Sunday, February 22, 2015

Off to the East Cape

I had never been to Gisborne or the East Cape, and Andrew had only spent a very limited amount of time there.  It was February, supposedly mid-summer and the area was known for it’s good weather.  The Jackson’s, at the moment, are known for bringing rain and cold where-ever they go this summer.  But we headed off, bravely ignoring our recent travel history.

Gisborne was our first stop and we pitched our tent at the Waikanae Beach Holiday Park.  The holiday park is the area in the center of the photograph below, on the point, surrounded by large trees.


The camping ground was right on the beach and a short walk to town, so it’s location and facilities were great.  On the other hand the weather was less than ideal – how surprising.  Yet again, intrepid Andrew could only put his toes in the sea and had to wear a puffer vest.


We liked Gisborne, it had a good feeling about it and there were plenty of good cafes and restaurants.  We had very good coffee at Muir’s Bookshop and great food and coffee at the Gisborne Deli. So good, that we made a deliberate detour on the way home to visit the deli and attached butchery for a rather large parcel of lamb to go back to Wellington.

We spent 40 minutes at the historic cemetery dressed in raincoats with rain dripping down our necks looking for the grave site of my Great-great-grandfather who was a baker in Gisborne back in the 1870’s. According to newspaper reports his bakeries kept burning down and he was declared bankrupt a few times.  This may be why eventually we found the grave plot – unmarked – no one could afford to put a stone up.

A one point the the sun did shine (briefly) and we spent some time sitting on the deck of the Gisborne wine center trying a range of local wines.  So good, that a few bottles were purchased to bring back to Wellington including some Albarino, a white variety we were unfamiliar with which is being grown successfully in the region.

There were no shortage of logging trucks on the road to Gisborne and the pile of logs at the Port was therefore no surprise


Our summer 2015 camping regime can be summed up in the picture below.  The blue tent in the background and all the components we eat & drink.  Our evening meals are Backcountry Freeze Dried meals – very tasty & super easy.  Just boil water, pour it into the bag, wait 10 minutes, put onto plates and eat.  Easy, surprisingly tasty, $12 a pack and next to no clean-up. Insulated vests and woolen jumpers are our constant "summer" companions this year.


Then it was off around the Coast Road to Opotiki – which we did as a longish day’s drive with lots of stops along the way.

Tolaga Bay wharf was a good stop.  There, we walked the full 660 meters length out on the wharf which had been restored following a huge fund-raising effort by a tiny community.


We went out to the East Cape lighthouse, the most easterly point of NZ, and visited a few churches.



And eventually we got to Opotiki.  Here we stayed at the Island View holiday park – which looked out at White Island, out on the horizon.  On our last day there was some evidence of volcanic activity, but for the rest of the time you wouldn't know it was an active volcano.


Opotiki, was simple and laid back.  There was one good coffee place in town, where Andrew managed to meet fellow Wadestown residents on holiday.

While wandering around town we went to the Horse and Pony show at the domain.  There were plenty of kids on horses and it was notable that there were almost no horse floats – pretty much everyone had ridden to the event – some of them arriving on the main street.


The weather was better, but not super-summer.  Andrew braved the cool sea each day for a swim. In spite of this, we very much enjoyed the area and would gladly go back.

One evening while walking down the beach I realized I had dropped something and needed to walk back and retrieve it.  Andrew declined to accompany me – mainly due to the fact the return journey involved walking into a strong, cold breeze, so I left him siting on the sand.  I returned to find him curled on the sand, sheltering from the wind behind a piece of driftwood.  He looked up and told me – “the sand is really warm!”



Whistlestop tour of the South

With a few days free before we had a function in Wellington on the 6th of February we decided to fly south and see Noel in Dunedin.  Then we decided to bolt on visits to Arrowtown, Wanaka, and Waitahuna on the way – as you do.

We flew into Christchurch, picked up a rental car and drove off.  Andrew, in anticipation of good temperatures, had packed his togs hoping to have a dip along the way.  Instead of togs we should have packed merino jumpers, raincoats and umbrellas.

It was a lovely evening in Arrowtown with Anne & Ron, Andy and Libby.  Just to keep the temperature down there was lots of rain, including a major downpour. 

The next day we headed through to Wanaka where we did 2 good things.  Firstly, as recommended by Anne, we had lunch at Francesca’s Italian kitchen and Andrew discovered Polenta Fries – absolutely delicious!  Then secondly, we then went for a walk around Diamond lake where we were about the only New Zealander’s (based on the accents we heard) and there were plenty of tourists doing the walk.

Diamond Lake

We then drove up the Matukituki Valley to Raspberry hut.  Next time we are in the area we will do the walk to the Rob Roy glacier, but this time we really didn't have the time or the right walking gear.  But it was a nice drive, with the National Hang Gliding championships going on alongside the road, and Andrew had the opportunity to tweak a few tourists not used to driving on gravel roads.

We stayed the night with the Somervilles where we we treated to great company, superb wine, crayfish, Stewart Island salmon, and just to keep Andrew happy - some lamb.  While the day had been fine, it of course rained – just so we didn’t get used to the summer feeling.

wanaka combined

Back on the road we headed South.  We stopped in Alexandra and had lunch with Tony & Jane, who were house-camping in Alexandra.  After a great lunch at the Courthouse cafe, it was on the road again.

At Waitahuna it also rained, heavily – good for the grass of course.


Annie & Pete also treated us to great evening with good food and conversation.  The next day it was off to Dunedin via Taieri Mouth.  This turned out to be one of the sunniest spots of the whole journey – but still not enticing enough to swim – after all it is only February, and supposedly mid-summer.

taieri mouth

taieri mouth2

Finally we got to Dunedin.  Peter and Sue kindly put us up for two nights and continued our run of gracious hosts and good food.  The second evening there we headed out for some good Japanese food - no lamb in sight.
In Dunedin we got rain, and plummeting temperatures.  But we still managed to take Noel out to lunch at the Carey’s Bay pub where the seafood chowder was superb! 

Port Chalmers

Then back on the road to Christchurch and home to Wellington

The little event we had to be back for, was the Waitangi Day reception at Government House.  3,000 people, in suits & ties and day-dresses,  gathered on the lawn. The Governor General gave a good speech and Soul3Mio sang the national anthem.  The Government House catering team produced delicious food including strawberries and cream, tiny sandwhiches, 3000 oysters, and there was limitless wine flowing.  And Andrew stood beside Trelise Cooper for the speeches (or did she stand beside Andrew?)


waitangi rec

(Picture from the Governor General’s website…we were in the area right at the front at the left of this picture during the speeches)

Monday, February 9, 2015

Ohakune and riding the Old Coach Road Jan 2015

With time on our hands we put the bikes on the back of the car, brushed off the tent and sleeping bags and headed north to Ohakune.  We got to the Mangawhero DOC campsite just outside Ohakune township about 3pm and were the only ones there.  So we claimed the best spot and put up the tent.  By evening the place was full.  And the same thing happened the next evening, initially we were the only ones there and BANG completely full.


Early the next morning we headed to the start of the track. 


In early January the weather was still variable (ie cold then hot) summer but for once it worked in our favour as it was an overcast day which made riding easier.  The Old Coach Road is part of NZ Cycleways development and this a portion of the bigger Ohakune to Wanganui ride. 

The Ohakune-Taonui-Horopito section of the road was covered with cobblestones to provide a firm surface and good grip for horses pulling coaches and construction works' carts up the steep grades.  It was an interim measure while the connection across the volcanic plateau on the main trunk-line from Auckland to Wellington was being constructed.  For 2 years from 1906 to 1908 drays and carts carried supplies and materials for railway construction and coaches ferried railway passengers between the steadily advancing railheads.  After that is was not needed and was not maintained and became overgrown.

Today it has been re-cleared and passes through magnificent Rimu forest and near major rail viaducts.

The ride from Ohakune to Horopito is only 10 or so kilometres, but is generally uphill and combined with stopping to take photographs it took us nearly 3 hours to reach Horopito.  At this point we wondered how we would cope going back again, because we had not realised we were going uphill.  The return journey took less than 1.5 hours, but we were a bit knackered and were rather pleased to see the car!

At Horopito we had hoped to have a coffee before the return journey.  But it turned out there was nothing at Horopito – it’s more a mark on the map as opposed to an actual settlement.  It DOES however have a claim to fame, as Horopito Motors was the setting for the 1981 movie Smash Palace.  There are over 15 acres of vehicles, collected over 60 years including rare Bedford, Austin, Singer and Chrysler models.

smash palace

So with no coffee refueling we headed back to the track.  Just as we got there we saw a van-load of cyclists who had been transported from Ohakune.  So we sprinted off and didn’t see them again – they probably did what we did at the start and took lots of photos.  We felt more righteous having done both directions!


The view from the tent wasn't too shabby.

view from campsite2

And before heading back to wellington we did a walk to Lake Rotokura.  A nice walk but a rather murky green looking lake.

lake walk

Northland Dec 2014

In mid-December we headed to the winterless north.  The main reason was for a wedding at Matapouri (Tutakaka Coast) and that neither of us had spent much time in the region.  The weather however did not play the game.  Barring the day of the wedding and the day after it rained or blew furiously (or both at the same time) every single day.  Never mind, we still had a very enjoyable trip

map northland

1st off was a stop in Omaha with the Harrises, who were as always kind and generous hosts.  We didn’t plan our trip very well because we headed out of Auckland Airport at close to 5pm on a Friday, so there was lots of time crawling along the motorways.  We had a good trip to the fabulous Matakana market and lunch at the well-known Leigh sawmill pub and just generally had a very pleasant time walking eating and drinking.

Then it was off to Mangonui with a quick stop in Keri-Keri to check out the Stone Store (1836)

stone store

Then we headed to our home on the beach for 2 nights at Coopers Beach at Mangonui.   It was perfectly located, but the weather was not co-operating and instead of sunny days and swimming off white sandy beaches we got this...


At the beginning of December we had been in Bluff, very bottom of the South Island and 2 weeks later we were at the very top of the North Island. We did a day trip up to Cape Reinga.

Cape Reinga

We walked around the historic sites of the town of Mangonui, ate at the world0-famous-in-NZ fish and chip shop and battling the wind at the top of the hill, checked out the views back down over the village and beaches. 

wind at mangonui

On yet another challenging day in the so-called winterless North we took the ferry over the Hokianga harbour to Rawene (excellent coffee at the Boatshed Cafe)  From here we were going to visit some of the Mission houses, but we timed it wrong and they were all closed on a Wednesday so we lookd at Mangungu Mission house and church just from the outside.

mission houses

We stayed in Pahia and ventured across to Russell where the tour around Bishop Pompellier’s house was the highlight. Stayed at Casabella motel

bishop Pompelliers

The weather in the sunny Bay of Islands remained singularly unimpressive.

bay liquid sun

At least the Pohutakawa along the shorlines and wild roses on all the roadsides didn't disappoint.


Finally the sun came out at Mataporui Bay and Andrew was lulled into the water, which remained on the frigid side and not a lot of swimming was done.  At least the sun shone on the lovely beach wedding.