Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018
Showing posts with label New Zealand. Show all posts
Showing posts with label New Zealand. Show all posts

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

‘A Pyrenean Adventure’ in New Zealand


I’m indebted to my old friend Geoffrey for this picture of Ruth with ‘A Pyrenean Adventure’ in Wellington, New Zealand. This certainly gets the award for the best travelled copy of the book. There aren’t many left, and rather than advertise them for sale, I’m slowly disposing of them to people who ‘really want a copy’.

The whole experience of producing and distributing the book was so pleasurable that I’d like to do another one. You’ll be one of the first to receive a copy, Ruth.

Friday, 14 March 2008

New Zealand Trip – 21 January to 13 March 2008 - Statistics and Useful Information

This is a 'dummy' entry for the time being. The information will be collated and uploaded in due course.
We do hope you enjoyed the reports from New Zealand and will continue to follow our exploits - we do have some more exciting trips in store...
M & S

Friday 14 March 2008 - New Zealand Blog – Mission Accomplished

Well, it has been a busy time at home since getting back yesterday morning, what with unpacking, sorting through mounds of post, mending wind damage to a shed and our fences, etc, etc.

…But the blog must continue: this will be the last ‘New Zealand’ entry for the time being, but we will let anyone interested know when we have improved the pictures (poor resolution images from a separate memory card were used during the trip) and made minor edits to the text. We will also summarise some statistics – itinerary, cost, recommendations, etc, possibly on a web page within, or on the ‘Statistics and Useful Information’ page that will follow this one.

The reason for today’s heading is encapsulated in the following message received tonight:

“Hi Martin & Sue,
Just wanted to let you know how much I'd enjoyed reading your NZ blog. This is the first time I've ever actively followed a single blog for an extended period -- it's obviously more interesting because I know you, and that I'm particularly interested in where you were going -- but I'm going to miss your regular updates from afar. Your last entry took me straight back to when I flew out of Auckland 4 and a half years ago. I remember craning my neck back at the window of the plane, trying to catch a last glimpse of the coast (somewhere near Raglan I think), mulling over the incredible year I'd had there, and wondering if I'd get to return one day. Sigh...

And that was the purpose of the blog. We know others, in particular our parents, have also ‘been with us’ over the past seven weeks, and we do hope it has taken our readers briefly away from the rigours of winter, even though some were peeved not to be alongside us in the Silver Bullet.

On return, yesterday, we kept ourselves going by embarking on an afternoon’s stroll, mainly along the Bridgewater Canal. It was great to see the daffodils in flower, the blackthorn in blossom and a good solid tinge of green in the hawthorn hedges.

But the litter by the canal was quite distressing. We are back in a highly populated area where not everyone cares.

However, it was a nice day and the Dunham Massey tea shop was well up to standard.

As was the beer, later, in the The King’s Ransom, where we enjoyed meeting up with Jenny and Richard. And that is the nicest thing about being back home – we are amongst friends – and whilst we met some very nice people whilst we were away, it’s good to be amongst those who understand our eccentricities.

A text message from Weird Darren (blogger extraordinaire) whilst out walking yesterday offered a ticket to this weekend’s Outdoors Show at the NEC in Birmingham. It was a difficult call, as there is a TGO Challenge reunion this weekend, but we decided on the Show, where it will be good to see Darren again and also to meet some of the other ‘UK Outdoor Bloggers’ who will be congregating there tomorrow.

The blog will continue, and Nallo Lady will also be contributing in her inimitable style, but we are afraid it may be a little mundane for a few weeks…

Wednesday 12 March - a very long day

The time had come to fly back to England. Packing took quite some time! On such a beautiful morning, breakfast had to be outside.

The Silver Bullet was delivered to New Zealand Rent-a-Car, we checked in and completed some last minute shopping.

Auckland's water sparkled beneath the 747 as we climbed into the sky about 1.30pm. The waves of the Tasman sea were long and white on the coast stretching away to the south. It was possible to see Mount Ruapehu above the cloud and Mount Taranaki stood out clearly as a sentinel above the cloud for around the first 40 minutes of the flight. I really didn't want to leave.

The long sunny day provided brilliant views of Australia, from the city of Adelaide next to the coast to the red expanses of Western Australia. Huge clouds only appeared as the plane approached Singapore, which, at dusk, was grey and wet. So we didn't venture out, but we did utilise the (very) few Singaporean Dollars I had been clinging to for seven weeks on a Belgian chocolate indulgence.

Just as the day had been long, the night was long too. Almost the whole of the next leg (about 13 1/2 hours) was in darkness. Back in Manchester, it was just 3 degrees and unpacking awaited....

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Tuesday 11 March 2008 - Buying, Beach, Bush and BBQ

It had to come sooner or later - a Shopping Trip!

But we made it as painless as possible, popping down to the posh end of Auckland for a productive couple of hours before adjourning back to the wilds of the countryside.

Our first port of call was Arataki Visitor Centre, on the Scenic Drive near Nikau Lodge. It was full of (interesting) facts about the local bush (forest), bird life, history, etc. Being up at 300m it had good views as well, and we enjoyed these as we chomped through our final batch of blue cheese, pate and tomatoes on the tasty, thickly sliced malted bread that we have become accustomed to here.

On to Piha, where the famous black sand beach reminded us that we are in a volcanic region.

The sand was very soft, so we sank in over an inch with every step as we progressed along the beach as close as possible to the incoming tide with competing currents. The sun emerged strongly as we left the beach by some caves where it became impassable due to a rocky headland, up which a rocky path led us to the airy summit.
This held fine views back to Piha Beach and on to another beautiful and secluded beach, White's Beach. Time precluded a descent 'for experienced trampers only' to that beach.

So our final stroll of the trip was through a delightful palm forest, along White's Track, with Tui singing (and showing themselves) and cicatas chirping loudly in the bright sunshine.

It was good to rejoin the beach, firmer now the tide was receding, below Lion Rock, a 100 metre high 'island' that used to be climbable but is no longer so, due to unstable rocks.

A short drive then returned us to the now familiar palms (Nikau, of course) of Nikau Lodge.

Swimming for those who chose to, more Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, a fine BBQ with Barbara, Jim, Andre and Alesha, then a drive around Auckland to view its sights - mainly nautical - at night. The waterfront has benefited greatly in recent years as a result of hosting the Americas Cup yachting race, and is really smart.

We had hoped to pack our bags today, but hey...

Monday, 10 March 2008

Sunday & Monday 9 & 10 March 2008 - Hokianga Harbour then Auckland...nearly

A pleasant morning in Kerikeri, made all the more entertaining by a return of texts with those enjoying a Saturday night in Yorkshire! We hope you didn't have headaches on Sunday morning!

These are the impressive Rainbow Falls:

Then, on to the West Coast and the south side of Hokianga Harbour, to our last hostel, Globetrekkers. The hostel was small and situated across the road from the beach.

Hokianga harbour is well known for its immense sand dunes, across the head of the harbour and these were the first sight on a short(ish) afternoon walk.

The coastal path was narrow and grassy, with splendid views over the waves of the Tasman Sea, crashing into the rocks and sandy coves. Having not had a swim yesterday, it was too good an opportunity to miss and the waves in the middle of this bay were very exhilarating!

Emerging from the pounding surf, I felt like I'd been through the washing machine! The worst part was the sand inside my bikini...

After dinner (not salad!) at the hostel, we witnessed probably our last sunset in New Zealand - a good one, which created some fiery red clouds after the sun had gone down behind the waves.

Today's walks were to view various kauri trees in Waipoua Forest. This one is Tane Mahuta, God of the Forest, which has a girth of 13.8m!

Then, south towards Auckland, taking the scenic route, including finding a 'Roseberry Topping' for lunch, which gave excellent 360 degree views.

Scenic Drive lead nicely to our final destination, Nikau Lodge, where I have enjoyed a swim in their saltwater pool and we have had a tasty dinner of roast lamb, overlooking the lights of Auckland's outlying districts. Tomorrow is our last full day here before heading back to Manchester - we are sorry that such an excellent trip is coming to its conclusion....

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Saturday 8 March 2008 - A Sunny Day in the Bay of Islands

Up at the crack of dawn on a clear sunny day, we enjoyed the free use of George (the owner)'s one seater kayaks for a 3 hour adventure up to Haruru Falls, to which we got as close as we could, getting pretty wet (in addition to the usual 'bum puddles') in the process and enjoying the rainbow effect of the spray in the sun. Tradition required us to leave cameras behind, away from the salty sea water, so this is the rather unsatisfactory postcard recording the event:

After a relaxing couple of hours back at base drinking tea, showering, and chatting to George, we embarked on a 20km circular stroll, heading initially up into the bush to a 150 metre high viewpoint where we enjoyed the usual luxurious lunch. I had a particularly appetizing banana today!

The walk continued along an undulating ridge through bush, with fewer tree ferns than usual, but nevertheless a delightful path. Sue found and photograhed (for our riveting album which will be compulsory viewing for all visitors to our house for years to come....) a shrew, whilst I enjoyed spotting a Robin (rare here) and numerous friendly Fantails and other birds.

Eventually we emerged from the trees and descended a gravel track past posh houses to reachOpua, where the Blue Water cafe provided refreshments and cakes. We now had superb views of the bay.

The final section of the walk was the 7 km section back to Paihia that I enjoyed so much in both directions yesterday. A mix of coastal path, bush, mangrove swamp and beach, it is one of the most enjoyable and varied sections of path we have found on the entire trip.
All good things come to an end though, and by 6 pm we were back at Mayfair Lodge enjoying some much needed beers.

And that's it really. Another delicious salad followed, and another sociable evening beckons...
Mother & Father A. Thanks for your text. We are enjoying our last few days and will stay with Barbara on Monday and Tuesday. You may like to look at your email. Hope you both have a lovely holiday and look forward to swapping stories on your return!

Friday, 7 March 2008

Thursday & Friday 6th & 7th March 2008 - Bay of Islands activities


A long drive, leaving our lovely lodge at 8.50am, to travel across to Coromandel town, then down the coast to Thames. The Aeroview Garden Centre cafe proved excellent and suffiently replenished, we headed for Auckland, just to pass through at this stage of the trip.

A motorway! And lots of traffic. The views as we crossed Harbour Bridge were excellent, but we didn't mind the loss of traffic quite quickly on the north side. The fast road made the journey a quick one, and by around 4ish, we were in the vicinity of the Bay of Islands.

Martin pulled in for a toilet stop. My memory jogged as I recalled something from the Rough Guide. We were in Kawakawa, and had just passed a sign for the Hundertwasser toilets. Those who might have read the Rough Guide will know that these are 'tourist attraction' toilets. Built by a German, they are somewhat different, made from pots, bottles, and tiles and very attractive indeed! Although the guide recommended it, I didn't venture into the gents, as the ladies was quite an artistic place in itself! (The gents were scenic so far as I can recall, more urgent business was on my mind at the time!! - M)

So, now we are at Mayfair Lodge in Paihia, the main town in the Bay of Islands. The evening was a warm one, and we had a pleasant walk along the sea front to the wharf as it got dark.


Today, we went our separate ways. I was Island Dive's only client for a 2-dive trip into the bay. The Pacific was calm, the weather warm and increasingly sunny as we headed out, and I was looking forward to my first dives since August.

We moored at Potato Island, to dive Cathedral Cave. Things got off to a good start with an eagle ray swimming past. Then, some kelp, before the cave, where we found a pink nudibranch and an eel, followed by shoals of bigeye fish, reflecting purple in the torchlight. Their silhouettes, at the top of the cave, will be etched in my mind for some time.

Then, something I've never experienced. We broke open urchins to feed the fish 'sea eggs'. They loved it and were happy to be touched and even held in your hands. When I mask continually filled, I realised that I was smiling too much....! Awesome!

Lunch on our 'own' beach on Redhead Island before a dive in search of dinner. The swell was greater here, and the brown kelp and we swayed over the purple rocks. We did 'bag' one crayfish, but on return to the boat, found it didn't meet the minimum size requirement and had to be returned to the sea. Shame. We did, however, see another eagle ray and a stingray that was eating part of fish carcass on the sea bed. It was lovely to be out on the sea on such a calm and warm day.
Photos to follow (too big to blog)
Back at base, I awaited Martin's return.....

I'd borrowed a bike from the hostel. Got distracted by a boat called Tui...

Then by a Tui bird, and managed to get a recording of its song. (To follow!)

The forest tracks were closed so I left the MTB action for Delamere Forest next week. Any takers?
Back to Mayfair for lunch then a delightful walk past some pretty weeds...

along the coast to Opua

and back - about 14 km - before returning for tea, beer, wine, and a lovely salmon salad in the excellent company of Christine, who has promised the best ever carrot cake recipe!

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Wednesday 5 March 2008 - The Sun Blazes over the Coromandel Peninsula

This bright sunny day saw us continuing in 'holiday' mode, lying in due to our blackout curtains and silent surroundings.

We visited Captain Cook's Beach, a pleasing spot where the Great Man plotted the course of the planet Mercury.

Then on to Hot Water Beach, hyped by the Rough Guide as upstaging Cathedral Cove, but it was a disappointment. I watched whilst Sue rubbed her bottom in the sand, and her elbows with heavily tattooed mid-European men and women, seeking and finding scalding fresh water which moments later would be cooled and diluted by a wave of cold salty water.

She soon tired of this and we enjoyed a stroll along the beach, watching surfers battling with rooster tail waves in the strong breeze, and an Australian Gannet plunging for its breakfast.

The cafe at Hot Water Beach was in a different class to the beach itself. Great coffee, mud cake, ambience, and toilets with soft paper (very rare here) and individual towels. It gets my Best Presented Cafe award!

After lunch on Buffalo Beach in sunny Whitianga,

we pootled on to Kuaotunu, where the highly recommended Black Jack Lodge came up trumps with a lovely en-suite double room.

We enjoyed settling in here, then watched Carl, the owner, carefully decant his home brewed beer into bottles, before renting a couple of kayaks.

This time I enjoyed the experience, despite the wet bum, as we coasted up and down the river behind a Shag which only turned around when we did and only moved on when we got to within a few feet of him.

There were Herons, Oyster Catchers and Turnstones around, as after practising on the river we set off into the brisk waves of the ocean.

We were soon surfing on these waves and whilst we didn't go far we did have fun. It helped that our en-suite shower was available only 10 metres from where we landed the kayaks.

We've been aware of the ubiquitous "Lock It or Lose It' signs here in New Zealand, and have been careful with our possessions, especially after hearing some horror stories about thefts. We usually have to pay a 'key deposit'. Black Jack is an exception. No key deposit here. That's because there is no key, and tonight we are quite happy to sleep with our French windows wide open, just protected from the brightly starlit night by a thin curtain...


To all those going on the forthcoming 'RentaHostel Weekend': - hello everyone, have a great time, and Bon Appetit.

To Ian: I haven't forgotten your 'Silkbody' order - haven'tseen any yet but we expect to do so in Auckland next week.

To those who replied to the last message: - hello (especially Kate and Andrew - glad you like the photos), and yes the Tui was identified by its 'bib'.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Tuesday 4th March 2008 - On holiday on the Coromandel Peninsula

It's raining! Still!

So, the snorkelling gear I have carried with me from England is still in my bag, and lots of postcards are now on their way to England.

It wouldn't be the same without a walk, so out we went, when it looked brighter but was still raining, around 1ish. The destination was Cathedral Cove, just around the headland from Hahei beach where we are staying.
The seascape is lovely - many islands dotted around and some good waves in the strong wind.

Cathedral Cove followed Gemstone Cove (with its marked snorkelling circuit) and Stingray Cove (with honeycomb rock). Its gem is a huge, long archway, which today had water starting to enter as the tide came in.
We lingered to watch the big waves, which had undercut some of the rocks. In the Puriri Grove on the return, we saw Tui, a blackbird-sized bird that has a lovely song - the first we've seen, although we've heard a few.
As we're 'on holiday', the Luna Cafe provided our dinner with excellent lemon and raspberry cake for dessert.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Monday 3 March 2008 - Alan Judd, the Karangahake Gorge and a Navigational Conundrum

We start with the remarkable story of Alan Judd, Ironman extraordinaire. Our research reveals Alan to indeed be the same person Sue knows from her work as a Medicines Information pharmacist. He finished Saturday's NZ Ironman event (at 60 he was one of the oldest competitors) in 12 hours 41 minutes, just over half way down the field. Remarkable. Well done, Alan! Sue reckons this is a tribute to early retirement - Alan retired at around 55. I think he's probably a nutter!...

Now the Navigational Conundrum

Just to be on the safe side, I carry two compasses. Here they are on the correctly aligned Nelson Lakes map.

Somewhat confusingly, the needle of my de-luxe Recta compass has reversed direction. South is now north! The old Silva back-up compass is about 10 degrees out, and has a serious 'leaning' problem not evident in the photo. Luckily all the paths we have used have been well marked and no compass has been necessary. If it had been, the Recta's 'south' needle would have been the defining 'north' - subject to the 22 degrees adjustment for magnetic north that is needed around here.

Moral: If coming to NZ for serious walking ('tramping') requiring navigational aids, buy a compass when you arrive. Apparently Silva and others manufacture their products for specific areas of the world.

On to today, if you are still there!

We hit the coast today and enjoyed a morning coffee at the seaside - very Cornwallish:

The highlight of our journey from Rotorua to Hahei in the Coromandel Peninsula was a lovely walk admiring the railway and relics of the 'gold era' in the Karangahake Gorge. I'll write in more detail in due course, but we explored old battery sites, railway formations, tunnels and bridges, as well as the pretty gorge and waterfalls. The main tunnel is over 1km long - you walk for ages to a pinprick of light in the distance. Shown below is one of the minor tunnels.

With informative interpretation panels, this is a magnificently presented archaeological relic from the early 20th Century. The Talisman Cafe provided an excellent pot of tea and incredible carrot cake, to round off our 2 and a half hour stroll in the sun.
Then the day darkened as we headed for Coromandel. After a downpour it brightened again as we approached Hahei and our home for the next two nights, Tatahi Lodge - a very pleasant spot near a lovely beach.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Saturday & Sunday 1st & 2nd March 2008 - Taupo to Rotorua

For those puzzled by yesterday's blog, I'll enlighten you! The stream I was bathing in was around 41-42 degrees - hot bath temperature, just a bit slimy with the green weed! It just pours out of the hillside and into the Waikato river!

The 29th February was definately an auspicious day for me! The urge I had at 3pm was to fall out of a plane from 15,000 feet, and, thanks to Katie and Stephen, and the wheels of an extremely efficient tourist industry, I was at the airport by 4ish, getting dressed in a jumpsuit and harness and heading out for a scenic flight, minus the descent and landing!

It was AWESOME! There's no time to think, when you're sitting in the open doorway of the plane, with the clouds halfway between you and the ground, at the height of Mont Blanc above Lake Taupo, with Ruapehu and Taranaki rising above above the cloud! Then, the air is really rushing past, for about 60 seconds before the parachute opens and you slow down sufficiently to really appreciate the amazing views. I'd certainly do it again and if you want to see the fun I had, ask to see the DVD, taken during the freefall. Photos to follow.

The cold beer afterwards tasted very sweet!

The day of 'Ironman Taupo' - starting at 7am, with a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride and a 26.2 mile run, to be completed by midnight. Of the 30 or so UK entrants from a field of around 1200, I noticed a certain Alan Judd in the 60-64 year old category - is this the ex-Leeds MI pharmacist?

We weren't up too early, but watched the competitors at the end of the first cycle lap, the first ones coming through around 10am. Taupo was buzzing and we were sorry to be heading off.

Up the road in Rotorua, it was turning into a wet day, so we checked into 'Funky Green' and walked to Kuirau Park to see steam hissing out of the ground in a variety of areas.

St Faith's church is also interesting - the inside is beautifully carved and the graves have to be above ground due to the instability below!

The lakefront was particularly smelly, but we tolerated it to walk round to Motutara Point, then around Sulphur Bay to reach the Polynesian Spa. What an excellent antedote to the drizzle and greyness! Several open air pools, some acidic, some alkaline, but all between 38 and 42 degrees - from warm to hot bath temperature! Here, we steamed before returning to base for another nice salad and an evening inside.

Showers and cloud today, ideal for warming up in the steam at Wai-O-Tapu, one of the thermal areas. The Lady Knox geyser performed on cue, thanks to 300g of soap flakes, spouting water several metres into the air.

The site has plenty of colour - thanks to sulphur crystals, silica, manganese, iron, etc and there is much activity from bubbling water, hissing and splurging mud, and waterfalls. The Champagne Pool was as beautiful as I remembered, its blue water and red slopes contrasting nicely with the white rock at its edge, bubbles emerging constantly from the hot water.

The Devil's Bath was a particularly surprising colour...

The Redwood Forest failed to provide the mountain bike ride we hoped for, on graded trails, but did make for a pleasant walk, dry(ish) if a bit humid. Nice views to the town and lake.

Tomorrow we drive north to the Coromandel peninsula, for a 'holiday'!

Happy Mothers Day to Dot and Diana.
Congratulations Kate on your successful job interview.

Friday, 29 February 2008

Friday 29 February 2008 - Fun in Taupo

This picture shows Nallo Lady (NL) as she finds the icy water from the secret glacier of Mount Doom to cool off in, after the strong early morning sunshine.

The icy water from Mount Doom being a bit tame, NL graduated to the Huka Body Rapids. So named because you don't need a boat; they are easy enough to float over. Sadly, NL floated too fast for my camera!

Here they are again. NL is being picked up by the boat in the left hand corner. Another miracle of survival.

From the rapids we were teleported to The Craters of the Moon, though strangely they seemed only a short walk away. They are shown above, steaming. The greenery is mainly Prostrate Kanuka, which apparently grows on the moon, giving it a 'Blue Cheese' effect.
On arrival at the Mud Crater, pictured below, NL took a funny turn (it had been a stressy day). It was 3pm, the Sun was shining (rain had been forecast), we were in the Craters of the Moon, something was calling....

So, after proposing marriage (bizarre as we are already married...I think), she (NL) hijacked the nearest smart looking vehicle, bewildering the occupants, Katie and Stephen from Vancouver Island, and forced them to return her to Taupo.
Meanwhile I ambled back via Kev's Track and The Redwoods:

Back at Taupo, no NL to be seen, but I did find Taupo Bicycle Mart - 1200 second hand bikes for rent or sale. Just a few are shown here: