70. Wairarapa Safari – 2. Carterton to Mangatainoka

Day 5 of the Safari we all congregated again on the rugby club pitch at Carterton. It was very hot and very crowded as the safari was joined for the occasion by local NZMCA members for a rally.

We did not take part in the main rally events but we did pay nearby Stonehenge Aotearoa a visit. “A window into the past where the visitor can rediscover the knowledge of their ancestors. It incorporates ancient Egyptian, Babyonian, Celtic and Polynesian star lore.” Hmmmm. Interesting enough but not particularly gripping. Before inspecting the modern concrete edifice we were asked to watch a 5 minute video. Not captioned, of course, so afterwards we suggested that be done, and ‘they’ were surprised, they’d been thinking of captioning in German, French, etc but in English ….?? Of course no script of the AV was available either. Such a contrast to our visit to Hobbiton.

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On the hill just above this fake Stonehenge was a ruined house – what happened to it? It must have once been substantial, with fabulous views over the countryside towards Carterton. My ideal location.



Spotted in a paddock near town – at first I thought the dogs were real. They are all metal cut-outs.

IMG_8368Wisely perhaps we did not revist Carterton’s Schoc chocolate shop (“85 flavours, from classic strawberry and caramel to lime/chilli or smoked tea!”. The heady aroma would have been enough to make us buy and buy …..

But we did have breakfast at the Wild Oats cafe in the main street. Dave as usual went for the Full Breakfast [an outright lie!!!  I usually have the Eggs Bendict!!!!](I have no idea how he manages to scoff it all). My occasional sinful treat of pancakes with blueberries and maple syrup was a hundred times better than the so-called pancakes at Taupo. Fresh home-made bread was also available. We’d go back there any time.

The next camp was up at Mangatainoka just north of Pahiatua. On the way we resisted the urge to revisit the Mount Bruce Sanctuary (it was nowhere near kaka feeding time) but did turn off to investigate what was advertised as a model railway and a cheese factory. Now THOSE were interesting!!

The railway is the work of one man who was operating it at the time we were there….

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…. said to be the most extensive model railway in NZ. I have only seen one better, on the Sunshine coast in Queensland. In quite a few places there were signs saying “This is going to be ….” etc. etc. so it is going to continue being developed for years.

The cheese was what really captured my attention though. Cwmglyn Farmhouse Cheese made by Biddy Fraser-Davies …. she was the subject of a very interesting segment on Country Calendar a few years ago. As the milk is not pasteurised she has had to jump through all sorts of hoops to be permitted to sell her cheese. It won a high award at the World Cheese Awards 2013, the only NZ entrant. And it has been been served no less a person that the young Prince George.

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These two signs will tell the story – they were in different parts of the building. We can both attest to the fact that the cheese from one particular cow tastes different to that from a mix of 3 cows’ milk. We bought some cheese from Isobel – lovely and creamy and full-flavoured. We did not see Isobel herself, she was “up on the hill” but we did see one of the calves which will be future milk and cheese producers.

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On the way out Dave spotted an old motorised Railway Jigger. My father was a Ganger on the Railways and had to do a track inspection every Saturday and I was allowed (unofficially of course) to go with him when I was 5 or 6. When I started doing this the Jiggers were propelled by hand but then the motorised version came along so it was much less work AND much faster so I was ALWAYS happy to go out on one of them so to see one sitting in the yard at the model railways brought back quite a few memories!!   


A little further on a roadside monument caught our attention. It marked the site of a former Polish Children’s Camp which existed from 1944 to 1949.



A nearby signboard in both Polish and English tells that the land was once part of the Pahiatua Racecourse, established in 1901. Soon after Pearl Harbour, it was converted to an internment camp for foreign nationals, who remained there for two years. It then became a home for 733 Polish Children and 105 accompanying adults, who made the site their home for 5 years. when the childrens’ camp was officially closed in 1949, the camp was converted into a Displaced Persons camp and remained so until 1952 when the camp was finally closed and the buildings sold for use  as barns, halls and beach cottages. The land reverted to farm land.

IMG_8393733 children and an unknown number of displaced persons who had become stateless as a result of boundary changes in Europe after WW2. I wonder how many of them now look back on this place with fond memories. [Dave: Quite a lot because they built the statuary as a reminder of their time at the camp].

Here’s a photo of our next stop on the banks of the Mangatainoka River next to the famed Tui Brewery. We are in the foreground, with the awning out. Established 1889 by Henry Wagstaff, who was smitten by the pure waters of the river. Actually it’s almost all motorhomes in the photo, caravans were supposed to go to the brewery car park but we were not informed, so were routed to the front place next to the roadway but with a nice rustic-y view of tall grass rather than lots of other motorhomes, which suited me and Penny – she because the long grass provided endless hunt-the-ball fun! IMG_8404 IMG_8406

The NZMCA had arranged special brewery tours for us; I don’t know if these were truncated versions of the real thing but neither Dave nor I were particularly impressed. It seems we also picked the wrong day as all the bottling with thrilling sights of endless clunking convey belts was done on Thursdays and it was only Monday! A normal tour includes tasting 6 different types of beer but we were only offered one. I’m far from a beer drinker, but at least we both appreciated the generous ploughman’s platter ($18) at the cafe.

We left Penny in the well-ventilated ute parked in deep shade while we did the tour, and on return discovered she had chewed through her third seat belt harness, or rather the part that secures the harness to the seat belt attachment. She can roam from one side of the back seat to the other but not get into the front seats – usually! Instead of buying yet another full harness this time we took the two ends to an old-fashioned upholsterer’s shop in Pahiatua and the youngish guy there soon fixed us up with a repaired lead covered with some strengthening fabric …. any bets on how long it takes Penny to get through it??


I have now “published’ this blog 3 times and been forced to edit it – too many typos, too much of a hurry …. I hope it is all now intelligible.

69. Wairarapa Safari – 1. Castlepoint and Glenburn

The day after the Airshow and following a lovely lunch with Dave’s cousin Judith and her husband Les we joined 85 other caravans and motorhomes for a 19 day safari around the Wairarapa. Organised by the Wairarapa branch of the NZMCA, these safaris have apparently been very succesful in the past. In order to avoid major traffic disruption on the narrow highways and even narrower minor roads, we do NOT travel in school crocodile formation, but well spread out over a full day. The plan is to stay at 8  different places, some in normal campgrounds and some out in the wilds.

Our first camp was near  Castlepoint or rather in a paddock opposite the Whakataki hotel; we had stayed in the hotel grounds for several days soon after the start of our Circumforaneous ramblings. It was nice to be back!


There was no sign of Penny’s little friend Ferrari, but there were several other dogs  including a 3-legged ‘Bandit’ and two fox terriers on the safari. Once again we battled strong winds on the climb to the lighthouse, and noted various changes in the lagoon area where the sand has been shifted around especially on the seaward side.






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\The second night at Whakataki a large flock of sheep were kept overnight  in a nearby paddock, and the constant barking of the sheepdogs set Penny off, resulting in a doorknock at about 2 am – could we please keep our dog quiet? This has never happened before, at least as far as we know. Penny is very swift to tell us about strange noises outside, eg our neighbour fiddling with his gas bottle (!) but not about her own barking.


Next day we all shifted to Glenburn, a station further down the isolated South eastern coast of the north island. Only about 60- km from Masterton and through some very varied country, especially the up-and-down kind. Fortunately all but the last 15 kn of very narrow and occasionally very steep and winding road was surfaced.

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After the interminable steep hills it was amazing to suddenly break out on the coast and see the lovely flat land fringing the coast!

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Here’s some of the mob. We were parked on the far side with a nice view…IMG_8276


While there we paid a visit to an old Gibb Family bach which Dave remembered with some difficulty as the sea has encroached greatly and even taken over the former long drop (pictured – the little pile of stones). Once again Dave bemoaned our lack of a boat. But I do not think the launching of a lightweight collapsible boat would have been easy or even wise from that shore. Such boats are mainly for lakes and quiet rivers. 





The rockhounds among us found many good specimens in the bed of a nearby stream, fortunately reduced to a trickle while we were there.


The climbers among us on the other hand simply went up and up …. Dave and Penny among them. (Two tiny little dots at the top of the hill .. that’s Dave and one of the other men, Penny was with them but invisible at that distance.)

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68. Wings Over Wairarapa



We thoroughly enjoyed this famous air show in company with thousands of others. As I said in the previous blog there was a special huge parking space available for motorhomes and caravans which meant we did not have to put Penny in Pet Care for the three nights we were there. Graeme and Barbara offered to dog sit a few times so we could go over to the main area to check out various displays. Other times we sat up near the fence with umbrellas.



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The weather was at times threatening but remained hot and mostly sunny but unfortunately also rather windy so the oldest aircraft could not fly on the last day. The wind  made interesting patterns to the smoke trails left by the formation or stunt flyers.





WOW Airshow08The Army was there in force. Whatever the fascination is with old army vehicles it is still alive and kicking! They can even provide shade for a picnic.



in particular, there were Bren gun carriers. 33 of them, of which 27 managed to trundle a complete circuit of the airfield and create a new world record.


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There were models of two very early New Zealand aeroplanes – Richard Pearse’s and the Pither – plus a number of vintage planes from Peter Jackson’s collection.  I’m glad I took photos on the first day as they could not be flown on the second due to the wind.



Here’s an interesting cloud formation.


And some of Dave’s planes….. WOW Airshow01 WOW Airshow02 WOW Airshow04 WOW Airshow05 WOW Airshow07 WOW Airshow10

Labelled with special neck tags, we were able to enter and leave the large park at will, so once established on our site we made a beeline for the nearest laundromat and then library, one of the first we have encountered on our travels which charges for power use. By then I was desperate to get my computer properly fired up and send off a couple of blogs!

On our last day in Masterton we enjoyed a lovely lunch with Dave’s cousin Judith and husband Les, who said they had just installed a new washing machine “especially for us”. I gave it a good workout – many thanks, J & L! Penny behaved very well towards their three cats. She has not yet met a friendly feline since we left the chestnut orchard in Christchurch, but is always hopeful. Laden with clean washing and garden produce we finally set off to join the NZMCA-organised Wairarapa Safari at Castlepoint.

67. Eketahuna and the Pukaha Mount Bruce sanctuary.

On to Eketahuna for one night, ready to make the final hop to Masterton and get to the showgrounds early for the famous Wings Over Wairarapa airshow. The organisers have made a special parking space available for motorhomes and caravans, which means we will be able to see the show in comfort and Penny does not have to go to a commercial kennels for 3 nights.

The Eketahuna Club provides a nice flat POP site with water and a dump station, an ideal location for travellers on the road from Rotorua or Taupo down towards Wellington. The clubhouse is an interesting old building with a photo of not the Queen but the Queen Mother in the foyer and a beautiful richly furnished billiards room with wood panelled walls. The popular dining room served good fish and chips. Luckily the Clubhouse  appeared to have been undamaged in the earthquake which struck the region a year or so ago.

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This photo above shows Graeme and Barbara’s caravan next to ours. If a new number plate is issued every one minute in NZ (actually I have no idea, just making this up) then G&B in Tauranga bought their vehicle just 23 minutes before we bought ours in Christchurch!

While based at Eketahuna we visited the Pukaha Mount Bruce sanctuary, home of the unique white kiwi Manukura and various endangered birds, plus some tuataras and gheckos. It was difficult to see the kiwis as their nocturnal house was even more dimily lit than any other kiwi house I have visited. However, the white kiwi certainly stood out amongst the gloom! Apparently not an albino but the result of the parents both carrying a rare recessive gene, Manukura is now a big girl who is hoped to mate with her brown male companion before too long. Her name is a very old and noble one meaning ‘of chiefly status’. She was hatched at Pukaha; her parents came from Little Barrier Island. Her hatching made world-wide news and even now she has her own Facebook page.

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We arrrived at the sanctuary right on Kaka feeding time, and the girl at the desk kindly directed us straight to the feeding area via a ‘Staff only’ entrance. Kaka are large birds and it was a little alarming to be dive-bombed by several as we entered the area! Although endangered, there are over 140 wild Kaka flying free at Pukaha.  As usual both Dave and I could not stop taking photos.

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A Kaka breeding ‘nest’ ….IMG_8092

The sanctuary has several large aviaries containing at risk or endangered birds – the Stitchbird, Kokako, Kakariki etc. The aviaries are huge and it was a pleasure to walk along the trails within native bush. At one place we spotted a young rabbit and were later told that it was a good sign that there were no stoats and ferrets around.  The sanctuary is surrounded by a predator-proof fence, of course.

Next day, on to Masterton via the chalky cliffs of Vinegar Hill and the winding Rangitikei river. We stopped at Stormy Point to take in the incredible views. The notice board said “Stormy Point lookout offers you the chance to view one of the best preserved sequences of river terraces in the world…..”  IMG_8028 IMG_8027 IMG_8025


And off we go again ……


66. Taupo to Feilding and Eketahuna

The Taupo Riverside Market on Saturday was wonderful, we stocked up with lots of fruit and vegs and I also bought a family history book by a local author which has since proved to be interesting reading – certainly not your usual family history. If we are back in Taupo one day I’d like to meet her!

Taupo does not have any suitable dump points for large caravans like ours so we went to one down at the south end of the lake, at the boat harbour. The view from  that end is quite different.


Then south again heading for Feilding via dandelion-rich fields, pine forests and finally the Desert Road (for non-Kiwis, it’s a sort of tundra desert, certainly not like the golden sandy deserts of Arabia). Mt. Ruapehu and the other mountains came closer and closer, Ruapehu with some snow of course and Mt.Tongariro steaming fairly gently. It truly is a thermal landscape. (Photos shot through windscreen so not really sharp). 

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Half way to Waiouru the weather suddenly closed in despite predictions for another fine day.


We stopped off at the Army Museum at Waiouru to deliver some more knitted and crocheted poppies, and by good luck met the co-ordinator of the project and were shown 4,000 of the 11,000 or so poppies which have been donated so far. They aim to get 18,166, one for every NZ serviceman and servicewoman who died in WW1. Among the thousands of poppies are a few white ones, representing the Chinese who served in the NZ Army, white being their colour of mourning.

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Also at Waiouru we saw a scale model of a WW1 Western Front battlefield, which is proposed to be built as part of our commemorations fo the centenary of WW1. It was designed with the help of Sir Peter Jackson and is scheduled to open in 2016 in paddocks at the back of the museum. Here are some photos of the scale model showing the incredible detail. I do wonder though how the very muddy trenches will be represented in the full scale model. Surely not with real mud.


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At Feilding we joined up with Graeme and Barb and spent 2 nights at a POP in the grounds of the Coachhouse Museum. I missed exploring this museum but Dave said it was wonderful. We spent several hours at the Feilding Library and at last I was able to get off several blogs all at once, with another almost ready.

The traverse of Manawatu Gorge next day was quite different without the strong wings that buffeted us last time. Parts of it reminded me of the Taieri Gorge railway near Dunedin. The wind vanes on the hilltops were quiet.

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65. The “Ernest Kemp”, Craters of the Moon and some Prawns.

Oh no – somehow this unfinished blog has already been published. Please ignore, here is the real deal. Also, I’ve been corrrected, we were at Five Mile Bay not Beach. 

Another evening in Taupo together with friends Graeme and Barbara we went on a late afternoon cruise on the “Ernest Kemp” a replica steamboat regrettably propelled not by steam but by diesel. A nice little boat nevertheless, suitably decorated in places with the ropeweaver’s art then heavily tarred.







We ‘steamed’ out of the little boat harbour and along the northern shore to the Western Bay, admiring the palatial homes on the clifftops until we reached a carved rocky cliff where the water was crystal-clear and some ducks and black swans came to welcome us.



After a short stay while some of passengers had a quick swim, including Graeme …….



IMG_7909……we were off again heading across the bay, along the eastern shore fairly close to where T5 was camped at Five Mile Bay, and thus back to the boat harbour.



Wine or beer and nibbles were plentifully supplied particularly on the way ‘home’ and by the time we got to our berth everyone on board was chatting together like old friends.


IMG_7935i was curious about the rock carving, although maori-style it did not look that old and it was surrounded by some rock carvings of animals. Thanks to Google <chrisjolly.co.nz/> I have discovered that the 6 metre carvings were commissioned by the NZ Arts Council in 1979. the main face depicts Ngatoroirangi, a High Priest and great navigator of the Te Arawa canoe which he piloted to Aotearoa (NZ) from Hawaikii during the great migration of the 13th century. 


IMG_7867On the nearby rocks are carvings of Tuatara (lizard) regarded by Maori as Taniwha, meaning Protector. 


On the way home we stopped off at the Fishbox for some ‘chish & fips’. This must be the most popular fish shop in Taupo as the waiting time after placing an order was about 45 minutes! – but well worth the wait as we eventually discovered.


Despite what I said in an earlier blog about having seen all the steamy stuff I wanted (!!!) we went to investigate one of Taupo’s newer attractions, the Craters of the Moon. This involved a 45 minute walk mainly on boardwalks over a curious landscape, “…. still a very active and expanding area where steam vents and craters are constantly forming and changing as underground streams finds new passages to the surface.”


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Notices everywhere warned us not to venture off the boardwalks unless we wanted scalded legs.

For non-Kiwis, thermal activity is common in NZ because it lies on the edge of two colliding tectonic plates, the Pacific and the Indo-Australian Plates. The former is pushing downward beneath the North Island and the deeper it goes, the hotter it gets. These colliding plates are also responsible for NZ being so earthquake-prone, truly the “Shaky Isles’.

This crater last erupted in 1983 …


This one erupted in September 2002, the biggest eruption in a decade. The surrounding paths and boardwalks were covered with mud, ash and pumice to a depth of 5 cm.


This large mud crater frequently erupts pumice and mud, but did not oblige for us.


The bright orange and red clays are  formed by the action of condensed steam and acidic gas chemically altering the pumice soil, and hardy algae growing around some vents make the soil look green. Obviously the ferns and mosses that colonise the area have adapted to the conditions.


Penny had to stay in the ute of course, but recently we purchased some window shades (the big folding silvery type for the windscreen and dark shadecloth-type for the side windows) and they do help keep the interior cooler. We also have grilles fitted to both back windows. Penny seems to be happy with this arrangement, plus her back-seat bed, a water bowl and a toy or two. She would rather stay in relative safety and comfort than be tied up in a shady spot outside, although that is sometimes necessary.

When we were driving towards the Rapids (last blog) we noticed a sign saying “Prawn Park”. What!? Prawns in NZ?? How I miss the Queensland ones. We decided to brave lunch there, which which turned out to be warm large freshwater prawns of rather different appearance to the Queensland Kings. Not too bad but not a patch on … well you know what. The Prawn Park has been turned into a tourist attraction with a number of geothermically heated shallow ponds surrounded by beach-style paraphernalia; people are invited to catch their own prawns using simple bamboo rods and a tiny bit of bait, either from land or safely- moored  rubber boats.

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64. Taupo Again.

This time we thought we’d camp at Five Mile Beach rather than the NZMCA camp near the airport. On arrival we noticed one caravan perched on a rise overlooking the lake, and as we are too long to fit into a normal parking spot right beside the lake this seemed an excellent option. We had a lovely view of the lake minimally obscured by a campervan below us.



That first evening there was a wonderful cloud formation with many others to follow on subsequent days. Penny loved meeting all the other dogs on their twilight strolls.



IMG_7730 IMG_7723 IMG_7719 IMG_7713 Lake Taupo is a popular spot for para-sailing as well as all sorts of other water sports. Parachuting is also avilable at the nearby airport.  While we were shopping in town the next day a small plane full of would-be parachutists crashed into the lake not too far from the camp; the pilot and all passengers jumped to safety and were rescued – and we missed it all.


Penny’s ball fell into the lake so Dave simply stripped and went in too … that was on a weekeday, the following weekend the whole “beach’ was thronged with swimmers right into the late evening.

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We spent a lovely few days catching up with Dave’s old friends and some newer ones who with a little encouragement (after all it was quite a narrow strip of hilly land)  parked their caravan right behind us. We tried out some local hot springs but the Lake’s coolness also beckoned. Dave retrieved a huge piece of natural pumice stone floating past him.

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We went to watch the Aratiatia Rapids which carry water from Lake Aratiatia towards the Waikato river. There is a power station at the end of the lake and at set times every day the spill gates are open for a short time. This creates a fantastic display of foaming water. We watched from an excellent viewing point fromt which we could just see the dam and the people standing on top of it waiting for the spill gates to open. Dave says it was quite an audible display, first the warning sirens then the water tumbling out through the gates and coming roaring down the gorge. Here’s a series of photos which I hope will  convey some of the excitement.

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Spill gates just opening…

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It only lasted about 15 minutes then the water began to go down again.

63. Raptors in Rotorua

We’d heard about a new NZMCA camp in Rotorua so having obtained details via the web headed off for the steamy town. The camp turned out to be high on a hill in the northern suburb of Ngongataha, the site of the old stockyards we were told, with imposing brand new wooden entrance gates leading to what seemed acres of concrete in reasonable condition surrounded by newly-landscaped grassy areas.


It also sported a brand new very accessible grey and black water dump site, water and a row of rubbish bins, not exactly beautiful but to travellers like us a welcome sight. I dislike having to put all our recyclables etc in the same bin as genuine rubbish, and also having to seek out sometimes difficult-to-access dump sites when our tanks start to get a bit full. We can go for at least 6 days if we are careful with water use.


There are some curious old trees in the grounds, some have grown right round old fence posts. An old stump sports a large carving and an assortment of fungi. Blackberry canes adorn one side fence. From a little rise at the rear a glimpse of the main Lake can be seen.IMG_7558




IMG_7659Five minutes’ walk from the gates is the village of Ngongataha with a $3 laundromat, 2 small supermarkets, cafes, fish shops, etc. Nearby is a miniature train railway. So, a great spot to spend a few days especially if one has small children, although most NZMCA members are more in the grandparents category.

The windscreen of the ute had developed a large and ominous two-tailed crack so off to Smith & Smith next day for a full replacement. No problem ….

Dave caught up with an old friend from living-in-Rotorua-with-motorbikes days, who printed us some beautiful new “business” cards as the old ones had our old blog URL and were also a little hard to read. Not so the new cards. Thanks, Larry!

Having been to Rotorua more than once I was not so interested in seeing the thermal attractions, but a raptor park sounded different. The Wingspan Bird of Prey Centre was established in Rotorua in 2002 in a beautiful valley not far out of town.

Quoting from their website at http://www.wingspan.co.nz:

“At Wingspan’s core is a commitment to the conservation of the threatened ‘Karearea’ New Zealand falcon. Being part of New Zealand’s unique natural heritage, falcons are a taonga (treasured) species to tangata whenua (Māori, people of the land).

“Wingspan supports wild populations directly by releasing captive bred falcons and rehabilitating injured wild birds. Through research and advocacy, Wingspan also supports long-term sustainable conservation action by identifying the reasons for the decline in wild populations and promoting action to reverse this. “



There was an awesome ‘fly-by’ by two different falcons (“little spitfires”, a very apt description) accompanied by some very interesting talk. It was easy to see how the handlers loved their jobs and the birds; one of them (Debbie Stewart, in photo below) founded Wingspan as a grass roots project and has spent 30 years bringing conservation, people and raptors together. She received the NZ OM for her dedication.





The two falcons we saw flying free that day were either rehabilitated or bred from chicks. After their display spectators were invited to feed them morsels of meat. We were warned not to clap until the end of the first display as Ozzy the bird Ozzy knew that meant he could go back to his ‘home’ and have a proper, uninterrupted feed! He shot off like a low-flying jet.





There were other raptors too including a pair of cute little moreporks and surprisingly an Australian barn owl which huddled at the back of its hut so I could only get a ghostly photograph.





Also a small museum which included two bird skeletons with feathers. The latter are not normally shown with skeletons but really enhanced the display.


Then we were off again, heading south via Taupo where we intended to spend several days.


62. New Year in The Waikato

After a lovely restful Christmas and an uneventful ferry trip back to Halfmoon Bay we returned to T5 at Ardmore, staying there one more day in order to enjoy a long catch-up with Asti who I’ve known since sailing days in Bowen Queensland. I resolved to hunt up several other friends from those days, it is much easier now thanks to Facebook and the on-line white pages.IMG_7376


Then it was off to Arapuni in the Waikato, SE of Cambridge, to spend New Years’ Eve with caravanning friends Graeme and Barbara and his daughter Jackie, who must have found her front yard a little cramped with two large caravans parked there! From the house there are wonderful views of the valley with the river just out of sight.

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Arapuni power station is close nearby so on NYE we all went for a walk to the swing bridge which straddles the gorge with the power station almost directly underneath. it was an unusual experience standing on the pitch dark bridge with the floodlit power station and roaring water directly underneath us, and some unnoticed gentle rain to add a finishing touch. Dave’s photos:

Arapuni03Arapuni02We explored the power station area in more detail in daytime. Near the entrance there are 4 large trees with small plaques underneath bearing the names of employees who fought in the second world war.


IMG_7385Later we went back to the swing bridge and took some day time photos. This is the widest swing bridge we’ve encountered on our travels, Penny had no trouble tripping over the wooden surface. She certainly does not seem to fear heights!

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It seems the powerhousewas camouflaged during WW2….


The Waikato area is a fitness addict’s playground, offering many newly-developed cycle and walking trails, rowing and water-skiing, horse riding etc. The Waikato River Trails is a fairly new project. The sign below is typical of each section. Safety is given special consideration.




Here are some parts of the trail visible from the road, other parts however are well away from the road amongst bush.

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Dave: Graeme and Barbara are keen cyclists so Graeme borrowed one of Jacqui’s bikes for me to ride and and took me off onto the cycle trail beside Lake Karapiro. Having not ridden for at least two years my fitness level was not high so when Graeme took off down some steep hills I was hoping that he would find alternative (i.e. flatter!!) tracks to return on. No such luck so after an interesting cycle of 6 km each way I ended up pushing the bike up the last 100 metres or so of the track.



Lake Karapiro, now a world champion rowing venue, is a man-made lake used for many other water sports too including water skiing, boating and canoeing. The Waikato river was first dammed in 1910 to create the Horahora Power Station to supply power to the Martha Gold mine at Waihi. It was for a time the largest generating plant in the country. By 1919 it was supplying power to Cambridge, Hamilton and surrounds; by 1916 with an upgrade it was supplying the Bay of Plenty and Auckland.

In 1940 work began on the Karapiro Dam and power station, which was finally completed in 1947, development being delayed by WW2. The old Horahora Power Station and Horahora village were flooded to create Lake Karapiro. When the station was flooded it was more or less in perfect working order, and one of the generators was unable to be shut down which rise to the legend that Horahora refused to die.

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There is a one-way lane twisting along the top of Karapiro Dam, controlled by traffic lights. The main rowing venue is close by.






Nearby Cambridge – that’s Cambridge in NZ not UK – is a breeding ground for Olympian equestrians, rowers and cycllists. And horses – it has its own Equine Stars Walk of Fame. There must be something in the water.

  • For example:
  • Equestrian – Mark Todd (2 Olympic golds); Katie McVean.
  • Equine – 2 champion sires Sir Tristram and Zabeel, Sir Patrick Hogan; 3 Melbourne Cup winners; Sheila Laxon the first woman to train a Melbourne cup winner in 2001 (Ethereal – who also won the Caulfield Cup). Show jumper Charisma.
  • Rowing – the Evers-Swindell twins; Matt Drysdale and many others.
  • Cycling – Sarah Ulmer.

When mentioned this on Facebook my Macloskey third cousin Brenda W chipped in with “There are some really awesome people that come from Cambridge LOL. Need to go back and get some more of that water.” I did not know at the time that her father was once a NZ rowing champion and Brenda herself was a cox occasionally, one of the very few girls to do so in the early days on Karapiro. (Photo reproduced with permission). 


There are so many thoroughbred studs that organised tours are available. A beautiful equine statue graces the square in front of the original town library.

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We also visited another Macloskey third cousin in nearby Putaruru and admired their beautiful roses and lawn, which we saw just being developed last winter. Since becoming addicted to genealogy I have certainly discovered a great many third and fourth cousins all over the world!

The Waikato is beautiful country. Wildflowers were everywhere, and vistas of rolling green hills or water at every bend in the road.




One prominent mountain in the distance is an extinct volcano called Maungatautari, dating back 1.5 million years.


IMG_7390It has been fenced around its 47 kilometre perimeter to keep out mammalian pests such as rats, possums and stoats and thus been turned into an inland ‘island’ which is virtually pest free. Many rare species that have been eradicated by pests and predators over the past few humdred years have been introduced into this island and are thriving. In particular the kakapo “an enormous parrot with a voice that makes your hair s tand on end” and is critically endangered, is to be introduced very soon.IMG_7482

We visited the information centre but as dogs were not permitted and it was a very hot day which meant we could not leave Penny in the ute, decided to leave it for another time. We could however see parts of the fence, plus a row of cows on the skyline heading off to the milking shed.





IMG_7475We discovered the site of the Battle of Orakau Battle where in 1864 in an unfinished pa about 300 maoris kept at bay 1500 British and colonial troops. Little is to be seen now apart from a monument and some inquisitive cows.

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Not too far away in Kihikihi is the Rewi Maniapoto monument. Quite a contrast to the battle site both visually and in content, and what’s more two months prior to the battle Kihikihi was occupied by the British forces.



We decided we needed some coffee sustenance but as it was a pubic holiday all the little towns we passed through seemed to be dead. Then we spotted a sign with the magic word Cafe and also Blueberries and followed it for a long way, almost giving up twice, before discovering “Irresistiblue” set in acres of blueberry fields. Everything on the cafe menu featured blueberries and Dave had demolished his blueberry tart before i could even take a sip of my coffee. A sign nearby asked people not to smoke even on the outside decks…. 7 metres of peat! Much of the Waikato was originally a swamp.

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After several days enjoying Jackie’s hospitality and especially some really great showers, it was time to move on. Next stop Rotorua where Dave once lived and hopes to catch up with some old friends.