Thursday, April 20, 2023

New Zealand- North Island


Our ferry was late leaving Picton for Wellington due to a chemical spill. We arrived in Wellington and immediately encountered the same traffic problems of other big cities. Once we successfully parked our car after some difficulties, we had a little time to walk around the city.


Dinner was Vietnamese- excellent.

In the morning we went to Wellington’s Miramar peninsula to tour the Weta Workshop, the internationally acclaimed visual effects company. Known for Lord of the Rings it had done scores of films before and scores of films since, currently working on five.

We then went to the lookout on Mount Victoria; after that was the Botanical Gardens where we ate lunch.

Our last stop was the Te Papa Museum - very impressive and it had a stupendous exhibit on Gallipoli.

That night we ate at Liberty on Cuba Street. It was a share the plate place and quite good. We had cheddar puffs, pulled pork tostados, prosciuto with cheese and other stuff, grilled octopus and lamb.

The next day we headed to Whanganui where we were in time to see the paddlewheel steamboat. We went to the Saturday Market, walked down Victoria Street and then went to the elevator to Durie Hill where we climbed the memorial.

On to Stratford and on the way we sought out Mount Taranaki.

Our B & B was lovely with charming landscaping, the hosts could not have been nicer.

As it was raining the next morning we went to New Plymouth and the Puke Ariki Museum which was large, modern and very informative.

The weather improved while we were there so we went to Pukekura Park.

After the park we went back to our room for lunch before going to Dawson Falls and Wilkies Pools.

Before dinner we saw Romeo and Juliet talk to each other on the glockenspiel.

A long drive on The Forgotten Highway started our next day. The road was not entirely deserted, but pretty close.

Next we went to Tainga Waterfalls and Gollum’s Pond (from the scene in the movie) then on to Lake Taupo and our motel.

In the morning I headed to the range to practice golf.

Next was Huka Falls where massive amounts of water were squeezed between two rock formations.

Next was a walk around the Craters of the Moon (caused by geothermal activity)

We saw next the Aratiatia Rapids caused by the timed release of water from a dam. It was here, in a Hobbit movie, where 25 barrels were thrown out and filmed at every release for two days. Dwarfs and Bilbo were added digitally.

Next was Orakei Kovako Geothermal Park and Cave.

Last was Crater Lake at Rainbow Reserve. We ignored the warning signs.

Great Mexican food for dinner- grilled, not fried chimichangas and excellent ice cream after.

We started the next day with a tramp through the Redwood Forest. Trees were transplanted from California in 1901 and now reach 200 feet tall.

Next we went to a small park that featured hot mud pools.

We went next to Rotorua Canopy Tours where we ziplined through an ancient and virgin forest.

The next morning we went to Hobbiton where they filmed the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies.

From there we went to a gorge which was not much of a gorge. We took the Railway Loop Track which wasn’t a loop due to track conditions, so we had to turn back which meant going through a 1,100 meter railway tunnel twice.

Next to Owharoa Falls where Teresa got an unexpected thrill.

When we were 7kms from our lodging at 4:30 p.m. we were stopped because of an accident on the only useable road in. We backtracked to Hot Water Beach. Shortly before the 7:00 p.m. estimate of road clearing we went back to the roadblock and parked until 8:30 when we were cleared to proceed.

We woke in Whitianga after having arrived after dark the night before. It was a beach resort town and had a harbor with scores of very nice pleasure boats.

We decided to do the Coromandel Peninsula Scenic Tour for the day. First to Opita Beach which was remote but very nice.

We also went to Otama Beach where we encountered two women fishing. They used a drone to cast out 300 meters. We saw them catch two fish.

Next to Coromandel Town where we found kebabs with real lamb.

We went down the western coast of the peninsula stopping at various outlooks and took a detour to see the Rapaura Watergardens (not impressive) and then went on to Thames.

The next day was a travel day to Paikia.

The next morning we drove to Kerikeri to first visit the Farmer’s Market. Then it was off to the Stone Store (1836) where we parked to do the two hour Rainbow Creek Track which included a couple of waterfalls. We also caught a waterfall on the drive back.

We ate lunch on the balcony of our room and then took the ferry across The Bay of Islands to Russell. Back in the day it was known as the hellhole of the Pacific but now is a charming town.

We climbed up to Flagstaff which itself had quite a history and the two outlooks there gave us great views.

The next day was Waitangi Treaty day for us. We could walk to the site from our hotel. At the site was a museum, the house of the governor, the flagpole, war canoes and the actual site of the signing. We got a guided tour and then a Maori cultural experience with dancing and music.

The next morning’s drive to Aukland was easy and the drive to our hotel, Avani Metropolis, was surprisingly so. Our very nice room was on the 29th floor so we got excellent views.

We ventured out and walked up and down Queen Street with a detour to Father Ted’s, an Irish bar that was not named after Father Hesburgh (and earlier frequented by Russ Dodge).

We walked down to the wharf area and got good gelato. We walked through Victoria park on the way back. 

The next morning we walked down to the wharf for our city walking tour- pretty good. After a bao-noodle lunch we went to the Auckland Art Gallery to take a guided tour. Gelato on the way back to the room.

As our flight the next day was late afternoon we spent the morning at the Auckland Zoo.