Wednesday, 19 October 2005

New Zealand Trip to North Island 2005

Photos from our NZ trip in Oct/Nov 2005

19 Oct 2005
Well - here we are in NZ! Just finding our way around. Still in Auckland, picked up the van this morning. It is a bit showery and overcast, and reasonably cool..well - maybe even cold!

Have already seen our first sheep - right in the middle of the city! Went up Mt Eden in the centre of is a volcanic crater..and they have it all fenced off with sheep and cattle to keep the grass down.

I had to come all the way to NZ to see my first Waratah! There are lots of nice gardens here, even in the older parts of town.

Our plan was to head North from Auckland but after studying the on-line weather maps, headed South to avoid the complex weather pattern.

26 Oct 2005 Well, we are having a GREAT time! It was a bit rainy the first few days, but has now cleared up and is perfect! We took a bit of a back road down the coast from Auckland, going to places like Port Waikato. The road was gravel and there were quite a few abandoned and burnt out cars on the sides of the road! A night was spent at Raglan, and we were told later that just before we arrived fishermen had caught a huge great white shark in their nets 11 km off the beach - and it had an 80 kilogram seal in it's stomach.We visited Hamilton and went to the museum there.

Hamilton Museum

At Otorohanga there was a lovely caravan park (although they call them Motor Parks here.. so we have to get used to the terminology!), and I visited the Kiwi House which had all sorts of local animals, birds (kiwi), gecko's, and tuatara's.  That night we stayed at Juno Hall Backpacker's and I found a very friendly deer! I was really thinking that my encounter with a deer over here would be on my plate!

Te Toto Gorge Scenic Reserve

At Waitomo we went on the 'Spellbound' Tour which took us through Mangawhitikau Cave on a raft which was a magical tour of the glowworms in the limestone cave system.

Before we left Waitomo, we visited the very interesting museum, then went on some nice walks to see the Raukuri natural tunnel, Haggas Lookout (we could see Ruapeho 100km away), Natural Bridge and Marokopa Falls. At Marakopa Beach we arrived just in time to see a local handmade raft race, and take in the beauty of the black sand.

We took another back road down the coast and had a whitebait omelet and Kumara chips at Mokau. The omelet cost $13 and neither of us think it was that great! :-)

A chance find was the 3 sisters - which was at the Tongaporutu River. You only have access to them at low tide, and there are actually only 2 left, but they were still very impressive. We camped there the night, as we had arrived at about 7pm and the tide was low just at that time. Further down the coast was the White Cliffs. Darryl went for a run to get the photo, as these could only be accessed at low tide too!

Mount Egmont

The next stop was New Plymouth...a 'really' lovely little city. We walked around their Pukekura Park (with the Rhododendron display) and Brooklyn Zoo, and stayed at the Belt Road Holiday Park. We were right on the top of the cliff overlooking the beach, (also Tasman Sea), and the port off to the South, and we had a lovely view of Mt Egmont from the window of the camper. It was covered in cloud, but at dusk and and dawn the clouds cleared and we had a lovely view of the peak.

Early the next morning we climbed Mt Egmont to the Communication Tower, and returned by a path down a ridge. This was Darryl's first time seeing snow, and we even threw snowballs at each other. It was also really refreshing to eat! Darryl even skied a little way (just on his shoes)!

We stayed at Stratford last night with Arthur and Ann Davis, family friends. This morning we went up the South flank on Mt Egmont to Dawson's Falls.

Fanthams Peak and Mount Egmont

View from tower near National Parks office

Dawson's Falls

Driving up to the ski field

We have then headed down to Wanganui, where we had lunch in a park, and are now at Tongariro National Park, staying at Whakapapa Village, just below the snowline. Darryl went for a short walk along Tongariro Northern Circuit track.

It looks like we might even be able to have a go at skiing tomorrow! Rhuapehu is a volcano here which erupted not too long ago - 1996!

2 November

We did go skiing and it was hilarious. Neither of us had skied before so we hired the equipment and purchased a training session with one of the instructors. After receiving instructions, we attempted to ski down the slope on the beginners course. To us, the slope seemed dangerously steep and ended at a mound of snow with bare rock just past it. Both of us spent more time on our butts then standing and once our hands turned cold from hanging onto the tow rope, stopped for lunch. Darryl tried to master the art but gave up when his fingers started to ache with the cold from hanging onto the rope that pulled us up the slope for the start of each run down. Next morning, we drove back down from the village and stopped at the Mounds and the site of the 1953 Tangiwai Railway Distater. The mounds were formed when a slurry of mud, rocks flowed down the side of Rhuapehu about 5,000 and 10,000 years ago.

The railway disaster occurred on Christmas Eve after the sudden release of approximately 2 million cubic metres of water from the crater lake of nearby Mt Ruapehu. A 6-metre-high wave containing water, ice, mud and rocks surged, tsunami-like, down the Whangaehu River. The lahar weakened the concrete pylons of the Tangiwai railway bridge. As the bridge buckled beneath its weight, the engine plunged into the river, taking all five second-class carriages with it. The force of the torrent destroyed four of these carriages – those inside had little chance of survival. 
It is really picturesque here! Lovely rolling green pastures with plenty of sheep, dairy cattle, some goats and deer, mixed with rainforest with huge tree-ferns. It gets light at 6.30 in the morning and is still light at 8pm at night!

Called into the Wellington Botanical Gardens and went for a walk around this picturesque park.

The Karori Wildlife Sanctuary was our next stop and it offered views of Wellington's water catchment area. The sanctuary is surrounded by a high fence to keep out introduced predictors.

Next stop was the Te Papa Museum (Wellington). 29/10

From Wellington we headed back north to find the little town of Bunnythorpe where we took a couple of photos for the benefit of friends who had relatives living there before migrating to Australia. 

30/10 We continued on to Hastings then onto Napier. As it was still too early in the day, we headed for Taupo. About an hours drive from Napier, we stopped at lookout that overlooked Waipunga Falls and took a few photos.

Waipunga Falls

Spa Thermal Park
We arrived late to Taupo and after booking into the caravan park, drove to the Spa Thermal Park that had a zipline and a track that followed the Waikato River past a Bungee Jumping building that projected out over the river. Further along the park we met some locals (hoodies) who seemed very intent on not being in any of our photo.

Huka Falls
31/10 Next morning we followed the Thermal Explorer Highway to Huka falls. These falls, while short in height, is where the full flow of the Waikato River narrows resulting in the clear blue water to roaring over these magnificent falls. 

Our next destination was the Craters of the Moon. Here geothermal activity was visible over a large area. 

Craters of the Moon

Wairakei Geothermal Power Station

Huka Prawn Park
We were told about the gates that open at set times on the Waikato River as part of the hydro electric scheme and not long after we arrived, sirens started to blast and the gates slowly opened to allow the river to flow onto Taupo.


View from Mount Manganui

Mount Manganui

9 Nov 2005

From Mt Manganui we went to a little place called Morrinsville to visit my Aunty Clare. She was pleased to see us, and we shared a nice meal. 

There is a really neat little town north of there, called Te Aroha, where we saw a soda geyser. (It was actually better than the one I had seen in Rotarua..and paid to see!). 

Karangahake Gorge

Karangahake Gorge
Karangahake Gorge was 'really' interesting...with old gold mines and disused railways through the gorge. Then it was up to the beautiful Coramandel Peninsula, where we first stayed at Whangamata. (The Wh at the beginning is pronounced 'F' - we found out!) 

A pretty amazing place here is the Hot Water Beach where at low tide you can dig a pool in the sand and it fills up with hot water! We arrived just at the right time, and Darryl found a great spring which was so hot it burnt! 

Cathedral Cove

A bit further north was Cathedral Cove, a 45 min walk down to some really amazing sandstone formations on the shore. 

There was also a place called Cook's Beach where Captain Cook landed and measured the transit of Venus. Coming down the West Coast of Coromandel was 'really' windy! At the lookout I could barely keep the camera still! The road was also very narrow along the edge of the beach.

We stayed in a National Park at Kaueranga, and walked to Billy Goat Landing and Falls. This was an area logged very heavily for Kauri Pine. We then had to try and navigate our way through Auckland to get up to Northland. I spent an hour and a half in the wonderful Kauri Museum, and certainly could have spent more. Dargaville is a lovely little town on the West Coast, and to the north of it we visited Kai Iwi Lakes which are freshwater dune lakes. The main highway includes a ferry crossing from Rawene, which was kind of fun! Last night was spend at Tauranga Bay in the North. It is very nice and there was plenty of opportunity for lovely sunset photos.

Haruru Falls

Church at Paihai

Today has been a bit of a historical day, as the current areas Kerikeri, Paihai and Russell are all areas of early European settlement. In Russell the earliest burial in the church was 1836! The stone store at Kerikeri was built in 1832, and there was a wooden house from 1821.

Caravan Park at Russell
Tomorrow we are looking at a sailing trip in the Bay of Islands!

20 Nov 2005

Sailing on the 50' catamaran was just magical! The day was lovely and we chased the dolphin pods in the Bay for quite some time, and got some great shots. Then, it was time to don the wetsuits and jump in for a swim with them! It didn't work too well for me - it was 'really' hard work in the choppy, cold water...but Darryl got pretty close, and they played with the swimmers.

View from Urukapuka Island

 Still, just amazing! We were then dropped off on Urupukapuka Island - some went for a hike up the hill, and I went snorkelling. Darryl did both, before we were picked up for a BBQ lunch on the cat. We then cruised across the bay..seeing fairy penguins and gannets. 

After landing, we went back to the church at Russell, as I had heard that the wooden building still held the holes from musket fire in the Maori wars..sure enough..we found them! 

The lookout at Flagstaff Hill allowed great views of the Bay, as well as views of a 'beach house' for rent at a mere $35,000 per night. The flagpole at the top of the hill had been cut down several times in its history.

Whangarei Falls
The remaining trip down the coast to Auckland was fairly quick and uneventful, apart from Whangarei Fall and Waipu Cove Lookout, and the Park we stayed in overnight boasted another thermal pool which was very relaxing. 

We booked into a final motel, cleaned the motor home, and took one final drive into Auckland to visit the museum. This one also boasted a lot of cultural material, and I went to see one of the cultural shows, which was very interesting. This museum also houses the War Museum for NZ

We then returned the van - sighed with relief when there were no damages found and were dropped off at the Motel for our final night in NZ. At dinner, Darryl tried out the NZ Tui Beer, and after I tasted his, I also ordered one. It was very tasty, and complemented my Indian Prawn Curry very nicely!

At times in NZ you could almost imagine that you were in still in Australia..if you closed your eyes you could smell the gum trees (yes, they are everywhere there), and hear the magpies calling (a pest introduced from here), but then you would open your eyes and see a carpet of iridescent green grass under the trees, and smell the dead possums and you knew you were in NZ

It is a place where a lukewarm 5 min shower can cost you up to 50c - on top of your Motor Park fee; Internet generally costs $2 for 15 minutes (which is why you didn't get any more regular bulletins from me); the most beautiful plants grow wild along the edges of the road - glowing white arum lilies, nasturtiums, purple agapanthus and fennel (we had this fresh every day on our lunch salads - picked from side country roads, not the main highways); we had happy hour each afternoon on NZ wine and cheeses, but also enjoyed NZ green-lipped mussels, whitebait (hmmm..not sure about that one), Kumara chips, little red yams, Wasabi Peas, Chicken Bacon (no pork in this), tender and crisp asparagus, NZ lamb chops and kidneys, and delicious smoked mussels, Orange Roughey, and Trevally from Coromandel. 

New Zealanders are great recyclers (apart from all the dumped, smashed, stolen (?) cars that are all along their roads), and despite being so close to Australia some things are strangely different - you buy a 'chip of strawberries', shopping trolleys are called 'trundlers' and junk mail is called 'circulars', and they are all really proud of their local 'Warehouse' - nearly every local proudly pointed it out in their town. It seems to be a bit more upmarket there than in Oz, with things such as Sony cameras and tvs. I finally got used to their $1 & $2 coins and am now having trouble back here! Most of all it is a lovely green, wet place, with a hint of the ominous in all their volcanic activity, and I would thoroughly recommend it as a holiday destination! But, it is really nice to be back home! :-)