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January 23rd 2011 - Papamoa Beach, Tauranga

17th Jan 2011 – Hourhora Heads


When we woke up in the morning it was extremely overcast and drizzly and the hills were all shrouded in mist, it was like being in Scotland!  We decided to stay another day and relax for a bit.  Clive isn’t used to driving for hours every day anymore and the van, being extremely old, doesn’t have power steering! Also the driving position is very upright with short leg space so it’s a bit like driving a bus really! We therefore spent a leisurely day reading and relaxing.  The weather cleared up later and Clive went and sat outside with Philippa’s guitar and practised some songs.

Guitar man!

 18th Jan 2011 – it was very windy when we got up this morning and Clive was a bit concerned about driving the van in such high winds, it is a high sided vehicle when all said and done and does get blown around quite easily!  However, we decided to risk it and just take it slow.  It wasn’t as bad as we expected once we got back to the main road, the campsite was of course right on the beach so the weather there was coming straight off the sea, the roads inland were more sheltered. There were signs left by the high winds through the night though, the roads were covered in debris from trees, especially the Eucalyptus trees which lined the road, they were completely stripped of bark which was all over the road!  We turned off the main road at Kaitaia and soon passed Ahipara where we had stayed a few nights ago.  The countryside we were driving through was all very agricultural and flat, it reminded us quite a lot of the fens back home!  Eventually we arrived at a little place called Kohukohu where there is a ferry. Just as we were boarding the ferry it started to rain.  The ferry took us over a large inlet to a little place called Rewene.  This is quite an interesting place, not very big but quite old, one of the first settled areas in New Zealand.  There was a lovely little café at the water’s edge called The Boat Shed and we went in and had a lovely lunch. Clive had a bowl of Tom Yum soup and I had a whole flounder baked in tinfoil with Thai herbs and spices and croutons – very yummy indeed!  One of the interesting thing sabout the coastal areas around New Zealand is that there are Mangrove swamps!  There are small Mangrove trees in almost all the inlets and their periscope roots are everywhere.  They also drop little bright green pods which soon sprout and grow into young trees. Rewene was no exception and as the tide was out we could see tiny crabs scurrying around amongst the roots and then disappearing down little holes!

Mangrove roots

 After lunch we drove a little further up from the waterfront and followed the signs until we arrived at the Rewene Campsite.   By the time we had got settled in it was raining steadily so we just battened down the hatches and stayed in.  Well apart from the odd excursion to the loos and showers, which were very close by fortunately so we only got a bit damp!


19th Jan 2011 – the rain had all blown away but it was still rather overcast though by no means cold!  When Clive and I came to New Zealand on ourfirst trip back in 2000 our daughter Vicki was also here, she had come out in June 1999 on a temporary working visa for a year.  We had met up with her on our arrival and she and a friend of ours, Iain Hysom, toured around New Zealand for a couple of weeks together, staying in motels.  One of the places we visited, which I absolutely loved, was Omapere (pron.Oh-ma-pear-i) so we decided to stop off there for a coffee as it was on our way.  It was just as lovely this time except that unfortunately it was overcast instead of sunny.  I remembered that when we were here in 2000 Iain and I had an argument about where the sun was going to set!  I said we should be able to see the sunset as it would be over on our right but Iain said we wouldn’t as the sun would be setting over to our left behind the hills! I said he was talking rubbish as everybody knows the sun moves from left to right!  Of course I was wrong, I had forgotten that here in the Southern hemisphere the sun moves from right to left!  Its quite hard to get your head round that one!


After our coffee we continued on our journey, our destination being the Kauri forest.  A Kauri is an amazing tree which is only found in New Zealand.  When the first settlers arrived these trees were felled in their thousands and used for house buildin and making furniture, in fact just about everything was made from Kauri wood! Unfortunately they almost felled them into extinction and Kauri’s are now protected and can no longer be cut down. The only Kauri wood which can be used today is bog Kauri.  These are ancient trees which have fallen and been preserved in bogs over the centuries which have then been excavated.  The wood is still in excellent condition and can be used to make all sorts of things. You can buy Kauri souvenirs all over New Zealand.  In fact we have one on our boat at home from a previous visit, its really beautiful.


In this particular Kauri forest there are two very, very old trees and they are both huge!  One of them is Tane Mahuta, which means Lord of the Forest.  In the Maori cosmology: ‘Tane is the son of Ranginui, the Sky Father and Papatuanuki, the Earth Mother.  Tane tore his parents apart, breaking their primal embrace, to bring light, space and air and allowing life to flourish.  Tane is the life giver.  All living creatures are his children’.  This tree is the largest living tree in New Zealand.  It is difficult to accurately estimate its age but it may be that Tane Mahuta sprang from a seed around 2000 years ago during the lifetime of Christ! Its dimensions are: Trunk height 17.7m; Total height  51.5m; Trunk girth13.8m; Trunk volume 244.5m(3)

Tane Mahuta - Lord of the Forest

(if you look close the little figure at the foot of the tree is Clive!)


The other tree is even older!  You come around a bend in the forest and there it is in front of you, it looks like a cliff face!  It’s name is Te Matua Ngahere, which means Father of the Forest.  This one is not as tall as Tane Mahuta but is wider.  Its dimensions are: Trunk height 10.21m; Total height 29.9m; Trunk girth 16.41m; Trunk volume 208.1m(3).  It obviously would have been even taller at one time but has lost a lot of its topmost branches.  They reckon this tree could be as much as 4000 years old!

Te Matua Ngahere - Father of the Forest


Whatever the size and age of these two trees you get a very strong feeling of emotion and awe being near them and knowing just how long they have been standing in this forest and what has happened in the world since their seeds first took root in the earth! You come away feeling rather puny and somewhat humbled.


The walk through this wonderful forest is just amazing.  It is sub-tropical of course so the vegetation is very diverse.  There are Kauri’s of all ages and sizes and like the Eucalyptus tree from Australia they are dimorphic.  Their leaves change completely when they reach a certain age/height so the young trees look quite different to the mature trees.  There are also Ponga’s, the native fern trees of New Zealand, these of course are quite primitive and date back to the age of the dinosaurs.  Then there are the flaxes and grasses amongst the trees and wonderful mosses and lichens. All in all it is a quite magical place made even more so by the wonderful songbirds like the Tui’s and Bellbirds.  We were quite sorry to leave and make our way back to the campervan!


We decided to have a spot of lunch and a cuppa before setting off again and whilst doing so another campervan arrived and parked up.  It looked exactly like the one we were in but was obviously from a hire company! I just had to go down and say hello to the English couple on board.  I discovered that it was the exact same Ford Econovan, it even had the same curtains as ours!  However it turned out to be even older – ours is a 1991 model theirs was 1989!  They said it ran very well and they had only had to have the AA out twice during the previous week!!


We set off once again any by now the clouds had lifted and the sun was coming out.  We had spotted a campsite in the book in a rather out of the way place but decided it might be worth the drive so we headed off for Tinopai. This place was right at the end of a peninsula which juts out into Kaipara Harbour, North of Auckland.   After travelling down little country roads for quite some time we finally arrived there.  It was lovely!  The campsite itself wasn’t one of the best in terms of facilities, which were all a wee bit spartan but the location was amazing.  Our pitch was almost on the beach!  However I have to say our campervan looked very tiny and rather ancient next to the three enormous, luxurious Phoenix Motorhomes that were parked next to us!  They were fitted out like luxury yachts with every gadget and gismo known to man, including huge flatscreen TVs and satellite dishes on the roofs!  Still, never mind they wouldn’t be able to get to all the places that our small but perfectly formed Ford Econovan can get to!!


The tide was out when we arrived but by the time we were going to bed it was fully in and the waves were lapping on the shore only a few yards from the back of the van.  The clouds had all disappeared and the moon came out, full.  It looked absolutely beautiful and made a lovely shining path across the waves.  We did manage to get some photos but they don’t really do it justice.


20th Jan 2011 – The tide was just on the turn when we got up and there were Oystercatchers all over the rocky beach.  Just before we left another bird arrived, this one was quite different and very beautiful.  It was a Pied Stilt, gorgeous.

Pied Stilt


We had to drive all the way back up to the top of the peninsula before rejoining the main road which headed back towards Auckland.  Our plan was to turn off onto a smaller route which went down the side of the Southern end of Kaipara Harbour.  We reached the junction and took the smaller road but after a while we were surprised that we didn’t seem to be getting any nearer to the sea, which we could see in the distance!  By this time the sun was on full beam and it was warming up!  We pulled over into scenic reserve car park and had a drink and a bite of lunch.  We had put the folding chairs outside expecting to enjoy our sarnies in the sunshine but it was just too hot! We had to take refuge in the van!  We set off again after lunch heading for a place on the East coast called Waiwera as we knew there was a campsite there adjacent to some hot springs.  We were rather surprised to find when we eventually met the main road again that we had somehow ended up South of Waiwera instead of North and we had to turn round and head back for a while till we finally got there!  We checked the map and realised that we must have missed the B road we had intended to take back at that junction and had taken a small back road instead!  It’s a good job we hadn’t broken down, we wouldn’t have had a clue where we were!!


Once again we had an incredible pitch at the Waiwera campsite, right next to the beach!  The tide was out when we arrived.  We decided to go for a stroll to ascertain where the hotpools were and in so doing we found a pub!  We went in with the idea of having a wee drinky poo and ended up staying for dinner!  The food was yummy!  After that we sauntered back to the van.  By the time we got back we had neighbours; a young English couple in a Spaceship! Remember I mentioned we had parked next to one of these incredible vehicles at a previous campsite.  We got chatting to the couple and they were quite happy for me to take some photos oftheir amazing campervan!  Then it was time to get into our togs and head for the hotpools.  We had a great time soaking in the hot mineral pools then it was back to the van and bed.  The tide was in when we got back and once again the full moon was making a silvery path across the waves.  Once in bed we were lulled to sleep by the sound of the waves rolling up the beach - lovely.


21st Jan 2011 – When we woke up in the morning the sight that greeted us was awesome! The tide was right in and the waves were breaking just the other side of the low wall at the rear of the campervan. We could lie in bed and watch the surf, it was incredible! 

Surf through the window!


We were quite sorry to leave there really!  The previous evening, whilst we were having dinner at the pub, I discovered I had lost a screw from my prescription sunglasses when one lens fell out!  So our first job today was to find an opticians to see if I could get them mended.  We had been reliably informed that there was one in Orewa, which was just a couple of miles South of Waiwera.  It didn’t take us long to get there and we drove around town until we spotted the Opticians on a corner.  We were just pulling over to the left in order to park outside the shop when the van engine cut out!  It wouldn’t restart, it turned over but wouldn’t restart! Oh dear!  We managed to push it into the kerb and park safely then Clive lifted up the front seats to get at the engine to see if he could see what the problem was – he couldn’t see anything obvious.  We had to call out Roadside Rescue!  I managed to get my glasses sorted out whilst we were waiting and soon after a big tow truck arrived.  Dennis, the driver, came and had a look as well and he said to Clive “its either spark or fuel”, which Clive had already deduced!!  Next thing, he connected a cable to the underside of the campervan and hauled her up onto the truck then we piled into the cab and he took us to a local garage only a couple of streets away.  The culprit turned out to be a broken spring on one of the points, very cheap and easy to fix thank goodness, so we were soon on our way again only about $80 dollars lighter.


We headed inland once again, this time we planned to break our journey at a place called Te Aroha as there was a campsite there advertising spa pools and free WiFi!  When we arrived were very disappointed!  Said pools were merely tepid and not very clean, we didn’t fancy them at all and to add insult to injury the WiFi was so poor that I couldn’t get a strong enough signal to get onto the internet on the laptop! Clive managed to get on line on his iPhone however so I did manage to make contact with the outside world on Facebook!  I was gutted really as I wanted to take the opportunity to do a blog, which would have made this one a lot shorter!!!  

I also decided to take advantage of their laundry facilities – big mistake!  The washing machine had a really weird programme setting and the whole thing ran on a metered electric supply.  I put $5 in the slot, selected the programme and set the machine going.  I went back a short time later and all the lights were flashing and it was beeping!  I made a few adjustments and set it going again.  I went to check it again and it was doing the same thing! I actually reset it four times then the power supply timed out and the washer was still full of water! I put $1 in the slot and advanced the machine to “spin”.  Finally I ended up with clean looking washing  but whether it was still full of soap or not I will never know!  I decided to save the drying until the following morning! I had toyed with the idea of hanging it out on the washing line but was very glad I didn’t as I woke up in the night to the sound of rain pounding on the roof!


22nd Jan 2011 – As soon as I got up I rushed over to the laundry and put the washing in the dryer.  We breakfasted and abluted whilst it was drying and then once it was dry, folded and put away we headed off once again.  Our next destination has a very special place in our hearts.  It is a small town called Matamata, which a few years ago was a sleepy, one-horse town surrounded by farmland.  What makes it special now, you ask?  A few miles from the centre of Matamata is a 1250 acre sheep farm owned by the Alexander family.  This farm was spotted from a helicopter back in 1998 and it was noted that there were rolling hills, a lake and a very strategically placed large tree!  It was the perfect place to become The Shire for Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Ring sfilms!!  We went to visit this film set back in 2004, long after the filming had finished.  It is the only one of the LOTR film locations in New Zealand which had been left with some vestiges of the set.  All the hobbit holes were still in place but with no frontages, which had been made of polystyrene!  There were just white boards with openings for doors and windows.  I took Clive’s photo in what was once Bag End, Bilbo’s home! 


We had decided to go back to Matamata on this trip to find out if anything had changed since our last visit. We didn’t want to bother doing the trip again if it was all the same as before.  We arrived in the town centre, which had grown considerably since our last visit! There were many more shops, coffee bars and restaurants and a wonderful new all singing all dancing public conveniences, the best public conveniences I have ever been in!  We found the Hobbiton booking office and went in to have a word. We were informed that the whole site on the Alexander’s farm has been rebuilt ready for the filming of The Hobbit to start next month!  The tickets were $66 each – a bit steep but we thought what the heck, we might as well, its only money!!  Well, it turned out to be the best $66 we’ve ever spent!  The new Hobbiton is absolutely awesome!  All the hobbit holes have been rebuilt with some extra ones, there are now 40 of them! The new Bag End is huge and looks fantastic.   It is big enough for them to actually film inside it this time, not just in the studio.  They have rebuilt the bridge over the lake and the Green Dragon Inn and the old mill too.  It all looks totally real!  Also, as Clive and I are both under 5’ 5” we can officially be classed as Hobbits!  The other thing that has changed from last time is that they have used robust materials to build the whole set this time.  Not just plasterboard with polystyrene fronts but metal frames, concrete etc etc.  All the little stone walls are built with what look like real stones but which are in fact moulded concrete “stones” which have been painted to look realistic. But the best news of all; it is understood that it is all going to remain after the filming is completed, so the tours of Hobbiton from the little town of Matamata in the heart of New Zealand, will continue for many years to come and the Alexander’s farm will now always be a part of Middle Earth.


Unfortunately, we had to sign a confidentiality agreement before embarking on the trip to Hobbiton and therefore our lips are sealed and we can’t post any photos yet, even though I took over 80!

On the way back from Hobbiton we stopped off at the Wool Shed, still on the Alexander's farm, where we were treated to a demonstration of sheep shearing and Clive got the opportunity to bottle feed a young lamb - bless!

Clive feeding a young lamb


We returned to reality and the campervan and set off once more, this time heading for Tauranga on the East Coast in the Bay of Plenty.  My nephew Nick, his wife Sam and their three children, Jamie, Molly and Daniel, have been living here for the past five years, in fact Daniel was born here. They have just recently returned to the UK for an extended holiday of about two years but they plan to return to New Zealand in February 2013.  They only returned to the UK in October and are already missing their Kiwi life terribly – I’m not surprised, it is such a wonderful country and a great place to raise a young family.  I hope they realise their dream and get back here very soon. 


We arrived in Papamoa Beach, Tauranga late yesterday afternoon and got ourselves settled into the campsite.  It turns out we are very close indeed to where Nick, Sam and the kids used to live. So much so that Nick has asked if we would call in at the house of one of their friends to see if Moll left her ballet shoes there!  We haven’t been able to do that yet as shortly after we arrived here the heavens opened!  It has been raining solidly all through the night and all day so far.  It is just now beginning to ease up but it is very, very windy!  The very heavy rain has diminished to a fine drizzle and all the puddles in the camp ground are beginning to dry up.  We had no problems during the night, well apart from having to slosh through the puddles under an umbrella to go for a pee and returning to the van very damp with wet feet - yeuch!!  Others have not been so lucky – several campers were bailing out their tents this morning after being deluged during the night – poor things!  Evidently the terrible weather conditions that Australia has been experiencing have wandered their way across to New Zealand and we are now getting the tail end of one of the tropical cyclones that caused all the flooding over there!  Fortunately the weather is due to pick up over the next couple of days – she says hopefully!


Sorry this was a bit like War and Peace! It wouldn’t have been if I had had chance to do a blog a few days ago! Will try and keep it shorter next time – promise! Its also the second time I've posted this blog, the WiFi timed out and I lost it all! Sorry there aren't many photos either, I haven't much download left!






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