Published: August 15th 2012August 15th 2012
Ann here. We've had connectivity issues and have changed blog sites so I will condense our arrival to and trip through the North Island to get caught up to date.
We left LA in evening darkness on the 2nd of August and arrived in Auckland in morning darkness on the 4th of August. Very strange indeed to have mislaid a day. I have been told we get it back on our return trip. By the way Air New Zealand does a great job of making the 12 hour flight comfortable.
We stayed in Auckland for two days of jet lag repair. After making our way to our hotel near the harbor we set out to find breakfast and make our minds and bodies switch time zones. Hiking up the highest hill in Auckland to go to the Auckland War Memorial Museum helped. Built to commemorate the death of 16,000 plus New Zealanders during WWI (out of maybe a million population at the time) it now also houses a fabulous collection of Maori artifacts and information about the influence of other island populations.
After two days of hiking and keeping a normal schedule we were officially sorted out, having
been able to sleep regular nights etc and we were ready to leave the city behind. Taking our little rented car out of Auckland was simple and we headed south through the center of the North Island on our way to Wellington. The NI has a volcanic center with mountains and much Yellowstone-like geo thermal activity. We passed many areas where fumerols of steam shrouded the surrounding bush. Our destination was Lake Taupo formed by a long ago volcanic explosion.
Lake Taupo's information center helped us find a little hotel on the lake, surrounded by cloud covered hills. The next day just before getting on the road we were told of a nearby volcanic eruption and possible route closure. The night before Philip, waiting in Nelson for us, joked that we had to dodge volcanoes on our route. The roads were open but it was the first time either us had driven through falling fresh volcanic ash. Luckily the ash cloud was wind blown away from our route, however pervasive low clouds kept us from seeing the volcano which is snow rimmed and usually visible from Taupo. What a varied landscape: lush steamy jungle and bush, to volcanic ash
fields and pine forests and next we drove through the high Rangipo desert. Our guide book said it was used largely for army training. We even spotted tanks lurking in the bush and a few army convoys. The stark and then lush magnificence of the landscape cannot be overstated.
Our stopover in Wellington area was at the home of friends Tim and Lana Sheppard whom we had not seen in more than 30 years. Lana was Peace Corps staff in Bahrain who, when staying with me in Muscat, was on the set the night John and I met. Tim met Lana in Baharain when he was posted to the New Zealand Embassy. We were treated to a home cooked Moroccan feast (Lana had also been in Morocco at the same time I was) in their crafts-filled home cantilevered into hills outside Wellington with the resulting magnificent views. (Tim's directions to their house included the words "goat track", "three point turn" and "don't give up".) A walk through their home was a stroll through the many wonderful places they had been posted (Paris to Papua New Guinea to name a few). After more hours of talk in the morning and
catching up on lives we headed down to Wellington and the ferry crossing to the South Island.
There are more photos below