New Zealand Itinerary Days 16 - 24

Day 16: We missed the early morning opportunity to see the gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers,
             so we have some time strolling through Napier, see the Kiwi house, Opossum World
             (opossums being considered New Zealand's public enemy # 1) and a sheep skin tour
             in a local factory. The afternoon is spent on Te Awanga Gannet safaris' tour through
             Summerlee station to Cape Kidnappers, a rather unique Gannet colony on the mainland.

Australasian gannets          Landing          Australasian gannets

Cape Kidnappers          Takeoff          Gannet posing

             The area (Hawke's Bay) is as well famous for it's fine wines.
             Sometime in the late afternoon, we leave for Taupo, and once arrived there, relax
             in a natural hot water spa.

Waipunga falls on the way to Taupo               Lake Taupo sunset

Day 17: Another day with a full program, first of all Wairakei valley with visits to the
            Huka falls, the Craters of the moon, Honey hive, wood crafts and the
           ECNZ Geothermal information center.

Craters of the moon          Craters of the moon          Craters of the moon

             The next stop was Orakei Korako - The Hidden Valley (according to some locals,
             once you have seen this, you don't need to stop in Rotorua), another aerea with
             lots of geothermal activity.
             Finally we continued on our way to Waihi with short stops in Rotorua and

Orakei Korako     Orakei Korako     Fern trees     Orakei Korako

Day 18: The whole day spent touring the Coromandel Peninsula with some visits to lovely
             beaches like Hahei or others. Unfortunately we were too late (due to high tide)
             to enjoy Hot Water beach. Took however a lovely walk down (and exhausting
             back up) to Cathedral Cove. The area is famous as well for it's many craft shops.
             Definitely not enough time again... Late afternoon we arrived in Thames.

Cathedral Cove     Nice rock     Coromandel view     Coromandel view     Cathedral Cove

Day 19: Left Thames after a visit of a local saturday morning market, using the Auckland
            scenic route. Again, we were passing lovely beaches, some parts almost only
            consisting of shells. At a certain time, our van was stopped by a huge crowd of
            sheep making their way to some meadow and using the road. Fortunately they were
            guided by a farmer with it's five dogs. We passed Auckland and finally arrived
            in the Bay of Islands area (Paihia) in the late afternoon.

Sheep encounter               Coromandel view

Day 20: To start the day, a Bay of islands boat trip starting from Paihia via Russel and bringing
             us to Motukokako Island, better known as Hole in the Rock. From there further on
             to Urupukapuka Island (yet another name not really easy to pronounce) for a lunch break.
             On our return back, we visited Kelly Tarlton's Museum of Shipwrecks before heading to
             Waitangi National Reserve to see the Treaty house, the Maori meeting house and the
             Maori war canoes. Surely an historical place.
             We continued our way further up north towards Ninety mile beach, just stopping enroute
             at another wine estate (Cottle Hill) to have a short break. Later on, after our arrival
             at Waipapakauri beach, we enjoyed a nice walk over the endless beach till sunset.

Bay of Islands               Hole in the rock

Ninety mile beach          Ninety mile beach sunset          Ninety mile beach fishing

Day 21: Early in the morning we joined a Far North tour bringing us to Cape Reinga. Enroute
            we stopped at the Wagener Museum. Unfortunately the weather at the cape wasn't
            very good, low clouds coming from the ocean made it rather impossible to distinguish
            the cape. We had a lunch break at Tapotupotu Bay before heading back to the
            northern part of ninety mile beach, making our way through Te Paki stream and
            stopping on our way to the beach for a little exercise; sand tobogganing in the dunes.
            We followed the beach back to our departing point, and after we were dropped off,
            took the opportunity to visit an Angora farm in Awanui.
            We continued our way towards Opononi having the Far North ferry on our own
            between Kohukohu and Rawene. Not really a surprise as this isn't really the usual
            tourist way.

Cape Reinga tour          Opononi sunset          

Day 22: Today should be the last day with our van, tonight we were supposed to be in Auckland.
             On our way, we passed Waipoua Kauri Forest National Park, one of the last remains
             of large Kauri forests. Several huge trees like Tane Mahuta, Te Matua Ngahere, the
             Four Sisters have survived until today. Another interesting track was the Yakas
             Kauri walk. Guess what... it rained again, and that's also the main reason you won't
             see any pictures of these huge trees, the light was just too bad.
             Heading towards Auckland we made another stop at the Matakohe Kauri museum,
             showing as well the history of deforesting entire regions.

Day 23: Whole day spent in Auckland. We joined a tour on the Explorer bus, had to note
             however that the two hours time at each spot were definitely too long and making
             us loose far too much time. We stopped at Kelly Tarlton's Antarctic and
             Underwater World, Parnell, BNZ Tower and Victoria Market. For the rest of the
             day, we just strolled through the city.

Auckland skyline          View from BNZ tower          Auckland - the City of sails          BNZ tower at night

Day 24: So this was it, the day of our departure. We took a last walk down Queen Street
             towards the harbor and enjoyed a walk along the wharf. We had seen so much during
             the last weeks, definitely rushing too much and the decision to return to this
             beautiful country was taken even before leaving it.

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