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Touring New Zealand 2006 - Part 9

The last part left us back one day early from sailing because of the broken propeller and we were back in Auckland, not Opua. So we needed our van hire two days early. We rang Rental Car Village, no problem as usual. The priority on arrival at Bayswater was to get showers, and then we did all the laundry. So we were set for the next 3 weeks away and keen to try out the new tent for the first time.

As readers will notice we both contribute to the writing up of holidays with Pete doing most of the New Zealand time with Pauline doing more of the other holidays - the styles are quite different. Pauline's style is the short sharp sentances, preferably containing no more than 5 short words, which comes from briefing Ministers who have a very short attention span; Pete's have long convoluted sentences as befits a scientist with long words he can not spell. We leave you to guess who did the initial write up for this part.

Whilst we were unloading the boat Rob suggested we go home with him for dinner, and we donated our 2.8kg tuna, out of the freezer. Work at CharterLink finished by around 1700, so we picked up a bottle of cold wine and accepted a lift back. In spite of sitting in the car all day the tuna was still very much frozen, skipjack tuna is a very solid, so it had a gentle defrost in the microwave. Then Rob rang his friends to ask how to cook it. He had never caught one as big himself! The suggestion was as steaks, on the BBQ. The kitchen knives were not strong enough to get through the backbone, so in the end we resorted to cuting it up on his bandsaw, having fist cleaned it with a couple of pieces of wood. We wished we had a camera ! Helen made her excellent lemon cake as dessert and we were taken back to Largesse to sleep overnight.

We collected the van the next morning and then dropped Pete's broken glasses, from when he dropped the computer bag on them, into an optometrist on Ponsonby Road with promises that they would be repaired tomorrow morning.

We had a hunger for ice cream and as we passed the Mad Butcher we bought the book about Waiheke ferries, which matched our earlier purchase about Auckland ferries. Then we were tempted by 2 litres of low fat ice cream from New World supermarket next door. This was too much for us to manage in one go and back at CharterLink base Rob and Janet were surprised when we gave them half a litre each of it, our favourite flavour Hokey Pokey, and then gobbled up our matching portions. We loaded up everything from Largesse and joined the slow traffic back to Chris and Ralph.

We had some frozen steak and lamb and offered to cook for them but they suggested it would be nice to go out and eat, so it was off to a local Korean BBQ restaurant. It was an interesting meal. Slices of raw meat are brought ready for you to cook yourself, and there were scissors to cut it up. It was BYO and we all managed to work our way through far too much wine, except for Ralph who was driving.

After the morning commuter rush we headed north. First stop was the optometrist in Ponsonby where Pete had his spectacles returned, they had rung the previous afternoon, very appologetic and said they would have to change the little pads as the salt water had got at them and it would be $8, about £3. What we had not realised was that was the whole bill for the repairs including refitting - how much would that cost in England! Meanwhile Pauline went into the Hospice Shop at 300 Ponsonby looking for bargains. She wanted two cheap cereal dishes because those with the van were cracked. But on the shelf there were 4 Waterford Lismore sundae glasses and 4 little Lismore liquor glasses matching ours at home, costing in total $60. They were in good condition and the only problem is how to get them back home without breaking them. We hope the Customs at LHR will believe us when we tell them the price we paid; they are obviously second hand and the sundae/champagne glass shape is not current.

From Ponsonby Road it is an easy join to the Motorway heading North. We had not decided where we were going to stop overnight. We wanted to see how the weather went. We stopped at Kaiwaka to buy more Dutch cheese and discussed options. The idea was to spend some time in the Bay of Islands, and we decided the wind was calm enough to begin by going to our favourite DOC camping ground at Whangaruru.

We settled down in pitch number 3, right on the waterfront, and unpacked the new large tent, supposedly big enough for 8 people. After an hour or more we had unpacked the inner tent, measured all the tent poles and assembled the skeleton. NZ tents are designed so that the inside is erected first and then the waterproof cover is thrown over, whereas our old tent was the opposite with the outer waterproof cover being erected with the poles, and then the inner hung underneath. The new tent had four poles for the dome, of which the two extra poles, across the front and the back formed a geodesic structure for rigidity. The waterproof cover had two of its own poles which supported the front tunnel providing a porch and living area in addition to the inner insect proof 'bedroom'. There were also two metal struts for an additional back porch which we hope to work out a way of connecting to the van side door. In total it is 3 metres wide and over 6 metres long of which 5 metres by 2 are high enough to stand in. Fortunately it just fitted into our pitch, although there was no space for anyone to drive past it to pitches 1 and 2. We found that erecting the tent is easier than we feared as long as the ground is flat and there is not too much wind. We were pleased that the tarpaulin from our old little tent just fitted under the front porch and the tarpaulin bought last year as a sun shade fitted perfectly under the main dome. We think it is important to use a ground sheet underneath, to prevent damage from rough ground and to save on cleaning a valuable tent. Tarpaulins are just a few pounds each and can get thrown away if they get damaged or too smelly.

The following day was St Patrick's Day and we had intended to go to Russell and enjoy the music and celebrations there. But it was so delightful at Whangaruru that we decide to stay 2 nights, and anyway it is too much hassle to put up the tent every day. We watched a kingfisher fishing off the tree at the end of the beach and Pete had periodic swims and went off fishing from the rocks while Pauline sat and pretended she was on holiday. Pete did not have a lot to show for after a couple of hours other than a little Kahawai which at least gave us a meal without having to resort to our emergency tins.

Most DOC campgrounds do not care about arrival and departure times but at Whangaruru they have a new rule that you should leave before 1300, but it was no problem getting the tent all dry by 1100. We did find that it took much longer than our old tent to dry out and that even two people made a lot of condensation overnight. Then it was a pleasant slow and scenic drive around the coast to Russell, which we reached at 14.30.

Our first stop was to check whether the fishing shop was still open, and to talk about getting a new guide on our 8 foot rod for the line to run through. One of ours had got rusty and snapped. She had a range of guides including the ceramic ones we prefer, and having seen the problem she said that it could be repaired but would have to go away since they no longer did repairs on site. We decided to do it ourselves and we already had some linen cotton which would be good for binding the guide. Two-part Araldite was perfect for fixing it all together and the rod should now last another few years.

We usually stay in a cabin at the Russell Top10 Holiday Park, but we decided that we should give our new tent another outing. It was bigger inside than a standard cabin, although we would have a longer walk from the camping area to the facilities. We were lucky that we got a power hook-up on the edge of the site where the ground was also suitable for our tent. Usually power sites are designed for campervans and are concrete or gravel. It was quicker to erect the tent this time - we know what to do now and it was down to under an hour. We however decided to stay for two nights and vowed that we will always try to stay for 2 nights or more with the new tent !

We walked back into town and thought of having a drink at the historic Duke of Marlborough Hotel, but could only find a table without a seaview. It looks like there are new owners again and wine by the glass was limited in choice and excessive in cost. We decided we had better in our stock and did shopping at the 4Square before going back to cook.

After a late morning we set off to go shopping in Paihia, and caught one of the regular ferry boats. They are for foot passengers only. With a car you have to drive down to the vehicle ferry which goes across to Opua and then back to Paihia. It takes more time, is more expensive, and there is still the problem of parking in Paihia. Pauline likes to buys presents for friends from the Cabbage Tree shop in Paihia and although it was a Sunday all the tourist shops were open and full of people. We did not find anything for our friends but purchased two NZ made zip-fronted windproof synthetic fleeces in the sale. They are a boring grey colour so they do not show the dirt and will be perfect for boating back home, in fact Pete is wearing his as he checks this section whilst on the narrowboat on the Thames and they are perfect for UK boating.

We wanted to meet the new people at Russell Radio, having talked with them from the yacht, and had already spotted the antennas behind the RSA yesterday. Stewart Irvine was on duty and chatted for some time. As we had suspected, Ritchie had died - he was far from well when we saw him last - and Lynda did not want to continue with Russell Radio so alternative arrangements had been made. Des at Paihia still deals with the single side band for long distance cruising. Rob had confirmed how valuable that service was when he and others were caught in storms on the way back from Tonga. Stewart's partner Louise (Armstrong) arrived, having been working as a guide at the Pompallier House. We paid $50 to become members of Russell Radio, although we knew that membership was from July to June and so would not be valid next year. We wanted to support their valuable work.

Continuing to the DOC office we collected some of the free leaflets. DOC have to monitor Channel 06 (I think) and so they always have the radio on in the office. Out of season there will be a need to find volunteers to keep Russell Radio on air; Stewart and Louise both go back to the UK.

At the weekend the clocks changed back to winter time, and so we gained an hour of light in the morning. This was a benefit to us when we came to put our tent away. By 10.00 it was as dry as if it had been 11.00 and we just managed to get packed by the deadline, although most camp sites are flexible with tent pitches - they do not need cleaning like cabins. The ferry with the two of us cost $10 to Opua wharf and it was strange to be stationary in the van and yet moving. The Opua Store always does good ice-creams and we stopped and also bought one of the excellent local loaves. Then we went down to the chandlery and bought a 33g CO2 cylinder as a spare for the lifejackets and some special strong, abrasion resistant and supple leader for fishing just in case we ever catch another big one like the Kingfish that got away.

After a short stop in Paihia to purchase vac-packed steaks for the next few days we went to Kerikeri looking for fruit and veges. Our favourite orange stall was open so we paid $5 for 5 kilos of beautiful local Keri oranges, but our regular vege shop was closed and deserted. The next stop was Mangonui where we had blue nose at the famous Fish and Chip Shop, and then bought salad ingredients at the 4Square. It was then only a short drive to the Karikari Peninsula, stopping at Cable Bay for yet another icecream.

Our destination was Maitai Bay, a DOC camping ground at the end of the Karikari Peninsula with two beautiful half-moon bays. In the past we had stayed at the Whatuwhiwhi Top10 Holiday Park, and driven the 10 miles to Maitai for the day. But this year it was sunny and calm, so we decided to use the DOC camp site instead. The area was quite deserted with each paddock containing at most one tent or van. The grass was well mown and we noticed a few rabbits which must help keep it short. One of them was black and must have escaped from a life as a pet. At night we heard one of the rabbits come into the porch of the tent.

Maitai Bay is a beautiful area with two perfect half moon sandy beaches, separated by a rocky headland. Today was deemed to be a day for swimming and fishing. Except that Pauline wanted to sort out some new OU course material for which she was a critical reader. So Pete went off swimming and fishing and she sat in the tent porch and worked.

It was then time to move on and when the tent had dried we set off. We had decided that we would not go to the Far North this year. At Awanui we stopped to visit The Ancient Kauri Kingdom shop. It is an excellent place for buying presents made of the special kauri wood, and although we had no need to buy anything for ourselves this year it is still nice to go and admire some of their special carvings and furniture. We bought a chopping board to give to friends, and then saw a rough chunk of wood which would make a nice cheese board when sanded. Pete has not yet finished sanding the kauri bowl which we bought last year, but hopefully the cheese board is an easier project. It was then a long drive south down State Highway 1, with just a short stop at Kaiwaka to buy some more NZ Dutch cheese.

We arrived at Sandspit, just opposite Kawau Island, late afternoon to find that there was still a cabin available. The Sandspit Holiday Park has been one of our favourite places for a final stop before we go home as it is so close to Auckland. It has joined the FPNZ group, the NZ branch of the FPA (Family Parks of Australia) which had so impressed us on our holiday there in 2004. We have often stopped in their cabins to keep our tent dry on the last night before flying home. We were offerred their newest cabin, the small Pohutukawa studio cabin which with the FPNZ discount cost $54 - all the others had been booked. It was on the waterfront although our visit coincided with tides which meant that we hardly saw the sea, just a long mud flat outside with a glimpse of the channel in the distance. We prefer the next cabin, Bay, but it was already occupied by a family. Bay has a double bed and a separate room with lots of bunks, so this gave us extra space to store our clothes. But Pohutukawa is plenty large enough for two people for a short stay. We were very happy. All the kitchen cabins are the same price and this year are $60 on the waterfront and $50 otherwise. We have sometimes stayed in Willow which is a nice cabin at the back of the site. This year there was building works and a small new cabin was almost completed next door. The builders and painters seemed to be living in Willow.

We never managed to visit Kawau Island when we anchored this year in Harris Bay, so we had promised ourselves a proper walk when we visited Sandspit. We saw that the Kawau Kat left with a bus load of children at 0900 and we were busy sorting out email until after 1000, so the next ferry at 1030 was perfect. It only cost $33 each. We expected to have a direct trip to Mansion House and so we were delighted when we got the first part of the 'Mail Run' tour going first to Vivian Bay, and then to North Harbour. When sailing we had wondered about going into North Harbour instead of Bon Accord. We found that North Harbour is a very long area, with lots of permanent moorings, but space for a few extra yachts on anchor. And it is really pretty and sheltered from most wind directions. We will make use of it in the future.

We landed at Mansion House jetty at 11.30, with just four other people. Everyone else was doing the Mail Run, which meant they visited a few other bays before going back to Mansion House a second time. Some people were paying the extra (instead of $33 we paid it cost them $61) which included lunch and they raved about the John Dory cooked on the BBQ. Mansion House did not open until 1200 so we could not buy the walking map and guide. Stupidly we had left our Kawau information leaflets in Auckland with all our boating stuff. So the only option was to photograph the detailed map at the landing stage, and use that.

We were surprised how beautiful the DOC grounds around Mansion House are. We took the main path up to the Coppermine Pumphouse past Ladies Bay with its tiny sandy beach all of ten foot across, and stopped for an early lunch at the picnic table at the Lookout. Down below us we saw the Kawau Kat continuing its Mail Run into South Harbour. The picnic place at the lookout is a perfect spot and there was no one else around, except for DOC people cutting trees. The tide was too high to use the coastal route so we had to climb over the hills both ways. We will add the details of the walk later.

Next to the Coppermine is Miners Bay and Pete decided that it would be a good place for a short swim. Fortunately we had packed his togs and towel. No-one else was there and it was a delightful little Bay. Our return took us down to the DOC managers house, in the bay next to Mansion House, and there we saw Wekas. They are large brown birds, bigger than ducks, but seem to have less brains.

Then we noticed that Mansion House was still open to visit. It was 1515 and the notice said that it closed at 1530 but the DOC manager, who was on duty in the house, said that there was plenty of time. He was going back with us on the 1600 water taxi so there was no rush. We had visited Mansion House on a previous sailing holiday and had moored in the Bay and rowed ashore. Subsequently the wind had always been blowing in the wrong direction and we don't like to moor with the wind into the bay. So it was nice to be able to stroll around the rooms, although we had to be quick. Since our last visit there had been some work on the outhouse outside and although the rooms were mostly empty it did give a good idea of how it would have been in the old days.

There had been two options for returning. The Kawau Kat went back at 1330 and they said that there might be a water taxi instead for the 1600 return depending on how many people were still there. At 1330 we were still sitting looking at the Coppermine. In the event, at 1600 there were 16 people, including two chaps from DOC. The water taxi was a much faster ride than the Kat and made a nice change. It reminded us of the water taxi which we called when Pauline had to go across from Largesse to Snells Beach two years ago. We got back to the wharf hoping for a nice glass of cold beer before going back to our cabin, but the cafe was only open at lunchtime so it was back to supper and warm wine. We had forgot to put anything in our fridge.

We decided that we wanted to spend the rest of our time in the Coromandel, so this meant a long drive today, via Auckland. The road works in Auckland meant that traffic was very slow with lots of swapping between lanes hoping to get ahead. We just settled into the far right lane and worked our way over the Harbour Bridge and out the other side. Near Bombay we stopped to buy fruit and veges and then did a second shopping at the Pak N' Save at Thames. Driving through Thames we noticed that the Museum of Technology was open and so we stopped and looked around. It was our first visit and it was very interesting - the building used to be the site of the huge pump for the whole mine complex under Thames and there was a model as well as parts of the gear including the quadrant still on display outside. We had a long chat with Mark who held the key, and had been involved with a lot of the displays. His main job is cutting glass etc at the workshop adjacent. It was all very interesting and we will write more when we get back home.

We continued to the DOC camping ground at Broken Hills, which is another of our favourites. As we drove into the area we were surprised to find no-one else was there. We wondered whether there was some weather disaster about to happen. We found a nice large site, number 45, near the river, and set up the big new tent. As dusk approached a few extra vehicles arrived, including a white van whose owners managed to drop their torch into the long drop. We were reading when we heard the screams and cursing.

Again we had decided to stay for 2 nights so that we could go walking. Our favourite walk is to take the Main Ridge Track up to the end of Collins Drive, walk the 500metres through the damp tunnel (torches are essential), then return through the water races. The entire walk takes about 3 hours.

One highlight was that we saw a morepork, a local brown owl, which was sitting on a branch above our heads. We thought that owls only hunted in the day time, but this morepork was not worried about people and sat staring at us for a long time. We were even able to take some flash fill in photos before it flew off. We think it was probably a female morepork because the book Tutira has pictures.

We were back at the tent in the early afternoon and decide that we should set up our little 6-sided tent to see whether we had everything and whether it was going to be a good replacement for our old tent. We planned to take the old tent back to UK this year, and the new tent was not always suitable for short stays or small sites. The little tent was easy to erect and we were able to separate out the various pegs and poles between the tents, making it easy to identify which would go back to UK.

Overnight the weather began clear but then it rained from 0300 onwards. Our nice new large tent was quite waterproof but we needed to put it away and that is not easy when it is raining. The rain lightened and we were able to empty the tent of bedding etc and then it began to rain again. We hoped that it was just a front passing through but other campers mentioned that there was supposed to be some bad weather on the way. So we had no choice but to put our waterproof gear on over our shorts and take the wet tent down. Fortunately we had two large black dustbin liners and the outer tent went in one, and the wet inner tent went in the other.

So, where should we go if the weather was going to be bad ? We started driving back towards Thames and then Pauline suggested Rotorua. At least there`is always something to do there, and we rang ahead to book a unit at our favourite motel, Monterey, on the lakeside. It was just over 4 hours drive, and we went through some nasty gusts which virtually lifted our vehicle and dumped in half way across the road. At least no trees were blown down and we didn't hit anything in our lurches sideways.

We were very pleased to get safely to Rotorua and we unpacked and then sat in the nice hot spa pool, some 42 degrees, at the motel. It is normally only open in the evening but the owners saw how cold we were and gave us the key early so that we could relax and warm up. After a nice cold bottle of bubbles we felt even more relaxed and walked down to the Pig and Whistle for our usual Ribs and kumara. Instead of our usual upstairs studio room with a view of the outside pool we paid the extra to have a ground floor room with a full kitchen, just $75 per night.

In Rotorua we usually go and visit the thermal areas but today we were just happy to sit around in the morning, and even go shopping. The tent was very wet and we started trying to dry it. The inner was damp so we started with that, in a heap on the kitchen floor. The two blue tarpaulins were left dripping in the shower. Meanwhile we had two batches of washing to do, and used the tumble drier because it was too bad to hang clothes out on the line. We went into town with waterproofs and umbrellas and looked everywhere for a new suitcase and carry-on bag without success. We managed to buy two old spare poles for our big new tent from Doyles, and some cord to make extra guy ropes for the 6-sided tent. We had dinner at another favourite, the Mexican restaurant, and took along a bottle of wine. They are now BYO. We were the last people and we spent a long time in discussion with the owners who recogised us from previous visits.

We decided to have a third day in Rotorua. The Motel was very pleasant and the weather continued to be bad. In the morning we went by car to Briscoes, a nice Department store which had all sorts of useful household stuff, including half price luggage in the sale. We found a carry-on bag, at just $10, which looks perfect and is not heavy. We bought two of them. We also found a good strong plastic box for the Lismore glasses, which fits neatly into the new carry-on bag, and should mean we can get them all back home safely.

The weather began to improve, with occasional bursts of sunshine so we decide to go out. In the afternoon we drove out to the Blue and Green Lakes, then down passed Buried Village to Lake Tarawera. It has been a long time since we drove that way, and there has been a lot of new building work, including a new museum building at Buried Village. We didn't arrive there until after 1600 so it was too late to do the tour, but we may do it next time. The village was at one time the biggest tourist stop in NZ as the nearest point for access to the famous Pink and White terraces which were destroyed in the same eruption that buried the village and killed about 165 people in 1886.

The bad weather had gone past so we decided to go back and continue our holiday in the Coromandel. We chose the Pyes Pa Road to the edge of Tauranga, which is now all sealed. We were too early for lunch at Mills Reef but we did stop to buy a few bottle of Riesling, Pinot Noir and Syrah.

Then the road continued to Katikati, where we stopped at Morton winery to collect more wine. We tasted a selection and eventually bought some half bottles of a nice Chardonnay, Gewurtztraminer and Methode Champenoise. This means that we have two bottles too many for the rest of the holiday, but we can always take spare bottles back with us. We usually have a few bottles of the simple Morton Brut, but we were recommended the special Katikati label instead. It was only one dollar more expensive, a contribution to the charity, but was also from a different and better selection of grapes. The label is of one of the many murals at Katikati, which is a town famous for all its murals painted on the walls of commercial buildings.

We stopped in Waihi to find out what was happening at the Pumphouse, and discovered that the old Power station had been blown up only 40 minutes earlier. We walked around the Rim on the new walkway and stared at the rubble through our binoculars. We swapped some books in a second hand bookshop and then continued north towards Whitianga. At the last minute we decide to swap coasts and turned down the 309 Road. It was very rough with enormous pot holes and narrow with steep drops and washouts. There was quite a lot of local traffic, including heavy lorries. Fortunately they came at places where it was wide enough to pass. Finally we stopped at Coromandel town, at the FPNZ. It was a friendly holiday park with a mixture of new cabins with fridges and older motel units. Our large tent fitted neatly into power site number 6, which was close to the kitchen and the new unisex shower/WC units. We would go back there again.

We discussed whether to stay for a second night or whether to move on. It takes some time to get a tent down and then up, so we generally prefer to stay put for two nights now. But the weather in the distance looked like it might be rain and we didn't want to risk another wet tent. So at just 1000 we had the tent away and were driving out. We stopped at the petrol station, the fish smokehouse next door, and then the bakery before spotting the paddlewheeler Otunui originally a Whanganui riverboat built in 1907 in the Yarrow shipyard and brought out in kit form for Hatrick's fleet. She used to be a trip boat in the Huka Falls area where we had trip many years ago before being vandalised and set fire. We knew she was an insurance write off, and wondered what had happened. By chance the new owner was there and he explained that he had seen it for sale and bought it. It was being restored so that it could operate as a trip boat from Coromandel. We took a lot of photos and offered to help him with his web site. She had an extensively modified drive when we went on her with independent hydraulic drive to each paddle giving her an unusual manoeuvrability - all the other boats had, and still have the paddle wheels on the same shaft and depend only on the rudder for steering.

We were looking for a wharf for fishing so we continued along the coast, eventually reaching Long Bay and its Holiday Park. The site was in some ways reminiscent of Whangaruru, but run as a commercial business. We went into the office/shop and bought a small tub of ice cream which we demolished with two spoons. We met one of the owners cats, a beautiful ocelot, a rusty brown colour with lots of black spots. Unfortunately it had lost its tail in an argument with a car, but its balance still seemed quite good. We looked at some of the tent areas which had a good view of the sea. For the future we noted number 3 would be good for our new tent or else number 5 on the flat plateau above which has less of a view.

Long Bay is at the end of the road so we retraced our steps to Coromandel and out towards the east coast and Kennedy Bay. It had been several years since we visited the east side of the Coromandel and we persevered as far as the DOC camping ground at Waikawau Bay and then the DOC camping ground at Stony Bay. Waikawau Bay was full of sheep so we didn't linger. Last time we visited Stony Bay it was full of young bulls but this time it was empty of livestock. There were very few flat spots which were large enough for us. Unfortunately the wind was on shore and we didn't think the large tent would be comfortable on the spots with a sea view and the more sheltered spots were too stony to use the plastic tent pegs used for the main 12 attachment points which have no flexibility in positioning. We had to try 6 places to get a single sturdy metal tent peg in deep enough! So after exploring a lot of the site, and measuring out several possible camping spots, we turned back. We had typically only been able to do 25 kph and had forgotten how slow it is to drive in the north of the Coromandel.

From Stony Bay we retraced our steps and then turned across to Colville on the west coast. We have stayed at the Camping Ground at Otautu Farm in the past, and we usually stop there for a swim even if we do not stay overnight. It is a lovely beach with good holding for mooring and we have anchored there in suitable conditions. There is also a nice wharf nearby for fishing. So we began by asking to camp for one night. We have stayed once before, in one of their caravans, when the weather was too bad for our tent. They used to have a cat called Shadow, but when we enquired we found that the cat had disappeared, presumed stolen by a visiting camper.

There are only toilet facilities and showers, no kitchens, at Otautu Farm, probably because most people there have caravans not tents. And there are only a few vacant sites for visitors, as most caravans are there for the full season. However there are several fields devoted to camping, and the site gets very full over the Christmas and New Year holidays. The idea is that their annual fee covers up to 30 days use of the caravan, and after that extra days are paid at visitor rates. We paid extra to have an electric hook up as we find it very useful with the tent for using lights and the computer, and the van comes with a proper approved cable. Lack of access to a fridge meant that we had to be very careful with our food in the chilly bin.

Overnight we heard a lot of noise from the cows and their calves in the field opposite, but did not think very much about it. It is one of the delights of camping in the countryside. In the morning the weather was good, and having installed ourselves with our big new tent we decided to stay a second night and this meant we could drive up the coast past Fantail and Port Jackson to Fletcher's Bay, and return without worrying about where we would be staying. Pete has tried fishing at the Quarry wharf near Fantail, but people were there already, and they had no luck. So we parked opposite the DOC Fantail Bay and he went fishing off the rocks. With no luck again. We walked some of the camping slots to see whether our new tent would fit, and found there were several large flat areas, for next time. Then we stopped at Port Jackson for just a few minutes. It is a long beach with a number of waterfront pitches, and quiet in March. There is one ford to cross, and there was some water but Pauline took a positive approach and we got across easily. Ahead of us had been a posh campervan which had parked when confronted by the ford and had sent the passenger to go and look at it. When they saw that we got across safely then they followed. Our final destination was Fletcher's Bay, at the tip of the Coromandel, looking across at Great Barrier island and the rock at Channel Island. This time there were lots of young cows roaming freely and we were glad that we were not staying there in a tent. The objective of the farm park managers sometimes seems to be to make sure the site is so unattractive that they are not bothered with campers. The road is gravel and narrow, so it took most of the day for the trip to Fletcher's Bay and back to Otuatu Farm.

The owner and manager lives on the site and he has a good selection of books which can be borrowed while staying. We spotted the A H Reed History of New Zealand, a new paperback copy, and asked if he would be interested in selling it, or swapping with our old copy. However when we saw that the copy came from the library of his deceased wife, we changed our mind. We did borrow the Coromandel Holiday, also by A H Reed and enjoyed it very much. We later found a copy in Davenport, at a good price. Once he realised we were seriously interested in local history he showed us a copy of the book about the area, written by the local Historical Association. It was a recent book and we were lucky to find a new copy for sale at the General Store in Colville, so we persuaded him to sign the new copy for us, as a memory of our discussions.

During the day the cows and their calves had been separated, and the howling lasted all night. We had not believed that there could be so much continuous noise. Indeed the cows, which had been put in a field some distance away, managed to break down the fence and escaped. They were found making their way along the road back to their calves. Fortunately there was very little traffic on the road overnight. Apparently the noise goes on for 3 days, according to people who had a caravan next to us. We were glad that we were leaving.

We drove back to Coromandel town, did some shopping, and then turned across to the east coast, towards Whitianga. We stopped at a viewpoint from where we could see the sea in both directions. Then we worked our way down to Whitianga and chose to stay at the Kiwi Holiday Park. We needed to renew our membership in order to get the 10% discount, and decided to use our new little 6 sided dome tent. It was an experiment to see whether it was really large enough to sleep in. It was Sunday so the shops were mostly closed although we did find a supermarket on the edge of town to get food for dinner.

Overnight it rained heavily and whilst we were taking the tent down our empty coffee mugs got .75 cm of depth of water in about twenty minutes so we were like drowned rats and it gave us a problem with a very wet tent. Our next stop was going to be Chris and Ralph, and the puppy would be a problem trying to dry a wet tent. But first we had the whole day ahead of us, and instead of taking the direct route back to Auckland we decided to take the slow coastal road along the Firth of Thames.We eventually arrived back in Auckland just before Chris got back from work. By then most of our possessions had been sorted and packed into the back of the garage. It is always difficult to get between the two cars with our large wheely boxes, so it was good to have everything sorted. Fortunately the next morning was sunny and we hung the tent over her upper balcony just out of Scarlet's reach and it quickly dried as did the groundsheets etc.

We still had a few days left before flying home, and we wanted to go over to Waiheke Island and say Goodbye to family over there. It is a good fast ferry service and so we left Auckland just in time to get to Waiheke for lunch, at Vino Vinos in Oneroa. They are having some work done on the house and the builders were making a lot of noise so going out for lunch meant we could escape from it all. Then we had a very nice evening with famil, before catching the ferry back the following morning.

There was still a lot of packing to do, so although the stuff staying in Auckland was boxed, there were still the four suitcases and hand luggage to be organised. We had been told that Air New Zealand had changed its rules on luggage in mid-March, although it would not affect us on our return because our ticket was purchased the previous year under the old rules. The new limits are that each of the two suitcases can weigh no more than 23 kilos and there are size limits too. It means that you are limited to a large and a medium size suitcase now, and is exactly the same limits as when we first flew with Air New Zealand many years ago. So we wanted to fill our 4 suitcases with as many of our books as possible, making the weight as close as we could to our limit of 32 kilos per suitcase. It is nice to get the books home this year not next. Pauline struggled with the scales and the suitcases until she had them all equal weight and close to the limit. Fortunately we managed to keep Scarlet away from the packing; she is still a friendly puppy at heart although adult size. At check-in we found all our case averaged 31 kgs each, a total of 138 kgs with hand luggage!

The journey back was, as usual, via Los Angeles and for the first time we had a short stopover to see friends who live in Pasadena and have a holiday home a couple of hundred miles up the coast.

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