July saw us heading off to Tauranga to catch up with RV industry players again, checking out the fabulous Cougar fifth-wheeler as featured later in these pages. Unfortunately rain followed us, so our trip was a short one. Tauranga is one of those places that makes you think ‘which way will we go’ – Paeroa-Karangahape Gorge through Katikati to Tauranga, or down the expressway; negotiate Hamilton and head over the Kaimais from there, or through Matamata and over the Kaimais? We often avoid Katikati way now, as the traffic can be a nightmare getting into Tauranga, but going back the other way to Auckland is acceptable. We went the Matamata way, did our business over a couple of days, then headed back via Katikati to catch up with Caspar’s little buddy Louie, then we stopped again in Paeroa – what a cute little antique shopping town. The St Johns charity shop really impressed me, first by luring me in with what at first glance looked like a bondage shop display – where is my head at? It got me in the door, and it was obvious inside that one of their volunteers had clearly worked in high-end fashion retail. The goods for sale were displayed as though they were in a Parnell shop – just so engaging, intriguing and a pleasure to look through. So much so that I had to pass on my thoughts to the ladies working behind the counter. Back on the road and home. This was a trip in the car not the motorhome.

Wintery winds at the Whakatane look out

The next week we went to meet Nick Baker from Star Insurance – Camper Care Insurance – at the signwriters’, as the latest RocknRobyn 5 had been graphic wrapped and was ready to pick up, Star Insurance are sponsors of the RnR5 motorhome.  I write about this vehicle separately in the RV section of this magazine.

Displayed in the St John charity shop in Paeroa, had to pop in for a look around

We got home and immediately started packing the van up – Martinborough here we come, time to go home for a bit. We decided to drop in and see some friends down country. The drive was fantastic, not weather-wise as there was some rain and gloom, but the pleasure of driving an automatic, 2013 motorhome with cruise control and being able to go 100kph when we wanted to was great. A stop in Piopio for a coffee and stretch, then in Urenui to visit Don, down to Inglewood to visit Chris and a final push to get home that night – a big road trip.

Parked up on a friend’s farm for the night visiting

We loved being back in the village, catching up with the usual regulars out for breakfast in the morning or a beer in the evening. We did a radical clean out of our storage unit in the back section, used the incinerator for three days solid burning 15 years of old accounts, paperwork and more, took big trips to the dump then sorted, cleaned and sorted some more. Great to feel the load lighten off our shoulders, so much stuff, whew!

The motorhome got a lot of attention in town

In between the work we took time to zip down to Lake Ferry, and of course out to Ngāwī to stay a couple of nights on the beach front. A few other people were there as well, and Caspar had a ball as he met about five other little white dogs to play with, and others to boot. Talking with dog owners Rod, Joy, Charlie, Raewyn and Jared, they all loved being at Ngāwī. The locals in the fishing club bar had treated them well, but they were packing up their motorhomes and heading off that day. We also met Vicky Davey and her partner John, travelling in a cute little Benimar motorhome. They too had enjoyed meeting the locals over a few days and boasted about the crayfish they had just cooked up – you’ve got to love the south coast here, pāua, crayfish and blue cod are to be had, you just have to go out and get them.

We forgot to pack cups so breakfast coffee was in bowls - Caspar was most intrigued by this

We then had to unpack our personals out of the motorhome and hand it over to Allan Dick for 10 days. He drove up from Ōamaru, took the Interislander ferry over, and was ready to hit the road to explore the Wairarapa, Cape Palliser, then up to the East Cape and more.

Bulldozers, steep beach and crayfish boats - classic Ngāwī

We visited friends around the region, went to see Matt Paku (we sent Allan Dick to visit him as well – his story is in these pages), stayed out on a friends’ farm for a visit and generally got back into the Wairarapa-Marty groove. Allan delivered the motorhome back, slightly the worse for wear to be fair, but that’s what insurance is for, right, and it was home to Ōamaru for him and back to Auckland for us – another mission day-trip, stopping once at Waiouru for walkies and home.

Lake Onoke or Lake Ferry, this family out for a brisk walk in the rain

Other motorhome reviews have kept us busy around the region, and of course we managed a couple of trips into the city Viaduct area for walkies. One weekend we even managed to walk around Princess Wharf to check the views across to Devonport. We walked all around Fort Street (I was looking for a strip bar or similar to take a photo of Caspar so I could caption it “papa said there were pussies in here!” but couldn’t find one – damn that would have been funny.)

Silo marina in Auckland’s Viaduct, always interesting to see what boats are moored in here

A walk through Britomart was lovely, then we found the new shopping precinct. Little Queen Street they call part of it, lots of high-class shopping in here, and dogs are allowed as it is based on a bit of a street theme. We met friends there and enjoyed the environment so much we took Caspar back to the vehicle, and we all went upstairs to the third-floor food hall for an early dinner. What a fabulous area this is, so much like an area in Melbourne city or similar. Lots of vegan-specific little places for Brucie, all manner of foods on offer, a large bar area, and then if you look carefully and notice the signs about other food options you enter another area where the restaurants have a little more space than a food hall, lounge seats in a windowed area overlooking the harbour, a quirky cocktail Mexican food bar around the corner – all sorts going on but this area has the views – again so grown up – as good as anywhere in the world for sure.

New vinyl professionally layed, love it so much 11. One new battery under the step 12. The second battery under the drawers in kitchen area with the inverter

More work on the magazine, and generally enjoying being at Level 1 life – the virus was something out there in the world, and we were in a little bubble of our own for a while here in New Zealand.

We had family stay for a few weeks, Rosie got renovated (read her story in our RV section), and we also got work done on our RnR 4, our Mitsubishi Canter. A couple of years back Bruce ripped up the old carpet and vinyl and he put down new flooring himself. Good job on the carpet, despite leaving some spots of vinyl glue that dirt stuck to and marked. Even so, it looked pretty good. The vinyl was a big mistake though. We chose a light colour that we thought would keep the interior light and bright, but it turned out to be something of a nightmare. Installing the vinyl was a lot of effort and we still didn’t get the corners and edges quite right, things like that. So with the affordable repair rates at Wendekreisen we decided to get the floor redone. The floor was moving a little underfoot as well, as you might expect at 15 years old, so ‘fix it’ please was ordered. Hardest part here was choosing a new vinyl. Dieter from Wendekreisen recommended a flooring place on Dominion Road that they use, so we went there and got samples and picked one. When it came to ordering it they couldn’t get that pattern but supplied one very close. Cost $1400 for the actual vinyl and professional layer to fit it. Dieter and the team stripped the floor and made it sound again ready for the vinyl layer.

I can tell you picking her up and seeing the new flooring was better than any retail shopping I could imagine, the floor looks so great, sound as a bell – and already I can see it will take the foot prints, dirt and mess and hide them brilliantly, I just wish we had thought to ask for a couple of off-cuts for mats.

Ōhope Pier area, café on the water, boats and foreshore walk

Then we lent the motorhome out to Mike King and his family – if anyone deserves a few nights away in an RV it is this family. They headed off in RnR4, hitting Tauranga and the Rotorua region for five days. When they got back we had booked the vehicle in for new batteries as the existing ones were coming up to 6–7 years old and we were getting only a day or two power maximum instead of five days’ power that we had at the start, so we figured their time was up. We knew for sure, two days before getting the new ones fitted, when they went completely dead after a frosty night. We had booked into Graham Crispe Auto Electrical, he is a Battery Town agent in Pukekohe. We had ordered specific sized Ah batteries, but there were problems when the guys looked at the battery space available – the engine battery is under the step and the second battery is fitted under the kitchen drawers along with the inverter. Unfortunately this meant that size did matter, damn! What the team recommended was the Remco RM12–105LC. They are 12V, 105Ah at C20. A key point is that they will provide 1400 cycles at 50 per cent depth of discharge, thanks to the addition of carbon film to the negative plates. With our space issue, the under-drawer battery had to be mounted on its side. These batteries can be mounted on their sides as the electrolyte (in normal batteries this is a fluid/liquid) is absorbed into a material known as Absorbent Glass Mat (hence this class of battery being known as AGM). With this latest technology battery and our REDARC power management system, we should be tickety-boo for a few more years now. 
Each battery cost $589 and they weigh 27kg each – a vital component to the battery equation – weight.

Walking along the foreshore of the estuary, birds in the water caught the eye of Caspar

The second weekend in August saw us pack up RnR5, our new motorhome, and off we went to Whakatāne. My big brother Pete hit the 70-year milestone so family and friends met up to break the bread and share a drink to celebrate. Got to be grateful he made it as one of our brothers passed at 60 years. Two of the friends we visited during the trips I talk about here were both just out of hospital from major heart events, and Chris was readmitted with complications not long after we saw him. We do need to celebrate every day, week, month and year that we – you, me, brothers, sisters, friends – are still breathing, walking and talking – none of us know when that will end.

Enjoyed staying on the farm for a night with my niece Sarah, her partner, Chris, and their kids. Caspar got taken for a horse ride lol. We stayed our second night right in Whakatāne in the freedom camping designated parking, just an easy 500-metre walk to the restaurant, and 100 metres to the foreshore walk that lines the estuary waterway. Dropped into the White Island Rendezvous motel for breakfast both days – other family were staying there – and we were tempted to take the boat trip out to Whale Island for the nature experience, but that would have meant dumping the family lunch event, so we put that on the list for next time.

Ōhope Pier area, café on the water, boats and foreshore walk

When we got home, essentially we received the Level 3 lockdown news, but not much worry for us as it was time to put our heads down and arses up to get this edition to the printers – unfortunately this magazine and deadlines were marching forward.

The NZMCA Motorhome Caravan and Leisure show was to be held at Mystery Creek in September, but has been moved to October 9-11. The RV industry is raring to go, and tourism operators are coming from all over the regions to showcase their areas as well – it will be a ripper of a show. This is the best venue hands down with so much space for RV parking, so visitors can stay over for 2–4 days if they want to. We will be there, and so will Caspar. Keep an eye on our Facebook page of updates