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  • Keef Hellinger

Blog 162 HOLIDAY2007-8 Continued, Full Diary Part 1 Day 1-160

By keef and annie hellinger, Dec 1 2021 12.09 pm


yep we went on the ghan, and the indian pacfic railway in 2017, image old ghan poster
yep we went on the ghan, and the indian pacfic railway in 2017

Day 1 - Friday 26th October 2007 Notts->London->LA

The Big day has arrived. We had our hire car delivered yesterday evening. Drove to Heathrow, dumped it off and then caught our Air NZ flight NZ0001 1 to LA.What we saw Pirates of the C, World’s End, Unknown, Harry Potter 3,oh and played Who wants to be a Millionaire on the entertainments system on Air NZ is ACE food superb A really good flight Plus Travel lodge LAX very good, spacious friendly and free shuttle, T2 under the red Courtesy signs Who we met The fruit hunting dog (LAPD sniffer dog working for the Produce Dept). Soccer coaching History teacher from Arizona who kindly loaned us his phone to ring for shuttle bus and knew of Forest and a guy who played for them in 1970s called Gough apparently he teaches alongside him now. Mexican shuttle bus driver who supported the baseball team (Dodgers?) and had a daughter who graduated from Paulo Alto Uni plus Ginger & Grace from Didley Boinge, Idaho (who offered us a Beach Vacation Condo in Malibubizarre), Ohhh and of course the 40 foot high LAX concrete letters outside the airport Plus Swartzenneger (Arnie) Governor of the state of California declared a state of national emergency yesterday after fires ravaged southern California, San Diego / Malibu areas and Fiji times tells us that SavuSavu was flooded, blimey what are we letting ourselves in for. Hurricane Ivan and Jamaica from a few years back spring to mind Alas neither Phone works can’t get a service despite what Travelmood eKit says,Took some photos of the Travelodge which had a nice pool although no time to use was about 69 deg F Hotel California with an eagle-eye

Day 2 - Saturday 27th October 2007,LAX->SJC

Good nights kip about 9 hours. Really comfortable king size bed. Needed after staying up I guess about 30 hours Travelodge LAX. Got shuttle back to T5 and caught Delta Airlines flight 7772 to San Jose (left 1.50pm) Flew along the coast, superb views. Was a v small plane, one & 2 seats across the aisle. About a 50 minute flight. San Jose airport fun and a bit like east midlands, v small after LAX Trung collected us in TRN 2 (Blue BMW) He has 2 cars and Sherree one. Showed around their excellent house Huge Jacuzzi, landscaped backgarden,Breakfast far too much at Travelodge.

First test email to Boys: Watched game 3 of the World Series (Red Sox Vs Rockies) with Trung in the El Toro Brew House last night....whilst Mum & I ate what was probably the larger burger we've ever had (eat your heart out Heston B) Sherree and Trung have been most welcoming and their house is ace (huge actually we need a map to find our way around). They have just had the backgarden landscaped so sat out with Trung under the pagoda watching the humming birds and saw our first bald headed eagle. Sherree alas was working about an hour away. They have a Jacuzzi so gonna try that. V warm here at the mo which is nice. Off to Monterrey and Big Sur today and we are treating them to a meal in the restaurant at Monterrey which is in the 1000 things to do before you die book we have.Flight over good. You will love the Air Nz flight, best we have ever been on....ace food, entertainment saw 3 current movies (Pirates, Harry P and Unknown...plus wait for it we played computer games) When you and Phoenix get to LA however you have to deplane , fill in the green card, wait in line, go to transit lounge for 2 hours and then get back on....only upside is your luggage stays on the plane so no need to recheck that. Bit of a pain but there you go. We forced our way thru jet lag by staying up the whole way to LAX....probably a good move for you too and then sleep on the bit from LAX to Auckland. Still better go, alas roaming profile phone DOESNT work so probably no phone until NZ (more later) Who we met Trung and Sherree, Aussies at San Jose who like us were puzzled by picking your luggage up on the tarmac Must be a fast track thing Plus simpering insincere waitress at El Toro Brew House restaurant Plus Eagle on the old oak tree from their backgarden. Humming birds. Squirrel, Canada Geese , Local Amber Ales and Californian Wines. Discussions with Trung on everything including Politics and Gadgets,Took some photos of Sherree’s from windows plus one of El Toro

Day 3 - Sunday 28th October 2007,Monterey, Carmel & Big Sur

Got up about 7.40 am V Sunny Clear skies Good Sleep, no real jet lag, Sherree & Trung drove us in TRN2 down to Monterey. Took about 1.5 hours to drive there. Saw eagles circling in air alongside highway. Lovely place. Lots of sea life – sealions, sea otters, cormorants, pelicans. Monterey is a 1900 old fishing harbour with now many new posh yachts moored. Used to be sardine capital of the world, which were processed by canning factories. Walked along the sea front having seen fisherman’s wharf and tasted the countless free offerings of clam chowder They hollow out a loaf and put it in there if you buy the full deal. Walked along Cannery Row which was a street next to the shoreline where the sardine canneries used to be (John Steinbeck’s novel Cannery Row). Had a quick bite in McFlys and then walked back along the sea front. Many posh hotels. Then drove through Carmel and onto Big Sur via CA Highway 1 A superb road. Carmel was quaint, individual shops along a busy main street with a small sandy beach at the end. Lots of tourists here. Sherree said that the houses were very expensive in Carmel even though they were very small old fashioned bungalows c 1920. Further along Highway 1 we stopped at Carmel Highlands area at a hotel and went in the Pacific Edge bar. Had fantastic 180 degree views of the ocean from the bar which was set on the cliff edge. Stopped at bar/restaurant at Big Sur coastline and had dinner under the stars. This restaurant is mentioned in book 1000 Things to See Before You Die. Lovely sunset. Would like to come back again sometime and see it all. Returned to Sherree’s around 10.30pm very tired and went to bed.Talked to the waitress in the restaurant about a old RHCP’s song that mentions Big Sur, reminder to K look it up sometime. Dinner under the stars at restaurant along Big Sur coastline. Watching sunset over the Pacific Ocean.

Day 4 - Monday 29th October 2007, Morgan Hill, CA

Got up about 7.40 am Did some stuff on the PC mostly photos and updating the Website,Off to Santa Clara County Quicksilver Park. Walked about 2.5miles along trail to quicksilver mine where mercury was produced from 1902 to 1976 when it closed down. Sheet metal factory was dilapidated and rusty (took photo). Great views of Californian landscape which looked tinder dry. Sherree and Anne saw a small snake, about 12 inches long and as thin as a pencil. It slithered away from us among the leaves. Unfortunately Keef had the camera and he was too far ahead of us so did not take photo. After the walk we drove round the road near a reservoir and saw two deer and what looked like wild turkeys crossing the road. The houses at the edge of Santa Clara Park were small hick properties with chairs by the porch and rusted cars dumped out front. Other houses that we saw around the area were palatial mansions in contrast. Took photo of a field full of pumpkins on the road back to Morgan Hill. Then had a late lunch and well earned cold drink in a Mexican restaurant. Returned to Sherree’s house and chilled.Saw a small snake and wild deer. Mexican meal in downtown Morgan Hill. Great Burrito Fajitas Keef had beef, Anne chicken ohhh and we watched an Eddie Murphy Disney movie that Keef snored thru. Sorry! Loved Humming Bird, Santa Clara Park Walk

Day 5 - Tuesday 30th October 2007,Morgan Hill, CA

Got up about 7.40 am Did some stuff on the PC mostly photos and updating the Website, Sherree took us out for an American breakfast wow, ham, eggs (sunny side up) hash browns, stack of pancakes with maple syrup and cream and endless coffee.boy oh boy just too much food. Then as a first 2 times in one day we went to a Sushi bar for our evening meal. Very nicesushi, sashimi, tempura and teriyakisee we know them all, went in the Jacuzzi Keef had a beer and the ladies some Napa valley Chardonnay. Went to the Henry W Coe State park here in Santa Clara County. Twisty road that climbed the hills away from the Morgan Hill valley – stunning views. Saw another reservoir where people were fishing and waterskiing. Keef took photo of an eagle soaring. There was a campsite at the end of the one way road where there was a sign warning campers that raccoons can bite, but we did not see any, only some blue jays and squirrels. Only saw one other car there so the camp area was very quiet. Again, the grass looked very yellow and tinder dry. From the camp area you could see for miles across hills/mountains and valleys. Tried sushi for the first time. The little plates went round on a miniature Amtrac train. Very nice. Sherree told us that further north in the county two joggers were attacked by a mountain lion/cougar.

Pictures of Chickens outside Scrambl’z, Drive up past Leroy Anderson reservoir and Dam plus Henry W Coe park with views across the hlls and valleys.

Day 6 - Wednesday 31st October 2007,San Jose->LAX, AirNZ

Got up about 8 Did some stuff on the PC mostly emails Packed and got ready to go back via San Jose to LAX and then onto Nadi, Fiji Sherree told us that there had been a earthquake in the San Jose area measuring 5.6 on the Richter scale. Not big but a quake none the less Must confess as we were driving back with S from the Sushi restaurant we never felt a thing.Sherree delivered us to San Jose airport Terminal C. They have both been most kind to us and we really enjoyed staying with them. Then via Delta Airlines 7772 we flew back to LAX terminal 5. LA is HUGE spreading in neat little boxes their grid system spreads from coast to hills as far as the eye can see. Have to say it would be most intimidating to live there. Pushed luggage, we now have it under control – 2 X 23kg bags, the laptop bag and the flight bag. In US you have to take laptop outta bag and shoes off for security checks. Got trolley for luggage and walked from T5 to T2 (Air NZ) Quite a way. Departures are top level at LAX and arrivals below. Flew out of LAX at 11.15pm on a slightly smaller plane than the NZ1 flight (we were on NZ21) but that was cool as we tried to sleep. Met check in guy at Delta Airlines SLC. We were over limit and they wanted 50 bucks per bag, took out one jacket and a jumper respectively and saved $100. Saw tramway alongside Highway 101 on the way into San Jose. Keef saw the HOLLYWOOD sign in the brown hills well away from the coast as the Delta Airlines flight came in. Alas not quick enough however to take a photo of it. Took some final photos of Sherree’s to show her Jacuzzi/ pagoda-pergola

Day 7 - Thursday 1st November 2007,LAX -> Nadi,Fiji

Whole day ‘Lost in Translation’ or is it flight, weird. Basically to do with crossing the International Date line. Note we also crossed the Equator for the first time into the Southern Hemisphere, what we saw or didn’t – Evan Almighty was on the wide screen (no back of seat entertainment) this time but it was tricky to listen / see

Day 8 - Friday 2nd November 2007, Land in Nadi,Fiji then to Venua Levu

Arrived fairly tired in Nadi, Fiji at 6 am. We really didn’t sleep that well. Main meal served early was chicken frizzled (very dried up) but the breakfast of turkey/cheese croissant was most welcome. DePlaned and waited in the airport on some wonderful leather sofas after having some coffee/ tea (very oz.flat white, tall black etc etc) and cakes. FJD$1.50 (i.e 50p) for the most gianormous wonderful banana cake which they warm. Very very Humid.Had 2 showers today in freezing cold water. Checked in 10am. No boarding cards you just choose your seat. Sat about 18 half full. Great great journey across the mountains of the main island, then over the coast to Savusavu. Most memorable experience

Oh just so much words fail me. The view from the De Haviland was SPECTACULAR. Clear skies, crystal blue seas and an abundance of coral reefs. Taxi driver from Paradise Cabs took us to the supermarket and Roy & Lisa (cottage owners) He is from Hawaii (Chinese origin) She is from California. They are most friendly Left a bowl of garden fruit for us.pineapple, guava, lime , bananas and chili peppers. Most kind.I cooked teriyaki lamb with onions/green peppers , rice and salad whilst listening to Sting and drinking well water, loved taking pix from the bi-plane flight from Nadi on Venito Levu (Main Island) to Savusavu, Venua Levu on the second largest island

Day 9 - Saturday 3rd November 2007,2007,Sewaka Beach Cottage, Near Savusavu, Venua Levu, Fiji

Got up about 6-ish having been to sleep (knackered) at about 10pm after cooking lamb & rice. Had a fine breakfast on the verandah - frosties & fresh local banana, papaya and lime (given by Roy from his garden) and local bread (whole meal with a hint of onion) topped off with local pineapple juice.Walked down track to Sewaka beach looking at the tropical vegetation and bananas growing (still green). Downhill there but hard walking uphill and very hot on the return. Cooled off in the Pacific and sat on beach for couple of hours. Sound of gentle waves on the shore was very relaxing and beach was deserted, although there were two Fijian women fishing. Had picnic lunch on beach and then returned to cottage for a siesta as very hot and humid. Woken by tropical downpour, including thunder and lightning, which lasted about an hour. The temperature reduced and the wind was very refreshing. Just as well the verandah had a deep roof overhang. In the early evening Roy and Lisa invited us to their home for a traditional kava ceremony and told us all about how it is made. It is a root from the pepper plant family that is ground into a fine powder and then mixed with water into a muddy looking liquid. It is drunk from small coconut shells. It has a mild sedative effect and is not alcoholic. On our return to our cottage we had dinner (chicken teryaki, rice and vegetables) and watched the DVD of Savusavu tourist board. Met Jeff, American from New Jersey who has lived on the beach here for 6 years. He and his wife, like Roy & Lisa do holiday cottage rentals and after purchasing the land built both their own house (on hardwood stilts – maybe bark shed coconut palm?). Jeff had just been stung by a hornet whilst gardening so was healing it with ice. He suggested that taxi may be better and cheaper than hiring a car. Also do not stop in villages without first being invited as it is not good karma and visitors must remove any headgear. Plus tried snorkeling but just too unclear to be of use. First tropical rainstorm, thunder and lightning. Woke us from our afternoon siesta. We fed Vatu their (R&L) dog on our left over scraps of last nights meal. He is now a friend for life, even if he barks at everyone else. Roy & Lisa are Jehovah’s Witnesses and going to an all dayer in Lebasa The main town which has a massive Indian influence. Saw a mongoose, alas a little too quick to photo

Day 10 - Sunday 4th November 2007,Sewaka Beach Cottage, Near Savusavu, Venua Levu, Fiji

Anne rose about 6.15am, Keef about 7.30. Alas K has developed a cold and sore throat from somewhere, maybe the plane with all those folks sneezing. Did various things on laptop, getting ready to email contact the boys tomorrow when we catch a taxi into Savusavu. In the afternoon we were so chilled we just relaxed and read our books, Chart Throb by Ben Elton is ace. So cooked fried chicken, mash & creamed sweetcorn for T and had one of the gardens fresh pineapples for pud, it was just so sweet (Yummy). In the morning we walked up the track to Roy & Lisa’s upper garden. Beautiful tropical plants, including hibiscus, orchids and a flame tree in bloom with big red flowers. On the top of the hill and flattened garden area there was a spectacular view of the bay and Pacific. They had built a wooden deck to sit on. Saw dragonfly but nothing else. Back on the cottage verandah Keef saw an orange dove flying among the trees. We could hear parrots squawking occasionally.Despite the thunder in the distance it did not rain but we had a sudden 10 minute power cut which Lisa said could happen at any time. Sometimes they may have a couple of power cuts a month and others can go for a couple of months without one. The water system does not work when there is a power cut but if it is long lasting then there is a back-up generator. Luckily we had already cooked our evening meal and washed up when the power went and were just admiring the sunset

Day 11 - Monday 5th November 2007,Sewaka Beach Cottage, Near Savusavu, Venua Levu, Fiji

Went in by Taxi to Savusavu town past one of the best named villages Jerusalem. Used the Wireless Internet from the Computer shop (FJD$4 per hour) as opposed to café Bule Re which is FJD$10 per hour and you end up sitting in the café anyhow using the internet. Tis a bit slow but not complaining. Updated website , read and responded to email. Savusavu is based alongside an inlet/ harbour with lots of yachts. Most relaxing sitting in café on the waters edge. Had lunch there as well Very good. I had beef kebab and Annie had chicken escalope. We were impressed by cooking and have booked there for Weds eve for the Lovo meal (cooked in ground pit in banana leaves, trad Fiji) Booked car for 3 days from 2moro from Tanda. She is gonna pick us up and drive us in to collect. Saw the town and waters edge. We met Tanda and Tuklea , german lady (from Munchen area) and her Fijian husband. Both very nice. They own Bula Re and he is the chef there, having recently returned from cooking at the South Pacific games in Samoa which he says is safer than Fiji.Interesting because we feel most welcome and safe in Fiji, everyone says Bula to you whether you are walking thru town or out in the country. These folk have 2 adopted Fijian children, very friendly. They are also Roy & Lisa’s closest neighbours at Sewaka. It was Guy Fawkes Night,not surprisingly not recognized here in Fiji but all supermarkets well stocked with fireworks which are for Diwali (this Friday 9/11)

Day 12 - Tuesday 6th November 2007,Sewaka Beach Cottage, Near Savusavu, Venua Levu, Fiji

Got up early and got picked up by Tanda and her husband and two children who took us into town. She dropped her two children off at school and then we picked up our hire car from outside her restaurant. Drove down some graveled roads and even some of the tarmacadam roads had lots of pot holes. Saw some tourist resorts, some of which were still being built, the ferry dock and went past the airport and saw some small planes land and take off. Saw a lot of coconut plantations along the coast. People waved at us and shouted ‘bula’ (hello). Saw the Hot Springs Hotel and then had lunch at the Copra Shed where the yachts are moored at the jetty. Did shopping in supermarket and then returned to cottage for siesta. No breeze at all. Went for cooling swim at Sewaka beach just before dusk and we were the only people there.They are the family who own the Fijian restaurant in Savusavu. We saw the school where the children were dropped off.It was extremely hot from 1pm onwards and swim at the beach was very refreshing.. Heard on Fijian radio in hire car that some people had been arrested for a plot to assassinate the interim Prime Minister of Fiji and were being charged, including inciting mutiny.

Day 13 - Wednesday 7th November 2007,Car trip to Labasa

Mostly rained today, so they do get bad weather in Fiji!!! Took our hire car to Labasa the main town of Vanua Levu, 30k residence and in the north of the island. About 75 miles from where we are staying. Much sugar cane production indeed we visited the factory on the outskirts of town and saw the hordes of farmers waiting to have their cane weighed / paid and processed.would love to know what they get paid for a cartload , bet its not much! Labasa itself has an amazing Indian influence, for me it could have been India. Very busy town with lots of Indian shops. Weather turned very hot and we were glad of air conditoning in car.Worth noting that was a good road with asphalt surface (although slightly destroyed in places with deep potholes) so journey took about 1 ½ hours. Much of this island at least is unmade roads. Went over some dodgy looking bridges over rivers. Lots of lorries traveling to Labasa loaded up with sugarcane. Saw pine forests, farms and sugar cane fields and very mountainous in distance. Saw a mongoose run across the road in front of our car. Later on we saw one foraging at the side of the road and Keef took a photo.Met Roy in Savusavu outside the pie shop (Hot Bread Shop) after we had returned from Labasa. Started raining and continued all afternoon. Village funeral of an elder. The whole village were out in force and we saw his/her grave adorned with flowers. As the procession wended its way back alas rather embarrassingly our car was caught in the procession. The village was Urata. In the eve we are going back into Bula Ra for a Lovo feast, although the rain still persists. Note we have car hired for 3 days which is enough, air conditioned Suzuki Jiminy, small but perfectly formed. Lovo meal was lovely – we had chicken, beef, mahi-mahi fish, pumpkin with prawns, tara leaves wrapped with creamed coconut filling, tara (bland vegetable), plantain for dessert with chocolate sauce. Keef had two tropical fruit drinks as he was driving and I had a maitai cocktail, plus coffees all for £9 each. Drive back to cottage after dinner was dark and misty (low cloud in mountains) but at least the rain had stopped. Difficult to see where the potholes were in the road in the dark.Took these memorable pix,Trip to Labasa and sugar cane photos. Also mongoose and photos of lovo meal. Labasa, route back from Labasa and Urata village with pig and mongoose And Lovo feast in the evening.

Day 14 - Thursday 8th November 2007,Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort Nr Savusavu

Vist to Jean-Michel Cousteau resort. Eventually went back into SS to use the Internet café and hand car back into Tanda and Tukea. Enjoyed the use of the car and the freedom it gave us but 3 days is probably enough @ FJD$92/day i.e 276 (i.e £96) went swimming for the 3rd time at our private beach, easy when you have the car, a hard climb in humidity otherwise. Not that impressed by JMC resort however the colour of fish off the jetty was immense. Big blue parrot fish, travaille and 2 huge blue fish (which I have no idea what they were called). Driving with 4 wheels for first time ever down very muddy track to JMC It was raining and very churned up, having slid there in the first place used the 4WD for return journey, very stable. Resort was very tiny with long jetty for dive boats, small swimming pool and grotty beach which was very rocky and unsuitable for swimming. Did not stay long and weather rainy. Went back into Savusavu and had drink at the Copra Shed by the jetty and looked at the boats. Saw cloud of steam and realized that this was where the hot springs came out of the ground. Found out that the Saturday South Pacific music festival starts at 7pm and is held at the Hot Springs Hotel. Went for swim at Sekawa beach. Torrential downpour pm. Decided to go back into Savusavu to internet café, hand back hire car and then got a taxi back to the cottage at dusk. Fijian lady (can’t remember her name) at Sekawa beach who was baby sitting the Czech couples baby. She had heard of Sherwood Forest and Robin Hood in history at school! Czech family are buying on beach front, wow, plus 4 Russians in Bula Re last night for Lovo feast. Us Northern hemisphere folk are taking over!

Day 15 - Friday 9th November 2007,Sewaka Beach Cottage, Near Savusavu, Venua Levu, Fiji

Nothing to report, day spent locally

Day 16 - Saturday 10th November 2007,Sewaka Beach Cottage, Near Savusavu, Venua Levu, Fiji

Relaxed in the cottage and then got a taxi at 4.30pm into Savusavu to the South Pacific Music Festival held at the Hot Springs Hotel. Noticed that the ferry from Vitu Levu was in dock (comes to Savusavu 3 times a week).. Arrived at the hotel just at the end of the talent contest where prizes were awarded for the best acts. The compere was either Oz or NZ and she was very patronizing and bossy towards the Fijians. Had some drinks and a meal of fish, chips and salad before the main music concert. We had been told it would start at 7pm but in fact it did not start until 8.20. The best act was a troupe of singers and dancers from the University of the South Pacific, Suva who had come over on the ferry. Their singing was very melodic and dancing was also very expressive and South Pacific. There were some other acts that were more pop group style and the Australian musicians were the worst. The concert was very amateurish and the PA system was also bad with feedback. We had booked a taxi back to the cottage at 10pm so had to leave before the concert ended.

Day 17 - Sunday 11th November 2007,Sewaka Beach Cottage, Near Savusavu, Vanua Levu, Fiji

A day of chillin. Did a few bits of video editing on laptop after last nights Music Festival at the Hot Springs Hotel and read the Fiji Times that Roy & Lisa loaned us. Anne did washing, not the greatest machine in the world and if the programme goes wrong it sucks all the water from the well dry. Oh dear! We then watched a whole stack of movies on DVD loaned by R&L who had once again left us with treats fruit (pineapple & bananas) and diwahli snacks (sweet not savoury). Watched Casablanca, Bourne Identity and About Smidt (3rd time but we love it!). MetVatu, R&L’s dog when I returned the paper. They are in Labasa all day today on a Jehovah’s Witness meet.

Day 18 - Monday 12th November 2007,Sewaka Beach Cottage, Near Savusavu, Vanua Levu, Fiji

Nice sunny day, got up around 7 -80 degrees plus humid but gentle breeze Had tea/ coffee and breakfast and read out on the verandah I am reading Uncle Toms Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe 1851 Wow devastatingly anti Slave book. Apparently Abe Lincoln claimed it started the Civil War Otherwise apart from reading and watching videos didn’t do a whole lot Had to pack late eve. Saw Capote DVD about Truman Capote and then Dances With Wolves.Managed to supposedly send first TXT messages on Anne’s phone to the boys, we will see. Also rang Parmgeet to ensure Paradise Taxis all set up for 2moro to go to the airport. Had a huge tropical storm at 1.30 with thunder and lightning. Roy and Lisa invited us for more kava and wine as a farewell in evening. They told us about a hurricane which they experienced in the cottage in 2001 where they had 10”of rain and also told us about clearing the rainforest to build the cottage. Said that quite a few Fijian villagers had died when trying to save their animals during the hurricane. There are no hurricane shelters on the island and no tidal wave warning sirens either. Luckily as they are 250 feet above sea level they would not be affected by a tsunami. Offered to copy some music from our laptop for them on their blank CDs which they were grateful for. Rang Mum at 1am, created DVD.

Day 19 - Tuesday 13th November 2007,Leave Suvusavu and Fiji and journey onto Samoa

Back to the Future or Ground Hog Day We had 2 days today one Leaving Fiji..One version of the 13/11, the other Arriving Samoa. See details under Samoa

Day 19 - Tuesday 13th November 2007,Leave Suvusavu and Fiji and journey onto Samoa

Back to the Future or Ground Hog Day We had 2 days today.Leaving Fiji..One version of the 13/11,Arriving Samoa.Is another.Got up at about 8 and had breakfast in Princess Tuipapaya, brown banana in sugar and toast, not bad.however Anne almost left me if we didn’t get out sharp.and agreed it was a S**T hole; the sheets don’t bare descriptionanyhow we got a taxi and went off in search of a hotel for day 2, Aggy Greys (£200/night) full luckily, then Herman took us on a magical mystery tour of various places then started driving to Aggy Grays beach resort (near airport) Keef caught him out and got him to turn back into Apia and a car hire place as well as Insel Hotel still he ripped us off at $WST80 (about £16) for only 25 mins taxi ride. If I’d had my wits about me I would have argued but we did get booked in and got our car (less than £24 / day) and essential on Samoa especially travelling to Savai’I as the 2 supposed car hires didn’t seem to exist when we drove thru Have to say our stay at Insel was ace (if a little expensive £85) but we swam, did lunch with the Ms South Pacific Pageant (see the pics lads!!!) and had an ace evening meal as well as air con and 2 double beds, v relaxing Also called in to checkout Outriggers that we are staying in after Savai’I , very good, pool, rooms, i/net etc.Chatted to young guy from California who was in transit at Nadi from Auckland where he had been studying wine production in NZ as part of a college course in USA. He said that a sparking white wine from kent had won the top wine prize in the world as being the best wine which surprised us. He recommended Raglan beach as an excellent long sandy beach where surfing also was good there. He said that South Auckland area was not a good area at night as young people got drunk and congregated in the main street area and had to be dispersed by the police in riot gear. He also said that Queenstown and Milford Sound and area were beautiful and told us that there are kea parrots in the glacier which tourists are warned will chew on your leather shoes if left outside. These are the largest parrots in NZ. Keef and the yank talked about music and he recommended a band called Tool who were similar to Pink Floyd. On Samoa met Dutch couple (who will pop up again later) that have been traveling RTW for 6 weeks in reverse direction to us plus a oz lady from Brisbane in the legal profession who had been on Vanuatu for 4 months. Sounds a v interesting place, the Happy isles. Said goodbye to our hosts in Savusavu, Roy and Lisa. Lisa gave us a guided tour of her garden and we saw pineapples, limes, lemon grass and papayas (also known as paw-paw) growing. Weather was really hot and humid – sweat was running down our foreheads. Got taxi to ‘airport’ early – just as well we did as the plane left 20 mins early with 8 passengers. Pilot told us that we would do a stop at Labasa to drop and pick up people. Then had 9 passengers on plane. Got good aerial view of mountains, rainforest and sugar cane fields and farms near Labasa. Quite cloudy at times and some turbulence in little biplane.when we went through a rainstorm and clouds. Then we saw a full rainbow from above which was spectacular. Good views of the coral reefs but some mist from clouds. Arriving at Apia, Samoa at 1.30pm and had lunch - banana cake, vegetable samosas and my first true Indian curry (vegetable). The banana cake was the best we have ever had and so were the samosas. We had to hang around the airport until our flight to Samoa at 10pm. As we had our heavy bags we did not go into Nadi town but read books at the airport. Keef posted his DVD to his mum cost about £1.Flight to Samoa was with Air Pacific which was a good airline. Captain was Scottish and his landing in Samoa was hardly felt. We had a snack meal on the plane and sparkling NZ and red wines. Flight took 1hr 50 mins and we landed at 12.17 at night still on the 13 November due to crossing the international dateline. By the time we got through customs, baggage claim etc we saw our name on a blackboard so we could be directed to our courtesy bus. Keef had got some Samoan money from Westpac bank at the airport and by then it was 1.30 and we were very tired. He also had to pay 12 Samoan Tala for a piece of paper to allow him to drive in Samoa as we said we wanted to hire a car.Anne was presented with a flower lei of yellow flowers. Very hot at night. was. international dateline thing again. So we seem to have had no Nov 1st on our journey but two Nov 13 days very strange!! First impressions of Samoa although late at night was of a modern airport, good roads – drive on the rhs of road, wild dogs roaming on roads, private houses looked quite well built with cars and not shanty villages like Vanua Levu. Dropped off some other person at another hotel and then us, a Dutch couple and an Australian woman from Kiribati were dropped off at the Princess Tui after a long drive from the airport. We were given a coconut to drink and then shown to our room. It was dire – dirty, small and the shared washroom facilities were awful. Very disappointed as we had booked this place over the internet. By now it was 2.30am. Keef got to sleep but Anne was awake until 5am. Decided to leave this dump ASAP even though we had booked in for 2 nights. Worst place we had ever stayed in – campsites are cleaner than that place. Will give it bad feedback on internet to warn other travelers. Hope Ian Wright from Lonely Planet did not stay here. Oh and frightened lady in Insel office when Keef wanted to get i/net connectivity via their modem, alas they said no so rather frustratingly no i/net until we get back after Savai’i. Note Nadi is pronounced Nandi.

Day 20 - Wednesday 14th November 2007,Upolu to Savai’I, Samoa

Got up early-ish (7.15am) and had the Tropical buffet b’fast at the Insel. Ace cooked full English with eggy banana bread. Anne had pancakes with maple syrup plus a banana muffin. Then checked out with some degree of hassle, machine didn’t print our visa docket so a whole rig-ma-roll about no charge vs being charged twice. No worries from our side but Steve receptionist was stressed. I am sure it will be fine. Then drove the 45 mins from Apia to Ferry side. Called in at Aggy Gray beach resort to take some piccies as early for ferry. Then had to have car washed before queuing for ferry. Good journey by ferry (1 hour 15mins) although a little disappointing that you are not allowed up on deck to take pictures. Then same time was to drive up to resort. V hot as window wouldn’t go up, but sorted when we arrived.Excellent Samoan villages on the coast road on Upolu. Lots of smaller Samoan islands passed by the Ferry. Jumping fish in our Fagamalo beach, coral lagoon and breakers on the edge plus hints of what will be excellent sunsets later in our stay. Met Lady samoa 2 (the ferry) and Ini (35 year old mother of 7, and married to mr lazy 54 years old) who is one of our host at Savai’I Lagoon. PS the kiwis who own it didn’t seem to have let the Samoans who manage it know we were coming. Notable - Ambulance with number plate of NHS, fascinating. Samoans sleeping anywhere and everywhere on ferry crossing. It was 32 degrees today, hot and humid!!! Waiter in La Legota restaurant trying to rip us off for a cocktail, Keef caught him out. Maybe we are getting paranoid about being ripped off but it is beginning to feel like more than a coincidence However that said the Fish and Chips were great. Deep fried snapper in spiced batter, quite superb but v filling. Ps believe it or not Anne & I are losing weight

Day 21 - Thursday 15th November 2007,Savai’I Lagoon Resort, Savai’I, W Samoa

Met young woman who was a uni student from Houston in internet café who was using her own laptop. Her research was about an ant and its interaction with a specific plant and its affect on biodiversity. She said she was in Samoa for 8 months – nice place to study. Went to toilet at 3.45am and cockerel from next door Samoan family started crowing!! We thought it should go on the barbecue! Rain at breakfast time but then sun came out. Breakfast was delivered to our door at 7am – papaya, coconut, 2 bananas, bread, jam and butter and cereal. There was so much food that we saved some for lunch. Drove hire car to a village further along the bay and bought some food supplies from small shop and petrol for car – half a tank cost £5.50. Also we found internet café in village called Manase run by young German woman. They only do e-mails from their own computers so we could not use laptop to update website. Met American uni student in internet café. Returned to our resort and spent rest of morning in the sea and relaxing on the beach. We saw some small fish and keef did some snorkeling. Had lunch and then it was so hot that we had a sleep from 3pm until 4.30pm. Anne had a dicky stomach, first time on travels. Read our books until sunset. Keef took some good photos and we had a stroll along the beach.

Day 22 - Friday 16th November 2007,Savaii Lagoon Resort, Fagamalo,Savaii,Samoa

Not that much happened today. Anne very ill overnight with Samoan Stomachwe have guessed at what caused it but not really sure. Could be any number of causes. Started boiling the UV water since but as Keef fine and the whole village probably not that Keef went to Raci Beach internet café, 1 of only 2 on Savaii. Caught up on mail wrote to Craig/Doug/Brian/Linda & Jacky, plus put words on website. Sati (german lady who owns it with her husband) will now allow me to put pictures on from memory stick after virus check so although very slow via dial up should be able to get the website done on Monday. Sunday is a big religious day of rest here.Re-met Dutch couple Rolf & ? whom we traveled over on plane from Fiji with and up to Princess Tui in Apia. Great to see them again. Had a very long chat – they had been in 6 weeks NZ (North Island only), Cook Isles, Samoa, and were on to LAX and driving to San Francisco before KLM flight back into Amsterdam. He is some sort of pilot and they both disliked Princess Tui as much as we did plus Sati, been here for 3 years but she goes off for 4 months a year as finds Samoan way of life somewhat restrictive, but loves having travelers to talk to.

Day 23 - Saturday 17th November 2007, Trip to the west of Savaii

As the weather was very breezy and overcast skies we decided to tour round the north of Savaii. There were lots of villages near our resort along the coast but when the road went inland the habitation was rather sparse. Each village had its main fale meeting house and pigs and chickens wandered around and across the road. Some of the houses were like lean-to shacks and others looked more substantial. Many had lovely gardens with colourful shrubs and plants. Asua was an interesting village. As we left the coast we came across a vast area of an old lava flow from a volcano which Keef had read had erupted in 1911. The volcanic soil is very good for plants but some of the black volcanic rocks were huge. Because the weather was cooler and it was a Saturday we saw villagers walking along the road with machetes collecting bananas and breadfruit, mowing the grass, sweeping up fallen leaves from the overnight winds and the teenagers played volleyball in some villages. Keef stopped by a traditional fale where the wife was selling pineapples at the side of the road. He bought a huge ripe pineapple for 5 Tale (£1). The Samoan lady did not speak much English and her daughter was with her. Also as we were about to drive off for the day we met the New Zealand lady who owns the resort. She said that her and her family come over to Samoa about 3 or 4 times a year. After returning from our drive we had a late lunch and then sat on the beach as the breeze was very warm even though it was cloudy. The NZ family were doing a barbecue on the beach and they very kindly asked us to join them As we already had food for dinner we politely refused as it was a family barbecue. She then brought over some crisps for us and we had a chat about what we had done today. She said that she had asked some Samoans for plant cuttings from their gardens. Meeting Bruce & Margaret McCullen, from NZ. She was originally from Glasgow some 35 years ago. They are the owners of Savaii Lagoon resort despite their protestations that they have leased the land off the Samoans and handed it back to them they are the ones making the money, witness the 4 holidays a year to here . Lava gardens, and phenomenally good produce / growth i.e. the pineapple which will last for at least 5 meals Pictures of a day out west, some of lagoon resort and plants, others of coastal and inner land areas especially Auala on Asua bay with communal swimming /washing pools and lava gardens, plus fishing .Samoans with major tattoos, kids trying for breadfruit and the most bizarre church made of lava stone and painted white.

Day 24 - Sunday 18th November 2007,Savaii Lagoon Resort, Samoa

We had a relaxing day on the beach although it was very breezy and overcast, although the wind was very warm. We walked along the beach to the next resort and discovered that the sea water was deeper for swimming nearer the Le Lagota resort. We went to their restaurant for dinner in the evening and had yellow fin tuna and chips which was delicious. Then watched Miss South pacific on the TV in the evening. Miss Tonga won with Miss Cook islands runner up and Miss Australia & Torres Strait Islands in 3rd place. Interesting to see the traditional costumes of each country which featured exotic headdresses and shells and feathers everywhere. We also saw a fire dance as part of the show by Samoan men which was spectacular,

Day 25 - Monday 19th November 2007, Trip south to Salelologa

After breakfast it was very overcast again so we went to the internet café but unfortunately it was shut. Decided to go along the coast to Salelologa to visit the supermarket. Road goes through an old lava field where the now black lava had flowed towards the sea and went past a place where you can swim with turtles which we will investigate another day. Torrential rainstorm just as we went into supermarket. Choice of food was very limited but managed to buy some canned food, noodles and sausages. Driving through villages we had to avoid dogs and pigs wandering across the road. Lots of houses had very nice gardens but some were just shacks. Also lots of Samoans were asleep in the fales along the beach and in one village they were building a church.Retuned to our resort for late lunch and then went swimming and read our books on the beach. Weather was still cloudy and breezy but pleasantly warm and not humid like Fiji. Had G&T and R&C as the sun set!!! Ace. Met Staff in the Hotel Safua, one of the 1000 places to see before you die and the only one on Savaii. Actually it was probably one of the 1000 places to help you die, Annes words,excruciatingly aweful

Day 26 - Tuesday 20th November 2007, Savaii Lagoon Resort, Samoa

Nothing to report

Day 27 - Wednesday 21st November 2007,Savaii Lagoon Resort, Samoa

Beach day, as heading towards a full moon very low tide first thing and very high tide last thing. Spent the whole day, 8-7 on the beach topping up the tan and reading. Probably the best day weather wise since we have been in Samoa. Saw some tiny electric blue fish in some coral a few yards odd our beach plus a black and white striped fish. Keef saw an eel poking his head out of some coral – moray eel.Met an Indonesian girl who is studying in NZ who showed me the coral reef with the eel and brightly coloured fish. Took pictures of them but none really came out, Now discovered the UNDERWATER setting on the camera so gonna have another go on Friday.

Day 28 - Thursday 22nd November 2007, Car trip all the way round Savaii, Clockwise

Gorgeous blue Pacific which looked turquoise in the lagoons. Drove along the coastal road all round the island. On the south and western sides of Savaii there were breakers coming ashore in the sea and there were cliffs, lava flows and coconut plantations. Met Lonnie, his wife and baby both at the Alofaaga blowholes and at the beach BBQ fale. They had (coincidence) lived in London in Wimbledon in 2001 working initially for a Kiwi in a pub on the common. Its in their DNA. He works for Bruce and Margaret McCullum (owners?) as well as the Maori guy whom they call their adopted son. Had a good chat with them all things UK & NZ. Looking forward to arriving now, They live 1 hour north of Auckland and said don’t be put off by the airport and lack of public transport. For them to get to Samoa it is only a 3hr flight from Auckland.When we were chatting to the NZ people at Savaii Lagoon they told us that they had seen dolphins in the bay this morning but as we were driving round the island we missed them. Hope to see them tomorrow. Coastal road in south and west of island was very interesting and weather was hot and sunny in the morning when we set off at 09.15. The blowholes through holes in the lava were spectacular as the plume of spray went up 30ft in the air.. Drove down a long track to get there and paid 10 tala fee (£2 ) but the scenery was worth it. Took lots of photos and video of blowhole and waves breaking against lava rocks. Skies suddenly filled with storm clouds so walked quickly back to car. Had snack lunch in car whilst downpour took place. Got back to our resort at 3.15pm. Keef went swimming and Anne had a siesta then we had a cup of tea on the beach and chatted to the NZ crowd.58 pictures taken on our trip round, Savaii. The south side of the island has a spectacular coast line and the blowholes especially

Day 29 - Friday 23rd November 2007,Savaii Lagoon Resort, Samoa

Spent the day chillin on the beach, well at least in the morning. Had a rather broken nights sleep with torrential rain at about 3am which continued through until about 10am. Took A & I ages to return to sleep after closing (slightly) shutters to prevent rain coming in All Pacific windowry (if that’s what you call it) is fitted fly screen on the outside and louvred glass slats (in 2 shutter sections) on the inside, idea with fans is to keep you cool whilst keeping the pesky insects out.Went out at low tide to take pictures of coral and the bright blue fish, alas the eel wasn’t to be seen again. Met again Bruce/ Margaret/ Lonnie, wife & baby and Suvisuvi (Part Maori guy Margaret likes to call her son) All Kiwis , nice folk. Gave us their food leftovers Cheddar cheese/ chutney and pineapple, v kind. Bruce has good sense of humour a good sign for our Kiwi visit Plus he suggested I could go up the water tower to get better pictures, now that is a good sense of humour from a nation who are into their extreme sports. I.e NZ weather said a ‘great weekend for taking your granny skydiving’.Lots of rain plus we checkout (alas) of Savaii 2moro. We have both found it most relaxing.

Day 30 - Saturday 24th November 2007,Ferry trip back from Savaii to Upolu, Salelologa Wharf to Mulifanua Wharf

Waited in terminal building (if you can call it that) and got a passenger ticket for Annie. Lady on desk at outriggers who was v friendly. Ini gave Annie and I a frangipani etc garland as a leaving present (ah bless) car fine this time, no problems with windows not shutting. V hot on ferry. Took some video off the back of the boat. Nice to be back on main island, smooth run into Apia (about 45 mins) 3 cars overtook when they shouldn’t near the wharf. As Annie said they mooch around all day but once behind the wheel they drive amazing aggressively (Note Updated later; the Tongans don’t maybe that’s a difference between races)

Day 31 - Sunday 25th November 2007, Outriggers Hotel, Apia, Upolu – Trip around Upolu

Saw everything drove all the way round the island in about 7 hours See the photos There are lots, albatross island, the leper colony, beach fales you name it, delicious day.Briefly met a Samoan band at the Coconut Beach Resort (by 2013 now called Coconut Beach Club) at the south end of the island. Hot and sultry day. Ate (expensive) in the restaurant on the beach front. Classy Burger and then Anne had a chocolate truffle desert, yummy. At the end of today we have been away a whole month. The big thing for us was the way the Samoans treat Sundays. It may be a day of rest Mon-Sat but Sunday is for Church and Sunday best. Mostly full white clothing,shirts for the men, white lava-lave/sarong, full dresses for the ladies

Day 32 - Monday 26th November 2007,Outriggers Hotel, Apia, Upolu

Got up early and went to the Robert Louis Stevenson house in Apia. Excellent in every way. Guide good, info good well worth the visit .Visited soap factory(?), this samoan guys house. He was married to swiss lady and showed us around his garage and the process of making his handmade soaps from coconut oil, caustic soda (help!!! But OK) and a myriad of scents. Frangipani etc etc Lovely, Anne bought one of each and v cheap they were to $WST8 each about 80p.Kiwi backpackers who had been to Manolo and stayed with a samoan family in the village. No roads on that island. The guy reckoned he messed up big time on most of the village customs (seated when elders present, point toes away etc etc). Swims in the Outriggers pool to cool off and finally finishing Uncle Toms cabin, gr8 book used Wifi at CSL and had a shake and meal at MCD (bad eh) but we are on so much fruit at the mo we are definitely both losing weight

Day 33 - Tuesday 27th November 2007,Outriggers Hotel, Apia, Upolu

Last day in Outriggers Bit of a cockup on no of days stay (my fault) so had to pay and extra day so we used the room to store baggage and have some cold showers. Doesn’t really work in that humidity cos you are dripping again the moment you have finished drying yourself. Security guard helped us load bags in car (but only when it looked like Anne might collapse).Returned car at 3.30 full tank and joked with the lady (who I’d teased when we got the car) that it had seen more of Samoa than she had. She told me that she had never been to Savaii in her life. Caught taxi to airport arrived about 4.30 (in for the long haul16.5 hrs wait, 1.5 hrs flight to Tonga) Bizarre. Made sure this time I told taxi driver what the price was i.e $WST55 (about £11). Excerpt from letter to Brian & Gina that Anne put together and sent from our Lavaspot Wifi session in CSL (Computer Services Ltd) shop (air con) opposite McDonalds (also air con) .guess how we kept cool.96 deg .” Greetings from Samoa. Temperature here is a very hot 90F plus at night time and even hotter during the day. Craig e-mailed us to say there was snow in Nott’ham! We found the Samoans very friendly and when we tell them we’re from Nott’m they all mention Robin Hood! We have seen the contestants for the Miss South Pacific and now the Commonwealth & Oceana Games – Weightlifting is being held at the moment in Apia. We are looking forward to moving on to Tonga as hopefully it will be cooler there. Considering we are in the wet and cyclone season we are glad that the weather is not too bad.It seems strange to hear Xmas music & see decorations in the shops. Trust you are all well as we are (albeit very sweaty!)

Day 34 - Wednesday 28th November 2007,Faleolo Airport

Plus the day that didn’t exist (again) except up until 6.45 am (another International Dateline oddity). Spent waiting for our flight in the Samoan airport. No air con, no open shops, no water, no nuthin except parties , immense humidity (was over 95 degrees at night) and 2 flights to Auckland (one Air NZ, one Polynesian Blue) And heard.all night long the sound of cellotape being twined and ripped plus black bin liners being taped up round boxes of produce.coconuts, bananas, papaya, breadfruit, flowerswho knows what else.and you may ask why didn’t they prepare these in advanceand probably more importantly with NZs hot customs rules and foodstuffs and wood are not allowed, so dumb question how does that work, surely it will all be dumped on arrival in Aucklandoh and they have to pay excess baggage for it. Met 3 Tongan US marines, who had flown in from Pago Pago (US Samoa) who had to wait longer than us. Spoke to a few of them especially the big guy (linebacker with US passportwhose parents and child lived on Tonga) so they were getting a break from duty for home visit. Mark my words you wouldn’t cross him (although he was most pleasant with US accent) he was the size of the proverbial ‘brick s..house door and then some’.Went into main store (CHOWs) in Apia. I got flipflops and water, Anne some very nice material . The blue bit which is 3 yds long was only about £1.50 English Free almost.Various Uk & Kiwi med students doing ‘time’ in local Samoan hospitals and staying in Outriggers fales around the pool.

Excerpt from standard letter sent to Friends and rellies on arrival in Tonga (29/11 due to IDL).We had the most amazing 16.5 hour wait in the Samoan airport last night before our short flight to Tonga, no open shops in airport i.e no water, so I had to get a taxi to take me to a village 'shop' where they had no water and didn’t understand me but i was able to buy 4 bottles of coke and sprite (with no top opener) to at least stop us expiring in the immense humidity that was Samoa....about 95 at night...met a load of Samoan US Marines from Pago Pago (US Samoa) who had been waiting longer than us...still each plane that arrives in Samoa is a huge 'event' wow at 3am truck loads of large families would arrive, to greet one of their extended family returning from NZ, party time, so no sleep all night. We both loved Samoa, very different from anything we have ever experienced before....whilst being almost 3rd world, they are great people and 'village' life will stay with us forever....pigs, cockerels, amazing gardens, getting up at 5am, church frying pan gong, mooching - a national pastime, and boy what views....still we are now in Tonga and have 24*7 i/net so intend catching up with a few folk. Alas Fiji & Samoa i/net is sparse and costly...so please write, we would love to hear from you. We are in our 'exec' fale (trad cottage) listening to Black Rose (our fave Fijian band at the mo) and thinking of family and friends....but not too hard.We have noticed throughout the South Pacific islands they are all extremely religious and very very family (extended and we mean extended) orientated. They all have loads of little kids and seem gobsmacked that we only have 2 children and this is the norm in Europe. 7-10 is not unusual here and village chief mentality rules. So as a big fella I’m applying for a ‘leadership’ roleAnne now calls me King (or elseshe has just told me to remove this bit) In most cases feudal rights rule and as education has to be paid for if you are poor you remain so and learning which we all know changes life and cultures /opportunities are just not available, many kids don’t go to school. Robina the Kiwi (Tongan/Japanese dad....Tongan/German mum) who owns this place is most friendly and interested in tourism (as such it is) in Samoa so she can implement stuff here in Tonga. Its early days but they seem to be a much more reserved race than the Fijians & Samoans and the climate is 10 degs less that those 2 and although this is unfair Anne & i remarked on arrival England with Coconut palms....there is a lot of green grass (cultivated) still more when we have to report....proud to say i now have a photo of the Rose Cottage Tshirt in all the places we have been....watch out for further additions to the website

Day 35 - Thursday 29th November 2007,Arrival in Tonga, Nukuma’anu Cottages, Nukualofa, Tongatapu

Flight over quick and easy. Good NZ plane. Odd to see some 150+ people have to deplane in Samoa even though they were going on to Auckland, plus they would have to do the same in Tonga.Very little sleep. We had to have a 3 hour kip when we arrived to recover. Fale here at Nukama’anu is ace, Air con Inet 24/7, Sat TV etc.Met Silva, Margaret (PA) , Robina (owner) and handy man , who I had a chat to about Rugby and Hard Rock Cafes plus v friendly taxi driver who took us to 2 supermarkets and a stall for provisions and bananas.I drive a hard bargain and got a whole tree for $TOP4 (£1p) The currency is Pan’anga although for our benefit (I wish they wouldn’t) they call it a dollar.Plus lady in shop around the corner where we got bread, water and cheese (fondue style) who was having her kids talk to her ex in Stockton in California on a mobile, hoot or what! Most memorable: Christmas decs outside our cottage

Day 36 - Friday 30th November 2007,Nukuma’anu Cottages, Nukualofa, Tongatapu

Morning spent on laptop catching up, bank stuff with Craig (our hero) and sally jacks (Barclays), website redo, audible book download (savage garden) research on Tonga and associated islands. Both feeling a little jaded and oh I hope not but experiencing Tongan Tummy.Anne ankles bad and she is resting whilst I catch the daily diary up as haven’t done it since we returned from Savaii to Upolu.Just chillin will get a car for 3 days. Researched beaches and roads / places of interest. Very laid back here. Most ladies (married?) wear black and a mat skirt over their skirts. It is warm but not humid here and sea breeze and air con a big plus Lovely cottage Sat TV which we haven’t tried yet but will .Silva gave us 4 bananas (with mine we could overdose on them if we are not careful) plus returned our washing (along with her underwear) Very cheap $TOP10 (about £2.50) - the bananas not her underwear! Walk along beach to shop to get more water and bread. Coast is v interesting as inner coral reef but not advised to swim in. Taxi driver and Robina said they collect fish/ crabs/ all manner of marine life to eat from there. It was covered in folk at low tide doing exactly this. Plus kids all playing rugby by the side of the road. No posts , in Samoa each village at least had wooden tree stuff for posts

Day 37 - Saturday 1st December 2007, Nukuma’anu Cottages, Nukualofa, Tongatapu

Went by taxi into town and walked around. Saw market and bought tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, peppers and a small pineapple. Keith looked at cotton shirts but none his size. We saw taro, yams, kava root, ginger, garlic and other vegetables which we did not know the names. Very interesting. Internet café had a lot of NZ backpackers and Europeans. People were friendly and helpful in the shops. Bought a map & postcards. Some Tongans were in western clothing and others in sarongs with pandanus mats wrapped round their hips, both men & women. Saw local youth band singing & playing music in car park.Saw King of Tonga’s official residence (one of six) which was a colonial white clapboard building along the seafront. Town had a huge tree near the Westpac bank called a rain tree. Had lunch in restaurant, by then market was closing and traders were going home in pick-up trucks with unsold fruit & veg. Saw a pig in a wooden cage in back of truck being driven down main street. Weather was warm, sunny & cloudy & temp was 79F. Town looked very small considering it is the capital of Tonga – unremarkable buildings with colonial flavour – wooden with tin roofs but a small arcade with some modern shops and café. Got taxi back to our fale and then wrote postcards which we will send on Monday as the PO was shut. Watched ‘Around the bend’ on Sat Tv quirky family/road movie with Christopher Walken and Michael Caine (briefly before the cheque ran out!) – good (plus best quality picture since we started traveling) Tonga contribution to Broadcasting is a few local (hammy) adverts for beach resorts! Had interesting walk around market and town. Had lovely lunch in 2 sisters restaurant – chicken escalope in lime sauce with fried potatoes, garlic bread and side salad. For desert we had strawberry and chocolate gateau slices and nice coffee.

Day 38 - Sunday 2nd December 2007,Nukuma’anu Cottages, Nukualofa, Tongatapu

Chillin.alas Keef has Tongan Tummy so he is on water only all day, which should sort it. Reading, listening to music, researching facebook, laptop not much really. Waiting to get the hire car 2moro for 3 days so we can travel. Researched map also for islands worth visiting (Atata & Fala).Nuku is the uninhabited one where shipwrecked was filmed (teen reality show) Gentle walk left out of cottage along Hake Vunu (hake is road), our road.Robina and her 2 children dressed smart presumably for church. Note all ‘married’ Tongan women seem to be dressed from head to toe in black. She paid tribute to the Tongan customs of mat or belt mat with long ‘dangly’ bits by wearing an equivalent in silver. Met no one – Sunday is a very family/quiet day here in Tonga, Margaret and lady in 2 sisters said they slept as tired. Have to say as temperature is about 80, i.e 15degs less that Samoa folk here are far less ‘moochy’.Whilst writing our postcards we had a long chat with the Tongan gardener who was sweeping up leaves outside our fale. His name was Alex and he said he had been to France by cargo ship in 2000 and went via New Caledonia & Suez Canal which took over 2 months. Said he is going to visit his brother & family in NZ before Xmas for 3 months.

Day 39 - Monday 3rd December 2007,Nukuma’anu Cottages, Nukualofa, Tongatapu

Sent email to D&P-here is the extract which tells something of our day ,interesting one as first day of 3 with hire car***Hi Doug & Phoenix,Alas we didn’t get your text msg, both our phones don’t work here in Tonga and the only texts I have got are when i email phones and they respond...I’ll try l8r. Good stuff here in Tonga although i've got a rather bad dose of 'tongan tummy' at the mo, probably via water on salad but who knows, mum is ok. Got hire car 2day and saw LHS (left hand side) of the island, blowholes at Houma ace, plus saw surfing beach at Ha'atafu beach where we were talking to 4 ozzie surfers when a coconut that dropped narrowly missed all of us and the car (luckily). Gonna do the RHS 2moro. King died recently 84 and 33stone, fattest monarch in history, so being large (although we are both loosing weight a bit) is seen as good in Tonga. His main palace is just down the road from us, we saw his son (ex PM, King elect....its a bit / lot corrupt here I would suggest) drive past this a.m with police escort and blacked out bullet proof windows, public hols 2moro for his birthday and plaques everywhere celebrating what seems to be each of the previous kings 84 b'days (bizarre!) have to say not really enough to do here for 10 days, its very small We both preferred Samoa, still not complaining We will (if we can work out how) get to 1 or 2 of the surrounding Islands....Nuku is apparently where they shot the TV reality show Shipwrecked (never heard of it!) Still in answer to your quessies, bag 59 has dougs rucsac in it, i guess your tent is probably in that (unless we bought it over to you) ...no probs mum & i will get you a mattress and 2man tent when we get to NZ...not long now. Saw England result (did Beckham play?) , blimey that’s a heavy group, no I am not interested either....bet Craig’s mates who pre-booked tickets are pig sick bye love M&D/K&A.***saw 3 beach resorts(?) that you would really question, 2 ripoff taxi merchants and 1 resort ripoff, but apart from that a fairly good day!!! Houma Blowholes (ace), King elect Tupou V.Alex bought us 5 more bananas, we could open a shop, pity no blender cos banana milkshake is gr8. we did find out that 2moros public holiday is to celebrate King Tupou ,we more or less followed a route in our hire car over 3 days which went around the outside of Tongatapu. Latest info on Tonga can be found on their most secure website, click HERE, most are insecure and therefore removed from our website. Tonga's wiki write up is HERE

Day 40 - Tuesday 4th December 2007,Nukuma’anu Cottages, Nukualofa, Tongatapu

National Holiday in Tonga to celebrate birthday of King George Tupou 1st – he died in 1893 having reigned for some 48 years and was single handed credited with reforming Tonga,needs an update now from new King George Tupou 5th. Went round the right hand side of the island in the hire car (see pictures for details) Reasonably overcast day and about 79degs. The island isn’t that large , guess about 20*10 miles. After a few false starts getting out of Nuku’alofa down backstreets to avoid the town procession (after we had seen it) all roads from which seemed to lead to Queen Charlotte’s wharf we finally got out on our way, spend about 4 hours slowly traveling around. Memorable was Village dancing, protest banners against corruption, strip light (in our fale which was on the blink). Loved float procession thru Nuku’alofa , Captain Cooks monument, Paepe ‘o Tele’a (300 year old burial mound, started like pyramid (well 2 layers) – most UNIMPRESSIVE, Tonga’s Stonehenge (Ha’amonga’a Maui) , Lots of coconut/banana plantations, appalling roads, airport , Tongan boys college (red including mat uniform), dancing in village in SW Tongatapu,amused by Robina who said that the Princess regent came to her restaurant for a worship breakfast at 5.30 am (and she had to be up at 3.30 to prep for it) plus the father of her youngest child (boy) who has been visiting is returning to Oz 2moro.

Day 41 - Wednesday 5th December 2007, Nukuma’anu Cottages, Nukualofa, Tongatapu

Last day of the hire car so went to the Cultural Centre ($TOP3 each) which was very interesting, lunch @ café express then market to buy Rosilea by Black Rose and then chilled (reading / laptop/ music) whilst the builders removed the stones outside our door and put up ‘police tape’.talk about holidaying by a building site, I will ask for a rebate, and Keef did some DIY to try and fix the light tube/ starter motor.Visited cultural centre, had tapa, saw outrigger boat, andsome great old tongan photos, especially those of the royal family. Called into International dateline hotel on vunu rd opposite wharf (empty) to see about the cultural show, it is tonight so we are gonna go. 9 pm UPDATE it was ace and cost us zip, mixture of tongan, hawaian and moari dances and a great band. See videos and pictures. The Tongans seem better at this than the Samoans (or maybe we just happened to be in the right place at the right time here). Met Ozzies on Queen Charlotte wharf who were waiting for their ferry to Fafa. They had just flown in to Tonga and were in transfer. We asked about ferries as it is so unclear and we want to go to Pangaimotu 2moro 10/11 trips out and 4/5 return, Robina reckons $TOP15 that you pay on arrival at island but as always its not clear. Will consider! Had to move the car parked in the shade outside the cultural center when some tongan guys shinned up the coconut tree and started machetteing off the fronds and nuts One almost landed on the roof (and that would have cost us) Went to Café Express (Robina’s) in Western Union Funds Mgt building for lunch. Chicken and pineapple toasty for me (my first food for 2 days and touch wood I seem to be over Tongan Tummy), Chicken and lots of things panini for Anne, plus 2 chocolate milkshakes (best so far on trip) and banana cake/ coffee cheesecake.

Day 42 - Thursday 6th December 2007,Trip to Atata Island

Took our hire car back this morning. Took boat to Atata, a small island north of Tongatapu at 10 am where there was a resort called Royal Sunset. Boat was very small with 7 tourist day trippers and open sea was very choppy due to wind. On arrival at 10.25 we were greeted by a Tongan lady on the jetty who gave us all an orange juice. Our day boat trip included lunch. We walked through some paths past some of the tourist fales and came upon a small village, then walked back to the resort along the lovely sandy beach. Some village children were sitting on the beach & greeted us and there were quite a few fishing boats and nets along the beach. Was very hot. Sat down for a rest on the decking in the resort and then got changed to go for a cool off in the water. Sea was only knee deep in the sandy bit but stiff offshore breeze. Keef still had Tongan tummy.One of the American ladies told us that she had seen a sea snake which put us off going swimming. There was an option to go out in a boat snorkeling but Keef did not go. Had lunch (Keef had mahi-mahi fish with sweet potato chips and salad and Anne had a burger). Relaxed and read our books and sunbathed. By now there was a pleasant sea breeze. Noted that the resort swim pool was very dirty and had never been cleaned so we did not risk going in. Also more dogs and puppies wandering around as well as hens, even in the restaurant bit. We were the only tourists on the island as even though there were 26 fales, they were empty. Lady who had greeted us asked us if we wanted to stay on the island in a fale but we said no. Would not like to spend more than a day on the island. Had a brief dip in the sea again and then walked a bit further along the other side of the island but saw a dead sea snake on the beach .aargh! Did not get too close to investigate but it was as thick as Anne’s arm and black and green.. Anne ran away. Tongan lady confirmed that it was a sea snake. Got boat back at 4pm and trip back was just as choppy – small boat was like a roller coaster at times and lots of sea spray over us. When we arrived back at the pier we got a taxi back to our fale.Boat trip to small island Atata. Saw dead sea snake. Saw unusual coloured circle round sun and took photo.

Day 43 - Friday 7th December 2007, Nukuma’anu Cottages, Nukualofa, Tongatapu

Chillin..got up about 8 had breakfast (slowly) Peanut butter on toast, fruit juice and T Did stuff on laptop whilst listening to music Avoided taking ITunes and Ipod software updates. Will wait until NZ and faster line. Just too slow here and would maybe based on fragility of s/ware mean we ended up with no music. Did DVD for Mum of Samoa/Tonga. Sent lots of e-xmas cards and e-birthday cards to Doug & Nikki. Not much, some sun whilst we sunbathed. 84 degs.Met Margaret to pay the bill. $TOP1200 for remaining 8 days.Chatted to a young couple from the UK who were waiting for a boat to another island where they were staying. They were traveling round the Pacific, NZ, Vietnam, Thailand and India. On our boat trip to Atata island we met 5 sisters who were all born in Tonga but now live in Alaska, Sydney & NZ & all sounded very American. One even gave me her business card. 2 bits of lovely chocolate birthday cake courtesy of Suki, Robina’s 8 year old daughter. Sent lots of Xmas Greets email card from Tonga

Day 44 - Saturday 8th December 2007,Nukuma’anu Cottages, Nukualofa, Tongatapu

Caught taxi into town. Went to Friendly Islands bookshop to get envelope for DVD for Mum. Alas post office closed (or never open) before 11 so will have to take with and post in NZ. Hope it gets there for Xmas. Had coffee in Friends café, walked around looking for tropical shirt for K, none his size however. Lunch at 2 sisters (we seem to be their only customers) They even send the chef out to say thanks for eating there. Then argument with taxi driver who tried to charge us $TOP7 (its only 4) we let him know in no uncertain terms he was trying to rip us off!!! Then back to sunbathe and do I/net research for NZ. Overnight real storm, maybe something to do with cat3 currently hitting Fiji.Bit of sun during sun bathing. Lady in trad costume in town. 102 Dalmatians (film with Glenn Close on kids TV channel) FOX News TV (crap-US).Tongan married to US guy (Stockton,CA) in shop where I went to get water and bread. Plus Corinne (previous Ms Tonga) in 2 sisters restaurant and her sister Andrea who chatted to us for a while as she was keen to try out her English and told us she had never been outside Tonga. Chicken escalope in lime sauce , herb pots and salad (again). Our fave Tongan food at 2 sisters restaurant followed by spaghetti ice-cream (Anne) and strawberry cake (kef) yummy. Alas Keef still had Tongan tummy, which is tricky to shift

Day 45 - Sunday 9th December 2007,Nukuma’anu Cottages, Nukualofa, Tongatapu

Last day on Tonga before traveling to NZ. Not much really. I/net catch up, backups, reading, scrabble, listening to music. Pack. Thought not much happening and then bang, Cyclone Daman and a quake. The quake off Raoul island some 355miles SSW of Tonga was 7.8 on the Richter scale (8.40pm) but luckily some 93 miles below ground under the sea so no real risk of a Tsunami. Tonga is so flat if it got hit you would definitely be a ‘gonna’. Cyclone had narrowly missed Vanua Levu (Fiji) but was arriving at pace on Tonga. Big winds/storms. Filled in visitors book for Robina.Felt Cyclone Daman.Alex and Robina called to mention the Sunday eve bread run to get fresh hot bread and cakes. A little too stormy for us outside so gave it a miss and watched Lethal Weapon 1 with Mel Gibson instead. Then they kindly bought us back a loaf, 2 cream buns and 3 choc donuts Had a real feast that eve as had pasta and fresh pineapple planned anyhow. Left a bit of food for them as you cannot take it out of the country.Pack, pleased to leave Tonga now. 10 days on reflection was probably too long. It is not big enough. Main town only really has as many shops as Sandiacre PLUS quake Was sitting on sofa which started to move. Bizarre, didn’t last long but it was big. I thought the walls of the fale had moved and jumped up to grab hold of them. To glasses on table at 45degs and liquids came out. Anne thought she was ‘having a turn’ in kitchen but then realized the clothes cabinet in bedroom was swaying. Amazed that the tiles on the floor didn’t split. Bit panicky after that especially with the howling gales outside so packed immediately and placed stuff reasonably high up. This happened at 8.45 pm. By midnight although it was still stormy it was a little calmer. Checked on Inet for quakes (recorded) and Daman, which it said had dropped to Cat2 tropical storm and cyclone warning for Tonga removed as it had veered off to the south west (thank god) After Jamaica and Ivan we vowed we wouldn’t get involved again .

Day 46 - Monday 10th December 2007,Travel from Tonga to Auckland, NZ and onto Greenlane Motor Inn, Remuera

Storms mostly subsided (Hooray) Sunshine again and whilst windy nothing like Sunday. We knew we could fly off the island. Got up about 7 washed, showered and breakfasted. Did final packing. Ordered taxi ($TOP30 to airport) Said goodbye to Silva who said Robina was in the bath so we passed on our regards Left caught flight to NZ . Arrived 2.15 15 mins early and somewhat bumpy in places, mostly due to tail end effects of Daman Booked into Greenlane Motor Inn after taking shared shuttle bus with Brazilians and a Scottish lady whose husband worked as a miner in New Caledonia (Noumea). Amazed at Tonga International airport with its usual Tongan organization. Check in (for us luckily only 2 hrs early) had to pay $TOP25 each departure tax then made to wait standing up for at least 30 mins as scanner staff hadn’t arrived for work yet. Still our Air NZ flight did depart on time, unlike the Sydney Pacific Blue flight which hadn’t even arrived in Tonga until 30 mins after it was due to leave. We left at 11.30 am half full. It was a return flight from Auckland so understand most of the Tongans would never afford such. Had warm cheese and ham sandwich with salad and strange coconut thing but A&I had the wine, First we have done really apart from the Air Pacific flight from Fiji to Samoa. Met Vaughan and Greg Proprieters (guess they are a gay couple, but we don’t mind) Indeed they were very good friends by end of hols and took us and Phoenix out on their boat. Excellent room $85NZ (approx £34 a night) so good we have extended now until 20/12 so the boys can get a bed when they arrive.Shops: went to Foodtown, Fruit world, Chinese bread shop, Hot Roast shop etc Were gobsmacked at number of things we have never seen in our lives before, especially fruits. Will ask Phoenix what some of them are. Got hot Hoysin chicken, fresh bread and fruit for our T as well as some staples. Had great feast. Tummies a bit rumbly after that but Keef seems to be finally working thru his aversion to Tonga stomach wise. Its not been a gr8 time but things can only get better .

Day 47 - Tuesday 11th December 2007,Greenlane Motor Inn, Remuera, Auckland, NZ

Got up about 8, had a great breakfast Cereal, brown bread with Craig’s Boysenberry jam and marmite, apricots and teaafter the pacific islands this was bliss.Anne was overjoyed to see the shops of Remuera.Walked round to Remuera shops. Westpac ATM worked, posted DVD to Mum Bought map book and Auckland map Asked guy (v friendly) in coffee shop (ace café culture here) about wifi, free sometimes in Auckland so will try out Then caught bus with mad driver into DOWNTOWN went thru Newmarket, Parnell saw sky tower Hired a car from Juicy cars and drove back to motel for lunch Then headed out to Kea at Glenfield, up Highway 1 and over the harbour bridge. 20 mins max, not great weather Mostly rain.No camper vans nor big people movers anywhere on either island. All booked out for Xmas, so probably gonna get 2 cars and camping gear and stay in Motels/ campsites Steve and the Lady at Kea did offer us a 2 person camper with 20% buyback i.e we would loose £6k over 4 months. Too expensive, decided against A&I will reconsider when it is just us in mid Jan.Spent most of the afternoon on the phone trying to get a 8,9,10 person minibus all to no avail. We will take some other decisions i.e 2 cars.No photos taken, too busy sorting out arrangements for when the boys and phoenix come

Day 48 - Wednesday 12th December 2007,Greenlane Motor Inn, Remuera, Auckland, NZ

Keef spent a lot of time on the phone trying to contact a few more car rental people but without success. He did arrange to visit NZ Car Rentals later in the day to look at cars.We went shopping to Sylvia Park mall to buy all our camping gear from The Warehouse and got everything. Mall was easy to find – off Highway 1. It was a large mall and Keef also got a sim card for our mobile plus a Vodem which would enable us to use 3G Broadband with the laptop. When we got back to our motel in the evening, Keef tried it and it worked fine. Apparently we can also use it in Oz. Had lunch in motel then set off to see NZ Rentals people across the city. Kieran showed us a Bluebird car which had a very large boot with 4 doors. He had 2 available for the dates we wanted so we paid a $100 deposit and he said he would collect us from Juicy when we dropped off our current car on Sunday. Then the boys can pick up the other car with us after they arrive. The car hire worked out at £13.50 per day which is excellent value. Then we returned to our motel to sort out mobile phone and lap top. Went to Remuera shops and got a Chinese takeaway. Very tired and busy day but we were relieved that we had sorted out the mobile phone, internet access for laptop and car rentals. Kieran in NZ Car rentals – very helpful.

Day 49 - Thursday 13th December 2007,Orewa, Warksworth, St Martins Bay to Sandspit

Decided that we needed to find somewhere to stay with the boys for Xmas Eve & Day as well as when Phoenix arrives on Boxing Day. Set off past rush hour at 1135 am over the Harbour Bridge and headed north along Highway 1. Thought we would look at Orewa as it had a beach and was a tourist area and had a Top 10 holiday park. Orewa was a lovely coastal town with a long beach, grassy area between the road and beach with benches and huge pine trees and the red flowered NZ trees. Stopped to have a look at the beach then drove along to see the campsite – no good – mainly for RVs. Drove back along seafront and saw lots of motels before deciding on a modern motel called Waves. They had vacancies, were almost on the beach and the rooms were lovely so booked up right away. Set off up the highway and saw lovely coastal bays and beaches including a thermal springs resort, a pioneer village called Puhoi where there were some weatherboard houses and a church and Warksworth which was a small town on Highway 1 with small shops. Had fish & chips (snapper which was delicious) by the sandy bay at Snell Beach – quite a rich area with posh coastal homes with verandahs overlooking the bay and islands. Toured round the area a bit more after lunch and Sandspit was where you could take a ferry to an island but the ferry was not operating. Lots of rolling hills with sheep & cows and views of coast and sailing boats. Very warm but breezy with fresh sea air. Nice area.Returned to Auckland once rush hour was over. Good view of city and Skytower when approaching harbour bridge from the north.

Unpacked camping goods to get rid of packaging and when we tried out the camping table found that it had some parts missing so would have to return to the mall tomorrow to replace it.Motel owners at waves were English from Derbyshire and knew Nottingham. Loved Orewa beach and drive north along coast.

Day 50 - Friday 14th December 2007,Sylvia Park, Airport & Auckland Botanic Gardens

Went back to shopping mall to exchange picnic table that had parts missing. Also bought some more camping stuff. Then set off to see how far it was to drive to the airport when we would pick up boys next week. Only took about 25 mins from the mall, plus extra 10 mins from motel. Had Subway sandwich at the airport precinct. Spent rest of afternoon at Auckland Botanical Gardens which was free entry. Very warm today – about 76 F. Gardens were nicely landscaped but mainly park with few flowers and a rose garden which was just coming into bloom but not perfumed enough. Jasmine flowers were very fragrant though. Saw native NZ trees and lots of palm trees and exotic plants. Not as good as Butchart Gardens or Wisley. Also gardens were situated next to motorway and under power lines.Saw a quaint homemade wooden campervan which Keef took a photo of. Motorway was very busy on the way back towards Auckland at 4.30. Stopped at supermarket and fresh fruit shop. At 5pm had lovely roast lamb dinner at Hot Roast Hut for $28 – meat was excellent.Weather was very warm today – is getting hotter every day.

Day 51 - Saturday 15th December 2007,Auckland Harbour Cruise

Vaughan & Greg suggested we go into town via Ascot Drive along the coastal wall . Excellent advice, superb route that we now use all the time. The Southern beaches are excellent and maybe better than what Sydneysiders get to see(?) Then turned around and headed back into downtown along Quay St up to Queens St (main posh shops) tried parking on Quay by Hilton Hotel and misread costs as it was Sat, parked uphill in a Wilsons car park. Fullers harbour cruise was great. 1 ½ hours and great commentary Really enjoyed it plus unlimited free return ferry ticket to Devonport thrown in. We may well use sometime. Then drove off in search of North shore beaches we had seen from cruise, especially Cheltenham (deeply disappointed) Herne bay on south side just over bridge is very up market, took picture of Masonic lodge for Brian. Harbour, Downtown, Various Islands, Southern & Northern beaches, Marina, Harbour bridge, horse and cart (v old) with 3 drays pulling in Devonport, which has lots of old ‘mining town’ type buildings (weatherboard and metal porches/verandas), met various folk on the cruise, lots of ozzies off the Sun Princess cruiser,Free cakes & coffee on the Fullers Ferry. Bizarre ship shaped Hilton hotel on quayside ferry Capt. said it was over budget, over time and not fit for purpose hence many men and companies went to the wall. It is a blot on the landscape, took pix of Harbour Cruise, Herne Bay, South coast beaches (i.e Hobson, Kohimara, Mission & St Helier) and North coast beaches (i.e Devonport & Cheltenham ($NZD15m houses, although we are not sure why?), Achilles point at St Heliers.

Day 52 - Sunday 16th December 2007,Greenlane Motor Inn, Remuera, Auckland, NZ

Returned Corolla hire car to Juicy motors in the Strand , downtown then Kieran came out from New Lynn to pick us up and go back to sign up for the 2 sedans, white auto Nissan Bluebirds. OK cars, big boot space, air con, twin air bags and bags of room. Happy. We have also asked him to get us a Station wagon for our last 3 months that we can dump in Christchurch. He is happy same price as bluebirds (approx £14/day with extra insurance) and so are we as he has dropped the $250NZD one-way excess. MEGA embarrassment when VISA card rejected for 2nd car then MasterCard rejected as well, don’t understand, bloody Barclays (maybe) Tried it out back ‘home’ online and ok so not sure, will try again 2moro and if blocked will phone and give B’card a bollocking Then had quick lunch back in Motor inn and went out to St Heliers beach for the afternoon Took our chairs and watched kite surfers for hours. Chinese girl posed in wedding dress. Weather overcast but HOT Keef got a little red, which shows how strong the sun is in NZ. Love south coast beaches. Went to Foodtown on way back to get some stuff for T Really good olives and bottle of Queen Adelaide Cab-Sav, xclent value.Kite surfers. Mt Eden although couldn’t get in, will try again sometime.Vaughan & Greg (again) clearing out 2 rooms for painting. As Anne said when we come back mid Jan we will have those ones.Kieran (nice guy) whose mum had come from Ipswich, told us houses about 4 times salary. His respectable middle class income is equivalent of £16k, not much in our books. Loved the Kite surfers jumping & St helier beach

Day 53 - Monday 17th December 2007,West Coast via scenic drive, Piha & Karekare beaches

Took trip out to west coast from Auckland via Highway 16 to Kumeu. Farming area with lots of stalls selling strawberries. Drove along scenic route to Piha beach. Route had hardly any traffic and we saw lots of tree ferns, tropical palm trees and trees with red flowers. Twisty road down to coast. Started to rain so had picnic lunch in car. Few people were surfing but waves were not very good. Drove on to Karekare Beach where The Piano was filmed. By now the rain had stopped and sun came out. Small stream weaved through black sand to the beach where there were a couple of people plus one surf lifesaver and a few surfies. Beach was unspoiled and waves were crashing on the beach – worth seeing and nice walk. Continued along scenic drive back to Auckland. Returned to motel and did washing. Then decided to go to the local supermarket from our motel but car did not work – battery failure. Keef rang NZ Car Rentals and Kieran came out at 8.30pm to sort out the problem. He replaced the battery & then we were OK after that. Met Kieran, Vaughan & Greg (again),Scenic road to Piha. Car gave up outside our motel room. Anne drove her first automatic around Remuera,Great view of Piha beach and lion rock from lookout point at top of hill leading down to beach. Karekare Beach where The Piano was filmed.

Day 54 - Tuesday 18th December 2007,Greenlane Motor Inn, Remuera, Auckland, NZ

Weather not so great, were going to either go to cinema at Westfield St Lukes or sit on the beach at Mission Bay, instead went and did shopping for first days camping with boys, not much else happened. Used I/net and read a bit,Had very late chicken from Foodtown, finished eating about 10.30pm then went to bed neither of us slept that gr8 as too excited about boys arriving

Day 55 - Wednesday 19th December 2007,Boys arrive in Auckland

Up very early about 4.45am had breakfast and went over to collect the boys from the airport. EXCELLENT to see them again. They were rightly quite jaded but insisted on staying up even though we had beds for them at Motor Inn. Went to the south bay beaches had a walk, then visited Remuera shops, Lunch Aquarium Had big Sunday dinner at Hot Roast Hut then back to motel where they did sleep from about 4pm thru most of the night. A Gr8 day ,Kelly Tartons marine life aquarium

Day 56 - Thursday 20th December 2007,Auckland to Baylys Beach via Dargaville & the Kauri Museum

Up fairly early, breakfast, Craig manages to get into the Guinness book of records by sleeping for almost 16 hrs. Went to Sylvia Park mall (Mt Wellington) so Doug could buy sunglasses. Then went over to New Lynn to pick up the 2nd car, another Nissan Bluebird auto to match the white one we already have. Set off from Auckland about 12 and had lunch on the beach at Wiemera Thermal springs just past Orewa. Very nice packed lunch, ham & cheese sandwiches and fruit. Saw Kauri Museum @ Matakope,met Mad Dutch guy who was biking around staying at our campsite in Baylys beach. Remember taking 40 mins to get the tent up for the first time and 4 hrs to prepare our evening meal of mashed potatoes/ scaloppini (summer squash), BBQ sweet corn, sausages & lambnot bad once it arrived. But a mission from Keef to get beer and wine (Hawkes bay Chardonnay, yum!) had to go into Dargaville and furtively find an open ‘liquor store’tricky and the publican couldn’t sell it to me. Annie. drove all the way from Auckland over the harbour bridge to Baylys Beach, some 250 km

Day 57 - Friday 21st December 2007, Baylys Beach to Mangonui, Northlands, NZ

Got up about 8, showered, had breakfast and broke camp. Very hot and a few very large mossies. Then went down onto the beach, wonderful. Spent about 20mins there if not more. Then drove up the west coast thru the Kauri Coast forests, Waipoua being the most interesting. Craig remarked on initiative of Maori’s who told you your car would get broken into at tourist spots unless you gave them $2NZD to guard it! Great motel to crash in , recharge our batteries (literally) as have to get to Bay of islands by 12 noon 2moro for ‘swimming with Dolphins’ experience Finished on PC updating daily diaries at 12.Largest remaining kauri tree, huge and spiritual. Apinhari at bottom of 90 mile beach although the weather was so crap it looked totally inhospitable. Doubtless Bay (ace), Coopers Beach (ace) then Mangonui, which supposedly has the best fish restaurant in the world!!! Lady from Boston , who had been 4 years in Mangonui and 14 in Japan She ran our Hill Side motel, luxury $NZD200. Remember all of the banter via the walkie-talkies between the 2 cars. Meal in Bushman’s Restaurant Kaitaia,lovely steak meals, expertly cooked. Doug had steak and oysters, I had steak scallops and king prawns. Especially liked the view of the west coast after kauri forest at Waipoua. Plus Baylys beach, campsite, Giant Kauri (although picky doesn’t do it justice) Ferry (MV Taurua) from Rawene to Kohukohu on highway 12, Doug was still in the shop!

Day 58 - Saturday 22nd December 2007,Mangonui, Northlands, NZ to Bay of Islands + Swimming with Dolphins

Got up earlyish, went with Doug down into Mangonui to get some breakfast. Got some good photos on route including the ‘best fish restaurant in the world’. Drove to Piahia (very touristy) and went on the swimming with dolphins cruise. Xclent. Saw lots of the Bay of islands. Saw a huge pod of Dolphins, but weren’t allowed to swim because they had babies. We were not sure you were ever really able to swim with them if the truth be known. Great time , loads of piccies. Then travelled to Haruru , probably the best campsite in the world, ever! Superb view from the end of our tent, gr8 BBQ, chicken & bacon, potatoes and scallopini ,Dolphins , lots of them, including cute babies,met boat captain who left the Germans behind at the island..’aufwidersehen pets’ Huruhuru falls site owner , drunk and glasses caused puss to run on his face where it looked like he had fallen over, indeed if I hadn’t volunteered to pay the next day he would probably not have bothered , we could easily have driven away.Remember Doug’s washing, puppy dog at campsite

Day 59 - Sunday 23rd December 2007,Haruru Falls to Waipu Beach

Rained a bit overnight, very sunny in the morning so tent mostly dried out. Had breakfast, they have gr8 kitchen facilities in NZ camp sites as well as what we have ourselves. Then quite a lengthy drive to waipou cove where we set up camp again. Exclent beach, very busy family campsite.Beach @ waipuu. Whangarai falls. Remember lack of space on camp site pitch , Police interrupt our walkie talkies at Whangarai, we think!

Day 60 - Monday 24th December 2007,Waipu Beach to Orewa (Waves Motel)

Not too long a drive, drove along tourist coast road, loads of nice beaches and eventually rejoined Highway 1 at Wellsford. Got to Orewa at about 12 and went and did meat and food shopping in New World and Mad Butchers. Really busy like UK so glad to have got in. Checked into Waves after that and chance to unload, straighten out stuff. Got out Crimbo cards, downloaded piccies, updated all electrical stuff. Keef had spa bath, ace, then cooked Lamb curry (lemon , coriander, tomato, garlic, gold kumara and beans) with rice and Turkish bread (Nan) . Met again Derby / Scots couple who run waves , remember Margaret’s number plate (?)

Day 61 - Tuesday 25th December 2007 - Xmas Day,Orewa (Waves Motel)

Got up about 7 to hear the boys talking. Phoenix had texted saying issues with visa at LAX even though she was only in transit Had a full English breakfast, opened our few cards, read our email xmas messages then went down to the beach, where we played rugby, read our books, paddled and then went for a swim in the waves. Good fun and a first for Xmas day. Craig’s xmas pressie to himself was a remote control helicopter which we flew indoors. Rained quite a lot from 2.30 on wards so sadly Annie and boys watched Only fools and horses on the TV. Keef caught up on daily diaries and had a Steinlager at 2.30. Rang Mum at about 9.30 am (8.30 pm Xmas eve there) she seemed good and was going to Jacky’s for Xmas and Glorias’ for Boxing day. Had an op on her finger. Kiwi’s walking on the beach and picnicking, met cleaning girl who almost walked in on Craig whilst he was in the loo, lots of Brits on beach, remember Craig’s Xmas socks. Swimming on Xmas day and rain (alas) pm. So did chicken with pots and veg for Xmas dinner with Preece wine

Day 62 - Wednesday 26th December 2007,Orewa (Waves Motel)

Boxing Day.Some confusion over Phoenix’s flight and arrival time but after Keef rang Air NZ Auckland we realized that she had not been allowed to fly via LA as a Chinese national without a visa even though she was only in transit, so rather than up at 4.30am we rose at 9am. Doug and Keef drove back into Auckland to pick Phoenix up but alas she was detained again by NZ customs who questioned her for 2 hours and unpacked all her stuff , bad news leaving her feeling like she never wanted to come to NZ again. Left Notts 6am arrived nz 2 days later 30 hrs travel, can well understand but we will convince her that NZ is good. Had a great BBQ (prawns ace) dinner and tea. In between went for a swim / sunbathe, played rugby and watched some Disney kids film, Zaphora, remember Poor Phoenix’s journey & our BBQ

Day 63 - Thursday 27th December 2007,Travel from Orewa to Golden Springs park, between Rotarua and Taupo

Boysenberry ice creams at Wildlife park nr Rotarua.Quite a long drive saw Huntly Power station, and loads of traffic going to Coramandel from Auckland.English guy who runs Golden Springs campsite. He has been in NZ 2 years and was selling the site. West Ham fan. Real cockney pleased to hear I came from London After travel we had meal in the restaurant on the site. Good, remember Getting both tents up. First outing for Doug’s Note we spent 7 days here and used it as our base to visit Rotarua, Taupo and Tuarangi plus cold swimming pool and very warm stream

Day 64 - Friday 28th December 2007,Golden Springs Park, between Rotarua and Taupo (Highway 5)

Wai-o-tapu Geothermal park, nr Rotuarua and Polynesian Spa,The most beautiful and fascinating thermal landscape. Artist palette particularly good but all of it really. Remember 28c: Sulphur smell. Heat in various thermal baths and pool ranging from 51c to 31c plus view out over lake whilst sitting in those pools plus cold shower to cool off plus split heels

Day 65 - Saturday 29th December 2007,Golden Springs Park, between Rotarua and Taupo (Highway 5)

Huka Falls Jet and Prawn Park. The jet does a whole series of 360deg spins the most spectacular of which is right close to the falls at the right hand end. The left hand end is a dam end that we came back to see open on a later day .Keef, Anne (2) and Phoenix catching 4 prawns after 4 hrs solid fishing, very satisfying. Alas we part boiled them and froze them back as the campsite with intensions of eating but in the end we chucked away as too risky.Loads of Russians prawn fishing. Remember 360deg spins, catching prawns and tour, almost hitting the golf stroke into the flagged holes (craig ace), walk round park and avoiding water / feeding trout

Day 66 - Sunday 30th December 2007, Golden Springs Park, between Rotarua and Taupo (Highway 5)

Sky Diving, Taupo Airport, all day event, up really early and drove to Taupo airport. Cost a lot but well worth it (so they said) 15,000 ft over 62 secs freefall with Freddie (German – Dougs), Phil (UK – Phoenix’s) & Greg (NZ- Craig) Their mad tandem pilots plus the American hubby who watched his mrs with anne & I firmly on the ground Young couple from London. Note All 3 had pictures taken by the professionals and DVD plus I took quite a few of their sky diving. NZ for extreme sports!

Day 67 - Monday 31st December 2007, New Years Eve,Golden Springs Park, between Rotarua and Taupo (Highway 5)

Turangi Trout Farm. Irish Bar Taupo for midnight celebrations, with Maori singer Vegas Brown and 2 much Guinness,New Years Eve: Thai meal Craig took us all out for in Taupo. We then went to the fair and Craig won marbles and a handbag (kiddies) on darts (or some such side show) Then went to Finn McCoulls bar ($20NZD entry fee each) for a boozy and rowdy eve, fun poor Annie had to drive the 35+ kms back. Tried texting folk back in UK but phones jammed, used email the next day

Day 68 - Tuesday 1st January 2008 - Annes 54th,Golden Springs Park, between Rotarua and Taupo (Highway 5)

Happy new year and 54th birfday me deary!!! Went round Moari Village, BBQ in eve with Preece wine ,Bubbling mud, haka and maori performance & main geyser blowing Heat from under your feet, met Nick Cage lookalike, remember Anne having her photo taken with the ‘cast’ very hot that day. Had hangi roll at site and D&P had sweet corn ‘boiled’ in sulphur spring

Day 69 - Wednesday 2nd January 2008,Golden Springs Park, between Rotarua and Taupo (Highway 5)

Trout Fishing from Taupo to Turangi,Hired 3 rods in Taupo and then set off around lake Taupo looking for ‘ideal’ spots went swimming and had dinner at Halletts Bay on Lake Taupo, superb, so cool clear and what views. Expert who said he was a novice at Taurangi who gave us loads of advice on mending the line and casting, not easy! Remember Didn’t catch any. Doug saying he had caught his hat, trousers and the trees, plus supposedly one bite!!!

Day 70 - Thursday 3rd January 2008,Golden Springs to Tongariro National Park

Volcanos, Chateau Tongariro, Mountains + stayed in Mountain Lodge motel (in 2021 now called the Ruapehe Mountain Lodge & Motel, looks enhanced), some of the best scenery ever. met Essex girl married to swede who ran the motel, remember Meal doug bought at Café Railway National Park village station and lunch at the Chateau. Craig having the best chocolate brownie in the world, loved Chateau Tongariro and the national park

Day 71 - Friday 4th January 2008,Tongariro National Park to Wanganui

Boys and Phoenix do the Tama lakes walk , up at 6am. Keef and Anne go up the cable car, which broke down on the way Superb views and very hot, although weather changed and was very cold when they let us down gently on the hour, glad to get down A&I spent rest of day reading in the sunshine. Very intense as always in NZ ,Superb , snow, glaciers, lakes, waterfalls etc, met guy on chairlift who got us down and annoying Kiwi kid who spilt our flat white at the top of the mountain. Owners of Anne& Dion Motel (Wanganui) they named the motel Anndion Lodge, wonder why, hee hee (Anne (Hard rock café bear collector and Dion , Maori welcome man) in Wanganui and yellowfin fish & chips. Nice aussie girl in spa pool at Anndion’s who gave us wine list for Barossa and had kayaked 4 days on Wanganui river. Remember The lift is broken!!!!! 2 + hour drive thru amazing scenery to Wanganui after their walk had finished. So hot road tar melted. Loved Mt Ruapuhe.

Day 72 - Saturday 5th January 2008,Wanganui to New Plymouth via Surf Coast Highway

Woke up showered , breakfasted and had Dion intro us all to all manner of people at the Anndion Lodge. Their spa, pool and sauna were most useful to the boys & P after their long walk. Went into Wanganaui, to fruit market and strolled thru old style town. Miner’s town. Found out how to pay for parking. Walked along river front, saw market had sushi saw tram reconstruction, then headed off via Harewa along surf highway stopping at Onupehe for surf day,Steam boat. Surf coast highway most disappointing. Boats over the surf throwing folk high into the air,Mt Taranaki (although mostly in clouds) almost going to KD Elvis impersonators house in Harewa American who was doing the tram

Day 73 - Sunday 6th January 2008,New Plymouth, West Coast, NI

Camped in sea front camp site for 3 days Found Boysenberry wine head quarters,Couple at Country wines and camp commandant,Sheep shearing first hand, Craig took us for a meal at Bistro on sea front, it was BYO We had 3 bottles and the meal lasted about 3.5 hours best lamb and steak ever. Shark Poo pud!!! and me not getting my Brulee, loved sheep shearing & rock carving

Day 74 - Monday 7th January 2008,New Plymouth, West Coast, NI

Great meal at harbour side bistro yesterday Day off for us catching up, the rest went surfing at Fitzroy beach but found it very difficult. I sent brief email to folks,

Went off in search of the kids surfing at both Fitzroy and east end beaches, as it was so hard they had left early. Went to New World to get steak, cooked tea early. It pee’ed down, so went to cinema with Craig to see the golden compass, it was gr8. D&P went to see a movie but walked out as said it was crap ,Kiwi fisherman at campsite who had bought their mussels even though they had nets out at sea. Said at $2nzd a kilo ‘no worries’ They gave D&P a BBQ one each,Mums birfday. Must ring. Tried twice at 11.30 (she was out at MOT) got her the next day. Visited local park lights extravaganza in the rain

Day 75 - Tuesday 8th January 2008,New Plymouth, West Coast, NI to Waitomo/Otorohanga

Absolutely bucketed it down for about a day and a bit. Got up and put on trunks to take tent down. Forgot ice bag, blocks, food and beer in our hurry to be away by 10. Waitomo caves and the glowworms, including boat trip thru the caves. Stayed at Otorohanga in motel. Spa and pool again for only $NZD150 .Mike from White Cliffs brewery (Urenui, Taranaki) One of the few members of Camra in NZ Had long chat about beer, sampled his Mountain lager and Mild and bought 2 litres of each , yummy plus nice Dutch guy who ran the motel. Lived there since 1961, big infux of dutch farmers to NZ in the 60’s,rang Mum on her 76th birthday from inside BlueBird1 (the car) whilst it poured Great mussels/Mexican and strawberries meal cooked by the boys Family in next chalet from Greenland

Day 76 - Wednesday 9th January 2008,Otorohanga Kiwi House and drive to Raglan

Camped so we could get the tents dry which were still ringing wet from New Plymouth, not the greatest campsite in the world but had our last BBQ with boys & P, sausages and Chinese chicken washed down with real ale.Kiwi’s (the first and only we have seen live) alas they have to be kept in the dark so seeing them saw a little tricky and meant most of my piccies didn’t work however the videos did. Drove to Raglan, had lunch , watched locals jumping off bridge into river and saw surfing at Manu bay and Whale Bay. Remember Camp site at Raglan with HiDiHi motor bike and loud speaker system for prisoners. Hill top campsite with train carriages as kitchen etc Alas it was full but had an ace view of the bay

Day 77 - Thursday 10th January 2008,Raglan then Auckland

Leave campsite, A&I up about 7 boys slept in til 9 Cold shower, boy really wakes you up. After Raglan drove back to Auckland via SH39 & 1. About 2.5 hours. Very hot,Boys & P doing surfing at Raglan. Ace beach. Doug & Phoenix hired a wet suit Craig didn’t. Craig first to fully stand up and surf. The other 2 then managed one run. Very steep cliff down but oh what views (superb),met English guy who kept telling everyone about ‘the one that got away’, remember Boys being able to surf

Day 78 - Friday 11th January 2008,Auckland, Remuera+

Sad day Sir Edmund Hillary (Orewa/ Remuera) dies. We went up sky tower, north shore beaches (Little Shoal bay) and ice bar as well as all having Japanese,Sky tower and sky deck, just superb views of Auckland. You begin to realize how big it is and what some of the yachts look like, we took lots of pics up the sky tower especially the mad beardy who ‘dropped in’ – take a look

Day 79 - Saturday 12th January 2008,Auckland, Remuera+

Alas boys last day, took them back to airport after a day at World Windsurf champs at Takapuna, Mini Golf and bagels/subways,Phoenix met the Chinese Wind surf guy and had her picture taken with him .Remember 27c: Sir Edmund Hillary fever in NZ. Anne shedding a tear as they left! 3 holes in one: C&D & me, the boys leaving (sad!!!)

Day 80 - Sunday 13th January 2008,Auckland Harbour trip, Greenlane, Remuera

Boys arrive in LAX after 12 hr flight, no problems this time. We and Phoenix went out with Greg & Vaughan on their boat around the harbour. Xclent weather and we did sea fishing, very much fun even if we caught nothing. Lots of bites and Phoenix caught a rock crab and sea weed,Rock crab, yellowfin and snails note shark in harbour the day after,Spent much longer talking to V&G over a fair number of beers. They are nice guys and most helpful.Boys (Vaughan & Greg) showed us where they used to live in Remuera after selling their Coramandel motel. Plus where Sir Ed lived. Phoenix took us for a lovely meal at Remuera shizuan. Boys (C&D) txt us to say home, tired but no probs. They saw loads of films. Fishing trip memories.

Day 81 - Monday 14th January 2008,Auckland, Remuera+

Alas Phoenix’s last day, she is back to China for new year for 1 month. Enjoyed having her around,Got up about 9.30am had breakfast and went to do some ‘retail therapy’ at Sylvia park mall in Mt Wellington area. Keef sorted Vodafone (sort of) and came back and after various calls found the way to set up a separate account online so he can pay that way rather than via the post office,Lazy day really, saw no one apart from Phoenix. 25c: Used mall food hall, had Indian (P&I) Fish and chips (A) then went to Warehouse to buy some extra camping stuff, will sell on Trade me when we leave for Oz (hopefully), lazy pm after being all shopped out. Anne got some clip on sunglasses for travel we went and had roast lamb at roast hot with Phoenix as her final meal. Bad storms in Sydney. Remember sadly saying goodbye to phoenix.

Day 82 - Tuesday 15th January 2008,From Auckland to Coromandel Holiday Park

Up earlish, packed and said good bye to Vaughan and Greg. Over to Kierran in New Lynn to pick up Bluebird 3 (our Toyota camry gracia) for 81 days, drop off in Christchurch, 5/4Then repacked into new car and traveled off on the Pacific Coast Highway from Auckland thru Clevland, Kawakawa bay (where we had luncha complete whole shell beach) and onto the Coromandel peninsular at Thames (pronounced after London’s river). The view all the way along was superb, best yet. We really like the CP. Oh such great scenery and the weather was great, met Campsite owner-Coromandel Holiday Park (a family park,generally good in our humble opinion) Went back in 2013 when it was a big 4 park.Space lab bright in the sky. 6.30ish only 10 mins thought it was a plane

Day 83 - Wednesday 16th January 2008,Coromandel Holiday Park

Got up reasonably early first time as it was a cold night and then back to sleep again to wake up in a sauna inside the tent. 28deg, hottest yet. Did bacon & eggs then had a gr8 trip further up to Colville, end of the line before unsealed roads, then back to site for swim. Then gr8 trip on Driving Creek Railway (DCR) up Cliffside to the Eyefull (geddit!) tower b4 returning for pizza (our first use on an oven in 10+ weeks) b4 catching up on PC. Gr8 day,Superb views over goat island, met Scottish lady and Dutch partner who had moved from Aberdeen 10 years ago (at campsite and then again in Colville), she had only worked 3 of the last 10 years supposedly based on her UK property value, Hmm but by the same token she claimed that the average 3-bed house was £200k and salaries £12ksomething doesn’t add up they all have boats, summer batches (£100k) and food is more expensive,Buddist retreat, we thought about it but moved on. Driving Creek railway (superb)driving creeks were kauri dams for getting the wood down hillsides (ingenious)

Day 84 - Thursday 17th January 2008,Coromandel Holiday Park

Day of rest, went into Coromandel town, saw the town shops, waited outside Butchers for a while for him to open and then bought steak, mussel and sunripe tomato sausages. Had for t with fried kumara, yummy,28c, v hot. Had tent completely open although a little windy,French couple and 3 blond german ‘babes’ traveling in Hiace. Called them BBQ French couple spoke gr8 english (put me to shame), Germans also they were making icecream in a drinks bottle.Not much really apart from 3 hr chat to Bernhard & Esme from Hamilton. They gave us most of their bottle of Shiraz, a&I v drunk as we had already had Boysenberry wine and beer, loved Coromandel old colonial house, which is where I think greg and vaughan used to own/ let out

Day 85 - Friday 18th January 2008,Coromandel Holiday Park to Mateku, via Bay of Plenty via Pacific Coast Highway

Got up reasonably early, would have got away earlier apart from Bernhard & Esme (again) chatting to us. Eventually left about 10. Travelled across peninsular to Whitianga, then Tairau where we had lunch in front of the batches , superb views, then to Whangamata , Waihi beach, Katikati (mural town) , Tauranga (up and coming city), Mt Maunganui (New Auckland) , Papamoa , thru Te Puke and stayed at Maketu on the beach in a v expensive for what it was!!!) motel.Lots, including superb murals in katikati, lots of Maori ‘stuff’ and longship in Tauranga plus café culture in harbour side road (trendy), expensive yachts in Mt Maunganui and the whole of the wonderful 9 mile long Papamoa beach which we went swimming in but the rip was huge so didn’t go too far out,28c+. Giant Weta in Bernard and Esme’s awning note they are PETTITT@CLEARNET.CO.NZ, alas having no food other than toast and cheese at the motel, 3 books for $20NZD including 2 Ben Elton’s neither of us has read (Bargain hunters!)

Day 86 - Saturday 19th January 2008,East Cape, Mateku to Hick’s bay, plus divert back to Te Puke Kiwifruit world

Set off from Maketu where we stayed in a motel on the beach, v expensive for what it was $115NZD. Then to Kiwi Fruit world at Te Puke, great fun, v touristy traveled around orchard on kiddies KF train. Saw many fruits plus vines of KF. Yellow ones Zestri the most interesting. Allowed to sample fruit, juice and pick other fruit. Then traveled along Pacific Coast highway via Whakatane, Ohope (gr8) Opotiki, old town Maori statue where Anne found out details of up and coming rodeos, hawai, Whitianga, Awanui, te kaha, te kopua, whanaria bay, waihau bay (decided not to camp, too windy) then cross land to Hick’s bay. Excellent remote scenery, but alas cold, windy and eventually drizzly and drivers windscreen wiper stopped working (serious stuff)fixed at motel, gr8views when u could see plus cooked Mexican inside motel on our gas ring with oxford landing red and boysenberry wine, bliss!!!

Day 87 - Sunday 20th January 2008,East Cape, Hick’s bay to Gisborne

Very misty and drizzly this morning. Luckily fixed windscreen wiper myself (hopefully) We will travel thru Te Araroa via Tikitiki where there are some Maori sites, then Ruatoria, Tokomarey bay, via hot pools at Te Puia and Cooks 2nd landing at Anuara bay, then Tolaga bay which has the longest wharf in NZ, thru Whangara, setting for the film whale rider past whale graves into Gisborne,Lots of drizzle, long wharfs, deserted ship yards ,Couple who run the Motel we stayed at in Gisborne, White Heron v good $110NZD incl breakfast,From Previous day a sign for a motel which said ‘Bummer: you have just missed Motel XXXX’ nearly died crying.25 rain soaked wonders, including logging kiwi style and cooks 2nd landing

Extract of note sent to B&A, Linda & Jacky, Pete & Chris,Most written by Annie.....you just couldn’t read my handwriting anyhow!!!ME: We are now in Gisborne on the East Coast, where James Cook landed A guy we met whilst camping said that when he arrived in NZ as a child in 1951 from Sussex his parents drove from Auckland to Gisborne and there were wheel barrows at the side of the gravel road to remove boulders that got in the way of the car. Apparently his parents almost gave up and went back but he is now a retired grandparent here. The roads aren’t that bad but there are still a few untarmaced ones around where we just traveled,ANNIE: We were sad to say goodbye to the boys at Auckland airport and they got home safely without any incidents although they were very tired. Doug had been challenged by the LA security police on the way to NZ because his passport stated he was born in Wellington and they thought he was a Kiwi (with that Nottingham accent I don’t think so!!) and therefore should have had a visa even though he was in transit. They took his passport away without saying why and took him off to an interview room. When Doug realised why they had taken his passport, he pointed out that he was born in Wellington, Shropshire and not Wellington NZ. The US customs guy did not apologise to him and Craig thought he was being carted off to Guantanamo Bay. Phoenix also had a problem coming to NZ because the travel agent had not told us that she also required a visa to be in transit to LA as she holds a Chinese passport. The NZ staff at Heathrow told her when she booked in and luckily they found her a seat on a plane to Auckland that went via Hong Kong but it meant she had to hang around for several more hours at Heathrow. When she got to Auckland she was quizzed for just over 2 hours by the passport people even though she had a visa which said she was on holiday and the date when she was travelling on to China. They wanted to know the purpose of her visit, looked at all her camera pictures to check up on her boyfriend and took everything out of her 2 suitcases to inspect it. Poor girl was exhausted and they were suspicious because she could not give an address in Auckland as we were travelling around staying in motels and camping. Keith and Doug were waiting for ages in the arrivals hall wondering what was happening. When we took her back to the airport for her journey to Hong Kong (& back home for Chinese New Year) there were no problems. She got back to China OK.All three of them had a brilliant time and really enjoyed NZ – it is something that they will always remember for the rest of their lives. They wanted to do some activities that they had never done before such as tandem sky diving, trout and prawn fishing (which we also thought was great fun), the 17km/8hr hike that they did in the national park by the volcanoes ,attempting surfing for the first time, going to the Minus 5 degrees ice bar in Auckland, the glow worm caves, the speed jet boat ride to the Huka Falls, seeing kiwi birds in the bird house, wonderful scenery, unspoiled and uncrowded beaches that stretch for miles, the good weather as well as the camping. Craig made us laugh a lot (he has a good sense of humour) and luckily he thought to bring out 2 walkie-talkies with him as he knew that we had two hire cars. This made it easy to communicate between the cars so we did not lose each other and at one town we thought that we got the local police on our frequency so had to have a ‘white out’ and lie low!! It was a hoot and I could not stop laughing at some of the comments that Craig and Doug made as we drove along.There is also the plus that there are no snakes at all here. There are a few small lizards though. We were told by a fellow NZ camper that all container shipments are sprayed inside to kill off any wildlife and apparently they have discovered the odd dead snake inside, probably from Australia. They definitely do not want these poisonous snakes here. They have already got a huge problem with possums which were introduced by settlers from Oz in the 1850s and these animals destroy the native trees by eating the leaves so are considered pests. As they are nocturnal we have only seen dead ones squashed on the roads which the Kiwis call ‘NZ pizza’. Recently we heard that 10 people had drowned in NZ since Christmas and some of the beaches have warning signs about the rip currents. So many Kiwis own boats (ratio is 1:10) and they are allowed to drink and sail boats even in Auckland harbour where there are ferries and huge container and cruise ships. It is only if they have an accident that the police may prosecute them for sailing whilst drunk. When we were out sea fishing in the harbour the other day we heard a cruise ship blast its horn because a small fishing boat was moored in the shipping lane. Although engines should give way to sail there was no way that a cruise ship could alter course quickly enough to avoid a small boat. Aucklanders start dingy sailing at the age of 10 apparently and no one requires any formal seafaring training, navigation certificate or licence to go out in a boat. The marinas around Auckland are huge – one alone near the harbour bridge holds over 1,000 berths. They also store their boats in boat warehouses where they are stacked vertically and if people want to get them out they just telephone in advance and the boat is taken down to a jetty for them. No wonder Auckland is called the ‘city of sails’.Keith and I are very impressed with NZ. Many people told us that the scenery in South island was much better than North Island but we think that what we’ve seen so far is ‘awesome’. The bush is tropical looking and almost impenetrable with huge tree ferns and other palm trees and native bushes and trees. There are a lot of reserves and national parks which preserves the virgin bush where no man has ever walked. There is a bushfire risk similar to Australia with road signs to identify the fire risk. They have volunteer fire crews outside of major cities who are called up by a loud siren going off as they do not have the people to act as full time firemen. We heard a siren go off on the Coromandel peninsular whilst camping and we were told that the siren continues to sound until the first volunteer fireman gets to the fire station to turn it off. All the houses are made of wood or part wood upstairs because of earthquakes. Recently there was a big earthquake in Gisbourne (east coast of North Island) which caused some structural damage to buildings but no one died. There is one place along the coast from Gisborne where they had 1,200 earth tremors last year (it was in the local paper). NZ is such a volcanic country that a lot of the mountains are in fact volcanoes. There are 40 extinct volcanoes in and around Auckland city alone.The coastal highways are wonderful and scenic although the roads are very twisty there are volcanoes (extinct) everywhere, even in and around Auckland. The people that we have met so far have been very friendly and chatty and we have picked up some useful information and advice from them. The campsites, busy at the moment because it is school holidays, are well equipped with kitchens with a fridge, microwave, kettle, toaster and electric cookers. Some of them charge for showers though. At the moment we are travelling along the Pacific coast highway from the Coromandel peninsular, along the Bay of Plenty and its superb sandy beaches heading to Gisborne and Hawkes Bay (wine growing area). We have stopped in a motel overnight at Hicks Bay due to the high winds and rain caused by Cyclone ‘Funa’ which is travelling south of Fiji and we are getting the outer edges of this storm. The weather forecast is that some parts of North Island could get monsoon rain. Some of the cattle pastures are looking very yellow so the farmers will be pleased to get rain. The temperatures average between 24-28 C and it was 29c in Auckland yesterday. We hope to see 2 of Captain Cook’s first landing places today. We did plus Sir Ed (Hillary's) funeral next Tuesday, v big here , they may rename one of their many mountains after him Hope you are all well,love Keef and Anne

Day 88 - Monday 21st January 2008,Gisborne to Wairoa, via Mahia peninsular

Left motel (colonial) at about 10. James cook statue and Young Nicks point plus gr8 views from up the reserve overlooking Gisborne. Then drive past wineries to Morere Hot Springs, didn’t go in, too hot today for thermals, had lunch outside instead. Afternoon around Mahia peninsular (about a 40km detour) but oh what views. Cloud alas cutting in and had to stop and u-ey (u-turn) car on gravel road after tarmac ran out. Then onto Wairoa to camp for 2 nights. Oldish town which was destroyed by earthquake in 1931. Pictures in gents urinal show what happened. One of the most interesting pees I’ve ever had hee hee! Met Rowena & Simon from UK. Ambitious trying to ‘do’NZ in 7 days, impossible. Was gonna do road to Rotarua in campervan via lake until I pointed out it was gravel. Humidity.plus putting tent up in it after string in one pole broke (twice), liked Wairoa,Gisborne, Mahia

Day 89 - Tuesday 22nd January 2008,Wairoa. Drive to Lake Waikaremoana along State Highway 38

V Hot today. 32c and humid. Then v windy. Drove along partially gravel SH 38 to lake Waikaremoana, superb views 4 day walk to Rotarua starts from here, police on look out as hardest walk in NZ.Did ½ day there then came back and picnicked at far end of Waioa river along Kopu St (famous Maori chief of area). Then came back to site to repeg tent and do some washing, i/net updates,SH 38, gravel 200kms to Rotarua, don’t go there,Gr8 campsite, superb kitchens. Met lady owner whose hubby had driven their rig (40ft caravan) up Coromandel Peninsular, now that’s scary,SIR ED’S FUNERAL : national day of celebration/ mourning. Laid in state in parnell cathedral, do hope Brits sent someone!!! Police car in the middle of nowhere when we were at the reserve at L.W, liked BBQ on camp site

Day 90 - Wednesday 23rd January 2008,Wairoa along SH2 to Napier, Hastings & then Havelock North (5kms past Hastings)

Hot again, up early to try and avoid heat of ‘decamping’. Keef spent too long chatting to folk from Auckland so didn’t quite make it. Still left at 9.30 and got camplight charged. Napier museum, including Roland Hopkins (Hipkins?) art stuff and 1931 earthquake movie (v worrying) 529 aftershocks, no wonder Wairoa, Napier and Hasting were wiped out. Art deco buildings in Napier and Hastings, those in Hastings in my humble opinion were more impressive. Bluff lookout Napier, only of the port (really) with tourist guide to fork-lift trucks, as if we are interested! Met old guy and teacher wife from Birkenhead, North shore , Auckland.Railway structure over the gorges on the way to Napier Getting completely lost trying to find campsite in Havelock North and annoying git who insisted on driving up my boot, a Kiwi classic, some are not gr8 drivers. Loved the art deco buildings, Nat tobacco building @ Napier

Day 91 - Thursday 24th January 2008,Havelock North

Gr8 day, decided to stay at site 3 days as we like it and the area so much. So went up Te Mata again,Jack, site owner on rusty tin bike, he is a hoot to joke with, wicked sense of humourask Annie about the showers!Went for nice walk along Ocean beach. Loved Te Mata and ocean beach

Day 92 - Friday 25th January 2008,Havelock North

Chilling Day – Bacon sarnie for breakfast, treatsville at £3.20 for 8 rashers of streaky Then posted cards and pressie / letters to Margaret / Brian in Havelock North. This is a very posh town, 50 something blondes who love to shop and are wives of winery owners. V affluent Went back up Te Mata (339 ft) Love the view from the top, better weather today so crowded. Maori legend is some guy who needed to win the love of the princess his last talk was to each thru the mountain which he didn’t manage to do hence the shape of the valley, but realistically the gr8 scenery is due to again volcanic eruptions . After mountain we visited Black Barn & Te Mata wineries as well as cheese tasting, bought a sheeps blue cheese and bottle of Preece and Mission Estate (Hawkes Bay) so good lunch, then attempted to do North island DVDs for Mum,Divorced guy in caravan next door. His daughter went back today and I did a copy of new eagles for him and he loaned me some Kiwi bands. His music is gr8, pink floyd and bee gees and hootie so we ‘gassed’ music for quite a while. His claim to fame was seeing Bob Marley live in Auckland. Plus scots guy and family (2 & 13 year old daughters) who were traveling oz and nz for 7 months. He is a paid musician, like john martyn supposedly, who was touring playing Auckland etc. Forgot to find his name. Swim in site indoor ‘heated’? pool it was freezing but as 22c today most welcoming at least for Keef if not Annie. Corn beef hash 4 Tea. Great pix of vineyards (Winery in NZ speak) and us on Te Mata

Day 93 - Saturday 26th January 2008,Havelock North to Palmerston North

3 MONTHS TRAVELLING ANNIVERSARY – boy it seems to have gone quickly! Packed up reasonably early, said goodbye to our next door neighbour, the divorcee. Went into town to post office to post 2 DVDs to Mum, bumped into guy from campsite again who gave us directions for quick route out of town. Drove along winery highway (SH2) until we joined SH3 to Palmy. Saw various small towns, had Egg & Bacon sarnie and lemon/ginger cake and 2 flat whites in the town beginning with W (which been purchased (haha) by Mr Mclean in 1851 from Maoris and then free passage for all Scots to work on his snippet of land, 2 towns, railway and 272 hectacres from Maoris. No wonder they now feel cheated.) Travelled thru very scenerific Manawatu gorge between Woodville and Ashhurst onto Palmeston North (named after a famous PM from UK, surprisingly) even found Nottingham Avenue!Vikings at Dannevirke, Manawatu gorge, Massey Uni (PN) old art deco buildings and Institute of Rugby. town center and life museum Palmy. Stayed at Awatea Motel, just outside main Palmy town. Watched ‘All the kings men’ with Sean Penn/ Jude Law/ Anthony Hopkins/ Kate Winslettace about (loosely) south American hick mp who gets shot, met lady in Museums (twice) Nice lunch in George St Palmy, Boysenberry juice/iced coffee/chicken lasagne & panini with brie and chicken (yummy!), cost about £10

Day 94 - Sunday 27th January 2008,Palmerston North to Levin

Layed in (a bit) as in motel. Supposedly quiet one, but kids up and noisy by 7am playing outside our door which was on the park. Left about 10, went to rose gardens (Dugwald Mckenzie) interesting yet not inspiring. Was set in Victoria Esplande park, lovely spot, kiddies railway track (although like the main trains on this island) we didn’t see the train in action. Lots of bikers / joggers Then went to Manawatu art gallery, maori stuff plus heaven Karl Maughan exhibition (look out for this guy) After PN went to Foxton & Foxton beach before arriving at site in Levin very good campsite.A clear day exhibition wonderful, KM artist from Ashurst/PN went to Auckland FA then London, superb realistic oils of plants etc.Kiwi railway worker at campsite and English couple in camper van who seem to visit everything we did, they left the Levin campsite after only one night though! Remember NZ Rugby Museum, retail therapy in Kmart PN, plus King size duvet to keep out cold at night. Did meat balls, fried kumara and veg for Tea,loved rose garden/ art gallery and rugby, plus Foxton windmill

Day 95 - Monday 28th January 2008,Levin

Late up, pancakes, jam & syrup with Kiwi juice for breakfast, morning spend mooching in heat. Washing for Annie, pc for Keef. Off to beach/ wild life park pm.Went to Cobb & Co for lunch, I had beef escalope and Annie oriental chicken salad, yummy, we were the only folk in the place. Was a bit like being in the Bulls head at Breaston. Went to Horowhenua lake , lots of birds, swamp hens , ducks and geese. Bit smelly, lots of Didymo in lake. Then went to Waitareare beach (see below) and onto Hokio beach. Then back to tent for eve to read and relax.Kiwi railway guy who got up really early in the morning and was from Palmy and soon to move onto Wanganui after Levin. Drank what seem to be copious amounts of coke with ice in a chilly mug but my guess was it had rum in it as well judging by his slightly slurred speech. He told me about fly-fishing for trout, i.e. it took him 10 years before he caught anything.Driving on the beach at Waitareare beach after the surf guard said it was fine to drive along to Hokio We wanted to see the sunken ship, but only got as far as the first 30k signpost on the beach which I wanted to take a picture of but got the car bogged down in sand ‘ice cold in alex’-style. Annie and some kind kiwis helped with logs under front tyres and a big push to get us out!!! We turned round and got off the beach, that was enough for one day plus in the space of 2 roads at Hokio 2 idiots pulling straight out across me without looking, Kiwis are not gr8 drivers. Remember hick shack at Hokio village

Day 96 - Tuesday 29th January 2008,Levin to Greytown

Hot morning for packing up tent. Got away just before 10, not that it would have mattered as site quite empty. Went to Otaki beach, xclent, long drive along front. Was a pebble beach though and this time, yes I could drive up on it safely. View of kapiti island in background. Drove along Kapiti coast (SH 1) Waikanae town and beach (had to get there round back of houses but oh what nice houses). Had a walk in the water here, fun. Then lunch on chair overlooking Paraparaumu beach, disappointing as book said like Malibu but wrecked by Cyclone Funa’s after effects. Then back up thru Waikanae town again via Virgin Mary statue to Akatarawa Rd, single track steep road (superb views if a little frightening with sheer drops) Quick look at Hutt river at Beechville and then on thru windy SH2 to Featherston and Greytown where we stayed for the night in Oak motel. Relaxing eve Fish & Chips from local Chinese.Te Marau lookout on SH2 just outside Beechville. Watched Nick Cage in The Wicker Man (ace!),met poor couple from Auckland (and grandchildren) stuck at top of Akatarawa Rd where their radiator had burst. Smell of dead pig over powering so we didn’t stay long.RJs liquorish comes from Levin. Akatarawa Rd views thru Tatarua range (almost as good as Mt Tongarira,Akatarawa Rd , Giant statue at Waikanae

Day 97 - Wednesday 30th January 2008,Greytown to Lower Hutt via Palliser Bay

Up early-ish, packed and left at 10am. Went into look at Greytown and took some piccies of some of the older buildings. Its quiet and old (in NZ terms town, 1850s) then traveled via delightful road to Lake Ferry, Palliser Bay. Very deserted Few fishermen with quad bikes as long hard pebbly walk out (in flip-flops) past inland lake to bay. V dangerous rips, not swim able.Lower Hutt and Upper Hutt, cities (my foot) CBD was one skyscraper and Top 10 site pretty bad industrial area still reasonable facilities, cheap and good location. Sea view esplanade drive round into Wellington sea front.Lady in next tent who is a musician who suggested Golden bay on South island from her music tours there. We will give it a whirl. Alas hit a female pheasant with the car, dead I’m afraid. It walked straight into me and I couldn’t get out of the way. Not very nice and made me feel a bit uneasy for a bit, but hey us or a pheasant, we win!!!

Day 98 - Thursday 31st January 2008,Te Papa Museum Wellington

GREAT DAY IN WELLINGTON!!!! Up early, good breakfast in kitchens. Weird walk in freezer room with paid ($1NZD per day) locker to keep stuff cool in. Arrived at Te Papa museum car park about 10.30am ($12NZD all day, pretty gooddespite girl in museum saying if you leave after 9.30pm its free, not true barrier still in play) Museum ace, we did 2 floors, floor 2 & 4 and looked out on the roof. Left Elvis concert about 9.30, went wrong way along SH1 to seatown not seaview and then back home for 10.30 Just in before curfew and 2 bed very satisfied with a gr8 day.Floor 2: earthquakes and volcanoes, weather systems, passports, Scots, pacific islanders, coffee Floor 4: Maori stuff with supposedly the oldest Marae (meeting house) in NZ and the paid ($16NZD) whales section, fascinating, whaling, Maori whale rider stories, lovely T-shirt that I couldn’t buy alas. After 5 hours standing we were done in. Went to MacDs for late lunch (down under burger and nuggets combo) sad or what! Then to Reading Cinema to see Death at a Funeral hilarious. Then Keef lamb madras from food hall, Annie smoothie then off to Elvis concert in Frank Kitts park on harbourside, very very good.Met a few folk at concert. Maori guys whose phones went off in cinema (annoying). Remember Down syndrome guys pulling the blondes and dancing to Elvis and Heat with Feet rock dancers.

Day 99 - Friday 1st February 2008,Wellington

Got up late, v blowy. Listened to and watched various kiwi supporters getting dressed for the Irb 7s. Alas all tickets sold out, only available on Trade me for £250 so not going. England playing Cook Isles, Wales & Fiji. Fiji will be hard to beat. Went to Pak n Save for some stuff, did PC updates. Had lunch of Sweet corn and pumpkin soup. Went to Interislander ferry to collect tickets for Tuesday, booked motel at campsite (room 27) for Mon eve so we can get an early start and go up cable car.Went up lookout by cable car and botanic gardens. Had coffee and cake with YOGART at summit café. Gr8 views and very sunny if a little breezy. Also visited Oriental bay (man made beach) not impressed compared to Auckland. Saw lots of nutters (drunk) in costume for 7s. Babies, Durex, Surfschool, Cowboys & Indians, prisoners, you name it they were there. We weren’t so sure they were that interested in the rugger though.7s supporters in ludicrous costumes. Keef tried watching thru the caravan opposites window until he closed the curtains (wasn’t on TV) Friend of lady in next tent (another divorcee) who bought her daughter along, very pleasant and suggested Seatown beach.Very windy and a little rain overnight, 24c

Day 100 - Saturday 2nd February 2008,Wellington

DAY 100 Hoorah!!! Started off cloudy, got hot but remained windy. Final of Wellington Irb 7s, went to parliament house and had the tour of the beehive , main parliament building and library / archive house. Very interesting stuff. Took about 1 hour. 121 MPs and lots of committees. Follow the British constitution in all things parliament except banned house of lords and have a strong (rightly) Maori representation / ethic. Then back to Te Papa and floor 5, the art gallery. Gr8 Rembrandt original sketches otherwise disappointing that there was no real scenery of NZ. Then had woodbaked pizza in Sellar and Feijoa / wild berry juices and went to cinema to see Nick Cage / Helen Mirren/ Jon Voight in National Treasure. Don’t go.Drew out cash in Lower Hutt, Jackson St (off Cuba) they all seem to use the same street formats and names or is that just a coincidence, check on Palmy town map!!! Fireworks from Finals

Day 101 - Sunday 3rd February 2008, Wellington

Drove all the way along the Wellington harbour road in v bright sunshine 25c from Eastboune to Lyle bay and the airport. Stopped off in the morning and read books, papers, mags at coast side, then went onto Lyle bay and had a paddle. Watched planes arriving and taking off from extended runway into sea at Wellington airport. Sun lasted until at least 8.30 pm Drove back thru Oriental bay on coast road Went to Pak N Save and did Satay chicken 4 Tea.At Eastbourne amazing designer houses , guy swimming from one bay to the other and back (exhausting), snorkellers, jetskis, water skiing and subaqua with float / flag on water surface to show jet skiers where he was. At Lyle went to Warehouse had boysenberry icecreams and Keef bought a Hawaiian shirt for approx £6 not bad.Lady with little child in store at Eastbourne who only wanted muesli bars for his birthday (gr8 deal if you are a parent).Bloody dogs at Lyle bay, including the one who slobbered on our food bag. Hot day got both wind and sunburn and we are particularly brown. Tried to find Blue Penguins (no joy!), loved being around the coast

Day 102 - Monday 4th February 2008,Wellington

Up reasonably early to the sound of our German next door neighbours running water. Not too bad as had to pack up tent today which we managed to do just before it rained. Spent from 10-3 at Settlers museum lookout over beach reading and munching. Went into ANZ Patone to ensure account cancelled. Was set up in Wellington on 10/10 (shame they didn’t tell me about it!) No prob. Came back and got in motel on site. Pretty good and close to Ferry. Chilled on PC/ TV/ Reading. Did Audible book download Jenny Éclair and charged up stuff for journey to South island. Sweet corn (10p) and cheese on toast for tea washed down with Bundaberg plus rang Mum and early to bed.Rain 14c. Met Nutty guy from Coventry (married Canadian) who had been in NZ since the 70s. Cat shop that did books. Bought War & Peace for $3NZD and Anne got a book as well. RJ’s liquorish (not the red one) from Levin. See South Island Diary for Day 103.

Day 103 - Tuesday 5th February 2008,Wellington to Nelson

Having stayed in motel on campsite overnight and rang Mum got up @ 6am to catch ferry Drizzly in the morning Got to Interislander about 7.35-ish Boat didn’t leave until 8.45am (late) Bit like being on a large cruise ship, weather improved as we went but wind in Cook strait so strong they wouldn’t open the leewardside deck doors. Annie read, Keef slept (and apparently snored) until we reached Queen Charlotte Sound on South Island Spectacular views. Disembarked in Picton, nice little place. Had coffee filled up with fuel and set off along Queen Charlotte Drive, ace views of the sound from the road. Windy twisty steep but it hugged the coastline. Then on to Nelson via SH6 and the WOW museum.Loved World of Wearable Art (WOW) & classic car museum.Met noone in particular.Have now left North Island Stayed in Golden Oak Motel, Nelson and had a spa (very relaxing)

Day 104 - Wednesday 6th February 2008,Nelson to Kaiteriteri, Waitangi day (Maori treaty Public Hol)

Just got out of the motel in time, 10.15am late went to investigate campsites in Nelson (No good) spent some time in Trafalgar sq, looking at trees, cathedral , town, parksNelson is very nice Then went onto harbour side to see settlers monument just open yesterday. Interesting. Sunny about 24c. Then drove thru fruit vineyard area Rabbit island and onto start of Abel Tasman Nat Park and campsite at Kaiteriteri (2 nights).Saw lots Rabbit island and Nelson church the highlights.Met Kiwi, swiss girlfriend and her sister and friends. They were very loud until 12midnight. We had to get up for boat at 7.30 so a bit pissed off V cold at night.Yummy, Boysenberry real fruit ice-cream and basket of fruit, cherries and plums

Day 105 - Thursday 7th February 2008,Abel Tasman National Park (by Wilsons’ boat)

An absolutely fabulous day..Too much to describe here, see photos to do it justice,met Kiwi next campsite, borrowed his can opener!Gr8 day, gr8 weather 25c, gr8 scenery, went for a swim when we got back, would like to stay another day but site slot full so will move on

Day 106 - Friday 8th February 2008,Kaiteriteri to Golden Bay

Left campsite at about 11 (eventually) Traveled via Hawk Lookout point with nice boardwalk. Then via Upper Takawa to Bencardi and the Amatoki Salmon Fishing then on thru Tawaka and Collingwood (weird little place) past Mussel inn to Pawaka camp site. Booked eco tour to Farewell spit for 2moro, saw lots, met old Kiwi couple who insisted on telling us which route to take around South island, partially useful for Doubtful sound bus/boat advice but delayed us about an hour whilst we tried to get away. Americans from Florida who were moving to Alaska (boy they will notice the difference) Geoff at Anatoki salmon fishing, who showed us how to kill my fish (not nice) and I had to do Annies one (ugh, thru the brain), caught my first ever salmon (1.14 kg or approx 2.5 lbs) and Anne’s first ever fish 11.58 kg or approx 3.5lbs We then had them apple wood smoked and coated in Cajun (one fish) and lemon pepper (other fish) best salmon and freshest ever Ate with garlic bread at lunch hot then cold with new potatoes and salad eve , loved Lookout, Salmon fishing and Pakawau beach where we are camping for 3 nights Note lady in wellington in next tent had recommended Golden Bay

Day 107 - Saturday 9th February 2008,Farewell Spit Eco Tour

Dossed around in the morning , quite hot went on beach read / pc-ed. Prepared sandwiches and went off to Collingwood to catch our Eco tour bus to Farewell Spit Bird sanctuary and 27 miles by about 5 wide in the shape of a kiwi’s beak if you see it on a map. Gr8 day out, v interesting especially if u r a twitcher which we are not! Pictures probably best way to see it,lots of sand and interesting coastline, ex river bed In 1800’s it was all trees not sand dunes, maybe that tells us something.

Excellent guide who drove the bus, funny and knowledgeable. Computer guy who worked for the Bank of Austria b4 he retired. Unmarried, opinionated and never shut up, sort of guy you would avoid at work (or anywhere) except a sandspit! remember Eco tour Gr8, listening to final part of Time to Kill by Thomas Harris on Ipod (audible book) in the car with seats laid down , most relaxing. Started to rain which is oh so needed by the farmers and folk for water containers

Day 108 - Sunday 10th February 2008,Pakawua Campsite

Poured all night, 2.5 inches of rain, tent and some contents soaked, outside ground (note there was only us and 2 others on site and they were inside) drowned. Spent day drying out, luckily sun back out by about 12-ish used pc to catch up and sorted out our wedding anniversary. Cricket 23/2 Finally managed to get 2 tickets to see England Vs Blackcaps in 5th ODI, they play nearly all their matches on North Island except the 1st & 5th ODIs in Christchurch - hooray,Plus we are going on the Transalpine train (Christchurch to Greymouth & back) supposedly one of the best train journeys in the world for our 30th wedding anniversary on 25th and staying for 3 nights in some luxury in Christchurch across those 3 days, Annie taking me out for some posh nosh,Charged up cameras etc etc Nothing day really Had early T of spam, fried kumara and spaghetti, saw zip/diddly squat, met owner of campsite, droll Kiwi with a chauvinistic bent ‘ don’t carry plates for your woman’- stereotype. Said if they hadn’t had rain would have had to shut site as $NZD900 to buy in water (serious stuff), loved Rain stopping! Getting Cricket tickets

Day 109 - Monday 11th February 2008,Pakawua Campsite to Westport, A1 Motel

Drove from Pakawua back down road via Moutere (where we bought some stamp material for a shirt for me for about £35) Lovely fruit valley, bought apples (Red Goldenstein) and plums (red doris) Then superb scenery to Murchison where we had coffee (flat white) and blueberry muffins.Extract from note sent to Pete 2day

“greets from a very wet (a first!) Westport on the top west coast of south island...the thunder and lighting (remember that) was so bad whilst we camped last night that we had to sleep sometime in the car.... but we can’t complain after months of sunshine,we are really enjoying ourselves but its going a bit too quickly... ,loved your lines about sophie.....she'll be beating you at chess b4 u know it,good result for spurs, i didn’t know that one. Interestingly premier soccer is big here in nz, they don’t really do soccer...Finally managed to get 2 tickets to see England Vs Blackcaps in 5th ODI (23/2), they play nearly all their matches on North Island except the 1st & 5th ODIs in Christchurch – hooray, as we are now on south island and we ain’t going back 4 the cricket ,Annie & I are going on the Tranz Alpine train (Christchurch to Greymouth & back) supposedly one of the best train journeys in the world for our 30th wedding anniversary on 25/2 and staying for 3 nights in some luxury in Christchurch across those 3 days, plus Annie is taking me out for some posh nosh,Trust you are both well, enjoy the camping in the Cotswolds if you do go, Love Keef & Anne” Met PAHOG & FUN41, old aussies on Harley D’s who we last met at Lake Ferry café near Pallister bay. remember Thunder & Lightening dumped 3 ins on Wellington overnigh t24c even tho it rained lots,Fish and chips in Motel definitely not Westport (awful place), run down ex coal town, loved buller river

Day 110 - Tuesday 12th February 2008,Westport to Karamea

Nice sunny day Good drive along SH67 up to Karamea along surf coast. We stopped for lunch and got eaten by Sandflies. Nice views though. Climbed through hills, high and tropical. Lots of land for sale but who would want it? Karamea was a quaint little place and start of Heaphy trail. Stayed in best studio motel yet, $110NZD and did cooking inside (naughty) without setting off fire alarm, Strange letter boxes (fish, elephants, tractors you name it),Nutty couple with very old car and 1900 car hats, saw them again out at Gentle Annie Beach. Woman at motel (hubby Conservation guy) who had traveled to UK in her youth. Salisbury. Remember little kittens getting in our car at motel

Day 111 - Wednesday 13th February 2008,Karamea to Greymouth

Brilliant day (23c) Drive back thru Westport (you have tono other choice) then down SH6 to Greymouth. Superb views all the way. Like Highway 1 in California and Big Sur (maybe better) Stopped at various places but Pancake rocks and the blowholes was the best, superb 30min walk around the edge Lunch at concrete table and chairs overlooking Tasman and not sure who ate most the sand flies or us! Camping 2 nights Top10, saw lots including faces in the rocks! Good campsite. Station at Greymouth (will revisit 2moro) , met guy from Loughboro living in Holland with Dutch girlfriend at Fox River, remember being camped at Top 10 at Greymouth next to airport runway! Bought duvet cover cheap for tenting (the warehouse), loved Pancake rocks and the Blowholes (see on video)

Day 112 - Thursday 14th February 2008,Greymouth

VALENTINES DAY!!! Wet day in Greymouth. Parked up the car and walked around the town for most of the day.Pier at Barry town, just o/side town, Quay wall in town, proverbial clock tower, art gallery (in old bank of NZ) very cleverly called ‘A New Land’ (see photo and painted ‘in’ lettering from ‘bAnk of NEW zeaLAND’), lunch at 124 MacKay yummy Annie had a special chicken with spinach and cheese, I had Moroccan lamb with couscous plus lots of garlic bread (one kiwi portion is 4 big bits) –cost approx $NZD76 with iced coffee and flat white. Then we popped down to see Tranz Scenic arrive and depart Greymouth (its what we are on for our 30th from Christchurch), Jade Boulder gallery/museum (v interesting), carrot cake (again) then back to campsite, sunny now 21c, and read our books Had wine , cheese/bics/grapes 4 T . started raining about 8.30-ish ,mey guy from St Austell in the loos.Lots of nutty girls walking round town with a red heart on a stick, we mistook it (old fuddie duddies’ for something to do with Heart Foundation but it was obvious when you know its valentines day. Almost ‘international incident’ when kiwis left bench to guard their motor home slot and Japanese moved it and parked there. A&I were hoping for fireworks but it was a bit of a damp squib. Not many photos, it was all too ‘Grey’ Named after a brit general , river town etc etc

Day 113 - Friday 15th February 2008,Greymouth to Reefton

And it finished raining at about 9.30am, bad night huge electrical storm had to make a quick exit to car (again) at about 2.30am. This time only there for about 30mins . rain horrendous (3” guess) came in tent a bit.So after wash and breakfast packed insides and read until the tent dried. Got it down just in time as started raining again soon after. Went to MacDs for b’fast (yuk!!!) Petrol then onto Reefton via SH6. Lots of rain, stayed in First Electric light motel.Its what Reefton is famous for. Went in museum, saw old street lamps/ quartz mines, old shops. Ok place but not much happening. Went out for meal at Alfresco (eve) cold sitting outside nice filling meal though. We are only staying in Reefton for rodeo so 1 night is fine,Snow on Mountain range in distance from Top10 campsite when it was sunny Probably Mt Cook (guess) They said on news it had snowed!!!, met danish family with 4 kids under 10 traveling in campervan . Anne finished Wilbur Smith – the seventh scroll (book) one paragraph b4 Keef finished Ben Elton – Inconceivable at about 10.30am. We had to wait for tent to dry b4 taking it down, not quite the last folk to leave the Greymouth site, that honour went to poor German couple on motorbikes with leaky 2 man tent Americans at restaurant who only have 4 days on south island, why the hell were they spending 1 of them in Reefton we ask ourselves!!! loved cars as gate posts.

Day 114 - Saturday 16th February 2008,Reefton Rodeo, then onto Hamner Springs via Lewis Pass

Rained all night, packed up car then had gr8 cooked breakfast for $10NZD, Rodeo was at Reefton racecourse, gr8 gr8 gr8 fun loved every minute of it, After it finished we had flat white and cakes in bakery before driving thru Lewis pass to Hamner springs. 9c outside (coldest yet) No vacancies anywhere in HS, real holiday spot and Kiwi weekend, not sure why but alpine spot, we will investigate 2moro. Lewis pass gr8.Animal lib folk outside rodeo. Frankly the only one hurt was rider on the bucking bronco who got kicked near the eye but St Johns patched him up,Guy in Electric light motel (Reefton is famous for having the first lights.bottled lightin southern hemisphere) when I told him his breakfast was the best in NZ plus guy at bar who I talked cricket to (especially as now 2-1 to blackcaps in ODIs), remember Rodeo and K being stung by wasp, plus Lewis pass, loved the rodeo especially the action shot with the mucous from the bulls mouth and Lewis pass

Day 115 - Sunday 17th February 2008,Hamner Springs to Kaikoura

Up early, indeed we had left by 9.30am unheard of, v sunny day. Good look around the ski resort of HS, then lovely drive across SH7, then 70 (Mt Lyeford) through to Kaikoura. The Kaikoura range in the distance had snow on it, oh what a view Arrived about 2pm and set up tent, field v wet from 4 days of rain but nice and sunny now.Mountain range.Guy from Norfolk who owned Hamner Springs campsite, been in NZ 3 years.21c, Views of snow on the range

Day 116 - Monday 18th February 2008,Whale watching, Kaikoura

Xclent day. Whale watching at 12.15 from old railway station behind campsite, watched movie (gr8 shots) then bused out to South bay where we caught the boat, v good seats. Saw sperm whale twice and hector dolphins (v rare and small) then seal colony After wards had fish & chips and drove round harbour (another waves motel, looked v similar), 1930’s cinema, whale bone archeds, Robert Fyffes cottage, Scots 1st whaler in Kaikoura, drowned then his bro took over, v interesting coast line that ended up at the seal colony ,Oh so much, whales a delight, Mostly cloudy all day, remeber Annie spotting whale blowing on horizon b4 anyone else (lookouts and all) well done! Hines best fish and chips in NZ in our humble opinion, had after trip, then bought loads of sweeties for Cinema – saw Atonement, v good

Bought poster of Kaikoura overhead view to send back to Craig, ace, Interrupting film to ask guy to turn off the lights on his motorbike, loved sperm whale and hector dolphin

Day 117 - Tuesday 19th February 2008,Kaikoura

Quiet day at the Top 10 site, if you discount train and helicopter at midnight and 6 am, plus steady stream of campervan leavers. V cold overnight, bad night for both of us so we slept in to 10.20. Sun out, 20c, did washing, read a lot , popped into town to get paninis for lunch and the worst muffin ever (choc & raspberry but solid) Did PC stuff in eve, cold again , met australian lady whilst cooking in kitchen, sounded English had live in oz for 40 years. Lived at Morningtown on the peninsular so compared notes. She knew Elwood well they only have 4 weeks in NZ, with 3 on North Island (wow),Sent this to Linda and Doug 2day ‘We went to see Atonement last night here in Kaikoura in a 1930’s cinema, just like a scout hut. The film stopped halfway thru, no explanation and we thought it had broken, only it was the ‘intermission’ Not seen one of those since the 70’s To cap it all the ice-cream lady came in with a torch halfway thru the 2nd half to tell the ‘biker’ loudly that he had left his lights on.hoot!’

Day 118 - Wednesday 20th February 2008,Kaikoura to St Arnaud via Blenheim

Cold night again, lots of condensation on the tent, had to leave it dry out until about 11am Then set off up SH1 to Blenheim. Stopped to see seals , baby cub especially Liked Blenheim Had a real scot