Thursday, March 04, 2010

New Zealand Holiday

We plan to go to New Zealand again, perhaps next year. We have been once already and given I have a couple of New Zealand readers, I will retrace the holiday. It may be of interest to them, even though they are ever so much younger than I am. I don't have a diary, mainly just place names, so it is mostly from memory. I can't even remember the year, perhaps 1982.

We had a third person along with us for the trip, a workmate of Rs. While after the holiday R and I declared we would not go on a holiday with a third person again, well not where you share everything, he was not such a bad travelling companion.

We flew with Air New Zealand into Auckland. The airport seemed quite provincial, the staff less look down your nose than Australian airport staff but were also quite brusque. We caught a taxi from the airport to our accommodation. The driver was a white chap, Kenyan born. Interesting chat with him. Lucky that he bolted from Kenya before turned into the disaster it later became. He left after the Mau Mau uprising but before independence. He pronounced Kenya as Keenya, as they used to. Funny the little details you recall but not so many bigger things.

We had booked a flat for the night, well arranged the whole holiday, through the New Zealand Tourist Bureau here in Melbourne. I think our campervan was delivered to us and I think the company was Blue Sky, which was not nearly as popular as Maui, but then our Bedford van was quite big. Maui vans seemed smaller.

We had chosen not to go north, to the Bay of Islands and so forth for time reasons. But I cannot understand why we did not want to look around Auckland? But we didn't. I am looking at a map of Auckland and I think we may have stayed at St Heliers or Mission Bay, perhaps the former. Next morning we took off down the highway. We drove at the speed limit yet old ladies in old Morris Minors kept overtaking us. There were some very old cars in New Zealand back then.

Stopped Feran, Hamilton, stayed Rotorua. Everything you are told about the smell of Rotorua is true. It pongs big time. You get used to the odour after a day or so, we are led to believe. I am not sure. Note says AM Art Gallery. I kind of recall that. A large Tudor looking place. In our ignorance we entered a Maori meeting hall. Get out, we were told, followed by stage whispers of bloody tourists. There was a cemetery with collapsed graves issuing clouds of steam. The van was backed up to the lake and there seemed to be pipes carrying hot water from the ground to someplace for some purpose. The lake was very beautiful. We went to a thermal area and saw mudpools with mud bubbling away like air bubbles rising in a pancake mixture. Plop, plop. The champagne pool was a rusty rock pool full of hot water with bubbles coming up like champagne in a glass.

Notes, stop Bulls, Otaki, night Wellington, pizza. Wellington was the only night we did not stay in a caravan park. We parked on a hill a kilometre or so out of the city properly overlooking the city. We were sitting having breakfast in the van as a suit walking past, raised his hat and wished us good morning. We had a look around Wellington shops. I recall trolley buses with baby pushers hooked onto the front and very nice two storey housing. Some vague memory of a housing connection with a San Franciscan style.

Notes, ferry to Picton, gathered supplies. I can only remember the marshalling area to load vehicles onto the ferry and nothing more about the trip across Cook Strait. I guess we stayed somewhere near Picton. Is it plausible that we went on to Greymouth and stayed the night there?

I think to get to Franz Joseph, we travelled over Hass Pass. While it was fine when we started out, the weather turned bad as we climbed into the mountain. I think the road was partly unmade, that is only metal or gravel.

Notes, stopped Murchison, lunched Hokitika, night Franz Josef. Franz Joseph glacier was fantastic. We took a long walk in the forest. We spent some time on the river where the water was a strong grey colour. We flew up a tiny plane and landed on the glacier. Blue ice. Stunning. Note says walked Mathersolu. No idea.

The following day the note says breakdown near Arrowtown. The water pump broke. After getting a tow and an authorisation for repair of the pump (note says Trunkton, but also something about Raururea Gorge), we were on our way to Queenstown.

Ah, R's workmate took over the driving. I did not like the way he drove. I am a control freak in so far as if you can do it better, good. I am happy and relaxed, but he did not drive better than I did. He was erratic and aggressive. I took back over driving. We arrived at Queenstown, I turned up a side street that was very steep. The suitcases cascaded down from the sleeping area above the cab and even first gear would not get us up the hill. I had to reverse back down the hill.

We took a gondola (kind of chair lift) ride up the steep hill and a cruise on the lake.

On to Te Anau, with a pause for a punctured tyre. From Te Anau we took a boat cruise on the waters of Milford Sound. Stunning. Waterfalls into the sea, seals etc etc. Became very friendly with an older Canadian couple. They must have been nearly forty. Later a boat trip to see glow worms caves.

Notes, lunched Clinton, stayed Dunedin. Actually a suburb of Dunedin called St Kilda. The weather was lousy, the caravan park not much. There was a delightful fountain in the city which operated in sync with music and with lots of coloured lights. We took a guided tour of an old mansion, Olveston. Very impressive.

Onto Christchurch. The central city square had a tower which we climbed. There were lots of teens hanging aimlessly around the square. We drove to Lyttleton where there was time ball. We bought a duty free Waterford crystal decanter duty for $200, a lot of money back then. We still have it. It has a chip and the dishwasher has clouded it a little. Oh look, here is a photo of it. It is full of McWilliams finest cream sherry. The reputation of Fails Fish Cafe had reached Australia and of course we had to go. Pity my memory of the cafe and meal has gone, except it was perhaps oversold.

We left the van at the airport and flew home.

The van had huge windows in the accommodation area, unlike Australian caravans, but no fly screens. There were no flies, but monster bumble bees and we could not stop them getting inside.

Although it was Autumn, May I think, it was not so cold. We had an electric heater at night I think, but the days were generally fine and sunny.

The service from Blue Sky was very good and cheaper than Maui. Let me check if they are still around. Seems not. Maui certainly is. Is there a pricing lesson there?

We saw shades of nature's green that I had never seen before and only since in England. The trees changing colour were stunning, with many deciduous trees planted in the countryside. I particularly recall poplars.

Two and a half plus decades later, I am sure NZ is very different now. One thing that occurs to me is that I don't recall seeing anyone of Indian or Asian extraction. I know that has changed.

Piggy Muldoon was the Prime Minister when we were there. Reading about him now, he does not sound as bad as my memory tells me he was. Not too long before there was the awful Springbok football tour, with mass protests, as there were in Australia when our version of Piggy, Joh Bijelke Petersen, allowed them to tour Queensland. It was to do with the Springboks coming from apartheid South Africa when there were bans on sporting contact.

On everyone lips in NZ was the recently signed Closer Economic Relations agreement with Australia. Many in Australia remained and still are ignorant of it, but I suspect it may have been good for New Zealand.

The return air fare was over $AU500 return, quite a lot of money.

I can't recall where, but one night we paid the cheapest of all caravan park fees, $4, and had the park pretty well to ourselves, it was on the edge of a placid boulder strewn lake. Wish I could remember where. I don't think we paid over $10 for a caravan park any night, which included electricity and use of communal facilities.

The accents became broader and broader as we travelled south, culminating in almost Scottish accents in Dunedin.

While now I would suggest that we do it as well, back then New Zealand was extremely well set up for tourists. Australia was not.

The next NZ holiday will be quite different. It won't be a one town per day trip. I want to see the north and Auckland and more of Wellington. I want to go on the newish tram in Christchurch. There is a very good transport museum somewhere, Ferrymead? And I could not miss these train trips. And Napier of course.

Feel free to point out the inevitable errors and extra information.


  1. Anonymous10:33 pm

    Damn - just wrote a massive comment and lost it!

    Here's the outline:

    Like the reminiscing, and the "Around the Highrise" idea.

    Loved NZ and many of the places you mentioned.

    Wouldn't do the ferry again!

    Napier is brilliant if you love Art Deco.

    Must get to the Bay of Islands.

    Mathersolu? Probably Lake Matheson.

    I made an 88 minute film of our trip to NZ and I make everyone watch it who shows even the slightest interest in NZ. Strange, they never ask to see it again. They also get a free copy of the soundtrack CD as a souvenir!

  2. Oh Scott, what a shame your comment was lost. It is never as good the second time. Napier art deco is why I want to see it.

    Lake Matheson. Rings a bell. Maybe that was the beautiful and quiet lake where we stayed for $4. But it does not make sense because I noted walked Matherslou. Just checked, Lake Matherson is earlier in our trip. The one I am thinking of was after Queenstown I think.

    Love to see you NZ film. Have you got it on dvd? No slides by any chance? Send it to me, K Rudd, Parliament House Drive, Canberra.

  3. I would like to go to NZ someday. I look forward to your pics from the next trip.

  4. I'd love to wander all over NZ at will (and with a bottomless bank account!).
    Make sure you take notes from all those fab Kiwis I've got in my blog roll.
    And don't dine with former Gov-Gen Cath Tizard unless you're prepared to have face ache from the laughter (so I'm told).

  5. At least two good transport museums to see - Christchurch's Ferrymead, but also our own MOTAT here in Auckland. Just in case you might want to pop in, Andrew! The Christchurch tourist tram is a wonderful thing, indeed. One ticket, all day, as I recall.

  6. Well worth the effort Cazzie.

    Ah yes, I do observe NZ goings on Jayne. I don't know about Cath Tizzard. Research later.

    That's right TS. MOTAT. I reckon I could only get away with inflicting one on my partner.

  7. Excellent story you got there.

    Wife & I went to South Island for our honeymoon. It was an amazing place, parts of it reminded me of Tasmania (but "bigger"), which is why I guess I enjoyed it so much.

    We're hoping to go back to visit the North Island some day, but the ways things are going I'll probably be touring NZ by zimmer frame...

  8. Wow.... quite a tour! I love the colours in the Champagne Pools in Rotorua and would love to see them often... shame they charge tourist prices ;-) Wellington is a beautiful city and lots to explore there. They have done a wonderful job with the waterfront and it is really well used by the locals, plus has lots of interesting sculpture etc.
    You would have gone through the Haast Pass after the glaciers. The road back then was quite narrow and gravel for quite a distance, beside a lake as well in places if I remember. I found it quite scary, but it has been much improved. Britz are the other big campervan company now. There are also smaller cheaper versions around but more for the backpacker market- not sure how reliable they are.

  9. Agree Me. Tassie is not dissimilar with nice shades of green, but with less deciduous trees and a lot more gum trees, that tend to look greyish.

    KN, a bit too much in a too short time. Do they charge to see the champagne pools? I don't recall. Interesting about Wellington. I liked it especially because of its surrounding hills and interesting architecture. Haast Pass, of course. Britz is widely seen here too now, but also Maui. We never had these for hire campervans here when we hired the one in NZ.

  10. They do charge for the pools..... used to be a small amount, now really expensive. Might still be cheap for those with foreign currencies but definitely not for Kiwi families which is a shame.
    Saw another camper on the local streets today:
    No idea if they are actually cheaper or not!

  11. Ah yes, quite true - the gum trees thing. Some parts of Tasmania (the midlands in particular) could really be anywhere in rural Australia...

    Actually, I did notice that eucalypts seemed common as ornamental trees in the suburbs & gardens on the South Island. Which was kind of odd.

  12. KN, like third world countries, there should be a price for locals. I guess the campervan market is quite competitive.

    There is only one eucalypt I would ever consider growing and I don't know its name but it is not big and the branches weep very nicely and it flowers well.