83. Marton and Hastings – the Horse of the Year 2015

After the excitement of WOMAD and a night at the Transport Museum camp, we headed down south again to Marton (near Palmerston North) where we spent a few days in a pleasant new NZMCA park. Newly landscaped and unlike many others it had a large communal hall where besides the usual book exchange and noticeboard there was a special table dedicated to jigsaw puzzles. Almost every time I entered someone was beavering away at one. Very fresh corn at 50c a cob was available in a box replenished almost daily by the local Lions club.

Penny encountered not one but three travelling cats (one was actually in New Plymouth at the transport museum carpark) in the space of a week. “Bluey”at Marton seemed perfectly at home strolling on a lead or sitting on his caravan step. He rides in the front seat in his own basket.

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We both liked Marton with its old-fashioned charm. Turn-of-the-Century buildings line the main streets. Would you like to have a new habit made to order? Opposite the old courthouse is a most unusual barber’s shop – it is also an art gallery!

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IMG_0631IMG_0633Through the Manawatu Gorge yet again – this time on a windless day – we travelled to Hastings and our old camp at the apple orchard. Last time we were the only caravan there, this time we had to squeeze in beside 5 or 6. A little close to the beehives perhaps but they left us alone although one did hitch a ride on Penny’s head once, much to her horror.

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The rest of this post is what I have written for the RV Lifestyle magazine, with one or two additions. I was specifically asked to check out the newest horse transport motorhomes.

Hastings is always a pleasant place to visit, surrounded by apple orchards and within easy reach of wineries, bicycle trails, the coast, museums and art galleries and a chocolate factory (!). This time our visit was timed to coincide with the Horse of the Year Show (HOY), held annually for the past 17 years. Although spectator camping was available at the Show, we preferred an apple orchard POP where we’d spent a pleasant time some months ago. HOY runs for a whole week but we contented ourselves with one and a half days. Penny the foxie went into doggy day care and came home happy and freshly bathed for an extremely reasonable fee. We’d highly recommend Chesterhope Kennels in Pakowhai.

There were vans everywhere the eye could see.

DSC01078Besides hundreds of conventional caravans and motorhomes and horse transport vans of varying degrees of sophistication……. (this photo shows several ‘transport’ options)…..P1130875

….. and a large gypsy van equipped with a blacksmith’s forge ……..


….. there were ‘Vanners’ of a different kind entirely – enchanting black and white gypsy horses with feathered fetlocks and a gleam in their eye. Bred to pull gypsy caravans as well as for riding and other work, they were such a contrast to their large showjumping and dressage cousins. One wore a very ornate gold saddle, with a story behind it …

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The newest horse transport-motorhomes were indeed impressive. Luxurious interiors catered for both humans and horses. The human section featured a full sized kitchen, slide out club lounge with leather seating, bathroom, queen sized bunks etc. A door gave entry to the horses’ section at the rear, stainless steel everywhere with large racks and a workbench with its own water supply. Room for five horses at least, or perhaps a car, motorbikes, surfboards/kayaks, bicycles, motorised scooters, fishing gear… plus more large storage areas underneath. Horse ramps and human steps were fully motorised.


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There were literally hundreds of stalls surrounding the three main rings at the showgrounds, selling everything from expensive Irish riding gear to western style bling.


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A very few bucked the trend. Bay Audiology offered hearing tests and/or vacuuming of ears on the spot and were never short of customers. Food and drink stalls were well patronised. The majority of the crowd seemed to be slim pony-tailed females of all ages and particularly younger ones (there were very few boys) plus weathered older men sitting on shooting sticks or in motorised wheelchairs with wistful looks on their faces.


For those not interested in the finer points of dressage or showjumping, Saturday night featured a horsemanship extravaganza, the highlight being the Kaimanawa horses. Considering that these horses were running wild only 250 days previously, some amazing partnerships were demonstrated between them and the dedicated owner/riders who had saved them from the knacker’s yard. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaimanawa_horse

Not everything was at the Showgrounds. We had visited the friendly Information Centre in town when we first arrived in Hastings, and they told us about a Taste-Of-HOY show in the Civic Square that afternoon which included dressage, trick riding, a WW1 Lighthorse enactment and other delights such as a blacksmith’s forge (his caravan is in an earlier photo).





The Hastings Art Gallery also offered a ‘Make your own unicorn hobby horse’ workshop, there was a photographic display about ‘A Horse’s Year’, and a special city night market.

The dressage exhibition in the city must have been a real eye opener for many people who had probably only seen it on TV.  A highly intelligent Portuguese lusitano stallion named Ali Baba danced and pranced while his rider in full dressage gear explained what he was doing, including a few impromptu Spanish steps just because he felt like it. He also accepted carrot nibbles from the crowd, but he had to smile first and then suck them in, much to the delight of a little girl right next to me. I’ve actually joined his Facebook page.


IMG_0709Horse and rider are in training for Olympic selection so I felt it was a great privilege that such a valuable horse should be brought into a small noisy city space. Ali Baba remained imperturbable. We were fortunate to see him again next day competing impeccably in a dressage event. 


The cross-country was interesting, the “country” including a route through the middle of the showgrounds.

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When I went back for the Saturday evening’s dressage, the arena had been freshly raked. I wondered what that first rider felt – every hoof print fully exposed. 


Impeccable …. both horses and riders.


I did finally succumb to one of the shops and bought …. a shooting stick! We’d both been lamenting the lack of small light easy-to-carry camping chairs as the ones we have with T5 are large and a little unwieldy. Hopefully it will also double as a sort of hiking stick (I refuse to call it a walking stick) and/or camera tripod on occasion.

While reducing the file size of photos before inserting them in this post I’ve managed to mislabel many of my photos as Dave’s …..  no matter. Most of them are actually mine although not two panoramas.  This is one of Dave’s best …

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82. WOMAD 2015

It was a wonderful sensuous swirling mix of music, colours, smells, smiles and sunshine. On Brooklands Hill next to the New Plymouth racecourse, the entrance was a very steep downhill then an equally steep uphill walk with some sidetracking along the way to view various art installations and an infinite array of delights along the ridge. A total of 6 stages ranged from the enormous TSB Bowl at the bottom of the huge natural amphitheatre to the tiny little Te Paepae Maori stage. A shuttle service up and down the hill was provided for artists and disabled people. On the last evening we noticed some older people being given lifts too – wish we had asked earlier!







DSC00757As we were representing the RV Lifestyle Travel magazine which had arranged for our free entry and camping tickets, we were issued with Media Passes. These meant that we could go right up to the stages at times, with certain restrictions, and also we had to supply some photos from each day to the Media Centre – or risk a hefty fine! Actually we never got near the stages for the big artists, the crowds were too great. Having the passes also meant that we were able to explore the whole area early on the first day (Friday) before the festival was officially open, which explains some of the “empty” photos below. It also meant that I slogged up and down that hill TWICE that first day. Sigh. Other days I limited myself to one visit but Dave was made of sterner stuff. Penny was happy to stay in the well-shaded and ventilated truck with food and water while we were both away but it did mean we could not spend all day at the festival unless at least one of us returned to give her a run and some TLC.

This shows the main bowl from near the top with the stage down at the bottom, pre-crowds and then when Sinead O’Connor was doing her stuff.




The main camping area was in the middle of the racecourse. We arrived early and set up close to the perimeter of the training track. Penny was happy with our choice of site as it meant she had room to play with her ball and the well behaved children from the next door caravan (“Can I have a look inside yours?”).


By early evening it was a sea of motorhomes, caravans and especially tents of all shapes and sizes (one looked just like a Combi van)……





….. over 4,000 people according to the local newspaper. We couldn’t have moved. The overflow next evening invaded all other available racecourse space, apart from a special area set up for the glampers (my spellcheck changed this to gallopers!) where the camping-challenged paid $1,215 for large circular fully furnished 2 person tents for 3 nights; tickets to the festival were extra. A private ablutions  block and cafe completed the glamping area.


There was something for all age groups. The number of parents pushing buggies and prams up and down those steep slopes accompanied by happy little painted faces tearing around was phenomenal. There was a special Kidzone with face painting, parade costume making, wall climbing and much more. Not always just for kids ….


Over-65s were in theory catered for by a number of mini grandstands offering elevated seating and wheelchair platforms; they were always packed. (The photos shows empty ones before the crowds arrived). Standing space on the ramps, if available, was useful for shorties like me for seeing over the heads of the crowd. Many people were well prepared with rugs or beach chairs, many more simply stood and swayed. The warm air crackled with good humour.




IMG_0590 A few statistics: About 22,000 people watched 300 artists from 22 countries and ate food from almost as many. All 3 days were sold out for the first time since 2007, with a limit of 12,000 people per day. The queue waiting to go through the bag check on Saturday afternoon stretched from the bottom of the hill right up to the top.

WOMAD has had a Zero-Waste programme since 2008. Volunteers stood by the multiple-choice refuse bins to assist, and all drinks were sold in washable, reusable Globelets (initial cost $2) which were estimated to eliminate over 50,000 disposable drink cups. There were well-marked points where water bottles could be filled. We’ve since read in the newspaper that over 80% of rubbish from the 3 days has been recycled or turned into compost.  Shell NZ partnered with WOMAD to donate $1 for every kilo of recycling or compost at the festival to a local project to save the kokaho parrot. The recycling yielded 5,372 kilo.




It was difficult to choose which artists to see but we managed a reasonable number between us. Special mention goes to the fantastic drumming group TaikOZ from Australia, Flavia Coelho from Brazil (“a distinctive meld of samba, bossa nova and ragamuffin”), Fanfare Ciocarlia (24-legged brass band from Romania) and Toumani & Sidiki Diabate (kora players from Mali). Sinead O’Connor of course drew a huge crowd. The Maori legend of how the world came into being was told beautifully by two singing Maori using wooden puppets and a variety of background sound effects. As both Dave and I are hearing impaired we preferred music, dancing and body language to pure singing. There were signing sessions at a huge CD shop and some artists gave workshops in the afternoons.







IMG_0488The Peacock Ladies awed me not only with their gorgeous costumes but by walking down the steep hill on stilts during the final Parade, accompanied by children dressed in their own creations and playing home-made drums.



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A trio from Tennessee played Appalachian folk music on dulcimers.


Osadia gave a “provocative exhibition of hair art” with some fantastic creations.



I told this guy I liked his kilt and got a hug in return. The T-shirt says “Touch not the cat but a glove” (should really be … bot a glove). The motto of the MacPhersons and Mackintoshes. I guess he really was one.IMG_0542


And the food! A huge mixed paella with mussels, calamari, chicken and chorizo, and the Hungarian bread puffs with tomatoes and feta were our favourites. Most food cost between $6 and $15.



We cast longing but sated eyes at the many enticing curries, wood-fired pizza and other foods, and watched exotic cooking demonstrations.


A large shady area nearly offered welcome seating, the tables kept cleared and spotless by volunteers who also roved the Festival grounds picking up every tiny scrap of waste. The local newspaper also provided some comfy sofas, coffee tables AND free newspapers.


The best mango yoghurt smoothie ever was served from a pretty little blue caravan.

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Colourful stalls sold the usual clothing and jewellery; at other stalls you could get your hand or arm hennaed or endure a real maori tattooing or have your hair braided.




IMG_0540More unusual were the cigar-box guitars and nifty carrier bags made of recycled truck ‘curtains’.





Health and wellness was well catered for. You could “borrow” one of 16 human books for half an hour from an impressive living library designed to “promote dialogue, reduce discrimination, encourage understanding and widen views on life”.

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The Festival continued util 11 pm each night. On the last evening the tail end of cyclone Pam arrived with high winds which resulted in many tents being packed up extra early next morning. Mt. Taranaki, previously so clear, was covered with cloud. The Festival was over.


IMG_0607A shortened form of the above is to be published in a future issue of RV Lifestyle magazine.

81. New Plymouth 2 – Around and About

New Plymouth has many attractions quite apart from its extensive coastline with the usual fine black sand and Coastal Walkway. We admired Len Lye’s Wind Wand, swinging round gently against the bright blue sky. Lye’s kinetic sculptures are internationally recognised. The Wind Wand was erected posthumously to commemorate the Millennium. A tourist brochure declares “Almost every road that heads towards the coastline leads to a pristine uncrowded wave.”

It was too windy for us to hire a sort of phaeton-cum-bicycle to pedal gracefully along the Coastal Walkway while admiring the views, so we drove to various points instead. At East End beach a couple of windsurfers were making full use of the wind and waves.

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Not far out of town is the beautiful Te Rewa Rewa Bridge, opened only 5 years ago. Yet another can’t-stop-taking-photos situation rapidly developed.

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Another afternoon (we HAVE been lazy in the mornings!) we circumnavigated Mt. Egmont, aka Mt. Taranaki. The countryside to the west of the mountain is like a multitude of smallish green sandhills, very lumpy (for Lesley and other CPS field trippers, exactly like Chris N’s mud maps in real life) whereas as we discovered on the return route, the eastern side is more flat.

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The area just north of Cape Egmont with its now-defunct lighthouse is now a boat harbour of sorts. A large clubhouse attests to its popularity, but on a weekday towards the end of summer it was deserted.

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Further south was the current lighthouse, set well inland. We had a picnic lunch overlooking the roaring surf. Guineafowl strolled along beside the road. There was a shipwrecked anchor (do anchors as well as boats get shipwrecked?) a little further south but we missed it.

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Opunake was a lovely little bay with an interesting history and lots of signs to inform us about it. Long used by the maori, the militia arrived in 1869. According to a sign a steep road from the beach to the cliff top and a 300 ft jetty were in place by 1882. It was washed away in a storm and another built in 1899, and used until 1924. The remains are in the photos.

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Driving back to New Plymouth, Mt. Taranaki was playing hide and seek  .. as soon as I had my camera ready or Dave had stopped the ute, the peak disappeared.

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We had reached the 7-night limit for the NZMCA camp so spent the last night before WOMAD at the Transport Museum’s POP site. This was actually ideal as power was available and we could charge up everything. The only other caravan had a cat on board but once introduced and soundly repulsed, Penny lost all interest. The cat had a cat flap not in the more usual position at the bottom of a door, but via one of the outward-opening lockers. I’m not sure what the arrangement was inside but it seemed to work.

Next stop – WOMAD!!

80. New Plymouth -1.

We had almost a week to wait for WOMAD (World Of Music, Arts and Dance) so settled down in the leafy new NZMHA park near Vogeltown, with its massive padlocked gates. There were similar gates at the new parks in Rotorua and Kerikeri and doubtless at several other new parks we are yet to visit. For $3 per person per night and usually with potable water available, these parks are extremely good value, compared to $6-$25 at POPs and $45 or more at commercial holiday parks.


The morning after our arrival we saw the Variety Bash off then returned to enjoy (?) heavy rain all afternoon. The local library provided a welcome refuge. It has a modern grand piano which anyone can play and I was delighted to see two young people doing so.

Fortunately the forecast for more heavy rain over the next few days did not eventuate, but i did a great deal of baking next morning as we waited for the rain to come. Being Sunday we checked out the visitor guide and noted which attractions were only open that day, so took off late afternoon and just managed to squeeze several in.

We paid a visit to the Aviation Transport and Technology Museum and I was enthralled by the Printing shop with a whole set of linotype machines (granddad Johnston was a newspaper reporter with the Sydney Morning Herald). There were extensive collections of everything from old phones, to dredge engines and even an old Harvard plane. Also the usual domestic items – Dave and I must be getting on as we both remembered quite a few of them. WE also noted that there is a NZMCA park in the grounds and may well use it for a day or so later on to recharge all our power appliances, batteries, etc.

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We also visitedt the delightful little Hurworth Cottage, only open at weekends. The only survivor of a settlement of the same name established in the 1850s near New Plymouth by members of the Atkinson and Richmond families from England. This brochure tells more …


The cottage only had 3 rooms, one up some extremely steep stairs. But it was extended many times by subsequent generations. When the Historic Places Trust bought it in 1967 they slowly and carefully stripped away 100 years of additions, renovations and modernisations and restored the old features.

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A great find was a reminder of the early land wars – I refuse to call it graffiti.

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The family went a little further than the usual locks of hair in Victorian mourning brooches…



The main room now contains Sir Harry’s parliamentary desk and a wonderful collection of old books in pristine condition. Indeed there whole cottage had a clean fresh airy feel to it. I was immediately envious of the family photos and a family tree above the wide fireplace.

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IMG_0256There was some beautiful old crockery donated by various people and the caretaker/guide at the cottage told us the story of the families crockery being buried somewhere near when they fled to Wanganui when the land wars started and not recovered when the family returned as several of the cottages and the surrounding bush has been burned by the maoris who occupied the houses for a time. The crockery was found 70 years later:

The 150th anniversary of Hurworth  was celebrated by a re-enactment of the marriage of Amelia-Jane and Harry. What a wonderful idea!!

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79. Hamilton to New Plymouth

Leaving Hamilton we drove over one of the many bridges yet again, which reminded me of Dave’s wonderful story of when he was a school Army Cadet ….

When I went to Hamilton Tech we were put into the school cadets whether we wanted to be or not. Fortunately for me I was drafted into the REME (Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers) platoon so while all the other poor sods were out on the sports field square-bashing our platoon was squeezed into an Army 4 X 4  and a recovery vehicle and driven down to the then city dump on the banks of the Waikato River where we spent our days pushing an old Bren Gun carrier into the river and then working out how to recover it using the winches and blocks and tackle and ground anchors etc. And as soon as we had it back on dry land we would push it back in again. All under the relaxed supervision of a couple of regular army soldiers. Amazing fun on a beautiful summer’s day. Fortunately OSH hadn’t been invented back then!!!!!

Came ANZAC day and Dawn Parade. We were mustered at Garden Place and marched down the main street, left turned at Victoria Street and across the bridge. Large numbers of people marching in step can create extreme stresses which have been known to make bridges collapse in the past so just before we arrived at the bridge the NCO called “Break step!!!” So we all did a little shuffle and carried on…..   still in step!!!  About halfway across and the bridge was swaying alarmingly when a Regular NCO came racing up and screamed at us to “BREAK STEP!!!!!!  HALT!!!!!  NOW WALK!!! ONE RANK AT A TIME!!!! GO!!!” So we all shambled across the rest of the way and reformed ranks on the Riverside road for the rest of the Parade. My first ever Dawn Parade.

We were heading for Paeroa again but a phone call advising that a new seat cover would not be ready till the Friday caused us to divert to Tauranga, specifically the NZMCA camp at Tauriko on the outskirts where we have stayed before. It’s an ideal place from which to make sorties to various parts of Tauranga and points beyond without having to go through most of the city proper every time. Maximum length of stay 3 nights which suited us perfectly. On the way I admired yet again the contrast between the Kaimai mountain range and the Waitako plain, the latter covered with dairy cattle and cornfields. (And yet again there wasn’t time to go back to that wonderful Italian restaurant in Te Aroha!)



Along the way Dave suddenly said “fireworks ahead” which translates to a cop car with flashing lights – and a glass-laden lorry on its side in the ditch. The thought of the clean-up boggled me.


We went to Rotorua for the day so Dave could have lunch with his old boss from umpteen years ago. It was only 77 km through some diverse country, at first very hilly, all lumps and bumps and welcome patches of native forest plus the inevitable pine forests with the roadsides lined by waving toi-tois. I do love those native plants and the way the light shines through them. Then through Mangorewa Gorge, it must have been quite a feat cutting through all that rock and leaving serrated/ribbed patterns. Some especially steep faces are now covered with ferns peeping through the safety netting.




We stopped at a site which commemorated the building of the road. Signs told the story. Imagine a coach in 1873 with 4 horses, all the way from Napier to Rotorua then on to Tauranga. How long did it take? The first motorcar to use the Gorge road was a 6-seater Darracq in 1906. Then early in WW2 it was feared that the Japanese would invade NZ and the Home Guard built over 1200 road blocks to stop the move meant of tanks.

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Mangopouri Gorge which followed was much less spectacular but with the same twisty road.

And so finally to the huge Lake that is Rotorua. I thought I could smell the characteristic sulphur smell immediately but it was probably just a passing truck. We had a lovely but far-too-much lunch at the lakeside, Dave and Harry never stopped talking. I left them to it and took Penny for a walk. It seems there’s more than one way to view the lake – from the shore, from a huge ferry serving lunch, from smaller boats, from a helicopter, or from a fixed-wing plane. All available from the same place too.

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We also saw a part of Rotorua I did not see last time, with some interesting if rather tourist-trap old buildings and a very new one framed by a park entrance.

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Back to Tauriko, a restful day, and finally contact with someone who had a large Clan Cochrane sign ready to deliver to us. At the Paeroa games we’d been approached by a past Tauranga Games committee member asking if we knew anyone who would want any of the old Clan signs. After contacting the NZ Clan Cochrane Commissioner I put in a claim for the Cochrane one. It is huge and needs some touching up but we are happy to transport it by degrees down to the Commissioner at Waikanae. When on the road it sits inside the caravan and is put outside at night – the Cochrane Cat?

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Next day after a cuppa with Dave’s sister Bev and Bruce……


…… we headed back to Paeroa – again! – not a hardship though, I’m really getting to know the pretty Karangahake Gorge Road. One night at the RV park in Paeroa where dogs are welcome, a new cover for Dave’s seat (still under warranty and already been replaced once) and we set off about 3 pm for New Plymouth, arriving some 4 hrs later with a brief stop for the most awful carrot cake I’ve ever had at Te Kuiti (the coffee was OK though).


The highway from Te Kuiti to New Plymouth is exciting and exacting, not something you’d like to drive in heavy rain. Two tunnels are involved and as usual I did not have my camera ready for the first one and we could not stop … another wonderful photo that will remain in my mind’s eye.

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We wanted to catch the start of the Variety Club’s annual Bash (see  <bashnz.co.nz> and Facebook  page ‘Variety Bash’) in New Plymouth.  Dave’s nephew Budgie was in it for the 20th year and up to his usual foamy fire-hose tricks…….



……. and Jacqui was the official photographer – which meant she had the privilege of being hoisted high above the assembled crowd at the official starting venue at the New Plymouth Surf Club.The hoist operator turned out to be an old acquaintance of hers (of course) … NZ being relatively small and RELATIVELY unpopulated I’m now used to Dave or others discovering old acquaintances or at least people who knew them, seemingly every couple of days.

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We now have a week to wait until WOMAD, for which we are getting official press passes. I’ve been asked to write a story for the RV Travel magazine. Incidentally my little piece about the Vans & Vines at Martinborough has been published, with photos of Dave and Penny.

78. Hamilton & Karekare Beach

We arrived at Mystery Creek outside Hamilton in good time for the start of the Motorhomes & Caravans Show. There was plenty of free camping space for all vehicles if registered beforehand, so when we rolled up to the entry gate we had our rego details all printed out, and were waved on to our designated site which turned out to be conveniently close to both the events centre. There were also free showers some distance away. Apparently so many motorhomes and caravans turned up that they had to open another parking area.



Next day (Friday) the show started in earnest. We entered via a huge outdoor display of new and old caravans, the latter mostly of true vintage – sweet little boxes on wheels, mostly restored and some for sale, the best costing more than a second hand modern caravan! There has been a resurgence in this old style and brand new caravans are now being made to look just like the old ones, at least exteriorly. Me, I prefer more modern comforts but freely admit that the old ones have an ineluctable charm. I was so entranced by the interiors that I forgot to take proper photos of the exteriors!IMG_9196

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There were seemingly hundreds of brand new motorhomes and caravans inside the main venue. Our T5’s Jayco brand showed several new models with lots more features than T5, features which we would love to have – an outside BBQ which slides into the body when not in use, a small front-loading washing machine which uses far less water than our top loader, newer suspension, lighter decorator colours and better fitted cushions. Oh Lotto where are our winning numbers?

Then there were rows and rows of – well, “things” – to make a life on the road more enjoyable. Stuff for the kitchen (kettles, fitted saucepans, ‘vapour cooking’ utensils, bag sealers, various gadgets), the bedroom (memory foam mattresses and cushions, bamboo cushions), laundry balls (no detergent needed), the mechanic-in-all-of-us helpful gadgets, the magic copper and precious metal arthritis-preventers, the magazines, the caravan Clubs…..

That evening Patrick and Sylvie from Bowen arrived back in town after their north island tour, and we had a scrumptious simple dinner of mussels in white wine, shallots and cream, cooked by Sylvie in T5. NOW I know how to do it properly. Later we took them to the bus station; hopefully we may see them once more in the south island.


One day at the Show was enough for us. But we stayed on site for four (free!) nights and did other things – an impromptu BBQ with Dave’s nephew Budgie, and the long-awaited Karekare Races.

Hamilton to Karekare is mostly an easy run, through Huntly with its perpetual smoke haze and early morning balloonists and past fields and fields of corn, then via the Waitakere  range to the west coast.


IMG_9234Karekare is a beach just south of the famous Piha. The usual soft black sand, rolling surf and tide rips all guarded by a rock fortress called the Watchman (Kaka Pa) and just out at sea Paratohi Island around which a swimming race is held each year. Every year now for 20 years there has been a Beach Race day to benefit the tiny Lone Kauri School and the Karekare Surf Life Saving Club. It is a brilliant community effort which attracts large crowds.



Quite apart from the eight official races which covered two separate distances and various classes such as thoroughbreds and faster horses, hacks, ponies and Kidz Kartz (miniature ponies with sulkies)……..



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…… there was a final fun race called the Cauldron Scramble involving two riders, one horse, a barrel, two apples, a bucket, a T-shirt and a sack! Each race had from 5 to 8 contestants.

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Betting was permitted – of a sort. In spite of that restraint Dave “won” every race!


After their races some of the horses and riders went for a swim.


Being a family event there was also a hat competition and various children’s activities, pony rides and extremely good food stalls (all home-made produce; the school’s pita, salad and peanut sauce in particular was wonderful). Representatives from various environmental groups were also present including a Maui dolphin stall aimed at educating children about this threatened species.

One horse in particular attracted much attention. Johnny Depp was a handsome grey pony ….. so now I can say with complete truth that I have got up very close to Johnny Depp (!).




 We left the ute in friend Jacqui’s driveway and walked down to the beach. “Only about 10 minutes’ sez Dave. More like half an hour of very steep road. Round a bend, finally, a glimpse of the distant beach. But it was still another km or so it seemed from the car park, wading across a tidal stream and then on and on to the designated area, awash with colourful bunting, tents and people.

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IMG_0003It was perfect weather for all but dogs and bare feet. The black sand was hot hot hot. Like others we had to carry Penny over seeming kilometres, especially when she wanted to spend a penny but insisted it be over a bit of grass. At the end of the day Dave bravely walked all the way back up the hill while Jacqui, Penny and I rested our feet in the carpark. 

IMG_0072Next time I will wear more covered footwear and also take a small chair!