Leaving the NZMCA Park in Te Araroa Sarah and I were undecided which way to head with the weather forecast still not good we thought maybe we would just head home. So after a quick visit to the local dump station which involved crossing a ford (read flooded road) we headed back towards Opotiki. But as you can do in a motorhome we changed our minds just a few kms up the road and decided to turn around and head for Gisborne and then onto Napier to catch up with some friends.
Given the amount of rain that had fallen and how strong the wind had been the previous night I was actually rather worried about driving at all. The drive to Gisborne was however uneventful with no issues on the road at all. If you don’t count driving through constant rain as an issue. But at least there was no more flooding or trees or slips on the road.
We arrived at the NZMCA Park in Gisborne and were surprised by both the size and location. The camp is huge although a lot of the space is a large grassed area that will come into it’s own in the dryer months as it looked rather wet on the day of our visit. Secondly it’s located just across the road from the beach a really handy location for those into water sports or fishing.
I have really enjoyed writing these reviews and using my review system but sometimes I think this is just my view so if anyone reading these has a different opinion please don’t hesitate to let me know. Or if you think I have left something out then please let me know as well.
The camp is located a couple of kms down the beach from the town and if the weather was better we probably would have got the bikes out and ridden down to have an explore of the area. Sadly however we appear to have chosen the wettest few days of this winter to make our trip and the bikes stayed safe and warm in the garage area of the motorhome.
There where two main reasons for coming this way despite the atrocious weather with the Gisborne reason being our friend Thomas who lived in our street for many years in Auckland and got to know Sarah really well during this time.
Thomas moved to Gisborne because it was one of the few places he could afford to purchase a house and this was the first time we had a chance to visit. Having lost one of his arms in a motorbike accident Thomas is doing an amazing job of renovating his house stripping it right back to bare wood and then repainting. He also has the most amazing vegetable garden that he has planted and maintained himself. it reminded us of the old TV programme It’s A good Life, Truly inspirational.
During the time spent with Dave and Nita (see previous post) Dave talked about his efforts to have the original No. 1 NZMCA motorhome at the rally his area is holding in March 2019 after the main national rally. He also mentioned that if we where going to be in Gisborne that we should take the time to go and visit Brian Hall and view the restoration.
Brian runs Hallright Plumbing in Gisborne where a team of volunteers are working on the restoration of the original Rio Bus. Brian freely admits that it has taken him away from his business but his passion for the restoration is obvious. Brian spent almost an hour with us showing us through the restoration and explaining the history of the motor caravan.
So far the team have spent 2 years working on the restoration so by the time the annual rally comes around it will have been a 3 year project. Quite the effort from all involved.
When Brian and his team first started on the restoration they didn’t have any exact plans to work off. It turns out that the bus had been modified from the original design twice so a lot of the restoration work was going to be educated guessing as well as staring hard at a few old photos to try and define measurements etc. Once they had worked out the basic plan restoration work began and with it publication of the work in the Motor Caravanner (the NZMCA publication) this publicity generated a few extra photos and this has greatly helped understand what goes where.
For the the inside Brian and his team have managed to find some old cupboards and a wood fired stove to replicate the original kitchen area. They have however hand crafted a piece of kauri to use as the kitchen bench. It all looks really amazing.
An old kauri wardrobe has been found which is close to the original, it’s just amazing how much space this takes up in what is really quite a small bus. Brian tells us that the whole family were short with Andy only around 5 foot tall meaning that the beds in the bus don’t need to be as large as you would need for other people. Just as well as what is going to be the main bed would be rather cramped otherwise.
Brian asked if we would like to hear the bus running to which we both said it would be great. Thinking that he would just turn the key I was rather surprised when Brian sat on the floor to depress the accelerator whilst he started it. I have had to edit the photo slightly as I promised Brian I wouldn’t show the floor covering they have chosen for the bus.
We both laughed at the custom designed fuel tank that has been fitted to the bus. As the bus is not going to be driven on extended runs all that was needed was something to get it going but also something that could be emptied or drained if the bus ended up sitting around for a while.
With Brian’s plumbing skills he has recreated the original electric toilet which fits neatly into an area created around the rear door of the bus. However since you cannot access the toilet from inside I am not sure that it would past today’s strict CSC requirements. Apparently the original toilet was actually underneath the drivers seat!
All in all the work that has been done by Brian and his team towards the restoration of the original number 1 is a sight to behold and it’s official unveiling at the National Rally in Gisborne in 2019 will be a proud moment for all involved as well as the NZMCA, with history coming to life.
Sadly for us we received some news that meant we needed to head back home. This also meant that the planned trip to Napier to see Sally and Adrian who we had met in the South Island would also have to be delayed for another time. We both miss you guys!
Although we could have driven the whole way to Auckland in one day we decided to break the journey in Rotorua. I must say that after driving 4 hours to reach the Park I was really grateful we had made that decision as I was beginning to feel quite tired and it wouldn’t have been sensible to continue driving.
I have noticed that driving the 9 metre motorhome is completely different from driving any distance in the car it requires so much more concentration especially driving through places like the Waiweka Gorge with tight corners, steep drop off’s etc. Anyway we arrived at the park safe and sound.
The park is absolutely huge across four levels with space for 120 vans. At least according to the information inside the shed. I remember reading a couple of posts over summer on Facebook stating that the camp was full and I guess that’s a reflection on how popular Rotorua is as a place to visit with so many things to see and do.
The Park is located in the grounds of the old Ngongotaha Saleyards which closed in 2006 when the numbers of livestock being sold had fallen away dramatically due to the changing methods of farming in and around the area. In it’s heyday the yards would sell around 150,000 sheep and 20,000 cattle a year with 3 to 4 sales a week.
All that remains of those days now are some concrete pads in the Park and a couple of newspaper articles in the shed. I do think it is important to be aware of the history of places and that’s why I have shared this.
This time however for Sarah and I it was just a place to rest our heads for the night before continuing the trip back home. The park was actually quite empty for the night with only about 12 or so vans.
Murphy’s Law after seven days of almost constant rain the skies cleared as we were on our way home. I had to take a couple of photos of the sunset as I had just about forgotten what they looked like.
The following morning the sun of course continued to shine as if to taunt us about having to head home but at least it would make pleasant driving conditions. Google maps told me it was 3 hours and 1 minute to Auckland and so it proved to be with an uneventful trip back to the big smoke.
To view the places we have visited click here to see them on Google maps. You can click the links to read the blog about that area.
To view the Ratings we have done for other camps click here