t want others to go through this, and are pursuing our complaint with the Top 10 company.

As anyone reading this will probably know myself and John are avid travellers and have not experienced anything remotely close to this appalling incident in New Zealand (or in our lives before for that matter). We are also extensive readers of reviews on Trip Advisor and have never read about a mouse being found in accommodation, nor about such a completely and utterly unprofessional response from an accommodation’s owner.

Anyway, just thought I would share and it’s good to get it out. Myself and John feel much better about the incident now we have been able to share our experience with others and hope nothing similar happens to them – as it was a pretty stressful time. We now plan to put the whole incident behind us, and consider that despite this awful ignorant owner being the exception there are hundreds of other amazingly friendly and helpful kiwis we have met during our time over here and will instead think of those wonderful positive experiences. 🙂

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Our third visit to the amazing Mount Cook

Days 15 and 16: Mount Cook, Twizel and Omarama

Mount Cook

Mount Cook

We have been very fortunate to now have visited Mount Cook a total of three times – the most recent being last weekend. It is one of our very favourite places in the whole of New Zealand and we would go back again and again if we could!

As mentioned on my last post the last time we visited Mount Cook was with my parents who were visiting over Christmas – so it holds an extra special place in our hearts.

I included this photo on the last post but am including it again here as it was the best weather we saw in our time there! This is our Spaceship on the drive up to Mount Cook alongside Lake Pukaki.

Ron (our spaceship) heading up to Mount Cook

Ron (our spaceship) heading up to Mount Cook

On the Hooker Valley walk

On the Hooker Valley walk

We spent time walking in the Mount Cook area whilst there including our favourite walk – the start of the Hooker Valley walk (to the first swing bridge), where we saw Mount Cook peeking through the clouds. This is a beautiful walk along the valley floor, with stunning views all around.

Hooker valley river

Hooker valley river

This was were we took my parents on our last evening together of their visit. We also looked out over the Mueller lake from a vantage point.

We also took a walk to the start of the Red Tarns track – heading across another swing bridge, and up lots of stairs to a good view over the village. The weather was mixed and cloudy at this point but the weather were still great.

View of Mount Cook village

View of Mount Cook village

The visitor centre was our next stop where we spent quite a while looking around all their impressive exhibits. They have loads of really interesting information about the origins of the area, and those that have attempted to/succeeded in climbing Mount Cook. They also have info on the geography of the area and a reconstruction of a hiker’s hut.

We were really impressed as there was no charge and it gave us a little break from the rain outside. We also enjoyed lunch at a lovely cafe next door – the Old Mountaineers cafe.

Visitor centre

Visitor centre

Later that day we headed over to the Hermitage Hotel – to the Sir Edmund Hillary centre. We had been there twice before but really enjoyed the times we had visited and loved walking around the Sir Edmund Hillary themed exhibits. Unfortunately this time around we came across big signs up telling us we need a ticket to enter! Very surprised at this we asked at the information desk and were told you now had to pay $20 each to enter. Wow. They said this did also include entrance to the small theatre there for the movies (which didn’t seem that popular anyway really), but there was no longer an option to enter the centre free of charge. When we were there we didn’t see a single person in the centre, which is such a shame as it is a wonderful place, but really definitely not worth $20. We feel saddened that they have put such a high price tag on something people should be able to enjoy for free. We don’t know whether the Hermitage decided this but we don’t think Sir Edmund would like it! It quite soured our trip over to the hotel which was one point quite a refuge for us in the area (particularly from the rain!) and has changed to now more of a place that extorts people.

Poo pot!

Poo pot!

One thing to lighten the mood a little is that we saw back in the visitor centre was a ‘poo pot’! Which does what it says on the tin! We thought this was funny and an awesome thing to find in the visitor centre 🙂

The next day we left Mount Cook as the heavy rain had set in and heading for Twizel. Here we enjoyed a lovely pizza at Shawtys. Next stop was Omarama, where we checked into the Top 10 here and headed off to the Omarama hot tubs. This was a great place! We hired a private hot tub outside in our own private area (see my photos) for 1 hour 30 mins for a total of $66 for 2.

Omarama hot tub

Omarama hot tub

It was raining and fairly windy but we didn’t mind once in the wonderful hot water of the hot tub. We simply loved it. Back to the holiday park where we spent the night. We didn’t think much of this place to be honest – we had a nice welcome but the facilities were quite basic. Its location was good as it was close to the hot tubs and centre of Omarama and was ok for a night stop over.

Overall, despite having the famous ‘1 day out of 3’ good weather in the Mount Cook area we loved our return and were sad to leave.

Categories: Accommodation, Activities, New Zealand, Photographs, Spaceship | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The impressive Clay Cliffs

Day 14 – Drive from Oamaru to Mount Cook (via Clay Cliffs)

Clay Cliffs

Clay Cliffs

Lake Aviemore

Lake Aviemore

We left our lovely holiday park (Waitaki Waters) quite early this morning to start our drive in our Spaceship to Mount Cook. We stopped off at the New World in Oamaru for provisions and took the drive across the 83 past Duntroon towards Omarama. We have driven this before but had forgotten what a scenic drive it is. The mountains looked great and the lakes were spectacular – especially with the autumn colours. The trees looked beautiful! We stopped at Lake Aviemore and took a few photos here.

View looking up at Clay Cliffs

View looking up at Clay Cliffs

After a quick stop at Omarama for food at the Oasis cafe we headed for Clay Cliffs next. Despite passing this way a few times before we hadn’t yet been to Clay Cliffs, and only after seeing photos of them on someone’s blog did I think it was a must-see! So we took the road off the highway, and a further left turn onto a gravel road.

Ron and Clay Cliffs

Ron and Clay Cliffs

We then passed through 2 gates and parked up on the left just before the ‘4WD from here sign’ – where the road quickly deteriorated. There was no one else around – just us! We took a short walk uphill towards the cliffs and they were spectacular! They really were an awesome sight! We climbed up and right to the end of the path right inside the cliff area. We took lots of photos here and the light looked brilliant. We loved spending time here and wandered all over exploring.

Mount Cook

Mount Cook

We finally tore ourselves away to leave and were soon back on the road. Next stop was Peter’s lookout alongside our favourite lake in the whole of NZ – Lake Pukaki. The sky was clear blue and so the lake looked amazing – such a gorgeous blue. We took some photos from this lookout point.

This is actually our third time up to Mount Cook – and I blogged about it back in October here and here, and also in December when we were lucky enough to spend time with my parents visited from the UK which I wrote about here.

Ron (our spaceship) heading up to Mount Cook

Ron (our spaceship) heading up to Mount Cook

On arrival we took a walk to the Hooker valley and I will post pics of that on a separate post about Mount Cook, but it was a wonderful end to an awesome day! 🙂

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Categories: Activities, New Zealand, Photographs, Spaceship | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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