Location: Auckland , New Zealand
March 19th. Up ridiculously early 4:00am to get to Rarotonga airport, 15 min to check in and get through security then 2.5 hrs sitting in the departure lounge. Ours was the only flight out - bit excessive we felt!! Good flight on Air NZ. Got to the hotel and hit the gym and went for a run after all the heat-enforced inactivity! Tomorrow we fly to Singapore at 1:30pm, 10.5 hr flight then 7hr at Changi airport followed by 14.5 hr flight to Manchester. Not looking forward to it but its the price you pay for coming this far. 😏 Thanks to you all for reading our adventures and your messages and good wishes- its been great to keep in touch. Its been an amazing trip and weve loved every minute. NZ is a fantastic place to visit and I know we have barely scratched the surface! Despite this we will be glad to get home and look forward to see you all soon👋
Location: Rarotonga , Cook Islands
March 18th. Last day in the Cook Islands. Spent most of it on the beach mainly cos theres not a great deal else to do but also cos the beach is lovely and the breeze takes the edge off the heat. Went to a dinner and show at Te Nui Village. The dinner was good the show supposedly retelling a local legend left us both a bit cold. However it was another clear and star studded night with amazing views of the Milky Way.
Location: Rarotonga , Cook Islands
March 16th. Update from last night. The restaurant was brill. We had a table on the beach and watched the sun go down and the stars come out. The clearest night Ive seen in years. Lovely food too. Today has been hectic, what with kayaking and snorkelling and walking on the beach fitting it all in is such a problem. 😀Happy hour with complimentary beer and wine and live music at the restaurant to finish. Brill! Sharing our hol here mostly with Kiwis, Aussies and Canadians. An eclectic and interesting mix! Cant believe tomorrow is our last real day of the holiday! After that its basically travelling! 😕
Location: Cook Islands
March 15th. Hottest day yet so the best place to be was on the water. Took a lagoon cruise which was like no other Ive seen. Out on a glass bottomed boat with the crew providing a soundtrack that sounded like a cross between Bob Marley and George Formby and covered everything from local songs to Creedence Clearwater and the Birdy Song. 😀 Went out to a marine reserve and snorkelled for a bit. Amazing fish, coral and clams the size of rugby balls(paua). Then a fish barbecue on the beach that was very tasty. After lunch one of the crew showed us what you can do with a coconut and ways to tie a sarong which was way more entertaining than it sounds. Apparently competitive palm tree climbing is a thing here and this bloke is a champion. I thought he was spinning a line until I saw him shin up a 20 m tree in no time. Rat up a drainpipe doesnt come close. Then back to our beach for a couple of hours for lazing and more snorkelling before heading out to try a new restaurant.
Location: Cook Islands
March 14th - where we are anyway. So South Sea Island checklist. Golden beach, tick. Azure sea, tick. Palm trees, tick. Lagoon with coral reef, tick. Idyllic spot. Spent most of the day on the beach, kayaks and snorkelling stuff comes free. Paddled out to the reef to watch the rollers break. Main danger in the shade is being brained by a falling coconut. The island is tiny, two buses - clockwise and anti-clockwise - decided to leave exploration for another day! Everything is round the coast the middle bit being very hilly. Jackie only twigged today that a south facing beach isnt a good thing here! (I think the sun has dulled my brain!) Decided to eat at the resort ( there are about 10-15 separate bungalows with a small pool and dining area/restaurant!) restaurant tonight. Trip booked for tomorrow.
Location: Cook Islands
March 14th and back to 13th. Pleasant morning in Auckland, caught the ferry across to Devonport for a wander around before catching the shuttle to the airport. Four hour flight to Rarotonga, left on Wed 14th and arrived on Tuesday 13th. All very disconcerting if we get the lottery numbers before you we will let you know. Greeted with a garland of flowers, an ei apparently and despite it being late on very warm as we stepped off the plane. Everywhere was shut so not sure what we have here - its classed as a garden studio. Our own little set up - bedroom/rattan seating/kitchen all in one room with loo and shore separate. Pool, beach and restaurant only a step away - can hear the surf. Will be able to judge better in the morning/ tomorrow/today/ whenever. Wi-fi is thin on the ground so communication may be a bit difficult.
Location: Auckland, New Zealand
March 13th. Much brighter day today and much sunnier than expected. 🌞 Later start cos it was so nice to have a comfy bed with clean, non sandy sheets! Started with a trip up the Sky Tower to see how my fear of heights is doing - very well it seems. Super views though.
Wandered down to the waterfront to find it was the Auckland stopover of the round the world yacht race! Spent a couple of hours admiring the racing yachts and looking at the various displays. There was a mock up of one of the yachts you could walk through which was really interesting. Everything was left matt black because paint would weigh more! They carry no water but use desalination and the bunks were narrow and just netting but we were assured they were very comfortable! Walked up through the city and out through Albert Park to the Auckland Domain in the afternoon. All the many parks and green spaces are the remains of volcanoes so lots of uphill but worth it. Got up to the Wintergardens with its Fernery and Tropical and Temperate houses. Dropped back down through Auckland Uni campus admiring the clock tower on the way. Back to the hotel to pack for tomorrow and then out for a lovely meal on the waterfront and great night views of the city.
Location: Auckland , New Zealand
March 12th. Early drive into Auckland to drop off the camper van. Shan't miss it but it has enabled us to do some amazing things and see some incredible places. Afternoon in a very wet Auckland, then caught the ferry to Half Moon Bay to have a meal with Jon & Jo Cook - ex colleagues from St Bernard's who have been out here for ten years with their kids Christian and Olivia. Lovely evening catching up with them then back to the hotel for the absolute luxury of a proper bed.
Location: Orewa, New Zealand
March 11th. Early start this morning so we would have time to pack later🙁. A coffee stop back in Waipu where we managed to time it for their Sunday morning local craft market. Horrified by the knitted golliwogs on sale!! 😱😱. Clearly PC hasn't made it to this neck of the woods! Made it to our last stop in the motorhome for lunch - Orewa just north of Auckland. Took a walk along the beach watching an incredible number of windsurfers and kite surfers taking advantage of the breezy conditions and having a great time. Very blowy, there's another cyclone passing by so could be a bit lively overnight! 💨Back to the motorhome to pack up then out to eat.
Location: Whitianga Treaty Grounds, New Zealand
March 10th. Overcast and wet this morning but we both managed a run before taking the passenger ferry across the bay. Spent the morning at the Whitianga Treaty Grounds where in 1840 the treaty between Britain and the Maori tribes was signed which is seen as the founding of New Zealand and is celebrated every year on 6th February. In fact only 40 of the 200 tribes present signed and many weren't there at all. Plus what they signed was a little bit different in the translation into Maori! Also the treaty grounds were the place where several years earlier the tribes had declared an independent state of the United Maori Tribes which Britain had recognised. Hey you don't build an empire by getting hung up on legalities! Watched an excellent cultural display of song and dance in a magnificent carved meeting house. Also saw an impressive 150 seater war canoe with the stump of the tree it was carved from. Afternoon dodging showers in Paihia then the ferry back for our last evening in Russell.
Location: Bay of Islands, New Zealand
March 9th I forgot to include a wildlife update for the Bay of Islands, something to do with being waterlogged I think. As well as bottlenose dolphins and seals we saw a shoal of blue Mau Mau and most wonderfully a flying fish - tremendous.
Location: Bay of Islands, New Zealand
March 9th. Spent all day on the Cream Trip. This started as a service boat round the Bay of Islands making deliveries and collecting milk from the farms on the Islands and has morphed into a tourist trip. Started with an attempt by some to swim with a pod of dolphins. Quite entertaining as the dolphins appeared to be taking the piss showing up so they all got in the water then disappearing until they got out then reappearing. Well done dolphins they didn't ask to have people swim with them. We sailed on to The Hole in the Rock which is more impressive than it sounds Kiwis seem to be very literal in naming things. On a good day they sail through but not today which pleased me as the boat looked bigger than the hole. Lunch break on an island with standard issue NZ beach as previously described and crystal clear water. Tour of the other islands on the way back and then a new game. We were asked if any one fancied boom netting, Jackie said we did. I should have clicked when the others doing it were all early twenties. They push out two long poles and string a net between them, a dozen or so of you jump into the net so you are in the water like catch of the day. The captain then floors it, while you hang on for grim death. When bored he floors it in reverse then repeats for what seemed quite a long time. It felt like a cross between being in a washing machine and being hosed down by the riot police. We got some very odd looks from the other grown ups on the boat when we got out but growing up is overrated. Off out for a meal at The Duke of Marlborough, the oldest licensed premises in Russell, which used to be known as the hell hole of the Pacific because of the rowdiness of its inhabitants, much more sedate these days.
Location: Russell, New Zealand
March 8th. There was a school group camping on the site at Waipu. Entertaining watching the staff get them up, organised and out this morning. God bless them, we both remember it well. Stopped at the most photographed loos in New Zealand at Kawakawa. Apparently designed by a famous Austrian architect/artist called Hundertswasser who lived here. (A very apt name in the circumstances!) All very Gaudi but with a tree growing out of the roof. Another road closure meant a 30 odd km detour but that's just the way it is! Compulsory waterfall stop just outside Paihia at Haruru Falls and then onto the car ferry for a 10 min crossing to a lovely site at Russell complete with weka wandering around, flightless birds bigger than kiwi. Booked onto some activities/trips for the next couple of days and the weather looks brighter for tomorrow. 😊
Location: Waipu, New Zealand
March 7th. Longish drive north round/through Auckland, first bit of motorway driving. We weren't sure whether to push on to get to Bay of Islands (our last port of call) but the sun came out so decided to call it a day. Stopped at a little town/village called Waipu and spent an interesting hour in the museum. Waipu was settled by 900 odd Scots who had been kicked out during the highland clearances, first emigrated to Nova Scotia, then built their own ships when that didn't work out, sailed to Australia then on to New Zealand. They still have a huge Highland games here every year. Incredible story, the guy in charge doesn't sound a barrel of laughs mind. Norman McLeod. Kicked out of several Church of Scotland sects for being too narrow minded. Found a campsite at Waipu Cove. To return to an earlier theme just 1 minute over some dunes from our pitch there is a standard issue NZ beach white sands etc, etc. Just saying. Had a late afternoon dip cos it would have been rude not to!
Location: Coromandel Town, New Zealand
March 6th. So I will admit straight off that I'm not a beach person, something to do with being born and growing up in Blackpool probably. We are on the way to Coromandel Town and stop at a beach. Standard issue NZ arc of white sand, turquoise ocean, white rollers, not many people, lovely. Do we stay there - no. We, and everyone else (J- ie 20 people at most on the whole beach!) to be fair, wade, scramble and hike for forty minutes round a rocky headland to another beach. New Chum Beach, which has made it to some list of the best beaches in the world, partly because it's so undeveloped and uncrowded. From where I'm standing it's an arc of white sand, turquoise ocean etc, etc. I don't get it but Jackie does. You can judge from the photos. Admittedly I was that hot from the walk there I did have to take my first dip in the Pacific. There were even trees to provide much needed shade and the trek back was a bit easier at low tide. Another mountain road has brought us to Coromandel Town - 1 street, a couple of pubs and a campsite! However Tues 6th is NZ census day so we have completed our census forms and will be officially recorded!
Location: Whitianga , New Zealand
March 5th. Short drive to Whitianga. Morning pottering in town including a trip to the Cut Hut where two lovely ladies with evident sheep shearing experience left us both not needing another haircut for quite a while. 😱 Afternoon soaking up the sunshine/ enjoying the shade ( you can guess who did what!) on Buffalo beach which again we shared with only a few others. The waves were less ferocious so J enjoyed some time in the surf. Then out in the evening for a very nice meal on the harbour side - J definitely getting a real affection for the NZ "Saaav" - apparently you don't ask for Sauvignon Blanc!! All very relaxed and pleasant.
Location: Hahei, New Zealand
March 4th. Spent the morning walking a coastal path from Hahei Beach to Cathedral Cove and back. Great walk, stunning coast, they filmed Prince Caspian - Chronicles of Narnia here (I have heard of films beyond LOTR). All lovely, Cathedral Cove was as delightful a spot as you could wish. A huge arch through a headland with those massive green/blue Pacific rollers on both sides. Spent the afternoon on Hahei Beach, had the place almost to ourselves, even had a paddle in the Pacific. Then Fish & Chips for tea sat outside the van - what more could you ask for?
Location: Hot Water Beach, New Zealand
March 3rd. Despite numerous reasonable requests from me Jackie refused to go back to Hobbiton so we drove north to the Coramandel Peninsula instead. Stopped off at the Cheese Barn for a cuppa on the way. A dairy farm as the name suggests but with all sorts of animals and a cafe attached. Checked in to our site at lunchtime And were able to walk to the beach to spend the afternoon on Hot Water Beach. Again the clue is in the name. Beautiful beach with clear waters and major Pacific rollers coming in. In two small areas if you dig a hole it fills with hot water giving you your own little hot pool. Very busy in that bit and some care needed as depending on where you dig the water varies from cool, pleasantly warm to scalding as J discovered! Gave up trying to find a spot to dig our own pool and sat enjoying the sunshine/shade as applicable! As people started to leave pools became vacant so we got one and didn't even have to dig it ourselves! It was very pleasant but we left before the waves reclaimed the pools! I (J) only ventured into the waves a short way as they were incredibly strong- once again a big one nearly knocked me off my feet and the backwash was ferocious too!
Location: Hobbiton , New Zealand
March 2nd. Started the day with a canopy walk through a Redwood Plantation. Absolutely beautiful, as with so much we have seen in NZ so much better than we expected. The view of the forest, particularly the ferns from that height was tremendous. Expected rain never really materialised so even better. Drove through Rotorua which was bigger and brasher than expected. Glad we stayed out of it! Plus that smell became pretty unpleasant! ! Then the main course. We drove to Hobbiton. When you look forward to something for so long you are nervous about it being an anticlimax, it wasn't. It was all I hoped it would be and more. I have walked through Hobbiton, stood by the Party Tree and Bilbo's gate and had a drink in the Green Dragon, I am blown away. I even got a free drink for answering the guides questions on the way round! Even Jackie is ready to watch all the films again when we get back just to spot the things we have seen. Have stopped at a little place called Te Aroha - small independent campsite an hour north of Hobbiton which is a bit "tired" but clean, has everything you need and beautifully located near the Kaimai-Mamuku Forest Park/Mountains.
Location: Blue Lake, Rotarua, New Zealand
March 1st. Started the day visiting the Craters of the Moon just outside Taupo. It's a thermal vent area with loads of fumaroles, steam vents and boiling mud pools. Strange to wander through with bushes giving off steam. Drove on to Whakarewarewa Thermal Village where unfortunately the weather turned damp and showery. As the name suggests it's a Maori village, our guide grew up there, built around thermal pools they use for cooking, bathing, the works. Some of the pools are over 50m deep and 110 deg C at the surface - hotter at depth. Even the cemetery had vents to release the steam below the surface. Got a view of the Pohutu and Prince of Wales geysers (20-30m high). Watched a Maori cultural performance of song, dance and naturally the Haka! After a while the sulphide smells got a bit much so drove up to a site on the Blue Lake, which was a bit grey today as was the Green Lake we could see from a viewpoint on the walk round the lake. Ended our day with half an hour in the site hot tub - aaahh😌!!