Cruise South-East Asia and On to Australia / New Zeland travel blog

View of South Island from window of plane

Rushing River

New Zealand Coast Scenery

Rolling Countryside

Infamous Tunnel - Forgotten Highway

More Countryside

Car Rally in New Plymouth

Car Nut

Coastal Scenery

We flew into Wellington (capital city) and after taking a while to find our rental car we drove north through absolute gridlock traffic for probably qatwo hours. There is one way in and out of the city now and will be difficult to improve with their sea and mountain boundaries.

Our destination was Palmerston North which put us in a good position for other communities the next morning. The manager was excellent in providing directions and local information. We drove to Napier on the east coast through mixed farmland with lots of cattle herds, some sheep and lots of dairy. Dairy production exceeded $17B last year for the country. In Napier we found a beautiful coastline and a very interesting community totally restored in Art Deco style architecture following a 1930's devastating earthquake. The community was hopping with tourists as a cruise ship was in port.

From Napier we headed inland for our destination of Taupau and found our nice accommodation for the evening. A barbecue was available so we found ourselves something to cook accompanied by a nice salad and a bottle of wine. Eating out for two persons in both countries is a minimum of $50 without drinks. The minimum wage is over $17 and tips are supposed to be included in the prices but restaurants are now soliciting further tipping. Besides, we enjoy eating simpler meals when possible.

The next morning we were off to the west coast after finding the local waterfalls in Taupau. Our destination was New Plymouth and an interesting drive over the mountains. Our fore mentioned motel manager had recommended a specific road and caution about another road. Guess which one we took!! The call it the Forgotten World Highway and the track got narrower the further we drove. One stretch was crowned with really rough gravel which was not solid. Turning or braking involved some additional undesirable movement. This gravel only went on for 20 kilometres but felt like 200. A one way tunnel had moss hanging down, water running through it and speed at 5 kph due to bumps and ruts. We were used to one way bridges by now as they are more common than two lane. (Who could not resist taking the road marked as Forgotten World Highway???)

We had a day in the week to spare so picked New Plymouth as a spot to be for two days. The motel was great and situated a couple of blocks from the downtown action. A surprise came in the form of a major cruise and show and shine of American cars, called "Americana". Over 1000 cars were entered and drove through downtown with crowds packed along the streets with pubs and patios.. Engines revving, horns of all descriptions making noise and everyone having a great time. Kathy asked one woman what was the make of their beautifully restored red vehicle. The response was a "1934 Pickard" and deciphering Kiwi accents meant it was a "Packard".

An interesting note (to car buffs) was the number of 55-56 right hand drive Chevys and a few Pontiacs thrown in. They were CKD cars sold from Canada unassembled in crates as right hand driving vehicles.

Another "too costly" saga is unfolding in Australia where long time car manufacturer Holden (GM) are leaving for other countries. The government had been subsidizing industry for years. It is a shame considering the excellent midsize performance sedans produced.

The next morning our destination was Paekakariki, a small community just outside of Wellington that would allow us a short drive to the ferry landing. What a pleasant surprise, a new building above a restaurant and pub next to the rail line. It was a block to a sandy beach and some more west coast scenery. The trip to the ferry went well the next morning with a very interesting loading. Once on our ship deck we did two u-turns to park and told we were on the mezzanine level?? It was actually a raised level where we couldn't drive off until the cars below had done so. James Bond would not have waited........

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