We headed north-east from the Bay of Plenty, stopping at Thames to visit Wyn’s friend there. We both have connections with Thames. I was born there, and so was Wyn’s Mum (probably) and her uncle (definitely). My family moved to Dunedin when I was six years old, so my memories are vague. I’ve passed through a number of times in the last 7 years. Each time I’ve been surprised by the lack of connection I’ve felt. I thought “roots” had a deep influence, but maybe not. Maybe the lack of any wider family base there is part of that. Anyway, this time we had a bit more of an explore – Wyn’s friend lives only a few hundred metres from my old school.
We parked up at an officially sanctioned motorhome freedom parking park, in the main part of Thames. The council there is particularly firm on freedom camping – there’s almost nowhere on the whole Coromandel where it is allowed. The Thames parking is beside a sports field, and it’s called Danby Field. Which is cute – sounding like an Americal baseball park. Which it isn’t. We woke next morning to a hard frost which heralded a lovely day.
We headed off to the Saturday morning market; an interesting assortment of things. It was one of those mornings where you had to be on the sunny side of the street. Thames has a number of fabulous old buildings, mostly wooden. Thames was a gold-rush town back in the 1800s. It had 80 hotels and was one of New Zealands biggest towns – for a while. It has been in decline ever since – a lot like Dunedin. And thanks to the decline a lot of the old buildings remain – again like Dunedin.
“My” old church still takes pride of place in the main street. A sign on it says it is one of the finest wooden examples of Gothic architecture in New Zealand. A woman was inside tinkling on the church organ which was an inviting touch. I’m glad I ventured in; it is a lovely inside.
After lunch, we went for a walk around the sea shore at Tararu – just north of Thames. It was an extraordinary day with the sea glassy calm.
Tararu is where I started school, at the Thames North School. I think it had three teachers. We used to get free milk each morning and sometimes the cream at the top was hard to get a straw past. One day when there was a tsunami alert we went across the road to see if we could see it. We used to play Red Rover or Bullrush with old tyres. And we also used the tyres to build stacks and hide in them.
That evening I managed to find to road to the great lookout over town. It’s actually a war memorial. The sunset was as I expected. I must have seen many like that from where we lived about 10kms up the coast.
Gallery of photos – Firth of Thames June 2013
Click on thumbnails to see full size. (And then you can click through them)