Staying in the Rotorua Family Holiday park, we were very close to the trail into Rotorua..in fact it starts just behind the Ngongotaha shops but we got on from right over the road.
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We set the bikes up and we were off. The Trail starts down the side of a wide bike lane on a road and then turns into the sealed path through bush right next to an old disused Railway line.
Eventually it comes out at Lake road which is the main road heading to downtown Rotorua and past Kuirau Park.
We were heading into town for lunch at Eat St. I’ve been here several times but never actually stopped here for a feed so after checking all the shops out, we decided on a shared Pizza from and Italian Restaurant which was fantastic.
An hour or so later we rode around to Kuirau park and had a look at some of the Thermal areas there. Amazing to see boiling mud in the middle of a built up area like that.
After having a good look around here, we headed back down to the trial back to Rafe at the park.
The round trip was about 16k’s according to the bike so not far at all and a good bit of exercise on a well setup and safe Trail.
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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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.
The Hall houses the Kitchen, Shower and Toilet facilities that are provided for the Campground.
The campground is also a participant in the NZMCA Campsaver scheme as well.
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 !
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 🙂
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.
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.
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..
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.
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.
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.
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.
After a trip further around to another vantage point for a piccy, we set off back to the Poutu Camp.
The whole trip took about 3 hours and was just fantastic.
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Looking out to the bar
John about to head up to the Lighthouse
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.
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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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.
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.
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.
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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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.
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!
With its awning out they looked quite at home entertaining their friends during the day.
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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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 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.
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!
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.
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.
One of the amazing finds at the Whangamata Beach Hop this year was literally parked right next to us. It was the vintage combination of a 1957 Ford Mainline Ute towing a Canadian Adventurer 5th Wheeler and it was a perfect match in scale and style.
Coming from a Retro Caravan background, Ray and Cathie were keen to make it easier to get the self containment issue solved a so decided to start with the Ford Mainline and match it with a 5th wheeler..
After selling their Caravan, they bought the Ford Mainline and at their home in Tauranga, fixed up some rust and upgraded the motor to a 347 Stroker Ford motor and a few other changes and with a really nice paint job, it looks spectacular.
Then came the 5th wheeler which they found in Whangarei and over a 4 year period they’ve nearly completed the project. Ray described it to me as a “leaky building” and they recently just put a whole new back on it. I couldn’t get over how well matched they were in scale and style when they first arrived.
It looks fabulous and its name Bucket of Vino suggests they’re going to celebrate their efforts with the project’s completion. 🙂
After 3 years or so of restoring their 1963 Liteweight Silver Mist, Ross and Kay finally got to get their first night away in it. What a WOW moment and huge sense of satisfaction that must be, when you’re lying there on the first night taking it all in. 😊
I’m sure there were anxious moments but it all worked out well and they looked really comfortable in it.
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Over the course of a few years in between work commitments and building a house, they have finished what I thought was an absolute gem.
This is their first foray into older Caravans and they have done a fabulous job of getting all the period door handles, power sockets and then decorated it with all the period fittings.
Looking really good guys, a lovely Caravan, well done and nice to see you both again.
When I first found out about this, my first thought was to check in with friends Ross and Kay who I knew had just finished doing one of these beauties up to see if they were going to be there.
Ross and I both started as junior photographers at the NZ Herald in our early 20’s and its been a while since we last caught up.
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I had a commercial job in town on the Friday morning, which didn’t finish until midday so we were late out of the starting blocks and didn’t get to Cambridge until about 4pm, but that didn’t matter as many others were still arriving.
After settling down Rafe and after having a nosey around the park at some of the old Caravans, we checked in with Ross and Kay to see their amazing Caravan ..more on this in another post coming soon!
Ross had found an Indian restaurant only a block away so that was tea sorted! We had a great night catching up on all the news.
The next morning after getting up late 🙂 we had a look around some of the beautiful Caravans that were arriving as the day went on and chatting to some of the people there.
A great turnout of Caravans and some Motorhomes. It was a really well organised event with a slide show and BBQ too on the Saturday night so hats off to all those who organised the event. There were some great Caravans and not all of them Lightweights.
There was one there with a Penny Farthing strapped on towed by a nice old vintage Truck.
The lengths some had gone to with their Caravans to be faithful to their origins was amazing. There were also some really creative ways of restoring these Caravans with the absence of some hard to get parts. The good old Kiwi number 8 wire mentality shone brightly 🙂
Fiona was keen to do the shops in Cambridge and wanted a decent walk so she set off towards Cambridge’s main street which was about 3 k’s away.
The organisers of the event had arranged for a tour of the old liteweight factories which are now a gift and furniture shop and a huge ITM store on the outskirts of Hamilton. I had no idea it was such a big operation but they apparently had two productions lines pumping out up to 10 Caravans a day. Really interesting.
Click on the Gallery below for a Slideshow
Don Jesson showing where everything was when Lightweight were there.
One of only 5 of these left, only 50 were made.
One of the 5 left, the other end.
Looking at Dave McRobbies old collection of Caravans
Very social time!
A neat wee Tear drop
Rafe at the Cambridge Top 10 with the Lightweight Caravans
After this we had a quick look through Caravan and Motorhome World which was just across the road. The owner of this fine establishment is Dave McRobbie who started as an apprentice in the Liteweight factory and later went on to set up this business to service warranty claims and service any after market issues for the Liteweight product lines. That’s Dave’s red Caravan at the top of this post.
He had two Caravans of a model where only 50 were made and they know of only 5 left… A really unusual but lovely looking Caravan. .. see above and below.. same caravan being restored.
Here we saw some amazing early models of the Liteweights which Dave and his team has restored.
On the way back from Hamilton, we liaised with Fiona and met up for lunch in an old converted church in Cambridge for lunch.
A really interesting day and lots of images and really nice to see our old friends again.