New Zealand (North Island)

Our adventure in the North Island book ended our 2 week trip in the South Island.

Landing into Auckland after a 14 hour flight from Santiago (via Melbourne) we set straight off Tauranga (more specifically The Mount) and the Bay Oval to watch the England Cricket team take on the Black aps, the first meeting since the infamous super over in the one-day cricket World Cup and the first test to be held at this unique and intimate ground.

New Zealand vs England at the Bay Oval, Tauranga

Sat with the 'Barmy Army' and in the gorgeous sunshine we enjoyed 2 days of test cricket (the 5th day was free and we couldn't resist) beers, real fruit ice creams and watching England play overseas for the first and hopefully not the last time!! Unfortunately England got decimated but it didn't hamper our enjoyment.

If we were to live in NZ, I think we both agree 'The Mount' would be our location. With beautiful beaches, blue water, waves and a great laid back feel, it tempted us to look at property prices - you know just out of curiosity ;)

The view from Mount Maungausi

One recommendation is to climb Mount Maungausi (the mountain which gives 'The Mount' it's niclname) where you can look over the Corremandel, the Bay of Plenty, Matakana Island and Papamoa beach. Don't be put off by the word 'mountain' we did it in flip-flops.

Before we set off for the South Island and to catch up with Paul and Anna we stopped the Waitomo Caves to see the star-like Glow Worms. At $50NZ (£25) each, it's well worth seeing this quite unbelievable habitat and the the tour run by generations of the first Mauri man to find the caves was well worth it.

On our return from the South Island we spent a night in Wellington, which we later visited again to catch up with Aileen, who we met in Argentina and was also travelling NZ. Wellington is quite a bohemian city and can well see the attraction with living here. Quirky coffee shops, hipster bars and vintage clothing stores alongside the hub of the harbour gives this place a unique feel.

If you are passing, we definitely recommend Wellington Museum, where they had an incredible Gallipoli exhibit with models from 'Wetter Works' (special effects company from Lord of the Rings) and their 'earthquake house' - a reconstruction of a what it feels like during a 'quake' and best of all... it's free!

The larger than life like model from the Gallipoli exhibit

If you are looking for food or coffee we recommend for the former and Fidel's for the latter bit you are spoilt for choice in the city.

We spent Christmas and the week's leading upto it with Anna's family and their beautiful home in Masterton. They were great hosts and in being bookshop owners know alot about books and it turns out alot about wine, throw in a pool and you have a great combination to relax, unwind, settle and prepare for Xmas. A note should also be made here to Jenny's (Anna's mum) cooking... yum!

From Masterton we went on day trips, to Castle point (the family's Bach on a delightful little beach on the west coast), to Pukaha to see our first real life Kiwi (the bird, not the people) and Martinborough on, and you may have guessed it, another wine tour - where Stu broke a bike (not the wine's fault).

Martinborough wine tasting with the crew

If you are in the area, I would definitely recommend these things, that are all within an hour from Masterton.

View from the lighthouse at Castlepoint

Also if you are in the area and pop by Hedley's bookstore. It's been in Anna's family for over 110 years and if you're lucky enough to find David (Anna's Dad) working, he will tell you many yarns about the rockstars and actors he has had the pleasure of working with, very entertaining!!

Whilst we were in Masterton our friends Dave and Soph made the arduous journey from the Isle of Man for Xmas, so the 6 of us were all reunited and after plenty of golf, tennis, yoga, food, drink, jigsaw puzzles and board games we set off for Anna's family holiday home in Pukawa on the beautiful Lake Taupo. I'm told it is larger than the Isle of Man, which I can't confirm but I do know the Lake and area is stunning.

We had a fun filled time here in the build up and over New Year, mountain biking and white water rafting with Tonagriro River Rapids (book though the I-site and they throw in the biking for free, $145 per person), on one Anna's friends boats, we also got to have a go on a sea biscuit - great fun, just brace yourself for when you come off! After partying and recovering we then made our way north to Rotorua, deemed the adventure capital of the North Island.

If you can stand the eggy sulphur smell that stenches the air in this town, then there is every adrenaline activity you can think of. We picked the hot springs and mud spa at Hell's Gate :) (€95 each for walk, springs and hot mud bath) but we did squeeze in a night time 'Mario Kart style' luge which is great fun!

Chairlift to the top of the luge

We only stayed here one day and continued journey north to Auckland, staying in the trendy Parnell district.

Williams and Wozniacki in play at the ASB Classic

As NZ's biggest City we took advantage of everything it had to offer including a trip Waiheke Island for another wine tour, a ride on an Americas Cup yacht in 30mph winds and a visit to the ASB Classic tournament which is warm up to the Australian Open where we were privileged to see Serena Williams and Caroline Wozniacki.

On board the America's Cup yacht

Sadly after all this fun, we parted ways with Anna and Paul and headed to the Coromandel with Dave and Soph on the recommendation of alot of people.

Situated on the North East peninsula of NZ the Coromandel offers breathtaking views, exotic beaches and crystal clear waters. We spent a good few days exploring Hot Water Beach, Cook's Beach, New Chums Beach, Mercury Bay and Cathedral Cove and Fletcher Bay.

In our own pool at Hot Water Beach

After pretty much a different beach for a different day we ended our stay in the Coromandel and NZ completing the Pinnacles Walk from Thames. A half day trek giving you panoramic views over almost the entire Peninsula.

Atop of The Pinnacles (we were the first ones up!)

As with the South Island, it was difficult to track costs as it was all joint. We also got some of.our accommodation for free (thank you Anna) but we've tried to put individual costs for items in here!

Thank you NZ.

You've been amazing.

We now make our way for the first time in over 4 months to the Northern Hemisphere and Sarah's first time in Asia. Next stop Thailand, Phuket!

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