Wednesday, February 28, 2007

New Zealand Trip

New Zealand 2007

Flights went ok, ICE the in flight Entertainment for Emirates helped a HUGE amount and is a really good system that must take some hardware to sort out as it serves over 600 on demand channels!

short stop in Sydney the hardest since all of us were knackered at that point and it was warm, we were sweaty and stale too, decent Smoke room with negative pressure, unlike Dubai which was really smelly, made me want to give up !

Hire car is old, 147K on the clock, rust on the wipers, bit of trim missing, paint chips all over the front, also seems under powered and struggles up hills unless floored at which point it gets very noisy. Also has a bad wobble at 120 Kmh but since the limit is 100 here that isn't a huge problem. It was $1K cheaper than the next one up so I guess you get what you pay for after all, especailly with hire cars here.

Walton park Motor lodge, very nice three bedroom affair with a pretty cold but refreshing pool, Warkworth itself is a lovely town, we both decided pretty quickly we could live there, lots of Cafe's (in fact NZ in general seems to have more cafe's than you can shake a Late at), nice relaxed atmosphere, slow pace, weather was good, excellent way to get over the amazingly bad jetlag we seemed to be suffering, maybe something to do with the days being opposites pretty much since GMT+13hrs

On the second day we met up with Natand family for dinner in a nice place, had a good meal, was introduced to Speights which became a staple drink for the rest of the trip it turned out, all in all a fun night even if we were knackered at the time !

Foo camp was fun, really fun, met a lot of nice people, vibrant startup culture and entrepreneur spirit all round, more in a separate post

One of the Foo organisers Russel was amazingly kind on the request of Nat and got me two free tickets to see the big event of the week/month/(year?) which was a concert by Bic Runga at the Ascension Vineyards, the biggest of it's kind there apparently.

We also had to have a baby sitter which we were very lucky to get at very short notice through Vern, the IT guy supporting Foo, he was kind enough to ask one of his daughters and she was even kinder in saying yes to a strange request, namely to go to a motel and look after two kids for a family she had never met! Leah was a bit shocked when greeted by Angus at the door in his usual state of undress but she took it well and so we headed off. Oh and Angus kept saying "Leah, like Star Wars Princes Leah..." - too cute...

We got the free coach out from the college and when we arrived the place was pretty full already, we sailed through the free entry (thanks again Russel) and immediately found the bar where we picked up a nice bottle of Merlot and setted on a free bench seeing as we ddn't have a chair with us unlike pretty much everyone else !

The music wasn't really to our taste but was done well, another bottle of merlot went down nicely and then we decided to head home a little early to beat the rush since we were concerned about Leah and how Angus might be treating her ! As we went to go though we found out the return coach wasn't running yet, however the very nice lady that told us this offered us a lift herself which we took, as we chatted in the car on the way back she asked us what we thought of the event, organisation etc, so we gave an honest and positive opinion (two bottles of Red remember) and it turns out she is the owner of the vineyard , how cool is that !

Next we decided to go up to the Bay of islands and specifically Paihia, we choose the Ash Grove motel just outside town primarily due to having internet and what looked like a big pool. When we found it the pool wasn't so big, the internet conection took a while to get sorted but the place itself was nice. The only problem was when the rain started to hammer down, and we were in a Tin hut effectively, it was very noisy, then the power went out so we were stuck with just my laptop to keep the kids amused in a small, noisy room with incredible rain coming down. Turned out the rain was a months worth in 3 days and washed out a bridge on the road up to Cape Reinga so that really blew out what we went up there for in the end. A couple of trips to KeriKeri showed that it was a much nicer place and we would go there if there is a next time, also the owners of the Ash Grove were on holiday when we first arrived but got back after the rains, although the facilites there were good we didn't like the attitude of the owners towards Angus, I wouldn't go as far as to say child unfriendly but certainly not child tolerant.

So we cut our losses and drove all the way down to Rotorua which is where I am writing this, we lucked out this time in a new hotel, very nice, good equipment, HUGE spa bath, LCD tvs and free internet, went out for dinner and the town is almost too much for us after Warkworth and Paihia, it's a very busy place, lots of backpackers and kids hanging around, will see how the next three nights go !

First full day in Rotorua and we decided to go to the I-Site to book some trips and ended up booking in for an afternoon combo Helicopter trip to two Volcanoes, White Island and Mount Tarawera, both were very cool but White island is still active having last erupted only 6 years ago, it's a pretty hostile place, hard hats required and breathing apparatus given out in case the fumes get too much, the sights and sounds were amazing, the flight was excellent too, we had a small helicopter all to ourselves which made it feel pretty exclusive, we thought we were all alone on Tarawera but there was another group at White Island but it didn't matter, one of the best bits was dipping fingers in a stream which was as warm as a bath, the actual crater lake is so hot and acidic (more so than a car battery) that the life vests we wore on the flight over would prove useless if we were to fall in as they would melt like butter in a hot oven (our pilot and guide Ned informed us) After that it was in the heated hotel pool for a spell and a quite dinner, simply brilliant day all round.

We also booked up for Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland ( and Whakarewarewa Thermal Village ( so let's see how they go

The main attraction at Waiotapu is Lady Knox geyser, which goes off at 10:15 every day, I was wondering how this happened, all became clear when we got there of course, the ranger gave a small speech during which he explained how some prisoners were having a bath and the soap fell into it, causing the surface tension to break on the cold water pool trapped above a hot water pool, then the thing went up, so now they put some soap in every day and off it goes. The rest of the park was a very interesting set of geological wonders, the kids weren't so impressed but we liked them !

Visited Wakawerawera today, got the guided tour, saw an impressive Cultural show including a fearsome Haka, after we went to see the Geysers erupt but from the view we had it was fairly unimpressive which was a shame, then we went back to the hotel after some quick shopping, expecting to pick up the luggage and go but to our pleasure and surprise the owner suggested we have a swim before we go which we did, it was 25 or so degrees and very nice, it did mean we were late setting off but worth it at the time.

The drive from Rotorua to Gisborne is a really fun drive, wished I'd had a better car to do it in but the way the road twists and turns through a valley following the river was great, arrived in Gisborne at dark so not seen much but popped over to the beach for 10 mins to enjoy the sound of the sea, looking forward to the beach tomorrow!

First full day in Gisborne was spent on the beach all morning, pretty nice but the sand qas very fine and seemed to get in everything, then we went out to find Captain Cook monument, had a bit of trouble as it's not very well sign posted and is tucked away somewhere off the beaten track, found it odd how it was basically in an industrial area with logging trucks thundering by.

Decided to get up early to see the sun rise given that it's the first place to see it, got up to Wainui beach in time only to find that the cloud was too thick and hid the whole thing - typical ! After that dissapointment we headed down to Wellington through Napier, now there is a really fun and breathtaking road to take, we were a bit late getting in to town as the drive took way longer than we expected and had been told.

Once we got there and settled in we went to an ex=pats BBQ through Dirk and Kerry, had fun, got to bed late, AJ picked up a few new bruises playing with the boys but once again Keiran was his best mate.

Next day toured the bays and visited the most excellent Chocolate Fish restaurant, went to the Mt Victoria peak, way cool views from the top, then it was a bit of a rush to get ready and off to the Hurricanes vs Blues game Dirk got tickets for, excellent game, nice stadium and we went for a few beers after which was fab, cool to see Wellington night life, my new Hurricanes shirt even got me into a bar where they wanted to refuse me on the grounds i had Crocs on!

Spent the morning packing up and stuff, then Dirk K & K came round, we had lunch and set off North, arrived late into Tapou, stunning sunset on the way in and the Desert Road was spectacular, I'm really enjoying driving in NZ, still wish I had a better car though. Fat Fish turned out to be a good restaurant, quick service, good food and once again pretty damn cheap $66 for 4 !

From Taupo we headed up to Auckland, hit the town during rush hour which was a pain in the butt, found the final motel, not the best we've had this trip but pretty good all the same, nice pool and a trampoline so the kids are happy, no air con though and it's warm here. Spent the first day relaxing, swimming etc, nice to wind down at the end of the hols, arranged to go have a final dinner with Nat and his family up in Leigh for Wednesday night, still need to try and do the Sky Tower and Kelly Tartans before we go, probably tomorrow since the flight home isn't til 7pm

[Update] this post has been sitting in Draft since we got back and just noticed, not been posting much lately for various reasons which I might stick in another post]

On the last day we made it to Kelly tartans which was fun, then it was just case of the long flight home, which in the end went ok