Thursday, 12 January 2012

New Zealand Tour, 17th october to 25th October 2011, Northland, Auckland and Surrounds a Rugby World Cup Final, The Emirates A380 all the way from Auckland to Manchester.

Into our final week of our Rugby Tour it was time to head North. The SH 1 North was a good road, in no time at all we left the sprawl of Auckland, through the charming beach resort of Orewa and into the town of Whangarei. Heare we loaded up with food, wine & beer. As we had made good time we pushed on to the seaside town of Ahipara.
The famous Ninety Mile Beach runs from the town of Ahipara to almost the top of the island. Ahipara’s other claim to fame is that it featured in the classic surfing film, ‘Endless Summer’. The beach has towering sand dunes, amazing sunsets and one of the best left hand surf breaks in the world. The bay is called ‘Shipwreck Bay’ as it has been the place where many ships have wrecked, the remains of one, the Favourite, is easy to see, and walk out to, at low tide. We camped here at the well organised Ahipara Holiday Park, this park is a ‘Kiwi Holiday Park’, the same as the one we stayed in the Catlins. It was very well run and homely. The pitches were grassed and flat. The best thing was its large lounge and social indoor dining area which has an indoor fireplace, with blazing log fire, we were glad of it was it was hammering down with rain. The table tennis table was in use all night. There was an internet cafe and Sky TV. The kitchen was clean and well equipped, and the bathrooms had free hot showers.
The next day we drove up to Cape Reinga, the Northernmost tip of the North Island, where the South Pacific Ocean meets the Tasman Sea, you can see the two Oceans mixing. It was so windy here that I almost got blown over the cliff top, causing one woman great distresses as she saw me tumbling, like tumble weed towards the cliff edge! Following that we enjoyed a lunch stop at the perfect Tapatupotu Beach and Spirits Bay. We then headed for Ninety Mile Beach for some fun on the giant sand dunes of Te Paki Stream, you can hire the boards from a cabin (a converted Container) here, the cost was minimal, and tobogganing down the dunes, into the stream, was great fun, despite the fact that I am still finding the sand in my pockets months later! After we had finished playing in the mega dunes we drove to Houhora Heads. The Houhora Heads Motor Camp was the centre of this settlement, it was very quiet and hardly cost anything to camp for the night, but it was very basic, I did have a shower, but had to pay for the hot water so I did not risk washing my hair, to remove the sand, in case the hot water ran out! It was a good job we had stocked up on supplies of Red Wine and Beer and were self sufficient as in this part of the world there was nowhere to get anything and eating and drinking could have been a problem! 

The Top of the North Island.
 Our luck with the weather had run out since we hit the North Island, and the rain and wind continued to interrupt our days. Next day we went out on to the Karikari Peninsula and admired the crecent shaped coves of Maitai and Merita Bays, beautiful even in the rain. We climbed to the top of Puheke Hill, an extinct Volcano to look down on the snow white silica sand dunes of Puheke Beach. I was glad there was a Maori Totem pole at the top of the Volcano or else it my photo looks like I went to Wales for my holiday! Green Grass, Rain and Sheep!
On top of a volcano.
It was just a short drive from here to Mangonui, once a whaling port this town is now known for its historic reserve and world famous fish and chips. The fish and chips were good, (I had the Lobster) and deserve the reputation that they have.
Fish & Chips

Lunch stop
 And so on and into ‘The Bay of Islands’, this has to be one of the areas of New Zealand most people have heard of or seen in the tourist literature. There are more than 144 islands to explore in this region and it is famous for its aquatic activities, we stopped at one of the main centres Paihia and for the first time struggled to find a camp site or accommodation. Paihia its self is a (over) commercialised tourist town, the main road follows the beach. We had passed Haruru Falls and its overbooked campsite on the way in, the falls were very shabby, graffiti on the bridge and litter strew all over. By after a bit of searching we booked into a very nice cabin with a spa pool in the garden.
The next day we got ferry over to Russell. Once described as ‘The Hell Hole of The Pacific’, Russell was a charming town, far nicer than Paihia. The views from Flagstaff Hill were worth the walk up and the large Sundial was interesting. We had a day’s driving taking in the stunning coastline, the weather was to cold to contemplate sitting on the beach so we kept going it was dusk when we arrived at Mangawhai Heads Camp site. This site is located on the beach, and looked very well established, a camp that families would come to at weekends from Auckland. The kitchen was very clinical, wall to wall stainless steel and the showers were once again pay for hot water ones, I prefer the camps with the free hot water. But the camp was very quiet and apart from worrying about the odd Tsunami we had a good night’s sleep. By now it was Friday 21st October 2011, and we were heading back to towards Auckland. Today we planned to visit Goat Island Marine Reserve, and the weather was kind, gone was the grey cloud and it was warm and sunny. As we drove down the dirt access road to the reserve we saw the Seafreinds shop that hires out wet suites and snorkelling gear, they even measure you prior to the fitting of the wet suite, a fantastic service. When we arrived at the Reserve there was a buzz in the air, and the reason for this was that there were 4 Dolphins in the cove. The Dolphins stayed all day, swimming with people they chose to swim with, frolicking, laughing at our lack of swimming skills and generally having fun with us. It is rather disconcerting to have a Dolphin swimming towards you at very high speed! What direction do you choose to go to avoid collision? You don’t you just stay still! Remember this was free, the dolphins chose to swim with us this was not an organised tour and to say it was the highlight of the holiday is an understatement, and this was one of the highlights of my life. Obviously it was late when we left Goat Island Marine Reserve and now we needed to find a place to stay, by now I was sick of the Campervan and the pay as you go showers, so we had a quick look on the laptop and came up with Matakana 360. We phoned the owner, it was expensive but we decided to stay at his holiday let. He gave us the directions and access instructions and we set off to find it.
Matakana Toilets!
Hire your Diving stuff here.

Matakana 360

The village of Matakana itself was lovely, with its very artistic toilets, it was also very popular as it is within commuting distance of Auckland, in fact we could see The Sky Tower from the property. With the help of uor map we found our way up hill to Matakana 360, called that as it is located on top of a hill with a 360 view to die for, the property was beyond perfection and as soon as we arrive the owner rang to ask us if we wanted to stay 3 nights for the price of two, very generous, our only problem would be leaving this perfect property.
The Rugby World Cup Final Match was played on Sunday 23rd October. We drove in from Matakana to the Ferry stop under the bridge, here we got the ferry over to Auckland. The ferry was crowded with All Blacks fans and Auckland was up for the party. We had been so busy that we had not used the Fan Trail to get to the match so as this was our last chance to do so we walked the fan Trail from Auckland city centre to Eden park today, us and 80,000 other Rugby Fans enjoyed this walk on finals day.
The final was a good match with the result that the whole of New Zealand wanted, a victory and a well deserved one.
To finish off our long tour of this fantastic country we visited some friends in Orewa Beach. Then on Tuesday 25th October we chilled out visiting Devonport and stayed at the well equipped Waldorfe Stadium Apartments. Then it was time to go home so on Wednesday 26th October the campervan was returned to Britz hire company, I was glad to see it go and don’t plan on another campervan holiday, you certainly don’t need one in New Zealand.
Then it was time to board the Emirates A380 for the long flight home, Auckland to Sydney to Dubai. Change of planes at Dubai onto another A380 to Manchester.

At the airport

Emirates A380
A drink of Tea in style on the A380.
What I did on my holidays..........