2019 – New Zealand (part 1)

8-10 March 2019

Blimey, that was a long way. I started out at 17:30 on Friday March 8th and somehow after travelling for 27 hours from Birmingham to Dubai then onwards to Auckland I check in to the Oaks, Auckland Harbour at about 14:30 in some 27 hours after staring out. The second flight was some 16 hours in duration and not much fun. I am glad that is over.

I managed to scrounge a ride with Roger’s driver straight to the hotel about 30 minutes away (thanks Roger). The hotel is fine and a have expansive views from the 8th floor.We met up with Shaun and Libby at the Soul Bar and bistro which was delicious. The tuna was fantastic.

That will have to do for tonight as the jet lag is really starting to…zzzzzzzzz

11th March 2019

Well, after expecting problems sleeping after the journey down here I slept like a baby. I woke once at 3:00am but went straight back off to sleep again right through to 7:00. I have felt fine all day with just the occasional yawn to show for the jet lag.

Roger and myself walked to Starbucks for breakfast before continuing on to the sky tower to meet Shaun and Libby. We all went to the AA shop nearby to arrange breakdown cover for our trip. I’m glad that I had my UK membership card as it qualified for a substation discount. Lets hope its money wasted. All very easy and straightforward.

We headed back to the Sky tower and took the lift up to the 60th floor. Views were spectacular on a clear warm morning. We stayed up high for a coffee before making our way back down.

From the Sky Tower we walked to the War Memorial Museum. We did stop for lunch at a Korean restaurant (a first for me) where we had Bibim bap (I think). Very nice.

The War Memorial Museum was well worth a visit. We also took in the Maori Cultural Performance.

Roger had arranged for us to meet Nigel – a Morgan 3-wheeler own in Auckland. He was kind enough to pick us up and take us to his lovely home for en excellent meal prepared by himself and Wendy. It was a very nice evening full of lots of Morgan talk and New Zealand talk and we were joined by another couple of Morgan enthusiasts Alan and Gail. Nigel hopes to join up with us for a day later on in the trip.

We pick up the cars tomorrow morning . Fingers crossed they will start!

12 March 2019

Today we collected the cars. After breakfast our new New Zealand friend Nigel was kind enough to pick us up from our hotels and take us to collect the cars. They were all ready for us and after reconnecting the battery on each car it was time to see if they would start. It is a long time since we dropped them off on 13th December.

Roger was first to try and his car fired right up first try. Shaun tried and started first time. I tried and 3 out of 3 cars started at the first time of asking. What were we worrying about?

We topped up the tyres and the good people at Jensen Classics even provided a very good cup of tea to see us on our way. We took up formation and headed out aiming for Piha on the west coast.

After a brief motorway stretch we were on to some lovely roads winding through some very pretty countryside. Nigel joined us and the roads got nice and twisty.

We had a very nice lunch in a cafe in Piha before having a look at the very nice beach. This is very much a surfing village but there were no surfers riding the waves today. We made our way back to Auckland and said goodbye to Nigel and Wendy. Hopefully they will be joining us for a day in a couple of days time. Nigel’s help has been very gratefully accepted. It’s nice to have some local assistance.

13th March 2019

Well what a fabulous first day touring. We left Auckland at 9:00 and made our way to pick up Shaun and Libby from their hotel. The journey out of Auckland was easy enough on a stretch of motorway. The traffic eased as we mode our way into the countryside. The roads soon became a joy to drive and we made excellent progress.

The weather is amazing – 25 degrees and sunny. The sun is very strong and I had to cover my legs to stop them from burning. The landscape changes so quickly. One minute things feel very tropical then you could be in southern Spain. Then next corner and things go very green again and you could be in the Peak District.

We stopped in Wellsford four a very nice coffee and to fill up the cars for the afternoon run. Our next stop was at the Kauri Museum. After a nice lunch we explored the museum. This place is much bigger than expected and we could have spent more time here. The exhibits included many great old photographs and working displays of the sawmills and machinery that were around this area. It must have been a very hard life working those sawmills. This place was definitely worth a visit.

We continued northward for another 65 miles or so to Tane Mahuta – the largest Kauri tree alive in New Zealand today. At some 1600-2000 yeasrs old and 13.8m  in girth it really is an impressive specimen. The tree is so large and old that there is a whole renge of other species of tree and plants growing in its branches. These trees are endangered and we had to wash our shoes on the way in and out of the boarded path to view the tree.

We continued along the fabulous road throiugh the forest towards our overnight stop at Opononi. This afternoon has been one of the best drives I have ever done. Twisty roads through tropical forest opening up to amazing views over sea and sand dunes. The view down towards our hotel as we dropped down to the village was truly stunning – so much so that we had to go back up after chrecking in to take more pictures.

The hotel tonight provides rooms that back directly on th the beach. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better we were treated to a spectacular sunset as we ate dinner. A quite unforgettable day.

An earlier start tomorrow as it is our longest mileage of the while trip.

14th March 2019

Our aim today was to reach Cape Reinga. Today is our longest travelling day so we made an early start before breakfast so we could make the Rawene ferry at 08:15. It was only just light when we started out and a little chilly.

We caught the ferry as planned and stopped at our planned breakfast stop at Kohukohu. The cafe was able to provide us with an excellent breakfast which really set us up for the day.

The next section on state highway 1 treated us to roads of the like I have never driven before. A mini pass twisted and turned corner after corner on a road with more camber than I have ever seen before. Great fun to drive – more like a bob-sleigh run than a road.

We pushed on northward and after a coffee stop neared the very top of New Zealand. We were hoping the 65 mile dead-end would be worth it and as it turns out we were definitely rewarded for our efforts.

Cape Reinga is a spectacular place especially in beautiful hot weather like today. We eventually made our way back to the cars and headed south. We filled up at Waitiki landings but missed lunch by a few minutes. We had ice cream instead and started the 3-hour drive towards our hotel in Paihia. Just one stop on the way down and we got to our hotel at a reasonable time. That was quite a drive. 270 miles on hot twisty roads. Time for a beer….

15th March 2019

We had a later start this morning after our big day yesterday. We were spread out over this very large hotel complex so we met at reception for a 9:30 departure. Shaun had even given a ride to one gentleman interested in the car before loading up. First stop was for fuel just after the bridge connecting the Copthorne complex to Paihia. Sorry Shaun for not telling you the plan after you so carefully secured your luggage to your car only to have to take it off 5 minutes later!

We headed south with much of todays journey in State Highway 1. Again the landscape was very varied even if it wasn’t quite as spectacular as the last couple of days. On any normal trip this would have been a brilliant days driving but this trip has raised the bar.

We got stuck in our first jam this morning just north of Ruakaka where a car and several police cars were blocking highway 1. We soon found a way round and did the only thing we really could – found a nice place for lunch. Ruakaka cafe fed us well and the beach was wonderful – I even went for a paddle.

We were only about 60 miles from todays destination in Orewa so we headed straight there after lunch. It was nice to have a little time at our destination without having to rush out to dinner.

Orewa is a nice beach resort town. The beach is lovely and I walked into the village for an iced coffee before paddling back along the beach.

Indian was our meal of choice tonight, and a good choice it was too..

16th March 2019

Today was a fabulous days driving. Nigel and Wendy met us at the hotel for an 8:00 start. We had a fast drive round Auckland on motorways before leaving and heading in to Clevedon for an excellent breakfast. we followed round the coast through some stunning countryside then through some fast, straight sections of road before our coffee stop at Thames in a building that looked right out of a western.

We filled up with fuel and headed out to a stretch of road I have been particularly looking forward to up to Coromandel. Lovely twisty roads did not disappoint. It was great not leading all the time today watching Nigel and Wendy in Henri, Roger, and Shaun and Libby in the leaning tower of Denton! Video to follow later hopefully.

We continued on the endless twisty fun roads to Coromandel town where we found a coffee stop for lunch before we continued on to Whitianga where PhilipNZ from talkmorgan has a house. He had arranged for all of us to be photographed and interviewed for a local newspaper. The cars do look good all lined up.

After leaving Whitianga we continued along more brilliant roads to tonights accommodation at the Pipinui Motel in Whangamata. The driving today has been absolutely brilliant.

17th March 2019

We checked out of the Pipinui Motel and headed out for a breakfast meet up with more Morgan people. Nigel and Wendy joined the Morgan train about 15 minutes down the road and it was a nice, if a little bumpy, run down to Te Puna just west of Tauranga. Here we met up with Doug and Liss with their Plus 8. We all had a very good breakfast (again) before Doug led the way up to a great viewpoint overlooking the bay.

We had to say our goodbyes to Nigel and Wendy as they were heading back to Auckland and to Doug and Liz. All these lovely people really epitomise the Morgan community. Here we are, on the other side of the world and we meet up with Morgan owners who have really put themselves out to welcome us into their home, help by running us around, provide food and drink and show us around their beautiful country. Thanks to each of you for making our time around Auckland so wonderful.

Doug led the way out towards Rotorua before pulling over and waving goodbye. We drove down another very good road to the Rotorua Lake. It was getting hot again so we stopped for refreshments and amused ourselves watching the crowds round the cars. We did however have to tell off one woman when stepped on the exhaust of my car!

We had a walk by the lake before we met up with Ricardo. Fancy meeting you here! We had a very nice lunch in Rotorua (yes we were eating again) and caught up with his New Zealand Travels. Richard will be joining us on route for the next few days.

We then headed up To Mourea where our hotel is located for tonight. Shaun and Libby had arranged to meet friends at the hotel and I had arranged to meet an old friend too back in Rotorua so Roger and myself headed back after a bit of a rest and a clean up.

It was great to see Steve from our Ellison days. I can’t believe that it has been fully 20 years since he left Ellison and then moved out here. He seems to be loving it and I am really pleased things are working out for him.

That is another day done so tomorrow we are heading south east into the heart of North Island

18th March 2019

The first part of todays route took us back towards Rotorua before we turned south east for the 40 minute drive down to Waiotapo Scenic reserve. You can’t come to this part of New Zealand without exposing some of the thermal activity going on. It was a really interesting walk round past thermal mineral pools and pools of bubbling mud and even oil. The smell was very strong in places and quite unpleasant.

Lady Knox geyser was just 2 minutes down the road and we had timed things to catch the 10:15 eruption. It is triggered by pouring a surfactant down the hole which breaks the surface tension of the water allowing the geyser to erupt. Worth a visit even if it isn’t the most impressive geyser I have ever seen.

Back on the road again and we head or the Huka falls just north of Taupo. These are not high falls but they are impressive with a huge volume of foaming blue water flowing through. The falls are part of the Waikato river.

We passed through the town of Taupo and follow the shoreline of Lake Taupo. This is a huge lake the feels more like a sea. The views over the water are stunning in the sunshine. Much of the morning cloud has now burned off and it is getting hot again – I’m not complaining.

After leaving the lake behind us we leave the busy State Highway 1 and head into the very beautiful and very dramatic Tongairiro national park. The roads and scenery change opening out to wide open spaces, straight roads and huge skies. The driving is very different in this part of the island but it continues to be ever changing and interesting.

We turn off for an excursion up to Iwikau Village. This is a ski resort at the top of a nice windy road. Not much to do here in the summer but you can see the building work going on ready for the winter season.

Coffee was taken at Whakappa village on the way back down before continuing on to our destination at Ohakune. The hotel here is a little basic and there is only one place open to eat tonight but it will add do fine. Before dinner Roger and myself ascended the Okahune Mountain Road – a great piece of tarmac winding up the mountain. This was good fun with no-one else on the road. The views from the top were very dramatic.

The day was rounded off with a nice meal with Ricardo, Laura and a very well behaved Grace.

19th March 2019

We had a basic breakfast in our very basic hotel. The view however made up for everything. Ohakune was a bit of a strange place. I’m sure it is very nice in the ski season but in the summer it is a bit of a ghost town. It does however give an opportunity to get some nice pictures outside the old buildings. We didn’t pass another car but I was overtaken by a running dog as we made our way down to the station for some photographs.

This mornings route took us through the Whanganui National Park to Pipiriki. I was in the mood for savouring the drive this morning and we meandered our way at an easy pace taking in the magnificent views. I’m glad we have Libby with us to take some photos as we drive and she took some excellent shots today.

From Pipiriki we took the Whanganui River Road – and what a road! I had expected a nice winding road following the path of the river but this was much more. It went from down by the water to high up overlooking some magnificent river views. The weather remained perfect and it was a great drive through quite tropical countryside. We drove through London to Athens and through Bethlehem on this route!

There were no coffee stops whatsoever on this road so we took a break at the first opportunity when we descended down on to Highway 4. We then travelled on and had a look round Wanganui.

The afternoon run was a little less interesting on a more major road. Our destination today was the very comfortable Cornwall Motor Lodge in Palmerston North. The town itself is quite large but is pretty uninspiring. We did however find a very good restaurant for an excellent meal.

I did pass a bit of a milestone today. 33,333 miles on 3-wheels……and travelling at 33 mph.

Our thoughts turn to leaving North Island as we travel to Wellington tomorrow.

20th March 2019

An 8:30 start this morning and we were soon driving through strong sunshine and cool air. The Motor Lodge was extremely spacious and comfortable but didn’t offer any breakfast so we left Palmerson North and drove the 40 or so miles to Shannon. Roger had spotted the Horseman’s Cafe on his phone lest night which we found on the way in to town and parked up directly outside. Scrambled eggs and bacon on toast all round set us up for the day.

Wellington wasn’t too far away and the roads were straight and easy so we took a slight detour to Nga Manu Nature reserve with one aim – to see a real live Kiwi. Kiwis are shy and nocturnal but this nature reserve has a dark house where day is night and night is day. We did see a kiwi as we were very lucky to arrive very close to feeding time.

We took the leisurely bush walk and climbed the lookout tower to see some great views. The thing i will remember most from this place though is the volume and variety of the birdsong. it was remarkably loud and sounded from whistles, knocking sounds and even monkeys. A very nice little Nature Reserve.

After a coffee in Waikanae it was an easy run through to Wellington. After checking in to the Park hotel we all took the cablecar up the hill to see the view over the city before taking a lovely walk back down to the city through the Botanical Gardens. We took a break at the Rose garden for tea before continuing our way down and back to the hotel.

After a quick wash & brush-up we met up with Ricardo and walked down to the waterfront and along to the Ortega Fish Shack which had been recommended to Shaun. The meal was excellent and rounded off a really good day. I haven’t been that impressed with the towns or cities in New Zealand but I do like what I have seen of Wellington.

7:30 a.m. start tomorrow to leave North Island!

21st March 2019

We were all up and ready on time at 7:30 this morning for our short run to the port for the ferry to Picton, South Island. Unfortunately on the way into the port there was an unmarked speed hump which I hit far too fast. The car jumped into the air and banged down. I thought I had got away with it as I didn’t find any damage at the bottom of the car but Roger noticed that I had not got away unscathed. Roger was following and told me that the rear of the luggage rack had jumped way up in the air before banging back down. The suction cup had hit with such force that it dented the boot where it usually rests. I’m sure it can be rectified without too much difficulty.

We were ushered on board quite quickly and had breakfast while we were still in port. The ship sailed right on time at 9:00 for the 3 1/2 hour crossing to Picton. The seas were very smooth and the weather bright but chilly on deck. We met Ricardo, Laura and Grace on board and the time soon went by. The last hour is a very nice cruise as the ferry passes along Queen Charlotte Sound.

We said our goodbyes to Ricardo Laura and Grace as we go our separate ways from here. It has been great catching up with them in New Zealand. We were offloaded quickly and we rolled out on to South Island for the first time. We were immediately treated to a great road round the cost out of Picton. We came across a lovely Bentley at a viewpoint. The owner has done about 100,000 miles in it in the last 9 years and the car hasn’t been in the UK for the last 7 years. He just ships it from country to country. It has been to USA, Canada, Mongolia, Australia and he is off to Japan after New Zealand!

We enjoyed the road and were treated to more beautiful views along the way before we stopped in Havelock for lunch at a roadside cafe. The road opened up from here and we soon made the 35 miles to Nelson.

Tonight we stay in ’The Sails’ Motel which is extremely smart and spacious. Highly recommended. 

Oh!…….we made the paper today……..