The open road

Day 1.  The long-suffering and I could hardly contain our excitement as the taxi dropped us off at the headquarters of Wilderness motor homes. We were greeted by Morgan and Max our very friendly and thorough service team, who aside from running through all the information and user instructions we would need, made us feel totally at ease and confident we had made the right choice in choosing ‘Wilderness’.

First sight of our chosen home on wheels did not disappoint, as she gleamed shiny white in the sun the open side door beckoned us in. Well equipped our cosy space was perfect. A few laughs were had as long-suffering got to grips with the important task of ‘how to loo empty’ – his designated job for the next four weeks!

Finally we were off, by the time our tutorial team waved us goodbye, with added bikes fixed on the back and complimentary goodie box, it was 1.30pm before we were able to leave Auckland behind. The long sufferings plan – I can take no credit for any aspect of this trip except for the packing – was to head north….

A wrong turn getting out of busy Auckland – even with the portable sat nav – sent me scrambling for the trusty road atlas, chief navigator was now added to my role as holiday companion. My head swelled with the importance but quickly deflated with the next of two more wrong turns on the open road, one sending us back in a loop the way we came. I blamed the breathtaking head-swivelling views coming at us with every turn on the long winding steep roads and my panic that we were going over the edge to the sheer drop below, for missing the signs.

Photo opportunities were in abundance but neither of us took them up so intent we were on arriving before dark at our first stop. Eventually tension abated as we reached our destination, intact as long-suffering knew we would despite his nervous and neurotic companion!

Uretiti beach D.O.C.- Department of conservation site. First stop – beautiful beach, sand dunes, quiet, few other campers, no T.V., rabbit activity to remind me of home and eaten veggies and long-suffering by my side, what more could a girl want?

Sky Tower

We had planned a leisurely walk to the sky tower for our first NZ dinner date. Asking the concierge for the best route thwarted our plan, it was apparently uphill all the way from our hotel, his charades impression of sweating man was enough to put the long-suffering off from walking anywhere ever again!

Grabbing a taxi, we were as cool as cucumbers and arrived at the tower refreshed and ready for the lift up to the main observation on 51st floor. Dining at the sky tower allows for a free viewing experience either 45 mins before or after your meal.

The tower itself stands 328m tall, our first stop would be 220m above sea level with 360 panoramic views out up to 80 kilometres in every direction. First though the lift…an experience in itself, travelling at 18kph it takes approx 40 sec to reach our destination, with a part glass floor looking down the diminishing shaft, and intermittent views out and down over the city it is not for the faint hearted – my long-suffering included who just happens to suffer greatly at altitude! The journey reminded him of the tower of terror ride our daughter forced him on in Orlando.

For my dear long-suffering it was about to get a lot worse, the views out and down from floor 51 were breathtaking, with clear skies we were afforded the complete viewing experience. In only two days great heights have been ever-present in our itinerary – this topping them all – a measure then of his fondness for me? He visibly paled, and repeatedly did the can I look down? No I can’t shuffle? All the while trying to compose the best shot. Me, I was happy to lay flat back against the huge glass windows or stand on the rectangular glass floor panels as his loving muse!

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Another nine floors up takes you to the Sky deck the highest view out, my suggestion of walking around the outside perimeter – yes that is a pre-bookable option, as is jumping off! – fell on deaf ears!

Our dinner date at the Orbit 360 revolving restaurant on the 52nd floor was altogether a more relaxing experience if a little weird at first especially as my grey matter could not work out which part was actually moving round. Luckily the long-suffering was on  his A-game rescuing my handbag from the outer ring before it took a solo tour round All the other diners!

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Our meal from the specials menu – lamb steak, mushrooms, creamy mash, mange tout and truffle sauce was delicious, the lamb cooked perfectly medium rare. Dessert – Pavlova, him, creme de menthe hot chocolate, me – liquor!

We did walk back to our hotel all down hill, luckily long-sufferings sense of direction is excellent, left up to me we would have ended uptown. He tuts repeatedly at me as he grabs my hand, harbour-side after all will not be found uphill!

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Tomorrow the real adventure begins as we pick up our Wilderness motor home for the Road Trip of a lifetime……..

Waiheke Island

 

The long sufferings carefully worked out itinerary for our second day hinged on us hiring two retro scooters to tour this very hilly, highly populated, second largest island in the gulf.  Neither of us had ever ridden any form of motorised two wheeled transport before, slightly worrying!

The ferry crossing over to Waiheke island from Auckland took about forty minutes on a flat calm sea.  Our arrival on the island started thus: bus to scooter pick up – long suffering leaves hat on bus, very morose, lots of grumbling, it’s his favourite! First hire place won’t hire to us  – big, beautiful, red scooters..not for novices..cases of accidents reported!! All was not lost they did recommend someone who might hire!

Long sufferings shoulders severely slumped as we made the short walk into town -his itinerary already on shaky ground. Sure enough on the forecourt of a shop that was in the process of being renovated six small scooters were lined up and strung together by a locked chain.

On a small chalkboard was the owners number to call. There followed a period of us both typical tourist – especially long suffering in his newly purchased emblazoned Waiheke cap – walking up and down the parade of shops in our quest for first a phone card – we ended up with a hopper bus one? And then a SIM card for the spare phone back in our hotel room! Eventually the deed was done, phone card purchased, box located, phone call made, and long suffering placated.

Brian when he arrived on his huge motorbike did not disappoint, a few wobbly moments ensued when a) he realised the road bikes we rode at home were actually push bikes and b) my trial ride saw me disappearing into the distance at a painfully slow, jolting 5mph my feet scooting either side.  Happily long-suffering saved the day and rode like he was born to it, the hire was on……

 

I would seriously recommend hiring scooters to get about. We covered the island over the day almost end to end. Stopping at secluded hidden coves, walking through wooded trails to get to some, exiting undergrowth we were treated to breathtaking views over the bay and beyond at every turn.

Scooters are a fun, safe – even in my wobbly hands – way to get around. We were our version of ‘easy riders’, teenagers again without a care in the world, as we followed – sometimes slowly uphill – the quiet steep winding roads snaking higher and then dropping downward to beautiful coastlines below.

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Recommended by Brian we spent time lazing on Onetangi beach a stunning 1.87km in length, of gorgeous soft golden sand and almost empty of other people. Two restaurant/bars either end – we tried them both -supplied us with tea and beer – only one – we did not want to be drunk in charge and add to the casualty count!

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All too soon it was time to head back, dropping off the bikes we caught the bus back to the ferry and joy of joys same bus, same driver = one lost favourite hat. The long suffering was elated a perfect end to a perfect day and we still had the Auckland sky tower to experience later………

 

Auckland

Our adventure begins…… Aside from the usual body search/pat downs as my metal hip set the security sensors into overdrive all my worries about surviving the long flight – elephant legs, blood clots, acute stiffness, plane crashing, hyperventilating over long hours in a confined space – thankfully came to nothing. Flying Air New Zealand, premium economy in their comfy adaptable space seats did much to soothe both hip and overactive imagination.

Clear blue sky was the forecast in Auckland and it didn’t disappoint. A quick shower and change of clothes and we were ready to explore. Our hotel concierge suggested a harbourside walk to the ferry terminal, from there we could catch the half hourly ferry over to Devonport and maybe climb two of the fifty or so volcanic cones Auckland is built on and around. Considering our lack of sleep we were feeling surprisingly energetic!

It was Auckland anniversary day – a public holiday – the quiet harbour would soon become a bustling hub of life as the biggest sailing regatta got underway.

The ferry crossing was short approx ten minutes. We decided to climb Mount Victoria first being the nearer of the two. The journey was straight up from the ferry drop  taking us past rows of quaint shops and cafes. The steep climb up to the top was well worth the stunning panoramic views out over Auckland to the sky tower in the distance and the Bay surrounding us, water sparkling between the many flotillas of sailing boats from small dinghys to stately yachts.

Ice cold beers beckoned on our descent in one of the cafes we passed on the way up,before walking back towards the harbours edge to continue our short tour of Devonports coast route.

Deciding north head – the second volcanic cone was within our range we walked on and up once more. Again the view from the top was just as stunning. Both were once fortified village sites with gun embankments and bunkers. The Navy still maintains a presence here today.

Back down at the waterfront there followed late lunch a tasty affair consisting of: venison burgers, chips and salad washed down with another refreshing ice cold beer, and the standard glass of water to dilute the alcohol effects!

The ferry back was a blustery affair, I was grateful for my hoody, not so the long-suffering who put a brave, now rather fast reddening – no holiday has ever been complete without his starter holiday glow – face as the cold wind whipped through us with the speed of the boat.

 

And so to bed……..zzzzzzzz

 

 

Packing Nightmares!

The long-suffering likes nothing better than planning our next holiday. Until I met him nearly 30 years ago Guernsey was the furthest I had traveled outside of the British Isles.

Since then most years we have been to a good many destinations in Europe and increasingly further afield with our family, friends or just us two!  Mostly a fortnight in duration – once or twice a few days longer – some city breaks a week or less.

Pre accident – ‘When we retire we will….’ Post accident – ‘Live life NOW while we can!’

Three years in the planning – and saving for – my long-suffering has booked and organised the holiday of holidays. We are going on a ‘Road Trip’ – five weeks traveling in a Wilderness motor home across New Zealand taking in the sights of first the North Island followed by the South. From there we fly to Australia for two weeks, Brisbane – visiting family, Sydney, Gold Coast and Whitsunday Islands. Finally from Sydney we fly to Thailand for ten days – the wind down before we get back in the real world once more!

The logistics – both of us are self-employed, eight plus weeks is a long time without pay! The long-suffering works freelance in the media industry on short and long contracts. He is booked sometimes months in advance as one job finishes the next starts. Luckily on our return a new long contract starts, editing the series Monkey Life at Monkey World in Dorset.

Winter is the best time for me to be away from work – often the weather is against me – the gardens I maintain have been put to bed until spring and winter planting design is complete.

Our countdown is now single figures, I cannot ignore the dreaded task of packing any longer….. so what to take?

A whole day! The time it took to put together my ‘capsule wardrobe’.      

The negatives – a trashed bedroom, dressing and undressing multiple times all day is exhausting and demoralising the mirror does not lie!

The positives – another thing to tick off the list, I may sleep easier, in the packing process I have culled my wardrobe with…….

  • Items that no longer fit – too small, too big??
  • Items past their sell by date – falling apart, discoloured, swimwear so thin as to be transparent – not a good look at my age!
  • Items bought in shops with mirrors that lie obviously!

Everything, well almost everything is laying on the bed ready, this weekend a practice bag pack will reveal how well I calculated the available space – if a cull is needed, or rubbing hands gleefully an addition can go in!

On my return from our travels I will be able to truthfully report on the success of my ‘capsule wardrobe’………. Packing List will follow….MAYBE!