of New Zealand Inc

East Cape road trip March 2018

Tuesday 6th , Home – Raglan – Rotorua….

The only traffic congestion we struck on the entire road trip was during the 4km journey from our home in Castor Bay to the 2Gs’ (Geraldine and Graeme Markwick) home in Takapuna. Otherwise the traffic flowed so freely we arrived at BP Bombay with 30 mins to spare….quite remarkable!!

The backcountry route we drove to Raglan took us through stunning landscape. Occasional glimpses of the ocean told us we were nearing Raglan….quaint, quirky, picturesque….buzzing with cafes, curiosity shops, hippies and surfies, and somewhat trapped in a time warp. Sadly, Raglan’s world-famous surf break was barely raising a ripple over the reef, but the public toilets were raising a stench….not a drop of water in the cisterns or taps! Perhaps those pesky freedom campers had drained the tanks….certainly there were very obvious signs of their presence from the night before. As we drove away, I rang the Waikato District Council to advise them of the dire water situation. I had a rather curious conversation with a very polite and friendly call centre operator who did not know where Raglan was….mmmm!!

I would have been six or seven years old and living in Te Awamutu, the last time I drove over the Arapuni Dam. I recalled my childish anticipation and excitement as we approached the dam….it was such an adventure in those days.

After settling into our lovely motel in Rotorua, we all walked to Cobb and Co for dinner. The 2Gs and I were so engrossed in conversation on our way back, we wandered about 500mts past the motel before we realised.

Wednesday 7th , Rotorua – Whakatane….

Moose Lodge….I’ve always wanted to go there… mother used to speak of it in hushed tones because the Queen stayed there. It was drizzling a little, and I was navigating….following Grant’s rather circuitous route….when, suddenly, we realised we were passing a left turn we should have taken. JR turned the wheel sharply and shot down the exit lane….fortunately there were no exiting cars! I slipped down in my seat while glancing over my left shoulder to make sure no one was watching….I was aghast to see a long line-up of Morgans patiently giving way to us as we made our illegal manoeuvre!

Morganeers at Moose Lodge

We all missed the turn off to Matata….it was quite a sight to see 10 Morgans all doing a U turn on a narrow country road with no shoulders.

Our Whakatane motel was great with a layout rather like an Italian Streetscape….two long terraced buildings with balconies, separated by a narrow courtyard, with the ubiquitous Italian Café at one end. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see Tony and Maria serenading one another! Our Italian courtyard was absolutely packed with our colourful, quintessentially English cars, which proved to be quite a tourist attraction as passersby stopped to check them out. The location was superb, our hosts incredibly helpful and friendly.

Tuscany Villas, Whakatane

As we strolled into town, and paused to cross the street, a group of school boys on bikes called out “Hey….do youse guys own those real cool olden times Morgan cars?” To which Geraldine replied “What is it about us that makes you think they are our cars…the colour of our hair perhaps!!”

Thursday 8th , Whakatane….

Such a gorgeous morning….greatly enhanced by the sight of bare-chested Ted tenderly cleaning his beloved car!!

We climbed to the Lookout with the 2Gs to get a panoramic view of Whakatane, before
jumping into our cars with Tanners and driving to Ohope for lunch at Moxi….such a cool café! Ohope Harbour is a gem….I think it beckons us back one day for a camping/fishing holiday.

Our hosts opened the Pizzeria for dinner that night….what delicious pizzas they prepared for us. It poured with rain but nobody cared….we were too busy licking our fingers and laughing at hilarious jokes about Old Red, Two Eggs, Wire Cutters and A Little Frog.

Friday 9th , Whakatane – Hicks Bay….

What a superb coastal drive….impossibly blue sea, glinting in the sun. It was really encouraging to see all the regrowth of native bush on the mountains reaching down to the ocean. Also, all the new planting that has been done to stabilize the land in this very slip prone region. Fish and chips for lunch on the verandah of the old Waihau Bay Lodge….it doesn’t get much better than this. The barwoman proudly told me their pub is entirely staffed by women….it just hummed with laidback efficiency.

Waihau Bay

As we turned into the Hicks Bay Motel I had a sense of stepping back into the 50s….it appears that very little has changed since then….a perfect relic from the recent past! It was stinking hot, so the magnums on the deck tasted really good. We shared a giggle with Raelene as she trotted past clutching a dripping iron and the smallest ironing board in the world….missing its board cover. It was worth it Raelene….you looked great that night. A quick bushwalk down the cliff, a quick swim for John, and a quick dip in the swimming pool, prepared us for our gargantuan dinner. Seriously, I have never seen such enormous meals….the portions just got bigger as the meals streamed out of the kitchen. Alan and Lee were the last to be served, and the amount of food on their plates was disturbingly large.

Simon Withers entertains at Hicks Bay dinner

After dinner, John spoke about his family connections with Tiki Tiki and Ruatoria. His
Grandfather Melville Gudgeon broke in the land where his mother grew up on the family farm at Tiki Tiki. His Grandmother May played the pedal organ in the beautiful Tiki Tiki Church, and taught Sunday School there.

I spoke of the romantic connection between John’s Grandfather Melville, and his betrothed, my Great Aunt Grace Cumming. While the dutiful, noble and heroic Melville was away at WW1 fighting for King and Country, he unwisely left the beautiful Grace in the care of the handsome, dashing and dastardly Jack McCready….supposedly Grandfather’s best friend! Needless to say, Jack stole the heart of the fickle Grace, and the rest is history. The happy footnote is that John would not have been born had Melville married Grace, and our two families were united two generations later when we married.

Now, rumour has it that Nev Hay has a rather curious, and perhaps unique, pastime….he has become very adept at spotting Morgan Motor Car parts while out driving! Said car parts must fall from the Morgans while their unsuspecting drivers are traveling the highways and byways, totally oblivious to this risk! The following is what happened while Nev and Ann were winding their way up the hill to the Hicks Bay Motel….so….in Nev’s own words….

“HWY 35 heading towards Hicks Bay. Around a sharp blind left hand uphill corner was an object in the middle of the road which, at a quick glance, could have been a piece of Morgan. Stopped hurriedly and Ann had conniptions as I got out to retrieve it. It was incredibly quiet in the middle of nowhere so I would have heard a car approaching.
Did not recognise what it was so put it under the driver’s seat and forgot about it until I got home as a faulty fuel pump took priority..
Googled iLuv and found it to be an Audio Mini Party Blue tooth speaker. After a charge up it worked. Now our Mog is a party machine but I suspect the music it plays is
more Classical than ‘head banger’ which it may have been accustomed to.”

What a guy….don’t you just love it?? Nev tells me that during 2011 road trip most of the car parts dropped off the Plus 8s, so they were called “pieces of 8”!

Saturday 10th , Hicks Bay – Te Araroa – Tiki Tiki – Te Puia – Tokomaru Bay – Tolaga Bay –Gisborne – a sentimental journey….

Early morning mist was rising in the valleys, as we drove to Manuka Honey Café for great coffee and shopping. We chatted with the locals and learned about the Manuka Honey business enterprise. While speaking to the Accountant, I mentioned we were driving to Ruatoria to buy a famous pie for lunch. She looked down quietly and shook her head. I asked, ”So, we don’t buy a pie, or we don’t go to Ruatoria?” She continued to look down, shook her head and said “No!” We didn’t go to Ruatoria, but we did stop at the largest Pohutukawa tree in the world at Te Araroa.

Manuka Cafe

The Gudgeon Family Farm is now the Rauponga Forest, the pines having been cleared and replanted a couple of years ago. The old farm house where John’s mother grew up is no longer there. John jumped the fence, wandered up to the new farm house (now 40 years old), and spoke to the owner to learn what he could about the fate of the farm. Barry and Viv passed our car parked at the top of the hill, and, thoughtful as always, they turned around and drove back to check we were okay. The Tiki Tiki Church with its beautiful Tukutuku panels was a compulsory, sentimental stop, before we sped to Te Puia Springs for a famous Ruatoria pie, an orange chocolate chip ice cream, and great coffee. I managed to use the loo without locking myself in….word has it our esteemed Secretary had a different experience….Help! Help!! HELP!!!

Tokomaru was the name of my House at New Plymouth Girls High School, so I was looking forward to our visit to the Bay. As we paused at an intersection, two school boys on bikes pulled up beside us and said “Youse fullas got a real cool car eh….where’d ja come from….bet it goes real fast….comes from Britain eh…ti hi hi”, they chuckled as they indicated the Union Jack on the side of the car – Billy T James incarnate! The wharf, the wool store, the beautiful old shipping company buildings….such an interesting history. The information board beside the wharf showed a photograph of an early rugby team, and I am sure one of the players was George Nepia.

Tokomaru Bay Wharf

Striding into the ferocious wind along the 660 mts length of the magnificent Tolaga Bay Wharf, we were impressed by its size and strength, especially given it was built in three years from 1926 to 1929….testimony to man’s endurance against the odds.

The rather incongruous and beautiful old Elizabethan style hotel….complete with leadlight windows and high hipped roof….stood tall and proud in the midst of its more humble neighbours.

As I drove into Gisborne I learned that, whilst John is an accomplished back seat driver, he is not such an accomplished navigator….preferring to rely on his internal compass rather than Google Maps!! So….I drove on down through the main street of town while John reoriented and eventually directed us to our lovely, really well located motor inn, where we began a flurry of car cleaning and clothes washing.

Sunday 11th March, Gisborne

So sad to see Nev’s and Ann’s Morgan being loaded onto a trailer and towed away, but a relief to know that Doug’s friend was able to help. By the end of the day Nev had his car back and a smile on his face, albeit he was missing a little bit of skin.

Thank you Natalie and Ted for arranging our lunch at The Vines….the meal was absolutely delicious. On the way Lyle couldn’t avoid a little bit of road kill with his third wheel ….he takes no prisioners!!

As we scrambled up the hill at the entrance to the harbour with the 2Gs, we noticed the pilot boat and two tug boats were departing. JR climbed higher but the 2Gs and I returned to sea level. I stood on the harbour’s edge watching the Maritime Fortune being brought into port. What ensued was “tug boat ballet, which is Ann Hay’s perfect description of the push and pull of the tug boats as they turned the ship 180 degrees on its own axis and manoeuvred it up to the wharf. What an amazing feat of seamanship, timing and trust between the two skippers and their sturdy, powerful little boats. As I watched, I tried to imagine how this manoeuvre would have been carried out in my Great Grandfather’s time when he was the Harbour Master at the Port of Gisborne.

I returned to our room to find Lee had kindly rescued our washing that had been blown off the line and tossed all around the courtyard.

Dinner that night was at The Works….a fabulous restaurant situated in what was once the sausage making room….the sole remaining building of the original enormous abattoir. We explored this magnificent old building with Alan, and marveled at its beautiful exposed timber framing and old brick walls.

Monday 12th March, Gisborne – Napier….

On the road again….this time the main drag of Gisborne….where a young woman in a wheel chair pushing a modified supermarket trolley paused and gave us a huge grin with the thumbs up sign as we passed. I was reminded that one of the very special things about Morgans is they tend to push the “joy button” in people, rather than the “envy button”.

Oslers Café Wairoa….what an amazing institution….talk about service with the smile….such a buzz. The bakery kitchen operates around the clock 24/7, the bakery shop is open from 4.30am to 4.30pm 24/7….they sell all their stock every day!! Such was the local interest in our convoy of Morgans, that I returned to our car to find JR being interviewed by a reporter for the Wairoa Gazette….we never did receive a copy of the article.

The Mohaka Viaduct….built between 1930 to 1937….at 277mts long and 95 mts tall it is the tallest viaduct in Australasia. Such an awesome and towering structure, constructed in an isolated and challenging landscape. It is testimony to the sheer grit and determination of those hardy men and women who survived extremely harsh conditions to build a vital rail link so that future generations of farmers and traders might thrive.

East Pier Hotel in Ahuriri became our home for the next couple of days….fabulous location, unpretentious, comfortable and well appointed with friendly staff….couldn’t be better.

Tuesday 13th March, Napier….

Such a sparkling day, perfect for a stroll around the waterfront to the marina where we
discovered a most curious aluminium long range cruising boat, dubbed “The Naked Cruiser”, built by a local boat builder, Dickey Boats. This particular boat was a LRC58, owned by a Swedish couple, and was in Napier for maintenance. It was 4mts wide and 17.6mts long so it looked like an aluminium canal boat. Its hull design was based on a river/canal boat and is it self-righting. It was powered by a 90horse tractor engine, and carried 3,500lts of fuel which is sufficient to take it half way around the world on one tank, or 4,500 nautical miles. It has been designed to go anywhere and everywhere. The owners follow the summers between Sweden and Thailand, living on their boat. I found it absolutely fascinating!

Te Awa Winery….a stunning venue to enjoy a long, late, leisurely lunch on the terrace under the tall autumnal trees, where we were showered with tiny, golden, winged seeds that winked in the dappled sunlight as they drifted in the breeze. Ian and Raelene, thank you for organizing such memorable outing.

Our final night….Doug, Liss, Lyle, John and I shared an exclusive and intimate meal perched on stools in the bar at the East Pier Hotel, while the remining 15 dined in the noisy, clamorous dining room. The meals were delicious and we had a great night.

Wednesday 14th March, homeward bound….

Our tenants had reported a leak in the roof, so we set off very early on a crisp, clear autumnal morning. The roads were almost empty, and the roar of our little engine echoed through the valleys. We had an easy journey to Tirau where we stopped for an early lunch at Alley Catz Café. We met a young French couple, wearing tramping gear and pouring over a map of NZ, while they waited to catch a bus to Rotorua. They planned to pick up a car and explore our beautiful country for a few weeks.

My most enduring memory….

Definitely this will be all the men standing around their beloved Morgans in little huddles, stroking and polishing, peering into the hidden depths of the engine bays, nodding thoughtfully and respectfully as they shared problems, tips, ideas and experiences….a communal love affair with their quirky and often challenging little motor cars. Our Morgans are the one thing we all have in common….the one thing that brings us all together.

Grant and Helen, thank you so much….

You organized a fantastic road trip for us, and I simply can’t thank you enough for the time and effort you both put in to make it happen. Even the Weather Gods smiled on us….when it looked like Cyclone Hola might rain on our parade, we just skirted around it! Everything appeared to fall into place seamlessly….but actually when that happens it is the result of very thoughtful and careful planning!

By the Way….

It was great to meet Ron and Di, Keith and Jan, Lindsay and Bev….our new Southern friends. We loved your company, and you certainly added a lot of colour, texture, tall tales and droll down under humour to our group….we hope to see lots more of you. When John and I do our next Southern road trip we will certainly be in touch if we pass your way.


While we all drove the same highways and byways, we each have our own way of seeing the world. This trip diary has been written from my unique perspective….it is not intended to be representative of everyone’s journey.

See you all next time….Anne