Today it is a beautiful sunny day and I am sitting in my camp chair looking out over the Southern Alps behind Kaikoura – whoa, it is just so lovely here. We are house and dog sitting for our friends Dave and Lynn at SurfWatch accommodation because they needed a holiday. We have offered to do this for 14 years and finally we got the call, mainly because Caspar gets on so well with their older dog Leila. On our first morning I got up early to write but was too distracted outside with the camera – I couldn’t work out if I should be looking out the front at the sunrise, or out the back at the moon and the pink clouds over the snow-capped mountains – so hard being me today, I thought.

We dropped into Zion Motorhomes in Pokeno. Wow, this is a huge new site for the business. Final set up was happening, the big vehicles being driven into the indoor showroom

It will be good to relax for a few days after this issue goes to print tomorrow. We have been going hard all over the country in our RocknRobyn, with Caspar in tow for most of it, except for our weekend in Christchurch checking out the July NZMCA Motorhome, Caravan and Leisure show at the Horncastle Arena. That too was a picture-perfect weekend; in fact it was so warm I stripped off layer upon layer of merino clothing as the Saturday went on. Our little Scottish buddy Rona heard we were on the Mainland so she drove up to stay for a night as well.

Jonas Ng from Zion Motorhomes, very happy to see the big Frankia, Morello and Nieshman+Bischoff motorhomes being driven into the showroom

It was a successful show that was well attended by visitors, and well supported by exhibitors. I have popped the full show report from the organisers in the latest RV Lifestyle Express newsletter. There were a lot of new models to see. Some of those that took the eye are reviewed in these pages.

We had a great week in Waiwera – Caspar couldn’t have been happier

Once home again it was time to pack the motorhome to head north, destination Waiwera, north of Orewa, where we were booked to stay at a friend’s place on the beach front. We had stopped in there a few weeks earlier and were hooked by the fabulous spot, complete with a private hot pool that could be filled twice a day with thermal water – admittedly at 48 degrees so we needed it to cool down for a few hours before inching in, or have one at night then again in the morning, then empty it. So we put our hands up to dog sit two dogs and a bach – the time was nigh.

View from the lookout on the Paekakariki Hill – the road wriggles down the hill to the village below

When we left home I drove Rosie (our little motorhome) over the hill and dropped her off at Marty’s Panel and Paint in Levin where she was booked in for an exterior repair and tart up. Bruce followed in RnR with Caspar and we then headed north.

The car in the foyer was hot hot hot, and all the vegans drooled

On the way we stopped in and visited RV industry people to say hi, and stopped in at Pokeno to check out the new premises of Zion Motorhomes. We arrived just in time to get a tour of the 4000 square metre property. The showroom for the premium Frankia, Morelo, Niesmann+Bischoff models is huge – such a luxury to have so many vehicles inside for viewing. I think it must be the largest showroom in the country.

Yes I think my face looked like the woman on the left – eew

Then followed a visit to the gorgeous wee Charlotte in Pukekohe before heading on to Waiwera.
I wonder what is going on at Waiwera Resort and Spa? It is closed, and has been closed since the beginning of the year, supposedly for major refurbishment. Plans were submitted to Council last year but it certainly doesn’t look like anything is going on at the site now. The resort is owned by Russian billionaire Mikhail Khimich as part of his Waiwera Group business, which also owns most of Waiwera Water NZ – they are right there in Waiwera village drawing water out of the ground for bottling and selling domestically and overseas.

Marty, a great guy to work with, and we trust his workmanship on our vehicles. We have plenty of local panelbeaters in the Wairarapa, but experience has taught us Marty’s is worth the drive to his place

Waiwera has been bottling water and sending it around the world since 1857 when it was sold as ‘the elixir to life’ – it is so good. The South Pacific’s largest geothermal aquifer lies 1.5km beneath this Waiwera Valley. Back in 1845 a Scotsman named Robert Graham bought the land and built the hotel and resort, and there has been a thermal hot pool resort and water bottling plant here (apparently the water is 15,000 years old) ever since.

Bruce visited the Blenheim Riverside Railway park with John Stitchbury. John proudly showed Bruce the 1901 locomotive named Donald that fellow Railway Society members Gary Coburn and Arthur Beaman and himself worked on to restore it to this condition. This area has vintage cars and trains, a model railway that locals are heavily involved in, and families enjoy enormously, a must-visit spot in Blenheim

The talk around town is that Mr Khimich has immigration issues, which would hardly make sense if he was allowed to buy the business and properties in the first place, as a foreigner I mean. You would think that a place like Waiwera that has operated since the 1850s would have some sort of historical protection. The place is certainly run down, but I’m not sure I believe the ‘closed for refurbishment’ story. It would be tragic if it was lost completely, not only for the people of Auckland and Northland but also for the thousands of tourists who visit the area. It annoyed me for the other local businesses. The little pub is suffering terribly with few visitors to the village, aside from the odd motorhome that rolls in, parks up, then beggars off.

Rosie – just picked up from Marty’s Panel and Paint and looking gorgeous – all those scrapes, dings and dodgy steps are gone, new rubbers in the windows all round, new vents in the roof, this little lady is looking pretty slick

A week with two extra dogs was fun for Caspar, though having them sleep in the bed with us took us all by surprise. Caspar usually sleeps at the end of the bed and comes for a cuddle when we all wake up. These other two like to snuggle up in the bed, around tummy or legs area – and it wasn’t optional. Their mum and dad laughed when I said we would sleep in the other room and leave the bed for the dogs – “they will follow you anyway and jump in”. Just as well they were little dogs, sandy but little.

Waiting with anticipation to load onto the InterIslander, even Caspar knows where we are

As soon as they landed back in Auckland, it was home again for us to get some work done on NZTODAY magazine. The next big event in the diary that the Rock was hanging out for was – you wouldn’t pick it – a Vegan Expo being held at the Southward Car Museum in Paraparaumu. We drove the car over Paekakariki Hill instead of State Highway One. Oh boy, that is one I don’t want to do in the motorhome, but wow the view is amazing. Some of you that have met the Rock will be thinking, ‘What? – vegan, that man eats meat all day long!’ Well he did, but a year ago he gave it up and put his thick skull into being vegan, and what a battle that has been. Trying to get decent vegan food in restaurants is hard work; you would think you were asking for something difficult. If you’re wondering about me, I am a flexi-tarian; I am flexible enough to eat whatever I want – lol. Anyway the expo was popular, packed with more people than they expected. Some aspects of the event could have been better, but it was a start at least. There are expos planned for Auckland and Christchurch if you’re keen.

Whoa – now I don’t know what to look at, the moon over the mountains behind me, or the sunrise in front over the sea

Home for a few days, then we packed the motorhome again for a trip south. We had the Interislander ferry booked for Sunday, so drove over to Levin on Saturday to pick up Rosie. OMG what a little honey she is now. I loved her from the start but getting her entire exterior fixed up was worth it, though the bank account might not agree. The damaged passenger side was opened up, dried out, re-fibreglassed, body repairs done, the luton repaired, old air conditioning unit removed and a new fan vent installed. The step turned out to be rotten underneath so it was taken out, new steel supports put in, new stairwell made, new step put under and now she is all tickety-boo. We had the chassis checked for rust but no work was needed. The wheels even got a bit of a freshen up. Can’t wait to do the squabs inside for really comfy sleeping and so we can head away for a night or two to really test her out. Might use the squabs from RnR so we can do that – a comfy sleep is vital for us.

Arriving at Surf Watch, 6km north of Kaikoura, our home for the next week or so

Back home to pick up Caspar and then off to the South Island. A quick stopover in Blenheim when we arrived, to see Jo and John Stitchbury, then down to Kaikoura to learn the ropes to feed the llamas, goats, chickens and dog, so Dave and Lynn could escape.

We plan on exploring Kaikoura hills while we are here. We’ll look into the new cycleway being built along the new coastal road and probably head over to the West Coast for a night or two before getting back home on the 8th – just in time for some work on NZTODAY before packing the van and heading to Mystery Creek for the NZMCA Motorhome, Caravan and Leisure Show over September 21–23. Come and see us on Stand 52 inside the building, Caspar is allowed to be on the stand this year, so no dog sitters needed this time. He is so excited.

This issue is a biggie – you will notice the weight when you sit down to read it. Lots of information from show exhibitors and the RV industry in general. With the dollar dropping, the prices of imported models could be on the move, so buying something that is here now could save you quite a bit of money if you’re in the market. Just saying.