A long, long weekend in Palmerston North

It seemed a long time since I had made the 45 minute trip north to my special place, my happy place. Initially I was going for two nights, that’s happened before lol  😉  I had been waiting for the first opportunity since Dasha and I did our four week South Island tour but the weather had not been great or the forecast had been awful and at the last minute it had cleared. Too late . . . . . If Phee wasn’t so timid, he could some too. I would love that.

From the large to the small.

From the large to the small.

Since my first epic adventure last July a lot has changed. The Ducato is set up for a quick escape with everything needed from toiletries, to make up, food and clothing for three days and food staples and easy meals. There is even an electric toothbrush (maybe I’ll add a flosser when I can manage my home one better). Everything but perishables.


The loo and shower (which I don’t use).

I have gas for cooking and heating and I need to buy a meter of some sort to know how much gas I have. I wouldn’t like to run out and if I did I could use the camp facilities to cook no problem but heating? I don’t remember it being this cold over night last year; maybe I am getting soft.

These bins are useful, I keep clothing in here permanently.

These bins are useful, I keep clothing in here permanently.

On Thursday night I was one of three camper vans, on Friday night, I was the only one. It seems that more Kiwis are buying caravans, from really big ones with pop out sides down to a little pop top A frame. Camping people are usually very friendly and we often chat, especially the ones who have NZ Motor Caravan Association ‘wings’ on their vehicles. I am member 60600, so there are many of us.

Puss comes and visits, she lives here.

Puss comes and visits, she lives here.

On Friday I did some work and had lots of work phone calls. I’m taking  Min’s acupuncture business phone calls and doing her appointments while she is overseas.

I sleep the other end now so I can see TV

I sleep the other end now so I can see TV

Over the last 1o months I have modified my bed style. Initially I used the full two person bed but this was awkward in getting to the loo, so I downsized to a smaller version (new sheets required). I also had the cushions refilled to make them more comfortable and refigured them to be various widths. Then I bought a single (expensive) memory foam topper and now have a very comfortable (slightly bigger than) single bed. I used to be quite fussy about making the bed too, fitted bottom sheets and neatly made. Now in winter I used my sleeping bag for the bottom sheet, it’s warmer and takes me 5 minutes to make and unmake the bed. When I win Lotto I will have a camper van with a bed that comes down from up in the ceiling and that can be kept made. I can’t see the point in having a permanent bed at the back, I would rather have space to relax in.

I was interested to see what changes there were in the Esplanade. Last time I was here, in March, it was autumn but very warm. Now it was almost winter (depending on whether you subscribe to the equinoctial seasonal theory, which I do) and cold but calm and sunny. Perfect weather for a long, long weekend.

Spring is coming!

Spring is coming!

The leaves where falling on the many deciduous trees though the best colour shows had passed. Still, it was pretty. I feel for the managers who spend a lot of time raking and removing them. I seem to manage to get them stuck on the bottom of my shoes. The weather conditions had been perfect for fungi. The roses were well past their best but some were still flowering and jonquils were showing too. I though mine were late this year until I discovered I had been mowing them. Oops!! The camellias and rhododendrons were in flower, early I am sure. There is always plenty of colour at the Esplanade.

Sunset if often spectacular.

Sunset if often spectacular.

There were changes happening along the river bank last time. The Manawatu River has had some big flood episodes in the past and despite the big stop banks protecting the housing, the damage to the river banks with erosion was considerable. I remember coming over the Fitzherbert Bridge the day after the 2o02 floods and the water was close to the under side of the bridge. That was the flood that covered miles and miles of the coast and brought down, amongst other things, thousand of onions to my local beach.

The duck pond, busy during duck shooting season.

The duck pond, busy during duck shooting season.

They had roped off a large section of the river walk in March and were building rock walls to contain the river. Many of the lovely trees that the birds liked to feed on had been chopped back and I was pleased to see some had re-sprouted. Willows are hardy. I have a favourite tree and am happy it had been pruned but not removed.


The river walk.

I had some lovely walks, there is always plenty of people, dogs, cyclists and occasionally horses. It is well used and valued by the locals and by visitors.

And like anywhere I stay, there is always housework to do!


Emptying the toilet 🙂

22 August 2016


On the road (but not very far)!

Before I ‘hit the road’ there were some things that needed attention, including the ‘clunk’, the engine mount. That was sorted and then there was a different ‘clunk’, this time a gearbox mount. The engine mount was available in New Zealand, the gearbox mount was not! Some panic moments and dollar signs flashing before my eyes, thinking about importing from Italy and also the time it would take. (I had factored the cost of the engine mount into the amount I paid for the Ducato and the cost of both were within that amount). Fortunately we were able to source a very good second hand one and after a full service, we were ready to roll.

I had a few weeks at home, getting the things I though I may need (some of which I didn’t) and settling in without going away. I booked a night at the Palmerston North Holiday Park, set up Phee’s automatic feeders and off I went on what was to become a regular thing. It was 31 July 2015.


Palmerston North is a mere 50 kilometres (30 miles) give or take a few, from home, so not an arduous trek.

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I chose to go there as there is lots to do in “Palmy”, walking into the city centre from the motor camp is less than half an hour (good exercise), it is by the river and is through the gate to the Esplanade. I remember going there as a child!


The official title is the Victoria Esplanade Gardens and it was created to celebrate Queen Victoria’s jubilee in 1897. It’s vast, with a huge rose garden (more than 5000 varieties), a cherry blossom trees lined entrance, there are many varieties of camellias, rhododendrons, spring bulbs, massive trees, both deciduous and native (which are evergreens), bush walks, a duck pond, a paddling pool for the children, a bird aviary (the same one I saw as a child), a fabulous children’s playground, a miniature railway that winds through the bush and open park, free BBQs and is adjacent to a large sports ground.


The motor camp is pleasant and has become my happy place. It has many older big deciduous trees, rhododendrons and other trees, lovely little gardens, a great children’s play area and accommodation of various types plus powered and unpowered sites. There are permanent residents too, maybe 30. Some are real characters! There are two sets of managers, husbands and wives (or partners, I haven’t asked) and all are lovely and so helpful. As I have continued to visit, I have got to know them well. Initially I got them to reverse onto my powered site, now I do it myself.


The children love the train in the Botanical Gardens.

A new venture is about creating traditions and it is satisfying to consciously be doing this. Most of our traditions are those of our family or just seem to arrive; these new ones are mine!
One of these is to take food basics (or have them already in the Ducato) but visit the nearby supermarket and choose dinner and TREATS!! Dinner is often salmon, steak or lamb chops as I have two burners on the gas stove plus the microwave, so simple is the best. I also do one dish meals like beef stroganoff and chicken laksa. Treats are often from the bakery (much nicer than our local one in Levin), pate, dip (salmon is nice) and other tasty munchies to keep me happy. Dinner tonight is leftover beef stroganoff, homemade potato salad and cos salad with tomato and feta. I’m not starving. There is also a Chinese/fish and chip shop a mere 10 minute walk away, I don’t go often but it’s nice for a change.


One of the aviary birds

I always managed to forget something. Once it was my FitBit charger, once leggings (which I wear in winter), my fleece (and it was cool that weekend) and margarine. I have, at the same time, learned to take less as space is at a premium and I am the sort that packs everything and more. I don’t use a list now so that a step forward.


Being mobile has also resulted in my having a mobile office. Friday is my full office day and it seemed a good idea to sometimes have it in Palmy. Although I have the mobile phone for contact I didn’t realise just how often the landline rings. In becoming mobile I now use iCloud, have bought myself a new iPad and a new iPhone. Initially I was buying an internet plan at the motor camp, with the new phone I have rollover data and I am tethering the iPad/laptop to the phone, I have fewer distraction here (even with the ducks, birds and lovely setting) than I do at home.


The satellite dish for TV was initially a challenge, it seemed so straightforward when it was explained by the expert. Thirteen turns, point the black arrow to the north, then line it up to 120 somethings and it was done. I didn’t have TV for the first two visits and didn’t miss it really, maybe the news but I have a radio. I have used the compass on the phone, bought a compass, looked at other campers dishes and now can manage it after 15 minutes of frustrating fiddling and getting in and out the van to look at that jolly thing! When I got it right I took a photo with the phone which helped a little but not a lot.


The TV satellite dish adjusting thingie.

The satellite was one of the reasons that, until November, I stayed tethered to my site via the electricity cord, the other was that I was slowly gaining confidence at driving the Ducato in the city. Palmerston North isn’t a big city by world standards but in a country of 4.5 million people (half of whom live in Auckland) it is all relative to what we are used to. I live rurally near a small town! Returning home after my first visit I noticed I had forgotten to lock the LPG gas door 😦 I saw it in the wing mirrors and pulled over and shut it, feeling very embarrassed!


I know my way around Palmy well but it has taken a little time to get used to the size of the Ducato in comparison to my tiny granny car.


Two nights at Ngongataha

I received a lovely welcome from the manager, he offered to park the Ducato on my reserved site, right next to the lake. I was grateful, I had yet to use reverse! I did have a moment of panic, as he plugged me into the power and nothing happened. “Oh no” I thought, “I’m here for two nights with no power”. I had the wisdom to suggest it may be an idea to try one of the other power points and, yes, I had power.Ro van

The lake was misty at first as it had been raining earlier. There were many scaups, black swans and ducks and  I enjoyed just sitting, door open, having coffee and reflecting on my first drive. I did OK. 🙂Ro cygnets

I could see the Sunday morning sunset would possibly be clear; I set my alarm, poked the camera out of the door, shut it and went back to sleep!!             Ro dawn

I spent my two days setting up house, becoming familiar with the Ducato and relaxing. I took two walks to the store, looked at people fishing, took lots of bird photos and did very little else.

Ro shag

Ro duck dance

I  recommend Willowhaven, great lakeside camp sites and reasonably priced motel/cabin style accommodation.

Ro Sun down


Paeroa to Lake Rotorua.

It was the fourth of July, and I was having my own celebration.


With the business side quickly done and a firm handshake from “the dork” (Lena was impressed with that) it was official, I owned a camper van. Lena showed me all the important stuff, like the toilet, the power, the gas and was off back to Levin. I am so grateful for her help, not only in choosing the Ducato but taking me to Paeroa with having to go back the next day. It’s a long way to we Kiwis, living in a small country.

4 July 12.46pm

The supermarket was across the road and I bought a few supplies for the next two days.  I had brought my pillow and a sleeping bag so I was very basically prepared.


I was about to fill up with diesel when the thought occurred to me  “Uh oh, no insurance!”. I spent an hour on the mobile sorting that. The 2 young ladies working at the gas station were clearly amused, what was this lady doing! I had been parked there for ages.

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So . . . . . .  to my first solo drive, carefully planned, to the adjacent gas station. We filled up, I climbed back in, started up, drove to the curb and realised, in my haste, I had forgotten to pay. The young ladies were laughing at me 🙂 Thanks heavens I realised or my first solo drive would be followed closely by the Police cars and sirens!

It was now 1pm, Lena had kindly left me her GPS and off I went, slowly and over a rather narrow bridge, holding in my breath and praying there would be no traffic. Not welcome to Paeroa but farewell!!


It was possibly the slowest trip, ever, from Paeroa to Rotorua. Had there been a cyclist on the road they would have overtaken me. Fortunately, the traffic was light and I didn’t hold anyone up, I would pull over if needed. At Waharoa, just before Matamata (home of the Hobbits), I stopped for coffee and a sandwich. I text Lena and she had stopped at the same place. Waharoa has a population of 10 (that’s not true, I just Googled and it is 400+). I also got my Lotto there, and won nothing.


Driving through the thriving metropolis of Matamata (population 7,500) I saw Hobbit buses and the Hobbit i-Centre but was not confident in parking so carried on, sobbing quietly at the missed opportunity. A borrowed photo will have to suffice . . . . .

I did see it with my own eyes though!

It rained from Matamata to Rotorua so I was pleased to know the windscreen wipers were efficient, I hadn’t thought to check. By now I was reasonably confident at knowing I was correctly positioned on the road and not once did I hit the rumble bars. Pretty good, I thought. I even managed to change the radio station and sing along with it! Going over the Mamaku Ranges was a slow process, by now the rain was persistent and visibility not good. Somewhere I saw a red car that had gone off the road and was lying sideways against a tree after going through someones fence (I read later nobody was injured). There was nowhere for me to stop and check, or I would have.


Fitzgerald Glade, not far from Rotorua

I could tell I was approaching Rotorua with the gentle smell of sulphur!!! I hadn’t travelled this road before so really, I had no idea where I was, although the GPS was giving me occasional instructions. I couldn’t get it to adhere to the window so it was lying on the passenger seat.


Then I was there, at Ngongotaha and at the Willowhaven Holiday Park. I had made it, safely.