This is my original blog for all our non-caravanning trips since 2009 and more recently posts about coming to terms with being single again having been widowed in 2018. And anything else too really!

My caravanning blog is (Get Your) Legs Down and all our trips in the caravan are there. My grog blog is The Ale Archive where I list every beer I’ve ever tried.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Say ‘Eh-Oh’ to Dipsy pt 5 – New Zealand pt 3

After leaving Picton and crossing the Cook Strait back to the North Island we overnighted somewhere before arriving in Napier on the west coast. Our trusty Lonely Planet reckoned on Napier being one of the best examples of an Art Deco city in the world and from what we saw, they weren't wrong. Napier was around long before the twenties and thirties of course but was struck by a massive earthquake in 1931 which virtually flattened the city.

I seemed to recall that we arrived fairly early at the motel as we had the swimming pool to ourselves for a couple of hours. It must have been a weekend though, as families started turning up later in the afternoon and the peaceful tranquillity vanished. We had a gorgeous steak that night washed down a with a lovely Kiwi red – I’m guessing a Cab Sav - and another bottle was opened back in the motel room when we got back. A second bottle was opened whilst we largely ignored the film that was on the telly. Later, when I got up to pay a visit Trev suggested that I open the other bottle of wine on the way back. I pointed out that we’d already drank it. No wonder we forgot what the film was!

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Next up was Taupo, geographically the centre of the North Island and the adjacent Lake Taupo is said to be the world’s trout fishing capital. There was very little fishing going on when we arrived though as a power boating event was going on and by the sound of it there was some serious horsepower racing up and down parallel to the shoreline. Accommodation options were, not surprisingly, a bit thin on the ground so we ended up in a motel several blocks back from the lake. I remember little else of what we did here and I think we only had the one night anyway. I do recall buying this tasty fitted shirt – in black obviously - which I still have to this day, although it’s a little tighter around the waistline than it used to be. It  must have shrunk over the years……..

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Next up was Rotorua, home to probably New Zealand’s most famous thermal reserve. We’d been here on our previous trip but decided on another look. Geysers spit gurgling mud, steam and hot water all around you. It’s a great attraction but if you’re Asthmatic make sure you have your puffer as there is a lot of sulphur about. One particular geyser is very unpredictable, announcing itself noisily every so often with a huge shot of steam and hot water. They’ve named it Prince Charles for some reason!

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We stopped at an airfield somewhere to watch some tandem skydiving, and someone being dangled on a rope 50 feet below a helicopter in what was then the latest thrill seeking offering. Kiwi’s love all this stuff – and clearly so do visitors. It was  Kiwi  - one AJ Hackett – who perfomed the worlds first bungy jump – from the Eiffel Tower in 1986 and now runs bungy jumping ‘rides’ all over the world. Both of us, preferring our food to travel only in the intended direction in our digestive systems decided just to watch.

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Our last couple of nights, before returning to Auckland were at Tauranga on the east coast about 130 miles way. There is yet more thermal activity underground which means that practically every property has access to free hot water. A hot swimming pool was a selling point of the motels in the area although in reality only  a minority did NOT have one. At the place we stayed, the pool was emptied at night and refilled first thing in the morning – but it was early afternoon until it had cooled sufficiently to allow you to bathe. Once you could it was very, very nice though.

Back in Auckland at the Aspen Lodge and for some reason it never occurred to us that the old lady that was the QE2 would have to arrive in Auckland at some point, so it was a pleasant surprise, when she appeared in our vision whilst enjoying the views from Auckland's Skytower the day before we were due to depart.

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In truth we had a whole day to kill and we decided to go up merely to pass the time but it was great to be able to watch her ease gently through the harbour and alongside at the quay. We still had another day to wait but went down to have a closer look. An old dear who just got off the ship accosted us and asked us about buses as she didn’t want to fork out for a taxi. Nothing particularly unusual about that until we learnt later on that this particularly lady, known as the Diva, actually LIVED on board the ship in one of the suites. Ironic that she paid an arm an a leg for that but would not fork out a few dollars for a cab. She’s written a number of books on her life on board and with the QE2’s retirement a few years ago she transferred to another of Cunard’s ships

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So, finally the day had come. Another chapter of our trip was closing and another was to open as we left the Aspen Lodge and got a cab the short distance to the harbour and departure terminal. Our large bags were taken away to be delivered to our cabin, tickets were checked and we passed through security and followed the enclosed gangplank towards the ship. A sign hanging above the opening said ‘Welcome Home’ – a nice touch.  Our passes were checked one last time and we were on board!

It seemed unreal, we’d seen the QE2 a couple of times with the beautiful backdrop of Sydney Harbour but now to be on board – and soon to be sailing for Sydney – was almost unbelievable.

Look out for part 6 coming very soon. The story of our 3 days at sea on this great ship, meeting new friends and leather trousers causing a bit of a stir too.

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