Post 33 – Whitianga

Weather – Fine
Cloud – around 2 Oktas
Wind – calm
Sea state – calm
Temperature – 20 degrees

These were the conditions on our departure from a very restful and quiet night at Thames for the drive north up the Pacific Highway. Forget dual carriageways, we are talking a winding narrow road hugging the rocky coastline more like a deserted Amalfi Drive in Italy. Round every bend there was a stunning view along the coast with steep cliff-like hillsides to the right (inland) and beautiful deserted coves to the left.

Arriving in Coromandel we headed to the Driving Creek Railway and Potteries. This is a gem of a place and apparently fast becoming New Zealand’s top tourist spot. Started by a disillusioned school science teacher in the 70s, he made pots and other art, and he built single handedly a lovely narrow gauge railway which has grown to the extent that it takes an hour for the round trip to the top and back, through stunning scenery and equally stunning civil engineering feats. Thoroughly recommended, and there is the town of Coromandel just down the road with its many eateries, ours was the Pepper Tree.

Our billet tonight is a horrid little motel and backpackers (all that was left) in Whitianga, a bit like Ryanair or Jetstar without the luxuries; no wi-fi connection and NOT EVEN A BOTTLE OPENER for God’s sake.

I will send this courtesy of the Whitianga Library free wi-fi service.

Post 32 – Thames

The time had come to leave poor Fiona to her own devices after putting up with visitors over the weekend. The drive to Thames on the Coromandel Peninsula with improving weather was uneventful once we had got back onto the right road – I swear I saw a sign to Queenstown at one stage!

The river Thames here is about 15 metres across and Thames the place is a very touristy but neat and tidy town with a hugely long straight main street with excellent shopping. The motel looks a bit like a Swiss lodge complex against the background of a steep wooded hillside.

The beach is just across the main Pacific Highway (not at all busy!) and a lovely sunset made the warm still evening special.

Post 31 – Auckland

We went for a quite energetic walk this morning alongside Mangemangeroa Inlet, part of Auckland Waitemata Harbour. The route taken was about 6 kilometres and was quite hilly through dense woodland and some board walk over mangrove swamp. A light lunch followed at Shamrock Cottage, near Fiona’s house.

After a mending and fixing session, mainly involving Fiona’s outside security lights by yours truly, we took a startled Chloe the dog for another walk round Musick Point to see if there were any yachts assembling for tomorrow’s Auckland Anniversary Day Regatta, an annual event involving thousands of yachts from around Auckland Harbour, quite a sight by all accounts, though probably suffering today from a stiff breeze blowing across the water. A consolation ice cream was deemed necessary.   Dinner at home this evening.

Post 30 – Waipu to Auckland

We left Waipu on a cool breezy day and stopped at Waipu Cove for breakfast (very good). Onward then on the scenic drive with thousands of Crocosmia (orange) and Agapanthus ( blue or white) flowers along the roadside. It looked as if half of Auckland was driving north (the other direction fortunately) and traffic was nose to tail for mile after mile because of the long Auckland Day weekend and bursts of heavy ‘bank holiday weekend rain’ – yes, it happens here too!

We arrived at about mid-day and the afternoon was spent preparing for the evening when Fiona had invited old friends (well not old really but you know what I mean!) Erica and Nigel to share a meal with us. The BBQ was fired up and Nigel cooked some lovely lamb steaks and they went down well with the supporting vegetables and salad provided by the ladies.

Post 29 – Kerikeri to Waipu

Today started a little dull and it went downhill weatherwise during the day.

After breakfasting out at a cafe in the Cobblestone Mall in Kerikeri we hit the road south and our first stop was at Kawakawa to visit the public toilets there, which have become something of a tourist attraction. The main reason is that they have been built and decorated with a selection of bottles, broken tiles and various other bits and pieces – see the photos – by an Austrian artist who goes by the name of Frederick Hundertwasser, so if you like spending a penny (or cent) to the sound of clicking shutters stop here!   Whangerei was the lunchtime stop and a very good salad(!) in a cafe in the basin.

On then to see Di’s cousin Anne at Oakleigh who lives in a bungalow overlooking Whangerei Harbour. She introduced us to her beguiling Retrieverdoodle (a cross between a Retriever and a Poodle) called Freya. We had a nice chat over tea and cake (oops, the diet is in danger again!) and then off again through pouring rain to Waipu and our bed for the night..

Post 28 – Cooper’s Beach to Kerikeri

Kerkeri is a good looking town – prosperous, cosmopolitan and arty. We arrived here early again (11:30 today ) but the lady in charge at the motel (a pom whose dad lives in Bashley in the New Forest) was quite happy for us to take the room and dump our bags. It is also a place where hairdressers are able ‘to fit the odd one in’, as they say in the trade, and Mrs Froud was at last able to have her hair cut; Smith and Howe Studio near the Post Office being the heroes of the hour.

After a very nice lunch (including a flat white coffee complete with customary fern in the froth, see picture), at a nearby alley mall, we headed off to Waitangi, where the famous treaty was signed between the ruling Maori chiefs and representatives of The Crown. It is the location of The Treaty House which became the British Residency, the Maori Meeting House, and the boat shed housing the huge Ceremonial War Canoes; all something of a shrine to New Zealanders.

This was followed by a visit to the oldest wooden house in New Zealand (1822), and the oldest stone house (1836), built next to each other at Kerikeri, the site of one of the earliest landings of British settlers in New Zealand.

Home then and the evening saw us having a very good meal in a local eating house, more quality than quantity this time so the diet has begun (perhaps)!

Post 27 – Opononi to Cooper’s Beach, Manganui

Another 4 salons have spurned Mrs Froud and her hair – surely there is an opening for an entrepreneurial spirit to open a salon who will slide in quickies between bookings

We left Opononi without breakfast and arrived at the ferry (‘firry’ to any Kiwis here, Fiona!) with half an hour to spare before the next sailing. It looks like the Studland ferry but that is where the similarity ends. We were able to park the car in the queue, lock it , and go and have breakfast before the ferry arrived. We had been directed to the Boat Shed Cafe and sure enough they did a lovely breakfast and served it in time for us to eat it before the ferry arrived.

Having driven through the pretty, quiet, hilly, countryside, mainly farmland, we arrived in the early afternoon at the San Marino Motor Lodge at Cooper’s Beach, Manganui on Doubtless Bay. This is a lovely spot and the Motel unit we have is absolutely right on the beach, and we are lulled by the gentle shush of the waves onto the beach.

We went into town to get fish and chips for later and went home after being rebuffed at another salon, to eat it later. Yours truly went into the sea for a swim, cool at first but quite warm really, the first time in the sea for me since Worbarrow Bay in Dorset in August last year!!

And so to bed to the sound of the sea.   Oh,oh! A second world war air-raid siren has just gone off but I can’t hear the Dorniers yet.   Goodness knows what that means!

Post 26 – Dargaville to Opononi

Her Ladyship decided that she was in desperate need of a haircut but was rebuffed by two salons in Dargaville so on we went towards Opononi. Having stopped at a lookout in the Kauri forest at Waipua we drove on further through the forest to see the largest Kauri tree left standing, Tane Mahuta (see the information in the photo below). This is majestic and it’s difficult to give a true impression of its scale in photos.

Having arrived early at the Lighthouse Motel at Opononi we explored the beach and surroundings having an excellent late lunch at the Schooner cafe high in the hills overlooking the bay.

After a quiet afternoon we repaired to the pub for enormous Pizzas. The diet starts in earnest again tomorrow!

Post 25 – Auckland to Awakino Point

Our great journey to the far north began today, travelling past half buried aircraft, huge ‘up-in-the-air legs’ (see photos – your guess is as good as mine!) to Awakino Point, part of Dargeville. While we were there it was faintly reminiscent of a wild west town – main street, shops and not much else – but we were struck by how friendly the locals were.

On the way we stopped at the Kauri Museum at Matakohe.   Karis are huge trees which used to be common in this area and apart from being prized for their exceptionally durable and attractive timber (there are planks here from trunks buried for 46,000 years), they also excrete a gum which sets like resin from pines, was used widely in Lino, paint and varnishes and was found in dead forests underground.   This amber like resin was mined by Gum Diggers which have passed into New Zealand folklore.

The evening meal was a huge Chinese Takeaway. The new diet stars in earnest tomorrow.

Post 24 – Auckland

Fiona decided that we needed some retail therapy country style, so we went to a local farmers’ market at Clevedon in the steady rain. It was very busy despite the rain and Chloe (Fiona’s neighbour’s dog who is lodging with Fiona) was the first to sample the wares being given a farm made healthy dog biscuit. She seemed a little reluctant to eat it until a passing poodle offered to help out; suddenly Chloe’s appetite returned with a vengeance! Later, after a coffee, we went for a drive and a short walk at Kawakawa Bay before lunch at a restaurant at Whitford.

The weather was improving fast by now and in warm humid conditions we took a 4km walk alongside the estuary before heading for home via the beach at Cockle Bay, just down the road  from home, and a BBQ where yours truly singed the steaks as usual.

The star of the show is, however, Fiona’s other lodger, Harri(et) the baby hedgehog.

Post 23 – Canberra to Auckland

After an early start (up at 03:30am ) we arrived at Canberra airport without any problems, thanks to Phil’s  directions, and seemed to spend the rest of the day in an aluminium tube eating airline meals. The only ‘highlight’ was about half an hour before landing in Auckland when an 18 yr old lad projectile vomited over a selection of passengers around him which gave the cabin staff a nice little job to do before landing. Once we had landed we had to wait for a medical team to OK disembarkation before we could go on our way.

Diana’s cousin Fiona was there to meet us and we followed her home to Howick in our hire car. After a pleasant evening over one of her delicious Thai curries we collapased thankfully into bed.

Sorry, no pictures until tomorrow.

Post 22 – Canberra 4

The last day in Australia was marked by a big brunch at Sally’s and Andy’s house in Hughes. Phil took us all in his ‘big beast’ Nissan Skyline sports saloon car and demonstrated how to accelerate hard and put all your passengers in the back seat!

After that we got home to do our packing before going out for a Chinese meal to meet some of their RAAF friends followed by an early night.

Post 21 – Canberra day 3

Phil took us on a quick practice drive to the airport so that we could make a quick getaway on Saturday morning and on the way back we went to Bags to Go to get a bigger case – very pleased with the new case which is ideal.

Lanyon heritage homestead was next on the agenda. It is a on the outskirts of Canberra but when it was first built it was out in the middle of nowhere, close to the Murrumbidgee river. At that time it was in NSW and on the extreme edge of surveyed land from Sydney. Different occupiers over the years have left their mark but the house and outbuildings have been restored to the state they were in when originally occupied. It was a very peaceful place in a lovely location.

After lunch at the homestead, we went to the Canberra Botanical Gardens – lots of stern warnings about snakes but we were, after all, experienced with snakes now and their presence was treated with some disdain! I am not sure that this attitude would have been maintained should a snake have been seen.

On the way ‘hime’ we went to the posh suburb of Red Hill to the lookout which gives a good view over Canberra.

Phil is currently burning some more meat on the BBQ for our dinner ( It’s OK Phil, only joking) while watching the Eastern Rosella parrots feeding in the garden.

Post 20 – Canberra day 2

After getting Anne’s wi-fi fixed we went over to Sally and Andy to pick them up for a days sight seeing in central Canberra. We left Tsana, the anxious (see photo) Collie dog , behind and headed for the National Library of Australia where we had coffee by the stained glass windows in the cafe. We also saw a special exhibition of manuscript documents from Roman times to the current century.

Sally took us to the Court House, Aboriginal exhibits in the National Gallery and we had lunch near the Sculpture Garden.

On the way back home we looked in at a Bag shop, Canberra baggage handlers having managed to break the wheels on my suitcase. We left with a case which turned out to be too small – will return it tomorrow and swap for a bigger one.

In the evening we all got together for a BBQ accompanied by a spectacular sun-set during the evening.

For Ken; I’m afraid Phil’s reply is unprintable, suffice to say that you should just look at the photos to see summer in Canberra!!

Post 19 – Canberra Day 1

We left cloudy, cool, wet Brisbane (I had to write that, Phil says) and arrived at sunny, warm Canberra and spent the evening, over a lovely meal, remeniscing and drinking beer. Phil had acquired a bottle of ‘Old Fart’ beer from Yorkshire which he had great delight in producing. Pictures of Group Captain Phil Edwards holding the bottle are below.

Post 18 – Brisbane

Today we said goodbye to Don after buying some Pure Wine Drops in the booze shop (a special order for a certain wine loving relative of Diana’s in New Zealand – ooops, there goes our offer of accommodation!) and headed south to Brisbane. The weather was absolutely foul for the journey, and on the motorway there was such an intense squallat one point that it was just like someone suddenly throwing a white sheet over the windscreen. However, we arrived safely at the B&B in Brisbane, Cream Gables run by a charming lady called – yes, you guessd it – Anne!

We went for a walk along the river grabbing a bite to eat on the way, then returned to the B&B to prepare for our flight to Canberra tomorrow and await Doris who joined us for a convivial dinner under umbrellas in the rain (see the photo below).

Post 17 – Maroochydore

After a hearty breakfast Don guided us on a driving tour of the Sunshine Coast, not living up to it’s name today. We went to the Maroochydore North Shore for a walk along the beach, the wind freshening and rain threatening all the time, conditions ideal for riding the surf on jetskis. Novotel resort was next for a refreshing fruit drink, and a quick look at the blog on one of the lobby computers.

We persuaded Don to show us the house he had looked at in Mountain Creek, but on the way a snack from a sandwich bar run by an friendly Essex Girl provided lunch (The propeller is from a ship wrecked here which gave it’s name to Dicky Beach – the Dicky bit, that is!). We found ‘Don’s House’ and photographic evidence is provided below. On the way back we called in on Don’s brother and his wife, Peter and Esme, at Pelican Waters for a chat over a coffee and cake (a diet is becoming necessary). Just after the arrival back ‘hime’ the heavens opened.

Post 16 – Bundaberg to Maroochydore

Having settled up at the motel we left Bundaberg with a strong recommendation from the manager to stop at Mammino’s ice cream parlour at Childers, and it was certainly worth it. On arrival the parlour wasn’t open yet but a little old lady came out to say that the girls who run it would open for us and to wait. It turned out that she was Mrs Mammino, one of the founders of the business, and she chatted until it opened telling us about her family and that she had thought that we were her long lost relatives expected that day from Sydney. The ice cream certainly lived up to expectations so next time you are in Childers give yourself a treat..

We arrived at Maroochydore to meet Don, now on his own, at the apartment we had booked for the two nights here. After catching up we went for a walk on the beach before going to the Surf Club, and a pub type meal in cacophonous surroundings!

Post 15 – Bundaberg (Bundy to her friends)

After a 5 hour drive we arrived in Bundaberg, completely missing heavy rain in the northern parts of Queensland today which seem to be following us down, and also not experiencing the record breaking cold weather in the south east corner (a tropical cyclone in Western Australia seems a continent away). It seems however that rain might be waiting for us in Maroochydore tomorrow.

Bunderberg however is our location tonight and a walk round the city centre reveals a neat, leafy, busy town with lots of the traditional architecture associated with 19th century prosperity.

Just over the road is an Italian restaurant which provided this evening’s meal finished off with an espresso, but it was agreed that a short black as per the menu was the equivalent, accompanied (Mark – see comments) by a Bundaberg rum – a combination I can recommend!

The following is a selection of views of the city.

Post 14 – Eungella to Yeppoon

Overnight last night thunder storms rumbled round the hills dumping large amounts of rain in Eungella much to the delight of the locals.

We set off at  9:45 for the five and a half hour drive to Yeppoon, east of Rockhampton. The drive was easy and with hardly any traffic on what is the main north/south road on the east coast. On several occasions I could see for miles in front and behind with not a vehicle in sight.

The motel is right on the sea front at Yeppoon, a laid back holiday area reminiscent of Maloolaba some years ago. After a Thai meal in the restaurant next door (bring your own grog) it is off tomorrow to Bundaberg.

Below are a few pictures of the motel and the adjacent beach, and some old tramp encountered on the beach.

Post 13 – Eungella

Post 13 – lucky for some….!!

After a little early morning rain (the first we have had since coming to Australia) the humidity has increased and according to wilting locals, made it the hottest day they can remember up here. I don’t know the altitude here but it is normally cooler than this (currently about 35 degrees).

It was supposed to be a day for a long walk but after considering the temperature and lack of correct footware it was felt that a more sedate 3 km walk through the forest might be in order. There are several short walks which were done consecutively to make a longer total. The forest is very dense, tropical and loud and at almost every step something scuttles away into the leaf litter alongside. On one of these occasions there was what I thought was a large lizard disappearing off the path but it made a lot of loud rustling and suddenly shot across the path 6 inches in front of my sandaled feet into the litter on the other side. It was a large snake, about 3-4 feet long, slate grey in colour and when we talked to a ranger later he said it was almost certainly a Coastal Taipan which are renowned for being perhaps Australia’s most venomous snake and third most poisonous in the world!! Perhaps the longer walk would have been better after all.

Back to the cabin for a soothing drink and housekeeping. Tonight the plan is to go and see the platypuses but …yawn!… who hasn’t seen one of them?. Later …. More platypuses were seen but the session was terminated when a big thunderstorm arrived!

Blog 12 – The Drive to Eungella National Park

‘…..you know how demanding visitors can be!’ (anon)

Today we said goodbye to the Jensens but not before taking a picture of their first hens egg from the three birds that they have in the garden. It is perhaps a bit small but it is perfectly formed – early days yet, plenty of time for them to get bigger.
It is always sad saying goodbye and we shall always be grateful for their hospitality over the last few days (and thank you Anna for giving up your bed for us – it was very comfy).

The journey from Townsville was uneventful (but the road house where we stopped for lunch at Guthalungra did the finest ham and egg sandwiches I have ever tasted) and we arrived 6 hours later tired and hungry so the plan now is to have dinner on site and chill out with a few drinks on the deck accompanied by cicadas and birds.

Post 11 – Charters Towers and Ravenswood

We headed out from Townsville on a day trip to the old mining towns of Charters Towers and Ravenswood. Charters Towers, once known locally as ‘The World’ due to the wide variety of nationalities there, is a lively country town and has many restored gold rush buildings which give a flavour of the old days of back breaking work and sudden, unimaginable wealth.

After lunch we headed off to Ravenswood, a town once busy but now passed by but being restored with some lovely old pubs and houses and a huge working gold mine on its doorstep. We paused at the cemetery to find that only a few people lived beyond 60 and several died as infants.

It was all thirsty work and we stopped at the Imperial Hotel for a welcome cold beer or two chatting to the landlady Di who was kind enough to show us some of the old bedrooms which haven’t changed since the 19th century.

Home then and out to a local pub (it’s all pubs!) for a good meal and an early night ready for our onward journey to Eungella National Park tomorrow.

Post 10 – Townsville (Paluma) 2

This morning Geoff and I decided to get rid of our stiffness from yesterday by going for a bush walk which invloved a trek to the edge of the plateau and a climb down a rocky path to a creek and waterfall in an idylic place full of birdsong and water – the sound of the insects was quite overwhelming. We loitered there for about an hour and then headed back, scrambling up the path to the plateau and back to the village through well worn forest paths.

After lunch on the deck we packed up and left, winding our way down the hill and away from Paluma, leaving the relative coolness behind (Paluma is almost 3000 feet above sea level) to once again reach sea level and the humid heat which is summer in Townsville.

The evening was spent at a BBQ with Judith’s and Geoff’s relatives.

Post 9 – Townsville (Paluma)

Judith and Geoff had arranged for us all to stay overnight at a cabin owned by a friend, in Paluma, high in the rain forest above Rollingstone, north of Townsville. To get there means a loooong drive up a very narrow winding road, the surroundings becoming more and more dense and eventually thick forest. It is a lovely area and the house is part of a small settlement in an important protected environment.

There are walks through the forest to the sound of constant bird song and piercingly loud rasping ringing of the cicadas but all around is debris from damage caused by cyclone Yasi of 2011. Many of the trees are damaged but there is a great deal of growth in the understory as new trees appear. Judith an Geoff took us on a couple of bush walks after lunch at the pub.

Post 8 – Malanda to Townsville

Today we drove from Malanda to Townsville but not until Ken successfully supervised the delivery of a 40 bale load of cane mulch for their garden. It was sad to say goodbye to Jane and Ken who had been such good hosts.

The trip South was via the waterfalls of Millaa Millaa, Zillie and Ellinjaa  and then to Rainforrest Canopy Walkway at Mamu. Following a stop at Cardwell for a meat pie and a cup of tea at the beach we reached Townsville (so good they named it twice!) where Judith and Geoff greeted us for a pleasant evening of catching up joined later later by their daughter Anna.

Post 7 – Malanda

Today was a ‘dam’ good day so we went to look at Tinaroo Dam and the lake. Tinaroo Dam is close to Kairi and the lake goes south east towards Yungaburra.

The lake is a great place for water sports and fishing and the rivers (creeks) around it are said to abound with Platypuses (but … yawn!… who hasn’t seen them?).

The afternoon was spent (1) watching Michael Clark get his 300 runs against India, (2) chilling out and (3) repacking suit cases ready for a quick getaway in the morning as Townsville is tomorrow’s destination.

The last picture is of Jane’s and Ken’s Brown Falcon which hunts on their land.

Post 6 – Malanda

Success at last with the Platypus, but lets start at the beginning.

Today was nominated Museum Day – so we went Herberton Historic Village where historic buildings from the locality have been moved complete, or dismantled and re-erected, all on a 2-3 acre site west of Atherton. It was really fascinating and each building represented a different aspect of the complete village, from a country pub moved on the back of a low loader, to very rudimentary station hands’ accommodation. Several shop premises were represented as well as a school and a vicar’s house.

The Mining Museum was next and then home to focus on the main event –
Platypus hunting – which was finally successful. The cute little chap paraded up and down in front of lots of excited Japanese tourists and more phlegmatic locals. See the pictures to prove it!!

Post 5 – Malanda

Sad news on the Platypus front – they were a no-show again tonight. The rather subdued crew repaired to Yungaburra’s Lake Eacham pub for a meal to commiserate with Jane who was understandably distraught.
The day (“Crater Day”) started so well with Ken collecting the Cane Beatles still on the veranda to bbq for breakfast (see photos) followed by a visit to the enormous Bromfields volcanic crater. It is about half a mile in diameter and is filled with a peat bog. We then moved on to a spectacular hole in the rain forest caused by an undrground gas explosion at Hypipamee. The path to the crater and back via the water falls reminded the writer of parts of the fondly remembered South West Coast Path in England. The afternoon was spent regaining our strength for the evening excitement with the Platypuses.

Post 4 – Malanda

We moved up to the Atherton Tablelands today along the Gillies Highway, a spectacular winding road with about 200 bends over about 20Kms with a 800 metre height gain – spectacular views and scary edges!

Ken and Jane are as usual wonderful hosts and are spoiling us rotten. Jane, having seen Platypuses at a particular place on the previous two evenings, took us  along with high expectations to try again but with no success – we decided that they were having a day off due to the New Year public holiday, so we will try again tomorrow night. They took us to see two Cathedral Fig trees in the rain forest near them .

Post 3 – Cairns

Arrived at Cairns, tropical, well manacured and pretty with a lively seafront Esplanade. The Hotel has lots of PNG associations – the lady who runs it, Rosemary, went there in 1978 and finished last year. This morning we will be fighting for self service breakfast with 16 PNG pastors in Cairns for a conference.

I have attached several photos taken on a walk round Cairns; if you are looking for a Didgeridoo you could do worse than try ‘Didgeridoos R Us’ in Shield Street.