Category Archives: Close to home

Idyllic Sandspit

This is one of those places that you’ll keep coming back to. It is just magic and there’s a ferry to Kawau too.

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Just Bliss

I arrived early in the afternoon and got myself setup in a corner spot but then realised that under some huge trees, there would be no TV signal.

First thing on the waterfront
Looking over towards the ferry wharf

It’s a fairly casual arrangement, “Park wherever you like except the waterfront spots which are booked for a whole bunch of Ozzies in their Britz vans”. I was only 10 steps away anyway so that was fine:-)

The Ozzies on the water

It was warm, there were people out kayaking in the camps free Kayaks and people out swimming.

The Ozzies catching up
Kayaking fun

I went for a walk across to the Sandpit Yacht club later for tea and sat out on the deck with a nice glass of chardonnay. Very civilised I thought but such a nice spot and the food was fantastic too.

At the Yacht club

Click on the Gallery below for an enlarged Slideshow

Later it was time to head back for a shower in the fantastic newish ablutions block.

Some of the history

There used to be a whole bunch of pretend historic shops around the office area which all seem to have gone which is a shame.. one of the features of this camp but still a great spot to stay all the same.

Rafe’s Tracker map to Sandspit – Armada GPS

The Famous Puhoi Pub

One of the iconic Hotels around and just out of Auckland is this wonderful old historic pub. It also has a huge carpark where you can stay overnight in your Motorhome or Caravan.

The Parking area

While I was in this neck of the woods, I thought I’d pop in and check it out.

How the first settlers arrived.

Puhoi started out having three Hotels after emigrants from Europe all wanted to be in on the business. Eventually one bought the others out and the current Puhoi Hotel which was built in 1879 became the communities premier place to socialise.

It has been owned by the same family since 1962.

At the bar

I love old buildings and this one has the charm and grace to go with it. The bar is decked out with every Knick knack you can imagine. It just reeks of character.

Click on the Gallery below for an Enlarged Slideshow

You can stay the night in the hotel too if you have friends without their own accommodation. The parking for Motorhomes is just across the road.

I went for a brief walk around the village, and it is like time stood still. The old buildings look like they would have been 100 odd years ago.

A neat little village and nice to place to stop.

Rafe’s Tracker map to Puhoi – Armada – GPS

New Parking at Red Beach

It has been a wee while since we’ve been here at what used to be called Pinewoods. We used to come here quite often as it was close and a nice break away without driving too far. With the cost of diesel being what it is, I thought it was time for a visit!

The weather wasn’t perfect as a whole week of unsettled weather was due a few days away, but it was stinking hot.

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The new parking area looking out towards the beach.

I checked in at the office and found that the old parking area with the very clean and tidy but basically in a bachy style building was not the first-choice area. They’ve now got a new very swish new parking area in an area that used to be a paddock you walked through to get to the beach.

It is set out with a big wide concrete driveway in a half circle arrangement with concrete parking bays running off that. A neat setup as it doesn’t matter where you’re parked, there is an easy angle to back in.

This also comes with a swish new facilities block, a kitchen, along with several showers and toilets.

The entrance

The kids a play area has been souped up too with the addition of a flying fox and other gear too.

Click on the Gallery below for an Enlarged Slideshow

I always remembered this place for its big concrete table tennis table. Easily one of the best around.

The amazing table tennis table.

Once I had Rafe settled, I walked over the park for a look around. The bachs all dotted over the hill and as I understand it are still all managed by a collective board. At the top there is also the famous Jacobs Ladder which is a set of steps going down the cliff although there is a sign saying you shouldn’t go down due to the erosion on the cliff.

The original camping area.

Funny who you meet in strange places.  After I took the photo of the new area and posted it on my own Facebook page, a friend Adele was saying what a nice motorhome her friend Gordon had in the foreground, so I went over to meet him.  Having been the owner of several Dethleffs, I’m certain we’ve met before, but it was nice to meet him again.

The Beach

Back to the campground.  Across the new campground is a locked bridge behind the surf club to cross the creek to the beach The creek surrounds the campground on three sides.  It’s nice to be parked so close to the beach and not far from the big smoke for fuel!

A nice park with very friendly people.

Rafe’s Tracker map to Red Beach – Armada – GPS

Ardmore’s Flash new paint work

Ardmore NZMCA park is one of our better parks so it we were looking forward to a break from the house and the grotty weather for a week of sunshine watching the world go by.

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Our youngest 9 yr old Grandson Liam goes to school in Ardmore where they used to live until last year and Dad Alex, had a week in Canberra for business so Liam needed someone to get him to school and feed him for the week. We live in Devonport so the easy way was to take Rafe out and stay at the park and walk him to his old bus stop not far from the entrance of Ardmore.

For the first couple of days Fiona was working so it was time for some walks during the day, take some piccies and read Newspapers. The sun was out, it was warm in the sun but was cold in the shadows but generally a big improvement on a few weeks ago.

Ardmore park

I met the custodian and Grant and Liz who honestly made me feel exhausted just watching them work on the park. It was almost non stop!  .. and they’re really nice people who were so helpful.

On the Wednesday morning Fiona drove out in the car which was good as we could get around and leave Rafe in the park so we got to get a few things and go out for lunch and check out some shops while Liam was at school.

Eye on the line

On the Friday morning, our last day, Grant popped his head in the door and said we had to vacate temporarily so the road markers could come in and give the park a flash new paint job on the parking areas.

The new paint with everyone on the grass behind.

There were about 10 or so Caravans and Motorhomes and one by one we shifted into the slightly damp grass paddock next door. We were a bit lucky having only one Caravan behind a light van losing traction which we pushed out. No harm done and everyone was still smiling 🙂

Click on the Gallery below for an enlarged slide show.

The painters were only there for a couple of hours and made it look easy while we all watched on. There were a few jokes about wobbly lines and late nights but they did an amazing job.

A Flashback to 2015.. Click on the Gallery to view

From coming here when the park first opened, Ardmore park is looking really good and is a credit to all those volunteers who have pitched in over the years.

We left on the Friday and headed home.

Rafe’s Tracker map home from Ardmore NZMCA Park – Armada GPS

Merry Christmas

Another year flashes by and we’re into Christmas again.. fun times and sunshine.

Lockdown is over so we can travel.. yippee!

We’re heading down towards the Bay of Plenty so we’ll see where we end up !

Thanks to everyone for supporting the blog this year. We hit the magic Million Hits a few months or so ago so that was always a target.

More Motorhoming while we can’t travel overseas.

Rafe looking Christmasy 

Merry Christmas everyone and Fiona and I hope you have a great New Year.. be careful on the roads and if you see us out there, please come and say hello.

All the Stone Chips have gone!

One of the things we should have done when we first got our Motorhome 7 odd years ago was to put some protection on the bonnet against stone chips. I remember Fiona mentioning it at the time but I was too eager to use the new toy!

Years later after progressively touching up the stone chips on the bonnet leaving pimples of touch up paint, it was time to either repaint the bonnet or tidy things up.

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Masking out the design

Having just had the bumper done up after it dropped all its paint, I needed to have the decals that Dethleffs originally put on replaced on the newly painted bumper.

Jeremy applies the white base.

My son Drew was involved in Drift Car racing and met Jeremy years ago who is a sign writer extraordinaire who is also a dab hand at wrapping cars and anything else. Drew introduced us by phone so off I went to Jeremy’s workshop get the new decals.

Jay doing the other side with the white base.

Jeremy is an old school sign writer who can still do signs with a brush.. sounds to me like a photographer who still knows how to process a roll of film 🙂 I liked the sound of that.. nothing like experience!

He immediately looked at the images I had of the original decals and said “I can do much better than that” ! Jeremys right hand man Jay was there on one side while Jeremy was on the other.

On goes the blue
Applying the blue over the white.
Jeremy trimming the blue shape

Jeremy’s version of the Decals were quite a lot bigger but followed the contours of the bumper much more closely and also met up with the pattern on the sides of the van much better so it all looked a lot more streamlined than the original Dethleffs effort. I was over the moon.

Click on the Gallery below for blow by blow slideshow

Next came the bonnet which I was only going to get Jeremy to tackle if it wasn’t a huge job. Jeremy took one look at it and after a comment like “easy peasy”, we were off.

Jeremy sanding the “pimples” on the bonnet.

Jeremy got some very fine wet and dry sandpaper and with some water, gently hand sanded all the little pimples of touch up paint that I had applied down so the bonnet was smooth. There was also a Globe 4 decal on the bonnet which had to go too.

Applying the protective bonnet cover.

The bonnet then looked like a bluey grey colour which looked awful. I think Jeremy could tell I was a bit nervous so he cut off a tiny bit of bonnet protector and after wetting it, stuck it in the middle of all the horrible grey and immediately, it took on the lovely deep blue I was used to! It was a WOW moment.. I was amazed and it was a high gloss too.

Squeezing out the water.

Jay appeared with a sheet of the protector big enough for our bonnet and between them, they wet it and the bonnet and on it went. The next 30 minutes or so were spent squeezing out the water but it looked absolutely amazing. The best part was that out of the 40 or so original stone chips on the bonnet, the sanded paint filled up the holes left like a filler so you could really only see a handful of them afterwards.. A HUGE improvement.. Its like a new bonnet.

Jay tidying up at the end

Watching the process was awesome too.. with the new technology products now it really was something to see.

Wow all finished

If you’re looking to do a stone chip tidy up or do something with your Motorhome or Caravan, you can find Jeremy and Jay at Big Brown Industries in the Wairau Valley.  www.bigbrown.co.nz

Jeremy and Jay with the end result

Taking the Boys to Miranda

Our son Alex had a trip arranged to meet some people in the South Island for a few days so Fiona and I were on deck to look after the Grandies, Ayden and Liam.

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Parking in the street.. with auto wooden levelling blocks:-)

We parked Rafe over the road in a car park space in Papakura and I’d taken a couple of blocks of wood to level up Rafe with the camber which worked perfectly.

The boys were at School during the days so when Saturday morning came, we all went around to watch Ayden play rugby for his team at Ardmore. They were playing the top team in the competition so I think they would have been pleasantly surprised if they would win. The boys played really well, Ayden scored one of the two tries and they had a great game. The end result was 19-12 and after hearing the opposing coach saying afterwards say that Ayden’s team had improved vastly since the last time they played together, and it was a great game for both teams was really nice to hear.

Ayden in his half back role
On the charge

After the game, we went back to the house and then set off for the treat trip to Miranda Holiday Park in Rafe. Fiona and I used to go there quite often but haven’t been for several years so there were quite a few changes.

Checking in was a breeze and we were given one of our favourite parking spots against what used to be the hedge beside the driveway except its all gone ! .. Shock horror but I have to say it does look good the way it has been done and it lets a lot of light and sun into the place.

It had been raining for most of the day off and on so there was quite a bit of water around.

We hadn’t been there long when the boys went off for a bit of an explore and very quickly found that the office had ice creams and lollies 🙂

The Miranda Office

It was time for a swim where we discovered the other new feature, which is the addition of a smaller toddlers pool next to the main pool.

Click on the Gallery below for a Slideshow

The last time we were here was with our friends Bruce and Judy with Rafe’s twin and Dianne and Gary from Taupo. This was when we discovered the Dog friendly campsites out the back. They’re obviously a hit as there are quite a few more there now.. what a great idea. A bigger pitch with room around your motorhome for the dogs to roam while still being fenced in from the rest of the Campground.. fantastic.

The Dog Parks

Its always a great spot to stay and always clean and tidy.

Later we took the boys up to the Kaiaua Fish and Chip shop for tea followed by another swim in the pool. It was then time to watch the first All Blacks Aussie game in the TV room before we all crashed for the day.

It was wet

In the morning, we managed to sneak in a quick swim before we checked out and hit the road home. A great few days. The boys really enjoyed it and so did we!

Rafe’s Tracker map to Miranda – Armada GPS

Back to Rafe

We arrived in Auckland about an hour earlier than planned around 10:30pm and immediately grabbed a cab and headed for the Hotel Ibis at the airport. Our son Alex was going to pick us up in our car around 7:30 in the morning but with the body clocks being as they were, we were awake and ready to go by 5:30am wondering what to do with ourselves 🙂

It was great to see Alex, Sarah and the boys at their home in Ardmore after a long time away.  Unfortunately, we had to press on and pick up Rafe from Dianne and Gary’s shed in Taupo otherwise we had no where to sleep !

Click on the images for Hi Res

We left Ardmore around 9:30 and headed south stopping at Cambridge for lunch and then getting to Taupo about 1pm. Rafe’s COF had expired and it was booked in for 2pm which it flew through.

I hate the waiting and standing around with WOF’s or COF’s as you never know what is going to spring out of the woodwork but today was a good day 🙂

Lovely spot

We headed up to the National Equestrian Centre which is off the road north to Rotorua, just after the turnoff from Taupo. Its a magic spot and is $10 including power, showers and toilets.

Caravan Alley

With the jet lag the way it was, neither of us felt too good about driving north until we’d had a go at our body clocks and getting some sleep so we elected to stay here, despite the weather for the next 3 days and it just came down cats and dogs.

Toilets, Showers and rubbish right opposite

Although my front wheels were close to the gravel. There was quite a bit of churned up mud just in front so I was keeping an eye on that. The land around Taupo is a little top soil over pumice so it is really well draining and although there was a huge puddle behind and partly under us, when the rain stopped and we had to get out, I simply backed back from the mud and drove sideways around it and there was no slipping at all ! The water that was behind us had drained away really quickly.

You can see some of the neighbouring thermal activity here.

Its a great spot to park and the caretaker is really helpful and a really nice bloke.

After leaving there, we thought a night at the NZMCA park at Ngongotaha might be the ticket and then after that Auckland.

At Alex and Sarah’s  in Auckland

On the fourth day, we headed back to Auckland and stayed with Alex, Sarah and the boys in Ardmore.

Liam and Granny Fiona on the sideline.

The next day grandson Ayden was playing rugby at his rugby club around the corner so we all went around and watched that.

Ayden off for the Tryline. On the left, Grandad Paul, Granny Fiona and Grand Gran Mary all providing plenty of encouragement !

A great family occasion. Sarah’s parents Paul and Mary were there too. Ayden scored about 5 tries which was great so a lot of family excitement.

Ayden off again with the ball

Its lovely to be back in Rafe and we don’t realise how spoilt we are until we drive something a bit older. Its nice to be back.

Rafe’s track to the equestrian centre from Taupo

The Sunburnt Bumper

It seems at this time of the year, there is an endless demand on outgoing funds for the Motorhome.. Service, Insurance, COF and a rattle or two you’ve discovered that could be silenced.

This year, the big one was repainting the Bumper just to add to the list.

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looks like a peely shoulder !

To be fair, a new vehicle where ever it is made should not have to have its bumper repainted after only 6 years so that grates a wee bit, but not being one to dwell on these things, it had to be fixed.

Before.. you can see the yellow tint in the lacquer from the sun.

The deterioration started about three years ago and when I raised it at the time with the dealers, I was told it came under the Fiat warranty which had by then expired.   ….Hey Ho as they say.. Lets get on and get it fixed…!

It started with the whole bumper going a yellowy colour and then the paint peeled off in bits. I progressively sanded parts of it to blend the colour and make it look a bit better as it got worse.

About to be taken off

After talking to one of my favorite RV repairers Peter at RV repairs who is also a qualified spray painter, he advised that I should leave it as long as possible so as much of the peeling paint would fall off and remove the need for a massive sanding job!

.. It couldn’t wait any longer !!

Click on the Gallery below for a Slideshow

In Devonport where I live, there is a great family run business which many of my mates at school have worked at over the years, run by Dennis  and Nathan Hale, called Fleet St Panel beaters.  They have a great reputation for doing things properly and are well known around the community as being really nice people.

In getting the newly painted Bumper. reattached

Where they are next to the supermarket in Devonport is pretty tight for big vehicles so it was a case of getting the bumper taken off and taking Rafe back home until the painting was finished.

All sanded and primed.

The bad news came on day 1 when after taking it off, we found that the bumper was actually fiberglass, not plastic. This meant it couldn’t be dipped to strip the paint off and they couldn’t bake the new paint on. It also needed to be sanded thoroughly before applying a special primer for the fiberglass. The good news part of this is that fiberglass is really strong.

Sanded and ready for some colour

Nathan was telling me it they budget on a couple of hours to prepare a plastic bumper. This one needed a day and a half of sanding as a lot of it was by hand. .. I could see my budget being blown sky-high and Fiona giving me a stern talking to 😐

All finished and waiting for Rafe – pic by Nathan

Unfortunately, they had a couple of staff off sick  and with the extra preparation, the 4 day job turned into two weeks but the outcome was well worth the wait. The finish was just sensational.

Although I was given the German paint codes, Kris the painter used a fancy machine that could read the colour off the side of the van and match it wirelessly to paints in NZ that can deal with our UV.

All done .. – WOW – pic by Nathan

An amazing colour match and friends who have known the van from new and know a bit about paint reckon it looks better than it was at the beginning.. I agree!!

Yes, it cost a bit more but I’m not complaining with such a great paint job.

Looking really good.. also with the polished headlights.

I’ve ordered a new logo sticker from Dethleffs and have my friendly local signwriter Tom putting the blue and white decals on over the next few weeks.

Wow

1,000,000 Hits

The last 100 k odd seemed like it was taking a lifetime but we made it. 1 Million Hits..

After 5 years or so we’ve made it!

The first post! August 2015

Now that we’re back in a house again, it has been a real struggle to keep up with the content and I’ve found myself doing trips just to get something to write about.  I’ve also just retired last month as a Commercial Photographer, so I will be taking things a bit more quietly from here so you will notice the posts only being made when there is something to publish.

One of our first posts.. Fiona and Rafe at Coromandel Motor camp

But this is the Milestone that matters… !!

Our first trip away in the South Island in our Caravan . wee Rafe.

Thanks again for checking in and thanks to everyone that made suggestions and offered help.

More to come…!!

At Simpsons Beach Coromandel