Sydney to New Zealand

Journey                 # 8

Time:                      March 2013

Looking out over Auckland, from Devonport and Mt Victoria.

Thursday 21st March - Day 1
Mark and Wendy were booked on Qantas, business class no less, and we were on the Air NZ flight out of Sydney. During our flight, we were offered a glass of water and a cup of coffee. Meals apparently had to be booked and paid for as an additional cost. We felt ripped off and should have gone Qantas instead.
The flights landed within a few minutes of each other and we met up in the airport to get the hire car, which was a gold RAV4. Mark delighted in telling me about their four course meal, wine and great service. They also received two full size bottles of wine as a gift when they disembarked. In all fairness though, I was offered a second glass of water on my flight.
We drove into Auckland and checked into our accommodation at the Chifley Apts and then went for a walk down to the Auckland Viaduct and harbour area. We saw the impressive NZ entrants for one of the past Americas Cup yacht races and as it was getting towards dinner time, had a meal at an Italian restaurant overlooking the water. It was very nice. You soon realise that Auckland is a hilly city when you have to walk to where you want to go.

Club Paihia, which is the time share accommodation where we stayed for the first week in the north island of N.Z.

Friday 22nd - Day 2
We left Auckland this morning and drove the short distance to Devonport where we had coffee and walked up the hill to Mt Victoria. This is an active volcano site and was also an artillery placement in earlier days. Mt Victoria provided a nice view of Auckland's waterfront landscape.
We headed towards our next destination at Club Paihia in the Bay of Islands, where we would be staying for the week. We were coerced to stop at a few shopping places on the way. A lunch in the pub at Waiwera was a good stop on the way, though. We soon came to realise that there are lots of Maori names on the north island.
We finally arrived at Club Paihia, and after quick lookaround, and a quick settling in, we had a walk down to the pier and had a nice dinner in a cafe on the jetty.

The Stone Store and Kemp's cottage at KeriKeri.

Saturday 23rd - Day 3
We had a bit of a sleep in today and later, walked down to the jetty to see about booking a bay cruise and a fishing trip for Mark and I.
After that, we drove out to KeriKeri and visited the 'Stone Store' and Kemp House. These are historic sites from the early days of settlement. The store is New Zealand's oldest stone building, having been built in 1832. The nearby St James church is also a historic building, having been constructed in 1878. It is interesting to read the headstones in the old cemetery, which date from the early 1800's.
From there we visitied the Haruru Falls and then returned to buy something for a BBQ dinner. Being Easter, there was not much open, and we settled for some convenience store sausages, which were just awful. Thank goodness for onions, mushrooms and salad.

Sunset over Kororareka Bay from the balcony of the Duke of Marlborough Hotel, Russell

Sunday 24th - Day 4
The resort put on a big breakfast today (not free) so we all ate well. We walked back down the hill to the town and checked the Police Station to see if it was manned. I had found a bank card on Friday night, and had been trying to hand it in ever since, but despite the lights being on, no-one was home.
Enjoyed a nice coffee and booked our cruises. We drove out to the car ferry and popped across the bay to historic Russell and passed the forst Capital City for NZ, Okiato. Went up to Flagstaff Hill for some nice 360 degree views of the Bay. We parked at the base and trudged up about 500m, only to find that there was a carpark up there which was accessed from the road which we passed. Some spectacular homes and vistas. Back to Kororareka Bay, where we had drinks by the waters edge and then dinner at the Duke of Marlborough hotel on the Strand. Great food and service. This hotel holds the first liquor licence ever issued for a NZ hotel, dated 1940. Caught the night car ferry back to Paihia.

Beryl picking up speed on the sand toboggan at Te-Paki dunes, north island.

Monday 25th - Day 5
Up early today, as we had booked a bus trip out of Kaitaia up to Cape Reinga and the top of the North Island. We drove through picturesque country side and came across an accident which had just happened. A logging truck tipped over, scattering large timber all over the road and nature strips. Luckily no-one was injured and the Police had just arrived, so we kept going. We drove through many towns with Maori names that were impossible for us to pronounce. Arrived at Kaitaia where we boarded the bus, driven by our Maori guide, Simon. He kept us entertained all day and even told a joke which kept the Aus/NZ rivalry going. All in fun and no feelings were hurt by any means.
As in all trips, a group caused long delays and didn't give the slightest regard for any other passengers. It started at the bus depot and continued until we got back. Late for pickup, late back from lunch, stood in the aisle to have a chat - it just goes on. Even the bus driver asked if he could leave without them, after a stop on the Cape.
The point where the Tasman and Pacific oceans meet was amazing, with clear blue waters and turbulent currents.
We drove onto the 90 mile beach, but not before struggling up a sand dune at the giant Te Paki dunes for some sand tobogganing. The beach is suitable for buses, 4wd and 2wd vehicles. There was a seal having a sunbake on the beach and the bus stopped so that we could all have a go at collecting Tua Tua (pippies) which were very plentiful all over the beach. Tried my first raw pippie and found the taste to be bland. Maybe better fried up as patties.
After leaving the bus, we decided to head back along a different route, stopping at Mangonui for fish and chips. Lots of locals fishing off the jetty and catching some good fish, including Kawai (Aus Salmon) John Dory, Kingfish and Trevally. Great day was had by all and we are tired and sore.

Spot X was the fishing charter we went out on. Got 14 nice fish.

Tuesday 26th - Day 6
Mark and I went for our fishing charter today, with Spot X. It was a glorious morning with no wind and plenty of sunshine. We shared the charter with an older couple from Auckland and a Czech/Russian student. Picked him up from Russell before heading out to the 'secret' spot under the northern headland of the KeriKeri peninsular. Mark caught the first three fish, a snapper and a couple of trevally. A lot of undersized snapper were hooked and released. I managed to catch the largest snapper and a couple of kawai. It was a pleasant morning and the skipper insisted on baiting the hooks, unhooking the fish and later cleaning and filleting them for us. We had 14 keepers with 12 snapper amongst them. The catch was divided amongst 4 of us, so a good result. We returned back to port with sunburnt legs and faces.
In the afternoon, we went for a drive to the Waitangi maoru reserve, Bledislo Hill lookout and a historic church, St Pauls. BBQ fish for dinner tonight.

Lovely Rainbow Falls, out of KeriKeri.

Wednesday 27th - Day 7
A lazy day planned for today. I walked to town to get some cold and flu tablets, as I was coming down with a cold. We decided to go for a drive, so headed off to KeriKeri where we bought some cakes and bread rolls for lunch. Found a nice little picnic spot on Oroha Island, a kiwi and bird sanctuary. After lunch, we walked around the small island and saw a lot of Tui, which are black birds with iridescent green flashes on their wings and the males have large white 'sacs; under their throats to attract the females. They have a beautiful song and can mimic other birds and sounds.
We then drove out to Rainbow Falls and back to Paihia jetty for coffee. A nice afternoon of sightseeing.

The Dolphin cruise was great and the performers didn't disappoint.

Thursday 28th - Day 8
Today we were booked in to take a cruise around the Bay of Islands, with the highlight being the Hole in the Rock and Cape Brett lighthouse. Left the jetty around 9am and it wasn't too long before we came across a pod of dolphins, which performed for the visitors by doing high leaps, backflips and even some tail walking. Fantastic. We cruised around some of the islands and heard the history of their occupation and maori significance. Mark and I sat on the top deck, in the sun, as it was the best viewing platform. It got a little windy at times, but well worth it. The swell was running quite high at the hole in the rock, so we were disappointed to miss out on the run through it to the other side. Awesome forces of nature to create this.
After we left there we stopped in at Urupukapuka Island for lunch and a hike or swim for those who were so inclined. A lovely outing for the day.

The oldest and largest survivng Kauri tree in NZ.

Friday 29th - Day 9
Today was our departure from Paihai, so we decided to return to Auckland via the west coast. Nice rural scenery with the occasional glimpse of the coast. Stopped for coffee at a small village called Omapere and had a walk out to the harbour entrance. Very clear, deep water. A lovely inlet.
We stopped for a walk in the Waipoua Forest and saw the largest surviving Kuari tree in NZ. Impressive girth and a very old tree. Next stop was Dargaville for a late lunch. Not much open, due to it being Easter Friday, but we got lucky. Arrived in Auckland around 5pm and checked into our unit at Bianco off Queen. Found a chinese cafe and had dinner before turning in for the night.

The Moeraki Boulders can catch out the unwary.

Saturday 30th - Day 10
Headed off this morning for Auckland airport for our midday flight to Christchurch. Spotted a bin in the terminal which had large lettering on the lid, stating - Do not spit in the bin, use the toilet. Delightful. A quick flight down the coast and landed at Christchurch where we picked up another RAV4 which happened to be identical to the one we dropped off in the north. Number plate was almost the same as well.
We were headed for Oamaru for the first night but hadn't booked anything. Being Easter, we noticed that every single motel we passed, had a no vacancy sign posted. Timaru was the largest town and every one after that was the same. Drove into Waimate where there were cabins advertised and it was getting late. The cabins were barely a step up from a kennel. No thanks. Said a little prayer and continued on to Oamaru. First motel displayed a vacancy sign so we drove in. A half dozen cars tore in after us and ran for the office. We asked for a 2 bedroom unit and were told sorry. The owners wife then said, yes there was one which had just become available. Thank you Lord. It was a bit ordinary, but comfortable and provided for our needs. We had dinner that night in a historic pub which had been the post office in earlier times. Amazing old building and made from local stone blocks. The town was lit up in various colours that night and looked impressive.

On top of the Observatory hill, overlooking Tekapo.

Sunday 31st - Day 11
The next day, we drove up to Moeraki to have a look at the boulders. Interesting to read how they were formed. Back to Oamaru for a look at the old town and architecture. Had morning tea in an English Tea House, where the waitresses were dressed in period costume and referred to us as Mum and Sir. Had scones and jam with cream. I tried the tea of the month, which was a large leafed, smoked brew, and it didn't appeal to me at all. Tasted like smoked salmon. All in a bit of fun and there was a gent playing tunes on the piano, to keep us entertained.
We headed across to Duntroon, Omarama, Twizel and finally to our motel at Lake Tekapo. Our room overlooked the lake and the Church of The Good Shepherd. Beautiful outlook and scenery. Saw loads of big trout swimming around the pool under the dam wall.

Icebergs had broken off the face of the Hooker glacier and were floating downstream.

Monday 1st April - Day 12
After brekkie, we checked out of our rooms and drove up to the observatory overlooking the lake. It was freezing at that altituded but amazing views. I keep saying that but there is no other way to describe it. On to Mt Cook where we had a look around the Sir Edmund Hillary museum and stopped there for lunch. Decided to walk out to the Hooker valley glacier, encountering several suspension bridges, boardwalks and rough tracks. It was hard going and very tiring for all of us. Saw the face of the glacier and a few icebergs which had broken off.
Back to Omarama for the night and pizzas for dinner. Heading for Queenstown in the morning.

Arrowtown is a tourist town, with historic miners cottages and splendid trees.

Tuesday 2nd - Day 13
Woke up to a foggy and cold morning, but the sun soon burned it away. Headed off towards Queenstown, over the Lindis Pass. Some impressive mountains and waterfalls. This is where a lot of bungee jumping and jetboat tours happen. We arrived in Arrowtown for lunch and had a browse around the highly expensive boutique shops. Nice historic town but we were a little early for the autumn colous as the trees start losing their leaves.
We arrived in Queenstown and were amazed at the hordes of people there. Looked for a place to stay and decided to splurge for a couple of nights and stayed at Peppers Resort, overlooking the lake. Had an evening walk along the lake shore and into town. Very busy place. Tourist capital of NZ, I think.

This Atlantic salmon is no doubt an escapee from a fish farm. Clear water.

Wednesday 3rd - Day 14
The following morning we awoke to rain, but decided to go for a drive out to Glenorchy and Paradise. The skies cleared and we had a sunny day yet again. We have been so lucky with the weather. We saw the site where they built the tower of Isengard, in the Lord of The Ring, and there views are terrific. We tested the 4wd capabilities of the Rav4 and found it to be wanting. At one stage, doing a three point turn, the rear wheel lifted a couple of feet off the ground and I thought it would roll over. We were also discovered by the Dracula of the West Coast, the NZ sandfly. They descended on us with a vengeance and we ran back to the car, where we swatted them for the next 15 minutes. The bites swelled and itched for a week. Don't know how the stars in the movie coped.
We drove back to Queenstown around 2pm and booked the Gondola ride and Luge. The gondola took us up to 2650 feet and the views were very nice. Had lunch up there and then caught a chair lift further up the mountain for the luge run. We all rode the beginners slope first and it was over too quickly. Mark and I got up on two wheels in some of the corners. Next run, we all did the speed option except for Beryl, who blitzed the beginners slope again. Lots of laughs.

Fox glacier slides down into lush forest. Doesn't look right.

Wednesday 4th - Day 15
We left for the west coast this morning and drove through spectacular Alps and Beech forests. We stopped for a walk to the Blue Pools, which was icy cold in the shade of the mountains and the crystal clear water was freezing. Beautiful spot with huge trout in the streams.
There were dozens of spectacular waterfalls cascading down the mountain sides - too many to stop and photograph. Stopped for coffee at a cafe, which had Atlantic Salmon cages. They were farming the fish, and there were some big fellas swimming around outside of the enclosures. Escapees, I guess.
We arrived at Fox Glacier and drove through what seemed as sub-tropical beech forest and giant ferns, to arrive at the glacier slicing down into lush forest. Weird to say the least. Booked into our motel at Franz Joseph and then booked in for a Heli Trek and ice cave hike the following day.

The morning sun and the dew sparkled up the many cobwebs on the track.

Thursday 5th - Day 16
Mark and I got up early to drive out to Lake Matheson for sunrise reflections. It was 5 degrees outside and brisk. We got to the Lake and found we had a 30 minute walk to get out there, so that caught us out and we didn't get the pics we wanted. Did get some photos though, so it wasn't a waste of time.
Back in time for the 10am checkout and we headed off to town for coffee and scones before the heli hike. Paid the $800 per couple and were called in to the change room to get fitted for mittens, beanie, boots, crampirons and waterproof jacket and pants, when a call came from the helicopter pilot, saying that weather conditions on the glacier had deteriorated and the flight was cancelled. Oh well. We didn't have time to reschedule, so headed off to our next stop at Punakaiki and the Pancake Rocks.
On the way, we managed to find the Hokita Gorge and the visit was well worth the effort of getting there. Getting down to river level at the gorge, found it infested by sandflies but we were prepared this time with Bushman insect repellant. The fantails on the suspension bridge were very entetaining, flitting within inches of us. The girls wanted to check out a store in Hokita but found it to be closed down. Darn - grin.
Continued on through Greymouth and arrived at our lodge in the late afternoon. It was expensive, grossly so, and lacked many things. It was pretty awful really with old smelly furniture and bedding which had hair from previous tennants all over it. Can't win every time I guess. Had dinner at the local tavern and caught the sunset over the ocean during a respite from the rain which had fallen most of the day. Tomorrow we plan for a few photos of the rocks and then off to Akaroa for the last night.

Pancake rocks are an unusual formation.

Saturday 6th - Day 17
We stopped at Pancake Rocks in the morning and walked out to check out the formations. The swell was running pretty high and plumes of mist came shooting out of holes and crevices. Would hate to be caught in the maelstrom if caught in the water. We stopped at Maccas in Greymouth, mainly for the free internet and to find a place to book into for that night. Arakoa was booked out so we opted to head into Christchurch. Walked around the CBD for an hour or so an d checked out the devastation caused by the earthquakes in February 2011. Massive damage and very depressing to see the beautiful historic buildings reduced to rubble, let alone the cost in lives. The wind was coming off the Antarctic, so it was good to head off to dinner. Mark had arranged to meet up with friends, Andrew and Beth, and we enjoyed a Thai meal in pleasant company before retiring back to the motel for the night.

The temporary 'cardboard' church in Christchurch.

Coming home over our beautiful harbour

Sunday 7th April - Day 18
All packed for the return trip home. We drove back into the 'red zone' to have a look at the temporary replacement for the Christ Church Cathedral. The new building is titled, the Cardboard Church, due to the construction method. 'Japanese architect Shigeru Ban returned with the donation of a design for a soaring meeting space constructed of cardboard and shipping containers. Ban is renowned in architecture for his remarkable paper tube structures and buildings. The cardboard cathedral is expected to cost roughly NZ$4 million (about US$3.8 million), compared to an estimated NZ$25M (US$20.5M) for a permanent replacement.' Not the same in my opinion, but it is only a building after all.
Got to the Airport and returned the car. Inside the terminal, Beryl couldn't find her new glasses, which cost a bomb, and she figured that she had dropped them at the church site. Mark went back to the Hertz counter and was told that nothing had been found in the car, but another service guy had overheard the conversation and called the lot on his 2 way radio, to find that the car cleaner had indeed picked up a glasses case near the car. Happy days for Beryl, as she could read again.
The Qantas flight was luxury in comparison to the Air New Zealand flight on the way over. We got a hot meal and drinks. The approach to Sydney was from the north west, so we got to fly over the harbour. Lovely sight on a clear, sunny afternoon. When is our next holiday?



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