Finally, the start day has arrived and it's an early start. For some, earlier than others. Unable to sleep, not unusual for me, I was awake 2 hours before the alarm and after an hour of trying to go back to sleep, I gave up and got things under way instead. Woke the taxi driver, Daniel, at 4:00am, very early for him, and we arrived at the airport at 4:45am. No queue at check-in so straight through, boarding just after 6:00 and in the air by 6:45. Good flight but we kept dozing off for some reason.
We arrived to a fair degree of cloud cover but with the sun shining through at regular intervals. Coming in over the nothern end of the island we were quickly introduced to the magnificant scenery for which New Zealand is famous and why it was called the Land of the Long White Cloud. Coming in to land at Auckland the plane passed over some beautiful country with a patchwork of darker wooded and bright green cleared areas. Through customs quickly and picked up the car. Thought we'd try a Ford Focus for something different. Therese got excited when she spotted the red one but no go, ours was silver. Who was it that thought that not switching the indicator and wiper stalks from a left hand drive model to a right hand drive model was a good idea? For the first turns and lane changes the car acted very friendly and waved its wipers at the oncoming traffic. Fortunately we then hit a shower of rain and the wipers didn't look so out of place.
Found and checked into our motel in quick time. Aren't GPSs great? Certainly better than indicator stalks on the wrong side anyway. Not a bad view of the harbour from our room, just starting to really shine as the lights are coming on.
Touched base with the guy we are riding with tomorrow then went to pick up the bike, Honda VFR800, from Wild Freedom Motorcycle Rentals. Just a small business and Peter, the guy who owns it is a really nice bloke and couldn't do enough to get us set-up. The bike is downstairs ready for a run in the cold air tomorrow up into the northland.
Robert has a full day's ride north of Auckland organised for tomorrow. Should be a great experience. The VFR is a lot more sporting ride than I'm used to. That means spending the day carrying the weight on my wrists. Could be sore by tomorrow night.
At least over here we are 2 hours ahead of Brisbane time so I should be able to catch up on the sleep I lost this morning.
Some things work and some things don't. The phone card works for phone calls but not data. That will be a job for Friday.
What a day. Early breakfast and almost ready to roll when Robert arrived. On the road by 7:40 heading north, 5 minutes later, we're stopped and putting wet weather gear on. As usual, by the time it's on the rain had almost stopped but as it turned out we kept it on all day. Just light patchy showers but plenty of sun in between. Great day of riding, terrific scenery and generally very good roads in spite of Robert telling me they aren't as good as ours. I think he has a different memory of riding a lot of Queensland roads than I have. Anyway, 12 hours on the road and almost 600 klms later we arived back at the motel.
Where did we go? To give you some idea, we went from Auckland to Bay of Islands via Warkworth, Wellsford, Dagaville, Hokianga Harbour and Paihia then back to Auckland via Wahngarei, and Mangawhai and you will get the idea from the pictures today; there are quite a few of them but it was difficult to leave many out. I'm not sure how Therese is going to manage from here on as it won't be anyway near as easy to get shots from the car. Probably will mean a lot of stopping but less culling of blurred pictures resulting from bumps at inappropriate times.
We covered so much different terrain during the day, small towns, farm land, forest, harbours, vineyards and beaches. I wouldn't say it was different around every corner, as there were so many corners you could never have it different each time. Farming areas with great sweeping corners over rolling hills, forest areas with steep climbs, sharp corners and steep descents, giant tree 52m high and 14m wide and the Bay of Islands which is more spectacular from an aerial view. During all this, in and out of showers, running water across the road and in places, the light green of moss growing on the shaded road and on one corner, running water with dark green thriving moss just like you would see in a creek. All this while riding an unfamiliar bike on unfamiliar roads. Great fun and excitement.
Highlights of the day, apart from the ride opportunity which was a generous 60th birthday present from our sons, were good coffee at each of our stops, friendly people at each of those stops and great ride leadership by Robert Scott. Robert runs guided motorcycle tours of New Zealand in addition to his Calendar business and for anyone interested in joining one of his tours, his web site can be found here.
Fairly quiet day today. Original plan was to fire the bike up and ride around taking in the sights of Auckland. Woke up to cloudy skies shortly followed by a heavy rain squall. After yesterday's ride, the pillion-in-a-million, in spite of no complaints yesterday, decided that the rear seat of the VFR was not in the same ball park as a Goldwing and was a little reluctant to take it on again for a few hours today. Topped off with rain squalls and the need to wear wet gear, we decided that the car was the better option. Farewell to the VFR returning it to Wild Freedom Motorcycle Rentals with Peter surprised that we were finished early.
After that, we headed off around the south-eastern side of the harbour for a leisurely scenic drive; a very nice harbour. We found a hole-in-the-wall and obtained a helping of the local currency then located a Vodaphone retailer and they were able to resolve the data issue on the phone and we were connected. Immediately, the messages started to come through as we caught up on what had been happening.
Then it was off across Auckland to One Tree Hill. This is an ancient volcanic cone within an area known as Cornwall Park. Beautifully maintained natural environment housing a working farm and being a place of peace and tranquility and donated to Auckland in 1901 by the owner of the property. The obelisk at the summit is a memorial to the maroi people and is 183.5m above sea level. Of course, with fine weather ever since we handed the bike back, immediately we got out of the car it started raining.
From One Tree Hill we headed back toward the city centre stopping at another extinct volcano, Mount Eden, Auckland's highest volcano, 196m high. This one, instead of being the cone is actually the crater and 50m deep. The crater is sacred to the maroi people and no-one is allowed to enter the crater. From the top of the mountain, you get fantastic 360 degree views of the city and surrounds. Auckland is built on 55 volcanoes and from the top of Mount Eden, you can easily see a number of the larger ones.
Then back to the motel to start preparing to move on tomorrow morning so some planning was required.
Auckland has some great motorways through the city and they carry a large volume of traffic and in spite of the roads there is frequent congestion and delays in getting about. Just in case you are wondering, getting back in the car meant another series of fights between wiper and indicator stalks. I'm sure after three weeks, it will all start again when I get home and back into a "normal" car.
Ok, not only is the phone data working, I have revamped the photo display process. Not only bigger photos, but you get to see all the photo instead of about 80% of it as was happenning. I hope you like them; and yes, I did have to keep stopping today.
Packed up and on the road to Rotarua today. Not sure if I'm sorry to leave Auckland or glad to be out. Great motel we have been at, the Quality Parnell Motel, but the food. The motel has a conference centre and restaurant attached and the restaurant has a fantastic chef and served portions are very generous. The motel deal came with a full cooked breakfast and we haven't needed lunch the last two days and won't again today. Evening meals are excellent quality and generous enough to even slow me up.
We awoke to rain again this morning and headed south to hit one of the more violent rain squalls I have had to drive through. Rain so heavy everything was just white, wind blowing the car around, great fun, not. Sorry, no photo, too busy concentrating on driving and seeing where we were going to think of that. Two lane freeway with a fair bit of traffic so no safe option to stop. Out of it within a couple of minutes then just occassional light showers through the day.
Through Hamilton and on to Cambridge. Cambridge wasn't on the itinerery but a lady on the plane next to us was born and raised here and suggested we visit for a look. Very nice historical little town. Beautiful tree lined streets and looks a very charming town. lf you follow horse racing, you will probably have heard of this place. It is the centre of New Zealand's equine industry and claims fourteen Melbourne Cup winners.
I hope you are Hobbit and Lord of the Rings fans. If not,then you may not enjoy today's photos. From Cambridge we headed off to Hinuera and Hobbiton, the movie set of The Shire, the Hobbit village for both series. There are two ways to get there from Cambridge, the long way and the short way, both of which take the same time; major highway or winding scenic country road, easy choice. The set for the Lord of the Rings movies was apparently mainly a very temporary setup vith very few actual solid structures. For the Hobbit series, the set was rebuilt an expanded with an expected life of fifty years. Good tour and stories from a local perspective on the making of the movies and the methods used to get the effects right to look realistic. For example, around Hobbitton, you will see washing hanging on clotheslines. For a couple of weeks before shooting, someone was paid to hang washing out each morning and bring it in again at night. This was to get natural paths worn into the grass between the house and the line. The tour finished at the Green Dragon for a cold ale. Great building and a lot of work and beautiful timbers in its construction.
From Hobbiton it was on to Rotorua and check into our motel. Wih all the geothermal activity you are immediately hit with rotten egg gas smell which reminded me of the smell of the artesian water in Winton and Blackall. The guy managing the motel was local and better than any tourist information officer when it came to the places to go and the history behind them. We booked into a Maori Village experience and headed off on the bus about ten minutes after getting into the room. That was after about half an hour with our "tourist officer".
Good show with great Hangi Feast and maori experience show of war canoes, fighting, dancing and maori history and traditions. It was very interesting to see how the maori have embraced the cultural changes since white settlement and used opportunities to retain and pass on their culture to future generations.
We followed the show with a short tour of the centre next door where since 1932 efforts have been to help maintain populations of the Kiwi. In the wild,these birds have a 5% survival rate. The eggs taken from the wild and hatched and the chicks initially raised in captivity then released have a 75% chance.
Back to the motel about 9:30 so by the time the day's photos were downloaded and reviewed, we decided you would have to wait for today's story.
Go to Week 2