APRIL 10, 2003

Our packing didn't take long at all.  We still have four bags.  Terry's and Sherrie's personal bags ... each which will fit under the seat of an airplane .... the daypack plus the soft sided "chilly-bin" we picked up ... oh and the computer case which also holds our maps, a novel and B&B book. 

Saying "good bye" to BJ, our host, we drove to Havelock and then picked up the Queen Charlotte Drive to Picton ... the one we had missed because of a wrong turn when we first arrived on the South Island.  

After passing Havelock and driving up the hill we stopped and walked up to the Cullen Point Lookout and took a couple of pictures.  As we arrived back at the car, Terry noticed a car coming up the hill and parking.  He actually heard it first and then noticed one of the front wheels was wonky ... like it might come off.  He sat in our car wondering what the occupants of the limper were going to do.  When they didn't get out he decided to approach them.  
He met two young ladies who told him their rental car had been acting strange.  They had had a service station check it out and found a previous "fix" had tied up suspension or tie rod or some such thing.   By all appearances coming up the winding steep hill had deteriorated the situation further and there they sat.   We were going in the direction from whence they came and offered to drive them back to the station.  They collected their passports and other valuables from the trunk of the car and accepted Terry's offer.   They were two girls, in their early twenties, from Scotland.  We had a lovely visit with them before reaching the station.

The rest of the drive was lovely, passing bays with small clusters of homes on shore and boats floating peacefully at anchor.  The last turn brought us to a viewpoint overlooking Picton.

We filled the gas tank, checked our bags in the ferry terminal and while Sherrie went to the lounge with the computer case, Terry returned the car to the rental company. 

He walked back over to the Ferry Terminal taking a detour to view The Edwin Fox.  The Edwin Fox is a ship built in Calcutta, India in 1853 out of teak.  She is the ninth oldest ship in the world.  She served as a troop carrier in 1854 carrying troops to the Crimean War; carried convicts to Australia in 1856 and immigrants to New Zealand in 1860s.  She finished active service in 1899 and was used for several years as a refrigerator unit in the emerging chilled meat export market to England and elsewhere.   She finished off her life as a coal hulk in 1950s. She is not being restored but is being preserved by chemicals and placed under protective covering.  The Edwin Fox was designated a National Trust in 1999 and placed for display in Picton.

Once on board the Interislander Ferry, Terry found us a window seat, complete with table, and the voyage to the North Island began. We had three hours to relax, read the paper, work on the computer and have a snack (prices too high on board to have a meal). On arrival in Wellington,  a gentleman was standing with "Thorne" written on a board. "You want me?" Sherrie questioned innocently and he and his college laughed "I havenít had a lady ask me that before!"

We check the paperwork and signed our names, gathered the bags from the luggage carrousel and looked the car over.

We had booked ahead to another Bellavista Motel about 20 minutes from the centre of downtown Wellington. Terry got us there without any difficulty.

We had thought we might stay here for two nights but with a big professional rugby game in town the next night rooms were scarce ... if we could not get one, we might have to move northward and cut our time in Wellington short.


APRIL 11, 2003
We did some phoning around to B&B and motels but either did not get an answer or found they were booked up.  Kay, our Bellavista host, phone the Gateway Manor on the other side of town and they had a room for the night.  We drove straight over and took a look at one of the unmade rooms, found it acceptable (picture right) and booked in.  With accommodations secured, we could turn our attention to planning our time in Wellington.  This is a return trip for us, which means we have already seen some of the highlights, including the cable car and the hillside botanical gardens.

Te Papa

We walked over to the train station and took a 20 minute train ride to downtown Wellington where we caught a bus to Te Papa (The (Te) Meeting Place (Pa is meeting place, papa is important meeting place).  Te Papa is New Zealand's national museum with many facets and lots of interaction displays.  Most impressive.  It would take a week of visits to do it justice.  There is so much to see and do that information overload can result.  No cameras allowed inside so no pictures to show. 

We caught a bus to the Rugby stadium.  The stadium's official name is Westpac Trust Stadium but the locals call it the "cake tin" because from the outside it looks like a huge cake tin with the lid off.  Beer is sold in brown plastic bottles (like soft drinks) and 4 is the limit per person.  Prices weren't too bad.  In New Zealand dollars burgers were $4.50, fries $3, hot dogs (we know them as corn dogs) $2.50 and the best value were steak pies at $3.  Pop (in plastic bottles) is very costly at $3.50.  

We joined 31,280 other people cheering on the New Zealand Hurricanes against  the Australian Waratahs in a rugby game something akin to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  Just as Vancouver and Toronto have a friendly rivalry ... so do Australia and New Zealand.  Both are near the top of the standings and this game was an all important  ... take no prisoners match.  The New Zealand Hurricanes won .... yea! ... 42-26 and we had a great time cheering for the home team.   It is a rough sport .... and Sherrie is sure the mother's of the players don't watch.

After the game we caught the train back to Johnsonville, had a brisk walk back to the motel and finished off the night with a hot chocolate.

APRIL 12, 2003

Today was a travel day.  We started out in Wellington (actually Johnsonville which is a suburb area of Wellington) and drove north on Highway 2 to Napier.  On the way we stopped and poked around a few antique shops but the most impressive stop was at the Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre. 

Mount Bruce forest (Pukaha) once covered a huge area and boasted a marvelous ecosystem supporting thousands of native birds.  Now Mount Bruce forest is a mere 942 hectares.  Sadly most of the birds that lived in the forest have either become extinct from the planet or extinct from the area.  The restoration of Mount Bruce  is a partnership between the Department of Conservation, the National Wildlife Centre Trust and Rangitaanne  O Wairarapa Inc. and involves an aggressive hunting and trapping program to discourage a constant immigration of predators.   They have a breeding program with endangered native birds in which the birds are ultimately  being set free to breed in the wild.  
Although the concentration is on birds, they also have a population of Long Finned Eels. Management supplements  the eel's natural food sources and takes the opportunity to educate the public while the female eels (normally loners) gather below the feeding platform.



Hihi - Stitchbird

The first bird to be kept at Mount Bruce was the flightless bright blue and green Takahe with its thick red/orange beak. A very very rare bird indeed.  In fact they thought this bird was extinct until someone found a few in a remote area of Milford Sound in 1948.  Today their numbers have grown to 150.

The other rare sightings we had at Mount Bruce was that of the Brown Kiwi.  Since kiwis are nocturnal, they have a special "kiwi hut" with simulated night lighting where visitors may view the kiwi's activities through large glass windows.  As part of the breeding at Mount Bruce, Kiwi eggs are being artificially incubated and chicks reared for release on the mainland. 

We also saw some of the bird species we had seen in the wild on Ulva Island, the rare Saddleback, Stitchbird, Kakariki (parakeet), Bellbird (like the one we heard singing "If You Knew Susie" on Ulva Island) and the Kaka ... although the Kakas we saw on Ulva were larger and more colourful than the breed we saw at Mount Bruce. 

Also here, we saw the Tuatara.  The Tuatara are currently found on 33 offshore islands.  Populations of this reptile were significantly reduced following the introduction of rats.

Northern (Mount Bruce) Kaka

All photos of rare species on this date taken by Sherrie.

With New Zealand's children on Easter vacation for the next week, last minute accommodations were difficult to find.  We pushed on to Napier.  It was well after dark as we stopped at numerous places before finding accommodations at the Fountain Court Motor Inn one block from Hawke Bay.  

A bowl of soup and open-faced tomato sandwiches were dinner in the room which has a small kitchenette.  

APRIL 13, 2003

Before checkout time we called over to the office and asked if we might stay a second night.  Hearing "yes" gave us an opportunity to take the time we would normally use for packing up, to spend some "down time".

Napier is the capital of Hawke Bay province, situated on the East Coast of the North Island.  

Napier has a well established Maori history and was sighted by Captain Cook in October of 1769 and described "On each side of this bluff head is low, narrow sand or stone beach, between these beaches and the mainland is a large lake of salt water I suppose."   Trader, whalers and missionaries were the forerunners of the permanent residency here.  In the 1850's farmers and hotel keepers arrived.

On Tuesday, February 3, 1931 at 10:46am a two and a half minute earthquake rocked the town leveling all buildings, killing 258 people and raising some areas as much as eight feet.  More than 4,000 hectares of seabed became dry land (which today has been developed into residential and industrial land as well as an airport).  Over the following two years the city was rebuilt using the current fashionable style - Art Deco.  The result is that Napier has one of the highest concentrations of Art Deco architecture anywhere in the world. 

The National Tobacco Company building's outer brick walls collapsed as a result of the earthquake.  The new facade, reception area and board room were designed by Napier architect Louis Hay who was an admirer of designer Frank Lloyd Wright.

A restful morning turned into a restful day .... catching up on the writing and editing of our journal .... a vacation from our vacation.

APRIL 14, 2003

The drive from Napier to Taupo was very pleasant ~ good road and beautiful scenery along the way.

Once in Taupo we checked in at the Visitor Information Centre and began our tour of the area. 

Huka Falls started our sightseeing.  The Waikato River eroded through soft mudstone and pumice until it struck a layer of hardened silica from earlier geothermal activity.   Over the centuries the river cut a deep narrow channel into this hard layer until it reached a soft underlying layer which collapsed, creating the steep-sided basin and the falls, where the river plunges over the lip into the basin.  The shape of the basin creates a tremendous ... and dangerous undertow.

Falls don't look very big until compared with person in white T-shirt standing at view point on left.

Today the river continues this erosion process and the falls will, in time work their way up stream where Sherrie stands on a bridge.

The falls have a unique blue colour which is due to the very clear water reflecting blue light.  Air bubbles in the water intensify the blue colour.

The water temperature varies between a very warm 22 degrees Celsius in the summer to 10.5 degrees in the winter.  

Just down the road we went to Prawn Park ... the world's only geothermally heated facility devoted to raising prawns.  This inland system is positioned between the Waikato River (which provides the fresh water needed to house this breed of fresh water prawns) and the Wairakei Geothermal Power Station (which provides the heat needed to bring the captured river water up to optimum growing temperatures.)   

Sally was our tour guide.  She showed us the large male with his long blue pincer legs, then through to breeding tanks, larva tanks and growing tanks where Terry held his hand under the water with a bit of food in the palm as young prawns crawled up to snatch a snack.  Before leaving Prawn Park we had lunch .... of course ... prawns were a part of it.

Next stop  ... Craters of the Moon ... indeed that is what this thermal area is called.  

From earliest of times people have been attracted to thermal areas.  They gave rise to myths and legends and their coloured soils were used as dyes for garments, carvings and body decoration.  They provided heat and a way to cook food.  The hot, mineralized waters were used for bathing and other medicinal uses.  

They were highly valued by those who lived near them and become popular tourist destinations. As man's ability to harness the power of steam grew, our use of thermal areas expanded.  The generation of electricity is probably the most obvious example.   The world's first geothermal power station to use steam from discharging hot water was here at the Wairakei Station in 1958.  Geothermal steam and hot water are also used locally to heat homes, dry crops, grow tropical prawns and heat swimming pools.

Because Craters of the Moon has only been active for a relatively short period of time, its history of use is limited.  Maori certainly made use of other thermal 'hot spots' in the region and collected red ochre (a reddish clay) from this area.

On the way back to our accommodations, we stopped at the Taupo Bungy jumping platform where Terry (see picture right) contemplated adding such an adventure to his agenda. 
We parked our maroon coloured Nissan Pulsar (traded in the green one on the South Island and picked up this one at the ferry terminal of the North Island) and while Terry was unpacking the trunk, he was greeted by a friendly duck. 

Right behind the cottage is the river we had been around since our arrival in Taupo.  We would only be staying the one night.

continue to April 15, 2003


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