Wednesday, February 21, 2018


I lived in Wellington from 1977 - 1981, leaving 36 years ago. It was always an attractive, fun city, with terrible weather.

Conga dancing on Wellington waterfront

Kids' kayak class

From Nelson we flew to Wellington for two nights, staying with my friends Richard and Rob, who had recently moved back from Auckland. They had been going to tramp the Milford Track with us, but their daughter Lucy had a new baby born at around the same time as the tramp, so they had pulled out.


We have found that revisiting a place one has lived in the past can involve a marathon of driving around busy people, trying to find times that suit and sometimes offending people who get missed. A tactic which has worked well in the past is to ask someone who knows most of the people one wants to see to let one hold a dinner party. 

My old colleague Lorraine offered to be the host, and so I invited a dozen friends to come to dinner. Lorraine coordinated the food, partly because we were off-grid on the West Coast over the fortnight before our arrival. Her flat was perfect, with a lovely view over the marina.

Chaffers Marina

There are two old jokes about New Zealand: within an hour of arriving in the country someone will ask you 'How do you like NZ?'. And when someone picks you up from Wellington airport, they will tell you: 'It isn't usually this windy'.

On this occasion they were right; ex-cyclone Gita was coming to town.

Ex-cyclone Gita trying to gate-crash the party

Gita managed to ground many flights to and from Wellington, but Doug got through from Christchurch, and Kath, who was in Rotoroa, got a bus down.

The party was lovely. Fourteen people made it. Most knew each other well. Food was great. Nice things were said. I was very touched that so many people would turn out on such a dark and stormy night.

A few of the guests.







It's an ill wind that blows nobody any good. While Gita was causing havoc in New Zealand, the Gold Coast surf beaches were 'going off'.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Marlborough Sounds

In 1975, I purchased a block of land in North West Bay, in the Marlborough Sounds.

It was pretty remote; about two and a half hours by boat from the nearest road at Havelock. But very beautiful, with a fast creek running down a steep escarpment and a couple of peaks, about 800 metres high. The one on the right is called the 'Devil's Staircase'.

We were friends with a family who were also in the NZ Values Party, the world's first Green Party. Patrick McGrath was a competent builder, and we went into a shared arrangement whereby the McGraths helped us develop the site in return for shares in its ownership. First we put a wooden yurt on the site, and later a cabin.

Brendon McGrath and Dave climbing the Devils Staircase in about 1980

Yurt and cabin with Patrick. 1980.


Cabin 2018. The yurt has gone.

Our current trip around the South Island meant that we could revisit the bach in the Sounds, and Sean McGrath, the middle son of the family, kindly took us down there for a couple of nights.


Faster these days

Drone shot of the cabin from above. Massive regrowth of tree ferns everywhere.

The yurt was destroyed in a gale, but there is an elegant sleepout to replace it.

Cabin, sleepout and Devil's Staircase

Flightless weka

George by the creek

The same creek, 1979

Dave nostalging

It was quite powerful to revisit the site after about 40 years, and recall all the work and fun that went into creating a home in the wilderness. It was lovely see that it had flourished, and that the bush had regenerated so beautifully.

We went back to the McGrath home near Nelson and had a fun evening with the family. Patrick tragically has severe Alzheimer's. Patsie is a bundle of fun.

Patsie in her garden.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Queenstown to the West Coast

NZ's South Island contains some of the worlds great drives. There are various ways to explore NZ, including renting a campervan or a car and staying in camp-sites, motels, or AirBnBs. The campervans are expensive, and there are many signs saying 'Freedom Camping Forbidden', which effectively means that you have to stay in camp-sites. The motels are pretty mundane. AirBnB offers access to hundreds of funky little baches which their owners let out. 

We decided to rent a Camry to canter around the roads, and use AirBnBaches to experience that side of Kiwi Kulture. It was a good call, although occasionally the baches exceeded George's GTT (Grot Toleration Threshold)!

We started by driving from Queenstown to Wanaka, both of which seemed to be over-run with Asian tourists. It might be particularly bad at this time of year, with the Chinese New Year on February 16th, and many Chinese on holiday.

The Remarkables

Panorama from Coronet Peak near Queenstown

Jumping off Coronet Peak

The road from Wanaka to the West Coast goes over the Haast Pass. It is a spectacular drive. It is hard to take photos that don't look as if they belong on Chocolate Boxes. I tried, failed, and gave up!

Haast Pass drive

Haast Pass drive

Blue Pool 

Blue Pool

Jet-boat on the Waiatoto River, south of Haast on the West Coast

Shark's Tooth rapids


Mount Tasman across Lake Matheson at Fox Glacier

Another for a Chocolate Box!

AirBnB at Fox Glacier

Sunset from Matheson Café

Punakaiki Rocks north of Greymouth

Punakaiki Rocks

Beach shack near Fox River. Candles. No power. No fridge. Surf breaking all night. Gorgeous.

Beach outside our shack

Buller valley. The rain came.

Lake Rotoiti at St Arnaud in the Nelson Lakes area.

Lake Rotoiti panorama

Climbing Mount Robert

Beech forest

Tussock grass

Bach at Pohara, Golden Bay

Wharariki Beach, near Cape Farewell on the NW corner of the South Island

New Zealand fur seal at Wharariki Beach

Totaranui Beach at the western end of the Abel Tasman park

In about 1979 I ran an encounter group at the Ngarata Homestead at Totaranui for the Rainbow Valley alternative lifestyle community.

Pupu springs: said to be the purest water in the world.

Ruined farmhouse near the Takaka Hill

George with our AirBnB truck up the Motueka Valley

Inside the truck

A yurt on the same property

Inside the yurt