The Hendersons Week 2 of our 2004 Morgan tour of New Zealand
Moggie's Big Adventure - Morgans to New Zealand
January 25th – Sunday – Paihia to Lake Taupo
Tom and I packed up and drove down to Lake Taupo – this was to be the longest drive of the trip – it took about 7 hours because we passed through a lot of small towns. The towns in NZ aren’t all that interesting – they aren’t historically significant like the towns in Europe. They are like a lot of small towns in the US.
Lake Taupo was formed by a volcanic eruption some 21,000 years ago that must have been horrendous – the lake is 22 miles across. In 181AD there was a second eruption and there are recordings from people as far away as China and Egypt about the sunsets after that – sunsets through a lot of debris are really beautiful.
We checked in and went into the village. It was pretty busy because this was a national holiday and Lake Taupo is a tourist area, but it isn’t ‘touristy’ like, say, Salzburg, with street after street of souvenir shops. You can tell that people actually live here, because there are normal businesses like furniture and hardware stores. Tom and I checked out some restaurants, but in the end had an impromptu group dinner at the hotel. We sat at a table with Tim and Allison from York, and George Proud, the organizer of the trip, who is from near Durham. I found Allison’s description of her childhood really interesting – she was raised in Egypt, her father having been assigned there (I can’t remember when, but I suspect before WWII.) She described her childhood as ‘very happy.’ How many people can say that?
Tom was awarded the Flasher by Ken and Pat Miles, who observed him driving for 24km with his turn signal on. It will be up to Tom to find someone else who drives more than just around a corner with the flasher.
Our accommodations were at the Lakeland of Taupo - they were pretty good, not excellent. The pool was really cold, so I didn’t go for a swim. The rooms weren’t particularly large, but enough that I was able to get some stretching in.
January 26th – Monday – Lake Taupo
Tom and I drove to Waitomo Caves to see the glowworms today. The drive was pretty as we went via back roads. Ken and Pat were supposed to follow us, but we threw them a fake just outside of town and they missed a turn. Eventually they caught up with us at the caves – their map is one of the free ones, which Ken called “Artist’s Rendering” – only approximates reality. The caves were really interesting – There are vast underground caves in this area, formed of limestone, but only a few have glowworms – the glowworms secrete web sort of things and unsuspecting insects fly into them, attracted by the light of the glowworms.
We left the caves and noticed an ostrich farm nearby – the birds must be used to people, for they crowded near the fence to see people.
We returned to Taupo via a highway that skirts the north of National Park. This was the first national park in NZ and has three active volcanoes – we stopped at a lookout to take some photos.
Dinner that night was organized by Sara Bennington and Ray Ellis. They wanted to make sure that people mixed, so they assigned seating, then twice during the dinner they had the men move four places anti-clockwise, so there was plenty of opportunity to talk with different people. It really was fun.
I sat next to George Proud for a bit, then Gerry Pell, from Bristol, then Tom got to move next to me. We really had a good time and it was an excellent opportunity to get to know others on the trip.
January 27th – Tuesday – Lake Taupo
Some of the local Kiwis organized a run today. We started out around 8:30 and drove some back roads that were absolutely a joy in a Morgan. Seeing 17 or 18 Morgans of various vintages sweeping through hills and curves in the countryside is a real sight. We stopped for a while at a thermal site, Waiotapu – there was a geyser, which was triggered when the master of ceremonies dumped some soap down its gullet. Not quite Old Faithful.
It reminded me of the laxative commercial where the park ranger is lecturing the tourists about Old Faithful and in the background another ranger is pouring the laxative down the geyser to ‘keep it regular.’ There were paint pots and other wonders that were really interesting. The area around Lake Taupo has so much geothermal activity, that it has been harnessed and produces 15% of the country’s total electricity needs.
We stopped for a buffet lunch near the waterfront in a town called Tauranga, then headed to a place called the Kiwi Farm – basically an orchard and packing house for kiwi fruit. Kiwi are enormously important to the country’s economy. Interestingly, they rely on casual labor to fill the ranks during harvest time, including the large population of backpackers.
We got back to Lake Taupo rather late and had a light meal in the bar. Tom was able to foist the flasher off on Fiona Cowley, whom we had followed for several miles and had left her turn signal on. He played the handoff to the hilt, leading George Proud to believe that he was going to be the recipient. Poor Fiona was completely unsuspecting.
January 28th – Wednesday – Lake Taupo to Wellington
Today we had a longish drive to Wellington. We passed through some pretty bleak areas, called the Rangipo Desert, where the New Zealand Army has maneuvers. It reminded us a lot of Eastern Washington. We stopped for coffee at a small town called Waiouri, which is really just an Army housing area. We met up with the Prouds, Pells, Stinsons, Welches, Inghams and for a short time were joined by Vern and Rod Dale-Johnson. We caravanned to a place called Stormy Point, which had a magnificent overlook of a wide plain and valley.
George Proud started off before the others, so Tom and I followed in hot pursuit. It was a grand drive. We stopped at Mount Bruce, where there is a nature conservation post. We had a light lunch, then George, Janet and I explored the various nature displays (it was pouring rain at this point and we didn’t want to put up the top if the rain was going to pass over). I saw my first kiwi bird. The display was arranged to make day night and night day. The kiwi was very busy, running around looking and digging for worms. I was surprised at how large he was. Easily as big as a large chicken, although shaped differently. They also had several other bird displays. The calls of the birds sounded a lot like a tropical jungle.
The rain passed by, although the thunder came rumbling through the mountains, and we took off to Wellington. George has a +8, so he’s got a lot more power then Moggie, but she acquitted herself quite well. New Zealand doesn’t have much of either flat or straight roads. As we passed through a town just a little short of Wellington, an MGB-GT shot off in hot pursuit of George. The +8 led him a merry chase up a very twisty and steep road, and Tom kept Moggie nipping at his heels all the way to the top.
George led us into Wellington and straight to our hotel. Traffic during rush hour in Wellington is pretty dreadful, but most of it was going out of town, while we were coming in. Our digs were the nicest yet, with a bedroom and sitting room, very close to the waterfront, in the Copthorne Plimmer Towers. We joined some of the others for drinks in the bar, then Tom and I set out for dinner. What a rude surprise! We stopped at one place, called Chicago, which wasn’t ridiculously overpriced (we looked at two other places and they were really expensive). We ordered dinner and waited and waited. Finally the waitress came to the table, apologized and told us that the kitchen was out of what we had ordered. She offered us a more expensive meal, but we declined and left. We had dinner in the hotel – we shared a bread platter, then a salmon with fettucine and finally a plate of lamp rump, which was quite good. The waiter told us about a hole in the wall Italian restaurant a several blocks from the hotel. We’ll look it up tomorrow.
January 29 – Thursday - Wellington
Fresh fruit with breakfast! What a joy. However, the ubiquitous scrambled eggs were also present.
We walked around town a bit, but the weather was hot and muggy. Tom went back to the hotel and I went to Tourist Information to get some information about restaurants. On the way back, I got lost. So, what’s new?
We set out again, looking for the Italian restaurant the waiter had told us about. Eventually we found it, and it really was a hole in the wall – 5 tables. It was closed – maybe it is only a dinner restaurant, but it looked very appealing. We wandered a bit more and came upon a pizzeria. The owner/chef was Italian, from Naples. Real pizza at last. Except he had to use something like boiled ham instead of Prosciutto. It was fun trying to communicate in Italian, which we’ve neglected shamefully since we’ve been here.
We stopped at a St. Peter’s Anglican church, looking for a possible performance venue for Choral Union. It is a beautiful church and we thought it might have adequate space for the choir.
I stopped at a clothing shop and bought a top. I have found that I didn’t pack enough for the hot weather and today was really hot!
We took the cable car up to the top of the city, to the Wellington Botanical Gardens. They are really magnificent, particularly the begonias and roses.
We walked back to the city, through the cemetery, which was set up so that it could accommodate Anglicans, Jews and ‘others’. Unfortunately, they built a freeway through part of the cemetery. I assume that they moved the graves.
Tom went back to the hotel and I walked to Old St. Paul’s Cathedral. Old St. Paul’s was deconsecrated when a new cathedral was built, and is now owned by the people of New Zealand. It is used for weddings, cultural events and other functions. It is a pretty church, with so many memorials to the many New Zealanders who lost their lives during the two world wars. It is a beautiful church, although somewhat dark because the interior is all wood.
We rested a bit at the hotel, then took a bus to the Fisherman’s Table restaurant, out of the center of town a little. This is a family restaurant. You can order a full or small portion of fish, and have unlimited salad bar. We had a fish called Tarakihi, which was wonderful. It is a mild, white fish – we don’t have anything like it in the northern hemisphere.
We took the bus back to the hotel – near the hotel many of our fellow travelers were finishing their dinner – they told us they had made reservations at Chicago for tomorrow night. We’ll have to think about joining them, the experience of the prior night having put us off a lot.
Wellington is a pretty city, with a beautiful waterfront.
January 30th – Friday - Wellington
Today was much cooler than yesterday. A cloud cover blew in, causing the temperature to drop several degrees. Tom and I went to Te Papa, the National Museum of New Zealand. What a wonderful museum. The first floor of displays are devoted to the land of New Zealand – how it was formed, what sort of natural features there are, the flora and fauna. The museum has a lot of hands on experiments and there is one display where you get into a little house and experience an earthquake. This country is incredibly vulnerable to natural events – earthquake, volcano, tsunami, tropical storms and typhoons.
The next major floor of exhibits was about the people – a lot about the Maori, including a beautiful boat, hand carved. There was also an excellent section devoted to the immigration from other parts of the world – Europe, China and India. Also, there was a display related to sheep raising and sheering, which must be back breaking work. Finally, there was a display of dresses designed for the great New Zealand lyric soprano, Kiri Te Kanawa. She is a beautiful woman and has an incredible voice and her sense of style is superb.
We headed back to the hotel where Tom began packing up – tomorrow we leave Wellington for the South Island.
We joined the group for the dinner at The Chicago. Lynne had made sure that the management knew we would be coming, so they were able to provide us with the food we ordered. Tom and I sat next to Richard and Vivienne Welch, from the Isle of Mann. They took their Morgan to South Africa last year and had a wonderful time. Tom and I would like to go on a Morgan outing to Australia and suggested this to George Proud. He countered with a Euro-Mog trip. Doesn’t that sound like fun?
Tomorrow will be an early morning get up, so we went back to the hotel, finished packing and went to bed.
January 31st – Saturday – Wellington to Kaikoura
Today we got up early and drove to the docks to take the Interislander Ferry to the South Island. The voyage took three hours and went through the Queen Charlotte straits, which look a lot like the strait of Juan de Fuca – small, green islands dotting the sea.
We drove to Kaikoura, on the east coast. The scenery was quite beautiful, with long stretches of coastline and hills, much like those in California. We stayed at a place called the Lobster Inn. It wouldn’t have been bad, but they put us in twin beds and wouldn’t change us because we were only there for one night.
Kaikoura’s big attraction is whale watching – most of the Brits are going on a whale-watching trip Sunday, but we have enough whales in Puget Sound that we aren’t going along. Another attraction is NZ crayfish or lobster, although they aren’t quite the same as our New England or PEI lobster – they don’t have the big crusher claws. The last big attraction is delicious seafood. Tom and I poked around a few restaurants and found one, Hislop’s, about ½ mile from the hotel, where they had fresh grouper with a Parmesan crust and garlic mash on the menu. We went there for dinner, joined by Fiona. Fiona is a dentist, although she no longer has a private practice – she works for the National Health as an inspector. Her job is to make sure that the treatment given the patient is appropriate and necessary and does pre-approval exams. Back to the dinner – in addition to the grouper, we had a grilled polenta starter with olives and sun-dried tomatoes. This was easily the best meal we’ve had thus far.
We walked back to the hotel, then Tom and I worked on our Italian, which we have been sadly neglecting.
Tomorrow on to Christchurch, where there is much to see, including the TranzAlpine train.