Walks and Thoughts

of Michael Simes

An old Man's Tale:



West Vale

Clay House


Cragg Vale



Pecket Well

Luddenden Dean

Jerusalem Farm

Catherine Slack

Stone Chair

It's Just Like Home:

Hong Kong





Marlborough Sounds


Milford Sound



Blue Mountains

Northern Beaches


A City Of Revolution:




Notre Dame

Discovering New Zealand

Travelling Round Auckland Sightseeing and Exploring


Bounced into Sydney for three hours on our way to Auckland. Grandstand view of iconic Harbour Bridge and Opera House as we sweep into airport. Grandparents and father arrived by ship in 1927. Grandad died aged 34 from pneumonia. Chasing my genes to its source. A corn chandler from Gravesend of Sussex farming stock. Grandmother returned destitute to England pregnant with two infants. Duchess of York involved in orphaning children to Banardos. Grandma never saw offspring again, later to produce a new set. If the body remembers, will I know Sydney?

Couple of days and Auckland will host my 60th celebrations. A day to reflect that Grandad died before middle age crept upon him and father died at 53 before age and infirmity visited him. Watched Dirty Harry, a rebel with a cause, only of crime.

Arrived in Auckland with luggage remaining in Sydney. A case of mislaid baggage. Levi-Strauss died yesterday after reaching his century. An evening of French television celebrates his life famous in his time for unintelligible but radical manoeuvrings and linguistics. We thought he supported the French Revolution. Now a speck but a celebrated cult somewhere.

Morning jog on sweeping promenade, fellow runners all in opposite direction and avoid eye and human contact. Breathing laboured as asthma reacts to air quality in city of sails.

Thirteen hours time differential transforms us into intrepid travellers, committed globe trekkers seeking serendipity. An archipelago comprising 700 islands and four million people. The Pakeha owe their existence to our Yorkshireman. James Cook’s discovery in 1769. Maoris lived with the land for thousands of years.

Browsing hotel lobby studying brochures. “I wouldn’t bother going there!” Stephen and Jane are in Auckland staying with friends. He emigrated when he was six weeks old and returned an adolescent. This is his spiritual home and his second pilgrimage.

Three hours to Auckland seems like a hop, skip and a jump after stages of twelve and eight hours. The final destination by Jumbo to the other side to create one whole. Maybe only done once. Read about Cinderella and women and need to nurture and enhance each other- a sort of opposite of the penis envy stuff. Westerners no longer safe, not even in their own cocoon. The edifice is crumbling and who’s bothered?

Auckland is cosmopolitan and vibrant with its busy, noisy pollution. A big city of 1.2 million people by the sea. Accommodated at Hotel Mercure Windsor for $180 with an ocean view. Hotel is roomy, well furnished with gallery kitchen for basic DIY.

Nice to see so many shorts. Kiwis friendly and relaxed in a restrained way without Aussie exuberance. The excitement starts here.

Booked buffet table for four at observatory restaurant in Sky Tower. The highest tower in the southern hemisphere overlooking the spread of Auckland harbour. Your $61 includes trip to viewing deck at the summit. The sky jump and sky walk are extras to be contemplated. Still tired and fleeting cramp despite swamping meals with salt and drenching orange juice. Sweating is alien to a British winter.

Explore Auckland by foot. Redeveloped quay offers opportunities to sample native golden beer - pleasant to the taste for abstinent tea-totaller. Search for an Indian. Lure of Bradford curry never far away. Enjoyed our meal at the Paka Sala. Bill presented as $72, an appeal reduced to thirty-six dollars. Are tourists fair game? Back to hotel for a cuppa, TV and bed. John le Carré remains unflicked.

Sixty Today

And so I have made it! Sixty today. How do you do it? Thought I’d never make 30. Cicero would enjoy. “If I’d known I’d live so long I would have looked after myself better”. I started after surviving my 30th.

A younger life gone, never to be repeated. Difficult to believe you don’t get another go. Another chance to encroach a bit further on the road to bliss. Ran the Maritime Trail wearing my Bupa Great North Run t-shirt. They’ve been taken over. Nothing what is seems in world of commerce.

Where’s the Maori culture? Lone Maoris as wide as long. Colloquially built like a shit house door. Thoughts of my psychotherapy training with Professor Wasserman. Sydney was a lovely man, nothing precious about him. Shared two moving years with him. Reaching sixty leaves middle age behind and clamber into the young elderly category. Beginning reflections on past lifes, collections of emotions and cognitions, achievements and failures. A time of failing health as death is nearer than birth. Keep on running! The 50’s have gone, you are no longer fifty something. The bus pass and pensioner matinees await your return.

Ferry trip of 45 minutes from quay pier takes you to Waiheka island. Jimmy Cook sailed past in 1769. Waiheka famous for red wine and olives. European settlement underway by 1850. Named by Maoris as cascading waters.

Took a trek to Oneroa. Signs confusing as ended up traversing circular walks in the bush. Foliage rouses allergies of hay fever and asthma. Tissues and insect repellent to be the order of the day. Picnic by the beach, paddling in sea and elbow dipping as therapy for psoriasis.

“Have a good day”. Used ATM easy enough. Helpful and confusing to have balance in New Zealand dollars. Difficult to keep up with currency fluctuations and volatility of sterling. You need sweatshirt and fleece to cope with vicissitudes of temperature and wind.

Telephone call from Bob and Catherine, it’s not my birthday in England. Staying active and resting is the key. I should be alright now I have the mantle of professional athlete.

Above Auckland at 220 metres sits the seafood restaurant. On a clear day you can see for 51 miles. Sky jumpers can fall furiously at 85 km per hour. Raw fish variety enjoyed by the connoisseurs. Japanese mackerel and dessert selection were my choices. Jane had pleasure of oysters. Too sophisticated for poor moi! Staff helpful, friendly and Korean. Picked up birthday e-mails. Booked ocean accommodation at Paihia in Bay of Islands. Asked for 50% discount. Four hour bus ride will get us there tomorrow. Bay of Islands I’ve now been sixty for a day. David Beckham arrives in Auckland. A muted entrance despite media hype. He could just slip in quietly like us. Another trundle of cases to join packed bus to Paihia. Soon tired and drifting in time zones. Birthplace of New Zealand as first Maori voyager, Kupe, arrived in Bay of Islands from Polynesia over thousand years ago. Wilkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome to the cradle of European civilisation. Bay of Islands consists of 144 islands, where tourists encounter dolphins, whales, penguins and seals. The warmest enclave in New Zealand, today’s cooling breezes keep temperatures at 24º C.

“Meet passionate locals”
“A day in the bay through hole in the rock”
“Horse trekking from volcano to the sea”
“Novice riders briefed and schooled”
“Eco encounters with dolphins”
“Wet suits and snorkelling in warm waters”
“Try the Excitor at 1600 bhp”

Book into Bay Sands Hotel with Mary and Dan from South London. Through picture windows catch palm trees, sun, sea and islands. Wrap around balcony can follow the sun. Interrupted by incessant noise and vapours of traffic on main road. It’s all beautiful entertainment for the tourists. Light retreats at 9.00pm. Provisions bought at local Woolies - it’s not part of our collapsed empire.

From our bed you watch palms fanning languidly in the wind, neon lights sweep the bay. A steady stream of noise and fumes. There’s a narrow strip of sand and out to sea it’s punctuated with islands.

Sidewalk busy with power walkers, joggers and strollers. Time to get up. Cod Liver Oil and run to lubricate the joints stiffened by cramped travel and hard beds. This is nirvana, running by the sea sucking in the ozone. It doesn’t get any better. Soon turned back by Private Property. Liberating enclosures with the masses is an attraction. In isolation privacy and property rights respected grudgingly. Come to track for Haruru falls which is fenced and accessed through steel swing security gate into deep bush. Hay fever not tolerate more vegetation. Why doesn’t the sea breeze decongest? Carolyn starts me on a course of natural medication. I will ask Maoris for a remedy.

At the Bay Sands rules forbid visitors after 10.00pm. No parties and curfew after 10.30pm. No smoking, no spitting and alcohol is banned. No drying of clothes. “We reserve the right to examine your bag”. Runners need to spit. “We hope you agree with this simple policy”. Controlling, repressive and refreshingly quaint. By default we abide.

Woke this morning with brief dreams of work colleagues and clients. Thoughts break through all day. Even though it’s over, work intrudes in this beauty spot. Work, rest and play a proper continuum.

Backpackers accommodation everywhere. They have had their day as credit crunch squeezes their gap year. The young elderly affluents are replacing them. A mix would be nice.

The ten minutes ferry across to Russell, once the capital of New Zealand. Met fellow Yorkshire couple who emigrated to Australia thirty-eight years ago. Strenuous walk on a hot day to flagstaff signal with panoramic views on all sides. Erected in 1840 to commemorate signing of Treaty of Waitangi. It’s flagstaff hill where Hone Heke’s warriors felled the British flag four times in protest at European invasion. Eventually Maoris erected their own. Higher up summit hides giant sun dial laid in mosaic of Bay of Islands.

Checked if my winnings paid in at the internet café. Silver surfers can keep in touch. It’s all very clever. Strawberries and nuts for lunch on the beach.

Forced into pharmacy to discuss hay fever. Discussed relative merits of medication and side effects. Reminded pharmacist there’s yet to be a medicine invented without side effects. Lots of people suffer hay fever in summer in New Zealand, especially holiday makers. There’s new allergenics to fight.

An evening Maori performance of their history in New Zealand. Song and dance through history in a tiny theatre. Too generous to the Brits. Imperialist hegemony refracted through native culture. Good singing and powerful voices, history as tourist entertainment. Shared with actors that some of us do not take pride and pleasure in Maori volunteers in British army for First World War.

Raining heavily we sign up for guided tour of Waitangi Treaty Grounds - waters of lamentation. Beautiful grounds by the bay protected by the Trust. British Resident, James Busby instrumental in Treaty signature. Maoris ceded to Victoria “all rights and powers of sovereignty”. In return Maoris became citizens of Britain. The crown has it. Interpretations resolved by the barrel of a gun. Maori canoes gleaming and sparkling.

Five kilometres bush walk to Haruru falls. Entry by the security gate on to shale track entangled by thickened shrub. Proceed through chilling, silenced atmosphere of Mangrove board walk perched above river and swamp. Families of herons nestling in trees. Parentage sweeping down returning to regurgitate for their suckling. Fragrant whiffs of essential aromatic oils.

Met Ottawa couple travelling New Zealand. They’ve been to Bradford to visit friends. Tourist numbers down in New Zealand. Agreed USA and Britain were worst culprits and victims of their cavalier manufacture of spiralling debt.

It’s such a lovely place; we book another two nights and a trip to 90 mile beach.

Affinity with Maoris easy. They hold your interested, fascinating gaze. An innocent curiosity with the confidence of a stare.

Ninety Mile Beach

Up very early for run. Pre-dawn reveals a new layer of beauty to unwrap.

Picked up at 7.30am for $139 coach trip to Cape Reinga, the Northlands tip of New Zealand cruising along 90 mile beach. Strained into overcrowded, crammed bus “She’s a big woman” flabbed up but hardly cosy. Stretching into the Tropics. Whistlestop tour up a Pa for views of Doubtless Bay. Met man at toilet stop from Cumbria selling tourist fruit. Emigrated five years ago to cultivate his 20 acre orchard. Left because of foreigners views of English. “Lager louts, its the pits, it’s the pits, not want four kids brought up there. We’re rounded up quickly as fruit leaves nasty after-taste. Slagging off is a strange career. Perhaps they’re psychologically flawed, ingrained with hate recoiling from life. I’ve met some lovely people. It’s nearly enough to make you a chauvinist.

Rushing on narrow roads through deep ravines and precipitous valleys. Ninety mile beach the exhilarating highway to the Cape. A spiritual pathway for the Maoris to launch themselves in the Pacific to return to homeland Hawaiki. What a journey for tortured souls. A place of the leaping. The hill of great weeping the last remembrance of life where tears fill the adjacent lake. Perilous currents warn off swimmers.

Coach beats the tide on its journey. Beach playground for wild horses hiding in pine forested dunes. Bare back horse riding, land yachting, marathon running and red snapper competitions are the recreation. “It’s a beautiful thing”. It’s just like Holkham beach. The best seat in the house is as Bruce’s co-pilot. Dead cars lured and buried in the sand. Round the bluff we navigate the creek up to the giant sand dunes. There is a micro climate where trees and plants are dwarfed.

Sandboards and basic tuition handed out by Bruce. “Tear into it, have a crack at it.” Demanding trudge to top and a long steep curve down. Flatulence betrays anxiety and offends tutor. Flew down and shot off, toppling off board into creek. Gravity forced sore throat to surface. Practice will improve the performance.

Cape Reinga lighthouse has shone over the Tasman and Pacific since 1941. Two oceans greet each other with competing colour and waves erupting in a crescendo of five metre fountains. Sign posted to London, over 18,000 km, a long way from home. Choking with asthma and hay fever as crunched on gourmet sandwiches.

On the way back the Gumdiggers Park will do. John toured us round the remains of the Kauri trees, which can live for 2,000 years with girth of 32 metres. Exploited to extinction for varnish, resin and paint for one hundred and fifty years. Tea Trees still provide medicinal tea and honey.

All our travellers weary and sleepy have to be roused for each tourist stopover. Hit ‘em hard” pile ‘em high. A commodity that still can’t be stripped of our humanity.

High speed fish and chips cooked by Carol at the world famous Manganui restaurant. It’s just like Harry Ramsdens. I passed Harry’s every day and never sampled and never felt diminished. Bruce will get his complementary pack. White Cross not a patch on Doubtless Bay. A spectacular rolling, rambling bay enclosed by gentle, greened hills. “Doubtless a bay” cracked James in 1769 from the outer rim. Relished our fish and chips at the ocean’s edge. This is ten tours rolled into one. A tour plus sleep and your day’s just gone. Been on our toes now for two weeks. Crack of dawn out for a run in dark emerging light. Luxury of barefoot running in surf. Returning to bed to feel endorphins surge the body.

The Maoris believe in the Almighty, just like the conquerors. The Gods embraced, creating many children who rebelled in an Oedipal struggle to separate sky and earth to create light. We all strive to make sense of the world, even in denial. Summer not start till December 21st. Japanese tourists rescued on Mount Cook with one death. It must be colder in the South. Is it more poignant to die a tourist in a foreign country?

Met Maori man who walks the bay every day. Stops at same spot for a cigarette admiring sea and islands. He finds it cold now.

What do good New Zealanders do on a Sunday? Boiled eggs and soldiers for breakfast is an opportunity for lashings of salt. Bowl of muesli just like at home. Breakfast on the balcony in warming sunshine advertising the Motel’s wares in our shop window.

Tribes of Hell’s Angles roar and crackle on Harley Davidson convoy seeking a drug den up country. They create a stir of envy and trepidation. It’s a shame only one waved. You could spend your life frozen in fear. New Zealanders get their legs out for walking and running in a public esplanade. Training is required for the outdoor life in yachting, boating and fishing. God intrudes with evangelical born again music on the beach. I’ve seen this before at Morecambe. “Walk with God and you will never walk alone”. Us distance runners confront loneliness every day. God’ll be happy on a Sunday. We will have to turn off the wailing dirges.

Hay fever creeps back. Keep taking the tablets. The body should be able to cope. Nine tablets left for the duration.

A quiet recovery day. Booked bus to Rotarua, twelve hours via Auckland. Accommodation with Ann with queen beds and hot tub in the garden.

Started coastal walk, no sign posts and roamed up and down sealed roads. Gave in and returned to ranch for tea and couple of restoring spoons of manuka honey. Late afternoon stroll in sea guides towards evening of solace and solitude in a calmer, fulfilled atmosphere.

Discover Ruffina,s for an Italian in backstreets of Paihia. We will eat our way round the world.

Mein hosts from Bethnal Green too busy empting garbage to converse. Relieved no opportunities for reactionary diatribe. These scumbags, ratbags are my family, friends, my community.

Gideon’s Bible placed discreetly in bed-side cabinet. Do people still do this? Gideon says Jesus is the answer. We know there are many ways to enlightenment.