Time to say goodbye- the last caravanablog

Dreamy little caravan for sale, said my ad on Trade me. The title came from my heart, as it was a dream of ours right from the start.

The dream to get away for little breaks.

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Farewell to the caravan

 

To re-energise when my parents were both unwell, and I was working full-time, and we just needed to stop and breathe for a bit.

To go on very small trips- to the hot pools of Te Aroha, Miranda and Mt Maunganui, to bush clearings, wild beaches, urban camp sites in Thames and Remuera, behind the pub in Raglan, and by the dramatic harbour in Kawhia.

There were some bigger trips like family camping at Paekakariki, beside the river in Whanganui, and at the racecourse in New Plymouth for WOMAD. The last time at WOMAD was the night of the Christchurch Mosque shootings. I will always remember the deep sad silence of the crowd around the Bowl of Brooklyn that night, as the news got worse and worse.

The caravan never did travel over the Auckland Harbour Bridge, orcaravan and car

Cook Strait!

Unwittingly, we #backed our own backyard long before Covid-19 hit ; now this is a rallying call to Kiwis to save our endangered tourist industry.

But for us, the caravan was more than cute accommodation in a scenic spot – it was a way of being. It was a means of escape, and enticement to slowness and simplicity, a cocoon of contentment.

We would drive up, choose a shady spot, find someone to back the caravan, put down the steadies, set up the water and power, unfold the pink camping chairs, assemble the kitset table painstakingly made by my dad, pour the first glass of wine, and breathe. Easy as that.

Dominic the dog, us two, a view of a mountain or sea, the promise of a walk or a hot pool, and later watching the stars in an uncluttered sky.

Simple and sweet as.

caravan Danielle

Te Aroha: Danielle with a chair waiting for Ceridwyn

Alongside the pleasure, there was a lot of learning- how to empty the toilet, how to rescue the awning in a cyclone and accepting the fact that successful backing was not a skill we possessed.

When Covid-19 hit, and we were together all day every day, the caravan became my private studio.

But reality also hit-the inevitable change and ageing. The lifting, packing, unscrewing, winding, heaving, stowing,  pulling, stopped being fun and became a pain.

We had one last trip, as soon as level 4 was lifted, to Miranda. Under a wintry full moon and through the  steam of the hot pool, we said, ‘We can’t do this any more’. The time had come.

Five years of a lovely dream had come to an end.kitchen 20200817_105019

So we had a big family clean and polish. Son-in-law climbed a ladder and scrubbed the roof, grandsons washed thegoodbye caravan ZIta 20200808_143200 (2)

walls and cleaned off the lichen, we cleared out the lockers and

arranged the colour matched crockery, daughter and granddaughter posed for the photo shoots.

 

 

Finally there was the handover to a young family who live locally. The dad had been camping with a pop-top caravan, as a child and he now wanted his own children to experience the joy and simplicity of that life.

We delivered the shiny van and all its accoutrements early on a Friday morning. It was to be a surprise for his children. He texted later that, when his daughter saw it after school, she was so happy she burst into tears.

We know that feeling, and we are very happy to pass on the happiness.

 

Doormat, Spike and Plunger.

 

 

20190306_161343We upgraded out caravanning gear this trip with three simple items.

Firstly a bright green door mat.  I spotted the 4 giant rubber jigsaw pieces at the Lions Garage sale in Cambridge. Not sure what its original purpose was, maybe under a child’s swing, but 1500 square centimeters  of green rubber makes a much softer landing when we step out of the caravan. It also keeps the loose pieces of grass and leaves from invading our tiny indoor space- I love it.img_5905

Next upgrade is  a shiny spiral rather like a mini swingball set up. We screw it into the ground and join Dominic to the smart red collar complete with a bandana. He gains a huge 3 metre radius of tethered space. He can choose sun or shade, near the picnic table or faraway, and he is secure.img_5907-1img_5908-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the last upgrade in gear is an old fashioned plumbing plunger- again second hand from the Lions garage sale. Why?

Our cute little caravan has running water, which then has to evacuate down the plug hole in the sink. This drains into a pipe which then empties into the wheelie grey water trundler. But the noise of water leaving sounded wrong. I looked into the shower -the base was filling, gently, with bubbles, coffee grounds and murky water.

So I checked that the red handle on the hose was in line with the hose- yes. But  the trundler was positioned  ever so slightly uphill of the exit pipe. Water does not flow uphill.img_5911-1

It was hard, in the dark, to position the trundler downhill of the exit , then clamber back in the caravan, push the plunger down in a squelchy fashion, till the suction pulls up yet another splodge of coffee grounds and endless amounts of dishwater. After much suctioning, clambering and delicate adjustment the shower floor was clear and clean, the  grey water trundler gratifyingly full and my resolve strong.

Never use coffee grounds, use those expensive bags. Or be like our friend Rosie and Anna and take along a whole coffee machine.

Only one small problem to be sorted by Phil when we return- a crack in the window has filled the double window Perspex with water. How did this happen? Who knows, but I do know Phil can fix it.

Maybe there is a screw loose in our desire to be caravanning again, as something always puts a spanner in the works. Or in this case a plunger in the shower.

All this excitement took place in Kawhia, a tiny village way out west of Otorohanga, where we set up camp under the huge willow trees at the Kawhia Camp. img_5906Twice a day I walked Dominic on  a beautiful track lined with pohutukawa, on the cliff edge and along the seashore, past pretty little cottages and  into the village. A jetty for local fishing boats and harbour cruises, a fish and chip shop, a pub, a general store, a petrol pump and a gorgeous art gallery, line the main street. The museum has intriguing fossils and great local history. Midweek is so quiet here, you can just about hear the tide coming in and out. img_5903

We are playing with the idea of living here for a while? Why not? Maybe it is time for a new adventure.

Frida Kahlo and a moon boot.

Frida Kahlo

All summer our caravan has sat in the drive, while we travelled in in southern Thailand and Vietnam.

The lovely spa town of Te Aroha  enticed us back into our caravan after far too long away. It was a perfect, calm, warm weekend of late summer.

In spite of months of neglect, the caravan was up and away within an hour, taking us to the cool swimming pool and rural ambience , in the lea of Mt Te Aroha. Danielle on scooter Danielle is living with a moon boot while her Achilles tendon joins itself up again, but she was very comfortable in the caravan and managed the walk to the pool and the shower.

We have hired a very smart little mobility scooter, which enables us to go for walks of up to 10km before the battery runs out. By that time I too am exhausted and the dog is looking for a place in the shade.  Te Aroha has thermal pools, bush walks, rushing mountain streams, and some cool wee cafes.

 

Frida Kahlo 2Our new companion in the caravan is the colourful artist Frida Kahlo, in the form of two cushions from my daughter.

So no disasters this time! Danielle did a very neat piece of backing us into a shady place under a huge tree. But, on our return home, a neighbour over the road said he couldn’t back, but his wife Jude was a dab hand. Jude duly curved the caravan into the drive, and backed it so precisely for us- thanks for being a great neighbour !

The lady in a van

I am now ‘the lady in the van’.

I am not parked next to Alan  Bennett, but to Alex the handyman. I am not in a driveway in North London but on the edge of Lake Rotorua, Aotearoa , New Zealand. There the comparison must end, as I would hate to turn out like the wonderful character played by Maggie Smith in the recent movie.

Our perfect little caravan will be my pied-a-terre for the next ten weeks, while I work in Rotorua four days a week. The caravan site has a spacious brick paved area, outdoor table, two spa pools nearby, freshly filled each day, and just right at 39degrees. https://i1.wp.com/cosycottage.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/2016-03-12-Cosy-Cottage_Adrian-Hodge_6100-200x133.jpg

I have power, water, and new neighbours every day.

My little car and little caravan and my bigger friends

My little car and little caravan and my bigger friends

 

This morning, I woke to a red streaked sunrise. There were pukekos striding along the well mown lawn, their red beaks glinting in the low sun. I wandered along a bush path beside a  steaming thermal stream and down to the lake.https://i1.wp.com/r-ec.bstatic.com/images/hotel/square200/670/67074710.jpg

Siting my caravan near the house of the aforesaid handyman, Alex, with his confident, burly presence gives me confidence about being a lady on her own in a van. The winter nights in Rotorua can be long and cold, and I would imagine the caravan park will often be empty.

But it seems like a good idea at the moment. Watch this space.

BFF:Caravan and shed

The simpler we want the caravan to be, the more equipment it seems to need.

We have an awning, poles, footing, a fresh water container, a grey water container, plus two bright pink outdoor chairs. All this needs to be stored. We needed a small shed.

But sheds come in flat packs, and someone has to unpack them and assemble them. While I can use a sewing machine and construct almost any kind of garment, I hate things that require metal tools.  Danielle can put together flat pack cupboards and shelves. But a shed was all too hard.

Cambridge Autumn Festival, New ZealandThe Cambridge Autumn Festival had a fundraising competition.

Six sheds were donated,  then painted by different Cambridge businesses. They were to then be auctioned. I desperately wanted one of these sheds, but my limited budget made me very hesitant .I tried to blend into the background at the auction.

To my surprise, the bidding was in my price range, so I bravely entered the race.  And won a beautiful decorated shed. Not only did I win the shed at a great price, the proceeds went to the Cancer Society, and we have a work of art in our driveway.

It sits next to the caravan when it is at home, and it makes us smile each time we see the trees and birds painted on all four sides.

Every caravan needs a cute little shed.

Behind the Club in Raglan.

Raglan is famous in the surfing world for the left hand point break surfing. We went because we could park up for a night for $10.

Raglan Club $10 overnight

Raglan Club $10 overnight

We wandered into the bar, signed in, and agreed that we had our own toilet. Jim extracted himself from a bar stool to  back our caravan into place beside some other freedom campers in the spacious car park.  Our site use  included free water, security lighting, use of the club toilets when they were open,, and the prettiest dump station so far.

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In warm autumn sunshine, we went  to watch a couple of hundred surfers paddling out round the famous breakers, then gloriously, triumphantly, riding their boards up to the rocky shore.  What a great sport! They even do it in the gathering gloom, when all you can see are the white sparkles on the top of the looming wave.  I just tried to photograph them.

Raglan is a very pretty coastal town due west from Hamilton . It took about an hour for us to tow the caravan along the winding roads, past Te Uku wind farm. Raglan has a series of massive surf beaches, a calm estuary and a wide river to wander along,

Raglan evening walk

Raglan evening walk

lots of bush covered hills, and a lovely little main street. There are bars, cafes, a shoe maker, fisherman, bakeries, supermarkets, and hundreds of young people from all different parts of the world. Very green , very environmentally proactive, highly desirable.

It was our first time using our certified self -containment status. We set up our 40 litre fresh water container, and then 45 litre grey water container neatly under the caravan. When we turned the taps on,  water actually gurgled out. The fridge can run on gas, and we even have a hot shower (once we work out the water heating system!)

But we are so close to total mastery of our new toy. It continues to delight us, and to take us to beautiful places.

Raglan estuary sunset

Raglan estuary sunset

 

The Serendipity of Red Paint

IMG_3202-001You may remember the picture by Jo May which began our caravan journey. Jo May painted her caravan with a red door. The young man at Resene cleverly matched the colour to   ‘Poppy’. I bought a test pot for $4.50 and painted a funny old table which sits under a punga fern in front of the picture, which now hangs on the fence.

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There was some paint left over in the tiny black pot, and it matched the geraniums by our letterbox. In the hot sun, I bravely painted our boring letter box an undeniable red.

Our lovely neighbour Roz stopped on her way to Auckland. ‘You might as well do mine as well.’

So I did.

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Three other neighbours came past and I missed my Tom Sawyer moment when I could have offered them a turn. But it was nice to talk, out there on the street.

After two coats on the letterbox, there was just enough left over to paint the numbers on our meter box. Our address is now unmistakeable.IMG_3984

As I said, the colour of the paint is ‘Poppy’, the flower which is the first to grow back on land devastated by war. In the weeks before Anzac Day we buy the bright red poppies, to wear to commemorate those who have died in wars over the last century. We watch the defence forces and returned servicemen and women parade in the street, their buttons and medals shining in the early morning sun, and the poppies there for all to see.Image result for ANzac day parade nz image

Today, a package arrived in my glowing red letterbox. There were two medals there for me -one commemorating the visit of the Queen to New Zealand when I was just three years old, and the other marking the centenary of the first four ships to arrive for the Canterbury settlement , in 1850. 1953-54 NEW ZEALAND ROYAL VISIT MEDAL QUEEN ELIZABETH 11 EXCELLENT CONDITIONOne of these ships carried my great great grandfather, the first editor of what became The Christchurch Press.

 

 

 

The sender light heartedly suggested that I wear them for Anzac Day, or for being brave while backing the caravan.

Oh the circularity  of coincidences , and the serendipity of red paint.

I quote from Dr Zeuss

And then things start to happen,
don’t worry. Don’t stew.
Just go right along.
You’ll start happening too.

Cool little Auckland apartments

Our friends, Rosemary and Cynthia,  have a very cool apartment, from whose heights we can see the new Pink Walk. This is a strangely unused piece of motorway, curving through the middle of Auckland. Someone has painted it a brilliant pink and installed lights which change colour as you walk along, high above speeding cars. A magical playful urban walk, which makes people smile at complete strangers, and break into dance when you least expect it.20160213_213431

For us novice caravanners, our city apartment is a concrete pad at the Remuera Motor Lodge. Danielle can now back and manoeuvre the caravan,  and we can set up in under 5 minutes. In another 10 minutes we can be sitting in St Matthews in the City, for a beautiful sung liturgy. Otherwise we can drive on the North Western Motorway to see two little grandsons and their parents. At the end of a hot afternoon we can return to float in the sun warmed pool and sip chilled wine in our little, still- anonymous, caravan. All this for only $45 a night.

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Lights on the pohutukawa sculpture at the city end of the North West motorway

 

Fish and Chips at Sunset

Kawhia -and yet another storm

Kawhia Domain

Kawhia Domain

Kawhia was our longest trip with the caravan, west from Cambridge, through Pirongia,  and over windy, hilly roads till we could see the sea. Kawhia is a beautiful historic harbour on the west coast , about an hour south of the more famous Raglan. We had been there just for day and promised to return, so here we were.

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The Norfolk Pines along the beach give away the early mission history,, and you can still find the little old white mission churches of the 19th Century, if you drive the windy roads along inlets and over the hills. Much better to go by boat as they did in the early days.

There is a treacherous sand bar across the entrance to the harbour, and some wild surf beaches to entice the foolish.

Inside the harbour is the pretty and quirky village of Kawhia where we camped for three blissful days.

Danielle and Dominic back from the beach

Danielle and Dominic back from the beach

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We took long walks with Dominic the Tibetan terrier, admired the local art installations, swam in the warm water at high tide,

The triangle, Kawhia

The triangle, Kawhia

ate the famous fish and chips as the sun set over the gleaming water.IMG_3808

Just over the sand hills is Ocean Beach.

hot sand, big job, Dominic  on lifeguard duty, Ocean Beach Kawhia

hot sand, big job, Dominic on lifeguard duty, Ocean Beach Kawhia

Just like Hot Water Beach on the Coromandel, you can create your own hot pool just by digging a hole at high tide.Kawhia hot springs and hot pools

And what about another storm?

On the third night, the rain arrived. We had learnt from our very first trip how important it is to hammer the pegs in hard, to tighten the guy ropes and zip everything up tight. All that was fine, but it rained so hard that within 30 minutes the awning was ankle deep . We moved Dominic inside ,much to his delight, put all the gear in the car and opened a bottle of wine. Another 30 minutes of rain so heavy we could not hear each other speak, and I looked into the awning, where the water was still rising. Frighteningly, the roof of the awning was sagging inward with the weight of water. We pushed it up with a satisfying waterfall towards our much posher neighbour, and stretched the expanding poles to their limit. Much to our surprise this strategy worked-the roof became so straight and taut that the water slid off properly.Maybe we are getting the hang of this caravan life after all.

 

 

 

Camping on the Main Street

Camping on the main street in Thames

Camping on the Coromandel is an iconic Kiwi summer dream. White sand, brilliant red pohutukawa overhanging rocky shores, lacy white waves atop warm blue seas, birds singing in the deep aromatic bush. Everything in our picture, in fact.

But that is not what we did.

Thames is a small former mining town tucked under the Coromandel range. We parked up right on one of the main streets, so we could visit friends and explore our old stamping ground.

Thames Cruz and Stop has room for about 10 caravans/campervans, plus a bathroom, toilet, kitchen and very comfortable lounge with TV. We loved our ‘urban apartment’ right on the main street!

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Thames Cruz’n’Stop

A minute away is the famously independent and well stocked Carsons bookshop,Carson's Bookshop's profile photo  and our favourite cafe, https://i2.wp.com/www.solacafe.co.nz/images/logo.jpg

Kate and Clare have owned this colourful cafe since 2001 and it is always packed. A great place to meet up with friends. http://www.solacafe.co.nz/index.html

5 minutes walk took us to the Bird hide, along a boardwalk, to watch the sea birds coming across the Firth of Thames at the end of the day.

Up the Kauaeranga Valley are glorious mountains formerly mined for gold. Now you can see remnants of rusty machinery, kauri dams and unexpected tunnels and sink holes, as you take one of the famous tracks. We checked out the bush surrounded campsites beside little streams where we could take our newly self contained caravan, and practised being there, just for a day.

Kauaeranga Valley

Kauaeranga Valley

In all that natural beauty who would have expected to find the perfect flat white coffee? You will find it in the excellent brand new visitors centre. Front view of the Kauaeranga Visitor Centre.

Our plans to go further up the Coromandel Peninsula were scuttled by an impending tropical storm. Instead we wandered back home, the caravan gently rocking in the increasing wind, and stopped off, near Paeroa, at the Depot.

Who would have expected an exquisite parterre in the middle of the Hauraki Plains?

parterre at Tirohia

parterre at Tirohia

The new owner told us about the couple who had developed this beautiful intricate garden over 30 years, and moved an old school house on to the land, where there used to be a depot for all the ferries coming up the river. Now you can sit in a windproof pergola, enjoy a cream tea and marvel at other people’s hard word and creativity.

morning tea at Tirohia

morning tea at Tirohia

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