Two Walks, Two Dips in the Sea

I didn’t make it, but Jyoti was up early today to watch the sunrise. She joined in with all the activities on offer, as well as a few of her own invention. Balancing on one foot without falling over is a skill we should all adopt.

The main event today was the walk up to North Head. The three of us set off hoping to reach the end and to arrive at the Quarantine Station before it became too hot.

On the path down to Collins Beach, we saw warnings about 1080 poison and ‘soft jaw traps’ being present in an effort to eradicate foxes. Not very nice for the foxes, but who are the vermin who brought them to Australia in the first place?

There were just a couple of people on the beach as we walked by and up the hill again, past the Australian Institute of Police Management and on to the Barracks Project.

Possibly the only bandicoot we’ll see

We walked on through the moving War Memorial area to Fairfax Lookout which looks towards South Head over the entrance to Sydney Harbour from the Tasman Sea.

Jyoti and Liesel walking towards Sydney

In the distance, you can see Sydney’s skyline, including Sydney Tower where we were to venture later on. (Oops, spoiler alert.)

I’m glad I’m no longer a postman and really glad I’m not nine feet tall. As a postie, one of the hazards of the job was walking face-first into spiders’ webs, carefully wrought overnight, across paths to people’s front doors. Here, in the heathland, the spiders make their webs higher than our heads, but it’s still a bit worrying walking underneath, you never know whether one of those gigantic arachnids might drop down your neck.

Just one of many big spiders just hanging around

Jyoti was heard to say something along the lines of “I won’t be going for a walk in the woods”, because of the spiders.

We were on the lookout for lizards too, but no luck there.

North Head view
Sydney viewed from North Head

After lunch, accompanied by a turkey, we walked down to the Quarantine Station. Jyoti and I went for a walk along the beach and on hearing the siren call, I ripped off my clothes and plunged into the briney sea to cool off. We looked at the shells on the beach, the barnacles and the limpets on the tidal rocks. Realising the tide was coming in, I recovered my clothing from the secluded rock and we went back to rejoin Liesel.

Oh to be in quarantine

The Q Station itself is very interesting, and as the poem shows, humour didn’t totally desert people struck down by horrendous diseases.

While waiting for the ferry, we had a drink in the café where I was horrified to see that they serve alcohol to mynas.

Myna on the mooch

We enjoyed the Fast Ferry ride to Circular Quay but I was horrified to see the slow ferry fart a large cloud of black smoke.

The Famous Manly Ferry

SailGP launched over two days here in Sydney Harbour. Six international teams, including GB and Australia compete in identical supercharged F50 catamarans. They can exceed 50 knots. While the race is on, we mortals on workaday ferries have to slow down to 6 knots. Which is great when you’re not in a hurry and want to get some photos! Unfortunately, at the time, I didn’t really know what was going on so photos of the racing boats will have to wait until later. (Oops, spoiler alert.)

Our new boat

We gawped at The Explorer of the Seas, docked in Circular Quay with its 3000+ passengers and scientists on board. Even though it was only one stop, we caught a train to be closer to Sydney Tower.

Model inside Sydney Tower

I last visited this building in 1986, with Sarah and 2-year old Jenny, when it was known as Centrepoint. Then, we were amazed that we could see the airport in the distance. From the viewing deck today, though, I couldn’t see the airport either because the Sun was too bright or because Sydney has literally grown, mainly upwards, in 33 years.

View from Sydney Tower
View of and from Sydney Tower

I won’t be trying Betty’s Burgers any time soon, I’d be worried about the ingredients, and not just the meat.

Betty’s Burgers and … what?

In the evening, we met up with Helen and Adam at Mex and Co, a restaurant that we’d been to before, overlooking Manly Beach.

The following day’s long walk was from Coogee Beach to Bondi Beach, along the east coast, in the full glare of the Sun.

Coogee Beach
Bali Memorial at Coogee Beach

This fascinating, intricate sculpture is a memorial to the 88 Australians killed in the Bali bombing of 2002.

Clovelly Beach’s clear water

There are several beaches along this walk, all gorgeous, all tempting, the water was clear, but we held off until we reached Bronte Beach. Here, there’s a small ‘pool’ separated from the main thrust of the sea by well-placed rocks.

Bronte Beach

Jyoti and I jumped in for a quick, refreshing dip. What I hadn’t anticipated though was that the water was so shallow, my knees would graze the rocks below. We walked to the next refreshment opportunity where, to remove the taste of sea water, I indulged in a chocolate milkshake.

We walked through Waverley Cemetery and mourned the loss of so many people at such a young age. Most of the graves are over 100 years old but the most recent is from only a couple of years ago.

Occasionally, the path approaches a cliff edge and one of us was brave/daft enough to venture that little bit closer to the edge.

Jyoti living life on the edge

And finally, round the corner, we saw Bondi Beach in the distance.

Bondi Beach, a welcome sight

Adam had recommended a place to eat. I had no ID so I wasn’t allowed in. L&J had theirs, they got in and had a lovely salad. I’m not looking for sympathy, but in the first place I went to, the staff looked up and continued to chat with each other. The next one thought the idea of takeaway coffee was infra dig. But I did eventually find coffee and a biscuit.

We’d travelled by ferry and bus to Coogee and we returned by bus and ferry.

In the harbour, the SailGP races were taking place and again, the ferries had to slow right down.

China and GB catamarans
Australia and France cats

Helen is Manly’s top hairdresser and she offered to give me a much-needed trim. As usual, it was the perfect haircut and I am very happy with my hair. My offer to return the favour was declined.

The Australian mangoes were described by Jyoti as being aphrodisiac while Liesel suggested that they should ideally be eaten in the bath, naked. (It’s a long story.)

This was our final evening in Manly, for the time being, and as the weather was so good, we had a barbecue down by Manly Cove beach. Helen prepared all the food and Adam barbecued the meat, corn on the cob and veggie sausages, thereby gaining credit for all the work, as is the way with bbqs.

Adam looking for his head under the barbie
Helen, Jyoti, Adam, Mick, Liesel

We enjoyed watching the Sun set, the sky change colour and as it got darker, we visitors were surprised to see bats flying back to the tree we were under, that being their roost for the night.

Sunset, what a stunner
Looking up at the bat tree
Gotta be quick to catch a bat!

While sitting there, leaves and twigs fell from the tree and Liesel especially was pleased that (a) they all missed her and (b) it wasn’t bird deposit, something she has a magnetic attraction for.

Wide Sky for Anna

Back at the flat, we were treated to Amarula, a cream liqueur from South Africa made with sugar, cream and the fruit of the African marula tree. It was very tasty, very more-ish.

A perfect end to our week in Manly, thank you for your hospitality, Helen and Adam. And congrats again, Adam, on your exciting new job! Cheers!!

One night here, while unable to drift off to sleep, I calculated that on October 30 last year, I was exactly twice as old as Helen. I need to check my mental arithmetic of course, but while that’s an exciting revelation, I felt sad that I hadn’t realised at the time!

Koala Park

It rained overnight, dusty rain, the wind had brought dust in from the desert. There was a slight orange haze in the distance, but it didn’t cause us any problems.

L&J (Liesel and Jyoti) (I thought it was about time I used an abbreviation to avoid having to type both their names over and over, thus, saving time, effort and power, thereby reducing the carbon footprint of this blog, doing my bit) had pedicures and other beautifying treatments while I walked down to the library to write.

By the Manly Cove beach, there was a man feeding birds. He wanted to feed the cockatoos, but the pigeons outnumbered and out-bullied them. The man fought back with a stick. Waving it and throwing it at the pigeons. In the end, he threw his arms in the air. When they came down again he walked off.

Cockatoos v pigeons
Chicken (my birding correspondent will correct me, I’m sure)

Thank goodness the days of totally quiet libraries have gone, otherwise my keyboard would have been deemed the most offensive item. But there were children in one corner singing songs, and in another, someone was reading stories to a separate group of children.

A propos of nothing at all, some nominative determinism in Manly

Sitting next to me was a very smelly man. Not BO, but his coat had absorbed the smoke of a million cigarettes. He popped out a couple of times for a puff and during these intervals I tried to make head or tail of the notes he was reading. He’s a budding musician, and one day, all these (non-musical) notes will be turned into wonderful music. One day. I won’t hold my breath. And I won’t breach his copyright but his doodles, cartoons, random words, phone numbers, games of hangman and other miscellany might well become a beautiful symphony. Equally, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were to become a horrible, noisy cacophony.

I walked around Manly for a short time and sat down with a coffee and biscuit to listen to a real musician. This lady had a good voice, not very strong, perhaps, for busking, but I enjoyed her rendition of songs from many eras.

Pleasant busking at lunchtime

When I met up with L&J later back at the flat, I admired their new eyelashes and painted toenails, and I hope I didn’t miss anything.

Sunset over Manly Cove

I was up at 3am as is often the case (biological requirements) and I woke up again at 5.50. Perfect. I got up, got dressed, got myself out of the house and walked down to Manly Beach. I walked all the way along to Queenscliff hoping to see the glorious sunrise.

Well, there was 100% cloud cover at the time, but as the Sun rose, the clouds parted and small patches of blue appeared. I had fun with my camera, trying to capture the perfect shot of the Sun rising out of the Tasman Sea.

Sunrise over Manly Beach

What was impressive though was the large number of mostly fit and mostly fit, young people up and out so early, each participating in their activity of choice. I did feel sorry for those who had to go to work later on. Boozers, losers and jucuzzi users, the human race was well represented here.

Some were on the beach playing volleyball, though not fully undressed as is the customary outfit. There were yoga classes, tai chi, some folks exercising with “towels and sticks”, weighlifters and the ubiquitous muscle man doing his thing while looking around to see who was watching. A few, more mature, men were power-walking, just look at me baby, swinging these arms, swinging these arms.

Sticks and towels may break my…

There were surfers, cyclists, cyclists carrying their sufboards, dog-walkers, skate-boarders, skate-boarders being towed by their dogs.

Surfers

In the pool at the Queenscliff end of the beach, swimming lessons were taking place. One learner kept apologising for running out of breath. I feel your pain, brother.

The best job probably belongs to the tractor-driver, cleaning the beach.

Tractor cleaning the beach

There were other people taking photos of the sunrise too, some with phones (eg, me) but a couple had the whole kit, big camera, zoom lens, tripod. Amongst the more esoteric activities were pushing over a tree and sleeping in a children’s playground.

Tree pusher
Sleeping in a playground

Back at the flat, some cockatoos were making a noise on the neighbour’s balcony.

Sulphur-crested cockatoo

It was still early in the day and the main activity after 9.00 was attempting to buy tickets for Elton John in concert, in Sydney, in a year’s time. His three-year Farewell Yellowbrick Road tour is very popular. We both sat there watching the wheels go round and round, but eventually, Helen was successful in her quest. I looked at the prices for shows in the UK. We’ll see…

Helen took the three of us to Koala Park where we had a great time making friends with the animals. The park suffered substantial damage recently in strong winds, but no animals nor humans were injured.

Koala

The koalas are very cute, very soft, very sleepy. I didn’t ask the guide whether it was true that all koalas suffer from chlamydia. I do know that we washed our hands quite frequently.

Cassowary

The kangaroos weren’t interested in the food we’d purchased especially for them. But the goats enjoyed it and one of the caged cockatoos was quite happy to receive some free feed too.

While it was interesting to see a wombat, he wasn’t very photogenic, lying on his back with his wedding tackle on full display.

I made friends with a kookaburra, his laugh was fantastic, we all laughed along. Guess what my new ringtone is?

Kookaburra sits in the old aviary

Here I am feeding an emu.

Mick and emu

I feel that I am now on good terms again with the emu race. When I first visited Australia in 1986, I was chased around by Gonzo the emu who thought I had food in my camera bag. (At least, I think that’s what he thought. In the photo, the overall shape of me with a camera bag on my back is very similar to that of a sexy female emu…)

There were some reptiles too, wallabies, a café and the whole place isn’t too big, we came away without feeling that we’d missed out on something.

In the evening, Adam joined us for a picnic down on the grass by the beach. It was very pleasant, bread, cheese, dips, chips and a wonderful sunset.

Helen, Jyoti, Liesel and Mick

To Manly

It was wonderful to finally meet Helen at Sydney Airport. Not only had there been a couple of minor hiccups, the day itself was a milestone. Helen’s Mum, Sarah, and I married exactly 40 years ago today. The maelstrom of memories and emotions never really threatened to overwhelm, but it was there, just below the surface.

State Highway 25 next to the sea

We left Brett and his challenging kettle at Te Rerenga, drove through Coromandel Town and stopped for a break in Thames.

Jesus would have a great time here

Challenging kettle? Yes, the safety mechanism was kaput so you had to hold down the switch to reach boiling temperature. For a couple of days, you also had to hold down the lid, and when the kettle realised we were leaving, it forced us to hold down the lid again. It’s always a wonderful feeling when you can beat inanimate objects at their own little games.

Rocky beach that we didn’t sunbathe on

We had to return the car with a full petrol tank. The range of prices in NZ is very wide. Today, we paid $1.85 per litre, but we have paid $2.09 elsewhere. Anything about NZ we won’t miss? Yestailgatingdrivers.

I’m sorry we never adopted the kiwi national costume: gum boots, though.

Golfer in gum boots (hope he didn’t get a hole in one)

But then, we never played golf either. The rest of the photos taken that day were of the rental car: we caused no significant damage, but the loose chippings and gravel on some of the roads were always a little bit worrying.

We had a good flight, landed a little late at Sydney but we had gained two hours by travelling west across the Tasman Sea. Welcome to West Island, as some kiwi maps label Australia!

The machine accepted my passport, but the photo taken could ‘not be identified’ so I had to join another queue.

Most people’s bags turned up quickly on the carousel, but not ours. We waited and waited, along with about thirty or forty other people. When challenged, I assured the security guy that I was waiting for my bags but found it easier to walk around than to stand around.

Helen drove us to her luxury apartment in Manly where again, we were stunned (in a good way) by the view from her balcony. Adam had prepared pizza for us which was very welcome.

Our first trip the following, beautiful, day was to Brookvale, to the shopping mall. I got a SIM card for my phone. Liesel didn’t: we thought we could manage with just one.(Spoiler alert: we can’t. Liesel will be SIMmed up very soon too.)

Fish bones at Westfield

Helen, Liesel and I went for a gentle walk at Curl Curl beach, where the sea was rough, the sand was warm and the sky was blue.

Curl Curl Beach

We saw our first interesting, exotic, Aussie birds, today.

Wagtail
Australian Magpie
Bush turkey

Before we left home in England, I read a book written by an American couple. They’d travelled around Australia with a view to seeing, and listing, 400 species of birds and other animals. We’re up to 3 so far. No intention of reaching 400: we have no such target.

We met Jyoti who’d been staying with cousins elsewhere in Sydney for a week. We’ll be travelling with her for the next month or so to far-flung places. But tonight, we all went for a meal at Manly Skiff Club, or to give it its full name, Manly 16ft Skiff Sailing Club. We watched the Sun set on our first full Aussie day while I drank two, yes, two pints of beer and ate a huge chickpea burger and chips. Helen’s fish and chips was huge too. And Monday is $10 steak day which might help explain why the venue was so busy!

It’s a short walk up a short hill to the apartment, but after accompanying Helen to Coles to buy some ice cream, it was hard for this old duffer. I was just keeping up with Helen, she said she was walking at my pace but, phew, I got my breath back eventually.

One day, I will get up early to watch the Sun rise over the beach, but for now, getting up and meeting Jyoti at 7am was early enough. She’s staying an an Airbnb just over the road from Helen and Adam, very convenient.

We walked to Shelly Beach, admiring all the hundreds of people up for an early stroll, or swim.

Bright Sun over Shelly Beach
Early morning swim club

Some folks had their work suits hanging from the trees, waiting for them to emerge from the water.

Sea water pool with Manly in the background

The forecast was for today to be the hottest February day ever. And it was. 32° by the time we’d walked back to The Corso.

Liesel and Jyoti chatting on the beach

Plans to walk as far as Queenscliff were quickly shelved in favour of breakfast. And where better to go than Three Beans Café, my favourite coffee shop from previous visits.

Helen was working at home today, so Liesel and I returned for a quick shower and departed so that we’d be out of her hair (and out of her client’s hair).

Phew, what a scorcher. There are a million ways of saying it, and I think we covered them all during the course of the day.

Jyoti, Liesel and I caught the ferry and seeing the Harbour Bridge for the first time, for me at least, was a magical moment. Yes, Helen drove us over it yesterday, but somehow, that’s not the same.

Selfie of the day

Adam started a new job this week (rotten timing with us visitors) and I think he still appreciates the commute into Sydney: it’s still far better than the Waterloo and City Line in London.

After disembarkation at Circular Quay, we first walked around to the Opera House. There are a couple of interesting shows coming up, but we won’t be around for one about John Lennon.

Sydney Opera House
Ooh this looks good, especially the feathers

So on this, the hottest day ever, we walked through Sydney to Darling Harbour. This wasn’t a random wander, we were going to visit Sealife Aquarium.

Ibis looking good, especially the feathers

Inside, I recognised it as a place I’d visited previously, and I think it was with my sister a few years ago. But the name, Sealife Aquarium, doesn’t really register as being something really special or different, not in my mental filing system anyway!

Squeakiest shoes in the Aquarium

<ph squealky shoid squeakiest

Hagfish, the snottiest fish in the Aquarium
Fat-bellied seahorse
Eastern water dragon

Sometimes, you can see eastern water dragons along the walk to Shelly Beach. We weren’t so lucky today, so it was good to see one here, albeit in a tank. Jyoti’s not a big fan of reptiles, so probably didn’t appreciate this exhibit as much as I did.

Jyoti and Liesel outshone by a stingray

This one took some staging. Jyoti and Liesel can talk the hind legs off a donkey so it was easier for me to jump into the aquarium, and position the stingray right behind them so that I could take the picture.

Seaspray, so refreshing

The ferry back to Manly Wharf was cooler and the spray on the window led us to think that a nice drop of rain would be very welcome right now!

37° was the highest temperature recorded today, in the end. In the evening, I went for a quick swim in the sea, as did Adam. Liesel and Jyoti had left earlier, but I couldn’t find them anywhere along the beach on the Wharf side. I did enjoy the sunset again, and I was pleased to see that a lady was taking a photograph of a seagull perching on a pole with the Sun right behind: just the sort of silly picture I like taking!

Although I wasn’t particularly hungry after this morning’s huuuge veggie breakfast and last night’s huuuge burger, I did consume half of a Fish Bowl. Helen bought them on the way home from work (she had visited more clients later in the day) and each bowl contains salad, rice, noodles, tofu, fish, you decide what you want, and the ‘normal’ size bowl is plenty for me. In fact, too much: Liesel finished mine!

The strong wind that appeared as if from nowhere, late afternoon, stopped just as suddenly. But we heard it again during the night, but strangely, we didn’t hear the birds that had woken us up the first morning here.

Just a quick note about the musical soundtrack in our car. We’re in the Ns now. The final song we heard when we dropped the car off was Nomad Blood by Martha Tilston. That’s us, that is, we have a bit of nomad blood right now, plus a spot of wanderlust together with the travel bug. Perfect!

Mary, Mathilde and Matilda

When I was growing up, most maps of the world were Mercator Projection. It made the UK look really big and important. Greenland was the same size as Africa. Australia loomed large and pink, the home to an aunt (I later found out there were two aunts and their families) and a place of extreme mystery. In the bottom right hand corner of the map, there was a little pink semi-colon. Later on, we would come to think of New Zealand as Australia’s poor little next-door neighbour.

This, the Land of the Long White Cloud, has hosted entertained us for two months, and we love it. Everywhere we go, the views are stunning, the Sun is in the sky: why oh why would I wanna be anywhere else? Yes, we missed Lily Allen in concert in Auckland last weekend, but the song must have been in the air somehow.

View over Coromandel Harbour towards Auckland

Our final three days in New Zealand are coming to an end. As ever, we know we’re moving on very soon and we know we’ll be homesick for the old place for a short while. This, despite the rain. Yes, it actually rained over night and into the day. But people have been talking about a drought here and we even saw the unusual spectacle of a golf course where the greens had been allowed to turn brown.

We returned to Coromandel Town, partly because that’s where the nearest Post Office is located, inside a supermarket and sharing its counter with a bank. Also, it’s the only way to visit Thames: there aren’t many roads to choose from.

On the way, we saw a whole flock of oystercatchers on a beach. Beaches on this, west, side of the Peninsula are mainly rocks and stones, whereas those on the east side have all been sandy.

A large number of oystercatchers
Thames big chessboard

We had lunch in Thames at a place run by a couple from Melbourne.

Cafe Melbourne

We’ll get to the real Melbourne very soon.

Hairdresser and philosopher services

I had to see the River Thames, so named by James Cook because it reminded him of London’s River Thames. It was wide and had water in it, but there was nothing like a St Paul’s Cathedral next to it, nor a QE2 Bridge over it.

Probably the worst picture of a river ever taken, from a moving car on a bridge

We decided to drive back home continuing in an anti-clockwise direction around the Peninsula. One of the main attractions here is the high point, The Pinnacles. We saw these high, almost vertical rocks from a distance but because of the road conditions, we weren’t able to get too close. There are plenty of walking and hiking trails, some of which take several hours, or even days. The old kauri forest would have been a fantastic sight, can’t wait to see the newly planted trees in a couple of thousand years time.

Pinnacles
Pinnacles

On the other hand, the view from one pull-out (layby) was obscured by trees which I thought was slightly ironic.

Can’t see the Pinnacles for the trees

Sometimes, I’m quick enough to take a photo of an exotic bird, and even though she was driving, Liesel spotted this heron before I did. It watched me watching it but cooperated by not flying away.

Heron looking into a well

We ended up back at our local beach, Whangapoua. As we did the following day. The weather conditions could not have been more different for our two visits.

What a difference a day makes (1)
What a difference a day makes (2)

We walked along the beach and made friends with a dotterel and her two chicks. They’re very wary of people (quite right) but they have no speed between standing still and running at 90mph: even the baby!

Mummy dotterel

This Island still looks more like a whale to me than a lump of pumice, but as they didn’t invite me to join the naming committee, I guess we’re stuck with Pungapunga.

Pungapunga Island should be Whale Island

I was hoping to make some new friends at New Chum Beach. I waded through the Pungapunga River as it flowed across the beach, that was OK. Not so good were the rocks that formed the route to Wainuiototo, especially as I was wearing flip-flops. I tried going barefoot, but the rocks were round and a bit slippery. New Chum Beach will have to wait until next time.

Rocky path to New Chum Beach, Wainuiototo

On the way back, I was pleased to bump into my old friend, the dotterel chick from yesterday.

Babby dotterel

There were a few people swimming in the sea… well, being bumped about by the waves. But one guy was having a great time kite-surfing.

Kite-surfing

And we found out what happened to the ozone layer above New Zealand. The kite-surfer was using it.

That’s enough of that

After walking the length of the beach and back, I found this lady sitting on the beach.

Liesel waiting for her ice-cream

On request, I went to the local shop to buy us ice lollies. It’s got to the time now where we’re trying to spend all our New Zealand coins.

We drove back to the b&b for the final time, unloaded everything from the car, wondered how we’re going to fit it all into our bags and moved on to something else.

One thing we miss in the car is Billy Connelly’s voice coming from the GPS (satnav). The Google lady gets it wrong sometimes, getting her left and right mixed up sometimes. One place she took us to was totally wrong too. When required, Billy tells us to do a U-turn when we can. Google just recalculates a whole new route, which might entail a U-turn eventually, but it might be a long way off.

Music news coming up… not for everyone.

One more thing we won’t do before we leave NZ is to reach the end of the music on my device, which we’re still playing in alphabetical order by song title. No Zs before the end of NZ.

We’re in the Ms right now but should make significant progress tomorrow on our nearly 3-hour drive to drop the car off at Auckland Airport.

The first few Ks were all Hawaiian, Ka something. Ms include Mary, Mathilde and Matilda. We’ve had some surprise Christmas songs too, which I’d forgotten were there: Let it Snow, Let it Snow and Mele Kalikimaka for example. Four, yes, four different versions of Life on Mars? were followed by Life on the Moon!

We need a wider selection: we have no Crowded House, to name but one kiwi band. And we’re about to split NZ too.

A Handful of Wonder

More beaches, not to be sniffed at. Well, mostly.

The first was half and half black and white sand. And the black sand was unbearably hot underfoot, even with flip-flops on. The thought of lying down on a blanket here was not appealing. And, as I have no photos, I guess it didn’t strike us as being particularly photogenic either. So after a quick walk, we made our way to Kuaotunu.

Kuaotunu Beach

This was much more pleasant and far more intersting. Northern New Zealand dotterels are an endangered species with just about 250 pairs on the Coromandel Peninsula. We were really lucky to see a pair, and what we believe to be the last chick, almost ready to fledge. It really was wonderful to see such a rare bird, and to be absolutely certain.

Two rare dotterels

One chick to fledge
More info

Finally, we found the Hot Water Beach. Naturally heated water occurs just below the surface on the beach, and two hours either side of low tide, you can dig a hole and climb into your own naturally hot spa. No, we didn’t. No shovel. We could have rented one, but we didn’t. Instead, we tried a couple of deserted holes only to find the water was no longer hot.

Liesel v lagoon to reach Hot Water Beach

People digging holes and maybe getting into hot water

This was a nice beach for a longer walk though, as we watched people swimming, falling off surf boards and especially enjoying the young men watching their girlfriends dig the holes.

There was one variable oystercatcher who bravely walked up to the water’s edge, but then ran back up the beach as the waves came in, his little legs going round and round like a cartoon bird’s.

Oystercatcher doesn’t like getting his feet wet

On the way back home, we stopped near Coroglen, formerly Gumtown for a picnic lunch by the banks of the Waiwawa. We said g’day to a couple who walked by but I was taken by surprise a few minutes later when I walked over to take pictures of the river, only to find the lady bathing in it.

Waiwawa River

Later on, I went down to Whangapoua for some groceries. Well, one item, one grocery.

Let’s confuse a Victorian time-traveller

If Charles Dickens or any other Victorian were to visit the shop, they would look up at the list of wares in total wonder. What the Dickens is all that stuff?

While in the vicinity, I further investigated the Pungapunga River as it flows into the sea, opposite Pungapunga Island. This beautiful Maori word means ‘pumice’ but, because of all the seaweed on the nearby beach, I bet most people say it should be Pongaponga. It was a bit strong and definitely not to be sniffed.

Pungapunga Island

Most people? No, probably just me.

Nighttime brought its own wonders. The sky was stunning, spelt g, o, r, g, e, o, u, s. It was so dark here, I couldn’t even see where to walk outside. And, there were no nightlights to worry about, just the odd car going by. Yes, I took some photos but mostly, I just looked up in wonder, agape and a-gawp, pondering life, the universes and everything. Not even the mosquitoes spoiled the moment. I suspect the rustling in the nearby bush was nothing more harmful than a hedgehog: it may have been a kiwi, they do live around here, but I didn’t want to frighten anything by using a light.

Orion and Sirius (top right)

Captured an aeroplane

If there had been a kiwi in the bushes, and if had I captured, murdered and stuffed it, then displayed it in a lovely case, this is what it would look like.

Kiwi and egg

This is one of the less attractive exhibits at Coromandel Mining and Historic Museum. The mining paraphernalia was very interesting, as were the displays about the Silver Band, the Freemasons, the Hospital and, right at the back, the old jailhouse, physically moved from its original location.

Having a break from walking round the museum

The Silver Band (not to be confused with Bob Seger’s Silver Bullet Band)

There were many gold nuggets on display, all genuine, real gold, somehow supported by the feeblest of wood and glass cases.

Viscount Canterbury 890 oz

Outside the museum, there is a young kauri, planted in 1997.

Kauri just celebrated its 21st birthday

It has a long way to go to catch up with the one mentioned inside which was chopped down a long time ago. Chopped? It took several hours to saw, chop and cut it down.

4000 years old when they turned this kauri into ships

45,000 new kauris have been planted on the Peninsula since 2000 under a project called Kauri 2000.

We wandered around Coromandel Town for a short while, it was only 26° here compared with 30° back at home, and with a slight breeze too. Cloud was moving in and even though it doesn’t feel like it now, rain is forecast for early tomorrow morning. And they do need it. There have been bushfires in NZ and even when we were in Coromandel, the sirens went off and we saw three fire appliances race down the road.

We had a look in a couple of the gift shops and this doll caught my eye.

Attic Doll

It reminded me that we have no Alice Cooper on the MP3 player music device phone thing that we’re using. Anyway, the link is in the lyrics: We go dancing nightly in the attic while the Moon is rising in the sky. If I’m too rough, tell me, I’m so scared you little head will come off in my hand. (Billion Dollar Babies.) As Liesel said, there’s long list of people not represented on my phone, so we’ll have to rectify that.

Today’s attempt at a selfie has Auckland way over there in the distance, behind Waiheke Island, where we recently spent a few quiet days.

Selfie of the day

The road to this lookout was long and winding and turny and twisty and steep and narrow. It is hard enough work, so we have decided to give the 309 Road a miss: it’s much shorter, just as twisty and steeper but it’s unsealed, so very dusty, and apparently there’s a farm from where pigs wander onto the road.

This grass is very attractive when it bends and flows in the wind
Quite a recent landslip

There are some beehives just down the road from where we’re staying. I had to go and check because they don’t really look like hives I’ve seen before: more like show boxes.

Beehives
Bees and hives

We’ve noticed a campaign to stop mining in the Peninsula. There is a small mine run by a local family but other people with dollar signs in their eyes want it to expand. Most (?) local people are against this expansion. I wonder why?

“Mining is the pits” says the sign outside somebody’s house.

To Coromandel Peninsula

We had a quick chat with Raewyn and Craig while we packed for our final house-move within New Zealand. It was hot standing in the porch. We left and headed north for our final kiwi week, in the Coromandel Peninsula. This is a venue we haven’t had time to visit on previous occasions, so we hope to make the best of our time there.

But a quick diversion was called for. We stopped at and enjoyed a nice long walk on the Papamoa Beach.

Mt Maunganui

For the last time, we saw Mt Maunganui in the distance and came to the conclusion that every beach should have a mountain at the end.

16-lb cannon to deter foreign invaders

We stopped at The Orchard House Café where we had eggs on toast and a coffee. “Two breakfasts in one day” is the name of the new single by Crowded House, apparently. This venue caters for canines too.

Doggos welcome

The road was quite narrow in places, and very sinuous, but the views were lovely. Unless you were driving, in which case, you couldn’t see much apart from the road immediately in front. We stopped at a lookout, and after a short 10-minute walk, saw the Forest properly for the first time.

View of Coromandel Forest Park

We bought some food before moving into our new home on the M25. No, not M25, it’s SH25. Or, as our Google Maps navigatrix insists on calling it: “New Zealand State Highway 25 State Highway 25”. And glad to report, it’s one lane in each direction, nowhere near as busy as our “favourite” orbital motorway, and the house is a nice long way back.

Most of the road surface is fantastic in New Zealand but every now and then, we come across a section that reminds us of home. Patchwork quilt of tarmac, potholes, “men at work” signs but no men at work. Now and then we find a lay-by (pull-out) but the view in concealed by a group of trees. We think they should chop down those trees, there are just too many getting in the way.

No, not really.

Two beaches in two days? I’ll take that. Whangapoua is our nearest little town and its beach is big: long and wide and some lucky people live in houses overlooking it. We set up camp on the sand, after a bit of a walk and then we both entered the sea. The waves were so powerful though, I didn’t go in too far: the thought of being tumbled like I was that time in Hawaii was too scary. Yes, clear sinuses afterwards would be great, of course, but, still too scary.

Where’s Liesel?

I walked the length of the beach, saw a few people in the water, a couple in a boat, a few people learning to kayak, one little chap trying to dig a hole in the sand but the water kept filling it in. I wondered whether the water would be less forceful where it was sheltered by the little island, Pungapunga. But no, just as strong.

The tide was slowly going out and I found standing in the water as it came in and out quite mesmerising. The small ripples on the surface moved in one direction, the foam flowed in another and the pressure on my ankles suggested the water was moving in a third direction. Very strange: who needs recreational drugs when something like this can make you feel a little bit ooky?

Foam and waves arguing over the direction of gravity

One more quick dip then we decided to move on. If there were any shade on the beach, we would have hung around longer, but we would have been in the full glare of the Sun for the rest of the day. So we packed up, changed into proper clothes and set off.

Where’s Liesel?

Back at our new gaff, we read a book or watched a movie while drinking coffee, sitting out on the patio.

We had a little visitor sniffing round, seeking attention. I couldn’t see a ball so I picked up a stick and threw it. Chico, for that is his name, ran after it, picked it and the took it further away. Eventually, he brought it back, but wouldn’t let go. I tried wrenching it from his mouth, but either the stick or his teeth were cracking and creaking, so I gave up. Chico is a little 2-year old fox terrier.

Liesel cooked up a fab meal for supper, rice and chili (non carne, of course). My contribution was to cut down an ear of corn from the garden with a machette: well, a 3-inch long kitchen knife.

Fresh Corn

It was very sweet corn, sweet and succulent. Chico came to investigate while I was pulling the husks off and he ran away with some of those silky corn strings on his back.

The thinnest and most useless bead curtain in the world

Meanwhile, in other news: Helen and Adam are currently in Fiji but they’ll be home next week to welcome us into the bosom of their home. Australia is going through a heatwave right now, experiencing the hottest temperatures since records begun, in many places. We’re hoping it will cool off a bit before we arrive. Meanwhile, Klaus and Leslie are in Hawaii for a month, away from the sub-zero temps and snow in Anchorage. Lots of sympathy for Jenny and Liam and the children making the best of the cold and snow in Manchester!

The Android Pie upgrade has caused two major problems so far. It drains the battery much faster than before, but that just means more frequent recharges are required. We were driving along somewhere and the phone died. I said it was dead as a dodo, then realised, I should have said “dead as a moa”.

But worse than the battery issue is, my Fitbit will no longer sync with my phone. How will I be able to keep tabs of my steps if I can’t sync my Fitbit? A truly terrifying prospect. Never mind, I thought, Google and/or Samsung and/or Fitbit will address the issue and it will be resolved very soon. But no. Fitbit have been “working on a solution” since the problem was first reported, last August. Not holding my breath, then.

Mount Maunganui

It’s hard to believe that a year ago, we were planning to move house and then go travelling. Out of the darkness came forth this very blog. We documented the nightmare that is selling a house and buying a flat. And we’re sharing our travels and adventures with anyone willing to join us here, or because they can find nothing better to do.

So, as we tuck into our first anniversary cake and swig our anniversary champagne out of the bottle, we would like to toast all our readers, followers, supporters, stalkers, anyone who’s liked or commented and especially anyone who’s come back for more. Cheers!

We stayed fairly local today, visiting Mount Maunganui.

First sighting of Mt Maunganui

We saw the mountain itself and thought actually, every High Street should have a mountain at the end. But the town itself was heaving. So many people, and we’re not used to that any more, really! So easy to become snobbish and not want to hang out with other tourists and visitors.

Yarn-bombed trees

There was a street market in the park which we had a quick look at. Disappointingly, there was no bread on offer, but we did, of course, buy a cake! (Disappointing on two counts: we like fresh, crusty bread but also, we later found the sliced bread at home to be mouldy, grrr.)

The live music was very good and enjoyable. We were even treated to an Oasis/Bob Marley medley, possibly a world first. Wonderwall and Stir it Up: who knew they’d sound so good together?

The mountain in the distance

Maunganui wasn’t the only mountain we saw in or near Tauranga. There were mountains and mountains of containers in the docks, the biggest port on North Island. I know they’re important for trade, we all need food and other stuff, but when you see that many stacked up just the other side of the fence from the road, they’re really ugly. On the other hand, the mountains of salt didn’t look so bad. It could have been sand, after all.

There are three Toll Roads in New Zealand and today, we found the third, so yippee, a hat-trick for us, and another opportunity for me to forget to pay online later in the day, be chased down by the authorities and banged up for a long period.

Kaiate Falls was the venue for our first proper walk of the day. Maybe a hike: it was down a sloping path and back up, including 244 steps.

Liesel creeping down the steps

The cascade of falls was quite stunning and despite warnings about microbial contamination, some people were playing in the water.

Water babies

The soundtrack here consisted of running water, birds and cicadas.

Selfie of the day

We drove to Te Puna Quarry Park, passing through both Judea and Bethlehem on the way. This was a lovely park and we enjoyed a longer walk through the bush. Without the rushing water, somehow the cicadas seemed much louder and more confident.

Cicada

We still don’t know the definitive pronunciation for this populous but hard to spot insect. Is it sick-arder? Or sick-Ada? Or sicker-duh?

As well as some pretty and fragrant flowers, there were some good sculptures here, some of them quite humorous. And as for the unexpected animals, there were plenty of those:

Exotic tool birds
Recycled bicycle
Stone flower and, er…
Waterwheel
Dragon

We watched the birds for a while and realised that if we weren’t travelling light, we might have had binoculars with us. And a camera with a good zoom lens and a tripod. But that would be a different kind of trip, and we’ll bear that all in mind next time.

I think it’s a tui but it’s definitely a silhouette
Peacock
Monarch butterfly
From certain angles, a Star of David
Choo-choo train and Thin Controller
Springtime
Mosaic owl and mosaic tui
Hobbit house door
Human beings
Snail
Runestones

Afterwards I realised, I should have had my photo taken here, wearing my proper wide-brim hat, packing a six-shooter, sitting on horse. Then I could have been The Runestone Cowboy. But it’s too late now.

Snake

You might think we’re easily entertained, and sometimes we are. The car stereo thought it was performing a Two Ronnies sketch as we drove from one scenic viewpoint to another. It kept displaying the name and performer of the track before the one that was actually being played. “That doesn’t sound like Ofra Haza, it sounds more like Eddi Reader.” And so it was. The only remedy was, of course, to turn it off and on again.

I finished Nicholas Nickleby a few days ago and my next book was totally different. A collection of stories, poems and essays written by British Muslim women. Items suggesting that Islam is a wonderful religion were followed by stories suggesting that it really isn’t, especially as far as women are concerned. Lots of food for thought, and so, my next book is a bit lighter. Lethal White by Robert Galbraith. Much to Liesel’s chagrin: she wanted to read it first!

“Where’s Namibia?” asked Liesel. “South-west Africa, I think.” “No, Nivea, hand-cream?” “Oh!”

And while we were sitting on a bench, enjoying nature, within a couple of minutes, I used a couple of words that I very rarely use. Liesel commented on the greyness of the clouds. “Portent of a big storm,” said I.

Liesel pointed at an object gliding in the air, suggesting it was a butterfly. “No, it’s a bird, surely? I didn’t know butterflies glid like that.” But sure enough, a little later, we witnessed butterflies gliding between the flowers.

My phone downloaded and installed a Major Upgrade last night. OMG, it’s all changed. Buttons have moved, some are well hidden, functions that used to be one ‘click’ are now two. Even keys on my Logitech keyboard have been reprogrammed: the and the @ have swapped places. Android Pie. The first bite was a little bitter, but I’ll adapt to the taste fairly quickly, I hope. And one day, I might even find exciting new flavours.