Sunday, 21 April 2019

A Wrap Update & Back to Napier


Here's a question for those of you that visit dump stations while on your travels. What is the furtherest you've travelled to dump? (get rid of your black water/toilet waste for my followers that have no idea what the heck I'm talking about).

We've just done a 110km round trip which must be some sort of record. Well, it is for us!

We left Pyes Pa where we'd been staying in Tauranga and headed over the Tauranga Direct Road to Rotorua. We were planning on taking two or three days to travel down to Napier. We stopped in at the Ngongotaha NZMCA Park in Rotorua to dump, it was easier to do this than fight Tauranga's traffic to visit the dump stations there.

Rotorua NZMCA Park
We then had lunch parked on the bottom tier of the Park before either heading on or staying the night; we hadn't quite decided. While we were dumping David was wandering back and forward & I wondered what he was up to. While having lunch he walked around the rig again and then came back inside saying he wasn't happy.

You can't notice it here...
Uh-oh, I knew what was coming. He wasn't happy that the nose cone of the fifth-wheeler hadn't been wrapped. You might recall from the other blog post that it hadn't been done because it hadn't faded like the sides; it's fibreglass not the composite panels that are on the sides. The front either toned in with the wrap colour or looked the same colour depending on whether the rig was in the shade or not.

Rather than carry on south, we decided to head back to Tauranga and arrange to have the nose wrapped too. Hence the 110km round trip to dump!

I knew if we left it, it would bug David everytime he looked at it, which, lets face it would be every day! It was the Wednesday before Easter, with just one working day available before the holiday break but Craig at Wrap It Signs was happy to fit us in on Thursday morning for which we were extremely grateful.

...but you can here, from the other side (Whareroa Reserve)
Back in Tauranga we parked in the freedom camping area at Whareroa Reserve where six  CSC vehicles are permitted to stay each night.  The boat ramp's large carpark is beside Te Awanui Drive- the harbour bridge road that connects Tauranga to the Mount- the large sites are great for bigger rigs, we were able to stay hitched ready for an early start.

It was a lovely calm evening, two boys staying with their grandparents in a caravan next door were fishing along the shoreline...

David giving a few pointers
...and from the boat ramp jetty as the sun went down.

It was a little surreal watching the calm waters and beautiful sky while listening to the sound of bumper to bumper traffic heading home across the harbour just a few feet away. And with the reserve on the flight path to the airport, departing & incoming planes added to cacophony. Not to be outdone, around 4:30am the noise from multiple trucks heading our on their daily runs reached inside the van via the cold still morning air (including several that had parked up in the carpark overnight). A great place to spend a night but don't expect it to be too peaceful.

The next morning we arrived at Wrap It Signs and Craig & Dylan got to work, first removing the old graphics and then wrapping the front; the side sections first, followed by the middle.

The front hatch door and panel were also wrapped after David removed the hardware. Once the wrap was done, Craig had to print and add all the new graphics. The job took a little longer than expected but we were more than happy to wait, though poor Craig didn't have an early start to his long weekend. We left around 8:30pm and by the time we stopped for some takeaways in Rotorua...

...we didn't arrive at the Taupo NZMCA Park until 11:30pm. The Taupo Park is a large one but it was packed solid with members about to enjoy the long weekend. I had my fingers crossed we'd be able to slot ourselves in somewhere without having to unhitch as we'd be leaving for Napier early the next morning. I did a quiet walk (crunch, crunch on the scoria drive) around both sections of the Park looking for a gap. 

It was eerily quiet considering how many people were there. I did hear a few heaters purring away and two or three dogs barked from inside vans. There was nothing available that wouldn't involve a lot of noise getting to on one side, but luckily there was a clear space beside the clothes lines on the other. Perfect! We didn't put the slide out or the legs down (until the morning), both would have sounded very loud in the still night air. A motorhome arrived about 10 minutes after us, I could hear them debating where to go, so I directed them into the 'Garden Bar' just in front of us. 

We headed off to Napier the next morning, as half of Napier headed north. I have never seen the Napier-Taupo Road so busy, it was virtually bumper to bumper the whole 140km. We are now, once again, parked up at our own personal POP beside Mum & Dads'. And looking very smart indeed if I must say so myself! 

A Claytons Holiday- Dad reckons he doesn't have to go away for a break, he can sit in his chair in the 'orchard' looking at the back of our van and he feels like he's on holiday. I'm not sure if he thinks he's in the frosty MacKenzie Country or the citrus groves of the Mediterranean.

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Journey To The Top


We left Tokerau and the beautiful Karikari Peninsula heading north once again, north on our way to the very tip of the North Island. I'm sure every Kiwi has a pilgrimage to Cape Reinga on their 'must do once in a lifetime' bucket list. I know it's certainly on many overseas visitor's list going by the amount of tour buses, rental cars and campers we pass on the road.

The trip to the top for most people usually involves travelling part of the journey along 90 Mile Beach (which, despite the name, is only 55 miles long) but of course with the 5th-wheeler on the back this wasn't going to be an option for us. Although having experienced the beach and the access points later in our visit, we decided we could quite easily take the rig along the sand. We had a quiet chuckle imagining the looks on people's faces as we sailed by (literally if it was high tide!). 

We'd decided to drive to the top, stay in the DOC campground near Cape Reinga for a few days and then explore more slowly on our way back down the 100km long Aupouri Peninsula-the finger of land that forms the top of the North Island.

Of course this didn't mean we weren't able to stop along the way so I could add a few more church photos to my collection; the first one just outside Kaitaia; St Josephs Anglican Maori Church built in 1887.

The Seven Day Adventist Church at Te Kao has seen better days but I've included it here because I wanted to tell you a funny story about taking this photo. Well it is funny now, but at the time it wasn't, it was the most scariest thing I've experience on this journey of ours.

David had pulled up just off the road edge in front of a couple of rural houses. The church was on the other side of the road so I got out, crossed the road and took a few photos and then made my way back over the road and behind the rig to walk up to the front and my passenger door. As I walked around the back of the van this large barking, snarling, teeth bared mongrel of a dog burst out the open gate of one of the houses, charging straight for me.

I have never moved so fast in all my life, I took off down the side of the rig yelling for all I was worth and hoping David would see or hear me and do something, though I'm not sure what. As I reached my door I yanked it open but I was travelling too fast to leap inside so I kept running, pulling the door wide open and jumping behind it. I then shoved the door back & forward a few times like a shield, shouting and screaming at the dog.

By now a guy had also come charging out his gate shouting at the dog (which took not one bit of notice). David's looking at me through the gap in the door like, 'what the hell are you doing, crazy woman?', not having seen or heard anything until I wrenched the door open. Thank God the dog must have thought where did she go and stopped in his tracks and started sniffing around the rear tyre of the ute and then disappeared behind the ute and out onto the road. I leap into the ute and slammed the door and David quickly pulled out. I didn't look back but I can tell you the heart & adrenaline were pumping for many miles afterwards. Now instead of David calling out watch for traffic when I get out to take photos, he's taken to saying check for dogs too!

We stopped again just a couple of miles up the road when I saw one of my 'must have' churches ahead of us, the distinctive Ratana church at Te Kao. I've had this church on my list for a very long time and it was great to actually see it in the flesh. And this time I had a good look around before I opened the door.

Further on we had another exciting but much tamer encounter, an emu! An emu just walking along the fence line through a scrubby paddock beside the highway. Emu farming was a new enterprise back in the 1990s but difficulties in getting the birds slaughtered soon caused a decline in the industry. During that time some birds had escaped their fenced enclosures, others were kept as domestic pets and it has also been rumoured that some farmers released their birds to roam wild.

Sightings of random emus has been reported in many areas around Northland & the Far North and in fact this was my 3rd sighting of a bird. I'd seen one near Kawakawa and another near Tauranga Bay and although they didn't look fenced in, I couldn't be sure as it was a fleeting glance as we drove past. This one though was the closest I'd seen and in an area where it could wander at large so it definitely wasn't a captive bird.

As we drew closer to the top of  peninsula, the landscape opened up; big skies, rolling farmland intermingled with swathes of native scrub and bush, dune lakes, wetland swamps and out on the edges huge golden sand dunes. 

Five kilometres before we reach the top we turned right down a narrow dusty gravel road...

....that drops down through the manuka scrub into Tapotupotu Bay and the DOC campsite we'll be staying at for the next few days.

At the bottom we're greeted by small sandy bay and a lovely golden sand beach tucked in between two headlands...

...and two camping areas- I call them corrals- one for campervans and the other for tents.

I can understand the tent corral, this DOC Camp is on the 48km Te Paki Coastal Walk and at the start of the 3000km Te Araroa Trail so tenters need some space of their own...

...but I have no idea why the powers that be would want to corral all the campervans & motorhomes together because...

...carry on around the corner and there is a huge amount of open space to camp, right on the edge of the estuary.

Which is where we set up...

...and two or three other clever clogs! I thought it was Kiwis that followed along like sheep. In fact I think it's because foreign tourists are sometimes unsure of what to do and where to go and don't want to do anything wrong so follow the leader.

There was plenty to see parked on the side of the estuary, the tide range was so great we were able to watch the lagoon fill and empty with each tide, bird watch out the back window and watch boaties come and go...

...including this group of guys who had a lot of fishing gear set up on their jet skis. In fact they were doing some filming for a TV programme one guy told David as his drone whizzed about around the estuary.

We saw them later in the afternoon when we visit Cape Reinga, far out at sea. We watched them skirt around the outside of the islands off Cape van Diemen and then pass around Cape Reinga as they headed back to Tapotupotu Bay, again way out so as to miss the turbulent waters below us where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean. You can see to tiny splashes of white, centre right in the first photo, they were just tiny dots and we would have missed them had we not known they were out there.

The camp, estuary, stream and mangrove margins were ideal for bird watching- here are a few of the usual suspects; clockwise- A Eurasian Skylark, an epic struggle between a male Sparrow & a Grasshopper, not a bird but just about as big, a Giant Bush Dragonfly, a female Ring-necked Pheasant, a Black Shag and a Welcome Swallow.

This rather plain but dainty little lily was flowering along the edges of the tracks, and through all the thick grasses, it's not a native and I've not seen it before. 

I was up early every morning to search out two specific and very secretive birds. The sunrises weren't quite as spectacular as I had been capturing but still lovely as the suited the subdued surroundings.

I had managed to spot two Banded Rail/Mioweka from the kitchen window, they were across a wide expanse of exposed sand feeding amongst the mangrove air roots along the edge of the stream that fed out to sea at low tide.

They were very quick to disappear into the mangroves and tussock behind at the slightest movement from our side of the estuary though.

Click photo to enlarge- two Banded Rail centre
I did manage to sneak up on them once but only took a fleeting photo as one of them flashed past. I didn't mind though. After my very first sighting and taking a couple of good photos at Whangaparoa's Shakespear Park, then another sighting at Sandspit, this was my third sighting up north so I was just pleased to see them once again.

I knew there were Fernbirds/Matata about when I heard their distinctive clicking calls as I was walking along the boardwalk and over the bridge near our campsite. 

Often heard but rarely seen, Fernbirds aren't quite as shy as the Banded Rail but they are just about as impossible to find because they move fast, skulking through the dense vegetation at ground level and seldom poking their head out of the greenery. 

'You looking for me?'
But they are nosy and if you sit quietly in the middle of their territory watching for the slightest of movements in the reeds or thick scrub around you they'll often poke their head out or jump on to an open branch nearby to check you out. But as quick as a flash they'll be gone again. 

If they have a mate nearby or feel threatened they can also call briefly from the top of a nearby bush, but they'll disappear just as quickly to appear again not much further on, atop the next bush. 

We explored along the boardwalk and track (part of the Te Paki Coastal Walk) up into the bush over the hill on the other side of the estuary a short distance...

...and then along a 4WD track that followed the Tapotupotu Stream deeper into the valley behind the camp. It would be great kayaking quietly up this backwater, we flushed a number of different birds but the dense undergrowth made it hard to spot them.

Each day, as the tide went out I also watched from the window a pair of beautiful steely grey Reef Herons/Matuku Moana stalking prey along the receding waterline. They were very wary too and I only got a little closer to them by putting a bush between them and me and then quietly sneaking up on them using the bush as cover.

Looking like stealth bombers, with wings flattened out to keep their profile low and to help them see fish in the shadow, they carefully paced up and down the water's edge...

...until they spotted a hapless fish which, with lightening fast speed, they caught and swallowed.

Even though I suspect the reef herons were a pair, one of them did not like the other to be within sight and they both did not like the local White-faced Heron/Matuku feeding or flying by either. The dominant Reef Heron spent a lot of his time chasing the other one away and they both chased any nearby gulls and the White-faced Heron away. He just flew up to his favourite tree stump and laughed at them.

Friday, 12 April 2019

It's A Wrap

Real Time

Well, you sure won't miss us on the road now! 

This is what has been keeping us in the Bay of Plenty and Coromandel area for the last month while we waited for a special order of vinyl to arrive from overseas. Over the last 3 and half days 'Out There' has been vinyl wrapped along both sides, had the graphics replaced and the pièce de résistance, one of my photos added to the back! 

Some of you may remember a blog I did last September regarding the dull bloom developing on the van and David polishing it. Well once again, and sadly after all his hard work, the bloom returned within a few months. While we love the darker colour of our rig, it does obviously show up marks & fading a lot more than white motorhomes. We decided that after 7 years, 6 of them on the road fulltime and in all weathers, it was time to paint the van. 

For most of our lives we have never followed the norm and we weren't about to now either. After a lot of research, David had decided on 'wrapping' the van instead of painting it, if it ever needed to be done. We had recently visited a company in Henderson and were very impressed with what we saw and then through a chance meeting at the NZMCA Park at Waihi Beach we met another Ultima owner who happened to have a relation at the Mount who did vinyl wrapping. 

Craig from Wrap It Signs- located in Newton Road, Mt Maunganui- came and saw us while we were parked at the Mount campground. David also visited him at his workshop and we were both very impressed with his attitude and quality of work. We also liked his sense of humour!  We were finally sold on the idea when he showed us a car that had just been completely wrapped in black. Until you opened the door you could not tell that it had once been totally white. 

Much of wrapping that Craig does is in primary and/or bright colours so once we'd chosen our colour- as near as possible to the original- he had to order it in from overseas. Hence the reason David had some fishing time in the Coromandel while we waited. 

The vinyl duly arrived and with our home out of bounds, we de-camped to a lovely Airbnb at the Mount for a few days.

It was a tight fit but with good instructions from Craig & I, David managed to back the 5th-wheeler through an impossibly tight doorway into the workshop. I know you're thinking ('cause I was too) 'How the heck are they going to wrap that left hand side?' Well they did and it included a bit of Kiwi ingenuity/#8 wire thinking, David re-hitched and maneuvered the front of the van over while Craig and Dylan used their weight to push the rear over; their weight and the very slippery backing paper that came off  the vinyl, placed on the floor under the tyres.

David helped out each day working alongside the guys (or was that hindering). He removed and replaced all the hardware that could be taken off the van and helped tidy up as they progressed. He also took photos for me on his phone.

Dylan set about removing the old graphics using a steamer similar to a wallpaper stripper.

They seemed to peel off very easily. You can clearly see the fading that has happened in these photos.

Initially we'd chosen a metallic vinyl similar in colour to the van but unfortunately that wasn't available, the suppliers only had a similar matt colour. To overcome this Craig added a top glossy coat of clear material to the vinyl which gave it an added sparkle and the extra benefit of double the thickness. The colour is quite deceptive in these photos and in real life, under different lights and from different angles.

The vinyl is laid out on the work table and cut to length and then- this is where the expertise and skill comes into it- stuck on the van side, sealed, window holes cut and everything maneuvered into place. It's just about impossible to see the edge and no masking is required!

Once both sides had been wrapped and the pièce de résistance applied- Craig was crafty, we didn't see him add that, it was there in all its glory when we arrived the next morning- 'Out There' was put outside so the slide-out sides and graphics could be done.

The most amazing part of the whole job, for me anyway, was how the graphics were done. Craig had taken a couple of photos on his phone of the rig outside on the road before we delivered it to the workshop. And from just these non-descript photos he was able to reproduce the exact same graphics (give or take a couple of minor details we decided to leave off) and then place them on the rig with no measurements whatsoever. Just a keen eye and some pretty awesome talent. 

This section of wrap was replaced after a small imperfection was spotted. How's this? The graphics were peeled back, the section removed, the new piece stuck on and then the graphics went back over it like nothing had happened! Is that amazing or what (can you tell I'm impressed?) I know how much fiddling and worry goes into sticking the flamin' red NZMCA Wings on the van let alone all these dashes & swirls!

David had suggested we could put a photo on the back of the 5th-wheeler when he was originally looking at the wrapping process and we had toyed with the idea but had pushed it to the back of our minds as we couldn't decide what photo and how big to have it, amongst other things. But once the job was on track and we'd spoken to Craig we thought we'd re-visit the option.

Initially I was thinking of just having it over half the wall, down to the bottom of the window, or 100mm or so further on but Craig suggested filling the whole space as the window edge would detract from the photo and the box on the back was going to cover a lot of it anyway. So that is why we now have a larger than life 'muriel' on the back of our house!

But how to decide on what photo to use? Well David had one in mind and I had several so over an evening (while Craig patiently waited for the file), I put together a few very basic mock-ups.

1) Whangarei Falls- (Craig was most impressed, he's from Whangarei & he'd never seen them looking so spectacular) but we decided it was a bit too busy and imagine that driving down the road in front of you, it would be like someone stole half the bush.

2) Poolburn Dam- Nearly my favourite, I just love the ruggedness, the fishing cribs and the two tone ice and the fact that it's not a part of NZ you usually see. But let's face it, I just love Poolburn full stop.

3) Aoraki/Mt Cook & the Hooker Valley- again very busy and hey, most of New Zealand has seen a photo of Mt Cook.

4) Kea, our cheeky endemic mountain parrot- David was keen to see the mock up of this one although it wasn't his favourite. We dismissed it straight away; it would be quite scary with Big Bird looking down on you as we drove along.

And the winner was-

5) Ahuriri Valley, MacKenzie Country- where it was minus 16c and I had myself a mini hoar frost this particular morning. This was both our favourite photo and family also picked it when I sent out an SOS. It was the only photo that had our van in it too, and I liked the way the river leads your eye into the scene.

The photo just happens to have appeared on the TV weather back when I took it and also was a NZMCA Motor Caravanner magazine cover, now it'll be forever famous travelling around New Zealand on the back of our van! Here's the blog I did on our visit to the remote Ahuriri Valley.

The photo above & below are comparison shots; above with no storage box on the back and the slide-out side still to be wrapped. And below with the box on and side wrapped.

All finished and ready to go...

...and just in time as a heavy rain storm swept in.

Then it was just a matter of turning the rig around, pausing for some photos and heading out. Job well done. We thoroughly enjoyed dealing with Craig and would highly recommend Wrap It for any job you may want done (and don't worry if your rig is bigger than ours, Craig has access to another larger workshop)

Here are another couple of comparison shots of before & after. Click the photo to see a larger version and then scroll back & forward to see them side by side.

The only visual difference I can see, compared with paint, is a slightly raised join where the vinyl overlaps the next drop. In the photo below there's one down the right hand side of the window on the left and another at the bottom of the awning arm. Nothing to write home about. 

And I know some of you will be thinking how about the cost compared with painting. While we didn't have an exact quote on painting, all indications were that wrapping would be approximately half to two-thirds the cost of painting. Then there is the time factor, which can be an issue when you live in your van fulltime and need to vacate it while work is being carried out. Our job was completed in three & half days so accommodation costs were kept to a minimum, and we had a mini-holiday! Well I did anyway, David worked his butt off.

Oh, and by the way, did I tell you we are absolutely wrapped?

Update- we returned to have the front wrapped too, here's the blog post.