Published: May 14th 2012May 14th 2012
George (with commentary by Al)
On Monday we leave Devonport and go to Whitianga (pronounced Vitianga) (Actually pronounced Fitianga, Ed!). We arrive at the campsite 3 hours after we left. The campsite has a trampoline. The following day we go to a beach that has hot water in the sand. We dig a hole and then lie down in the hot water. On Wednesday we go to Coromandel Town. We go up the hill to an old Maori settlement but there are no tepees. Ruby runs off and we don’t know which direction she goes down. The next day we drive to a town called Rotorua which is over hot springs. The campsite is right by the lake and the geothermal activity in the area is apparent everywhere. The radiators in the mobile home are heated with thermal hot water; there are hot water pools and a steam oven for use by campers. There is also a hot water stream running down the side of the site, which is so hot there is steam rising off it. In the late afternoon we went for a walk along the lake side, and passed more steam rising up through the pavements.
we go to a “thermal wonderland” which is where there are very amazing things to do with thermal activity like green water. Wow! There is also a big geyser. The staff at the visitor centre ‘induce’ the geyser to erupt everyday by putting some (environmentally friendly) chemicals into the top. These cause the water below the surface to mix up and the super-heated water from deeper down rising up to the surface. It takes a few minutes, but then the geyser starts bubbling, gets more active and you can hear it rumbling. Then suddenly hot water shoots about 20 metres in the air. It really is spectacular. We then went for a walk around the thermal wonderland. There were craters caused by collapsing cave roofs (the most recent collapsed in 1968). The ‘Champagne Pool’ was a giant bubbling pool of boiling water, below a huge cloud of steam. The ‘Artist’s Pallet’ is a group of thermal geysers that cause colour variations on the rocks around them (yellow for sulphur, purple for manganese, red for iron). Everywhere you look as far as you can see steam is rising out of the ground – it is a very odd environment – you kind of expect dinosaurs to appear any minute. On the way out of the park we stopped to see the bubbling mud pool – very gloopy. On the way back we visited St. Faith’s church, a Maori decorated Anglian Church in Ohinemutu. In the afternoon we indulged a little in the Polynesian Spa in town. It has a family spa with a normal swimming pool and two pools fed by the hot springs. One is at 40o and the other at 37o – bliss. It did my lumbago the power of good!
Saturday arrives and we go to Wellington (the capital of NZ) for one night. It is a seven hour drive down the length of the North Island, over some really amazing scenery. The highlights included the volcanoes Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings films), and Ruapehu. There were so many places we wanted to stop but we have a busy schedule in New Zealand so we motored on. We arrived in Wellington in the late afternoon, at the central YHA. We unpacked and went for a walk around the city.
We go on a cable car. The cable car took us up a viewing point where we could see across the city and the bay.
The next morning we get on a ferry that takes us to the South Island. We stay in a campsite called Smith’s Farm which is the joint best place to stay on my list along with Archie and Louis’s place and being in Auckland with Matilda and Stanley. It’s very rainy here though. In the evening we go on a bumpy walk up to the waterfall and on the way we see glow worms! Wow. Today, Monday, we go to a town called Nelson. We go to an old house built in 1880 which was owned by a man called Edward Buxton. Ruby (with commentary by Carla
): After a drive to the Coromandel on Monday. The Coromandel Peninsula is named after a ship that once stopped at Coromandel Town for a few days. That gives you an idea of how under populated and relatively unvisited it feels there. Anything that happens must be a big event, including a ship turning up. The peninsula is similar in feel to some of the Welsh hills, including, of course, the sheep
. We have begun our self-catering part of the trip in earnest now so we stayed in a cabin on a lovely campsite. It was a really peaceful place as we’re now quite ‘out of season’ . This unseasonality also adds to the general ‘backwaterish’ feel of the whole area.
The following day we went to a hot bath beach. It is a beach that you dig a bath in the sand. The water was hot. The beach is actually called Hot Water Beach – well named I feel. The hot water comes from thermal springs under some parts of the sand. It was very popular, even in May and it was quite bizarre to see the crowd on the beach divided into people in bikinis and shorts and people in warm trousers, jumpers and overcoats. After enjoying that activity we visited Cathedral Cove where scenes from Prince Caspian the Movie were shot, much to George's delight. This bit of coast is spectacularly Cornish but perhaps even more dramatic. Al loved the geographical features such as the blow-holes and arches.
On Wednesday we drove up to the mountains to Coromandel Town. Stopping to admire some pigs in the road
.We saw a view, I went down
myself. George, Mummy and Dad were looking for me all over the place then they found me. Yes, we found her, as George neglected to mention above! After we’d all reached the top of the lookout with the Maori fortified village site on top Ruby was getting restless so I, rather stupidly, said she could start the downward walk before us. I had forgotten that the path divided in two halfway down. So when we reached this point we weren’t sure if she’d carried on to the bottom or taken the other path. Alex went one way and George and I the other, until we came upon a friendly jogger who told us he’d seen a little girl on the right path down to the street. He also went and collected Alex as he ran up the hill – what a kind man. This isn’t unusual in New Zealand though. People seem to be very kind, considerate and caring in general.
We went to the Mussel Kitchen, we had fish and chips. Alex also had the delicious Green-Lipped Mussels for which NZ is famous. More about them later
. The next day we drove to Rotorua and went on a walk
along the lake. We had heated swimming pools that were heated by the ground because hot mud was under the ground. On Friday we went to the Lady Knox Geyser in Wai-O-Tapu. We also saw hot water pools and bubbly mud. In the afternoon we went swimming in 3 warm pools. We went to the pub for tea. On Saturday we drove to Wellington. It was a long drive. We went on a cable car. The next day we went on the ferry to South Island. We went on a huge boat, it had a cinema, a kids’ playground, a lookout and a café. We got three whole hours on the ferry. We had an awesome time. The ferry trip on the Interislander was a treat in itself (as Julia had told us before we left the UK). The fjord-like geography of Marlborough Sounds was stunning despite the chilly wind and greying skies. Al and I braved the elements on the mis-named ‘sundeck’ and dragged George and Ruby up there occasionally despite their protests at being taken away from the delights below.
At our campsite we saw glow-worms. Smith’s Farm is a perfect campsite in my book. It’s on a minor road which provides an alternative link between the coastal towns of Picton and Nelson and is about 4 miles from the nearest anything which is Havelock, a backwater, both literally and metaphorically but it is also the Green-Lipped Mussel Capital of the World. I am lovin’ the peace and quiet. The farm is a proper one with cows, pig, goat and sheep. We liked Lula the pig as she provided a great way of disposing of our food scraps. And, as Ruby says, YES there are glow-worms to be seen. You have to climb up a rather slippery path to a waterfall but you are rewarded by a constellation of glow-worms on the way down (if you’ve timed it right). The lady at the campsite provided us with torches, set us on our way and requested that we tell her we were safely back, which was only slightly worrying. George said that he felt like he’d really been on an adventure after that walk.
On Monday we went to Broadgreen House. The man called Edward Buxton owned the house. We dressed up. I dressed up as a rich lady and George dressed up as a servant. We went to
Toys R Us. Broadgreen Historic House is in a suburb of Nelson. It’s about an hour or so’s drive from Havelock but we made the effort as the weather wasn’t being kind to us and we needed some indoorsy things to do. We were rewarded with a visit to a perfectly preserved colonial house which we had, along with the lovely volunteer lady, all to ourselves. Edward Buxton had apparently been rich enough in England to be able to pay for a replica of a Devon farmhouse to be built in the colony of Nelson. It was constructed using cob (a combination of horsehair and mud) an unusual building material amongst the timber houses of New Zealand. Walking into the house, with its Welsh floor tiles, wheel-back chairs, rag rugs and wood smoke smell felt strange in such a faraway country. A disorientating slice of Britain in the New World. After visiting here we looked around Nelson which has a mad cathedral which is part neo-gothic and part modernist built in horrid ‘plaster and ground-down marble’. Apparently this is an earthquake safety measure as big blocks of solid marble were felt to be too dangerous – fair point. It took from 1925 to 1965 to finish as they kept arguing about the design. And it really does look like a church built by a committee. Nelson also has some pretty stylish art-deco buildings though, nice coffee and cake shops and a tasty organic brewery (the Founders’ Brewery run by a 5th generation Nelson brewer, impressive. Al is very pleased to be finding some brilliant craft breweries here, another one was in Rotorua which even had ‘flat’ beer, hurrah.) – so it wins my vote despite its monstrous church. So all in all, New Zealand continues to impress and delight. Could do with a wee bit more sunshine, but we mustn’t grumble. Off to taste some wine in Marlborough / Blenheim tomorrow. It’s a hard life!
There are more photos below