Thursday 23rd June
First pic of the trip.
Left glasgow on Thurday afternoon - after mammoth flights - all on time! finally reached Auckland on Saturday morning. We flew Singapore air and they were very very good.
I'll not say too much about the flight other than it is long haul with emphasis on the word long.( handy hint for anyone else flying with singapore airlines - you can pay to use the prioroty pass lounge near the sunflower garden on the roof its $37 singapore - and well worth it. You can have a massage or a nap - these cost extra - but unlimited amounts of food and drink and really comfy chairs)Back on the plane, you can watch movies on demand - there is a choice of about 60 films and 80 odd tv programmes. This is great - so long as your tv works - mine didnt on the second part of the journey which was a huge bummer.
On arrival at the airport we got to go through the line for NZ passports or residency holders. The lady at immigration didnt even mention our stickers or welcome us home or anything - we were a wee bit sad.( maybe she was mute!) the immigration man at the next booth was smiling and welcoming everyone like long lost family members so I think we were just unlucky!
We got our car hire with no problems - we uesd McDonalds car hire = they are very good and very reasonable. $40 per day for unlimited mileage - a nice little toyota corolla.
So we drove away from the airport in torrential rain - there had been a tornado about an hour earlier!!!! getting through Auckland was a little bit tricky - but nowhere as difficult as most cities - also so far we have seen no bad driving - just the same as home really. So we set off up to Northland.
It took about 3 hours to get up to Whangarei but this included a stop for espressos to keep us going and a toastie at a very nice wee cafe. the scenery on the way up was spectacular. There are tree ferns everywhere and it's really lush.
First impressions of Whangarei - we really like it. its surprinsingly big spread over a large area. No high rises, plenty of little restaurants and cafes and all the shops youd expect of a town of 80,000 folk. We went to Pac and Save! and I bought fruit loops!!! So I was in heaven! Fruit and veg was quite expensive - but all out of season just now and we've been told that it is all much cheaper in summer.
The marina is big with loads of expensive boats. There are loads of properties for sale and sections for developing so anyone who told us - and a few did - that Northland is a bit depressed is talking nonsense - this area is really growing.
Whangarei Main street
Now the weather! it was up until about 2 hours ago - bloody freezing! Everyone we have met that lives here has been saying this is the coldest they remember for years. There was even a frost last night - inland! unheard of! So suffice to say our house is complettely baltic! But its suddennly got much warmer now - and up until about 2 days ago it was about 18 degrees. The last 2 days have been dry and mainly sunny.
Yesterday we drove over to Dargaville - a very nice drive - but in our opinion the west coast is very different from the east - less trees, much windier and totally different sort of shore line. On this side (east) its all little beautiful bays and sheltered and stunningly beautiful. On the west its long straight sandy beaches with massive - I mean MASSIVE - breakers and very windy. People were just driving their four wheel drives along the beach - we took our littlel toyota - but didnt feel so safe - being about 10 feet away from these massive waves!!
Lloyd on Baylys Beach
The character of the towns felt different to us too, much more agricultural with little sign of tourism and the property prices are about a third of what they are on the east - you could buy a 20 hectare farm including 4 bedroom house and outbuildings for about $200,000.
Then we drove back and up the east coast a little bit - as far as Tutakaka. Here it feels like the french riviera without any of the towns. But thousands of holiday homes strung along the coast line - we have been really surprised by how close the houses are to eachother, and no real boundarys between them. We live in a tenement - with neighbours all around us - but it felt that these houses had less privacy.
The Tutakaka coast is really beautiful with the kind of idyllic white sandy beaches you'd expect in a tropical paradise.
view from beach house
We got home to our beautiful beach house (kindly lent by one of the dentists) and the sunset at about 5.15pm, we'd had our dinner of baked potato and fillet steaks ( beautiful and very cheap) and suddenly fell asleep!!!!! We thought we were over the jet lag because we'd slept for 12 hours the night before- but we were wrong - Never underestimate the jet lag! We felt totally disorientated. My head was spinning all over the place - very strange feeling.
Today we have sorted out sim cards for phones - this will make calling here way cheaper than using our british sim cards and a dail up internet access with igrin ($27 for 300 hours per month -with free dial up - the dial up is really fast )
We had lunch with one of the dentists and dinner with another one tonight!
SO so far.......what do we think?
Bloody brilliant! lovely country, friendly people that we've met, and all the memories that Lloyd had from 15 years ago of the country being stuck in the 1950's have gone. Whangarei feels just as modern as any similar sized town in Britain.
On Thursday we're back to Auckland (by the way we found the Auckland - Whangarei road no problem at all - but then again we're used to driving on the wee small roads of the west coast of Scotland!)
Monday 27th June
Just had a lovely evening with one of the dentists and his wife, they have a beautiful house outside whangarei with acres of paddocks and some sheep and a pet pig called Kosher!! He wasnt one of the dentists that had offered lloyd a job as he only opened his own practice 2 years ago - but he wanted to meet us and chat about the area and give us any advice he could! he was brilliant, giving us the gen about dentistry up here - schooling - he has a 5 year old who goes to one of the local schools and it sounds great. He also confirmed that our plans for how much we have to spend on property and how much (or not!) we want to work are totally do-able so this was lovely to actually hear from someone who lives here.
The sky is completely clear tonight and the southern hemisphere looks totally different - the stars look different too!!! quite spectacular.
Tomorrow we are off up to Kerikeri - I have high hopes of liking it even more - if thats possible.
Tuesday 28th June
We have just got back from "oop north" as the locals don't say.
The road (Hwy 1) up to the Bay of islands and beyond is quiet, and fast, and kerikeri is only about an hour away. We stopped for brekkie at the roadside cafe of despair (great food, lunar atmosphere, bacon that tastes of pork, good coffee and 3 eggs!) Past some really stunning scenery, and some quite run-down small towns (I hope I'm not directly insulting the population of Kawakawa) and through Pahia; one of the 3 towns that make up the bay of isalnds. Pahia is not our cup of tea. It's a holiday resort, and would be low on my list of places to return to; we almost expected "kiss me quick" hats.
On to Kerikeri whose approach roads are lined with 30foot high hedges in bamboo or cropped leylandii. Beyond the hedges; beautiful orchards full of oranges, mandarins, persimmons avocados and macadamias. We stopped at a chocolate-maker called makana and sampled and bought. Bleedin' brilliant!
Then visited a kaleidoscope maker with extraordinary wares, and a menagerie of doves, ducks and a really cute cat.
Kerikeri is very pleasant, comfortable and feels very wealthy. All the shops you'd need, but New World, not pack'n save, many estate agents, cafes and restaurants, but any attempt to get to the coast hampered by the fact that all the foreshore is privately owned and inaccessible. I'm sure that we needed to look harder, but there are many private roads and we only got glimpses of the idyllic islands dotting the cosatline from afar.
We will return there in a week or so, and since we'll be staying with some locals we can see if that's a misinterpretation of the facts.
The place overall is lovely; closer to Whangarei than I expected and would feel like we were on holiday all the time if we were living there.
At 15 degrees all the locals were complaining that it was really cold!
Back home via the famous public toilet built by Hunterwasser in Kawakawa (beautiful, but smells like a toilet ) and home before we go for a meal with more toothsmiths tonight!