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 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 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 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