Life for us in New Zealand

MINI CENTRAL ISLAND TOUR, SATURDAY, 9TH MARCH – SUNDAY, 17TH MARCH

It’s been a long while since we posted a blog. After our travels around Africa, our life in New Zealand seems rather mundane and certainly not worth reading about.  Dennis has been immersed in DIY and maintenance around the place, painting, mending fences and working on roof repairs, while I have been trying to tame the jungle our garden had become.

Now we have been doing a little travelling, not too far from home, around the central part of the North Island. Sometimes I wonder why we journey to distant places, when there is so much to see and do here in New Zealand. Our travels this time have been organised around two car club events. 

60TH RUAHINE RAMBLE  WITH THE MANAWATU VINTAGE AND VETERAN CAR CLUB. (The Ruahine range is a chain of mountains on the eastern side of the North Island)

On Saturday, 9th we left at a leisurely pace to drive approximately 400Kms south to Palmerston North, staying overnight with Dennis’s old school friend, Bob. Bob lives in a Lifestyle Village. These have become extremely popular in New Zealand. 

Not a retirement village. They have no medical facilities or support care, but offer a convivial lifestyle to those people who want to downsize and not have to bother with property maintenance and gardens, or in many cases, single people who have lost their partner and who are looking for security and companionship. Many are newly built in attractive settings and offer all sorts of recreational and social facilities.

Early on Sunday morning we set off for the Manawatu VCC Clubhouse for coffee and rally instructions. We were greeted by a great turnout of cars from 12 different clubs. We were the second car to register and had chosen to take Dennis’s 1993 Mercedes E320. (This is now considered a veteran, being more than 30 years old). 

Some of the cars

1906 Cadillac van

As the first car registered had been withdrawn, we were the first starter at 10.02. Armed with an itinerary for our 75 mile morning run, off we set. The first 5 miles were timed. Our target was an average speed of 29.5mph. There were prizes for the first 3 closest cars. Needless to say we weren’t one of them. 

It was the most gorgeous early autumn day and a route on quiet, scenic country roads in an area neither of us had visited before. A really lovely drive. Our picnic lunch spot was at the Domain in Kimbolton.

The afternoon section was a shorter, 50 mile, different route back to the clubhouse. There was a huge variety of cars. American and European, ranging in ages from the early to the late 1900’s.

After the prize giving we all enjoyed dinner. Many of the Manawatu club members are farmers. During dinner we chatted with a lovely couple. He had spent the day drying quinoa – I wasn’t aware it was even grown in NZ.

That night we retired to a motel in Palmerston North. I had tried to pick a variety of accommodation during our tour. Our next car club event, the Humber Car Club AGM, in Tūrangi, wasn’t until Friday, 15th, so rather than go home and then drive south again, I arranged a little in between trip.

The Braemar Lodge, where we spent the night, was a pretty average NZ motel. Generally NZ motel facilities are good. Most have well equipped kitchenettes with sufficient facilities to cook small meals, in our case our breakfast porridge!

Our next drive to Ashley Clinton, on the Takapau Plains, was only 73kms and our check in time at the Ashcott Homestead B and B was not until 15.30. We spent the morning in the Plaza Mall in Palmerston. It was reminiscent of the Galleria Mall in Amanzimtoti, in South Africa, where we spent many hours while  waiting for Poki to arrive from Togo. We made another stop en route in Dannevirke for lunch and a visit to a large antique shop for a nosey around.

At Ashcott Homestead we were greeted by one of the owners, John. His partner, Giovanni had been an antiques dealer. The property was an absolute cornucopia of antiques and bric-a-brac. Every surface covered in china or some sort of nick-nack. John gave us a short history of the property, which was built in 1860 by John and Walter Tucker from Somerset. Walter returned to the UK and John changed his name to A’Deane in order to receive a bequest from his wife’s family.

John lived the life of a privileged, wealthy estate owner farming thousands of acres. The most notable visitor to the house was the Duke of Windsor, Edward V111. There are photographs of him playing on the tennis courts. Another notable visitor was the NZ Prime Minister, Richard Seddon. Maybe his visit was not so welcome, as he advised that huge estates must be broken up and the land more fairly divided.

Our room was very comfortable, despite the fact that our private bath room required negotiating steps up out of our bedroom and down another flight into the bathroom. We had a wander around the property, but all the outbuildings, stables etc have been long gone. We admired the veggie garden and the free range chickens running around provided the eggs for our breakfast omelettes in the morning.

View from the balcony

Tuesday dawned very wet. We stopped in Waipawa to visit the Settlers Museum. Very well presented and interesting. Dennis bought two books on the history of the area. Waipawa was one of the first inland towns to be settled in NZ.

Here here…ouch, she hit me..:)

Our journey today took us to another B and B on the outskirts of Napier. On the way we stopped in Hastings for lunch and had a look around the town. Hastings is a twin city to Napier; they are approx 20k’s apart. The region, Hawkes Bay, is an important fruit growing area. It was badly affected by the Covid lockdowns, when produce could not be harvested.

Both cities suffered a massive earthquake in 1931 and were rebuilt in the period, known as Art Deco. Hastings, like a number of small NZ towns, it is looking rather down at heal and sad. Many empty shops. Napier has used its image as the Art Deco capital of NZ as a tourism hook. Shops selling clothes of the era and guided walks around the significant buildings. It also hosts an Art Deco Festival in February with displays of cars of the era and everyone dressed to match.

Hidden Gem in Oaklands was our overnight accommodation and could not have been more different to the previous B and B. Surrounded by brand new houses with some still under construction, Hidden Gem, was also new. The owner, Lisa, had turned the master bedroom into a letting room, converting the walk-in-wardrobe into a kitchenette. 

I would have liked to have had dinner at the nearby Mission Winery. However, it was fully booked. Instead we headed to the Marina in Ahuriri, a coastal suburb of Napier, and to the Thirsty Whale. This, as were all the other restaurants, was packed. No signs of any economic hardship here, but possibly quite a few were tourists, not locals. We had a very good dinner. My steak was perfect.

Next day we were staying only 8kms away. We drove into the centre of Napier. Having been here several times before, after a quick amble around, we decided to go to the cinema. Our choice of film was The Great Escaper with Michael Caine and Glenda Jackson. Very touching. Sadly Glenda died 9 months after making the film. Michael is now 91 and I believe, said it would be his last film.

Our motel tonight, the Harbour View Seaside Accommodation was in Ahuriri, overlooking the sea. An enormous suite of 2 bedrooms. A complete waste of space for us. One room with 2 singles and one with a queen bed, plus a kitchenette. 

On Thursday we headed north to Taupo via the Napier – Taupo road, Highway 5. This took us through the Esk Valley. A year ago NZ suffered a devastating cyclone, Cyclone Gabrielle, which caused billions of dollars of damage. Hawkes Bay, and especially the Esk Valley were particularly badly affected. We were warned to be careful of the potholes.

It was a truly shocking site to see the ruined and abandoned houses and orchards. This had been an area of vines and fruit trees. The fields buried in deep silt, now overgrown with weeds and the severely damaged properties were an eye opener, as to the damage nature is able to do.

Warning signs advised us roadworks would add an extra 45 minutes to our journey. We were stopped by traffic lights and stop-and-go boards on several occasion. I have to say, the pot holes were merely abrasions and minor deformities. I think you have to travel in Central Africa to really know what pot holes are! Most of the road repairs were to the verges and sides of the road, due to water erosion and wash outs.

The Village Resort in Taupo was our accommodation for the night. More like an apartment than a motel room, we even had a separate laundry area. Very useful to catch up with some washing. Sadly the weather was overcast and so there was zero view across Lake Taupo to the mountains. We walked along the lake front into town and found a Thai restaurant for dinner, both enjoying a very good Thai green chicken curry.

FRIDAY, 15TH – SUNDAY, 17TH THE HUMBER CAR CLUB AGM

On Friday morning we set off for Tūrangi, but with a little sightseeing on the way. A quick visit to Huka Falls and a stop at a scenic lookout. Unfortunately, nothing to see though. There are 3 mountains in the centre of the North Island. Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro. Sadly you would not know the mountains existed as there was thick cloud. The view can be really spectacular on a blue sky day.

The mountains are over there somewhere!

Huka Falls

Slow progress!

Enrolling for the AGM activities at 1700, we then enjoyed a buffet dinner. Saturday morning was taken up with the AGM itself. After lunch there was a choice of activities. A car gymkhana, a visit to the Tongariro Trout Farm, or a a dip in Tokaanu Thermal Pools. We chose the hot pools, but returned in time to watch the end of the gymkhana. We didn’t compete as we weren’t driving a Humber. Dennis’s Humber 90 project, is still just a project:) The day ended with dinner and prize giving at the local RSA.

Next morning we headed back to Rotorua. Time is simply flying. It isn’t much more than 2 months before we will be heading back to the UK, via Canada and a visit to Dennis’s family there.

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