Backpacking Pensioners travel blog

A view over Fieldays

Another view over the show arena

The wood carvers arena

Tractor raceing

Batchelor Farmer of the year

Celebraty Chief

A poser

Llamas - as seen on television

The lake at Hamilton

Our new friends at Hamilton

A view from Ongaonga Scenic Reserve Lookout

McLean Falls

Omanawa Falls

Mt Monganui from afar


‘Fielday’ is a form of ‘trade show’ which runs from Wednesday to Sunday and is the largest in Australasia; today is Thursday. In past years the show has been very well attended by the general public as well as the many farming interests; this year the show is expected to be even more successful.

We are camped across from the show entrance the traders use, in the field of an entrepreneurial farmer who charges £6 per night and provides no facilities; but we are very close to the show and fully self contained for all needs. Any concerns we had for the displaced cows went when we realised they had booby trapped the place.

Soon after 9 am we were inside the show and watching a very skilful man carving large wood sculptures with a chain saw on behalf of the saw manufacturer. Yesterdays carvings were on display. In another area 6 men were involved in a two day chain saw carving competition. All these carvings will be auctioned tomorrow and the proceeds go to the Saint Johns Ambulance Service. It is a good job we won’t be here for the auction as it would be hard to get one back home.

In a big long arena were a number of tractors. One looked quite posh and had the name of several sponsors on it, whilst another looked like the mongrel of the bunch and was painted pink. The object of the exercise was to race these souped up tractors against an opponent whilst dragging weights on an iron sledge down the sandy course. The weights were adjusted to ensure the higher powered tractors did not get an advantage. I never thought that watching what must be the origin of drag racing would be so interesting. Equally interesting was watching part of the finals for ‘Rural Batchelor of the Year’, when a number of bachelor farmers performed tasks infront of the appreciative crowd. I wonder if any of them will be snapped up after the show.

As well as enjoying the many food samples we watched the show of a New Zealand TV chef Al Brown, bought a video of his latest TV series ‘Hunger for the Wild, and took advantage of some food offers. We also enjoyed some good chats with stall holders who recognised my Yorkshire accent and wished to discuss the ‘old country’. At the Land Transport stand we were each given a free bottle of water; are they encouraging drink driving? Then, after they could not get a signal on their mobile phone to check up on us, they tried to convince us our van was not registered as a New Zealand vehicle and would be registered as a visiting vehicle. This is now a worry for us as it will create problems if we wish to sell the van before leaving NZ.

Further along the stalls we came across ‘lamas’ which we had seen on the TV show Country Calendar. It was nice to speak with the farmer involved.

Our very interesting day had gone quickly and after a Danish Ice Cream and a purchase of a ‘merino wool and possum fur’ scarf, (I’m just a softy at heart), we viewed the finished products of the wood carving competition and left the show at 5.15 pm.

Back at the van Sylvia was telephoned by Virginia; one of the ladies we had spoken with at the Hamilton Gardens Information Centre on 06 June. Virginia phoned us three days ago and asked if we could meet with her and Judy at Judy’s home, for coffee and a good chat. We arranged to meet with them on Friday. Seeing Virginia and Judy again had been a major factor in our decision to return to Hamilton and visit the Fielday. Virginia fixed the time for 3pm but could not remember the house number; however it is near the Garden Centre off Thomas Road. So now we know where we are going tomorrow; or do we?

A new day dawns, or at least I presume it did a few hours ago. We left the cow field and drove into Hamilton on our traffic free road, whilst observing the many vehicles that were travelling to ‘Mystery Creek’, the home of the Fielday. This morning we are visiting Rotoroa Lake at Hamilton; a very large lake which is home to a lot of bird life.

Around the lake is a tarmac path which is used by many locals for walking and jogging. We were there to enjoy the ambience, and a stroll was far more preferable to us. Just watching all the exercise was tiring enough for me. During our circuit I counted 107 Pukeko, the beautiful blue swamp hen with the red crown; this is definitely my favourite bird in NZ. The most prolific bird, (about a thousand of them), was the duck of which there was a variety. These clearly knew where their bread was buttered, which in this instance was by the children’s corner.

After lunch we hunted down a Vehicle Testing Station to enquire about the status of our van. A very obliging lady soon had our details on her computer screen and assured us we had paid one year’s road tax charges and had been tested in October and March, proving our van met all New Zealand road expectations. Wonderful, especially as we believed it was going to cost us a further £200 after speaking with Land Transport at the Fielday.

Whilst searching for the home of Judy we drove through a new housing estate and past by a sign directing to a Garden Centre. As we were 20 minutes early we carried on to the main road and parked for a while. Ten minutes later a man knocked on our van door and asked if we were the travellers from Scotland. He was on his way to the meeting and recognised the description of our van. “Do you know the number of the house”, said I. “Yes, it is number 5, you can follow us down”. It was great being taken to the door and no wonder he knew the house number. I had been speaking with our host.

Judy and Virginia had invited their husbands to share our company and we spent a very enjoyable afternoon with them all. When tea time arrived pizzas and pies were brought in and the conversation continued. Eventually we said goodbye to Virginia and Ken and hooked up to power at the home of Judy and Robin; spending the night parked infront of the garage. Next morning we visited the house for a thirty minute goodbye before departing. What lovely people we are meeting on our journey through New Zealand.

Today our journey is across country to the east coast at Mount Maunganui near Tauranga. First we must pass by Cambridge, which to our surprise was easily accomplished by the route which took us past the door of Barry and Carol where we stayed a week ago. How come it took us such a round-a-bout route last week to get here? Along we went on familiar roads, stopping for coffee at the beautiful river spot we had stopped before, and then on past last weeks turn off point on to new territory. Ahead of us was a big mountain range which was getting higher all the time.

We were on SH 29 and crossing the Ongaonga Scenic Reserve at a height of 1633 feet above sea level. As we got out of the van at the viewing spot I realised my camera was still at the home of Judy and Robin. I telephoned them. Robin asked us to wait where we were and offered to bring the camera to us; at least a 4 hour return journey for him. I arranged for us to re-visit Hamilton in about two week’s time. At least there will be no arguments over who is the ‘chief photographer’ until I get my camera back.

Once over the hill, (I know I’ve been over the hill for ages), we visited McLaren Falls. I turned off the main road and found myself being followed by a white car and a police car with his top light flashing. I thought I’d better let him go by so pulled into the side, as did the white car; and the police car. I drove on, as did the white car, and the police car which was again flashing; there should be a law against it. Once again I pulled in expecting another chance to help the police with their enquiries and the white car drove on. And so did the police car; we breathed a sigh of relief. We saw the driver being interviewed near the falls.

McLaren Falls are said to be a magnificent sight 26 times a year when the Hydro Dam waters are released for the recreational benefit of the Kaimai Canoe Club. Today we could see the rock base of the falls with only a trickle of water passing by. After viewing McLaren falls we went in search of Omanawa Falls, about 8 miles away.

To reach these falls we walked down a very rough overgrown road and along a muddy path clinging high to the gorge side. Fortunately the path had a protective rail. We could see between gaps in the trees the water shooting out from a narrow gorge below and infront of us. An open door led into a rock tunnel with well worn narrow wet steps leading down to the river where a man was working on a decking. We knew this had something to do with a dam and a hydro scheme somewhere up stream, and decided not to investigate further.

Eventually we reached Mount Maunganui and was allotted a camp site part way up the mountain with wonderful views to the ocean beach to our east, and a view to the Port Bay at the west side of the peninsular.

What a pity the weather forecast for the next few days is awful.

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