We spent two weeks in the North Island of New Zealand, and saw a little of the "Land of the Long White Cloud"!!


This is the way the Kiwis entertain their visitors.
Of course it's all very "ho-hum" for us sophisticated Australian travellers!!

We flew out of Melbourne on Monday 4 January, or at least we tried for most of the day! Unfortunately, we crossed paths with International star and colossal pain, Grace Jones, who after checking in many articles of luggage, decided that after 400 or so of her fellow passengers were on board, she and her first class party would not be flying with us after all. Two hours were spent unloading all luggage and extracting hers, while the rest of us amused ourselves, and some people travelling on to America contemplated the carefully planned connections they were missing! However, when the 747 finally moved toward the runway, our troubles were only beginning. The pilot reported a faulty engine part, which had to be replaced and tested, resulting in us being served lunch on board at the gate, and finally released back into the terminal, complete with vouchers for the cafe, and phone cards to notify people waiting for us what was happening. We departed about 7 hours late, and consequently arrived in Auckland about midnight NZ time - far too late to pick up our rental car, and embarrassingly late to turn up at the home of our hosts for the first two days, Ross and Melissa Hendy, who nevertheless welcomed us warmly when we knocked on their door about 1am. What a day!!

These people are heroes! This is us enjoying one of the beaches on Auckland harbour the following afternoon.

Melissa, Madeleine, Ross

Melissa, Madeleine (2), Bernie and Ross.

By Wednesday we had inspected a little of Auckland and planned our itinery for the next few days, so mid afternoon saw us on the road in our Honda Integra, heading south to Waitomo, which as everyone knows, means "Hole in the ground with water". Yes folks - CAVES - with glowworms!! We stayed at a B&B just 100 metres from the tourist centre, and we inspected not only the main tourist caves by boat and foot, but also some short bushwalks and tried out . . .
. This means being kitted out in caving gear, and following a guide through an underground river system on car/truck inner tubes. This included small waterfalls and floating through peaceful caverns with glowworms, where helmet lights are turned off, and the feeling is like being suspended in space with stars drifting by. . . Magic.

We looked like this. Of course outside the cave, the wetsuits got rather hot, so plunging into a bath of cold water was a treat!

CaversWet is best

Next stop - Friday 8th now - was Turangi, at the southern end of Lake Taupo, and close to the Tongariro National Park which contains the highest peaks in the North Island. We planned to do the Tongariro Crossing walk the next day, reputed to be "the finest one day walk in New Zealand". We stayed at a very pleasant B&B in Turangi, and the people there helped us with local knowledge, planning, and even extra water bottles, as the water in the mountains is either too high in minerals to drink, or needs to be boiled. It was a full day on Saturday, but quite enjoyable, walking through scenery which is spectacular, and of course unfamiliar to us, as active volcanoes are not easy to find in Australia!

Mt. Ngauruhoe Postcard-like photo opportunities surrounded us all day.

Amongst the volcanoes


Fortunately, on our return, we were able to enjoy some time immersed in a natural thermal hot spring bath - private rooms with pools at 41 degrees or thereabouts - at a little place called Tokaanu, which was just 5 kms from our B&B. A home cooked meal provided by our hostess, good conversation, and collapse into bed. A lifestyle anyone could get to enjoy!

Next day we rode the chairlift as far as it went up the side of Mt. Ruapehu, which is the highest in the North Island, and a ski resort in winter (last erupted in 1996) but were not tempted to climb further as the top was in cloud. Then we drove to our next overnight stop - a motel in Taupo, at the northern end of the lake. The next day we watched people bungy jumping over the Waikato River, and then went off for our own thrill on the river, which you see at the top of this page, near the Huka Falls.

We continued on to Rotorua for the night. Lots more volcanic activity to see here, and also Maori culture on display.

Wednesday 13th. A long drive, north through Auckland to the Bay of Islands, which is near the north end of New Zealand. We planned to spend our last three days relaxing on or near a beach, but the weather did not play fair. Up till now we had experienced no rain, but here in Paihia, the heavens finally opened up! We did more driving than sailing or swimming, but we did manage to visit a few heritage sites, taste some New Zealand fruit wine, and ride in a slow boat (ferry across to historic old Russell) and a fast boat (speedboat trip to, and through, the "hole in the rock"). We also did a "Swim with the dolphins" excursion, on which we certainly did some closeup viewing of these fascinating animals, but because there were some baby dolphins still with their mothers, we were not permitted to go in the water with them.

Bay of Islands

This is what the Bay of Islands is like when the weather is good.
We want to go back and try again for the sailing and diving.

A night in Auckland with our friends the Hendys, and then a 4am alarm for our flight back to Melbourne - this time no aircraft faults and no trouble-making American movie stars!

Keep tuned for our next thrilling adventure.

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This page by Bernie O'Shea
Last modified on 8 February 1999