Category Archives: My Journey

Stories from the road as I travel around following Abel Tasman and the Wakas

Sunny Mahia

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I finally got a clear day… at least most of a day.

The weather came through exactly as forecast, mostly sunny until late afternoon, and I got through all the video that I wanted recorded.

Tonight I’ve download all the video from my 2 camera’s to my laptop, and done a quick sort on it. I sort it into 4 groups; what can I just drop (all the camera setup, checking that I’m in the frame, checking sound etc), good dialogue, cut-away shots (detail shots of all the features that I talk about), and stuff that’s going onto this Blog.

It takes a while, but it will make someone’s job a lot easier later.

I’ll be leaving Mahia tomorrow, but I’m in no screaming rush as I haven’t quite decided where I’m stopping tomorrow night.

My next block of filming happens about four hours to the South of here. The next place the Kurahaupo people go is the plains of ‘Heretaunga’… this is the fertile plains around Napier and Hastings. Today it is famous for its fruit, particularly grapes. Some of New Zealand’s best Red wines come from here.

The Kurahaupo people liked it because they could grow Kumara and Taro.

In particular I’m going to Otatara Pa. Just look at the extent of the earthworks on this hilltop and ridges!

I’m looking forward to this. I’ve never been to Napier or Hastings before.

On Nukutaurua beach

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Working at Nukutaurua

Working at Nukutaurua

The weather is still pretty bad here at Mahia, bad enough to not be able to film. So today I again went around to Nukutaurua and parked there on the side of the beach, overlooking where the Kurahaupo was wrecked.

I finished writing up the Nukutaurua post (now uploaded) and also the scripts I will use.

The forecast for tomorrow is that I will get a clear spell of weather until the evening. With a bit of luck (and sufficient preparation) I might get all my dialogue shot in one day.

Here’s hoping.

A break in the weather

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Today the rain eased and by lunchtime had brightened somewhat. I packed up the Heems and headed ‘round to where I am filming the sequence about the wreck of the Kurahaupo. It’s the beach that Nukutaurua Road runs along on the northern coast of the peninsula.

The gaps between showers didn’t let me get much done. In all I might have perhaps 15 seconds worth of final content… but, it’s progress.

I did get a lot of the peripheral shots done… all the ‘cut away’ shots I need; out to sea, rocks, along the beach, watercourses etc. So that was all good.

It was good to put the keyboard down for a while and get the camera’s out.

There are a few stars out tonight, and the forecast for tomorrow is looking sort of OK so with any luck I’ll have another go then.


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Mt Ngauruhoe in the early morning

5 Mile Bay on Lake Taupo was just a stopover on my way to Mahia. But parked up on the lakeside was still something else. Taupo has something for all sorts of visitors, active or sedentary. At one extreme there’s the Taupo bungee, at the other, the Prawn Farm… where you sit under an umbrella with a fishing net on a pole and scoop out prawns. There are coffee shops, restaurants, galleries and knick-knack shops and of course, the Lake with all the water based activities.


I was a slow learner today. I did this twice.

I was parked on the lakeside, and after the spectacular sunset of the previous night I woke to a calm and pastel dawn. I really wanted to get a shot of Mt Ngauruhoe in the morning light, and as I stood by my tripod waiting for the cloud to reveal the peaks I managed to boil my coffee milk over twice.

Soon enough I was on my way to Mahia.

According to Google Maps the journey should take 3 hours and 20 mins, but I knew that this was impossibly optimistic. Even in a high performance car that would be optimistic, and I wasn’t in a high performance vehicle, I was in the Heems. There is not a single feature of the Heems that could be considered high performance, and I like it that way.

5 Mile Bay to Mahia. Click to open larger map

As the day progressed the rain grew steadier. I didn’t mind the rain at all; the farmers need it.

Dropping down into Eskdale I was suddenly surrounded by lush and level fields of vines, and I thought about the original settlers that turned the land here into fields instead of forest. They had come from England’s Lake District… here is its namesake .

From Eskdale the road mostly followed the old Napier-Gisbourne railway line, all the way to Mahia. The railway is an incredible engineering achievement, and I hope to bring you some pictures of it on my way back… unfortunately the rain didn’t allow it on the day.

Wairoa was the last town of any size before Mahia, and there was one thing I needed as a matter of some urgency… reggo’ for the van. I tried to follow the signs to the Post Shop, but kept ending up in the doorway of Hammer Hardware … so I asked there.

You know you’ve left the big smoke behind when the Post Office and Bank are on a counter at the back of the Hardware store.

It’s currently raining here at Mahia, and the forecast is that it will continue for over a week. That’s a bit of a problem for me as the main purpose of my visit is to film a sequence on the wreck of the Kurahaupo. We’ll have to see how things shape up… I haven’t written the script for that piece yet, or worked out precisely where I stand for each segment, so I have plenty to do even if it’s raining. Apart from anything else there are still over 80 other posts to write… so I won’t be twiddling my thumbs here.

For now, I’m going to progress Tasman’s voyage a little more… and see what the weather does.

5 Mile Bay, Taupo

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It’s important to know some things, and one of them is this. Plans aren’t like the Ten Commandments… plans can change. No stress, no bother, just different.

I checked with Google maps for the best time and route to Mahia, and it said going past Taupo was a full hour quicker than the route I had planned. I had intended to go through Rotorua and do my shopping there, but Taupo was just as good. I know my Pak ‘n’ Save’s… and there’s one in Taupo. I also needed a Dick Smith’s (that’s like Curry’s if you’re in the UK) and there’s one of them there too… so, via Taupo it was.


The dried landscape as I leave Wind in the Willows

As I pulled away from Wind in the Willows, the ‘Wingers’ (as in; ‘wing’, not ‘winge’… I’ll tell you all about ‘Wingers’ another day) all waved me off; three different groups of them. That was nice. I’ve no doubt I’ll meet some of them again someday somewhere.

I like the Wingers, (I’m one too by the way), they almost always give you a wave as you pass them on the road, and they are almost always thoughtful neighbours on a campsite. Elizabeth knows what ‘Wingers’ are, I introduced her to them while she was over with me.

It needs to be said that very few Wingers are Goons.

Anyway… driving away from Wind in the Willows I really noticed what these last few days of sun had done. The brown hills were browner and drier. True, many an Aussie farmer would be delighted to see the few green tufts among the brown, but this is New Zealand, not Australia, and the farmers around here need some rain, and soon.

Driving back towards habitation, signs began to spring up, like the South Waikato Young Farmers proudly announcing their Christmas parade, Dec 6th, High Street, Putaruru. But quite which Christmas they were referring to wasn’t immediately apparent.

Along the road a little was a sign to a shed selling sheepskins and possum skins, and just beyond that they had them all made up into nice little rugs and booties for the tourists. In front of the Possum skin slipper shop was a row of old soldiers… in their deck chairs, still in their uniforms, enjoying the midday sun. Honest! I had to look twice to realise they were mannequins. Nice one.


On the lakeside in Taupo

Coming into Taupo is always a thrill. You come over the brow of a hill and suddenly the lake is right there, directly below and ahead and most of your field of vision. Lake Taupo is the source of the Waikato River, and big; 30km by 35km. As I looked at it I tried to conceive of the single event that formed it.

A huge hole was made by a single explosion about 26,000 years ago. It filled up with water and left behind the big puddle we call Lake Taupo. Now that’s quite a bang.

I like Taupo, it always has a good feel to it… and today it had the things I needed. I knew Pak ‘n’ Save would have everything on my list, and even a few extra’s. Today I treated myself to the ingredient that’s the essential complement to any vegetarian dish… (Christopher knows what’s coming next)… a chicken! That’s got meat sorted for the next 3 days.

At Dick Smith’s I was looking for something simple, but very important to me. For weeks I have battled with sound on my video’s.

When I use my wireless lapel mic’ it delivers a mono signal. That’s OK, I might speak French and German, but I don’t speak in stereo. The issue is that when I review and edit these clips, I also do so in mono, except it’s on the other of the two stereo tracks. I can hear nothing. Also, if I upload this footage as it comes from the camera, then anyone using a mono device, like a smartphone, can’t hear anything either.

To overcome this I’ve been using a tedious process that strip’s off the soundtrack to a separate file. Then I use an audio editor copy the right track onto the left track. Then in a movie editor I add the new sound track back as ‘music’ accompanying the video. It sort of works, but it’s a real pain, and it takes a long time.

I’d had a bright idea. If I worked out which wire coming from the camera was which channel (left and right) then I could drop the silent channel, and connect the wire with the signal to both left AND right channels.

I just needed a couple of audio connectors… and Dick Smith would have something I could use to make this work. They did.

I also needed to renew my reggo’. At the nice little coffee shop I happened to find myself in I inquired where the Post office was. The lady didn’t tell me where it was… she just very patiently pointed out to me that it was Sunday.

I need to be careful where I park for a few days until I get this done.

5 mile bay

Where I am parked at 5 mile bay. Click to open the map

It was 3 o’clock by then, so going on to Mahia wasn’t so smart, and I opted for a local campsite instead.

From Taupo I followed the lake edge round to ‘5 Mile’ beach. Here, there’s a DOC campsite on the lakefront.

A kilometre back down the road, a room with a lake view will cost you $150 per night… mine is free.

So, I had a change of plan, and instead of another 4 hours of driving, I have an evening on the side of Lake Taupo.

I took the opportunity to solder up my new connectors and … whammo! My video’s now record with sound on both channels… so no more editing. What a great result for the day!

Oh… and I also had a magnificent sunset.


Late evening light on Ruapehu


Sunset across Lake Taupo from the 5 Mile Bay campsite

I noticed that the Six o’clock news was playing as the sun set. Did I miss the clocks going back?

I guess Daylight Savings is for people with watches.

I’ve added a bunch of photo’s to my FB album, April 2014.

Mahia tomorrow.

George and Mildred

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One Goon goes, another arrives. This evening it was the Goon with the chocks.

But before that, here’s a video.

I’d just shot this video, when a caravan pulled on. The ground here is deceptively uneven and despite first appearances there aren’t many places that are actually flat… and the best of those were already taken; I was on one of them.

I could hear the engine as they drove forwards and backwards on and off their chocks. Normally, this isn’t anything unusual. If you’re going to be parked up for anything more than a quick overnight stop, then it’s worth taking the trouble to get it as level as is possible; you always regret it if you don’t.

This time however it seemed to go on for a very long time. I topped up my coffee and took a seat outside for a proper look.

The husband (I’ll call him George) drove forwards and backwards onto his chocks. They did this again and again, directed by his wife (I’ll call her Mildred). Each time he reversed the result was the same. The caravan slowly lifted, then lurched, toppled and dropped. Each drop was accompanied by a clatter. George pulled the caravan forward again, got out and fiddled with something on the ground, and then the whole process was repeated.

The difficulty it seems was Mildred.

All she had to do was tell him how far to come back, so that the wheels rose exactly to the limit of the blocks…but she was getting it wrong; that much we could all hear, from one end of the campground to the other.

Wind in the Willows is an idyll, an oasis of calm, and George and Mildred were causing an unseemly disturbance. In a city this sort of thing might be easily overlooked, but here their activity stood out like a carnival, and everyone was watching.

I don’t want to mislead here. When I say ‘everyone’, I mean me, the lady from ‘Lady Largo’, and the couple at the far end who had showed me their really clever brackets to prevent the awning lifting in the wind; four people in total.

We were all on our feet looking on… along with all the other watchers.

Small birds had stopped their flitting and sat motionless on their perches. On the river, sixty swans had pivoted towards the action, and forty cows stood shoulder to shoulder along the fence line, all trying to figure out what on earth was happening.

While the action continued, no conclusion was reached; it just repeated relentlessly.

Rev, reverse, rise, lurch, clatter & drop… scratch head, rub jaw, and repeat.

After a while the difficulty became apparent. Like Lady Largo, and the bracket people, I have a pair of magnificent sturdy triangular wedges for this specific purpose, but George was trying to get his caravan wheels to rest on piles of wooden blocks.

People in the larger vehicles have these too, typically people in busses. Their weight is too much for wedges like ours, they simply get pressed into the ground, so these folk carry a set of solid blocks, wedges, planks and boards to both lift their wheels, and distribute the load.

George was trying to do the same, except with a few odd lengths of four by two and a couple of bits of old shelving.

The result was that each time he got the weight of the wheels to bear, the blocks shifted, rocked, slid, or turned, until one side or the other gave way and the caravan bounced down onto its suspension once more.

After about 20 minutes of forwards, and backwards, and in and out of the car, George gave up on Mildred and took charge of giving the directions himself.

This put Mildred in the driver’s seat, and pretty soon we all heard precisely how she was getting it wrong; she needed to get both wheels to hit the ramps at the same time, she was too fast, she was too slow, too timid, too aggressive, or not smooth enough.

He barked the instructions, and the caravan moved forwards, and backwards and occasionally up.

But every time the result was the same… rise, lurch, clatter, bounce.

Mildred was getting it all completely wrong, and George was getting wound up.

Having moved onto the prime spot on the riverbank, I wasn’t using my chocks, so I walked over with them. We ‘Wingers’ are helpful like that.

George was short for his weight, and all up an odd looking package. His singlet had seen good times, but these weren’t those times. It was stretched over a barrel of a chest with flabby but brawny arms that filled the huge openings. His shorts particularly caught my eye; not because of the fabric or the cut… but because of the overall shape. George was followed around by an arse the size and shape of which I had only hitherto seen behind overweight, black, American women.

At the other end, his fat round head sat abnormally close to his wide shoulders. It was as though he’d been born missing a couple of vertebrae.

All of this combined to give him the general appearance of a bulldog.

One of the things about Bulldogs is that you can’t imagine them smiling… that was George.

George and Mildred were contradictions. Unlike George’s robustness, Mildred was petite. She was lean, to the point of skinny, and had a slightly stooped bearing. She had the perished, scrubbed bare look of someone who’d had a hard life of domestic labour, and I spontaneously imagined her with her arms in a tub, or scrubbing a doorstep.

She looked like she bought her clothes from a women’s magazine; particularly the sort that you see in the Doctors’ waiting rooms. You know the ones “Women’s Weekly” or the like. You pick them up, because that’s what’s there, and find yourself learning the ten crucial things you need to do to slim down for summer. The advice all seems a little out of kilter until, you discover that you’re reading about the summer of 1964.

That’s where Mildred’s wardrobe came from.

I’d always found it odd that the ‘Women’s Weekly’ has 12 issues per year, but is still called a ‘Weekly’. Perhaps they don’t think ‘The Women’s Monthly’ will sell as well.

There was a hint of a ‘Royal’ in the way Mildred dressed, and I decided it was the frock; the last time I’d seen a floral pattern like that it was on the Queen Mother. Mildred didn’t have the hat or handbag to match though, but her glasses did have an aristocratic influence. Unfortunately the aristocrat in question was Dame Edna.

As I grew closer to them I began to see that I was making a mistake.

It was a sticky evening and the exertions were getting to George. He was flushed in the face, and sweat beaded on his forehead.

Mildred’s assistance had clearly taken its toll, and he had quite enough on his hands without somebody else sticking their beak in. It was hard enough getting this job done with ‘her’; the last thing he needed was more help.

It turned out that George was quite like me in some respects. Though totally different to look at, I recognised some familiar traits.

As a man, I am infinitely capable, I am never wrong, and I never fail to achieve something I have set out to do. That would be admitting defeat, and a real man is never beaten.

I could see that George was like this too. Like me, he would rather drive for a couple of hours longer than stop and ask for directions… And he was going to balance his caravan wheels on these blocks, even if it took all night to do so.

One of the downsides of being infinitely capable is that other people don’t necessarily recognise it, and sometimes they think that you need help. But when you are infinitely capable you never need help… ever! That’s the whole point isn’t it.

Being offered advice when you’re infinitely capable isn’t just annoying, it is extremely insulting.

As I closed on him he became increasingly aggravated, it’s one of those ‘inversely proportional to the distance’ things you learn about in physics.

When I reached him I thought I could see the first whisps of steam rising, and I knew I had committed a grave error.

He had a face like thunder, and I recognised the expression immediately, I’ve worn it myself many times. It said:

“If I needed your bloody help I would have asked for it.”

When you are infinitely capable, all advice is un-needed advice, and offering help is no more, or less, than a direct accusation of incompetence.

The obvious thing for him to do was to accept the chocks gratefully, and then he and Mildred would both have a comfortable night. I wasn’t using the chocks. No-one was disadvantaged or put out in any way. It was a good solution.

But that couldn’t happen.

By approaching with the chocks I was assaulting his very manliness.

Women completely lack the capacity to understand the dynamics of this. All they see is grown men behaving like children.

Just in case I was confused, George explained things to me.

The eleven carefully selected pieces of wood he had brought were exactly what was required for the task at hand. He’d never needed fancy levelling wedges before, and he didn’t need them now… and if they were actually worth having, then he would have brought some with him.

That wasn’t quite what he said, but it’s close enough.

My exchange with George had been rather abrupt. I’d meant to let him know that where they were parking, their satellite dish would be shadowed by that big oak tree. But then, he probably already knew that anyway.

I retreated with my chocks, feigning as much grace as I could. I was like the beaten batsman returning to the pavilion. Lady Largo, the couple with the clever brackets, sixty swans, forty cows and a handful of birds in the bush, all witnessed my slow and humiliating walk back to the van.

Back under my awning, with my laptop, fresh coffee and a bowl of cake and cold custard, I settled down to watch the sunset across the river.

The birds that had been busy all day were now quiet and still, and the overwhelming hiss of the cicada’s had settled into an even rattle. The swans, now in groups of two’s, three’s and fours, were slowly drifting back downstream to re-gather as a flock before the onset of darkness. The river flowed steady and silent; the only sign of motion was the occasional branch carried by the current. Otherwise it was still as a mill pond, undisturbed except for a whispered splish as something unseen below fed on the surface bugs.

The sun went down, and the mozzies came out; that’s how things work on the riverbank.

Most of the cows had returned to their business. Just a last few remained, uncertain if the show was over or not.

With the fading light George had had to lower his expectations.

He had enough blocks to raise one side, but not both, and so the caravan was finally stationary with the driver’s side standing conspicuously higher than the passenger’s. It was a most unsatisfactory result, and it left him very grumpy indeed.

My chocks, still unwanted, sat on the ground beside my van.

After the caravan had finally stopped moving George had gone inside; to open the windows, to unfold everything that needed unfolding, and to connect everything up properly. This was obviously better accomplished by himself alone; and Mildred sat there in the car, waiting patiently for further instructions.

Eventually, the lights came on, the step was placed at the door, and Mildred gingerly stepped in with a box of groceries, no doubt praying that if the stack collapsed, it would be under his weight, not hers.
As she entered I heard her say… “it’s a pity we’re facing the field, not the river”.

“That was brave” I thought.

The last words fired at Mildred told me that the windows she’d failed to close were now letting in mozzies.

George stayed in his chair in front of the dark TV as Mildred moved around closing the windows.

So there they sat, in a van full of mozzies, with their backs to the view, a blank TV, and on a list that the Titanic would have been very pleased to sustain.

I had no doubt at all that it was all Mildred’s fault.

Soon their light was out and a calm finally returned to the campsite.

The more-pork’s coo-ed at the moon shining on the river. The air cooled and filled with dew, and the thinning cicada’s foretold the end of summer.

The sun was up by the time I walked out to enjoy the swan parade and my first coffee of the day, and George and Mildred’s caravan wasn’t there.

It had moved away from the oak tree, it had turned around… and George wasn’t talking to Mildred.

She was probably most pleased by the last bit.

The cows know best

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The Heems at Wind in the Willows

The Heems at ‘Wind in the Willows’

‘Convection showers my arse’ I said putting a reef in the awning.

That was the forecast, … “convection showers”.

My attention had been grabbed by the flapping of fabric as my awning got rattled by a sudden gust. Half the sky was blue, and half black. The wind came in sharp little gusts, and the temperature had dropped noticeably. I looked at the cows in the neighbouring paddock. They were gathered under the trees.

‘Convection showers my arse’ I repeated, rushing to move my laptop and radio inside before the imminent deluge. By the time I had shortened my awning to a metre, and was all powered up again inside, the thunder was rolling long and free. Three days of beautiful weather was going to take a break for a while.

A hour later the cows under the trees had moved on… and so had the thunder.

Cows are smarter than meteorologists.

It was a productive day, but sometimes things can get frustrating. Just as I was about to put up the latest post on the Kurahaupo’s progress I saw a problem. On my fifteenth re-read I realised that I’d said something several times that could cause problems…. “Aotearoa”

In the Kurahaupo voyage diary I’d repeatedly referred to New Zealand as “Aoteatoa”. Wrong. The people on the Kurahaupo could not possibly have referred to this place as “Aotearoa”, that didn’t come into use as a name for the country until much, much later. So I changed it, and then checked back through all the other posts to make sure I didn’t have the same mistake there.

It’s a constant issue, checking that the detail of everything is all correct. Just because I think I remember reading something somewhere doesn’t make it so… or true.

Still, all in all it’s been a good day.

‘George’ moved on with his menagerie, and indeed, he did have an interesting story to tell… ‘truck driving goat herder’ he called himself… he keeps a herd of goats in his back yard. The Council dropped by and mowed my lawn for me, we had some decent rain for the farmers, I had some advice on where to park-up at Castlepoint and I was even offered a glass of 30 year old port… but then you can’t have everything can you.

This evening I’m watching TV as I work. “Mr Selfridge” is on, and I like that, but I am getting more that a hint of ‘deja vue’ as I watch; these are the same episodes as I saw in England while I was over there.

I’ll watch the news later… but if I want to know what the weather’s going to do… I’ll ask the cows.

One final note: I’m sure the Goon with the generator is still disturbing the peace somewhere… he’s just not doing it here anymore.

The Goon with the landing light

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It was a beautiful day here at ‘Wind in the Willows’. I awoke with the sun as usual and stretched in the low sunlight of the morning. As I sipped my morning coffee I watched a flock of about sixty swans (including this year’s young) paddle around getting their breakfast.

I moved my office outdoors and knuckled down to some work… then took a break mid-afternoon and shot you this quick video.

Heems at sunrise

The Heems at sunrise

This evening I have new company.

The Goon with the generator is still here, and he has a new and irritating toy… a flashing green light. Quite what he needs a landing light for on the side of Lake Karapiro I don’t know, but it must be annoying the hell out of my new… and rather surprising new neighbour.

George (I’ll call him George) arrived late this afternoon in a black VW Golf. Now there’s nothing unusual about that, even the colour, black, is normal for a Golf. It is unusually small for campers, but then… ‘it takes all sorts’.

Heems at sunrise

The office

What was unusual was who came with him. George jumped out of the car, followed by… three, yes three dogs… But even that wasn’t what surprised me the most. Behind the dogs came a cat… and behind the cat… came three kittens.

All seven proceeded to explore the neighbourhood, and pretty soon had the Goon’s dog in tow as well.

George has no tent and is sleeping under the stars, but I’m guessing he won’t be feeling alone.

Jetty at sunset

My jetty at sunset

I’ll go and see him in the morning, he must have an interesting story to tell. For me, it’s getting late now and time for bed; I have the stars, more-porks and cicada’s for company.

I hope you enjoy the video and the photo’s (click to enlarge).

Wind in the Willows

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Sunrise at ‘Wind in the Willows’

I’m on my way to the Mahia peninsula, but it’s too long a drive for me to complete sensibly in one day, and anyway, my story isn’t advanced to the stage that I need it yet… so I’m parked up here for a couple of days.

I call this place ‘Wind in the Willows’. It’s on the side of the Waikato river, at the top end of Lake Karapiro.

Once out of Auckland I had my first stop pre-planned. There’s a service area just before the Bombay hills, and it’s is a top stopping place for me. I can get lots of things done all in that one place.

I filled the Heems with diesel, topped up my gas tanks, and filled my water tank. These are only small things, but they keep me happy. I knew my gas was desperately low, as I’d meant to fill that up before Elizabeth came over… but hadn’t got ‘round to it. And the water tank was the same… I was pretty certain I was down to my last cupful. I also got a few days’ supply of fresh milk and had the last ‘flat white’ I’m likely to see for a while.

I was now topped up with everything… my fridge was full, and all my tanks were all appropriately full… or empty.

parked up

Parked up (second attempt)

There was nothing I needed in Hamilton on this trip, so I headed directly to my stopover, at the top of Lake Karapiro.

Crossing the Waikato, inland and away from the coast, I was struck by the advancing season. Where the hills have been cleared for grass and cattle, they are browned off. The bush is still green, but it looks dry, and dusty. The trees are also changing their colour… the rich green is fading away, and the extremities are golding. Where the ground is exposed it is parched and barren. They are clearly very near drought here and need rain. But I wasn’t lingering on the plains, as always, I was headed to water.

The journey here was straightforward. I’ve been here several times before, yet once again (I’ve made this mistake every time I’ve come here) I turned off the main Hamilton to Rotorua road a junction too soon. It didn’t matter. I took advantage of the facilities at the Horahora Domain (just as before), and eyeballed the road I wanted… the one on the far bank of the river.

The sun was low as I pulled onto the campsite, but I still had at least an hour before sunset. Looking for the best place to park up I ran through my normal checklist;

1. Stunning view
2. Quiet
3. Level
4. Clear of shading (for the solar panels)
5. Clear line of sight to the North-North-West (for the satellite dish).

Easy-peasey. I was on my spot within minutes… five ticks, and the sunset still to come… perfect!

My jetty

I even have my own little jetty

The campsite is a broad strip, set in the trees on the backs of the Waikato River. There were only a few vans here, and no tents… and all the people here are from the NZ Motor Caravan Association… that means they are here for the wildlife, not the wild life.

As I set about making something to eat I was congratulating myself about how accomplished I was at this campervaning lark these days; nothing had gone crash-bang since I pulled out of Piha, where there had however been a small incident.


Looking downstream

I’d stopped to video a quick sequence of me driving away. For this I needed my video camera and tripod and I’d opened two lockers to do this. I set up my camera, set it running,. called ‘action’ to myself, spoke a quick speech, and drove off waving to the camera. It all looked very controlled and orderly. However, inside the van, the entire contents of two lockers had escaped confinement the instant I had moved… and all my writing pads, pens, folders, books, notes, plugs, sockets and cables spread themselves across the cabin floor.

10 metres!… that’s as far as I had got, 10 metres! It wasn’t until I was parked up that evening that I discovered I had another problem.

Looking downstream

Looking downstream

As I pulled out the kettle for a cuppa I noticed that I had been careless… it looked like when I was packing I’d dripped my coffee jug across the cooker and the workbench. However, closer inspection showed that the drips were also all over the workbench light… in fact, they were coming from inside the light, and dripping out of it! I pulled open the locker above, one of two I use as a pantry, and the unmistakable aroma of BBQ marinade met me. My bottle of Soy Sauce had tipped and emptied itself in my pantry and run the length and breadth of the cupboard floor.

‘Gosh, darn’ I said.

Looking upstream

Looking upstream

The sticky stinking stuff was everywhere. I emptied the lockers, pulled the sodden grip mat from the bottom, and threw it through the door in disgust. The next half an hour saw me wash and rewash the lockers, and all the contents.

Fortunately, very little was actually damaged. But the box holding my last two chocolate fudge bars appeared badly compromised… so I ate them.

Eventually, everything was clean and back in the locker, everything that is except the grip mat and the three quarters empty Soy bottle… they remained on the grass outside.

Finally could I sit back and enjoy where I was. The scene here is utterly tranquil. They only noise is from the birds, the cicadas, the occasional splosh as a trout takes a wee snack from the surface and… that bloody generator!

The caravan with the generator was 140 paces from me (yes, I paced it out). To the guy’s credit it is a very quiet generator, but this place is so completely quiet that the sound of anything mechanical is incredibly intrusive.

Despite my spot appearing to have all five ticks, it turned out to only have four. The humming of the generator was getting to me, so I moved.

Soon, at twice the distance from him, the cicada’s overcame his low humming. Really… some people, hasn’t he heard of solar panels?

My new spot had another advantage… it didn’t stink of Soy Sauce.

So here I sit. Through the office window I see ducks, and swans, and the occasional expanding ripple from a feeding trout. The steep riverbanks drop down to the slow and broody river, where a gentle breeze is just enough to graze its otherwise glassy surface. The sky is clear and blue, and tonight it will light up again, the broad stroke of the milky way so bright it will hide the otherwise familiar constellations.

Until then… I have work to do. As I write this I have only just begun the Kurahaupo story. I have got it launched, and now I need to move this on. Next I will get the Kurahaupo to Rarotonga, and then to the Kermadecs. After that I need to write up their journey to the Tom Bowling Bay, at the very tip of the North Island, and get them on their way again towards Mahia. I want that to time my arrival there with theirs.


At my desk

This is going to take more than the rest of today, so I’m going to stop here a little longer.

Never mind… I’ll try to cope.

Arrividerci Piha

the Heems banner

This is it

I took myself up to my favourite sunset spot this evening and shot this short video, and in the morning… I’ll be gone.

Last sunset Piha

My last Piha sunset for a while

After months of preparation and planning it’s time go.

Piha, and the people here have been very good to me, and it’s sad to leave. But then, it’s not forever… and it’s not as though I’m going to go anywhere bad… well at least, not for long. If I don’t like where I am, then I won’t stay longer than the time it takes to snap a couple of pics and split.

I only have a few final bits and pieces to do… my last load of washing is still on the line, and in the morning I’ll do the last of my dishes… and then one last good shower… that I’ll definitely miss.

Other people might rate campgrounds by their Kitchen facilities, child’s entertainment area… whatever. For me the criteria I remember above all others is the showers. Most campsites offer you a choice… either a dribble of hot water, or a lot of tepid water. Piha is among the very few I’ve stopped at that gives you a lot of hot water’… and I’ll definitely miss that. I’ll be looking forward to that on my return… along with seeing a couple of special smiling faces; Fiona and Kevin. Thanks for everything, and I’ll see you again soon.

Kevin, remember I’m coming back to help build a shed and a fence… don’t have all the fun without me!

I’m on my way South, to start following Abel Tasman’s course, but as I’m telling that story I want to simultaneously tell the Kurahaupo story. The two paths collide dramatically on December 18th 1642, and I want my accounts of the Voyage of the Kurahaupo, and the Voyage of Abel Tasman to coincide at that point too. This means I have to advance the Kurahaupo story quite quickly.

By the time I reach the South Island I need to have progressed the Kurahaupo from French Polynesia, through Rarotonga and the Kermadec’s to New Zealand. From there they went down the East Coast. I’ll join their journey at Mahia, where they abandoned the Kurahaupo, and follow their path onward from there.

My immediate task therefore is to get the Kurahaupo story up to where I will join it at Mahia, and I’ll do that on the Banks of the Waikato… at ’Wind in the Willows’.

So for now… that’s it. Arrivederci Piha… I’ll see you when I get back.