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January 11th 2011 - Ruakaka Reserve

Wednesday January 5th 2011 – Ness Valley - Lindsey had suggested that we go for a bush walk in the hills above Clevedon so after lunch we donned our walking boots and drove into Clevedon village and parked the van then headed for the hills!  We had an absolutely amazing time walking up through the native bush with our expert guide, Lindsey, pointing out the various trees and plants to us.  We were surrounded by birdsong and it was very tantalising catching a glimpse every now and again of a Tui or a Fantail, neither of which would sit still long enough for me to photograph!  It was quite steep in places and I was struggling a bit so Clive found me a couple of small branches to use as walking sticks and they made all the difference in the world – I’m going to have to buy myself a couple of those power walking sticks I reckon!!  !  I have to say it was rather disconcerting on the way up to be overtaken by extremely annoyingly fit people who were running up!!

Finally however we reached the top and then I realised that all the pain and effort had been really worth it as the view was awesome.  We could see Auckland in one direction and various bits of coastline in other directions and also back towards where Lindsey lives in Ness Valley, it was absolutely fantastic.


Auckland in the distance

We went back down a different route, this one was just a natural path whereas the ascent had a man made path and steps in many places.  Going down was even harder for me as my knees are rather arthritic and going down slopes makes them feel as if I have a screwdriver through each kneecap! However my two trusty walking sticks were a great help and I have to admit that without them I would have probably gone base over apex more than once! Clive and I both felt very satisfied after our walk to the top and back but also absolutely cream crackered!!! It was by a unanimous vote that we agreed to call in at The Clevedon Hotel (the local pub!) for a very well earned pint or two and, unusual for me, I had two pints of lager, not my usual tipple at all!!


Thursday January 6th - We were up at the crack of dawn as we had booked tickets on the ferry from Auckland to Tiritiri Matangi, an island about an hour’s cruise from Auckland which has been turned into a predator free bird sanctuary.  We have been before, ten years ago in fact in January 2000 on our first visit to New Zealand.  It is an incredible place which now that there are no longer possums; cats; dogs; rats; mice; weasels etc etc the native birds have flourished.  Some have been introduced to the island from other sanctuaries and some have found their own way there.  Once again we trecked through the bush surrounded by the calls of Bell Birds, Tui’s and Kakapo’s and it was wonderful.  My camera was working overtime I can tell you, however all these New Zealand birds are very elusive and it is not always easy to photograph them, more often than not you end up with either a silhouette or a blurr! Nevertheless I did manage to get some decent photos of many of them and will put them in the gallery. 


One species of bird on Tiri is very special indeed, the Takahe.  There are 12 of these birds on Tiri but there are only about 200 in existence altogether, making it one of the rarest birds on the planet!  We arrived at the Visitor Centre after our bush walk and picked up the rucksack, which had been ferried up there on the Ranger’s truck, then made our way to the picnic area to have our packed lunch.  We were absolutely delighted when Greg, a 17 year old Takahe, arrived to join the picnickers, he wandered about under the tables, through people’s legs, sticking his beak into bags in the hope of finding a crumb or two but we had been given very strict instructions – all bags must be zipped up, all boxes sealed and nothing left out for Greg to grab!  The simple fact is that some foods could kill him – Takahe’s live on grass!! 

Clive admiring Greg the Takahe!

After all the excitement Lindsey and I went to explore the shop in the Visitor Centre – she bought herself a book on rare New Zealand birds and animals, I bought myself a lovely tee shirt with a Tui on it!  Then it was time to make our way back down to the jetty to catch our return ferry to Auckland.


Friday January 7th - We decided it was time to get ourselves organised for our forthcoming “holiday”.  Lindsey and I left Clive at home and went off to the supermarket to stock up on food to take with us and also in preparation for dinner that evening, we were having a barbecue as Philly and Ann were coming over. They duly arrived in the campervan and Philly gave Clive a guided tour, showed him where everything was and gave him some instructions on how various things worked. We had a great barbecue and ate out on the decking being rewarded with yet another wonderful sunset.

Another glorious sunset!


Saturday December 8th - we were up early in the morning as we had quite a bit to do before we could set off on our travels. We sorted all our clothes out and decided what was going with us and what was to remain at Lindsey’s.  The campervan is small but perfectly formed and there isn’t a huge amount of space but Philly had got some wire baskets for clothes storage and these fit perfectly into a space above the cab.  They were soon filled with our clothes and stowed away. We managed to squeeze the guitar and the flute on board as well – well we can’t go anywhere without music can we! 


We couldn’t set off until late morning as Lindsey was expecting a couple of friends to call around 10.30am, they were coming to collect some stick insects for their garden! Graham and Rogan arrived on the dot, complete with a delicious cake, which Rogan had baked that morning!  So after introducing Graham to his new wee beasties we sat and had coffee and cake on the decking.  Once they had left it was time for off!


It had been decided that Lindsey would come with us for a couple of days as she wanted to show us a nature reserve which she has been involved with.  Radar couldn’t come with us as no dogs are allowed so he went to stay at Philly’s.  We finally set off, Clive and I in the campervan and Lindsey in her Caddy van. The campervan only sleeps two so she had cleared out the back of her van, packed pillows and a sleeping bag and a change of clothes and that was that.  We managed to set off around 12.30pm.  We arrived at Tawharanui (pron.Tar-far-a-noo-i) in good time and decided to go for a swim before we did anything else!  The beach there is fantastic and the surf is incredible!  We had a wonderful swim in the pounding surf laughing and giggling like kids as we were tumbled around and bowled over by the huge waves, it was great fun. 

Huge waves!

When we had had enough we headed back to the vehicles and changed back into our clothes. All we needed now was somewhere to stay! We had phoned a couple of campsites nearby but they were all full! One guy had suggested we head to a place called Snells Beach as there is a car park there where campervans can stay for a maximum of two nights.  We soon found it and got settled in for the night, very tired, covered in salt but quite content!  We made a salad for tea, had a Speights each (NZ beer!) and spent an hour or so doing a huge crossword together then Lindsey retired to her van and we made up our bed in the campervan.  We were very fortunate as the car park also had a public conveniences!


Sunday January 9th - again we were up bright and early, so were the dog walkers and the joggers!  A lot of people stopped to chat, asked where we were from and where we were going etc it was almost like being at home on the boat! Lindsey emerged from her van after I presented her with a cup of tea, amazingly she had slept very well, better than she has in her own bed for quite some time! She’s contemplating sleeping in her van when she gets  home!


After breakfast we headed back to Tawharanui again, this time to do a bush walk.  The special thing about this place is that it is on a peninsula and this has enabled the conservationists to put a huge predator proof fence across to cut it off from the mainland – it’s a bit like Jurassic Park! This has formed a similar sanctuary to Tiritiri Matangi as once again with the predators eradicated the native birds and reptiles can thrive in the safe environment.  As with Tiri some species have been introduced from other places but the Bell Birds have found their own way there and the bush was ringing with their wonderful song.  Again we had an incredible time walking through the bush.  There are many ancient trees which have fallen over time and these lie there looking like amazing works of art, I just couldn’t resist photographing them. 

Fallen trees make a natural work of art!

Once again the Fantails were driving me mad!  They are so inquisitive and sooooooooooo tame, they fly very close, landing on twigs so that you could reach out and touch them but they will NOT sit still! They flit from twig to twig and make it very hard to photograph them, however I did eventually manage to get a couple of decent shots!

A Fantail at last!


After our walk we headed back to the beach for another swim but the surf was much higher than the previous day, the huge waves were unrelenting.  We would struggle to get out far enough to catch the waves before they broke then one would break early and sweep us back in again where we were pounded by the surf.  It was great fun but absolutely exhausting!  We had soon had enough and headed back to the vans to get dry.  Then it was time for Lindsey to head back to Auckland – she had to return to work on Monday!  We said our goodbyes then went our separate ways.  Lindsey returned to Ness Valley , we to Snell’s Beach carpark.  Besides the public conveniences there was also a shower, albeit an outdoor one for the people coming up from the beach to use.  I was covered in dried on salt and my hair felt like a Brillo pad so I had to bite the bullet and have a rather cool shower in my swimsuit in a public carpark!  It certainly did the trick though, I felt so much better once the salt was washed off.  Clive followed my example and did the same.  We had tea, finished off the crossword then called it a night and hit the sack!


Monday January 10th - Again we were up bright and early and after breakfast we set off to Matakani to see if we could find a garage! I hadn’t mentioned that we were having a spot of bother with the campervan!!  The Britton’s campervan is a 1991 Ford Econovan, as I mentioned it is small and perfectly formed but is getting a little long in the tooth!  We had been reliably informed that although it was getting on a bit it still ran as sweet as a nut!  However this did not turn out to be the case at all, it was far from well! Clive was struggling to keep the engine going, every time we stopped at a junction it stalled, every time we went up hill it was struggling in second gear, no, definitely not well!  We managed to find a garage and the nice mechanic, Justin, said he would take a look at it and get it sorted for us.  Just leave it with me and come back after lunch, he said – that was at 10.30am!  So we went for a walk down to the river and sat and read our books for a while, then we headed back into town and had a leisurely lunch in a great pizza place called the Rusty Pelican!  Finally we headed back to the garage – when we got there we were informed that the distributor cap was cracked badly, the petrol filter needed replacing and so did the condenser!  As the bits were all fairly cheap Justin had gone ahead and ordered them, he told us he was expecting them within the hour and suggested we went off and entertained ourselves for the afternoon and come back later, so we went to the cinema! We saw a great film called Morning Glory starring Harrison Ford, Diane Keaton and Rachel McAdam, which we really enjoyed.  The cinema itself was amazing, the whole ceiling was made up of paper flowers and there were silk birds; Tui’s and Fan Tails amongst them and hanging from the walls! It was called “The Paradiso” cinema!  When we got back to the garage the work was finished and we were back on the road again, the campervan was now running sweet as a nut!


We still needed to find somewhere to stay for the night and the young apprentice at the garage suggested Goat Island so we headed off there.  It didn’t take too long to get there and fortunately there was room for us to stay.  We got a nice spot too with a lovely view. 

A room with a view!

The Goat Island campsite is a typical Kiwi campsite designed with backpackers in mind.  There is a big indoor kitchen area where you can cook a meal and wash up afterwards, there was a TV room, table football machines, lots of sofas and chairs etc then there was the outside area, a huge campfire with lots of seating all around and picnic tables.  There was also a children’s play area with two huge trampolines for them to play on. There were also loos and showers, all included in the price.  We had a nice salad for tea then made the bed up, got all tucked up and watched the first two episodes of House on the laptop as we had power!! 


Tuesday January 11th - We woke bright and early again this morning and after breakfast headed down to the beach.  Goat Island is a protected marine reserve and people come from all over to snorkel in the shallow waters in order to see all the wonderful fish and other marine life that live in these protected waters. We did the same.  We were in the sea by 10.00am!  We had a lovely swim, the only trouble is at the moment we only have one snorkel, which we borrowed from Lindsey!  So Clive used it first and spent quite a while swimming around watching the fish, I just enjoyed swimming around.  Then it was my turn to use the snorkel and it really was great watching the fish, sometimes so close you could touch them.  Finally we had had enough so we made our way back up to the car park, had another cool, outdoor shower to get rid of all the salt then got dressed in the van. 


We headed off again with the intention of camping at a place called Waipo Cove, however when we got there they were full!  It is the summer holidays after all!!  We are at a bit of a disadvantage at the moment as we haven’t got a cell phone we can use here. However we are hopefully going to sort that out when we get to Whangerei (pron. Fang – a – ray) where there should be a Vodafone shop!  Anyway, we were given some suggestions as to where we might stay and finally ended up at Ruakaka Reserve and were delighted to find they had a space for us, with power and WiFi.  We followed the map to our spot and were absolutely blown away by the most fantastic view – I actually think we have got the best spot on the campsite, its awesome!

Fabulous pitch at Ruakaka Reserve campsite - what a view!


That’s all for now folks, sorry its such a long one!  As we are now travelling and there is more to report on I will try and blog whenever we have WiFi available – watch this space!



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