Rarawa – Kaitaia – Houhora

October 21, 2016

The weather gods decided to play in our favour so we could finally get out to do some fishing.  Roy and I had good success over the first couple of days with one or two snapper caught each day which meant we could enjoy fish for dinner nearly every night.  It’s just a short drive from the camp to the other end of the beach where there is vehicle access onto the beach

An overview of the camp area wedged between the curves of the river. 

Last Friday Roy and I decided that we would go down to the beach and have another fish, the weather was overcast with the odd shower coming through but we thought it was worth going to the beach and having a try, besides, it’s better being on the beach than finding jobs to do in the van.  So off we went and we soon had our kite out flying, not too far out though as we know that there is a reef about 900m off shore and we don’t want to get our lines caught on the reef.  We text Pat & Sue to let them know that the wind was going in the right direction for kite fishing so they came down as well and set their kite out further along the beach.  

Once the kite is safely locked off its just a waiting game, when we play the guessing game of trying to determine how long we should keep the line in the water – usually we figure about an hour is good.But what do we do for an hour?  sometimes one of us will  wander off for a walk along the beach and a beachcomb, other times is just a matter of sitting and waiting.  This time however, we came prepared. As we can drive the car onto the beach and sit in the car to wait we had brought with us with our wifi router and iPads with headphones so we could both watch/listen to our individual choices of programmes and dodge the showers.

For this lovely lot to be hauled ashore

6 snapper ranging from 36 -40cm plus a 55cm Trevally

Not to be outdone, Pat & Sue caught 3 snapper and a small trevally.  With all this fish to deal with We thought  that it would be a shame to waste the fish frames and heads as there is plenty of edible fish left behind. We sometimes smoke the heads and wings and have lots of smoked fish but this time we thought we could give them away.  I had read about a web site that puts you in contact with people who are happy to pick up heads and frames for their use so we decided to give it a go.  I rang a lady on the list and yes she would love to come and pick up the heads and frames. Within an hour she was at the camp delightedly taking away all the heads and frames.  The website is Free Fish Heads a fantastic initiative as it means there is no waste.   The lady rang me later that evening to say thank you, that she really appreciated having such lovely fresh fish heads and her family really enjoyed them. 

It’s not all fishing and relaxing when we are on the beach though, one day Roy and I were just settling down to wait patiently for the line to do it’s thing when we see a young lady come walking toward us with purpose in her stride.  When she finallygot to us, she was so out of breath and in between sobs, she struggled to talk.  We sat her down and tried to calm her somewhat before she could tell us of her tale of woe.   It seemed that her car had skidded off the road back at the entrance to the camp. She had already walked into the camp area to try and find help but as there was no one around she had then trekked down to the beach to find us.  Poor thing was beside herself. I took her back to her car to see if we could tow it out, but it was too difficult and I did not want to create even more damage to her car by attempting to move it so after much discussion we called a local towing company.  They were with us pretty quickly after only waiting 20minutes, in that time I discovered she was visiting from Argentina and was hoping the car was not too badly damaged as she only had a week left in New Zealand.  Once she was sorted I left her in the capable hands of the tow truck driver and returned to the beach to help Roy pull in our line.

This is not the first accident we have seen on this particular corner, as on previous visits to Rarawa we have seen a couple of vehicles on their side either in this ditch or the one on the opposite side of the road.  

We had to leave Rarawa on Sunday as we had the van booked in at Kaitaia Tractors on Monday to have its annual service, and to have the brake linings replaced and for it to have it’s CoF done Tuesday morning.  So what are we to do all day whilst the van is in the workshop? We go out to Tokerau Beach to catch up with Gary & Marg.  To cut a long story short, we ended up staying the night with them.  During the afternoon we headed off to the beach and collected a bucket of Tuatuas which we will shell and eat later as fritters.   That evening, we all thought it would be a great idea to watch a movie…Gary  & Roy – both of whom spent their working careers in IT – spent a good wee while trying to sort out TV, connections, PC and cables with lots of muttering and mumbling going on…it looked like this

We picked up the van on Tuesday afternoon, initially we had hoped to return to Rarawa but the camp had been closed that day for the next 3 weeks as DoC are treating the campsite for Argentinian Ants.  So plan B was instigated.  Instead we headed back up to Houhora where Pat & Sue were already parked and here we will stay for a week. 

 Pat & Sue wanted to go and do some fishing in their wee boat, and with Houhora having a safe harbour they can easily launch it and go off fishing in and around the harbour.  But it’s only 15 minutes from here to Rarawa so yesterday Roy & I went up to have another fish off the beach.  We sent the kite up, attached the long line and proceeded to wait.  

Roy baiting up the hooks.

On hauling the line back in we only had one fish on the line, a reasonable sized Kahawai  which we decided to use as bait and immediately sent the line straight back out again.  The next retrieve was much more successful with these two beauties landed to take home.

44cm and 62cm
Needless to say we have had fish on the menu most days and as well, the freezer is full of vacuum sealed packs of fish fillets, enough to keep us going for sometime.

Onto Rarawa

October 7, 2016

It had been fine for a few days, the ground had dried out nicely but with some heavy rain forecast for the weekend, we decided it was time to make a run for it and leave Matai Bay whilst the going was good.  Roy & I packed up the van and he and headed out of the camp to return to the PoP at Tokerau Beach for a few days.  I stayed on at the campsite to wait for Pat & Sue to return from their fruitful fishing trip over the hill so I could help them pack up and head on out before the rains came.  We stayed at the PoP over the weekend and sure enough we did get plenty of rain which would have made it almost impossible for us to be able to get out for bother week or so.  

We headed off into Kaitaia early on Monday morning as the van was booked in for a service and wi lots of little jobs and shopping to get done we managed to wile away the day nicely before spending the night at the Kaitaia RSA.  With everything done by lunch time on Tuesday we were all soon on the road heading to Rarawa, a DoC camp north of Houhora.

The ground at Rarawa was also very muddy and soft in places but after a good walk around, we settled into our chosen spot.

here we are parked, with some shelter on three sides from the wind.

With Pat & Sue parked at the far end.

The beach is a short walk through the dunes or a ride in e car down the road to the northern end of the beach.  Rarawa has beautiful white silica sands and at this time of the year we mostly have the beach to ourselves

 A busy day on the beach

We’ve had some good amounts of rain and some very strong winds since we arrived here, we are hoping that the winds will die down enough to enable us to get the kite out for some fishing to be done over the next week or so.  

Meanwhile, with all this inclement weather, we are making full use of our upgraded Internet, all of which will be the subject of a later blog post.  Watch this space. 

Home Alone 

September 26, 2016

It’s time for Roy to do a granddad trip, so last week he headed off, initially to Auckland, leaving me home alone at Matai Bay.  I could think of worse places to be and although I’m in the van home alone, Pat & Sue are here “babysitting”me, making sure that I behave.   I’ll let Roy do a blog entry on his adventures in getting from Auckland to Christchurch, however safe to say he made it to Ashburton where he is spending a week with the South Island branch of the Vannini family.  Meanwhile I am enjoying the warm north and getting a few chores done, as well as getting out and about.

It’s spring, so it seems fitting to have a bit of a spring clean. Roy and I started having a bit of a tidy up over the past couple of weeks with lockers and cupboards getting a major tidy up, with just a few “comesins” being jettisoned. You know, those things that you keep beacause it “comes in” handy one day. Sometimes, that one day just doesn’t come around. As well, a bit of a reshuffle and tidy up is in order, which, whilst living in a relatively small space is quite important.

Whilst we were in Tokerau the other week, we set about lining the step area with a hard wearing carpet to neaten up the stepwell and make it easier to keep clean.  It just so happened that Brett, the PoP owner, was a carpet layer in his previous working life and he offered to help me line the stairwell.  He came up with a couple of good ideas on how and what to do to make it easy and in no time at all, it was all done.  And very neat and tidy it is too. Of course I forgot to take a before or during photo but here’s how it looks now.

The bottom step has a separate removable piece of carpet, just for some added extra dirt removal.

 And a piece of carpet on the outside step, just to finish off the job. 

Then we decided that a new piece of matching carpet would be great to lay over the vinyl flooring to replace to matting we had as it would smarten things up.  This carpet has to be removable as we usually don’t have carpet on the floor over the summer months plus we need to be able to roll it up when we bring the slide-out in for travelling.  Again, Brett offered to cut it to fit and what a great job he made of it too.

Looking from the bathroom to the front

The view  from the front to the bedroom 

As a bonus, the carpet seems to have  made the van alot warmer, or maybe it’s just the weather warning up.

We also have new curtains being made for the front window which will be ready this week.  Before he left on his trip, Roy put up the new curtain rail which is now extended back over the side windows so when drawn, the curtains are well out of the way of the side windows.  Anyone have any use for a perfectly good u-shaped curtain track? I know where there is one going free!

My next job was to remove the vent linings from inside the van, first to clean them, and then paint them as over time the plastic has yellowed somewhat and they were looking a little shabby.  Being rather vertically challenged, my trusty step stool  proved invaluable to enable me to reach  and remove the fly screen covers and then the mouldings.  Next it was time to make up a makeshift spray booth outside and also mask off the fly screens as the mesh did not need to be painted white. Undercoat was done one day and the top coat was applied the following day.  And yep, again I forgot to take any pictures, and now that they are back in situ, they are impossible to take a half decent photo of.Vent linings back in place.

Now our vents have what are called MaxxAir vent covers over them which means we can leave the vents open in inclement weather.  The male member of this duo has always told me that the MaxxAir covers cannot be removed, as I’ve said previously, I am vertically challenged and don’t do climbing ladders or heights.  Pat offered to climb up onto the roof and remove the covers for me, as he assured me that he had removed his covers for cleaning and he thought that ours should be the same.  And what do you know? Pat was right.  So down they came and I set to cleaning them.

Before and after……notice the difference?

So now they are all back in place, spick and span with newly painted vent linings  inside, it makes a difference to the amount of light coming in too.

Walls and ceilings have been washed down, pantry tidied, drawers washed and tidied.  The protective covers on our leather chairs have been redyded as the black material had faded in the sun.  The outside of the van has been washed clean.  Oven has been cleaned and kitchen cupboards cleaned and tidied.

It hasn’t been all work though, there has been plenty of relax time as well as going out and about. Along with Pat & Sue, I was invited to dinner with friends Gary & Marg who live at Tokerau Beach.  We had a lovely evening, and the dinner was great too with lots of fish on the menu.Marg & Gary with the remains of the smoked fish

I was also invited to join Pat & Sue for lunch out in Mangonui to help celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary….and yes,  you guessed it, I did not take a single picture, but it was a very pleasant lunch eaten whilst sitting in the sun on the waterfront watching the world go by.

I still have a few things on my to do list, but never fear….you should see the list I have for Roy to do on his return 😘

Past lives

September 20, 2016

Last week, our old home & business Pen-y-bryn Lodge was featured on a NZ TV programme called Kiwi Living.  We heard from many people who saw the programme, some we had not heard from for years, who saw it and thought of us.  We owned the Lodge from 1997 until 2010 when we sold it to James & James.  We were very fortunate to find such a lovely couple to take over the reigns from us and who have gone on to add their stamp on the place.  

For those of you who reside out of NZ, you can watch the programme via the link here.

Tokerau Beach

September 13, 2016

We have been at a PoP (Park over Property for NZMCA Members) at Tokerau Beach for just over a week now, enjoying the lovely surrounds and friendly hosts as well as the close proximity to good beaches, perfect for fishing and relaxing.

Our parking position on the property looking down toward beach.

Looking onto the site from the gate.

We have been having a bit of a spring clean, tidying lockers, sorting out cupboards and general cleaning whilst the weather is reasonably settled.  The plan is to move back to Matai Bay later in the week, but knowing us, those plans could change in an instant.  Watch this space

Fishing and catching

September 11, 2016

As someone once told me fishing is easy, catching is the hard part.  This  week we have been out fishing a couple of times and have even managed to catch some fish. Roy and I went fishing along Tokerau Beach on Monday morning,  with a decent offshore wind blowing, it did not take too long to get the kite out and with others telling us we don’t have to put the line out too far, we dutifully sent it off about 750m off shore and then waited for the fish to take a liking to our bait and hooks.waiting………

Sue enough after an hour or so, we pulled the line in, but it wasn’t looking too good, as hook after hook came back empty, until the very last hook which had a fish on it. I wandered down to the waters edge to check and see if it was a keeper or had to be released, I was delighted to see it was of a reasonable size, but I did get our board outto measure it on just to make sure.

The blue line on the board is the 30cm mark for snapper…..yes, I think it passes the mark!

That will be perfect for dinner plus enough for a fillet to put into the freezer for another day.

We thought we would try our luck again on Wednesday, this time Roy was going out with Gary.  They elected for an early start and those that know me know that I am allergic to early starts!! Besides, there was only room in Gary’s buggy for the two of them.  They duly arrived back by lunch time, telling me that they had had a little success…

Yep, I think it’s big enough.
After filleting them all and each taking our portions,  we also took the cheeks/wings to smoke for some lovely smoked fish.  A great couple of days fishing, or should I say catching, and now that the strong winds have finally subsided we can hopefully look forward to catching more fish this week. 

Matai – Kaitaia – Tokerau Beach

September 6, 2016

No, we are not creatures of habit, really, truly, even if it seems as though we are heading back over familiar ground. But we do seem to drift around this region quite regularly, anyone would think that we quite like it around here.  Our two weeks at Matai Bay was nearly up, which meant it was time to move on.  On the Sunday afternoon, with heavy rain forecast overnight, we thought it may be judicious to move from our position on the far side of the camp to nearer the exit ready for our scheduled departure on Wednesday.  

With that in mind and with their usual due diligence, Roy and Pat spent the next 40 minutes or so walking around the prerimeter of the camp, checking for soft spots, making sure the track they were to follow was free of hazards and marking up the path in which  to go.  With everything checked out, Pat went first…the following video shows the latter part of the move.

We followed shortly after, we parked up and were quickly set up ready to make our exit on Wednesday.  And just as well we did move as sure enough the rain did come, heavy and plenty of it overnight as well as most of Monday  which made the ground very boggy.  Just like the previous week, others became stuck in the mud.  With Pats tow rope it tatters from breaking the week before whilst attempting to tow out a bus, we had to improvise and twist together some rope and use the spades to dig out  stuck vehicles.  

Meanwhile we had been fishing a few times, each time with good success at both Karikari Beach and Tokerau Beach.  Roy also put out the line at Matai Bay on Saturday evening,  managing to retrieve it (and the snapper) just in time for the start of the rugby.  

We had a couple of visitors before we left Matai Bay.  The first were Gary & Marg whom we knew from our days in Tokoroa.  Gary used to work for Roy at Kinleith and its been a few years since we have seen them so it was lovely to meet up again.  They now live at Tokerau Beach and kindly invited us, as well as Pat & Sue, along to their place for dinner on Tuesday evening so we could continue reminiscing.  Our next unexpected visitor was Bernice’s brother Steve, who just happened to be in Mangonui and Taipa on business.  He popped in to catch up with us and it was great to hear about his recent holiday in Bali.  Then on Tuesday evening we had a great evening and meal with Gary & Marg and we look forward to a few more catch ups soon.

Wednesday came and with perfect weather,  we reluctantly left Matai Bay to head into Kaitaia as we had a list of things to get done, appointments to keep and mail to pick up.  Over the next few days we got nearly everything done and Friday we said hooray to Pat & Sue as they head across the Tasman for a break but they will be back soon to join us.   Brian & Marj called in to say hello as they are currently parked in Houhora but had come down to Kaitaia for a days shopping, it was lovely to catch up with them again. 

  Our last piece of mail arrived on Saturday morning which meant we could pack up, visit the dump station, fill up with LPG and head off.  This time we were off on just a short trip back out toward Matai Bay but not quite as far, this time to a PoP (park over property) at Tokerau Beach where we shall be for the next  week or so. 

Blue whale

September 4, 2016

It’s not everyday that you can say that you have the opportunity to see a blue whale  However, this particular Blue Whale was one that met its demise and was washed up on a remote northland beach not to far from where we were staying.  

Although we have seen a blue whale once before  but that was a display at the Natural History Museum, in London, which you can read about here

Access to view the beached whale was by sea only and Pat kindly offered to take me in their inflatable boat so I could get a look at the whale and although I don’t have a picture of me in the boat whizzing off across the water, here is a picture of Pat & Sue venturing off on a fishing expedition.

We had it on good authority that the said whale had  beached some weeks previously and decisions were still being made as to what to do with the carcass. Particularly as access to it was by sea only, its proximity to a couple of private beaches with some pretty large and no doubt expensive homes there, the occasional waft of decaying carcass was understandably not welcomed by the home owners. And with the whale being 22m in length it certainly poses a rather significant problem.  To give you an idea of what 22m is like, it’s our bus end to end with Pat & Sue’s, with one of the cars tacked on at the end…..and probably similar size in height and depth as well.  In other words – rather large!

The whale had been washed up for a couple of weeks, and the colour of it was no longer blue, it had been bleached by the sun and now resembled a large piece of iron stained marble.  In fact it is not until you get closer in to view it that you realise that it was in fact a whale……but not so close as to smell it!

According to Wikipedia, The Blue whale is the largest known animal to have existed.  By comparison, one of the largest known dinosaurs of the Mesozoic Era was Argentinosaurus, which is estimated to have weighed up to 90 tonnes, comparable to the average blue whale.

So I can now say that I have seen a Blue Whale albeit a decaying deceased one!

New addition

September 1, 2016

We interrupt the usual banter on offer here to announce a new addition to our family, a granddaughter.  

Roy’s eldest son Simon and wife Anita safely delivered their daughter yesterday 31 August 2016. They have named her Maria Anne Killeen Vannini and she weighed in at 7lbs 6oz.  Everyone is well, happy and overcome with emotion.   Of course we think she’s gorgeous, not that we are biased in any way at all.  

Congratulations to Simon and Anita on your long awaited baby, may she bring you much happiness. 

Matai Bay

August 24, 2016

We’re back at one of our favourite places in New Zealand, Matai Bay on the Karikari Peninsular in Northland.  We left our previous parking place, albeit reluctantly, and headed into Kaitaia for a day to replenish the larders, book in for some work to be done, cross a few things off the shopping list, and catch up with a few people before making our way out to Matai Bay.

We arrived at the DoC campsite to find that there had been considerable rain over the previous few days which resulted in lots of boggy ground with evidence of others having being stuck in the mud. We parked up in the top entrance on the hard gravel in behind Pat & Sue,  so then Roy and Pat could walk around the camp site, investigating options and checking out ground conditions, including testing it out with the cars first.  After about a good 45 minutes of deliberating, they came to the conclusion that yes, we could get into our favourite parking place so long as they followed the route that they had determined.  

Roy led the way.  I have to admit that I could not watch as he drove around the perimeter of the camp to our desired spot but we were soon parked up, ready to relax,  closely followed by Pat in their van.

And the view of the bay

Once settled in, it was time to go fishing.  It seems like forever since we have had the kite out fishing but with the wind blowing in the right direction for getting the kites out off Karikari Beach, we all headed off over to the other side of the peninsular.

Away off in the distance along the beach is Pat & Sue fishing, and just past them is Jim. 


We put the line out, hauling it back in after an hour or so with two fish on the line, one on the first hook and one fish on the last hook.
The smaller snapper was 33cm and the big fella was 48cm.
Perfect, enough fish for dinner for the next couple of nights. 

 Actually, that brings me to an aside that I have been pondering for some time now. The spelling of Snapper has changed over the years, once upon a time it was always spelt Schnapper, I wonder why or when it changed?  Anyone care to enlighten me?

Back to the present, this is what it looked like for dinner last night 

Snapper with tomato, avocado and orange salad with olives and coriander
And damn delicious it was too!


Every morning Roy goes off for an early morning wander, walking quite some distances at times and he always comes back with some ‘treasure’ of some kind that he finds along his meanderings.  But this particular morning he came back with this offerring found washed up on the shore

I think it may be a little on the small side!!