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  • Hitched out to the EWS (enduro world series) and given a lift by event doctor and the top NZ enduro riders Mum. Hitching in NZ is normal and doesn't take long for someone to stop and help. Two race days were wet again which made the conditions pretty hard for the riders (and spectators on the steep muddy hillsides!). Great to see some top riders on the trails, their skill in the testing conditions was amazing.
    We also spent some time around Rotorua, when there was no biking obviously! There are many hot water and mud pools throughout the town, filling the air with steam and sulphur smells. New hot springs are emerging daily in the parks, roads and gardens. Generally the council stick some rocks on top to stop you walking over them and everyone gets on with it! There are also some beautiful buildings from the late 1800's.
    The Crankworx festival starts tomorrow with many of the top riders already in town, must admit to being a bit star struck....
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  • Caught a bus in Auckland for the 5 hour journey to Rotorua. Famous for hot springs, geysers and bubbling mud pools, there is a distinct smell of sulphur where ever you go. James is sat outside a supermarket with a full rucksack, eating a bread roll - small girl walks past with mother and says 'mummy, what's that tramp eating?'. Time for a shave and haircut??
    The main reason we are here is to catch a couple of mountain bike events in the town. Apologies for non bikers, the following may not be that interesting!
    We will be here for 10 days to watch the EWS (Enduro World Series) and attend the Crankworx festival. Both are staged at various stops around the world so we are very lucky, and VERY excited to have the opportunity to be here. Friday was a practice day whilst Saturday one of the race days for the EWS. Friday was also the official opening ceremony for Crankworx, with lots of speaches and a welcome from the local Maori tribe. As the stages are quite far apart, like a car rally, plenty of walking involved. It's great being a part of the mountain bike community again, where everyone chats and assists each other. We helped an injured rider on the course and a top 10 seeded rider picked us up on the road when we were hitching back into town - can't think of many sports that this would happen....
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  • On our way back South we had to go back to Whangarei to get another massive icecream, this time one scoop of raspberry and white chocolate and the other maple and walnut..... Needed a wander around the harbour after that lot. Had a look at more beaches along the way, stopping off for quite at one and watched more surfing lessons in very calm waters. Stopped at Waipu, more Scottish than Scotland. They are very proud of their ancestors who sailed here from the Highlands via Canada, due to the clearances. They have a Highland Games on New Years Day, a piper painted on the wall and a welcome sign written in Gaelic! We camped for the night again at the very peaceful house plot that belongs to a family we got to know last week.Read more

  • Spent the day at this beautiful bay. The sea was so calm so there was no body surfing today, just swimming in crystal clear water. Before the tide came in too far we walked/climbed over the headland to the Mermaid Pool which was so clear and a lovely spot to swim and dive down. Back in the bay and at the other end there is a river inlet that also made for great swimming as the upper level of water was quite warm. After some bangers on the bbq we watched all the goings on of a wedding on the beach while taking another swim, hopefully we won't be in the background of their wedding snaps!Read more

  • We woke in the night and heard the unusual call of a female kiwi (but still yet to see one)! Rather than take the easy option of a ferry we took the long gravel road around to Paihia. It was like a stage of the World Rally Championship (the photo is the nice smooth section) that took about 45 minutes, passing only 3 truck like 4x4's.... Paihia had a nice but definite tourist town feel to it with helicopters buzzing out over the bay. Yet another good spot for a picnic and swim. Went the 100m out to the swimming platform so James could perfect his back flips off it and I could perfect my dive bombing technique! As we loved the Tutukaka coast so much we decided to head back down this way to spend longer exploring here.Read more

  • Our campsite was next to the longest footbridge in the Southern Hemisphere and it certainly is long! Took the longer and winding road to Russell via some lovely calm bays, overlooking headlands and islands. Took a swim and had a picnic at Kaimarama Bay and Hauai Bay, both at the head of the Bay of Islands. Saw a big stingray swimming along the shore at the sleepy historic town of Russell before stopping for the night at Orongo Bay.Read more

  • Headed for the Tutukaka Coast road and found a bit of paradise! The tide beat us this time while we tried to walk a short estuary to get to Kukutauwhao Island so we could see the lighthouse. Matapouri Bay was a gorgeous spot for trying out some body surfing in the crashing waves before using the councils bbq to cook our chicken kebabs on. There are a number of bays here to choose from but we chose Woolleys Bay to visit next before taking a gravel road to Whananaki for the night. We couldn't resist a swim in the campsite pool before setting up the tent. A fun evening chatting with NZ/American couple after debating Brexit with an Ex-pat.Read more

  • The campsite manager did such a good job of explaining all the local places of interest that we stayed another night so we could explore them. By just driving through the town you would not have an idea of all it has to explore so were thankful for his advise. We were able to walk from campsite and it turned into one of the longest walks we have done! The 22m imressive waterfall was set in a basin and we followed the river along thick tropical rainforst right at the edge of the town seeing some examples of huge Kauri tress that are very important to the Maori culture until we got to the town basin. The 6km walk around it had some intersting art sculptures as well as a group of drama boys rehearsing the Hakka. Visited some more Botanical gardens that had a fern and cacti house in town. All that walking meant the huge ice cream we had was a welcome treat although the walk back was a bit hard going...Read more

  • The very friendly couple had also told us of a three hour walk to to from the beach which we did and it was brilliant. The first half was along the coastal cliffs and gave superb views of the coastline and of some bespoke holiday homes of the wealthy Aucklanders. We had timed it slightly wrong because the second half brings you back along the beach which is only possible at mid to low tide. However we thought we'd give it ago anyway and it was fun climbing over and down rocks, scrambling and finally stripping off to our undies to jump down onto the beach in knee deep water. The rest of the return trip was much easier once we were on the sand.
    We drove a little further north to Whangarei and had a quick refreshing swim in the campsite pool as it didn't feel like the 22 degrees we were promised!
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  • Today has seen a good change in the weather for both islands with clear blue skies. A smooth flight up to Auckland and by mid morning we were heading north with our new rental car. We had a good view back to the city while driving over the harbour bridge and could see how much it has developed recently. Stopped for lunch at Orewa which reminded us of Brighton then continued north. Only decided to take a side street off the main road because it said beach road and it turned out to be a little gem. The road seemed to go on forever and we nearly turned back but thankfully we didn't. We weren't there long before a children's surf school started and we got talking to a couple. They offered us their field to camp in for the night (one day they are going to built a house on it). We were expecting more of a field but we're surprised when we saw a huge manicured plot with possible kiwi's nearby. Before bed we were treated to an amazing view of the stars and the International Space Station.Read more

  • Had a look around the shipping container shops that have relocated into these containers when their buildings were ruined in the earthquake. The city centre was completely off limits for 8 months to assess, pull buildings down or make them safe. The extent of the damage and devastation is truly amazing with very little left from pre 2011, however a new and funky city is rising with high hopes and strength of the populous. We also saw the cardboard Cathedral which was light and bright inside. It has a plastic roof with pine support struts that are enclosed by cardboard tubes that lean in and lead your eyes towards the cross which is also made from cardboard tubes. Couldn't come to a city and not go around the Botanical Gardens! Dropped the car off and checked into a pod hostel, which has very funky individual plastic pods that you sleep in. It's also ideally situated near the airport for our early morning flight to Auckland tomorrow.Read more

  • Except for three hours yesterday afternoon it has rained non stop for three days so we have given up on the soggy tent for tonight and checked into an appartment so we can dry things out and re-pack bags before giving up the car tomorrow. The massive TV is a hit with James and I prefer the fluffy carpet! In the dry spell yesterday we came across a school rowing championship which was fun to watch. Afterwards we went to a viewpoint to see Mount Cook (glad we saw it on our previous visit as it was the clouds that stole the show this time). We went to the RAF museum this afternoon in Christchurch and was very pleasantly surprised by its size and professional set up. The 80 year old that gave us a look behind the scenes had good stories to tell from his time as a nav.Read more