Auckland Gets Something Right – Wenderholm

Saturday morning was not much better as far as the weather went. It was still murky with showers. We were not going to be able to tow the car until things could be fixed so I took the A-frame apart and stowed it in the car. We’d have to drive both vehicles. At least we didn’t have far to go. Wyn and Andrew both enjoyed showers at the camp. This was a bit surprising considering the instructions in the mens which were quite alarming. The sign said to run the hot tap for 2-5 minutes until it gets hot, then turn the cold tap on. And beware that the hot water can be very hot. Probably not somewhere you’d send your young children off to alone if you want to be sure they’ll come back with their skin on. I was daunted but Wyn and Andrew survived and even enjoyed them so there you go.

We were heading back to the east coast and there was a fairly direct route to Dairy Flat and then on to Orewa. We parked up Suzi and went to visit my cousin Val over at Whangaparoa. It was lovely to catch up with her and family news. After visiting the supermarket in Orewa and lunching in Suzi we headed a bit further north to Waiwera and Wenderholm Regional Park, part of a network of parks maintained by the Auckland Regional Council.

I have prejudices and unkind thoughts about Auckland, but I have to say they sure as heck know how to organise regional parks. They have a couple of dozen of them, and bless them; they allow motorhomers to park overnight in many of them. They even have a well-discounted annual pass, which they even make available to us from well south of the border. I’m a bit ashamed to realise that we have nothing similar we can offer them, in the unlikely event that they ever venture south. In fact we don’t even have anything similar we offer ourselves. Heck, in Otago we’re lucky enough if our regional council gets a walking track constructed.

Wenderholm Regional Park is a gem. It is a pohutokawa-shaded grassy sandspit between a beach and an estuary, sitting between two forested headlands. There are picnic areas all over the place, with BBQs and tables. And lots of walking tracks, well maintained. Lots of toilets and water taps and drinking fountains. And birds. Noisy birds. Tuis by the dozen. Whoosing wood pigeons. Squawking parakeets. Stalking Pukekos. Friendly fantails. Mrs duck and her 7 tiny ducklings. Moreporks saying hello of an evening. They hoped to encourage the birds back with planting and protection by removal of predators. Whatever they are doing is working. The birds are everywhere; noisy and natural. They don’t seem to worry about much at all. We’ve seen lots of pristine forest that is almost silent. And in a few places the birds have been conspicuous. Much of that has been because of conscious efforts to protect them. The park itself is very clean and tidy. And there are lots of signs; all helpful and friendly. Reading their signs gave me the impression that they cared that I found my way around the park, and that they didn’t feel the need to lecture me in the process.

We liked Wenderholm. We found a place to park up and were soon enjoying the warm afternoon. We had a walk around, exploring the beach area. There were four other motorhomes staying for the night. The gates lock automatically at 7pm, although people can still leave after that. The park soon quietened down, except for the noise from the birds. It is a magical place.

Yesterday (Sunday) morning turned out nice and fine – better than forecast. We sat around a bit, and walked around a bit. In the afternoon we went south in the car to Albany to visit Wyn’s cousins Wayne and Deborah. There was family news to catch up on, and Wayne let Andrew and I duel on his slot car track. One of the nice things about middle age is that you can stop pretending that the toys are for the kids. On the way back north we used the new bit of SH1; the toll road that bypasses Orewa and Waiwera and swoops across the hills. It’s about 7kms and costs $2 for a car. There are some impressive bridges and tunnels. And there are no toll booths. Cameras capture registration numbers as the cars speed along. Then you can call an 0800 number or go on-line to pay for the privilege. You get 3 days to pay or they probably come round and crush your car or whatever the fine-print allows.

The new segment spits the traffic out of a tunnel just south of Puhoi so we thought we should go and have a look at the Puhoi pub; it’d been too early when we called back at 10am one morning early in July. This time it looked too busy but maybe that’s where Auckland goes on a nice Sunday afternoon. We settled for ice-creams which we enjoyed beside the muddy river that bought the Bohemians to Puhoi way back in the 1850s. They thought they’d bought some nice rural land in a far-off paradise. It must have been a shock to find they’d bought a swampy jungle. There’s a nice story of how the local Maoris helped transport them up the river to their new swamp/home, and also gave them food until they could grow their own. We were reading about this and the floods that washed stuff away and how the government built a new bridge on the main road that the steamer that regularly serviced Puhoi couldn’t get under so that was the end of that; meanwhile quite a few leather clad hotel patrons roared away on their big motorbikes – at least one only using one wheel. We decided to check out the hotel inside; it really is an interesting inside. We didn’t stop for a drink – maybe next time. We headed back to Wenderholm, stopping on the way down the hill for photos. There was a bit more sun to enjoy and I dug the BBQ out and fired it up. For a while it looked more like it was on fire but then it settled down and cooked tea. There were still lots of others around enjoying the evening. There is no doubt that the regional parks are well used and appreciated. Auckland definitely does some things well.

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