2019 – New Zealand TAT (Talbot Antipodean Tour)

Purely a touring event this time, but we’ll be covering quite a bit of both North and South Islands in New Zealand..


Welcome in Maori

In February 2019 we will be going with a bunch of other “Talboteers” for a sort of figure of eight tour of North and South Islands of New Zealand. That’s how this trip got it’s name:

25th January 2019

A couple of weeks ago I noticed that the ship carrying Ulidia reached Shanghai, turned around and set course back to Suez. We both hoped that the Talbot containers had all been transferred to another ship bound for New Zealand. This morning we received this nice pic of the car, tucked up securely with three new friends in Auckland. Meanwhile, back in Holywood, the packing and re-packing continues. Because we weren’t allowed to ship anything with the car, this has been very difficult. We have to fly with all the gubbins we normally send with the car; wet and cold weather gear, cocktail cabinet (small rucksack with lemon container, glasses, sharp knife, nuts & etc., not to mention thermos, mugs, coffee and stuff. We have also put an entry in for the Napier Art Deco celebrations with a parade of cars. This means having to dig out and fumigate my (genuine) 1933 “Free Foresters” CC blazer, Oxford bags and a suitable outfit for Penny too. All the sort of stuff you don’t really want to be flying with! Only about a week to go!

3rd February 2019

We’re off – well, very nearly. Airside at last waiting in the lounge for the first leg proper, Qatar Airlines from Dublin to Doha. We came down on a different coach service yesterday which was quite impressive. About two hours, non stop and arrived exactly on time. Dinner in the Carlton Hotel last night and up early to find that check-in didn’t open until 10:55! Nine hours to the layover for a couple of hours then on to Auckland. I think we’ll try and pick the car up on Wednesday.

4th February 2019

41,000 feet

6th February 2019

We dined in the hotel restaurant last night. Good staff, simple food and a fair price so what’s not to like. We also got talking with a nice Australian couple who are touring and a NZ couple who were just out for an evening meal. Bottle of wine helped us to sleep through to about five a.m. which meant that this morning we were very nearly in synch with the locals. I was going to say that maybe another early night might enable us to get fully caught up with the time change but some of our TAT (Talbot Antipodean Tour) party have checked in too so there might be a bit of chat in the bar later on. So far we’ve hooked up with Jane and Paul Wignall who we first met years ago when they came to N Ireland to compete on our National Trust rally; also David and Suzann Cook. David visited us to have a look at our car and the way it was put together before he started the build on his.
This morning we taxied out to Kumeu, in the wine growing region to the North West to pick up the car from the shipper’s storage facility. It is a national holiday so just about everyone is heading to the beach and the roads are not too bunged. Ulidia fired up first time and everything seemed to be tickety boo. David’s car doesn’t seem to be charging properly and the throttle return spring isn’t operating fully. Nothing catastrophic thank goodness. We had a pleasant half an hour’s drive back and the overheating problem doesn’t seem to be too bad. The weather incidentally is a very nice 28 deg C with a light wind, so not at all like home, you poor things. We’re going to have a trial pack of the car later and then go searching for somewhere to buy the particular engine oil that we need to carry, ‘just in case’.
Yesterday we changed rooms because the shower head in our bathroom came out of the wall about six inches above my navel. They are up-grading all the rooms so now our new room, on the top floor has a brand new bathroom. It isn’t swanky but perfectly good and the staff are very friendly. Below is the view from our balcony, over a residential area with downtown Auckland on the left and a really nice view over the harbour. The pics of the cars are from the passage outside our room with, in order, Ulidia, then Wignall’s Sunbeam and finally the Cook’s Talbot.

Forgot to add that one of the others we met up with is a local. Almost everywhere around the world we always seem to have Alistair Caldwell on a rally with us. This time he was just having a look at the cars as he is a Kiwi!

7th February 2019

Not much to report tonight. We drove to the other side of Newmarket ( a suburb of Auckland) this morning to pick up some engine oil from a Repco depot. Very slick motor parts operation but gosh, Castrol Edge is expensive here. Still, I’d rather have some on board, just in case if you know what I mean. We then found a linen shop and bought some towels to use a s seat covers in the sun. It’s always nicer to sit on hot towelling than skin blistering leather when the car’s been parked in the sun. At least they were on 40% sale offer to make up for the price of oil! We pootled back and parked up on Parnell Road. This is a bit of a “Notting Hill”. Trendy art, antique and curio emporia and lots of coffee shops which suited us fine. We had a wander up and down, just killing some time and I had a look in a gent’s hat shop. My old pigskin Fedora, bought in Boston Mass about seventeen years ago is getting a bit decrepit but I’m not going to spend NZ$600 on a replacement!

Later on we drove out the coast to Mission Bay. Delightful area with continuous marinas and top-end shore side developments. A bit like Miami or even Southend-on-Sea! Lovely lunch in a wee cafe on the ground floor of a fantastic Art Deco cinema building then back to do a bit more important shopping for things like……hmmm……..tonic water for the othe part of G&. When we returned to the hotel, Penny went to the laundry room to retrieve the new towels that she’d put through a cycle to sort of fluff them up but they’ve been pinched. Not a happy bunny at all.

Dinner tonight might well be at a Greek place we spotted earlier.

8th February 2019

A few more tourist ramblings from New Zealand. We took the bus to downtown Auckland to have a look at the Sky Tower. Remember the big pointy thing in the far left of the panoramic picture a couple of days ago? Apparently the locals have a couple of names for it; either the “Super Syringe” or the “Hypodermic Needle”. Well, we went up to the viewing deck at 220 metres (722 feet) but if felt a lot more. There were actually some eejits jumping off it but, then again, this is NZ, the place where they invented bunjy jumping. And no, neither of us had a go!
After that we took the short ferry trip to Devonport Island where, guess what, the New Zealand Navy has a base, just like Plymouth, in Devon at home. A totally tourist town centre but we had a very nice lunch at the top of the town then went for a bit of a wander. We found a wonderful hardware store, one of those old fashioned sort that has everything under the sun so we replaced our lost tyre pressure gauge for the Talbot and bought a new Thermos flask and a couple of stacking plastic mugs for coffee stops on the road for when nobody has put a coffee shop in the right place for us.
Back on the ferry and a short hop back to the hotel for a bit of a rest and the car park has acquired a few more Talbots. One I spotted is Rowland Grindall’s 105 Ulster Coupe that we first came across on a run to Angouleme in France in 2005 or 6. It is one of the few cars I really fancy.

Here’s a bit about cars. I’ve seen ships like this in the past but never really had a chance to make a comment about them. They are truly the most hideous things afloat. This one runs a regular service from Fukuoka in Japan to Auckland, on to Christchurch then back again. It ferries second hand cars from Japan to NZ and that’s it. It is difficult to keep any sort of a car on the road in Japan and the cost of putting one through their equivalent of our MoT (annual safety check) so expensive, it makes more sense to ship them out and the Kiwis say “thank you very much” and take delivery of nearly new vehicles at greatly reduced prices.

10th February 2019

After recovering from jet lag and getting to know Auckland we finally hit the road today. All the TATers gathered down at the huge marina we saw from the Sky Tower. Something over 2,000 berths and I think they gave an even better view of the city skyline, through a forest of masts and rigging.
Once on the way, our very first route instruction nearly fooled us, “roundabout, take fourth off” This actually meant go all the way round, pass the road you came down then veer off what is really the first off because the turn is too sharp. It wasn’t long before we were on the rural backroads and I must say they are well maintained, even the gravel ones. Coffee was at Waipu which had a blooming classic car and bike show on. Big seaside, beach and surf resort but we didn’t get trapped thank goodness. We did pop into the town Museum and very instructive it was too. We had both commented on the Cead Mile Falte signs coming into the place and it turns out it was founded by Scots Gaelic speakers who had been disposessed in the highland land clearances. They set set sail for Nova Scotia for a new life but didn’t like it so turned around and finally made their way here where they did! We stopped at a place called Whangarei and totally failed to see a collection of nice cafes and bars behind us and beside the marina. Instead we had a dreadful pizza across the road and tried to decipher what the locals, who were getting really ‘tanked’ were trying to say to each other. “English Jim, but not as we know it” As Spock might have said in Star Trek.
The afternoon drive meandered up and down hills, into and around beautiful coastal bays and a final short ferry hop before ending up at Paihai for the night. It has been very hot today and we are covered in Factor 50 but there are still a couple of exposed tender patches so we must be more careful.
For both of us, the drive recalled Japan, except for the much more tropical growth, and dozens of road-kill Possums. At least the buzzards are well fed!

11th February 2019

Day off today. We are at historic Pahia, the home of New Zealand as a nation. We went up the the Treaty grounds and with the help of a superb guide, had a very thorough grounding of this country’s history and the Treaty of Waitangi between the Maori tribes and Britan.
It is scorching hot so we aren’t complaining about driving in a hot car at all. It is a beautiful place, called the Bay of Islands for a very good reason and tonight we’re off by ferry to Russell for dinner in the Duke of Marlborough, apparently the oldest licenced premises in the country.I stand corrected by my godson, James Curry. New Zealand has no Buzzards, only Hawks or an occasional rare Falcon.
The video shows how we were greeted.

12th February 2019

The first photo below is the view from our breakfast table. Are you jealous?
We had a fabulous meal last night at the Swordfish Club in Russell, formerly known as the “Hell Hole” of the Pacific. Apparently a lot of very naughty boys and extremely loose women lived there in the eighteenth century. The Swordfish Club is a members only sport fishing club and I’m afraid my 65lb Sailfish (of which I’m very proud), doesn’t really cut it here. The biggest on the scoreboard that I spotted was a 315lb Marlin. Loose women were noticeable by their absence.
Anyway, we pootled off and viewed the Stone Store and the Kemp House; respectively the oldest stone built structure in NZ and the oldest European house in NZ. They were closed.
A bit of a drive north and we stopped off at Captain Butler’s House where we enjoyed a very friendly, entertaining overview of the whaling industry from an archaeologist from Montana, of all places.
After that, and instead of following the official route, we meandered up and over a mountain and took another little ferry to our night’s billet in Omapere on the Western side of NZ. Great night tonight! As usual, we tend to mix with the Dutch, Belgians, Luxembourgers & etc, so I spent a wonderful hour or so with Rob (Dutch). Penny with Paula (OK, not Dutch but Cheshire but maybe you know what I mean – normal). Talking about the Camino de Santiago (me) and being Facked (Penny). Perhaps I should explain the last; Rob’s wive, Jeanne was cornered and bored to tears by a chap called James Fack – a true Talbot enthusiast, if you know what I mean!
I must make mention of the night sky tonight. SPECTACULAR. We haven’t seen the Milky Way like this since Tsangannuur in Mongolia, twelve years ago. Tomorrow I might also have a pic of an Alvis to please some of our friends.
As for the pics – after the breakfast view, there is a general shot of the whaling station, the the view from tonight’s quarters, and finally, Penny having a dip.

13th February 2019

Today was very hot again. 35 deg C plus. The car hasn’t been running all that well since we collected it so last night we filled up with higher octane fuel and I adjusted the carburation. The motor has been ‘pinking’ quite a bit and I had already checked the timing before we left. So, I enriched the mixture a wee bit and then one of our Aussie TaTers warned me that Kiwi fuel burns very lean so I enriched the mixture a bit more. Three ‘Flats’ for those who are familiar with SU Carburettors and ran satisfactorally. Today’s run started well and I has happier that the ‘pinking had disappeared. Because of the rich fuel/air mixture, the motor was also running cooler which is a big plus here. As the day went on, the mis-firing and rough running gradually came back so we cut out a lot of the quite long route and got to our hotel early to have a bit of a service.

The first car to retire left yesterday. Perhaps a bit disconcerting is that it was the same guy who prepped ours. It was delivered for shipping with no oil in the motor. Serious and very expensive repairs ahead

We are back in Auckland at the same hotel as last weekend and it is bunged with conferences – six in total so parking is at a premium. I found a slot and got started. Changed the coil and condenser. The distributor rotor arm looked a bit ragged on one corner so that was changed too. Just to be safe, the distributor cap and leads weer changed and the very sooty spark plugs changed too. I then looked at the fuel/air mix and unusually for a Talbot, I have twin 2″ down-draught SUs instead of a single up-draught Zenith. One of the pistons that control the fuel metering was sticking so a quick service of that will hopefully improve things. Bar, dinner with Joanna and Adrian from Belgium whose car is broken, and that’s it for today.

Waitomo caves, full of glow worms tomorrow so, ever onwards!

14th February 2019

Scorchio! as they used to say. 38deg C and that is HOT. We had a gentle start to the day and waited until about 9:30 before we left the hotel. There was only a wee bit of delay in the city traffic before we were on State Highway 1 heading South. Pretty soon we were off on rural roads, up and over hills and mountains, rivers and valleys. It was all very beautiful and the roads were empty. As before we have decided to cut out the gravel sections. In conversation with Robert & Julia Francome (old P2P competitors from 2007), I mentioned that we’d done enough gravel in Mongolia to last a lifetime and have no urge to do more until it is an absolute must. We ended up in Raglan for lunch and the place is an utter “Surfer Dude” town. So laid-back it is almost comatose. Good grub in “The Shack” and then off again by a slightly higher grade road that took us to Waitomo and a seriously faded Victorian hotel perched on a hill above the caves. They will be visited tomorrow morning then we have another drive of over 200 miles to Napier where there will be a lot going on but more of that tomorrow.

Today the car ran much, much better, even in the extreme heat of the day. After the work I did yesterday, I am convinced that the carburettors have been given a serious knock in the workshop and that has slightly bent the control levers which consequently put the mixture jets out of alignment. I can’t think of anything else that might have caused those symptoms.

Tourists looking at famous glowworm cave, Waitomo caves, New Zealand

Not many pics today but here’s one of Penny behind the wheel of the Talbot for the second time since Argentina in 2013.

15th February 2019

This morning we viewed the Aitomo Caves. As usual there was a very enthusiastic guide who pointed out all sorts of wonders but I’m afraid we weren’t allowed to take any pictures, especially of the highlight at the very end of the visit when we could see the spectacular display of thousands of glow-worms. I must admit that it was pretty good.
We trundled on a very nice road – lots more hills and dales – to a very nice and small thermal thingy at Orakei Korako. Mud flows, mini geysers and lots of steam. Penny says not as good as Iceland but a lot warmer. Nice sandwich for lunch and off again for a very long drive on SH1 to Napier. A very long straight road across a quite high plain and the surface has been chewed up by very fast, very, very big trucks with air-suspension. Towards the end we started to climb up and down over a couple of mountain ranges then the rain hit us. Great big dollops of the stuff that made it quite nasty. When it stopped I suppose it was only about twenty minutes before we were dry again. Finally we hit Napier and almost immediately found a jet car-wash. In for a quick scrub – we are in a car show tomorrow after all, then down into town to find out where to register. We ‘sor’t of parked up and Penny went off to sign on while I stayed with the car. Everybody, young and old are dressed up in 30s Art Deco style – amazing!
Once we reached the hotel I had to do a bit more work on the car so that it will run smoothly tomorrow in the slow-motion parade. I think a walk out tonight for fish and chips, How does that sound?
Napier was flattened by an earthquake in the early 30s and rebuilt almost as a piece so that everything is in one small period – Art Deco. Wherever we’ve stopped around North Island so far, passers by have asked if “We’re doing the Art Deco” – well, we are. Talking about the earthquake all those years ago, the airport is built on land that suddenly appeared out of the Pacific. Nice and flat and it wasn’t there before so why not?
Dinner tonight was excellent. Not Cod with the chips but something with an extra three syllables but good nevertheless.
As for the pics: First off, the ancient ( 3,00 years plus) Kauri tree. After that the multi coloured stuff at the springs, then the endless trek. A bit like Siberia, twelve years ago but warmer. Then there’s a shot of a fantastic volcanic plug, just sitting there in the middle of the plain and finally, the rain clouds coming in.
By the way it was over 37 deg C most of the day. Any ideas for another word apart from Scorchio?

16th February 2019

Beyond words. It really is very hard to describe Napier on Art Deco weekend. The whole town and everyone in it have given in to Deco fever. It is absolutely incredible, believe me. When we drove across China, Russia and all the other places in the world we’ve always said that there must be a million pictures taken of our car. Today I think there were more taken than in the last twelve years put together.
We’re staying in a motor lodge just outside the town centre and right beside the marina. We discovered that the ‘hotel’ doesn’t really do meals when we checked in and I asked the receptionist if we need to book a table for later. Her immediate response was that there are plenty of very good cafes and restaurants just a five minute walk along the quay. Don’t get me wrong, the accomodation is perfectly fine, it’s just a NZ thing to go out for every meal; including breakfast this morning – at a cafe a bit further away.
A nice lazy start to the day set us up for the parade. I think there were about five or six collecting areas for everyone and we checked in early so that we could have a walk down the route to see what was going on before it all started. Everyone (nearly) is dressed in period. Children are dressed up, teenagers, till assistants in the supermarkets are wearing headbands with feathers, pensioners – everyone is in the spirit of the thirties. We bought some carry-out coffe and headed back expecting our section to set off soon but that couldn’t happen until after the vintage flying display of biplanes, then some WW2 single seat fighters and modern aerobatics, and more – a display of fifties jets. Only after that could the motorcycle parade start. Hundreds of them as apparently this year is a special one for Indian. That’s an American brand made famous by Kiwi Bert Munroe years ago when he set a land speed record on one. When the period pedal cyclists set off we were then brought forward to begin our drive through the town centre. Naturally it was a very slow crawl and we were completely amazed by the crowds, twelve deep in places and peering down from windows and balconies too. three hundred plus cars and about the same number of motorcycles took quite a while to process and all the while there was an outdoor concert going on at the pavilion beside the beach. There were also several jazz and swing bands at several points with couples dancing furiously in the sunshine.
In the pictures below you can see us at the start. My jacket is a 1933 Free Forrester’s Cricket Club blazer by the way, just one year older than the car. Then there’s an Austin seven fire engine of all things. That’s a local school performing on the stage but there were some excellent bands and singers too. Then a beautiful Bugatti (Type 40 I think) followed by a genuine Rolls Royce Silver Ghost. A beautiful Alvis Airline coupe. ( I will take a pic of the Dutch one on our tour later – promise) Finally, a couple of shots of the throng. There’s a 15 minute video of the drive through Napier Art Deco if you click the button below.

1th February 2019

Proper day off today. On the way back from “Art Deco” yesterday, we stopped at a supermarket and picked up some fruit, muesli, milk and OJ. Breakfast in bed today!. Then we took a bit of a stroll around the other side of the bay from the marina in front of our room and afterwards I gave the car a short lubrication service. Lunch in a fish wholesaler’s around the corner – Gurnard and chips which was delicious and after that a bit of packing prep for tomorrow.
We went out this evening for a Hangi. A traditional Maori / Pacific Island feast cooked over hot stones in a pit and covered with a mound of earth. Like a lot of others, we weren’t too keen about having to drive for an hour up into the hinterland and perhaps return in the dark. Lots of folk doubled up and took passengers so we investigated taking a taxi and sharing with another couple – you can have a glass or two that way. Our receptionist ‘phoned the taxi firm and after assessing the estimate we eventually booked one. It sounded about the same as we would pay to go to Sister-in-Law’s for Sunday lunch so, why not? The other couple couldn’t make it because they are having slightly more serious problems with their car so after an hour of on the road we became a lot more agitated when the meter nearly doubled what we expected. As a matter of fact, it was worth it. Apart from the food being superb, the welcome by our host and his explanation of Maori traditions and beliefs and then the singing by four local school girls was worth every cent. On the way back we rode in Johanna and Adrian’s hire car; they’re the couple who broke down on day one so thanks to them.
Tomorrow we’re back on the road to Oreti-Lake Taupo.
In the pictures below the first is our host and then the ceremonial opening of the cooking pit. The last one is the meal laid out for us. Ignore the crystal chandeliers, this was on a plain, board table in a corrugated iron shed and fantastic because of that.
To begin, here’s a wee bit of the “floor show” laid on by four local schoolgirls, one of whom is a niece of our host:

18th February 2019

Not much to report today. We had a pootle out from Napier and gradually began climbing. The first thousand feet were nice and gentle but the next 2,000 were pretty severe up through Kaweka Forest. There was no chance to build up speed between the tight bends so it was a slog in second and occasionally third gear, all the while keeping our eyes peeled for the huge double trailer timber lorrys hurtling along. Thankfully we had a headwind so were able to keep the engine temperature under control and eventually we made it up to a vast plain used by the NZ army for excercises. Really we drove through “The Black Gate of Mordor”, as seen in the Lord of the Rings films. The wind was fresh, so much so that we stopped to put on our fleece waistcoats and then, a bit later our down jackets too.
Eventually we arrived at Lake Taupo and once again, we have a room with a view. Remember Sapporro in Japan or Villarrica in Chile. This is right up there with the best of them. That’s Penny checking up on tomorrow’s route.

moonlight over the lake

19th February 2019

From Oreti Village on Lake Taupo to Whanganui (pronounced Fang a New Eee) started out cold up in the clouds on the volcanic rim of Taupo. A longish drive eventually led down to the Whanganui River drive, a spectacular 60 miles twisting and turning, up and down all the while in the narrow river gorge. Some spectacular sights but very few safe stopping points I’m afraid. The car’s electrical system stopped charging but we were fortunate to be able to run for nearly the full distance without having to use the electric fan. Once into tonight’s hotel a quick and very dirty strip-down and clean of the brushes (electrical contacts) in the dynamo and things seem to be fine. If it stops again, I can replace the carbon brushes on a day off tomorrow.
Dinner tonight is a cruise on the SS Waimarie on the river. She’s the last coal fired paddle steamer in New Zealand. My cousin Peter who lives about 40 km from here is joining us with his wife, Joyce. We haven’t met for 58 years or thereabouts!
First pic is up on the high plateau, showing just how desolate it is and the second is just one of the many hundreds of NZ’s famous single lane bridges.

19th February Pt 2

Sorry, but no pics on the Waimarie. We were far too busy talking. Doubtless there will be plenty of others that I can scrounge to show to all the steam afficionados. Instead here’s a small selection starting with a nice one from our balcony last night. Then there’s a tiny glimpse of the mighty Whanganui River and Penny standing beside the car at that viewpoint. Then one of my cousin Pete and the four of us, Me, Joyce, Pete and Penny in the saloon after dinner. Long, long catch-up and great fun. I thought we last met at cousin Sue’s wedding but it seems that it might have been about ten years before that when there was a huge family Christmas at Nan and Grandad’s at Thorold Road, Ilford.

20th February 2019

Quiet day today: basically get down to Wellington. We cut out a loop into the country but instead found the National Wildlife Centre on Highway 2. Well organised and worth stopping at with nearly all the native birds here for protected breeding programmes. The two photos are of Penny in the woodland and the rather murky one is a very rare Albino Kiwi. These birds are rare enough but to have one that can be viewed in it’s natural night-time habitat is incredible. If you can’t make ikt out, the head is at the bottom left with it’d beak rooting around in the leaf litter for insects.
We also met up with an old chum from thousands of years ago in Northern Ireland – Stan Garmonsway. He is a native of NZ and has retired back here after his career in photography in NI. He sends his regards to the everyone back at home.
Our billet for the next two nights is a city centre hotel not high end but with parking which is important.
Day off tomorrow for servicing then the ferry to South Island. I might be quiet tomorrow unless something special catches my eye.

22nd February 2019

Friday, the day we left North Island. Early start to get to the ferry terminal on time. The weather forecast was lousy so we part packed the car last night and put the hood up. It is a bit of a faff getting in and out but if we were going to be sitting in a queue for ages then it is worth it. As it turned out, the Interislander Ferry is run very slickly. We arrived, checked in and were in the dispatch line within five minutes. We clambered out to stretch our legs and we had to squeeze back in PDQ as were were directed to board. I’m sure Stena Line (our regular ferry from Belfast to Birkenhead) dreams about passenger numbers like these. The boat was completely packed but we managed to grab a table quickly then began queueing for breakfast. The boat sailed on time, to the minute, headed down Fitzroy Bay and out into Cook Strait. After a very short couple of hours we turned left into Queen Charlotte Sound and finally berthed, again to the minute in Picton.
Once off the boat we quickly removed and packed away the hood and wound up the tortuous road to Havelock where we had the most fabulous Scampi lunch at “The Captain’s Daughter”, a great pub on the main street. Very appropriate considering Penny’s father was “The Captain”!
The next stretch to Nelson was again convoluted, up, over and through some mountain passes but the road here was congested with lots of big, heavy, double trailer logging trucks crawling in both directions. Still, only a short drive today and we’ve checked in at the hotel in Nelson at a reasonable time.
We have a long 200+ miles to Greymouth tomorrow and we’ve heard that a couple of passes that we should be using in the near future are blocked by rock falls. Penny is in her element planning re-routes.
Not much last night except we can both recommend “Basque” in Wellington. We had a lovely supper of Tapas last night with a very fair priced bottle of Tempranillo – a sin I know not to drink the local vino but, it is Spanish, after all!

22nd February 2019 Pt 2

Here’s one of the road closures. There is no way round – eek!

22nd February 2019 Pt 3

Is this the sort of welcoming sign you want to see when you check in to a hotel, in a seismic country, and on the third floor, and with a concrete floor with a slope? Just saying?


23rd February 2019

A wonderful drive today, South West from Nelson, on the shores of Tasman Bay. The air is dryer and, more importantly, cooler so we had our down jackets on for quite a while – until we reached Murchison in fact. Lovely wee one street town with only single storey buildings mostly wooden and an occasional square facade, making it look a bit like a western movie set. The best morning coffee yet in a French owned cafe and a couple of pastries – essential.
A few mountain passes and long straight plains roads and we arrived at Reefton at exactly the right time for lunch. Similar to Murchison, but we are in mining country now. As we were about to park, a local car group arrived too. Ferrari, Jaguar F Type, Mustang, Porsche, TVR were parked together and we nipped in just in front of them. The usual gang of old boys gathered around the modern supercars and quickly decamped to the Talbot, much to the annoyance of the other drivers!
An excellent quick bite and we were off again, always heading SW. Lots of arrow straight roads, often beside the railway track and we ticked off bridges and hamlets that you missed if you blinked. At the head of the Grey River we left the main highway to drive down a smaller road on the other shore. Lots of farming and some pretty huge herds of Jersey, Friesian and others, all taking themselves in for milking. A small diversion up to Blackball and we relished ice-cream sundaes with David and Gillian Booth outside the wonderful “Blackball Hilton” – I kid you not. Another tiny town with a tragic mining history – the last pit disaster in only 2010 with (I think) 29 fatalities. The NZ Labour movement started here about a hundred years ago. We pootled on to our hotel for the next two nights in Greymouth on the shores of the Tasman Sea. On the way through town we had a look around and asked a lad where the eateries were for tomorrow night. Apart from McDonalds, KFC, Burger King and a couple of bars, everything else will be closed!
Photos: Me fooling around with an Orc – one of the monsters in the Lord of the Rings films created at the Weta Workshop, where lots of movie props are made. Then looking down on Wellington from the top of the Botanic Gardens and a quick pic of Penny playing in some of the art in the park. Buller Gorrge and a couple of pics of us on the Swing (rope) Bridge over it. Lots of white water canoeing and zip-lining. Finally, the Hilton Hotel and ice-cream.

24th February 2019

Not much to report today. Greytown was closed – on a Saturday night for goodness sake! Lots of laundry last night then a very ordinary group buffet in the hotel. We have been busy researching where to eat tonight with no luck.
There have been a couple of land slips on the road South on Monday so we are following proceedings with interest. As I write, the current forecast is that the road will be open for ten miutes every hour, on the hour. The alternative is to cut out Haast and drive straight to Queenstown, two days away and make your own plans!
Anyway, we did a bit of tourisim today and visited the local version of our Ulster Folk Museum – The Shantytown Heritage Park. An open air re-creation of a gold rush and logging town of the late 19th and early 20th century. Very well done and it even had a shoe shop owned by Mr Hannah from Ballymoney. His business still exists and is one of the larger retailers and property companies in the country.
The pics are of the logging train and just for Phyllis, yes, the beach is still covered with driftwood!
Here’s a video clip of the choo-choofor all the old boys who love greasy, smelly machines:

25th February 2019

Some left Greymouth at seven o’clock this morning so that they could do a ‘scenic’ loop before setting off South again. We, as usual, left about an hour and a half later. This had nothing at all to do with dinner or the cheery banter afterwards at the bar with a few fellow tourists, simply because we didn’t feel like doing the first loop.
We walked across the main road last night to have dinner in the “Armadillo Australis”, a sports bar and diner. The local rugby club were re-hydrating very enthusiastically in the bar while we, in the restaurant had a great meal of BBQ Ribs for me (enough for three) and more fish and chips for Penny. Our waitress was a wee bit taken aback when, after offering to get a couple of glasses of the Rosé we ordered, Penny stopped her in her tracks by saying “NO, a bottle please”. Great, simple food, well served and with no knobs on. Brilliant. As I said we also had a couple more glasses back at the hotel so all in all, a good night. The road to Haast is long, straight and mostly lined by forest. Not monoculture managed trees but wild, mixed native trees so much more interesting. It was very cool to begin with so we both had all the layers on and I suppose it was mid afternoon before I did without my down jacket, but only for a short while. There was a steep climb up and down before we reached the road closure what we thought were going to be five minutes later. The road gang are allowing traffic through for ten minutes every hour on the hour. One of the guys, a smiling giant of a bloke told us to “Hang on a sec, they’re going to have a SMOKO” Turns out this is a smoke/tea break for the gang so we could pass easily behind a small convoy. The land slip was enormous. Tens of thousands of tons of earth and trees had done just that, slipped off the incredibly steep mountain beside the road. The squad had been working all weekend and I must say, we were impressed with the amount they’d cleared.
For lunch we stopped at a convenience store and bought two pies, a prepared salad and two bananas. Penny found an isolated beach and we had the place to ourselves for a while. Bliss!
We pressed on and covered something over 200 miles but reached our hotel, just outside Haast in good time.
Queenstown tomorrow – only about 135 miles so perhaps an easy day. Perhaps not as we are heading up into the Southern Alps range of mountains.
Incidentally, talk about a small world. A couple of days ago when we were parked at Buller Gorge, a chap walked up and asked what year we did the Peking to Paris (he’d seen the sticker on the car). We told him it was 2007 so he asked us if we’d met his cousin, Oliver Holmes? We instantly knew who he was talking about as a big grinning chap who made Teddy Bears for a living and his navigator was Malcolm Corrie, a cousin of friends of ours at home. We were very sorry to hear that Oliver has passed away but his cousin did say he would pass on our condolences to his family.
Pics are of Penny making our picnic ready then a ‘selfie’ on the deserted beach.

And here’s a drive through of the land slip:

26th February 2019

Last night’s group dinner was a bit, well, maybe unfortunate might be the right word. Despite being booked in and the meal reserved for the whole party, it was all a bit haphazard. It is a long story and not really worth repeating here but it was all settled amiably in the end.
This morning was again bright and cool but because we only have about 135 miles today we had a gentle start to the day. With a couple of stops to have a look at waterfalls the route took us East then South from Haast; from the shores of the Tasman Sea to the mountainous Central Otago over the Haast Pass and then to the magnificent lakes Manaka and Hawea. What a difference; from the lush tropical growth to the bare vertiginous mountainscapes that reminded us a lot of the foothills of the Andes. We had lunch in Wanaka then stopped off at the famous, iconic Cardrona Hotel for coffee and a chat with others in the group. Then a last very long steep climb over the Crown Range and an equally steep descent into Arrowtown. At one point we had a large passenger jet below us, banking sharp left through the mountains as he tried to make a landing at Frankton. He gave up and went for a second pass to get down. Poor passengers!
A wee bit further on and we arrived at Queenstown where we will be for a couple of nights. More laundry and a few restaurants to explore. Maybe another service for the car tomorrow to make sure everything is ticketyboo.
Tonight’s selection of pics show: Penny walking through the tropical forest to view Roaring Billy Falls and the second shot is of her and a few chums on the riverbed below the falls. Then there’s a bit of artistic greenery in the forest followed by a view of the mountains. The Grey car is Tim and Paula Robinson in their VdP 105 followed by a view of Lake Hawea and the final one is of yours truly parked up outside the Cardrona Hotel.

27th February 2019

Goodness, it really rained last night. Everything was grey and misty when the sun tried to get up and even Cecil’s Peak, across the lake from us was almost invisible.
Last night we wandered around downtown Queenstown and have come to the conclusion that we know what this place is for. Thirty year olds (plus) who don’t want to grow up. Here, like most of NZ, is full of “Dudes” who skateboard barefoot down the main street, or have industrial strength mountain bikes strapped to their backs. We had a Mexican meal of Fajitas and a glass of wine and returned to our room early. Once again we are in a small Motor-Lodge type of ‘Hotel’ Clean but, apart from a communial washing machine, no services – i.e. no dining room. Every room has a cooker, fridge, kettle and basic food prep kit. Our bathroom is one at a time only and one walks sideways around the bed. So, on the way back last night we stopped off at a small supermarket (packed with Taiwanese, Japanese and Chinese buying rice cakes as though there was no tomorrow. We loaded up with fruit, milk and yoghurt so we could have breakfast on our room.
This morning, once the rain eased, we walked out to have some coffee and then up to the Skyline Gondola Station. NZ$39 each for a ticket to the top and at least the sky cleared when we were up there. A look around and a decent lunch was enough before we returned the 450 metres (1,500 feet) down again. The rain was starting again so we taxied back. If it dries up a bit, I might have a quick look over the car later.
Some friends had booked helicopter flights to Milford Sound but that was called off because of the weather and we didn’t fancy a 15 hour return trip in a coach so maybe that is one for another trip.

Here’s a wee bit of video of the start of the descent. In the video, can you hear a bit of concern in Penny’s voice at the start?
Photos: Penny in the Gondola, Our “Selfie” on the viewing deck (incidentally, the range of mountains behind us are “The Remarkables”), Cecil’s Peak and one of us taken by a chum, Hans Kuiper from another viewing deck.

28th February 2019

Last day of February. Queenstown to Dunedin. One of the coldest days we have driven. Once again I confess that we skipped out the gravel loop but we still saw lots of mountains, huge valleys and really big skies. A very long, tiring trek with lots of strong sidewinds making life difficult for nearly the full 200 plus miles. So cold that the none of the layers came off during the day and the electric radiator fan switch was never touched, despite the severe climbs, until the very last couple of miles coming into the city.
We are in Dunedin for two nights with lots to do and see before we start heading north on the last stretch.
Today’s pics: This morning’s breakfast in our room. Penny pinched the white roses from the motel flowerbed. Me, dressed to kill in the cold wind and then a quick shot of the bleak countryside. It reminded us of either the Burren in SW Ireland but with more grass or parts of the Alentejo in Portugal but not as warm. Then the car parked up outside the 1937 hotel in Ranfurly where we got directions to – “The Kissing Gate”. A lovely wee cafe in Middlemarch (I’m not joking) run by three lassies with the best chat and food.
I’ve been asked why there aren’t more videos and the answer is simple. The road surface is quite bumpy – small corrugations that make the camera vibrate and so unpleasant to watch.


1st March 2019

Lazy day today so a bit of a lie in then out for breakfast followed by some shopping and a bit of sightseeing.
Today’s photos: Dunedin railway station – a beautiful building, well preserved. Penny doing a “Scarlett O’Hara” – actually in the Early Settler’s Museum and finally, one for the UVCC back home – Miss Prim on display in the same museum.

1st March 2019 Pt 2

We were priveledged tonight to be allowed to put the cars on parade outside the station building.

2nd March 2019

Today’s run was a delightful bimble up the coast from Dunedin to Oamaru, Initially we were sent up a very steep climb up Mt Cargill to see some hexagonal rock formations that apparently look like organ pipes and are about two metres high. That sounded to me a bit like a mini version of our Giant’s Causeway at home but the pipes there are about 30m. The parking beside the road was full so we weren’t disappointed and passed by on some truly dreadfully surfaced roads. One car lost a bit of their exhaust on this section and decided to do the same as us later in the day and miss out a long mountain gravel section so that we could enjoy the coastal views. We stopped at Puketeraki for the first picture and trundled on to Shag Point to see the seal colony and perhaps some yellow-eyed penguins but the birds were all out at sea fishing (pic two).
Lunch was in a very busy beach cafe at Moeraki where they also have some very peculiar boulders. I think these are prehistoric Stromalites or fossilised coral-like colonys. Whatever, they are very strange indeed.
Because we were on our own, we had time to stop and chat to a young farmer who was washing some muck off the road. Not as strange as it sounds. A lot of dairy farms have very, very big herds and their own underpasses to get the cattle across the road for milking. This herd, whch can just be seen beside my thumb is 380 strong, doesn’t have an underpass so naturally, they leave a lot of muck behind!
By mid afternoon we arrived at the quaint Victorian town of Oamaru. It is very spread out but at one end, beside the harbour, they have a breeding reserve for Blue Penguins. These are tiny creatures standing only about 25cm (10 inches) tall and endangered because of falling fish stocks. We had a look around and discovered a small, old wooden quay that we think Shackelton left for Antartica from.
The hotel tonight is a bit “Fawlty Towers” but perhaps not as good, so I think we’ll dine out tonight!

3rd March 2019

Last night we looked around and discovered four restaurants in the town centre. At half past seven, three were full or booked out and the fourth, in the old Post Office grdugingly let us have a table but only if we sat down now and agreed to be out by eight thirty, whenn the closed. A passable meal and we were the last customers out. Stolling back up the main street we were amazed at how quiet everything is in NZ. See the video later – looking along the main street at about half eight to nine o’clock

Short day so a late start again. We had breakfast down the road from Fawlty Towers and then a wander around the Victorian area. Full of quirky shops selling all sorts of stuff. The town Triathlon was also on today so the streets were cordoned off for the cycling and running segments of the competition. We also had a wander round the oddest ‘museum’ we’ve ever been in. Omarau is apparently the world headquarters of Steam Punk and we spent time in the biggest display of mad stuff you could imagine. I can’t describe the pictures below but they are all “stuff” recycled into “art”.
Eventually we set off up towards the Waitiki River valley road. The weather has improved so it was a delight to meander up and down in farmland towards this pretty straight road. Some of the geological formations are impressive and we passed lots of features, including the Elephant Rocks before starting the climb to the hydroelectric dams at Avimore and then lunch at Omarama. Lots of bikers and there were also lots of MGs going to a meet somewhere or other. I saw a J2 then a PA on trailers then a handful of MGAs followed by quite a few MG TFs, all being driven.
We arrived at Twizel (not Twisel, as at home in Holywood) in good time to fill the car up and re-stock the cocktail cabinet. It was running rough so I cleaned an old set of plugs, checked the metering needles were moving smoothly and packed up for the day. Tomorrow is the last run of the organised trip, a long one too, down to Christchurch for a couple of days off before we return to Auckland for shipping home.

4th March 2019

Not much to say about today. A very long, very hot drive from Twizel to Christchurch. We passed through a couple of small towns but it was too early for lunch, After a place called Geraldine there was nothing for mile after mile after mile. Endless straight roads through flat boring agricultural land. The video is early on on the high plain on a “Roman Road” heading towards Mt. Cook. Later on the straights were endless but without the view. Eventually we reached a canyon and were nearly knocked off the road by the wind squalls. We waited to see sheep tumbling across the fields. Lunch was in a golf resort ‘though how one can play up here is beyond me (or why). More driving and we reached Darfield for afternoon tea with my Godson, James, his partner Jaqui, stepson David and their new baby, six month old Lily. A real cutie! Seven (but nearly eight) year old David (apologies if I have the name wrong but I am very, very old) managed to crawl out of his sick bed(!) to examine every detail of the car and show off his pets to Penny. James has settled down and like most new parents, learnt that it is time to grow up. Great to see him after a very long gap but we had to press on.

5th March 2019

Well, the Talbot Antipodean Tour is over. We all made it safely to Christchurch yesterday and there was some mild (ahem) celebrations last night. Final group buffet dinner and speeches tonight before we set off back to Auckland.
We had planned on driving the Talbot, seeing a few more sights that we missed on the way down and shipping the car from where we collected it but that’s not to be I’m afraid.
Penny and I had a nice walk across town to the nearest REPCO store (sort of supermarket for car stuff) bought new plugs, carb cleaner and engine oil and taxied back to work on the motor and try and get her running a bit better again. Plugs were changed (black and very sooty so not good) then I took off the dash pot to clean things up inside the carburettor. First time I’ve done this and there were some witness marks – scratches on the piston and perfectly machined air-damper collar. The needle was also very obviously not mounted straight. It seems that my suspicion of the head and carbs being mis-handled has been confirmed. The fuel metering tube on the back carb has been given a large blow when it was removed for machining the engine when the new crank was fitted. Whoever did it has bodged a quick fix to cover things up and walked away from the problem. This means that it is impossible for me to do a fix here without access to new parts from the manufacturer in UK.
Now I’m waiting for the insurance company to arrange collection of the car and delivery. Conveniently, we can put the car in a container here in Christchurch with other TATers going back to UK so we can save them a bit of money. We will then have a bit of air-conditioned luxury on the way north.
Great Fun! (not)

6th March 2019

Last night’s dinner was a brilliant party. Everyone let their hair down and, as usual with these things, promised undying love for everyone else. For a tour it was quite tough going and the fact that everyone made it to the finish is really quite remarkable. Adrian and Johanna van der Kroft sent their car home on the second day because it was delivered without oil and ran a couple of bearings. “tiny” Tim (6’8″) and Paula Robinson fought all sorts of gremlins along the way: starter solenoid, water pump, mis-firing & etc Organiser Kevin Beesley seemed to have a trolley jack under his car most nights; Alistair Robinson and Carla Roseels had lots of electrical problems; Rowland Grindell and Janet Sparks broke a rear spring believe it or not but managed to find a forge to make a repair that same day; Hans & Marien Kuipers seemed to be continually breaking wheel spokes then there were electrical problems followed by a puncture; David & Suzanne Cook had to plug their car into a charger every night; Kelvin & Jessica New lost their passenger door; Paul & Jayne Wignall replaced their head gasket in the car park one night and Tim & Wendy O’Brien who had two cars with friends driving one, had continuous issues. I’m sure I haven’t covered them all but compared to these, our hiccough was quite minor.
There were a few niggles about collecting the car because first off they sent out the wrong sort of truck, then the second one didn’t arrive until about seven o’clock but it all worked out fine in the end.
Once we collected our Hertz we set of on a very long trek up the Pacific coast. It seems there were continuous roadworks repairing and rebuilding dozens of section where the road disappeared into the sea after the 2016 earthquakes.
Into Picton tonight with a smart wee hotel looking over the marina and out to the sound where the Optimists are racing tonight as the ferry comes in.
Tomorrow we sail back to North Island and see some more sights that we didn’t catch at the start.
Pics tonight are of Ulidia being loaded, then Penny being very creative with the camera a couple of days ago and finally the view from our room tonight.

7th March 2019

Today – early start, ferry, drive, meet an old chum in Feilding, Aspen Court Motor Lodge in Taihape – the ar*e end of nowhere but the World HQ of Welly whanging, amazing dinner in French restaurant (Chinese chef but that’s OK), wine and bed before half nine – we were the last customers to leave at half eight!


8th March 2019

I’ve given up on keeping the web site and FB page up-to-date so here’s a brief update for whoever is still out there reading this rubbish.
Today we drove north via Lake Taupo. The town of the same name is s bit like Newcastle (Co Down, not Geordieland) so we only stopped for coffee there and a quick visit to Huka Falls that we didn’t visit on the way down to Napier weeks ago. Not very big, tall, thunderous or spectacular waterfall I’m afraid. Lunch was in a one horse town based around a paper mill and I can’t remember it’s name – sorry. Tonight we are in a posh motel in Matamata. We’ve been to the supermarket and pasta is on the menu in our room tonight. This place is the home of Hobbiton, the home of the Hobbits in Lord of the Rings. Heavy rain this afternoon and more forecast for tomorrow so I don’t think we’ll be visiting the film set.
Some friends of ours who are also driving north but a day behind might have had three inches of rain when they got off the boat in Wellington – poor them!
We’re both quite ready to get home. Fed up with dining out and driving all day. See you all next week. We should be in Dublin on Tuesday morning (V early) then bus back but we won’t welcome any calls for a day or so.
That’s it from Aotaoroa!

12th March 2019

Very last leg – well almost.
Our flight from Auckland was delayed by just over three hours because of a technical problem (I think a loo was blocked) but eventually we got away, knowing that our connection to Dublin was lost. Long flight of about 18 hours in quite an old noisy plane: dinner and first breakfast. Second breakfast in Doha business lounge which is bigger than the whole of Belfast City Airport then third breakfast booked on brand new 777-200 after a glass of fizz. We’ve been on the go for over 23 hours since we boarded the first aircraft and that doesn’t include the delay. Very comfy and quiet re-route to Manchester then Dublin but we should still be home this evening.

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