Searching for locations: Queenstown Gardens, New Zealand

Queenstown Gardens are not far from the center of Queenstown.  They are just down the hill from where we usually stay at Queenstown Mews.

More often than not we approach the Gardens from the lakeside during our morning walk from the apartment to the coffee shop.  You can walk alongside the lake, or walk through the Gardens, which, whether in summer or winter, is a very picturesque walk.

There’s a bowling club, and I’m afraid I will never be that sort of person to take it up (not enough patience) and an Ice Arena, where, in winter I have heard players practicing ice hockey.

I’m sure, at times, ice skating can also be done.

There is a stone bridge to walk across, and in Autumn/Winter the trees can add a splash of color.

There is a large water feature with fountain, and plenty of seating around the edge of the lake, to sit and absorb the tranquility, or to have a picnic.

There are ducks in the pond

and out of the pond

and plenty of grassed areas with flower beds which are more colorful in summer.  I have also seen the lawns covered in snow, and the fir trees that line the lake side of the gardens hang heavy with icicles.

The land of the long white cloud

In a country that is renowned for clouds, and even having the nickname of ‘the land of the long white cloud’ there is always a few clouds hanging around, or, as on some of the days of our most recent holiday, more than a few.

Unfortunately, these were not snow clouds as my grandchildren had hoped.  They saw snow for the first time, but it may have been all that more special if it had snowed while they were there.

This day, was, for a while, dark and gloomy.  The rain threatened but never came.

This was a day of sporadic sunshine and a cold breeze

This was one of the better days, with sunshine in winter, and some spectacular landscapes on offer for keen photographers

This day had the odd lonely cloud hoping to make an impact

or clouds that just skimmed the surface of Lake Taupo at sunrise

Searching for locations: From the Presidential Suite to almost walking the plank, Auckland, New Zealand

This is something you don’t see every day of the week, or once in a lifetime, perhaps.

We arrived at the Hilton Auckland hotel somewhere between one and two in the morning after arriving from Australia by plane around midnight.

Sometimes there is a benefit in arriving late, and, of course, being a very high tier HHonors guest, where the room you book is upgraded.

This stay we got one hell of a surprise.

We got to spend the night in the Presidential Suite.

The lounge and extra bathroom.

Looking towards the private bathroom.

A bathroom fit for a King and a Queen

And the royal bed

There was a note to say that we should keep the blinds closed for privacy and that a ship would be arriving in the port, but I did not expect it to be literally fifty feet from our balcony.


Searching for locations: Just how hard can it be to see some snow?

You would think it is a relatively simple thing to get to the snow.

Of course, there are a few necessities like skis, boots, poles, and warm dry clothing, but that can all be bought or rented when you get there, or if you are an enthusiast, you already have the gear.

So, you get in the car, set the navigator, and off you go.  Till you get within 20 k of the ski field, it’s all plain sailing, everyone is excited, and mentally preparing.

Then it all starts to go sideways.

Those last few kilometers to the top are going to be arduous particularly if it’s been snowing and the roads are icy, but the weather is fine with blue skies and no recent snow falls.  Were expecting a slow drive and a parking spot.

The road is open.


So late in the morning, a sign at the bottom of the mountain warns all the car parks at the ski field are full, but we venture on anyway.

As you can see, the cars are parked so far away from the ski fields, the prospective skiers have to almost run a marathon before they get there!

And for some odd reason, we picked the very day everyone in New Zealand also wanted to go up to the ski fields so parking, even near the Chateau Tongariro was gone and there were endless cars looking for parking spots and traffic wardens had their hands full trying to keep traffic moving
So, for us and everyone else, everything stops at Chateau Tongariro, and from there the only vehicles allowed up are buses.

It’s about 10:30 and we are advised the only way we were getting to see snow was to take a bus

Now, there are two types of busses.  You can go up on a local bus, from Whakapapa Village that costs $20 a person which in the context of the cost of skiing not very much, but if you’re not, it’s quite expensive.

The second, one we were advised to use, operates from a place called National Park, about 9 km away, a snow shuttle that costs $6 each.  The trouble is by the time we were ready to go there, to catch a shuttle, there were no more shuttles.

We did not know what to expect when we got to ‘National Park’, but being a railway station makes sense.  It’s the only place with a very large carpark!

Oh, well, there’s always tomorrow.

Searching for locations: Taurangi, it’s an interesting town

Located at the bottom of Lake Taupo, in New Zealand, staying here would make more sense if you were here for the fishing, and, well, the skiing or the hiking, or just a relaxing half hour in the thermal pools.

I saw a sign somewhere that said that Taurangi was New Zealand’s premier fishing spot. I might have got the wrong, but it seems to me they’re right. On the other side of town, heading towards Taupo, there’s a lodge that puts up fly fishermen, and where you can see a number of them in an adjacent river trying their luck.

It’s what I would be doing if I had the patience.

But Taurangi is a rather central place to stay, located at the southernmost point of the lake. From there it is not far from the snowfields of Whakapapa and Turoa. Equally, at different times of the year, those ski fields become walking or hiking tracks, and the opportunity to look into a dormant volcano, Ruapehu.

It is basically surrounded by hills and mountains on three sides and a lake on the other. Most mornings, and certainly everyone is different, there is a remarkable sunrise, particularly from where we were staying on the lake, where it could be cloudy, clear, or just cold and refreshing, with a kaleidoscope of colors from the rising sun.

I don’t think I’ve been there to see two days the same.

However, Taurangi, on most days we’ve visited, is even more desolate than Taupo, both on the main street and the central mall. The same couldn’t be said for the precinct where New World, the local supermarket, a Z petrol station can be found. There it is somewhat more lively. The fact there’s a few more shops and a restaurant might help traffic flow.

There is also a mini golf course, and in the middle of winter, it is a bleak place to be, especially in the threatening rain, and the wind. It had also seen better days and in parts, in need of a spruce up, but it’s winter, and there are no crowds, so I guess it will wait till the Spring.

In the mall, there’s the expected bank, newsagent, gift shop and post office combined, and a number of other gift shops/galleries. But the best place is the café which I’ve never seen empty and has an extended range of pies pastries and cakes, along with the fast food staples of chips and chicken.
Oh, and you can also get a decent cup of coffee there.

There are two other coffee shops but we found this one the first time we came, we were given a warm welcome and assistance, and have never thought to go anywhere else, despite two known change of owners.

But despite all these reasons why someone might want to stay there, we don’t.

We have a timeshare, and there’s a timeshare in Pukaki called Oreti Village. That’s where we stay.

Searching for locations: Aratiatia Dam, Taupo, New Zealand

Aratiatia Dam water release, Taupo

The Aratiatia Dam, rapids, and hydroelectric power station are located on the Waikato River, New Zealand’s longest river.  It is about 16km from Taupo, and 6km from Huka falls, and there is a walking track, for the fit, of course, between the two water attractions.

This happens three or four times every day, depending on the season, and lasts about 15 minutes.  Water is released at the rate of about 80,000 liters a second, so it is quite a lot of water being sent through the rapids.

There are a number of viewing points, the most popular being from the bridge, where I took these photos, and 5 minutes down the walking track to the ridgeline where you can get an overview of the river.

This is looking towards the rapids, as the catchment leading to the rapids starts to fill

The pool is almost full and the excess is starting its journey towards the rapids

Now full, the rapids are at capacity as up to 80,000 liters a second are heading down a 28-meter drop heading towards the hydroelectric power station.

And once full at the bottom, there is a jet boat ride available for a closer view of the water, and a few thrills to go with it.

Searching for locations: Oreti Village – No two sunrises are the same (2)

Oreti village

Pukawa Bay

North Island, New Zeland

On the southern tip of Lake Taupo

Three days after we arrive.  Cold.  Red Sky.

A warning that the weather is going to change.  Will it be rain or snow?


It is as cold and peaceful as the first, but the sun is not yet shining.  All we have is this ethereal pinkish tinge to the sky


Before the first clouds appear.  The surface of the lake is like a mirror, reflecting the sky, and clouds.


How soon will it be before the boats begin to appear?

Searchings for locations: Oreti Village – no two sunrises are the same (1)

Oreti village, Pukawa Bay, North Island, New Zealand

On the southern tip of Lake Taupo

Our first morning there, a Saturday.  Winter.  Cold.  And a beautiful sunrise.


This was taken from the balcony, overlooking the lake.

The sun is just creeping up over the horizon


It gradually gets lighter, and then the sun breaks free of the low cloud

It lights up the balcony


And the trees just beyond, a cascade of colorful ferns.


It looks like its going to be a fine day, our first for this trip, and we will be heading to the mountains to see snow, for the first time for two of our granddaughters.

Searching for locations: Huka Falls, Taupo, New Zealand

Huka Falls is located in the Wairakei Tourist Park about five minutes north of Taupo on the north island of New Zealand.

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The Waikato River heading towards the gorge

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The water heading down the gorge, gathering pace

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until it crashes over the top of the waterfall at the rate of about 220,000 liters per second.  It also makes a very loud noise, so that when you are close to it, hearing anything but the falls is impossible.

Searching for locations: Kaikoura, New Zealand, and, of course, the whales

I’m sure a lot of people have considered the prospect of whale watching.  I’m not sure how the subject came up on one of our visits to New Zealand, but I suspect it was one one of those tourist activity leaflets you find in the foyer of motels, hotels, and guesthouses.

Needless to say, it was only a short detour to go to Kaikoura and check out the prospect.

Yes, the ocean at the time seemed manageable.  My wife has a bad time with sea sickness, but she was prepared to make the trip, after some necessary preparations.  Seasickness tablets and special bands to wear on her wrist were recommended and used.

The boat was large and had two decks, and mostly enclosed.  There were a lot of people on board, and we sat inside for the beginning of the voyage.  The sea wasn’t rough, but there was about a meter and a half swell, easily managed by the boat while it was moving.

It took about a half hour or so to reach the spot where the boat stopped and a member of the crew used a listening device to see if there were any whales.

That led to the first wave of sickness.

We stopped for about ten minutes, and the boat moved up and down on the waves.  It was enough to start the queasy stomachs of a number of passengers.  Myself, it was a matter of going out on deck and taking in the sea air.  Fortunately, I don’t get seasick.

Another longish journey to the next prospective site settled a number of the queasy stomachs, but when we stopped again, the swell had increased, along with the boat’s motion.  Seasick bags were made available for the few that had succumbed.

By the time we reached the site where there was a whale, over half the passengers had been sick, and I was hoping they had enough seasick bags, and then enough bin space for them.

The whale, of course, put on a show for us, and those that could went out on deck to get their photos.


By the end of the voyage, nearly everyone on board was sick, and I was helping to hand out seasick bags.

Despite the anti sickness preparations, my wife had also succumbed.  When we returned and she was asked if the device had worked, she said no.

But perhaps it had because within half an hour we were at a cafe eating lunch, fish and chips of course.

This activity has been crossed off the bucket list, and there’s no more whale watching in our traveling future.  Nor, it seems, will we be going of ocean liners.

Perhaps a cruise down the Rhine might be on the cards.  I don’t think that river, wide as it is in places, will ever have any sort of swell.