Martin in Gatineau Park

Martin in Gatineau Park

Friday, 14 March 2008

New Zealand Trip – 21 January to 13 March 2008 - Statistics and Useful Information

This is a 'dummy' entry for the time being. The information will be collated and uploaded in due course.
We do hope you enjoyed the reports from New Zealand and will continue to follow our exploits - we do have some more exciting trips in store...
M & S

Friday 14 March 2008 - New Zealand Blog – Mission Accomplished

Well, it has been a busy time at home since getting back yesterday morning, what with unpacking, sorting through mounds of post, mending wind damage to a shed and our fences, etc, etc.

…But the blog must continue: this will be the last ‘New Zealand’ entry for the time being, but we will let anyone interested know when we have improved the pictures (poor resolution images from a separate memory card were used during the trip) and made minor edits to the text. We will also summarise some statistics – itinerary, cost, recommendations, etc, possibly on a web page within http://www.topwalks.com/, or on the ‘Statistics and Useful Information’ page that will follow this one.

The reason for today’s heading is encapsulated in the following message received tonight:

“Hi Martin & Sue,
Just wanted to let you know how much I'd enjoyed reading your NZ blog. This is the first time I've ever actively followed a single blog for an extended period -- it's obviously more interesting because I know you, and that I'm particularly interested in where you were going -- but I'm going to miss your regular updates from afar. Your last entry took me straight back to when I flew out of Auckland 4 and a half years ago. I remember craning my neck back at the window of the plane, trying to catch a last glimpse of the coast (somewhere near Raglan I think), mulling over the incredible year I'd had there, and wondering if I'd get to return one day. Sigh...
Cheers,
Paul.”

And that was the purpose of the blog. We know others, in particular our parents, have also ‘been with us’ over the past seven weeks, and we do hope it has taken our readers briefly away from the rigours of winter, even though some were peeved not to be alongside us in the Silver Bullet.

On return, yesterday, we kept ourselves going by embarking on an afternoon’s stroll, mainly along the Bridgewater Canal. It was great to see the daffodils in flower, the blackthorn in blossom and a good solid tinge of green in the hawthorn hedges.

But the litter by the canal was quite distressing. We are back in a highly populated area where not everyone cares.

However, it was a nice day and the Dunham Massey tea shop was well up to standard.

As was the beer, later, in the The King’s Ransom, where we enjoyed meeting up with Jenny and Richard. And that is the nicest thing about being back home – we are amongst friends – and whilst we met some very nice people whilst we were away, it’s good to be amongst those who understand our eccentricities.

A text message from Weird Darren (blogger extraordinaire) whilst out walking yesterday offered a ticket to this weekend’s Outdoors Show at the NEC in Birmingham. It was a difficult call, as there is a TGO Challenge reunion this weekend, but we decided on the Show, where it will be good to see Darren again and also to meet some of the other ‘UK Outdoor Bloggers’ who will be congregating there tomorrow.

The blog will continue, and Nallo Lady will also be contributing in her inimitable style, but we are afraid it may be a little mundane for a few weeks…

Wednesday 12 March - a very long day

The time had come to fly back to England. Packing took quite some time! On such a beautiful morning, breakfast had to be outside.

The Silver Bullet was delivered to New Zealand Rent-a-Car, we checked in and completed some last minute shopping.

Auckland's water sparkled beneath the 747 as we climbed into the sky about 1.30pm. The waves of the Tasman sea were long and white on the coast stretching away to the south. It was possible to see Mount Ruapehu above the cloud and Mount Taranaki stood out clearly as a sentinel above the cloud for around the first 40 minutes of the flight. I really didn't want to leave.

The long sunny day provided brilliant views of Australia, from the city of Adelaide next to the coast to the red expanses of Western Australia. Huge clouds only appeared as the plane approached Singapore, which, at dusk, was grey and wet. So we didn't venture out, but we did utilise the (very) few Singaporean Dollars I had been clinging to for seven weeks on a Belgian chocolate indulgence.

Just as the day had been long, the night was long too. Almost the whole of the next leg (about 13 1/2 hours) was in darkness. Back in Manchester, it was just 3 degrees and unpacking awaited....

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Tuesday 11 March 2008 - Buying, Beach, Bush and BBQ

It had to come sooner or later - a Shopping Trip!

But we made it as painless as possible, popping down to the posh end of Auckland for a productive couple of hours before adjourning back to the wilds of the countryside.

Our first port of call was Arataki Visitor Centre, on the Scenic Drive near Nikau Lodge. It was full of (interesting) facts about the local bush (forest), bird life, history, etc. Being up at 300m it had good views as well, and we enjoyed these as we chomped through our final batch of blue cheese, pate and tomatoes on the tasty, thickly sliced malted bread that we have become accustomed to here.

On to Piha, where the famous black sand beach reminded us that we are in a volcanic region.

The sand was very soft, so we sank in over an inch with every step as we progressed along the beach as close as possible to the incoming tide with competing currents. The sun emerged strongly as we left the beach by some caves where it became impassable due to a rocky headland, up which a rocky path led us to the airy summit.
This held fine views back to Piha Beach and on to another beautiful and secluded beach, White's Beach. Time precluded a descent 'for experienced trampers only' to that beach.

So our final stroll of the trip was through a delightful palm forest, along White's Track, with Tui singing (and showing themselves) and cicatas chirping loudly in the bright sunshine.

It was good to rejoin the beach, firmer now the tide was receding, below Lion Rock, a 100 metre high 'island' that used to be climbable but is no longer so, due to unstable rocks.

A short drive then returned us to the now familiar palms (Nikau, of course) of Nikau Lodge.

Swimming for those who chose to, more Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, a fine BBQ with Barbara, Jim, Andre and Alesha, then a drive around Auckland to view its sights - mainly nautical - at night. The waterfront has benefited greatly in recent years as a result of hosting the Americas Cup yachting race, and is really smart.

We had hoped to pack our bags today, but hey...

Monday, 10 March 2008

Sunday & Monday 9 & 10 March 2008 - Hokianga Harbour then Auckland...nearly

Sunday
A pleasant morning in Kerikeri, made all the more entertaining by a return of texts with those enjoying a Saturday night in Yorkshire! We hope you didn't have headaches on Sunday morning!

These are the impressive Rainbow Falls:

Then, on to the West Coast and the south side of Hokianga Harbour, to our last hostel, Globetrekkers. The hostel was small and situated across the road from the beach.

Hokianga harbour is well known for its immense sand dunes, across the head of the harbour and these were the first sight on a short(ish) afternoon walk.

The coastal path was narrow and grassy, with splendid views over the waves of the Tasman Sea, crashing into the rocks and sandy coves. Having not had a swim yesterday, it was too good an opportunity to miss and the waves in the middle of this bay were very exhilarating!

Emerging from the pounding surf, I felt like I'd been through the washing machine! The worst part was the sand inside my bikini...

After dinner (not salad!) at the hostel, we witnessed probably our last sunset in New Zealand - a good one, which created some fiery red clouds after the sun had gone down behind the waves.

Monday
Today's walks were to view various kauri trees in Waipoua Forest. This one is Tane Mahuta, God of the Forest, which has a girth of 13.8m!

Then, south towards Auckland, taking the scenic route, including finding a 'Roseberry Topping' for lunch, which gave excellent 360 degree views.

Scenic Drive lead nicely to our final destination, Nikau Lodge, where I have enjoyed a swim in their saltwater pool and we have had a tasty dinner of roast lamb, overlooking the lights of Auckland's outlying districts. Tomorrow is our last full day here before heading back to Manchester - we are sorry that such an excellent trip is coming to its conclusion....