Archive for October, 2014

Here we go again…

October 20, 2014

We make a few plans then next minute, they have to be changed….I guess the moral of the story is not to make plans, but more of that later. Also, this blog post is suffering from a complete lack of pictures – our excuse? we just completely forget to take any pics as we are having too much fun living the moments rather than trying to capture every moment!!! Until we get a pair of Google glasses then we shall probably continue to miss taking the odd few pictures. But first let us back track a little.

We arrived at Ambury Park on Friday after an uneventful drive from Wenderholm. We say uneventful but the 30 minutes or more it took us to travel less than one km to get onto Manukau Road off the motorway exit at Market Road was sheer frustration. But we will not complain about Auckland traffic, in particular the phenomenon known as ‘Friday Auckland Traffic’ (or should that be phenomenal), it’s all a part of being here in the big city.

Saturday arrived very wet and miserable sort of a day which was brightened somewhat by a couple of sets of visitors. First visitors to arrive in time for morning tea was Frederick and his sister. We had invited Frederick to come over so that he could pick up some of my sourdough starter as he is trying his hand at making sourdough bread. Frederick also lives full time in his bus and also writes a blog of his travels. I made some Lemon Poppy Seed muffins and Frederick had brought along some of his Date & Cranberry scones as well as a nice hunk of Xmas Cake to be put away for later enjoyment. The scones and muffins went down extremely well, all washed down with coffee whilst we sorted out the problems of the world. A very enjoyable way to spend the morning. Good luck with the bread making Frederick, I look forward to seeing the results of your baking.

Our next visitors were Bill & Estelle, they came over to show us their new acquisition of a motorhome. Now they will be able to come and visit us wherever we are and we can go away together for the odd jaunt. Before too long the day was over.

Sunday dawned with the rain and clouds disappearing over the horizon and before too long it was time to head over to the airport to await the arrival of Alex & Ian from their 36hr travels from London. Antony joined us at the airport to await their arrival. It’s always interesting at the arrival area of the airport, watching people come and go, wondering where they had been, were they visiting friends or family, returning from somewhere exciting, who was meeting them, ………we didn’t have to wait too long before we saw Alex & Ian come through the gates, much excitement all round.

Antony took Alex & Ian back to his place so they could have a shower and freshen up before we all went out for an early dinner at the Zookeepers Son – a pub which hit the headlines recently with an All Black having all too much fun on the premises before missing his flight. No All Blacks were in sight this time, but Simon & Anita were there waiting for us. We had three out of four offspring present – and we did not take one photo! Duh. However, A lovely chance to catch up with everyone, with Alex & Ian managing to stay awake as long as they did before we all called it an early night.

Monday morning, we headed into Antony’s to pick up the travellers as they had to be back at the airport by 9am, this time to fly to Queenstown before they make their way to Christchurch for the coming weekend as Alex is bridesmaid to her friend Claire . So we did not get to see them for long, but we look forward to spending some time with them next week before they head back to London.

This is where our plans start go somewhat awry. We had planned to leave Ambury tomorrow (Tuesday) and head to Kaiaua for a bit of floundering before heading to Rotorua for the long weekend but after a visit to our Dr today for our annual checks, plans have changed yet again. Roy noticed an unusual growth spring up on his arm a couple of weeks ago, he had it checked by the Dr this morning, and by this afternoon he had the growth removed. He has to have it dressed every day for the next few days and stitches removed in 2 weeks, so what with other commitments with family, we have decided to stay in Auckland, then leaving the van and doing our other travelling via car. After Alex returns to the UK and Roy has his stitches removed we will then decide where next.


October 17, 2014

Warning : This blog post contain images that are not suitable viewing for arachnophobes!

The next point of call was to be Wenderholm, another one of the glorious Auckland Regional Council Parks in the northern reaches of greater Auckland.  There is a new camping area that has been developed, well, new since we were last here, and it is a stunning set up.  The camp is a lovely flat area alongside the estuary, beautifully planted out, with lovely facilities. 

5This is a view of the camping area taken from above looking out toward the Puhoi River.  The entrance to the river is to the right of the photo.

6All set up for a stay

37Looking back toward the camp from the main beach front

26Sunrise on a clear day.

There are a number of ducks parading around the park.  They come in all sizes including a trio on an early outing in the river.


At all of the Regional Parks there is rubbish disposal for both waste and recyclables.  These facilities are provided by large plastic hooded in ground bins.  It has been somewhat of a mystery as to how these are emptied as they seem to be at least 3 or 4 metres deep.


But we now do not have to wonder any more.  This morning a truck turned up and simply attached a hoist to the lid of the bins and lifted!  The bins contain a liner attached to a ring frame under the lid.  The complete contents are lifted and a draw rope pulled to open the bag and the contents spilled into the truck  Very neat and tidy, no mess, simply redo the draw rope and replace the the empty bag into the holder.  


As usual there are some very old Pohutukawa trees along the river bank showing the characteristic form with aerial roots, epiphytes. exposed roots and an apparent tenuous hold on the river banks.


Alongside these there are some young Kowhai trees in bloom on the banks as well


All of the livestock is not necessarily in the paddocks.  This rather large spider was in one of the sinks in the toilet block.  This would undoubtedly scare some.


Along with the native trees in the park there is a row of Flame trees in bloom.  They provide a nectar source for the Tui before the flax begins to flower.


And of course there are the Pukeko.  Lots and lots, including these small ones being fed by parents.  These have not even reached the stage of being pom-poms on sticks so are very young.   


During our stay here this week, we have put out the flounder net on a couple of occasions, alas, no flounder were harmed during this process although we do know that there is at least one there, as Roy nearly stepped on one as we were setting the net!  Never mind, another time as we will certainly be back here.  We have really enjoyed our 5 day/4 night stay here, it has been quiet, relaxing and just plain delightful.

And to more domestic matters.  We were able to buy Seville Oranges at the Kerikeri market and these have been made into Marmalade.  Now all we have to find out is if they have the same effect on medication as Grapefruit before some of us can enjoy it.



The one of us that can enjoy the Marmalade, can attest that its damn delicious Smile

Kerikeri & Whangarei

October 17, 2014

Phew, four blog posts and another couple to come.  Hope you are not bored yet!

Time to move on again, this time we were off to Kerikeri for a couple of nights primarily to meet up with Roy’s cousin Stuart to discuss genealogy.  We said farewell to Brian & Marj as well as Gail who were staying on at Maitai Bay and finally Reg & Rima who were returning to Auckland.

During the drive down Bernice received a text suggesting a stop for coffee on the way south.  As we were having difficulty getting consistent  communications we finally got Reg and Rima to join us at Kerikeri for morning tea.  This we did at the stopover in front of the RSA. We were joined by Jim & Judy when they arrived some little time later.  Suffice to say Reg & Rima took little persuasion to stay for the night and join us in dinner at the RSA, so their trip home was again postponed for a further day. 

It was whilst we were having a cuppa that Bernice received a phone call  asking if she remembered entering a competition a couple of weeks prior through a neck tag on a wine bottle.  Yes, she did, and yes she still had the neck tag.  Guess what?  She had won a trip for two to Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne! a quick scurry and a hunt through the rubbish bin uncovered the said wine tag – phew!  So now we have to plan a trip to Oz sometime in the next year.

While dining at the RSA Roy went off to the toilet and failed to return for some time.   It transpired that he had met up with Fairfax Williams a school friend he had not seen since 1966.  They had a discussion about various people and places and agreed to keep in touch.  So now there is another reason to overnight at Kerikeri.

Roy had arranged to see Stuart after lunch the next day so having said farewell  (finally?, well at least for now) to Reg & Rima, off he went. 

The main thing discussed was the latest information Stuart had uncovered through communication with a Swiss genealogist.  Finally the origin of Cosmo Damiano Vannini, Roy’s great-grandfather, has been found.  He was born in Mendrisio, Canton Ticino, Switzerland  on the 2nd of April 1836.  At this time he was named Damiano Santino Vanini.  Also identified were his parents and his grandparents so now we are back to his grandfather Guiseppe Vanini’s birthdate of 1743. (NB A change in spelling of surname). 

Hopefully we will be able to find more details regarding the family in Mendrisio.  The information that we have at present names Damiano’s brothers and sisters and his uncles and aunties on his father’s side of the family.

After having spent time with Stuart we went to have a look at the new NZMCA parking area in Kerikeri.  They have now erected the building for registration.  It takes the form of a lighthouse which is the area’s badge.   A unique building in a very presentable, but very wet, new parking area.


The next morning we went to the Kerikeri Farmer’s Market to stock up on fruit, vegetables and cheese and then we were off to Whangarei

On the way we passed the area where the main road had collapsed in the rain storm which we experienced when we were at Whananaki.  Repairs have ben made by creating parallel road alongside the old part of the road.  This was the reason we had to go through Dargaville on our way north.


Finally we arrived at Whangarei and instead of staying at the town basin or at Uretiti this time we stayed at an area alongside the Hatea Bridge.  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.


The bridge is raised by hydraulic rams under the bridge.  These roll back the toward the counterweights which raise the road.  The shots below showing the bridge raised to allow yachts to enter the town basin.


This shows the cogged trackway that the counterbalances follow as they fall and raise the bridge.


And here we are at the western end of the bridge alongside Jim & Judy.


At night the bridge is illuminated and presents a striking sight.


There is a walking path from the parking area that crosses the bridge goes up to the town basin and then back down to the bridge.  Along the way there are a number of boat sheds, old wharves, boats, information boards and sculptures.


This striking sculpture of a canoe and waves is only one of many interesting pieces.


And of course we have the mandatory bird photos


It is always very difficult to get photos of Welcome Swallows but these two were resting in the right place at the right time.

Whilst the ducks below just sailed away.


Kaitaia & Maitai

October 16, 2014

Back in Kaitaia for refreshment and recuperation.  We arrived at the RSA to find friends Brian & Marj already parked up there.  They were ‘stuck’ waiting for parts to arrive to fix a leaking loo.  Also at the RSA was another vehicle also awaiting parts for a brake problem, we soon met the owners Reg & Rima who along with our other travel companions made for a lively group in the RSA at happy hour.

We also needed a COF (Certificate of Fitness) for the van as well as an engine check and general overhaul.  We duly booked the van in for the COF with the maintenance check to be done afterwards – yes, we know it really should have been the other way round but that was just the way it worked out.  Both services were done quickly and efficiently and we were reunited with the van by lunch time with the wallet only taking a minor battering!

With all this extra fishing gear we seem to be accumulating (Kite, winches etc), we decided we really needed to put a roof rack on the RAV so we can easily store and access the equipment so it seemed logical to store it on the roof of the car,  particularly as we use the car on or near the beach. 

So how many men does it take to install the roof rack?  Just two – Brian came along to help out.

rsa 3rsa 4rsa 5rsa 1

Roof rack installed, now to figure out the best way of securely storing the necessary fishing gear. 

With that all done, and with the prospect of more rain on the way we made the decision to decamp to Maitai Bay whilst it was still relatively dry underfoot.  Meanwhile. friends Barry & Sandra had made contact as they were planning to fly up to Kaitaia in their plane to attend a funeral, however, their plans also changed as the weather forecast was not pretty, instead they drove up from Taupo.  We arranged to meet for a catch up the following morning in Kaitaia over breakfast.  It was good to catch up with them and hear all their news.

Just as well we made the decision to move when we did, as when we arrived and doing our usual walk through before driving to our preferred parking place, we noticed some very deep tyre tracks where it looked as though someone had recently got stuck.  We shall not name the culprits but we did end up parking along from where Brian & Marj were already parked! They say take photos and only leave tyre tracks but I don’t think they mean it literally Brian.

3Before the hoards arrived!

maitai 6maitai 7

After the rest arrived, from left Brian & Marj, Reg & Rima, Jim & Judy, the Vannini’s and just around the corner out of view is Gail.

An almost perfect rainbow out over the bay


Since we were here last some very artistic? visitors had arranged a series of posts with stones and/or shells on top.  A little different from the usual stone pyramids.


Now another conundrum for you? How many men does it take to tie a knot?  Apparently it take four!

maitai 2maitai 3

L-R Jim, Roy, Brian, Reg

Actually they were tying stoppers in the backbone of one of Jim’s long lines!!!

This time I did manage to remember to take a photo of one of the happy hour gatherings

maitai 8 maitai 9

L-R Roy, Gail, Judy, Marj, Brian (obscured), Jim, Rima and the back of Reg’s head.  Ha – got your front view Reg! 

I should add here that Reg & Rima had initially planned to head back to Auckland from Kaitaia once their vehicle was repaired, however, we persuaded them to come and join us for a day or two, which eventually stretched to ten days. Rima is almost as keen a netball fan as Bernice is,  they watched the games together adding their knowledgeable commentary to the games.  And Reg is a keen rugby league man so he and Roy watched the final.  Although no one took up our offer when we invited all to come and watch the All Blacks play South Africa, maybe it had something to do with the fact that the game was on at 3.30am?  We don’t know what is wrong with these people – us keen fans were up cheering (albeit quietly).

The lunar eclipse was on display in the clear skies over Matai Bay, this was a rare red lunar eclipse and I managed to get a few half decent shots of the phases of the eclipse, without the use of a tripod I might add.



According to Wikipedia – A lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes within Earth’s umbra (shadow). As the eclipse begins, the Earth’s shadow first darkens the Moon slightly. Then, the shadow begins to "cover" part of the Moon, turning it a dark red-brown colour (typically – the colour can vary based on atmospheric conditions). The Moon appears to be reddish because of Rayleigh Scattering (the same effect that causes sunsets to appear reddish) and the refraction of that light by the Earth’s atmosphere into its umbra.

Whilst stationary at Matai Bay, we took the opportunity to try our hand at Kite fishing off Tokerau beach.  We decided it was time for us (Roy & Bernice) to have a go at fishing by ourselves without assistance from anyone else so that we could be sure that we could actually manage the process by ourselves.  After a couple of goes, we seem to have managed the intricacies, the first time we only managed to catch a bit of weed, but the second time we could not work out why our line only went out about 500metres before it stopped.  It wasn’t until we winched it in that we discovered we had managed to catch someone’s discarded tangle of line which effectively became an anchor on our line.  However, the next time out, we did come home with a good sized gurnard and very good sized snapper.  At least we did not get our line stripped by a torpedo like Jim did – grrrrr.

Rima came along for a ride on our last venture out kite fishing – she did follow us along the beach in her vehicle on one previous trip.  However, after we had to tow her out of soft sand a couple of times, she decided it was safer to come along with us in our car.  But back to the fishing, whilst the line was out in the water, Rima and Bernice discovered a very plentiful tuatua bed in ankle deep water.  After collecting a 20litre bucket full, and leaving the tuatua  to spit out their sand overnight, the following day Rima showed me the easy, un-hand-stabbing method of opening the tuatuas!  We ate some raw, steamed open a pot full,  and I froze a good container full ready to share with family later this month. 

For those who do not know what Tuatuas are – here is a brief description; known as tuatua in the Maori language, Tuatua is a species of edible bivalve clam. It is found on all three of the main New Zealand islands, buried in fine clean sand on ocean beaches. The large shell is asymmetrical, with the hinge at one side. Its closest relative, the pipi has a symmetrical shell.


Dried and salted, they also make good bait for fishing.

After 10 glorious days it was time to move on again, we had planned to move on in the morning, however, late afternoon on the Thursday it started to rain,  Roy and Reg went for a walk around the exit route to test the ground.  

maitai 5Walking in the rain

It was already getting very soft in places so instead of waiting until morning, we packed up and headed out to the exit to spend the night on hard ground before leaving for Kerikeri in the morning. And just as well we did move when we did as the ground was very muddy and boggy by the following morning. 

And if you were wondering where the bird picture was – here it is!

26_thumbA Tui covered in pollen from a flowering flax bush.  This was seen in the RSA car park in Kaitaia.


October 16, 2014

We warned you that there would be a number of posts in quick succession and here is the next.

Rarawa was set to be our home for the next 11 nights.  Although the sun was shining on our arrival, it was rather windy and very, very wet in places.  We could not park where we were last year as it was just too wet and boggy, but we happily parked up alongside the river.

rarawa 2rarawa 3

Parked up by ourselves

rarawa 4Looking across from the van to the line of flax bushes where we parked last year.  The river mouth and sea is on the other side of the large trees in the background.

By the following day, the others had also decamped and headed  to join us.

25 We are no longer “Nigel-no-mates”


24River mouth

The heavy rain and high tides associated with the tail end of the cyclone earlier in the year has had a drastic effect on the beach at both ends.  At the camp end a large part of the sand dunes, particularly near the river entrance  similarly at the North end, there has been a considerable  amount of sand removed from the base of the dunes.  Unfortunately this damage has effectively destroyed our planting efforts last year.

Another change from last year is that there is now good cell phone reception at Rarawa, not that we really needed it as we spent most days down on the beach with Roy & Jim refining kite fishing skills and Gail & I gathering tuatuas.   One day Roy & Jim were off fishing when Gail & I went down to join them and to also gather some tuatuas, once we had our limit, Gail & I headed back to camp.  The blokes duly arrived back in time for happy hour bringing with them their catch.  


 rarawa 5rarawa 6 

A 6.5kg snapper!  The fish was filleted and shared, the head and body smoked and the resulting smoked fish eaten over the next few happy hours.  Unfortunately we forgot to take any pictures of our happy hours or the different groups of people that came and went over our stay at Rarawa.  Also undisclosed for some time was that this particularly large snapper was in fact another ‘Vannini’ fish. 

We shelled a couple of huge buckets of Tuatuas, with Bernice managing to stab herself in the hand whilst doing it.  First Aid administered, jewellery/rings removed from rapidly swelling fingers, she was good to go, setting up a Tuatua Fritter cooking  station in the awning for the hoards that turned up for happy hour that evening!

There are a number of resident shags in the river that surrounds back end of the camp.  They are  in the river estuary right up to several hundred metres from the entrance.  They have particular trees, branches and sand bars that they frequent.


Another day and Bernice took Judy & Gail into Houhora to get some essentials.  As well, they went on a bit of a Tiki Tour which included a visit to the Driftwood Moas, and a visit out to 90mile Beach out to view a potential parking place there.  Whilst there they came upon this Albatross which sat motionless on the side of the road, we presume that it was either injured or exhausted.  We let someone know who could report it and hopefully help it on its way.

rarawa 8Albatross

Time to move on again, this time into Kaitaia but not before stopping at the Houhora Farmers market where we saw this delightful stall. 

hohoura-1_thumbThe ubiquitous Lemonade stall complete with young lady selling a glass of homemade lemonade for 50c.  We presume that the stall was made by a very clever parent or Grandparent. We can attest that the lemonade was delicious as  well.

Spirits Bay

October 16, 2014

Toward the end of our time at Taputaputa, we thought we should actually make some attempt at setting some form of a schedule. With calendar in hand and working backwards, we set out a guideline for where we wanted to go and a loose timeline to adhere to.  We have to be in Auckland by the 19th October as our daughter Alex, along with her partner Ian, are arriving for a fleeting visit to NZ from the UK.   With this in mind, we reluctantly left Taputaputa and headed for Spirits Bay.

Over a day or two, Gail, Di, as well as Jim & Judy, left for Spirits Bay.  We arrived on Friday 19 October, but with the winds building and the weather forecast to become very wet and windy,  we only stayed one night before we made the decision to pack up and make the move south to Rarawa. 

Whilst at Spirits Bay,  Roy made a foray to try an find a memorial plaque raised for Marc-Joseph Marion du FresneAll that now remains of this memorial is the concrete outline of the area where the plaque was mounted.  This is at the entrance to the stream exiting into Spirits Bay at the eastern end.


And finally spotted a Wrybill on the beach in the distance.  Not often seen so far in our travels so this somewhat disappointing photo will have to do.


And before anyone asks, yes we did vote in the NZ Elections, we took advantage of the opportunity to cast our vote early, which we did some weeks ago.


October 15, 2014

Have you missed us??  We have been rather quiet haven’t we? But never fear, we are back and for our sins we have a number of blog entries to write and publish. So let us back track somewhat and start at where we left off. 

We arrived at Taputaputa (Tapotupotu), which is the Doc camp near Cape Reinga, on 11 September.  Jim & Judy arrived later the same day to join us at this idyllic spot in glorious sunshine.  

taputaputa 10Parked at Taputaputa

taputaputa 4View of Taputaputa from the access road in.  The parking place is at the far right of this photo, tucked in the corner by the sea and alongside the river entrance.

Here we stayed for the next 12 days, enjoying the scenery, the fishing, and the company.  We also had our fair share of rain and wind over the next wee while and one day there was the beginnings of a lake forming in the grass in front of us which made for some hasty packing up of tents by the campers who had set up there camp there.


View from the bus door of the mini lake forming.

Roy and Jim tried their hand at setting the net in the river in the hope of catching a flounder or three. 

12Roy knee deep with Jim in the shallows.

They did manage to catch one flounder, also a Kahawai however it had a decent chunk removed from its body, presumably by a shark, as well as 18 grey mullet.  The mullet and kahawai were dried and salted to be used as bait at a later date,  the flounder was eaten. 

We were joined at the camp by Gail (whom we met up with in Houhora) and Dinky Di (the name of her van)and over the next week or so, we fished together and enjoyed many a happy hour.  Di is a very keen fisherwoman and we spent most days trying our luck from the beach.


Bernice fishing                                 Gail & Di gutting fish

taputaputa 8MMmmmm Snapper for dinner

We enjoyed some of the fish smoked, ate some as ceviche, had some very fresh fish as sashimi,  as well as fish cooked in many different ways.

It’s a small old world as it turns out Di lived for many years in Tokoroa, as we did through the 70’s and 80’s so we shared many a tale from shared memories and experiences.  We also met Rosemary & Peter, keen motorhomers and anglers,  as well as Jason from Nelson who happened to originally hail from Newcastle in the UK and was a very keen fisherman, along with many, many tourists. 

And speaking of tourists, we did our usual thing of helping stranded tourists.  This time they had got stuck in the mud so with the use of Jim’s car and a good tow rope they were quickly on their way.  Funnily enough when we were at Taputaputa last year with Pat & Sue, we rescued many a stranded tourist who either had a flat battery or got themselves stuck in the soft ground.  

taputaputa 6taputaputa 5

Another successful recovery.

Now, it would not be a Vannini blog post without a picture or two of some local wildlife….

This dotterel and it’s partner decided to lay an egg on the beach above the high water mark but perilously close to a path used by people in the camp.  People in the camp set up a row of sticks around the area, which was strengthened using stakes and tape by DOC personnel.  As usual any approach is met by the birds walking away limping or dragging a wing to draw your attention from the egg lying exposed on the sand.


So come on follow me!!!


The following picture could be called a killing field.  In the middle of the sand dunes fronting the parking area there was this lone stone which ha been used by birds to crack snail shells.  It is obviously well used.


A trip up to the Cape Lighthouse is part of the sojourn to these parts, particularly as now we can get some cell phone reception from one of the car parks, if you stood in the right spot, at the right time of the day.

taputaputa 3This is the meeting of the waters, the Tasman Sea with the Pacific Ocean just off Cape Reinga.

  taputaputa 2Looking along to Cape Maria van Diemen

Oh and we have not been completely idle, we had a bit of an improvement made to our ties to the awning windbreak.  here was Version one, but after I accidentally pulled off one of the ties, we came up with the new, improved, version two, and had some Velcro strips sewn on.  They work perfectly, and stop the flapping of the front windbreak which was well and truly tested in some good strong winds.

Taputaputa 1