Sunday, March 31, 2019

Trip of a lifetime!

So what have we been doing over the last six weeks.. We have now done Del's life long dream of going to NZ and what a time we have had. It seemed the right time to go, when winter is at it's worse here in the UK, and it has been something we have wanted to do since we stepped on board Derwent6 over 10 years ago. We hired a camper van and we suppose you all want to see what we did, so it might just be quicker to post some notes of where we went everyday, on our trip to New Zealand 2019

Tues 5/2 - Dropped off hire car and took train to Paddington. Grabbed a coffee and then caught 17.30 train to Heathrow for 22.05 flight to Singapore. Great flight.
Wed 6/2 - Landed in Singapore and went straight to ambassador transit lounge for shower, change and freshen up. Visited butterfly farm and koi carp pond before boarding flight to Christchurch.
Thurs 7/2 - 18 degrees sunny - Landed in Christchurch. Such a chilled airport! No queues at immigration or customs, so easy! Caught shuttle to hotel Ibis, showered and changed and went out for walk. Hunger struck, so went to little high eatery for scrummy burgers washed down with rhubarb cider! Then grabbed a beer or two in the quirky Smash palace and then walked around cathedral square. Very poignant after earthquake. Started to flag so back to hotel and bed 6.30pm!
Fri 8/2 - 22 degrees sunny - cup of tea at 2.45am then back to sleep at 4am! Woke at 8am. Feels weird as not sure where the last three days have gone! Feels like we flew yesterday!! Up and out and walked to coffee laboratory in new regents street for breakfast. Walked through Spanish street then followed the river promenade to Canterbury museum. Then on to botanical gardens for coffee and a wander. Walked some more around the river Avon to quake memorial and bridge of remembrance. Back to hotel, had a nap, then out for dinner at Cook n with Gas. Got chatting to a couple, John and Jackie from the UK, on their last night in NZ, and went for a drink together to the Astro lounge next door, where there was some live music. This was great as it kept us awake! Crashed at 1am.

Sat 9/2 - 30 degrees sunny - Up early after late night. Packed up, checked out and walked to bus station. Caught bus to airport. We got a seat, but it filled up really quickly on route with back packers! Got to the airport and then called shuttle for Mauri Campervan for a lift to pick up point. Picked up camper and got a free upgrade to a 6 berth! First thing we did was go to Countdown supermarket for provisions. Grabbed quick lunch then hit the road! Drove scenic inland route to Lake Takapo. Really beautiful! Visited little church of the good shepherd and then managed to get spot to park camper. It was then time to sort out the van, putting shopping and clothes away. Tea was crusty bread, cheese and of course NZ sauvignon blanc! It started to get dark and also got really busy with everyone arriving to see the stars! Wonderful stars of the southern hemisphere and a real treat seeing the Milky Way! Slept lovely in camper until someone turned up at 3am to see the stars!!!! Woke again at 6am.

Sun 10/2 - 30 degrees sunny - Set off early, filled with fuel then stopped at scenic lookout at Lake Pakini for breakfast and coffee in van with a view!. Then drove on to Mount Cook, parked van in DOC (department of conservation) campsite, paid in honesty box and made some lunch. Afternoon spent walking a wonderful trail up the mountain to Kea Point. That evening we were once again treated to wonderful views of the Milky Way.

Mon 11/2 - 24 degrees sunny - Up and away by 8am, and drove to Oamaru. Walked around the harbour and watched the seals and penguin burrows, and then went to Café gallery for brunch of HUGE breakfast scone! Then on to Dunedin and the Albatross and Penguin conservation area. Booked in and then chilled for a couple of hours watching Albatross flying overhead! At 6.30pm went on Albatross tour, which was a video, talk and then walk to shelter. Saw loads of Albatross flying and also a Mum and her chick on the nest. Then quick change into warmer gear and at 9pm went to see blue penguins come out of the sea and into their burrows, magical! 

Tues 12/2 - 18 degrees little shower first thing - Up early for drive to Te Anua, a four and half hour drive. Stopped at Gore (the country music capital of NZ) for some food shopping and walked round lovely town and grabbed coffee and pasty. Lovely and sunny so able to sit outside in the sunshine. Then onto Te Anau, and just made it with fuel! Checked in at top 10 campsite. Great location, and went out to explore the town, and had a couple of drinks in the sunshine at red rock café before eating at the Fat Duck.

Wed 13/2 - 22 sunny - Left 7.30am for drive to Milford Sound. Stopped at Mirror lakes and Chasm.
View spectacular from top of Homer tunnel!
Arrived at Milford Sound and parked by airport and took bus to boat terminals. Chatted to Mitre peaks (who we had a boat trip booked with for the next day), because rain was forecast. We had the option to change our date/time free of charge, but after chatting with them decided to stick with our original booking and go in the rain! Walked around some trails taking photos and grabbed coffee in cafe. Got chatting to a couple sitting next to us, Greg and Judy, who were from Dunchurch! Checked in with camper van to the lodge at Milford Sound, fabulous setting! Early night ready for tomorrow
Thurs 14/2 - 16 degrees pouring hard! Storm like conditions- Up early and caught shuttle bus to boat terminal. Boarded boat and off we went! We stayed outside the boat the whole time! There were 400 spectacular waterfalls! We got absolutely drenched! It was a 2hr boat trip, pretty rough at times, and Al was glad she had taken Dramamine tablets for sea sickness!. It was absolutely spectacular, a real highlight. Back on land we walked to cafe to try and dry out a bit, enjoying the hot coffee and pie. Then caught shuttle back to lodge and changed into dry clothes, putting all our wet gear in the camp washing machine and tumble dryer. The sun came out in the afternoon, so we just sat and took in the view, Amazing! In the evening it was a walk over to Poi Poi cafe for Valentine’s Day meal, lovely! 
Fri 15/2 - 20 degrees and sunny - left early for drive to Queenstown. Stopped on Milford sound road at homer tunnel and knobs flat. Through Te Anua and stopped at riverside for the riverside cafe for brekky. Took scenic drive along lake Wakatipu with the devils Staircase and then drove to Franklin. Then onto Queenstown and checked into lakeside campsite. Walked into town, around beach street and the mall. Walked round harbour, and enjoyed happy hour in the black water bar before heading to Flames for eats. Then cocktails in rum bar Havana’s. Struggled up hill to bed!
Sat 16/2 - 24 degrees sunny - got up late, and after some toast in van we walked into town and booked gondola for stargazing. Did some shopping, walked on the beach and round local market. Winnie’s pizza for lunch, then ice cream at papadino’s. Yummy! Chilled in the afternoon sunshine. Went out and up gondola at 9pm. Watched the sunset and had some beers in bar and then went stargazing at 10.30. Amazing clear night! Fabulous! Bed at midnight.

Sunday 17/2 - 22 degrees sunny - Drove to Franklin and had fab breakfast in Odelay’s in Franklin town centre. Drove on to Arrowtown. Amazing place! Walked around the town and had a couple of beers in the Fork and Tap. So chilled! Drove to Shotover river to watch jet boats, but felt it was too expensive at $8 a minute! Back to Queenstown and walked down into town. Diner in public bar and kitchen with fab view of harbour. Finished with a couple of martini espresso as a warm up! Walked round the beautiful park at waters edge. Back to floating bar for couple of beers, then on to Blackwood for more beers, cocktails and live Irish music! Fab! Back at midnight.

Mon 18/2 - 22 degrees sunny- Up early for drive to Wanaka, via Cromwell. Walked round historic water front including coffee and bacon butties at the grain seed. Then onto Wanaka. Found campsite and then walked to lake with lone tree. Walked round town and along the shore. Couldn't miss happy hour in Speights Ale House, then huge burritos at the burrito wagon! Back to van and early night!

Tues 19/2 - 18 degrees, wet - Left early and drove to Fox glacier via Haast pass. Stopped for brekkie in van at scenic lookout and thought gas had run out! Carried on to Fox and stopped at first garage for petrol. They had no gas, so stopped at Fox to refill gas bottle. It wasn’t empty at all! It needed a new o ring. Del managed to get it working! Then it was on to Gillespie beach for camping. To get there we had to follow a dirt road for 30 mins which was so scenic with all the lush vegetation and we eventually arrived at the beach. No phone or internet! It was us and the sand flies!! We had a break in the weather so walked on beach after covering up and spraying insect repellent!

Wed - 20/2 - 16 degrees sunny spells and warmed up to 22 degrees - Left Gillespie’s beach via dirt road and stopped to take pics of fox’s glacier, then drove to Franz Josef. Checked into a lovely small campervan park right in the centre of Franz Josef and walked to Full of Beans cafe for brekkie. Then hiked to glacier from village that took 3 hours! Wonderful view and the sun came out! Amazing experience! After all that walking we managed to make it back for happy hour at the landings! Then walked back to Alice May for dinner. Yum! Crashed out!

Thurs 21/2 - 18 degrees, sunny spells - Set off today for Greymouth. Stopped at Hokitika for excellent sandwich at Hokitika sandwich company, then on to Shantytown. Couple of hours round there and then onto Greymouth. Explored the town and then parked at beach for the night and went to sleep listening to the sea.

Friday 22/2 - 16 degrees and rain turning to 20 degrees and sunny - CHANGE OF PLAN due to weather forecast being bad on Sunday. We decided to head straight to Kaikoura to try and bring our whale watching trip forward that was originally booked for Sunday morning. Headed off in rain across Lewis pass and emerged into glorious sunshine. Went straight to whale watching to see if we could book in early, and they said come back at 3pm and we will squeeze you in. Then drove to Donegal house Irish pub and booked a slot for that night in their free campervan park. Went back to whale watching at 3pm and was surprised to find that all the trips were cancelled due to strong winds outside the marina, so we booked a slot at 6.45am Sat morning and kept our fingers crossed that winds would be better. We then went to Kaikoura beach and watched the dolphins in the bay and walked around the town. That night it was drinks and food in the pub watching the rugby. Bed by ten as early start tomorrow.
Sat 23/2 - 20 - 30 degrees sunny - up at 5.30am and drove to whale watching with fingers crossed! On the board it said ‘sailing’ but strong sea sickness warning! We took our Dramamine and we were off! First we had a briefing, then bus to marina, then onto boat. Pretty rough seas! But saw 2 whales! Wow! Amazing! Dusky dolphins followed us on the return together with Albatross. Wonderful! Got back to van and had a quick breakfast and set off at 10.45am and drove to Blenheim along very scenic road, through several winery's and onto Taylor dam.

Sun 24/2 - 13 degrees and rain, brightening up to 18 and sunshine and showers - Drove to Nelson through the vineyards along very scenic and windy road. Parked in Nelson car park and walked around town. Went to Deville cafe for lunch, great spot! After lunch we drove along the Nelson quays. Drove back to Havelock and took scenic road to Picton. Stopped at double bay camping spot. To get there it was down a very steep dirt road, but ended up right on the beach. Great spot!

Mon 25/2 - sunny 20 degrees - Left double bay just after 11am, after breakfast on the beach. Drove scenic road to Picton and checked into top 10 camp site. Parked up and then got all our washing done! Walked into Picton along harbour. Called in to Thirsty pig for beer and nachos, then a couple of rhubarb ciders on harbour front watching the world go by. It was then off to DA’s Barn for last dinner on the South Island . Back to van and early night for ferry next day.
Tues 26/2 - sunny, calm and 22 degrees - up early, filled with water and set off for ferry. Checked in at 7.30am and boarded at 8.30am. Set off at 9am and sailed through Marlborough Sounds, amazing!

Headed out to sea and on to North island. Docked in Wellington and then drove to Evans bay Marina. Got one of the last free spots at 1pm! Made some lunch and chilled for a bit then got the number 24 bus into Wellington. Caught cable car to the top of the hill, and then walked round botanical gardens. Back into city and walked round Courtney place and then down to harbour for a beer, sitting outside in the sunshine. Then we walked up Cuba street and then went back to Courtney place for eats. We felt really tired so it was back to marina and bed by 9pm!

Wed 27/2 - very very windy, 18 degrees with sunny spells - We had had a nice long sleep followed by eggs and bacon for breakfast! We caught the bus into Wellington and went to Te Papa museum, Wonderful! Then walked to old St. Paul’s church and then caught a bus to Mirimar. Walked around but not much to see as we were too late for Wana caves. So had dinner at PK bar and restaurant, then caught bus back via scenic hilly route, back to Evans bay Marina!

Thurs 28/2 - 13 - 18 degrees sunny spells - Up early and set off for Napier,a 4.5 hour drive. Got to Napier in sunshine and found lovely free camping overlooking beach and sea. Chilled for a few hours and then walked into Napier at 5pm. Beers and Nachos sitting outside lone star in the sunshine, followed by dinner at the emporium, yummy. Walked back to van along beach and sea front..

Friday 1/3 - 22 sunny - caught the first sunrise for Mum’s Birthday today! Walked into town and took Art Deco city tour for a couple of hours. Then strolled around town and went to Mister D’s for naughty donuts! Rum and chocolate and Brandy and custard! Then walked along marine parade and along beach.

Sat 2/3 - 22 degrees sunny - We had a free day planned today, and decided to set off for Lake Taupo across the Thermal Highway. When we arrived there was an Iron Man competition going on in Lake Taupo and it was packed! So picked up some food and headed out to the Dam on the Waikato river. Watched dam open down the gorge and walked to lookout. Then drove to Huka Falls and then honey hive for honey tasting. Then drove to Orakei Korako Thermal park. Wow! Amazing colours and thermal activity. Sat by the lake with the water bubbling, and the sand was red hot! Stayed there the night all on our own, amazing!!

Sun 3/3 - 24 degrees sunny - woke up early and looked out our window. It was like something from the set of Jurassic park! The Thermal activity was amazing! Bought tickets at 8.50am and were the first ones across on the little boat at 9am. Had the whole park to ourselves! Wow! Felt so magical and mysterious. Walked around for a couple of hours then took the boat back. Loads of people had turned up by then. Sat outside in café, watching the park with coffee and cake, feeding the local sparrows by hand. We then drove into Lake Taupo and walked around town, grabbing lunch with a view of the lake at burger fuel. Later that afternoon we drove on to Whakaipo bay. We followed a long dirt track to loads of grass parking right next to the fresh water lake! Beautiful! Put chairs out but got too hot! Took chairs to lake to cool down and have a dip, lovely!

Mon 4/3 - 29 degrees sunny - Left early at 7.30am and drove to Waitomo Glowworm Caves. Arrived at 9.30am so managed to get on 9.45 tour to just beat the coaches! Saw loads of lovely Glowworms! We then grabbed late breakfast in a nearby café and met a lovely lady, George, who was travelling from the US. In the afternoon we drove on to Arapuni and found the lovely Arapuni dam and parked right next to lake! Wonderful! Sat in chairs in sun next to lake and then found out our water pump wasn’t working! So it was rolls for tea (not much washing up!) and early night!
Tues 5/3 - 29 degrees sunny - Up early and left 7.30 for drive to Hobbiton! Croissant and coffee in cafe and then went on 9.30 tour. Wonderful couple of hours in The Shire! Then drove to Matamata and had a walk around. It was so hot we drove straight to hulhul camping ground and got free spot by the lake, fantastic! The water pump was still not working, so phoned company and arranged for them to come and fix it tomorrow. Chilled with nibbles and wine watching waterskiing and jet skiing on lake

Wed 6/3 - 28 degrees sunny - Left at 9am and drove to Rotorua. Checked in to top 10 and waited for Andrew to arrive to fit our new water pump. In the meantime caught up with washing and we were all done by 1pm. Walked into town and had sandwich at Fat Dog cafe. Walked back via free thermal park and foot spas, Lovely! That night we were picked up at 6.25pm to visit the Tamaki Maori village, where we saw several performances, including the famous Haka,  fab! 

Thurs 7/3 - 26 degrees sunny and humid - woke up and decided on the day. Drove to Wai-o-Taupo thermal reserve. Saw Lady Knox geyser and walked around park. Then drove to Kerosene Creek and sat in our free hot spa and waterfall! Then back to holiday park via the redwood trees. In the evening we walked to the weekly night market. Amazing! Ate street food and then few drinks in bar with Brian the American barman.

Friday 8/3 - 21 degrees partly cloudy - Set off and drove to Okere Falls. Watched the river rafting at trout falls and then walked on to Okere Falls. We then drove on to Papamoa Beach. Got last camping spot at 1pm. Walked into town and grabbed some lunch. That evening we walked to the tavern to meet up with Ashley and Hayley, friends who had emigrated from the UK 15 years ago. Loads of beer and loads of catch up!! Lovely!

Sat 9/3 - 22 degrees and showers - met up with Ashley and Hayley at 9am at the coffee bar on the beach, then drove to theirs and then to the Mount. We walked round the Mount and then grabbed a refreshing beer in a bar. We had been invited back to their house for a lovely BBQ, and Lewis and Danny joined us as well. Super day! 

Sun 10/3 - 26 degrees sunny - Drove to Waihi to meet Marilyn and David (off nb Waka Huia) in their motor home, and Marilyn had made some lovely cheese scones and coffee! Afterwards we drove on to Pauanui. Parked in lovely spot by beach. Walked round beach to cave bay, wonderful! Then walked along the beach at sunset! Bed early as very early start tomorrow !
Mon 11/3 - 29 degrees sunny - Up at 5am and away for 5.30am. Drove to hot water beach for sunrise. Amazing! Dug our own hot pool, lovely and very unique!
Left 7.30am and drove to cathedral cove. Took the 1 hr 15 min walk to the cove via Stingray Bay, stunning! Sat on beach taking it all in, then walked back. Drove to Luke’s place for pizza and mussels and then on to Opito Bay via Otama bay and parked for the night at Matarangi boat ramp park, lovely!
Tuesday 12/3 - 26 Degrees sunny - up early and drove to Whangapoua and walked to New Chum beach, which took 40 mins. We had the beach all to ourselves and it was such a lovely beach!

Sunbathed and swam and then walked back. Then we drove to Coromandel and booked in with driving creek railway (Barry’s place), for 3.15pm.

Then it was into Coromandel town for lunch at UGU's, and had  mussels of course! Then back to train for a ride up the mountain. Afterwards drove to Waiomu and managed to squeeze in a spot for the night.

Wed 13/3 - 24 degrees sunny spells and cloudy - up early and drove to Piha Beach (with Lion Rock). Stopped at Bugger cafe for breakfast, then on past Auckland and onto Piha, via Green Bay. Checked into Piha domain motor camp. Got washing done then walked down to beach. Sunbathed and swam and then walked round the stunning bay.

Thurs 14/3 - 26 degrees partly cloudy - Left at 8.30 and drove to Wellsford via scenic road. Stopped in Peppers cafe for date scone and coffee, then drove on to Kauri trees. Walked round both of the huge trees, together with the four sisters. It was then on to Opononi for fish and chips. Couldn’t stay there the night so decided to drive to ferry and cross over to Kohukohu, where we stayed at Kohukohu motor camp, beautiful!

Friday 15/3 - 26 degrees sunny - Left at 8.30 and drove to Cape Reinga via 90 mile beach. Saw lighthouse, the colliding seas and Spirits bay. It felt a very peaceful and spiritual place. After some lunch we decided to drive on to Doubtless Bay via the huge sand dunes. Quirky little DOC site by the sea at Takerau beach, lovely! Dreadful news today about the Christchurch shootings, so thoughtful night listening to the waves

Sat 16/3 - 26 degree sunny spells - Left Doubtless and drove to Paihia via treaty grounds. Visited the museum, canoes and the 11am Maori show . This was very moving following the events of yesterday. Then we drove to Paihia and parked in Seaview motor camp. We caught the passenger ferry to Russell and had lunch in Hones Garden, wood fired pizza delicious! We then explored Russell, before catching the ferry back. Beautiful evening, so grabbed a beer overlooking harbour. We then found a bar with some live music to finish off the day.

Sun 17/3 - 26 sunny - Left Seaview early and traveled a short way to park on the beach for brekkie. Then drove round bay of islands and later stopped at lovely cafe at Waipu cove for coffee and bun. Drove on via lots of bays and stopped at Owera beach to catch some rays and take a dip in the sea. Then we drove off via coastal road to gulf harbour. Parked in car park overlooking the harbour, managing to get the last spot! Brilliant! Sat with a beer and nibbles watching the boats in the harbour coming and going, and watching the snapper swimming about.

Mon - 24 degrees sunny, cloud and drizzle at night - got up quite early and sorted out the van as it was being returned today. Left at 9am and drove to garage to fill with diesel and top up the gas. Then it was on to Maui to drop off and say goodbye to the van. We then caught cab to city centre hotel, Rydges. Checked in and then grabbed sandwich at Swanson sandwich cafe. We then went up the tower and after that walked down to viaduct harbour. Walked around and over to Wyham harbour district. Had a final beer in happy hour sitting in the sun. Then it was back to hotel and got ready to go out for our 36th wedding anniversary dinner. It had started to drizzle and we found a lovely cosy Italian restaurent, de Vinci, just round the corner, fabulous! Walked back to hotel and grabbed a Guinness in the Irish bar next door before bed.

Tuesday 19/3 - 24 degrees but damp and cloudy - Happy Anniversary to us!! Packed up and checked out then walked to Sunflower café for our last NZ breakfast of french toast, bacon and banana. Caught cab to airport, checked in and grabbed coffee waiting for flight. Landed in Changi 20 mins early, and went straight to ambassador lounge for shower. Then chilled with drink before flight to London
Wednesday 20/3 - 13 degrees cloud and sunny spells - landed at 6.35am after good flight. Cleared quickly and caught 8am train into Paddington. Tube to Euston and welcome home breakfast at Café Rouge. Caught 10am Virgin train to Rugby, where enterprise met us and we were back to D6 by 11.10am. Home!