New Zealand 2011. Northland.

We’d come to the final leg of our New Zealand Odyssey, leaving Aukland to strike out to the country’s aptly named, northernmost part, Northland. Here we motored up to Cape Reinga via ’90 mile beach’, a long, curving stretch of sand up to a headland where two seas meet; the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean. For the Maori these are the male and female seas coming together, ‘Te Rerenga Walrua’, representing the creation of life. Along the way, huge dunes provided a tourist draw for sand surfing, although there were no more than a handful of takers.

Here, as all of the coast throughout New Zealand the waters were clear, striking, azure blue and turqoise, topped with white froth. At the top of the headland where the two seas can be viewed in a turbulent cauldron there is a lighthouse and a couple of helpful signposts displaying distances.

We followed up with a visit to the Waipoua Kauri Forest. The Kauri trees are ancient giants of conifers, rightfully treasured and protected by walkways, platforms and paths. Like the giant Redwoods of California there are revered trees, special for their age or size and we took our time to gape and to wonder, humbled by the dimensions and endurance of these wonders.

There was little of our time in New Zealand left as we headed for Coromandel, where many tiny islands poke out of the sea and the terrain of the Peninsula is green and rolling. Coromandel town is tiny but we located a bar where we could enjoy a drink and people-watch. It was a favourite haunt of the local fishermen who loped in straight from work, wearing shorts and wellington boots.

Then we enjoyed a last visit to the beach at Cathedral Cove. I was glad, here that I hadn’t left it too late in my life to visit New Zealand. The climb down to the cove was not for the fainthearted. But once we’d got there we could understand how it got its name, as the rocks have formed a cave with a vaulted ceiling, as if a demented architect had been down here and built a huge temple on the sand.

It was time for us to leave. We’d had six weeks in New Zealand, meeting friendly people, enjoying the thrills of the RWC and taking in as many sights and experiences as we were able. And I know ther was so much more we hadn’t seen and done; the South Island east coast’s snowy glaciers and caves, the north west of North Island, Aukland and so much more.

But we were scheduled to leave. But not, reader to return to the UK. The trip had much more in store as we were about to leave NZ and take a look at another country- and a very large one, too. But that must wait for another time, another post…

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook

New Zealand 2011. North Island.

The move from South Island to North Island coincided with a change in the weather, meaning that both our ferry voyage and our exploration of Wellington were dogged by cloudy, rainy conditions, although we enjoyed a hospitable and fun time at the rugby club that had accommodated us.

By the time we’d got to Napier the clouds had cleared and we got to look at art deco Napier in the sunshine. I’ll have to admit here that while there were art deco frontages to buildings in the town it didn’t have the wow factor I was expecting, but the seafront palisades and gardens were lovely. Nearby Huka Falls, however was astonishing; turquoise foam rushing along a rocky channel with a loud roar.

We were making our way towards the geo-thermal areas and parks around Rotarua, a place I’d been eagerly anticipating since before we left the UK. At the ‘Craters of the Moon’ park, boarded walkways took us across pools of boiling, steaming mud, a fascinating sight as slow, wrinkly bubbles appeared, burping up smelly, bad-egg plops as though alive.

But is was Te Puia park that stunned us, with ‘cooking pools’, steaming streams, sulphorous rivers like lava pouring over the rocks and best of all, a tall, spouting geyser that shot a plume of hot steam high into the sky at regular intervals-the ‘Pohutu’ geyser being the best.

Our site at Rotarua had its own hot tub in a cabin and could be reserved, a benefit that was hard to resist- and this before hot tubs became the ubiquitous, trendy ‘must-haves’ they are today. It was also at Rotarua that Husband and I opted for individual activities- He to spend a day in the rapids, white-water rafting and I to the beautiful Polynesian Spa, supposedly one of the top ten spas in the world. Here I spent an afternoon lolling about in a series of warm, then progressively hotter pools before having a massage, exiting the spa with a feeling that all was certainly right with the world. Husband’s day had left him exhilarated, so all in all Rotarua was considered a great place.

We spent a tranquil day or two at Waihu Beach then made our way to Auckland, where we were to spend a few days with an old friend of Husband’s from uni days and take in another rugby match. Friend, as it turned out, was eager to show us the area around Auckland, ie beaches, forests etc. For once I’d have been interested to view New Zealand’s capital, but our host was hell-bent on avoiding the metropolis. So we looked at beaches, waterfalls and forests and they were all lovely. But here is the thing; we discovered that Friend, and many of those like him who inhabit North Island seldom travel to South Island and appear to know less of it than we who had toured it.

But we were lucky to be able to stay at Friend’s house in Auckland and to be able to park the van in the road outside. Parking slots were at a premium with the impending rugby match and we were in walking distance of the ground. On match evening there was a cranking up of the party atmosphere with Maori dancers and much dressing up. We were to see The All Blacks, playing Argentina, which meant we’d get to see a real life Haka performance too- an event that impresses me more than it does Husband!

We took our seats, the two in front of us occupied by a couple dressed in red wigs and red and white flags, indicating their status as England supporters even though England were not playing, only to discover that they were Ali and Claire, who we’d met on the train from Dunedin! This made the evening all the more special, as did the friendly New Zealanders next to us.

We bade Friend farewell and got back on the road for a trip northwards, with more sights and surprises in store…

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook

New Zealand 2011. Abel Tasman.

If you were to write a tropical paradise then the Abel Tasman National Park, in the north of New Zealand’s South Island could be your guide. As we arrived to our camp site, at Kaiteriteri, the skies were a flawless blue and the sea azure. We’d learned that we could catch a water taxi into the park, be dropped off at the start of a hike and picked up at another point, which was perfect. On the way we got to see ‘Split-Apple Rock’ before the boat pulled in near to the shore and a walkway was lowered to the beach- thus avoiding wet footwear.

By now we had long given up our warm layers, as since moving north [and with the benfit of a few weeks on towards summer] the weather was becoming hot. It had been tricky packing one bag for a long expedition covering all weather conditions but until now we’d at least had the benefit of the van to avoid carting heavy luggage around too much, although later in the trip this did become a headache.

So we spent our day walking along the white beaches, padding across lofty bridges spanning ravines, wandering through forest shaded with beautiful tree ferns and following rippling streams. emerald with reflected vegetation and dotted with enormous boulders, a spectacular way to spend a day.

Next we were off to Nelson to watch Australia play Russia, a wacky event at which the Aussie spectators had gone to town with their outfits. We’d been on South Island for a month and had packed in a lot of sightseeing and rugby. We’d worked our way up to the north, leaving two weeks to see what we could of North Island before moving on to the second big part of our expedition. In order to travel to North Island with our van we needed to get the ‘Interislander’ ferry, which, under good weather conditions would be a spectacularly beautiful boat ride, but on this occasion we were unlucky and made the crossing under grey skies and misty drizzle- which demonstrates that the course of true travel does not always run smoothly. Then we came to Wellington and [appropriately perhaps] the heavens opened and we were inundated.

Another first was that all Wellington campsites were full, which meant we’d need to use the local rugby club’s facilities. We turned up there, following the diversion sign and went to the clubhouse, where we were warmly welcomed by the kindly members, offered use of the club’s showers [an interesting experience] and offered a curry sauce for the chicken curry I was planning to make for our dinner!

We made use of our time to see what we could of Wellington, in spite of the rain, taking a cable car to Victoria Peak and looking at the old, timber government buildings.

Next stop was Napier and its art deco buildings…

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook

Sacrilege

NZ Queenstown

We travelled to New Zealand in the autumn of 2011 when the Rugby World Cup was scheduled to be held there. This was to be our retirement treat-a three month stonker of a trip that also encompassed Australia [where I have cousins] and a small add-on of a stay in Hong Kong on the way home.

The thrill of such an enormous piece of travel was tempered, initially by having our flight from Heathrow cancelled by Quantas for no reason we could discern. This meant that our onward flights from Brisbane were scuppered, messing up our arrival to Christchurch, New Zealand and losing us a night of accommodation.

2011 was also the year of Christchurch’s catastrophic earthquake, which was heartbreaking in itself, besides disrupting the Rugby matches and venues involved.

After a tortuous and exhausting series of flights we arrived to Christchurch’s small airport. In the arrivals hall we staggered to the information desk and were directed out into the sunshine of the afternoon, where a kindly driver took our bags and we slumped into the back of his car to be taken to the hotel. I felt I’d stepped into a warm bath.

Even in my almost comatose state I was thrilled to see the verges and green spaces which were lined with nodding daffodils-a novelty for we northern hemisphere-ites in autumn.

NZ Xch

Although our hotel was a forest of steel ceiling supports and those roads that had not been blocked off were cracked with fissures the hotel staff welcomed us in.

Having slept we explored our area, Hagley Park and looked at the quake-damaged centre of town. The park hosted an exhibition of the proposed rebuilding of Christchurch.

A couple of days later we collected our rental camper-van, which was exquisitely equipped and set off to explore beautiful, pristine South Island on a gentle, meandering road that followed the railway track and took us through small communities, past stunning scenery and into wonderful camp sites.

Throughout this time I don’t think I ever stopped smiling. People were unerringly kind, the ease of travel unprecedented. In spite of the terrible earthquake we were welcomed. Even the creatures were friendly.

NZ ducks

The rugby games were like huge, joyous parties with dancing displays, music, dressing up and buzzing atmosphere. I lost count of the number of times we engaged with those around us, laughing, conversing and getting hugged.

In between matches we went sightseeing-following the beautiful, wild south coast road to stunning Milford Sound, viewing penguins and snow-capped mountains and scoffing New Zealand pies and scones from the dairies. Then we turned north via Kaikoura, went whale-watching and walked in glorious Abel Tasman National Park before taking the ferry to North Island.

In Wellington the camp site was full so the local rugby club accommodated us, throwing open their showers and their clubroom and even offering us a curry sauce to go with the chicken we’d bought to cook. We visited the amazing hot springs and geysers at Rotarua, 90 Mile Beach, Coromandel, the gigantic Kauri pines.

The trip remains, to this day my favourite to date. If asked I don’t hesitate to say that New Zealand is my favourite of all the destinations we’ve visited for the reasons I’ve detailed and so much more.

What has happened there is heart-breaking. This most beautiful and idyllic of countries has been sullied for it’s innocent beauty.

If you peddle hate posts on social media; if you keep recycling jingoistic, populist, right-wing propaganda; if you keep screeching about ‘taking back control’ and closing borders, building walls to keep people out and showing hate to other races and religions you are perpetuating acts of violence and terrorism.

Enough said.