Cuba and New Zealand travel blog

On route to Wellingtong



Welllington harbour


Pop up summer container shops



Bringing in a rayk




of course you'll have a drink under this balcony


Dinner at the Crab Shack

TJ and her damaged eyd

TJ and Rich

The farm lands

Lake Taupu



Green lIpped mussels


So true

It is Monday of our final week and we are off to the North Island or Te Ika-a-maui. We are taking the Interlander Ferry boat the Kaiarnhi. We load up, each twosome making their own way out for breakfast and hit the road at 9:30. While the terminal is only 5 minutes away, we need to refuel and we must be there at 10:15, at the latest for our 11:15 sailing.

We arrive at 9:45 and by 10 am they are starting to load, and we are one of the first. Bob has booked us in the Plus Lounge which gives us comfortable sofa or lounger seating. Food; cheeses, salad, fruits, fish and chips or chicken and their famous scones for later on. Drinks of all kinds are also included. It is a great way to pass the 3 ½ hour journey.

It is topped off with live TV that is showing the Desert Classic Golf from Palm Springs. It is particularly exciting as Adam Hadwin, a good BC boy, is in the lead. Sadly, going in tied on 18 he over shoots the green and comes in second. But what a great surprise to be able to watch it and pass the time.

We head out into Queen Charlotte Sound and then into Tory Sound. Then across in more open seas through Cook Straight passing beautiful lush islands.

We arrive in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, about 2:30. Here, by far, is the largest city we have encountered. With a population of almost 500,000 people it is one of NZ’s largest. We head direct to our hotel, only 10 minutes away, right on the waterfront in Oriental Bay and drop our stuff in the rooms. Then we are off to explore the city.

Boy if we thought the winds in Picton were strong, they are nothing compared to Wellington. In fact, on there is a highway sign that says, “Wellington good for kites, horrible for your hair”. The waterfront is vibrant modern spot with plenty of restaurant and bars. There are little pop-up container shops set up for the summer season with local crafts.

We all decide to go our separate ways with different ideas of what we want to do. Bob and Jan head to the cable car and up to the botanical gardens, which Gail and I plan to do on our return cruise stop. Fortunately, our ships is in port and we can see that where we dock is an easy walk into town.

We head off to Hannah Lane or attempt to any way. After many wrong turns and asking for directions to more than one individual we finally find it. We had read about it on the boat and it supposed to be an eclectic lane of shops. It is as bit disappointing. Most of the shops are closed and there really isn’t anything too eclectic except the bar on the corner.

The only thing of interest is the old Hannah Factory building itself. Hannah shoes are famous here beginning in 1870. Over the next century they would employ many New Zealanders and have many factories. There is a great shot of all the factory workers in front of the building from the turn of the century. We decide that at least we should so something on the street and stop at Fortune’s Flavours Brew pub for a short one.

The street next is Cuba Street a pedestrian street of shops, restaurants and bars. So, we head that way next. This is definitely the old part of town and many of the buildings date back to the mid 1800’s. Most need some repair. Unfortunately, lots of places are closed as it is Wellingtons 50th anniversary.

We notice one particular building, The Wellington’s Workman’s Club, from 1904, that has what would have been a fantastic large balcony but today is in very bad shape. In fact, it has been condemned in event of an earthquake. Gail comments maybe we shouldn’t be standing under it as they seem to have frequent tremors, according to the locals. Of course, not 2 minutes later we are getting flatbread and dukkha, with glass of wine in the little restaurant right under it!

We decide we should head back as it is 6:15 and we are meeting everyone in the lobby at 7 pm for dinner. Certainly, this big city, while lovely, does have some of the downfalls of bigger cities as with it comes graffiti.

So, a bit of confusion on the meet up. TJ calls our room and says they won’t have time to get back to the hotel so are at a pub on route to restaurant. Can we come by and get them on route? What she fails to tell us is that all 6 of them are there. So, Gail and I wait till 7 and head down to the lobby. The other 4, of course, are a no show and so at 7:15, after calling their rooms and getting no answer, we head off to the restaurant.

TJ and Rich are no longer at the pub as it is closing so we just go to the Crab Shack, only to find all 6 of them there. They had all tried to call but as we were not on Wi-Fi, we didn’t get the messages. Second confusion of the night is that after dinner, TJ thought we were all going to have a nightcap back at the hotel but the rest of us go directly to our rooms. Not great communicators for sure!!

The Crab Shack was a cute little spot right on the pier. Lots of seafood and great music. As usual we drop a fair bit of cash … eating out in NZ is not for the faint of heart.

We head off in the am toward Lake Taupo. It is just over a 4-hour drive, so we decide to stop after the first hour for a later breakfast. The highways here are much more motorways, at least 4 lanes but not many stop spots. So, we venture off the road about 5 kms to Waikanea Beach and find a cute spot called Longbeach Café.

It is a lovely day, so we sit out in their back patio. Service is a bit slow as two minutes after we sit down a 20-person walking group arrives to have coffee. The wait was worth it, by far our best breakfast. The scrambled eggs incredibly creamy.

Back on the road through farmlands with rolling hills far off in the distance. This reminds me of the hills of Katepwa in Saskatchewan. Okay only my family will get the visual! The land is fields of asparagus, corn and cattle. In this stretch it is certainly not as lush as that of the South Island.

This seems more Maori country as the towns we stop at or go through definitely have more Maori people. The Maori words and town names are difficult to pronounce and long. The ‘returns’ slot at the library in Wellington must have been 20 letters long in Maori and of course plenty of the letter ‘a’.

A quick grab a sandwich/burger stop for in the car and we head to the last stretch. This is Tongano National Park home to three active volcanos. Mt. Ruapchu, at 2797 metres, Mt. Nguaruhoe, at 2287 metres and Mt. Tongartio at 1967 metres. Mt Ruapchu is the most spectacular, covered still in snow. Buy My Nhuaruhoe is the most famous as it is Mt Doom of Lord of the Rings fame.

We start to climb again toward Lake Taupo, and this is the windiest it has ever been. Lake Taupo is the largest lake in Austrailasia, formed some 27,000 years ago from a volcanic eruption. Size wise it seems almost round with a surface area of 616 sq. km compared to Okanagan Lake at 136 and the Shuswap at 120, that because it is 33 km wide while the others are more like 5. However, Shuswap is 89 km long and has 1,500 km of shoreline, Okanagan is 135 km long with 270 km of shoreline and Taupo only 46 km long and 193 km of shoreline. Needless to say, all three are substantial sized bodies of water. In fact, the Maori refer to Taupo as the island sea of New Zealand.

The vegetation once again is lush with bush like trees. There is a ton of road construction so the climb up and then back down into the valley of the lake takes longer then anticipated. We finally arrive at the town of Turangi at the lower end of the lake. We have cooking facilities tonight and John and Ruth have volunteered to c

Our place is just 15 minutes further on at Oreti Resort with fantastic views of the lake. We have two, two-bedroom apartment cottages and we share with Bob and Jan. After bringing in our stuff and a small glass of wine, Bob, Jan and I head down to the lake shore. It is only about 15 minutes, but we know what goes down must come up and it is hot.

The lake itself is brisk when we wade in a foot or so. Pretty sure that Gail would not have been swimming in this one. The hike back was not too bad as we were on the shady side and we join the others on their balcony for cocktails.

Bob makes up some Green Lipped Mussels in cream and white wine sauce. Compared to home these mussels are massive, at least twice the size. Then we have lamb and chicken (for TJ and me) baked in a herb gravy type sauce, absolutely delicious.

Too much wine is definitely consumed tonight as we are all in the mood for some good laughter. The provisions of today for the next few nights will no longer be enough. Back to the store tomorrow. The last thing we enjoy is the incredible full Blood Moon, unfortunately pictures will not do it justice.

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