75. Hamilton to Paeroa

Heading north again for Hamilton via Wanganui, National Park and Taumarunui, we decided to stop for the night at a POP about half way up the Paraparas. This turned out to be a YMCA adventure camp with a flat camping ground, power and water and even a dump. It was also very pricey so we only stayed one night.

Incidentally the drive north from Wanganui is interesting, with ever-changing scenery. We were unable to drive this road when last in Wanganui as it was impassable in places following heavy rain. As usual because we were towing T5 all the best photographs remained in my mind’s eye … there were very few places to stop on that twisty road.

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IMG_8843 The road wound through immrense chalky cliffs (photo taken through windscreen).

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On again next day after a quick stop to admire the small but interesting Raukawa Falls……

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….. we made good time to Taumarunui, inviting ourselves for a cuppa (and some lovely Scottish pikelets) with David and Marion who looked after Penny for 3 weeks when we were in Australia for my daughter Nic’s wedding last April. Penny knew exactly where she was as evidenced by knowing exactly how to get outside via the side door and deck to retrieve her ball when it was tossed out a window!

Thus fortified we continued on to Hamilton and a new POP on the western outskirts of town. This was a lifestyle block with only one flat space close to the gate and quite a bit of manoeuvring was needed to get T5 into position. The grass had been seeded with pennyroyal or a similar plant and delicious minty smells wafted around us whenever we moved. It reminded me strongly of my flat in Brisbane where I planted the entire little courtyard with Pennyroyal. (All went well until it started to flower and needed mowing). We were welcomed by a large friendly alsatian with marked hip dysplasia, which didn’t seem to slow him down very much!

Patrick and Sylvie arrived next day. Last seen 25 years ago in northern Queensland, they were an important part of my early life with first husband Geoff and baby Nicole in Bowen and on our boat ‘Cornelius’. (Incidentally there is a story about Cornelius on my website nancyvada.me). They sailed with us on the first stage of our circumnavigation of Australia in 1980-81 and were very supportive when Geoff died in 1983. They pitched their tent next to T5 and we had a wonderful evening and next morning reminiscencing. Before parting we all had lunch at the aptly named Three Frogs restaurant in Hamilton. We hope to meet up with them probably in the south island in early April.

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The Paeroa Highland Games was beckoning so off we set again to arrive in Paeroa and discover an unusual RV Centre, not as first thought a business with a small hard standing yard behind it as in some other places, but a huge landscaped area managed by a local cooperative of RV owners, with both grassed and hard standing, power if wanted, showers, toilets and washing machines plus a well stocked exchange library. Some inhabitants have been calling this home for over 5 years. We settled into a lovely elevated  spot.

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Paeroa is not just the home of the 7m high Big Bottle of L&P, the NZ soft drink originally made from lemons and the local spa water. L&P is of course available everywhere, even in the form of ice-cream! But Paeroa is also known as the Antique Capital of NZ, possibly because of its situation at the junction of 3 highways and surrounded by farmland. Certainly there are a huge number of Antique, Retro and plain Junk shops. One shop in particular was packed to the brim. No matter what you wanted – dolls’ prams, china, crystal, telephones, retro clothing, furs, hats … it was there. Another had a collection of Disney dwarves. The owner of one shop told me she spent hours scraping the paint off the beautiful leadlight windows.

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Paeroa was originally a thriving port and has “always had a boating heart”, hence a little maritime museum on the banks of what is now only a little stream although it can still be traversed by small launch. The little launch still takes day trippers.

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Anyone know what this is?

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On the way to Paeroa I spotted a blueberry farm so one day we drove off to find it again. We didn’t pick our own but did purchase a huge pottle plus some absolutely delicious blueberry icecream, far far better than the over-sweet commercial variety. Even Penny liked it…..IMG_9022 IMG_9025 IMG_9030

Also spotted on the highway, this sign which someone with a shotgun obviously didn’t agree with.

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Returning via the little town of Ngatea we stopped to look at a signboard and were rewarded with an interesting history of the Piako River Scheme, a major flood control project designed to protect the low-lying mostly peat swamp Hauraki Plains and upper Piako. Water is controlled by stopbanks along the river and across the sea foreshore, and ponding areas upstream. There are many floodgate outlets and pump stations including at Ngatea (photo below). The Scheme was built between 1962 and 1979 at a cost of about $76 million in today’s terms.

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The Piako River scheme was not the first huge undertaking on the Hauraki Plains..…

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Ngatea was originally known as “Orchard” due to many cherry, peach and apple trees, and was a very busy waterway as it was the only highway for the settlers – everything had to be transported by river even the drinking water.  This little town celebrated the start of the new Millenium in a unique way …

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Next blog: the Games!

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