Russell, New Zealand: Darwin proved wrong!

Darwin hated his three-weeks in Russell so much he called it the “hell-hole of the Pacific”. Locals, and time, have proved him wrong – very wrong Smile I left my rental car parked up for the day, caught the regular ferry to check his assertions.

I have just spent the day there – and like everything I’m doing and seeing in Northland, I wish I’d had more time. From the historic Pompallier Mission (where the French were – ‘teaching the Maori to pray the Catholic way”) through to a one hour mini-bus tour (with Fullers GreatSights)  the day has been great … as shown by taking over 400 photos today ( bringing my total in less than a  week to about three thousand pictures: actually I think that alone says a lot about Northland – Te Hiku o te Ika a Maui- the tail of the fish of Maui.

The ’hell hole’ is now a popular wedding destination, especially at the Duke. ‘The Duke’ is the local name for The Duke of Marlborough and where I had lunch today – a delicious Thai beef salad!  I had a look around the hotel and the new owners have lived up to their goal of refreshing everything … more in another story of course.

My day was completed by sailing from Russell to Opua on the  R Tucker Thompson  – a fabulous replica tall ship where tourists can take a step back in time and sail the seas under canvas. Two young boys tell me that last time they went out with the ship they saw a hammer-head shark as well as dolphins: this ship will feature in a  full piece when I get back to the ‘head of the fish of Maui’.

Finally, just for you golfers: the views of the islands of the Bay of Islands must feature as one of the best golf-course views in the world!

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Many thanks as always, to Destination Northland for helping arrange my itinerary and Rental Cars New Zealand for the vehicle for this road trip: I can recommend both!

Wellington to Christchurch via the Interislander & KiwiRail

Sailing across the Cook Strait on the Kaitaki, then a rail journey from Picton to Christchurch on the CoastalPacific  is fabulous. Now it’s going to be even better!

KiwiRail’s new scenic carriages are now on the Coastal Pacific train between Christchurch and Picton: the carriages have 52 square metres of panoramic side and roof windows. They also have ceiling mounted HD screens, GPS triggered commentary in a choice of five languages, and new café cars. They’re also the first carriages to be entirely designed and built in New Zealand since the 1940s.















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Six degrees of separation disproved in New Zealand

Six degrees of separation disproved in New Zealand! I have long said we kiwis have only 1½ degrees of separation and now it’s been proved. Let me set the scene for the study and outcome:

I recently dragged myself into 2011 and bought a ‘smart phone’ from my mobile provider 2Degrees

I add my Twitter, Facebook, and Gmail and think I’m pretty smart for a senior citizen and as I sail across the Cook Strait on the Kaitaki, then train from Picton to Christchurch on the CoastalPacific  I tweet about the trip. How cool is that. However, pride comes before a fall.

I arrive in Christchurch in the middle of a snow storm, and, between the train station and my accommodation –  the fabulous 5-star boutique hotel, the  Classic Villa  – my phone disappears.

I ring the taxi company, the train station and the police – by the time I leave Christchurch five days later it has not been found and I return to Wellington (NZ’s capital) to hunt for my faithful , but discarded, old Nokia. I get a blank SIM card, have it set up with my number, then go home where the answer phone is blinking.

Hi Heather” a friends voice has recorded, “have you lost your phone? I think a friend has found it. He found my name in it and rang me to see if I know whose it was! Lots of mutual friends then your daughters name, Renée, made me realise it must be yours. Give me call and let me know!”

Sure enough it’s my beautiful new Ideos smart phone – it’s been run over but the man who found it is posting it back . . . not that I have insurance cover . . . but at least I’ll be able to retrieve my friends numbers.

Could you do that with 6 degrees of separation? I think not.  Just think: one cyclist finds a phone, checks the names, recognises one and calls her. She recognises my other friends’ names!  It sounds like my theory of New Zealand’s one and half degrees of separation has been proved correct.

Now to start saving, again, for a  new smart phone. Oh well, it’s a pretty high-class problem when you think of all the problems in the world.

A ferry and rail trip to Christchurch coming up!

I’m off to Christchurch in 10-days: on the Interislander ferry (Kaitaki) and train (Coastal Pacific). This will be a great trip as the day I travel is the day the train service from Picton to Christchurch resumes which is fabulous for the region.

With talk of shifting the Picton terminal from the Marlborough Sounds (top of the South Island, New Zealand) to Clifford Bay I will make sure I enjoy it as  the Sounds may not be the preferred route forever! While this change would apparently save 50 minutes off the road trip from Christchurch (or 80 mins from the train journey) and 30 minutes from the sea trip that links the North and South Islands, it would also mean that travellers would miss some of the most beautiful cruising scenery in New Zealand – and the world. The 92km has breathtaking views and I’m hoping for another beautiful day so I can add more photos to my collection of pictures from the Interislander’s decks. Although, if it’s not wonderful I will be cosy in the Kaitaki Plus lounge!

These photos are from an earlier trip – come back to this site and hear about the trip and what’s happening with travel and tourism activities in Christchurch.

Kaitaki Plus Lounge

PS: I have just had another a train trip – on the Overlander, a 12-hour journey from Wellington to Auckland. What fabulous scenery is hiding from those who usually drive up there!  Paul Theroux says ‘trains are the only way to travel’ – it certainly was relaxing and no doubt the trip to Christchurch will be great too.

Off to Auckland from Wellington last week!

WOMAD 2010 – New Plymouth, NZ

Sign up for my blogs (add your email address on the right hand side of this blog) and the next few will be all about my road trip to WOMAD 2010, held annually in New Plymouth: traveling in a Backpacker campervan, and on the Interislander ferry over Cook Strait – from Christchurch to WOMAD and back again.

Here are a few photos to whet your appetite.

Waiting to board the ferry in Picton, South Island
everyone has their camera out on the ferry
Everyone has their camera out
Spending the night on Wellingtons wonderful waterfront
Spending the night on Wellington's wonderful waterfront
Opening act at WOMAD: Hypnotic Brass Ensemble
Its not all cooking - Gyuto Monks demonstrate their cooking skills
It's not all music:Gyuto Monks show their cooking skills
Let's dance!

catch a ferry service from Auckland

Ferry to Coromandel – the naked way

Bus Promo now has a ferry service that takes you from Auckland to Coromandel in two hours.

Winter Timetable:
Tuesday & Sunday

  • Leaves Auckland at 9am
  • Leaves Coromandel at 4.30pm


  • Leaves Auckland at 6pm
  • Leaves Coromandel at 8pm

The nakedbus ferry links Auckland and Coromandel (in both directions) on Tuesday, Fridays and Sundays. More days will be added as the weather gets warmer.

Our times are perfect for a weekend away or just a day trip. Just imagine the relaxing feeling as you the ocean breeze wafts over you as you cruise away from the hustle and bustle life of Auckland. A perfect weekend escape in the midst of winter (oh, and if you live in the Coromandel Peninsula, this could be a great way to get to Auckland).

So go for the day, go for the weekend or take a longer winter break, with

As always the first ticket goes at $1*. No, it is not a typo: ferry to the Coromandel from $1*. Book Now for your Coromandel winter escape.

How do our $1* fares work?

By now, all of you should know that our fares start at $1*. But how do you get a $1 fare?

We guarantee that at least the first seat on every bus is $1* – so as soon as we release seats for a particular date (usually 3-6 months before departure) the price will start at $1*. As soon as the $1* seat or seats have gone, the price moves up to the next bracket. Then, when THOSE seats have sold out, the price moves up to the next bracket.

So, to get the cheapest prices, it pays to book as early as possible.

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