|Touring and Sailing in New Zealand 2011
We came out to New Zealand on the Cunard Liner the Queen Elizabeth and we had seen so many new places and had spent so long writing it all up that we did little more than take pictures and make some brief notes during our shorter than usual time in New Zealand (47 days). The write-up was only put together after our return. This is a complete contrast to most of our earlier write-ups where we have tried to make the 'travelogues' completely self contained to the extent of duplicating material from previous years. Athough parts of the text are in little more than note form the majority of the new areas are covered in full and the all the new pictures (75) are present with full hover over information. This page - or last year (2010) where the write-up was also minimal - are not the best place to start for a newcomer to the site looking for ideas on a holiday in New Zealand but more for our own continuity.
We arrived at Princes Wharf Auckland in the early morning on the Queen Elizabeth. Lat year with the Queen Mary 2 we were stuck in the container port, so it was good to be at the bottom of Queens Street. We just saw dawn as we approached. Only a few people were on deck, including chaps from the NZ Immigration and Customs. After a direct taxi ride (no guided tour of the town this time!) we picked up our white van from Grant. He found us one with sliding doors on both sides, and converted into the camper mode, which was perfect. We drove down to Christine’s old house, met up with her, and then followed her to the new house which is out close to Kumeu.
After the congestion on Auckland city it was a delight to be in the countryside, with views across the rolling hills and sheep and cows in their fields. We understand why they have moved out, and commuting into Auckland from the west, along SH16 motorway, is much easier than commuting over the Harbour Bridge from the north, or on SH1 motorway from the south.
Next morning was a gentle start, just after just hour, for the drive non-stop to Napier for Art Deco Festival. We expected the journey to take six hours, about the same time as when Pauline drove it in 2008, so left just after 0900. There is now a by-pass around Taupo which saved time and we arrived early, so we could stop at Esk Valley vineyard and chatted to Sue as well as buy a couple of bottles of wine before checking in at the Westshore Holiday park. We had booked our three nights in a cabin when we were there in 2010. Everyone makes their booking one year ahead for the Art Deco weekend. We renewed our Family Parks membership card and were given a free voucher for one days camping which we hope to use later.
Napier now known as The Art Deco Capital of the World started life as a copy of an English seaside resort. It is renowned for its warm sunny climate, location in Hawke's Bay and its Marine Parade is lined with tall pines. It had fine hotels, botanical gardens and bands playing in a rotunda in the square. All that was to change at 1045 on Tuesday, 3rd of February 1931 when a violent earthquake struck - in less than three minutes Napier crumpled to ruins. Both Chemist shops caught fire and a brisk easterly wind spread the flames. The earthquake destroyed almost every water pipe and the fire brigade could do little and only a small area was saved from the flames. The earthquake registered 7.9 on the Richter scale and 258 people were killed mostly by falling masonry from highly decorated buildings with overhanging structures.
Napier the Victorian town was gone and England offered no inspiration to the re-builders with their clean slate in 1931 but the architectural journals of America were full of interesting ideas in particular Modernism which we now know as Art Deco. Nowhere else do we find so many similar style buildings built over a period of only a couple of years to a common plan. Many of the buildings remain and even in the time we have been going to Napier the restoration and painting has further enhanced the city. It is well worth staying in Napier for a day or two to savour the atmosphere. It is also an excellent centre for the Hawke's Bay area, famous for its wines. There are references to an excellent book on Art Deco Napier and links to web sites on our site - search for Napier or Art Deco.
Back at the cabin, Pauline put on her new Art Deco frock, the result of browsing in too many branches of Monsoon, and grabbed her non-PC grey fox stole. Pete had his Panama hat and Art Deco waistcoat. At 1800 we joined the line for the Opening Soiree which, to our surprise, was attended by the Prime Minister who gave a good very informal talk. 2011 is the 80th anniversary of the earthquake in Napier and so was a very special celebration. The NZ Navy played a very important role in 1931, and so they always have a presence at Art Deco, but this year all three of the Services were there in numbers. In spite of the presence of the Prime Minister, there was very little security obvious and it was the same when he was walking round town afterwards. He was happy to have his picture taken with people in the street, especially if they were wearing Art Deco clothes, and was relaxed and seemed to be enjoying his visit. We smiled at the police who were trying to maintain a gentle influence on his movements as he strolled along the Esplanade towards the Sound Shell.
We spent the morning in town and watched the parade of old cars. In addition to the endless line of beautiful vehicles there were the Navy, the Air Force and the Army marching in the procession. The weather was glorious and everyone was smiling and taking photos. It was such a world away from the earthquake in 1931. the Vintage car parade through the centre of town which is an absolute must on ones first visits. We have however seen it many times and have hours of video and hundreds of pictures already but we always end up taking a few more! It is where one really begins to understand the scale of the weekend. This year there were about 300 cars, mostly from the 1920s and 1930s all in showroom condition as well as being in full on-the-road condition. There were also many other vintage cars from a later period, many brought from England, which did not qualify for the parade but still added character to the town - everywhere one walked there were old cars gleaming in the sun.
The parades are always led by the Royal New Zealand Navy band. The Navy takes their relationship with Hawke's Bay very seriously because of the presence of HMS Veronica in the port when the earthquake struck and the important and courageous work done by the Navy in the days that followed.
After the last car had processed we drove out to the airfield to see the Catalina. We have been 'friends' of the Catalina for many years and it is always a special occasion so see her flying. There are too many static vintage aircraft, and the NZ PBY is one of few which is certified to fly with people on board. We had already decided that we were only going to visit and chat to the crew, but then the event takes over and Pete decided to fly. We were lucky with timing. The aircraft only flies if there are enough people to fill it, and some people had been waiting for hours to get into the air. We arrived after lunch and had less time to wait. Indeed it was Pete's decision to fly which raised the numbers above the minimum, and made the flight viable. Of course, after the first flight then lots more people wanted to fly, and more flights took place. The flying is on a cost sharing basis as she is not licensed for commercial operations - the costs are shared between the crew and all the additional people who fly in her. The nominal half hour flight was up a bit at £75 but still excellent value.
Pete had well over half an hour in the air and as soon as he had left the ground the 16 passengers were organised so that turns were taken to stand behind the pilots and move through the two cabins as well as spending time in the two large observation blisters at the back which have almost as good a view forwards as the pilots and better in every other direction. Only four can go into them at a time otherwise the aircraft's C of G is moved too far aft with dire consequences. The slow low flight took us along the coast for a couple of passes over Napier before viewing the Vineyards round Hastings, we flew beside rather than over the viewpoint at Te Mata Peak. Pete has flown in many aircraft, some older, but nothing approaches a flight in a Catalina.
A large number of Catalinas (3200) were built in the war but less than 100 survive and under 20 remain airworthy of which only the one is certificated for passenger flights. We have always been interested in fly boats since our flights in the Grumman Widgeon in the Bay of Islands. We went out of our way in Australia to visit the The Lake Boga Flying boat Museum which has a complete Catalina airframe on display outside as well as a lot of exhibits in a grass covered bunker which used to be the communications centre. The main flying boats at Lake Boga were the RAAF Catalinas and those of the Americans but other aircraft included Sunderlands, Walruses and a few Dorniers, the only aircraft flown by both sides during the war. The Catalinas had many roles, they were thought of by many as intelligence and rescue aircraft but 70% of their missions were offensive against shipping and mine laying. They were painted black for night operations and known as the Black Cats. They were slow with a cruising speed of 112 knots (max 162) but had a long endurance and range carrying out raids and mining as far away as Hong Kong. After the war many were converted for fire-fighting by water bombing as well as passenger carrying.
The Catalina in New Zealand is the PBY5A version used by many allied forces including the RNZAF and RAAF. The RNZAF had 56 of the pure boat versions in the Pacific between 1943 and 1953. The one we flew on was an amphibious version initially built by the Canadian Vickers in March 1944 for the Royal Canadian Airforce where she served for 3 years. There are gaps in the history but it is known that she was never modified for water bombing which was important as the changes made and flight stresses imposed virtually ruled out subsequent certification for passenger carrying.
It is known she was converted to a civilian aircraft in 1955 in Costa Rico although some of the paperwork was missing and she had to be re-certified in New Zealand. The original changes for civilian use included changing the flight engineers position from the pylon to the cockpit and the removal of the front gun turret removed and addition of a semi-clipper bow. She served many small airlines before being stored then refurbished for tourists flights down the Nile by the Catalina Safari Company of Zimbabwe. The route proving flight was the subject of the BBC documentary "The last African Flying Boat" for which she was registered Z-CAT her nickname to this day. Political unrest led to the service being discontinued in 1994 when she made an epic 10,000 nm journey in 90 hours over 13 days to her new home in New Zealand where she is operated by The Catalina Club of New Zealand who keep her in beautiful condition operating from fresh water whenever possible and land when not. She does not operate from the sea because of corrosion fears and she needs large lakes as the water run can be up to 3 miles off still water, a few waves help a flying boat unstick. The P&W Twin Wasp 1200 hp 14 cylinder radial air cooled engines still purr and the huge wing (104 foot span and 1400 sq feet) gives a leisurely cruise of 90 - 100 knots, an endurance of 27 hours (with multiple crews) and range of over 3000 miles.
We have done various evening events over the years, and this time we booked for the Silver Slipper ball, held in the Memorial Hall. So it was back to the same building as Friday evening, but this time in Art Deco long dress and black tie. The live music from the HB Big Band was very good, and some local couples had obviously been taking dancing classes. We just sat at our table and admired them. The meal was self-service, which was a surprise, but there was a good choice of hot and cold food and the highlight was a roast suckling pig. It reminded us of the David Piper Owners Club summer BBQs.
Brunch with the Navy, again sat with the band. Food not as good as previously when they have been at the Thirsty Whale. This time it was on the beach, outside the Memorial Hall and food was a buffet inside the building. Went straight from there to the HMNZS Canterbury where we had a good look over her. There were quite a lot of sailors around but we were free to look at everything including the bridge. None of the systems were disabled and it was a matter of trust that people did not play with the switches – one visit a kid managed to start the engines we heard! She is an a support ship mainly for land operations and has two 60 ton landing craft on deck as well as her helicopters. She was
Just got back to town to see the start of the Veronica bell ceremony and heard some of the speeches and band playing. We must be doing something right because people wanted to take our picture, and stroke the grey fox. Pity about the walking sandals instead of crippling Art Deco footwear! We walked round the Gatsby Picnic but did not set up our table this year. The set picnics seem to get more impressive every year - people come to get the best pitches and set up in the early hours of the morning and they are judges latter in the day - the last years winners display was very impressive and had the same black and white that had been in evidence at the Silver Slipper Ball. We spent quite a lot of time trying to find a replacement programme because we had dropped ours and we really wanted a copy as they had used our picture of the steam train for the thrid time. We eventually found they had some still available at the Art Deco Centre despite it being the last day.
Went back to Esk valley for a further chat with Sue and ?????
Walked round the Botanical Gardens visit to the Botanical Gardens sited high above Napier on the hill. The gardens can be traced right back to the creation of Napier - the Crown purchased the site of Napier (640 acres) for £50 in 1855. From the very start 18 of the 640 acres was reserved for Botanical Gardens, and another 4.5 acres was set aside for a cemetery which was expected to be linked to the Botanical Gardens. Such foresight was rare and provisions for “Botanical Reserves” were only made in Wellington, Napier, Christchurch, and Dunedin. The Hospital Hill site chosen seemed to lack promise due to difficult hilly terrain but extensive use was made of prison labour for the planting of trees and the laying out of paths and terraces. To combat droughts during those early years, use was made of the wells that were sunk in the lower gardens for the 65th Regiment. Each season the caretaker Mr Burton planted more decorative trees and shrubs, many of which are still present today. Many of the today's fine trees come from seedlings brought by captains of visiting ships to the Napier Port. In later years elaborate patterned flowerbed displays were developed within the Gardens. Although never intended to be a true representation of an “English” botanical garden, the Napier Botanical Gardens became a source of great civic pride. However the family car led to progressively fewer people visiting so an aviary was built and a duck pond was added at the main entrance to the gardens. A tree identification programme was initiated so the specimens could be named - in keeping with the concept of a botanical garden. It has recently had an even more extensive restoration and is beautifully maintained and well worth a visit.
Went to Hastings in the morning and looked round until Pauline was due for her dental appointment at 1400. While she was there the news first broke of the earthquake in Christchurch. The HMNZS Canterbury we had been round was dispatched to assist – very much a repeat of the Napier Earthquake.. Then to Wellington to see John and Blyth
We stayed in Wellington with our friends John and Blyth for two days. Wellington is a delightful city - the most pleasant capital we know. It has a small central area and round it many of the houses almost hang on the hillsides with decks and even carports cantilevered alarmingly from the steep slopes. It is a clean tidy city and not overwhelmed with tourists - most people seem to have a purpose and it is one of the few places in New Zealand where one would only feel slightly out of place in a suit and tie. John and Blyth's house is perched on a hillside overlooking the town with unbelievable views. Their parking space is up an impossible looking slope with part of the drive cantilevered out on a wooden structure. We have just make it up in the vans, we have tried reversing up in the past but the wheels just spin - Blyth said it is quite difficult when it gets icy! This time we parked at the bottom.
We w alked to top of cable car with Blyth then down through cemetary to CBD. Looked at new campervan parking at harbour but no grass and not possible for tents. Art Gallery. Te Papa Back up with cable car. Dinner at Cambodian restaurant (Siem Reap ?????)
The Tokomaru Steam Engine Museum is a must to visit if you have the least interest in Steam or our industrial heritage. We have visited it many times and will go back again. They have an impressive collection of engines with over 50 on display. They are mostly from last century with an emphasis on farming, ice making plants, gas plants, generators and ship engines although there are many others on display or in storage. Many originated in the UK or were built under UK licenses although the centerpiece of the collection is a huge refrigeration plant built in Milwaukee. It used to produce 180 tons of ice a day for the meat trade. Most of the engines were rescued from being scrapped and were in full time use until they came to the museum. The collection was first opened to the public in 1970 with a grand opening by the Prime Minister in 1973 since which it has gained many extra exhibits. It must be the biggest and most comprehensive collection of working steam engines in New Zealand and quite possibly of the Southern Hemisphere. The most exceptional aspect is that it is almost entirely the work of one man, Colin Stevenson. It is owned and run entirely by Colin and Esma Stevenson and, unlike almost all such enterprises in Europe, there is no large band of volunteers supporting them. On Steaming days they have a few paid helpers for safety considerations otherwise it is all their own work. The first times we visited it was not in steam and gave the ideal opportunity for a quiet look round - we were the only people present for much of the time but even so the Stevensons found time to come over for half an hour both times to talk and show us the highlights. We found it fascinating and spent several hours each time but even then we felt we had only scratched the surface - there are still many more old pictures and information boards we had not studied in depth.
On the last steaming Sunday we were present at, Colin had 8 static engines running inside, not all simultaneously as the boiler will not support them all,as well as two road engines outside and the train was in continuous use on a loop track running through the old Tokomaru station. It is a tremendous achievement for Colin, almost single-handed, to keep so many of they in a such good condition and running when the large ones would have had large teams to run them during their working days. The Steam Museum is at Tokomaru on the highway 57, an alternative parallel road between Palmerston North and Levin, initially follow signs for Massey not Levin leaving Palmerston North or branch off at Shannon going North. It is marked on our AA map and is well signed. Any information office should be able to tell you the days they are in steam and it still makes a fascinating visit even when they are static.
We have got to know Colin and Esme quite well over the years and it was good to catch up with all that had gone on in the last year. Colin still has many projects under way or being planned. At least one of their ongoing problems of keeping the old boilers with riveted construction certified is OK for another year or two. It is strange - in the early days nobody liked the idea of welded boilers and now they are in favour and nobody retains the ratings to certify the riveted construction which has been proven over many centuries.
Motel. near hospital and Kurau park. Pig and Whistle for dinner – lots of ribs and kumara chips and some Snout Lager
Gentle walk around lake.
Heading north from Rotorua we tried to book lunch at Mills Reef, but it was Saturday and they had a wedding. This saved time and we were ablt to reach Thames in the evening. We were offerred a kitchen cabin at special price because gave walking boots to owners daughter last year. Its Kiwi holiday park and our preferred stop (unless we can get our tent up at DOC Broken Hills).
Onwards north. Camping at Colville Bay and erected big tent Didn’t use it last year so important to check it is OK.
Drive up to Fletcher’s Bay then return to tent.
Back to Auckland and stay to stay with Chris and Ralph. Pete went round MOTAT whilst Pauline sat in the van doing her marking.
MOTAT is a Steam, Aviation and Transport museum. The main museum is sited round the Steam Driven Beam engines which used to pump all of Auckland's water from the Western Springs. The additional sections include a tram museum with working tram line to the Zoo, Steam locomotives, a station and a Victorian village. We tend to have a quick look round much of the site but to concentrated our time in a couple of areas. This time pete first spent a considerable time in the Aviation Pioneers Pavilion which mainly covers Jean Batten, one of the most famous early women pioneers who at one point simultaneously held records for solo flights between the UK and Australia/New Zealand. What interested Pete even more were the displays on Richard Pearse especially as we have the book, "The Riddle of Richard Pearse - hundredth anniversary edition" by Gordon Ogilvie (4th edition published Reed, 2003 ISBN 0 7900 0329 5). It is a fascinating story as perplexing and poignant as anything from fiction. Richard Pearse was a self taught backyard mechanic from a remote New Zealand farm with little or no contact with any technology current at the time. Despite that he designed and built a flying machine and lightweight engine and was one of the first to accomplish a powered takeoff. He kept no records but the date was almost certainly the 31st March 1903, many months before the Wright brothers famous flights. He however never claimed to have achieved sustained and controlled powered flight at that time nor did he count the initial Wright Brothers flights 6 months later as satisfying his strict criteria of flight.
Richard Pearse was almost totally isolated from the development of aviation and had no influence over it. With no training and nothing other than a ew library books and popular magazines to work from he developed his own lightweight engine with one of the highest power to weight ratios achieved at the time. Everything was made from scrap or commonly available materials and the only input may have been in the design of a spark plug from a mechanic in Timaru - there were no internal combustion engines in his area and much of the design followed steam engine practice. The engine was unique in being double acting with combustion taking place below and above the cylinder. Pearse's specification in his patent application states "The engine has two cylinders which are opposed to each other and I constructed four end pieces in which are fitted the valves and cylinders. The pistons are fittted on each end of a single piston rod, and the piston rod is passed through the two end pieces of the cylinders. The cylinder ends are fitted with stuffing boxes, which prevent any leakage, similar to those of a steam engine. The two cylinders take in and explode mixture at both their ends, and as the cylinders are double acting, there will be two explosions to each revolution, and by this means, idle stokes will be avoided." The cylinders were made from lengths of 10 cm irrigation pipe and the pistons hand lathed.
Despite its unique design and basic construction it achieved a weight to power ratio of only 5 pounds per horsepower compared to 20 pounds per horsepower of most engines of the time and at a conservative estimate provided 15 hp whilst that of the Wright brothers was 12 hp. It seems to have been highly reliable although noisy and resembled a chaff cutter in its note and drove a propellor mounted directly on the crankshaft. The aircraft itself was made of canvas covered bamboo and had a steerable tricycle undercarriage. Control was by an elevator on the back of the wing and by small flaps on the top of the wings more closely resembling ailerons than the wing warping arrangement of the Wright Bros. Overall the arrangement was remarkably similar to that adopted as standard to this day although he was completely isolated from any developments in aviation. This work was never published other than a patent application in 1906 and a few letters to local papers much later. As time went on he became progressively more secretive. There were however a number of witnesses still alive when in the 1970s the value of his work was first recognised and there is no doubt that he made a number of self power takeoffs, most of which left the machine suspended well above the ground in his overgrown hedges. The dates are less certain but all the evidence is that his first and well witnessed flight was the day before April Fools day in 1903. The above has only given an introduction to the enigma of Richard Pearse, he also built his own motor bikes, patented novel bicycles, invented farm machinery and designed and almost completed built a novel folding vertical take-off aircraft for popular use.
Pete also spent quite a lot of time in the area covering telephones and, in particular, automated exchanges - they have some fascinated working exhibits. On similar themes MOTAT also have some exhibits of some of the early mechanical computers built from mechano for solving differential equations. He spent some tme in the Tram exhibitions which now has the last Auckland tram on display exactly as it was on the last day. He also had a quick look round the Victorian villiage.
The last area Pete spent time in was the 90 Degrees South Exhibition. The ‘90 Degrees South Ehibition - Sir Edmund Hillary and the NZ Antarctic Expedition 1956-8’ tells the story behind the extraordinary Trans-Antarctic Expedition, where Sir Edmund led the New Zealand Ross Sea Party team to complete the first vehicular over land journey to the South Pole. ‘90° South’ has two main elements ‘Hellbent for the Pole’, where budding explorers can take a look behind Sir Ed’s determination and his meticulous ability to plan. The exhibit includes photographs and historical documents recording the journey that Sir Ed took when leading the New Zealand division. Visitors can also learn about the fifteen huskies that were bred at Auckland Zoo especially for the expedition. Secondly, ‘Striking a Chord’, looks at Sir Edmund’s past achievements and his place as a national hero. The exhibition features one of MOTAT’s most treasured artefacts – Sir Ed’s modified Massey Ferguson tractor, one of only three used by Sir Ed and his team to journey to the South Pole.
Pete found the information on Edmund Hilary's polar expedition(s) fascinating especially how he got to the pole using slightly modified Massey Ferguson Tractors. Sir Edmund Hillary played an important role in the 1955–58 Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition, a Commonwealth-sponsored expedition that successfully completed the first overland crossing of Antarctica, via the South Pole which is little publised. In keeping with the tradition of polar expeditions of the 'heroic age' the expedition was a private venture, though it was supported by the governments of the United Kingdom, New Zealand, United States, Australia and South Africa, as well as many corporate and individual donations, under the patronage of Queen Elizabeth II. It was headed by British explorer Dr Vivian Fuchs, with Sir Edmund Hillary leading the New Zealand Ross Sea Support team. The New Zealand party included scientists participating in International Geophysical Year (IGY) research. Hillary's team had set up Scott Base – which was to be Fuchs' final destination – on the opposite side of the continent at McMurdo Sound on the Ross Sea. Using three converted Massey Ferguson TE20 tractors and one Weasel (abandoned part-way), Hillary and his three men were responsible for route-finding and laying a line of supply depots up the Skelton Glacier and across the Polar Plateau on towards the South Pole, for the use of Fuchs on the final leg of his journey.
It was not originally intended that Hillary would travel as far as the South Pole, but when he had completed laying supply depots he saw the opportunity to beat the British and continued south, reaching the Pole – where the US Amundsen-Scott Station had recently been established by air – on January 3, 1958. Hillary's party was just the third (preceded by Amundsen in 1911 and Scott in 1912) to reach the Pole overland. Hillary's arrival also marked the first time that land vehicles had ever reached the Pole.
Pete’s birthday celebrated with C&R. Walked around local area – Waitakere Ranges.
Packed vehicle and off to Waiheke to see Jennie and Kev. Dropped in to see Rob. as he was interested in camper vans. Bought fish bait. and extra sabikini. Cheap freight ferry in March from Half Moon Bay, but need to reverse on. Caught 1500.
Introduced to Chooks
Need new front window so man came to measure it. Friday evenings are Indian Evenings
Lunch with everyone at Charley Farleys – pork ribs. Then on beach with lots of horse mussels..
Wet and windy, Stayed indoors.
Pauline working until this morning, then off to sit on Palm Beach and relax. Drove down to Onetangi, beautiful views, then more sunbathing at the west (quiet) end.
Start Sailing : Pete and Kev day sail from KP to Matiatia to fuel and water. Two big Kahawai. One escaped. Loaded boat but too dark to go anywhere.
Off from KP this morning down to see Rotoroa Island then moored in Shark Bay, Ponui. (14.9nmiles)
Back to KP to meet the man who would be replacing the front glass window. Collect Kev after work and then down to Man of War Bay. (18.2 nmiles)
Early start to Great Barrier Island. Part way across went to turn gas off after making coffee and found that joint on gas pipe had come off and cylinder was venting into gas bottle locker at high speed. Turned all the electrics off and tried to find out the way that the locker was vented and routing of gas pipes into main sections of boat. Were not convinced on sealing so took up floors and left everything open although we could not smell any evidence of penetration – it is better to be safe. We sailed for the next 5 hours until we were close to Whangaparapara and then turned the engine back on. no big explosions so we assumed everything was clear! On arrival we started to get a series of texts about the Tsunami which had hit Japan and the forecasts of a 1 metre Tsunami reaching New Zealand at 6.23 .the folllowing morning.. (37.3 nmiles)
Up very early Bon Accord Kawau (33.6 nmiles)
Down to Rakino (22.0 nmiles). Moored in Wood Bay
Dropped Kev at Matiatia, then did fuel, water and rubbish. He went home. We went across to the Coromandel and worked ur way through the Islands trolling for Kawahi and moored off the end of one of the Mussel farms to see if there were any Snapper – not a sign of fish and our bait was intact after half an hour so we moved on to Te Kouma where we moored fo the night in our usual squadron Bay. te Kouma is the best natural harbour on the Coromandel side of the Hauaraki Gulf. (36.7 nmiles)
Beautiful flat calm day and we had to motor across. We entered the ‘bottom end’ via the Ruthe passage keeping a troll down as it is a good area with lots of water flow through the deep channel and as soon as we had exited the passage we saw a big boil up of Kahawi so immediately started to criss cross them. As soon as the troll was into the jumping fish you could feel the first hits and within seconds we had a nice Kahawi hooked up. We brought in 3 in a row without loosing any – nice young tender ones about 37 cms long which are ideal for barbequing or smoking whole.
Once we had enough fish we stopped and turned in to anchor off the wharf at Rotoroa Island to visit. It is still owned by the Salvation army and until recently was run as a drying out center. It is now leased into the hands of a trust who are developing it in character with its historic importance. They are charging a $5 per person landing charge.and have put up a very fine information centre which had only opened a month before our visit. They are also using some of the old buildings and some new ones as baches.. There are already a number of walks and more are being opened. We walked up to one of the viewpoints and took some pictures across the passage and down to where we were moored. It was then back to KP and unpacked most of our big stuff on the wharf just leaving our fishing gear for a day trip the following day This allowed us to have a big fish barbeque with Jenny and Kev – the only disappointment was the kids insisted on having fish fingers! (23.8 nmiles)
Day out fishing to Motuihe Island. Lots of young people and two charter ferries. Two kahawai the fisrst before we had gone ten minutes from the mooring. The second was a much larger one which put up a real fight and took a lot of bringing in, especially as we were still sailing slowly with the jib up - , on measuring it was 57 cms – perhaps the largest Kahawi we have caught. We walked up the hill past a large camp site with two paddocks – we did not look at the facilities but looked fairly basic and we guess the main use will be for school visits. There were two day parties of school children while we were there and there were two large ferries moored off the island which came in to the wharf to pick up. Back to KP (14.8 nmiles). We smoked two of the Kahawi that evening – one had been marinading for a day in salt and sugar, the other had to go straight in. It was an interesting comparison and the marinading does make a difference. (Total miles 201.3 nmiles)
Filleted and smoked the big Kahawi to take with us and left the rest for Jenny and Kev as we had a couple of days or more in the one fish.
Caught 1030 freight ferry back to Half Moon Bay. Auckland. Stopped at Dominion Road for bank and then met up with Ralph and Christine at Dexter to catch up with progress on the sale of Dexter..
Stopped on the Kauri coast at a camp site we had not tried before at Paparoa. - from HEMA guide and a winner to return to. Current owners had been there 6 years and were steadily doing it up. Small but perfectly formed! In the evening we went down to Pahi Beach and looked at an alternative camp site which had not answered the phone and rang back too late. They only have onsite caravans, not cabins. By the coast with nice views and a wharf for fishing but we would probably make the same choice again. Pahi has the largest Morton Bay Fig tree in New Zealand. We admired it in the rain.
Kumara near Dargaville then supermarket. Most shops shut in afternoon..
Back to an old favorite – the Trounsom Kauri Park which is a Top Ten. No vodaphone.
The Kauri is an unusual and very long-lived tree; the larger ones can be 2000 years old. Kauri seedlings need plenty of light so they usually start life amid Manuka scrubland in forest clearings formed by windfall or fire. Adolescent trees form a tapering trunk and narrow conical crown. The tall adolescent Kauri have narrow pole trunks, but as they mature the trunk thickens and the lower branches are all shed giving the very clean straight trunk of the adult tree which made their wood so desirable (see left). The bark is shed in plate-sized scales giving a distinctive appearance to the trunk and helps to stop epiphytes from establishing a hold. As they grow older the trunk progressively swells into a vast cylinder whilst the crown becomes thin (see right). Despite the clean trunks the crowns are filled with other plants - one can find as many as 30 different species of epiphytes on a single large Kauri. The largest Kauri such as Tane Mahuta (the Father of Forest) and Te Matua Ngahere have girths of about 15 meters. The talking trees in The Lord of the Rings are modelled on the old kauri.
In the afternoon 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. It is one of best area of Kauri to see and arguably one of the best medium length bush walks - the competitors are those in Goblin forests round Egmont. However it may not be the case for much longer as we were seeing lots of problems with kauri dieback.
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.
Visited with Nelson Parker at Nelson’s Kaihu kauri. Still had beautiful kauri slabs and a superb large polished kauri root. We bought a piece of cheap kauri plank to cut up for table mats for camping.
Did a short kauri bushmens walk. We continued to Waipoua Forest Walks car park which serves a number of short and longer walks - the most popular is to visit Te Matua Ngahere (Father of the Forest), the second largest remaining Kauri. This involves a 15 minute walk so sadly few people make the trip and it is normally very quiet compared to Tane Mahuta (the God of the Forest), the largest Kauri, which is too close to the road. The forests need quiet to be appreciated.
This year we did the short walk to the Kauri Rickers (juvenile kauri before they lose their side shoots) and then the Four Sisters, the Second largest kauri. We then did a longer walk to the Yakkas Kauri which we only been to once before. The round trip took us a little over an hour including plenty of time admiring and photographing the Yakas Kauri and the Cathedral Grove - there were many magnificent Kauri and it is a walk we will repeat. The track should continue to the Waipoua Forest Centre 7 kms away but has been closed for maintenance - they are increasingly using board walks through the Kauri forests to protect the delicate roots of the trees which are close to the surface and easily damaged which has killed a number of fine Kauri. The Yakkas Kauri is named after an early Dalmation Kauri logger. The car park for this walk still charges $2 for secure parking.
Finally on the way north 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.
Worked our way up the coast and had lunch up by the signal station, looking down on the Hokianga bar.
Fuelled in Omapere. We have stayed at the campground at Opononi before but it was always rough and we had very bad recent reports from a couple we met at Trounson
The Information Office, brand new building since our last visit, provided ferry timetable and suggested we stay at Rawene ('sun setting') to look round the harbour township that was New Zealand's third oldest Pakeha settlement and was the traditional 'capital' of Hokianga.– Campsite up at the top of the hill with views in all directions – another one from the HEMA guide to go back to when in the area.. Went to the Masonic Hotel, the third to be licensed in NZ in 1875. Attracted by loud Folk Music – Hokianga Country and Western Group who seem to go round a number of the hotels. Dressed up. Dancing. Everyone took turns singing – not us. Local Masonic ale (from microbrewery or rebadged) good and $7 a jug.
We hoped to go to Clendon House in the morning, usually open Sat Sun and Mon, but found it was closed for renovation so we caught the 1030 ferry. Clendon House is fine kauri homestead, which is owned by the Historic Places Trust. 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.
Shopping in Kaiataia.
On to Awanui to visit the kauri shop there. Change of owners 5 years ago. Much more expensive than Nelson, and none of the nice chopping boards we used to buy. Blocks of rough wood, $5 to $10 in the past, are now $20. Nice chainsaw sculpture of heron for $1500.
Lunch at the fish shop at Mangonui, then down to Whangaroa. Kitchen cabin with double bed in row, sandwiched between cabins with bunks with fishermen. Very nice boats. Pauline was the only woman in the place so no queues for the showers !
Three nights at Ragdoll cottage. Met a ragdoll cat at Kerikeri Top 10 last year and they said it was purchased from nearby, and the breeder had accommodation Rag Doll cottage. Also new cottage, Black Cat Cottage, built July 2010.
Cats – male Lukka very dark. Four Females – Rosie had four prettry kittens born Feb 24 and was living in the house. Tootsie was moving to Auckland, and learning to walk on a lead. Other two were stayng with Lukka in the hope of more kittens. Last time the bi-colour produced 7 kittens, although she is much slimmer than the others. Cats imported from Australia.
Also four alpacas, one male and three females.
Had visits to Kerikeri to the Stone Store and Kemp House which is now guided visits only – tagged onto a big tour but kept separate inside. Bought Oranges from the usual place on the main road.
Went to the Puketi forest and did the nature walk which is about an hour and also thought about the longer falls walk but it was 2.5 hours and involved a walk into the forest before the walk proper started and by then light rain had started. Instead we went across to have another look at the Te Waimata Mission house, the sole remaining of the three built when the Church Missionary Society came to the area. There is also a church which temporarily became the first cathedral when Selwyn became a Bishop, We also walked down to see the first oak tree brought to NZ. It was grown from a UK acorn and moved to the current site when about 6 years old. The house has not changed greatly since we last saw it although a few more items have been added including some black silk slippers they are very proud of (although they are currently unlabelled) and parts of one of the mills have been rescued and are awaiting preservation/restoration in the garage.
Started off at Paihiha. where we sorted out some banking and bought a few small light Christmas Preasents. Went on to Opua where we stopped long enough for an icecream in the rain. The store has been changed and has less boating and fishing equipment (no charts) as there is now a Burnsco next door as well as the marina just down the road. Moorings and Sunsail still seem to use Paihia as major bases and there were quite a few charter boats being turned round. We decided not to cross to Russell as we had spent a day there earlier and there was little left to do in the steady rain.
We sent a lot of time at Kawakawa mostly in the Railway Restoration which we were fortunate to have a look round. Kawakawa is a small town with a population of under 1500. Kawakawa developed as a service town when coal was found in the area in 1861, but there is no longer coal mining here. It's main claim to fame is that the Bay of Islands Vintage Railway runs down the middle of its main street on the way to Opua - 8km of 17 km track reopened in 2008. The town is also famous for its public toilets, designed by Austrian architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser, who was a resident of the town from 1975 until his death in 2000. His boat is on display at the railway station which has a large area devoted to restoration.
Bought cheese at Dutch Cheese shop and headed on South to an old favourite camp site at Sandspit. We got one of the classic old cabins (Nikau) for a single night but it all seems slightly more run down than we remembered so we did not take up a possible offer of a different cabin for the following night.
First we went up to Matakana where we found there was a Saturday farmers market which we looked round in the rain – everything seemed very expensive and up to twice what we would have expected if it was not sold directly; there is something wrong here. However we did find an excellent butcher who sold us a couple of steaks from round theback which he said he had put aside for himself – we could believe it when we came to eat them a couple of days later..
We then continued to leigh to have a look at the harbour before starting to work our way South in the continuing rain. The harbour is very small and completely full of fixed moorings so it is not much of a bolt hole going up the coast. We went to a couple more of the wharfs and there seemed to be quite a lot of sheltered space near to Te ?????? point and wharf.
It was now raining very hard and we looked at stopping at the Thermal area just North of Oriwa but it was full on a wet Saturday so we continued and dropped in for the night with Chris and Ralph who fed us incredibly well as usual and we had a dry comfortable night under the supervision of Scarlet who came every couple of hours to see that we were comfortable.
We did not want to impose for too long and set out fairly early in the mornng after sorting out our kit a bit more and loading some more into the van to store with Jenny and Kev on Waiheke under one of their bachs. We .stopped briefly in Ng????? at a book shop and got a copy of a book which followed Cook journey round NZ We stopped to fuel in Paoroa before continuing towards Waihi through the Koragahapi gorge which has a railway line maid mainly to serve the Gold mine at Waihi – they funded it for the government to build. We looked at the station an would have looked round the Victoria Battery where the stamper batteries and Cyanide processing plant was sited for the Waihi mine close to good water supplies and power from one of the first hydro staions in New Zealand. We stopped longer in Waihi to provision, look in a small bookshop where we know the owner from previous visits. We went up by the old Cornish Pumping Engine House, an icon of Waihi which was slid 300 metres to a new site so mining and stabilisation of the open pit mine could continue. The open cast mining has been allowed to continue for another couple of years although most of the site is now stabilised ready to be flooded to create a recreational lake.
We continued on to stay at a camp site we had not visited before on the coast near Waihi which has Hot Springs and a thermal pool – the Athenree Hot Springs and Holiday Park - it turned out to be excellent. It has a limited number of cabins and although we had no problem in late March on a Sunday it would be prudent to book ahead before 20th January or on Friday/Saturday nights. There is a large hot spring pool big enough to swin which has no chemical treatments but has the water changed every night and an even hotter smaller pool at about 38 degrees C which sits a dozen people. The water is not full of salts like in Rotorua and is like silk on the skin. It is owned by two families who seem to work 4 days on and 4 days off. We spent a long time talking to Alan and his wife who also have an old wooden yacht that they have recently bought from Whangaparapara in Great barrier and now have at Whitianga. - they used to be farmers up the Coromandel
We visited Mills Reef Winery for lunch - a day trip from Athenree
We left Athenree early in the morning and first went to Whangamata where we looked at the entry into the harbour which looked to be a narrow gap under a headland pasat the end of a surf beach and once you were past that there were nice beaches and sheltered moorings in the river mouth. We were then on our way to Thames for the final night and stopped off at the Broken Hills camp site and Gold workings to see what was goinng on before heading for an old favourite, the Dickson Holiday Park for our last night before Auckland and home to England.