Saturday, 21 August 2021

Winter in the Bay - July/Aug 2021


Mt Edgecumbe on a hazy evening

Back to the Bay of Plenty to start the refit for the van.  We had no sooner sat down for a cuppa with our friends when we spotted an emergency sit that had been posted on the Kiwihousesitters site.  The homeowners were stuck in Australia as the 'bubble' popped with the rise of cases over the Tasman and the current housesitter needed to move on to their next sit.  The location was one of our favourites in the bay,  on the beach between Thornton and Matata, so we were happy to help out.

We arrived to yet another heaven on earth, again feeling thankful for our lifestyle choice, even in these uncertain times of Covid.   We felt especially lucky to be hanging out with these gorgeous pups.

Nala is only 18mths and a bit of a nervous nelly,
till she gets to know you

12yo Chewy, absolutely bomb proof

The beach was just on the other side of the paddock.  We went multiple times a day, sometimes just for a doggy walk or two.

Reaching into back pocket for treats!

Nala loved to fetch sticks and chase waves

Whilst Chewy preferred to act her age and stay out of trouble

Of course, there was plenty of fishing going on too

Whale Island/Moutohora

One misty morning

We just couldn't get enough of this place! And as usual, we became totally attached to our charges, and they us.  It was an unusual sit in that there was a lot of uncertainty for both us and the homeowners over when they would be able to get home.  It turned into a week long sit and we were happy to hunker down and wait it out. 

When we left, it was only to another of our favourite places ..... Whanarua Bay.  More relaxing, reconnecting with friends from the village, fishing (including eating lots of fish) and a visit from Clare's nephew, Jack.

The bay on a beautiful winters day

We caught enough kahawai from a couple of trips out in the kayak to smoke some up.

Brine of salt and brown sugar

Finished product

We made the smoked fish into a kedgeree which we shared with a friend, and lots of fish cakes, also shared with friends.

We spent some time surfcasting on the beach at Te Kaha too, contemplating the world from a different perspective.  We caught some Trevally which we enjoyed as sashimi and crumbed fillets.

Jack and Clare untangling an unholy mess of
seaweed in the line!

A couple of weeks later we decamped (reluctantly) to our next sit in Kawerau.  17yo Littles required companions whilst his mummy headed for a holiday in Northland

This was going to be a week of sitting in by the fire and keeping Mr Little company.  As a much older gentleman he sleeps a lot during the day ..... whilst masquerading as a bed and blanket thief at night!!!  He also needed to be given a pill every evening which, whilst he didn't like it, he was very very good about it.

It was Clare's birthday so we indulged in a bit of overeating ......

Homemade sourdough crumpets

Spag bol for dinner

Lemon meringue pie for pudding!

The only other activity that remained for tha taking was a lovely walk on a lovely day up the lovely Tarawera River to catch a lovely wee rainbow trout.

Everyone was happy.

Nekminit, we find ourselves back in Level 4 lockdown as the Delta varient of Covid is discovered in the community.  Littles mum scrambles back down country to make it home before the curfew and we head back to Whakatane to sit it out.  All future plans on hold until whenever.
Ho hum.  Deep sigh.

Monday, 16 August 2021

Far North fishing, sitting and campervanning - June 2021


Whilst in Kerikeri we bought a camper van.  More a van that you can camp in really!  We wanted one so that we can spend the summer of 2021/22 in the South Island with a little more freedom that last year.  This way, we figure, we can go wild for longer and not have to worry so much about the weather.  That's the plan, anyway.

We knew when we bought it that there would be lots of modifications we would want to do to personalise it so what better way than to test it out on a far north adventure.  James was dying to do some fishing by this stage and we love the far north for that.

Of course, this was always going to be our first stop.  If the kingis are in, it is so much fun here, if you can be bothered to fight for a spot on the wharf.  If not, just watching the locals is a treat in itself.  No kingis this time, but a couple of fabulous kahawai and some friendly locals to while away some time with.

This .....

Became this, compliments (and $15 later)
of the famous Mangonui Fish and Chip shop.
Next time we will take our fish to the cheaper
version on the corner by the pub.  But was it worth it?
Hell yeah!

Next stop was Tokerau Beach. 

Thru the van door

When we arrived at this fairly isolated place at the start of the winter season we wondered why on earth there were so many people combing the beach.  Turns out a ton of scallops and other shell fish had been washed in on a recent storm.  James donned his wetsuit and joined the others.  We were a bit late to the party to pick up many scallops, but that didn't faze us. 

Most of these went back and we kept some for bait.  We discoverd that the Dog Cockles, the stripy orange ones, whilst like chewing gum when steamed, are actually really soft and delicious raw!  And the real bonus is that they taste ever so sweet!

That night we set up for a night fish and were not disappointed.

Beauty snapper.  We had enough food so we
put him back.

On the other side of the peninsular is a lovely wee spot called Rangiputa.

Thru the van door

We caught lots of good size kahawai here, some of which we ate and some we gave away.  The added bonus was the comfort of lying on our bed watching the rod tips during the odd passing shower.  We also chatted with lots of local dog walkers and visitors to the bay.


On the recommendation from a friend we popped around to the other side of the Rangaunu harbour for a couple of nights.  At the end of this road is where fisherman drive onto East Beach to better access the best fishing spots.  The van would not be up such an adventure so we just settle our beach chairs on the beach and waited, and waited ... and caught a few kahawai.



We looked after a young woman's frenchy while she wrangled her toddler who was intent on doing a runner.  Even when we're not working, we're working!

We had a laugh with some of the locals driving onto the beach, gave a guy some fishing hooks, got given some mandarins.  Typical fishing community kind of fun.  A couple of hours before we were due at our next housesit up the road a bit, we caught a far too big kahawai for a live bait but James popped it out on a slide-bait rig anyway.  And we waited ... and waited .... and bang!

We were rewarded with this absolute stunner of a kingfish. 105 cm. 

Again, we didn't neet to keep it, so back it went.  Was such a wonderful experience to be able to meet this fabulous fish.

On the hype of all that excitement, we trotted off to our housesit in 


Here, we would live in a Lotus Bell tent, a kind of Yurt, for a week.  It was both beautiful and very comfortable.


We would be hanging out with these gorgeous kids.

Sunny, who loved his walks up and down the very long driveway

Mr, who liked to follow us around the property

Dusky, who like his cuddles

And being washed by his brother from another mother

There were a bunch of ducks and chickens too

We went for a looksie to Houhora wharf one day and noticed the piper were in.  It didn't take much to grab a rod from the van .... of course always at the ready

And whip a few out to be used as bait on a future fishing excersion

Another morning, on the intel of a friend who lives locally, we rocked up to the Fishing Club Wharf at 5am and (not so subtely) dragged a few kahawai out for smoking

Waiting patiently by the smoker

The finished product!

The kitties also enjoyed the fruits of our fishing forays

One nigh we caught a possum in the kill-trap, so the next morning Clare dusted off her skinning skills and harvested the skin ....

Ably assisted by a couple of keen supervisors

We fed the meat to Sunny, who was over the moon about it.  Then pegged out the skin out to be used somewhere in the van during the rebuild

When the homeowners came back for the South Island, they brought back a bucket of salted Mutton Birds, a wild food we had never had an experience with.  After boiling them twice then roasting them we were able to taste a morsel before we left that morning.  Very rich and very, very tasty.  Quite salty like an anchovy but much meatier.


    Our next stop on our freedom camping adventure was an old favourite, Paua wharf. 

Thru the van door

The sand dunes over the harbour look very much like snowy mountains

We sat and watched our rod tips for a few days

Not catching an awful lot, just enjoying the tranquility of this very quiet and isolated part of NZ, until this fellow decided to take the bait late one evening


Again, it was really easy to catch kahawai off the beach

Yep, that wee speck on the sand is James

Another joy was watching a pod of dolphins swim by one day.  Of course, no one had brought their phone so it was just another of those moments in our life when you 'just had to be there'.

There were a few of these little beasties in the water and washed up on the beach.

Blue bottle jellyfish ... which give a horrid
burning sting

It is pretty special out on the rocks here and you don't actually have to catch anything to just enjoy the atmosphere

But we were lucky enough to come away with this bad boy which James managed to get in on the smallest every hook

We were happy to be able to share
some fresh fish with the guy
in the van next door

On our way out to the main road we detoured to Te Hapua, an interesting, very rural town in the boon docks of the bay.  We managed to give our snapper frame to some young locals who were very excited to take it home for their Dad to smoke.  After having no luck fishing from the wharf, which we only tried briefly as the tide was pretty swift and the wind was picking up, James noticed the kahawai popping in the bay and spent a half hour catch and release session just for fun.

Moving onto Cape Reinga for a quick trip because it is rude to be so close and not take a look at the tip of the country.

That's the lighthouse in the distance

Cape Maria van Diemen


Thru the van door

Here, we mado some friends with a young one who seemed to have been raised by humans, he was so friendly

We also found a good crop of NZ Samphire , which was just as well as we had been missing greens in our 'fish wrap' diet for quite a while, having not had access to a shop for a good two weeks by now.

There was no fishing to be done here so we just enjoyed some down time.  James wasn't put off by the blue bottles in the water when he went for a swim!  
It soon came time to head south again.


Back to one of our other favourite Far North haunts.  Here, we were lucky enough to catch a rainbow moment

Found some more greens for the kitchen

Samphire and wild spinach

James popped his wetsuit on to brave the waters, which were starting to stir up in a storm


The drowned rat coming back, fishless

Back to Paua wharf for a couple of nights where we met with a woman Clare had worked with at the kiwifruit packhouse, who arrived in a really neat bus with a couple of lovely dogs.

We tried out our camp toaster and it got the thumbs us

Again, we caught plenty of fish for some lovely fresh dinners
Trevally sashimi

Dinner on the go

Finally, our Far North van sortie had (reluctantly) come to an end and it was time to head south again.
On the way through Auckland we stopped for a couple of nights with these two cuties and caught up with some other favourite family members.

Aunty Bev and fluffball Sammy

Living in the van had been a huge success for us.  We were now keen to head back to the BOP to start on the rebuild we knew we would want to do.