Jack of all Trades

Kia Ora

As I said in the last blog, don’t plan too far ahead. Sometimes opportunities can come along and can’t be taken if you are locked into a schedule. But also sometimes locking yourself in for so long has its downside.  What am I talking about???

We applied for, and accepted, a job working in a cafe at Makarora which was meant to last for 5 months from early November.  I have to admit we were a little nervous about staying in one place for so long.  BUT, we wanted to save for a trip to Australia and Asia and that was our motivation.

The long and the short of it is, we should have been there until April, but we ended up lasting only until mid-January. We enjoyed the experience of working in the café, but the overall experience wasn’t the best.


Some of our wonderful co-workers from the Cafe

We told ourselves at the start of our travel ‘this is an adventure not a holiday’ and so off we went to find some helpx to keep us busy till April.


Lake Hawea from the top end. Bloody tourists, they wouldn’t get out of my photo.

First stop was Lake Hawea, where we stayed very close to the lake with lovely Fran and did a bit of outside painting for her. We got to see the many faces of the lake and the surrounding mountains. Such a stunning landscape.  And from Fran we went a little further back from the lake to a family of 4 who live in a straw bale house.  Their home was lovely and cool on a hot Central Otago summer day. This time it was Buttercup that needed some help with decorating – making curtains and painting. Hamish was kept busy building ‘stuff’.


This is Buttercup

From Lake Hawea to Colac Bay via Lake Wakatipu for a few days. At Colac Bay we discovered that the bottom of the Te Waipounamu (South Island) is a beautiful place, with wild weather and a slightly warm climate.  And yes we painted. This time a bedroom, complete with French windows. Our host is the owner of The Pavilions at Colac Bay and so we also helped out in the kitchen and café, baking biscuits and make coffees – feeling much more comfortable and appreciated in our work than at our previous cafe experience.

By early March it was time to leave there and wander up the coast. We travelled up through the Catlins area and stayed a few nights at Niagara Falls. The name of this area was given because of the similarity to the famous Niagara Falls ie waterfall spans the river.  The only difference is that this waterfall is about half a metre high. The surveyor who named it was quite the joker. At Hina Hina we almost got blown away one day with 120km winds – we found sanctuary behind an old boat shed by the inlet and sat and watched as the wind howled around us.



Hinahina where we took refuge. This was the calm after the storm

Onwards and upwards we headed to Dunedin, and beyond to Waikouaiti, where we kept the theme of painting alive.  At Waikouaiti we painted the interior of a 3 bedroom home. That kept us busy and out of trouble for a while. We came by this from a friend who knew a friend who knew a friend.  While there we managed to have a bit of time off and saw our son Sam, did some maintenance of our house at Fairfield, and caught up with a few people. We even found time to go fishing, and with the expert support of Ernie we caught plenty of blue cod – Life is good.

On our way to Christchurch we stopped over at Hamish’s Mums place in Fairlie for a week. Now in Christchurch with Steve and Nicki we are on final countdown for our next big adventure. Early tomorrow morning we leave for Sydney, Melbourne and then Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam – a trip that will take us away for nine weeks.

Jack of all Trades – Bruce Springsteen


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Well it’s alright


Kia Ora

Being on the road has been a totally different experience to what we imagined. Don’t get me wrong we wouldn’t change a thing and we have learned so much.

  • Not every day is a diamond, some days are stone – but that’s life and we roll with the punches or any other pun you can think of. However, the diamond days are bobby dazzlers and you just wanna pinch yourself to make sure you’re not dreaming.
on the banks of Wakatipu

This is one of those diamond days

  • When planning it’s best not to get too far ahead of yourself as it never seems to work out – for us anyway. We have an idea of what we’re doing for the next month and after that, it’s open for discussion.


  • The more we travel the less we need. Except toilet paper; you can never have too much toilet paper. It just has so many uses, other than the obvious.


  • A 40lt bag of vegetable potting mix, a few plants and we have ourselves a vege garden. Sits by the van or on the back of the ute in transit.



Our mobile vegie garden

  • We cherish every litre of water. We carry 60 litres and if used wisely it can last us 5 days. We can shower in 5-10 litres of water.


  • Not all drivers are created equal. Some feel they have more entitlement to the road than others. And only about a third of drivers will acknowledge/thank you (pip their horn, wave, or flash their hazards lights) when you pull over to allow traffic to get past you.  Those people clearly understand the effort you go to, to pull over when towing a heavy van.



A stunning day around Lake Wakatipu

  • It always comes down to money, money, money. My accountant, aka Hamish, keeps a close watch on our spending. Of course, if you don’t spend a lot, you don’t need a lot. And for those extra trips to Australia etc, we find some paid work.
H&D bottom of the south

The wild Foveaux Strait and Stewart Island in the background

Blog song – Travelling Wilburys, End of the line.

We couldn’t name the blog End of the Line as that would lead you to believe we’re finished, and we are far from finished.

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Road to Nowhere

Kia Ora

It has been a while since I last wrote. So here’s the ‘readers digest’ version on what we’ve been up to…..

We crossed Cook Strait at the end of June, back to the ‘Mainland’.

Hamish had a hip replacement in early July. You’d be right in thinking he is reasonably young for that kind of operation, 56yrs. Turns out he was born with one part of his hip joint round and the other oval. It was never gonna last! While it is a relatively common operation, it’s still a biggie and recovery is very much slow and steady. He has recovered well and is building back the strength in his leg every day.

Winter was our time to house sit again for the lovely Caroline in Blenheim. The hip op was carefully co-ordinated with the housesit back in May. Remember I wrote in a previous blog about a quick trip across the Strait. That was to see the specialist and book in. From May onwards all roads led to Blenheim. So when we were faced with possibly being stranded in Whanganui floods at the end of June, I was like, Noooooooooo! His hip was way past its ‘best before’ date and I was going to get him to the hospital no matter what. However, that’s history, we made it and it’s done.

To help pass the time in Blenheim, apart from some gardening and general R&M around the house, we both did some short online courses. Together we did Indigenous Studies of Australia & New Zealand and Hamish also did Sociology, Photography, and Anthropology – you know, just a bit of light reading. Hamish found these on Open2study. It’s linked to some Aussie & NZ universities and the free courses are just a taste of subjects offered at the universities.


Hamish trying out his newfound knowledge of photography

Leaving Blenheim, we spent a couple of wonderful weeks in the Golden Bay area before heading south to do a spot of Helpx for a couple of families in the Loburn area just north of Christchurch. We stayed 2 weeks with some truly lovely families and helped them with the usual stuff around the place; painting, gardening, pruning and lawn mowing. It was a good test for Hamish’s new hip. He passed with flying colours. He was tired at the end of the day, but nothing a cold beer didn’t fix.

Still heading south, we spent time with family and friends in Christchurch, Ashburton, Fairlie and finally, Dunedin.  Spending time with two of our darling children was great and it was so good to see people and catch up on the happenings of the past 18 months. What a great way to spend a few weeks!  Our time in Dunedin was limited as we had a date to keep in the Wanaka area.


Dunedin Street Art

A few months ago Hamish and I applied for work at the Makarora Country Café. Makarora is north of Lake Hawea/Wanaka on the way to the West Coast. We are up a valley with 3,000-5,000ft mountains either side of us and it’s just beautiful. It is in the middle of nowhere. One way its 40 minutes back to Lake Hawea, the other way it’s 2 hours to Franz Joseph, and these places are where cell reception stops and starts.

maka cafeIn short – Makarora is where we’re at!!

Same story with the blog title. It’s a song. So have a listen Road to Nowhere

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All The Same – Free Hugs

Kia Ora


After three glorious days at the little settlement of Wai-inu Beach, we headed to Whanganui. Our camping spot this time was to be a Girl Guide Camp, where NZMCA members are welcome to stay for a donation. I wanted to set up by the pond as the setting was so pretty. Hamish decided the sensible place for us was over by the bunk house where the ground was level. All around the Girl Guide camp are small lifestyle blocks. On the bunk house window is a notice for campers stating ‘sometimes when it rains the water covers the road, but not enough to worry about’.

Now I have set the scene, and when you see the photos you will understand why this is important.



It started to rain about lunchtime.


We were due to travel on to Levin. But in the morning the water was across the road and about a foot deep (30cm for you youngens). Sensible Hamish said it was too deep to take Esther through. Best to just wait it out for 24 hours and let everything settle down and we will leave tomorrow morning. Besides the rain was forecasted to stop at lunch time (and the sign on the window indicated there wouldn’t be any trouble getting out) Thinking light of the situation, I put a photo on Facebook, joking about the water.

early Saturday

Actual pond is back around to the left of this picture. What you see is all overflow

3pm – I was starting to panic. The rain hadn’t stopped, and the water was rising, not settling down. The road out was well and truly gone. My panicking helped Hamish to decide to move the van to higher ground (probably so he could get some peace). Trying to push a heavy van up the hill was no mean feat, given the ground was sodden and the hill steep, but we got it about a metre higher. All this was happening in the rain of course. Some neighbours from a lifestyle block offered accommodation as they could see the water rising around us, but we figured we should be ok in the van. At least there was somewhere to go if we needed it, but that would mean leaving Esther and Buck behind. Reports on the radio said Whanganui was in trouble, but just over the hill from the city we had our own little drama unfolding.


Van was parked where all the wood is. Which was originally on the right of the pic in a big pile. You can just see a small part of the bunk house on the left

That evening we sat nervously listening to the rain still falling and every hour or so would venture out and check the water level….. still rising, but slowly. At 10pm the rain stopped and after an hour we felt it was safe to sleep, thinking it won’t be much worse in the morning. How wrong we were!


The ground where we had been parked in front of the bunk house was under water and markers we had put out to check rising water levels had disappeared. Oh shit!!!! We really were in trouble and it was about then that I started to crave a hug from our kids. Hamish did a boundary walk to see if there was any other way to get out. He came up with one option – the only option as far as he could ascertain. Another neighbour called to check on us and offer help. He said it would be several weeks before the water receded enough to drive out the road. Between us and a group of neighbours we managed to work out a plan to attempt to get out. A fence had to be cut, some trees cut back, a pile of wood moved and a small stump dealt to. With a lot of surface water to drive through, Hamish drove the track with Buck to ensure the ground wasn’t too soft. The last thing we wanted was for Esther to sink in soft ground. Once the track was cleared and tested, we hooked up Esther and with guidance from neighbours we got out. It took about four hours before we were set up again on the road outside a friendly neighbour’s house. By this stage the water had risen so high that we wouldn’t have even been able to get out through the escape route we had taken – we really would have been stuck there for several weeks!

girl guides pond

View from opposite side. Red line shows where the pond was when we arrived.

We found out that the pond had turned into a lake because the natural outlet had been blocked over when the land was developed for residential development. Apparently the council come periodically and pump it out! We figured that wasn’t likely to happen any time soon under the current circumstances.

The lifestyle blocks had all lost electricity. One place had their garage 1.5 metres under water. Another had it lapping their sleep-out. With only radio for information, we heard of the devastation happening just a couple of kilometres away.

Our only way out

Our only way out


Buck doing a test run

Buck doing a test run









Fence cut, wood moved, now for the trees!

Fence cut, wood moved, now for the trees!


A short drive through the orchard and we're out

A short drive through the orchard and we’re out










We drove down to the river mouth. OMG, the beautiful Wanganui River was an absolute torrent of mud and debris.

mouth wanganui river

Mouth of the Wanganui River, normally quite picturesque

The ferry crossing was booked for Wednesday, so we needed to get on the road. The first 20km out of Whanganui was just slip after slip on the side of the road. Lots of traffic but everyone considerate and no one in a hurry – you couldn’t be. All the way down the coast we saw flooding on farms and roads. People were trying to clean up their water-logged houses, with their possessions stacked outside.


The whole time we were thinking how blessed we have been and how very very lucky we are.

We were humbled by the generous support of all the people who came to our aid. Some of them were only in slightly better circumstances than us – we could at least move our possessions to higher ground, and we had lighting and heat when many of them didn’t.

To all the people we know who have had to endure the floods in Whanganui and Dunedin, and the snow in South Canterbury…..Free hugs all round.

Blog title – All the Same

It’s really more about the youtube clip that goes with it. Please watch it, even if you don’t play it loud.


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Who’ll Stop The Rain

Kia Ora

I have been delayed in posting this as we have been caught in Whanganui with devastating floods. Another post coming soon. In the meantime………….


We have been in the Taranaki region for about 5 weeks and there has hardly been a day that it hasn’t rained. It’s any wonder this place is so green – and pretty. The mighty Mt Taranaki stands proud, and on a good day you can see her in her full near-symmetrical glory (which has been only about three times while we’ve been here!). Apparently if you can see the mountain – it’s going to rain, and if you can’t see the mountain it IS raining. Haha you think, well it’s bloody true.


Mt Taranaki

We’ve just spent a few weeks doing some helpx work in Eltham for a couple who have a beautiful 3 acre block in the middle of town. It’s all mature trees and shrubs with a small lake in the middle of it. I would go so far as to say Nicki’s second love is trees; of course Neal would be her first. She is an arborist by trade and with that comes climbing trees, at which she happens to be very very good – World Champion good in fact. With ropes, pulleys and stuff she can be up a tree before you can think about where to start. She has travelled a fair bit of the world competing in international championships over the last few years. It constantly amazes us that we have so many talented people hiding away in little corners of NZ. http://www.stuff.co.nz/taranaki-daily-news/news/9077078/Eltham-tree-climber-on-top-of-the-world-after-big-win

lake eltham

A small part of the property at Eltham. Nicki does some of her training on the grounds.

Without Helpx we probably wouldn’t have even stopped at Eltham. It’s got 2 cheese factories and one has a delicious factory shop. We couldn’t help ourselves – lucky we have a small fridge so we could only buy a small amount.


hmmmm cheese

The Forgotten World Highway goes from Stratford to Taumarunui. The only highway we know of with moss growing up the middle of the road. We drove as a far as the little township of Whangamomona. In recent years the town declared itself an independent state and every 2 years they have elections for Mayor/President. Apparently one year a goat won it. A town with a permanent population of about 10 people grows to 2000 on election weekend.

We stayed just out of New Plymouth and across the road from us was the beautiful Lake Mangamahoe. It’s a small hydro lake, with picnic areas and beautiful plantings and walking tracks all around the lake.

lake mangamahoe

Lake Mangamahoe – with a random campervan.

With all the rain we have been on lots of drives. We have circumnavigated Mt Taranaki and drove up the side a bit to North Egmont. We also spent time in New Plymouth, which is a very appealing city, and travelled up to Urenui, a pretty little village about 30km to the north. While there we caught up with Pam and Dave, who we met on our test run of Polly early last year at Gabrielle’s Gully near Lawrence.


Our trip to Taranaki has been partly to explore another part the country, but we are also biding our time till we return to Blenheim to housesit for Caroline again. Back up the truck a bit, didn’t we do a quick crossing to Blenheim in May? That was to see a specialist. And now while we are there Hamish will have a hip replacement, yes you read correct, a hip replacement. 2nd July he’s booked in and I can’t wait, as I will get a new hip husband for my birthday. His recovery/rehab will be in the luxury of a house. After that it will be a slow and careful trip (what’s new) around the South Island. Yesterday I conquered the parking brake on the van. Yes!! Now Hamish won’t have to hitch and unhitch the van – I can. But of course I will have a supervisor.

sunrise at Wai-inu Beach

Watching the sunrise at Wai-inu Beach from the comfort of bed

Thursday morning, the sun came out at Wai-inu Beach (40min north of Whanganui, where we’re headed today). Looking across the sea, you can see the snow-capped Southern Alps stretching along the West Coast. Not long now till we’re back on the mainland……

Blog TitleWho’ll stop the rain.

Seemed perfect for the time we were in Taranaki.

(Footnote: Little did I know when I wrote these words that we would be heading directly into the worst flooding in Whanganui’s recorded history. More on that very soon)


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Everyday People

Kia Ora Everyone,

Everyone gets the ‘holiday blues’ when they come home. Don’t they? I know we do – pretty much every time we go anywhere new. You get home and nothing has changed, but you have because of the experience you have just had. Back to work and back to reality: do the washing, go to the supermarket, feed the fish, take Ruby for a walk etc etc. After a while your trip becomes almost a dream.

We are supposedly ‘living the dream’, but it didn’t feel like it when we came back from our 6-week adventure in Australia. We were extremely unsettled, more so than usual.

van bed

Back of Van – bedroom

van lounge

Front of van – kitchen & dining

We’d bought a new van….. What on earth have we done? We’d sold Polly….again, what had we done? Why were we even living in a caravan? And why did we decide to travel for another year? OMG, what were we thinking?

When you live in a small space, EVERYTHING has a place. Esther is different to Polly, obviously! We have moved things several times trying to find the perfect spot. The result – nothing was where we thought it should be, and life was chaotic for a while. Like I said, we were unsettled and a new van didn’t help the situation. But no time to contemplate or even sulk about our choices – we had things to do and people to see and of course places to go.

First stop was Taupo to hand Polly over to her new owners who drove up from Dunedin to collect her. They were very excited when we met up and we were feeling a little sad to be leaving her. Polly had been part of the family for about 13yrs and we had put our heart and soul into her for this trip. But as I explained, she just wasn’t meant to be lived in. Already we are feeling the benefits of the newer van, with no condensation. And it’s much warmer.

While we transported Polly down to Taupo, we had left Esther at the home of a retired farmer near Putaruru. He has been living there on his own since his wife died 4 yrs ago, and he enjoys people stopping over, as it gives him company and a bit of security. He is a lovely man, with lots of help and advice for us, which we welcomed.

When you are a member of the NZMCA there is a book that tells you where all the camping grounds, DOC camps, free parking places, dump stations etc. are. But it also lists other members who offer their places called POPs (park over properties) and CAPs (charges apply). Generally a couple of nights stay is acceptable, however some places let you stay longer. There is generally no cost for POPs, but some places are worthy of a donation. That’s our feelings anyway. The farmer’s place at Putaruru was a POP.

nzmca book

Another place we stayed was a CAP at the Stock Car Club in the Rotorua area. A lovely grassed area above the race track. We paid $10 a night for power, shower, toilet and a washing machine. Bargain!! The facilities were basic, but worked great. The caretaker of the camp had broken her foot and was hobbling around in a moonboot. She and her husband have lived in an old bus on site for the last 3 years. He is a local tour bus driver.

We even got to watch some racing on the Sunday as it was Closing Day for the season. So it was nothing too serious, but enough for me. Normally campers are asked to move on those days but as it was a social day, we got to sit and watch the races from our van.


View from our van

Staying in the Rotorua area, we drove over to Lake Rotoiti to go on a short 5km bush walk. No sooner had we started the walk when we came across two Maori men in traditional dress (loin cloths) full body tattoos, and spears. And boy were they fighting. Hissing and grunting at each other and banging spears! Then to the right of them in the bushes were the camera crew. We weren’t expecting entertainment on our walk. It turned out they were filming a mini-series for Maori TV, and were more than happy for us to hang around and watch proceedings.

In the Bay of Plenty area we stayed at Matata, at a DOC camp right on the beach. It was beautiful. We stayed a week and got to know the couple caretaking the camp. They are a semi-retired couple living in a bus, who are back for the 3rd winter. During the rest of the year they do the occasional house-sit, and then travel back to Matata to caretake the camp for 6 months during winter. They say this is the last year they are doing it, but I have to wonder if they have said that every year.

Manganuku gorge

Campsite at Managnuku Gorge

At another DOC camp at Manganuku (in the middle of nowhere on the inland road between Whakatane and Gisborne) we met a couple of retirees from Kerikeri. We immediately struck up a friendship with them and had wine o’clock together. They are a little older than us, but were travelling for 6 months in a 13ft van to see if they liked it. They were on their way home to buy a bigger van….. sounds a little familiar?

And so to another DOC camp almost in the middle of nowhere – Lake Tutira (50km north of Napier). There is nothing there but the lake and bush walks. Oh and lots of people, because it was the ANZAC Day holiday weekend. There we spoke with lots of people, but one couple stood out. They were locals from Napier and offered us safe haven to park if the winds came up to strong to travel any further than Napier, as there were weather warnings on the day we were due to leave.

Biking Lake Tutira

Lake Tutira

Just south of Napier, we parked up in Clive beside the river, but we had to leave in a hurry the second day because the river had risen over its banks and high tide was in the middle of the night. That was a no brainer!!  We relocated out to Te Awanga, which is a beautiful spot beside the sea on the road out to Cape Kidnappers. We met an eccentric retired couple there from Putaruru, who had been travelling for 3 months in their old van which was the same vintage as Polly.

white heron

White Heron at Te Awanga

However, the most colourful encounter we’ve had is when we stopped at Norsewood (just north of Dannevirke). We met a woman who was walking three wee shiatsu type dogs on leads and, looked to be doing some sort of training. When she walked past Hamish said hello to her. Well, he shouldn’t have done that. She went on to explain that she wasn’t training them, just trying to let the male dog know that she was boss. You see she is living in her ‘people mover’ type car with 13 of these dogs. She has a house and land in Hawkes Bay area and has been living in the car on the road for several weeks to avoid the council and SPCA who are trying to take the dogs off her.

Lastly, we stopped at Upper Hutt at another CAP place. The lady of the house, Ann, is a wonderful host, and another person offering help and advice – especially about how to get in and out of Wellington. The van was having its gas appliances serviced in Lower Hutt, and we left our car with her while we travelled to Blenheim for a couple of days (that’s another story). We were to take the train to the ferry in Wellington, but ended up being driven because Ann wouldn’t have it any other way.

ArorangiAnn and her husband Miles run Arorangi B&B from their humongous house over the hill from Upper Hutt, with beautiful views overlooking the local countryside. Take a look www.arorangicountryhomestay.co.nz and if you need a place to stay when going through Wellington then this is it.

We are now in the Taranaki area for a month or so before we head back down to Blenheim to house-sit again.

Blog title – Everyday People – We have met so many people on our travels and they really are the icing on the cake of our trip. This edition of the blog just gives a small taste of the amazing, lovable, crazy, eccentric, kind and very friendly people we have met along the way.

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Don’t Forget Your Roots

Kia Ora

The 21St February was the start of our Australian Adventure (AA). It was to be a trip centred around visiting family and friends, and we loved every minute of it.

After leaving our new van in Hamilton to have solar power fitted, we bussed to Auckland on Saturday morning in plenty of time to catch our flight to Melbourne. We flew on an A380 (for those unfamiliar with the aviation world – it’s the big double decker plane) Being married to a man whose second love is planes, I could tell you things about the aviation world that I didn’t even know I knew.

We were met in ‘arrivals’ by Gail N, an old workmate from my time working at Contact Energy when we first moved to Dunedin in the early 2000’s. We had a lovely 24 hours together before she headed off on a holiday to NZ. “Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think”? While on the subject of Contact Energy, we also found time to see Tracy S another old (young) workmate. She is now living in the greater Brisbane area. So good to see Tracy.

We spent the next 9 days with our eldest son Tim, and his partner Laura. We had a wonderful time catching up and spending time together, and while Tim worked we did a few touristy things. It was a happening time in Melbourne – our 33rd Wedding Anniversary was celebrated on 27th Feb at an Ethiopian restaurant. We also visited my darling Aunty Maise (93) who lives near Geelong with son, Phil. They had a family dinner on the Sunday and we caught up with another cousie bro, Andrew, and family. Then a Melbourne visit in February is not complete if you don’t go to the Avalon Air Show. So naturally we spent a day with our heads in the sky watching very talented (if not a little crazy) pilots in their flying machines.

tim melb

Riding the Blue bikes around Port Melbourne with Tim

A Maise & Deb 33 anni

graffiti alley

Time to say our goodbyes and head to Sydney.

Sydney was a very busy busy time.  We were there primarily to attend the wedding of my lovely niece Jodie to the love of her life, Dave.

Before and after the Wedding we had plenty of time to see family. Erin and Sam came over to the wedding from NZ, and it was wonderful to see them for the first time since we left Dunedin a year ago. We also caught up with various cousins; my nephew Josh and his children; plus we also had a great time catching up with my brother, Paul. And it’s always lovely to see my sister Gail (the mother of the bride), and her hubby Dan.

The Wedding itself was magical and couldn’t have been better. A beautiful day on Sydney Harbour for Jodie Hogg and Dave Young to be married. Probably best to just add photos at this stage, they tell you more than I can.

down the aisle 2groom and bestman4 of usda boysd & J quick kiss paul & deb

Once all the celebrations were over, Hamish and I packed up again and joined Gail and Dan on their road trip back north to Queensland.

We had an overnight stop in Ballina to break the long haul, where we stayed with Aunty Marj and her daughter Kerry (another cousie I haven’t seen since the early 70’s). That’s the 1970s of flares, platform shoes and perms fame. We all went out for dinner with my Uncle Donnie and Aunty Dot. What a special time that was seeing these people after many years.

uncle donnie

Uncle Don, Me, Hamish, Gail, Dan, Aunty Dot and Aunty Marj

The second half of the trip north finished in Maroochydore, where Gail and Dan live in a gorgeous apartment high above the streets, with views of the beach and Maroochy River to die for. We were there for nearly 3 weeks, and we had the most wonderful holiday with them; swimming, talking, walking, talking, surf carnivals, eating thai, talking, playing golf, more talking, going to the surf club for dinner and drinks. Now repeat that line a couple more times. Oh and throw in a game of squash us old girls had as well. Most evenings we would sit on the back balcony and watch the sunset with a Gin’n’Tonic or maybe a glass of Aussie red.

maroochy river on sunset

Maroochy River sunset

View from apartment

View to Maroochydore Beach

surf carnival

surf carnival 2

But all good things come to an end and so early on the 1st April Dan and Gail drove us to Brisbane airport to see us on our way home. Our Aussie Adventure had come to an end and we were sad to leave everyone but at the same time, happy to be heading home.

While our AA had finished, the trip wasn’t quite over yet. We had a concert in Auckland to go to the day we flew back – Billy Idol, Cheap Trick and The Angels. What a night!! Hamish’s hearing still hasn’t come right. Finally next morning we were heading back to Hamilton and Te Awamutu to pick up Buck (the ute) and Esther (the van).

That six weeks seemed to go so fast.

We’re back on the road again now, living fulltime in the new van for the next couple of months as we travel through Waikato, Bay of Plenty, and Hawkes Bay – to finally end up in Wellington at the beginning of May.

As I publish this blog I realise it is the beginning of May. Oh well. Stay tuned for the next episode of Debnham’s Travels, coming soon.

Blog TitleDon’t Forget Your Roots. Six60 a NZ band started in Dunedin by university students.If you watch the youtube clip you’ll get a glimpse of student life in Dunedin.

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Just The Two of Us

Kia Ora Everyone,

Is now a good time to let everyone know that we’re not ready to come home just yet?  Or have you guessed that already?

And to help us along our way, we decided it was time to do something about Polly.

She was built for holidays, not living in.  Living in her posed a few problems with no heater, no internal toilet/shower and virtually no insulation.  We thought we could tough it out through the winter months, but we’re not as tough as we thought and we’re not getting any younger.

So without further ado meet Ester.  She was made in Germany and is 10years old.

DSC03024 ester

She is double glazed, insulated, toilet/shower (inside), hot water and a heater. But wait there’s more, she even has an oven and bug screens….Luxury!!!

We bought Ester just before we went to Australia and while we were away we had some solar power added to her, so we’re still off the grid.

The good news about Polly: she has gone to a wonderful family from Dunedin who will love her like we do.

Yes, we are back from Australia and on our way again in the North Island.

Dont forget to listen to the song by clicking on “Kia Ora Everyone”








Categories: Caravan travel, german caravans, off the grid | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

We Gotta Get Out Of This Place

Kia Ora

A lot of time has passed since I last wrote, and so instead having you read mountains of we did this, then we did that”, this time it’s mostly photos, and I’m working on the theory that “a picture paints a thousand words”.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOhakune and the giant carrot, beat that!……………..oh wait,Cromwell has with three pieces of fruit, and Taihape has a gumboot, Rakaia has a fish and so on and so on. It seems a lot of towns feel the need to erect large ‘things’ to attract tourists.

Mt Ruapehu – a stunning backdrop to the town.


scrabbleOur mini travel scrabble.We kept the game for 35 years thinking we would use it again some time. Don’t need all that modern technology stuff to play games.  This was the first game we played and I won. But wait – I’ve won every game we’ve played!.  I talk a lot more than Hamish, and so I should know a lot more words…..right?


new bridge








The old and the new rail bridges between Ohakune and Horopito. Great bike ride that day, along the Old Coach Road



Camping ground the laundry


   While in Ohakune we stayed at the Top 10 camping ground. We traded of a few hours work each week for a free powered site.  And by the photos you can tell what we did – cleaning, laundry, lawns etc.  Anyway while there we were offered the chance to come back after Christmas and look after the place for two weeks while the manager was on leave.  Another opportunity not to be missed.


Mt Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom for the Lord of the Rings fans) and Tongariro to the left.  Passed these guys on a wee road trip we did one day up to Taumaranui, then over to the hot springs at Turangi.



This water is way too hot to swim in (just for looking at). Check out the colour of the water; sulphur and other minerals have something to do with that apparently.  Hard to photograph, but you can sort of see the steam coming off.


???????????????????????????????Meet Mr and Mrs Kaimanawa – the wild horses of the Kaimanawa Ranges. We took a $35 day tour with DOC to find them, and travelled all over the Waiouru Military Camp.  The day turned out to be pretty cloudy, and at times we felt a bit like Diane Fossie in the mist, but we found ’em.


mower  broken

Also in Ohakune an 8ft bank gave way and Hamish went with the ride-on mower into the river.  Hamish came off second best, with a broken arm and several scrapes and bruises.  The mower was all good once the water was drained from the motor, and a few panels were straightened out. It’s only got a few scratches to show for it all now.   Given that he is the sensible one of us both, I just don’t know how he manages to hurt himself so often.


christmas lightsA little bit of Christmas in the van. Then off to Te Awamutu for Christmas with Hamish’s sister Sally, her husband Roger, and  their family.

Sally & Hamish

Sally and Hamish

Matand Hame

Mat and Hamish



Newest member of the family – Emily

picnic under the pohutakawa tree



Over the Christmas break we did some tiki-touring around the area and spent some time at Te Puru on the Coromandel Peninsula

debnham 2014

Just in case you forgot what we looked like.

Roger and Hamish about to go fishing.








the beach te puru

The beach at Te Puru

man made tunnel

A man-made tunnel to the beach at Mangatoa











Back in Ohakune now with 2 days of work to go, before we hit the road again heading for Taupo or Rotorua.  Then another check up with the Doctor for Hamish in Te Awamutu.

Looking forward to our trip to Aussie in February for 6 weeks. We’re travelling up the east coast from Melbourne to Maroochydore in Queensland, visiting family and attending my niece’s Wedding. Can’t wait!!

Blog title

We Gotta Get Out of This Place

Feel that we have spent long enough in Ohakune and very ready to move on.  A favourite Aussie band of ours from the 70’s & 80’s sing this version.  The Angels.

Categories: bike rides, Caravan travel, Carrots, Christmas, Kaimanawa horses, Ohakune, railway bridges, scrabble, te awamutu, Tongariro, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Anything Can Happen

Kia Ora

Each morning I stand at the bench and clean freshly laid eggs. Basically I am wiping of any dirt, straw, poos or blood from the egg, as we can’t have ‘townies’ seeing the eggs in their original delivery condition, can we? And as I wipe the eggs I have to wonder why…………..why do we protect town people from farm life?

Geeez snap out of it Debbie, there are far more deep and meaningful things to wonder/worry about.

And you maybe wondering where the last couple of months of travel went if I am talking about what’s happening now. Well I’m working backwards this time (which is not a new thing for me). You are welcome to start reading at the bottom of the blog and work backwards as well if you prefer.

Pohangina Valley

The Pohangina Valley

So we’ve been doing a house/farm sit in the Pohangina district which is half an hour north of Palmerston North. It’s a beautiful valley with lots of farms and dotted with small lifestyle blocks like this one. We came across the house sit through helpx.com. The couple, Stu and Bev, were off to Queensland for 11 days. They have 7 sheep, 3 goats, 5 pigs (including Basil the Kuni Kuni boar), 1 bull, 2 steers, 4 cows and calves, 28 hens, 2 Muscovy ducks and 12 ducklings (plus frequent additional visitors at feeding times), 3 cats and 2 dogs. They all have names (except the hens of course) There’s Lulu, Leroy, Coco, Hugo, Rita, RJ, Milly, Molly, Mandy, Basil, Bailey, Tui, Bunderberg, Export and Gold, Mr & Mrs Khaki Campbell, Jeffrey, JJ, Jasmin, Maddie and Meeka. Phew!! That’s all I can remember. And they are all loved and cared for equally, even though some will end up in the freezer.

Basil & Deb

Basil the Kuni Kuni


Ducks & ducklings and a couple of chooks thrown in to the pic










While Stu and Bev were away, our job was to feed the animals morning and night and to look after the general health and welfare of the animals. And to collect scrap food for the pigs from a couple of bakeries in Palmerston North each day (which is 25 kms away). I won’t go on any more about the farm etc – hopefully the photos cover it all.


Hugo the Highland Bull


Rita and the girls










We have loved doing this house sit and seriously considered changing the locks to the front gate before Stu and Bev got home. But we didn’t – they are home and we plan to leave tomorrow.


If you squint at the pic you can see wind mills in the distance

While we were in the district, we visited the magnificent Cross Hills Gardens in Kimbolton. They were stunning!! We also went and checked out the massive wind farm on the hills behind Palmerston North. It is the largest wind farm in the Southern Hemisphere, and is truly impressive. Each of the blades on the big windmills has a diameter of 47 metres (that’s half a football field)!

A very small part of Cross Hills Gardens

A very small part of Cross Hills Gardens

Prior to Pohangina we spent a 5 days freedom camping by a river near Carterton. We didn’t do much while we were there; read books, lazed about, drove down to Martinborough – took the bikes and biked around the town on one on the few sunny, windless days we’ve had.

When we crossed Cook Strait in September, we headed to a small lifestyle block just out of Otaki on the Kapiti Coast. This was a house sit again, organised through helpx.com, but quite different from other places we have been to. This one had very few animals; 1 dog, 1 cat and 3 chickens. But it had a beautiful house (with swimming pool and tennis court) set in approx. 2 acres of lawn and gardens. The couple were Jerry and Natalie and they were heading to Rarotonga for 10 days. So it was company for the animals (and food naturally) and looking after the grounds.

House and pool

Mowing lawns took 3hours even on the ‘ride on’

harry and lavender

Harry – the adorable collie










We ended up staying at Otaki for nearly 5 weeks, which was not our original plan (yeah yeah plans are made to be changed). Our original intention was to stay a week or so doing HelpX jobs, then spend another week in the Wairarapa area (Carterton, Martinborough, etc) then come back for the house sit for a further 10 days. But constant gale force nor’west winds in the Wairarapa kept us from leaving. We still had a wonderful time there though – went for lots of bike rides in the area, along river tracks and beaches etc.

bike ride Otaki

Biking down Otaki River to the mouth

vege garden & fence

Finishing touches to the vege garden and rabbit proof fence












We also took the train from Waikanae and spent a day in Wellington; got my hair cut and coloured (greys camouflaged), shopped around for something to wear to my niece’s wedding, had dinner with Mathea and Keran (the couple we stayed and worked with in the Marlborough Sounds). It was great to see people we knew from the past, albeit only a month or 2 ago. It’s a strange feeling travelling like this, as you never see any familiar faces – ever. Well until we went to Wellington and caught up with Mathea & Keran. It really was wonderful to see them again.

Over the last couple of months we have spent considerable time and money on Polly and Buck. Some $1400 of unbudgeted funds later, and several days of maintenance work on Polly, we are mildly satisfied.

Whilst we had allowed a budget for R&M on vehicles, we just didn’t expect to have to spend more than twice the budgeted amount after only 6 months on the road. Hamish had begun to feel uneasy about the tyres on Buck several weeks ago. They were old but they had good tread on them, but a quick check with a couple of tyre places confirmed Hamish uneasiness – apparently they were so old that we were lucky we hadn’t had a blow-out. So almost $800 later Buck has a new set of sweet wheels.

Hamish & Polly

Hamish working on Polly

And Polly…..where do I start? The poor old thing has sprung a leak. Maybe her age and all the travel has unravelled some of her seams, who knows, but we have removed all old sealant, treated and replaced it with new stuff. Plus we’ve replaced lots of pop rivets, and the two old marker lights on the front. And damn it all, today we had rain and there is the tiniest amount of water still getting in. More work to do. Bugger!! Also we found out that the tyres on Polly, even though they also had good tread, needed to be replaced. Their weight tolerance and age were the issue.

Then, to top it all off, the front wheels on Buck started to squeal (like a city boy) this week. Turns out the brake pads had to be changed.

So it’s been a bit of an ordeal on the maintenance front just recently – but I guess we can now travel with a bit more confidence knowing everything is up to scratch again. Well, once we get that pesky leak fixed it will be.

Tomorrow we are heading to Putai Ngahere Domain (Vinegar Hill) near Hunterville, which is only about an hour away. After that we’ll see what Ohakune has to offer besides a giant carrot.

Blog Title

Anything Can Happen by Finn Brothers (Tim Finn – Split Enz and Neil Finn – Crowded House). Good kiwi music

The album Everyone is Here is a favourite of mine.


Categories: biking, Caravan travel, Finn Brothers, Free Range Hens, helpx, housesitting, maori place names, Ohakune, Otaki, Pohangina, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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