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24 Feb 2020 – Whanganui to Wellington

The next day our drive to Wellington took us through a town calls Bulls, which was featuring in Burger King’s adverts for vegan burgers – the Rebel Whopper.

We also saw signs for Feilding which looked like typos. Coffee break ( pee stop ) was at Kiss and Bake Up, Otaki.

On arrival in Wellington we checked out the Interislander Ferry Terminal, to see where to drop off the car and how to get there the next morning, then checked into the Wellesley Boutique Hotel.

After refuelling we dropped off the car at then accidentally hitched a ride back to the station in an Interislander company car; Susan thought it was the taxi that the ticket lady had ordered for us.

At the station I finally got a photo of the flowers we’d been seeing everywhere. We were told in Taupo that they were called “eggy panthers”. It wasn’t until we got to Christchurch that I discovered the true spelling.

Since the Wellesley Boutique hotel was the first kettleless establishment we bought some coffees and had our sandwich lunch just outside the station, before continuing to the Cable Car, its Museum and the Botanic Garden.

We entered the gardens at the top and wandered downhill until we were outside the Government offices. There was a huge crowd and lots of music.

They were protesting about losing Radio NZ’s Concert FM channel, while at the same time celebrating the station’s 87th birthday. Something like that. See https://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/arts/119758559/rnz-concert-supporters-take-over-parliament-to-protest-for-stations-future

It didn’t really bother me. Radio reception in the car had been very hit and miss. And we’d certainly never found the Concert channel. Not that I would have listened to it, I’m afraid.

That evening, gagging for a drink because we didn’t have a kettle, we headed to the quayside for a couple of beers at the Dockside Restaurant, then dinner at the Crab Shack. We chose the right time to eat. 5 minutes later and customers were queueing at the door. Susan had the Catch of the day and I had The Big Welly – a fish burger.

A great end to our holiday in the North Island.

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23 Feb 2020 – Taupo to Whanganui via Tongariro National Park

With only two days left in the north island it was time to head towards Wellington. Rather than visit the art deco town of Napier, on the east coast, we opted to head south west to the Victorian/Edwardian Whanganui.

At Turangi we changed from SH1 to SH47 in order to visit the Chateau Tongariro Hotel on Mt. Ruapehu.

It was a cloudy day which meant we couldn’t see the tops of any of the volcanoes in Tongariro National Park.

We drove up to the cable car but declined a ride to the top for three reasons.

  1. We wouldn’t be able to see anything.
  2. It would be a bit nippy at the top.
  3. Too bloody expensive.

So we visited some more waterfalls.


On arrival at Whanganui we walked along the river bank to the end of the main street – Victoria Avenue. We passed some lads on cycles. The first two did wheelies and offered “high 5’s”: quite a skill. The youngest just said “Fuck off”.

At the bridge by Moutoa Quay I captured a couple of SB‘s. Then we searched for somewhere to eat. Not much open on a Sunday evening. We chose the Thai House Express. Cheap and plenty of it.

This giant steel ball at Whanganui is a sculpture entitled “Bearing”

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22 Feb 2020 – Turangi & Tongariro River

Since we very much liked our Dunrovin Motel room and since it was vacant, we decided to stay in Taupo for another night. The next morning we headed south to Turangi to walk along the Tongariro River Trail and watch some trout fisher people.

We sat on the river bank eating our picnic lunch opposite two fishermen. They were discussing packing it in for the day. They were obviously still hoping for a bite, but were now resigned to it not being from a fish.

In total we saw six people attempting to catch zero fish.

We returned to the i-site to visit their small but interesting volcanic display, where we experienced a simulated tremor of similar magnitude and duration to the one that happened in the Christchurch earthquake exactly nine years earlier.

That evening it rained, quite heavily, but briefly.

something falls because rain falls

Posted by Herb Miller on Sunday, 23 February 2020
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21 Feb 2020 – Waimangu and Lake Taupo

At Waimangu Volcanic Valley the Waimangu Geyser used to be a pretty powerful beast, killing 4 people in 1903, but nowadays it’s dormant. At the cash desk we were offered Seniors discount, which applies to the over 65’s. We declined. Later I realised I was wearing my “1958 – All original parts” t-shirt, which is a bit of a give away. We opted for the valley walk, but not the cruise. After coffee and downloading the App, we headed off with our detailed Wanderer guide.

After the Inferno crater I took the Mt Haszard hiking trail ( the high road ) and Susan took the low road. We’d arranged a meeting point but Susan had gone past it.

When we arrived at Taupo, we visited the local launderette, but not because our clothes were sulphury. That evening we went down to The Lake House. We met neither Keanu nor Sandra. After a tasty Mexican themed meal we headed off to Countdown to replenish supplies.

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20 Feb 2020 – Hobbiton & Rotorua

We left the Coromandel peninsula by the same road that we came; there’s not much choice. We stopped for fuel at Tairua then coffee and cake at the Ironique cafe at Te Aroha. Next stop Hobbiton, which is apparently the most visited tourist attraction in New Zealand, and is just outside Matamata. Our guide was a student from Auckland who was just coming to the end of his fourth summer at Hobbiton.

I’ve never read the Hobbit nor seen the films and I wasn’t the only one in our group who hadn’t. Apparently some visitors think they’re visiting Hogwarts.

Towards the end of the tour, just before a swift half at the The Green Dragon Inn, we visited a games field where Susan tried the quoits. She managed it on her 4th attempt; the second quoit bounched out of shot.

Then we continued to Rotorua, stopping at Huka falls to watch people getting wet in Jet boats, and upstream of the falls, a duck wondering what people find so interesting.

Out Motel at Rotorua was only a very short walk to the best fish and chip shop in the town (Oppies) . But it was only a slightly longer walk to the Thursday night market, where we found food and drink in abundance.

We couldn’t smell the sulphur at the market but we could outside our Motel.

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19 Feb 2020 – Coromandel & Driving Creek Railway

We took the long route to Coromandel, stopping to take a scenic view from a lookout point. When we returned to the car an American woman approached us and complained about the signage. She’d come up from Coromandel and said the viewpoint had been marked as being one kilometer away, but she reckoned it was a lot further. On the return journey I checked our odometer. It was probably a bit more than a kilometer but certainly no more than 2.

After a coffee stop we headed to the Driving Creek Railway a narrow guage railway entirely built by a potter called Barry Brickell. We took a ride up to the Eyefull Tower, where our driver / guide told us a bit more about the place.

All aboard. Choo choo!

Later we had a quick lunch – pies again – at the Coromandel Bakehouse – and did a bit more window shopping.

That evening, after stopping off at Mercury bay for a paddle, and booking our car for the South Island, we had dinner at the Stoked Restaurant.

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18 Feb 2020 – Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach

According to our Marco Polo guide book Cathedral Cove is a gigantic, arched limestone cavern that connects two sandy beaches, but is accessible only at low tide. The book fails to say that it’s a fairly strenuous walk from Hahei in blazing sunshine. But it was worth it and we had a lovely swim.

We didn’t stay long at the beach that gets cut off; we didn’t know how much higher the tide was going to rise. So we went back through the arch to the Mares Leg Cove and swam by the Smiling Sphinx rock.


Next we visited the Hot Water Beach… but it was still high tide. I bet the sand was hotter than the water.

On our return to Whitianga we collected our washing from the line then set off to the Irish pub again. This time the food was better.

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17 Feb 2020 – Dargaville to Whitianga

It was a fairly long drive from Dargaville to Whitianga ( 5 hrs, 400km ) so we set off early and stopped for coffee at Warkworth, where The Brokenwood Mysteries are filmed. After a brief rest at the Riverview Cafe we went shopping for a cold block for our chilly bag, which Susan found at the Hunting and Fishing shop, then we did a grocery shop at New World.

We were fairly tired when we arrived at Whitianga. We went to Grace O’Malleys Irish Inn. It was quite busy. The food was just OK. We sat at a large table where a guitarist called Andrew White was chatting to some Americans.

When his party left we continued the conversation with the Americans. They too were enjoying the narrow windy roads and the help that the car offered to keep within the lines.

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16 Feb 2020 – Paihia – Waitangi Treaty Grounds – Dargaville

Before leaving the Bay of Islands we visited the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, New Zealand’s most important historic site. We arrived early, registered for the first guided tour and visited the original musem. After that we went to the cafe for a coffee. The guided tour lasted around 50 minutes, ending at the carved Maori meeting house where we experienced a high-energy Maori cultural performance. The visitors to the meeting house were represented by a young Polish man who gave an excellent reply to the Maori welcoming speech.

While on the guided tour I stopped briefly to record a cicada in full swing.

Cicada at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, Northland, NZ

Next we took the gravel road to the Haruru falls, which were in full dribble.

Then we set off to the Waipoua forest on the west coast to do a bit of tree hugging. Trouble is, you’re no longer allowed near kauri trees. They’re suffering from kauri dieback, which is spread through the soil. First we saw the biggest: Tane Mahuta – Lord of the Forest then a few miles down the road we wandered further to see the second biggest Te Matua Ngahere – Father of the Forest.

That evening, we stayed in Dargaville and found a nice curry house for dinner. We were rather surprised to meet the Pole from the Maori meeting house in the same restuarant. Susan congratulated him on his reply to the Maori chief.

Impressed by New Zealand's very environmentally aware policies and procedures. Keeping their country clean from…

Posted by Susan Cowe Miller on Sunday, 16 February 2020
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15 Feb 2020 – Bay of Islands cruise

Starting from Paihia our Great Sights scenic cruise to the hole in the rock, with island stopover, was a fairly early start. The catamaran was quite speedy, so once we were out of the shelter of Tapeka point some people opted to go below to avoid the salt spray.

Having gone through the hole in the rock at Motukokako we visited a few more islands on the way to Otehei Bay, on Urupukapuka island, where we disembarked for an hour, visited the cafe and climbed a hill to see the view.

Apparently this island is pest free; it doesn’t have rats, skinks or Argentine ants.

For more information see: https://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/northland/places/urupukapuka-island-recreation-reserve/things-to-do/urupukapuka-bay-campsite/

We opted to stop off at Russell – which used to be known as the Hell hole of the Pacific – and climbed up to the flagstaff for some more stunning views, before returning to the town for a late lunch. Another tasty pie for me, quinoa salad for Susan.

On our return to Paihia, we had a quick drink at Zane Greys. Later we headed out for a Thai meal at Green’s, where we ordered too much food. But not as much as the German’s next to us, who were having an Indian meal. I thought their starter was the main course.

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14 Feb 2020 – Auckland to Paihia – Bay of Islands

On day 3 we headed north to Paihia, in the Bay of Islands. First we had to collect our hire car from Europcar. And before that, a short walk to find breakfast.

Having picked up the car we returned to the hotel to load our luggage, then headed straight out onto the ‘motorway’, over the harbour bridge and onto the toll road, then onwards to Northland.

Not a kiwi, nor a kea but a Kiwi anyway?

Our hire car was a Kia. It had a lane sensing device that beeped when you crossed a white line and tried to straighten you up. You could feel it in the steering.

Q. Why didn’t the Kia cross the road?

A. Because it had a lane sensor.

We stopped for lunch – our first pie – at the Miner’s Rest Cafe, Hikurangi. I shouldn’t have chosen the lime flavoured milkshake.

On arrival at Paihia we discovered that someone else from Rowlands Castle had visited the Bounty Motel a few weeks previously. The owner remembered since a) his surname was Rowlands b) he used to be a cinema manager and had worked at the Odeon Cosham. We didn’t find out who it was though. Probably because I used the four letter GDPR word.

That afternoon and evening we did some food shopping, chose our Bay of Islands Scenic cruise to the hole in the rock, and had a lovely takeaway Valentine’s pizza.

15 Mar – Sydney to LGW

Films in March were slightly different from those in February. I remember watching:

  • A Bump Along the Way
  • A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
  • Auggie
  • Ad Astra
  • The Current War
  • Beautiful Darkness

Susan watched:

  • Motherless Brooklyn
  • ABDITN – see above
  • Terminator: Dark Fate
  • Yesterday
  • Blinded by the Light

14 Mar – Coogee to Bondi and brewery crawl

Saturday, our last full day on holiday, started breezy and ended up wet. We chose the right direction for our walk to Bondi – with the wind. But we didn’t start from Maroubra. We bought coffees from the Grumpy Baker then drove to Coogee.

The wind and the waves were all wrong so there we very few surfers. There were some brave swimmers at Bronte Beach – in pink swimsuits and bathing hats.

I think I was the only one on Bondi Beach. It was quite a different story the following weekend.

Bonding at Bondi. Panorama at Bronte. Swimmers at Tamara. Slow bird at Bondi.

Posted by Herb Miller on Saturday, 14 March 2020

And last day here in Sydney.And sorry it's over but we've had a blast. So far our flight home this evening , 21 hrs…

Posted by Susan Cowe Miller on Saturday, 14 March 2020

We brunched at Brown Sugar then took an Uber back to Maroubra. A couple of hours later we were in another Uber, heading for a brewery crawl. Everywhere was packed, with people queueing at the doors. We visited 4 micro breweries and got into three. At the final brewery Susan and Mike challenged the winners on the pool table. The winners stayed on.

By the time we got back to Maroubra, we were too late for fish and chips, so had to make do with takeaway pizza, from Arthur’s Pizza.

13 Mar – Palm Beach and barefoot bowling

I’ve never watched Home and Away but I’ve now been to where it’s filmed – Summer Bay; Palm Beach in real life. Rachel took us there for a walk up to the Barrenjoey Head lighthouse. A Frenchman suggested we take the shorter, steeper route up; the views were better. They were pretty good at the top too.

We lunched, pizza, at The Newport, overlooking the Bayview Dog Park, then drove back through Sydney as rush hour approached and went to the supermarket for a couple of basics. Some shelves were bare.

That evening we had a booking at Clovelly Bowling and Recreation Club for barefoot bowls. We arrived a little late but got in enough games to be able to determine the winners. Rachel and Mike won in the last game.

12 Mar – Sydney Botanical Gardens drinks and dinner

In the morning around elevenses we visited Mahon pool but didn’t swim because it was high tide and fairly rough. The waves were breaking into the pool. So we just picked up a couple of coffees from the Grumpy Baker.

At 12:30 we set off on the bus to Circular Quay, to visit the Botanical Gardens for a quick lunch, to wander round the Opera house and then to have some pre-dinner drinks at the Rocks before splitting up for dinner. Susan and Rachel were going for Susan’s Xmas treat and I was meeting my friends Katy Taylor and Bruce Baker.

Once again, our eyes turned skyward as we watched a topical message being written.

For our first pre-dinner drink we visited the rooftop bar at The Glenmore. Then it was a short walk to the Blu Bar on 36, in the Shangri-la Hotel. We had to wait a short while for a window seat, but it was well worth it for the views.

Then it was another short walk to the Fortune of War. By this time I needed some food, so was happy to receive Katy’s message that she and Bruce were already at Chat Thai. We had a great time catching up and just had enough time to snap a couple of new SB’s before meeting up with Susan and Rachel again on the bus back to Maroubra. They’d had a great time as well.

11 Mar – Maroubra- Hermitage Foreshore Walk to Watson’s Bay

The first thing we had to do in Maroubra was to go to the beach and watch the surf. Since Rachel and Mike live on the sea front this wasn’t too hard. Next we had to find an ATM. We found one in Maroubra Seals Club.

We had a lazy morning at the flat. After lunch we set off in an Uber with Rachel to walk the Hermitage Foreshore Walk, from Hermit Bay to Watsons Bay, where we were meeting Mike for drinks and dinner. En route we took a few photos of the view.

Selfie bridge

Posted by Herb Miller on Tuesday, 10 March 2020

That evening we wined and dined at the Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel. Starters were Squid Zucchini and Bruschetta Mozzarella.

While Mike and I drank Furphy’s, Susan and Rachel got stuck into Bertoulet Rose. Getting the remains of the second bottle home was a bit of challenge because the restaurant weren’t prepared to give us the screw top; Rachel’s water bottle came to the rescue.

Rachel and me . A fun night with Herb and Mike at Watson Bay.Great weather and a cheeky little Rose wine.

Posted by Susan Cowe Miller on Wednesday, 11 March 2020

10 Mar 2020 – Christchurch to Sydney

On the 10th of March we departed New Zealand, heading for Sydney and Susan’s daughter Rachel and her boyfriend Mike.

On the plane I watched Bohemian Rhapsody, but before we left Christchurch we visited the museum, walking once again through the botanic gardens; this time in the drizzle.

On arrival in Sydney we purchased two new SIM cards. Rachel picked us up from the airport, and drove us to Maroubra, via the bottle shop.

9 Mar 2020 – Christchurch – beach, gondola and scooters

It was a breezy morning as we started our last full day in New Zealand. We headed to New Brighton beach first and walked to the end of the pier to bother gulls.

Next we drove as far as we could to the top of the gondola, and walked the rest of the way. After a couple of coffees and coconut slice from the Red Rock Cafe we went on a short ride – the Time Tunnel – to experience a dramatic reconstruction of the history of the region.

and then there were three non Gondoliers

Posted by Herb Miller on Monday, 9 March 2020

After taking a few scenic photos we returned to the city centre, eventually finding a parking spot in North Hagley Park, having completed a full circuit of the city after one wrong turning. Wanting to see the cardboard cathedral, which was the other side of town, we hired a couple of Lime scooters and made our way there, revisiting quite a few of the tourist hot spots we’d passed the previous day.

Guess who fell off his scooter. I should have walked up the steps rather than take the accessibility ramp.

Posted by Herb Miller on Monday, 9 March 2020

After about an hour we dropped the scooters off close to the car park and returned to the motel. That evening we crossed the road to get a takeaway from the Thai Container.

8 Mar 2020 – Twizel to Christchurch

Having decided that our last two nights in New Zealand would be in and around Christchurch we booked a motel – 136 on Bealey – and headed straight there. It was a bit drizzly when we stopped for coffee and to refuel at Fairlie but it had cleared up by the time we stopped for more fuel at Templeton, just outside Christchurch.

Since it wasn’t far to the City Centre we walked due south and soon found a load of empty car parks. We followed the tram route east and stopped for a coffee and cake at Bunsen, at The Arts Centre, just over the road from Christchurch Botanic Gardens.

Susan Cowe Miller broke the fountain. will have to visit again today.

Posted by Herb Miller on Sunday, 8 March 2020

It was in the gardens that I discovered more about the Eggy Panthers we’d been seeing all over the country – North and South Islands.

At the Dahlia beds Susan and I had a photographic competition, then we tried the same with a sculpture.

This sculpture in the botanic gardens is entitled “Diminish and Ascend”. No mention of stairways or zeppelins anywhere.

Posted by Herb Miller on Monday, 9 March 2020

By about 6 o’clock we were getting rather peckish. We headed to Mexicanos in Victoria Street for quesadillas. I drank Three Boys IPA while Susan started with a Margarita then switch to cider.

7 Mar 2020 – Milford Sound to Twizel

Continuing our overnight cruise around Milford Sound ( Piopiotahi ), after breakfast the Milford Marina headed towards the entrance of the sound, the Tasman Sea. It was relatively calm. Apparently when Captain Cook visited he didn’t see the entrance to the fiord so called it Shallow Bay.

#milfordsound #captaincook.When we reentered Milford Sound we were told that Captain Cook on 2 explorations did not…

Posted by Susan Cowe Miller on Monday, 9 March 2020

The rest of the cruise took us under the waterfalls again, showed us the shear fracture where geological stuff happens, and returned us to the dock by 9:30.

We had to wait for about half an hour before the convoy began its return journey to Te Anau. We had a final look at the fiord, from an elevated viewpoint on dry land.

Milford Sound from the viewpoint above the car parks.

Our driver had a replacement hands free microphone, so was able to continue his commentary. It was sometimes difficult to detect when he was telling porkies, though I particularly enjoyed his explanation of the light and dark seams in the Homer Tunnel.

Soon after being reunited with our car at Te Anau we were on the road heading north east, towards Christchurch. We stopped at the Dome Cafe, Mossburn, for a quick snack lunch before a long drive towards Lake Tekapo. From Queenstown we headed east to Cromwell, where we got a leaky tea from a Subway close to the Giant Fruit Sculpture, then north along State Highway 8.

At Omarama we started looking for overnight accomodation. Susan found a place on booking.com, in Twizel, called the owners directly and mentioned the special offer to get the bargain price. It was a great find.

That evening we shopped in 4 Square, then nipped across the road to 65 & Dine aka the Top Hut Bar & Bistro. As we were paying, Susan asked some other diners if they knew of any Templetons. One, a retired vicar, from Christchurch said there were quite a few.