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Old 12-28-2017, 09:26 PM   #1
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Default Exploring New Zealand From The Left

Kiwis, Here we come! Well, actually we are already in NZ.

This is a continuation of our adventure from Australia. See this thread or our blog for the first part.

I will be posting up the first installment of our NZ travels shortly. We anticipate being in NZ for 6-9 months, basically until our money runs out.

Stay Tuned!
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Old 12-28-2017, 09:30 PM   #2
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A Change of Scenery

After the van had officially departed Australia, we were free to make our own way there.  We booked a flight  on Emirates to Auckland.  An interesting  and important note.  When visiting NZ you MUST have a return flight booked with the  following exceptions; Your visa is a work or residency type, or lists “no onward travel required” in the endorsements.  Our visas are long stay types, and we opted to provide proof of financial support instead  of a onward travel ticket.  However, they customs officer did not list “no onward travel required”. So we had a last minute rush to book a refundable ticket before the check in closed!  Those are amazingly expensive. 

We took an early morning flight, so we were up and out by 6am for the long drive to the airport (Melbourne has bad airport access).  By the afternoon we were working our way through NZ customs and  biosecurity.  We packed a decent bit  of food, taking care to avoid specifically prohibited items.  After an inspection we made it through with nothing being seized. 

Airline food.  This is probably the most complex breakfast we have had  in years. 
 

The international entryway is surrounded by intricate Maori carvings.  The Maori are the native people of NZ, and have lived here since about 1100AD.


An introduction to the strange NZ native plants.


The Britomart train station in Auckland Central is underground.  When walking above we noticed these strange skylight light structures.  From below, they are inverted funnels with a reflective suspended  orb.  They provide diffuse lighting for the entire station, and look really cool to boot.


Exhausted from all the traveling, queuing, and form filling; we settled into our AirBnB room on Auckland’s North Shore, and started the long wait.
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Old 12-30-2017, 07:58 PM   #3
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Default Re: Exploring New Zealand From The Left

Auckland on Foot

While we waited for the van to be released, we took some time to enjoy Auckland.  We opted for public transit, as Auckland's PT system is good, and prices are reasonable.  This still meant a good bit of walking, but that is a good thing.

The first major outing we made was to the Auckland Sky Tower.  At around 300 meters tall (the lookout is much lower), this tower is easily visible from most of Auckland.  It has an observation deck about 50 floors up, and a rotating restaurant above that.  Tickets to the tower are about $30 per person, but a reservation and $30 per person meal at the restaurant give you the same access.  So we opted for food and a view.  The main reason for visiting the tower, was that it overlooked the wharf where the van was supposed to be unloaded.

Here is our ship (viewed from the bridge), just about finished unloading its cargo. 
 

Here is the Auckland Central Business District (CBD) from the harbor bridge. The Sky Tower is at the center.


It is really a neck-cramping look from below.


We thought the van was in the crowd of cars below, but we couldn’t seem to find it.




There were quite a few interesting sights below, as our table completed its 360 degree loop.






We finished with desert, and headed for the ferry terminal.


Unable to find the van, we hopped on the Devonport Ferry to cross the harbor instead of the bus.  As we rounded the corner, something big and blue caught our eye.  Can you spot it?


It was hiding behind a large container crane.  There it is, parked, waiting for the various government-mandated inspections to be completed.






On our way back to the room, we took a detour to North Head.Lying at the entrance to the harbor, this hill was fortified to protect from attacks during WWI and WWII.Now all the remains is some tunnels, a few barracks, and concrete bunkers.Well, and excellent views, of course.Like most of the hillsin this area, it is a long-extinctvolcano.









A little ways off shore is Rangitoto, Auckland’a newest island, about 800 years old.














While were were visiting North Head, we got to see Trans Future 7 depart Auckland for its next port.
 
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Old 01-01-2018, 05:01 AM   #4
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Default Re: Exploring New Zealand From The Left

MOTAT and Rangitoto

As the van’s clearance dragged on, we continued to enjoy Auckland and the surrounding areas. Our next major stop was MOTAT, the Museum of Transportation and Technology.  Pictures don’t really do some of the displays justice.  Everything from huge steam engines to a hangar packed with aircraft.

Massive sea plane anyone?  I wouldn’t mind retiring to one of these.


The two campuses are linked by a very classic tram (trolley) which was rescued from Melbourne's previous tram system and restored.




The next day we took the ferry to Rangitoto.  We had originally wanted to go the day before, but our bus never showed up!  Apparently the rail worker union was on strike, so buses were diverted to cover the shortfall. 

Rangitoto is the newest island in NZ, and still shows plenty of signs of its violent volcanic birth.  Starting as a hot spot in the upper mantle, a blob of magma rose to the surface in a few hours, setting off an eruption that raised the seafloor, and formed a the nearly perfect cone of Rangitoto.
 

Remains of a previous military outpost dot the island.  This is the toilet entry arch.  The toilets were just seats over the ocean.




Plants have made huge steps towards transforming this once-barren island.  On high ground, the nearly bare lava flows remain, though not for long.  A triple threat combo of lichens, moss, and alpine plants break down the rock, and start forming topsoil.  In less than 800 years, the island has  become a forest haven.  Invasive pests such as rats and hedgehogs have been eliminated here, and it is a wildlife refuge.














The view from the top was excellent.  Here is the crater, just starting to fill in.  Less than 50 years ago this was not much more than bare rock.
 





We also spotted a family of quail wandering about on the trail.




On the “back” side of the island, a partially-collapsed lava tube or cave is open to exploration.












On the way back we spotted the van again, still waiting, with less company than before.


Lots of boat and air traffic to be seen.  Several of the islands are inhabited.




It was just a little windy!
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Old 01-01-2018, 10:44 PM   #5
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Default Re: Exploring New Zealand From The Left

Location: New Zealand - Big Blue Van

Shouldn't it be, Bug Blue Van now that you are in NZ Bro?
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Old 01-01-2018, 11:08 PM   #6
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Default Re: Exploring New Zealand From The Left

Other than the bumble bees covering the windshield, it's been pretty good insect wise. The sand flies are annoying. Unlike Australian ones, they are too big to get through the screens!

There is barely any mosquitoes, and no flies have tried to fly up my nose yet! I haven't needed to break out the fly net either.


With the number of tourists and camper vans here, we don't seem to draw much attention. Though we got our first NZ police stop last week. This was the standard foreign plate stop. No stops for the "driver" using her phone in NZ... Yet...
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Old 01-05-2018, 03:01 AM   #7
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Default Re: Exploring New Zealand From The Left

Ahhh... Rotorua ... where some campgrounds are on geothermal land... you can pitch a tent that'll have a hot floor.

--dick
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Old 01-07-2018, 03:18 AM   #8
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Default Re: Exploring New Zealand From The Left

Haha ultimate Frisbee used to be the unofficial way that was used to get the drinking team into the official University games. They used to have to play the UF match during the day which was just treated as a friendly, but the real competition was at the pub that evening. Back in the day a mate of mine was the Waikato Uni jug skuller (oops I mean one of the ultimate Frisbee players), his PB was 3.5s. But the guy from Auckland at the time "The Worm" could do it in 1.7s, I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes. It was basically like tipping out 1l of beer, except it was all going down his throat.
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Old 01-09-2018, 06:52 AM   #9
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Default Re: Exploring New Zealand From The Left

We wrote up some details on our shipping experiences, and other helpful information for the intrepid overland traveler shipping to NZ or Aus. See the two posts below for details.

https://sprinter-source.com/forum/sh...&postcount=319

https://sprinter-source.com/forum/sh...&postcount=320
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Old 01-15-2018, 07:07 AM   #10
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North Island Wanderings


After some debate we decided to spend the bulk of the summer and fall on the South Island.  This meant we needed to take the Cook Straight ferry.  The ferry is often booked months or weeks out during the peak season (right now really).  Our NZMCA membership lets us book ferry crossings at a discounted rate, but we still need to find an open spot!.  After a few hours of fiddling around with poorly designed websites, we were able to book the second to last open slot with BlueBridge on December 26th.  This was the only opening for several weeks.  This gave us some time to go pick up our Self Containment certification (from Auckland) and to attempt (unsuccessfully) to pick up my hiking boots.  I have been trying for over 6 weeks now to get a new pair of boots shipped to us.  Aus had a terrible selection, and egregious prices, so I opted to have them shipped from Europe.  Well, the shipper never actually sent them (some mix up I guess).  And the NZ customs service is atrociously slow, taking 7-14 days to process international mail!

So, with a week to burn on the North Island, we took a meandering path towards Auckland. Our first stop was the Taupo (pronounced Toe-paw).  This lake sits amongst a number of dormant and extinct volcanic cones, with the nearby valley being very geothermally active. 
Of course Jen can’t help but take photos of every wildflower she sees.
  






We hiked up Mt Tauhara for some views of lake Taupo and the volcanic mountains of the interior.   The track was a bit eroded in places.






Several mountains here are snow capped for most of the year.  This one has a crater lake at its summit.


The vast majority of NZs native old growth forests have been logged for timber farms or agriculture.  So it is always interesting when we hike in the remoter untouched patches, as there are very old gnarly beech and other native trees.

This whole area has a number of rivers and dams which are used to produce hydroelectric power, most feeding from lake Taupo.  Huka Falls was nearby, so we gave it a visit.


About 5 Olympic swimming pools plunge over these falls per minute.




The Craters of the Moon park (not nearly as moon like as the Idaho park of the same name) is a large geothermal field covered with craters, steam vents, mud pits etc.  Beneath this valley is as large water reservoir heated by the volcanic magma chamber deeper in the crust.  The resulting steam often finds its way out to the surface.  It is so active that a nearby geothermal power plant is powered by the steam.  When the resulting high pressure steam finds its way to the surface, very strange things can result.


Notice the lack of trees?  Well just a few inches below the surface, the soil is boiling hot.  Only small plants and shrubs can grow in the cooler shallow layer.


Every few years a vent gets blocked.  The steam builds up and the resulting explosion creates a new crater.



Hmm, I wonder what's cooking?












Most of the wildlife you will see wandering about was imported by Europeans, or the Maori natives.   Here are a couple examples of the European Imports.

A very fat hedgehog.


Pheasant


Quail


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Last edited by Midwestdrifter; 01-15-2018 at 07:11 AM.
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