Sydney to New Zealand Trip 2

Journey                 # 14

Time:                      March 2017

Farmhouse stay at Miranda Cottage on the Coromandel Peninsula area.

Wednesday 1st March - Day 1
We had a mid morning flight out of Sydney Airport, and met Mark and Wendy at the check in counter. Mark took us all to the Qantas lounge for a late breakfast, which was wonderful. Got to see how the important people spent their flight waiting time. We boarded an Emirates A380, double story airliner, which is a Qantas partner, and flew off to Auckland. On arrival, we picked up a nice green Commodore and headed off to 'the Coromandel Peninsula' for two nights. The farm cottage we had booked online, was at Miranda, so it was a little concerning when the GPS couldn't find that area. Lucky for signposts, I guess. The owner met us, living right next door, and showed us to the house. What a delightful cottage it was. Pretty gardens surrounded by fruit trees and flower gardens. Barry, the owner, supplied us with a big bowl of fresh fruit, vegetables and eggs. also said to eat as many grapes as we wanted off the vine as well as plums off the trees. We did just that. Had dinner the following night, at the local pub, which is across the road from the water.

Rolling hills on the Coramandel Peninsula

Day 2
Today we drove to Thames -NZ pronounce it 'Tims' - and had a walk around the town before continuing on to Coromandel, where we stopped for lunch. We left there and followed the winding, waterfront roadway, which had an 80kph posted limit. Very few opportunities to pass anyone, so it was a major frustration to follow a car doing 40kph, and which slowed to 10kph on curves. There was a small man driving it, who was an obvious tourist and after several klms of this follow the leader, Mark got a chance to overtake. As he pulled out, so did the slow driver, into the middle of the narrow roadway. Mark gave him a toot on the horn to pass, and the angry ant leaned on his horn, weaving on the road as a string of other cars also passed him. There were some spectacular views and some very steep drop offs on the unfenced road. Saw two cars down the bottom of a gully around a sharp curve. Either an insurance job or a couple of unfortunate accidents in the same spot. Back to the cottage for a nice bbq dinner before facing a long drive up to Paihia the following day.

Paihia harbour/jetty, where cruises and charters leave from. Also a landing for cruise ships which anchor further out in the bay.

Day 3
Headed off for the drive to Paihia today. The girls wanted to do a quick shop and browse at Nth Auckland, so Mark and I waited patiently for them to finish before taking off once more. Stopped at Mangawhai Heads for lunch, which was a bit underwhelming. We arrived at the resort and booked in to a nice 2 bedroom apartment where we had dinner. Beryl started to come down with flu symtoms, which of course she passed on to me and mildly to Wendy. Mark kept his distance.

Club Paihia Resort is where we stayed.

Day 4
Today we drove to KeriKeri markets. They are the same, world over and I am sure that the same people have stalls where ever markets are held. Mark and I walked around Paihia to find a nice restaurant for dinner. The one we were going to choose, just happened to evacuate in front of us, due to a kitchen fire. Dinner at home that night.

Stumpy, the Pacific gull, came to visit us each morning, looking for handouts.

Day 5
Mark and I had booked in to do a half day fishing charter today, and what a glorious day it turned out to be. I actually got sunburnt and didn't manage to get any legal sized fish. Mark got 4 good fish and we had those for dinner the following night. The day was capped off by a car ferry ride across the bay, to Russell. We had booked in to the Duke of Marlborough hotel for dinner and it was very good despite being a bit expensive. Not that we do this every day, so it was worth the experience. We got a lovely sunset to boot and had a good sleep that night.

The lush Puketi Forest Trust, is surrounded by cleared grazing fields.

Day 6
Today was overcast and raining heavily at times. The special markets were on at Paihia, as the Queen Victoria and Azamora cruise ships were anchored in the bay. Passengers were being ferried to shore to have a look around town and luckily there were periods of clear sky. We drove out to find the Puketi Forest walk and had sun for the entire time. Lots of huge Kauri trees, ferns and forest to walk through. There were lots of traps along the tracks, designed to catch rats, weasels and stoats, which decimate the natural wildlife. In all, it was an interesting few hours walk. Back to the unit to read books all round and relax.

Sunset over the bay, from verandah of the Duke of Marlborough Hotel, Russell.

Day 7
It rained heavily overnight and the news reported that there was flooding and landslides on the Coromandel, so it was fortunate that we had already left, as the roads were cut. The day cleared somewhat, so off we headed to have a look at some waterfalls. First stop was the Harura Falls, just out of KeriKeri. They were flowing quite well and the resident families of chickens and roosters were still there, same as three years ago. From there, we drove to the Stone Store carpark and walked through rainforest, to the Wharepuke falls. The river was flowing strongly and the falls were tumbling off the edge. Very humid and steamy. Naturally it was now time for lunch, so off to the Pear Tree Restaurant, next to the Stone Store. They grow their own produce so everything was fresh. I have a burger, Wendy had Mussells, Beryl for Sate chicken and Mark had a brie and apricot toasted sandwich. Didn't live up to expectations though, as Beryl's chicken wasn't cooked. We had to be back at 3.30pm, to sit through the compulsory time share talk for this particular stay, as we had 'won' this holiday - with conditions attached. All went fine though and we didn't sign up.

The Queen Victoria liner and also the Azamara, anchored off Paihia for their day visit for passengers. Shame about the rain.

Day 8
There was heavy rain for most of the day, but around 1pm we drove north to Whangaroa and decided on a late lunch at the Sport Fishing Club. Great location and would be fun on a fine day. As it happened, we were the only ones in there, but the burgers were the best we had tried in NZ and the hot chips were really good as well. The rain just bucketed down and the roads were flooding. We drove back to Paihia via the Matauri Bay loop road. Nice scenery. We were due to leave for the drive down to Lake Taupo the following morning, so packed for an early - 8.30am is apparently early - start.

Wharepuki Falls, at Kerri Kerri, were flowing strongly due to the heavy rain we experienced.

Day 9
We got down to KawaKawa, about 20klm south of Paihia and found that the road had collapsed and was closed due to flooding. Followed a detour sign which took us through town, but that was the only sign we saw. Didn't know which way to go, except that the gps told us we could head across the island. It was a long detour, but we saw more of the country and more roadworks and stoppages than we had planned on. Got to Whangarei and had coffee and cake some 2 hours later, before heading down the highway to Auckland, where we had a late lunch at a very nice Irish Pub. We arrived at the house in Taupo about 7.30pm that night. Great views over the lake and not too far from town.

Misty rain around Matauri Bay.

Day 10
The rain was still falling, so we had a look around town and then drove to Huka Falls. The rain had stopped and the bus loads of tourist ( I realise we are in the same category ) arrived, making it hard to get any photos without anyone in them, so we headed off to Craters of the Moon, geothermal park. Sobering to think what lays beneath our feet and could erupt at any time.

Still raining, at Whangaroa on our way back to Paihia.

Day 11
Another rainy day and I was feeling a bit low, with my neck injury causing me some degree of pain, so I stayed home while the others drove to have a look at a bee farm. Felt a bit better in the afternoon and we all went into town and had dinner at the waterfront restaurant, on the shores of the Lake. It was nice.

Craters of the Moon, geothermal park at Taupo.

Day 12
It stopped raining today, so we headed off for a drive around Lake Taupo. It was a scenic drive within about 60klm from Taupo, with very dense pine forests on one side and great lakeside biews on the other. We saw a nice outlook at one point, but couldn't turn around on the narrow winding road, to go back. The rest of the drive was through rolling countryside and we arrived back in Taupo after about 150klm, to have lunch. Mark and I dropped the girls off and drove the 60klm back to the lookout, but of course the wind had come up and the waters were choppy. Oh well.

Sunset over Lake Taupo, from our balcony.

Day 13
Today we drove out to the Orakei Korako cave and thermal park. We crossed the lake in a jetboat, to get to the thermal walk. Everything was neatly laid out, with walkways making it all safe to view the pools, geysers and streams. The scenery was amazing, with different coloured algae growing in the steaming hot water and deposits making unusual shapes. At one stage, we heard a Maori chant and glimpsed a war canoe paddling up the lake. It sounded surreal as it echoed around the hills. Turned out to be a group of Maori students and their teacher. Wish we had been closer to video the moment. We drove back and had lunch at the Golf course cafe near Taupo, where a pretty little fantail kept flitting in and landing on the chandeliers to check out everyone. The waitress told us this bird has been doing this daily for the past six years. Back home to end the day with a glorious sunset over the lake.

Steaming water and algae make interesting patterns at Orakei Korako geothermal area, on the Waikato River, Taupo.

Day 14
We headed south around the Lake again today and stopped at Turangi, to have lunch at the Rockabilly styled, themed 50's & 60's retro, Cadillac cafe. Great ambience, with posters and era memoribillia and great music. Very enjoyable. From there, we continued on to Kinloch, which is a quiet little town on the shores of the lake. Sheltered and sleepy, but with upmarket homes, so it must be an affluent area.

Lunch at the 1950's style Cadillac Cafe. Great menu, decor and music.

Day 15
Went to the Waitomo caves today, at Te Kuiti, where we had booked in for a tour of the Spellbound Glow worm caves. We hopped onto a small transit bus where our guide, Hohepa gave us a great commentary on the drive to the caves. We walked through a dry cave first, where we saw the skeletal remains of a Moa and where a brilliants shaft of light greeted us at the end, where it was coming in through a sinkhole. With the lights off, the blackness was complete. We then went off to another cave, where we hopped onto a rubber raft and floated through a magnificent scene of light show, from the thousands of glow worms. I hadn't realised that they had a silky curtain of shimmering threads hanging down to trap insects, until a headlamp lit them up. Well worth the cost to experience that, today. Back to the Stoked Eatery in Te Kuiti, for lunch. This cafe is housed in the old railway station buildings, with enclosed tables along the station platform. The station is a working railway and trains stop there to drop off and take on passengers. It was unusual and a great idea.

The Spellbound Waitomo glow worm caves at Te Kuiti, near Hamilton.

Day 16
We left Taupo today and headed north to our next destination, Mount Maunganui. We stopped at Rotorua for lunch and to have a look at some thermal mud pools and a redwood forest. Phew, what a smelly place. We did a walk in the Whakarewarewa Forest, amongst the giant redwoods, which was amazing to see how straight and tall they grew. All too soon we were off again to the unit at Maunganui. It was late afternoon as the girls headed off for a walk to the shops, while Mark and I headed off for a walk along the beach. The unit was modern but I was surprised at how small a two bedroom unit could be. No room for storage, so I assume that they are built for short stay holiday accommodation only. Comfortable though.

Owen Dippie's Girl with a Pearl Earing, street mural, Tauranga.

Day 17
Spent the day just wandering around and discovering the surrounds of Maunganoui. Had ice cream and ate out at a nice restaurant for dinner.

View from Mount Maunganui, sunrise.

Day 18
Woke up early this morning to get some sunrise photos from the top of Mount Maunganoui. I was amazed at how many people were hiking and running up the track to the top. It is apparently THE thing to do, here. I had to make an exerted effort just to hike up, but made it. Mark had left before me and we apparently passed each other on the summit, without realising. We had breakfast later on and then drove out to Tauranga to check out the street murals painted by a local street artist, Owen Dippie. The detail and depth created with spray cans, is amazing. After that, we checked out the vintage aircraft museum, which was also very interesting. Mark and I took a joyflight in a DC3 Dakota, the Powhaitere, which was built in Oklahoma City in 1944. It has been restored and now serves for scheduled flights, airshows, charters and joy flights. What a buzz.

Coming in over a dreary day on Botany Bay.

Day 19
Took off this morning for the road back to Auckland and to return the hire car before checking in for our return flight to Sydney. The holiday is over until the next one.



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