Tag Archives: the Heems

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.

Meet ‘the Heems’

As I began researching the possibility of taking on this journey, I started to look at the sort of vehicle I would need, and how it needed to be configured. I needed somewhere comfortable to live, but the other requirement was essentially… a fully spec’d office.

My van

The Heems’

On the road I needed the essential comforts of home. In addition, I would be writing a book, writing a blog, and filming for the blog (and perhaps a documentary). I needed to be able to edit text, images for illustrations, audio and video. I needed computer power… with quite a bit of grunt for the image and video processing, a printer, and a proper monitor, mouse and keypad. To maintain sanity, (I would be travelling alone) I also needed TV, radio and music. I needed electricity, lots of it; for my fridge, computers, TV, lights, sounds etc. And an absolute essential, was a reliable internet connection.

It took a while to settle on the size of van I needed. It had to be a compromise between large… for convenience and comfort, and small… to get into some of the more remote locations I would visit.

I eventually settled on the type of van that tourists hire when touring New Zealand. They’ve been around a long time, and seem to be well thought out in terms of squeezing all the important creature comforts of home into a compact space.

I named my van, somewhat obviously, ‘Heemskerck’. Immediately I realised that this would cause dreadful confusion in my writing… was I talking about Tasman’s ship? or was I talking about my van? I hadn’t even finished applying the lettering before my van not only had a name, but also a nickname… ‘the Heems’.

The Heems had the all essentials for comfortable living; toilet and shower, fridge-freezer, gas cooker and grill, sink, and hot water (gas) but was hopeless it terms of providing somewhere to work; that I had to sort out for myself. It took me about six months to convert… and all that time, I was living in it. Anyone who has ‘done up’ a house while living in it will know just how uncomfortable that can be. When the space is as small as a campervan it becomes nearly impossible. The van contains everything I need, and when it’s all nicely packed up it is easy and comfortable to live in. But as soon as I pull out my tool boxes, and start working on a job, then suddenly everything is in the way, and everything I need is behind, in or under something else… and everywhere I need to put something down already has something else there.

wire cutters

My best wire cutters

I pulled onto the campsite at Piha on July 19th 2013… mid-winter in New Zealand. The van was cold, dark and powerless. In order to prepare for someone to fit my alarms and reversing camera, I’d bored some holes for their cables. One of my holes had gone straight through all the interior power and light cables. I’d also managed to cut off power to the water pump, so I only had water from a container. Here’s a picture of my best wire cutters.

solar panels

Solar panels and satellite dish

Over the next few months I gradually built up ‘the Heems’ to be what I needed, whilst also researching and preparing the book.

The first job was… power. I needed electricity, in remote places, and for extended periods… so my van is completely self-sufficient with solar power and has a lot of battery storage. Even in winter I have enough solar power to keep my batteries topped up. I am one of the few people that has solar powered computers, printer, TV… even my electric tools are solar powered!

My next major task was to build the office. It raised quite a few eyebrows on the campsite when most of the rear seating was ripped out and heaved through the door. My office desk spans the whole width of the rear of the van, and has a deep lid over it. The lid is hinged along its length, and has my bed above… a proper bed, not a thin foam mattresses. The office remains all set up under the lid while my bed is down. In the mornings I flip the bed up, and voila! the office is open.

I use a smartphone for my internet connection, but to get a signal in more remote areas, I use an external antenna mounted on a pole. Finally, for my sanity, I have a satellite dish on the top and a TV. The dish gives me not only TV but also radio… anywhere in the country, and that is a real life saver on occasions.

A few alterations to the storage arrangements completed the re-construction. By the end of it I had turned a fully functional mobile holiday home for four, into a home-office for one. I was ready for the road at last!

How to read this Blog


In this blog I am reporting on six different journeys; Abel Tasman’s, the four Waka’s and my own. In my journey I travel to all the key locations present in the others. I tell each story, up to the point that they co-incide. Abel Tasman’s story is told sequentially, through his diary, but this is not always possible with the other journeys… there would simply be too much driving involved.

coinciding paths

The journeys of Abel Tasman and the people of the Kurahupo, to the point of their co-incidence.

Take Abel Tasman’s 18th December 1642 for example. He was in Golden Bay, inside Cape Farewell at the top of the South Island. On that day he met some Maori. They were descendants of the Kurahaupo, who had traveled from Tahiti, then Rarotonga and then to New Zealand. They had landed at the North Cape (northernmost point of the North Island), then sailed down to Mahia (mid way up the east coast of the North Island), then overland through Hastings, Taupo and down the Manawatu River. From there they had moved to the Marlborough sounds at the top of the South Island, and finally, west into Golden Bay.

I simply can’t travel to all the places in that journey AND follow Tasman’s path simultaneously; he is traveling north, they are going south. For me to visit the places in a sequence that explains the story well I would have to travel alternately between the far North and the South for each post. This blog is therefore, of necessity, not in the best order to build up the stories sequentially and have them coincide at a set day and location in Tasman’s journey. I can only do that in book form.

This blog is presented in the order that I visit the locations. I will do my best to get as close as possible to a comprehensible order, but on occasions I have to leave it to the reader to assemble the parts into their correct chronological sequence.


The ‘categories’ selection bar.


Entries in this blog are normally presented ‘newest first’. This will work well for anyone following the blog regularly,but is not so good for someone joining the journeys part way through. To help new visitors, setting the post order to ‘Oldest first’ allows them to view the posts in the order that they were published; that is, ‘Oldest post first’. This panel appears at the very foot of the page.



The ‘categories’ selection bar.


Entries in this blog are organised into ‘categories’. There is a category for each journey. If you want to follow just a single journey, then clicking one of the category headings “Abel Tasman” “The Waka’s” or “My journal” will present you with only the posts relating to that track. The Category “The Waka’s” is further divided into four; Kurahaupo, Tainui, Mahuhu and Matawhaorua. Picking ‘All posts’ removes the filter, and shows everything. On desktop computers and laptops the categories are shown in full just above the main pictures. On mobile devices they are found by touching the bar marked ‘categories’.


category banners

Category banner for ‘Kurahaupo’ posts

In order to help the reader understand the relevant position of each post in the overall story-line, each post is headed with a banner indicating which journey it is a part of.


Tasman’s journal, as it appears in this blog.


Abel Tasman left us a daily Journal, and I quote this in full before exploring the events of the day. His journal entries are presented like this.


The Maori ‘diary’ as it appears in this blog.

Unfortunately, we have no equivalent daily record for the Maori/Polynesian travelers, so I have devised one. The daily ‘events’ of the Polynesian/Maori travelers are also presented in diary form. The detail of the diaries are a fiction, we simply don’t know precisely what happened every day, but the generality is correct, and it is presented wrapped in supposition based on our understanding of the Maori and Polynesian social forms. The Maori/Polynesian ‘diary’ looks like this.


Words with a green background can be clicked to hear their pronunciation


Many of the words used are Maori and Old Dutch. To help you understand these correctly I have joined an audio track to important words, so that you can hear them pronounced correctly. Click on a word that has a green background to hear it spoken.

It works like this. Any text highlighted in green has a sound clip attached to it. For example if you wanted to hear how to pronounce , then you would just click on it.


Please feel free to use the “Contact me” form or “comments” to ask about any particular aspect of any of the journeys. I will try and respond to your inquiries and address missing information or errors. The ‘Contact me’ form is found under the ‘About’ category. It also includes a map indication of where I am at the moment.

Six Boats: An Introduction

Video: Introduction to Six Boats Video posted by Six Boats on Thursday, April 30, 2015

I’d often heard people saying how wonderful these e-book reader things were, and I felt a bit silly that I hadn’t used one. So about a year ago I loaded an e-book reader onto my iPad and searched around for a free book to install. Scrolling through lists of books looking for something interesting, my attention was grabbed by a particular volume, which I downloaded, and dived straight into. I had come across James Cook’s journal of his first voyage across the Pacific. In no time at all I was transported to 1769 and shared his daily experience of his landing in New Zealand, progress around its coastline, and his meetings with the local people; the Maori.

On that visit, James Cook circumnavigated both the North and South Islands… and an idea began to form. Wouldn’t it be interesting to follow his journey, going to the all places he did, except doing it from the land?

The idea began to take hold. I started to think about the practicalities of doing it; where would I need to get to? what type of vehicle would I need? … and I started to think about writing it up as a book as I went.

Studying Cook’s journal further it became obvious that he already knew of the existence of New Zealand. He was not only aware that Abel Tasman had visited it (indeed, he had named it), but he quite clearly had a copy, not only of Tasman’s chart (I didn’t know any such existed), but also of his journal (this was also news to me). I soon realised that any book about Cook’s ‘discovery’ of New Zealand would also need to include a section about Abel Tasman, and I began researching his journal. I soon found an English translation of the journal, and also a copy of his chart…

Abel Tasman's chart of New Zealand

The chart of New Zealand included in the Hague copy of Abel Tasman’s journal.

I became absorbed by Tasman’s voyage, and as I read further into it I found that I was increasingly picturing his voyage, not just from the landward position, but also from the viewpoint of the people occupying that land.

Tasman's journal for the day Dec 13th 1642.

Tasman’s journal page for the day Dec 13th 1642.

Abel Tasman saw the West Coast of New Zealand, 13th December 1642, around halfway up the South Island. From there he followed the coast to its northern extremity, and then departed, sailing onward to discover Fiji and Tonga. As he passed, he was seen by, and had encounters with, the local Maori population… but these people too, like Tasman, were not ‘native’… they were immigrants. So what was their story? Where had they come from? And how had they come to be in the place where they could see him go past?

Abel Tasman discovered New Zealand, for the Europeans, in 1642. However, the Polynesians had discovered it at least seven centuries earlier, and had settled the country in a wave of deliberate migration around the 1300’s. The stories of the journeys of these Polynesians was just as compelling as the journey of Tasman, and as I began to plan a trip along Abel Tasman’s path, I realised that I should also understand how the populations that could have seen him go past had come to be there… and that was the seed of this blog.

I am going on a journey. I am going to follow Abel Tasman’s voyage, day by day, through his journal and his chart; except I am going to follow him from the landward position.

Shoot locations

Places I am going to visit. Abel Tasman’s course is in light blue. The movements of the Kurahaupo people is in purple, Tainui in green, Mahuhu in ochre, and Matawhaorua in red.

As I travel to the places and features that he reports, I am going to also tell the stories of the people that could have observed him… their journeys over ocean and land, from their Polynesian origins, to the places from which that they could have seen him pass.

Abel Tasman had two ships, the Heemskerck and the Zeehaen. All of the Maori that could have seen Tasman pass, could trace their origins back to just four Polynesian voyaging vessels; the Kurahaupo, the Tainui, the Mataatua and the Matawhaorua. These are the Six Boats of the title of this blog.

This blog is the journal of my journey as I follow the movements of these six boats, their occupants and descendants, to the places that their journeys coincide.