The Wandering Tops

The Wandering Tops

31 March, 2017

Rotorua for the day

Well the sun was shining so we decided to do a day trip to Rotorua. From Tauranga its about 70km with the road passing through picturesque Mangorewa and Mangapouri Gorges. Such a pleasant drive and took just over an hour.

The view of Lake Rotorua from the cafe.

Arriving in Rotorua we were surprised at it's size, it was much bigger than we had imagined and a very tidy town, although a bit 'wiffy' at times! But first up we needed a caffeine fix so found a nice coffee shop, Third Place Cafe, overlooking Lake Rotorua. From here we went down to Lakefront Drive another pleasant park where many families and tourists were enjoying the Lake.

The swans kept chasing me thinking I was going to feed them. 

After going into town and finding the information centre we decided to do the Rotorua Duck Tour. This 1.5 hr tour in a WWII Amphibious Landing Craft (army duck) took us from the city to Lake Okareka where we drove out and floated on the lake. We drove past Tikitapui Lake (Blue Lake) and Lake Rotokakahi (Green Lake) to Lake Tarawera. The tour normally visits Lake Okareka & Tikitapui Lake only, however we could not visit Tikitapui as there was a canoeing event. The tour was extended to include Lake Tarawere, where again we drove onto and floated around the lake. The tour guide provided a great Maori history lesson on the areas we visited.

Tour guide and Duck mascot
The tour guide was very entertaining and provided a running commentary during the whole trip. We were given duck whistles as part of the safety equipment, to be blown in the event of falling into the water. These were also used to entertain us, or the passing pedestrian, as we travelled out of town. You can imagine a windowless truck with all the passengers blowing duck whistles and waving frantically. Got some waves back and some very amusing looks, also saw a couple of Japanese tourists taking a photo or movie, can you imagine their home movie!

Our first water entry, Lake Okareka, felt quite strange just driving off the road into the lake.

Some of the houses around Lake Okareka, apparently the white house was the first on the lake back in the 1920s. Very expensive to buy in this area.

This is as close as we got to Lake Tikitapui (Blue Lake)

Lake Tarawera

Our tour amphibious vehicle, now you must be wondering about our mouth pieces - they are duck whistles in the shape of a ducks beek provided on tour.

After the tour we walked around the Government Gardens, looking at various sculptures and getting a good dose of the sulphuric odours every now and then!  The gardens were developed in 1881 where the scrub covered geothermal area was transformed into an oasis of Edwardian charm.  The museum was the original bathhouse which was built in 1908, closing in 1966, then extensively renovated in 1995 and converted into the museum. A second bathhouse (the blue baths) was opened in 1933 under much controversy as mixed bathing was accommodated. These baths were closed in 1982 but restored in 1999 and are opened to the public.

Rotorua Museum, unfortunately closed for renovations. 

Waitukei Sculptures - Bronze sculptures in Government Gardens - the two figures, one male, one female, were inspired by the mixing of Maori and European cultures in Rotorua 
Whilst in Rotorua we gathered informaion on cultural experiences and thermal areas to visit, so will be back to see more of what this town has to offer.

24 March, 2017

McLaren Falls and Mount Maunganui

Drove to McLaren Falls park which is 190 hectares of pastoral and horticultural parkland just 10 minutes drive from Tauranga set alongside Lake McLaren. The park is popular for camping, trout fishing, kayaking, picnics, bush walks etc.  One of the highlights of the park is the Waterfall Track which we walked and were rewarded with great scenery.  Apparently glow worms can be seen along the track at dusk, but we decided that we would not wait until then as we hadn't had lunch!

Had a great morning in the park as were able to drive around stopping every now and then to walk around the lake sighting many ducks and swans.  Intend to come back again for a picnic.

On the track to the waterfall - amazed with the palms and moss, looking very tropical

Waterfall in McLaren Falls Park

Beautiful setting around Lake McLaren

McLaren Falls (Wairoa River) just on the access road to McLaren Falls Park

Another day we drove to Mt Maunganui or "The Mount" which is a mountain standing 232m above sea level on the other side of Tauranga Harbour from the city and offers spectacular views out to sea and back across to the harbour.  We walked the base track and thoroughly enjoyed it - even managing to sight a seal.  The Mount is a very popular holiday hotspot with heaps of accommodation including caravan park, high rise appartments with sea views, baches (holiday homes) and local motels. It also has a sophisticated cafe culture with many eateries across the road from the beach, plus bars, restaurants and high-end fashion boutiques - quite the place to be!!!!!

View of Mt Maunganui across Pilot Bay

A rest stop on the 3km base track

Fisherman waiting for his catch at Stoney Point - the bronze sculpture represents Tangaroa, maori god of the sea whose role it was to protect the sea. It faces out towards the sea from the shipping channel.

Spotted this seal sunning itself amoungst the rocks

20 March, 2017

Karangahake Gorge

On our drive from Auckland to Tauranga when Glenne & Col picked us up, we stopped off at Karangahake Gorge and they advised us of a number of good walks around the gorge, so we dedicated a day to check it out.  Once again the weather was warm and sunny which added to a top day.

Some old gear wheels stand on the hill overlooking the remains of the cyanide tank footings.
First stop was the Victoria Battery Site which the Waihi Gold Mining Company erected in 1897 to process ore from the Waihi Martha Mine. The site was considered the largest and most advanced facility of its type in the country with 200 stampers being used to crush the gold-bearing quartz. The operation continued until 1952 when the Victoria Battery was gradually demolished. Was interesting walking around the area seeing some of the concrete footings where the large processing equipment was installed giving you an idea of the complexities of the plant. A particular interesting structure was the footings for the cyanide tanks - a complex design of archways and walkways.

The large bolts and concrete plinths used to secure the processing plant.

Hels is lost in amongst the cyanide tank footings.

The rail was used to transport around the processing site.

From the Victoria Battery we drove to Karangahake Gorge where we chose to do the Windows Walk which started at the junction of the Ohinemuri River and Waitawheta River.  The walk takes you high above the Waitawheta River, through railway tunnels with various windows which overlook the river.  After decending a staircase, we crossed the walkbridge and followed the track adjacent to the river back to where the car was parked. Amazing how they managed to build the railway plus various Batteries back in early 1900's in inaccessible steep terrain.

Karangahake Gorge carpark overlooks the swing bridge at the start of the walks.

A number of swinging bridges are used to cross the river on the various walks.

A water wheel high up on the side of the hill. 

One of the windows which looks down over the Ohinemuri River and the walking track.

You do need to carry a tourch to see as you walk through the tunnels.

The well constructed staircase used to get down to the river from the tunnels

I think Hels was hoping to find some gold left in the ore truck!

Another swinging bridge.

The walkway cut into the side of the mountain, made for easy access today.

After our walk we drove into Katikati where we enjoyed lunch and a walk down the main street discovering the many murals on various buildings.

Lunch at Katikati

One of the many wall murals that Katikati is known for.
Was easy to find a friend - street statue Katikai

Had to take a photo of the old bikes, a Royal Enfield and Triumph Tiger
Beach Hop, a Rock and Roll festival at Whangamata which attracted lots of classic cars and bikes.

10 March, 2017

Bound for New Zealand

After the caravan was stored we stayed a night with Robert and Rhonda who dropped us at the airport. We are bound for New Zealand but first was a 3 day stop over in Queensland, hinterland Gold Coast at Wayne and Susans to catch up with Todd and Tenelle who we hadn't see since their return from Canada. This was great to see photos and hear some of their stories and generally just chat with them.

Our flight to NZ ready to board

Todd dropped us of at Brisbane International airport on Sunday and we were now on our way across the ditch to NZ.

When we arrived in Auckland we had a night at the JetPark motel.  In the morning Col and Glenne picked us up and we drove back to their home in Tauranga, where we will be house sitting and looking after Zulu the cat for the next 7 weeks while they travel to Australia.

Zulu in the back yard

We had a day together before they left and Glenne and Col took the time to show us around Tauranga and The Bay of Plenty, so we could be a little familiar with the city and know where the shopping centre and other important features were.

Col & Glenne ready for their holiday in Australia 

The next day we drove them to the airport and after waving goodbye, headed into town to arrange a NZ mobile number, stock up on supplies from PaknSave before heading back to Zulu. Had stopped at traffic lights in town when a police car behind us put flashing lights on accompanied by siren, I though "that would be right, only been driving for 10 minutes, what could I have done wrong" then they turned off in pursuit of an offender. What a welcome to NZ - first time driving Col's car, I nearly needed a change of undies!!

Tauranga from Minden Lookout. Mt Maunganui is to the left. 

Had a few days home so Zulu got used to us and had friends from Australia call in for lunch one day - they are enjoying a driving holiday and we were lucky to catch them before they headed south. They had done a bit of 'adventure driving' en route and Robyn was happy to have a wine or two to calm the nerves as the road they chose got a bit hairy especially with all the washouts due to last weeks storm! Great to catch up with Bob & Robyn.

Robyn and Bob from Australia

We have been catching up with a Kiwi couple, Neville and Kathy, in Australia for a few years as they spend the NZ winter travelling Australia. Were estatic to learn that they were departing later for Australia this year, and only lived 10 min from us. One day we drove up to their place at Te Puna and had a coffee before they took us on a tour. Drove to Waihi Beach where we had lunch with their friends who have a bach (Aussie holiday home) with a great view of the sea.  After lunch we drove down to Waihi Beach, then down to the headland through Bowentown to Anzac Bay where we walked to the top of the headland and enjoyed 360 degrees views - looked out to Mayor Island. Once back at Neville & Kathy's we had coffee before returning to Zulu waiting for her tea! Since our arrival we have had great weather and today was no exception.

View accross to Mayor Island from Anthony and Eileen batch at Waihi Beach.

Anzac Bay at Bowentown a small peninsula just south of Waihi Beach.