On the homeward journey

Eric apologises again for the late arrival of the supposedly daily blog, he is doing his best, honest.


Tuesday 13th January 2015. Day 127. Fossil fascination

To paraphrase a well known ditty

‘There’s a little yellow eyed penguin to the north of Oamaru,

Tho’ sighting it is difficult, that much is true.’


We were away very promptly at our target time of 8.30am because we had a lot to pack in today. The overnight rain continued as we left Oamaru, having tried to fill the just under three quarters full petrol tank and only managing to get 3 litres in, leaving it three quarters full, as a product of Eric’s petrol paranoia. Our route led us to the valley of the river Waitaki and the settlement of Duntroon. Here we found the centre of a local palaeontological initiative to bring the unique fossils of the local limestone to a wider audience. Of special note are the skeletons of ancestral dolphins from the Oligocene plus whale and penguin remains. The centre has original fossils, as well as casts, and offers a hands on experience of extracting a fossil and identifying, which is very popular with children. We arrived well before it opened but one of the local volunteers arrived and admitted us to all but the fossil extraction activity.

On his advice we retraced our steps and found the weird rock formations created by weathering and erosion of the limestone known as Elephant Rocks, where the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe battle scene was filmed. As we headed back to Duntroon we visited the Maerewhenua site which featured Maori rock art in a cave shelter. Back in Duntroon we saw the 1910 jail and the dressed stone church before travelling to Tokiroa cave shelter for another site of Maori art, where the art could be seen more clearly, but the best bits had been moved to a museum.

Further up the valley, just past Kurow, we passed the Waitaki dam, the first of three HEP stations along the river, then drove across the Aviemore dam and along the shore of the lake, an almost continuous campsite. The road then cut back to the main road across the Benmore Dam, a huge earth dam which creates a lake that extends all the way to Twizel. The landscape became more hilly and the vegetation sparser, dominated by dry grass and scrub.

The road then took us through Omarama and Twizel, crossing the huge canal from Lake Pukaki, before turning along the western side of this lake with the snow covered southern alps a clear barrier ahead. The beautiful azure blue of the lake was counterpointed by the brilliant white of the snow and ice on the horizon. Mount Cook dominated our view as we drove alongside the lake, looming larger and larger. Driving into Mount Cook Village we were greeted by the majestic Mount Seaton with its beautiful glaciers.

After our picnic lunch, outside the visitor centre, surrounded by the grandeur of the mountains we drove towards the Hooked Valley which offered even better views of Mount Seaton. Turning south we then drove towards the Tasman glacier, although our travel, was interrupted by the road workers resealing the road. Having parked the car we walked towards to viewpoint on the top of the terminal moraine. Turning aside to view the ‘blue lakes’ we came to the first one and were disappointed to find it had no colour whatsoever. Disheartened by this Joyce returned to the car while Eric continued the steep climb to the top. The view of the proglacial lake and the vertical blue ice of the snout of the glacier covered with a great depth of moraine was stunning. On descending the path Eric caught sight of the other two moraine lakes, the furthest of which was a shade of bluey green, one out of three is not bad.

We retraced our steps to Twizel, where we refuelled, much to Eric’s relief, then headed towards Lake Tekapo. Just before entering the settlement we visited the viewpoint at the Mount John Observatory, producing a stunning view of the beautiful blue lake. After taking the opportunity of taking pictures we sought out the Reflections restaurant, recommended by Trip Advisor, where we enjoyed beautiful lake and mountain views and had an excellent meal with Joyce enjoying the Mongolian chicken and Eric yet another steak. While waiting for our meal we took advantage of the excellent free WiFi, as we had had a poor service in our previous room.

Leaving Tekapo we visited the Church of the Good Shepherd, the stone built church on a promontory overlooking the lake. Nearby was the monument to the collie dogs who helped open the country for sheep farming. We then drove in the gathering gloom of thickening cloud and drizzle through Burke’s Pass, a heritage village with a quaint wooden church, founded in 1859. In Fairlie we found our extravagant motel room at the Top 10 Park, which came with bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and lounge.


Wednesday 14th January 2015. Day 128. Akaroan attractions

Yesterday’s rain had stopped before we left at 9.00am but the sky remained overcast. In the clean air the hillsides stood out with particular clarity in the clear light through the grey clouds. The damp roads were speckled with small birds, foraging for who knows what, who repeatedly took to the wing almost a fraction too late as the car approached. Unfortunately one poor specimen misjudged that fraction and we added to the road kill total.

The weather had led us to modify our plans for the day. Originally we had intended pushing a little further north via Methven to visit the Mt Hutt ski area for more mountain views but the low cloud meant that the views would be confined to mist. The fact that we had booked an afternoon harbour cruise in Akaroa also contributed to our change of plan as we still had a long way to go against the clock. As a result we took the road to Geraldine as a way point to rejoin SH1. We paused briefly in this town, admired to few heritage buildings as we drove down the main street and paused at the Kiwi Country store but with little special on offer and being a little early for coffee we pushed on to Ashburton. Entering what we thought was the settlement we were disappointed to find no nice cafés and after doing a right street U turn, as all the shops were on the other side of the road because the railway ran close to the western side, we stopped at a bakery for some patisserie and take away coffee, which we consumed in the car being buffeted by the stream of trucks heading in both directions along the main north south highway.

Rejoining the main road, in the right direction, we found the actual town of Ashburton, with some nice cafes and heritage buildings on offer, but by then it was too late. Starting with Ashburton we passed across a series of rivers, each with a settlement named after them on the south bank. These rivers are highly braided carrying coarse sediment in mainly meltwater from the mountains, necessitating very wide bridges. Eric was particularly gratified to cross the Rangitata river, which he had used for years in teaching Fluvial Geomorphology as an example of a river changing its plan form along its length, depending on slope and load, between braided and single channel, and which he was delighted to see actually existed. The view from the bridge was brief but dramatic in terms of the meltwater colour and the wide expanse of braiding.

After crossing the Rakaia river we attempted a coastal approach to Akaroa, juggling the gps directions and an inadequately scaled route map. We skirted the Lake, a huge lagoon, Te Waihora or Lake Ellesmere, created by a spit, eventually rejoining SH75, the Christchurch to Akaroa road. The weather had closed in again, with intermittent drizzle and harder rain, and the mountains of the Banks peninsula, named by Captain Cook 5 days after the birthday of Joseph Banks, the expedition’s botanist, and wrongly thought to be an island.

The peninsula owes its origin to the creation of a series of  interconnected volcanic edifices which have been subject to radial drainage and deep incision, then flooding by rising sea levels. As a result a series of deep straight rias fringe the peninsula while the breaching of the main crater had led to the formation of Akaroa harbour, relatively shallow at 15 metres depth.

The drive into the peninsula allowed views of the lagoon, with patches of violet flowers across the mud flats, exposed at low tide. From Little River, with the Silo-stay hotel where the rooms are inside grain solos, the road rises steeply and tortuously through Cooptown to Hilltop where it descends equally precipitately to Barry’s Bay, offering superb views over the Onawe Peninsula and Akaroa harbour, which must be even better under sun and cloudless skies rather than through mist under a low cloud base.

From Barry’s Bay the road travels around the northern end of the harbour, cresting ridges before returning to the sea in a series of bays. A final climb brought us above Akaroa where we found our Top 10 holiday park perched above the harbour and offering superb views, even in the rain. Although it was only 1.40pm our cabin was ready for us and given the poor weather we phoned the cruise company and rearranged our trip for the next morning. Moving into our cabin we enjoyed our lunch, admiring the views through the cloud, before relaxing for a couple of hours, waiting for the weather to improve.

During the afternoon it stopped raining, although the harbour remained misty and clogged in. At around 4.00pm we decided it was dry enough to venture out and we drove down the Old Coach Road into Akoroa, parking close to the Catholic Church. Akaroa has the distinction of being a French settlement, albeit under English rule, the whole of South Island being claimed by the Crown under the Treaty of Waitangi and the English flag being planted at Green Point only days before the French settlers arrived. As a result the surviving architecture and the street names retain their Gallic charm.

After visiting St Patrick’s Catholic Church, built in 1864 on the site of the first South Island mass celebrated by Bishop Pompallier, who we had come across in Russell, we moved on to Trinity Church, the Presbyterian church, which was locked and the shop holding the key was closed for the day, before visiting the Anglican St Peter’s Church, built in 1863.

We passed the museum, which had closed for the day, and a number of distinctive heritage buildings before heading around French Bay to Main Wharf to reconnoitre the cruise location for tomorrow. Our research into dining possibilities had so far been fruitless, with restaurants closed or very expensive, so passing a butcher’s offering speciality sausages we decided to reprise the Christmas dinner. Having bought a selection we headed to the wharf, discovering other buildings such as the Library and the Gaiety theatre as well as souvenir shops. On the wharf we found the departure point and the closed Blue Pearl Gallery which showcased the unique blue pearls produced in the harbour and which took Joyce’s fancy.

Strolling back in the resuming rain we passed the war memorial, undergoing restoration after the earthquakes, shrouded in scaffold and shrink wrap and bought the rest of the food for dinner. Returning to the car we headed back to our cabin where we enjoyed our sausage, mash and beans, plus broccoli, before watching a film on TV.


Thursday 15th January 2015   Day 129   Dolphin delights

Although it had rained overnight it was dry when we awoke, albeit still clagged in. We were away from the Park by 10.00am and headed down the hill again to the town. Have looked at parking places yesterday we went to the nearest unrestricted parking to the wharf and found a spot to park. We then strolled towards the wharf with Joyce settling in a café to order coffee while Eric headed off to collect the boarding passes.

Having enjoyed our coffee we went to the wharf and in the few minutes before boarding called in to the Pearl emporium to make enquiries about a pendant for Joyce. The pearls are cultivated in the harbour, by the abalone that produce the blue Paua shells. As time ran out on us we promised to return after the cruise.

Boarding of the boat was swift and we were soon heading out into the harbour. Although it had tried to rain again precipitation was holding off, but the sky remained stubbornly overcast with tantalising short breaks in the cloud. The harbour is impressive with its steep sides, now covered in pasture but originally thick forest. The slopes are often craggy and as the boat headed seaward the development of vertical cliffs became the dominant feature. At water level caves of varying sizes from tubes to the vast Cathedral have developed and active hydraulic action can clearly be seen in the embryo caves as the waves compress air into them creating fountains of water and spray through the cave mouth and through the occasional blow hole.

At the mouth of the harbour we passed out into the Pacific Ocean, the boat become far more lively as we crested the deep ocean swells. The cliffs facing the open sea are dramatic with superb arch development. On the Eastern headland the automatic lighthouse can clearly be seen. The original manned lighthouse, constructed of wood, was due for demolition but local enthusiasts bought it for $1 and moved it to the harbourside, just north of the wharf, where it stands as a proud monument.

On our way along the harbour we passed several interesting historical sights, including Green Point with its monument and where a flagpole still files the Union flag, and Onuku, with the Maori church, built in 1878, and the meeting house.

Wildlife was prolific on our cruise with many species of sea birds, especially cormorants, red billed gulls and sooty shearwaters over the open sea. Other highlights included the New Zealand fur seal colony, with a number of pups, and the sightings of the blue penguin, one swimming only metres from the boat. However the best of the day were the large number of Hector’s dolphins that swam around the boat, playing in the wake and under the bows. The smallest marine dolphin it is also the most threatened, on a par with the Bengal Tiger and the panda. Only 7,000 exist in the wild, 50 in Akaroa harbour and by our count we saw at least 40 of them, including one baby.


All good things must come to an end so we returned to Akaroa in time for Joyce to select a blue pearl pendant as an early tenth anniversary present, Yes it will be ten years on the 2nd April. Having put the purchase in the car we went to the museum, with 50 objects reflecting the history of the town. In the courthouse, next to the museum, a short film told the story of its development; while on the other side a two bedroom cottage, bought prefabricated from France, reflected its beginnings.

Time was now pressing so we headed for the Summit road to enjoy the extensive views of the peninsula. Stopping briefly at the Akaroa Heritage Park viewpoint all that could be seen were the sheets of rain converging on the harbour. Driving on and up we entered thick cloud and rain, with only 10 k visibility, which persisted for the whole transit of the peninsula’s spine. We passed a few other hardy souls driving the route and while reminding us of winter at home as Joyce remarked sensible people were using the faster lower road.

Emerging finally, from the mist we rejoined the main road and retraced our steps through Little River before diverting over Gebbies Pass to Governor’s Bay with misty views of Lyttleton Harbour. A short stop in Lyttleton where a brief visit to the info centre confirmed that there was little worth stopping for, so taking the Lyttleton tunnel we entered Christchurch and found our B&B accommodation. After a coffee and chat with our hosts we drove to a nearby salon for Joyce’s hair appointment. Whilst the hair was attended to Eric stayed in the car updating the blog, it is usually Joyce waiting for Eric in the car. When Joyce returned after two hours, golden halo shining, we repaired to a local Italian restaurant for spaghetti and lasagne. During the meal Joyce felt her chair move, although Eric was oblivious. Our hosts confirmed that this was a local 3.7 earthquake, tremors below 3 still occur daily, all public buildings have to be checked after tremors of 5+.


Friday 16th January 2015   Day 130 Busking bonanza

Our hosts were very relaxed about arrangements and left the makings of breakfast for when we got going. After a leisurely breakfast we discussed the plans for the day. Christchurch is still suffering from the impact of the two earthquakes the second of which hit the city almost three years ago. Many of the older buildings were so badly damaged that they have been demolished and those iconic buildings that could be saved are taking time to be renovated, meaning that the normal tourist activities are curtailed. However the city is responding positively to the challenge, with a clear plan as how the city can be improved as the rebuild continues. There are a number of earthquake related places to visit as part of experiencing the city.

We therefore decided to visit the centre and also to take advantage of the World Busker festival which started today. We were interested in going to a one woman Jane Austen spoof entitled Promise and Promiscuity and tried to book tickets online. As a result of Eric’s incompetence we ended up with tickets to both the Friday and Saturday night performances, which the telephone sales personnel could not sort out, only email would do. Having immediately sent a missive it turned out that it would be dealt within a two day response time. We therefore resolved to sort the problem out in town as we left at 11.00am.

Driving through Christchurch proved something of a challenge as the gps was not fully au fait with the road closures in place as repairs and rebuilding continues. After a few circuits of the centre we began to find our way around. One result of the extensive building clearance is the proliferation of parking places, for as little as $5 per day, on these sites.

Our first destination was the Restart Mall, the shopping arcade created with cargo containers. From here we walked through to Cathedral Square to view the horrendous damage done to the Cathedral, which will be repaired, and the city trams running a tour of the centre. We then found the Arts Centre which, although extensively damaged, is under repair and saw a snatch of our first busker, a juggler.

As we walked around we saw the results of the ‘Stand Tall’ competition where schools had been challenged to decorate statues of giraffes. These giraffes appear all over the centre of Christchurch and represent aspirations for the future.

From the Art’s Centre we returned, along the River Avon, to Restart for lunch and a visit to St Michael’s Church, a magnificent wooden church built on 1864 which largely escaped damage. Returning to the car we drove to North Hegley Park and found an on street parking place. Heading towards to Botanic Gardens we inadvertently strayed on to the golf course and with visions of a bombardment of stray golf balls we made our rapid way to the safety of the nearest path, which led us to the main Busker stages. Here we enjoyed the antics of an unicyclist who completed his act astride a 12 foot high unicycle whilst juggling a burning torch, a machete and a club; the ‘Coin Operated Girl’ and ‘The English Gentlemen’, who produced a magnificent and humorous display of acrobatics. In the area we found a ticket booth and explained our ticket predicament. The solution was to give us tickets for tonight’s performance of ‘The Boy with Tape on his Mouth’, allowing us to see ‘Promise and Promiscuity’ tomorrow.

From the Busker we moved to the Botanic and walked through the Gardens, admiring the Water, New Zealand and Rose Gardens and the extensive Herbaceous Border and parkland. As we walked to the Main Gate we passed an elaborate fountain, before entering the Museum, where we enjoyed the Maori, Antarctic Base, Christchurch Street, Victorian Museum and Paua House displays. Running out of time, being ushered out of the closing museum, we headed back to Restart Mall, viewing the Remembrance Bridge which is under repair. At the Mall we enjoyed a Pizza then walked to Christ’s College where the assembly hall was the venue for the show, most of the 900 seats were filled. This proved to be an excellent hour’s entertainment by a very talented and inventive mime artist whose interactions with volunteers from the audience, use of stage props and music had us all in paroxysms of laughter.

After the show we walked back through the Park in a shower of rain, avoiding the golf course, and found our car before driving back to our accommodation.


Saturday 17th January 2015. Day 131. Christchurch continuation

Another gentle start to the day saw us heading out at 10.30am after finding that we were to be refunded for the tickets for tonight’s show. As a result we had to purchase another two seats to ensure we saw it. Our hosts had recommended a visit to the Farmer’s Market at Riccerton House so we headed off to enjoy the local colour. Parking proved an issue but we bagged a spot within walking distance, vacated as we arrived. The market presented a fascinating range of fresh and cooked produce and we bought some quiche for lunch. The House was not open so we admired its exterior as we enjoyed a cup of coffee while listening to a trade jazz band.

The grounds of the House also contained Deans Cottage, a historic residence from the first settlers of the Canterbury Plains, which we were able to view, and the Riccerton Bush, a preserved section of the original woodland. We had an enjoyable stroll through this woodland and were entertained by the antics of a pair of fantails.

From the market we drove towards the airport to visit the Antarctica Centre which allowed Eric to ride in Hagglund all terrain vehicle. As Joyce could not ride due her neck issues, Eric, as a single passenger, was given the front seat, allowing an excellent view of the hill climbing, slope hugging, crevasse crossing and amphibious capabilities. Back in the centre we enjoyed snow in the seasons of Antartica display, the 4D theatre presentation of a tourist visit to the continent, complete with lashings of spume and spray. We viewed a number of Blue Penguins and baby ones in their nests in the sanctuary. We entered a room to experience an Antarctic storm in the freezer at -8C with wind speeds of 42 mph producing wind-chill of -8. Enjoyed an excellent display on the geology, ecology and exploration of Antarctica and a film of the colours and landscape.

Lunching in the car park at 2.45pm we then drove to the Christchurch Gondola. Here we were carried to a viewing platform and cafe on the rim of the extinct volcano which was part of the complex responsible for the creation of the Banks Peninsula. The views of Lyttleton and its harbour were spectacular and we could see through Gebbies Pass to Lake Ellesmere. Within the complex the ‘Time Tunnel’ ride told the history of Canterbury through DVD presentations.

From the Gondola we drove back into the city to visit the Cardboard Cathedral, an interim building which has created a beautiful and light space from containers, steel framing, Perspex roofing and cardboard tubing. Near this building were the 185 empty chairs, commemorating those who died in the earthquake, some large murals on the remaining walls and a ‘Nature Play Park’ where an area of rubble is being left to become vegetated naturally.

Having viewed these sites in an area with few buildings having survived the earthquake we drove to the Armagh Street car park near the Botanic Gardens. From here we walked through the Gardens to Christ’s College where the Old Boy’s Theatre, a more intimate venue, hosted ‘Promise and Promiscuity’. A one woman written and acted show which proved a tour de force, with multiple characters, Jane Austen quotations, clever wordplay, songs and dance. We thoroughly enjoyed the performance and returned to our hosts with smiles on our lips.


Sunday 18th January 2015.   Day 132   Limestone largesse

After saying farewell to our very welcoming and attentive hosts we headed to Sydenham church for the 10.00am service. The church was hosting a neighbouring congregation whose place of worship has been damaged in the earthquakes and was yet to be repaired. We had lively worship comprising more traditional hymns; the Word was based on Psalm 136 emphasised the need to always give God the glory and not seek it for ourselves. Leaving the church we headed north, diverting from SH1 on to SH73 and then the gps took us on the Old West Coast Road. As we drove we caught tantalising glimpses of the large Waimakiri river running in its extensively braided channels.

At Sheffield we rejoined SH73, pausing to buy award winning pies, and after passing through Springfield we found a shaded picnic site to consume the comestibles, which were good apart from Joyce’s Cherry Pie having the same savoury pastry as Eric’s Steak and Kidney.

A short time after lunch we passed through the Korowai Torlesse Tussocklands Park where we admired the distinctive grass which lent a golden colour to the desiccated hillsides. We then came upon Castle Hill with its rock formations reminiscent of an ancient fortified settlement. Similar forms to Elephant rocks, the limestone has weathered in large blocks defined by vertical joints, producing a field of rounded towers separated by deep corridors. The limestone surface is subject to physical spalling as well as carbonation and while karren features exist on the bare upper surfaces they are intermittent and poorly defined. Eric lingered longer than Joyce, enjoying a walk through this beautiful natural sculpture and reflecting that it is just not true that once you had seen one outcrop of weirdly shaped limestone, you had seen them all.

Our next stop was only a little further on at Cave stream, here anyone with a torch, good footwear and a willingness to get soaked can explore a stream running in a limestone cave system from resurgence to point of entry. Supressing our natural eagerness to join the large number of thrill seeking younger people in this pursuit we took the more sedate option of walking to the viewpoint to overlook the impressive gorge on one side of which is the resurgence cave, where the water comes out and adventurers go in, then walked along the edge of the steep dry valley, the original stream bed, to the gently inclined swallow hole where the water goes in and dripping wet adventurers emerge.

Our next stop was a short stop to view Lake Pearson before we ascended into Arthur’s Pass where mice with a death wish scurried across the road ahead of the car, dodging death by a whisker or not, with evidence of tiny speed bumps in the road.

The landscape was magnificently glacial and fluvio-glacial. Wide, glacial troughs with flat floors, masking their parabolic form, created from moraine and glacial stream deposits now support extensive braided streams. On the valley side moraine ridges and outwash terraces abounded. As we drove we saw ahead of us snow capped peaks, with extensive rock fall tracks, released by the summer thaw, across the snow fields.

Passing over Arthur’s Pass, our second major Alpine crossing and the highest at 962 metres, we passed down along the steep and tortuous road along Otika Gorge. We stopped at the viewpoint overlooking the inclined viaduct that runs along the river for several hundred metres and were entertained by the antics of a Kea. A little further down the road at another viewpoint that promised much but delivered little we were entertained by a pair of very friendly Keas, one who took a particular liking to Joyce.

Having reached the flats at the base of the gorge, although still perched above the Taramakau river, on a wide outwash terrace, we paused at Kumara for an ice cream, then discovered the Londonderry rock, a 3,000 ton erratic which had been disturbed from its hiding place in moraine during hydraulic mining for gold and rolled to its present location, killing and injuring miners en route. The path traversed the tailings from the mining operations. Gaining access to the walk involved some interesting unsealed road manoeuvres, so much so that it took three attempts, the last one at speed to get back on to the main track. Shades of Death Valley?

Rejoining SH6 we retraced our steps of last month into Greymouth where we stayed in the same Top 10 Holiday Park. This time we were fully self contained , a definite step up, and to celebrate the facilities we enjoyed a hearty meal of chunky soup and toast.



Monday 19th January 2015.   Day 133 Pass progress

Leaving Greymouth at 9.30 am we took the alternative route to Reefton and in doing so stumbled on the Tyneside mine which led us via the 19th century railway spur suspension bridge to the site of the Brunner mine, a fascinating industrial archaeological site with its Brick work, Beehive Coke ovens, Fire clay mine and Adits. It has the misfortune to be the site of New Zealand’s worst industrial accident in 1896 when 65 miners were killed in an underground explosion. The surface remains are very interesting, with a fascinating display of the history of the mine, its largely British miners and the outcomes of the bereaved families. Also fascinating was the strong smell of H2S emanating from the lower part of the site.

Leaving the mine behind we passed Red Jacks and its preserved logging locomotive and headed for the steep and winding Lewis Pass, our third major Alpine Pass. At 907 metres it is lower than Arthur’s but still beat the 564 metres of Haas Pass. As we drove the weather closed in and when, on the other side of the pass we stopped to enjoy the view of an Alpine lake at the start of the St James walkway, the rain began in earnest so we pushed on to Hanmer Springs where we explored the town, viewing the exterior of St Andrew’s Presbyterian church and finding the hot pools before checking in to our motel.

After a short rest we returned to the pools and enjoyed a reduced Seniors’ entry ticket and the delight of a private pool upgrade, courtesy of the ‘Arrival’ magazine coupon we had collected on landing in Auckland. This was not its only benefit, we had used a number of coupons before. Once our languorous laze in 38C water was over we went to the 42C Sulphur pools, which have not been treated and come directly from the geothermal source. We next sat in the rock pools and thoroughly enjoyed the variety of effects in the Aqua therapy pools where the variety of water jets were delivered at very high volume and velocity.

Once showered and changed we ventured out to the Whatever restaurant where we enjoyed Venison. Having seen so many deer farms and being told about the hunting opportunities offered by escaped deer and seen the fruits of such a hunt carried beneath a helicopter at Lake Manapouri, we were determined to try it, this being our first opportunity.


Tuesday 20th January 2015.   Day 134 Glacial grandeur

We had so much enjoyed our Hot Springs experience that we resolved to repeat it. As a result we were buying an entry ticket soon after the pools opened at 10.00am. No private pool today but straight in to the Sulphur pools followed by the freshwater Swimming pool with the flowing Lazy river circuit to enjoy. We felt that the water slides were not our scene but repaired again to the Aqua Therapy experience. We managed to occupy two hours easily before lunching in the on site café.

After lunch we took to the Old Kaikoura road which travelled again through marvellous glacial scenery, a glacial geomorphologist’s paradise. The road ran along the margins of wide, flat floored valleys with their glacier fed and greeny white braided streams. Outwash and moraine terraces were again much in evidence.

At Waiau we stopped to use the facilities and to view the historic Cob House and Church. Being the old road, the river crossings were by one track bridges and in many places the road was notched into precipitous moraine slopes, high above the floor of the incised streams, making steep descents to and ascents from the narrow wooden parapetted bridges.

We arrived in Kaikoura in good time and by 2.30pm were in our self contained accommodation on the peninsula, perched high above the sea on one of the marine terraces. Once settled we explored the area finding the old whaling station with the related Fyffe Cottage, now a whaling museum. Further on we visited the seal colony, where a couple of the local fur seals lolled around on the walkway (memories of the Galapagos) and beach. From here we drove back to the shops and found the location of the Whale Watch base for the morrow before returning to our room for tuna sandwiches.


Wednesday 21st January 2015. Day 135   Whale wonder

We had booked another whale watching cruise today in the hope of seeing a sperm whale, after failing to see ant in Sydney. Kaikoura has the distinction of hosting a semi-permanent group of male sperm whales that feed in the 1,600 metre deep Kaikoura trench that comes within a few kilometres of the coast.

We arrived to book in for the 10.30 am tour to be told we were actually on the 11.00am trip. Standing outside viewing the actions of a very distant pod of Dusky Dolphins in the bay the very kind receptionist came out to tell us that she had been able to move us forward, for which we were very grateful.

After a short safety briefing in the centre we were taken by coach to the nearby marina in South Bay, the other side of the peninsula. Once seated, the boat headed out to deeper water, to the last known location of the whale seen on the earlier trip. Once there we stopped and were permitted out on deck where we saw Mollymawk albatross, as at Stewart Island, and a Southern Royal Albatross as well as West Coast petrel. Once stopped the Captain used hydrophones to listen for the whale’s echo location, which allows him to determine where to go next. As the whales can stay underwater fir up to 2 hours, even sleeping at depth, and only stay on the surface 5 to 10 minutes, it is a real art to finding them when they are few in number.


We waited patiently for almost two hours, changing our location occasionally depending on the hydrophone results. Just as we were giving up hope the whale surfaced and started to blow about 200 metres in front of us. Joyce and Eric had secured a position at the bow rail and had an excellent view. The boat pulled alongside the whale, about a hundred metres to its left and we were enthralled to watch its repeated breathing and blowing from the S shaped vent, the spray emerging at 45 degrees to a height of several metres and with its stumpy dorsal fin above water. Eventually the whale was ready to dive and gave an excellent tail display and left a clear vortical pool on the surface.

Our time being up we returned to the marina from where we were taken by coach back to the base location and our car. We then parked closer to Kaikoura and attempted to buy fish and chips at Timid Takeaway, only to have the closed sign slapped on the door just before we entered, although other customers were inside. Slightly miffed we transferred our custom across the road to Coopers, where we had an excellent lunch.

After eating we viewed the exterior of St Paul’s on the Hill, Presbyterian church and drove back to South Bay where we enjoyed the coastal scenery. Eric particularly enjoyed a walk around the beach to look at the marine erosion of the fine bedded limestone, with beautiful examples of small scale folding determining the landform produced while Joyce had a nap in the car.

Nearby was the remains of a whaling factory and as we drove back to our room we visited the earthworks of the Nag Niho Pa, one of the 11 defended sites on the peninsula.

After a ham sandwich tea we went to the local cinema for some nostalgia, enjoying the recently released Paddington. On our return Joyce was able to use the washing machine to catch up on our laundry.


Thursday 22nd January 2015.   Day 136    Casual coasting

We had planned an extra night in Kaikoura in case there were problems with the whale watching, so today became a much needed day for sorting out and resting. The morning started well with beautiful views of the Seaward Kaikoura Range, up until now shrouded in cloud, showing new snow which had fallen overnight. After a late breakfast we sorted paperwork and souvenirs. Eric knows they intended to take nothing but photographs, but a few light souvenirs surely cannot do any harm to the baggage allowance surely, and we have to think of the grandchildren. Note the plural as we were delighted to be informed that Clare is expecting in June.

After sandwiches for lunch we sat in the sunshine in the garden and read our books before driving into town for some groceries and presents and then back to the seal colony, where we strolled along the coastal path, running along the top of the cliffs, the 1.5 kilometres to Whaler’s Bay and back. The coastline of headlands and bays was beautiful and from above we could see many fur seals on the rocks below.

Once back in the room Joyce used iron and ironing board and the kitchenette to prepare macaroni cheese for a sumptuous repast.


Friday 23rd January 2015.   Day 137 Strait sailing

Our timings today were governed by the need to check in to the Picton Interislander ferry terminal by 1.30pm at the latest. In theory we were only a couple of hours away so leaving at 9.30am seemed a safe bet. Knowing we had time in hand we went back to the Whale Watch car park in the hope of seeing dolphins, to no avail. As a substitute we popped into the local quilt shop for some retail therapy. Once this was accomplished and we had refuelled we headed north once more.

Eric was tempted by the sea road so followed the gps route around the rest of Kaikoura bay rather than SH1. We enjoyed the last views of this beautiful location before rejoining the main road.

The road skirted the coastline, along with the railway, on a raised beach between the relict cliff and the sea . Once the railway moved to the inland side the views of the coast were fantastic. At Ohau Point we were treated to the view of a very large seal colony and were delighted to see a large number of pups playing in the rock pools.

Passing Rakatau village and Half moon bay we stopped at Kekerengu Store for coffee and delicious cakes, sitting on the terrace overlooking the sea. The whole of this coastline has an intrinsic beauty with the steep slopes of the old cliffs mantled in dry golden and yellow grasses while the active shoreline has little half moon beaches between low headlands with offshore rocks creating patterns of white breaking waves in the azure sea. There is little settlement along this route with the mountains offering little economic support, only the occasional farmstead and a spattering of sheep. However there are some gems such as the stone built St Oswald’s church at Wharanui.

Other points of interest were the saltworks at Kaparu , with ponds of pink sea salt, the field of relict sand dunes which the road cuts through, the vineyards of the Aweteri valley, the historic bridge across the Aweteri river built with railway on top and single track road beneath.

As we entered Blenheim we passed another historic Cob cottage, preserving the torsional building material and style of the region. Blenheim did not detain us long and we were soon speeding through the Para wetlands, with its host of dead trees the result of the 1997 drought.

We arrived in Picton and were checked in by 1.15pm, sitting on the quayside in the sunshine. At just after 2.10pm we started to board the ferry and we found ourselves on the lowest deck, next to the freight train waggons. The crossing was relatively smooth, although the one metre swells did produce some movement. The cruise through the Marlborough Sounds was beautiful, bathed in sun we emerged into the Cook Strait. The most bizarre experience of this trip was observing the crew practising an emergency situation, fire in the engine room, resulting finally in a call to abandon ship. The passengers had been warned that this was a drill but the crew seemed to spend most of the exercise chatting, many not wearing their life jackets. It did not instil confidence.

Once docked we found our way to our B&B accommodation and when settled in went to Johnsonville for a Chinese takeaway which we enjoyed overlooking the bay, sitting on our host’s balcony.


Saturday 24th January 2015. Day 138. Windy Wellington


Eric found it very difficult to get going this morning, so it was 11.00am before we drove into Wellington city centre. We parked near Te Papa, the national museum, and after a view of the harbour went inside to enjoy the art gallery on the 5th floor and then started on the extensive Maori exhibits on the 4th floor. Being Saturday the parking was free but still subject to a 2 hour restriction so after lunching in the café we headed back to the car at 1.30pm and drove south to find a beach. Oriental Bay was jam packed, with parking no sight, so we headed on past lots of small bays towards Miramar and through the tunnel to Seatoun where we parked on the seafront. It was very windy so we walked the kilometre to Worser Bay where we enjoyed a sunbathe and paddle, although the windblown sand was irrtitating. There was lots of activity on the beach, with about 20 yachts following a circular course, kite surfers, solitary wind surfer, jet ski, swimmers and families playing in the sand. Substantial beach houses were tight against the cliff sides and on the slopes above, enjoying extensive views of this larger bay. Joyce particularly liked this Suburb and spotted at least one house she would be happy to live in here, apart from the wind.

Having bought an ice cream in Seatoun we took the coast road back to Miramar, enjoying the views as we drove around the small bays. Once back in town, courtesy of SH1 and travelling through a number of tunnels, we parked near the Westpac Arena and walked to Old St Paul’s, arriving just a few minutes before it closed. This church, was the Anglican cathedral for much longer than intended and as it was much loved people lobbied for it to be maintained as a museum, it is built totally of wood in the Victorian Gothic style and is a jewel to behold.

Having enjoyed the interior of this church we walked to the new Anglican Cathedral which is a modern concrete block, with gothic additions, which lent little to its attractiveness. This was closed so we ‘admired’ its exterior before walking into the grounds of the Parliament building, admiring the exteriors of the three main structures, including the beehive. From here we looked at the fine wooden Old Government buildings, the largest wooden buildings in the southern hemisphere, and the brick built Turnbull’s House, an early wealthy settler who donated his library to the national collection, before finding a restaurant for a steak sandwich dinner.

After our meal we returned to our room where Eric was able to catch up with the blog.


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Still going

Tuesday 6th January 2015. Day 120 Doubtful delights

We checked out of the hotel at 10.00am this morning but sat in the lobby for an extra 30 minute in order to make use of our free internet allowance. Having sorted out emails and attempted to Skype we then drove on south, past the eastern end of Lake Te Anau and on to Lake Manapouri, where we located the Real Journeys visitors centre by the river. We drove up the hill to the unrestricted stay car park and made the short but very steep descent to the visitors centre with our overnight bags ready for our visit to Doubtful Sound. This fjord had been named by Captain Cook who did not enter it as he was doubtful as to how long it would take to obtain a favourable wind to sail out again. It was not until the early 19th century that it was explored from the sea, initially by small boats, as the larger ships lay off its mouth.

After a leisurely coffee on the wharfside our boat was ready to take us on the first leg of our journey, the transit of Lake Manapouri. Although windy, the weather was beautiful and we enjoyed the lake trip across the island studded body of water surrounded by forested mountains. The lake had been threatened in the early 1960s by the building of the Hydroelectric plant at the far end of the lake, our destination. The power station was needed to supply electricity to the proposed aluminium plant at Tiwa Point, 90 kilometres away. It had been proposed to ensure water supply by raising the lake level 30 metres, changing its character irrevocably by drowning many of the islands. However local opposition, led by the founder of the Real Journeys company, who had started bringing tourists into Doubtful Sound by boat and on foot, turned the local issue into a national one, eventually influencing the outcome of a general election. The Labour Party policy was to protect the lake by managing water flow from Lake Te Anau into Lake Manapouri within its natural limits, whilst ensuring sufficient water flow for the power station by a control structure at the exit of Lake Te Anau. This was a seminal moment for the nascent environmental lobby in New Zealand and contributed hugely to the blossoming care for the natural world which is so evident today.

We disembarked at our destination and waited a short while in the comfort of another visitors centre, complete with all the necessary facilities plus an informative display on the HEP station and the environment of the fjord. Our coach was soon ready to take us on the second leg of the journey, on the road built for building the power station and its infrastructure. The power station itself sits deep underground, with the water from Lake Manapouri taken down vertical shafts to the turbines from where a pair of gently sloping tail race tunnels travel 19 kilometres to discharge into Doubtful Sound. The road was a major engineering achievement, allowing materials to be brought in by sea, although it and the whole project was very expensive, both in monetary terms with the 24 kilometre road costing $100 a meter, and in the loss of 16 lives, one per mile.

The road is unsealed and travels across the Wilmot pass at 647 metres, offering spectacular views of the beauties of Doubtful Sound from the crest of the pass. The road snakes through stands of silver and mountain beech with a very steep descent to sea level. The end point was Deep Cove where the Fjordland Navigator, our purpose built, in 2005, floating hotel awaited. She is a beautiful 3 masted ship with well equipped cabins and public areas.

We were soon settled into our cabin, number 1 which shows how early we booked, and the ship cast off for the cruise. Doubtful Sound is much longer than Milford Sound and has a wilder, more remote beauty, with far fewer vessels plying its waters. The forested, near vertical sides plunge into the water which is over 430 metres deep near the shallower step at the fjord’s mouth. The vegetation is a mosaic of beech forest arranged in strips, reflecting the impact of tree avalanches which lead to periods of revegetation. These avalanches are the product of the steepness of the slopes and the lack of soil on the glaciated, highly resistant metamorphic rocks. The trees survive by creating a mat of interwoven roots which helps anchor the trees but as trees die and their roots become brittle the deadweight, especially during heavy rain, overwhelms the strength of the mat and the dead tree, plus its neighbours, plunge straight down the slope towards the fjord. This leaves strips of steep, bare rock which are recognised by lichens of mosses, followed by tree ferns and eventually, after a century or more, beech trees regrow to maturity.

The vessel took the port side of the main passage, heading towards the Tasman Sea, cruising past the impressively high and steep slopes of the glacial trough. Although a fjord the waterway does have a number of arms which represent flooded hanging valleys. We headed into crooked arm where we were stopped and were given the option of kayaking or a ride in a ship’s tender, to allow closer view of the environment. We chose the tender and enjoyed the trip, close to the shore, allowing a closer view of the vegetation, especially the northern rata tree, with its beautiful red flowers. This is South Island’s Christmas tree. We had hoped to see some bird life but even here the bird population has been savaged by the alien predators, especially stoats and rats. The vegetation was not immune to the attention of possums and deer, which can cause extensive damage. As we travelled we came across the corpse of a Thresher shark which had been recently washed on to a Rick beach.

On rejoining the ship we were given the opportunity to swim off the stern. Eric took the opportunity to enter the water first, not by jumping but by letting himself in gently as befitted his age. After a 15 minute splash around in the refreshing water, which was not too cold to enjoy, he was the last to climb aboard. Joyce watched from the top deck and called encouraging comments such as ‘watch out for the sharks’ while taking photographs.

Having showered and dried off, Eric joined Joyce in the saloon for a delicious bowl of hot soup, as the ship resumed its travels to the Tasman Sea. Passing through a narrow channel between an island and the mainland we entered the open ocean, into a colder stronger wind. The sails were unfurled and we cruised past a number of small rocky islands, rolling slightly in the swells from the Tasman. As we travelled we could see the sea birds working the sea surface, including several albatross. Our goal was the colony of New Zealand fur seals which occupied one of the small rocky islands to the north and we saw a large number of seals with their pups.

We threaded our way past a number of other islands before rendering the Sound and then headed for First Arm, where we anchored for the night. The day had continued sunny and Joyce had spent most of it on deck with only five layers of clothes. The sunset proved an attractive end to the day. A thoroughly delicious buffet dinner followed comprising the best of New Zealand fare, including roast beef and particularly good lamb, complete with mint sauce. We then retired to our cabin for the night.



Wednesday 7th January 2015 Day 121 Southern scenic specials

We were woken at 6.00am as the ship’s engine was brought back to life and Eric took the opportunity to go on deck to photograph what was left of ray fingered dawn. We enjoyed our full cooked breakfast in the saloon then went on deck to enjoy the cruise back along the fjord to its furthest extent inland. Again we relished the buy of the landscape with the changing views of mountains and dramatic steep slopes, especially as the ship sailed to within 4 metres of a revegetating cliff face, illustrated the way the fjord sides plunge to the depths.

At the furthest extent then skipper closed down all machinery and we stood stock still in absolute silence for 15 minutes to experience the natural sounds of the Sound. Close by us was a waterfall and from the forest we could her a wider variety of bird calls and song. The light breeze sussurated in the leaves. It was a very touching spiritual experience and all the passengers clearly relished it.


Once the engine began its beat we were on the very last part of the cruise. Passing Parson’s rock, where a priest left for a few hours fishing was finally recovered as the rising tide made it look as if he was walking on water, and the circumnavigation of another small island rich in rata, we made our way back to the berth in Deep Cove.

Having disembarked we retraced our steps back over Wilmot Pass on the coach then another enjoyable cruise back across Lake Manapouri in the sunshine. Back in the car we rejoined the Southern Scenic Route, which we had first joined in Queenstown. This took us south through more open rolling countryside. We stopped for lunch at the Clifden Suspension bridge and enjoyed the views of the Waiau river. Motoring on we reached the cast near Tuatapere at the mouth of the Waiau river and made photo stops at McCracken’s rest overlooking Te Waewae bay, Gemstone beach, which was in a sand rather than shingle phase – so no gems, and Monkey Island – in legend the anchor stone of the Takitumu wake captained by Tamatea and wrecked at the mouth of the Waiau river.

We then made a short diversion to Cosy Nook, a delightful rocky bay originally a Maori settlement site and now with its tiny fishing community. A short stop at Colac Bay, with its surfer statue, followed, then a short visit to Riverton to enjoy the views of the harbour and its church, plus the giant paua shell.

From here we found our way around Invercargill to our motel in the Ascot Park complex, close to the racecourse. Feeling tired we resorted to our emergency meal plan, with Eric cooking penne cheese, before falling into bed.


Thursday 8th January 2015 Day 122. Stewart sojourn

Up relatively early this morning as we had to be in Bluff by 9.10am to catch the ferry to Stewart Island. Our motel was well situated to allow easy access to the road to Bluff, one of the earliest settlements in New Zealand with a very good view of the Tiwa Point Aluminium Smelter.

We were at the Real Journeys visitors centre in very good time. Once checked in we were directed to a nearby ‘broken’ car park where we could park free for the day. The ferry boarded on time and we set off for the hour’s crossing of the Foveaux Strait. As we left Bluff we could see the start of State Highway 1, which runs all the way to Cape Reinga in the north and the aluminium chain which is related to the first canoe legend.

The crossing was relatively smooth in the fast catamaran and we were well on time for our arrival at the jetty in Oban. Once ashore we walked the short distance to check in for our minibus tour of the Village and Bays. With a permanent population of 400, all within the clearly defined limits of Oban (2% of the islands land surface) and only 29 kilometres of sealed roads this was never going to be a long tour. Our guide, Kirsty, is a local who can trace her family back over more than 7 generations. Many of the locals are descendants of the early settlers, from the sealing, whaling and forestry operations based on the island at certain times, many of whom married the local Maori. The community is close knit and well organised, essential to survive the winter months in this most southern outpost of New Zealand. Our first stop was Mill Creek, with its preserved baulks of cut timber in the bed of the creek. We next viewed Breakfast and Horseshoe Bays which were empty of beach goers. Given the nature of the weather it is essential to choose the bay according to wind direction. Our next stop was Lee Bay and the entrance to the Rakiura National Park, which makes up 95% of the island. The only public access is on foot and there is a complex of walking tracks, supported by an infrastructure of huts. The entrance itself is a chain sculpture, brown rather than aluminium, matching that in Bluff and echoing the legend whilst representing the links between all people in New Zealand.

From Lee Bay we retraced our steps then drove through Oban, being shown the dining and retail opportunities (barely into the plural) before driving up to Observation Rock with its views over Paterson Inlet, the huge aural harbour. In view were the islands of Iona and Ulva. The minibus then returned us to the wharf where we checked on for the second part of our visit, the boat cruise in Paterson Inlet.

The boat was already tied up and proved to be the sister vessel of the morning ferry. We boarded and headed out towards the Foveaux Strait. As we left Halfmoon Bay the boat stopped and a crew member started to feed the albatross which created superb photograph opportunities. We then travelled into the inlet viewing the island studded body of water. We sailed between Iona and Observatory rock and into a number of inlets with their boathouses and moored yachts. As we sailed further into the inlet we were shown the site of a major timber operation which has now reverted to natural forest. It was here that we saw a penguin enjoying a wash on the surface.

Once we had explored some of the coastline we stopped at Ulva Island for an hour’s guided walk, again with Kristy. The natural forest is predator free after much continuing effort of trapping and has a number of southern brown kiwi in residence, one having been spotted on the beach that morning. Our appetites whetted for such a sighting we enjoyed our stroll through the forest being shown rare and exotic plants and spotting the tri, bush robin and ground hopping saddleback whilst hearing a range of other bird calls. Towards the end of the walk we strolled along the beach in Aurora Bay, the site of a Maori execution of sealers in revenge for a series of mistreatment of women. One youth was spared by the chief’s daughter, who he eventually married, and he was taught Maori and became an intermediary with the Europeans, eventually leading to more peaceful coexistence.

Once back on the boat we returned to Oban where we visited the Presbyterian and Anglican churches and went for a paddle, this being the furthest point south we will travel, Stewart Island being the meeting point of the Tasman sea, Pacific Ocean and Southern Ocean. We explored the retail opportunities before enjoying a dinner of savoury and sweet pancakes. We then returned to the ferry terminal and boarded the same boat as we had toured the inlet. The return passage was distinctly more lively in the strengthening wind and rising swell. Back in Bluff at 7.00pm we admired the fine architecture dating from its heyday  but felt we did not have time to explore it further. Instead we returned to the motel and bed.

Friday 9th January 2015. Day 123 Catlin coasting

After a reasonable night’s sleep we drove into Invercargill to see some of its historic buildings. We followed some of the heritage trail, admiring the façades of the street frontage, before having a problem finding a public convenience, a problem solved by a visit to a department store. We then drove to see the outstanding Victorian water tower and stopped at the museum, with its fascinating Maori collection, where we had lunch. On the way out of Invercargill we visited the first Presbyterian church, with its square plan, constructed from 1 million bricks.

Our route now rejoined the Southern Scenic Route through the Catlins, with its coastal extension from Fortrose. Our first stop was Waipapa Point with its distinctive wooden lighthouse. We then drove to Slope Point, the most southerly point on South Island. It has taken us almost a month to travel from the very northern most point. From here we paused at Curio Bay to visit the remains of a petrified forest exposed on the shore platform. There is also a breeding colony of the rare yellow eyed penguin above the beach, but we saw no signs.

A short drive brought us to Porpoise Bay where we enjoyed an ice cream, the sunshine and a paddle on the beach. We kept our eyes seaward to try to spot the rare Hector’s Dolphin, which is a regular visitor in summer, but the dolphin dearth continues and none were seen.

Time was now pressing so we headed straight for Dunedin, ignoring the lure of other scenic attractions. We travelled past Kala point, through Balclutha and Milton with its fine Presbyterian Church and neighbouring decorated roadside tree. Our gps gave us an interesting route to our B&B, attempting to take us across the mountain by a one lane, very steep, unsealed road. We declined the offer and finally found a driveable route. We received a very warm welcome and after a cup of tea headed for the nearby fish and chip shack. Carrying our wrapped Hokey and a scoop we walked through the dunes and sat on a deserted beach to enjoy our dinner. Having finished we walked along the beach before finding our way back to our hosts and bed.

Saturday 10th January 2015. Day 124. Otago observations

We started the day with scrambled egg and home made bread at 8.00am then headed out at 9.30am to explore the Otago Peninsula. We took the low road, along the harbour shore and enjoyed the views of the inlet as we drove past Macandrew, Company, Broad and Portobello Bays. We reached the headland at Tairoa Point and enjoyed the views of the cliffs and sea and the large number of young seagulls and their parents. We then explored the potential of delights in a café further up the hill but with no result. We then navigated our way back to Weller Rock and parked near the wharf for our booked wildlife cruise on the Monarch at noon.

Once aboard we were equipped with a windproof jacket and binoculars. Although initially chilly the jackets were soon abandoned in the warm sunshine. We travelled out of Otago Harbour and around Tairoa Point before heading a little out to sea. On the way round the point we were treated to clear views of a number of Royal Albatross nests, although none were flying since there was so little wind. These are the largest of the albatrosses and have been breeding here since after the Second World War. On the slopes below we could see the Stewart Island Shag (cormorant) roosting and on nearby cliffs, the Spotted Shag. We were also taken close to the rocks where the New Zealand fur seals are raising their pups. Other birds included shearwaters and terns and further out we saw a seal working at consuming its catch, with a cheeky tern tuggy at the other end and a number of other birds trying to join in.

Back at the wharf we reclaimed the car from its quarry parking spot and drove into Portobello for lunch at the local café. After lunch we drove across the peninsula to Hoppers Inlet, skirting the distinctive Harbour Cone. Returning to Portobello we headed up the high road, over the spine of the peninsula to the coiffed south coast. The views here were spectacular. On reaching Pukehiki we turned towards Larnach Castle, built in a dominant position by an Australian banker in the 1870s. Dunedin at the time was riding the wealth generated from the Otago goldfields. The house is a fascinating structure, English designed but with colonial features such as the wrap round veranda, it has been renovated and furnished with period furniture. The views from the turret roof are outstanding. After a walk through the outhouses, including the methane house which generated gas for lighting, and the range of well planned and well planted gardens, we enjoyed a drink in the ballroom café before driving towards Dunedin. Passing again through Pukehiki we visited the wooden Community Church and admired the tiny library.

Once in Dunedin we parked just beyond the Octagon and walked beck to investigate the restaurants. In doing so we passed the town hall, which reminded us both strongly of the Leeds municipal buildings, and the cathedral which was closed. Having checked out a number of menus we decided a walk was in order before we ate. Spying the distinctive and dominating Presbyterian Church we wandered up the hill to see if it was open, which it was. After exploring the interior we walked back down the hill past the Law Courts to the Railway Station. All these buildings reflect the confidence and wealth of19th century Dunedin, with being of a high architectural quality built decoratively in stone. The station itself was a revelation built in Flemish Renaissance style and decorated internally with bespoke tiles and friezes. Outside is preserved a fine steam locomotive.

After an exceptionally sunny day for Dunedin, having admired the townscape, we sat outside a restaurant in the Octagon for a meal of bangers and mash for Eric and a rich vegetable soup for Joyce. Feeling replete we returned to our accommodation and bed.


Sunday 11th January 2015. Day 125 Penguin perambulations

Our first port of call this morning was the City Life church in Dunedin for the 10.00am service. Worship was well led and contemplative and the word reinforced the continuing message of non-judgemental relationships, especially with those outside the Church. We enjoyed a warm welcome and after a coffee we left for our next appointment, Olveston House. We had booked a 1.30pm tour but as we were only 10 mins away, a phone call switched us to the 12.00pm tour so we headed directly to the house.

Olveston House is a time capsule from a very wealthy family of the early 20th Century. David Theomin made his wealth through trade, setting up an extremely successful piano importing business and he spent his money creating a comfortable family home, designed by an English architect, filled with a delightful eclectic mix of furniture, pictures and decorative objects reflecting interest in European, Chinese and Japanese culture. The last surviving child died without marrying and left the house and all its contents to the city. The guide was very informative and we thoroughly enjoyed the hour tour and the well kept English cottage gardens and conservatory.

From the house we drove to the Chinese Garden and relished the combination of the classic elements of the scholar’s garden creating multiple changing vistas. We snatched a snack lunch in the car and then headed for our motel in Oamaru. With little to see en route we intended to arrive reasonably early. Needing petrol, but distracted by views of the University (the first and still the foremost in NZ), Eric drove past a petrol station. He was sure that there would be another before we left the city, but a few minutes later we had left the city limits and we heading up Telegraph Hill into open country. Eric spent the next hour watching the fuel gauge heading towards empty, with no sign of any fuel. We diverted to the coast road to explore settlements which might have petrol without any luck, but we did enjoy the fine coastal views. Rejoining SH1 we finally reached Palmerston, with the warning light glowing clearly. Here we found a petrol station which relieved Eric’s mounting anxiety.

North of Palmerston we diverted to the coast to visit Shag Point and Matakaea Reserve. Here we saw a fur seal colony and then another location of a yellow eyed penguin rookery, with no penguins in sight.

A short distance north we visited the Moeraki boulders, large rounded boulders on the foreshore. These ocean bed concretions had eroded out of the cliff and lie across the foreshore.

We reached the motel by. 5.10pm and feeling tired retired to bed for a rest, which turned into a 90 minute sleep. We then went into Oamaru to enjoy a steak dinner, having found no evidence of tradional Sunday roasts, before heading to the harbour in attempt to view the arrival of the blue (little) penguin. We had gleaned from the internet that there was no need to pay for the seating overlooking the main rookery, as many penguins came ashore at the slipway near the curved wooden jetty, which had been built to serve the refrigerated meat trade that began here and contributed to the town’s wealth. We arrived around 8.45pm and explored the vicinity. Of particular interest was the watchman’s hut which was the first point of contact for the returning Terra Nova  after the ill-fated south pole expedition.

As dusk deepened and the rain began, around 9.30pm, we were fortunate to see the penguins arrive, carefully navigating the slipway and crossing the road to the vegetation behind. By the time we left 14 penguins had been seen. Satisfied by our experience we returned to the motel.

Monday 12th January 2015. Day 126 Penguin paucity

Still very tired we slept in beyond 9.30am. We decided on a quiet morning to sit out the continued rain. Eric used the time to catch up with the blog. After a sandwich lunch we drove to the viewpoint overlooking the harbour and on to Bushy Beach, a yellow eyed penguin colony. The breeding birds fish during the day and, as the Blue penguins, return to the chicks in the afternoon or early evening. Seeing nothing but a few fur seals we resolved to come back this evening. We then drove into the Victorian part of town where the old warehouses have been converted into craft shops. Oamaru was a very wealthy town by the end of the 19th century, based on frozen exports of meat and the wealth was used to create a very impressive set of buildings of varying architectural styles, rich in decoration and constructed of the local cream coloured fine limestone.

We walked towards the centre of town and visited the fine St Luke’s Church, begun in 1865 and constructed of the local stone. We then admired the façades of the large buildings lining the street including the Athenaeum, now the council offices. We visited the local museum with examples of Maori rock art, before returning to the car via the Steampunk centre. We decided to give this a miss as we were not fully familiar with the genre.

The local supermarket provided the resources for a delicious pork and veg supper, which Joyce cooked in the room’s kitchenette. After supper we drove back to the beach. After an hour’s observation we had again failed to see any penguins, yellow eyed or otherwise, although the beach did host some more seals. Disappointed we returned to our room and finished the blog.



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New Year update

Thursday 1st January 2015. Day 115. Lupin largesse.

We had left the morning clear to allow some recovery time after New Year’s eve but had booked a tour for the afternoon. After a slow start we felt sprightly enough for Eric to remedy a faux pas made on the journey over the Crown Ranges. He had failed to take the myriad hints Joyce was dropping when she commented on the beauty of the lupins along the valley, especially along the stream banks, at each and every turn of the tortuous road and had failed to stop for a photograph at any of them. We therefore retraced our steps towards Cardona, our gps taking us through Arrowtown. As we drove through we were taken by the attractions of the township and resolved to spend some time there.

Ascending the pass we took advantage of some of the laybys to photograph the scenery in the bright morning light, with the nearby mountain tops sprinkled with rapidly melting fresh snow.

As we descended from the pass the lupins, an introduced species, which has proved not as invasive as gorse or broom and which is appreciated for its early summer splashes of colour, became more prolific and we found several parking places allowing us to indulge in some photography of their beauty.

Once we had enough photographs, if you can ever have enough, we returned via the pass. On the way we passed an extreme example of New Zealand’s way of selling cars, ‘Park to Sell’, with an old car parked inside a hairpin bend with ‘For Sale’ on its windscreen. At Arrowtown we felt we did not have time to do it justice so returned to our cabin for lunch. At 1.00pm we headed for reception for our pick up for the visit to Glenorchy and some Lord of the Rings locations. Our guide was waiting for us and we settled into a 4×4 for the trip. We collected 4 more people as we drove through Queenstown and headed to the northern limit of Lake Wakatipu. On the way we stopped at a number of viewpoints to admire the scenery, and our guide, with aid of photographs, identified the locations of scenes from the films identified by the distinctive mountain backdrop. We were also told the Maori legend of the origin of the lake, which given its distinctive plan form, represents the indentation made by the cremating alive of a giant during the rescue of a chief’s kidnapped daughter. However, despite the almost complete incineration, the giant’s heart still beats in the lake, as evidenced by the 6inch rise and fall of lake level over a twenty minute cycle when the lake is absolutely still. This phenomena had been observed by our guide who had been told it was the result of a resonance within the very long lake linked to the earth’s spin. At the northern end of the lake we admired pigeon, pig and tree islands, the latter without a tree in sight.

A short drive through Glenorchy to admire the church, miniscule library and pier, with its short railway line, led to a brief toilet stop after which we headed out on gravel roads to enjoy the beauties of the area. We stopped to look at the fringes of Fangorn and the setting for Isengaard, plus a location from Wolverine. We then stopped for refreshment in the forest, with its carpet of golden leaves, typical of the scenes of Galadriel’s realm.

Retracing our steps we made one more stop at the location where Frodo and Sam overlooked the elephants. Returning to our cabin Joyce cooked a brace of pork chops with vegetables for dinner.


Friday 2nd January 2015. Day 116 Luge luncheon

We had no formal plans for today so decided that lunch in the restaurant at the top of the cable car would be a nice end to our time in Queenstown. A phone call secured a booking for 1.00pm, giving us a few hours to fill. It therefore seemed appropriate to visit Arrowtown, before making our way to the cable car. Unfortunately we were slower than planned leaving, which did not give us quite enough time to enjoy all the delights of the town.

A 20 minute drive brought us to Arrowtown where we finally found a car parking spot close to the river. We enjoyed a stroll down the main street, with its mix of older buildings now housing an interesting range of shops, including an excellent patchwork shop which caught Joyce’s attention. The museum proved irresistible and we much enjoyed its excellent displays of the history of the area. We then headed for the jail, an upmarket establishment from 1878, before visiting the reconstructed Chinese village, based on historical and archaeological evidence. As we drove out we stopped to admire St Andrew’s Presbyterian church, with its tale.fine redwoods flanking the gate.

It was now well past 12 pm and we needed to check in at 12.30pm. Fortunately the traffic was relatively light so we arrived at the cable carpark at 12.38pm, to find it chock a block. Eric dropped Joyce, who joined the ticket queue while he explored the parking potential of the surrounding streets, to no avail. He finally found the Main Street multi-storey car park and left the car, reaching Joyce, now at the head of the ticket queue, at 1.45pm.

Our booking was registered so after paying we joined the shorter queue for the gondolas and were soon being whisked along the avenue of trees, soaring over the steep slopes above Queenstown. Arriving at the top station we took some photographs before returning to the restaurant, where we were ushered to a window table, reset for us, with glorious views of the lake and the Remarkables range of mountains. These were so named because they are orientated perfectly north-south. Our table also offered clear views of the intrepid souls undertaking a bungee jumps. We very much enjoyed the buffet lunch of prime New Zealand foods.

After lunch we strolled up the hill behind the restaurant, watching the large numbers of people enjoying the luge track. The afternoon was sunny, despite the forecast so we decided that as we were there, and the luge looking so much fun, that we really should have a go. We joined the queue for the chair lift, collecting our helmets, and enjoyed the short ride to the start of the track. Having paid for our ride we were directed to the blue or scenic track as this was our first descent. We were given clear instructions as to driving the device, which runs on four wheels, with a central control wheel between the front two, offering steering and braking.

Once properly trained we headed off down the windy track, round embarked curves and through tunnels, at what seemed breakneck speeds. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience but despite the repeated adverts, for us, once was enough. Having enjoyed the ride we returned to Queenstown where we spent a little time walking the streets before returning to our cabin, where we enjoyed a snack supper and watched the current Royal Variety Show. New Zealand TV only has three free view channels and a very limited range of programmes, the best being British ones.


Saturday 3rd January 2015. Day 117 Glittering glowworms

We took our time vacating the cabin as we only had a short drive today. Leaving at 10.00 am we refuelled, redeeming some points from the AA superfuel card, and drove out of Queenstown heading south along the lake. We resisted the attractions of Frankton’s shopping mall and headed for the open road, stopping at various viewpoints, including Halfway lookout, to enjoy the sweep of the lake and mountain scenery. We drove into Kingston to the foot of the lake, but found little of interest apart from the Kingston Flyer railway station and some rolling stock.

Continuing our journey we drove through wide glacial valleys with flats floors, used for pastoral farming, including deer. On some farms huge old tree stumps had been collected and used as field boundaries. This part of the journey replicated our usual experience of road kill, mainly possums, but in this area they were not flattened but laid out almost intact by the side of the road! The possum, introduced for a potential fur industry, are one of the most damaging alien species with over 40 million estimated to exist throughout the country. There is an ongoing attempt of control by baited poison, the infamous 1080 poison, by the Department of Conservation. In the light of this flattened possums are seen as a cause for celebration by the locals. We have also seen a number of stoats which, along with ferrets and weasels, were introduced to try to control the introduced rabbits.

We drove through Garston, Athol and Five Rivers before stopping for lunch at Mossberg, but the café food was not inspiring so we just had coffee and a date scone. The remainder of the route led us through the Red Tussock Conservation Area, with its distinctive and scenically beautiful, wait for it, red Tussock grass and the Wilderness Scientific Reserve, where a relict ecosystem based on bog pine still exists on the more arid outwash material. Fluvio-glacial deposits were much in evidence, with an excellent example of an outwash plain and attendant collapse bedding. The whole route was edged by views of beautiful mountain ranges.

Driving into Te Anau we stopped immediately and enjoyed a chicken schnitzel lunch at the Fat Duck café and took an orientation walk along the main street before checking into the hotel. At 5.00pm we walked along the lake, Joyce returning to the centre for some grocery shopping before returning for a luxuriating long bath and a relaxing evening while Eric headed for the Real Journeys visitors centre to check in for the visit to the Glowworm caves.

At 5.45pm the catamaran departed for the run along Te Anau lake to the caves. Passing through the islands at the mouth of South Fjord we soon reached the jetty and visitor’s hut. The visitors were split into smaller groups and Eric was in the fifth group to visit the caves. A short and lower section of the Aurora cave system it contains an underground stream, complete with waterfalls, but little in the way of cave deposits. The Oligocene limestone is relatively thinly bedded and interbedded with thin layers of sandstone. The initial 250 metres is along a metal path way, initially headroom is only just over a meter, with clear views of the tall but narrow passage. The sound of the waterfall is deafening in the confined space. The water flow has created beautifully fluted rock forms, waterfalls with well defined plunge pools, with vortical water flow. At the end of the walkway, where the stream has been dammed to create a deeper pool, the party boarded a small boat, sitting back to back. In places the boat brushes the wall of the passage and headroom is limited. In total darkness the boat is pulled by the guide through the tunnel, passing a second party en route. The ceiling is alight with the glow from the larvae, creating a stellar display. The older, hungrier larvae glow brightest while between them are clusters of fainter lights from the more recently hatched larvae. The larvae are fiercely territorial, detaching or even eating competitors that get too close. In the darkness it was impossible to see the 12/14 filaments with their droplets of incapacitating fluid beneath each larva, used to trap waterborne insects washed into the cave and which see the glows as the night sky and hence freedom.

All too soon the boat was back at the dock and we made our way back to the jetty for the return trip along the late. Back the hotel we enjoyed a light supper before sleep.


Sunday 4th January 2015. Day 118 Magnificent Milford

We had transferred to Te Anau to avoid the longer return coach trip from Queenstown on our Milford Sound excursion and because it fitted into the southward flow of our journey. As a result we had a welcome late start this morning, being collects from the hotel by minibus at 9.50am for transfer to the coach from Queenstown. We left Te Anau at 10.15pm and headed along the side of the lake, offering views of the route Eric had travelled the evening before. In the distance the Southern Alps, with snow patched peaks, offered an enticing view. We passed the jetty which is the starting point of the four day Milford Sound walking track and crossed Te Anau Downs, covered with white flowered Manuka plants, the tea tree, used to counter scurvy by Captain Cook, to brew an interesting beer according to our guide, honey and for smoking food. The road climbed as we entered the Fjordland National Park, New Zealand’s largest and a World Heritage site since 1986. The lower slopes are a natural indigenous beech woodland containing the four varieties, with Southern beech dominating at lower levels.

Driving along the Eglington valley we stopped on the river flats for a photo opportunity along the glacial trough. This was followed by a visit to Mirror Lakes, right next to the road, with the classic mirror image of the mountains in its still waters, ruffled only by a light breeze and the passage of ducks. Despite this in the sunshine the reflections were stunning. A short toilet stop at Knob’s Creek allowed more photography.

The road then climbed over the divide into the west coast with even more dramatic glacial scenery, dominated by bare and vertical rock faces, scree and waterfalls. Cirques and hanging valleys abounded and we began to catch glimpses of cirque glaciers hanging above the valley floor. A short stop at an alpine stream allowed for a refreshing drink and a sighting of the inquisitive Kea. We stopped for the red light at the beginning of Homer tunnel and were allowed off the coach until the two minute wait mark, again cameras were working overtime and we were entertained by the exploratory antics of another Kea, although the bag’s owner did not seem well pleased. The Milford Sound route had been part of the Government works in response to the Depression and the Homer tunnel was started in 1929, breaking through in 1940 and open for regular traffic in 1956. A single track tunnel, through quartzite and granite, with traffic at high season controlled by lights, it is an engineering marvel, descending at 1 in 10 to emerge halfway up a cirque backwall at the other side of the mountain.

The whole of this section of the route faces avalanche hazard in winter and is often closed for days. On emerging from the tunnel into the sunlight the sight of the immense cirque and steep glacial trough evince a feeling of awe. A little way down the road we stopped for the short walk to the Chasm with its waterfall, deep gorge and multiple potholes, some large enough to trap tree trunks. On entering the settlement we had a clear view of the Arthur Valley and Sandfly point, the end of the Milford track. No need to ask how the point got its name as the sandfly (blackfly) is a ubiquitous nuisance. In Maori legend it was created by the goddess who made the Sound to discourage the Maori from living in the area, entranced by its beauty too long.

Arriving at Milford Wharf we boarded the Pride of Milford catamaran for the 90 minute cruise. We had booked a buffet lunch, which we ate as the boat left the jetty, although Eric’s meal was intermittent as he kept leaving the table to take photographs. Once we had drunk our coffee we spent the rest of the cruise on the top observation deck, this had a wind shield which effectively reduced the wind and made being on deck much more comfortable for Joyce.

Milford Sound, originally Milford Haven, was the last of the 14 fjords to be found and was named by its 19th century Welsh discoverer, albeit already known by the Maori. It should rightly be called Milford Fjord, as a Sound technically is a drowned river valley while this is unequivocally a drowned glacial trough. The views from the boat are stunning and one is dwarfed by the immensity of the rock masses around you, falling vertically into the water. In places there are overhangs, marking the stages of trough development over repeated glaciations and dramatic hanging valleys. The Fjord is renowned for waterfalls, especially during rain, but the hydrology is very sensitive to rainfall and many water falls stop a couple of hours after the rain stops. Today, on a relatively sunny day therefore there were fewer waterfalls but the views of the Fjord were much enhanced by the sunshine. We were very impressed by the Lady Bowen waterfall, the highest permanent waterfall at 161 metres, close to the Dick and the Stifling Falls, second highest at 155 metres and which the boat’s bows almost touched, dousing us with spray, on the return leg of the trip.

The views of Mitre Peak and Mount Pembroke were stunning and we enjoyed viewing the Southern fur seals resting on the southern and northern rocks near the narrowest part of the fjord. The boat took us out into the Tasman Sea, before turning back off St Anne’s Point. This allowed us to appreciate how Captain Cook could have twice missed the narrow entrance, given the dog leg turn near its mouth.

On our return journey we stopped briefly in Harrison Cove to drop off visitors to the Discovery Centre, then returned to the jetty. Once back on the coach we headed back up the same road, with a pause to drop two passengers at the airport for their scenic flight back to Queenstown. The return trip was about 90 minutes without stops and a minibus waited to take us back to the hotel, where we enjoyed a snack supper and TV films.


Monday 5th January 2015. Day 119.   Lakeland leisure

We had nothing specifically planned for today so spent a leisurely morning in our room catching up with ourselves and planning a few more trips we had yet to book. Eric also used the opportunity to catch up with last few days blog.

After a snack lunch, Eric is getting through the kilogram of cheese bought in Queenstown, we headed out to book the Stewart Island day at the Real Journeys office on the lakefront. Before we started in that direction we had a look at our end of the lake and popped into the Fjordlands National Park Visitor’s Centre, with its small but interesting display on the region. Once this visit was concluded we spent some time sitting on a bench on the lake shore, soaking up some sun and enjoying the view.

The booking was successful and our next port of call was the Fjordland Cinema to watch Shadowlands, Fjordland from the air. The cinema was purpose built to show this 30 minute film, without narration but with an evocative musical sound track, which shows the stupendous scenery of the area filmed from helicopters. It was a beautiful film and held us enrapt for the full half hour.

On leaving the cinema we did a small shop then returned to the hotel via the park. A little later we walked back to town for dinner. We enjoyed our main courses, Eric steak and Joyce chicken and cashew salad, but were disappointed by our home cooked dessert of Pavlova, invented in New Zealand, it was nothing like the lovely crisp home cooked Pavlovas at home, but more like the dense frozen Pavlova and meringue desserts

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Catching up again

New Year has offered another chance to write up our travels.

Thursday 25th December 2014. Day 108   Sumptuous supper

We returned to Christchurch Cathedral Nelson for their Christmas day family service at 10 am. Parts of the service were repeated in Maori and the theme of the sermon was again Marsden’s first sermon, with readings from his log describing, how the Maori chief had become a Christian through Marsden’s kindness and care for him, after he was attacked by sailors; and the arrangements that the Maori chief had made for the service, which was to be a joint one with the pioneers. The ship was greeted with a haka and a mock battle and canoes were used to form the lectern and the seating.

We then sang the hymn Te Harinui

“Not on a snowy night, by star or candlelight, nor by angel band, there came to our dear land.

Chorus: Te Harinui, Te Harinui, Te Harinui, Glad tidings of great joy.

But on a summer day, within a quiet bay, the Maori people heard, the great and glorious word. Chorus

The people gathered round, upon the grassy ground, and heard the preacher say, I bring to you this day. Chorus

Now in this blessed land, united heart and hand, we praise the glorious birth and sing to all the earth. Chorus”

We also sang the New Zealand national anthem and a good range of popular carols as well as appropriate bible readings, prayers and communion.

We returned to our motel feeling more of the Christmas spirit than we had thus far, although it had been building slowly, helped by the numerous messages of Christmas cheer from family and friends.

At the motel we had coffee and the delicious special bakery cakes we had bought in Picton. The sun was shining, although a bit windy, so we decided to hit the beach for some sun bathing and swimming. We found a comfortable spot on the narrow zone of dry sand at the top of the beach and laid out our towels and ourselves, turning occasionally to tan evenly. The sun was very welcome but the wind proved a nuisance as the very fine sand was easily entrained and we soon sported a fine coating of fine sand, which did not detract from the delight of sunbathing on Christmas Day. After a suitable time for tanning Eric went for a short swim. Given the slight wind-chill the water temperature was most acceptable. After the swim we paddled along the beach for a while before returning to the motel to prepare our Christmas dinner.

We had tried to find a restaurant locally or in Nelson that was open today, without success. Our fall back plan was to cook in our room using the microwave, and this Joyce did, preparing a splendid repast of baked potato, baked beans and very nice meaty sausages. To complete the meal we enjoyed a slice of Christmas cake.

After dinner we skyped Clare, having a good time to exchange seasonal greetings. We then tried Andrew, but the connection unfortunately failed after we had shared brief greetings and despite repeated efforts failed to reconnect, which was very disappointing.

Friday 26th December 2014. Day 109  Farewell frolics

Today was another sunny day, with less wind as we headed for Farewell Spit at the very north of South Island. We had looked at trips into Abel Tasman National Park but a road trip, albeit one retracing the route, seemed better use of our time.

We traversed the limestone massif of Taraka hill by a series of hairpin bends, pausing at Hawke’s lookout to admire the views, albeit the higher peaks were shrouded in cloud. The karren features in the exposed limestone attracted Eric’s attention and he felt fully at home. From the col the road descended towards Golden Bay by an even steeper route, with even tighter bends. On was so sharp that it confused the gps into thinking we were heading in the other direction. Once on the valley floor we passed through Tanaka. By passing Collingwood we followed the road to Puponga Park, where we left the car and walked a short distance to view Farewell spit, from here the Southern Maori believe their souls leave for Hawaiki. We decided not to walk the 4 kilometres on to the spit but had lunch and paddled in the clear waters of the nearby shell beach.

After lunch we drove to Cape Farewell, the furthest point north on South Island (59.7767° N, 43.9046° W) and enjoyed an excellent view of the arch. From here we drove back into Collingwood for an ice cream, beach view and a short visit to the museum, before we retraced our steps over the hills, with views into the National Parks, Abel Tasman to the east and Kahurangi to the west.

On descending the southern edge of the pass we diverted to Kaiterteri, a very pretty bay with lots of beach actives, to enjoy another paddle and some time on the golden red sands. A short drive along the coast, including Ruby Bay, brought us back to the motel where in best Boxing day tradition we enjoyed the left overs, a delicious sausage Bolognese and pasta, again complemented by Christmas cake. We were delighted to be able to watch this Year’s Dr Who Christmas special, just 12hrs after it had been aired in Britain and followed this by watching a rerun of the 2013 programme.

Saturday 27th December 2014. Day 110. Pancake peregrinations

This morning saw us heading south once more. Bypassing Richmond we followed SH6 along the Motupiko Valley and then the steeper climb up the Clark Valley to the Hope Saddle viewpoint offering good views of the Big Bush Conservation Area, with its protected natural bush vegetation dominated by native beech trees. As we climbed we could see in the sides of the cuttings the Moutere gravels, layered deposits of cobbles, pebbles and gravel, which in places are over 1,000 metres thick. The weather was changeable, overcast with intermittent rain and occasional glimpses of sunshine.

At Gownabridge we took a side road which took us into the Nelson Lakes National Park and to the shores of Lake Rotoroa, where we made our first acquaintance of the sandfly, west coast irritants which accompanied many of our viewing experiences for the next few days and which give really itchy bites.

Leaving the lake we rejoined the highway and continued south westwards through the impressive Buller gorge, the River Wye on steroids, which traverses the Paparoa range of mountains. We stopped briefly at the site of the now disappeared Lyell township, which in its day was a thriving town based on gold mining. We emerged from the gorge just south of Westport and skirting the town turned south to Cape Foulwind, where we had an enjoyable walk along the cliff top. Our next stop was Tauranga Bay and a short boardwalk led us to a viewpoint of the fur seal colony where resting seals, some with pups, could be observed. Unfortunately there was no obvious sign of the blue penguins that have a rookery in the nearby islets. This section of the drive had given excellent views of the marine terraces along this coastline.

The next section coastline, within the Paparoa National Park, proved to be particularly dramatic with cliffs, roiling surf, stacks and stumps galore. The Inimawuwharo lookout provided an excellent viewing platform. A little further on we reached Punakaiki and just south of it we stopped to view the pancake rocks. Here a fine bedded limestone acted on by subaerial and marine processes has produced a fantastic coastscape of solutional and erosional forms. Unfortunately the low tide and low swells combined to negate the blow hole phenomena, with the chimney only producing occasional anaemic gouts of spray. This location was very busy compared to our experience thus far and suggested that we were now on the west coast tourist route.

As it was getting late we headed straight for our accommodation in Greymouth, at a holiday park. This was one of our budget nights so we had a small room, able to sleep six, with shared bathroom and kitchen facilities. The kitchen was the first one we come across that did not supply crockery or cooking equipment, so continuing the budget theme we headed out and found a nearby MacDonald’s for dinner.


Sunday 28th December 2014. Day 111  Glacier Gold

After breakfast we walked to the Greymouth beach, it was indeed grey, grey sky, grey sea and long stretch of dark grey sand with grey driftwood. We were entertained by the antics of a Weka, a flightless brown feathered bird. From the park we headed back into Greymouth for a quick tour, stopping only at the floodwall to view the grey river mouth under the grey sky. Having fuelled the car, as there was no petrol for the next 120 kilometres we again picked up SH6.

The weather again was foul, with pouring rain but Eric was attracted by the delights of Shantytown, another heritage village based on the gold mining history of the west coast. He reasoned that an activity that offered indoor attractions would be good in the rain. In the event the rain relented for much of the tour and we again enjoyed viewing the old buildings with their fixtures and fittings, plus a view of gold mining techniques, a reconstruction of a Chinese settlement and a ride on a steam train, the locomotive built in Bristol. Many of the buildings had come from now defunct mining towns such as the church from Notown.

Continuing our drive along the coast we travelled next alongside the railway line, which on occasions crossed the road through the centre of a roundabout and also shared a bridge with cars, the trains being exempt from the Give Way directive. Just after Houhou we reached the town of Hokitika, another tourist hub, where we enjoyed some retail therapy, before pressing on southwards to Lake Mahinapua, where we had lunch and admired the remains of a steamboat that plied the lake, when it was a key link in the transport system to the goldtowns.

The route then took us through Ross, another historic gold town, the Pukekura Scenic Reserve, past Lake Ianthe, through Harihari and the Mt Hercules Scenic Reserve to Whataroa. As we drove this section the cloud began to break and we glimpsed our first view of the majestic peaks of the Southern Alps with their capping of snow. We stopped in Whataroa for an ice cream and to book the tour to the White Heron nesting ground, as recommended by Peter and Janet Levinsohn. We were too late for the 3.00pm tour but succeeded in booking for the 1.00pm tour the next day.

Having accomplished this we drove to Franz Josef to book in to our hostel/motel and immediately headed out to look at the glacier, as the weather had definitely improved, now sunny with only a little cloud on the tops. Having secured a parking place and after an abortive attempt to reach the Peters Pool viewpoint, which did not seem capable of offering the advertised ‘stunning’ views of the glacier we took to the main access track. We enjoyed the views of the many waterfalls cascading down the sides of the glacial trough and were impressed with the well made track, traversing the fluvio-glacial deposits of the valley floor. Joyce decided not to undertake the last few hundred metres climb to the viewpoint for the snout of the glacier but Eric pressed on to the lower viewpoint. The snout here is very dirty, with lots of surface moraine, and there is an extensive section of ice cored moraine, where stagnant ice, left behind by retreat, has been observed by the insulating sediment cover. Above this section the clean, heavily crevasses ice fall is very impressive, as is the waterfall flowing into the ice from the valley side.

We strolled back to the car, stopped to admire the one lane main road bridge across the outwash plain, visited St James’ church, with its chancel windows overlooking the river, then found a restaurant for an excellent pizza and salad.


Monday 29th December 2014. Day 112   Helicopter horizons

It had rained heavily overnight and continued to rain as we got up at 7am and ate breakfast. Our helicopter trip was booked for 10am but rather than being told later that it was not going to happen we pre-empted the decision by phoning the company to rearrange the flight. We then tried to rearrange the trip to the Herons, which initially was not possible, but after some toing and froing we had a workable programme, herons at 11.15am and helicopter at 2.15pm, check in for both 15 minutes before.

This left us some time in hand so we visited the local Wildlife Centre to see their kiwis. These were ‘rowi’ only identified as a separate species in 1995 and the most threatened kiwi. By virtue of a tracking, egg retrieval and captive hatching programme, the rowi numbers are increasing as the chicks are protected from predation by stoats, cats, rats and dogs, when they are released into the wild on a predator free island, when they are mature enough to survive independently.

Travelling the 20 minutes back to Whataroa we arrived in good time for our tour. A minibus took us to the river bank where a jet boat took us downriver for 20 minutes to a boardwalk which led to a hide directly opposite the heron nests. Although the trip involved a jet boat Joyce’s mind had been set at rest by the description of that portion of the trip as being ‘sedate’. In the event the boat ride was exhilarating, with high speed traverses of rapids, round tight bends and through narrow gaps but without the spins that had affected her before. The behaviour of the Paradise ducks, flying ahead of the boat to lure us away from their ducklings, proved a dramatic accompaniment and we also saw some Pukeko, the flightless blue feathered, red billed bird. Travelling through the pristine rain forest was a really beautiful experience.

The hide offered excellent views of the heron, still with their mating finery of long tail feathers. These had almost led to this population’s destruction as they proved irresistible to Victorian ladies as millinery decoration. The herons were brooding or tending already hatched chicks and proved a delight to watch. Also present were Royal spoonbills, with their distinctive plume, and cormorants.

Our tour ended well on time and we were back in Franz Josef in time to book in for the helicopter at 2.00pm, in pouring rain from low clouds. It came as no surprise to be told that flights were on hold. With two hours yet to travel we could not wait too long but a potential solution was offered as the company also flew from Fox Glacier and we could transfer our booking to their 4.30pm flight. We had little hope of the weather improving, but switched the booking, with the understanding that our voucher could be used at two other points on our tour, Queenstown and Mt Cook, or fully refunded if not used.

As we drove south the rain continued but let up as we got to Fox glacier. We had an hour to fill so decided to get a ground level view of the glacier. From the car park we walked up the steeper track and caught a glimpse of the icefall. Joyce decided the remaining climb to the viewpoint would take her too long, so Eric speedily pressed on alone and enjoyed the view of a steep, moraine free snout, with the meltwater stream issuing from an ice cave.

Returning in time, we found the helicopter office and booked in, with three other passengers. A short minibus ride took us to the airfield where our helicopter was waiting. We were soon strapped in, with headphones on, and took off towards Franz Josef. Looking up there was still a layer of cloud which suggested that our views would be limited. Climbing over a ridge the glacier lay beneath us in all its glory, bathed in bright sunshine from an almost clear sky. We flew up the 11 kilometre long glacier, with clear views of the dramatic icefalls with their seracs plus the waterfall we had seen from the valley floor. As we climbed to the cirque the full extent of the snowfields were revealed with clear views of the aretes, knife edged ridges, with steep rock faces and frost shattered pinnacles. Climbing over the headwall of a cirque we then saw the 26 kilometre Tasman Glacier in all its glory, we had not realised we would see this, the longest glacier in NZ. We then crossed the Murchison valley and landed on a snowpatch which gave us uninterrupted views of cloud free Mt Tasman, Mt Seaton and, directly in front of us, Mt Cook set against a brilliant blue sky. After time for photographs we reboarded the helicopter and headed towards Mt Cook, traversing its glacier and crossing the eastern col. A swing around the northern face brought us over the Fox glacier and we travelled down its 13 kilometre length with clear views of crevasses and moulins with parties of glacier walkers. The pilot took us in a circuit for clear views of the Victoria waterfall, before returning to the airfield, with views of the outwash plain and the one lane bridge.

On landing we were transferred back to the office and swiftly found our car. We still had a long drive ahead so we pushed on towards Haast. We stopped for some coastal photo opportunities, notably at Knight’s Point, where the stacks were illuminated in the setting sun. The stop was brief as we were driven back to the car by the prolific sand flies.

We crossed the Haast river by the longest one lane bridge in New Zealand, with two passing bays, and continued towards Jackson Bay. We found our motel accommodation, where we had been upgraded to a two bedroom property. Miles from anywhere Joyce used the kitchenette to produce a delicious Spanish omelette.

Tuesday 30th December 2014. Day 113   Waterfall wonders

This morning petrol again was a priority. Eric ignored the sign indicating last petrol for 88 kilometres, reasoning that there must be petrol in Haast, which proved to be a wrong decision. We retraced our steps to the petrol station and bit the bullet of the price, $2.16 a litre, although not completely filling the tank. We then headed into Mt Aspiring National Park and the Haast Pass. It was again raining as we drove up into the mountains. We sped past the first scenic attraction, as it was poorly sign posted. Turning in a layby we spotted a waterfall across the valley, which turned out to be the Roaring Billy Falls. Returning to the designated car park it turned out that it was a one kilometre walk to see the falls. Joyce was happy having seen them from a distance but Eric decided to take a closer look. A pleasant walk through bush forest, dripping in the continued rain, brought him to a viewpoint overlooking the main river, coloured a beautiful azure blue, with its extensive gravel deposits. Across the valley there was a clear view of the falls. Tripping over a tree root and almost falling down some steep steps reminded Eric of the need for care in such solo expeditions.

Back in the car we resumed our travels and reached Thunder Creek falls, close to the road. These proved a dramatic sight, although our time was again cut short by the unwelcome attention of the dreaded flies.

Our third waterfall stop was at Fantail Falls, where we learnt the importance of following the signed path rather than making assumptions. We walked beside the river and finally found the falls, again on a tributary into the now much smaller Haast river.

As we drove further the valley closed in and we stopped at Haast Gate bridge to admire the rush of water through a narrow rock channel. A short distance further on we stopped to look at Trickle one and two, two smaller waterfalls incised into the rock wall right next to the road.

We finally crested the pass and began our descent towards Queenstown. A pause to use the facilities at Cameron Flats then a lunchtime coffee at Makaroa North brought us to the drive along Lake Wanaka, with a number of photo stops in an increasingly vicious wind. Crossing the divide led to the beauties of Lake Hawes, with its spectacular mountain backdrop.

The road then passed through the town of Wanaka where we sought out the Cinema Paradiso, as recommended by Clare and Ed. This cinema, bar and café offers its film viewing patrons a choice of sofas and lazy boys on which to sit while watching a film and enjoying their food.

We found that we had arrived just in time to catch a screening of Mr Turner, starring Timothy Spall, a biopic covering the last years of the life of JMW Turner and directed by Mike Leigh. This proved to be a fascinating film, visually rich, capturing some of the inspirations for his more famous paintings, and with excellent performances. It even had an interval, allowing us to enjoy Fish and Chips (chocolate) and Paddington’s Marmalade ice cream.

We left Wanaka at 6.20pm and headed across the Crown Ranges to Queenstown. Driving the narrow twisty road to the pass we saw the Rhythm and Alps festival site, with music lovers gathering for a New Year’s gig. The side of the road and the stream banks were festooned with beautiful swathes of lupins in a variety of colours including yellows, pinks, blues and purples. These petered out before the hairpin bends rising to the pass so Eric could not use the line that we were almost lupin the loop or lacking a magnifying glass lupin the loupe .

From the pass we could see Queenstown and Lake Wakitipu laid out before us within its mountain frame. A short drive, with equally steep and tortuous bends brought us to the north of Queenstown to Arthur’s Point and our accommodation in the Top 10 Shotover Holiday Park we were soon ensconced in our self contained cabin. Too tired to go out to eat we resorted to our emergency rations, with macaroni cheese for Eric and creamed rice and peaches for Joyce, before falling into bed.


Wednesday 31st December 2014. Day 114. New night

We had planned in some recovery time and enjoyed a slow start this morning. At 11.30am we decided to drive into Queenstown to recce restaurants for tonight and to find out where our lake cruise departed. We also needed to do some food shopping. Entering Queenstown we found the roads almost gridlocked and after a fruitless cruise around a car park we were fortunate to find an on street parking space just outside it. The weather was still dismal and we were wrapped up against the rain. We strolled to the waterfront, examining restaurant menus and checking if they took bookings. In the event it was the first restaurant we had visited that we booked. We also found the ticket office for the TSS Earnslaw and obtained our bearding passes for tonight.

Driving back up Gorge Road we found the supermarket and a parking place. We stocked up for the next few days before returning, via a photo stop at the Shotover Canyon, then had a bacon sandwich lunch and a quiet afternoon, with Eric blogging and Joyce sleeping.

At 5.40 pm we headed back into Queenstown in the rain. Surprisingly traffic was lighter and we found a parking space in an off road car park we had spotted, next to where we had parked this morning, which was free after 6.00pm. We sat in the car for 15 mins, until the rain eased a little and visited the Village Green, with its information boards on Queenstown’s history. We visited St Peter’s Anglican church where we lit a candle to give thanks for 2014 and pray for a joyous and blessed 2015. We then had a short foray into the gardens on the peninsula next to the beach. We reached the restaurant at 7.00 pm, the time we had booked and were given a secluded table with a view of the village green. Joyce enjoyed rack of lamb followed by triple chocolate dessert, while Eric had rump steak and sticky date and toffee pudding. The weather outside was frightful so we stayed in the shelter of the restaurant and enjoyed a coffee after the meal.

At 9.10pm we ventured out into a dry spell and explored some more of Queenstown, including the location of the cable car. As the rain swept in again across the lake we sheltered in the Steamer Quay complex to await the arrival of the steamship. Built in 1912 she offered a comprehensive passenger and freight service along the lake, serving Queenstown and the surrounding wool stations. She could carry 1,050 passengers and 100 tons of freight (400 sheep or 200 bales of wool or 90 cattle).

At 10.00 pm the ship returned from an earlier cruise, emerging from the curtains of rain. Having docked and disembarked its passengers it was our turn to board, being welcomed with a glass of champagne and canapes. The cruise took us northwards through the driving rain to Frankston and then back. The lights of the settlements were glittering as we cruised past, enjoying the live music and joining in with classics such as American Pie. Eric enjoyed the visit to the engine room to see the twin boiler, twin-screw propulsion system.

At 11.50 pm we tied up at the quay and stood outside, the rain having stopped, near the bow at the starboard rail, gazing expectantly towards where we hoped fireworks would erupt at midnight. On the waterfront a large crowd had gathered, despite the earlier downpour, entertained from two stages by live music. As the countdown to midnight reached zero the sky was illuminated by a coruscating series of aerial fireworks which lasted for a good 15 minutes. It was a spectacular display and we had a grandstand view as the launching barge was directly opposite our position.

Once the display had finished we worked our way back to the car through throngs of happy revellers, who were clearly going to party for a long time yet. Our car park was well positioned for a quick and easy departure, avoiding the gridlock of the centre, and we were soon back in our cabin. Thinking of our loved ones, we sent off some emails with our best wishes for a Happy New Year before settling to sleep at 1.30 pm.

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Trying to keep up

Our apologies to our readership for the delay in publishing the latest instalment of our travels but in trying to see everything blogging has fallen by the wayside. We cannot promise to do any better in the future.

Monday 15th December 2014. Day 98 Russell rendezvous

Another dire weather forecast for the day we are due to cruise the Bay of Islands. As we got ready to leave the grey skies grew more threatening and we were glad we had taken the raincoats from the car. We booked in at the Paihia Maritime Building and boarded the cruise boat for the ‘cream trip’ around the islands. Eric went to sit on the open upper deck as it started to rain. Once we had slipped our moorings we were informed by the Captain that the visit to the Cape Brett’s hole in the rock was unlikely and the transit of the arch definitely out of the question, given the 2.5 meter swells in the open ocean. We were given the option of leaving the vessel at the Russell pier and obtaining a ticket for tomorrow. As the clouds lowered and the rain began in earnest we decided that we would take this option as it gave us another chance and given the weather a visit to Russell was likely to be more enjoyable today than the planned trip to the Kerikeri peninsula tomorrow in this poor weather.

We therefore disembarked at the town of Russell and went straight to the tour company’s office for a replacement ticket and what turned out to be free ferry tickets back to Paihia. Russell, originally Kororāreka, was the original main European settlement in this part of the country, after Captain Cook extolled the Bay of Island’s virtues as an anchorage and source of supplies after his unscheduled visit in 1769. It soon attracted whalers and traders, and had an unsavoury reputation which proved a challenge to missionaries. The treaty of Waitangi led to its importance diminishing as the focus of government and trade switched to Okiato and Auckland and the town suffered as a result of conflict with the Maori war of 1845, triggered by the fourth felling of the flagpole overlooking the settlement by the chieftain Hone Heke, leading to its almost complete destruction. However it did survive, bolstered by fishing and manganese mining and, from the 1920s with its game fishing reputation established by Zane Gray, tourism.

Our first stop was the Pompalier Mission museum on the waterfront. Bishop Pompalier was a key figure in the Catholic mission to New Zealand. An important figure in the development of the Society of Mary, the Marist Brothers, he established a Catholic mission in Russell in 1838. The key to the success in bringing Catholicism to the Maori was apparently twofold, the most important reason being the translation of the Bible and other religious works into Maori and its free distribution, and secondly the fact that in Maori eyes the Catholic religious finery was more in keeping with the status of religious leaders than the more sombre Protestant garb.

The museum is based in the original tannery and printing building, constructed using the beaten earth technique. Whilst the importance of printing is self evident the tannery part provided the material to bind the books. The renovated building contains a hands on demonstration of all the stages of both processes, brought to life by our excellent and very knowledgeable guide, Lydia. She was particularly good on the printing phrases used in the modern vernacular, including, ‘dab hand’, ‘first impressions’, ‘mind your ps and qs’, ‘upper and lower case’. The museum on the top floor is well presented and of particular interest are the four rats nest, with mummified animals, from different periods of the building’s history and constructed from materials of each time. The structure survived the 1845 war as it was protected by the Maori.

From here we stopped at a local café for a warming drink as the weather was getting colder and wetter. We then visited the oldest church in New Zealand, Christ Church, built in 1835/6. Its simple design and very light interior produce a very spiritual feeling. Although badly damage in 1845 is has been successfully rebuilt and maintained.

Our final stop was the Russell museum which contained fascinating exhibits reflecting Maori culture and the history of Russell. Particularly striking was the 1:5 scale model of the Endeavour. We left the museum in good time to catch the ferry back to Paihia, seeing little of the surrounding scenery because of the mist. Once back in Paihia we browsed the pier shop and returned for lunch in our apartment, sitting watching the rain and the effects of the gusty wind.

The weather deteriorated during the afternoon, discouraging excursions, so we confined ourselves to visiting the post office and a small supermarket to buy something for dinner, before retiring to shelter for the rest of the day.

Tuesday 16th December 2014   Day 99 Weather woes

A phone call last night had informed us that the trip today had been cancelled because of the deteriorating weather. Overnight the wind and rain continued and there was no change as we ate a lateish breakfast. Just before lunch we headed to the Maritime Building where we arranged a refund on our ticket and then bought some baked beans for lunch, which we ate on toast, back in the room. The weather seemed to get even worse after lunch so we sat tight and relaxed by reading and farming. A slight improvement during the early evening allowed us to walk out to the nearby Swordfish fishing club where we enjoyed a steak dinner, which did not seem to offend the club members. We returned to the room in another downpour and spent some time packing for our departure.

Wednesday 17th December 2014     Day 100   Boulder bonanza

We checked out of the motel around 9.30am and headed through the rain to Haruru falls which were a dramatic sight and sound being in full spate. Returning via Paihia we next went to Kawakawa to admire the toilets, the first and only southern hemisphere building designed by Hundtwasser, the renowned architect and completed in 1999. They have proved an important attraction to tourists for the town.

Our next target was the scenic park containing the Wairere boulders. On the way we visited Pakaraka with its Holy Trinity church, then Te Waimate with the 1830 mission house the 4th mission and the first inland, established by Samuel Palmer and John the Baptist church. From here we travelled to Hokere, passing Heike’s pa, Lake Omapere and via a series of back roads along the river, which was flooding the lower ground. At one point the gravel road was flooded and driving along the crown of the road we created an impressive bow wave. A kind local, driving the 4×4 Eric had allowed to pass minutes before, paused at the other side of the floods to check we were ok.

Local signs took us to the boulders, a private development by the landowner who has installed a walkway with stairways and bridges around, over and under giant basalt boulders which have been fluted by funning water and now lie chaotically arranged in the stream bed. Joyce did not fancy the walk, which in places was flooded and at times resembled an assault course; she stayed in the information shack and looked at the photos and articles about building the walkway. Eric relished the challenge and completed the round trip in a reasonable time. From looking at the fluting and the evidence of potholes it would appear that the boulders represent the product of scarp retreat, probably a retreating waterfall.

The pause in the rain lasted until after lunch, we stopped to eat at Opononi in a park on the seaside, before heading for the viewpoint at south point. Eric decided to walk to the end of the headland ahead of the threatening rain. At the halfway point the heavens opened and Eric returned soaked to the skin.

Heading south we passed through the Waipoua forest on a very winding road and visited Tane Mahuta, the largest living Kauri tree and spied Maungaraho Peak in the distance. Our plan was to fit in a full visit to the Kauri museum at Matakohe but we did not arrive until 4.15pm. The museum is a fascinating record of the Kauri tree and its importance as a resource and is crammed full of information, artefacts and reconstructions and we only managed to view one gallery. Luckily our ticket was valid for the next morning, so we resolved to be at the door when they opened next day.

We then headed north again to Ruawai to find our B&B on a farm. Our gps indicated that our destination was on the left hand side of the road and having sighted the post box with the correct number on that side of the road we headed up a farm track, following the obvious path of a herd of cows. On entering the farmyard we could find no one to welcome us until a chap emerged from the milking parlour to inform us that our hosts lived on the other side of the road. We headed back to the main road and saw our destination, clearly sign posted. We were so trusting of the gps that we had driven past the notice at the entrance with our attention on the opposite side of the road.

We met our hosts for the night and after a coffee were taken for a tour of the area, stopping on the banks of the Wairoa river, the foot of the volcanic plug of Takaoka and the local historic cemetery, plus an introduction to the farm’s dairy herd, which involved walking through a field of cows, some showing great interest in us. Our hosts had offered us dinner which was ready on our return.


Thursday 18th December 2014   Day 101 Kauri kaleidoscope

As part of the farmstay experience we were up at 06.30am to be shown a neighbour’s milking parlour with a chance to help milk the cows. We were shown the technique and soon had the hang of attaching the machinery, standing amidst the cows’ other offerings. It was the first time we had done this job and it proved an interesting experience. After the milking we had breakfast and then went back to the Kauri museum, enjoying fully the presentation, including a fascinating display of Kauri gum. There were detailed displays of each stage of gum production and of everyday life at the time, including superbly produced full size mannequins based on the current descents of the original settlers, giving their names and ancestry. The shop had some beautiful Kauri wood products and Joyce was very taken by a free form bowl, which was unfortunately too heavy to get home. Around the museum were other buildings of the pioneer era, including a school, church and post office.

From the museum we decided to take the main road south, retracing our earlier route, as we had to be at the chiropractor’s in Waiuku by 3.00pm. At Te Hana we stopped at the reconstructed Maori pa but decided against a visit as it was by guided tour only, we were under time pressure and we could see the main structure from the car park.

Passage through Auckland was relatively fast, putting us ahead of schedule. We ate our sandwiches parked outside a café with gardens, which we did not visit, then pressed on to Waiuku and we parked outside the medical centre for almost an hour before Joyce went in for her appointment and Eric had a snooze.

After Joyce emerged we drove into the town and enjoyed a coffee and lemon meringue pie before braving the rain to return to the car. We then followed the gps route to Raglan, which traversed more of rural New Zealand on back roads. Once settled into our motel we explored the small town, estuary walkway and finding a memorial to the landing of the first Methodist missionaries, before eating in the Shack, pork belly and chicken tenderloins.

Friday 19th December 2014.   Day 102   Hamilton horticulture

We left Raglan in better weather and our first stop was Bridal Veil Falls, a 55 meter waterfall, which proved a very impressive sight. We then drove on to Hamilton and after a coffee we visited the Waikoto museum which holds an interesting collection of modern Maori cloaks made by a traditional weaver who learnt the skills from her grandmother. Other displays included a Maori war canoe and covered the history of the local Maori’s, King country and the European settlers in Hamilton.

Leaving the museum we drove south to the public gardens which proved well worth the visit. At the heart of the park are a series of cultural gardens including Chinese, Japanese, Indian (Moorish influenced like ones we had seen in Seville), Italian Renaissance, Modern Californian, Maori and English Arts & Crafts after Vita Sackville West. We thoroughly enjoyed the designs and plantings, which were in full bloom.

Continuing south we arrived at the Waitomo caves. We did not have time to visit all the caves and decided to take the longer guided tour of the Ruakuri cave rather than the shorter visits to the Glowworm cave or the Aranui cave. The trip took almost two hours and started and ended at the specially constructed spiral stairway entrance to the cave complex. The walkway we followed consisted of concrete paths plus suspended bridges. During the tour we were shown the glowworms with their sticky tendrils, up close, as well as their stellar patterns on the ceilings of the passages. We also saw fine examples of cave deposits, stalagmites, stalactites, curtains, and passed over the underground stream used by the blackwater rafters. As we left the cave system we had the privilege of hearing the Christmas rehearsal of the Wautoma cave choir, who were using the spiral staircase for the first time. We much enjoyed the quality of their voices within the superb acoustics of the artificial cave space.

After the impromptu concert we drove on to our B&B in Te Kuiti. We found a family café for dinner, and from an extensive menu, we both chose gammon, it being the first time we had seen it since leaving home. We then walked along the main street, which had the railway line and station running along one side and a pretty Japanese garden, donated by its twinned town, before retiring.


Saturday 20th December 2014.   Day 103 Gorgeous gorges

This morning we retraced our steps a little to visit the Otorohanga Kiwi house, which we had passed on our way to the caves. This proved an excellent collection of birds and reptiles, including a nocturnal house on which we saw three Kiwi busily foraging.

Resuming our trip south we travelled through the spectacular limestone Mangaotaki Gorge, then the Awakino River Gorge to Awakino, where the weather precluded a walk to the three sisters, glimpsed as we passed along the coast road. We then sought out the White Cliffs but the weather, the state of the tide and the minimum time needed of four hours discouraged more than a trip to the beach by Eric, down a steep and treacherous slope.

Our route ended in New Plymouth where we visited the Tupere Gardens, set on a steep slope leading down to the river. We enjoyed a walk around the gardens, which had superb hydrangeas in full flower, glistening after the rain, before finding our B&B for the night. Once settled in we drove into New Plymouth to find a restaurant, as recommended by our hosts. We ended up at the cinema where we took the chance to buy tickets for The Hobbit. Downstairs a Chinese buffet provided sustenance before we enjoyed watching the Battle of the Five Armies. After the show at 10.45pm we drove to the nearby gardens, with its fine display of Christmas lights, due to switch off at 11.00pm. We walked round the park until the lights went out at 11.15pm, encouraging us to find our car and return to our accommodation.


Sunday 21st December 2014.   Day 104 Gardens galore

We started the day with a visit to a suburban garden, planned on a Maori theme, with the added extra of a woodland walk along the river behind the house, the rain started again as we were nearing the end of our walk. From here we travelled into New Plymouth for the morning service of the City Life church. A very talented band with an exceptional lead singer led the active worship and an extended sermon on the trust of relationships, completed the service. Although the day had started wet, there were signs of brightening as we walked along the New Plymouth front.

Our planned route today was around the coast but the gps had other ideas, taking us the inland route around the base of Mount Taranaki, shrouded in thick cloud. The route was narrow and winding, with numerous single track bridges. This was a fortuitous outcome as we reached the Puketi rhododendron garden and we took a walk to see the remaining late flowering blooms.

On leaving the gardens we headed for Dawson Falls, higher on the slopes of Mount Taranaki. As we drove the clouds broke and the summit of the mountain was revealed. From the car park at the visitors centre we walked to see the falls then drove down the mountain to Stratford and the Pioneer Village. The kind receptionist recognised us as seniors, then let us in for half price as we only had 45minutes in the village. We made good use of the time and enjoyed seeing the old buildings, albeit mostly with 1950s contents.

After leaving the village we returned for ice cream in Stratford, then headed south again to Wanganui and settles into our motel room.

Feeling tired we found a nearby fish and chip shop for our evening meal and took the newspaper wrapped parcel back to our room to eat, then had an early night after planning the next day, a trip on the river.


Monday 22nd December 2014.   Day 105 Bridge brouhaha

Eric had a yen to visit the iconic bridge to nowhere, deep in the Wanganui National Park. This involved driving to Pipiriki to catch a jetboat tour. The quickest route seemed via Raethi, which meant travelling further than the Wanganui River road. In the end we reached Pipiriki at 10.15am just in time to purchase the last two seats on the trip leaving at 10.30am.

The trip up the gorge was exhilarating and the views spectacular, with many waterfalls and side gorges along the 32 kilometres we travelled to the Manapura landing. Eric had not fully realised that the visit involved a 2.7 kilometre walk to the bridge, which came as a shock to Joyce, she was only wearing shoes and the track was very muddy and slippery. The walk was accomplished with Eric’s aid and the support of the guide who came back to find us. Eric relished the sight of the concrete arch bridge, abandoned as soon as it was completed. After a snack lunch we walked back to the boat, the return journey proving a little easier. We travelled rapidly downstream, with the driver building in four spin turns en route, which were fun but jarred Joyce’s neck, undoing the good work of the chiropractor. One stop on the way back was the tributary which was the home of the endangered blue duck, not seen. Needless to say Joyce had not really enjoyed the trip and was not feeling too well by the end.

From Pipiriki we took the river road downstream, passing through Jerusalem, London and Athens and enjoying the scenery before heading for our B&B at Woodville. Just before we reached the town we travelled up the Mangawara gorge, with the road on one bank and the railway on the other.

We had a very warm reception at the small holding where we were staying and enjoyed dinner with our hosts. They were raising sheep for milk to produce their own feta, and also bees for honey.

Tuesday 23rd December 2014   Day 106   Interisland interlude

Today we finished the trip down the west coast of North Island. From Woodville we drove back down the gorge and spent some time in Palmerston North, walking around the Square. Joyce was aching and not feeling too well after the experience of yesterday.

On our way to Wellington we stopped at Pakepake beach and Porirura. Joyce was aching and not feeling too well after the experience of yesterday but started to feel a bit better after a long lunch break in a café next to a garden centre just outside Wellington. We enjoyed walking round the garden centre, which was full of British bedding plants, vegetables and fruit trees and some native plants, and had a very small display of Christmas decorations. We then drove to the ferry port where we sat on the quayside until time came to board. Although near the front of the queue our line was the last to board.

The crossing was calm and Eric enjoyed the views of Wellington harbour, then the sound on the way into Picton. Joyce still feeling a bit unwell stayed indoors and caught up with the TV news and emails on the free WiFi. Once we had docked we left the ferry fairly quickly and headed for the address on our list for tonight’s stay, only to find that we turned up to the wrong place. Eventually we made our way to the right campsite and our cabin for the night. This was a tiny wooden cabin, with shared toilets and kitchen in a nearby building, we made straight for bed.

Wednesday 24th December 2014.   Day 107 Compelling Carols

Eric foraged for coffee in the morning and we quickly packed and headed into Picton to find breakfast, after a drive to the marina and bay, we finally found breakfast on the main street. We then walked down the street and found the main beach with lots of cafés. After doing food shopping to prepare for the holidays, we took the Queen Charlotte drive, which was very winding but offered excellent views of the sound from the lookouts.

As we headed down from the mountains, in the middle of nowhere, we passed a tree decorated for Christmas on the road to Nelson. Bypassing the town we found our motel at Tahunanui beach. After a short rest we walked along the beach then headed into Nelson for a meal. We found our way to the Cathedral and discovered that Carols by candlelight were to be held on the steps at 8.45pm. The first restaurants we found were fully booked, but eventually we found a place to eat, enjoying a fillet steak. After the meal we joined the crowd around the cathedral steps and enjoyed the carols and readings, holding our candles. The event also included a haka and a vignette of the first preaching of the gospel by Samuel Marsden, 200 years ago on Christmas Day. The service ended with Jingle Bell’s with the added verse:

“Splashing through the sea, Or lazing in the sun, Off with friends we go, Laughing having fun; we love picnicking, to keep our spirits bright. Oh what fun it is to sing, when there’s no snowflake in sight!”

After the carols we returned to the motel.

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Picture Update

Cairns: Cultural evening

Cairns: Cultural evening

Cairns: Cultural Evening

Cairns: Cultural Evening

Fiji: Nadi - sunset

Fiji: Nadi – sunset

Fiji: Storm approaching Bounty Island

Fiji: Storm approaching Bounty Island

Fiji: Barefoot Island - on Fiji time

Fiji: Barefoot Island – on Fiji time

Fiji: Barefoot Island - bure

Fiji: Barefoot Island – bure

Fiji: Sunset

Fiji: Sunset

Fiji: Barefoot Island

Fiji: Barefoot Island

Fiji: Barefoot Island

Fiji: Barefoot Island

Fiji: Safe Landing

Fiji: Safe Landing

Fiji: Azure waters

Fiji: Azure waters

Fiji: Sunset - Safe Landing

Fiji: Sunset – Safe Landing

Fiji: Blue Lagoon

Fiji: Blue Lagoon

Fiji: Boarding the ferry

Fiji: Boarding the ferry

Fiji: Nadi breakfast

Fiji: Nadi breakfast

Whangarapoa: Shakespear Regional Park

Whangarapoa: Shakespear Regional Park

Pohoi: Pub

Pohoi: Pub

Whangarai: Town Basin

Whangarai: Town Basin

Whangarai: Reyburn House

Whangarai: Reyburn House

Whangarai: A H Reed Kauri Park

Whangarai: A H Reed Kauri Park

Whangarai: Falls

Whangarai: Falls

Whangarai: Falls

Whangarai: Falls



90 Mile Beach

90 Mile Beach

90 Mile Beach: Te Paki stream

90 Mile Beach: Te Paki stream

Cape Reinga

Cape Reinga

Kauri Staircase

Kauri Staircase

Paihia: Waitangi- Canoe shed

Paihia: Waitangi- Canoe shed

Paihia: Waitangi Treaty Grounds - Meeting House

Paihia: Waitangi Treaty Grounds – Meeting House

Paihia: Waitangi Treaty Grounds - Meeting House

Paihia: Waitangi Treaty Grounds – Meeting House

Paihia: 1888 Treaty Monument

Paihia: 1888 Treaty Monument

Paihia: St Paul's Church

Paihia: St Paul’s Church

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Lagoon loafing

Tuesday 9th December 2014   Day 92

Breakfast again at 8.00am with bags packed and checked out at 8.30am. We have been offered the chance to visit the Blue Lagoon this morning, being dropped off by the party heading for the Siwali caves and we left at 8.45am. Apparently this area was used for the Brooke Shields film ‘Blue Lagoon’. Crossing between islands proved to be exciting as the wind created very choppy conditions. The beach was deserted when we arrived and Eric headed out to check out what was on offer while Joyce relaxed on the beach. Eric then took Joyce for a tour of the reef. Although not as rich in coral the number of fish was particularly impressive, with again clown fish, cornet and box fish in evidence. An interesting experience was in feeding the fish with bread, which attracted the Sergeant Majors who were then chased off by larger fish, generating shoal behaviour with an audible whoosh. The other sounds included the parrot fish munching coral. It was an excellent way to finish our experience of the Fijian Islands.

On our return to the resort we showered and changed before being serenaded by the assembled staff with a farewell song and being adorned with a flower necklace. We got onto the small boat which had collected us and travelled across the channel, again being bounced around. The ferry was not the vessel we had expected, being a smaller ship, and it took quite a time to load the passengers and their luggage from five resorts. Once loading was complete we headed south along the Yasawa chain, calling at other resorts to exchange passengers. The weather was again overcast and windy so we settled in the main cabin which had no videos but did have, albeit intermittently, free WiFi which allowed us to catch up with e-mails for the past week. Finally we passed through the Mamanuca group, where we had started and the islands used in the Tom Hanks’ film “Castaway’, before arriving at Port Denarau where a coach waited to take us to our hotel.

We had pizzas sitting on the beachside, enjoying the sunset, before retiring to arrange our packing for the international flight.

Wednesday 10th December 2014   Day 93 Auckland arrival

We checked out of the hotel at 10.00am and sat by the beach, Joyce enjoyed reading in the hammock, until it was time to leave for the airport at 11.30am. At the airport a moderate queue was encountered but check in was relatively quick once we had reached the desk, with the news that we were to be sited by the wing emergency exit, giving us more leg room.

We used the time before departure to spend our last few Fijian dollars, acquiring drinks and a very small and light souvenir. The fight was relatively short and we approached Auckland flying down the north east coast of North Island, passing over Craddock’s Channel between Little and Great Barrier Islands, across the Hauraki Gulf and along the Tasaki River towards the airport. As we were on final approach the aircraft accelerated and turned away and the Captain informed us of a problem with the flaps, which needed to be checked on another circuit. We therefore climbed again and rejoined the landing circuit above Little Barrier Island. We were advised that the landing might be bumpy and the need to buckle up tightly was paramount. We began the approach and this time, with a little more aircraft movement, we reached the ground in one piece.

As we headed towards immigration and baggage reclaim we took advantage of a Vodafone sim offer which allowed the minutes to be used for international calls, an option not available with our Australian deal.

Disembarking was quick and passport control relatively painless. As with entering Australia we were fast tracked through the automatic gates and again Eric successfully navigated the machinery but Joyce had to visit the desk. However, this meant that she had another passport stamp which Eric missed out on.

We had been lulled into a false sense of security as to the speed of entry into New Zealand with our luggage being quickly on and off the carousel. However, once we headed towards customs we joined a very long queue to pass through biosecurity and this took 40 minutes to reach the desk, where we were questioned. In entering Australia we had declared our walking boots, having been used in New Guinea, this time we declared our wood products. Since they were polished and varnished, all was well. Eventually we got to the other side of the x-ray machines without incurring a fine and went in search of the car hire company. Eric had again used an off airport company and since it was now 6.15pm we discovered, from phoning them, that they had all gone home. However the car was available from the “park and fly” company compound and a further phone call to them ensured that we had a place on a shuttle bus. Deciding that it was getting late, we bought sandwiches from a kiosk for our evening meal, and took our luggage on its trolley through doorway 11 to await the bus, standing in the cold, under a dripping canopy, as the rain poured down. Fortunately, our raincoats were on top of the luggage, placed there in case we had been over weight. What a difference to Fiji.

The shuttle minibus duly appeared and took us to the car pound where we collected our car. The weather precluded a thorough walk round, so Eric took photographs of the vehicle for future reference, noting a few scratches.

Once we had taken possession of the car the next job was to set up the gps to navigate us to our B&B for tonight. Once powered up Eric was dismayed to find that the unit thought we were still in Cairns and driving around the car park, even with good satellite reception, failed to disabuse it of this belief. Stopping on the road outside the car park, investigation of the menu revealed that we had to select the NZ map manually. Once this was done it identified the correct location and we could programme it for our destination of Whangaparoa.

50 minutes later we were outside our accommodation and were soon settled into our room. WiFi was on offer so Eric decided to check the bank account and was shocked to find that Barclaycard had taken by direct debit a significant sum of money, far greater than had been spent, especially since we had been unable to use the card since 4th November. The card started to be declined after payment to a motel had taken 3 attempts, due to system problems, so Eric had assumed this was the reason it was no longer available. Our Australian Vodafone package had not allowed overseas calls so we had not pursued the matter. Eric had also been concerned that he could no longer log into the Barclaycard website to check his account and had received an e-mail to inform him that he had opted for a paperless account. His worst fears confirmed Eric took advantage of the overseas call option and after sorting out that the + in international numbers was a double, not a single zero, was able to speak to an excellent agent at Barclaycard fraud who went through the account and found that a significant fraud had been perpetrated, which involved large cash withdrawals in Canterbury since October, while we were using the card in Australia. Apparently the fraudster had managed to get a new card and pin issued to them, passing the security checks. An hour later, having checked October and November’s statements, most of the illegal transactions were identified and we were promised a refund which arrived in the current account the next day. There is some more checking to do but the matter does seem to be sorted, with a new card being issued and the old account closed.

Having spoken to Barclaycard Eric then had to speak to Santander to let them know of the next 3 months travels for their credit card, as they would not accept more than 6 countries and 3 months of travel at a time.

Sandwiches followed, then bed.

Thursday 11th December 2014.   Day 94 Puhoi piefest

We were still a little shell shocked after yesterday’s events so we took our time departing, being away by 10.00am, heading along the Whangaparoa peninsula. Our first stop was Army Bay then the Shakespear Regional Reserve, passing through a security gate to access the park. The pohutukawa trees were in flower, New Zealand’s national flower, creating a beautiful picture.

From here we headed north to the Pukemateko reserve at Omaha beach, with its wild yellow lupins, harakeke and Norfolk Pines, and then Orewa beach, with an abortive attempt to see a pa (maori hillfort) in the local reserve, and then on to Waiwera. The route then headed inland and we made a small detour to visit the historic village of Puhoi, established by Bohemian settlers. Here we enjoyed a lunch of very tasty meat pies before driving through Warkworth to Matawan, Sandspit and Leigh, with its harbour reminiscent of the rias of Cornwall. North of Leigh we stopped to view Goat Island, the centre of a marine reserve and were able to watch cormorants feeding their young in a cluster of nests, in pohutukara trees along the cliff edge.

We then went to Pakiri Beach where the road again headed inland before reaching the coast again at Mangawhai. We then travelled around Bream Bay from Waipu Cove to the western edge of Whangarei Harbour and then into the town of Whangarei. The motel was easily found and we settled in. Joyce was not too well, the meat pie having disagreed with her, so Eric made a quick trip out on foot to the nearby supermarket for some easy to prepare sustenance which was cooked in the in room kitchenette.

Friday 12th December 2014   Day 95 Whangarei wheyhey

After a reasonable day yesterday, with just a few brief showers, the rain set in again. After checking out at 10.00am we drove to the Town Basin, the tourist centre and marina of Whangarei. We took advantage of the retail opportunity and harbourside coffee, before visiting the historic Reyburn House, now an art gallery. We were particularly taken by the tear shaped glass vases created by Lynden Over, but after careful consideration decided we really could not add two 1.5 kg vases to our luggage.

Leaving the town we visited the A.H.Reed Kauri Reserve; it was still raining heavily so Joyce enjoyed the shelter of the car while Eric walked to the falls and along the boardwalk to the two large Kauri trees. Returning to the car we drove to the 26 metre high Whangarei falls, both walking down the path in the heavy rain and enjoying the views from the lookouts on both banks. Eric then walked down to the bottom of the falls.

Having enjoyed Whangarei we turned the car north eastwards, still following the Twin Coasts Discovery drive passing through Ngunguru and Tutukaka, where we stopped at the Marina to buy lunch at the small general store. Matapouri provided a scenic spot to eat the lunch and a short walk on the beach, then on to Woolleys Bay and Sandy Bay. During the afternoon the weather improved with the cessation of rain.

Rejoining Highway One we drove near to Kawakawa then into Paihia for a five night stay at the Bayview Motel. The apartment had a well equipped kitchen/living space, separate bedroom and a large balcony with an excellent view over the Bay of Islands. A foray to the nearby supermarket yielded provender to produce a delicious fried chicken and vegetable dinner.

Saturday 13th December 2014 Day 96. Northland navigation

On a prebooked tour to the very north today so up early and waiting outside the motel at 7.10am. The bus arrived on time at 7.15am and after a few more stops to collect other passengers we left Paihia with a full coach. Hughie, our driver guide, is Maori and is a fount of knowledge about the region. He also serenaded us during the trip with Maori songs covering welcome, death and farewells.

The forecast for today had been dire, but the morning started dry albeit with grey skies.

We drove past Kerikeri and through Kao, passing its conical, terraced pa site. Further on we could see in the distance the distinctive mountain of Taratar with its monolithic peak and pair of smaller sugar loaf summits. At Tapia, on Doubtless Bay, we paused for coffee before passing through Awanui, then driving on to 90 mile beach. Hughie had clocked it at 64 miles and put forward a number of explanations for its name, the simplest being a mistake in the units of measurement. The drive was impressive with the surf on one side and the dunes the other. In places the dunes have been breached by storm waves and the old Maori shell middens could be seen. The crossing of streams required some caution, given the cutting of channels into the relatively flats beach surface, and in places required driving into the surf.

At the egress of the Te Paki quicksand stream we stopped for a photo opportunity, with the backdrop of huge active dunes. The coach then drove carefully along the stream until we stopped at the popular spot for sandboarding. Grabbing a boogie board from the bus Eric headed for the top of the dune with the rest of the party while Joyce stayed at the bottom to video the action. Eric’s first descent was stop start and he did not cover himself with glory, only sand. The next two goes were far more satisfying with smooth fast runs to the stream at the base of the dune.

Regretfully, we had to tear ourselves from the fun and continued our way up the stream and on towards Cape Reinga, through native forest and bush and through a landscape of steep, deep valleys. The New Zealand upland landscape is very distinctive in terms of the complexity of valleys incised into the surface, with a wide range of heights of the interfluves. The lower ground is also a complex of rolling hills and valleys, with a range of streams and rivers, dominated by gravel as sediment.

Cape Reinga is sacred to the Maoris and is the site where their souls depart, this was where Hughie sang the Maori song which he dedicated to all our departed loved ones. The cape marks the meeting place of the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean, which can be seen as a line of white water where the wave energy of the two water bodies interact. From the car park we followed the well made path down to the lighthouse, admiring the panorama of the surrounding headlands and bays. As we walked the grey clouds thickened and the sky grew darker and spots of rain began.

Having reached the most northerly point in New Zealand we admired the lighthouse and the signpost showing how far we were from London, Sydney, Antarctica, etc. and then we made our way back up the hill as the rain set in. Once the party had assembled we drove south again to Houhoura, where we enjoyed a lunch of fish and chips at the local Big Game and Sports Fishing Club.

Lunch concluded, we headed back towards Pahia in the increasingly heavy rain, seeing in the distance the sand dunes of brilliant white sand dunes of Parengardnga Harbour and passing the distinctive twin towered, white and green painted Ratana church at Te Kao with the words “Arepa” and “Omeka” (Maori transliterations of the Greek words Alpha and Omega) on the towers.

Near Awanui we stopped at the ‘Ancient Kauri Kingdom’, the factory shop of an enterprise that excavates 45,000 year old Kauri tree trunks, buried in coastal sediment as a result of a tsunami. The timber is salvaged and used to create furniture and objet d’art. The kauri tree had been extensively felled in the late 19th and early 20th century, so this is a valuable resource to save cutting the remaining trees. It is estimated that the original kauri forests contained trees taller than the redwoods of California. The buried timber had been known for a long time and had previously supported the gum digger industry, which excavated them for the resin that was used for varnish and other products.

Having enjoyed the retail opportunity and the quality of products on offer we retraced our steps south eastward. At Waitaruka another pa was pointed out and soon after Kaeo we turned west towards the Puketi Kauri forest, driving up into the hills on a gravel road. The rain stopped as we arrived at the boardwalk, lulling us into a false sense of security. The Manginangina walk took us through several groves of kauri trees, some of impressive girth of over 1.5 metres. Apparently each metre of diameter relates to 3 centuries of growth. Just before we finished the walk the heavens opened and we returned to the bus soaked, well Eric did as he had not put on his coat, while Joyce had been far more sensible.

A 50 minute run brought us back to our motel where we enjoyed the sandwiches we had carried, not expecting lunch to be provided.


Sunday 14th December 2014   Day 97 Treaty trove

In the programme, today was planned as a light day, in between organised trips. The weather overnight had been gales and heavy rain, which let up as we breakfasted. We then walked to the local Anglican church of St Paul’s which had its service of 9 lessons and carols today; it included a nativity performance and a female acapella choir. It was a very enjoyable service which made us think that Christmas is really on its way, as strange as that feels to us travelling in warmer climes, despite the homelike wet and windy weather.

After the service we had coffee in the apartment then drove the short distance to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, the national monument to the establishment of New Zealand, on the spot where this historic treaty was signed. The visitors centre was very informative as to the background and significance of the treaty, with an excellent film presentation. The problems caused by differences in translation and cultural understanding between the English and Maori versions of the treaty were well explained, as was the history of conflict and reconciliation between the groups in creating modern New Zealand. The site is very well presented with a nature reserve, the war canoe built for the centenary celebration, a reconstruction of a Maori fishing settlement, the flagstaff on the treaty ground itself and the house occupied by the British Resident, James Busby, who was instrumental in encouragement of the establishment of the unified Maori nation and the treaty between the British and Maoris. The other major building is the carved meeting house, also constructed for the centenary, which showcases Maori art in terms of carving and weaving.

We spent over 3 hours in touring the site then returned over the narrow bridge across the Waitangi river to photograph the other memorial to the treaty constructed by the Maori nation in 1880. A very late lunch was followed by a foray for ice cream and a look round the shops before returning for clothes washing, blog writing, chicken dinner and skyping before bed.

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