Category Archives: New Zealand

Hokianga Area and Bay of Islands, New Zealand – Part 2

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The next part of our journey takes us into Hokianga Harbour, also known as the Hokianga River – a long estuarine drowned valley on the west coast.

In recent years, tourism has become significant to the region. Attractions such as the great kauri trees of the Waipoua Forest, the historic waterfront villages of Kohukohu and Rawene, with quirky cafes, Horeke basalts, amazing beaches, historic buildings, nature walks, horse trekking, boat trips and fishing are bringing more visitors every year.

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The view in the evening from the Copthorne Hotel cannot be missed.

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Moving across Northland to the east, we’ve now discovered an historical area of significance whereby more than 40 Māori chiefs, led by Ngāpuhi’s Hōne Heke Pokai in 1840, signed a treaty with the British Crown at Waitangi in the Bay of Islands.

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Our chosen leader from the group was Dallas who did us proud in offering a leaf as a sign of our gratitude in allowing us to be part of today’s ceremony of the Haku.

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War haka were originally performed by warriors before a battle, proclaiming their strength and prowess in order to intimidate the opposition, but haka are also performed for various reasons: for welcoming distinguished guests, or to acknowledge great achievements, occasions or funerals. Best known for the All Blacks footy team’s war cry before a game. Works well, they don’t lose very often.

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A day trip out with GreatSights to the Hole in the Rock cruise starts at NZD102.00 per adult plus $15.00 if you’re wanting to swim with the dolphins. Children under 5 years can swim free and is subject to conditions allowing passengers to go out.

Dolphins

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Twin Coast Discovery drive, starts and ends in Auckland and we’re more than half way.

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At the township of Russell, you can easily take a walking tour.

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Fullers GreatSights Bay of Islands operate regular passenger ferry services between Paihia and Russell.

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On Maiki Hill behind Russell is a flagpole erected in the same position as the four that Hone Heke, the great Maori leader, cut down in protest over the treatment of his people after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.

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The Bay of Islands hosts a myriad of beautiful island escapes and lots of sheep are part of the territory.  I do love sheep, especially as I had three lambs as a child and were lots of fun.

Photo courtesy of Anna Vickery.

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However, as I’ve matured my love of lamb is more so on a plate!

No other country produces better quality than NZ.

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Lapping up the tranquillity and picturesque views before returning to Paihia.

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Time to relax before retuning to Auckland which is about another three hours drive in decent traffic.

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Heading back into Auckland is not so congested, but I’d advise to avoid the peak-hour rush.

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Last night and Maggie’s showing us her superb meal at Orbit 360° Dining. Situated at the top of Auckland’s Sky Tower, the dining room rotates once every hour with amazing panoramic views of the city, the Hauraki Gulf and beyond.

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Moving on and with Air New Zealand’s Premium Economy Spaceseats, they are truly magnificent and value for money. Especially travelling long-haul flights to Los Angeles, Vancouver and London.

Going North to Northland, New Zealand – Part One

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Although New Zealanders are affectionately known as Kiwis, they have as many ‘sayings’ and colloquialisms as does Aussies. And, depicted here is how I felt  finding out I was setting off to the Northland region – “sweet-as” – a term people say instead of “cool” or “awesome”.

A little later on we’re taste testing Makana Confectionary, all hand-made with only natural ingredients. Yum!

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However, at the start of this journey in Auckland, we’re kicking off our first night at the Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT). This is New Zealand’s largest museum of its kind,  offering a fun and exciting learning experience for visitors of all ages.
The Sir Keith Park Memorial Aviation Display is available for hire as a venue and can host up to 800 guests in a cocktail-style arrangement or 350 for a seated dinner.

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Next day, we’re heading off with Scenic and our driver Roger is making sure everything’s taken care of. He has a few enjoyable yarns to tell us along the way.

P1150588Leaving The Langham Hotel was hard to do as its elegant British style is synonymous with good-old-fashioned hospitality. The previous night this bar attracted people of all ages who could be seen embracing its ambience and sophistication, not to mention having quite a few bevvies.

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We’re on our way north in the country known as the Long White Cloud.

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Beautiful scenery all the way.

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Little bit fruity, ‘eh?

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The Kaurai tree, Agathis Australis, is New Zealand’s largest and most famous native tree. It’s a type of conifer tree which grows in the subtropical northern part of the North Island.

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When we were told we’d be visiting a Tree Museum, I could only think of the lyrics of Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi song from 1970.

They took all the trees
And put them in a tree museum
Then they charged the people
A dollar and a half just to see ’em
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
‘Til it’s gone

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Well that’s what almost happened to the native Kaurai Tree. Here we can see how the logging took place in the early 1900’s and almost wiped out a whole species with only 2% of forest remaining today.

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You won’t pay a dollar and a half to see ’em, but at NZD25.00 per adult,  it’s definitely worthy of a visit. This museum is self funded and supports the regrowth of the region with many passionate volunteers as well lending a hand.

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Hone Heke shown with Kaurai wood inlay; known as a warrior and leader of a Māori rebellion.

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Exquisite furniture made from the Kauri. When you see the grain and texture it’s easy to see why it was highly sought after for its magnificent finish when done.

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And, what’s really impressive is the Gum Room collection whereby the sap from the mighty tree was being harvested and hence sold off. The overseas demand caused its demise at a rapid rate. Not as old as amber from other parts of the world,  but just as splendid.

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Our guide Maria from Footprints took us on a night stroll visiting the Waipoua Forest. The largest Kaurai in existence is Tane Mahuta (Maori for ‘Lord of the Forest’) and is 4.4 metres in diameter and 17.7 metres to the first branch. It’s mandatory you have your shoes cleaned and good swiping on a mat before being allowed entry to help alleviate any carriage of diseases.

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Lastly for the evening we’re shown a silver tree fern or silver fern, also known as ponga in Maori language. Although not the official symbol, it’s commonly associated with the country both overseas and by New Zealanders themselves.

Highlights of New Zealand’s South Island

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Despite the sometimes difficult conditions, Mount Cook National Park is an exceptionally beautiful place to visit. You don’t have to be a mountaineer to interact with the stunning scenery; there are various alpine walks beginning near the village and approximately three hours return.

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With my group here at Lake Tekapo, it’s about three hours drive south-west of Christchurch in the Mackenzie Basin. Facing north across the incredible turquoise-coloured lake to the mountainous Southern Alps. The Lake reaps its intense milky-opal colour from the fine rock-flour (ground by glaciers) which is suspended in the water.

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On the shores on the lake you’ll see the beautiful Church of the Good Shepherd which was built in 1935 for the pioneer families of the Mackenzie district and a popular photo spot for visitors.

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Looking out from the Church of Good Shepherd whereby the altar window frames a perfect view of the Southern Alps beyond the lake.

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Beautiful scenery doesn’t matter which way you look when motoring along.

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Forest walk along the Haast River.

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The Kea bird would have to be one of the naughtiest and most mischievous birds on the planet. It’s the only truly alpine parrot in the world and gained early notoriety among settler farmers for attacks on their sheep – and has a total disregard for car tyres! Innately curious, Kea are attracted to people wherever they enter its mountainous domain and are especially friendly.

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Fox Glacier – a bit cooler here for sure as it descends from the Southern Alps down into a temperate rainforest – just 300 metres above sea level.

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A day out on the Milford Sound with lunch is a must.

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The most common Maori name for New Zealand is Aotearoa, which is translated as The Land of the Long White Cloud and again evident today on Milford Sound’s stunning waterway.

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A quick stop at Lake Hawea with its mirrored finish and glass-like surface.

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Heading towards Dunedin. The weather in NZ can be as changeable as a teenager’s mood.

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Baldwin Street, Dunedin – steepest street in the world.

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New Zealand’s original great train ride. Developed for walkers, cyclists and horse riders, the Otago Central Rail Trail follows the former Otago Central branch railway line and part of Nga Haerenga. The Taieri Gorge Railway offers unique and panoramic views over an ever-changing scenery. There is a licenced Café and bar on board and live commentary on all trips.

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Flightseeing tours are other ways to optimise your time here.

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Flying over The Remarkables during the summer months give you an idea of how majestic they really are.

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Coming into Queenstown to land.

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The home of Bungy at the Kawarau Bridge Bungy Centre, 43 metres of pure adrenaline to help your heart start to pump and adventure is what the Kiwis are renowned for! After my flight, a trip out to AJ Hackett’s Bungy Jumping bridge wasn’t enough to convince me to end the day here – in a gulley. Love to watch the others though …

Wanaka, Central Otago in New Zealand

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Air New Zealand wins hands down when the livery of an aircraft has been taken into account. Beyond that, the airline wins numerous awards for customer service and product. Additionally, Qantas and Jetstar have a number of services from Australia to Queenstown NZ.

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Today Queenstown Airport is showing off New Zealand’s namesake ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’.

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On this occasion, heading off to Wanaka via Cromwell. Alpine Connexions run regular services each day to Wanaka and return.

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Without doubt some of the world’s best wines come from the south island of NZ.

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Wyndham Vacation Resort offer comfortable and superior rooms at competitive rates.
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Lake Wanaka, very picturesque at any time of the day.

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Walking around the perimeter of Lake Wanaka in the evening.

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The walkway along the water’s edge, the pathway shows tiles which historically notate world events over the centuries and quite interesting to read.

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To quote Stephanie Brake: “Wanaka was my gateway to aspiration and believing that with a combination of carefully-guided support, emotional release and self direction, I could achieve virtually anything.”

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Dedication shown to a loved one.

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Kayaking is just one of the numerous activities you can take around the lake and the township boasts many cafes and restaurants.

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Today I’ve opted to feel the breeze in my hair aboard a purpose-built jetboat which speeds along the Wanaka River. We’ll be underneath Mount Aspiring and the surrounding glaciers along the way.

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Not to be disappointed, this company delivers big time on adrenalin rushes with plenty of ‘spin outs’ which would have to be the equivalent drag racing burn outs?

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Because the river rose overnight due to rain and a sprinkle of snow (yes it’s summertime in NZ), we were able to go further up and visit the forest area known as East Branch. Absolutely stunning!

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It’s easy to see why films such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit have been filmed in unique locations and are nearby to this area. There are tours which can be taken to see them as well.

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The precipitation eased up slightly which added to the ambience of the area’s beauty and serenity.

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East Bank with waterfalls flowing freely and in abundance all around us.

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Slowing down on the jetboat, (yes another Kiwi invention), our guides James and John took time out to give us information about the area’s historical story.

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Returning at the end of a day of which Evel Knievel would have sanctioned from above, I have to say – gee what a fun day out – water sprayed and all that frizzy hair to go with it!