Day 25 – Hamilton

Wednesday, Feb 10, 2016

I had a good nights sleep and when I woke up, I decided to make plans for the next few days. I thought that it would be a boring day around the motel, but with a little effort everything worked out very well and I was able to spend some time on the riverwalk.

First of all, I tried to arrange a car rental, however, I wasn’t able to get a car until Thursday, so I looked at some options for activities in the area instead. Having checked out some of the options, I decided to walk to the iSite in town, to make some arrangements.

When I reached the iSite, I mentioned my issue with the car rental to the agent, so he made a few calls and arranged a car for me for me to drive until the end of the week. He then arranged a few more activities for me, so that I will be busy until I leave New Zealand.

The downtown area where the iSite is located, is very nice.


I left the iSite having planned the rest of my time in New Zealand, I grabbed a sub for lunch and returned to my room to wait for my car to be delivered. When the agent arrived, he drove me to the rental agency and we completed the paperwork.

I then, took a walk along the river to the Hamilton Gardens, as suggested. It was a fairly long walk but it was worth the effort. The walk along the river is similar to the one along the Niagara River back home, but the vegetation and the trees are different.


The rowing club is along the river and I snapped a picture of some of the teams practicing.


The Hamilton Gardens can be compared to the Niagara Botanical Gardens back home. They have beautiful gardens, one of which is a rose garden.


They also have a Horticultural School and a Cafe. I stopped at their cafe for a drink and a snack. The view from the cafe overlooked the adjacent pond.


One thing I have noticed in New Zealand is that they have a lot of bees and one of the species is very large. They have a small problem with infection, but nothing like the bee populations in the US and Canada.


There were also several very unique trees including this huge Eucalyptus tree.


I posted some of the pictures I took of the flowers, at the following link.

Tomorrow I have a full day planned and I am looking forward to it. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s update.

Day 24 – Coromandel to Auckland to Hamilton

Tuesday, Feb 3, 2016

Coromandel to Hamilton

In the morning, we had a light breakfast, packed most of our things so that we could return the camper van as scheduled and left the campground a little after 10 am. Our route to Auckland gave us more opportunities to take pictures of the beautiful scenery on our way around the Firth of Thames.



Cheryl suggested we take a short side-trip to see the Square Kauri, so we drove the 9 km to climb up the 187 stairs to see this magnificent tree.


The kauri is the largest (by volume) but not tallest species of tree in New Zealand, standing up to 50 m tall. This, the square kauri is the 15th largest Kauri tree in New Zealand.



We were soon back on the road again, and after an hour we saw an advertisement for “Bugger’s Cafe “. When we drove by it we saw so many cars there that we just had to turn around and go there for lunch.


We weren’t disappointed, the food was delicious ( even though I just had a burger and Cheryl had a chicken sandwich ) and the humorous displays and quotes, posted around the restaurant, added to the enjoyment. I found one of the poems to be very funny and it has been posted on their website because so many people have asked about it:

I have a little Satnav
It sits there in my car
A Satnav is a driver’s friend
It tells you where you are

I have a little Satnav
I’ve had it all my life
It’s better than the normal ones
My Satnav is my wife.

It gives me full instructions
Especially how to drive
“It’s thirty miles an hour”, it says
“You’re doing thirty five”

It tells me when to stop and start
And when to use the brake
And tells me that it’s never ever
Safe to overtake

It tells me when a light is red
And when it goes to green
It seems to know instinctively
Just when to intervene

It lists the vehicles just in front
And all those to the rear
And taking this into account
It specifies my gear.

I’m sure no other driver
Has so helpful a device
For when we leave and lock the car
It still gives its advice

It fills me up with counselling
Each journey’s pretty fraught
So why don’t I exchange it
And get a quieter sort?

Ah well, you see, it cleans the house,
Makes sure I’m properly fed,
It washes all my shirts and things
And – keeps me warm in bed!

Despite all these advantages
And my tendency to scoff,
I do wish that once in a while
I could turn the damned thing off! 

by Pam Ayres

With full stomachs, we finally arrived in Auckland, delivered the van to the rental agency and got a ride to the airport so that Cheryl could catch her flight back to Chicago and I could get a rental car in order to continue my adventures for a few days.

Everything went well for Cheryl. She got to the terminal in plenty of time to check in and relax a bit before flying home. We had a good time driving around to different campsites and seeing these beautiful islands over a 3-week period and I will miss my travelling companion.

For me, this is when some more ” fun ” began. I had envisioned just walking up to one of the rental car agencies and renting a vehicle. It was not to be. Every single rental agency in Auckland was booked and there were no rental cars to be had. Oops ! In hind-sight, I probably should have rented the van for a couple of more days or rented a car in advance, but I didn’t know when I would be flying to Australia when I booked the camper van and I didn’t know that it would be so difficult to get a rental car in Auckland. That’s part of the fun of not knowing. It gives you all sorts of unusual “opportunities”.

I checked the iSite booth and talked to one of the agents but they weren’t able to help me at first, so I checked several options on the internet and I called several different rental agencies without any luck. I then called my sister’s niece (in-law) and she suggested that I take the $20 bus ride from Auckland to Hamilton, which is where they live and I was planning to go there anyways. I checked back with the lady at the iSite booth and she was able to quickly book the bus ride to Hamilton and a room near the bus terminal. I was set for the night and tomorrow I will try to rent a vehicle in Hamilton which, hopefully, will not be as inundated with tourists, although this is the high season for touring in New Zealand.

It has been quite a different day. Cheryl was the planner and the navigator. Now I will have to “ad-lib” the rest of my trip. We saw most of the sights that we wanted to see in New Zealand and I plan to visit with a few people before I leave but that will all depend on whether I can rent a car or get transportation to see them. If not, it will be a relaxing time for a few days.

Have a safe trip home, Cheryl. I wish you all the best!

Day 23 – Coromandel

Monday, Feb. 8, 2016

Coromandel to Fletcher Bay

We had decided to stay at the same campsite for a second night, so that we wouldn’t have to pack up and leave in the morning and it gave us a relaxing start to the day. Cheryl spent the morning organizing her luggage for her return flight on Tuesday and I did some laundry. Then we ran a few errands and had an early lunch at the UMU Cafe in Coromandel. They were all very mundane things, but they needed to be done.

However, we had signed up for the Northern Escape Sunset Tour with Coromandel Adventures for the afternoon and according to their website:

” The Northern Escape Sunset Tour is a coastal road trip of prolonged beauty. Travel through majestic groves of ancient pohutukawa and on to Cape Colville at the very tip of the peninsula with spectacular remote coastlines and views to Great Barrier Island. This is a trip you can do after lunch on the morning you arrive in Coromandel.

It’s a trip that shouldn’t be missed, and is best driven by locals so you can appreciate the stunning landscape and coastline without the risk!

Get the benefit of our local knowledge to uncover the local history and secret places of this special area. ”

We found all of this to be true. Cheryl and I, thoroughly enjoyed the drive to the tip of the peninsula and taking time to take different photographs. I also enjoyed not having to drive, especially along the narrow gravel roads that made up most of the northern half of the route. It was nice to be able to watch the beautiful scenery and take pictures instead of concentrating on the driving.

We had many opportunities to take beautiful pictures of the scenery,






as well as pictures of the majestic pohutukawa trees,





and pictures of the sunset.


We were very fortunate to have the owner, Willie Lochore, drive the four-wheel van for us, since he has a wealth of knowledge about the area, the people and the land, plus, he shares our love of photography.

He even shared with us the ” Trump Tree “, as he calls it, because it looks like the expression of a person responding to Trump’s opinion of women. If you don’t see it, you’ll have to ask him about it.


This tour is a wonderful opportunity to see beautiful scenery, while trying different techniques for practicing different photo techniques, however, the company has other tours as well.

We were returned to the campsite at 9 pm, where we ate a simple dinner of leftovers.

Day 22 – Whitianga to Coromandel

Sunday, Feb 7, 2016

Whitianga to Coromandel

I had a bit of trouble sleeping because it rained off-and-an and there were some significant rain gusts but the temperature was warm.

After packing up the tent and eating a simple breakfast, Cheryl and I went to a local church for the 10 am service. Afterwards we went to the iSite to find out about a few possible activities and for me to use the excuse to have a Cappuccino and a Cajun Chicken Filo for lunch at a nearby cafe to discuss our options.

We decided to drive towards Coromandel while Cheryl would call a company about an off-road jeep excursion around the peninsula to cape Corville. It was a short drive to Coromandel and we couldn’t get a definite answer about our excursion until 2 pm, so we headed to a Top 10 campground, where we had pre-arranged lodging. We set up the tent and waited for a call from the company. We were informed that there would be no openings but there would be one tomorrow. As we were planning on heading south to get closer to Aukland on Monday, we decided not to make any arrangements. We discussed our options and we decided to book a train ride in the area and call back the other company, book the excursion for Monday afternoon and stay in Coromandel a second night. This would mean that we would have a 4 hr drive to Auckland on Tuesday to return the van and get Cheryl to the airport for her return flight home.

The weather cleared and it got very hot every time the sun broke through the clouds.

The Driving Creek Railway is a 1 hour train ride that takes you through replanted native kauri forest and includes 2 spirals, 3 short tunnels, 5 reversing points and several large viaducts as it climbs up to the mountain-top terminus.

It is narrow-gauge mountain railway along with a working pottery and wild life sanctuary.



This shows the narrow tracks and the switch-gear he installed for reversing the train to go up the steep angles.


It was originally put together by Barry Brickell who used this train to get the clay from the mountain for his pottery. When he ran into financial difficulty, he used the train to give rides to tourists in order to help finance his work.

This one of the tunnels along the track.


The views along the way are great, but not as good as the views from the top.



After we returned from our train ride we enjoyed a relaxing evening.

Day 21 – Hot Water Beach to Whitianga

Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016

Hot Water Beach  to Whitianga

I was lazy last night and had booked a cabin because it was supposed to rain all night. I had a nice evening and a good night’s sleep without having to put up the tent in the rain and have a soggy night. It was damp and a little cool when I woke up.

We had a light breakfast and slowly made our way to Cathedral Cove. We had found out that Monday was a holiday in New Zealand and it explained why everything was busier. We had a bit of a traffic jam on the way to the cove because there was a ” Leadfoot Festival ” for car enthusiasts being held in a park area and the hillsides were filling up with cars.

We arrived at the carpark for Cathedral Cove, 2 hours before low tide so I had a Cappuccino while we waited to go to the cove.

It is a 40 minute walk from the upper carpark to the cove and we expected to walk along the beach, however, we were surprised to find out that the trail wound down, then up gain before going steeply down to one side of the beach area that goes through the cove at low tide.

This is a view of entering the beach area.


This is a view from that beach through the cave.


This is a view of the other beach from inside the cave.


When I went through the cave, I went into the water. It was warm and there was nice beach sand underfoot.


It was also wavy as indicated by these photos taken in the water toward the beach. You can’t see the beach in this picture because the angle of the camera is just above the water.


This picture is a side view of a wave as it made its way towards the beach.


I could have stayed there longer and spent some time on the beach but the tide was starting to rise so we headed back to the car and we drove to Whitianga.

When we got to Whitianga, we obtained a site at the Harbourside Holiday campground and then went to town for a late lunch at the Epsy Cafe. We talked to the owner and found out that he had sold his ” fish and chips ” business and had bought this cafe. His daughter had opened up a specialty chocolate business that caters to businesses, such as hotels, by making small chocolates with logos and company insignia’s on them.

We were going to go back to the campsite but decided to take the water taxi across the bay to Cook’s Bay.

As we walked up the road to the lighthouse, a man stopped us and told us that we would not be able to go beyond the cut-de-sac, but he invited us to take pictures from his back yard which had a beautiful view of Maramaratotara Bay, just north of Cook’s Bay.


We started to head back to the ferry landing but got side-tracked on another trail ( go figure! ) and we were able to get some beautiful views of Whiting. From this view you can see the water taxi in the centre, our white van on the road, just right of the Epsy cafe.


We hiked back to the ferry landing and took it back to the van and drove back to the campsite.

I was asked to give some information about New Zealand. Canada is 37 times larger than New Zealand and it has 7 times the population. To get a summary of the differences you can go to .

From what I have witnessed, New Zealand is very similar to Canadian and the quality of life is similar. The people are generally very polite, especially in traffic.

1. New Zealand is a warmer condensed version of Canada. They have mountains, valleys and seashores but in a much smaller land mass.
2. They seldom get freezing conditions except in the higher elevations and most of the country does not get much below freezing for any length of time.
3. Their houses generally have no basements, because they don’t have freezing. Most of them are one story units with siding and they cost a lot more than houses in our area but less than the ones in the Vancouver or Toronto area.
4. Their politics are similar. I won’t expound on that.
5. Their health care doesn’t seem to be as good as Canada’s according to people I have talked to.
6. They are self-sufficient. They have plenty of agriculture, farming and raw materials.
7. They have no dangerous animals, possibly because they are very strict about importation. Australia has all of the dangerous spiders, snakes, frogs, etc.
8. They are eco-conscious, similar to Canada. They recycle almost everything and have different bins for different materials.
9. Like Canada, they use metric units.
10. One difference is that they drive on the left side of the road and the driver sits in the ” right ” side of the car ( as someone pointed out to me, to which I pointed out that we drive on the right side!), the signals are on the right side of the steering wheel and the wipers are on the left. There are several streets signs saying ” Keep Left, It’s That Simple “.
11. They have a lot of roundabouts, much more than Canada. I like using them. They also have more ” Give Way ” signs rather than ” STOP ” signs and lights.
12. They have a lot ( and I mean a lot ! ) of single lane bridges, where one direction has to ” give way ” to the other direction.
13. They love their coffee and chocolate and so do I. They also love their ice-cream and so does Cheryl. Their Coffee, chocolate and ice-cream are all very good!
14. The food is good but a little expensive. Most meals would cost $25 per person or more without drinks because you are not expected to tip.
15. There is generally no tipping. I tried to give a tip once but the waitress said that tipping is not a standard practice in New Zealand and gave it back. I only found one place that had a ” tip ” jar. The staff in the restaurants and the guides on tours are paid well enough that they don’t need to rely on tips.
16. Their money is worth almost as much as the Canadian dollar.
17. The North Island is much more populated and busy than the South Island.
18. The weather is similar to Canada but not as extreme.

Remember, these are only my impressions from my experiences and my conversations with the locals.

Day 20 – Mt Maunganui to Hot Water Beach

Friday, Feb 5, 2016

Mt Maunganui to Hot Water Beach

It started drizzling rain a few hours before sunrise and it was wet most of the day, but we didn’t have any heavy rain so it was cool, but comfortable.

We ate a little breakfast before we left Mt. Maunganui. We headed north toward the Karangahake Gorge. While we were on the way, we decided to take a ride on the Goldfields Railway.


This is a 30 min train ride to a little cafe, a 45 minute stop at the cafe and then a return ride.


We had lunch at the cafe before we returned to the car and continued our drive to the gorge.

On the way to we stopped for a few minutes to see the Victoria Battery, which was an old gold mine stamping battery.


When we finally got to the Karangahape Gorge, it was still drizzling off-and-on, but we spent one and a half hours walking the Windows walk. There are several hikes in the area but this one goes through the gold mine stamping battery.

We had to walk across 2 swing bridges to the start of the hike and there was the remains of a building at the end of the second bridge.


The walk went through the forest on well maintained trails and you could see remnants of the different buildings that were being slowly reclaimed by the environment. Trees, grasses and shrubs were growing in the cracks of the concrete and breaking it apart.


Part of the trolley rails were still visible and there was a trolley car still on the tracks. It looked like it could be used in an Indiana Jones movie set.


After the buildings, the trail went through some of the tunnels which where just inside of the cliff face.


There were some side tunnels and I followed several of the them to the point where the digging had stopped.


The main tunnels also had ” windows ” facing out towards the river. This is a view from inside the main tunnel.


And this is a view of the windows in the cliff face taken from below. You can see one of them clearly in the middle of the picture and a couple to the right of it that are partially hidden by the vegetation.


We enjoyed the views of the old buildings, the machinery and the plaques explaining what each of the areas.

After we finished our trek, we continued our drive to Hot Water Beach. On the way we stopped at Tairua to take pictures and decided to have dinner at Punter’s Bar and Grill. It was very noisy because we got there during ” Happy Hour “, but the food was quite good. Cheryl had a BLT with their ” award winning ” bacon ??!


Whereas, I had a simple chicken caesar salad.


After a filling meal, we were on our way and we were able to secure a site near the ” Hot Water Beach “, where you can dig a hole in the sand at low tide along the beach and have it fill up with hot water from the hot water below. We may not try this because tomorrow we want to see Cathedral Cove and we have to be there 30 minutes before low tide. But then we’re never really sure what we will do, until we do it.

Day 19 – Taupo to Rotorua & Mt Maunganui

Thursday, Feb 4, 2016

Taupo to Mt Maunganui

It was a warm relaxed morning. We packed up the van and went to the highly rated “Replete Cafe and Store” in Taupo. It was only a only a few kilometres from our campsite and it lived up to its reputation. I had a couple of eggs on multigrain bread and a Cappuccino. Cheryl had the scrambled eggs on focaccia bread with a side dish of mushrooms. The selection and the service was excellent.

With full stomachs, we headed to Rotorua to see the redwoods in Whakarewarewa Forest. These are California Redwoods that were imported in the early 1900’s, and although they aren’t as old as many of the ones in California, they are still very impressive.


The forest has several hikes and they have just added a tree walk in December of 2015 and I think that it is well worth the $25 price for the experience.


The tree walk starts at the entrance and winds through the trees in a circular pattern.



They used ” Macrocarpa “, which is an exotic wood that grows in New Zealand, for the walkway and the platforms around the trees. The platforms are fastened to galvanized-dipped steel rings, which are secured around the trees.

Macrocarpa has a nice light colour and it is very weather resistant so that it does not need to be sealed or coated. As you can see in the following picture, they made several suspended walkways with Macrocarpa, stainless steel, aluminum and synthetic netting over long stretches between the trees.


They have slings around the tree and they plan to re-adjust them every 3 years as the trees expand. They would do it more often, however, the redwood bark is easily compressible and it will absorb some compression.

While we were there, we saw some maintenance men in the process of checking all of the nuts, bolts and support equipment on the walkway. We talked to the two men and got information on the walkway, as well as, their safety equipment and their maintenance procedures.


After having walked the ” Red ” trail and the walkway, we left the park to go to Mt. Maunganui. This is a relatively small mountain on the east coast at the end of a peninsula. The climb was not very difficult and the views from the top were magnificent.

This is a view of the town named after the mountain, as well as the neighbouring town, Tauranga.


There were also a few cliff gliders. This fellow was showing off, by swooping past the people on the mountain and at one point his feet touched the brushes near us.


We walked back down the mountain and decided to have dinner at the ” Talk of India ” restaurant in Tauranga. The food was excellent. I had a hot spicy lamb dish called ” Lamb Bhuna “, which is the chef’s favourite and Cheryl had a spicy chicken dinner. We left the restaurant by 7:00 pm and we finally had an early evening to return to our campsite and relax a little before the sun set.

Day 18 – Ohakune to Taupo

Wednesday, Feb 3, 2016

Ohakune to Taupo

I have walked through “The land of Mordor” technically known as the Tongariro National Park. As Les Potapczyk had told me before I left Canada, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing was a wonderful experience.

We left the campsite in Ohakune, after we paid for the nights stay and Cheryl drove to the Mangatepopo carpark for me to start the 19.4 km walk through Tongarirro before embarking on a few sightseeing tours. We arrived at the carpark at 9:20 am.


I view from the carpark was very desolate and after I walked 6 km I took a look back at the trek. Its hard to see, but the white specks near the small hill at the top centre of the picture, are the cars in the carpark.


I climbed through the crater and over the next rim. I took a picture of the view from the rim back down the trail I had completed. You can barely make out the line of people walking through the rim of the crater.


1 km past the rim there was a view down to 2 emerald and 2 blue lakes and the red crater.





You could smell the sulphur in the air, so I didn’t stay long. I kept on walking and the landscape started to change after I had completed approximately 12 km.


As I neared the end of the trek, the landscape changed to a forest.


I finally reached the Ketetahi carpark at 2:20, shortly before Cheryl arrived to pick me up.


Cheryl spent the time taking photographs in the area, taking a ski lift and hiking on Mount Ruapehu to get some pictures of the snow patches and a waterfall, as well as the mountain views, before she returned to pick me up.



From the Ketetahi carpark we drove to Taupo to find a campsite and then embark on a sailing adventure. After a quick shower, we sailed at 5 pm on a sailboat called the ” Barbery “.


We sailed out for about 1 hour until we came to some Maori rock carvings which were created in the 70’s for the people of Taupo as a way of honouring the Maori.



When we got back, we drove back to the campsite, did some laundry and worked on our journals, before calling it a day.

Day 17 – Picton to Ohakune

Tuesday, Feb 2, 2016

Picton to Ohakune

We had a leisurely start to the day because our campsite was only 1 km from the ferry terminal in Picton and our departure time was 9:45 am. We were a little early at the dock and got in line with all of the other transport trucks, campers, camervans and cars. By 10:45 am we were on our way. The view of the bay when we left Picton was beautiful.


We had smooth sailing from Picton on the south island to Wellington on the north island and we arrived at 2 pm. During the trip, we do some planning for adventures on the north island and we quickly realized that it would be a challenge to complete all of the things that we wanted to experience, in just 7 days, so we decided to do a little more driving then we had originally anticipated when we arrived in Wellington.

One thing that had been recommended to us to see was the Zelandia,formerly known as the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary, so we headed directly there. I took a picture of the sanctuary from the reservoir in the sanctuary, which gave a view from the tree-tops.


We were a little concerned at first that we would actually see the animals in their natural habitat but it didn’t take long for us to get some great pictures of some of the animals.











There was even an annoying duck!


We finished our walk around the sanctuary at 4 pm and then went to the van to head north on our 3 hour journey. There was just one problem…the van wouldn’t start. I had left the lights on and the battery was dead. I phoned AA, while Cheryl was able to find some staff to help us out. It didn’t take us too long to get the car started and we were on our way.

Unfortunately it was almost 5 pm when we left and we hit rush hour traffic and the initial drive preceded slowly, but when we finally got well out of the city, we were able to enjoy the beautiful scenery of rolling hills covered with trees, ranches and farms. The mountains weren’t as high as we had experienced in the south island and therefore the roads were much straighter.

Our destination was Ohakune so that we could position ourselves for the activities we had planned for Wednesday. When we arrived in Ohakune, it was just after 9 pm and the campsite office was closed but there was a sign on the door to find a campsite and register in the morning, so that is what we did.

We set up the tent and went out for dinner. We had a little trouble finding a restaurant that was still open, but we finally found one that would make us a pizza.

Having stretched an originally scheduled ” easy day “, into a long day, we were both very tired and we wanted to get an early start in the morning because we had planned for it to be another long day. We’ll see what happens.

Day 16 – Kayaking and Drive to Picton

Monday, Feb 1, 2016

Motueka to Picton

It was a very warm, sunny day with very few clouds. We headed a few kilometres north to a town called Kaiteriteri to check in for our excursion which included a 1 hour boat ride 3 hours of kayaking, followed by a boat ride back to Kaiteriteri.

The kayaking was a great experience. Our guide, Jack,


escorted Cheryl and myself,


Alex from Sydney, Australia and Rebecca from Perth, Australia,


as well as, Josh and Kate from England.


It was a great group and we had a lot of fun kayaking the shores.

During our trip I was able to take this picture of a stingray.


Then, to top off the day, it got quite windy so Jack told us that we were going to try to sail back. This involved the three kayaks rafting together. The people in the middle canoe held the two outside canoes together, the front outside people held the front of the sail and the two back outside people, held the other end of the sail in the air with their paddles, which were fastened to the sails. When the rear paddles were lifted in the air the sail caught the wind and we started to sail.


We were able to sail back and then we waited for the boat to return and bring us back to Kaiteriteri. When we did get back, we started driving to Picton for the night.

On the way Cheryl found a restaurant called the ” Mussel Pot ” where we stopped for dinner, so, I had to try the mussels. I’m not a mussel expert but they were good.


As we continued winding our way through the mountains again, I just had to take a picture of the forest-covered mountains and the waters of Cook Strait.


When we finally arrived in Picton, we located a campsite very close to the ferry terminals and set up our camp.