I was awake before the 6.30am alarm. Today was another get up and go day with a Ferry crossing of the Cook Strait booked for 11am with a check in time of 10am. It was a 2-hour drive and we were on our way by 7.45am after I had caught up with the news of the Norwich victory at Carrow Road that I had missed overnight.
We admired the bay again as we pulled away and in particular the mountains lining it. Initially we thought that they were hills but they were actual genuine mountains. In fact, when we had looked them up, we found that they were more than double the size of Ben Nevis.
Then it onto was one of the best road drives I have ever done. It was stunning as it hugged the coastline in the small gap between the sheer rock cliff and the sea, next to the railway. The sun was glistening off the sea and there was hardly any traffic on the road. It was a shame that we had no time to stop this time but it was the 3rdtime we had done this drive.
One thing I do have say about New Zealand is that they do love a ‘One Lane Bridge’. I understand why and living near Hellesdon bridge is something I am very familiar with. The ones over here are though much longer but unlike ours in Hellesdon I have yet to have to wait for anyone crossing in the opposite direction on any of them.
Another thing I have noticed on this visit is how many of the towns and cities (not sure how they differentiate over here) have racecourses. There seems to be one in every one we pass through. We have seen ‘harness racing’ being shown live on the TV and wonder if some of them are for that. Even some of the small one-horse towns we have passed through have the courses, even if looks like the horse left town many years ago.
We arrived at the Ferry Port with 20 minutes to spare and were soon loaded on board. We managed to find 2 very comfortable seats at the front of the boat with lovely views and settled in. I was weary of feeling seasick but tried not to think about it.
The weather was perfect as the captain set sail early – which I thought was strange. It was very calm making the scenic views as we weaved our way through the Marlborough Sound. I played on my phone for a while using the free Wifi and then read my kindle. I was fine all the way across. We ate a few snacks and then had a fresh hot scone that they were selling from a vending cart being pushed around the deck.
I mused upon the fact we have now been away for a fortnight and the time seems to have flown by. All my anxieties about coming on the trip long since evaporated. Indeed, whilst we have been away, we have now booked a Caribbean trip for next January and Karen has almost convinced me that we need revisit parts of Australia again in January 2026.
The 3 ½ hours passed quickly and we were soon back in the car ready to off load. Then it was another 200-mile journey facing me before we reached our hotel for the night at New Plymouth.
After a couple of hours listening to podcasts including Delia on Desert Island Discs (I was disappointed as I felt it was superficial and didn’t ask or cover the in-depth stuff I would have heard asked), we stopped in Whanganui to fill up with petrol. Then Karen craved a drink and we came to a café at Windemere Berry Farm. We managed to get an order just as they were about to close. I also had some freshly picked strawberries as it seemed rude not to.
The drive afterwards was a long tiring slog and was probably too far to do in a day. This was a consequence of Karen changing the route to include Te Anau but still wanting to start at the bottom and end at the top of New Zealand. It meant a couple of our stops en route had to be sacrificed meaning I was well and truly knackered and grumpy by the time we arrived into New Plymouth.
This was the first ‘Hotel’ since Fiji we have stayed in. It reminds me of the Hotel Norwich or whatever it is called now but with worse parking. The room is smaller than we have become used to this trip and with less facilities. It was though very cheap on a Sunday night as it is mainly used for conferences during the week. It was also a pain having to take our luggage up in a lift which made me grumpier as did the poor Wifi. Still, it was clean, modern and safe.
At reception Karen was told it was the last night of the TSB Festival of Lights in the town’s park that had been running since before Christmas. I’d like to suggest it was fortuitous planning on our part but it wasn’t and so we decided to head out for the that after finding some food.
We looked at the Hotel Buffet but thought that at £25 per head that we would not get value from it and besides Karen had said she fancied a KFC all day which was most unlike her. We found one on the way to the park. Big mistake. I think the last KFC we had was somewhere in the USA. I remember commenting how ‘dry’ it was in that it wasn’t greasy at the time. This was the exact opposite. After a long wait for the order, it was horrible. Even Karen’s chicken tender had gristle. We won’t be having that again for a very long time.
After this we drove to Pukekura Park for the Festival of Lights. The whole area around it was very busy which was encouraging and we managed to park for free on the ubiquitous Racecourse which was next to it.
We strolled down into the park where the lights were all on as it was now 8.45pm and starting to get dark. It was free to enter and the whole park was buzzing with people. It was set in a ravine and would have been a lovely place to walk around the boating lake during the day, but with the lights it was quite magical in the warm summer air. The lights were colourful, cleverly designed and creatively positioned. My highlight was the beautifully multi coloured lit waterfall. Even the boats on the lake for hire had coloured lights outlining them. It took about an hour to walk around and we both enjoyed it. It made up for the hours in the car today and was a real ‘Brucie bonus’ and one we will always remember.
After this we drove back to the Hotel and after watching some tennis from the Australian Open collapsed exhaustedly into bed. Exploring more of New Plymouth will have to wait until tomorrow.