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10/01/2011

Day 18: Bottom of NZ – Bluff

On Monday we were hoping to go to Milford Sound and Te Anau before reaching Bluff, but it would have taken us at least 12 hours of driving to reach Dunedin. The fuel tank was nearly empty, so it took 53.19 litres at a cost of NZ$105.26.

The skies were cloudy and it rained a little, so we drove straight to Bluff, the southernmost point of the South Island. This isn’t the end of our trip but is the farthest point from Cape Reinga at the very top of the North Island. (more…)

08/01/2011

Day 16: Hokitika, Wanaka, Hawea to Queenstown

We checked out of the Beachside Motel at 9 am and grabbed some breakfast in the main street near the clock tower. Hokitika is where most of NZ’s greenstone is mined and sculpted into jewellery and other objets d’art. We visited a large showroom and bought some presents for friends.

The car needed petrol and took $99.59 worth at the BP station. (more…)

07/01/2011

Day 15: Lake Rotoiti, GPS troubles and Punakaiki Rocks

Our destination today was Hokitika, on the West Coast of the South Island.

After picking up the new rental car (a 2009 Ford Falcon XR6) we drove past wine country for a while. The Marlborough region is home to several great grapes and wineries.

Lake Rotoiti

The Nelson Lakes National Park near St Arnaud is home to Lake Rotoiti, not to be confused with its namesake near Rotorua in the North Island. We stopped for a rest and watched families having a great time on the water. The photo below doesn’t do justice to the beauty of this spot.

Lake Rotoiti

Lake Rotoiti in the South Island

GPS issue

We set the Garmin 1390T GPS to take us to Punakaiki Rocks. It didn’t know this well-known attraction, so we selected a petrol station in Punakaiki on State Highway 6. However, as the destination got closer, the GPS was telling us to turn left towards Reefton when a road sign told us to turn right. We trusted the sign and turned right.

(more…)

06/01/2011

Day 12: Napier to Wellington

We checked out at 10 am and filled up in Havelock North, which is fairly close. The top-up cost NZ$30. Before leaving Napier, we visited the Old Napier Cemetery, which is on the hill overlooking the city and is surrounded by the Botanic Gardens. (more…)

03/01/2011

Day 11: Opotiki to Napier via Tokomaru Bay

We left Whakatane at 8 am. Ohope Beach was full of people trying to have fun before the sun came out from behind the clouds. The hills along the way have many detours and temporary repairs owing to landslides, but posed no problems for us.

For us, Opotiki was  just a place to fill up with petrol at a reasonable price until we would reach Gisborne later in the day.

 

Opotiki

Main street, Opotiki

There are some beautiful old public buildings in the main street, but we needed to be on our way, so we didn’t stop to explore.

 

Opotiki

Opotiki Court House

We didn’t have any problems with the roads, which are clearly the road less travelled, but narrow and prone to land slides. The councils seem to carve a new bypass very quickly.

Tokomaru Bay

Tokomaru Bay

Tokomaru Bay presents spectacular sea views, particularly on a sunny day with clear skies, but it has a lot of boarded up shops at the beach. The local economy seems nonexistent. We saw a few homes on large blocks along the route with no sign of cultivation around them. Perhaps the locals live on very little or leave for the larger cities and overseas?

Tokomaru Bay

Boarded-up store in Tokomaru Bay

Tokomaru Bay

Derelict building on the other side of the T intersection, Tokomaru Bay

 

Tokomaru Bay

Tokomaru Bay

After lunch at the Te Puka Tavern, which overlooks the bay, we were off and stopped at Tolaga Bay. It has a few streets and showed more signs of life than Tokomaru Way. There was an air ambulance in one of the streets with lots of flashing police lights, but we couldn’t stop to sticky-beak.

Tolaga Bay

Tolaga Bay

 

Tolaga Bay

Tolaga Bay

Gisborne is a largish country town that services the Poverty Bay region surrounding it. It is not as big as Napier, our destination that day.

Gisborne

Gisborne

 

Petrol

We filled up with petrol for NZ$71.74 at Opotiki and later in Wairoa for $92.93.

Telecom NZ coverage

There was no reception for most of the way from Opotiki until Gisborne, other than short patches, so Foursquare and texting were impossible.

Napier Motel

We stayed at the At The Rocks Motor Lodge, 27 Meeanee Quay, Napier. Everything was fresh and clean. This was the only place in our trip with free WiFi and it was the best hotel of the trip.

 

Shower/spa, At The Rocks Motor Lodge

Shower/spa, At The Rocks Motor Lodge

Bedroom, At The Rocks Motor Lodge

Bedroom, At The Rocks Motor Lodge

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27/12/2010

Day 4: Mangawhai Heads to Paihia

We left home at 9 am and checked out No-Tree Hill — officially One Tree Hill. A few years ago, a Maori with a very Pakeha (White man) name of Mike Smith chain-sawed the pine tree on the grounds of it being a symbol of colonialism. At least the obelisk and grave of John Logan Campbell are still intact.

One Tree Hill monument

One Tree Hill monument

Alexandra Park

Alexandra Park in the foreground

You get a great view of Auckland in all directions. Campbell Park is a green oasis a few kilometres from the central business district of Auckland. People climb the hill (Maungakiekie) and run past the beautiful pohutukawa trees, which were flowering. The red flowers that bloom around late December have earned it the name of the NZ Christmas Tree. Sheep wander through the grass, dodging arrows from the archery club.

Pohutukawa flowers

Pohutukawa flowers

Mangawhai Heads

We then drove over the Auckland Harbour Bridge and stopped in Warkworth. We rang a friend and spent some quality time with his family climbing the large sand dunes not far from his house at Mangawhai Heads.

Warkworth

Warkworth

The area around the sand dunes is protected by the NZ Department of Conservation because it is the home of the endangered NZ Fairy Tern. We saw two eggs in the grass when the mother flew off as we approached.

Climbing the dunes was hard work as the sand is soft and blows inland all the time. The property fence was buried in many parts and this poses a threat to the fairy terns from animals. Some people were having a great time sand surfing with boogie boards. We weren’t as adventurous but we did attempt surfing from a lower part of the dune.

Maori shell midden

Maori shell midden, Mangawhai

Walking down a large sand dune

Walking down a large sand dune at Mangawhai Heads

Paihia

We had lunch in Whangarei, the main centre in Northland. We then drove north to Paihia. Lots of slow traffic along the way, particularly after we rejoined SH1. We arrived at the Outrigger Motel and were pleasantly surprised that it is on Williams Road, the same as the ferry terminal, so we couldn’t have been more central. For some reason, when researching hotels, it seemed a couple of streets away from the action.

Foursquare, Williams Rd, Paihia

Four Square, Williams Rd, Paihia

We bought some groceries at the Four Square shop just around the corner and then went out for dinner at Lips Bar and Cafe. The Four Square man has become an icon that you will find on aprons, shopping bags and other tourist souvenirs.

Our Outrigger motel review at TripAdvisor.

Toll

The only toll road in NZ is north of Auckland, before Warkworth. It costs NZ$2 each way but there is no toll booth or bucket, so you can pay at a preceding petrol station (northbound) or some other way (southbound). All cars are photographed and you have five days to pay online at http://www.tollroad.govt.nz, which is the option we chose.

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