Once in a lifetime - to New Zealand (23 October - 6 November 1999)

Saturday  23/10/99 8:16

Ok.At the airport Painless checkin, good breakfast. First photos. Plane & Estelle.

E waiting for planeGood start, boarding delayed by about 45 mins. Eventually left about 40 mins late. First champagne at about 10.45. Lunch 12.00 fish for me , chicken for E.

I watched a video Wild Wild West -E watched Big Daddy . We flew over Amsterdam, Austria, Prague , North of Iraq, Tehran, and Karachi. The average altitude was 35000 feet - with an external temp of  -50C. Speed? About 600mph.

23/10/99 20:26

OK. We've just taken off from Bombay. We were not allowed off the plane, which was a bit of a pain.

Time dragged a little to Bombay; Estelle slept a bit; I watched 'The General's daughter' while E watched 'All for Love'. I ate prawns (and a little more shampoo) while E ate nothing.

Getting a little weary and stiff now. Most people had a kip. E managed the odd half-hour - me a little less. Sleeping became progressively harder. It came as a relief when we began our descent into Changi.

That name has great resonance when you think of the suffering of the prisoners there. We looked out and saw literally scores of ships in the Malacca Straits - tankers, freighters, lighters, fishing boats - I can't recall ever seeing more ships in one place - including HK harbour...

We didn’t have long in SG - barely long enough for a pee! (Estelle told me the next day she had time to clean her teeth and change her knickers, too!)Total time walking round the airport probably less than 20 minutes.

We went to board the Air New Zealand flight - and it was a 767 , or as Estelle said, 'a little plane' . The high point for Estelle was that she only has to move me if she wants to go the bog.

Sunday 24/10/99 11:54

Well-we're here. We were some 50 mins early. It amuses me to see a sign that says vision deliver the best customs experience in the Pacific-when 200 of us have queued for 25-mins for 2 immigration officers. Of course, Aussies/Kiwis have 2 to themselves.! After that somewhat grumpy entry, it's only fair to say that the rest of the experience wasn't so bad.

Straight through customs - every bag checked with X-rays, straight to a taxi, and straight to the hotel. They were expecting us, and we have a nice view.

We had a quick coffee, bath - decided to splash out on breakfast in bed... and went to sleep.

Monday24/10/99 20:33 (except it's 08:33 on 25/10/1999 here...)

Morning brought bright sunshine and a stunning view of the harbour. We didn't expect to be awake for 7.30, but we are, and we're now impatiently waiting for our breakfast.

Estelle has still got a nasty sore throat, so we'll have to find a chemist later. Glancing at the TV, I found 4 channels showing sport (All Blacks beat Scotland 30:18) England lost to the 'boks.

Breakfast arrived on time (early, in fact 9.06) and was OK. Estelle made a point of having hers in bed, looking out at sun, sea, boat's masts and hills.

I had yoghurt and prunes - she had cornies - then cooked breakfasts.


(actually, it's about 9.20 am on the 26/10/1999 here, but who's counting)

Time for a further update, I suppose.

Estelle is a bit poorly today, and had to start on my antibiotics last night. I've just been out to the pharmacy and got her lozenges, throat spray and cough medicine. So, while she's coughing away, I'll update what we did yesterday.

We had a quick walk round while waiting for the car to be delivered, and looked at the various ferry round the harbour options. We had a drink, and then went for a walk round the America's Cup village. Amazing. Millions of dollars being spent to win a silver trophy - and I don't mean small numbers of millions, and I don't mean NZ dollars.

We wanted to go for a coffee, so quite typically, we went to a museum - the New Zealand Maritime Museum. We arrived just in time to go for a ride on the harbour on the good ship Ted Ashby - a recreation of a traditional NZ scow. They took us round the boats - impressive - and then under the harbour bridge - which is actually 3 bridges - the first 4 lane bridge being too small, they decided to enlarge it. They had two extra 2 lane bits made - in Japan - brought over here on a special ship, and then attached to the sides of the existing bridge. Very High tech - and hence the nickname of the Nippon Clipon. I liked it any way.

We had a wander round in the museum, lots of different types of canoes, some "oral tradition" chairs where I listened to a whaler from the 50's and 60's talk. He said he'd not kill whales nowadays - but "the way we whaled would not have depleted the stocks". Terrible way to refer to those magnificent animals. We saw a mockup of an old immigrant ship (which actually rolled - as if it was at sea) which was quite impressive.

We got fairly peckish but thought the harbourside cafe looked a bit tourist trappy. So, we went for a walk - after Estelle worked some magic.

On the way out of the museum, I realised I'd mislaid my sunglasses, which I like. So, we had to walk through the museum - which is on two levels in three buildings. On the way through the second (canoe) hall Estelle suddenly said, "I remember hearing a noise in this corner" and peered over the edge of a walkway. Beneath one of the exhibits were my glasses. I clambered down and retrieved them , attracting the odd suspicious look from a curator. I'm sure she must be a witch...

When we walked off for a meal, I found us a food court - basically it had 15 little fast food outlets - no, not McDonalds - Korean/Indian/Chinese/Malaysian/Singaporean/Turkish/Italian eating places. We had wonton & bbq pork soup/Thai fried noodles with pork (I do love cut and paste from our accounts records).

We then went for a beer in Shakespeare's - not too bad really - and went back to the hotel for a kip.

We overslept, but dressed hurriedly, and made it to the Skytower restaurant for our 9.00 reservation.

What? I didn't mention that? Oh, we went for a meal 190.5 metres(about 619 feet) up in the sky in a revolving restaurant.


Absolutely unbelievable.

The bill was about £60 for 3 courses + wine, beer and coffee. It would have cost £10 just to go to the observation deck for the 2 of us.

The food was good and the moon over Auckland was superb - watching ships go out....

We walked round the shops a bit on the way back - before I had to dash back for the loo!

That was last night. The end of a brilliant sunny Labour Day (about 24C).


This morning I've been for a coffee, rung my Mum and dosed Estelle with medicine, and remembered to book the hotel for a week on Friday - now to checkout, and get some breakfast.

26/10/99 (actually Wednesday 27/10 here)

We managed to get up late in the morning - and get out for breakfast. Estelle was a bit crook, but came for a walk after checkout - we went and had breakfast at a place called serious about coffee - the breakfast sausage inna bun wasn't bad, but the coffee I had was execrable.

We wandered round the downtown shopping centre - and we were jointly unable to resist the sushi - we watched them making it, and bought three lunchboxes of sushi - it cost a whole £6.

We drove out on the busy Southern motorway. Busy? Not hardly. Less traffic than morning suburban rush hour in Manchester. Within an hour or so we were well on the way to Hamilton. It's noticeable how far the business spread out on their lots - Estelle said - correctly I think - that it looked very American the way the businesses look like shacks spread out beside the road. Estelle dozed in the car - in itself a sign that she wasn't well.

The overriding impression was that NZ is a place that is green and full of rivers. The motorway turned into the Southern Highway - much of it 2 lane (reminiscent of bits of the A9 in Scotland). Estelle looked at the houses - and commented on how unusual it was to have your house built for you - and then taken to where you wanted it; house removals being an accurate description of what she saw.

As we were driving beside the Waikato River I kept missing places to stop until - we reached Ngawhana(sp?). We sat beside the river in a picnic area (of which we have the photos) and ate our Sushi. It was very pretty, and after we had used the automated loo(free, note) we set off on the road again - into the light drizzle. The last thing we saw as we drove off into the rain was a speedboat towing a water-skier at a smart clip up the river - try that on the Irwell!

Estelle dozed some more as we drove through the forests - a "very windy road" as Estelle mumbled in her sleep. I did have to avoid a piece of timber falling off a lorry but the rest of the drive passed without incident. I drove past some tourist attractions but didn't wake Estelle, until I saw some steam beside the road - yes, it was.

We went for a walk in the little thermal area. It's hard to describe what it was like. The smell is noticeable but not bad, however, it is amazing watching boiling mud beside the path, and steam escaping from the ground. We touched some of the water - truly just off boiling. The larger pools were covered in steam - it looked very spooky. The last thing I noticed was that the actual grass was warm with the activity beneath it.

We went into Rotorua itself and found a motel to stay in. Accommodation is abundant; and cheap - we paid about £10 a night. We tried to book for a Maori event and hangi (traditional Maori dinner) but couldn't get in - so, on the spur of the moment we decided to book an extra night.

So, the rest of the evening was at leisure. We had a cup of tea/coffee (milk provided by the landlady) and scuttled off to the Polynesian spa. They had talked on the TV [- ah, that's right, I've forgotten to mention that Rotorua has a "tourist TV" station which constantly recommends things to see and do] about the premium bathing experience - the exclusive spa. We decided hang the expense we'd have a go. With the discount vouchers we'd been given it cost us about £15 to go in to the spa. [That's right, about £7.50 each]

The place is unbelievable; solid wood polished floors, abundant free towels (though to Estelle's chagrin, they were all green).

You walk out in your cossy to the first pool, outside the ladies. It smells a teeny bit sulphurous, and is pleasantly warm - about blood heat 38°. You look out over the lake, through the gardens and see the steaming lake.

Next pool, under cover is a bit warmer and I nearly fell asleep in it. Estelle wedged herself with head against one rocky outcrop, feet against another and dozed a little.

The next pool was hotter yet - say about 41° - which was a little challenging. You could swim[just] to the end of the pool and sit in a little grotto.

The final pool was extremely hot. I'd guess 45°. Almost too hot to bear. So, a quick cold shower [for one of us - the other chickened out] and back to the beginning again.

Through the pools twice more in about an hour and a half, and off for a drink.

We went into the Kiwi Spirit bar [saying in passing that Rotorua at night - 7.15 p.m. - was practically deserted.] This bar was dark, dull, sullen and unwelcoming. We stayed long enough for E to finish her Stella and left (I had two glasses).

We wandered round and window shopped a bit on the way to the Pig and Whistle. The contrast couldn't have been greater. Bright friendly and welcoming - we decided to eat there and had ribs/wings and chips with a couple of beers. So," home" and bed. We went to sleep at about 9.30.

Wednesday 27/10/99

Estelle said she'd had her best nights sleep for a week. After another nap we went out for breakfast and found our way to the Nomads cafe. They advertise they do the best breakfast in New Zealand. I think they undersell themselves. It was excellent. (and enormous)

We went off fortified, and put the first 3 rolls of film in for developing, and bought some postcards. I've updated this, and E's writing cards. So, off to the Thermal reserves.....

27/10/99 5:22 (of course, that means 17.22)

We set off, unsure of how far we had to go.. In fact, the next stop was only about 3k out of town [passing an absolutely inordinate number of motels - which , as this is not high season, were offering all sorts of specials.

We went to Whaka village or, more properly Whakarewarewa. We were just in time to join a guided tour through the village. We'd liked the thermal pools at the entrance to Rotorua. They were minuscule compared to what we saw here.

Large lakes - all boiling - feeding boiling mud pools - 50-foot deep boiling pools - used for washing and cooking vegetables in. Communal baths - too hot to put your hands in. We went to the village hall or Wahiao (sacred meeting house, where we heard some of the chants and songs. We watched amazed as the poi dancing went on. Very graceful, involving swinging two balls on the ends of cords in time to the music. A traditional stick dance followed - and to my amazement, only one stick was dropped. I would have expected more with the speed of the stick exchanges.

The dancers wore the piupiu, or swinging skirt - made of flax, patterned by having pieces of outer leaf scraped free, lengths of base stripped to fibre and then treated in the hot pools and dyed in natural materials. They end up like beaded skirts, and our guide [who'd learnt to make them under the tutelage of his grandmother] said they were possibly the most uncomfortable garments imaginable to wear.

To his embarrassment, earlier in the tour, his grandmother had called to him in front of the entire group. The piupiu was only invented this century as a dancing/show garment - being too cold and impractical for wear elsewhere.

After the show, we returned bast the boiling lakes and the mud pools to admire the geysers. They were quite splendid, and rather frightening even from the distance we saw them.

On the way out, we stopped to eat some sweetcorn, cooked in the main cooking pool. It was very tender - and did taste very sweet. Also noticeable was how hard one of the underground cooking areas was boiling. A mini geyser was moving the top off with boiling mud and water spraying 3 or 4 feet into the air. I overheard one of the Maori villagers saying "We need to get that fenced off - we can't have the tourist getting burned" [That reminded me of what the owner of the Nomads cafe had said was used to set off the Lady Knox geyser at 10.15 every day. "Oh, they just chuck in an Aussie tourist"]

We made our way from the village - encumbered by my walking stick - yes, I bought one - and drove back to Rotorua. On the way out we chucked coins to two children diving for coins in the river - an old tradition apparently. Quick coffee, picked up the photos, posted some cards and back to the motel for a rest before the rest of the day.


Ok, it's 10pm and I've got loads to catch up.

Estelle needed a nap before we went to the Maori cultural event and "hangi" or earth cooked banquet.

We were being picked up by coach between 6.30 and 6.45. By the time we had had a drink and tidied up it was already something like 17.50. She'd said she wanted at least 20 minutes sleep. I woke her at 6.25. Unfortunately, the bus arrived almost immediately.

For the next 30 minutes I was treated to a major grump about how bad I was for not waking her. The coach took us to the booking centre, where we paid, and I grabbed a beer. Our coach driver Ngata (pronounced nutter - as he told us how to remember it by twirling his finger by his temple) briefed us on what to expect at the village - and told us to remember bus number 91 - or 2590. 2590?

Yes, a $25.90 taxi fare back if you got on the wrong bus.

A "rwatingi" or chief was appointed by the drive before we arrived at the village. When we got there, we stood around the square in silence, before a mysterious whirring sound [not all that mysterious - I recognised the bullroarer of old].

A Maori warrior rushed out to give a ritual challenge; - we were then invited into the village - we saw recreations of Maori life from the early 14th century - poi dancing, Maori chanting, flute playing, stick fighting, hand games and so on.

Having looked at that for some time we were invited into the meeting house - where we listened to [lengthy] welcoming speeches - in Maori. We then had a bit of a chat about how they were keeping Maori culture alive. I observed to Estelle that a large part of Maori culture seemed to be the ritual slaughter of enemies, other tribes or anyone else that took their fancy. Head taking and cannibalism weren't ruled out, nor the use of enemies bones for tool making.

While we heard about the 7 canoes of the Maori ancestor arriving - we heard little about what happened to anyone here before the Maoris. Perhaps this is not the best thing to raise with them...

We saw the cultural display, including use of that traditional Maori instrument - the guitar - explained as "one of their elders brought this to them, to help in recalling Maori history"

The dances were graceful - as poi is, the haka (war gesture dance) was impressive as haka are - and so it went.

I thought the Maori cultural references were a bit heavy...

Anyway, we went for our meal, a "hangi" cooked in earth ovens on top of white-hot stones covered in hessian. A very characteristic flavour to all the food - which was tender and smoky. Estelle said that she would not rush to have it again.

We were shown lots of "traditional Maori merchandise" which we successfully avoided buying with "traditional NZ dollars"

After a quick burst of song and a haka from the drivers we made our way home by coach. Not without incident though. The driver insisted that each country had to sing a song, or he'd stop the bus. Unsurprisingly, when he got to the Brits, no one would sing - till he actually stopped the bus and turned out the lights. Ten some long-suffering woman sang Nellie Dean - so we could go on.

After he and 2 of his cohorts played buses ring around the roundabout he dropped us all at our hotels - Estelle and I last of all. Every single person got a hongi or traditional Maori nose rub as we got off the bus. That was Wednesday. Right I'll finish there - again a day behind. My Jacuzzi awaits....


OK, where did I get to - right, we got up on Thursday morning, and made sure we got tidied away - we went off for breakfast - getting lost in Rotorua before we could find the Nomads cafe.

Estelle was hungry, tucking into pancakes with lemon and sugar - together with a glass of *very* sharp Kiwi fruit juice. I had the same pancakes, but with bacon and raisin toast.

Failing miserably to do my email, we walked round to the film shop after paying for our ferry crossing tomorrow. (We even got discount for booking in advance.) We then went back to the motel and left - saying bye bye to Rotorua.

Everywhere is so green. The green of the trees matched the green of the hills - quite stunning to see.

On the way to Taupo, we stopped at the Huka falls. This is a channel connected with the immensely successful hydroelectric schemes in NZ. The water was channelled about 4m wide and 10m deep. It was so clear and blue it looked like swimming pool water. It is the Kiwi's proud boast that you can drink any of their open water - this certainly looked like it. It should be added that this is no longer the case, and apparently wasn't even in 1999

We drove past Lake Taupo - NZ's largest lake. - it is truly enormous -but a little featureless. We were glad we had decided not to stay there. After driving for what seemed like hours, we decided to stop for a coffee.

The next place we came to was called Turangi. We drew up and parked - coincidentally outside a cafe. (It was also a bakery with a wide range of home baked pies and cakes). They were excellent.

However, I could have done without the door-warning device. It sounded like a bird chirping, and I spent about10 minutes looking for the cage before Estelle told me.

The drive on became wetter and more drizzly. We drove on and climbed - into more cloud and drizzle - and were amused to see we were heading for the Rangipo desert. So onto the desert road - like moors- but tropical bushes and palms. We drove through clouds, and saw how heavily the countryside had been glaciated. There were knife-edge ridges, steep valleys, and drumlins. The road was nearly all 2 lane with passing places. We drove through the clouds.

As we descended, we noticed how many of the farms grew different things, some blueberries, and some asparagus. There were loads of roadside stalls selling bits and bobs- strawberries, fruit and veges-even daffodils... We even spotted a llama!

An uneventful drive then till we got to Bulls - a roadside cafe with the lovely name of the Horny Cow. We got there at 2.55 - it was open till 3pm and were greeted with "Oh, no..." Reluctantly the owner served us both with coffee. It was cheap - but vastly overpriced for its abysmal quality. Still, they had a nice cat and dog , and a pretty garden.

We drove on for anther hour or so till we hit [shock, horror] the Wellington motorway. This is not busy - even in their rush hour. We found our way straight to the car hire place and Estelle spotted a motel over the road from it. It took us about 10 minutes to make our way back to it past the ... err... exotic surroundings (it backed onto the red light area, such as that is in Wellington[not very naughty])

The motel was absolutely amazing. Clean, bedroom, living rooms, kitchen and bathroom with Jacuzzi. Milk, beer and orange juice provided, no deposit requested and it was... £45.

We got showered and changed and looked in the guidebook for where to eat. We fancied seafood, so reserved at "Shed 5". We walked down to Wellington itself - about 5 -10 minutes walk, found the restaurant and stopped for a beer next door.

Estelle got her fish and sweet potato chowder - followed by an enormous helping of whitebait. I had sushi (again) with sashimi followed by a seafood medley. We finished off with an espresso, and walked back to the motel, window-shopping as we went. When we got back to the motel, we had a Jacuzzi.

Friday 29/10/99

We paid up, and took the car over the road and waited and waited for the guy from the rental company. It rained buckets - just to make us feel at home.

When he arrived eventually we followed him to the ferry terminal about 10 minutes drive away. The ferry operation was reasonably slick, with all the bags having to be checked in. After a bit of a delay we boarded the ferry, finding seats near the front.

We got a breakfast of sorts - cheap, but nasty - and went for a walk on deck - which was blowy.

The rest of the crossing proved uneventful, until we arrived at the South Island. The Marlborough Sounds were amazing, and the narrow channels were truly impressive.

We docked at Picton, and got off the ferry - last of all the passengers. We picked up the baggage easily enough, and then went to get the rental car. After a minute or two's delay, we got the car and were able to set off.

We drove for a few miles south through amazing countryside. Really heavily glaciated, but very little traffic and it was warm. We stopped for a bite to eat - sandwich and beans on toast at a petrol station - where interestingly enough there were loads of teatowels and prints of Yorkshire. We managed to get the whale watch booked for tomorrow, which was good.

It's obvious that the rivers flood heavily here, as we passed several ford areas, which actually have gates and bridges to allow diversions. The scenery is indescribable. High snow covered mountains thrusting their way into the clouds. Vertiginous cliffs coming down to the sea.

We stopped at Oahu lookout point, and to our amazement the rocks were *covered* with seals. Really undisturbed by all these gawping humans.

The sight of mountains climbing down to the sea was impressive, but we were amused to see the railway line and the road swapping sides frequently.

We have seen loads of venison farms - evidently the South Island farmers diversify too.

Lots of fishermen getting crayfish and lobsters and vans selling them...

We'd booked for whale watching while we were at the cafe, so there was no rush for Kaikoura. When we got there, we drove down to see where the whale centre was - and decide to look for a motel close by. We found one at the end of the road. We got settled in, had a coffee, and went out for a beer and to find something to eat.

Kaikoura is a simply amazing place. The mountains behind it are enormous 6-8 thousand feet high, and covered in snow at the top. They form a bowl round the harbour and look beautiful.

The main drag is pretty simple - a few bars and cafes. We went for a beer, and after a brief peruse of the first menu, we decided we had to have Crayfish - as that is what Kaikoura is named after.

We went to a different restaurant - the Olive Branch - which was absolutely beautiful inside - yellow walls, beautiful glass bowl lights, and arty nude prints on the wall. Estelle liked it 'cos the loo (for the ladies) had little individual hand flannels in a wicker drawer set.

We had a beer, then ordered. We started with a dozen oysters - a first for Estelle - and then had a dozen green lipped mussels. We then both had crayfish - which was great. We had a walk on the beach and went back to the motel.

Saturday 30/10/1999

Morning. Mounting excitement. We went into Kaikoura for breakfast - we had a little at a cafe. Estelle had a cheese and ham toastie, and I had a little omelette. And hash browns. OK, it was an absolutely enormous soufflé omelette loaded with ham, cheese and mushrooms.

Unfortunately the day went down hill from there. The whale trip was cancelled, so we booked for 15:00.

We went for a drive and saw the viewpoint of the Old customs house. Behind us was the Fyffe house, built on whalebone piles. We had a tour through that by the deputy curator. He was another UK emigrant.

After that we went to the seal colony. We'd though the seals were close at Oahu. Wrong. We were within say 20 feet of them. Estelle had a little paddle - and assured me that the South pacific is, in fact, quite cold.

We then walked up to the cliff top. The sunshine was brilliant - sufficiently hot to burn my head. The view was overwhelming - bright sunshine, palm trees, blue sea, seals, and tall snow covered mountains.

We went back to Kaikoura and looked round for some lunch. We had fried groper, with chips - potato for Estelle and kumara, or sweet potato for me.

Back to the Whale Watch. Nope, still cancelled. We had a swift coffee, and decided to book for the early morning trip. We got that sorted.

Before we headed back to the motel from the day before, we decided to go for a mountain drive. It was absolutely amazing. The hills were yellow with broom and gorse, with clouds moving between the peaks. We drove miles into the mountains along the winding roads over dry river beds - past loads of signs warning of cyanide bait down for possum control [not very green really...], until we got to the gravel road.... which went on for another 30 miles, so we decided to turn back.

We got into the motel again - a 6-bedded unit - for about £26. We decided to be virtuous and do the washing - two machine loads - so back into Kaikoura for washing powder (and we bought wine and chocs too. - Liquorice chocolate by Cadburys for Estelle, and hokey pokey [like Crunchie] for me.

While Estelle concentrated on the laundry I captured some Z’s. After being disturbed by a really loud public siren - which we guess alerted volunteer fire brigades - I got up. I went to get pizza for tea, which we ate with a nice bottle of wine.

After tea, I was highly depressed to find I'd deleted a day and a half of diary. I've just finished updating it - and am going to crash out for our 5 am start.

Sunday 31/10/1999

I woke with a start at 4.30 am - panicked in case we'd missed the boat. That woke Estelle, and while I managed to go back to sleep for half an hour or so - she didn't.

At 5.15 I went down to the Whaleway station (so called because it used to be the railway station) - and asked if the boat was one. They said they were waiting to find out and could I hang on. A minute or two later, the boat captain came in and said the trip was marginal - but he'd give it a go. All stations go - back to pick up Estelle, a quick slurp of tea and we were off, just as it was going light.

No mountains to be seen this morning - they were all shrouded in clouds. Went down, paid; we were warned that seasickness precautions might be necessary - so we rented accupressure bands - then watched a quick safety video, on the bus at about 6.10, down to the boat at South Bay.

The boat was on a trailer - waiting for us to board - a bit odd we thought. First bad sign. This was a jet boat. Hmm. It was a Cougar and could carry up to 50 passengers. Not so many masochists this morning.

We set off, to a most amusing briefing. We wee warned it might be a bit bumpy, and to put on our seatbelts. No, there weren't any. Estelle, for reasons best known to herself, decided after hearing that there would be less bumps at the back to sit at the front. We sat further forward than anyone else - and sat sideways. Great.

We set off, the boat went very quickly, and it started to get bumpy. The guide then announced that this was mild, and that the engines hadn't warmed up yet - when they did, we would be doing 30 knots. Great, again.

The only thing that significantly cheered me up was when he said that we should not attempt to swim home, as this sea was a bad place for those who didn't like sharks. Three out of the top 10 man-eaters were found in these waters - the Great White being common. That quietened Estelle down a bit.

The sea got progressively heavier, bouncing both Estelle and I out of our seats. At times the front end of the boat - yes, where we were sitting - was going up and down about 10 feet.

We were told that we were the "whalehunter" boat and would be spotting whales for all the other boats, planes, and helicopters. We were told what to look out for - but all Estelle and I saw were a couple of little dolphins. A couple of albatrosses were seen flying low over the sea, then the boat stopped for the crew to use hydrophones to listen for whales. The second time they did, we had success.

We came upon a sperm whale resting on the water at 7.20 a.m. They are big. the boat got within about 20 feet of him, and we could see and hear him spouting. We were warned when he was about to dive and we all tried to get the "tailshot".

The guide then announced there was a bit of a blow – another whale had been detected and we had to go and find him - he dived before we got there but we soon found another whale. 7.35 - we got to view him from the top deck, Estelle and I going up the back companionway while the boat was still moving at pace.

Quite nerve wracking but Estelle did it very nimbly. Back downstairs, and we were soon onto our third whale at 7.40. We watched him from the open downstairs windows, and were able to see how long he was quite closely from the window - he was up for quite a long time - we could see the length of him clearly and he dived beautifully. They go down about 50 metres in the first 3 seconds. (all the whales at Kaikoura are male [we'd also helpfully been told that they are carnivorous, can surface within 6 feet of the boats, capable of swallowing a 4 metre shark in one go, and have been know to ram boats])

The guides then decided that we had seen enough whales, and told us we were off to find dusky dolphins.[These allegedly mate up to 8 times a day, which the guide said explained why they had a permanent grin, and could be frequently seen turning somersaults.]

We quickly found these, and they performed up to expectations, including tracking underneath the boat and popping up along side it. We probably saw 15-20 dolphins.

I was glad of anything to take my mind off the sea, as I was not 100% fit. Madam, of course, was fine - and kept herself amused by telling me to cover my mouth when I was yawning with incipient nausea. Most helpful.

The weather was very cold with a stiff breeze, and many people were shivering. I, however, was wearing my Swann Dri jacket, which I had bought the previous day. As I told Estelle 1 or 8 times I was lovely and warm. And very visible, due to its red and black checks.

We set of back to South Bay harbour, and were quite surprised to be driven straight onto the trailer and immediately pulled out of the water by tractor.

From there, back to the motel for half an hours kip. Then back to the Aroma cafe for breakfast (egg and bacon/hash brown for me - cheese and ham toastie for Estelle).

Then off for a long drive... down SH 1 towards Christchurch. The drive was through farming country - the most remarkable feature of which was enormous hedges of alpine - like leylandii - which where neatly clipped into box shapes - we assume for shelter for stock. These were 12-15 feet high, and could run for scores of yards.

Everywhere is still green if a little cloudy - this morning in Kaikoura we had been unable to see the mountaintops when we got up. Cattle deer and sheep were common - for some reason many of the fields had bulls in them - breeding season, and less use of A.I. perhaps.

We crossed huge dry river beds - these are up to 100 yards or so wide and it seems inconceivable that they could fill with water - at Waiau and Huruni rivers most bridges being one lane bridges. The roads were fast however.

We turned right onto the Highway 73 at Rangiora, stopping for lunch at Springfield, where we had pies and coffee. The towns we passed through were mostly quiet, and had the same look of "roadside shacks" we'd become used to.

We started the ascent. We drove alongside mountains, passing ski areas, all now closed for the season, but could see the enormous snow capped peaks in the middle distance.

We stopped to take photographs where we had high snowy mountains on one side and forest on the other. It was noticeable how within 20 k's you could go from Lake District bare scree type hills, to snow covered mountains, to moor and rain forest.

It amused to see the large silver ferns and the odd palm tree sticking out every now and again. We continued towards Arthur's pass. Drizzle started, and the clouds began to come down - you could see them coming down the mountains towards us.

The roads became more winding, the drizzle began and the clouds came down. The roads were hairpin after hairpin - Estelle said hair-raising - but then she has some, I suppose - and you could see cloud between the hillsides in the valleys.

These mountains were entirely covered in forest - big deciduous trees as far up the mountains as you could see.

We came to an area where there were roadworks for a new viaduct - and that was very, very hairy descending. We stopped at the bottom of that descent - after all, if somewhere is called Death Bend lookout it seems churlish not to look out - and were amazed to see cheeky mountain parrots walking all over the car park. (We also found out what the NZ government has against possums - they were introduced from Australia, and eat the native trees.)

The heavens then opened. We drove past major waterfalls down hills as we continued our descent to the coast. The rain forest is truly named, but still very impressive.

We reached the coast after the only boring driving bit - about 15 minutes between two solid phalanxes of trees.

The sea, under the grey sky looked very menacing with the surf breaking. We drove along the coast for a bit. All the way through the passes we had been playing tag with the train lines, first one side then the other. At Arahura, we came to a one lane bridge - "ha seen loads of those I thought" I nearly got myself got totalled by an oncoming car - and when I went onto the bridge, I was horrified to find that it was also a railway bridge too.

Yes, that's right one lane bridge for traffic and trains from both directions. Fun or what?

Past sundry dying looking coastal towns to Hokitika, which looked like a bit of a ghost town. We drove round a bit, and found a wonderful motel, which was really nicely equipped.

We walked back into town to get a beer; the pub was (or looked like it was) untouched from the 60's. It was fairly disgusting, but it had a nice dog and a super affectionate cat who looked a bit like Josh the cat.

Time for food, we thought we'd try for the wonderful sounding Tasman View restaurant - open daily. Except not today. Ah well, no bother - to the Cafe de Paris.

After about 5 minutes, they conceded that they had noticed us, and suggested relatively politely that we come back later.

We didn't really see we had many alternatives as nearly every where else had shut.

We went for a walk down by the front, and we could see the sea belting in. We walked down by the river, which was beginning to spate and thought how dangerous the channel looked where the outgoing river and incoming tide met. The information boards told us we were right.

Hokitika used to be a gold rush town and was the busiest port in NZ. They averaged one shipwreck every 10 weeks for a long while - all in the treacherous river moorings. The town declined as gold was lost - so it was a true ghost town.

We went for the meal, and were eventually found a table. The service was truly indifferent. The food was truly exceptional. We both had exceptional seafood chowder to start, and then I had rare venison, and Estelle had wild pig casserole. Probably the best food we have had in New Zealand - better than the Sky Tower in Auckland or even Shed 5 in Wellington. The vegetables included three sorts of cabbage finely shredded and briefly fried - very tasty. (Kumara again, as well) After some more nasty coffee - why do they wreck it so - back to the motel.

The shower had no cubicle as such - the whole floor draining to a central drain. Fun.


We both slept well till about 8.30 - and then found out the All Blacks had lost to France - quelle domage!

Paid up - off for a toastie for breakfast (my e&b was good - E’s ham and cheese had cheese unmelted). We got some pies for lunch, and did a little provision shopping in a supermarket. Hokitika was misty, drizzly and after we'd experienced how spooky it was the previous night we were not disappointed to be going.


On our way out of Hokitika,

The rain continues to belt down. We passed any similar ghost town looking places - obviously in a bit of decline and saw high hills covered in trees and ferns - with much water flowing down the hills.

We saw some of these wide empty riverbeds.

Empty no longer with huge spates of rushing water - many of them quite frightening e.g. Waitaha and Wanganui rivers. We saw some recreation sites in the parks - and Lake Ianthe had a long drop toilet in it (which intimidated Estelle a bit) and a set of picnic tables, half under water.

The next big site, Lake Mapourika had the directions sign half under water. This rain was causing some big time flooding.

We came through Franz Josef Glacier village and decide to go up to the glacier itself - that road was closed, and the bridge out of town was nearly covered in water - we decided to press on to Fox Glacier.

This was a very hairy road - water rushing down all the creeks, warnings about road washouts, many waterfalls and constant driving rain.

We got to Fox Glacier village and needed to find somewhere to stay. Fox Lodge - offered us a room with private spa bath. Very expensive - about £39.

Expensive? It's a standalone pine lodge. It's enormous and very pretty, with polished wood floors, walls and ceilings - which are very high. Estelle wasn't keen on the green bedding and sofas - but liked the rest of it. We ate our pies for lunch and then read, watched TV and shared a spa bath. Well you have to pass the time somehow. The rain lashed down and heavy thunder rolled overhead. We weren't too frightened though.

About 7.30 the rain moderated, and we got out for a walk. We went to the guide shop, booked for the helicopter flight, which they reckoned would go in the morning and bought some souvenirs/presents.

We nipped off for a pub meal (E had fish and chips, and I had a whitebait omelette). We came back to the chalet, and I started to type up the diary - and after typing for half an hour, lost it all. Oh Joy.

Estelle's now made me a cup of tea, and I shall go to bed.

Tuesday 2/11/1999

Ok, woken by Estelle, early this morning - just to be told to take my Otrivine.

We had listened to a very spooky screeching of birds all night. We discovered this morning that E's guess had been right. They were kea parrots.

Not very helpful sleeping…Some of this may be to do with us getting our feet soaked, while making our way down to a glow worm grotto last night.

Estelle said, "This is a stupid idea," just as I went ankle deep in freezing water.

We did breakfast in the chalet - muesli, OJ toast and tea/coffee, and then I went over to see if the flight was on this morning. We could se the peaks and the sun was shining.

"Yes," I was told, "It looks good for later, but we're running about an hour behind - still come back for 10.10" We scuttled round, packed up and paid... and there were a few suspicious looking clouds about. Yes, could well be flights cancelled.

Making the best of this we went for a short walk down the road for half an hour or so. There was a nice little walk called the Minehaha walk, which takes you through a rainforest walk. The moss covered trees, and trailing creepers looked really impressive, and the deep, tea-coloured pools by the path were mute testimony to the volume of rain last night. We saw the sun coming through gaps in the canopy and the trees beneath steaming in the sun.

As we started to walk back to the guide area - yes, it started to rain again. A cup of coffee, and we were told possibly not worth hanging about. We got directions so we could at least see the glacier. A short drive took us to the first viewpoint - the road to the glacier itself was closed due to flooding. The glacier looked excellent, so we drove on to the next car park, for a walk to another viewing area.

The walk down was impressive, with good views of the glacier and many waterfalls. We heard a roaring noise - first full running creek we crossed with a little bridge. As we continued down the hairpin footpath we heard louder noises. We saw a couple of steel cables coming up beside the path. Excellent.

It was a three-plank suspension bridge. It was over the main meltwater river, which was astoundingly fast flowing. Large boulders, and enormous chunks of ice were going down stream. Huge stopper waves were on either side. Estelle, very bravely I thought, came over holding my hand. The bridge was very wobbly. After a couple of photos we made our way back. We could see them still working on the road on the other side of the river.

Back to the township. No, still no flights, so we got some postcards and wrote them while having a very nice antipasto lunch in the Cafe Neve.

Apparently, there might be flights in an hour or so. E and I decided on a little drive down to Franz Josef to see if any different there.


Franz Josef. What a sickener - same sort of thing - might be helicopter flights later - but no promises. The pilot of one of the lines went to have a look up at the mountains.

No Joy. However, at least they seemed sad for us.

We tried for a plane flight, nope - same thing. Right obviously not destined to fly, so we might as well head back to Fox.

On the way back, on a whim we popped down the glacier access road at Franz Josef. The terminal face was closed, but we were able to get to the car park and walk up to Sentinel rock for a closer look at the glacier. The walk was a good hard slog - but at least uphill all the way - so we got a walk down . We were considerably closer than at Fox, and got a good view of the Ice cave at the face. On from there, back to Fox..

We tried a last time for a flight - that was no go - so we go(ed)

We decided to head for Queenstown - we left at 3pm and the drive was meant to be 7 hours 40 so we anticipated stopping somewhere like Wanaka.

We made quick progress in glorious sunshine and blue skies - ironic as the weather was too cloudy at the glaciers to fly - but only over the glaciers themselves.

We stopped for coffee at Lake Paranga - where E got changed and feasted on a banana. I chatted to the owner about logging and Maori politics much to her pleasure ( I evidently agreed with her prejudices).

The lake was large and surrounded by high tree covered mountains. We drove on to Knight Point, which was a very high viewpoint out over the sea - with excellent views, South to the Antarctic and West towards Tasmania.

We saw seals on the beach 700 feet below us, and a Kea wandering about in the car park.

We drove onwards, through the Haast valley, which had been excavated by a trunk glacier, down to the sea - the glacier possibly extending many miles out to sea. The valley was half a mile wide in many places, and there where whole uprooted trees to be seen in the bed of the river. The valley was surrounded by 6000-foot mountains - many snow covered.

We then stopped at Thunder Creek falls where a 90-foot waterfall cascaded vertically into the Haast River. The water there was freezing. We continued on through the Haast pass - with high mountains all covered top to bottom with tall trees. An unbelievable number of trees.

At Lake Makaroa - the land began to turn into scrubby bush - with loads of yellow gorse and bright green fields. We saw cows (with proper horns, yet) lots of sheep and deer again.

Lake Wanaka is 26 miles long - and the water was an incredible blue - most unlike Loch Ness. The mountains were becoming barren, resembling the Lake District (but taller)

On the turn of a corner we saw majestic mountains rising above Lake Hawea another immense blue lake.

At Waneka we made the decision to carry on, as the road was fast, I was speeding, and we were making very good progress. We drove towards Cromwell, passing the Pisa mountain range - noticeable for its knife-edge ridges and V cut valleys.

Many of the fields were full of sheep that looked as if they were made out of clay. We think it must be the breed and colour.

The road from Cromwell to Queenstown was full of wineries - after we'd done miles of orchards and market gardens. - the wineries seemed to come every few hundred yards, offering trips and tastings. We were otherwise occupied, however.

We drove by the side of the Shotover River, and we saw the historic bridge at Kawarau - where AJ Hacket started the bungy jumping business. (Estelle says A headcase...)

On approaching Queenstown we saw Lake Wakatipu which is 51 miles long, 3 miles wide at it's widest but only 1300 feet deep. This is surrounded by mountains - the Remarkables amongst others - yes, some have snow on them.

We had a quick trundle round what looked like a really busy bustling town (it isn't really - but is huge compared to Fox/Franz Josef) to find somewhere to stay.

We ended up finding a motel, which Estelle had earlier spotted the other side of, and got a room here. Well, not really a room, a bedroom, kitchen, living area, bathroom, and toilet - but we had to pay highly for this. About £33 a night. This was to be our base of operations in Queenstown for 3 night. Our longest stay anywhere.

The journey only took us 5 and a half hours. Beers all round? Well, off to find somewhere to eat anyway. Ate at a little Mexican place (with a few beers) - after a shaky start when the wrong food was delivered, the meal turned out very well.

A quick walk round a very, very cold Queenstown revealed lots of shops and things to see then next day. Back to the motel for bath, bed and sleep - in my case bath, sleep, bed, sleep.

Wednesday 3/11/1999

Woke at 8.10 to a bright sunny morning in Queenstown.

The motel - which has a balcony - has a full view of the mountains and the lake. This is remarkable (pun) for such a reasonable price.

After a swift cuppa, off to get milk for breakfast (economical, eh?). Next a few phone calls - we booked the Milford Sound Fly cruise for 2 p.m., and I decided to confirm the flight from Queenstown to AKL.

Wow, bit of a good job we did... they had changed the flight details and we'd not have got there till ten past 9. After a bit of a strop with them, we got reservations for a suitable flight.

Breakfast finished ( cereal and toast), we walked into Queenstown (all of 2 minutes) for a mooch about.

We put in 9 films for development (about 274 photos - probably another hundred today) and then went and looked in a couple of jewellery shops and then Estelle saw a smutty T-shirt..... so, of course, she insisted on going into to see the rest of the wares.

We ended up buying the last of our pressies and souvenirs - including a wine block for us.

I reckon we went shopping to celebrate that we had booked on the Shotover Jet. Estelle seemed delighted by this.

After shopping we went up on the Skyline gondola to the dizzy heights of 2500 feet - which is probably 1000 feet or so up from QT. The views from the cars were staggering - but E didn't seem that keen when I moved to take piccys.

From the viewing decks the views were unbelievable up each arm of the lake and over to the mountains. As we looked out, tandem parascenders kept passing overhead. I must admit I am deeply tempted - more so than by the bungy experience offered there - down into trees? No thanks. We watched a brief humorous film called Kiwi Magic, which showed some spectacular scenery and then went back down the cars to the motel.

After a brief misunderstanding and some 20 minutes delay, a taxi arrived to take us to Queenstown airport. This is a small airport. Really small. Probably smaller than Dundee.

We picked up and paid for our tickets ( I quickly grabbed an extra film) The operation of the fly/cruise was very effective (- straight in straight on straight off all the way through).

We boarded our massive plane - a 9 passenger Britten Norman Islander and took off from Queenstown.

Flying below, beside and just above snow covered mountains in a tiny plane is impossible to describe. You are seeing untouched snow from the winter, valleys that probably no one has walked in for years - if ever. The peaks seem close enough to touch - which is a bit worrying when you are heading straight at them.

Loads of mountain lakes that just look shiny blue or green, and many glacierettes. Sharp edges, trees, rapids, and canyons - you could just go on for ages.

A steep and rather bumpy descent into Milford Sound, and an efficient bust transfer to the boat - a large and 3/4s empty boat called the Milford Monarch.

Rudyard Kipling apparently called the Sound the eighth wonder of the world. I don't know about that, but I do know it is one of the most impressive places that I have ever seen. Estelle seems to think so too.

The fjord is truly magnificent, the sides springing up almost vertically some thousands of feet. Waterfalls of over 500 feet high. Overhanging cliffs of over 2000 feet high (as the guide said, the Empire state wouldn't go more than a third up) The cliff was far higher than 2000 feet, incidentally - that was the overhang.

We kept going out - past loads more "ooh" making scenery to the Tasman Sea. Here, you could feel the ocean swell. When the boat turned back, you could see why the Sound had been missed by Captain Cook (twice) It completely vanishes from the sea.

As we returned down the Sound, a sharp eyed crewman spotted penguins - so the boat nearly nosed ashore so we could see them closer. We passed seals sunning themselves on a high rock, and then benefited from a cold shower. The captain took the boat right up to the edge of the Stirling waterfall. Very bracing.

Back to harbour and bus to airport. Another unbelievable flight back. (Including passing a 1900-foot waterfall, and many more snow covered mountains. When you look out of the plane and all you can see are mountains with snow on in every direction - you know this is an area of high mountains. It looks like the end of the world.

We landed at Queenstown. On a grass strip - which Estelle commented later felt like a field. We were both dumbstruck on the way back. It is unbelievably good to see this place.

We updated the diary and watched the clouds coming in with mounting depression. (well, not really, how could you be depressed after a day like that - even with a sunburned bonce).


Well, we decided after the day we had had, we deserved a drink or two, so off we went in search of a pub. Estelle and I needed something to eat and drink shortly after we set off - after all we had just been shopping - buying a real wool duvet to have airfreighted back to the UK. We also found a Paua shell for us.

New Zealand is not oversupplied with pubs on the whole and Queenstown is no exception. We made a few circuits and eventually found an Irish Pub. Pog Mahones... I did explain to Estelle what Pogue Mahone actually is reputed to mean.

We had a couple of beers, and Estelle spotted a guy eating what looked like half a sheep on some mash. "Interesting," we thought, "we might have a go at that."

We looked at the menu, and it was OK, chicken livers in a whisky cream sauce on noodles, lamb shanks and ribeye steak on mash ordered with fresh vegetables. It was really very tasty - a Guinness after it and we went for a walk. We came back to the motel and went to sleep. We both slept pretty solidly.

Thursday 4/9/1999

We woke to the buzzy motel alarm, which sounded like the wrath of god. Estelle kicked me out of bed to make the coffee, so all was not easy <g>

Breakfasted in the motel, and then out to hand in some more films (about the 18th roll) for developing.

Then - to the Shotover Jet base. We were taken from the town base by bus out to Arthur's point watching a video on the way. Once at the Shotover canyon base, we were given black rain slickers and life jackets and we watched the boats hurtling up and down the river. They looked really fast - as passengers/victims got off the boats, some were wobbly - many were wet.

Estelle and I got on to the back of the boat - and we were warned that a raised clenched fist meant "Hang on - tighter!" Estelle didn't understand this as she was already holding on as tight as she could.

These boats are truly crazy - and the drivers are worse - they tear towards the canyon walls - often literally inches from them. The boats travel at 40 knots and the water is sometimes only inches deep. They turn in their own length - frequently, which is a thrilling and wet experience.

Well, that was quiet. Just time to get back to the motel, buy some stuff for lunch - and go for some parascending. Yes, that's right - parascending. You stand on the back of a boat and get towed up by a parachute.

E and I were going to do it tandem at 12:00 - when the boat crew saw me, they suggested we did it one at a time. E said she didn't want to do it by herself - but said she'd consider it.

We set off up the lake on the yellow boat, and I was strapped into a sit harness. The parachute was deployed, and I was attached to it - not without the odd bit of difficulty - as we veered from side to side. Shortly, however, I was being lifted into the air by the chute - a bit nerve wracking as you lift - but very good views.

A recurring worry my shoes were going to fall off, and the odd creak were the only bad signs. The boat crew let me down quite close to the water - which was quite exciting (if I'd known it was an accident, I wouldn't have thought it exciting - terrifying.)

Soon, after I'd stared at the water and mountains and waved to Estelle a bit - I was hauled in. The creaks didn't matter - I was back. E decided not to bother.

After getting off the boat, we noticed an "Underwater Observatory" on the jetty. We thought we might get a closer look at the big trout and eels we'd seen while we waited to get on the boat. Yep, we did. There were huge glass windows looking out under the lake - and little coin operated fish feeders - which, of course, made the fish swarm round.

The fish were immense, rainbow and brown trout up to 20lbs - eels up to 4 or 5 foot long. I took some photos - so we'll see how they turn out. Oddly enough, we met *another* English emigrant there. He was an ex RAF man, who came from Hyde and emigrated here in 1970. He was with his long lost adopted Chinese brother - who'd been searching for him for 14 years. - and his niece (?)

He said it was likely that immigration restrictions would ease, following the numbers of young people going to Australia. Interesting, that.

We went back to the motel for lunch - tortellini in two sauces, which I cooked. I have done all the cooking on this holiday. [Well, I've put things in the microwave twice and boiled a pan once] .

Estelle insists that I point out she has done breakfast every day [she means when we've not had breakfast out] - and I'd point out that means madam has "cooked" toast for 4 days - and only burnt some of it. Ha - so not much cooking there

We rang the helicopter line - yes - flight *was* on.

We were collected from the motel, and taken to the airport - I paid and in minutes we were out to the little 7-seater chopper. Takeoff was really smooth - but the way a helicopter fly is so different to a plane. E and I both loved it. We stopped at a spur on the Remarkables, and the flew round coronet point, Deer Park [ where a Korean War drama - the Rescue was shot. The filmset could still be seen. We then flew over the cable cars circled the town and came back. That was great, too.

Back to the motel, I loafed; Estelle packed. We had a quick brushup and I shaved. We had a dinner appointment.

Estelle and I went on the 6pm dinner cruise of the TSS Earnslaw. This is an old 1912 steamship that plies up and down the lake. We were taken to a beautiful old sheep station (Walter's Peak) where we had a fine dinner - vegetable soup, roast beef and pavlova - and a pretty good NZ Pinot Noir wine....

We watched sheep dog exhibitions, saw some Border collie puppies - and I got to ride on (Well, sit on) a Highland Cattle Bull.

Back on the steamer - where we all sat round a piano for a singsong on the way back to QT. At the motel, I wrote up this diary, and Estelle finished off the packing.

Friday 5/11/1999

Wow - depressing or what.

Last day in Queenstown.

Fetch E coffee in bed. The day is none too bright, which I suppose helps a bit.

I rang Apex about handing the car in, and was told I could drop it in a rental bay at the airport. Ring Singapore Airlines - confirm us with an aisle and centre - after suffering a bit of call gate hell.

We breakfast on cereal and toast - and packed up the remaining bits and pieces. When you look at all the leaflets we have gathered - we do seem to have done an awful lot.

We went to pay up and said what a nice time we had had. We took the car out and went to look for somewhere to park - in the end, we ended up parking by the Kiwi birdlife centre. (Parking is a bit horrid in town.)

In the birdlife centre, the kiwi enclosure is in virtually pitch blackness. You did have to stay in the enclosure for a bout 10 minutes before your eyes adapted to the dark.

When they did, we were rewarded by the sight of two Kiwis wandering about in their darkened enclosure. Their largish bodies and long bill, together with their ungainly walk made them look like little old men as they wandered round looking for insects.

After 15 minutes or so, we left that enclosure and saw a tui bird [who very kindly imitated a mobile phone for us] owls, parakeets, teals, black stilts, NZ wood pigeons, and two very cute and inquisitive banded rails.

We then nipped into town and did our shopping (we ended up parking in the same place virtually). We collected our films , I bought some nose spray, and E bought some horrid pop socks [yeck].

We stopped for a very ordinary coffee and exceptionally nice muffin at this little cafe - which I said seemed a bit women’s collectivey and did a general browse about.

After a final walk by the waterfront - where we noticed poetry written on the wall - and a last look at the fish, off for lunch.

We'd seen this little place called Wraps - which seemed interesting. I ordered Ragin Cajun [spicy fish] and E had rice, beans and cheese, with spicy salsa. We waited ages, and the food was lukewarm when it arrived. E wasn't convinced she had *any* salsa, never mind spicy.

Oh mourning - a last walk round and back to the car. We refuelled it and set off back to the airport. We were a bit early, so we drove past and went to the entry for the Remarkables Ski area. Notes about tyre changes and avalanche control using explosives caused a wry smile. It reminded me of the front of the Phone book we'd seen at Hokitika - what to do in case of ... Fire, flood, tidal wave, volcanic eruption and earthquake. Yep, everyday occurrences in Manchester.

The airport when we got there was close to empty. It soon filled - as three flights were due out - all busy, all delayed.. We dropped the keys in (to an empty desk) and checked our bags in.

After some nerves about the delay, it turned out we were actually on the same aircraft out of Christchurch - even though we had to get off for a few minutes.

The flight was OK, about a 15 minute stop in Christchurch and we arrived in Auckland about three quarters of an hour late. Picked up the bags - and taxi through to the hotel.

We saw some nice houses as we followed a back road to town, and our reservation was ready at the hotel.

As a "valued customer" we got vouchers for free drinks, but we decided to go for a walk. We got a beer (or two) at the Shakespeare pub. E's enjoyment of this was diminished 'cos we were in a pub watching the rugby league final between NZ and the Aussies. A close match, but watching it meant we'd missed the food court. After a bit of Mrs. Grump, we found a bar on the front. We had a very nice fritto misto, herb bread and risottos. both tasty, but a bit too herby.

Back to the hotel, shower and bed.

Saturday 6/11/1999

Day starts OK. Well, last day in NZ, so not so wonderful I suppose.

Looked out over the harbour not too bad... then the fog rolled in. I saw America's Cup boats being towed out for the challenge. Then the fog clamped right down.

We had a last shower and packed up. When we checked out, we left our bags so we could have a walk about.

We went for a rather nice coffee/hot chocolate at Starbucks - 'tho E had to request butter for her date scone. We window shopped our way down Queen street - including looks in both outdoor shops and jewellers, but didn't buy much. We took a walk down the harbour, admiring all the huge ships - including a Chines navy comms vessel and an absolutely vast Toyota car transporter.

After that, it was back to check out a lovely alpaca and merino rug (too big) and hotel for lunch. Estelle had fish on greens and I had fresh tuna nicoise. How healthy... - and we drank our free beers.

Grabbed our bags and off to the airport. We arrived an hour late for checkin. This meant we didn't have to wait to long. We bought a few bottles of water (books for the flight had been bought in Auckland) and remembered to pick up duty free.

Nice seats on the flight from Auckland to SG. Just 2 together . We companionably watched the Runaway Bride together - and played a bit of cards. I read. Estelle read. Hey - what can you say. Meals OK - including a nice little tournedos, and a bit of shampoo.

A draggy wait in Singapore, where we picked up more duty frees. The flight is packed. A huge queue of sheep waiting to get into the lounge.

We just sat and waited. We ended up boarding our awful, cramped seats right at the back of the 747 without too much delay. Very uncomfortable. Bits of sleep, and nice Indian veggie meal for me.

Usual interminable wait at Mumbai, where I wrote this section of diary up.

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