Amendment to this post from 3rd March due to technical failure of the photographs
A four hour drive between Dunedin and Te Anau took us via Gore and a stop off at Mandeville at an aviation museum. The following day we took a coach trip to Milford Sound as the road had only just reopened and organised trips were permitted.
Nearby was a bird sanctuary for some of the rare and endangered species from New Zealand. We learnt that before certain predators were introduce to NZ these birds became flightless as there was no danger? Then man introduced rabbits, that naturally ‘bred like rabbits’ so to reduce numbers, ferrets and weasels were introduced. These predators took a fancy to the flightless birds as they couldn’t run as fast as the rabbits and hey presto these birds became extinct! A scientist / explorer was convinced that he saw a Takahe on a remote island on the south Island near Lake Te Anau and Milford Sound. Since the early 20th century there are now around 350 birds in the wild
The road to Milford Sound was in part destroyed from a recent deluge and only organised coaches were allowed to travel at certain times in convoy. Whereas we measure our annual rainfall in inches or Centimetres at Milford Sound it is measured in metres. So about four weeks ago they had one and a half metres of rain in a day. Annual rainfall can be anything between 6 and 8 metres. It rains approximately 320 days in a year.
I probably will not necessarily get the timings right but the gist of the story goes as follows. We checked into the Sky City Hotel once we had handed back the Motorhome. That evening we had a delightful last meal with the group up at the Sky Tower restaurant. The lockdown in NZ had begun and many of the stores had closed. Of those still open we had to register our details in order that we could be contacted if anyone present started showing signs of the virus. Fortunately the restaurant was still serving, albeit it closed the following day. Before our meal we went to the viewing level 51 to see the sights of Auckland
The following morning, (Monday) the news was not good as we heard that Singapore airport was to close at midnight therefore passengers were unable to transit through to London. Our original plan had been to fly onto Fiji, but due to the increase difficulties worldwide we were advised not to travel unnecessarily, therefore, our travel agent rebooked us back to London via Singapore on Tuesday. Having a day to wait we took a walk round Auckland by which time the shops were closed and the queues at the supermarket got longer.
Singapore airlines indicated that we could print our boarding passes, which we duly did and later on the Monday we checked out of the hotel and took a taxi to an airport hotel ready for Tuesday to get the shuttle bus to the airport. Once inside the airport we were taken to the check out desk only to be turned away and left stranded.
We had two options, go back to Auckland and book into an apartment that we had reserved for three nights ahead of us being unable to fly or call upon Kenny and Mandy to put us up in Huia. We chose the later and got an Uber to take us there. For eight nights we were beholden to their kind generosity living in their Motorhome and social distancing with their family and friends who lived on the small estate that they owned.
During the nine days here we found little projects to occupy our time. Chris spent a lot of time searching for flights. We booked a provisional flight with Qatar for 11th April at a cost but we began feeling there was little hope from the Governments or from the Travel Agents, until a couple of nights ago things began to look up. Chris with the help of Lisa from Worldwide Travel secured a flight to London via LA which happen to be our original way home. Only this time it was with Air New Zealand and Virgin Airways.
So to sum it all up – all’s well that ends well – world disaster which this Coronavirus is will change the way people behave and travel in the future. Let us all pray the death rate is not higher than necessary due to people’s ignorance and selfishness. The kindness shown by two ex Brits now definitely Kiwis summed up what a wonderful nation New Zealand is – it’s people and countryside phenomenal.
And finally here is a short video of two companions we had during our stay
After the day cruise round the Bay of Islands it was a day of chores and final look at Russell before setting of back to Auckland via Orewa. Here are a few odd photos, some more odd than others. I will be blogging a final blog of our journey home but until then the photos.
We went from a lakeside tourist town with fast food outlets, bars and shops to a geothermal resource that any geography teacher would die for having on their doorstep. Teaching about volcanic systems would be a doddle. First pictures taken in Taupo
Included in our itinerary was an evening with the Tamaki Maori Tribe. We were welcomed by their chief and accepted their offering of a fern leaf by our appointed “chief for the evening” Pete Shaw from Oadby, Leicestershire. Pete had to stand and look into the eye of their chief who did a ritual dance before dropping the fern for Pete to accept.
Once inside their village we were shown various aspects of their ways of living including wood carving, making items with flax, games they played and how they cooked food
Today we drove to Aratiatia Dam to see the unleashing of many cubic metres or litres from the Waikato river that is fed by Lake Taupo. The next two pictures are a before and after the water was released.
Thinking back to the Art Deco period you would have come to Napier and think you were ensconced in New York or Paris. In 1931 Napier had a major earthquake and the town was almost destroyed save for a few buildings. Many of the buildings were destroyed by fire, few stone or concrete buildings remained standing. The councillors and planners rebuilt the town in the same style and ensured that the centre had central services and the buildings conformed to certain standards and designs, that have even today, have benefits, such as it only took 2 and a half days to install broadband throughout the town.
En route to Napier we visited this wildlife centre and saw some of their endangered species such as the takahe bird. The centre is also an important player in a number of breeding programmes, which we were fortunate to see a young kiwi being fed.
Only had one day in Wellington which entailed going on a whistle stop bus tour around the Capital, much of it stuck in traffic as it is a difficult place to get anywhere due to the steep crowded narrow streets. We were dropped off at the cable car and went up to the top for an opportunity to take photos. We had to be quick as in the harbour were two cruise ships which were also ferrying passengers by coaches around the city. After visiting Mount Victoria we went to the Te Papa National Museum. In hindsight it would have been more beneficial to have missed the tour and gone straight to the museum as it turned out to have wonderful exhibits and laid out magnificently. A whole day and you still wouldn’t have got to see everything. Unfortunately, we couldn’t take any photos of the exhibits so if you wish to see any, you will have to save up and make your own trip to NZ. You will be pleased to know there is no entry fee to the museum!
We finished the day by going to the Beehive and went on a half hour tour of the Parliamentary rooms, however Parliament was in sitting. They were debating the Abortion Act so we couldn’t go into the chamber unless we chose to visit the public gallery as we were to understand they are keen to be very transparent in their governance.