Tuesday, 10 April 2018

10 April 2018 - Whangarei Central Holiday Park, Northland

We had thought to have spent our last few weeks about Whangarei back out on Jumbo, but a day trip about a week ago showed us that the sun was already travelling too low across the sky to spend much effort shining upon solar panels on our motorhome roof, if we were to settle back there. The opportunity had passed and we had missed the boat, the story of our time back in New Zealand this summer. So we stayed on here in central Whangarei enjoying the mod-cons a commercial camping ground offers, and will do so for another week yet. We are already considered “permanents” here by the management, and as such enjoy the discounted weekly rates. While the other permanent residents are a pleasant lot, I did not really want to be tossed into the same basket, but after this length of stay, why should we not be? 

My mother’s health problems have not gone away and serve instead to heap the guilt on as we work toward our departure for the northern hemisphere. The one consolation is that if we were required to return at short notice, we would not be rendered destitute by the unbudgeted expense.

We have continued to enjoy lunch, dinner and in-between dates with our friends and family, even popping down to Auckland for the day over Easter to share our middle grandson’s 10th birthday cake. He was more intent on enjoying his new Xbox rather than hang about with oldies such as ourselves, but then we were happy to pass the hours with his parents who we see so little of.

Easter saw the annual New Zealand Motorhome & Caravan Association Rally here in Whangarei, a marvellous event for the area having over a thousand vanners descend upon the region. The holiday park here saw a number of these stay for a night or two before and after the event; to replenish their batteries and pantries and to make use of the more generous water supply. We have never attended an annual rally, only regional events and of course the “Music in the Mountains”  at Tapawera last year. This Easter we had family commitments, however we did make the effort to attend the Annual General Meeting. Now we do have a few shares in this company and that, and when we have turned up at a shareholders’ meeting have had the impression that many have turned up for the refreshments laid on. Up at Whangarei’s Barge Park, under the massive marquee there were no sausage rolls or cups of tea on offer, just a large crowd of passionate association members who had come to have their say or show their appreciation for the volunteers that give so much of their time and effort. We were most impressed with the calibre of office bearers and the keen interest of the lesser members, there for the “business” not the cream cakes. 

Even after all these weeks we are still ticking our way through a list of to-dos before our leaving; it may well be seen as rather tragic that we are spending our days planning for our ensuing trip rather than enjoying the moments of the present. Well actually we are doing some of that too.

Kiekie reaching for the sunlight
Just last weekend, apart from wining and dining family, all of which does little for one’s weight, we did undertake a walk which I have been looking forward to re-doing for some time. In an attempt to reckon when we did last do this particular walk, we tried to gauge how old our youngest son would have been when we dragged him along with us. Given that he will be thirty years old this year and he was hard to drag along after the legal age of being left home alone, it must have been at least sixteen years ago; I would hazard a guess that it was nearer twenty years ago. 

On Sunday we packed our lunch and set off up Three Mile Bush Road, on the north western edge of Whangarei, or more correctly, Kamo, and found our way to the Pukenui Forest Loop Walk. When we last did this, we parked on the grass verge of the more significant rural road and walked across a farm to access the forest. Nowadays one turns up a side road and parks in a well-defined car park, before walking along a manicured gravel walkway bordered with formal stone walls, skirting cattle filled lush green fields dotted with well-established native trees,  before entering the wilder reaches of the forest, fenced off to keep the kiwi in, if fences do confine kiwis. Obviously there is a hope, or even belief that such fences keep kiwi eating dogs out.

The Pukenui Forest bounds on to the Western Hills Forest, making for a 1,500 hectare expanse of green bird sanctuary. The Pukenui State Forest itself covers 592 hectares and was last logged in the 1920s. Since then there has been healthy regeneration and happily, the logging rapists chose to leave many kauri and other fine specimen of native trees. Evidence of DOC’s trap setters is all along the walking trail which I find encouraging although my more suspicious husband would say they put them near the trail to woo the public into thinking they are doing a better job than the reality. Whatever the truth, the population of stoats, weasels, rats and possums must in part be decimated by even the smallest of efforts.

There are two walking tracks for the average walker, who must, at the very least, be sure footed because there are roots and rises to discourage many. There are also other trails that wend their way through to others in the Western Hills, poorly marked and only for serious trampers, which we are not. 

Pausing for a picnic lunch
For those who do persevere on this walk, advertised to take between three and  four hours, much of it follows the Mangere Stream, sometimes climbing away and then back again guided by orange triangle markers. These days the trail is easier to follow than it was twenty years or whatever ago, and certainly lovelier. But then I do believe I am fitter these days despite being that much older; modern medications mean that sufferers of COPD can manage their active lives better now than before.

There are also some stretches of steps and board walks, mainly near fine old kauri which might be affected by die-back disease if we were allowed to wander willy-nilly about off the trail. Nikau, punga, kahikatea, totara, supple jack, kiekie and rewarewa dominate the forest, or at least that alongside the track.

Posing near one of the kauri
We paused to lunch beside the stream, seating ourselves upon fallen nikau palm fronds and enjoying the peace of the New Zealand bush. Below us we watched a languid eel, at least a metre long, make its way upstream, a fat wood pigeon land clumsily on a bough on the opposite rise, a fantail dart about making the most of the insects we had disturbed on our arrival. Later we traced the flow of the stream on our maps and found that it flows generally westward, joining the Wairoa River and eventually out into the Kaipara Harbour by Dargaville; I do enjoy tracing river routes from their source on maps, happy to leave the physical exploration to the likes of Livingstone and his ilk.

The last part of the 8.2 kilometre loop trail, given that we walked it in a clockwise direction, follows an old logging tramline. This stretch of relatively flat walkway is a relief after labouring up and down hill. We returned to the car park just within three and a half hours, quite an effort for us who have been so very lazy of late.

Lately I have been making an effort to walk into town to the supermarket, the library, the shops and my parents who live just across the river, in a poor attempt to train for our time in London. Of course this is all countered by the stocks of left over ice-cream and other calorie laden foods lingering in our fridge since entertaining family members and friends. 

My hair is overdue for a cut but I must bear with it for another week when I shall indulge myself with cut and colour, also in preparation for the travelling public. We already have a stock pile of prescription drugs ready for our trip, although I do wonder how there will be space for shoes and other necessities in our bags; still we have managed in other years. Just one more week and we will leave Whangarei for our trip down to Ruatiti; it will be cold further south and I should be worrying about preparations for our more rustic stay in the mountain ranges rather than our months in more civilised counties of England.

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