Reached Rotorua

Paul here…

Lack of free time and poor WiFi access means that we’re miles behind with our posts. Sorry about that 🙂

We’ve just reached Rotorua after spending a great few days with our relatives in Havelock North.

Havelock North was totally different to what we were expecting. It was warmer, greener, more mountainous, and much more interesting than we thought it would be. It was also quiet, very quiet!

After HN we drove up to Taupo. This was an amazing drive, through mountains, forests and generally great scenery.

We only spent a day in Taupo but explored some of the main sites including Craters of the Moon, which is a walk through a geothermal landscape. We also explored a geothermal power station which was really interesting. Lake Taupo is very beautiful. We could have spent a week or two in the area easily.

We have nice weather in Rotorua and the scenery is stunning. We intend to do some of the more touristy things tomorrow.

Hopefully more updates soon.

Craters of the Moon, Taupo


Easter Monday – 21st April

Anne here . . .

So we are back on the tourist trail again. In fact we are on the “Thermal Explorer Highway” from Napier to Taupo. Fantastic weather which is lucky as the scenery is unexpectedly awesome and breathtaking. Just as splendiferous as anything in the South Island, and that was totally awesome.

Today is a serious competitor for the title of “best day so far . . .”

The scenery that we passed through was just awesome, high, high hills with the steepest sides that you have ever seen, usually covered by trees, and plunging into deep ravines. Oohs and aahs from me every few minutes. Just the last few miles into Taupo were flatter, farming plains.

Then Lake Taupo itself. I instantly fell in love with the Lake. It is just beautiful, a deep blue colour with mountains all around and lots of people just enjoying themselves.

Huka Falls

Huka Falls

Then we meandered off to Huka Falls, not quite sure what to expect but they were awesome. Sorry, I am running out of superlatives. Literally ice blue water rushing through the narrowest of gorges. It is not the height of the falls that is so impressive but the speed and volume of the water and the piercing ice white and blue colour. It is popular but there are several excellent viewing points.

An aside: I love the way that New Zealanders don’t charge for car parking at tourist sites and often don’t charge an entrance fee for natural wonders, maybe just a donations box. We have always been happy to donate willingly.

Finally we stopped at “Craters of the Moon”. Definitely worth adding a geothermal boardwalk to your “things to do before I die bucket list”. Although there is no big hype here, in fact it is quite understated. It is run by a charitable trust and is a 45 minute boardwalk around loads of craters and holes in the ground that are producing geothermal steam. It is totally eerie but at the same time awesome to see all these wisps, puffs, clouds and columns of hot steam coming out of gorse and bracken covered ground. We were fascinated, as were all the other tourists.

The only downside of the last few days is that I seem to be deliciously tasty to mosquitos unlike Paul. Only DEET jungle formula seems to deter them!

Ocean Beach

Hawkes Bay

Friday 18th April to Sunday 20th April – the Easter weekend

Anne here . . . Sorry we were so busy having a fantastic time with our relatives in the Hawkes Bay Area that we didn’t have time to blog.

The first day or so we were there, a tropical storm came through most of New Zealand and the weather was poor but then thankfully normal weather returned and Hawkes Bay was a lot warmer and more tropical than we expected. By Easter Sunday we needed high factor suncream – yippee.

Some of our highlights were:

– Napier – rebuilt in the Art Deco style after a devastating earthquake in 1931. As well as lovely buildings and Art Deco signs, there were loads of classic old cars. Very stylish.

– Fantastic views of Hawkes Bay from Bluff Cliff in Napier including logs waiting to be exported.

– Te Mata peak near Havelock North – breathtaking views from the top of vineyards, wineries, fruit orchards and a figgery, we went up on three occasions we liked it so much.

– Ocean Beach – rolling Pacific white foamy waves onto soft sand, a safe lagoon for the kids, blue skies, warm/hot sunshine and miles of sandy beach.

– The Keirunga Park Miniature railway trains, there were so many trains and a huge band of train enthusiasts to drive them (all men, funny that). Although one train did have a slight mishap, thankfully not when we were on it and also none of the passengers were seriously hurt.

– Hawkes Bay itself is lovely – wide roads, lots and lots of vineyards and wineries with names I know well, fruit trees, very little traffic and a general feeling that all is right with the world.

It was wonderful beyond words to spend time with all our distant relatives. I wondered whether we were destined never to meet but we have and our lives are very much richer for it. 🙂

Travel to Havelock North

Thursday 17th April

Anne here . . .

Just before we left Wellington, I discovered feijoas . . . I had never heard of them before. In case you are wondering, they are very common fruits for New Zealand. They are unlike anything else I have had but I will try to describe them . . . Sort of like a cross between a pear and a kiwi fruit, a close cousin of the guavas (I have never had a guava either) with a grainy texture. Anyway very tasty.

So sadly goodbye to Wellington.

It is absolutely pouring with rain, sadly, as the scenery is stunning. Yes we did pick State highway (SH) 2, the scenic route and we have driven through fantastic hills, deep gorges, stunning valleys, rural towns and fertile farming plains. I was under the misapprehension that the scenery in the North Island was more boring than the South Island but so far that definitely isn’t my experience.

We are just passing through the absolutely stunning Manawatu gorge. The river is really full after the rain of the last few days and the views are just breath-taking. The hills that have lots (over 100?) wind turbines on the top, which is a reminder that New Zealand’s energy is very ecologically friendly and they are very proud to be non-nuclear.

Breaker Bay, Wellington

Our last full day in Wellington

Anne here . . .

Te Papa museum, The national museum of New Zealand. Everyone was quite right: Te Papa is a fascinating insight into the life, history, culture and wildlife of New Zealand. But I have found all the NZ museums that we have visited so far really excellent with innovative and interesting ways of displaying their collections and keeping the interest of their visitors.

Also to repeat one of my previous comments: I love New Zealand hospitality. Everyone we have met, without exception, is so friendly and welcoming.

Lunch in the Chocolate Fish cafe in Shelley Bay. The four of us ordered the following sandwiches: crayfish, scallop, whitebait and Paua and we had a taste of each. A first for me especially the Paua, but very yummy.

Weta Cave Troll

Weta Cave Troll

Then in the afternoon, another activity on our “must do” tourist list. A tour of the Weta Cave film production workshops. The tour is only about 45 minutes long and is just a small snapshot of the work involved in making the models, weapons, costumes etc for big blockbuster movies. But our tour guide, who normally is in charge of hair and make-up, was a larger than life character and absolutely fascinating. Full of amazing and hilarious anecdotes. Great fun.

We ended the day with Chris taking us on a tour of the beach road overlooking Wellington harbour and Bays. Wellington is set in just the most amazing scenery with a lovey waterfront and hills behind. Sadly slightly obscured by rain and mist today.