Monday, 4 December 2017

Southern hemisphere peripatetic lifestyle is underway!

This post was written last week, but life and its busy-ness got in the way of posting it - as well as needing to get some photos off David's phone to be included ...  My apologies for lateness!

Be warned: it is a l-o-n-g post with lots of photos - it covers several days of our travels between Manukau City south of Auckland, and getting home to Waikanae.

We are successfully back home now after collecting the motorhome on Thursday 23 November from the shipping agent's yard in Manukau City near Auckland.

It wasn't what would be described as a baptism of fire by any means - no close shaves, no impacts and no disturbed nights. But certainly not boring, and very much a learning experience as we made our way south.

Originally our plan was to convoy with certain motorhoming friends who shall remain nameless but their motorhome is known as Doris the Glampervan. However, they bailed on us (admittedly for quite good reasons), and we had thought that we may have to stay in motels, given we had no capacity for cooking or hot showers - there are changes required to the gas fittings, earthing for the electrics and non-return valves for the sink, vanity and shower to have the UK-constructed motorhome comply with NZ regs and standards. But when we realised that we could eat out when hot food was required, and shower in motorcamps and, most importantly, make early morning cups of tea there, we decided that we should use the motorhome as it was designed for, apart from non-essentials like power/hot water/cooking, etc. It still proved cheaper than motelling our way home.

We had thought from what we had previously been told by VTNZ (Vehicle Testing NZ) that the first inspection and compliance check would take the whole day. But no, when we arrived with the motorhome fresh from the shipping agents, we were told it was only to be a couple of hours. That entailed a plan change as we had decided to stay overnight quite close to Manukau City, as departing the Auckland region in or around rush hour is an activity to be avoided for short and long term health outcomes based on the actions of stress on the body ...

So being able to leave by noon was a bonus. And because the wait for VTNZ was to be two hours we only did a small amount of shopping after finding breakfast.

The first things on the list were a couple of plates, bowls and glasses - melamine was our preference based on what we had been advised by others. Melamine was sourced in Briscoes which has a sale every weekend and most weekdays - honest injun, guv, it does! But I needed a lie down when I saw the prices. Two plates, bowls and glasses would have set us back about $80, for goodness sake! So after purchasing some non-slip drawer liner stuff, we headed for the cut price Xmas shop next door. Out we came with:
  • 8 milkshake waxed paper cups at $2 the lot
  • 8 waxed paper tea cups at $1.50 the lot
  • 2 packs of 8 waxed paper dinner plates at $1.50 a pack
  • Total expenditure: $6.50
A bargain, I say.
This photo is for my brother in law, Murray - fortunately this bear won't fit in their 5th wheeler, but he does pack down to a small parcel ...

Mel in Manukau, ready for travel home - he went to Auckland in a suitcase with no complaints. Didn't need to be vacuum-packed for that journey. You can see that so far, the bed hasn't been made up.

Inspection passed and off we went southwards to Otorohanga, taking the bypass on SH39 from Ngaruawahia, with me driving quite tentatively, and once off the motorway, pulling over to let traffic behind me pass. In the Auckland and Waikato, almost no-one tooted or signalled thanks, b*stards.
I think this is Mt Pirongia which I haven't seen up close before. When I was at Teachers' College in Hamilton, a landlocked city on a flat and swampy plain, I missed Taranaki dreadfully - the mountain, the sea, the hills and the clear air. Fifty years later, this mountain doesn't have the same power to depress me as it did back then.

Do I look relaxed?

We overnighted in the Otorohanga Kiwi Campgrounds - quite a lovely place but the individual sites are quite small and we could hear the neighbour's quite loud TV clearly, even with all our doors and windows shut - on a steaming hot evening. But food, a couple of chardonnays and our quiet radio assisted in keeping the calm on board. And earplugs inserted when I went to bed also helped.
Nibbles for dinner, using paper plates and measuring spoons to serve hummus ... It's a luxurious lifestyle we have!

The next day we headed down to stay with Jim and Judy at Onaero in North Taranaki. Our route took us down State Highway 3 through Piopio where we stopped for a nice breakfast at the Fat Pigeon Cafe. I did need fortifying sustenance as we had recently passed a property with two signs:
  • one stated PRO TRUMP
  • the other stated MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN
  • and the stars and stripes was flying. 
I knew some NZers liked the Dumpster, but I did not expect to see signs here proclaiming such sentiment - quite turned my stomach ...

We had decided that one of the things we wanted to do with the motorhome was explore all brown signs - you know the ones I mean - for tourists. Well, we didn't quite do that but we did stop off and re-visit a few places that were part of my past:
  • at Awakino we pulled in a had a look around the one or two streets, looking unsuccessfully for a friend's bach (must have been in the one street we didn't check out)
  • at Mokau we didn't go down to the river or to the sea but we did stop off at the Tainui-Wetere Domain to the south of the village. Once there we stopped and chatted with a couple who have lived in their 5th wheeler for a fair number of years and then had a cup of tea with them. Diane and Wayne are lovely people we will keep an eye out for as we travel about. Diane has persuaded me by example that a selfie stick would be a useful acquisition ...

Diane and Wayne with us outside their 5th wheeler at Tainui-Wetere Domain just south of Mokau and close to the river mouth

That's SH3 beneath the hills and all that clear space for camping!

  • at Tongaporutu we:
    • briefly pulled in to the lookout (fabulous view along the river and out across the bar at the river mouth)

    • drove down to look at our old bach on Hills Road - not a twinge of nostalgia was felt - it's a part of my life that was lovely while it lasted but outlived its loveliness and its accessibility
Before we arrived at Jim and Judy's we passed the end of their road and drove into Waitara to visit my lovely sister Dee. The darling woman had got in vogel bread and tomatoes for a lunch snack, but as I am due for a colonoscopy on Wednesday I wasn't allowed any seeded bread or seeded veges/fruit, dammit. But so lovely to see her after several months of our absence.

Then back to Onaero to Jim and Judy's for lots of catching up, great dinner, and an early night for me. We slept in the motorhome and it was great to wake up to the birds and the sound of the sea.

We had brunch in Waitara at the new Wayfinders Cafe in the old Masonic Hotel. Yummy food and good service. Then back to the Waitara Marine Motorcamp and some lessons in waste water disposal - we need a hose to attach to the outlet pipe as the dumpstations do not have a drive-over drain but are offset. I need to ask Dee again what the coupling is called as we have both forgotten ... Doh!
Dee and Murray with the Dodge and the 5th wheeler that has been their home for about 11 years. Makes our motorhome look small!

We had thought of spending that night at Oakura, not far west of New Plymouth, but realised we needed to be back in Waikanae by today (Monday) so only had two more nights of adventures this time. So we needed to go a bit further.
Now THAT is a mountain! Mt Taranaki is just beautiful. What with that almost in our backyard (we could see it from the playground at our primary school) and the beach and river at Tongaporutu where most of my weekends and holidays were spent, was it any wonder I thought Hamilton a landlocked uninteresting prison?

A very Taranaki rural sight with cows on the way to the shed (dairy parlour to you UK readers). A lot of farmers now have tunnels under the road to prevent traffic delays, but I used to love the frequent stops for cows moving between shed and paddock, and sheep being herded along the road by the dogs moving them between paddocks.

We did stop off at Tim's place in Opunake where we are to spend Xmas and determined we could happily park up outside his fence - very level, quite sheltered, and if we need power, I am sure we will be able to send the cable inside the house.

Then on to Kaupokonui Motorcamp for the night. A plain, no frills place beside the river and close to the sea. We don't have any levelers for under the wheels to make sure we are not sleeping/dining/sitting up- or down-hill. So I crossed the river on the footbridge and collected a few suitably-shaped rocks  and positioned them in front of the driver's side wheels and moved the motorhome carefully on to them. Better, but not totally level. Survivable though, so no princess and the pea moments ensued.
Love that black sand!

The strata and the effects of the wind, river and sea. Mt Taranaki is not far away and I am pretty sure the strata here reflect the eruptions centuries ago.

It was warm but a bit breezy, as it generally is on the beaches, so the cardigan was necessary in the early morning. However jandals are required wear on the beach!

 Some interesting finds on the beach: the animal bone (the sign on the bridge says to watch out for wild cattle in the sand dunes ...), the portuguese men of war (bluebottles with very painful stinging on contact - hence the need for jandals), the huge range of different stones/rocks which I guess indicate the volcanic nature of the area


The strata are so easily seen - the three on view here are not much taller than David, and then it's sand dunes for a long way back. I noticed that further up the coast these strata were much taller and higher up the cliffs. (Am I obsessed with this stuff? Possibly ...)

The riverbank a couple of hundred metres away from the rivermouth. Most people swim there as the sea is rough, has undertows and the summer crop of bluebottles to make it unpleasant and not very safe ...

The next day (yesterday) we decided it was time for two things:
  1. exploration
  2. staying at either a POP (Park Over Property) or a CAP (Charge Applies Property). Both are private homes with space for motorhomes/caravans and a range of facilities, the former generally doesn't charge.
So our explorations took us:
  • to Ohawe Beach to see the soldiers' memorial (British troops only, nothing for the Maori who also died defending their land) 
The memorial at Ohawe Beach. We thought that any memorial for the Maori who fell in these Land Wars was likely to be at the marae, so we will ask our friend Autry who grew up at Ohawe Beach.

  • into Hawera for brunch (OK quality food, with yummy gelato for afters) 
  • down to the coast at Patea
  • inland at Waverley looking for a former battle site (not found), 
  • a stop at Waverley at two shops:
    • the Glass and Art Gallery - some absolutely beautiful stuff there - do stop if heading through there as it is wonderful. And also stop at:
    • the Book Bank - this is owned by Patrick who is formerly of Masterton and who came to collect David's dad's books when David's mum died. I had a look around and saw a book that looked familiar. I pulled it off the shelf, opened it to the flyleaf and there it was:
      • John McDonald, 68 Cole St, Masterton - such a lovely feeling to know his legacy continues.
  • then a drive from Waverley down to the beach to freedom campsites that Patrick had told us about. Well, we will be staying at one of them for certain sure! Just superb, looking out over the cliffs to the sea.
 We called in to Mary and Alan's to see their new (and very beautiful) new home in Wanganui and then had McDonald's for an early dinner (never again - it truly is crap).

And then on to Whangaehu where we stayed overnight at a CAP belonging to Phil and Diane. A lovely peaceful place and very nice people. A cup of tea by the outside fire, followed by wine by the outside fire, followed not much later by bedtime ...
David and Phil, with the motorhome in this lovely rural place.

Phil restored this Morris 8 and they take it out to all sorts of rallies - driving it there, not getting it transported. Apparently if it doesn't go, it doesn't travel!

Isn't it beautiful?

We had breakfast in Bulls at The Mothered Goose - we would not go back there as it was the poorest breakfast we had all trip. Their homemade bread was tasteless and stale.

The drive down to Otaki Beach to visit Derek and Ted on the way home, was littered with stops:
  • a couple of them to remedy rattles, and 
  • one toilet stop - it is SO decadent to be able to pull off the road, stop the engine**, and go and use the loo on board! ** The engine has to be turned off so the waterpump will work. A safety device, we think, so no one will use the facilities/kitchen while the motorhome is underway.
After Derek and Ted had oohed and aahed in a suitably appreciative fashion, we had a cup of tea with them and headed home - only one stop then at the supermarket for bread, milk and fizzy wine. While David shopped, I hovered and phoned Bruce and Gary to come up for a celebratory champenoise.

Once in Rata St, I parked without any hassle on the impeccably constructed pad (thanks, Luke), and immediately filled a bucket to clean off the Taranaki cow poo we'd driven through there.

Only one bottle of bubbles was consumed, which was quite abstemious of us all, but as we only had one available it was pretty inevitable really.

OK, I think that brings us up to date to Monday a week ago. Quite a lot has occurred since then, but those events have to be the subject of another post - to be done later! I have Christmas stuff I am on a mission to complete!


Barry and Pauline said...

sounds like you have plenty to fill in your time, one home firmly anchored and one wheelie, glad your baby arrived safely and was not seasick!
Take care

Marilyn McDonald said...

We were delighted at the excellent condition the motorhome arrived in - we had visions of dents/scratches/missing bits ... But all was well.
It has been have=ing a sleepover at Plimmerton the last couple of nights while the electrics are converted to NZ standard. I am going to collect it tomorrow. Exiting the steep drive (I reversed up it ...) with the sharp bend out on to the street is going to be a challenge ...

Jenny said...

Many congratulations on your sucessful inaugural trip in the motorhome!! As for places to stay, as well as the delightful CAPS and POPS around the country, there are also quite a network of NZMCA sites waiting for you to discover. Here's wishing you both many miles/kms of happy travels.

Robin and Jenny, Romany Rambler

Dianne Foreman said...

Hi Marilyn & David...most entertaining. You will most certainly have a gr8 time in your new motorhome exploring our beautiful countrys' nooks & crannies as we NZ travellers tend to do.
We left Mokau only yesterday after enjoying FABULOUS weather. The fishing was mediocre but still enjoyable.
Presently parked at Otorohanga NZMCA's soooo HOT but glad we're not working.
Will hopefully catch you again on our/your travels.
Dianne & Wayne (Whare Rangi Ra)
P.S. Nice pic!

Marilyn McDonald said...

Hi Jenny and Robin, Diane and Wayne,
We are looking forward to lots of travels and explorations - and NZMCA campsites will be on the list as soon as we get all the things done for a self containment certificate.
In the meantime, I am stocking up on the things we need, and starting to put in place the things we already have. Finding the right/most convenient cupboard space for crockery/cutlery/pots and pans, and still leaving space for food is the trick still to be mastered!
Cheers, Marilyn