The road trip is well under way! We headed south and stopped first at Lake Taupo, where we spent the night in a free camp site called Reid’s Farm (very busy, and last time we were here very noisy, but with the newly imposed alcohol ban it was much more conducive to sleepy travellers). Following the advice of possibly the greatest guide book ever written, we found a short walk completely off the beaten track which led us to an untouched inlet of pumice rocks (a strange yellowish colour, with the added effect of making the lake water appear turquoise green), and a hidden Maori totem.
Brave Adrien slapped on the snorkelling gear and dived right in to the icy cold water, I stayed on the sidelines and took photos while trying not to get blown away by the wind. It was a reminder of just why New Zealand is such an amazing place, you couldn’t imagine such an interesting and beautiful site being completely empty of people and so perfectly preserved in peak holiday season anywhere else. This is the joy of being in a country bigger than Great Britain, with less than 10% of the population!
We then continued south towards the capital city of Wellington, where we met our wonderful friend Jen who used to live in Lyon. We’re very lucky to have come so far from home and yet be surrounded by great friends and family! She took us on a walk in typical Welly weather- chilly, blustery, and damp, reminiscent of the verdant lands and grey skies of Scotland some 20,000km away.
The highlight of the walk, apart from being with the lovely Jen, was the sighting of two large Fur seals lounging on the rocks. While Adrien whistled and made attempts at seal noises to get their attention, Jen warned us not to get too close as these are deceptively unfriendly, aggressive, and fast-moving beasts, despite their chilled demeanour.
Our 2nd (and sunnier) day in Wellington was spent almost entirely at the huge and free Te Papa museum, exercising the old brain muscles and learning about the NZ war effort, the reasons behind the country’s susceptibility to earthquakes and tsunami risks, the immigration of Europeans (including many a Scot in the late 1800s and again post-WW2) and the helps and hindrances in the preservation of Maori culture. It truly is a fantastic museum, and must not be missed on a trip to Windy Welly.
Other Wellington activities included but were not limited to: delicious breakfast eating in Cuba Street’s appropriately named café Fidel’s, further coffee drinking, harbour walking, and some practical necessities such as purchasing a SIM card and learning that data is incredibly expensive over here.
A 3-hour ferry awaits to take us to the South Island, which people tend to say is the more beautiful of the two islands. As generally more of a beach than a mountain person I’m keen to find out whether I agree or not with such a statement. Stay tuned for lots of photos, and maybe even a bit of travel inspiration!