Thursday, March 31, 2016

April 1, 2016 Auckland

This morning our bright sun shine streak was broken and we had a heavy gray sky but thankfully no rain as all of the rain gear was packed and not just packed but buried into compression bags. 

The last thing on the list was to hit the Maritime Museum down on the wharfs.  So we were off to see the models and of course Peter Blake’s America Cup winning yacht.  The museum is huge facility which occupies two stories of one of the main city wharfs.  It covers everything maritime from a New Zealand perspective.  The story starts with the Maori canoes and catamarans, progresses though the early voyages discovery by the Europeans.  There is a very interesting section on the early settlers and one gallery is built to look like a hold of a settler vessel.  It even rocks and heaves as you walk through it.  Spending up to 5 months in there with up 20+ people would not have been a great cruise. 

The largest section of the museum is dedicated to sail boat racing in New Zealand there are tens of different kinds of sail boat categories from tiny dinghies up to huge ocean going racers. Then of course the Peter Blake racer which fills a three story section of the museum which as you walk up a spiral walkway you read about his history and the history of racing in New Zealand. It ends with his tragic murder by pirates while he was on an ecological program off the coast of Brazil in the Amazon waterway. 

Back to the hotel and off to the airport in the fixed price cab.  Tom had warned me that it would take an hour to reach the airport.  How could that be it didn’t look that far on the map?  However the traffic as bumper to bumper and we just inched along down the freeway. I was really glad to have opted for the fixed price taxi as it turned out to be a real bargain.

At the airport check in was easy.  Clearing security was a total nonevent and passport control was an automated stick your passport into a reader.   So here we are with hours to kill when Agnes remembers that when she signed up for a credit card it gave her membership to the Emperors club.  So we check and yes there is one here in Auckland.  The food is delicious, Wi-Fi is great, all the drinks you can handle, and comfortable chairs away from the craziness of the airport.  This is just great.  They even have showers.

In an hour we board our plane back home and somehow I get there before I left.  Go figure.


March 31, 2016 Auckland

Agnes and I had a big day of heavy duty museum visiting planned for today however as it did not open until 10:00 am we got to sleep in.  Then down to a local coffee shop for a little breakfast and a large Flat White.

We decided to take a taxi out to the Museum Of Transportation And Technology (MOTAT) and that was a good move as it put us there at 2 minutes past 10:00 am and we were the second people through the door.   MOTAT is a huge museum spread across 40 hectares and on two separate locations.

The first site is built on the original Auckland water pumping facility.  As Auckland was short of water they constructed this huge water delivery system to deliver water from the nearby mountain lakes.  At the heart was this huge walking beam steam engine.  It is three stories high and has four wooden stave cylinders.  The flywheel has to be 10 meters across.  It delivered something like 300 hp.  Although it was not running today it does still run today.  There are something like 24 separate galleries on this site which cover everything imaginable from old time black smith shops to computers and a gallery of new ideas and inventions.  One claim to fame they have is that they have one of two of the world’s oldest motorized fire engines.

They have a large gallery devoted to Sir Edmond Hillary’s trek across Antarctic which was the first land trek to the South Pole by land.  There is one of the original tractors he used which is fitted with tracks.  He used a lot of different things on this project including these u-shaped pieces of corrugated metal up ended to connect the huts, thereby avoiding all the digging out of the huts after ever snow fall and you could go from hut to hut even in a storm.  There are lots of other artifacts from his trek and a great write up on this very unique piece of history. It was extremely interesting.

 A large part of the area is devoted to the electric tram system which was installed in Auckland in 1906 and operated until 1956.  They have a huge collection of restored trams.  The trams all operate off DC power. The DC is converted from AC using these huge glass mercury filled converters. When the electricity is flowing through them they glow this bright purple.  It is right out of a Frankenstein movie with the arcing electricity.   We walked our feet off but man was it ever interesting.

So after a quick bite to eat we got on the electric tram and took a ride over to the second site which is a huge aircraft hangar.  In there they have a great collection of aircraft.  They have a Lancaster bomber which served in Germany and was flown to New Zealand to participate in bombing raids against Japan but never did.  There is a four engine flying boat which was part of the Coral Pacific Airlines fleet and is currently being restored.  It dwarfs the Lancaster. There are a lot of other aircraft which saw service with the New Zealand air force starting with early biplanes up to modern jets, as well as a good collection of civilian planes.  They had a lot of aircraft we do not see in North American.  It was very impressive. 

We decided to try the local bus system.  It was pretty funny as Agnes was looking the wrong way for the bus to come and then when I waved one down she was startled.  We both had a good laugh about driving on the wrong side.  The bus worked out great and we were downtown and within a couple of blocks of the hotel in short order.

Tonight we have to pack our bags as we check out and fly home tomorrow night.


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

March 30, 2016 Auckland

We were a little slow getting rolling this morning which is what the doctor ordered after having so many busy long days.  Not complaining just saying this has been a really full trip.

Agnes and I wandered down the street towards the water front with no particular direction in mind other than it was downhill.   After a very nice ham sandwich and coffee for breakfast we continued on downhill.  Agnes found a fabric store and bought a small wall hanging quilt kit.   When we got down to the docks Agnes said “Hey let’s take a harbor tour.”  There was a tour office right there and a ferry leaving in 10 minutes with a tour on Devonport.  So we were off.

The ferry ride only took 15 minutes but gave us a great harbor view.   The bus portion of the tour did not leave for 45 minutes so we walked across the street and had fresh out of the oven scones and tea in the Esplande Hotel which was built in 1903.  The tour took all around Devonport which was originally called Flagstaff because Mount Victoria was where the harbor watch was and would set signal flags for the Auckland harbor master.  However local residents liked Devonport better and the name just stuck.  It was also the place where the British Admiralty Navy yards were.  However now it is a very upscale area of Auckland. Residents walk or cycle down to the ferry and are downtown in minutes. 

The tour took us around and we saw the different forts which were built to protect the harbor both from Russian invasion and then later from Japanese invasion.  The bus also drove us up to Mount Victoria which we were told are the best views of Auckland. I believe it as you could see for miles.  You could also see all of the other islands which are to the north of the main North Island.  The sky was so blue and it was a perfect offset to the blue of the ocean.  After the tour the driver asked if anyone was going for lunch and if so just stay on the bus and he would drop us at his favorite café.  He was on his way home and didn’t mind making an extra stop.  Agnes and I stayed on and went up to the Platter  Restaurant.   As recommended by the tour driver the seafood chowder was great. 

We walked along the sea wall back to the ferry after lunch.  It was so pleasant with a nice ocean breeze.  On the dock was a bike store which had a huge selection of jerseys (even more than in Hokatiki).  There was three different versions of the black and white silver fern as well as a lot of others as well.  I choose the New Zealand flag jersey.  It is a real beauty.

Well got to run to say our final farewells to Tom and Amy, and to wish them a good trip home.


March 29, 2016 Rotorua to Auckland

This morning we got a little bit of a sleep in relative to the rest of the trip however we we still rolling by 7:30 am.   Tom and Amy had booked a tour out Hobitown which is the movie set for the Lord of the Rings series and the Hobit series of movies.  Agnes and I were planning a trip out to Wau-o-tupa to see the geothermal geysers and other such smelly things.  

I helped load tom and Amy’s luggage as their trip was the first one out and then helped get our stuff organized.  After a breakfast sandwich at Dunkin Donuts Agnes and I were off to see the geothermal sites.

There is one main geyser at Wau-o-tapu which is called Her Lady Knox and it erupts once a day at 10:15 am.  So we had to hurray but made it in plenty of time.  We were wondering how they knew when it was going to erupt to such precision and were thinking they must somehow trigger it.  Sure enough at the appointed time a park guide came out gave a little talk and then added a surface surfactant (soap) to the throat of the geyser and a few minutes later it erupted.  Old Faithful and all of the Yellow Stone geysers just erupt without any assistance so kind of a cheat.  However it was quite spectacular never the less as there quite a large plume of water which went about 20-30 meters in the air.  After the geyser show we wandered around the rest of the geothermal area viewing various bubbling mud pots, steam vents, Sulphur pits and other smelling things.  It was quite fantastic to think you were walking on what could be a huge volcano. 

We then hurried back to Rotorua to meet up with tom and Amy for the drive down to Auckland.  It turned out to be much further than anyone had anticitpated as it didn’t look that far on the map. Then the last 15 kms into town were on a freeway which was totally gridlocked.   After circling the block a couple of times and some miss cues Amy’s phone came to the rescue and we were into the hotel driveway.  We were all glad to be here amd happily handed the car off to the valet. 

For supper we headed down to the wharfs which are right below the hotel.  It was a beautiful setting and we all ordered the national New Zealand dish “Fushenchups”  (fish and chips).  The fish was very fresh and tasty.  I have always like fushenchups but have never eaten it so often.  Tom and Amy are on the plane tomorrow and it was a great way to wind up our time together.


Monday, March 28, 2016

March 28, 2016 Wellington to Rotorua

Last night we got into Wellington around 9:30 PM and were unloading the car by 10:00 Pm.  John and Liz showed up shortly thereafter and we had a really good visit.  It was great to see them and re-live the bike trip and exchange bike stories. 

This morning Agnes and Jos headed downtown to drop off the old van we had for the tour and pick up the car we have rented for the North Island tour.  The north island tour turned out to be a very nice new Honda Tucson.  However as Tom and Amy brought so much luggage we were barely able to get it all into the Tucson. We were on the road by around 10:45 Am.   I am sure Jos and Lynn were beginning to think we would never leave.

Heading north on the New Zealand No 1 traffic was very heavy to the last day of the Easter Holidays.  This break is kind of like the North American Labour day weekend and marks the end of summer and the back to work for the winter.   By noon we had only made it as far north as Manakau .  For lunch we stopped a place called the Kirk Café which was in this old church. I had the ham and barley soap which was excellent.  The place also had a very weird selection of new and used stuff.  Pink Flamingos, drift wood angels,  fishing lures, bad costume jewelry, heavily used toys.  Well the food was good even though it did take a long time to prepare.

Back on the road and I am feeling like we spent got away too late and spent too much time over lunch.  Sure enough we get another 50 kms up the road and the traffic is stopped.  Apparently there has been a fatal injury accident and the road is closed.  There are no side roads and no other ways of getting to Rotorua.  So we sit and sit and sit.  Finally after an hour delay we start to roll and go about  10 minutes down the road were we are stopped again where we sit for another hour. 

We stopped in Taupo which is at the north end of Lake Taupo.   I wanted to go into the Indian reataruant as it looked like they had an excellent selection of goat on the menu however I was voted down and we went into a Speight’s bar where I had a sawdust  burger -  er..  I mean bacon and beef burger.

 On the road again and we roll into Rotorua at close to 8:30 pm and the hotel just as the hotel manager is calling Jos to find out if we are still coming.  It’s a nice place with a hot tub on the balcony which Tom, Amy and myself jump into.  

A long day on the road.


Saturday, March 26, 2016

March 27, 2016 Pohora to Wellington

This morning we loaded bikes and checked out of our luxury hotel.  We headed down the road under beautiful blue skies and warm weather.   It was kind of déjà vu as we drove back over the Takaka Hill.  I really think that the west side is steeper than the east side, however in the van it was a lot easier. 

Tom had decided to leave a pair of his shoes behind so we stopped by the fence which had all the shoes tied to it.  Tom had signed his shoes for other people to know he had been along.

Tom Jos and I then drove up to Jos’ forest which is just south of Nelson. Jos has built a very nice cabin on top of a hill which has commanding views of the surrounding hills.  He has cut some of the trees and is getting ready to to cut some more.  It is amazing how large the trees get in only 25 years.  In Canada pines this large would be easily 100 years old.  Jos was leaving the bike that Tom had been riding at the cabin and was bring back some sculpture that he and Lyn had purchased. 

We met Lynne at the airport and she flew off to Wellington.  The rest of us are taking the ferry, so we will not get back to Wellington until 10:00 Pm. 

We took a short tour of Nelson and stopped along the water front and had fish and chips.  It was so nice the sea was a beautiful turquoise and the sun was shimmering off the waves.  It just doesn’t get any better.  

However it was over too soon and we were back in the van and headed for Picton to catch the ferry.  The ferry here is a huge vessel which carries hundreds of cars and trucks.  It takes 4 hours to cross from Picton  to Wellington across the Cook Strait.

Tonight we stay at Jos’ place before heading off on the North Island adventure.