Backpacking Pensioners travel blog

Waikato River at Hamilton

Another bridge at Hamilton

Statue to the Rocky Horror Show

Floating Hamilton Restaurant

Wood carving mural at Hamilton Gardens

Japanese Garden

Chinese Garden

Celestial Yuan of Taihu - in the Chinese Garden

Indian Char Bagh Garden

Italian Renaissance Garden

The visitors centre and cafe in the gardens

The Russian Bell Tower

Barry and 2 of the horses

Carol and grandson Tyler

Barry, Carol and family members

Dam at Lake Karapiro

Rowing Club at Lake Karapiro

Pest Proof Fence at Mangatautari


The task today is to explore Hamilton. After a 15 minute down hill stroll we arrived at one of the several bridges which cross the Waikato River to the main shopping area. Well below us the river looked beautiful and we decided to spend time walking on Hamilton Parade, the 2 ½ mile recreational path which is high above the river but still many feet below street level. After reaching our self appointed turn around point we retraced part way and went up the steps to the town. Our baptism of Hamilton had been a very tranquil 90 minutes exercise in beautiful surroundings.

After the 3 mile walk we were pleased to come across a ‘Cheesecake’ Shop offering a special deal of coffee and a big portion of cake, (choice from a list of 14), for £2. It was a real pleasure to sit down and spend the money. Next we walked around a shopping centre before going to the museum. On the way we came across The Riff Raff Statue, a statue to Richard O’Brien placed on the old site of the now demolished Embassy Theatre. Richard, (former host of the Crystal Maze on British TV), came to Hamilton in 1957 and worked in a barber shop in the theatre. He came to prominence in 1973 after his ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’ set forth to become an International Interactive Phenomenon and audiences did the ‘Time Warp’ again and again.

At the museum we viewed some modernist paintings, (somebody must like them), before passing a large group of children listening attentively to a male Mouri explaining about, and playing Mouri musical instruments. Downstairs we arrived at a special exhibition about the Waikato River which had a lot of interactive areas for children to enjoy; and we also enjoyed them. There is a big drive to clean the river of industrial pollutions and I wish the Hamilton Mayor a lot of luck when he honours his promise in 2012 to drink a glass of Waikato River water.

Earlier we had seen a nice ‘food court’ so returned and bought and ate our evening meal before walking back to camp; a pleasant and interesting day.

We awoke to what promised to be a showery day after a rainy night. First I spoke with an Orthopaedic doctor from Redding, England, who is travelling with his family whilst seeking a hospital post before emigrating here. His preference is to live at Nelson and I wish him and his nice family all the best. Tonight we will stay on the property of Carol and Barry at Cambridge, a horse racing town famous for its studs. Barry is the long time best friend from school days of Roger who was so welcoming to us at Christmas when we stayed with him and Wensley.

Before leaving Hamilton we must visit Hamilton Gardens which have been highly recommended to us. There are a lot of volunteers involved in these gardens and the lay out is the brain child of one man, which probably explains why it is so good. (A camel is a horse run by a committee). First we visited the garden’s Information Centre where we were welcomed with open arms by two female volunteers, especially when they realised we were going to spend several hours rather than try to view everything in 60 minutes. We not only learned about Hamilton Gardens but many of the areas we have yet to visit.

Near by, behind a large glass case in the Pavilion Foyer, was a very large carving made up of many panels. The more we looked at the intricate carving the more we could see, and marvel at the cleverness of the carvers, Megan Godfrey and Derek Kerwood. Next we went to the Paradise Garden Collection and worked our way through the gardens of 6 Countries. These gardens were a photographer’s paradise and might explain the name.

Next we moved on to the Productive Garden Collection where we found the Kitchen, Herb, and Sustainable Backyard Garden. The Waikato Institute of Horticulture is sighted in Hamilton Gardens and this section is the out door classrooms for the students. They were well laid out with easy to read instructions and explanations as to the reasons for crop rotations. The layout of a Maori Garden has begun.

Went we went to the Rose Garden and after inspecting 2,500 roses, (not many blooms in winter), we walked past the Rhododendron Lawn, and up the hill to the Russian Bell Tower, before passing the Camellia Garden and entering the Victorian Greenhouses. All were nice to see and will be great in spring and summer. We did several of the walks and viewed areas which are still to be developed. Before leaving we returned to the Information Centre to say goodbye to our helpful ladies but they had finished their stint. New ladies had been informed about us and we spoke with them and left one of our ‘cards’ so our morning ladies could visit our blog site.

Our 15 mile journey to the home of Barry and Carol at Cambridge was 24 mile long as we took the scenic route, (every where in NZ is really the scenic route). When we found our destination we tried to explain the way we had travelled, but couldn’t. I sometimes wonder how we have managed to find our way round our 32,000 mile route since getting our motorhome on 05 October 2006. Our welcome was first class which surprised us. We thought Barry and Carol would have left town after being told what we were like by Roger and Wensley. We enjoyed getting to know one another during the evening and was pleased to meet Chris, a son who still stays at home, and his son Tyler.

Next morning we entertained Barry and Carol to coffee and cookies in our van whilst we enjoyed a good talk. After lunch we were taken into the field of the main two horses Barry and Carol ride, and introduced to them. The horses became very skittish and whilst I was videoing them they ran round the field. As one hurtled towards me Sylvia thought I was very brave in standing my ground. Having realised I had not left myself time to jump the fence, I put my trust in the horse knowing the parameters of the field and not wanting to run head first into the fence. As I had hoped, the horse turned left on cue; and I resolved to video from the other side of the fence in future.

In another field were 6 horses who were all pleased to come to the fence to see us, and this time I was pleased to remain on the outside; lovely animals. Barry had been brought up with horses and breaks in and schools his own. The travelling horse box is a converted van and has ample room for three horses and living quarters for Barry and Carol. Judging by the photographs we were shown, horse treks are a great way of seeing this country. This was a nice lazy day spent in good company rounded off by a good rugby union match between Ireland and the All Blacks on TV. The players were in Wellington and seemed to be suffering from hyperthermia by the time the game finished, but we were nice and warm.

Sunday dawned and our hosts wanted to show us the surrounding area of Cambridge; we are lucky people. First we visited the home of their youngest daughter Kerry and husband Shane, and met lovely 2 year old granddaughter Ella and the newest 2 week old addition to the family Chelsea; still an eating sleeping shit machine but beautiful with it. I didn’t think we could tear Barry away but on we went, (though I am sure we were now second choice). After travelling through the hills and countryside where Barry and Carol had farmed for many years, we viewed Lake Karapiro, on the Waikato River, where the World Rowing Championships will be held in 2010.

After many nice views and a lovely pub lunch of toasted sandwiches, we visited the Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust. The whole of a hill top has been surrounded by a very clever and substantial predator proof fence, and the inside has been cleared of all predators. Native birds should now survive and prosper. After entering through a special double gate we took a short walk and watched some wee birds at a nectar feeding station. The day had turned cold and the afternoon was wearing on so we returned to the car. The several walking trails are bound to be well used in this vast ecological project.

On our way home we had another surprise. Kerry and Shane were holding an afternoon party for their new baby and we were invited as well. It was a nice cosy party amongst young couples and 3 young children. The adult finger food on the table also contained many sweet items which appeal to children, and as I observed, appeal to parents as well. Our evening was once again spent lazily in conversation with our new friends and in phone conversation with Roger and Wensley in Invercargill.

Tomorrow morning we will say goodbye before Barry and Carol go to their employments and we will set off once more on our travels. We hope we will have the opportunity to entertain our new friends someday at our home in Scotland.

Entry Rating:     Why ratings?
Please Rate:  
Thank you for voting!
Share |