Photos of Epping Forest.

Friday 22 April 2016, Epping Forest, London.

Ever since we got back from New Zealand and Hong Kong I have been suffering from a distinct lack of interest in actually doing anything, though if I am honest this malaise has been hanging over my head like a threatening rain cloud for a while. In the last couple of weeks I blamed the jet lag. Convenient. Yet wrong. Not that I have any other answer for it. Maybe it is just simply that I got lazy! I have had a couple of attempts at the gym since we got back and didn’t enjoy either of them, I feel unfit and slow, and at times a little miserable about it all.

Yesterday I read a post by Paul, a guy I follow on WordPress, about how getting outdoors and doing some exercise can make you feel a whole lot better. I know this, in fact I have known this for a long time, yet still I was doing very little about it. It is a great read, so check it out and it did make me determined to get up early this morning, get back to Epping Forest, take my camera and go for a good walk.

Then…… This morning. I had a poor sleep, again, second really bad night in a row. I was awake when El got up for work, and I planned on getting up and out the door before mid-morning. Once El had left, the malaise hit me again and all of a sudden I was planning on a day of reading and wasting time surfing the internet – doing anything but what I really needed to do. Shift my butt – and my head.

I was on my second cup of coffee, still in bed, reading Kiwi Trail Runner magazine when I came across another article about exercise and a healthy mind. This time I did make it out of bed. I am glad I did!

I took the bus to Chingford Station on the edge of Epping Forest. I had been thinking of walking home from Chingford using all the linked sections of forest that I use on mountain bike rides, but on the bus I changed my mind and decided to head into the forest and wander vacantly instead. Getting lost would be OK, it is not a vast forest and I sort of know my way about.

I started off walking up one of the many preformed paths, following a man walking a couple of small dogs at a much faster pace than I planned on mustering today.


I am trying to slow down a bit, I have always been a fast walker, and since being in London, I have got faster and more ‘aggressive’ in my walking, I have a rush hour head on all the time. I want to teach myself to relax, care more about the journey than the arriving. I think I did OK today. I noticed the smells of the forest, as soon as I was under the tree cover; the earthy smell of mould and rotting tree fall permeated the air, a healthy natural smell, not unpleasant. Just there and it felt good noticing it. Taking the time to listen and smell and really see was something I need do to more often.


I finally reached the end of the path I was on and had a few choices of dirt single track to chose. I wanted to try and find a silver birch grove I have passed through on my rides, which had become a favourite part of the forest. I have not ridden here all year – part of my slackness. I was blaming the mud – but I rode last winter. I was sort of scoping out the mud today with a near future ride in mind. There was a lot less mud than winter, but still plenty about.


Carrying on in what was the general direction of where I thought I wanted to go, I saw loads of trees I wanted to take photos of. I am a bit of obsessed with trees and forests at the moment, a very long moment I guess. At the start of the walk I was looking for something different to take photos of, there is a lot of tree fall in the forest, short roots and light soil leave them exposed to the dangers from a high wind.



With spring well under way, there is a lot green about, fresh buds mixing with old winter growth. There is not a huge amount of colour around, but seeing the trees starting to embrace the spring and lead us towards summer is such a good thing.


The other thing I was looking to take some photos of was the small stream that runs through this section of the forest, it was my target for when I headed back towards the station. I like the way it twists and turns every few metres. Next time I hit the forest I will walk the stream from one edge to the other.


More by good fortune than good planning I found the area I was looking for, a gentle hill that heads up in the direction of High Beach. I love this grafittied (I think) beach tree. Some of the dates stretch back a few decades.


This part of the forest is just stunning, and that was before I hit the silver birch section. It is a time of the year I really like in the forest, just as the leaves are starting to reappear on the trees, there is more light, softer more delicate colour and the shapes made by the branches and trunks are still visible.


And then I went a bit camera mad. One of the wise decisions I made when I packed a bag last night, and I did think twice about this, was to bring a tripod. I brought a lighter weight one, which I did regret as it did not cope well with the weight of the 5d. Next time I will take the big one. But the tripod allowed me to take better photos.


I spent quite a long time wandering aimlessly around the silver birch grove. The great thing about Epping is it is so small you just cannot get seriously lost. I didn’t bother with trails up here, just moved between the trees to the next location that took my fancy. I found a nice open space at the top of the low rise, where I stopped for a drink of water, a snack and a sit down on a pile of dead trees.



There was another lovely little grove of silver birches on my way back towards the station; I really do love these trees and just could not help myself and took a few more photos.



I must admit to getting a bit mis-placed on my way back, thinking I was in one place and then finding out I was somewhere else, just like I do on my bike rides. I saw a couple of small deer in this section, I was not quick enough to get a photo, but it was pleasing to see them, maybe one day I will come back with a bigger lens and do a bit of deer stalking.


I eventually found the stream again, so I walked along it for a while, taking photos here and there. These little bridges are pretty cool, I am assuming for mountain bikers to cross the small streams. I just like the fact they are there and there is no path leading to or away from them.


Soon enough I was on one of the fixed paths heading back towards the station. Except I wasn’t, I was on a path heading away from the station… Not terribly away, not 180 degrees, now that would have been embarrassing! Once I worked out where I was it was a fairly short hike back to where I started.


I was out for 3 ½ hours. 3 ½ hours of relative peace – you can hear the road from many places in the forest, but fresh air, lovely trees and semi-solitude. It was what the soul needed and I felt so much better than I did when I woke up this morning and almost did not go out.

I have now bought a book on English trees, it is about time I could name more than just an oak tree.

In other news – let’s drift back in time a bit to last week. I quit my job. I don’t have another one to go to, but I have a three month notice period, which just made looking for another job seem impossible. I have taken the risk and hopefully it will pay off!

P.S A question a few days after posting.

I have just looked at this post on a different computer from the one I edited the photos on. The photos on that computer were, in my opinion, a bit too bright and almost over-exposed. Do you see over-bright photos or over-dark photos ? I am interested to know so I can make sure I edit on the right computer!  Please let me know.

Spectres @ The Waiting Room, Stoke Newington.

April 20 2016, London.

Bristol band Spectres’ debut LP ‘Dying’ made it through 2015 as my album of the year. There was some great music released last year, but Dying got played a lot and gets played a lot in 2016 as well. A follow-up LP is due sometime this year, and both times I have seen the band they have played new material that may or may not appear on this new LP. I will have to wait and see.

While I, and others, wait for this new album Spectres recently released a remix album of Dying called ‘Dead’. There are remixes by a couple of artists I really like, such as Stuart Braithwaite of Mogwai fame, Richard Fearless and Andy Bell from Ride. The vinyl copy arrived on the day we went to New Zealand, but I did get the download code and listened to the LP a few times while I was away. It is OK, not fabulous, there are some great remixes and some that do nothing for me at all. I do like guitar noise far more than synths and computers.

When the band announced two shows at The Waiting Room in Stoke Newington I was definitely not going to miss out so grabbed a ticket before we went away.

I wasn’t overly keen on either support band, and being incredibly fussy I arrived at the venue at what should have been half way through the set of the second support. They hadn’t even started. I watched a bit of their set before retiring to the pub upstairs for a quiet drink and a seat. If I had arrived earlier and managed to have been closer to the stage with a better view I may have stayed as they looked like they could have been a bit of fun.

I went back down to the basement venue once the support audience had cleared and got my self a spot near the stage. I was hoping to get a few decent photos so took along the Canon 5d. I should have known from the last time I saw them that they would pretty much play in the dark. Sadly my old 5d does not do really low light – unlike the newer models, though I think even those would have struggled tonight.

I grabbed this one of the bass player during the sound check. The last time there was any light even closely usable for non-flash photography.


What did make some photography possible was the use of strobes from half way through the set, though they were poorly placed on the ceiling rather than down low, I managed to time a few shots right and got some images lit up by strobes.


Even though there is not much detail, and the guitarist is blurred, I like this photo the best.


The set was loud, I mean really loud, I have been to loads of shows over the years, but this was definitely one of the loudest I have been too. I am glad I took ear plugs. I usually take them but rarely use them, for tonight’s gig, they were essential.

IMG_9841-EditThe last time I saw them the set was just played on guitar, bass and drums. With the new remix LP they mixed it up a bit playing some tracks with a bit of electronica, it worked on some and not on others. It was still interesting. A fifth member came on stage for one of the tracks,


As they came on stage so late I did not get to see the end of the set. Disappointingly I had to leave to get the train home, so missed what was probably a good finale!

It was a good, and too short a show and I liked the venue as well.


Bright City, Big Lights.

Thursday 07 April 2016 – Hong Kong.

Given we were in a seventh floor room overlooking a street full of bars and restaurants it was really quiet in the room overnight, the gentle hum of the air conditioner keeping out any residual street noise and providing a white noise hum to send us to sleep. It was another comfortable night, I don’t think we have had a bad bed once on this holiday – remarkable!

We had breakfast in the hotel, bread, eggs, cheese and coffee while we discussed what to do for the day. We decided to keep it fairly low key and headed out of the hotel aimed for the nearby Hong Kong History Museum. I took a photo of our very skinny hotel. The Perkin.


We arrived at the museum just before a large group of young school children. We had only just got started on the excellent History of Hong Kong exhibit before we were overwhelmed by a wave of short people. We let them pass us by before we carried on. They were the first of many groups of children, well behaved children I will say.


The museum was really interesting, we spent a lot longer looking at the exhibits than I would have expected. Coming from New Zealand I am quite used to seeing Chinese culture around, dragon dances and lantern shows have been a feature of Auckland life for quite some time. Not so in London where there is only a very small Chinese community, and one that is pretty non-existent where we are in the north east. El found the lanterns and dragons and costumes quite fascinating.


As usual I was fascinated by the trees – I love the roots on these young trees, not sure if they are baby banyans.


I also really liked the paper bark trees outside the museum. The bark is incredibly paper like.


It was lunch time when we hit the streets so we decided to head to the iSquare Tower and check out one of the many restaurants there for lunch. They looked a bit fancy, lots of white table cloths and very expensive menus. We found one that was not too bad, and was nicely high up on the 29th floor. I wasn’t really bothered by the menu, just wanted the view, and it was pretty good. The food was not bad either.


After lunch we took a round-about walk back to the hotel and headed up to Kowloon Park, another one of the big green areas in the middle of town. It is quite a nice park, well patronised by local workers enjoying their lunch as well as plenty of tourists enjoying a bit of solitude and green away from the hustle and bustle of the tourist and shopping areas.


One of the remarkable things I noticed in the park is that no smoking is allowed, highly unusual for Asia, and very welcome. I would like to be all PC and say I stand firmly against global corporations and the evils of companies like McDonalds, but I would be lying – well I am firmly against rampant globalisation, but I do like a cheese burger or two every now and then! We saw some people eating ice cream and decided we wanted one as well, the only ice cream stall in sight was McDonalds and the thought of a vanilla and sweet potato ice cream was too tempting, it was really nice too.


The park had some really good banyan trees to check out, the roots growing down from the branches and working their way into the ground are just quite amazing, nature at its most interesting and wonderful.


There was a water bird park, with a collection of flamingos, which I found a little bizarre.


I loved the rhinoceros hornbills in the aviary.


As the park edges up against some of the older and more residential parts of Kowloon, there are a number of residential tower blocks nearby, this block was just massive. Growing up in Auckland with a ‘quarter acre block’ – a decent size garden, I am just not sure I could really live in something like that, I definitely could not have children there. Each to our own I guess. If I was born here this would just be normal!


We left the park mid-afternoon and walked back to our hotel, which was not too far away, these two banyan trees made for a nice photo sculpture.


We had bit of a rest in the room before heading back out again, stopping for a glass of wine or two in the bar downstairs. We walked up Nathan Rd past the shopping centre and an entrance to the park we had visited in the afternoon.



We walked up through the early evening, the streets were crowded and it was nice feeling the buzz of a busy city in the evening. Not having a tripod I didn’t take many photos, and those I did were hand held.



We headed to the night market, and pretty much stumbled across it, sort of by mistake. It was vaguely interesting, as El said at the time it was like Walthamstow market, but dark. Maybe.


We were going to eat somewhere near the market, but most places were really busy, and we kept on going looking for somewhere to stop, but pretty much gave up in the end.



This place was not a food place and I did cut the first name off, but this is what we first saw when we came across it.


I have been looking for a really good example of a building covered in bamboo scaffolding, and naturally only found one in the dark, the light makes it look even more frightening.


We ended up back by the hotel without finding anywhere to eat so decided to go local and eat Mexican in the same building as the hotel. They did have the most amazing margaritas, massive. I had two Smile


That was pretty much the last act of our Hong Kong trip, and the good news is I survived unscathed, bonus!

The next morning we checked out and headed to the airport for our late morning flight. We had the world’s speediest taxi driver, luckily the roads were clear and we possibly set a record for the transit from down town Kowloon to the airport.

We were all on the plane on time, and were then advised there had been delays ‘in Chinese airspace’ and we would held on the ground for between 90 minutes and 2 hours. Joy – we already had almost 13 hours in the plane ahead of us. It was not the nicest flight, long and boring and I watched a stream of really bad movies.

It was a day time flight and as we were heading west we followed the sun all the way. There were moments when the sky below was free of cloud and the scenery was amazing, miles and miles and miles of nothingness, desert and dunes and occasionally a road blasting through. I assumed we flew over Mongolia and the Siberian steppes. I tried to take some photos on El’s camera but could not get to focus much past the dirt on the window.



We landed in London a little late and that was the end of the holiday. A good holiday!

I love this photo El took of me yesterday, my favourite holiday photo. I looked relaxed and by this stage my legs were not radioactively white.


Bright lights, Big city.

Wednesday 06 April 2016 – Hong Kong.

We had a fabulous time in New Zealand, and leaving was tough. I really enjoyed seeing my family again and with such nice weather for most of our time there, being outside in the warm sun was very pleasant as well. But things end and it was time to move on. There will be no more lovely cool pinot gris for a while.

Rather than heading directly back to London we decided to break the trip and take a couple of days in Hong Kong. El had never been there, and I had an ill-fated work trip there back in 2007. Unknown to me I had been quite ill for a while with a bacterial abscess growing in my liver. It finally hit the day I arrived in Hong Kong for a five day work trip. I spent one day in the hotel and then eight days in hospital, where they made me well enough to fly home to New Zealand. I didn’t see much of the city at all. I was hoping for much better fortune this time around !

Hospital 2007

After almost 11 hours of flying we arrived in Hong Kong first thing on Wednesday morning, the flight was OK, I dozed a little bit but would hardly say I slept. We decided to get a cab to the hotel, we had pondered getting the train, but the cab was hardly more costly, and seemed a reasonable option for brain dead passengers. As we had an overnight flight and arrived at 7:30 am I had decided to book a hotel room for the previous night so we could go straight to the room rather than having to wait till mid-afternoon. This was a wise decision, it gave us a chance to change, have a shower, a coffee or two and a wee relax before heading out for the day.

The ride in from the hotel was less painful than I expected, and the view was similar to that from the airport, a heavy low sky resting on the top of high rises. Which is not really representative of what HK looks like, it is surprisingly green and lush and hilly! The pollution at first was terrible, I am hoping it cleared rather than we got used to it as I didn’t notice it at all later in the trip. Early in the ride from the airport my throat was sore and my eyes burnt. The smoggy fog did clear and stay gone later in the day.


I had booked a hotel right in the centre of the tourist section of Kowloon, on Knutsford Terrace, a pedestrian only street full of bars and restaurants. When I booked the room I didn’t know this. I was really nervous that we were going to have noisy nights as we were only on the fifth floor. Luckily I was very wrong, and we had two great nights. I could not say the same about the view from the room though!


I do love Asian scaffolding, Bamboo is immensely strong, but I am not sure I would be standing on that deck.


It was late morning before we headed out the door, we had no real plan in mind. Stroll down towards the harbour and see what happens and what we felt like doing was as planned as we got. It was only 21 degrees, cooler than New Zealand had been, and not particularly humid either. Perfect weather for strolling.


The museum section down at the waterfront was closed for renovation, which was a shame as quite a large area of harbour side was closed as well. I really liked this building though.


Above the hoardings around the closed museum and on the far side of the harbour, loomed the magnificent International Finance Centre tower (IFC).


The view on either side of Hong Kong harbour is magnificent, tall towers and steep hills make for a great sight.



We were down by the Star Ferry building and it seemed rude to not get a ferry over the harbour from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island.



The Sky 100 tower on Kowloon is equally magnificent !


We stopped for lunch in the mall in the IFC, sadly it was only on the 2nd floor and not right up there with the big views.


From first observations, Hong Kong seems to be quite a new city, most of the buildings look to have been built in recent times, so it was quite nice to see an older and lower building deep in the shadows of the towers.


We walked through the central streets of down town Hong Kong and I have never seen so many high end brand shops, all the big names were there, more than once in some cases.


Though we didn’t catch one, there were a lot of trams on the lower, flat streets of down town Hong Kong. Vast sections of both down town Hong Kong and Kowloon are reclaimed land, and there is still a huge amount of work reclaiming more land from the sea. I heard that the IFC tower has foundations 44 metres deep!


We walked past the headquarters of HSBC and the Bank of China, both with their theme on the lion.



The French mission building really stood out as we started to wind our way up the lower foothills, as did St John’s Cathedral behind it.



We were looking for the Peak Tram, a funicular that went from the lower foothills up to the top of Victoria Peak. Built in 1888 it has been ferrying tourists up a very steep incline to the peak. It is quite a piece of engineering and is larger and steeper than I imagined. It is also very popular and we were lucky on our ride up to not have to wait long at all. There were much bigger queues going up when we got back down again.



There is a further climb up a series of escalators once we were off the funicular, though the view out of the window was a taste of what we would see from the top.


There was a southern US shrimp restaurant at the top, bizarre. We are in Hong Kong, not Louisiana. It even sold Forrest Gump souvenirs.


The view from the Peak is amazing, we had an OK day, we could at least see some distance, and we could see all of HK and over to Kowloon. I took a lot of photos, living in a large but low rise city, I love all these big towers, not so sure I would like to live in the middle of them.







We were up the top for a while, and had a bit of a walk around before heading down. The viewing platform is a rather odd shaped building.




With no sleep last night and being quite a walk from the hotel we decided to catch the funicular back down again rather than walk. Back down at almost sea level we walked through a small park towards the main shopping area. There are a few little parks around, for all its masses and height it is quite a green place, pleasant in parts.


Back down at the harbour side we caught one of the old Star Ferries back over to Kowloon.




That tower is really big!


It was a 20 minute walk back up to the hotel.


After a brief rest we decided to head to the bar downstairs at street level and have a couple of drinks before heading back out again, purely for hydration of course.


We decided to do a harbour tour tonight, there is a light show at 8:00pm every night over the harbour, with a lot of the building owners on either side lighting up their buildings or shining lasers into the sky, the photos we saw before hand made it look very spectacular, and a trip on a harbour is always a good thing. The walk back down again was more interesting at night, there is a lot of neon here.



I really liked this guy’s variation of ‘guy floating in the air’ – especially dressed as a monk in front of a giant CK advert…


The light show was a bit of a flop really, very unexciting. I am going to blame the clouds that swept in over the harbour, obscuring some of the lights, and rendering the lazers pretty much useless. It was hard to see what, if anything was going on. I did take a load of photos though, a lot were deleted as these were all hand held.








The show was a bit too long, and surprisingly it got quite cold, something I really did not expect. I was not dressed for coldness and got a bit shivery on the boat. I was glad to get off and walk back up to the hotel. We didn’t fancy anything big for dinner so grabbed some bread and cheese from an M and S on our street (it is so British here).  We retired to our room to eat and drink a glass of wine sitting on our bed watching a Japanese football team play a Chinese team in the Asia Cup.

It was a long old day, but really good and neither of us ended up in hospital.

A trip to the zoo, a final day with Mason.

Tuesday 05 April 2016 – Auckland, New Zealand.

Last day in New Zealand – it has all gone so fast, 12 days is such a short time. Even though it is our last day I was looking forward to it as we were going to take Mason to the zoo. I love the zoo. Auckland Zoo do this cool thing where you can buy an annual pass for a named child and get a free un-named pass for an adult to go with it. This means any adult can take the child to the zoo for free. I think it is a wonderful scheme.

El and I did a fair amount of packing and organising before we left for the zoo with mum, we picked up my grandson Mason on the way and arrived at the zoo late morning. It was a glorious day, it will be good to leave Auckland on a good weather day – means the flight departure will not be too bad either !

The kids pass seemed to be well liked as there were loads of mums with prams making use of the lovely day. Mason seemed intrigued by what was going on.


There was not a lot to see for the first hour we were at the zoo, it was a warm day and the midday sun seemed to force a lot of the animals into wisely slumbering in the shade. Mason was sort of interested in what was going on, but there was not a whole lot of it. The zoo has had a real make-over over the past couple of decades, no longer do you see listless animals pacing in small boxes, there are far less animals but in much bigger and more appropriate enclosures. We did stop for a look at the lemurs.


I wanted to visit the Kiwi House, so I could show El what the kiwi bird looks like. They are nocturnal creatures, small, brown, flightless and defenceless. They are an endangered species, but I do not think they are on an immediate concern list. We did see a couple walking around behind their glass shields, though it was very dark, and impossible to take photos in.

We stopped outside so Mason could have a drink and a snack, he only stayed in his stroller for a few minutes and had been walking around for a while. He only has little legs. He also has a very cheeky grin.


After looking at the elephants we stopped for an ice cream, and in my case a much needed coffee. Mason and mum seemed to be very happy with their ice cream.


After watching some other kids playing, Mason wanted to go and walk around in the little fountain, so like a true kiwi kid, it was shoes off for a splash.


Mason finally found his happy place in the zoo, not with any of the animals, he found a bike. Mason loves bikes, cars and trucks, and these are some of the few words he has. He was very happy to be able to sit on the old scooter on display in the African section.



Then joy of joys, there was another bike!


The highlight for Mason, and for us watching him, was a small looped tunnel that led to a viewing window in the middle of the meerkat enclosure. He spent quite a bit of time running in and out of the tunnels with two other children his height – just short enough to stand up. It took us a while to tear him, and the other kids away, it was great listening to them laughing out of sight in the tunnel.



He also quite liked the meerkats, as did I.


That was pretty much the end of our loop of the zoo, a couple of hours had disappeared really quickly. Mason was knackered (I know how he felt) and he was asleep in the car before we even left the car park.


We dropped him off at home, and I got to have one last cuddle before he went inside. I won’t see him again for a while, hopefully I will be back in New Zealand before the end of year.

In the evening we had dinner with Mum, my sister, Mel and Dickie and Aiden in a Sri Lankan restaurant not far from Mel’s place. It was great to have kotu roti again, the food was excellent, and very good value. After dinner we said goodbye to Aiden, mum and my sister and Mel and Dickie took us to the airport for our flight to Hong Kong at midnight.

And that was it. Our time in New Zealand was over, all too soon once again. We had a really good time, we both enjoyed our road trip up north, and it was fabulous seeing family and friends again. It was especially good to be able to spend some time with Mason and take a few photos that will come back to London with me. El liked Auckland a lot more than she did last time, so the possibility of buying a property there is on the ‘maybe, one day’ list. We will have to see.

Thanks to mum and my sister for letting us stay, for looking after us. Mel, Aiden, Dickie, it was great seeing you and Mason again.  Love you all and looking forward to seeing you on Skype and hopefully in the flesh November(ish). xx

Visiting and old friend with an old friend.

Monday 04 April 2016 – Auckland, New Zealand.

Like most bloggers I also follow and read a few other WordPress blogs and sporadically randomly read a few others. I like to see what is out there, what other people are seeing and doing and maybe get ideas about writing and photography for my own use. I recently read a post by a youngish guy, I think he was English, who had just left Auckland. He was moaning about how boring, expensive and unfriendly he thought New Zealand and specifically Auckland was. In between his moaning he described what he did in Auckland. Pretty much nothing, he never left the city. No wonder he was bored.

I, on the other hand, always get out of the city, and today was going to be one of those out of the city days. I had yet to see my good friend Vicki on this trip, there just hadn’t been time so far to fit enough time in, but I had kept a day up my sleeve just in case. Vicki and I usually catch up over a walk or a run somewhere in the hills, as I did not have a huge amount of time we decided to keep it semi-local and go to one of my favourite places in the whole world – Karekare Beach.

Karekare is on Auckland’s west coast, it has no shops, few houses and a toilet block was only built there in the last few years. It feels remote, yet it is under an hour from the centre of the city, less if there is no traffic on the very winding road. It is a magical place and I have been here to run, walk, swim and photograph many many times.

There was not going to be much running today, I am woefully unfit and Vicki is very very fit and would leave me for dead on the trails, but we had lots of gossiping to do so a good walk was definitely in order. We started walking along the black sand beach – following where we could find them, the trail markers for the Hillary Trail.


I have mentioned the Hillary in previous posts, it was created in honour of Sir Edmund Hillary, and is 75kms of interlinked trail traversing the Waitakere Ranges from South to North (or Vice Versa). When it was first created it was a rugged and gnarly walk using old hiking trails. Over the last few years, it is slowly being ‘dumbed down’ and made easier and safer – though it was never dangerous. This is to cater more for the walking tourist who may not necessarily want to get their boots dirty, well that is how it seems to me. This section along the beach did not exist when I left the country, the trail was back in the hills then.


Back in the old kauri logging days there used to be a train line running along this section of the coast, ferrying the great logs to Whatipu where ships used to take them into Auckland, the train line is long gone, but the old tunnel at Tunnel Point still remains, as does a rusting hulk of a cylinder.


I stopped to take a few photos of the small lake that has long been here, stuck between the sand dunes and the cliff face, over a rainy winter this whole area can flood as the water comes down from the hills and finds nowhere else to go.




One of the things I really love about New Zealand is, apart from some people, there is nothing dangerous, too bitey or poisonous living here. Wading barefoot and legged through a swampy flooded lake might not feel good on the feet, but at least no animal is going to try and kill you. Being the end of summer, there was no flood, and no need to wade barefoot through anything at all. The only life we saw were a couple of black swans.


We turned inland past the lake and headed up the start of the Pararaha Valley. The first hundred yards or so cuts through reed beds and the track is a low boardwalk. Designed to allow 365 day access to the area, though I have walked up here before when the boardwalk has been submerged as well.


And then it was UP ! Buck Taylor was always one of my least favourite tracks on a long run or walk, it is steep ! But the view back down over the entrance to the valley is always worth it.


I was surprised by how much mud there was when we got to the ridge line at the top, there wasn’t huge amounts, but I was surprised to find any at all, given that it is the end of summer. It was good to see the tracks here are still proper hiking tracks with mud and roots uneven steps. Just how I like it.


We followed Zion Ridge Track, it is pretty flat and a real joy to run on, the bush up here is really nice too, with lots of manuka, kauri and puriri trees leaving layers of crunchy leaves on the trail.


We came across this big old puriri tree, slowly being taken over by the vine like rata. It is a massive tree, ancient and twisted. Lovely.


Very soon we were on the cliff top overlooking Karekare Beach where we started. Looking back down the beach towards Pararaha Valley.


Karekare Beach.



Now you can see why this is one of my favourite places ! Beach, surf, hills, mud, trees, wilderness. What is there not to love about Karekare.

It was a great couple of hours out and about, Vicki is good company, a not too old friend, but one of my best friends and it was great to catch up. Vicki is the editor of Kiwi Trail Runner magazine and is very enthusiastic about anything trail and trail running. She gave me a couple of issues of the mag to take home with me as I was not quite up to date !!

She also stores my trail shoes at her house, to save me carting them back and forth from England. Now that is a true friend !


The end of the road–trip.

Sunday 03 April 2016 – Auckland, New Zealand.

Wow, our little road trip is over today, and we only have two more days in New Zealand before we head back towards London. We have a couple of days in Hong Kong to break the journey, which is a relief as the jet lag has hit me big time. Man, this trip has gone by so fast.

The sky was refreshingly gentle this morning, there is still cloud about, but it is not as dark and broody as yesterday. The view from the deck of the bach is down over Goat Island, our only destination of interest for the day, before we head back into Auckland.


After breakfast and a quick tidy and clean of the bach, the four of us headed down to Goat Island. The island is in a small marine reserve which was established, I think, in the 1970s. As a reserve there is no fishing or shell fish gathering allowed so there are literally hundreds of fish and other types of marine life.

It appears that fish are less stupid than you would think, around Goat Island there are big old snapper, rays, moki, mau mau – all sorts of species that make coastal north island their habitat. We used to do a lot of snorkelling here in the early 1980s, and you could and still can hand feed the greedy snapper. Go around the corner to Mathesons Bay and you will see no fish at all. All the fish came here Smile

I see that feeding the fish is no longer encouraged!


El and I were not going to go snorkelling, just a walk around, though Mel and Dickie ventured in for a look around after we had left.

The tide was quite low so we got to walk out a way on to the rocks so we could peer over the edge to look for fish, the water was quite clear but we didn’t see anything apart from a few tiddlers in the rock pools.


 It is a nice beach, with some really cool gnarly old pohutakawa trees.




It was soon time for El and I to farewell Mel and Dickie and head back to Auckland.


We stopped in Matakana again, just for a quick for coffee, in a very crowded Sunday brunch type cafe before taking the hour long drive back to mum’s place.

Road trip over. It was good!

If it’s yellow, let it mellow.

Saturday 02 April 2016, Northland New Zealand.

The morning broke open with a better sky than it closed with last night, solidly grey but not raining at least. Today we return to the car and continue our journey south. Not a long day driving again, we are spending a night in Leigh, an hour north of Auckland. We were not in any rush.

We took in the view from the front of the B and B as we were packing the car, I love the way the mist is curling up out of the hills, feeding that big wet blanket looming above them. Perhaps that rain might come back?


We left just before 10:00 and I made my first stop not far out of town, my last Northland church on this trip. The church at Taumarere was originally built in Paihia in 1874 and was barged here in 1926. It does not look like it is used overly much anymore. I was trying to get a photo with the mist and low brooding hills as a backdrop, but there was not enough space on the narrow strip of land surrounding the church.


Our first stop was in Kawakawa at the famous HunterWasser toilets. I had been looking for these a couple of days when we passed through Kaitia on our way up the country as I was sure they were in that town. I was really pleased to find I was wrong and we got see them today. I have heard about them before but never seen them in the flesh. Friedensreich Hundertwasser was an Austrian architect and artist who migrated to New Zealand in 1975, he passed away in 2000. He has designed buildings all over the world and I always thought it bizarre he built a public toilet in northern New Zealand. They are a shining light in an otherwise unspectacular rural NZ town. And they are free to use !




Whangerei Falls was a fairly regular stop on any northern journey, though the car park and facilities have improved since I was last there, there are some facilities at least. The falls sit in a residential area and the size of them really come as a surprise to the newcomer. At 26 metres high they are bigger than you would have thought.


There is a nice circular path from the top to the base and back up again to the car park. They were a really enjoyable diversion on our travels south.





There was a huge amount of spray coming off the falls, I took a quick snap before heading back into the trees.




We were meeting my daughter and her B/F on the way back south. We had agreed to meet in Matakana but sadly ended up being forced to meet at the Brick Bay Winery Smile The pinot gris was really really nice and I was gutted to be driving. Even though it is sunny in this picture, a very heavy shower passed over soon after, and heavy showers passed over for the rest of the day, we got damp a couple of times. Me thinking ‘I wish I was not driving!’


After a soothing glass and a shared cheese board we headed off to nearby Snells Beach for a walk. It has been a popular Auckland holiday destination for many years, but I was shocked at how big and built up it had become since I was last here.

The beach is still lovely, and this photo of my daughter Mel and her B/F, Dickie is one of my favourites of the whole trip, the light was just perfect for those few minutes.


As you could tell by those clouds, we did not get to stay for much longer and they were soon on top of us, and they dumped a fair amount of rain in a very short time. Though it did not seem to bother these two old blokes netting for their tea.


We stopped in Matakana on the way out to Leigh to pick up some provisions, cheese, crackers etc for a pre-evening drink. El really liked Nosh, the deli we shopped in, and Matakana in general.

I had rented a bach for the four us to stay in. The original plan was my son Aiden, and grandson Mason would join us as well. However, Aiden had tickets to a music festival in Wellington and had stuffed up dates for the weekend… A bach is basically a beach home, they used to be small and full of shabby furniture, mismatched crockery and cutlery, piles of board games and a BBQ outside. Seems these days that most cost more than a million dollars and are palaces for the rich. NZ is changing like the rest of the world.  Though, our bach, in the village of Leigh, is a proper bach bach, we loved it.


Brown Fibrolite is classic New Zealand bach building material, it made me nostalgic for times old.


I was really pleased that I had picked such a good place to stay, Leigh itself is a little bit inland and does not have the spectacular sandy beaches some of the other places on this stretch of coast have but this place made up for any of that. El really liked it though she was not so impressed with the loo poetry.


The other reason for selecting this place was it was walking distance of Leigh Sawmill Cafe, where we went for dinner – and a couple of bottles of, you guessed it, pinot gris.

Kicking about in and around Paihia.

Friday 01 April 2016 – Northland, New Zealand.

Wanting to stay away from the main tourist hubbub of ‘downtown’ Paihia, I booked El and I a room in a small B and B in Haruru Falls, a couple of kilometres inland. The room was very comfortable, (it had the nicest chairs ever !) had nice views and good wifi. Perfect for a down day on our small road trip, and a welcome opportunity for me to not be driving all the time. El does not have a drivers licence so we could not share the driving. We had expected that the day was not going to break like yesterday with a great sunrise followed by clear a clear sky, so we were not surprised to look at the window at a grey old view. It is still a damn good view!


After a very nice breakfast in the B and B we headed out to see Haruru Falls, and maybe get a short walk in before the forecasted downpours arrived. In the very early 80s friends and I hitch hiked up here from Auckland over a couple of summers for the new year celebrations in nearby Russell, we used to stay in the campground near the falls and it was pleasing to see the old campground is still there, looking a bit run down mind.

We were lucky in that there had been a little bit of rain over the past few days as this meant there was some water passing over the falls.



We spent a bit of time around the top of the falls, I was waiting to grab a photo without other viewers, something I always try to do. We didn’t have to wait too long mind.


The rain that was due to come had not materialised so we decided to do a short walk along the path to Waitangi. I had originally planned that with good weather we could do the full three hour return walk, but with heavy rain forecast we decided against it. We did get down to the water edge and through a small section of mangroves, before turning back as rain drops started to fall. Naturally the rain stopped before we got back to the car.


The walk we did was nice enough, we got to stretch our legs a bit and saw some interesting flora along the way. This is a very unusual and spiky plant, it looks quite n nice, but it is wild ginger and is an imported noxious pest and one of the most invasive weeds in the world. I have never seen it flowering before and was not sure what it was until I looked it up.


The owner of our guest house told us to visit Mt Bledisloe; at a mighty 105 metres high it is hardly a mountain, not even higher than the hill next to it. It does have a big view over Paihia, Waitangi, over to the Hen and Chicken Islands and up and down the coast. On a clear day I am sure it is spectacular. I liked the useful sign at the start of the track.


Bledisloe was the governor general of New Zealand and presented this ceramic plaque on the top of the hill to the nation in 1934. The plaque was made by 11278 miles away in London by Doulton and is fabulous.



We drove down to Waitangi to have a look at the treaty grounds. The Treaty of Waitangi is the founding document of New Zealand and is (in theory) the guiding principle by which the government make and change law. It was signed in 1840 as a treaty between the British Crown and a group of north island Maori chiefs and was the document that made NZ a part of the commonwealth.

The treaty grounds are now part of a large new museum which now attracts an entry fee of $40 each, which is far too expensive for us. I was really unhappy that all the museums we wanted to visit had what we considered an exorbitant entry fee. Maybe we are just too used to free museums in London, or low cost museums elsewhere. I was particularly disappointed by the fee here as this location and its history is fundamental to New Zealand’s history and should be made as widely and freely available as possible.

Carrying on to Paihia we stopped near the very cool ‘wee’ public toilet.


We had a bit of a walk around, and stopped for coffee and a cake, but as a tourist centre there is not a heck of a lot in Paihia itself. Especially on such a grey day.


There is a a lot to do and see nearby, but apart from eating, drinking and sleeping Paihia holds limited attraction. So we drove up to nearby Kerikeri instead.

Like Cape Reinga I do not recall ever having seen the Stone Store since I was a child. It is one of the classic north island tourist locations, but I just never had cause to go there as an adult. Showing El around was a good excuse to check it out.

The Kerikeri mission station was founded in 1819 and was the first European settlement to be built under the blessing and protection of local Maori chiefs. It was part harbour, part safe haven and part mission site.


The stone store is New Zealand’s oldest stone building. It was built in 1832. Living in the UK, I do find the fact that it is so new, but still the oldest stone building, quite laughable, but in a cute and loving way!.


I recall the church at Bonchurch on the Isle of Wight that was REBUILT in 1070, and it is so insignificant that hardly anyone has even heard of it, ‘old’ is very subjective.


Kemp House (or the Mission House) is the neighbour of the stone store and is New Zealand’s oldest building, it was completed in 1822.


One of the things I find amusing in an angry ironic way, is that the early European settlers decided to bring little bits of home to New Zealand, the church at the mission station has a lovely old English oak tree growing next to it.


While the oak is fine, what the settlers also brought with them were pests; rabbits, deer, possums, rats and mice. These animals have devastated the New Zealand countryside, destroying native vegetation, birds, insects and reptiles. With very few exceptions, New Zealand had no land based mammals prior to European visitors. The early Maori bought pigs with them from Asia, and prior to that there were only bats and sea based mammals. The native birds and insects had no chance.

I loved these epiphytes growing on the branches in this tree, I have seen these on a few occasions before, there is small one in my sisters garden, but I have not seen one this massive, or close to the ground. An epiphyte is a plant that grows on another plant without harming it.


On the way back to Haruru Falls we stopped in the Cottle Bay Winery for a small tasting, I was driving so needed to be very careful. They made a really unusual walnut liqueur which was really nice, so we ended up buying a bottle of that and a white port to take back to London, as well as a bottle of wine to drink later on.

I ended up driving a lot more than I wanted to today, but the weather sort of dictated what e could do, but it was good to get too a few places I haven’t seen, as well as show El some more of my lovely adopted homeland!


Cape Reinga

Thursday 31 March 2016 – Northland, New Zealand.

After a really nice evening, we slept well and were up early. We had quite a big day ahead, with five or six hours driving to get up to the top of the country and back down again, but to Paihia on the east coast. El was up to watch a great sunrise, but slack bugger that I am I missed it entirely. I am not much of a photographer! I did catch the glow just before the sun fully popped up over the horizon.



After an unspectacular breakfast (I still ate like a pig) we checked out and were on the road early. I had planned on catching the car ferry from Rawene, but foolishly did not check a timetable before we left and arrived with a 45 minute wait for the ferry. I took a photo of the great old church at Rawene.


With another half an hour to go we checked out the local coffee shop and sat out on the deck in the sun, gazing over the harbour and enjoyed a very nice flat white.


The car ferry is small, it is only a 15 minute journey, and there were only eight cars on it, still more than I expected for a mid-week morning.


I took a photo of the route planner that was outside the car window on the ferry. We drove up from the bottom of the map to the top, up the right hand side and down the left. Luckily there are not too many road choices !


The small town of Rawene.


Another church, stupidly I forgot to note the name of the church, and even more stupidly I cut the top of the spire off. Doh!


The drive up to the cape is very pretty, wild and remote, and fairly deserted on the road as well. We decided to not take the beach route (and the rental car terms forbid it anyway) and with so much driving already planned we did not take any detours either. We could have gone to 90 mile beach for a look. Next time.


The road to the cape is excellent, it was unsealed not that long ago, pleased to see some of the petrol tax dollars I paid in NZ put to some good use.


We arrived at Cape Rienga early in the afternoon, the car park was about half full, which was a relief, I was half expecting a load of tour buses, but it was pretty quiet. The walk to the tip and the lighthouse takes about 20 minutes. I was a little bit excited as I had very much been looking forward to coming here, and showing El some of my adopted homeland.



Soon we were there, at the cape.


where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean at the very end of New Zealand.


Only 18029km back to London!



We were a little snackish as we set off back southward. I had been big-upping the fish and chip shop at Mangonui on Doubtless Bay on the way, so we stopped there for a very late lunch. We were not impressed, service was a bit confusing and not particularly friendly and the small fish and chips were nice, but massively overpriced. I was disappointed to be honest. It is not on my recommended list any more, sadly.  We had such a good eating and drinking experience in New Zealand, shame to have a couple of places bring it down a bit.

After the break we carried on driving down to Haruru Falls, just outside Paihia where I had booked a room in a B and B for two nights. I was glad to get there, after six hours in the car, albeit with lots of breaks, it was nice to not have to get back in and drive again.

Though we had to in the end, there are no restaurants in Haruru Falls, so I had to drive into town for dinner. We did have an amazing Thai at Amazing Thai.

It was another good day.