Tag Archives: Kiwi

Auckland and farewell to NZ

Lou had been working hard to get the car details out and about in the hope of a quick sale of it and all the camping stuff that we had.  Of course, it is never that simple and we had had no bites at all from the posts she had put up.

For our final period in Auckland, she had arranged for us to stay at a workaway in the Mt Eden area. Right up on the hill at the end of the road, the house was at the end of a steep drive. Rented by Kharen, a single mum and Alex, her lovely 12 year old daughter, she had decided that with the hours she worked, the large garden would never be brought under control unless she got help and so her looking for workaways. It was great fun. We lived in an enormous room on the ground floor with probably as much floor space as our flat in Stockbridge. We were able to spread out, clean, wash and repack all the stuff we had acquired in NZ, separating what we would take back to the boat and what would be left behind.

The work on the garden entailed everyone getting involved. I did the noisy stuff and cut down some trees, Lou and the girls weeded and picked out huge numbers of unwanted bulbs and I even managed to do a little carpet laying to the outhouse, converted into a hideaway for Alex. I tried to make a new shelter under the deck area with a large tarp which looked good until the rain came. With not enough angle and too little tension, it failed. I understand that Kharen will try again with more angle and perhaps supports fitted too.

Of course it wasn’t all work. We had some great meals and chats with Kharen. Hannah was particularly appreciative of her time with Alex, someone who shares her love of art and is in this person’s humble opinion, exhibiting a considerable talent already.  There was a visit to the Auckland Zoo where Hannah, near beside herself,  got to see a baby giraffe (for those not in the know, her very, very favourite animal) and even a Kiwi in a special low light environmental area. No photos allowed though, so you get to see the sign.

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We had a good time doing the last real mall shopping we expect to be able to do until we either see Australia or perhaps the UK. Clothes were delivered back to Op shops, more clothes were handed down by Alex and bags were packed. I managed to run around a variety of boat shops and found most of my shopping list – new bearings for the main track, an acid wash for the water generator, West System epoxy, a gel coat repair kit, bulbs and copper strip being the main items.  Lou continued to try and get rid of the car but we still had no luck.  In the end, we took it back to the company that we bought it from, signed it in to their care for sale and left it with them for eventual disposal. It may take a while but we should get some money back in time.

We also managed to run out to see the Hobans for an evening, the Workaway family we stayed with back in November. We yet again had a lovely time with them and I hope that we will see (at least!) the kids on our side of the world when they spread their wings. Lovely people.

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We left NZ with a big smile on our faces. We had had a wonderful time, staying with four great families and meeting many more good people as we travelled around.  We were regularly blown away by the hospitality we encountered and the help and advice we received was excellent. Our thanks to you, the Shafts, Hoban, Sell and Hope families. You were wonderful and we hope that one day we will be able to return your hospitality.

And the sport and the outdoor lifestyle? Just marvellous. You don’t see many smokers (priced out of existence – $25+ a pack and rising at 10% a year) and you rarely see overweight – people are just too busy at either some sport or just out tramping. As someone said to us, there is as much pride shown here for someone that gets even to a district sports team as getting good exam results. The number of small towns we drove through with huge signs up, congratulating pupils getting in to a junior NZ team was great to see.

NZ is still a young country and there remain historic difficulties due to the land grabbing tactics of the original white settlers from the Maori clans. However, the modern acceptance and integration of Maori culture and acceptance of the debt suggests that the country is in a far healthier state than say USA, SA or Aus are with their indigenous minorities. The mania for rugby helps, of course. Don’t think I met a NZ child who didn’t know the haka and wasn’t intensely proud of where it came from!

Although we liked the cosmopolitan nature of Auckland, we both thought that it is getting too big , with an influence that is becoming even more pervasive than London is to the UK.  I’d suggest that if there are to be problems in NZ in the future, it will be because of this seemingly unchecked growth and the hoovering of resource, personal and finance, from the rest of the country. Whilst I enjoyed the warmth of the North, the majesty of the South Island attracts me massively and I’d love to explore that better. What a place. I think, as I have said before, it is Scotland on acid.

Would I go back to NZ? Could I live there?

Yes.

In a heartbeat.

Best thing I can say about a place, really.

NB. Be aware all views stated here in the singular form are solely the views of the author. They may or may not be subscribed to by the long haired Admiral!

PS. We will be returning to the UK on 6 Dec 2017. The flights are booked.

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New Year 2017

We left Auckland having decided to spend one extra day in the Air BnB house. The delay was probably for the best as we were no way ready to push off on the 26th!

We pushed S towards Martinborough to meet up with Gill and Alastair in one of the top 10 campsites. The location was chosen due to its closeness to Wellington where we would get the ferry across to S island. There was also that small matter of being bang in the middle of an excellent wine region with winery after winery within easy walking distance of the campsite.

There is, however, a good deal of N island between Auckland and Wellington and we managed to make a couple of stops on the way.

First on the list was Lake Tapou. About half way down the N island, this enormous lake is the remnants of one of the largest volcanic eruptions in the last 750,000 years which possibly helped to start off the last Ice Age. The last big eruption was around 180AD and is rated as one of the top 3 or 4 violent eruptions in the last 20000years.  Both the Chinese and the Romans recorded a period when the skies went red and it has been linked to this eruption. The volcano is classed as dormant but the lake is constantly measured as the S end rises with the slowly building internal pressures. On the lake’s shore there was a posh chipping range. I sadly didn’t manage to score a hole in one to give us the $10k prize but the girls did have a great time doing summersaults on one of those bouncy machines whilst I (I’m proud to say) peppered the floating green.New Year 2017New Year 2017

The weather stayed fair as we moved down to the Tongariro National Park. Situated with several active volcano (last eruption in the 80’s) the park provides some glorious walks. The one that we did took us a couple of hours and, as we found out later at the information hut, took us on to the foot of Mt Doom of Lord of the Ring fame and around to the lovely Taranaki waterfalls.

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Hannah, of course, had to go behind the falls and got a little wet but the walk back down was warm and she soon dried out.

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Continuing S, we moved to a locally run campsite called the Ruatiti Domain. You had to travel 10 miles off the main road, on to a dirt track and then further on rough track to get down beside a beautiful river. It is, without doubt, the best campsite we have been at in terms of privacy, quiet, beauty and is the only place we have been allowed to light a fire. The loos were long drop, the river your shower. The night sky was brilliant. I have no idea where the nearest light source was but it was long way away. Our pitch was large, dry and within 50m of the river. We watched numerous fishermen pull brown and rainbow trout out and I wished I had brought a fishing rod. We stayed for an extra night and if we hadn’t had to move on to meet Starcharger, I think we would have been there as long as the food lasted, playing in the swimming pool just above us.

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It was a long drive from there down to Martinborough, where we had arranged to meet up with Starcharger to celebrate New Year. We decided to get through the miles as quick as we could. We stopped and admired the view at Stormy Point and were surprised to be able to look back at Mt Doom (otherwise known as Mt Ruapehu) some 60miles away at that point. One thing I have enjoyed about New Zealand is the clarity and quality of air. You can see a long long way and with all the detail there. There is rarely any haze to bother a perfect view.

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Martinborough is a fun place. Overshadowed by the Big Brother of NZ wine, the Malborough district of S island, it has a large number of small but quality vineyards. The town is quaint too. We were surprised to read that the town had been planned using the Union Jack as the pattern for the roads and they have managed to hold a late 19C feel to the buildings around the main square, protecting many of the original buildings.

We stayed at the Top 10 campsite, right beside an unheated free swimming pool, which of course the girls saw, screamed and headed off to meet like minded kids. They came back blue but happy. The adults made the most of the local facilities and we visited a number of vineyards for tastings. The kids got helpful at one of them and, whilst the lady presented us with nice wine to taste, they assembled the bike rack she had been struggling with. Eleanor took control and the girls got a free drink out of it. My favourite yard was the smallest yard of all, making a few thousand cases a year, named Cabbage Tree, which is a firm favourite of Sir Ian Botham when he visits to commentate. We bought a couple of bottles to savour.The Cabbage Tree will export. Have a look here. The wine is excellent

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New Year was held quite quietly in the campsite kitchen. Bizarrely we were warned at 2230hrs by one of the camp staff that we really should make sure we were being quiet (which we were). We moved back across to our tent. The Kiwi in the tent site opposite us was horrified we had been spoken too . “ Not the Kiwi way, mate!” However, we faired better than the group of Irish that were in. Before the evening had even started they had been informed their party size was too big and that they should either go into town to celebrate New Year or leave the campsite. I rather think the people running this particular campsite are lacking in a bit of personality! In the end, we had a good group first foot us, Kiwis, two Irish and a group from the UK, and we enjoyed a very quiet rowdiness until we retired.

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We recovered on New Years Day by heading N to what was promoted as a model railway which had taken Alastair’s fancy. It was a good place to be as the rain poured down. Cwmglyn Farm is an interesting place and is run by a husband and wife team. The rail track has been constructed over 40 years by the husband. Biddy, the wife, started a small farm dairy making live culture cheese with four cows. She has fought a battle with NZ regulations and frankly, government departmental stupidity for years in regard to the amount of testing she is needs to do. Required to use the same testing regime as a large scale commercial producer, 3/4 of her income goes in paying the testing labs meaning very little profit for an awful lot of work. Her cheese is excellent, recognised internationally as being such but unfortunately she is just too small for the bureaucrats to be bothered about. My bet is they will simply be waiting for her to peg out. Not nice to say and short sighted as well. I would have thought that small and cottage industry should be promoted and helped with the current unemployment figures of NZ being as they are.With the farming industry needing help in its survival, they should be assisting any business that helps to re-establish farming and internal food producing industries. Have a look at the farm website to see the cheese making process in photos.

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Both Alasdair and Gill and ourselves had ferries to catch to the South Island booked for the 2nd Jan. We had a half a day in Wellington and visited the excellent  Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Well laid out, it has excellent modern displays and we filled our time up very easily. We could have spend another day there exploring and we have decided that we will do exactly that on our return. Highlights for me must include the SheepCam (only in NZ!) and the Maori displays and artefacts.

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Our ferry left late afternoon and after failing miserably to find an open chippy for a snack before we left, we had to rush to get booked in in time.

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Exploring the North Island

We left Opua in convoy. We were loaded to the gunnels and Starcharger were carrying Lorna and George of Quatsino. Our first stop was at a batch beside the sea at Kaimaumau. As an explanation, many New Zealanders have a family holiday home, handed down through the generations. often by the sea. It is known as a batch. These days they are less popular as international travel becomes cheap enough for most to run up to Fiji, Tonga or Aus for holidays. However, many are available to rent, they don’t cost a great deal and most are built in beautiful and quiet spaces. 

We based ourselves there for three days and had a great time.

Day one saw us travel the final 80km to the northern most point of New Zealand – Cape Reinga. This is an important Mouri site as it is said that departing souls from the island travel to the Cape and lower themselves into the underworld, by way of the ancient Pohutukawa tree on the end of the rock outcrop, just to the W of the lighthouse.

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Day two took us to the wonderfully named 90 Mile Beach. It isn’t actually that long – it is only 80km – but the over exaggeration is forgiven. If you have a 4×4 veh, then the beach is open to you to drive on. With our poor beastie, we had to walk! We had fun bouncing up and down some of the huge sand dunes and the view along the beach was an endless beauty.

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The day before when we were travelling up to the Cape we had been staggered to see hills of sand towering above the rolling grass downs of Northland. These enormous dunes have built up as sand is thrown ashore by the prevailing W wind and are common on the W coast running N from Auckland. We visited a baby one with Amelie when we were staying with the Hoburns. Standing hundreds of feet high, the ones near the North Cape are a different scale altogether. They have spawned another great sport – sand boarding.

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The only trouble with said boarding is the effort of climbing up a couple of hundred feet of sand dune. Climbing sand isn’t easy at the best of times. Do it a couple of times and your lungs are bursting and your legs are jelly. We got to the point of using relays to get the all important boards back to the top. The girls loved it.  Alastair gave us the funniest descent, scattering the panicking watchers at the bottom of the hill with one of his banzai runs to everyone’s amusement. 

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We left the company of Starcharger and Quatisino as they headed back towards their boats and we headed down the W coast by ourselves.  We found that there was a ferry between Kohukohu and Rawene so rather than drive all the way back on to Highway 1, we took the recently graded W Coast Road which wound its way through the mountains. It was a great drive and the scenery was beautiful. The ferry took about half and hour. It was nice to be back on the water, even on just a stink boat!

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We stopped at the entrance to Kiapara Bay, the scene of a recent tragedy in November where a fishing boat was lost with eight deaths. The entrance to the bay is tricky with large sandbanks extending out over a mile. You can see two of them  with breakers in the photo below. It is a beautiful harbour once you are in. Sadly the fishing boat touched one of the banks and turned turtle in the 4m breakers. There were only three survivors.

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We have been hugely impressed by the land management that we have seen throughout the North island. Where once the UK went down the initially efficient but environmentally damaging hedge removal, NZ farmers have built hedges and whole tree lines to divide land blocks, proving shelter for stock and crops. We spotted this area as we drove to the Kia Iwi Lake campsite. The norm around the vineyards, it is quite common to see them around just normal blocks of land used for livestock, as seen here.  These tree lines are 40-50’ high.

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The Kia Iwi camp site was well set out and great fun. On a freshwater lake, it means endless splashing around for the kids in the surprisingly warm water and of course there were plenty of other smalls around to play with. Dad got involved too and there was a certain amount of tomfoolery protecting the swimming platform! We also met a great couple, well into their eighties who have invited us to visit them on our return to Auckland. Ex RAF but an émigré more than 50years ago, he still hasn’t lost the accent! We stayed at the site for three days and left with tears.

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Heading South, we drove into the area of NZ  that is the home of the giant Kauri trees. Once common across NZ, they were cut down in huge numbers in the 18th and 19th century for their hard wood. Now, very few are left, they are protected and NZ has started to replant them. It will take even longer than the UKs New Forest to grow back to glory as the trees grow slow and will last to over 3000years.  We visited the largest of them left named Tane Mahuta, The Lord of the Forest, thought to be about 2000years old, said to be a baby in comparison  to the monsters that were around a couple of hundred years ago. The other interesting fact around these trees is that they are the source of GUM, which once petrified becomes amber. A major industry of the 19thC was to collect the gum from the trees by scoring them or dredging up all the old amber that was plentiful in the swamps, melting it down and exporting it. Gum was sorted in to different grades and was used for make such stuff as jewellery, the first linoleum (providing the waterproofing) and gumboots. Want to know where that particular word for wellington boots came from? Look no further. Interestingly, the North British Rubber Company (now known as Hunter) based in Edinburgh was taking out adverts in the local papers asking folks not to buy the knockoff “gumboots” made here as far back as the 1870s!

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Our final stop before hitting Auckland again was at a campsite in the Tawharanui Peninsula Regional Park. The area is completely wired off to prevent stouts, rabbits and possums from getting in. It is a sanctuary for flightless birds and is one of the few sites with good numbers of kiwi. We didn’t see one although Eleanor says she heard one calling at night. We did see great numbers of Pukeka, another more common flightless bird. The beach was beautiful and and we saw lots of surfers returning to the camp happy after a day playing in the waves.

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We stopped in briefly to say hello at the Hoburn’s to pick up the left behind socks and Hannah’s Kindle. Then it was time to head into Auckland to meet up with Aislado and ZigZag for some Christmas celebrations. Northland is beautiful, warm and we have had great fun exploring it. As always, we wish we had more time to do it justice but what secrets we found, we have loved. Our thanks to Sarah and Mo for giving us so many hints and steers for our travels.

Time to turn our sights on the wilder lands of the South Island.

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