New Zealand January 2019

Our first trip in 2019 has started badly – the yellow Elan, making its first trip abroad since Tunisia in 2003 has been delayed in transit and will not arrive until a week after the trip starts.
Great! And of course its no-one’s fault, everyone in shipping denies any wrong doing but they gave a shipping date, they controlled when it was loaded and unloaded but no, they’re blameless and not responsible! So we start in a hire car – I hope but if they are as good as organising that as they were the shipping then I guess we might be walking!

Auckland , Sky Tower from One Tree Hill

Auckland Harbour and Sky Tower[/caption]

So we now have a hire car – but we can only use it in North Island. And as the local shipping agent says there’s no chance of the Elan being available by then, we have to drop the car off at the port in Wellington, go to South Island as foot passengers and hire another car the other side. Why make life easy?

Our first day’s drive has taken us to the west coast and overnight in Tairua on the Coromandel Peninsular. We chose the cross country route from west to east over the peninsular so our car is now the dirtiest around as it was gravel track and the dust gets everywhere. After the buildings of Auckland, we visited the natural sights of Cathedral Cove

Cathedral Cove

– a beach accessible only by cliff footpath or boat (a much easier option in the heat), with a huge rock arch. Then to Hot Water Beach

Digging for Hot Water

where superheated subterranean water lies just below the sand and half the world is digging little sand pools to soak in.

10th Jan – South to Taupo and its hot. First stop the Karangahake Gorge, now a peaceful river gorge with trees and ferns and clear running stream with deep dark pools. 100 years ago it was very different when it was the centre of the gold mining industry and miners dug tunnels into the mountains to extract ore which was then crushed by huge rollers and stamping (crushing) machines before the gold was drawn out using cyanide and mercury.

Remains of a stamping “battery”

. Then further on to the Wairere Falls, advertised as a 45 minute walk but nearer to 75 and pretty but …….

Wairere Falls

11th Jan – the first of two rest days based in Taupo. Today was a geothermal day so we started at Orakei Korako; we arrived at 9.00 and were amazed at the lack of traffic on the road and absence of visitors. There are 23 geysers – but not big water spouts, these are small holes in the ground which might send water about a foot into the air.

Orakei Korado

They produce pools of boiling water or mud, a stench of sulphur and clouds of steam in a barren silica landscape.

Orakei Korako

Orakei Korako

yet surrounded by lush bush. Asif that was not enough we then went to the Rotorua area and the Hells Gate complex, which also displayed a range of mud pools with temperatures of up to 120C on the surface, 145C one meter down and signs warning that people dropping litter would have to retrieve it themselves.

Hells Gate with mud volcano

12 Jan

Hobbiton – The Green Dragon


13 Jan We left Taupo in the centre for Napier on the east coast; the morning was miserable and itrained as we drove through the desert to Wairou. The cloud lifted a little and we detoured to a ski resort for fancy pictures of grassy slopes and grazing cattle in vain, it was bleak and stony, all the shops were shut and it was completely deserted!

Not an Elan (sadly); ski resort in the distance

Mt Ruapehu, ski slope/volcano

Then to the National Army Museum which had a lot about the “New Zealand” wars of the 1860s, when Maoris and British clashed over land and authority, and the Gallipoli campaign of WW1. It was briefly sunny as we hit the Wine Trail then cloud and drizzle took over as we walked the streets of Napier viewing their collection of Art Deco buildings erected after the earthquake of 1931

The Dome, Napier

Jan 14th – Our import agent had no good news for the Elan and remains convinced we will not see it during our trip. Frustratingly we were only 30 odd miles away from the port on Saturday when the container was sitting n the quayside waiting for administration to begin work on Monday (as we drove ever further away). Our destination was Wellington at the south of North Island. We took the long route via the west coast, stopping briefly at the largest vehicle museum in the southern hemisphere at Paraparaumu with over 250 vehicles, including an Esprit

At least this Lotus arrived!

Southward Car Musuem

Supper this evening was at a Persian fast food eatery – cheap as there was no booze!

Jan 15th – our hire car was not allowed to travel to South Island although the rest of our party with pre-booked cars could take theirs – thanks Mr Hertz! So after a drive around the scenic Marine Drive we said farewell to the Corolla and went to visit The Behive (NZ Parliament) and cable car.

Still not a Lotus on an overcast Marine Drive

Beehive and Parliament Buildings

Old Wellington Cable Car

And today’s version

We assuaged our cultural conscience with a visit to the Museum of New Zealand with replica Maori meeting house and a Gallipoli exhibition.

Jan 16th – Malcolm and Linda kindly took us to the ferry for the 3 1/2 hours to South Island; then to Mr Hertz to collect car number 2, a RAV4, complete with scratches and dents. Picton Port has the Edwin Fox – an 1850’s merchant sailing ship (the world’s second oldest) which served as convict transport, troop ship, coal hulk and cold storage depot. Now missing masts and deck, it sits in dry dock and under cover.

Inside the Edwin Fox

Marlborough Sounds from Picton Port

We took the scenic route to Nelson along Queen Charlotte’s Drive with a deviation to see some of the bays of the Sound

Marlborough Sounds

then on to our overnight at Nelson

Jan 17th – it was now or never for the Lotus – if we flew from Nelson to Auckland (and flights were available) and if the car had arrived and passed all its clearance requirements and there were spaces on the ferry from North Island to the South then this was about our last chance. The Auckland agent said “its not here yet but might arrive tomorrow midday (or not….). He strongly advised against; so the car after travelling half way round the world will now be shipped straight back home! We spent the morning on a sea kayak trip round Cable Bay and Pepin Island – for sale at NZ$16 million if you are interested. There are no known photos of this experience! In the afternoon we pottered round Nelson, recovering


Botanical Hill – the centre of New Zealand

Jan 18th – the die was cast, returning to Auckland was ruled out so Allison drowned her sorrows with a wine tasting at Cloudy Bay vineyard and an expensive bottle of Pinot Noir but not before we had explored more remains of gold mining at Canvastown – amazing to think of the employment and industry at what is now a peaceful stream.

and today

Wine tasting at Cloudy Bay

Vines at Cloudy Bay

We also visited the Omaka Aviation Heritage Museum (sponsor Peter Jackson, Director of The Hobbit) for a selection of mainly replica WW1 fighter planes

The Red Baron’s plane

Jan 19th – after an overnight at Kaikoura we deviated from our route to Arthurs Pass to visit Hertz at Christchurch airport to return the hire car which now had stone chip damage on both driver’s and passenger’s sides of the windscreen. Now we had car number 3 – how far can we get? We reached our night’s stop in the rain and huddled in our rabbit hutch (cabin) as the rain clattered off the roof and flowed over the gutters

Car #3 near Arthurs Pass in the sunshine

Jan 20th – breakfast was late and slow and we left at 9.30. Transport and engineering were the first themes, getting road and rail over or through The New Zealand Alps. The tourist office recommended staying to watch the coal trains labouring up the incline and emerging from the Otira tunnel under load with sparks flying from their exhausts

Otira rail bridge and tunnel at Arthurs Pass

Turntable and boilers at Arthur’s Pass

Viaduct at Arthur’s Pass

The road back east

…and to the west

We continued to the west coast and Hokitika, where Jade (Greenstone) is worked into jewellery and artifacts

Hokitika beach

We continued down the coast to Ross and yet more goldmining relics

Water pipe at Jones Creek, Ross

Jones Creek in 1870

Our last visit of the day was to Okarito wildlife reserve where we came across this bird resting on a tree – a Bush Falcon.

Bush Falcon

Jan 21st – When we arrived at the hotel we were told we had been given a complimentary upgrade to the 5 star Te Wanoui – but we did not fancy their NZ$135 meals so we didn’t spend much time in our new found luxury as we wanted an early start to get to the Franz Josef Glacier. Have to say it was disappointing. Over the years the glacier has retreated and the “face” is now a mess of dirt and the contrast to the view from the 1906 face was frightening.

in 1906 the Face was here and the whole area was ice

and 10 years ago it was here

It was raining yesterday when we arrived and through the night and drizzled the whole time we were at the glacier but they have an annual rainfall of 16 metres of rain on the glacier and 6 metres in the village so hardly surprising. At Knights Point down the coast the NZ Conservation Department information boards encouraged us to go down to Jackson’s Bay, the most southerly coastal settlement on the west so we carried on for a cup of tea in the café.

Jacksons Bay cafe

The information boards there spoke of the Alpine fault line which runs along Jacksons River and is pushing the Southern Alps ever higher at the rate of 20 kilometres in 12 million years.

Jacksons River today

Our route to Queenstown took us past two huge lakes – Wanaka and Hawea before climbing the twisting Cardrona river road to our hotel.

Lake Wanaka

Lake Hawea

Jan 22nd – a rest day in Queenstown so we set off for Glenorchy , west and north along Lake Wakatipu along an excellent but at times narrow and winding road. The tarmac descended into gravel and mindful of my recent windscreen experiences we returned to the old gold mining town of Arrowtown; extreme contrast! The Glenorchy road is mountains and lakes whilst Arrowtown is tourism and spending.

Windy Lake Wakatipu

Forbes Mountains north of Glenorchy

Chinese Settlement Arrowtown 1860’s

Buckingham Street Arrowtown

Our evening meal was the first full group get-together since the start in Auckland at the Skyline Restaurant at the top of the gondola looking out over the town, its lake and ring of mountains. We also had an email – the Lotus should be back in UK on March 13th – sorry but this topic is still raw!

Jan 23rd – a short day’s drive to Te Anau, our jumping off point for a trip to Milford Sound tomorrow. Our first stop was Kingston and the sad story of the Kingston Flyer, a steam railway founded in 1878 and now defunct with locos and carriages gradually rotting in their sidings. In days of old it would link up with the SS Earnshaw, a steamship based in Queenstown and there is a poignant plaque commemorating the centenary of the Earnshaw and her “oldest friend” the train in 2012, just before the railway folded for the last time.

Artist’s impression


The End of the Line

Its wet and cold in Te Anau – and we have swopped the Queenstown Crown Plaza for a motel with a room half the size!

Jan 24th – Today is our trip to Milford Sound and a two hour boat trip – and its two hours each way to get to the boat! But first we booked ourselves a sightseeing flight for tomorrow. We tried the helicopter but they wanted 4 people; the sea-plane however gave us a two way option. If there were just two it would be a “Mystery Flight” but if two more came in off the street it would be a “Doubtful Flight” – where Doubtful is Doubtful Sound, so named because Captain Cook was doubtful that it was navigable under sail in 1770. Then we found our Kea – in a car park and again on the double yellow lines of the road – hardly surprising they are endangered.

Milford Sound

Milford Sound

Tagged Kea in a carpark

Kea in the middle of the road

Jan 25th – big expense day! We wandered down to the seaplane and it was moored up when it should have been out at Doubtful Sound. The pilot explained that the sea fog had come down and covered the Sound but had been held by the Southern Alps so the inland lakes were clear (if overcast) and we could go on our Mystery Trip along with a Portuguese couple. First time on a seaplane, this was a 1968 Cessna 6 seater with a 9 litre engine. The water was calm and take off easy; our flight lasted an hour including a 10 minute stroll along the Mystery Destination of Calm Bay. Apart from the sand flies, the Bay and the forest were deserted; I asked about the lack of birds and was told that the Department of Conservation put down some poison about 18 months ago to kill off rats and other vermin -totally safe for birds etc – just they all vanished and now the woods were silent. Strange that!

Up in the clouds

Silent Forest

Private Flight, private beach

    Returning to Te Anau

    Our destination was Dunedin – 180 miles of generally easy roads and all at 100 kph; fortunately I found the cruise control so all I had to do then was steer and brake. We stopped for lunch near an old friend – another of the Kingston Flyer engines at Gore

    at Gore

    We were not yet done with railways because one of Dunedin’s main sites is the old railway station, where we had supper.

    Dunedin Station 1906

Jan 26th – drive to Christchurch and the end of the tour. Our first stop was the Moeraki Boulders – a collection of round boulders on the seashore, from what I understand of the geology they are formed from compressed mud “concretions created by the cementation of the Paleocene mudstone….” I think compressed mud is easier to understand!

A Concretation

Our next stop was Oamaru and was surprisingly interesting. First up was Steampunk HQ – oddments created from scrap metal

Steampunk creation

We wandered towards the engine shed and chatted to a volunteer who had just rolled up in his 1970 Mini; he told us the town had grown rapidly with the gold rush and the wool trade. Then it went bust along with the gold rush and was left with a number of imposing buildings, too costly to demolish in the post war years and now having a new life on the tourist trade – galleries, craft centres and tourist shops.

Harbour Street, Oamaru

Work in Progress, Oamaru engine sheds

Last stop was Timaru and the South Canterbury museum and its scale model of what might have been the world’s first flying machine designed by local farmer Richard Pearse and flown into his hedge in 1902

Flying machine?

There is no proof of its flight; the Museum curator told us that an attempt to reconstruct that fight ended when the main backer died of a heart attack – so maybe it was destined never to fly! We saw a lot of classic cars today – are there more in South Island or was it the equivalent of our Drive It Day?

Jan 27th – a day in Christchurch and we didn’t use the car at all! We tried to get the hop-on, hop-off bus but the bus that came past wouldn’t stop so we walked instead. 8 years on from the 2011 earthquake, most condemned buildings have been cleared – not sure if that’s the right phraseology as the Cathedral is still a sore sight!

Cathedral minus tower

They reckon 7 – 10 years to repair it but without saying when the clock started. The Earthquake Memorial by the river had names from around the world – European, American, Iraqi, Japanese and Chinese and the list at the Empty Chair display showed just two children and a lot in their 20’s/30’s

185 Empty White Chairs

There are an unusual number of empty plots around the centre and construction projects all over but the City is alive and dynamic (helped by sunshine!)

Cardboard Cathedral -temporary?

Bustling Regent Street

Tomorrow is our last day in NZ and the start of the long journey home. Its 30 degrees here, hope UK isn’t too cold!

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