Sunday, 30 December 2012

New Zealand - Post 8

Tuesday 25 Dec

A slow start to the day with bacon & eggs for breakfast, then we visited the Waikato River walk which included the Memorial Park with a war memorial, anchor, life-size model of a Spitfire, and a nearby children's park with an aviary. 

Further down, closer to the river was the remains of the oldest metal boat the paddle steamer Rangiriri. Next it was on to the Hamilton Gardens, which were excellent. They have created a hub which leads to several themed gardens, Japanese, English Country, Chinese, Indian, Maori, Sustainable, Herb, Modern American, and Italian. 

These were really well done, and we thoroughly enjoyed them. There was also the 'Turtle Lake' (with no turtles that we could see), and a large rose garden. 

We sat in the shade in to have lunch – the special treat was some cherries, before wandering along the riverbank, and up to the Hamilton East Cemetery. It was 24oC and mostly sunny (we had a light shower just as we arrived), and back at the motel I had a swim to cool off. For Happy Hour, I made some mulled wine, which we enjoyed with a Blue Brie. Dinner was Thai spiced baked salmon with asparagus, followed by blueberries & chocolate.

Wednesday 26 Dec
Drove North, and stopped at Huntly to do their Lake Hakanoa Walkway. There were absolutely no signs from the highway, and it was really only with OziExplorer, (my little mouse GPS and the maps on my netbook), that I was able to find the right way there. Despite it being in the brochure, it was fairly disappointing, so we only did a little walk before continuing. 

We stopped at Rangiriri, the site of one of NZ's bloodiest land wars. The cemetery, which has the commemoration of those killed (Maori & Paheka), was done up very well. 

Showers and rain all the way from Auckland to Whangarei, where we stopped at Central Court Motel. It seemed quite peaceful, being a bit out of town, and set back from the road up a hill. There was a communal kitchen, with a nice deck at the back, to sit and have wine and cheese while looking out over the bay. A couple of NZ fantails were fluttering around the nearby trees, but I still haven't been able to get a decent photo.
Thursday 27 Dec
Went to visit Abbey Caves at Whangerei. There were 3 caves - and we went in the first one. It had waist deep water, but Darryl was tall enough to get himself along the walls without getting in deeper than his thighs. It was definitely worth it though, as the cavern had glow-worms that looked like the milky way, and we were able to get lovely shots of the threads (which we have not been able to do before.

The second cave didn't seem to have a water flow, and didn't look as interesting, so we didn't go in, but the last cave had a huge entrance and had really good stalactites.

I thoroughly enjoyed this caving, with fast running water, there was no dust or guano (like Mt Etna).

We then went back to Mt Parihaka Lookout, which has the War Memorial, and great views of Whangerei.

The next site of interest was Whangerei Falls. We both thought we would have seen these falls last time, but we are pretty sure now that we didn't. There is a nice loop walk around them.

Friday 28 Dec
Had our worst night due to mozzies keeping us awake through the night, so got up late. Darryl spoke to Ross, one of the owners, after breakfast, and he told us about a really good Kauri walk not far away, which was now closed. We drove up the road (and were thrilled to see a pair of quail with their little striped chicks), and initially found a very old track, and went in a way before deciding to go back to a nicely marked Kauri walk. The track had recently been done up, and went in to two very large Kauri trees, which were just magnificent. 

Along the way was the best example of a large round-leafed fern (I think it is called Kidney Fern) I have seen. 

A bit closer to the start of the road was another walk. We started along, but then decided to defer and have lunch on the foreshore of Pahia, and then do our shopping. When we came out of the supermarket, 3 kids came up asking if 'this' was our car. When we said yes, they said that someone had run into it. I asked if they had the number plate, and they said 'yes', for $10! Obviously we told them where to go! A driver behind had seen an old grey man hit the back of our car with his, get out and look, and then drive off, but didn't get any details. So, our trip back to the Motel was via the Police Station to make a report. We were so tired from our broken night's sleep that we both had an afternoon nap, before retiring to the cool of the deck. Eventually Darryl couldn't sit still any longer and took a walk up our road. After dark (9:30pm) we went on another Kiwi hunt, but all we saw was a possum running up a hill, and some spider eyes glistening from the bushes.
Saturday 29 Dec
A better night, as Darryl took 'measures' to ensure we didn't get mozzie problems again. Drove to look at KeriKeri, Mangonui, Ngatu Lake (don't bother with this one!), Ninety Mile Beach and the Aupori Peninsula. 

Had lunch at Pukenui before heading back through Kaitaia, then East. Drove into Omahuta Forest, but the road got very narrow and there were big potholes, so we only went as far as the giant Kauri stump (the purple line outlines the stump - more or less) before turning back. 

I wasn't game, after that, to direct Darryl into Pukenui Forest. Then we stopped at Kawakawa, but could not see the famous (or infamous) Hunderwasser's Toilets. Got 'home' and it was pretty hot, so had a cool off in the pool. 

Monday, 24 December 2012

New Zealand - Post 7

Thursday 20 Dec

We started on some of the many walks around Whakatane. The first was a loop track – Mokoroa reserve through the forest – it had LOTS of steps. Next we walked out to Kohi Point Headland – the Toi Pa is one of the oldest in New Zealand. 

The locals here are very friendly and helpful. After some lunch beside the river mouth we drove east to Opotiki. 

Initially, it looked like there was pretty much nothing to be seen, but the i-Site guy pointed us to an interesting suspension walking bridge, and then a Reserve which had lots of native trees including a 2000 year old burial tree (where Maori had buried the bones of their ancestors until they were exposed by a big storm, when they relocated them). 

At night we drove over the headland to Ohope Beach and went Kiwi hunting. Unfortunately, we didn't hear or see any, but there were lots of lovely glowworms lighting our path. It was a huge day - 17 hours and I walked 22280 steps (Darryl would have done a few more as he walked down a track at Kohi Point.

Friday 21 Dec – the End of The World! ;-)

What better activity for the 'End of the World' than a boat trip out to White Island, an active volcano, on the vessell Pee Jay V. We had been tossing up whether or not to do it, but it was excellent. The boat took about 1 hour 20 minutes to get to the island, where we were shuttled in on an inflatable. We were handed hard-hats and gas masks (which I thought was a bit dramatic – until I had to use it!). 

The place had amazing colours, with lots of sulphur giving yellow and orange hues, then other parts had pink rocks, and some looked quite green. There were large sulphur mounds, which we were warned not to walk on as they could collapse down, boiling mud pools, sulphur spouts with Sulphur dioxide and Carbon dioxide in the steam pouring out and bright yellow sulpur crystals all around. 

We were able to walk right up to the edge of the crater lake, which has dropped substantially, one of the reasons the volcano is currently on a Level 2 alert. You can see the live webcam at – look for the little yellow dots that are the safety helmets of tour participants. Then it was down to the bay to view the remains of the Sulphur Mining operations, before embarking back to Whakatane. On the way back we came across large schools of Bluefish, which really were bright blue, and were gulping air at the surface of the ocean, and then a huge pod of common dolphins which seemed happy to play with us for a while. 

The skipper circled us around a few times so everyone could get a good view. Once back on shore we drove to Tauranga for the night, and stayed at Ambassador Motor Inn.
Saturday 22 Dec

Leaving Tauranga and heading for Hamilton, we stopped at McLaren Falls Park. This is a georgous park with a lovely waterfall, tracks, open grassed areas, lakes, with lots of birds, camping facilities (including lovely toilet and shower facilities). It would be a great place to camp at only $5 a night. Next we came into Matamata where the i-Site looks like a “Lord of the Rings” building. 

Down the road was Hobbiton - slept in the car while I went in on the tour. You get taken by a 1950s vintage bus onto the film set (which they said covers around 10 acres). 

I could not believe how many Hobbit houses they had created...and there were lots of props with tiny clothes on clotheslines, letterboxes, tiny beehives, even vegetable gardens and fruit trees. 

The set was used for the filming of all three Lord of the Rings movies, and more recently for The Hobbit. 

The walk around Hobbiton culminated at The Green Dragon where we were treated to Hobbit Beer beside the fireplace (although the day was so warm, that was a bit of overkill). 

We arrived in Hamilton, and made our way to the Ascot Lodge Motel, (very retro, seems like 1950's style, but clean and we have 2 rooms, and it IS cheap), which will be our home until Boxing Day.
Sunday 23 Dec

We took a short trip to Te Aroha. We loved this place the first time we visited it in 2005, and it didn't fail to impress again. The Mokena Soda Geyser was not really spurting to its full splendor, but I saw it 3 times (it goes off approx. every 40-45 minutes). We did a short walk to see 3 lots of waterfalls – Crusher, Quarry and Tutmangao – along what it known as Horsemans Track, then at a junction I headed back down to the Domain, while Darryl continued up to the Summit of Te Aroha Mountain. 

We then continued along to Wairongomai Valley to walk up to the old gold mining areas. There are batteries, races, and an old railcart track. 

The Tui Mine, which we had visited last time, is closed for works.
Monday 24 Dec

We woke to heavy rain, which had been predicted 2 days ago, but finally arrived. This meant a very slow start to the day. After an early lunch we visited Hamilton Museum. I had not remembered that we had been to it before, until I saw the waka (Maori Canoe). We spent a few hours looking at exhibits and reading some history books, before going to the Library, where I did some genealogical research. Hamilton is a very pleasant place to be, there are beautiful trees along the Waikato River. Apparently this is also the birthplace of 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show', and has the Riff Raff statue.

We did a little shopping for Christmas then headed home to our motel.