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2024 - January - Day 15 - Paihai

This morning I was rudely awoken by Karen at 5.25am to inform me that my phone was ringing, in that it was flashing as it was on silent. I moaned but answered it as I did not recognise the number. It was our Ring system from home calling to inform that that the alarm in our lounge had been triggered.


Quickly wide awake I checked the cameras at home and could not see anything out of order. I disarmed the system to stop the outside siren wailing and disturbing the neighbours. As I did that, I could see Iain from next door now walking over to check the house for any incursions or problems. I quickly messaged him to say thanks and told him I had checked the cameras and recordings and could not see what had caused it but suspected perhaps a spider on the camera. I also said that if it went off again, I would ask one of the boys to come over and sort out the problem inside.


After dozing off for another hour I got up, sorted out the blog and started to get everything packed away ready to leave. I was all ready to leave early so that I had time to watch the first half of Norwich playing away at Leeds. Despite losing 1-0 it was a much better than performance than of late against a strong team.


We left at 9.45am and drove a couple of miles to something called Sculptureum which is listed as one of the Top 3 attractions in the Auckland area (despite being more than 45 minutes’ drive away). The full admission cost was $49NZ each but I had found tickets for ‘Senior’s’ online down to $20NZ each so we had decided to go and see for ourselves. I was not expecting much especially as I am quite the philistine when it comes to art of any type but especially weird modern sculptures. I suspected that it was either going to be twee or pretentious.


We arrived just at opening time and had the place to ourselves. It seemed very clean, posh and pristine. We were given some background from the lady running the ticket office that the whole park concept  originated to house the personal collection of sculptures of Anthony Grant and his wife who are both still practicing barristers in Auckland, which they had accumulated over many years. They had bought the land (and winery next door) and developed it over the past few years to what it is today.


The first part of the gardens/park was outside. Far from being bored or getting angry with the ‘so called art’, I loved it almost as much as Karen who was in her element. Even the first piece of an elephant crawling out of a sewage drain I found fascinating.


The whole layout of the park/garden was designed with real style. Some of the works of art were just good and even clever – some I thought were just meh. They had been curated beautifully and just worked in the surroundings. It was even better that there was no one else about just yet.


The sculptures were interspersed with a few live animals which were in carefully thought-out enclosures. We loved some beautifully coloured birds the type of which we had never seen before and a parrot called Susie who seemed to just want to be my friend. She flew over to me and sat there trying to talk to me and then said Hello. My heart was won over and I felt I had to apologise to her that I had to move on.


I was also taken by some inspirational quotes from people like Einstein & Steve Job that were scattered around the garden especially the ones that tried to define what art is.


In the inside gallery, I was again memorised by some of the artwork. I thought much of it was thought provoking and clever. Either it was good or something had come over me. I even liked the glass display by Chihuly.


Then we headed to another garden where the highlight was the Pink Snails. I am not sure why they are considered to be the highlight but they just are. They are the colour of the Sculptureum brand.


After almost 2 hours there we decided to get on the road to our most northerly destination of the trip Paihai some 110 miles away. As ever there was a mountain range to drive over to start with before we hit a decent stretch of road. We aimed to stop about halfway at any nice-looking café. Typically, we passed several before we reached halfway but when we wanted one there were none to be seen.


Instead, we turned off to Whanagrei Falls which we had visited twice before and ate our leftover Pizza slices before walking to just see the top of the 26m falls. It was lovely sitting there in the glorious summer sunshine.


It was then time to complete the journey to Paihai conveniently situated over yet another range of mountains but on the beautiful Bay of Islands. The bay itself looked stunning and the sea was lovely shades of blue all over.


We were soon checked into what apparently was the best room of the motel with marvellous views from the veranda outside. Then after having the obligatory cuppa, we went for a walk to explore the shops and front of Paihai. It was a lovely as we remembered from 2018.


Then we went back for a cool drink. Then it finally happened and we both agreed we would be coming back to New Zealand in 2026. For us this country just works at this time of year. The weather, the scenery, the people and general about everything about it. We even committed to paper a planned route with the number of days in each stop minimising the drive between places and the chance to catch up with friends.


After which I was despatched to get some Takeaway Fish & Chips. The Hoki and Chips that I returned with were fresh and delicious. We washed it down with our last bottle of Savvy B from Waipara Springs. It made for a really good meal sitting outside on the veranda.


We caught up on some holiday admin before retiring. When we had been taken to the room, we had been warned that as it was a wood construction that we would be hearing lots of creaks and cracks as the wood cooled down and contracted during the night. We just smiled and said that it would be fine, not realising that as we laid in bed it was like gunshots going off above our heads. We hoped that it would not carry on all night.

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