2004-03 (MARCH, 2004)

Summer Holidays, Part Two - New Zealand

Day 17 - My wife and I arose this morning after not-too-many hours sleep. We broke our fast with the guests from the main house (my Mum & Dad, Paul & Marketa and Bobby) and chatted to our hosts about the day before's events. We then began the task of tidying up and re-stacking everything ready for its return to the hire company. Andy & I then jumped into Ma & Pa's car for our return to Christchurch. Our flight to Auckland was not until late afternoon, but we had plenty of reorganising to do before heading out to the airport. The flight north was uneventful and we arrived in Auckland just after 18:00. We spent the next two hours trying to track down our campervan thanks to a very confused man from the hire company (he was waiting at the International Terminal despite our records showing that we were flying into Auckland from Christchurch?!). On the road much later than expected we still had several hours of driving to go to get to our destination for the night - Hahei, on the Coromandel Peninsula. It was here that I really regretted losing my glasses in Napier - night driving in my prescription sunglasses is less than fun. We caught up with Mike, Su-Bi and Erica in Tairua and grabbed a quick snack before getting on the road for the final stage of our journey (at least I could follow their tail-lights the rest of the way). We bid them good night and parked up for the night in the Hahei Motorcamp. A long, long day over.

Day 18 - Today was the first official day of our honeymoon, so, naturally, I spent most of the day with Mike, Su-Bi & Erica (my new wife has the patience of a saint!). The four of us went for a wee trek to Cathedral Cove, just over the hill from Hahei. Cathedral Cove is famous for its huge sandstone arch through which you can walk. I did spend the latter part of the afternoon with Andy, though, just walking on the beach. The five of us got together again for a late-ish dinner at the Luna Café before heading out to Hot Water Beach with 5 shovels in the boot of the car to catch the 22:30 low-tide. "And why would one do such a thing?", I hear you ask. Well, as the name implies, Hot Water Beach has an area of geothermal activity under it and springs of 65ºC water gush up through the sand around the low-tide mark. The trick to enjoying this novelty is to dig one's self a hole/seawall construction that lets just enough cold seawater in to moderate the piping hot spring water. This is easier said than done, especially in the dark. Great fun, though. We had mixed success with our construction (led by the experienced Hot-Water-Beacher, Mike), but had a lot of fun anyway. We retired to our respective beds tired, happy and covered in sand.

Day 19 - Andy and I did sod all today. We bid farewell to the kids after breakfast and wished them well on their drive back to Auckland. The rest of the day was spent reading and snoozing in the sun. We dined at the Grange Café (very average).

Day 20 - Andy & I bounded out of bed this morning, set on doing some kind of activity today. We selected to go sea-kayaking and were on the water by 09:30. Our group consisted of 10 pairs of paddlers plus two humorous guides. We paddled out to and around Makurangi island before pootling over to Motueka island. Here we all braved paddling through a tunnel in the rock as the tide surged around us. From there we headed back to the mainland and made landfall in Cathedral Cove. Our two guides treated us to cappuccini and biscuits on the sand. Yum. Back in the boats we splashed our way back to Hahei Beach - a most pleasant way to spend half a day. The rest of the afternoon was lazy. Dinner was again at the Grange Café as Luna was closed for the evening. Andy 'found' a Dogwood spoon.

Day 21 - This morning's activity was scuba diving off the Hahei coast. We geared up on dry land before boarding our runabout for our trip out to the islands. Once in the water Andy decided that not having dived since she'd learnt in the Red Sea in 1999 was not a good thing - she couldn't remember the details of what she was supposed to do - and so went snorkelling instead. So I paired up with a German guy and together we spent a very pleasant 40 minutes-or-so exploring the rocks. We saw a moray eel, several crazy looking starfish, a number of eagle rays and, of course, loads of fish. I love diving amongst kelp - it's so atmospheric and alien. We were back on dry land by lunchtime and had formulated a plan to spend our last two nights in a motel. We elected to stay in Coromandel Town and to take the long route to get there. First up was a quick stop to see Hot Water Beach by day. Then we headed north via the coast road and stopped for a late lunch in Whitianga. Continuing north we stopped for a pleasant few hours on the deserted Matarangi Beach. From there we took the unsealed road through the mountains to Coromandel Town - beautiful. We found our motel, unloaded the van and went straight to the spa pool. We dined at the lovely Peppertree Café & Bar and retired to our first double bed since the cabin at Lake Waikaremoana. Our night was disturbed by the backpackers across the way, but we eventually sorted that out and slept long.

Day 22 - Today we thought we'd do a driving circuit north to Cape Colville (or as far up as our campervan would let us go). Our first stop just outside of Coromandel Town was the Driving Creek Railway. When Barry Brickell, a potter, discovered high quality clay on his property he was overjoyed. His joy was tempered by the fact that it was a long way from his house, up in the hills and deep in the bush. So what did he do? He spent the next 29 years building his own half-scale railway line, complete with switchbacks, bridges and tunnels. When the line reached the clay mine (10 years ago) he didn't want to stop building, so he continued on up to the top of the hills. Here he has built the (recently opened) Eyefull Tower with it spectacular views of the surrounding hills an sea. The whole trip up to the tower and back takes two hours and is a most pleasant way to spend a morning. From Driving Creek we continued on our circuit, quietly pootling around the unsealed roads and stopping now and again to make tea (one of the best bits about travelling in a campervan). Back in Coromandel Town we cleaned ourselves up and headed out to find a place for dinner - easier said than done on a Saturday evening without a booking. After a fruitless search, we returned home via the fish 'n chip shop and bottle store and sat in our room eating divine fish 'n chips and drinking a very pleasant savignon blanc.

Day 23 - This morning we began our long journey home. To start with, however, we thought we'd take in one or two of the treasures along the famous 309 Road, the old road between Coromandel Town and Whitianga. First up was The Waiau Waterworks featuring a whimsical collection of water-powered sculptures. I loved this place! Continuing on down the road we stopped for a walk into the Kauri Grove, a magic stand of very old Kauri trees (the giants of the NZ bush) that had somehow been overlooked by the loggers of the last century. From here we doubled-back to the coast and left the Coromandel via the west coast road - beautiful, but narrow and windy. Back in Auckland we dropped off the campervan and checked in with many hours until our flight. Quite by chance we bumped into Su-Bi in the QANTAS queue, on her way to Melbourne. With our bags taken care of, we got in touch with my sister Bex and she and Pete came out to the airport to collect and entertain us for a couple of hours (these two are just too good to us). We went into Mt Eden for lunch and then sat in the park and looked at Bex's 'Photos From 2003' - we are a very well travelled family. We departed Auckland around 18:30 and touched down in Sydney at 19:30. The married couple were back in their own little house (secretly re-decorated with confetti by Lou and Suzanne whilst we were away) having had an unforgettable three weeks with most of the people we love most in all the world. Bliss.

Canoe Building Weekend - Sydney, Australia

Dave came down for the weekend (on his way to Canberra for work). As is often the way with such visits, best-laid-plans for serious work on the Friday evening were instantly abandoned in favour of going to The Welcome Hotel. Many, many Guinnesses and Sambuchas later (I hate you, Mr Sambucha) we were the last two souls in the pub (as per standard procedure) and sporting a pair of St Paddy's Day t-shirts as a reward for drinking so much Guinness. Back home, we couldn't resist a wee spot of 'Airplane - The Movie' until sometime after 03:00 (Andy could tell you the exact time, I'm sure).

On Saturday we slept in, knowing that tonight's canoe-building efforts were likely to take all night. Our only achievement for the day was to watch the whole of the first series of 'Father Ted' plus one or two episodes of 'Black Books'. As the sun was setting we geared up for an evening of fibre-glassing. We had to wait until 23:00 to get started, however, as the air temperature was just too warm to work in. First we sealed the hull with epoxy and then we applied a single layer of glass fibre matting. In between these two coats we watched 'Ford Fairlane - Rock 'n' Roll Detective', a most amusing movie. With the 'glass layer completed we retired for the night (it was after 04:00 by then). I arose again at 06:45 to apply a third coat of epoxy (before the other layers had set too much) and then crashed back to bed.

Needless to say, it was not an early start on Sunday. Andy had stayed the night at Judy & Chris' house (so that she could avoid the mayhem). Once she had returned, the three of us went around the corner to the Balmain Bakehouse for a very late breakfast/brunch. The rest of the day was spent devouring the remainder of the first two complete series of 'Black Books'. Dinner was takeaways for the third night running. I love it when Dave comes to visit - we hold the quorum on whether slobbing is allowed in the house.

Early on Monday Dave drove off to Canberra for the day. He returned knackered and the night was not a late one.

On Tuesday Dave headed home leaving one happy canoe-builder behind him.