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Published: January 14th 2020
Wellington, Capital of New ZealandYOU CAN CLICK ON ANY PHOTO TO ENLARGE IT - RECOMMENDED -
View of the city from Mt. Victoria
THEN GO BACK TO THE BLOG OR GO THROUGH THE 97 PHOTOS - CLICK ON NEXT OR PREVIOUS) IN THAT ENLARGED FORMAT. I PUT LOTS OF INFORMATION IN THE PHOTO CAPTIONS SO YOU CAN SKIP THE NARRATIVE, JUST LOOK AT THE ENLARGED PHOTOS AND CAPTIONS AND YOU'LL STILL GET MORE INFORMATION THAN YOU EVER WANTED. TO RETURN TO THE BLOG ENTRY, CLICK YOUR BACK BUTTON OR ON THE NAME OF THE BLOG - BELOW THE NUMBERS ON THE LEFT.
As you have probably figured out, these travel blogs are a way for Bernard and me to keep track of our adventures. I can't tell you how many times we've referred back to one of our 70+ travel blogs looking for various details, maps, dates, etc. That said, feel free to enjoy the photos and just skim or ignore the text.
For complete map of our driving route, see the last photo of this blog.
Sept. 30 - 3 hours Tucson-Houston; 5 hour Layover; 15 hours Houston-Auckland; 1 hour Layover Auckland; 1 hour Auckland-Wellington
Left Arizona Sept. 30 and arrived in Auckland, New Zealand Oct. 2; crossed the international dateline and lost a day.
Māori Ceremonial House
Te Papa also had cultural and natural history exhibits, all extremely well done
leaving Arizona we bought several jars of mesquite honey for friends in New Zealand. On the plane Bernie filled out our NZ custom entry form. In the section where it asked if we had any ‘animal products’ Bernie checked the 'no' box before reading all the way to the end where it specifically mentioned honey.
When you enter NZ they X-ray your bags and of course they spotted the honey. They asked why we hadn’t declared the it and honestly what could we say - stupidity, exhaustion after traveling for 23 hours, not reading carefully? Long story short after paying a $250.00 fine, we were running to catch our flight to Wellington.
October 2 - 4 Wellington
Arrived in Wellington 8 a.m., got our **
rental car and were at our hotel (QT Hotel - central/view of harbor) in about ½ hour. Our room wasn’t ready (no surprise) so we went to the National Museum Te Papa
(superb) which was just across the road from the hotel. **
Bernie took to driving on the left like a duck to water. I guess since we’ve driven on the left frequently and for a whole year (South
Scene from Battle of Gallipoli @Te Papa Museum
Te Papa, the National Museum, had a larger-than-life exhibit re: Battle of Gallipoli
Africa), it seemed natural to him.
Te Papa National Museum had well-done historical exhibits, an extensive larger-than-life visual display re: **
Gallipoli, naturally, lovely cultural displays, and also really nice natural history exhibits.
**The main purpose of the Gallipoli campaign was to end World War One quickly by creating a new war front that the Turks could not defend. The campaign took place between 25th April 1915 and 9th January 1916 and is considered to have been a great failure for the Allied Forces with 140,000 men killed or wounded.
New Zealand and Australian (ANZAC) troops supported British and French soldiers in an attempt to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula, in Turkey. Despite months of fighting, they were unsuccessful and many men died or were wounded. For New Zealand those numbers were 2,779 dead, 5,212 wounded for a total of 7,991 casualties. Allied troops pulled out in January 1916.
For a country whose population at the time was just over a million people, having almost 8,000 men killed or wounded in one campaign was devastating. Note
: I had a hard time finding the exact numbers of killed and wounded
The silver fern is the national symbol of New Zealand. The underside has a silver sheen that glows in the dark. Māori warriors used them to mark paths, particularly at night when battling the British.
at Gallipoli - many different sources had different numbers, but I choose the numbers that more than one source quoted.
When we got into our hotel room we had a short nap and although we could have slept MUCH longer, we forced ourselves to get our blood moving by going out for a walk. A cold southerly had blown in and it hailed (unusual) and the rain was sideways at times. That was our coldest day in our five-week visit. For the brunt of the storm we were in our lovely large and warm room overlooking the harbor. Our friend Andra had ‘shouted’ us (treated us to) our first night at the hotel.
For our next two days in Wellington, after sleeping like the dead for twelve hours, we did the tourist bits - exploring the downtown, walking along the harbor, driving to Victoria Peak
for the overlook of the city and to a nature preserve, Zealandia.
At Zealandia we saw many of the birds on my list that we didn't see the remainder of the trip, so in hindsight we were **chuffed we'd visited the beautiful preserve.
**British expression meaning to be pleased
Crownpoint near Masterton
Lovely day with Andra & Rebecca at Crownpoint. Typically blustery, this was a rare calm, clear day.
with something, often phrased as 'chuffed to bits.'
October 4 - 6 Masterton
Our friend **
Andra and daughter Rebecca were in Australia the week prior where Rebecca was competing in an equestrian competition (dressage). They arrived home (Masterson, 2 hours north of Wellington) a day before we arrived. We spent two days in Wellington and on Oct. 4 Andra met us at our hotel and we drove together to her home in Masterton. Andra had to meet with a client (she is a barrister) in Wellington that morning, so had taken the train in. **
In 2001 we moved to Leiden, The Netherlands for Bernie to earn a Masters in Public International Law - a year-long course. Andra was in the same program and we became friends immediately. Because Andra was working for the ICTR (International Court Tribunal/Rwanda), office of the prosector, in Arusha, Tanzania, and because she couldn’t be gone for a full year, she was granted permission to split the course. After six months in Leiden, she returned to Tanzania to resume her prosecution duties. At the end of 2002, Bernard and I moved to Bochum, Germany where Bernie went to work for the Institute for International
Rare White Kiwi
At the Pukaha Nature Reserve just outside of Masterton they have a rare white kiwi.
Law of Peace and Armed Conflict. In 2004 we returned to Leiden as Bernard had decided to do his Ph.D. under Professor Fischer, a favorite professor of his at Leiden (and also for whom he worked at the Institute in Germany). As happenstance would have it, Andra, with whom we’d remained in contact, was returning to Leiden to finish her Masters, but now she had a six-month old daughter, Rebecca, and her mother, Barbara, in tow. How lucky were we!!?? It was a fantastic year we had with our besties - the Mobberley Bunch.
We spent three lovely days with the Mobberleys on their 12 acres with 2 horses (sometimes 3 or 4), 3 sheep, 3 cats and one sweet dog. It is a lot to take care of but Graham, Andra's father, keeps everything ship-shape. Barbara is a marvelous cook and they are all interested, interesting and fun conversationalists.
Mostly we explored the area around Masterton, but one clear, sunny afternoon we took a drive to Crownpoint
for extraordinary views; did a nice hike to an overlook and enjoyed ice cream on the beach.
Just outside of Masterton the Pukaha
We'd said our good-byes to Andra as she left for work and after a lovely breakfast we said our good-byes to Rebecca, Barbara & Graham - what a sterling family who couldn't have made us feel more welcome.
Nature Reserve has a rare white kiwi, so we stopped for a couple of hours to enjoy the preserve and the many birds they showcase - not just the white kiwi. Have to say though, that kiwi was entertaining. They are nocturnal, so the enclosure is kept dark (hard to take photos). The keepers line the enclosure with fresh forest floor every day, so the kiwi is getting his natural, wild food. When we were there the female was hunting (and finding) food in a fast and furious manner - all over the enclosure with her beak kicking up dirt and debris in great amounts.
October 7 Napier
From Masterton we headed north to, ostensibly, Lake Taupo.
Graham (Mobberley) has a brother, Garry, and sister-in-law, Yvonne, in Lake Taupo and we were to overnight with them. On the way a dashboard warning light came on in our Avis rental car, so we stopped about halfway to Lake Taupo in Napier, Hawke Bay to see what needed to be done. Long story short (calls to Avis, roadside assistance, the Mazda dealer, back to Avis) they told us that the light was likely just not reset
after service in Wellington. We crossed our fingers that they are right as we were told to just ‘ignore’ it. Oooooookaaaaaay. You can be sure we got the names of everyone we talked to who insisted ‘we’d be just fine.’ Spoiler alert: we were.
So we found a lovely hotel right on the water (Seaview Hotel) and had a nice evening in Napier. The next day we drove through the wine country around Hawke Bay
before heading west/inland to Lake Taupo.
October 8 - 10 Lake Taupo
Lake Taupo is the largest lake on the North Island and geographically just about right in the middle of the island, in the thermally active area of NZ; fantastic views of the volcanos in **Tongariro National Park
(too snowy, windy, rainy on the day we wanted to go).
**Lord of the Rings/Hobbit Trivia: The Tongariro region was chosen for its barren rugged landscape and vast volcanic rock formations. Creators felt it was the ideal location to depict the fiery wrath of Mordor and Mount Doom. Whakapapa ski field was also used in the depiction Mordor.
We stayed with Garry & Yvonne one night
Orakei Korako Hotsprings
Lake Taupo and area around it is in the largest thermal area of NZ
- wonderful people, Yvonne made us a lovely dinner and they were great fun to talk to. Before Yvonne had some medical issues they ran an Airbnb, so were all set up for guests. They are both terrific people - you can see why they became Super Hosts within a very short time.
Garry had a medical procedure in Rotorua the next morning, so they left early. We packed up and set out to tour Lake Taupo before heading to Rotorua. Early in the afternoon Bernie checked his email and had received some exams from the university in Germay he lectures at (Viadrina University in Frankfurt Oder). The weather was turning nasty and we hadn’t seen as much of Lake Taupo as we wanted, so we took a motel room (Acacia View) right on the lake for another two nights. Bernie was able to get most of the exams graded before we headed north to Rotorua. Plus we got to enjoy some more relaxing mineral baths - a person can’t have too many of those.
Bernie worked on correcting his exams in the mornings and in the afternoons we got to explore the area.
Rare Two Horned Sheep - NOTHuka Falls
Our of Rotorua we visited the Agrodome for their show - what a hoot. Who knew there were so many different kinds of sheep? This Dorset sheep's horns have two full twists that make it look like it has two sets of horns.
is created when the Lake Taupo dam is opened - fun to be there when the flood gates open and the canyon becomes a raging river.
The nearby hot springs area of Orakei Korako
was wonderful. You have to take a boat across a lake to the area and then hike the loop trail back to the dock, taking as much time as you wanted. At the dock there was a bell to ring that summoned the boat back across the lake to fetch passengers. Worked perfectly.
My favorite day was at the Wairakei Terraces
thermal bathes, really, we went to other bathes and this was one of the nicest.
October 11 - 13 Rotorua
It is only about an hour from Lake Taupo to Rotorua, so we had a nice walk around the lake before heading out.
You can smell the rotten egg smell of the thermal springs in Rotorua before you reach the town. Seemed the odor waxed and waned, but mostly was quite bearable.
Our hotel (Sudima) was right on the lake and next to the Polynesian Spa,
In Rotorua we did a Māori cultural show with a visit after dinner to watch this geyser erupt - totally cool!
Rotorua Museum and Government Gardens - all beautiful. Plus we could walk to town on the path along the lake - very nice.
We did our one and only 'cultural evening' out of Rotorua. We booked at Te Puia
that started with a Māori show (Polynesian dancing, singing), a dinner (a luau of sorts), then a night visit to a Pohutu geyser
. All very entertaining and educational.
We also did our one and only agricultural show out of Rotorua - to the Agrodome Farm Show
- which we thoroughly enjoyed - who knew there were so many breeds of sheep and that they looked so different and their wool used for different products? The MC also did the sheep sheering demonstration and was very entertaining.
Another adventure was to the Redwood Tree Walk
- redwoods brought from California years and years ago thrive in the moist NZ climate. Because they grow so fast in NZ they are considered a soft wood unlike their counterpart in the USA, which grows super slowly and is a very hard wood.
Hobbiton aka The Shire/Near Matamata
We left Rotorua early as we
Hobbiton near Matamata
We had such a great time on our tour of Hobbiton aka The Shire, the permanent movie set for the Lord of the Rings series
were visiting Hobbiton on our way to Waihi. Bernard and I are both J.R.R. Tolkien fans and couldn't miss a visit to the movie set of The Hobbit
and the Lord of the Rings
trilogy. Hobbiton is literally in the middle of nowhere, set among green, rolling hills. When movie director Peter Jackson began to look for suitable locations for The Lord of the Rings film series, he first saw the Alexander Farm during an aerial search in 1998 and concluded that the area was "like a slice of ancient England.” Set decorator Alan Lee commented that the location's hills "looked as though Hobbits had already begun excavations.” Part of the site has a lake with a long arm that could double as a river.
The original set was not built to last, the hobbit hole facades having been constructed from untreated timber, ply and polystyrene and partially torn down after filming. In 2010, the set was rebuilt in a more permanent fashion for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,
filming for which began in 2011.
October 14 - Waihi
Just overnighted (Palm Motel) in Waihi on our way to Whitianga, the beginning of our
Not far from Whitianga is a lovely coast walk ending at Cathedral Cove
Coromandel Peninsula visit. It was windy and rainy, but our little motel room was snug; found a really nice Thai restaurant in town.
It had rained hard all night and the next morning we headed out into the clearing storm. We stopped at the Waihi Visitors Center/Mining Museum to learn that the road to our destination, Whitianga, was flooded and closed. We leisurely toured the museum as the visitor center folks had told us that this was pretty normal along the coast and at low tide the roads would likely clear. They did and we headed out.
We had several tense moments, however, at one point traffic police waved us through a large flooded area which we would NOT have done on our own. Fortunately while deep, it wasn't running water.
October 15 - 17 Whitianga
What a lovely town on a scenic beach - views of the many scattered islands and sheer bluffs. Since we were staying three days we got a 1-bedroom apartment (kitchen, patio, living room, laundry facilities) overlooking the ocean (Oceanside Motel). Many of the accommodations we booked had kitchens, or at the very least, a hot-plate.
Hot Water Beach near Whitianga
At low tide people dig into the thermals below the sand to create their personal hot tubs - insanely popular - restaurants in the area rent shovels; our hotel gave us one to us.
All of them had a kettle for coffe/tea making as well as a nice assortment of instant coffee, herb and regular tea and hot chocolate. We liked having a kitchen because typically we'd have our big meal out during the day, so in the evenings we'd make ourselves some eggs, grilled cheese sandwiches, etc.
We did a wonderful cliff walk to Cathedral Cove
and then drove to Hot Water Beach
. There are thermal pools under the sand and at low tide people take their shovels out and dig private spas to enjoy the warm waters until the tide comes back in. With so many beautiful, well-maintained thermal spas around, we decided we didn't need to 'dig' our own, although we did find a super café overlooking the beach and watch the fun.
October 18 - Waipu
Our accommodations for the night at Aurora B & B were just wonderful - huge room w/sliding glass doors opening up onto a patio with amazing views. Our hosts were full of information and advice about our continuing travels. We've found that in taking the locals' advice we've seldom been steered wrong.
In Waipu we
Easily accessible waterfall was no less beautiful for being in a city park
ate at the first of six NZ owned restaurants - spaced throughout the country. The one in Waipu was The Cove and we had a delicious lunch and met the Argentine couple who ran the café, which was right on a beautiful beach. We only managed to eat at four of the six restaurants.
October 19 Whangarei
We stayed right in town (Cheviot Park Motor Lodge). Let me take this opportunity to tell you about something all the accommodations in NZ have in common: when you check in, in addition to the key, they give you a bottle of fresh milk or cream. All the rooms have coffee and tea making stations complete with a kettle, teabags, instant coffee, etc. Very, very civilized. Many of the motels/hotels also have private spas - you get your own key to spa/hottub area and can lock others out. In several they had chilled beer mugs, cork-screws and wine glasses in the spa, plus a small frig.
NZ has so many waterfalls, but Whangarei Water Falls
in one of the most accessible - very nice outing. From the falls you can walk to Whangarei Tree Walk
Russell from town overlook - pretty steep walk from the town (so we drove)
didn't have the biggest Kauri trees, but was nice none-the-less.
A surprise to us was the Quarry Botanical Garden -
beautifully laid out and labelled, many routes to take through the various sections: succulents, rose garden, cactus, indigenous plants, etc.
October 20 - 24 Russell
We loved Russell!! At our hotel (Hananui Lodge) we had a 1-bedroom apartment with a patio overlooking the ocean. The town is small, old, quaint and quiet. We hadn't planned to stay four nights, but were glad we did. There were several 4-star restaurants in town - we enjoyed more fresh, delicious seafood.
From our hotel we booked an all-day Bay of Islands
Cruise - fun. This particular cruise offered boom-netting.
I know, what the heck is boom-netting? At the end of the cruise they crew put a net over the side of the boat and whoever wanted to jump into ice-cold water and then be dragged along and churned in said water, was welcome. I think you can guess that neither Bernard nor I wanted such 'fun.' The young people on board did, of course, and we had a blast watching them. One young
Bay of Island Cruise out of Russell
An all-day cruise that included boom netting - see side of boat where folks are loaded into a net, the the boat goes pretty darn fast to give them a thrill ride
lady jumped in and practically levitated out screaming "I can't do this!!" They didn't let her out; her friends dragged her back, but she didn't stay very long. They were all purple when the did get out; the crew had hot chocolate and blankets waiting.
We also did a bus trip to Cape Reinga
from Russell. The Cape isn't the northerly most tip of NZ, but it is the northern-most you can get to and is where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet. Before reaching the Cape we drove along 90-Mile Beach
, which is actually only 55 miles long. However long it is, it is spectacular. Buses and 4-wheel dive vehicles use the beach like a road; rented cars are not allowed. We also stopped for sand dune-surfing.
From Russell we took a ferry to walk around the bigger town of Paihai
for the day - lovely churches, shops, restaurants. In Paihai are the Waitangi Treaty Grounds
occupying a headland draped in lawns and bush - this is NZ's most significant historic site. Here, on 6 February 1840, after much discussion, the first 43 Māori chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi with
Cape Reinga Light House
Another trip we took out of Russell was up the top of the North Island. First we drove along 90-MIle beach and did some sand dune surfing - what a hoot
the British Crown; eventually, over 500 chiefs would sign it.
Drove to Mangonui via Kawakawa
to see the Hundertwasser toilets. Hundretwasser was a famous Austrian architect who designed these public toilets that are still functioning and well-maintained, if a bit strange. We also stopped in Kerikeri
to shop at the Old Stone Store built in the 1800s and have lunch at a nearby café. We then walked to Rainbow Falls
before continuing out journey.
October 25 - Mangonui
We had to spend a night (Old Oak Hotel) in Mangonui to have the best fish & ships in New Zealand - the entire country agrees that this place is the best. I think their secret is the freshness. The fish & chip shop juts out over the water where fishing boats pull up to deliver the fish. You have a choice of different firm white fish - not just cod.
On our way to Snells Beach we had to take a ferry at Kawene
. As I've mentioned, Bernie has never seen a ferry he didn't want to take. We also stopped at Waipoua Kauri Forest
for a walk to see the
All of NZ agrees that the best fish & chips is in the tiny town of Mangonui - we ate there twice and are converts.
giant tree named Tana Mahuta & other humongous Kauri trees.
October 26 - Snells Beach
We didn't have much time in Snells Beach (Snells Beach Motel), but it was a lovely town set on a beautiful beach. Unfortunately we arrived late and had to leave early.
On our drive to Mangawhai we stopped at the Kauri Museum
October 27 & 28 Mangawhai
We stayed at an Airbnb, The Quail’s Nest, in Mangawhai - very nice lady and we had a detached cottage to ourselves, although her little dog came over to visit frequently and was most welcome. I'd mentioned earlier finding a local chain of restaurants (all with 4-letter names) and we found another gem here - The Dune (The Quay, Fire and two others). We ate of our meals there!! The highlight of Mangawhai was a walk on the headlands - beautiful, sunny, warm day for a long stroll.
October 29 - Nov. 2 w/Helen in Auckland
Our last stop in New Zealand was to visit long-time friend Helen in Auckland. We met Helen and her family in Alaska in the 90s. Helen
You can barely see them, but those are people at the bottom of the photo being dwarfed by this huge Kauri tree known as Tana Mahuta
is originally from NZ and married Steve, who is an Alaskan. They had two children and lived for many years in Alaska. Life being life, Helen and the kids are now living in NZ; she remarried but sadly lost her beloved husband several years ago. It was fantastic to catch up with Helen whom we hadn't seen in 20 years!! The 'kids' are now adults, both are married and son Hayden has a daughter, Luna. What a delightful visit we had.
Helen took us on the ferry to Waiheke Island. Unfortunately we couldn't get a space on the car ferry, so didn't get to explore the island as one should. Having said that, we had an amazing meal and walked around the quaint town. Helen is still working so we explored downtown Auckland on our own, went to the aquarium and generally enjoyed this lovely city.
And so our five weeks on the **
North Island of New Zealand came to and end as we flew back to Arizona from Auckland. We were ready to be home, in our own bed, of course, but we'd had such a delightful time in New Zealand, it was
Highlight of our stay in Mangawhai was to spend the day on the Mangawhai Heads Beach walk. Wonderful tide pool discoveries as the tide was out.
bitter-sweet to leave. Have to say we hadn't missed all the political news - they definitely follow American politics, but it wasn't a constant barrage of Trump-isms. Don't get me wrong, they generally do NOT like him and were out-spoken about it, but it was refreshing to watch the local news where their ***
Prime Minister is well-liked, respected and has a high job approval rating. **
Our last visit, over 20 years ago, we spent the majority of our time on the South Island, trekking mostly as they have amazing tracks there, so this time because we are older and not as 'trekkie,' we decide to concentrate on the North Island where we have friends.
***Jacinda, their PM - they mostly refer to her by her first name 😊 DON'T FORGET TO LOOK AT THE PHOTOS BELOW (VERY BOTTOM, BELOW THE AD, OUR PROFILE, THE BLOG OPTIONS, NORTH AMERICA, TRVELBLOG AWARDS, TOP PHOTOS - YES, RIDICULOUS!!) AND GO TO THE OTHER PAGES - 5 TOTAL - (CLICK ON 'NEXT' AT BOTTOM OF EACH PAGE). BECAUSE OF A SNAFU UPGRADING MY MAC, I DID NOT HAVE ACCESS TO ALL MY NZ PHOTOS WHILE DOING THIS BLOG, THEREFORE
Our good friend Helen holding granddaughter Luna, son Hayden on left
I MAY ADD MORE PHOTOS LATER. THE PHOTOS IN THE BODY OF THE BLOG WERE PLACED TO BE NEAR THE TEXT THEY RELATED TO. FOR THE BELOW PHOTOS, THEY ARE IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER.
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