Posted by: Richard Marshall | August 2, 2016

New Zealand January – March 2014

I was in fairly rough shape when I got to New Zealand in early 2014. However, I spent the first few months in my parents new house, which I hadn’t seen till then, while looking for jobs. I eventually found a British Council job in Penang (I was also offered Tunis and Tripoli which I didn’t particularly fancy) and left towards the end of March. I mostly took it easy while I was there – I joined a local gym and did some cooking. Mom, Dad and I did manage to go on a couple of lovely trips in the North Island, however, as well as exploring a bit more of Auckland and it surrounds than I had on my previous visit.

Our first trip was to Hawke’s Bay on the Eastern side of North Island. We stopped off at a couple of places along the way. The first was Haka falls, and hugely powerful and oddly turquoise blue waterfall on the Waikato river, which was spectacular sight. We also stopped briefly at Taupo, which is New Zealand’s largest lake. We we lucky that it was a clear day as we got a view of the snow-capped peaks of central North Island – Tongariro, Ruapehu, and Ngauruhoe – across the blue water of the lake. (I’m a little unclear which of these three is which, so I’m sorry if I end up naming them incorrectly!). The road down from the central plateau to Hawke’s bay was spectacular though shrouded in mist.


Haka Falls


View of Lake Taupo

The main towns in Hawke’s Bay are Napier and Hastings, both of which were largely destroyed by an earthquake in 1931. They were rebuilt almost entirely in Art Deco style, which is their main to claim to fame and of course really appealed to me! We stayed in Napier, which is a small, compact little town and claims to be the most consistently Art Deco city in the world. It was indeed beautiful which a long shorefront on the Pacific and a charming town centre. We also visited Hastings up the road, which had been rebuilt in Art Deco and Spanish Mission style after 1931 too. As always in New Zealand we had some great pub meals and I enjoyed trying all the delicious local beer – always a refreshing change after Chinese or Southeast Asian beers. I also experienced an earthquake myself, though thankfully nothing like 1931. I was lying down and felt that the bed was moving. I looked over at my bedside table and saw the water level was also moving in a glass of water. Mom and Dad were walking around so didn’t feel it. They were a little skeptical but the evening news confirmed that yes indeed there had been a small earthquake centred a little way to the south.


Art Deco, Napier


Mom and I, Napier


The Masonic Hotel and Vintage Car, Napier


Spanish Mission Style, Hastings

On the way back from Napier we stayed a view days at Taurangi on the southern shore of Lake Taupo. The town is famous for trout fishing and, apparently, crazy gang violence, though it seemed a pretty quiet spot to me. It is also a convenient spot to explore Tongariro National park. We took the desert road to Taurangi, which runs through an area made arid by volcanic irruptions and by the rain-shadow of the three big mountains of central North Island. Unfortunately it was very misty and we couldn’t see the mountains, but it was an eerie and fascinating drive all the same. The weather was still cloudy the next day when we visited the national park. We drove to Whakapapa village in the park, which has a huge, alpine-style hotel called Chateau Tongariro as well as a few cafes and a visitor centre. We also went up to the ski fields on the slopes of Raupehu, though since it was summer there was very little snow. It was also difficult to see the mountain, which featured as Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings, though the mist cleared occasionally so we got a few glimpses. We returned the next as the mist had lifted a bit and had a couple of better views of the mountain.


View of Lake Taupo


Chateau Tongariro


Ski Fields, Ruapehu


The other trip we did while I was in Auckland was to the Coromandel peninsula. We stayed in a small town on the eastern side called Whitianga. On the first day we went to hot water beach, were water from hot springs filters up through the sand and people can dig pools of hot water to sit in. We also went to Cathedral Cove, a beautiful stretch of coastline with a large cave you can walk through. On the next day we crossed the peninsular to Coromadel town itself, where we took and eccentric railway that was initially developed to collect clay but is now a tourist attraction. It is narrow-gauge and makes a steep ascent up the side of the mountains overlooking Coromandel, with peculiar clay art along the way. After coming down from the railway we drove north up the peninsula passing more and more remote beaches. We stopped at one for a picnic before turning back and heading home to Auckland.


Mom and I, Hot Water Beach

cathedral cove

Cathedral Cove

mom and dad coromandel

The coastline above Cathedral Cove

I then had a few more weeks in Auckland, getting to know the city better, before heading off to Penang, where I have been now for nearly three years….



  1. 😃

    Sent from my iPad


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