Monday, September 24, 2012

Land ownership

Today was settlement day: We now own 4+ acres of vacant land in Logan Village!

We started looking back in April. Our weekends for a few months there consisted of going out looking at various houses and blocks. Almost every place we saw had something wrong with it: house too small, land too swampy, neighbours too close. We found one place we liked in Logan Village, but God had other ideas: We were outbid by another buyer. We found another place in Logan Reserve, but the land was a bit sandy and we would have had to do some work to the house as well (building in underneath).

We kept going back to this one vacant block, on the hill on the eastern side of Logan Village. And in the end, we decided we should just buy it and build our own house. So that's what we're doing.

It's a steep block (about 26°). But the views are fabulous, out to Flinders Peak.

So now we just have to clear the lantana and other weeds, build some fences, design a house, get Council approval, …

Sunday, January 22, 2012

We bought a zoo!

Saw this movie today with Laetitia. It's about a single father and his two kids who need a change from their noisy and stressful city life, so they buy a house on many acres .. that just happens to have a zoo.

It's also about a family struggling to cope with the grief of losing a wife and mother.

And it's also about courage, adventure and (of course) true love.

It's a beautiful movie. Do yourself a favour and go see it.

(And either movies are getting deeper or I'm getting sappy in my old age, but I cried - several times.)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Auckland and home!

We drove south back to Auckland along Highway 1. A toilet stop in Whangerei turned into a delightful exploration of a lovely park, including a chicken(!) and a pukeko wandering about. For my Australian friends, the pukeko is like a larger and less timid version of our moorhen - here, try this video. (Sorry, no sound; the only sound recorded by my camcorder was the mower in the background.)

Lunch was a picnic beside the road in Wellsford. Eventually we made it to the Airport Harbour View Motel, across the bay from the airport. Our room was spacious and clean with a galley kitchen and a large ensuite. Our hosts (“under new management”) were very friendly and helpful. Highly recommended, if you have your own transport (it’s a couple of kilometres from the Onehunga Mall).

We went out for dinner to the Curry Leaf Indian Restaurant in the mall, after discovering in response to our inquiries that they only cook in vegetable oil. The meal was delicious and good value for money. Also highly recommended!

In the morning we packed our bags for the last time and put aside all the things we didn’t want to take back with us - cooking items mostly, and a little left-over food. Our friends Jacques and Sarah came to meet us at the hotel and collected these things, and then we went with them to a cafĂ© for morning tea.

Finally we went to the airport and returned our car. We had driven it 5525km in thirty days.

We left Auckland at a little after 3:00pm and arrived almost four hours later at 3:50pm, getting back the three hours we lost on the way to Christchurch a month ago. My parents picked us up from the airport, and we met Laetitia’s parents at the Loving Hut at Mt Gravatt for dinner together before going home.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


On Tuesday morning we drove north from Auckland. We turned off the main highway to go to the Kauri Museum at Matakohe, stopping for a picnic lunch in Paparoa, the town before that. We were very pleased to see a sign in the park in Paparoa celebrating Christmas as Jesus’ birthday.

The Kauri Museum is excellent. We spent about three hours there and felt rushed. Seriously, you could spend an entire day there! They have so much information and so many displays. It’s wonderful. Just do it!

However we were due in Paihia so we eventually had to leave. We took the back road north from Paparoa, after asking for directions and advice a couple of times. It was a lovely scenic drive, not only shorter than returning east to Highway 1 first but also had little traffic.

In Paihia we stayed two nights at the Marlin Court Motel at the eastern end of town. Our room was spacious with a full kitchen and ensuite; highly recommended. Dinner was cooked in the room both nights.

On Wednesday morning we checked out St Paul’s Anglican, an old stone church on the esplanade, before making our way to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Somewhat tired from several cultural experiences already we chose not to spend NZ$25 each to go in; instead Laetitia bought a very informative book for only NZ$20. We tried twice (once from each end of the road) to get to Mt Bledisloe but unfortunately the road was gravel, which our hire car insurance wouldn’t cover. We visited Haruru Falls just west of Paihia, noting the brown tint to the water and guessing that to be due to tannins from the trees upriver.

Laetitia bought fish and chips in town and we returned to our motel room to eat lunch and have a nap.

In the afternoon we drove across to the west coast. (So amusing to be able to drive across the country in less than two hours! Okay so you can only do it this close to the northern end.) We wanted to see Tane Mahuta in Waipoua Forest, the largest living Kauri in New Zealand. And it is amazingly big, 1250 years old and 50m high! Yet at 14m in girth it is only small compared to some of the older ones that once grew here (as we discovered at the Kauri Museum). Such a huge and beautiful tree. Well worth going to see.

Can you see me at the bottom of this photo?
On the way back we paused at Hokianga Harbour for some photos, as the cloudy, drizzly mist was a little clearer than it had been on the way through earlier, and we also turned off to see Rawene where the ferry goes across to Kohukohu on the northern side. We finally got back to our hotel at 7:00pm.

On Thursday morning we headed south again, the end of our holiday in sight.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

North Shore Auckland

Monday night was spent at Albany Fairview Heights B&B in the North Shore area near Auckland. Our hosts Craig and Karen were very friendly and helpful and it was a delightful experience - highly recommended.

After a short nap we drove back into Auckland to see the view from the Sky Tower. Arriving at 6:02pm we serendipitously found a park on the street (Victoria St) only a block away in a section that was a Clearway until 6:00pm and then free parking (free!) until 8:00am the next day! Equally serendipitously we found a Loving Hut opposite the Sky Tower (also on Victoria St). We really like the Loving Hut in Brisbane (in Mt Gravatt), so we were very happy to give this one a try. It was quite nice, and all vegan of course, although not the same as the one we’re used to.

The view from 220m up the Sky Tower was, of course, spectacular.

Monday, January 9, 2012


On the way north we stopped in Maunganui, hoping to see the MV Rena on the Astrolabe Reef, but either it was too far or the weather was too cloudy and drizzly - probably both. However we did have to cross carefully to the beach as the esplanade was being used for a half-triathlon!

Once we got to the Coromandel Peninsula the roads through the forests were steep and very twisty.
Arriving in Tairua we discovered the reason for the long lines of traffic - there was a food and wine festival. Avoiding that, we stopped at the info centre to check our planned route, since two out of three of our maps said the road we wanted was unsealed. (Not to worry as it turned out, it had been sealed four or five years ago. What does that say about those other, only recently-obtained, maps!?)

Laetitia bought some hot chips to help against the chilly wet weather and we drove a short way further to Hot Water Beach where we ate our lunch in the car, watching the rain fall and the tourists on the sand and in the surf. Apparently you can take a shovel and dig yourself a hole in the sand, where you’ll find warm water from a natural spring. We were there at low tide, but the weather was far too unpleasant (wet, windy and cold) for us to try it ourselves - not that anyone else seemed at all deterred!

Then we drove on around the peninsula to Coromandel town. The last part of the drive includes a steep climb with many, many turns over a mountain pass and a scenic lookout at the top. Unfortunately we were in the clouds from about a third of the way up, so we didn’t bother stopping to look at the view.

We stayed two nights in a self-contained unit managed by Pottery Lane Cottages. Our unit was very spacious with a lounge and full kitchen and even a (free!) laundry! Unfortunately the bed sagged and in the end we found the couch in the lounge was at least as comfortable as trying to sleep with both of us in the bed.

We cooked dinner in our unit both nights.

The first morning we spent resting and doing some laundry (free!). We walked into town and found some delicious red lentil soup for lunch at Chai Tea at the bottom of the hill on the western end of the main street. Laetitia discovered quilt supplies at Stapleton’s at the other end of town (nice, friendly service - by a man!).

After lunch we went for a short drive. We had intended to go to Long Bay but that appeared to need access through private property so instead we went to Wyuna Bay. We also went for a walk along the Kauri Block track up to the Pa Lookout since it was a good day for a walk - overcast and cool but not raining. It was quite a steep climb and we were astounded when a group of cyclists passed us, carrying their mountain bikes up the stairs with them! The view from the top was fantastic.

Returning to town we spent a couple of hours catching up with email etc. before dinner.

The following morning we had to go to the Post Office. Laetitia posted the quilt material she had bought, back to herself in Australia, and I had to organise a pre-paid bag to send to the place we stayed in National Park because I had left my phone charger there. They will put it in my pre-paid bag and post it to me back in Australia. Sigh.

The cloud cover being lighter and higher than when we’d arrived, we decided to have another try at the scenic lookout on the hill on the way into town. So we drove up the steep switchbacks and were indeed rewarded with a beautiful view both ways (east and west) from the top. Well worth doing.

The drive south along the west coast of the Coromandel Peninsula was beautiful, winding along the coast. 
We stopped in Thames for lunch, which we ate under a large tree outside one of the two old churches there made from Kauri wood. That one was closed, but the other (St George’s Anglican) was open and so we had a look inside there after lunch.

Then it was west and then north heading to and through Auckland.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


We stayed the night at Maketu Hilltop Holiday Park in a self-contained studio with ensuite and small kitchen. It was quite comfortable, if a little small. The park is pet friendly - they even have several resident cats, dogs, horses and birds! (We only actually saw one cat and one dog, plus another visitor’s pet dog.)

Before dinner we drove down to the beach and checked out the memorial to the first Maori canoe arrival in the north and then one of the oldest churches in the region (closed, unfortunately, so we could only look from the outside). The sunset was lovely (the beach there faces north-west). Dinner was left-overs.

In the morning we left early for our long drive north up the east coast.