Archive for the ‘friends’ Category

Tokerau Beach

August 12, 2017

We spent a glorious two weeks with Marg & Gary at Tokerau, not doing much in particular but somehow managing to keep ourselves busy and occupied without getting in each other's way.

parked up on the spare section next door. Marg took this picture on one of the fine days!!!

The weather has not been particularly nice, but then again it is winter and it is what we expect. At least we have been fortunate with mild temperatures however that just means it has been very wet and windy.

There was the odd foray out to do a bit of fishing, and a bit of catching as well. As usual I neglected to take any pictures. Note to self, get yourself sorted and into the habit of picture taking again! I did get into some more knitting whilst we were at Tokerau and ended up using up all my bits to make a scarf which I gave to Marg. Just so that you are not disappointed, I kept up my picture-taking-slackness and forgot to take a picture of it!

Marg & Gary had three of their granddaughters visit one weekend and I ended up knitting a couple of bunnies for them, I can't remember the significance of why it had to be bunnies but it was a quick knit up of simple square and sew it up carefully to make a bunny.
Sewing up bunnies….and no, the rum is not mine, it's Roy's.

We left Tokerau Beach to head back down to Uretiti with a short overnight stop in Kerikeri. However, those plans quickly changed to a two night stopover in Kerikeri. One: because the weather was atrocious and we didn't feel like driving through torrential rain and gusty winds and Two: because we came away from Tokerau with a parting gift from Marg….a nasty cold with a hacking cough! Thanx Marg, just what we wanted – NOT!

We have both succumbed to the nasty bug and are doing everything we can to get rid of it as quickly as possible as tomorrow (Sunday) we are due at Whakapirau to take up our house sitting duties for a month, and we do not need to pass on our bugs to Chris before he heads off to join Jacky on their trip hiking the Norwegian fiords.

So another quick wrap up of life with the Vannini's. The blog will become much more interesting soon enough as we head off on another adventure so be sure to watch this space. Meanwhile we look forward to our sojourn at Whakapirau and visits from lots of friends and family.

Time to go home

July 18, 2017

It was soon time for Alex to head back to her home in London, not that we wanted to visit to end as it was rather lovely having her with us.  We left Jacky & Chris’ on Friday after a wonderful few days stay with them, their hospitality is always wonderful and their generosity boundless and we cannot thank them enough for it all. 

 We started our journey back to Auckland in the early afternoon, stopping at the Cider Shed for lunch along the way.  This reminded Alex of her ‘cider fridays’ when she worked in Cromwell during university holidays.  She, Antony, Claire and a couple of other friends would apparently treat themselves on a Friday night with a pizza and a cider or three after working hard in the orchards all week. 

We arrived at Antony’s late afternoon and it wasn’t long before we all were at the train station catching a train into Britomart.  Here, eldest son Simon met us for a drink before he was due out for the evening but it gave him a chance to catch up with Alex and say hooray before she left.  I forgot to take a picture of us all together but I did take a picture of the bar with its interesting lights

Macs Brew Bar in the old Northern Steamship Company Building.

Claire and her husband Matt arrived to join us for the rest of the evening, first they all had a cocktail or two Alex and Antony enjoying a cocktail.

It was time to move on and we all walked to a nearby restaurant,  passing through the lovely lit up dining and bar areas at Britomart.  They really have done a great job in sprucing up this area, we can remember not so long ago really when it was not the best area of town to be in, especially at night.

We went to the Hanoi Cafe, a Vietnamese restaurant for dinner where we had a fantastic evening, with great food, excellent service, wonderful company, oh and a few more cocktails! 

 The menu is very good and extensive making a decision on what to have difficult so we ended up asking our excellent waitress if she would choose a selection of plates for us all to share which turned out to be the best way to go.  The food was fresh, tasty and came with delicious sides as well.  We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

L-R Antony, Roy, Bernice, Alexandra, Matt and Claire.
All too soon it was time for us to catch the train back to Papakura.  Have we mentioned before how we love travelling by train?  it makes life so much easier and for the senior person of this touring party of course the train trip is at no cost as those over a certain age can travel outside peak times for free on public transport.  

The following morning we had to get to the airport so that we could reluctantly allow Alexandra to travel back to London. Some of us are not very good at saying goodbye, with just a few tears shed.  She arrived home safely on Sunday evening NZ time. 

We are now looking forward to our trip to the UK and Europe which is less that 2 months away, and for Antony to join us all for Christmas in London.  

Tiki touring

July 16, 2017

It’s not all relaxing and enjoying the smallholder style of life, we have also done a bit of tiki touring around the area.  We headed off for a day trip around the district with our first stop at the Matakohe Kauri Museum which is just a few kms from Whakapirau.  The kauri is a slow growing tree with beautiful timber  

We spent a good hour or two wandering through all the exhibits.

Here are a couple of small sailing boats built of kauri, with a single large plank of timber in the background which stretched the length of the hall.

I was amused to see the following sign inside one of the small sailing dinghys. 

From there we headed to Dargaville and then onto the Waipoua Forest to see Tāne Mahuta, one of the largest living Kauri trees.  Tāne Mahuta is a giant kauri tree (Agathis australis), its age is unknown but is estimated to be between 1,250 and 2,500 years. Its Māori name means “Lord of the Forest”.  

It’s vital statistics are as follows: Trunk girth 13.77 m (45.2 ft),  Trunk height 17.68 m (58.0 ft), Total height 51.2 m (168 ft), Trunk volume 244.5 m3 (8,630 cu ft). Total volume 516.7 m3 (18,250 cu ft).



Alex in front of the tree.

A local Maori guide who happened to be there told us that many many years ago when he was assisting to build a track to the tree, 11 men held hands with arms outstretched to surround the tree.  He also told me that there is an even larger tree but that it is is another part of the forest and a long walk to find it.  We will not be endeavouring to find it this time, besides the heavens opened just as we completed the visit to this tree.

Another day, Mike the friendly local who did the killing  execution bumping off processing of the sheep the other day, offered to take Alex for a jet boat ride around the upper reaches of the Kaipara harbour.

That’s them zooming off across the other side of the harbour, viewed from the deck.  

Family and friends

July 13, 2017

It was time to catch up with Simon, Anita and Maria, Alex had not met Maria so it was a lovely morning spent with them and catching up with all their news, and to have some time with them.

Aunty Alex and Maria


Reading stories


From there we headed to Steve & Leslie’s for a bit of a get together with them and their family and to have lunch.  It was a bit of a kiwi themed lunch with all the old time favourites and treats.  And for some reason I forgot to take a single picture but it was lovely for Alex to catch up with her cousins and their children.

From there we headed up to Jacky & Chris for a few nights.  We had intended on then going to the van for a few nights but it was decided to stay with them until we head back to Auckland on Friday.

Alex decided she needed to relax once we got there

It’s a tough life

But then she did get involved with a bit of farm life

Rockin’ the gumboots aka Wellington boots

She wore the boots to help Jacky, Roy and friend Mike kill murder  prepare a couple of sheep for the table and freezer.

Alex, Jacky and Mike skinning the sheep.
Then a day or so later it was time to cut up the beasts.

Happy in their work
And later that evening, guess what was for dinner?

And damn delicious it was too!

D Day

July 11, 2017

Thursday was D Day, yes, Daughter Day.  Alex arrived from London  for a fleeting visit to check up on her Dad after all the excitement he has been giving us recently ….oh and to see Mum too!  The distance between the two countries seeemed larger and larger and a bit of homesickness started to creep in, so she hopped on a plane to come for a weeks visit.  

We waited patiently at the entrance gates for her to appear

The airport was very quiet with very few people around, we presume they were all in town cheering home the Americas Cup and parade.

Three other flights had also recently landed so we thought we may be in for a bit of a wait, but no, she appeared through the gates quite quickly

I’m home!!

A few tears were shed on arrival, but we were soon on our way back to Antony’s place.   A quiet afternoon was spent, with someone having the odd nap and catching up on sleep.

The next few days were spent tripping around Auckland catching up with friends and family

My pathetic attempt at a selfie!

On Saturday we caught the train into town, and very pleasant it was travelling on the train surrounded by very jovial Lions supporters.  We were meeting up with Alex and her friend Claire and friends Colin & Edwina for lunch.  Again, we were met with a sea of red, Lions supporters in town for the final test against the All Blacks.

Colin very kindly took this photo as again, my attempts at selfies were dismal. Antony, Roy, Edwina, Bernice, Alex and Claire.
It was a fabulous lunch at Ortolana, and we all enjoyed a very relaxed meal together.  Then it was back to Antony’s and prepare to watch the game, although someone had a wee pre game nap on the couch.

Uretiti & Ruakaka

May 26, 2017

After finishing with appointments around Auckland we headed back to the van at Uretiti.  Uretiti is a Department of Conservation run camp on the beach in Bream Bay just south of Whangarei.  


It’s a lovely long beach that stretches 10kms from the Waipu River mouth in the south to the Ruakaka River mouth in the north.  

It’s a long sandy beach and is popular to fish from with lots of people trying their luck via various methods of fishing, either with surf casting, torpedos or kites. The wind was favourable for us to try our luck with our kite on a couple of occasions.
Somewhere out there is a little speck which is our kite.
We did have a little success and caught these three lovely snapper one afternoon.


Whilst at Uretiti we went into Maungaturoto one day for lunch with friends Jacky & Chris as we will be housesitting for them at Whakapirau in a couple of months time.  We also managed to catch up with Mark & Glennis who have just bought a property in Ruakaka and caught up on all their news.  After we had a week at Uretiti, we looked at the weather forecast which was not brilliant so we decided that we would head to Ruakaka just a few minutes down the road to the camp ground  for a week and enjoy being connected to the grid for a change.  

Here we are all set up nicely for the week.

The view from the bedroom window looking acrodd to Whangarei Heads.

The weather hasn’t been conducive for fishing so far but we did go for a look at the Marsden Point Oil Refinery information centre which is just 5minutes along the road.  It was a very interesting place to visit with a huge model of the plant and video information about the construction and refinery process.  We were told that the model of the plant took four people two years to build at a cost of around $1million and this was in the 1980’s! Goodness knows what it would cost today.There are information boards, audio visual material and models throughout the complex and is well worth a visit if you are in the area.

Our current plans are that we will stay at Ruakaka until Wednesday before heading back to Uretiti when hopefully the weather will have settled and the wind is off shore for some good fishing.

A flying visit

April 22, 2017

When we get a call from friends Barry & Sandra asking if we will be around to join them for morning tea, we know that it will be a flying visit – literally!

As we are currently parked at the motorhome parking area at Ardmore Airport it was an opportune time for Sandra & Barry to visit from their home at Taupo Airport.  You see they have a plane with which they hop into to make their visits and sure enough just before 10am they landed at the airstrip in front of us!


We wandered down to greet them and spent the next couple of hours at the Airport Cafe catching up on all each other’s news before putting the world to rights.

It’s not the first time that they have visited, there was the time when we were in Takaka, Kaitaia and in Thames.  As well as us visiting them at their base in Taupo and here.

We were interrupted from our chatting by the roar of engines, sure enough there were 5  Harvard planes lined up ready for a takeoff.   These are part of the Warbirds collection that regularly fly at air shows and events around the country.  And with a roar they were all off in quick succession and were soon flying in formation over the city, we presumed as practise for ANZAC Day commemorations next week. 



Soon it was time for Sandra and Barry to head back home to Taupo.  It’s always great to catch up with them and we look forward to the next time.

Sandra, Roy & Barry

A Busy week

March 7, 2017

Summer may have officially slipped in autumn this last week  but the temperatures are still saying that it’s definitely summer time with lots of sunshine and warmth although I think that is about to change.   It’s also been a busy week what with one thing or another. Friends Brian & Marj came to join us for a few days, funnily enough it’s almost 6 years to the day since  we first met them.  We were real greenhorns then with just one days experience of living full time in the van but they were very kind to us and gave us lots of useful advise about living full time on the road including happy hour etiquette which you can read about here.  However this time I neglected to take a single picture of us together, I must have spent too much time chatting!

It felt as though we were constantly on the go as it was a busy week of appointments, most of which involved fighting the Auckland traffic….groan.  First off Roy had an appointment for a scan, no problem, it was not too far away in Wairau Road which is not too far from Shakespear , just 35km down the motorway.  So one hour and 35 minutes later he arrived for his appointment!  I don’t know how, or why, people commute through the madness of traffic everyday, it would drive me nuts.  But lesson learnt, don’t make any appointments during the commuter/school traffic peak times.  The next day we had another appointment but this time just down the road at Silverdale where the van was getting its brakes sorted and it was 9.30am that the van had to be in so it was a quick trip down the road.  We then went on to Steve & Les’ in Torbay for the day and also to get a bit of shopping done at Albany.  We picked the van up in the late afternoon and headed off to the dump station at Hatfield Beach to take care of necessities before heading back to Shakespear.  

But it wasn’t the end of our running around, the following morning we were both off to the Doctors in Mt Albert for our annual checkups.  This time we allowed plenty of time to get there and with a late morning appointment we had a good run through with it taking us just over an hour. From there we headed to Manukau to meet up with Antony to collect our mail and to have lunch with him before we headed back to Shakespear.  It was another  reasonable run taking just over an hour and a half this time. According to the newspapers the traffic problems are set to continue to get worse with “March madness”  occurring this month.   I think we will try and avoid travelling across the city especially at peak times.  

By the time Friday came, we were both ready to have a day without travelling anywhere!  Not that I was idle mind you, no, it was time to bottle a huge pot of beetroot!

Beetroot getting ready to be bottled.

We had visited our favourite market garden in Mangere last week when we were over that way to stock up on lovely outdoor tomatoes and lots of lovely fresh vegetables picked straight from the ground.  Soon it will be time to make  relishes, pickles and chutneys with supplies from these gardens, in particular using their flavoursome (ugly & mishapen) outdoor tomatoes. 

More visitors through the week, with Gary & Marg calling in for a catch up on their way through Auckland before heading to their home in Tokerau Beach.  It won’t be long and we will be back up their way again where we look forward to sharing some fishy tales as well as some fish!  

Colin & Ed came visiting at the weekend, and it was great to catch up and relax in the sun.  This time I did remember to take a picture 

Meanwhile, a graffitiI artist has been secretly at work as we found two labels stuck on the van, one under the passenger side wing mirror and the other on the back of the van

After extensive investigations we are pretty sure we have discovered the identity of the phantom labeller …….let’s just say that a certain bald Ranger, currently on a road trip around the South Island may get a surprise one of these days!  All in good fun of course. 

Another week of visitors

February 25, 2017

We received a phone call on Monday from Andrene & Lyall, these are friends we met when both of us lived in Oamaru, they moved to Christchurch around 11 years ago, which was probably the last time we caught up.  They were in their motor home having a look around the north island and knew we were at Shakespear so they came to stay with us for a couple  of nights.  It was a though time had stood still with the conversation flowing freely and into the night,  besides,  we haven’t changed a bit and none of us have aged at all!! 

The afternoon started with a few drinks with some fellow motorhomers who kindly took a photo of the four of us.L-R: Roy, Bernice, Andrene, Lyall

It just so happened that we had some fresh snapper ready for our dinner, caught by Roy and Steve the previous morning, as well Lyall is a keen whitebaiter and had whitebait in their freezer which resulted in a fabulous shared dinner with Whitebait patties for entree and snapper for our main and I made some focaccia bread.  Along with a salad or two it all washed down with a suitable beverage or three, a meal to savour.


We sat outside until it bacame too dark  then continued chatting in our van until it was time for bed.  

The next morning it became eveident that Andrene and I have very good tasteSome of the more observant of you may notice that the previous day we both had a liking for blue and white stripes! 

We offered Andrene & Lyall the use of our car so that rather than taking their van off to do their shopping they could nip around in the RAV4.  Lyall had ordered an inflatable boat so they were off to pick it up.  Of course on their return we had to have a trial run at putting it all together.

Roy having a dry run!

We left them to their own devices Tuesday evening as we had arranged to rendezvous with Steve that evening for a fish off the beach with Steve’s torpedo.  Once we had set the line out to fish we sat on the beach watching the sun go down as we ate pizza accompanied by a suitable beverage. Bliss.   The haul of fish was not great, we did manage to bring in four fish but only one was a keeper but we also managed to drag in an awful lot of weed so we will not be fishing off that beach again in a hurry! 

Wednesday evening we headed into Torbay to Steve & Leslie’s place for a meal and get together with Leslie’s two sisters and all the extended family.  Leslie’s youngest sister Gill & I were best friends right through primary and secondary school so it was great to catch up again with her and her daughters who were over from Perth.  Although it was only a couple of years ago since we last met.  This time was a little more restrained however it was great to have everyone together.

Steve was heading north for a couple of days for work, so Roy went along for a ride to keep him company and they just so happened to take the fishing gear with them so that they could have a fish in the evenings.  By all accounts a few fish were caught and a good time was had by all.  

Meanwhile I stayed at the van at Shakespear, helping out a few stray travellers and in particular those who do not read the signs about how to unlock the padlocks! Some people.  I even had a visit from the Jehovah’s Witness…they got the short sharp shrift and were quickly sent on their way.  

Another week or two

February 13, 2017

Another week or two has slipped on by, where oh where does the time go? Apparently this is what happens when you give up the nose-to-the-grindstone life,  all perception of time moves to another dimension. 

 I spent a week with Antony post surgery and managed to keep myself very busy, filling his freezer and fridge with meals even doing a bit of housework and laundry in between, however most evenings we watched a movie together as well as some TV shows which passed the time quite quickly.  

I returned to Roy at Shakespear in time for the long Waitangi weekend when summer finally came out to play which is typical, as soon as the long school holidays are over and when kids head back to school to sit in hot classrooms does summer seem to appear.  Not that I am complaining, now everyone has returned to work/school, the campground has emptied, we have gone from being full wih 160+ people to 18  booked in this week. Of course the weekends go back to being full again but I can tell you it is nice and  quiet now and I have just about the whole beach to myself apart from the odd dotterel or oyster catcher to keep me company.

Roy did a week at Antony’s, it’s his turn to be nursemaid and help out whilst he is recovering from surgery.  However, our plans for the next couple of months have changed slightly as we had always planned to leave Shakespear at the end of February however Roy now has a couple of appointments to keep in March.    One is for some laser surgery on both eyes, the other for a hearing specialist….apparently both are what is called “age related” issues.  So now the plan is to leave here at the end of March, but then again that could well change!  Of course we asked if it was OK if we stayed on and the positive response was an invitation to stay on as long as we like.

Of course this glorious weather means that the beach beckons most days and I have been swimming two or three times a day mainly for it’s cooling down effect but also because it is just plain lovely to swim in the warm ocean.  

More visitors this week with Steve & Leslie coming on Friday to stay overnight, their granddaughter Bea aged 3 1/2 came along to keep us all amused, and that she did making us all laugh at times. I neglected  to take a single picture, we were all too busy enjoying the moment.  It was also time for Steve & Les to take down their tent, the grass had grown a little although it was mowed all around the tent, the evidence of where the tent had been was plain to see.

Can you tell where the tent was?

As well, this week the gazebo had to be handed back, so we have gone from this ;-

To this ;-


Niece Natalie was in Auckland  up from Wellington and on Sunday she came to visit.  By this time Roy had also returned so it was a great chance to catch up as we haven’t seen Natalie since last year when Natalie & I went to the netball.  We spent a lovely afternoon with her and her aunt & uncle, Carol & Alan, catching upon all their news and generally putting the worlds to rights.  We are looking forward to another catch up at around Easter time when Natalie is heading north for a family visit and as we will undoubtedly be in the north somewhere, it’s another opportunity to meet up.

This will be our last week as Camp Hosts in the camp ground, but we are not moving far, just to the Self Contained Parking Area which is about 500m from where we are now.  Thsi is the time of the year when school groups are coming into the camp ground over the next few weeks and we are not required.  Another year as Camp Hosts comes to a close, we shall return but not until next year.