Category Archives: Close to home

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.

Click on any Image to enlarge

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.

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.

Click on any Image to enlarge

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

Everyone has a Jetty

Another one from 2018..

Over our boating years, both Alan and I have had some amazing moments in both Bon Accord harbour at Kawau and around Kawau so being  driven around on the ferry so we could have a good look with a commentary was a real treat.

Click on an Image for Hi Res

Lidgards and Kawau Yacht club

Alan does one of the biggest, if not the biggest Wooden Boating Blogs around called Waitematawoodys.com and was on the Classic Yacht Association committee with me for several years.  We have been known to sneak away in Rafe for the odd boys trip which are always fun!

We left Rafe about 9:30 from the Sandspit Holiday Park and wandered along the road to the wharf to get our tickets and check in.  So after having a cuppa at the café on the wharf we set off about 10:30 for Kawau.

Mansion House

Being an Island and only accessible by boat, Kawau Island has only a handful of roads and a handful of vehicles.

His and Hers

Almost all the houses only have water only access and the way they’ve been built either on top of a hill with their own chairlifts (think electric Wheely Bin on a rail 🙂 ) with a jetty at the bottom or on the water. Some of them are amazing but I suspect most would be either baches, occupied by retired folk or who don’t have to commute.

Kawau Yacht Club

We were on the Royal Mail boat which started at Vivian Bay in the north and worked its way around to Bon Accord Harbour and Mansion House Bay and then down to South Cove where there was mail to be dropped off. On the way back to Mansion House Bay for lunch, we passed the Old Copper Mine.

Click on the Gallery below for a Slideshow

Kawau was huge source of copper in the mid 1800’s with a community of around 300 related to the Mine and its output at its peak. By the 1800’s it all fizzled out and most of the miners moved on to the Gold Fields.

The remains of the Copper Mine

After a walk around the Mansion House and the coffee shop, we eventually made our way back to the ferry. It was nice barrelling along at 15 knots in the sun with a glass of Pinot Gris in hand.

Alan getting off the Ferry
Friendly Peacocks on the lawn

We walked back to Rafe in the Sandspit Holiday Park and prepared ourselves for a meal at Sandspit Yacht Club.

Rafe’s Tracker Map

Right On The Water

Here’s another one from 2018… enjoy

They’ve had a lot of rain up here so the Sandspit Holiday Park crew suggested that we stick to one back from the water just to make sure we don’t sink!

Click on an Image for Hi res

Nice parking

My old boating friend Alan and I were in need of some time out of the house so we decided a few days before to check out the Sandspit Holiday Park and do a trip to Kawau on the ferry. Sounded like a plan thought I so off we went early on the Friday afternoon. It is only 42k’s from Auckland and with little traffic, we were there at 3.30pm.

Its a lovely little park with a lot of permanent Baches and Caravans but what a neat spot.

With an NZMCA discount, it was $23 each a night. With their very new Showers and Kitchens, its a delight to stay at. There are a whole bunch of older interesting buildings there too and Horace the Morris is a feature as well.

Click on the Gallery below for a Slideshow

We stayed two nights with a ferry trip to Kawau in between. Lucky with the weather, after getting back from Kawau, we walked along to the newly setup restaurant on the top floor of the Sandspit Yacht Club and caught up with Motorhome friends Rob and Helen who live not far away from there.

The ferry a few minutes walk away.

The last time we were here, unbeknown to me, they had some issues with the drainage system for the bathrooms which used to be a real problem apparently in the height of summer.

The new Drainage system

This has all been upgraded and put up the hill out of the way and hasn’t been an issue since.  Nice friendly hosts who were happy to help with anything. ..

A shot from the ferry. You can see Rafe in the middle.

A great spot and handy to the Kawau ferry and the new Marina at Sandspit.

The Netspeed Speedtest for here.
Download: 7.34 Mbps
Upload: 2.10 Mbps
Ping: 23 ms
I think the tower was playing up a bit as we had some difficulty with the connection over the two nights.

Rafes Tracker Map

 

Cricket on the mudflats

Yay .. its the end of lockdown.. we’re away again.. almost !   Here’s a couple more posts from early 2017 until we get away again.

Fiona had left Bland Bay and was heading back to town to do other things .. and work so she suggested that I spend another night out on the way back. We stopped in Waipu and had lunch and then Fiona went on to Auckland.

Click on the images for Hi Res or a Slideshow

The cricket pitch with the campground behind
The cricket pitch with the campground behind

I rang the good folk at one of my favorite spots when the weathers good, Whangateau by Matakana. A great campground run by Auckland City.

In the Grandstand
In the Grandstand

Today was a bit different as when I arrived, the tide was out and there was a friendly game of cricket with two families involved. One was from Whangaparoa and the other from the UK visiting. They were having a ball. I had to get some piccies.

It is a fascinating place to watch as the tide comes in really quickly covering hundreds of metres of exposed mud in just under an hour… Amazing to watch.

The water is coming in
The water is coming in

A nice campground if you’re looking for somewhere not to far from Auckland. See my earlier Whangateau post here.

The Netspeed Speedtest for this site
Download: 12.89 Mbps
Upload: 16.67 Mbps
Ping: 74 ms
http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&q=-36.315094,174.765907

Rafes Track to Whangateau Holiday park

Rafes Tracker Map
Rafes Tracker Map

Beautiful Awhitu

Yay .. its the end of lockdown.. we’re away again.. almost !   Here’s a couple more posts from early 2017 until we get away again.

After a good solid weekend of babysitting, we thought we’d escape for our last night before Fiona had to return to work.

The Brook Homestead Wharf
The Peninsula Campground at Awhitu

I wasn’t really in the mood for huge driving for one night so we figured that up the Awhitu peninsula might be quite nice. I called Auckland City and it seems that even in the height of the Summer silly season, you can still use your camping pass at Awhitu and other parks like it. 

Don’t forget to click on the Images for Hi res or a Slideshow

Peninsula Campground. Plenty of room.
Peninsula Campground. Plenty of room.

After booking in on the phone, we were off heading for Awhitu. We arrived around 1pm and settled Rafe down in the Peninsula Campground.

When you book with the Council, the choices are Self contained or not.  When you get to Awhitu, it is Brook Campground or the Peninsula campground. I was a bit confused as to where we were supposed to park as there is no mention of SCC and no signposts 🙂
It wasn’t until we had the downloaded map off the council website that we saw two Motorhome emblems on both the Peninsula and the Brook campgrounds with tags saying SCC camping that we were happy with where we had parked. 

The  Brook Campground which is behind the Brook Homestead and the Peninsula camp is beside the Homestead and closer to the water. Both have nice toilets and great rubbish collection points and both are an easy walk to the beach. 

The Cottage
The Cottage

After settling down and having a look around both Brook Homestead and the Cottage, which they used before the Homestead was built, we sat down for lunch and just blobbed in the sun.  A perfect spot for watching the planes coming in to Auckland Airport and they were far enough away not to be a nuisance with sound. A lovely spot.

In the morning, we went for a walk down to the beach and had a look around. The Ranger popped in and checked the park so it was then I knew for sure we were ok where we parked although we were on our own. There was no one else there which surprised me.

The Beach with the tide out. Pip gathers out on the mudflats
The Beach with the tide out. Pipi gathers out on the mudflats

The park is huge and there are lots of great walks which we’ll check out next time we’re here but it’s a great spot and not too far away from the big smoke.

AwhituWe only had a night to check this place out before having to head back but we have visited here before but not stayed. See the earlier post.  It is a magic spot with a nice beach and plenty of places to explore. We’ll be back for sure.

AwhituThere is good 4g internet here which surprised me, being where it is although it’s not fast but good enough for Netflix.

The Netspeed Speedtest
Download: 5.84 Mbps
Upload: 1.55 Mbps
Ping: 54 ms

Rafes Tracker map to get here

awhitu

Drama on Milford Beach

This was first posted in Feb 2016 .. a special repost for lockdown!

I used to think that going to the local boat ramp for a couple of hours  on a Saturday afternoon was great entertainment.

Fiona and I walked down to Milford beach to watch some of the returning long weekend launches come back into Milford Marina in a 20 knot easterly coming up your backside. This is a real challenge as the entrance is quite narrow and with the surf, you can easily broach and head onto the rocks on either side of the entrance. Its not for the faint hearted.

Milford

Coastguard Arriving
Coastguard Arriving

As we crossed the bridge and walked down to the sand, I mentioned to Fiona that the mast we could see and the way it was bobbing around looked as though it was on the beach. As we got closer, there it was. I immediately rang Coastguard but they already knew about it and help was coming.
MilfordMilfordIt seems the poor chap misjudged the tide completely and was forced to turn around in the channel (almost impossible) and lost control and ended up on the beach. There were lost of volleyball players who volunteered to help in the water.  Coastguard arrived and towed them off with a jet powered rubber boat. A very lucky fellow and what a long day he had!

After that, we sat back and watched the boats come in on the easterly..   Everyone I saw did the return to Milford pretty well but what an afternoon of drama and action.

Left right, left right, attention !

This was first posted in Feb 2016 .. a special repost for lockdown!

What a great weekend! The weather was great and we had things to do.

After Fiona had finished work, we headed out to one of our favorite spots, the NZMCA park at Ardmore, a hop skip and a jump from Alex, Sarah and the Grandkids.

As always, remember to click on the images to see Hi Res.

Rob & Helens Autotrail and Rafe
Rob & Helens Autotrail and Rafe

Our friends, Rob & Helen and their daughter Chloe were heading off for a week or so to Napier and Gisborne so it was great we could pop in to Ardmore to see them off. When we arrived at about 7:30pm, they were off on a walk so they were a bit surprised to see us there when they returned as we hadn’t confirmed that we would be there.

Alex, Sarah and the boys came over after their tea and we all caught up in Rafe. Lots of fun.

The Ardmore NZMCA park is in an airfield precinct so a little noise comes with the territory, usually small planes and sometimes Helicopters.

Ardmore Park with Rob & Helens Autotrail and Rafe next door. The Cadet hall behind.
Ardmore Park with Rob & Helens Autotrail and Rafe next door. The Cadet hall behind.

That morning, things were different. At 8am, we heard the repetitive bark of a Sergeant Major type next door in the cadet parade ground teaching St John Juniors how to march. It was quite interesting to watch too as some didn’t know the left from the right so there were some interesting moves happening.
They were all togged up in their black uniforms and looked good, some even wearing their medals. There was one trainer who forgot his black clobber and was doing it all in his Red shorts.

St Johns Juniors marching
St Johns Juniors marching

As Fiona said, good on him for volunteering his time on a Saturday morning but it did sort of spoil the overall look.

About 9:30, we said goodbye to Rob, Helen and Chloe and they headed off to Taupo for their trip to Hawkes Bay and beyond. We left as well and went around to Alex, Sarahs and the Grandkids for the morning and around lunchtime, headed towards one of our other favorite places, Rays Rest at Miranda.  We were  catching up our friends Gary and Chris who were helping other friends Mark and Tina with their first trip out in their new, second hand Motorhome.
Rays Rest is a great spot and the weather was behaving as well.

Rays Rest
Rays Rest

After arriving early in the afternoon, we caught up for cups of tea and later a couple of drinks and then  headed off in Gary’s van down to get the fish and chips for tea from the famous Kaiaua fish and chips shop.  Gary wasn’t drinking so that worked well.  It was nice to see how much progress Mark had made on his motorhome as when he got it, it leaked and had quite a lot of dampness in its linings. .. now all gone.  More on this in another post soon.

We had a great night together and called it quits and hit the hay.

At Rays Rest
At Rays Rest

The next morning was nice in diffused sunshine with little wind. We sat on the foreshore watching people fish and just soaked up the atmosphere.

At Rays Rest, Gary, Fiona, Tina, Chris and Mark
At Rays Rest, Gary, Fiona, Tina, Chris and Mark

Gary, Chris, Tina and Mark were going to carry on to Thames and Coromandel so after lunch, we left them and headed home. A nice weekend.

 

800 000 Hits!

The last 100000 has been a bit of a slog but we finally got there.. Its actually more than 820 000!

Glorious spot  by the Waikato River 

I remember the moment when we hit 600 000. I was on my own in Coromandel at a neat campground by the river so had plenty of time to think about it. Fiona was at work.

Fiona using the Power pole clothesline 🙂  In the Ida Valley

Thanks for being great supporters of these pages and now heading for the Million mark.!

Rafe’s new Landscaped Park

One of the challenges we all have as Motorhome owners is where to park our Motorhomes.  Over the last month or so, we’ve been progressively been making space for ours.

Click on an Image for Hi Res

Boxing on. you can see the original bit
Boxing
The ready mix going in. Ryan floating off the slab

In the last two weeks, one of the bigger changes we’ve made to our new place in Devonport is hard landscaping of our front yard. It includes a flash new raised Garden which Fiona has always wanted. A parking area for our visitors as parking is a premium around here and a few green things around Rafe’s park and making it easier to get Rafe in and out of the park.

Rafe’s first day
Some of that fence has gone

A very good friend of my son Andrew, Ryan and his wife Jordan have done an amazing job. Ryan’s speciality is concrete but he has done a lot in the landscaping area too so we’re really chuffed with what we’ve got on a small difficult site. Ray helped too with redoing the fence and the raised gardens. A great job folks.

The Digger off to pull out the clothesline

We’ve only been here a couple of months. In that time, the concrete parking pad has been extended for Rafe, Hot water cylinder replaced and moved outside, a heat pump installed, the Laundry shifted around to be more functional, and now this amazing Garden.

While the Garden was being done, the fence had to be rebuilt as all the railings were knackered. The posts and palings were reused into an arty random fence.. We like it, the neighbours like it but quite a few don’t 🙂  we can always trim it later !

We also left a few bits at the front off to make it easier to get Rafe in and out 🙂

Ryan supervising the first scraping off the grass

 

Click on the Gallery below to see the progress!

A big thanks to Ryan, Jordan and Ray for their fantastic efforts.

Easy parking

Thats it for now for a while on the house so we’re back in Rafe on the road for summer.