Charlotte Ellery

Joined February 2017
  • Day506

    Not only is Kaikoura known as the best place to whale watch in New Zealand, it is also famous here for it's abundance of fur seals. When we visited the information centre the lady gave us a map that showed us a route we could walk out on the peninsula along the cliffs. She said although it's not mentioned on the map you can walk down the steps to see the fur seals and then follow the shore line back to the carpark along the rocks. We had our last 7 minute showers at the campsite and dumped and filled up the van before driving the road out to the end of the peninsula where there is a small carpark at the end of the road. On the boardwalk here lay two seals basking in the morning sun. Although we've seen seals on our travels before we've never been this close to them before and it was hard to keep the recommended distance away from them when they were in the carpark itself. You can see how easy it is for people to be disrespectful to these animals and get much too close if they wanted to. The view back towards the main town was beautiful with the mountains in the background and deep blue waters inbetween. As we began to walk up the hill the view only got better and it wasn't long before we were up on the cliffs walking along the edge of the peninsula. We could see seals down below us as well as hear their calls to one another. In places the rocks and cliffs were so white in colour and it reminded me of the white cliffs of Dover and how not unique they probably are. The weather was really on our side so this made the walk even more pleasant. We made it to the area where you head down the steps to the rocks below and saw so many seals lounging in the sun and young pups playing in the rockpools learning to swim. It was so cool to just stand back and observe these animals going about their daily lives and not disturb them at all. We walked along the rocks and meandered our way back to the carpark taking in the beautiful scenery, impressive white jaggered rocks and adorable seals. Back in the van we stopped in town to grab some chai flavoured ice cream which was amazing and fish and chips to share. When you're in a seaside town you have to have fish and chips. It then came the time to leave the beautiful Kaikoura behind us which was a sad moment indeed. We drove inland to Hanmer Springs, a town known for its hot pools. When we realised how busy the thermal pools were we decided to hold off visiting until the next day hoping it will be quieter in the morning and instead went to camp at the Top 10 site. The site actually offer private log fire heated hot tubs with complimentary towels and water. We decided this was a far nicer idea then sharing a huge pool full of tourists so we had a rather romantic soak in the pool as the sun began to set. When we fully resembled prunes we headed out to have showers before making some dinner. The hot tub was a lovely way to end one of our last nights spent in the van.Read more

  • Day505

    What a whaley good time!

    July 6 in New Zealand

    What a day! Probably the 100th blog I've started with that phrase but really today was sensational. Whale watching is definitely the most exciting and incredible thing to watch. It's also so very bizarre to see a small part of a whale above the water and realise there is 100 times more of the animal to see below the water. It felt so good this morning being able to leave the van behind us and walk to the whale watching centre without having to even consider where to park. We got there early and collected our tickets which would give us 80% of our money back if we didn't see a whale. I knew if we didn't see one we would be booking on tomorrow's tour that's for sure. After spending time looking around the gift shop and watching a video the crew put on for us we made our way by bus to the boat we'd be sailing on today. The company had a long time of not oppertating because of Kairkoura basically being inaccessible after the earthquake but luckily just like the seals the whales and tourists have returned to the area. The stretch of sea is home to many male sperm whales because just off the shore is a huge deep canyon which is a haven from marine life and a great bay for sperm whales to deep sea dive in to feed. Within minutes of being on the water our crew spotted humpback whales. It's the migrating season and although none of the humpbacks chose to breech for us we still got to ride alongside them as they came up for air which was pretty awesome. Out on the ocean as well we had a wonderful view over the Kairkoura peninsula with the mountains behind, it gave us some great scenery to look at as we travelled around looking for whales. Sperm whales tend to dive for 45-50 minutes but can be down for up to 3 hours. This meant because the crew knew where one dived an hour ago we could race over to the coorindates where the whale was likely to come back up for air shortly. Sure enough we soon found him sat on the surface having a breather. After 10 minutes the crew told us to get our cameras ready because he was going to dive again. With that he took one last big breath before lunging forward and brining up his magnificent tail into the air before diving down to the depths of the sea. The power and size of that tail alone was huge so you can only imagine the sheer size of the animal that's hidden underneath the surface. How incredible would it be to swim and dive with these gentle giants. Our captain also used a sonar device in the water to listen for whale calls and it wasn't long before they located a second sperm whale for us to watch dive, this time right in front of that beautiful mountain range. You don't really get a better photo than that! We were lucky enough to see so many birds out on the ocean including huge albatross. After seeing some more humpback whales cruising along we also managed to capture our first sperm whale coming back to the surface before diving down again. I found the whole experience so exciting and instantly felt like I could do this everyday, what an amazing job that would be! It also made me wish we were rich enough to pay for a private boat to take us out for the whole day to just get lost amongst the wildlife out here. It genuinely was one of the greatest experiences of my life which is saying something after almost 17 months of exploring the world. There's certain experiences from our trip that stick with you and this will definitely be one of them. Unfortunately it had to come to an end and back on dry land we treated ourselves to a rather nice lunch in the cafe at the whale watch centre before having a wonder around the shops of Kaikoura. We bought many sounvenirs and gifts for people and spent almost an hour talking to a French lady in her gift shop which ended with her giving us her number and inviting us out on her own boat with her and her partner in summer. What an experience that would be! Knowing us I know we won't ever take her up on the offer but it is so tempting. Sometimes you wish you didn't have fear or scepticism of everyone's intentions so you could instantly say yes to the things people offer you. Who knows maybe we will feel brave enough to head back there and see her again in summer. If it meant doing another whale watch even without her private boat I'd be more than up for revisiting Kairkoura because even after a day we've fallen in love with this little town.Read more

  • Day504

    Back to the mechanics we go

    July 5 in New Zealand

    Another day, another problem with our van! Last night just before we made it to our campsite we realised that our left back indicator wasn't working again. After going about our morning routine and packing up to leave we headed to Supercheap Auto in Blenheim to have to bulb checked. It's so lucky they actually have one of these stores here. It turned out the bulb wasn't the issue so we needed to visit an electrician. We rung all the auto electricians listed in Blenheim in our handbook but unfortunately no one could see us until a few days time or this afternoon. Knowing Picton is 25 minutes away north, as long as you drive on the highway not down the road we did yesterday, we called one there who was able to have a look at it as soon as we could arrive. They discovered that because the van is used to sleep in, condensation had corroded the metal plate where the bulbs sit so the electricity wasn't able to pass through efficiently. I have no idea what they did but after 45 minutes or so they'd managed to fix it and charged the cost straight to Tui Campers so we didn't have to pay for anything upfront which was a bonus. While we were sat there I noticed a large white wooden cross halfway up the hill in front of us. The mechanic told us that some 30 years or so ago a pilot in a single person plane died from crashing into the hill after heavy fog suddenly descended. He knew all about it because he said he's asked daily about the cross so had to research into the story. It was such a tragic tale. With our van all fixed we headed back down towards Blenheim where we visited a supermarket to get enough food to last us the rest of our road trip. After checking the highway to Kairkoura was open we began our journey south, slowly making our way back towards our home away from home. Sections of the highway were pretty much destroyed in the November 2016 earthquake and the road only reopened this year but with on going roadworks and lots of one lane sections. It was a stunning road to drive down and the waits at traffic lights were actually welcomed because you got to sit and admire the scenery around you that still looked breathtaking even after such devastation. One of the best parts was seeing hundreds of fur seals on the rocks to the left of the road that line the shore. It's so reassuring and pleasing to see that despite the changes in the environment these animals have made their way back here to use this area as their home once more. Because of the roadworks you couldn't pull in anywhere for a closer look at the seals but that made it even more special and positive that these animals were getting to have a break from tourists pestering them, almost giving them time to move on from what happened here as well. New Zealand is a country of outstanding natural beauty but it's beauty that has been created by the two tectonic plates it sits on and seeing this earthquake damage first hand is a clear reminder of the price you pay for that. After you reach the end of the roadworks the road bends around to the right and suddenly you are treated to the most spectualar view of the snow capped Southern Alps which had such a breathtaking impact. It was then that we both felt we were one step closer to our little area of the country we've become so accustomed to, where we get to see these insane mountains everyday. We made it to Kairkoura and after visiting the visitor centre we booked to go on a whale watch tour tomorrow and planned a walk to do on the next day. Knowing we were spending two nights here we stayed at the Top10 site and are quite content knowing tomorrow we can just leave the van here and walk everywhere for the day. We had even planned to out to a live music bar this evening but unfortunately I had a headache start to kick in and I really didn't want it to get any worse especially for our trip tomorrow. I'm so excited to hopefully see whales tomorrow and it definitely makes up for another day of getting our van fixed!Read more

  • Day503

    Reunited with the South Island

    July 4 in New Zealand

    Hello South Island! It feels our time on the North Island has gone by within the blink of an eye and suddenly we are sat on the ferry headed across the small stretch of sea that separates two different but equally beautiful islands. Our ferry left at 8.30am and we needed to be signed in and queuing by 7.30 so we had a bit of an early start this morning to make sure we were up and ready to leave on time. Once on-board and with the van safely secured below deck we went to scope the boat out. We had a different boat to last time and unfortunately this one didn't have a nice viewing platform out the front of the ship which was a shame because that's the area we saw dolphins from. It did have other observation areas at the sides but with no seating nearby there was no chance of any crew really alerting you if they saw dolphins at all like last time. Instead we tracked down the best looking cafe that had a proper coffee machine and got our morning caffine hit a long with a pretty tasty pizza. I forgot that with our Top 10 card we also get discount on-board the boat so we missed out on a saving on these purchases. After a couple of hours we were heading into the Malborough Sounds of the South Island and it wasn't too long before we docked and disembarked. We realised we hadn't really seen Picton so we had a brief stroll around town before dumping and filling up the van. I had seen on the map that from Picton you can either drive the highway 1 south to Blenheim which takes 25 minutes or go a long a windy coastal route that also ends up just outside Blenheim. I thought it didn't look too much longer so we opted for the scenic route. Within 20 minutes or so we came to our first amazing view point overlooking the sound we just came down on the ferry. A further 20 minutes down the road we hit another view point which was even more spectacular overlooking the coast in the direction we would we driving in. It was then that I checked the map to see we'd barely driven any distance at all and with all the tight bends and hilly roads it was taking much longer than expected. We decided that we had committed to this so persevered. The road then became single laned really because of the size of the van and all gravel/dirt track. Luckily we only passed a handful of cars the whole route but still it was rather daunting. At one point we even saw a car off the side of the cliff directly off the road that had nose dived and was now only being held up by trees. The gravel made the driving harder and Nick did amazingly well at handling it especially on places where large pot holes and bumps had formed. We passed through several small bays with a handful of houses in each and I felt sorry for the people living there having to drive such a poorly maintained road everyday. The weather was as beautiful as the scenery and it felt very refreshing to be driving a road clearly not many people use and seeing areas untouched by most tourists. After a couple of hours we hit a man digging in the road trying to fix a bridge that had been washed out. We thought this was the end of our journey and we'd have to turn back but thankfully he had dug out an alternative road around the bridge so although he didn't ackwolodge us for about 5 minutes we were so grateful when he signalled us to pass over. After this we had a small stretch of about 1km where the road barely fitted our van, with tall subery on each side it was sheer panic and hoping we didn't meet anyone here. Thankfully we didn't and although the road was worse after this for a while and we had one stage of it being so wet that we were worried we'd get stuck trying to get uphill, for all the views and scenery it was worth it. Not sure Nick agrees with me and he definitely wants me to research roads and timings more in future but I had fun. It was the best feeling when we hit tarmac roads again as we looked out over a flat valley full of vineyards and we knew we were very close the Blenheim, one of NZ biggest winery towns. We made it in one piece and checked in to a campsite for the night where I spent hours doing washing because they only had one dryer and one lady occupied it for about 2.5 hours. It's amazing how two roads that start and end at the same places can differ in journey time by about 3 hours!Read more

  • Day502

    Last day on the North Island

    July 3 in New Zealand

    Just like that we are back in Wellington tonight ready for an early start tomorrow to catch our ferry. Before we drove down here from Masterton we drove for an hour and a half to Castlepoint on the east coast. We heard that it was a nice little town to visit so we figured it would be worth the detour. When we left our camping area the rain had started to set in but by the end of the drive we were welcomed with sunshine through the clouds which was lovely. It's a beautiful little bay with a lighthouse on the top of the hill. We parked up initially just to admire the view before us. When we reached the carpark for the beginning of the walk up to the lighthouse the rain really start to pick up again so we got geared up in our rain coats and waited for a big enough break to make a run for it. When we did make it outside the wind was so strong that it had already covered one side of the van in sand and was blowing the sand on the beach like waves in the sea. By the time we started walking up the steps to the lighthouse itself the weather had calmed down and we enjoyed exploring the area in the sunshine again. The whole area felt so peaceful and untouched by many tourists which was a nice feeling after going to so many touristy places. We even saw female seals and their pups down on the rocks below playing in the waves. The rock formations here are rather impressive to look at and it's no surprise that they needed to build a lighthouse here with the rocks. We managed to have a walk around reading all the information and get back to the van just before the rain started again which was rather lucky. The waves of rain seemed to be coming in and out so unbelievably quick. The drive back to Masterton felt a lot shorter than the way there, which always seems to be the way, and we began to head south once again. We stopped off at a fruit and veg shop we saw on Campermate where you can make your own ice cream by mixing 3 different real fruits or ingredients together. Nick enjoyed a combination of lemon, ginger and kiwi fruit and I went for a passionfruit, pineapple and mango mix. The lady who was working their spoke to us a lot in broken English about the lack of parking outside and she seemed so concerned that we were parked there. She made us feel we had to buy the ice creams and drive off immediately. When we didn't do that and stood outside eating she came out to talk to us again about the parking situation. We felt so rushed to eat quickly which was a shame because it was a really good ice cream that tasted so fresh. We also stopped off at a gift shop on our way south that we had read sells all the gifts you see around NZ but a lot cheaper. We found out this wasn't the case regarding the price so I think the people saying this haven't been to many gift shops. We did get something for Bruce and Candy as a thank you for looking around the car which was good though. Eventually we entered the familiar city of Wellington where we spent so many days in a month ago. A month sounds so long but when you break it down and include driving times it really isn't that long at all to explore a whole island. We've definitely missed things out so a summer road trip is looking likely. For now we managed to get a spot in the freedom camping spot in the city which is only 15 minutes from the ferry. It'll be an early wake up for us tomorrow to make it in time but I'm glad we got a space and didn't have to pay for a campsite we didn't want or need tonight. It's hard to believe this time tomorrow we will be back on the South Island where we spent 10 months of our time here in New Zealand.Read more

  • Day501

    Feeding all the animals

    July 2 in New Zealand

    Nick suggested we visit a farm or petting zoo seeing as we haven't done that in a while. We stayed last night in a low cost campsite south from Hastings because all the campsites in the area had such bad reviews. This meant we did have a bit of a commute and had to go back on ourselves to get to the farm this morning but we didn't mind too much. We actually got there as soon as the place opened which worked out well because every animal was hungry and pleased to see us walking around with cups of corn, although that did mean we were followed around by all the free roaming birds a lot. They were good at cleaning up all the corn that the alpacas and goats managed to push off your hand and onto the floor at least. The whole time we were there we only saw a couple of families with young children so we had quite a relaxed peaceful morning walking around the park. They had an interesting sheep in with the deer that was born with a set of two extra legs coming out the side of it's stomach. It was a very weird sight and looked as if it was caused by the embryo failing to split properly into twins but it was good seeing the sheep alive and healthy, we were pleased it wasn't just put down because of this birth defect. After we ran out of corn and had washed our hands several times to remove the goat slobber we continued on with our day and visited Te Mata Peak near Havelock North. It's a range of huge hills which has many walking tracks around the area. We made the decision that we need to start heading south pretty quickly so with that in mind we drove the narrow windy road all the way to the top of the peak rather than walking up to save time. This did mean we had an amazing view to sit in the van and eat lunch in front of. I love that they just decided to build a road up the hill. It's nice that it opens up the accessibility to people who wouldn't be able to partake in such a hike up the hills. It also worked well for people like us who are short on time and are being a bit lazy. We explored the top of the hill and admired the beautiful views while trying not to get blown around too much. Soon came the time to slowly make our way back down the little road and continue on our way. We both felt like we needed coffee so headed to a cafe I saw advertised as an attraction for it's sculpture garden. Unfortunately they didn't actually sell coffee but it was nice to walk around the sculptures and buy ourselves some treats in the old English style sweet shop that had on site. We settled on a coffee from McDonald's before heading down highway two for several hours all the way to our next freedom camping spot in Masterton. It was a long drive but we feel glad that we managed to get it done today as well as do quite a lot of things. We are staying at a small reserve which feels a little bit dodgey but luckily the gates get locked at 5pm so the lovely guy asked everyone to leave who wasn't staying the night. When you're inside the van with the curtains closed and it's dark outside you do feel safe in your little bubble so this added bonus of the gate being locked is extra reassuring. Tomorrow will be another big day as we have one place to vist before making it to Wellington to catch the ferry the day after. It feels so weird how close we are to the end but it's exciting as well to be returning to routine and people we know after 3 months of just the two of us. Plus the journey isn't over yet so we are still excited for the next week or so left of our trip.Read more

  • Day500

    500 days away from home!

    July 1 in New Zealand

    We woke up to the most gorgeous sunrise this morning over the sea. It was so incredible to sit in the van with the back doors open eating breakfast while watching the sun turn the sky in to all kinds of colours as it stretched up from behind the horizon. Because we've had to pick up the pace a bit we haven't really been researching what there is to do in each place we stop. With that in mind we headed straight to the i-site this morning to find out what is best to do in Napier in a day. We soon learnt that Napier suffered from a devastating earthquake in the 1930s that destroyed pretty much everything. It also lifted the ground by 2m so the harbour they had no longer was underwater. Despite it being the great depression the town was rebuilt from scratch but with the modern art deco style that was present at the time. Because this style era was during a big depression major developments like this were not happening much elsewhere in the world so Napier is now said to be a snapshot into the 1930s art deco era. We discovered they have a centre here that explains it more so we went and watched a video about the entire history of the town and the earthquake. After getting a full understanding of the history we grabbed a couple of coffees, Nick's being the tiniest take away cup I've ever seen, and walked around the streets admiring the buildings. They now have a trust in place that continually works at keeping the buildings in good condition and freshly painted. Each year as well the whole town goes back in time and has a huge 1930s style street party for the day which sounded pretty fun to attend. We weaved our way around town and eventually ended up back at the van where we decided to head to Hastings down the road for some lunch. We found a nice little cafe and both enjoyed a fried breakfast despite it being lunch time. Our last stop for the day was to Arataki Honey which as the name suggests produces a lot of different types of honey. They had a really good information section about the production of honey and even several different cross sections of working hives on show. We spent quite a while trying to spot Bee-yonce, Bee-trice and DeBee amongst the mass of stripey bodies. We were able to taste all their honeys and Nick enjoyed this section a bit too much I feel! Although we didn't like any enough to buy we enjoyed the whole place very much. Today has also marked 500 days away from home. Can you actually believe we left the UK 500 days ago?! I can't! It's flown by and dragged by all at the same time. We've had such an amazing journey, seen and done things I never imagined, had awesome highs and depressing lows but one thing that I know for certain is that I'm so glad we've experienced it all together. Missing home and family has been and will continue to be the hardest part and we've had days where home sickness takes over. On those days we try to go a do something awesome, splash out on an experience, food or even a powered site for the night so we can have heat! We love New Zealand, this has become our second home, but without the people we love and care for the most in the world it can never be home for us and that's why we will always come back to the UK no matter how beautiful the country is. Here's to the next however many days exploring this incredible world!Read more

  • Day499

    The coldest water in the world!

    June 30 in New Zealand

    Turns out Gisborne isn't that exciting. We had a brief look around a farmers market and the city centre before deciding to head out into the country side to see some waterfalls. We drove down a very picturesque road through farmland all the way to Rere Falls. It was a much longer drive than we expected but it was definitely worth it. On route we passed some calves on the road and a couple of cows as well. We couldn't find anyone around nor where they had come from so tried to ring the council to report it but couldn't get signal. We decided if they were still there on the way back we'd call up when we were back nearer town. We've seen many signs with numbers to call about wandering stock and every council seems to have a number for this issue. The waterfall wasn't very tall but what it lacked in height it made up for in width and power. You can actually walk behind the waterfall but we didn't fancy getting wet so early on in the day. Our next stop was further up Rere river at a more sloped waterfall. This one is renowned as a natural water slide because the water has smoothed off the rocks. Many people come here and body board down it and we've even heard of people going down on blow up mattresses. On Campermate many people on reviews said there were often body boards left to be used but unfortunately there were none there when we went. A group of students were there filming some kind of video so we just had a walk around the area to look around before trying to decide if we wanted to actually give this a go. I really really wanted to do it, Nick wasn't so sure but eventually decided to try. We had lunch and got changed into costumes and extra layers before deciding our yoga mat is the only usable thing we have to act as a body board. When the children had left and we had it to ourselves we headed down. Because I was the most keen I was up first and with Nick at the bottom ready to take a video I edged my way across the top of the slippery slope. My golly gosh was it freezing, like blisteringly cold freezing. I had to just bend over and tense up at one point because it was so cold on my feet. I persevered and made it to the left hand side which looked much smoother. Only then did I notice the rocks have quite large dips in them. I climbed down the side of the water and saw they were very deep and I felt our little yoga mat wouldn't skim over them but would nose dive into them sending me flying. I tried to edge out onto the slope below the most major of the dips still clinging onto the green mat but the water was so powerful that it was spraying off my foot halfway up my body. I couldn't do it I determined and after ten minutes of inching all around the place we called it a day and headed back to the van to get warm feet. Socks felt so amazing on my freshly swollen feet! On our way back the cows and calves were still on the road so as soon as I got signal I called up to let the council know. We decided to drive down to Napier which is at the other end of Hawkes Bay. It was a good few of hours of driving and I had a little nap on route but we did share the driving. We arrived in Napier at about 6pm and managed to get a spot at the second freedom camping spot we visited. We are right by the ocean so we get to fall asleep to the sound of the waves tonight.Read more

  • Day498

    What a long drive

    June 29 in New Zealand

    So today didn't go as initially planned. We ended up where we wanted to be but the way we got there had to change. Due to recent bad weather highway 2 from the Bay of Plenty down to Gisborne was closed both ways because of a land slip. Land slips happen a lot here with so many roads cut into the hillsides but this is the first time we've seen one close both flows of traffic. Unfortunately for us this meant the only other way to get to gisborne was the drive around the outside of most north eastern part of the North Island which is a loop that doubled our journey time. With a 6 hour drive ahead of us the day suddenly looked a lot more intense than we'd hoped. Time is moving so fast now and we are now in the last two weeks of this trip so we need to start heading south. The other annoying part about this big diversion was that although it was very scenic there wasn't really anything to do on the whole route except look at bays. Bays and beaches are lovely but after the 30th one in a row the novelty really wears off. Anyway despite this we tried to be optimistic and after dumping our waste and filling back up we were soon on our way to start our drive. Of course we had to stop off for a coffee first. Initially the sat nav found us an alternative route to highway 2 but after about 10km down the gravel road it turned out this road was also closed so we had to double back and admit we had to drive the whole coastal road. This little U turn did allow us to pass by a rather cute little church that was randomly placed amongst the farms and hills so it wasn't all bad. One thing I love about New Zealand is their highways are just basically roads that they make sure are tarmac. They are the best maintained roads but this doesn't stop them being very narrow or windy. It's always daunting turning a bend to be met by a huge logging lorry when you're on a road sticking out from a sheer cliff. It does keep you on your toes while driving that's for sure but it does mean the passenger can't really do much because all the bends give you a headache after a while if you're trying to read. With a few pit stops on the way including a break for the toilet which was surrounded by tied up horses, we eventually left the hilly windy section of road and edged closer to Gisborne. The last twenty minutes of our drive was made even more spectacular with the sun setting right in front of us. We really were driving into the sunset. We had to buy chemicals for our toilet this morning so as we went and sorted the loo out at a dump station we enjoyed watching the sky change from fire orange to blood red. We made it to our freedom camping spot in a carpark on the river as the last light began to fade. We had to move after an hour because the vans next to us have set up a table outside and appear to be having a drinking gathering. There's only so much amateur guitar playing you can listen to after a long drive and it didn't look like it would end anytime soon so we swiftly and not so subtly moved about 10 spaces up. I'm pretty sure we will both sleep very well tonight and at 9pm we're already tucked up in bed ready for the land of nod.Read more

  • Day497

    It's not everyday you can say you've walked around the crater of an active volcano. Well this is what we achieved today! After an early wake up we were pleased to find our van started first time despite the cold weather. We layered up and headed to the marina to board our boat for the day. We had a group of school children on board with us who looked about 16 and rather annoyingly they had the most disorganised teacher ever. We waited at least 20 minutes on the boat while she tried to work out why she had one extra person than she should do and what to do with this extra child. Eventually we pulled away from the harbour and headed out to sea. The journey to White Island took about 2 hours but it was rather nicely broken up by spending time watching gannets feeding and being followed by a whole pod of dolphins who were really interacting with the boat. It was a really cool 15 minutes and an added bonus to the whole trip. Eventually we edged closer to this mysterious island that was puffing out steam and gas. We were all geared up in hard hats, gas masks and life jackets before getting taken across to the island in groups of 8 on a small inflatable jet boat. We entered near an old factory where early settlers tried to mine for sulphur. It wasn't too successful apparently and the factory now lies in ruin. The crater had lots of pressure points and mounds which can explode at any moment as the temperature and pressure builds below the surface. We learnt how to spot them and were given strict instructions to follow in the guides footsteps only. Luckily we were split into two groups of 20 or so which made this easier. As we headed further from the beach and closer to the crater's lake the gases really started to build up. We were told to use our masks whenever we wanted and given sweets to suck to stop our throats drying out. Even with the masks on and the sweets it was pretty intense at the back of your throat especially when we stood near some geysers that were emmiting plenty of sulphur. The lake was such a lovely turquoise blue colour but it apparently has been all colours from grey to orange depending on the bacteria that's thriving the most at that time. The volcano has erupted a couple of times in the last 20 years and when this happens it only shoots out ash and hot rocks but not lava. What's amazing is the ash is a different colour each time so you can see the layers built up from different eruptions on cross sections of rock. The last one was red and it was easy to look around and see how much the ash covered the whole area. Our guide has even been on the volcano during an earthquake which sounded incredibly scary. There were some geologists working while we were there and one American woman was obsessed with wanting to speak to them. Of course our guides said we couldn't interrupt them but she continually encouraged her children to wave and take photos of them until they come over. It got quite annoying really, even for us, and in the end it was no surprise when her daughter turned around and said "mum, if you love scientists do much why don't you just become one!" She toned it down a bit after that. After a look around the factory ruins we were soon back on the boat after such an awesome experience. We did a loop around the island and even saw seals on the rocks. On the way back we had a complimentary lunch which was quite extensive before the longest boat journey in the world to get back to shore. A million hours later we were in our van and heading to a campsite out of town for the night. It's turned out to be a home for migrant workers more than a campsite but after such an amazing day it doesn't matter how pants and overcrowded the campsite is!Read more

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