Tuesday 21st May, 2013
Wednesday 22nd May, 2013
Thursday 23rd May, 2013
Friday 24th May, 2013
Saturday 25th May, 2013
Sunday 26th May, 2013
Monday 27th May, 2013

Tuesday 21st May, 2013

Drop Cap t was a long driving day today as we left Paihia in dense fog and headed south. We retraced our steps from last Thursday as far as Wellesford, where we stopped again for morning tea. The waitress recognised us as we came in and was especially helpful. Coincidentally, we met there the couple who had been on the train with us on Sunday. They were driving back to Auckland to go home. I had assumed from their accents that they were Canadian but it turned out that they had lived in Brisbane for forty years! Takes a long time to lose an accent.

Drop Cap eoff navigated us with the aid of his new GPS program and we sailed through the lovely west coast scenery, which was new to us, to manage the spaghetti junctions of the motorways around Auckland, which impressed us as much more efficient than Sydney's.

Aqua Soleil photograph

Living space at Aqua Soleil, Whitianga

Drop Cap e had lunch in a not very salubrious truckies takeaway and continued on the steep, winding and very picturesque route to Whitianga where we had no trouble locating our villa, Acqua Soleil No.30. This is quite an attractive two storey, two bedroom unit which gives the impression that the owners have just left on their holidays and we are house-sitting. There are a lot of supplies (half finished) in the cupboards. Mac rates it highly because he was greeted quite effusively by a large calico cat across the way, being his second cat place in a row. Sunseeker at Paihia also had a friendly cat to greet us.

Aqua Soleil Bedroom photograph

Our bedroom, Aqua Soleil, Whitianga

Drop Cap e had not been there long before we realised that the floor was alive with ants. We told the manageress and asked for insecticide. She came and sprayed the ants and wiped them up and whatever she used seemed to work.

The villa has a lot of equipment but I find the washing machine incomprehensible and the dryer is too high even for Geoff. We will see if there is a laundrette in town.

Drop Cap ac and I went to see if we could find a supermarket but could only find a little convenience type store so he went to the information office (I-site) and they pointed him towards a massive New World away from the main street. So we stocked up again.

Came back and I cooked cajun chicken with veges and assistance from Mac and Geoff. I feel lousy, my back is really aching. It has been a very long driving day. See what tomorrow brings.

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Wednesday 22nd May, 2013

Whitianga Marina photograph

Whitianga Marina

Drop Cap hen we awoke this morning there was heavy fog over the sea and it had been raining a lot of the night. It seemed to be lifting as we headed in to Whitianga to explore. The I-site (tourist info) pointed us towards a laundrette, gave us a map of Whitianga and a map of Coromandel Town and booked us in for the Driving Creek Railway ride which is in Coromandel. We wandered around, seeing the marina and scoping out restaurants then got back in the car for the hour's drive across the range to Coromandel.

Enroute to Coromandel photograph

View toward Coromandel

Drop Cap his was a spectacular drive across the mountains with wonderful views to the west if one could see them properly, but the cloud came down and rain did too. We stopped at a scenic lookout but the view was somewhat obscured, unfortunately, so we continued on to the once bustling gold mining town of Coromandel. Once a hippy centre (rather like Nimbin) it is full of quirky cafes and craft shops, set in its lovely old Victorian and Edwardian buildings.

Ceramics, Driving Creek photograph

Ceramic Decoration at Driving Creek

Gate, Driving Creek photograph

Iron Gates at Driving Creek

Drop Cap e had lunch in a very nice café - Mac and I had leek and potato soup with garlic bread and Geoff had an angus steak burger, enormous, which he said was delicious. After lunch we headed for Driving Creek Road to find the Driving Creek Railway and Potteries.

Signpost, Driving Creek photograph

Signpost, Entry to Driving Creek

Railcar photograph

Our Transport, the Railcar at Driving Creek

Drop Cap his was begun back in the sixties by a potter, Barry Brickell, who wanted to open an Arts Co-Operative on an old, cleared but abandoned farm. The farmers had removed all the trees from the land and it was all grass. BB started his pottery and as it grew he started to build the railway to bring supplies of clay and wood for his work.

Double Decker Bridge photograph

Double Decker Bridge, Driving Creek

Ceramic Tunnel photograph

Ceramic Decorations at Entrance to Tunnel

Drop Cap here are tunnels, bridges (one of them two storied), zigzags and spirals. In addition he has planted literally thousands of NZ native trees, from the massive kauri to the silver fern. It now looks like old growth rain forest. The whole thing escalated until it is now a very complex rail line to a viewpoint tower.

Eyeful Tower Driving Creek, photograph

The "Eyefull Tower" (not our pun)

Drop Cap his tower, called with justification, the Eyeful Tower (it makes sense if you say it out loud), is perched above the rainforest scene, with a spectacular view to the sea. The whole place is amazing and I hope the government keeps the same good feeling going if (as is threatened) they take over running the place.

Drop Cap hey continue to plant and the whole project is an inspiration. BB is now 70 odd and continues to pot, giving studio space to other artists as well. Their shop had lots of lovely goodies but pottery and glass is not suitable to travel with.

Drop Cap hen we left we had afternoon tea in a little organic tea shoppe, all incense and rhythmic music, which also sold second hand books, but I couldn't find anything I wanted.

Drop Cap e came back to Whitianga, did some shopping and took the load of heavies to the laundrette. While they washed we walked along the main drag, got some money at an ATM and I bought a notepad (for when I finish this book) and a paperback novel which I hope will be interesting. I have finished two books already.

Drop Cap hen the laundry was ready we came back and put the still damp things into our dryer which is so high up the wall that Mac had to climb on a chair to get to it! Then I got dinner, fillet steak with onions and mushrooms, cauliflower, beans, broccoli, sauteed potatoes and salad. Who needs restaurants? Although we will find one for tomorrow night.

Drop Cap am starting to call this holiday "A Journey with Cats"; Mac has been delighted to be greeted by cats (Sheba in Paihia, unintroduced Calico here in Whitianga and a lovely black and white friendly moocher in the organic café in Coromandel.)

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Thursday 23rd May, 2013

Drop Cap t was a wild night last night with pelting rain and high winds. I woke up well predawn and lay listening to the weather and trying to ease my hip and knee for what seemed like hours.

We looked outside and saw blue sky - within minutes it was raining again. This went on all morning so we decided to have a rest day. Geoff retired to his room with his games and his Galaxy while Mac and I looked at maps and guides for our ongoing travels.

Bridge at Whitianga photograph

Road Bridge at Whitianga

Drop Cap fter going to the supermarket for some last supplies we came back and I cooked bacon and eggs and beans on toast for lunch. Then we braved the constantly changing weather and went for a walk along Brophies Beach just in front of the complex. We walked down the beach to the bridge over a river which spilled into the sea.

Off Brophys Beach photograph

Offshore From Brophys Beach

Drop Cap here were rainbows and lots of seabirds and rather spectacular off-shore scenery. It was quite pleasant to blow the cobwebs away and I have done 2.5km by my pedometer. So that is something at least.

Drop Cap e are going to try the Indian Restaurant in town for dinner, then pack to be ready to go tomorrow morning. I just hope the weather improves.


The Indian Restaurant was excellent, we really enjoyed it. So it's goodbye to Whitianga and the Coromandel Peninsula and off to Whakatane.

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Friday 24th May, 2013

Drop Cap ell, today was completely different. We woke to calm, dry and sunny weather and it continued all day. We left Whitianga at about 8:15 and drove through lovely scenery all morning. We stopped for morning tea in a little café in a small town whose name escapes me at the moment, then went on towards Tauranga. We drove through the massive Tauranga Port Area, bustling marinas and huge container depots. We counted 23 container ships clustered around the area, it reminded us of Newcastle.

Mt Maunganui Beach photograph

Mt Maunganui Beach

Drop Cap nce we had driven through the port we headed for Mt. Maunganui, a spectacular beauty spot with a lovely beach setting. We spent a couple of hours here, walking 4kms along the beach and up into Mokupiti Island which is really attached but may well be cut off when the tide comes in.

Mt Maunganui 2 photograph

Mount Maunganui

Drop Cap t is a hugely picturesque area being steadily spoiled by massive development on the foreshore. But it is still good. The sun shone warmly and we really enjoyed exploring this very popular area.

 Maunganui photograph

Looking towards Mokupiti Island from Maunganui Beach

Mokupiti photograph

Mokupiti Island

Drop Cap e had lunch at the local version of the Coffee Club, Mac trying his favourite Chicken Citrus salad, which looked much less inviting than the ones at Penrith. Geoff had a seafood chowder and I had a chicken and avocado sandwich (in a large bun).

Lounge Bakers Homestay photograph

The Lounge at Baker's Homestay, Whakatane

Drop Cap hen we headed off again for Whakatane. When we arrived at our accommodation (Baker's Homestay Cottage) we were a bit disappointed to find it was a long way (15km) out of town and we needed to go in to find a supermarket. The cottage is a converted garage, I think, quite spacious but very cold. There is an airconditioner in the lounge but it seems a bit half hearted, and what I most worry about is that the toilet and shower (very small ensuite type) are downstairs and the bedrooms are up. We all seem to need to go in the middle of the night and Geoff and I are already infirm on our legs.

Our room Bakers photograph

Our room, Bakers Homestay, Whakatane

Drop Cap till, we went in and found the I-site, then found the supermarket and the place where we meet our tour for White Island on Sunday. There doesn't seem to be a lot else to do in Whakatane, especially off-season, but I guess we can find something.

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Saturday 25th May, 2013

Drop Cap ell, despite yesterday's lovely weather and the full moon blazing last night, today dawned cloudy, windy and cold (9degC at 9:30) and only deteriorated as the day wore on. As we decided to head for home it started raining heavily so it does not augur well for tomorrow's jaunt to White Island.

River Channel photograph

Whakatane River Channel

Drop Cap nyway, we set out at about 9:45 for the town and first stopped at a Bakehouse so Geoff could have morning tea. Then we went off to the riverside where we drove along to the Heads, where the Whakatane River joins the sea.

Maori statue photograph

Statue of Maori Princess

Drop Cap here were historic points all along the way with points of interest, mostly Maori, including a statue to the daughter of one of the first warrior chiefs on an offshore rock.

Maori statue photograph

Statue of Maori Princess

Drop Cap pparently she was celebrated because she mobilised other women to row the huge war canoe when it started drifting out to sea, leaving her father and all the other warriors on shore. They were attending a men only get together at Toi's Pa, some way away up a mountain. Women were not supposed to be able to do anything practical (except cook and weave and other female type pursuits, and were definitely not supposed to be able to handle the boat. I wonder how often they got to do it again!

Waka Canoe photograph

Waka Canoe

Drop Cap e saw the ceremonial (replica) waka canoe which is used in festivals etc. It is not as big as the one at Waitangi but is just as decorative.

View from Toi's Pa photograph

View from Toi's Pa

Drop Cap e stopped in at the I-site to get driving directions to Toi's Pa, a local scenic point with what would be a stupendous view in good weather (just what a war chief needs), all over Whakatane and out to sea including Whale Island, a sanctuary no-one can land on, as far as White Island, the active volcano.

Drop Cap he rain was moving in as we left. Geoff and Mac went off and bought waterproof pants for tomorrow (I really hope the rain clears - don't care if it is cold), we bought a few things at the supermarket, then we came home. It is really chilly here even with the heater on. The lounge is so big it is difficult to heat and it is the only room with any attempt at heating. Oh well, we wrapped up in blankets.

Drop Cap e received a phone message at 6:30 to say the White Island tour had been cancelled because of the weather. We booked again for Monday and hope for the best but it is looking iffy for then too. Don't really know what to do now, the White Island tour is the reason we came here at all, and there is really very little else to do!

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Sunday 26th May, 2013

Drop Cap espite a wild, wet and windy night the sun was out when we got up. This country's weather is weird! According to our landlord, Bruce, the tour would have been cancelled anyway because of the wild waves at the river mouth which would have prevented the boat from leaving.

Ohope Beach photograph

Ohope Beach near Whakatane

Drop Cap nyway we slept late and breakfasted later then headed out to Ohope Beach, the surfing beach closest to Whakatane which has no beach, being on a river. The beach was lovely, a long stretch of sand with holiday homes and blocks of flats, but not the glitz of Mt. Maunganui. We walked along the beach for 4.5km, then headed off again for Opotiki, about an hour's drive.

Nukuhou Salt Flats photograph

At Nukuhou Salt Flats

Nukuhou Salt Flats photograph

At Nukuhou Salt Flats

Drop Cap n the way we paused to explore Nukuhou Salt Flats, which was a protected environment and sanctuary for birds, stretching out for miles towards the sea. There was an interesting view point with rocks painted with various birds. We walked along the boardwalk to a hide in the middle of this sea of dry grass but did not see many birds. It was an interesting and different landscape.

Hukutaia Picnic Area photograph

Hukutaia Picnic Area

178 Silver Fern Hukutaia photograph

Iconic Silver Fern at Hukutaia

Drop Cap potiki is an historic port town with many Victorian and Edwardian buildings and a riverfront wharf. We picked up some sandwiches for lunch and took them to the Hukutaia Domain for a picnic. The Domain is wonderful, the remains of a warm temperate rain forest which has been added to by plantings of collected seeds by a man called Marcus Heginbotham.

179 Tree Fern Hukutaia photograph

Tree Ferns at Hukutaia

180 View from Hukutaia photograph

Peaceful Country View from Hukutaia

Drop Cap here are several tracks around the Domain, none of them taxing or very long but very picturesque. There was every kind of tree, bush, shrub, vine and many different fungi . Some of the trees were very old and very big, while the iconic silver fern and large tree ferns flourished..

Burial Tree photograph

The Huge Puriri "Burial Tree"

Drop Cap he heart of the collection is a huge puriri tree, hollow in the centre and about 2000 years old. The bones of prominent Maori tribespeople were interred in the trunk but when a storm uncovered some of them they were removed with due ceremony and re-interred somewhere else. There was a 20 minute walk through the trees, and it was lovely and very peaceful. It was beautiful hearing the birdsong, something lacking in other wild places we have been.

Historic ruins Opotiki photograph

Ruins of Historic Cattle Race, Opotiki

Drop Cap fter this we returned to Opotiki and followed the historic buildings trail leaflet to see some of the old places (very few in decent condition, and most being used for other purposes) then went down to the wharf on the river where we found the remains of the cattle race where the beasts were loaded onto ships. The mouth of the river has silted up so vessels can no longer use the port but some must get through because there is a coast guard station there.

Drop Cap e headed back to Whakatane where we drove along to the Heads to see the waves breaking in the river mouth. The White Island people said they would make the decision at about 7 p.m. and telephone us to let us know. I certainly hope we can go but will perfectly understand why not, having seen what we would have to negotiate. Fingers crossed.

They called at 6:30 to say the skipper will assess again tomorrow morning at 7:30 and they will call at 8 a.m.
Pedometer reading today 8km!

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Monday 27th May, 2013

Drop Cap ell, day dawned fine and clear so we got up early in anticipation and, sure enough, at about 8 a.m we got a call to say the tour was going ahead. So we got all our warm gear and headed in for the wharf.

Drop Cap here were only about a dozen of us in a mid-sized power launch, three crew and two geology students from Christchurch who go over every day they can to take samples and readings. We had to sign indemnity forms at the office because it is a dangerous environment, being a very active volcano. However we all seemed excited at the prospect.

Drop Cap he trip was a roller coaster ride as the ocean surge hit us. Mac and I stayed out on the back deck but had to get into our waterproofs as the spray surged back. It was as good as jet boating, very exhilarating!

White Island photograph

First Glimpse of Steaming White Island

Drop Cap n about an hour and a half we reached White Island, sitting there with plumes of smoke and steam venting constantly. We had to get into an inflatable dinghy to reach the "wharf" - a ladder up a pile of rocks which was a bit hard to negotiate, for me at any rate. The going was fairly rough and you had to watch where you put your feet but the island was so very interesting that you sometimes forgot.

White Island photograph

Moored at White Island

Drop Cap ur guide told us lots of interesting facts about the island (NZ's only active marine volcano) and about the relatively short-lived attempts to mine sulphur there. We moved around the island from smoking fumaroles to steaming craters, to sulphur laden "blisters" which will eventually become mud pools.

White Island photograph

Touring White Island

White Island photograph

Still Touring White Island

Drop Cap verywhere was a different version of a moonscape, barren land, steaming gently, it was a totally unique experience and we were so lucky. Yesterday's tour was cancelled and the skipper said tomorrow's didn't look good to go either as the forecast for today had been rather misleading and if they had realised how high the sea was today's probably would also have been cancelled. So it was good to get it in on our last day.

White Island Crater photograph

Crater on White Island

Sulphur Mine ruins photograph

Ruins of Sulphur Mine, White Island

Drop Cap e last explored the ruins of the sulphur mining operation, highly corroded bits of wheels and tanks etc. Nature is certainly winning out here.
We returned to the boat and were requested to wash our shoes before boarding as the corrosive nature of the very dust would have a deleterious effect on the boat's timbers and furniture.

Drop Cap e were given a good packed lunch, a sandwich, apple, oaty bar, piece of cake and a mini Crunchie bar.
We decided to sit inside going back and it's a good thing we did. The surge was even stronger and the back of the boat was soaked with spray at every wave. Unfortunately, Geoff got sick and had to get a sick bag. His blood sugar was extremely high for no discernible reason, it could have been the gas and fumes on the island that made him ill.

Geoff on White Island photograph

Geoff on White Island

Drop Cap e were all issued with hard hats and gas masks and they were necessary! The gas got into your lungs and made us cough, quite uncomfortable. Anyway, he wasn't the only one who was sick, the motion of the boat just after a meal certainly didn't help.

Halfway home we were joined by a group of common dolphins who played around the boat, leaping and diving, it was quite a bonus. We were all starting to nod off by the time we got home.

White Island Boat photograph

Our Boat for the White Island Tour

Drop Cap e have had a great day, Geoff' s illness notwithstanding. It was such a unique experience to walk on an active volcano. We wouldn't have missed it for quids.

Home to think about packing and going out to dinner. There don't appear to be many restaurants, as opposed to cafes and bakeries, we may have to think about a pub. See what happens.


Drop Cap e got a fabulous (and expensive) meal at Roquette, by the riverside. Geoff and I had a glass of wine and we started with a mezze plate of different breads with three dips. Quite a large starter.
Then Geoff had a seafood risotto (too much, it defeated him) Mac had roast pork and I actually chose the vegetarian option, a tasty middle eastern vegie tagine on cous cous with hummus and tahini. All good.

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