New Zealand November 20 to December 12, 2011
Average temperatures were nights in the 40ís F with daytime temps of 60 to high 60ís.  It rained a few times but in general we were fairly lucky with the weather.
We traveled from Auckland south along the west coast all the way to Wellington then crossed to the south island, again sticking to the west coast.  Then we turned at the very south and headed back up the east coast of the south island, crossed the straits and did the east coast of the north island.  We did not have enough time to go north of Auckland, but we got to see a fair amount of what New Zealand has to offer in spring.
 

Hamilton


Hamilton Gardens Rose Bowl

Sunday, November 20.  We arrived in Auckland at 7am after flying from Atlanta via Las Angeles.  We rented a car near the airport, bought some supplies and headed south to Hamilton Gardens.  The weather was warm and sunny, perfect for spending 3 Ĺ hours looking at the gardens.  Entry was free.  They were having their Rose Bowl which was spectacular.  We could not believe how large the roses were and how healthy they looked.  From there we drove west to Raglan, a small town on the coast and set up our tent.  We had a walk on the black sand beach and watched the sunset.
Another garden at Hamilton Gardens
 

Waitomo Caves


Glow worms with their sticky strands hanging down for the cave roof.

Monday, November 21.  We drove to the Waitomo Caves area where we went on a tour of one of the glow worm caves.  The cave itself wasn't all that impressive but it was interesting seeing the glow worms up close and personal as we had seen them on a nature show on TV.
It had started drizzling so we pushed on south to the Cape Egmont lighthouse.  There wasnít much to see there so we drove on to New Plymouth and on to Opunake to camp for the night.

Sunset at Opunake

When we started setting up our tent the local camp cat came to say hello.  He sat on our laps while we sat in the campground lounge then crawled in the tent with us when we went to bed.  As it was still early season we were the only people at the camp other than the hosts.  The cat curled up between our sleeping bags and quickly fell asleep.  When we woke up he was still there, and he was looking for breakfast.  The host said he was feral but friendly.  He was a welcome bedfellow.
 

Mount Egmont


Fantham's Peak on the left and the more snow-covered Mount Egmont to the right.

Tuesday, November 22.  We were hoping to climb Mount Egmont but it had a lot of snow at the summit and we did not have out ice gear, so we opted to climb Fanthumís Peak, the lower peak next to Egmont, approaching from the Dawson Falls parking lot.  It took us 3 hours to get up.  The first third of the trail was through very heavy mossy forest.  It was simply spectacular to be in such thick forest with ferns, moss and lichen growing everywhere.  I could just imagine goblins, fairies and all sorts of mythical creatures living there.  Once we got above tree line we hit the grassy plain that was so steep they had installed wooden steps for us to go up.
Robert on the steps going up Fantham's Peak

Then the third section which was absolute agony because it was a massive screed field.  For every step we took up we slid half a step back.  In some places I literally couldnít make any headway because the shale was so slippery so that we had to traverse to where the shale was less thick.  We had never hiked a trail this steep that at no stage gave any flat areas, just very steep up all the way.  The views were breathtaking though.  There is a distinct ring of green around the whole volcano where the reserve starts.  Beyond that it is farmland.  Simply stunning.

Robert glissading down the snow.

We spent a bit of time at the climbersí hut then braved it in the stiff breeze to take photos before heading down.  The hike down took 2 hours and was a whole lot easier than going up.  Where there was snow we glissaded down which cut a significant amount of time off the trip because this was in the screed field area.  In all we climbed an elevation of 3,000 feet.  When we got back to civilization we got fish and chips at Wanganui on our way to Foxton Beach to camp.
 

Wellington


Heavy wind and rain in Wellington.

Wednesday, November 23.  We drove in the rain to Wellington.  When we got there it was cold and very windy.  I wanted to walk to the pink church on the hill so I headed out there while Robert went to the New Zealand Te Papa Tongerewa Museum.  Just as I got to the church it started drizzling and by the time I got back to the museum it was raining hard.  It rained the rest of the day so we just spent the day in the museum.  It was interesting to see the history of the country, the fauna, flora, Mauri culture and general history of the white settlers.  You really do need a whole day to see the place as it is many levels and even has an art gallery on the top 2 levels.  And it was FREE.
At 4:30pm we started looking for a place to stay for the night.  We were hoping to get a cabin but after much driving around we couldnít find anything so we found a B&B about 25minutes outside Wellington where we stayed the night.  It was nice getting out of the rain.

 

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For comments contact Jane at 
jburke@gtcreations.com
December 2011