Archive for the ‘Bay of Islands’ Category

Heavy rain during the night; time to move on… We were packed and in the car by about 8.30am, perhaps a bit later after John had finished enthusing about our trip and about our subsequent ‘champion’ destinations in New Zealand. For the New Zealanders we have met are ever so positive and obliging; John returned our payment for our two cancelled nights without any prompting, then offered us his wi-fi code; an ice-cream seller volunteered to replace a dropped cone for free (in fact, only the spoon had fallen); a lady behind us in the supermarket queue explained how to get my debit card to work (you have to select ‘credit card’ as the account option). None of the USA’s insistence on deposits and legally binding contracts, none of French Polynesia’s long lists of house rules, none of Chile’s income-maximising ethos. It’s more ‘we’ll play fair with you because we reckon you’ll play fair with us’.

Lady TomTom indicated a 5 1/2 hour journey to Hot Water Beach, quicker than we had feared. So we allowed ourselves the odd stop, the oddest being the Kawakawa public toilets. For these were Hundertwasser’s last creation, and over a decade later they are still in good shape. I can’t help suspecting that in the UK any public convenience window made of glass bottles embedded in concrete would have been smashed or defaced by now, but the inside and outside of these facilities were in excellent condition. Sadly, the girls had been too well drilled to go before they went but I managed to spend a penny in the Gents.

Hundertwasser loos.






After this, a long stop-start journey south, thanks to various roadworks on the way (and to Auckland, City of Snails). A fully cloudy sky with the odd rain shower and no prospect of improvement. We stopped for petrol and the toilet just before the toll road and then for lunch after the toll.

Auckland skyline.

Scenery en route.

We then headed east and north towards Hot Water Beach, arriving just before 4pm. Our bach is basic (as they tend to be) with wood-chip flooring and a small kitchen; all the bedroom storage is already taken up with the owners’ belongings so we are a bit pushed for space. Anyway, we unloaded in the rain and took a while to work out how to turn on the electricity – there are also warnings about saving water (three-minute showers, only one load of washing a week – sorry, Kirsten).

We put on our raincoats and walked down to the beachside store to get something for supper. Closed. So back into the car to find a nearby town; this turned out to be Whitianga, a good 70km round trip away down some windy roads, but at least there was a large ‘New World’ supermarket once we got there. So we took the opportunity to stock up for our five days here and returned with a bootful of provisions. An 8pm supper of spaghetti carbonara and then B&B (bed & blog).

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The forecast for today looked grim; rain turning thundery later on. We therefore hesitated about venturing too far from ‘home’ – the girls did various amounts of reading, Ellen proudly proclaiming she had reached page 110 while Hannah dawdled to page 10. Kirsten typed up yesterday’s blog and I got annoyed over Travel Nation’s failure to book us on to our desired flights (the email reply I received did nothing to increase my confidence in them – there always seems to be some contrived excuse).

The immediate forecast indicated we should go out sooner rather than later, so we drove down into Paihia around 10.30am, parked and walked to the jetty to get our ferry tickets. The 10-past-the-hour ferry would take children for free, so we decided to wait around for it (there seem to be three or four different ferries operating, all with varying pricing policies).

Plenty of room on board; a fair breeze but also some unexpected sunshine (we had our rain jackets but no hats or suncream). Twenty minutes later we were in Russell, the town across the bay from Paihia. It is part of the mainland, but a considerable drive from here via tortuous, unsealed roads.

Approach to Russell.

We picked up a map and decided to explore on foot before the weather turned nasty. We climbed a steep hill to the Flagstaff lookouts (a mosaic sundial on one and the eponymous pole on the other). A long explanation there of how the flagstaff had been erected by the British, chopped down by the Maoris, then re-erected and felled a total of four times between 1844 and 1845.

Ellen telling the time.

Russell panorama.
Russell Panorama

The town was originally called Kororareka, which means ‘sweet penguin’ (no, we’re not talking chocolate bars here), and such was its lawless reputation as a licentious port that it was named the Hell Hole of the Pacific. Hard to imagine today, a quiet little tourist town boasting New Zealand’s oldest church and hotel.

We sped down the slope into town for some fish and chips – yes, we’re back to chips rather than fries – but the dory was not at all hunky; they’d just run out so we settled for two other types of fish (whose Maori names now escape me). Served in newspaper (haven’t seen that in the UK for years) and utterly delicious.

We also got some flip-flops for Hannah – or rather ‘jandals’ as they are over here (and they are ‘thongs’ in Australia).

It drizzled feebly and thereafter the weather cleared up again. We took a look at Christ Church (the oldest in NZ) and – thanks to Margaret’s tip-off – found a St Helenian grave near the entrance. The girls had some food for thought seeing so many headstones for children aged six, four, two…


Then Hannah and Ellen insisted on going into the museum, before any of us even knew what was on display. Six stuffed birds (including a sweet penguin and a kiwi), a video loop detailing the history of Russell, a 1/5 scale model of Captain Cook’s Endeavour, Zane Grey’s fishing souvenirs and various Maori artefacts. However, the museum was invaded by a noisy school group shortly after we arrived so we didn’t stay as long as we might have done.

As it turned out, we returned to the jetty just as a ferry was due to depart so we had a speedy return to Paihia. Time for our first NZ ice cream – hokey pokey for the girls (that’s vanilla with honeycomb crunch pieces) – then back to the bookshop to buy some new writing and sketch books for the girls. The plan is for them to keep a more regular diary in New Zealand, and we sat them down this evening to write about yesterday and today; we’ll see how long we can keep this up, since it requires our time as well as theirs.

Hannah and I popped into the Woolworths supermarket (strange to see that name still flourishing over here) to get a few things for supper; baked beans are back to their Heinz normality once again, after the weird mutations we came across in the US. I also picked up a bottle of Blenheim rosé to try.

Tomorrow we move on to Coromandel, so a long drive south and then round and up a bit again; we’ll try to stop on the way (e.g. the Hundertwasser toilets) to break the journey. A shame we haven’t had more time here, for – as on Tahiti – we have seen only one small corner of this area. No Ninety Mile Beach or Kauri forests; even with two months here we feel we are rushing and missing so much.

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Our first full day in New Zealand.  What a wonderful sleep we all had in  clean and ant-free bedrooms, and we felt happy and rested.  The girls love the bedrooms as we have two bunkbeds (with a bottom double bed) and a stand alone double bed to choose from.  They have agreed to sleep in the smaller bedroom and take turns to sleep in the top bunk.  Not sure what happens on the third night – no doubt they will sort something out.

First job of the day was a visit to the local supermarket, Woolworths, to stock up on breakfast items, fresh fruit and vegetables, coffee and tea and some toiletries.  After this we dashed back home to enjoy a breakfast of cereal and muffins, fruit juice and fresh “plunger” coffee – at last a nice cup of coffee!

I spent most of the morning catching up on washing.  This is the first time since North America that we have access to a washing machine.  I was so excited I ended up washing three loads, it was mainly to freshen up most of our clothes.

The girls spent their time alternating between watching New Zealand children’s TV, playing imaginary games or playing board games.

Tim used this spare time to sort things out on the laptop (at the time of writing this, he was too tired to remember exactly what!).

At lunchtime we had a soft baguette with tuna/mayonnaise or salmon and were joined by John, the owner (he and his wife Desiree work from home).  He very kindly gave us a refund for the first two nights that we had to spend on Tahiti instead.  He also provided us with some local information and the necessary code we needed for internet access.

As soon as he had gone we checked our emails and were pleased to find some comments on our blog – it’s always interesting to read what others think about our travels.

Early in the afternoon we hopped into the car and drove down to Haruru Falls just down the road.

Haruru Falls.

On the way to the playground and local beach we stopped at home to pick up hats and sun cream.  Although it is slightly cloudy, the sun still feels pretty fierce and hot.  We’re all still a little sore from when we got sunburnt on Tahiti, although we kept slapping on lots of suncream.

The girls only had a shortish play as they were starting to get hungry and thirsty.  We followed John’s recommendation and drove across the bridge to Waitangi where we found a lovely waterside (pond) cafe, Waikokopu.  It’s also the place where the treaty between the Maori and New Zealand was signed. (no not at the actual cafe, but somewhere nearby!)

The girls each chose a fruit juice and chocolate truffle (filled with moist fruit cake instead of chocolate mousse), Tim had cranberry juice and carrot cake and I decided to try the most disgusting looking drink, called Spirulina.  It is a seaweed [okay, algae] smoothie, surprisingly good tasting, rather sweet and very filling.

Glass of spirulina.

Waikokopu café gardens.

We were interested in visiting the “waka”, or Maori canoe, but decided we might leave that for tomorrow.  Instead we headed for Paihia centre where we picked up some information brochures and bought a road map of New Zealand.

We would still rely on our TomTom, but we found it disappointing not being able to follow the instructions on an actual map which would also tell us of anything worth seeing on the way.

After a little shopping (some books for the girls) we headed back home to start preparing supper.  Our first proper and delicious tasting sausages for a very long time together with potatoes, brocolli and carrots, followed by fresh strawberries and apples for dessert.

Bedtime for the girls, blogtime for the grown-ups.

Paihia beach panorama.
Paihia beach

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Extracts from
Far North Guide – the Far North District Council welcomes you


Norm of the North

Norm Bryan has been a household name in the Far North for many years. He grew up in rural Manurewa. Left school on his 15th birthday to start work milking his first cow.

He then started playing music in 1957 with a band called “Be-Bop and the Rockets” from Morrinsville, around this same time known as the the yodelling cowboy, he played with the “Lester Meier Orchestra” in Dargaville, then came the “Rhythmaires” in Northern Wairoa and finally headed north. Norm joined the “buccaneers” in 1968 as a bass man and vocalist.

This band featured musicians who were well known in the north for their music, they were Elaine Bullus, Ivo Yelavich, Chappy Herring and John Marinkovich. This band along with Norm had great success in the north and lasted many years.

Norm has done other things beside music and milking cows, he was presented with 2 Mobil Radio Awards for Best Entertainment Programme “There’s a Hooley Here Tonight” 1987 and again in 1988 for “Spring in the North” both presented in Recognition of an Outstanding Contribution to Radio New Zealand.

The inspiration for this CD album came from Norms daughter Kathy who sings with him on “Unforgettable”. Kathy is a sound engineer for EMI Studios at Abbey Rd London.

Norm is a bullocky! Took the only team of bullocks down Queen Street Auckland last century.


Burial at sea

Burials at sea may only take place in an area designated by the Maritime Safety Authority. The only area designated for burials at sea is located off the Tutukaka Coast.

There is no restriction on the scattering of ashes at sea.


Problems with toilet facilities

If  there are any toilets where general maintenance is required (for example no soap or toilet paper or a broken mirror) please advise the Council. If the problem needs urgent attention (for example vomit or excrement, or a broken lock where privacy is an issue), please call the Council immediately.



The last census showed Okaihau has a resident population of 717 with ‘managers’ as the predominant employment group.

The town’s businesses serve the productive farming hinterland.

[definitely worth a visit, then]



Famed for its unique Hundertwasser toilets and railway line through the main street, Kawakawa is a developing township forging an identity of its own.


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…to kauri

(continued from yesterday) and adjusted our watches accordingly. Here was where we lost our day, jumping surreptitiously ahead from Saturday to Sunday. It makes perfect sense when you have been tweaking your watch further and further back over the last four months; this is where you get the time back again. So, dear reader, we are now getting our days before you rather than lagging increasingly behind.

We landed in Auckland around 2.25pm to find a grey sky but a comfortable 20°C outside. Would John and Angela have already arrived or were they on the next plane to touch down? We scanned the crowds queueing for immigration – no luck. We then saw that our flights had adjacent luggage carousels. A smattering of passengers by theirs, but when the bags thinned out we guessed that we must have arrived later than the Sydney flight. So we picked up our large rucksacks (after a close encounter with a sniffer dog – “are you carrying flowers, by any chance?”), declared our shell necklaces, reed island boat and hiking boots (a quick inspection of our soles was enough – no decontamination required) and emerged remarkably rapidly into the arrivals hall.

Where was the Apex rental desk? Hertz, Thrifty, etc., but no sign of the local firms. I dug out their 0800 number and called them up; a shuttle bus would be along shortly for us.

It did come, and with three groups of passengers (plus luggage) to fit on, it was something of a squeeze. Ellen wasn’t feeling too well, but fortunately this was a short journey. As we pulled in to the depot, we spotted the grandparents sitting in the office. Good to meet up again after nearly four months away, and we probably couldn’t have arranged this timing had we tried. They had just sorted out their car hire (although to start with they were erroneously given a manual car instead of an automatic) and we followed them in the queue. No problem with presenting just the photocard part of the licences (although we now had my replacement counterpart licence as a back-up), so Kirsten and I were both authorised to drive.

We plugged in our SatNav and I helped my parents with their rented TomTom – although it failed to recognise the address of their first night’s accommodation. Around 4.30pm we set off, stopping at a nearby shopping centre for cash. Strangely, neither John nor I were allowed to withdraw more than $100 (about £45).

Lady TomTom behaved today, and we followed the exact route suggested by the Apex staff in order to head north to the Bay of Islands. For the first half hour or so we kept (metaphorically) bumping into John and Angela until they turned off at Orewa and we stopped at a service station to grab a burger and buy our toll ticket (it’s all done on number plate recognition and you can either pre-pay or do it afterwards on the internet but within five days).

A good thing it was a Sunday for driving through Auckland; quite busy enough. The traffic then thinned out as we pressed on north along the SH1. A long, long road – over 100 miles along the east coast, past Whangarei and then at last to the Bay of Islands region where we picked up signs for Paihia, our nearest town. Still grey skies of such opacity that we couldn’t tell where the sun was or how much more daylight we’d get. In the event we just made it to our apartment before nightfall (about 8.50pm), and we were warmly greeted by John (the owners live upstairs) who showed us in.

First impressions are most favourable; the girls have a bunk bed again and we have a dishwasher, washing machine and dryer. So we’re all happy…

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