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Up at 7:30 so that David could have a go in the spa. J & B joined him - it was fun!
After a big breakfast in the motel (David had a double serve, but couldn't eat it all), drove across the Auckland Harbour Bridge (the Nippon Clippon) and detoured to Mt. Victoria for an excellent view of Auckland across the harbour. Then headed north for Wakworth, Willsford and Whangarei, arriving in Paihia about 5. Checked our bookings for the cream trip and got directions to the motel, where we had a swim in the pool. Dined at the Islands fixed price restaurant, with an all-you-can-eat mode, which Nathan enjoyed! Back to motel (very hot) and watched The Terminator on TV, before bed.
Leisurely start to the day. Off to Paihia wharf at 0845. Looked around a few shops to start with - David bought a small wooden kiwi and Barb some postcards. Went to get on boat at 0915, but discovered that it was the wrong boat, after N and D had already raced ahead and got on without us! Barb had to get on and extract them!
Our boat started boarding at 0955 and we were away shortly after 1000. The day was perfect. The weather was warm but not hot, with a refreshing breeze. The skies were sunny, with lovely fluffy clouds on the horizon, not overhead. Only bit hassle - I got sunburnt on the forehead and neck, where I didn't sunscreen up adequately.
There is no way I can describe the trip itself - so I took lots of photographs. David was a little miffed that we wouldn't let him use the new camera, but he eventually calmed down and used the old Kodak compact camera. We landed at Otalaia Bay (sp?) and went on the "Nautilus", an underwater viewing boat, and saw lots of fish. David loved that.
Lunch took more time than we had bargained for, so N. ran up the hill that we had all been recommended to climb and took a 360 degree panorama with the new camera. Then back on the boat for more idyllic cruising of the Bay of Islands. We called into a number of sandy bays, all dotted about with yachts. Oh to be rich!
On return I dropped 3 films off at a 1hour place while B & D went for a walk on the beach. Then N & J went train chasing across to Opua, where we saw the 4pm train just arriving. Took some departure shots, then chased to the next road/rail confluence for a couple more. Then back to hotel for D to get changed and go for a swim on the beach. After 1hr, I collected the films ($53!) and we looked at them together.
Went to La Scala restaurant for tea, but none of us were very hungry, so we just had 1(J)/2(NBD) courses. Then back to the motel to watch Ghostbusters II (not as good as GBI) and bed.
Odometer reading 16150
Left Bay of Islands at around 0800 after breakfast of variety cereal packets and OJ. Retraced our steps (revolutions) as far as Wellsford, where we turned off to take the "scenic route" via the western coast. It was slightly more scenic, but David was feeling car-sick, so it was of mixed benefit. (We rationalized that he would have felt sick going the other way, too.) Stopped for morning tea/lunch at Helensville, where Nathan dropped his pie and made everyone (particularly John) snappy: "but it was your fault loading me up so much". Also found some fascinating uni-sex loos!
Went straight through Auckland, and made good progress along route 2 and then 5 straight through to Rotorua, getting there about 1530. After dropping off luggage at motel (the "Braeside", next to a cute Scottish style stream), headed for Whakarewarewa and took the 1600 guided tour over the Maori village, geysers and hot springs. Saw Pohutu squirt, but not as impressively as during my August visit. Walked back by the southern path, which I hadn't done before, but not as much worth seeing as on [the] main path.
Back to motel to think about dinner, and eventually decided on the Steak House, to which we went. Had some excellent mussels, then a "blue" piece of fillet, very tender. Followed this by an icecream at the icecream palour, then back to the motel and collapse.
Breakfast in the motel restaurant, another cooked breakfast job. David preferred to play pool rather than eat breakfast. Since we didn't have to get going early, took the time to catch up on a bit of writing, me to this diary, the others writing postcards.
Off at 09:30, heading for Otorohanga to buy Barb a towel for this afternoon. Saw a sign saying to the Kiwi House, so we went there, and spent the rest of the morning looking at kiwis, keas, kakas, and kakarikis (but no kakapos!) - most fascinating, and quite a bonus as we hadn't planned it.
To Waitomo via back roads and then: Black Water Rafting! It was generally agreed afterwards that this was the highlight of the trip, even before seeing the second half, and it would be hard to imagine a rival experience. What can I say? Wet suits, inner tubes, helmets, lights, cold water and pitch darkness - all except for the glowworm grottos. Floating through these caves, lit sufficiently by the light of the glowworms to actually be able to see was an erie experience indeed! An additional hightlight was the jump over the waterfall, from a couple of metres into a pitch black hole, right in the middle of the cave.
All too soon there was light at the end of the tunnel, and we scrambled out over some rock falls to emerge to daylight. But there was further "floating down the river", before we were back to the starting point. A short drive back to the depot, showers and hot soup and toast, and it was all starting to be memories.
Drove on that evening to Taumarunui, staying in the "Hilton" Motel. The owner was mad on trains, so we had something in common. He played two steam train tapes for us, one after we returned from a meal in the "Williams" restaurant - pleasant, nothing fancy, mind - although the mussels were good!
A day of driving. Setting off from Taumarunui, we headed south in heavy overcast conditions, and steady drizzle. Our first stop was at Raurimu, to inspect the railway spiral. The Rotary Club had installed a lookout, plus model, to show the spiral construction. We drove down some narrow roads to get to the spiral itself, but unfortunately there was nowhere reasonably accessible that gave gave a complete overview.
Then on to National Park, where we turned off for a detour around Mt Ruapehua (which was hidden in cloud!) Drove up to Whakepapa village and skifield (what a name!), but as the cloud didn't look like lifting, decided not to take a chairlift any higher. Still, the scenery that we did see was impressive. On to Tauranga (in the mist) and glimpses of Lake Taupo, then south on Highway 1, with lots of traffic. The weather cleared as we got out of the mountains, and we saw very nice mountain/river/farmland scenery along the Rangitikei valley. Then just mountain/farmland scenery down the coast to Wellington, save for an extra nice view of Parirua Harbour.
After finding the motel in Johnsonville (no mean feat, I might add!) drove into Wellington proper twice, firstly to check out how to get to the ferry and visit Mt Victoria for a spectacular 360 degree view (took a 10 photo panorama), and secondly, after returning to the motel for Barb to change, to go to dinner at the Tug Boat, a tug boat restored as a restaurant on the waters of the bay, and with a magnificent view of the harbour. We had a seafood platterfor 3 to share between the 4 of us, and everyone had enough! The service was a bit slow, though we hardly noticed, and the management gave us a 10% discount with which we did not argue, especially as it was cheaper than we were expecting.
We all flopped easily and heavily into bed on returning to the motel.
Up bright and early for breakfast, though some of us were still full from last night. Drove into the city and found a MacDonald's - Barb and I had a hash brown and orange juice for breakfast, and Nathan had only hot cakes - that's how hungry we were! Then caught the cable car up to the Botanic Gardens for a look at the view and a quick stroll through one tiny part of the gardens, seeing the "sundial of human involvement" and the Australian gardens. Then down the cable car again, and had to wait until 9 for the banks to open. Cashed up, we drove to the ferry, dropped off the Toyota Camry and boarded.
Departure was late, about 10 minutes, caused by the train shunting wagons on. Once under way, the views were superb, although a trifle windy! The crossing was about 3.5 hours, arriving in Picton about 1330. We had collected our luggage and the ew car, a Nissan Maxima, and we were on the road by 1400.
A fairly long drive to Greymouth, punctuated with views of 1000-1500m high mountains, wide rivers amd deep gorges. Had to keep stopping to cool the camera down, and remove old rolls of film from their works. Nevertheless, made good time, and were in Greymouth (aptly named, too, by the way!) by 1930. Ate at the Paroa Hotel just down the road from the motel.
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