A Travellerspoint blog

Auckland to Coromandel - Day 58

Meet Vela!

23 °C

Well, it was the big day! Let me start by saying I have only ever camped once in my life, in the Lake District for one night with Andrew and his friends when I was about 17. But today I was going to spend the first of 24 nights in the New Zealand countryside in this:
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Meet Vela. Yes, she has a name. The company, Spaceships, gave it to her not us, but we made her a she. Andrew tells me it could have been named after Carlos Vela, but it doesn't feel like a he. It's a compact little van, the back has seats, a fridge, storage space for cutlery, utensils and food and in the boot there is a large storage area for your belongings. To sleep, you either fold your bed out inside the van, which takes up all the space behind the drivers seat, or you can open the boot and add a tent to the back, giving you the seating area still. The woman at Spaceships showed us where everything was, how the bed worked and gave us a description of how the tent went on the back and the awning on the side, then she was ours!

A couple were returning their van while we were picking ours up and they kindly gave us a second duvet they'd bought so keep us warm. The Spaceships office also had a corner where other returning people leave things for new travellers, so we picked up an extra frying pan, another knife, a bucket (just in case the toilets in the camp sites are so bad I can't go!!), some unopened mineral water which will be handy if the site doesn't have drinking water and few other bits.

We set off to Sylvia Retail Park to pick up a sat nav, as we'd seen a cheap one advertised at a shop called Dick Smiths (there seems to be loads of shops with the name Dick here?), a USB charger that fits in the lighter slot as there is no power to van and some extra cooking equipment because Andrew is a diva in the kitchen and can't cook without a decent knife! And also do a 'big shop' to start us off for the next 3 and a bit weeks. Dick Smith didn't have the cheap GPS in two if its stores, and the other two outlets we tried were no cheaper, so we ended up spending £75 on another model. Luckily it has Australia maps too, and assuming we don't hate camping, were planning to hire a camper in Oz too, so we can use it then. Plus it's only £5 more than hiring one for 24 days here in NZ. We spent a tenner on a usb lighter charger and bought two camping chairs (Spaceships were charging £20 to hire, and we got them for £10) and Andrew's kitchen equipment (new knife, utensil set, scissors and pan in the end!!) for £20. We tried to find a cheap camp table too, but they were about £35 so we're on the look out still. Then another £95 on food from a Pak N Save (like a massive Aldi or Lidl) and £70 petrol to fill her up, meant it wasn't a cheap day! We were also starving, so we made our first lunch in the campervan in the Pak N Save car park, and an crazy old lady said we were mad! Takes one to know one I guess...

We then had to double back to Spaceships office to get some Department of Conservation (DOC) camp passes that we forgot to pick up. This was about £70 for three weeks worth of camping in DOC camp sites, which are pretty well spread across the country. They're pretty basic sites, having a hot shower at best, only stream water at worst, but with holiday park camp sites looking like they charge around £18 a night per couple, they're a cheap way to camp. So this will hopefully save us some money as the sites are on average £7 a night for two people (some basic sites are free and other better sites charge around £12), so it would save us money in the long run. Apologies if this part is really boring, the price of things like this is just something I would have found useful when we were planning the trip!

Finally, around 3pm we were ready to set off to Coromandel! We realised we wouldn't get very far before dark today, so we headed to a camp site at Kauaeranga Valley in Coromandel Forest Park, which only had another three campers on there the whole time. We filled our water up from the drinking water tap, found a spot and then tried to put the awning up. Not as simple as it sounds! It has three poles, two elastic ropes to pin to the van and then Velcros on to the roof. Whoever decided to use Velcro to stick a heavy piece of tent like material to a car should come and try and make it stay after its been used for a while! Anyway, we eventually got it up, got the back tent on the van and then started cooking on our first night out in the wild!
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Posted by staceywaugh 05:54 Archived in New Zealand Tagged campervans costs spaceships Comments (0)

Auckland - Day 57

Dizzying Day in Auckland

21 °C

Today I woke up after about 10 hours sleep, feeling a little better. Exciting we bought cereal and real milk (it's not the same in South America), which tasted amazing for breakfast! We watched some breakfast TV, where again they had a very informal style. The female presenter almost told the male presenter to grow some balls plus they had a heated discussion about wedding etiquette and they were allowed an opinion - that would be allowed on UK news TV! After 9am the programmes turn to mostly adverts, with constant repetition of the same three or four products, which makes it seem a bit like a shopping channel. Subsequently, Andrew really wants a Ninja 3 in 1 blender and a Total Gym, like Chuck Norris and Olivia Newton John use!!

We headed out into the city again, for our only full day in Auckland. Andrew wanted to go to the fish market, so we went to the marina, silo park and the wharf area. There were some pretty impressive boats there! I hate to think how much they cost.
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The wharf buildings are really cool, they look like barns with enormous sliding doors, and would be a great place to go for dinner or a drink after work.
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The fish market was quite small and boutiquey - I think Andrew was expecting a big wholesale type of place - but it would be lovely to come and shop if you lived here. We bought some chips from the chip shop next door but were disappointed when we found they were oven chips :( It was quite an overcast day, but down by the marina we made the most of it and sat out in the sun.
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Yesterday we had seen the Sky Tower of course, you can't really miss it, but today on the way back from the marina, we saw people doing the harnessed walk around the top of it. Not for me!
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I started to feel dizzy, headachey and light headed again once we began walking around, it was a really horrible feeling. So we ended up stopping at a pharmacy, who suggested a cheap decongestant nose spray, because of the flight pressure, and also some immune boosting multi vitamins for £34! So I took the nose spray.

Continuing on a money theme, lunch was a bit of a shock to the system after two months of relatively cheap living. We ordered two chicken burritos and it cost more than £15! And the didn't even taste that good...I started to miss London and its awesome food!

Andrew had been in pain with his neck ever since he hit his head in Cusco, so after lunch we found a massage place in one of the shopping centres and both decided on a shoulder, neck and head massage, as I thought it might help my congestion too. It hurt! And definitely was the least relaxing massage I've ever had. I guess that's what you get for getting one in a shopping centre?

We both needed some cheap trousers as we new it would be colder here, and we ended up somewhere called The Warehouse, which is the equivalent of buying jeans from Wilkinsons in England! Mine were too long (of course!) so I had to take mine up using our mini sewing kit from Muji (thanks Ben and Sneha - so handy!). I definitely needed my mum here at this point, but I managed it! Although I think they may be ankle swingers now though?! Auckland needs a primark, new look or h&m for us travellers. Andrew's breo watch finally broke on him, the digital face had been waning for a while, so he bought a replacement from a dollar shop and put the inside of it into his nicer breo wrist strap. We're getting very thrifty and handy whilst abroad!!

Aside from the marina area, Auckland feels a bit like Leeds to me. A city that's big enough to have plenty of shops, restaurants and bars but that's small enough not to get lost in it or for it to be too busy. I think it would be a really nice place to live. Just not for me as its too far from home!

Tonight we met up with a friend from Auckland who I met in the touch PR years, Bonnie, and her partner Nick. They took us to a Belgian restaurant in the Mission Beach area, which was a beautiful place. Andrew tucked into enormous green lipped mussels and Nick had a metre long sausage! It was so nice to catch up, talk about their travels around Europe, their new house and of course get advice on what to do here in New Zealand. And also really lovely to see a friendly face after two months of talking to strangers.
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Even though we can now speak the language of our current country, it doesn't mean we can understand! Bonnie ordered us a Mt. Difficulty wine and said we should go to there winery when we were in Queenstown. She said they had a range called "Roaring Mig", "Roaring what?" we said, "Mig", "Mig?", "Yes, like Mig Ryan", "Ahhhhh Meg!!!". There was also a conversation about a cartoon with a girl called Jim...we'll get the hang of the accent soon!

Posted by staceywaugh 05:46 Archived in New Zealand Tagged boats food marinas Comments (0)

Auckland, New Zealand - Day 56

Welcome to New Zealand

21 °C

I woke up around 2am New Zealand time, which meant I'd had about 6-7 hours sleep. Not bad in economy! Andrew was already awake, he hadn't slept much due to his height making him uncomfortable, and told me we were only two hours from landing, when actually we were three. Annoying as I couldn't have slept more, but I got to watch Silver Linings Playbook and have breakfast.

We landed at around 5am, and I have never been through so many check points or have been asked so many questions at an airport. I guess we had just come in from South America though. Once we jumped through all the hurdles, we had a lovely welcome from a Maori carved gateway, a Tomokanga, and welcoming message that was playing, which was soothing - if a little surreal sounding - at this time in the morning.
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It was still dark outside when we got our bags so we decided to stay in the airport, as we didn't have a place to check into until 2pm anyway. We used the wifi, picked up and read every brochure about New Zealand going, and had another breakfast (we were tired, hungry and I'd started to feel dizzy!), then left around 9am once it was light.

Getting into Auckland was easy, we got a bus to Britomart - the driver had a microphone and wasn't shy, he must have thought he was a city guide - and our hostel, City Travellers Auckland, was a short walk from there. Luckily we were able to get into our room at 11am, it was a big long room with its own kitchenette and bathroom, but it was hot and stuffy and didn't smell too great. We showered and then went for lunch down the road in this market style place that had cheap Chinese, Indian and Thai food. It was really good, the naan tasted like naan and the curry was spicy!

We went for a walk around the city, looking at the shops, picking up maps and leaflets for the rest of the trip. The temperature is a nice 21 degrees, but it doesn't feel it - we've had wind, sunshine and rain all in one afternoon. We went for a coffee just to try and keep awake! I keep feeling dizzy and lightheaded the entire time, especially when we were walking, which I put down to tiredness.

Back at the hostel we had something light to eat, and then tried with all our might to try and stay awake. It was 6.30pm and my eyes were closing! Lucky we did stay up though, as we put the TV to help keep us awake and discovered you can just about say anything you want on television here. I think the show might have been called Seven Sharp, with three presenters/hosts, one female who said something along the lines of 'in some places, they'd call you a pussy'! We managed to stay awake til 8.30pm.

Posted by staceywaugh 05:42 Archived in New Zealand Tagged hostels airports maori Comments (0)

Somewhere over the Pacific Ocean... Day 55

I am not sure what happened today, Monday 18th March 2013. We were on a plane, going forward in time, so we lost the whole day?! Let us know if we missed anything important! x

Posted by staceywaugh 05:16 Comments (0)

South America Round up

Difficult second blog

This is my round up of our last 8 weeks in South America.

Things I liked
Christ the Redeemer in Brazil was a great way to start the trip. It really was impressive but thinking back, I think looking at it from Sugar Loaf mountain and the streets of Rio was better than actually going up and seeing it. To quote Karl Pilkington "...if it was plonked in a roundabout in Stratford, next to the Arndale centre, it wouldn't get a look-in...". It was also packed up there, with lots of people pushing and shoving to get a photo. This would be ok normally but the South Americans love a pose (see previous blog) so one picture takes about 5 minutes with all the pouting and hair flicking, then when you finally get in position some fool throws an arm into your shot.
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Iguacu falls were just amazing. One of the best things I have ever seen. Getting up there early to the Argentinian side when it was quiet was a great idea. It could of easily of been like Christ the Redeemer for photos if we hadn't. In fact the Brazilian side main viewpoint was pretty busy and full of posing.
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Obviously another highlight was Machu Picchu in Peru. I would say this is on a par with Iguacu falls. One being natural and the other man made makes them hard to compare. Going in the off season when the inca trail was shut meant we couldn't do the trail itself (don't think we would of done it anyway as I am not sure the converse would be up to it) but it also meant Machu Picchu was quieter and we didn't have to book months in advance.
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The conclusion I have made is, I like my big tourists attractions quiet. Which is a pretty obvious one.

Death road in Bolivia was really good fun, it's as dangerous as you want to make it. I bet some egits fly down it and nearly die, actually some do die, the guide said on average 2 people die a year. Wouldn't surprise me if more people died in road traffic accidents on the way to death road than actually on death road itself.
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Horse riding in Sucre is also on my list. The scenery was pretty impressive but this was the first time I have been in a horse since I was about 8 (I was in Lanzarote and it was a horse called Angel...it wasn't an Angel. It didn't like to stick to the paths). My horse this time, Hector, was better behaved. I even galloped, well the horse galloped, I just held on really tightly and prayed I didn't bust the baby makers.
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Salt flats where different and taking all the pictures was fun
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Things I want to come back and see
Seeing a couple of the new 7 wonders has made me now want to see them all. So I definitely want to come back to Mexico (not actually South America but close enough) to see Chichen Itza.

Also on the list is to go to Patagonia and explore there. The south of South America is somewhere I wish we had time to go see. Especially the Perito Moreno Glacier.

Things I miss from home already
Spicy food. We have been craving chilli and curry. We have been making our own as even when we have gone to restaurants and they have said its spicy it's been pretty mild. The food has been ok out here but in general the food has lacked flavour. It's been pretty bland.

Toilets that can take toilet paper. Sick of seeing toilet paper in bins, never a pretty sight.

More finished than unfinished buildings. Some countries in South America seem to find it impossible to finish buildings, Peru and Bolivia were the main culprits. Every town had lots and lots of half built houses or extensions. There was a family who live near my mums who took ages to finish there extension and seeing that year after year unfinished used to annoy me, so this is probably where my dislike for incomplete buildings comes from.
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Things I won't miss
South America is built for midgets, all the door ways are low, outdoor market stalls have low plastic roofs and ropes to strangle you on.

Being built for midgets means if you are tall you stand out. Being tall also means I have large feet. Twice in South America people have laughed at the size of my feet. Once we went to stall to try and find a new pair of trainers, the woman looked at my feet, said "grande" and started laughing. The second time the girl wasn't even local, I think she was a japanese tourist, we were on a boat trip in Copacabana and she looked down, started laughing then did the 'large' hand gesture.

Dogs and dog muck. Dogs are everywhere and they just seem to roam about the cities. So because of the large amount of dogs roaming there is lots of dog poop knocking about. One positive of this is I have once again seen white dog poo. I thought this was extinct, as I hadn't seen it since I was a kid, but in Valparaiso I saw it quite frequently.

Not being able to speak Spanish. It's hard work not speaking the local language, especially when people talk a load at you and all you can say at the end is "no entiendo". Even worse when you tell them you don't speak Spanish but they still insist on telling you what they wanted to say anyway.

Posted by andrewwaugh 07:12 Archived in Chile Tagged south america Comments (0)

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