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  • Keef Hellinger

Blog 167 Part 3 Holiday 2013 Diary ✅USE MENU✅created 2022 retrospective ❤

Updated: Mar 11

By keef and annie hellinger, Feb 20 2022 15.41 pm


This diary accompanied the BLOG 167 and an audiobook version of it is available on the BIG TRIPS page on this website. We are now on Soundcloud for all our audiobooks but if you wish to listen to the Diary rather than read it please click HERE


holiday 2013 trip diary and audiobook info image
holiday 2013 trip diary and audiobook, malaysia & new zealand

Whilst camping in New Zealand we joined the following two organisations which saved us a lot of money, these site clubs were called Top 10 and Kiwi Holiday Parks campsites. Just a thought for fellow motor homers , it may help #hintsandtips

MENU

Go to

1. Malaysia

2. New Zealand

3. Our Kauri Bowl , 35,000 years old

4. Australia

5. Singapore

6. Audiobook


MALAYSIA MENU

  1. Kuala Lumpur

  2. Kuah Town, Langkawi Island

  3. Island Hopping

  4. Doug & Phoenix's Wedding, Tanjung Rhu

  5. Berjaya Resort

  6. Georgetown, Penang

  7. Melaka


Malaysian Diaries

Malaysian Diary 22nd Jan – 5th Feb then again with D&P to Melaka for the weekend from Singapore 13-14 Mar 2013

Tuesday January 22nd 2013

After collecting the hire car from the East Midlands airport and dropping keys etc around Craig’s house, we set off for Heathrow. Heavy snow in fields in countryside but Heathrow was clear. We flew British airways 8.30pm to Singapore, although the plane was waiting to taxi down the runway for 45 minutes.

We had a few hours snatched sleep on the plane and arrived at Singapore at 5.40pm on the Tuesday. The flight was 12 hours 35 minute long.

British Airways food was Ok but not enough seat space / leg space , cramped conditions, definitely what we call “cattle class” . We were cheeky and asked for an upgrade but were told there were no first-class seats available.

Wednesday January 23rd 2013

Arrival Kuala Lumpur via Singapore

Arrived Singapore (in transit) for Kuala Lumpur (KL), Malaysia, sent text message to Doug. Phoenix’s parents staying with them currently in Singapore, where they were officially married at a civil ceremony on the 24th. We only had 1 hour 30 minutes to sort out our transit arrangements which was stressful since baggage had to be checked out and checked back in at the Changi counter, time flew by.

Singapore lovely airport (Changi surprisingly was once a prison used by the Japanese to hound Singaporeans, bad news) and modern , tube used to take passengers to baggage hall / passport check etc.

Flew Jet Star (operated by Quantas) 7.40pm to KL. Liked the airport in KL , clean modern etc. Flight was about 50 minutes. Found free shuttle bus at KL airport to take us to the Concorde Inn Hotel very near to the airport. Nice spacious deluxe room and wet room shower. Arrived at the hotel at 10.10 pm very tired and hot. After snow and freezing temperatures in England, arrived in jungle heat and then a ‘terrific tropical storm’ directly overhead with thunder and lightening. The thunder was os loud it was like an explosion.

Spent 24 hours travelling fron the time we left home to arriving at the hotel in KL.

Thursday January 24th 2013

Kuala Lumpur

Woke at 6.20am. Bit jet lagged.

Went into Kuala Lumpur city today having had a lovely hotel breakfast. The coffee machine inspired my 60th birthday present. Bought a batik fabric from the hotel foyer gift shop and practiced our Malay language skills. Got free shuttle bus from hotel to main airport and then took rapid train into the city (took 28 minutes) passing many palm tree plantations. Train cost 70 ringgits each return (about £14 at the time) and was like a very modern tube train.

Got hop on hop off (HOHO) coach tickets from outside the station, cost 35 ringgits each or £7 which was very good value. The bus tour took in all the city sights / sites (😉 ) , old colonial buildings and those that were ultra-modern, including the world famous Petronus Twin Towers, 3 green belts in the city with flowering shrubs and trees. We saw monkeys outside the national palace fence. The whole bus tour took about 2-2 ¼ hours as they stopped for photo opportunities on several occasions. KL was not very crowded surprisingly. The Chinese shops were very interesting and lots of market and food stalls were available.

We visited the national museum of Malaysia and saw traditional long houses and the Sultan’s throne and a man with a yellow python. Also on the 2nd tour around the city we stopped at a traditional crft centre and chatted to a batik designer / artist from Borneo. Terrific tropical storms again at 5.50 pm, we got back on the bus tour but interestingly the bus well and truly leaked 😉 We had a chicken meal at the main station got back to the Concorde In hotel at about 9.20pm tired, happy and educated (travel definitely broadens the mind) and very ready for bed.

Friday January 25th 2013

Still at Concorde Inn Hotel near KL airport.

Woke up early again at 5.45 a.m., must still be jet lag, heavy rain. Yesterday we found all Malaysians friendly and very helpful and all spoke very good English, we tried out our pigeon Malay whenever we could to try and be good but in general their English was way better than our Malay. Annie did Indonesian at school in Australia and said many of the words were similar. We had an excellent breakfast at the hotel, Keef did some online banking and emails, we then when swimming / sunbathing at the hotel pool. It was very hot and then like clockwork the rain clouds gathered and around 6 p.m. there was another terrific rainstorm with thunder and lightening. The rain was tremendous, and we mean TORRENTIAL!

Anne had a little siesta as was suffering from jet lag and tired.

We then had a lovely evening meal in the hotel restaurant, Annie had chicken satay with rice, curd cake and carrot cake for pudding, Keef had nasi lemak , chicken, rendang sauce, coconut rice, with an anchovy and nut garnish followed by cheesecake for pudding, all very yummy and hugely well prepared, thanks Concorde Inn Hotel staff, much appreciated.

We then organised the taxi pickup for the next morning to take us to the Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) in Kuala Lumpur for our Malaysian internal flights at 10 a.m. (arriving at the terminal 2 hours earlier as directed) Never know what that is all about, mostly to get you to spend money at the terminal.

Night night we will be up early tomorrow.

Saturday January 26th 2013

Today we travel onward to Langkawi Island, Malaysia, a chocolate (tax free) holiday paradise island for all Malaysians and the place where our youngest son is due to get married. Tick!

Got up at 6 a.m. and had breakfast at 7.15 a.m. we then got the taxi to Kuala Lumpur’s LCCT terminal to catch our 10 a.m. flight on Air Asia to Langkawi. We had to be at the terminal 2 hours in advance.

In the end the plane left at 10.15 a.m. and took about 1 hour to get to the island.

It was very hot in Langkawi, about 30 degrees C, we checked in at the De Baron Hotel , a 2 star hotel, having picked up our hire car from the airport for 1 week. It cost about £230. The hire car had air con, 4 doors and seemed very good.

Apparently, there are monkeys and buffalo on the roads away from the main Kuah Town although on our journey to the hotel we didn’t see any. Cars drive on the left in Malaysia.

We unpacked our bags in the hotel room, which was not as good as the one at the Concorde Inn in KL. We then went for a stroll around the hotel and grounds to familiarise ourselves with where we were.

We then walked to the nearest shops to find a restaurant for some food. This is hilarious, we ordered fish and chips, but the waiter only bought one plate. He naively assumed it was only the man eating, wow now that is a cultural difference. 😉 We asked for the 2nd meal which duly arrived, but the fish was not cooked properly. We left in disgust and found another restaurant.

Anne had lemon chicken (not very good) and pineapple rice which was wonderful. We then found a wine shop and bought both red and white for D&P’s wedding.

Both of us has a siesta as knocked out by the massive heat or more succinctly humidity. Keef took sunset pictures from the hotel grounds.

Brian and Gina arrived at De Baron Hotel, Kuah Town, Langkawi Island at 10.15 p.m.

Sunday January 27th 2013

Went for a swim and met up with Brian and Gin who had got up early and had breakfast and walked along the bay to the Eagle Square statue (famed on Langkawi and visible in all the tourist brochures).

It was again very hot today.

We all got sunbeds around the pool which had 2 lovely slides. K&A went off to collect Craig and Leanne from the airport at 12.15 p.m. and then once they had both checked into their room they joined us on the sunbeds which we had rotated to be in the shade, a very good move for us pasty skinned Brits abroad, ha ha. 😉The only 2 awake around the pool were Annie & I as we had now arrived in the right time zone body wise.

In the evening we had dinner at our hotel outside in the gardens overlooking the bay a bit cooler and a lovely romantic setting and great company, what more could you ask for.

We took some sunset photos over the bay. Hotel had wonderful and beautiful views of the bay which is part of the straits of Malacca. Being a Muslim country, they did not serve alcohol, but we took along some beers etc. and sat along the bay frontage and watched the sun set, just magical.

That afternoon Keef & Brian had walked 10 minutes to the quay to book an island-hopping boat tour trip for 9 a.m. the next day, so looking forward to that.

This is an extract from a tourist brochure from Langkawi.

“Kuah, the main town of Langkawi, is a good starting point for visitors who travel via ferry. While clear white stretches of beaches are non-existent here, ships are ever-present in the distance and the looming mountains on the nearby islets are visible during the day. The town is well-regarded as a shopper’s haven, housing many excellent duty-free stores selling everything but the kitchen sink.

Due to its relatively large population and the number of hotels in the area, visitors can also find a good range of dining venues to choose from while places of interests that are great for picture moments can be found in Kuah.

Kuah, Kuah Town or Bandar Kuah is a town, mukim and district capital of Langkawi, Kedah, Malaysia. It is the entry point for those coming by ferry from either the mainland or Penang Island. The town is centered on its jetty, which is a point of arrival for tourists from the mainland. Kuah has become a major town due to the growth of visitors after Langkawi developed into a tourist centre since 1986.

Kuah is the most important town on Langkawi Island. Though it is not an actual city, local people from Langkawi refer to it as a city. Kuah is a nice and small town with a relaxed atmosphere. There are no big malls, no heavy traffic and no places to eat on every corner but more than enough to satisfy your appetite. Langkawi Island has a duty-free status. You can buy cheap liquor, cigarettes, fragrances, and other souvenirs in Kuah. Kuah has a couple of hotels, but you will find better accommodation outside of the city. “

The hotel address was de BARON resort, Bandar Baru BARON,07000, Kuah Langkawi, Kedah Darul Aman.

Monday January 28th 2013

Early breakfast for us all and then got boat trip at 9 a.m. from Eagle Statue quay side. It was a longish boat with sun shades over seats and we rightly had to wear life jackets. There was bright sunshine, but it was breezy.

The guy who drove the boat drove it very fast and it was incredibly bouncy. It bounced on some large waves which made us bounce on our metal seat structures quite hard so much so that Craig got a huge bruise on his lower back and Annie one on her arm. If I was being unkind I would say the pilot was doing it on purpose, i.e. an inert dislike of tourists, however I would say most strongly “don’t bite the hand that feeds you” PLEASE!!!

We arrived at a small island with palm trees and a lovely beach. This was on reflection the island of beras basah. We had a short walk to the main jetty where there were other tourist boats, he had landed up on the sand as otherwise it was too crowded. The other boats were mainly full of Malaysian tourists. We all went for a cooling swim and then came onto the beach and saw a monkey steal someone’s plastic carrier bag and grab a slice of toast from within. He sat there proudly eating it and we all took lots of photos.

We spent ¾ (three quarters) of an hour on that island , Craig having a go in the provided hammock, and then got back on the boat and went to another island where we saw eagles swooping to catch fish and the while island surrounded by mangroves.

The last island we visited, dayang bunting, had lots of cheeky monkeys and we walked through the trees on a path with lots of steps to the island’s major lake with a floating pontoon. Craig swam and the rest of us sat on the decking and soaked our feet in the cool waters, this freshwater lake was called the lake of the pregnant maiden.

We got on the boat from the dayang bunting jetty after a leisurely stroll back from the lake and lots more monkey pictures and returned to the quay at 12.30 noon. We swam in the De Baron hotel pool and got water, wine, and beer from the town locally in the hire car. After some hassle with the car not starting and having to call out the hire company to fix it (damn it looked like a new vehicle, not good) Keef , Brian & Gina finally arrived at the “passage to India” restaurant where we all had our evening meal after what had been a fun but slightly tiring day out.

Its worth noting that the locals only came out to swim in the evening to avoid the heat of the day, oh well mad dogs and Englishmen as they say tee hee. 😉

Tuesday January 29th 2013

We all spent time around the pool relaxing in the morning after our usual friendly and substantial breakfast. Late afternoon we took Craig & Leanne in the hire car to Pantai Chenang and met Brian and Gina there, they had got a taxi outside to Underwater world which we all loved but lost Gina in tee hee.

It was a very hot and humid day again, we saw the aquarium and the rain forest area with animals and birds and surprisingly penguins who were in what seemed to be a fridge area, we tried to stowaway (not really ha-ha). It was all very good. Brian had to do a search party for Gina who was reported lost as taking so many photos she strayed away from the rest of us.

After this we all walked along the main road in the Pantai Chenang resort where we found a small sandy beach where there were jellyfish at the edge of the sea, after it had disappeared we went for a dip to cool off. We had lunch and drinks at the lovely beach bar, with great views of the Anderman sea and main beach where there were jet skis, banana boats and parascending / parasailing activities. We went for a swim in the sea and watched the lovely sunset at 7.30 p.m.

We then collectively set off to look for a restaurant for dinner and found a nice fusion one serving southeast Asian cuisine. It was lovely food. We all got changed out of our wet swim wear in the loos after our swim.

Brian and Gina got a taxi back to the hotel and us 4 returned in the hire car, all in all a great day out.

Wednesday January 30th 2013

Doug and Phoenix’s Wedding Day, Langkawi Island, Tanjung Rhu Resort definitely 5 star

Set off from the De Baron hotel in Kuah Town with Craig & Leanne in the hire car. Brian and Gina took a taxi across the island and surprise, surprise got lost, you would thing the taxi drivers would know their way around.

Anyhow we all arrived at the Tanjung Rhu hotel resort where the wedding was to be held late afternoon. We spent some time around the pool before the wedding and met up with D&P and Phoenix’s parents, her 2 cousins (including Shren whom we have got to know much better over the years as like P she went to university in the UK for about a year, since married in China).

Again, a very very hot day.

Lovely beach views and loved the hotel rooms and gardens, dead posh. The wedding was lovely and very romantic and held on the beach at 6.30 p.m. to take some of the days heat away. Phoenix looked lovely in her bridal dress escorted across the sand by her dad and 3 bridesmaids all in yellow dresses whilst hers was pure white.

Doug looked very smart in grey trousers, waistcoat, white shirt and gold bow tie and cummerbund. The ceremony was very emotional and beautiful at the same time. They then went off for formal photos and then we went into the hotel for the traditional Chinese tea ceremony with her parents and the bride & groom.

Then followed a beach barbeque and feast as by now dark skies, with a really good live band. The speeches were all excellent, Ps Dad, John the best man (one of Doug’s university pals) and Doug who did a long speech in both Mandarin and English. We are very proud of him, and the Chinese contingent laughed in quite a few places so it must have been good. He also recited a poem he had written to Phoenix which was very romantic.

We then had dancing on the sand with Phoenix even doing lead vocals with the band at one point, she has such a lovely voice. Then wedding cake and did some beach games… China versus England, ha-ha. Skittles and throwing coconuts as the ball. Then more music and dancing and then we moved inside the hotel for some karaoke which finished at 2.30 am. The Chinese were great at Kareoke, we however tanked up on booze to give us the confidence to finish with Bryan Adams and Bon Jovi numbers, The summer of 69 and Living on a prayer respectively.

All very tired but happy we retired to bed. Doug & Phoenix both seemed very happy with how it had all gone, what a wonderful wedding day!

Thursday January 31st 2013

Brian and Gina transferred to their new hotel, Berjeya Hotel Resort on the southwest of the island at 4 p.m.

Got up late and had breakfast in the Sands restaurant in the Tanjung Rhu hotel. We chatted to John & his partner Tammy. We had to check out of our room at 12 noon, but Doug and Phoenix were staying on until Friday. We put our baggage in the hire car and then spent the rest of the afternoon by the pool as did the whole of Phoenix’s family. Brian and Gina then left at 4 p.m. for their next hotel. We got showered to leave at 6.30 p.m. Unfortunately only B&G caught Phoenix’s Mum to say goodbye, we didn’t manage any of P’s party, the whole of her entourage were not around, B&G did say farewell to Doug & Phoenix however who were off for a spa treatment, luxury eh but true honeymoon stuff for Mr. & Mrs. Douglas (as they became known by the hotel staff tee hee). They were also doing snorkeling on Friday morning before flying to Penang to briefly stay with their friends Kim & Jayne, who were also wedding guests. Kim volunteered to show us around Georgetown his home when we got to Penang in a few days’ time but we decided against it as in fairness didn’t know him that well and wanted to look around at our own pace.

We will stay with Doug & Phoenix at the end of our trip for two weeks in April so its as they say not goodbye but more au revoir ha-ha

With Craig and Leanne we then drove to the tourist resort of Pantai Chenang again and had a lovely Thai meal, this was the scene of C&L’s parascending experience tomorrow having worked up the courage watching other on our previous visits here , something we are not sure Leanne would do again.

Very tired as late night previously so we all went to bed when we returned to the hotel De Baron in Kuah Town.

One thing we remember from around the pool at Tanjung Rhu resort was the pompous Brits who told as they always holidayed here every year and were complaining about the riffraff lowering the tone for the plebs wedding, little did they know that was us, awful snobs and people for that matter, happy never to see folk like that again, thank you very much

Friday February 1st 2013

Had breakfast at 8.30 a.m. with Craig & Leanne and then returned to Pantai Chenang for them to do parasailing, which cost them £12 for 10 minutes in the air. The speedboat took them out for a very small island offshore where they took off from its beach. Then we drove to the southwest side of the island and visited the Oriental Village with shops, a lake with koi carps, fish, monkeys etc. maybe click on the link on the website page for the oriental village Langkawi Island to see so much more.

We saw the cable car but the queue to get on was so long we just didn’t have time to do it so Craig & Leanne did an elephant ride instead. Their elephant was called Lasah, we took lots of photos of them then K & A fed him afterwards with bread slices and bananas provided. We saw a small boy with a python wrapped around his neck.

We then went into the spa shop where Craig & Leanne put their feet into a pool where small fish nibbled the hard skin on their feet, it made Craig giggle. We had already done this with Linda & Ian in Cornwall before we came so gave it a miss this time around.

We then drove to Brian & Gina’s new resort hotel which was quite close to the Oriental Village and spent the afternoon on the beach and in their pool which had a waterfall. Their hotel grounds were nicely landscaped with tropical palms etc. Maybe click on the link for the Berjaya hotel resort to see more. We took the little bus up the hillside to their chalet amongst the trees, it was an extremely steep road, so transport was most welcome.

We all had a shower there and got changed ready for the evening. There were monkeys in the trees. We went to dinner in a fab Lebanese restaurant along the coast in Pantai Kok, which is a lovely fishing and yacht harbour. The food was very tasty and we had to do the usual walk to the far corner of the restaurant to wash our hands under running water as we mostly used our ands to eat, a cultural and maybe religion practice within Muslim countries, who knows!

Brian and Gina returned to their resort by taxi. We all said our goodbyes and C, L,K&A returned to the De Baron hotel in Kuah town. We went to bed at 10.30 p.m. as an early start tomorrow.

Brian and Gina were spending a further 7 days at the Berjaya resort before flying onto Borneo for the rest of their holiday. We had spent a lovely time together, such wonderful memories especially the Wedding at Tanjung Rhu, will remember it forever, very special.

Saturday February 2nd 2013

Langkawi Island to Penang for Keef & Annie and the next leg of our Holiday 2013.

Got up at 5 a.m. and took Craig and Leanne to Langkawi airport for 6 a.m. for their return flight to the UK. It was very dark outside but with the sound of prayer call in the air from the many mosques en-route.

Keef sent emails and photos of the Wedding to family and friends in England an Tasmania. The photos came out very well and are a fab reminder of such wonderful times. We then had breakfast at De Baron and drove to Eagle Quay one last time, but it was very busy with tax free shoppers so decided to give shopping there a miss.

Went back into Kuah town and Anne bought 2 lots of batik and Keef bought some seaweed pringles as we so liked Craig’s. We had previously checked out of the hotel but returned to get changed.

We then returned the hire car to the airport at 3 p.m., we loved its air con ha-ha. And then had to wait until 5.30 p.m. for our Air Asia flight to Penang. The plane left early and took only 18 minutes, possibly one of our shortest flights ever. Got taxi coupon, 44 ringgits, approximately £5.50 in British pounds and then the taxi to our Georgetown hotel called the Bayview on the northeast of the island of Penang. Georgetown is its capital and highly colonial from its past. We stayed on the 15th floor with lovely views of the bay which is in the Melaka Sea and of colourful buildings and the red roofs of Chinatown from our own room.

We had showers and unpacked. The air con was not working, and the room was hot, so we called the man to fix it which made it a little bit cooler but not perfect by any means. We went to dinner at the hotel at 9 p.m. Annie had a prawn salad and Keef the chicken curry and we both shared some strawberry ice cream for pudding. As it was a long day we were very tired and collapsed exhausted but happy into bed soon after dinner.

We had driven 225 miles on Langkawi Island.

Sunday February 3rd 2013

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia, 97 degrees Fahrenheit, wow!

Georgetown is a busy city with lots of high-rise buildings, but the historical area is preserved and has world heritage status i.e., UNESCO especially for Cheong Fatt Tze’s Blue Mansion. It is a very busy city as over 200 years old and got UNESCO status in 2008.

We had a substantial breakfast at the Bay View hotel and then did some sightseeing and visited the Chinese Blue Mansion which cost 12 ringgits each, £2.40 pence in English which on reflection for such a world wonder was incredibly cheap. It was extremely interesting; the house was preserved but all the furnishings were new. Cheong Fatt Tze’s house had 38 rooms, 7 staircases, 5 courtyards, he was a millionaire who left China to make his fortune at 16 and went to Indonesia and then Penang in Malaysia. He had 8 wives and died in 1916, he was a trader and a banker.

The house had gone to rack and ruin but was restored between 1990 and 1997. It has lovely wood carved panels and courtyards. By 2022 it was also used as a hotel and restaurant (sadly).

After leaving the Blue Mansion we walked around the British colonial area to see the white buildings, City Hall, the museums, and cathedral. By this time, it was 12.30 p.m. and extremely hot and sunny and humid. We tried to walk in the shade wherever possible but it was exhausting. We Brits will get used to it eventually honest.

We saw the esplanade and the bay near Fort Cornwallis. Then decided the heat was so intense that we walked (hard going) back to the hotel for a cold drink in the bar, shower than a cooling swim in the hotel pool. Luckily the pool was very cold, yippee!

We had booked the buffet dinner in the revolving restaurant on the 16th floor of the hotel for 7.30 p.m. It was lovely Thai food with singing from a live professional act on karaoke who also dis requests from the diners. Keef requested some Adele songs. We also saw Georgetown lit up at night with illuminated fire flies hitting the restaurant windows, quite spectacular form of lighting and / or fireworks, tee hee.

Some words about it are “Town heritage, traverse into the eclectic charm of George Town Penang’s illustrious history as you step into the world of Cheong Fatt Tze’s Blue Mansion. Conceived and constructed before the end of the 19th century, The Blue Mansion sets the standard for Penang’s boutique heritage hotel landscape and stands today as one of the most iconic boutique hotels in Malaysia. It is the only one to have won the prestigious UNESCO Conservation & Heritage award.

The transcendental quality and timelessness of the mansion has been perfectly poised for over a century on firm foundations of architectural, cultural and historical superlatives. Here, time comes to a halt as you meander along the mansion and revel in the harmonious medley of history and culture.

The Blue Mansion seamlessly blends old world charm with modern comforts. A wide array of amenities includes an exquisite dining experience at Indigo restaurant, a courtyard dining room and an idyllic terrace. There are guided mansion tours daily which give you further insight into the story behind the architecture and history of George Town’s first heritage hotel. The Blue Mansion is centrally located at 4km from the Gurney Drive seafront promenade, 9km from Kek Lok Si Buddhist temple, and just a 5-minute walk to China Town and other significant heritage spots in Penang.”

In our humble opinion it is just a truly spectacular building.

And here is some UNESCO words for Malaysia, we have been to both.

Melaka and George Town, Historic Cities of the Straits of Malacca

Melaka and George Town, historic cities of the Straits of Malacca have developed over 500 years of trading and cultural exchanges between East and West in the Straits of Malacca. The influences of Asia and Europe have endowed the towns with a specific multicultural heritage that is both tangible and intangible. With its government buildings, churches, squares and fortifications, Melaka demonstrates the early stages of this history originating in the 15th-century Malay sultanate and the Portuguese and Dutch periods beginning in the early 16th century. Featuring residential and commercial buildings, George Town represents the British era from the end of the 18th century. The two towns constitute a unique architectural and cultural townscape without parallel anywhere in East and Southeast Asia.”

Monday February 4rd 2013

Georgetown 91 degrees Fahrenheit

We set the alarm for 6.30 a.m. to start sightseeing early to avoid some of the heat of the day. At 7.45 a.m. we set off for the free hop on hop off shuttle bus around the old part of the city. We used that bus to alight in the Chinese area which is very old and saw interesting herbal medicine shops. We walked through a market and saw some strange fruits (well they were strange to us at the time, having been in Asia quite a bit since that novelty has worn off).

We visited a Chinese temple yard where people lit incense for good luck. Chinese New Year, the year of the Snake was on the 10th of February that year. Red paper lanterns were up everywhere.

We got off the bus at the National Museum which cost 1 ringgit each entry fee, 20 pence in English money. It was an excellent museum all about Penang and Georgetown in particular. It has been UNESCO world heritage since 2008.

We then returned to the hotel for a swim, jacuzzi and shower.

Annie found the cleaner had taken her flannel from the room, it was white like the hotel towels, and they had mistaken it as theirs for washing. The staff searched all the laundry but could not find it, so they gave her a hotel flannel.

We were just about to go out at 5.20 p.m. when a torrential downpour and gusting winds started and the resultant lightening made us turn around from the lobby and return to our room. We were going to get a bus to Batu Ferringhe along the north coast of Penang and have dinner at the Hard Rock Café hotel there but rightly changed our minds.

Instead, we watched TV and then had dinner at 8 p.m. in the hotel restaurant, we had nasi goreng, yummy.

We then did our packing as travelling tomorrow however the hotel manager said we could check out at 1 p.m.

Tuesday February 5th 2013

Today we left Georgetown for Auckland New Zealand via Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

Got up at 7 a.m. had a quick breakfast and got free hop on hop off shuttle bus to the KOMTAR CENTRE then bus 101 to Batu Ferrighe along the north coast of Penang Island. All buses are air conditioned which was wonderful as again it was very hot and sunny. The bus took a while to get out of Georgetown as it’s a very busy and congested city.

Initially all urban sprawl then the coastal road with views of the sea and large rocks. We got off the bus at the Hard Rock hotel past a lot of tourist hotels and restaurants. Keef bought his obligatory T-shirt from the HRC shop proudly displaying “Penang”.

We looked around the hotel, it had a nice beach nearby plus pool and lazy river with rubber rings which cost £2 a day to hire. There was lots of rock and pop memorabilia. Got there at 11 a.m. and then took the same bus back to the hotel which took ages as Georgetown was very hectic. We got to the hotel at 12.55 p.m. luckily, they gave us an extra ½ hour to check out, we had showers and took our bags down to the foyer. We got the taxi to the airport at 2.15 p.m.

The flight to Singapore on Jet Star Asia was 1 hour in duration and we then had to kill time in Changi Airport, Singapore until our flight to Brisbane at 9.30 p.m. that evening, we couldn’t meet up with D&P because they were elsewhere and in reality, would not have had enough time to check out and back into the airport.

Keef watched Lincoln on the plane, Annie watched bits of films but could not concentrate as so tired. Both of us only got about 2 hours sleep that night in transit.

Saturday April 13th 2013

Malacca or Melaka, Malaysia

Guest house owners Mr. and Mrs. Li were very friendly and polite. Phoenix had booked this accommodation from Singapore. We had arrived in the hire car we picked up just across the border into Malaysia at Johor Bahru or JB in everyday parlance tee hee. We did the awful crowded lengthy Woodlands crossing by shuttle bus (cattle class tee hee) over the Johor Causeway bridge from Singapore to Malaysia. Not fun as the weekend when many of the Malaysian workers return to JB to their families after a week away working in the better paid country of Singapore, remember before independence on the 9th of August 1965 Singapore was a state of Malaysia.

Mr. Li offered to give us a guided tour of Melaka at 6.45 p.m. We went to a local Chinese cafe for breakfast, our guest house is in the old part of town so very traditional. Melaka is now a UNESCO world heritage site along with Georgetown Penang which we went to early on this trip.

After breakfast we walked around the old town down by the river, which was very smelly and sadly polluted. It was a dirty green sludge colour. We saw lots of old churches, one was built in 1756, which was when Malacca was on the spice route and had both Dutch and Portuguese colonies.

There were lots of men on rickshaws covered in fake flowers driving tourists around the old town. Plus, lots of Chinese tourists on coach tours. Culturally the Chinese do like to travel in convoy which makes sense when language is an issue, potentially less so here in Melaka which is very multi-cultural as indeed Singapore is. It is worth noting we were some of the only westerners we saw.

We saw monitor lizards in the river, they lived in holes in the walls at the rivers edge and came out to swim in the sunshine.

After lunch of some Chinese food in a riverside café we went on a boat cruise for a few kilometers up the river and then back again affording a view of some of the surrounds. There was a fake sailing ship, a Dutch East Indies ship that had originally been shipwrecked off Melaka in a storm circa 1650.

We then returned to the guest house which as it doubled as a Chinese tea house was a real treat and experience. We had fermented China teas, the ginger one was the best. We sat and rested there and chatted to Mr. Li.

Then we had showers and at 6.45 p.m. he drove us in his battered car around the city and showed us the sights which was lovely. We visited a Muslim Mosque on the coast with views of the Malacca Straits, old Malay Chetti Village houses down by the river, and the old St. Johns fort where we saw monkeys and then went on for a Portuguese meal in the open air by the sea. We also saw people launching Chinese lanterns into the sky, all quite atmospheric. Mr. Li carried on our tour until about 10.30 p.m. when he dropped us all off at Jonker’s Walk to see the night market. It was busy and bustling and we remember the humourous advert for Mr. Potato Head crisps the ad poster being Wayne Rooney ha-ha.

We then returned to the guest house which was close by, tired , had a shower and went to bed at 12 midnight. A very interesting day all in all.

And here are some UNESCO words for Malaysia, we have been to both Melaka & Georgetown, Penang.

Melaka and George Town, Historic Cities of the Straits of Malacca

Melaka and George Town, historic cities of the Straits of Malacca have developed over 500 years of trading and cultural exchanges between East and West in the Straits of Malacca. The influences of Asia and Europe have endowed the towns with a specific multicultural heritage that is both tangible and intangible. With its government buildings, churches, squares and fortifications, Melaka demonstrates the early stages of this history originating in the 15th-century Malay sultanate and the Portuguese and Dutch periods beginning in the early 16th century. Featuring residential and commercial buildings, George Town represents the British era from the end of the 18th century. The two towns constitute a unique architectural and cultural townscape without parallel anywhere in East and Southeast Asia.”

Sunday April 14th 2013

Malacca back to Singapore

Had breakfast at 10.30 a.m. in a Chinese café was dim sum. Then we walked around the old town a different area from yesterday, seeing old Chinese temples, Chinese theaters, and a lot of little shops, busy with Chinese tourists. Keef bought some new flip flips (or thongs as our aussie friends would call them). Phoenix was not well and frequently sick, not sure if it was the street food kebabs in the morning or the sea food at the Portuguese restaurant the previous evening, who knows but poor Phoenix.

K & A headed back to the guest house for a rest, the humidity was getting to us. D&P arrived back a little later and she went to lie down to try and recover. Mr. Li made us a lovely local coffee and then his wife kindly made us and Doug some winter melon tea, a vegetable we now know extremely well but didn’t at the time.

We all chatted and rested up a bit. Phoenix recovered after her little nap and rejoined us. We all went off to a Chinese restaurant for lunch, we had already loaded all our bags into the hire car boot at this point anyhow. After lunch we set off at 3.15 p.m. for the long drive back to the city of Johor Bahru which is the Malaysian city on the border.

We stopped at a service station for a comfort break. We played hunt the western loo ha-ha. It was mainly palm trees lining the motorway on the way back stretching for miles on either side. Not many signs of towns or villages. Palm tree oil (not great in COP26 times) and rubber are the main Malaysian exports. We used the sat nav to try and get back to the lady’s house whom we had got the hire car from but it took us to the wrong area, many are named the same in JB. By 7 p.m. we had already spent an hour circling around JB in a vain attempt to find the right address. Despite many phone calls to the lady to ask for directions she and her husband were not very helpful and did not know any of the local road names to the point where they could only tell us the name of the shipping mall that was nearby them. Very frustrating. Jalan Balau which was the road we wanted came up 14 different areas on the sat nav, so we methodically tried them all, grr! We needed Jalan Balau 1 to be precise. A nightmare to find but we eventually got there. Not a trip any of us would want to do again but as years pass, we would always remember it.

We then took a taxi back to the border crossing; it was not so busy on a Sunday evening so getting into Woodlands crossing was a breeze. We all got back to Geylang flat at 10 p.m. Went out for a Chinese meal locally and then had showers and flopped into bed very tired, but happy to have spent such a lovely adventurous weekend away with Mr. & Mrs. Douglas, fun times.

For Malaysia that's all folks


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New Zealand North Island Only, Diary 6th Febru ary to 5th March 2013


NEW ZEALAND MENU


  1. Orewa

  2. Tutukaka Coastline

  3. Keri Keri

  4. Coromandel

  5. Bay of Plenty

  6. Hawkes Bay

  7. Tongariro area

  8. 35th Wedding Anniversary (Emerald and /or Jade)

  9. Taranaki

  10. Back to Auckland


Wednesday February 6th 2013

Arrived in Brisbane Queensland Australia at 2.35 p.m. local time, bags were in transit. We then flew on from Brisbane to Auckland, North Island, New Zealand mid afternoon local kiwi time. We were now 5 hours ahead of the local time in Georgetown Penang Malaysia, so our body clocks were somewhat out of kilter.

We were both very tired from both the flight and body clocks, super jet lagged, but managed to get a free pick-up van to the kiwi motel near the airport and unpacked some stuff and fell into bed for about an hour. Had showers, it was really all a blur, airports, planes, luggage, movies, music, eating at weird times etc etc. We then went and had a meal in the Kiwi Motel restaurant , lamb curry which was very nice and cooked by the Indian family who manage the motel. We will return and indeed did in 2017.

We even did the Kiwi census here even though we are tourists, they insisted. So if any of our descendants in the future are into Genealogy they will find us in New Zealand’s census and wonder why, this is the answer. Interestingly my parents would have emigrated to New Zealand in the mid-50s but because of Dad’s apprenticeship papers they went to Australia instead as did I since then born. We went as a family to Melbourne 1960-63.

Thursday February 7th 2013

Summary today we collected our rental van and went from the airport kiwi motel to the wonderful Orewa to the north of Auckland.

We had a continental breakfast at 8 a.m. at the Kiwi motel, we paid them $10, approximately £5 to take us to the motorhome company which was about 8 minutes’ drive away. After doing some necessary admin and watching a DVD on how to drive the motorhome and how it all works (kind of familiar to us already from previous hires) we set off from Auckland using our Sat Nav. Keef had loaded on both New Zealand, Australia and Singapore maps to our gadget back home saving some dosh in hiring the companies Sat Nav, good news.

We drove across the bridge over Auckland harbour and arrived in Orewa where we did our food shopping in the Countdown supermarket, we remembered from our 2007-8 Gap Year trip. We also unpacked our travel bags in their car park, so we had the van all straightened out for our fun times ahead.

We arrived at the Top 10 campsite in Orewa at midday and joined the club as members kiwi $49 which provided a $4 discount each night camping, roughly £2 so easily covered the cost of membership for the time we were in NZ.

The campsite and our pitch were fronting onto the beach, lovely blue seas, and skies and just a beautiful summers day with no humidity. We had steak and cheese pies & cobs for lunch. Frankly any kiwi pie is just fab , available from most service stations (servos) everywhere, put our British pies to shame.

We then walked along Orewa beach, beautiful views, and trees especially the Pohutukawa trees and Norfolk pines. A local woman (her parents lived in Grantham, small world) kindly took our photo on our camera for us, our trusty Canon Powershot G7 which we took down under in 2007-8, sadly by 2022 it was now defunct, and we have bought Annie a new one, I use my phone.

This local lady had been in New Zealand for 37 years, we noted she now had brown leathery skin, beach ready ha-ha. We had a long chat to her and then walked to the Vodaphone shop to sort out the internet and wi-fi for our trip, we purchased a dongle for the duration which worked well even in out of the way places. We also bought a kiwi phone SIM and topped it up with $20 at the New World Supermarket at the till.

We walked back to the campsite having seen the Waves hotel that we stayed at for Xmas 2007 with the boys when we were on our Gap Year. Phoenix joined us there for Boxing Day. See the HOLIDAY2007-8 site for more details at https://www.holiday2007-8.co.uk thanks for looking. It was a lovely motel just by the beach.

We noted all the lovely architect designed houses along the Orewa beach front as we strolled back, bare feet in the sand.

Dinner was beef escalope’s, new potatoes, salad, and an apple each for afters. It gets dark around 8.30-8.45 p.m. here , quite noisy with traffic during the day past the campsite which was on the edge of town but on its main through road, but very quiet at night.

Reckon we walked about 2 miles around Orewa today. The Britz campervan mileage at the start of our trip was recorded as 246,253 kilometres , recorded just so at the end of our time in New Zealand we can work out how far we had travelled. Clever, eh?

Friday February 8th 2013

Summary of the day, Orewa to Whangerei.

Cloudy start to the day but got sunnier and very blue skies again by 10 a.m. We left the site at Orewa for town and visited the Vodafone shop (again) to sort out the equipment for our netbook to view the internet and emails whilst we were travelling, yesterday eve had proved it didn’t quite work as suggested, typical. Took a while but eventually got it all working with their help. #Tick

We then set off from Orewa up the highway and along the coast using the famed twin coast discovery highway initially to Mangawhai Heads where we had lunch. Beautiful scenery, lovely homes, plus views along the coast and beach. We very much liked his place. Sadly, we saw lots of dead possums on the road, known as Kiwi pizza in NZ but protected in Australia.

We then drove to Waipu cove where we paddled and walked along the beach. Lots of small bits of seaweed in the sea so we decided not to swim, a seaweed bath despite costing a fortune at health spas was not for us today.

We then went to a lovely bay called Bream Bay with views of Hen & Chicken Islands. We then turned off the highway to Ruakaka where there was a stunning beach of soft fine sand and no seaweed and fab views along the bay. You could walk for miles along this beach. Keef got the chairs from the motorhome which was a Britz Mercedes automatic (love this model had them a few times) and we sat on the beach until 5.45 p.m. Then we drove to the Top 10 camp site at Whangerei (pronounced fangari) and arrived at 6.45 p.m. Annie did 2 lots of washing and Keef cooked a nice meal with wine. It got dark at 8.30 p.m. We had showers at the site to wash off the sea spray and beach sand and then Keef checked the emails. We booked 2 nights at the Whangerei Top 10 site so we could rediscover the area, we had been here before with the boys and phoenix in 2007-8.

Saturday February 9th 2013

Summary, Whangarei 79 degrees Fahrenheit 26 degrees Centigrade

Woke at 9 a.m.

Lots of Dutch and Germans at the campsite. Had breakfast outside and Anne collected in most of the washing. Another sunny and hot day in New Zealand, yippee.

Drove the van to the Warehouse DIY chain store in town and bought a few extras for the campervan / motorhome such as pegs to keep curtains together, 2 hand towels and a plastic step for the van as 2 foot drop down to the ground out on the van was a little tricky for oldies like us at ages 59 & 58 respectively. This proved to be not such a great idea if you read on under Russell later.

Then did a bit of shopping for bread, milk etc in the Countdown supermarket. We then walked along the boardwalk by the boats moored at the old quayside, and saw the old heritage buildings with cafes, restaurants, and shops. The whole area was very nicely landscaped.


Surrounded by trees and bushes, and with fab views, we adore the marina and town basin area. Whangarei has a very large harbour and although it is termed a city to us it feels so much more like a small town. A comparison would be a UK city like Nottingham Population 794,000 whereas Whangarei’s population is 54,300, Erewash which includes Long Eaton is 115, 490… I rest my case my lord!

We missed the craft market up on the hatea river bridge (sometimes known in Maori as the Huarahi o te Whai Hātea Loop Walkway, which had finished at 1.30 p.m. but went into some craft shops instead which had some very expensive items, so we didn’t buy anything.

We then drove to the Kauri clock factory outside town on a small industrial estate, interestingly run by Germans. There were lots of massive kauri tree stumps in the yard looking very weathered. We took some pictures. They turn these into beautiful wood clocks, highly polished. We bought a kauri round bowl inlaid with NZ paua shell which cost £60, well worth it, it looks lovely and is highly unusual.

Then we drove out along the harbour edge which was the residential area and a bit swampy. There was also a port with oil refineries.

We then returned in the van back to the campsite. Anne did some ironing and Keef cooked lamb steaks on the camp barbeque. Annie also reorganised storage of some of our clothes in the van and put her undies in the microwave, hot, eh? 😉 to save space. Keef did some photos on the laptop. Got dark around 8.45 p.m. Showered and then went to bed.

The England cricket team had played the Black Caps in Whangarei a couple of days before we arrive, shame would love to have seen it, Collingwood and McCullen era. Note we did see them do battle in Christchurch on South Island back in 2007-8.


Our Kauri Bowl

Note the inscription on the back of our kauri bowl “Far North New Zealand, swamp kauri , 35,000 years old, with paua shell , radar”



Sunday February 10th 2013

Chinese New Year, the Year of the Snake, big love to Mr. & Mrs. Douglas in Singapore celebrating.

Summary. Whangarei to Oakura Road Holiday Park & Motel site, Whangaruru South, located at address 4, Te Kapua Street Ōakura 0184. Whangaruru is a rural community and harbour on the east coast of Northland, New Zealand. Mokau, Helena Bay, Whakapara, Hikurangi and Whangarei are to the south and the Bay of Islands is to the northwest.

Woke at 8 a.m. and had boiled egg and toast for breakfast. Drove out to Whangarei falls, Keef took some photos but as we had already visited them with Craig, Doug back in 2007 we only stood on the top platform rather than doing the circular walk around down to the bottom platform views.

We then took a circular route to the coast north of Whangarei to Ngunguru and Tutukaka harbour. The harbour had a huge marina, and it was Sunday many kiwis were boating and sailing. What’s the line, one in 2 kiwis’ own a yacht. There were art and craft shops and cafés.

We stopped at Matapouri beach, but it was very busy and difficult to park the motorhome, so we went onto Wooley’s Bay, a lovely long curved beach. We had lunch there then cooled off in the sea. People were body surfing on boards. Another hot day with blue skies and sea, ah bliss! There was so much lovely scenery along this coastline.

We chatted to a Scot who had emigrated in 1965 to Auckland. We left the beach at 5 p.m. and intended to take the road to Russell but must have missed the turning and went 16 kilometers out of our way on State Highway 1. It was difficult to find a turning point on the highway but we eventually managed to and found a campsite at Oakura near Whangaruru South, on Oakura Road and not to be confused with the Oakura Bay near New Plymouth some 300+ miles away.

Oakura was a tiny place with lovely views of the sheltered bay. The campsite cost $39 and was quite basic. Keef cooked pasta carbonara with chicken. We read for a bit and went to bed at 11.25p.m.

Note and we saw lots of these, Pohutukawa trees have red flowers at Christmas and massive aerial roots. We saw lots at Tutukaka especially around the landscaped harbour area as well as naturally all along that coastline.

Monday February 11th 2013

Summary Oakura site Whangaruru South to the wonderful Russell, one of our fave places in NZ.

Anne woke at 7.30 a.m. Keef at 8.45 a.m.

After a light breakfast we drove along the loop road to Russell through lots of bush with NZ tree ferns and many cattle and sheep farms. It was very twisty roads and hilly scenery but nice.

We arrived at the Russell Top 10 site at 1 p.m. to book in. $23 per night, not bad with our Top 10 card discount. It is a lovely site overlooking the Bay of Islands and Paihia. The site is on 4 levels, and we were on the top level. We returned to the same spot in 2017.

We wanted to do the Tall ships sailing excursion for 2 hours in the afternoon but on that Monday they only did a full day and we had arrived too late, becoming a bit of a theme that after craft market in Whangarei ha-ha.

Anyhow after filling the motorhome with water, we walked into town and saw many wooden houses with verandas, some built up hillsides with decking on stilts. We also saw a weka, an NZ flightless bird, which scuttled away into a garden. We walked around the town and the jetty and then visited the museum along the front and saw a video about the town’s history.

The town had been notorious in the Victorian era for lawlessness, drunk sailors, whalers, and prostitutes. It is however now very touristy but sadly not many historical buildings are left.

We had fish and chips, yummy, the fish was tarakihi, a white fish, $10 each or £5, very tasty. We then walked back to the campsite and wrote some postcards to Craig, Doug, Margaret of 90 mile beach which we hadn’t reached as yet.

We fed the ducks bread and a weka who came quite close by. He was a brown and black bird, size of a hen with long curved beak and 3 toes.

Now the really bad news, Annie fell off that plastic step we bought at the Warehouse store to make getting out of the van easier, she was probably not concentrating, who knows , not nice, very painful and eventually developed into a huge bruise, way worse than the ones from the bouncy boat in Langkawi Malaysia.

There were lovely views at twilight and beyond of the lights across the bay in Paihia. We talked to a couple on the next pitch from Cambridge who were also touring NZ. They had also just been to Georgetown, Penang, small world.

We heard the noise from the nocturnal kiwi birds at dusk and in the night. They were in the bushes across from our pitch and up the hillside, we tried looking but didn’t find any, they are quite illusive flightless birds, but the New Zealand emblem and populations namesake. We have only seen them in captivity at the Otorohanga Kiwi House.

Tuesday February 12th 2013

Summary Russell to Kerikeri

Woke at 7.35 a.m. had showers then breakfast. Posted 3 postcards and then visited the church in Russell, allegedly the oldest in New Zealand. It was a hot sunny day again. We then drove through the town to see long beach a little sandy bay. We then drove to the car ferry catching it at okaito to opua, cost $18.50 which is about £9.50 pounds, saving a massive journey around to get to Paihia, foolishly we didn’t do it in 2017 and Chris slowly punctured his tyre on the gravel roads manufacturing itself fully near Cape Reinga.

Paihia, we had gone on a boat trip back in 2007 with Craig & Doug to see the dolphins. We gave it a miss this time around. We then went to the Waitangi treaty grounds (1840) and Haruru Falls (meaning in Māori unlimited water). We arrived at the campsite in KeriKeri at 12.20 just after noon. It is a small town with lots of fruit and wine farms and spin off shops.

We walked about a mile through the shops to St. James church where some of Annie’s Edmonds relatives were buried. We then walked to the Stone Store and paid $10 for a guided tour of Kemp House (mission) next door, and an upstairs exhibition about the mission and the history of Māori in the far north, all very interesting.

John Edmonds born 1799 in Swanage, Dorset, England died Kerikeri 1865, was a stone mason who emigrated with his family to work for the Church missionary society in Kerikeri. He was Anne’s 2nd cousin 4 times removed as witness by our family tree, a man to be rightly proud of. The lady who did our guided tour around Kemp house for just the two of us was very chatty. Anne found records about John Edmonds but as it was 5 p.m. and the Stone Store was closing the kind shop staff said we could return tomorrow with the same tickets to continue our genealogical research, think really, they found it quite interesting to have visitors from the UK who had a link to this Stone Store and Kemp house.

We chatted to Kawi, a Māori lady who worked at the stone store shop who told us she had 2 aunts who had married Edmonds. She was very smiley and helpful. She told us there had been an Edmonds reunion in Kerikeri the last year, which was a huge gathering from far and wide, plus there were still Edmonds families living in Kerikeri. Another kind Kiwi lady gave us a lift back up the hill in her car. We had dinner at 7.15 p.m., a busy but fruitful day with lots of history about both New Zealand and the Bay of Islands area, great fun.

Wednesday February 13th 2013

Summary Kerikeri to Whatuwhiwhi (pronounced Fatufifi not as you might expect what you wee wee which always makes me laugh ha-ha)

After breakfast we went again to the Stone Store as Anne wanted to look at some books there about John Edmonds. We took lots of photos.

We then drove along the inlet road to Edmonds Road to the old ruins of the Edmonds family dwelling. Acres of land with black basalt dry stone walling, perfect for a stone mason. The house was a ruin, no roof, windows or doors but the walls and chimney were still standing. It is now registered as NZ National Trust as a heritage building. We saw old peach and fig trees near the house which was quite large for the time. It took 18 years to build in stages adding extensions. We then returned to town to see the other side of the water looking back at the stone store, wonderful views.

We did not go into the Māori village as very touristy reconstruction and besides we had seen a more realistic one at Rotorua back in 2008. We spoke to an old NZ couple from Hamilton. We then visited Rainbow falls which is 27 meters high. We bought 4 avocados from a house on the inlet road for $2 a bargain. Fruit & veg and wine is grown all around Kerikeri. We then bought some vegetables and 2 steak and cheese pies from a local grocer. We then set off for Matuari Bay along the coastal scenic road and stopped for lunch as a viewpoint called million dollar view which was true, with fab view of Matuari Bay, the whole coastline and the Cavalli islands, just superb.

At Whangaroa we drove 2kilometres further to the harbour, it is the Marlin fishing capital of NZ. We weren’t disappointed as some guys had just brought in 2 huge Marlin on a boat. One weighted 165 kg apparently took 2 hours to reel in and the other was large as well. The largest caught there was 195 kg, see the pictures to get an understanding of what a whopper these fish are. We understandably took lots of photos, what a privilege to have witnessed it.

We then drove through Mangonui on a nostalgia trip re snapping the Mill Bay suites for old times sake. We then turned up the KariKari peninsular to Whatuwhiwhi Top 10 campsite arriving at 6 p.m. This was an expensive site costly $45 but in a fabulous position right on the beach. We walked on the beach and paddled in the sea. K cooked garlic prawns and coconut rice. It was 26 degrees Centigrade today.

Thursday February 14th 2013

Summary Whatuwhiwhi to Ahipara via the top end 90-mile beach and Cape Reinga. 24 degrees centigrade.

Anne got up at 7.30 a.m. and did some washing in the laundry. After breakfast we drove back down the KariKari peninsular and then took the route to Cape Reinga. We stopped at Waipapakauri beach to see 90-mile beach which is designated a road by NZ authorities, 4-wheel drive cars only of course. We saw an ordinary car stuck fast in deep sand by a kiwi drive, not a tourist. The beach is 64 miles long. We returned to the main road and continued north through farmland, mainly cattle as sheep no longer profitable. It was lovely scenery mostly coast and sand dunes. Another hot and sunny day but with sea breezes to cool you.

We arrived at Cape Reinga and parked the motorhome and walked down the sloping zig-zag pathway to the lighthouse. Māori legend says this place is where the dead spirits depart and is therefore sacred to them. Also, the Tasman meets the Pacific here. We could not see any whales despite looking. We had lunch in our van, such great views. Anne got melted tar on her sandal it was that hot. We returned down the same route on State Highway 1 and stopped at a pack n save supermarket for groceries. The guy’s car stuck in the sand was now encircled by water, poor chap but maybe should have read the warning signs first.

There are lots of Māori’s in this far north area, we tried not to stare at some of the Māori ladies with their faces heavily tattooed as that is disrespectful to their culture, but it was hard as to us anyhow so unusual.

Found a Kiwi Park campsite at Ahipara (we joined this campsite chain as well) which is at the south end of 90-mile beach. Anne did the laundry, Keef did a lovely barbeque of steak, sausages, salad and grilled kumara (sweet potato) chips on the camp BBQ. We sat at a huge kauri table and bench , beautiful wood, to eat it and washed it down with a lovely kiwi Brancott estate sav blanc. We chatted to a retired couple from Rotorua. Tomorrow we are heading down towards Dargaville via the kauri forests.


Friday February 15th 2013

Summary Ahipara to Matakohe

Left the Kiwi Park campsite at Ahipara and went down a side street and parked and walked down to 90 Mile beach. There were vehicles using beach as a road, 4-wheel drive only allowed allegedly. There was big surf today as very breezy, however today there was no one surfing, kite or cart wise.

We took photos of shipwreck bay and the sweeping 90-mile beach and then returned to Kaitaia and south on State Highway 1. Lots of mainly cattle farms and then dense scrub lands and tree ferns everywhere zig zagging up and down the mountain sides. It felt very “New Zealand”. The roads were very wiggly.

All this area in the far north and I guess a lot of Northlands are very Māori inhabited including Ahipara and Kaitaia. We passed lake Omapere and then turned right to Kaikohe where we re-fueled $70 or £35 for ¾ of a tank of diesel which was somewhat cheaper than the UK at the time.

Again, Kaikohe is mainly a Māori town with one road of shops running right through it. We then took the inland road to Dargaville near the west coast, a town we know well having 1st camped near there with the boys back in 2007-8 on our gap year.

We stopped for lunch at twin bridge gorge. The weather was cloudy and much cooler than yesterday. Again, some very nice rural countryside heavily enhanced with the tree ferns which we love, do so wish we could get them back and growing in the UK (cheaply) but guess we don’t have the right climate for that.

Arrived Dargaville around 4 p.m. and Keef posted a postcard to his Mum. Anne looked in a craft shop. Decided to move onto Matakohe to stay at the Kiwi Park campsite there, especially now we are fully paid-up club members, as we are with Top 10 sites, it widened our overnight stay options quite nicely as they are the major camping chains in NZ.

The site was just down the road from the kauri pioneer museum which we had already visited with Craig & Doug in 2007. A very nice campsite with views of the Arapaoa river and surrounding farmlands.

Annie did some ironing and chatted to an Aussie woman in the laundry. Keef did lamb steaks (just so good in NZ), and kumara chips on the barbeque again, becoming quite a staple meal for us, lovely cheap and fresh local produce, you can’t beat it!

There were a few spots of rain this afternoon (arvo) but nothing much. NOTE This was the first meal we have eaten in the van since we arrived in NZ, rain, eh?

Brian and Gina have returned to the UK from their holiday in Borneo / Malaysia.

Saturday February 16th 2013

Summary Matakohe to Coromandel Town

We travelled south on State Highway 1 (the kiwi’s main lifeline one feels!) then onto highway 16. We visited Muriwai beach, a black volcanic sand beach, sadly not very attractive but different.

Summary is Muriwai, also called Muriwai Beach, is a coastal community on the west coast of the Auckland Region in the North Island of New Zealand. The black-sand surf beach and surrounding area is a popular recreational area for Aucklanders. The Muriwai Regional Park includes a nesting site for a large colony of gannets. The New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage gives a translation of "water's end" for Muriwai

It was cloudy at first again today and then cleared and turned very warm. All the grasslands and farms we passed looked very dry. Not much livestock either. We joined highway 1 again and stopped off at the Green Lane exit for Remuera, we stayed at the motel here on our last trip in 2007-8. The gay couple who owned it, lovely people, had sadly now moved on and it certainly looked a bit different. Such lovely memories and a nice suburb to Auckland, Sir Edmund Hillary came from Auckland and died in Remuera.

We then continued south and across to the Coromandel peninsular. We purchased diesel at Thame cost 80p a litre or in kiwi money 60 cents. Keef chatted to a Pom from Leicester who worked in the garage.

We then drove along the scenic road north with the bay on our left, all hair pin bends and very windy roads, then we climbed the Coromandel range, which was very steep, but lovely views in the afternoon sun.

Arrived at the Top 10 campsite in Coromandel town , cost $45 per night with $4 dollars discount as members so not too bad but on the higher price side compared to other sites. This is where we had previously camped in a tent back in 2008 under the large tree there. We had a swim in the campsite pool which refreshingly was now heated.

We had had a long drive today with some tricky roads on the peninsular where you really needed to concentrate, kiwis with boats towed certainly drive fast with no particular concern for what is coming in the opposite direction, just an observation folks’ tee hee.

We showered and then had a chat to an old couple in an old-fashioned motorhome parked next to ours. She was 88 and he was 84 and they still loved travelling in their van, do hope we are the same assuming we get to that age. The campsite was full as a weekend with Aucklanders who have got away for the weekend.

Coromandel was where the first gold was discovered in New Zealand.

Sunday February 17th 2013

Summary Coromandel to Hot Water Beach, Joy’s birthday today

Chatted to a couple from Welwyn Garden city who were camped at the Coromandel campsite. Small world as this is where Annie lived as a child for 10 years.

We then had a walk through the town which on reflection we didn’t think had changed much in the intervening period. We then drove out of town on Highway 25 and turned off at Matarangi, a beautiful sandy beach which we walked along, with some very expensive holiday homes and golf resort. Hot and sunny but sea breezes. Then we went on to Whitianga and Mercury Bay where we had lunch and swam in the sea. It was a gently shelving sandy beach and therefore ideal for swimming and a much needed cool off.

We bought boysenberry ice creams and walked through the towns and saw the shops although it was quite a small town really.

Then we drove along highway 25 again onto Hot Water Beach and the Top 10 site there. It cost $41.40 to camp there. The site was very dry and dusty with the grass almost gone due to lack of rain, a true drought in NZ currently. There were water restrictions on the Coromandel in place.

We had dinner and then drove the van to a car park near Hot Water Beach. We had been loaned two spades for digging from the Top 10 campsite for $20 deposit. We only needed them for that night’s sunset. We walked along the beach to where lots of people were digging in the wet sand at low tide at about 6.45 p.m.

There are hot springs under the sand at about 2 kilometers deep and if you dig down to about 9 inches to a foot the hot water comes up, quite an experience. Steam was coming out of many people’s sand holes and they were sitting in them like baths. There were even some Japanese and Brazilian tourists as well as weekend Aucklanders and us Brits. It was great fun. The water was quite hot, but Keef loved doing some digging to create our own little bath. Deep Joy! We took loads and loads of photos.

We then walked back along the beach and returned in the van to the campsite at 8.10 p.m. The sun had set. We had showers to get rid of the sand and retired to bed happy but exhausted. It had all been good fun.

Monday February 18th 2013

Summary, Hot Water Beach to Papamoa Beach

It rained at 8am but not for long. We left the campsite and drove to Hahei, Hahei beach and Cathedral Cove caves. Hahei is a small beach with lots of holiday homes most of which are closed, and empty given away by the shuttered blinds on windows. Clearly holiday baches.

We then drove down along the highway to Waihi beach where we had lunch. There were steep roads crossing the Coromandel Ranges to get there.

Some background info on Waihi Beach is it is a coastal town at the western end of the Bay of Plenty in New Zealand's North Island. It lies 10 kilometres to the east of the town of Waihi, at the foot of the Coromandel Peninsula. The main beach is 10 kilometres long. The town had a permanent population of 2,730 as of June 2021. At the northern end of Waihi Beach, the 145 hectares (360 acres) Orokawa Scenic Reserve offers several short walking tracks along the coast and to Orokawa Bay. While the main beach is backed by the residential area of the township of Waihi Beach, Orokawa Bay is undeveloped and surrounded by native bush including pohutukawa, puriri, and nikau palms. At the southern end of the beach is the small settlement of Bowentown and the northern side of the northern Katikati entrance to Tauranga Harbour.

Waihi beach is a lovely sandy bay. We saw 2 men fishing with long nets from a few metres off the beach, but they did not catch any flounder or snapper which they said was what they were after.

We then drove further on down Highway 25 through KatiKati which is the township with lots of wall art as murals. Often referred to as the Mural Town. This time we didn’t stop as we had seen them before, but we did pay a revisit in 2017 see out HOLIDAY2017 site with pals https://www.holiday2017.co.uk , thanks for looking

We arrived at Tauranga , a very busy city with an oil refinery, harbour and port with many container ships, a real working transport hub for New Zealand. We drove through quickly and on to the wonderful Mount Manganui., which is a volcanic peak and along the beach stretching for miles to Papamoa. There are lots of expensive looking houses and apartments fronting the beach.

We checked into the Top 10 campsite right on the beach at Papamoa. It cost $44 a night (£22) and paid an extra $4 for a beach plot on Ocean drive. Worth every penny, this is our fave campsite in all the world.

Anne put some washing in the machine in the laundry costing $4 and then we both walked to the local shops to buy ice creams as by now it was hot and sunny. Anne hung up washing when we were back and chatted to a couple from Windemere, Cumbria , the Lake District, UK.

Then we took our chairs onto the beach , we also went in the sea to jump the big waves, exhilarating, it is the Pacific Ocean. We sat on the beach and watched the surf club on speedboats and canoes practicing. We then had showers and dinner, it was a lovely day and a lovely place to be and the end of the day.

Tuesday February 19th 2013

Summary, Papamoa Beach to Rotorua

Light rain very briefly. Grass still very dry and brown everywhere as no proper rain for 2 months we were told. There were now some water restrictions in New Zealand as most reservoirs were low or running dry.

Keef did dump station black water and took on fresh water in the van ready for our onward travels today. We drove onto the outskirts of Tauranga which had grown so big from our memories 5 years ago, then onto Matamata and Hobbiton. It is based on the Alexanders farm just outside Matamata.

This is the Hobbit village movie set for the Lord of the Rings (and Hobbit) movies made by Peter Jackson. We had booked our tickets online the previous night $150 for 2 tickets i.e., £75 total in English money.

We got the tour coach from the information centre in Matamata which drove 20 minutes to a local sheep / cattle ranch. The film scouts had searched for a location that matched the description in the Tolkien book and found this farm was ideal. Took 9 months to film and the farmers had to sign a non-disclosure and confidentiality agreement so nothing leaked out into the public domain.

The tour guides took us around the village, a lovely setting with a lake, mills, the Green dragon pub, all thatched, and hobbit homes set into the hillsides with quaint little gardens, just so cute.

We saw a big tree up on the green and Bilbo Baggins and Frodo’s house, not inside obviously as those scenes were filmed in Wellington at the studios. It was very interesting to hear about the logistics of filming and creating the set. The tour was about 2 hours long and ended with a free drink in the Green Dragon pub.

A real Wedding had recently been held on the set with the ceremony held under the big tree and all the guests get the option to wear the stick on ears, feet and hands of a hobbit, hilarious.

We returned by coach to the town and had McDonalds and milkshakes as it was now getting late. We then drove to Rotorua which took about 1 hour and camped at the Top 10 site there by the Blue Lake. The price was $41.40. The smell of Sulphur as we drove past Rotorua Lake was most distinctive and what we remembered well from our last trip there.

We shopped at Countdown for supplies, the campsite was fringed by bush and hills but sadly there were no kiwis calling, maybe they don’t like bad egg smells either tee-hee.

Wednesday February 20th 2013

Summary, Rotorua to Gisborne via Whakatane

Shopped at Pak N’ Save Rotorua and Anne went into Spotlight and bought some fabric. We then drove on Highway 30 past 3 lakes and saw someone swimming and schoolgirls canoeing / kayaking. The weather was warm and sunny. We stopped for lunch at Whakatane by the jetty and council offices. There were some heritage buildings in this town. On leaving the town for Ohope we went up a very steep curving hill. Ohope had an inner estuary with people sun bathing on the grass, it was a very hot sunny day.

Some info on Ohope is Ōhope, until 1974 known as Ohope Beach, is a beach settlement in the eastern Bay of Plenty, on the northeast coast of the North Island of New Zealand, six kilometres east and over the hill, from Whakatāne

We then went onto Opotiki, a very long beach with lots of driftwood and tree logs washed up on its shores. We took a photo of a Māori carved totem pole here.

Some info on the town of Ōpōtiki is it is situated exactly on latitude 38° South. The climate is temperate. Summer temperatures reach the mid-20s (Celsius, mid-70s Fahrenheit) on the coast and encourage a continuation of the beach culture of the Bay of Plenty. Winter days are often cloudless, the daytime temperature never drops below freezing but there may be a mild frost at night. Winter snow falls along the crest of the ranges, and on the higher peaks (over 1000 m) may remain for a few weeks. Rain occurs at any season. Severe localised rainstorms ('cloudbursts') may occur in the high country and have caused flash flooding including past inundations of Ōpōtiki township. To give it is full name it is Ōpōtiki-Mai-Tawhiti. Here is a picture taken in 1871 at Opotiki, a very interesting township.


Ngaitai Maori 1871 Opotiki NZ
Ngaitai Maori 1871 Opotiki NZ

We then turned south along Highway 2 to Gisborne, it was a very twisty road through the Kahikatea Range, a bush trees and forest area. Lots of lorries use this route we discovered, and many were loggers. We stopped for lunch by a picnic area near the big bridge over the gorge and river.

The road then went through a hill farming area and again the grass was very dry and brown. We arrived in Gisborne late afternoon and stayed at the Top 10 site there, costing $32. This site was not as listed 4 stars but, in our opinion, only 2 stars. The facilities were poor and very old fashioned. We went for a walk along to the statue of Captain Cook and young nick who was his cabin boy who spotted landfall in New Zealand and is immortalised in bronze rightly for this.

They landed in Gisborne and a Maori haka made them think they were being attacked so Cook’s crew sadly killed them.

We bought boysenberry ice cream just outside Whakatane and some yummy plum wine from a Liverpool man’s house called White Goose winery, corner of SH30 and Luxton Road. Superb $15 a bottle he had won gold medals for it, he showed us around and even let us try his passionflower fruit that was growing up the side of his house, so scrumptious. Home of Feijoa, Plum and Berry Fruit wines, Whakatane's first boutique winery established in 1983. That’s all for now folks.


White Goose Winery & Feijoa
White Goose Winery & Feijoa

Thursday February 21st 2013

Summary, Gisborne to Wairoa to Bay View just north of Napier

We drove around Gisborne on the way to Wairoa. Gisborne had many palm trees down the centre of the main street, it is quite an old town, New Zealand of course calls it a city, despite in UK terms its relative size.

We stopped in Wairoa which is on a large river. In 1930 it had been flattened by an earthquake although some of the buildings had survived. We used the walkway by the river which had huge date palms and cycads and Pohutukawa trees. It was very sunny, but our stroll allowed us to take in both river views and the architecture of the high street.

We then drove through the town after our circular walk back to the van, out to a point where there was a beach, we had camped in Wairoa in 2008 and remember with some fondness the BBQ made from the back end of an old 1950’s car.

Wairoa had seen better days, most of the shops were tatty and a lot were now sadly empty. We then carried onto Bay View, just north of Napier. Highway 2 which we traveled on was very twisty up and down mountains lined with a lot of bushes, also a lot of lorries transporting timber in the form of newly cut logs.

We arrived at Bay View having stopped at a real fruit ice cream place on the highway as it was a very hot day and who are we to refuse the opportunity of yet another ice-cream, well not us ha-ha.

We stayed at the Kiwi Parks Bay View Snapper Holiday Park (by 2022 it has been renamed at Napier Beach) Anne was not impressed it was supposedly 4 stars, she thought more like 2. Very overpriced at $44. The beach was black shingle and looked a bit like a highway roads depot gravel supply. As it was sunny weather Anne did some hand washing, the showers cost $1 extra which was a complete rip off as we thought the site was charging too much anyhow. Not impressed.

It rained slightly overnight.

Friday February 22st 2013

Summary, Bay View Snapper Holiday Park to Napier Town to Taupo.

We slept in until 9.30 a.m. obviously tired. It was cloudy and overcast when we got up which made the site feel even drearier than it was. Drove into Napier which we have seen before but it is a lovely place. Very 30s after the earthquake forced a complete rebuild.

The QE2 cruise ship was in port which made the place incredibly busy with American tourists. We walked along Marine parade gardens which are just lovely, and all the flowers were out in full bloom. Just so colourful.

We then saw Scottish bagpipers in the shopping precinct, Napier has a strong Scottish feel , their influence is quite widespread in NZ but not particularly welcome in places like Waitangi where they exchanged vast acreage of land for a couple of sheep, now that is what I call taking advantage of the natives.

There were lots of old vintage cars to take tourists on a trip around the town. We walked around the town and bought a small hand luggage sized flight bag on wheels costing $59 (or £31) in a deep purple colour. We stored it under the seat in the motorhome ready for use on our trip to Oz and Singapore to carry a few extras.

Earthquakes, it should be noted that in 1931 Napier had an earthquake that was 7.8 on the Richter scale, in 1932 Wairoa had an earthquake that was 6.8 on the Richter scale and today (remember we were there only yesterday) Wairoa had an earthquake at 4.3 on the Richter scale at 7.15 p.m. a lucky escape me thinks! They don’t call it the shaky isles for nothing. The epicenter was actually 35 kms south of Wairoa but it was well and truly felt there.

We then took highway 5 out of Napier heading north to Taupo on the Thermal Explorer Highway. We saw forests, gorges, and mountainous scenery plus a waterfall, all very nice.

This journey took about 3 hours as we stopped for a brief lunch at a picnic stop. We arrived at Taupo to sunshine, a very blue lake which in case you don’t know is massive, the size of Singapore in fact. We visited it with C&D&P in 2008 where we attempted fishing not with much success, tee hee.

Taupo itself is a very busy city stretched out over a wide site but with no high-rise buildings. We got to the Top 10 5-star resort campsite in Taupo at 4 p.m. We then spent the rest of the afternoon in the thermally heated swimming pool with a constant temperature of 30 degrees centigrade, just lovely.

The weather was very warm at 24 degrees centigrade, and there were lots of tents, motorhomes and families on the site being as it was the start of a weekend and kiwis love the outdoor life.

Saturday February 23rd 2013

Summary, Taupo.

26 degrees centigrade and overcast at first but sunny and blue skies by 10 a.m. Sadly a little girl in the tent on a pitch behind us screamed continually until 5.30 a.m. Annoyingly the parents did nothing to comfort her. Other campers made complaints to the Top 10 site office but there wasn’t much they could do about it and anyway the night was over by then.

We went into Taupo to Pak N Save to do some food shopping and drew money out of a Westpac Bank machine. We then walked around the fascinating harbour area, with great views of the 3 mountains in the Tongariro National Park, one had snow on top. We then visited the rose garden and a small park beside the harbour.

Lake Taupo looked fantastic, blue clear waters and surrounded by mountain ranges. The lake as I think we said earlier is the same size as Singapore. The country not just the city. It is huge.

We then drove out to Kinloch round the lake and had lunch thereon our camp chairs. It was a shingle beach but there were lots of people swimming and riding on jet-skis. A lovely bay, we could not see Taupo as Kinloch sets it apart via a promontory. A man got cramp whilst wearing flippers and snorkeling off the beach, he called out for help and a family who had a jet ski rescued him and bought him back to shore, good stuff.

We had an ice-cream (again tee hee) It was Tip Top again, the best in NZ in our opinion. Boysenberry obviously. We bought them from a café in Kinloch. We then drove back to Taupo and stopped at the Spa Park. Lots of people were walking down the hill to go to the hot springs and spa. We then went to watch the bungee jumpers down Spa Road, near our campsite. Besides dangling from an elastic band there was also a chair on a rope option. You wouldn’t get us on them but fun to watch even over the screams, ha-ha. They were jumping down a river canyon. Back at the campsite we went swimming. A very relaxing day and gorgeous weather. Back home in England it was 2 degrees centigrade with more snow, I think we made the right choice.


Sunday February 24th 2013

Summary, Taupo to Tongariro National Park.

We left the Taupo Top 10 site and went to see Huka Falls again. Despite drought the rapids and falls were still going strong, so majestic. We last visited in 2008 when we went on the rapids jet boat with the kids, great fun. 360 was the call ha-ha.

We drove around Lake Taupo, there was a triathlon taking place today and part of state highway 1 was closed off because of it. We headed for Tongariro National Park. We stopped for a coffee break in a lay-by. We had lunch in a small village Ohakune with a giant carrot, supposedly the Carrot capital of New Zealand.

Here there were lovely views of the 2 active volcanoes, one had snow on its top the other was Mount Doom (from the Lord of the Rings Trilogy of films), its real name of course is Mount Tongariro. They are both famous for the Tongariro Alpine crossing walk.

We then called in at National Park village to the railway station restaurant and café to book a table for our 35th Wedding Anniversary coming up on the 25th .,tomorrow for 6 p.m. The station is the stop point for the Trans Scenic Railway. It is now called the Northern Explorer and if you like is the sister train journey to the TranzAlpine on South Island.

Some words about this journey are: - The Northern Explorer train service is a scenic rail journey through the five unique geographical regions of the North Island - travelling between Auckland, New Zealand's largest city - home of the Sky Tower, through the central heartland of the North Island to Wellington - New Zealand's harbour capital and arts and culture centre.

Along the way, you will see fantastic views of New Zealand farmland, rugged bush landscapes before ascending up the world famous Raurimu Spiral to the volcanic plateau passing the majestic volcanoes of Mt Tongariro, Mt Ngauruhoe and Mt Ruapehu - the home of the North Island ski fields and descending through stunning river gorges to the farming landscapes and rocky seascapes of the lower North Island - all from large panoramic windows and the open air viewing deck of the Northern Explorer train.

The Northern Explorer carriages have an advanced air bag suspension system for quieter and smoother travel, un-tinted, non-reflective, panoramic side, and roof windows to capture the dramatic coastal and mountain views of the magnificent North Island. GPS triggered journey commentary in five languages at your seat via headphones, plus information displays and overhead HD video and are centrally heated/air conditioned for passenger comfort.



We then drove to Whakapapa village and Chateau Tongariro. We went to the campsite in the village and booked 2 nights at $38 a night, good value when one considers the amazing location. We did a walk along the river, rapids, and gorges with a bridge over the rapids. We then did a short nature walk near our van pitch, both great fun and great views.

Anne did some handwashing and Keef cooked dinner, we then took our torches at dusk to look for kiwis along the nature trail , a full moon was helpful, we listened intently for any searching for insects, grubs, or worms in the undergrowth but disappointed to see nothing. Kiwis are amazingly illusive #fact

We then returned to the van for boysenberry wine instead.

Monday February 25th 2013 - Celebrate Emerald or Jade Anniversary

Summary, Our 35th Wedding Anniversary Day at Whakapapa Village and tour around Tongariro National Park.

Opened our anniversary card from Linda & Ian. K did bacon cobs for breakfast. We headed north for Turangi direction. On the way stopped to see the archeological remains of a Māori village by a lake which was deserted by 1850 after inter-tribal musket wars. Then we got the view of Lake Taupo and surrounding area from a lookout point.

We saw Sulphur and steam coming out of an active volcano from the road, which were marked on the map as exploding craters. We took lots of photos. In Turangi we looked at shops, a small square of pedestrianised shops. Some were empty. We got hot pies and cakes from a bakery for lunch.

We found out from the info tourist board that the Trans Scenic railway runs from Auckland to Wellington and vice-versa 3 times a week. Sat in the van and Keef checked emails as there is no wi-fi at the campsite, it is to be expected as so remote. Drove back to the site via Rangipo.

Had showers and got changed for our Anniversary meal at the Station for 6 p.m. We had a lovely meal, 3 courses, wine, and coffee. Keef had a rack of lamb with cracked pepper, kumara and carrot mash, veg in blueberry jus and lime oil. Annie had beef strips in salsa. For pudding we both had banana and macadamia nut spring rolls in a caramel sauce with ice-cream and cream, just yummy!

Podged we returned to the campsite and got changed and went kiwi spotting again with torches, or as it happened not spotting, tee-hee. We think however we did hear one calling in the bushes some distance away but not confirmed.

Tuesday February 26th 2013

Summary, Whakapapa Village to the Republic of Whangamomona.

It was a very cold night around the Tongariro region, which I guess is understandable with so many mountains. Today’s daytime temperature was 28 degrees centigrade. Nice.

Stopped the van on the outskirts of the village to do the 20-minute waterfall walk. Its start was on the road past the Tongariro chateau and was called the Tawhai falls walk.

We then went onto Turangi again and did some shopping at the New World supermarket there. We then headed to Taumarunui, a small town at the start of the Forgotten World Highway, a heritage tourist route.

Keef checked emails and paid the Barclaycard whilst Annie went to the Tourist Information centre to get stuff about the Forgotten World Highway route. We called in at the McDonald’s for a McFlurry ice-cream before setting off on the heritage route.

We passed a lavender farm and quite a few farms with sheep, cows, and deer. Venison is now so big in NZ I would suggest it outstrips sheep farming. One farm was sheep shearing in the sheds, we watched. The scenery was very unusual, hobbit-like hills, deep blue gorges and a river that was almost dry. Lots of abandoned sheep farm buildings.

We drove through what was called the Hobbit hole, a tunnel cut through rock about 4.5 meters high and just wide enough for one vehicle, luckily not much traffic on the Forgotten World Highway.

Lots of the hills were volcanic ash and pumice stone, now covered in grass where the Taupo area had erupted millions of years ago. About 12 kilometers of the highway was gravel road, we had no choice but to travel on it. Fab views of Tongariro in the distance.

We arrived at Whangamomona at about 5.45 p.m. We took many photos of the hotel and other heritage buildings. The campsite was $20 in the grassed area of the old school. We had a meal in the pub and got our passports stamped as Whanga declared itself a republic in 1986. It cost $2 to get your passport stamped, rather a touristy gimmick but hey why not, its fun. The history is locals were angry about local boundary changes so went independent and elected a pig as the mayor and even have sentry boxes on the town’s outskirts, ha-ha. There were lots of historical pictures on the pub wall that were fascinating. All in all a great place to visit if you like quirky, we do!

Wednesday February 27th 2013

Summary, The Republic of Whangamomona to New Plymouth.

Set off along the rest of the Forgotten World Highway, State Highway 34. Climbed some very high mountain ridges and zig zag roads, with sheer drops to the river gorge and valleys below. Bit scary. Took lots of photos along the route.

There was a small hamlet called Douglas in the valley, mainly farming made is chuckle and take a photo for later doctoring especially for Mr. Douglas. The Forgotten World Highway ended at Stratford. All streets were names after Shakespeare’s characters from his plays. We went into the Tourist information centre and met the local lady MP.

The Glockenspiel town clock chimed several times a day, sadly we missed it as allegedly spectacular. Click on the link in the summary on the Taranaki page to get more details about this fascinating town.

We then went through Eltham , which is an old town starting circa 1912 and turned to go into Opunake, a black sand beach with poor surfing conditions which is odd because it is on what was inaptly names the Surf Coast Highway, ha-ha.

We then carried on the surf highway to Cape Egmont and saw a small lighthouse, with black basalt housing edging the Tasman Sea.

We arrived in New Plymouth where we had previously camped with the kids , we drove through the city and the main shops to the Top 10 site which cost $43 for the night. We the n went for a swim in the site’s heated pool, very nice and relaxing. We chatted to a local farmer who bragged about his cars, farm, motorcycles etc., Were we impressed, guess? He then told us he was paralysed from jumping from a great height into a pond, brawn rather than brain but we did show some sympathy.

Annie did wash in the laundry, a little black and white kitten was roaming around the campsite. We talked to some Aussies from New South Wales who were here on holiday. They were in a very tiny tent.

Thursday February 28th 2013

Summary, New Plymouth to Waitomo Caves.

Drove around the city centre and then visited the new wave design bridge called Te Rawa over the Waiwhakaiho river and board walk just north of the city centre. There were lots of landscaped parks and picnic areas. The board walk was used by both walkers and cyclists.

We then visited Tupare Gardens, In 1932 Sir Russell and Lady Matthews started to create a garden from a gorse covered wilderness on the edge of the Waiwhakaiho River around their family home. It was very steep as built on a hillside , there were nice shrubs and plants and it had been superbly landscaped. We liked it a lot.

We then drove to North Egmont visitors centre on a sealed road. Mount Taranaki as it is better and now know , using its original Māori Name rather than that bestowed by the Brits, is 2518 metres high. A dormant volcano which last erupted in 1755. It was covered in cloud today at the top. It was a very windy & winding road to get to the Visitors centre. In winter the volcano is totally covered in snow.

We then headed north on the 3a motorway and then the number 3 highway east. Many farms then the scenery got dramatically hillier around Mount Messenger. We stopped for a very late lunch around 4 p.m. at Matau for a snack. It was a very scenic route on highway 3 up to Te Kuiti, the NZ sheep shearing capital, we saw a few sheep on farms, all of which had very yellowing grass, it was a large town but realistically not much worth seeing so we drove through reasonably quickly.

We turned off for the Top 10 campsite at Waitomo Caves. Costing $41.40 so on the more expensive end but worth it. We had seen the glow worm caves before , use the link in the overview if you wish to see more.

The campsite was quite modern with both a swimming pool and hot tub. Had a swim, shower and cheese and biscuits with the lovely Plum wine we had got from the White Goose Winery near Whakatane. Yummy.

There were schoolboys in the cabins on an excursion, they were very noisy and that was added to by teachings trying to control them, and if I’m honest failing.

Friday March 1st 2013

Summary, Waitomo Caves to Hamilton. 30 degrees centigrade or 86 degrees Fahrenheit.

In the 5 years since we had been to Waitomo caves the area had changed a lot, the new Top 10 campsite, a café, tourist information office, and lots of other touristy things. Indeed, the area was now a Mecca for tourists because of the Glow worm caves.

We then set off for Otorohanga, we called in at the Kiwi House to get a replacement kiwi for Phoenix as she had lost the one Doug had bought her here back in 2008. In fact we bought 2 kiwi’s one chirps when you squeeze it, novel.

Saw the same noisy school trip again who had sadly landed at the Kiwi House, we left pronto. We then drove onto Hamilton, luckily our Sat Nav came in useful as Hamilton is a very big city, 2nd we guessed only to Auckland in size, Wellington feels more compact.

Sprawling suburbs in Hamilton and plenty of road works. We did a shop for food at New World supermarket. We then had a bit of a nightmare getting to the campsite because of the major road works improving Hamilton’s ring road. Annie did some laundry $4, and Keef prepared lunch. It was another hot sunny day . We then drove off to park near the Botanical gardens so we could do the river walk along to them. The campsite owner had told us where to park, very useful. It was about a mile walk to the gardens but fun however the views of the Waikato River were not great as it was totally overgrown with trees and bushes.

We found the gardens and it was free entry, which was nice. We saw a lot of roses then found the i-site information office and picked up a map of the gardens which proved very useful.

We then visited lots of individual paradise gardens including , with the Indian garden with nice Mogul architecture in a courtyard garden with a fountain and raised terrace. The English flowers throughout the Māori garden were interesting, plus gourds and kumara growing and lots of traditional wood carvings.

We then walked back to the motorhome; it must have been over 3 miles we had walked in the boiling hot afternoon sun in the end. We then returned to the Hamilton holiday park campsite, which cost $38 to stay at, we were both very tired. It got dark at about 8.30 p.m.

Saturday March 2nd 2013

Summary, Hamilton to Papamoa Beach. 24 degrees centigrade.

Another lovely summers day. Drove through Hamilton city centre to see it, nothing to write home about I’m afraid, just another busy city.

We saw the Waikato River again from the other side. We would class Hamilton as a small town rather than a big city, but we come from the UK. The city centre had 3 main streets with some 1930s architecture.

We then took Highway 1 through to Cambridge, which is a horse breeding area. We then headed for Tauranga on the Pacific coast and back to Papamoa beach again as we liked the lovely long sand beach and waves so much first time. We can now officially call it our fave campsite in the whole world having returned in 2017. Maybe that won’t be the last time. You never know.

We arrived at 12 noon so before check in time for a Top 10 site so we went down the road to Papamoa’s shopping mall. Keef bought a Hawaiian shirt for $8 in the sale in the Warehouse. Then we had a drive around the area, some new houses on estates and saw all the colleges and schools, reminded us of California in look and feel.

However, in our humble opinion Papamoa beach rivals any Californian beach. We eventually checked into the campsite at 1p.m. $45 per night, booked 2 nights as we like it so much, same pitch as last time with a view of the beach and so close to it, we even get an outside shower at the end of the pitch to wash off the sand, what more could you ask for.

Spent the afternoon on the beach listening to music and watching kite surfers. We both went in the sea, there were some pretty big waves, so we didn’t venture far.

Had a lovely dinner with the last of the plum wine , cheese and biscuits , our fave creamy mainland blue and we sat outside the motorhome at dusk watching the sun set and listening to the sound of the waves crashing on the beach, just perfect, so love Papamoa Beach.

Sunday March 3rd 2013

Summary, Papamoa Beach. 28 degrees centigrade, 83 degrees Fahrenheit.

Spent a very relaxing day on the beach and the campsite. There were a few clouds first thing in the morning, but they soon moved inland. Then it was blue skies, sea, and sunshine all the way, yippee!

The light sea breeze kept the temperature not too hot. We walked along the beach towards Mount Manganui, which is another supposedly extinct volcano., along the waters edge and foreshore for about an hour.

Had lunch on our picnic table and then sat on the beach in the afternoon. There were kite surfers, body surfers , a surf lifesaving boat but only a few people on the beach considering it was good weather and a Sunday.

We had changed our pitch site as caravans on either side of us had gone this morning so we could get the pitch right next to the sea. We were now Pitch S9, Beach Street, pole position. Previously we have been in S7 and S8.


pitch S9 beach street papamoa site
pitch S9 beach street papamoa site

At 6 p.m. after a nice cup of tea Annie did some hand washing, Keef did BBQ chicken, bacon, egg and salad on the campsite gas barbeque up in the kitchens. We noticed it now gets dark at 8.15 p.m., still no lovely sunsets to photo though. The east coast of New Zealand is nicer than the west for beaches, apart from Napier and the Gisborne area.

Monday March 4th 2013

Summary, Papamoa Beach to Manukau City.

We left the campsite at 10 a.m. and drove to the mall at Manukau to look for a T-shirt for Doug. Sadly, we did not find anything at all suitable, so we drove on to the Top 10 site at Manukau City. Good job we had the Sat nav if not we would never have found it. Annie did some final hand washing after a late lunch. Decided we would pack our stuff in the Kiwi motel car park. Anne cleaned the inside of the motorhome. By 7pm the campsite was packed full as it is the nearest one to the Auckland airport.

Tuesday March 5th 2013

Summary, Manukau City to Kiwi Motel Auckland. We had to hand back the motorhome by 2pm to Britz.

We left the campsite at 10 a.m. and went to another shopping mall to look for a T-shirt for Doug. Had a look in Farmer’s a department store in the Westfield shopping centre in Manukau.

We drove to the Kiwi motel at 12 noon but could not check in yet, so we packed up our belongings into our suitcases in the motorhome. We then checked into the motel and dropped our fully packed bags off into our room.

We then drove the van to the motorhome depot to drop it off. The total mileage on the clock was now 250, 370 km. No damage to the van.

We told the employee there about the squeaky brakes and a few other minor problems with the van, no doubt they would take no notice, however Keef managed to get 1 days compensation out of them, $180 was refunded, not bad really.

We returned to the Kiwi motel, had a shower, and ate there in the evening. We had to complete the NZ census forms as visitors and handed them into the motel reception. Very tired went to bed as have to get up early tomorrow for flight to Australia.

250, 370 minus 246,253 kms equals 4,117 kms or 2, 559 miles driven in New Zealand.

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