We woke up to a glorious sunny day which was good, because our plan was to fly by helicopter to White Island, an active volcano off the coast of Rotorua.
We got up and had some breakfast and found our way to the lake shore and the offices of Volcanic Air Safaris, the company that we had bookd for our adventure.
Besides Cynthia and myself, there were two other people who had booked the tour so that meant a small group headed to the island. And, as luck would have it, they were also photographers so they would not be impatient while I took my time photographing the island.
We took off a little before 9:00a am for our 35 minute flight to White Island and the view was simply spectacular.
We circled the island and then landed in an open area, not far from the crater lake
We spent the next hour and half hiking around while our guide told us the history of the island.
Cynthia was very pleased with herself for overcoming her fears of flying in a helicopter and of walking on an active volcano. Truth be told, we both agree that this was the most amazing thing we’ve done on any of our travels.
When we returned to the city we went back to the hotel and quickly went back out to visit the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. Mostly I wanted to see the Champagne Pool…the rest I was not so enthusiastic about which was a good thing, too, because we were fairly tired after the previous adventure.
The Champagne Pool, named for the tiny bubbles the fizzle and pop on the surface, did not disappoint.
Tomorrow we’re headed to the Tongariro National Park and hoping for more good weather.
We got up early and found breakfast at a place called Jandals Cafe. In New Zealand, jandals are how they refer to sandals or flip-flops. It was a casual, local space and the menu was AMAZING!
We opted for the Handle The Jandal Breaky (breaky means breakfast) and it was SOOO good. The tomato was sweet, the eggs were fluffy and you can’t see it in the photo, but there was toasted homemade bread under that pile of yum.
We got on our way early and again, the weather was great and the scenery was just unbelievable.
We stopped a few times for some photos
But we kept things moving today so we could get to the Hobbiton Movie Set.
This is the place where they filmed the Shire scenes for the Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit. The tour is pricey. And it’s a little on the long side at 2 hours. But it has to be this way because it’s a guided tour on private property. Frankly, I could have taken the whole thing in in about 30 minutes. But it was still fun to do.
The tour ends at the Green Dragon Inn where you can sit and have a beer or a cider before departing the movie set
From Hobbiton it was on to Rotorua where we will be staying for a few days. The area is known for its geothermal activity and there’s steam coming up out of the ground all over the place. And it smells like sulfer here.
Tomorrow we take a helicopter to White Island, an active volcano.
Today was a long day of driving. Over 250 mile all told. And not 250 miles over straight, level roads. Oh no, it was up and down mountains via twisty curvy roads. There was also slow, stop and go traffic getting through Auckland heading south.
The scenery was spectacular, but there were few options to stop and photograph it. Still, we managed some good shots.
The jet lag has not worn off, so we’re still waking up very early. Since we were up an hour before sunrise we decided to go to the beach which is down the road about a block to capture this
When we checked out of the hotel and started our journey we decided to stop in and see the Hundertwasser Toilets in Kawakawa. This public toilet was designed by Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser, who lived in Kawakawa from 1975 until his death in 2000.
From there it was scenic spot after the other.
We arrived in Whitianga in the late afternoon very tired, but went out for dinner where Cynthia had Coromandel mussels. These things are huge! And green! And delicious.
We’re beat. Tomorrow we drive to Rotorua.
Today was our day to explore the Bay OF Islands region. Our first stop was to go see the Haruru Falls which are about 10 minutes from our hotel.
When we arrived at the falls we pulled into the small car park and were immediately accosted by hungry, free range chickens.
From the car park it was a very short walk to the falls.
After visiting the falls and laughing as the chickens accosted new arrivals we set off to go to Russell. We needed to find our way to Opua to catch the ferry and as I went to enter the destination into the GPS the GPS just died. I used my recently repaired iPhone to get directions back to the hotel to see if I could sort out the GPS. After fidgeting with it for awhile I decided it needed to be reset. To reset the device required a small pin to push the tiny reset button. In these situations I tend to use a paperclip, but I didn’t have one with me.
Cynthia loaned me an earring which I used to push the reset button and, sure enough, it started working again. Cynthia’s jewelry saved the day.
With our GPS back up and running we set course for Opua where we could catch the ferry over to Okiato. From Okiato it’s only a 10 minute drive to Russell.
It should be mentioned that Cynthia hates boats
Cynthia is a trooper and the ferry ride is less than 10 minutes long so she managed it just fine.
Russell is a wonderful little town. Very scenic and laid back. And it’s quite easy to walk around and take in the sites.
Did I mention is was very laid back?
After exploring Russell we drove north up to Rawhiti. The drive was spectacular and passed through forests and up and down mountains and past various bays and inlets. Unfortunately, there were not many places to stop and take photos as the road just doesn’t have many options for pulling over.
We ended up on some pretty rough, unpaved roads and eventually decided it would be prudent to drive back to Russell and then back to our hotel in Paihia.
When we got back to Russell we had lunch at a place called The Duke Of Marlborough. The back of the menu had the history of the restaurant and we were amused to learn that the Duke of Marlborough began its life in 1827 as “Johnny Johnston’s Grog Shop”. A superior name, to be sure.
After lunch we had a short walk in Russell to see Christ Church before catching the ferry back to Okiato so we could drive back to the hotel in Paihia.
It has been a great day. Tomorrow we drive to Whitianga on the Coromandel Peninsula. This will be the longest day of driving on this trip at 256 miles.
Today we said goodbye to Auckland and picked up our rental to drive to Paihia in the north. The beautiful Bay Of Islands.
We were collected at the hotel by Europecar and taken to sign our rental agreement and pick up our vehicle.
The car was nice and practically brand new with only about 4,000 kilometers on it. Built in sat nav and all the amenities.
We loaded up and pulled out and before we had gotten too far I noticed the oil light was on. We drove back to the rental place and the manager suggested topping off the oil and I suggested that driving off into the remote wilds in a car that had low oil combined with low mileage didn’t fill me with confidence so they swapped cars for us. It was the least they could do.
The new car was not as new, but was a Mitsubishi Outlander with very low mileage.
I like this vehicle much more that the precious one so I am quite happy now.
We packed up the replacement and drove off.
The weather was good and we made good time on our 140 mile journey to Paihia. After clearing the city we pulled off at a service station to get some road snacks and so I could start wiring the car to charge our various devices like iPhones, iPads, the GoPro and my spare camera batteries.
The drive was fantastic and the scenery was spectacular. Sadly, there was not an abundance of places to pull of and photograph the views. I especially enjoyed the windy mountain roads that climbed and dove through the mountains. Cynthia, on the other hand, was not so thrilled. Especially after seeing the warning signs.
Before arriving in Paihia we stopped to view and photograph the Whangarei Falls.
After that we drove on to Paihia and checked into our hotel. Once that was done we went exploring and found some dinner.
I have to say, Paihia is a beautiful town and we are happy to be here. Tomorrow we explore the area in greater detail.
We woke up around 4 am due to the jet lag. Hopefully by tomorrow we will have our sleep cycles under control.
On this day we were scheduled to spend it in Auckland City. Frankly, Auckland is not all that exciting. It’s much like any other big city and we’ve seen plenty of big cities. As we pondered our options Cynthia found a brochure in our literature that talked about Waiheke Island which is only a 40 minute ferry ride from the harbor here in Auckland. We thought we would give it a go and off we went.
Buying tickets for the ferry we spotted (and Cynthia photographed) this sign.
They are very protective of the island and don’t want any pests carried over. Cynthia pointed out that if she had any skinks hidden in her bag they came from New Zealand and not from home.
We boarded the ferry, skink free, and before we knew it, we were at Waiheke.
The sky was overcast but we didn’t let that stop us from renting a car and heading off to explore.
Right off the bat, we were overjoyed with our decision. The island is relatively small and filled with twisty, turny roads. Each turn brought us to something amazing. Beaches, hidden coves, hills and valleys…
Cynthia was happy to see her first sheep of the journey and she captured this wonderful image of two lambs.
We had a great time exploring the island. Though small, it was sometimes confusing and we did get a little lost…
(photo by Cynthia)
But we didn’t mind because we knew it was a small island and we’d eventually get back on track.
We wrapped up the journey at a lovely little restaurant with a deck that looked out over one of the many bays on the island. And toward the end the sun even peeked out and gave us a glimpse of the the true beauty of the island
The restaurant also featured some rather fearless seagulls which swarmed the table as soon as we got up to leave and devoured all of our scraps.
While waiting on the ferry to go back to the mainland I did manage to drop and smash my iPhone. Fortunately there was a repair shop near the hotel and I was back up and running in less than an hour after returning back to base.
We took some time and got some rest before heading out to dinner and going to the top of the Sky Tower which towers some 1076 feet over the city and offers some amazing views of Auckland.
It was pretty cool to see, but we didn’t stay long as we are pretty tired and have a big day tomorrow as we head off to the Bay Of Islands in the north.
We made it to Auckland. The flights were uneventful for the most part. The first leg from Houston to Los Angeles was delayed by about 30 minutes which was not a real problem as we had plenty of time before the flight from Los Angeles to Auckland.
We arrived in Auckland quite early, but the hotel allowed us to check in right away which is always a huge bonus, especially after over 20 hours of travel time.
We did get some sleep on the plane so were were not totally wiped out when we arrived, but we’re still tired and taking it easy today.
New Zealand here we come! 23 days and almost 3,000 miles of new adventures as we drive the north and the south islands.
After the first phase of restoration on the Cutlass I took a small break. The Cutlass was drivable and running great, but there was a the matter of an oil leak in the rear main seal.
Repairing it meant pulling the engine. It was suggested by my mechanic that if I was going to do this I might as well replace the timing chain. The summer heat was not conducive to driving so before long I decided to go ahead and bite the bullet and get the main seal replaced.
While the engine was out I was talked into a paint job and some Hooker performance headers. Since the engine was out I only paid for the parts, which wasn’t all that expensive.
I have to say, the GM 455 never looked better.
Cynthia was given a recipe for honey glazed, bacon wrapped pork loin. It was easy to make and it came out very well. I thought it might be a little disgusting, but it ended up being very tender and flavorful