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 New Zealand Sightseeing and Exploring


I travel Golden Age with reductions on bus to Napier. Part of the kind and petty way we are socialised into old age. An art deco cathedral town frantically built in two years after the 1935 destructive earthquake.

Locals reveal weather surprisingly warm, dry and sunny. Driver Dave acts as guide as we made our way down the old stagecoach track, known as Travel Highway 5. It used to take 3 days and two overnight stops to Napier. Hills symbolise laying pregnant woman giving birth to adjacent mounds. Everything is a fertility symbol. All the drivers seem Golden Age with glasses.

Carving our way through remote valleys laced with hives and shadowed by Cretan hills. They send pine to Japan and China. We sneaked sandwiches, sweets and pop to ward off travel sickness. Carolyn has her sea legs.

Rambling homesteads depopulated by isolation and faraway landscape. It’s a big country. No bungee jumping here. Sheep and baby lambs forgotten until the market calls.

Christmas a low key affair, little decoration or commercialism. Dave says it’s merely a day off but buses still run.

It’s a sprawling entrance to Napier as houses cling on the hill tops. Another frontiers town in art deco guise. A motley collection of tinderbox houses. A Turkish is recommended for tonight. A trailing round the world’s kitchen as gourmets sampling and digesting, hankering after simplified cuisine. This in vineyard and orchard county.

Turkish Delight in town provides sensuous authentic meal for $45. Enlivened with New Zealand white and Turkish coffee embedded in cardamoms and cinnamon bark. Lovely intimate upstairs restaurant decked out for us with Turkish rugs, drapes and cushions. Our Turkish chef laments the need for bland presentations to feed native palates. A culinary émigré recoiling to his engineering shop in Taiwan. There’s a large Chinese contingent in Napier.

Five am run on Napier boulevard. Sea is genuine, you’re next to the roar of the Pacific. Asthma and hay fever magically liberated by unspoilt ozone. Amazed to find periodic drink fountains stretched along the promenade. Toilets not closed. Dog’s droppings outlawed. As good as it gets. Paradise for runners along Hawkes Bay. Not for swimmers as riptide will get you.

Booked into Fountain Court Motor Inn at $120 per night with Jacuzzi, outside pool and complimentary newspaper. Not read a paper for over a week. Drunken mayhem in Wellington, alcohol accelerated fights. It’s the hot weather. Council to review its demon drink licensing policy. Wellington is a centre for culture and art.

Another day to potter. Pain and trauma of shaven heads. Carolyn told it’s a privilege to be the first clipper in New Zealand to cut her hair. There’s something she doesn’t like in Napier. Saw the Duck take to the water rocking and rolling the breakers. Walk to the west shore and marina.

Spoke to Christine on telephone and reminisced about her trip to New Zealand when she was fifteen. Realise we will need to amend our itinerary as stopovers slowing our progress.

Priest introduced herself in the only old fashioned fish and chip restaurant in Napier. Its been like this since the 50’s. Battered fish and chips and buttered bleached thinned white bread with hot teas. It’s how they do it in Yorkshire. The old timers provide some utility. New Zealand poor more evident in the recession. Charity food banks much busier. Our banks are busy but bankrupt.

Our garrulous host waves good-bye as he escorts us through security gate for the bus to Wellington “You must do the Transalpine from Christchurch”. He told us of his wife in London. Shared confidences and intimacies of his business dealings. Too much, too soon. Kind and generous man so forgiveness is the order.


Five hours to Wellington with Denis the driver. Via Hastings and Havelock North where John and Doreen lived. Horses galloping and chatting as they canter round deserted race-course. Children amble to school barefoot unescorted or with similar minded mates. Here the environment is a challenge, not a frightening re-coil. Tracks without trains. The last train from Napier to Wellington departed 8 years ago. Short sighted Beechings get transported all round the world. Lonely Planets need to catch up.

Maoris seen as communists where their prestige measured by what they give away, rather than accumulate. They cooked in communal areas and fished, foraged and harvested together. Washing in pools and rivers owned by everyone. Not atomised individuals but sustaining whatever promoted the commune. A challenge to capitalist accumulation. Director of Maori Hygiene characterises Maori life as “indolence, sloth, decay of racial vigour” petrifying the Maori. The general broadcasting of excreta distinguished Maori from European settlers. There is no alternative they have to become Pakeha to assimilate and adapt western practices and technology. There’s been a Maori renaissance to become a reserved assimilating theme park. Te Puea Herangi and Ratana are hidden rebels.

Arrived in the windy city of Wellington. Five minutes walk to IBIS hotel. Shuttle buses to ferry from station. Steak and chicken at IBIS. Checked emails. Explored waterfront to enjoy views and atmosphere of Oriental Bay.

Morning run on Wellington promenade without end. Populated with dawn runners, walkers, cyclists and skaters. Wolf whistled by youths - is it post modern irony? Tempted to respond but asthma rules out running and wit. I could be a gay icon. Running has to be consistent with asthmatic breaths. If dead slow runners you speed, if they’re fast you have to join. Dilemmas for a gentle jog by the sea.

Phoned Catherine, busy and tired at school doing exciting activities in lead to Christmas. You get a few Santa hats here in shops.

Discovered the cable car to Victoria Peak. It’s just like Hong Kong. Built in 1902 by prison labour. Originally steam and electric, now the Swiss rope system at Lambton Quay. Tunnels under houses blasted out by local inmates. It stops at Clifton University. Met Chinese people at top by botanical gardens. Stunning portrait of Wellington harbour, shore enshrined in misty cloud. Little activity in the port. We complete long pathway marking the end and beginning of North Island. Downhill walk through succulent gardens. The retarded Pohutukava changing white to red acts as New Zealand’s Christmas tree.

Camellia garden produces tea for all the western world. Houses sparsed in surrounding bush full of scents wafting as you wander through worldly trees and plants. There’s an old Maori sculpture garden. Locals even steal plants. Botanic theft is rife. No wonder species are rare.

Mallards happy in their elaborately created duck pond. Not sure if Chinese do feed them. Herb garden is a fragrant, medicinal and culinary treat. A surfeit of joggers in conversations weave the paths.

Lunch in the botanical café with chattering, clacking diners. Pigeons steal from discarded plates.

On to Te Papa museum to study the giant colossal squid. The biggest female invertebrate on the planet. Deep sea creature captured in the Antarctic in 2007. An interactive experiential museum of animals, volcanoes and earthquakes. It’s just like a Eureka discovery in Wellington. Glimpse harbour views from sculpture terrace on top of museum.

Mouth-watering Lebanese meal of barbecued lamb, chicken and salad. Sudden early rush requires family reinforcements.