Where are we

Sunday 5 January 2020

Happy New Year 2020 from Whangarei

I hope you have all enjoyed the holiday season wherever you are. Right now here on Larus in Whangarei Marina, we are enjoying new season nectarines, plums, and sweet corn as well as the continuing long season for rhubarb. I do marvel at having locally grown spring and autumn favourites available in December. It makes it hard to keep the seasons straight.

I spent all of the holiday season with Susan, a friend from Ottawa, and a little with Tim when he joined us in the South Island for a few days.

We have covered a lot kilometres since the beginning of December.  Tim hired a good sized sedan for the 4 months we would be in the marina in Whangarei.  'Good sized' so the boot/trunk could be used for storage when we need more space on Larus to work or entertain.  It did make all the driving we've done very comfortable.  The car, a Toyota Camray Hybrid, had 8 km on the clock when we picked it up at Auckland Airport. Six weeks later, it is almost 9000.

New Zealand isn't a big country when compared to, as the Kiwis like to say, 'the Western Island,' which you probably know as Australia, but if you were to flatten out all the mountains, hills and valleys New Zealand would probably be twice the size that it is now, though it not nearly as pretty.

This is a fun link - New Zealand Time and Distance Calculator - that Susan and I used to plan our trip.  Our first route in the South Island was from the Picton Ferry to Nelson via Havelock.  We followed the signs out of the ferry terminal advertising Nelson and found ourselves on the coastal road (yellow secondary route in the Time and Distance Calculator) rather than on the advised route. It was exciting to say the least and we crept along quite flat but really windy roads. There was one sequence of triple S bends that were so close together they looked like a snake slithering along the border between rock and sea.  We did feel a sense of achievement at the end of that drive.

New Zealand Population is approaching 5 million, with most people living in or near the major cities most of the highways are 2 lanes.  There are lots of rivers and gorges in New Zealand and in less well trafficked areas the bridges are single lane with priority given to one side or the other.

The Population website also has a lot of interesting information on NZ demographics.

To plan our tour New Zealand we talked to Tony, a friend and ex-colleague of Tim, who is a born and bred Kiwi.  He advised us on our route through the North Island, down to the South Island and back again.  Based on his suggestions, I created a spreadsheet with time and distance from one place to the next and where we would need to book accommodation and occasionally what there was to see.

Thurs Dec 5
Depart Whangarei for Matamata 0700 to pass through Auckland after 0930 to avoid rush hour congestion.  320km 4 hrs + stops = 5 hrs.
Arrive Matamata approx. 1300. Hobbiton Tour 1500.
Depart for Rotorua. 67km, 53 mins for B&B.
B&B Rotorua
Fri 6, Sat 7, Sun 8, Mon 9
Visit Rotorua, Taupo and lake, Thermal Springs and Lakes, Tongariro National Park.  Rotorua to Taupo 82 km 1 hr.
B&B Taupo
Tues 10
Depart Rotorua AM East Coast - Napier Hastings, Havelock North. 220km 2.46 minutes.
B&B Napier
Weds 11
Depart Napier AM. Martinborough (wine region).  Near Wellington for ferry.  272km 24 mins
B&B Martinboro
Thurs 12
Depart Martinborough ____to Wellington  for ___ Ferry to Picton.  81km 1hr 20 + time to ferry terminal. Arrive Picton ___. 
Depart Picton for B&B Nelson (arty) 108km 1hr 47mins. or B&B St Arnard via Blenheim 129km 1hr 38 mins via wine region. (St Arnard from Picton via Nelson approx. 200km 3hrs.)
St Arnard, walking and fresh water Lake Rotiti, cool backpacker accommodation.
B&B  Nelson or St Arnard
Fri 13
Depart Nelson/St Arnard for Hokitaka. Prettiest town on west coast.  Nelson to Hokitika 324km 4hr 11.  St Arnard to Hokitika 260km, 3 hr 19 mins.
B&B Hokitika
Sat 14
Hokitika for Okarito, home of Keri Hulme and Lerson(?) Wetlands.  128 km 1hr 41 mins
B&B Okarito
Sun 15
Depart Okarito to Franz Joseph Glacier,28km 29mins.
Depart FJG for Fox Glacier, 24km 29 mins
Depart FG for Haast 121km 1hr 32
B&B Haast
Mon 16
Depart Haast for Wanaka Town 141km 1hr 49.  Lake Hawea on way to Wanaka.
B&B Lake Hawea
Tues 17
Depart Lake Hawea for Queenstown. Arrive Queenstown AM Tim arrives 1520.  69 km 1hr 18 mins.
Depart QT for Te Anau, 172km 2hr 8 mins
B&B Te Anua or Manapouri
Weds 18
Te Anau to Milford Sound, 118 km 1hr 39
Milford Sound to Te Anau, 118 km 1hr 39. 

Thurs 19
Te Anau to Lake Ohua Alpine Village, 363 km 4 hours 20.  

Fri 20
Lake Ohua Alpine Village or Twizel to Mount Cook. 72km 52min.  Mount Cook to Christchurch via Mount Somers. 400ish km 5hrs ish.
Sat 21
Christchurch. Tim flight Sun22 0830
Christchurch B&B
Sun 22
Arrive Christchurch airport 0630.
Christchurch to Picton Ferry 4 hrs 35 mins
Arrive Wellington 2230
B&B Wellington
Mon 23 – 25

Thurs 26
Halfway to Whangarei
Backpacker Acc
Thurs 27

This was our working draft and we pretty much kept to it until we were affected by current events.

On the same day as the terrible Whakaari (pronounced Fackare-ray)/White Island volcanic eruption, torrential storms in the South Island caused landslides that closed the road between Hokitika and Haast.  This was the middle section of our route down the South Island's West Coast to Queenstown via the Franz Joseph Glacier.  Franz Joseph Landslides.

Unable to continue down the West Coast, we cancelled our booked accommodation and changed our route to cross the Southern Alps via Arthur's Pass to Geraldine, Canterbury.  From there we made our way down to Queenstown to meet up with Tim.

The Franz Joseph Glacier was in the news again just days ago as smoke Australian bushfires smoke, ash and dust turn the glacier brown.  Here in Whangarei, yesterday we experienced a short period of yellow sky and orange sun due to the ash. It was a disturbing sight for us, but it doesnt compare in any way to the catastrophic situation in Australian.

Just for the sake of completeness, on our way back up the North Island we stayed in at the Mercure Wellington Abel Tasmin Hotel on the 23rd of Dec.  We had heard on the news that there was Sewage going into Wellington Harbour after pipe collapse.  While purchasing our Christmas Eve/Day Dinner microwavable Indian Ready Meal for Two, we chatted to the lady at the check out about all the road work going on outside our hotel.  Someone joked that maybe they were repairing the broken pipe. We asked her where it was and we came to realise that our hotel was on one corner of the intersection (Willis and Dixon) where the pipe had burst.  They didn't stop work until midnight, but we knew they had to get it done.   We were just grateful they didn't have to work longer on Christmas Eve.

I will have to deal with the promised Hobbits in subsequent posts, but it is hard to look anywhere in New Zealand and not see a garden or river or mountain or hill that doesn't look in some way like Middle Earth.