Thirty Seven Days On North Island 17

28 February 20

Posted at 2:41

Sadly we’ve completed the thirty seven days and are now back in the UK. We’ve hopefully avoided coronavirus in transit at Singapore and now down to earth with the reality of British winter and overcrowding, But I never completed the last few days of our stay in New Zealand.

As I mentioned we left Waiheke Island to meet up with our Kiwi friends Andrew and Debbie. We have stayed with them for a few days on each of our pervious trips to NZ so it is something of a tradition.

In 1997 Andrew and Debbie built an amazing house on a large plot of land and native bush they owned (partly proceeds of working in the UK for a few years). We stayed with them there at Christmas soon after they had moved in with their very young family. We have visited a couple of times since. Now over twenty years later we are here again. Three years ago our friends sold their house and embarked on, what I imagined to be a downsizing activity, building a new house with more green technology and lower maintenance still on their land. So for the last three years Andrew and Debbie have lived in a trailer and a collection of containers whilst the fought through the trials and tribulations of building another ‘designer’ house whilst working full time to fund the project. As luck would have it (for us) Andrew and Debbie moved from trailer to new house just two days before we arrived. I can’t help but think our pending arrival pushed them over the finish line. There is still much work to do but they now live in a super house on a building site not a trailer at the side of it!

New HouseThe house from the view.

New House ArielThe house from above

The house is amazing, certainly isn’t downsizing but does as I guess was the main motivation, provide a modern low maintenance and much greener home than the one they sold three years ago and in the shadow of which they have lived in their trailer. The house is something George Clarke would be proud of and it has a view that even George Clarke has never been able to achieve – a view across miles of open countryside, a massive valley below and beyond some 40km away the Auckland skyline and the sea from Pahurehure Inlet to Manukau Heads glistening in between. There can be few views as good as this anywhere.


With three days of our thirty seven left it would have been easy to laze around of the decks of our friends new house but Andrew had taken a few days off work so we could explore places we had not been in the area.. We started by making a 90 minute journey right out of the area down to a town called Raglan based on little more than we had not been there before. Raglan is in the Waikato region and is known for its black sand Ngarunui beach and the long surf break at Manu Bay. Earlier in our adventure you may remember we stayed at Oakura which is on State Highway 45 known as the surfers highway and were disappointed to see very few surfers other than a few para-surfers in New Plymouth. Well Raglan was different, here there were lots of ‘waxheads’ both experienced and beginners having lessons on the beach. We spent an enjoyable day there.

surfing lessonSurfing lesson at Manu Bay

surferAfter the lesson

The next day we visited both Maukau Heads and Lighthouse and also Awhitu Regional park. Maukau Heads is the name of the promontories that form the entrance to one of Auckland’s harbours, Maukau harbour. A famous lighthouse there was built in response to New Zealands worst maritime disaster when HMS Orpheus ran aground on the sand bar there and sank with the loss of 189 lives. The lighthouse is worth a visit with some excellent views and the history of how the lighthouse was manned and in later times restored is very interesting.

Awhitu regional park is on a peninsular within Maukau Harbour. As with the parks we visited North of Auckland the park was picturesque, very spacious, well equipped with freedom camping areas, bbqs and as always some amazing beaches. There is a 4km circular walk through wetlands and beaches taking in an early settler homestead. Some of the sea views are breathtaking.

Manukau HeadsManukau Heads

Awhitu Regional ParkAwhitu Regional Park


So our thirty seven days on North Island drew to a close with or friends in the brand new house in Ararimu. We sat on the deck in the warm evening sun and reflected on our six week adventure. We have stayed in Coromandel Township, Clive (Napier), Okoia Wanganui, Oakura Beach (Taranaki), Te Wahapu (Russell), Coopers Beach, Puhoi , Oneroa (Waiheke Island). We’ve lived in an orchard cottage, a riverbank cottage, a farmstay, a studio apartment, a hideaway on a hill with a private beach, a contemporary home with amazing views of Doubtless Bay, a tiny wooden house over 110 years old and a winemakers loft. Thirty seven days of wall to wall sunshine and just 10 minutes rain in the whole six weeks added to our enjoyment. On previous visits to New Zealand we have lived in camper vans so by default have mixed with other campers and holiday makers. Staying in a variety of rental accommodations in a variety of locations we have spent time mostly with locals and through that have gained an insight to Kiwi life and culture and I must say it has not disappointed.

I remember when talking with ‘Gordon’ on Waiheke Island he said that for many, many years of his life New Zealand was seen as the ‘arse-end’ of the world, isolated, insignificant and somewhat out of touch, but, he said with some pride, not any more, “when I see what is happening in the USA, when I visit the UK and Europe I come back to New Zealand and think ‘arse-end’ of the world? not likely this is now the best place to be in the world”.


After the last thirty seven days I whole heartedly agree with ‘Gordon’.




Thirty Seven Days On North Island 16

19 February 20

Posted at 8:55

Thursday the thirteenth of February was time to leave Puhoi and head for our final Bach which is on Waiheke Island. We started the day with a short drive to Orewa for breakfast, heading for Auckland via Orewa meant we could take the more picturesque route. So a traditional Kiwi breakfast of mince with poached eggs on top, yum yum, and an internet fix via the café’s free wifi and we were on our way.


Anyone who knows me is aware I can’t stand being late so I was anxious to ensure we made the ferry terminal in time. We were taking a ferry from the city centre, Hamer Street to Kennedy Point on Waiheke, there are only three car ferries a day from Hamer street and we were booked on the 2:15pm. Most visitors go to Waiheke as foot passengers and use buses and taxis on the island. So in my true tradition of not being late we rocked up at the ‘ferry terminal’ two and a half hours early. I put ‘ferry terminal’ in inverted commas as it consists of a sort of porta cabin office at the entrance to a fairly small car park in an industrial area and at the front a concrete ramp into the water. A very helpful Sealink lady took my name at the barrier then came back from the office proclaiming our return booking and suggested we park behind one of the two cars who had arrived there earlier than we had. The bonus of arriving early is that we had free parking in the city centre which was just a short walk away. The helpful Sealink lady said we had plenty of time for lunch or whatever just be back to the car by 2pm.second in queueSecond in the queue

We exited the industrial area and walked along Wynyard Wharf passed the Wynyard Quarter of bars and restaurants and across a pedestrian bascule bridge and on to Quay Street which is in the city on the harbour. The nearer we got to Quay Street the more crowded and oppressive it felt. I found myself walking alongside what I suppose were office workers, strangely dressed in long sleeved collared shirts and formal long trousers and they exchanged ‘corporate speak, in loud and self important voices. How strange this seemed after over five weeks dressed only in tees and shorts mixing with laid back rural fishermen, farmers, hippies, Maoris and every sort of alternative lifestyle folk that North Island had thrown our way. Here there was bustle, city folk rushing past mega ocean going yachts, seemingly everyone rushing to upmarket luncheon venues and all this amongst the most horrendous noisy building works. The whole experience was a shock to the system, and not a pleasant one. We believe the building works may be for a Metro system – whatever it is a massive undertaking and for the present does not make this part of Auckland attractive. I’m sure though we will be back next week and will eventually get acclimatised to it. For now we spent some time wandering around the marinas and had a sherbert down Wynyard Wharf before returning to the car.Nice boat

The car park was now full, less than 30 cars, waiting to board the ferry. Boarding was interesting. The ferry was simply a car deck with a small two storey passenger deck at the stern. The process of boarding was interesting, as it was a small ferry with entry/exit at one end each vehicle had to reverse on to the ferry individually. So boarding was even slower than Dover will be post Brexit. Once away it was an enjoyable crossing which took about 80 minutes. The views of Auckland as we sailed away were amazing.FerryArriving at Waiheke

Waiheke Island is just over 20km offshore from Auckland, it covers an area of less than 100 sqkm and has a resident population of round 10,000.this time of year the population swells especially at weekends as it is a holiday playground for Aucklanders and tourists from much further afield. I guess the biggest attraction is the plethora of vineyards and their wineries with exotic restaurants and wine tastings. The island is awash with wine tour mini buses and coaches, taxis and electric bicycles – all full of tourists who have no doubt tasted just a few too many. There are an amazing number of people walking from winery to winery, or unable to find the bus stop to get back to one of the main towns which are all small and holiday orientated.View from loftView from the Winemaker's Loft

We are staying in a Bach described as a winemakers loft, my romantic mind pictured something a little different to what we have. Although it is indeed a loft and belongs I suppose to a wine maker it could also be described as a small apartment above the rear of the wine estate owners large detached garage and office. Having said that it is bright and modern with magnificent views, its just not quite what my mind conjured up. It is well positioned though, a twenty minute walk or two minute drive to Oneroa one of the islands main towns and very close to three or four wineries. We won’t die of thirst!OneroaOneroa

Winemakers vineyardWaiheke Vineyards

We’ve spent a couple of days here now and it has been fun. As ever we are meeting interesting folk as you do when you settle at a place for a few days. This morning in Solar Solar a sort of coffee shop cross pub cross eatery we met a couple, I’ll call them Gordon and Anne as I never got their names but the monikers seem to fit. Anne struck up conversation talking about muffins and from there we discovered that she hailed from the UK but came here 52 years ago not knowing why or even where New Zealand was. Never got to the bottom of that but again my romantic mind assumed she was just a child of the sixties who sort of drifted here. Anyway it was enjoyable to hear her and Gordon’s view of the world from their NZ with UK links (their son now lives in the UK). Having complimented Gordon on my impression how passionate Kiwis are about preserving their ecosystem. Eradicating imported species like possums, stoats, ships rats and Argentian ants – all of which heave few if any predators and are between them destroying New Zealands native plants and trees along with birdlife – including the endangered Kiwi. Alongside that there are massive initiatives to prevent the spread of diseases like Kauri dieback which threatens these massive ancient trees. There is tremendous pride and concern with people at all levels to preserve the flora and fauna and indeed the Maori culture and traditions. I have been struck by this and told Gordon so. My mistake was to comment how the Chinese appear to have a total disregard for these efforts and the rules and regulations in place to make them a reality. It was an off the and comment based on my disgust at what I have observed many times over recent weeks. Whereas Gordon wholeheartedly agreed Anne became incensed and began loudly berating the Chinese for everything and in particular how they were rude and arrogant, didn’t understand queuing be it in the supermarket of at a pedestrian crossing. She had a real issue and began relaying her experiences of them jumping queues, pushing with their utter rudeness. It took sometime to steer the conversation back to something more genteel.

On many occasions we became involved in quite deep conversations with long term Waiheke residents. There appears to be an island mentality there which we have not come across elsewhere. I found it enjoyable.

After four days on the island, mostly sampling wine and doing beach walks it was time to leave and commence the very last leg of our journey. We took the little car ferry back to Hamer Street and headed for the country near Drury, south of Auckland where our friends Andrew and Debbie live (the ones who spent time with us at Coopers Beach). I will tell of our time there in the next post which as today is actually day 37 I will have to make in the UK!



Thirty Seven Days On North Island 15

14 February 20

Posted at 9:16

Today, 11th February, we’ve spent exploring little Puhoi a bit more and learning its history (more later) and we took a short drive out to Mahurangi national park and then down to Orewa. Puhoi is actually closer to the SH1 than I said previously, it’s only just over a kilometre which makes the seclusion all the more remarkable. The national park can be accessed via a road about 3km north and then it’s about ten kilometres to get to the Mahurangi west entrance. There are only two vehicle accesses to the park the other being 16km south. All other access is via boat. The park is quite massive with picturesque walks, sea views and beaches and it seems precious few people. We spent a couple of hours walking a loop there, it was great if a bit steep in places.Mahurangi West 1Mahurangi West

Mahurangi West 2Mahurangi West

Leaving Mahurangi we drove a few miles south, avoiding the toll road which starts close to the Puhoi Road, through Waiwera to Orewa. Orewa is a seaside town consisting primarily of restaurants and bars along with a lovely sandy beach which slopes gently giving a lot of shallow sea for paddling etc. There are so, so many beaches on North island it is difficult to take in, there are thousands and most seem deserted, or they are so big the people using them are dwarfed. So we spent a couple of hours there, it was bustling compared with Puhoi but in reality quiet and we had a long walk on the beach with few other people.

On returning to Puhoi we visited the tiny museum and of course had an obligatory visit to the Puhoi pub.Puhoi ChurchPuhoi Church

Puhoi was founded in 1860 by a Captain Krippner, who retired from the Austrian cavalry and emigrated with his family to New Zealand. James Krippner came from German speaking Bohemia (now the Czech Republic). In 1863 he sent for more Bohemians to come and settle here. It was a 110 day journey by sea for them. They had no idea how difficult farming would be in New Zealand compared with their homeland. Over the following years two more groups of Bohemians came to Puhoi, by 1872 200 had emigrated here. The story of how the community developed, how they enhanced forestry skills is all quite fascinating and the history is evidenced in all the buildings here many of which have hardly changed over the years. In the Puhoi Pub there are massive two man saws on the walls which were used to fell the giant kauri trees the trunks of which were transported by oxen and some fascinating contraptions for hauling the timber.

The population today is only 450 so it hasn’t grown a great deal, if you remove motor transport and of course some of the newer designed buildings it is not difficult to imagine how it was back around 1900.

We only came here by accident I was looking for a Bach to stay in after Coopers beach and before we go to Waiheke island (on Thursday) I came across Puhoi Cosy Cottage which seemed ideal for two and far enough from Auckland city but until we got here I had no idea what a charming little find it would be.Cosy Cottage BathOutside bath - the cottage had a shower in the bathroom but the bath is outside! the second time we have had such a feature on our travels.

So tomorrow is our last day here, we may go to Waiwera and checkout the cheese store (they make a lot of cheese there apparently) here in Puhoi and no doubt the pub.

The following day we did indeed head for Waiwera, after checking out the Sugarloaf as a potential lunch spot (it appeared to be a cross between a night club and a pool hall so we gave it a tentative tick) we headed back to visit the Wenderholm Regional Park that we had passed on the way. It turned out to be better than we expected so we stayed for some time. It is a massive country park with numerous beaches and country walks. It was popular and clearly is a favourite place for BBQs. There are many brick built BBQs, well spaced out as the park is simply so big. Unfortunately the BBQs are all taped off with warnings from the fire service. There is a total fire ban here at the moment, after over two months without rain the whole area feels like a tinderbox and with so many massive eucalyptus trees the area would be like Australia was recently if fire broke out. Never the less there were a lot of people around (for New Zealand) and one or two school trips. Having spent much of the day there we headed back to Waiwera to sample the beer and food at the Sugarloaf. It was indeed an odd place but the beer and food was good. It is situated opposite a spa centre (Waiwera is famous for its hot spa). Chatting to a couple of blokes playing pool (and consuming copious amounts of beer) we discovered the massive spa centre was closed down at the moment, apparently it was purchased with Russian mafia funding and soon after it was purchased it closed down due to investigation into its financial situation. This explained to us why Waiwera in general, and the large establishment opposite the spa, the Sugarloaf were quite quiet. This did mean that before leaving we could have a pleasant walk along yet another near deserted beach.Wenderholm Regional ParkWenderholm Regional Park





Thirty Seven Days On North Island 14

11 February 20

Posted at 1:10

Puhoi (population 450) is situated just north of Auckland and just off of the SH1, for New Zealand a busy road which is under a lot of development but as soon as you turn off the road you are in a sleepy rural area. Within a few kilometres is Puhoi, a hamlet really centred around a ford on the river Puhoi and a grand pub dating back to 1879. The large impressive colonial building , originally called the German Hotel, is now appropriately named the Puhoi Pub and Hotel. It is a proper pub and prospers from day trippers out from Auckland along with construction workers from the tunnelling and road improvements on the SH1.Puhoi PubPuhoi Pub

Puhoi dronePuhoi from above

Other than the pub Puhoi is really quaint with a little general store, library, community hall and a couple of quaint tea rooms and tiny shops and of course a school. The houses are spread around the surrounding hills, lots of farms etc. Along Krippner road (named after the Bohemian who originally owned all the land on which Puhoi stands), is a small farm where Pete and Debbie have their home and where Puhoi Cosy Cottage also now resides. The cottage is where we are staying.puhoi cosy cottage 2Puhoi Cosy Cottage

Pete and Deb bought the cottage on New Zealand’s equivalent of Ebay in 2008 for $7,500 (£3750). It was built in 1915 and located in Fleet Street, Newton, Auckland. Originally used as the office for The Pelican Club, a whorehouse. It now had to be removed from its site to make way for a parking lot.

Having bought the cottage Pete and Deb had the challenge of transporting it to Puhoi, then when the finally got it on a low loader to their land they discovered that it would not fit up the long, very steep drive. So the cottage was cut in two and transported up the hill to its current site, down the hill from their own house and next to an unusual tin house. It then took nine years of blood sweat and I’m sure some tears for the cottage to be restored to the amazing and unique quirky cottage it is today. We will spend the next few days exploring the area including Orewa, the nearest coastal town.Puhoi Cottage DronePuhoi Cosy Cottage from drone

Yesterday Puhoi’s small population of 450 increased significantly when there was a days filming here for a new BBC series called Mystique. The general store was closed all day and its signage, along with that of the library opposite changed. From dawn till dusk the place was bustling with everything and everyone that goes with a film production. It was interesting to see and of course the pub did well out of it even if it doesn’t feature in the programme.Mystique Film set

Puhoi changes for a day to the film set for BBC series Mystique





Thirty Seven Days On North Island 13

11 February 20

Posted at 1:02

Today, Sunday 9th February, we left Coopers Beach along with Andrew and Debbie. I’ve been upset to leave all of the six places we have stayed so far on this trip but I think most upset to be leaving this area, I love it and there is so much more we could experience here. Only thing for it is we will have to return one day!

We are heading south to a place called Puhoi in North Auckland, a good way north of Auckland (60km or more) in UK distances but not so far for Kiwis. We decided to go south via the West coast as opposed to the more direct SH1 East coast route. This enabled us to take in the Hokianga harbour, which appears to be a lake but is actually the estuary to the Waihou river. We stopped at Opononi and Omapere to admire the views and especially at Arai te Uru where I took some drone photos. We then went down to the Waipoua forest and saw the magnificent Tane Mahuta, a kauri tree some two thousand years old, 51.5m high and with a trunk girth of 13.8m. The trunk volume is estimated at 244.5 cubic metres!! This is the biggest of many massive ancient kauri trees in the forest. The trees are threatened by a disease called kauri dieback – the lengths the conservationists and everyday Kiwis are going to stem the spread of this awful disease is commendable.Tane Mahuta 2Tane Mahuna

Tane Mahuta 1Tane Mahuna with Marilyn for scale


After leaving the forest we said goodbye to our friends for a couple of weeks, we will stay with them at the end of our journey, they headed home to the Bombay Hills and we set off for a cosy 100 year old cottage in Puhoi that once was the office for a brothel in downtown Auckland. More of that in the next instalment


Thirty Seven Days On North Island 11

03 February 20

Posted at 8:23

Well we are having so much fun and so much to do it’s difficult to fit the blog and photos in!!


We are now in Bay of Islands in what is known as Northlands. We’ve been here three days and tomorrow drive two hours further to Coopers Beach in the Far North. We have been staying in a Bach close to Russell. It is a quirky house built on many levels and with multiple doors, its own little beach and has the most brilliant views across the bay. It’s all really about boating and sailing here and the house actually feels like a boat.Sunset from the DeckSunset View from Fern Cottage


This is the area that Captain Cook was the first European to visit NZ. It is also the area of the original capital of the country and also where you find the treaty grounds where the Independence treaty was signed. Next Thursday, 6th, there is a big festival at the Treaty Grounds commemorating the signing. We may come back down for it.


To get here there is a short ferry ride which saves a long and windy route around the coast. Russell is a sweet town, preferable to Piahia across the bay and nearer the Treaty Grounds. It is easy just to idle away the time watching the boats, visiting little beaches etc. but today we took a boat trip around some of the islands and included the ‘world famous’ hole in the rock.

Hole in the RockHole In The Rock

It was a great way to appreciate why it’s known as Bay of Islands and an interesting view of life and nature here.Russell FerryThe Russell Ferry runs every 10 minutes each way


This morning we walked up Flag Staff which is famous in that when the Waitangi treaty was signed bringing together the Maoris and the British. The story of what transpired with the Flag staff between 1840 and 1857, with one party of the agreement continually breaking their word and cutting the staff down is somewhat like a pre run of Brexit – there are so many similarities. On a positive note ultimately there was a coming together and unity which has now lasted over 150 years.Sail ShipSailing Ships everywhere here

We move on again tomorrow, just two hours further North, yet again we have no real desire to move on, just like all our previous stays we could do with a few more days. It is becoming clear that thirty seven days is nowhere near long enough!

Russell at SundownRussell





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.