Category: Trips away

Despite my best intentions to write this up as soon as we got home, it’s now two months since we made this trip. Since our previous trip with the ancient caravan, we have made some serious repairs to it. We’ve waterproofed the roof with a rubberised paint, and replaced a whole lot of timber around the door frame, which had rotted to a soggy mess and meant that opening and shutting the door had been a hit and miss affair. So it was with renewed (and not misplaced) optimism that we set off to Paekakariki. We’ve stayed at the camp site there before and knew it would be the perfect base camp. The Paekakariki Holiday Park is set just inside the Queen Elizabeth Park , right at the far northern end of the settlement so it is quiet and rural, with easy and interesting tracks to walk, to the beach and along wooded paths. Of course we chose to go out of season, partly because of our commitments to harvesting herbs through the Summer, and partly because we wanted a quiet time.

View of Paekakariki Beach

Smooth landing

Kapitit Island was the highlight of our trip, we were very lucky to go over on the one stunningly fine day of the week we were away. We booked the trip with which provided a ferry trip each way, plus an explanatory talk on arrival. We also decided to take advantage of walking with a guide for part of the day, and this was really worthwhile too, providing us with lots of extra observations and information.

Very good tracks

Geoff and Kaka

Check in time was 8.30 am, and we received a confirmation text about 7 to confirm the trip was to go ahead. Setting off armed with plenty of food supplies, and clothing for every possible outcome, we set off. The weather was perfect, the sea calm and sparkling, the fully laden  boat set off, the trip over taking about 15 minutes. Before we even reached the island we could hear a wonderful chorus of bird song, and see many birds flying around the bush clad hills. It was like stepping back in time, imagining how much of New Zealand would have once resonated with such

rich life.

After the introductory talk about 6 of us set off with our guide, among other things, we saw the debris of twigs and berries that the Kaka leave under their feeding spots, we saw the chewed seed heads of Flak that the Kakariki love to eat. There was a very desultory collection of twigs overhead, which we learnt was a Kereru nest, way up the hill we found a tunnel that was a Little Blue Penguin burrow, it was hard to believe that the penguins would travel so far.

View from track, Kapiti Island

Kapiti Island Beach

When our guide left us we carried on up the track to the feeding station, here we saw Saddlebacks, Stitchbirds, North Island Robins, Bellbirds, a Weka and most excitingly a Kaka, which landed on Geoff’s shoulder. For me that was enough hill walking, so we retraced our steps down to the coast, where we had our lunch and enjoyed watching all the bird activity. It was a magical day out, we highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in conservation and our beautiful bird life.  Next time I think we’ll stay overnight to see the Little Spotted Kiwi and hear the Kokako, there are also Takahe on the island but they were up in the tops in March, so perhaps we’ll see them next visit.The link below is the DOC brochure which shows you all the wildlife to be found on Kapiti.

Click to access kapiti-island-brochure.pdf

Of course we spent a lovely time in and around Paekak, and even venturing into Wellington one very wet day to see the WW1 Exhibition at the War Memorial Museum, and to browse the many temptations at Moore Wilsons, but the other highlight for us was visiting the upstairs gallery above the Cafes in Paekakariki, ‘Alan Wehipeihana Studio & Gallery,’ a wonderful creative space, with all sorts of intriguing artworks and inspiration. We really enjoyed talking with Alan and exploring the large area set aside for artists, what a great place to be creative in.

Amazing Wairarapa

Geoff & I took the old caravan on an outing to explore the Wairarapa a few weeks ago. What an amazing, wild & varied place. I thought I’d just put in a bit of a photographic essay to tempt you all to go exploring.

We stayed at Mount Holdsworth, Lake Ferry, Ngawi & Castle Point.

We came back on the Monday that the cyclone was due & had a bit of excitement, first the brakes went on the Terrano just as we left Castle Point. We were very lucky that we could pull over safely, & we got rescued by the AA, (not for the first time!) It was a broken alternator belt, which drives the vacuum pump for the brakes, (so Geoff informs me.) Luckily we could make coffee & cook breakfast in the caravan while we waited. Then we took the ‘short-cut’ via Alfreston, which was very scary, muddy & like 40km of forestry tracks. Eventually we arrived safely in Eketahuna, covered in mud & a bit shaken…not a route for the faint hearted, or those anticipating a cyclone.

Mount Holdsworth Mystery plant?? Mount Holdsworth, Geoff being brave Mosses & Lichens, Mount Holdsworth Rewarewa Lake Ferry

The Pinnacles Cape Palliser, Wairarapa  Cape Palliser, wairarapa

Ngawi, wairarapa Tinky Winky, wairarapa Look cute, smell bad!!

The Pinnacles Castle Point

Northland in October

It’s been so long since I put an entry into the blog, I’m not sure where to start.

Our son, Giles came back home, after living in wellington for 8 years, & then heading overseas. Since he has been home we have been undergoing a transformation, we are now the “Team at Millstream” & have a new website & blog, we’ve completed the changeover to new labels & undertaken an ambitious new project designing a new range of tins with beautiful retro kiwi labels with matching postcards. We have found a number of outlets for these, but as yet have decided not to sell online, because we want the shops they are in to have the benefit of being exclusive.

Retro NZ Tin StandThe reason I’m telling you this, is that the new tins were the impetus for Geoff & I to do one of our rare sales trips/ holiday escapades. The first leg of the trip from home to Taupo went smoothly, towing our old caravan & we anticipated getting through the Auckland traffic well ahead of rush hour. Just outside of Tokoroa we had a mishap (understatement of the year!) suddenly there was a strange juddering, we pulled over thinking we had a flat tyre on the caravan, imagine our surprise & horror to discover that on one side we had no wheel at all. It had vanished into thin air, leaving four snapped off bolts & the caravan lurching sickeningly onto one side. All our happy thoughts dissolved in a second & dire thoughts replaced them.

where's the wheel goneprecariousCaravan

While we waited for AA to come to our rescue we scouted the other side of the road for the errant wheel, eventually finding it, in one piece up against a fence in some undergrowth, it was so lucky that it hadn’t caused an accident as it sped across that very busy road. The AA  tow truck   man  was unphased, he hooked the caravan up onto the deck, hanging precariously off the back, & took us back to Tokoroa. After visiting several garages who were too busy to help, we found a kindly gentleman at Pit Stop Garage who sent us off to buy bolts, then proceeded to check out the axle & brakes, & replace the wheel. Half an hour & $70 later (including bolts) we were back on the road, limping a little & a bit nervous, but definitely counting our blessings & grateful for acts of kindness from strangers.

DSCF1605Kiwi mail boxeshundterwasser toilets

Luckily we stayed a night at my Aunt & Uncles, & had all the materials we needed to repair the body work & internal framing that had been munched. Once we had that sorted we headed cautiously northwards. We spent a night at Mangawhai Heads, which was quite nostalgic for me, since we lived near Te Hana when we first came to NZ in 1976, & Mangawhai was the first beach I saw here. We drove along the coast, through Waipu to Whangarei, then on to Paihia, via the toilets at Kawakawa. Kerikeri then across to Rawene, then turned south again through Dargaville, Kaiwaka (my old stomping ground, where we lived for some time in a community, back in 1978) & then back onto familiar territory. Although we cut the trip a bit short, to avoid shaking the caravan too much we had some lovely times & met a lot of helpful & friendly people. I think I may have overcome my dread of marketing, although Geoff is a natural & doesn’t stress at all.

Northland 120Boathouse Cafe, RaweneBush, Northland

Highlights were:

The Quarry Arts Centre in Whangarei, where we explored all sorts of eccentic buildings & admired beautiful art works & some exquisite wood turning.

Haruru Falls Motel & Motorcamp, just north of Paihia, a blissful spot on the edge of the water, lots of bird life & quiet.

The Hundertwasser toilets in Kawakawa

The Stone Store at Kerikeri with it’s authentic shop

The Boatshed Cafe at Rawene, the best seafood pizza ever, & such a cool spot, lovely staff too, even though they were rushed off their feet.

The bush drive from Opononi to outskirts of Dargaville, beautiful.

Matakohe Kauri Museum, haven’t been there for 30 years, it has grown so much. Love the life sized models, all the figures are replicas of local people who’s families are part of the history of the place.

Bush drive from Tirau to Rotorua, very special we’ve never been on that road before.

Best of all: arriving safely in our own driveway.

If you want to source our tins, you’ll have to go visiting:

The Cream of Matakana, at Matakana,  Country Trenz, Town Basin Whangarei

Ancient Kauri Kingdom, Paihia,   The Stone Store, Kerikeri

The Kauri Museum, Matakohe,   Rotorua Museum

Art Deco Trust, Napier,     Gallery at the Mission, Greenmeadows

Arataki Honey, Havelock North

Pekapeka Swamp

Despite driving past Pekapeka every time we go to Hastings, we had never stopped to have a look around. Finally the impetus came from a friend visiting with her son, who was a very keen & well informed birdwatcher. Not so many years ago the swamp was noticeable because of the smell of rotting vegetation, always prompting accusing looks in the car & ‘who did that?’ Then the willows started to die, & the place looked very dismal.


Then interesting things started to happen, grading the area & building a carpark & pull off area, fencing, signage & the planting of many many native plants.  As I understand it,the Regional Council has funded much of the work supported by the Lotteries Board, & no doubt other parties too. Local community groups, such as Forest & Bird & local schools have been responsible for much of the planting, & it is really impressive, & will continue to become a great feature of the land.

State Highway 2 was built straight through the Swamp &  provides one boundary, & the railway lines weaves through it too, always one of my favourite parts of a trip to Wellington by train, now alas not running as a passenger service.  Pekapeka is about 97 hectares in area, owned largely by the Regional Council, according to the guff I’ve found, it is “located in a narrow basin, surrounded by limestone capped hills, forming part of the Poukawa basin & flowing into the Heretaunga Plains.”  Not so long ago, & in some places, still,swamps were used as a dumping area, & rubbish dating from the 1870’s to 1990 has been found. A striking & unsettling reminder of this tendency to dump, has been cleverly incorporated into the site, so that dumped building materials form the old Mayfair & Pacific Hotels is left visible, & hopefully it’s message will be absorbed.

Boardwalk & demolition materials

I wondered about the Raupo, (Bullrushes) that are prevalent in the waters, apparently there is a weir built near the piggery at the northern end, which keeps the water level higher into the Summer months & the Raupo doesn’t like to grow in water over 1 metre deep, for the waters to stay healthy, 50% needs to be clear of plants. Also in the weir is a fish pass, which allows eels & fish to come & go.

The day we went walking we didn’t see many birds, Black Swans, Mallards, Dabchicks & a lone black rooster. We plan to go back with our young bird enthusiast in the Spring when the birds start breeding. Despite the lack of feathered friends we had a great time, looking at the reflections in the water, the plantings, information boards &  especially the boardwalks. It’s wonderful to see such a long term project showing such progress, & saddening that it has taken such a huge effort & foresight to reclaim one of our treasures, & I am aware that there are many other waterways in need of our help.

Exploring New South Wales

Well it’s been some time since I wrote in the blog. Geoff & I have been on holiday, a rather extravagant decision in hind sight, but so good for us, amazing to have a brain rest, not wake up in the am with a list of things to do that day. We rented a camper van from Brisbane & drove south, we had 9 days, but didn’t want to spend too many hours driving. The van we had was perfect, we left the bed down all the time, ready for any unscheduled siesta. It had a little table that folded down for food prep outside. & plenty of storage.  Our main objectives were to keep out of the main tourist areas, see wildlife, swim (Geoff) & fossick on beaches. I think we covered most points & the highlights for me were Binna Burra & Minnie Water, oh and Iluka.

This is our 3rd visit to Binna Burra, which is about 2 hours South of Brisbane in the Lamington Ranges. It’s an eco-tourist site, with loads of wildlife, tiny Pademelons(rabbit sized marsupials like Wallabies) which come out to graze at dusk, we heard a Bok Bok Owl, very like our Morepork & a possum came right into our camp looking for food. The Brush Turkeys are an opportunistic lot, it doesn’t pay to leave any food out.  There are a number of great bush walks, we did the Bellbird Lookout walk & were entertained by a pair of Pied Currawongs, who sounded like a cross between a Tui &  a Magpie, very cool!

We also went to O’Reillys, which is in the Lamington ranges too. It was about here we had a hissy fit with Google Maps, as the directions were seriously wrong time-wise. It was worth it though. O’Reilly’s is like the glamorous version of Binna Burra, much more tourist orientated, but in it’s favour the drive is breath taking, there are flocks of Crimson Rosellas to feed & a brilliant tree top walk, not for the vertiginous! There’s less of a sense that you might come across the unexpected, or are walking quiet ground, but it is still a buzz, those birds are beautiful.We stayed a night at Brunswick Heads, which was a bit too hectic for us, but NSW does markets so well, we walked from the campsite to the market & were sorely tempted by the range of Chilli plants for sale, also Frangipani cuttings in all colours. We met someone who grew Lemon Myrtles for oil, & apparently the Essential oil is much more effective than Tea Tree, so we are looking into that, it’s smells great too. We met a couple who make Bubble wands & they had come over to NZ to sell at the Haumoana Market, small world huh?  We visited Byron Bay but that was too busy for us. we did check out the industrial area, which also accommodates a number of artists & creative types, & thought that was a good idea, mixing the two & bringing custom into the area.We stayed the night at Lake Ainsworth, which is a fresh water lake , a hop, skip & a jump from the ocean. The lake is dark, dark brown stained with tannins which seep from the Melaleuca trees. It is reputed to be very good for the skin & hair, Geoff, ( he who swims anywhere) went in, but I was a chicken. There were reported to be Brown Snakes in the grounds, I got paranoid about them as they are very poisonous, I like non toxic snakes.

We spent 2 nights at Iluka, which is on the Clarence River, a lovely serene spot, with an abundance of rabbits, so tame they’d come & take food from us, they are a pest really, but very cute. There’s a wonderful old ferry that goes across to Yamba, we had a perfect trip, the water was like glass, & to top off the day, we walked to the Fishing Co-op for fish & chips & as we sat admiring the sunset, dolphins appeared in the harbour, perfect! On the drive to Minnie we went through a place called MacLean, which was very quait, & had the original idea of decorating it’s power poles in various tartans. Even more interesting was a huge Fruit Bat colony on the southern edge of town, I used to think they were cute, but now I’m not so sure. They hang upside down, & have a digestive system that takes 10 minutes from start to finish, so they smell bad from pooping on themselves, that’s got to be a design fault.

Minnie Water & Woolli had been on our  wish list, for 2 reasons, there is a small population of Coastal Emus that live in the area, & Minnie seemed the most likely place for me to check out rockpools.  I grew up on the Kentish coast in England & spent many many hours on the beaches there. When we moved to Devon I was sitting A levels, Zoology in particular, because I had a dream of becoming a vet (alas Physics & Chemistry were my downfall!) We did spend several weeks on field trips, studying Marine Biology & although I can’t remember the latin names anymore, I still have a passion for the marine world.  The closest we got to seeing an Emu was fresh poos, sorry no photo,  much to my chagrine our travelling companions did see one walking across the road, dammit!

Minnie Water was everything I could have hoped for, at the South end of the beach is a lagoon, rocks, & at the northern end are bush walks to the headland, spectacular rocks, wild plants including Viola cunninghamii & some Everlasting Daisy type flowers. If we come this way again we’ll make use of the National Park camp ground.Total culture shock finding our way back to Camper hire in Brisbane, the road signs are either cryptic, hidden or don’t relate to the map, quite a challenge for me as navigator, since I have no sense of direction, get car sick every time I look down at map, & have to travel with map facing direction we are driving in, which makes it hard to read upside down. I wouldn’t want to live in Australia, but the wildlife is so rich & varied, it makes every outing exciting.  I do appreciate the way we here in NZ, can go from a-b-c in a few hours & see such a huge variety of scenery… swings & roundabouts!

Two Weeks In Brisbane

We’ve had 2 weeks away, visiting family in Brisbane. Each time we go over, we’re reminded how different Australia is, the climate, the houses, the language, the plants & most interestingly, the wildlife.

We had a number of trips out into wilder parts of the country,  just a few hours from Brissie. We saw fields of Swan plants growing wild, hand fed Crimson Rosellas outside a tiny tea shop, came across a big spider, with an even bigger web. The web, part of which crossed the road, & was yellow, it was so thick you could twang it like fishing line.

We drove a rugged dirt track through the Condamine Gorge, much to my delight there were over a dozen fords, I love fords! The fences are even different, the wires are threaded through holes drilled through each post, & some posts are massive. Other times, we’ve gone over in the dry season, so it was lovely to see all the verges & trees looking fresh & green.

We went up to the Bunya Mountains, a couple of hours N.W. of Brisbane. Bunya trees are large conifers, which grow abundantly in that area. They have huge cones, which hold huge nuts, which are edible. The main season finishes in March, but we found enough to try them out. There are notices on open sites reminding people not to stand or park under the trees, as the cones weigh several kilos!!

We tried them roasted, & boiled, I quite liked them, tasting like a cross between a Chestnut & a Pine Nut, but I was in the minority! I was so impressed by the scale of them, remembering how fiddley it is to get a teaspoon of Pinenuts from our tree at home. If only they tasted as nice as pine nuts! (Geoff snuck that comment in when I wasn’t looking!)

We also visited Mount Coot-tha Botanic Gardens, which was lovely, & full of interesting plants. Alas our camera ran out of batteries part way through. We were especially taken with some beautiful large Bamboos, & the fruit trees area, which had all sorts of weird & wonderful fruits growing there. Lots of Goannas & other lizards scuttling about on the paths & in the undergrowth. One cheeky one was checking out the cafe.

We spent a couple of days based at Kangaroo Point, near the river. We stayed in a motel & walked around to South Bank, Galleries , shops etc from there. The first day we had torrential rain,but armed with voluminous plastic ponchos, donated by Dad, we squelched around, & although still quite damp, we were warm enough. Couldn’t resist taking photos of the umbrella brigade, stoutly crossing the bridge at the end of the day.

Home again and driving back from Wellington Airport, after midnight, along the coastal road, & cutting up through Happy Valley we hardly saw a single car & it was so quiet, such a contrast to the noise & bustle of Brisbane. We came home through the Wairarapa & loved all the Autumn colours & best of all it was cool. There is a lot to be said for having seasons.

Our own bed, the dogs to greet us, & all the other minutiae that make up our lives here, bliss. Definitely one of the unsought benefits of travel is that we can see our own place with fresh eyes, just for a bit, & appreciate how precious that is.