Archive | February, 2013

Coromandel Peninsula

13 Feb

12th February 2013

Drove out of the valley on the dirt road, back onto 25 and followed it along the coast road. Fantastic route with great views.

Coast road views

More coast road views

Sea birds

Sea bird 2

As you turn to the East at the top of 25, the views are even more spectacular!

Colours look unreal!

Views round every corner

 

We then drove on to Hot Water Beach where hot water is supposed to seep through the sand. Must be getting close …..

 

Must be getting close

 

Take care where you stand …. some water is 65 deg C! The idea is to dig between the hot and cold water so it mixes, just like running a bath!

 

Hot Water Beach

 

Great fun!

We found a campsite in Hahei which was right on the beach.

Advertisements

Waipapa to Coromandel Peninsula

13 Feb

10th February 2013

Had an off day today …. both have really heavy colds, Graham’s started in Cambodia and he’s been left with a sore throat. He then generously passed it on to me and now I’m feeling rough. Shame as a lovely day …. wasted doing washing etc Still, I’ve learnt to spit like a bloke!

11th February 2013

On the way out of the Bay of Islands we passed the wharf where you pick up boat trips. We wondered what the queue for the phone box was all about. It was backpackers using the free wifi at the phonebox. It is a trial system. New Zealand does not have much in the way of free wifi, usually you have to pay, even in campsites.

Free wifi hard to come by

We carried on from Bay of Islands to Whangarei to look up a lady we met on the flight to Auckland. She is not in the first flush of youth, but is planning to sail back to the UK via the Pacific Islands, Panama and the Carribean. It is going to take her a year, and she is looking for a more mature crew. So if you are between 50  and 85 and fancy this trip on a well prepared 52 foot catamaran let us know and we will put you in touch. She has four double rooms and is leaving in May ….. go on, you know you want to!! Contact us and we will pass on your details.

More mature crew wanted

The town is a nice place to wander around, and was typically New Zealand.

Typical NZ street scene

On the outside of the town there are also lots of traditional colonial style houses, that are well preserved.

Another traditional NZ house

Traditional New Zealand home

We carried on south and passed through Auckland again on our way to the Coromandel Peninsula, passing through Thames into a pretty valley called Kauaeranga Valley. There are lots of great swimming holes and several DOC campsites. Still not busy as slightly out of the main summer season. A little bit drier than normal as NZ has been experiencing a drought this summer.

Typically empty DOC site

The mornings are starting to be cold and damp (like September camping at home). The weather has been amazing though, most days clear blue!

 

Valley walk

 

Tomorrow we will continue up the Coromandel Peninsula basically following route 25.

90 Mile Beach – Cape Reinga

12 Feb

9th February 2013

Obviously you can do this loop yourself in your own vehicle if you don’t mind flushing it with salt water and risking getting it stuck in the sand. The bus driver told us lots of stories of people getting their hire cars stuck in the sand and then getting overtaken by the tide …. not funny! Either that or you can just drive up the sealed road both ways.

 

Cape Reinga Tour

 

We drove up to Cape Reinga on the sealed road, making various stops on the way. The first one is an ice cream parlour  that does fantastic Hoki Poki. It is a creamy vanilla with honeycomb chunks ….. try it! The second stop was a beautiful bay called Tapotupotu Bay, where we had lunch and the opportunity to look around the DOC (Department of Conservation) campsite. It is an amazing beach with a small river flowing in and costs only $10 per person. A great place to stay if you drive up to Cape Reinga yourself. It is very quiet at night as there is no power this far north.

Cape Reinga has some great tide races as the currents of the Pacific and the Tasman sea meet.

 

North from Cape Reinga

 

 

There are beautiful views in every direction.

 

View west from Cape Reinga

 

 

On the way to the beach the coach stops at the dunes for some body boarding! Of course we both had a go, thinking that it would be a slow slither down the sand. It’s not, the dunes are steep and the body boards go really fast!!

 

Stop at the dunes

 

Looks higher from the top

 

 

Dune surfing

 

 

The bus then drove down the river bed and onto the beach for the return journey.

 

Driving on 90 mile beach

 

Not sure why, but there is a postbox part way along the beach.

Strangely 90 mile beach is only 55 miles long. Still it’s not the length that matters, it’s what you do on it that counts!

 

90 Mile beach post box

 

The final excitement is when the driver has to negotiate the soft sand to get on the ramp that leads to the road. It all went well and before we knew it we were back in Kaitaia picking our car up again. We waved goodbye to Tom and left him to his fruit picking.

We decided to start heading south again and found a small picnic area where camping was allowed. It was the head of some walking trails and also had some nice swimming holes.

 

Waipapa swimming holes

 

IMG_1922

 

It was a nice place to free camp …. Tomorrow we are going to the Bay of Islands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The far North – in a new car!

10 Feb

6th February 2013

Like most people arriving in New Zealand, we were eager to get on our way. With only around four weeks for our trip we wanted to make sure that we did not spend too long looking for a car. We set ourselves a goal of finding one and agreeing a deal within the day. First we also needed a local sim so that we could call dealers or owners about the cars and also pick up any e mails from home.

It only really made sense to buy a vehicle on such a short trip for two reasons. Firstly we had contacts who said that they would store it for us and possibly even sell it once we had finished with it, and secondly because our two boys would both be travelling through New Zealand. It would also give us an excellent excuse to come back before it is sold!!

Buying a car in a different country is a mine field as you don’t really know the values, the models and the way dealers operate. So many backpackers get less than they pay for. They often know little about cars, and for some it is the first vehicle that they have ever bought. There are lots of stories about people who spend thousands getting cars repaired a few hundred km’s after they pick up the vehicle.

Our first stop was the Backpacker car market, but it was full of very tired battered looking vehicles with 20 plus owners and 250,000 plus on the clock. We decided to try and find a private vehicle or one from a dealer that we felt comfortable with. In the end we bought a Mitsubishi Chariot, which is a stationwagon / estate car imported from Japan. This one had been imported after a few years in Japan. The mileage can be checked as the WOF (like an MOT test) is done twice  each year and the mileage recorded on a central system. You can request a print out from the dealer. Our car showed 153,000 km and had a new WOF and so was valid until July. It could turn out to be a dud, but we crossed our fingers and hoped for the best!

Mitsubishi Chariot

We can pick up the car tomorrow morning ready to head up to the far north. You can buy 3rd party insurance for a year for any driver over 22 years old  for the bargain price of $300 NZ . We will do it online when we pick up the car.

Once we are as far North as we can get we can work our way south over the next few weeks.

We also bought  a Vodafone sim for data and phone. All set!

7th February 2013

Everything went smoothly with the pickup and we headed out of Auckland with our 1996 Misubishi Chariot. It does not take long to leave the city behind and for the quiet pretty roads to start. There is so little traffic!

North of Auckland - empty roads

 

We made our way all the way up to Kaitaia (about 450kms from Auckland) and found a camspsite right on the beach. Lovely spot.

 

Camping at Shipwreck Bay Ahipara near Kaitaia

 

Strange ….. our little two man tent seems to get smaller each time we use it …. the carry mats also seem a little thinner ….

8th February 2013

Arranged to meet up with Tom in Kaitaia and go to a beach somewhere for the day before we head off. Tom is starting work at the pumpkin farm on Monday! His first job using the work permit for New Zealand.

 

Tokerau Beach Doubtess Bay

 

There are so many beaches to choose from and it is unusual to find anyone on them! Nice place to be lazy!

 

Worst places to read

 

Tomorrow we have booked to do the tour up 90 mile beach. Drive on the road either there and  then return on sand …..  or the other way around depending on the tide. Tom is taking the car for the day with some friends from the hostel.

 

 

 

Auckland – Buying a car

10 Feb

5th February 2013

Most of the day was taken up flying. We arrived at around 5.00pm and then took the super shuttle (pre booked online) to the hostel in Mt Eden. It was called Pentlands and the suburb is nice and green and quiet and only a short bus ride or 40 min walk into the centre of Auckland.

 

Pentlands Hostel - Mount Eden Auckland

 

Much nicer than staying right in the city, and you even get to see some wildlife!

 

Pentlands butterfly

 

 

Tomorrow we look for a car!

Bangkok – last days in Asia

6 Feb

3rd February 2013

We decided to go to another weekend market (Mo Chit station on skytrain). This one is huge with over 2000 stalls. We used the water taxi to get to a point on the river where we could pick up the skytrain.

Water taxi

The train was busy as it seems that everyone wants to shop at the weekend … the market is used by locals and tourists alike, but mainly locals.

Sky train

A few pictures from the market …

Very busy at the market

Lots of bargains

Hmmm … not sure about the style, but hard to find better value …. 30 bht is about $1.00 US. Not only that, but the sellers are saying things like … “cheap cheap mister I give you discount” !

The street food in Thailand is very good value and for 40 or 50 bht you can get a good main course or soup. We had Tom Yum soup which, with chicken, was delicious. In a small restaurant in a tourist area you will pay 120 to 140 bht.

Noodle bar

Tom Yam soup

And fruit for pudding.

Road side fruit stall

We decided to take a taxi back to the Koh San Rd area as it works out only a few baht more for two people and is quicker than the boat taxi/train route.

4 th February 2013

Repacked all the baggage, checked out of the Villa Cha Cha guest house and stored the bags so that we could spend the rest of the time wandering around the streets. As it was the last day in Asia we decided to have another foot massage ….. so relaxing!!

Foot massage

The Thai lady who looked after Marjool was so sweet, she said ” no one marry me, I not beautiful …. “. We thought she was lovely! She is only 27 but thinks she is now too old.

Neck massage

We’ll miss Thailand and South East Asia. Lovely gentle people, cheap and great weather. We’ll even miss the Tuk Tuk drivers, who are always looking to whizz you around in one of these.

Tuktuk

New Zealand tomorrow!

Seam Reap – B T N Thailand

2 Feb

31 st January 2113

We had arranged for a shared taxi to pick us up from the guest house at 9.00 am to take us up to the Thai border at Choam, which is a small but international border post. Before we left the hotel we decided to check out the pool …. nobody mentioned it before it was time to leave!

Actually, when we saw it we  realised why ….

Didn't swim in hotel pool

There were  no tanned tourists down there, just a mass of crocs!

Crocs in the pool

If the guest house is on fire don’t escape out the back windows!

It worked out well with the taxi as there were only three passengers. Normally four in the back and two in the front passenger seat. At only $13 each for the 2 to 3 hour journey, a real bargain. We did stop at one point to tow one of the driver’s friends 2okm to Anlong Veng, but that did not slow us down too much, even with the improvised towing bar, cut from a nearby tree!

Timber tow bar

The border was as promised small and easy to manage.

Choam Border

Leaving Cambodia

Filling in arrival forms Thai border

Although we had to wait about 30 mins in case a bigger group could be found, we got a taxi to drop us right into the town where we had friends to stay with for the night. The family made us very welcome!

Austin and Cambodian gecko

Austin and his cousin

Our friend’s dad offered us his motorbike, so we took their son off down the road to get a cold drink and then backtracked into the farmland and the local canal, where the last water of the dry season was be netted for fish.

Final catch of the season

The locals were really friendly and offered us some fish and a shot of a local spirit …. boys only!

Catch of the day

Thai fishermen

We then went back to the house to cook some fish, vegetables and rice.

Meal in the village

We set up our mosquito nets over the mattress and settled down for the night.

1 st February 2013

When we got up in the morning our friends mum was already working hard, making charcoal. She used the rice stems and ash to build up a layer to starve the wood of air as it burned. The condition you need to form charcoal.

Making charcoal

A friend’s car was picking us up to take us to the bus station for a ride to Bangkok, but first our friends son showed us a picture of his old play mate in our village.

Not forgotten old play mate

The bus ride to Bangkok was about 7.5 hours and very comfortable. Great value at just 350 baht (about 7 uk pounds).

2 nd February 2013

After a few hours wandering around the big malls we had arranged to meet our friend for lunch. It was lovely to see her!

Friend from home

We miss her on the village volleyball court!