Success is getting what you want; happiness is liking what you get

Wednesday 29 November 2023

Time to Head Home

The four day ICA Christmas Rally had come to an end, so it was time to head home.  We decided to have an easy slow trip, and allow three days for our homeward journey.  Our first overnight stop was back to Ngongotaha, in Rotorua, passing along the very picturesque road past Fitzgerald Glade.  There is a nice cafe here, which we have stopped at previously, but not this time. We were aiming to get to Rotorua for lunch time.


Nearly at Fitzgerald Glade

The Ngongotaha NZMCA camp is always very busy.  It fills up quickly during the afternoon, and empties out again each morning.  Of course, some campers stay for days at a time, but we were amongst the overnighters.


Ngongotaha NZMCA Camp

Something obviously caught Gemma’s attention, probably a bird or two,  and she peered intently out of the window.  No, she is not allowed to chase birds, although she would dearly love to.


Let me out, Mum

Driving through Taupo the next morning we saw many cyclists taking part in the Annual Around the Lake cycle race.  This race draws contestants from all over New Zealand and overseas and as many as 5000 cyclists take part each year.  There are quite steep hilly parts of the road for the contestants to deal with, this is obviously a race for the young and fit.  We noticed several rest and water stations along the way for the cyclists to stop at, plus an ambulance or two parked up, just in case medical help was needed.


Around the Lake Race

Once passed all the cyclists, we traveled on to Turangi, another nice roomy NZMCA camp.  Not so many stayed here overnight.  Fish and chips from the local shop were on the menu for our dinner, and then the rain and the wind arrived overnight, and shook the van around. 


Our next night at Turangi

Driving along the Desert Road the following morning, I was thrilled to see Mt Ruapehu in all it’s glory.  This isn't always the case, depending on the weather,  so we stopped for a photo opportunity.


Mt Ruapehu

It was just as well we had stopped to take a photo when we did, and several minutes later the low cloud had rolled in, completely obscuring the mountain.  The temperatures dropped, and we drove through the mist.  By the time we reached Waiouru the weather had cleared.  Our looked forward to coffee break didn’t happen, as the coffee cart was closed!


Pea Soup weather

Our final stop of our trip was at the Marton NZMCA Park, a very pretty little camp indeed.  This used to be a former local council run camp in earlier times, and we remember staying here   many years ago with our caravan club.  We enjoyed the gifted trout fillet for dinner, I wasn’t quite sure how to cook it so pan fried the fish in a little butter – delicious.


Marton NZMCA Camp

From here it was about another 100km to home.  As we drove slowly past Otaki we saw the multitude of patched bikies who had gathered here for the funeral of a high ranking gang member  There was a heavy police presence on the road, with a helicopter flying overhead to keep an eye on the hundreds gathered. 

We soon made it home, unpacked, stopped for lunch, and put the washing machine on.  That’s it till our next trip away, and that’s coming up fast.

Friday 24 November 2023

Te Aroha and Matamata–ICA Rally

Moving on from Ponderosa Pop we traveled on to Te Aroha passing through Tatuanui.  Here we just had to stop to take a photo of a silo masquerading as a can of Dairy Whip Cream at the Tatua Dairy factory.


Fancy some cream with that?

Then we drove on to the Te Aroha council freedom parking area for the first two days of our ICA Christmas Rally.  Two caravans and about 20 motorhomes just about filled up this area in no time at all.  There was plenty of meeting and greeting, and catching up with members we hadn't seen for a while.  4zees was outside in the sunshine, and then in the evening we met in groups in hosts vans.  We were nominated to be a host van, pulled names out of the hat, and had an interesting evening chatting away and partaking of supper with two other couples.


We took over the freedom camping area

Te Aroha is a pretty little town and we went to have a look around. We found St Mark’s Memorial Church, built in the Gothic style in 1926 of stone and brick.  This church is now known as Te Aroha Co-operating Church.  Another interesting building is the War Memorial clock Tower, built in 1955.  The weather here was almost tropical, we had hot muggy days, then the rain clouds gathered in the afternoons and the rain came down, sending us all scurrying indoors. 


In Te Aroha township

After two days here it was time to move on to Matamata.  Not a great distance at all, so we took our time, stopping for lunch on the way.  But first we stopped at the Kaimai  air crash memorial, erected in memory of the three crew and twenty passengers who died aboard NAC flight 441 which crashed into the Kaimai Ranges in 1963.


Kaimai memorial

Our lunch stop was at Wairere Falls carpark, plenty of room for us to park for lunch.  There were plenty of cars parked up in the middle car park, full of keen walkers and trampers off the climb the tracks to see the WAirere Falls up close.  We took the easy way out and took a photo instead of these magnificent falls, they must be  even more beautiful after heavy rainfall in the ranges.



Lunch stop at the Wairere Falls

After this pleasant interlude we carried on to Matamata Club, where we were spending our last two nights.  Doug did a great job of squeezing us all into the grassy area, no mean feat with so many vans.  He wanted the two caravans parked up first, then slotted the motor homes around us.  We enjoyed Happy Hour in the club bar, and most of us stayed on for a bar meal afterwards, sure beats cooking!


Doug on parking duty

The Maori name Matamata means “headland”.  This was the name of a new pa (village) established in 1830 by Te Waharoa on a ridge of high ground.  These days Matamata is a very wealthy horse breeding town, and is also well known as the area where Hobbiton is situated.  In fact, the information centre is a replica Hobbiton House, and is the most photographed info centre in the country.


Matamata Information Centre

There is a wonderful sculpture in town, commissioned to honour horse breeding and horse racing in Matamata.  The thoroughbred industry has become a large part of the local economy and several race horses have been inducted into the Hall of Fame.  As well, many local trainers and jockeys have been inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame.  Sculptor Adrian Worsley created “Thoroughbred Horse and Jockey” combining recycled copper, brass, stainless steel and wood.


Created by local sculptor Adrian Worsley

The catered meal at the Matamata Club was the grand finale to our rally.  Father Christmas and his helpers welcomed us all into the dining room and gave us all a Christmas gift bag. 


Doug and Father Christmas (Desmond)

The meal was wonderful, hot ham, roast lamb, plenty of salads and veggies, plus a huge dish of prawns in a very tasty sauce, I really enjoyed that.  A delicious selection of desserts too, with tea and coffee to follow.


All enjoying the dinner

But the meal wasn’t over yet, there was the Christmas cake to cut.  Wavyne was asked to do the honours, she had earlier been awarded her 30 year presentation.


Wavyne cutting the cake

It was a wonderful evening, the food was great, and we congratulated the chef and his staff when they popped out to see us all. 

Sunday 19 November 2023

Away We Go Again

Home from our Anniversary Trip a week and a half, and off we go again.  Where to this time?  We are heading off to join the ICA people for the  Christmas Rally in Te Aroha and then Matamata, taking two days to travel up there.  So once again, the caravan was packed and we were raring to go.  It was fine when we departed, but then the weather got steadily worse.  Such is our temperamental Spring weather here in New Zealand.


The van is almost packed

The blue skies soon disappeared to make way for grey clouds.  Our first stop was Taihape by the railway station, lots of room there for our car and caravan, plus a handy coffee cart.  A bus full of tourists were making the most of the public toilets, then were soon on their way.  We lunched in the van, with something I had prepared earlier, plus a latte from the coffee cart.


Lunch stop at Taihape

Then the heavy rain came, and didn’t stop, following us as we headed north.  Our original plan was to spend the night at Taupo NZMCA Park, but as the parking is all on grass there we decided against it.  So we stopped at Turangi, a much better idea to be parked up on hard standing in such wet weather.  This large park was fairly empty, plenty of spaces here, but as the hours rolled by, more vans rolled in, happy to be off the roads in such wet weather, just like us, I imagine.


At Turangi NZMCA Park

There was a tap  on the door, and a lady asked us if we would be interested in a trout fillet.  My goodness, of course we would, and she didn't want any payment for it either.  They had obviously had a good day out fishing as we saw her take fish to several other vans as well.  It’s  a long time since we had eaten trout, and I carefully wrapped it up and popped it in the freezer to enjoy another night.


Freshly caught trout

Our plans for dinner was to go to a local take-away shop for a roast meal.  Last time we were in Turangi, Robin purchased fish and chips, and discovered that the roasts are so popular with the locals that they sell out really early.  “Call in by 5.00pm” he was advised,  so we did.  The roast pork meals were delicious, plenty of roast veggies, and very generous servings of roast pork and crackle.  We can certainly recommend them, and the fish and chips were very nice too when we enjoyed them last time we were staying here.


Delicious food here

It kept raining off and on all night, and still hadn’t stopped in the morning when we were heading off again.  We could just make out Motuaiko Island in the middle of Lake Taupo through the rain and the mist.  The name Motuaiko is from the Maori language, with “motu” meaning island, and “taiko” being the name of the black petrel.


Motuaiko Island

There were very long delays at the Arimuri road works, we waited, and waited, and waited some more.  Finally we got the green light to go and came across another long line of motorists waiting to drive south.  This happed several times along this stretch of road works.  As it was a Sunday, none of the heavy machinery was working, just a few workers monitoring the traffic lights on the side of the road.


We are finally moving, and the other line is stopped in place

We are staying the night at Ponderosa Pop, (park over property) at Matangi, near Cambridge.  This is our first time here, and the helpful host guided us through the gate and around a corner to get us on site.  There are several long time stayers here, he told us, so it’s lucky he has a couple of large areas to park everyone.


Ponderosa Pop

We are moving on in the morning for the start of the ICA Rally at Te Aroha, so that will be interesting. It will be great to catch up with everyone again.  The ICA group only holds two or three rallies each year.

Wednesday 15 November 2023

Out and About to Gracefield and Nae Nae

We had a day out today, meeting up with our Super Leisure Group friends for lunch, traveling down to the Hutt Valley.  As I was born, bred, had my schooling, and raised my children  in Lower Hutt, then later spent some years in Upper Hutt, it still feels like “coming home” when we return to the valley.  Our first stop was to Burnsco in Gracefield, to purchase a new kettle for our caravan – the old one had a leaky spout and needed replacing.  With the choice made, I left Robin to potter around the shop to his heart’s delight, and stepped outside to admire some yachts moored up.  I’m sure there is a lot of money moored up here.



Many years ago, in a former life, I was a dairy owner with my former husband in Petone.  As we drove past, we noticed it was no longer trading.  Quick, stop the car, I need a photo, I instructed Robin.  And here it is, the former Nelson Street Dairy, our home and business for three years when I was a young mother. 


Our dairy from many years ago

Then we drove to the Nae Nae Bowling Club to meet our friends and have lunch in the café.


Nae Nae Bowling Club

Sadly, our numbers have dropped lately, and there were only five of us.  But never mind, we still had plenty to talk about and fill in a couple of hours over lunch.  Calvin was the organizer for this month.


Calvin and Helen

Trish arrived soon after and after a bit of meeting and greeting we settled down to order our lunch.  Roast pork and veggies  was on the menu, so that was just the meal for us.  The others ordered roast beef, fish, and a toasted sandwich, followed by ice cream sundaes and tea and coffee.  The meals were nicely presented and very reasonably priced .  


Trish, Jenny, Robin, Calvin and Helen

There was a spirited game of bowls going on, this is a very large complex and it is good to see that it is well utilized.  As well as playing both indoor and outdoor bowls, members can play darts and pool, and are well served with a bar and café too.


Outdoor bowls

It was lovely to meet up again, have a good catch up, and  share all our news.  With Christmas coming up fast, we are hoping for another get together next month, hopefully we can find a date which suits us all, December is a very busy month indeed.

Monday 13 November 2023

Last Day in Rotorua then Heading Home

Our last day in Rotorua didn't happen as planned.  We had driven out to the Buried Village to find it wasn’t open till mid week.  Sad,  as we had enjoyed visiting here 40 years ago on our honeymoon trip, and wanted to see it again.  Such a shame – it tells the story of Mount Tarawera erupting in 1886.  Over four frightening hours, rocks, ash and mud rained down on the Maori village of Te Wairoa, covering the village with two metres of thick volcanic material.  The eruption also destroyed the famous Pink and White Terraces.  Hopefully, we can visit here on a future trip to Rotorua.


Our visit was not be be this time

Our Plan B was to visit a few more lakes in Rotorua.  The Blue Lake and the Green Lake are side by side, separated by a small isthmus, which had a very convenient lookout spot.  The Blue Lake, Tikitapu, is named as the place where the daughter of a chief lost her sacred greenstone neck ornament.  The lake water appears turquoise blue when seen from above due to the reflection of white rhyolite and pumice on the lake bottom.  The Green Lake, Rotokakahi, is named after the shellfish, kakahi, and appears to be emerald green when seen from above, due to its shallow, sandy bottom.  Privately owned by the local Iwi, this lake is sacred, and no swimming, boating or fishing is allowed.


Blue and Green Lakes

There was one more lake further up the road to visit, Lake Tarawera.  You can just make out the flat topped mountain in the background.  That is Mt Tarawera which blew it’s top back in 1886 and caused such devastation.  The lake was calm, and boat rides are available across the lake in the weekends.  We had an interesting chat to a tour guide who specialises in high end tours, he told us he often travels to collect clients from Auckland, travels around for days or weeks as required, staying at posh hotels.  One of his groups included a family group with adult children, the private pilot, plus a butler!


Lake Tarawera, with Mt Tarawera in the background

The next morning we packed up, said goodbye to Ngongotaha and started traveling homewards.  The weather wasn’t the best and we passed steaming ground as we neared Taupo – the rain always makes these vents steam more.


Steaming vents near Taupo

Turangi NZMCA Park was our stop for the night.  A lovely big area with plenty of room for the few vans stopping overnight.  The rain hosed down late afternoon and all through the night.  We enjoyed some fish and chips from the local shop, very nice they were too, and settled down for the evening warmed by our trusty diesel heater.  By morning, the rain had eased, but the wind had picked up, chasing the wind and clouds away.


Turangi NZMCA Park

From here, we stopped at Waiouru to refuel and a coffee, then heading straight on home.  Our Anniversary Trip was over, and we had a wonderful time.  It was an easy trip home, spreading it over a couple of days.  Robin’s knee behaved really well, this was his first big drive since the knee replacement.  The weather was quite mixed, there were a few nice days, but we certainly had our share of wind and rain.  We are not home too long, have another trip planned for next week.

Monday 6 November 2023

More fun in Rotorua

You know you have arrived in Rotorua when that “rotten egg sulphur smell” hits your nose.  Not all the time, just here and there to catch you off guard.  Rotorua is known for the smell, thermal activity, Maori entertainment, plenty of activities and dining places, hot pools and lakes.  Believe it or not, there are 18 lakes dotted around the area, with Lake Rotorua on the doorstep.


Lake Rotorua

We are staying at Ngongotaha for five nights, and caught up with Russel and Maureen.  We had missed the last caravan club rally, so it was great to catch up with them again on Friday when they came over for 4zees.  We waved them goodbye on Saturday morning, they were heading down to Taupo.


Russel and Maureen

We were heading out as well, we had a booking for High Tea at the Prince’s Gate Hotel.  This is one of the country’s oldest hotels still in operation with a history that dates back to 1897. 


This was something I was really looking forward to, I love  High Tea, but don't get to do it all that much.  As I often remind Robin, I’m sure I was someone very important in another life, I really enjoy these ladylike type of outings.  Not sure if he agrees with me though, maybe I was a scullery maid or a washer woman instead.  The table was set beautifully and the food and drinks arrived.  The morning was still a little chilly but we were nice and cozy sitting by the gas fire.


High Tea for two

There are indeed a set of Prince’s Gates right by the hotel.  The gates, with an archway resembling a royal crown, was built for the 1901 royal visit of the Duke and Duchess of York, later King George V, at the entrance to the Government Gardens in Rotorua. This structure is now unique in New Zealand, and is colloquially known as Prince's Gate.


Prince’s Gates

These impressive gates lead into the Government Gardens, home to the beautiful former Bath House, which opened on 1908 as a thermal spa offering medical and therapeutic treatments, before closing in 1966.  Today the building, classed as Highly Significant by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, houses the Rotorua Museum of Art and History. It is closed while currently undergoing earthquake strengthening.


The old historic former Bath House

We drove down to the lake edge, and our Sat Nav kept telling us “Free Parking”.  There is indeed plenty of free parking for self contained vehicles,  we saw, with lots of  of motorhomes taking advantage of lake side parking.


Lake Rotorua

Sunday, our 40th Anniversary, dawned bright and sunny – where have all those years gone, we wondered?  After breakfast we headed off to tick something off our list, the Redwoods Treewalk. 


The entrance

Driving into the carpark, we noticed walkways in the trees above us criss crossing overhead.  Tickets purchased, and we knew to ask for Gold Card discount, but no sign was on the counter offering it.  After a briefing about allowable numbers on the walkways and platforms, and don't touch the trees as it can harm the bark, we were on our way up the spiral walkway.


Up the spiral we went

We weren't sure how we would both manage up in the tree tops, but it was very easy walking indeed.  The platforms had seating if needed, but I was unaware that the walkways were in fact swing bridges!   All very sturdy, and no problem really.


Here we go

With 28 bridges and 27 platforms we slowly made our way around the redwoods, stopping to read the information boards at the platforms.  There were plenty of people down on the walking tracks, and the forest is free entry for recreation users.


Looking down on the forest floor

The walkway is suspended from the trees using a specially designed sling, which carefully wraps around the trunks without causing any harm.  The slings can be easily adjusted to allow for the growing trees.  Another feature of the forest is the Nightlights Walk and we spotted several of the lanterns on our walk which are illuminated in the evenings. 


These and many others glow in the darkness for the night walks

The redwoods and other exotic species were planted in 1901 as an experiment to see if they would be suitable as a timber crop, to save our native forests from being milled.  But the trees grew too fast here in NZ conditions and the timber was too soft for commercial use.  A friendly couple took our photo standing in front of the tallest tree on the walk, 246ft high, and 7ft in girth.


Standing in front of the tallest tree

The walk was very enjoyable and I’m pleased we finally achieved it.  Back to the van for a rest, then it as time to get into our glad raags and head out for our Anniversary Dinner at the Stratosfare Restaurant, accessed by the Skyline Gondola.  The ride was silent as we glided upwards, with great views of the city spread out below.


Up, up, and away

We were welcomed into the restaurant and taken to our window table, by a very attentive staff member.  With a glass of bubbly to hand, we then checked out the extensive buffet. 


The food was wonderful, we must say.  With plenty of overseas visitors to cater for there were many Asian dishes on offer, as well.  I tried a selection of Asian cuisine as my entree, very tasty indeed to try something quite different.  There were plenty of choices for the main course, and as expected, a wonderful selection  of desserts too.


Just as we had finished a cup of coffee each, and nibbled on some cheese and crackers, our waitress appeared carrying a tray which she presented to us.  On the tray were some extra dessert goodies, Happy Anniversary written in chocolate, and a card signed by the staff.  Guess we had mentioned our special occasion, and we were overwhelmed with the thoughtfulness of the management for doing this for us.


We had a wonderful night indeed