Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Saturday 8 March 2008 - A Sunny Day in the Bay of Islands

Up at the crack of dawn on a clear sunny day, we enjoyed the free use of George (the owner)'s one seater kayaks for a 3 hour adventure up to Haruru Falls, to which we got as close as we could, getting pretty wet (in addition to the usual 'bum puddles') in the process and enjoying the rainbow effect of the spray in the sun. Tradition required us to leave cameras behind, away from the salty sea water, so this is the rather unsatisfactory postcard recording the event:


After a relaxing couple of hours back at base drinking tea, showering, and chatting to George, we embarked on a 20km circular stroll, heading initially up into the bush to a 150 metre high viewpoint where we enjoyed the usual luxurious lunch. I had a particularly appetizing banana today!

The walk continued along an undulating ridge through bush, with fewer tree ferns than usual, but nevertheless a delightful path. Sue found and photograhed (for our riveting album which will be compulsory viewing for all visitors to our house for years to come....) a shrew, whilst I enjoyed spotting a Robin (rare here) and numerous friendly Fantails and other birds.

Eventually we emerged from the trees and descended a gravel track past posh houses to reachOpua, where the Blue Water cafe provided refreshments and cakes. We now had superb views of the bay.

The final section of the walk was the 7 km section back to Paihia that I enjoyed so much in both directions yesterday. A mix of coastal path, bush, mangrove swamp and beach, it is one of the most enjoyable and varied sections of path we have found on the entire trip.
All good things come to an end though, and by 6 pm we were back at Mayfair Lodge enjoying some much needed beers.

And that's it really. Another delicious salad followed, and another sociable evening beckons...
Message:
Mother & Father A. Thanks for your text. We are enjoying our last few days and will stay with Barbara on Monday and Tuesday. You may like to look at your email. Hope you both have a lovely holiday and look forward to swapping stories on your return!

Friday, 7 March 2008

Thursday & Friday 6th & 7th March 2008 - Bay of Islands activities

Thursday

A long drive, leaving our lovely lodge at 8.50am, to travel across to Coromandel town, then down the coast to Thames. The Aeroview Garden Centre cafe proved excellent and suffiently replenished, we headed for Auckland, just to pass through at this stage of the trip.

A motorway! And lots of traffic. The views as we crossed Harbour Bridge were excellent, but we didn't mind the loss of traffic quite quickly on the north side. The fast road made the journey a quick one, and by around 4ish, we were in the vicinity of the Bay of Islands.

Martin pulled in for a toilet stop. My memory jogged as I recalled something from the Rough Guide. We were in Kawakawa, and had just passed a sign for the Hundertwasser toilets. Those who might have read the Rough Guide will know that these are 'tourist attraction' toilets. Built by a German, they are somewhat different, made from pots, bottles, and tiles and very attractive indeed! Although the guide recommended it, I didn't venture into the gents, as the ladies was quite an artistic place in itself! (The gents were scenic so far as I can recall, more urgent business was on my mind at the time!! - M)

So, now we are at Mayfair Lodge in Paihia, the main town in the Bay of Islands. The evening was a warm one, and we had a pleasant walk along the sea front to the wharf as it got dark.

Friday

Today, we went our separate ways. I was Island Dive's only client for a 2-dive trip into the bay. The Pacific was calm, the weather warm and increasingly sunny as we headed out, and I was looking forward to my first dives since August.

We moored at Potato Island, to dive Cathedral Cave. Things got off to a good start with an eagle ray swimming past. Then, some kelp, before the cave, where we found a pink nudibranch and an eel, followed by shoals of bigeye fish, reflecting purple in the torchlight. Their silhouettes, at the top of the cave, will be etched in my mind for some time.

Then, something I've never experienced. We broke open urchins to feed the fish 'sea eggs'. They loved it and were happy to be touched and even held in your hands. When I mask continually filled, I realised that I was smiling too much....! Awesome!

Lunch on our 'own' beach on Redhead Island before a dive in search of dinner. The swell was greater here, and the brown kelp and we swayed over the purple rocks. We did 'bag' one crayfish, but on return to the boat, found it didn't meet the minimum size requirement and had to be returned to the sea. Shame. We did, however, see another eagle ray and a stingray that was eating part of fish carcass on the sea bed. It was lovely to be out on the sea on such a calm and warm day.
Photos to follow (too big to blog)
Back at base, I awaited Martin's return.....

I'd borrowed a bike from the hostel. Got distracted by a boat called Tui...

Then by a Tui bird, and managed to get a recording of its song. (To follow!)

The forest tracks were closed so I left the MTB action for Delamere Forest next week. Any takers?
Back to Mayfair for lunch then a delightful walk past some pretty weeds...

along the coast to Opua

and back - about 14 km - before returning for tea, beer, wine, and a lovely salmon salad in the excellent company of Christine, who has promised the best ever carrot cake recipe!

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Wednesday 5 March 2008 - The Sun Blazes over the Coromandel Peninsula

This bright sunny day saw us continuing in 'holiday' mode, lying in due to our blackout curtains and silent surroundings.

We visited Captain Cook's Beach, a pleasing spot where the Great Man plotted the course of the planet Mercury.


Then on to Hot Water Beach, hyped by the Rough Guide as upstaging Cathedral Cove, but it was a disappointment. I watched whilst Sue rubbed her bottom in the sand, and her elbows with heavily tattooed mid-European men and women, seeking and finding scalding fresh water which moments later would be cooled and diluted by a wave of cold salty water.

She soon tired of this and we enjoyed a stroll along the beach, watching surfers battling with rooster tail waves in the strong breeze, and an Australian Gannet plunging for its breakfast.

The cafe at Hot Water Beach was in a different class to the beach itself. Great coffee, mud cake, ambience, and toilets with soft paper (very rare here) and individual towels. It gets my Best Presented Cafe award!


After lunch on Buffalo Beach in sunny Whitianga,

we pootled on to Kuaotunu, where the highly recommended Black Jack Lodge came up trumps with a lovely en-suite double room.

We enjoyed settling in here, then watched Carl, the owner, carefully decant his home brewed beer into bottles, before renting a couple of kayaks.


This time I enjoyed the experience, despite the wet bum, as we coasted up and down the river behind a Shag which only turned around when we did and only moved on when we got to within a few feet of him.


There were Herons, Oyster Catchers and Turnstones around, as after practising on the river we set off into the brisk waves of the ocean.


We were soon surfing on these waves and whilst we didn't go far we did have fun. It helped that our en-suite shower was available only 10 metres from where we landed the kayaks.

We've been aware of the ubiquitous "Lock It or Lose It' signs here in New Zealand, and have been careful with our possessions, especially after hearing some horror stories about thefts. We usually have to pay a 'key deposit'. Black Jack is an exception. No key deposit here. That's because there is no key, and tonight we are quite happy to sleep with our French windows wide open, just protected from the brightly starlit night by a thin curtain...


Messages:


To all those going on the forthcoming 'RentaHostel Weekend': - hello everyone, have a great time, and Bon Appetit.

To Ian: I haven't forgotten your 'Silkbody' order - haven'tseen any yet but we expect to do so in Auckland next week.

To those who replied to the last message: - hello (especially Kate and Andrew - glad you like the photos), and yes the Tui was identified by its 'bib'.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Tuesday 4th March 2008 - On holiday on the Coromandel Peninsula

It's raining! Still!

So, the snorkelling gear I have carried with me from England is still in my bag, and lots of postcards are now on their way to England.

It wouldn't be the same without a walk, so out we went, when it looked brighter but was still raining, around 1ish. The destination was Cathedral Cove, just around the headland from Hahei beach where we are staying.
The seascape is lovely - many islands dotted around and some good waves in the strong wind.

Cathedral Cove followed Gemstone Cove (with its marked snorkelling circuit) and Stingray Cove (with honeycomb rock). Its gem is a huge, long archway, which today had water starting to enter as the tide came in.
We lingered to watch the big waves, which had undercut some of the rocks. In the Puriri Grove on the return, we saw Tui, a blackbird-sized bird that has a lovely song - the first we've seen, although we've heard a few.
As we're 'on holiday', the Luna Cafe provided our dinner with excellent lemon and raspberry cake for dessert.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Monday 3 March 2008 - Alan Judd, the Karangahake Gorge and a Navigational Conundrum

We start with the remarkable story of Alan Judd, Ironman extraordinaire. Our research reveals Alan to indeed be the same person Sue knows from her work as a Medicines Information pharmacist. He finished Saturday's NZ Ironman event (at 60 he was one of the oldest competitors) in 12 hours 41 minutes, just over half way down the field. Remarkable. Well done, Alan! Sue reckons this is a tribute to early retirement - Alan retired at around 55. I think he's probably a nutter!...

Now the Navigational Conundrum

Just to be on the safe side, I carry two compasses. Here they are on the correctly aligned Nelson Lakes map.

Somewhat confusingly, the needle of my de-luxe Recta compass has reversed direction. South is now north! The old Silva back-up compass is about 10 degrees out, and has a serious 'leaning' problem not evident in the photo. Luckily all the paths we have used have been well marked and no compass has been necessary. If it had been, the Recta's 'south' needle would have been the defining 'north' - subject to the 22 degrees adjustment for magnetic north that is needed around here.

Moral: If coming to NZ for serious walking ('tramping') requiring navigational aids, buy a compass when you arrive. Apparently Silva and others manufacture their products for specific areas of the world.

On to today, if you are still there!

We hit the coast today and enjoyed a morning coffee at the seaside - very Cornwallish:

The highlight of our journey from Rotorua to Hahei in the Coromandel Peninsula was a lovely walk admiring the railway and relics of the 'gold era' in the Karangahake Gorge. I'll write in more detail in due course, but we explored old battery sites, railway formations, tunnels and bridges, as well as the pretty gorge and waterfalls. The main tunnel is over 1km long - you walk for ages to a pinprick of light in the distance. Shown below is one of the minor tunnels.

With informative interpretation panels, this is a magnificently presented archaeological relic from the early 20th Century. The Talisman Cafe provided an excellent pot of tea and incredible carrot cake, to round off our 2 and a half hour stroll in the sun.
Then the day darkened as we headed for Coromandel. After a downpour it brightened again as we approached Hahei and our home for the next two nights, Tatahi Lodge - a very pleasant spot near a lovely beach.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Saturday & Sunday 1st & 2nd March 2008 - Taupo to Rotorua


Friday
For those puzzled by yesterday's blog, I'll enlighten you! The stream I was bathing in was around 41-42 degrees - hot bath temperature, just a bit slimy with the green weed! It just pours out of the hillside and into the Waikato river!

The 29th February was definately an auspicious day for me! The urge I had at 3pm was to fall out of a plane from 15,000 feet, and, thanks to Katie and Stephen, and the wheels of an extremely efficient tourist industry, I was at the airport by 4ish, getting dressed in a jumpsuit and harness and heading out for a scenic flight, minus the descent and landing!

It was AWESOME! There's no time to think, when you're sitting in the open doorway of the plane, with the clouds halfway between you and the ground, at the height of Mont Blanc above Lake Taupo, with Ruapehu and Taranaki rising above above the cloud! Then, the air is really rushing past, for about 60 seconds before the parachute opens and you slow down sufficiently to really appreciate the amazing views. I'd certainly do it again and if you want to see the fun I had, ask to see the DVD, taken during the freefall. Photos to follow.

The cold beer afterwards tasted very sweet!

Saturday
The day of 'Ironman Taupo' - starting at 7am, with a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride and a 26.2 mile run, to be completed by midnight. Of the 30 or so UK entrants from a field of around 1200, I noticed a certain Alan Judd in the 60-64 year old category - is this the ex-Leeds MI pharmacist?

We weren't up too early, but watched the competitors at the end of the first cycle lap, the first ones coming through around 10am. Taupo was buzzing and we were sorry to be heading off.

Up the road in Rotorua, it was turning into a wet day, so we checked into 'Funky Green' and walked to Kuirau Park to see steam hissing out of the ground in a variety of areas.

St Faith's church is also interesting - the inside is beautifully carved and the graves have to be above ground due to the instability below!

The lakefront was particularly smelly, but we tolerated it to walk round to Motutara Point, then around Sulphur Bay to reach the Polynesian Spa. What an excellent antedote to the drizzle and greyness! Several open air pools, some acidic, some alkaline, but all between 38 and 42 degrees - from warm to hot bath temperature! Here, we steamed before returning to base for another nice salad and an evening inside.

Sunday
Showers and cloud today, ideal for warming up in the steam at Wai-O-Tapu, one of the thermal areas. The Lady Knox geyser performed on cue, thanks to 300g of soap flakes, spouting water several metres into the air.

The site has plenty of colour - thanks to sulphur crystals, silica, manganese, iron, etc and there is much activity from bubbling water, hissing and splurging mud, and waterfalls. The Champagne Pool was as beautiful as I remembered, its blue water and red slopes contrasting nicely with the white rock at its edge, bubbles emerging constantly from the hot water.

The Devil's Bath was a particularly surprising colour...

The Redwood Forest failed to provide the mountain bike ride we hoped for, on graded trails, but did make for a pleasant walk, dry(ish) if a bit humid. Nice views to the town and lake.

Tomorrow we drive north to the Coromandel peninsula, for a 'holiday'!

Messages
Happy Mothers Day to Dot and Diana.
Congratulations Kate on your successful job interview.