A Travellerspoint blog

Day Twenty One

Auckland

semi-overcast 19 °C
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It rained intermittently today, with a bit of wind to keep things interesting. We caught a bus downtown this morning from the camp ground, which took an hour. It was an interesting drive in that we sat amongst the locals going about their business. There were lots of uni students on the bus and all of them got off at the Auckland University City Campus. The campus is in the city centre and is a hustle and bustle of activity with busy city streets intersecting the different buildings.

We got off at Customs Street and walked directly to the most prominent building in the city – the Sky Tower. It took us about 15 minutes or so to get there with the kids. What an amazingly good looking tower it is too.

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The Sky Tower is the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere, at 328 metres. The main observation level is 186m from the base and the Skydeck viewing platform is at 220m. It is just below the Skydeck that idiots can pay money to bungy jump off for an adrenaline rush. My boys loved watching people bungy off the edge and watch them land at the bottom. As I am not a fan of heights I didn’t peer over the edge to see whether they landed safely. When we first got there, only a handful of us were admiring the view. Within half and hour the decks were getting crowded and noisy with school children on holidays. I was glad it just wasn’t my own being rowdy for a change.

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I really took time to enjoy the building and it’s concrete construction. It is pretty windy up at the top and I can imagine the stresses and strains on such a structure are immense. It cost us $80 to check it out which isn’t cheap, but you can’t not go and have a look either.

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Auckland City unlike Wellington is very spread out. This was to be our downfall. Other than the Sky Tower we didn’t get to do much else other than eating and shopping. The boys were tired from walking and Beedo didn’t feel much like it either. In hindsight we toyed with a tourist day trip and decided it was too expensive ($80). It would have taken us to all the major sights and was also a get off and get back on at anytime arrangement. The bus into the city cost us $22. It has been a very busy nearly three weeks and the sprawl of Auckland was our undoing. So, we got an early afternoon bus back to the camp ground and started to pack up and tidy the motorhome. Tomorrow we hope to take a quick drive out to Piha before handing the motorhome in and going to our motel for the evening.

Tomorrow will be our last full day in New Zealand. Bummer!

Posted by petty1912 02:43 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Day Twenty

Rotorua to Auckland

rain 18 °C
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The rain throughout the night meant that our last night spent in Rotorua was quite warm. It is still a pain though, but I guess if it didn’t rain New Zealand wouldn’t look as lush and bright green as it does. Plus all that water I see has to come from somewhere. Speaking of water, the drinking water is unbeatable. We’ve only brought water once when we first got here. We’ve been drinking tap water ever since. You can’t tell the difference. It is divine. Even my cups of tea taste better for it.

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We got on the road early today (before 9am) and started our journey northwards to Auckland on Hwy No. 5 (The Thermal Explorer Highway) and in the Rotorua District. We drove through about half a dozen districts today (i.e. BOP, Waikato, Franklin, and ended in Manukau) and almost as many different highways. At the junction at Tirau we changed highways and the farming changed almost immediately. It was more stud farming and there were some thoroughbred race horse studs. The farm houses were bigger and better maintained as were the farms hemselves. There were lovely hedges clipped neatly at different heights and it was noticeable just by the European cars parking in the towns streets that these were more well off areas.

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The countryside became flatter in these parts and the rolling hills or volcanic mounds that we were used to seeing were only on the horizon. Paul commented that he didn’t like this area. It’s far too flat; no view, only to the neighbour and definitely no ocean views. We do love our ocean views we Petersen’s! I enjoyed the change. I often get car sick in mountainous areas, and the North Island has very few relatively flat landscapes. The South Island seems to be 50/50 percent. Here it is more 90/10.

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It was also around Tirau that the windscreen wiper in front of the passenger broke again. It has been doing so for the last 2 weeks. I have been pestering Paul to fix it and today during some heavy rain he buckled. You wouldn’t believe it by looking at the repair job, but it worked and is still doing so.

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I really enjoyed our last drive through the North Island farmlands. I took lots more photos of the different barns and sheds today. I will miss all the livestock yards. It was lambing season in August so there are young lambkins running around everywhere. They are so cute. It was also calving season so the beef and dairy offspring like the lambs are enjoying the plentiful conditions. They even look happy in the rain.

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In the pic above the words on the trucks trailer read " a good road is a beautiful thing" and it is too!

Now we are in Auckland there is not much to do but to plan our trip to the city tomorrow. There is a bus stop that goes downtown across the road from where we are camping tonight. We are going to ride in on it in the morning and explore the sights of the city and harbour. It is still raining, but I think we are used to it almost.
One more night after this in the bago and we will have to hand her back in. Lets hope the wiper holds 'til then!

Posted by petty1912 20:46 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Day Nineteen

Waitomo to Tongariro National Park and Rotorua

rain 14 °C
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We had a rain free 140km drive to the Whakapapa Villlage in the Tongariro National Park. The drive took us through lots more farmland and past quite a few small hydro-electric stations along the way. It was cloudy so we didn’t really see Mt Ruapehu as we were closing in on him. His cone like slopes was the only sign giving him away. In fact that is all we got to see of this famous mountain.

The Tongariro National Park was the first such park in the country and has dual World Heritage status. In 1887 the government of New Zealand were given the three active volcano peaks of Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro by Tukino Te Heuheu IV, a Ngati Chief. These mountains and surrounding areas are important sacred areas. This is why this park was the first in the world to earn dual UNESCO World Heritage status on both its natural and cultural value. Being a sacred place to the Maori, visitors were once discouraged from climbing its slopes. Today it is the largest ski area in the nation and is world renown for it tramping walks. The one day, one way Tongariro Crossing (18km) is a must (apparently) in Summer. The fact that such a sacred site is allowed to be accessed in such a way is interesting considering in Australia the Northern territory Government if looking at banning people from climbing Uluru on the grounds that it is a sacred site to the indigenous locals whom live nearby.

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We stopped in at the Whakapapa Village Visitors Centre to get advice. It was here that we gained a background on the park and its three famous mountains. You also get advise on walks, tours, etc. We had a good look at the weather forecast, which was bad. No mountain views for days due to there being too much rain about. The ski fields were open, so we decided to drive up and have a look. We saw very little, through the cloud. We drove up to the chairlift but never got out of the car. Visibility was only about 50m at best. That said, there were still hundreds of cars in the carpark with lots of people heading up and coming back down. It would have been nice to see the peak of this active mountain. It last erupted in 1995/1996. We got a quick glimpse (not long enough to stop and take a photo though) of the cone shaped Ngauruhoe and it’s snow, but we only ever saw a small section of the base of Tongariro (like Ruapehu).

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The boys were disappointed, but it was an eerie landscape. Mt Taranaki had a lush mountainside. These were more martian in appearance. Ruapehu had very low growing vegetation growing over him. The volcanic soil was interesting. Some of it was very new in age.

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After a brief stay in Tongariro National Park, we headed back to Lake Taupo. After a day of mostly driving we spent some time by the lake and walking around the shopping district. The lake was very calm unlike last week when we were here. The sand is black like all things in the volcanic zone. I was amazed to find the shores littered with white pumice. I have never seen white pumice before.

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We then moved on to Rotorua. Daylight saving allows us to spend alittle more time on the road. We want to be in Auckland by Wednesday afternoon, so we’re pressing on. The rain starts again in Rotorua. The sulphur smell isn’t so bad this time around for me. I am not looking forward to leaving the countryside for the city. I love the smaller places much more. I will miss the sheep, dairy cows, cattle, pigs, alpaca and deer. I also have barn envy. I want a barn! So give me the country any day, especially here in New Zealand. Tomorrow it’s back to the urban jungle and way too many people.

Posted by petty1912 23:44 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Day Eighteen

New Plymouth to Waitomo

rain 16 °C
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It poured rain most of the night. Heavy rain. It stopped briefly when we woke up and did our toileting without getting soaked again. Suffice to say we didn’t get to walk around New Plymouth. There is a foreshore area and lots of walks. There are also lots of gardens and nature walks, which were out of the question. We quickly decided to move onwards and upwards towards Waitomo.

The Waikato/Waitomo region is defined by its rolling hills, lush farmlands and fabulous scenery. Today it was abit hard to see everything, but it was still a great trip. It was just over 175kms from New Plymouth to Waitomo Caves which was our destination of the day. There were hundreds of sheep, cattle and dairy farms that we drove by today. The poor animals were not enjoying the weather.

From New Plymouth to Awakino the Highway (No.3) hugged the coastline. The winds were strong and gusting. You could feel the wind moving you side to side and at time to the middle of the road. The beaches along this stretch of the coast are black volcanic sand. Something I had never seen before. I had never seen black pebbles like that at Napier either. A handful of firsts there alone. So for that part of the journey we got frequent glimpses of the Tasman Sea and its angry waves.

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The biggest township before Waitomo is Te Kuiti. Te Kuiti is known as the “shearing capital of the world”. It is also the last chance to get some supplies. Waitomo doesn’t really have much in the way of stores. We arrived at Waitomo information centre to see what our options were for the day. There are many activities to do for the thrill seeker and as well as exploring the caves. As we have two small children and a Grandma in the group, we weren’t looking for something too long or too strenuous. A 45 minute tour of the Waitomo Cave was the choice. We booked at the information centre and then drove the 500m down the road to the cave marshalling area/entrance.

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It is there that you check in and form your tour group. They are currently constructing a new centre there so there are temporary accommodations. The new centre will be state of the art and very contemporary looking in appearance. You walk up several flights of stairs and down some more before reaching the cave entrance. The start of the tour the guide takes you through the various chambers and points out the different formations, explains that it took 30 million years to form these caves, they are made of limestone, etc.

While the caves are beautiful, they don’t contain many delicate structures or formations. Those that are there are lovely – but that is not the reason we chose this cave, it was because of the glow worms. These are little larvae that live in the roof of the caves and provide a bioluminescence light. After nine months these larvae enter a pupae stage and then become a glow worm fly. These survive only 3 -5 days to reproduce before dying of starvation – they have no mouths. The glow worm produces vertical threads like spiders web which hang from the ceiling to catch their prey. These look like wet sticky filaments under the torchlight.

After walking through the caves we descended to the underground river to get a closer look at the glow worms. There were about a dozen of us in the group and we all hopped into a aluminium boat in the near pitch dark. Sam was very scared of the dark as were another two children in the group. Our guide pulled us off the pontoon by pulling along set ropes. In the silence of the caves we moved in the darkness with our eyes gazing upwards at the fluorescent ceiling. It was like looking at a thousand little milky ways - the starry sky on the clearest of nights in the country. It was breathtaking and everyone was sighing and oooing! It was amazing. For about 10 minutes we floated on the river below these creatures enjoying their light show. We loved it! It is in our top 5 things we’ve done or seen this trip. Can’t recommend highly enough to everyone.

No photography is allowed in the caves – hence no pics to share.

The rain stopped mid afternoon and a brilliant blue sky emerged for the rest of the day. I did the washing at the campground and all the visiting Victorians and Poms went swimming in the arctic pool. It is an extremely pretty area, but not much different to the rest of the place. New Zealand turned on another fabulous day. The rain – please go away!

Posted by petty1912 21:34 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Day Seventeen

Wanganui to New Plymouth

semi-overcast 18 °C
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Daylight savings start in New Zealand today. Now we are 3 hours ahead of what we would be back home. Losing the hour today was a bummer , but there was more light whilst camped at the motorpark before nightfall.
It was cool lastnight. The Wellington Rowing Club (juniors) are staying at the same camp ground as us. Wanganui is a big rowing city. They have a huge regatta in December. Rowing sheds dot the river banks here. The kids were up early for training. It was the girls who started early. The boys didn’t get in the river until after 7.30am. I spent sometime after breakfast watching them. Wanganui apparently doesn’t do Sundays. The market is held on Saturday and a majority of the shops are closed on Sunday. What to do then?

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Something that was open was the Chronicle Glass Studio. A glass blowing festival is currently being here. There are about 30 glass blowing artists that live and work in Wanganui. It is a drawcard for the enthusiast. Mum and I walked around the gallery and watched the artists at work. I was especially taken by a lady whom was making glass beads. I brought some too.

The city centre is basically one long street (Victoria Avenue) with two way slow moving traffic. A lot of the buildings are federation in style. One was dated 1875. The standout here is the gardens. They are everywhere – lots of hanging baskets also. The city is immaculate, so the floral displays are the icing on the cake. While it is an artist haven the vibe here isn’t over the top arty farty. It is a big country town. The river is definitely the lifeforce. After a long stroll around we headed off on what the two boys have been looking forward to see, a dome volcano. Mount Taranaki (also known as Mt Egmont) is in the Egmont National Park. The Mount is 2,518m high and is dormant. You can ski here in winter. It has been raining abit, so there is not much skiing going on.

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The Mount stands in the middle of a plain of sorts, in that it isn’t really flat but it is the most prominent feature. We drove up the Prembroke Road to the Egmont National Park carpark. There are a variety of walks that start there and some viewing platforms. The clouds moved in for the most part, but we got some stunning views. Nothing quite like this at home! The boys were very impressed. According to Maori legend, Mt Taranaki was banished to the West Coast from the Central Plateau after losing a battle with Tongariro for the heart of the pretty Mount Pihanga. Today is is a spiritual beacon for the Taranaki people. From where it stands is takes a commanding role in the regions geography and weather patterns. The region is full of nature reserves and the best way to explore is on foot. Maybe next time!

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Just over 40km away is the principal city of the Taranaki region, New Plymouth which will be our base for the night. This is the home of the only deep water port on the west coast of New Zealand. Dairy is a big industry here as well as oil, gas and other petrochemical industries. The district around here is renown for the gardens, floriculture and horticulture. Mum will go nuts with the camera again. Rain is forecast tomorrow so we are not sure how much exploring we will get to do before heading off to visit the Tongariro Nation Park and it's sights.

Posted by petty1912 11:48 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

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