Oct 31, 2010 – Sunday – Whangamata to Rotorua, New Zealand
We have a nice omelette for breakfast at our B&B in Whangamata, and then we depart for Rotorua. It isn’t a long drive today, so we detour to see Waihi Beach, which is yet another spectacular New Zealand beach, complete with a small town. We spend a half hour or so walking the beach, and watching the locals enjoying their day off with their families, since it is Sunday. We then resume our drive to Rotorua. The GPS takes us through the outskirts of Tauranga, and then we are into quite a remote area of New Zealand until we arrive in Rotorua.
Oct 29, 2010 – Friday – Whangamata, Coromandel Peninsula
After breakfast this morning, we decide that today will be a “beach day“, borrowing a term used on cruise ships. Peter lends us some beach towels, and we sunbathe on the beach, wandering back and forth, and generally soak it all in for an hour or two. Nobody wants to burn, so we reluctantly return to the B&B to get cleaned up a bit.
We go to town for a coffee and a snack from one of the local bakeries, and after a bit of window shopping in town, we spend most of the afternoon at the B&B relaxing and having tea with Peter around 4pm. For dinner, Peter suggests we try a Thai restaurant in town. We order the deep fried Snapper, which is good but not very big. We also order some vegetables to go with it, and share the platters, however even with rice, the meal was a bit too small for three people. Oh well, it won’t hurt us to go away a bit hungry for once on this trip, especially after all the food we consumed on board the Volendam!
Oct 30, 2010 – Saturday – Whangamata, Hot Water Beach, Onemana Beach, Coromandel Peninsula
After breakfast, we drive up to Hot Water Beach, which is spectacular with the surf crashing along the kilometer or so long sandy beach. Getting there however was stressful, since soon after we left Whangamata we encountered the K2 Cycle Race – a huge bicycle race going on along the highway. There were hundreds of bicyclists racing along the road in huge groups. New Zealand roads are so narrow and generally there are no paved shoulders, so the bicyclists took the lane, which held up traffic and caused some near accidents. That said, Hot Water Beach was worth seeing, and the trip back was less stressful since we were driving against the flow of bicycles, which were still being dispatched down the road.
We stop at Onemana Beach on the way back, which is yet another spectacular beach along the Coromandel Peninsula. There is a small community here, and the beach is virtually deserted at this time of year. After returning to the B&B and having a bit of a rest, Peter serves us tea at 4pm. Afterward, we go back to Oceana’s restaurant for dinner and have their specials again. Good food at a great price.
Oct 28, 2010 – Thursday – Warkworth to Whangamata, Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand
We are traveling to a B&B on the Coromandel Peninsula today, which means driving through the motorways of Auckland. After we leave the B&B in Warkworth, we do a quick drive to the neighbouring Parry Kauri Park & Warkworth Museum, where there are two very old and extremely large Kauri trees. The drive through Auckland goes very well; traffic is a bit heavy, but it keeps moving nicely. The GPS keeps us on track and helps us to manoeuvre through the maze of motorways, lanes and ramps around and through Auckland on our way around the Hauraki Gulf to Whangamata (fang-a-mata) on the Coromandel Peninsula.
Our destination is the Kotuku B&B, located a block from the beautiful estuary on the Otahu River in Whangamata (fang-a-mata). We are only about four blocks from an absolutely stunning fine sand beach, which goes on for several kilometres. There is virtually nobody on the beach at this time of year, which makes it even more attractive to us.
On the recommendation of Peter, the B&B operator, we go to Oceana’s restaurant, which offers a choice of three mains on special this month for NZ$15. Two of the three choices are great: Scallops in mornay sauce, and Fish and Chips.
Oct 26, 2010 – Tuesday – Kerikeri to Warkworth, New Zealand
We reluctantly leave our B&B in Kerikeri this morning, and drive down the highway to Warkworth. We leave late and arrive early. The Warkworth Country House B&B is ready for us, with the doors open to our rooms, and the beds are made, so we make ourselves at home. As it turns out, Perry Bathgate, the B&B operator is working in the garden, so he doesn’t see us until we have been there for an hour or so. We go to the Bridgehouse Lodge Pub for dinner this evening. It is located on Elizabeth Street, which is the main street in the little town of Warkworth. As it turns out, it is pretty well the only eating establishment that is open in Warkworth this Tuesday evening. The food is good, and the Montieths Original Ale tastes fine.
My friend and I take some photographs of the night sky from the front lawn of the B&B this evening, since the sky is relatively clear, and this is a dark rural site. I take photos of the Milky Way, which is a glorious overhead band, as well as the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, which are sister galaxies to the Milky Way. Despite not using my tracking mount, the photos turn out quite well due to the dark skies in this rural location.
Oct 27, 2010 – Wednesday – SheepWorld, Warkworth, Point Wells
Jan and Perry serve us a delicious full English breakfast this morning at the B&B. We decide to go to the farm at SheepWorld, which is only 4km north of Warkworth. We walk around the farm pens to see all the animals: sheep, lambs, pigs, rabbits, Alpaca, cattle and goats. Of course, the highlight is when the dogs herd the sheep from the pasture into the pens; as well as the sheep shearing demonstration, and the finale – we get to feed the lambs milk from bottles.
In the late afternoon we drive over to nearby Point Wells to visit with my cousin Cindy and her family. They have a wonderful property located on the estuary, and the layout of their house takes full advantage of outdoor living and the beautiful view.. Before dinner, Cindy’s husband Graeme takes us on a walking tour along the shoreline surrounding the little community of Point Wells. It is a beautiful area, with some fine views all the way to Omaha Beach.
The dinner Cindy and Graeme prepare for us is excellent: ceviche and fresh tomatoes, fresh caught fish grilled on the BBQ, lovely plump scallops off the boats at nearby Omaha, a nice salad, and oven roasted potatoes. We have a couple of white wines we brought along – a pinot gris and a chardonnay – which both work well with the meal. Yet more of that wonderful New Zealander hospitality!
Oct 25, 2010 – Monday – Kerikeri – Waitangi, Pahia & Opua, Bay of Islands, New Zealand
Keith makes us crepes for breakfast, which are served with a berry compote and real Canadian maple syrup. We then take off late morning to see the Waitangi National Trust Estate Treaty Grounds, where we take about an hour and a half to walk through the grounds and see the displays. I visited this site in 2004…the only thing that has changed is the price – it is now NZ$25/person, whereas I paid NZ$10/person in 2004! The displays are very impressive: the huge Maori war canoe, the carvings decorating the Maori meeting house, the grounds and view, and of course the Treaty House itself. There is lots of history to absorb from the exhibits – both colonial and Maori. The views of the Bay of Islands from the site is second-to-none. Give yourself at least a half day to do justice to this historic site.
Last stop today is Opua, a small town in the Bay of Islands area, which brings back memories for me. I was here in 2004 while the Johnstons and I waited for favourable weather before sailing for Fiji in their 42′ sailboat. I have an “I was there photo” taken at the same dock as sv Sequoia was docked at in 2004 so I can send a copy to Barbara and Craig. I expect they will get a kick out of it.
After we return to the B&B, Keith prepares a wonderful fresh seafood stew for dinner, complete with French bread and an Australian white wine.
Keith has shown us so much New Zealander hospitality during our stay. You might say, well he is a B&B operator…that’s his job. Perhaps, but I feel he well exceeded our expectations, and was genuinely friendly…not just put on for business reasons.
Oct 24, 2010 – Sunday – Kerikeri – Ahipara and Ninety Mile Beach, New Zealand
After having poached eggs and toast for breakfast, and doing a load of laundry at the B&B, we drive north from Kerikeri. First stop is Mangonui; a very picturesque harbour town with fish boats on the dock, an old hotel, post office, and courthouse. Next stop is Cable Bay, which has a nice rough sand beach and some lovely homes overlooking the beautiful bay.
We then drive over to the Tasman Sea side of New Zealand and see the southerly part of the famous Ninety Mile Beach at the little community of Ahipara. This will have to do, since we decided the 90-mile drive to the northern tip was going to be too much for us.
We then drive back south, taking a secondary road, which goes through Broadmead and re-joins Highway 1 at the Mangamuka Bridge. This section of road is paved, but very narrow, and seems to be an endless series of hills and curves. It is slow going until we are back on Highway 1 heading east. We then re-join Highway 10 north to Kerikeri. It is an interesting day, but we are tired by the time we get back to the B&B later in the afternoon after filling up the rental car with NZ$100 worth of gasoline. New Zealand gasoline prices are about 25% higher than what we pay in Canada.
We decide to have a steak dinner at the B&B this evening, so we go to the supermarket to purchase four New Zealand steaks, some ready-made salads, and some New Zealand wine. We prepare everything, and Keith volunteers to cook the steaks. The meal is pulled together in short order, and we all sit down on the back patio by the pool to enjoy the delicious food. Keith pulls out some Taylor’s Port – Rich Old Tawny 1981 to finish the meal with. The Rich Old Tawny was twenty years old in 1981, so it goes down nicely – a very fine port indeed!
Oct 23, 2010 – Saturday – Kerikeri – Matauri Bay & Whangaroa, New Zealand
I’m up first and have my morning coffee in the kitchen while Keith prepares breakfast, but my friends are soon up, so we move to the dining room for the main event. Keith makes us a wonderful meal to start the day: field mushrooms on toast with ham, fruit, cereal, homemade yogurt, and a vast selection of jams and marmalades, as well as more of his very good Bodum-style press coffee.
Keith suggests a route for us to drive today, which goes north to Matauri Bay, and then to Whangaroa (pronounced fang-a-roah). Both locations are superb, and we enjoy ourselves. The beach at Matauri Bay is outstanding and not crowded. The Rainbow Warrior was sunk by the French while the ship was in Auckland, and the wreck is now re-sunk just offshore from Matauri Bay, to be used as a diving reef. We stop along the way and take some photos of spring lambs and sheep in a beautiful pasture, and then drive a bit further to the lovely bay at Whangaroa. We climb the hill up to the pretty Anglican Church on the hill behind the village to take some photos. We don’t travel the complete route which Keith suggested, but perhaps tomorrow we will explore further.
Keith makes a reservation for us at the Pear Tree Restaurant for dinner this evening. We walk down the hill the short distance to the restaurant, which is right across the street from the Stone Store. There is a new pedestrian bridge across the Kerikeri River, which replaces the old single lane vehicle bridge that used to be there, so the road on the other side now dead ends at the Old Stone Store (where we ended up yesterday). Our meals at the restaurant are very nice, but we find the charge of NZ$120 pretty high for three entrees, three beers, and one dessert.
Oct 22, 2010 – Friday – Auckland to Kerikeri, New Zealand
My friends and I disembark from the Volendam for the last time this morning at our assigned 9am time. We pre-cleared New Zealand customs and immigration while we were at sea on the 19th, so we simply walk ashore, let the Beagle dogs sniff our bags for any unauthorized foods, and then pick up our bags, which are waiting for us in the departure hall.
My friends and I decide to roll our bags the six blocks to the Hertz car rental office. The last block was a steep hill – a killer! I rent a Ford Mondeo, with the three of us named as authorized drivers. I pull out of the rental office driving on the left, and make it the three blocks to the on ramp and onto the motorway (freeway), heading north across the bridge and out of town. I am very anxious to get out of the city before noon, since this is the Labour Day holiday weekend. We are on the road by 10:30am, making our way north to Kerikeri with only moderate traffic.
We make a brief stop at the service centre just south of the new toll section of the motorway near Warkworth, where we pay the NZ$2.00 toll fee for a rather ridiculously short stretch of toll roadway. There is no toll booth – it is a self-serve system where the toll can be paid at a vending machine in the service centre, by using your cellphone, or through a website. Our next stop is to see the Frederick Hundertwasser-designed public toilets in Kawakawa.
Our destination Kerikeri is only about 20 minutes further down the road, however because some of the roads had changed, the in-vehicle GPS we were using takes us down the wrong road. We end up at a dead end at the Stone Store & Kerkeri Mission House, so have to find our way back into town and approach Glenfalloch B&B by using a newly constructed diversion road. We finally find the place after asking for directions. By now it is 3pm, so we are glad to be done with our first day of driving on the left side of the road. Keith, who owns and runs the Glenfalloch B&B isn’t home, but the front door is open, so we go inside and wait. He arrives just a few minutes after us, so we are soon settled into our rooms and he makes us some coffee.
My friends and I are scheduled to go on a sailboat cruise around the harbour this morning, but the wind is so fierce the sailboat can’t dock. Our Mount Classics Tours tour coordinator quickly arranges a very nice private land-tour in a minivan with our own driver taking us around Tauranga. First stop is The Elms Mission Station, then we drive north of town and see the city from an overlook.
We then drive south of town, with the first stop being Kiwi360 in Te Puka, where all things to do with kiwi fruit are on display. We drive a bit further south and stop for lunch at a small seaside café in Maketu. The tide is out, and the Maoris are gathering shellfish in the huge tidal flats in this area. On our way back, we stop at the Comvita Visitor Centre in Te Puke to see the honey display and have some wonderful honey ice cream before we return to the ship.
Tonight I face up to the fact I have to pack everything that has been in the cabin closets for 30 days back into my single suitcase. It is a daunting task, but I finally fit everything inside and put my bag out in the hall for collection before going to bed. All 800 disembarking passengers’ bags will magically appear ashore in the departure hall tomorrow morning. What a job!
This is our first port of call since our departure from New Caledonia. We are anchored in the Bay of Islands, so we are tendered ashore to the Waitangi wharf. They have shuttle buses to take passengers to Pahia, which is the main town in the area.
We go ashore on the tender and take the lunchtime version of Darryl’s Dinner Cruise. We find the boat on the pier in Pahia, and have a very nice time with a bunch of Australians, who are on a bus tour of New Zealand. It is a bit choppy out on the harbour, however we travel around the little bay by Pahia, as well as down to within sight of Opua, then around Orongo Bay. There are some beautiful glimpses of Volendam before we return to Pahia wharf. Along the way, we are served our choice of New Zealand Lamb Chops, roast venison, or catch of the day, along with salad, steamed potatoes, and even a bit of chocolate for dessert.
After walking around Pahia for a while, we return to the ship mid-afternoon. It is Crew Performance Night in the Rotterdam Dining Room, so the dining room serving staff dance between the tables, starting with placing napkins on everyone’s lap through to serving Baked Alaska (sans sparklers). After the Baked Alaska, the servers surround my friend who is celebrating a birthday and sing her a version of “Happy Birthday” in Filipino. Her chocolate cake is served in addition to the Baked Alaska, so everyone is overstuffed by the time we leave the dining room.