Aotearoa Discovering new Zeland - NORTH ISLAND

In the true spirit of disconnecting and slowing down, this travel blog is running behind schedule; this post should have come out on Monday and it is now Saturday. Oops. Oh well, hope you enjoy anyway.

Fiji to New Zeland Transition. The experience of traveling by boat to the airport is still novel to us and hence the transition by water (little boat then “big” boat due to tides), dual air (prop plane then jet) and car (yeah for Uber, it works in Auckland) between our beach bure at Tiliva on Kadavu and Wakefield Street in Auckland was pretty special. This was aided and abetted by the Air Fiji lounge at Nadi international terminal where, Dear reader, I must confess that bug-free showers, a foot massage and copious free drinks were heavily abused. The change in outlook was also pretty extreme from one destination to the other:

Only 1,250 miles geographically, but a million miles culturally

If you look at a map of Auckland, you’ll immediately see how interesting the topography is.. formed by volcanoes creating a junction at the South Pacific and Tasman seas, the city landscape is dominated by water and hills / mountains and it is known as the City of Sails for very good reason. If you’ve been living in a Jungle for the last few weeks, the contrast is marked, but seemed vaguely familiar to us, especially as we had our first evening meal up the Space Needle, I mean Sky Tower.

Devenport via Art. After our first night in downtown Auckland, we had a mondo breakfast / latte because we could, and because we had withdrawal after three weeks away from such places. We stopped in at the Auckland Art Museum where we discovered The Obliteration Room where every museum-goer is given a sheet of sticky dots to stick on anything they like in an all white room. (Victoria may have taken the meaning of art too far as she chose to stick the outline sheet for her dots on the wall, rather than the dots themselves....)

After three weeks of no latte, coffee and breakfast never tasted so good
Dots are Hot
Window is obliterated

We discovered that we had arrived on Auckland’s very own anniversary bank holiday, so caught a ferry to Devonport along with a merry band of locals. We were struck by the view back to the CBD which photos cannot do justice to. Many sails were out including some tall ships and various ferries zipped amongst them deftly. We didn’t make it to Mount Victoria (apparently there is another one in Wellington so we may get a second chance).

Auckland aka City of Sails

Sky City dominates the skyline and it almost seems like wherever you are, you look up and you see it. Clearly we needed to go there and celebrate birthdays again (any excuse to go to Orbit 360).

Birthday dinner up the tower

We also were keen to check out the Auckland Museum. A pleasant walk there included quite a bit of uphill on a windy path through the Auckland Domain, but passing some amazing Pohitukawa trees which are known locally as New Zealand Christmas Trees because of their red blossom at Christmas.

Pohitukawa trees.. check out the tiny people in the bottom right for scale

The imposing Museum contained much of interest but we were completely drawn in by the amazing New Zealand Geographic Photograher of the Year, 2017 exhibition. The images taken by a mix of pros and amateurs were profound in their own right but also gave insights into some of the sights / places that this beautiful country has to offer and of which we’ll hopefully be seeing first hand over the next four weeks. Check it out here: https://www.nzgeo.com/photography/photographer-of-the-year-2017

It was great to catch up with Tim and Suzy who kindly had us over for dinner at their amazing house. So many incredible travel tips for places to visit and things to try including Icebreaker clothing (addicted), pineapple lumps (addicted), Whittaker’s chocolate (addicted - hate to say it; better than Cadbury’s). Thx guys so much!!

Waving to family back in the UK

We should probably have checked the weather forecast before we booked a wine tasting tour of Waiheke Island. Our ferry hit the tail end of Tropical Storm Fehi making it rather memorable for all the wrong reasons, and the “scenic coach transfers to each vineyard” were rather dampened when the torrential rain found a way into the air con and started dripping through the air vents!

We needed lots of wine to taste after the stormy crossing. Casita Miro was our favorite
Line ‘em up

It’s time to start the road trip so.. need to grab a car. One last “diaga” crossing (I wish you could do this across the 40th / 156th intersection in Redmond) and we got to pick up our Holden Cruz. With 47,000km on the clock this thing is pretty beaten up and has backwards wipes / turn signal controls. Right hand drive, no problem. Backwards turn signals, really, what were you thinking? And who the hell is Holden!?

A walk via diagonal crosswalk to get the beaten up rental car

Our first stop was at Hamilton Gardens (this may be the one reason to stop at Hamilton), which is an interesting setup segmented into different cultural garden experiences built on the old city refuse site.

Butterfly on unidentifiable but interesting bush
Hamilton Gardens - an oasis

Waikato is the farming heartland of the north island and fllled with incredible rolling terrain. We had the pleasure of staying on Miranda’s dairy farm and got to experience first hand the milking schedule (every 16 hours) including an up close look at the mechanics (and teats!).

Looking out to Kawhia Harbour - Captain Cook sailed straight past
Beautiful Waikato
Staying amongst wet stock and checking out milking
“200” was very friendly

From our base on the dairy farm, we got to go check out the Kiwi House at Otorohanga. We arrived for the feeding of the kiwis but being noctournal and light-sensitive, we have no pics. I can share that the great spotted kiwi was surprisingly energetic, rushing about digging for food amongst the leaves - and wasn’t exactly light on his feet! We can understand why New Zealanders adopted the bird as their national emblem and monika, as they’re very endearing, with coarse feathers more like fur and are “honorary mammals”.

To Kiwis (the people, not the bird), suspension bridges are known as Swing bridges, and we visited a very nice example at Arapuni. The surrounding countryside was also beautiful: green, unspoilt rolling hills with cows and sheep dotted about.

Swing Bridge

We’d read a lot about glow worms in New Zealand. To be zoologically correct, these are larvae of the fungus gnat, and they glow at night to attract insects which they reel in on webs. We didn’t opt for the glow-worm cave option, but signed up for a guided kayak trip involving paddling up the Pokaiwhenua Stream at dusk, waiting for it to get dark then drifting back downstream to admire the larvae on the walls of the canyon. Luckily we hadn’t really thought this through as drifting anywhere in a kayak in the pitch black trying to avoid submerged tree trunks, the walls of the canyon, supply barges and your fellow kayakers is a bit nerve wracking. However, the combination of the adrenaline from all of that along with the amazing lights on the walls from the glow worms and the stars in the sky above was truly magical.

Kayaking - all very straightforward when it’s light
Sunset Tractor Porn

My daughter and I are LoTR fans; Victoria is more neutral but I think we can both highly recommend a visit to Hobbiton if you find yourself on the North Island. We did the evening banquet tour, which I would HIGHLY recommend due to reduced crowds and available light for taking pix.

Two Hobbits

Hobbit holes

Evening walk into Hobbiton

Vista over the party field and lake

Fine ale

The mill and lake

Feast fit for a hobbit at the Green Dragon

Part of the package included a banquet dinner at The Green Dragon. To explain: the owners of the estate where they filmed The Lord of the Rings, did a deal with Sir Peter Jackson for the return filming of The Hobbit, so that they rebuilt the set in permanent form. Part of the rebuild (which took 2 years) included a fully working version of the Green Dragon Inn complete with a bar and restaurant.

On Party Field
“I regret to announce — this is The End. I am going now. I bid you all a very fond farewell.”

If we managed to keep you until the end, thanks for sticking with us! If you are interested in following along go to http://clarkezone.io and if you like gratuitous food pictures I’m posting those at http://instagram.com/clarkezone

Love James and Victoria

Created By
James Clarke


(C) 2018 James Clarke all rights reserved

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