TRAVELSCRIBBLES is a blog featuring travel reports, advice, and idea sharing for those interested in both domestic and international exploration.

Roger Sauer and his wife Donna have spent years traveling the world but have many places yet to see. You can follow their past and current travels here as well as post comments and questions about places they have visited.

Roger and Donna travelled to New Zealand and Australia in September, 2013. They will be in Paris in September 2015 with a train trip to Nice and Barcelona. They will then be aboard the Disney Magic (again) for a transatlantic cruise to Miami. Follow their travels on Twitter @rsauer3473.

Donna and Roger own Disney Vacation Club memberships at Old Key West and Beach Cub resorts in Walt Disney World. They also have other timeshare interests in Maui, Cancun, Orlando, and Palm Springs.
Feel free to contact them at 503-585-3473 if you would like rent one of these properties.

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Saturday, November 9, 2013

September 20-22 Auckland to Bay of Islands

September 20, 2013: AUCKLAND


After a fitful five and a half hours of sleep, I got up at 6:30 AM. We brought instant coffee and the muffins purchased in Honolulu. These muffins made it past customs the night before without incident.


Our goal for the day was to take the Explorer tour bus around the city. We could hop on and off on two one-hour circuits covering the zoo, marina, parks, museums, and shopping districts. The town is very like Seattle but with palm trees. Lots of sailboats in the water, tall stands of stone and glass buildings cascading from the peaks of hills down to the water.


Despite the English character of the town exemplified by place names and native accents, Auckland is basically and Asian city. The plethora of Chinese, Japanese, Philippine, and Indian dining menus pasted on windows and reader boards indicate a very diverse community.


The center of downtown is likely the Sky Tower a 1500 foot tower with observation decks and a rotating restaurant ala Space Needle. Guests can also walk around outside one of the lofty decks secured by safety lines. And more adventurous souls can bungee jump from the deck.


September 21, 2013: AUCKLAND


For our second day in Auckland we took another tour bus around the city and stopped off at the Auckland Museum, situated on an extinct volcanic cone above the city. The museum had marvelous displays of the Maori culture as well as the historic and prehistoric past of New Zealand. After this visit we stopped in the neighborhood of Parnell, an upscale shopping and dining area. We stopped at a new art gallery that was opening and the atmosphere was very festive. Coffee and cupcakes were served and we bought a stuffed kiwi figure.


When the bus got back to downtown we had a buffet lunch in the Sky City complex surrounding the Sky Tower.  The buffet was just okay- nothing special and very skimpy on the salad fixings. Desserts were good. The lunch allowed us to catch our breath so we had energy to hit the casino downstairs. Donna won $10. We quit while we were ahead. There were actually few people in the casino.


The casino was only two blocks from our hotel.  Across the street from the hotel was situated a large slingshot thrill ride that would send up to three people rocketing skyward propelled by the energy of bungee cords stretched to two towers. We're spent some time window shopping in the areas near the hotel. While walking around, we walked by a large theater that was used as a location in Peter Jackson's King Kong film.


That night terrific thunderstorms came through the island and we were awakened several times by thunder that exploded.




September 22, 2013: AUCKLAND TO BAY OF ISLANDS


After getting up early to pack I walked to the car rental agency a few blocks from the hotel. The car was a New Zealand version of a Chevy Cruze and was in immaculate shape. The skies had cleared and it promised to be a sunny day. Once I picked up Donna, we maneuvered around the streets and managed to find the main Auckland highway north. The bay bridge and the wide green expanse of the country north of town were beautiful. The emerald green of fields that rolled on either side of the highway was spotted with herds of sheep and cattle.  The road narrowed after a few miles into two lanes with frequent passing lanes. As the road led up into the hills in the Northland, traffic slowed and many cars tried to pass. The route began to resemble a roller coaster. In two places signs indicated "frequent crash area" and there was a crash at one of these. Despite the gorgeous scenery there were few places to pull off and take photos.


Our car passed through several small towns.  Obvious British names alternate with Maori names and we tried our best to pronounce them.... How do you say Wangharei?


The general speed for roads here is 100 kh or about 62 mph. Maybe it's me, but the 100 makes for a heightened sense of speed.


I knew there was a ferry from Paihia to Russell, but was surprised that we can to a car ferry well before Paihia. We later learned the Paihia ferry is pedestrian. The ferry we took over the strait was all of ten minuted then there was a five minute drive into tow. Russell is no an island, but a promontory. But the road leading there from the mainland are very trusted and long, so the best way to arrive is by ferry. The town is small and we found the Russell Cottages quickly. Our cottage was not ready so we walked a block or two to a market to see what we would need to buy. Food here both in restaurants and stores is expensive.


The water in the bay was a lovely turquoise and while walking past shops near the passenger ferry pier we observed many sailboats moored.


Russell Cottages is a cluster of two story houses about two blocks from the Main Street of town. Our cottage was number 11. It featured a large living area with open kitchen and a bathroom and laundry area on the first floor. On the second floor is a master bedroom and ensuite bathroom. Other doors upstairs were locked but my guess is there was another bedroom and bath for larger parties. The main floor had hardwood flooring and two patio doors opened onto a deck with small back yard. More than enough room for two people. The colors are a neutral white/ gray which contrasts nicely with the dark wood floors. Upstairs is carpeted with tile in the bath. The living area featured a flat screen television and fireplace.


The bed was comfortable and we slept well. A television is in the room.



Wifi is available for one device at a time ($25 for three days). The signal was strong but dropped away at times requiring another sign on. I could get a signal by walking over to the office area. The manager said she would waive the fee.


The rate for the cottage was about $150 per night through Expedia. We bought groceries for our meals as there were minimal necessities like salt and pepper in the cottage. Coffee and tea with a quick heating teapot were provided as well as dinnerware and pots and pans.


Some of the cottages surround a small salt water pool and spa. The spa was great but the pool was cool. In an adjacent building is a small kitchen and barbecues outside for guest use.


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