New Zealand 2012
Saturday, February 25th, 2012
We spent the morning exploring Dunedin. A visit to the train station is mandatory, a delightful renaissance-style building.
Saturday, February 25th, 2012
February 16th brought both beginnings and endings. I’ll begin with an ending which was the end of our campervan sojourn. Yes, by 4:00 pm we needed to turn this rolling home back to where we started. Our circuit ended up being almost 2,400 km and our Kim was was behind the wheel for every single one of them. Except for the very first day out yours truly spent all of those hours largely in a prone position alternately entranced by the scenery and my book. Julie, in the co-pilots seat was chief navigator but I think her greatest joy was the hours and hours of mother daughter time over the ten days we shared together.
Sunday, February 26th, 2012
I will sum up this day first and say that the journey from Christchurch to Wellington was quite simply spectacular. While it started a little earlier than we might have preferred (taxi to the train station at 6:00AM) the 5 hour train ride to Picton in the morning followed by the 3 hour ferry crossing of Cook Strait to Wellington was a day filled with amazing scenery whilst traveling in comfort and style. The train known as the intercoastal is very modern.
Sunday, February 26th, 2012
We had a good start out of Wellington heading for that night’s destination: Napier. Our route took us through the small rural community of Masterton and along the highway we saw a sign advertising the fact that this being Saturday their annual A&P show was opening. A&P you ask? Agricultural & Pastoral. I will remind my readers that our darling daughter is a farrier by trade and as there were really no lunch stops planned and as it was nearing lunchtime and as we saw Kim’s eyes light up at the thought of a farm show, we decided to go. It was a treat. The was horse flesh a’plenty. Dressage, hunter jumpers, pony shows. You don’t often see six-year-olds dressed in top hat & tails but in just one ring we saw several. In a room under the grandstand the winners of all the different craft competitions were proudly on display – all behind one form of barrier or another so as to prevent theft. After all, on display was the cream of the crop in many, many categories. Knitting alone there was a dozen different categories: babies clothes, sweaters, spun, dyed & knit (ie make your own wool).
Monday, February 27th, 2012
Matamata’s biggest claim to fame as far as we are concerned is not that the Hobbiton set (where much of the Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed) is nearby, rather this has been home for Kim for the last 16 months or so. Her Youth With a Mission base is located about 15 minutes outside of Matamata at a place called Crystal Springs. It is in a beautiful rural setting several acres in size which runs down to a small river along one side and farmer’s fields on the other.
Tuesday, February 28th, 2012
We were grateful to stay put in the same place for three nights in a row, in part because it gave Julie & me time to contemplate the next part of our journey and provision ourselves accordingly. On the south island we were completely self contained in our campervan. We had beds, we had a fridge, a hob, a (tiny) oven, a toaster, dishes, cutlery, bowls, a kitchen sink, a toilet, a shower, even a driver. For the north island and sans Kim and sans campervan, we would have only our Toyota Sunny and ourselves. We were by now over two weeks in and still neither Julie nor I had sat behind the wheel but the was oohing for it now but to dive in. I am happy and relieved to report that this first venture onto to wrong side of the road went without a hitch as long as you don’t count repeated use of the windshield washers instead of the turn signal indicators on our inaugural voyage into Matamata. High on the list of things to acquire was a ‘chilli bin’ so as to keep our food provisions cold. OK, I admit that pretty much from the moment we bought it it would also contain the odd beer or three. Any of you who have ever gone camping with us know how masterfully Julie can pack a cooler and so hats off to her, we have never gone hungry or thirsty since that day. We have had the occasional restaurant meal but for the most part have been making or cooking our own food. There will be more on this topic in subsequent entries. That first day at the base I don’t think we saw Kim at all other than at the communal lunch and dinner. The leadership group were prepping for the arrival of their students which was only a few days away. On day two Julie and I set off for Rotorua where we took in a sheep show. Yes, a sheep show.
Thursday, March 1st, 2012
We departed Crystal Springs bright and early on Wed, Feb 22 as we had a long day of driving ahead of us. Kim had departed even earlier as she was driving to Auckland to pick up the arriving students so we didn’t have to say goodbye yet again. Our destination was a small city called Whangarei about 350 km north. The most northerly city in New Zealand, it’s main claim to fame is a deep and sheltered harbour and thus is a popular spot for world wandering sailors needing shelter from the summer storms of the south Pacific. Whangarei is also part of the Northland, that section of the north island beyond Auckland and running up the very northernmost tip, Cape Reinga,a sacred Mauri site that Julie and I managed to blaspheme (we were there on the 26th so there are a few more blog entries before you will hear about this). The Northland, being a little more remote is a little quieter as well and as soon as we made it through Auckland the traffic died down and the road took on a more twisty and turny dimension reminiscent of many of the south island roads.
Friday, March 2nd, 2012
I have been waiting to catch up to to this part of our trip as there were several events and places we experienced were just awesome. But first, just a little bit about that day’s journey which started with a visit to the physiotherapist. Alyse was recommended to us by the owner of the camp ground we were staying in. He related that there was a man that drove the several hours from Aukland on a regular basis to her since her recent move to Whangerai. Although my mother was a physiotherapist up until this day I had never seen one professionally. Back (way back) when my brothers and I were young boys we thought it hilarious that one of her young patients had dubbed her ‘the torture lady’. Today I got an inkling of how this name was earned. The examination and explanation of what was happening to me was done very efficiently. She provided me with many practical suggestions, both short and long term on how to manage. Then she offered to do a treatment to try and relax some of the muscles that had been causing me so much grief. Notice I said treatment and not massage. When I think massage I think of a very pleasant time with someone’s warm hands gliding about my anointed body causing pleasurable feelings wherever they go (the hands, I mean). While this treatment began with warm hands and (unscented) lubricant, it was as if her fingers were made of steel. Needless to say, she knew exactly what muscles needed stimulation and I did my very best to stay relaxed and compliant thinking I’d much sooner endure this short term pain if it helped relieve the constant aches and pains. The fact that I am sitting here now recounting these torturous few minutes is testament to the fact that I did endure and, low & behold, was able to bend and stretch to a much greater degree than I could before. While I will return to my doctor for more trigger point therapy, I also plan to visit a physio when we get home.
Friday, March 2nd, 2012
We awoke the morning of Saturday, Feb 25th with absolutely no ambition other than to explore the beaches in and around the Karikari peninsula which is the point of land at the northern end of Doubtless Bay where our Top 10 campsite was situated. After packing a picnic lunch in our chilly bin we headed out. But not before running into our next door neighbours who were a couple from Germany here on a golf holiday, Enno and Renate. Now everyone reading this blog knows Julie quite well and so will not be surprised to learn that 10 minutes later we had a date that night to get together to share a glass of wine after dinner. Then off we went, and using the ipad maps app as our guide decided that the first beach we would hit would be the one on the northern side of the peninsula. There appeared to be a couple of roads leading down to it, but the first was gated with no trespassing signs. Thus we continued further up the peninsula and the road turned to gravel and then to a pot-holed dirt track which led up to yet another locked gate. However, just to the left of the gate we saw a rutted track and sure enough after maybe a kilometer it led to a small parking lot with just two other cars there. The parking lot was perhaps 100 meters above sea level. In the distance to our right was the tip of the Kerikeri peninsula and to our left was the arc of the Aupori Peninsula that leads up to Cape Reinga still far to the north. The crescent beach with beautiful white sand was laid out before us and went for miles in both directions. It was a sunny warm day and the waters in the shallows were a wonderful turquoise blue with darker patches of coral clearly visible.
Saturday, March 3rd, 2012
After having visited Bluff at the southern end of the south island we were excited about having the chance to visit Cape Reinga at the northern tip of the north island. Some of the photos looked great and the fact that it was there that currents from the Pacific Ocean to the east and the Tasman Sea to the west clashed intrigued us. While it was only about 150k from Whatawhiwhi it took close to three hours to get there given the twists and turns of the road and the urge to stop and various scenic lookouts, cafes etc. Cape Reinga did not disappoint. The view was fabulous and while the oceans were not exactly angry there was a stretch where the competing currents were putting up a bit of a fuss. The parking lot was at a elevation of perhaps 300 meters and the lighthouse and viewing area was maybe a two kilometer walk northward. There were walks of various lengths that began at the parking lot, some leading down to the different beaches along the shore and others heading southward along the spine of the cape. As has been our habit we had packed a picnic lunch and as it was past noon when we arrived we decided to take it along with us. Still undecided on which walk to take we decided to start with a walk to the lighthouse so as to complete our south to north transit of New Zealand. It was sunny but windy and so a bit cool when exposed to the wind. About half way down the path there was a bench, sheltered from the wind where we had a great view of the lighthouse.