Haarlem in the Langkloof

  1. Still reeling from the 2004 Boxing Day Tsumami that lashed the shores from the East and the Indian sub-continent all the way to Africa, 2005 was peppered with natural disasters as well as the April 3rd death of Pope John Paul II. Late August – Force 5 Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana, Mississippi Alabama & Florida; most of New Orleans was evacuated. There were 26 major storms that year, a record. 13 became hurricanes and 3 were Force 5. The major earthquake in Pakistan exacted a deathtoll of 73,000.

Haarlem church1Sheila needed some small tables for her Art & Craft shop, The Pumpkin, which was catering for teas, coffees, breakfasts and snack meals. We heard the Haarlem High School woodwork department were allowing school-leavers to make such furniture. Our first visit to the little village twenty-six kilometres from Uniondale on Route R62 was to view their work and place an order for three tables. Sheila fell in love with the rural community at first sight.


2013 Aug Art mill.jpg

Old Mill ruins


I thought of it as a friendly smile with a mouth full of broken teeth. Many of the poorly maintained cottages were falling down. Mostly built of sun-baked mud-bricks, as soon as the plaster protecting them fell off, they dissolved and collapsed. Which, because most of them were over 100 years old, was very sad.

The village lies on the southern bank of the Groot River and is accessed from the R62 by a low-level ford that is prone to flooding in the rainy weather. Reputedly laid out in one acre plots around 1850 by surveyors Heyns and Traut for colonial settlers, Welgelegen, the farm in which it lay, was bought by the Berlin Missionary Society and established as a Lutheran mission station with agricultural plots to be irrigated by furrows from a dam in the Tsitsikama Mountains nearby.

As the population was predominantly Coloured when the Nationalist Apartheid government that gained power in 1948, following its policy of separate development, it eventually proclaimed the town to be Coloured, and the white families resident there were removed, including several Jewish shop owners. Naturally, in 1994, with the coming of the New South Africa, this no longer applied and after the turn of the millennium, a few whites bought properties there. (Sheila and I were to be amongst the first re-Settlers when we managed to shed our Uniondale acquisitions, the following year.)

In June I had completed enough of my Backpacker Hostel to accommodate the first customers, and the numbers increased slowly as more rooms came available.

Much to my astonishment, on September 3rd I failed my driving eye-test. Advised that I could have my sight checked by a specialist, I went to an optometrist in Humansdorp in the Eastern Cape to have it done. Photos showed scarring on my left eyeball, but, provided I wrote a letter waving my heavy-duty licence, I could still retain my light duty one. Phew. And it was only when I tried shutting my right eye, driving home, that I discovered that the road centre-line disappeared! However, my peripheral vision in that eye was still okay.

Due to having to replace the engine in my bakkie with a new one, I needed to return to Maun in Botswana in October to register it on the licence. This gave me a good reason to catch up with the so many friends I’d made there. David Tregilges, ex-headmaster of Maun Senior Secondary School, was by then headmaster of Moading S.S. School in Otsi. I overnighted with him on my way past, both ways, and caught up on news. He was having a serious problem with overcoming a brutal initiation tradition by senior boys to juniors; only solved with the employment of a security team.

The year closed off with attending the wedding of Gay Sabatier to a Jewish fellow, Jonathan Silverberg in Johannesburg. Sheila was unable to get away, so my daughter, Nicci, kept me company. It was a curious mix of Christian and Jewish ceremony. I found myself acting as one of four tent poles to the ceremonial tent under which the couple made their vows! It was great to catch up with the Sabatier family who are lifelong friends.


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SANGOMA – Traditional healer, herbalist.

As the world gave birth to 2005 Sheila and I were being introduced to a man of great interest to us in that he was not only a fundi botanist, he was a trained traditional healer. He and his American wife lived on his farm, Jantjieskraal, about ten km outside of Uniondale where, besides farming sheep, he propagated material for his herbal business. In a lot of ways it was ideal as the surrounding hills and mountains are rich in naturally occurring medicinal plants.

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Kouga Mountains

When he invited us to join a small group of like-minded folk in learning more about medicinal herbs, we jumped at the chance.

Born in Johannesburg in 1948, Peter von Maltitz was only two years younger than I. He completed a B.Sc. in Natural Sciences (Agriculture) from the University of Stellenbosch followed by an honours degree in plant pathology. This involved a great deal of Theosophy, s leading to an interest in Anthroposophy and thus to Biodynamic farming.

Peter von Maltitz

Peter von Maltitz

Driven by a desire to relieve pain, in 1980 he discovered that he could give relief by using his “hot hands”. (Similarly, I believe that I have some small gift in that direction.)

In 1996 he registered as a spiritual healer and took part in a course in homeopathy with the homeopaths Berkley, Digby and Dr David Lilley. It was a natural progression to follow that with studies in African traditional healing with Philip Kubukeli from Khayelitsha, Cape Town.

“Zanemvula” (he comes with the rain) was the name he received because it rained whenever they performed a ceremony for his ancestors. His final graduation as a fully fledged sangoma took place at a 3-day ceremony during September 1999 on his home farm, Jantjieskraal in the Kouga mountains.

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A Bo-Kouga kloof

On most Wednesday evenings, we would go to Jantjieskraal to add three or four plants to our own scanty knowledge, Peter using groups that were beneficial to different groups of illnesses or body functions. We started with the organs of fear – wet yourself, shit yourself – herbs to alleviate problems in the blood, kidneys, bladder and peristalsis. Next were the bitter herbs that pertain to the gall bladder – the hottest organ, suppressed anger that erupts as boils, fever and rashes.

The following involved the opening of the mind. Cleansing toxins, decreasing anxiety. The following week, due to a visit by Sheila’s son Tim and pregnant fiancé, Juanita, the subject was fertility and pregnancy.  With Easter only two days away, we were expecting more family to visit by way of Sheila’s elder son Nicholas with his ten month old son, Ronan Simkin, and my daughter, Nicci. Although Sheila and I were invited to the ceremony on the Sunday at the bush hut where Peter’s wife Helen was to be initiated as a sangoma in her own right, it was Nicci and I that attended. Sheila had injured her back.

Besides the other couple that frequently joined our Wednesday evening botanical lessons, there were four women attending, one of whom was the mother of a patient who would be Ellen’s first, as well as a sangoma novice under Peter’s tutelage.

Ellen was seated on a mat. Peter was in full regalia of skirts, skin strips, ankle rattles and shoulder sash. The novice beat a drum as Peter welcomed us. Then Ellen received her new skirts; an underskirt with four stripes on the lower edge, and a shorter outer skirt with three. Following that were various bead necklaces with different meanings – green for the forest, red and white for fire, light blue for the sky and so on. He regaled her with headbands of beads and tassels, including the gall bladder from the slaughtered goat, the body of with which Ellen had spent the previous night in the ceremonial hut.

Ellen was contacting her ancestors, Peter explained, while his assistant whipped up a billycan of frothing ubulau herb, to raise her spiritual senses, which was held over her until the froth cascaded over her head.

Basically, that was it.

Now the patient was brought before Ellen for a diagnosis, which she hesitantly gave. She thought the young man had pain in his eyes and neck and a problem with his kidneys. Peter questioned him and his mother and established that Ellen was on the right track. He was given some kattekruie leaves and his mother took him home.

The rest of us feasted on the ceremonial goat meat with maize on the cob, beans and pumpkin. We also tucked in to the beers I had brought.

In April we had a few more herbal evenings with Peter and Ellen, but thereafter it fizzled out as Ellen suffered from depression. (Er…??)

Tim and Juanita’s baby was born on May 3rd; a premature but healthy girl, named Denicka Simkin.

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Backpackers’ Hostel

BP west facade74 Voortrekker Road was a shell when I bought it in 2004. The original yellowwood  (Podocarpus falcatus ) floors and ceilings had been ripped out as the short term owner had been under the illusion that he would make a fortune selling that beautiful, and now rare, timber. However, nails forged by blacksmiths 150 years ago have rusted into the wood and tend to snap when you try to remove them, leaving their ends embedded in the timber so that any tool such as a plane or saw gets wrecked as one works the wood.  And the effort to remove the nails often splits the planks. The value of the building would have been doubled if only he had left sleeping wood lie…

It was beyond my capabilities and my pocket to restore the Victorian building to its original state. It served my purpose to put in a new ceiling low enough to accommodate another storey and build in some stairs. At least the detached cottage still had a ceiling in Oregon pine, but I had to cast new concrete floors there as well as in the main house. Under the rotting floorboards of the kitchen, I found several solid yellowwood beams that the previous owner had missed. These I used to fashion a bar-cum-reception counter. I removed the bath that had been placed on the walled-off section of the veranda and partitioned off two en-suite shower/toilets for the dormitories.

There were the remains of a wagon shed with an entrance off the side street. I had that bricked up and rebuilt as a tiled flatlet with a kitchenette and adjoining shower and toilet.

BP dorm bunks 1The Kammanassie Backpackers opened for business with 22 beds available.

Uniondale had been surrounded by several stone-built British forts that saw service during the Boer War – see my previous post on General De La Rey and Gideon Scheepers – but there was only one that survived in reasonable condition and was now a national monument. This was an attraction, as well as the Victorian buildings on Voortrekker Road and Victoria Street. However, being only another one hour drive to the city of George on the coast, it was not a tourist destination as such. I would have to encourage more attractions for the town.

I joined the local Tourism Board; mostly owners of B&Bs and a couple of local businesses. I subscribed to a Backpackers booklet that was distributed country-wide.

KB SW elevInitially, I realised that I would also accommodate construction crews who were in town for small jobs which did not warrant them setting up their own camps, while awaiting the hoped for rush of tourists.

Naturally, it was booked out for the annual Karoo-to-Coast 100km Mountain-bike Challenge. That is an annual event, so did not exactly impress my bank balance. Still, I got a few interesting folk in; some Germans, some Canadians, some bikeys. Folk who arrived with their own transport, as there was, and is, no public transport service to the town. Ideally, being about half way between beautiful city of Knysna on the Garden Route, and the world renowned Kango Caves near Oudtshoorn, a kombi-bus service, from the one to the other via Uniondale and the stunningly awesome mountain passes that link them, would have put my establishment on the map.

But, no Kombi owner was interested, and I could not afford to buy one and hire a driver.


Still, I was more or less breaking even, if I managed the place myself. When Sheila fell in love with a village 25km away, on a trip there to buy tables and chairs made in the local school’s woodworking centre by school-leavers, we moved there. The succession of managers was a disaster. Let me say no more than that I had no idea how many guests actually booked in, except that each month was a loss. Then all my survey equipment stored there went missing…

Then in 2012 a construction company offered me a good rental for the whole place and that was the end of it as a true Backpackers. When their contract ended a year later, I hired out the rooms to four single people. Police, teachers and such. So, it still pays for itself, with a little over for my pocket.

I’m looking for buyers, now – 2017 – and will let it go for R695,000-00, which, if you have US$ or Euros or £, and would love to retire to a quaint little South African village in the mountains of the Western Cape Province, it’s a steal.

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The Pumpkin & Tsunami

Just before leaving for Australia and New Zealand, I had bought 2 properties in August, 2004, in Uniondale where we had settled. They were both on the main street, Voortrekker Road, next door to each other, despite the fact that they were nos. 74 and 78.

Pumpkin 1On my return at the end of November, I set to converting no. 74 into a Backpackers Hostel. No.78 I had given to Sheila to do whatever she wanted with it. It was in a far better condition than no. 74 so required far less adaptation to the Art & Craft Co-Op that it was to become. She got several local artists together as members of the Co-op so that all could display their wares and be on duty one day of the week while the others did their creative thing. Painted orange, it soon became known as The Pumpkin.

Naturally enough, it also became a coffee shop and began to serve light meals.

2004 tailed off with delightful visits from various friends and family reconnecting.

Tiaan Theron and his wife Sabine from Maun, Botswana, spent a night, so we caught up on the news from there. (Pieter Kat, the lion researcher, had had an awful road accident and, weeks later, was still in hospital in Johannesburg.)

We went to the city of George to meet up with Rollo Brent-Meek and his wife Naomi from Warmbaths, now Bela Bela, literarily meaning boil-boil in the local languages of Setswana/Sepedi, referring to the steam that used to rise over the bush from the hot water springs before the stream was capped.

My son, Ryan, wife Elaine and their little boy, Thomas, spent a night and bought a painting of Sheila’s from The Pumpkin the next day before setting off once again on their travels.

Our Warmbaths vet friend, Dr Marius Theron with his daughter, Antonique, spent a couple of nights with us and joined us for a festive Christmas dinner at Sheila’s brother, Neil Maling’s farm.

Despite our short stay in Uniondale, we were already getting the impression that we were not really welcome. Two of our neighbours were giving us pet-related problems. We had one cat poisoned and another one shot. Very few of the local white folk were supporting the Pumpkin, either. Those that were, were either artists themselves or newcomers, like us.

But, of course, the capping news of 2004 was the awful 8.9 Aceh earthquake off the coast of Malaysia on boxing day and the devastating tsunami that ensued. Even on the first day, the deathtoll was estimated as 7,000 people and it just shot up from there. By New Year’s Eve it was at 125,000. And the resulting tsunami was causing havoc as far away as the east coast of Africa.

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The Flagstaff Cup: Hōne Heke 1-1 Grandpa

Hone Heke warBay of Islands, New Zealand:

The image of Hōne Heke chopping down the British flag on Maiki hill above Kororāreka in 1845 is the enduring symbol of the Northern War. This conflict has also been called the ‘Flagstaff War’ and ‘Hōne Heke’s Rebellion’.



Marriage: ARKELL – HULME On April 30th, 1913 at the Church of St Martin’s in the Fields, Trafalgar Square, London by the Rev. Hamilton Rise, Herbert J Arkell of Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire, England to Effie Constance, third daughter of Mr and Mrs C F Hulme of Tauranga, New Zealand. [Bay Of Plenty Times, Volume XLI, Issue 5970, 11 June 1913, Page 4]

They had 4 children: John, Mildred Constance, Lawrence Claude, and Edith Helena.

Mildred, called Jane, married Anthony Earle and had 2 boys: Richard and yours truly, Peter J. Earle.

R.D. Okaihau. New Zealand.

31st May, 1965

Dear Edith,

Enclosed is a front page from N.Z Herald. The Victoria League prepared a model of the old Hulme Court which is at the top of Parnell rise in Auckland City. My sisters went to see the floral festival. They have known the old historical home all their lives, as have I…

…Hulme Court was the home of Colonel William Hulme (1788 – 21 August 1855) who led the British soldiers at the first battle of Okaihau when New Zealand was being secured and colonised in Queen Victoria’s reign; the early 1840s.

When we go along the road now we pass over the ground which was the battlefield against the Maoris under Hone Heke – a very historical place.

The Anglican clergyman, Rev. Robert Burrows, watched the battle from a hillside nearby.

Colonel Hulme’s son, Charles Francis Hulme, married Rev. Robert Burrows’ daughter. They were both your great grandfathers…

…I know the old St. Stephen’s cemetery in Parnell where Burrows’ gravestone still stands…


Aunt Daisy.

Thanks be to the NZHistory.net.nz team for the following, and for more detail about the Northern War, or Flagstaff War

Lieutenant Colonel William Hulme (1788 – 21 August 1855) was an officer in the British Army, and commanded the 96th Regiment of Foot, raised at Manchester.

His military career was most notable for his involvement in the “Flagstaff War”, also known as the First Anglo-Maori War, which took place in New Zealand between 1845 and 1846. Lt Col Hume was in command of the colonial forces at the attack on Heke’s Pa at Puketutu on the shores of Lake Omapere (sometimes called Te Mawhe Pa). In May 1845 Heke’s Pa was attacked by troops from the 58th, 96th and 99th Regiments with marines and a Congreve rocket unit.

The colonial forces arrived at Heke’s Pa at Puketutu on 7 May 1845. Lieutenant Colonel Hulme and his second in command Major Cyprian Bridge made an inspection of Heke’s Pa and found it to be quite formidable. Lacking any better plan they decided on a frontal assault the following day. Te Ruki Kawiti and his warriors attacked the colonial forces as they approached the pa, with Heke and his warriors firing from behind the defences of the pa. There followed a savage and confused battle. Eventually the discipline and cohesiveness of the British troops began to prevail and the Maori were driven back inside the pa. But they were by no means beaten, far from it, as without artillery the British had no way to overcome the defences of the pa. Hulme decided to disengage and retreat back to the Bay of Islands. Lieutenant Colonel Hulme returned to Auckland and was replaced by Lieutenant Colonel Despard, a soldier who did very little to inspire any confidence in his troops.

Later life

In 1846 he purchased a house in Parnell, Auckland, which became and is still known as Hulme Court. While not open to the public, this is on the New Zealand Historic Places register and is one of the oldest documented houses in Auckland still standing. Hulme Court was built in 1843 for Sir Frederick Whitaker later to become Premier of New Zealand. It is in the Regency style and features a hipped roof, elegantly trellised verandahs and shuttered sash windows. The house has 300mm thick bluestone walls which have since been plastered over, and a slate roof. Its architect is unknown.

Hulme Court, Parnell Auckland

Hulme Court – Parnell, Auckland, NZ.

Despite some interior alterations over the years Hulme Court remains as one of the best examples of Regency architecture in New Zealand, and almost certainly the finest built in permanent materials.

The house has very great historical significance having been occupied by a distinguished group of early New Zealanders including: Bishop Selwyn; Colonel Hulme, Commander of British Troops in New Zealand after whom the house is named; Governor Gove Browne who used it as a temporary Government House; and, later, Sir Francis Dillon Bell, Minister of Native affairs and advisor to Governor Grey.

It is the second oldest surviving house in Auckland and the oldest documented dwelling still standing on its original site.

William Hulme was later appointed by Governor Grey as the first Postmaster-General of New Zealand’s national Post Office. He died on 21 August 1855 in his 68th year. He was buried in Symonds Street Cemetery.

Rev. Robert Burrows, late secretary of the Church Missionary Society, was born at Stroud, Gloucestershire, England, in 1812, his father being Mr. T. Burrows, builder. He gained his primary education in his native county, and afterwards received tuition under the Rev. Dr. Williams, rector of Woodchester, Gloucestershire. In 1836 Mr. Burrows went to the Church Missionary Society’s College, Islington, for ministerial training as a missionary. He was ordained deacon in 1838, and priest at St. Paul’s Cathedral in 1839, by the late Bishop Blomfield, of London. Leaving England for the Bay of Islands in September, 1839, he was the first missionary to arrive in the Colony after the signing of the “Treaty of Waitangi,” and laboured for some years chiefly in the Bay of Islands district.

Rev Robert Burrows 1812-1897

Rev. Robert Burrows

Revisiting England in 1853, he returned to New Zealand two years later as secretary of the Church Missionary Society for the Colony, supervising the affairs of the society until 1894, when he resigned in consequence of advanced age and failing health. The reverend gentleman, during his long and exciting career, was instrumental in bringing about a meeting between Hone Heke, the famous rebellious chief (who was responsible for the war of 1845), and Governor Grey. Mr. Burrows published an interesting diary, relating his experiences and interviews with Hone Heke and referring to one of the greatest crises in the early history of the colonisation of this country. It was printed at the suggestion of the late Sir William Martin, who suggested that its contents would form an interesting leaf for a future “History of New Zealand.” The Rev. Mr. Burrows passed away in Auckland on the 23rd of July, 1897, at the ripe old age of eighty-four.

Hulme Court, Dunedin

Hulme Court – Dunedin.

Interestingly, there is a Hulme Court in Dunedin, South Island, too – owned and run as a backpackers hostel by Mr. Wood, when I last heard – build for Dr Charles Hulme. He was born in Kent, UK, so I don’t know if the two families were related. There also seems to be no connection to the families of Denny Hulme, racing driver, and his famous father, Alfred Clive Hulme, VC, nor to the New Zealand poet, Keri Hulme.


Does anyone recognise this lady? Certainly a Hulme or Burrows…

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A taste of North Island, NZ.

Nic Jaspers, Kevin O’Connell and I travelled up North Island, with a brief stop in Taupo for me to marvel at the lake and watch the water skiing and kiting, to Kevin’s home in Hamilton. The next day we set off to Northland. Auckland was stunningly beautiful with its myriad islands ferries and bays. On to Warkworth and Wellsford, through Ruakaka and Whangarei. We turned off at Whakapara for Helena Bay on the east coast and headed north through stunning views of wooded hills and blue coves to Russell (Kororareka) where we parked, slurped a couple of beers and had lunch on the beachfront. Back to Kawakaw, passing mudflats with mangroves in the tidal pools to Kaikohe and Dargaville, missing the giant Kauri forests at Waipouo, unfortunately, but the views were grand, anyway.

Dargaville Central Hotel.JPG

Central Hotel, Dargaville 2004.

Kevin phoned an old friend of his, one Blackie, a Maori. He was 57, still playing rugby! Used to be a boxer, too. He recommended The Central Hotel where we had a great supper. Blackie caught up with us there later. He had given up drinking, himself, but made a habit of calling around at closing time to give the drunks a lift home! What a character.

The next day we visited the Dargaville Museum, with exhibits of early settler life, kauri logging, gum digging, ship building and shipwrecks. The masts of the Rainbow Warrior, sunk at anchor by French sabotage divers, are to be found there.

Just south of there at Matakohe, Kevin had to drag me away from the Kauri Museum with its fascinating displays of a life-like kauri sawmill, complete with steam engines.  I could have spent the whole day gawping.

Pub Hamilton 2004 ex-IPS.JPG

2004: Peter J. Earle, Kevin Read, Nic Jaspers & Kevin O’Connell, all ex-IPS London 1969.

Back to Hamilton and an evening in Kevin’s “local”, The Clyde for grub and grog.

Rot gey 9The next day, Kevin’s girlfriend Dawn took us all to Rotorua to spend the day getting a glimpse into Maori culture and to see the steam geysers do their amazing thing. My grandmother, Effie Hulme was, as family tradition would have it, born there. Rotorua was amazing and I leave it to a few pics to tell about our wonderful visit.Rot gey 6

Rotarua geysers 2

Rotarua Maori canoe.JPG

Maori war canoe – Rotorua, NZ

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The Paekakareke Express

After a hope-to-return-one-day visit to South Island, NZ, Kevin O’Connell, Nic Jaspers and I left the hired car in Picton and boarded the Interislander ferry Aratere to Wellington and picked up another there. The ever-changing views during the crossing were stunning. This was back in 2004; and I so wished I could persuade my wife Sheila to share it with me one day!

Once again, with time restraints, we deprived ourselves of all that Wellington has to offer and headed to the village of Paekakareke. Which rugby fan has never heard of the Paekakareke Express? That worthy hotel pub’s walls might collapse if they removed all the Christian Cullen pictures plastered there! We had plenty of time to browse the progress of their favourite son’s exploits from school to international fame in the All Blacks.

Thanks, Wiki P! Christian Mathias Cullen (born 12 February 1976) is a former New Zealand rugby union footballer. He played most of his rugby at fullback for New Zealand (the All Blacks), for the Hurricanes in the Super 12, and for ManawatuWellington and later Munster at provincial level. He was nicknamed the Paekakariki Express and was considered to be one of the most potent running fullbacks rugby has ever seen. With 46 tries scored in 58 Tests, Cullen is the 9th-highesttry-scorer in international rugby.

Nic PJE Kev Kees

Nic Jaspers, PJE, Kevin O’Connell, Kees Korndorffer

We were awaiting the arrival of Kees Korndorffer at 17h00 from his work at Wellington Uni. I recognised him the moment he got out of his car. His once-orange-red hair had fled to leave a white horseshoe fringe, but the nose, the sudden fleeting smile and the slight stooped figure were unmistakeable. I had last seen him in about 1966; an old school friend, met in 1962, he and his family had taken me for so many delicious Sunday lunches at their home in Pretoria when I was in boarding school at Pretoria Boys’ High, and his father had been attached to the Dutch Embassy for a five-year stint in South Africa. I even went on a caravan holiday with them to the Cape Peninsular one Christmas.

The first cigarettes I ever smoked – and the first cigar I unsuccessfully tried and coughed myself silly – were pilfered from his dad’s duty-free supply.

Kees was not normally a pub-crawler, but he admitted to enjoying the camaraderie of it all. Kevin allowed us to adjust our schedule so that I could see more of my old friend and we spent two nights at the beachfront home of Kees and his partner, Waveney. Supper was absolutely delicious tarakaihi fish (Nemadactylus macropterus) at the pub.

The most memorable event of the next day (Melbourne Cup Day, where Down Under comes to a stand-still. Rugby, Racing and Beer!) for me was a visit to the huge vintage vehicle museum at Paraparaumu – pronounced Parapram! I have always been a sucker for old cars, and this was neverending antique orgasm.

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