A Travellerspoint blog

September 2015

Taking the Road North (again)

Sunday 27th September 2015

sunny 18 °C

It was time to move on again and so we put our packing routine into action. This has now become a well rehearsed activity. Any clothes still out back in packing cubes (these have turned out to be invaluable); cubes and wash bag back in rucksack, photography equipment and electricals into their packs and into my day pack. You get the score, having the routine certainly makes something that could be a bit of a chore into a quick and pretty painless job. This is made even easier by the fact that we are just about to pick up a car that we will have for the next three weeks, so some things like my walking boots can stay in the car boot!

Having checked out of our room and left our bags in reception we made the ten to fifteen minute walk to pick up our hire car. We had to walk pass the Sky Tower and noticed that people were still happily jumping off.

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The car pick up went smoothly, and this time we were given an almost brand new Toyota so were pretty happy. Once the car was sorted out and we had been back to the hotel to pick up our bags we were on our way. We were driving north to the Bay of Islands for a few days, but en-route we had arranged to meet Sarah an ex work colleague at Browns Bay. This was a short hop over the bridge and just under half an hour up the coast road. When we arrived although I saw Sarah just going into the cafe where we had arranged to meet, we couldn't find any parking. In the end I nipped out and spoke to Sarah and she was able to direct us to another car park. We had some lunch and Sarah and I a glass of wine. It was so lovely to have a catch up and she also gave us some advice about things to see and do in North Island. The time went really quickly and after about an hour and half or so we thought we ought to get on our way and so sadly we said goodbye to Sarah.

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The rest of the journey, travelling up near the east coast, should have taken us about three hours. There were indications on the sat-nav of delays or possible road blockages. The motorway turned out to be closed and rather than take the west coast road which would have added an hour onto our journey I was pretty sure we could find a way through which we did. Unfortunately what we didn't realise is that the problem was actually on the road that the motorway fed into, which was blocked due to a milk tanker having rolled over in the early hours of the morning injuring the driver quite seriously and depositing milk (which soon solidified) onto the road. At this point the only diversion was up to the nearest village and then about 20 kilometres along a dirt track. Previously we had kept way from such roads but this time we had little choice. There were hundreds of other cars having to take the same route, all sending up clouds of dust.

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In the end it was quite good fun and no damage was done to the car but I think it was tough driving for Nigel and I don't think either of us are keen to repeat the experience.

In the end the journey which should have got us to our destination in Paihia by about 5pm resulted in us arriving at about an hour and a half later. Fortunately the clocks had gone forward by an hour the previous night and so it was still just light, so we were able to meet our host Helen and check in before it got dark. We could just see the view over the bay which boded well for the next day.

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We hadn't got any food with us and we were both feeling a bit too tired to fancy going out to eat so we ordered a Thai take away which we had delivered to out lodge. The room was very well equipped and in a lovely setting so I went to bed looking forward to the days ahead.

Posted by Gill's Travels 15:18 Archived in New Zealand Tagged beaches new_zealand bay_of_islands Comments (0)

Perspectives on Auckland

Saturday 26th September 2015

sunny 17 °C

A good nights sleep did wonders for our morale and we woke up really looking forward to our day in Auckland. One of the things that I was hoping we might be able to do was to go on a sailing trip from the Maritime Museum. We tried booking on the Internet, but given that we were trying to do this last minute in the end Nigel rang them and secured the last two places. We hadn't got any food and so we had to forego breakfast for the time being, hoping we would be able to get something down by the Marina. We left our hotel and walked the mile and a bit, conscious that the walk which was downhill all the way would mean a bit of a hike back up. We got down to the museum and collected our tickets for the boat trip and then went into their waterside restaurant and bar called The Crew Club. We explained that we were pushed for time and ordered some brunch. It became clear that we were not going to get our food in time. In the end we spoke to the manager who said that we wouldn't need to pay for our coffees (or the food which was in the process of being cooked) and suggested we came back later when "they would make sure we had a lovely lunch". We decided to go with that and went to get on board our boat the Ted Ashby.

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Departure was delayed a little awaiting for the firing of the midday cannon which was done with great anticipation but not much spectacle. Once the crew had manoeuvred the boat out of the harbour, with help from some of the passengers, the sails were raised.

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Sadly there was not enough wind for us to travel without engine power. We travelled the short distance downstream under the main Auckland Bridge, and could see some brave/ foolish souls bungee jumping underneath.

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The particularly intrepid jumping low enough to have a dunking in the river. The crew then turned the boat around and tried to catch enough wind to be able to have us fully under sail, but sadly we moved not much more than a few feet so we had to revert to engine power again. Being on the boat gave us a great view of the city skyline and it was lovely being under sail even if we did need a bit of assistance.

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Once we returned to the harbour we went and had a delicious lunch at The Crew Club. We weren't sure what if anything they did to make up for the brunch issues, but we were happy with the meal and service, and left feeling full and pleased we had given them a second chance. We hadn't yet had a look around the Maritime Museum so we took the opportunity to do so and really enjoyed the exhibits relating to both the early Polynesian settlers of New Zealand and those that came out from Europe in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Having seen the city from the water we also thought it would be good to see it from the air. We had booked a "dessert table" at the Sky Tower for 10pm, the only type of table they had left, but decided it would be good to go up in the daytime as well. The tower is 328 metres tall from ground level to the top of its radio mast and as such is the tallest man made structure in the Southern Hemisphere (Melbourne's Skydeck at 285 metres does has the highest public viewing point though).

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As is the way with these attractions, the Sky Tower has its own unique features including the sky walk and the sky jump. The latter involves jumping off the tower from 192 metres above the ground in an upright position (no bounce back up as with a bungee). Watching people falling past the windows from the observation deck was scary enough for me.

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We ended our time up the tower in the cafe/ bar having a cocktail and watching the sun go down.

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We made the walk back to our hotel to relax for a while and then got ready to go back to the Sky Tower for our desserts. Included with our table reservation was the opportunity to go back to the observation deck and see the views after dark.

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We then went to the revolving Orbit restaurant where we had a glass of champagne each, then I had a delicious chocolate dessert and Nigel had the cheeseboard all finished off with an Irish Coffee. The food was delicious and it must have been about 11:30 by the time we got the taxi back to our hotel. It had been a great evening at the end of a lovely day.

Posted by Gill's Travels 13:12 Archived in New Zealand Tagged bridges buildings new_zealand Comments (0)

Introduction to New Zealand

Friday 25th September 2015

sunny 14 °C

It was sad to have to leave Australia today, although it was exciting to be travelling to New Zealand. We had to leave the hotel just before 9am in order to make the short drive to Cairns Airport, return our hire car and check in. This all went without a hitch although we were a bit surprised to be asked at the desk how long we were going to be in New Zealand and our date of departure. This meant pulling out a whole load of paperwork as neither of us was able to provide this information from memory. We had time to get some breakfast before going to the gate and boarding our plane. Unusually for us we were in central aisle seats, I guess we just didn't think to ask when we were checking in. This meant no aerial photos, in fact for the first time since we left the UK i didn't take any photos today apart from a couple of our room.

I sat next to a woman that I would estimate was probably 10 to 15 years older than Nigel and I, and I could just tell it was going to,be an eventful flight from the start. She didn't seem to understand about staying in her seat while the seat belt sign was on, so during a bit of turbulence she just got up a wandered off to the toilet. I felt quite sorry for her because she must have had a different grade of ticket to us as when we were brought a meal she was given a card to choose a snack that she would have to pay for. I am not sure whether she even had any money, but it felt a bit awkward to offer to pay for her. In the end she never did get any food. Everyone that was staying in New Zealand rather that getting a connecting flight had to fill in an entry card. To be fair it was a bit of a pain to fill in, and the print a bit small, but the woman was really struggling. I was pretty sure she wasn't able to read the text so I offered to lend her my reading glasses as I had filled in my form by then. She seemed to be able to understand a few bits but was still struggling so I helped her and told her what she needed to put in where. It was even more problematic when it came to her completing the reverse side with the declarations. At one point she started to tick off and fill in bits on her boarding card as if that was the entry card, until I gently stepped in. I wasn't even sure if I was allowed to help her answer these questions, so in the end I asked if it would be useful if I got one of the cabin staff to help her. She agreed to,this, but still continued to try and struggle on whilst she was waiting for help. By this time I had retrieved my glasses so was able to see the film (Far From the Madding Crowd) that I was trying to watch. I was totally confused by the woman, she was really friendly and nice, but acted as though she had never flown before. She told me at one point that she had been in Australia for four months, if so then almost certainly she must have flown there.

By this stage we were approaching New Zealand and the landing was a little bumpy but not too bad. I concluded that I don't like not being able to see when we are coming into land, another disadvantage of having a central seat. It was ironic because the plane arrived ahead of time, and we got through passport control and baggage reclaim pretty quickly and then we were in the queue for bio-security for over an hour. We had made some declarations on our cards as we had our pack of tea, we had been into wild areas (the Daintree) and the most bizarre question of all, yes we did have shoes we had worn outside! In the end declaring things seemed a positive move, because despite queuing with everyone else when we eventually got to the desk we were allowed through the green channel whereas most other people seemed to have their bags X-rayed as an additional precaution.

We decided to get the shuttle bus to our hotel, bought the tickets and then had to wait for nearly 45 minutes for one to arrive. By the time we got to our hotel it had taken us nearly as long to get from the plane as it had to fly from Cairns to Auckland. We were very glad we bought snacks at the airport as by the time we had checked into the hotel neither of us wanted to go out to eat.

Posted by Gill's Travels 02:33 Archived in New Zealand Tagged australia new_zealand Comments (0)

The Last Few Hours in Oz

Thursday 24th September 2015

sunny 27 °C

Sadly today we were having to leave the Daintree and drive back to Cairns in preparation for our flight to New Zealand tomorrow. We had time for breakfast at the lodge before checking out and getting on our way. The drive to Cairns was only about a two hour drive and 75 miles in distance. We had talked about visiting the Daintree Discovery Centre previously but had not had time, so we decided to spend a couple of hours there before lunch. It was another raised rainforest walkway, but despite having visited a couple of these further south, it was worth visiting as each one is different depending on the local flora and fauna. It is also on a cassowary corridor so there was the potential to see more of them. The centre gave out audio guides which gave lots of information about the plant life and animals and you could also select an indigenous commentary which told of how aboriginal people interact with nature, the use of plants for food and medicine and the like. The centre has a large tower that takes you high up into the rainforest canopy and it was fascinating seeing the different types of flora and fauna at each level.

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Once we had finished walking round the centre we had a light lunch before continuing towards the Daintree ferry. Whilst we were waiting to board a guy approached the car and said that there was a crocodile on the far bank, but much as I looked I wasn't able to see one. It was a reminder though of the potential presence of these dangerous animals. From the south bank of the river it was a straightforward journey towards Cairns. The scenery was beautiful and we were a little more able to appreciate it given that we were under less pressure for time than when we drove north a few days earlier.

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We stopped briefly at Rex Lookout a few miles short of Cairns, which gave beautiful views of the coastline.

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Once we arrived in Cairns we managed to find our hotel and checked in and got our bags up into our room. We needed to do some washing and fortunately there was a laundry room so we loaded up a couple of machines which did the job quickly, and whilst the stuff was drying we went to explore the seafront and the town. We were so surprised and disappointed to see that there was no real beach to speak of. Reading an information board it was apparent that the white sand that fringed this bit of coastline was destroyed by over dredging early in the 20th century. Now the beach is replaced with a boardwalk, a tiny town beach and an artificial beach/ lido.

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We were so pleased that we had decided to spend three days a few miles north a Kewarra Beach rather than in Cairns. As we walked along the sea front it was clear that the whole resort was a bit tacky, with soulless restaurants and bars and gift shops. We decided to go back to our hotel and eat there ordering from room service.

Once we got back to our hotel somebody had taken our laundry out of one the dryers, and another person was moaning because our clothes had dried quicker than the standard time and we hadn't taken it out of the machine. Nigel said the man looked even more disgruntled when I took each piece out and fold it before putting it away, he clearly thought I should have just pulled it all out a once and stuffed it in the bag. Just one of the minor irritations of doing your washing in a communal laundry. Dinner was pretty good though, and we got a few bits ready for our departure in the morning and had a reasonably early night.

Posted by Gill's Travels 01:06 Archived in Australia Tagged beaches trees australia cairns daintree Comments (0)

Things Wild and Wonderful

Wednesday the 23rd September 2015

sunny 28 °C

Having spent yesterday exploring the Daintree south of where we were staying, today we had decided to go north. The tarmac road ends shortly after Cape Tribulation so we drove there and made that our starting point and then worked our way back south. Because of the uncertainty about the northern beaches we chose to just visit rather than take the risk of encountering any of the potentially dangerous wildlife that can inhabit the waters, such as sharks, salties (saltwater crocodiles), stingers (box jellyfish) and the like. The beach was incredibly beautiful, one of those places that can touch your soul and never leave it. We walked there awhile, taking photographs as we went.

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There was a sandbank shortly out to sea, and having observed other people wading in the waters I knew that it was shallow enough to paddle out in my shorts. I was hoping there might have been some coral in the shallow waters but I didn't see any where I was walking. It's a good job I didn't linger too long or I might have needed to wade rather paddle back. As it was I was rather damp by the time I got back to where Nigel was waiting for me on dry land.

We had a closer look at the mangroves that fringed the beach and having been briefed by Dan on much of the life cycle of the trees yesterday we almost felt like experts looking out for the buttress roots, breathing roots, seedlings etc. We then made our way from the beach up a short board walk up to a lookout overlooking the bay.

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It was so beautiful that I could have happily stayed all day, but as with everything on this trip there was a compromise to be had between what we saw, and how long we saw it for. It was now approaching lunchtime, and as the road was slow and winding and the eateries a little spaced out, we stopped at a cafe called Whet and had a delicious lunch.

Although we had done a number of rainforest board walks there was one en-route that was listed as a botanical walk and had been recommended to us by our hosts. We were really glad that we did because much of the walk took us right into the impenetrable parts of the mangrove swamps in a way that would be almost impossible if one was walking on the ground.

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We also saw a strangler fig that had completely taken over a tree and eventually killed it. I thought was a great walk although it has a bit of a spooky atmosphere. From there we carried on south to Thornton Beach. The first spot we settled on was a bit noisy from a local cafe so we moved to a quieter spot and I got changed into my swimming costume and went for a deep paddle.

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As there were not that many people around on that specific bit of the beach I was a it unsure about the safety, particularly in relation to sharks and stingers. Nigel and I then just sat and relaxed for a while before we continued on in the direction of our accommodation.

Perhaps the most exciting thing that happened that day was seeing a cassowary. Nigel spotted it in a river bed and kindly turned the car around so we could have a closer look. I wouldn't have normally got as close as I did but I was standing in relative safety on a bridge more than a metre above the river.

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Nevertheless I still kept my distance and didn't stay near it for too long. We just made two more short stops, one at a tree plantation where we bought a packet of Daintree's very own tea.

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Finally we stopped off at one of Daintree ice cream makers and sampled their fruit based products going for the combi tub of the day which included passion fruit, pineapple, jack fruit and wattle seed ice cream. All were absolutely delicious, and it was really nice to see much of the fruit growing there on the farm. By this time we were pretty tired and were quite happy to return to our lodge and spend the rest of the evening in our room and the restaurant.

Posted by Gill's Travels 01:35 Archived in Australia Tagged beaches ocean australia daintree cassawaries Comments (0)

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