Monday, 31 January 2011

Mooching in Moeraki

Dear all
Today was everything you could imagine in such a magical, tranquil place. We woke up to find that most of the wind had abated and the sun was shining. The whole bay and the crib were bathed in a beautiful light.  We spent most of the day sitting in the window enjoying the view, reading and sampling  the local fish and chips. We managed to locate the visitors book which has been in use since the crib was first built 80 years ago. It is interesting to read the guest comments and the change in use of language from over the years.  There are a couple of entries I thought really pertinent and have half inched them into the blog to share with you all.
A little crib on a hill, where geraniums riot and flaunt their brilliance against the green.                Red shingles beaches and sparkling sea. Sit on a sun warmed rock and dangle a wet line to catch an unwary fish. Pleasant in anticipation. Charming in reality. Fragrant in retrospect. Moeraki! Thy name is tranquility. -  NW Corbett January 24th 1945.
Another one:
Sun and wind and laughter, and the wave swept shelly spaces
Dusk and starlight after and the smile of friendly faces
There we share, as we fare in Moeraki's pleasant places         
'Adapted' - Kate McKenney Xmas 1946       
I think these really sum up the place and you can really feel the happiness and tranquility  around the place.
So this afternoon we walked down the hill from the crib and took the windy millennium trail along the village out onto the point where we climbed & were buffeted up to an old whaler's lookout  and then we crossed to another equally windy headland where the trail ended at a memorial to mark the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the settlement. We saw a few seals, but no penguins.  Walked back to the local tavern so Dean could get his 'tonic' and then back to the crib about 8.30 in plenty of time to watch dusk fall over the bay. Stunning relaxing day.....................

Sunday, 30 January 2011

The International Antarctic Centre

Hi All
Today I finally got to visit the most fabulous International Antarctic Centre, which is part of a huge complex built for the administration of the NZ, US & Italian Antarctic programmes. Its a really interesting place full of historical, geographical zoological and plenty of other 'ical' exhibits!! I especially liked the room which reenacts an ice storm. The room has snow on the floor an Igloo & an ice slide ans is kept at a room temperature at minus 8 - cripes!! Every 30 minutes though they add a wind storm that adds a wind chill factor that takes the room down to minus 18 - boy that was cold especially as we were in shorts and flip flops!! The other fab bit was a added extra we paid for to have in interactive tour with their blue & white flippered  penguin colony. These are what they call 'second chance' penguins and have all been taken as they have injuries which mean that they would not survive in the wild.  The blue Penguin is the smallest penguin the world and averages about 30cm high and they are soooooo cute!!
Well we spent far too long wondering around the place so as a consequence had to rush down to Ashburton our next stop. Dean's captain at Esher cricket had kindly arranged for us to use the family holiday crib in Moeraki for a few days so we had dropped into meet his lovely mother Patricia and her husband Bill. As we have found throughout NZ we got a true Kiwi welcome with tea and Muffins from a truly lovely couple.  Before we knew it a couple of hours had passed and we were packed off with a 'spare' bag of muffins and loads of advice on walks and places to visit.
Before we knew it (well 2.5hrs later) we were in Moeraki a place which is predominantly famous for its ancient spherical boulders, but is full of little walking tracks and areas of interest including having its own colony of seals and Yellow-eyed penguins. The wind was still strong so we just ensconced ourselves in the crib  and lit a fire to warm it through. The crib was built in 1931 by Bill's great grandfather and has been used by the family & friends ever since as a holiday retreat. Over the years a bathroom and other mod cons like electricity, sewage and running water have been added, but it still retains is quaint and tranquil feel.  More of that tomorrow!
Night all

Saturday, 29 January 2011

More Cricket......................

Dear all

Today we were

supposed to spend our last day in Christchurch at the utterly brilliant International Antarctic Centre, but our plans got changed at the last minute by a very excited Dean who had 'discovered'  that the next one day international between New Zealand and Pakistan was to be held at the Ami Stadium! So we whizzed into  the centre of time and had lunch in a very lovely street market which had loads of cute stalls with hand made artisan products. I even had a little spend on a really beautiful felted scarf with matching rose brooch - whoops! We then had time to wander around the really lovely botanic gardens before heading off to the game. The stadium is really  a concrete stadium built for rugby so doesn't have the romance of an old ground such as the Basin in Wellington, but none the less has a very picturesque view over the Tui stand towards the Port hills and Mount Cavendish. 
Now New Zealand for some reason had dropped Vitori & Ryder & a couple of other regulars from the squad so Dean was a little concerned as to how long we would be in the ground. However, we heard that Pakistan were already 2 wickets down after 10 minutes (On time as always!!) so thought it might be game on. But no sooner had we bought our tickets then from no where the wind got stronger and stronger until we were almost blown around the ground &  into our seats. This was OK whilst the sun was shining on us as it was still quite warm, but as it was a day-nighter and as the sun slunk down behind the grandstand it got steadily colder and so did NZ chances of winning the game as they threw away chance after chance! Suffice to say we could see where it was headed so scooted out before we froze to our seats & headed for the warmth of the van.
Thanks for looking

Friday, 28 January 2011


 Dear all

Today we ventured into the middle of Christchurch, which is often described as a replica of a typical English town and we could quickly see why. The Centre is dominated by an Anglican cathedral and punting is De rigor on the gently flowing Avon which winds its way through the city, whilst a tramway reminiscent of something from Blackpool promenade trundles its way in a circuit around the main sights.
However since the earthquakes of last year and the subsequent 4,000+ aftershocks the landscape has taken on a different view of concrete blocks used to retain building facades with masses of temporary supporting works. We were quite shocked at the level of damage as had really thought that although the city had 'rocked' the media had not really given the impression that much had occurred.  We still managed to wander round quite well even if some of the museums, shops & restaurants were closed.
The Canterbury Museum was really interesting and had a fascinating exhibition on Scott and his expedition to the Antarctic and the Maori artifacts stunning.  I don’t really have much more to say about Christchurch it’s pretty, green and very anglofied in a way that is positive only the Kiwi's could do it and I loved it.
The weather unusually (for us I hasten to say) had got very windy and a bit cold so we cheated on the cooking from and went for a very nice Thai meal. As  write up this post snuggled up in the van a few drops of rain are bouncing gently off the roof. I suppose it couldn't last forever!
Tomorrow we are going to the International Antarctic Centre which coordinates the administration of the NZ, US & Italian Antarctic expeditions & then as we are not yet totally bored of cricket we are off to watch the 4th ODI between NZ & Pakistan.
Bit of cricket talk now  - Glad to see England have pulled one back against the Aussies in their ODI series even if it is 3-1 now - I suppose we could potentially win 3-4!! Lastly I want to vent some steam in the latest debacle to hit the cricket world cup with the likely cancellation of the venue for the India v England game at Eden gardens. I know so many people who were just flying out for this game as a long weekend and are now faced with either a penalized cancellation or more internal flights.  BCCI SORT IT OUT!!
Right signing off for now

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Bonjour Mon Amies

Hi Everyone
This morning awoke to the magnificent view from our camper van over the Akaroa harbour above the town itself. Its name means long harbour in Maori and is the site of the first French settlement. The peninsula was formed by three volcanic eruptions and looks from above like a giant cogwheel. We spent the morning wandering around the pretty town itself which in true french style is very chic and had the most sublime bakery,  where we lunched on some truly melt in your mouth pies. We then climbed into the camper van and took the tourist drive around the summit road which covers the highest points of the area and each winding turn gave you tantalizing glimpses of other bays with magical Gaelic names such as Le Bons bay, Stony bay or Okains bay! I have to say that originally we only picked this spot as a potential meeting spot with Andy and Charlotte prior to them coming to Kaikoura, but we were both glad we still went as the scenery was something akin to Scotland meets the Swiss Alps! All the water was a translucent pale blue and the rocks around the bay were rippled with iron oxides and layers of black volcanic lava which contrasted so beautifully. It seemed only fit that our last stop was to walk the majestic Onawe Pa a spit which dominates the middle of the huge harbour. This was the site of the Ngai Tahu tribe who occupied the area at the time the first settlers arrived.
Sadly we had to take the road back towards Christchurch as there is still so much to see and headed towards South Brighton, where we are now parked in a campsite on the edge of a beautiful estuary. South Brighton appears from our sundown walk to be a bit of an arty suburb of the city with lots of sculpture houses and homes with galleries attached dotted in quite a few places. 
Tomorrow we are off into Christchurch
Night everyone

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

More Goodbyes

Dear all

Well as I type this post I am sitting outside our camper van with a glass of wine next to me,  half way up a hill overlooking Akaroa a small French influenced ex whaling town on the banks peninsula to the South East of Christchurch. The Sun has just set and the clouds overhead are the most glorious golden hues and the lights are starting to be switched on in the little town below.  What a romantic way to end another spectacular day in the South Island.
We started off with quite a late start this morning, in Kaikoura, as we had been up very early the previous two mornings in the attempt to watch the whales. We had already agreed to repeat  the coastal walk again but this time coming back via the beach so we could get more up close and personal with the wildlife. The sun was already baking and we knew it was twice as strong here so we duly "slip, slapped slopped" our sun protection on and off we went. As it was only 2 hours after high tide we went via the cliffs first and had a full over view of the impending tramp over the rocks back. All looked good, so we duly descended down onto the beautiful white pebble beach and spent a couple of hours wandering back along the shore taking pictures of the basking seals and cormorants washing them selves in the surf and basking in the sun. The  younger seals would scatter into the water as we approached and then bit by bit swim back towards us flipping and waving their fins at us. It was very amusing.
The last leg into the last bay was a little bit tricky as the tide hadn't receded as far as we had hoped so we ended up scrambling around the bottom of the cliffs dodging waves, seagulls & rotting kelp in equal measures.  All good fun!
Lunch for me was at the Seafood BBQ caravan which I had spotted on our walk two days earlier. Then it was down to the town Fush and Chuppery !! to say our farewells to the lovely Andy and Charlotte who had come to the end of their adventure down under (just for now me thinks!)
Scenic drive down the coast blah blah blah and here we are on the hill drinking wine and relaxing. It does not get any better!
Thanks for looking
Postscript after finishing this I started talking to our neighbour a lovely man from Blenheim who grows grapes for a living when he's not fishing. Apparently we are not buying and drinking enough NZ wine so I promised him I would do my bit............... Message issued Hilary!!

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Wellington cricket, pies, pints and yet more cricket

 Dear all
Finally we have reached the capital city of New Zealand. I say finally as it seems a little weird to have not been there yet as usually you tend to arrive in the capital before venturing out and about in any place, but having spent the day here I understand why this place could never be a global airline hub. Firstly Wellington is situated in the most difficult place to build - Rome had seven hills, this place has more like seven ranges around it. Secondly the town planners in their infinite wisdom decided to create a green belt rather than parks around the city so huge expansion plans are somewhat quashed. Most of the increased land has been created from reclaimed land in the bay &o that created following the 1855 earthquake over the other side of Mount Victoria. This brings me neatly to my final point which is that Wellington is not only on one fault but eleven although only eight are active! I'm really glad I don't live here especially given what happened in Christchurch on September 4th!
We rose early as Dean was all excited as this was the first of the places we were to visit that he came to three years ago on the Barmy Army cricket tour. Our first stop was the Wellington Basin which is home to the state cricket side and the national cricket museum, which we spent a few hours wondering around, watching the archive tapes & talking to the volunteer guide. I have to say anyone who is a cricket fan this is fantastic place and even if your not there are still enough amusing little anecdotes & funny cartoons wiping fun at the Aussies (!) to keep you amused. Dean had a little reminisce around the ground then we wondered down to the next institution of the city - Trisha's Pies. Dean had been extolling the virtues of these pies since he had been there last time so we couldn't walk by without sampling one & he was right they were yummy - Chicken and mushroom for me and steak and cheese for Dean (not sure about that one!).
Te Papa is the museum of NZ and is absolutely enormous and absolutely free! We spent a good four hours wondering around the place which has a whole host of different and innovative  sections all dedicated to the countries history and culture. The building itself is on prime position on the quay front on reclaimed land and is stunning in its own right. It is known by most Kiwi’s as ‘our place’. Completely pooped we ‘retired’ to the Feathers pub, which Dean frequented on his last visit, unfortunately it is now a swanky wine bar & the Manager had moved on, so we moved to the Irish pub across the road & watched the ODI between NZ & Pakistan, which NZ won very convincingly.  On our way back to the van we called in at the Four Kings, where Geordie the bar manager from the Feathers had moved, but he had the night off (hope to catch him on the way back next month) so we left him a little note.
I’m not sure whether I like Wellington or not yet, but it was voted the coolest capital city in the world by Lonely Planet so will give it some thought over the next five weeks and get back to you when we come back.
Nite all

Friday, 21 January 2011

Back on our journey.............

Dear all
Despite the setback of the last 48 hours with a load of driving toady we would be back on track and down in Wellington by the end of the day.  So we had to crack on, as although there are only about 4 million people in NZ the roads are no better than a B road in the UK so travelling the 450km we had to cover today was going to  take a while, but with the scenery around us it was a pleasant pain. Before long we were back near Wakapapa and past Horopito where we had been rescued to just two days earlier further down the track we stopped at Ohakune , the carrot capital of NZ! This place is the largest producer of those little carotene packed suckers in the summer, but in winter turns into a chic ski resort.  The journey back down to Wellington was pretty uneventful apart from a discernible increase in the wind and we landed at Rowena’s backpackers in enough time to get down to The Cambridge pub nearby for a few reviver's before bed.

Nite all

Thursday, 20 January 2011

The day after............................... the nightmare continues

Dear all
Today was the day we had to sort out all the logistics of yesterday’s accident.  Let’s just say that Wicked were less than helpful, they insisted on not doing anything until we had returned to Auckland or gone to another Wicked office (Either Christchurch or Queensland) How helpful! I spend at least an hour trying to speak to the mentally stunted person in their accident department who just screamed at us down the phone, giving us the same line over and over, without deviating and slamming down the phone. I eventually got through to her that I just wanted an address to which we could drive to and then gave up when I dared to ask what time they shut and she slammed the phone down on me……… Some customer service!
Unlucky for us we had to spend ages emptying the van and try and shake all the broken glass out our belongings.  Lucky for us there were three Aussies staying at the place and it turned out that the garage we had stopped at on the way back called the Smash Palace and was famous around the country and they had even made a movie about it. In the light we could see that the place had thousands of cars around some of them extremely old. It was a giant spare parts place really and these guys had come over to pick up bits for their MGA’s. As I said luckily for us one of these guys, Ian was on his way back to Sydney so kindly gave a us a lift back to Auckland some 4 hours away so we were on our way. The paperwork was filed and after a couple of hours we were given a new van with a recent cert of fitness with two new tyres to boot! We didn’t have much choice as we would have lost over $3,000 on the hire if we had refused as they wouldn’t refund the money & we wouldn’t have been able to afford another so it was a bit of a ‘Hobson’s Choice’. Let’s just say we drove extra carefully after that all the way back down to Otorohanga. Fingers crossed we won’t have any more upsets.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

The land of the dangerous sport!

Dear all

 Today we had planned a quiet little trundle from the northern side of Lake Taupo down to a small village in the Tongariro national Park called Whakapapa and it all started that way. We went back up to the Aratiatia Rapids to check that our assertion that the sluice gates were open was correct. It was so we mooched our way over to a little place called Honey Hive New Zealand, which goes into infinite detail over the production of honey and then tries to flog you loads. The highlights, which make it worth visiting is a live hive, which has a tube linking it from inside the building to the outside world & secondly that you get to taste all the honey they are trying to sell! Yummy I really love honey..........
We then mooched our way around the vast Lake, stopping for lunch so that we could admire the view right down to the Tongariro National park with its fabulous three huge mountains. The road winds its way round the l
ake to Turaunga famous for its fishing competitions. The road then leads around to the Wakapapa the village which serves as a favourite spot to base yourself for summer walking & climbing and winter snow sports in the area. The Local Doc had a great office with some amazing displays about the region and a special exhibition on the almost extinct Kakapo which is now doing really well in Bluecod island just off Stewart Island. They gave us some great tips for walks to do and although Dean still has his heart set on walking up Ruapehu. I was greatly swayed by the Tongariro crossing walk, which is alleged to be the greatest one day walk in NZ. Dean persuaded my to come and have a look at the climb, for which the first section can be covered on the ski lift leaving only 3 hours of climb & two to descend!!
We drove up the 6Km of very windy road to the ski resort, which at this time of year is a ghost town at this time of year, but is where the ski lift is located and works at restricted times. We had a mooch around, took some photos & then decided to drive to our campsite. We had just set off when catastrophe struck!
We had literally driven off from the car park and as we approached the first bend Dean the brakes decided to not work and let’s just say we ended up upside down in a culvert which was a far better choice than going over the cliff on the other side of the road! It was pretty scary, but we both walked away with just a couple of glass cuts. No we were not going fast say 30km/hour & yes we were sure the brakes failed as the mechanic who picked us up checked them and the peddle went down to the floor! We had to wait for about couple of hours for the breakdown truck to arrive and them managed to turn the van back over and get it on the truck without losing any of our stuff. They then took us back to their garage Smash Palace (more about this later), where we arranged to stay at their rooms at their place. I was pretty shaky, but they had dinner ready for us when we got there when I forced down and then we joined the rest of the guests in the lounge for a while before we retired to a lovely bedroom – the only highlight of an otherwise dreadful end to the day………………….

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Rotorua to Taupo

Dear all 

Oh lordy of all the days to wake up to grey skies this was probably the worse as the clouds kept the rotten egg smell firmly at ground level and even the rain did nothing to dissipate it. Poohy!! We  thought we would give the rain chance to clear before we hit the thermals so headed off to a Maori village Ohinemut just outside town on the lake, which neatly traces the fusing of Awara Maori and European cultures. There is a very simple Anglican church which is covered in Maori carvings, scroll work and woven flax panels and behind it a simple Maori military cemetery . We were restricted from too much more wandering as there was a traditional funeral in the sacred historic Tamatekapua meeting house.
So we flitted of to the impressive Museum of Art and History which is housed in an old mock Tudor spa built in 1908. They have kept some of the rooms and parts of the basement intact so you can see the mad therapies which used to be practiced including putting an electric current through bath water to cure various ailments including 'nervous exhaustion' and skin complaints! There are also some tremendous galleries showing the treasures of the local Awara Maori's, the wholly Maori WWII  28th Battalion. There is a great film and displays about the terrible 1886 Mt Tarawera eruption that killed many people and changed the local landscape forever including the submerging of the white and pink terraces for which the area was famous at the time.
The rain had still not stopped so we had to plough on and move onto Te Whakarewarewa the largest thermal reserve in the area, but you have to gain entry via Te Puia, the Maori Arts and cultural centre.  They have a meeting house in which they put on cultural shows including a very enthusiastic Haka. Once we had escaped the show we started to walk around the park in the pouring rain, but within 10 minutes it had pretty much stopped so we were quite lucky. The area had loads of bubbling boiling mud, steaming rocks and boiling pools, but the biggest attraction is the famous Pohutu (big splash/explosion) geyser which is supposed to erupt twice an hour. The geyser next to it the Prince of Wales feather Geyser is supposed to provide notice to the eruption, but due to the rain that one was gushing continuously whilst the former was conspicuously quiet. Oh well we had seen enough water anyway!
The weather had only cleared a little so rather than spend another night in stinky town we decided to escape down to Lake Taupo a little earlier than planned. Lets face it once you have seen one bubbling spring you don't really need to see 10 more! The journey down the SH5 is very pretty and about 10km out of Taupo
town itself we reached what is known as the Huka falls tourist loop.  At the top of this loop is Aratiatia rapids which used to be a really spectacular park of the river  until the government stuck a hydroelectric dam across the waterway! (there are before pictures there as a bit of propaganda!). However to appease the public, they now open the sluice gates every two hours from 10am to 4pm. When we arrived at round 6pm the rapids were pretty spectacular with water crashing down the chasm so were a little confused at how this gushing stream could be made any bigger as we could see it the sluice gates were fully open. Anyway we took our photos had a walk along the river and duly departed to our final watery stop for the day - Huka falls. On a scale of waterfalls I doubt this fall would make most travellers top ten, but this little fall does pack a punch! The counties largest river, the Waikato is forced down a narrow chasm and then makes a 10m leap down into a large swirling pool. The spectacular bit of it is that the water is forced out down the falls into a frothing mass of white spray and glacial blue water which the Maori name of Hukanui or Great body of spray which is very appropriate. We had a walk around for a while, but as it started drizzling we pottered off down to Taupo to complete the days travelling.
Tomorrow we will travel around this great lake which is considered by most to be the heart of the Island. It was formed by one of the biggest volcanic eruptions ever more than 26,500 years ago and the area just like Rotorua is still active and has thermal areas. Nowadays the 606-sq-km lake is extremely popular for trout fishing  and for people like us to drive around a gawp at!
Nite all

Monday, 17 January 2011

Katikati to Rotorua

 Dear all

Today we headed on a long trip to Rotorua. It shouldn't have been a long trip but I wanted to check out the Hobbiton site at Matamata, but when we arrived I found that we would have had to spend the rest of the day there just for a two hour tour. So pressing on after our fruitless detour we pressed onto Rotorua.
Our first stop was at Zorb Rotorua just before the town in an area rich in adventure sports. In case you have no idea what I am talking about zorbing is basically sliding into a plastic sphere and being rolled down hill for about 200m all for the princely sum of $50. Most people were going the extreme route instead of being strapped inside climbed in with some friends , throw in some icy cold water and then slip, slide and tangle yourself up as you go down hill. We watched with amusement for a while & then moved across the road to Agrodome. This has to go down as one of the most bizarre tourist attractions I have ever been to - Agrodome.
The whole place is dedicated to the largest animal population of the country .......... sheep. They have sheep auctions, shearing, sheepdog displays & educational shows. If that's not enough they do tractor rides around the grounds and you can see around 20 different breeds of sheep and meet Titan the Giant Sheep. There were hundreds of people there on coaches no doubt paying huge sums to go and see all this stuff. We just had a quick walk around and escaped behind to the Agrodome adventures section where they had every possible extreme activity you can think of bungy jumps and swings, jet boats simulated skydiving and other fun stuff. Again we just watched the terrified looks of the mugs who had parted with about $80 for a minute of sheer adrenalin!
As we approached the town we detoured to the Skyline Skyrides  and took the Gondola up to the top of Mt Ngongotaha for a truly beautiful view over the lake. We then flew down the mountain on a luge (a sort of toboggan on wheels) which was great fun and you go back up on a special chairlift that takes your luge with you. By the third & final time I even managed to stay ahead of  Dean - despite a huge head start and nearly smashing him off the track ........ ha!
We finally reached the town and true to what everyone said the whole place had a underlying stench of sulphur from the thermal activity. We took refuge on the other side of the lake which was supposed have less of a pong and I'm really looking forward to exploring the area tomorrow.
Nite all

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Around the Coromandel Coast and a very long mine!!

Dear all

Although Thames was wonderfully pretty we had to move on and decided to spend the day winding our way around the incredibly beautiful Coromandel coast.  The road winds tightly through beautiful rocky little beaches and sunny bays with loads of shellfish attached to the tidal rocks. We were lucky in the we were around for the last Scarlet blooms of the pohutukawa (NZ Xmas tree) that feature so much in this area turning the roadsides red. As you reach the northern part of this peninsula you reach the sleepy Coromandel Town.  At the height if its gold rush over 10,000 people lived in the town but its population of about 1600 is now usually outnumbered by tourists.
One of the draws is the Coromandel Smoking Company which sells a huge range of smoked fish and seafood. I had to order some smoked mussels and after some deliberation I settled on some Garlic smoked green lipped mussels which I had for lunch with some fresh bread - Yummy! Dean had another pie - I swear he is going to turn into one before we leave!
The journey was was via the infamous 309 route - a windy gravel track that has the worst reverse camber I have driven for a long while, but was worth it for the lovely walk we did. At the other end of the track on the east coast is Whitianga a very lovely small town, but as time was short we moved on to the south to two of the areas famous natural attractions, firstly hot water beach and then Cathedral Cove. Hot water beach is exactly what it says, where thermal waters springs seep out through the sand  just in front of a rocky outcrop in the middle of the beach. If you come at low tide you can did your own bath in the sand lay in it and relax as your bum boils in the sand below you. We missed the low tide, but arrived in time to stand in the surf and sink our feet into the sand and burn the soles of our feet instead! Its a very surreal experience, especially when most other people are just getting on with normal beach activities.  We then moved onto cathedral cove where there is a fantastic  limestone arch which you can walk to at low tide - missed as well but the view down the coast was still amazing.
Further down the peninsula we ventured back inland to the Puketui Valley where the Broken Hills gold-mine workings are located and a century ago about 200 men lived in this wilderness. We went on the Collins drive hike which took about 3 hours and starts by tracing along the water races and then climbs and climbs, until you reach the 500m long Collins Drive (mine tunnel) which we had to walk through with a tiny wind- up torch (thanks Hilary) and Deans mobile phone torch app! I have to say this was pretty scary and my mind kept shifting back to the earthquake that Christchurch had last September and collapsing roofs - not great, but natural I suppose. Once out we climbed again & then it was a long steep decent to get back to the car park.  I don't know how those men did it for a living I was knackered! One last push took us down to Katikati and our campsite just on the edge of the Kaimai range - beautiful. 
Once again thanks for looking - don't forget to leave a comment as we are missing you all!


Saturday, 15 January 2011

Around and about in Thames

Dear all 
Yesterday was predominantly a driving day with us motoring down the SH1 to Thames .  Yawn Yawn.
Before we left  though we did have time to visit the Waipoua Kauri Forest. This is the largest remnant of the once massive kauri forests of northern NZ.  The first stop was to Tane Mahuta (named after the Maori god of the forests) the largest Kauri in the forest at about 51 metres and is about 1600 years old.
 Te Matua Ngahere (The father of the forest), with a 5m diameter and believed to be about 2000 years old is pretty jaw dropping and if trees could take I bet this one would have a lot to say!! It just looked all gnarled and old. Nearby are 4 huge trees which are very close together and are know as the four sisters and even though they were only about 800 years old they were still impressive.
Today we decided to chill out in Thames on the south Coromandel and have a break. The main reason was that we found a very pretty campsite which was surrounded by forest and due to its layout felt very private, yet was pretty busy. It also housed a butterfly and orchid garden.
 We spent the morning wondering around Thames itself as it had loads of 19th century wooden shops and a Saturday street market until 12.00pm  selling organic home grown fruit and veg and handicrafts including a very lovely lady who is a full time carer and makes cards to sell on a stall to supplement her income and in her words 'keep her sane'. This was the only time she left the house each week and she valued it as her time despite working a stall.
On the way back to the campsite we stopped off at a hide on the foreshore. Its at the end of a boardwalk through a mangrove so the birds don't get spooked at all. If you go 2 hours either side of high tide you get really good views of all of the seabirds. In the afternoon Dean sped off on a goldmine track up around our campsite which took him about 3 hours and I sat in the sun, finished my book and got ahead with the blogging etc.
Tomorrow we are heading up and around the Coromandel and I am really looking forward to it.
Thanks for looking

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Cape Reinga & ninety mile beach

Hi All

At the top of Northland is Aupouri Peninsula and at the end of its 116km road is Cape Reinga, almost the most northern point of NZ. There is a lovely windswept walk out to the lighthouse with the cheesy AA signpost showing distances to far off places. By god was it windy, but at the same time is was pretty warm so it wasn't unpleasant but it really does have an end of the earth feeling to it with an 800 year old Pohutukawa tree clinging to the rocks just in front. The roots hide the entrance to the mythical Maori Underworld and it their legends this is where the spirits of the dead leave the earth.  Most of the peninsula was originally covered in Kauri trees, but with the arrival of man that all changed so now it is dominated with commercial timber pines, however down the west coast is the sands of Ninety mile beach (actually only 68!), which are so hard that tour buses and private vehicles drive either up or down it depending on the tides. Unfortunately hire vehicles are prohibited albeit we did drive on at the southern entrance just to say we had been on it! At the top end we ventured down as far as the start again, but really only walked down to the beach just so we could go through the Te Paki Reserves.
  Giant sand dunes which everyone leaps off or toboggans down on body boards. They looked cool, but having already had the unpleasant experience of removing sand from your whole body including most intimate areas you thought sand could never reach (plus its in your ears for weeks after), in Peru, we decided the best route was to watch - chickens that we are! After the marathon drive back again we just had time to catch the ferry at Rowene so we could spend the night at the campsite in Opononi with wonderful views over Hokianga Harbour.

Thanks for looking

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Around the coast to Whatuwhiwhi!

Dear all 

Today we did manage to drive further than the next town and slowly wound our way up the coast to the very cute town of Russell.
The Lonely Planet refers to it as peaceful and pretty and I can certain vouch for that. It has that stylish old colonial feel about it with smart freshly painted clapboard buildings on the waterfront lined with Pohutukawa trees and because most people travel over as a day trip from Pahia blissfully lacking too many cars. It was originally a fortified Maori settlement known as Kororareka (sweet penguin),but the europeans arrived and it soon decsended into a magnet for fleeing convicts, whalers, prostitutes and drunk sailors. Charles Darwin described it in 1835 as full of 'the refuse of society' and was also known as the 'hellhole of the pacific'. Today it more resembles the backdrop for a Martha Stewart show.

We then took the car ferry from Okiato Point, just South of Russell to Opua a ten minutes journey that was so slick and just $16 for everything. As we crossed we got a much better idea of the reasons why this is such a popular spot for tourists. The coastline which had been stunning for most of the journey now opened up into a huge bay with wonderful views of hundreds of coves and more than 150 small islands in the bay. The sea is so clear and shimmers in varying shades of turquoise to deep blue. The hub of this side of the bay is Pahia (not that impressed, but the beach was pretty!), but literally next door is the site of the first permanent English settlement and was where the Treaty of Waitangi was drawn up and first signed by 46 Maori chiefs in 1840. The land where the treay was signed was donated to the state and a reserve created to stop it being subsumed into the town. There is a very informative show and ouside there is the very well restored treaty house and the Whare runanga (meeting house), completed in 1940 to celebrate the centenary of the treaty. It is now the centre of all the celebrations on Waitangi day each Feb 6th.
Heaving ourselves out of the grounds we tripped our way around the coast to Whatuwhiwhi to possibly the most expensive campsite in the world, but certainly in NZ (that we have found!),there were loads of kids all over the site shouting and screaming but the sunset was stunning!
Yawn.............Nite all