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 March 2023

Day 1 of our Oz adventure

 March 20th late afternoon

That final trip from Auckland to Sydney went brilliantly, a very short delay of 30 minutes before boarding our Qantas flight was no more than a slight hiccup. We got talking to other passengers about their experience in NZ and the time flew by. Even the three hours seemed to go quickly, had in board entertainment, not that there was much I wanted to watch but the kiddy channel had a Disney film on so that was my viewing for the journey. 

Last sighting of the NZ coastline

And first sighting of the Aussie coastline

On arrival at the Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport it seemed to take forever until the cabin doors opened to allow us all out. No point in standing getting crowded by those other passengers, instead we watched the luggage being taken off. Suitcase after suitcase was literally thrown onto the trolley cart. No finesse at all and if breakables were in those suitcases, well I hope they were all very well wrapped!

Finally our turn to disembark but before we could collect luggage we were asked if we had anything to declare. What I hadn't realised was that some shells were part of the banned goods.  Luckily we had ticked the box with outdoor activities such as hiking being near water and in forests etc and mentioned to that security guy about the shells. Turns out though that it is only closed shells that they were interested in not the Paua shells I had in my possession so he stamped the docket with nothing to declare and waved us through. I get to keep them after all.


From the airport to Hornsby was much easier to do by train than by car, especially if you could get the through train that only stopped at four stations rather than the 'all stops' which took in about 18 or so. Within 30 minutes we had arrived and met by my brother and whisked away for welcome back drinks at his home.

New adventures now begin, and more to blog about no doubt. How often depends on what we do and of course the Ghan will be the main adventure but that won't be until early April.

And the lovely laughing sound of the Kookaburra greeted us as we arrived. Quite what I will think of them when they start at first light tomorrow, well it's something we both will have to get used to again I suppose.

Monday, 20 March 2023

On our way to Oz

 March 20th

The last couple of days had us frantically cleaning the Toy, doing umpteen loads of washing at the Liquid Launderette (so loved that launderette) before taking the van back to owners Mary and Alan. 


A night was stayed at their place in Whanganui, OMG a proper large springy bed with room to stretch out, didn't realise quite how we missed that luxury and a toilet that I didn't have to get dressed first and go outside to use, it was heaven! A meal booked at Stella Bar for a fabulous farewell meal, it was a big thank you to both Alan and Mary for the use of their camper and that didn't seem enough for what they did for us. I do so hope when they come to the UK that we will meet again and our boat could be of some use to them. Let's hope so

This morning Mary drove us to Whanganui Airport, such a small terminal that check in took but a few moments, none of this snaking around in long queues as is the want at international or large domestic airports. We missed the landing of the plane, got it as it taxied in and within 30 minutes the turn around had been completed and we were ready to board. A very fond farewell to Mary and we were on our way.

 Fifty five minutes was the flying time to Auckland. At first low cloud obscured the view from our emergency exit seats. Yep we had the same seats as when we arrived, row 1A & B with that propeller within sight through the window, but as we rose higher, there in its majestic glory was Mount Ruapehu  

Approaching Auckland the cloud turned wispy and more could be seen. It was the perfect flight and landing and the 15-minute walk to the International terminal was done in a sweltering 20 degrees, what a lovely way to leave NZ.

So I'm writing this in the Strata Lounge at the airport. I sailed through security although for once it was Ian that set the alarms off when he went through the barrier. Keys, watch and wallet were to blame.


Farewell NZ. The most amazing experience only ever done once in a lifetime. Would we do it all again? Most definitely, and with the same van too. Living in such close quarters for 5 months is not for everyone but for us, it was a laugh a minute taking in the good times as well as the bad. Will we be back? That is a decision for much later, best get over this one first!

Friday, 17 March 2023

A runaway car, and what was that in the kitchen?

 March 17th

Well well well, late afternoon at Ohawe Motor camp and a loud bang was heard. Blimey...was that a vehicle through the fence and into a tree? Both of us rushed up to see if anyone was in it, someone could have had a seizure, heart attack, anything,  but we were relieved to find the car empty other than the usual dross one finds in old unloved cars.  Ian went back to tell the camp ground owner, she did no more than phone the Police, took down the vehicle reg, and take photos as proof. It appears as if the handbrake had not been applied properly (or it was faulty) but someone is going to get a very big shock when they return from their beach walk! 

Not long after and as dinner was being prepared, a police officer turned up. The car door was unlocked, details were taken, then he leaped over the fence to take a photo at the front.

Back to cooking dinner and suddenly a knock on the door. It was that officer. With just Ian and myself hearing the crash he wanted to know if we could shine any light on the incident. Well, we couldn't. The only thing I had seen was about 5 minutes before that crash, two youths walked down toward the beach with fishing rods. Anyway after he left I walked to where I thought the car had been parked and sure enough, track marks on the grass showed the direction of travel, agreeing with my deduction that the brake had failed.

 That cat was gone this morning, we thought we could hear engines reving about 8 pm but with it being dark, couldnt see where it ewas coming from.

So this morning, I did take advantage of the free washing machine. All the curtains were removed from the Toy and washed. A good drying wind was blowing should have dried the curtains in no time, I had just finished pegging them out when the rain started, just a few drops so decided to leave be. No sooner had I shut the door on the Toy when the few drops became torrential. I got soaked trying to bring them in, nothing for it but to hang them back up and let them dry in situ.  

The journey to Kai Iwi motor camp was horrible. High winds and torrential rain made the journey most unpleasant.

Its been like that all day with a short dry spell as we arrived at Kai Iwi motor camp. Today was supposed to be packing day, almost impossible with the showers but yes, somehow we managed to get everything in our two holdalls ready for the flight on Monday.


A camp kitchen is on this site, how wonderful that I can use two burners for cooking instead of just the one, although I'm a dab hand at one pot dinners after all this time. In the middle of the food prep something was seen out of the corner of my eye. It was a rat! Big at that, and it shot behind the cooker. One of the outside doors was open, within seconds he left the safety of the cooker and shot through that door and back outside. I should think this is a regular occurrence as it knew exactly where to go. Hmm, I think a walk to the reception tomorrow to report the problem, totally unacceptable to have vermin running about the place.

Tomorrow will be washing bedding, cleaning the Toy and getting last minute stuff found lurking in hidden corners into our already overloaded bags. Two more sleeps and farewell NZ.

Thursday, 16 March 2023

Road works and Jandals

 March 16th

Lovely end to the evening yesterday, sun was still warm and the continuing Quiddler competition was held outside. It sure is getting tense. From me being 7 games ahead, Ian drew level two days ago. I managed to claw back two so I am only just in the lead. With three days left before the winner is declared, its all to play for!

The departure from Tongapōrutu was late, mid morning and we had only just got ourselves sorted. Passed the wall of Jandals, looks like more have been added since 2020.



It was off to New Plymouth to find a car wash. We wouldn't fit in the conventional car washes so it has to be one of those DIY places where you drive-into a bay to do it yourselves. Took almost all Ian's change as the Toy was a tad dirty! At the same place was a car vac, a dollar a minute was all you got. With 6 dollars left in coins, three went into the machine. Surely this would give him all the time needed. And no doubt it would if the blooming thing worked! With the remaining three dollars he drove to another machine. I was left guarding all the stuff taken out of the van as he departed. Next thing I know this young lad appears, looked questionably at the stuff lying around including the porta potti and I was quick in explaining what had happened. He was one of the workers at the garage. Told me he would return the three dollars and proceeded to fix the machine. His parting words were "all working fine now". Ian returned, I told him the machine was fixed, he put in another dollar to do the mats and....nothing! One dollar spent and forever lost!

It was a day of roadworks, not just a short section but kilometre after kilometre. The delay the first time was about 5 minutes, looked to be new power lines going in across the gorge. The second had us sitting waiting for nearly 20 minutes! A new road surface was the cause of this delay. 

2nd hold-up

If you look at this photo, and remember we waited without another vehicle coming for nearly 20 minutes, 

 how amazing that the queue waiting at the other end was only short and it was on SH3! Think M1 or for that matter any of the UK's motorways, by now the queue would have stretched for miles. Now if that doesn't tell you how quiet the roads are over here, nothing will!

Tonight's stop is at a paid campsite, $30 for both plus free showers and washing machine! I could have used that machine but the weather had turned drizzly and with no dryer to hand just a washing line, felt sure the clothes would still be wet even if left out overnight. We managed a short walk on the beach though.

So no more freedom camping for us. our last few nights will be spent in proper camp sites where we can pack our bags and clean the Toy at our leisure. Sad that his is nearly the end but oh so glad I don't have to use any more of those 'long drop' loos. End of summer is nie and they are becoming a health hazard! Lots of flies and the smell is quite unpleasant!

Wednesday, 15 March 2023

Needle in a haystack

 March 15th

Another day of blue sky and wall-to-wall sunshine. Seems our last few days here and the weather Gods are favouring us.

The decision was made to do the 60 km from Lake Ngarato to Kawhia Hot Water Beach. A good hour and a half drive so the earlier we started the better. Low tide was at 10 am, the best time to dig holes in the sand to find the hot springs was at this time, we rather fancied a hot water soak. 

Dead on 10 am we arrived. A barrier was in the way, one we had to get over, a blooming great sand dune! Stupidly I forgot to take my Ibuprofen, that climb on shifting sands was a killer. Getting down the other side was no easy task either and I very nearly decided to slide down on my bum!

One thing lacking on our quest...no shovel! The plan was to dig with our hands, what we hadn't realised was the depth one had to dig down to, to find hot water. Plus not a sign of any bubbling water to show where the springs were. A few folk had already dug holes and found it almost impossible to find the correct spot. Two lads struck lucky and right on the shore line. But the incoming tide kept filling the hole. Not to be deterred those lads kept bailing the water out.  It was like a comic sketch, this was done over and over again, we laughed, they laughed with us and invited us to try the hot water. Wow. it was hot and the deeper they dug, the hotter it got. As for our lovely hot soak, we decided against, that will have to wait for another time.

Lots of trial holes

I went paddling and got caught out!

 I was in charge of map reading today, our annoying sat nav women refused to play and our position remained a mystery. This actually worked in our favour because I found a waterfall that we hadn't visited. It was a detour of about 40 km return but by Jove, it was worth it. The Marokopa Falls so impressive, they were even on the North Island best waterfall website as the opening photo.

I told him NOT to climb over the gate

Would he listen? No!

I did hand him my camera though, well he was already on the wrong side!

 Lunch was had here. Another two of the excellent New Zealand meat pies purchased earlier in the day. Gosh, I will miss their pies. The UK pies are not a patch on the NZ ones.

My navigation took us along the Marokopa Road, more washouts and road damage, then along the Mangatoa gravel road with its bone shaking ridges. Eventually we rejoined a tarmac road which lead to the SH 3 and finally to our destination at Tongaporutu. We spent several days here with Marilyn and David when we were  on the North Island in January 2020


We moved from here as this was not the freedom camping site.

This was though.

 And seen at Awakino


And wildlife

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