Archive for June, 2014

This is the (d)awning of …..

June 30, 2014

The new awning is in place plus new side and front windbreaks, as well as a ‘skirt’ which provide us with a nice breeze free area in which to sit especially when the weather is a little inclement. We have been waiting to have the awning replaced for over a year now, observing all sorts of designs and options as well as manufacturers. We kept hearing about a Whangarei business that came highly recommended from a number of people so we were happy to wait until we headed north again.

We took the van into Palmer canvas in Whangarei last Wednesday morning and left it there for two days whilst we took ourselves off to Whakapirau to stay with Jacky & Chris.

We spent a lovely couple of days with them in Whakapirau having a few laughs and the odd rum or two before we headed back into Whangarei on Friday to pick up the van. We were given a demonstration by the lovely staff at Palmers of how everything works and goes together before we headed on our way, hoping that we would remember everything. First stop was at the dump station to empty the waste tanks and fill up with fresh water, that task completed, we headed further out of town before stopping at the petrol station in Tikipunga. We had previously done a recce around Whangarei to find a service station that has auto LPG as well as being easily accessible. But just our luck, a fuel tanker truck complete with large trailer was filling up the stations tanks as we arrived, blocking the entrance/exit for the LPG fill. Oh well, no hurry, we shall wait for him to finish. 15 minutes was all it took before we were on our way again – but not too far though as we needed to hook on the car, a stop at the first convenient rest area was required to enable us to hitch the car to the A-frame and onto the back of the van. We were greeted at the rest area by a flock/herd/brood of chickens.


We were heading to Whananaki, which is just 35kms from Whangarei and is a delightful DoC camping area right on Otamure Bay. The beach is lined with Pohutakawas which must look stunning at Christmas time when they are in full bloom.

By the time we got to the camp site, it was late afternoon, perfect timing for drinks though as it did not take long for us to set up and settle ourselves in. Saturday morning was time to test out the new awning and to see how easy it is to put together, first the awning – easy – it rolled out as you would expect. Next, we attached the skirts to the side of the van, this stops the wind from funneling through under the van. The skirt attaches very easily via domes which are attached to the base of the van. Next, we slide the front windbreak along the awning roll, we have had this made so it can be placed anywhere along the front. Next, attach the side windbreak, this necessitates sliding one edge up along a channel fitted on the side of the van and hooking the pole through a cleat at the top with the other end of the pole fitting into a holed drilled into the awning roll. This is much easier than it sounds, so much so that even the vertically challenged one can reach up and do this all by herself!!


We have had just the one side made which can be used at either end in conjunction with the front piece so whichever way the wind is blowing we can quickly and easily move it from one end to the other. Zips join the pieces together and close up the corner, a few pegs along the ground and we are as snug as a bug. What a roaring success it is, we have put our outside table and chairs in one corner with plenty of room to move around.


It will prove to be very useful throughout the year we are sure. We chose to have large clears put in each section, we had observed other variations where the add-on was very dark, we wanted a nice light area. We also wanted something that we would actually use as we have met a number of motorhomers who having had something made, subsequently rarely use it as it is either too bulky or too difficult to put together. Ours stores away nicely in a bag made for it all plus with materials we have chose it is not heavy or bulky but it is very strong. Who knows, in the winter with the sun streaming in we could grow tomatoes in there!

What shall we call it…..Conservatory? Loggia? Porch? Enclosure? Verandah? Portico? Stoa? Lanai? Guest wing? Glass house?

Whakapirau to Uretiti

June 24, 2014


No, we have not fallen off the face of the earth but we have been holed up at Jacky and Chris’ place at Whakapirau.  We left the van at Uretiti after making our escape out of the driveway, but then Bernice returned to stay at the van for a couple of nights as the netball ANZ Championship minor semi finals were on. Sunday and Monday nights Bernice spent back at the van whilst Roy stayed on at Whakapirau with Jacky (Chris had returned to Auckland for a few days).  By the time Tuesday morning arrived, the weather had deteriorated with heavy rain and very strong winds blowing.  Bernice was umming and aaahing whether she should ride out the bad weather in the van or beat a hasty retreat to the calmer climes of Whakapirau.  Decision made (aided by the promise of French Onion soup for lunch and Boeuf Bourguignon for dinner!),  a quick trip over the Brynderwyns, through the flood waters around Maungataroto to the relative calm of Whakapirau.  Here we stayed for the rest of the week.  

Jacky and Chris relocated their hen Mabel (the brown one) from their home in Auckland to the country.  Mabel has made a few new friends and three strays have joined her on the property where they happily roam around.  They all became rather excited one day when Roy did a bit of weeding, disturbing the ground and uncovering lots of juicy worms and insects.  


Mabel and her entourage                Heading down to assist Roy

Not only are there numerous birds and other wildlife around the property but there are hundreds of skinks, usually found sunning themselves on warm rocks in the afternoon sun.


Skinks in the sun

There are also a number of bromeliads growing happily and at this time of the year (winter) provide a welcome bit of colour.


By the time the weekend came round it was time for us to head back to the van at Uretiti as Monday morning the van was due in at Whangarei as we had booked it into a car painters to get a professional cut and polish.  It was to take them all day Monday and half of Tuesday to complete the work and as the netball semifinal between Waikato Magic and Queensland Firebirds was to be played on Monday evening, we arranged to stay on site for the night.  Whilst the van was being beautified, we took the opportunity to get lots of shopping done, we managed to pick up lots of bits and pieces we had been meaning to pick up for some time, little things such as; cables to sort out reception for the second TV in the bedroom, new fly screen material, get spare keys cut, WoF for the RAV and new brakes fitted, new covers for the car seats and a piece of matting for the van.   As well,  we managed to catch up with friends Dave & Di (ex Oamaru).  Although David was currently away in the UK, we had a good catch up with Di and caught up with all their news.

One day whilst passing the bridge  over the Hatea River – the entrance to Whangarei Harbour – the bridge was being raised to let ships through.  The Bridge is officially called Te Matau a Pohe – translated as ‘The fishhook of Pohe’ the Maori chief who welcomed the first English settlers to Whangarei.  Pohe  was very skilled in manufacturing fish hooks using traditional materials and styles. His hooks were so practical, many of the settlers used his hooks in preference to the standard English hooks made of steel. He was also instrumental in building bridges between the two cultures during the first years of English settlement amongst Maori. Pohe used his ranking to protect many of the first settlers from being killed.

It is certainly a stunning looking bridge with the raised portion shaped like a traditional fishing hook.

6 11

Bridge being raised                          Crossing the bridge

We picked up the shiny, polished van on Tuesday afternoon and headed back out to Uretiti. 

7Pat & Sue parked on the left, the Vannini’s shiny van on the right.

Now for the nature segment and unusual sights, odds and ends.

These fungi are seldom seen growing from the ground, it is much more usual to find them on dead or dying wood on trees or on the ground.  Well in this case they are growing from fallen wood as a little scraping around found that they were growing for some rotting wood a few millimetres below the ground.


These shells were washed up the other day and I have not been able to identify them.  They are a little unusual in that they are growing as a cluster attached to each other, but not from a common point.  Any help in identification would be appreciated.


Throughout New Zealand there are many unusual monuments in out of the way places.  This one is about 50 metres behind the front sand dunes on Bream Bay just north of Uretiti.  A close look revealed its unusual purpose.


Bernice woke one morning complaining of the noise from a rooster or roosters.  There are no houses or properties with signs of sheds or chicken runs anywhere in sight from the camp.  On a walk around several days later found these three enjoying a sunny morning in the sand dunes.  They join the large number wild hens and roosters seen on the side of the road throughout New Zealand.  Obviously these were the culprits that disturbed someone’s sleep.


We left Uretiti on Monday and headed just up the road to Ruakaka.   This Wednesday (tomorrow) the van is due back in at Whangarei for a replacement awning to be made and fitted.  This time, we are getting the experts to do the work unlike that of last years effort  here


View from the door at Ruakaka      Looking across from sandspit

Out on the sandspit there were large numbers of birds often guarding territory or simply displaying consternation at my presence.

These three were looking as if they were arguing over the architectural merits of the ground they were standing and stamping on.  Why three, not sure perhaps adults with a chick from last season.


And this pair were also remonstrating about foreign invaders.


Finally a couple of shots of dawn looking out to the Whangarei Heads


Over the weekend, we tried our hand at making Pastrami.  We were very pleased with the result although we will tweak the proportions of the spices in the mix we made to cover the outside of the beef.  Needless to say it did not last very long!


Finally, the RAV ticked over a milestone recently – 300,000kms and still going strong!



June 12, 2014


This is the first time we have spent any time in the Kaipara Harbour and so a little jaunt seemed appropriate.  We were going to head to Port Albert but we instead headed for a place called Batley where we were told we would be impressed with an old stately home.

And we certainly were as we rounded the last corner into the bay this magnificent building presented itself.


Batley is on the end of one of the many peninsulars that jut into the Kaipara Harbour.  Each of them has a tale to tell as the whole area has a long Maori and European history.

On the way out of Batley spotted what looked like a road along the foreshore on the distance, on closer inspection it turned into a sandbar with many birds parading


On the road away from Batley there was one turnoff so we had to go and have look just in case we might miss something.  The road went to Tanoa.  The main features being a  Marae, Church, Sandy Beach and a statue in the Marae grounds.  The statue is in fact a bust of Queen Victoria which is presented in a glass case on a plinth. 


The church is typical of those found in many of the small country areas in Northland (or for that matter throughout country New Zealand.  An enclosed graveyard alongside the church records the pioneers and Maori families from the area.


The sandy beach provides a view of Batley in the far distance and the large house can be seen.


On the road toward Maungaturoto  we saw the unusual site of a large number (muster/ostentation/pride) of Peacocks running around in a paddock next to the road, but if course as soon as we stopped to take a photo they all scarpered back in to hiding among the tussocks.


Next we did a long loop which took us back past the Whakapirau Road to Paparoa and from there out to Tinopai.  Why?  Well why not, we were here and we might as well see more.  Tinopai is on the peninsula which is the separated by the Wairoa River from the West Coast northern headland of the Kaipara Harbour.  This photo looks down the harbour toward the entrance.  We were there when the tide was running out and there was a strong current heading out.


There is a relatively new wharf/pier structure at the south end of Tinopai along from the launching ramp.


We were at Tinopai on market day, just a small affair in the local hall, primarily bits and pieces but we did manage to score a bargain.  We had recently purchased a couple of serrated small knives for about $12.00 each, which was a bit steep, and were looking at getting a couple more.  Well we managed to find a lady selling exactly the knives we wanted at Tinopai and not only that but the price was $6.00 a piece!!

From Tinopai we headed back toward Matakohe the home of the Kauri Museum.  We had visited the museum some years ago. But we arrived on this day it was close to closing time so we gave it a miss but took some photos of the surrounding buildings.  The whole area looks very tidy but also very quiet at this time of year.

The Church is opposite the museum while the old Post and Telegraph office is alongside the museum.


Further along the road we came across this unusual sign.  Does it mean ‘go fly a kite’  in a derogatory sense or does it have real meaning?  This was at the intersection of State Highway 12 and the turn off to Tinopai.


However, in the opposite direction to the sign and up on a hill could be seen these beasts.  The long tailed ‘tadpole’ was probably in excess of 4 metres long and the parasail type one was some 3 metres wide.  Apparently there is a lot of kite flying in this area.


Meanwhile back a Whakapirau another glorious morning gave another great reflection shot.


And of course the ducks were still keeping away from the maimais


Boats aren’t the only reflections around, the one on the left is on our side at Whakapirau, the one on the right opposite us at Pahi


Just to show that occasionally the days are not quite so fine these to are from the upper deck during rain squalls


However next morning brought a very impressive rainbow in the light drizzle.


Didn’t quite zip these together but you get the idea.


Now when we said we had a problem getting in to the drive at Jacky & Chris’ we had a few getting out as well.  There are no action shots as there was a lot of attention on getting out and too much tension to allow time for photos.

We were parked at the end of the slab on the metal and grass area.  No problem getting going but then we had to turn rather sharply to the left to get onto the dive, not so easy requiring backing and filling and leaving some rubber behind when we couldn’t reverse


The rest was relatively painless until the hairpin at the top.  This necessitated a little use of language to negotiate but did not require the back and fill required to get down.  This shot shows it from the top and as can be seen there is no room on the right to swing before the corner and one immediately loses sight of the road.


Oh and here is a shot of a car on the drive which goes to show it is not overly wide


Next time we are unlikely to drive in!!!

This rather industrious person was seen reducing some of the half metre high kikuyu down to size.  She really does look the part when all togged up for the job


And finally just a couple of nature shots.

These two of an interesting looking fungus growing on a young Puriri.


And these of the flowers of a Kohekohe tree.



June 6, 2014

Today is the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings on the Normandy beaches of northern France.

The Normandy landings, were the landing operations on 6 June 1944 (termed D-Day) of the Allied invasion of Normandy in Operation Overlord during World War II. The largest seaborne invasion in history, the operation began the invasion of German-occupied western Europe, led to the restoration of the French Republic, and contributed to an Allied victory in the war.

Operation Overlord was the name assigned to the establishment of a large-scale lodgement on the Continent. The first phase, the amphibious invasion and establishment of a secure foothold, was codenamed Operation Neptune. To gain the air superiority needed to ensure a successful invasion, the Allies undertook a bombing campaign (codenamed Operation Pointblank) that targeted German aircraft production, fuel supplies, and airfields. Elaborate deceptions, codenamed Operation Bodyguard, were undertaken in the months leading up to the invasion to prevent the Germans from learning the timing and location of the invasion.

The landings were to be preceded by airborne landings near Caen on the eastern flank to secure the Orne River bridges and north of Carentan on the western flank. The Americans, assigned to land at Utah Beach and Omaha Beach, were to attempt to capture Bayeux and Caen the first day, then cut off the Cotentin Peninsula and eventually capture the port facilities at Cherbourg. The British at Sword Beach and Gold Beach and Canadians at Juno Beach would protect the American flank and attempt to establish airfields near Caen. A secure lodgement would be established and an attempt made to hold all territory north of the Avranches-Falaise line within the first three weeks. (Wikipedia)

We remember all too well our visit to this region in France in November 2010;
St Lo, Omaha Beach, Utah beach, Sword, Gold and Juno Beaches, Arromanches, Bayeux, Caen, Benouville, Ranville Pegasus and the many cemeteries. I can vividly recall the eerie silence and the overwhelming emotions, and the tears, that came as we stood in the places where too many young men were killed and tried to imagine a little of what it must have been like. Of course we cannot begin to imagine the experiences those young men (and women) must have encountered as the noise, the sights, the sounds and the feelings must have been terrifying to say the least. You would hope that lessons would have been learnt, yet still we fight.


June 5, 2014

The blog post on our tiki touring around the Kaipara is coming …..or so he says…….meanwhile onto much more exciting things, shopping! Those of you who know me well will no how much I detest shopping, especially the time wasting habit of window shopping – Aaaarrrrrgh! I can think of much better things to do. We dragged ourselves away from the sights and delights of Whakapirau to venture into Auckland as he need to have a repair done on his hearing aid, and we needed to attend to a few other matters as well. First up, I needed a new pair of slippers, my last pair have served me well but there comes a time when you just have to ditch them, so a quick stop at the Zierra (ex Kumfs) store in Albany and I could tick that off my list.

20140605-100721-36441476.jpgthe old and the new

Next, it was a trip down to Takanini to the NZMCA (NZ Motorhome Association) to pick up our new DOC (Department of Conservation) passes as our old one expires at the end of this month. This annual pass allows us to stay in DOC camps all around the country and as we are heading northwards again shortly, we shall need our pass as there are a number of splendid DOC camps to stay in.

From there it was into town to meet up with Roy to complete our shopping. A few grocery items were purchased then it was time to hit the road again as we wanted to get across the Harbour bridge before the peak traffic hour(s). That meant a trip back to Albany mall where Roy could sort out his phone with Vodafone, meanwhile I wandered off to have a look at Howard’s Storage – I just love all those neat little containers that tidy everything away and I could not resist buying a new shower caddy. Then it was back to meet up with Roy who was happy as he had sorted out his phone. On our return to the car, we walked past Stevens – a kitchen supply shop. I had looked in there a week or two ago as I was eyeing up a pasta machine. I have a very good Imperia brand one that I have had for many many years however it is packed away in storage down in Oamaru along with the rest of our possessions. The one I was looking at came complete with ravioli maker et al but of course, it is not on special any more so it is back up to its full price. Damn, I knew I should have bought it then. However, they had another one of their own brand ones on special, pasta maker complete with spaghetti and fettuccine/tagliatelle cutters for the stupendous price of ………… $29.95!!!! Who could resist that bargain?

20140605-102120-37280163.jpg the Motorhome now has a pasta machine on board and I can make pasta to my little hearts content 🙂