Wheelchair Accessible North
by Ian Hawkins © 2001
Wednesday October 10, 2001
DAY 1. Brisbane and Auckland
Waiting waiting waiting. Little did we know that we would spend a large portion of that day waiting for the taxi. It was not all that it was late but we were well and truly waiting for it. Brisbane International Airport was all new to us. Give us the domestic airport and we can just about tell you everything that goes on ----but!!!! Wrong queue. After waiting in the queue for sometime, we were told that it was this one was not for us. Ours was over there on the other side. The queue was much smaller. Booked our luggage in and we were told to come back at 10:30. Coffee, papers and a wait. Then off through Customs and Immigration and wait for the plane to be made ready. Into our seats, no hassles so far and waited for the rest of the passengers. Off into the wild blue yonder. 2hrs 30 minutes later into Auckland. Temperature 16 deg and raining. A good start. Off the plane. All of a sudden the Green People descended. They are the staff employed by Auckland Airport Corp. to HELP passengers and they do. Marion from “Dial a Drive” met us, and it was off to the motel-- basic but functional. The manager offered to drive Viv down to gather essential supplies and then went out to get Indian take away for us. Hunting and gathering still survives. Slept well.
Day 2 Auckland
A quick breakfast and the hire car company turned up and spirited Viv away to pick up our vehicle. She turned up with a Honda accord, what ever happened to the Camry that we were supposed to get? Oh, well, off to the CBD. Freeways that go nowhere. Maybe they do if the maps that we had had of been up to date. It would appear that the freeway construction has all been in recent times, and if the map you have is not up to date they do not show the freeways and where they go to.
Off to the bank, a grab for cash, for more essentials. When the girl found out that we were Ozzies, she told Viv that she was going to Australia the next week. We asked directions, etc. Thank goodness for the Mobility parking card that I had obtained from C.C.S. (The Crippled Children’s Society) before we left home turned out to be most useful. A quick lunch and a look around. Now I know why we always catch the train to town when home. No parking worries and generally a lot easier. Auckland seems to a very multicultural city, but a city none the less. The map we had showed an accessible toilet in a large shopping centre. Could not find it. Viv asked directions. Oh yes, through that door, around the corner to the goods lift, past the rubbish to the first floor, only to find the door locked. Seek more directions. Finally the door is opened. Then back the same way. It would appear that nothing much changes even in a different country.
The drivers that we have seen so far are mad. The main aim of drivers here seems to be to fit a 5-metre car into a 2-metre space. Might is right, right, left and centre. Quick, lets get out of here. A stop at one of the local supermarket for more essentials. One of the locals helped Viv with the goods, but after he had to “kep his mit in the shede” which roughly translated means that he “had to keep his meat in the shade”, oh well!
A visit to One Tree Hill, minus the one tree. Past the Maori redoubts and on to the top. From here you can nearly see forever. What a view. A small detour via the local winery and a sample of port. Look for somewhere to eat and settle for Chinese take away. Another good night sleep. This touring about must be tiring.
Day 3 Auckland and Kerikeri: Off to Kerikeri.
Packing, packing, etc. Viv has it down to a fine art, and we were soon ready to go. The bloke at the reception was definitely a woose and complete with suxz and svens. Off along the freeway and through some grotty suburbs and all of a sudden into some real upmarket ones. There is the CBD, so we at least know where we are. Off to Helensville. The views from the road were great. The road is windy, narrow, and hilly. Maybe this is not the direct route, but the views are possibly better. Stopped a couple of times just for a look. Great views. Maybe this is the scenic route. This being driven around has its advantages apart from a bit of frustration. Stopping at Whangarei for lunch, I had “hot dog and chups” and Viv had “fush butes and chups.” The hot dog turned out to be a batter-covered sausage and Viv’s turned out to be fish bites, all with lots of chips.
The motel at Kerikeri was excellent. A large bedroom/lounge room kitchen and separate good toilet and shower. Kerikeri is a nice little town. Now for the tourist bit. Past the oldest stone building in NZ, or that’s what they say. Let’s see if we can find the coast. Wrong road! The paddocks were all edged with Cypress or bamboo as hedges. Most are about 20-30 ft high. Another wrong road but an enjoyable trip. Petrol prices about $NZ1.00 a litre.
Another crazy driver. She pulled out of a drive across a lane of traffic and wandered across the road at 20Km/hr, then shot across the traffic to disappear into another driveway. Everyone tooted and yelled at her to no avail. Most peculiar.
Checked on the trip to the Cape. First disappointment: The bus is not wheelchair friendly. What a bummer as we were told that it was when I booked it before we left home. Oh, well, back to plan “B” whatever that is. A quick look around to decide which restaurant we would eat at the next day.
Day 4 Kerikeri
We decided to go to the Cape by ourselves, or as far as we could go. The scenery is great. The road kills are mainly possums, and in the open paddocks are groups of turkeys (feathered ones). The town of Manganui seemed like it was in a time warp and had not altered in years. Gently perched against the side of the hill looking out over the bay, you could imagine whalers and sealers coming ashore and having a few grogs, etc. Maybe more of the etc than the grog. We did not make it to the cape as the road became gravel, and we did not seem to be getting any closer. From the top of a hill, we could see where we had to go, but the more we drove on, the further away it seemed to be. The return journey seemed to be faster. Funny that. Stopped for lunch at Hauhouie. The people were very accommodating. They picked Viv for an Ozzie. Could it have been the kangaroo on the shirt pocket? Lunch, pie and chips, tea and a beer were bought down to us on a tray, complete with serviettes. All this in the middle of nowhere. Even the local cat seemed friendly.
If it had not been for the sand trap at the entrance, I would have explored the kauri gum diggers area also. This is an area where the kauri trees had fallen down in some cataclysmic disturbance approx 30-50000 years ago and the old blokes in the late 1800s dug the gum from the swamp. A modern type of amber, eagerly sought after by the rest of the world for jewelry. It would appear that the swamp protected and preserved the trees and the gum. This is the only kauri wood available to woodturners, etc. as all the standing trees are protected. The car captain supplied all this information. Next stop The Ancient Kauri Kingdom. There seems to be a system whereby logs are raised out of the swamp or boggy ground and sold. At the Ancient Kauri Kingdom, they manufacture furniture, etc. Some of the logs that they had stacked in their yard would have been 10-15 ft in diameter and 30-40 long. Plenty big. Inside was a spiral staircase that went from the ground to the first floor crafted out of one of those stumps. It was wide enough to let two people side by side climb to the next storey. Through the Victoria Valley (shades of things to come) across the Mangamuka Ridge, across the Mangamuka Bridge and back to Kerikeri. This road was a lot quicker, hillier, but quicker. Exploring a road that went to the beach, we came across several properties all sealed off and under quarantine. We were told later that these had been the sites of GMO crop experiments, and as they did not want these organisms spread through the countryside the authorities had closed the areas off. They propose to completely sterilise the ground where the crops had been. Not a good start. The GMO issue is to be a major cause for debate in the not too distant future in NZ.
We had dinner at the “local” and talked to one of the staff about the “wildlife”. She told us of hedgehogs, ferrets, stoats, and weasels (ones that don’t go pop) wild chooks, turkeys, and the dreaded possums. The Kiwis claim that it is a civic duty that if you see a possum on the road every endeavour should be made to make sure that it stays there.
Day 5 Kerikeri and Auckland
Return to Auckland. Stopped in the middle of the Kauri Forest at a forestry station. They really are huge trees, I wonder if they are related to the WA Kauri (later investigation found out that they are not). The museum had a series of what happened in the “good” old days. The timber cutters in those days must have been tough old buggers, what with their cross cut saws, axes wedges etc and the size of the trees, that work would not be for the faint hearted.
Across rolling hills to Dargaville. It should be called Hicksville. Even though it was Sunday, nothing was open. Even the Visa card would not work at the service (the word service is used very loosely) station. Not even a fush and chup shop. Viv sorted out the Cape debacle to everyone’s satisfaction. Luckily Woolworths was open, so that we could buy a cooked chook, buns, etc. so that we could have lunch by the river. A pleasant spot.
Across a series of rolling hills. Each valley seemed to have its own little hamlet in it, then along the beachfront to the B&B. From the road the beaches looked to made of black sand. Carol who runs the place informed us that a family of South Africans was also in residence (Hughie, Kaye, and kids). After intros, another family of SA’s turned up (Kevin, Evette, and their twp kids). All the kids got together and bolted, so the adults told lies, ate, drank, and told more lies. A late night er early morning.
Day 6 Auckland and Coromandel
Breakfast with Carol, who was leaving for the Gold Coast, where she has a unit, the following week. It would appear that NZs whilst they do not travel far in their own country have no hesitation about flying to Australia. How peculiar.
Off. The motorway was great. This time there were no temporary misplacements. The secondary road to Thames even though it only twp cars wide was well surfaced. From Thames, the road ran along the sea front, black sand, pebble, and rock beaches included. Over a series of hills, down onto the “beach,” over the next hill etc. The road at some places was cut into the side of the hill. A most strange thing, if the road collapses onto the beach or into a valley, instead of fixing it they put a series of tapes and boards warning of the collapse. It was still a very scenic route. Coromandel itself is not all that large so we found the motel easily. Not bad, apart from the bed being soft and low, (sound like the name for a good song). Hunting and gathering again. Explored the sights of the town. The artist places on the “arts and craft trail” need to be taken with a grain of----.
Day 7 Coromandel
Disaster finally struck. Whilst transferring to the wheelchair, the pop rivets in the wheelchair seat sounded like weasels. The owner suggested that we contact the local engineering shop. Yes, bring it down and he would have look at it. A quick and temporary loss of direction ah! There he is. Yeah, no trouble call back in 1 hour and pick it up. Across the road to the bakery for breakfast and a read of the paper and it was ready. He did a good job by using a larger washers under the head of the new rivets.
Potter’s Creek Railway. Yes, we can get you on the train. Next trip is 1.30pm. Off to Colville to have the best pies on the coast. A nice trip up over saddles, down to the beaches? Rocks, black sand and pebble - real good beaches. Colville. The best pies on coast? Maybe we are in the wrong place. Back to the railway. Why is that the trip back always seems too shorter than the trip out? With the help of the driver and the guard (I use the terms loosely), actually the guard turned out to be the maintenance bloke I was put on the train. Up the track through switchbacks, reversing, over viaducts through tunnels to the top of the hill. Another great view. From the top, you can see out to sea and down to the town, etc. The owner and a group of volunteers have carved the whole railway track out by hand. Some of the cuttings are lined with wine bottles made into banks to hold back the earth behind. A novel and enjoyable way of solving the problem-- especially if the bottles started out full. There are three different types of tunnels on the track. One is just a large concrete pipe, another cut and fill, and the third is bored through the hillside and shored up with boards and steel railway track. They are in the process of completing the track by adding a further 60-70 metres further up the hill. Back to the bottom by the same route. The train is really a 25 HP diesel in disguise. Scattered around the site were boilers, steam tubes, etc..the remnants of a bygone day. Most of these are donations from old workings around the district. I would have liked to get onto a boiler that I saw. It could have been made into a nice little steam train, but to get it back into Aust… Oh, well. Both the driver and the maintenance bloke made enquires about ramps. Viv showed them our portable ramp, which was still in the car and yet to be used. This gave them an idea, and within 5 minutes, the maintenance bloke is busy cutting steel, welding, and grinding room, etc. and a ramp appeared. This will save their backs, etc. and makes it safer and easier for everyone. Had a good talk to the lady in the shop about the owner, the pottery, the town, and her book. Found out about the seafood smokehouse, just out of town, must go there.
Down to the gold stamper. Some of the locals banded together and restored an old gold stamper. As we had seen stamper batteries before, we did not stay. Down to the smokehouse. Had a talk to the lady behind the counter. Apparently they grow the mussels, catch the fish, and smoke them all in their own smokehouse. Bought some lime-peppered fish and smoked mussels, off to the supermarket for essentials and dry bickies. Tried the arts and crafts trail again, same result as yesterday. Back to the motel, smoked fish and mussels entrees. We could take a lot of this; they were great.
Day 8 Coromandel and Gisbourne
Next stop Gisborne. Now we know why the Kiwis measure mileage in hours and not Kms. The drive was a mixture of everything. Around the coast. Coromandel to Thames. This time it seemed faster (must be the going back syndrome). Onto Paeroa and through the Karangahako gorge onto Whakatane and then through the Waideka Gorge. These gorges really are narrow ways through the hills. The further up towards the top the narrower they get until the top is reached, and they start to open up on the other side. The Waideka Gorge is most peculiar in that the river is lined with English willows, elms, and plane trees and does look like an English post card. Never the less it does get narrow and steep. Past Whakatane, “Wh” is pronounced “F” so one has to be careful using the Maori language. Through the Athenee Gorge across the divide traversing Traford Hill Summit and through the citrus area, lemon and orange trees everywhere. Must mention the spot where we had lunch. Kiwi Fruit Land . Venison burger etc. They even have the “big kiwi fruit” (they must have got the idea from somewhere). I kid you not. More gorges, more saddles summits etc onwards. The country is fore ever changing and has to be seen to be believed. The motel at Gisborne is a comfortable, cosy rat hole but accessible. Ordered dinner in. Maybe we should have had a sandwich.
DAY 9 Gisbourne and Napier
Rang Mouso, everything is alright, did not expect it not to be. Down to the information centre. The Maritime Museum is only for a ship captained by Nick Young, affectionately called young Nick by the locals. His ship sank(?) in the harbour. Went to have a look at the steam train but they had hidden it away in the shed. Found Harvest Bulmer Cider producers and decided to have a look. So that we did not have to negotiate the 3 steps they opened the side door. Very civilised. The girl behind the counter was a mine of information and advised us to go to the top of the hill. The view was spectacular, and well worth the time. Gisborne harbour was no great shakes; a man made one using concrete blocks, oh well we can’t have everything. Needed some more cash. So off to the bank. The teller as soon as she found out that Viv was an Ozzie wanted to know all about Noosa where she and her husband were going in a couple of weeks time. The big question-----how many snakes will they see. Apparently they are terrified of snakes, and other creepy crawlies, funny that. The road to Napier travelled through 3 gorges assorted summits and valleys. The Gastone Matahorua Gorge was unnerving as it was cut into the side of the hill, hanging on by the skin of its teeth. Most spectacular.
The motel at Napier was a ballroom. Large and spacious and completely accessible. Decided to eat out. The motel owner advised us that the local Thai restaurant was excellent. Not being a great fan of Thai food, we took the punt. It was great. Once the owner found out that we were Australians, he regaled us with all his tales of his time in Brisbane. Apparently he had a Thai restaurant in Mt. Gravatt. A little to close to home. The food was excellent. Can’t say the same for the Thai beer.
DAY 10 Napier and Wellington
Napier is the self styled Art Deco Capital of the world, just ask them. After the great earthquake in the early 30s they were looking for something different to set themselves and the rebuilding apart from the rest and chose an art deco theme. It certainly sets them apart. It being too early for the museum, we drove to the top of the hill. There we had great views of the harbour and the land that was uplifted by the great quake. The harbour is all relatively new and serves the whole of the north East Coast.
The museum has three main themes apart from their art gallery: The great quake, the other history of Napier, and the discovery by one of the locals of the first dinosaur bones etc in NZ. The museum is ranked in the top 5 in NZ and one can easy see why. It’s a credit to the staff and management. Don’t mention the spot wjere we had lunch and I won’t tell you about it. Could not recommend it.
The drive to Wellington was without hitch apart from the climb over the last saddle. It seemed to go on forever and ever. Upwards and ever upwards, down and up again. Twisting and turning that way and this. At one stage, it appeared that we had not progressed anywhere as the road was just opposite us in the side of the other hill a distance of some 600-700 metres across but 2 kilometres along.
Went all the way into Wellington as the motel was supposed to be near the CBD. Lost. Viv sought directions at an upmarket hotel and was told that we were about 10 Kms out. The bloke behind the desk was not complimentary about the directions that we had. He photocopied the map out of the refedex and put us on the right track. Yes, he was right. It was a way out of the Wellington CBD but near the CBD of Parameta. Is this a case of false advertising? The motel was supposed to have a restaurant. Guess what? On the good word of the owner we ate at the local cafe. Another poor choice.
DAY 11 Wellington
Rang the bus service that travels around town. Oh, we will be accessible one-day maybe. Looks like we take the car to town (sounds like a good song title, too). The master plan was to go to the museum, the markets and the maritime museum. As the weather looked a bit suss, first stop Te Papa the National Museum. Truly amazing. We had never seen anything like it. The series on how NZ was formed complete with a house that shook to a 5.75 shock was to be seen to be believed. The Wellingtonians don’t seem to worry about this as they build on the top of the hill, which is the fault line. So be it. A quick lunch and off to see more of the areas etc. Off to the markets, what a let down. Off to the Museum of Wellington City and Sea. We went the wrong way in the out way, but they gave us a special permit, so the car would not be towed away. This parking in the no parking area was great. The space was next to the front door. You could not get any closer. They have converted the old original bond store to the museum and put on an extended part with lifts to all the floors. The lift well is an adjunct to the building, so it does not destroy the heritage listing. The entry is through the old bond store as it would have been in the 1850’s, complete with the rats and workers having their lunch break. Well done. Each level has its own theme. They have refurbished the old harbour company’s boardroom, so with aid of earphones you can hear the debates verbatim taken from the original company minutes. They use one of the larger walls as a screen, and the film is projected onto it. This made the film of sailors furling and unfurling sails on a square-rigger in a big storm very realistic. The next part was on NZ migration and the general port area. Another wall projection, this time on the sinking and rescue of people from the Wahine which sank in Wellington Harbour in 1968. Marvellous that these records still exist. Back to the motel, we will not get caught again. This time cooked chook and vegies etc. the frozen dinners that we also bought were in hindsight another unwise choice.
DAY 12 Wellington
Back to Te Papa to explore the rest of their wonders. Once again not disappointed. The cable tram. Another of Wellington’s hidden treasures. The girl in the cloakroom showed us on a map where the cable tram was. Parking spaces are at a premium, and even when one is found there is no way that I could get out of the car. Viv asked one of the shopkeepers and he told us about the parking station in the next street. Easily found. Down in the lift and there it was. Unmasked. The trams and their respective stations are completely accessible. A quick trip to the top of the hill. The view over Wellington Harbour was excellent. Down the hill in the tram and back to the car. It is claimed that tram is the one of its type in the word. As it was a public holiday the parking was for free. It has stared to rain. Hope it does not keep it up. Back to the motel.
DAY 13 Wellington and New Plymouth
Look out New Plymouth here we come. A complete change in land form. Flat coastal plains, probably lava flows, heavily bisected with deep creek crossings a pleasant change from gorges and saddles. Tried to get lunch at Wanganui, (don’t you know that it is a public holiday?), No go. Almost everything is closed as tight as a drum. A girl serving in a pharmacy suggested that Viv try the dairy next to the BP road house about 2 Kms out of town, they may have something. Had a prowl around the local library, town hall, and war memorial; all were closed.. In the river, was the paddle wheel steamer that I had contacted before we left home. It too was not open.. The cable lift to the houses on the hill was also closed. Don’t the people shift out of their houses on a public holiday? I don’t think that I will complain about public holidays at home again; here they take them real seriously. Well, the dairy was open and the cheese and ham sambos were great. We parked down the road a bit, under the shade of some willows. A bloke turned up on his quad bike. “Are you all right”. “Yes, just stopping for lunch.” We must have been the only people that he had seen for ages as we heard all about his other block down the Road and how much his bike cost, and any other useful information that he thought we needed to know. On the way into New Plymouth, we pasted Mt. Taranaki and the national park on the left-hand side of the road, all cloaked in cloud. Nothing was visible. Then all of a sudden the cloud lifted and there revealed in all its glory was the highest mountain that we had ever seen. The snowfields on the top, the trees etc. Truly an awe-inspiring sight (eat your heart Moses).
Once again we had to ask at a servo where the motel was. A real good choice this one. We thought twice about ordering in (something about once bitten twice …..). Pate and Fillet Mignon, this time it was a wise choice; it was great.
DAY 14 New Plymouth
Off to Taranaki National Park. At the information centre, it was bloody freezing. The wind was blowing at a great rate and it was trying to rain. But we were welcomed with open arms. Prowled around the Centre and watched the clouds and the mountain. The mountains are so high that the clouds have to go around them. You could not see the top. Had coffee and a good talk to the owner of the coffee shop. The ranger in charge of the information centre told us that approximately 70-80,000 people pass through the centre each year. At any one time there could be 1000 or so climbers on the mountain, and that they lose 2 people each year on the average. The clouds did not lift. The information centre is well put together and worth the visit. Just as we left the front gate of the park the clouds again lifted and there it was in all its glory. Look out Moses your job's in jeopardy. The sight is truly awesome. The machinery museum. Oh, yes. Oh, no they are not open. Asked the gardener, oh don’t you know that yesterday was a public holiday and we were open then, but not today, if you come back on Saturday or Sunday we may be open. Stiff. On the other side of the road was a small lake. They cut a channel in the riverbank higher up in the hills and diverted the water into the lake. Through a tunnel and into the hydro generator and back into the river lower down the hill, (fiendishly clever those Kiwis). Here we nearly had roast goose for dinner, but the bugger would not come close enough. Pity. Drove around their black beaches and watched some shark bait (surfers) and looked at their tank farm. We were later to find out that New Plymouth exports methanol made from the natural gas field just off shore. They originally found petroleum in the early 1900 and supplied nearly all of NZ’s petrol needs until the field ran out in the 30s. Then they discovered this natural gas field in the late 1980s. On the beachfront was “Chaddy’s,” who claims to be the last “English life saving boat” still afloat. They were just closing the museum/collection, but they reopened it just for us. He has collected all sorts of marine exhibits from all over the world. Most of it has intrinsic value only, but well worth the ½ hr spent looking at it. It was a pity that we were leaving the next day as we could have gone for a ride in the lifeboat. As the owner said if I could get to the side of the boat, he would get us on board. One of the local dogs sat on the middle of the road; sounds like another good song title. He reckoned that if he owned the place the road was his. This necessitated Viv getting out and shooing him away As soon as we left, he went back to where he'd been previously. Dinner in again, once again a wise decision. Great food from Braemers, roast shanks, fillet steak and garlic scallops. Big, more than enough for lunch/dinner tomorrow.
DAY 15 New Plymouth and Taupo: Off to Taupo
Back along the road to Stratford and the wooden glockenspiel clock. A nice easy drive, a bit of rain. But it was ok. Turn of to Manganupoo. We will take the shortest route through Whangamomana. The first part is not to bad. Then saddle no 1. Pomokura 290 m high. About 2 Kms on just near the top we are passed by the police car in a hurry. Then about 1KM further on going the other way also in a hurry. Most peculiar. Whatugamomana saddle 366m high. When I looked at the Shell road maps, I could see that this road is marked difficult!!! Maybe I should have looked there first. Down into Whatamomana. There are people here. They just stand and stare. Maybe cars don’t come this way often. Strange goings on. The saddles become more difficult the further we go. About 4 on a scale of 0-6. No 3 saddle, Tanarakua is 293 m high. A reasonably hard climb up, probably harder going down. After traversing the saddle we could see from the bottom, 7 roads and therefore 7 switch backs that we had travelled Sometimes on the left there is nothing but a drop into the river some distance down. Through the Moki Tunnel, The locals have replaced the sign with one that reads “Hobbit’s Tunnel,” at least someone has a sense of humour. On to the Tararakua Gorge, here is where the dirt road starts. Sheer rock wall one side and a straight drop into the river on the other side. Mostly the road is about 1/3 up the cliff face, just hanging there. Wild goats everywhere, more introduced pests. This road can only be described as awesome; anything that I write could not do it justice. Workman. We’ll ask them how long this goes on for. “Yeah, lady, you got about another 5 Kms of dirt then the road is not to bad. Kms NZ workmen’s distance must be about as long as cocky’s miles at home. Anyway the road slowly widened and the bitumen started again. Over the next rise a herd of cows being shifted from one block to another. From the ads on TV, I thought that it was supposed to be sheep on the road, but not this time, it’s cattle. More saddles and a few more Kms and there we are Mangatopotu, lunch and recovery. An art exhibition, Viv decides to investigate, she goes in and she comes out, apparently they have a funny idea of drawings and paintings. Oh, well. We branch off the highway and head for Ngapuka to go to Karatau across the Waitumi saddle 960m high, (hope I never see a horse big enough for that saddle). Stop and admire the view of Mts Tongairo and Ngaurahoe, both snow-capped volcanoes. No smoke or other assorted rubbish today. All is quiet. When they explode, it must be a frightening sight. Close your eyes we are going down from this saddle. Through more switchbacks than you can wave a pointy stick at. Looking at where we had come from you can see the road in four different places. Wow, some descent. The rest of the way from Kukatao to Taupo was very tame after this. Crossing a channel from one of the hydro power stations outlets there seems to be a hell of a lot of water coming down that hill. Even though the area is in a drought, it has not rained for 6 weeks, there is water everywhere. The motel at Taupo was a bit of a disappointment. I will have to do battle with the shower in the morning
DAY 16 Taupo and Rotorua
That round to the shower, oh, well you win some you……. A quick prowl around Taupo. If you like trout fishing, this is the place to come, or so they tell us. Huka Falls. Water from Lake Taupo, the largest lake in NZ (approx 90x120 Km), is channeled into a race 40x10m then squeezes down to 10x4 m. then over the escarpment for a drop of about 30m. A jet boat approached into the falls basin, and such was the volume of water and the current that it stopped dead in its tracks about 50 m from the falls. Viv went off down the rocky slope to look at the actual falls. I waited at the top. A complete stranger offered to help me down to view the falls. We met Viv on the way back; she was surprised. After we returned to the top, we stopped and talked and discovered that they were on their second honeymoon after farming out their children for the weekend. The Volcano Activity Centre was bloody freezing inside, but the information and the films were well worth it. They gave a more detailed idea on how NZ was formed and the significance of plate theory. Bought some jade and hematite pieces which after a polish will make nice earrings (work, work no rest for the…). A quick lunch next to a thermal power station. They use the steam etc of the sub terrain stratus and straight through the turbines. One of the bi-products from the steam is that gold and silver precipitates out when the steam is cooled. Thar’s a fortune in them rocks. The smell of sulphur lies heavily on the air ( not another song title) but you soon become accustomed to it. Orakei Kerako to see the silica veils/shawls/terraces. The silica precipitates out of the steam and water as it runs down the hill and coats the rocks. Unfortunately, the access for a close up inspection is by boat and by climbing the stairs, so we had to give it a miss. I would have loved to see the silica shawls/veils/terraces up close, but this was not to be. But we could see the general picture from our side of the lake. A pleasant drive into Rotorua. It was easy to find the motel, which was off the main road. Comfortable but not flash.
DAY 17 Rotorua
Off to the tourist bureau for more information. Booked onto a lunch time cruise on the “paddle steamer” and for the Maori show at the NZ Institute, more about that later. More lady type bs at the patchwork place in Ngongtaha. Some of these towns have unpronounceable names especially if you are not used to them. They burn a lot of pine offcuts, I suppose waste not want not. At the local wood yard, we picked one of the most important pieces of equipment necessary whilst travelling in NZ, blocks to go under the bed legs to raise them to the right height. A blessing for Viv's back.
At the Rainbow Park, we were given a discount because we did not want to see the farm animals perform. We had seen sheep dogs and sheep before. A stream flows through the centre, and they have some rather large rainbow trout on view. They are wild trout from Lake Rotorua, which use the fish ladder to climb up into the headwaters of the stream to breed and then to return to the lake. With a minimum of fuss, straight into the walk in aviary. Here Keas, Puke (Coots to us), etc. ruled the roost. The park has a total of 12 Tatura, and we were lucky enough to see 3 of them “sunning” themselves. The species has survived since the time of the dinosaurs about 150 mil years. There are 5 different surviving groups of reptiles today, and the Tatura is in a group of their own. In the Kiwi house, there are supposed to a lot of them, but there was only one that we could see. He/she was rather busy probing the leaf litter, etc. for grubs and other assorted goodies.
The Blue Pools Bathhouse and Spa was originally built in the early 30s and has been only lately restored. They have kept it as close to the original theme as possible. Even going back to the original design plans. The only exception being the lift and the accessible toilets. The tea room itself is fully wheelchair accessible. An excellent lunch similar to a ploughman’s lunch, with local cheeses, pickles, etc. They recommend that 2 people share it. There was enough food for at least 2 more people. The museum is in the local old spa building. This building was built at the start of the 20th century and was the place where everyone went for the cure. From the info supplied, it seemed more like torture than a cure. What with electric shocks applied to the bath water, etc. Not for this little black duck. The building is still in the process of being restored so not all of it is open to the public. There are two film theatres. One showing the making of the thermal region, factual and according to the Maori legend, and in the other the role that the Maori Battalion played in the Second World War. Time seemed to get away from us, as there was so much to see. from taking the cure to how the Maori arrived in NZ. Had a quick look around the CBD, seen one seen-----Saw the Hamilton Gardens on TV and decided to stay an extra night. Must make arrangements in the morning.
DAY 18 Rotorua
At the base of the hospital hill, was a park full of thermal activity. There are boiling mud pools, or almost as the pool was a little bit water logged, but the non-viscous mud was happily boiling away. Steam vents, boiling water springs, and fumaroles. The smell of sulphur hung heavily on the air. I suppose you must get used to it after a while. On the way out is a netball court. The story goes that the girls played netball one night, and the next morning when they came back to collect their gear half the court had subsided into a large fumarole that no one knew was there. Lucky that it did not happen when they were playing on it. The collapse happened within the last 12 months, so the area is still very active.
Out on the Lakeland Queen. A stern wheeler (not angry) for our lunchtime cruise on Lake Rotorua. We needed just a little help to get on, so the skipper was put to work earlier than he thought. Out past Morita island a local fauna and flora reserve onto Sulphur Bay. All the time with commentary by the skipper. A good lunch and an enjoyable cruise. Pity that the boat was diesel fired and not a wood burner, but I suppose you can’t have everything.
A quick snooze and off to the Maori Institute of Arts and Crafts. When Viv explained to the lady on the gate that we were booked in for the show and dinner later that night, she let us in for nothing. A wander around the weaving workshops and the village and onto the kiwi house. There is a captive breeding program in quite a few places with the ultimate end to release them back into areas that once had them. Also there are notices everywhere about what signs to look for if you have a “block” and you think there may be kiwis on it. There were two glass cages. The first had one walking about minding his/hers own business. In the next enclosure, one walked right up to the glass front only 2 ft away doing its Kiwi thing. Someone else said that had been here 5 times and never seen one, perhaps we were privileged. Down the hill to the mud pool. Heavy viscous mud, mud glorious mud nothing quite………(don’t give up your day job). The pool was called leaping frog because of the way the mud performed. A real mud pool. The geysers went off on schedule. They are so regular that there are signs telling people how long between events. Very hot and spectacular. Silica curtains and fumaroles, boiling water pools nearby boiling mud pools. Viv went off to see what was ahead and an American bloke offered to push me up the hill, but on further discussion on the info gained we decided that the bush walk was not worth the effort. The tour guide on the people mover advised us that the road passed the geysers to the cooking channels was too steep and not to attempt it. The original inhabitants of this area used the clean hot water to cook their meals in. I suppose that it saves on the electricity bill. It always pays to listen to the locals so we took the short cut back to the top of the hill. The bloke in the woodworking shop was cleaning up but took the time to talk to us. They only accept 3 people a year from all over NZ to attend this traditional woodworking school. The idea of the schools, the weaving classes, woodworking and the stone masonry is that the graduates will return to their local areas and teach these ancient skills to their local Iwis (people/tribe). He said that there were no failures for failure to complete the courses would not be looked favourably upon in the eyes of their locals as nomination to the Institute is regarded as the ultimate accolade that anyone could receive.
Assembling in the great courtyard, participants were split into 3 groups. As it turned out there were a group of Belgiums, one Germans and the rest. Each group elected a “Chief,” you can now call me Chief Ian, but only on formal occasions. The duty of the chief was to be welcomed by the local area chief and accept his offering of peace by accepting the present that he gives you at the gate of the village. If you don’t come in peace or refuse to accept his present, then all hell breaks lo…….. We accepted his offer of peace. Another duty is to make a speech thanking him for his hospitality and to wish his people health and prosperity, etc. The show was a potted history of the Maori people and how they found NZ coupled with entertainment. Dinner was served with everyone being allocated a table. At our table were a Malaysian couple who were on their honeymoon, a pommy couple who had seen their son in Wellington and were travelling around, two other Ozzie couples and ourselves. Our guide was always giving us a hard time about the netball team, and how in the match tonight the Australian team did not stand a chance. Later on each group had to sing a song. He told us in a loud voice that unfortunately the Silver Ferns had not won and that the Ozzies had to sing a song. We chose Waltzing Matilda. The overseas visitors thought that that was great and joined in. It was raining when we left, and the Malaysian guy and one of the guides (a Maori bloke who I think was highly regarded by all and was a mine of information) helped Viv and I get into the car. Both of them got wringing wet for their efforts.
DAY 19 Rotorua and Hamilton
Hamilton. On the way, a stop at the Mamaku blueberry winery, and guess what liquid gold still came down from the sky. First there was rain, then there was rain and then down came the rain. All I can say about blueberry wine is that someone must like it. I stayed in the car as the liquid sunshine bucketed down. Stopped at Cambridge to visit the “super loo,” one of only two in NZ so we were told. The other is in Taupo. It contains showers and toilets for “normal” people as well as PWD. The idea is brilliant. We should promote the idea in Australia. Across the road to the best craft and coffee shop in NZ? The best coffee shop is up two flights of stairs. Comment from the owner, “stiff the place is up for sale,” “We have had bad comments like that before on access” Along the road, we were overtaken by several cars competing in the Dunlop Targa NZ Rally. Zoom. Zoom, zoom; they were all definitely in a hurry. Lotus Elans, old Chrysler sedans, a big old Pontiac, and a heap of Minis all heading to the start of that days rally. When the rally starts, the roads are closed off. Thank goodness, as I would not like to meet them when they were in full cry. The rain eased and stopped. It was clear all the way into Hamilton. Passed the gardens; they look good. Finally found the motel and booked in and guess what? It has started to rain again. Strange that. Made the necessary arrangements to stay the extra night here and teed it up with the accommodation in Auckland.
DAY 20 Hamilton
Off to the gardens. A quick look around. They really are accessible and there is a lot to see. A lot of money and TLC has been expended on the area and it shows. At the local cemetery, everything is higgledy-piggledy, except for their WW 1 veteran area. No matter when they died there is a separate area specially set aside for them. The area is well tendered and clean. One of the things that struck us was the general lack of rubbish on the sides of the roads. Old derelict cars yes, but no rubbish. Maybe the thought that Lizzie was to visit after CHOGM was responsible for the clean up. It’s a thought.
Hamilton Zoo. It’s accessible but only with a good helper, despite all their claims. It is well thought out, but it is in the stage of being upgraded. All the zoos in North Island have endangered species breeding programs. Hamilton’s program was the white rhino of which they have 3 and of which they are very proud.. Not a bad zoo, but not up to their hype and promotions as the best in the world. The whole zoo is an open plan with each area having a different animal in it. Otters, red panda, marmosets, etc. In one of the bush type areas, was a kiwi going about his kiwi business. Keas, they really are pretty birds with that orange flash under their wings, but with that big curved beak damned destructive.
The way that they are going about the reconstruction and their endangered species-breading program they should be proud of themselves. The zoo will be great in a few years time. Congratulations to the Hamilton City Council and the Zoo Trust.
More liquid sunshine, lady bs, and patchwork places.
The Hamilton Museum of History and Art was the next stop. We were directed to the arts section by the security guard. Well…. One exhibition was labelled “Colour.” The rational was that NZ was always represented by black, so the artists expressed their views in colour. I really think that they had stolen them from the local kindy. Next exhibit was a series of “exotic girlie” photos of the early 50s found in an abandoned British warehouse. The porn of the past. Ho hum. I think that the times had well and truly passed them by. Down to the local history section. The collection of drawings, etc. was put together by one the leading lights in the foundation of Hamilton. A man of many talents, local militia leader and general bad bastard. A self-elected leader, he helped push the Maoris off their land by a series of attacks and generally cruel tactics. By a policy of burn, rape, and torture he and his “militia” divested the local Maoris of their land and then took the best parts for himself and sold the rest to immigrants.
The series on the history of the city was in the form of a time progression along the walls. Each period of time allocated to what happened then, the population counts, and various anecdotal stories of that era. Leaving aside the militia story, it traced the early comings and goings of the local city from foundation to the present day.
Down the ramp to the Maori section. Who ever put this area together really took a lot of pride in it, from the war canoe to the photos of some of the old chiefs and the female leaders. Up the ramp again, we selected some post cards and a book on the meanings of the woodcarvings. As soon as the security guard found out that we were interested in his Iwi’s (local people) culture, he was a mine of information. He offered to give us a personal guided tour of the Maori exhibition. If we had of told him that we were interested in his Iwi’s culture and traditions, he said that he would have arranged a relief and given us a personal guided tour. A pity that we were not going to be in Hamilton the next day. He told us that he had been selected to attend a NZ wide conference on exhibiting the Maori culture, and he was most proud of “his” museum. Oh, well, next time.
DAY 21 Hamilton and Auckland
A slow and pleasant trip to Auckland. We decided to pull over and have a look at a wood working shop in Rangiria and found a delightful little tearoom. A throw back to the 50s & 60s.On the walls, were photos, drawings, etc of military memorabilia. We saw a sign for a slide presentation on the battle for Rangiria, so we inquired if we could have a look at it. “I am sorry but there is a charge of $2 each if that is alright.” It was well put together. The husband of the owner is a local historian and applied for a grant to put it together, the slides were made professionally and the bloke did the voice over and the editing. Very good and well worth it. Next to the tea rooms is a woo, shop. It is too bad that in Brisbane we have no need for woolen jumpers, etc. as the prices asked were unbelievably cheap for the style and quality.
On the opposite side of the road, is a cemetery that contains the remains of both Maori and Brits that fought the land wars. The Brits attacking a redoubt on a hill nearby. The battle was about even. About 50 dead on each side. Of course, the Brits were buried in individual plots and the Maoris in a common grave. After the burials had taken place and the Brits had left the remaining Maoris crept in and retrieved their own and reinterred them somewhere else, out of harms way.
Once again, we got temporarily misplaced and went to the wrong motel. What a rat hole. OK, we are here so we will stay. Ate at their restaurant--another mistake. Oh. well. the bed was the right height, many thanks to the Rotorua blocks.
DAY 22 Auckland
Plans, you know the best laid-----. The Victoria Markets. Not bad but not the rave that everyone says. Next stop the Maritime Museum. Finally found it. The map that we had was last year's and some of the roads are now one way most disturbing. We will come back to them as the ferry is due to cross the bay.
Devonport, we must have a look at this little town across the bay. The ferry is accessible with a little help. Definitely not from the crew. He just stood there and watched while Viv struggled to get me onto the ferry. Miserable sod. Hope all his chickens turn to emus and kick his dunny down. The access at the other end is a lot better. Another town in a time warp, this time in the 70s. Quite nice though, found the pw places. More lady type bs. We decided to go into the local art gallery. Here we purchased some landscape prints by one of the local well-known artists. Onto the ferry and back across the bay. A similar story to the start, except this time he saw us coming and bolted. Lunch at the Maritime Museum. The museum itself is well thought out, accessible, and a credit to the people for the concept and the execution. The whole precinct was under the banner of Auckland 2000, and the retention of the Americas cup. The price of the merchandise only went to prove that the defence was costly. On the way back to the motel, a slight detour to Manakau for more pw places. Viv not well.
Day 23 Auckland and Brisbane
Up before sparrows, all packed and off to the airport. Stopped in the valet parking place, the lady directing traffic was most sympathetic and said that I could stay close to the road but under the awning to wait for Viv’s return. Viv returned the car. Goodbye car. We had travelled some 3800 Kms since starting this holiday. Viv still unwell. Queued and got our boarding passes. A slight problem: the check in clerk did not know that wheelchairs, even though they have to be weighed, are not classed as luggage. She does now. But this caused a long delay before it was sorted out. Off to pay departure tax. They see you come in, and you pay to get out. Maybe they love us so much that they want us to stay and spend more money. Apparently, you can not pay the tax before you have your boarding pass as I had already tried that.
Why is it always a long way to departure lounges in most airports? Maybe it’s a mechanism to get you to visit the duty free shops and spend more money. Money, money; it’s a …… Onwards. forever onwards.. The plane is as full as a state school hat rack, not a spare seat in sight. Qantas must be making a fortune. Some of the flight crew were Air Canada staff. I wonder what this is all about as we hear that Qantas wishes to downsize or/and make some staff redundant. Off, off and away. Arrived at Brisbane. A large delay as the flight crew did not have a clue on the correct procedure to get me off the plane. Also the Compols had to escort a very drunken passenger off the plane. Another long way to anywhere. We were whizzed through immigration. Fancy having to go through immigration when you live in the country. Oh, well. Next step customs; they would like to see the stuff that we declared. The only thing that did catch their attention was a sheep skin pajama case that we had bought. But a few prods, and a quick look, and we go on our merry. Most of the other stuff did not seem to qualify for confiscation.
Will the taxi be on time? Yes. Home sweet home, it does not seem to be 3 weeks since we set out into the great unknown, but there you are. Time does fly when you are having fun
(a) North Island NZ has some magnificent scenery so more time than you think needs to contemplated.
(b) The use of NZ Autombile Association is the way to go when booking accommodation. The New Zealand AAA can be contacted at their
On-line booking service: www.aaguides.co.nz
(c) The more home work that is carried out before leaving, the lesser the hassle when you arrive
(d) Even though NZ abides by AS1428 I think that the carrying out of the dimensions is very liberal. When booking accommodation use Alexia Pickering’s book available from PQ’s library and at the first opportunity pick up some wooden blocks for the beds etc. The PQ library is the information Service provided by the Paraplegic and Quadriplegic Association of Queensland.
Phone: 61 7 3391 2044
Fax: 62 7 3391 2088 (Marion Webb is the Information Officer)
Alexia Pickering supplies a news sheet called "Accessing New Zealand." I
believe that I got a copy off the internet by a search.
(e) The people are hospitable and friendly
(f) Choose your stopping places carefully as there is usually more to see and do where ever you stop
(g) Ask locals about the roads and the distances between places. Note: they tend to give distances in hours and minutes rather than in kilometres, but the maps do not say which roads these distances correlate with
(h) Take a fold-up cooler to take your dairy products. etc. as they are not readily available
(i) Supermarkets are usually open 24 hours
(j) We found that the use of our credit card was advantageous in exchange rates. There were plenty of teller machines, and there was no trouble at the banks.
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