Saturday, June 7, 2008

New Zealand Artist's Tour: Second visit

Christmas in the Bay of islands

The Second trip I made to New Zealand was very different to my first visit . I traveled around New Zealand with my wife who was at the time my Fiancee , we were not on a shoe string budget and because of this we could afford to buy a car which gave us immense independence, as well as this we got married in New Zealand.

We arrived at the beginning of December in Auckland . We had a stopover in Malaysia - Penang to break up our journey thus alleviating the strain of the long flight. On our arrival in Auckland we stayed with Doug and Betty , ( Wendy's aunt and uncle ) who made us feel very welcome . We stayed for a week in Auckland to get over our jet lag which gave us time to explore some of the sights in Auckland such as the Kelly Tarltons undersea world and the Auckland Museum , if you do go along to the museum visit the Maori culture exhibition as there is the stage show with some marvelous singing , we also visited some old friends .

The weather in the south of New Zealand at the time was not very favorable for traveling so we headed to the tropical north where we could guarantee some warm weather . Our first port of call was Orewa , the Hibiscus coast as it is known just outside Auckland .
From Orewa we caught a coach to Whangarei , here we stayed at the camp site that I had used on my previous visit ,visiting the clock museum , the botanical gardens which has some huge Begonia's and the Whangerei falls .

From Whangarei we moved upto the Bay of Island's and settled in at Russell before the mass Christmas exodus descended on Northland and most notably Russell which seems to be the centre of the New Zealand Christmas break . Having a Christmas in a tropical climate always seems a bit strange if your used to the cold winters of the northern hemisphere but it all added to the experience .At Russell we did as much as possible , visiting the Kelly Tarltons ship wreck museum , Waitangi governors house which is a museum now, the Harruru falls , the boat trip out to the hole in the rock and on Christmas Eve we went out on an organized trip to swim with some dolphins which must be one of the high lights of our time in NZ . This is an excellent experience which should be taken if you are in the area and have the time.

From a week before Christmas the camp site population was building up and on Christmas Eve it was at maximum capacity but it was not intimidating as it might sound as every body was in the Christmas spirit and out to have fun. Christmas day would not have been Christmas day without a swim. The Christmas week flew by and before we knew it New Years Eve was upon us.

This was even more eventful as there was a concert in the local pub, The Duke of Marlborough who had the Commitments playing , we don't know if they were the original group from the film but they sounded convincing enough and just as entertaining, if not more as the music was so loud we could here it from our tent .

We saw the New Year in back at the camp site . The day after new years day we headed back to Auckland, stayed a few days here and then headed south

South to Kaikoura

We took the overnight train to Wellington which seemed to take an eternity but we arrived at Wellington station some what late and had to run up the gang plank to get onto the interisland ferry . The cruise down Queen Charlotte sound was as spectacular as my first visit , arriving in Picton we stayed the night in a camp site and the next day went to Blenheim to buy a car . In Blenheim there is a road that is lined with car dealerships which have cars of varying qualities , styles and of course ages and prices .

We did want a four wheel drive but there were few available so we abandoned that idea and bought a twenty year old Hillman Avenger which we named Rembrandt or Remi . We paid NZ$1800 which seemed pricey for a car of its age but it proved to be money well spent . We got our car insurance from AMI which had an office close by and for NZ$85 we got one years fully comprehensive cover for the car which included our luggage and the window screen as well as free AA membership , such a bargain.

Now we had a car we were free to explore the South island at our leisure without having to rely on the coaches and bus's. Our first port of call was French Pass in the Marlborough sounds which seemed such a long drive and it made me realize how far I had walked the first time I visited this peninsula , we stayed over night but Wendy wanted to move on .

We had a look at the map and could either go right to the West coast or left to the East Coast , on the east coast there is Whale watching at Kaikoura and I had not got to see this part of NZ on my first trip ,our fate was sealed and we opted for Kaikoura .

We drove back to Blenheim and then down the coast to Kaikoura . There was not a camp site here so we move further down to Goose Bay where there is an excellent campsite which was not crowded . The campsite is almost right next to the railway line to Christchurch and across the road is the Pacific Ocean .

At Kaikoura the ocean floor drops away dramatically to the depths of the ocean just a kilometre or so from the shores edge . This attracts an abundance of sea life and food for the local fish population ,this in turn brings in the Whales . The weather proved to be a hindrance , we spent a week waiting for the weather to break in hope to go out and see some whales but it did not We moved on with the intention to return later , alas we never did . Whilst we stayed at Goose bay we got to se a lot of the local area which included walking up Fyfe mountain , visiting the Seal colony and sketching them .

Having spent a week at Kaikoura we traveled south to Christchurch , the main city on south island . There is so much to do here that you will not get it all in in less than a week . we had a look around town ,climbed to the top of the spire of the Cathedral which gave a magnificent view over the city . We visited the botanical garden's which are comparable to Kew Gardens in London . Also there is an excellent museum which has a good natural history section showing the skeleton's of several Moa's , including a ten foot one , as well as a wide selection of insects .As well as this we canoed up the River Avon through the botanical gardens.

A days painting at Mount Cook

On my first visit to New Zealand I was told about Akaroa and how nice it was , as we were but a stones throw from Banks peninsula we decided to make the effort and visit Akaroa .Little did we know how Akaroa would be so eventful for us in the near future . Akaroa harbour is a very pleasant place , the camp site is high upon the hill side giving commanding views of the town and harbour .

The weather was fine at first and I got some painting done . We also went out on the Canterbury Cat,a catamaran that goes out to the mouth of the harbour where the Hectors dolphins swim . These are very rare and the smallest dolphin's in the world which makes it a special treat to see. The weather turned squally and showers blew in from the south and we decided to move onto Timaru.

We drove over the hills to the Canterbury plains and onto Ashburton where we had a nice meal in a pub , very different from my first visit here. From Ashburton we went onto Timaru . Timaru is a typical touristy town with a very good camp site and also a good art gallery with a good selection of watercolours.

From Timaru we went inland to Mackenzie country, stopping off at Fairlie and looked at the museum which has a number of exhibits that are crammed in covering almost every aspect of New Zealand life in the area . From Fairlie we went onto Lake Tekapo. We stayed here for a few days which was glorious weather at first but it started to get blowy , I took this as a challenge and sat down to do a painting in almost gale force winds , this brought to mind the story of Van Gough insisting on painting in blustery winds much to Gogh amazement. On the last night it turned chilly and Wendy insisted that there would be a frost in the morning. We drove out to the petrol station, looking up the lake I saw the mountain's had a dusting of snow on them . This brought home how the weather can change so dramatically in the New Zealand high country and catch people unawares.

Just down the road is Mount Cook which has to be visited, especially if it is not shrouded in cloud . We stayed at the Glenn Tanner camp site , driving upto the old Hermitage to look at Mount Cook which surprisingly enough was not covered in cloud. Wendy wanted to fly over Mount Cook but it seemed to be a bit expensive, we decided to do that from the Westcoast. We spent two days here and got some paintings done as well as some walking.

From Mount Cook we moved on to Omaru via Twizel and Oromana , stopping to look at Lake Avimore. We arrived at Omaru and booked into the campsite next to the domain. Here there is a pleasant domain which has a grotto devoted to JM Barry's Peter Pan .

We spent two days looking at the museum , the art gallery and also got to see the Yellow Eyed Penguins coming in for the evening and followed by what looked like Orca's ( Killer Whales ). We moved on towards Dunedin via Moeraki to see Ray and Ruth who I knew from Queenstown on my previous visit , we said hello and then moved onto Dunedin .

Dunedin has a Scottish appeal to it which bellies this in the architecture and the statue of Robbie Burnes in the City square. Also Billy Connolly was due to perform , we forwent this pleasure due to time and money .

Dunedin has an very good Museum called the settlers museum which also has an Egyptian room , an art gallery , a museum of science . The Botanical gardens were exceptionally pleasant , even in the rain as the rose garden was in full bloom . The rain seemed to have settled in with no let up in sight. A weather forecast of sunshine on the West coast was predicted so we left for Manapouri .

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