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personal - Singapore, new Zealand & HONG KONG Tour - 2012

Day four

We arrived at Auckland Airport after a delay to the flight. Somewhat tired, Jabeen had to wait a ridiculous amount of time for her suitcase to come off the carousel. Not the best introduction to New Zealand for us. I must admit that wandering through the airport was great as efforts had been made to introduce visitors to New Zealand though pictures and welcome signs. We were met by a taxi arranged by the tour company we had booked with and taken to the Rendezvous Hotel. The temperature was a cool 20 degrees. 

We took an opportunity to look around the hotel a little, with its impressive internal escalator, but knew that the itinerary we had been provided meant that we needed to walk to the Maritime Museum for a bridge climb. The museum was located at the Viaduct Harbour. We then had a mini-bus transfer to Westhaven Reserve.

If you have never undertaken a bridge climb then this is something that I heartily recommend. Out climb was operated by a company called AJ Hackett Bungy. We didn't know what to expect and assumed that we would have to do some physical climbing over the structure in some way. However the climb took us through and over the bridge via a pretty secure walkway. We were harnessed and secured all the way. I don't like heights but for 90% of the climb I felt totally safe and we both got some fantastic views of the Waitemata Harbour. Definitely a must do activity. We had a great tour guide called Beckie who provided us with details of the construction of the bridge. The most memorable fact was that the bridge was extended using a revolutionary system which involved clipping on two sections to the bridge. The design was Japanese and is referred to as Nippon-Clipon.

More intrepid bridge climbers undertook a bungee jump from the bridge apex. Unfortunately, for safety reasons, we could not take a camera with us so I had to rely on the purchased pictures after the event. But I retain great memories of standing on the bridge and waving at the ant like vehicles below us.

After this activity we had something to eat at Subway, wandered around the harbour for a few ground level photo opportunities and then went back to the hotel for some orientation. We met our tour guide Laurie and were reminded to adjust our watches for daylight saving time.

Day Five

After a hearty breakfast we went to our coach and met our driver Mark. Laurie - the guide - reintroduced himself and confirmed that we would be operating a rotating system of seating. Each day we would go to the next numbered seat from the one that we had been seated at previously. We began to head north, heading for Matakohe, which we were told that we would arrive at in two hours. We met two of our travellers, Bob and Bette. We drove past Westhaven Marina and over the Auckland Bridge. This afforded us some beautiful views of Waitemata Harbour which we were told meant 'sparkling water'. We took the northern motorway and passed over the Waiware (think I spelt it right) river and through a forested area with pines, punga ferns, tea timber and palms. This was how New Zealand was before people arrived.

We passed the Ransom Winery and drove through the farming communities of Warksworth and Wellsford, arriving at our destination - the Matakohe Pioneer Museum, home of the world's largest collection of Kauri gum. This museum was absolutely fantastic. It gave us a great insight to life of the loggers, and efforts to preserve the natural environment. I actually bought my birthday present from the store here - paid for by my parents.. an amber  necklace from real Kauri gum.

After a few hours in the museum we continued on to the majestic Waipoua Forest Reserve to view the Kauri tree 'Tane Mahuta' (Lord of the Forest). Whilst travelling there we were given some general facts. Mark confirmed that that the summer of 2012 had been atrocious with major flooding. Laurie provided some historical context telling us that in the year 1642 Able Tasmin came to New Zealand and that in 1769 Captain Cook circumnavigated the north island. Russell was the first main town and New Zealand was originally part of Australia. Whilst being provided with this information, we drove past Albert Town.

We drove past Te Hana (te=the and hana=fire) and Kaiwaka (kai=food and waka=transport). The coach went from state highway 1 to 2 and past Whanga Teroto where we were told a story of a party that took place. Their babies were placed in the attic whilst the party raged. Some young men decided to swap the babies around and families ended up taking the wrong babies home. I have no idea if this is a true story, but it kept us amused. We were told that the expression 'digging for gum' stemmed from gum diggers who used to tap the roots of gum trees to access the gum. However this often destroyed the trees.

We viewed the Kauri tree at the Waipoua Forest reserve. It was a historically significant visit and afforded some great photo opportunities. We were provided with further information. A baby kauri is called a Ricker. Kauri made good timber for masts of ships. The bark of the kauri falls to the ground and rots, acting as a self sustaining feeding mechanism. The kauri is also the host tree for other things growing inside it. We were introduced to the monkey ferns, karu, which is the national symbol of New Zealand. We were also told that the tallest tree in New Zealand is the Tanimahuto which is two thousand years old.

We went on to view the magnificent Hokianga Harbour before travelling across country to the sub tropical Bay of Islands, a beautiful unspoilt paradise, rich in history and culture. We learnt that Kiaora means welcome and stopped to take a picture of a volcanic cone. We went through the the Haruru Falls before making our way to the the Waitangii Reserve where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840. We were able to explore the beautiful grounds, the Treaty House, the Maori Meeting House and view the War Canoe.

We had a great tour guide for the treaty house - Lena. She told us that the Maori alphabet consisted only of 14 letters and that Mauri is pronounced MA-OR-EE. The tongue being thrown out is called a pukana and can be done to challenge but also to honour. This is something done by men. However women widen their eyes to attain the same effect. Kupe was the first person to come to New Zealand He came from hawaiki. He told people about this land. Lena also told us Cook's arrival and then about the arrival of the French who were put to death and then eaten. Next came traders for Russell and the Reverend Samual Marsdon. The first mission was set up in 1814. The war canoe was referred to at Natakifanarooa (apologies - this a phonetic spelling only) and the toilet as Faria Paka.

We stopped off in - Paihia , which is an absolutely beautiful resort. From there we were taken to our hotel - the Copthorne Waitangi Resort .

Day Six

On this day we opted for a trip to Cape Reinga at the very tip of New Zealand. On the way there we also had a coffee stop followed by a 90 mile beach run on sand. This was fantastic, as the coach travelled at speed along the beach, and through the water, spraying the coach. Very exciting indeed. We got out of the coach to take some photographs and do a bit of childish running about. This was curtailed by the rain alas, but was so much fun. The beach run culminated in sand boarding for those who wanted to take part - which Jabeen and I declined to participate in. Yeah I know. Scaredy cats!

We continued on to Cape Reinga where we viewed the cape Reinga lighthouse. This was the last attended lighthouse to be built in New Zealand and replaced the light on Motuopoa Island, South West of Cape Reinga. We also viewed 'The Meeting Point' - the separation of the Tasmin sea to the west from the Pacific Oceon. The trip ended in a visit to the Puketi National Forest where we received useful information from a new tour guide - Brian. We undertook the Kauri walk through an area full of Kauri. This was actually a long tiring day - albeit it enjoyable. We returned to the Copthorne.

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