Tuesday, 3 May 2016

The Cape Crusaders

Wellington. Our part of New Zealand - We live middle left. 
It’s been school half-term here over for  the last couple of weeks so we thought we’d take advantage of the situation and go for a bit of a road trip around the North Island and then take a flight to Nelson in the South for a few days, to see our pals down there.
I was not sure how our little car would cope with the journey north, given that you never have to travel very far in New Zealand without ascending into the clouds and then there’s the inevitable descent back. And this happens with alarming regularity due to the country’s rocky backbone and contributes to the country’s  incredible beauty. I am delighted to say that our little Honda performed admirably, but if we change our car next year, I think we will buy something that’s two litre or thereabouts.
It was while we were way out East, stopping for supplies, that I was called “Bro” for the first time since our arrival. We were in Maori country – on the East Cape - and it happened after I bumped into a young fella in Opotiki. “Sorry Bro”, he said apologetically.
Now that is `very Kiwi` and is certainly up there alongside “ As Sweet As” “Yeah Nah”, and “Hot Chips”, which are chips, which are different from “Chips” which are crisps. Then Flip Flops are Jangals, and so on.
It was the first time I had been called “Bro”, and it came as we started the most isolated of our journeys, the 550 Km drive around the East Cape. I had been planning this for quite a few weeks. Our week-long road trip took us north to see our pals Helen and Kevin, who own a 200-acre farm, near Hamilton, where they keep, predominantly  cattle, and then on to Tauranga and south towards the East Cape.
Our pals from Hamilton, Helen & Kevin outside the fish `n` chip shop on the wharf at Tauranga
This area gets very few tourists and you can cruise for an hour around its rugged coast and maybe pass two or three cars. There are no towns to speak off and the road hugs the coast and then climbs to reveal spectacular views of sweeping rocky bays and the odd house and Marai (Maori Meeting House), before plunging inland for a bit. I was, frankly disappointed, not to see kids on horseback galloping bareback along the highway. Evidently that is quite common. It’s certainly a very wild place.
Tuihiaura Beach on the East Cape
There are not very many places to stay on the route, unless you want to camp, so when I saw this place advertised in the `Lonely Planet` I could not resist it. Nestled right on the beach, and I mean `right on the beach`, it’s higgldy piggledy stairs and driftwood furniture made it  pretty unique. We were there with a family from Auckland and spent the evening chatting around a fire, with wood we gathered from the beach.

The Beach Retreat at Maraehako Bay. Spot our little white Honda
Our room. Just a stone's throw from the water
The East Cape route finishes in Gisborne, which has a beautiful beach and has had a lot of money spent on it, but is a bit shabby in places. We would certainly re-visit though and watched a very popular Kiwi film there, “The Hunt For The Wilder People”. Gisborne is  where Captain Cook first landed in New Zealand and every street in the city centre is named after one of the crew. Naturally there is the ubiquitous Captain Cook Motel, Bakery, Dry Cleaners, Car Showroom, etc, etc.
The spot in Gisborne where Capt. James Cook is said to have landed.
The pier at Tolega Bay. Better watch out. The 11.30 is almost due.
From Gisborne it’s about a three-hour journey to  Napier, where we met and stayed with John and Diana, who are Kiwi boaters, and do what we do, but the other way around. Napier is the place I blogged about where they have the fabulous Art Deco weekend every February.  John and Di are off to the UK in two weeks to cruise on their boat “Molly Rose” and will return to NZ in October. We hope to see them sometime this summer.
Before we left Wellington I had bid on the equivalent of our “E Bay” for a Kiwi Long Stockman’s Wax Coat. I’ve been wanting one of these for ages, mainly for the back of the boat when it rains, or for stomping round the marina in similar conditions. There are frighteningly expensive in the UK and I had been looking through “Trade Me” here to see if one would turn up, and turn up it did. It cost me £25, and although it had been in a garage for several years, smelt a bit, and needs a good coat of wax, I am double-chuffed with it. We picked it up from a fruit farm in Hastings, close to Napier.
My Kiwi Stockman's Coat
Last weekend we flew over to the South Island to my absolute favourite place in New Zealand, Nelson. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times we visit this small city, neither of us tire of it. We have good friends there and the combination of a smart, clean, bustling, arty-crafty city, sitting beside a beautiful bay, with great sandy beaches, and with vineyards and a National Park just minutes away make it a great place to visit. We both think sometime in the future we might move there. There are some good drinking establishments too, though two beers and three ginger beers and a bag of crisps (chips) cost us £23 last Friday night. Ouch... Nice pub though, in an old church.
Nelson City Centre, with the cathedral in the background
The Free House, Nelson. Great pub, shame about the prices.
Since I last blogged we have had the tree surgeon in and what a difference it has made to the garden, opening it up to the light. Young Alex, arrived with his chain saw, and worked like a man possessed. I helped out, operating the industrial chipper he had brought with him. We have several large bags of mulch now, as well as piles of firewood. Don’t think I’ll be filling a suitcase with it mind, but I hear it will burn very well, especially the Manuka.
Alex, and his trusty chainsaw, set about taming the garden
While Roger works the chipper out front
The work Alex did, has opened up a corner of the garden which was very much out of bounds, and  James and Erica are now pondering the best use for it. It looks likely to be a children’s play area.
So now I can see the sky, I am now slowly working my way around the garden and have made good progress over the last few days. The weather continues to be bright and sunny though we could really do with some rain.
We follow the weather at home and see you are due for a heat wave over the next week or so. Our Lodge, on the Marina, continues to be well used by hirers. It was busy in March and April and we have odd weeks booked through the summer.
A busy morning at the zoo is.....

...followed by a snooze with Granny
This week we finally send off the 101 documents we need in support of our NZ residency. Everything is in place so we are hopeful that by the time we return at the beginning of July we will know how the land lies.
Finally. the Kiwis may have rejected the fern for their flag, but it still pops up everywhere.