Friday 23rd January we flew to Auckland, and on the Saturday morning
early we were waiting expectantly at the airport to greet Paul and Rosie as
they arrived after their 26 hour flight. We then had 9 days to show them as
much of the North Island as we could, travelling from Auckland to Wellington in
a hire car by a circuitous route. The first couple of days we spent in
Auckland, getting the big city experience for a change. The evenings we spent
at the harbourside, visiting the variety of bars and restaurants along there,
and enjoying the fact that it was warm enough to sit outside. The first night
they even had fireworks to celebrate our arrival!
in Auckland we took a boat trip round the harbour, and we also did a longer trip
out to Rangitoto Island, a fairly recent volcanic island just offshore. We took
a tractor-driven ‘train’ ride round the island, and climbed up to the summit to
get some good views. On the way back we visited Devonport, a smart suburb
across the water from the main city.
Auckland our tour took us back to the Coromandel, to enjoy the beaches and the
scenery in the sunny weather we were lucky enough to have all week. We visited
Cathedral Cove, and went to Hot Water Beach, where by digging in the sand you
can strike hot water and create your own spa pool. Sadly, all the best spots
were taken and our pools just filled with cold.
next stop was at Tauranga, on the Bay of Plenty. We stayed overnight in a
3-bedroom penthouse suite at a hotel in the city, and the next day visited
Mount Maunganui, a seaside resort more like Gt Yarmouth than anywhere else
we’ve seen here. We walked round the base of the mountain, which is extremely
Tauranga we zigged across country to Waitomo, to visit the famous caves there.
We had a long tour through a large and quite interesting cave, followed by a
shorter tour through another cave, in which we had a boat ride in the dark to
see the millions of glow worms shining on the ceiling. This latter trip was
slightly spoiled by a large group of loud Aussies on a ‘Value Tour’ who failed
to understand the guide’s instructions to keep silent.
zagged back across country to Rotorua, and saw some things there we hadn’t seen
on our first visit last May. One was the Whakarewarewa
Thermal Village, where we had a guided tour of a Maori village built right on
top of an active thermal area, with hot pools and steam vents coming up all over.
This was very interesting, as they
showed us how they used the thermal energy to cook their food and heat their
baths. We also visited the newest thermal area, Waimangu, formed by the
Tarawera eruption of 1886. There is a 4km walk down a valley, with hot pools,
fumaroles and silica terraces to be seen, all very colourful, followed by a
boat trip on the lake with more thermal activity to see, and a bus ride back to
Rotorua we drove down to Lake Taupo, and saw the regular release of water from
a dam to flood the Aratiatia Rapids, which changes a gentle flow through a
rocky gorge into a raging torrent. While at Taupo, Sandie and Paul took a seaplane
flight from the lake over the Tongariro National Park, seeing from the air the three
volcanoes we would visit the next day.
was fine the next day, and we got excellent views of the three mountains – Tongariro
(the flat one), Ngaurahoe (the pointy one) and Ruapehu (the jumbly one). We drove
up to the ski area on Ruapehu, and walked over to Mead’s Wall, where some of the
scenes for Lord of the Rings were filmed. We got good views from there of Ngaurahoe
(aka Mount Doom). Sandie and Rosie went up in a chairlift, and later we all did
a short walk with more mountain views, before heading south for Wellington.
home was interrupted by a 1.5 hour traffic jam at Otaki, north of Wellington, though
finally we got through to the restaurant we had booked for dinner and had a recuperative
meal. Paul and Rosie stayed with us for three nights in Wellington, and in the evenings
we took them to visit some selected pubs and eateries in the area, coupled with
some driving tours of Wellington and its surroundings. On Wednesday morning they
headed off to Christchurch, to continue their travels round the South Island. As
soon as they had gone the weather turned for the worse!