I am Linda and along with my husband Richard and our dog Muffin we enjoy our summers on the UK's canal system

Thursday 29 February 2024

The BIG One - Days 17, 18 and 19

 Saturday 17th February - Taupo

A leisurely start to the morning before setting off to Huka Falls, which are just outside of Taupo.  The falls are a phenomenon of natural hydro power with more than 220,000 litres of water per second barrelling over an 11 metre waterfall.  It is pretty spectacular and the water is a beautiful colour.


We were booked on a river cruise in the afternoon so went off in search of somewhere to park up for lunch and wait.  We found the most amazing spot beside the river and sat out for a couple of hours, it was really lovely.  

 

After lunch we set off for the Aratiatia Rapids which is one of the most popular natural attractions in New Zealand’s North Island.  At three times during the day thousands of litres of water rush from the dam gates to transform the peaceful gully into raging rapids.  It was amazing.  The skipper of our boat trip said that the water is only let through for the tourists!  


It was then onto our trip boat where we cruised up the river to the base of the Huka Falls.  Sadly it was a bit of a scramble to try and get photos from the front of the boat


Back to the site for a quiet evening.













Sunday 18th February - Hastings


One of the places I have wanted to visit was Napier - the Art Deco capital of the world.  On February 3rd 1931 the town was razed to the ground by a huge earthquake.  A fascinating fact is that some 4000 hectares of today’s Napier were under the sea before the earthquake raised it above sea level.  Napier was rebuilt in the Art Deco style of the 1930s.  In 2007 Napier was nominated as a World Heritage Site with UNESCO.  As we drove into Napier we began to realise that something was going on as parking was backed up a long way from the centre.  Marine Parade, the main street, was blocked off and there were people everywhere.  We gave up at that stage and took a turning to Bluff Look Out.  We climbed up then saw a sign which said no campervans beyond this point, so parked up and started to walk.  It was at this point that I realised that I really wasn’t very well as the walking was making my chest hurt.  We eventually made it to the top but sadly it wasn’t a particularly good view - just one of the docks.  I completely forgot to take any photos.  Back at Kiwi we headed off to Hastings where we were staying.  The lady at the campsite said that today was the culmination of Art Deco week in Napier.  What a shame.



Monday 19th February - Wellington


After yesterday I knew that I had to do something about my cough.  The lady in the campsite office sent us off to the local health centre which was more like a small walk in hospital.  I checked in, paid $150 (£75) and was directed to the red seats.  I waited and waited and waited until I realised that people who had arrived after me were going to see the triage nurse. I was just about to ask if I had dropped off the radar when I was called in to see an English guy. I asked him where he was from and he said Keighley in Yorkshire. I said I had gone to school in Skipton and it turns out he went to the boys grammar school where I went to the girls high school!!  Anyway he did all the obs plus a Covid test. I then had to wait on the blue chairs. I soon got called to see a clinician but got turfed out of his room as he had to see someone else!  My old school friend saw me sitting there and said that he would see me as he was, in fact, a clinician. He checked my chest but it is clear but said I had obviously got a chest infection and went off to get some amoxicillin and paracetamol - for which I didn’t have to pay!  Poor Richard had been sitting in the van all that time.


Wind back to before we left the campsite when I noticed that we had no water - the pump had given up.  I phoned the rescue service and the lady said she would phone me back.  While I was waiting in the health centre she called me to say that she had found somewhere in Wellington that would try and help us tomorrow.


The day got worse as the sky clouded over and the wind got up.  It was a 4 hour drive down to Wellington and it was a tough one for Richard with the wind getting stronger.  I kept nodding off and would be woken up by Kiwi being buffeted about.


When we arrived at the site the wind was really strong and we were rocked to sleep!





Saturday 17 February 2024

The BIG One 2024 - Days 14, 15 and 16

Wednesday 14th February - Rotarua

An easy day today.


We set off to the McLaren Falls, no problems with parking today!  We had a lovely coffee in a cafe and walked to the falls which were only a 20 minute round trip.  This fall is a tall skinny one.  On our way out we found a second fall which was wider and tumbled down rocks - I can imagine that it would be pretty spectacular after heavy rain.  We saw a guy swimming in one of the pools.





A local couple we had met at the falls asked us where we were going next and when I said the Blue Spring at Putaruru, she said that the car park had been closed but there was another way only the locals know about. We set off only to find we were scuppered by a large log across the track!

We stopped for lunch beside a large stream and ate our sandwich on a picnic bench.  The stream was obviously popular with the local youngsters as cars kept arriving and disgorging its occupants who disappeared to a pool to swim.  Some were braver and jumped off an obliging log across the stream.



We should have been freedom camping in Rotarua but as I was still not feeling well we booked into a camp site for two nights so I could use my sleep machine.  I wasn’t ready for two nights of no machine.


Thursday 15th February - Rotarua


We were booked in for a visit to Hell’s Gate this morning, a geothermal spa.  It says on their website “the healing properties of the geothermal mud and sulphur mineral water have been used by local Māori  for over 800 years.  Open and clean your skin by lathering it in our unique mud before exfoliating with a soak in the sulphur spa.  Your body and soul will feel revitalised after this soothing experience “. Needless to say we didn’t do that though we did see people partaking of the “waters”.  The smell of sulphur hit us as we got out on the van and it wasn’t very pleasant.  We started off on a guided tour but the guides voice was so monotonous we gave up after about half an hour.  It is quite fascinating watching the earth bubble and the steam coming off the water.  One of pools was 98 degrees centrigrade and had a ph balance of 1, now that didn’t mean much to me but when the guide said that if you put your hand in the water it would strip the skin off it straight away!!  We followed the guide as far as the hot water falls which is the largest hot water fall in the southern hemisphere.  Apparently the Maori warriors would, when coming back from fighting, cleanse themselves in the mud then shower off under the waterfall.







In the 
afternoon domestic duties needed to be attended to, the washing doesn’t do itself.  We used the tumble drier for the undies but hung the rest out to dry which didn’t take long.



4pm saw us shut the van up and walk to meet a coach which would take us to Te Pa Tu, a reconstructed Māori village. The meeting point was a bit further than we thought but they very kindly held the coach for us.  When we arrived at Te Pa Tu we had the traditional welcoming ceremony with the warrior throwing down a welcome gift and daring our chief to pick it up.  I guess once upon a time a stranger would have been petrified at the sight of a Māori warrior with his eyes bulging, tongue hanging out and making an extraordinary noise!




We then three lessons on Māori culture high we found very interesting, at each station we were given an hors d’oevres which I don’t think were strictly Māori as one had feta cheese on it!  It was then time for the entertainment, singing and dancing and finishing off with a traditional Hakka.  Dinner was included in our evening and we shared our table with two US couples who were very interesting.  One couple seemed to do almost back to back cruises! The food was a fusion of varying cuisines but it really wasn’t to my taste though the pudding was lovely!





The coach driver very kindly dropped us off at the site which made our lives a lot easier.


Friday 16th February - Taupo


We needed to go to the pharmacy this morning to get me something for my cough, I was given some natural jollop - I only hope it works.


We drove out to Okere Falls where we watched white water rafters.  The first boat did it perfectly, the second lost two crew but the third overturned and lost all its crew - terrifying but they were all screaming with pleasure!  If you look closely at the photos you will be able to see two legs in the air!








We were going on a duck ride in the afternoon so we drove back into Rotarua and tried to find a parking place.  Government Gardens had been suggested to us and we got right to the end with nowhere to park when suddenly out of the corner of my eye I saw a young chap put his thumb up and went to remove a couple of cones.  Richard backed up and in we went - it was free too!

We had decided to have lunch out and found a place close to the duck depot.  It was called Mekong Buffalo but we weren’t sure if the food was strictly Vietnamese.  Richard had a curry and I had a wonderful sizzling dish of rib eye steak and vegetables.  I’m not really into spicy foods but this was seasoned to perfection for me.  


We went over to the duck depot only to be told that we would be the only two on the trip!  They did ask if we could move it until tomorrow but I explained that we would be out of town.  So off we set.  The duck is an original 1944 WWII amphibious landing craft and was very noisy on land and, sadly, we could hardly hear any of the commentary.  Once we got onto the water it was a different story and it was very peaceful and we could hear the commentary - I will call it a commentary but it was really the driver just chatting to us!  We went into three lovely lakes before back into town and, once again, being dropped off at Kiwi.








We then drove the 50 miles to Taupo

Friday 16 February 2024

The BIG One 2024 - Days 5, 6 and 7

 NEW ZEALAND – NORTH ISLAND

 

Monday 5th February - Auckland

 

We landed in Auckland about 1pm.  Neither of us had slept well, but I guess the adrenaline saw us through.  The flight had been fine but we so glad to get off.  My feet had swollen up even though I had compression socks on.  There is a long customs declaration form that you have to complete before entering NZ and I had heard real horror stories on Facebook about people being stopped and fined or having their goods taken away from them.  One of the things was that all medication had to in its original packaging and that each item had to be listed on the form - it didn’t unless there was over 90 days worth.  Pills for 2 people for 6 weeks in their original packaging took up a lot of space in the suitcase!  Anyway we went through the red channel as we had walking poles which I was worried about but all they were concerned about was the $7k of goods that I was bringing into the country, oops a tick in the wrong box, methinks!!

 

In the arrivals hall I bought a NZ SIM card to go into my old phone so we have free calls within NZ, we used it immediately to phone the hotel to arrange for the shuttle bus to pick us up.

 

Once in our hotel room we crashed out for an hour on the bed - we needed a quick recharge!  The hotel was out in the sticks a bit so we ate in the restauant, we both had steaks (Scottish of course!) which were excellent.

 

An early night was called for.



Tuesday 6th February - Auckland

 

We both slept well and felt quite refreshed. 

 

Today was Waitanga Day which is a public holiday.  It is to celebrate the day when the Māori Chiefs signed over NZ to the British in 1840.

 

After breakfast we took an Uber into Auckland.  We had been warned not to take a taxi as they are very expensive.  The concierge at the hotel had suggested that we go to the Quay as we said we like water.  It was lovely there and very hot.  We walked around for a bit then I saw an empty table in a restaurant overlooking the marina so we grabbed it.  The food was OK, I don’t think our stomachs knew what meal they were having just as our brains didn’t know what time it really was!!  We then walked round the marina and the photos below were all taken from our walk.

 

We took an Uber back to the hotel, and crashed out on the bed again!  As we had had a meal at lunchtime we shared a pizza for dinner in the restaurant.  

 







Wednesday 7th Frebruary - Paihia

 

Today is what the whole trip is about, driving a motor home round NZ.  The rental company sent a complimentary taxi for us which was very helpful.  We did the paperwork for the van, had a look round the outside then we went inside and I just said, I’m sorry but this van won’t work for us!  The two layouts shown on the website for the class of van we had booked were either an island bed or two singles.  This van had a French bed which meant that I couldn’t use my CPAP machine for my sleep apnea.  It was suggested that it was my fault for not telling them my requirements but I explained that the two types of bed on their website were not what we were being offered.  Off they went into a huddle and came back saying that they had a brand new van which we could have but not until Friday as it needed checks doing on it.  We could take the original van and then swap it over when we passed back near the depot on Friday, but we weren’t passing on Friday it would be Sunday, but jthey don’t open on a Sunday!  Another huddle and they came back and said it could be ready by 3.30pm in the afternoon!!  We jumped at it, they even lent us a car to go and get our shopping.  3.30pm saw us loading up the van and starting our adventure 😃

 

The journey up to Paihia wasn’t too bad except that is was getting near the rush hour and the motorway kept getting jammed up.  We finally arrived at our site at about 8pm.  I had phoned the site to tell them we would be late so they said we were on pitch 6, but when we got there the pitch was occupied so we had to go onto 7.

Thursday 15 February 2024

The BIG One 2024 - Days 11, 12 and 13

 Sunday 11th February - Thames

 

I woke up with a chesty cough, goodness knows where it had sprung from.

 

We had a long drive from Paihia in the north to Thames south of Auckland - 5 hours.  It was very pleasant, Richard drove and I coughed!!

 

When we got to Thames we started looking for a freedom camping spot.  Using one of the apps we found the most idyllic place, right by the sea overlooking islands.  We couldn’t believe our luck.  I sat down to get some blogging done but I couldn’t publish anything as the signal was too poor - there had to be one downside!  Richard cooked a BBQ and I made the chips!  We then settled down with the rest of the wine and watched the sunset - the first sunset I have seen for ages.








Monday 12th February - Whitianga

 

Our freedom camping didn’t work out very well 🙁  We happily plugged my sleep machine into the cigarette lighter with its nice long lead only to find that the 12v went off about 10 mins!  So I had to discard the machine however things got worse as I couldn’t sleep for coughing, a real smokers cough!  I think I finally got to sleep, exhausted, about 4am only to be woken up by a knock as the door at 6.30am by a man from the council asking if we had been freedom camping all night, Richard said that we had only to be told that we weren’t in the right spot!!  Apparently we had driven straight through the signs telling us all about freedom camping there and that we should have been between two arrows!  The fact that we were one of three vans, the other two being New Zealanders, made us realised that it wasn’t just us that was stupid!  The chap gave us an hour to move but it was two hours in the end.

 

We drove up the Coromandel Peninsula to the town of Coromandel where we stopped to get me some cough medicine.  It was a very pretty town.  Just to the north of the town was the Driving Creek Railway, an amazing little railway.  A guy called Barry Brickell bought the land in 1973.  Barry constructed the narrow-gauge railway to be all-weather, environmentally benign, aesthetically pleasing and economically sound.  The property had originally been mainly farmland with scattered scrub and wild pines. Barry wanted to restore the land to pre-colonial times which led to over 27,000 native trees being planted over a 30 years period.  A nursery was built to grow the thousands of native seedlings needed.  The railway was opened as a tourist attraction in 1990.  Eventually in 2003 the railway was completed to the top of the property and the Eyefull Tower was built giving wonderful views to the intrepid tourists!  We really enjoyed our trip on a very unique railway.

 

We then drove across the Coromandel to Whitianga but as we drove I began to feel poorly - I think a combination of coughing and no CPAP machine was all too much for me.  We booked into a site in Whitianga so we could have electricity and I took to my bed and stayed there.  I didn’t eat or drink a thing - just slept.  We had booked a boat trip to Cathedral Cove but I could not have done that than fly and Richard didn’t want to go on his own.

 












Tuesday 13th February - Tauranga

 

I slept right through until 7am from about 2pm yesterday!  I wondered if what I have is flu, it’s not Covid as I did a test.  

 

We set off and saw a sign to Hot Pools Beach so did a detour.  There were three car parks with the third being for the pools but at the second it said no motorhomes at the third car park so we turned round and stopped at the first car park and went for a walk on the beach and I paddled in the South Pacific Ocean!

 

We drove south to see a gorge but the car park was rammed so we gave that up as a bad job!

 

We carried on to Tauranga to visit Mount Maunangui however the parking there was crazy too.  We eventually found a space a long way down and pulled in.  Richard was worried that the rear corner was hanging over the cycle path but we set off to walk along the boardwalk, however I tripped over the kerb stone and fell, fortunately, onto sand.  Two ladies came over to help Richard get me up as, with having two replacement knees, it is very painful to kneel.  We treated ourselves to an ice cream.  We ordered two scoops each as we would do in England but one scoop was like an English two scoops!! We found a bench to sit on but it wasn’t in the shade and the ice cream melted very fast all down my clean trousers!  The ice cream was amazing though!

 

We had fun and games driving to our campsite.  The sat nav told us that she had found a quicker route and did I want to accept it - I said yes so we turned round and headed back the way we had come.  She then said she had found yet another quicker route so I clicked yes, and we turned round and went down the same road again - that was three times!!  At the third time of telling us about her marvellous quicker route I said no thank you and we continued on to the site.  We could have been going like that all night!

 

I cooked dinner but just felt so exhausted that I couldn’t eat much at all.  I went to bed about 8pm but didn’t sleep that well as Richard was coughing!  He’d obviously picked up my germs 😷