Published: December 1st 2008December 1st 2008
Wellington Public Art
Wellington has a lot of public art scattered about. Some of it has clearly been controversial but, for people like me, who could never be described as arty, most of it is pretty good and really adds to the city. This one is a representation of the 2 Islands. I will leave it to you to figure out which is which
The people we spoke to on the South Island were unanimous in their view that the North Island was there but it wasn’t really up to much. One lady told us that really the best plan was to get off the ferry in Wellington and go straight to the Bay of Islands - probably trying to ignore Auckland as you go through I suspect. Even then, so we were told, the Bay of Islands is really just full of Aucklanders trying to act like they have been fishing all of their lives.
After considerable thought, analysis and discussion we have concluded that those South Islanders are right - but only to some extent. Put it this way. If we disappear off the face of the earth and if there are people out there who want to find us then they could do worse than have a bit of a poke around the Bay of Islands, particularly in one of those nice, private bays. The ones protected by the headlands and the islands further out, where you can catch your bag limit with relative ease, run the kayak around the other islands and chat - should you feel the need -
More Public Art
Not absolutely sure what this is to represent. An apple? Leaves? Breakfast? Anyway it looks good
to the friendly and laid back locals. Nice high cliffs, interesting rocks - there will be photos later (of course) - and still bushy enough so that one doesn’t become overwhelmed with people.
Back to the Bay of Islands later. I can’t recall whether we put in a report on Wellington in the last post but, just in case, I will report that the rumours about wind are all true. Understated in fact. And when it isn’t a howling gale that is moving things around, the earth moves. We didn’t actually feel an earthquake but, given the amount they are reputed to have, it seems likely that one was about. We were told that they are overdue for the next Big One - bit like Darwin and its need for a cyclone every 30 or so years. Wellington has had a few big ones that, impressively, have actually lifted large areas of land out of the sea.
Spent a couple of nights in Wellington in a van park that was more accurately the car park of a motel. Not bad though. They had a bar. Watched the cricket and met some very nice people who have just bought
Public Art Plus
Our intrepid photographer has managed to get a bit of 3 things in this. Public art in the mixed up letters in the top right - they spell out the name of the insurance company whose building used to sit here, the building which is an example of something that I have completely forgotten - but there are a lot of them about - and an old guy
a place in Scotland with many, many distilleries in what sounds like walking distance. The cricket went well, the All Blacks beat Wales the next morning - but I was watching with a Welshman and he was beginning to weep by the end. Of course, the Kiwis beat the Kangaroos in Rugby League and a number of people have reminded me of this along the way. I didn’t get to see the game but, from the reports it sounds as if the Australians simply didn’t come to play. A little arrogant?
We did our first real museum in Wellington - Te Papa. Interesting and certainly worth the visit, perhaps more than the afternoon that we gave it. It was interesting to read the English version and the translated Maori version of the Treaty of Waitangi. I have read the English version before and thought that it was pretty unequivocal in the rights that it was to protect for the Maori but, the Maori version is even less equivocal. The translator seems to have had some difficulty with the use of the word ‘sovereignty’ and the way it was translated for the Maori signatories doesn’t accord with my memory of
The Beehive just doesn't fit in with the architecture of the rest of the building. Might be good somewhere else. We heard some good suggestions
the meaning of the term. I guess that it didn’t matter though. The pakeha - NZ for whitefellas - simply ignored the Treaty for as long as they could get away with it.
The weather report on the day we were to leave Wellington was basically rain or showers along with wind just about everywhere. Our resolve to follow the sun was stymied before it really got underway. We headed north, basically because that is the only direction that you can sensibly go from Wellington without taking a ferry.
The country is different from the South Island. The mountains don’t seem to be as high, or at least they are not as obvious, until you get into the volcano area. We had decided to drive up towards Rotorua, which is about half way up - to get technical for a moment - the North Island. Drove through some country which was different to the South Island. No massive irrigators, perhaps less sheep, less of the velvet hills and less of the snow capped mountains. They were still there, but in the distance. The country was a bit more like the North Coast of NSW but in the middle
This is either the largest or the second largest building in the world entirely constructed from wood. It is now the University Law School but used to house the Parliament.
of a very good season.
We climbed up towards a national park on highway 1.
And just a note here on the highways and road network. For those who remember, highway 1 here is reminiscent of highway 31 in Australia 30 or perhaps even 40 years ago. Remember the Hume Highway? Skinny, not much in the way of divided roads, short passing lanes (were there are passing lanes) and aggressive drivers. My theory is that roads such as this generate aggression in drivers. If you don’t pass when you can you may be stuck behind this clown for miles so you go for it. Maybe take a little risk. That sort of thing. My theory, which has been in place for many years is supported by the fact that divided roads lead to intense boredom on the part of many drivers, which leads in turn to sleeping at the wheel. Hence the increase in accidents as a result of drowsiness. I don’t have any empirical evidence for this but I am sure that some must exist for something so obvious.
Anyway, that is a long way of letting you know that there are NZ drivers who are
Power lines tramping across the desert. Looked just a little spooky. A lot of NZ is set up for weird movies.
aggressive. I have been known to go quickly in certain circumstances but I am normally relatively law abiding. No more than 10 kph over the limit most of the time. Not here. 110 in 100 area and they are still up my backside. Sorted them out a bit at 120 but then the little Hippie Camper didn’t seem totally comfortable at that speed. Same in towns. 50 kph limit. And past roadworks 30 kph limit. No one seems to worry too much. So I have decided to help them all out. Everyone behind me now observes the limit!
While I am on roads another small digression. Road signs. Not the ones we talked about in the last post. These are the ads that they put up about drink driving and such. We have started to pay attention to them (not about the drink driving - just the signs). None of this ‘Don’t Drink and Drive’ stuff. We were talking to a couple of women from USA the other day and they were really taken with them. They loved the sense of humour. Not too much different to the ones you see in Australia but they take it a bit
There are three volcanoes in a line here. All are active, although not actually erupting at this very moment. As you can see the power lines are also present as is the snow. There is a large Army training facility around this area
further here and there are a lot more of them. ‘Be a Good Friend - Send Your Mates Home with Your Wife’. ‘Drink and Drive - Die in a Ditch’. ‘Slow Da Flow’. ‘Alcohol + Speed = Dead Ahead”.
Now where were we? Heading up the mountains on Highway 1 into a place they called the ‘desert’. Some guffawing in the camper. What do they know about deserts? Only sand they have is on the beaches (even though that has been pretty much all black sand so far). And it rains everywhere most of the time. The place is a series of different hues of green.
Well they do have a desert. We have a series of volcanoes most of which have been active in the relatively recent past - in volcano time. The country surrounding the volcanoes seems to be of low fertility and supports just the red tussock that seems to have been removed in most other more arable areas. We are not talking about an insignificant area here. It took an hour or two to drive through - so probably a bit less than the distance from Darwin to Hayes Creek (for those who appreciate
Tokaanu area. Thermal pool but not one the you go into willingly. It was a cool day but the water was very hot. (I was able to get a hand in)
that type of scale). I should mention that, being NZ, their desert may be brown and rough, but it still has running water in the streams and most of the ground has good cover. No need to take things to extremes.
The thermal activity of the mountains is reflected as you come down out of the mountainous area through the bubbling of the ground in various places. We knew we had to tick off Rotorua as one of the major tourism icons but we were not terribly keen to get into, what we assumed would be, the up-market - or at least expensive - operations that might be expected there. We had been told that there were places on the way to Rotorua that had thermal springs and such but without so many people. Found a couple of such places.
I should mention here that this place is literally bubbling with thermal activity. It used to be known as the Valley of the Geysers. They have now changed that to the Thermal Valley. The geo-thermal power station took out a lot of the pressure but there is still enough to create some interesting sights.
People we had
Waitangi River - Hoku Falls
This is the beginning of the largest river in NZ. It is actually breaking free of the lake in which it starts through a cut in the stone that it has made itself. A lot of water and going fast.
met in Wellington recommended Tokaanu as a place where we could get into a thermal pool without much stress and their advice was very good. We stayed in a motel/camping area that had its own thermal pool and hot mineral pool. I am not well convinced of the therapeutic value of such pools but we certainly slept well that night. Interestingly, walking around the small town we found that hot air or steam was bubbling out of all sorts of places - road culverts, holes in backyards, gutters, table drains. A little eerie.
The local commercial baths were situated in an area of obviously high activity. In a walk around their area we were able to watch ground bubbling. It seems that the steam is used for all sorts of mundane activities like heating houses and providing hot water.
The drive further down to Rotorua took us past a number of places where we could also look at the effect of the thermal activity and some of the photos show some of the effects.
By the time we hit Rotorua we were pretty much over bubbling mud and hot springs but then, there really isn’t that much
She looked nice so I decided she could come along
to get that excited about with such things unless you are a geologist or keen on health benefits of such things. There are a lot of other things to do in Rotorua. The Kiwis have clearly decided that there is a lot of value in building on the pull of a natural attraction with all sorts of other activities, normally adventure type activities. There was a luge track - where you could easily control the pace of your descent—kayaking, bungy jumping etc etc. We gave more than a moment’s thought to having a go at the luge but we arrived in the rain and the next day was worse. It was definitely a day for something indoors and the only real option was a museum so we moved on.
Left Rotorua late. Had to get onto the net and sort a few things out. Found an excellent place in the middle of town which was both a backpackers and internet café with a fax machine. Bloke there had a need for a pretty detailed discussion about the recent Rugby League World Cup final. We got on pretty well after I expressed the view that Reuben Wiki was one of
Craters of the Moon
Lot of steam. Used to be a sheep paddock. Now they just fleece tourists (not really but it was too good a line to miss)
the greats of the game. Turned out he was some sort of cousin.
Hit the coast at Waihi and camped with a view of the ocean along a rough beach. This is in the Bay of Plenty area. Nice place. A lot of holiday homes or possibly retirement homes here. We did not swim, although there were people who were doing so. The little heater in our camper was still - is still - getting a work out every night.
Our impression of the Bay of Plenty was that it was becoming a bit same old, same old. In fact, the North Island so far, with some clear exceptions, is similar to the coast of NSW and Southern Queensland. There may be more hills but the vegetation is similar and the mountains are not as sharp (a technical term used by geologists and the navigator on this trip) as they are in the South Island.
While I am on differences between the North and South Island I should mention place names. Where in the South we were a little bemused at the names from Scotland, Wales and Ireland and the relatively few Maori names, except for the
Craters of the Moon 2
We have a video of this one. It was fairly howling out of the hole in the ground.
major things that have reverted - Mt Cook for instance is now Aoraki. The situation in the North Island is such that the use of a British name is more of a surprise. Certainly, most of the major places seem to have retained their original names.
There is, of course, a much stronger Maori presence on the North Island and, in some of the towns we have been through, non-Maori people appear to be a minority.
The highway from the Bay of Plenty into Auckland was something not approached with relish. We would have avoided Auckland, at this stage, altogether if possible but the place spreads across the whole Island. The motorway starts 45km outside Auckland and it took us straight through. The NavLady just kept telling me to ‘stay to the right’. I did and we made it with absolutely no difficulty. I am sure though that the horror stories we have heard about Auckland traffic will bite at some point.
Enough of these motorways and back to the back roads. The NavLady and Patricia conspired to find a 75km stretch of winding road, some sealed and some unsealed, to take us to a spot that
The police station at Tauranga. Interesting architecture
looked promising. Gravel roads here are called ‘shingle’. Really they are gravel with some blue metal on them. Reasonable roads in the most part and well maintained, although the slips are an issue - whether they are above or below.
Otemura Bay in Whananaki North was, after our long drive, a beautiful spot. Nice protected beach, almost deserted camping area and friendly locals. We considered staying there for a few days but, by this time, we were becoming more keen to try out kayaking and there were none about for hire. Apparently an excellent place for fishing but we haven’t been doing that on this trip. We did find what we were told is the longest foot bridge in the Southern Hemisphere - from Whananaki North (where the school and store is) to Whananaki South (where some of the people live). Didn’t really hold our attention for too long though and we moved on.
On to the Bay of Islands proper and Paihi. We camped between Paihi and Opua in a little bay at a van park that was very nicely set up. Most of the van parks are well set up of course. I have to say
Bowen Beach - Waihi
The sun was out - more or less - but the beach was still pretty wild
that they do this sort of thing generally better than Australia. Most of the camping areas have well appointed camp kitchens and good clean facilities. We have met one surly individual at one place but that is not a bad rate on the friendliness scale. This camp was right on the water.
Paihi is a proper tourist town with all of the standard things, but not too big and not ugly, yet. That will come in time I suspect. It also has kayaks for hire. I should point out that these particular items are for hire in most parts of the very extensive NZ coast, the difference here being that the sun was shining and that it was more than 20 degrees. The thought of getting that close to the water was not a major worry.
We decided that for our very first experience in a kayak we would take a guided tour. This would allow us to receive a little basic instruction in the way the things work - although that all seemed pretty obvious - and, more importantly, it would ensure that there would be someone around who could get us out of any trouble that
Pretty much on our own here
we found. Our guide was Dan - been doing this since he was 13, 10 years ago. He knew his stuff. He did tell us that double kayaks are known as divorce boats. We found out soon enough why.
The front person paddles and sets the rhythm of the paddling. The rear seated person - who is generally the stronger person - steers using a foot operated rudder and also paddles in time with the person in the front seat. Things become a little messy when the two are out of time (editor’s note: this should read, ‘…when the person behind gets out of time…’). Water is splashed, paddles clip each other, the kayak goes less quickly and there is considerably more abuse than otherwise. There is an increase in tension when the person in the front seat decides to direct the steering of the kayak by pointing out that we are within 100 meters of a rock or that we are about to be run down by a boat that is miles away, just for instance.
I thought that for our first time we did reasonably well. We kept up with the rest of the group, more
Hundertwasser designed this public toilet in a place that I have forgotten at the moment. I was going to take some photos inside but the logisitics beat me
or less - they did have a chance to have some pretty good chats while they were waiting for us once or twice (but that was really just facilitating friendships on our part). We did not turn the kayak over and we made it to the end. We also were able to have a close look at some of the islands in the Bay and to poke around the rocks. This was fun. The half dozen people in the group weren’t that much better than us that we were totally embarrassed and we did make a couple of very skillful - almost professional - landings. We will do it again.
In fact, we were going to do it again the very next morning but we had forgotten that the sunshine ration had been utilised. Rain and wind the next day. What to do but go for a nice long walk. It wasn’t actually pouring when we set out around track along and among the cliff tops, although it had been and it was clearly going to do so again. This did not worry us. Pat’s nice new Gore-Tex had been tested in wind and some rain but not the
Bay of Islands
Photo doesn't really do it justice
good, solid drenching stuff so she was keen to give it a go.
The decision was to walk from the camp to the place where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed. Not sure of the distance involved but there were five headlands, with associated bays and beaches, although not very large ones. Two of the bays held bits of the town of Paihi. There was not too much rain on the walk to the Treaty Grounds, a walk of about 3 hours.
Interesting - for us (or probably for me really) - is that the area where the Treaty was signed was actually bought by a Governor General of NZ and donated to the country after the government had been offered the land and had shown no interest. The GG was Bledisloe, after whom the Bledisloe Cup is known. I now appreciate why Kiwis, and some Maori in particular, took a dim view some years ago when an Australian proposed that the trophy be given a ‘better’ name. This bloke gave something of real value to the nation at a time when the government was still denying that the Treaty was of much relevance and I would punt
Another Interesting Rock
We need to bring a geologist along to answer questions
that Maori, particularly, would hold him in high esteem.
While keen to see where it all happened we were not all that keen to get into the folderol that goes with such places. It turned out to be worth the visit. We turned up just as a cultural display was about to start and decided to pay the additional and go in. We were the only people there and were made to feel special by the performers. They were just doing what they do I suppose but they did it very well and told a good story, and their music was fantastic.
We spent a couple of hours wandering around the area - a very large waka (Maori war canoe) and the stump of the kauri tree that it had been made from, the house that the first resident lived in, flag poles, gardens and trees planted by assorted English lords. As I said, worth a visit. We did note that NZ citizens don’t have to pay, and this is probably reasonable, but it does mean that everyone else pays more to keep the place going.
By the time we left, the rain that had been on
They are into occupational health and safety here. The chopper comes in with buses full of people all over the place.
and off all day had really set in. Nothing daunted we decided to walk back. No other option really. There was a local mini bus that we had seen about but it was nowhere in evidence. How wet can you get anyway? Well, very wet actually and cold. Our waterproofs worked well and my hat worked very well - let us hear it for Akubra. We did have to make a decision whether to make a detour into a pub until the rain stopped. In the end we decided that it would be more sensible to get back to the camp and warm up rather than sit in a pub freezing and wet waiting for the rain to stop. We made it most of the way back by the beaches with only one short detour around a headland - until the headland just before the camp. Then the tide was in too far and we had to climb up and over, possibly the highest headland. Wet, slippery, steep and seemed to be a lot skinnier than it had been earlier.
Made it back though and after a warm shower, warm clothes and the little heater going flat out we
But not so happy when we realised we had to go up and over the headland - the last one!
were feeling very good about having walked for over 6 hours in crook-ish conditions without damaging anything.
Tips for Travellers
As a service to those who may need this advice we offer the following tips from our own experience:
Washers/Driers - in camp laundries you will typically find washing machines and drying machines. Most of the washing machines load from the top - unlike the one we have at home. Don’t pile your dirty laundry and your washing powder into a drier by mistake. You will have a very difficult time getting the washing powder out and undergo some embarrasment as others just shake their heads.
Washers/Driyers 2 - Some laundries have 2 dryers on top of one another. The controls are located between the two. There is only one slot for money but two sets of controls. Be sure you pick the set of controls for the dryer into which you have loaded your laundry, particularly when you only have the change for one load.