(February 11th 2007)

While in Northland, one place everyone has to visit is the Waitangi Treaty grounds. This is where the British signed a treaty with the Maori people basically giving birth to the New Zealand nation in 1840. At the treaty grounds there is the treaty house built in 1834, a Maori meeting house (or whare runanga)built to commemorate the centenary of the signing, a huge Maori war canoe which is launched each Waitangi day, and a visitor centre. There is also a small theatre which hosts Maori traditional singing and the haka. Thankfully I was hiding at the back when they asked for a few guys to perform the haka with the pros, so I was saved certain embarrassment. The war canoe (called Ngatokimatawharorua, try saying that after a few pints) was also built to commemorate the centenary in 1940, is one of the largest in the world and made from the trunks of three massive kauri trees. It takes a minimum of 74 paddlers to operate (see the photo section) and you find it hard to imagine anything that big being paddled anywhere when you see it.

After lunch sat in the carpark (it was raining) we went to Kerikeri just to have a look around. It’s an old town by NZ standards and is home to the oldest wooden house (1822) and the oldest stone building (1835) all in a lovely little inlet called the Kerikeri Basin. On the way back we stopped to take a few photos of the bays before returning to the Cavalli Beach House for lovely things to eat.

Tomorrow we leave Northland by a differnet route to the one we arrived on. We’re going slightly north and travelling over to the west coast before heading south towards Rotorua. We’ve got two days to do the trip in so although a lot of driving it should be good.

A Day in the Bay (or, When Ian was Sick)

(February 10th 2007)

Saturday started well with a nice breakfast and went downhill from there, for one of us at least. Before we left the UK I booked a ‘Day in the Bay’ boat trip in the Bay of Islands. Lovely, jump on a boat, travel around the bay, see some dolphins, have some lunch and see the sights. I hate boats! The only reason I did this bloody trip was because Amanda wanted to see dolphins in the wild and this is one of the best places to see them. If the conditions are right (they weren’t sadly for her) you can also swim with them, so I thought it was a price worth paying. How wrong I was. I still maintain that I have never been sea sick as I have never blown chunks, upchucked or any of the other charming expressions used, but I did feel rather ‘ick, and looked a rather pleasant shade of green so I’m told. Anyway, we saw the dolphins and the reason Amanda didn’t get to swim with them was that there were babies there (awwwwww). One was reckoned to be only a day or so old, it was tiny and very, very cute. Sadly David Bailey wasn’t available to take photos so Amanda tried to do her best. She did get some pretty decent pictures but not of the babies. After that flipper-tastic action we headed out to see the Hole in the Rock. In theory if the sea is kind the boat threads itself though a small hole in a huge rock at the edge of the bay. The sea was not in a good mood and much to my relief we took a look and headed back to the relative calm waters of the bay. The skipper dropped us off at an island where we found a nice shady spot under a tree and ate lunch. Amanda went snorkeling and Ian sulked.

After far too long at sea (ok, it was a bay but it felt like a round the world yacht race to me) we were dropped off at Russell, a small historic town opposite Paihia where we caught the boat in the morning. Russell was nice but sadly it was shut. We did manage to get a drink and then an ice cream but we were losing the will to live (or was that just me?) and wanted to get some proper food and get back to proper dry land (that was just me again).

We caught the fast ferry back, as it was the least amount of time I could spend on the water and got a bit of food back in Paihia. The drive back to the beach house felt very good indeed.

One more full day in Northland tomorrow then we head south.

Last Night and Beyond

(February 7th 2007)

Last night we ate in White the hotel restaurant (yes they let us in). The waiter came over and asked us if we had any questions about the menu (nice touch, didn’t make you feel like an idiot making that first move…”uhh what the hell is white speck?”) and we ordered. Amanda had seared scallops with minted pea puree, a trio of basil, white speck with a lime butter sauce for starters and a seared and poached chicken breast, pumpkin and carrot gratin with mango and bell pepper salsa for her main course. I had cured and seared salmon in a chive and ginger crust with pickled fennel and saffron solution for my starters and chargrilled beef fillet with a kumara rosti, watercress and mushrooms with a beef comsomme. Each course came with it’s own wine selected to go with each different dish and I had them all, hehe. To finish we both had roasted strawberries with manuka honey semi-freddo and a lemon vincotto syrup. I only mention the entire menu as it was possibly the best meal I have ever had (at least up in the top two or three). By the way if you don’t know, white speck is crispy ham (sounds like bacon doesn’t it?) and kumara is a type of sweet potato which is everywhere over here and delicious. Slept well after that although my body clock isn’t adjusted as well as I thought as I was up, wide awake at just after 5 am this morning.

After breakfast we used day 2 of our Explorer bus ticket to see a bit more of Auckland. First though, I popped into the main shopping area in town to buy an extra bag to take care of extra purchases we might collect along the way (I’ve already bought the obligatory All Blacks rugby shirt). The bus took us along the same route as yesterday but this time we got off before Sky City and went in search of a drink and maybe a bargain of two. Parnell village is a suburb of Auckland and has loads of small shops, cafes, bars and restaurants. A lot of the buildings are pretty old and kept looking as they did back in the day. Amanda spent her birthday money on a beautiful glass bowl in a gallery which thankfully they are shipping to us back home as it would have been a nightmare to pack and look after while we are here. A quick pint in a bar (I really love the local brew Macs Gold, can’t get away from Macs can I?) and then we caught the bus to Victoria Market.

I admit the market was a bit disappointing. Mostly tat, but feeling hungry we looked for some munchies. In the food area was a sushi place, a kebab shop and a chinese buffet style takeaway. The chinese looked pretty good so we had noodles and sweet and sour pork for me and noodles and chinese vegetables for Amanda. The lady piled the food onto paper plates and with two bottles of pop the bill still only came to less than a tenner. To top it all, the food was lovely…result.

Mmm more food tonight. This is turning into a food report rather than a holiday blog.

Off to the Bay of Islands tomorrow. We’re collecting the car at around 11 am and heading north. The place we’re staying in doesn’t have internet access as far as I know so this may the last entry for a few days. If thats the case, I may still write it and upload all the entries in one go once I can get a decent connection, otherwise a mega entry in a few days or so.

Out and About in Auckland

(February 6th 2007)

After 12 hours of sleep (I fell asleep at around 7:30 last night watching tv) we both woke refreshed and on NZ time. We caught the Auckland Explorer bus and saw a bit of Auckland. It’s a public holiday today (Waitangi Day) so New Zealand charge 15% extra on top of all food and beverages (hopefully so they can pay their staff extra for working on a public holiday), but it also meant that lots of people were out and about enjoying the good weather. First stop for us was Kelly Tarltons which is an aquarium and Antarctic Encounter. Which actually meant that it had some penguins and a little sno-cat ride which was ok, but more for kids.

After that we caught the bus again and drove around the city taking in the sights, before getting off at Sky City home of the Sky Tower. We grabbed some lunch and then went up the tower. It’s 328 metres tall and you get a pretty good view of the city IF YOU’RE BRAVE ENOUGH TO LOOK. One of us wasn’t and didn’t go up to the Sky deck which is a bit higher than the observation deck. Amanda didn’t like the lift going up as it had glass doors and a glass panel in the floor, and as for the glass floor at the top…forget about it.How she is going to get on that helicopter later on in the holiday I don’t know. While we were there we saw a couple of people jump off the top. They were attached to a couple of wires but even so, obviously crazy (there are a couple of pics in the photo section if you haven’t seen it already).

Thankfully the cruise liner has now left and we can see out of our balcony. It was kind of cool watching something that size being maneuvered out by two tugs, helped by the fact that we were doing it with the aid of some alcohol. Amanda says the bellinis in the hotel bar are very good, I can testify to the quality of the beer. We’re eating in the posh restaurant in the hotel tonight, hope they let us in. We’ll just make sure they don’t find out we’re from Bettws (only some of you will undestand that).

Tomorrow we’re back on the bus and seeing some more of the city, and hopefully the museum which is supposed to be very good.


(February 5th 2007)

If anyone tells you it’s a long way to New Zealand, believe them. We left the house at 8:30 am on Saturday and arrived at the hotel in Auckland at around 9 am on Monday morning. I know there are time differences to take into account but it doesn’t feel like it right now.

The leg from Heathrow to LA wasn’t too bad, just another transatlantic flight, but from LA to Auckland seemed to take forever. This is due to two reasons,
1. The flight is twelve and a half hours
2. We had turbulence most of the way
It started about an hour into the flight and it was pretty damn bumpy. We had people crying, people being sick and the rest of wishing that it would just stop so we could go to the loo. Landing at Auckland actually raised a ‘YEAH!’ from someone near us.

We caught a taxi from the airport to the hotel, and another commonly heard saying about NZ is apparently true. The people are really friendly. The taxi driver chatted to us (just angling for a tip, I thought), the guy who took our (very heavy) bags into the hotel smiled and was very friendly (hmm more tipping, how cynical) and so did the porter who took our bags to the room (tips, tips tips). However, so did everyone else who we met along the way, the receptionist, the people in the shops we visited in an attempt to stay awake and the poor woman in Subway as we took forever to decide what the hell we wanted in our sandwiches. I shall observe further.

We’re booked on a harbour cruise later this afternoon and then we go hunting and gathering for food. Well, this entails deciding on whether we eat in the hotel or venture outside to the mexican place around the corner for quesadillas and frozen margaritas (no contest).

I’m feeling rather frazzled right now and will probably read this tomorrow and not remember typing it.

Sneaking into the Business Class Lounge

(February 3rd 2007)

The car picked us up at 8:30am this morning and we got to the airport in plenty of time to check-in. OK, actually we arrived too early and the check-in desks weren’t even open. As Amanda uses a crutch, a kindly person told us to check in at the business class desk instead so we didn’t have to wait so long. We also asked for wheelchair assistance to get to the gate and the woman who came to push seemed to know everyone in the airport. She asked if we were travelling business class and when we said no, she said she would see what she could do. Instead of getting an upgrade, she took us to the business class lounge and cheekily asked the person on the desk if this poor lady in a wheelchair could use the lounge. The woman obviously has had this happen to her before and let us in, hehe. So at the moment I am sitting in a comfy seat away from the common people with free drinks and snacks, television, newspapers and magazines at my disposal. The cheeky one is coming back for us at 1:30 to take us to our flight.

2 days to go

(February 1st 2007)

OK, the list…..
✓ Passports
✓ Money
✓ Letter form Doctor to allow large amounts of pharmaceutical products onboard the aircraft
✓ Tickets (well, electronic tickets. Does anyone else feel nervous about turning up without an actual, real, solid ticket in their hand?)
✓ Cameras
✓ Battery chargers for cameras
✓ Laptop (not packed yet as I’m using it right now)
✓ Charger for laptop
✓ Mobile phone (complete with NZ sim card, how organised am I?)
✓ Charger for mobile phone
✓ Clothes….lots of clothes..too many clothes…it’s crazy
✓ Shoes…one of us is taking too many pairs….guess who
✓ More moisturisers and other assorted bathroom bits and bobs than Boots the Chemist
✓ Same for her, hehe
✓ Sunscreen…gotta protect my lily-white skin from those nasty UV rays

I think that’s it!

There’s always something we’ve forgotten, always.

✓ Take cat to cat hotel (no really, it’s a hotel for cats)

Almost there

(January 13th 2007)

3 weeks and counting, not that I’m counting. Things have settled down recently, me starting a new job and the missus feeling better after some recent treatment, so we’re really looking forward to the big day now.
Went shopping today in Chelmsford to pick up some more bits and bobs for the trip, but I’m sure there will be things that we will have wished we’d bought, but who cares now?
I have a new camera (or two), new clothes (same wife) and all we need to do now is pack. We’ll probably add stuff to the ‘going away’ pile over the next two weeks and pack during the last week. Packing is always a stressful time for one of us (any ideas which one?), so doing it a little at a time willl be better.
Everything is now booked good and proper. We booked the hotels in Hanmer Springs and Greymouth, and we also decided on staying at Lake Taupo on the way between Rotorua and Wellington. We have a room for 2 nights at the Millennium hotel there right on the waters edge. It’s easy to get to Napier and the surrounding areas too so it’s a good compromise.
I contacted Air New Zealand last week asking if there was anything special they could do for my wife as she will be 40 during the flight. No can do. Oh well she’ll have to make do with having her present mid-air instead.
The hotel in Auckland advised us that even though our flight arrives at 5am we can’t check in until 3pm. They will keep our luggage for us and we can shower there too until the room is ready so it’s not too bad.

Not long now…did I say that already?

Quick Update

(November 13th 2006)

Nothing much has changed in the holiday area. It’s all booked and now we’re in that horrible waiting period. You don’t want to wish your life away but you want the days to pass quickly until you leave for your holiday then slow down to a crawl at least until you get back. It ain’t gonna happen. Have to get Christmas out of the way first (not a problem…love Christmas), then the countdown really begins.

They keep changing the rules regarding what you can and can’t take on the flights. I’ve given up trying to work it out so we’ll leave it until the last minute to decide what we’ll be taking on the plane. We’ve also decided to pack a soft holdall in the luggage just in case we pick up a few bargains. The main benefit of flying transatlantic is the extra baggage allowance. We won’t need it going but I think we will coming back.

I’m still trying to get tickets for the Hurricanes vs Blues Super 14 game, which is taking place while we’re in Wellington. They’re still not on sale, but apparently I should be able to pick up a couple on the night from the stadium as the games are rarely sold out, especially early on in the tournament.

This the first entry which has been written on my new MacBook. Not much interest to most people but it makes me happy.

No updates for a while…sorry

(September 29th 2006)

(The reason for all of the delays in the blog was finding out I might be made redundant…..spoiler, I was…sorta)

SO much going on at the moment and last thing I can think about is writing stuff for this blog. Whatever happens, we’re still going to New Zealand so the updates will resume as soon as the situation returns to normality.