Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Highway to 'Hell' NIGEL HEATH Visits the 'Hell Hole of the Pacific' and Loses His Luggage - but Still Falls in Love with New Zealand

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Highway to 'Hell' NIGEL HEATH Visits the 'Hell Hole of the Pacific' and Loses His Luggage - but Still Falls in Love with New Zealand

Article excerpt

Byline: NIGEL HEATH

IMAGINE this holiday nightmare scene. I was at an Auckland Airport desk queuing to collect our New Zealand touring car when my wife Jenny suddenly demanded in a panic: "Where's the black case because it's not in the taxi?" We had flown in from Sydney the previous evening and stayed in a local hotel prior to taking a taxi back to the airport to pick up our transport.

I had been so intent on helping the driver load our two heavy red cases into his boot that I had left the much smaller black travel case on the hotel forecourt!

Inside it were PS1,000 in New Zealand dollars, our entire North and South Island itinerary plus emailed holiday vouchers which had taken Jenny many hours to source.

Heart thumping, I leaped into the taxi which, luckily, had not driven off and we sped back to the hotel with me hoping against hope that our case would still be there.

Trouble was, a large party of Japanese tourists had checked out at the same time and their luggage had been scattered all over the hotel forecourt prior to being loaded onto a coach going to God knows where.

Thank goodness, then, that our case was still sitting there all by itself. I had learned a hard lesson about the importance of always doublechecking that you have all your possessions with you when you're on a touring holiday.

With me driving and Jenny map reading we soon found our way out onto New Zealand's Highway One and a delightful day's driving brought us to our first B&B stopover at Kerikeri in the beautiful Bay of Islands.

Our thoughtful hosts had provided us with a list of sights to see on our way north and strangely one of them was the famous grass-roofed toilets in the township of Kawakawa.

They were designed by famous Austrian artist and architect Frederick Hundertwasser who believed that toilets, like church, were a good place to meditate. His materials included gold balls, ceramic tiles, bottle glass windows, mosaic tiling, cobblestone flooring, individual sculptures and even a living tree.

So by the time we reached our holiday host's well-appointed bungalow set in a large and luxuriant tropical garden we were really in the touring holiday mood.

Ahead of us were ten glorious days exploring the area gradually making our way south to Wellington prior to boarding the ferry across the Cook Strait to Picton - the jumping off point for our two-week tour of the much more mountainous and dramatic South Island.

We were staying in Kerikeri for three nights so, the following morning, drove to nearby Paihia for a scenic boat cruise around the Bay of Islands, landing at the picturesque early settlement of Russell.

This delightfully quaint, sleepy township was the first permanent European settlement and sea port in New Zealand and was served by the local Maori population who supplied food and timber in exchange for firearms, alcohol and other goods. …

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