Thirty Seven Days On North Island 10

31 January 20

Posted at 8:48

31st January 2020. Today as suggested yesterday it was quite clear this morning so we went back up Mt Teranaki with an objective of photographing with the drone. By the time we got there clouds were swirling around the mountain in what we were told were 75mph gales at the summit. We went to a viewing point near the visitor centre at 1000m and got some drone pics but all had varying amounts of cloud swirling around. I was content though. We went into the centre had a coffee and looked at the literature then noticed out of a door that the mountain was totally clear. We went out the door, past three rangers having a coffee break at some tables to a patch of short grass where I took this shot with my Nikon.Mount TaranakiMount Taranaki


I then set the drone up and it took off. Within a minute or two one of the rangers came over and announced the use of drones is prohibited in the national park. I quickly took some pics with it, apologised and expressed my ignorance and said it would return to home base immediately. The ranger was a nice guy, he explained the reasons for the ban and we discussed various aspects of the changing use of drones and drone technology. He was totally cool and quite apologetic. When we departed he said thanks for your understanding and I hope you got some good shots! I did but I’ve not downloaded them yet.


We left New Plymouth today to drive about 250km to Hamilton for an overnight stay before going up North to Russell tomorrow (about another 500km). The first 150km plus out of New Plymouth was though some magnificent scenery but no towns or villages. That is until you arrive at Mokau. Mokau consists of a motel, a butchers, two cafes, a museum an art gallery and a jail! Along with a few houses. Mokau is on the estuary of a river and is famous for whitebait. Well I say famous, there are a lot of whitebait fishing platforms on the river, the history of whitebait fishing is recorded in detail in the museum and the two cafes and no doubt the motel have endless variations of whitebait on the menu. For such a small place the museum is amazing, it’s as though every ones goods and chattles have been left to the museum for the past couple of centuries. The jail is in effect part of the museum, it is a single cell with a bed and a ball and chain although photos of it in use show a massive steel ring with about eight manacles on it so the cell held more than one prisoner.Mokau Jail

Mokau Jail

Today being the 31st January means it is the day the UK leaves the EU, in fact as we are 13 hours ahead here we will have left in about three hours time. It has been interesting here to get a totally new and different perspective on Brexit.

When we were in Napier I chatted with an elderly busker, brilliant musician, when he realised I was English (I called him ‘mate’ so initially he assumed I was an Aussie) he announced in a loud voice “1973 was such a sad and upsetting time”. 1973 I thought what on earth happened that year? Well we got married is all I could think of but why would that upset and sadden a Kiwi busker? Of course he may not have been a busker then but he can’t have had any sort of desires for Marilyn that I had dashed by our betrothal, could he?

“ We lost our trading agreement with the UK overnight, took us years to recover, in fact we never really have.” He said with a heavy heart. “Hopefully us and the Aussies can agree new trading arrangements when you are out of the common market, we cannot do enough to support you.” Last week in New Plymouth we met a couple who farm at Palmerston North and we heard a similar story. When the UK joined the EC (EU) the dairy industry in NZ crashed and if fact the country only survived because a dispensation was made for frozen NZ lamb to be sold to the UK. Australian famers had the same experience. Although both countries joined Asian trading markets apparently it has never been the same and the pain still runs deep. So in this part of the world Brexit is offering some hope.

After these surprising conversations I though about it. After WW2 the UK encouraged unskilled people without a bright outlook to make a new life in Oz and New Zealand. In fact I remember as a child in the fifties when folk could emigrate (by ship) for just £10 and have an opportunity to totally change their lives and life prospects. Well many did, thousands in fact and many of those who emigrated ended up in the farming industry often developing their own farms from scratch. The business model for this was a trading agreement with the UK. So imagine having worked your socks of for twenty years and established a lifestyle and business from scratch for the ‘Mother country’ to cut the umbilical chord overnight. Wow! I’ve never seen this side of the coin before.


On the subject of leaving the EU if you have not seen it already take a look at





Thirty Seven Days On North Island 9

30 January 20

Posted at 9:30

It’s been a few days since I posted so I’ll try to get up to date working backwards. It is now evening of 30th January, (I still find it amazing that means early Thursday morning in UK). We are staying in a studio apartment with an amazing view in Oakura, just outside New Plymouth. New Plymouth is the biggest town by far that we have stayed in/near so far, but having said that it is small by UK standards. When we first went into town it struck me as big and ugly but having been here for three days I have warmed to it as we have got to know it.CowsThe view from our studio Oakura


Today has been excellent as what had been a couple of days of light rain turned, unexpectedly into blue skies and sunshine dawn till dusk. We have spent most of the day walking the coastal path that runs the length of New Plymouth form the port in the West to way East of the Waiwhakaiho River. The path is 14km long and is smooth concrete or wood decking all the way. It is great for cycling, scooting skateboarding or walking (tramping as the Kiwis call it). Today there was every age group on every conceivable bike or board or feet. The locals thought it was heaving but believe me there would be less people using such a path in Margate in mid winter (in the unlikely event such a facility existed there. So it was pleasant and to us not crowded at all. There were some strong winds for which we were thankful as the sun was hot and strong. The winds brought out the para-surfers who were amazing. New Plymouth and the surrounding area is known as Taranaki thanks to Mount Taranaki (a live volcano although it last erupted in 1755) which is 2518m high and boasts 200km of walking tracks all in the centre of Egmont National Park, today being so clear and with strong winds meant that the whole mountain was visible, an unusual occurrence. Therefore we walked as far as Te Rewa Rewa bridge, a cleverly designed and constructed bridge which forms a sort of twirl that you can look along and see Mt Taranaki through the vortex, luckily as today was so clear I was able to capture photos like this.Te Rewa Rewa BridgeTe Rewa Rewa Bridge with Mt Taranaki in full view


Yesterday was dull and wet (still nice and warm though) we had decided to have a lie in and then as the day was to get clearer take a drive to the 1000m point on Mt Taranaki were numerous walks from 2 or 3 days down to 40 minutes can be taken. Although it was bright at sunny in New Plymouth at 100m it was mostly dense cloud looking up. We did a 90 minute or so walk through mystical forests of lichen and ferns and untouched bush but alas no chance to launch the drone and photograph the mountain. We may give it another go tomorrow morning subject to the weather.


Before coming to New Plymouth we were south of the national park near Wanganui on a farm stay for three nights. My big expectations mentioned in the last post did not let me down, we loved it there. Not only was the accommodation, as mentioned, superior to what I had expected, the whole experience of being at such a rural location but only 15 minutes from the town, Wanganui, was ideal. The farmer and family were away on holiday themselves which was nice as we were totally isolated, just with the animals, but in some ways we had lots of questions to aske them. High on the list was how was the farm viable? We knew they are a British family who emigrated twenty years ago but why choose this exact spot? It is 40 hectares of what does not appear to be prime grazing land. It is very hilly and much of it covered by light pine forest. It is called Tamerton Stud and seems to specialise in miniature Herefords. So you can assume they breed and raise miniature Herefords and certainly there we some there but few enough for us to get to know each one personally. There were also three Aplacas (they were lovely) about 20 or 30 sheep and a dozen or so hens. At some time of the year there are apparently ducks but we didn’t see any. So we decided it was a real bit of the Good Life as opposed to an industrial farm and we felt comfortable with our romantic view of it all.

Three Alpacas

Two AlpacasAlpacas Tamerton Stud


We went into town a couple of time for a coffee and human interaction. A small but amiable town, which like many towns here in terms of the shops remind us of Stevenage New Town Centre in the nicest possible way, just the shops with single storey pavement cover over the shop frontages. (I know it paints a horrible picture but just try to imagine Stevenage being a nice laid back place.) I’ll stop there! Anyway in all other aspects other than shop front design NZ towns are nothing like Stevenage. God I wish I hadn’t started this.

Moving on, we have good Kiwi friends, Andrew and Debbie, who you’ll hear more of in future blogs, for now suffice to say Andrew and I worked together for nine years in the UK and we have visited them each time we have been here. Andrew had mentioned to me that his father was born and brought up in Kai Iwi which is just west of Wanganui so on our last day there we decided to take a ride out and find Kai Iwi following a drive up the Wangui River Road.Wanganui River Road

Wanagui River Road


Well we soon found Kai Iwi, lucky we didn’t blink, and I guess we felt a little let down, we saw a couple of the population which cannot be more than 30ish in total but at least we could tell Andrew we had been there and hopefully he would feel good about that. I had seen a sign to Kai Iwi beach so suggested we took a look. We thought is would be a kilometre or two down the narrow twisty road. We passed what looked like the entrance to a campsite and proceeded. I guess time seemed to pass by and we weren’t really thinking until the metalled road turned into a gravel road which meant we kicked up clouds of dust . We were crossing farmland but getting no nearer to the coast which was about 500m to our left. We came to a cross roads (well a cross gravel tracks) with a left hand turn signed something or other beach (not Kai Iwi) and a farmer type bloke hairing up the right hand track on a quad bike. I suggested taking the beach road, Marilyn said let’s turn round, I looked in my mirror and saw a cloud of dust racing up behind us. I suggested we best go straight on and did so. The track go narrower and the dust cloud behind us got closer when I could see it through the cloud I was creating. My instinct was to go faster to try and get clear air but the cloud behind kept with us. This nonsense continued and intensified until we must have been 20km or more from Kai Iwi. Eventually the following cloud tailed off and as he did so we found we were heading for the ocean albeit on top of a cliff. We came up a steep incline to a flat grassy patch on fenced off from the cliff edge. We parked and got out and stared at the magnificent views out to sea and down to the black beaches. Dust cloud arrived and parked alongside us. Out got an elderly bloke with a moustache and wearing a baseball cap. His car was quite beat up. He stepped over the short fence and looked out to sea. I said hi and nodded and that was it. Norman, as I shall call him returned the hi and burst into a conversation that although highly informative may well be still going on. Hence Norman either for Norman Nomates or Norman Knowitall. Ten minutes later with just a few ‘Oks’, wows’ and ‘reallys?’ from me Norm had covered the historic flax industry that existed in this area in olden times, when workers came down the beach from Wanganui on horse back to strip the flax, adjusting the working day to fit the tides. The railway that existed here joining the milk railway, highest climb in the country requiring two engines and travelling from Napier to Wanganui. Then the Maori/British battles that took place in the fields to our left, 23 British soldiers buried there and countless Maoris (they buried the dead at night you know and never marked the graves) I often come across bones over there and bury them again he said. He switched from one topic to another and whenever I got a word in he picked up on the topic. I told him we were off to Taranaki, that’s due an eruption any time now he chirped. Marilyn indicated she was bored stiff and we should leave, I found it difficult to get away but as Mal walked back to the car I sort of indicated I was off. Norm followed, “Ah an Arcadia”, he said “what do you think of it?” “ great” I replied, “sat nav a bit iffy”. And in I got, opened the window and bid Norman goodbye. As we departed I could hear him saying “they build them in South Korea and America, Arcadias in America I think. I’ve got a Mazda myself but use that old banger on these gravel, well crushed sea shell tracks……


We retraced our route reminiscing Norman and what was he all about. When we got back to the ‘camp site’ turn we realised it was actually the track to Kai Iwi beach which turned out to be more lively than Kai Iwi itself. We took some photos and then headed back to the peace and tranquillity of the farm.



Thirty Seven Days On North Island 8

25 January 20

Posted at 7:16

Today, 25th January 2020, we left Clive, with some sadness, to head West from the Pacific across to Wanganui on the Tasman Sea coast, the South Taranaki Bight to be precise. We are going to spend three nights on a farm stay east of the town on the edge of a national park. The 250km journey was uneventful, started at Bay Coffee for eggs benedict Hastings style (hash browns instead of sourdough) and then off we set. As in the UK travelling East to West is not as straightforward as North to South so we had to sort of head South and then North instead of straight across. The reason, a mountain range, became apparent as we travelled.


We were looking forward to a few days on a rural farm but I must admit that the photos we had seen led me to envisage a rustic kind of run down cottage saved by the fact it was in an interesting environment. The people who own the farm, who we have not met yet as they are on holiday (is that allowed for farmers?) emigrated here from England about twenty years ago (so I expect Marilyn will be on my case!!). We decided to come straight to the farm before going to town for supplies assuming we should check out the ‘facilities’. Mind you its only a fifteen minute drive to town.


On arrival it was clear which building was ours, we approached with a little trepidation. A friendly ginger cat greeted us, the chooks cackled hello and a couple of magnificent silver guinea fowl ran to greet us. The front door is a ‘stable door’ which immediately gives a farmy impression. Through it is the kitchen and then to my amazement and delight the cottage opened up to us. It is so nice I immediately wished we had more than three nights here. Best I show you the pics.

KitchenThe Kitchen

Lounge DinerLounge Diner

BathroomThe Bathroom


BedroomThe Bedroom

Evening DeckThe Bedroom Deck and View

BBQ DeckMain Deck and BBQ

Deck and ViewView from Main deck

I’m sure the pics don’t even do it justice but as I sit here on the deck, a couple of miniature hefers and some alpacas under the tree within a stones throw, the birds singing their evensong and rolling hills and trees in the background, wine in hand, its heaven!


So it’s a short blog this evening as I want to enjoy the sundown, I’ll leave you with a pic of our alpacas.




Thirty Seven Days On North Island 7

24 January 20

Posted at 6:53

Today, Friday 24th January, we cycled to Napier. That involved crossing the Clive River over a bridge near where we are staying and following the cycle path along the north bank of the Clive. At the estuary the path turns left and follows the coast straight up to Napier, about 11km. The track got busier as we reached Napier.

Napier is known as the ‘Art Deco Capital of the World’. I couldn’t understand why Napier, and indeed Hastings have adopted this style throughout their towns (Kiwi cities), today I found out. In 1931 a massive earthquake destroyed nearly every building in Napier and surrounding towns. Napier was rebuilt, much of it in 1933 -39, Art Nouveau (later to become known as Art Deco) was in vogue throughout Europe and America at the time so Napier was rebuilt Art Deco style throughout and that style has been adhered to until this day. Here is a taste of Napier’s Art Deco.Masonic

Charleston Pharmacy

Charleston Pharmacy

Emerson StreetEmerson Street

Ocean BoulevardOcean Boulevard

Public Trust OfficePublic trust Office

One of the few buildings that survived the earthquake is the Public Trust Office.


Napier is a thriving town with a positive vibe (except on Mondays as mentioned earlier). Although mid summer and school holidays the beach was all but deserted. I was told it is extremely dangerous to swim in the ocean here so perhaps that is the deterrent.Napier BeachNapier Beach

It’s still nice to sit a chill with your dog on the promenade though.

Man and Dog


Once again the return bike ride was a breeze following consuming some Hawkes Bay wine!



Thirty Seven Days On North Island 6

23 January 20

Posted at 8:57

We have spent the last three days exploring Hawkes bay from our base in Clive. On Monday evening we ended up driving to Napier, the art deco capital of the world. First impressions was that Napier also closes Monday evenings but we did find a few places open and had an enjoyable evening. Having visited Napier, albeit briefly (we will return) on Tuesday Morning we went South to Hastings, also art deco but not the worlds capital. It is a pleasant enough little town (calls itself a city centre but don’t be fooled. In the centre of town we found ourselves in the information centre or SITE. We didn’t know that’s what it was, we had gone in to buy a hoody as I only brought tees with me and the evenings are sometimes a little cool. Well they were up until I bought a hoody!! Whilst paying the cashier I asked her a couple of things about the town. She proceeded to give loads of information, maps and goodness knows what, it was then it dawned on us the prime purpose of the place. I must say the SITE information places are really helpful.

Our cottage backs onto the Clive River which has a cycle path running alongside it. After lunch in Hastings we returned home and set out to walk along the cycle track. We followed the river east along its south bank, after about a kilometre the river Clive joins the mouth of the Ngaruroro river where they spill into the Pacific ocean. The path follows the river’s inlet running parallel with the ocean front and its black beaches of volcanic. It was a lovely walk, lots of wild birds and wonderful scenery. From the information gathered in Hastings we knew eventually the series of cycle tracks lead to the wineries of Te Awanga. They were a fair lick so far too far to walk that day. Tomorrow we could perhaps cycle there? That evening we practiced being Kiwis and fired up the BBQ for a steak supper.Mouth of the Clive River


Cycle Track CliveCycle Path Clive River Pacific Ocean


Next day we borrowed mountain bikes from our hosts and set off down the same path. We decided to head for Elephant Hill winery if we could find it. The cycle paths are excellent, well sighed and not at all hilly. The views of the ocean are magnificent. We stopped at a small hamlet for a coffee, the quality of coffee in NZ is great whatever the establishment may look like. We then arrived at Elephant Hill. It has a grand entrance with a long drive with palm trees on either side. First impressions of the rather magnificent turquoise steel and glass building were that is was up market and perhaps not for a couple of sweaty Brits in tees and shorts on mountain bikes. There were one or two cars in the car park and some folk wandering towards the building. They look more suitably dressed for the place than we did. Never the less there were some bicycle stands so we locked the bikes up and proceeded to the restaurant. It had only opened about 15 minutes before hence not many people. We got a table on a grand terrace next to a vast turquoise water feature. Although it all felt a bit posh we were made to feel welcome, our attire obviously not an issue. We were provided with large sun hats and lotion should we require it. We had decided not to do the winery tour but just sample some with lunch. We’ve done quite a few before and I usually ending losing a day or two as a result. The lunch was delish as was the wine. After lunch we sat on posh sofas in the sun looking out over the vineyards. A lot more people had arrived now, quite a few on bikes so that was comforting. Most of those on bikes were doing the wine tasting. We went to settle our bill and said we would probably come back and buy some wine later in the week. Paul, the maître d over heard and said “you have lunched here therefore I invite you to return at your leisure for a free wine tasting” he then wrote out a personal invite on a card and signed it. Just have to decide which day to lose now! The ride home felt a lot easier!


Elephant Hill Winery

Elephant Hill Winery

Mal Cycling CliveCycling Home



That evening I returned along the path with my drone to try to capture some shots of the river/ocean.

Black Swans on Clive River (Drone Shot)


On Thursday after a late start we went south to Te Mata Peak. Te Mata rises 399m above sea level near Havelock North. At the top it offers fantastic 360 degree views for miles. The hills and those around are made up of erosion proof limestone formed up by being pushed by the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates. They are steeped in Maori history and folklore. On a roll from using my drone the day before I took so shots here. Later in the day I flew it again at a place called Ocean Beach which is a paradise of a beach the sand there more traditional sandy colour not the volcanic black just a few miles north.

Te Mata PeakTe Mata Peak

Te Mata Peak from Drone

Te Mata Peak (Drone)

You are now no doubt thinking he’s not mentioned the sat nav! I thought I’d keep it till last. On our drive into Hastings I noticed a large Holden dealership so on our way out I popped in. My objective to prove for diagnostic purposes if the map SD card was corrupted. The first guy I spoke to, obviously sales, (highlighted hair and a collar and tie,) was really helpful, I learnt from him, the model I have is an Arcadia and that is the only model with a SD card. He passed me on and sent me to pull into a bay outside ‘service and spares where they would help. I pulled up and went in. I told the story to the receptionist who also pleasant and polite but wanting to get on with her nails passed me on to a man sitting at the services and spares desk. Service and spare man, quite old, glasses no tie but a striped white shirt sat there with an expression that said I’ve been here longer than anyone can remember, I know it all but I’m not moving for anyone. He listened to my story, sighed, and phoned someone he could pass me on to. I was beginning to feel like a parcel at an 8 year olds birthday party. Hopefully the music would stop soon. “Jake will come round to your car he said”.

Jake arrived, black work shirt, black shorts work soiled and massive boots, oily hand and black finger nails. He was about 19 years old chirpy and friendly. I told him the story and my diagnostic theory whilst he fiddled with buttons and resets and factory resets, at each step me saying I’ve already done that. Great he said, let’s get a good SD card and try it then. He seemed convinced it would solve the problem. It didn’t. He was disappointed, I was resigned but pleased with the elimination. Well that’s an odd one said Jake. We said our thanks and goodbyes. Keep trying it Jake said sometimes they just come back although I’ve never seen this before! As we drove away Marilyn said I knew it was an Arcadia without that sales bloke telling you – its written on the back!!

Ocean Beach Hawkes Bay 2

Ocean Beach Hawkes Bay


Thirty Seven Days On North Island 5

21 January 20

Posted at 6:58

So on Monday 20th January, day 6 of our 37, we left Coromandel, ‘Coro’ I’ve been advised it is referred to, to make the journey to Hawkes Bay. We are to stay in a small place called Clive, just south of Napier. Here’s a pic of Coro as we left, why on earth leave? I hear you say.South of Coromandel Town


First challenge of the day is to negotiate the 55km series of ups and downs and hairpin bends between Coro and Thames, all the time trying to concentrate on the road and not the spectacular views of the ocean on the left. Thames meant filling up with gas (for the guzzler that many back home have criticised me for!) and a much needed coffee. From Thames to Napier should have been pretty straightforward. We would go south via Rotorua and lake Taupo, both popular destinations for visitors to North Island but not on our itinerary. We did Rotorua about twenty five years ago and weren’t overly impressed and as you will find as our journey unfolds we have chosen an eclectic bunch of places to visit, not all first on the average tourist’s list. We went via Rotorua because Europcar suggested we call into their office there and change our vehicle for one with a functioning sat nav. If you read earlier blogs you will know the story. So we made that diversion, and it was a diversion, to visit the Europcar office at Rotorua airport. It is a small airport and not busy. In fact so quiet Emma, the Europcar rep at their office had shut up shop and left a notice “leave return keys in box” phone Emma in case of urgency. That’s how I knew her name! I wasn’t convinced my need was urgent and I had convinced myself there was no way Emma would have a Holden Arcadia DBs of a V6 4WD ready to exchange for mine with the dodgy sat nav. Never the less I called her, in fact I called all three numbers on the notice to no avail. Europcar have not endeared themselves to me yet!


For anyone who has not visited New Zealand you will have no doubt heard it compared to the UK of the 1950s. Such comparisons are understandable I guess especially a few years ago but are a bit unfair today. There are though many aspects of life here that are strange compared with the UK in 2020. Roads trips are one. The population of NZ is below 5 million yet the land mass is 268,000 sq km (compared with 246,000 sq km for the UK). So here there is a lot of space and not many people. Not many roads and they are not very busy (except around Auckland). This all means that for a 450km journey as ours was yesterday (includes Rotorua diversion) the journey is solely on single carriageway roads, no dual carriageways, no motorways. Now I guess that’s not been the case in the UK since the 1950s. The route from Taupo to Napier is about 140km through endless forest plantations between two mountain ranges. There are no towns or even villages and there are no petrol stations for 130km but every 30kms without fail there are charging points for electric vehicles, nothing else just charging points in the wilderness. I’ve not seen an electric vehicle since we’ve been here and not seen anyone using the charging points. Anyway respect to the Kiwis for getting the infrastructure in at the beginning!


It was not until the very last leg of the journey when the absence of a sat nav became an issue. A new expressway had been built between Napier and Hastings but was not on our map. (expressway is just a straighter single carriageway road). It was signed as R2 which is the same number as the road on our map, R2 which goes straight through our destination Clive. The express way doesn’t so we overshot by about 10km before we realised. Tired after the long journey I invested in a days data on my phone and arrived here in a flash.


Clive is a very small town with a pub, a Thai restaurant and a chip shop all a short walk from our little cottage (they are called bachs here). There’s no way we were cooking last night so after being greeted by our hosts and unpacking we made for the pub. As we arrived, about 6:30pm, it was just closing but they said we could get something at the Thai. Arriving there it was also closed as was the chippy. It would appear that Clive closes on Mondays. On a positive note they are all open for the rest of the week and on Thursday nights there is Texas Holdem poker in the pub – home from home!

Other than Mondays being come down day it is lovely here. From the rear of our property is a river along which a short walk takes you to the Pacific Ocean and there are cycle routes to Napier, Havelock North and Hastings and most important an array of wineries.

The Pacific Ocean and black beaches just a short walk from where we are staying in Clive.



Thirty Seven Days On North Island 4

20 January 20

Posted at 8:44

Our five day stay in Coromandel Town ends this weekend which in some ways is sad as it’s a gem of a place. We stayed here for a couple of days in a camper van about four years ago so it was not all new and of course on our first stay we visited  the famous Driving Creek Railway built by the eccentric Barry Bricknell who has unfortunately now passed away. We didn't go back this time even though it is just a few hundred metres from our cottage but if you ever do venture here it is a must Driving Creek Railway

Yesterday we took a short, and again windy, drive east along R25 heading first of all to Kuaotunu. A natural bay with endless sandy beaches, nearly deserted, apart from an area where people come to launch their fishing boats. We of course arrived after most had sailed, well powered, off across the horizon for some sport or to catch their supper. The only evidence that they were here were numerous boat trailers hooked up to a variety of 4x4's and tractors. However they were lost in the vastness of the bay so did not spoil the experience. Facing the bay are a lot of well tasty houses with panoramic windows. They are built into the cliffs or on stilts. Pricey no doubt. There is a kind of grading with at the north end of the beach more modest chalets and holiday homes, even a campsite. The quality and size of the accommodation improves as you go south. This all culminates at Kuaotunu Village the centre piece of which is Luke’s Kitchen. A great eatery just across from the beach, staff are brilliant and pizzas to die for. There's nothing at Kuaotunu like plastic seaside attractions, fast food outlets, slots etc. just the natural world on the beaches where anyone and everyone can have adventures to their hearts desire. However if something a little more commercial is what you require Whitianga is just sixteen kilometres further South. Whitianga is a town, has a little port, a little ferry that takes you across the peninsular to some hilly walks and of course a wide array of restaurants, even an Irish pub. Our landlady describes Whitianga as 'upmarket European with real shops', make what you will of that. I think it suffice to say that it is a less rural community than Coromandel Town and light years away from Colville. The 'plastic' seaside attractions for kids are predominantly wood in structure, look fun and good exercise its all a tad better than we have at home. I guess Whitianga may be one of the tourist highlights of the Coromandel Peninsular.Kuaotunu Beach

This morning after the obligatory stop for coffee we drove to Long Bay on the west side of Coromandel. We set off to do the fairly short Kauri Tree walk which starts at the Long Bay campsite. The Kauri tree, a magnificent tree that grows to a massive size and lives forever is under threat from disease and protected wherever you walk (tramp) in New Zealand. So before setting out you walk over a grid that sprays disinfectant on the soles of your shoes. About halfway round the circular walk through enchanting native bush you come across an unbelievably giant Kauri tree. It's like Jack’s giant beanstalk only much bigger. You can look up and see mini Kew gardens of parasites growing out of where the branches sprout. It is impossible to take the whole thing in with just one look and as this monster grows out of dense bush there is little point of trying to photograph it. The tree is thought to be over 1200 years old. It’s not difficult to see why the Kiwis wish to protect it. We walked on to complete the Kauri tree walk. The end is signified by another disinfectant dip. At this point you may turn left and a five minute walk back to Long Bay or turn right and take a twenty minute route via Tucks Bay.

We visited Tucks Bay four years ago, we cycled there on a route not designed for bicycles I seem to remember so we went that way. On arrival at Tucks Bay we made for the only picnic table and benches in the little bay. Tucks Bay is a beach full of mussel colonies at one end. Behind the beach is a freedom camping area. i.e. a large area of mown grass divided into plots, each plot having a number and nothing else, no camping facilities. A few of the plots were populated by families, tents, boats, children etc. People were frolicking in the sea, fishing and playing, and the campers were going about the tasks of camping. There were not many there so lots of room for all. We sat at our table at the less populated end of the bay, looking out at the islands and generally enjoying our selves. Behind our table were two plots, unoccupied, except in the middle of one was a pile of discarded camping equipment. Fairly neatly piled and covered with two large towels but the contents spilled out, although neat the pile looked more dumped than placed. On closer inspection there were two large mattresses, a flat rubber dingy, cooking utensils, poly bags full of rags or maybe clothes, a polystyrene cool box and a set of lights from a trailer. There was no evidence of a tent. The pile looked abandoned. My mind wandered as to what the story was. It was past midday on Sunday. I decided that a group of youngsters, probably just teenagers had come to Tucks Bay for a few days for a party. After endless hours of fun they couldn’t be arsed to pack up their debris so had just piled it up and returned to Auckland or wherever. I thought, I bet the families here weren’t happy with this mini rave going on night and day and I doubted the authorities would be pleased about the fly tipping. There might even be a letter to the Coromandel Reporter!! Still we’ve all been there, haven’t we?

I was snapped out of my wandering thoughts when a beaten up old pick up truck towing a sizeable boat came roaring out of the bush and proceeded to do a circuit of Tucks Bay freedom campsite at some speed. In the boat being thrown from side to side were two children, a girl of about eleven years old and a boy of about seven. There was a massive gas BBQ strapped in the back of the pick up. The truck and boat screeched to a halt at the top of the plots where we were sitting. A woman got out, walked towards us, nodded and smiled, and began to direct the truck to reverse alongside the plots. It did so at some pace, grounding the tow bar as it crossed a small ridge. To my amazement it parked alongside the camping equipment pile missing it by just an inch or two. Impressive! The lady signalled to the children to get out of the boat and said to the kids, “right, bugger off you two’. At which point they both obediently ran across the beach and into the sea. We complemented her on her parenting skills. Dad got out of the truck, climbed into the boat and hung up wet towels the children had left. Mum rescued another sleepy five year old girl from the rear of the pick up and encouraged her to join the others in the sea. Dad commented how the kids had been swimming all morning and hopefully they would all be knackered later on.The Camper Family

Mum and Dad between them loaded the camping debris pile into the boat in an impressive organised fashion. They worked like it was a well drilled practice. The towels then laid over the boat contents like a tarp. The family was summoned and with the kids on board our new camper friends bid us farewell and drove back into the bush, more sedately than they had arrived.

We made our way round the bay and up and along the non bicycle path. Impressed and a little intrigued at what we had seen. The path eventually arrives back at Long Bay. The campsite there big and formal. Large family tents with awnings under which carpet has been laid to create a home from home. Most have bought more than the kitchen sink with them. There are shower units, a camp shop, fish filleting stations for the many anglers. The whole experience is light years away from Tuck’s Bay just along the coast. So imagine our surprise as we walked along when out of the middle of the campsite came the camping family from Tucks Bay all strutting down to the beach carrying the now inflated dingy from the pile of debris. Before my mind wandered I stopped my imagination running away with a story fitting for what we had seen. You of course are welcome to try and join the dots, I was just too far off beam last time!Tuck's Bay

Back at Orchard Cottage we sit on the deck for the last time this evening, enjoying a beer and a wine or two. The Tui bird, with it’s haunting call, lands in the white flowered bush at the end of the deck to catch insects as it does every evening as the sun goes down. We’ve had five brilliant days at Coromandel Town, tomorrow we drive South 400km to Napier. We might consider sorting the sat nav out on the way. Who knows?



Thirty Seven Days On North Island 3

17 January 20

Posted at 9:02

Colville is about 30km up the peninsular from Coromandel Town. A windy, hilly route with awesome views of the coast, some enchanting bays each with few dwellings, boats and some fishing gear. Dwellings become more spaced out the further North you travel, Hereford cattle become more plentiful and the scenery more dramatic. There is an occasional camp site. Colville welcomes the visitor with an array of little buildings on each side of the street. The centre piece being Coliville General Store with its red tin roof with an array of signs and blackboards proclaiming everything from who has recently passed away, thanking the fire service for dealing with recent bush fires and so on. Most importantly proclaiming that this is the last stop for provisions and they sell everything.

An eclectic mix of people populates the area around Colville, and beyond.


There are numerous alternative lifestyle communes, all spiritual in some way or other but other than a Buddhist retreat most not specifically religion based. There is plenty of space for them to be able to be private but at the same time close to others in their respective communes. Artists are plentiful, self -sufficiency a goal. Coromandel General store exists to supplement the essentials required for near self-sufficiency.

Then there are three Maori tribes who do not get along with each other at all and there are the ‘red neck’ farmers who raise superb Hereford beef cattle. I guess they don’t hit if off with many of the ‘alternatives.

What I find intriguing is how teachers cope with the offspring of this diverse mix. The secondary school in Coromandel (over 60kms away for many) is the only senior education service available to the top end of the peninsular. I bet classes are fun and break times even more so.


Next to the general store is the post office, a quaint tin shack dominated by a mass of safety deposit looking mailboxes. It stands to reason that the postie could not possibly traipse round this massive rural, often road less area. I wonder how Amazon survive? You may laugh but we met a German lady who has lived here in a commune for over thirty years. She recently got permission from her commune buddies to take in guests through Air BnB. Is there nowhere the gig economy has not reached?


Outside the general store we met another German (pure coincidence I’m sure). He was a Catweasel doppelganger, wearing a kind of cloth balaclava and thermal top and sporting a heavily laden bicycle notable by the sheer weight it was carrying and the enormous bunch of wild flowers on the handlebars. Catweasel was so thin he would add little to the weight when he mounted. He told us he had been cycling around for two years and had clocked up over thirty thousand kilometres. The only giveaway that he was not straight out of the nineteenth century was his iPhone. We, not Catweasel were the ones out of place in Colville.


The beautiful landscape, the micro climate and the general unspoilt environment make it clear why folk like to escape the rat race and settle in a place like the top of the Coromandel peninsular. No sure they could survive without customers for their artwork, AirBnB oh and of course, their iPhones.


Thirty Seven Days on North Island 2

16 January 20

Posted at 8:01


The Ibis Budget Hotel at Auckland airport is everything it says on the can. A budget hotel, very reasonably priced, no frills. The only problem is that as it is at an airport they would expect the customers to be travellers and travellers have baggage. In a budget room there is space for two no where near obese humans in a budget double room and little space for anything else – certainly not two suitcases, two hand carry bags and a ‘stealth reporter’ camera bag stuffed with a Nikon D810 and the whole range of Nikon glass from 14mm – 200mm along with a drone! So as mentioned previously sleeping in these conditions whilst suffering from a heavy cold was nigh on impossible. Hence I was up and shaving and showering in the cubicle that passes as a budget bathroom at 6am.


The hire car was booked for pick up at the airport for 0930 but I knew it would be ready if I arrived a little early. After a 15 minute walk to the terminal I discovered I was wrong. “your vehicle is booked for 0930 sir and right now it is 0730! I can have it here by nine’. I had no real argument but I guess my expression said otherwise. ‘ I can give you an upgrade to a premier vehicle that you can take right away sir if you wish” “How much extra?” I enquired. Just $20 per day sir but as the premier has on board sat nav you have no need to pay for the sat nav on your original order. So they cancel each other out ……nearly”. I went for the deal, not exactly a bargain but it saved 2 hours hanging around. The Europcar lady explained that the sat nav would kick in once I had exited the airport car park but I could input my destination before exiting. I didn’t bother, I knew my way back to the budget rooms where Marilyn was waiting for me, in fact we knew our way to our first destination, Coromandel. It would be about two and a half hours away.


So off we set in our brand new ‘premier vehicle’ a big black 4WD Chelsea Tractor, it made me feel as though I was David Beckham in a new Hummer. I’ve never been in a Hummer but as the first letter is the same as the Holden we had hired I could dream. Which is more than was possible in the budget hotel


The Holden

Coromandel Town is a fair way up the Coromandel peninsular which sort of turns back on itself having gone south from Auckland to reach back up to be parallel with Auckland but separated by a few miles of ocean. About 60 kilometres south of Coromandel Town is a place called Thames. Prices for everything, especially fuel, are much cheaper in Thames than in Coromandel and beyond which gives you an idea of how rural it becomes the further up the peninsular you travel. The roads are windy and hilly, in fact they eventually become just gravel once you are 40km or so north of Coromandel. The beauty is that the further up you travel the more laid back everything becomes. I guess it is like some parts of Wales but on a grander scale, with less rain and significantly less Welsh folk. There are sheep though.


So we stocked up with provisions in Thames, didn’t really need fuel at this point and just for fun I thought I would try out the sat nav. For some reason the sat nav insisted we were about 200km south of where we actually were and it would not budge. Marilyn suggested it was irrelevant as we knew where we were and we had a map which we both are skilled in reading. To me this was not the point I had been sold on the idea that an in car sat nav meant my upgrade to a premier vehicle was cost neutral (a little white lie from Europcar lady) so I was damm well going to use it. Well I wasn’t as it did not work. I had spotted a Holden dealer in Thames high street so popped in. Although Mr Holden and his manager were very helpful and interested and full of Kiwi ironic humour neither had much more of a clue as to what was wrong than I did. So after much head scratching, button pushing and chatting about which of their relatives were currently doing time in the UK we departed for Coromandel.


After an hour or so we arrived at our base for the next five days, Orchard Cottage. A lovely little cottage set, as the name implies, in an enchanting orchard full of every fruit imaginable from apples and plums to oranges, lemons and even bananas. Once settled in my thoughts returned to the sat nav. I did a very non blokey thing and referred to the manual. I pretty soon eliminated all obvious problems and resigned myself to the probability that the SDcard containing the maps was probably corrupt. Beyond that it would require attention of a Holden specialist. So I needed to call Europcar at Auckland airport which I did. After a few menu options etc I got to talk to a human. I proceeded to explain the problem, my analysis and to enquire how we could proceed. “Can you return to the airport?” said Europcar man. No I said I am in Coromandel Town and won’t be near Auckland for four weeks or more. Europcar man did not appear to understand. I said “you are at Auckland airport aren’t you?” No said Europcar man I am in the Phillipines!!!” I thought it odd I had hired a car in New Zealand from a company called Europcar but this now beggared belief. Europcar man explained if Auckland Airport do not answer the phone it diverts to the Phillipines, “ so how may I help you?’ As he obviously couldn’t I hung up. Today I called the airport again and actually got connected. They suggested I could call in at other Europcar offices, both in towns that we have no intention of visiting and simply change the vehicle. I’ll keep that option open for when we move on, in the meantime I’ll keep my eyes open for a similar Holden to our Hummer and see if I can borrow their SDcard for diagnostic purposes. In my experience Kiwis are generally up for that sort of thing so long as you don’t mention Ben Stokes.

Orchard Cottage


Thirty Seven Days On North Island 1

15 January 20

Posted at 8:30

Thirty Seven Days On North Island


Marilyn and I have returned to New Zealand for a fourth time (over the last 25 years or so). This time we are not living in a motorhome as usual but are travelling around North Island staying at eight different places in an eclectic mix of rented accommodations – all booked through Book A Bach. Hopefully at the fourth attempt I will record a detailed journal of our adventure.


We flew from London Heathrow on Monday 13th January 2020, economy class booked through New Zealand Airlines but flying with codeshare partners Singapore airlines. The first flight was due to take off at 10:55 so being all too aware of the poor reliability of our rail network these days and the car park that is otherwise known as the M25 we splashed out on an overnight stay at Heathrow the night before. We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn at Terminal Two, a brand new hotel that is ideally situated if you are flying from Terminal Two.


In my opinion breaking up the 23 hour journey to Auckland by staying for a night or two in Singapore (or HK or KL depending on your airline) is a waste and totally counter productive especially if you have visited said cities before. It is a waste because it is an unnecessary expense and when all is said and done you’ll still be knackered on your first day in NZ. So my idea is to bite the bullet and get to the final destination ASAP. To that end we booked flights with just a 55 minute changeover at Singapore. The first flight of about 13 hours duration was uneventful. I took in three films. Rocket Man a film that is saved by the absolutely awesome music of Elton John and Yesterday an awesome film that also has some pretty good music (and hands down was the winner of the two). Along with a sweet little 90 minute film called Denmark which stars Rafe Spall, I loved it and don’t think that was totally due to the consumption of three gin and tonics along with endless red wine (although nowhere near as much as the lady sitting next to me, the other side to Marilyn). When I did manage forty winks on this first leg I woke with the uncomfortable and upsetting feeling of a cold coming on. I’ve not had a cold in ages!! We landed at Singapore and as the minutes passed by during landing it became clear that 55 minutes between flights may have been a risk. When finally the hundred or so travellers in front of us had got their acts together, remembered which overhead locker their bags were in, checked their mobile phones, scratched, farted, collected kids and finally moved along the aircraft towards the exit we embarked into the metropolis that is Changi Airport. I looked around in a semi panic for a local lass with a board saying. “ Mr Gravett connecting to flight SQ281 to Auckland follow me” but alas this is a service no longer offered. Instead we were spewed out into the endless concourse of bright lights, shops, food outlets and people who dawdle. We will miss our connexion I thought along with all the associated anxieties of the various scenarios that would follow. Gate B10 was our gate, there was no sign saying that it was “five miles away and the extra hand baggage you sneaked in will get heavier every step of the way” but that is what it felt like! Puffing and panting we arrived at the gate with just minutes to spare to find and endless queue of people waiting to go through security to actually enter and as time passed we were more front than end of queue. Why do I always panic like this?? On the second flight which was just nine hours in duration I managed to watch all 8 episodes of series one of a TV drama called Mr Mercedees. I say all eight I actually saw seven one hour episodes plus 50 minutes of episode eight so I have to wait six weeks find out how/if they actually caught him. Good drama though that I had never heard of before.


As we arrived in Auckland at midnight we had arranged to stay at a ‘budget hotel’ near the airport before picking up our hire car next morning. I borrowed a trolley from arrivals to ease the twenty minute walk to the hotel (I couldn’t be arsed to wait for a courtesy bus that may or may not have arrived at that time of night). As we made our way through the darkness it became clear that my cold was now full blown. That coupled with 23 hours of liberal alcohol intake and an eight hour marathon of a somewhat disturbing, well manically disturbing, TV drama series compacted into a single sitting would mean even if the budget hotel room was bigger than about four square metres I still would probably not have slept very well.