Tuesday, February 11, 2020

We're down under - the north island of New Zealand

Ombu tree in Albert Park
First news from Ricardo down under.... 

New Zealand is very far from home. From Spain it took 3 flights and over 24 hours - so much better then Magellan’s  boat. We are leaving the North Island tomorrow for the South Island. I have been told that it is more dramatic so stay tuned for our next blog.

So far every thing has been more then expected from scenery, food and the best hikes ever.  We are four people moving across these islands. My cousin Susie, Tom my buddy from San Cristobal and my very adventurous wife who has been keeping you all up to date with her posts and blogs.

We have been with old friends Gail and Athol and new friends Mic and Valda not to mention the kiwi hospitality which is marvelous. We could live here easily except for the distance which I believe keeps the immigrant population low.

The weather this time of the year is perfect - cool nights and sunny days in the 70's.

Below is Susan’s fuller description of the places and things that we have visited and done.Sending love,Ricardo     

Another new world here in New Zealand. We've been here over one week and are enjoying the North Island.  We'll head to the South Island soon and report from there before the end of the month as we have the whole month to enjoy this country. How lucky can we be?

First thoughts about NZ definitely go to the friendliness of the people. We are used to traveling and finding kindness and openness however here it stands out more than anywhere I have been. For example....our first night with Susie (Richard's cousin who is traveling with us) we went looking for a restaurant and came upon Hernebay Thai Cuisine with owner Nai. We asked to be seated and she informed us that it was a family run restaurant but wouldn't open for a few days and still did not have their credit card machine. We hadn't yet been to the bank for NZ dollars so we said we would go out for money. She asked us to sit down and they would prepare us a meal and we could come back and pay the next day. She was happy to have us as her first customers and then went ahead to make us special and very delicious meals - prepared by her Thai mother. We went to get money that night, but she had totally trusted us. Then she invited us for the Sunday special dedication by a Buddhist monk who was coming to bless the restaurant. We went and experienced this special ceremony as if we were friends or family for life. A long story to demonstrate this first acts of kindness.

Glass window at Auckland Art Gallery

Auckland is a beautiful modern city with lots to do - being a port city it is surrounded, or seems so, with water and boats. We visited the harbor, sky tower, ferry to Devonport with a walk up to Mt. Victoria, Auckland Art Gallery with tour of museum and some of it's collection and Albert Park right next to it. A highlight for all of us was seeing Richard's nephew Max and having lunch with him - a fine young gentleman enjoying his first months working in NZ.

On Feb 3 Tom arrived from San Cristobal de las Casas in Mexico and we all met to pick up our RV, learn the basics and head north for 4 hours to visit friends of ours, Gail and Athol that we know from San Miguel in Mexico. They invited us years ago to stop by if we were ever in NZ and you all know that telling us that means we might take you up on it. We spent a lovely two nights with them doing our first visiting and experiencing once again - the kindness of the kiwis. They live on a cliff in Omapere overlooking the entry to the river on the west coast. We had a little mishap as we arrived hitting a strainer post (post that holds up a fence)....entering a driveway with a little damage to the side of the RV. It did not hinder our driving so we went straightaway to Gail and Athol's and enjoyed an amazing sunset and dinner. The house is beautiful with a magnificent view. The next day we went to their friend's body shop and he duct taped it together for us so we are good for the month! 
View from Gail and Athol's house

From their house we went to the Waipoua Kauri Forest and saw Tane Mahuta - the oldest tree in Oceania - over 2000 years old. We left for the Bay of Islands boat trip including the Hole in the Rock and lunch in the cute town of Russell. 

Hole in the ROck

Tane Mahuta
I will mention at this point that we have eaten lunch out everyday and found restaurants with well marked veg, vegan, gluten free, etc. items on their menus. It is common everywhere and all with very creative meals. 

Off to Orere Point for our first night together in the motor home - which we have named Tane Mahuta (God of the Forest in Maori). We survived and were still friends the next morning. We'll have many more, though some nights in friend's homes - all makes the trip fun and adventurous. After a beach walk at the RV park we headed to Taupo.

I am writing from Taupo, home of Mick and Valda who are very warm and generous to open their amazing home to us. We have beautiful rooms and are here for 4 nights. These are longtime friends of Tom with lots of shared stories. Mick is a horse owner and a highlight was watching one of his horses (he bred and trained) race in an important race and come in second. This was a first for me - watching a horse race and watching people watching a horse race.
Watching the horse race with Mick and Valda

Huka Falls
Lake Taupo

Lake Taupo is in the caldera of the Taupo volcano with a surface area of 616 kilometers. It is the largest lake in New Zealand. There is much to do - all types of water sports and boating as well as walking on paths along the lake. We visited Craters of the Moon which is a geothermal walkway with lunar landscapes - hence its name. Craters of the Moon showcases the natural thermal activity of Taupo including bubbling craters, steam vents and colorful soils. Next was a visit to Huka Falls. Saturday included a farmers market and the horse race on TV mentioned above. Our last day Tom took us to other friends, Wally and Karen who own a horse and dairy farm (1300 cows for milking twice/day). A new world for Ricardo and me.
Craters of the moon
Off to Tongariro National Park where we hiked to Taranaki Falls through beautiful volcanic scenery to tall waterfalls. After lunch at the Chateau, we took a gondola ride at Whakapapa Ski Area. We drove on to Whanganui, a lovely river town where we met Tom's longtime friend Karen for dinner. 

We are now used to our life on the road - driving, pulling into our Top 10 Campground, hooking up electricity so we can all plug into our devices, figuring out dinner either out at a restaurant or cooking in the campground kitchen, getting our sleeping stuff organized and usually bed fairly early to be ready for another day.
We are now in Wellington and tomorrow will ferry from here to Picton, on the South Island - a four hour ferry ride. 

New Zealand is awesome! Thanks for following us and we'll report soon from the South Island.


  1. We're happy to travel back to New Zealand with you. We feellike we were recently there through a wonderful TV Series we watched 800 Words. We imagine the actual people are even better.

  2. Hello Susan! Long time no talk to! Email me. Wanted some info about SMA. Sounds like you are always doing great! Much love