Journey To The End Of The Earth – Part 3

>The third instalment in my travels to New Zealand and I’ve finally arrived… if you haven’t already read them, Part 1 is here, and Part 2 is here.

Sydney – Auckland in Qantas Economy

We drove to the airport in the car we’d hired for the Blue Mountains. We’d hoped to find a petrol station en route but failed, resulting in being charged double the going rate by Avis to fill the tank again.

Once through check-in we made our way to the Qantas First Class lounge, thanks to my BA Gold Card. The lounge was smart and comfortable, but nothing special – this surprised me as this was the main hub for Qantas. The good news is that they’ve since introduced a new lounge which is a significant step forward.

It was to be a fairly short flight to Auckland, although it was served by a 747 as the flight continued on to Los Angeles. I was funding the flights between Sydney, Auckland and Kerikeri myself, and my financial controller (wife!) only allowed sufficient funds for economy class, but for the 3 hour flight it made sense.

For an economy flight the service was really very good. The crew were chatty, and food was even edible. We tried to watch a film, but 40 minutes before landing they collected the headsets despite the film not being finished yet. Why? The film was still running and we hadn’t started our final descent.

As we landed in Auckland, we collected our bags and then headed off to find the Air NZ domestic terminal.

Auckland – Kerikeri in Air New Zealand Economy

The flight up to Kerikeri was on a much smaller propeller plane with at most 40 seats (all economy). This meant next to no space on board for cabin bags.

The in flight service of boiled sweet and orange squash didn’t disappoint, with just the one member of cabin crew handing these out.

The flight was around half an hour at most, and the view from 1A was excellent.

Kerikeri is a very small airport; more of an airfield. We landed and crossed the tarmac to the building to meet my parents. The bags followed soon after, and we picked them off the back of the trailer.

The Bay Of Islands

The four of us and our bags squeezed into my parents’ Ford Ka, and we drove for about half an hour back to the Bay of Islands where they live. The house looks out onto Opito Bay, which really is idyllic.

The bay, and indeed the whole of the Kerikeri inlet is calm and not too congested with boats. This meant that Emma and I could take my parents’ motorboat along the inlet to the beaches for a spot of sunbathing.

The pace of life here was clearly worlds apart from anywhere we’d been so far.

Sailing with the Dolphins

Having settled into the easy life of New Zealand, we decided to take a day out of our busy schedule of chillaxing, and go on a sailing cruise to see the dolphins at sea. We booked the Sailing and Dolphin Adventure, which left from Paihia wharf at around 9am. It wasn’t too pricy at around £35 each, and included a BBQ lunch.

As we went out to sea we soon noticed a few dolphins started to play around the boat. As more joined us, we stopped to watch as they showed off their skills.

We stopped for lunch at a quiet beach, and spent the rest of the day sailing around the Bay of Islands, stopping occasionally to watch the dolphins.

It was an excellent day out, although for some reason we didn’t get to actually swim with the dolphins (as was mentioned on their website). If swimming with them is something you really want to do, it’s worth making sure you’ll get to do this before you set sail.

Road Trip

With the relaxational properties of the Bay of Islands exploited to the full, we decided to hit the open road for a week and visit a few places in the North Island. Being the cheap-skate that I was (am), I scoured the internet for a cheap car rental company, and eventually came up with one offering an old Beemer for £15/day. It had air con and a 3.5 litre engine, which is all I needed to know.

As we headed south, our first stop was at the Waipoua Forest. In this forest are a number of seriously old trees. While this wasn’t the inspiration behind my travelling over 24,000 miles to the other side of the world, it was still very impressive, so it seemed only right to consider my carbon footprint for a few seconds and do a bit of tree-hugging.

[above] Where’s Schofs?

With that nonsense out of the way, we hit the road again and headed down to Auckland where Emma’s Godfather lives. After supper we were given a quick tour of the city, leading up to a lookout point just in time to catch the sunset.

It was the next morning when I learned two very important pieces of information. Firstly, Emma‚Äôs Godfather had a rather nice Jaguar E-Type, and Secondly, Emma was second in line to inherit it. The mind immediately set to work…

Our next stop as we headed South was Waitomo, home to some amazing Glow Worm Caves. We took a tour, leading us deep into caves at Waitomo it was well lit, and as we all assembled into one of the larger caves, the guide turned off the lights revealing the spectacular light show presented by the glow worms. The number of worms and the light given off by each of them was incredible.

We continued to tour the caves until we reached an underground lake where we boarded a boat that took us through more caves, and finally out into the open.

After the caves, we went to the Waitomo visitor centre and arranged to do some abseiling. A guy called Ross got us kitted up and took us to the point where we effectively jump off a cliff with a bit of string tied around our waist.

Actually it was very safe. I’ve never really had a fear of heights, so there wasn’t the scare factor that some people get. Ross was a really nice guy – quite the comedian.

Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

We spent the night in a motel in Rotorua, and as anyone who’s been to the area will know, the air was thick with the smell of sulphur. Strangely you almost get used to it, but you always knew it was there!

We drove to Wai-O-Tapu about 20 minutes away, and parked up at the visitor’s centre. The thermal pools, bubbling muds and steaming grounds were very impressive, and to think they were natural was astonishing.

I was keen to see the “guaranteed daily eruption of the Lady Knox Geyser at 10.15am”. Now this was something to see – how could a natural phenomenon understand the concept of daylight savings time!?

Well… the reason the eruption is guaranteed at 10:15… is because at 10:14 a member of staff comes along and dumps a box of washing powder into the Geyser! It‚Äôs still an impressive sight though.

Whangarei Kiwi Sanctuary

Another stop on our tour took us to a Kiwi Sanctuary. Kiwis are nocturnal and native to New Zealand. Being nocturnal, they were in special enclosures that simulated night time, and so no photos – sorry – I’ve popped one in courtesy of Wikipedia though :). They are flightless (given the almost non-existant wings) and around the size of a chicken.

The sanctuary has much more than just Kiwis, however. By far the highlight of the visit was seeing the lion cubs – we were allowed into their enclosure to stroke them and to play tug of war with their toys.

Whangarei Falls

Just around the corner from the sanctuary lies a stunning sight – Whangarei Falls. It’s a lovely place for a walk or to stop for a picnic.

Whale Bay

One of the most beautiful beaches in New Zealand is Whale Bay, although it’s quite a walk to get to. We parked up at the car park and began the walk down. It’s a narrow winding track along down along a cliff edge, with a few great view points of the beach.

I was quite close to the edge when I took the above photo, which was perhaps the worst time to have a pair of wasps fly straight at me and start flying around my head. Emma, as expected, was very concerned for my welfare and so put her hand over her mouth to stifle her laughter. Hmph.

Back At The Ranch

At the end of the week’s tour of the North Island, we took the car back to the rental office (read: some bloke’s house). On collecting the car, the tank was ¼ full, and so had headed to the petrol station to fill up. I returned the car ½ full, so was a little miffed that the guy insisted we had taken it away with a full tank, and that the fuel was sometimes a bit dodgy. He was very rude and eventually gave up trying in the end, but I now always double check the fuel level before taking a car, and take a photo of the gauge and odometer.

The remainder of our time in New Zealand was spent taking the motorboat along the inlets, visiting the beaches for a spot of sunbathing. I‚Äôve had worse days 🙂