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.

Sunday, 30 October 2022

Pigoen post thrives in Whanganui

 29th October

We have the camper. Small and bijou but with everything needed for our 5-month trip. Having put both our bags in plus two rucksacks we did wonder if we had been a tad overzealous with what we had brought but stopping at Victoria park for a sort out, it was amazing how we managed to find space for all our clothes. A bit of rearranging was necessary, we put items we didn't think we would need to often in more obscure places, and made a vow to make sure to stay tidy!


 

At Victoria park there was also an exotic bird aviary very near to the entrance. A must-see for me and plenty of photos taken. A cafรฉ was but a short walk further on, tea and sausage roll went down nicely. Right next door to that was the Winter Gardens, spectacular in its blooms and vibrant colours.

 






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Leaving that lovely place it was then find a Pac and Save store for a few essentials. Not to go mad mind, can't buy meat or anything that needs cooking because this van only has an electric cooker. Works fine when plugged into the electrics but with us freedom camping most of the time, this means a lot of salads and cold food will be the only things on the menu. We found a Shiraz fairly cheap. $9.99 a bottle we didn't think that bad (roughly £5) that would do to celebrate our first day on the road.

We found a spot to overnight next to Whanganui river. Ideal as on Sunday we booked the steam boat trip up stream for a two-hour cruise. Of course, it rained during the night and well into the morning. Fully expecting to get seriously wet on the cruise, the rain stopped as we boarded and stayed dry for the rest of the morning. It was almost on departure time I suddenly realised I had left my glasses at the public toilets when I went for a wash first thing. Talk about panic. A quick chat with the captain to see how long I had before sailing and 20 minutes was all he could give me. Blimey, knee was giving me some gyp but gritting one's teeth I rushed the quarter of a mile to the toilets and found to my delight, they were still on the baby changing mat where I had left them. Gosh, how lucky was I! I made it back with 10 minutes to spare..







  At the halfway point of the cruise the Captain came out holding a pigeon. What was he doing?? His explanation was that in days gone by, way before any mobile or static phone device, carrier pigeon was the only means of passing on messages. This tradition has been continued ever since, even allowing youngsters to send messages which would then be waiting for them back at the quay.



And away they go
 

So with one more night before meeting up with Marilyn and David (Waka Huia)  we went back to Victoria park. Freedom camping was permitted here and the toilets stay open until 8 pm and reopen at 6 am. May have to curtail how much we drink tonight, although we do have the porta potty to fall back on!


Friday, 28 October 2022

Steps or elevator, no contest really.

 Whanganui is bigger than we thought. The main street leading down to the river has a fascinating mix of shops and plenty of food outlets. We found one that did amazing cream slices which was devoured with morning coffee and also meat pies and sausage rolls to die for. These were purchased for our tea in the evening. By the river was the information centre and here we managed to book a steamboat river cruise for Sunday morning. So what to do today. Well a tunnel and elevator was mentioned. Built in 1919, The Durie Hill Elevator is New Zealand’s only public transport elevator and is still used on a daily basis by locals and visitors today. It is accessed through a long pedestrian tunnel, at the end a bell is rung and the operator brings the elevator down to take you the 66-metre ride to the top of the hill. The ride cost us $4 return. I suppose we could have walked up the steps but one look at how steep they were put us right off!

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Once at the top two towers were just asking to be climbed, the first with its spiral steps next to the elevator was a bit more difficult for the likes of me, Ian had no difficulty in doing those narrow and steep steps, but I persevered and was glad I made the effort. The views were spectacular. 

 



 

Even more impressive was the Durie Hill Memorial Tower. Steps were easier to climb but oh so many of them. 176 and having had Covid my fitness levels were zilch! Talk about breathless, thankfully convenient seats were strategically placed to stop at on the way up. 





 

Back at the hotel and time for a well earned beer. We met a couple of locals who passed the time with us and suggested places to go and see. As I've said before, the people here are just wonderful.



So tomorrow we collect the van. Tested again this evening to make sure we are both still Covid free and yes, news was good. Our adventures truly do start tomorrow.

And this seen at the start of the tunnel.




Thursday, 27 October 2022

Freedom.

 25th October, Aussie time of 16:00

At last, today I tested negative.

Came out of isolation and still with mask on, joined my brother Andy and Sally for drinks and nibbles on the veranda. Oh, it was nice to be able to go downstairs and listen to the sounds of the night. Frogs, crickets and the occasional goodnight call of the Kookaburra oh how I have missed that. Didn't much care for those nasty biting insects though. Ian, in his shorts, paid for not wearing long trousers the next day. Bites all over his knees! Anyway with me now Covid free the flights to NZ went ahead as planned. We left early the next morning, like 6.30am, to get the train to the airport. For some reason we had to be there 4 hours before departure, ridiculous until my brother mentioned a kilometre queue around the airport perimeter because there wasn't enough staff to man the checkouts. We just sailed through, hardly any queues so found the lounge and indulged in free breakfast and as much tea or coffee one could drink. So much more civilised than hanging around a departure hall for hours.


The flight was delayed. In fact both of us were baffled as to what was on the information board. No delay sign, no, it just said relax! Anyway an hour later we eventually boarded, flight was brilliant and three hours later touched down in Auckland. It was here that things didn't quite go to plan. 



Leaving Sydney Kingsford Smith


Auckland


We had hoped to be at our hotel for 5 pm. An arrangement had been made to meet up with John and Dawn at 6 pm. We first met them back in 2020 when a message came through the blog to say they enjoyed following our travels and could we meet. They took us out on their boat. To see the post click HERE Anyway announcements were made saying there could be a long wait to get through to border checks. Wow, they were not wrong! After collecting our bags we joined the throng. Three queues eventually merging into two, joining those already confined in those barriers that took you across from one side to another without any means of escape and causing one to snake across the hall for what seemed like miles. Thankfully the shuffling forward was pretty constant and nearly an hour later we made it to where our bags were to be X-rayed. We were then pulled out of the line! It was to do with the declaration card. NZ border patrol are really strict about anything coming into the country that could cause an environmental disaster. And quite rightly too, as it should be. Shame the UK doesn't follow suit! Anyway I had ticked the food box (I had peppermints in my bag) and ticked the medicine box (had the usual Paracetamol, cough sweets, pain killers etc) well a fine of 400 dollars would be issued if food or drugs were not declared. But it turns out sweets are okay, as are medicines bought over the counter! I felt they thought I had wasted their time but in my book sweets are eaten (food) and over the counter medicines are medicines! I will remember next time not to declare those items!

Because of the delay and because the bus to the hotel took 40 minutes to arrive, we never did get to meet up with John and Dawn. We did manage to phone their hotel and explain why we failed to turn up. All was not completely lost though, because John mentioned they would both be back in Auckland next March, the same time as us so hopefully will meet up then.

On the 27th our flight on Air Chatham was for 9.30 am. I'm not the best at flying so seeing how small the plane was put me on edge straight away. We had the seats right at the front. In fact only the Pilot's door stopped us from being in the cockpit with him! And what was worse was looking out of the window to see the propeller! If I stretched out far enough and no window as a barrier, I reckon I could have touched it!

 

55 minutes was all it took, the flight was smooth and the landing perfect. Whanganui was the smallest airport we had ever been in. It was also raining, shame really 'cos our coats were in the cases and a dash across the tarmac was needed to get into the hall. The luggage came out stacked on a trolley, everyone rushed in and grabbed their bags. Soon found out why. The last taxi was seen disappearing in the distance as we came out! With only a couple of flights a day, only a few taxis arrive. Ian went to look for someone to help us out and this lovely chap came up to me and asked if we would like a lift into town. Wow, you wouldn't get that offer anywhere else. I was just about to except when Ian said a taxi had been organised. It's amazing how welcoming the Kiwi's are.

We spent the afternoon trying to sort out Wi-Fi for the phone and dongle. It's not going to be cheap but needs must for the next 5 months. Tomorrow will be another day exploring Whanganui before collecting the camper on Saturday. 

And a few more photos of the flight.


Air Chatham flight departing Whanganui. The turn around was 30 minutes!


Friday, 21 October 2022

And so our isolation begins.

Friday 21st October, Sydney, Australia at 11:24am (UK time 01:24)

Right....let's start at the very beginning.

That dodgy tummy of mine well it stayed with me during the first leg of the flight to Dubai. No food was consumed or wine for that matter! The meal looked okay, chicken curry, rice, a bread roll, coconut and vanilla moose and to finish cheese and biscuits. Ian's main was meatballs and mash, he's a bit wary of curry having had a dodgy meal at an Indian restaurant once. So apart from the curry he had seconds as I handed my tray over. He did say shame he had lost his drinking buddy, usually the call button is in constant use! Anyway it was during the 5-hour wait at Dubai that the cough started. Tummy had improved and scrambled egg on toast were consumed whilst wiling away the time in the Dubai plaza lounge. 

Boarded onto another of Qantas airbuses, 14 hours of non stop flight. This was to become a bit of a nightmare journey. Trying not to cough, feeling hot with bouts of shivering in between and very glad of the blanket provided. I was convinced I had finally succumbed to the virus. I managed to fall asleep during the flight, at least for 5 hours anyway, the rest of the time was watching films. I can recommend Mrs Harris goes to Paris. Very enjoyable.


 

As soon as we landed and luggage collected, Ian passed me one of the Covid lateral flow tests we had brought with us. Into the ladies to do the biz. Almost immediately the positive line showed up. Blast, so now what do we do? Best phone my brother to tell him the bad news, suggested we find ourselves a hotel, but he wouldn't hear of it.  He would make the upstairs of his house our own private accommodation for the next week.  It's almost like a small apartment, everything we would need including a small sitting room but without a kitchen. So we took him up on his offer, made our way by train to Hornsby (masks worn all the time) where he came and picked us up. 

Home until a negative result.

 So there you have it. So far it's only me that has it. Ian still feels okay, although it would have been good if both of us had got it at the same time. Not sure what to do about travelling to NZ. A hotel had been booked in Auckland for one night anyway before an onward flight to Whanganui to collect the camper van. I had a link sent to me by Marilyn (Waka Huia) about the Covid regs in NZ. It basically said we should take a rapid antigen test if we have symptoms on arrival. I'm hoping to be clear by then. If not flights will have to be rearranged.

Oh, and remember Norwyn? He was around back in 2020. (HERE) Well he's still going strong and living off the blueberries given as a daily treat.


Thursday, 20 October 2022

What an eventful start!

I think this photo says it all! 

Tuesday, 18 October 2022

It's a waiting game.

 18th October 2022

Groan what a time to wake up feeling unwell! Day of departure and I'm almost sure I ate something dodgy. Stomach feels very off and that awful feeling of sickness in the pit. Thankfully managed the journey down to Heathrow by coach without spewing, just hope the next few hours see an improvement.

We managed to book ourselves into one of the Terminal 3 lounges. Away from the crowds and as much food or drink as you want, the seats are really comfy too. One downside. It was a 20-minute walk to get here! So far no gate number has been displayed for the Qantas flight, just hope it's not a route march to the other side of the concourse!

Now we sit and wait. Next post should be from sunny Sydney, another two days from now. Hoping for good weather with no turbulence!




The long wait is over.

Finally....after 51 days of hanging about at Langley Mill, the time has come for us to jet off for new adventures across the pond.... Australia and New Zealand here we come!!!

Not been completely idle whist waiting. Wednesday 7th September we took work boat Pentland down the Erewash to Long Eaton to be left at one of the societies members mooring. Her final destination was to Shardlow Inland Port festival for the 10th and 11th; two of ECP&DA Friday work party bods took her the rest of the way on the Friday


Down the weed hatch. Norman was on hand to wheel lock



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Hiding a marijuana plant??? It could only be seen from the water.
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Of course there was a lot of visiting friends and family before we left. Lovely because it broke the monotony of twiddling thumbs and wondering why the hours in the day went by so slowly.

The final few weeks were a bit manic with me trying to organise a surprise 70th birthday party for Ian on the 15th October. His birthday was actually on the 12th, told him as I woke that morning that he's now got his wish of being with a younger women, also he is now officially a grumpy old man! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Anyway I'm going off on a tangent again, so let's get back to the party.... Talk about stressful! Secretly sending WhatsApp messages, getting replies and then having to make up stories of why the phone was bleeping continuously. Then the actual day itself when I was on tenterhooks wondering if everyone would arrive at the Old Beam pub in Milton Keynes at the allotted time of 1pm! Needn't have worried because it all went brilliantly. Everyone invited turned up, and it was better than I had hoped. Ian was completely taken aback, he loved the surprise, and it made for a very memorable day.   



Cake made by our daughter Christine.
 


So today we leave at 8pm on a Qantas flight from Heathrow. 7 hours later we arrive in Dubai. Unfortunately it's a 5-hour wait there before we can board the connecting flight to Australia. Then another 14 hours in the air before landing at Sydney. Ian is lucky, as soon as the plane starts to taxi he falls asleep. Me???.... Not a chance. I think I'm going to be somewhat broken at the end of our journey!


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