Day 1: Vancouver: October 27th
Our first leg was smooooth sailing! Mary arrived, Wally was happy to see her after moping near our suitcases all morning. She drove us to the 1 ferry, we had buffet and hopped on the coach to the airport! Once there, we checked in, zipped through security (airport was dead!) and then relaxed at the pub. We left at 7:30.
Aukland/Devonport: October 29th
The pilot let us know our flight would be 13 not 14 hours :) And the flight was pretty easy to get through. Saare slept on and off - I watched movies on and off. We took a shuttle to our hotel at 5am and thankfully we were able to check in! The Langham is amazing. We had coffees, then showers, and then went downtown. It was such a dreamlike day - we called it 2 days in one because it felt so long and we always thought it was so much later then it was! I mean - we are not often up and walking downtown at 6:30am haha. We found brunch (I was getting hangry) and had delish eggs Benny on High street. We cruised around Queen street and then decided to take a ferry to Devonport, a little peninsula 11min from Auckland. It came recommended (there is not a lot of city pride here - most everyone tells you to get out of here, that the best part is leaving!). Anyways we arrived, walked around, walked up a mini mountain (Mt Victoria) which was really cool - beauty views of Auckland, picked up some brews, and then rented bikes. That was so fun! We biked around in the sunshine, learning how to bike on the opposite side of the road. Not easy, especially with jet lag!! But so beautiful. We stopped at a lovely beach to enjoy said brews. Then back to the ferry. We hit the beautiful pool/tub/sauna/steam/snail shower!!! The Langham is so so nice. Then we went to dinner at Depot - amazing oysters local, great food, wine on tap. A delirious walk home and falling asleep was so easy!
Day 2: Aukland/Waiheke: October 30th
We woke up at 7, Saare hit the gym (steam room for me) and off down queen street again for brekky at Federal and Wolfe, where we discovered our love for NZ flat whites - Cappuccino. After breakfast, we raced to catch the ferry to Waiheke island to meet our wine tour! There were 8 of us - all North American and 2 from Vanouver! Very fun tour. I almost hopped in the driver seat, baha. Happens a lot apparently! We drove the hilly island, checking out views and stopped at 3 wineries. The first was a really new winery, called Cable Bay. It was a lovely room with sweeping vistas. We bought a Chardonnay there - Chardonnays are not usually our fave but they are fab in NZ! then a few lookout stops, and Kennedy point. Beautiful winery - only organic one in NZ. They grow alive Vera and mix it with cow poo to heal pruning wounds. And they feed the sour grapes to their cows! We bought a sauv blanc (grapes from Malborough, they can't make sauv on the north) and a Syrah. next was peacock sky, more amazing views. Had tastings and bought a Malbec Merlot. We stopped at Mudbrick, a gorgeous winery on a hilltop. Lots of weddings there. And a famous rugby player, apparently! Then back on the ferry and stopped for a Tui beer at a dive bar near the hilton, so random. We hopped the hotel shuttle back (it's a really steep walk) and had a good chat with the driver to learn the rules of the road (left, "right" for us, turns are not go when safe) Home for pool, hot tub and snail shower then off to Elliot Stables for dinner! Really interesting - like a fine dining cafeteria! There were about 20 little restaurants on the outside with a few tables or you sit in the middle and order and give your table number. We had tapas and tried NZ green lipped mussels - meaty things! Then home :)
Day 3: Aukland/Whangarei/Kerikeri: October 31st
We got up and went to get our rental car. And it was time to drive. It is like downtown Vic in do Auk, one ways all around. Bahahaha we just prayed and followed and managed to find a parking spot. Saare did well - it was hilarious to see the constant panic and shame at his driving confidence. Brekky at F&W again and off across the bridge! We stopped at a spectacular beach near Whangarei. We were desperate for what we love most - sand on toes ands ocean waves!! It didn't disappoint. Saare turned right into the wrong lane. Hilarious again, since there was no oncoming ! My turn to take the wheel. He says everything in the southn hemisphere is different - he beats me at paper rock scissors and I am a better driver. HA! We stopped for lunch in cute Phangarei for meditranien. NZ is super multi - lots of med, Thai, Asian, Indian. Then it was off to Kerikeri! SK had booked us a B&B. Omg it is spectacular! On a hilltop 21 acres of bright green farmland with 360 views, and the ocean. Cows, chickens. The house was built for a B&B by a lovely couple from the UK who retired here. We had a visit then off to Paihia and Russell - further east. The weather was horrible - it of rain crazy windy and major grey clouds! We didn't do much in Paihia due to said nastiness - saw a few trick or treaters (not much Halloween at all in NZ incl house decorations!) we went to the ferry docs and caught a ferry to Russell! Our driver was rad - blasting MJ thriller and navigating the stormy sea in his bare feet. He recommended we go to the swordfish club and duke of edinborough pub. And that he might see us there. We went to the swordfish and enjoyed the local pints - not many people there, everyone just wTching the news! Sure enough our captain came for a drink with us. The power kept going out, so I told the bartender and the local saddled up to the bar that in Canada, beer is free when the power is out (I'm so witty in the South) and they said well you can talk to the captain about that, he's at your table! So turns out the captain is also the president of the club. Haha. We drank under a 1100lb marlin cast that was caught in the Bay of Islands and shown via Air New Zealand across the world. We then went to duke, the oldest licensed bar in NZ. It was licensed in 1827 by a European who the Maori loved. They called Russell the hell hole of NZ because there was no law - just prostis and w****s and whalers and liquor everywhere. The place is now a beautiful restaurant and we has a fancy meal, caught the 9pm ferry back and drove home in the dark.
Day 4: Kerikeri/Taupo Bay: November 1st
We woke up and had a lovely brekky made by Mike! The butter is so delish here - and a lovely color (not white)! We were going to go to 90 mile beach and cape Reinga but we were just not into driving or buying a full day tour. We decided instead to head up to a beach. Mike suggested a surf beach in Taupo Bay. We are here now and it is gorgeous!!! Such a sleepy summer resort town... There were maybe ten people there. The beach reminded us a lot of Hawaii. We enjoyed the warm sun and watched the surf and birds and had a picnic. We have been loving the new flora and fauna - birds, trees, flowers - calves, piglets and sheep! After, we golfed at Kerikeri course - Mikes old course. I got to borrow his clubs and Saare had some rentals - the wedge he got was pretty suspect! Lots of comments about Bogeys with wedge in hand! We had a lovely round but had to quit at 16. The weather in spring is super variable! Hot sun then wind and rain! We stopped by the stone house, a famous landmark here and then had dinner at whangepuke which was an amazing Thai 4 course meal. The food has been sooo good! We are back at the B&B now - taking it easy as we have been giving the MC a workout... We are up early for a scuba dive charter in the Bay of islands tomorrow !or ing. Unreal - so excited!
Day 5: Bay of Islands/Aukland: November 2nd
We got to see the sun rise over the B&B which was gorgeous! Had another great brekky and hit the road in our tin can. We met at the shop and headed to Paihia to launch the boat. We drove through the bay of islands and got a history tour on the way. Saw the first beach where captain cook crash landed (and the rock he crashed on), an island owned by the skytv man - He is always pushing the boundaries with the kiwi gov - helicopter pad, boat ramps... He even drilled a hole through his island. Lots of stories in the bay of islands amidst the beauty. We got to our first stop - a marine reserve on putata island. The water was very clear and we saw puffer fish, crawfish, bright nudibranks, snapper, trigger fish, and this native fish - there is one male who has 15 females. When the male goes away, the biggest female becomes the male! They are weird friendly things, they follow you the whole dive and just dart across your mask now and then, especially when you look at something else. Almost like it gets jealous! The guide also tapped a rock and about 5 fish were right there. They are so friendly and you can touch them. we dove a really cool cliff we yall with amazing rock formations and kelp beds (the kelp is so different, 4 ft tall like a tree), we went into a cave which was very tall much to my relief! Saw big rockfish in there that hang upside down and little schools. The guide had us lay down on the beach in the cave and check out the light coming in from the crack opening. Very cool and so serene. Our guide was from Scotland and the owner from Britain and the ship girl from Ireland! Ha! We had tea and cookies and decompressed the. Dive 2 at another marine reserve at white reef. Beautiful reef/rock with a purple color, and more nudibranchs. A huge school of fish followed us! We had been spotting a few crawfish (just their eyes and arms) in their caves and Saare spotted a huge one. Then he tapped me and a 4 footer was out of his cave and tramping along!!! It was so so big ! He bombed over to a different cave but that one had a crawfish about a third his size so he booted it out and then they had a crazy stand off - the big guy slowly went toward the little and the little none shot off (kind go like a quid) and the big guy chased him for a bit. Amazing!! We were near the surface so that was it! We hit the road grub styles to go south. We went through Dargaville to see the great Kauri forest but we completely missed it (it was north of Dargaville and we came in from the east) w***! So we had been 140km from Aukland and then 2 hours later we were 130k away! That's just the way of the road, boys :) we arrived back in Aukland (we are in an awesome groove of me driving and SK navigating). We stopped in the Newmarket area and found nandos in a cinema food court. Not bad at all! We booked a hotel using wifi there and made our way to Oakwood manor by the airport. It was sparse but perfect!! We toasted our first anniversary and slept well.
Day 6: Coromandel/Whitianga: November 3rd
We hit the road and stopped at a cafe for brekky/wifi. The autobahn cafe - a gas station cafe chain that was pretty good! We have also been eating Kerikeri oranges and kiwis. The oranges are the best we've ever had!! The kiwis are amazing too. We stopped in Thames to switch drivers and take a few pics. Lots of pics taken while driving - just beauty everywhere. We drove the really cool coromandel road and stopped at a few lookouts to take pics - inlets and green rolling hills and huge kauri trees! The road was insane - about a lane and a half and the windiest road either of us had ever been on!! I had ginger gum and my sea bands like a nerd and was fine. Saare was Mario Andretti driver in our little s*** box car, pretty impressive. We stopped at many lookouts, just gorgeous. They say it's the most spectacular scenery in NZ and this is where the Auklanders come. It's crazy too - the road is so narrow and windy and yet the speed limit is 100 in the most sketchy areas! In NZ it is pretty much a speed limit of drive as fast as you possibly can. You could maybe hit 100 in a Ferrari on those roads. We spotted a massive mussel farm - we suspect those green lippers! Shortly after we spotted oyster farms too - and then a roadside shack. There were oyste shells everywhere and tons of seafood for sale. We got a dozen oysters and ate them right by where they were in the sea. Delicious!!! And Saare found a tiny new pearl in his oyster!! So amazing. We forgot it at the table :( Saare had a corn fritter too. He had a full on white bun the day before - and no gluten gut. It is so weird to see him smashing gluten. We figured out that it's chick peas! We stopped at Coromandel town to use the toilet and check it out. Such a cute little seaside town! Had a rooftop bevy (oysters and beer by 11:30 - that's vacation for ya) and we hit the windy road again. We arrived in lovely Whitianga - a vacation spot by the sea in Mercury Bay. We checked in - a lovely little place with a great deck and view of the Bay - and then strolled the beach - warm bay and the beach is covered in millions of clam shells! You can't see sand in lots of spots! There were a bunch of people knee deep in the bay digging for them. We toured the town and finally Saare agreed to go in a store but my foot cramped up (I have a freakish foot cramp that won't go away) so back we went. We grabbed dinner and brekky groceries and beer, then layer on the beach. It got sooo hot - the hole in the ozone is right above us. It is a bit scary. Our dive captain said kiwis talk about getting lumps removed like its a day to day thing. Anyways hats and sunscreen big time. After the beach we made dinner and chilled, read emails (more exciting baby news from home ;)) and had a dusk beautiful beach walk. Later, we were in bed looking at the tide tables and the tsunami alarm sirens started. Such a creepy sound!!! We had no idea what to do and it didn't seem like anyone was doing anything. We googled it and found that a cleaner had tripped the alarm a fewe times in the past so we went back to bed - hard to believe we fell asleep knowing full well that a tsunami could hit... But they say usually an earthquake triggers the sirens then you have an hour but there was no quake. Apparently the coromandel peninsula is a danger zone and would be wiped. Good to know baha.
Day 7: Whitianga/Hahei/Whagamata/Mount Maunagnui: November 4th
We woke up and had a chill morning in the sun on the deck. So hot at 8am! We had another tsunami siren go off - what the heck! Didn't last long so another false alarm. We hit the road to go see Hanei, cute little town where we bought snorkels. We hiked a lovely trail down to Cathedral Grove which was a cool beach that had huge limestoney rock with holes carved in it! We both swam here. Then we stopped at Gemstone bay to snorkel! I put on my we suit and that brave warm blooded boy bare skinned it. We saw one trigger fish and some cool plants but that was about it. Our next stop was hot water beach. At low tide, this part off the beach has a hot river running under the sand out from the rocks. It was mayhem!!!! Here whereas out 100 people in a tiny section of the beach digging holes and sitting in them! Big,small,burnt, all types in there. It was amazing to watch!!! For us, we usually choose a beach where there is NO ONE so this was a bit shocking! We picked a spot where we could people watch and have a Sawmill beer. The tide would come up and a cold wave would go in someone's hot tub haha. Everyone also joined in to make a big communal pool and that was funny to watch the people just walk up and poach it. Particularly a big guy with a speedo and a Randy gut who was putting out a serious vibe! We walked by on the way out and you could see a middle section that no one was in that was steaming - I almost burnt my feet walking through it even far down by the water! Crazy wonder of nature. It was a spectacle and we are glad we saw it. We stopped for lunch in Whangamata, cute surf town. Everything was closed! Except for Subway haha. Ate that in the car. The way of the road. Traffic got busier as we left the peninsula. We arrived at our motel, the bay watch, which is ok. A towel had will nots on it and we are on a 4 lane road. Mount is beautiful - the whole town spans out from it. We walked along the beach trail and felt like sausages as there were boot camps up the mountain, on the beach, on oaddle boards. It is kind of the hipster fit area! So different from what we've seen. We got groceries and Saare was getting soooo hungry. In a bit of a panic we hit up a Turkish place we saw that was busy - Turkish delight. My word it was delightful! The best. I had a steinlager for dad, SK had moussaka and I had a lamb chicken doner. Then we did a bit more planning and that was that!