Update Part the Second – best things and random things and things to go and do

Note to self, must be better at uploading things as we go along. In the meantime…

1. Sea kayaking with killer whales is the coolest thing I’ve ever done. Fact. One swam right under the water taxi we took out to the start point with a shark in its mouth. Which despite its wriggles, was pretty much screwed I’d say. We spent two days kayaking and hiking in Abel Tasman National Park and it was just amazing – also loved the Aquapackers, the backpackers on a boat 🙂 and the mad German who threw himself off the roof into the sea on several occasions (we weren’t drunk by this point and I only jumped in from the deck. Alex took some persuading but he did throw himself in too).

2. The best things happen when you don’t plan them. We decided on the spur of the moment (and with no idea of what we were getting ourselves into) to head (as it turned out) to the most upmarket, luxury lodge-esque backpackers I’ve ever seen, on Kennepuru Sound in Marlborough Sounds at the top of south island. If you ever do a trip to NZ, you have to get yourself to Mike and Linley’s pad at Hopewell, by 4wd, water taxi, float plane or just walk dammit. Go mussel picking at one of the farms in the Sound with Mike, who’ll then cook you up the biggest bowl of the most enormous green lipped mussels you’ll ever see, or just head out at low tide and pick up as many oysters as you fancy from the shore. Sit in a hammock, go kayaking or just lounge around in the hot tub before picking up one of Linley’s fantastic pizzas. They sell v good wine too and are more than happy to drink with you.

Happy days. Go there. Now. And tell them we sent you 🙂

3. Kaikoura on the east coast is justifiably known for the opportunity to swim with the very beautiful, nosy and sociable dusky dolphin (enough to make even the best swimmer feel very ungainly and OMG it was FREEZING), but is probably less known for the terrifying WWII style siren that went off about 2am the night we were there. They should let people know that it’s the best way to summon the volunteer fire crews, and not a warning for an impending tsunami that will hit the hostel 20 yards back from the beach that you might well be staying at. Those unfortunates who know what I’m like when woken up suddenly can only imagine the reaction.

4. As a favour to me, if you’re ever in Christchurch, please go and say hello to the rescued little blue penguins at the Antarctic Centre – there’s one called Alex who has a broken beak and only half a left wing – aaaaaaahhhhh 🙂

5. Don’t fly from Dunedin to Christchurch to Auckland then drive to Rotorua on the day after a booze fest at the races. It’s not clever, and Rotorua is very smelly (all the sulphur from the hot springs etc) when you get there. And no, you don’t get used to it.

6. Best surprise – Wellington does the most AMAZING Bonfire Night fireworks at the harbour, got very giddy about that whilst Alex fell asleep!

So we’re now in Waitomo, having driven here from Welly today, in gorgeous sunshine past massive snow capped volcanoes (!!). We’ve got a cave trip tomorrow planned (lots of glow worms but hopefully no Gollum), and then we’re heading up through Auckland and out the other side to Bay of Islands, where we’re looking to do nowt for three days or so before heading back to Auckland to fly to Chile on Sunday. I love this country – it’s just amazing, and I know Chile and Argentina will be fantastic too, but I’m already a little sad about leaving NZ.