After a long, boring flight from Los Angeles, which, incidentally is the most disorganised airport I have ever flown in or out of, we arrived in Auckland at 0530; it had been quite a bumpy flight but otherwise uneventful, thankfully. We crossed both the Equator and the International dateline and totally missed out on March 3rd, leaving Los Angeles on Mrach 2nd and arriving here on March 4th.
We had to declare any food we were carrying, which we would have had to hand over, and also whether we were carrying sports footwear or any form of swimming gear; they are very keen to avoid any plant debris on shoes or any waterborne bugs so we didn't introduce anything foreign into NZ.
We got through Customs quite quickly and by shortly after 0600, we were on a shuttle bus and headed for our hotel. The bus dropped various people off at other hotels and eventually it was our turn.....by now it was just after 0700 which was excellent as our hotel reception didn't open till then. It was our lucky day as our room was instantly available and we settled down for a couple of hours sleep, before venturing out for breakfast. We are staying in Parnell, which is a historic part of the city and has lots of upmarket shops and restaurants, very quaint.
We wandered into Auckland on foot after breakfast and pottered around the harbour area where there were lots of fabulous boats as the Boat Show starts on March 5th. We then wandered around the shopping area to find ourselves a bird book and then took the Link bus back to our hotel going the long way round, which took about an hour, but gave us a tour of Auckland for the princely sum of NZ$1.60, (the exchange rate is about 2.7 $ to the £). I went back to bed for a couple of hours when we got back and then got up in time for dinner which we had in 'The Bog', no, stop laughing, it's an Irish pub and Tim fancied a pint! They had good food, I had a great steak and TIm had sausage and mash, it was just a few minutes walk from the hotel so very convenient. It's been a week now since we had a car, but has been interesting hopping around on buses and walking miles too. An early night was in order and after a somewhat disturbed night with some man shouting at 2am and the wind banging around our wooden Venetian blinds, we got up around 0800 and wandered off to the hotel restaurant for breakfast, then walked to the Parnell Rose Gardens which were still blooming well and also has some spectacular trees, they are huge; the wind was fierce but it was still warm. The Myna birds are very common, screeching around and seem quite tame too.
We walked back to the hotel ready to go off to Kelly Tarleton's Underwater Adventures, which is slightly tacky but nonetheless interesting if only to see sharks swimming about over your head and to read about Scott and Shackleton's trips to the South Pole; they had a reconstruction of Scott's Base Camp as well. Later, I was listening to someone asking some questions about the fish at the aquarium and was horrified to hear that they used to have a touch tank for people to handle various things like starfish etc, but that one day a group of children had visited and were found with all the specimens on the floor and they were stamping on them! Where was their supervision I wondered and what did they learn from that experience? I would have liked to have been there that day, little horrors! That was the end of the Touch Tank!
The weather had changed when we emerged from the aquarium, rather damp and murky to say the least, so we got the bus back to town and loaded ourselves up with brochures and maps ready for tomorrow morning when 'The Big Tour' starts!
We left Auckland in the rain and drove down a very busy M1 towards Hamilton, before escaping off it on to a much quieter and more interesting road towards Raglan, we saw pukeko birds everywhere, some paradise shelducks, lots of kingfishers, harriers, a bittern, variable oystercatchers, welcome swallows, spur-wimged plovers, Australian magpies and some eastern rosellas. We found a cabin at Raglan by the water and decided to stay for 2 nights, the owners are very friendly and the cabin is well-equipped and so much quieter than Auckland, I am looking forward to a good night's sleep! Outside our cabin was rather like an English garden with sparrows, starlings, thrushes, goldfinches and greenfinches.
Today we drove from Raglan to Kawhia along some interesting roads! A great deal were unmetalled and had huge potholes and holes where the rain had made channels across or down the road, we never got out of second gear for ages. We went to see the Bridal Veil Falls, 55 metres high after a short walk through the rain forest where I saw a tui, a honeyeater bird with a big white lump under its chin. The epiphytes growing on the tree trunks were amazing, so many of them on one tree. The rain forest was full of dicksonias and tree frogs too. There were yellowhammers about too.
We stopped and watched the surfers at Manu and Ngarunui Beaches too, some of them were very skilled. It was drizzly but quite warm.
Kawhia was a small town with few inhabitants, little accommodation or shops. We saw some white-fronted herons on the beach along with some red-billed gulls. We found Te Puai beach and clambered up over the sand dunes to try and find the hot springs which are just under the sand at low tide, but it was jolly chilly so we didn't hang around, the black sand was wonderfully soft though. Lots of pukekos were about by the roadside with chicks, which were fun to watch. We also saw fantails, Californian quail, grey teal and NZ pipits. I has continues to drizzle on and off with a few heavier showers too, but I guess that's what makes the scenery so green.
We returned to Raglan on the main roads, much faster, if not quite so interesting but the scenery has been fantastic all the time. We treated ourselves to ice cream when we got back, I had a hokey cokey which was vanilla with lumps of hardened melted toffee in it along with some orange chocolate ice cream too!
Tomorrow we are off to New Plymouth via Taumarunui to see Mt Egmont, the weather has improved greatly this afternoon and evening, so we are hopeful it will be good tomorrow.