Our New Zealand Holiday 2007 




New Zealand Diary October/November 2007

Saturday 13th

We were brought to the airport by our good buddies, Keith and Caroline. I suspect that they were wishing they were coming too! Arrived at 11:30 and we checked in at 12:00. All set for a 16:15 take off. Arrived after an uneventful first leg at LAX at 03:15 English time, 19:15 local time. The queue was pretty long for US immigration but luckily we were near the front. LA is one big sprawling city, as seen from the 747 because of course we didn't leave the airport. We received great news that the English rugby team beat Les Bleus to reach the final of the World Cup, which of course will now be watched in a NZ bar!

"Fill it up, mate, and check the oil & water!!"

Sunday & Monday 15th

We seem to have lost a day somewhere! We arrived in Auckland after a 12 hour flight from L.A. I am beginning to sound like a celebrity! There was a delay leaving LAX because the pilot encountered an "obstruction" on the taxi-way (probably Posh Spice out shopping !) and had to be pushed back by the tug. I have to admit that all this is second-hand news (to quote Fleetwood Mac) because at this stage I was enjoying 30 minutes of my allotted 3 hours sleeping between LHK and AKL/CHC (impressed? you should be!) Anyway, we were delayed into Christchurch (CHC!) which led to a rather hurried check-in. Luckily, the cases were pushed through from LHR (stop it, you poser!) Having had our documents being processed with the very minimum of diligence, we boarded a bus from the departure lounge for all of 300 metres to the waiting 737-300, which, incidently, was a third full. The service was nearly 1 to 1, which put me in mind of a bed and breakfast! After a spectacular 60 minute flight we arrived in Christchurch (CHC, last one I promise!) had our walking shoes checked after Di helpfully volunteered that she had a pair of walking shoes in the case (not sure which one) "would you mind opening the cases madam?". We eventually left the airport where I made friends with a South African couple watching the conclusion of SA Vs Argentina (SA won) Meantime Di had called the hotel who dispatched a mini-bus immediately, within 15 minutes we were booked in. After showering, we caught a bus into Christchurch, CH...OK, I'll stop! Christchurch is a lovely town, a mix of history and modern, but the people are so friendly! We bought tickets for the Tram which circulates the city, a good way to familiarise yourself. Back to the hotel for a hot tub and a swim before returning to Bonboli for our evening meal. Excited about the wagon tomorrow! The meal at BonBoli was lovely, we kept falling asleep on the bus back, no mean feat, because it was a real bone-shaker! In bed by 9 feeling full of head-cold, I decided at 2am that I would not give in to the snots and sore throat, call that an illness? I spit on you! So felt OK by morning. During the night there was an earthquake off Milford Sound, 6.7 on the Richter scale, no real damage through.

First sight of South Island


Christchurch's latest transport!

Dandelion Fountain

Dandelion fountain, Christchurch

Park Christchurch





Tuesday, 16th.

We collected the vehicle at about 10:30. While waiting we met a couple of ex-pats, Caroline and John. Caroline used to live and work in East Grinstead! They now run a B&B in Stavely. Picked up Mum from the Copthorne Commadore, then off to New World supermarket to stock up. Although neither of us said anything initially, we were both disappointed with the quality and condition of the vehicle. After a fantastic journey of 248km (155 miles) through Darfield, Glenroy, Stavely. (where we saw the B&B of the people we met at Maui's) Mayfield, Geraldine, Fairlie, and, finally Lake Takepo, where we pulled in for the night on a lakeside pitch. (Cost $39). The weather had been lovely until we crossed the mountains at Burkes Pass, then it rained! And then we had storms. By this time, I had phoned Maui's to register my dissatisfaction with the van. It is really quite tatty, and with 138500 kms on the clock, clearly not very new! Anyway the lady at Christchurch was understanding, especially when I told her the vehicle details and she has arranged for us to change the vehicle in Queenstown tomorrow. Not a problem as we were planning to go there anyway I didn't have a brilliant nights sleep but spent the waking hours planning some shots of the lake and mountains in the morning!

Van Mk1

Van, mark one


Lake Takapo

Lake Tekapo, early morning

Wednesday 17th

Wake up to a beautiful morning. I took a walk along the lakeside and watched the sunrise over the mountains. After breakfast we set off toward Queenstown and stopped to view Mount Cook. We continued along highway 8, then on to Queenstown airport, where we found the Maui office. Despite promise made yesterday, the people at Queenstown had no idea of the problem, but to their credit. Gemma and Katie took ownership of the problem and gave us a replacement vehicle, much better. Thanks to Gemma and Katie of Maui at Queenstown. On the way we nearly ran out of fuel, just got to Queenstown on fumes where we filled up at 1.19per Litre. We returned to Wanaka on a mountain pass through Cardrona, fantastic roads and we had to drive through snow showers! Arrived at Wanaka at about 5:30pm. Lovely site, sauna and hot tubs! We decided to stay 2 nights and chill out. The weather is changeable, changing from freezing to bloodly freezing and from wet to pissing down! Covered 146 Miles today

Mount Cook

3 Brits in front of Mount Cook



Thursday 18th

Woke up to great views across to the lake and to the mountains beyond. Weather has improved from the heavy rain last night but when I got out of the Shower. It was snowing! Roy the warden assures me that it will improve later today. Well. Roy was right! It turned out to be a lovely day! Di and I walked into Wanaka in the morning and after lunch we walked along the lakeside to Waterfall Creek which didn't live up to its name as there was no waterfall! Nevetheless. It was a great walk It stated off quite chilly but the sun broke through and it turned out to be really warm there is not much wild life in NZ but we did see some pretty yellowhead birds. The water in the lake is incredibly clear in all we walked about 7 miles today. We went back in to Wanaka to load up with food before heading of tomorrow we are planning to get to the Fox and Franz Joseph glaciers stopping off at Haast on the way. We decided today that Kaikoura is a step too for and that our time will be better spent enjoying the time we have at places we want to be rather than racing around and seeing lots of nothing! We want to be able to spend some quality time at Marahau.


View from pitch at Aspiring Campsite, Wanaka.

Lake Wanaka

Friday 19th

We did visit the glaciers and Haast (nothing there!) We had planned to stay at Franz Joseph, but the weather was grotty , So we headed up country and stopped at Hari Hari a one horse, but many cattle town! Dead cheap site at 27 dollars but only toilets and showers. It will do for one night. We travelled 308 kms(192 miles) today.


Fox Glacier

Di Mum

Saturday 20th

We woke up to find that even the one horse had gone! Showers and toilets were fine. Before leaving Hari Hari we needed fuel from the local station at 1:46 a litre ! As we left it started to rain. This soon changed into the cat and accompanying dogs variety before changing again to the rod of the stair version.
We were told by a helpful local that the Nor' Westerly was the cause of the wind and rain, and that it will be fine and dry on the east coastline.....not helpful! Next stop was Hotitika under normal circumstances a pretty and interesting town. But seen through horizontal and high velocity stair rods, it lost it's charm! At the fuel station (1.13 per litre, now we know how Hari Hari folk can afford their horse!) we were recommended a jade artist who operated locally from a studio (shed) in his back garden. Curiously, he wasn't that pleased to see us, and had little to sell, maybe it was a cover for horse laundering!
We left Hotitika and travelled up the coastline to Pancake Rocks and during this leg of the journey the weather improved dramatically with some good sunny spells which complemented the wonderful rain forests made up of conventional trees and the marvelous tree ferns. The Pancake Rocks were stunning made all the more dramatic by the heavy hail stone showers. Had a coffee & hot chocolate their and met a couple now living in Christchurch (CHC!) Keith was originally from Hounslow On then to Westport where we booked into a TopTen site on Carter Beach. A lovely spot. Needing some provisions Di and I walked into Westport a 2km stroll according to the girl on reception. Wrong! It was over 6km along a busy road. We wisely invested in a taxi back! We totaled 138 miles today.

Knights Bay

Knights Bay

PanCake Rocks

Pancake Rocks

Van Rear

Van mark II

Sunday 21st

Up early and showered ready for the Rugby World Cup final, kicked off at 8am a tight game that England lost 6-15 thanks in no small way to some questionable refereeing decisions from A Rolland, a Irish gentleman. Once the game was over, we set off to Tauranga Bay on Cape Foulwind to see a seal colony. There we met up again with Keith and his Kiwi wife! From there we drove to Charleston where we enjoyed a short narrow guage railway journey of 2kms into the temperate rainforest. The loco was powered by a Morris Minor 1000 engine! We then drove to Denniston, a disused coalmine atop of a mountain. There we saw the remnants of the mine workings and an extraordinary rail "incline" to get the coal from the top to the bottom of the mountain to be transported away. A very dangerous piece of engineering claiming several lives as the empty trucks were used to transport people to the top, and it was not unusual for trucks to de-rail. Back to Carter Beach for tea and to play with my kite! But firstly a quick route plan to get to Marahau tomorrow, looks like 250kms (165 miles) Kite flying was fantastic could have sold the kite several times over! The wind off the sea was perfect.

NZ Fern





Monday 22nd

Labor Day in New Zealand. We set off at 9am with the intention of reaching Marahau. Stopped of at the New World supermarket in Westport to stock up. We had a very pleasant ride through changing countryside following the Buller River. At Inangahua Junction we happened upon a local museum in an old community hall which had accounts and pictures of two devastating earthquakes in 1929 & 1967. Of particular interest to me was a log of emergency call outs of the telephone engineering staff following the 1967 event. The NZ Post Office as then was, was clearly modelled on it's UK counterpart as the grades and "language " is the same. We moved on through landscape reminiscent of the foothills of the Italian Dolomites. We next stopped at the Buller Gorge Swingbridge. The bridge is 110 metres long and 17 metres above the river. We all walked across the bridge and there was a nice circular walk through the rainforest where we spotted a Fantail bird, a very pretty and capricious bird, very active, but extremely difficult to photograph! On returning to the swingbridge I took the option to return via a "comet-line", an aerial slide, really good!
From there, next stop Marahau which we made in good time arriving at about 3pm. Lovely spot, had a good walk along the beach, and then booked a boat trip for tomorrow. We travelled 252kms (165 miles) today in beautiful sunshine most of the way and arrived to cloudless skies in Marahau.

Buller Gorge

Buller Gorge

Abel Tasman




Tuesday 23rd

Woke up to, you've guessed it, rain! But this soon made way for a lovely sunny day. We took the water taxi up the coast to see the seal colony on Tonga island, then back down the coast to Bark Bay, named after the processing of tree bark for the leather industry. From there we walked along the Abel Tasman track to Torrent Bay, about 8kms, where we were picked up by the water taxi again. We had planned for QM to stay on the water taxi for the round trip to Tonga island, but her back wasn't up to it. The walk was great along the coastline and through temperate rain forest. Back at base we dined in the local restaurant, Di and I had "Blue nose" fish. QM had shank of lamb. All very nice!

Split Apple rock

Split Apple Rock

Torrent Bay

Torrent Bay

Di Torrent Bay

Chain Bridge Abel Tasman



Wednesday 24th

I rose early and took a walk out the back of the site. Lots of bird activity. Saw Tui, Quail (I think) and Fantail. A short ride from Marahau to Nelson, a larger town then we have seen for a while. We had a walk around and enjoyed a coffee and a paninni before driving a few kilometres to a camping ground at Maitai. The site is a bit like a large CL, but there are a few "permanent " vans, some in the form of converted old Bedford lorries. Di and I enjoyed a walk along the riverside before returning for a well earned drink. 10 dollars per person and 2 dollars for a shower! Plenty of space and facilities are OK. Another walk in the afternoon while Di and Mum dozed in the sunshine, along the river to the Golf Club.



Bedford Bus

MaiTai campsite




Thursday 25th

A short journey from Nelson to Canvas Town on the SH6, turning off at Canvas Town for 8kms south to campsite called Pinedale. In the bush on a river. A perfect spot! Less than one hour's drive to Picton for the ferry tomorrow. Site fees are 10 dollars per person plus one dollar for a shower. Serenaded by Tui and Bellbird song, elusive little buggers! We panned for gold in the crystal clear river then followed a precarious track to a glowworm cave- not for the faint-hearted! A RED LETTER DAY! On our pitch is a fire pit with a rotating circular cooking plate. Well, Robbie does not need much of an invite to gather some wood and make a fire to cook on! Sausage, Burger, Beans, Onions, and Baked potatoes: all cooked on a wood fire-perfect!! Another great day, despite of the best efforts of the pesky sandflies!!



Panning for Gold

Di panning for gold at Pinedale

Fire Pit

What a feast!

Friday 26th North Island.

Drove some 54 kms to Picton using Queen Charlotte Scenic Drive, a really beautiful road overlooking the QC Sound. We arived in Picton in ample time for the ferry, which incidently, used to work the Portsmouth to Cherbourg route. We had time to look around the small town of Picton before checking in for the 3 hour crossing. As we were prompt, we were first non commercial vehicle on, but more importantly, first off! This gave us a good start out of Wellington after a very picturesque crossing especially the first hour through the Marlborough Sound. Wellington was a bit of a culture shock with traffic and three lane motorways, but we were soon out in the countryside again. It may be the fact that we have been sharing a camper van with the Mother-in-law for two weeks, but I can't help noticing the sheep are getting more attractive!! We travelled 144kms from Wellington to Palmerston North, where we stopped for the night on a commercial site close to the city centre, but handy for the All Blacks rugby museum!

marlborough Sound

Marlborough Sound, between islands


Saturday 27th

Up fairly early to strike out for Whakapapa. Need some provisions, and with a long journey ahead, decided to forgo the rugby museum. Di drove today and we made good progress stopping at Taihape to stretch our legs. Then across Desert Road on the approach to Taupo a really desolate road. We passed the DC3 restaurant, formerly Macdonalds, but now a sweet shop. As we approached Whakapapa we could see the mountains were in cloud, as we had made good progress, we decided to press on to Taupo. A good move as we found a good Top Ten site there. Once settled we had a good tramp to the Huka falls, about a 5 mile walk, and the falls were well worth it. We also saw Tui, Fantail, and a Kingfisher. Tried to use the Internet room, paid 4 dollars for dial-up speed, spent 25 minutes looking at blue bar!

Rob Huka Falls

Rob at Huka Falls

Huka falls

Huka Falls



Sunday 28th

A real touristy day today, we left the site at 9:30-ish and drove to the "Craters of the Moon" an area of steam vents and craters formed by blocked vents "exploding" due to a build up of pressure. Also there was a mud pool created by the corrosive gasses dissolving the rocks to make mud. From there we took mum to the bridge over the Huka falls. We then drove a short distance to the Arititia Dam which is opened every 2 hours causing a rush of water forming rapids. We then boarded a river boat to travel up river to the base of the Huka falls, a smashing ride. Told you it was a touristy day! After a 75km drive we arrived at the Top Ten site at the Blue Lake. Just time for a shower before being picked up by coach to be taken to a Maori village for an evening of culture and food. Very good! Met some cracking people from the Cook islands. Had a sing song on the way back!

Craters of the Moon

Craters of the Moon

Huka Falls

3 Brits in a Boat!

Maori Village




Monday 29th

Ran out of gas! Call Maui and told that we can fill the bottle at petrol stations. There is no way we had a full cylinder to start, we have only used gas foor boiling kettles and water heater. Anyway we were able to get gas from a Caltex station, and it only cost 10 dollars. We continued up the coast to Hahie beach. For the first time a fairly dull drive. However, it was worth it to find Hahie Beach site, right on a perfect beach, and plenty of facilities. Had great fun flying the kite on the beach, and BBQ'd some steaks for tea. We decided to stay here tomorrow instead of driving to Coromandel. Site fees were 36 dollars, for two people ;-).

Buzz in NZ

Flying the well travelled Buzz kite at Hahie Beach

Hahie Beach

Hahie Hot Beach


Tuesday 30th

Well, a good decision to stay at Hahei beach. This morning we walked towards Catherdral Bay, a tough walk over headlands and back. After that we drove to Cooks Bay to find very little there! Then on to the Hot Water Beach, I was expecting to dig a pool with our borrowed spade and sit in the pleasantly warm, geothermally heated water. Well I got the first bit right, we dug a pool, but the waters were so hot we couldn't sit in it, unbelievable! It was amazing to run into the cold Pacific Ocean, then into a hot pool on the beach! Back then to camp where we flew the kite on the beach in the late afternoon sun, if there is a better way to spend an afternoon, I have yet to find it, fantastic!


Rob at Hahie Beach


Byeee to the Coramandel, we will be back!



Wednesday 31st

Noticed the date, no Halloween nonsense in NZ, they do celebrate Guy Fawkes though! With a heavy heart we left Hahei Beach and headed towards Miranda. We (I) decided it would be a challenge to take the un-made road across the Coramandel range, through the forest park to Thames. It was great although the Memsahib and QM didn't think so, scaredy cats! We saw a Kingsfisher sitting on some phone wires, and the road was pretty narrow in places, which was a challenge when meeting trucks coming the other way! When we arrived at the Thames firth we called in for a brew to calm QMs nerves. I got chatting with an old guy who had a remote controlled 'torpedo' I got chatting to find out what it was! It turned out that he sent it out across the firth with a kilometre of line attached with baited hooks. He was after 'snapper fish' unfortunately he hadn't got any, otherwise he would have had a customer! Interestingly, he was only allowed a maximum of 9 fish per day to conserve stocks. On to Miranda where we checked in and enjoyed an afternoon in the sun and in the thermal pool. We were recommended a nearby Fish and Chip shop "The best in New Zealand" so we drove about 8kms and bought Snapper and Chips for us and Toriaki and Chips for QM. They were all lovely!


Rob Beach

Di Beach



Thursday 1st November

We left Miranda at about 9:30 and trundled up the coast towards Auckland. We arrived at the Maui Centre at about midday. No problems in returning the camper van even with a bit missing! Got a cab to Auckland Hyatt hotel, and after checking in we took a walk to the city, and went up the SkyTower...fantastic. Even Di walked over the glass floor, eventually !
Back to the hotel after some shopping to use the pool and Spa.
A very nice meal in the hotel to finish.
To quote Ian Dury, "what happened next is private, and also very rude"

Sky Tower Auckland

Sky Tower 2


Friday 2nd.

Up at a reasonable hour for breakfast, followed by a quick dip in the whirlpool. Checked out with no problems with vouchers for accommodation and meals. Took a taxi to the Auckland museum which was excellent. Got QM back to the hotel, then Di and I went for a walk along the Waterfront and up to some tacky market place called Victoria Market. Auckland is a busy but very interesting city, so much to see, but little time! Then back to Queen St for more souvenirs, had a good time in the All Black's shop.. Back to the hotel by 4:30 to wait for Shuttle bus ordered fo 7pm.

Auckland Museum

Auckland Museum.

Kia Ora!


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