I left to Auckland this morning and I'm now staying at Base Backpackers. I will leave tomorrow afternoon to Sydney. As this is a small world, when I was walking around Queen street I was recognized by Catherine, who I met during my stay in Noumea, New Caledonia, in may 2002 ! Funny that ! She's been in New Zealand for several months and is heading to Hawaii in about 2 weeks.
All the experienced divers were to jump into Deep Six from Paihia Dive, a fast rubber boat that can reach 30kt while all others divers were on the big slow boat. We made it to the Rainbow Warrior in about 1h despite a topside visibility that was as much as the underwater one: about 15m at most due to a very thick myst.
I left Whangarei and I have been driving to Paihia about 100km north. I will be diving the Rainbow Warrior tomorrow with Paihia Dive and will probably go back to Whangarei in the late afternoon. As you can guess it from a previous article, the Rainbow Warrior is rated in the flyers as one of the top 10 wreck dives in the world.
Poor Knights diving again. After the photographic disaster of yesterday, that was mandatory. I buddied up with Richard equipped with a dry-suit. And we did our own thing. We are both lazy divers and like to inspect every square centimeter of rock, so that was perfect. Sea conditions were pretty flat, visibility around 20m, 16C and like yesterday, full of salps.
I have been diving the Poor Knights islands with Dive Tutukaka. To be very original, I will mention what is said in just about every flyer of any company offering diving in those islands: "The Poor Knights are one of the top ten dive locations in the world." (Jacques-Yves Cousteau). This is very difficult to rate such things as you see different things at different places but New Zealand and Australia like very much to say that any place they have is among the top 10 of something (which leads probably to a top 1000 at the end).
While passing by Avis this morning I asked for a quote for taking a small car for the remaining week and got a nice rate that I decreased further with Avis$ummer Drive deal (rent for 6 days, pay for 5), which gives me about $NZ40 /day. I gave the other car back a few hours later and I was able to use my natural charm (hem) to have the lady upgrade me for free (we both turned 30 recently so we had something to talk about ). It was obviouslly better for them (and me) to give me the same car to avoid cleaning it. Deal. And a few hours later I'm 150km north of Auckland in the town of Whangarei which is somewhat a gateway to dive the Poor Knights islands. I'm staying at Bunkdown Lodge ($NZ22).
I made my way to Auckland as I have to give back the car tomorrow. In the morning I went to see the Lady Knox geyser between Rotorua and Taupo as it triggers at 10:15AM. If you ask yourself how can a natural phenomenon trigger at such precise time and frequency, it is only because they drop 2kg of soap inside to ease the surface tension.
New activity in New Zealand. I guess you all know what's bungy, but what about cordless bungy ? mmm.. that's flying ? right. Yesterday an idiot apparently thought he would be able to fly and pushed away the staff at the Taupo bungy site to fell 47m into the river. He was knocked unconscious and rescued but is believed to suffer spinal and internal injuries. He can obviouslly be nominated to the Darwin Awards.
The town of Rotorua does not smell lavender, thym but sulphur. If you don't remember the smell (were you sleeping at school during physics ?), it is basically rotten egg. Why ? Because of geothermal effects. Threads of steam issue from parks, streets or pathways, you will find geysers of steaming water and pools of bubbling mud. Basically the whole town is a giant spa and in case you don't get enough there is a spa in virtually every hotel or motel, if not in the room itself.
I'm checking (again) rental rates in order to get the most of it and I'm stunned by the prices difference quoted depending on your country of residence.
I took the ferry yesterday to Wellington. I was supposed to do some kayak in Picton, but due to a rainy weather and wind gusts around 120kph it was 'delayed'. It could have been a cheap way to sail to Australia though . I had a lift from 2 nice aussies, Joyce and Juanita who I met at Sequoia Lodge and we checked in (after touring the city) at Base Backpackers, a newly opened hostel. It's still under construction but promises to be a mass factory in the near future. It's lacking a bit of charm but facilities are obvious: big screen TV, flat-screen internet terminals, music, nice beds, comfy rooms and showers, fully furnished kitchen, etc...
Yesterday I inherited a splendid Mitsubishi Lancer from Avis to do the road until Kaikoura. Massive difference with the old wreck I had before and for next to half the price as it is a relocation ! Once in town, I went to see the Dolphins Encounter office to see if there was any possibility to do a trip the next day. Unfortunately, everything was booked until December 13 !! There was a stand-by list just in case some people were cancelling or not showing up. I did not add my name on it and continue walking in town. A few minutes later when passing on the other side of the road in front of the shop, the lady ran after me from the shop to tell me that someone just called to cancel for tomorrow. So if I wanted, I could join. You bet ! So today..wake up at 5AM, briefing at 5:40AM and here we go, looking for dusky dolphins around Kaikoura.
I'm right now in an internet shop in Christchurch and I finished updating the pictures. Sorry for the meaningless comments, but it's not that I spent a lot of time on it. I left around 9AM from Kaikoura in order to drop the car before noon as I should get a new one from Avis (relocation deal). Once done, I went straight to Qantas to rearrange my flights to North America. I had to book quickly as it gets pretty busy during xmas. So here is my latest route: Auckland-Sydney-Los Angeles-Dallas-Tampa-Miami-Nassau-Miami-Paris. I will leave Auckland on December 16, Sydney on December 19 and I will do a stopover in Dallas to leave the next day to Miami and Nassau.
I did two dives today with New Zealand Sea Adventures just to check around. You are supposed to see seals around here and that's what they advertise everywhere of course. Seals are as active as koalas. While a koala spend most of his time sleeping in an eucalyptus, a seal spend most of his time sleeping on a rock.
I left Franz Josef early in the afternoon and did not do anything there except watching 'Flowing West', a short glacier movie. The weather was not very inspiring (raining and low altitude clouds) and despite the fact that companies kindly give you rain gear (albeit if you pay NZ$100 for a guided trek) I was not very tempted to go. Two swedish girls I was talking to at the hostel have been in Franz Josef for 2 weeks waiting for a clear day to do the treks around. Oooops...
I made my way to Franz Josef Glacier through Cromwell and Wanaka. After Wanaka, I picked up Peter, a canadian from Vancouver that was hitch hiking in the middle of nowhere. He had 2 different lifts to come barely a few kilometers from Wanaka and was walking for 3.5 hours when I stopped. He was going to Franz Josef as well. I'm staying at Montrose Backpackers (NZ$21) up there and it's pretty cloudy. I will elaborate later about today's journey as I don't have much time right now.
I dropped Allyson and Amarina at The Divide on my way to Milford Sound. The Divide is the departure (or arrival) point for the Routeburn track Te Anau - Queenstown. I takes about 3 days to complete. At this time of the year it is highly recommended to book (even for camping) as it gets pretty busy up there. The Milford road (120km) is exceptionnally scenic and is a stunning alpine drive as there are numerous viewing points en route.
I went this morning up to the Gondola which offers a splendid view of Queenstown bordering the lake and wrapped by the mountains. I then headed to Te Anau. Just out of Queenstown, I picked up Amarina and Allyson, 2 american sisters from Idaho (meeting someone from Idaho is not that common !) who were hitch-hiking, brought them back to Queenstown so they they could drop the extra weight on their backpacks (they are doing a 3-day trail) and we did the road up to Te Anau. I'm now staying at Te Anau Lakefront Backpackers (NZ$23). And I have no idea what I will do tomorrow, but there is nothing unusual, hopefully I will go to Milford Sound.
Finding sleep was difficult. I was sharing the room with a couple of brainless noisy kiwis and the bed obviously engineered to support 12-year old rather than a normal adult was shaking and menacing to collapse anytime while I was fighting against cold under a 160cm blanket and do my best to avoid suffocating by disappearing in the depth of a soft mattress. I 'woke up' at 6:30AM to find my way into a hot shower during 30 minutes. I had to wait until 8:30AM for the office to open so that I could have my key deposit back, I then headed to the visitor centre to figure out if I could join a wildlife tour in the morning.
I was still undecided this morning about what to do. I checked again for car rental prices by going directly to the companies and finally selected Ace Rental Car, I got the car at NZ$35/day. A Nissan Starlet with about 227,000km. I could have it for NZ$25 if I was taking it for 3 weeks and bringing it on the ferry to Auckland but 7 days should do, I will either bring back the car to Christchurch or take it up to Picton (ferry terminal). I have been driving all the way down to Dunedin and I'm now staying at Central Backpackers (NZ$19) close to the Octagon.
I'm currently looking to hire a car among the bazillions of rental companies available in Christchurch. AVIS & cie are much too expensive as I would reach a whopping NZ$800 for 14 days. There is no way to put the car in the ferry between the 2 islands (you need to book long in advance) so rental companies usually let you drop the car in Picton and you get another one waiting for you in Wellington (or vice versa if you are travelling from Auckland).
I have just been reading this story of a guy who had the excellent idea of teasing a pufferfish with his fingers.
I arrived in Christchurch yesterday evening around 9PM. I'm now in GMT+13 zone and +1 for summer time. I successfully passed the customs test: any cheese ? food ? and was being sniffed by a couple of food-looking-dogs while queuing at the immigration:what's your plan for the next 3 weeks ?...mmm... let me think, oh yeah !. I've got all the scuba equipment already in my bag so I was thinking of doing a remake of the Rainbow Warrior and blow a ship in the Auckland port, but this time without getting caught of course. I avoided doing such a joke since they normally don't have a sense of humor at the immigration