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Not Everthing that is Gold Glistens!

Monday 5th October 2015

sunny 18 °C

It is time to move on again today; we are leaving Tairua and going to Tauranga, just under 80 miles further south. One of the things we had wanted to do whilst we were in Tairua was walk up Paku Hill from where we had been told there was a great view of the coast. We had another great, if slightly novel breakfast at our bed and breakfast and it was nice to be able to chat to our hosts for a while and to find out a little more about their lives. They told us how they used to live in Taupo where Colin was a farmer and engineer. They sold up and came to the Coromandel for their retirement, and Colin then built their lovely home with a view to running the B & B business. They are now only open for about 5 months during the summer. We were grateful that we got to stay there after our previously booked accommodation passed us on, having decided they wanted to go away themselves. Once we had settled up and checked out we drove the short distance to the hill.

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To make the climb easier we were able to drive about half way up to where there is a car park. The climb is quite steep in places, mostly with inclines and steps but near the top there was a few feet over rocks. We could tell the view was going to be great as we climbed up but it exceeded all our expectations once we got to the very top. It was still a little bit hazy but we had a stunning view of the harbour.

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A man offered to take our picture and I got talking to a lovely New Zealand woman who was there with her husband and children. It became a apparent that this was a place people returned to time and again if they had the opportunity. Once we had taken all the photographs we could find a reason to take, we started the climb back down the hill, with some children scampering down behind us. It really struck me that there is must be a time when one makes the transition from not worrying about falling over to it being a major preoccupation; is this a gradual process or does it happen at a certain age of maturity, I am not quite sure?

Once back at the car, we set our destination on the sat-nav and got on our way. It was lovely to see that a lot of the deciduous trees were coming into leaf; a real sign that Spring is here.

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Colin had also suggested that we stop and take a look at an open cast gold mine at a place called Waihi which was about half way to Tauranga. I had done a bit of research and found out that there was also a new museum dedicated to the mine and the men who worked there. We were able to find the museum quite easily as it was overlooked by a pump house based on the traditional ones found in Cornwall, although this one lacked the romance of English predecessors having been built out of concrete rather than Cornish stone.

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As the museum was celebrating its first year of opening we were able to get in at half price. It was very interactive and good fun. We were able to get involved in a mock drilling and blasting. There was also a great Lego model of a mine that made me think of my son Adam.

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I was staggered to find out that they mine 100,000 ounces of gold and 700,000 ounces of silver a year with a value of 3 million New Zealand dollars a week or over $150 million a year. I worked out that the gold is the equivalent to the weight of 1 small adult a week. Perhaps not surprisingly they won't tell you how they get it out of the town although I did find out that it goes out as a powder and is smelted in Perth, Australia. My theory is a small underground train, but Nigel just keeps laughing at my proposal. Interesting to ponder on!

After we had finished looking around the museum we then went to look at the mine which is massive

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They had a slip on the north wall earlier this year and it looks as though they have suspended mining for the time being whilst further investigations are taking place. Slightly strangely it would appear that the mine was bought a couple of months after the collapse, particularly given it only has a few more years licence left to mine. There was also a great view of the town from the pit rim.

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It had been a really interesting stop, one we were really glad we had made. The rest of the journey was uneventful and not particularly exciting. We were a little disappointed when we arrived at our Tauranga bed and breakfast, as despite its name Seascape it had no sea view. I also came to the conclusion that I dislike the lack of privacy and the sense of intrusion you get from staying in someone else home. The place had great reviews but didn't really do it for us. We promptly changed a couple of our future bookings going instead for hotels/ apartments. In the meantime we tried to make the most of where we were, and a bonus was that we had a lovely meal in a nearby restaurant that evening.

Posted by Gill's Travels 17:39 Archived in New Zealand Tagged new_zealand tauranga gold mine tairua waihi Comments (0)

A Tour Round the Coromandel

Sunday 4th October 2015

semi-overcast 17 °C

We only really had one day in the Coromandel so I wanted to make the most of it. We had seen a leaflet for a boat tour that departed from Hahei beach which was about half an hour up the coast from where we were staying. Our hosts kindly rang up and booked this for us and all we needed to do was leave just after 9am in order to arrive the required 15 minutes before departure. The boat was a Rigid Inflatable Boat or RIB (according to Nigel) capable of seating ten passengers although there were only eight on our trip. Once the boat was launched, we had our life jackets on and shoes off, we waded into the rather cold water up to our knees to climb aboard.

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We starting off going north to have a look at Cathedral Cave before we were taken into deeper water and then through our first sea cave. We then went up close to some dramatic sail shaped rocks at one end of Moteuka Island.

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We went in several more sea caves and had some great views of the coastline

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but probably the most dramatic point of the trip was going inside a blowhole cave that has a huge gaping whole with trees growing round the rim. Sadly it wasn't long before the hour long boat trip was over. We spent a little bit of time exploring the beach whilst our sandy feet dried off and then went for a coffee by the harbour.

We hadn't decided definitely what we were going to do next, but I was keen to see a bit more of the Coromandel and so we headed towards the town intending to catch the 2pm train at Driving Creek which is just north of the town. The railway is the lifetime work of one man; engineer and potter Barry Brickell who spent about 32 years building the railway. Initially this was just to move clay from the pit where it was dug to his studio, but he carried on laying track and building locomotives. It was opened to the public in the main to generate an income and keep the bank manager happy. In order to gain height on the hillside there are two spirals, several narrow tunnels and a number of reversing points.

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Much of the line is decorated with bits of pottery and there is evidence of the man's humour everywhere, including the naming of the observation tower at the top as the Eyefull Tower. It was a great ride through the forest, very good views from the top

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and lots of information about the flora and the replanting that has taken place including a large number of Kauri trees. It was also really interesting hearing about this eccentric man. When we got back down to the bottom station we had a look in the shop and it was nice to be able to buy some pottery from the guy who drove our train.

We now needed to start making our way back to Tauria. We stopped at a couple of viewpoints including one at Kuaotunu beach. The weather had become very stormy and the light over the sea was magical. Some fishermen were trying to get a small boat launched and I didn't envy them going out in that weather.

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We had also been advised to have a look at a place called Lonely Beach which had a headland/ lookout above at a place called Shakespeare Cliffs.

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We had started walking to the beach but carried on up, walking rather than taking the easier option of driving. Our final spot for the day was a visit to Hot Water Beach. This is a popular tourist attraction in the area for the short period of time (an hour either side of low tide) when geothermal hot water bubbles up out of the sand. Most people either bring a spade in order to dig a pool which then fills with the warm water, or they hire one from a nearby cafe. We arrived quite late, although still within the recommended two hour window, and it wasn't long before sunset. This meant that there were already quite a lot of people that had dug pools in the short area of beach that has this phenomena present, so we were able to make use of one that someone else had dug. I had forgotten to bring a change of clothes so I just sat on the edge of a pool but with my feet in the water.

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It was great fun having a battle trying to keep the incoming tide out of the pools. We had to be careful though as the water was hot enough to burn yourself if you are not careful (it can be as hot as 64 °C). We stayed there until dusk and then drove back to Tairua and brought a portion of fish and chips that we shared sitting in the car parked near the harbour. We both agreed that it had been a very busy and a bit of a hectic day but a very enjoyable one.

Posted by Gill's Travels 02:17 Archived in New Zealand Tagged beaches trains ocean new_zealand coromandel Comments (0)

West Coast to East

Saturday 3rd October 2015

storm 16 °C

We were greeted this morning by Robert appearing on the veranda with a couple of huge and very delicious date and orange scones for our breakfast, despite the fact that food wasn't included in our package. When we had eaten and packed up, we went to check out we had quite a long chat with him about the area, our respective lives and about photography (there were lots of his photographs around our apartment). Despite waking up to rain I felt thoroughly cheery and had really enjoyed our short stay in Swanson. As we hadn't had a chance to explore the area we decided to make the 15 minute drive to the nearest beach. Having done some research I knew that Bethells Beach was mainly covered in black volcanic sand which gave it a dramatic and atmospheric look in pictures. The weather remained a bit rough and although the rain had halted temporarily it was extremely blustery once we got onto the beach. We had to walk a short distance along the black sand beside the river before we reached the beach proper. There is a a springlike feel to New Zealand now, with many wild flowers starting to come into bloom. This area was no exception with wild yellow lupins growing on the edge of the dunes.

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At the entrance to the bay there is a lifeguard lookout tower, slightly faded and battered as it tries to hold its own against the elements.

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There was a large group of lifeguards obviously on some sort of training exercise. The sea looked cold, rough and uninviting. It was a stark reminder that being a lifeguard isn't all Baywatch and sunning yourself and I have total admiration for people who put their lives at risk in this way. Both Nigel and I started to explore the beach walking to the left towards where Robert had told us there were some caves. It was still very windy and in the end Nigel sat part way along the beach whilst I walked to the far end. The scenery was stunning and I took quite a few photographs but in the end I wasn't able to get to the cave as the tide was already in too far.

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I then made my way back to meet Nigel and together we went to have a look at the other end of the beach where the river flowed into the sea. The lifeguards where still out in the water and were working with dinghies and sea scooters. Over by the river there where a number of people walking their dogs and there was one group that had a really large group of animals and looked as though they were either professional dog walkers or breeders. We also saw a couple of people on horse back and it really struck me what a beautiful spot it was to go riding.

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After about an hour or so on the beach we had got very windswept and also a little chilly. We were also mindful that we had quite a long drive ahead of us so we made our way back to the car.

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The journey was pretty uneventful and for the first half or so we were driving around the outskirts of Auckland. Once we had negotiated the city traffic with the help of the sat-nav we were then on the straight roads across the northern inland part of the country. By this time we were getting quite hungry and places to stop were few and far between. Nigel saw a very uninspiring place called the Pink Pig Cafe and after a bit of deliberation and hesitation on my part, we went in.

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Nigel had a pie which was sitting warm in the food cabinet and I ordered a bacon sandwich. The coffees took about 15 minutes to arrive and my food longer. It was the most uninspiring bacon sandwich I had ever had. Any relationship to the pig that gave the cafe its name was tenuous. It amused me that other customers seemed to come and go in an amazingly short space of time. The only thing I could say about the place was that it was an experience. Looking later on trip advisor it seemed to divide the crowds with two positive and two of the most negative reviews I have ever seen including one that said "Greasy spoon stuff. Out-dated. Zero character or ambience. Grubby, empty, cheap. And by that I mean it looks as though the owner doesn't give a toss." What more can one say! Interestingly a few miles down the road we saw another place called the Bugger Cafe which had the strap line "Laugh a Little". Outside it had a rather staged tractor crashed into the restaurant sign. Later in our new bed and breakfast they all just laughed when we said where we had eaten. Apparently the second restaurants which is decorated with photographs of those bugger moments when only that expletive will do, is actually quite an entertaining place to go. As Nigel so eloquently put it, perhaps our 'bugger' moment of the day was eating at the first cafe and not the second!

As we neared the Coromandel Peninsular the scenery became more dramatic with some unusually shaped hills and and valleys filled with either forest or pastoral land.

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We found our accommodation fairly easily and were greeted by the owner Colin who showed us round. The house is in a stunning position over looking both the estuary and the sea and also has a pool (which sadly at this time of year was too cold to swim in).

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We settled in and relaxed for a while and then met up with our hosts and the other guests for a glass of wine and some entrees at about 6pm. Our hosts had very kindly booked us a table at one of the few restaurants open that night and so we went there for a very nice evening meal. The day had started and finished really well and the bit in the middle was pretty entertaining, and you can't ask for much more than that.

Posted by Gill's Travels 10:07 Archived in New Zealand Tagged beaches sea new_zealand coromandel Comments (0)

The Ancient Kauri Tree

Thursday 1st September 2015

sunny 17 °C

We had nowhere pressing to go today so we decided to have a relaxing morning at the lodge, catching up with bookings, emails and this blog. We had considered going out on the bikes provided for guests, unfortunately when I took a closer look they where mountain bikes with a cross bar and even with the seat lowered there was no way I was going to be able to ride them. Nigel would also have found them a bit tricky as well, now that his hip is playing him up a bit. In the end we decided to drive up through the Kauri forest and go to the Waipoua Forest Visitor Centre that we had seen yesterday. It wasn't a great distance once we had got from the lodge onto the main coast road. Initially we were driving through farmland and pine forests. We had noticed that when logging takes place in New Zealand it seems to happen on a massive scale so that a whole hillside will be stripped of trees. This leaves a massive scar on the landscape before it is either replanted or some vegetation grows back.

As we drove further north the road became steeper and more winding as we entered into the beginnings of the kauri forest. We saw a sign for a lookout and so Nigel turned off so we could have a look. The track was gravel and quite steep but we were hopeful that it wouldn't be very far. In the end it was probably about a kilometre until we reached a clearing with what was more like an old fire lookout, now open to the public. Once we went up the steps on out on the balcony we had good views over the forest.

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We then made our way back down the track and drove the remainder of the distance towards the Visitor Centre. This was also down a narrow gravel track and it seemed that we were destined to have to drive down them at least some of the time. When we arrived at the centre we were hoping to have some lunch, but they were about to close, I think because it had been quiet all morning. We were still served coffee and a panini which we were able to eat outside on the picnic tables. Once we had finished we went for a short walk so that we could look at the Waipoua river.

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It was ironic that having closed the visitor centre there seemed to be a constant stream of people driving up in their cars, however that wasn't really our problem. Ruby had mentioned another bit of Kauri forest further south at Trounson Park so we decided to take a look there. The most direct route was via a dirt track called Donnelly's Crossing but we had been advised the day before that this was was a difficult bit of road so instead we approached the park from the other direction. The forest was really special with dozens if magnificent kauri trees including some that seemed to have fused together in twos and in one place four together. They were quite hot on bio-security and so you were encouraged to disinfect your footwear on entering and leaving the forest. There were also lots of stretches of boardwalk in order to protect the delicate Kauri roots. There were a couple of places where trees were either diseased, had fallen or been blown down and it was interesting seeing how other plant matter quickly started to take over the rotting wood.

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Once we had finished our walk and returned to the car we decided to drive further south, past where we were staying and go to a place called Baylys Beach. This is part of Ripiro Beach which at 66 miles is longer than Ninety Mile Beach. When we arrived we could see that most people had parked on the beach, so Nigel bravely followed suit.

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We went for a short walk along the sand. I was keen to look at some of the rocks that were further up so I carried on, looking out for the vehicles that were being driven along the sand. It turned out on closer observation that there were some rocks but also a large number of tree stumps (probably ancient kauri stumps and lignite).

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There was also a large natural semi submerged pool on the beach. It is a lovely place and I could have easily spent loads of time there. I was just starting to walk back to meet Nigel when I became aware of a car driving in the sand in my direction. I didn't take much notice at first as I had seen quite a lot of cars going back and forth, but then I recognised our hire car. I was surprised to see Nigel driving up the beach, but it saved me walking to meet him.

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We both felt like we were ready to go back to our accommodation and we happy to just have a snack when we got back. As we were relaxing later in the evening Ruby popped by and I said that I had checked our paperwork and that we were definitely meant to get breakfast. As she didn't really have any food for us, and we did, she said she would give us some money off our bill when we checked out tomorrow.

Posted by Gill's Travels 02:14 Archived in New Zealand Tagged beaches trees ocean new_zealand kauri Comments (0)

Culture and Nature Combined

Wednesday 30th September 2015

sunny 18 °C

We were on the move again today, travelling west and southwards to our next port of call. There were a couple of sights near to Paihia that we hadn't yet seen and I was keen to visit them before we left the area completely. Once we had checked out of our accommodation we drove the short distance across the river to the Waitangi Treaty Ground. We knew we wouldn't be able to spend long there but we just had time to see a cultural show as well as being able to explore the grounds. The show started on a serious note with a Maori man acting as chief offering the visitor's representative (a volunteer) a symbol of peace. Once that element of the ceremony was completed we were welcomed in the traditional manner and then having removed our shoes were allowed to enter the Te Whare Rūnanga (the House of Assembly). This is a traditional carved meeting house which stands facing the Treaty House, the two buildings together symbolising the partnership agreed between Māori and the British Crown, on which today’s New Zealand is founded.

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Once the more serious elements of the ceremony were over, we were entertained with some Maori singing and dancing, with explanations as to the meaning of the songs and the instruments used. Although there was a fun element, I also found the whole show quite moving.

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Once the show had finished (it probably only lasted about half an hour) we were able to take more photographs and have our photographs taken with the dancers. Nigel and I then went and had a look at the highly contrasting Treaty House built in a very English style, with a traditional English garden. The Treaty Grounds are in a lovely position overlooking the Bay and have a lot of plants (a few familiar but most not). Once we had finished looking round we took the opportunity to have a coffee before getting on our way.

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Our next stop was at some nearby waterfalls. There was a significant amount of water flowing over them, and what was unusual was how close you could walks to the top of the falls. In fact you could walk across the rocks at the top and go as close to the edge as you dared. I went close enough to get some good photographs without running the risk of falling over the edge!

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From the Haruru Falls we detoured south to a place called Kawakawa for no other reason than to visit their public toilets. One wouldn't normally go over ten miles out of your way to make such a visit, or at least not unless you were desperate. These toilets were different as they had been designed by Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser for his adopted home town of Kawakawa. I don't make a habit of taking photographs as I sit on the toilet but I made an exception in this case although I did refrain from photographing the men's. Apparently they have become the most photographed toilets in New Zealand and although this isn't a great accolade I can understand why.

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It was now time for the 'serious' part of our trip as we still had a lot of miles to cover before we got to our lodge for the next couple of nights. We were starting to struggle a bit with our sat-nav as it sometimes selected the shortest route by trying to take us over gravel roads. We didn't mind having to do this in an emergency as we had done the other day, but we didn't want to make a habit of it. It is hard to tell without scrutinising Google Earth what the surface is made of, and that isn't practical once a journey is underway. Today was one of those days when we had to retrace our steps in order not to have to drive miles on dirt tracks. Eventually we ended up driving further north than we intended to. The advantage of this was that the metalled road took us to a place called Omapere which had a huge estuary/ harbour and spectacular sand dunes.

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We stopped and had our lunch, a little late as it was by then about 3pm. We also went into the visitor centre where we were given some travel advice and were able to buy a compact road atlas.

We continued south on the westen coast road, stopping only to look at Tane Mahuta which is an ancient and giant Kauri tree.

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We arrived at Wai Hou Oma Lodge just before it got dark. Ruby checked us in, and we unloaded all of our bags. The accommodation was a little disappointing. The setting and the lodges were great, but it did not offer the luxury promised. Our lodge was just a little grubby; the cooker hot plates rusty, months worth of crumbs under the glass topped dining table, dirt in the wardrobe from other people's bags, thin tatty towels. All things that could so easily be remedied. She also said that she no longer offered breakfast despite the fact that I was pretty sure this was offered on our booking form. It was also slightly concerning that there was no means of locking up when we went out, which wasn't a major issue considering how remote we were but still not ideal. Still the location was lovely so we settled in and had something to eat, determined to make the best of our stay.

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Posted by Gill's Travels 00:11 Archived in New Zealand Tagged beaches new_zealand waitangi Comments (0)

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