Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Through the Windshield: Kawhia to Taumarunui

Today's travels took us from the Kawhia beach through the rolling Waikato countryside and the Waitomo District to Taumarunui, which sits at the junction of the Whanganui and Ongarue Rivers. Early Maori named it "the place of big shelter."

We stopped at a grocery along the way to stock up on provisions.

The day was so pristine that even these shots from inside the Rover look good (that and Art squeegees the windows).

We're wanting to make tracks toward Tongariro National Park, about 40 km east of where we're camping. It's the oldest national park in NZ. We'll explore locally tomorrow and head there Thursday.

Here's a map of our route (click here if you can't view):

Monday, June 17, 2019

Kawhia Giant Penguin

From your questions, we've been remiss in sharing weather details. It feels like 70+ in the sun. Art keeps a C/F thermometer clipped to the caravan and the air temps during the days we've been here have run about 60-65 F. Winter solstice is coming up this week (living in the Southern Hemisphere can be weird).

Here's an enchanting local story. What a discovery for the kids who found it, the skeleton of a 
penguin nearly five feet tall.

An ancient fossil of a giant penguin - discovered near Kawhia in 2006 and estimated to be 28 million years old - has become an official part of Waikato Museum's science collection. The find was made by a group of young explorers with the Hamilton Junior Naturalist Club (JUNATs) at Te Waitere inlet, part of the Aotea Harbour.

"They pretty much stumbled across it," said Waikato Museum curator Salina Ghazally.

"They often go out to that area for summer camp with the club members, and they are usually looking for things like fossilised molluscs or crabs - something that you'd typically find in that area - and stumbled upon some bones protruding during the low tide when they were scouring the foreshore area."

Among the JUNATs group was an amateur archaeologist who recognised the bones as avian which led to the realisation that what they had found was an ancient giant penguin.

The skeleton was located in a layer of mudstone called the Whaingaroa Formation, which has been estimated to be between 24 and 28 million years old.

...from what she has been told by a local paleontologist, as well as the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in the United States, the Kawhia penguin is the most intact penguin fossil ever found in the world. Read the rest here.

More full moon, 5:30 pm June 17 outside our caravan

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Wild West Coast: Kawhia Hot Water Beach

Good morning, campers, and keep in mind as you see me drinking from my water bottle below: good hydration will save the nation. Here's our camp spot with the tide in.

Breakfast today is NZ snapper, purchased at the Raglan Wharf and frozen, with kumara (sweet potato) and a bunch of sauteed vegetables finished with tamari.

We're walking today at Kawhia Hot Water Beach on the always-outsized west coast, just a short distance from our campsite. It's a monster beach with powerful waves.

One upward climb over the black sand dune and we're there.

We didn't time our arrival to coincide with the availability of hot water (two hours on either side of high tide). In fact we have such good memories of our time at Hot Water Beach on the Coromandel Peninsula in October 2017 (NZ springtime) that we decided to forego the dig today. Here's a link that tells the story of how those hot water pools in the sand work.

Today we're just trying to take in the sweep of this place, the enormity of the water's edge. Faithful readers already know I'm unabashedly in love with NZ's west coast.

Here's a map (click here if you can't view) that shows the location of our campground, situated on the relatively sedate harbor waters, and the road to the beach. We started out walking and about a quarter mile in got pelted by a powerful downpour. By the time we got back to the campground (to drive) the skies were blue again.

Such is the power of the weather systems coming off the Tasman Sea to the west. Click here for a story on the above-average temperatures in this ocean between Australia and NZ.

Turning the camera 180, you can see the sun pushing through the clouds.

The weather--and light--shifts every few minutes.

Here I zoom in on a little building on the cliffs to the south. Look at that water rage!

Black sand, blue sky

It was a good walk, and we turned back toward the dunes for the return.

Sleep well under the full moon

Friday, June 14, 2019

Blustery Day in Kawhia

To Kawhia

Kia ora, campers! Hamilton was damp and cool, a low fog hanging over the campground this morning. We were hopeful that today's drive to Kawhia might change our weather outlook. The west coast town is a place we've not visited, but it seemed like it might be our kind of spot: on the water, fairly isolated, low population.

Also, the campground and town are very near several marae (Maori meeting places) which indicates Kawhia is a Maori-populated place. One of the grace notes of the North Island is being among people of color. The South Island, while extraordinarily beautiful, is as white as its snow-covered peaks.

Here's a route map (click here if you can't view). Note Kawhia is a scant 50 km south of Raglan but that you can't easily get here from there.

We're still driving through the extraordinarily beautiful Waikato region, rolling hills and farmland immensely pleasing to the eye (likely the reason director Peter Jackson set the Hobbit/Lord of the Rings films in this district).

 After an overcast and frankly dreary drive, we finally saw the potential for sun at our destination.

Arrived at the campground around noon, saw a sign saying check-in was at 2 pm, so we parked up and walked into town, a scant few blocks away.

308 souls lived in Kawhia at the last census

The Rusty Snapper Cafe looked like a general town meeting spot with a nice patch of sun, so we ordered and settled in outside to await our flat whites.

Next door: this bears further investigation.

I had a fascinating conversation with a woman sitting outside who I think was a cop. She was about to start a new job, and when I asked what she'd be doing, she said it involved the buy-back scheme, whereby people turn in firearms in exchange for cash. People have widely divergent views of this concept, some seeing it as an overreaction to the Christchurch horrors earlier this year.

When we returned to the campground we were checked in by a friendly women who had been seated at an adjacent table outside the Rusty Snapper Cafe (remember, 308 people). She laughed when she saw us.

Here's the campground's communal kitchen, where Art does our dishes, and the lounge. It's an extremely tidy place.

 Every time we move we do a quick clean. With the sun out today, we look extra sparkly.

All the spots are open, so we chose. It's incredibly quiet here--so quiet it's almost loud. 

You can see that the tide is out, but we'll awaken tomorrow on the water's edge.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Fluff and Buff In Hamilton (+ Raglan Radio)

We're in Hamilton, camping in the city campground. This pretty city of just under 200,000 is NZ's fourth largest and sits on the banks of the mighty Waikato River. 

I made lamb chops and veggies this morning because my grill chef was busy working on the caravan.

We've spent most of our two days here tending to caravan issues, first stopping at an electrical place yesterday to try to determine why our water won't heat on power (it heats fine on propane). The person we saw was almost comically unsuited to the task, pulling out a fuse, holding it aloft dramatically, and pronouncing it workable (something Art checked six weeks ago). But from there he couldn't help us.

A couple other things needed doing, so even though we struck out with the electrician, we got lucky with a Mitre 10 big box store just a few minutes walk from our campsite. We've been over and back several times and are finally ready to hit the road. Next time, we hope to see more of the city.

Here's a snap through the open door of Raglan Community Radio, which we've been listening to on the computer. I like Daphne Paekau's streams, one of which you can sample here. This guy was sweet, but I sensed he was going to ask me to be on his show (hey whatup Raglan, it's Pippi from the Chi), so I scurried.