We offered to drive our now former neighbour Barbara’s eV, a Nissan Leaf similar to but a later model than ours, up to Tauranga while she drove her motorhome. With Covid restrictions now eased in New Zealand, and Tiki the dog and Georgie the cat established in their respective hotels, we set off well armed with masks, hand sanitiser and an awakened sense of adventure.
The weather approaching the four-hour ferry ‘cruise’ between the north and south islands did not look too promising … and a text message from Bluebridge Ferries warned us that our departure would be delayed.
On the way to Picton we stopped off at Ohau Point of course to admire the seals. The rough water offshore certainly didn’t seem to bother them.
The ferry departure was delayed for just over four hours. We filled in time in Picton at one of our favourite places – the Edwin Fox museum. Initially the wreck was to be restored but with costs soaring the decision was made to maintain only. There have been some changes since we were there last. The museum display has been changed, and the wreck itself is now much more accessible. The ship sailed around the world 34 times and carried troops to the Crimean War, Chinese labourers to the West Indies, convicts to Australia, Immigrants to New Zealand, Soldiers and beer to India and Tea and Wool to England.
It was a rough crossing. Many people were seasick. I watched in amazement as one woman devoured fried fish and chips and then – still looking happy – started on a banana. By then the ship was starting to lurch violently and it didn’t take long for the inevitable to happen. I bet she will never look at a banana again the same way! Dave and I were both unaffacted. The Bluebridge staff were wonderful – unobtrusively moving around, offering iced water in cups, sick bags, and later moist facecloths – without being asked and often just before actually needed.
We reached Wellington very late but still received a wonderful welcome from Barbara’s friend who runs a B&B.
Next morning we set off in convoy for Tauranga via the Desert Road. An uneventful trip – with a rather good early dinner at the Rustic Eating house in Waiouru – highly recommended. As I now require gluten-free food they were happy to alter a menu item for me. We spent the night in Barbara’s friends’ holiday house on the shores of Lake Taupo – playing a last game of “Frustration” with her before bedtime – we used to play regularly with her at home.
Next morning we drove on to Rotorua and another fun adventure with Rotorua Canopy Tours. <https://www.canopytours.co.nz/experiences/the-original-canopy-tour/ > We did the slightly longer Ultimate Canopy Tour two years ago as an early 80th birthday treat for me – very fortuitous as it turned out, just a month before NZ’s Covid Lockdown.
It was just as wild and wonderful as before – with slightly less forest trampling and stair climbing, which I appreciated. The company is very conservation-minded, maintains a large area virtually free of pests and there were lots of semi-tame robins and other birds which flew down to take worms from our hands.
The last three photos show the second-last arrival platform and the narrow bridge to the final platform where they took all the hands-off photos. Second photo: the final platform with, on the left, the usual steps to nowhere – for this last set we stepped off backwards and did a semi-somersault or two on the ride to the final stop. Third photo shows Dave the acrobat (he didn’t have time to take one of me – I went first!)
Rotorua town was very quiet, almost deserted, Covid restrictions in place, everyone masked and strict distancing observed. We had earlier booked into the nearby Rotorua Hideaway Lodge, which was happy to let us move in several hours before their usual time. Everything was contactless, not only at the Lodge but at the pizza parlour where Dave went to pick up a gluten-tree pizza that evening.
We decided to stay another night in the comfortable Lodge, and did a tiki tour around town the next day, visiting the amazing Rotorua Bath house, now Museum, which has been closed since the Kaikoura quakes.
Nearby was a rather unusual statue of Queen Victoria, guarded by a fierce Maori warrior:
Also nearby was an arresting sculpture – the description board said: “This bronze sculpture was unveiled in June 2001 to mark the new millennium …. “Waitukei” was created by Rotorua artist and master carver Lyonel Grant. His inspiration … was the people of this area and the rich melding of Maori and European cultures…”
We also paid a brief visit the giant Redwood Forest but did not bother to go on the tree walk – $35 each for just a walk – not after the excitement of ziplining!
Next day, back to Tauranga/Mt. Maunganui and two nights with Dave’s nephew and his wife in their beautiful home, with a lunch on the waterfront and a walk on the beach at the Mount. Next day we returned her car to Barbara and she drove us to the airport. It was not much fun wearing a mask the whole flight but we appreciated the precautions taken. Home at last, too late to collect the animals – but we were on the Country Paws’ doorstep at nine next morning and then to the cattery where Georgie had been fussed over as usual.
Waiting on the doorstep on our arrival home was my latest family history book, ‘Cochrane and Lyle’ – a preview can be seen at https://au.blurb.com/b/11115249-cochrane-and-lyle. A fitting end to an adventurous week.