Monday 25 December 2023

We are home

 We have come home 2 days earlier than originally planned - David's cough is still in situ and it's worse at night. SO he has spent the last 2 nights sleeping more or less upright in the passenger seat of the motorhome. Not the best rest.

So we left Waitara a wee bit before 1pm, I think and arrived home at 5.30pm after a 299km drive, with a stop in Hawera for lunch (the dreaded Maccers - I left most of mine but did scoff the chocolate sundae first, a la Garfield's advice re the uncertainty of life and the wisdom of eating dessert first.

We had a lovely Xmas with Dee's family who we consider ourselves (and are considered) to be part of.

More about the last week or so in the next post. Now I need to sleep - and ACP is setting himself up in another oom, bless his heart. I do love that man!

And today it is 50 years since I introduced David to my mum, and tomorrow it'll be 50 years since he met the rest of my family at Tongaporutu. 💕💞💑

Sunday 24 December 2023

Shakespear Regional Park , West Auckland and Hamilton

As I noted in the last bit of the previous post, it was a very very crap drive in very high winds to get to Shakespear Regional Park. It probably wouldn't have been pleasant in a car, but in a high-sided motorhome it was very scary at times. And of course, motorways tend to be in the more exposed areas (or to have made them more exposed by chopping down trees - grrrrr) so the wind has free rein. As climate change continues to bite, the resultant high winds will become more prevalent, I reckon. 

Shakespear Reg Park is lovely - and what a long drive it is down the Whangaparoa Peninsula! And lots of Aucklanders live on the peninsula and commute into Auckland for work - I can see why, even though the commute by road is long and very time-consuming - it is beautiful with beaches and boating so accessible. And Shakespear is a really popular place for campers and day visitors, for very good reason. 

We had a lovely warm welcome from Bernice and Roy who are Camp Hosts at Shakespear for the summer - been doing it for 10 years, I think.

It is a lovely place but I couldn't put the lettuce tub outside, not even up on the table - the pukekos, you know. In Russell, I could keep them safe from the weka by putting them on the adjacent picnic table, but pukekos can fly enough to flap their way up to my yummy lettuces...

And the babies are fluffy and cute but voracious...

And the pohutukawa are absolutely stunning.

It was our 49th wedding anniversary on the day we arrived, so we invited Bernice and Roy to dinner. I recognise that my meals are not as special as Bernice's - she's definitely a chef, and I'm a cook. And as always when faced with wanting to prepare something lovely, I overthink it and get stressed and cannot make up my mind ...

I'm getting better at selfies though ...
The day after we arrived, we had to move outside the Reserve area as a school group had booked it out - and the only people who could stay were those who had a police clearance, and we don't... Roy and Bernice had driven to us for lunch and we were watching this guy getting kitted out and wondered what he was doing. Readying himself for riding his fat wheeled unicycle, it turned out ...
The oyster catchers were in residence but quite shy. I am not sure why they are called oyster catchers because oysters don't move terribly fast. But those beaks are good for digging them out!

The wind continued and did require that jackets be worn. In the distance over there is Auckland city
You can just about see the Sky Tower...
The pohutukawa grow really well up here.
I went out in the evening to see if the city was more visible. Pohutukawa flowers by night ...

Even though it was quite dark, the lights did help show the buildings across the harbour.

No lights, no clarity for the headland ...

We had a really relaxing time there - went for a walk around the headland, had shared meals with Bernice and Roy, and sheltered from the sun and wind, and delighted in seeing people enjoy the surroundings.

David was discreetly allowing me time to recover from falling over at the beginning of our walk - the lace on my left boot got caught in the hook on my right boot and over I went ... very ignominious!
I think that piece of land way in the distance is the Coromandel Peninsula


And that is one of the islands - I am sure Bernice can tell me which one...

This was the view from the dump station at Gulf Harbour part the way back along the ithsmus. As I said before, Whangaparoa is rather beautiful.

We left pretty early on the Saturday morning, so we could do a supermarket shop on the way to West Auckland. Bernice had convinced me that the Pak'n'Save at Silverdale was good. I don't like that supermarket chain as I usually find that their fruit and veg are at the end of their useful lives and don't last, so the lower price isn't worth the waste. However, as we left the one at Silverdale I texted Bernice to tell her this one was pretty good.

We wanted to be in West Auckland to be able to catch up with Melita and with Lynne and Brent. So we stayed at Tui Glen NZMCA park. It was too hot to move and do anything!

Melita came for a late lunch and David set up the table and chairs outside the NZMCA compound (yes, it's got high fencing around it) in the shade of a tree in the lovely park outside. It was so lovely to catch up with Melita. She has been in our lives since she was 18 and that's 30 years ago! It was bizarre to be discussing peri-menopause with her when I always think of her as being very young!

Beautiful woman!


David and me with one of our favourite people.

We had been planning to stay the Sunday night as well, but David was keen to move on and get out of Auckland before the Monday rush. That depended on how long our visit from Lynne and Brent was and how fresh I was going to be for driving in the late afternoon.

It was wonderful to see Lynne and Brent and Coco - I think David secretly likes Coco the best.Evidence: he always spends most time cuddling her.

Lynne wanted to remain anonymous in this photo - I sent it to Kurt, my nephew. Lynne remembers burstiung his football with her car at Tongaporutu. Kurt didn't remember but said she still owed him ...


Lynne and I have known each other and been friends since the mid 1990s when we did a Self Expression and Leadership course together. She's a no nonsense say it like it is person and I appreciate that. She's an excellent and challenging coach when I'm trying to sort stuff out.

Her middle daughter Tomai and Kirsty became really good friends when they were in London together (La Perla was their local, they said, and excellent for cocktails on a Friday night ...) and then when they were both in Sydney. So an intergenerational friendship - and that is so cool.

As I said, David was keen to get out of Auckland and I was okay with that but I wanted to get to Hamilton - far enough away to be out of the rat race-ness of NZ's biggest city. The drive down was pretty cruisey and there is an expressway once you get to the end of the Southern motorway, so it's at least 4 lanes all the way.

Hamilton has changed quite a bit since I lived there when at Teachers' College (in '68, '69 and '70) - I didn't like it then at all. Probably 3 of the saddest years of my life, in my memory of it. And since then I don't think I've ever stayed there apart from work trips.

So making the call to stay there was a bit out of left field really. However the Hamilton City Holiday Park is really lovely. 

On the Monday we walked into the city and had a lovely time interacting with locals - although getting there in foot was a bit of a challenge - the challenge was finding how to get to be able to cross the Claudelands Bridge. It is always good to be able to ask for instructions, I find...

We had a really beaut late brunch at a cafe called Cream, on the recommendation of two women I accosted who were clearly on their lunch break.

David wanted to walk back a different way - across the Cobham Bridge which I remember as the town bridge. We then had to find Te Aroha Road, but google wanted to send us on 3 sides of a square route instead of just up the remaining 4th side. Doh!! Fortunately I was looking at the map, and using a bit of out of date local knowledge. 

We checked out our steps on our return (David got back earlier than I did because I went on to Mitre10 and had to walk 3 sides of a VERY large building to find the front entrance, so I could buy some Araldite - the superglue on the camera monitor had failed in the heat). I had done over 15,000 steps and David had done 156 - because his phone had been in the backpack ... 

There is is balancing on the dash. I had to take photos so I could send them to Freeway in Plimmerton - I've asked them to find a better solution than a suction cap. And for a couple of new window stays...

The camp wasn't full and it has cabins - and the latter was important. David had developed a cold and his cough is the most piercing noise that cuts right through flesh - not his, mine. And it sends a skewer through my brain...

As his hacking and snotting got worse on Monday afternoon, I asked him if he'd mind relocating to a cabin if one was available. The lovely kind man said he'd been thinking about that himself. 

So I booked a cabin not too far from the motorhome, packed him and his medications and some bed linen and more medications and plenty of tissues and water and a lemon and honey drink over the way to the cabin. He pretty much went straight to bed. The upshot of that, of course, was that he arrived at the motorhome at silly o'clock the next morning. I sent him back after he'd made a cup of tea and instructed him to take more meds. And he slept for much of that day. And he was able to have another night in the cabin as we delayed going down to Tongaporutu - no cabins available there.

To be frank, it was a blessing for me to have a couple of days available to blob - holidaying is tiring and I am more than ever noticing that my stores of stamina are quite depleted these days! It's old age that is catching up with me, dammit!!


Thursday 21 December 2023

Kaitaia to Shakespear Regional Park

We headed from Kaitaia to see Tane Mahuta in Waipoua Forest - well, it just blew us away with its grandeur. It is the tallest kauri that exists.

It dwarfs everything around it! Look at the trunks of the other trees.

This is as close to Tane Mahuta as you can get. I didn't realise that some of the kauri roots are close to the surface and so we need to keep our distance.

From a bit further away.

And back up the hill above the parking area we looked back to see how tall Tane Mahuta actually is - there is its canopy, towering above the rest of the forest.

We had arranged earlier that day that we would stay at Waipoua Forest Camp - it is an iwi run camp. It's very basic and it is cool. There was one other motorhome there when we arrived and a little camper van arrived later. The place is extremely quiet - in the middle of the bush and the only noise is the bird song. Lovely.

At one point in the evening David went out to dispose of rubbish (it's pack in, pack out, but he hadn't clocked that on the signage - and nor had I to be fair) and he was gone for ages. Eventually, after an hour or so, I went looking for him.

I found him in the camp kitchen talking with Cat. Once I knew he hadn't wandered off to the river and fallen in, I left him and went back to continue reading... 

When he returned, he told me Cat and Henry are from the UK and are hitchhiking around NZ. So I suggested he go and offer them a ride to Dargaville in the morning. Yes they said, and were ready before 10am.

Cat and Henry

Because we ignored one brown sign for the oldest kauri tree not far from Tane Mahuta, I decided we needed to at least pay lip-service to the rule around stopping for brown signs. So we pulled in to the Nelson Kaihu Kauri shop and gallery. What an amazing place. Nelson Kaihu uses kauri that's thousands of years old and has been retrieved from swamps - he makes tabletops, table stands, large bowls, ... 

David fell in love with a table top that had slabs of kauri embedded in black resin. It was beautiful and I said no. But given we have sold the boat, we could afford it. It was only $5600. Say it fast and it's not much ...

I did buy a koru shaped double placemat made of kauri. That will have to do. We can think of the tabletop when we use it.

I did buy two small pieces of greenstone for Cat and Henry - as you may be aware, giving a gift of greenstone is significant for Māori. It is said to keep the recipient safe and bring them back to Aotearoa.

When we arrived in Dargaville, having bypassed the Hokianga completely (just blithely drove though, no stops: I did consider stopping at Opononi but every available space to stop was full) we pulled in to the NZMCA park - delighted to find it is just across the bridge from the town centre.

I had seen on the net that there was a rail trip on converted golf-carts and we had decided to do it. 

Our own little golf cart...



There was only one other set of passengers in their own cart. A group that included 3 dogs, and a 2 year old child... seeing as how uncontrolled and barky one of the dogs was, and how lax the parents' attention was to the child and the dogs, we decided we would be last in the procession. Not sure that was a  good idea, because I was constantly alert to either the child falling out as she swung from the side roof support of the golfcart, and the sight of the dogs leaving the cart every time we had to stop... Nightmare!

The saving grace though were the scones that Dave, one of the operators had made for morning tea.He and I discussed scone recipes and I gave him the link for my world famous Ministry of Food cheese scones. I hope he tries them.

When I first looked at that bridge I thought there was a gap between the bridge and the piling - then I realised the pilings were for a bridge that has been demolished - phew!

Crossing one of the bridges - not very high fortunately! But look at how worn those sleepers are...

It's an OK trip, nothing startling in terms of what there is to see, but it was pleasant enough.

In Dargaville we also managed to get the Sale Contract for the boat signed and couriered off to the UK. That reminds me, I've not yet heard if they have arrived - better check with the brokers. 

And we joined local NZMCA members for their monthly drinks and dinner session in the building on site. Some very interesting history  and some lovely people. 

We'd had a recommendation that the Matakohe Kauri Museum was worth a visit so we headed to the adjacent holiday park early, parked on a site and went to the lovely cafe for brunch. Then the museum.

Well, very definitely impressive. But heartbreaking as well. It proudly displays the logging and kauri gum history of the area. And while it notes how much kauri forest was lost - over 90% of what was here has been chopped down - and the museum doesn't seem to explore the environmental or human aspects of that loss. Let alone the death of the beauty of the kauri forests. But lots of people made lots of money and lots of land was cleared (read deforested) for lucrative farming. It made me cry.

This is a 4 inch lengthwise slab of a kauri that was felled because it was rotting from the root system up. It was huge but tiny in comparison to Tane Mahuta.

The round slab on the wall looking like a target is a slice from near the bottom of the tree - see the photo below. I didn't take a close up photo of the 'target' which described which trees were larger, I'm sorry. My bad!

Milling this tree was a huge job and it was done in sections with very specific measurements to ensure this slab was left intact.

These summed it up for me.


In spite of my sentimentality, I would recommend a visit to the museum. It definitely is thorough in its descriptions of the logging industry and there are great displays of the machinery used. My late brother in law, Muzza, who was a forestry worker, in his younger days just loved the museum and I can understand why.

We called in at a little shop next door that was selling locally made crafts, I bought a wooden butter knife and we chatted with the old guy running the shop. Some people will take any opportunity to display their prejudice! Bloody hell - somehow he managed to inject into the conversation that where he had lived in Auckland (Mangere) used to be a nice area, but now has too many immigrants: Samoans, Islanders, Asians. Needless to say, he got the McDonald 'We are all immigrants, mate!' aaarrrggghhh!!!

Some days before, David had taken a punt about where we would be on or around my birthday, and ordered a birthday present for me - some noise cancelling headphones for use with the laptop. So the next morning from Matakohe we headed back to Whangarei - I am not sure what Google maps was thinking, but it was the most circuitous route with the most roadworks and traffic lights and one way sections of any road I have ever driven on! But, as we say, it's all an adventure... And the headphones are great - and because ACP tends to commandeer/colonise/appropriate my electronic stuff, I insisted he put a piece of white tape with an M on them and their case, so he could be caught in the misappropriation if/when it occurs. Because you just know it will.👹😈😡

We didn't want to stay in Whangarei - too big, too busy, too noisy - and the NZMCA park is beaut but a long way out and we have already got lost leaving there once (bloody Google maps has it in for us on a purely random basis - did it to us in Hamilton a few days ago [yes I am behind in the blog again!] trying to send us on 3 sides of a very big square as the way back to where we are staying instead of a direct one-side walk,...) 

So we headed for the holiday park at Ruakaka - it is really lovely. Because it was so hot, we asked for a site with shade. The camp is very VERY big and when we had checked in, David raised the barrier arm and said he would walk. Well, reader - he got lost, of course he did. To be fair, the park is big, the numbering system is strange as the camp is divided into 6 different camps and the 'camps' all start their site numbers from 1 and a few of them have more than 30 sites - and we were on Site 32. He eventually found where I was - I had already parked. I don't think I had turned on the gas and got a cup of tea on the go, but I had plugged us in to the power, and prepared dinner. Well not quite. But I was considering sending out a search party.

With all the roadworks we had been through that day there was quite a lot of concrete splash on the motorhome, so David took on the job of cleaning the lower half to get it all off.


The concrete splashes were everywhere and were especially heavy on the passenger side as it was closest to the side of the road.

It wasn't the only time he got lost there. The next day he went looking for the facilities block, and even though I had pointed him in the general direction and showed him it on the site plan, he still wandered lonely as a cloud and had to find his way to the office and be directed to the facilities and back to our site. I do worry about him, even through my laughter, honest, I do.

At one point in the afternoon, I was sitting outside reading (in the shade) and David was inside. I heard a bang and then plaintive call and went racing inside because he sounded as though he was in distress. But not inside! 'Where are you, are you OK?' I called. 'Yes, I'm out here. Look what's happened.' 

Bugger! A window that was wide open had been caught by a gust of wind and its 2 part window stays had been over-extended and separated, and the window had lifted out of its top slot and landed on the ground. Bugger!!

Fortunately it wasn't broken, but the stays were shot. I fetched the toolbox for a screwdriver, two stools (one of top of the other), removed the end cap of the bracket for the window (note to self: must replace the silicone before it rains) and slid the window back in its slot, replaced the end cap and then tried to get the window stays back together. One worked, the other didn't. Dammit. So we closed the window with the catches and I unscrewed and removed the stay that wouldn't reunite with its partner. Then because I am anxious, I put some intensely sticky waterproof tape on the vertical sides of the window and outside wall. Belt and braces, you know. And given how strong the wind was the next day when we headed to Shakespear Regional Park, I am really glad I had taped it!

What a bloody awful trip that was in the strong winds that were sweeping the country. If I'd known it was that bad (my fault for not checking) I would have stayed put at Ruakaka. It was the worst and scariest drive I've ever done in the motorhome, and being a long time Wellington resident, you can be sure that I know strong wind.

Thursday 14 December 2023

Cape Reinga

After a night at Awanui NZMCA park, on Tuesday 5 December, we went out for brunch as a late birthday celebration. Very nice food at the Big River Cafe (translation of Awanui: Awa = river, nui = big)

Definitely a big river - it has houseboats and big fishing launches

David's eggs bene with salmon
My more prosaic beans and hash browns with eggs

The sports grounds across the road from the NZMCA park have these pou


After breakfast we headed for Cape Reinga. It was raining with low cloud on our way, and as we got closer the cloud came down even more.

There's no designated motorhome parking up there: plenty for cars and some for buses. So I pretended the CROW was a bus - another motorhomer had the same idea. And where were they going to get a tow truck from?

As we left the motorhome and started the walk down the long path, the clouds lifted and exposed the views - just so absolutely mind-blowing. 

The cloud is still down but lifting
Where the two oceans meet
The cloud is lifting but the beach to the southwest is visible

The lack of height and the angle of growth were distinctive up here.
Moody, lowering and beautiful


As I stood and looked at the point where Māori believe spirits depart from back to Hawaiiki, I cried for Caitlin. And I thought about Mum and Dad and Muzza (my brother in law). Dee and Muzza's son, Kurt had made a pilgrimage of sorts up here earlier this year, so being here was very evocative for me.

The spirits jump off from the furthest point
And further to the west was the lighthouse - I had not realised there were two different points at the tip of the island - my bad for knowing so little of this area.

This was hard to decipher while I was looking at it. So you will have to try really hard...
The clouds were continuing to lift. By the way, the wall showing in the foreground is a very British design - stone walls withstand all sorts of weather there on the moors, so it is a good choice for this spot, although it did seem out of place to me.

A better shot of the meeting point of the oceans
That stone wall was necessary - it was a pretty steep drop off on the western side. The windswept and foreshortened trees protected people from their worst impulses...
This looked lovely. Is it white manuka?


The lighthouse is now solar-powered LED lights. The base buttresses had been repainted and the painter had to wait until the paint dried enough to remove the cones and bars - the weather wasn't shortening that timeframe ... He gave us some valuable information that we were missing for heading south - that SH1 is closed at Mangamuku Gorge and will be so until November 2024. No wonder SH10 was so busy on our way up!

A clearer view of Te Reerenga Wairua, the jumping off point for spirits. On the eastern side you can just see a lone 800 year old pohutukawa tree clinging doggedly to the cliff. The Māori believe your spirit slides down the roots into the sea and enters the mythical Māori underworld (Reinga). From there the spirit travels underwater to a group of offshore islands (known as Three Kings Islands), looks back one last time and bids a final farewell to the land, before once again entering the sea and making the long journey back to Hawaiiki-A-Nui where Māori had migrated from hundreds of years before.


And as we were about to leave the lighthouse, the clouds descended again.

On our way back up the path, we reassured an Australian couple that the lighthouse was there, and I showed them photos. They asked if I could send them to them. Of course I could - but not right then because there was no internet. Did it later that evening.

Cloud descending
And it's down. That's David on the bottom left of the photo, aiming for the atmospheric shot. I bet it's a good one but he hasn't given it to me...
Get your specs on...
Easier to read on rusty metal than wood, eh?
How presumptuous to name a piece of land after the name of the wife of a coloniser in another country ... And it's not it being the wife's name that I object to, okay?

The cloud was very low as we got back to the motorhome and the first few kms of the drive were at 25mph with the fog lights on and navigating by the solid white line on the side of the road and the dashed centre-line. And once the clouds lifted, the bloody rain came down in sheets - some of the hardest rain I've driven in. Frankly, I preferred driving in the cloud! No photos for obvious reasons - usually David would oblige if I asked. I didn't ask and he was concentrating with me...

We had intended to park at Awanui again, but given the rain all the way back, we worried whether the campsite would be solid enough underfoot and under wheels. And it's right next to Awanui River and with this kind of rain, flooding can be a risk. So we headed in to Kaitaia to the RSA. 

The best way to get a level park was to straddle (front to back) the drain gully. Good plan, except I parked right next to the drain grill so the sound of running water was a constant addition to the rain on the roof and windows. Good thing neither of us are suggestible re needing to pee when in the presence of running water...