Archive for February, 2013

Dinner, fishing, farewells.

February 28, 2013

We were back at Ambury Park late Sunday (18th) where we set ourselves up with the guest accommodation (tent) set up in front of the van.  Dinner was a simple Chinese Dumplings with some amazing side dishes, Antony joined us as well as Kenny, Alex’s friend over for the weekend from Brisbane.  Kenny flew out early Monday morning so we were all up and about fairly early.  Some members of the touring party were very energetic and headed up Mangere mountain.

mangere 7Main vent mangere 1Late lava dome in the centre

mangere 3Looking south

mangere 4One of the most expensive bridges in New Zealand as a result of a dispute between unions and central Government in the 1980s resulting in a two year hiatus in the construction.

mangere 5Looking down on the  old oxidation ponds for the main sewage system for Auckland.  With new technology and a different approach these ponds have been reclaimed and are now a public area with walk and cycle tracks.

Tuesday and a bit of an emotional rollercoaster of a day, but more on that later.  First off, we had a dinner organised by Alex for the four of us to attend.  She had booked us into the French Cafe in Symonds St, Auckland, where we all agreed that we would have the 8 course degustation menu.  What followed was a fantastic evening of food, wine, service and company. 

menuThe menu


First,  the breads with choice of butters followed by the Amuse Bouche of sweet corn soup and goats cheese beignets.


Tomato Consommé                    King Fish Ceviche          


Risotto                                       Quail


Egg yolk ravioli                           Snapper


Duck                                         Strawberries

602235_10151519370727994_522265829_n Chocolate

Roy and Alex also had the wines which were recommended for each course.

All in all, an outstanding and memorable evening which we will not forget for a very long time.  Thanx Alex.

Wednesday and we headed off to Whakatane, Alex and Ants in the RAV4 with Roy and Bernice following in the van.  Alex had wanted to catch up with her uncle John plus she was eager to get out and catch some fish.   On yet another stunning day in the Bay, Bernice, Alex, Ants and John headed out for a days fishing.     


Alex and her catch              Ants reeling them in

sizesize 4

Bernice with the one that went back   John with Alex’s catch.

We managed to get ourselves a nice feed of snapper before we headed back to shore as poor Ants had a bout of providing burley for the fishing, he was duly returned to solid ground and Julie came and joined us a for a bit more fishing.  Once the fishing was over, Julie and Alex leapt overboard for a swim to cool off.

oceanAlex in the sea

Back to shore and time to clean up the boat, and fillet the fish.

concentration Alex filleting

dog fish skins fish for dinner 2  

Julie feeding Chum fish skins          Alex trying the same

fish for dinner 3 Dinner outside – guess what?

That evening one of John’s friends brought around a striped marlin (in large pieces) to be smoked.

smoke 1 smoke 2 

This was done the next morning for some four hours, a crayfish was also cooked (not smoked)


The crayfish and a couple of pieces of smoked marlin accompanied us back to Les and Steve’s in Auckland.  The crayfish was consumed as an entree and some of the marlin was made into a pate, both of which were consumed with gusto.

We returned to Auckland on Friday as Alex was flying back to London on Saturday evening. We left the van at John’s and all headed back to Auckland in the RAV4.   Alex goes home with a NZ tan to replace her UK ‘tan’!  A very full on three weeks for her,  we loved having her around again, and we will miss her.  Until next year..xx

We spent the weekend catching up with chores, shopping, family and friends.  It just so happened that last November, John had purchased a very cheap airfare to Auckland for Monday returning Tuesday, so he joined us at Steve & Les’  for a brief overnight visit.  We had a few appointments to attend to, fitting them all in in-between transportation duties.  Monday night and all three of Steve and Les’ daughter, partners and children came round for dinner along with Antony and Neil.  A fun evening had by all. 

Appointments all done, we headed back to Whakatane yesterday (Wedensday 27th), ready to head out fishing again today (Thursday).  A good number of snapper were caught before heading back to land .  Another stunning day on the water and in the Bay of Plenty, although Roy did manage to knock his hat off into the water, followed by his glasses ……. and his fishing gear!  We are here for another few days now, to get him replacement spectacles! 

white island 

Oh and yes there was some activity on White Island as can be seen in this photo of the plume of smoke and steam.

On to Shakespear

February 18, 2013

And yes I do know how to spell Shakespear as that is the correct spelling for the Park name!!

On the Tuesday night when Alexandra returned, we went into town to have dinner with Simon and ended up at De Post in Mt Eden.  It just so happened that it was quiz night so we decided to enter a team.  After some good Rounds and some not so good rounds we ended the night fifth equal, a good result.

And before we leave a couple of photos from Ambury.

At the park there is an open frame through which one may take photos, so here goes


But this has to be one of the best signs seen for some time


On to Shakespear at the end of the Whangaparaoa Peninsula north of Auckland City.  And so here we are in another Auckland Regional Council Park.


The following morning walk revealed a great dawn viewed from the top of the hills surrounding the back of the campsite.


And then looking down on the campsite and the beach where we were located.


Auckland City from afar


Bird life within the park and surrounding the campsite was prolific as here

 black back  Black Backed gull

 dotterel Dotterel

 quail  Quail

waxeye Wax Eye

peacockPeacockfantail 2   Fantail

tui Tui


But back to our adventures. Alexandra had invited a number of friends to meet up with her so we were duly invaded and set up our own tent town.

tents upTents being erected

537134_10151462511017660_1128090868_n The team

beach cricket Beach cricket

cricket 1 Park cricket

485383_10151464734887660_82528384_nThe outfield

shot Shot!!!

It should be noted that the cricket bat was a piece of suitably shaped driftwood found on the beach and the first ball was of the tennis variety, also found.  We had to call Antony for extra supplies of balls to be purchased.

Meanwhile, in the same cabbage tree being used as the wicket, a native pigeon was feasting on the flowers and seeds and taking little interest in proceedings.

what 2

Alexandra and Khaled in for a swim


The team gathered for a farewell shot

 the team

And some more examples of pohutukawa and the amazing shapes that they assume.

pohutukawa 3

pohutukawa 2


The story of the Jip Jop.

For many years, Tip Top the ice cream company had their main building alongside the motorway in Auckland and the script letters they used for their name had a long tail on the T of each word. This made them appear as J.  They were known as Jip Jop by a certain member of the family.

Now even Tip Top have recognised the problem and changed the logo to delete the tails on the T and can now clearly be seen to be Tip Top.  (ah.. memories of foie gras in a little restaurant named Tip Top in France two years ago)

tip top 1


February 10, 2013

Saturday we headed up to the Lighthouse at the Manukau Heads for a look around this part of the country as it is all new for us. We arrived at the Lighthouse and discovered that today was  the 150th Anniversary of the sinking of the Orpheus and major celebrations were earmarked for the day.  The Orpheus sank off the Manukau Heads on 7 February 1863: 189 crew out of the ship’s complement of 259 died in the disaster, making it the worst maritime tragedy to occur in New Zealand waters. 


Manukau Heads                          Lighthouse in view


View from Lighthouse to carpark   view down harbour – SkyTower on horizon there somewhere.


Although there were bands playing, food on offer plus much more, we decided to head off and explore our way around the rest of the headland and check out the many beaches and bays.

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Wattle Bay                                       Orua Bay west


Orua Bay east

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Pohutakawa over Big Bay       And the skytower on the horizon

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Grahams Beach

Sticking with our usual theme of birds and other things that fly, we came across a top dresser doing his work.


On our return to the Regional Park, opposite the entrance we caught a glimpse of something peeking out from behind some bushes…

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Not sure of exactly what this plane is but it has obviously been there a while.

Awhitu had filled up with many family groups out camping for the weekend and in the next park a group of scouts/cubs were having a weekend away.  It was great to see so many families out an  about having fun in a lovely setting.

Sunday and time to leave Awhitu and head back to Ambury. Ron & Janet called to say that they were coming to visit us which seemed like a perfect opportunity for Bernice to have her turn at making scones.  The results speak for themselves and a second batch was quickly made!

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And on to Awhitu

February 10, 2013

First a little bit of a retrospective view of a couple of photos that were omitted from previous posts.   


The Matata Nessie in estuary      Parked in the Karangahake Gorge

We left Ambury late on Wednesday morning and first headed to find a dump station in Manukau. We found this at the Mobil Station on Wiri Station road and were pleased to find it easily accessible.  A very pleasant and scenic drive from there through Waiuku to Awhitu, another Auckland Regional Park, on the Southern tip of the Manukau Harbour.  The choice of parking areas was another pleasant surprise and we were soon set up in prime location. 


All set up with the laundry out!    View from the van door.

We spent the next couple of days relaxing and exploring the area.  There are two lovely beaches just a short walk from the van.  We chose to park in the Brook Homestead park rather than the Peninsular park as there were others parked in the Peninsular one and the parking was much flatter in the Brook parking.  The added bonus was we were the only ones there, plus the trees offered great shade. 

One walk was to the old Brook Homestead, built for the Brook family in 1878.  This farm park remained in the Brook family until they sold the land to the ARC in 1971.  The old jetty which provided a lifeline for the family in the early days due to lack of roads is currently under repair. 

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Brook Homestead                           Jetty at sunrise


Large tree in the grounds, apparently one of the largest Macrocarpas in the world at nearly 6metres wide.

The Beaches are long, white, and very shallow making it a wonderful safe spot for families to go swimming. Apparently the fishing and oysters are very plentiful as well.

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Long beach                                    Carved into the cliff

Just off the beach there is an island which is accessible at low tide


Bernice wading out at high tide    a few hours later, plug pulled!

Awhitu is a bird haven with its wetlands, salt marshes, beach and intertidal areas.  We saw a large variety of birds and heard many more including moreporks (owls) in the evenings.

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And now some shots of Pohutukawa trees along the cliffs at the ends of the beaches.  They are a very tenacious as can be seen. They cling precariously on the very edge and then even when they slide down they are still able to keep some of their root system intact to provide sustenance.

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On Friday Antony and Neil came for a visit, of course that included staying for dinner, a marinated butterflied bbq’d  leg of lamb followed by a few games of Sequence.  I think we should be getting royalties for the number of people we have introduced to this game!

P1010813Antony, Neil & BBQ 

You may recall that we mentioned in a previous post that we were having an in-house competition for the best scones.  Below is Roy’s first effort, and very nice they were too.


Oh, and you may recall we also mentioned earlier an issue with the bike rack?  Well, we had decided in all our wisdom to remove the bike rack from the back of the RAV4 (the bike rack attached to the spare wheel), and put it on the spare wheel on the back of the van.  In theory a great idea, but in practise – NOT!!  It seems that the wheel mount was not strong enough to hold the spare wheel plus the bike rack and the two bikes.  When we reached Awhitu we noticed that things were not right, we quickly took everything off the back to inspect the damage. OOoooppps.  Guess what?  The bike rack is now back on the RAV.


Auckland, Ambury, and Alex

February 7, 2013

There is a dearth of photos in this entry due to the fact that the camera battery was flat, we had ‘lost’ the battery charger for the camera although Roy was sure that we had left it behind during our housesitting duties. We shall pick it up once we get to Auckland.

The trip from Matata northwards was uneventful. Our first stop was in Tauranga to empty the waste tanks and fill up with water as we knew that there was a very good and accessible dump station near Tauranga airport and it was not too far out of our way. Our next brief stop was in the Karangahake Gorge where we found a good spot to stop on the side of the road next to the river for our lunch. By mid afternoon we were at our destination for the evening which was the shell bank at Kaiaua where motorhomes line the shore, and the sea laps just a few feet from the door. A stunning spot that is generally peaceful and quiet with great views.

Saturday and we were ready to head off by mid morning and again an uneventful drive through to Ambury Park near Mangere Bridge. Ambury is one of Auckland Regional Council’s 26 public parks and this is a particulary lovely one as it is close to the city, near the airport, and is a hidden gem which many locals do not know of its existence. It is nestled on the shore of the Manukau Harbour and is a working farm as well as a education centre. The farm has goats, sheep, cows, chickens, pheasants, pigs, horses, turkeys, rabbits as well as a gazillion Pukekos plus numerous other birds of all varieties. The park is not only popular with school and kindergarten groups but also for many families to spend a day or two with large picnic and BBQ areas as well as camping areas. Over the weekend there were many family groups out enjoying the amazing weather as well as the facilities on offer with a number of them camping and obviously enjoying themselves, all of this is only 15kms from downtown Auckland.

We quietly and quickily settled ourselves in, and spent the rest of the day sorting out a few bits and pieces, one of which was to move the bike rack from the back of the RAV4 to the Motorhome as we thought this would be a better position for it…….more on this later!

Sunday and we had a visit from Ron & Janet and we spent a lovely afternoon chatting over tea and scones which Janet had kindly brought out with her. Later Glennis & Robin arrived and spent the evening with us catching up. Their visits included much discussion regarding scones, as i admit that I would have to be one of the worst scone makers around, unfortunately one skill my mother could not impart. She made the most amazing scones in the blink of an eye, and Roy’s Mum was an equally fantastic scone maker. We have followed their recipes, made them alongside them, and mine still come out like rock cakes!!! So the next challenge is that Roy and I are having a scone-off!!

Monday and we headed into town and caught up with Jacky & Chris, and picked up the camera battery charger! as well as doing the washing and a few other chores before heading back to the van. It wasn’t long before we were off again, this time to the airport to meet up with Antony, forming a welcoming party for Alex who was arriving early evening from London.

We did not have to wait too long before she was through Customs and warmly greeted by us all. It is lovely to see her again as it is just over a year since she and Bernice were in Singapore and Bali, and nearly two years since we last saw her in London. We all headed back to the van, before Antony left us and we settled in for an early night as Alex had been traveling for nearly 37hrs and deserved an early night. Unfortunately the amazing weather we had been enjoying deserted us for a couple of days, I am sure Alex thought that we had been inventing tales of hot summer days!

Tuesday and we headed into town to say a quick hi to Jacky before we dropped Alex off in town to catch up with her friend Claire. Roy and I headed off down to the waterfront for a bit of lunch and a wander around the fish market and the waterfront. We arranged to pick up Alex then headed off over to the North Shore as we were due to go to Steve & Les’ for dinner but first we headed to Albany Mall to take care of a little shopping. We also met up with Antony and Neil before we all headed off for dinner. Steve was away in Melbourne, but Leslie had invited two of her daughters and her grandchildren along. Sarah was there with her three gorgeous boys Ben, Ash and Finn, and Fran was there with her daughter Beatrix, born just 2 weeks ago.

Alex with Beatrix.
We had a great evening with everyone, before heading back to Ambury and the van. Alex had an early flight Wednesday morning as she is heading south for a week. Once she was safely delivered to the airport, we packed up and headed off to our next destination for the next few days which is Awhitu, another Regional Park.

And the story with the bike rack? Well, that is for the next installment!!!

Ta ta Matata

February 4, 2013

First it was a drive up the coast a little to check out Pikowai for parking, sea conditions, swimming, fishing potential et al. It’s a lovely spot with toilets and coin operated showers just like at the DOC camp at Matata except at Pikowai you are parked very close to the sea.
20130201-151045.jpgothers all settled in.

There was hardly a soul in sight along the beach however we did come across someone’s kontiki gear.20130201-151238.jpg
A Kontiki traditionally came in the form of a very small pontoon-type boat, raft-like structure, kite or inflated object designed to be taken offshore by the wind, your fishing line can be taken out much further than by traditional surf casting. These days there are powered Kontiki’s which do not require an off shore wind.

We went for a wander and a paddle, the sea was a bit rough for swimming with strong rips in evidence but we were happy with cooling off our feet.20130201-151532.jpgthree birds in a row!
Speaking of birds, it is some time since we bored you all with a selection of bird photos but here goes!



John and Jenny came and joined us for dinner on Wednesday evening and we managed to put on a bit of a flame throwing display. Actually, I missed it but apparently the BBQ and gas had a bit of a misunderstanding and spurted flames out of the side of the BBQ. A quick switch off of the gas, remove the food to the oven in the van, and all was good.

Thursday and Roy’s cousin Robert came to visit for the day, we spent a lovely afternoon chatting, laughing, sorting out Robert’s iPad issues and going for a walk along the beach with his dog.

Although the beach was a little crowded…NOT!

Thursday and our last night in this part of NZ, we go into John’s for dinner and give him a hand in taking down his two tents. Work done, a lovely dinner and a game or 5 of Sequence before we bade our farewells to John & family and sunny Whakatane. Which reminds me, did you know that Whakatane is New Zealand’s sunshine capital, taking that mantle from Nelson last year? Whakatane thought they had the record the previous year but Nelsonians wrestled the title off them by alleging Whakatane had some dodgy recording instruments. All good things come to those who wait they say. We can attest to Whakatane’s sunny state, the weather has been utterly glorious the whole time we have been here. Till next time.

Oh and one of the best things about the camp at Matata? These laundry tubs scattered throughout the camp complete with wringers!



February 1, 2013

We had arranged to meet my sister Hilary and her daughter Jenna in Matata for a couple of days R&R. Tuesday morning we packed up and Bernice headed off from John’s first, with the tent in the car to get the camp site set up for Roy’s arrival later. He was staying on for a while as we had been having trouble with a couple of the hydraulic levelers not wanting to retract, and one of John’s mates kindly offered to fix then for us. For those who want to know the tech details, apparently the levelers retract once the hydraulics are released and two springs pull the feet up, however, it seemed that two of the springs had lost a bit of their spring and had become overstretched. The clever man removed the springs, took them away, heated, cut them and did whatever wonders he did to them, came back, fitted them and voilà……fixed! We assume that they became stretched over time when extending them full length whereas now we have large blocks that we place under each foot so they only have to extend half the distance. That’s the theory in any case.

Meanwhile, Bernice had got to Matata and set about putting up the tent in the hot midday sun. Luckily Hilary and Jenna were not far off arriving and they were able to assist. We had no sooner finished putting up the tent and making ourselves comfortable, when Roy arrived. Before too long we were all set up and hot and bothered therefore some cooling off was required and a quick walk to the beach was in order.

Hilary and Bernice cooling off

20130131-114948.jpgThese birds also cooling off!
Back to camp and time to pump up those beds, just as well we have an electric pump for this and they were inflated in no time.

Hilary and Jenna try out their accommodation.

We spent the next couple of days doing very little apart from playing the odd game of Sequence or twenty, moving ourselves into the next bit of shade to avoid the hot burning sun. And hot indeed it was as our thermometer attests.

20130131-231736.jpg Ok, so we did place the outside thermometer in full sun, but we can assure you it was still pretty damn hot.