Australia & New Zealand 2023 – Days 17 and 18

My Vinyl Resting Place

Our travel agent at Trailfinders was from Auckland, he thought it a great idea to spend an extra day there before our organised tour started. Wrong! The thought of an extra day at Port Douglas or Auckland was a no brainer frankly. However, you live and learn and with a day to kill we decided to visit Mount Eden. This is a considerable hill (sea level to 200 metres) about three miles from where we were staying and to get to it was all uphill. So you’d get a bus, right?

Well, we tried and asked a couple of bus drivers if we were going to take the correct bus if we got on board but both gave confusing answers. The last one looked through Anna as if in the latter stages of an adventure with something psychedelic in tablet form. Heaven help getting on his bus in that state, I thought.

So we walked there. I suppose it was interesting to see a little more of residential Auckland and the view at the top of this former volcanic crater was terrific over the city. Mount Eden had been an important settlement and fortification for a tribe of Māoris. The site was sacred today and at a centre near the summit there was an explanation of its history. It was well curated and explained.

The site today
We were staying near the pointy tower

As we were nearing the grassy site off the main road we saw a bus go by with our spaced out driver at the wheel. This was his route! Anyway we did decide to avoid the joy of walking back and caught another bus back to the centre. At this point after a sandwich the present Mrs Ives returned to the hotel and I thought I’d look at a record shop on the route. Wow, what a corking shop. Lots of new and old treasure. LP’s are quite easy to put in a suitcase safely but I must stop as the case is getting heavier by the day. (I bought old second hand albums by Labelle and the Isley Brothers and I found a sealed new album by Zephania OHara, which of course doesn’t mean a lot to you all but he’s a New York based country music artist. I have his first release on vinyl but never expected to find his second one for a fiver.)

Later the ‘Grand Depart’ started with all the 16 guests coming together in the empty restaurant of the hotel. There was one Scotsman (residing in Melbourne), five English, two Americans, one Dane, one Swiss and five Canadians. There were only three couples and five men in the party. I ticked both boxes! Ages were between 21 and 73.

It was odd not to be personally delivering the introduction, rather than listening to it, but after that we were all set for an early departure the next morning.

Siobhan, was our Scottish guide. She’d been in NZ since 2015 and was to be the driver, organiser and guide. It was a big ask in my opinion. The guide has little opportunity to switch off between 6am and 10pm; by the end of the tour she’ll be exhausted. However, it appears she likes to talk and has a hands free headset that facilitates this hobby. Voice wise then imagine the bit in the song ‘Shout’ where Lulu goes ‘We-eeehhh-eeeehh- eeeell’ and you’ll have an idea. More of her in a later blog.

Out of the city the scenery was green and rolling with small hills and quite windy roads often involving short brutal climbs and descents. My mind wandered onto imagining this route on a bicycle: not easy. The traffic was light but we had periodic roadworks, apparently the recent cyclones have caused quite a bit of destruction. The schedule involved getting to Hahei, a resort on the north east coast. Hahei, so named by a Polynesian, called Hei, who claimed the area on arriving several hundred years ago.

On arrival most of the party plumped for a boat ride of the coastline and caves but the present Mrs Ives surprised me by signing up for kayaking, something she and I last did in 2007!?

A long way in a boat we’re paddling

Anyway what a wonderful experience. The sea was warm/tepid, the scenery interesting and the paddling manageable without me causing to admonish Hiawatha too many times. I watched the Dane and Swiss team coordinate their paddle strokes, I noted that providing I did two strokes to Anna’s one we didn’t fall too far behind!

Note paddle coordination on the left and wind milling on the right. We’re on the right…

Our guide, James was a star and posted some photos on Facebook the next day.

The beach here has geothermal waters beneath the sand. As the tide comes in the (very, very hot) water rises up the sand. Later that night, in the dark, as the tide came in we all trooped down to the beach to experience the wet sand heat. I went down but experiencing hot water wasn’t remarkable enough to entice me to expose my pinkies to this phenomena.

A beautiful setting, n’est pas?

There were no hotels out this way and we stayed at a campsite in a well furnished modern lodge. (Again wearing a cycling hat I would have loved to find this place as the tent camping was exceptional and the kitchen and laundry fabulous.) Fish and chips from a caravan were served for our evening sustenance and suitably weary from water sports we went to bed.

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