Life in New Zealand

Woodend Beach - 1

A child at heart

Back to Basics Rally 2017

I had no idea exactly what the back to basics rally was actually all about. How basic exactly was ‘basic’ meant to be? I knew I needed a tent and sleeping bag so accommodation would be basic. I knew I was going to camp in a paddock and not a nice and comfy motel room somewhere. That was fairly basic. I knew that some of my riding mates would be telling some fairly basic jokes after a few beers in the evening. They are always basic in content. Would I need a trowel to dig a hole in the paddock for the morning constitutional? Did I need to take some tinned tucker or the sort you buy in camp shops that look like cement and upon adding boiling water turn into a roast dinner for three? I had no idea. There was only one way to find out. Get on the bike and go.

So one fine Friday morning in late February a group of Cantabrian Ulyssians gathered in Amberley for the run north to Kaituna near Havelock.


It was a beautiful morning. Warm and sunny. With Sate highway 1 still blocked our route took us through the Lewis Pass to Springs Junction, up the Shenandoah Highway to Murchison for lunch.


From there we passed through the Wairau Valley via St Arnaud and made for Blenheim.

Despite the many roadwork’s and stop/go boards the scenery is superb, the riding easy but exciting and the company was superb. A couple of our party broke off at Hanmer to take the Molesworth road.

Having bought dinner courtesy of Subway Blenheim we arrived at the paddock in Kaituna. Actually it’s on a sheep station and having been held in the same paddock by the river for a number of years the place was well prepared for us. Tents were erected; chairs rigged and cold beers were proffered to clear the road dust of the day. That Friday evening we sat and watched the sun set behind the hills to the west of us, sprays were passed around to keep the sand flies at bay and the stars came out in a crystal clear sky. We sat there in the pitch dark chatting, laughing and listening to the oh so basic jokes. It was as a relaxing evening as you could imagine and I loved it.


Dawn broke. A basic breakfast was taken. Bevan and I decided we were going to take the Queen Charlotte road to Blenheim via Picton to get him a decent camp chair rather than the ridiculous thing he was trying to perch his bum on the previous evening. On hearing our plans the rest of the group decided that was a great idea. Now there is a road worthy of any motorcycle. It twists and turns and snakes its way along the sounds to Picton and offers sublime vantage points to view the scenery for which this place is known. If you have not done it, give it a go if ever you are I the area. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.


Back to the paddock. That evening we had a dinner that was totally unexpected. We gathered in the woolshed with the Marlborough Ulyssians who had organised this whole rally together with a few members from the West Coast. Dinner was outstanding for the farmer and his team had put together a meal that satisfied any hunger. It was hardly basic at all. In fact quite the opposite. The beer and wine flowed, as did the conversation and music from Grumpy on the spoons. Then it was back to the tents to continue the festivities. What a cracking evening it was.


Sunday morning broke. The weather had turned cooler. We packed the bikes ready for the run home. There was one final event that was again totally unexpected for Grumpy had cooked up breakfast for us all in his bus. When facing a long ride home on a cool day that breakfast was highly appreciated.


So, was the rally basic? Yes and no.No need to dig a hole in the paddock! There were toilets and a shower with hot water (the most basic thing about the entire weekend) Would I do it again? Absolutely.

Special thanks must go the Marlborough group for organising the event, the farmer and his team for cooking that amazing dinner and Grumpy for the breakfast. Finally to my riding mates without who none of it would be so much fun.

Ride to Gore Bay and Kaikoura

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My motorcycling Buddy striking a pose at Gore Bay.

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my 2006 Harley Road King and his 2012 Ducati Monster

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An overcast but quiet day at Gore Bay

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Low lying fog off Kaikoura.

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The Hurunui river lies behind us as the road snakes its way through the hills.

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A quick leg stretch. Leo catches up.

It was a fantastic day. If anybody wants advice on motorcycling the roads of New Zealand drop me a line. They are simply amazing.

The adventure begins again

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My Langstroth Hive.

Bees will be buzzing around our garden once again in the not too distant future.

I bought a Langstroth hivefrom the UK when we moved back to New Zealand. It is made from Red Cedar which is naturally rot resistant. Hives in New Zealand tend to be made of pine orsimilar and need treating and lookingafter much more than red cedar. On our household declaration to the Ministry of Agriculture we had to declare we had a beehive even though it was still in kit form and contained no bee products, just wood. That rang the alarms in New Zealand who are quite rightly very protective of their own flora and fauna. The kit was inspected top to bottom and released.

Here it is after having been assembled and painted in undercoat. The redcedar can be left but will go grey in the sun. It can be oiled with boiled linseed oil. In New Zealand boxes are dipped in paraffin wax to treat them. We decided to paint ours to become a garden feature.

After a few coats of Lavender paint the main nest box called thebrood box, lid and legs looks like this. The sloping platform to the right is thelanding board. The bees land here before walking upinto the hive entrance.

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It sits on its own sturdy legs next to thelavender hedge and veggie patch waiting for the bees to arrive.

Our local club has a bee breeder who lives only 20 minutes from us. We have ordered a queen and bees from him. Bees used to the local environment should settle in nicely. They should arrive towards the end of the month. So now we wait.

Wewon’t get any honey this year. 2015/2016 will be all about establishing the colony and getting it strong ready for winter. Dont forget this is the southern hemisphere. We are approaching summer.

In the meantime I have been reading up in my books and of course Youtube contains much beekeeping information to watch.

Come back later to see how we progress.

A wine tasting trip to Marlborough

A group of us took a run up state highway one to Picton, stayed an overnight and became wine connoisseurs for a few hours.What did I enjoy most? The ride. It was a lot better than most of the wines we tried. The run up the Pacific coast highway north of Kaikoura is in my opinion one of the best motorcycling roads around. Twisty, scenic and not a dull stretch on it. SoI will let the photos do the talking.

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Early morning gathering in Amberley

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My Road King sits ready to go.

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Debbie with Ruru and Anni waiting for the start

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Petrol and coffee stop at Kaikoura. The mountains beckon.

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One of the tasting rooms. This one was at Geisen wines.

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Young Terrence being escorted into the Drylands winery tasting room by Thea and Debbie.

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PRENZEL tastings. Not wine but distilled goodies. This place is well worth a visit.

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A lovely cafe at Kekerengu.

Finally on the way home we stopped off at this cafe. It sits on the beach and was a perfect rest stop on the way home.


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The town of Kaikoura lies around an hour and a half from where we live so approx 2 hours north of Christchurch on the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand. Due to the shape of the seabed combined with the ocean currents in the area, Kaikoura is the whale capital of New Zealand. Being so close to home we had to visit. In the seven years we were here previously we never did.

We set off on a warm and breezy day and had lunch at the NorthWest cafe in Amberley which is a small town only about 20 minutes north of our house. It was recommended by a friend of ours. It did not disappoint. Clams known as pipis in New Zealand served on spaghetti with chorizo and chillies and accompanied by crusty bread was the lunch order for two. It was wonderful.

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The road north is state highway one. It sounds grand. It is a two lane highway that meandersthrough the magnificent scenery. This is no autobahn, freeway or motorway. In Britain we would call it an A road but this is the countries main artery running the entire length of both islands. I love it. It follows the railway line on the coast. There is very little traffic in either direction.

By late afternoon we had arrived at our B+B, Inn The Bay and were warmly welcomed by our young and newly wed hosts Luke and Kylie. Theyproffered hot tea and much good advice about local places to visit and eat. They are really lovely and I would recommend them to you if ever you are this way. Kaikoura esplanade isfestooned with places to stay such is the popularity of this place in high season.

The Whaler pub and restaurant won our money for dinner. Again there are many places to eat. The Whalers did for us.

First thing this morning we followed Luke and Kylies recommendation to go and sea the New Zealand Grey Fur seal pups playing in a waterfall at Ohau creek which lies around 20 minutes north of Kaikoura. We were in for a real treat.

This place is passed by most motoriststotally unaware of what they aremissing.

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A path leads through someancient woodland, along a narrow brook to a waterfall and pool. In the pool around 20 seal pups were swimming around and playing having made their way up from the sea some 300 metres away. It wasfantastic just to sit and watch them play. Nosealife centre here. No zoo or safari park. This was as nature intended and we loved it. Myphotos do not do the place justice.

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Back at the car we crossed the road to see where the pups would enter the creek from the sea and there in the carpark was an adult basking in the sun.

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After a stop at the Ohaulookout point to see the seal colony from where these pups come from we went on to our next stop also recommended by Luke and Kylie to get a taste for fresh New Zealand crayfish.

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One thing that isevident here is the lack of protection from the railway lines. If this was the UK there would be fences 6 feet high. Here is just does not matter. This is the main railway north beside the state highway.

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Our destiny with a fresh crayfish and I mean fresh was at a caravanbeside the main state highway.Nins Bin, once described by the great Rick Stein as the best crayfish in New Zealand did not disappoint. Follow the link for more information. The crayfish was simply fresh, sweet and juicy. The setting was equally as divine, sitting on a bench under an azure sky with the sound of the surf for company.

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What to do next? Well, go whale watching of course. We arrived back at the booking centre for Whale Watch Kaikoura which is beside Kaikoura railway station and arrived just in time to get on the 11:00 departure.

The sea was calm. There was a low swell from the North East. For the next two hours we were treated to 2 sightings of sperm whales and on the way back to our berth we detoured to see Dusky Dolphins leaping and playing. All the while albatrosses and petrelswheel around us.

It has been a magnificent day. We have been blessed with amazing weather, creatures great and small and food beyond comparison. All this lies an hour and a half from our doorstep. How lucky are we?

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Having snapped away all day I ran out of battery power in my camera. No dolphin photos. You will have to take my word for it. But then again there is an excuse to return to Kaikoura as if I ever needed an excuse.


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Lying on the down wind side of the Southern Alps means that the strangest cloud formations are not uncommon.

Today is ANZAC day. In the US you have Veterans Day and in Europe, Remembrance Day. Here and in Australia ANZAC Day is the day where we traditionally remember those people that gave their lives for our freedom. On this day 100 years ago the ANZAC soldiers made the disastrous landing on the Gallipoli beaches during WW1. Services of remembrance are hold all over the country.

Since I last wrote much has happened. We have finally had an offer accepted on a house and we will move in on April 30th.

We have taken a wander around Christchurch City to see where progress has been made or otherwise since the terrible earthquakes of 2010/11. The Cathedral still awaits the bureaucratic process to grind towards a decision on its future. Other parts of the city are still undergoing demolition and in the three years since we left new buildings have sprung up. Many of the roads in the eastern suburbs still lie in a rather alarming state. But progress is progress. It is going to take some years to sort this all out.

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Debs and I spent a great day in the sun raising money for the St Johns ambulances. Ulysses motorcycle club to which we belong raise money annually for this worthy clause. Debbie did a great job selling raffle tickets aided and abetted by Terry. He will very soon be a neighbour when we move into our new house.

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We are integrating back into New Zealand life very nicely. My next update will be from our own home with a bit of luck.

Settling in

Bowers House

Evening comes at the Bowers’ House.

We are settling into life back in New Zealand. We are staying with some friends that have put us up and leant us a car to get around. We owe them a tremendous debt. They are the same people that put us up when we first moved to New Zealand in 2006. What can I say?

Woodend Beach - 6

Woodend beach path.

We have spent the past week checking out properties and rediscovering old friendships. Driving into the city and around and about nothing has changed that much. The rebuild of the city is well underway but life goes on. We spent today in a small township called Woodend which is a leafy suburb to the north of Christchurch.Wooden beach is stunningly lovely with a beachfriend by a conifer plantation. It was 27C today so we spent some time walking along the shore. Tomorrow is Good Friday and a day off house hunting. We are back viewing on saturday.

Woodend Beach - 5

Woodend beach

Woodend Beach - 4

Wood art on the beach

Woodend Beach - 2

Not a bit like Trowbridge.

Mark Dexter 2015