The Hendersons Week 1 of our 2004 Morgan tour of New Zealand
Moggie's Big Adventure - Morgans to New Zealand
January 16th Friday – Departure
The BIG DAY has finally arrived.
Doyle Nelson picked Tom and me up at 2:30 and took us to the Transit Center at the Towne Center to catch a bus to the airport.
We checked in and everything went smoothly.
First Class flight from Seattle to Los Angeles on Alaska, then Business Class on
January 18th Sunday - (One day lost crossing the International Date Line)
Auckland and New Zealand are certainly tourist friendly – we’ve never seen an airport more geared for tourists. There are people who are waiting to answer questions virtually everywhere, the sign posting is clear and thorough. The only complaint we had was Passport Control was slow – although they had several windows open, the arrival of a fully booked 747 was a bit overwhelming.
Not surprisingly, New Zealand is really riding the Lord of the Rings wave – some of the Air New Zealand aircraft are painted with scenes and characters from the films, and are labeled “Gateway to Middle Earth” in sort of medieval script.
We caught a bus that took us to the hotel, where we were relieved to find that although it was just noon, we were able to check in. Our hotel, the Copthorne Harbour City, was on the waterfront, where there is a museum about New Zealand’s maritime tradition, as well as boats that take tourists around the harbor. The hotel is very centrally located and the rooms have a wonderful view of the waterfront, but the rooms are ‘tired’. We learned over the course of our stay that the breakfasts were awful – watery scrambled eggs, sausages that are mostly filler and ‘hash browns’ that are more like ‘tater tots’ that have been flattened. Also, brewed coffee is rare – usually it is just instant.
We showered and changed clothes, then headed across the street to the quay for a bite of lunch. The quay has dozens of restaurants, most of them a bit expensive, and a Hilton Hotel which is beautiful – it is on a pier jutting out into the harbor and the shape is rather like a boat, so it really ‘fits’ beautifully.
We walked around a bit, then took a short nap. At about 5 p.m. we went to the lobby and met with Ken and Pat Miles, who had just arrived from Canada, and Vern Dale-Johnson, in a few hours earlier, also from Canada. We walked around a bit more, in search of a pub, but being Sunday, they were in short supply. We got into a rather seedy neighborhood, but found a pretty good pub where the guys had a beer and I had a glass of wine. Then we walked back to the waterfront, past the wharves, looking for the Capitan Maslov, the ship that Moggie was supposed to be on. We didn’t see that particular ship, but knew that somewhere among all those containers, there were two containers that had six Morgans.
We ate at the Loaded Hog on the waterfront – Tom and I split ½ a roasted chicken with some mash and had a glass of wine. The others were interested in finding another pub, but we were tired, and headed back to the hotel.
January 19th Monday - Auckland
Today we bailed Moggie and her companions out of captivity. What an ordeal! However, thanks to some excellent preparation, we only had a few snags – it would have been much worse if Tom,
Dick Dice and Ken hadn’t done so much research.
First we had breakfast in the hotel – the eggs were the absolute worst we’ve ever had in our lives, but the rest of the breakfast was acceptable. Then Ken and Pat, Tom and I, and Vern walked up to Custom House, about a mile from the hotel. The first task was to get customs clearance. Essentially, the Kiwis want to make sure that if we fail to take the cars out of their country, they will collect their GST. Then we had to start the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) inspection – this is such a fragile eco-system that the Kiwis are very concerned about importing harmful diseases, pests or plants. After we got the paperwork filled out, we walked to the terminal of Hamburg Sud, our shipper. A very nice man who was employed by the company that supervises loading and unloading, helped us through the next steps – we had to pay Hamburg Sud a fee for unloading, and his company some other services, which were a little vague. He arranged for one of his people to take us up to the Hamburg Sud office, where we paid our fee. Then we walked back to the waterfront, stopping for lunch along the way. Tom had the worst lasagna he’d ever encountered in his life – it was made with cheddar cheese! Nan would be rolling in her grave!
Back at the waterfront, the helpful man, Jonathan, arranged for the MAF inspector to come to the waterfront to inspect the vehicles. Then he took us out to the end of the dock where there were two 40’ containers. Much drama and they were opened, Moggie being the first one out. The MAF inspector came down and went over each car. Moggie got an ‘immaculate’ for her engine compartment. All that completed, we paid Jonathan, then had to take the cars up to the place where the cars got a thorough rood worthiness test, or a “Warrant of Fitness”. By this time, the rain had come on in earnest, so we got pretty soaked. The inspection was very thorough – the only ‘ding’ that Moggie got was her headlights weren’t aimed precisely.
This was certainly a productive day! Added interest is that we have heard that the British cars are in a port about 300 km from Auckland – they are being transferred via rail to Auckland, to arrive Thursday, the day we are supposed to leave for Paihia. This will be very interesting – it took us literally all day to get our cars through the process, what are the Brits going to do? They have to be at the north of the island by Friday morning – that’s the day we go on the 90-Mile Beach drive.
Vern’s brother, Rod, and sister-in-law, Lynne, met us in the hotel lobby – they’ve been in New Zealand for two weeks, visiting friends and relatives. The seven of us went out to dinner at a pub on the waterfront. I had a fish with a name that started with a ‘g’ but I had never heard of before. It was a very mild white fish, and quite good. Tom had toad in the hole, a traditional English meal of a sausage, Yorkshire pudding and mash.
Tom and I headed back to the hotel and read before turning out the lights. Tomorrow we expect the rest of the group to show up.
January 20 – Tuesday - Auckland
We woke early and looked out the window – a large Japanese cruise ship was pulling into a berth literally across the street from us. Beautiful!
After breakfast – we avoided the terrible scrambled eggs at the buffet – we met Dick Dice and Robert and Barbara Stinson in the lobby – they had just arrived. Several of the Brits have also arrived, including George and Janet Proud, who were instrumental in organizing the trip. They had been here in New Zealand a few years ago when a group of Bentley owners were touring the country and they thought that would be a ‘brilliant’ idea in Morgans. We think it is a brilliant idea, too!
Jack and Gladys McNaughton were the last North Americans to arrive, so those who haven’t gotten their cars cleared through the various ordeals were given instructions to help them navigate through the bureaucracy.
Lynne Dale-Johnson and I did a bit of a walk about downtown, mostly window-shopping. Prices on woolen goods are very good, as one might expect in a country with so many sheep.
Tom and I bought a take-away salad at a nearby shop, which we ate while sitting along the waterfront. Auckland always seems to have a wind, sometimes quite strong, and the weather is really unpredictable.
We decided to drive to a beach, Piha, about one hour from Auckland. Once we cleared the city and suburbs, we found ourselves in a semi-tropical setting – huge bougainvilleas, hydrangeas gone amuck and agapanthas. And the same orange flowers that we saw all over Ireland last year. However, the ferns, Norfolk Island pines and palms reminded us of Hawaii. It was a beautiful drive – the road was better than the country roads we encountered in Ireland, and more exciting because of the twists and turns.
We arrived at a bluff overlooking Piha beach – it has beautiful black sand and a respectable surf. However, coming at us was a very menacing cloud, so we turned around and headed back to Auckland – getting lost on the way, but eventually arriving safely.
At 5:00 we had a group gathering, where we met most of the other travelers. Then Lynne and Rod Dale-Johnson and Tom and I went out to an Indian restaurant for a very good meal. The restaurant was located along the waterfront, in view of the America’s Cup contender from the last race.
January 21st Wednesday - Auckland
We woke to find that we were being treated to a semi-tropical downpour. What a disappointment, as we had planned on driving around the Coromandel Peninsula. The weather is certainly changeable here. Instead, Tom spent some time figuring out why we couldn’t get connected to HotMail and eventually managed to pick up our e-mail. By that time it was nearly 11:00 and, lo and behold, the dark rain clouds had been replaced by benign white, fluffy clouds. So, we got Moggie out of the garage and, using our free maps from the Tourist Information, headed in what we thought was the right direction. We were out about ½ hour when we realized that we were off track, so made some corrections and headed east. We planned to stop in Thames, then turn around and head back to Auckland as we needed to be there in time to catch a ferry over to a community called Devenport where the Kiwi Morgan owners were hosting a barbeque for us.
We stopped in the little village of Clevedon for lunch (our waitress was from Vancouver, BC, what a surprise), then continued. Our route, according to our free map, was supposed to be along the coast. We got lost, again, and found ourselves getting on smaller and smaller tracks. It reminded me of our adventure in Shropshire last summer when I told Tom “England is a small country, how can you possibly get lost in England?” Well, NZ is a small country and you can just as easily get lost here! We did drive along the coast for a while, and the color of the sea was so beautiful – very azure, rather than the gray blue we see in Seattle.
Eventually we figured out where we were and found our way back to the motorway and Auckland. Our first stop upon return was a bookstore to buy a good map.
At 4:30 we boarded a passenger ferry to take us across the harbor to Devenport. It was only a 15-minute ride. Along the way, we noticed about five naval vessels moored – I asked one of the other passengers if they were part of the NZ navy and he told me “That IS the NZ navy – we used to have a navy we could be proud of, as well as an army and an air force, but no more.” Apparently, George W. Bush has offered some vessels to NZ, but they won’t take anything that is nuclear powered, so they haven’t accepted his offer.
After we docked in Devenport we walked to Steve’s house – it rained a bit along the way, but it was warm, so we took shelter under a tree for a few minutes, then continued along.
Devenport is a pretty area, with older homes and a fine view of Auckland. Steve, our host, worked for someone for 14 years and as a severance present was given a 2003 Morgan +8. What a present! It was beautiful – a nice dark blue.
We chatted with the other Morganeers, including some Kiwis who had joined us – Keith and friend Gill, John Lancaster, who is sort of an unofficial record keeper, and Steve. We also met most of the Brits who were part of the tour.
At 8:45 we walked back to the dock and caught a ferry back to Auckland – it was a beautiful, soft evening.
Tomorrow the tour starts in earnest.
January 22nd – Thursday – Auckland to Paihia
Up reasonably early, packed and on the road by 8:30. We hoped that the Brits would be able to get their cars through the various inspections and red tape and meet us in Paihia. We took a rather less direct route – over to the west coast through a town called Dargaville,
then up through some kauri forest and small hills to Paihia. The roads were very good – a Morgan lovers dream – two lane, twisting and turning, and down hills. Tom and I are pleased to report that Moggie, smallest engine of the lot, was able to keep pace quite nicely, thank you, and acquitted herself handsomely.
Dargaville is a bit dreary – I couldn’t imagine living there, but we found an acceptable lunch, then went to a Museum that was quite interesting.
Then we took off, over hill and dale, as it were. Tom and I stopped to see Tane Mehuta, a giant kauri tree – one would think it would be able to grow a mouth and start talking – its girth is 13 meters, but isn’t the largest ever, some growing to 30 meters, but it is the largest now. It has an old, wise, appearance.
We made some other photo op stops along the way – beautiful countryside here.
Had we driven directly from Auckland by the shortest route, we would have arrived by 11:30, but as it was, we didn’t get to Paihia until after 6:00. The Brits weren’t about when we arrived, but we found out later that only 3 of the 8 passed the MAF inspection, so the three were driven up, the others came by rented car – they had to return to Auckland the next day to complete the process. Needless to say, they were most unhappy – apparently they got a MAF inspector who was really unreasonable.
We had dinner in the hotel restaurant – the food was quite good – I had a chicken breast with scallops in a white wine sauce and Tom had a filet of beef, but neither was quite as hot as we would have liked. We had a Marlborough, NZ Sauvignon Blanc that was excellent.
Our accommodations, at the Beachcomber Resort, were excellent, with two bedrooms and a little kitchenette, plus views of the water.
January 23rd - Friday - Paihia
Today was the long anticipated 90-Mile Beach Drive. To call it a drive is a serious understatement. We started out with 21 people (6 had to go back to Auckland to get the remaining Mogs) in a bus, which drove us to Mangonui, where we transferred to four 4-wheel drive vehicles.
Our route then was up along the east coast of the northern peninsula – we stopped at a shop where the owner is harvesting ancient buried kauri stumps and making fabulous bowls, picture frames and other house hold items from the harvest. Then we went to the site of an old gum harvest area – gum was used in the 19th century for varnish and linoleum and is a natural substance produced by a kauri tree.
We also visited a beach with incredible white silica sand, then Cape Reinga, which is sacred to the Maoris.
Our guide, Phil Cross, was very knowledgeable in NZ history, Maori culture and lore and NZ nature. We had lunch at a small beach, I believe it was Kohakawa Beach – wonderfully pristine, then took the drive down 90-Mile Beach – it isn’t really 90 miles but is named because there used to be cattle drivers who knew that cattle could be driven for 30 miles a day and it took 3 days to go down the beach. It is beautiful, although could be warmer to make it paradise. There are incredible birds, including some harriers that must be British imports, and some wild horses of unknown ancestry. The Brits were particularly impressed with the wide-open spaces. Frankly, we have nothing like it in the US, either.
It hasn’t been particularly hot, but the weather has been very pleasant – sometimes we need a sweatshirt or sweater, but most of the time shorts and a shirt are adequate.
Once we returned to the hotel, Tom and I drove to town and bought a pizza for dinner. This isn’t Marzano’s! The choices were: Vegie, seafood, and some really strange concoctions, including one with barbeque sauce (gag). I bought the most ‘normal’ available – ham, mozzarella, mushrooms and olives. We took it back to the hotel for dinner.
The really good news is that all the British cars passed inspection and are in Paihai, so now the tour can begin in earnest. We are really happy – already we feel we have made friendships that we can enjoy for years.
January 24th – Saturday - Paihia
Today was a more independent day – Tom and I worked on laundry and packing in the morning, then went to Russell by passenger ferry – it is the site of the original European settlement. It is very small – only a couple of streets and some quaint old buildings. The Anglican church there, Christ Church, is quite lovely – made interesting by the musket holes in the siding – the result of a skirmish between the Maoris and English in the 1840s.
We had a small lunch in Russell, then went back to Paihai, got into Moggie and drove to Rainbow Falls, where we eventually regrouped with the rest of the Morgan owners.
Then we went to the home of Sharon and Adrian Thomas, in Kerikeri. Sharon is originally from Olympia, but married a Kiwi and they have purchased an old house, which they are refurbishing and they run a self-catering cottage. They have a beautiful croquet lawn, where we parked all of our Mogs, plus several New Zealand Mogs. Sharon had arranged a jazz combo to play (keyboard, bass, trumpet, sax, vocalist) and had made ‘tea’ including scones, a sort of ginger bread and sausage rolls. It was great fun. We didn’t need dinner after that!