NORTH ISLAND, NZ Slideshows

Lunch at Lake Aniwhenua

Sunday 9 April Sydney to Auckland

When we arrived at Auckland we queued for over an hour waiting to go through the bio-hazard checks on people’s luggage. There are very strict regulations in NZ about not bringing food, soil, honey, insects, plants etc. As Chris & Allyson had done some bush walking in NSW they had to declare this (or $400 NZ fine) & then they had their shoes checked by the bio-hazard staff for soil & backpack checked for insects/food.

We seemed to have spent half the day queuing & hanging around airports. When we were finally waiting for our shuttle bus outside it got dark- it was 6pm by now. We arrived at the Kiwi Motel (shuttle bus cost us $6 each) & checked in which was fairly quick. Keef & I had stayed at this motel on two previous occasions in the past. Our room was spacious with TV & ensuite shower. Had showers & then we all went for dinner at 8pm.

I had Italian chicken with mushrooms & cream sauce & the others all had curry & rice. Another guest gave us a bottle of white Auckland wine & a bottle of beer as they were flying out tomorrow & couldn’t take the drinks with them. The staff at reception & the restaurant were friendly & helpful. In fact the receptionist gave us all some free airport shuttle bus tickets for the next day as we were all aged over 50 – result!!!! Very kind of them.

We all felt tired so returned to our rooms & shared the wine. I spotted a large green praying mantis on the fabric headboard attached to the bed! Keef took some photos & then I scooped it onto a tissue & put it outside on the window ledge. Tomorrow afternoon we’re flying to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands.

Sunday/ Easter Monday 16th & 17th April Rarotonga to Auckland

The flight took 4 hours to Auckland & as we crossed the international date line again we lost a day – Easter Monday. When we landed it was Tuesday 2.30am.

We got through the bio-security check at Auckland airport very quickly this time & then went to collect our 3rd bag which we had left at Left Luggage for that week. Eventually the guy there found our bag & we got a taxi to the Airport Gateway Hotel at 3.45am. Knackered & went to bed.

Tuesday 18 April Auckland, North Island

Slept well until 9am & so did Chris & Allyson. It was a good idea to stay at the hotel near the airport as it was open 24/7. The receptionist ordered us a taxi into the city centre, to the Ramada Hotel. We went to the café next door for a coffee & snack & were joined by Chris & Allyson. Then we all walked down towards the harbour & went to the transport centre (Brittomart) to find out about buses. We decided it wasn’t worth getting an electronic bus pass for only 3 days in Auckland. Allyson booked tickets on her phone to see a laser light show with Pink Floyd music. It was held at 7.30pm at the Stardome, One Tree Hill Domain near Newmarket, a suburb of Auckland. We planned on getting a bus to see the show that evening.

Walked to the ferry terminal & looked at the harbour trips/ferry to Rangitoto Island. Keef & I had been to Auckland twice before so Chris & Allyson did some sightseeing round the harbour & city centre & we did a short walk along the harbour front & then returned to our hotel to catch up on our e-mails & online banking as we had no wi-fi in the Cook Islands. I did some laundry as there was a washing machine & dryer in the ensuite bathroom (I picked the hotel because of this & also it was in the city centre so we didn’t need a bus).

At 6pm we all met up in the hotel reception & walked to the bus stop. Caught a bus out to Newmarket, a residential area with a few shops. Had some fast food – I had hoki fish & chips & the others had Turkish kebabs. Walked to the Stardome nearby & had a glass of wine (included in the ticket). The music/laser light show started dead on time at 7.30pm & our seats tilted back so we were gazing at the domed ceiling. It was amazing – music was Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd & the coloured laser lights were brilliant, projecting complicated pattern on the ceiling a bit like a childs kaleidoscope. There was an intermission where we had another glass of wine & some savoury nibbles. Chatted to a bloke who was South African living in Auckland. Part 2 of the show was The Wall with graphics & lasers. We all thoroughly enjoyed the show & then caught a bus back to the city centre at 10.45pm. I have finally got rid of the cold that I caught in Tassie – hooray!

Wednesday 19 April Auckland

Chris & Allyson were keen to do the coast to coast walk 16kms across the city & suburbs (4- 5 hr hike) so Keef & I booked tickets to go to Rangitoto Island on the ferry & do the Volcanic Explorer tour. As we had some time before getting the 12.15am ferry we walked along the harbour towards the marina & fish market. There was a large cruise liner in dock called the Emerald princess which we’d seen in Sydney. Very sunny weather today. Silo Park was the marina area & there was a lift-up vehicle & pedestrian bridge which let large tall yachts through from the harbour to the moorings.

Bumped into Sarah, the daughter of Pete & Sue, who had been back-packing around NZ. Chris & Allyson knew that she was in Auckland & were hoping to meet up with her. We invited her to join us all at a Korean BBQ restaurant around 7pm that evening. She said she would contact Allyson to confirm the meal was arranged.

Keef & I got the ferry to Rangitoto, an island in the Hauraki Gulf beyond Auckland harbour. The island was an extinct volcano which had erupted from the sea bed 600 years ago (in the 14th c) in two massive explosions 10-15 years apart. It’s the largest volcano in the Auckland area with its cone rising 260m (850 ft) high. Apparently local Maori tribes (ini) were present at the time of the eruptions as human footprints were found between layers of volcanic ash.

The island is managed by the Department of Conservation & has a ranger living on it in a small house, although there is no water or electricity available. We got on a tourist road train pulled by a tractor & the ranger took us on a tour around the island & gave an interesting commentary. We saw lava fields – black clinker which was very rocky & would have been extremely difficult to walk across. Prisoners had built the road round the island by flattening the lava rock in the 1920. A lot of the island is forest & shrubs – it was surprising that plants could grow in that environment. The island has NZ’s largest Pohutukawa tree forest (this tree has amazing red flowers at Christmas time).

The road train stopped at the base of the volcano summit & we started to climb the 300 wooden steps towards the crater rim. It was hard work climbing & Keef had to give up halfway through because of his bad knees. I took the camera & carried on & it took me another ½ hour of climbing to reach the top. I took photos of the 360 degree panoramic views of Auckland, the Hauraki Gulf & islands & a container ship.

After a few minutes of catching my breath, I started the descent as the warden on the tour said we had to be back by 2.30 prompt. It took me another 30 minutes to rush back. The steps were each 9” high – so hard work. The rest of the island tour took us past mangroves & views of Auckland across the sea. The ferry returning to Auckland was very packed & the wind made the sea quite choppy.

In the evening we went with C & A to meet Sarah at the Korean BBQ restaurant at 7.10pm. The place was busy & on each table was a wok & gas burner. We selected various meats & vegetables from the buffet to cook in the wok & you could choose various sauces, rice & noodles as well. You could go back to the buffet as much as you liked. Sarah said she liked NZ & had stayed in backpacker hostels. She was flying on to Sydney early the next morning. We had a nice evening & meal.

Thursday 20 April Auckland

Keef & I had never visited Devonport, a Victorian seaside town across the harbour from the city, so we wanted to see it this trip. Took the ferry across (only 15mins) to the small town & wandered around the shops & bought some gifts for the family. There is an extinct volcano behind the town called Mount Victoria, plus two other smaller ones. Mount Victoria looked like a small grassy hill. There is the NZ naval base near Devonport as well. The town seemed laid-back with a relaxed vibe & it had several small beaches. Its painted wooden Victorian villas only cost $1.5 million- $2.5m in the estate agent window. I had my hair cut in a local hairdressers (only $30 - £15.50). Visited several craft shops & we had lunch in a café (beef lasagne, chips & coffee). We caught the ferry back to the city & got a bus to the National Art Gallery.

We spent 1½ hours there. Saw some amazing life-like oil paintings of Maori chiefs & elders, including women. Two people were 102 years old with black facial tattoos. Also the gallery had a Monet & Picasso painting & Barbara Hepworth sculpture. Not impressed with modern NZ art & the video portraits of people. Keef had tummy trouble so we didn’t go out for another meal & just had a sandwich & some salad which we ate back at the hotel.

Chris & Allyson had had a good day – they had got the ferry to Rangitoto & walked to the crater (2hrs return). Keef rang his Mum for 25 mins (Skype call). E-mailed the rest of our family & checked our e-mails.

Friday 21 April Auckland to Orewa

Got up at 7am & had showers & breakfast in our room (no restaurant in this hotel). At 10am we got a taxi to take us to Britz Motorhomes which was near the airport. Having checked that we had all got the right equipment supplied with our two vans, we set off across Auckland to join the A1 motorway to Orewa, north of the city. At 1pm we checked in at the Top 10 campsite first to book our pitches, did the food shopping at Countdown & then returned to the campsite.

Had sandwich/crisps for lunch at 3pm. Then we unpacked our bags & sorted ourselves out. Our motorhome is a Britz 2 person, fairly new looking inside with a Mercedes Benz engine. Chris & Allyson did the dinner – ratatouille & baked kumara with wine. We looked at the map for planning our route.

Saturday 22 April Orewa to Whangarei

We all had a short walk along the beach at Orewa. It brought back happy memories for Keef & I as Craig, Doug & Phoenix started our month’s tour of North Island here in December 2007. Orewa is a lovely coastal town, although there was a notice near the beach stating the safe routes to avoid a tsunami!

We drove the Hibiscus Coast Highway from Orewa to Wellsford, stopping for a break at Puhoi historic village. Lovely scenery – rolling hills, tall tree ferns & pohutukawa trees. We went to Mangawhai Heads for another break from driving. Walked on the sandy beach & watched paragliders jump off a tall hill above the beach. Very warm & sunny, with a sea breeze by the sea. We stopped again further on at Ruakaka Beach & got a view of some islands & coast – again a beautiful white sandy beach.

We stopped the night around 5pm in Whangarei Top 10 campsite. Kiwis call Whangerei (pronounced Fangari) a city, but by English standards it was just a large town. Keef still not well – a dicky tummy which he’s had since the Art Gallery visit in Auckland.

Sunday 23 April Whangerei to Russell

Keef had no dinner last night & no breakfast either as still tummy trouble. Allyson seems to have got over her tummy problems too. We visited the marina (aka town basin by locals) & walked along the boardwalk. We watched a glass blower at work at the back of a craft gallery. He made some lovely coloured vases but they were too heavy to pack & would have got broken. Went into Pac n Save supermarket to get some more milk & bread etc.

We drove the coastal road to Tutukaka & Matapouri. The Tutukaka Coast is rated as one of the top coastal destinations on the planet by National Geographic Traveller. The beaches here are pristine with white sand. We stopped at Kawakawa for a break & to see the famous architect designed toilets in the small town. They were covered everywhere in broken tiles mosaics (not the actual loos though!) There were some other quirky mosaic objects in the town such as a mosaic tile sofa, street lamp & flower containers – took photos.

Lovely scenery on the route. We took the car ferry across the bay to Russell (cost $12.50 for our van) & arrived at the Russell Top 10 campsite. We got two pitches next to each other on the ‘bay view’ tier. The campsite is on the side of a steep hill (we had camped here 4 years ago). Saw a weka walking around our pitches (was he the same bird as last time?). Had spaghetti Bolognese for dinner, although Keef’s stomach still not good so he had nothing to eat.

Monday 24 April Russell

We had booked 2 nights at the campsite. Chris & Allyson went for a walk in the town & Keef& I drove to Rawhiti where we saw a beautiful carved wood Marae. The Marae is where Maori people can get together as a community & the building also has spiritual meaning for them. The wood carvings depicted a war canoe, strange looking faces and dolphins. Took some photos & as no one was around we peeped through the windows. We saw some lovely shrubs in people’s gardens such as hibiscus & bottlebrush trees etc.

We then returned to Russell, a small & attractive town once dubbed the ‘hellhole of the Pacific’ because of the drunken sailors & whalers & general lawlessness. Nowadays the local policeman lives in a lovely wooden heritage building in front of the jetty, complete with white picket fence. The houses in the town looked like white Cape Cod wooden ones with white picket fences in the front gardens & some had verandahs.

Keef was still feeling ill. We met up with Chris & Allyson eating fish & chips by the jetty about 4pm. There was no point in going out to a restaurant in town as we’d planned so instead we had cheese & biscuits back at the motorhomes (but not for K). Later when it was dark Keef & I went looking for kiwi but didn’t see any. We could hear them calling out in the woods. Not many stars out tonight.

Tuesday 25 April Russell to near Cape Reinga ANZAC Day Public Holiday in NZ

Set off at 10am. C & A did not want to go across the bay on the car ferry again, so wanted to drive the 40kms round instead. Took a shorter route along gravel roads, through a forest up a mountain & zig-zagged down again. Beautiful warm day & we only saw a couple of cars going the other way. We saw a few birds of prey & a kingfisher. The route took us 1hr 20 mins but was scenic, although very bumpy. This area of Northland has a lot of Maori communities, & we drove past a few settlements & the Maraes. We stopped briefly in a car park at Paihia, Bay of Islands, for the loo & Chris bought 3 pies. K & I had been to Paihia in 2007 with Craig & Doug & we had gone on a boat trip to see the dolphins. K still unwell.

Stopped again at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds further round the bay & took some photos. In 1840 the British had conned some of the Maori chiefs into signing a treaty which would protect them & assist with ‘governance’. 35 chiefs signed i.e put their mark on the document. The treaty document had been translated into Maori the previous night by Henry Williams, an English missionary. The English version of the treaty stated that the British under Queen Victoria had ‘sovereignty’ of New Zealand i.e it became British owned. The British were desperate to acquire NZ before the French did (the French had visited the country & were very interested in it too).

In modern times the Maori people have lodged around 2,000 claims to date against the NZ government to get their ancestral lands back. In the 19thc Maori people had no concept of selling land or even another country taking them over. Some of the Maori chiefs never even signed the treaty. Some of the claims have been settled by the Waitangi Tribunal & others are still ongoing. Probably a contentious issue especially if Kiwi farmers have to give up their land & presume they would be given compensation by the government. A bit of a historical mess which has had major repercussions.

We continued driving along the scenic Twin Coast Discovery Highway to Whangaroa, the marlin fishing capital of NZ & ate our pies for lunch. No fishermen around but 4 years ago K & I saw two massive marlin being weighed on the jetty & craned onto the fishermen’s ute. Saw Mangonui again (heritage town) & then did a quick detour & stopped to take photos at the iconic Ninety Mile Beach on the shores of the Tasman Sea (west coast of North Island). There were a few cars/utes driving along the beach (officially designated as a road) & only 55 mls long but in the 19thc they didn’t have accurate surveying equipment).

Lovely scenery up to the ‘top end’ of North Island – hilly, volcanic, massive sand dunes. We stayed the night at a DoC campsite (Dept of Conservation) 3kms south of Cape Reinga. It was a very steep descent down a thin twisty gravel road to the bay. The campsite was situated very close to the beach but was very basic in amenities. The overnight fees were cheap - we had to put our cash payment in an envelope with the vehicle reggo & our address & post it into a box. There were quite a few people staying – campers/backpackers & other motorhomes. I went for a walk on the sandy beach which had lava rocks at one end.

Gets dark at 6.15 now. After dinner we looked at the stars & milky way as it was a clear sky. It’s very warm during the day but noticed that the nights are cooler. We’re in Autumn season at the moment & a Kiwi lady told us that winter starts on 1 June, which is when we leave NZ for Singapore. Keef & I went kiwi spotting with a torch as we were in a wilderness area but Keef got bored after 2 mins.

Wednesday 26 April Cape Reinga to Ahipara

At 10am we were about to set off to drive to Cape Reinga but Chris discovered there was a front flat tyre by on the drivers side. He tried to fix it but the jack that came with the motorhome was not tall enough as the van was on grass/soil. Also he discovered that the spare wheel underneath the van had no tread left. Not good. We decided that K & I would drive back to the nearest garage to ring Britz & get breakdown help as no mobile phone signal at the campsite, which was in the middle of no where.

We drove 20kms to the nearest garage & Keef used their phone to ring Britz. They said they would get a breakdown vehicle to change the tyre & then Chris would need to drive to Kaitaia to a tyre replacement garage by 5pm.

We still wanted to carry on to Cape Reinga as we were only 3kms away. We parked in the car park & walked down the path to the lighthouse, seeing spectacular views of the coast all the way. Very sunny. Met a friendly Kiwi family by the lighthouse & they took a group photo of us. The car park & lighthouse were free for tourists unlike lighthouses in Australia which charged fees. Then we went on to Te Paki sand dunes which were MASSIVE. Kids & adults were having a fun time sand surfing down the steep sides & quite entertaining watching them. Took some photos. Left the sand dunes at 3pm & got to the tyre place at 4.30pm.

The garage decided to repair the tear in the tyre rather than replace it & charged the cost to Britz. We decided that to drive to the next Top 10 site Kaihu was too far away as it was already 5pm. Instead K & I suggested we go to the Kiwi Family Park at Ahipara, a few kms away, as we’d stayed there 4 years ago. We arrived at the campsite an hour before it got dark. K & I went to get our van’s water tank filled up & had to unblock the waste water tank as there was sediment in the bottom. We put the hosepipe down the kitchen sink plug hole which made the waste water drainage more free flowing.

Allyson & Keef had stomach upsets still so only Chris & I had dinner. Then we got out the maps to discuss route plans. We wanted to go back to the east coast, Coromandel & Papamoa Beach as there were areas we hadn’t seen & Chris & Allyson wanted to see Rotorua & the glow-worm caves in the central region of the island, which we had visited 10 years ago. Decided to drive our own routes & meet up in the Top 10 campsite at Wellington on 9 May. We gave Allyson our free booking ticket for the Waitomo glow-worm caves so they had two tickets (part of the Britz hire package included 1 person’s free entry to the caves). Once we’d sorted out our plans we checked our e-mails & read our Kindles.

Chris and Allyson visited lake Kai Iwi on the way down to Dargaville to get their brakes checked out (nothing done but one was replaced when we called into Christchurch on South Island later) then we went our separate ways for a bit. We did predominantly the east coast, they did west coast including Waitomo Caves, Rotorua, Wai-o-Tapu geothermal wonderland and the Lady Knox geyser, Kawhai harbour, Huka falls, Lake Taupo, Tongariro National Park and more. We met up again at Whakapapa village where they had been for 3 nights, had coffee, then split again to continue our journeys and remet in Wellington for a few days. All pictures in the next slideshow by Allyson.

Thursday 27 April Ahipara to Baldrock Farm,between Brynderwyn & Kaiwaka off Highway 1

Left the Kiwi Park campsite at 9.10am hoping to catch the 10am ferry across Hokianga harbour heading south. We passed the most spectacular scenery from Ahipara to Kohukotu along the Twin Coast Discovery Highway on the west coast. It took us past ancient volcanoes, old Maori Pa (fortifications on top of hills), deep valleys, Kauri forests with giant trees & tree ferns, & evidence of ancient tiered farming by Maoris on the sides of steep hills. At Kohukotu we got the 11am small 24 hr vehicle ferry across to Rawene which took 15 minutes. The road to the ferry from Ahipara was very twisty & parts had cracks in the tarmac from earth tremors. There were very low clouds in the hills that we drove through.

Hokianga harbour was where the first Maoris arrived in New Zealand in their large war canoes (waka) from Polynesia, based on their oral traditions. They had crossed the Pacific by using the stars to navigate & came across the massive harbour with its narrow entrance.

From Rawene we followed the road to Opononi which was famous for its friendly dolphin in the bay between 1955-56 which interacted with the local people. There was a statue dedicated to the well-loved dolphin called ‘Opo’.

Another small village called Omapere edged the harbour with views across to giant sand dunes. We drove to the lookout point near the harbour heads & did a short walk to get the views. As we neared the town of Dargaville the land flattened out for farming kumara (NZ sweet potato. In the town we stopped by the Wairoa River near the boat jetty. The river walk was blocked off so we went food shopping in Countdown to get supplies for the Coromandel as we knew there were not many shops/supermarkets on that peninsular.

Saw Chris & Allyson in the car park- they had just been to the local garage to have the brake pads checked on their motorhome as a warning light on the dashboard had been on permanently. The van had to be raised up & all 4 wheels were removed. Apparently everything was OK with the brakes. They thought that they would have to drive back to Britz in Auckland to have the brakes checked, but Britz directed them to a garage in Dargaville instead. C & A were heading towards Rotorua.

We set off again to Brynderwyn & down Highway 1 to near Kaiwaka where we decided to stop for the night at 5pm. We turned off to Baldrock Farm, 100 acres with hilly fields & some cows & lots of hens wandering about. Called in at the bungalow & the female owner was very pleasant. Her great grandfather had been Mayor of Nottingham! We paid a small fee & then drove along a track, up a couple of hills, through some trees & parked on top of another hill with lovely views. The outside dunny/toilet was in a tiny hut which looked like a Swedish sauna. We were the only people there, although there were some other campers (Japanese, Austrian & German) near the bungalow. It was very quiet as we were well away from the bungalow & highway.

Keef was feeling much better today – he had 3 meals so his stomach is OK now. He’d been ill since the previous Thursday when we were in Auckland (7 days ago). Not sure what caused the stomach bug but I had been OK, so a mystery.

Friday 28 April Baldrock Farm to Shelly Beach, Coromandel

Got up at 7am – lovely views from the hill top this morning. Had cereal & drove along the track back to the farm car park where there was a hot shower/loo which we used. The hens were pecking round our van. Drove back to the main highway & saw several wild bush turkeys. Took the scenic route again after Wellesford towards Helensville.

Saw massive sculptures in a farmer’s fields & we stopped at a high lookout with 180 degree views down the valley towards the sea. Bright & sunny again – we’ve had good weather since arriving in NZ. Noticed a sweet honey scent on the breeze – is this from Manuka trees/shrubs? We stopped for a break at Helensville railway station for coffee – it had a café in the old waiting room & a large verandah outside.

After Helensville the countryside flattened out & there were orchards & farms. We skirted round Auckland on Highway 16 so did not need to pass over the harbour bridge. Headed towards Manukau on Highway 1 & then turned off at Pokeno to Thames, on the Coromandel Peninsular. We had done the Coromandel twice before but we love the scenery there & its listed as one of the top areas for New Zealanders to visit. Volcanoes & lava rocks on the beaches on the west side of the Coromandel, with views across the Firth of Thames.

We had lunch at Thames, an old gold rush town c 1880. It retains an aura of a wild west cowboy town with the hotels & buildings & also above the main shops. Gold was found nearby which caused a rush by prospectors eager to make their fortune. We parked the motorhome by the Victorian bandstand & ancient pohutukawa trees. Very sunny so we sat outside on the picnic chairs.

After lunch we drove along the narrow twisty road along the coast. The road edge had a 10 foot drop to the rocky lava beach. There had been earth landslides on one part of the road (caused by either rain or earth tremors) which roadwork teams were clearing away. The road then climbed up a steep mountain with fantastic views at various laybys/ lookouts towards the coast & islands in the sea. We saw Coromandel Town & then went to the Top 10 campsite at Shelly Beach where we filled up the van’s water tank, had tea & went for a beach walk – dark sand with lots of white shells. Keef said he had a dicky stomach again. The toilet/shower facilities here were very good & hardly anyone on this campsite.

Saturday 29 April Shelly Beach, nr Colville to Waihi Beach

Got up at 7am, had showers/ breakfast & left at 9.10 to drive to Port Jackson in Cape Colville, the most northerly point on the Coromandel & off the beaten track. We had not managed to do go further than Colville on our past trips. We had sought advice about whether we could drive to Port Jackson in a motorhome & the lady at the campsite said that although part of the route was gravel it was quite level so not too bumpy for driving. The road was part tarmac/ part gravel but it was rather misty & drizzly so the views were not too good. The route was twisty & passed the Tibetan Buddhist retreat & Colville itself – a few houses, general store & post office.

There were a few ‘wash-outs’ & areas where the earth bank at the side of the road had collapsed. There were lots of very old pohutukawa trees which were so weathered by the sea winds that the trunks had bent & they were growing sideways. Saw some people fishing on rocks at the bottom of a small cliff. Very few cars along the road. At Port Jackson there were just 3 houses & views of a small volcanic island. The trip took us 1½ hours to drive to Port Jackson because of the narrow windy gravel road & at one point we had to cross a ford.

On the return journey we were slightly quicker & returned to Coromandel Town, then took the road which climbed over the Coromandel Range. In the past we’d done the route in sunny weather but today it was still rainy & misty. Drove through Whitianga & Mercury Bay along the Pacific Coast Highway (tourist scenic route). Now the rain had stopped – sunshine! Can’t complain – this was the most rain we have had since we arrived in NZ.

At Tairua we saw houses built up the sides of an extinct volcano (took photos). We arrived at the Top 10 campsite at Waihi Beach at 5pm. Not impressed with the facilities – we were put near the beach. There was a grubby concrete floor in the unisex toilets & 3 showers. It started raining heavily & got quite windy. We stayed in the motorhome & checked our e-mails etc & looked at the CCTV at the front of our house & saw Dave, our nextdoor neighbour doing some gardening – riveting viewing!!! Craig had sent us a photo of himself, Leanne & Edie sitting in our lounge, so glad the house was OK.

Sunday 30 April Waihi Beach to Papamoa Beach

Re-filled our van’s water tank & then K & I went into reception to complain about the quality of the facilities. They were not clean & the campsite was one of the most expensive we’d stayed in – supposed to be 5*, had a pool & gym & was virtually on the beach. Keef complained that we were only given 250mb of wi-fi when we should have been given 500mb. Not impressed with the price they charged at this site too. Left Waihi Beach at 10am & drove along the Pacific Coast Highway through Katikati, the mural town. Lots of huge painted murals on the sides of buildings depicting the town’s history. Keef took some photos, although we had been through the town four years ago. We avoided the toll road round Tauranga & saw the marina there & port. Not very scenic – industrial with oil terminals.

Further along the coast we came to Mount Manganui on the coast & this was a nice town set at the base of a large extinct volcano. The bay was called Pilot Bay & weather was very sunny but quite breezy. Had a walk & bought some boysenberry icecreams – very nice – you can’t get this type of icecream in England. Crossed to the Pacific beach side of Mt Mangonui & sat on a bench with a great view of the long golden sand beach stretching down the Bay of Plenty to Papamoa Beach & beyond. Some expensive looking homes along this coast.

We continued on to Papamoa Beach & did some shopping at Countdown supermarket. Then we checked into the Papamoa Beach Resort, our favourite campsite. It was no longer a Top 10 site which stopped 2 years ago but the resort reception still had our names & address on their computer records from 4 years ago!! We had also stayed there 10 years ago, so this was our 3rd visit as we liked it so much. Arrived at 2.15pm & got a pitch (S5 Beach Road) by the beach with a view of the sea. Keef cooked us a bacon & egg cob for lunch. He chatted to the man in the caravan on the next pitch who was originally from Bucks, UK & had emigrated with his wife & daughter 14 years ago.

I did some laundry & hung it on the washing lines as weather was good, then we went for a walk along the beach. Not many people around as Autumn & no school holidays. I cooked prawns& noodles with satay sauce after Keef had downloaded his photos from the camera to the laptop & checked & paid the credit card bill. We had booked 2 nights at this campsite.

Monday 1 May Papamoa Beach

Had leisurely breakfast & the man in the caravan came for a chat for 2 hours!! He could talk for England & he did!!! He was a painter/decorator & had been living with his wife in the caravan whilst waiting for planning permission for the house they were going to build. His adult daughter had played for NZ in underwater hockey (aka Octo Push) which we had never heard of as a sport.

Keef had caught the sun as his face had gone a bit red. We went for a walk round the campsite & to the local shop where we bought icecreams. Keef cooked pasta carbonara with bacon, leftover lamb & spicy sausage. It was extremely cold in the van overnight even though we had a duvet (a thin summer duvet).

Tuesday 2 May Papamoa Beach to Lake Taupo

We left the campsite at 9.10am after cereal & toast for breakfast. Drove through Te Puke, a town surrounded by kiwi fruit farms. We had visited Kiwi 360 World 10 years ago. Saw some men going to pick the kiwi fruit which is packed & sent all over the world. Along the coast route we saw Whale island & White Island, which is a live volcano in the sea. Took some photos of the volcano belching smoke. Drove through Whakatane, a busy & prosperous town which has a 40% Maori population according to the tourist book. The town boasts a waterfall which is in the main street. Today there was no water running down the rock face. The town was busy with lots of shops, cafes, a cinema & theatre.

We turned back to see Edgecumbe, a rather tatty town which had recently been flooded by Cyclone Cook, which we’d seen on the news whilst in Auckland. A bridge had been damaged & lots of homes flooded when the Rangitaiki River burst its banks due to very heavy rain. We left the coast & took a small inland road through forestry land. Men were felling trees with chainsaws & loading up lorries with the logs. Further on there was a sign saying the road was closed but we asked at a garage & it had just re-opened that lunchtime. The river had burst its banks & washed away the road, so the local council had put down tons of gravel to rebuild it.

Stopped for lunch by a beautiful picnic spot by Lake Aniwhenua. The trees had autumn colours & we ate lunch on our chairs outside as it was so warm & sunny. There were a few other motorhomes there as well. The lake had a small concrete dam & the water was channelled through a sluice to create hydro-electric power. The power station was accessed across the top of the dam & was cleverly hidden in some trees so not visible. We decided not to walk to the power station but it was a lovely picnic spot in the middle of no where. Went on to Murupara, a small residential village with a secondary school where all the school kids had finished for the day & were walking home. Rather a rundown town we thought & no jobs for people in that vicinity.

The road passed through dense forests & then we came to a thermal area where steam was rising from water in a ditch at the side of the road. Other steam vents were also visible in the area. This was because we were south east of Rotorua. We took a side road through Broadlands ( dairy farming area) & Rotokawa. We arrived in Taupo at 4.45pm & parked in the town. Bought some boysenberry icecreams & walked down to Lake Taupo. Saw some long rowing boats & in the distance the massive volcanoes in Tongariro National Park. Some had snow on the summits & low cloud. Taupo had not changed much at all from when we’d visited twice before in the summer but it was quieter today as it’s Autumn, so no crowds.

The lake is huge – the biggest in NZ & Australia. The evening was drawing in as we were walking around & it was getting chilly. We left Taupo & drove along the east side of the lake towards Turangi. We spotted a reserve by the side of Lake Taupo where other motorhomes had parked up for the night. It was free to stay & motorhomes that were self-contained were allowed to park there for up to 4 nights. We parked our motorhome right by the lake edge & watched the sun go down beyond the volcanoes. Had soup, cheese & biscuits for dinner. The waves lapping against the shore were quite loud – we were only about 5 feet away from the edge of the lake.

Wednesday 3 May Lake Taupo to Whakapapa Village

Left at 10am & drove around the lake towards Turangi. We spotted where we did trout fishing by a bridge & stream 10 years ago with Craig, Phoenix & Doug. Brought back happy memories of our holiday together although we never did catch any trout! Taupo & Turangi are allegedly the best places in the world to do trout fishing. At Turangi we got fuel, shopping at New World supermarket & some lovely steak & cheese pies at the local bakery, which we had for lunch later.

After Turangi we took the road to Rangipo & then the Desert Road across bleak moorland. We stopped the van for lunch at a lay-by with a view of Mt Ruapehu (2,797m high) in sunshine. However, the clouds/ drizzle/mist set in & the weather turned nasty. Whilst we were sitting having our lunch in the van there was a cracking noise/ big thud under the van. Must have been an earth tremor as there were no other vehicles around. No cracks under our van. Suddenly the weather improved with blue sky & clouds in the distance so we decided to go to Whakapapa Village & camp there for the night. We drove through Waioru, a NZ army base & army museum in the town & turned off to Ohakune, the carrot capital of NZ with a naff giant plastic carrot plonked in the middle of the town. K took a naff photo.

The weather changed again – raining & misty. Could hardly see the volcanoes - Mt Tongariro, Mt Ngauruhoe (aka Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings) or Mt Ruapehu. Went past the Chateau Tongariro & arrived at 5pm at the campsite in pouring rain. It cost $42 with electric hook-up to stay but good facilities & hot showers. It rained all evening non-stop. We had to switch on the electric blow heater provided by Britz as very cold.

Thursday 4 May Whakapapa Village to Hastings on east coast

Had hot showers & breakfast. Went to the dump station to get rid of our waste water & fill up with fresh water & saw Chris & Allyson there! We thought they had left Whakapapa heading to Taupo but they were there for 3 nights. They had done the 6½ hr Tama Lakes walk which luckily was in good weather so got good views of the scenery. Craig, Doug & Phoenix had done the same walk 10 years ago which took them 7 hrs return as they went for a swim in one of the lakes before returning. The campsite at Whakapapa had not changed one bit after 10 years. Nice to catch up with C & A over a coffee in the local café after we had all looked at the local visitors centre opposite. K & I bought a poster of Tongariro N.P aerial view of the 3 volcanoes for $22. Chris & Allyson said they had visited Rotorua, then west to Waitomo caves & then SE to Tongariro National Park. They were off to Taupo next & we suggested they drive the road to Mt Ruapehu where there was a ski resort & chair lift to get the view. Also we told them about the free camping by Lake Taupo & suggested they visit Hukka Falls.

We had planned our route to head towards the Pacific coast as the weather was better there. We drove back through national Park village, Ohakune & Waiouru again, & then to Taihape where we got fuel. The helpful lady at the garage filled up our gas container (cost $5.78) even though we’d only used up 1/5 of the 5 litres in the container when full. We assume that Britz had filled up the gas cylinder before our trip but had no way of knowing if this was so. Sunny weather & warm.

After Taihape we took a route across country towards Hastings on the Pacific coast & Hawke Bay. The road was called ‘Gentle Annie’ & was not marked as a tourist route. This route was fab – it went through spectacular scenery for 161 kms, some of it gentle green hobbit hills & across the Rangitikei River. We stopped for lunch at Moawhango, a small Maori farming community with a Marae. Sheep & cattle in the fields & at one point the road was blocked by a very large flock of sheep being moved to another field by a man on a quad bike & his sheepdogs.

A lot of the deciduous trees such as maples & poplars (both not native to NZ) were turning lovely red & yellow autumn colours. Traffic on this road was negligible with a few cars. As we crossed the Ruahine Range the mountains & deep valleys increased & the road was winding & a little bit steep in places. We could see the Ngarurora River hundreds of feet below us in the valley. The mountains were covered in forest & logging was in operation in some places. We thought that apart from Northlands & Tongariro National Park, this road was the most scenic in North Island & well worth the drive.

We ended the journey through Flaxmere, a semi industrial town, & then on to the Top 10 campsite in Hastings, a coastal town, where we arrived just after 5pm. The campsite was almost empty so we were told to choose our own pitch. We went to get some fish & chips locally & ate them back at the site – lovely Blue Cod fish with crisp batter & chips. Now it was getting dark before 6pm. Checked our e-mails & I downloaded some magazines on my i-pad. It rained during the night & I was woken up by another earth tremor/ sharp jolt in the early hours. Had another tremor at 6.40am – Keef slept through it all!!! This was the third earthquake I felt in North Island. They don’t call New Zealand the ‘shaky isles’ for nothing!

NB Looked up the Hastings earthquake –I felt some aftershocks following a ‘moderate’ quake which took place 17 days earlier on 17 April at 5.32pm. It was 4.6 magnitude & the epicentre was 30kms SE of Hastings & was 26kms deep. This earthquake was felt in Auckland & Christchurch.

Friday 5 May Hastings & local area

After a leisurely breakfast we headed into Hastings to go to the bank & do some shopping. Hastings is a very green town with lots of shrubs/trees/ hanging baskets & water fountains. The railway line runs through the town square & crosses the main shopping street. We chatted to a lady in the tourist info centre which was situated in part of an old department store. The store had been re-built after the massive earthquake (7.8 on the Richter scale) which decimated Napier & Hastings on 3 February 1931 at 10.47am. Both towns were levelled & 256 people were killed in Hastings. She said that the ground sank by over a metre. In the town of Napier the quake caused a huge fire which razed it to the ground.

Hastings has had other big quakes – 6.9 on 16/9/1932, 6.1 in 1951, 6.1 in 1993. 5.9 in 2008 which caused $5 million in damage as the epicentre was only 10kms south of the town centre.

The tourist info lady also told us about another disaster which hit the town in August & September 2016 when 5,200 residents fell ill from a water-borne disease called campylobacteriosis. This was the largest outbreak of this disease to have ever occurred in NZ. She also told us that Hastings was on a high tsunami alert following recent earthquakes in Japan & Indonesia. All along the NZ Pacific coastline there are tsunami signs advising where to go to quickly reach higher ground. The signs also inform people about signs to look out for if there is a quake that lasts longer than 1 minute or if you cannot stand up as this could lead to a tsunami wave hitting the shoreline. There are also tsunami sirens that sound if there is danger of one occurring due to an earthquake. www.geonet.org.nz lists earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides & tsunamis in NZ. Rather a woeful story about this town, but we found the people there very chatty, helpful & friendly. We met a retired man who had emigrated from Southampton with his parents when he was a child & had settled in Hastings.

After doing some food shopping at Countdown, we drove to Te Mata, a 399m high peak above Hastings & Havelock North, which we had visited some years ago. We remembered the road to the viewing area car park at the top was very narrow & twisty. The views from the top were spectacular & we ate our lunch up there. It was a bit windy but very sunny & we could see the top of Mt Ruapehu 2,797m high peeping over the Ruahine Range 1733m high & Hawke Bay. Hang gliders jump from the top but no one was doing it today. Well worth a second visit.

After Te Mata we visited Ocean Beach & had a walk there – few people around & a lot of empty holiday homes (bachs). Then on to Waimarama & Bare Island with a rocky bay & more holiday homes. A sign by the shore warned of rips, wash backs & large holes in the sea bed by the rocks so dangerous for swimming. We called in at a small private campsite near there to possibly stay there that night but it was more expensive than the Top 10 in Hastings & did not look good. We decided to return to the Top 10 site for another night & arrived at 4.30pm. We had some filter coffee & some tropical fruit cake which we’d bought in the supermarket today.

Saturday 6 May Hastings to Waipukurau

We re-visited some gardens again at Duart House in Havelock North. The roses were out this time & smelt lovely. Palm trees, orange & lemon trees & the Virginia Creeper on the verandah rails was a glorious red colour (see photos). We last visited the gardens about 10 years ago. The house is owned by the local council & is only used for wedding receptions & bookings for parties, meetings etc but the gardens were free for anyone to look around. A croquet club use the lawn at the side of the house. The house is surrounded by more modern houses but it’s a lovely heritage building, built in c1854 by the McLean family who were sheep farmers.

Then we drove to Arataki Honey Centre in Havelock North & watched a film about bees & enjoyed sampling 12 different types of honey on display. We saw bees in an indoor hive & could sample various products made from Manuka honey such as body lotions, hand cream etc. Manuka honey is expensive & prized for its health benefits & its anti-bacterial qualities. The bees collect the nectar from the pink flowers of the Manuka Tree (Tea Tree), native to NZ. A very educational & enjoyable visit.

Then we drove to Kairakau Beach through sheep stations, green hills & twisty roads that had earthquake cracks (some were repaired by filling in with tar. This beach was by a river outlet with small cliffs. The Pacific Ocean waves were quite strong & the beach had a lot of driftwood & tree branches thrown up on it by storms. A lot of the houses at Kairakau were holiday bachs & the community was virtually deserted. We walked along the grassy shore & noticed that one of the homes had a sign on the fence which said ‘Here lives a friendly fisherman with his best ever catch’ which we assumed was his wife!! There were various mosaic murals around including a tiled mosaic sofa, a hopscotch squares game for kids & a blue & white mirror in the disabled toilet.

We had lunch here & the weather was very sunny with a slight breeze. Some children had made some wigwam huts out of driftwood on the beach. There were some motorhomes parked at one end of the beach but we decided as it was only 4pm not to stay here for the night, even though it was free to camp. The area was level with the sea & ‘designated a high risk tsunami area’ plus the rocky cliffs were behind the motorhomes so a bit dodgy if there was a quake. We drove on to Waipukurau & stopped at a small campsite in town overnight.

This town was on Highway 2 & was inland from the ocean. We did a Skype with Doug, Phoenix & Charlie & it was lovely to chat together & catch up on news. Charlie was very chiry & bouncing around in her T-shirt & nappy… what a cutie!! She asked us where New Zealand was & we told her it was in the sea a long way from Singapore & that her Mummy & Daddy had been there a while ago. She wants us to go with her to the big water park with a splash area for children, when we stay with them in June.

Sunday 7 May Waipukurau to Eketahuna

After breakfast we went into Waipukurau & got a few food items from Countdown & some fuel. We then took a minor road through lovely scenery & sheep stations to Porangahau. There were a few houses, pub, school & a red & white painted church. Took the road out towards Pourere on the coast but the winding tarmac road turned to gravel & we decided to turn around rather than risk a possible puncture.

We then took another minor road to Wimbledon, which was a tiny community with a primary school & outdoor swimming pool. A farmer stopped in his 4WD to ask us if we were OK as we were parked up on the grass verge. Nice of him to check if we had broken down & if we required assistance – this wouldn’t happen in England.

Visited Herbertville on the coast which we’d not been to before. A very long beach with driftwood logs & tree branches & some tall cliffs named Cape Turnagain by Capt Cook when he changed direction whilst mapping the coast. We had lunch here but couldn’t access the beach because of a stream & the gravel road led to private land. Saw a huge white wooden house set back from the road which was probably built by the first settlers called Herbert in the 1850’s. The place was named Herbertville after this family. This area sees few tourists & felt like the back of beyond. There is a NZ fur seal colony here.

We carried on driving along the minor road back to Wimbledon & turned left towards Ti Tree Point, Weber, Waione and Pongaroa. These places were so small – only 1 or 2 houses & mainly sheep stations. Very twisty, hilly roads. By the time we got to Alfredton (only 1 house + shearing shed) it was beginning to get dark & it started to drizzle with rain. We rejoined Highway 2 at Eketahuna & found a campsite near the town.

This was one of the most unusual campsites we had stayed in, mainly because of the other campers. There were women dressed in medieval costumes around the camp kitchen & then they all walked off to the woods to start a bonfire & do some drumming & feasting. They invited us to participate but we politely declined. We thought they may have been Pagans & they had been staying at the campsite for the weekend. Luckily the drumming stopped at 9.40pm & the campsite became very quiet thank goodness!

Keef did a lovely dinner of salmon fishcakes, spiced kumara & corn on the cob. For dessert we had Tip Top boysenberry icecream & nashi pear. Tip Top have been making icecream in NZ for 80 years & the boysenberry one is the best flavour we think. There was a bit of a mission to getting this icecream into our motorhome ice box. Keef had bought a 2 litre tub of this icecream from the supermarket this morning but was disappointed to find that it didn’t fit into the tiny icebox part of the motorhome fridge. Not to be stumped about this problem he then cut up the icecream into 6 equal portions & using a fish slice put them into 6 plastic food bags. Genius…. they fitted in the icebox.. hooray! We had the sliding door of the motorhome open & a couple walked past the van & were no doubt puzzled why he was shovelling icecream into plastic bags. We just love that boysenberry icecream.

10.20pm – those Pagans are banging their drums again! We should ask for a discount from the camp fee because of the racket.

Monday 8 May Eketahuna to Martinborough

Without saying a word about the noise in the woods we meekly paid the campsite fee of $16 including electric hook up, although the facilities weren’t anything to write home about. We thought the female campsite owner looked a bit pagan-like too unless she just liked to look scruffy. Keef overheard some of the pagan women asking the owner where they could get wi-fi!!

At 9.45am we went back into town in search of a bakery & noticed that there was a big sign which said ‘Real Kiwi Country’ & to prove it there were statues of 2 very large kiwis (the birds) artfully displayed. Reminded us of Aussie town naffness. The town was so small that it took a minute to drive through but perhaps that was a blessing! Most of the shops were closed so Keef got some pies in the Four Square supermarket. Saw a building built by A.F.Herbert & Sons Ltd 1898 – probably the sons of the graziers from Herbertville.

We drove from Eketahuna on Highway 2 to Masterton which we’d visited before. Quite a big town with many shops. I had read that a settler called Joseph Masters had been in the area & the town was named after him – all these settlers had ideas above their (sheep) station. I wanted to find out where he came from originally as Masters were my ancestors. So we went to the i-site (tourist info) & the lady there said there was some info online (she googled him) but it didn’t say his origins.

She referred us to the Art Gallery & Museum called Aratoi which joined on to the i-site building. This was a brilliant museum which had lots of cultural & historical exhibits about the Ngati Maori people from the Wairarapa region. This geographical region includes Masterton, Carterton, Featherston & Martinborough areas to the Pacific Ocean.

There was a room with oil paintings of Maori people painted by a British portrait artist who got them to sit for him. The detail of their clothes, jewellery (greenstone), cloaks & tattoos was amazing. They were painted in the mid- 1850s – 1870s & the Maoris were all from the Wairarapa. There were several women who were senior members & one was a chief of the iwi (tribe).

We also saw carved wooden hair combs, a wooden canoe, fish hooks & other day to day objects plus a cloak made from kiwi feathers sewn onto a woven fabric backing. Apparently it was only the chief who wore the kiwi feather cloak. The museum showed historical information about how the English duped the Maoris into selling their lands for 1d (i.e one old English penny) an acre. Millions of acres of land were acquired for this paultry sum. Shocking. The Maori people were told that they would get medical assistance, schools & protection in return, but in fact they got very little.

These descendents are now seeking redress through the NZ government. The museum had documents which showed what happened & some of the British settlers crowed about their gains. Quite shameful how the British (mainly English & Scots) basically took all this land from the Maoris on behalf of Queen Victoria. The first Maori Parliament opened in 1897 in Greytown in the Wairarapa region but this was for them to conduct their own governance.

After the museum we drove the motorhome to the local park (established in Victorian times) where we were told there was a statue & information board about Joseph Masters (there had been no mention of him in the museum). It turned out he was not from Dorset (as my ancestors were) but from Derby, where he was born. He lived in Rugby, trained as a cooper & emigrated to Tasmania with his wife. After a few years they moved to New Zealand where he set about being a land agent in the Wairarapa area. He set up a school as well.

Set off for Castlepoint on the coast. Saw lots of sheep stations, some of which were for sale. At a shearing shed we saw sheep being dipped & sprayed yellow by their tails. Scenic twisty road with lots of filled in cracks from earthquakes & some landslides in a few places. Sometimes the edge of the tarmac road had given way & dropped down the hill so had to be cordoned off. The hills were very green with lots of streams & a main river. The road bridges are single track only so vehicles have to give way & wait for others to cross depending on the road sign.

Sunny & warm today & again the autumn colours on the trees were lovely. We stopped at the historical village of Tinui which had a tiny policestation & an old gaol that was no bigger than a shed. It also had a school, post office & telegraph station. There was a pretty white wooden church which had held the first Anzac Day memorial service in NZ for local men who died at Gallipoli in WW1. The village lost 7 men in that battle.

Castlepoint was a small town with holiday homes, a lighthouse on the point, campground & fish & chip shop. It was originally named by Captain Cook who saw a massive rock on the shore & thought it reminded him of castle ramparts so he called it Castle Rock. The lighthouse was only accessible at low tide. We had lunch by the main swimming beach & then had a walk. The beach was covered in white cockle shells. The waves were gentle here, unlike Herbertville where they crashed on the beach sending seaspray up into the air.

The sand was very fine on the bay near the lighthouse (on the dunes). There was a strange ring of rock which almost blocked this bay. The information board described the story of two missionaries (one was Rev William Williams from Kerikeri, Bay of Islands, who knew my settler ancestor John Edmonds – they both fell out big style) & they were trying to sail across the Cook Strait to South Island. Bad weather caused them to shelter in this bay which they called ‘Deliverance Bay’. Williams had a missionary brother called Henry, who I’ve already mentioned translated the Waitangi Treaty into Maori. Both men had been sent to NZ under the auspices of the London Missionary Society(LMS) to preach Christianity to the Maoris. My ancestor & his family had left Swanage, Dorset to do the same under the LMS but was a stonemason working for the mission in Kerikeri. Both Williams brothers had set up mission stations (such as Kerikeri) & schools & they learnt to speak the Maori language fluently. There had been some resistance from the Maoris in North Island when the earliest settlers arrived & blood was spilt on both sides, but in the Wairarapa there had been no bloodshed.

We drove from Castlepoint to Riversdale Beach, another sandy beach with white shells & loads of driftwood. This community was mainly holiday homes but it did have a Surf Lifesaving Club by the beach. We then went on to Martinborough along country roads & arrived in the dark. Found the Top 10 campsite which was brand new but quite compact. The kitchen & facilities were excellent. The dump station for the toilet cassette was outside the site on the roadside. Opposite the campsite was a vineyard & the road turned to gravel just past the Top 10 entrance. The lady in reception told us that the previous night’s temperature was only 2c. The wine growers are currently doing the winter pruning of the vines.

Tuesday 9 May Martinborough to Wellington

After breakfast we dumped our waste water in the place provided outside the campsite & headed into town. We had a wander round looking at all the up-market shops together with up-market prices. You could tell that they were expensive because they called them selves ‘providore’, ‘boutique’ & ‘gourmet’ plus assorted French sounding names. We saw a gourmet butcher whose signs outside the shop said ‘vionson meatballs’, ‘beff sausages’ & ‘chicken kababs’ – the shop was called Scotties Gourmet Meats. The butcher may have been dyslexic. Outside a bank we saw a pair of wellies parked by the doorway.

A bright sunny day & warm. The old general store was damaged in an earthquake in 1942 & it was rebuilt but without the big glass shopfront. Now it’s a Mitre 10 (D.I.Y), a Four Square mini supermarket & a clothing shop. We bought some toilet blue liquid from the Mitre 10, cost $26. We chatted to an Irish employee there who was very friendly – he had met & married a NZ girl in London. The centre square & diagonal roads leading off it were designed to form a Union Jack. A man was just taking down some small white crosses in the grassy centre from Anzac Day – a lot of men from this town died in the wars & every cross had a name on it.

We then went on to Lake Ferry, a tiny community of mainly holiday homes plus a café at the edge of an inland lake with a narrow spit of land separating it from the ocean. The bay was very wide (Palliser Bay) & we then took a tarmac road to Ngawi, a Maori community near Cape Palliser. To get to this place we passed sheer rock walls & high pinnacles on one side with the sea on the other. The ocean looked a beautiful blue/turquoise & the beaches were black volcanic sand. The fishermen kept their boats, tractors & earth movers hauled up at the top of the beach next to the road to be safe from storms as there was no harbour. The men were fishing for the beautiful paua shells (abalone) which were sold to the jewellery/ craft industry. We saw lots of broken paua shells on the beach, but although we searched we didn’t find any whole ones. Traditionally Maoris use this irridescent shell as eyes in their wood carvings.

We wanted to carry on along the gravel road round Palliser Bay to Cape Palliser itself (which is the furthest point south in North Island) but had to turn back. The ruts in the gravel were so bad (caused by tractors) that the motorhome was shaking violently even though we were crawling along slowly. Even our teeth were rattling. Disappointing as we couldn’t make it to the Cape as I wanted to see the seal colony there. On the way back we took a photo of a small wooden house with a little verandah/ balcony decorated with hanging paua shells strung along the front.

Returning to Lake Ferry we took the road to Featherstone, across the Ruamahanga River where there were signs warning of possible river flooding. Luckily it was dry weather, as sometimes they close the road. We then crossed the Tararua Range by climbing up a steep & twisty road with hairpin bends & sheer drops to the forest valley below. We would not want to do this route in heavy rain or at night! Rather a scary drive (which we had done on a previous visit to NZ & I had forgotten about it).

We headed towards Wellington & followed the wide Hutt River, arriving at the Top 10 campsite at Lower Hutt at 3.50pm. We were meeting up with Chris & Allyson & the lady on reception said that they had checked in an hour earlier. They had come from a different direction – Highway 1 on the west coast. They sent us a Facebook message to to say they had gone into Wellington on the bus to have a look around.

I did some laundry although grey clouds were building up, & I risked hanging it up on the rotary washing line overnight. We sent C & A a message saying we had arrived – we had pitches next to one another. We found that the campsite had totally changed for the better from 10 years ago- the reception included a motel complex & the kitchen, BBQs & shower/toilet blocks had all been completely re-done. This site cost us $45 per night per pitch & we planned on staying 2 nights, ready to catch the Interislander ferry to South Island on Thursday.

When Chris & Allyson returned we cooked them spaghetti Bolognese & then had boysenberry icecream. We had lots to share about our respective travels since we’d last seen each other on the 4 May. C & A were tired as they’d done a lot of walking round Wellington.

Wednesday 10 May Wellington

I collected the washing which was dry, so luckily didn’t rain overnight.Chris & Allyson did a lovely bacon & egg cob on the BBQ for breakfast. They wanted to go back into the city & as K & I had spent a week there 10 years ago we decided to do something else & we agreed we’d all meet up later in the day in town. They got the bus in to the city & we drove along the harbour front to Eastbourne, a residential community with houses literally 6 feet from the waters edge or perched high up the steep wooded hillsides. Not ideal as Wellington has regular earth trenors & was affected by the massive 7.8 quake last November (2016) in Kaikoura. Two car parks were damaged & there were cracks in office buildings & homes. Kaikoura is a lot further south of Wellington (159 mls) & on the east coast so surprising that Wellington felt the earthquake.

Keef & I went for a walk along the harbour beach & I picked up some lovely shells. There was a monument to the terrible ferry disaster that occurred on 10/4/1968 during a violent cyclone (Giselle) which hit Wellington. The vehicle ferry, ‘Wahine,’ ran aground on a reef just inside Wellington harbour & 51 passengers & crew drowned when the ferry sank that day.

We drove back along the harbour front, past the ferry terminal, to Lyall Bay. This bay & beach was situated next to the Air New Zealand runway at Wellington airport which was built out towards the sea. We watched planes arriving & taking off over the sea – it wasn’t a long runway but the planes did not look that huge. The passenger terminal sign said ‘Welcome to the middle of Middle Earth’. Watched people surfing in the bay & then we went to have a coffee & snack lunch at a modern café called ‘Loose as a Goose’ – strange name. It had plate glass windows to get the best views of the bay, surfers & runway strip.

We drove the motorhome back to the campsite, changed into jeans & shoes (only the 2nd time on this holiday that Keef has not worn flip-flops). Caught the 2.50pm bus into the city. It took ages going round Lower Hutt & Petone shopping areas – 50 mins when it was so quick by motorhome. We walked from the middle of the city down to Te Papa museum/art gallery but then we got a phone message from Allyson saying they had left Te Papa 45 minutes ago to walk towards the famous cable tramway up to the scenic lookout over Wellington.

We thought that while we were at the entrance to Te Papa we’d have another look at the Maori Marae & exhibits, the stuffed kiwi birds, the earthquake house & volcano footage of eruptions in NZ. Also had a look again at the Waitangi Treaty original documents (translated by Rev Henry Williams (plus there was a photo of him). Keef & I did not spend long in Te Papa as we had visited it before for 2 days as there was so much to see. Unfortunately the oil paintings of Maori people were no longer on public view as the art gallery part of the museum was being refurbished. The staff told us that the paintings were available to view on the Te Papa website. This museum is one of the best ones we’ve ever seen.

We walked to Shed 22 Mac’s Brewery on the harbour front. Keef had a beer & I had a lime daiquiri cocktail. Chris & Allyson joined us there for a few drinks before walking to Courtney Place to find an Indian restaurant called ‘Saffron’. Couldn’t find it so instead we went to one across the road called ‘Great India’. We had a great Indian curry meal & all ate too much, although Chris & Allyson had not had any lunch so were very hungry.

The original owners of the restaurant had emigrated from Leicester & their two sons now run the business as the parents had retired. As we came from Nottingham we got special service! Good food & then we all staggered across the road to get the 9.30pm bus back to our campsite. A cloudy & mild night but no stars. Aiming to get up early to catch the 9am ferry to South Island tomorrow so set our alarms.

Thursday 11 May Wellington via ferry to Nelson, South Island

Got up in the dark when our alarm went off at 5.30am. Had showers. Raining. For breakfast had fruit juice & ½ banana each. At 6.45am we all set off for the ferry port as the last boarding time closed at 8am. The traffic along the harbour road was bumper to bumper & K & I were worried that Chris & Allyson were not following us as we couldn’t see them in the rear view mirror as a lorry was directly behind us. Rush hour traffic into Wellington obviously starts before 6.45am. Good job we set off early for the ferry port. Saw a lorry accident where it had gone into the back of a car. Journey was a bit tense but we actually got to the ferry in plenty of time & sat in the queue waiting to board.

We didn’t board until 8.30 (could have spent longer asleep) & the ferry left dead on time at 9am. Noticed several lorries carrying sheep & cows boarding the ferry. At the end of the 3½ hour voyage the car decks smelt awful! Had breakfast on the ferry & as it was still raining & windy outside we stayed in the lounge area. The sea was slightly choppy but not enough to cause people to be seasick. We were told that the winds were northerly today so it would be a good crossing across the Cook Strait. However, if the wind had been southerly then this would be a bad crossing.

We relaxed & chatted for most of the journey & then chatted with a Kiwi couple from Wellington who were going to South Island for a long weekend.