A Travellerspoint blog

June 2015

Around Auckland, New Zealand

Thank you!

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It was going to be an emotional day. Luckily for me, my parents flight wasn't until night time so I got to spend a whole day with them. We were determined to make the most of it...

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We had a leisurely morning and took a drive out to Piha Beach. It's stunning; a windswept beach with sand dunes, the remnants of a volcanic eruption and white crested waves (perfect for surfers). We had a walk along the beach and of course a cuppa.

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Me and Jason went on a walk to the north side of the beach on a hunt for blue penguins (we didn't see anything though). They're tonnes of shells on the rocks and you can hear them popping around you.

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Elevation Restaurant proved to be the perfect pick for our celebratory 'end of holiday' lunch. There were brilliant views over Auckland from their dining terrace where we enjoyed a smashing lunch; white wine, pork ribs, risotto, ginger and pear crumble... amazing!

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After a leisurely lunch there was just enough time to enjoy a drink back in Auckland Harbour, where there are some very swish bars by the sea. Although I'd gone a little subdued at this point at the thought of saying goodbye to mum and dad :-(

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The drive to the airport was really strange... I'd looked forward to seeing my parents so much, and the weeks had flown by and now I'd got no other date in the diary to see them again. It was very emotional saying goodbye to them at the airport, there were a few tears shed. I think Jason's said it in a previous blog, but as hard as it is being away from family, those precious weeks spent together on holiday are like nothing you'd get at home; being with mum & dad in New Zealand, so much laughter and creating lasting memories that I will treasure forever. Thank you Mum and Dad! X

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Posted by bloorsontour 01:04 Archived in New Zealand Comments (2)

Waiheke Island, New Zealand

The 'Drunken Oyster'

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Waiheke Island is a short ferry ride from Auckland harbour front; it gave us a chance to see the city scape from the sea. We didn't take the car over and instead bought a combined ferry/bus ticket so that we could explore the island more easily.

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Yet again it was a changeable weather day...sun, rain and wind (often all at once!). When we first got onto the island we took the bus to Onetangi Beach and had a stroll along the sea front. The weather was glorious and gave us an opportunity to sit outside in a lovely cafe bar to take in the views. We shared a platter of goodies; prawns, chicken, pork ribs, meatballs...delicious!

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Then came the rain... Boo!

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The only option was to take cover at a vineyard (it's a hard life).

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While the three of us enjoyed a few tasters of wine, Jason ordered a 'drunken oyster'. Grim! It was a dark ale with an oyster sat at the bottom of it. I don't know how he drank it. By the time he'd nearly finished his beer, the oyster had swollen to double its size and he had to down it in one at the end. Quote: "I won't be ordering that again!".

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We then called in at another vineyard to try a few more wines.

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Dad was in such a mood...I ordered a lovely large glass of wine, while he stuck with a taster. Mistake!

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Waiheke Island is beautiful. We all said we'd like to spend a night or two there next time as there's plenty more of the island to explore (and more wines to sample).

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The ferry home turned out to be LONG because it broke down.Unfortunately we didn't take any photographs of what happened. I could sense my mum getting anxious as the ferry continued to struggle to get any speed on the crossing. The captain then couldn't dock the boat. We got led through the engine rooms, only to be told to turn back around. Finally we had to crouch over a temporary ramp because the ferry couldn't get closer enough to the site to make it onto dry land. Panic over, we made it back in one piece.

Posted by bloorsontour 00:44 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Rotorua to Auckland, New Zealand

Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari and Raglan

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We decided to call in at Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari and Raglan on our way back to Auckland (there was no time to rest).

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Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari is a reserve on the triple peaks of an old volcano; a paradise area for lots of traditional New Zealand species thanks to a 47km pest-proof fence.

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When the British arrived in New Zealand years ago they bought a lot of 'pests' with them that unfortunately changed the ecosystem on the Kiwi islands and decimated large numbers of animal and plant species. The fence is mouse, possum and cat proof and has allowed native species to flourish again; including kiwis, kakas, ferns and much more.

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We had a guided walk through parts of the sanctuary (with an informative, although not that enthusiastic guide). We were there in time for the feeding of kakas (a native parrot), whose numbers have increased thanks to the pest eradication. Unfortunately it was raining when we were there and so weren't many birds about, we did see a few fantails and tuis though. Mum seemed to enjoy the gift shop there... purchasing a tweeting kiwi cuddly toy for my brothers nursery class.

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Driving really isn't a chore in New Zealand, everywhere you look there's stunning landscapes to keep you entertained. The drive into Raglan was beautiful (however mum was asleep for most of it), the road winded its way through rolling hills and past scenic rivers.

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Raglan is a laid back surfer town with a picturesque beach front and cute cafes. We grabbed a nice lunch in one of the cafes while we waited for the rain to pass and then went for a walk along the beach front.

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It was the strangest day, literally all 4 seasons at one time. We had glorious sunshine to our front and the rainiest, darkest clouds on our backs; at one point half of my body was in the rain while my other side was getting a tan.

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We were staying at the same holiday park in Auckland; it meant that Jason got to get some more freebie food and my mum got to have fish & chips again for tea. It was also an ideal base for us to explore around Auckland again the next day.

Posted by bloorsontour 00:23 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Rotorua, NZ

An eggy, Hobbit, Maori, rafting adventure

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We were staying in another well kitted out holiday park, this time with its own swimming pool, hot pools and hangi cooking area. We all liked it, but dad was still struggling with the eggy sulphur smell that lingers throughout all of Rotorua town. The hot pools and hangi were heated naturally from the volcanic activity underground and as you drive through the town you can see steam rising up from the ground in the local park.

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We'd got a jam packed itinerary planned for our time in Rotorua. On our first day we drove to Matamata where you can find Peter Jackson's amazing Hobbiton set. I'd not seen The Hobbit at this point (but I have now) and didn't much like Lord of the Rings, but our day at Hobbiton turned out to be a brilliant tour. I was expecting a theme park style, over the top, cheesy tour production and actually what we got was a cute, authentic and comprehensive tour (no gimics) of the original set. You get picked up by a coach that takes you to the farm site of the set and your driver gives a description of the farm, its family and how life has changed since Lord of the Rings.

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We then walked around the set on foot with a guide, who explained every detail about the Hobbiton landscape.

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We saw Bilbo's home, Bagend...

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The vegetable patch (where Jason managed to acquire a green pepper).

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The oak tree, which turns out to be artificial, that sits above Hobbiton.

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The Green Dragon Pub, where you can enjoy a complementary beer by the roaring fire (if you're Jason you can scam a second free beer) and of course, my dad had to try a Hobbiton pork pie.

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Samwise Gamgee's house...

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The only bit of 'cheese' you get is to dress up as a Hobbit (no obligations) and mum dived straight into the fancy dress box!

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On our way back to Rotorua we stopped in Tirau, a cute little village famous for corrugated metal (even the public toilets are a corrugated dog and sheep design). And we stopped at Bugger Cafe for a bite to eat and coffee.

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By the time we'd arrived back at Rotorua it was nearly time for our pick up to Mitai Maori Village, which my parents had treated us to. The evening starts with a run through of Maori culture and what a traditional Hangi is; they'ed prepared enough food for about 100 people and cooked it underground from the volcanic heat all day. We had slow cooked lamb and chicken with hangi kumara potatoes, as well as tonnes of salad and vegetables and a selection of desserts (to which me and Jason got very excited about because we hadn't had a warm pudding and custard for ages).

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Before you eat there's a short tour through a wooded area and you watch a reenactment of Maori fighters in their long boats by fire light.

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Then there's a brilliant performance by Maori men and women; singing, dancing, traditional acrobatics, and of course the haka.

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It wasn't that late when we got in but my parents had been fed, wined and entertained, and all they wanted was their bed (at 8.30pm!). These old folk just can't keep up!

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The next day we'd sat and had a leisurely breakfast debating what to do with with the rainy day ahead of us. Sometimes you just have to get on with it... we got wrapped up and went for a walk around Okere Falls. It's just a nice short walk through some woods and there's lookout points over the river to some waterfalls.

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Quote D.Findler: "Bring it on!": when mum saw a raft dive down a 7metre waterfall from a lookout point on our walk. Ha, we'll see... when we got back to the car there was a company van parked up next to ours and I telephoned Rotorua Rafters to see if they'd got space for 4 adults on their afternoon trip. Yes they had... Mum soon went very quiet in the back of the car on the way home.

We headed back to the holiday park to get ready for the rafting. We also prepared our very own lamb hangi that we put in the accommodations' own volcanically heated underground ovens... It meant we'd got a nice hot meal to look forward to after our rafting adventure.

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Rotorua Rafting was sooooo much fun! Couldn't stop laughing.

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Even though mum was apprehensive she got stuck into everything! Well done mum, proud of you! There's photographic evidence of you jumping from the top of a cliff edge...

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Being pounded by water at the front of the raft with dad (our guide Amy called this surfing).

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Diving down a 7 metre waterfall, having been told that they'd flipped two rafts over on the morning tours. Apparently this waterfall was one the biggest ones you can go off as an amateur.

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I was asked to sit on the front of the raft for one of the smaller rapid sections, however I lasted about 2 seconds and ended up heading down them on my back with my legs in the air... not very James Bond.

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However the hilarity award goes to... Debra Findler (again!). Mum had managed to stay in the raft throughout the whole trip, right up until the photoshoot in the shallow waters at the end. I LOVE these series of photographs that explain the story...

1. Mum falls in and panics

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2. Everyone is shouting for her to stand up on the rock she's landed on, but instead Dad dives in to rescue her...

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3. In the process of pulling mum out of the water Dad elbows the lovely girl in our raft!

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4. Mum needs a minute to recover... Haha!

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5. Don't worry, it all ends with smiles.

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Jason's got some brilliant video footage from the afternoon.

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After all that adventure we went back to our cabin and feasted on our lamb hangi...delicious! I'd had such a brilliant day!

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Posted by bloorsontour 02:06 Archived in New Zealand Comments (3)

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