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Round the World Journey

New Zealand

NEW ZEALAND | Friday, 19 January 2018 | Views [248]

The Virgin flight left late due to the non arrival of the Captain who was delayed on another incoming flight but once we left we made good speed to Auckland.  The forecast of showers underplayed the torrential downpour. With a 2 hours time difference kicking in it was past 11 before my tent past its bio security check and my super shuttle got me to Remeura Lodge which turned out to be just a shared house with more beds than there should have been for a place with 1 bathroom. Still accommodation in Auckland is expensive...

I got a taxi to the car rental firm back up the airport having arrived after hours - another  $40 but I enjoyed a walk through central Auckland which looked like a fairly modestination English town albeit with a pleasant waterfront. The brand new cathedral just consecrated has beautiful contemporary strain glass in additionew to a go thick style nave.

Mt Eden is a volcano so it was a bit odd walking up to the grassed summit. Alas I took a path to soon and ended up doing a long loop and back up the mountain to retrace my stips and find the car. The car was making funny noises so I fear I will have to get it checked out. I also enjoyed a drive to Mission Bay which overlooked a volcanic island, one of several in the Bay,  and oddly there are several volcanic hills dotting dispersed Auckland. The city is very diverse with many Asians in addition to Maoris. Alas an ex HTB friend Catherine Henshall had gonever to a different Mission Bay Cafe to me so sadly we missed each other 

I took the car back to the rental firm and was pleased to exchange it for an older model without squeaks. The road south was rapid so I decided to visit the shore bird sanctuary at Miranda. It was only 21 degrees at 10 am but burning. The 30 min walk was worth it as the coastal view of bird feeding was stunning. The road got better and better, despite long sections having been damaged by recent storms and tides,  as it twisted towards the Coromandel Peninsula. So many beautiful bays - my campsite at Aurora Bay. I set up camp and drove as far as the tarmac would take me enjoying priceless vistas.

It rained in the morning but I managed to get the worst of the wet off my tent. I must have taken a wrong turning somewhere since the journey to Rotaura took 4-5 hours rather than 3. I did stop from time to time to take photos of the beautiful green countryside and odd rock outcrop which makes up middle Kingdom. Rotaura has a beautiful Edwardian house and gardens complete with bowling greens.  So quiet and English. St Faiths is a curious hybrid Maori Christian church at the edge of a settlement but was sadly just closed. Kuiara park had geysers and boiling mud pools scattered around. The rain continues on and off and more is forecast. 

The rain wasn't so bad in the end - started around 5 or so in the morning. Once it had stopped I popped over to the redwood forest planted early 20th century and had a nice stroll. The redwoods are huge but mingle with shorter black ferns. 

I turned off my smartphonemail but the journey to Lake Taupo was straight forward enough, passing the occasion geyser cloud but I decided not to fork outhe  $40 or more to visit a thermal site or Maori village.  Instead I enjoyed Taupo museum with its huge Maori canoe and other items and a spa in my campsite. I confidently pitched my tent with better weather forecast so was shocked by a torrential downpour around 8pm. Will he surprised if my tent is dry inside.. 

Amazingly the tent was dry and I set off early to Waitomo glowworm cave which washould worth the  $50 entry for the boat ride in the dark to see the thousands of glowworms that brought light in the darkness. There were other caves but I didn't fancy paying anymore and set off instead to the Hobbit film location, one of several, that showcased startlingly jagged karst mountaint cliffs. There was also another pretty impressive waterfall reached via a rainforest walk.

I had driven over 150km to reach Waitomo and more to the limestone mountains. I had to take the same route back and another 100km to Napier through ever sparser and remote scenery passing just the odd town. Napier was destroyed by an earthquake in 1931 but has retained and restored some impressive art deco buildings.  It is a pleasant enough place evenue if the beach closest to the port is stony. Huge timber trucks stockpiled huge loads for China no doubt .

Another decent campsite for a tenner or so and I was on my way for 200m to Wellington. The best of my stops was to see an albino kiwi in a bird sanctuary en route alongside other unfamiliar bits like koka, tui and parrots. Wasn't that taken by built up Wellington but maybe that was because I was tired after such a long drive.

I spent two nights at the campsite 30 km outside town. The sights were ok, particularly the botanical gardens and the Temple Papa museum with an interesting display on the impact of settlement on the flora and fauna, but I enjoyed unexpectedly a free 50.50 Wellington versus Northern District cricket match. 

Early start tomorrow check in for the ferry at 7 and a 3.5hr crossing which was smooth with lovely views of the inlet and bays. The drive to Kaikura was only 100M but took longer than expected due to roadworks repairs after the 2016 earthquake. Particularly enjoyed seeing seal colonies just outside Kaikura. Another good campsite for a tenner and all facilities by the beach. 

The next morning I did part of the famed coastal path route buy whilst the scenery was great did not see more than a couple of distant fins. The drive further south to Akaroa  was however blessed and I soon saw dozens of dolphins, some doing somersaults and others greato leaps, from the shore. Akraoa was 70km further on from Christchurch with quite a few roadworks caused by the 2016 earthquake. But it was worth it. The peninsula is among the most beautiful areas I have seen. Akraoa has a mixed French and English heritage with lovely views of the harbour. My campsite a village along was also spectacular facing another cove.

The longest drive of all 450 km to Dunedin but pleasant if hot views as temperatures in some parts reached 40 degrees.  I enjoyed Aomora in particular meeting a cultivated craftsman who had travelled in China and who was interested in Japan. I gave him my book on Lost Japan by Alex Kerr. He told me about Sr Andrews a beautiful arts and crafts church just up the road is popped into. The town itself is also beautiful with several grand churches and restored victorian buildings.

Dunedin has Scottish connections with several fine churches and an excellent art gallery which has a great collection including Japanese works. I didn't linger too long and headed to Otago Peninsula where I saw albatrosses and seals, and could have seen more penguins if I had coughed up.  T athe views were fine but in the night the cyclone rain started leaving some mess due to the high tide. By then I was en route back to the boulders on the beach at Moeaki. Another long drive through incessant and heavy rain to Cromwell and a muddy patch of a campsite.  With tent still wet a night in the car beckons.  Great views enot route,  lakes , granite outcrops and former gold mining towns. Alas each small village seems to have a lodge and few residents remaining. 

I left at 7 and enjoyed the drive to Queenstown on the lake past snow clad peaks and vineyards. I treated myself to sleep a boat cruise after breakfast and enjoyed a relaxing hour or so. Alas the Remarkable were covered in cloud (up to 7500m) but the visible scenery was good enough. After lunch, another 50km along the lake to beautiful Glenorchy and the rough to Paradise.  Stunning campsite too overlooked by more snowcapped mountains. I discovered on the evening news that I had just missed flooding in Dunedin and felled trees on the road to Cromwell! Blessed!

It was another 150km to Lake Manapouri and my campsite which was a colourful, characterful place with nice wood cabins and a collection of morris minors. I chose here to get to Milford Sound, another 120km on. I booked the cheapest boat trip at 9am which was still $45. The drive as the sun began to rise was enjoyable and I picked up a swiss/ French couple.  The Sound, actually a fiord was beautiful with brooding,  high cliffs, dense tropical cover and snow capped peaks. The highlight was the pod of dolphins speeding it's way out to see. But there were also seals and in the way there a close encounter with a rare mountain parrot or kea who hopped to each stopped car and from there onto the car roof. Perhaps too inquisitive and friendly for the species own good.

Another night at the campsite before driving to Wanaka via Queenstown.  I stopped at charming Arrowtown where I chatted with 2 longterm the kiwi Japanese ladies running a fast food van. They seemed to be enjoying the freedom and beauty of the place.  In Wanaka I met up with Charlotte Yates and stayed for 3 night in her sister's comfortable bungalow just on the outskirts. Highlights included a mega comfy bed, a walk along 5the river clutha and a stunning walk up Rob Roy Peak to see a glacier with several ice water waterfalls in sight. Stunning. 

2 70km on to Fox Glacier along stunning route 6. Signs of the recent cyclone bit stunning views all the long from cliffs and coasts,  to wetlands and tropI called forests. Sadly Fox Glacier park was closed due to tree damage but the walk around Lake Matheson was as good as promised. Mt Cook with its snow peaks was covered by mist so I came back the following morning and was rewarded for my 7 am start with mist rising over the water and beautiful reflections up to Mt Cook.

It was a good 300 KM drive day but several good stops and numerous lakes. The stops included turquoise blue Hokitika Gorge and the pancake layered rocks and blow holes at at Punakaiki. Hothe again but rain during the night that woke me up in the tent at the caravan park at Westport.  By 7 am the rain was truly torrential with no sign of abating but it did later thankfully after a lively and uplifting church service. Another days driving up to Picton and a stop by the Bay close to the car ferry over to Wellington. I hadn't persuaded Charlotte to come to the cricket and I narrowly missed $50 000 by dropping a catch miles up in the stand as New Zealand beat England.

A couple of nights at the same campsite 30 km outside of town close to wine land or one of them, and I set off again for the monster driver to the Bay of Islands. 850km and a full day but I made it to camp by a beautiful coastline in striKing distance of Pahia and Russell. Russell is one of the older settlementsand very pretty. I enjoyed close up sight of dolphins in a cruise and an island walk spotting a few reintroduced birds. But it was also good to see Waitangi,  the spiritual heart of New Zealand and site of the much revoked Treatype between the Maori and British. A sad history but a vibrant Maori cultural show complete with war dance, haha and singing with Christian prayer. An odd juxtaposition.

I broke the journey back to Auckland by camping a coutlets of hours down the coast. The Saturday drive back into Auckland was thankfully quiet and I even had time to purchase a new specsavers pair of frames before meeting up with Charlotte and killing a few hours on the coast before taking back my trusty hired car which had completed 7800 miles with me, and heading off to the airport for the hour flight down to Christchurch. Christchurch is pleasant enough even if the central part still seems surprisingly flattened 6 years on from the terrible earthquake that took 185 lives. The transitional cathedral is more than that,  a colourful Toblerone like structure hosting an afternoon concert when I arrived. The botanical gardens are beautiful and extensive and I enjoyed the band playing numbered in the sunshine.  The 27 degrees heat again felt more like 37 due to the high uv so I was pleased to take sanctuary in the art gallery and very impressive city museum. I also took a bus ride to Lyllttleton which had also suffered. A busy port overlooked by high green hills and full of coffee shops. The campsite however was too close to the airport and road so was noisy. With cyclone rains looming I decided to book a hotel on the other side of town and took an uber with a Sri Lankan who had moved from Barking. The hotel was non descript and the Chinese guy next door managed to disturb my sleep with loud phonecalls and obnoxious noises, but it was close to a convenient bus to the airport. 


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