Post 41 – Back Home Again (The Last Post!)

09:00 Auckland time on Wednesday 8 February 2012 :-

We left Fiona’s house in Auckland on a warm sunny morning and followed her to the airport for our flight home via Melbourne. The flight to Melbourne was uneventful and after a couple of hours there we boarded an Airbus A380B for the flight to London Heathrow. It was the first time for us to fly on this enormous aircraft and it’s smoothness and quietness were surprising, taking jet travel to a new level.

Following a 1 hour stop at Singapore we finally landed a shade early at 05:10 on Thursday 9th February at a freezing cold Heathrow. To say the words sub-zero is easy (unless you have just drunk a bottle of wine perhaps – no, I hadn’t!) but we were quite unprepared mentally or ‘wardrobely’ for the ferocity of the plunge in temperature. Our friendly taxi driver from Airport Cars (they have yet to be anything but totally efficient and charming) got us home almost 36 hours to the minute after our departure from Fiona’s house.

The window was broken in the computer room, seen immediately we entered the house but as there was no sign of entry or burglary we came to the conclusion having consulted neighbours that a deer had been tucking into our plants adjacent to the window in question and had somehow managed to break the glass with it’s antlers, perhaps having been startled by the reflection in the glass (must stop cleaning the windows). We saw Sally and Jim after lunch and reclaimed a fit and shiny looking Lucy the dog and there it is – all over.

Post 40 – Auckland

This was the final full day in Auckland, and of the holiday, and the weather put on a show – it was fine and hot all day.

We had a quiet day, filling the car with petrol and doing some last minute shopping in Howick in the morning. After lunch taken outside in the sunshine, we did some illicit sunbathing – Fiona was at work so wasn’t around to stop us!

We all stayed in for our dinner this evening, and had an early night before our travel back to the UK tomorrow.   No post tomorrow.

Post 39 – Auckland 3

Today was a public holiday (Waitangi Day) and instead of going to Waitangi to throw eggs at the Prime Minister we went for a day out to the island of Tiritiri Matangi (Tiri for short). This is a smallish island which has been set aside for reforestation and removal of introduced predators (dogs, cats, rats, mice, ferrets, stoats, possums and unnecessary humans) so that flora and fauna can be returned to a pre-human state. The result is that trees now almost cover the island and threatened bird life thrives as it once did all over New Zealand.

Fiona’s neighbours Ray and Barbara were prime movers in the restoration of the Island, Ray having been the last lighthouse keeper on the island. The substantially volunteer nature of the restoration has become a model for other projects of this nature.

Back home a little sunburned (!) we went for a very good spicy ‘Fusion’ Chinese meal, and so to bed.

Post 38 – Auckland 2

Today was a relaxed sort of day, warm (UK readers please note!) and partly sunny.More work was done on the wi-fi system in the morning and then we gad a nice little walk along the Mangemangeroa Estuary. Earlier we had a visit from a friend of Fiona’s called Morag, and her husband Paul, who are planning to move to East Dorset/Mid Dorset area of the UK, to get some advice.

More odd jobs followed after lunch and then we were off to Fiona’s sister’s house for dinner. Meredith and Geoff have a lovely big house on the outskirts of Auckland and Geoff is a keen Saloon Speedway racer, showing us videos of his latest spectacular crash. He also started up his car in the garage to remind the neighbours that he was still around!

We had a lovely meal and the normal group shot on the deck with Izzie their friendly dog in attendance.

Post 37 – Back to Auckland

Today was the last day of the tour south of Auckland and we left Te Kuiti near Waitomo and started our journey ‘home’ to Auckland, but first we had decided to look at Kiwis again, this time at Otorohanga. We saw two kiwis, and several rare New Zealand birds but I personally hate seeing things like falcons confined to a relatively small enclosure. Having said that I’m sure they do valuable work in the conservation of rare species.

We arrived back at Fiona’s house and spent the afternoon catching up with washing and trying to relocate her wi-fi equipment to a better location. Julia from next door and her two dogs came in and caused a bit of havoc fighting over a ‘woof-woof’.   No takeaway tonight for a change, just Fiona’s excellent home cooking, plenty of wine, and lots of chat.

Post 36 – Waitomo

This morning saw us heading for Waitomo. Not having been to this part of NZ before it was a surprise that the scenery was so dramatic and alpine. At one stage we passed along the gorge through which the river Waikato flows into lake Whakamaru. It is full of steep hillsides covered in pine forests punctuated by cliffs and rocky outcrops.

Arriving just after midday at our motel we left our bags there and went to see the caves at Waitomo. There are three main caves and we chose the ones discovered by a Maori called Aramui while hunting with his dog which found a pig and chased it into a previously unknown cave. That was 1910 and it has been open to visitors ever since.

Home then for another takeaway, this time Chinese.

Post 35 – Rotorua

We had a full day today but it started off with a bit of a disappointment, for me anyway! The first port of call was going to be the site of filming Hobbiton in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy but we discovered on arrival at the office in Matamata that it would mean going on a coach journey with a bus full of bored looking Chinese people to a private farm where the village was alledged to be. We decided to pass on that, not having the 4-5 hours it would take to spare.

On then to book into the motel at Rotorua, and then to the recently opened Skyline Cableway and Luge run, up a mountain on the outskirts of Rotorua. If you are ever in Rotorua this is a must. You go up in a gondola, go down the mountain on a luge run (plastic trollies with rudimentary steering and breaks, on a concrete runway), returning to the top on a ski lift. The luge run is EXCELENT – if you elect to take two runs you start on a ‘nursery slope’, being promoted to a much faster track on the second run. It really is great fun!

Much more sedate was our guided tour of the hot springs and geysers of the Maori village on the hot springs site. Then back to the motel for take-away fish and chips.

Post 34 – Tauranga

We left Whitianga today after a trip to the library to send yesterday’s blog and headed for Katikati. Here there are lots of murals painted on nearly every available large blank wall. They are all numbered and I guess that the information centre has a list of murals for you to find; I saw several groups visiting each in turn, taking a quick picture and racing off to find the next. Perhaps there was a record time they were trying to beat.

Tauranga is a large bustling port and has grown enormously since we last visited 4 years ago. Needing a bit of exercise we circumnavigated Mount Maunganui at the head of Tauranga harbour, about a 5km flat walk with lovely views of the rocky coastline surrounding the mountain on a lovely hot, breezy afternoon.

After a hearty meal at the ‘Horny Bull’ overlooking the harbour, it was back to our comparatively luxurious unit at Macey’s Motor Inn.