A Travellerspoint blog

144 Islands in one location

We didn’t see them all but drove (sailed) through one of them.

sunny 24 °C
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Upon leaving Kaiwaka, we headed North via the Whangerei Town Basin for a spot of lunch in a quayside café in the sunshine (Jo – thanks for the suggestion) and then a stop at some ‘well known’ toilets (seriously – this is the second lot of NZ famous toilets we’ve come across – is this country normal?!) – photo to come. Bay of Islands was our next (and most Northern) stop. Basically it is an area of 144 Islands off the coast. Pretty nice place but did not have the ‘wow’ factor the Coromandel peninsula had. We still had a great time though. 3 nights in 1 place was good (staying in Paihia with our room directly on the sea front) and we had a number of good ‘trips’. First was a boat ride where we saw dolphins, harboured on one of the larger islands (Urupukapuka) where Captain Cook first took shelter, and went out to the famous ‘Hole in the Rock’ – as it sounds – and with tides in your favour it’s large enough to fit a (decent-sized) boat through. Going through this was an experience. The weather at sea had turned rough and the rain came down. We sat looking at the hole watching another boat considering the drive through. Each skipper makes their own decision and the other boat’s skipper chose not to go through but, after a few minutes, ours took the plunge and we sailed right through (although a strong grip to hold on was needed as the waves were choppy on the other side) so we can now say we’ve sailed through the middle of an island! We also spent some time in Russell (a quaint town) across the water and did a tandem parasail (i.e. the two of us together) where Helen, after getting up there, realised that she is not the best with heights (but still enjoyed the views from above despite the rain coming just at the wrong time)! We also went Kayaking down the Waitangi River, which, for those who are not hot on their NZ history, is where the Treaty of Waitangi (NZ’s founding document) was signed on 6th Feb 1840. The kayaking also meant that anything that wasn’t already wet from our dunking at the end of the parasailing got a second chance at a soaking. All in all, a nice place, some new experiences and time to chill all washed down with some good food and of course a little Sauvignon Blanc (oh how we are going to miss this good local wine)! Next stop heading back to Auckland for our final NZ destination and catching up with more old friends.

Posted by neilthelr 23:54 Archived in New Zealand Tagged boats driving sightseeing Comments (0)

Christchurch, our thoughts are with you

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Yesterday’s earthquake in Christchurch is a little too close to home for us. Most people travel north to south when they visit New Zealand. We chose south to north so we got to Auckland at the end. Had we followed the usual route we would be about to arrive in Christchurch. Whilst we’re thankful we’re not caught up in this disaster we can’t quite believe that the wonderful city we visited only 2.5 weeks ago looks like a war zone. We have pictures of the Cathedral we took ourselves, which has now lost it’s spire. There’s a picture of a building (the Baptist Church) that we posted on this blog that we thought demonstrated the damage from the Sept 4th 2010 quake rather well: that building no longer exists. The white pillars have fallen as have the side walls and roof. Only the front and back red-brick walls still stand! The building on the opposite corner to where we stayed, which was undergoing repair, is now partially collapsed. We took pictures of the green-roofed bandstand from outside the Pyne Gould Building, which is featuring on the news a lot as it pancaked downwards and it’s where people are still trapped. There are numerous other buildings and streets we’ve seen on the news that we walked past or down that are now badly damaged or strewn with debris and can’t quite believe it. Our thoughts are with those still trapped or who have lost loved ones.

Posted by neilthelr 13:35 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

I can see 7 houses from here

And none of them within a kilometre

sunny 26 °C
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We should explain that Jo(anne) is an old school friend of Neil’s whom he hasn’t seen for about 17 years. She and Simon (her hubby) have been in NZ for 11 so that hasn’t helped. They live in Kaiwaka but they don’t really; they’re 12kms out to the west and have become ‘lifestyle farmers’ (or something like that) whilst still doing their ‘career’ jobs. They live in the most idyllic spot with their cows, chickens, baby turkeys and bees and we had the good fortune of spending a couple of nights with them. We both grew up in fairly rural locations so this was like going back to our childhoods (without the smell of Sugar Beet though). We spent the 2 nights sat on their deck eating and drinking (Simon’s homebrew – very nice by the way) and catching up. We went to the unspoilt Ruakaka beach on Saturday and watched some boating folk try to row faster than each other – we didn’t understand how ‘our’ team were doing but it was a good way to spend an afternoon, particularly when it’s capped with a Tip-Top ice-cream. You realise when you stay somewhere like theirs how simple and calming life could be; a very relaxing couple of days and just fantastic to catch up with them after so long. Scarily, if we wait another 17 years, we’ll be in our 50s! If you read this guys, many thanks again. It was great to see you both. The home grown melon has been partly consumed already and the tomatoes and cucumber is in tomorrow’s sandwiches 

Posted by neilthelr 22:06 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Fush, Chups and Sav

And boiling hot water on a beach

sunny 25 °C
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There aren’t many places on this trip where we’re only stopping one night; Hahei in the Coromandel was one of them. And the instant we arrived we got the feeling we’d want to be there longer. And so it was. We had a really warm welcome from the couple that run the B&B we were staying in, dumped our stuff (in our really nice room) and headed out to do the walk to Cathedral Cove, which we knew was shut! To start with the view from the car park is simply stunning. We passed the ‘track closed’ signs with gay abandon and headed down the track. It takes you to the top of the cliff, about 30m above the beach and that’s when you discover why the track is closed. The recent landslides have washed the steps out completely so we used tree roots and part-worn foot holds to get down the last section to the beach. It was worth it though as it’s a beautiful cove. The journey back was less adventurous (going up the slope was easier than down) but it was mostly up hill. We got back in to Hahei, took a trip to the beach where we got inspiration for dinner. We dropped the car back at the B&B, borrowed a blanket and some wine glasses, nipped to the fish and chip shop (fush and chups if you’re a Kiwi), grabbed a bottled of chilled Sauvignon Blanc from the shop next door and headed to the beach for sunset, which was peaceful, fun and amazing to watch, particularly as it was also a full moon. The following day was leaving day  but we were heading to Hot Water Beach for low tide. We used the beach towels from the B&B, borrowed their spades, took heed of the instructions on where to dig and what to do and headed to the beach. The whole point is the water is hot – I mean 60 degrees Celsius hot!! – so you have to find a spot to balance the temperature. We just followed the early arrivals and dug a big bath-sized hole to lie in. About another 250 people arrived after us to do the same! It was carnage, but quite comical. We left after a couple of hours, showered back at the B&B, returned the spades etc., had a chat, listened in dismay when the local knowledge told us it would be about 5 hours to our next stop (Google said 3.5) and we’d hit Auckland at rush hour. Joy. With not being at work and not really tracking the time or days we’d forgotten it was a Friday. Guess what? Google was wrong. We crawled through Auckland and got to Jo and Simon’s pretty much 5 hours later. Not the best journey but their place is in the middle of the country so the stresses of traffic jams were left far behind.

Posted by neilthelr 22:04 Archived in New Zealand Tagged sightseeing Comments (0)

Volcanoes and Maori make for an interesting mix

1 day, 2 tours. All good

sunny 24 °C
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Unusually we booked ourselves on 2 tours today; an eco-tour around the geothermal sights and the Mitai Maori experience this evening. And both were great. The geothermal stuff was both fascinating and was made interesting with some additional information from our Ecology-trained Maori guide who grew up in the area. The diversity of the colours brought about by a combination of the volcanic activity mixing with the minerals underground then surfacing is amazing and the bubbling mud pools have to be seen to be believed. We took in the museum this afternoon then did the Maori experience this evening. Whilst it is designed for tourists you get a real sense of pride in what they’re sharing with you and it doesn’t feel tacky. We experienced the Hangi (meal cooked in the underground oven), saw the ‘warriors’ in their canoe then got some entertainment seeing / hearing some of their traditional songs culminating in the performance of the Haka. The evening was really good. In fact, we both feel like we’ve had a great day.

Posted by neilthelr 12:38 Archived in New Zealand Tagged sightseeing Comments (0)

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