Published: Friday, 30 June 2017 Written by Walter 'WASABI' Marthaler

to the other end of the world from Switzerland

THE FLYING HOPPERS visit New Zealand and in particular AUCKLAND to participate in the WORLD MASTERS GAMES (21st to 27th April 2017)

This report, or rather the below mentioned impressions, are written purely based on my personal views and hence often not relevant for others. Luckily there is an official report written in German by Ruckli – many thanks, Ruckli!


Since there are no direct flights from Switzerland to New Zealand some participants selected flights to include a stop-over in Hong Kong, hence to be able to meet up with Jennifer and myself.

First up, as early as 4th April, were Evi, Lique and Max. They thought it a great idea to land in Hong Kong, fit in a full day’s sightseeing, and then, in the evening of the very same day catch a flight onward to New Zealand, i.e. deftly defying jet-lag which would not be able to touch them, so to speak… But especially Evi, having watched four movies on the plane from Switzerland instead of resting, looked quite worn out towards the end of the day and apparently fell asleep straight after boarding the flight to Auckland!

I was blissfully unaware that 4th April happened to be Lique’s birthday… what an unusual way to celebrate such a day without any rest?! If I had known I would have bought Lique some nice flowers at Armani’s – unlike Max…

Since 4th April happened to be such a beautifully sunny day, I tried to guide Evi, Lique and Max around Hong Kong island and also around some parts of Kowloon to give them the chance to see as much as possible. I also wanted to use as many different modes of transportation as possible, to give the visitors a wide variety of experiences.

From the HKIA (Hong Kong International Airport) we took a big sized bus to the centre of Hong Kong and then proceeded up to the Peak by taxi. After enjoying the impressive views from up there for a while, we took the Peak Tram down to return to central Hong Kong. Taking a first tram ride all the way to Happy Valley, we headed for lunch at the Hong Kong Football Club. Thereafter another tram ride took us back to Central, where Lique was duly impressed by the ‘Armani Fiori’ shop. However, Max showed no interest in buying her any flowers!

We walked along to take the Star Ferry over to the Kowloon side, and after visiting the 1881 site used the subway system (MTR) for only one stop to Jordan station. We then ambled around a bit in the back alleys around Jordan to get the local flair. Then it was a short minibus ride to take us to the Elements complex where we first had some drinks on the roof terrace and then proceeded to the OZONE BAR. It has become a well established pattern for Flying Hoppers visitors to Hong Kong to have farewell drinks in that bar before catching the Airport Express to Hong Kong International Airport for departure.

I hope Max & Co fully enjoyed their day in Hong Kong!

The second set of pre-Auckland visitors were Patrick Huber and Retus, who had the foresight to book an overnight stay in town. They arrived on 13th April and departed on 14th April, i.e. just one day before my own departure for Auckland. Their planning for an overnight stay made it possible for Jennifer and myself to fit in a pleasant Chinese dinner in a restaurant near their hotel. We had a most pleasant time and continued with after dinner drinks on Knutford Terrace. It is always such a pleasure to have good friends visit us in Hong Kong!


After flying out of Hong Kong on 15th April, I safely arrived at Auckland Airport very early on 16th April.

Sunday, 16th April, my first day in Auckland

Noticing that my suitcase had arrived damaged, I first had to go through the rigmarole of filing a report at the airport, for further processing in town later on – but to my total amazement that handle actually got fixed.

Being early and not in a hurry at all I took that cost efficient bus which went right into the centre of town and in fact stopped right next to the Hotel Mercure Auckland where I had booked a room for the first night. Funnily enough, they did not have a reservation in my name, but I managed to persuade them eventually to book me in for one night.

The persons already around on that Sunday morning were Corinne, Fedor, Patrick Huber and Retus. We went to have lunch together, but NO alcohol was being served, by law, before 14.00 hrs! Perhaps a first indication that we had somehow arrived at the other end of the world…? According to Willy, IF one were to drill a hole straight through the earth, starting somewhere is Spain, one would come out somewhere in New Zealand. For sure, in any restaurant in Spain there would be alcohol available anytime on Sunday.

We also – luckily – checked out the car rental situation for the next day and secured a very necessary second vehicle.

Towards the evening the following additional Hoppers appeared: Andy, Carlos, Reinhard and Wolfi.

All the Hoppers present that day dealt with the registration formalities for the World Masters Games. Registration had only just opened that day, so the processing went fairly smoothly. After a beer stop to celebrate the successful registration, we started walking back to the hotel and ran into the ‘local group’ of family Overhoff (Kerry, Sacha and their boys Lukas and Tobias) as well as Pat and Jaap together with last minute decider Coen. The latter immediately got appointed CFO on tour yet again!

We then all met up in the lobby of the Mercure Hotel and proceeded to the top floor for Apero drinks and happy chatting, followed by a dinner right there in the hotel. Quite a few of the long distance travellers among us started to show signs of severe fatigue – unsurprisingly.

The last action of the day saw Fedor, Reinhard, Retus and myself walking over to the City Life Hotel where we deposited all the suitcases, hockey sticks, bags etc. not needed on our North Island Tour. Finally, this group decided it was now positively too late to check out the downtown Kebab shop which the advance group had spotted and fancied the previous night.

Monday, 17th April  First Day of TOURING on the North Island of New Zealand

This Monday was of course also Easter Monday, hence the traffic on the roads was fairly heavy by New Zealand standards

After picking up the two reserved cars, we were on our way to Waitomo and the nearby ‘Gloworm Caves’. For the remainder of this tour I had the pleasure of being in a car driven by the very reliable Wolfi, which made me feel very comfortable and secure indeed. THANKS, Wolfi, for your expert driving throughout this trip!

The other two passengers in Wolfi’s car were the Basel contingent of Andy, who I had not seen for some time, and Carlos. The latter joins Flying Hoppers Tours more regularly now. We had a good time, and it was a pleasure for me to be in this group.

Distances in New Zealand are quite big and we therefore stopped for some snacking, which is where we happened to meet up again with the Overhoff family. As I had not seen their two boys, Lukas and Tobias, for many years I could not fail to notice how very much they had grown up in the meantime. Thanks mainly to Kerry’s great guidance (purely my assumption!) these two boys are very well behaved kids indeed – a real pleasure to notice.

After quite a long time driving through very beautiful but somehow ‘empty’ or perhaps I should say remote countryside, we finally arrived at the Waitomo Caves area. We signed up for the full ‘Waitomo Experience’, i.e. we visited two different cave systems.

The focus in the first system was mainly on those ‘gloworms’ which correctly (scientifically speaking, but not an appealing concept) should be called ‘cannibalistic maggots’!

Regardless, it was all very interesting. I was especially impressed by the tour in the second cave. I have never experienced such a fantastic cave visit anywhere before!

After this visit we were heading for Rotura, about 200 km away. There are virtually no highways and full concentration is needed by the drivers. I sensed that Wolfi was getting quite tired, but we made it safely to that Ibis Hotel in Rotura where the check-in lobby looked chaotic, with a huge number of Chinese tourists blocking the counter, but concentrated and determined efforts by Pat and Retus made it possible for us to check in without too much waiting time. Well done, Pat and Retus!

In Roturua we were also newly welcoming Irena and Willy Arber who had been touring way to the north in North Island before driving all the way down to Roturua, which of course took them a long time – once again, it should not be forgotten that this was Easter Monday with quite some traffic, especially around the Auckland area.

A very pleasant end of the day was had by the group I joined for dinner, Corinne, Fedor, Patrick, Retus and Wolfi, at a restaurant called ‘Terrace Kitchen’ which had been ‘discovered’ by Natalja, Silvina and friends, a discovery  they communicated to Fedor by messaging – the positive aspect of the ubiquitous ‘stay-in-permanent-touch’ technology which determines the world these days…We had a fantastic dinner, with absolutely top notch quality lamb being served. What a very pleasing second day of the tour! (

Tuesday. 18th April   WAI-O-TAPU  Thermal Wonderland and a MAORI evening

I woke up to a fantastically sunny day, which is of course always extremely pleasant.

The drive to Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland was not too long. Like all the other tourists around, we started off by watching the ‘Geysir Show’ which takes place every day. Some of us felt somewhat let down by the experience, e.g. Retus said rather drily,

‘It was o.k.’ – a comment which must have summarized what many of us were thinking.

However, the long walk around the ‘Thermal Wonderland’ which followed was most interesting, featuring lots of stunning sights. Well worth the visit!

In the evening we all went on a MAORI experience tour which, whilst of course ‘touristy’, was indeed surprising and well worth participating in. After all, the male Flying Hoppers attending got a crash course in how to do the HAKKA properly!

The day ended with eating a traditional Maori Hangi dinner.

Wednesday, 19th April     Drive to TAUPO – outdoor HOT BATH experience

We finally left Roturua behind us on another sunshine filled day and drove over to Taupo to check into the most upmarket hotel on this whole visit to New Zealand, namely the Hotel Hilton Lake Taupo, which is located some distance from the city centre. Hence we had to drive back into Taupo’s centre  for lunch, and also to check out some good eating places for dinner occasions.

Fedor very kindly invited me to a seafood lunch, just the two of us, and we had a very nice time indeed, with pleasant and interesting discussions about a wide range of topics. I particularly value such moments/occasions and really treasure them when I look back on the many Flying Hoppers tours I have attended over the years, trying to figure out what sticks in my mind most positively.

In the afternoon different groups could do different things. I joined the group going to a very nice outdoor hot bath experience, like those I had had in the past in Japan, of course. But here in New Zealand the vegetation was completely different and the venue much bigger. There was a set of three big outdoor baths with different temperatures, from very hot to moderately hot. Extremely pleasant and relaxing – I hugely enjoyed that.

In the evenings we had dinner on two occasions in Taupo city centre, but always went back to the Hilton for some good night drinks. I had acquired a room-mate, Coen, a further positive first for me since we tended to have some excellent discussions before falling asleep.

Thursday, 20th April    Whole day excursion to the TONGARIRO  Volcano area

Waking up in the Hilton which overlooks Lake Taupo reminded one that a lot of areas in New Zealand are very volcanic in nature, which is obviously also the reason for those nice hot baths in Taupo. Lake Taupo is basically the size and shape of the giant crater formed by a huge volcano which erupted a very long time ago.

A group of people in two cars decided to go on a fairly long drive to the Tangariro National Park, steadily upwards, until arriving at a couple of lifts, in winter used to transport skiers up, but in the summer or autumn as now we could take them to go up to quite a high altitude, and it felt surprisingly cold up there!  An extremely interesting experience as the whole mountain is a volcano and the whole landscape accordingly volcanic in nature. We caught one of the last lifts down in the afternoon and then went on a very pleasant walk to an impressive waterfall, about a two hours’ walking tour.  Realising that people in our group were going to walk at different speeds, we agreed at the very start of this walk that we would all meet up again at an impressive and massive hotel which dominates the whole area. It is aptly named ‘Hotel Chateau Tongario’ and has great character and cachet, having been built in 1929.

And what a big surprise was in store for us when in the afternoon we went for

‘High Tea’ in the restaurant of this luxury hotel! Fellow tour members from the female ‘Zurich Sox & Co.’ were guests in that hotel and were also just enjoying their afternoon drinks. Fancy meeting the Bircher family as well as Nathalie and Simone by pure chance – what a small world! Amazing.

We finally started the long drive back to Taupo, and as usual.Wolfi was of course absolutely reliable.

This being the last evening on sightseeing tour we went to a very nice and somewhat trendy restaurant in Taupo, the ‘Dixie Brown’s’, which I can most definitely recommend warmly to visitors to that area.

Friday, 21st April   Back to Auckland – WORLD MASTERS OPENING  CEREMONY

A fairly long drive back to Auckland, naturally. Our car somehow managed to find the fastest route to return to the rent-a-car agency, and we then walked over to our new hotel, the nicely located City Life Auckland Hotel, where we would stay for the rest of our time on this tour.

We all got ready for an APERO drinking session in the evening before heading to the opening ceremony.  By now almost all of our tour members had arrived, Guido being the exception since he was held back in Switzerland, having to deal with some business.

The opening ceremony took place at the Eden Park Stadium where all those famous International Rugby games are normally held.. Whilst the venue was impressive due to its size and due to the large number of World Master Games participants present, the show itself was – to me at least – a bit of a disappointment since both the sound system and the lighting/visibility were on the too low side for my eyes and ears. A pity, really, as a lot of effort by the organisers must have gone into preparing this event.

After the train ride back to downtown Auckland, different groups went their different ways for dinner. I was in a small group which quickly selected a nearby Japanese restaurant of the Izakaya type, which was quite pleasant, though nothing to write home about.

Saturday, 22nd April   The Hockey Tournament starts

Ruckli is our official report writer and I shall refrain from going into details regarding the games played.

Hence I shall concentrate on the eating/drinking matters which also deserve some commentary.

In the evening four of us, Corinne, Patrick Huber, Retus and I went to a very nice Vietnamese restaurant. We greatly enjoyed both the food and the ambience at that Café Hanoi restaurant,  (

Sunday, 23rd April     The Hockey continues, plus a GREAT OUTING TO WAIWERA

Hockey continues, of course.

The highlight of the day was certainly the special party to which we all got kindly invited by Kerry and Sacha, and of course Pat had helped a lot in the preparation of such lovely and plentiful food! Many heartfelt THANKS to them for organising this great event in a stunningly beautiful setting right next to the beach at Waiwera. Even Guido had finally made it to New Zealand and could join in the fun.

We first enjoyed a lot of different types of food from the barbecue as well as other delicacies, all combined with lots of drinks. The drinking led to highly animated discussions, and eventually – at least for some – to swimming in the nearby sea, to be rounded off with a relaxing bath in the hot spring tub right in the garden.

Many photos were taken, and in years to come it will be great to have these to help us remember the splendid time we all enjoyed together in this gorgeous location. My personal heartfelt THANKS go to Sacha and especially Kerry and Pat for their truly wonderful hospitality!

Monday, 24th April   The Hockey continues   - A very meaty dinner

Another day with hockey games at that impressive North Harbour Hockey Club.

In the evening seven of us went for a ‘steak experience’ at the Angus Steak House – truly excellent meat aplenty, even for the very hungry ones among us! (

Tuesday, 25th April     Excursion to WAIHEKE ISLAND  (ISLAND OF WINE)

Sir Stefan picked the perfect beautifully sunny day, and the perfect venue, i.e. a non tropical island paradise near Auckland, as well as the perfect activity: wine tasting!

I have reason to assume that most of us enjoyed this outing very much indeed. The tour guides (have forgotten their names – Simon and Furunkel?) did a great job handling the impressively large number of Hoppers, answering their many questions admirably well.

At the last winery visited: Sweeping views across the island from underneath a huge tree must be an image bound to stick in the mind for many of us?

The only kind of let-down on this beautiful day was the dinner back in Auckland;

‘Tony’s Original Steak & Seafood Restaurant’ can, or rather should, be avoided, both for service and food!

Wednesday, 26th April     Birthdays for BOTH Kerry and Coen!

As the hockey game was scheduled for the afternoon that day, I dealt with some private matters in the morning. I met up with Marianne Brunner, owner/director of MB Fine Foods Ltd. (Swiss and German made treats)

I always like to meet up with someone who has lived in a place for a long time, hence can explain things from a local perspective. Marianne, originally from the Canton of Zurich but with close on 20 years living in New Zealand, was certainly able to explain lots of things to me. She kindly picked me up at the hotel and drove us to Titirangi for some breakfast coffee and a good chat. She said Waiheke island used to be a hippy alternative lifestyle kind of place, but that those days were long gone now. But apparently there are now some new trendy places around Auckland. Later on Marianne drove us up to the Arataki Visitor Centre from where I could enjoy great views on yet another beautifully sunny day. That area is near a National Park, very close to Auckland, and near the starting point of the ‘Sir Edmund Hillary Trail’ – the first person to climb Mount Everest is an Auckland native.

Some more hockey in the afternoon was followed in the evening by what I think must be a FIRST on a Flying Hoppers Tour: celebrating TWO birthdays on the same day ON TOUR!

The fun began with much Champagne/Apero drinking before going to dinner at the elegant ‘Soul Bar and Bistro’ ( Kerry and Coen got seated side by side, looking like a couple with glowing faces… Sacha almost got a touch nervous?!

As it happened this was also – in my opinion – the FINEST restaurant/food we enjoyed throughout this whole tour of New Zealand! I had a fish dish which was simply divine, very fresh and beautifully cooked. In the Philippines this type of fish is called ‘Lapu.Lapu’.

I got the impression that we all enjoyed this occasion enormously – I know for certain that I did!

Thursday, 27th April    Some more hockey  - Visit to Auckland’s War Memorial Museum

An early hockey game today, the highlight probably being  Ruckli’s acrobatic falling down on the goal line?!

In the afternoon some of us took Willy’s recommendation to heart and paid a visit to a very interesting museum. Personally I found the ‘Volcanoes’ section absolutely fascinating.

In the evening another nice dinner saw a group of us back at one of our favourite restaurants, the ‘Café Hanoi’. In the course of that dinner Ruckli talked in great detail about his new-found interest in the sport of weight lifting by women. Interesting.

Friday, 28th April      Visit to RANGITOTO ISLAND  (Volcano!)

Yet another beautifully sunny day led some of the Hoppers to decide to visit another island near Auckland, namely Rangitoto. This proved to be a very pleasant outing indeed.

There is absolutely NOTHING on Rangitoto, i.e. one can visit and then leave again. Just walks and great viewing spots once one gets up to the crater of this long dormant volcano.

There is also a ‘Lava Cave’ one can enter. Ruckli was the only one trying this out. He followed a Brazilian young lady into the cave but almost instantly smashed his head on a bit of volcanic stone in the dark, leaving him with cuts on his head…

We decided to make our way back to the pier to catch the ferry, but feared we were likely to miss the next one. However, on this occasion the New Zealanders’ rather relaxed attitude to time keeping worked in our favour because we managed to catch a ferry back to Auckland which should have left 10 minutes earlier.

For dinner that day the group I was with once again re-visited a favourite restaurant, this time the ‘Angus Steak House’. We were awaiting Max & Co.who were expected to be back with Evi from the South Island, where Evi had done some special training. We had almost given up on these three, but hurray, they arrived in time to dig into those BIG sized steaks on offer which are so very delicious! We chatted quite a bit, and of course the great news of Pe winning a GOLD MEDAL in GOLF at the World Masters Games was on everyone’s mind! Extremely well done, Pe! Congratulations from all of us, and you will surely have to defend that title at the World Masters Games in the Kansai area in 2021?! Four more years of training will surely do the trick.

Saturday, 29th April     HOCKEY FINAL   and   FAREWELL DINNER

How time flies on tour! I knew this would be my last full day on this tour.

The Flying Hoppers, as on three previous occasions in World Masters Games, had reached the play-off for first or second. As on all those previous occasions it was yet again not to be, i.e. once again we achieved SILVER!

This, very briefly, is the record for those interested:

2002  World Masters Games in MELBOURNE       Silver
2009  World Masters Games in SYDNEY              Silver
2013  World Masters Games in TORINO               Silver
2016  American Masters Games in VANCOUVER  Silver
2017  World Masters Games in AUCKLAND          Silver

Not sure if The Flying Hoppers will ever get anything other than silver?!

However, The Flying Hoppers are not the sort of people to feel miserable just because of a game loss in another final.

We immediately started to prepare for a CELEBRATION  evening to end this GREAT TOUR to New Zealand in style! Despite the heavy rain which had come about on this last day we did indeed enjoy a VERY FINE and most congenial FAREWELL DINNER.

Many THANKS to Fedor for finding out about this fantastic restaurant in the trendy Parnell area, which is described as follows:

‘CIBO’ is an award winning restaurant. CIBO Has been one of the favourite haunts for Aucklanders ‘in the know’! Elegant, long running restaurant featuring seasonal New Zealand fare, wine, and courtyard seating.’ (

We had an excellent last night wining and dining and chatting – and what e great experience not just this last evening but this WHOLE tour to New Zealand has been!

I am already looking forward to being on further Flying Hoppers Tours in the not too distant future.

Your scribe

PS:            c)  POST TOUR – IMPRESSIONS

I did ask for some input respectively ‘impressions’ by other persons that participated in this fantastic tour to New Zealand.

Very pleasing indeed that Coen did get back to me with his following remarks that I am happy to quote in full hereafter.


My impressions are a bit late perhaps, but for me some highlights were:

1)      The BBQ and swim at Kerry & Sacha’s house. That was such a great day/night with all fun FH people together

2)      My birthday with Kerry! This is definitely a birthday I shall never forget. The drinks on the terrace outside worked out so well and followed by an excellent dinner with the birthday girl Kerry. Excellent.

3)      Waiheke, in particular the lunch on that mountain top: what spectacular views!

4)      The Geysers (Champagne pool! I like the name): similar to Iguazou, amazing how much time you can spend to walk around. Really wonder of nature!

5)      Caves with these worms….unreal!

6)      Our trip to the mountain with all the volcanic rocks…..spectuacular!

7)      And…  I almost forgot our hockey matches: I believe the final was a deserved loss. We fought hard, but were beaten by a better (more routined? Local team).

 Thanks a lot, Coen.