09 January 2010

6 Dec 2009-16 Jan 2010: New Zealand

I flew from the UK and landed into Auckland airport knowing I was home....I got greeted very warmly by the immigration officer! Once I was in Wellington I also knew I was home as on day 1 I felt my first earthquake!

Mum and Dad were in good spirits and the first week was spent catching up with friends in Wellington and getting over jet lag (which wasn't too bad). I did have to wait 3 days before I saw the sunshine...and it wasn't exactly very warm either! But home is home!

I hired a car for most of my stay in NZ - much easier and lots more freedom with a car. My first trip was to Waitomo Caves where I did a 5-hr tubing and abseiling trip into the caves. Absolutely fantastic experience (as long as you aren't claustophobic) and as there were only 2 of us we got to do far more than most trips. The water in the caves was actually slightly warmer than I imagined, but we were still in a full wetsuit.

The next port of call was a quaint little town called Raglan (east coast of the North Island). I was there for one thing only...surfing. I was staying at the Karioi Lodge just by Mana Bay (where the left break is the most consistent in the southern hemisphere). The weather was generally sunny and I had 6 days of surfing. Very exhausting but so much fun and lots of people to talk to at the lodge. The waves were not as big or rough as Croyde Bay (Devon), but consistently good. I would definitely go back there for more surfing as it is such a nice spot.

Xmas week
I went back down to Wellington for Xmas week (but it was one hell of a drive...8hrs solid). My brother Jason and his wife Caroline had also arrived from the UK so half the Lind family were together.

Xmas day was typically NZ style...get up, unwrap pressies, have a hot lunch, afternoon snooze, and then a light dinner. Lots of champers, chocolates and rich food! But we would have it no other way!

Jason, Caroline and I stayed in Wellington for a few more days before heading up to Whakatane (near to Tauranga). It was a long day....8hrs driving....but the hire car was top of the range and was so comfortable to drive (and very easy to put the speed on). We also managed to get up there in time for the sunset which was very beautiful.

Thornton Holiday Park was packed full with people, but we weren't camping, we had a cabin. This is very typical way New Zealanders spend their holidays...and we were only a few minutes walk from the beach which was long and largely undeveloped. Lots of people were there to fish...but we were there for for some R&R and fun.

One day we headed to Rotorua where we did a white water rafting trip down Kaituna Falls. It is a 7m waterfall which the raft (and hopefully everyone) rafts down. The trip was very well organised, very professional and a lot of fun. We then went to Polynesian Spa for a well earned rest in very, very hot spring water!

The rest of the time in Whakatane was spent relaxing, checking out Whakatane, going to Ohope Beach (beautiful), and just not doing much. We ended up in Whakatane for New Year's Eve and I can't say it was kicking off like it would in London, but enough that we had a good time.

On 2 January 2010, I flew down to Nelson and Jason and Caroline flew back to the UK via Phuket. I then had 7 days of R&R which involved walking, canoeing, reading and not doing very much. I was staying at Portage Hotel (backpacker part) so I would usually start the day with a latte on the balcony and then decide what I was going to do for the rest of the day. The weather was fab, so I also working hard on my tan.

And so my 6-week trip was coming to an end...the last week was spent in Wellington saying goodbye to friends and family and generally trying to savour the last few days of freedom!

The trip was everything I hoped it would be and it was so good catching up with friends and particularly family. I was also lucky with the weather so the whole trip was something that I will remember for a long while (well...at least until my next trip to Austria skiing in March!).

More photos....