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March 26th 2011 - Ness Valley, Auckland

March 23rd 2011 - Awakeri Springs continued – We had a wonderful time soaking in the swimming pool sized spa pools last night.  The water was really hot!  For once I really wished there was a cooler one as the sun was really hot as well. Fortunately there was a canopy over the pool so were able to get out of the sun for short spells in between swimming. When we got out of the water we went to van and picked up our toiletries and headed off for the showers.  Now I have to say, this campsite was rather spartan in the way of facilities but I was really surprised to find that the showers were using the same thermal water that was in the pools, the pressure was almost non-existent and of course the water was sulphurous so I came out of the shower smelling like a boiled egg – nice!  Still I was clean!  The washing on the line was completely dry and ready to put away and I got a second lot hung out as well but there wasn’ treally enough heat left in the sun to dry that and I had to finish it off in the tumble dryer.


This morning we left Awakeri Springs and headed off to Whakatane (pron. Fackataany).  The sun was shining once again.  It wasn’t far from the campsite really so it didn’t take very long to get there.  When we arrived Clive suggested we find somewhere nice to park the van and have a coffee and TimTams before exploring the town.  That done we headed into the town centre.  It’s a nice town and was quite a busy place.  We found a bargain bookshop and spent absolutely ages browsing through the stock.  The books really were very cheap, certainly for New Zealand!  The trouble is we can’t take too many home with us, they weigh too much!  I found a really lovely book that was only $5 but I would have to leave half my clothes behind if I put it in my suitcase, it weighed a ton!  We bought three paperbacks, which were on special 3 for $19 – bargain! 


After a quick sandwich aboard the van we set off on the road again, this time for Mount Maunganui. There is a campsite right at the base of the Mount and we managed to get in there.  The Mount itself is actually on a peninsula therefore we had a beach at either side of the campsite.  One was very sheltered and calm the other was a great surfing beach and the waves were really big.  We could see lots of surfers taking advantage of them from our vantage point.


We had a very relaxing afternoon and evening and a reasonably early night – we needed the rest to prepare for the expedition in the morning!!!


March 24th 2011 – Mt Maunganui.  After breakfast we got ourselves sorted out, left the campsite and found an unrestricted parking spot out on the road where we could leave the van for a few hours. I got my hiking poles out and put my walking boots on – I was ready!  The expedition was to  climb Mount Maunganui!  Clive said we would just take it at a steady pace and have rests when necessary – oh goody!  We set off and I was lulled into a false sense of security, the path wasn’t very steep for about a hundred yards then we turned a corner and up it went!  My hiking poles were absolutely invaluable, if I hadn’t had them I would have turned back I think, I’m not too good on inclines at all, never have been, even when I was young and slim!  Anyway, we plodded on, stopping to admire the view from time to time (well that was my excuse!) which was amazing.  It didn’ thelp my morale when younger, fitter people passed us on the way up,,jogging!  Some people have far too much energy!!  Anyway we finally arrived at the top – I’d done it!  I have to say at this point that in April 1953 the famous New Zealander, Sir Edmund Hilary, conquered Everest, well almost 58 years later Melanie Morris conquered Mount Maunganui!


At the top of Mt Maunganui


When we looked out from the summit we realised that it was well worth all the effort we had put into getting here, the views were absolutely breathtaking.  As I mentioned earlier, Mt Maunganui is on a peninsula so every direction we looked in had something different to offer.  One view looked over Tauranga and the port where we could see a huge, fully laden logging ship tied up to the quay and acres of logs in the yard all waiting to be loaded onto other ships.  Logging is a really huge industry here in New Zealand and we have seen the evidence of it the length and breadth of the country, on both islands!


Logging yard and ship


From another aspect we could see the township of Mt Maunganui below with the shore stretching away to Papamoa Beach in the distance and in this photo you can see both sides of the peninsula.


Both sides, both beaches


Then yet another view looked over Matakana Island and the distant coast road which would take us up to Auckland in a few days time.


Matakana Island


We could also see White Island in the distance, NewZealand’s only off shore active volcano. We just drank it all in, it was so beautiful.  Then it was time to head back down again and once more my trusty hiking poles were a godsend, they helped enormously on the descent as anyone with arthritic knees knows, going down is more painful than coming up!  On the way down we had more chance to do a bit of bird spotting and were rewarded with a couple of nice shots, which Clive took, one of a New Zealand Yellowhammer and the other a gorgeous little Silvereye.


                        New Zealand Yellowhammer



Finally we reached the bottom and it wasn’t long before we were back on the van.  We now had a problem – we had checked out of the campsite and therefore had no facilities on hand!  Needless to say we were both very hot and sweaty after scaling Mt Maunganui and very much in need of a shower!  I came up with a great solution.  At the base of the Mount, between the two beaches are the Mount Maunganui Hot Saltwater Pools – sorted!!  So we walked round to the pools, donned our togs and had an hour soaking in the lovely hot water – lovely!  Just what we needed after our climb.


Once we were nice and clean and changed into clean clothes we set off up the coastal road heading for Papamoa Beach.  We stopped to look back and take a photograph of the Mount.  I have to say it doesn't look anywhere near as big as it really is and nowhere near as high, but it is I can assure you!!

Mount Maunganui

Now you may recall that we stayed at a campsite in Papamoa Beach back in January and it rained very heavily!  At that time we called in at Torbin Place, where Nick, Sam, Jamie, Molly and Daniel (my nephew and family) used to live.  We stopped for coffee at No 4, the home of Raewyn and Jason Fair and their two children, who were very goodfriends of Nick and Sam’s.  At that time they asked if we would call back this way and stay with them for a couple of days, so that is what we were doing.


Since that visit however Jason had injured his back and ended up having surgery the week before we arrived!  We had suggested that we cancel our visit but they wouldn’t hear of it and insisted that we still come.  On our arrival we found Jason in a bit of a sorry state and in quite a bit of pain but he seemed very pleased to see us.  We hadn’t been there long before Jason and Clive were happily watching Morcambe and Wise, the DVD which Clive got for Christmas from Mary!  They were both in stitches!  They also watched wall to wall rugby, cricket and the Formula 1 practice sessions – happy as pigs in sh..mud they were!  Bless! 


Raewyn was busy in the kitchen preparing the dinner so I kept her company.  We had a barbecued Butterfly Lamb, the same thing we had here on Christmas Day.  It was absolutely delicious.  I wonder if I can get a butcher to butterfly a leg of lamb for me when I get back to England?


Later that evening we said goodnight and pootled off down the drive to the van, which was parked outside in the street.  We couldn’t sleep in the van if it was up the drive as it was quite a steep gradient – all the blood would have rushed to our feet!!  So we lowered the tone of the neighbourhood instead!


March 25th 2011 – Papamoa Beach


We had a very peaceful nights sleep out on Torbin Place last night, no problem at all.  The Fair’s two children, Harrison and Eden were both up and watching TV so they let us in the front door.  Harrison had to go to school as it was a weekday and it wasn’t long before his friend called for him and off they went on their skateboards!  After breakfast Raewyn, Eden, Clive and I left Jason to rest and we headed off to Te Puke (pron. tay pookay) the next township. Raewyn took us to Kiwi 360, which is a small four and a half hectare farm growing Kiwi Fruits.  They do a guided tour of the farm and it was just ready to go when we arrived, so we all piled onto the little train and set off. 


The tour was absolutely fascinating.  We drove through groves of Kiwi vines and there was a commentary telling us all about the farm.  Considering it is such a small size in terms of area its fruit production is awesome. Every season it produces one hundred million trays of fruit and each tray contains about thirty fruits!  There are six thousand permanent staff working on the farm but in the picking season that swells to twenty-five thousand!  During this time all the government benefits are stopped as there is no excuse whatsoever for anyone not to work.  They get the unemployed, backpackers, students, old age pensioners and anyone else who wants to work for a few weeks.  However, they still can’t get enough people so they also ship people in from the Pacific islands such asTonga, Fiji and Vanuatu and these people all have to be accommodated too! 


At one point the driver stopped the “train” so that we could all get off.  He took us under the vines and we could see all the Kiwi fruit hanging down.  They are almost ready for picking but not quite. 


Golden Kiwi fruit, (note the pointed bottom) almost ready to be harvested


No Kiwis are picked until the sugar content of the fruitr eaches 6.5% but when that happens everyone goes into overdrive to get the fruit harvested as quickly as possible. Once the fruit is harvested it is put into storage and the temperature is reduced to half a degree and the fruit will then keep for at least six months and can be shipped all over the world. He also informed us that the Kiwi fruit is number one on the list for its nutritional value.  It is the healthiest fruit available to man!  There are actually two different types of Kiwi Fruit growing here.  The ones in the picture above are Golden KiwiFruit, which have yellow flesh instead of green and look a little different to the normal green ones we get at home , which are pictured below:


Normal green Kiwi fruit - flat bottomed


When the tour was over we had a browse around the gift shop and I bought a bottle of Nektar, which is pure, squeezed Kiwi juice, absolutely delicious!  We then went outside and had a look at the big Kiwi slice which advertises Kiwi 360.  There are steps inside and you can climb upto the top and look out over the farm.


Mel, Eden & Clive with the Big Kiwi Slice!

Then we returned to Torbin Place for lunch.  Clive and I had intended to leave after lunch and head up to Auckland but Jason and Raewyn persuaded us to stay another night. 


March 26th 2011 – We had breakfast with the Fair family and Clive and Jason resumed their places in front of the TV for another comedy session, this time it was Ronnie Barker! I watched Raewyn making a New Zealand quiche with great interest.  All the coffee bars here serve really luscious savouries along with the usual muffins and tarts and I really wanted to know how they are made.  The one that Raewyn was making was really unusual, it was called a self-crusting quiche!  She started with a basic pastry recipe, flour and butter, which she rubbed in as normal, however she didn’t mix it with water to make it into pastry, she set it on one side.  She then proceeded to make the filling with eggs, milk, tuna and various veggies. Once that was ready she added it to the pastry mix and combined the two together then poured it into a dish and popped it in the oven – never seen that done before, I was intrigued!  Well it was absolutely delicious!  We had it for lunch with salad and it was divine.  I asked Raewyn for the recipe and I am definitely going to try making that when we get back to Lindsey’s!


Finally it was time for us to take our leave of them all.  Jason asked us if we could come back for another visit before we return to England in May then he had another idea, he is going to be off work for nearly three months whilst he recovers from his back operation and had planned to make a trip up to Auckland during the school holidays in a few weeks time so that they can go to the zoo, he suggested we all meet up and go to the zoo together – that will be lovely.


It took us about three and half hours to do the journey back to Clevedon.  I phoned Lindsey to tell her we were on our way and would be back about 6.30pm and she informed us she might not be in when we arrived as she had been invited to a party!  So as we were passing through the village we decided to stop and get fish and chips (Tarakihi and wedges) for our dinner!  When we arrived back with them Lindsey was still in, just putting the final touches to the supper dish she was taking with her!  We said hello and goodbye and after she left we tucked into our delicious takeaway. We’re really going to miss Tarakihi when we get home, it will be back to boring old Cod and Haddock!!

Lindsey still wasn’t home when we went to bed – dirty stop-out!



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