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


Sunrise strikes glowing embers as it fades across the sky. Gives way to cool, cloudy and wind. Leftover tomatoes and brown honeyed toast on balcony. Time for two scalding teas before catching bus to Rotarua from the Wharfe. Sad to leave. You take away something and leave a little sprinkled haphazardly in the essence. These places grow on you.

Time to scratch away at the veneer of New Zealand civil society. Papers tell narratives of epidemic of drunken behaviour. “World wide recession hasn’t stopped the flow of booze”. It’s alright for us that have signed the pledge “A culture where drinking to intoxication is the norm”.

Miscreants embracing voluntary patriation to avoid conviction. A sort of cleansing reversal and re-exporting of criminal elements.

College students give local fascist a good hiding. A celebration of righteous anger.

Au revoir to foi gras as New Zealand bans creamy meaty flavoured butter. Geese and duck force fed cornmeal to fatten livers to beyond several times normal size. “Force feeding fowl isn’t cruel: it’s just replicating a natural process. I like to have it on the menu for international people.” Thank you for the food we eat.

Paranoid schizophrenic murders his father. No beds with Health Boards so incarcerated in prison. Murder preventable, warning signs ignored and services sloppy, lax and laissez-faire. A litany of errors. Clinical director guilty of professional misconduct and fined $90,000 “Who is mad enough to let my son into the community”. Threw boiling water in face, bashed the spade, drenched in petrol and set alight.

Another one haunted by demons, hammered chisel into chest of beheaded partner. Carried round severed head in blood-soaked bag for six days. The female psychiatrist exposed as a bogus doctor and crossing dressing male fantasist. Not guilty due to insanity of desolate suffering and agonised pain.

It’s just like being at home. Blinkered by their own imperatives we take our eye off the ball. The kingpins of mutuality and solidarity have gone missing.

Efficient inter-city buses from Paihia to Rotarua costs $162 for two. We keep getting magnetised back to Auckland before we can move on. “I didn’t like the traffic lights so I left Auckland”. People die in New Zealand. I’ve seen the cemeteries perimetered by Gravesend. It’s colder down here, even wild horses wear coats.

Dipped into biography of Steve Gurney ”lucky legs” and champion of coast to coast triathlon. The after-life retirement of professional athletes sink into a dark place of melancholy and moodiness. Defined by their sport they’ve been stripped bare and exposed. “You’re a long time retired”. “Playing golf every day doesn’t do much for your mental health”. It’s a scary moment. “I change nappies for a living”. Their reputation tarnished and standing removed “I’m waiting for an epiphany”. The five stages of grief to be endured. I shall buck the trend.

Arriving in Rotarua excited by shaving three hours off our coached journey. Rotarua a wonder of the tourist tribes, a compelling enigma. Approach to town induces sneezing fit and allergies.

Passengers remind driver not to sleep at the wheel. Soporific roads take their toll. Driver bristles “everyone has been asleep”. Arrive safely with time for shopping, self-catering and hot tub before closure.

This morning running away your depression and anxiety, relating to your environment. Focussed intense energy and exhaustion relieve the mind of tortured voices. Natural sedation helps. Compulsory morning seaside circuits was part of my naval training at Gravesend. A training rebelled and punished alongside a caucus of recalcitrant potato peelers squatting round a giant pan. Harm reduction was adopted policy. All of it lasted only three days.

Rotarua a hotbed of fiery fury rich in Maori folklore in the land of thermal springs. The long march to Ann’s renowned Volcanic Spa had been rewarded with comfortable and spacious accommodation. She throws in her own advice on tours and activities. She recommends east coast where only a sprinkling of tourists.

A frontier town of cowboy architecture reminiscent of wild west in cinematography - in their case a façade.

Rained heavily all night and day. Internet café to check emails and updates on our journey. Fascinating walk round Lake Rotarua in search of Polynesian Spa through government gardens. Inhale therapeutic gases for rheumatism and arthritis. You could cake yourself in detoxifying mud. Laughing gases can induce fainting. Lake is chilly, choppy, of vast expanse. Wind and rain shatters umbrellas. Wet suits held in reserve will have to be brought out.

Explored local park with sheltered thermal springs. Bathed feet in warm pool alongside Japanese tourists with their carers. No English was exchanged but shared giggling delight. Cricket Pavilion offered cover for outdoor lunch. Cappuccino at the gothic museum to the rhythmic mood music of George Michael.

On to the delicious Polynesian Spa baths where Father Mahoney in 1880 celebrated the mild acidic waters curing his arthritis. Hot steam drifts from the well holes. Warmth underfoot provides relief from cold and drizzle. Seven pools cascading in progressive heat towards edge of lake, each controlled from hot to boiling. Enjoyed by toddlers and octogenarians and the in-betweens. All this for $20. You can have privacy but masses preferred. Immersion in boiling springs can cause dehydration and fainting. We drink water as recommended . Were our children sulphur babies? Angry, irritable and crying for the want of sulphur. A reverie of pleasure and relaxation with gorgeous views.

What do the obese, beer bulged business men get out of the hot mineral pools? How do you spot the backpackers? New Zealanders friendly manner but not always easy to smile. This could have been a tour. The Polynesians know a thing or two - a sacred place. The Japanese bring their own towels and toiletries. There have been deaths with bathers fainting and drowning. Now they have attendants. A place to return.

Debate whether to eat out or more eggs at Ann’s. We’ll be stuffed up just like the parrots.

Our courier for today is the self-styled cousin Ben whose ancestors have been in New Zealand for 1300 years. Intimate group of six English and Brazilians to tour the bubbling mud pools of Wai-O-Toupu. A fault line of volcanoes exploding in tandem disappearing mountains. Surrounding land ripples with volcanic activity. This is how the world began walking with dinosaurs. The site of Narnia and Lord of the Rings - Cousin Ben was an Orc.

A place of reverence. These waters are thermal wonderlands with gurgling minerals and colours. Variation offered in frying pan lake, inferno crater, artistes palette, and devils ink-spots, boiling pastel pigments over 100º C. Volcanic domes of rainbow mountains with collapsed craters of inflamed mud and steaming fumardos. There are no fish here “please stay on the trail at all times”.

Lady Knox puts on a geyser show daily at 10.15am precisely. A popular show where guides speak slowly so Australians can understand.

Detergent flakes reacts with 200º C water to erupt thirty feet fountain. The trees of the field will clap their hands.

Cousin Ben confides that hay fever will continue in New Zealand. There’s no natural remedy as all vegetation and bush sprayed to repel the sixty million possum. Manuka tree can be an aphrodisiac. Main industry is forestry, logs now left in Wharfe. There’s no money in sheep, so swapped with cows.

Brazilians discard layers as tour proceeds. Wearing winter clothing fashion boots struggling with the walking bits.

Met Anglo-French woman travelling in New Zealand from Southsea. Completed Great North Run this year alongside our John. Always it is raining, cold and windy by the shore, but we enjoy it. See you next year, it is booked already. The contract is for three score and ten. You don’t always get there.

Should we give cousin Ben a little tip? The couriers know about historical materialism and Hegel’s dialectic. Contradictions and paradoxes are legion. Co-pilots not only get best coach seat but also acquire immediate role and status as the pilot’s little helper. Cousin Ben shares his insight that broken toilet caused by Japanese blocking cistern with bundles of tissues as they obsessively remove any source of skid marks on each shift.

Return to Lake Rotarua. It’s more vivid, impressive in its calmed face. Choppers bi-planes, jet-boats and paddle boats offer recreational excursions. “Don’t feed the black swans, they will bite you”. Gulls flapping hard as they scour the sea for provisions. Brightens up to become warmed and burning. Empty pocket over New Zealand provides no protective factor from ozone layer. Unprotected sun slices off the skin. Clothes, factor 50, shade and siesta provides its own cocoon.

Lakeside we visit Anglican joint faith’s church. “In the beginning was the Word” brought by missionaries. Services in Maori and English. Look out the window and see Jesus walk the waters edge. Eagles offer benign protection. “We have all been called, but few are chosen”. Maori carvings and stories decorate the church. Pastor and parishioners passionately debate nuances of Christian faith. A soul saved, god should be pleased.

Dined at Sam’s kebab on Fenton Street. Cheap and interesting mix of personalised Turkish fare.

Lake Taupo

Trundled a long zig-zag to bus station. Tempted by foot spa at station roadside. Flatulence unnoticed in Rotarua. One hour bus ride to Taupo. Bored of all adrenalin fuelled activities. Waved off the Duck on its way to Lake Rotarua.

Met New Zealand woman, a native elderly backpacker in transit to house-sit in Wellington. She’s discovering ancestral roots in Northumberland. Exchanged email addresses and offered to source original material in North East. On the road again following fault line to Taupo on thermal explorer highway.

Arrive at lunch-time searching for lakeside motel, leaving baggage in secure room at bus station. The unknown has its excitement. Where do all the Maoris live? They can’t all live in villages obscured and observed by transient tourists. What did the Brits bring? Maoris decimated by weeds, disease, muskets and missionaries. Whoever believes in me will be saved.

We’re going always to volcanic scenes. The rumble of eruptions never leaves us. Nobody expects the volcanic avalanche, parried away to the future.

Moved into executive motel on lakeside terrace overlooking lake and snow capped Mount Tauhara. Taupo is New Zealand’ s largest caldera with depths to 160 metres. Mein host is Wolfgang an Aussie from Germany. “It’s just like Bavaria here”.

Sent email message to Steven celebrating wedding anniversary in Coromandel. Taupo a busy little town with commuters and consumers. Quiet with tourists as build up to Christmas distracts potential recruits.

Locate early bird Indian curry at the Heritage of India. “Dishes can be cooked at your desired spicy level”. Staff wanted, apply within. Slow service, good flavours and tastes, but spices harsh. Told waiter a lovely meal and tipped over the odds. Best chefs can’t do much with coarse spices. Chance to meet a Yorkshireman from County Durham who had just enjoyed his best curry since India. Rotarua. was too commercialised and Taupo town was more to his taste. How does he pack everything into an overnight rucksack?

Beachside wander to the executive suite. Close the windows or sand flies will get you.

Huka Falls

Not slept well. Up at five for lake run with nipped winds from the mountains. Looking at horizon the lake looks seaworthy. The power, the intimacy and fascination of the ocean is here. Exercises under the umbrella of the yacht club. Spa bath and returned to bed. Couldn’t fathom spa and only managed four quick bursts of therapeutic massage.

There was a Maori rebellion here. Tribal identity and parochialism prevented a sustained national challenge to the British State.

Today is an easy 2.8km walk to Huka Falls over thermal streams. Watched the bungee jumping over the Waikata River - New Zealand’s longest, served by Taupo Sea. Female bungee jumpers scream on diving, boys wait until end of bouncing. Everyone should do at least one bungee jump, a notch of life achievements. How do you recover from projectile intestines? “It’s the scariest moment of my life”. At the bottom paralysed with shock, unable to follow safety instructions. Her boyfriend stares, bulging biceps, taut tight face, resenting our shared moment. She seems happy now. He will provide the scariest moment.

Japanese trussed go feet first and yanked head first into river.

Thermal springs untouchable until cooled by the river. Gentle walk formidable in blazing sun and steeped river banks, at least insect free. Vigorous twilight runners require recovery, food, liquids and ambling.

River concertinaed in rocks in lead up to falls. A giant strid transported to New Zealand. Our Patrick would have revelled in it. Azure raging torrent accompanies a sedate billowing as spirit of river rushes for its own bungee at 160 metres per second. Fuelled with endorphins it calmly progresses upstream. Jet boats speed up Falls but do not intrude too closely, prevented by respect for dangerous undertow.

I could become a Buddhist. A flirtation as pastime forty years ago. Keep meaning to be a Buddhist, but forgotten. There are little windows where breathing and meditation can be infused but gone before I get over the road. Life intervenes. “We could go to the Buddhist retreat for a couple of nights if you like”. A motel for the soul: its all meditation and self-sacrifice. As a guest there’s no expectation.

“You look like a crusty old alcoholic”. Home-made sandwiches by the falls, watered down with isotonic drinks.

Hay fever sensations in nose and chest. Photographed pristine classic Cortina untarnished by age, driving or salt. My friend Tom would have loved it. Wish I had a grey Cortina.

Return on winding Cycle patch through wilderness of the bush. In the darkness and stillness you know there are things there. Lone cyclist pulling a struggling slavering hound. Forested pines narrow track round craters. A beautiful walk and gentle tramp.

In café relish French frappe with carrot cake as day subsides. No snow on mountains as camouflaged by sitting cloud. Leisurely swim on beach in front of Motel. God knows that sleep can just envelop.

Decide on a pottering day at Lake Taupo to recover. Join the crowd to cheer Iron Man Triathlon. Starting at 6.30am with two kilometre swim in lake, bike ride and running half marathon. Won in record time of 4 hours and five minutes by John Doe, one of New Zealand’s professionals with trademark dreadlocks.

Did jobs in town, seeking sun trapped balcony away from icy wind. Breakfast of a mountain of hot cakes, piles of bacon, cream, pancakes , maple syrup and icing sugar. A sudden lift but progressively sweet and sickly, a delicacy to be abandoned.

Met New Zealand boy who seemed to think you could support only Man U or Arsenal. A little boy lost. Partially engaged so retrievable. Booked bus to Napier travelling on Sunday. Need to keep movement progressing to Wellington as gateway to next stage in North Island. Cover up as hatless the pate sizzles in frying sun. Lunch self-catered with siesta.

Pakeha historical account of the land of the long white cloud Maoris relegated to pre-history. The collective imagery, public dreams and ritual cannibalism to be dismissed. Hearts and eyes a particular delicacy in James Cooke’s early skirmishes. The features of Maori art grooved in carvings of the face, bottom and breast. Self mutilation as personal decoration. Life spans rarely exceeded 30, aged and withered by forty. Maoris defined by tribe and habitat. Successful imperialist strategy in 1860’s with bribes, intimidation, wars, divide and rule and integration. The itinerant missionaries played their part. “It’s the only way the Maori can be saved from physical or spiritual extinction at the hands of the agents of vice”. Conversions and baptisms to follow. Abel Tasman deported and never set foot on New Zealand soil 130 years before Jimmy.

English pub for soup chowder and pasta. Served by young woman from Germany who could converse with our friend, Mark Dieter, an Iron man. Met a couple from Essex who’ve been following our trail. Sunset wunderbar red and purple haze splayed across the sky. Popping up and deflected over the mountains. Cold wind enforces brisk return alongside lakeside terrace.

Up at 5.30am pounding the lakeside roads. Rewarded with unique perpendicular rainbow illuminated and reflecting itself over lake. A sibling rainbow curls into a magnetic crater smoking in the distant mountains. Lake is Sunday morning calm and wind does not blow until 8.00am. Returned to bed. Our last morning in Taupo.

Walk round the basin to the yacht club for a coffee. Overhanging the lake on softened comfy chairs, time still in deserted café. “It’s the best café I’ve ever been in”. Searched for German wine for Wolfgangs friendship and attachment.