Wilderness Wally's Americana
FROM NEW ZEALAND - Originator of the 'Birthday Season'

Currently in Auckland: NZST

Wednesday, 22nd of May 2024


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Rediscovering New Zealand 2021

Day 1
We left our home North of Auckland (The Big Smoke) about 10:15 and headed South to re-connect to the rest of NZ. After all of 24.9km (Yes, that's about 15 miles) at about 10:40 we stopped for petrol and then to Columbus Coffee for brunch. So at 11:45, we are still only 23 miles from home. This is going to be a slow trip.

We connect to SH (State Highway) 1 between Auckland and Hamilton and find it a breeze now that it has been improved. On the way, Mrs Wilderness just happens to discover we will pass very near to The Hamilton Gardens. At one point, the Apple Carplay Map girl tells us to take the Mangaharakeke turn off! The poor thing really, really had a hard time pronouncing that Maori word. She tries it three times and we seriously consider turning around just to hear her say it again. The Gardens are beautiful but today is a very hot day and the week-long Arts Festival started yesterday. As a result, half of New Zealand is there. The gardens are spacious so the crowds didn't bother us as much as the heat. We stayed almost two hours and then I crawled back to the car and cranked up the air-conditioning.

Our next stop is the Good George Brewing and Dining Hall in Cambridge for ice-cold beer, chips and fried chicken. Yes, even on a relaxing road trip we maintain our healthy diets. About 5:00pm we land at our, very nice, motel and collapse.

Day 2 of a Kiwi Road Trip (Tiki Tour) Before setting out we met up with a distant cousin of Mrs Wilderness over coffee at a café overlooking Lake Karapiro. Then we were off to Raglan on the wild, West coast of the North Island. We spent a good part of the day in this great little town and then stopped at the Bridal Veil Falls as a side-trip on the way back. We're still only 115 miles from home but the car has gone 259 miles or 417Kilometres.

Day 3 of rediscovering NZ
About 10:00 We checkout of the Cambridge motel. It's time to move on and besides that, they didn't a vacancy tonight. Then to the Velodrome for coffee and scones. Yes, it is also called The Avantidrome and it is the New Zealand National Cycling Center that also houses a very nice coffee shop. After coffee and scone we take a few pictures and it's time to start heading for lunch with cousins Wilderness Sue and Peter at a Café near Lake Karapiro. Now your starting to see why I need a diet! We have some more to eat there and soon it's time to say our goodbyes and get on the road to Fairy Springs. It's only a little over an hour away near Rotorua. We get the last room at a local motel. The room old but not bad. It has everything we need and there's a trout stream in front.

Day 4 - Today we woke to overcast skies and sprinkles. Before leaving Fairy Springs, we had a walk to the trout stream behind the motel and marveled at the clarity of the water. We did see one trout swimming up stream and a duck that meandered down the stream for a handout. Across the main highway was the famous Rainbow Springs/Fairy Springs, the place where Mrs. Wilderness' parents had their honeymoon back in 1945. Next was brunch at Coffee Club and then we were then off to Whakatane. We passed many lakes, one being Lake Rotoiti where we stopped and took a few photos of the lake Swans. Further down the road and through the canopy of forest we stopped at Hongi's Track and Tree. A place Mrs. WW had visited as an 11 year old with her Grandparents. In the early afternoon we made it to Whakatane but went about 9kms more to the beautiful beach of Ohope. Then back to Whakatane to get a motel for the night and do a few chores. I must say that the drive from Rotorua to Whakapane is a scenic two-lane road in great condition and a great road trip.

Day 5 Today we thought we would take a side trip and head for Cape Runaway. I thought the coast road would be along the seashore. No way Jose. It was all, over a mountain see some sea, over another mountain, see some more sea. We only made it to Omaio not even Te Kaha and then turned around and came back to Whakatane. I've discovered there is little relationship between a road's engineered capabilities and the posted speed limit. Many Kiwis consider the speed limit a target that must be reached and if, at all possible, exceeded. One part of the trip I really liked was the old buildings and downtown area of Opotiki. Down to Earth New Zealand. There was a rest stop at Hukuwai Beach on the way back and then the local Subway in Opotiki. We got back just in time to meet up with another of Mrs W's cousins.

Day 6 - 26 Feb 21 - Today we journeyed from Whakatane to Gisborne, allegedly a 2 1/2 hour trip of 182km. Naturally it took us a lot longer than that. The route took us through the beautiful Waioeka Gorge Scenic Reserve. Maori named the river in the gorge 'Waioeka' (Waters of the Weka). The weka is one of New Zealand's iconic large flightless birds. It's a long way and we didn't want to rush through it, like many of the locals and the truckers. It is a very winding road but there are plenty of turnouts so we could let the more anxious drivers pass us by. So if you are like us, you will take longer and enjoy the delightful 'bush' setting.

Gisborne is the first city in the world to see the sun, this easternmost tip of the country is famous for its beautiful coastline, densely forested mountain parks, surfing and fishing, and is also a centre for wine and agriculture. Speaking of wine, we found a very nice restaurant called The Works and started our study of local wines.

Day 7 - Here we are on the beautiful East Coast of New Zealand in Gisborne. After a late start we were off to meet friends Chris and Trish at "The Wharf". After a short session of talking about relies and friends we then headed out to find one of the many wineries that are plentiful in the Gisborne region. On the way we encountered Waikanae Beach in Poverty Bay where Captain James Cook first landed in New Zealand. We then travelled to Manutuke and the Millton Winery. A beautiful vineyard and wonderful tasting room that smelled divine like an old wine cellar! Gisborne region is well known for its Chardonnay but I favor Sauvignon Blanc! We again headed to explore a little further north of Gisborne city ending up at Wainui Beach, Okitu. Beautiful, wind swept shores and breaking waves. We both are so amazed at the constant beauty of these shores. Then we are off to dinner in Gisborne Central at "Portofinos" for a fantastic Italian meal, excellent food, wine and service.
I am not sure how long we can continue our travels because as of an hour ago we were told by our Prime Minister that Auckland has gone back to Alert Level 3 due to continued breakouts of the virus from the Auckland High School cluster. The rest of NZ will be in Level 2 so a few more restrictions. It is a sad day that this has occurred again. We are back in these Alert Levels for 7 days 😢

Day 8 A long twisted up and down drive from Gisborne to Napier. Nobody driving slower than me. It doesn't seem like anyone is going slower than the speed limit either. I spend much of the day pulling over to let people pass. People who had to be somewhere quickly. We are not disappointed by Napier though. It's a very nice place with plenty of youthful energy. We stopped for a gelato ice cream and stood in line (COVID restrictions) but worth it. Then up to Bluff Hill Domain, a long winding, narrow road to the top of the city that overlooks Napier's Sea Port and all the logs being shipped overseas, even watched one of the ships being loaded for China. This country produces so much timber, unbelievable! The views out over the Bay and Ocean are amazing, windy and breathtaking. Took lots of photos. We then headed back to motel for a bit but decided to visit the Mission Winery for dinner so off we went. A ways out of town and into the country but a beautiful winery, tree lined entrance and lovely surrounds.

Day 9 - Today we stayed around Napier and met up with Jason, an old friend from long ago. Just a day of visiting and rest in this great little place. Beautiful foreshores and walkways and known for it's Art Deco Buildings when it was rebuilt after the divesting Hawke's Bay earthquake of 1931.

Day 10 - We decided to stay another day in Napier as it is so lovely here and the weather is delightful. We drove the Maine Parade highway to see the Spirit of Napier Sculpture, it was also a tribute to the city raised from the Ashes after the 1931 earthquake. We visited the beautiful shoreline of parks and activities, the sculpture of "Pania of the Reef" and walked on the black pebble beach with it's crashing waves. A visit to the National Aquarium of New Zealand to see the tiny fairy penguins at feeding time and walk through the underwater aquarium a truly great experience and thoroughly recommended. Wonderful day exploring a beautiful city.

Day 11 - We left Napier today heading for Greytown. After getting petrol we were off to Havelock North where we caught up with another cousin at his Coffee Roasting Café. We had his lovely coffee, ate something and talked for awhile then he went back to work and we headed out. The day would be long but the road much better except for road works here and there. Countryside was all dry hills, cattle, sheep and farm lands. We stopped at Norsewood, a town that time forgot, and ate a sandwich and looked around, took photos of this quaint Scandinavian town that came to be in the 1800's. Back on the road we found a motel in Greytown.
After we settled in we contacted some dear friends and decided to meet for dinner. We sat outside a local pub and restaurant for a bit but wind got chilly and not pleasant so we went inside after getting our coats. We talked the night away over meals and a nice Greytown wine. After dinner we drove out to their Olive Orchard at sunset to see their amazing acreage, the results of a lot of work, we could tell. We then said goodnight and would meet them tomorrow for breakfast. Sunset was glorious and we headed back to motel for the night.

Day 12 - Today we woke to a beautiful morning in Greytown, New Zealand and would spend the day with old friends from days gone by in the 90's. They all moved to this lovely part of New Zealand some time ago from Auckland and it was so wonderful we could arrange for us all to meet at the local French Bakery for morning coffee and pastry. What fun times reminiscing and catching up. After hugs and promises to keep in touch we joined friends Amanda and Mark in search of one of the many wineries in Martinborough for the afternoon. As we drove into the town, Mark found a map of the 24 wineries available and we picked a place called Poppies. Unfortunately they could not seat us for over an hour so a quick photo of the vintage race car that sits in front of the winery and off we went in search again and found a beaut! "Moy Hall" winery with seating out overlooking the many grape vines. We enjoyed the afternoon there talking, eating really great food and of course wine! On the way out of town towards Featherston you will find St Anthony of Padua Catholic Church. The original church was built in the 1890's and made of wood but burned down in 1918. By 1923 they found funds to rebuild out of Ferro Cement but with funds depleted, it remained unfinished and barren. In 1951 they found more funds to finish it and it was completed in 1952 but was not used due to adverse engineering and the downturn of priests to cover all the surrounding areas. It stands closed as a sad monument to a time of long ago.
Our last stop of the day was Featherston and we stopped at C'est Cheese, Artisan Cheeses and Deli all made right there. Back to Greytown and a farewell to our hosts here in this beautiful part of New Zealand; a quaint, boutique town that when you come, you don't want to leave. Thank you Amanda and Mark for sharing your piece of heaven with us.

Day 13 - It was a busy Day today and also having an earthquake and Tsunami Warning as we woke was a little nerve racking for all of New Zealand but by the end of the day, all was well. We got up late and found a very nice café called The Offering in downtown Greytown. Good service, good coffee, nice selection of delicious food and best of all, they handled Covid restrictions well. We then decided to try and find Paddy Borthwick wines and Siri is no help whatsoever! Mrs Wilderness finally finds the directions on her iPhone and even those are very confusing. Eventually we get to the vineyard and get half a case of the wine, Paddy Borthwick, Mrs Wilderness has been looking for this entire trip after Fairy Springs. We also locate the Aotearoa Stonehenge pay $20 for a tour of the facility, a video, a plastic chair to carry around in case I needed to sit down and permission to use the rest room. It was interesting and all part of our re-connecting to NZ. We then set out to find our dear friends Ken and Christine's house for a great dinner of bbq steaks, potatoes, salad and, of course some wine. It was a great afternoon catching up with them and seeing their beautiful home with a fantastic view. We get back to the motel about 8:30 and get ready for the big day tomorrow ... it's the Inter-Island Ferry tomorrow and a crossing to the South Island.

Day 14 - Today we left lovely Greytown with fond memories of friends and surroundings. Deepening clouds and a sprinkle of rain were in the air but warm. Heading out of town for Wellington and our trip across the straight to Picton on the South Island. Down the road we stopped at a rest stop where the Featherston Military Training Camp was in operation during the 1st World War 1916-1918 and later during WW11 there was a camp set up for Japanese prisoners from the Solomon Islands. Nearly every town we have been in or through has a memorial to their men who gave their all for this country, Lest We Forget! After the town of Featherston we headed up and over the mountains on another of those winding, 2 lane roads. On the other side we entered Lower Hutt, a town on the outskirts Wellington, then along the rocky riverbed and through the maze of traffic to the Interislander Ferry queue to board for the crossing. We sat and waited until nearly 4 pm when we finally drove our car on board along with others plus huge trucks. Up the elevator to the top and our seats in the 55 plus lounge. Quiet and much like the VIP lounges at airports, nice! The weather by now became very overcast so our trip across would mostly be shrouded in low cloud and a bit of rain but the crossing was smooth and we enjoyed a nice wine and food and pleasant staff. We braved the high winds and went out on deck as we passed through the Marlborough Sounds in late afternoon. The weather improved a bit and I was was able to take a few photos of this astoundingly beautiful part of our country. By 7:15 we were all back in our cars and being unloaded from the ferry and we headed for our motel in Picton. From our room we had a great view overlooking the town, marina and Picton Harbour. We watched as the Interislander left port for it's last crossing of the night and we settled in.

Day 15 - Some ups and downs but here we go: Our first day in Picton on the South Island of New Zealand. It started out a little cloudy but within a 1/2 hour glorious blue sky and white puffy clouds. We watched another Interislander ferry come into Queen Charlotte Sound, turn and dock, amazing! We checked out of our one-night-stand and went downtown to find our morning coffee. We ended up in the wharf area at the Sea Breeze Cafe, sat outside and admired the view over the harbour, it doesn't get much better than this! Across the road was the Picton Foreshore Reserve which is a place one could sit and admire the views all day long. The Maori carving totem pole is a tribute to the 28th Maori Battalion D Company who served between 1939 and 1945. 16,000 Maori men enlisted for service during WWll, with some, which is always the case in war, to never return home. Views of the harbour from the reserve were simply breathtaking. Mrs Wilderness' family has deep roots with Picton so we headed over to the Whalers Museum and found her family well documented there.

Soon it was time to head to Blenheim to check in for a couple of days and enjoy Marlborough Wine Country. We checked into our hotel and then off to Wither Hills Winery to have lunch and taste their fine wines. The setting is amazing and yet another place we could sit all day enjoying the wine and views!

We had some great tasting fish and chips and I was finally able to enjoy a really lovely Rarangi Sauvignon Blanc 2019. Mrs W had a wonderful Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2018 and was given a taste of a Frivoli 2020, a sparkling Gewürztraminer. Friendly staff, great food and wine and scenery that will forever be sketched into our memories.

On way back to motel for the night we stopped to admire Seymour Park and the Memorial Clock Tower with it's beautiful surrounding flowers gardens, stunning! And so ends day 15.

Day 16 - Today would be a more relaxed day, no major driving. We have a leisurely coffee before heading out to the Aviation Heritage Centre and visit the WWII building. Reading about the war on all the story boards, seeing the planes and memorabilia was a little heart wrenching to know the stories behind the War.
Then it was now time to explore another vineyard and taste the delights of Marlborough's wine country. We rode out to Cloudy Bay but it was now late in the day so we opted for the Saint Clair Vineyard. Also set among the many grape vines in a lovely quiet location we shared a cheese board and a glass of their finest Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.

Day 17 - Quite a long day today and our last on the South Island of New Zealand, time to be heading home. We left Blenheim in the morning and headed back to Picton to catch our ferry. Arriving at Picton we had some time so it was coffee again at the Seabreeze Cafe with the War Memorial opposite overlooking the Harbour. There is a huge play area for the kids and lots of friendly ducks. The day was stunning with glorious sunshine and wispy clouds floating above. The air is a little cooler but that would not spoil the beauty of what we would encounter today. We finally boarded the Interislander Ferry about 1:30 and set sail at 2:30pm for our trip back to the North Island and Wellington Harbour. We again opted for the 55 Plus lounge and were treated with lunch and wine and such friendly service. We braved the winds outside on the rails as we passed through Queen Charlotte Sound and were mesmerized by the glorious sights before us. We watched sail boats, launches, soaring/diving birds, a passing log ship, oyster farms and waters of so many shades of blue and green that it literally took your breath away. By 5:30pm we were heading into Wellington Harbor and back onto solid ground. After disembarking we followed Hwy 1 out of Wellington on a super highway with not a lot of traffic and headed for Paraparaumu up the West Coast where we had reserved a room at the Kapiti Motel. This is a typical Kiwi motel unlike some others we experienced. Things like a sink in the kitchenette, a toaster and a microwave. No pay-as-you-go bar with a candy bar costing $2.50 etc. This one is more our style now.

Day 18 Another sleep in day then to a very nice shopping centre near Paraparaumu with a 'well attended' Robt Harris coffee shop. Good coffee and scones and then on to visit Mrs W's second cousin Carol and her husband Max. We had a great time talking about family and old times with this great couple. After lunch there was more talk and then goodbyes as we headed to the US Marine Corps Memorial Camp Mackay near Paekakariki. During WWII, Paekakariki served as a major base for American Marines fighting in the Pacific campaign. Mrs Wilderneess' Father was one of those Marines. It was a touching moment to be standing there where her Father was preparing for battle all those years before. In the rain, we left this memorable place and returned to our motel.

Day 19 and the end of our Journey. Today we would leave Paraparaumu , New Zealand at 8:30am under dark clouds and rain to make the long drive home. We had first considered stopping half way for the night but home and our own bed sounded to good so we kept going. Up Hwy 1 stopping at a few small towns now and then. First quick stop was Foxton with it's iconic Water Tower that was built for high water pressure to put out fires in 1923 and then further into town on the horizon was the De Molen Flax mill, an exact replica of a Dutch windmill.

We passed through Bulls, New Zealand and there have been so many puns about Bulls that it has made the town famous-in New Zealand! We stopped in Hunterville for coffee and bite to eat and saw the statue tribute to Huntaway Dogs. Then onward to Mangaweka with it's DC-3 that was once a café and on through Taihape, famous for it's annual Gumboot Day which was first celebrated in 1985. Next came the Waiouru Military Camp. We had passed several army trucks full of soldiers heading back to base earlier. Then it was the Desert Road, 30kms of what really does look like desert but with bush. On through the mountains past Tongariro National Park to the town of Turangi on the North Island Volcanic Plateau. It is called "The trout fishing capital of the world". Past Lake Taupo, the largest lake by surface in New Zealand, it is beautiful! Up past Tokoroa with it's huge statue of a log cutter. Finally back to Karapiro just outside the lovely town of Cambridge where we spent the first night of our trip. We made it through the Auckland rush hour traffic and home by 7:30 exhausted but glad to be home safe and sound.

It was a wonderful journey and we had a great time catching up with many friends and relatives along the way.

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