Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Beaches, big trees and I ran!

Auckland Hilton 5 star anniversary went by way too quickly. H & I spent New Year’s Day just hanging out in our fantastic hotel robes on the fantastic deck watching the boats come in enjoying the day. We ordered room service since we had gone out to eat the night before at a great place overlooking the harbor. We celebrated the bringing in of the New Year and our anniversary, which is always conveniently on NYE! It has been many a year since room service has been part of our vocabulary. I loved that Hilton so much H even bought me the little Hilton Teddy Bear that was on our pillow when we arrived. It was outrageously expensive but I am sure they sucker in many softies like me into buying the cute little things! One of our best anniversaries ever and it was our 18th. So after 3 nights of prompt service, electric blinds, soap that smells like a spa (including a loofah), the killer view in the anniversary suite, we hit the road.

After spending an hour in the Avis line to get the car (they were suppose to deliver it), we finally got a little Toyota. Not the Pre-Ass mind you, but close enough (Corolla). This will be our home for the next 3 weeks. We left Auckland and apparently so did everyone else there late that morning. The guy who picked us up at the airport the day before “Uncle” told us to hit the road early to avoid traffic. What did he know? A lot I guess because a 4 hour trip took about 6 hours to our next destination, Kerikeri, Northlands, New Zealand. This is on the east coast of the North Island of NZ. It is close but not next to the ocean (now the Pacific Ocean). The scenery on the drive got better and better as the greenery is stunning and mountainous views became more and more interesting. I was a bit stressed about halfway into the drive as the road became more windy and sharp turns and one way bridges abound. Riding on the left side of the road when you are the passenger is a nail biting experience. I finally took the wheel and calmed down a bit while H bit his nails for awhile.

We finally arrived at the Bed (that is “beed” in NZ) and Breakfast, the Summer House where our delightful hosts, Christine and Rod greeted us and helped us settle into our new abode, a suite with a garden view that is unbelievable right out our back door. The room was great (not the Hilton). Our hosts were the best part. Rod had many facts about the history of New Zealand which is fascinating in itself. A country not so old, again a story of the British coming and taking over the natives although this time the natives seemed to appreciate it a bit more from what I can gather. The first day in Kerikeri, we drove to the touristy section Pahaiu (sp?) which was not so impressive on the Harbor so we took off down the ocean and found our own little secluded beach to have a picnic lunch. It was so relaxing..no flies..OMG that is such a treat after Australia!! The Pacific Ocean is considerably colder so did not swim but lay on the beach for hours. Afterwards, we went to a fantastic place for dinner, where we met up with some of our B&B mates and had dinner with them. They were a delightful English couple, traveling like we are throughout NZ.

The following AM we thought it just may be time for us to start running again. Our gracious host Rod, is a very fit 71 year old man, who just happened to know a great place to run, probably 5-6 miles round trip up to some pretty nice Falls. We invited him to join us and he did! Although he kept saying he would “hold us back”-Ha! He is in great shape and since the last time I actually “ran" was many weeks ago (walking the marathon at IMWA does not count), I did pretty well! We made it to the top of Falls in no time and despite a bit of rain running felt great!

Afterwards, we were suppose to go out on a boat for some dolphin viewing and view of the “Bay of Islands” , the general area we were in but after a conversation with the captain and something about “gale force winds” and rain in the forecast just did not sound like fun for a 3 hour tour on the ocean to us so we skipped that. H found instead a great Museum of the heritage of the “Maori” people, indigenous to the area, where we spent a cultural afternoon learning and enjoying entertainment from the local natives. Beautiful grounds, great art in the “meeting house”. It was a place I will remember about the history of New Zealand. Again another fantastic seafood restaurant where H wolfed down giant mussels as big as your hand, another favorite of the area. Since I had run that morning, I justified a huge piece of cheesecake afterward with little guilt.

Yesterday morning we said goodbye to our amazing hosts at the "Summer House" and made our way over to the west coast of the North Island. We stopped at a cozy little cafĂ© for Espresso on the River which led to the ocean. It was quaint and a great stop on our way to the big show, which was an amazing Reserve on our way to the “forest.” At the top of this Reserve was a view of the mouth of the river and then the Ocean crashing against the rocks on the other sides with sand dunes and green mountains all in a 360 degrees picture perfect-almost too much to take in-experience. It seems like every beach or ocean view we see on this trip is better than the last. I almost can’t take it all in and the pictures again do not do New Zealand justice.

We soon entered the “Waipoa Forest” which took us up and down hairpin turns (H used the word “harrowing”) for a good 45 minutes and I was a bit seasick by the time we got to our current location, The “Waipoa Lodge” at the edge of the forest. It is another write home about accommodation, complete with its own “Rain Forest” bush walk which words cannot describe..

We went for a “Night Bush Walk” last night. It was guided with a local Maori native, who explained the history and information about the “Kauri” trees, big OLD trees in this dense forest. The oldest one was 4000 years old, which was magnificent and as majestic as can be. Was spiritual in a way but I think the mosquitoes got the better of us by the end. I ended up with massive bites on my legs and by the time we got home I was itching like crazy. I hardly slept last night, it was so cold in our room. I didn’t realize it would be so much colder here near the “forest” (duh) and did not find the room heater until this AM. So a restless night to say the least. We are off back south to the east warmer side of the North Island again tonight so more fabulous beaches I would imagine…It will be more toward the southern end, where we will be for 2 nights.

More later..