It is early afternoon before we leave Paul's house in Stokes Valley and start our journey north. Driving over to Plimmerton we pass a recent head on collision at Pauatahanui which is a grim reminder of how bad some driving is as it is on a straight road and probably the result of bad overtaking. As a gentle start to the journey we decide to spend our first night at Waitarere beach. When I was a child our next door neighbours had a bach at Waitarere and Karen went there at least once as she was Tanya’s best friend. I was always very jealous of her going to this exotic and exciting holiday venue and I finally get to see this marvellous beach.
There is a howling gale when we arrive and a short walk on the beach is all the exfoliation that we can handle. Once we satisfy ourselves that the tent is not going to blow away we head for the kitchen and dinner. The campground is made up mostly of caravans that are on site permanently, some of which are attached to strange little buildings. While we are eating we chat to a man who is cooking steaks and sausages for his family. He recommends travelling north via Wanganui, where he is from, so I decide that we should. He also gives us some delicious squid that he has marinated and then cooked. After dinner we watch Shortland Street as Simon has not seen it since before Christmas and is missing it dreadfully.
In the morning we are up and off early. The wind has reduced but it is still not sunny. After
driving to Wanganui we stop to get some maps and stuff for the Whanganui River but the AA
Office and the DOC Office are not open weekends. The Wanganui Information Office has bro-
chures on Warkworth and Taupo which will be useful in a few days, but only a single page pho-
tocopy on the attractions and walks up the Whanganui River.
As we drive up the Whanganui River the clouds close in and then the rain starts. The drive is very
beautiful but there is nowhere to stop for food so by the time we get to Raetihi we are getting hungry. I have a restaurant guide which recommends a café in Ohakune so we drive over there but it is closed and the only other likely place does not have anything I want to eat and is closing in 20 minutes anyway. We decide to pick up some stuff from the New World and then eat in the car. Once we have eaten we start to feel more human and decide to drive to Taumarunui tonight.
The campground in Taumarunui is good and we have a lie in the sun at last and then a quiet dinner. In the morning we decide that we are really keen to get to Auckland so load up the car and head north again.
We drive to Auckland after breakfast and try to stay at the YHA there, but the first availability they have is in two weeks so we stay at the Remuera Camp Ground instead. Lunch at a local restaurant is relaxing and we rest in the sun reading brochures for what is happening in Auckland. A swim in the campground pool and then a pizza dinner finish the day.
Simon’s birthday dawns grey and I manage to hurt my back trying to wrest one of the boxes from the car. Our first visit is to One Tree Hill which has no tree any more but still has the Maori Memorial and we get a good view of Auckland south and north, and take a picture of the Sky Tower which is our next stop.
At the Sky Tower we take the lift to the main observation deck and the view is amazing but also terrifying as I am scared of heights. Simon loves it and goes up to the smaller observation deck several floors up. Part of the observation deck has a glass floor so that you can look straight down, including into the rooftop pool of the hotel below.
Next stop for us is Kelly Tarlton's Antarctic Encounter and Underwater World which is a large aquarium where the fish are in huge tanks and you walk through tubes set in the bottom. The sharks were good, but not as good as the rays, some of which were more than two metres long. Afterwards we drive to Mission Bay and sit and at cake by the beach at Kohimarama Bay. Next we head back into town for a wander up Queen Street and then a visit to Victoria Park Market where we don’t buy anything. As we do not know where things are in Auckland we head back to the base of the Sky Tower for lunch and then spend the afternoon visiting the Auckland Art Gallery. The weather has not been great to day and the wind is picking up now. A relaxing dinner in a nice Italian restaurant on Remuera Road finishes our Auckland visit. Tomorrow we will head north again.