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March 22nd 2011 - Awakeri Springs

March 17th 2011 – Napier – We had a very lazy day at the campsite, it was very hot and sunny again!  We knew this because there was a Weather Rock at the campsite which forecasts the weather very accurately and today it told us it was sunny!


Very accurate weather forecasting device!


We arranged a taxi for the evening and it finally arrived to pick us up about ten minutes late – well that’s the Kiwi way really, nobody ever rushes to do anything, everybody is very chilled and laid back!  He was very nice taxi driver and even took us round an area we hadn’t been before just to show us what other nightlife was available!  Eventually we arrived at The Brazen Head in the centre of Napier and it was already jumping!  I have to say, Napier did Paddy’s Day in style – there were huge leprechaun hats, Guinness hats, ties and green was most definitely the order of the day!  There were a lot of Celtic shirts about as well and we were quite amused when a young Maori girl, who looked as if she should be trying for the All Blacks, came in wearing one!  Obviously Irish Maori!  There was also an Irish menu and Clive and I both opted for the Irish Stew.  Well, we were quite surprised when it arrived, first of all it was made with beef and of course Irish Stew should be made with lamb! We had about four small bits of potato each, Irish Stew is made predominantly with potatoes!  There were also a few bits of al dente carrot and celery to top it off!  The only claim it could actually make to being Irish was the fact that it was cooked in Guinness!  After saying all that it was delicious and when I said it was made with beef, there was enough beef in each bowl to feed a regiment!


Whilst we were devouring our “Irish” stew the band arrived and started setting up their equipment in a very tiny corner of the pub.  There were two guys, an Irishman and a Scotsman and I believe they were called Shenanigans!  They started the evening off a short time later with The Irish Rover – they weren’t bad but they also weren’t the best we’ve ever heard but what the heck, it was live music and you can’t beat it!  About half an hour later a woman walked in, plonked a large bag down on the bench and proceeded to unpack a mic and stand, which she then hid behind one of the speakers, she grabbed a handful of whistles out of the bag then joined the mic and stand behind the speaker and started playing along with the band!  We never saw her all evening except when she emerged from behind the speaker to nip outside for a fag!  There were a lot of very rowdy Napians(?) in the pub and the Murphy’s was flowing freely, there was Guinness too but only bottles, which of course most of the Kiwi’s drank out of – imagine that, drinking Guinness out of a bottle!!  We did enjoy ourselves and it certainly beat sitting at home on the campervan on our own but I kept wishing we were still in Christchurch so we could have gone to Willie McArthur’s gig, now that would have been something! 


I nipped outside about 10.40pm and walked round to a quiet spot outside the cathedral to phone for a taxi to pick us up around 11.00pm.  The voice that answered said, no problem, I’m outside The Brazen Head right now!  I walked back to the pub with the phone to my ear and spotted the cab with the same driver in who had brought us!  We both cracked out laughing and switched the phones off!  I explained that we hadn’t actually finished our drinks yet and he said no problem, I’ll just hang on till you’re ready, there’s no rush.  So I popped back into the pub and told Clive, we’d almost finished our drinks anyway so a couple of minutes later we piled into the cab and headed back to camp.  So, even though we are a very long way from home we still managed to celebrate St Patrick’s day in style.  The amazing thing is, I can’t believe it’s a whole year since we were at The Paddy’s Day Parade in Birmingham and watching The Teds playing live!  Incredible how time is flying these days!


March 18th 2011 – We finally said goodbye to Napier and set off  to Gisborne.  We were really looking forward to getting there because two very special people live in Gisborne, our lovely friends Brendon and Elenor Gill.  They used to run our folk club for many years before emigrating to New Zealand from Cambridge in 1999.  We did visit them soon after they settled in Gisborne when we were here in January 2000.  Gisborne is the first place in New Zealand to see the sun rise each morning and our daughter Vicki and Iain Hysom, our friend’s son who she was touring New Zealand with, stayed with Brendon and Elenor on New Year’s Day, the first day of the new Millennium, after being aboard the tall ship Spirit of New Zealand, which sailed out from Gisborne to greet the sunrise!


We duly arrived at the Gill residence in the afternoon and it was wonderful to see them both again. We had a lot of catching up to do, having not seen them for ten years!  They really haven’t changed very much at all.  They are still very involved in the Gisborne music scene be it folk, jazz or classical and they had got things lined up for our entertainment over the weekend – brilliant!  I must add at this point that since their departure from the UK in 1999 Elenor has become a published author of no less than five novels!  She has very kindly been sending me copies of each of these books as they were published, I have enjoyed every one, she’s a very clever lady! 


Our arrival at the Gill residence was not really very timely, though they were pleased to see us, as they are moving house in a couple of weeks time.  They are not going far really but their new house will be much nearer to the city centre so they will be able to walk to the shops instead of drive and also it is right across the road from the museum where they both spend quite a lot of time both at the café and perusing the many exhibitions that are put on there regularly.  They are really excited about the move and can’t wait to be in their new home.  We therefore did not want to put them to a lot of trouble and insisted on sleeping in the campervan up their drive, which is no hardship at all, though it may have lowered the tone of the neighbourhood somewhat!!  We went out for a lovely Indian meal at one of their favourite restaurants that evening and had a great time.


March 19th 2011 – We had a morning cuppa and some breakfast with Brendon and Elenor and met their daughter Andrea and their 8 year old granddaughter Macey, who we didn’t actually know about!  When they emigrated in ’99 they had three little grandsons here in New Zealand, Joshua, Mitchell and baby Charlie – the boys are now all grown up and Macey is of course very special being the only girl! 


After lunch we helped Brendon to put all their musical instruments in the car, including Bertha, Brendon’s double bass, who emigrated to New Zealand with them!  There wasn’t room for us as well so Clive and I piled into the campervan and followed them to an old hall in another part of Gisborne where T.R.A.M.P.S meet every other Sunday.  This acronym stands for Three Rivers Accoustic Music, Poetry and Song. Gisborne stands on the confluence of three rivers, hence the name.  Brendon opened up the hall and rearranged all the chairs into a circle and we brought all the instruments in from the car.  Brendon very kindly let Clive use his old Yamaha guitar, the one he always played back in Cambridge, he now has a new Taylor guitar! 


Besides becoming an accomplished author, Elenor has also taken up another instrument, the Ukelele! She has a very fine instrument indeed, its beautiful!


Elenor and her Ukelele

A short time after we arrived people started turning up with various instruments and we were introduced to them all and were made very welcome indeed.  When everyone had arrived we all took our seats and Sarah, who was the MC for the day, welcomed us all and picked on Brendon and Elenor to start the afternoon off.  It was really lovely to hear them both singing and playing again, we have missed them! Finally it got around to me – I had decided to play a tune on my flute first and before I did I just had to tell everyone that Elenor had been my inspiration for learning to play this instrument, which I absolutely love!  Elenor used to play Clarinet but suddenly decided to change to flute, which she had never attempted before, within two weeks of getting her flute she was playing beautiful tunes on it at the folkclub – from then on I wanted to play flute, it took a while but I finally managed it!  My tune was well accepted, I sang a song as well and then it was Clive’s turn, he too was very well received and Sarah asked if we really had to return to the UK as TRAMPS could do with us! 


TRAMPS (and Clive!)


We managed to go around the whole circle again so we all got to do another song each.  We had a really lovely afternoon and it was great to hear all the other people performing.  There were three people in particular, two gentlemen and a lady who did pure Kiwi folk, it was brilliant!  Whilst we were there I asked if one of them could take a photo of Clive and I with Brendon and Elenor for old times sake.


The Four of Us!


We returned to Brendon and Elenor’s for dinner and spent the evening just chatting and catching up on all the news then it was off to bed up the drive!


March 20th 2011 – By the time we were up and dressed Macey had arrived, she was going to spend the day with us because her mum, dad and one of her brothers were involved in a fishing competition, which would take most of the day.  I’m not talking fishing as in standing on the bank of a river in the pouring rain holding a rod for hours and hours in the hope of a bite, I’m talking deep sea fishing for BIG fish!  This is a very popular sport in New Zealand and Darrel, Andrea’s husband, is a very keen participant, there again so is Andrea and all the boys! Anyway, Macey didn’t really want to go and preferred to spend the day with us and her grandparents.  She and Clive hit it off straight away and had a great time entertaining each other, they were both screaming with laughter in the lounge whilst Elenor and I were chatting in the other room! 


It was soon time for us to go out.  The plan for today was to go to The Matawhero Winery where two members of TRAMPS, Nick and Neil, were performing live for the lunchtime diners.  We all piled into Brendon’s car and headed off to the winery on the outskirts of Gisborne.  Nick and Neil were already playing when we arrived and we joined Neil’s wife Wendy at one of the picnic tables.  I failed to mention that we weren’t the only Pomms at TRAMPS yesterday, Wendy and Neil hail from Bolton, Lancs!!  We were soon quaffing one of the lovely Matawhero wines, a very tasty Merlot and tucking into one of the winery’s famous lunchtime platters of meats, smoked salmon, cheeses etc with lovely freshly baked bread – yummy!  During all this Nick and Neil were regaling us with Simon and Garfunkel and other great stuff and they were very good indeed.  We had a really great time.


Nick and Neil


We left the winery and headed back into Gisborne via the harbour.  We went into the clubhouse where all the anglers finish off their fishing trips – it’s a bit like the 19th hole at a golf club!  The walls were covered in life sized replicas of huge fish that had been caught by the locals, some of them were absolutely enormous! There were Bluefin Tuna, Marlins, Sharks, Snappers etc etc  Andrea was there when we arrived and I asked her if they were just models and she explained that when a big fish is brought in they take a plaster cast of it and an exact reproduction is made to hang on the wall.  How on Earth they managed to bring in some of those monsters I’ll never know!  The largest was a Black Marlin over 420 kilos, evidently the second largest fish ever to be landed off New Zealand!!  I have to say I could quite enjoy going along on one of these fishing expeditions just to see how its done!  Unfortunately we had missed Darrel and Charlie, they had already weighed their catch and gone off to clean the boat.  Andrea was keeping her fingers crossed that they had brought in enough for a prize. She told us that they had had problems with Mako Sharks which kept circling the boat and on one occasion Darrel had a really good sized Tarakihi (Clive’s favourite, especially with chips!) on his line and as he was bringing it in a Mako bit it in half so all that was left on the hook was the head and a little bit of body!  Then to make matters worse as he was hauling that up the Mako shot out of the water vertically and took that as well, including the lure, so poor Darrel had this whopping great Mako Shark on the end of his line thrashing about!  He ended up having to cut the line and let it go, lure and all!  Andrea told us that the shark was easily as big as her!!


We said goodbye to Macey and her mum and piled back into Brendon’s car.  Elenor suggested that he take a roundabout route home to show us the observatory and the view of Poverty Bay and Young Nick’s Head (it’s a headland named after Captain Cook’s cabinboy, Young Nick!).  We drove up a very steep and winding track and finally arrived at the top and the view was spectacular!


Poverty Bay


Brendon and Elenor are members of the Gisborne Astronomical Society and often come up to the observatory to view the night sky, they also attend lectures and talks.  It is perfectly obvious that they are totally settled here in Gisborne and are now well established in the community, they are very happy here indeed.  They also seem to be as well loved, admired and respected here as they were back in Cambridge, not surprising really, they are lovely people.


Brendon, Elenor and Clive


Right underneath the observatory is a concrete structure which has a notice on it saying “Gun Emplacement”.  Evidently during WWII there was an enormous gun here, something like one of those in that amazing film The Guns of Navarone!  Its purpose was to protect the bay from the Japanese should they ever get there, fortunately it was never needed.


We returned to Brendon and Elenor’s all feeling very content and extremely full!  We ended up not bothering with tea, nobody was hungry enough to eat it!  It wasn’t long before we were all yawning and struggling to keep awake, so we decided to all have an early night – it was only 8.30pm!  We dived into bed on the van and managed to do a whole crossword before weariness got the better of us and we just had to put the light out and go to sleep!


March 21st 2011 – When we woke up this morning it was raining!  Sadly it was also time to say goodbye to Brendon and Elenor.  We have had such a lovely weekend with them and it really was wonderful to see them both again after all these years. However I have one souvenir of our visit, which I will take great care of and ensure it gets safely back to the UK – a signed copy of Elenor’s latest book, which this time she has published under the pen name: Zoë Adams. I can’t wait to start reading it! 


We headed into the town centre to find a supermarket to stock up on a few things before taking our leave of Gisborne in the pouring rain.  Our journey up the coast continued in a constant deluge.  It wasn’t long before we noticed the creeks and rivers we were passing were getting higher and faster, there was water running down the runnels at the side of the road and it showed no sign of letting up whatsoever! Finally we arrived at the campsite we had aimed for at Te Araroa.  We drove in through the gate and the sign on the office door read “pick your own site, come back and pay at 3.30pm” !  We drove around the very damp and drippy campsite looking for a power site that didn’t have a lake on it.  We finally found one that appeared to be reasonably sound and parked the van.  I decided I wasn’t going to set foot out of the door until absolutely necessary so I climbed over the seat into the back of the van!  Poor Clive wasn’t so lucky, he had to plug the lead into the power source so that we could have electricity – bless!  About an hour after we arrived he had to brave the elements again and go over to the office to pay the fees!  When he came back he was chuckling because the guy in the office had asked him what he thought of the rain, he then proceeded to say that the forecast was for heavy rain, which hadn’t arrived yet!  Clive was aghast – we actually thought it was pretty torrential!  Oh no, this is nothing, it will get heavy tonight then should tail off by lunchtime tomorrow,he said!  Clive was a tad concerned and asked if the site was likely to flood - only if the creek bursts its banks, was the reply. Ah well, don’t worry, if you need towing out tomorrow we’ll sort it, he reassured Clive!  Oh dear!


We made the bed up and decided to have an early night.  We managed to do another crossword before it all got too much for us and we settled down to sleep.  I woke up at some ungodly hour needing a pee!  It was still raining!  I grabbed the umbrella, slipped my feet into my flipflops and headed off to the loos. Several times on the way over my feet were under water!  Then, trying to hurry (bad idea in flipflops!) I tripped and went base over apex and landed spreadeagled on the rainsoaked grass!  I was absolutelydrenched!  I picked myself up, found the umbrella and continued on to the loos.  I returned to the van, peeled off my extremely wet pyjamas and climbed back into bed.  Clive never even noticed!!


March 22nd 2011 – We were rudely awakened by a loud knock on the side of the van at 7.20 this morning!  Clive peered out of the window then yelled at me to get up, quick,  the campsite was flooded! The aforementioned creek had burst its banks and was now flowing under the van!! 

Flooded campsite (sorry its a bit blurry!)

Everybody was rushing around like mad things, disconnecting power cables and battening everything down so that they could move their vans.  Clive did the same.  I quickly stripped the bed and stowed everything away whilst Clive started the engine and very gingerely eased the van forward.  He needn’t have worried our trusty Econovan coped magnificently, not a sign of wheelspin, we were soon out of the campsite and onto hard ground – phew!  Clive decided to nip back to use the loo before going any further, when he came back I was going to go too but thought better of it when he informed me that the drains were all backing up!!!  So off we went down the road, not a tooth brushed nor even a cup of tea under our belts!


We were on the main road continuing our journey round the East Cape but you would never have known it was a major road at all!  There was evidence of the overnight deluge everywhere, ditches on either side of the road were overflowing and in places creeks were flowing over the road but the van coped very well.  Then we reached another such flood and started to drive through it but this one was much deeper than the previous ones and suddenly the engine started to balk – oh no!  I pleaded and cajoled with it to keep going and Clive did his best but he said we were actually starting to float and therefore the tyres didn’t have enough purchase, also the clutch was struggling as well!  Just as I thought we were going to have to get out and push, the tyres suddenly caught again and very slowly we inched our way out of the water, that was a very close call! 

Flooded road!

We reached another of these floods a few miles further on and this time decided not to risk it!  We parked on a bit of hard standing at the side of the road and put the kettle on, at least we could have the morning cuppa we had missed!  A little while later a huge logging truck with an equally huge trailer appeared over the hill and when the driver spotted the flood he pulled up, got out of his cab and went off to investigate in his wellies!  This one looked a lot worse than it was, it barely came half way up his boots!  A 4WD turned up whilst he was paddling and then a small mini bus after that.  The trucker got back in his cab and headed into the water, he made it!  The 4WD and the bus followed him and they too got through without any trouble.  So, when we’d finished our drinks we did the same – I had all my fingers and toes crossed I can tell you, however we made it through without any bother, it was nowhere near as bad as the previous one. 

Fortunately this was the last big flood we came across as the road started to climb after that. 


We carried on driving for five hours in total, there was just no point stopping.  The rain never let up the whole way!  Clive had intended stopping off at a place called Opotiki as there was a campsite there but it was situated on the banks of a river so he thought better of it and decided to continue on to Whakatane (pron. Fakka taany). However whilst I was looking in the campsite book to find somewhere for us to stay I spotted a camp a few miles inland from Whakatane called Awakeri Springs – hot springs!!  So we headed there.  Would you believe it, by the time we arrived the rain had stopped, the clouds had all blown away and it was wall to wall blue and very hot sunshine! Incredible!  Everything promptly started to steam and it is now like a sauna! I made good use of the laundry facilities as soon as we arrived as I had a pair of very soggy and muddy pyjamas needing a bit of attention!!  I put them out on the camp clothesline and they are almost dry already!

So here we are in Awakeri Springs and we are just about togo and sample the pools.  Bye for now!


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