South Island 3 – Lake Tekapo and Oamaru

February 16th 2018
The destination today was Lake Tekapo. We got away in good time and by mid morning we were by the side of the beautiful turquoise lake. We decided to follow the lake walkway for a while and we both took advantage of the photo opportunities. After our walk we had lunch overlooking the lake and soon after, we set off for our next stop at Oamaru.

 

We spent a quiet evening on site and will continue on our way to Oamaru.

February 17th 2018

I had read that the journey from Oamaru to the coastal town of Oamaru was particularly scenic so we decide to take our time and stop at points of interest along the way. We hadn’t been going long when we stopped at Lake Benmore and walked for a few minutes along the sandy path that runs close to the lake. We continued on, and made our next stop at the Benmore Dam. We crossed the bridge in the van and then walked part way back, stopping again a little further on, this time at the Waitakere Dam which also has a power station close by.

Our next stop was to look at some Māori wall paintings. They were actually a bit  disappointing and  the rock formation was actually more interesting as in places it resembled honeycomb. The birds were making good use of the holes.

As we arrived in Oamaru, the sky turned grey and the heavens opened. We drove around the town and checked in to the campsite by which time the sun was back and we had lunch outside. The weather can change very quickly here.  After lunch we walked back to town through the beautiful Oamaru Park with its stunning flowers and the lovely ‘Mirror lake’.

We wandered around the Victorian part of town and came across a large rusty looking steam engine in front of a building called the ‘Steampunk HQ’.  I had never heard of Steampunk so for anyone else who doesn’t, and to remind me, it is:

‘a genre of science fiction that has a historical setting and typically features steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology’

We decided to go in and  have a look as it looked quite intriguing. It was quite dark inside and there were lots of models/sculptures made of parts of rusted machines. Some had strange sci-fi type characters heads on them and others were fantasy machines. There were some old fashioned dentists chairs and an organ that played weird sounds instead of notes when you pressed the keys. Outside there were large machines including one made from an old train carriage, which you could go inside and another made to look like an enormous chopper motorbike. When John got on it,  it made him look really small, it makes me laugh every time I look at it.

Then there was a room called The Portal. We went in and found ourselves standing on a metal platform suspended in the air, with mirrors all around and lots of lights hanging in the air both above and below us, so that we felt surrounded. Music started playing and the lights changed colour. It was quite fascinating. We went back in later and John videod it. (try the link to see what it was like and imagine standing in amongst it.)

Oamaru

A post shared by @ johnumney on

We wandered down to the harbour and decided to stay here tomorrow as it is a nice place and there is plenty to see.

February 18th 2018

A quiet morning on site, making plans for the next few days, followed by an afternoon back in Oamaru town. We walked again through the lovely park and took some photos of a huge tree stump and the ducks on Mirror lake. The sun finally came out as we wandered in and out of the quirky Victorian style shops and we stopped for a drink at a cafe. As we approached the harbour area we heard live music and it turned out there was a family fun day at ‘Friendly Bay’ (the name of the harbour) so we stopped by the beach, listened to some of the live music and watched people enjoying games on the beach.

 

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South Island 2 Christchurch, Geraldine.

February 14th 201

We decided to visit Hanmer forest before leaving the area and drove to the forest entrance. We chose a circular walk into the forest following pathways. This forest was planted in 1904 and consists of a range of trees from all around the world.

After the walk we headed for Christchurch; less dramatic landscapes today as the area is much flatter.  In Christchurch around midday and decided to spend the afternoon exploring the city. We caught a bus from a nearby bus stop and were soon driving through the city. It seemed empty compared to Wellington and many areas were fenced off and were in the throes of redevelopment following the earthquakes.

After walking to Cathedral square and looking at the ruined cathedral we saw the city tram ride advertised and decided that this hop on hop off service would be the ideal way to learn a bit about the city as the tram drivers narrate as they drive.

We stopped off at an art centre, then at a small decorative street for coffee and later at the Canterbury museum where they were showing the National Geographic’s Top 50 photographs and Christchurch art gallery.

February 15th 2018

Away by 8.45 heading south to Geraldine. The journey took longer than expected due to yet more resurfacing of roads,  but at least they get it done over here!

Geraldine is a nice little town, the site is immaculate and the pitch lovely and big. We had lunch and spent some time reading/ writing etc. Then after lunch we wandered out of the back gate of the site and found ourselves in the heart of the town.  There is a small police station which has an edible garden and there is a sign which invites you to ‘ help yourself’.  Along the street are some interesting little shops and after searching for a picture of a fantail bird and finding a card and a tea towel instead, we headed back to the ice cream shop for a triple chocolate cone (John) and a cookies and cream cone (me).

The  fantail is a pretty little native bird that we came across in Lake Taupo whilst walking in the wood. The bird appeared in the wood and for a short while seemed to be following us, flitting from tree to tree until we left the woodland path. We are looking for a nice picture of one as a momento.

South Island 1 Kaikoura

February 10th 2018
The end of our North Island adventure means the start of our South Island adventure. We travelled across the Cook Straits on the interislander ferry and were lucky to have really calm conditions. Part way across there were dolphins leaping out of the water close to the ship.

Once on the South Island we drove to Havelock along the famous Queen Charlotte scenic route which totally lived up to its name. In Havelock we stopped off at Cullen point and walked the hour long coastal loop which sadly didn’t take us down to the little coves that we could see from our walking path.

 

We headed back to the site at Picton and dinner and did some route planning.

February 11th 2018
A very rainy day everywhere today, but as the east coast generally looks nicer over the next week we changed our route and will travel south and tour in a clockwise direction. The scenery is spectacular, even in the rain.

We drove first to Blenheim where we stocked up at a large Countdown store. Then onwards to Kaikoura which is famous as a whale watching centre. As we approached the town we could see seals on the rocks.

When checking in at the site here, we booked a whale watching trip for tomorrow but couldn’t get in until 4pm so we will stay here tomorrow night too. When the rain cleared we walked into the town centre of Kaikoura, looked at the shops, indulged in a real fruit ice cream and walked onto the beach to watch the waves. On the way back we made a few souvenir purchases.

February 12th 2018

Glorious sunshine today.  This morning we set off to find the car park at Point Keen to walk part of the peninsula walkway. We went from Point Keen to Whalers Bay following the cliff walkway. Once we had climbed the first part, the path levelled off and it was a fairly easy walk along gravel or grassy paths. Then at Whalers Bay we followed the steps down to the rocky beach area below. There were some seals on the rocks and the whole area is a nature reserve. We both really enjoyed the walk and John took quite a few photos of stunning views and beach objects.

Back to the site with the vehicle.  I decided that it would be better to just have a sandwich tonight after the whale watching trip so we walked back into town and had a meal there.

We returned to the site for a couple of hours before heading to the Whale Watching office. We were taken by coach to the boat ( a catamaran) and set off out into the ocean. Luckily after a while we saw a sperm whale on the surface and we watched it dive. During the trip we saw another sperm whale, a hump back whale, lots of dolphins, an albatross and a couple of seals. It was a super trip but unfortunately John dropped his prescription sunglasses overboard!

A very full and rewarding day!

February 13th 2018

After calling in at the whale watching centre to buy some books about whales for the little boys and  a pair of sunglasses for John to wear over his normal glasses, we set off towards Hanmer Springs. The journey took longer than expected due to very windy roads and a lot of road works.  Hanmer is nestled in the mountains inland and people have been coming here’s for more than 125 years to seek the benefits of the natural mineral waters and clear alpine air. So we had lunch and then walked up to the Thermal pools. They are set in the open air and consist of  a variety of natural mineral water pools with varying temperatures, private thermal pools, steam and sauna rooms and there are areas for children too.

We booked half an hour in a private thermal pool to start, which was quite warm (38-41 degrees) and was very relaxing. Then we came outside and explored the different pools; some were ‘aqua therapy pools’ and had a variety of water jets to massage and sooth achy muscles,  others were mineral pools again at different temperatures. Some pools had seats in them for added comfort. We tried the sulphur pool which although a bit smelly, but supposed is good for the skin. The sulphur pool was quite hot also and we didn’t stay long in that one. The two hours we were there, were really relaxing and enjoyable moving from pool to pool in the glorious sunshine. We  are having such an amazing time and are loving all the different experiences and places.

New Zealand 4 – Taupo, Napier and Wellington

February 5th 2018
We left the site and headed back into Taupo to do the Huka falls walk. This walk runs from Spa Park up to the falls following the river Waikato. We started off making it more complicated than it needed to be as we walked through dense woodland following quite a tricky path when we later found we could have walked further into the park and joined the easier trail further on at the point of the natural spa.
There were quite a few people in the river, as this particular area has hot springs which make the water warm. There is also a hot waterfall dropping into another small pool and the steam was rising from the water as various people stood underneath it.
We continued on up towards the falls. The path followed the course of the river but was above it so, looking down the views were quite special.
When we arrived at the top, we admired the rushing water as the river forces its way through a narrow gap in the cliffs. It was well worth the trek there and back.
After lunch in the motorhome, we continued our journey towards Hastings which is close to Napier in Hawkes Bay. The temperature rose as we got closer and was 30 degrees when we arrived.
While here we are hoping to do a wine tour as this is the winery area but we need one that will pick us up and bring us back afterwards! This area is also known as the fruit bowl of New Zealand as so many fruits are grown here. We saw adverts for apples, plums, pears, raspberries and peaches. There are lots of wineries and orchards which are laden with apples.
Dinner outside while we try to plan our stay.

February 6th 2018
We decided to move on to a site closer to Napier so that we could do a wine tour and be picked up and dropped off back at the site. We moved to a Kiwi site which is close to the beach just outside Napier and it seems to be just as good as the Top 10 sites we have used.

We were picked up by Ross from ‘Vines and Views’ at 12.30 and after collecting the other members of the tour group, we headed to our first winery which was called the Mission. We tasted seven wines, starting with a sparkling white, followed by two more whites, three reds and a  to finish. We then headed of to the next one, called Church Road winery for a similar experience, then to the Esk Dale winery and finally to the Linden Winery where we had cheese and biscuits before tasting their wines. By the end I felt ‘wined out’ and had taken to throwing most of it away.
We were dropped off at our site and parted company with the group.

February 7th 2018

This morning we drove into Napier to have a look around the ‘art deco’ town. We parked along the Marine Parade and walked along the front for a little while before crossing the road towards the town centre. We wandered around the shops and then stopped off in a cafe for drinks and a snack. We walked back along the sea front and stopped again, this time at the ice cream shop that Ross (wine guide from yesterday) had recommended. One passion fruit and chocolate cone for John and a ginger nut cone for me we’re duly bought and enjoyed.

After the ice cream we headed south towards Foxton beach, our stopover on the way to  Wellington. It was a longer journey than expected as the sat nav took us the scenic route on roads that crossed the mountains.  The views were amazing and we stopped a couple of timeshare for photos and cups of tea.

When we arrived, the site manager told us about a lovely walk following the river estuary and then along the beach and back round into the holiday park. We were a bit late setting off but I’m so glad that we went as the beach was quite stunning and made more beautiful by the setting sun. Not only was it very wide, but it was littered with logs, branches and tree stumps that I presume have washed up on the shore and many I assume have been there some time as they are bleached white. So many wonderful shapes, my Mum would have loved it as she has a thing about old logs and pieces of wood. I am so glad we stopped at this lovely site.

February 8th 2018

We continued our journey to Wellington, arriving at lunch time. We decided to have a quiet afternoon on site and to have a whole day in Wellington tomorrow. There is a bus that runs close to the site so we plan to catch that rather than drive in with the motorhome. So I caught up on washing and studied the books and information on South Island as we will be crossing the Cook Straits from North Island to South Island on Saturday morning for the next phase of our adventure.

February 9th 2018

A no driving day today as we caught a bus into Wellington city. We visited a couple of art galleries and then walked along the lovely harbour front where there are restaurants, cafes and a few shops. As lunchtime approached we chose the restaurant called ‘ One Red Dog’ and shared a delicious pizza called ‘Zorba the Greek’, it had pesto, peppers , tomato, feta cheese and olives.

After lunch we strolled around the shops and bought a couple of souvenirs and then went up to Victoria Mount on the Wellington cable car. Once at the top, we admired the views of Wellington and then walked around a small section of the botanic gardens before descending again on the cable car. Soon after, we went in search of the  bus stop to head back to the site.  No need for cooking tonight, just a sandwich and get ready for an early start tomorrow and our crossing to South Island. We have really enjoyed the North Island and are looking forward to the next phase of our trip.

Below, links to some thoughts  written by John during the trip.

 

https://johnumneyblog.wordpress.com/2018/02/06/the-above-bag-end-is-a-fake/

https://johnumneyblog.wordpress.com/2018/02/07/on-returning-to-hong-kong/

New Zealand 3 Rotorua and Lake Taupo

Thursday 1st February 2018
We left the lovely Hot Water site and drove south to Rotorua. The weather was due to rain today according to our train driver in Coromandel and as we approached Rotorua it got greyer and greyer. We chose the city site for tonight as it is nearer the sights and once settled, when the rain eased, we walked next door into Kuirau Park. Rotorua is known for its geothermal activity and we soon came across the fenced off bubbling pools of hot sulphurous water and mud. Steam rose from the grey water and the smell was pretty awful. Photos were duly taken and we walked back across the park to cook some dinner.

 

Friday 2nd February 2018

After a night of heavy rain, it finally stopped. Today we went to the Te Whakarewarewa thermal reserve. We bought day passes which included an optional free guided tour and a Maori show. As we arrived it was almost time for the first show so we went to see that first. It was really well done and very interesting  We were given a traditional welcome from the chief and then saw traditional dances, watched them perform songs and heard stories of their ancestors. We had the opportunity to join in some activities on stage, so of course John did, and I didn’t!

 

Almost immediately after the show we met our guide who provided lots of interesting information about Māori traditions and the geothermal features of the park. We saw the boiling mud pools, steaming rocks and the geysers. The largest geyser called Pohutu was not erupting at its highest and he suggested we come back later to see it, as it can reach thirty metres.

 

The guided explained how Māori people still cook food by placing food in boxes over the steam vent and  covering it until the food is cooked. They lower vegetables in baskets into the boiling water pools.

The park has a training school for young Māori people to learn the skills of their ancestors so that these traditions do not die out and we saw them developing their skills  carving wood, bones and stones to make artefacts in the traditional style.

 

After leaving the park we booked onto another site in Rotorua which is in a much nicer position at the edge of a lake. It has been another good day.

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February 3rd 2018
Another rainy start this morning and we had a problem with our water pump which caused a flood in the shower/toilet room. We called Maui,  who sent out a local man to fix it.
Before long, we set off to Matamata to visit the Hobbiton film set and arrived quite early so had lunch there and a wander around the shop.
The actual film set is well hidden and is accessed by a short bus ride with video information about the films and the set.
We walked along the lanes of Hobbiton visiting the hobbit houses, the Green dragon inn and the party field. As we walked our guided shared stories about the making of the film and the set itself. Then we had a ginger beer in The Green Dragon and sat by the lake to finish the experience. The bus took us back to the car park and we headed  back to Rotorua and the Blue Lake site for an extra night so that the chap who fixed our pump could finish off the job. It worked well as it wasn’t too far to drive this evening.

 

Sunday 4th February
A bit of a chilly night, but the sun looks like it will break through later today. We headed south towards Lake Taupo. We stopped at a viewing place which was very picturesque and had a cup of tea while we admired the view and took photos.
After taking a drive through Taupo which is on the top of the Lake we drove round to the south side and found our site (Motutere Bay). We are parked close to the lake; the sun was shining and it is such a lovely spot that we decided to enjoy the peace and beauty and stay here for a while. We changed into swimmers just in case we felt like a swim and took towels onto the pebbly beach. The sun soon made us feel quite hot and the cool clear water of the lake became increasingly inviting. It was tricky getting in over the pebbles and a bit chilly at first but we were soon enjoying the cool water and it was lovely to swim together on a very quiet lakeside without worrying about our possessions. I don’t remember swimming in a lake before but John thinks I have in France, it can’t have been as good as this or I am sure I would remember it!

We dried off in the sun and drove into the nearest town with a supermarket (15 mins away) to stock up on provisions. Then back to the lake shore to relax, read and of course catch up on my blog!

New Zealand 2 On to the Coromandel Peninsula

Monday 29th January 2018
We left Paihia after John carried the necessary maintenance of our ‘home’ including filling fresh water and emptying our waste. We headed south after a quick trip into Paihia for some dinner ingredients.
We stopped off at a place on the coast called Bream bay in Ruakaka and discovered a beautiful, almost empty beach backed by sand dunes. The sea was not safe for swimming except In the very narrow stretch with a lifeguard in attendance due to strong currents and riptides that cause holes to appear under the sand causing you to sink. As we paddled, I felt the sand fall away and was instantly almost knee deep in water. We strolled along the edge of the water and enjoyed the views and the warm sunshine.

 

We found a dead puffer fish which was duly photographed as it will be of interest to Rowan and Seth.

 

We then had our sandwich lunch and continued south having decided to try and get to a site called Orere Point south of Auckland and on route to the Coramandel Peninsula. We arrived at about 5.30 and found the site after a winding journey about 12km inland from the coast. Home cooked dinner tonight, then a wander down to the river at the edge of the site.

Tuesday 30th January

Today we left Orere Point and drove to Hot water beach stopping off at Tairua on the way. This is a small coastal town so we took a look at the beach  then continued our journey to the site. As we arrived at the site at around lunch time we had plenty of time to do something in the local area. We decided to do a scenic walk from Hahei to Cathedral Cove along the hilly coastal path. This took just under an hour each way; the pathway took us high above the beach so the views were spectacular and the Cove was worth the effort.

 

 

 

Wednesday 31st January 

From our site, we took the ten minute walk to Hot Water Beach. We waited for low tide and set off at 11.30. As we arrived with our borrowed spade, we could see lot signs of people in a small area of the long beach. This was the area where, when you dig the sand, the water underneath is ‘hot’. In some places really hot and in others comfortably warm. We took over a small hole from a couple who were leaving and John got working to make it bigger. We sat in our warm water hole enjoying the sun and watching other people making holes and enjoying them. Some had to move out as their water became too hot.

 

This afternoon we drove to Coromandel town and took away ride on the Driving Creek Railway which is a narrow gauge railway that takes you on a half hour journey up through the forest covered mountains crossing bridges and viaducts and passing through tunnels to  viewing tower at the top which is called the ‘Eyefull tower’. It was created by a local man who was also a potter and on the rail journey he has placed various pieces of pottery in amongst the trees and by the side of the track. He needed a way to get his clay from the mountainside back down to his workshop and he created the train and the railway as a means to do this. He later extended it for tourists as a way to make money and to pay off his bank loans.

 

 

New Zealand 1 (Auckland and the Far North)

Thursday 25th January 2018
After another good albeit long flight, we arrived in Auckland and were taken to the Amora hotel where our room was upgraded to a penthouse suite which I think had something to do with a certain friendly travel counsellor! After a rest, we set off down the hill into the sunny city centre to explore and to try to buy a cheap local phone to use for local calls to campsites etc.

Friday 26th January

Back to city centre to try again for a phone as they were out of stock yesterday. Luckily Vodaphone had received some stock, Then we went to the Banksy exhibition in the AOTEA centre which was really interesting.

A lazy afternoon before going out for our meal at the SIDART restaurant in the Ponsonby road area of Auckland. This was organised by John and Hollie for my birthday and proved to be a real treat. We had never been out for a tasting menu before so it was a whole new experience and the dishes that we were served included some unusual combinations of ingredients and had been created with a great deal of thought and creativity. They included several tiny starters just a mouthful each, some delicious duck and lamb and goat cheese ice cream with honeycomb and a garlic wafer and another tiny pudding with blood orange sorbet and cinnamon sherbet.

We walked home to our hotel and on the way saw a strange apartment block where each apartment was lit with different coloured lights which changed every few minutes.

 

Saturday 27th January

This morning we left the Amora and got a taxi to the Maui/ Britz depot to collect our motorhome. After quite a long wait we finally set off, stopping off to get the first provisions in at a nearby supermarket. Food is noticeably expensive in New Zealand, oranges are over a pound each and a bloomer loaf of bread is about three pounds.

It was a longer drive than expected due to a traffic jam on route due to it being a holiday weekend for the Kiwis but arrived at the first campsite in the Bay of Islands on the north western coast of the North Island at about 6.30. The region is called the Far North. The site is on a small bay close to the town of Paihia and we look out onto the bay with the water about 25 metres away.
It took a while to get everything set up, bed assembled, luggage stored and everything put away in appropriate places.

 

Sunday 28th January 2018
We slept better than we expected, had breakfast and after consulting the staff in reception, we set off to follow a coastal walkway from the site into the town of Paihia. The sun was shining brightly and the walk took us along a narrow and winding pathway through shady woodland, along the sunny beach, and for a short while, along a pathway by the side of the road. It took an hour to get to town where we caught a ferry over to Russell which is further round the coast and has it’s own bay. Russell is a historic town as it is where the first Europeans settled
After a walk along the front at Russell, we found a restaurant and had lunch, then bought postcards and enjoyed some tasty ice cream. The walk back was slightly more challenging because we had to use rocks as stepping stones to avoid getting wet feet, as the tide had come in further than when we set off in the morning.

Tomorrow we move on From the Bay of  Islands and head back south, not sure at the moment where we will end up!