Saturday, May 18, 2013

Auckland ... Farewell New Zealand!

We drove right to our hotel halfway between the city center and Auckland Airport in a neighborhood called Onehunga. The hotel was in the center of a highway entrance, but it was ok and the windows were acceptable soundproof. Unpacked our stuff to the hotel room and headed to the city center via public transport. The first time in a train since month. First we had and appointment at the local post office to pick up a letter, which first pick up attempt in Murchison at Scotty’s Lodge did not work out. Content of the letter was the long awaited Star Alliance gold card giving us some extra luggage allowance and more convenient airport procedures.

Afternoon in the city, walk towards the harbor, the bar/party locations on the waterfront, the swing bridge over the harbor entrance, impressive ocean going yachts, … a beautiful evening atmosphere. 

We slowly started to look out for some dinner location. Our favorite, after extensive comparing and walking back and forth under consideration of menu, location and access to and appropriate place for Tobias in the stroller was Pescado Tapas Bar right on the waterfront. A good choice as food and Mac’s Gold were a pleasure. Back to the hotel by the train, some packing preparation, writing and bed.

Sightseeing in Auckland! Our first target was the Auckland War Memorial Museum. Not because we were considerably interested in the war participation of ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) forces but because the museum provided several other exhibitions. Especially the Maori culture section was our focus. I was deeply impressed by the woodcarving and workmanship. Before that we had a quick look on the general section of the museum and their on the wall was my favoirte chair by Gerrit Rietveld "The red-blue chair". Some years ago I built this chair as a replica. It is very comfortable as the angle is just right and the thin backrest flexes.

My favorite chair by Gerrit Rietveld "The red-blue chair"

Via Auckland Domain park, University Campus, pasing some political demonstration, we continued towards Sky City aka Auckland Sky Tower and later on via buss towards Ponsonby Rd. In search for some evening dinner location we walked the whole Ponsonby Rd. Slowly it go quiet chilly  but we did not find anything that totally persuade us (nevertheless there would have been some nice locations), we walked down College Hill Road, stopover in a super market and back to the harbor district from the night before… quiet some distance we walked that day – and most of it on hard surface, no bush tracks, no comfortable wading boots and worst of all no rod in the hand. 

Yacht and habor from the sky tower

We ended up in the same spot as the night before: Pescado. Hence the time invested scouting that location the evening before paid dividend. Again a delicious, but more extensive dinner this night. A real fine dining event was ufortunately not a feasible option due to the missing nanny.

Auckland was nice and definitly good for a stop over. Even that we did not see any of the nearby highlights.

Yacht and sky tower from the harbor

Time to leave NZ… very sad feelings. As the duration of this trip was unique, the feelings did not hurt so much than two years ago. And at home we should have been welcomed by summer.

As we had an early morning flight towards Tokyo we had to finish packing the night before. Sorting and packing stuff that would join us on our trip back home and belongings that would stay in NZ with Tony for future adventures (large car camping tent, storage boxes, some cooking tools, …). Think we had one big 40 liter box of rubbish. This part of a trip is most of the time the least fun part. Note for the next trip: take less! 

The time in New Zealand was too good to be finished.

We had an unbelievable dry, long and sunny summer, nice people, landscape, nature, good fishing that was sometimes challenged by the draught, nice accommodations, people, old and new friendship, hospitality and home, good food and most of the time outstanding wine. Everything worked out perfect, no accidents, no sever obstacles. Absolutely nothing more to be wished!

We will come back. We have to.

Yacht and sky tower from the harbor at night

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Rotorua to Coromandel – the tourist’s road towards Auckland

In the meantime Ines and Tobias did spend their day in Rotorua first in a park and later in the local bath to have a swim. As I picked them up late from the bath I saw how strange and by far not appealing this location was... Once again a very touristic village of low appeal that will not be on the list of future visits.

We left Rotorua this afternoon to drive north west towards Coromandel Peninsula. Around three hours on dark rainy roads. NI got better from day to day… 

Some days ago we managed to book one of the last affordable bachs on the south west side of the peninsula. We found a charming small bach in Tairua, not far from the main touristic-reasons to visit Coromandel: Cathedral Cove, seascapes and the 309 road. 

We had to book the bach via as most of the cottages on the peninsula are managed via this company. The whole process via bachcare is embarrassing: you have to pay a fee of 30NZ$ independent of the nights booked, there is a high cleaning bond of something around 200NZ$ and you get pretty much bombed with e-mails and calls from the central booking and the local management. The cleaning bond by itself is ok but it puts pressure on you and the offer from bachcare to have the cottage cleaned for you without mentioning the price is just kind of rip off and not legitimate.

The bach was reasonable cheap, modern, had a freaky stove that turned on by itself, a smoke detector that woke us loudly 3am, we had hundreds of ants indoors and a useful heating was missing. Judging from the German sockets and IKEA-stile tools it was owned by a German.

Besides that, during our booking and stay the local management was kicked out due to some unknown reasons. This caused extra confusion.

Traveler’s advice: book directly, do not book via bachcare! In the future I would go even so far not to travel to a place if I could not avoid this company. Bachcare seems to be more focused to NI – hopefully it will remain like this during the current century.

Cathedral Cove

Besides all these downsides the bach had a nice view over the sound and Tairua, was quietly located up on the hill and had just the right size for us three. Tobias practiced crawling the steep stairs up and down and up again. We had a close look at him or helped him as the stairs were a little bit exposed…

In the morning we drove north towards Hahei to walk the short walk down to the famous Cathedral Cove. A sandy beach with a natural arch / cave (therefore cathedral?) and a distinctive shaped rock. We enjoyed the relatively few tourists on the beach beyond the arch, the sun and the sandy beach. Tobias and I had short dips in the not too chilly water. Some pictures with high contrast from the inside of the cave and the sunny beach.

It was already afternoon as we left the beach and headed back to the car. Next stop was the famous 309 road, a road – unpaved (adventure! ; ) ) – which leads from the east to the west of the peninsula. Back before the first visit to NZ four years ago I marked this rode physically in the map and mentally in my brain as one of the "landmarks" to visit in NZ. The road is supposed to be famous for: 309 manuka honey, a waterfall, some water works and its unpaved nature in the middle of the woods. Highly fascinating! At least that was what I thought to expect back then before the first visits to NZ. First stop was the honey shop where we bought 7 glasses (actually the glasses were plastic jars, perfect for international transport) of honey and had a nice talk with the real queen of the bees (the female human owning the business). There are some special types of the manuka honey that are proven to have antibiotic power. These types are much more expensive and taste not better than the cheaper conventional manuka honey.

We continued to follow the road turn by turn - rather uninspiring, to finally reach falls of the Waiau River. Nice falls close to the road. Perfect later afternoon light. Several pictures. Definitely a place for a detour. Funny was that the road literally bored us, we had enough of unpaved roads and we had roads that were much more tempting, inspiring and remote. So after that visit and a few more meters Ines formulated my thoughts in words: what about to turn around and be back at the cottage early. 

Dawn was not far away and the village of Coromandl on the west side of the peninsula at night could be neglected for now. So we turned round and drove back to our home in Tairua. This night we had the famous lamp chops for the last time on the island! As the electric indoor stove was far too weak to handle a frying pan and in addition had some erratic performance, I set up the approved camp stove and we fried the beloved lamb chops outside on the porch. Again they tasted fine. Sorry for not remembering the accompanying wine...

Outdoor kitchen with lamp chops

Next morning was pain in the ass as we had to clean the cottage and absolutely wanted to have the bond back. Later the local management lady came and received the key and she had to listen to my long list of complaints. Weeks later we received the bond back.

We left Coromandl heading west and then up the coast north towards Auckland. The first kilometers through the plains of the Waihou River were just boring. In a small village at the East Coast road we had a decent fish burger lunch giving us power for the remaining kilometers towards Auckland. The last kilometers on rural roads… Farewell wild landscapes and nature... Gona miss you!

Tetris in the Prado

Coromandl made a strong impression on me in terms of beeing the weekend destination of Auckland. Lots of bachs at rather high prices, lots of urbanization and tourists. Again comparing the limited impression we got from the peninsula as on the the highlights of the North Island to the South Island I would have no headache to skip it for other options.

Let's see what Auckland can offer.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Winding road towards the steam

The following lines and posts are written with the journey already some weeks ago. So details might be mixed up and impressions more reflected or more biased. Happy reading!

This time the accompanying wine is a Krapez Merlot 2004 from Slovenia (!). Delicious! 

There was a promising line on the map that would save us some winding kilometers going up north west towards Lake Waikaremoana. We crossed this dirty river for the last time to follow the Erepeti Road, later the Ohuka Road (all dirt) and finally the to figure out that the intended road towards the west was pretty much not useable as it ran over private farmland and was more like a route than a road. Nevertheless the landscape for the first time on NI became more eye-pleasing. But it was still far from eye candy… 

We drove up the Waikaretaheke River towards Lake Waikaremoana. The river looked most attracting but based on JK it’s not worth a try. Still there might be fish in. The foliage was nicely autumn colored as it was during the last days. Autumn could really no longer be neglected or ignored; in addition the weather was cloudy with some sunny patches. 

Lake Waikaremoana

We reached the lake Waikaremoana. A lake that was very remote now in autumn, but might see considerable traffic in summer. We followed the dirt road around its winding east shore, passed a terrific water fall (Mokau Stream?) and continued the road curve by curve by curve – it was green bush left and right of the dirt road and very windy. 

No unfortunately we did not camp close by in the campground but followed this dame northbound dirty snake in the bush called raod. All bush, nature – but I was sick of it. Tobias was rather noisy, my leg hurt from long hpurs of driving and I wanted to end this asap…. Fast fowrad, some hours later we passed a settlement in the middle of the bush, another hour later we passed the small village Murupara and had a stop there. I forgot why. We wanted to accomplish the last leg towards Rotorua where we arrived well after dark. After some research and search we found a decent motel right on the main road. We had a simple dinner and took a late night family dip in the hot spa on our porch. 

The Lake Waikaremoana and the surrounding Urewera NP might definitely have some appeal. At that day it was just pain in the ass, as there was no option to fish and the landscape nature was ok but by far not new or impressing (besides the water fall that I really liked).

Rotorua is famous for its hundreds of fumaroles, geysers and hot springs. The village is based on tourism. Nothing more nothing less. The close by lake is just a lake. The geyser areas around are all pretty much similar, if you have seen one you have seen all. We chose the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. We walked all the accessible tracks there and where deeply impressed by a group of ladies which where fishing for gas bubbles that did rise from the base of one of the largest hot springs. This looked even more contemplating than carp fishing. It might be the next trend sport after extreme-GT-blanking (freely adopted from “Only the river knows”). Ok serious now: The Thermal wonderland is ok, but you might possibly be disappointed after you have seen Yellowstone. 

Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland


After that touristic program we drove a couple of kilometers south west towards one of the Broadlands spring creeks close by. Before the fly fishing reader gets a stroke due to excitement: these creeks are very very difficult to access. We reached a bridge over one of the creeks I figured out, at least to have a look at. A perfect stretch of water, weeds, eddies and some room for the back cast due to the crossing street. I had to rig my rod and have a go right away standing on the street. It took a while and a few casts till one of the rising fish came to my adams. Ines helped to net it from the steep bank. Just a small rainbow (?) of something around 2-3lbs. Nice! There was another fish rising around +18meters upstream right in a narrow section of the creek close to a willow bush. I was fixed and could not move as the bank was too steep/swampy. I did cast again and gain but always there where two meters or precision missing. All the time watching if a truck was approaching on the road that I would have caught on the back-cast. Several casts later I got a rise from the targeted fish but it did not stick to the fly… A nice intermezzo on this creek with a nice rainbow on the sky and one on the fly. Tobias was sleeping during the fishing in the Prado and slowly woke up so we drove back towards Rotorua. There we had an afternoon cappuccino on the playground right on the lake and another night in the terrific motel.

The next day I wanted to catch the last fish of the trip and headed back towards the spring creek area from the day before. Actually these Broadland Creeks are much closer towards Lake Taupo than to Lake Rotorua. Parked on the road close to the first creek I wanted to give a try and crossed over the paddocks towards the mouth of the creek on the Waikato river. I started fishing right on the mouth and walked out on the bank just to get stuck in the gumbo. Quickly sinking in the dirt up to the knees, I could just get out and back to the bank. Mmm I should be more carefully on the next try. There were several rather small fish laying in the current. It was rather obvious that these pre-spawning trout would be hard to entice. After a couple of minutes a man came through the bushes and thorns with his fighting dog wearing a muzzle on a short leash. We had a friendly conversation about the creek. He was a Scotsman who relocated some years ago. His strong accent was obvious. It turned out that he did not only fly fish the creek but once in a while would use a threadline. I did not understand the reason to fish a spring creek C&R with a spinner or spoon. But after fishing and thorn bashing this creek, loosing and recovering my net in the thorns I got the point that fishing this creek is a challenge (there is a cut track on the right bank some meters away from the creek that ends around thirty meters away from the road, thus access from the mouse and then crossing might be the best option to fish it). Very limited casting space, thorns and at that time fish that were just not interested. I fished / walked up to the road and left the place without a fish to my hands. The water was rather low but still silty due to irrigation.

After a brief detour via another spring creeks mouth (again very limited access due to private land), I relocated to the spring creek from the day before. Again I had a few casts on the road-pool from the day before but the good fish rising was just out of my reach. After some consideration back and force I tried a couple of times to wade the creek – but right beside the firm bank it was very deep (+1,8 meters) and I would be immediately at maximum wading depth. Combined with current, rather swampy ground and vertical banks of 1,5 meters wading was no real option. Every time I tried to get out of the creek testing its wade ability my hands got some additional cuts from the rough grass. So I crossed the paddocks to follow the creek further upstream to a piece of water that looked accessible based on google satellite images. It was semi accessible: again high or rather swampy bank. 

To my surprise I pretty much instantly spotted a fish and did not spook it. Must have tried and Adams or a Royal Coachman. The fish came and after a while it came to the net. A Rainbow of around 3lbs. I knew that this fish would pretty likely be the last fish of the trip. At least the last fish was caught on NI. A few more casts to irregular rising fish in the distance but nothing more. 

For the last time of this trip I turned around and walked back over the paddocks, crossed the fences, reached the car, disassembled the rod, got out of my wading gear and left the creek behind me.

The fly fishing end of this terrific trip!

The last fished creek...