October - November 2019
  • Day2

    Around the world in 37 days!

    October 13, 2019 in the United Kingdom ⋅ 🌧 16 °C

    Thirty hours after leaving home we arrived at our hotel in Rarotonga the largest island in the Cook Islands. We flew over with Air New Zealand who were excellent though maybe our opinion was influenced by the fact we came business class so we had more space and better food. The staff on both legs of the journey, London to Los Angeles and Los Angeles to Rarotonga were both friendly and efficient. On the first leg I had quite lengthy chats with the Cabin Manager Sam, who was originally from Belfast but has lived in Stockport for the past sixteen years so we had plenty to talk about regarding Stockport then and. now. The highlight of the first flight was flying over Greenland which was apparently unusually clear. The sight of the mountains covered in snow for mile upon mile was quite remarkable.
    Had a couple of slight security issues en route.at Heathrow I was able to do the advance check in and print my boarding cards but Jane couldn’t . When we got to the desk at Heathrow we were told that all was OK but Jane would be subject to some additional checks prior to boarding. Ultimately this just involved a chat about electronic goods ie iPads, Kindle that she was taking - panic over.
    When we arrived at LA past experience told us that American immigration can sometimes be a bit painful but we’re encouraged to see E checkers where your passport is checked electronically and the process is much quicker. Well it worked fine for Jane but for me, no! I had to have my passport manually checked which meant a queue for 45 minute along with many others who had also been told the same.
    Anyhow enough of the journey over Rarotonga is beautiful. It is only a small island but the locals are very proud of it . Each weekend in every village a party of locals will go out through the village and tidy up an action that is encouraged by the local government.
    Our accommodation is on the south side of the island on a beach that is reputedly the finest on the island for snorkelling. We are in a one bedroom apart just yards from the beach and it is quite lovely. A great place to relax and recover after a long journey.
    I think that’s enough for today, more to follow in the days ahead.
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    John Townley

    Good start and lovely photos to bring back memories for us. Was there a man singing ‘The green green grass of home’ in the arrivals hall when you got to Rarotonga Airport?

    10/14/19Reply
    Bob Scott

    Yes there was, though not singing Green Green Grass of home though!!

    10/14/19Reply
     
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  • Day3

    It's all go!

    October 14, 2019 in Cook Islands ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C

    Yesterday was Jane’s birthday and our travel agent, Audley, must have told the hotel for late in the afternoon they came along with a card and bottle of champagne which was much appreciated and this sentiment was carried on into the evening. We walked out to a nice restaurant near us called Little Polynesian for dinner which our hotel had booked for us and for dessert they had piped Happy Birthday Jane around the plate. A nice touch. We were both quite tired through jet lag so were early to bed.
    Due to jet lag we were awake early this morning and it was lovely sitting outside watching the sea and the sun rising but it was a bit overcast and we had a heavy rain shower. After breakfast we decided to make use of the e-bikes which are available for guests to use. These are great for pedalling is no where near as hard as a normal bike. We set off anti clockwise round the island. There is one major (!) road around the island which follows the coast. There is a bus service which uses this road and you take either the clockwise route or the anti-clockwise route - pretty straightforward! So we set off and gradually the weather improved, the sun came out and it was lovely. The road is very flat, there’s not a huge amount of traffic and we finished up cycling around the entire island a total of 32 kilometres and saw a lot of this beautiful island at a very leisurely pace. A few photos are attached of some of the sights we saw.
    Rarotonga is a beautiful island with friendly people and is very safe. The only danger we were warned about is not to stand beneath a palm tree lest a coconut falls on you! The island is surrounded by a coral reef so between the land and the reef is a lagoon with the clearest of water and fabulous colour blue lapping on to white sandy beaches.
    After lunch we took advantage of the snorkelling equipment that the hotel has for guests to use. This was excellent for within the lagoon are lumps of coral which attract many wonderfully coloured fish. Marvellous.
    Our hotel is not really a hotel in the normal sense but a collection of a dozen or so villas some including ours on the sea front and others within the gardens. It is owned by a NZ couple who bought the property two years ago and have spent a lot of money on it upgrading the facilities . Day to day management is carried out by a couple from Hamburg, Tim and Lucile, who have been on the island for over 8 years and love it.
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  • Day3

    Golf and more

    October 14, 2019 in Cook Islands ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

    On Monday evening we strolled along the beach to Charlies a lively beach bar and had junk food burgers, chips beer and wine, lovely. Good atmosphere looking out over the sea and listening to the music.
    Tuesday I’d decided that I must take the opportunity to play at Rarotonga golf club which is close to the airport. So myself and caddy (Jane) took a taxi for the 15 minute ride. Unsurprisingly the course was fairly quiet. I had brought my shoes and glove but rented clubs - not the best but hey! It is a nine hole course with the main obstacles being the pylons scattered around. It was an interesting course, not likely to feature on either the PGA or European tour any time soon but I enjoyed it, though my caddy gave up after 5 holes!
    Went back to the hotel hopped on the bikes again to go to the Mooring cafe for their legendary fish sandwiches which were superb and in a lovely setting.
    Spent the remainder of the afternoon on the beach swimming and snorkelling.
    In the evening we had booked dinner at the OTB restaurant who collected us from the hotel and delivered us back. We went with a couple from NZ who were good fun giving us a few tips for when we are in NZ. There was of course a bit of banter on the potential for England v All Blacks in the rugby World Cup and England beating NZ in the cricket. Tomorrow, Wednesday, we leave Rarotonga and take a 45 minute flight to another of the Cook Islands where we are staying for three nights.
    Rarotonga is beautiful just as would imagine an island in the South Pacific to be, blue skies, amazing colour of the sea which is crystal clear. There are neither snakes or spiders on the island but dozens of churches for whom the congregations are dwindling.
    Talking to our taxi driver yesterday they are being affected by global warming. For many years on New Years Day a horse race would be held on Muri beach and six lanes would be created; now there is barely room for one. This happened over the past 50 years.
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    Tom Scott

    No doubt years of negotiating the trees at Copthorne stood you in good stead to tackle the pylons!

    10/17/19Reply
    John Townley

    We said we would love to go back there but it is a very long way. Delighted you found the golf interesting and the fish sandwiches at Moorings delicious. Enjoy your next step!

    10/17/19Reply
     
  • Day6

    Aitutaki

    October 17, 2019, South Pacific Ocean ⋅ ☁️ 25 °C

    Yesterday, Wednesday we flew from Rarotonga on a small Air Rarotonga aircraft. We left our two large suitcases at Rarotonga as there was a weight restriction and we didn’t need much for three nights.The flight took just forty minutes and we had some spectacular views of Aitutaki when we landed. The airport is little more than a large hut and our luggage was brought to the front of the hut on a trailer and you help yourself. The runway here was first established by the Americans during WW2 for transporting over the Pacific.
    Our hotel is excellent and again we have a beachfront. There are 23 one bedroom detached villas very well kitted out with an indoor and outdoor shower.
    Today we’d booked an all day cruise to see some of the other islands, this included a BBQ lunch and opportunities for snorkelling. The lagoon here is reputedly the most beautiful in the South Pacific, now my knowledge of lagoons in this part of the world is, to put it mildly, limited but it is pretty special. Unfortunately today the weather has been dreadful. We had about an hour of warm sunshine but the rest of the day was rain varying between drizzle and torrential! Despite this the colour of the water and the white sand are quite remarkable. Snorkelling was great in such clear water seeing the colourful fish over the coral and there were a few quite large ones. There were about 40 of us and we got chatting to a couple from Frankfurt and a Frenchman who has taken a year off to travel the world. And the first thing they wanted to talk about was.......Brexit!, These island are just as you imagine desert islands to be, palm trees down to white sand and on to blue water, real Robinson Crusoe stuff. The crew on the cruise were great giving lots of information, singing songs and a great BBQ. Despite the weather a good day!
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    daphne wadsley

    Lovely islands. sorry you have had rain although I don't really sympathise as it has been raining every day here !Thanks for keeping me up to day with your lovely holiday Daph

    10/18/19Reply
     
  • Day7

    Farewell to the Cook Islands

    October 18, 2019 in Cook Islands ⋅ ⛅ 24 °C

    We woke up on Friday morning to blue skies and a lovely, warm day. First off Jane had a complimentary foot massage provided by our hotel which she much enjoyed.
    Bikes are available for guests use so as we wanted to see as much of the island as possible we set off. Rarotonga was fairly quiet but compared to Aitutaki it is a metropolis! There are a few cars and a few scooters and as you cycle round you wave at each other, all so very friendly. The island is quite beautiful with many colourful flowers and absolutely no rubbish, there are numerous signs telling everybody to keep Aitutaki tidy. Interestingly in Rarotonga you often see and smell bonfires as it has been customary for islanders to burn their rubbish but not so in Aitutaki. The houses are quite widespread and everybody seems to keep chickens as the sound of cock a doodle do is frequently heard and hens with baby chicks are often seen.
    The highlight of the island is without doubt the lagoon. The colours are indescribable and the whole island is ringed by sandy beaches and the coral reef a mile or so out to sea. We went down some remote grassy tracks, saw many land crabs called tupa. They live in holes that look like rabbit holes and are some way from the sea. It was hot though cycling and we were grateful when we came across a couple of local ladies who offered us some mango which they peeled and sliced for us. When I asked how much their response was that it is a “gift from God”.
    Being a small island they are a very close community. The mango lady’s son was part of the crew on Thursday’s cruise and when we arrived on the island our taxi driver said that her nephew was piloting our plane.
    We leave the Cook Islands with great memories of the friendly people, the superb scenery and good food.
    I’m writing this as we are now back at Rarotonga airport awaiting our flight to Auckland where we cross the international date line. It’s quite strange that we leave Rarotonga Saturday afternoon where we are 11 hours behind UK fly four and a half hours to Auckland who are twelve hours ahead of UK so it will be Sunday evening when we arrive!
    It is raining as we wait for our flight but I’m buoyed by the fact Leicester beat Burnley, England and New Zealand both won their quarter finals and meet next Saturday - the banter has already started!
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    Tom Scott

    Pleased to see that so far everything is living up to expectations!

    10/19/19Reply
     
  • Day9

    Hello New Zealand!

    October 20, 2019 in New Zealand ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    When I left you we were at Rarotonga airport awaiting our flight to Auckland, we had five hours to wait and were considering our options on how best to spend the time but the weather intervened and made our decision for us - it rained heavily and continuously so we stayed at the airport with our friends from Frankfurt whom we met on the lagoon cruise on Thursday who were also going to Auckland. They had travelled since the beginning of September through most of the South Pacific islands and now on to NZ and were not returning to Germany until January.
    Anyhow the four hour flight to Auckland was uneventful and getting through customs was fine though they are very hot on the walking boots and golf shoes you are bringing into the country, are they clean, what type of terrain have you been walking on.
    Our hotel for the night was immediately opposite the terminal which was very welcome so we checked in, shared a pizza and were early to bed.
    Woke up early (6am) as we have been prone to do on this trip, had a good breakfast and picked up our hire car which is a brand new Toyota RAV4. Our first venture was to find an electrical shop for we had left the charger for our electric toothbrush at home but no joy so we set off for the Corromandel Peninsula which is east of Auckland. It was a lovely drive hugging the coast for much of the way and then up into the hills with roads zigzagging up and down and amazing views. Stopped for lunch at Corramendel and booked a trip on the Driving Creek Railway nearby. This is a private railway built over a number of years by a local man that takes you up to the top of a hill with great views over the hills to the coast. There were only nine of us on the train, New Zealanders, South Africans and us so comment was passed about the World Cup.
    We are staying tonight in an excellent B&B in Hahei and have dinner in the local pub The Pour House where the local beer was on offer and excellent it was too!
    Driving in NZ is very easy, the roads are well maintained and are SO quiet. The people are so very friendly wherever we have been so far, interested in where we have been and where we’re going. A great country that we are very impressed with.
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    what a marvellous view. Cold and wet here today !! Daph

    10/21/19Reply
     
  • Day10

    Hahei

    October 21, 2019 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 15 °C

    Our B&B here in Hahei is excellent with great views out to sea and a large and comfortable room. Peter and Kay, our hosts, have three rooms but we are the only guests. Hahei is on the north east coast of the North Island and is very quiet at the moment with only about 300 residents. This though moves to over 10,000 in December and January the peak summer season when many people from Auckland come for their holidays.
    Today we have been to the two most popular sights in the area Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach. The walk along the coast to Cathedral Cove is quite strenuous as it is up and down and there are a number of steps to negotiate and other coves to visit on the way. Cathedral Cove is great though and well worth the effort. It has a beautiful sandy beach and an archway through the rocks to the next cove which you can get through at low tide which we were able to do. The views out to sea on a lovely day like today were outstanding.
    Later in the day we went to Hot Water Beach and the name describes it well. Two hours either side of low tide you can dig a hole in the sand and the hole will fill with hot water, sometimes the water can be scalding hot a quite extraordinary phenomenon.
    Tonight we ate at the second of just two eating places at Hahei the Church Bistro which unsurprisingly is in an old church. Food was good but not a huge amount of atmosphere so after dinner we returned to last nights venue the Pour House for a nightcap. A highlight on our walk was looking up at the stars that seemed to fill the sky a great sight in an area where there is little light pollution..
    We leave here tomorrow and head south to Rotorua. The weather forecast is not great with high winds and showers and apparently they have had a lot of snow in South Island which is unusual for October.
    See Brexiit’s all going well then.......!
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    John Townley

    That's a big hole!

    10/22/19Reply
     
  • Day12

    Hobbits...

    October 23, 2019 in New Zealand ⋅ ⛅ 11 °C

    We bade a fond farewell to our hosts in Hahei, Peter and Kay, who are quite lovely. They give their guests a gift of a small kiwi toy and ask that we take a photo of her at places that we visit and forward them back to them which of course we are happy to do. Photo below of Peter and Kay with kiwi.
    We left Hahei to head south ultimately to Rotorua but via Hobbiton village. The weather was not so good this morning with heavy rain showers but still some great views. Roads in NZ are in very good condition due in no small part to the fact there is little traffic! Distances are though deceptive for there is a lot of climbing and descending hills with plenty of hairpin bends so a journey of say thirty miles can easily take an hour or more.
    We drove through the morning down to Hobbiton village where the films Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit were filmed. Now neither of us have read either the books or seen the films but Hobbiton village is the no 1 visitor attraction in NZ so off we went and what a wonderful place it is. When Peter Jackson, the films producer was looking for a suitable location he came across this 1250 acre farm in the middle of nowhere. The green and rolling landscape is amazing and we saw it on a lovely day for the rain had gone to be replaced by warm sunshine. You are taken round the site in groups with a guide and the tour lasts about two hours.
    The film producers created a number of small hobbitons where the hobbits lived and these are maintained by a team of gardeners. The producers also created an artificial tree that remains and is not discernible from the other trees until you are close to it. There are over 2000 leaves on it which had to be repainted for The Hobbit movie as they had faded!
    We left Hobbiton for the hour’s drive down to Rotorua where we are staying for two nights. We are in another B&B a bit of a way out of town in the hills overlooking the city, very comfortable with excellent views and some resident Alpacas.
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  • Day12

    Rotorua

    October 23, 2019 in New Zealand ⋅ 🌧 9 °C

    For some reason on this trip we are usually both awake by 6am, mind you in common with other people over here we do go to bed earlier than usual.
    There are another couple staying at our B&B who we met at breakfast this morning. They are from New Jersey and are huge Hobbit aficionados and are this evening not only doing the tour we did yesterday but having dinner there, we look forward to hearing all about it.
    This morning we visited Wai O Tapu which is about 30 minutes drive south of Rotorua. It is described as a thermal wonderland and that sums it up quite well. This area is still owned by the Maoris and has been formed by various earthquakes over thousands of years and is quite extraordinary. There are craters with water bubbling and steam rising giving off a quite unpleasant sulphur smell. The water temperature can rise to as much as 100 degrees centigrade. A few photos are attached but they cannot do it justice.
    There is also a geyser which they set off at 10:15 each day. This was discovered by convicts working in the area who found the water was hot so started to do their washing in it. When they put some detergent in the geyser erupted so that is what the staff do for us tourists. A very worthwhile trip.
    We returned to Rotorua which is quite a large town and very geared up for tourists particularly backpackers. It sits on the edge of Lake Rotorua which is one of the largest lakes in the country. It was quite cold and drizzly walking round but we have found with the weather over here it changes rapidly, one moment it is overcast and you think that’s it for the day and suddenly the sun’s out again and blue sky.
    Tonight we had dinner at Stratosfare a restaurant that you reach by cable car and the views from the restaurant over the town and lake are spectacular. The meal was a buffet with an excellent choice of food.
    We leave Rotorua in the morning and fly down to the nation’s capital, Wellington, which we’re looking forward to.
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  • Day13

    Wellington and an old friend

    October 24, 2019 in New Zealand ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    After a leisurely breakfast we drove just twenty minutes to Rotorua airport ensuring the the rental car was full with petrol when we dropped it off (we know from past experience what these companies can be like). A bit of hassle ensued at the airport for we knew in advance that the weight of our luggage was going to exceed the normal limit so had paid extra to cover this. The check in staff were a bit confused by this but after a bit of to-ing and fro-ing eventually all was well and we set off on the seventy minute flight down to Wellington.
    The taxi ride into the city showed what a lovely city it is. It is quite hilly with properties up in the hills looking down on the city and over the bay. We checked into our hotel which was very central and very comfortable and after taking some advice from the hotel staff as to the best thing to do for a half day in the city we set off. We walked along the front and took the famous Wellington cable car, which was really a funicular railway, to a point above the city. Had a bite to eat at the top and then meandered down the slope through the botanical gardens which were lovely and then on past the Parliament building and to the waterfront. This area clearly has been redeveloped and transformed in recent years for there are now numerous bars and restaurants all looking out over the bay. Next stop was the National Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa, which is opposite our hotel and worth a visit. It is one of those places that if you had the time you could spend all day there. There were a variety of exhibits tracing the history and wildlife of the country together with some modern art which we enjoyed.
    In the evening I’d arranged to meet with Nick Hallett and his partner Jaala. Nick and I had worked together for Dawson’s in Croydon many moons ago and Nick emigrated over here about six years ago and loves it here. We had a very good evening hearing more about life in NZ.
    Up early this morning, Saturday, to take the Interislander ferry through the Cook Strait over to Picton in the South Island for the next leg of our journey. I am writing this on the ferry and Leicester are winning 8-0 - happy days!
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