Dunedin to Te Anau and Milford Sound

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.

Created by John Crombie from Surrey
Built by using original blueprint but modified to modern day safety regulations
Decommissioned by New Zealand Airforce
Still flying biplane
On the way to Te Anau it looks as if we are heading into a storm
Te Anau Lakeside Park
Lake Te Anau – largest lake on the Southern Island

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

Takahe in captivity at a bird sanctuary
Picture of a Takahe
It’s all out for a photo of the “Lord of the Rings” battleground
Mirror Lake

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.

More pictures will be published in the next blog

Not the ideal way of signing off this tour

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

View from the Sky Tower
Another view of Auckland
Looking down through the glass floor from the Sky Tower
Social distancing – only four in a lift!
Some of the group enjoying their last supper?
Looking down from the tower that evening

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.

The university chapel tower
Queen Victoria statue in Albert Park?
A very old tree in Albert Park
Albert Park

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.

View of Huia Bay
Our new home
Tides out at Huia and I am social distancing
Ducks and chickens waiting for Madge to feed them
Kenny and Mandy live here
Recently painted play house, painted by two “French home stayers”
Children’s play house
Mandy’s workshop
Some of Mandy’s artwork

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.

Three of the batches on Kenny and Mandy’s estate
One of my tasks was to collect the bushes that Kenny felled to make way of his extended garden
Madge’s batch but Kenny’s garden
A bit battered but it did the job of transporting the bushes

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.

Mandy, Kenny and Willow

And finally here is a short video of two companions we had during our stay

Willow and his friend the Staffie having a little playtime
Passengers in Auckland airport
Auckland airport
Waiting in LA airport

From Russell to Auckland

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.

Now a fitness centre but not sure what it was when it was first built, but the plaque just above the car on the right may give you a clue?
This whaling boat has been used for other more practical purposes since the ban on whaling. It was first used as a ferry but in later years as a “school bus”
Tamaki Waka Nene (1780’s – 1871) was a high ranking chief who settled in Russell. The six strikingly carved pou depict ‘points of illumination’ of his life
Fifty one parkland trees at the Whangarei Falls planted in 2019 represent lives lost following the attack at the Christchurch Mosque
Whangarei Falls
A mystery – spotted on the highway along with hundreds more – not sure what they are?
But here is another one
We stopped for coffee at the Waipu Golf Club and the views from the club house made me think that I wish I could play at a course with these views? Maybe not so inviting on a windy day!
Sand carving in Orewa
The morning of the last day with the motorhome at Orewa
Nice place to finish the tour
Dropping off vans at the Maui depot, it was chaotic as normally there would be other people going off on their tours. As it were, the depot was crammed full of returnees
Waiting for the bus to take us into Auckland
The Sky Tower, where we will be dining in the revolving restaurant
The Strand hotel built in 1900, now part of the shopping centre

Bay of Islands

We had a fabulous trip touring round the islands on the Cream Cruise that took us from Russell out to Bird Rock and Motukokako (hole in the rock).

Youngsters enjoying kayaking while the cruise boat anchors and we take a stroll to view the bay
Bottle nose dolphin
Black Rocks
A pod of bottle nose dolphins
Hole in the Rock
View from Otehei Bay
Bird on Bird Rock covered in Guano
Me on Otehei Bay hilltop

Lake Taupo and Orakei Korako

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

McDonalds answer to those airplanes stranded in all the countries affected by the virus
Previous weekend Lake Taupo was home to an Ironman competition
Reid’s carving 1927
Self explanatory
Maori art
Taupo harbour
Place of Adornment, considered the birthplace of our Iwi Tahu. Once eponymous ancestor Tahu Matua traversed the lands in the rohe, it is here that he domiciled himself.
Many different minerals found erupting from the ground
Steam constantly bellowing forth
Mud pools
Mode of transport that took us to the geothermal springs
Hot water on tap

Hangi Feast at the Tamaki Maori Village

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.

Chief of the Tamaki Tribe
Maori warrior
Entrance to their village being protected

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

Wood carving
Preparing a fire – once the wood has burned they cook their food on the hot stones
Flax weaving
Women practiced strengthening their wrists so that they could carry spears in times of war. Now they incorporate this movement in their dance
Baton hurling
The Chief welcoming us into his home and explaining more about their ways and how they celebrate with dancing
Maori dance
Maori men expressing their feelings!
How the Hakka should be performed
More of the Hakka
How the Hakka should not be performed!

Taupo, Aratiatia and Craters of the Moon

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.

Before the water is released
Five minutes later and whoosh!
The water is released every two hours during the day
2 minute video of the ravine filling up
Thermal hot steam
Craters of the Moon
More hot steam
Wairakei Tourist Park
View from the top
Video of a steamy blow hole!


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.

Napier destroyed by earthquake and fire
Few buildings left standing
Public Trust Building
All services down the centre, wide pavements and covered
Art Deco style building
Three years after the earthquake
Napier Fire station
This church survived the earthquake and fire – divine intervention?
This park was where everyone stayed while rebuilding the town, there was a real sense of community as everyone left their profession whilst turning their hands to practical skills of builders, carpenters etc. The park became a symbol of friendship
We toured Napier in this train (converted tractor) and learnt much about the history of the town
Six of the old style buildings rebuilt now housing small businesses
Napier has many cycle tracks as it has miles of flat areas that were reclaimed after the earthquake raised the land that previously was a lagoon
Craggy Ridge Winery
The fourth winery visited – Hawke’s bay is infamous for its vineyards and orchards and fertile lands reclaimed after the earthquake
Tractor / train driver Will used to live on Craggy Ridge farm where his family had farmed for years. A multi millionaire from USA bought adjacent land and developed a winery and took the name of Craggy Ridge much to the annoyance of Will and his family
Craggy Ridge protects the land from the prevailing winds

Pukaha National wildlife centre

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.

Young kiwi being hand fed
Moko Pirirakau Forest Gecko
Manukura a leucistic white kiwi who hatched 1st May 2011, both parents North Island Brown Kiwi carry this rare recessive gene
Korimako Bellbird
takahe bird (close up but out of focus)
Kaka Bush Parrot
Cabbage Tree
Cabbage Tree explained


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!

Queueing for the cable car
Gerard, Mike, Angela and Chris
View from Mount Victoria
Te Hono ki Hawaiki- the name of the meeting house, which means the link with the ancestral homelands. The carvings depict the ancestors who make this living link
This stain glass door lifts up open to the conference room
The Beehive – New Zealand’s parliamentary building
Maori symbols outside the Beehive
Tanya Ashkenazi
A project of the Wellington Sculpture Trust
John Plimmer (1812-1905) and his dog Fritz
John Plimmer arrived in Wellington in October 1841 and was active in many facets of Wellington’s commercial and political life
As we passed this on our coach tour we don’t know how it came to be in Wellington!
A group of students being instructed the art of Dragon Boat racing

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.