All posts by Chris Miller - Buggeritweareoff.com

Founder and Creator of Buggeritweareoff.com. Ex Newspaper Photographer and Commercial Photographer for more than 40 years.

Poutu Marine Hall Campground

This is a trip I’ve been looking forward to for several years but have been put off by the roughly 25k’s of unsealed road and I needn’t have worried as its better than most metal roads around NZ and it is being sealed as we speak.

Pouto Marine Hall Campground as its called is beautifully run by husband and wife volunteers John and Janine, who live opposite and is run for the community that own the campground.

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The campground

Its is a fantastic site set up on a hill looking out across the Kaipara eastwards towards Tapora and has easy access to two great beaches.

The hall (villa) was the original Custom House built in the early 1800’s and used to clear the vessels cargo as it came into the wharf that was just down off the beach. The wharf is being rebuilt along with the sealing of the road.

Rafe by the Historic Hall

The Hall houses the Kitchen, Shower and Toilet facilities that are provided for the Campground.

Tent town

The campground is also a participant in the NZMCA Campsaver scheme as well.

The front of the old Custom House

We were lucky to get a park right up next to the Hall plugged in.. lucky as the campground was chocker mostly with families in tents and with only 8 powered sites, it didn’t take much to fill !

The view from the Campground across the Kaipara

On our second night here, we were sitting in Rafe having a glass of something when walking alongside Rafe was an old friend I hadn’t seen for years. I jumped outside and called his name, he was as shocked as I was that we were both is such a small place and that we both knew someone 🙂

The Lounge inside

It turns out that they lived in a Bach they have had there for over 20 years and built themselves (with hand tools!) and were right opposite the camp ground. Our sons used to be at school together and were great mates.

Janine and John couldn’t have been more helpful and with John running a quad bike trip out to the historic lighthouse 7 k’s away, this was one of the reasons we were here.

A neat campground with super nice people in a great spot.

Rafe’s Tracker map to Poutu – Armada GPS

Quad bikes to Poutu Lighthouse

Over the years there was a service run locally in Poutu by a chap called Jock who by all accounts was a real character and one of those really nice people who couldn’t do enough for you. Jocks operation used to run visitors along the 7 km beach to see the historic Lighthouse.

The lighthouse up the top

Sadly Jock passed away and the service stopped so the Poutu Marine Campground managers, John and Janine carried it on and it is not to be missed.

John popped over to Rafe the day before and had worked out the tides so we could get there and back with no issues along the beach the next day… wow we were fizzing..

Odd looking Dunes on the way

I was to drive one quad bike with Fiona on the back and John would lead on the other. I was given a brief driving lesson on the front lawn and we were off to the boat ramp down the road and off down the beach.

Parts of a shipwreck appearing.

The sun was shining but there was a good 20 knot westerly which we were driving into but it added to the fun. We stopped along the way to see a wreck which had just appeared out of sand dune.

Apparently every day is different when the wind is blowing where the beach completely changes and sand dunes appear and disappear. Its amazing.. This has the effect where all the historic wrecks along this coast do the same and when they’re uncovered, they’ll disappear just as quickly !

We moved on to see some really unusual sand dunes that had popped up and a ti tree grove that had been completely covered by sand. A bit further we veered off through the dunes to see a freedom camping spot with about 4 carloads of people enjoying a private little spot in the dunes. After a friendly wave, we carried on.

John about to head up to the Lighthouse

Up came some BIG sand dunes and it was time for another driving lesson to get familiar with the loose sand. These were massive and its huge amounts of fun.. Fiona stayed on the back so I think I passed the test 🙂

On a bit further and it was time to climb up the 80 odd metres to the famous Lighthouse. John was saying that DOC have just replaced the door broken by vandals and given it some paint but it needs much more. The lighthouse was built in the 1840’s as by then there had been nearly 100 shipwrecks with boats trying to cross the bar and sinking in the channel.

Fiona nd John with Lighthouse behind

At the top there is more evidence of attempts to plant some trees covered by sand. The sand up around the back of the lighthouse is all quite new.

The Quad with sand covered trees.

After a trip further around to another vantage point for a piccy, we set off back to the Poutu Camp.

A person we saw clamber up the sand dune to take a pic.

The whole trip took about 3 hours and was just fantastic.

Click on the Gallery below for a Slideshow

A day or so later in the afternoon, John popped over and offered to show us up the inner harbour which has a completely different look to it. That was great too and its amazing how much of the beach and cliffs have eroded up there. There was a pipe of a bore right at the water line where a village once stood but had to be abandoned.

Fiona nd John on the inside of the Harbour looking back to Poutu

Another great trip and well worth doing.

As far as we could go.. close to Kelly’s Bay

The Lookout Bench at Dargaville

There is something really special about the Dargaville NZMCA park and apart from it being an easy walk into downtown Dargaville, it has these neat old historic buildings on it as well.

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The Dargaville Park

We popped in on our way to Poutu after being delayed by Auckland holiday traffic.

There were only about 5 other motorhomes or caravans there and few came and went for water so there was no danger of overcrowding 🙂

After arriving later in the day, we went for a walk into town for some fish and chips and a look around.

View to the town

The next day, we were up early to check out the bench seat out on the point of the park which overlooks the harbour. Its a lovely spot which you wouldn’t know was there and a very pleasant spot to spend half an hour so while drinking your coffee which is exactly what we did.

As we returned to Rafe, we had to walk past a couple of other motorhomes and one of them was Rob who I knew from our time years ago when we had our old boat Rorqual at Bayswater Marina. Rob used to run a charter boat company from there and Fiona has since met his wife Helen.

A lovely couple who came and joined us in Rafe with a coffee for an hour or so chatting about all sorts.. It has been a while since I’ve seen Rob so it was nice to see them both.

Looking back into the park

It has been a while since I was last at this park but it never disappoints and with it being so close to town as well is a real bonus.

Cracks in the Shower

Now that we’re back in a house and no longer living fulltime in our Motorhome, we’re in a position where we can get on with some of the bigger maintenance issues we should have done earlier.

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Shower base showing cracks. Pressure on drain outlets.

One of these was over the course of the last few years, we’ve  been getting some cracks in the plastic base of the shower. I’ve been covering them in epoxy progressively to make sure water was not getting through underneath.

Shower base with cracks

Apparently this is not uncommon in both Caravan and Motorhomes and is caused by stress in the plastic due to lack of support from underneath the tray.

Friends of ours have an almost identical Motorhome to ours  have had exactly the same issue so its a common problem.

Wall linings coming out.

Having just had our Truma heater dealt with by Peter and his team at RV repairs and with Peter’s background in boatbuilding, I thought he’d be the perfect man for the job.

Initially Peter was talking about adding some glass matting to the under side of the shower tray to add some strength to the tray but once he opened it all up, that idea went out the window in favour of rebuilding the base to make it better able to deal with the load.

Shower tray removed.. easy to see why it cracked.

Fortunately, there was no sign of any water or moisture at all underneath so I was really pleased about that… my epoxy repairs paid off.

The base was basically a pedestal made of ply supporting the inner two thirds of the tray and not very well.

Peter changed the top to make a thicker plastic top which went right to the edge of the hole, drilled new holes for the waste (in the right places!) and then glued it all together.

With the base out ready, sides cut down waiting for new plastic thicker top

It wasn’t a simple job as all the lining had to be removed to get the old shower tray out and to complicate matters, our bedroom TV was bolted through one of the shower linings up high so that had to come off too.

New base supported properly
All done and solid as a rock

And .. murphy’s law, after 4 days of sitting in Peters workshop, he couldn’t get it to start! The start battery had finally popped its clogs after 6 years of faithful service so Peter jump started Rafe for me to go and get a  battery … do not pass GO, don’t stop for the $200.. straight to the battery shop 🙂

The new Monstrous Battery

We went away last weekend in Rafe and the shower feels completely different.. much firmer and absolutely zero movement. Peter has done a fantastic job.. and thanks for the jumpstart 🙂

Blobbing out in the Hot Pools

Our first visit to Athenree Holiday park was in the middle of winter in 2016 when we were presented with the 20000th peppermints! .. being the 20000th visitor to their Holiday Park.

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Rafe looking out over the Estuary

Arriving early in the afternoon after babysitting our Grandkids at Ardmore, we were looking forward to blobbing out for a couple of nights with the pools and generally doing very little.

Kids enjoying the pool

I met Peter at the office who couldn’t have been more welcoming and he very efficiently showed me where everything was and after parking Rafe and getting settled down, we very quickly went for our first swim.

And the hottest pool

Peter and Belinda who have owned this for the last 5 months have also joined up with the NZMCA’s Campsaver Winter program so that makes it really affordable as well. The app shows them having 77 powered sites along with several Motels and Cabins. A well setup park.

Click on the Gallery below for a slideshow

We were last here with our friends Rob and Helen a few years ago, when they first picked up their brand new Autotrail after its arrival from Britain via Tauranga.  A great place to meet on their “maiden voyage” home 🙂

Athenree is a fantastic spot right on the estuary and with the hot pools on site, it makes it very easy to find excuses for doing absolutely nothing 🙂 .. that was us this weekend! .. And it’s not that far from Auckland in the scheme of things.

Neat Murals

One of the things I really liked was the murals around the pools which are absolutely amazing. There is also a fantastic painting which is a really accurate take of the pool area.

The pool with the Murals

I posted a pic of us parked on the grass on Facebook which was spotted by our friends Ian and Lee who have a Bach in Waihi Beach so we got a call to pop round to see them for a cup of tea which was nice. Great to see them as we haven’t seen them for a few months.

Sunset

A lovely Motorcamp run by some neat people and being a sucker for some nice hot pools, I’ll be back for lots more of this.

Rafe’s Tracker map to Athenree – Armada GPS

One of the smaller Classic Caravans!

At the Liteweight 75th anniversary, and right next door to us was Karine and Ross in their 1956 Starliner Starlette Caravan.

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Karine and Ross with their Starlette

Its tiny but over the last few years, from the wheels up, they have completely stripped and restored this little beauty.  Ross has gone out of his way to keep it light and tow friendly .. it is less than 475 kgs!

It is a real Tardis but it is surprising how much room is there when the space is used efficiently.

It is what you’re used to as we found with our first Caravan, Wee Rafe.. not much bigger at 650kgs!

It is completely self contained and is surprising how much room it has in it.

Amazing amount of room
Lovely curves on the beds

They tow it with a 1964 Volvo 544 which would be a really rare car.  I haven’t seen any of them anyway.

Ross has completely rebuilt this too including replacing the motor with a Ford Sierra motor and gearbox. It has Ford Mondeo wheels, Smits Gauges on the dash (Triumph Dolomite) Hyundai seats and discs all around. It was a real eyecatcher!

The Volvo

With its awning out they looked quite at home entertaining their friends during the day.

The Piano Man

While staying recently at a Motorhome parking spot in Muriwai we met John who has a massive shed on his 150 acre farm up on the hills. We were parked on his farm.

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John with a 1870 organ made in Chicago

While we were getting set up, he invited me in for a look in his shed. John emigrated from the UK with his wife Jane, many years ago with degrees in both engineering and agriculture. In his words then, “They wanted people like me”! and looking at the stuff in his shed, he’s a really clever guy.

John showing me a Pianola that he had revived.

John and Jane started an Orchard in Kumeu and grew the business to three orchards over several years. He was once of the first, if not the first to export Figs and Feijoas amongst other things too.

John playing an 1896 Clark organ made in Chicago.

Now in “retirement mode” he just sticks to his specialty of fixing Organs and Piano’s! I thought to myself, that’s a long way from being an orchardist but he is an engineer too!

Another Piano key masterpiece.

Amongst many organs in his shed is an old rotary hoe with tubeless tyres with a new petrol motor on which he has rebuilt for a friend.

Looking around the organs, John showed me the latest late 1800’s one he was working on which was a real mess when it arrived but he is slowly restoring it.

Johns bits draw with very fancy organ valve handles 🙂

He’s also a keen woodturner making serving platters and bowls from native timbers and he’s made some really interesting decorations/sculptures out of old Piano keys!

A really interesting and clever guy and you can stay on his farm for just $10.

Parking at Dusk
Muriwai much later in the day.

Cleaning those MPK vents

As time marches on, things in a motorhome and caravan need to be cleaned and one of the trickier things to clean is the little MPK roof vents normally found in most showers and bathrooms in your motorhome.

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Yuk… grubby vent

While you’re taking these out to clean, its a good idea while they are out to replace and broken catches that have lost their tabs like two of mine had.

I had the good fortune to have a friend Bruce who had replaced his so he knew exactly where to get some replacements. Moutere Caravans have packets of 4 for $30 plus a courier so well worth getting before you start.

The torx screws on the arms

I also went to Bunnings to invest in a Torx screwdriver kit which is like an Alun key set which was very useful to get in the tight spots on the vent.

Getting underway….. After starting on the inside by undoing the 4 Torx screws holding the arms to the motorhome and then gently lifting the vent off the roof, I moved the whole assembly to the kitchen table.

Dirty vent on its back ready for dismantling.

Out came a bucket of Sunlight dishwashing liquid in a bucket and a soft cloth.

With the vent on its back facing up on the table, I could easily get the Torx screwdriver down through the handle at each end to remove the screws holding the handle onto the perspex. It also holds the plastic inner to the perspex outer cover so expect it to all come apart at that point.

The Torx screwdriver to get at the handle screws

It makes it really easy though at this point to gently prise out the catches for replacement and give the whole thing a good clean. I got some replacement springs too so replaced those as well.

I replaced all the catches as the ones that weren’t broken were so brittle with the sun that the tabs broke anyway as soon as I tried to remove them.

Tab missing and catch!
One with a tab still!

Be careful with the perspex outer cover as it can scratch really easily.

The new catch ready to go
Sliding in a new catch

As you re assemble it, be careful not to over tighten the screws as you will strip them in the plastic.

All clean ready to reassemble.

The whole process took me about 2 hours from start to finish and it makes a really big difference and the look when its all back together… there’s also something nice about doing it yourself too!

All done and clean.

After 7 years of neglect on our roof, my whole vent was a different colour and as a result, lets in a lot more light.

Nice and clean and back together.
Its a beautiful thing !

Peter and Margie’s Award Caravan

Before I’d even turned off the motor, Peter emerged from his caravan as my neighbour to show me where I should park to avoid the soft spots. We were due to get some fairly heavy rain overnight in Coromandel so it was very helpful advice.

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After realigning Rafe to take advantage of some fairly serious layers of gravel under the grass, I switched off and went over to say hello.

Peter and Margie

After chatting to them for a while, Peter’s wife Margie said that their son was in the very first rotation when the NZ Army went into Afghanistan years ago. My son Alex was there about the same time and was in infantry but they didn’t know each other.

The Award Caravan

Back to the caravan ! ..Their Caravan was freshly imported from the UK about a year ago.

Click on the Gallery below for a slideshow

Peter and Margie live in Tuakau and had their daughter and her family here too.

Fully self contained with everything you need, there is plenty of room for all. With a centre island bed and completely self contained it is a very comfortable caravan.

Lounge area

I ended up spending two nights here with them and with another Tuakau friend in a pop up trailer caravan. Lots of fun with some nice people.

The Caravan

Muriwai Sunset

It was the first long weekend after lockdowns and already the traffic was awful but we wanted a night out of the house… where to go without driving endlessly through traffic.

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Muriwai much later in the day.

Muriwai looked great and we picked a spot I’ve been looking forward to going to for months. John and Jane’s Charges Apply (CAP) parking spot high up in the hills overlooking Muriwai Beach.

We made the mistake of letting the GPS lead the way which was down an unsealed back road up to the road despite the GPS having “no unsealed roads please” loaded. We should have headed straight to Muriwai Beach and then headed up the hill.. still a little bit of unsealed road but only a 1k or so.

Our spot with Muriwai Beach behind

John met us at the electric gates and directed us up to a parking spot where we could get power too for an extra few dollars. Absolutely magic spot looking straight out towards Australia and north over the magnificent Muriwai Beach.

John’s cows with the best view in town.

We were both pretty knackered so just lazed around with some good Jazz on the stereo and I went for a wander around the paddocks to get some piccies.

Parking at Dusk

A lovely spot so close to town and fantastic hosts.

The Gannet Colony

On the way out the next morning, we stopped off for a quick look at the farmhouse Gannet Colony up on the rock on the southern end of the beach.

Rafe’s Tracker map ..The long route we took to John and Janes. – Armada GPS