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.

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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)!