A Travellerspoint blog

A fabulous fortnight of fun

Auckland to Melbourne & back again

sunny 21 °C

The school holidays have been jam packed this Easter!
We started with a long weekend in Melbourne catching up with family and friends over plenty of good food and drinks. One of our nicest meals was at a Polish restaurant where Kirsten and I got to eat a childhood favourite of ours, perogi. The place is famous for its 155 different types of vodka, just a few of which we sampled!
We stayed at the Hilton Doubletree, right in the city centre which was perfect for our needs. We explored the city in our usual way, through geocaching. This took us to some great lanes famous for their graffiti.
The Comedy Festival was on while we were there so we saw a couple of shows with my sister – James Acaster a very funny British comedian and the show Absinthe which was on tour from Vegas. Both well worth seeing.
On Easter Sunday we got up at some stupid hour of the morning but for good reason – we had a hot air balloon ride booked. We got picked up around 5am and driven to the launch site on the outskirts of the city. We helped with the set up and as the sun rose we gently floated over the city. It was a great experience, quietly floating over all the buildings and parks below looking like a toy town.
We got involved in packing up the balloon and then we all headed to the Hyatt for the most amazing champagne breakfast in our own private room. There was every breakfast food that you could imagine - full cooked breakfast, cereals, fruits, waffles, pancakes, muffins, French pastries and much, much more. The champagne came in extra handy as we were celebrating the fact that one of the couples got engaged during the adventure! Although he did wait until the landing fearful he might drop the ring out of nervousness!
Before we knew it, it was time to check out and after a lovely lazy afternoon catching up with friends over lunch it was time to head back home.
We then had a week of gigs seeing Paolo Nutini at the Powerstation, David Gray in the Aotea Centre and Ed Sheeran at Vector Arena. All three gigs were great and it is hard to say which was best!
Before seeing Ed Sheeran on the Saturday night we arranged to meet our good friends Cheryl & Darren for some fun at Escapade, a game where you get locked in a room for an hour and try to escape by solving the clues. We had such a laugh working out the puzzles to find codes to open locks which would reveal further clues or keys. We eventually got out after 48 minutes so well within the allocated hour.
The next adventure was at Auckland Zoo – we did a Behind the Scenes Tour with the squirrel monkeys. We got to hand feed ten squirrel monkeys which was so cool! One of the older monkeys, Romy, took a shine to me and spent ages sitting either on my shoulder or on my hand playing with my fingers. There were some little baby monkeys in the enclosure too, they were much shyer and would just quickly grab some raisins and then run!
After the feeding session we wandered around the zoo for a while checking out all the other animals. We always enjoy a trip to the zoo!
Monday saw the arrival of my good friend Nancy from Sydney. The next 5 days found me playing host and giving her a tourist view of Auckland. That involved visiting the museum and watching their cultural performance, a trip up the sky tower, lunch at Mission Bay and the highlight – Auckland Whale and Dolphin Safari on the Hauraki Gulf. We saw hundreds of dolphins and a couple of whales whilst we sat on deck and enjoyed the one sunny, blue skied day of her stay. The boat trip was followed by a delicious dinner at the Viaduct as the sun set – a perfect end to a perfect day.
Nancy’s last morning was spent geocaching as she had wanted to discover what it was all about, we had taken her to find a few earlier in the week and she had decided to set up her own account and was keen to get more finds under her belt!
All too soon it was another trip to the airport and a farewell to Nancy.
Now it’s time to get ready for the new school term and start planning our next adeventures!

Posted by bumblebum 21:24 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Slice of Paradise

Marvellous Moorea

sunny 32 °C

Happy New Year!

This year we decided to spend Christmas and New Year elsewhere and our chosen destination was Moorea in French Polynesia. New Zealand may be a long way from anywhere else but jump on a plane for 4 or 5 hours and you can find yourself in some pretty spectacular places and French Polynesia definitely falls into that category.

Our flight to Tahiti landed in the afternoon so we spent the first night there. After checking in we headed out to find some local geocaches. One the way to the second one it began to rain heavily so we ducked under the nearest shelter. It soon became apparent that the rain was not going to stop anytime soon so we resigned ourselves to the fact that we were going to get wet and headed back in the rain stopping off for dinner at the food market.

We woke up to sunshine the next morning so decided to have another go (successfully) at finding the caches we had given up on before catching the ferry across to Moorea. It was a bumpy ride across the stretch of water between the two islands but we were then in under an hour. After an expensive taxi ride (xpf3500) we arrived at the Hilton and were driven in a golf buggy to our overwater bungalow once we were checked in. Waiting in our room was a bottle of champagne on ice and a box of delicious macaroons.
That night was the Christmas Eve dinner – an amazing buffet with foods such as steak in black truffle sauce and lobster. After the biggest selection of desserts I have ever seen, we were treated to a cultural show of singing and dancing and then headed down to the beach for a fire show.
When we arrived back at the room we were greeted with a Christmas card and box of chocolates on the bed.

Christmas day began with a delicious breakfast buffet. The rest of the day was spent sunbathing on the deck or by the pool with a bit of snorkelling thrown in too.
We enjoyed cocktails in the afternoon and dinner at the Crepe Bar watching the sharks, that visit each evening, swimming below.
We also had William Shatner (AKA Captain James T Kirk) sitting on a table right by us with his family. We got back to our bungalow just as it began to pour with rain – perfect timing!

Quite a few days were spent in a similar fashion of sleeping, eating, drinking, sunbathing, reading, snorkelling and watching sunsets.

We did have a few days of being more active. One morning we woke up and decided to hire a car to explore the island. Unfortunately we chose a day that a cruise ship was in and hiring a car was easier said than done! The lady on the activity desk finally tracked down what must have been the last available car on the whole island and we were soon off on our adventure. The island only has one main road that goes around the whole island – approximately 60km. Most of the middle of the island is completely uninhabited and much of it completely untouched by man as it is just too rugged. Our first port of call was to the Belvedere Lookout that gave gorgeous views over both Cooks Bay and Opunoho Bay.
We also attempted a cache hidden nearby but failed to find it – after reading the log from the only people to have found it, it became clear that the co-ordinates were not quite right so we emailed them to get a hint to help us find it. So it was onto cache number two, this one was by a waterfall. As we drove up the, far from sealed, road it began to rain heavily so we ate lunch in the car and waited for it to ease off. It took a good half an hour to get to the waterfall and entailed crossing the river several times, walking through thick mud and clambering over rocks so in hindsight flip flops were not the best footwear for us to tackle it in! The cache was hidden up a steep bank right by the waterfall and just as I found it a rock slipped under my foot and as a result I got a nasty cut but not serious enough to stop me signing the log and continuing our day’s adventure.
We enjoyed the scenery as we drove around and having the car meant that we could head out a bit further for dinner that night. We headed to a little restaurant called Te Honu Iti which was very cute. As we ate both sharks and rays swam in the shallow water right next to us.
The food was on the pricey side but utterly delicious and neither of us left a scrap on our plates.

The next morning we had received a helpful hint from the finders of the cache so headed back up to the lookout point to have a second attempt. This time after a bit of bushwhacking and doing my best to avoid any spiders I soon had the cache in hand and we set off to return the hire car. Gerald had a go at stand up paddle boarding in the afternoon as the water was nice and calm. Finding a good place to stand up was tricky as there are patches of reef everywhere that he didn’t want to fall onto if he lost his balance being a novice still.

We knew there was one more cache on the island that was still unfound despite being hidden for over a year. We also knew that the cache was fairly hard to get to being way up a mountain and the cache owner strongly suggested not to attempt it without a guide. We tried to hire a guide but with it being Christmas and New Year most were not working or already fully booked. One guide thought he knew where we needed to go and gave us clear instructions of how to get there saying that we would be fine on our own. It turned out to be a couple of km away from where we needed to be but after a 7.7km hike along the Three Coconut Pass we had another hot, sweaty but fun adventure.
The hike gave us more great views of the island but no cache. We had taken a taxi to the start of the trail, when we got back there we decided to hitchhike back to the hotel as we had heard it was a safe way to travel round the island. Within 5 minutes we had been picked up by a couple of locals and were soon back at our bungalow desperate to jump off the deck and into the ocean!
That night was New Year’s Eve and another buffet night at The Hilton.
Again there was a huge selection of seafood, oysters, lobster, prawns and this time even caviar (which we tried but didn’t particularly like). There was duck, beef, veal, turkey, cold meats, cheeses, breads, salads, potatoes, rice and much, much more. Once again a huge selection of desserts, even ones with real gold on top!
During dinner there was a live band playing and then afterwards more cultural dancing and singing, this time on the beach and with audience participation. Gerald got chosen to go up and learn a few moves!
The night finished with a fire show and then a few fireworks.

Our final full day on Moorea was spent doing a couple of scuba dives just on the other side of the reef. We were on the boat and heading out for our first dive by 8am. I was a little apprehensive, like I always am before diving, but despite the fact that we knew both our dives were going to be shark encounters as soon as I got in the water I was absolutely fine. I was the first one in and as soon as I looked down I could see sharks below me – very big lemon sharks. We watched them swim around for some time before setting off to explore the surrounding reef. We saw a big turtle, some black tip reef sharks and plenty of fish. The visibility was excellent and the water was a toasty 28, I think it was the first time I have ever been diving and not started to feel chilly by the end.
We moved locations for the second dive and ended up very near our bungalow. Once again we saw both lemon and black tip sharks, many many different types of fish and corals. We were both happy to get back to dry land afterwards as the open water was a bit choppy and neither Gerald nor I travel well on boats. Gerald got to visit his breakfast again whilst I kept my eyes firmly on the horizon!

Our last day arrived all too soon, I managed a quick dip off the deck before packing and drinking complimentary cocktails by the beach whilst we waited for our transfer back to the ferry.
We stood on the deck of the ferry and watched Moorea fade into the distance…

Posted by bumblebum 01:05 Archived in French Polynesia Tagged moorea Comments (0)

Auckland, Rotorua & Bay of Islands

sunny 22 °C

It has been a long time since I last wrote a blog so this is somewhat overdue!

We have been keeping busy with visits to ‘The Arts’ – Cirque Du Soleil Totem, Bill Bailey, Sydney Dance Company and The Beatles Boys to name but a few. We also saw a couple of films at the New Zealand International Film Festival – we absolutely loved Housebound which I guess you would describe as a comedy horror. It is well worth a watch if you get a chance. And of course we have had several visits to our favourite theatre, The Basement

The annual kite festival was on again at Orakei Marae so we headed there to see all the amazing kites. Our favourite this year was Toothless the dragon, he was huge and was designed so that he appeared to be flapping his wings and really flying!

We had a long weekend in Rotorua which was lovely although we didn’t get to do all the activities we originally planned to do as I had had an emergency trip to hospital just a couple of weeks beforehand to have my perforated appendix removed. Instead of
zip-lining through the forest and luging down the hillside we had to go on gentle strolls as I was still in quite a lot of discomfort if I did anything too physical.
One morning was spent exploring the Waiotapu Thermal area which was great. I will let the photos speak for themselves!
We also walked one of the tracks through the Redwood Forest, some of the trees were huge – not anywhere as big as they can get but still very impressive.
The second day was spent driving around the enormous Lake Rotorua to collect all the geocaches placed there. It kept us busy and took a big chunk of the day as the lake covers 79.8km2!

Gerald ran the Auckland Marathon in November – his first one. I went along to cheer him on at the half way mark. He was doing great for the first half and then his reoccurring knee injury decided to make an appearance hampering his performance in the second half. He completed it in just over 5 hours but had wanted to do it under 4 and a half so he is determined to get injury free and give it another go next year!

Another annual visit of ours was to Art in the Dark. Unfortunately the event was only on for 4 nights and the first three were very wet so the final night was heaving! It was still worth a wander round Western Park though. This year we headed there with friends and began our night with a delicious dinner in a café on Ponsonby Rd.

Next up was another weekend away – this time to the Bay of Islands. The BOI is my favourite place in the whole of NZ. It is just so beautiful with its stunning coastlines of sandy beaches and turquoise waters. We took advantage of a GrabOne deal and stayed 2 nights in a gorgeous B&B in Opua called The Sanctuary. The views from the deck were gorgeous as we sat there eating our breakfast in the sunshine.
On our first day we headed to Rainbow Falls which was a pretty little spot and worth a visit. Next up was Kerikeri for the Saturday market which was a great place to buy hand crafted gifts, fresh fruit and veggies, hear live music and eat some delicious foods. After that we headed to the Waitangi treaty grounds. We wandered around the grounds and then got to see their cultural show inside the Marae. They sang, danced with poi and did a haka for us – all very impressive and entertaining. We had fish and chips for dinner in Paihia and watched the world go by. Just as we were heading home it started to rain which created a beautiful rainbow over the ocean.
The next day we got the ferry over to Russell. We had a lovely time exploring the area and collecting lots of caches along the way – the best one was placed on a chair with an interesting history behind it. It was built, from the power poles that held the old transformer, by the son of a school teacher at Russell School and placed outside the house she lived in for 64 years.
On our trip away we found our 1000th cache, each cache seemed to take us to another stunning view or amazing beach. We even saw a stingray swimming in the shallows!
We decided to go the long way home following the coastline – we picked up a young German hitchhiker along the way as he was in the middle of nowhere on a road that is not exactly busy trying to get to a DOC campsite in the forest. We took him a good part of the way there but didn’t fancy the unsealed, windy roads of the forest so continued with our original plan of following the coastline. The owners of the B&B had told us about The Gallery & Café in Helena Bay Hill so we decided to stop off there on the way home, there were so many beautiful works of art in there – some of them had hefty price tags to go with them but it was definitely worth stopping off at.
Before too long the weekend was over and we were back home.

Posted by bumblebum 22:02 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

A bit of this, a bit of that....

overcast 16 °C

It’s the school holidays, which means I actually have time to update the blog.

Since the last time I wrote we have been keeping busy….the new school term started with an ERO (Education Review Office) inspection. It was not a fun experience and I am glad it will be 3 years before it comes around again!

We had a weekend visit to Melbourne and managed to catch up with Kirsten, Sarah & Steve and Sarah, James and the kids. It was all a bit of a whirlwind trip and mostly consisted of eating and drinking in establishments all over the city whilst catching up on everybody’s news. Of course we also did some caching which took us around the sights of Melbourne City centre.
On the subject of caching, we haven’t done huge amounts recently however we did manage to be the FTF (First to Find) with three caches last month. A few got released very close to home so we had a few mad dashes out of the house over the course of a week. Other caching adventures have had Gerald climbing 8m up a tree to sign the log book and a lovely day was spent with The Hills looking for caches all over Shakespear Regional Park – a beautiful place.
The comedy festival hit Auckland. We started off by watching a live recording of 7 days – a hilarious way to spend an evening.
It was New Zealand V the International Team. One of the other team was the Brit, James Acaster. He was so funny that we ended up buying tickets for his show the following week and he did not disappoint. We also got tickets to see the Brat Pack – a group of NZ comedians that have been working the comedy circuit for about 15 years. It was a very funny evening slightly marred by the fact one of them had clearly drunk far too much. He lost track of where his joke was going and then proceeded to drunkenly collapse on the floor. When he came on stage to do his second stint he had not improved, an audience member started to heckle him and he totally lost it. He started ranting and swearing and it was a relief when he was ushered off the stage as it was starting to feel uncomfortable watching him make such an idiot of himself!

We had a great night out at the Arctic Monkeys gig and had an equally great night watching the Beatle Boys. It was funny being one of the youngest people in the crowd – we were surrounded by silver haired people! It was 50 years to the day since the Beatles had done their one and only gig in NZ. Several people in the audience with us had been at the original concert. The Beatle Boys were fantastic and everybody was up dancing and singing along to the songs we all know so well.

We also got to see Shadowland on it’s brief tour to NZ.. It was a mind blowing show of amazing dance/gym choreography telling a dreamlike story. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute but the highlight was definitely the encore which they obviously tailor make for each city they perform in. If you get the chance to see it I highly recommend you go!

The other weekend I unexpectedly ended up going to the All Blacks V England game as my friend, Clare, from work had been let down at the last minute and didn’t want to go alone. It was a good game and we had fun despite the fact it kept raining on and off. Clare is returning to England in a couple of weeks after a year out here, she was hoping for an England win but it wasn’t to be…..

So that is a brief update of what has been going on in our lives over the last 10 weeks.

Posted by bumblebum 21:22 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Great Barrier Island

sunny 22 °C

We just got back from a short stay on Great Barrier Island. As we only had three days we decided to take the 30 minute flight rather than the 4 ½ hour ferry to get to the island. Our plane was tiny, with just 8 passengers on board! Just 48 hours before we flew, there had been the tail end of a cyclone and all flights had been cancelled due to 140km winds and torrential rain. Fortunately for us Saturday morning was a beautiful, sunny, calm day. We enjoyed the views as we flew over Brown’s Island, Rangitoto and Waiheke.
Before we knew it we were back on land, we jumped into our hire car and headed a couple of kms down the road to Mount St Paul Estate – our accommodation for the next 2 nights. We were warmly welcomed by the owners, Chris and Teara, and shown to our room with stunning views over the ocean.
We dumped our bags and hit the road, keen to explore as much of the island as possible. We headed to Tryphena, had a spot of breakfast and then drove to a few look out points in the area.
With nice full stomachs we decided to head to the north of the island to do a bit of caching. We headed as far north as you can possibly drive to find a cache located at the mass grave site of the shipwreck SS Wairarapa. The beach that we walked along to reach the site was beautiful and very empty! GBI only has a population of 850 which translates to about 3 people per square km. It is very easy to find a bit of peace and quiet on the island.
Everywhere we drove I kept making Gerald pull over so I could take photos, every turn produced another stunning view!
Our next stop was for an ice cream at Port Fitzroy Harbour – another very pretty spot.
Feeling a bit tired after our early morning start we decided to head back. Teara prepared our 3 course meal as we relaxed and watched the sunset.
Dinner was lamb skewers for entrée, wild boar ragu for our main and then panna cotta for dessert. Delicious!

The next morning, after a full English breakfast, we headed north again, this time to climb to the summit of the island’s tallest peak, Mt Hobson at 2,037 ft above sea level. We set off and followed the track through rainforest and across the ridge of the aptly named Windy Canyon.
The final ascent to the summit was by a steep wooden staircase built over the nesting grounds of the Black Petrel. We read somewhere that there were well over 1000 steps to reach the summit. We were greeted at the top of the Mount with some amazing views over the island and signed the logbook of another one of the 8 geocaches hidden on the island.
We had some lunch in Claris and we were going to explore Whangaparapara when the rain arrived so we decided to go back to our accommodation.
Teara spoilt us again at dinner that night with wild boar and apple spring rolls, chicken and bacon risotto and the most divine chocolate brownie I have ever had the pleasure of eating!

Our final day on GBI came around quickly, we got up fairly early and drove to Whangaparapara. We did a short walk to Kauri Falls, a pretty little spot.
We found a cache nearby the jetty and then we drove to Okupu to Blind Bay.
The windy road to Blind Bay provided us with lots of stunning views so once again the camera came out!
We had a quick stop in a reserve to climb an 800 year old pohutukawa tree to find the last cache that we knew was hidden on the island.
That left just enough time for a nice stroll along Medlands Beach before heading to the airport for our flight home. Another beautiful day for a flight home and we flew pretty much straight over our house!

As I have been writing this I realised that I have not written a blog for about 3 months! The 11 week school term was a hectic one and I was very ready for the holidays. As usual weekends have been busy – we have had several theatre visits, saw Bruno Mars at Vector Arena, took part in the Mad Max themed Cannonball Run (a great day driving around Auckland trying to complete all the missions!). We went to Elvis in the Gardens with the Hills and then met up with them again recently to see Billy Connolly live. One blissful day was spent at a couples spa retreat and a memorable Saturday afternoon was spent taking part in the Sky Tower’s Skywalk, a great experience.

That’s a super brief run down!

Posted by bumblebum 16:52 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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