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!
The house from the view.
The 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 lesson at Manu Bay
After 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.
Awhitu 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’.