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07/01/2011

Day 15: Interislander Ferry – Wellington to Picton

We checked out of the hotel at 8 am so that we got to the inter-island ferry terminal in plenty of time for our 10:25 am crossing.

Our rental car was from Europcar, which has only four parking bays and they were taken, so a quick phone call to the national number resolved the problem. We were told to leave the car in the “long-term car park” and drop the keys at the Europcar counter. We couldn’t see any signs for the said car park, but we saw the ones for the 30-minute parking, so we hope we left the car at the right place. (more…)

06/01/2011

Days 13 and 14: Wellington

We spent two days in Wellington visiting friends and wandering through the downtown area.

 

Kelburn cable car

Kelburn cable car

Our hotel was opposite the Botanic Gardens, so we walked uphill to reach the end of the cable car line. The tickets were N$3.50 one way or $6 return. The cable car ends in the main street, so this was handy.

The Museum of NZ, known as Te Papa, is definitely worth a visit if you only have half a day or a few hours in Wellington. It is modern and has many exhibits aimed at schoolchildren.

 

Te Papa

Te Papa Tongarewa, Museum of New Zealand

Te Papa

Te Papa exhibit

Te Papa exhibit

Te Papa exhibit - school dental service

Old Defence HQ

Old Defence HQ, which Ash visited during his RAAF days

Not many countries allow their citizens very close to their Parliament buildings, but in NZ you can walk alongside the Beehive, which is the popular name for the Parliament building.

NZ Parliament

NZ Parliament building, known as the Beehive

Old NZ Parliament

The old NZ Parliament building, next to the Beehive

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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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02/01/2011

Day 10: Whakatane, Taneatua

The two days spent in Whakatane were with relatives, but we managed a little sightseeing.

Whakatane

The Whakatane River and Whale Island in the background

Pohutukawa

Pohutukawa flowers in bloom

Taneatua

We visited the nearby village of Taneatua, where Lesley’s parents owned and lived in a milk bar (called a dairy in NZ) until it burnt down. We saw the new milk bar and one of the 12 schools she attended.

 

Taneatua

Taneatua High School

Taneatua

Taneatua Dairy (milk bar)

 

Lesley’s aunt made a NZ delicacy known as whitebait fritters, which Ash and Kate politely declined. Whitebait are thin, translucent fish that look like worms and the whole creature is eaten, eyes and all.

 

Whitebait fritters

Whitebait fritters

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01/01/2011

Day 9: Taupiri, Hamilton, Tirau, Rotorua

We left Auckland around 9 am and filled up the car with NZ$87 worth of petrol near Bombay. This part of the Hamilton Expressway is well known to Aucklanders, who are reputed not to care about anything that happens south of the Bombay Hills.

Our first stop was Taupiri, where Lesley’s cousin Jacqui lives. It is near Hamilton, our second stop today, where we had lunch with Lesley’s old colleague Mrs M. We stopped in Tirau, which sports several large objects sculpted from corrugated iron.

 

Tirau

Outside the sheep-shaped shop in the main street of Tirau

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31/12/2010

Day 8: Opononi, Omapere, Waipoua Kauri Forest

It was the last day of our northern journey and were homeward bound to Auckland. Checked out of the Outrigger Motel at around 9:30 am.

The first stop was petrol at NZ$1.999 in Paihia. The tank was more than half full and it took $60 worth to fill up. By the time we reached Auckland, the tank was less than half full. Like all Toyotas we have owned, the Aurion’s fuel gauge is slow to move but as it nears empty, the needle seems to move faster.

We stopped for coffee at Opononi, made famous by Opo the dolphin who played with children at the beach in the summer of 1955-1956 and died mysteriously in March 1956. (more…)

30/12/2010

Day 7: Awanui, Cape Reinga Lighthouse, Kerikeri

We left Paihia at 9 am. We didn’t stop at Kaitaia, but kept going until we stopped at the Ancient Kauri Kingdom in Awanui, a tourist trap where they sell well-made objects from salvaged kauri up to 45,000 years old. Kauri was logged into near extinction by the early settlers, like many other follies made by those generations. It is one of the best possible kinds of wood because the tree trunks were large like the giant California redwoods and grew tall and straight, but it took thousands of years to get to that size. Today, it is illegal to cut down a kauri tree, so old wooden buildings are harvested, as are the surviving tree stumps and logs that were found in swamps. (more…)

29/12/2010

Day 6: Cream Trip Supercruise

Today was overcast until 5 pm. We boarded the Tangaroa III at the Paihia jetty for the six-hour cruise across the Bay of Islands. It is named the Cream Trip because in the old days some tourists got the idea to hop on board the boat that visited all the islands to collect the cream for the market. This inspired Fullers to set up their cruise operations and today they offer many kinds of trips.

 

The Tangaroa III

The Tangaroa III in Paihia Harbour

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28/12/2010

Day 5: Treaty House at Waitangi

Rain was predicted and it arrived later today. We walked from the hotel to the Treaty House at Waitangi. It is a pleasant walk and allows you to stop to notice the Maori pa before the bridge to Waitangi or the penguin we saw being dive-bombed by some birds.

Pay to Look

Non-NZ residents have to pay an entry fee to enter the Waitangi National Trust, but the strictness of checking this depends on the person you meet at the entrance to the complex. Sister-in-law Dawn had been here a few weeks ago when everyone in the group had to show their NZ driver’s licence. Today we were greeted by a chatty young chap who said, “I can tell that you are all New Zealanders, so you don’t have to pay to see your national heritage.”

He asked for just one driver’s licence, so Dawn did the honours. As it happens, Lesley, Kate and I are NZ citizens but we left for Oz permanently 30 years ago, so we were relieved not to pay the NZ$25 fee each. (Our NZ driving licences back then were like tiny passport books, with no photograph and they were phased out years ago.)

But there was a catch. He told us that NZ residents like to make a small donation to keep the place running and suggested buying a $10 calendar, so we bought two. It’s a quality product and will make a nice present.

The grounds have a host of birdlife, including the kiwi, which were not present, being daytime. We saw a NZ Fantail and a Tui (Parson Bird) and heard a few other bird calls while walking up to the Treaty House.

There are four main points of interest: (more…)