Monthly Archives: February 2020

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.

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.

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.

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

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:

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.

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.

13 Feb 2020 – Auckland & Kelly Tarltons

Day two in New Zealand. We set off early to find breakfast at Sky City. Egg and bacon rolls and coffee, then took the red Soaring Kiwi bus to Sea Life Kelly Tarltons. We had a marvellous time visiting a replica of Captain Scott’s Antarctic base, watching penguins being fed, listening to a talk on turtles and finally watching the sharks and rays being fed.

Much later on we continued the bus tour to the Auckland Museum and then wandered down to the Winter gardens and fernery.

Back at the bus stop we waited ages for the Soaring Kiwi bus to take us back to Sky Tower and our hotel. After a quick go with the ensuite laundry we stepped out for our night visit to the Sky Tower then a Mexican meal just around the corner.

12 Feb 2020 – Auckland & Devonport

We arrived in Auckland in the early morning and took the SkyBus to our hotel in the CBD. After a quick change of clothes and rinse at the hotel, where we left our bags in store because it was too early to check in, we had a coffee next door then wandered to the Sky Tower. Having asked for recommendations at the i-site we purchased a 48 hour pass for the Soaring Kiwi bus tour. This included a trip up Sky Tower, which is what we did first.

Next, we couldn’t be bother to wait for the Soaring Kiwi bus to take us to the quay, so we walked there, negotiating major road works, and caught a ferry to Devonport, where we climbed a small volcano called Mt Victoria. Afterwards we stopped for lunch at Correli’s cafe.

On our return to Auckland CBD we took the red Soaring Kiwi bus ( Central loop ) all the way back to the Sky Tower, then checked in to our hotel.

In the evening we wandered out to Viaduct Harbour where we had drinks and food at O’Hagans. Susan’s steak sandwich was fairly inedible. She complained and got money off.

We were very tired when we got back to the hotel.

11-12 Feb 2020 – Dubai to Auckland via Bali

Depart 02:00 on the 11th, arrive 05:25 on the 12th. Two flights on the same plane with a one hour stop at Bali where we had to get out, walk through the airport, have our hand luggage scanned again and reboard to the same seats.

This long haul flight was on a 777. The seats weren’t as comfy as the Airbus and the film selection appeared to be limited.

On our return to the UK I racked my brain for a while to try to remember the films that I’d watched then decided to visit the Emirates website to get a more complete list.

  • The Oscar winning Parasite
  • Storm Boy
  • Yesterday
  • Horrible Histories the movie – Rotten Romans
  • The Bromley Boys
  • The Tomorrow Man

and I listened to Dark Side of the Moon.

Next time I’m on a long haul flight I’ll make a wish list in advance.

10 Feb 2020 – Fly to Dubai 13:35 to 00:40

First stage of our travel to New Zealand. A 7 hour flight on an Airbus to Dubai from LGW. At Gatwick we had breakfast at Comptoir Libanais then a swift one at Wetherspoons. Bought a few snacks for the flights and some neck pillows.

Emirates entertainment – ICE – isn’t half bad… but I can’t remember all the films I saw on both flights, only that I started watching one on the Airbus but it wasn’t on the play list on the 777. It was Palm Beach; which we visited just over a month later.