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Touring New Zealand 2009 part 9

After staying overnight with Jennie and Kev on Waiheke the weekend was over and it was time to travel on, northwards. We had not sailed to the Bay of Islands so the plan was to go there by vehicle and go camping in the same places where we would have anchored. First we took a final stroll down to the beach, but the tide was in and there was no sand for the dogs, and we were last onto the 1030 ferry from Kennedy Point and were soon on our way north. We stocked up with coffee, venison salami, old matured dutch-style cheese and a sticky fruit cake at the Kaiwaka cheese delicatessen, then fuelled at Kawakawa before catching the ferry across from Opua to Russell.

We were pleased to hear the vintage steam train was running again from Kawakawa, although it is limited to Friday, Saturday and Sunday so we did not see it. The train runs from the Station to the other end of town over the first two bridges and back again and each journey is 3kms and about a thirty minute round trip. More details can be found by visiting www.bayofislandsvintagerailway.org.nz. There are plans to reopen the line again all the way to Opua. We settled into our cabin on the hillside at the Top10 Holiday Park in Russell, and soaked in the glorious views. Unfortunately when we arrived we were told there was a power failure, and so there was no lighting or showers or fridges. We found out later that a seagull had flown into the lines and then caused dangerous sparking. We could see the power workers and the fire brigade on the other side of the hill. Then it started to tip with rain. When it had cleared, and there was still no power, we walked into town and as we were walking around the shops the power came back on. When we were sailing in the Bay of Islands then we depended on Russell Radio and Ritchie Blomfield for our daily weather reports. Ritchie died in 2005 and he operated Russell Radio from his house. Now Russell Radio is operated from a small office on the waterfront, and we chatted to Richard Blomfield who is in charge of it now. Russell Radio is below the Bay Of Island Swordfish Club, and we noticed they were offering a special meal the next evening to celebrate St Patrick's Day, with live music, dinner and dessert for just $20, and cheap beer.

We had booked for one night but it was inevitable we would stay for a second night. Plans were to catch the ferry across to Paihia for the day but the weather was sunny and beautiful and it was a shame to spent the day shopping. At 0900 we booked for one more night, and then booked a day trip sailing. The traditional gaff-rigged schooner, R. Tucker Thompson was started by R. Tucker Thompson in the late 1970s as a project to embody the best features of a traditional design, married to the materials of today. After Tucker's death, the R. Tucker Thompson was completed by Tucker's son Tod Thompson and Russell Harris. The ship was built in Mangawhai, New Zealand and launched in 1985.

By 1000 we were down at the wharf ready to checkin. There were just 25 passengers, with a crew of 3, which was perfect. The ship can carry more but midweek in midMarch it was getting to the quiet time of year. There was little wind so we left Russell wharf under engine, and headed for the Black Rocks before turning to the right to clear Tapeka Point and then pass Roberton Island. No sooner were we under way and coffee and tea arrived, accompanied by scones with jam and cream. In this part of the trip we sailed through two boilups of fish, and in each the crew caught a nice fat kahawai on a hand line. They were each about 50cms. It caused a lot of fun because most of the other passengers had not done any fishing in NZ, and did not recognise the fish. Later everyone could taste them for lunch. There were harnesses and some energetic younger people climbed up the rigging, or sat on the bowsprit.

At 1200 she anchored in a beautiful bay in Waewaetorea Island and some people, Pete included, swam ashore. We had one hour to sit on the beach, swim, or climb to the viewpoint on the top of the hill. Pauline accepted a ride in the tender and then we both climbed the hill to see the views across towards Cape Brett and the Hole on the Rock, and looking down into the bays of Urupukapuka Island next door. There were also glorious views back towards Waitangi and down to the R. Tucker Thompson at anchor below. At exactly 1300 the tender came back to collect the first group; Pete meanwhile had swum back. Lunch was being cooked on the BBQ - meat skewers served on a large plate of salad, with a bowl of kahawai steaks for sampling. It was a much better lunch that we had on the PeeJay trip to White Island, and we said so. There were also drinks for purchase. Even water had to be bought, which was a surprise. The wines were local, from Cottle Hill at Kerikeri, which was a nice touch, and only $5 per glass was good value.

The hope was that we would be able to sail on the return journey and the forecast certainly predicted good sailing weather. However it did not arrive, so the sails went up for a while but we were not making enough speed to get back to Russell by 1600, so it was motor sailing again. The return trip was along the north side of Roberton Island and included mingling with boats with swimmers in the water swimming with dolphins. There has always been a pod of dolphins living in the Bay of Islands and we have often seen them when we have been sailing, and they come and surf the water at the bow. At exactly 1600 we were alongside the wharf at Russell and those people who were based at Paihia were able to transfer to the Bay Belle to take them back, and the R Tucker Thompson and her crew continued to her overnight mooring at Opua.

We explored a few shops, shared a one litre packet of hocky pokey icecream, and went back to our cabin. Today was St Patrick's Day and we went back into Russell at 1730 hoping to find Guiness beer for sale, and perhaps somewhere nice to eat out. We were passing the Bay of Islands Swordfish Club when a voice from their balcony above us suggested we might like to come up for a drink and a meal. This seemed an excellent idea, and we were duly signed in as visitors. The members were all very friendly and although the beer was coloured green to celebrate St Patrick's Day we decided after the second pint that it was alright. The food, lots of roast pork and meaty Irish stew, was served with 7 different sorts of potatoes, and we only just had enough space for the apple pie with cream and ice cream which followed. Live music seemed to involved people singing, rather than a band or group, so we quietly slipped out at 2130. It was an excellent evening and if we are in the area again we will definitely go there.

Thw weather forecast for the next 24 hours was good so we thought camping ! One of our favourite places is Whangaruru. It is a perfect place for an overnight stop sailing up to the Bay of Islands, and the camping ground is very nice too. Over the years there have been more toilet buildings replacing the single long drops, and there is now a camp manager who lives in a large bus at the entrance barrier. There have been problems with young locals causing trouble in the evenings and racing around, so the move to a camp manager and a barrier. Camping costs $7 per night per person. We had site number 12 which was directly on the waterfront and close to one of the toilet blocks. The only disadvantage was that the sun does not rise high enough to dry the tent until mid morning because it is hidden behind the hill. Fortunately DOC camping grounds do not operate a 1000 deadline for departing so we had plenty of time to get it all dry. On our visit we were unlucky that there was a lot of condensation, to the extent that it was dripping off the roof of the outer tent skin and onto our beds inside. We were surprised because there has never been a problem with our large tent before. Eventually everything did start to dry but it was not until 1200 that we were finally able to put everything away, and then we only just got it all packed when the grey skies arrived and the rain started. We knew it was probably going to be our last night camping this holiday so it was important that the tent and everything else was dry when it was packed away. Fortunately we managed to complete the drying 3 days later.

Leaving Whangaruru at lunchtime meant it was late when we got to the ferry to go across to Opua. It is over an hour to travel the coast road; although it is sealed it is winding. After a short shopping trip in Paihia we decide to stay overnight at the Top10 Holiday Park at Kerikeri. Just in case it was the fruit picking season we rang ahead to book a basic cabin. We have stayed there several times in the past and so we thought we knew what to expect. After purchasing the compulsary bag of tasty Kerikeri organic oranges, and some feijoas and nashis at our regular roadside stall, we were surprised to find new people at the Holiday Park and a lot of new buildings. There is now a large new Reception building and office, and our basic cabin was not one of the little square boxes below the kitchen but was instead one of a row of cabins above the kitchen.

It was not too late and we rushed down to visit the Stone Store and the Kemp House, both free admission with our membership of the NZ Historic Places Trust. There is only one road down to the waterfront because the only single width bridge has been removed. Cars must park in a temporary parking area, and only pedestrians can cross the river over the stepping stones, with care. The Stone Store now has many more items for sale, and there is a small side room with the usual tourist bits and icecreams. We preferred the old style with a limited selection of traditional items, but we suppose they need to make a profit. Tours of the Kemp House are guided, and we were just in time to visit it with a guide who was also going to close the building for the evening. She gave a short introduction and then we were able to wander around. Nothing had changed, except that the steps up to the attic are now closed.

There was nothing we needed to buy in town, so it was straight back to our cabin and prepare supper. We pounced on the only garden bench and got out our Red Devil to stake our claim. It was going to be an early dinner. While eating we saw this long haired cat sitting with another group who were eating. It must be a Birman. It came closer and it looked very much like a Birman cat, with the classic white gloves on its paws, and we guessed it must be a tabby point. Regulars said his name was Harry. In the morning we asked about the cat and were told he was a RagDoll, bought from a breeder in Kerikeri. We passed the house which was advertising Ragdoll cats as we headed north. They had self-contained accommodation so maybe we will stay there in future instead of at the Top10.

Pauline was determined to get to Cape Reinga, so today we were planning to keep driving until we reached the end of the sealed road at Waitiki Landing, just 21kms short of Cape Reinga. But this did not prevent the occasional stop, and we arrived at Mangonui Fish and Chip shop just after 1130. Business was already brisk and we followed a group of young people who were Tutus on Tour, judging from one of their T-shirts. These are ballet dancers of the Royal New Zealand Ballet who tour New Zealand every two years, and were travelling to Kerikeri, presumably having performed at Kaiataia the previous evening. Next stop, again as usual, was to buy an icecream at Cable Bay, and then sit on the golden sands watching the ocean in the sunshine. The coast road is very pretty and we almost turned off to the Mahia Peninsula and the Top10 Whatawhiwhi but that would have reduced our time spent in the Far North. We rejoined SH1 at Awanui and visited the Ancient Kauri Kingdom shop which features in the centre of the shop an enormous kauri tree with a staircase. We often buy souvenirs here, and collected some bread boards as well as two nice square pieces of rough kauri each $13.

On the way north we stopped at the Gum Diggers Park where we had an excellent walk round the site - it has been expanded considerably since our last visit. There is a small village with typical gumdiggers house and wellingtons/gumboots. A new video has been produced, and there seem to be more holes in the ground to admire on the walk. The walk has also been extended to a lookout, which enables a view to be made of areas which are not safe to explore on foot because there are still many deep holes full of water. The highlights are the huge wholes which had been dug round several of the trees which also show that there are several layers with trees dated at both about 40,000 years and 150,000 years. There are many thories about the cataclismic events which felled these trees whilst still in prime condition and laid them in the same direction over large areas including meteor impacts and volcanic events causing tidals waves as well as extreme atmospheric events such as massive storms.

Then it was just a matter of driving and more driving to reach Waitiki Landing. Just before we reached it we noticed that Marty, who many years ago taught us to fish, had moved from his house; it was now owned by the Davidson family. We wondered where he had gone. At Waitiki Landing we had booked a room in their backpackers at $40 but then were offered one of the ensuite rooms so we upgraded. We have usually stayed in the ensuite rooms but we were trying to be economical. Their electricity was also off, and we had noticed two men working earlier. It did not take too long before it was reconnected, and the kitchen used gas so we would have been OK. It was early so we had time to drive up to Cape Reinga before dinner. It is an unsealed, and just outside we found a white car which had skidded off the road and was sitting in the ditch, together with four people sitting on the roadside. We had heard them using the public telephone and guessed they were waiting for the pickup truck to collect the vehicle. They all looked OK but it reminded us that NZ gravel roads need care. Fortunately in the evening there are few vehicles on the road to Cape Reinga, whereas in the morning there would be a steady procession of fast large coaches. We like to travel slower than them, and this often causes difficulties. The road is being sealed and one place was quite rough and single width. Next year it should be much better.

We were shocked when we reached Cape Reinga, which is the northern tip of New Zealand and looked down on the pohutakawa tree from which, legend has it, the spirits of Maori leave for the underworld via the Three Kings Islands. There are now two enormous carparks, and a large roundabout which has no obvious purpose, as it only has just two roads entering it, except perhaps to slow down the traffic or provide a feature for practising tight turns. There is a serious new archway adjacent to a large toilet block, with signs everywhere saying no food or drink because of the sacred importance of the area - and this is where a new toilet block has been built with a large central drinking fountain in the absolute center. The new pathway is designed for wheelchairs and meanders down to the lighthouse, passing information boards. Locals told us the toilet block alone cost $1.3million. We have no polite comment, except to say it is out of character with the nature of the place, is in very bad taste and is also very expensive.

On our way back to Waitiki Landing we drove down to Teputaputa just to look at the camping areas and check nothing had changed. Campervans were all pushed into one patch by the ocean, but there were lots of other nice spots for a tent alongside the river. Our favourite spot, on top of a small hill, was already occupoed and there was a new toilet block nearby which meant only 4WD vehicles could get up the hill. Maybe another year we will have more time and can spend a few days here fishing.

The next morning we went south, to the wharf at Paua to try for a fish. When we arrived there were already two fishermen there but the tide was low and they were not getting many bites. They were targetting kingfish and their baitfish looked big enough to go on the BBQ. We decided to stay until 1300 then move on. It was only in the last half hour that Pete caught something. Initially we were not sure what it was, so Pauline went off to look at the pictures of fish and reported it was a trevally. These are nice table fish, and our was 35cms which was perfect for two people. The size limit is that it has to be over 25cms.

We continued south to a camp site we found a couple of years ago at Ahipara at the southern end of Ninety Mile beach. On our first visit we described it as one of the classic older style camps with lots of facilities but fairly deserted - now it is more busy and has recently joined the Kiwi Holiday Parks chain. There are now many more cabins, the one we had was almost on the site of our old favourite camping slot. All the cabins were occupied because there was a local wedding at the weekend, and then lots of surfing people as well as a serious marathon walk. We spent a couple of hours drying out the tent and all the ground sheets before packing them away for the year.

We continued on the backroad to cross the Hokianga harbour on the hourly ferry to Rawene ('sun setting'). Sitting in our car on the ferry we noticed the occupants of the car in front looked familiar and then Pauline said 'Hello, Margaret, what are you doing here ?' Duncan and Margaret, and their family who were in the vehicle behind us, had just spent the weekend at Ahipara for the event. They are close friends from Canada of Dugald and Lesley, and we all went boating together around the Fens and Cambridge in 2002. It was a coincidence to meet them on a ferry in NZ; the chances of it are very, very remote. We asked where they were staying that evening but they were travelling all the way to Auckland because they had to fly home the next day. We were in less of a hurry as we wanted to look round the harbour township that was New Zealand's third oldest Pakeha settlement and was the traditional 'capital' of Hokianga.

Clendon House, a fine kauri homestead, which is owned by the NZ Historic Places Trust, is at Rawene. It is only open Saturday, Sundays and Monday. The 1860's house was built in Rawene as the final home of one of New Zealand's earliest traders and ship-owners. James Clendon was born in England but became the US Consul to NZ and was a witness to the treaty of Waitangi in 1840, a member of the first Legislative Council and a magistrate. On his death his second wife Jane, a Maori, inherited his tremendous debts but managed to keep the house and contents together and it remained in the family for 100 years. The house contains many items from the Clendon family collection.

We spent a long time talking to the curator who lives in the house next door and who is a professional photographer and is also well known as an author of short stories and poetry. He gives a very detailed and informative introdictory talk which shows his considerable enthusiasm for the area and the house in particular. His work has featured in one of the recent Historic Places magazines which was one of the reasons why we choose our route so we could include Clendon. Whilst looking round the house on our last visit house we were intrigued by some plates on display which had a deep base which could be filled with hot water. The curator had also been doing some research into them and they were probably specially made for James Clendon at Burslem as he had a hatred of cold and congealed fat on his food. The curator turned the plates over for us to take pictures and we had promised to do some checks when we go next through the Potteries on our narrowboat and with friends in that area but none of our friends could help. We were told that the Director of the UK National Trust had visited recently and had also been interested as he had heard of such plates but never actually seen any. Since our last visit experts from the Museum in Stoke-on-Trent said they were made in the 1860s and are a pattern called Chain, which is not a surprise considering the pattern is of interlinked chains !

We stayed that night at the Opononi Holiday Park - we had one of the kitchen cabins because of the stunning views out over the camp to the harbour: well worth the extra $12 for the view of the spectacular sand dunes opposite to us. We could however clearly see the seas breaking on the bar at the harbour entry in the distance - the for ever shifting sandbar destroyed brought many ships to grief and caused many deaths in the old days when there were busy ports for the Kauri trade, now only small boats venture in. The stone walls along the seafront at Opononi were made from the rock ballast carried by sailing ships from Sydney that carried convicts. It has a small wharf and an excellent local store where we stocked up with meat and ice cream. It is still known for the tame dolphin from the 70s

Once we had checked in it was time to go and do a walk at the South Head. According to tradition the rocky headland is called Aria-te-uru and the harbour Niua, after the names of two taniwha (sea monsters) that Kupe, the first to travel to Aoteoroa from his pacific home of Hawaiki. The taniwha guided the two waka Ngatokimatawhaorua and Mamiri that Kupe sent back to this place. Their assistance is often called on by waka entering the harbour. Ships had a different assistance a signal station originally set up by John Martin in 1838. His flagstaff held a series of flags which told ships whether it was safe to cross the bar, the state of the tide and which direction to take to come in safely. We did not realise until we got there how far out from the headlands the bar was, it was two miles out. Once ships had crossed the bar John Martin and succeeding pilots, would go down to their dingy and row out to guide them in safely to their anchorage. The system of flags was eventually replaced by a series of disks, common to all ports, in 1867. The use of the harbour peaked at the turn of last century and the signal system was in use until 1951.

The bar was first charted by Kendall, the missionary, in 1819, opening up the harbour for the first ships for the potential Kauri trade he had identified and, of course, the setting up of a missionary station on the opposite coast to the Bay of Islands. The size of the Kauri trade can be judged from the fact that one mill alone at Kohukohu employed 5000 people and produced 6 million feet annually - it was finally closed because of fears the sawdust was encroaching into the harbour and would block the channel! It was also to Hokianga Harbour that the Frenchman De Thierry came to set up his little kingdom. The fear of the French was one factor in the eventual capitulation of the Crown, who did not really want to be involved in New Zealand, and the Treaty of Waitangi.

Pete went back down to the wharf at Opononi for a hour or so but all he caught were a couple of very undersize snapper which went straight back. There was a fishing contest at Omapere and so a lot of boats were at the ramp there and people were weighing their catch, so there was no chance of fishing. After our supper, we sat watching the goats mowing the site and finally a fine sunset as the cloud started to rise and break up. In the morning we tried the wharf again as it should have been the optimum time and good fishing according to the Maori fishing calendar but the current was very strong and even with big weights our lines were being swept back into the shore. Pauline accepted the inevitable and went into the supermarket to buy steak and sausages. We moved down to the wharf at Omapere which was now deserted where we sat for a little longer before continuing south. Still no fish.

On the way south through the winding forest road we stopped for a brief walk to see Tane Mahuta (the God of the Forest) which is so close to the road that it is a big tourist trap with many coaches stopping - even so it is a magnificent sight which even the presence of large numbers of other people can not detract from. We were fortunate this year and it was early and quiet so we could admire in silence the magnificent Kauri which is believed to be about 2000 years old and has a girth of 13.8 metres and a trunk volume of 244.5 cubic metres and a height of 51.5 metres and the boards claim it is the largest surviving Kauri. There are a variety of different lists of large kauri which have them in different orders, we suspect that size is sometimes based on volume, sometimes height, sometimes girth and sometimes convenience for publicity.

DOC have been laying in a number of extra sections of board walk and we also noticed that an increasing number of Kauri seem to be looking diseased so we stopped at the forest park headquarters where we learnt that there is a fresh version of the Kauri Dieback Disease which is worrying them especially if it spread to any of the large showpiece kauris.The spread mechanism is not certain but may well be carried on peoples feet hence the extra boardwalks to prevent soil contact as well as damage to the shallow sensitive root system.

We went into the Trounson Kauri Park, which is the first of the DOC " Mainland Islands" which seek to undo some of the damage done to the native flora and fauna by creating a secure environment in particular, the reduction of the impact of pests. Trounson was chosen to be the first of such experiments as it is literally a forest island surrounded by a sea of farmland; it is isolated from other forest patches and is the home to a number of endangered species such as the North Island Brown Kiwi, Kukupa (NZ pigeon) Pekepaka (bats) and Kauri snails. We had an excellent walk round the Trounson Park - it is not on the tourist route and it was very peaceful. We both decided it was the best area of Kauri we have seen and arguably one of the best medium length bush walks we have been on - the competitors are those in Goblin forests round Egmont. This time the highlight was seeing a huge example of one of the wetas - they are normally nocturnal but this one was so big it did not seem to care.

DOC has set up an information area and there is a lot of information indicating how successful the concept of a Mainland Island has been with full and alarming information on the number of pest caught or poisoned. The number of Kiwi reaching a "safe" size of a kilo rose from 5% to 30% after the first two years of poisoning rodents and Possums and has now climbed to 70% since they have been eliminating stoats and cats by trapping. Feral cats do untold damage to bird life and they are trapping several dozen every year. Dogs are perhaps worse and one single dog killed nearly 200 Kiwi in a six-week period in the past. Unfortunately the statistics have not been updated since about 2000 so it is difficult to know whether the progress has been maintained. At Clendon the house manager had mentioned that he had worked for DOC and that the display boards and poetry along the path inside the park were to his design, so we took special interest in them.

We looked at the small DOC camp site at the edge of the park - it was almost deserted although it has much better facilities than most DOC sites including showers and a fridge freezer and in 2009 is only $10 a night. Campers are now permitted to explore the park independently at night, to look for kiwis, and there are pieces of red cellophane and elastic bands provided with which to cover torches so the light is subdued. We always intend to return at some point although the Top10 with its better facilities, river and swimming hole seduced us again this year. We did three batches of laundry and set up the Red Devil next to our basic cabin for a BBQ. The local tabby cat, named Misty, came to visit us in the early morning and proceeded to curl up on our duvet and go to sleep. The owners reported she was good at catching rats and mice, but was too well fed to bother eating them. We understand why if she is so friendly with all the visitors. She is definitely plump and well-fed.

In the morning we stopped at Nelsons Kaihu Kauri shop, just 5 kms down the road towards Dargaville, which had a number of beautiful pieces of furniture as well as a lot of smaller pieces - we bought a couple of very elegantly shaped Swamp Kauri serving slices. We also bought a potted cross section of one of the giant fir cones which now grow in some areas of new Zealand including Otago, they can weigh up to 2.5 kilos and originated from California and Mexico. We have always been searching for the perfect fir cone and this will increase the challenge. As well as a large shop, there is also a room full of kauri planks and slices, some of which would make a perfect large table or a set of garden furniture. Inside the shop there was a nice outdoor bench comprising two wooden square planters with a bench seat between them; not bad value at $600. We would put a cushion on each of the planters and then use the bench as a table, and it was too nice to go outdoors. Later that day we saw a similar design, not kauri, on the decking of units at the Sandspit Holiday Park. We stopped briefly in Dargaville for fuel and some shopping.

As we passed Matakohe we could not resist making a short detour to the Kauri Museum. It now has a new entrance, and more pictures by Tudor Collins on the walls to match the publication in 2007 of a new book. We admired more pieces of kauri, and Pauline was very impressed with a chunky swamp kauri coffee table with kauri gum inserts in the cracks. The legs were removable but the table top was very heavy and was too large to go on the flight; it was also $800 which is quite expensive. Everything which is made of kauri seems to have become more expensive over the years.

Our final night was spent at Sandspit, in one of their waterfront kitchen cabins. The Holiday Park was a member of the Family Parks of NZ when we were there two years ago, but they have now left the group but still gave us the 10% discount when we produced our membership cards.The campsite at Sandspit, or more correctly Lower Matakana used to be a farm and was turned into a campsite in 1930. Many of the old buildings still exist. A few years ago the owners created a "pioneer village" with shop windows full of cameras etc and a cinema doubling as a TV room for children. It is a very friendly place with free kayaks and dinghies at the waterfront and fishing rods and flounder spears at the house. The toilet blocks always have fresh flowers and are now adorned with the most fantastic seats with shells and Starfish cast into transparent plastic.

Bay, the cabin we were allocated in 2007, was right on the sea front with its own tiny private beach marked off by low breakwaters - it started life as one of four ex American Army cabins and was obtained locally. The old schoolhouse from the 1870s forms the games room and library. The first cabin we had many years ago, Willow, started life as the chook house, then became the shower block and finally a cabin. For those who are unaware what chooks are, they are a NZ chicken that does not cluck but goes chook, chook, chook, Eh! Two years ago we stayed in Nikau that was the home of Uncle Jimmy and built just before the turn of the century. The wood is now suffering on one corner which will need some repair soon. Of the 12 kitchen cabins there are just four waterfront kitchen cabins which in 2009 were $70; the other cabins are $60. Since our previous visit there has been a lot of investment, with the addition of six brand new self-contained units, some of which are on the waterfront and there is the intention of converting one or two of the larger old kitchen cabins to become en suite. This year we stayed in Norfolk, named after the huge Norfolk pines that tower over it. Norfolk is one of the biggest cabins and has a huge deck which has only a couple of feet separation from the wall which drops vertically to the sands and is lapped at high tide. It has a separate bedroom suitable for converting into a bathroom. After using the Red Devil for the final time this holiday, it was time to scrape and clean it ready to put it away, always a very long and tedious and messy task for which Pete usually strips down to the minimum as the black grease seems to be attracted to any valuable clothing. After cleaning it is sprayed with a high temperature barbeque paint before putting away. That and cleaning and oiling the fishing gear are always Pete's tasks.

We eventually dragged ourselves away from the view and started the last lap to Auckland. On the way we stopped at the Parry Kauri Park and the adjacent Warkworth and District Museum for the first time. The Parry Kauri Park is a small (21 acre) area of regenerating bush with many Kauri including two magnificent kauri called the "Simpson Kauri" and the "McKinney Kauri" which are on the edge of the bush so the size and shape of a mature kauri can be fully appreciated - they are both about 800 years old. The purchase of the bush was organised by the Kauri Bushmen's Association with generous donations from Tudor Collins, the well known bushman and photographer, and Harry Parry with smaller contributions from other local sources. The Kauri Bushmen's Association has provided a number of short walkways, boardwalks and viewing platforms, well labelled by the Forest and Bird Protection Society and provided with a free guide sheet.

It is probably the best place to see mature Kauri and have a short bush walk in groves of Kauri within an hour of Auckland. The museum is also well worth a visit with exhibits giving insights into the life and pursuits of pioneering families. They also had some boards showing how the sailing ship, the Rewa was sunk to form an artificial harbour which we had seen whilst sailing. Alongside the Museum is a small nursery and we bought a pot of native iris plants as a gift; they had lots of small native plants including little totara and kauri trees. We do not understand why we had not found it earlier as it is well signed from the Route 1 just South of Warkworth.

Our usual route towards Auckland takes us through the town of Orewa but there is now a new short Toll Motorway, which opened in January and costs $2 for a car. We thought it would make a change and would be shorter and quicker than going through the town. Unfortunately the systems for payment are not yet organised and many local people just drive along the road and never pay. We decided it was best to pay in advance, otherwise it is possible to ring a 0800 number or login to the website. It is all such a hassle for a $2 toll. We had to wait in line to put money in to a machine, and there were two staff people standing alongside to help. Overall it was probably quicker to take the free road through town.

We diverted to Devonport where we had a lunch of snapper and chips - the fish and chip shop used to excellent but it has been taken over and everything has now become very greasy. Devonport is however a lovely small town on the waterfront of the Waitemata harbour and has a number of interesting book shops and we have bought some antiques such as a cruise line silver butter dish there in the past. If we ever bought a house in New Zealand it would be a candidate although the prices for nice old villas are very high.

Once we were back at Chris and Ralph's much of the time was cleaning and packing what would remain and what returned to the UK. Every year we try to make the journey one way through the USA as it dramatically increases the luggage allowance to two pieces each of 23 Kgs which allows us to gradually return our library of New Zealand books although we always seem to buy some more. This year we finally found an affordable copy of the West Coast Goldfields by Philip Ross May which has been on our want list for at least 5 years. We had seen them but never under $150 so an ex library copy at $10 was a real find.

David Bott and his wife Gwen came round to dinner and they returned the invite the following night. David taught us to sail 15 years ago and has a Piver Lodestar similar to Kev's which he built most of with his own hands so we had a lot to talk about - he still has the model he used to design his wheelhouse and general layout. The discussions helped us understand the disparities in the lengths of Lodestars as most have been modified with various lengths of bathing platforms at the back. Various keels have also been added to improve the upwind performance. Davids has also been given an additional two foot beam so he can have a double upper bunk in the 'wings' and he can also have a slightly higher mast. David also does much of his sailing single handed so we had a lot of discusion on simplifying reefing arrangements. The ideas should all help Kev in the future.

The final day was spent storing everything away ready for next year, and off course planning what we will do. Its a hard life out of the rat race.

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