23rd December 2017
Andrew likes to spend Christmas with extended family. I like to travel and discover new places. Most years, we tend to compromise and this year is no different. We settle on a road trip to the south of North Island. We set off from Auckland on the 23rd at 8.30am. We both had very bad night. Catherine and Genevieve took it in turns to keep us awake. By 1am, I was fully awake so I let Andrew sleep and did all the night wakes. This meant we left later than we planned! Our first stop was Rotorua. Fondly called Rotovegas – a bit of a controversial name, it is also home to geothermal activity so you will find boiling mud, lakes, small bodies of water, steam venting out from the pavement as you stroll around town and most of all, the pervading smell of sulphur which smells very much like rotten eggs!
There is quite a lot to see in Rotorua. Some are children friendly and some definitely best for adults only. We head to the centre which was surprisingly empty and park up. Parking is free after 12pm on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. Otherwise, it’s $1 per hour. We head off to find food and end up in at a Japanese restaurant called Ki Ora. Ki Ora is a greeting used officially and unofficially all over Kiwiland. It basically means ‘Life be well/healthy’ in Maori and is used instead of hello, hi etc. The restaurant was very child-friendly. The children had their own cups, plates, and spoons. The waitresses were very patient but most of all were happy for us to order the children’s food first. We ate, paid and went walkabouts in Sulphur town. Ethan loved looking out for and finding pockets of steam whilst shouting ‘cooking eggs!’ thanks to Cynthia telling him the steam was cooking eggs! We then head to Te Puia to see the geyser and the Maori living village but changed our minds and went off to Kerosene Creek instead. Andrew and I have been to Iceland – we spent 12 days there so geysers etc didn’t hold much fascination for us. Plus the children like water so Kerosene Creek seemed a better prospect for us all. 20 minutes later, we got to Kerosene Creek. A stream – well river maybe – that was very warm due to geothermal activity. Of course, Catherine and Genevieve were asleep so baby watching duties fell on me. Ethan had lots of fun…so I was told!
Our next stop was Opotiki. Small, quaint and sleepy town. We stretch our legs, buy some water and head off as there isn’t much to see here. From Opotiki to Gisborne was a beautiful, scenic but nightmarish drive. The road was mountainous, twisty and bendy! It also made the drive much longer. However, it was a very picturesque drive. We watch the landscape change from faraway hills and mountains to tethering on the precipice kind of drive. I now understand why most of the deaths from road accidents in New Zealand are of foreign drivers. It is so easy to linger just a second longer and take your eye off the road! After one too many bends, Genevieve throws up! Waah! We stop as soon as we can and clean out child and car as much as possible. I had not bothered to give her any anti sickness tablets as she usually only becomes car sick if Catherine has been sick – we all know how the smell of sick can induce vomiting as well! Luckily, the rest keep their stomach contents in!
After what felt like a million years, we arrive Gisborne. It is just after 7.40pm. We head off to Countdown for some supplies and pull up at the house around 8.30pm. 12 hours of driving! It was not non stop and definitely was a pleasant drive. Most Airbnb hosts will allow you order groceries to be delivered to the house if you ask nicely! It’s a distinct bonus if you’re arriving late in a strange place. I’m quite disappointed in the rental. It is… lacking. Not only in amenities but it’s in dire need of updating. I guess it provided a comfortable shelter so can’t complain much! All fed and watered, we drop like logs!
We all woke late and wandered down to the sea right opposite the house! Gisborne is the first city to see the sun in the world. I wasn’t up to welcome the sun though. I was too tired! We potter around a bit and head over to see Andrew’s cousins. We are meeting 2 of them for the first time! We spend most of the day there and wander around the area. I like Gisborne. For the history buffs, James Cook landed in Gisborne in 1796 – his first foray into NZ. He named it Poverty Bay!
Found lots of jellyfish on the beach! Andrew thinks they’re Portuguese Man o’ War. Their sting can be nasty! We avoided getting stung though
Christmas day dawned hot and humid! The temperature was 27 degrees. It felt very odd. Christmas in Nigeria is warm by some standards but to us Nigerians, it’s cold as it falls during the harmattan season. Of course in Europe, Christmas is always cold. It feels weird to wake up and head for a swim in the sea first thing on Christmas Day! We were invited to a barbecue with extended family members and we head over there. It was too warm… I just wanted to go lie down in the freezer! The children had a blast!
Boxing day, we head off to Rere falls and rockslide. It is a must do and see activity if you are in this region. There’s a video of the rockslide on my Instagram page – https://www.instagram.com/idomalass/ We thought of heading to the Arboretum but it costs $22 per adult so we decided a full day was better than spending just over an hour there. Gisborne is full of vineyards so if wine tasting is your kind of activity, there’s a lot of that as well!
27th – it chucked down with rain all day!!! We decide to do some shopping in the sales. We buy a deep freezer! Yay! So much fun trawling through shops looking for deep freezers NOT! Today is our last day in Gisborne so we say goodbye to the rellies and head back to our Airbnb rental to pack up.
28th – Kapiti Coast and Wellington.
The drive…I’ll save it for your imagination! It takes us a mere 7 hours including an hour’s stop at Napier and a quick shop stop at Palmerston North. I love Napier! It’s full of Art Deco buildings and street signs. The weather is balmy. I can instantly see why it’s a hit with many Brits. It feels like summer in the UK. Cloudy, breezy and a bit wet. We eat at the Thai House Express. Again very child and pocket-friendly.
We make a quick pit stop in Palmerston North. It’s a university town so a bit bland. Our final abode on this trip is in Reikorangi. A hamlet of fewer than 10 houses. Our Airbnb rental is fabulous! Even though it has no internet – who needs internet anyway! – it is well maintained, stocked and most of all, there was fresh bread waiting. Freshly baked, slightly warm bread. We fall on the bread like starving explorers. It was a large loaf – family sized but was demolished in minutes. I craved more! Our host lives next door and I’m almost tempted to go ask for another loaf! There’s a farm next door so the children go say hello to the cows, chickens, sheep, lambs and of course dogs! There are monkey bars and a tyre swing. The back garden is not only completely secure and gated off, it’s massive!
30th – We head off to Wellington, the capital city. It’s love at first sight for me. I would move there in a heartbeat! We drive around. Head up to the lookout – walk up the very steep, pebbly path carrying the girls on our backs – only to discover at the top that we could have driven right to the lookout! Grr!!!! We head back down and go find food. We then do all the necessary touristy stuff and head back home.
31st – We see Porirua and spend a while rambling along the beach in Queen Elizabeth Park.
1st – We head off the nature reserve. We briefly considered Kapiti Island – nah too much hard work with the children! – so nature reserve it is! Very early night for us as we head back to Auckland tomorrow. 8pm and we’re all in bed!
2nd – We left at 8am on the dot! We make a stop at Taupo. Another mid-North Island city – lots of geothermal activity there and it boasts the largest lake in NZ. It’s the caldera of a dormant super volcano. The drive there is otherworldly! It reminds me a lot of Iceland. Bare and stark landscapes interspersed with mountains, valleys and bendy roads than straight roads as far as the eye can see. There’s even snow on the mountain tops with very low clouds giving off an eerie atmosphere. The city is full and busy with tourists. It is basically my nightmare! We head to Burger King for lunch. It was either that or fight through throngs of people. Not doing that. We scratch the idea of trying to see anything. We agree to return either in April or May when summer is on it’s way out. We do however make a quick stop at Huka Falls. It is a must see! We make another quick stop at Hamilton, 4th largest city in NZ after Christchurch, Wellington, and Auckland.
We get to Auckland at 4pm! Pam – who house sat with her family over Christmas and NY – have done a great job. The house is sparkling! We make dinner and all head to bed! All in all, an excellent trip! Andrew commented on how it was a much more pleasant drive than our drive across Spain or when we drive across the UK. For the most part, I think it is because the children are older and therefore able to sit for much longer in the car as well as entertain themselves but the bickering…oh lordy lord!
The map below shows our trip.
To read more about the New Zealand adventures of Joy and family, check out their blog at https://idomalass.wordpress.com/