2016 New Zealand

Dhows working cargo on Deira wharf

An Emirates 747 took us from Madrid to Dubai.  We stayed in a hotel on Dubai Creek that allows you to avoid the worst excesses of bling! The Creek is relatively unchanged and still harbours the trading dhows that carry goods up and down the coast.

At one time Dubai Creek was the centre of the pearl diving trade in The Gulf, when it was called The Persian Gulf.  The industry was decimated by the growth of the cultured pearl from the Far East.

These days the cargo dhows seem to mainly carry cargoes of white goods, car tyres, furniture and other bulky items. 

The abra (little foot passenger ferries) will take you across Deira Creek for a few pennies and were not the only waterborne transport for the trip!

Before 1963, when the first bridge was built across The Creek the abras would have had a monopoly of the traffic.  The Creek was then a 15km long obstacle and even now the fare is only 1 dirham which is about 20 pence.

At this time The Creek was dredged and the wharves were built so that cargo dhows and their traffic replaced the pearling and fishing.

Abras in Deira Creek
Deira Creek

The view across the creek from the Saint George hotel, viewed from Deira to the West side, Bur Dubai, the original part of the town. 

On the East side Deira Spice Souk sells chillies, cardamon and saffron. Adjacent are the Antique and Gold Souks on the East side of The Creek.

The Fish Souk is open in the early morning until around 1100 and a Vegetable Souk is open slightly later.

After your senses have been altered by the radically different shopping that you might be used to you can take an abra and visit the Bayt Al Wakeel restaurant with a terrace looking onto the Creek on the West side of The Creek.

Reminiscent of “The Birds” as the public have taken to feeding the gulls at the landing stage. A cargo dhow sails up the creek in the background.

This photograph was taken from the Bur Dubai Abra Dock and a list of nearby attractions can be found below: 

The Birds, Deira Creek
Fast food Dubai style

Fast food in the Bur Dubai souk.

This is one time the haggling seems to stop and the locals wait relatively patiently.

The mannequins in the Textile Souk are very different from those in BHS!  This souk is on the West side of The Creek and is near The Ruler’s Court and The Grand Mosque.

It is possible to buy Thai silk and cheap Chinese polywhatsit from people who shout out that they remember you well.  Not having been to Bur Dubai for forty years you suddenly realise these old friends had not been born.  When they call you professor or captain you realise that they believe that flattery will get them everywhere.


Textile Souk
Bangkok traffic

Next stop was Bangkok, staying in a wonderful hotel called U Sukhumvit.

Bangkok traffic either travels very fast or comes to a complete halt.

From the hotel express boat stop, Nan Chand, took fifteen exciting minutes to Panfa Leelard which is in the middle of the temple area.  The boats go full ahead and then full astern for a two second stop at each jetty.

Bangkok’s proper name is Krung Thep Maha Nakhon so we can be glad we know it by its shortform.

The Wat Benchamabophit temple, where monks threw beautifully wrapped coins at us, “luck money” for the coming year.

We collected our luck and marvelled at the immaculate condition of all the temples.  Gold leaf must be either plentiful or inexpensive.

There are over 30,000 active temples in Thailand and there many articles on the internet about what order you should visit them and which are the ten most important ones.  The rest of us just visit a few of the more remarkable ones!


The Wat Benchamabophit temple
Laughing Buddha

A fat laughing golden Buddha and we cannot remember which one of so many!

Without understanding or following any particular religion I cannot help liking the image that Buddhism portrays, either peaceful, overweight or laughing, sometimes all three.


Taling Chan floating market and the beautiful “long tail” boats alongside, you can eat and then have another busman’s holiday.

The traditional long tails, once very cheap, are becoming expensive due to logging restrictions in Thailand.  

Though they look exotic and exciting, in the words of one European long tail owner they are a third world solution to a problem that no longer exists!  The absence of swimmers prove how dangerous the exposed propellor on a very long swinging shaft can be in inexperienced hands.

Longtail boats in Taling Chan market
Tuk Tuk in Bangkok

Tuk tuk and driver, a winning combination for getting around quickly and cheaply.  The whole taxi and tuk tuk system is very hit and miss and I would love to see these three wheelers racing.


After arrival in Sydney we left Circular Quay on the Manly ferry.  An enormous cruise liner interferes with the Sydney skyline.

Circular Quay
Sydney Opera House

And beside Circular Quay is the one and only Sydney Opera House, more later on the return trip.

The project started much earlier than commonly thought, in the 1940s.  The competition for the design was announced in 1955 and the winner chosen in 1957.

The Opera House was finally completed in 1973, ten years late and well over budget.

The building contains no less than five venues, two smaller and one outdoor venue.


After arriving at Christchurch we stayed at the highly recommended Commodore Airport Hotel, picked up the camper and drove out to Akaroa for the first night sleeping “rough”. Akaroa is the still French speaking outpost.

Akaroa is on the Banks Peninsula, named after Sir Joseph Banks, naturalist on voyages to Newfoundland and Labrador, and more importantly sailing on Captain James Cook’s first voyage.

Akaroa harbour and inlet are in a caldera of an extinct volcano.


Akaroa New Zealand
The Plains Vintage Railway & Historical Museum

The Plains Vintage Railway & Historical Museum houses the Rogers K88 built in 1878. It spent the years 1927 to 1974 in the Oreti River as part of a defence system. A remarkable piece of restoration and renovation.

Other locomotives at the centre are ‘A’ 64, 1873; ‘Ja’ 1260; Railcar ‘RM’ 50 and five diesels.


The approach to Mount Cook, where we caught a glimpse of the Tasman Glacier.  It is a little bit shorter than it was three decades ago, but it took us forty minutes to drive down the valley that it originally covered thousands of years ago!

It is still 23km long with a width of 4km and 600m deep.  In February 2011 thirty million tons of the glacier calved, almost certainly due to the Christchurch earthquake.

Mount Cook New Zealand
Milford Sound New Zealand

A boat tour of Milford Sound gave us a pause in the driving, salt water sailing and views of dolphins, seals, waterfalls and spectacular cliffs.

Described by Rudyard Kipling as the Eighth Wonder of the World.

We used the Southern Discoveries cruise and sailed in the Lady Bowen. A young Maori guide talked us through the scenery and wildlife in a very amusing way. Keeping up with Kiwi traditions he made fun of Australians as well as demonstrating knowledge of his subject.

The Sound is one of the wettest places in the world, 6400 mm or 252 inches.

Temporary waterfalls come and go with the rain and sometimes cause tree avalanches, rain forest slipping into the fiord.

Nearly a million tourists visit Milford Sound each year.

Milford Sound waterfall
New Zealand Warbirds over Wanaka

Just by chance we passed Wanaka airfield on the day of practice for the airshow on the following weekend. 

The aircraft present came from the NZ Air Force, US Air Force, Russian and Japanese aircraft and an aerobatic team.

The airshow Warbirds over Wanaka is now internationally famous and their website should be visited if you have any interest in planes or flying,

A Dutch export in Motueka surprised us. I believe she is a Lemsteraak though the owner was not around to ask. 

A beautiful spot in Tasman Bay next to the Abel Tasman National Park.  On the East side of the bay is the city of Nelson, the second city to be incorporated in New Zealand.

Nelson was a notable port for refrigerated ships to load apples for the UK and recently exported over five million cartons in one year.  Now the port is containerised so the ships no longer have the enjoyable stay while the apples are loaded.


Lemsteraak in Motueka
Bluebridge Ferry leaving Picton

The Bluebridge inter-island ferry took us from Picton to Wellington in just three and a half hours. There are two ferry companies sailing between Picton and Wellington, Interislander is the other company.  Bluebridge shipped the camper and the two of us very efficiently.

The passage through the Marlborough Sounds was a beautiful farewell to South Island.

This is not far from where the famous Pelorus Jack guided ships through French Pass for about twenty four years.  He was a Risso’s dolphin which are very unusual in these waters.  In 1904 he became the first animal in the world to be protected by law.

New Zealand Marlborough Sound
New Zealand

Christchurch, Akaroa, Oamaru, Glentanner (Mount Cook), Queenstown. Cromwell, Kingston, Milford Sound, Manapouri, Haast Pass, Fox Glacier, Hokitika, Motueka, Nelson, Picton.

The camp site in Wellington is just beside Wellington Quay. A bit expensive but right in the city.  Wellington is well known as Windy Wellington due to its position on the edge of the Cook Strait.  It is now self-described as the Coolest Capital City.



Wellington Harbour campsite
Fell locomotive at Featherstone

The last remaining Fell engine in the museum in Featherstone. These locomotives hauled the Wellington to Auckland trains up the steep gradient of the Rimutaka incline, as many as five locomotives on a single train.

The incline was about 1 in 15 which is too steep for normal traction.  The Fell locomotives had additional horizontal gripper wheels that gained traction on a centre rail.  The Fell brake vans had similar undriven gripper wheels fitted with powerful brakes.

The incline worked from 1875 to 1955 when it was replaced by the Rimutaka tunnel allowing normal trains to work through on the main line.


The Huka Falls near Taupo. More of a rapids than falls but splendid blue coloured water straight from Lake Taupo.  

The Waikato River is suddenly funnelled into an 15 metre wide channel which drops 11 metres on its way North.

It is the longest river in New Zealand, 425km, rising on Mount Ruapehu, flowing through Lake Taupo, through Hamilton, Port Waikato to the Tasman. Below Taupo the river has eight hydro electric dams, provides cooling water for Huntly power station and supplies drinking water to Auckland.


Huka Falls, Taupo, New Zealand
Pohutu geyser, Rotorua New Zealand

In Rotorua the Pohutu geyser in the Te Puia geothermal valley called Whakarewarewa, provides a frequent display and nearly rivals Old Faithful.

New Zealand sits on the Ring of Fire and hosts many active and dormant volcanos.

Tarawera, Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe, Taupo Supervolcano and White Island all influence the area and its thermal activities.  


The valley contains many geysers, some are now inactive, mudpools and Maori entertainments which include a hangi, dancing and a traditional village.

Apparently locals used to drill into the source of the heat and have free hot water though this has now been stopped to prevent tourism from drying up and to allow maximum heat for the electricity generators who provide over 12% of the country’s power from thermal sources.


New Zealand, Rotorua
Tirau ram and sheepdog

Tirau, in the Bay of Plenty, shows ingenuity by architects and builders.

NewZealand is supposed to have built using No 8 fencing wire but corrugated iron has also played a part as can be seen by this sheepdog and ram.  There are other corrugated sculptures and collectively they have earned Tirau the title of corrugated capital of the world.

On the subject of trivia, Tirau is the Maori word for the place of many cabbage trees.  Strangely the tree looks nothing like a cabbage and it is a palm with the proper name Cordyline Australis.


One of the most astonishing attractions are the Hamilton Gardens built on recovered land. 

They feature Italian, Indian, Chinese, Japanese and English sections with a herb garden, kitchen garden and much more. Delightful even for a non-gardener!

Their website is well worth a visit, if you cannot make the journey in person.

Hamilton Gardens New Zealand
Whangarei Heads New Zealand

Ruakaka beach with Whangarei Heads on the horizon, over Bream Bay, viewed from the campsite.

Bream Bay was so named by Captain Cook as he mistook the plentiful local snapper for bream.  Very understandable as the two fish are very similar.

The Hen and Chicks islands and an extinct volcano mark the entrance to the large Whangarei harbour.  The harbour contains an oil refinery, cargo wharves, a fishing harbour and marina.

The name Whangarei means the place where whales gather and though they are seldom seen the numbers and frequency are increasing.

Wellington, Napier, Taupo, Rotorua, Tauranga, Hamilton, Ruakaka, Whangarei and Whangarei Heads.

New Zealand
The Bay of Islands Vintage Railway in Kawakawa

The Bay of Islands Vintage Railway in Kawakawa runs on part of the old Opua branch line. It is the only railway in the world which runs down the middle of a main highway. Here Gabriel, built in 1927 raises steam for a boiler test.

When the ship I was sailing in was loading meat, in Opua, in the 1960s the branch line was closed.  A local stole a locomotive to get home after a party and derailed it.

Back afloat again on the short voyage from Opua to Russell in the Bay of Islands.  Before catching the ferry we had been to Waitangi and spent the night in a waterside camp ground.

Russell and the Bay of Islands is one of the most popular tourist areas. The town of Russell was the first European settlement, the Treaty was signed at Waitangi and New Zealand’s first capital was at nearby Okiato.



Opua Russell ferry
New Zealand. Twin bole kauri

If you leave Russell and travel East on the Whakapara road you will come to a right turn with a brown sign to the Twin Bole Kauri.

It is quite a drive, for a campervan, but easy for a car, on an un-tarmaced road but with no traffic it is a superb journey through the bush.  Eventually you will come to a guide post showing the short walk to the tree.

Carrying on through the forest you will be back on tarmac with a left turn option to Bland Bay.  This is a must if you are camping.

The dawn view from the magical Bland Bay camp site.

The most tranquil campsite in the world.

Bland Bay, New Zealand
The Kauri Museum in Matakohe

The Kauri Museum in Matakohe is an amazing display of pioneering bush clearance and timber felling. The displays include the vintage machinery used in the 19th Century.

It is the world’s first zero carbon museum and very proud of this fact.

The clearing of New Zealand for agriculture is a bittersweet saga.  While mourning the passing of the great kauri forests the country needed the produce, first to feed itself and then to export and feed Britain after the invention of the refrigerated ship.

This display acts as a memorial to the trees and to the men who used ingenuity and brute strength to clear the land. 

The Auckland Maritime Museum contains a wealth of full size boats and models through the ages. Polynesian and European craft are well represented up to the latest America’s Cup contenders.

The harbour, more correctly known as Waitemata, also originated the City of Sails nickname for Auckland, due to the vast number of yachts here. Manukau harbour on the Tasman side of Auckland was handicapped by the open coast and sandbar.

New Zealand, Auckland Maritime Museum
Stuffed Kiwis. New Zealand

We saw kiwis in Christchurch and Rotorua but as they are kept in nocturnal cages, flash forbidden, the only ones we photographed successfully were the stuffed ones in Auckland museum!

Everyone probably knows that the kiwi is the smallest of the ratites or flightless birds but some people may not be aware that the kiwi lays the largest egg, in relation to its bodyweight, of all birds.  This may go some way to explaining why it is endangered.

The Auckland War Memorial Museum contains much local history and particularly celebrating the bravery and sacrifice of New Zealanders in two World Wars also in the Second Boer War and Vietnam.

The ANZACs fought in World War 1, principally remembered for Gallipoli. Though predominantly Australian and New Zealanders the Corps was also made up of Indian, Ceylonese, Royal Naval Division and even the Zion Mule Corps.

The ANZACs were briefly reformed in World War II for the Greek campaign until the loss of Crete.  ANZACs were also reformed for the Vietnamese war.

In WWII, after the loss of Crete, the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force fought in North Africa and Italy.  Another Expeditionary Force fought in the Solomons, Treasury Islands and Vella Lavella.  After being relieved by US troops this force went to Italy to reinforce 2NZEF.

New Zealand forces also fought in Korea and Vietnam and have provided peacekeeping and active elements in Kashmire, Lebanon, Sinai, Iran-Iraq, Gulf War, Somalia, Yugoslavia, East Timor, Solomons, Iraq and Tonga.


Auckland War Memorial Museum
New Zealand. Coromandel Coast

From Auckland we went to Driving Creek on the Coromandel Peninsula for my son’s wedding. This is a photo from the amazing unmade road along the coast.

The ceremony was held on the top of the hill in the Eyefull Tower.  Access through the artworks and the bush is by a unique railway.

From there to Auckland Airport and homeward bound to Madrid.


Ruakaka, Bland Bay, Omapere, Ruawai, Auckland North Shore, return camper and pick up car in Auckland, and to Driving Creek, back to Auckland Airport.

New Zealand
Bondi beach

You cannot go to Sydney without visiting Bondi, even in the Autumn! We flew back from Auckland and spent a couple of days in Sydney.

Sydney tries, and succeeds, in being the largest and liveliest city in Oceania.  The famous places or things include:-

Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney Opera House, Bondi Beach, Taronga Zoo, Darling Harbour, Botany Bay and many more.

The compulsory open topped bus tour for tourists is a great way to get a flavour of the city in a short time, hopping on and off whenever you like.

There are several companies and between them they have such different trips as the City Tour and Bondi Tour.


City tour Sydney
Another Dubai development

Back to Dubai, in the rainy season! Chief Mate wanted to go to Bling City, so we went, in a cab through the rain.

You can, of course, go up the Burj Khalif, go skiing or walk underwater in the shopping centre sea zoo.

The waterfall just beside the aquarium in the biggest shopping mall I have ever managed to escape from. It would seem that others are trying to leave the hard way.

Burj Khalifa waterfall divers
Burj Khalifa aquarium

Hammerhead and other sharks, rays, clownfish and people in scuba cage floating around in the shopping centre.  There is an underwater tunnel you can walk through, optional submersible simulator and glass bottomed boat tours.

Rest your feet in Dubai Mall, 1.1 million sq/m of things you almost certainly don’t want to buy and you certainly don’t need!

Burj Khalifa coffee bar
Dubai development on hold

The future may be on hold until the price of oil picks up.

Back to normal life in Dubai Creek where the boats and restaurants are better and the souks sell “real stuff”.

Deira Creek at night