New Zealand - February/April 2006


This is the diary of a 7-week trip to New Zealand which started on 15 February 2006 and ended on 7 April 2006.  The itinerary was devised by Jane after consultation with many friends who have been there and the Lonely Planet.  Jane booked the return flight to Auckland on Cathay Pacific via Trailfinders and booked a car with Omega Rentals. We constantly refered to a borrowed copy of  the "New Zealand Complete Road Atlas" which also contains scenic spots and town plans. We stayed with friends, rellies, B&Bs and motels.  The rate of exchange was £1 = $2.42NZ.

So now read on ...

(But first be aware that most links are to photographs which may take time to load.  A link from a day's date is to a full set of photographs while a link within a day is to a single photograph.  If you click on a 'more...' link you will go to some other web site for more information.  If you have any comments please let us have them by clicking here.)

The itinerary

Here is a map showing the route taken.

Wednesday, February 15 - Flight to Auckland

We left home at 1:30pm drove to the Swanson's where we left the car. Bill drove us to the airport. At check in we were told that the flight was delayed by 2hrs so was now a 8:5pm take off, so we had 4 hrs to wait! We went into the Cathay Pacific club lounge where they gave us a voucher each for £20 to buy a meal. At 6pm we decided to go to the Seafood Bar and get some food. The sea food platter was exactly £20.  It was good but we will not rush to eat there again. At 7:30pm we were called to the counter in the lounge and told that the flight had been cancelled! They could put us on a Virgin flight or a BA flight, we chose the BA one leaving at 10:25pm (that way we still get the air miles!). Off we went to terminal 1 from terminal 3. There were about 14 of us. BA were not very helpful and seemed to totally resent the fact we were being moved across, but we did finally get on the plane and we took off. More food on the plane and very good as BA always is. Jane slept quite well on the 11 hour flight to Hong Kong and Graham dozed on and off. On arrival at Hong Kong we went to the club lounge (again) as we had several hours to wait. We had missed the connecting flight but were put onto another one later. The flight to Auckland was on an airbus and was quite comfortable with reasonably good food.

Friday, February 17 (NZ time - UK+13 hours) - Auckland

We arrived at 1:30pm, only 6 hours later than the original plan. Early off the plane, no queues for immigration and almost first waiting for luggage but to no avail. Several of us were then called by name to the lost luggage area. Our luggage had not been transferred onto the BA flight so was still in London, or by then maybe on its way. Nothing we could do - they gave us $260 NZ - quite generous, to buy essentials and would deliver the bags Saturday to the door for us. We hired our car and set off to visit Faye Caundle near Manly, Whangaparoa. She is delightful, aged nearly 90 but better than some people I know at 70!!! So bright and active and sprightly. She had invited friends round, Jean and Brian Dickenson, for dinner and had prepared a lovely meal which included Kumara salad. Carrot jelly mould, pickled pork and finished with a great Kiwi pavlova. (Kumaras are like sweet potatoes but there are 4 different kinds and none like we have at home). The Jury's also popped in to say hello, Jeanne and Howard Jury with son Simon who had just flown in from Ireland. Then we went to bed. Interesting, the cicadas make so much noise all day long but stop when it's dark. They are so loud , we cannot really hear ourselves speak due to the noise they make. We have never known it before. We noticed in Faye's garden that she had a very large round green tank. Apparently most of the houses on the North Island have them as it's used for collecting rain water and that is their only source of water.

Saturday, February 18 - Whangparoua

Up early, breakfast of homemade yoghurt with Muesli and Apricots, lovely. We waited around until 11am when our luggage arrived and we could put on clean clothes!!!! Whilst waiting, Faye showed us lots of photographs of the family and told many stories of early years in New Zealand. A drive down the peninsular was then possible and we visited Manly beach, then further on to Army Bay and her golf club, Whangaparoa GC. Here we had a drink. Onward tour of the peninsular - wonderful beaches - Pukeko birds, sheep and judder bars. Everywhere you look there is sea, hills in the distance and the temperature is really good.

Sunday, February 19 - Puhoi

A promise of a swim got Jane up early, but the tide was up high at 1130 so she had to wait. We all went down to Manly beach at 1130 and had a wonderful swim. After lunch we drove northward to Puhoi Bohemian village started in the 1800s by the Bohemians who came over from Bohemia which is now part of the Czech Republic. We visited the pub and then a fascinating little museum. The lady running it had come from Worcester in 1952. She had worked as a cook at the Elms at Abberley - what a coincidence. Going home took a while since the road was very busy with people returning to Auckland after the weekend. Everywhere is very green and looks a bit like England till you look carefully at the trees and tree ferns. Monday was going to be a sad day for Faye, she didn't want us to leave but knew we had to go.

Monday, February 20 - Clevedon

Leaving about 10:30am we said our farewells to Faye and we drove south down the A1 - one of the very few motorways in New Zealand, and arrived at the Bruce's house in Clevedon in time for lunch. What a lovely house they have. Barbara's brother Robert (Bob) was staying too. After lunch we went to a beach that Pat and Bob had found. It took a while to get there. The sea was as flat as a pancake but the beach was stony. However we had a lovely swim and returned to the house for tea. Graham, Jane and Barbara then went for a walk in the scenic reserve at the end of their lane; it was like walking through the rain forest and saw some rimu trees which have amazing bark which looks like a jigsaw puzzle. For dinner we drove to Botany which is like an American shopping area. We eat in a Japanese restaurant having hibachi type food, very good. Back home 9;30pm and so to bed - the latest we had stayed up since we arrived!!!

Tuesday, February 21 - Waiheke Island

Up early and off to Auckland to catch the ferry to Waiheke Island where we had a gourmet lunch at the Mudbrick vineyard and restaurant. This was great fun - a 35min ferry journey and a lovely island and wonderful food. We are having a wonderful time with Barbara and Pat in their very comfortable 4 bedroomed house which is built on a slope with two garages, one of which is Pat's workshop where he is making a fantastic Wendy house for Lily their granddaughter, and on the first floor a family kitchen/sitting area with balcony, 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, sitting room, laundry. Michael & Sophie live about 5 minutes away by car and their new house, designed by Michael and built for them, sits on a rise with a lovely view across a valley with about 16 acres of their own. Everything is in a fairly new state outside so they have done lots of fencing and planted many trees. They have about fifteen sheep and Michael is planning to have some beef cattle next year.

Wednesday, February 22 - Bream Bay and Botany

Today Michael took Graham, Pat and Bob and Tom (Michael's father in law) to Bream Bay where NIWA, the firm he works for, has an Aquaculture Park which he is very involved in, going there on a weekly basis. Jane and Barbara went shopping! Lots to buy and cheap as the summer sales were on as it is now autumn. At 1800 we went to Michael and Sophie's, met the grandchildren, Lily and Jack, who were delightful and got extremely excited by Graham's acting a monster!!!! We then had fish and chips and deep fried oysters - Jane was in heaven.

Thursday, February 23 - Clevedon to Rotorua

Time to say more farewells, but first Graham had to set Pat's computer up so he could receive and send emails. Driving south we arrived at Rotarua about 2pm and walked around the town till 4pm when we went to our B&B, The Towers homestay run by Des and Doreen Towers. Doreen came from Swansea on the £10 ticket back in the 50s. They were delightful and made us very welcome. At 6pm we went to a Maori evening consisting of a show and food. The Maoris have an amazing culture and are able to keep it going whilst living in the 21st century.

Friday, February 24 - Rotorua

Lovely breakfast provided by Doreen. Des lent us a couple of maps which he wrote on the places we were going to visit. First stop was the Whangawarawara village where we went to the geysers and mud pools, quite amazing. We saw a Silver eye (bird) which is really small and pretty. This is a must visit for anyone coming here. Then onto a redwood plantation which had 4 or 5 walking routes in it. We did one, the Quarry Trail, which took 1.5hrs. On the way round we met an English girl called Abby and she stayed with us for the rest of the day. After the walk we drove to a lake called the Blue Lake and walked all round it - 2hrs. At one point we could see the Green Lake to our left and the blue one to our right and they are both at different levels (69 feet different), most strange. Next stop was Lake Tarawera. which was very pretty. All the lakes had a few black swan couples on them. Jane could only paddle in all these lakes as we had no swimming stuff with us. A quick drive back to Rotorua enabled us to visit St Faiths Church before it shut at 5pm. It is a Maori Anglican Church, most interesting. Maoris are buried above ground in concrete tombs because it's too hot underground and it would burn them. We dropped Abby off at the YHA and made our way to an area called the Streat, checked out all the menus at the various restaurants and chose one called the Stonegrill. Had a great meal and then back to the B&B, where Jane is writing this and Graham is snoring very loudly. We had noticed that we have a four inch nail sticking out of a tyre so must get that fixed tomorrow before we leave. And so to bed.

Saturday, February 25 - Otorohanga and Waitomo Caves

After breakfast we drove to a garage to see about tyre - the man just pulled the nail out and it all seemed to be OK, we were very lucky. Today we drove for a couple of hours stopping in Tirau which has become a popular town specialising in corrugated iron statues, the Sheep is a gift shop and the Dog the information centre. Onwards to Otorohanga where we stopped for a bit to eat at a bakery and had New Zealand steak pies - very good. We then found we were almost next door to the computer business run by Brian Caundle with whom we are to stay the night. We visited the Kiwi House and say many wonderful birds as well as the kiwi, worth a visit. On then to Waitomo to see the glow-worm caves. We have never seen anything like the glow-worms, the caves were not as good as others we have seen but the glow-worms in them were quite amazing. A short walk up a hill took us to a look out point and the views were fantastic. On the way back we stopped at a café and found the driver got a free drink so Jane had a milkshake. We drove up to Kiokio and passed Brian and Adele's house. As we were a couple of hours early we stopped in a lay-by and I sorted out the photographs while Graham read his book. At 7pm we went to the Caundle's house. We met Gun aka Brian and daughter Robyn and son Ben. Adele had gone to pick up daughter Kerry. The oldest daughter Sarah is in her first term at University. We had a really good vegetarian meal and then Jane spent time with Gun explaining the Jarvis and Ellington families and sharing data.

Sunday, February 26 - Taupo

Walked round Gun's 16 acre estate and saw their calves and the ones that stay in their fields but belong to someone else. Leaving around 10am we set off for Lake Taupo, a 2hr trip through forest land and farm land; saw lots of Friesian cows with Jersey bulls. Found our motel and went for a walk by the lake and also found some lunch. A walk back to the motel and now it is 4pm and we have some time to ourselves for really the first time since we arrived from the UK. But we are meeting Lois Woodgates tonight, another cousin several times removed for Jane.  Lois turned up at 5pm to take us off to a BBQ - she was in Taupo for a Friendship Force club conference. We went and decided it was not for us but would be a fantastic club to belong to if one was ever widowed. Everyone was very pleasant to us. Lois and Jane had lots to talk about re their respective families. Just before it got dark Lois drove us up to the Huka falls and to the geothermal area, both quite fascinating.

Monday, February 27 - Taupo to Levin

As it was only going to take us 4 hours to drive down to Lois we decided to see lots of places on the way. We went back to Huka falls in full daylight, they are well worth a visit. Driving down the east side of Lake Taupo was very pretty. We turned off the route 1 at Tarangi to go around the mountains and the ski areas, The first mountain we say had a live geyser on the side of it and is still very active. We drove to Whakapapa, there is no F in Moari and Wh is pronounced as F!!!! This is a small place with one huge hotel called the Chateau. We had lunch in a café and then drove up the mountain to the ski resort itself. The place is amazing - the whole mountain is volcanic lava rocks. It is difficult to imagine how you ski if there is even the slightest thaw. The snow must be really deep to cover the lava rocks. We drove through Okahune, the carrot capital of the world. We stopped at the Army Museum at Waiouru. We found Levin about 4pm and drove up a long lane to Lois Woodgates' Farm. Pete barbecued some beef steaks from one of their stock. We had a lovely evening with Lois and Pete, and Lois's father, Fred Brown, who is 90 and amazing. There must be something in the air over here that promotes longevity.

Tuesday, February 28 - Levin to Wellington

After breakfast we drove up to the farm sheds and saw the 600 breeding ewes, many heifers, a couple of dogs, an old horse which Fred used to use to get around his land. On the way out we visited the piggery and saw 8 little piglets only a day old. Leaving Levin we drove to Wellington down a very attractive road. And found where we were staying the night (Fox Street, Ngaio), the rental returns place and the Inter-island ferry port. Lunch in a restaurant in Oriental bay was really good - mussels followed by Blue Nose fish. A trip to the top of the cable car run was worth a visit, right by the botanical gardens. But after all our adventures so far we were tired so we went to our accommodation which turned out to be a separate flat from their house, with a wonderful double bedroom, living room kitchen and bathroom. In the evening we decided to walk down the steep hill to the take away places. Everywhere is on a hill so people must be fit here. The Indian take away was amazing, you walk in and select your frozen pouches of whatever you want - pay and then take it home to heat it up. It was very good though, washed down with a bottle of wine.

Wednesday, March 1 - Wellington to Blenheim

We left after breakfast and handed in our rental car - got driven to the ferry and only had about 10 minutes before we boarded. The boats are like the Portsmouth - Le Havre ferries. Shortly after we set off the captain told us that a salmon farm had come loose in the entrance to Picton and we had to do a one hour's diversion - oh well we are on holiday so it doesn't matter. Graham read while Jane did Sudoku and then wrote this diary. Now Jane is off up stairs to see the fantastic scenery - blue sea with hills on either side, a lovely quiet crossing. Having landed in Picton Harbour, Graham went off to the Omega Car Rental office to collect our car. It is an older version of the Nissan Bluebird that we left in Wellington. We made our way to Blenheim with no stopping for lunch as we had eaten pie and chips on the boat! The weather was lovely and we went to the information centre in Blenheim and booked a bike ride round the wineries the next day. We then drove to the north end of Cloudy Bay to see the beach. The beach was very large with only one person on it and a few fishing rods around. Some steps to the side took us to a lovely little bay where there were 2 couples and a fisherman and the sea looked so lovely. We then drove to our B&B, Thainstone (more...), just outside Blenheim in the middle of the wine growing area. On the way we called at a restaurant called Gibbs and booked an evening meal and agreed to sit outside as they were completely full inside. The B&B was 5 minutes away and we were greeted by Viv Murray, the owner. Jane had a swim in their lovely pool while Viv set up a tray with 4 bottles of white wine, some biscuits and cheese and pickled walnuts, such a treat. Every B&B has given us something on arrival but this was the first wine. A quick change and then off to Gibbs for a great meal. We both chose the same, scallops followed by fish of the day, gurnard.

Thursday, March 2 - Malborough Vineyards

During breakfast we met Jim Murray, a Scotsman who has been in New Zealand for over 35 years. He had so many stories to tell. Chose any subject and he had a personal anecdote to regale you with. At 10amish a man collected us and took us to get our bikes, 2 other couples were already in the van, one American and one young couple who work for Accenture and the girl is doing a 6 month sabbatical but her boyfriend had only 2 weeks and had just arrived. They were backpacking. We were fitted for our bikes and helmets which are compulsory here by law. We had only booked a half day bike hire so had until 3pm. Off we set and had a great time stopping at 4 wineries - Forrest Estate, Framingham, Domain St George, Nautilus and Clifford bay. We could have drunk much more had we been so inclined. Lunch was some biscuits and cheese at Forrest Estate. We did a bit more cycling as we had plenty of time left and then took the bikes back. We declined the offer of a lift back to our house and walked along a raised stock bank back to the road we were in. The stock bank was built to enable stock to be moved around when the area around the river floods and the bank also served to prevent the waters flooding the vineyards. Back at Thainstone, Jane had another swim and then a sleep! Viv prepared us a meal - a roast pork dinner with loads of home grown vegetables and more wine. At 7pm Viv took us with her to her bridge club and we had a pleasant evening coming middle of the EW couples. They do not use bidding boxes but have a bidding pad that you write your bid on.

Friday, March 3 - Blenheim to Kaikoura

After breakfast, Jim drove us around the area on a bird watching trip. We saw lots of birds, including spoonbills and shags at the Wairau Bar.  We also saw a herd of Belted Galloway - black cows with a broad white band around them - these are Scottish cows probably brought to New Zealand inside rabbits as fertilised eggs which are implanted into a New Zealand cow. Leaving Thainstone we drove South on State Highway 1 - aka SH1. As we approached Lake Grassmere going downhill we suddenly saw a whole red area in front of us - amazing. A solar salt marsh greeted us, with acres and acres of evaporating salt beds. Continuing along the SH1 we stopped in Ward at the Old Garage Café and had seafood chowder followed by crayfish salad, recently prepared crayfish, the size of lobsters were still warm. They were delicious. This whole area is famous for crayfish but this little café sells them cheaper than in Kaikoura (actually half price as we discovered later). As we finished it began to rain. Our drive to Kaikoura was along side some rugged coasts, rough seas and sometimes torrential rain. As we neared Kaikoura the weather improved but we could see snow on the top of the mountains behind the town - these are a bit higher than Snowdon. A drive around Kaikoura took us to the seal colony and several were basking out so Jane took lots of photographs. Rain started again so we made our way to our B&B, the Nikau Lodge (more...), and were met by Lilla Fitzwater. Graham finally made the wireless connection work for us and we did our mail but also looked up many of the birds we had seen today. Let's walk down to the front to eat - said Graham about 15 minutes before the rain belt came through again and wind and rain continued. The news has just announced that Christchurch (about 2 hr drive from here) has had terrible storms with trees down and cars smashed and will still have storm warnings tomorrow - good job we booked in here for 2 nights. The Wellington-Picton ferry has also been cancelled. Many vehicles on it were damaged.
Note: Jane has just started to read a book called "Kiwis might fly" by Polly Evans and saw in the acknowledgements that Polly thanks Ian and John Fitzwater for finding her a really good motor bike - these are the sons of Lilla!!!
We had dinner in a pub place called the Rocks, deep fried oysters followed by grouper or flounder, wonderful. The rain had stopped so we walked there and back but still very windy and a bit cold. We are now making use of our lovely room and TV in the room.

Saturday, March 4 - Hanmer Springs

Weather still not looking too good. After our first cooked breakfast in a B&B Jane did the washing and hung it out to dry, hopefully, on a large rotary line. We then left to drive 75 miles or so up into the mountains to Hamner Springs where Jane was extremely cold and only warmed up after we had soup and fish and chips for lunch. By the time we had finished the sun had appeared but people were still wearing coats. We went to the thermal baths where there are half a dozen different shaped and different temperature pools. We bought a ticket for a private pool for half an hour. The room was about the size of a steam room in a gym and the water was about 40 degrees. We stayed in for about 30 minutes and felt quite exhausted afterwards. During our journey we have noticed that the hills are very brown and dried up unlike the North Island which had seemed green and lush.  The East coast is quite rocky and rugged - volcanic rock, and all the towns are quite small - so far. Driving back we hit rain again but it is so windy it soon passes through. We passed deer farms. We saw several hawks flying by us and one sitting on the road eating a flat possum - Jane was too slow to photograph any of them. The views were magnificent, the dark grey skies and rough seas were so dramatic. Lilla had thankfully brought all the washing in since the weather in Kaikoura had been wet and dry all day long. Dinner tonight will be in the Rocks again as the oysters were so good and it does provide us a short walk in between showers. Jane had 6 natural oysters and then we both had the seafood platter which contained a crayfish half each, a great pile of prawns, another pile of mussels in their shells and a pile of fish served with a salad. It was very good. The uphill walk back was taken slowly.

Sunday, March 5 - Kaikoura to Christchurch

Another cooked breakfast set us up for the drive ahead. We left around10.30am and drove down to Amberley which is just north of Christchurch. We stopped at  Goose Bay to admire the bird life. Mary Jane was our nanny for several weeks when Stephen was born; she was there really to look after Emma. Mary Jane's mother, Morag Davies lives in Amberley so we went to visit her. She is delightful and served us up homemade biscuits and muffins with some coffee. Her house is full of quilts that she makes, she is very clever. Appetite catered for we left her and drove on down to Christchurch - we didn't need lunch at all. We found a parking spot in the centre of Christchurch which was free as it was Sunday. We walked into Cathedral Square, found the Information centre and booked a motel for 4 nights, we also booked a tram ride round the city centre and a trip on the trans-alpine railway which takes all day to get to Greymouth and then return, this train was full until Wednesday so we booked for that day. The Square was full of people and is an attractive square, the cathedral is to one side and there was a group of Maoris singing and dancing. They were good. Also in the square is the Millennium Chalice, an unusual tall metal structure. We then found our way to the motel (Centre Point on Colombo) and unloaded our bags. For once we didn't rush out somewhere and relaxed for a couple of hours before going out for dinner. We walked down to the Cathedral Square, passing the river Avon and a restaurant called Oxford on Avon! We then decided to go back to the most attractive eating place, Valentino's restaurant, which is also the nearest to the motel. The food was excellent, we shared a bowl of seafood chowder to start, full of fish including as baby squid. Graham had a rib eye steak and Jane had the fish of the day. Eagle eyed Graham noticed a bottle of 15 year old Springbank whisky at the bar so had a glass of it ($9 seemed very reasonable). Replete we returned to our apartment to watch TV and relax buying some muesli and milk for breakfast on the way.

Monday, March 6 - Christchurch

After our cereal we packed up the bags and waited in the flat till they had cleaned the room next door. We moved our stuff in. We should mention that this room is just a room with kitchenette and bathroom, the previous flat was on 2 levels, a living area downstairs and the bedroom upstairs, tomorrow we will move into another split level flat for 2 more nights. Christchurch is very busy so it was the only place (at a reasonable price) that we could find that was close to the city centre. A ten minute walk back down to Cathedral square and Jane decided she could go no longer with a sleeveless fleece as the wind was a bit chilly so we bought her a very nice fleece in the sale. Next we queued up for the tram. You can get on and off wherever you like. We got off at the Art gallery and spent quite a while looking at the paintings, not only New Zealand ones but some very old International paintings too. Across the road we went to the Arts centre which used to be the University buildings. The Theatre was the old engineering block. Also on the site is a restaurant called Dux de Lux which is highly recommended in the Lonely Planet guide. It is a really great place to eat. They brew their own beer and its all draft. Jane had alcoholic Ginger Beer while Graham had a Hereford Bitter. Jane, surprise surprise, had mussels to eat and Graham had a salad with a vegetarian toasted roll. By now the temperature had reached about 24 degrees but there was still an easterly wind. Jane was still pleased she had bought some sleeves. Onwards to the Canterbury museum, which is one of the best museums we have visited. Maori history was well explained and there was a whole section on the Antarctic expeditions with many of the vehicles actually used. The bird area convinced us we had seen the birds we thought we had. There were other areas. Next visit was to the Botanical Gardens which is right next door to the museum. A bit disappointing for us since most of the plants trees etc had come from abroad, especially the UK. The trees were huge and very old now and attractive however. The greenhouse had a display of begonias and further in there was a room with some nice orchids - but Kew is much better. I suppose we should expect that. The city is attractive. There are very few skyscrapers, about 4 and only 2 go up to about 10 floors. The buildings include B&Bs and hotels and are mainly made of wood and painted different colours. Back onto the tram we went round the full circle to hear the driver's stories and then stayed on the tram and went half way round again to the nearest stop to our place. The wind had made us tired and Jane fell asleep for an hour while Graham watched the academy film awards. Dinner again was at Valentino's, calamari starter shared followed by rib of beef for Graham and lamb rump for Jane. Graham forgoes the whisky. Snores come from next to Jane as she writes this. The Lonely Planet guide has suggestions for a 2 day and a 4 day stay, we have done the 2 day in one day and tomorrow we will do the next 2 days. The main difference is we have not done any hill walking.

Tuesday, March 7 - Akaroa

The East wind has dropped and Jane no longer needs her sleeves - back to warm weather. We are off to explore the Banks peninsular and Akaroa. The total journey to Akaroa is about 50 miles of very windy and hilly roads but beautiful scenery. Views across lakes and mountains were good. We had lunch in Akaroa at the Akaroa fish and chip shop, Akaroa cod, kumara chips (sweet potatoes) and deep fried oysters - great but not slimming. Akaroa is a very pretty town, the first place the French landed in the 1800s and the houses are reminiscent of French styles, the road names are all in French e.g. Rue Jolie. After quenching our thirst with an ice cream made with boysenberries for Graham and frozen yoghurt for Jane we started our homeward journey. We had to return on the same road for a while passing the waterways we had seen before but this time the tide was out and the birds were around in great numbers. In particular we saw many black swans with the cygnets swimming around. Four geese were around - the first geese we had seen. This road now took us to Lyttleton, a port just south of Christchurch; from here we took the main road which went through a very very long tunnel. Passing a supermarket we decided to get some simple food to eat in the motel instead of going out and eating more rich food. Today is Census day in NZ (TV slogan: "We going to grow so we need to know") and we took part as we are resident here at the moment. We were given forms each to fill in. We are off early tomorrow on a train so early to bed.

Wednesday, March 8 - Greymouth

Up early and drove to the station to catch the TranzAlpine train to Greymouth on the West Coast at 8.15am. We found someone else in our allocated seat so were moved to the small car adjacent to the buffet car where there were only 2 other people, from the UK. The first part of the journey going out of Christchurch was not too interesting and we stopped a couple of times to pick more people up. Then we changed lines to go up to Arthur's Pass and the landscape changed, the weather was glorious and the mountains dramatic but very dried up and barren, some sheep and birds. We went over several viaducts; one had been created in the UK and transported whole in the early 1900s. We dropped people off at various stops and finally got to Arthur's Pass where more people left and we saw mountains with snow caps. Immediately we entered a very long tunnel and emerged to a completely different landscape and weather. The sky was grey and the hills were green and tree covered. The train then went downhill to Greymouth. The train manager gave a commentary which was interesting. As we pulled into the station it started to rain and by the time we got off the train it had turned into a huge hail storm so we donned our kagools and waited in the station till it lessened. We walked down the main street in Greymouth to a café and had lunch, soup and quiche for Jane and a Thai chicken curry for Graham. Jane had finished all hers before Graham went to ask where his was - they then produced it! Our hour was then up and we went back to the train. The sun was now shining in Greymouth and the return journey to Arthur's Pass was very good. After the tunnel we got to Arthur's Pass and the weather was still bright and sunny. The drive back was even better than the outward journey as more viaducts and views were visible for some reason. As we neared Christchurch the sky was getting very dark and rainbows kept appearing but there was no rain in Christchurch as we arrived. We had dinner at Valentino's for the last time. Steaks all round. Back in the apartment we watched CSI NY as it poured with rain outside. And so to bed. Tomorrow we are on the move again, southwards, to see penguins.

Thursday, March 9 - Christchurch to Oamuru

We left the motel at 9:15. All the rain that kept us awake during the night had disappeared and it was a bright sunny morning. We set off along the clean streets of Christchurch passed Hagley Park and south onto Blenheim Road. There was a lot of traffic so we came to a halt. Unfortunately the truck behind did not. We both pulled over to the side and saw that the truck had hit the car's bumper on the left. We took the driver's details and drove to the airport where we hoped to find the Omega Car Rental place. They are not at the airport but in the city centre. We drove there and sorted out the details. The repairs would cost $416.20 which we paid hoping to get the money back when we get to Auckland if the Spook Cartage Company's insurance pays up. We left Christchurch at 11 and drove over the flat Canterbury Plain to Timaru where we had lunch overlooking the bay - more fish as lamb is expensive and not on the menu. Onwards and southwards to Oamaru, where there are many historic (ie more than 100 years old) buildings made of whitestone quarried from a local source of limestone. We checked in at Highway House (more...) and ate Norman's delicious homemade muffins. Everyone bakes muffins in NZ. We drove to the blue penguin place and had a short walk. There were loads and loads of shags flying everywhere. We then drove to the lookout for magnificent views and to discover that London is 19,260 km via the Antarctic whilst Devizes is only 19,100 km away. We drove to the yellow-eyed penguin colony and sat in a hide and waited. We saw an adult and a chick amongst the undergrowth and watched another adult waddle from the sea to the shelter of a bush. Four fur seals were lounging on the beach. After an hour we stopped watching and went and had a meal in the Star and Garter café. At 8pm we went and sat in a small stand overlooking the blue penguins' ramp between the sea and their burrows. After three dozen of the smallest penguins in the world had made their way home we were cold from the wind so we left to go back to our B&B. These penguins are known as Fairy penguins in Australia and are found on Phillip Island south of Melbourne.

Friday, March 10 - Oamaru to Dunedin

After a full English breakfast cooked by Norman, we were introduced to Stephanie, his wife. We set off south through Oamaru's town centre and on to the SH1. Our first call was at the Totara Estate, an NZ historic site, where NZ history was made. In 1882 some enterprising Scotsman decided that he could make some money out of sheep that were no longer capable of producing wool. Instead of pushing the sheep over a cliff as there was no demand for so much meat in NZ he pioneered a cold air machine, fitted it in a ship alongside lamb carcasses and had it taken to England to feed the starving millions grinding away in those satanic mills. Thus began the supply of NZ lamb and mutton to the UK. They have preserved several of the farm buildings on the Totara Estate including the slaughterhouse - not a place for vegetarians. We continued down the coast and had a short stop to view the boulders at Moeraki and then made our way to the centre of the town to eat Seafood Chowder at Fleur's Place on the quayside. It was a delightful spot. Taking advice from our waitress we journeyed over the hill to the lighthouse where we climbed down to a hide and saw a large yellowed-eyed penguin in moult as well as several fur seals lounging around. Next stop was at Shag Point where we failed to see any penguins but did see some fur seals and plenty of shags. We took a short picturesque detour through Karitane and Warrington crossing the single track coastal railway umpteen times. At last we found ourselves in Dunedin and made our way to the Albatross Inn (more...)  on St George's St - funny as we thought this place was named after Edinburgh. We unpacked, went out and got soaked so returned. When the rain had just about stopped we ventured out to the nearest restaurant and had a Thai curry which was very tasty.

Saturday, March 11 - Taiori Gorge and albatrosses

We ate breakfast and zoomed off to the Dunedin Railway Station, apparently the most photographed building in NZ. It was a bright sunny day. There was a farmer's market occupying one of the car parks so we found another. We got on the Taieri Gorge Railway train where we had booked seats which were in the last carriage. The train wound its way up a gorge over lots of viaducts and through several tunnels on the single 3 foot gauge railway. Finally it reached Pukerangi after 2 hours of amazing picturesque scenery. We got off the train while the engine moved to the other end of the train and our carriage became the first and obscured the view we had had from the viewing platform at the back of the carriage. This train is now privately run and consists of many carriages that have been nicely restored. We returned to the station at 2pm and drove on to the Otago Peninsular. We stopped at Portobello and had a toasted sandwich and Graham indulged himself with a pint of the local brew, cold Speights bitter in a handle. We continued along the north edge of the peninsular which is not that wide and finished up in the car park at Taiarora Head where there is the only mainland colony of royal albatrosses. We joined a tour which was not full because a coach bringing some people had been delayed by the car in front of it going over the edge of the peninsular into the sea, a drop of four feet. We saw a father albatross feeding its turkey sized chick and about a dozen juvenile birds flying around the hide. They were spectacular. After the bird tour we were shown around the fortifications under the head and the disappearing gun. It's a cannon that's hidden below the ground and raised just to fire its six inch shell and then lowered again. We took the high road back to Dunedin thus avoiding the edge of the peninsular. We parked the car at the hotel and walked down the street and ate a Cambodian curry which was jolly tasty and very good value. It was a good end to an enjoyable day with sunshine and good weather all day.

Sunday, March 12 - Dunedin
We got up late and had breakfast at 9am. It was not raining but it was cloudy. We drove to the "i-site" (NZ Information Centre) and found out the times of the ferries to Stewart Island and returned to our room and phoned to book our next few days' accommodation. Then off we drove to Warehouse, a large Makro-like store, where we got a couple of thin roll necked tops, some warm socks and a pair of trainers for Jane, all for $75. We then drove North to the Botanical Gardens, whizzed round the aviary and it started to rain. We drove through Port Chalmers, where the first sheep for England had departed, and on to the end of the road on the opposite side of the inlet to the albatross colony and had a pie for lunch. Passing a shrub by the roadside Jane noticed a flock of cirl buntings just sitting there but the camera was in the boot! We saw many birds as usual, especially white faced (grey) herons and mallards. We returned to Dunedin and visited the Otago Museum. It appears that museums and art galleries are free to get into. We watched a film called "Grandma" about the oldest albatross in the colony who'd produced a chick in her 62nd year but was not seen again. Next we returned to our room and wrote postcards. At 7pm we strolled down the street to the Reef Restaurant where we had green lipped mussels (Jane), scallops (Graham) and chilli crab (both) which is a very messy but tasty meal. The camera had a rest today as well as us.

Monday, March 13 - Through the Catlins to Fortrose

We had breakfast, packed, paid up and parted leaving postcards to be posted. We drove south on SH1 to Balclutha and turned onto the Southern Scenic Route through the Catlins. Our first stop was at Nugget Point which we got to by driving along an 8km gravel road. We parked the car and walked almost up to the lighthouse. We saw seals cavorting in the rock pools and made our way back to the car. We then drove to see the Purakanui waterfalls which enabled us to have another twenty-minute stroll. There were lots of bell birds calling high up in the trees. Next we drove to the Tautuku River estuary where we walked on a long narrow boardwalk across the reeds to the water's edge where we saw a few birds and some crabs as well as a young English couple who had been touring NZ in a minivan for the last six months. Across the river we walked down the logging historical trail to see a renovated logging tractor on wooden rails. At the start of this walk we saw our first robin, the same shape and friendliness as those in England but black with a white breast. Our next stop was at a small garage at Papatowai where we bought a couple of meat pies and ate them in the garden. We had a quick stop to view Niagara Falls, where we saw a bell bird. We drove to Curio Bay, ate an ice cream by the bay, got bitten by sandflies, and walked down some steps to a beach where there are a number of 180 million year old fossilised trees lying in the sand and rocks. More can be seen at low tide. We practised our Mandarin with four Taiwanese tourists. We then drove to Slope Point which is the most southerly bit of South Island and parked near wind swept trees. We wandered over lamb filled fields to get to the Kodak spot from where we could see Stewart Island and a signpost telling us we were just over half way between the Equator and the South Pole. We had spent most of the day driving on gravel roads. We drove nearly to Fortrose but stopped at our rest for the night. We were greeted by Ann McKenzie at Greenbush (more...), a large wooden bungalow built in 1923 with 11 foot high ceilings. We had tea and cake, met Donald, and had a chat followed by a dinner of lamb chops and mainly home grown vegetables. The kumara had been bought before it had been caramelised. Apple pie and custard was for pudding. After more chatting we retired to bed to rest ourselves and the camera which had had a very busy day.

Tuesday, March 14 - Fortrose to Stewart Island

We had breakfast and just as we were finishing Donald phoned Ann from his tractor shed to say we ought to hurry over and see the sheep shearing before they all had a smoko at 9am. It was drizzling. We walked across the lawn and through the hedge to the shearing shed. We watched five shearers and five rousies (the people who clear up the wool from the shearing). It was impressive. The sheep were grabbed out of trap doors, sheared within a minute and released down a shoot where they entered a pen. We left Greenbush and drove to Bluff where we bought some insect repellent and petrol and then drove up to the lookout where the wind nearly knocked us over but it was not raining. We went to the ferry terminal and boarded the small catamaran with twenty others. We asked for an ear plug. It's a small shell shaped piece of sponge rubber which you stick in your left ear if you are right-handed and it prevents sea-sickness. It worked although the waves were not that high. At Oban we were met by Doug Wright who took us to his Stewart Island Lodge (more...) where we were greeted by his wife Margaret. We saw our first tui and several bell birds. Over a cup of tea Doug gave us some ideas of how we could spend our time. It was raining heavily but we decided to go for a walk. We went to see the paua pearls and shells nearby and then walked to the museum which was closed. It was only 2pm. We crossed to the library. It was closed. We walked up a hill to a craft shop which was open. We wandered up a hill to the observation rock which was open. The views on a fine day would have been spectacular but it was still raining. We trundled down the hill to the lodge and got out of our wet clothes. We couldn't do much reading because the birds were making a cacophony. A couple of kakas were playing on the veranda. The camera had a busy time. At 6 o'clock we went for pre-dinner drinks and met two other couples. One of the ladies decided it would be fun to find out what we did. It turned out to be a jolly good ice-breaker as we all took it in turns to find out the occupations of each other. The others came from Palmerston North and had been on holiday many times as a foursome. We dined together at a table, a prawn starter, salmon and delicious salads ending with drunken pears. We retired to bed at 9pm after exchanging addresses. It was a very pleasant evening.

Wednesday, March 15 - Ulva Island

We had the continental breakfast - cereals, fruit, yoghurt, fruit juice, coffee, croisants, and toast. We walked down the hill to Half Moon Bay, along to the visitor centre and then across the road to book a tour but it was full so we went back to the visitor centre and watched a video on Stewart Island sea life. Meanwhile outside it was raining. When we walked to the museum it had stopped raining. The museum was open so we paid the $2 entry fee and learnt about the short history of man and Stewart Island. We walked along Half Moon Bay and visited the 6 hole Ringa Ringa golf club then walked back through some forest to the fish and chip shop where we had an excellent mussel chowder. We walked along the 'Fuchsia Walk' but saw none and then up to Observation Rock where we had a wonderful view of Paterson Inlet and its islands. We ambled down to the Golden Bay wharf and waited for Furhana (more...) who would meet us at 1:45pm. We got into a water taxi with Furhana and Carol and Leigh Webb, fellow guests at the lodge. When we arrived at Ulva Island five minutes later we saw our first weka, a flightless brown chicken. We spent some very enjoyable hours walking around the island on gravel paths and board walks looking at the birds spotted by Furhana, a young lady, born in Kenya of a Seychelloise mother and Indian father, who got her Geography degree at Aberystwyth. She was very knowledgeable about the flora and fauna of Ulva Island which has no rats, opossums or deer. The temperate rain forest with lots of podocarps has been left alone by mankind. We saw parakeets, kaka, brown creepers, grey warblers, saddlebacks, tom tits, Stewart Island robins, fantails, yellowheads, NZ pigeons and more wekas. We got back to the lodge at 6:15pm, tired but delighted with our afternoon trip. For dinner we had a pear and blue cheese salad followed by venison and ended with a rum and chocolate torte, another good meal.

Thursday March 16 - Fishing trip and kiwi hunt

It was a bright sunny day. We got up, had breakfast at 8am, and rushed down the hill and along the bay to the main wharf where we got on a small fishing boat. The boat was owned by John Leask and built by his grandfather. John lived in the bay named after his great great grandfather. John had been in the tourist trade for the last seven years. Touring with him today were four English (us, Carol and Leigh), four young Indian men, a young Japanese lady and an older retired NZ from near Christchurch. We set off shortly after 9am and stopped close to some rocks to photograph the Stewart Island shags. We then motored on and stopped amongst a flock of sooty shearwaters who were suffering from eat exhaustion and sitting on the sea. These birds are known as Muttonbird and were hunted by the Moari in the passed. Today the Maori are still allowed to hunt them but only between certain dates and only an allocated amount may be caught. They are fatty birds and the fat was used to pack the cooked birds which were stored in seaweed pouches we used to call mermaid purses but ours are only a few inches long at most and these are about 18 inches long or greater and make good storage bags. At the next stop we saw little blue penguins having their morning swim. A little further on out near Ackers Point where there is a lighthouse we stopped and dropped some baited lines over the side. Soon we were catching lots of fish - blue cod, teriyaki, trumpeter and red wrass (aka parrot fish). Some were too small and were thrown back. Others were set aside for bait. The rest were saved to be skilfully filleted by John. We continued into the Paterson Inlet and made our way to the southern side of Ulva Island where we stopped and did a bit more fishing. The Japanese lady caught a large eel and the Indians tried their hand at rowing despite the fact that none of them could swim. We drew in our lines and motored a bit further, stopped, and had lunch. For starters we had sashimi, and for the main course we had boiled fish and home made bread and butter. It was delicious. A round-the-world cruise ship was moored in the bay. We returned to Golden Bay at 1:15pm. We walked back into 'town' to the South Sea Hotel carrying a bag of fish fillets for the lodge. The Indians were carrying a bigger bag of fish and eel steaks. They invited us for a curry on Monday. At the hotel we accessed the internet as someone in IBM had erased Jane's account so we were unable to connect to the internet in our room at the lodge. We returned to the lodge and rested and dozed. At the pre-dinner drinks we ate some sashimi using the trumpeter fish we had caught and met four more English people. During the usual 'where do you live' quiz we discovered that David and Felicity Ebsworth knew Graham's mother and their daughter, Justine, was a good friend of Constance. What a small world we live in. We only had time for two courses, scallop and prawn soup followed by chicken and salads. We rushed out at 7:45pm down to the wharf where we got on a small motorised catamaran with 14 natives and set off out of Half Moon Bay and into Paterson Inlet where we pulled up at a jetty on the north side of Ocean Beach. We were given an introduction by Philip, the captain, to the life of the Stewart Island brown kiwi which is diurnal. We were issued with torches. We clambered up the rocks and quietly made our way along a narrow path to the beach. After a short while Philip spotted a kiwi on the beach. We turned our torches off. The full moon shone. Philip was disappointed. The full moon was not helpful as it showed us up for the kiwi. Also, another group of four people were on the beach when they should not have been. Anyway we did watch the kiwi as it wandered along poking its long sensitive beak into the sand and gorging itself on sand hoppers. We thought we'd seen three kiwis but it was the same solitary male we'd seen. No photographs were taken. Kiwis don't like flash and the memory card had not been put in the camera. After a while we made our way gingerly back to the boat and were back in our room by midnight. We found that the electric blankets and been turned on and in the fridge had been placed the dessert from the evening meal. We'd spent another good day on Stewart Island and the weather had been fantastic.

Friday, March 17 - Stewart Island to Te Anau
We had an early breakfast at 8am so we could talk more to David and Felicity as they were going on the fishing trip at 9am. We packed and settled the bill but left our luggage at the Lodge which Doug would deliver to the wharf. We called at the South Sea Hotel to check the email and found that St Patrick's Day on Stewart Island is celebrated and the hotel staff was dressed in strange green and black garb. We wandered to the Stewart Island Experience building to join the 11am coach trip around the island roads. We were informed by Jo that the island is four times the size of Singapore but only has a population of 380. 85% of the island is a nature reserve, 13% of it is Maori land and the rest is inhabited. There are as many churches as there are nurses - two but there is only one policeman. The children are only educated up to the age of fifteen after which age they are sent off to boarding school on the mainland. The coach took us along some of the island's 25km of roads. It was a very informative trip. We had lunch at the Empress Pearl place and afterwards were shown around the aquarium. We strolled along to the store to buy lunch for tomorrow and found that another person wearing a green and black costume was at the counter. We said goodbye to David and Felicity who came to the boat terminal and then to Doug who brought us our luggage. Stewart Island was lovely and the Lodge was great with wonderful food albeit a bit expensive. We would recommend Stewart Island to anyone but chose a better value place to stay. We boarded the catamaran which was a larger version of the one we arrived on. Jane found the journey a bit uncomfortable but the sea was really only a little bumpy. Just over an hour later we were on our way to Te Anau where we arrived at 7pm. We had a meal in the Moose Bar/Café and once again found the staff dressed up in green and black. There was even a chap playing a guitar and singing Irish songs. We found our way out of Te Anau to Viv Nicholson 's B&B (more...), unpacked the car and settled down for the night. 

Saturday, March 18 - Doubtful Sound

It rained all night and they have not had rain here for several days. We are in the part of the South Island that gets rain very often, about 8 metres per year - yes, that much. Never mind, off we went to Te Anau centre to get some cash out as this landlady only takes cash. Onwards we went to Lake Manapouri to check in for the Doubtful Sound 11:30am day excursion. We started on a catamaran across the lake and were taken to particularly beautiful spots and had a commentary. It was grey but not raining much. At the end of this journey we boarded a coach and went into a 2km tunnel that took us downhill into the Manapouri hydro electric station which we were able to look at from a viewing platform. The hall with the seven generators in was massive and it was warm. The power station was built in the late 60's to supply power for an aluminium smelter on the coast near Bluff, the port we had left the previous day. Back into the coach we travelled for over an hour through ancient forests and along a road that goes nowhere else except across the Wilmott Pass. The coaches had been shipped to this place by a large barge. We stopped at several Kodak spots. On our arrival at Doubtful Sound we boarded a much larger boat which was only 5 months old. We motored down the Sound (which should really be called Doubtful Fiord from its glacial origins) and back taking about 3 hours. During this time the weather changed from dry to pouring with rain and back many times. It rains 2 days out of every 3 in the Sound we were told. The fiords were spectacular even if we could only see for a limited distance. At the end when we reached the sea we came across some rocks with many seals on them. All the islands we saw had a rounded shape and had been shaped by the glaciers moving many thousands of years ago. On the way back we stopped to take photos of waterfalls which had not existed on our way down the Sound, some were quite amazing. We did stop (in the rain) by one permanent waterfall and everyone who wanted to was able to gather water from the fall in a cup. Graham got rather wet. We also stopped for two minutes of silence except for the birds and the waterfalls. That was a jolly good team effort - two coaches' worth. The whole excursion had lasted 8 hours. Back on dry land at 7.45pm we found a restaurant called the Olive Tree café and had a good simple meal before retiring to our B&B.

Sunday, March 19 - Millford Sound

During the night the clocks went back an hour. We are now only 12 hours ahead of the UK. We left Lochvista after having loaded the washing machine and went into Te Anau where we got something for lunch and watched a film called "Shadowland", a piece of remarkable photography shot from a helicopter by Tim Hollows, showing all the different aspects of Fiordland. There were no words, just music specially composed for the film. It was well worth going to see. After the film we drove down to Milford Sound stopping at various points on the way. We drove through a kilometre long tunnel which is one way and controlled by traffic lights. At one place we got out and walked up to a waterfall which has been carved out of the rocks through which the water rushes. We had our picnic in the Milford Sound car park followed by a beer whilst watching the end of the Commonwealth Games marathon. We sauntered along the boardwalk to the cruise terminal. We found a boat, the Milford Deep shuttle, which was just going to the underwater observatory and discovered we were the only passengers. When we got to the place we found there were two men who were waiting for the tour down the observatory. It's like a very large glass bottle that floats in the water surrounded by coral gardens. We climbed down the stairs till we were 8 metres below the water surface and saw the sea life including the rare black coral. The first few feet of the fiord is fresh water and below that is sea water. We could see the dividing layer through the walls of the observatory. For the return journey the boat had four passengers. We left Milford Sound and drove along a 17km gravel road to take a short stroll to see the Humboldt waterfall. It was well worth the diversion. We drove back to Te Anau and had roast lamb at the Olive Tree café. It was delicious. On returning to Lochvista we found that Viv and finished and folded the washing. The weather had been glorious all day. The sand flies had been hungry as well.

Monday, March 20 - Te Anau to Arrowtown via Queenstown

We left Viv at Lochvista with the clouds lingering as a layer below the mountains. The sky was cloudy. As we drove towards Queenstown the sun began to shine and the clouds disappeared. We had a pit stop at Garston (pop. 160) which claims to be the most inland place in New Zealand. Next stop was to see the Kingston Flyer which was a steam railway engine about to pull its carriages a couple of miles north. On the outskirts of Queenstown we were invited to Sundeep's apartment to have a fish curry. We had met Sundeep and Sumit on the fishing boat on Stewart Island. We had also caught the fish which Sundeep got up early to defrost. We were joined by Vishnu and his wife Shashi who cooked a vegetable curry as she is vegetarian. Shashi showed us a selection of her recent engagement party and weddings photos. 4000 people attended their wedding which was arranged. Sumit is to be married next year. His parents are finding him a selection of three ladies from which he'll select one. The curries were excellent. Instead of chapattis we had slices of buttered toast. It was a very enjoyable lunch. We reluctantly said goodbye and made our way to the i-site where we booked a motel in Arrowtown for the night. We drove to the bottom of the gondola and took it up to the Skyline Restaurant. We did not try the luge or the bungy jump but Jane did take lots of pictures of Queenstown and the lake and surrounding mountains. We went to Arrowtown which is very quaint but as it's a public holiday most of the shops are closed. We checked into the "Shades of Arrowtown" motel (more...) and went for a walk around the town which used to be full of gold miners.  We ate the roast of the day (pork) in the New Orleans hotel and Jane had a pint of draught Guinness whilst Graham had a pint of Montieth Black, not quite as good as Guinness but a similar colour. We retired to watch the Commonwealth Games. It is now raining.

Tuesday, March 21 - Arrowtown to Wanaka

It rained a lot in the night but had stopped by the time we had breakfast - yoghurt and cereal which we had bought the previous day. We checked out of the motel and Jane took some photos for the Geordie owner, Anne. It appears that someone has flicked a switch to tell the trees it's autumn as they have just all started changing colour. We wandered down the street to the museum. It had a lot of interesting exhibits depicting the harsh times they had searching for gold 140 years ago. Some live children were dressed up in Victorian clothes and were being taught by a somewhat severe young lady teacher. We walked back to the car and set out for Wanaka. We climbed up and over the Crown Range stopping at several Kodak spots including a line of bras hitched to a fence in Cordrona. We made our way to the Temasek House B&B (more...) where we unloaded and then went into the town and parked by the lake. We had lunch and then walked the couple of kilometres to Puzzling World. We wandered around the holograms and into a room built on a slope were we saw illusions of water falling uphill and people leaning over. It was a bit disorientating. We went into a room in which the perspectives had been played around with. Another room had faces all over each wall and they moved to look at you when you walked around - or so it seemed. We walked back to the town and while Graham sampled the local brew - Wanaka Beerworks Swheat beer, Jane made use of the credit card in the nearby shops. The rest of the afternoon was spent in the very spacious B&B. In the evening we drove into town and ate at Muzza's, a bar and café where we shared BBQ'd Pork Ribs, each had a rare Rib Eye steak and shared a bottle of Cab Merlot. We returned to our luxury B&B and watched the Commonwealth games.

Wednesday, March 22 - Wanaka to Fox Glacier

We had our continental breakfast with our host Viv, a Liverpudlian lady, who works in a nursing home in Wanaka. We left just after 9:15am and made our way up to Fox Glacier. It was cloudy at first but brightened up and became a glorious day later. On the way we stopped at many places, several of which had waterfalls and one had a beautiful blue pool reached by a long swinging bridge. We filled up with petrol at Haast where it was the most expensive at $1.61 a litre. We visited the beach at Haast and then had lunch at a salmon farm near the Paringa River. A white heron stayed around the area while we ate our lunch. They are an endangered species in New Zealand. After lunch the road to Fox Glacier had no site seeing spots so the farmers organised some amusements for us. We were first stopped by a load of cattle and later by a flock of sheep. We arrived at Fox Glacier in the mid-afternoon. We were expecting to be at several hundred metres above sea level but we are only a few metres above sea level. When we arrived at The White Fox B&B (more...) there was a message on the doorstop for us telling us to make ourselves at home as the host and her children would not be home till five o'clock so we did. When she arrived, the host, Jane, introduced us to her two children, two year old Meghan and seven month old Isla. Jane's partner Gary worked for the DOC (Department of Conservation) and was spending a couple of days away spraying weeds with a knapsack at a place south of Haast. Bonnie, the almost blind moggie, had already introduced herself to us. Our host suggested we go to the Peak Lookout to see the mountains and the glacier. We zoomed off down the road for 10 kays and parked the car. We walked a short distance to where we could get an uninterrupted view of the peaks and the glacier. They were magnificent in the late afternoon sunshine. Jane took some photos. Another family of four joined us and we took their photos. One of them offered to take ours but found that our camera was missing its memory card again. We got back in the car and after a short while Jane remembered we had a second memory card in the boot so we pulled onto the side of the road and took a couple of photos. We dined on venison hot pot at the High Peaks restaurant looking out over the twilight lit peaks of Mt Tasman and Mt Cook. One thing we have noticed in the South Island is that there are a lot of female sand flies that are partial to our flesh even if we spray with Shoo. They are black and about a millimetre long. You swat them and in a couple of minutes your skin itches and then stops itching. A day later the same spot itches again. We keep getting bitten but if we mentioned everyday how many more pesky sand flies have been made happy it would be boring. Sand flies apparently sleep at night and only females bite.

Thursday, March 23 - Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers

We woke up to a clear blue cloudless sky. We quickly had some cereals and home made bread and walked briskly down the road at 8:15am to check in for our helicopter flight. We were taken by minibus to the helipad. Six of us tourists boarded the helicopter, belted up and put on the headphones. We took off and travelled over the rain forest and up the coast to Franz Josef where we flew up the glacier and over the great divide (the ridge of the Southern Alps which separates the west coast from the east). We skirted around Mt Tasman and made our way to Mt Cook. The pilot gave us descriptions of the features we passed by and occasionally did 360 degree turns so all passengers could see the sites. After passing by the summit of Mt Cook we made our way to the Fox glacier where we landed. Out we climbed and wandered around taking photos. After a while we climbed back aboard, some changed seats, and we returned to base. The camera was almost exhausted. We were elated. Not a cloud in the sky to prevent us having perfect views everywhere. We walked back up the road to the B&B and got the car. We drove to Lake Matheson and walked around it. It claimed to be a mirror lake but the ducks and slight breeze prevented reflections. The walk was very pleasant. We bought two salmon baps and made our way down 12 kays of unsealed road to Gillespie Beach where we parked the car and walked along the gorse lined path to the remains of the gold dredge where we turned onto the beach. We wandered further north along the beach and found a piece of driftwood to sit on and munch our baps. We retraced our steps and drove to the car park at the base of the Fox glacier and clambered over the stones and streams to get as nearest as permitted to the terminal face of the glacier. We had much further to walk than did William Fox in 1885 as the glacier is receding. The glacier face is less than 300 metres above sea level - quite remarkable. We returned to the B&B, had a restful afternoon and in the evening dined on Lamb Shanks at the Mountain Goat Bar and Café. In Fox Glacier if you "go to town" you travel 2.5 hours to Greymouth. If you "go over the hill" you take a further 4.5 hours and arrive in Christchurch. The nearest petrol station south of here is 120 kays away. Fox Glacier only has a population of 160 but it is a great place to spend two nights.

Friday, March 24 - Fox Glacier to Nelson

There's another beautiful almost cloudless sky to greet us. We get up at 8am and have breakfast. Jane has a poached egg on toast. We take photos of the host, Jane, and her children and leave. We stopped at the car park at the base of the Franz Josef glacier and took a short walk up Sentinel Rock where we look down at the end of the glacier. We are in shorts. It really is remarkable to be higher than the glacier but much warmer. We drove 16 kays north and turned off State Highway 6 to do the short Pakihi walk up to the top of a hill which gave us a fantastic panoramic view of the glaciers and mountains and surrounding area. We travelled up to Hokitika where we bought some anti-itching cream called Soov and found a café. Around the walls of the café were shelves and shelves of teapots. We ate delicious bacon butties - about 3 rashers of bacon in toasted wholemeal bread. The town has a lot of jade factories but we resist the temptation to visit any. The railway starts at Hokitika and just north of the town it joins the road to use the same bridge over a river. NZ has lots of one lane bridges with one direction having priority. When the railway shares the same bridge with the train who has priority? We reached Nelson at about 5:30pm and after several phone calls found our way to the Grampian Villa run by the son, John, and daughter-in-law, Jo, of Lilla Fitzwater with whom we'd stayed in Kaikora. We were allocated a large room with a wet room (more...). We can just about see the sea at the end of Collingwood Street. We unpacked and then wandered down the street to have dinner - an excellent seafood paella.

Saturday, March 25 - Nelson

We got up late and had the cooked breakfast - bacon with a fillo pastry dish containing salmon and scrambled egg very good. We strolled down the street to Montgomery Square and wandered round the market stalls selling fruit and veg, ceramics and wooden creations. We were still full of breakfast so we did not try the whitebait patties. We went back to the B&B and drove to close to the airport where we went into the WOW building. We went there to see the World of Wearable Art, an extravaganza of bizarre creations (more...). There is an annual competition and some of the winning entries are exhibited. Some amazing covers for those bumps at the top of the female chest were on show. Next to the clothes was a collection of classic cars but no MGCs were found. We drove to Wakefield Quay and entered the Boat Shed Café where we shared a sashimi washed down with a glass of chardonnay. The sashimi included paua (just like rubber). After this we felt like a walk so we drove along the coast to Cable Bay but failed to arrive. Instead we spent a couple of hours at Happy Valley Adventures chasing Leanne on quad bikes through the forests near Cable Bay. We stopped to watch two young Austrian girls go on the Skywire, a contraption that carries you in an open seat across a valley at high speed. We continued on the bikes up to a lookout where we had a drink of coffee and ate some cheese and biscuits. The quad-biking was really exciting especially when Graham soaked himself going through a river too quickly in second gear. We returned to the B&B to shower and prepare ourselves for the evening meal at the Boat Shed Café. We arrived just after 7:30pm to find our table was occupied. We waited at the bar and started our bottle of chardonnay. All the lights went out and Nelson had a power cut. Extra candles were lit. We were ushered to our table and the timid waitress came to explain that no orders could be taken. We waited and drank. We were served a sorbet whilst we waited for power to be restored. As we finished it the lights came on. We ordered our food. We shared a confit of mutton bird (sooty sheerwater to the twitchers) and cooked paua (abalone to the epicures) for entrees(the Kiwis don't understand French) and for the main we shared mahi mahi and gurnard. We shared one chocolate truffle for pudding. It was a jolly good meal. We booked for tomorrow night but now we must go to bed.

Sunday, March 26 - Marahau

There was a lot of wind outside during the night. We got up and met the Kiwi and the ex-Glaswegian lady who were here yesterday at breakfast celebrating a wedding anniversary. We were also joined by a young English couple who we think were on their honeymoon. They'd spent a week hiking on the North Island and were now about to do something similar in the South Island. Today we thought we would take a gentle drive to the Nelson end of the Abel Tasman walk. We first stopped at the port of Mapua and browsed around the photo exhibition in the boat house. Our next was just outside Motueka where we strolled along the foreshore and passed the Quay Lane Golf Links. It looks like there are more golf clubs per capita then anywhere else in the world. We discovered that by sticking to the road closest to the coast we bypassed the town of Motueka so we made our way to Tupa Bay and had a short walk. We continued on North up to Marahau where we found the "Hooked on Marahua" café and shared a seafood chowder and green-lipped mussels for lunch. Graham had a pint of the local brew, Mac's Coppertop, while Jane had Mac's ginger beer. We drove slowly back to Nelson with a short detour to Rabbit Island. Jane saw some very large kingfishers which we think are kookaburras and loads of white faced herons. Graham parked the car on the right side of the road facing the wrong direction and was told by landlady Jo that it was an offence to park like that so he quickly turned the car round. Another NZ quirk is that if you are turning left and someone coming towards you is turning right then they have priority over you. Tomorrow we give up our car at Picton and cross over to Wellington in the North Island so Jane has now repacked all our luggage to enable us to only have the 2 big bags again. Will we be able to find what we need again? We dined once more in the Boat Shed café. This time we shared the Tasman paddle crab dish and the mussels feast. We ended with flaming brie and drunken fruits in Bacardi. It was another good meal. Now we must go to bed to prepare for the long trip tomorrow. During the day the clocks changed in the UK. We are now only 11 hours ahead of UK time.

Monday, March 27 - Nelson to Palmerston North

We had breakfast with two other American couples. Jo had cooked us blueberry pancakes and bacon - an American influence? We packed and settled the bill. We were lucky, as we had stayed with Lilla, we had the room at a reduced rate. It was raining. We took the road to Blenheim and turned off after driving through Havelock, the green-lipped mussel capital of the world, onto the Queen Charlotte Drive to Picton. It was a very windy road and if it not been raining it would have been much more picturesque. We got to Picton at 11:30 and decided to search for a whitebait pattie. We found a café serving whitebait sandwiches so decided to try them. It turned out to be whitebait fillets in an omelette served with salad between tow pieces of white bread. It stopped raining. We handed in the car which had taken us 3750 km around the South Island and were driven to the port in it. We got on the ferry and the Cook Straits were as calm as a millpond. We arrived at 4:15 and picked up another car, a slightly more modern version of the one we left in Picton. We drove to just outside Palmerston North to stay with John and Sue McOlviney, whom we'd met on Stewart Island. We were joined by their friends Peter and Wendy Gillespie. We started with smoked trout caught by John which was followed by a wonderful home grown roast lamb meal with lots of veges and wine followed by a kiwi Pavlova. All of this was accompanied by lots of banter. It was another special evening. We were delighted to be their guests in such a splendid mansion.

Tuesday, March 28 - Napier and gannets

We got up at 7am and had breakfast. Sue would really like to run a homestay (B&B) but John is not so keen. We were acting as tame guinea pigs. John showed us around part of the 50 acre section (also called a block but to us a plot of land). A swimming pool, tennis court, olive grove, sheep paddock surrounded the 1892 bungalow with 12 foot high ceilings. Jane took many photos and we sadly said goodbye. As we set out it started to rain and continued to do so as we drove through the undulating countryside and along the windy scenic route over the hills to Napier. As we got into the plain of Hawke's Bay we passed through vineyards and orchards. We went to the i-site in Napier and booked a room in the Beach Front Motel (more...) and a trip to the gannet colony. We also bought a map showing the better examples of art deco buildings for which the area has a reputation. We unpacked our bags at the motel and ate a light lunch in the city centre and drove out to where the gannet safari started and waited. A 4WD minibus drove up and we joined the English lady, Spanish lady and Canadian to be guided by Jo who thought Jane was pregnant so Jane sat in the front seat. Jo and her husband owned a farm near the gannets. We travelled along a road leading to the Cape Kidnappers golf course owned by an American ($400 a round for foreigners) and then onto a gravel track through very hilly farmland with majestic views. Eventually we entered a field of sheep and Jo parked the minibus close to a gate in the seaward fence. We climbed down a short amount of grass and tussocks and there they were. The gannets and their young were sitting and standing on bare earth. Some of the young were larger than their parents. Jo explained that the juveniles fly off to Australia for a couple of years, get bored, and then fly back to the colony where they base themselves for the rest of their lives. The cameras were busy whilst Jo prepared the refreshments. We clambered back up to minibus and had a drink and a girl-guide chocolate biscuit. We returned to the car and thanked Jo for a most enjoyable afternoon. We drove round Hastings and Napier to admire the art deco buildings and then stopped at a garage with a Woolworths attached. We bought a roast chicken, a loaf and some other things and returned to the motel to have a quiet evening, somewhat different from the previous one.

Wednesday, March 29 - Napier to Tauranga

As we had a long way to drive today we were up early and left the motel at 8:30am. We drove from Napier across to Lake Taupo on the SH5. It drizzled most of the way and it was just another typical New Zealand route as fields, hills and forests are beginning to look the same. One difference however is that in the South Island beef, sheep and deer are grown more and as you drive along you see many bales of hay neatly stacked along sides of fields to feed them in the winter. In the North Island the grass never stops growing as the temperature is warm and damp. This is another reason for there being only 5 native deciduous trees. There obviously is hay cut in the North but it is mainly stored in fields along the way as a rather flat haystack covered in plastic held down with many old tyres. The farm we crossed yesterday to see the gannets, has 4000 sheep and some cattle. A very different size farm to those we see in the UK. In the sheep shearing shed we visited a week or two ago they took about 1 minute to sheer a sheep, so this farm will need approximately 67 man hours just to shear them. Most sheep here are a cross containing Romney Marsh sheep. After Lake Taupo we stopped at a thermal area called "Craters of the Moon" and walked all the way round on the paths surrounded by Prostrate Kikuna. There were no geysers here but over 50 craters and lots of fumeroles. It was both a good walk, very interesting and free. Onwards to Rotarua and Jane read the Lonely Planet to find where the Wiatapu thermal area is as this is supposed to be the prettiest one of all to visit, and it was. We were persistently advised to 'Keep to the Formed Pathway' as we wandered around the different coloured ponds and lakes and multi-coloured craters. It was well worth a visit even though we had to pay an entrance fee. We had a quick stop for lunch in a Subway on the outskirts of Rotorua before driving on to Tauranga. We made our way to the Roselands Motel (more...) and unpacked. The sun is shining and it's hot. We walked down the street for several blocks and found the Wharf Street Restaurant close to the sea where we had battered mussels followed by the fish of the day - blue nose. It was delicious. We walked back along the promenade and briefly stopped to watch the Chatham sea cadets practising and passed a large 300 year old cottonwood tree.

Thursday, March 30 - Tauranga to Whitianga

We had our banana sandwiches for breakfast and left the motel at 8:30am. We drove north up to the bottom of the Coromandel Peninsula and into the i-site at Whangamata where we booked accommodation for tonight and the next two. By now the sun had burnt the clouds off and it was about 24C. We made our way to the car park at the Hot Water Beach and had a pie for lunch at the Tarte Café. We hired a spade at the café, changed into bathing togs in the toilets, and padded our way across the beach to where several other people were digging. We commandeered a hole in the sand and enlarged it for Jane to sit in the hot water. Beneath the sand are thermal rocks which heat the water up. After leaving the private spa bath we got back into the car and drove another couple of kays to the car park for Cathedral Cove. As we were getting our stuff ready for the 45min walk someone called out to us. There in the car park sitting in a yoot with the registration GUPPY1 were Tom and Mary Moore, ex inhabitants of Swanmore who now live in Norfolk. Their daughter and son-in-law were out in the bay in a yacht and Tom and Mary had just come to see what progress the yachtsmen were making. Tom and Mary have a house in Whitianga about 35 kays from the car park. We had a good chat and then walked down to view the magnificent Cathedral Cove where there is a very large arch straddling the sand. After the walk we made our way to the Beach Motel and Cabins (more...) at the north end of Whitianga. We ate at Smitty's Sport Bar and Restaurant. We shared a bacon and pumpkin soup. Then we had gurnard and kumara chips which were delicious. Unfortunately Mr Murdoch's Sky Sports was not being shown as there was a problem with the satellite.

Friday, March 31 - Whitianga to Coromandel

The satellite problem was fixed by 9am. Expect an increase in the number of Kiwis in December. We left Whitianga and drove north up SH25 and took a diversion on a gravel road to Matarangi where they are building a lot of new houses. We then had a short diversion to Whangapoua. As we were admiring the mangroves and kingfishers we were overtaken by the Moores. Two coincidences in two days is a little too much. We made our way via a scenic lookout spot with 360 degrees of panoramic views. We descended to Coromandel and found our way to the Driving Creek Railway. We had a wonderful ride on a 1 foot 6 inch gauge railway up a hillside to the Eyefull Tower for another set of magnificent views. The railway was built primary to get wood and clay for the pottery of Barry Brickell but after much pressure he was persuaded to open and extend his railway for tourists. We are glad he did. We unpacked at a unit in the Tidewater Tourist Park (more...). The Coromandel Smoking Company is only 100 metres away so what a good place to get some lunch. We bought two dozen oysters for $18, ten smoked mussels and a small piece of smoked kingfish. We ate it all with some bread and butter and lettuce bought at the local Four Square supermarket. We rested and then travelled some 40 odd kays on the gravel roads north of Coromandel. In the evening we dined at the Success Café. We shared a curried kumera soup. Jane had a blue steak and Graham had gurnard again. He'll grow fins shortly. Petrol is now $1.759 a litre. That's the most expensive it's been.

Saturday, April 1 - Coromandel

We set off in search of some large kauri trees. After travelling several kays to Thames we found a good lookout spot and took some photos. We returned towards Coro, as the place is locally known, and turned onto the 309 Road which is a weel-known gravel road. We found the kauri trees. They were huge. We went into town and got some lunch to take back to our unit - meat pie and a smoked snapper head for Jane and a smoked mullet for Graham. After lunch we were picked up by Jack who drove us back up the 309 Road and unloaded the 8-wheel Argo which he had on the trailer. We were also introduced to Dominic, a gardener for Derbyshire backpacking his way round the world. Into the Argo we climbed and we made our way up a very steep track but had to retrace our tracks as the gradient and wetness was too much for the Argo. Jack found another route and we climbed back up a hill. We got out several times. The first was to help get the Argo out of deep mud. The second time was to take a look at an old collapsed goldmine tunnel. It was very deep. The third stop was to view a waterfall and the final stop was to take a walk through a grove of nikau palms to a stream that fed the waterfall. There was a deep pool at the stream and in it was a metre long eel. A smaller eel was in another shallower pool. Jack fed them some fish he'd brought with him. We returned to the truck and its trailer and Jack delivered us back to the Tidewater Tourist Park. We had another unusual but very pleasant experience. We dined once again at the Success Café and this time we both had the Scotch Fillet - more like a rib-eye than a fillet.

Sunday, April 2 - Coromandel to Miranda

It rained most of the night and is still raining now. We have a toasted tomato sandwich for breakfast and leave at 9:30am. The countryside is not as pretty as it was yesterday. Lots of cormorants are standing on rocks as we drive south towards Thames. At Thames we stop at a Laundromat, Design Shop, Computer Repairs and Internet Connection all rolled into one. We log on and look at the email. It cost $5 for 30 minutes. A short stroll under the overhanging porticos of the shops takes us to a coffee shop. All we want is a cup of white coffee. We don't want flat whites because the coffee is made cold by adding warm whipped milk so we explain what we want - a cup of black coffee with a splash of milk added. We were told we should ask for Americano. It's not one of the coffee styles listed. Anyway we take our plastic number two to a table and wait. After a minute or so two cups of black coffee arrive with two small jugs, one with milk the other with hot water. It was the best coffee we've had in NZ. Back in the car, the drizzle persisting, we drive to Miranda and try to check into the Miranda Holiday Park (more...) but the room is not ready. We drive onto Kaiaua where we stop at New Zealand's best fish and chip shop. We choose terahiki, 6 oysters in batter and kumara chips. It was jolly tasty. Next stop was at the Seashore Bird Centre at Miranda. It was still drizzling so we looked at the displays and bought a book on NZ trees. Our chalet is now ready so we check in and unpack. Jane went for a dip in the thermal pool on the site while Graham watched the Australian Grand Prix. Evening dining was limited by the lack of facilities and restaurants. We had fish and chips which we bought next door at the Thermal Pool (the largest in the Southern Hemisphere, they claim). The food was not as good as at lunch time. The bedroom is the smallest we have slept in. The double bed only just qualifies for being so called. Not much photography today.

Monday, April 3 - Miranda to Auckland

We left the chalet at sparrows' fart to give us time to walk to the hide at the Miranda Seashore Bird reserve. The tide was out and was not due to reach full tide for another 3 hours at 10:36 am. Anyway we saw lots of birds - we think they were godwits, dotterels, wrybills, herons and yet another white heron. We drove to Whangaparoa to visit Faye again. We told her of our travels around NZ and she asked us to stay for lunch which we did. After lunch Jane showed Faye a selection of the photos whilst Graham did the crossword and slept. After a cup of tea we left and went to Auckland where we checked in at the Hilton (more...) which overlooks the port. Jane has enough Hilton Honor points to enable us to stay for free for two days which is what we are going to do. As our room is not ready we are offered a complimentary drink in the bar. Alcoholic drinking started early today as we consumed our glasses of NZ wine. When the room is ready we unpack, sort out the email and go out to eat in the port. We both have mussels followed by steak on a stonegrill at a nearby restaurant and then retire to our rooms.

Tuesday, April 4 - Auckland

After our free breakfast in the hotel we stroll around the harbour to see the Earthrace, a newly launched eco-fueled power boat which is going to attempt the fastest circumnavigation of the world in March 2007. It hopes to take less than 65 days. We watched an NZ America's Cup contender taking out paying guests for a 3 hour trip. It's windy and showery so we did not envy them. We make our way to the Explorer bus stop and get on it. Sitting on the top deck are a couple from Salisbury who we met on the Doubtful Sound trip. NZ is a small place. We travel round the city admiring the sites and get off at the Sky Tower. It's the tallest structure in the Southern Hemisphere. We decide not to go up in the lift but watch some young foolish maiden perform a sky jump from 192 metres above the street. We hop back on the Explorer bus and hop off at Victoria Park Market where we have a very cheap but tasty Chinese lunch. We walked back to the harbour and met an ex-Londoner who takes photographs of boats and the people on them. He showed us his collection - would you like to come up and see my photos? Jane then wandered off to get some retail therapy while Graham bought a couple of bottled beers - Monteith's Winter Ale - and returned to the hotel. We dined at the V Grill overlooking the harbour where we had half dozen oysters each, Jane had a rack of lamb and Graham had a side of duck. We called in at the coolest bar in town, paid $25 each, donned coats, gloves and boots, and entered the bar. Standing amongst the ice sculptures we sipped our complimentary Absolut cocktails from the ice glasses. We left the "Minus 5" after 30 minutes as our time was up. It was a great way to chill out.

Wednesday, April 5 - Returning home

Got up, packed, and had breakfast. Said goodbye to the Hilton and drove to the airport. We could not remember where Omega Car Rentals were located so had to phone them. We checked the car in but did not manage to get our money back for the accident in Christchurch. Needless to say we were too early for the plane which was late taking off anyway. Thank goodness Jane gets us into the club lounge. We had a four hour stopover in Hong Kong, long enough for Jane to have a shower. We touched down at Heathrow at 7am Thursday and were met by Bill who drove us back to his house where we picked up the car and headed home via Emma in Kingston. The past seven weeks have given us many wonderful experiences and New Zealand is a great place for tourists. Everywhere is well marked. All the tourist spots have brown signposts and there are public toilets in every village. They even have road signs giving a suggested speed for going round corners. Our first 2 weeks were very hot and after that the weather was comfortable but a bit cold for a few days on the South Island. We managed to avoid most of the rain. Seven weeks went very quickly.