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

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Weekend in Carterton

Our caravan safari came to an end, but it wasn’t an end to our time away.  The next thing on the agenda was the three day rally hosted by the Wairarapa caravan Club.  It was a double celebration, the 20th Regional Rally, and their club’s 80th birthday.  The Wairarapa Caravan Club is the oldest in New Zealand, and back when it started, the caravans would have been home built models – there was no New Zealand caravan industry then.  There were 29 caravans and motorhomes gathered at the Rugby Club grounds, with some people traveling quite a distance to attend.


The club banners from the various clubs attending were proudly marched into the hall, and the rally was officially opened on Friday evening by the President of CCNZ who had traveled down from Gisborne.


Over the weekend it was great to catch up with members of the other clubs, who we only see from time to time.  Harry and Lorraine were determined to relieve us all of some dollars over the weekend, as they were selling raffle tickets.  Our club, Heretaunga did quite well in buying winning raffle numbers, with most of us taking home a prize.  There were the usual Morning Teas and Happy Hours, plus a quiz to keep our brains active.

Harry and Lorraine, and the Club Bike

We all enjoyed a meal out together on Saturday night at the local Cossie Club, within easy walking distance.    The 80th Birthday Cake was cut by Gary and Elva, the oldest active members of the Wairarapa Club.  We hadn’t seen this lovely couple for some time, so it was very special to catch up with them again at the dinner.

Gary and Elva cutting the 80th Birthday Cake

Club photo time

Then it was BBQ time on Sunday night, the the Wairarapa blokes and helpers cooking up a storm.  Sausages, onions and bread and butter were provided, we supplied our own salads or veggies, and if we didn’t fancy sausages, there was room on the BBQ to cook our own meat. 

Dave and Terry hard at work

All good things come to an end and the rally closed on Sunday morning.  Rae led the banner holders through the hall again, with the sounds of bagpipes emanating from whatever that blue thing was she was waving around, a small recorder of some type, channeled through her phone, it seems.  Thanks were made to all involved in arranging the weekend, and as it happens, our caravan club will be hosting the next Regional Rally in two years time.

Heretaunga Club President Barry, with Rae

It was time to say our goodbyes, and  pack up, put the cat in the car and head to the dump station.  After nearly three weeks away, and driving 1700kms, I was ready to head for home.

Saturday, 18 January 2020

Mangatainoka Reserve and Tui Brewery

Our last night on Owen and Helen’s safari was spent camped on the river bank at Mangatainoka Reserve.  (There was another addition to our numbers, Dot arrived after a night away, and brought along her sister Mary.)  This is a very significant stretch of water, in the history of beer brewing.  In 1889 Henry Wagstaff stopped on the banks of the Mangatainoka River to boil up a pot of tea.  The water tasted so good that he decided to build a brewery, and so Tui Brewery began.  All these years later Tui Brewery is still going strong, producing plenty of Tui beer, incidentally, Robin’s beer of choice.

Parked up on Mangatainoka Reserve for the night

While we were camped here, it would be rude not to walk across the road to the famous Tui Brewery, don't you think.  It took us no time at all – the beer drinkers were happy, while others had coffee and hot chocolate.


After our refreshments it was time for a little walk around.  It had obviously been a while since our last visit and we found out that the new brewery building full of shiny vats was erected in 2016.


And here is the famous seven storey brew tower, built in 1931, so brewers could use gravity to turn malt into beer. Strangely, the builders forgot to put in a lift and stairs, and this quirk has only added intrigue to the site’s long history. The tower is now classified as a Category 1 Heritage Listed building and has been earthquake strengthened.  Advertising photos often  show a bevy of beautiful Tui Girls leaning out of the windows, but they weren’t there when we were visiting.  As the evening drew in, and the skies darkened, we could see the tower all lit up across the road from the camp site.

Tui brew tower, afternoon and evening

So, it’s been another day, and another brewery,  GodsOwn and then Tui.  Robin must think he’s died and gone to heaven!

Thursday, 16 January 2020

GodsOwn Brewery

Godfrey and Rachel are the faces behind GodsOwn Brewery. Situated in rural Maraekakaho, south of Hastings along SH50. The family moved onto their 6.5h property in 2010, and set about making the long held dream to run their own brewery finally happen.


Owen had arranged for our group to stay here overnight and we were warmly welcomed by Rachel.  We were joined later in the evening by Barry and Dianne.


Of course, we had to meet for 4zees in the large safari tent.  Geoff and Robin ordered the tasting selection of six different beers, and they arrived in quite an impressive wooden rack. 
Eileen, Geoff, Robin and Jenny, with Don and Helen at the back

As well as the safari tent which certainly lent an African flavour to the proceedings, the bar is their former caravan.  The business expanded, and an extra caravan was added for food preparation, and a wood fired pizza oven.  There was no worry about dinner, as we all took the easy option and ordered a freshly cooked pizza. 



Walking around the property we came across Godfrey hard at work brewing his latest batch of beer.  With a good selection of different styles on offer, it must be an ongoing challenge to keep up with the demand, I imagine.

Godfrey in the brewery

And what's this we found tucked away by the driveway?  It was the front half of an old Austin truck, and  was left behind by the previous owner we were told.  Always a talking point for visitors to the property.

Garden feature

Such an interesting place to stay, somewhere quite different, after all, how often do you get to stay in a brewery? 

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Moving on to Napier

It was time to continue on our safari,  stopping off at the lookout to bid the mountains goodbye
Looking over Lake Taupo

Then we traveled along SH5, the Napier-Taupo road, 262 kms in length, with signs warning of no petrol/diesel available along this route.  But we did notice a couple of areas where you could stop to plug in your hybrid car, should you be driving one of these.  As we drove along the scenery changed from farmland, to forestry, to native bush, with plenty of hills along the way.

Along the Napier-Taupo road

Eventually we arrived at the Hawkes Bay region, and drove along the very pretty Esk Valley.  This is a very productive area, and planted with many grape vines and fruit trees.


Our plans were to stay the next three nights at the NZMCA camp at Napier.  How busy would it be, we wondered, after all, it is peak holiday time.  But this is a large site, with plenty of room, so we had no trouble at all finding room for our four caravans and one motorhome.

Now at Napier

Napier really turned the weather on – hot and sunny and approaching 30 degrees!  Luckily we had put our van beside Geoff’s and had our two awnings facing together to give us some shade.  We were a day late with our Sunday bacon and eggs for breakfast, but it tasted just as good on Monday morning, cooked on the BBQ.

Can you smell the bacon cooking?

And then the weather changed dramatically, heavy torrential rain, with thunder and lightning to boot!  We all seemed to have things to do during our time here, rellies to visit, off to find a laundromat, then a supermarket.  Gemma settled down well, as she usually does, making herself at home.  If she’s not at the front window, she is found curled up on the bed, or then again, she rather enjoys sitting on the vanity looking out the bathroom window.  Whatever takes her fancy, it seems.

Gemma in the caravan

Friends Andrew and Debbie, whom we caught up with in Taupo, were also staying at Napier.  Come and take photos of the babies, we were told.  So we did.  Van and Beau are Ragdoll kittens, so soft and sweet, and just getting into the caravanning life.

Sleepy Van and Andrew with Beau

Safe on their leads, the kittens then went exploring.  Lots to see, sniff at, and investigate around the hedge line.

Two little Ragdolls

Tomorrow we will be moving on again, not too far this time, to a POP just south of Hastings.  This will be a new place to all of our group, and sounds and exciting place to stay.  More later……

Saturday, 11 January 2020

Adventures in Taupo

Our safari numbers have now dropped to four caravans and one motorhome as people left us to continue on with their plans.  Leaving Piriaka we traveled along SH41 and came across a sign for the Waituhi Lookout.  Up, up the narrow, winding, overgrown road we drove, towing our big van behind us, hoping we wouldn't meet another vehicle coming down, almost driving blind as we couldn’t see round each corner.  Arriving at last at the top, a tiny area open to just a small number of freedom campers, with a tower to climb to see the view.  The view was beautiful, native forest as far as the eye could see, with mountains in the distance.  But we wouldn't recommend driving up to the Lookout with a big rig, it was a rather hair raising experience.

View from the Waituhi Lookout

We were staying at Taupo Airport NZMCA site for the next two nights, always a favourite of ours.  It was lovely to find out that friends Andrew and Debbie were also staying here – they are now the proud owners of two cute little Rag Doll kittens.  So we had plenty to talk about, but sadly, omitted to take any baby photos.  However, there was another blue point Rag Doll cat camping a few vans away, this one was two years old, the same age as our Gemma but so much bigger, and goes on holiday with a fifteen year old Border Collie.

Nearby neighbours

We had quite an adventure today when we went to find the Kaimanawa Wall, quite a drive up the Napier-Taupo Road, turning into a pine plantation, and then driving through native forest onto Clements Mill Road.  No cell phone coverage up there, (let’s hope nothing goes wrong) but the native forest was stunning.  The GPS told us when we finally arrived, but where was this mystery wall ?  Perhaps by that green sign we drove past?

Clements Mill Road

We found a clearing to turn the cars around, and settled down in the sunshine for morning tea.  The manuka trees were in full bloom, and the area was buzzing with bees.  I’m sure some enterprising beekeepers have hives placed in this area to take advantage of the manuka.  Robin placed his camera on the table, set the timer, and rushed back to his seat in the nick of time before the shutter went off.

Helen, Owen, Jenny, Robin, Dot, Pamela, and Don

Then it was back into the cars again to see the fabled Kaimanawa Wall.  According to the Dept. of Conservation sign, “the rock formation has been scientifically established to be part of a large Ignimbrite  outcrop formed about 330,000 years ago”.  Some sceptics believe that the stone wall is man made, constructed by people about 2000 years ago, who pre-date the Maori population.  The stones consist of ignimbrite, a type of rock that results when pyroclastic pumice solidifies after a volcanic blast. The structure seems to bear the hallmarks of a deliberate construction with neat rows of stacked blocks. Precision joints and surfaces appear carved or sculpted. The most heated area of contention about the wall is its age. If someone built the formation around 2000 years ago, then a mysterious group of people must have settled New Zealand before the first Maori – however, we believe the scientific explanation.  This was certainly very interesting to see, and it certainly did look like cut blocks of stone stacked together.  I’m pleased we made the effort to travel out to see it.


Kaimanawa Wall

On the drive back there was another attraction we had read about and wanted to see.   At the Opepe Bush Historic Reserve there is a tiny cemetery which tells the story of a surprise attack in 1869 by Te Kooti  on 14 members of the Bay of Plenty Cavalry camping in this area.  The attack left nine British soldiers dead, and their bodies are buried in the cemetery.  There are four graves in this tiny cemetery, and another tucked away nearby.  This was a piece of New Zealand history which we were unaware of.


Opepe Bush Historic Reserve

Back at camp for a late lunch and a bit of R&R watching the never ending stream of people jumping out of airplanes and floating down to earth overhead.

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Tandem Sky Dives

Gemma couldn’t care less about all this drama, and tucked herself away under our outdoors step.  Much better, now those people falling out of the sky wont be falling on her!

Gemma knows she is safe and sound

Thursday, 9 January 2020

Forgotten World Highway

Our next adventure on Owen and Helen’s safari was a two day trip along the Forgotten World Highway, SH43) starting from Stratford.  We had done this trip a couple of times in earlier years, but for some of our friends, it was their first time, and one or two were a trifle apprehensive about the trip. There was a handy dump station at the start of SH43 and while Robin was attending to this I went over the road to see the sale yards in action.  The auctioneer was in full voice as each lot was herded in, and the farmers were watching intently as the stock was bought and sold.

Stock auction

SH43 is New Zealand’s oldest heritage trail at 155kms long and follows ancient Maori trade routes and pioneering farm tracks.  On day one we drove up and over three saddles, the Strathmore Saddle, the Pohokura Saddle, named after a prominent Maori chief, and the Whangamomona Saddle.  This one, in our opinion, had the loveliest views, the landscape was full of lush ferns and native trees.

Driving over the Whangamomona Saddle

Eventually we arrived at our stop for the night, the Whangamomona Campground, formerly the local school.  We all slotted into spaces, and over the afternoon the camp filled up with more and more caravans and motorhomes, including two cyclists from Austria.  We watched them erect their tiny tent, they must have been exhausted after biking up and over all those hills all day.


Whangamomona Camp
This settlement, first settled in 1895, was once a bustling frontier town.  The 300 residents worked on roading and railway construction, and farming.  Farm mergers and rationisation took place in the 1960s, and the population declined to about 20 residents.  When changes to the local boundarys were mooted, the locals strongly disagreed and declared themselves a Republic in 1989, and held their own Presidential Elections.  The famous Republic Day is held every two years and attracts visitors from far and wide, and Presidents have included a dog and a goat, with the occasional local wearing the chains of office too.  We spent our “happy hour” at the famous Whangamomona Hotel and the boss would have been delighted with our 14 strong visit.  As well as enjoying beer, wine, or in my case coffee, four of our group purchased a black Whangamomona tee shirt – Robin already had one so made sure he wore it down to the pub.

Whangamomona Hotel

Gemma was intrigued by the chickens and a very large rooster patrolling the camp grounds.  She watched them safely behind our screen door, oh, to be free to chase them.  By the size of the chooks, I think she would come off second best.

Come closer, chickens

The next morning we continued on the second half of our journey, with one more saddle to conquer, the Tahora Saddle, and next up was the Moki Tunnel.  The single-lane 180m long Moki Tunnel was built in 1936 and is known locally as the 'Hobbit's Hole'. Home to fossilized giant crabs, the floor of the tunnel was lowered in 1989, increasing the height to 7m to allow access for triple-decked stock trucks. It has a timber gabled roof and hand carved walls. 

Moki Tunnel, Hobbit’s Hole

Then we stopped at the lay by close to the burial place of Joshua Morgan, who surveyed this rugged area in the 1890s.  He had proposed five tunnels to be constructed along this route, but the Moki Tunnel was the only one which went ahead.  In March 1893 surveyor Joshua Morgan, aged 35, was working in the Tangarakau Gorge when he became ill, probably with peritonitis. Two of his chainmen walked to get medical help from the nearest doctor, 50 kilometres away – but they were too late, and there was little a doctor could have done. Morgan was buried where he died, on the banks of the river. His grave is now a sobering stop for travelers on the remote, winding Forgotten World Highway.

Grave of early surveyor, Joshua Morgan

We continued driving along the Tangarakau Gorge, which seemed to go on and on, eventually arriving at Taumarunui where we were stopping at the Piriaka NZMCA campsite for the evening.  We must have forgotten just how long the second part of this trip was, mind you, the road was extremely narrow and winding, so we had to keep our speed right down.  This site was previously the home of the Kaitieke Co-operative Dairy Co which opened in 1912.

At Piriaka

So all our group have safely driven SH43 and lived to tell the tale.  Yes, the road is narrow, and at one stage we had an approaching  truck and two cars back up to give us room to get past.  Towing a big van can sometimes be tricky, but if all motorists are courteous and drive with care, there shouldn’t be too many problems on this road.