Day 182 Saying Goodbye

Well, it’s over.  We are sitting at the airport having a hard time believing that six months have gone by. I guess the old saying that “time fly’s when you are having fun” really is true. 

This has been an amazing trip, one that we will remember for the rest of our lives.  We are astonished that there is so much to do and see in a small country.   From Cape Reinga in the north to Stewart Island in the south, it was all amazing. We had fun and loved everything about this great country but we especially enjoyed:
The quiet beauty of Doubtful and Milford Sounds.

The majestic mountain regions of Queenstown, Wanaka, Mt.Cook and Tongariro National Park.

The amount of hiking that is available here and how well groomed the trails are. 

The natural ruggedness of the west coast and the Tasman Sea. 

The continuous black sand beaches of the west coast, especially Whiriraki near Cape Farewell.  

The mighty trees of the Kauri Forest especially during our night time vigil. 

The enormous amount of stars that could be seen from Mt. John, stars we can’t see from the Northern Hemisphere. 

The natural and powerful beauty of the geothermal activity on White Island and the Rotorua area.

The number of places that served fish and chips.  The best was at The Drunken Sailor in Bluff (our opinion).
The lush green hills we found all over the islands. 

The number of birds we had never seen before, our favorite was the Kaka. 

We, okay,  I was amazed at the meat pies, and the best was from Jackson’s Bakery in Havelock North.

The color changing view of the mountains from our holiday camp in Wanaka. 

The gorgeous scenic drives all over the islands,  Glenorchy and The Forgotten Highway being two of the many.

The incredible beauty of the Bay of Islands. 

The stunning view of The Bay of Plenty from Mount Maunganui. 

The scenic beauty of Golden Bay and the Abel Tasman National Park.

The list is endless as it is an astonishing country.  Everything I mentioned and more is pretty special but the true strength of New Zealand is the people.   We have enjoyed meeting so many people who greeted us with a smile. Who are always in a good mood and always have a friendly greeting.  Who wave to us because we are in a tourist campervan.  Who have stopped us on the street to see if they could be of help.  

We will miss New Zealand and the people of New Zealand.  They are special people in a special place.

Ta Kite Aotearoa

A final word to all who followed the blog and sent along their comments. Thank you, It was greatly appreciated.  We are not sure what our next adventure will be but you are invited to join us.  We will be ressurecting and we will be updating it weekly as we plan our next move.

Day 179, 180 & 181 Devonport

We were fortunate in finding a perfect spot to make the change over from the van.  We were able to stay on the north shore in the town of Devonshire.  Specifically at an area called Narrow Neck Beach.

The ladies at the Takapuna I site found us a great self contained, one bedroom suite at the Ivanhoe Resort.  It was perfect for exiting the van and preparing for the flight home.  It was also veeeerrry roomy.

The last three days of our trip took slowed right down.  As soon as we checked into the Ivanhoe we lost the urge to tackle anything else.  I think we are finally toured out.  It has been a great trip, a phenomenal trip but it has played us out.  So we returned the van, started our preparation for the flight back and spent some time enjoying Devonport.
Devonport is a harbor suburb of Auckland on the north shore. It is a very nice setting and has been compared to Sausalito, California.  We really liked the area and if we lived in New Zealand we would definitely consider Devonport.

Day 178 Piha, Takapuna

We left Piha this morning with some regret as we really didn’t do justice to the area.  It is a beautiful area with mountains, waterfalls and a magnificent beach.  Even if the beach is a little dangerous. There were also many hikes we could have taken but at this stage of our trip we just were not prepared to make that sacrifice and get drenched.  
We decided to go back to the north shore as we really liked the area.   We ended up at the same park in Takapuna which was right on the beach.  It was still early so we set up and the headed downtown for lunch and just to enjoy the area. We did have one item on the agenda that we had to take care of and that was to find the I Site to look for a place to stay.  The van goes back in two days so we needed a place where we could unload and pack for the return trip.    Once we were successful we just enjoyed the rest of the day.  We are starting to wind down.

View of Rangitoto from Takapuna Beach

Day 175, 176 & 177 Ponsonby, Piha

Today was a really pleasant day.  We took our time leaving the campsite and gradually made our way over to Ponsonby.  We were meeting Carli Eger for lunch and as Yogi Berra would say, it was déjà vu all over again. We first met Carli when we landed here six months ago and it was really good to see her again.  We spent a delightful two hours catching up and of course telling her everything we have done on our trip.

We finally had to let her go as she is studying for mid terms.  It was a real fun, relaxing afternoon. 
When we left Carli we wanted to go to west Auckland for a couple of days but we had time to take a drive up Mount Eden. Mount Eden is the highest natural point on the Auckland Isthmus with a summit of 196 meters above sea level. Once you reach the top, not only can you get a good view of the surrounding area but you can see the majestic bowl-like crater.  The crater is 50 meters deep as the volcano erupted several times with the last one around 15,000 years ago.
The View

The Crater

We left the mountain and turned west with the ultimate destination being Piha, a small village on the Tasman Sea.  It is very secluded and was quite a drive getting there, not in length, but definitely a challenge.  We got a real good look at it from a vantage point just prior to descending  into the village.

The sky was starting to get quite dark so we headed for the campsite and checked in.  There are a lot of hikes in this area as well as the beach.  We are hoping for a nice day but the weatherman is saying no such luck.  He is calling for rain. 

Day 176 started out with the weatherman being right. It was raining and raining hard with a lot of fog.  There was no sense doing any hiking or trying to take pictures.  So we just hunkered down and did a little reading, did a little blogging and we even watched a movie.  It wasn’t that bad of a day.

Day 177 was exactly the same as yesterday.  It rained, a steady downpour that didn’t seem to want to let up.  So we did pretty much the same as we did the day before.  We did get a break in the weather or so I thought.  It did stop raining late in the afternoon so I grabbed the camera and headed for the beach. It’s a shame the weather was what it was as it really was a nice beach.  It was a black sand beach, as most are on the west coast with Lion Rock right in the middle of it.

Lion Rock

It was easy to tell the Kiwi’s are a lot heartier than we are as there was a lot of activity on the beach.  People were swimming, there was quite a few people surfing and there were even surfing lessons going on.

Piha is considered one of the most dangerous beaches in the north island but is still one of the most popular in the summer.  Many people from Auckland make the beach a part of their summer. The rip currents along this section of the coast are very unpredictable and shift with little warning.  They claim many lives despite the efforts of surf live-savers.  Most of the drowning occurs after lifeguards are off duty or after rock fisherman wearing heavy clothing are washed off rocks. 
The dangers of the beach prompted a New Zealand reality television show which is aptly named “Piha Rescue”.  It is in its third season and features the lives of the surf live savers on Piha Beach.  I decided to stay out of the water, I really didn’t want to be on TV.

I was half way up the beach when it started to rain again and I was soaked by the time I got back to the camper.  Still I was glad it eased for awhile and I got to see the beach.
When I was coming back from the beach I realized how isolated the village was.  It is completely surrounded by mountains.  I can see why people like it here.

Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

Day 174 Tiritiri Matangi

We seem to have a bit of luck as far as the weather goes.  It looks like it is going to be a nice day for our trip to the island of Tiritiri Matangi.   So, we got ready and headed over to Gulf Harbor to catch the ferry.

It was only a 20 minute ride on the ferry and as soon as we got past the coast we got our first view of Tiritiri Matangi. 
Tiritiri Matangi

The island of Tiritiri Matangi or “Looking to the Wind” lies about 4 km off the coast of Whangaparaoa Peninsula.  The 220 hectare island was farmed up to 1981 when the leases were cancelled.  A reforesting program was started in 1984 and continued until 1984 with a total of over 250,000 trees being planted.  
Today the island is a wildlife sanctuary that is pest free.  That has allowed many birds that were once native to the island to return.  The DOC has also introduced a number of rare birds that came close to extinction to prosper.  New Zealand is known as the Island of birds and it was very obvious here.
 We arrived at the island, listened to the welcoming and rules speech before heading up to the lighthouse and small visitor’s center.

On our way up to the lighthouse we got our only look at a couple of Brown Teal.   The Brown Teal is a rather nocturnal  small dabbling duck species endemic to New Zealand.  The Maori name for it is Pateke.  This bird is on the endangered list with as few as 1000 still surviving on the outlying islands. 
Brown Teal

Just prior to getting to the lighthouse we met the guest of honor for the island.  Greg is an 18 year Takahe that has been here his whole life.  He was a little worse for wear as he had just been in a fight.  It seems that his mate left him and he has been trying to win her back with little success.  The Takahe is flightless.


We stopped at the lighthouse long enough to have a coffee and study the map of the different trails around the office.  We even had a Fantail join us in the café.  We decided on the direction we wanted to go but  stopped at a water station and took a few pictures of two types of birds that getting a drink.  The Tui and the Bellbird have both prospered with the safe haven the island provides.





We started on our hike along the east coast track that gave us an elevated look at the coast.  Today wasn’t only about the birds.  The scenery was pretty awesome as well especially along the first part of our walk.

It was during this part of the walk that we say a number of birds with the tui and bellbird being the most prevalent.  We also got a look at the Red Crowned Parakeet, more Takahes, Welcome Swallow and a Wood Pigeon.


Red Crowned Parakeet



Wood Pigeon

Welcome Swallow

We did see other birds but were not able to get a good picture of them.  Kathy says that the pictures weren’t blog worthy.  On our way to the west side of the island we travelled through the only area that was original forest.  We came across one of the island’s oldest Pohutukawa  Trees, estimated to be 800- 1000 years old.  You can see from the picture of the sign that it is actually two trees.  It was quite interesting to look at.

We continued on our walk through the forest just enjoying the day.  We listened to the birds and marveled at the terrain.  However, the island isn’t that big so we shortly came to the west coast.

We followed the coast until we reached the ferry.  It was waiting there and we thought it was early but it hadn’t left.  They only allow one trip per day with a maximum of 150 people at a time. 

So we hung around the wharf until it was time to go.  We were treated to one last look of Grey as he had wandered down to the boarding area.  We were told that this was the first time he had ever ventured this far from the lighthouse area.  It is a 15 minute walk via the road and a 25 minute walk on the path.  He must have taken a pretty good beating and wanted the safety of the people. 

Greg the Takahe

It was time to leave so we said goodbye to Grey and boarded the ferry for the short ride back to the van. It was getting late in the day so we just drove back to the campsite and settled in for the night.  It was a great day.