Saturday Feburary 5th – we were up at 7.00am! We had to be at the Vector Arena in Auckland by 10.00am to see the amazing horseshow, El Caballo Blanco – The Dance of the White Stallions. My camera was well charged and packed in my handbag but before we set off I went on line to check on the rules and regulations for the show to see if we could take a packed lunch with us – the answer was No! However much to my horror it also stated that no photography was allowed and that no cameras or video equipment would be allowed into the arena also that bags would be searched! I obviously didn’t want my camera confiscating nor did I want to be refused entrance to the show so I very sadly left the camera at the house!
We drove into Auckland and soon found a parking space very close to the arena. There were lots of people outside already and it was still well before 10.00am! We bought a programme, so that I would at least have some pictures to remind me of the event, then we went inside and took our seats. Before the show even started I noticed people taking photographs!!! I was not a happy bunny! Not a soul had asked to look in my handbag, nor anybody else’s for that matter, I was really very peeved indeed! The show finally began and it was absolutely awesome. The horses were just stunningly beautiful. There were Andalucian’s, Lipizzaner’s and best of all the beautiful black Friesians. Not only did they look beautiful they were soooooooooo well trained. The only thing that spoiled it for me were the hundreds of people taking photographs with flash!! By this time I was spitting feathers! There was an interval of 20 minutes and when we took our seats again officials were walking round holding up posters saying “please turn of the flash on your cameras” – I couldn’t believe it! Clive had his iPhone with him and managed to get one or two photos with that but he couldn’t zoom in close like I could have done with the Olympus! Ah well, never mind! The show was absolutely spectacular and I will always have my memories. At least we had all really enjoyed it.
El Caballo Blanco - courtesy of the iPhone!
We drove back to Lindsey’s and got ourselves organised for the next event – celebrating Philly’s birthday! We got our glad rags on – well Lindsey did – I put my best shorts and a new tee shirt on! We piled into Philly’s mini and headed off to Clevedon where we met Mary. For a change we were giving her a lift. We drove back into Auckland, the venue for the “party” was The Java Rooms in Parnell, a suburb of Auckland and a very nice one too. There are lots of big, beautiful houses in Parnell and a lot of them have rather beautiful cars parked outside them too – well at least Clive thought so! We found the restaurant tucked away up a little alleyway and only a few minutes later Philly and the rest of the party arrived. Anne’s sister Hilary had arrived from the UK for a three week holiday that morning and was managing very well to stay awake! There was also Belinda and her husband Pete (I had met them before Christmas at the Conversazione which Belinda hosted) and another friend of Philly’s, Margy, who is a local GP, so altogether there were 10 of us! The food was absolutely fantastic, all Asian (Thai, Indonesian, etc etc) and utterly delicious! We had a really wonderful time. It was also nice for Clive to have another man to chat to, it made a change, he’s normally been the only guy amongst all us gals!
Philly, Belinda, Pete, Hilary and Ann
Mel, Lindsey, Mary and Clive
I had some wonderful news from home yesterday by the way, my niece Alison gave birth to her twin boys a little earlier than expected! She was due to have them by Caesarean section on the 17th but they decided not to wait and came into the world under their own steam, well with a little help from Ali! They are to be called Tom and George. They are absolutely gorgeous and are already wowing everyone who has seen their very first photo! Many congratulations to Ali and Mike and also to their big brother, Harry!
Tom and George Rhodes - my gorgeous twin Great newphews!
Sunday February 6th – Lindsey had to go to a Forest and Bird meeting at 10.00am, this included a bush walk! As she still can’t drive Clive gave her a lift. We were also expecting Philly over later to swap the vehicles over and stay for lunch. It gave us chance to say goodbye as we’re not going to see her again for several weeks once we are off on our travels again. We didn’t really do much for the rest of the day.
One thing I forgot to mention in the previous blog was that over the weekend when Lindsey had injured her hand she had stayed at Philly’s. When she finally returned home it was to discover that there had been a “King” tide and the little stream which flows adjacent to her property had completely backed up and flooded! Nearly all Lindsey’s front paddock must have been under water for several hours but by the time she returned home it had subsided. She only realised what had happened when she noticed the grass looked slightly flattened and muddy. Needless to say once the sun came out again the grass had gone berserk, it was about eight inches high! Clive mowed it again for her. Not only the grass had benefited from the flood, all her trees had suddenly had a spurt of new growth too, its like Spring again!
Monday February 7th – we were up in good time as we had a lot to do before we finally set off. Clive gave the inside of the van a good clean and I repacked all the clothes, we refilled the fridge and cupboards with all our provisions, then it was time to go. We said goodbye to Lindsey and headed off once more, this time our destination was South!
We had a great drive and got a lot further than expected, we actually reached Taupo! On the way we passed through Cambridge! A sweet little place, much smaller than our own Cambridge but pretty nevertheless. We decided to go and stay at the same campsite where we had stayed on our previous visit to Taupo as it was such a good one. We got checked in and had dinner then decided to go for a bit of a drive before bed to check out the Huko Falls – I had seen a photo of them in the camp kitchen as I was washing up and they looked worth checking out. It wasn’t a very long drive but we had also spotted a sign to a Bungy Jump and on the way past we could see people watching what was going on so we decided to call there on the way. The Bungy Jump was closed by that time but we could still go and look at the view and what a view it was!
Blue Waikato River
We drove a bit further and soon found the road heading for the falls and a short time later we arrived at the place and parked along witha few other cars on the outside of a locked barrier to the car park. There was a sign on it saying “Gate locked at 6pm sharp” – it was 6.05 when we arrived. We locked up the van and set off down the path, just as we were approaching said gate a car drew up, on the car park side, with a bewildered looking Chinese couple in it – oh dear! They tried the barrier but of course it was locked – it said so!! There was also another note on the inside of the gate – “if locked in call this number xxxxxxx – call out charge of $30 applies”. We left them on their mobile phone making the call!!
It wasn’t long before we arrived at the falls – what a sight! This is the Waikato River, the longest river in New Zealand and the only river draining from Lake Taupo. It is quite narrow at this point, about 15 metres wide and 10 metres deep, therefore the river is a raging torrent here travelling at about 40 cubic metres per second! Not only that, its bright blue! Also, because of the turbulence it is full of bubbles which accentuates the colour! Unfortunately the light was going as it was almost sunset but I still managed to get some great photos – shame you can’t hear the sound of the falls as well! When we returned to the van the Chinese couple had gone – they must have paid the $30 and been released!!
Turbulant River Waikato
Tuesday February 8th - we said goodbye to Taupo again and continued our journey South. The first part of our journey was very familiar as we had travelled the same route only a couple of weeks ago on our way to New Plymouth, however we reached a junction and turned off, from then on we were on unexplored territory! The landscape here is incredible, once again very obviously created by the debris from various volcanic eruptions. In places though it was just simply moorland and reminded us very much off the Pennines back home, then in other places it was like a moonscape! We crossed over a bridge and looking down I saw the most amazing gorge, it was just like the Grand Canyon but much smaller! On our right hand side we could see the foot of a volcano, which we think was Mt Ruapeho but its peak was shrouded in mist. We decided to stop for coffee and a TimTam and let Clive have a break from driving. It was quite windy and the mist, swirling around the peak of the volcano, kept tantalizing us by revealing bits of the peak then covering it again before I could get a decent photo!
Mt Ruapehu we think!
We continued our journey and a short time later I noticed a sign to a Scenic Viewpoint so we stopped. Clive stayed in the van and I hot footed it to the top of the path to see the view. It was of the river winding its way alongside huge white cliffs. I also noted a strange tripod-like contraption at the viewpoint, next to it was a yellow box wrapped in polythene, I went to have a closer look and this is what I found:
We finally arrived at our destination for the night, Paekakariki. We soon found the campsite, which was very pleasant and only a stones throw from the beach it said. After dinner we decided to go for a walk to see if we could find said beach – we did and were rewarded with the most fabulous sunset!
Wednesday February 9th – we left after breakfast and headed off to Wellington. It wasn’t very far and we arrived there mid morning. We parked the van down near the Wellington waterfront and went for a walk. We had intended to stop and have a coffee in one of the waterfront café’s but when Clive saw a sign outside one of them advertising Fish and Chips he couldn’t resist! It wasn't much after 11.00am but we decided to stop and indulge ourselves anyway! They were scrummy yummy! Not your average F& C but goujons of Tarakihi, Clive’s favourite New Zealand fish, a small portion of luscious chips and a lovely salad as well, really delicious!
After lunch we continued on our exploration of the sea front then found our way to Te Papa, the museum. We went in and had a look around, there was a photographic exhibition, which I found very interesting and then we explored some of the other interesting exhibits, one of which was a facsimile of an earthquake! You actually stood inside what appeared to be someone’s front room, watching their TV as the news of an earthquake was being broadcast, then the whole thing started to shake! It was very well done – perhaps it gave us a taster of things to come if Christchurch is still experiencing aftershocks when we get there!!
We went back out into the sunshine again and found our wayback to the van, then we set off to locate the campsite which Clive had booked us into not far from Wellington. It didn’t take us long to find it and we were soon settled in. It was actually a Motel perched on the side of a hill next to the main highway into Wellington, with a large car park at the side, which had been fitted with power sites for campervans. It certainly wasn’t the most picturesque campsite but it suited our needs completely. We spent about an hour in the lounge area of the motel using their internet facilities so that I could do the last blog – I am very behind and trying desperately to catch up!!!
We ascertained from reception that there was a very good bus service into the city so, after getting washed and changed and me actually putting a bit of makeup on for a change, we caught the bus from across the road and were soon heading back into Wellie. We had arranged to meet my friend Sue Reeves near the Town Hall. Back in 1977 when I was pregnant with our daughter Vicki I went on a local National Childbirth Trust course, it was there that I met Sue when she was expecting her eldest son Alex. Sue and her husband Chris came out to New Zealand several years ago on a two year contract with his job. Very sadly Chris had a heart attack and died whilst they were here but Sue decided to stay on. Her younger son, Ian, lives with her in Wellington but Alex remains in England and now lives in London. He is a drummer and also has his own recording studio.
We found Sue sitting outside a restaurant across the road from the Town Hall – she really hasn’t changed a bit! It was great catching up on old times over dinner and then she invited us back to her home for the rest of the evening. She has a lovely house with the most awesome views looking out over the sea. We even saw one of the inter-island ferries making its way back into Wellington – we would be going the other way tomorrow! We finally said goodbye and Ian very kindly ran us back to the campsite however we have agreed to meet up with Sue again on our return from South Island in a few weeks time and she has invited us to stay with her for a couple of days, that will be lovely.
Mel, Clive and Sue
Thursday February 10th dawned bright and fair and boded well for a smooth crossing. Our ferry was due to depart at 1.00pm but we had to be there by 12. We packed everything up and then spent another hour or two in the Motel reception using their internet facilities. I finished typing the blog but had only got half the photographs downloaded and for some reason our website was playing up and wouldn’t download the rest! I had to save it as a draft and leave it until we arrived at our next destination. This is not helping me to catch up with the blog at all!! Finally we piled back into the van and headed off to the ferry terminal. We were a bit early so once parked in the queue for the ferry we put the kettle on and had a coffee and a TimTam to pass the time! Then it was time to board – we were off on the next phase, South Island here we come!
The crossing was fantastic. The sea was as calm as a millpond and the sun was shining. I expected it to be really cold up on deck so we had stayed in the lounge for the first half of the trip but as we were approaching the Marlborough Sounds we decided to go upstairs. It was really warm! The sea was the most incredible shade of blue I think I have ever seen, it was absolutely beautiful! The scenery was incredible too. When we did this trip the first time, back in October 2004 it was very grey and cloudy, in total contrast to today! We passed our sister ship coming the otherway!
Ships passing in the daytime in the Marlborough Sounds
I took so many photographs of this last part of the voyage, it was so incredibly beautiful. There were lots of little islands and inlets with tiny “baches”, little holiday cottages, tucked away into quiet little bays only accessibly by water. There were Gannets diving into the sea for fish, the sun was sparkling on the water, it was just wonderful. Then finally we saw Picton up ahead and it wasn’t long before the ship was berthed and we were driving the van down the ramp. We have arrived in South Island.
We had agreed that it would make sense to stay somewhere not far from the ferry terminal for the night and then make a fresh start in the morning. However first we decided to go and find a shop to pick up a few bits and pieces that we had run short of. We finally found one in the centre of Picton and then Clive spotted a bar right down at the sea front so we moved the car to a 60 minute parking space and went off for a Speight’s! It was lovely just sitting there in the sunshine watching all the boats in the marina – oh this is the life! Finally, we tore ourselves away and made our way to the campsite at Waikawa Bay and got settled down for the night. Finally I managed to download the rest of the photographs and post the blog, about a week behind!
As this blog is rapidly turning into War and Peace I am going to leave it here, hopefully I will get chance to do another blog very soon which will bring us up to date! Watch this space!!!