North Island travels
Trip Start Nov 23, 2005
31Trip End Jul 12, 2006
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Where I stayed
Sat 26th Nov
Finally a van was ready (if you can call leaking oil & smoking, ready!). Our van wouldn't be ready for another week! So we set off on our travels, in a borrowed van, to.... yep Auckland! We'd taken so long to pick up the van & fill it with supplies, it was late night, and so we spent our second night in Auckland. This time we slept in the van, parked up in a quiet residential street. Discovered in morning we had chosen site well. We were next to a park with a toilet, bliss!
Sun 27th Nov
Before leaving decided to buy a couple of luxury items, a solar shower & gas for our stove. (Decided against portable loo, although keeping option open.) Finally departed for Northland. Arrived in Whangarei via Leigh, Goats Island & Pakiri on the east coast (nice views, but dodgy roads) in time to set up camp & cook dinner. Tourist info sites are great here. We spent two good nights in their car park where they had a shower ($2/5min), when it's your money it's amazing what you can do in 5mins! (share a shower) but most importantly, a 24hr loo.
Cat has started organising already. She is already keeping notes of what we spend. Not sure if good or bad idea yet!
Mon 28th Nov
Woke up early & put our tourist hats on and headed into town. Visited the Clapham Clock Museum, fascinating and gorged ourselves on fudge flavourama ice creams. Drove out to Whangarei Falls & AH Reed Reserve to do a treetop boardwalk. All very pleasant.
Tues 29th Nov
Left Whangarei and headed north towards the Bay of Islands
Wed 30th Nov
Crewed on the R Tucker tall ship. Great fun climbing the rigging and sitting out on the bow sprit (for all those who don't know, that¡¯s the pointy bit at the front). Dad you'd be proud of me, I sailed it home and was the fastest run of the day.
Made our first free bed night friend. That's Melbourne sorted.
Visited Russell, formerly known as the 'hell hole of NZ'. Now called 'romantic'. The Americans would say quaint.
Thurs 1st Dec
Left Paihia heading north to Kerikeri at the top of the Bay of Islands as Cat had read that there was a chocolate factory there. Kate, it had nothing on The Little Chocolate Shop. Saw the oldest stone building in NZ (1832) & the oldest building in NZ (1822). Dean wanted to visit a steam saw mill until he realised he'd have to pay. So we visited a mock Maori settlement as it cost less!
Round the corner from Kerikeri are Rainbow Falls, a beautiful waterfall. Set off further north heading to Kaitia, stopping off for photo opportunities at Whangaroa & Manganui.
Arrived at Kaitaia looking forward to a trip up 90 Mile Beach, only to have the exhaust fall off! No problem, Mr Bodge-It is here! Dean, his usual resourceful self, did a fantastic Blue Peter job with a couple of cans, a piece of wire & a fork.
That done we set off into town for a well deserved beer, only to find it was a two bar town. So we chose the busiest (it had at least two patrons) & went in, only to discover it was karaoke night. We had a great time laughing at, sorry with, the locals!
Fri 2nd Dec
Luckily for us, the tour co
Returned from great trip to pick up van, but suffering from dozens of sandfly bites (b*#$~@¥s). Trying very hard not to scratch, we set off south down the west coast. Part of our journey down was to catch a ferry across Hokianga Harbour. What we didn't know was what time the last ferry went! For once, someone was watching over us, we managed to catch the last ferry of the day. Phew! Whoever it was, was now asleep. Every place we tried to pull up & settle down for the night in had a sign saying no overnight camping. It looked like we would have to keep driving through the night. Thankfully, we managed to find a little village and stopped at the side of the road. You guessed it, right by a set of 24hr loos.
Sat 3rd Dec
Our journey continues south from the little village of Waimamaku towards the Waipoua Forest. The west coast is known as the Kauri Coast, therefore this forest is renowned for it's large scale kauri (kauri being the largest tree in NZ).
After 18km of kauri, (including the Father & God of the Forest, 2 extremely old & large kauris), we headed down to Kai-Iwi Lakes, three gorgeous freshwater lakes, where we spent a leisurely couple of hours swimming & soaking up the sun
Carried on down Hwy12 finding a pitch in a small town called Ruawai.
Sun 4th Dec
Completed The Northlands region with the final stretch of Hwy 12 & then onto Hwy 16 through Helensville, arriving once again in Auckland.
By now we couldn't wait to be rid of the wreck we'd been driving for the past week. It's oil leak, exhaust & now the back door refusing to shut, had taken its toll on us. We wanted our van, but found it wouldn't be ready until tomorrow, so we made a visit to Kelly Tarlton's Antartic Encounter & Underwater World to cheer us up. It worked. Seeing all the sharks, stingray & penguins (with babies) was fun & a stroll up Mt Eden (196m high volcano crater) was relaxing. I guess we'll have to wait & see what tomorrow brings!
Mon 5th Dec
At last the new van is ready, a good look over & test drive of our new home & we're off to the shops to stock up. The new van is a year newer, so much nicer it even has a working stereo, & is a smoother ride. The only one technical hitch is no interior lights, but that's ok because Mr Bodge-It's still here
Tues 6th Dec
Finally, we say goodbye to Auckland & head south towards the Coromandel Peninsula. Our first port of call is the western gateway of the Coromandel, Thames, a gold mining & Kauri logging town. From the local i-site we hear of Waiau Waterworks, which is a park with whimsical water-powered amusements & other things. It also offered free use of their BBQs. We thought this sounded like fun & would save our gas. So after buying a BBQ pack of meat, we head up the west coast of the peninsula towards Coromandel Town, the park being just before there.
Visiting this park turned out to be a really good choice. Not only were we able to use their BBQ, but as we arrived late, just before the cafe closed, we were offered free leftover scones, & then we were given free reign of the park. Dean was in his element, with all the water gadgets & games! We gained another bonus, after chatting to the management, they let us park up & stay the night at the park. Magic!
This gave Mr Bodge-It plenty of time to fix the interior light, which now works beautifully.
Weds 7th Dec
Woke up to find that the 12volt 5.5 ltr cooler we'd left running all night, had run down the van battery
Headed onto Hamilton where we spent a comfortable night by Lake Rotorua.
Thurs 8th Dec
Spent the morning checking the city out & found it to be a lovely place. Unlike Auckland, it had a feeling of open space. Not too crowded & had great parks. We then headed west to Raglan, a surfers haven & then down to Kawhia, stopping off at Bridal Veil Falls. Lovely!
On our way to Kawhia, we discover the road we want is closed, therefore having to make a detour down an unsealed gravel road, not shown on our map! 3/4s of the way down this track, Cat decides she wants to have a go at driving. Great gives me a rest! It's all going well until I suffer a fit of hiccups, which just won't stop
Anyway, we finally arrive in Otorohanga, the home of the kiwi, & park up for the night.
Fri 9th Dec
Woke up to a wet & miserable looking day. As the sun was trying to come out we decided to visit the Kiwi House. There we saw various breeds of birds & geckos, and of course kiwis. To see active kiwis during the day is very rare as they are nocturnal creatures, so what they have done here, is reverse the kiwis day & night. The kiwis were a lot larger than we thought, but still looked cute & cuddly, but as we saw, they can really kick.
After our kiwi experience, we headed south to Waitomo to book a totally different type of experience, blackwater rafting. As we had other plans for today, we booked it for tomorrow & headed on further south to New Plymouth to view & tramp Mt Taranaki.
As we got nearer, our hopes of seeing let alone tramping the mountain were slowly disappearing, as the rain & clouds moved in on us. We decided to give up on that idea for the day & find somewhere to park up & hope for better weather tomorrow
Sat 10th Dec
Woke up to yet another misty, wet day. Waited a while to see if it would clear. No such luck, so we headed back to Waitomo for our trip to 'Middle Earth'! On our travels, we passed through a 'Hobbit Hole' (a tunnel).
We arrived back in time to have lunch before having to put on our gear & disappear underground. The whole experience consisted of a 27m abseil, a cave upstream to a cavern to see glowworms, blackwater rafting downstream through more glowworm lit caverns, then squeezing through passages followed by a 20m climb back to the surface. Fantastic!
On this trip we met a lovely couple from Cologne, Germany. They told us of a walkway nearby that at twilight is a mass of glowworms. We decided to meet up there & spent a very pleasant evening chatting & enjoying the glowworms.
Sun 11th Dec
Said goodbye to Georg & Eve, but may meet again in Oz, where they will hopefully have more luck windsurfing. Headed off towards Rotorua, passing through Tirau, where almost everything is made from corrugated iron
Arrived in Rotorua to a strong aroma of rotten eggs. Stopped at Kuirau Park where there was a mass of bubbling & steaming mud pools. Decided couldn't cope with the smell so headed on to Tauranga, in the Bay of Plenty. Will come back to Rotorua & spend more time here later in travels, as Dean wants a go at Zorbing.
Found a nice spot at the top of Lake Rotorua to pitch. No sulphur stench here! Well we thought it was a nice spot until we opened the side door to get out & go to the loo & were bombarded by a mass of flesh hungry mosquitoes! They had been waiting patiently at the window attracted by the light, so when we opened up a swarm entered. We spent the next hour or so smashing the van about. It was like we were in a really bad 'B' movie!
Mon 12th Dec
After a bad nights sleep, we awoke to count the bites. Fortunately for us, we must have got most of the little blighters, as we appeared to be bite free.
We headed on towards Tauranga, only to find the wet weather appeared to be following us, as we arrived to pouring rain. We had a quick look around town before heading over to Mt Maunganui. Here we took a leisurely stroll around the base, as the weather appeared to be changing for the better
We finished the day at Whakatane (or as Dean likes to call it Fuk-a-townie as Wh in Mauri is said f
so it is pronounced fauk-a-tarnie).
Tues 13th Dec
Woke up still feeling a bit yucky from the thought of mosquitoes & repellent, drove down to the local hot pool in Awakeri for a nice long soak. It was heaven, just like a nice hot bath! From there we took the coast road along the Eastern Bay of Plenty & East Cape. The scenery along the way was spectacular, we even got glimpse of White Island bellowing it's volcanic smoke into the air. We stopped off at Whanarua Bay for lunch near Pacific Coast Macadamias, a Macadamia orchard where they sort, pack & sell many varieties of coated macadamias in their cafe. Finally settled after 350 ks of driving for the night in Tolaga Bay where Cook cast anchor in 1769.
Weds 14th Dec
Couldn't leave without seeing Cooks Cove so we set off for a 2hr walk to the hole in the rock, Cooks Cove & the historical monument
Left Tolaga Bay & continued down the East Cape. Arrived in Gisborne in time for lunch. Wondered round looking at the monuments marking Cook's landing & then continued south to Napier. Arrived as everywhere was closing, so decided to move on to Havelock North where the bride's parents lived, after searching high & low for a coin phone box (so we could let them know of our imminent arrival) & finding none.
We turned up on their doorstep to find them out. After checking with a neighbour discovered they had already left for Taupo! What to do?The neighbour was kind enough to call them & luckily for us the bride's father had only just left & so we arranged to meet him half way.
We met up & followed him to Taupo to meet up with the others for a late night snack.
Thurs 15th Dec
After a bit of a lie in we got up, to the hustle & bustle of a busy house. 10 of us in total all trying to get in the kitchen to make breki & take turns in the bathroom. A nice feeling after just the 2 of us couped up in a van for nearly 3 weeks
Fri 16th Dec
Surprisingly Dean managed the morning without a hangover & so we decided to go to Huka Falls which has the most amazingly ice blue/green clear water. Further down stream is Akatiatia Dam which every couple of hours opens the sluice gates & fills the river down stream. It's fascinating to watch a river forming. We intended to walk amongst the thermals but unfortunately the heavens opened, which scuppered our plans. We ended up in town making sure we had everything we needed for the wedding which was looming nearer & nearer.
Finally returned to the house to help with last minute preparations such as blowing up balloons & wrapping the chocolate favours, & yes, I did manage to keep the chocolates away from my mouth!
Sat 17th Dec
Day of the wedding started off earlier than we'd hoped when a knock on our door got us up to move everything from the garden to the garage. Unfortunately rain was settling in for the day & the gazebo couldn't cope with the amount that was coming down! That said, everything else went to plan & the wedding was a very exciting, different & fun day. The ceremony took place on a catamaran privately hired for the afternoon & was held moored off a lovely bay on Lake Taupo
Cathy had her little role to play too, she was given a poem by George Elliott to read, which she did with such feeling that her brother felt very proud of her.
The whole event went smoothly, with speeches & the cutting of the cake following the ceremony without a hitch. Everyone had a great time despite the poor weather & we also got plenty of fly bys from the local ducks being fed by the skipper.
The day ended with a BBQ back at Karyn's parents place. It was a great finale to a wonderful day.
Sun 18th Dec
The day after, everyone woke to a lovely sunny day & the clearing up begins!
Soon afterwards everyone went about their own things & so it was decided that some of us would head of to Rotorua for the day. The group consisted of myself, Dean, my parents, the bestman John & bridesmaid Bianca. We set off in convoy, us in our van & them in a hire car
Next we headed into town so that John & Bianca could go to the Polynesian Spa for thermal pools & mud baths. The rest of us looked for somewhere to have lunch before meeting up with the others & going zorbing. The day ended with Dean, John & Bianca doing a wet triple zorb. They all thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Dean & I said goodbye to the others as they headed back to Taupo, we headed off to find somewhere to park up for the night in or near Rotorua (with no mosquitoes).
Mon 19th Dec
Today we had a quick look around town, finding a free internet cafe called TravelCafe. It was only limited to 15 mins if others we're waiting to us it, we managed about 90mins, which was great to catch up on some emails without having to rush. Then we ventured to Skyline Skyrides, where we went on the Gondola & did 5 luges each on tracks varying from scenic, intermediate to advanced. Our favourite was the intermediate track as it didn't need too much concentration & was very fast!
While still high from the adrenalin rush of luging, we set off to Tauranga to book a trip to swim with dolphins
What to do? We decided to get out of the rain & go & see Harry Potter at the local cinema. We'll wait & see what the weatherman sends us tomorrow!
Tues 20th Dec
Couldn't be bothered to get up too early this morning, had a bit of a late one due to the film running till 1130 then having to find somewhere to park for the night. That said, the film was rather good but as usual, Cathy had figured out the goodies from baddies before the film had ended!
Although the weather didn't look too bad, it was very windy, so the boats weren't running today. So we headed out to a town called Katikati where a lot of the buildings had murals on them. Some were just for fun, others told the history of the town & it's people at the time. Some dated back just over 10 years, others just under
We headed back to Tauranga so as to check the weather forecast out for tomorrow, but the boats still weren't sure if they'd be sailing yet. Will have to call early morning to check again. What a palava just to swim with some fish! (I can hear you all shout dolphins aren't fish. It's just a phrase. Get a life!!!) Finished the evening with an iced chocolate, a banana smoothie & deep fried ice cream, (yummi) sat in a cafe watching the world pass by
Weds 21st Dec
Got up early to check if boat was sailing. Great they're going out. Dolphins here we come!
Arrived at pick up point & boarded Gemini Galaxia for our dolphin expedition. Sun was shining, wind was blowing, looked like a good day ahead.
Two hours into the trip, we hit a small squall. The boat started heaving side to side, backwards & forwards. Dean didn't take to it & went green, I managed ok, just! We should have known something was up when they offered us sea-sick pills at the start! We new right then when the wind & rain would not cease that our chance of swimming with dolphins had slipped away. On the bright side, we did manage to find a small pod of dolphins (50+) which were great to watch.
We both made it back safe & sound, if a little disappointed. The return journey was less eventful but we still had waves the same size as the boat!
On dry land once more we headed for the hot pools to soak our troubles away. Lovely. Had a fish & chip supper & then tucked ourselves into a non-rocking bed
Thurs 22nd Dec
After chalking yesterdays bad day up to experience, we didn't wish to tempt fate any further so set off back to Rotorua. Before leaving Mt Maunganui we managed to pick up a full size battery for the van.
Upon arrival at Rotorua we passed a 3D Maze & decided to have a go. It was fun & certainly had us going around in circles for a while.
Before leaving Taupo we had been given instructions to purchase Xmas gifts, as part of a sort of secret Santa. We had two gifts to buy, a fun gift up to $5 & a more serious one. With 3 of these gifts sorted (& several free hrs on the internet later) we left Rotorua for Taupo arriving just before 10pm. We thought we'd find everyone still up, oops! Not so. Apparently it was the younger folk that stay up late, so as we were all else where, the older generation had gone to bed. After several apologies & a cup of tea we all went to sleep.
Fri 23rd Dec
After a few more apologies over breakfast, Dean & I ventured into Taupo to finish off our Xmas shopping
Sat 24th Dec
Awoke to a beautiful sunny Xmas Eve! Decided to have look around the area. Went to the 'Craters of the Moon'. It's a geothermal area just north of Taupo, which has several fumaroles (steam vents), craters & mud pools. While there we discovered that some of the fumaroles actually whistled, others sounded like jet engines. Extraordinary!
We then set off on the Volcanic Loop which circles Tongariro National Park, just south of Taupo. Within this park are three volcanoes, Mt Tongariro, Mt Ngauruhoe & Mt Ruapehu. Some of these featured in the movie trilogy of Lord of the Rings. The scenery was stunning.
The return journey was pleasant & uneventful & we completed the trip with of course, gift wrapping.
Sun 25th Dec
Xmas Day arrived bringing with it another beautiful sunny day. Not quite what we're used to!
After a late BBQ breki some of the group decide to get the dinghy out for a sail. We trundled down to the lake & set sail. First to go out, were Richard & John. With all that weight in a small dinghy they were off to a slow start. Next up, Cat's dad went out on his own & in Great Britsh style capsized! John, slowly followed by Richard, dived in to save him, though he wasn't doing a bad job of righting himself, all that practice must have paid off
Soon afterwards we were all busy preparing for the Xmas meal, which was delicious. Presents were dished out & the evening rolled on quite pleasantly.
Mon 26th Dec
Woke up to pouring rain, rolled over & went back to sleep. Still raining when we decided to emerge. Chose a vege day, as weather was poor.
A couple of hours later the sun appeared, so we decided to pop into town to see what bargains we could find in the sales! As predicted, we came away empty handed. After lunch, we were discussing what activities we would like to do. John, who was with us, mentioned he would like to skydive. So as it had turned into a nice day, Dean & I decided if there was space, he should do it today. After making a booking for that afternoon, we frog-marched him to the airport. Not only this, we persuaded him to do the ultimate jump of 15000ft with dvds , pictures, T-shirt, etc. It's amazing how brave we are with other peoples money!
John thoroughly enjoyed it & couldn't wait to share the experience with everyone else.
Tues 27th Dec
Woke up to another fine day & decided to drive to Napier with John in his car. Had a look around all the Art Deco buildings in town & had a nice lunch in a small cafe. After lunch we popped into a shop called Opossum World which had some stuffed Possums in strange poses & even had 4 of them standing on top of a mini singing about getting run over! As you can tell, Possums aren't liked very much here, they cause a lot of damage to the vegetation & bird life. I think it's the Kiwi's way at getting back at them, but i think they do quite well out of selling their fur. After that we took a drive to Hastings (where we found in a shop window a very strange voodoo doll knife rack!) then onto Havelock North before driving back via a nice beach or too. We finished the evening off with fish & chips in Taupo followed by a few beers.
Weds 28th Dec
After a nice long lie in we decided on a chill out day, popped into town, surfed the net & made a few plans for the next few days.
Decided to book a trip to White Island, NZ's only active volcano, for tomorrow. Been put on standby. Will have to see if they can squeeze us on
Thurs 29th Dec
Headed North for Whakatane to see if we could get on the 12.45 boat trip to White Island. We're in luck, the weather's good & they squeezed us onto PeeJay 4 were we motored across the sea to White Island, closely followed by a small pod of Dolphins. What a place, a huge acidic lake in the main crater, bubbling mud, bright yellow sulphur craters, steam & volcanic rock just about everywhere. (as you'd expect on a live volcanic island!) That was the amazing thing, we were standing on a potential time bomb just waiting to go off! But don't worry said the guide, we're not expecting any unusual activity at the moment, the last eruption was in 2003 & we're not due for anything till (pauses for a moment to look for a date on his watch) oh we're overdue, anytime then! ha ha, but on the serious side if anything does happen, like rock being hurled onto the air, just find a bit of cover & you've always got your hard hats! All in all it was a great day & the sea was on our side, so no looking for Hughie on this trip!
Fri 30th Dec
Spent the night in Ohope at Joanne & Tony's section (a piece of land they own for camping on) by the Ohope Harbour, very nice! Then went Strawberry picking on the way back to Taupo, managed to bring a full punnet back as I ate sooo many whilst picking! Finished off the evening with a nice Bbq & strawberries with ice cream. Yummy!
Sat 31st Dec
Yet another beautiful day, but with a bit of a strong wind
Sun 1st Jan
New years day & yet another beautiful day. Not too many hangovers that are being owned up to anyway! A nice late start to the day followed on by a lovely bbq lunch got us all ready for a relaxing afternoon. That was until Rob said; right, lets get the boat out & catch us some Trout for dinner! Well we didn't catch any Trout, but we had a lot of fun water-skiing, well trying to anyway!
Mon 2nd Jan
The day had arrived for Cats Parents & John to fly home. After a few tearful goodbyes (& that was mainly John! kidding John!) they set off on the 5hr trip to Auckland, they were back again within 2 minutes as Cats mum had forgotten her jacket! They set off again then we got ourselves ready to head south. We planned to go to the gannet sanctuary at Cape Kidnappers first thing on Tues morning but the tide times were later so we had some time to use elsewhere first
Tues 3rd Jan
Headed into Hastings to find everywhere shut! Apparently, NZ has the 2nd off as well as the 1st, so as is at home, if it falls on a weekend, it is rolled on. So we a stopped at the seahorse farm in Napier then made our way to Clifton for our tractor trip to see the Gannets at Cape Kidnappers. We waited by the booth for our transport for the day when 5 double-trailered tractors came down the road, it was like a summer country fair. It was an excellent trip, which had us bumping up & down the beach, in & out of the sea, up & over rocks & sand. The cliff formation was fascinating; you could clearly see where there had been earthquakes from the fault lines in the cliffs, the biggest having a drop of 11 metres! The Gannets were pretty cool too, there was just so many of them, & the noise & smell was incredible!
All in all a good day. Lets hope Wellington is as good.