A Travellerspoint blog

New Zealand February 28 2013

Day 8 - Pauanui to Rotorua

sunny 24 °C

Margy, Colleen and Michael presented Sue with sticky bun complete with singing candle (which didn't work - cheap $2.00 shop! - so we had to sing!) and a gift box of possum poo at breakfast. Tour leader, Sally, made sure everyone knew it was her birthday by presenting her with a nice Scenic Tours card and gift of Manukau honey. 9:30 start to the day with a trip back west over the Coramandel range/forest inland to Kopu and then south on highway 26 down the Waihu River valley to Paeroa. Don't know why we didn't go down the west coast through Whangamata and Tauranga but guess that will be revealed in the fullness of time. Paeroa is the origin of the famous L & P soft drink. Which is a local mineral water to which they have added a touch of lemon. Now owned/bottled by Coca Cola. (World famous in New Zealand). qWe are encouraged to try the kiwi treat of mince and cheese pie with a bottle of L & P.

The Waikato is the heart of the dairy industry ($20 billion). Production has been increasing by 10% per year for a decade but this year the drought has led to a 1% decrease. NZ has had great success since the demise of ag subsidies thirty years ago by developing new markets for dairy products in Asia; particularly middle class China. Chocolate cheese anyone.

Lamb roast lunch at a working dairy (180 acres/240 cows) at Mata Mata (now better known as Hobbiton because nearby is the hill that Peter Jackson used to create the hobbit village). The farm Longlands (apart from the dairy shed) is a model farm with hedges around each of the seven paddocks used for rotational grazing. Family now run the restaurant and dairy is share farmed. Could one make a living out os a 240 head dairy farm in Aus these days? Area also big thoroughbred area. Current and past wealth evident in the real estate. Everything very 'nice' looking.

After lunch and a chat with the two resident black Labradors we continued on to Rotorua. Had our group photo taken out the front before a guided tour of the Rotorua museum which began life as a thermal health spa or Bath. Built in Tudor style was opened in 1908 but was never really completed until refurbishment in recent times. The treatments were very popular with visitors from all over the world. Many soldiers came after the wars looking for relief from all sorts of complaints. Mud baths, mineral baths and electro massage were popular. With increasingly high maintenance costs and a decline in the popularity of such treatments the building was no longer used for this purpose and slowly fell into disrepair with use for dance cabarets and nightclubs adding further insult and damage to the beautifully carved timbers and marble statues. Now a historical museum, art gallery and cultural museum.

Checked into our Novotel overlooking the lake and walked the streets of Rotorua before finishing our day at the Irish pub for a Guiness and fillet steak and chips. What more could a girl ask for on her birthday.

Posted by suengarry 10:05 Archived in New Zealand Tagged rotorua Comments (0)

New Zealand February 27 2013

Day 7 Auckland - Coramandel Coast

sunny 23 °C

Eight o'clock leisurely start in the coach up over the Bombay range which separates the JAFAs from the southerners into the rural areas of the eastern edge of the Waikato. The signs of drought are much more evident here but the farms appear more groomed than those to the North. Turned left to cross the flats of the Waihou River which were obviously originally swamp. Looks like it should be flood prone but the ditch system used to drain the swamps maintains good mitigation. On into the substantial town of Thames before heading North again along the western edge of the Coramandel ridge. The ridge is the result of the Australian plate forcing the Pacific plate down. Who knows, in twenty thousand years or so it may again become the east coast of Aus. The great pest Homo sapiens has constructed holiday shacks on every little patch of habitable land along the base of the peninsula. Some quaint fishing/camping spots and other slightly more substantial villages.

Lunch in the village of Coramandel. Area established through gold mining (quartz rock). Still plenty in them thar hills but the environmentalists are winning over business interests at this stage. Up to the Driving Creek art gallery for a 'train ride'! A unique experience; pottery of very mixed styles and maturity but the ride on the 15 inch gauge 3 kilometre railway to the top of the hill to the Eyeful Tower is something special. One hour; three tunnels; four switch-backs; glass bottle retaining walls; trellis sections over sheer cliffs; bridges made out of second hand steel. All built over a 35 year period by artist, engineer, conservationist Barry Brickell. Initial plan was to use it to bring clay down from the hill. Only in NZ! Our OHS people would have a field day.

Back on the mountain passes across to the eastern shore again at Te Rerenga and Kuaotunu. Then south through Whitianga, Kaimarama and Whenuakite. All very much holiday hang outs for the Aucklanders (JAFA).

Overnight Pauanui - Grand Mercure Puka Park Resort. Very flash individual chalets and suites built up a steep slope in the 'virgin' rain forest. Ah! The serenity! Need mountain goat stamina to walk to and from reception if not prepared to wait for the shuttle.

Posted by suengarry 10:00 Archived in New Zealand Tagged coast coramandel Comments (0)

New Zealand February 26 2013

February 26: Day 7 - Auckland

sunny 23 °C

Another chance for a sleep in today. Restrained ourselves at breakfast as best we could then downtown to the SkyCity to check the panoramic views of Auckland. Sky channel X-Factor production going on but we didn't get a start. Up to the observation deck for a walk around. Great views. Watched one bungy jumper and a platform walker go through their paces but decided the prices ($245 bungy or $125 skywalk) were a bit rich for us. Besides why jump off a perfectly good building when there was coffee and cake on offer.

Back to the hotel before rejoining part of our group for a tour of the Waitakere Ranges to catch up on the natural rain forest (more Kauri trees etc) and over to the west coast to look at the black magnetic sand beaches of Piha (named after the Tahitian navigator who showed Capt. Cook how to sail around this part of the world. Tour guide John was a real performer; has been in a number of NZ soapies and stage shows. Commenced the tour with an enthusiastic Haka and finished with an impression of Rod Stewart singing Maggie.
He had a fantastic voice to go with his theatrical enthusiasm.

Dinner at the SPE bar in the hotel precinct and into bed for another well earned rest before heading off to the Coramandel Coast in the morning.

Posted by suengarry 00:20 Archived in New Zealand Tagged auckland dining Comments (0)

New Zealand February 25 2013

Day 6 - Bay of Islands to Auckland

sunny 23 °C

Late start for everyone today. We left in our Nissan Sunny well before the coach for the drive back to Auckland. Drove down East coast on highway 1 through Whangarei, Ruakaka, Waipu and then inland to Wellsford and Warkworth before rejoining the Northern motorway for the run back into Auckland. Returned the hire car and booked into our room back at the Langham - bit like coming home it felt so familiar. Walked back down Queen Street for lunch and caught the ferry over to 'historic' Davenport' for a look around. Was a bit like a trip to Manly. Would be great for a leisurely lunch.

Three big ships in harbour so there were a lot of extra tourists in town. Caught up with our crew for a swim and spa before catching the shuttle downtown for dinner at the Harbourside Restaurant. Nice spread. Seafood and lamb washed down with a nice Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.

Posted by suengarry 00:18 Archived in New Zealand Tagged auckland Comments (0)

New Zealand - February 24 2013

Day 5 - Bay of Islands

sunny 23 °C

Best day so far for Garry. Ferry ride across to Russell to board the "Lion New Zealand" for a day of sailing. Lion New Zealand was the late Sir Peter Blake's 80 footer that won line honours in the Sydney to Hobart around 1984 and was also second in the Whitbred Round the World race. Peter Blake was later shot by pirates (age 53) at the mouth of the Amazon. Really smooth running boat. Big heavy 80 footer maxi built to withstand serious round the world sailing. Mast over 150 metres and just loves to lay over in the water. Perfect day for sailing - sunny with 20 - 30 knots of wind. Unreal to have the top line on the deck fence under water on the low side while standing almost vertically on the topside hull. Great crew (Captain Tom and first mate Kate) were young (late twenties with lots of experience) and kept us entertained and well fed and watered. Would recommend this to anyone who is capable of climbing in and out of a rubber dinghy. Great fun and great value for money.
Winery and chocolate factory and other free choice options weren't really a fair comparison. Slept well after in-house drinks and dinner.

Posted by suengarry 23:55 Archived in New Zealand Tagged new sailing zealand lion nz Comments (0)

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