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, 21 January 2020

Is this the longest wait EVER

It had to happen, another mishap with the motorhome. This time a bit more serious then the diesel in the water tank, the pump packing up and the tap handle coming off in the kitchen sink causing the pump to continually run. This time it was the engine!

   Today started so well, had a lovely WhatsApp face time chat with # 1 son and family and by 9.10am we had left Lake Elterwater. Not 20 minutes into the journey to Kaikoura and suddenly a horrible rumbling sound from the engine and the battery light came on. "Bloody hell" cried Ian braking pretty hard. Nothing behind us so we pulled over as far as we could onto the side of the road. We were travelling along Highway 1, not a busy road by any means but the trucks using it all had trailers attached and was enough to put me on edge. Hazards went on, out came the manual for the motorhome and phone the number found for the AA Road Side assistance. Ian suspected the alternator belt had gone and checked under the bonnet confirmed his suspicions. 

A new alternator had apparently been fitted three weeks before our collection of the van and Ian wondered if the old fan belt had been replaced rather than a new one fitted. Anyway, Graham from Camper South was informed and he said he would arrange to get it fixed. Finally at midday the AA Van arrived, confirmed that Ian was correct in his assumption but of course was unable to do anything at the roadside. So he arranged for a pickup truck to come to get us “Shouldn't have to wait too long” said he. "The garage in Kaikoura is expecting you" As our position on the Highway was a bit precarious a towrope was attached we were towed about a kilometre to a large gravel layby. Time was 12.15 pm.

And so we waited and waited. By 13.30 Ian phoned again and was told it would be a further 75 minutes before they arrived. Another cup of tea made, another chapter or two read; the view of the road was by now getting monotonous! By 15.30 Ian phoned again. "Oh sorry," she said, "But we won't be able to get to you until 17.30 and unfortunately the garage will be shut by then." To say the air was blue was an understatement. Ian phoned the garage and I must say the staff were marvellous telling us where they wanted the van offloaded and said we could plug into the electrics. By now, we had been waiting at the side of the road for 8 hours.

17.30 came and went, as did 18.30. I had read a book from cover to cover and Ian had played enough Sudoko to become World Champion! Another phone call made and this time we had another update, it would be at least another three hours!!!! Ian lost it big time, asked why we had to wait so long for a pickup truck. "We only have the one to carry your size of Motorhome" was the reply "and as its just the Motorhome to pick up not the passengers". "WHAT" he shouted, "Exactly how are we to get to Kaikoura, it's 65k away"! "Are you with the vehicle then"? she asked. "We were told you had returned to Bleinham in the mechanic's car and only the Motorhome needed collecting". "It's was marked down as non-urgent"! she stated. We both lost it then and told her in no uncertain terms to get the F**k of her backside and get us a pickup truck NOW.

It eventually came at 20.30, exactly eleven hours after the first call had been placed!


Offloading at the garage, our stopover for the night

A small flying insect caught my attention for all of 3 minutes!

Monday, 20 January 2020

Not again!

Before I go any further you must read this POST from 2017 first because what I tell you next will beggar belief.

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.

So here's the thing....How can one man get something so wrong....twice!

Sunday 19th. The alarm on the phone sprung into life a tad after 6 am. Groans from us both but we crawled out of bed, had the bedding stowed away as soon as the last persons bottom left the mattress and by 6.25 were on our way. Destination Bluebridge Ferry. Time of sailing, 8 am. Arrived at the port in good time and this time no kiosks. The lane we needed was pointed out, the van parked and instructions followed to head for the terminal and check-in. Dutifully joined the queue and finally our turn. Ian hands over the phone with all the documents needed, the chap types it all into the computer and then those dreaded words. "Your 24 hours too early" he grins. "You are booked on the 8 am ferry on the 20th!!! WHAT!!! Not again! I could not believe it. This time though we were unlucky because although he said he could change our booking, we had to pay a further $90 for the privilege!

Breakfast on board, yummy

Miserable wet day leaving Wellington

But had the promise of a better day when we glimpsed the sun.


Disembarked by 11.30am and headed for Kaikoura. This road was closed last time we did South Island because of the devastating earthquake and drove to it the long way round via Nelson, Westport, Greymouth (the western coastline) and across the Island to Christchurch before heading back North on the Eastern side.

Very noticeable was the rugged landscape with a twisty winding road, quite beautiful in its way.

This is Lake Grassmere Saltworks ponds. To see why they are pink CLICK HERE

Stopped on route to view this at Awatere River. The Road Rail Bridge. There is a good article about it HERE

Stopped early by Lake Elterwater, another freedom camping site. Quite close to the highway but like all New Zealand roads, not much in the way of passing traffic to bother us.

  And on the Lake

And seen during the crossing



Sunday, 19 January 2020

How many cousins?

The wanderers had returned to Waikanae late morning of the 17th. I had a mission, meet my Uncle Henk who I thought was a long lost uncle. Turns out I did meet him when I was in my twenties when he came over to England to visit my mother (a touch of senility perhaps on my part or could it be excess of the red stuff consumed) Anyway my Dutch mother was the eldest of 12 children and Henk is the second youngest of the twelve. In his late 80's I was unsure what I would find. Facebook did come in useful on this occasion because I made contact with a cousin living here in NZ who gave me an address to go to. Turns out Uncle Henk is her dad and he also lives in Waikanae!

The visit was special and very emotional, I know that I probably won't see him again but the time spent reminiscing was one to cherish and never to be forgotten.

Top, me and Jill. Bottom Uncle Henk and Mina
Sad day for us today, we said our farewells to Marilyn and David. Mind you Ian did breath a sigh of relief as we drove away. "That Marilyn is a Very Bad influence on you" he stated. Hmm, wonder what he meant? Maybe it was because of the clothes shopping we did after a scrumptious breakfast at a cafe in Waikanae from which Marilyn had conveniently left her purse behind. Ian, the only one with any money, paid for ALL the breakfasts. I am then whisked away to a shopping Mall leaving the men to return home with two of Marilyn's friends, Bruce and Gary. The look that I got from Ian on our return when 4 new tops had been bought (well everyone I tried on looked great so had to have them) was priceless! "I only paid for 3," said I trying to soften the blow. Marilyn out of the goodness of her heart (and the fact that Ian had to pay for breakfasts) bought me the first most expensive top. So massive thank you for that Marilyn and for you and David making our final week on North Island so special. Oh and Ian said he loves you really πŸ’πŸ˜˜

 Next stop was Wellington and a place called Wadestown. Having made contact with 1 cousin suddenly more came out of the woodwork, a total of 7 to be precise and a meal had been arranged so we could all meet. Several more had other engagements and couldn't make it but wow, that reunion was one I won't forget in a long time. Invites have been issued to all to join us on FS, may well be quite a crowded affair but masses of fun nevertheless.

Jill (Henks daughter) Cliff, me, Elleka, my namesake Irena, Terri, (Henks youngest daughter) and Ingrid.

Off to South Island tomorrow, a very early start as the ferry leaves at 8 am and of course, we have to be there an hour earlier. Roll on our next adventure.

the most special week    thank Terri and jill

Meeting reatives shoping marilyn ferry booked wrong

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Soaked because of a crab

'Where is that photo of the crab?' Marilyn asked. Ah, I had forgotten, silly really as I got very wet taking it. All Marilyns fault as a huge rock was pointed out to me whilst admiring the Three Sisters. It had several large slits in its face so armed with the camera I get down to take a photo. Suddenly, whoosh, a huge wave rushes in from the sea and rises to well above the knees 'I'll hang on to you' shouts Marilyn over the noise and proceeds to grab the back of my shorts. So how on earth could I have forgotten to include that in my last post! Anyway here is the photo of the crab. Hmm, not sure it was worth the soaking!

Today (16th) we left Hawera and travelled a mere 10 minutes to stop at the Tawhiti Museum a private museum of local South Taranaki history bringing the story of what life was like back in the time of the first settlers including interaction with the Maori's, the wars that followed and eventually leading to the Waitangi Treaty being signed. Every single modal whether it be big or small was made by one man, Nigel Ogle which took him well over 20 years to complete and there are even more to be added to it. So much to see that 3 hours flew by and we still didn't manage to see it all. Nothing for it...we will have to do another return trip in a few years time!

How Joan's rooms would have looked. (see below write up)

So lifelike! Just a mannequin though!
It was well into the afternoon when we left the museum and headed toward Foxton, tonight's destination where I know from our last visit three years ago that there was a  Dutch delicatessen shop in a Windmill. I'm rather partial to Dutch food, well both my parents were Dutch after all. A stop on the way to take this unique photo of the Aotea Canoe and a tale told to me by David. A chap running from the Police managed to climb into this canoe to hide. Apparently, it worked!

This artwork representing the Aotea canoe stands in Pātea. The captain of the Aotea, Turi, brought the god Maru to New Zealand. (exert from teara.cov.nz) To read about the traditions CLICK HERE

And wildlife today

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Three Sisters and a wall of Jandals!

Monday 13th,

Rain, lots of it! The first significant downpour we have had since arriving on the North Island. Now there's an opportunity not to be missed, all that dust accumulated on the bodywork from that gravel road on the Forgotten Highway could be washed off. Marilyn and David were very quick to supply Ian with mop and hose to watch this mad man washing the van in the pouring rain! So on went the waterproof jacket and armed with said hose and mop, stepped out into the rain and proceeded to give the vehicle a good scrubbing. It was as he stepped back inside the motorhome that the discovery was made, the jacket was no longer waterproof and everything was wet through, even down to the undies!

We were parked on a powered site at Waitara Holiday Park, a site run by Marilyns sister Dee, and one of the perks of having the site in the family, check out time could be delayed. Glad of it because the rain was relentless and we hoped that a delay on leaving would mean a fairweather arrival at the next stop at Tongaporutu. It was not to be even though we didn't set off until nearly mid-morning.

To wet to explore so nothing for it but drink, be merry and play Five Crowns. Yep, we have been introduced to this card came and boy did the competitive streak come out!

Finally dry enough to get out and have a look at the place.
The change in the weather the next day, well this photo said it all.

Off for the long-awaited walk to be shown where Marilyn spent many a happy hour of her childhood.
What a great way to display washed up Jandals (flip flops to you and me)

The blue of the river was stunning.

Time for a paddle
Back at camp and it was a waiting game for the tide to recede as the only way to see the Three Sisters, (one has completely disappeared so now only the two of the 25-metre rock formations are standing) was to cross an expanse of black sand at low tide, walk alongside the river and around the point. Marilyn rallied the troops (several other motorhomers joined the walk) as a window of two hours was all we had so not a place to linger for too long. The place was amazing but tides wait for no man so had to be quick and limit myself to a mere 532 photos!!! Fret not, only a few went on here.

Marilyn in front
The erosion is happening on an alarming scale

What is going on here???
Looking sheepish, are we????
David and Ian
What a place to finally get a phone signal!

Blimey was this dog about to attack Ian? Nop just trying to find a safe route out of the cave.
T'was now late afternoon and by the time we had arrived at the motorhomes several of the other 'troops' had already made it back. A small gathering at one of the vans prompted Marilyn to invite all of us to gatecrash the party!  So armed with drink, chairs and lots of cheek wondered over to the circle. This turned out to be one of the best nights we have had. More people came to join the party (many invited by Marilyn) and to say this became a rowdy affair was the understatement of the evening. No bad heads in the morning (the motorhomers are a hardy bunch) and another gatecrash at breakfast by some of the 'troops' at Davids and Marilyns. A photo was needed and it came down to me to do the honours.

The time had come to head away for pastures new and with Marilyn taking the lead headed off for New Plymouth. A quick stop for tea at Marilyn's friend Judy (wow her place was amazing) and another very quick stop back at Dee's for showers use of the facilities and it was off to do Chaddy's charters in a Bridlington C class lifeboat. Just Ian and me as this had been done numerous times by David and Marilyn. We even got to be launched down a ramp, great fun especially as the sea had quite a swell to it. The rougher the better for us but it did take some doing trying to get photos of the seals. A very enjoyable hour was spent.

You would never tire of that view

On route to Hawera for the next stopover, Marilyn took us to  Paritutu Centennial park. another place to admire the views

The planned night's stop was full, a lovely place overlooking the beach but boy was it windy so very glad to leave for a more sheltered place. David found one at the car park of South Taranaki club. So it was decided to go in for a meal but as it was members and guest only, David collared Trevor a veteran of the club (now a life member) who obligingly signed us in. The meal was good and plentiful (especially David who ordered the Lamb shank and "Make it a large one." I think he may have regretted the portion size! Then back to the motorhome to be introduced to yet another card came, Up and Down the River. Most confusing game but great fun nevertheless.

Wildlife for today,

Bloody Cicada landed on my foot!

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