Pacific Coast Highway – Stop 1 – San Francisco 

I’ve been extremely lax in updating this blog about the adventures I’ve been having whilst in NZ.  To make it up to you I’m finally getting around to blogging about my recent PCH (Pacific Coast Highway in California) road trip for those of you who follow me on Inst (86Kates) or Twitter (@justagirl08) here are the stories behind the pictures.

As little background information I did this two week road trip with my wonderful Mummy who I hadn’t seen since April last year.  She flew in from London, I flew in from Wellington and it was so lovely to see her and felt like no time had past It was also my Mum’s second time doing this particular road trip she and my Grandma had done it in the 80s so for her it was interesting to see how things had changed in 30 year.

We had 3 nights in San Francisco so our first full day was spent shopping – when in America – we hit all the Union Square shops and got some good bargains in the morning.  Then we sent the afternoon down at Fisherman’s Wharf which was heaving, this was my third trip to San Fran and I had never seen it so busy down there. It was obviously a lot busier than my Mum remembered but we still had a good wonder, saw the Sea Lions and my mum tried some of the Clam Chowder (I don’t eat meat or fish).

Our second and last full day in San Fran we got our tourist on and did an open top tour of the city, to get around as I wanted to do the bridge and my Mum wanted to go to Sausalito a city just over the bridge where we stopped and had a coffee.  It was a really fun day we got to learn a bit more about the city drive over the Golden Gate bridge and see Sausalito which is a beautiful little city just the other side of the bridge, where you get stunning views over the bay to San Fran, and obviously not forgetting ‘The Rock’ that is clearly visible in the middle of the bay.

Our next stop was Monterey.


North Island Road Trip Day 6:

We spent a few days in Wellington, on the first morning we went to the National Museum Te Papa, it was massive 7 levels of exhibitions everyone I’d met had said they loved Wellington and Te Papa is a must when there.  We spent hours in there it was interesting as they exhibitions on all the Maori culture along with exhibitions about the first settlers in New Zealand from Europe and had a time line right up until modern day kiwis.  

My favourite exhibition was a photography one which was an insight into Kiwi life in the late 70s/early 80s and some of the cultural events that happened during the time.  The photos were immaculate and really did give you a snap shot of life at that moment. All the other stuff was interesting as well and there was even a test to see how well you’d have done as a British captain bringing people over from Europe, I did pretty well in that maybe I’ve missed my calling in life?

That evening we decided to go up to the botanical gardens which involves getting a cable car.  The cable car journey was pretty fun it went through a couple of tunnels which had light displays as the cable cars passed through.  We were aiming to get up to the top for Sunset but got there just after though, which was a shame.  The views from the top were absolutely stunning though, you could see right out over the harbour.

Wellington is nick named windy Wellington and it lived up to its name when we were in the botanical gardens it was freezing at the top.  A guy from the hostel came with us and told us there was a free concert in the gardens somewhere, we could hear it but couldn’t find it which was a bit of shame, so we decided to head back down to the city as we were cutting it fine to catch the last cable car back.


North Island Road Trip Day 5:

Spent a lovely couple of days in Art Deco Napier, known for it’s Mediterranean climate.  After changeable Taupo it was lovely to be somewhere consitantly sunny for a few days.

 The city is very designed and plays on the Art Deco theme there’s art on walls of flapper girls dancing and people dressed in their best 1920s/1930s finery, even the street signs, have been designed in the Art Deco style.

We did an hour long tour of the Art Deco quarter and got to learn a bit about the history of Napier and see the Art Deco buildings.  After an Earth Quake in 1931 flattened most of the CBD, the city decided to rebuild in the ‘modern style’ which at that time was Art Deco, Frontier and Spanish Mission Styles.  Walking around the CBD you do really see the mix of all three styles, although Art Deco was obviously favoured as there are Art Deco decorations on the Mission and Frontier buildings as well as the ones in the classic Deco style.

I loved Napier, the city has a lovely vibe to it, the people are so friendly and rightly so are very proud of their city and it’s heritage so much so that they have a festival every year dedicated to Art Deco and the 1930′s where everyone dresses up in their finest flapper girl and guy outfits.


North Island Road Trip Day 4:

We spent a few days in Lake Taupo, which is right in the centre of the North Island.  

The lake itself is size of Singapore, and has it’s own horizon due to the way the curvature of the earth.  It’s pretty cool when you think about it.  We had a wonder around Taupo, in the morning as we had a boat cruise booked in for around the lake later on in the day.  Taupo is adorable and probably the busiest place we’ve been so far on this trip, it’s full of little quirky shops and restaurants.

Our boat cruise was aboard a beautiful 1930s yacht called Barbary, as we sailed out onto the lake our skipper told us a bit of Barbabry, it was an old racing yacht so had been pretty much everywhere in the world.  Before running aground and being rescued by a Taupo local, our skipper remembered her arriving in town and had been sailing Barbabry since she was about 11.  I thought that was a really cool story, and it was amazing being taken out on the Lake by a true local.

The main focus of our cruise was to go out to some awesome Maori Carvings that date all the way back to 1981!  The carvings were commissioned as a tribute to the Maori priest Ngatororangi (apologies that is most probably not the correct spelling) who guided the original Maori tribes to Taupo over a thousand years ago.  The carvings are around 10 metres high and are meant to protect the lake from any Volcanic activity.

Which it looks like it’s doing as from the Lake you can see Mount Doom or 

Mt Ngauruhoe it’s actual name looming in the distance. It is located in the Tonagriro national park, along with another Volcano that has been erupting since 2012, but doesn’t seem to have done any damage.  There is a walk you can do up to Mount Doom that follows Frodo’s journey from the Return of the King, however due to poor weather we were not able to do it as they closed the park to visitors.

I’m starting to understand why Kiwi’s are so chilled out, as they live with the imminent threat of a volcano erupting or an earth quake so compared to that everything else is easy as.


North Island Day 3:

We went to the Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland, which is famous for the Lady Knox Geyser that goes off every morning, one of the few Geyser’s in the world.  

We got there for about 10:00 in time to see a the Lady Knox Geyser go off, I’m not quite sure what a geyser is but basically there’s a lot of hot water bubbling under the surface of the Rock and when the company add something similar to soap to the water it sparks an eruption of boiling hot water.  It blasts out water up to 3. High and usually last from 5-30mins, it was very cool and not something I’m likely to see again unless I go to yellow stone in Montana as that has a geyser as well. 

The area also has a lot of thermal rock pools that you can do three walks around, a 30min, 40min or 75min walk we only did the 30min one as we were fairly tired from the night before, but some of the pools we saw were amazing they looked like something out of Jurassic park. 

 One called the Devils Ink pot was just a mass of what looked like bubbling tar but it was actually mud and some crude oil, there was a massive pool called artists pallet and it was all different colours, caused by sulphurs and other chemicals it’s just incredible to see what nature can do.  The last one was saw literally looked liked someone had poured a sherbet lemon into some water apparently the colours changed with the cloud cover.

For those actually wanting to know what a geyser is here’s the Wikipedia page.


North Island Road Trip Evening 2:

(Sorry for the blurry picture, but this is them doing a haka)

For the rafting and our evening event we were in Rotorua, which is known as the cultural heart of New Zealand.

We went to Tamaki Maori village for the evening, on the way there we got told that before we entered the Maori would be three warriors to challenges the chiefs from each bus – our chief was a guy from North Hampton called John, the chief had to be a man bit sexist but anyway – before laying a peace symbol at their feet and one of the Chiefs would have to pick it up to symbolise they come in peace.  This is he traditional greeting for all visitors.  We were told that we couldn’t laugh or smile during this first bit as the Warriors would be pulling funny facial expressions and they stick their tongues out a lot as well during the ritual.  It is a great insult if you laugh or smile during this bit and if a warrior catches you we were told they’d turn their attention to us as they’d be distracted… Not sure how true that was but anyway we managed to get through it without anyone insulting the Warriors.

Then the chief told us that we could relax and we were free to enter the village where there were little huts dotted around the main square and at each one there were two Maori’s explaining part of their culture.  One was teaching the haka, another was showing how the Warriors trained by running up and down a ladder on the ground, another was explains about the tattoos the Maoris got on their faces, the right side represents your  mothers family and the left your fathers and the further up the face they went the higher status you are and they were used as sort of CVs as there was no written Maori language originally.

We asked how they were done originally and it sounded horrible it was done with bone and a chisel like thing they used to split their faces open and put ink in that way, the most common cause of death from this was loss of blood. It’s only done rarely today and barely any of the Maoris have real facial tattoos as it limits their ability to get work.  A couple of the other demonstrations were how the women made the clothes mostly up of plants and kiwi birds! They also showed us the games they used to play to improve coordination and hand eye coordination I thought I could’ve used some of that when I was little might be a bit more coordinated now!!

After the demonstrations the chief invited us into the meeting hall, where the Maoris performed an amazing show for us full of traditional and slightly more modern songs and dances, finishing of course with a Haka. I literally can not describe how amazing this show was I’ve never seen anything like it. Was a real insight into their culture.

We then got shown to the food ‘pit’ they cooked our food in a traditional way underground using hot rocks. One of the brothers was describing the technique and was saying you can do it in your back garden, you need volcanic rocks for the best effect though, when he said this everyone started laughing because volcanic rocks are so easy to come by in the rest of the world the brother sort of looked a bit sheepish and shrugged in New Zealand there’s volcanic rock all over the place.

After that it was the meal which was so good, it was a buffet and since Jess and I have basically been living off pasta or rice and veggies we made the most of having some different food! We had traditional New Zealand pudding which is basically a chocolate sponge with custard again so good. To round off the evening the waiting staff got the Chiefs and a lot of the other guys to do a haka, which was pretty hilarious but they gave it a good go, one of the Chiefs was even doing the eye and tongue movements.  

The waiting staff and our bus drivers then performed a few more songs for us before we got back on the bus to Rotorua, on the bus our chief had to give a a brief introduction to himself and sing a song he chose our rugby sing of sweet low sweet chariot, then every other nation had to sing a song from their country as well.  It was really good fun, such an awesome way to spend a Friday night, it was the bit of our trip that I was looking forward to the most.