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February 7th 2011
Published: March 7th 2011
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Pink sheep at Sheep WorldPink sheep at Sheep WorldPink sheep at Sheep World

No, we don't know why.
(07/03/11 we are finally back in the land of internet access and able to upload stuff, should be a few blogs arriving over the next couple of days to get us back up to date.)

A short break in proceedings (21-31/01/2011)

Second time lucky! We landed at Auckland airport four hours later than expected and, with no chance of picking up our hire car until the following morning, checked into a local motel for the night. Once again we seemed to have brought our lovely British weather with us, mist and heavy drizzle accompanied us to the shuttle bus and was still present the next morning when we set off towards the Bay of Islands. By the time we reached Wellsford the rain was torrential and the wind was buffeting us, the decision to leave the tandem in Aus was purely financial (we'd have been hammered for excess baggage charges on this flight) but it was looking more sensible by the minute. We took the gravel road from Kawakawa, not sure why I decided that was a good idea, I think I remembered it being fairly smooth and quite short, it was neither one nor the other and we bounced around on an increasingly steep and pitted road with rivers of rain running across it. If anything the descent to Kempthorne Road was even more scary but our Nissan Sunny shook and rattled it's way through and we reached the tarmac safely, soon arriving at Jack's Bay where Julie had a houseful of guests, some old friends and some we'd never met before. Billie (our niece) wasn't about as she was at a pool party and sleepover, so somewhere in Russell was a house with six 7 year old girls and party food in it, fortunately we were 17km away and therefore out of earshot.
Because of the number of guests Julie had we were billeted at Trish's house which has the best view of the bay. We quickly unpacked the car then spent ages just staring at the bay from the deck of the house before remembering we were supposed to be at a 40th birthday BBQ and nipping back down the hill to join the celebrations. The rain was relentless all evening and by the time we wended our way back up the hill the wind had built to a full scale gale, we crawled into bed and fell asleep to the sounds of the storm raging around us.
The next morning the wind had dropped but it was still raining heavily, Julie and Neil had gone to Russell to collect Billie and when they returned they told us that the sea was across the road in a number of places. Billie had the look of a child who'd been to a sleepover but who also had guests to monopolise, tired and excited in equal measure. Aunty Amanda got dragged into playing games, all with flexible rules, designed to ensure a win for the youngest contestant. Aunty Clare and Uncle Vernon managed to avoid such Machiavellian efforts and absorbed tea instead. The rain eased enough for us to walk across the bay later but then dug in again for another wet night.
The rain disappeared overnight and the next couple of days were warm and sunny, we visited Kerikeri and Russell, driving around the remains of landslides and other storm damage on the way. The water in Jack's Bay was very muddy and had a lot of debris in it but we managed a couple of swims whilst smirking at the latest acquisitions of the resident rich bloke (a floating trampoline which I don't remember from last time and way too many jet-skis), the land-sea car wasn't in evidence though, hopefully it sank somewhere. We made the mistake of swimming at low tide one day, those of you who aren't my family and have no idea what the significance of this is will just have to imagine the feeling of undersea mud squelching between your toes; we got it right the next day and had sand to walk on instead.

Once we were sure the roads south were open again we said our goodbyes and headed off to the Coromandel Peninsula which is a part of NZ we had never visited before. We had a room booked at Black Jack Backpackers in Kuaotunu, on the north west of the peninsula, we took the very winding coast road from Thames, taking it slowly around all the tight bends and pulling over regularly to let the local traffic past. We finally reached the backpackers about an hour later than expected and Carl showed us around the house and gardens, introduced us to the chickens and their young and pointed out the damage sustained in the previous weekend's floods. The hostel is pretty much on the beach so what better way to recover from the long car journey than to mess about in the waves for a while? Of course the down side to beach living is sandflies and we got severely noshed by the little buggers before the light faded and then the mozzies came out to feed as well.
The next morning Carl warned us that cyclone Wilma was on its way to the Coromandel, we drove to Whitianga to pick up supplies before the weather set in, got rained on and retreated back to the hostel for a day of looking at the weather. The rain fell for 24 hours and Kuaotunu got about 30cm in that time, the car was parked in a puddle about 15cm deep, the house had a shallow moat all around it and Kuaotunu Creek had risen over 30cm and was mud coloured. We wandered over to the gallery/cafe for a mooch and a coffee and as we walked back over the bridge we noticed that every tenth wave sent a tidal bore up the creek to the fascination of tourists and locals alike. The local know-all told us "Yeah of course that'll happen, the creek rose 10 metres last night." Erm, no it didn't otherwise we'd be very wet (or drowned)!
It seemed a good idea to drive along the coast via Black Jack Road to visit some of the other beaches in the area, we met the first landslide on the headland, it had covered more than half of the road, but we got by and continued on past more slips and through a few floods to Opito Bay where the breakers were being very photogenic on the white sand and I took many rubbish photos and hopefully a couple of good ones - hurrah for digital photography!
Sunday 30th Jan was the last Sunday of the school summer holidays, so we decided that it would be a good time to visit Hot Water Beach which has hot springs under it, accessible at low tide in a small area of sand. Generally one should take a spade to the beach and dig a hole to sit in which will fill with warm water, like being in a bath on the beach. We crawled along in a queue of traffic negotiating huge landslides along the way, found a parking space, forded the river and walked to the most crowded area of beach I have ever seen, there was nowhere to stand let alone dig, we gave up and walked back to the car via a rather good gallery and cafe. We moved on to Cathedral Cove, but couldn't walk to it because of a landslide, so had to make do with looking at it from the viewpoint. Third time lucky we headed back along the 309 Road to visit the Kauri groves and Wairu Falls and managed to get to each place without any major problems. Finally we drove to Whangapoua to visit New Chums beach, supposedly the nicest beach in the area it is reached by fording a river, scrambling over a rocky foreshore and a bit of bush walking. With such interesting access it is completely undeveloped with native bush reaching down to the sand all round the bay. It is a beautiful place and well worth the effort of getting there, however you would be well advised not to walk the rocky foreshore bit in flip flops!

Departure day was not looking good, we got as far as Coromandel Town before discovering that the road was closed between there and Thames, so we had to turn round and go back to Kuoatunu before joining the queues of traffic leaving the peninsula by the east coast road. It was very slow progress and we just made the time cut off for returning the car.
Once on the plane we settled down for the three hour flight, the flight attendants did the safety bit, the pilot welcomed us aboard, we stayed put on the tarmac, the pilot announced that there was an instrumentation problem in the cockpit and engineers in Auckland and Dubai were working on it and we would soon be off. Two hours later the pilot announced that they thought they had solved it but he had to power down the plane and restart it again. Yup, we got re-booted! It's a little bit worrying that the universal computing solution of "turn it off and turn it on again" also applies to aeroplanes.

Additional photos below
Photos: 17, Displayed: 17


Fording the stream at WhangapouaFording the stream at Whangapoua
Fording the stream at Whangapoua

This is the way to get to and from New Chums Beach
Airbus A380 requiring rebootAirbus A380 requiring reboot
Airbus A380 requiring reboot

Bing bing bing bong! (Yes we know that's the Intel sounds, we can't write the Windows start-up music)

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