Temporary farewell to Oz, Hello NZ
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Sydney 31st Jan to 27th Feb Hamilton, New Zealand
Our last couple of days in Sydney passed quickly. We spent one day sightseeing before cleaning the van ready for returning it to Travellers Autobarn. When we arrived there I gave a list of things that didn't work or needed replacing in the van. The guy checking the van was very pleasant and when I gave him the list he said, "My girlfriend is always writing lists too" so I thought he would just bin it but later we had to go to the HQ along the road and the list was already with the man there. He did say he would arrange the refund for time off the road.
We went to the HQ to see if we could amend our booking for the next trip, April to June
During our conversation as we rearranged the itinerary, the man said he had seen my list and he explained that our first booking was through sta travel and that they advise sta not to let their older clients (he tactfully said, "those in their 50s and 60s") book the cheapest vans, but only the grade above. Looking at us in a very concerned way he said he just wanted to draw our attention to the fact that our next booking was in fact with a van from the bottom category. I think my jaw dropped, and after a stunned silence I was only capable of saying that it wasn't possible to get any lower and actually move! It had taken us a jump start, 3 emergency call outs and 5 morning starts driving across trafffic control bumps (to shake the brushes free in the alternator) to complete our journey
Sydney was much easier to visit than I had expected. We were camped south of the city and a multi travel pass for approximately £11 pounds each which enabled us to travel on all local buses, trains AND ferries for the day. That was wonderful as we hopped on and off ferries which took us under the Bridge, around the harbour, in front of the Opera House, and out to Manly and other beaches. Even better, the ferries had free wifi on board. We spent the day sightseeing and that was enough for me as I prefer to limit our time in cities. Unfortunately it was before the theatre/concert season started otherwise I would have loved to have attended a performance in the Opera House. Another time perhaps, and also to visit the museums.
After an easy flight we arrived in New Zealand. As usual, it is lovely to be with Richard and Beverley, and after being in a campervan, their spacious house is bliss! We have visited the cinema twice (Hitchcock, and Anna Karenina) to try and remedy our lack of cultural activities over the last couple of years and hired videos. The cinema here is much more sumptuous than in the UK, with chandeliers, soothing decor and huge comfortable armchairs, some with tables attached for your drinks.
One weekend we stayed with a couple of friends of B & R, Chris and Geoff. They live just outside Rotorua and took us sightseeing in the town, to a craft fair and, late one evening, to a hot pool. It was quite magical to lie in the water, head supported by a tyre, in the dark, looking up at the stars and enjoying the water which was about the temperature of a hot bath
Then it was time for Napier and the Art Deco Weekend. I won't say much more, just show a few pictures as we blogged about it 2 years ago. It is a lovely experience with lots of people dressed up in period costumes (didn't seem to matter too much about historical accuracy, more about fun), all ages from babies to octogenarians and everyone was very friendly and ready to chat as they "promenaded". Even I, (who usually dislike dressing up) was happy to join in wearing 4 different outfits over the 2 days and Jim the same, being particularly proud of his "uniform". We went to a dinner on the beach, listened to the bands and watched some of the competitions on the stage (The Shell) by the sea. It is a superb setting and the Art Deco architecture and lighting adds to the ambiance. More effort has been put into restoring buildings and we could see the improvement since 2008 as the money brought into the town by the Weekend assists with the renovation work. I hope we can come back again, perhaps in 2015.
It was just as well that we had had a chance to get to know Chris and Geoff beforehand,as through some oversight we had not realized that the self contained apartment (which was very well equipped with a kitchen, bathroom/laundry and lounge) able to sleep up to 7, had all the beds in the lounge
Whilst eating in the apartment we had an earthquake of 6.4 magnitude (but very deep and distant). I wouldn't have noticed if Geoff had not said, "we are having an earthquake". Never heard anyone say that for real before, and didn't know quite how to respond! It certainly brought my chewing to a stop! He was alerted by a mirror moving on the wall of another house that he could see through a window. Then I felt the table and chair moving slightly, almost as if a large lorry was rumbling by outside but with silence and no vehicle around. This was our first experience of an earthquake. It was because a large quake in 1930, followed by a fire, destroyed much of Napier that the town was rebuilt in the Art Deco style of the time and is now such a treasure.
So a shortish blog this time and no bird pictures some of you may be pleased to hear. We are off to Fiji next week for a month, more from there or when we return to NZ if no connection available on the islands.
ps I lied, I have included a couple of bird pictures but for the scene not the birds