ROAD TRIP NEW ZEALAND. Monday 21st January 2019 FINALLY! After 16 weeks based in Auckland with the occasional side trips to some beautiful northland areas and visits to family and friends we packed up the car and waved Auckland goodbye as we headed South on our no plans road trip. The new owners of Matipo Road the old Shaw family home since 1956 take possession this week and start their redecorating. We look forward to catching up with them on our return to Auckland to see what they’ve achieved. Meanwhile we are going to let go of all the stress of cleaning out the house and saying goodbye to the property where lots of memories were made and enjoy seeing more of this beautiful country. After leaving Auckland our first stop was Waihi for James to fuel up his belly and I bought some 3/4 pants which are nice and lightK fo trip. Waihi is a cute old town with enough going on to make it a place I’m sure people enjoy living ,there. A quick stop off to my niece in Welcome Bay to gift a punch bowl set we headed on to Whakatane for our first night stop. $99 for the night got us a clean double room with en-suite at The Whakatane hotel in the Main Street. Complete with shared kitchen facilities, laundry and comfortable lounge area with outdoor seating we felt we did ok. Dinner will be bbq chicken, salad and rolls we bought at countdown. Got to use these facilities when we have them. Over the next days we traveled the coastline as much as we could stopping for a night in Hicks Bay at the hotel there. Gisborne in a bnb run by two gorgeous older men with lots of little home made treats and luxury aircon. Napier in another bnb and from which we were able to visit my sister in law Jan and her partner Alan in Taradale. The scenery was great particularly from Hicks bay to Gisborne. We arrived into Wellington early evening on the Friday and decided to book for three nights and take the ferry to Picton on the Monday morning. We lucked in getting a studio in The Terrace, right in the cbd. A pleasant walk to the waterfront for pizza and a bottle of red wine. A treat as we had been cooking wherever we were at which sometimes was as basic as two minute noodles at Hicks bay when after taking the coast and walking up the East Cape lighthouse we were too late back for takeaway shop or general store. Our first full day in Wellington was spent at Te Papa museum. After going through the Gallipoli exhibition and New Zealand’s migration and indigenous peoples history we were thrilled to have purchased tickets for their exhibition of The Terricotta warriors from China. The next day started rainy and overcast so we headed up the Coast after doing a reconnaissance for the ferry next morning to Paraparaumu to The Southward car museum. We also visited a few of the old haunts from the days I had lived there back in the mid 80’s. Before we knew it we had been gone from Auckland a week and were lining the car up at the wharf to drive on and start our South Island adventure. It was an early start to be on the wharf by 7 pm and after a lovely crossing we arrived at Picton around 11:30. We decided to drive towards Nelson which we did and after a late but substantial lunch began heading towards Takaka a lovely town with a hippy feel about it and found a great bnb run by a couple originally from Belgium. They have been living in NZ for seven years and have put together a lovely homestay experience, including spa tubs, indoor pool and sauna. Although we didn’t hear many voices during the evening there were quite a few in the kitchen/dining/ living room to enjoy breakfast the next day. Surprisingly most visitors were from Germany or The Netherlands and it was completely coincidental. Not one had booked knowing that the hosts would be able to communicate in German/Dutch With them. After our breakfast and our first full day in the South Island to look forward to we drove towards Cape Farewell and after a few lookout stops we decided the heat was just too much to go trekking out in the full sun and ventured back to Puru springs to walk a short spin in the bush and check out these beautiful clear water springs. We started driving towards Westport when I saw a sign showing St Arnaud was not far off the track. I remembered how beautiful it was from when I had visited many years ago and so we ventured there and weren’t disappointed. We decided to look for accommodation in the town and found a ski lodge that takes bookings all year round and run like a backpackers. Super clean and great facilities. The next morning we drove up Mount Robert to take in the views of lake Rotoiti and took a walk up one of the tracks through the Forrest before heading back towards Westport. We made quite a few stops to view gaze and happily made Westport early afternoon and snagged a great room at the Tripinn backpackers for two nights. What a lovely room in this old historical mansion with en-suite for $100 a night. We headed off to Tauranga Bay and the seal colony during the drive the road and coast was covered in a sea mist and when we arrived we couldn’t see the beach to start with, but as we walked it cleared into a beautiful afternoon with great views and incredible ocean waves crashing on rocks and lots of NZ fur seals lounging around then braving the waves and sea to head off oozing for their dinner. We walked towards the lighthouse and back before heading back to town to shop for supplies and cooking risotto in the large shared kitchen. Our room was everything we expected, comfortable, roomy and we were delighted that it was also very quiet. There was a 9pm curfew for drinking and all quiet after 10:30pm. I think most we tired travellers whom were glad for a good bed and early night. The next day we headed to Karamea and onto The Oparara Basin where you walk through the native bush to either the Oparara caves or the Moria Gate Arch. Both fabulous walks and sites. We planned to head to Dennison and old mining town and great view point but the sea mist which had cleared briefly was back, but with over 100 kms back to Westport and 16 kms on gravel to start we weren’t home much before 7pm and with the kitchen in full action we’re glad we were heating up leftover risotto only. The next morning was Friday February the first and we packed up the car and headed towards Greymouth stopping at quite a few lookouts along the way to check out the Wild West Coast in all its wind swept glory including perpendicular point. A couple of walks down to beaches and then onto Punakaiki tavern for coffee and out onto Punakaiki coastal walk to view the pancake rocks and blowhole. This area lies on the edge of the Paparoa National Park and was fantastic. Especially on such a wild day. We headed into Greymouth but the weather had turned to heavy rain and so after heading to a cafe for lunch decided against visiting The Shanty town attraction with its gold mining history and head into Hokitika where we picked up a cottage for the night on Airbnb. Pretty nice to have a whole house to ourselves and three bedrooms to choose from. Old home but we’ll set up for travellers and we cooked a lamb roast for dinner. The weather actually fined up later in the day but was so late in the afternoon that it wasn’t worth going out and we used to the time to relax. Saturday the 2nd February saw us heading to Hokitika Gorge for a walk to see what is normally Turquoise waters but after the rain more milky but still pretty. We got back on the highway and headed tonRoss a historic gold rush town and stopped for lunch before making our way towards Franz Joseph Glacier where we headed in for the one and a half hour walk. I was devastated to see how much the glacier had receded since we took the kids there in 1996. Unbelievable really sad. We headed on towards the Fox glacier area where we booked a hotel for the night. Spent the evening looking and booking accommodation for our three nights in Singapore in April. Once we have confirmed bookings with Andrew and Jett for their arrival in May will book those too. Always something to plan and sort out to keep the travel plans in action. Our Sunday turned into a marathon of walks all the way to Wanaka. Lookouts, walk around Lake Mathieson and The blue pools saw us head into Wanaka later than we normally do and with few accommodation options ended up in a hotel near the golf course which did have kitchen facilities so we saved again cooking at home. Monday we had a walk around the town centre and then a drive around the lake before driving on to Cromwell where we had booked two nights due to costs and low availability in Queenstown. Actually this ended up being one of our best rentals. Really decent sized studio with free laundry services and decent sized kitchen bench and brand new bbq outside. Again we cooked both nights here and even froze a meal to take on with us to Te Anau to heat through in our electric frypan. Our day in Queenstown was enjoyable from the walk round the lake, walking through the town, which had grown exponentially since I was last here, and a great view from up the gondola. Again pricing kept us moving on but not to anywhere cheaper, Te Anau was probably the most expensive we had paid so far and not that awesome but was a really great location right in town and right across the road for our pick up by coach on the Thursday down to Milford Sound and cruise. Nice for James to have a rest from driving and it was a very pleasant day. Not much in the way of waterfalls as it’s been dry here for a few days but the scenery all day wasn’t too hard to take. What we did like is that the coach had a glass roof and really large picture windows on side of coach. We’ll set up for everyone to see maximum views on the trip. Great coach driver/ orator as well. We went with Go Orange. The next day we spent on a tour of Doubtful sound. Attractive scenery once again and met some lovely travellers whom were great to share the day with Katherine from Singapore travelling solo and Tammy and Louise driving around in Big Bertha their massive rental campervan. Thanks girls you made a great day even better. After getting off the tour we had booked a night at Mossburn old railway hotel less than 100 klms on so with an easy drive and comfortable accommodation, great in-house restaurant and pleasant staff we were very happy campers. Our next stop was a backpackers in invercargill on the Burt Munro weekend. The town was full of bikers and lots of events to keep them happy. With so many great cafes, interesting buildings and lots of motorcycle shops and paraphernalia James was in his happy place and I left him at the motorcycle museum and headed off for a well overdue haircut. We had organised a catch up with Christel and Paul Raynes at their beautiful home and enjoyed a wonderful evening. It’s so special when travelling to have these visits with people that you know to give life a little bit of a normality and make you feel connected with your family and friends. The next day craving a little rest from touring we headed to Riverton a coastal town not far from invercargill for two nights. We had chosen a bed and breakfast in an old two story home run by Barry and Sue who turned out to be quite the odd couple but very hospitable. Barry was the host listed but it was Sue doing all the work while Barry who had quite the eccentric personality was off ice skating or riding his bike while Sue did all the running of the house between them they had 12 grown children! One great thing about our accommodation was that we had a DVD tv and as I had never watched The worlds fastest Indian, the movie about Burt Munro and his landspeed record was great that they had it here in their collection so spent an evening sitting up in bed watching it. Anyway Riverton and the surrounding areas were beautiful and we really enjoyed our little trips to the different beaches around the area. The One day we kept on running into this one couple Sharon and Steve from England but like us are just travelling the world. We ended up sharing a bottle of wine at Orepuke cafe after they popped in knowing that was where we were headed next. It was delightful company and we hope to meet them somewhere else in this big wide world. On our way back into Riverton we decided to go to the town to check out dinner options when as we come to the bridge we see lots of people looking over the bridge railings so as James drove the car I stuck my head out to see what they were looking at to find it was a big school of bottlenose dolphins. Well they entertained everyone for about an hour as they made their way slowly out of the estuary, leaping and showing off in such a marvellous display. How wonderful it always is to see these magnificent creatures and the joy it brings to all who witness them. Our next journey was taking us onto Dunedin and having found some accommodation in the city we were able to easy walk around seeing all the beautiful preserved buildings of yesteryear. Including the gorgeous Dunedin railway station where we booked a trip on the Taieri gorge trip for the next day at 2:30, this would allow us to get up early and arrive at Larnach castle to get the early arrival special. Having contacted one of my dearest friends from childhood we caught up with Karen after she finished work at around 8:30 pm for drinks, quite a few drinks actually. But it was great to see her after too many years and she even called the next evening just as we were arriving funnily at the same bar for dinner and headed over to see us again. Awesome!. Sooo after our quite a few drinks that first night it seemed we didn’t feel quite as cheerful about getting up early the next day, BUT we did and so glad as the scenery along the way was out of this world. Sea mists of long white cloud enveloped the hills around Dunedin and with the spectacular waterways and mountains was jaw dropping. Larnach castle was gorgeous, so much restoration done and still going on. What a labour of love and devotion by the Barker family whom bought it in a rundown state and lived there while bringing it back to life. No small undertaking. Boy what a sad story the original family have. For all their wealth and community standing they either died young, killed themselves or bickered over the money. Our afternoon train ride couldn’t have been better timed as we headed back to our hotel from the castle for a rest and lunch before we needed to walk down to catch our train. Five hours of diverse scenery, outstanding building feats to make this rail journey possible to move goods throughout the Otago and beyond area. More unbelievable was that we were allowed to stand out on the open areas between carriages to take photos etc even over the viaducts with over 100 feet drops. The staff are fantastic and a real credit to the company. Making sure everyone had as enjoyable time as possible. Then a few more drinks with Karen afterwards topped off a Grand day. After checking out on Valentine’s Day we headed towards port Chalmers and were delighted at what a gorgeous little town it was. The port was operating moving containers, the Majestic Princess was in dock as well and with the fabulous lookouts around the town and a cemetery with a great view as well it was a lovely stop. One lady taking her grandson to look at the wharf action from one of the lookouts said it’s like watching a toy town and that’s exactly what it was like. The gloom had set in low clouds and drizzle which later became rain, but, it didn’t dampen our enjoyment of our trip up the coast.stopping at Morekai on Karen’s suggestion took us to the lighthouse and the unexpected seal colony. First there were signs and fences then next thing we’re in a large open area full of seals lying around while their fellow seals wandered around on rocks below and some swimming. We even spotted a penguin swimming. What a highlight. Best was everyone there was respectful and just loving it. Really fantastic. We stopped at Hampden town for some world famous fish and Makikihi potatoes made into chips no they weren’t lying they really were that good. We drove into Oamaru and after a look around town and drive and coastal walk decided we would find accommodation here for the night. This town has so many incredible Victorian buildings and a real quirky feel. Certainly worth a look. Ps happy Valentine’s Day. Time the next day to take the trip inland to Tekapo and the gorgeous turquoise lakes. On the way the scenery was once again stunning with several stops for photos including several dams. Then just before we got to the lake we came to Tekapo airport with signs offering scenic flights, having already enquired at another airport and been put on a list we decided to take the opportunity when it was available and had a fantastic flight over Lake Tekapo and Tasman, Fox ,Franz Joseph glaciers and a close up look at Mount Cook. What a treat. Lake Tekapo didn’t disappoint but unfortunately the church of the good shepherd was overrun with tourists and a take no photo policy that wasn’t there last time. On to Timaru and a lovely overnight stay in a semi backpackers in another grand old home. The next day we were disappointed that we missed catching up with our relatives Nadine and Stephen from Darwin by perhaps an hour but luckily we will see them in April in their home town. We had made arrangements with Diana and her dad Rudi in Christchurch that we would stop and stay with them from Sunday. We met them on our 2017 world cruise and caught up with Diana and partner Frank when they were in Auckland earlier in our NZ stay. We were looking forward to spending some relaxed time with them even though Diana was working long hours at this time of the year. Anyway we started making our way towards Christchurch on the Saturday and at Ashburton a campervan show had us pulling over and paying the $5 admission to see what was on offer. This was quite a cool concept, there were new camper and caravans on display but also people were able to display and sell their own second hand ones. This gave way to a huge array of all styles, tastes and vintages and was a very entertaining wander. Stayed the night in a not so glamorous side of town but was brand new and quite well appointed. Sunday morning saw us off to visit Roz and Russ from our 2010 Cosmos tour, unfortunately Russ suffered a stroke late December and although looking great still getting tired after an hour or so. We didn’t, we hope over stay our welcome but it was fantastic to see them both and look through their new home. Great taste and after building something new decided to sell all their old furnishings and buy new. They could get a job styling show homes. Just lovely to see them. Onto Diana’s and Rudi’s to settle in for a few days. But we did go into the city gardens to watch the last of the summer free Sunday concerts. We met Frank there and with such a lovely venue and sunny afternoon no one went home disappointed. After a rest it was time to venture out to dinner at one of the best Thai restaurants I’d been to. We met Rudi’s other daughter Leonie, her husband Graeme and one of their sons Scott there to share the delicious meal. Thanks Rudi for shouting us all it was very kind. Monday bought more good weather and James and I headed into the cbd which from Diana’s is very close. After visiting the information centre we took the tram tour brochure and just walked it’s route. It’s an easy city to walk in as it’s all flat and I don’t mean that as a funny since it’s still recovering after been knocked ‘flat’ by several earthquakes. A lot of rebuilding has happened and lots taking place. Hopefully they will use this opportunity to build some significantly interesting places as a few looked awfully like dark boxes. We had a few good stops, one for coffee one for a lie down under a tree in the botanical gardens and one for lunch at the RSA. There are some great places to see and the Avon river running through adds something tranquil that lots of cities don’t have and still offering punt rides on the river quite charming. There are surprisingly a lot of very old structures that stood up to the earthquakes so still lots of historical buildings surrounding the new. Definitely worth taking the time to walk the city centre or take the tram tour if times an issue. Tuesday Rudi came with us as James drove Rudi’s flash motor to Akaroa. A place early family of mine had settled at when they first came from Denmark. The drive was scenic as it’s all volcanic and lots of beautiful bays as well as grazing hills. Akaroa was delightful and I’d like to go stay a few nights to fully enjoy its charms. It’s a Mecca for the tourist crowd and coincidentally the port of the day for the ship Columbus on its 2019 world cruise. The ship we sailed on last year for ten weeks of its 2018 world cruise. Of course we did run into two couples who had been on it last year and they thought about 60 repeat world cruisers from the year before. Young Leigh whom was part of the entertainment crew last year came past and he’s now the entertainment director. He didn’t look quite as fresh as he did last year. Another lovely drive home through lyttelton and it’s tunnel and it was rest time before sharing the evening with Diana. Wednesday saw us have a relaxing day at Diana’s catching up on our housekeeping administration and James had the car booked in to have the brakes checked to make sure all good for our journey back to Auckland. A lovely evening again with Frank joining us for a few hours and Rudi also coming in for dinner. It was a treat to relax for so many days in one spot and just as well as the next day we headed off thinking we’d probably take three days to get up to Picton. As it turned out we headed to Hanmer springs had a little lunch break there and not interested in doing the adventure thing or soaking in the hot pools on a warm summer day moved on back towards the coast and headed into Kaikoura where we were keen to stop and stay. Unfortunately no accommodation available so we drove on to Blenheim but not before enjoying watching a huge pod of dolphins having fun just off the beach. They were the most playful either of us have ever seen dolphins before. Literally doing 360deg flips and huge leaps. Was absolutely spellbinding and such a treat. We also stopped on the way further north to watch the seals. Sooo sooo many of them and lots of babies as well. They were vocal and entertaining as they waddled along, some having little fights, some swimming some just relaxing but really great. We got an upgrade from the hotel we booked in Blenheim to a really large studio apartment which meant we were also able to cook there as well. So we decided to book the ferry back to the North Island and call it time on our trip around the South Island. Headed into Picton early so stopped for coffee outside a cafe when who’s voice should we hear, none other than Duncan from our 2017 world cruise and consequent catch ups in Hong Kong, Auckland and their home in Opua in the bay of Islands. Soon Angela his lovely wife joined in the reunion and none of us could believe we had run into each other so randomly. What a great surprise and laugh. Wonder where we’ll next meet up? Finally snaring some accommodation in Wellington we were able to board the Interislander ferry with confidence that we wouldn’t have to drive for hours after disembarking to find a bed for the night. So long South Island it’s been another fabulous part of our road trip. HIGHLIGHTS WERE, obviously catching up with friends and making new ones makes the experience greater, but also the diverse scenery and wildlife feature big on our memories. The gorgeous towns we drove through that have retained their old heritage buildings and charm. Our flight over the glaciers and Lake Tekapo a big highlight. Milford and Doubtful sound we’re lovely day trips. The pancake rocks at Punakaiki, and the fact there are so many wonderful places just off the road to see and enjoy. The dolphins at both Riverton and Kaikoura plus all the seals we stumbled upon. The amazing forests and native bushwalks, and apart from the occasional rain we had a very good run with the weather. Let’s see what our trip up the West Coast of North Island, through the forgotten highway and up through Taupo etc brings.