About Us

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In 1977 we hired our first narrowboat from Anglo Welsh at Market Harborough.From that moment our destiny was set. In 2006 we finally purchased our own brand new 57' narrowboat which we named 'Free Spirit'. Our aim is to travel the length and breadth of all the navigable rivers and canals of the UK. This will be our story as it unfolds.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

South Island here we come.

Oh dear, someone got it wrong! And that someone is not a million miles away from me! We were told to arrive at the Bluebridge ferry at least an hour before departure and Ian had (or thought he had) booked the early crossing. By 7.45am we had arrived, drove to where the kiosk was and gave the official our booking number. Now, this is where the confusion set in. He looked at us quizzically, mentioned that we must be very keen seeing as how we were 12 hours early! "Pardon," said Ian "We were told to arrive an hour before sailing". "Yes," said he "but you are booked on the 20.45 ferry and not the 8.45am. Oh, dear....we looked at each other in disbelieve. Ian got out his booking confirmation and sure enough, it stated 8.45pm. But all was not lost because he took pity, said how lucky we were to arrive at this time as the 8.15am had started boarding (there isn't an 8.45 am crossing) and as the boat wasn't full he would change our booking. Being last on we expected to be last off. In fact, we were one of the first to disembark at Picton.

Leaving Wellington

Ask any of the New Zealanders and they all say the same. South Island is stunning. First impressions are right. The sun shone making the views breathtaking and we had only got as far as Nelson. The coast road was full of S bends and steep climbs and Ian happened to mention that brake pads would have to be changed more often than not as his foot was constantly on the brake on the way down.

At Nelson, we stopped to shop and get petrol. Even more expensive on the South Island...well at Nelson anyway. At $2.8 cents a litre, it cost nearly $80 to fill the tank. Another carpark campsite was found overlooking the park. Has very basic loos and without paper, I might add (good job we brought our own) but it's free. Lacks washing facilities like showers, a sink to do the pots and pans and of course, there is no power. Laptops are charged whilst we are driving by a small Powertech inverter. Works a treat and means we can do a lot more in the way of freedom camping. A shower now and then wouldn't come amiss though and a washing machine could be useful too. Maybe treat ourselves tomorrow at a proper paid for campsite.

And today's wildlife,

Lots of cicadas around.


Monday, 23 January 2017

The final day on North Island

It hadn't stopped! The rain I mean. All night it continued and well into the early morning. "This is not normal for the time of year" was the reply to those we asked. Oh well, it's a good job we have an extra blanket and warm garments 'cos it looks as we will be needing them on the colder of the two islands, South Island. So spending the day in Wellington in the pouring rain at first didn't appeal but by the time we had driven to see Roger and Pat, had coffee and tea, the rain had eased.
Cloud over Wellington
Then the sun came out and we all wished we hadn't dressed quite so warm. Seems one just can't win on this North Island! Anyway, we left the van at Rogers, bundled ourselves into Rogers car and drove to the Botanic Gardens. From here it was easier to walk into Wellington and very pleasant it was too. The place was almost deserted. Of all days to choose to go into town turns out it is Wellington Anniversary Day and is celebrated on the Monday nearest to 29 January. The holiday commemorates the arrival of the first settler ship to New Zealand on 22 January 1840. Nearly all the shops were open as was the attractions and our first stop was to Te Papa museum filled with the nation's art, culture and sciences. Best of all it is free and there was a bug exhibit to walk around.

 Lunch came next followed by a trip on the cable car.

View from the top

 By mid afternoon we walked back to the Botanical gardens for coffee at the rose garden cafe. Just as we finished the rain started again! Time to leave and head off to our last free campsite on North Island. It was a real pleasure to meet up with them especially here in NZ. Hopefully, when we are all back in the UK, our next meeting will be on our respective boats.

More like a car park but great to look out of the rear window onto the water.
 And seen swimming in the harbour,

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Meeting friends and finding a relative

The nearer we got to Wellington the windier it got. Not called the windy city for nothing! On route to see Marilyn and David we passed a place called Foxton. With it being Saturday signs were up telling of a Dutch market. Well with me having dutch connections (Mum and Dad both dutch) and loving the dutch food we made a slight detour. A windmill at the centre was a big attraction and for a dollar each we could climb up to the third level to see the how it worked.  

The market was situated at the bottom of the windmill, not really a market as we know it with loads of stalls, but shelves filled with dutch delicacies. Dutch Leyden cheese (has cumin and caraway seeds), honey and ginger cake (delicious with butter spread on it), liquorice, Haagse hopjes (coffee sweet) Speculaas biscuits (ginger) and best of all the dutch Friet Mayonaise were all purchased. There is nothing like it and the taste is divine especially on chips. Not being able to bring this back to Australia, I have three weeks in which to finish it. So lots of chips on the menu then!

Then it was back on route to Waikanae. Such a lovely welcome from David and Marilyn when we arrived. We were shown to a specially prepared area where the van was to be parked and also told a bed was all ready for us inside and we were NOT to sleep in the van that night. After a long chat and of course lots of tea, Marilyn took us for a walk to Waikanae beach. The weather went down hill rapidly and when the rain started all thought of going for a walk went out of the window.

Just before the rain started
  A stop on the way back for a drink with Marilyn's friends Gary and Bruce (several glasses of red wine and nibbles produced) before it was time to head back to David who had been left in charge of bed making and oven lighting.

View from Gary and Bruce's lounge window.

Marilyn had prepared a wonderful Thai green curry, from scratch I might add none of the packet or tinned stuff from the supermarket shelves, and after yet another drink or two... sat down to devour the delicious meal.

More drinks and then coffee before retiring to bed.

All to soon our visit was over. Having another scrumptious meal prepared, cereals, fruit and a cooked breakfast with Gary, Bruce and Kavin joining us (Marilyn is such a great host) and then after Marilyn had cut mine and Ian's hair, ( a brilliant job she did too) we set off for Tawa. Here I was to meet one of my dutch cousins. With mum being the eldest of twelve children my cousins are many but only one have I met before, John, and with him living in Queensland this is another visit I am looking forward to next month. But for the first time I was to meet cousin Johns brother, Tony.

Such a professional haircut, thank you, Marilyn,
 By now the weather had deteriorated even further with torrential rain and wind gusts of 110km/h (checked up on Wellington met office). Along the sea road the wind had whipped up the waves and in a few places had even come over the top.

The sat nav took us right to Tony and Christine's door. The greeting was everything I hoped it would be and we talked about the family and how I actually have more cousins living in New Zealand than I imagined. Looks like we will have to come back some day if only to visit them all.

Some similarity I think. Could be the hair

Several hours later we said our goodbyes. Finding a campsite not far from Tawa we pulled in and battened down the hatches. Still raining heavily, in fact there didn't seem any let up at all. And to make matters worse I went to light the gas to cook dinner and found the gas had run out!!! Good old standby of tinned tuna came to the rescue with a hastily prepared salad, at least we were fed for the night. Good job we are on a powered site 'cos we can use the electric toaster and kettle in the morning!

Tomorrow we spend a day in Wellington with Roger and Pat The Cat's Whiskers. Having finally managed to get a message sent with a phone number, we have arranged to take the van to their place, leave it on the driveway and then all drive to the city in their car. Hope the rain will have stopped by then!


Friday, 20 January 2017

More snow...what a surprise.

It rained! All night!! That drumming noise on the campervan roof kept us awake most of the night. A very soggy start to the day especially with the dash to the loo. Raincoats had to be found before the dash was attempted! We then made a unanimous decision to head off and have breakfast on Mount Ruapehu so we were heading for the summit before 7 am. Imagine our surprise at the sight that greeted us

Snowballs had to be made and thrown, well we are missing out in the UK!

And Ian is still in only shorts and T-Shirt!!!!!! He's not even wearing socks!!!!!!

And the road to the ski resort was closed!

 After breakfast, another decision was made. Let's go on the 90-minute walk to Waitonga Falls. So this time the waterproofs went on but it wasn't so much the rain that got into everything but the fine drizzle in the low cloud. We should have guessed that this would obscure our vision of the falls but we sort of hoped that the cloud would lift and give us a spectacular view of the falls.

Ian wanted to see Mount Doom. Real name, of course, is Mount Ngauruhoe but it played some part in the Lord of the Rings. We drove to a place called Whakapapa, Chateau Tongariro. Wow...on this side of the mountain the sun shone, the air was crystal clear and the view amazing.

Chateau Tongariro at the base of Mount  Ruapehu

Mount Ngauruhoeor or Mount Doom to Hobbit fans.
The drive to Whanganui was interesting. Sections of the road had been washed away, not sure if it was by heavy rain or river levels. Only one lane open in many places and the traffic was controlled by lights. Should have got a photo but failed miserably! More intent on hanging on for dear life along the narrow track! Although we would only have dropped a short distance had we veered away from the road it was still disconcerting, to say the least. We also stopped to have a look at Tawhai and Raukawa Falls

Finally on the last leg of our journey on the North Island. We make for Waikanae tomorrow and meet up with Marilyn and David. Waka Huia. Roger and Pat The Cat's Whiskers are also back in Wellington so we may get to see them as well.

And only this bird joined us for breakfast,

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