Saturday 10th March
If Thursday was a Geothermal day, today was a Beach day. We were on the Coromandel Peninsula. When I booked in at the Reception yesterday the owner had given me a brochure on the region. We knew this was a particularly scenic area and it seemed like the beaches were part of the reason. First we had a look at the one we had camped near, at Wangamata; it was another almost empty, crescent shaped bay with a golden sand beach and low dunes at the back of it. There were surfers in the sea at one end, although there didn't seem to be much surfing going on - I expect they were all waiting for the 'big one'. There were also a couple of people on paddle boards - standing up on a board and using a long paddle to propel themselves along. I would think that is a bit like skateboarding - you are either excellent at it or you keep falling off.
The next beach was Onemana only a few miles up the coast, so we set off for that one. We went through a very affluent village with large modern beach houses either side of the road. The road ended in a small circular car park next to a lush green grassed area with Norfolk Pines (cool trees!) next to the beach. This beach WAS deserted, which was really strange considering that it was a Saturday and the number of houses nearby. But I suppose when you live right next to it you don't have to be there every day. And the New Zealanders are not sunbathers as they know that it damages your skin; try buying anything less than a Factor 30 ('everyday') sun cream! Onemana Beach was idyllic and even had a little waterfall falling from the back of the beach underneath some lovely trees that only seem to exist on cliffs at the back of beaches! The waves were mesmerising and in the distance a rocky headland provided additional interest with waves smashing up against the rocks. We could have stayed all day but we were on a mission (more later) and were watching the clock. As we left Onemana Beach another couple walked along the shore, once we had gone they were alone on the deserted beach.
Twenty minutes later we were parking at Wharekawa Harbour Wildlife Refuge near Oputere (the wildlife being the endangered New Zealand Dotterell, a water bird). This time we had a 15 minute walk to Oputere Beach through a pine forest. A sign at the entrance to the Wildlife Refuge told us how many of each shellfish (live) we were allowed to collect each day! I don't know what sort of pine trees they were but had huge pinecones and six inch long needles that covered the floor of the forest. It was the sort of forest you see in films (this one wasn't used in the Lord of the Rings trilogy though). Again, like a film scene you suddenly emerge onto a long white sand beach with a handful of driftwood logs to sit on, and hardly anyone around. There were a few people in the sea, even an older couple (like us) with boogie/body boards. After they had had enough of skimming the waves they left the sea, stripped off completely and lay on their fronts on their towels, not that we were watching but you couldn't help noticing as they weren't that far away from us (on an otherwise empty beach). We sat enjoying the hazy sunshine (with all our clothes on) until Martin pointed out the time, and off we went back through the pine forest, back along the road a couple of miles to the state highway, through Tairua, and right at Whenuakite. A few miles later and we were trying to find a parking spot at a village called 'Hot Water Beach'. Yes it did. For two hours twice a day, either side of low tide (today 4pm, that's why we were watching the time) a hot water spring at the back of the beach is exposed and is a massive tourist attraction. As it was a Saturday it was probably a bit busier than normal; this was the most people we had seen in one place outside a major town! Spades are available to hire in the local shops and you can dig yourself a hole and have a free wallow. The real 'sight' is all the people crammed into to the two lots of a few square metres where the hot water flows down the beach. All nationalities are working together to bank the sand up around their 'pools' and lie in the hot water, or like us, watch everyone else and paddle in the streams of water escaping from their 'pools'. There was also an area through the middle of all the pools where the water streamed down the beach untouched - it was too hot! The water there was literally steaming. Within an hour the tide was coming in and the banks of the 'pools' nearest the sea started to get washed away. Remember those big waves that come every so often? They took a few people by surprise as the colder sea water washed over the banks and into their nice warm pools!
We left Hot Water Beach before the crowds did and made our way up the coast a short way to Hahei Beach Motor Camp.
Sunday 11th March
Of course Hahei Beach Motor Camp is near the beach - right on the beach, behind the dunes which means you can't actually see the beach from the camp, so we went and had a look. Just another beautiful, empty, pale white/grey sand beach with islands in the sea and low waves crashing on the shore.
Oh well, off we go along the coast to see another beach this morning - a famous beach though. And just in time, as the car park was filling up fast. Unfortunately the sky was grey, with a forecast of rain, so we were not going to get the bright blue sea you see on all the postcards. We were at Cathedral Cove (not to be confused with Cathedral Cave from 24th February) car park, the actual cove was a 40 minute walk away. We packed rain jackets, drinks and chocolate bars into a ruck sack and started off. The path started off along the cliff top with nice views out over the sea, then went down through pine and rain forest and wooden steps (under those trees that hang off the back of cliffs at beaches) onto the beach. The reason this beach is famous, other than being famous for being a spectacular beach, is that it was used in one of the Narnia films - 'Prince Caspian'. Two beaches are joined by the cathedral arch and each has their own features. The first beach has small stacks in the sea, a thin thread of a waterfall forming a small freshwater pool at the side of the beach and amazing trees and roots providing shade at the back of the beach. We went under the long golden pointed arch through to the next beach - easy at low tide, but the sea was still covering the end of the passage when we got there so a short dash between waves was necessary! A huge stack with trees on top, towered in the sea and looked solid from sideways on, but when we got level with it and looked at it lengthways on we could see where it was being eroded underneath by the sea, and it didn't look so solid! We stayed on this side of the cove for a while, sat under a tree, ate our chocolate bars, drank our drinks and watched the waves. There were only a handful of people on the beach at any one time, and most were here like us to visit, take pictures, and move on to the next 'sight.' We moved back to the first beach and wandered around looking at the waterfall, rocks and trees hanging onto the cliffs. We had had a few spots of rain and as we left the beaches to walk the path back it started to drizzle lightly. It wasn't worth putting our rain jackets on as it was so hot; the light rain was almost refreshing! There were two more coves between Cathedral Cove and the car park, and we decide to investigate one of them - Gemstone Beach. A steep path of mostly steps led down to a tiny cove whose beach was made of big round football sized pebbles of lots of different colours. An information board at the bottom of the steps told us there was a snorkel trail out in the bay. We could see the brightly coloured buoys marking the way on the water. As we climbed the steps back up to the main path the drizzle wasn't so light anymore and by the time we got back to the motorhome the mist covered the views from the car park. There were still people arriving to walk to Cathedral Cove though and off they went in the mist. We had hoped to see another secluded beach that afternoon but in the mist we weren't going to be seeing much! We called it a day and went on to Whitianga where we found a tiny motorhome park (compared to some we had camped on) outside the main town area and had an early dinner.
On the outskirts of Tauranga we had stocked up on provisions and bought lamb leg steaks. Each steak was the size of a side plate and had only cost $5 ($2.50). They were the nicest lamb leg steaks I have ever had! No gristly bits and hardly any fat and very tasty. I know New Zealand is known for its lamb, but I think they keep the best for themselves and send the rest abroad! (Beef steak here is also really nice and cheaper than the UK, but chicken is one and a half times as expensive as the UK.)
Monday 12th March
This morning we did our usual by leaving the campsite by 10 and finding somewhere with a nice view to have breakfast. We went back into Whitianga to an area we had spotted yesterday and parked right next to the sea. After breakfast we went on around the Coromandel Coast to Coromandel town itself, stopping at Kuaotunu Beach, Kings Beach, and Wangapoua (beach) for short rests and photos on the way. Before we got to the town there was a viewpoint high on a hill that gave a lovely panoramic scene over Coromandel and the islands in the sea beyond. The road down to Coromandel was as twisting and turning as any we've been on so far, but with sea views. Martin didn't get to see any of it though as he really had to keep his eyes on the road. I took a short video clip on my camera for him to watch later.
Coromandel is an historic town and many of the old buildings still remain in use. It was nearly 4pm and many of the shops were about to shut. We had a coffee in one of the cafes that didn't shut. We would be back in Coromandel tomorrow morning, but first we were heading north to Colville - as far north as were able to go in the motorhome as it was not insured on the road north of Colville. We passed 2 large campsites on the way and earmarked them for later, but when we got to Colville (a much smaller place than we had imagined - a handful of houses, a shop and garage) we saw a sign for a motel & motorhome park. Even smaller than the previous night's site, this had a little area behind the single storey terrace of 5 motel rooms, where there were a few 'permanent' caravans and vacant space for a large tent and us. In the field behind us there was an old abandoned weatherboard house - an artist's dream.
Tuesday 13th March
On the road back to Coromandel we looked for a place to have breakfast; the road was right alongside the sea but the other side of the road was hillside. The road had obviously been cut from the hillside leaving it unstable in some places as we could see from debris on the road where it had been cleared of landslips and there weren't many places to stop. We eventually found a gravel area big enough to park the van and leave room for others. After breakfast it was back into Coromandel for a proper look around.
For the rest of the day we pootled slowly down the west side of the Coromandel Peninsula (nice countryside, next to the sea but not so many white sand beaches), through Thames (famous for its population being bigger than Auckland's in the gold rush era), and up around the Firth of Thames along the 'Seabird Coast' towards Auckland.
We turned off the main highway before Auckland, to Orere Point where we were staying for the last night in the motorhome (sad face). This Top Ten site was jam packed with tiny tin box cabins (new) and 'permanent' caravans that had been built around by their owners. The site we were put on had an overhanging tree which tapped on the roof in the wind. That evening we packed our cases, but didn't have to worry too much about getting everything in, as we were going to be dropped off at our hotel in Auckland by the motorhome company, so a few carry bags would be ok.
Wednesday 14th March
We were off the site early by our standards and parked up on Orere Point beach car park with the chairs out around 9am for breakfast. We were by the river that ran down to the beach and near the sea where the river entered it there was a stony bank with some cormorants (?) on it. A couple of the birds were swimming and diving in the river and looked like they were thoroughly enjoying themselves!
We had tried to finish as much of our food as we could so as not to waste it. The previous day Martin had seen a sign next to a tray in the campsite saying 'unwanted food'. The lady in the office said that they gave the food to the local church. This morning I gave her some tinned and packet food that we had got for emergencies, and she was also happy to take our opened jars of marmalade and pickle. I had kept half a loaf of bread for toast but there was still some left over, so I fed it to the ducks under the tree near the picnic table. Seagulls tried to edge in but the ducks were very quick and got most of it.
Now it was back to the van for a quick clean before driving to Auckland to return the motorhome. On the way we also had to find a 'dump station' to empty the 'grey' (sink) waste and the toilet cassette (only peeing allowed - all pooh-ing was in the campsite toilets!). We saw one by chance, not marked on the road atlas and got everything emptied and rinsed out. We were about half an hour late meeting the guy to return the van - a combination of me wanting to clean everything thoroughly, a slow winding road from Orere Point to Auckland and hundreds of traffic lights in the south Auckland suburbs. He was not too cross and loaded our bags into the (small) campervan he was taking us to Auckland in. His wife drove 'our' motorhome back to their Auckland depot. Looking around the campervan as we were driving back to Auckland I was extra glad we had decided on a 6 berth motorhome for our New Zealand adventure. Although we are used to George our VW camper at home, a little bit of space and luxury is nice when you are on holiday.
We got to the Spencer on Byron Hotel in Takapuna in the Aukland suburbs after about an hour and booked into our 17th floor suite. Very nice! Large bedroom, lounge area with sofa, writing table, small table and chairs, and a kitchen including washer and dryer and a bright white bathroom -WITH A BATH! Martin had run the bath and was in it in 10 minutes! He likes his baths and had not had one for weeks. I got our 3 loads of washing done and had fun trying to hang up the things that couldn't go in the drier…large lampshades and an ironing board were very useful!
We also had a balcony and were at the front of the hotel. We could see out to sea and Rangitoto Island (an extinct volcano, now a nature reserve) and right round to the Auckland Central Business District (CBD) where the skytower and skyscrapers were. Later on we walked down the street to Takapuna Beach where there were quite a few people milling around. There was a local mixed Triathlon (cycle, swim, run) going on and we saw the end of the swim in the ocean and the run on the beach. We then went to a restaurant for an evening meal on the way back to the hotel. That night we had fantastic views of the lights of the CBD and sky tower.
Thursday 15th March
We had noticed the sun went down at the back of the hotel and were awake for the dawn in the morning; it wasn't too early and was definitely worth it as it was more like a sunset than a dawn rising over Rangitoto Island.
After a 3 course breakfast in the hotel (a massive buffet selection of hot and cold items) we walked the few minutes into the centre of Takapuna to the bus stops and got the bus to Devonport (an historical port town!) and boarded the passenger ferry to Auckland CBD. We walked through the city centre, then a small park which was part of the University Campus which is right in the city. There were huge trees in the park where the base of their trunks spread out high along the ground, so that the students were able to use them as seating.
We were heading for the Auckland War Memorial Museum primarily to see a Maori Cultural Display that they hold a few times a day. The museum was an impressive building standing on a hill overlooking Auckland - we later realised we could see it from our hotel. We agreed it was more like a 'museum' than Wellington, with lots of exhibits (but I thought Wellington was better for its story boards and information). There was also a volcano exhibit (Auckland is built around 7(?) extinct volcanoes) that included a special effects room. It was set out as a lounge in a house where you sat on the sofa and watched a newscast about the impending eruption on the tv, and saw the smoking volcano out of the 'window'. Suddenly the room shook and the volcano erupted, and through the window we saw the acidic ash cloud rolling towards us and then everything went black as it engulfed the 'house'.
The Maori Cultural Display was not as visually spectacular as I had imagined, but was more educational; performed on a darkened, empty stage, by up to 6 Maoris dressed in costume. One of the performers commentated on different aspects of the display, explaining the meaning and purpose behind each part of the performance. It was slightly too dark to take decent photos, which they encouraged, but I managed to take some short video clips. Perhaps the darkness was to create some atmosphere, but it was a bit annoying really. After a quick walk around some of the rest of the museum we went back to the CBD through the University and gardens, spotting more fabulous trees and those historic buildings in amongst the multi-storey ones. Then was back down to the wharf to catch the ferry back to Devonport and Takapuna. Later we went out to eat in another part of Takapuna which was much livelier than the night before, with live music in one pub we passed (outside seating as it was still warm) and some shops still open.
Friday 16th March
Another dawn, not so impressive this time, another big breakfast, and then a taxi to the airport to get our flight to the Cook Islands! A pleasant 40 minute journey with a charming Chinese taxi driver, who had also worked in Sydney in the past. We all talked about the places we had been in New Zealand and his enthusiasm for the country was lovely!
An Air New Zealand flight this time took us to Rarotonga, the largest of the Cook Islands. We went over the date line and back a day; we were going to have Thursday all over again!
Thursday 15th March (No. 2)
At the tiny airport we were greeted by Jake and his electric organ - he greets every one of the 17 flights a week. Local ladies in their brightly coloured sarongs or simple dresses and rings of flowers in their hair waited for the passengers for their hotels. One of these ladies was obviously in charge and as each group of passengers came into the arrivals area, asked where we were staying. She then called across to the relevant hotel staff and directed the passengers to them. Two young ladies took us and another couple on a short drive in a people carrier to the Magic Reef Bungalows where we were staying. It was sunny and very hot and humid.
AMAZING! A super little thatched studio bungalow on short stilts, right on the beach! A Tsunami Warning notice was on the wall next to the bathroom telling us what to do in the event of a Tsunami.
The island is almost entirely surrounded by a coral reef 1-200m off the shore which creates a lagoon of shallow turquoise water around the island. The beach is sprinkled with pieces of coral, coconuts and seashells. Seashells that move! Looking closer they were hermit crabs, in shells from as small as the tip of your finger to a bit bigger than golf ball size. There were also 3 or 4 big dragonflies hovering around the short palm tree like plants in front of the bungalow. It was about 5.30pm when we arrived, so we settled in and went for a short walk along the beach. The sun started to go down and we watched a fantastic sunset before walking down the road 50m to the local restaurant The Waterline, which was also right on the beach.
It was too dark to see the sea, but we could see lights in the distance bobbing about. The waitress told us they were line fishing beyond the reef with lights that attract the fish.
Friday 16th March (No 2)
I was woken by roosters crowing at 5.45am and it was light by 6.30am. We had a leisurely breakfast (complimentary on the first morning) of fruit juice, cereal, fruit, and toast & jam. It was nice and convenient so we ordered it for the rest of our stay.
The tourist map showed a good snorkelling beach a bit further around the island from where we were so we took our towels and walked along the beach until we found a place we wanted to stop. We weren't sure whether it was the exact place on the little map but it was nice anyway. We had been loaned 'reef shoes' (rubber soles and neoprene uppers) by the reception because the coral on the beach and in the sea can cut your feet. There had also been stonefish injuries elsewhere on the island - these were fish that looked like a rock on the bottom of the sea, but if you stood on them they inject you with poison and cause pain and swelling in your leg. We both tentatively went into the sea in a sandy area a few feet at a time until we were deep enough to swim … it was strange with shoes on. The water was tepid and had a gentle swell. Martin swam underwater and said he could see little fish swimming around and small pieces of coral on the rock scattered around. I wasn't happy putting my head under water - a throw back to the days I used to wear contact lenses when swimming, I think - so I just swam around and floated on top of the water. We hadn't taken any food or drink with us so after a couple of hours we went back to the bungalow. We were booked on the Highland Paradise Cultural Experience that evening and were picked up from our Reception by a free courtesy bus at 5pm. It had started raining as we waited (but it was still hot), and by the time we neared the venue up in the hills of the island in an area called Mungaroa it was raining heavily. Unfortunately the first part of the evening was to have had a walk around the gardens and a visit to the Marae (sacred meeting house) where we would have been welcomed with a short ceremony. But we went straight into the hall where the tables were set out for the Feast and the drummers had to do an extra session to keep us entertained whilst the feast was still being laid out. The chief ('we could call him Danny'), a descendant of the High Chief Tinomana one of the original chiefs of the island, explained some of the traditional foods we would be eating and how the meat was cooked in an 'umu' or underground oven. One of the vegetables was a type of root which was grey when cooked. Danny said that a previous visitor had described the taste somewhere between potato and cardboard, so we would all have to try it and see what we thought. Afterwards he asked us, and we all agreed it was nearer cardboard than potato! There wasn't anything else too strange in the buffet and there was even some pasta salad for those who didn't want to be too adventurous. After the feast there were music and dancing displays, loosely following the time the tribe arrived on the island to the present day, including a scene where the missionaries arrived and converted them to Christianity. All the performers were descendants of the High Chief Tinomana and it was explained that Mungaroa was part of their original tribal land. There was also a display of different ways to wear the parea or sarong, by one of the girls. Like the displays at the Auckland museum, for some reason everything was performed in semidarkness so photographs were not brilliant but video clips weren't too bad. Mungaroa is also used to educate young island people about their heritage and at the time there was a group of students there who joined us for the feast. The students performed a song for us and one of the girls danced solo at the same time.
By the time the evening was over (the brochure said allow 3.5 hours but we had been there for 5!) the rain had stopped and we were taken back to the bungalow in the minibus.
Saturday 17th March
This morning we caught the bus (one goes clockwise and the other anti-clockwise, 45 minute round trip) to the local market just outside the capital Avarua. It was full of local producers including honey, textiles, black pearls, cooked food, drinks, fish, plaited flax and other crafts. In the centre of the market was a stage with dancers from the Highland Paradise Experience, and we could hear Danny explaining about the coconut tree and how every part is used by the islanders - same patter and corny jokes that we had heard the night before!! We still stood and watched as it was very entertaining. We then walked into Avarua and had a very tasty brunch in a small café. Before we had brunch Martin had spotted a t-shirt and asked what time the shop shut and had been told 1pm, so we walked back to the shop around 12.15 and they were shutting! He managed to buy the t-shirt though. On Saturday pm only one bus was running so we had to get that one. It was a longer journey but it meant we got to see the rest of the road that circles the island and passed the abandoned Sheraton Hotel. This was a project that was financed by 'Italian businessmen' in conjunction with the islanders. The outer shell of the hotel was built but then the 'Italian businessmen' were all arrested in Italy leaving the islanders unable to finish the hotel and $200 million in debt.
We had a lazy afternoon in the bungalow enjoying the sunshine and watching the waves. We went to the Waterline Restaurant early hoping to catch the sunset from the balcony. We were greeted with 'Happy St Patrick's Day' and saw that the restaurant was decorated with green balloons and ribbons and little cut out pictures of clover, leprechaun hats and beer glasses. We enquired whether it meant something to the islanders e.g. Irish immigrant heritage, but were told 'No, we just do it for the tourists'! As it was Saturday night as well a St Patrick's Day there was a singer with a guitar in the restaurant. He was very good. The sunset wasn't though, but it was still nice to sit out on the balcony in the warm night.
Sunday 18th March
A lazy morning and then we walked along the road a bit to wait for the anti-clockwise (long way round) bus to Aroa. We had walked along the road to stand outside the oldest Cook Islands Christian Church on the island as we had read the singing was worth hearing. We managed to hear a few minutes of the traditional singing before the bus arrived and it was brilliant - lots of voices and harmonies.
Today we were going to Aroa to the Dive Centre to hire some snorkelling gear and have a practice in preparation for our Great Barrier Reef trip when we got back to Sydney. I have never done it before and Martin had, but not really enjoyed it. We were served by a young English guy who explained everything to us and suggested where we should try out first. Martin chatted to him while I got changed and found out that he was from Plymouth!
We found a nice spot on the beach across the road from the Dive Centre. This was the windy side of the island, but it was nice as it was quite hot today. I put the mask on and tried to get used to breathing through my mouth with the snorkel. Once I thought I had got it I went into the calm sea in up to my waist and knelt down and put my face under the water, breathing hard through the snorkel. WOW! There were little fish swimming round the rocks nearby, the sort of fish you would normally see in a tropical fish tank! The bottom was mostly sandy with rocks and coral in groups dotted around the seabed. The depth of the water was only about 4ft so I felt reasonably safe if I had to put my feet down. We also had flippers which was hard to get used to! We spent a few hours snorkelling around in a small area, not going too far from the shore, but we didn't need to; there was lots to see where we were. Reluctantly we had to leave the beach in order to get the last bus back to the bungalow. We went back to the dive centre and had a quick shower to get rid of the salt water, post our postcards in their post box, and ordered a takeaway burger from the café next door. The burgers were ready just a minute before the bus arrived! The post card posting was a very lucky thing, as the only public post box is at the Post Office in Avarua. There are no post boxes on the island and there are no mail deliveries either; everyone has a mail box at the Post Office in Avarua and has to collect it from there.
We went back to the bungalow hoping to be able to do some more snorkelling on our beach, but the water was a bit choppy as the waves were coming high over the reef. Martin's eyes were stinging from the salt in the water from our previous session in the sea, and I wasn't confident enough to go in the choppy water.
No sunset this night either, but another nice evening at the Waterline Restaurant.
Monday 19th March
Today we took our snorkelling gear to Muri Beach, on the opposite side of the island to where we were staying. Muri Beach is a popular tourist area and has a couple of big resorts because of the beautiful beach and lagoons between the shore and three islands. This meant there were more people around. We also knew there was a big cruise liner that had arrived in the morning. They were mostly American and Canadian passengers; we met some on the bus, which was full up, normally there were only 6-8 people on it! There were 'Raro Tours' minibuses everywhere carrying the cruise liner passengers to all the excursions around the island. The islanders also put on another market in the afternoon as it was worth doing with a couple of thousand cruise liner passengers on the island.
We snorkelled for an hour or so on Muri Beach, but it wasn't as good as Aroa beach so we went back to Aroa and spent another hour there in the sea before we had to return the snorkelling gear to the Dive Centre in time to get the last bus. Then it was back to the bungalow to pack L for our night time flight back to Sydney (via Auckland). The Waterline restaurant was closed on Mondays so we went to the little shop along the road from the bungalow but there was not much choice. When we got back to the bungalow we saw that they had delivered another breakfast, but we weren't going to be there. Martin went to the Reception to let them know, and was told that it was a mistake but they didn't want it back and we could eat it if we wanted, and it was free. So we had breakfast for tea!
Our transport arrived at 11.30pm to take us to the airport, but our flight wasn't departing until 1.30 am. Our driver was collecting new visitors from the flight arriving at 11.30pm so that was why. Jake was there playing his organ to welcome the new arrivals and the 3 duty free shops were open. Martin was delighted to see that the cigarettes were the equivalent of £2 a pack, but dismayed he could only take 10 packs! The flight was only 4 hours and after an hour on the plane we were served breakfast (i.e. at 2.30am). We crossed the dateline again and lost the whole of the rest of Tuesday, arriving at 0430am on Wednesday 21st! We spent 2 and a half hours in Auckland Airport whilst our suitcases were automatically transferred onto the Sydney flight.
During the 3 and a half hour flight to Sydney we were served another breakfast almost identical to the last! We had had 3 breakfasts in the last 10 hours! We arrived in Sydney at 0830 and got a taxi to Sam and Laurie's. As they were both at work we were able to crash and sleep for the next few hours.
Later on we went out for another nice meal with Sam and Laurie at the pub we had been to before, and told them all about our adventures in New Zealand and the Cook Islands.