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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

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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 (!).

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 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! 

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