Main Page   |   Introduction   |   The Diary [ PARTS: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 ]   |   More Pictures   |   Thanks   |   The Book   |   Brae's Book   |   This Site

previous page || next page


I stayed in Feilding ten days with a plan of attending a Parelli Natural Horsemanship Clinic. There were about thirty of us attending - fifteen with their horses, and fifteen non-riders. It was fantastic and I came away on a high.

Pat Parelli is an American cowboy who has researched and structured the various skills into a programme. I'd always dealt with horses rather in the same way as I would deal with a large dog. But when I attended the clinic I learned differently - and of course realised just how dissimilar the two animals are. Dogs are a predator species, not prey animals like horses.

We were taught that if we want to communicate with horses we have to get them thinking of us not as a predator but as the alpha animal, the herd leader. If we don't have their respect it's nearly impossible to communicate with them.

Predators are programmed differently to prey animals. (I'd never thought much about THAT before) When dogs do something right we reward them with... praise. Horses (as prey) are happiest when they're comfortable - which is when there's NOTHING happening. They're comfortable drinking water in the wild if there are no lions or tigers, or fire or high winds. So at the course we learned to reward them with NOTHING, reinforcing their comfort.

Utilising zones of 'comfort' and 'discomfort' we were taught to make every action, except what we want them to do, uncomfortable. When they're doing what we want we should slacken off, do nothing.

Because horses have very finely tuned natural instincts, it's also important to use appropriate body language. Now I had to remember to relax (life down, hip askew) so that my horses don't see me as a threat. Hence, they're comfortable. Before you want them to do something you bring your life up and remind them that you're the herd leader, the alpha animal, to be respected.

It's all about communication, very similar to how a good parent deals with children. If we say something and don't mean it, children learn to get away with it. Ever heard a mother saying "if you do that I'll spank/kill you" and then she says it again and again and again... And the child never gets spanked/killed, so it doesn't respond to the threats.

The methods are nothing new - in fact the principles are so old it's new again. Pat Parelli researched all the material from master horsemen and women around the world. The instructor we had, Neil, was a really interesting chap, easy to learn from, an entertainer as well as a teacher. Good value!

Meanwhile, my friend in Auckland, Claire Fergusson, who had grown up at Halcombe, had contacted her parents, who invited me to stay with them. Lyra and Ian Fergusson were now retired, having leased out the family farm and enjoying their retirement with games of golf and trips to the art gallery and musical recitals.

A poster in the local store promoted the horse sports at Halcombe, and it seemed that the President, Rex Williams, was without a horse. I offered him D'Art to use; I'm never been much of a competitor, but I was keen to watch D'Art in action. In return Rex arranged grazing on the large deer farm belonging to his employer, Don Linklater.

It was a short ride out to Halcombe through rolling country; in this part of NZ you felt like you were riding along the tops of the ridges, giving broad views of beautiful valleys and river plains sprawling on either side. Some of the top sheep land, the best producing country in New Zealand, was around the Feilding area - one road had been dubbed "Ram Alley" as there were so many sheep studs there.

The Halcombe Horse Sports were a fun day, and I got a lot of pleasure watching my horses in action in the Musical Chairs, Egg and Spoon, Barrel and Obstacle Races.

D'Art enjoyed the jumping, doing well in the Diminishing Jump, where the competitors formed a circle and in turn they jump over three or four barrels arranged to form one hurdle. As they complete a circuit another barrel is removed so that the jump is gets narrower and narrower until at last the horses are being asked to jump one barrel, on its end. Any competitor that dodges or refuses the jump are eliminated.

Even Doug got involved, winning the trotting race. Rex felt sure that Doug was pacing during the race, with two legs on the same side moving forward at the same time, which is a faster action than trotting when the two diagonal legs move together.

It was a great day, lots of fun in the spring sunshine.

Unfortunately, the day before I was due to leave I felt a cold coming on, and this had developed into flu the morning I was to leave. I wanted to ride through a forest, which necessitated obtaining the key to the gates from Wanganui, so before I could leave I drove there to get the key; by the time I got back I was weak and useless and went to bed. The flu developed into bronchial pneumonia; although I went to the doctor on the very first day, it was a week before I'd even half recuperated, and so I stayed on with the Fergussons being looked after so well by Lyra.

I had intended being in Ohakune for Labour Weekend to meet Chris and James, but instead I drove there on the Friday, and spent the weekend with them.

We had a great weekend; driving right around the mountain and then flying over it with Mountain Air, looking down on the steaming Ketetahi Springs, the colours of the Red Crater, the Emerald Lake, Blue Lake and Green lake. Then on and upwards to look down at the deadly crater of Ruapehu. There was some cloud, and I must confess to being nervous.... no, very, VERY scared. But the ground-staff and pilot were confident and reassuring, and I had no reason to be afraid. . It was a thrill of a lifetime.

On the Monday, a public holiday, the boys drove me through to Halcombe and took my car back to Ohakune, continuing on to Auckland. And the next morning I left Halcombe on horse.

Firstly, through the Kakariki district once boasted a flax mill, a cheese factory, post Office, school, two metal crushers, and two stores. Now there were few signs of community - a golf club and some houses and farms. Lyra had Brae in her car and went ahead to help me over the busy Kakariki bridge.

I rode past a huge brick building built in 1918 as a meatworks for the Wellington Meat Export Company, but it had only operated for two years, today being used for wool scouring.

I'd made arrangements with the Howard's to ride through their property, Westoe Gardens, which are set on 4ha of mature woodland. The Westoe Homestead was built in 1874 by Sir William Fox, who had been Prime Minister of NZ on four different occasions, between 1856 and 1873. For over one hundred years three generations of the Howard family have developed these gardens into a noteworthy collection of unusual trees, shrubs and perennials. There's a lot of native bush on the hillside behind the garden and the river flat has been developed with a wide range of NZ plants collected from the wild.

Then we crossed SH1; I'd been keen to ride through the small township of Marton, where in the later part of 1996 there'd been a high youth suicide rate. Many people elsewhere had told me that my journey was inspirational to them, and I felt that if I inspired one young person to strive to stay alive, then my small detour would have been very much worthwhile.

Certainly many people came up in the main street and asked me about my trip; one man turned out to be the local newspaper editor and asked us all sorts of questions. Leaving Marton, we rode by the local veterinary clinic and the office and nursing staff came outside to wish us well, giving me samples of dog food for Brae, and buckets of water for the horses.

It was a lovely ride over the hills and down to the Silverhope farm of Pauline Webb. Silverhope had once been a thriving community; it is amazing that today nothing marks where some of these communities had once been. If you know what to look for you'll find two Escalonias which mark the entrance to where the Post Office was.

Pauline's house had been built by Aldworth in 1886. Robert Aldworth was very instrumental in developing the district; he'd been the first JP in 1888, and was President of the Marton Racing Club and the Rangitikei Hunt Club.

The farm was very close to the main trunk railway line; to get to the shearing shed I'd been told to ride through the paddock, across the stream and under the railway bridge. I unloaded the horses just as Pauline arrived to put my bags into her vehicle, with various working dogs on the back.

Pauline had been running the family farm since she and her husband had separated, doing much of the maintenance work herself. It was a large undertaking; she was a brave and strong person, a delightful host and entertaining company.

I left the following day to ride to Otiwhiti. The oak tree at the crossroads of Aldworth Rd and SH1 I was told had been planted in 1897 to commemorate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee - it was almost 100 years old. Beyond this was the beautiful R C Bruce Park, which was a great example of original podocarp forest - Matai, Rimu and Kahikatea, some about 60 metres tall.

The park was given to the people of NZ by Robert Cunningham Bruce from Scotland, who came to the Rangitikei in 1877 and took up farming. In 1843, at the age of 14, he sailed the world. Bruce Park serves as a testimony to the love he felt for the country he finally chose to live out his life in. When he died he left his estate for the benefit of reserves and national parks in NZ. Although he was an MP for Rangitikei in 1884-1890 and from 1892-93, his greatest love was for the countryside.

I crossed back over the very busy SH1 and headed towards the Turakina River Valley. It seemed to be my lucky day for meeting people... There were farmers out at their shearing sheds, a party shearing, a bulldozer driver unloading who happened to be a trekking enthusiast as well as his brother having completed the Parelli course with me.

Then I came around a corner and saw a house pitched high at the top of a steep bank, and the bak had been planted out in rhododendrons, magnificent at this time of the year. A woman high above me and I had a shouted conversation about her rhodo's as I snapped her photograph.

Loud rock music ahead of me announced the shearing shed - and shearing in progress. As I got closer, it became obvious the music volume had to compete with the buzz of their machines, the bark of their dogs and the bleat of hundreds of orphaned lambs and childless ewes. This was a headache's nightmare - in the steep 40 acre paddock next to the yards, a natural crater, the newly shorn mothers tried to relocate their separated lambs.

I led the horses down the Ongo Road; the road was sealed but narrow, steep and winding. Because of the nature of the landscape since the bush had been cleared it was prone to erosion, and so many poplars had been planted over the years, especially the pencil-slim Lombardii variety alongside the roads. In places these had been whipped by recent winds, and we dodged around some fallen ones.

Then we were in the Turakina Valley, and it was only a short distance to where Bill and Gill Pullen managed Otiwhiti Station, 3,400 ha (8,500 acres), across the road from the Otiwhiti Primary School.

Originally Otiwhiti was part of the Otairi block, more than ten times that size, and owned by the Maori. In 1879 the block, all steep hill country, was first offered to the Government at 5 shillings per acre, but the offer was refused as it was considered too remote and inaccessible for settlement.

However, the property was later bought by the Duncan family and in 1907 the senior Duncan died and his sons Sir Thomas Duncan took a half share of Otairi with his brother W Duncan. William sold his portion but it was purchased back by Sir Thomas and is now known as Otiwhiti.

Sir Thomas was well known for his philanthropic works - establishing the Duncan Hospital at Wanganui for polio victims. Now known as the Sir Thomas and Lady Duncan Hospital.

Gill and Bill had three sons, only one of whom was now living at home. Some 15 years earlier Bill had been droving herds of cattle from the East Coast of the North Island across the island and nearly as far as Auckland, where they were sold. This has virtually been eliminated today with the prices of stock transport, the heavy traffic loads on the roads, and the risk of the livestock carrying and spreading TB. However Gill, who had spent those years in a caravan with three toddlers, had written an interesting book about her life as a drover's wife; I found it fascinating reading.

They had a wonderful collection of birds and a crazy Aussie Heeler pup, which Brae enjoyed playing with.

The following morning Gill took me over to the yards and showed me around. The Otiwhiti School is on land owned by the station, and I had been asked to speak to the children. They had some fascinating (and often difficult!) questions for me to answer.

I rode further up the road past the Otairi Station and then turned westwards to ride across two farms, now sold to the Rayonier forestry company and being set up as pine forest. Rayonier is an American company now well established in NZ and owning about 100,000 hectares nationwide.

Craigdean Forest was about 1,500 hectares, During the previous two winters Rayonier had planted about 1,500,000 pine trees on this land - a major project considering the steepness of the land. As I rode I considered the daunting prospect of planting out this land - I'm sure if I'd been asked to plant the trees here on this steep land I would have felt suicidal! After the trees had been planted, in the Spring, the trees were 'released' with spot-spraying around them to encourage their growth over the surrounding pastureland.

Over the next few months I was to see much of our hill country farms being converted to pine forest. It made me feel very sad; I know how detrimental pine forest, planted as we do it, can turn the soil sour.

It was hot riding through the "forest"; the trees were only a few inches tall, and there was little wildlife or animals to watch. I'd been riding alone for several hours now, through this 'forest' and because it was so dull, and hot, to break the tedium I'd turned on my radio and tuned in to the National Programme, getting some great laughs from an interview with comedian Gary McCormack.

Brae found a flock of peacocks and chased them until they took flight. Then he came across some turkeys and I thought for a minute he was going to end up falling down a chasm. I learned a trick with him; when he was hot on the scent of some animal and wouldn't come when he was called, I would call out "G'bye Brae" and he would come running back. Nothing else, but this lie, would work.

Then he chased some turkeys. Coming back to me he ran through some grey mud, looking like concrete, but in fact reaching right up his sides. When he caught up to me he had mud icicles hangig from his coat - the new dreadlocks look for dogs!

We went up and over the main ridge of hills, down into the Mangamahu Valley. Suddenly, I heard a radio up ahead. And after a while I saw a van, and here was a forester turned fencer working hard, fencing off the road. He got a shock to see me, too - he must have wondered where I was coming from and riding to. We had quite a chat and he explained much of the intricacies of planting the pine trees.

And then we were out into the Mangamahu Valley. Mangamahu means stream of boiling foam. As the river starts on the eastern side of Ruapehu, like the Whangaehu it is particularly vulnerable to any volcanic activity. I was told that the valley is one of the richest and most favoured farming districts.

Andy and Brenda Collins, my hosts in the Whangaehu Valley told me how rich the district as in family history and tradition.

The next day's journey was a delightful ride up the Whangaehu River Valley. This was a steep gorge - a steep slope upwards to the farmed hills above, and a steep drop down on both sides to the river, a seething mass of volcanic mud deposited there with the eruption of Ruapehu in 1995 and 1996, when the crater lake had been emptied. I was fascinated by the river, it actually looked as though it was boiling. There were many warnings not to take the water as it was acidic.

The bush hanging on the side of the gorge was alive with native birdlife. I was thankful that I was on horseback, and could truly appreciate the birds' songs.

Several times Brae chased mother turkeys walking their young along the road. Not good mothers, they would usually desert their chicks, and I contemplated picking one up and taking it somewhere where it could be fattened. Mmm... turkey!

Perhaps it was the turkey that gave me the idea when I saw the baby magpie on the road. It had obviously fallen from the nest, because although it as old enough to walk, it couldn't yet fly. I picked it up and took it across to the ditch where I repeatedly dipped my finger in water and wiped my finger on its beak. It soon understood that it should drink; then I wrapped it in my sweater and put it in my saddlebag.

Ten minutes later I looked and it was still very chirpy so I decided to find it some feed. I found some soft grass, tied the horses up and got down on my hands and knees. Pulling up weeds I found some bugs - a slug, a worm, and a grass grub, which I pushed down the baby's throat. I thought of names (Maggie?) and wondered how I was going to progress with a magpie in my bags. Then I heard a vehicle approaching; it was the Pest Control man from the Wanganui District Council.

I made a quick decision and asked him if he'd drop the bird off at the school, where I knew Andy and Brenda had taken their children for Pet Day - they'd surely enjoy a bird. Brenda was home schooling her children and it would give them something different to study. The man obligingly agreed to deliver Maggie and so I breathed a sigh of relief. Things could get complicated enough without a bird.

Mt View Station is at the top of the Whangaehu River Valley, managed by Lance Kennett. 3200 ha (8000 acres) of sheep farm, it's owned by a corporate body and quite well set up.

Lance and Sharee and their delightful children had been at the Pet Day and arrived home shortly after my arrival. I was shown the well-appointed Shepherd's Quarters and invited to their home for a meal. We had a great evening with lots of laughs.

Lance and Sharee told me a sad story; they had worked on a station with a young boy, Matt Burke, who had been killed under a tractor when he was 20 years old. All his life he'd kept diaries and taken many photographs of the adventures he'd had and his family had decided to publish a book, "Matt's Last Muster", another really enjoyable read.

The following week Mt View was shearing, meaning on some days they would be rising at 2 a.m. to be out in the paddock mustering the sheep by the time daylight arrived. I promised Lance and Sharee that I'd be up and away early the next morning, as I had a long ride ahead of me - 50 kilometres, to Ohakune. And so I was on my horses by 7 a.m. In the mist of the morning d'Art didn't see the black cattle beast standing close to the fence, watching. I was shocked when he shied... it's not often that cattle frighten him.

The first part of the journey was over a very steep hill called "Burma Hill" - there was very little metal on the track, and it was very narrow, no wonder heavy traffic was not permitted. Then we joined the sealed road of what was loosely referred to as Fields Track, where I would turn north. I was fascinated by the hole in the cliff face opposite - with the water pouring out of it it looked like a natural pipeline, but I guess it was just an underground stream wearing away the mountain.

This limestone country had been formed under the sea from shell fragments and coral which have been buried, compacted and cemented together over millions of years. It was lifted from the sea about 12 million years ago, then cracked fractured and faulted as it was being raised.

Water dissolves limestone through the carbon dioxide in the soil turning the rainwater into mild acid which then eats away the limestone. There were many dolines (bowl-shaped depressions), karren (water sculpted limestone rocks), caves and natural tunnels and arches of the limestone country I was just entering into.

It was a lovely ride; we didn't see much traffic until after 11a.m. Going up a particularly long hill I was fascinated by the salmon pink and grey butterflies in the long grass beside the road; I wished I'd taken a photograph of them because try as I might I never did find out what they were.

I'd decided to try and pace myself for the day; if we were to ride 50 kilometres then I felt I should stop after 2-1/2 hours and rest the horses for half an hour, repeating this twice. This seemed to be a good idea, but by 11 a.m. Doug was flagging. I was just about to ride into a farmhouse and ask if I could leave the packs there, when the Kennett's turned up and offered to take the packs for me.

I laughed with them. "What if I'd still been in bed?" They told me they'd seen signs on the road that I'd come that way. We took some photographs of the children and the horses, and too late I thought that I should have taken some of them.

Without Doug's load it was good; now we could trot and canter. We passed the road to Titoki Point Gardens. I called there later in my travels and it was one of the nicest gardens and settings I've seen. It was dramatic with splendid landscaping and the way things had been planted. There was a beautiful water garden, stately redwoods lining the drive, and some beautiful views. Evidently Gordon Collier and his wife had spent over thirty years of dedicated work on and he now has a worldwide reputation for his knowledge of plants.

As I came to the main highway the Kennetts were returning from Ohakune so we had the opportunity to take more photographs, and rest the horses again. Now for the last leg.

Suddenly I was tired. I got incredibly grumpy and this made me even more bad tempered. I'd been told to ride north from the highway until I came to the railway line, and that there was a path following the train tracks which would take me to the small timber town of Rangataua. This was on the edge of the Ruapehu Forest. It was wonderful riding in beside the forest, so why wasn't I enjoying it. My spirit got worse.

Looking for short cuts I took the wrong track through some newly felled pine forest, and then realised that I had to ride through a bog - perhaps not the best idea. So back we went but the forest had been planted out. Then I discovered my coat had fallen off, so I had to backtrack yet again. This didn't help my mood!

Later I could appreciate the magnificent beech forest we'd ridden through. Two thousand years previously, when Lake Taupo had been formed by a massive erosion, this forest had been protected by the bulk of Mt Ruapehu, and so many of the trees were very old.

Finally we got going again and forded the Mangaehuehu stream which Brae had to swim. Remembering his muddy dreadlocks, I U-turned and we went back through the water. Brae didn't believe me - how could I ask him to go back through the stream. And no sooner had he come across when I about-turned again. This time he thought he'd play a trick on me.

I rode out of the river, calling him, but he didn't come. Some seconds went by, and I thought about the intensity of the flow, and that time down on the coast when I'd nearly lost him.

I jumped off d'Art and ran back to the bank. There he was; I could swear he was laughing at me.

Another stream; this time we had to ford it and cross under the railway bridge at the same time. Brae ran, laughing along the bank. HE wasn't come back into the water.

Rangataua had been both a milltown and railway worksite, now most of the houses were being converted into winter ski chalets. It was only 5km from Ohakune, but you wouldn't have known it was there.

We crossed back over the main road and took Ratamaire Road, which became a grassed farm track leading through paddocks. If my mood had been better (I was VERY tired) and there hadn't been so many gates to force open and shut, it would have been a very pleasant ride. However, by the time I came to the back entrance of the Pritt's farm, Mitredale, and realised I still had another 2km to ride, plus more gates to open, it was getting dark.

Thank heavens for easy to manage d'Artagnan. Di Pritt had told me that I'd find myself in the farm race, and she had some of the race filled with ewes and lambs awaiting shearing. I didn't want Brae panicking them, and it was too steep to lead two horses down the hills. I put Brae into my saddle, on my sheepskin, and told him to stay there. Then I only had to lead Doug - d'Artagnan followed behind.

It was funny though when we'd reached the yards and I told Brae to get off. He made the mistake of putting one paw on d'Art's rump. D'Art gave a little buck, and Brae went up in the air, coming down with two feet to scratch d'Art. D'Art bucked again and finally Brae got the message, and came down to ground.

This was 8pm. I was pleased to let the horses go and join my hosts for a meal. Di and Audrey (her mother) run the family farm, with nurse cows, beef calves and sheep. From many parts of the farm you get a fine vantage point to see Ruapehu (the tallest mountain in the North Island, at 2797 metres) - it especially looked beautiful in the setting sunlight.

Ohakune is the largest township around the Volcanic Plateau, and services the ski slopes of the Turoa Skifield, on the southern slopes of Mt Ruapehu. There's also a Conservation Department office here, with information about the natural highlights in the area. Mts Tongariro, Ngaruahoe and Ruapehu are sacred to the Maori. In 1887 Te Heuheu Tukino IV, Paramount Chief of the Tuwharetoa tribe, gifted the summits of the mountains to the New Zealand people. Most of the area is now protected by the Department of Conservation, with some fine walkways having been established.

A DOC guide told me that the eruptions around the Volcanic Plateau of the last two million years have been amongst the largest and most devastating volcanic events on the planet. The sulphur mud from Crater Lake on Mt Ruapehu keeps the Whangaehu River a turbulent mass of acidic water.

The Mt Ruapehu eruptions in 1995 made the Volcanic Plateau famous - overseas there were even reports (not true) that the whole of the North Island had been evacuated! Previously it had had a record of erupting every fifty years and the anniversary of the last significant eruption, in 1945, had proved no exception.

However, again early in 1996, the mountain showed signs of volcanic activity. This affected many people's tours and travel arrangements, however, and the very livelihood of tourism operators in the region was dismally affected. Of course, their success meant that other businesses were detrimentally influenced too. Not a good chain of events.

Since then the local businesses have got together and now promote the district as the Adventure Plateau, focusing on the many exciting activities that the area has to offer - mountain-biking, canoeing, abseiling, golf, hunting, jet-boating, rafting, fishing, tramping, as well as a full range of winter sports.

Ohakune is the busiest commercial centre with a full range of business facilities and accommodation. It's been dubbed the 'Big Carrot' because of the vegetable growing (in particular, carrots which are sweet and crisp) that is carried out in the area.

The population in the Summer is 1,300 which is boosted alarmingly in the winter by the large number of skiers and seasonal workers. At the height of the skiing season there are over twenty restaurants and disco's and live bands.

Originally Ohakune was founded as a timber milling and railway town. The first settlers arrived just before 1900 but the town boomed eight years later when the North Island Main Trunk Railway was completed, providing essential access and transport.

Logging of native species in New Zealand ended less than twenty years ago, when Stephen King and other protesters, in an effort to make the people of NZ how much damage they were doing to our beautiful country, would climb trees and stay there until the media, and the legislators, took notice.

Now there's new, vigorous forest growing up again, hiding the old tree stumps and covering many of the old logging tracks. And there are areas where the timber was not cut at all, well worth finding and enjoying.

For instance, the road which takes you to the Turoa Skifield, on the southern side of the mountain, takes you through an area of forest which was sheltered by the mountain when Lake Taupo (an extinct volcano) so the trees are the oldest in the region.

I was keen to do the 17km (1000m in altitude) bike ride down the mountain, but the weather was not at all favourable, so instead went as pillion passenger on a Harley Davidson motorbike with Ron Rutherford, the tour operator. We climbed through a blistering gale and icy raindrops to a few kilometres above the bushline. We were surrounded by cloud, but could see the Mangawhero Falls, the river cascading over an old lava flow. Riding on the motorbike was exciting stuff!

Whilst I waited for the weather to change, I decided to take the time to drive across the Stratford Taumarunui Heritage Trail. This follows SH43 and gives travellers an opportunity to learn about the history of the buckled hills which separate the King Country from the Taranaki District. Booklets and signposts keep you informed of the various spots en route which have an interesting history.

Less than a century ago the hills was been covered by native rainforest - giant rimu, totara, matai, rata and puketea towering above the smaller tawa and rewarewa, and in the wetlands there were white and yellow pines. Maori would travel the area searching for timber and stone, and food - eels and birds.

By the 1890's European settlers had arrived establishing farms. As prices for primary produce rises and falls the difficult hill country farms have shown their success, or lack of it. The railway was established and new settlements sprouted up. Farm prices plummeted, families shifted away and schools closed...

If you're in a hurry to get to one end or the other, it's quicker to go around by the main highways, but it was an interesting journey for me - with a stop off at the Whangamomona Pub for lunch. I was lucky, they don't cook food but for one day, when the local school children can "buy" their lunch. And I happened to drive through on that day - and their fish and chips were delicious, of course, washed down with a handle of beer.

Of course all of this was NOT particularly good for my weight. In Ohakune I'd already discovered that the local storekeepers also ran a bakery, making the most delicious chocolate eclairs, apple doughnuts and other delights I'd ever tasted. The sooner I left Ohakune the better - but the weather wasn't of assistance. It was the wettest November on record.

Another diversion... I drove back up to Te Pahu to my friends, Tony and Kerstin, to be at their wedding. Tony had been my neighbour in Paparimu, and as a single young man proved very attractive to many of the single young ladies who came and stayed with me... and left messages about him in my Visitors Book, so that future single young ladies that stayed with me would also pay him a call and 'check him out'.

Kerstin was a German lass that came to stay, and before long she confessed to me her interest in 'helping Tony milk his cows'. Each morning and evening whilst she stayed with me she would borrow my motorbike and ride down Tony's... but was the interest really the cows and the dairying?

It was a delight to attend their wedding, and also to catch up with other neighbours from Paparimu.

All this time I'd been keen to make plans to leave Ohakune, but couldn't find a route which followed a simple path north and kept me off the state highway. The Tongariro State Forest was impassable, and even some of the marked tracks were no longer accessible.

Some people suggested I ride out north-west, through the Ruatiti Valley, but had warned me to be careful as there were some feuds going on out there, sometimes the neighbours would take pot-shots at each other!

Eventually the weather cleared at Ohakune and I made plans to leave. By this time I'd met up with a local woman, Evelyn Cooper, who was keen to ride with me. We planned a route out through the Ruatiti and I contacted Makino Station to ask them if we could ride through their property, at the end of the Makino Valley.

My inquiries had led me to a Peanut Pearson who agreed to let me take a short-cut over his farm. I saddled the horses, and got away rather reluctantly from Ohakune. I'd enjoyed staying with the Pritts; they ran a bed and breakfast in conjunction with their farm and the meals I'd had with them had been fun. They were both wine connoisseurs and 'foodies'. Di is a keen conservator; although in the strict sense of the word I would have called her a 'wildfowl farmer'. Spending most of the year managing an environment to foster birdlife, and then for the rest of the year hunting them down, to me is not what 'conservation' means.

Evelyn and her daughter Pauline had done some detective work and found an alternative route down Short's Hill, a steep and winding part of the gorge, where the road was narrow. Although this would save us about one kilometre, it was cross-country and probably a more difficult ride, but it sounded much more fun than dicing with motor vehicles; the sealed surface and camber on hills can make it difficult for horses to stay upright on, so when roads are narrow as well it is especially dangerous.

I met Evelyn and her horse Jade at the junction of Ohura Road; this road had initially been intended to connect with Ohura, perhaps 50 km to the north, but was never completed. For several hours we rode downhill, something like 400 metres in two hours, and into an amazing landscape - very pretty but wild country.

We found the gate which was going to bypass the hill, and rode down a steep track, slippery from all the rain we'd had. There were slips and at times the mud was almost shoulder deep on the horses. We rode out along a ridge, following the power pylons as instructed, up and down, dropping 120 metres over one kilometre, where we rejoined the road.

This was now the valley which followed the Manganui o te Ao River - a real spectacle. I am sure that drivers in their vehicles would envy my view above the road. To the left of us the cliffs plunged upwards, sheer, dripping with ferns and drops of water, but from a car you wouldn't be able to see much of the river as it tossed and tumbled over large round boulders. It was magic.

Suddenly Doug stopped. There was something wrong and no matter how much I coaxed him he would not walk. He did this several times and I asked Evelyn to watch him whilst he trotted. He almost seemed comfortable trotting, although his gait was very spread, almost how a gorilla runs. I trotted him for a few hundred metres and then tried walking him again. But he was not comfortable.

A vehicle stopped - the driver was Carolyn Gannon from Makino Station. She was surprised to see our Sheltie, as they had one as well. Shetland Sheepdogs are not terribly well known in New Zealand.

As she drove off I instantly regretted not asking her to take Doug's load. By the time we came to the bridge and turned off up Makino Road I'd decided that at the very next house I came to I'd use their telephone and ask if someone could come up and pick up the packs.

It was a few kilometres before we came to a house - empty but unlocked and I was pleased to find the phone worked. Carolyn said she'd come and get the packs; what a curse - for her it was about 10km of winding, metal road to return over, but she did so quite willingly.

Now the road was loose metal and the stones were sharp. Evelyn wasn't keen to travel quickly as Jade was only shod on two feet. However, we arrived at Makino well before dark, and shifted into the shearers' quarters, later enjoying a delicious meal with the Gannon's.

Geoff Gannon had been involved in rodeos in both New Zealand and Australia, where he met Carolyn. They offered to take our load on their four wheel motorbike over the hills to the Siemoneks farm, near the state highway. I'd had the choice of three routes from Makino Station, through to Erua, or through to National Park, or to continue north into the Retaruke.

Whilst at Ohakune I'd received an email about a particularly good track, which led from near the Chateau Tongariro on the Bruce Road, through the Tongariro Forest Park to Owhango, and it sounded so good I was keen to include it on my ride. I decided that I'd find grazing for Doug for two days, and ride east, then north along the 42 Traverse as it was known.

So we decided to take the route to Erua. By the time Carolyn returned from taking their son Alan to school, Geoff had packed my bags and pack-saddle onto the four-wheeler and we followed them across their station. They gave us thorough instructions, but unfortunately we were enjoying the ride so much we missed one of the turnings and took the 'long route', a good 2 kms further.

But it was amazing, beautiful country. The 'wrong' way gave us a very steep slope of slippery clay to negotiate, and then back up again; I was wondering how the Gannons were going to manage on their four wheeler. Alarm bells began to ring in my head. It wasn't until we'd emerged and ridden up the next track and heard, then saw their four-wheeler about 800 metres away, across a deep gully, that we realised we'd taken the wrong track.

I was keen to go back, not knowing if they'd seen us or not. Evelyn insisted we continued uphill. I'm pleased she did, because within 500 metres we'd met up with them again.

Now we followed a very old logging road, grass or clay surface, for four or five kilometres, before we hit loose metal again. It was wonderful; we were able to canter and trot to our heart's content. And Carolyn took lots of photographs for the record. Even Josh and Brae loved it.

The highlight of the day was the tunnel we rode through. This had been hewn out of the cliff many years ago. I was told that the original road had been surveyed, but that the local government hadn't been too good at maintenance. So over the years local farmers had improved the road, often taking it across their own land, so today the road cut corners across private property. The 200 metre tunnel that had been carved out of the hill cut off a hairpin bend, 400 metres of official road which was no longer used, and indeed, was so overgrown it was difficult to believe it was there. Now it was dripping with lush green ferns, looking more like a winter garden.

The Siemoneks welcomed us into their home for lunch. Their farm was on the site of an old timber town, which was reputed to be one of the roughest in the early history of New Zealand. Velma has developed a delightful alpine garden, with the addition of some wonderful pieces of furniture made out of hill country tea-tree (manuka).

Brae and Josh enjoyed playing with their Sheltie - three Shelties, a rare occurrence; I took some photographs.

We were now about 12 kilometres from the main highway, and rode mostly through beautiful native forest. A long convoy of cars drove past, and the folk called out to us. Someone had recognised me from television, then Evelyn recognised one of the woman as being an Auckland friend of hers. They were all members of the Forest and Bird Organisation, out doing some bird watching. They were impressed at the way Brae was riding my horse, so when they came back a few minutes later, Brae waved to them.

We reached Erua and rode another 5 kilometres along the state highway to National Park. At Raurimu Station where I had arranged grazing I was invited to stay by Suzy and Shane Tilson. They managed this Landcorp farm of 2,500 ha (6300 acres). We had a fun evening, Suzy and Shane had a wonderful sense of humour and we could have stayed up all night laughing I think.

I managed to make arrangements for the next day to get Doug to Owhango, so that he could have two days' rest at least before we tried him. Robyn Weir had offered to bring her horsefloat to National Park to take him back to Owhango.

Shane left before me in the morning - they were shearing and with 11 thousand sheep, plus over one thousand cattle, they were pretty busy. Before he went he showed me the way over his property to get to the next door Landcorp property, Taurewa. The weather was great whilst I saddled and set off, leaving Doug in the paddock calling out anxiously for d'Art. However, we'd been travelling for half an hour and the day clouded over, with a light misty rain beginning to fall. The rain got heavier, and the misty became heavy cloud. I could hardly see in front of me.

Shane's instructions for the end of the track had been to 'follow the path through the paddocks'. On a fine day, this would have been easy, but visibility was almost nil. I knew that there would be a gate at the far side of the paddock, but if I had ridden away from the fence I could well have become disoriented. Even the patches of bush were confusing, discolouring the fog. I sat and wondered what would be the best thing to do. I knew the direction I wanted to go in was south and east - I was coming from the north-west. Therefore if I turned d'Art left (east) when I went into the paddock, and rode around within sight of the fence, I should come to the appropriate gate.

This plan seemed to work, apart from the large areas of boggy ground to which I couldn't find access. The sheep must graze there - therefore the gate could be on the other side of the bog. I hoped I wasn't missing it, by keeping out of the wet areas. After we'd crossed two or three paddocks in this way I heard the buzz of distant traffic on the main road between National Park and Turangi. The minute I saw the vehicles, I let out a huge whoop of relief.

On the road again the clouds lifted, but now heavy rain set in. I turned my coat collar up, and rode on. Towards me pedalled a tourist on his bicycle, with rain cape over his shoulders. I crossed the road so we could chat, and noticed the extra water he was carrying on his cape, a dip formed between his hands and his neck. He laughed! "It's emergency fuel!" he told me.

It wasn't long before I reached Mountain Air and as I was sure their pilots would be bored on a day like this, having no customers, I rode around their building and tied d'Art up near their door. They were surprised to have a potential customer arriving on horse... until they recognised me.

I peeled off my wet clothes and went inside to sit by their fire and drink a coffee. A few minutes later I heard the buzz of their boss, coming in in a helicopter. He had nearly landed when he'd seen d'Art panicking, so had taken the helicopter up and parked it further down the runway.

He told us he had had a bit of a fright in the cloud which had come down suddenly, and they were relieved to be in the office too.

Mounting again I continued on our way; only 7 more kilometres to go to Taurewa Station, another Landcorp property, where I'd arranged grazing overnight. I felt miserable by the time I had arrived, and I knew that I had to hurry to get back to the main road (2.5 kilometres) so that I could hitch back and be there in time to meet Robyn and get Doug to Owhango.

I put d'Artagnan in his paddock and dried myself off, then went into the house to try and organise a shuttle bus. No such luck! I was going to have to walk to the main road, and hope that I could hitch a ride. I took a short cut across paddocks cutting off at least 1 kilometre, and was amused at the antics of the heifers in the paddock - they were fascinated by Brae and would come up really close for a better look.

We'd only walked about 2 kms when Grant Rudkin, Taurewa's manager arrived, and offered us a lift back to National Park! Thanks heavens... I'd no sooner arrived back and caught Doug when Robyn arrived. Perfect timing

It was a simple task taking Doug to Owhango, with the help of Robyn and her horse-float; then I returned to her home and we had a long discussion about some of the fine horse-riding around the district. I returned to Owhango the next day, meeting up with the farrier who had shod Doug, in the hopes that one of his shoes was perhaps pinching him; the farrier replaced one of his shoes and this would fix the problem. Then I had to find someone to take me to d'Artagnan and return my vehicle to Owhango.

This is a service provided by a few people at Owhango for a small fee - so many people want to 'do the 42' and need to be met at the other end, whether they're walking, on horse, bikes or on four-wheel motorbikes. Owhango Motors was open and he referred me to Peter and Julie Braithwaite who ran the local ski-shop as well as a small motel unit. I booked myself in there for the night, and Peter drove me back to Taurewa.

I'd arranged to meet Grant again at 10 am - just time enough to saddle and bridle d'Art. He duly arrived and took me over the farm in his four wheel drive vehicle.

Taurewa is almost 3,000 ha (7,390 acres) with 13 and a half thousand sheep and 2 and a half thousand cattle. But our intention was not to look at the farm so much as for him to show me the short- cut to the beginning of the 42 Traverse. And so began my crossing.

It was delightful riding across paddocks, and having no other horse to lead. Brae ran off chasing rabbits, and several times I called him back, reminding him that we would be moving quickly, having 45 kilometres to cover, a lot of it steep. It took us one hour to reach the other side of Taurewa.

My two friends posed for a photograph at the sign at the start of the 42, and then we were away, up Slab Road. The bush was pretty sparse at this point, and there were some good views of the mountains - and a man walking towards me with a rifle.

"Hello! Are you friendly?" I called out. He laughed. I guessed he must just be a hunter... I hoped. Over the next half hour we saw five men, all with weapons, all I presumed hunting. I asked one of them if he would take my photo; he seemed friendly and I'm still alive to tell the tale.

Then we rode upwards up Magazine Road. I thought I'd turned my cellphone off, but suddenly it rang - my cellular secretary announcing I'd just come back into range. I stopped to listen to the call - and two mountain bikers raced past me, amazed (they told me later) to see me talking on a cellphone. They said they'd come to the 42 to get away from yuppies... and here was one, on horseback.

My business finished I continued, and found them at the top of the next hill, Cooee Lookout, resting, and enjoying the view. We stopped and chatted, and I told them that no doubt we'd see a bit of each other during the day, they'd pass me as they went downhill, and I'd pass them on the uphill sections.

At times the track had metal on it, but most of it was clay or soft sandstone, and I could canter. Going down though I had deference for d'Art's age and his tendency to walk down hills very carefully. One long hill I felt it only fair to rest both him and Brae, so they rode, and I walked.

There were magnificent stands of bush, and beautiful views. Cool, clear rivers bubbling down mountains, water falls and puffs of whit in the sky. I couldn't have picked a better day to ride - amazing considering the weather the previous day.

We cantered to the top of one hill and I thought I could hear noises in the bush ahead - bird calls, but man made imitations. Sure enough, there were the two lovers, perched at the end of the Fallen Tree. I had to stop and photograph them.

It wasn't long before we were going downhill again, and they came past. I called out to them to meet up at the end so that I could get their name and address.

It was a magic ride; truly amazing. I'd like to do it again, once more on a horse; okay, so I'm lazy but when you're on a horse you get much more time to look around than you do if you're walking or biking, and if you're on a motorised form of transport, then you miss out on all the sounds of the bush.

We came across DOC workers, repairing parts of the track, and stopped for a chat. Then I met people on quad motorbikes heading in my direction; they slowed and pulled over to let us past.

Twice we forded the Waione stream. It was so hot, I stayed there in the water, encouraging Brae to come in, but he did so reluctantly. He was NOT impressed that I was having all these magical canters up the hill. I would slow to check that he was catching up, and then we'd go again. I think that the horses sometimes get bored with walking everywhere; d'Art was surely enjoying himself this particular day.

The Waterfall Bridge was a beautiful spot, and once again I wished I had someone with me with a camera to record the sight. And then we were deep into the bush, before we crossed the bridge over the Whakapapa River, and I stopped and asked a man in his car if he'd take a photo if we rode back over it again. And that was it - we left the 42 Traverse. The whole journey had taken us 6-1/2 hours.

Now we had a steep uphill portion, 1 kilometre which climbed 100 metres to the small settlement of Owhango - I decided that we all three were tired enough, so we'd go as fast as we could to the top. It was over before we knew it; neither d'Art nor Brae needed much encouragement.

I dismounted and led d'Art to Pete and Julie's place, removing the saddle, turning the hose on him and covering him when he'd cooled right off. Then I led him down the main street to where Doug was! Well, the shenanigans. Never were two animals so pleased to see each other. They called out to each other and Doug came trotting right over to the gate, but it wasn't long before he was bullying d'Art again.

I caught up with the cyclists - Margo Peart and Ken Jaaback from South Africa - and we swapped details. Then I went to my motel to clean up before dinner with Pete and Julie (though I would have been quite content to just soak in a bath and then tumble into the lovely bed at the motel unit.

Dinner was lovely but I was looking forward to that bed, and slept the sleep of the dead. And then the wet weather struck; in the middle of the night I was sure that the rain was going to come knock the roof in. The torrential rain continued, and it was some days before I could ride out of Owhango.

As I couldn't stay at the motel any longer, I moved to the Gardean Goodstead Holiday Park where an old house, now dubbed The Castle, had been turned into an accommodation block. The place was run by a delightful English couple, Ian and Diana Wellsted, that I hardly ever saw, but were very entertaining when I did see them!

There was one fine morning when I could have set out again on my journey but I'd already decided to go down to the Retaruke Valley and watch an endurance event - where horses are taken over 40km or 80km courses, completing the distance in 3 or 6 hours. A woman I met, when I told her what I was doing, told me that I could ride alongside the railway line from Kakahi to Piriaka, and as I'd planned to ride through a farm near Piriaka, this then made my route plan complete.

I went back to my car to get a map and found I had a puncture, and as it was a Saturday I needed to get it fixed before the shops closed in Taumarunui, over an hour away. By the time I went into Taumarunui the rain had returned, and the rivers were all in flood. I was pleased I hadn't been riding. However, it gave me a good opportunity to do a recce of the way I wanted to ride, though. On the route I met four riders exercising five polocrosse horses and they advised me where the farm would come out, and the best way of getting through Taumarunui.

The day I left Owhango I rode through a beautiful glade of trees and then took the side road to Kakahi, a reasonably large settlement which would have been bigger in the days when the mills were open. Then I found the track which would take me alongside the main trunk railway line, and onwards to Piriaka. At times the track was made from large, sharp stones, the type used as a basecourse for railway tracks, and it would wind close to the railway. I began to contemplate what would happen should a train come.

I found myself judging the gaps in between the wide parts, and anxiously looking north and south for trains before I embarked on the next leg. If I hadn't been so worried about railway trains, I might even have enjoyed myself!

So it wasn't exactly a relaxing ride. And before long I could see ahead of me, where the track crossed a railway bridge. I thought about the boys in "Stand By Me" how they'd been crossing a railway bridge when the train came. And in those days, at least the steam engines made a lot more noise, and there was steam to be seen on the horizon!

I tried to remember what my brothers had done when we would ride our bikes alongside the railway tracks as kids in Western Springs. They would get off their bikes and put their ear to the railway tracks. What was I to listen for? Did the absence of sound mean a train was coming? Or wasn't coming? And how long would it be before the train arrived? How reliable was this system?

I got off d'Art and put my ear to the track. I felt rather foolish, but couldn't hear a thing. I stood up and wondered what I should do, before coming to the conclusion that it would be better to take some action rather than just standing around after I'd listened to the tracks. I wish I'd asked more instructions off the woman who'd told me this was a good way to ride.

Still, "he who hesitates is lost". I put my ear to the track again, then quickly climbed back into the saddle. I hadn't heard any noises. I urged d'Art with panicky kicks to get across that **** bridge. d'Art and Doug were reluctant - obviously something was worrying me, but they couldn't see the problem, so dug their toes in.

It seemed to take an eternity to get over that bridge. The creek was far below us - and I wasn't sure if a train did come if I'd be brave enough to can out and dive in to the water.

But fortunately, nothing came. In fact, I didn't see one train the whole length of our journey along this section of railway track. I reached Piriaka and crossed the busy highway to ride up Tanga Road.

Many people asked me throughout the course of my journey how I planned my ride. A lot of the finer tuning was done with the help of local knowledge, but I started planning by looking at the AA maps. Issued free to members these cover all of New Zealand on a scale of 1:350,000.

When I've decided the general direction I want to head in I would call into a stationery shop and buy the relevant Topomaps Series 1:50,000, much more detailed. Now I pore over the maps and look for old disused maps or farm tracks, which can sometimes make my route more direct, or at least help me avoid the highways. If the country appears farmed, there are often routes across paddocks as well.

The next step is to find out who owns the land, and this is where local knowledge comes in handy. Often it would be the people I stayed with, but vets, stock and station agents, tramping club members, rural mail delivery, and stock transport services also gave me valuable information from time to time.

In this case I'd found a track at the end of Tanga Road which went over a farm belonging to the Soar family. Tanga Road took me high up above Piriaka, with amazing views back to Mt Ruapehu - the last time I was to see it on my ride. I called in to the farmhouse and chatted with Michelle Soar and checked the finer details of the route over their farm.

An interesting thing happened a few days later. As I uploaded my email into CompuServe, I would sign my message with my approximate whereabouts, so people could keep tabs on my progress. The fact that I was in Taumarunui prompted a response from Margaret Loftus Ranald, a University Professor in New York, who told me that her sister, with the surname Soar had written a book on Piriaka.

I phoned Murray and Michelle Soar to thank them for letting me ride across their property and to tell them of my email, and found out that this was in fact Murray's godmother - and the woman Margaret was referring to was his mother.

Incidents such as this would happen from time to time - I would meet people who were closely related to people I'd stayed with in the South Island for instance.

As I rode over the Soar's property, with magnificent views of Taumarunui and the Wanganui River, I had time to reflect that this was now the King Country, so called because King Tawhaio had sought refuge there after the Waikato Land Wars. He forbade the entry of Europeans to the area.

There were five main Maori tribes within the King Country (Ngati Maniapoto, Ngati Hikairo, Ngati Raukawa, Ngati Tuwharetoa and the Whanganui) and they eventually signed an agreement with the Crown to allow the North Island Main Trunk railway to come through the district.

I felt it would be appropriate if I could stay on a marae for the night. Was this too presumptuous of me; to seek such accommodation? Call it chance, an accident or fate, but it was raining the day I had originally intended to ride from Owhango - so heavily that all of the rivers were in flood. Instead I drove by car through to Taumarunui to find somewhere to stay. I saw a sign "Manu Ariki Marae" but I was looking for somewhere to graze some horses - and horses, and in particular, dogs, weren't welcome on marae. So I drove back to Taumarunui and saw activity at a hall which turned out to be a fundraising telethon being held by the marae to raise funds for their latest building.

They were delighted to welcome me to their marae, so we rode through Taumarunui, collecting my mail from the Post Centre en route, and wound up beside the Ongarue River to the Okahukura, where the horses had been offered grazing, outside the marae.

Over the next week I pieced together a history of the marae and their beliefs.

Pareuira was a beautiful Maori maiden in Taumarunui who married Whakakeo Phillips, or Keho as he was known, a young man of the Ngati Tangaroa-a-whai tribe from the Waikato. Keho worked a bullock team in the King Country, mainly hauling logs out of the bush near Taumarunui.

They had nine children, five boys and four girls and finally settled in Okahukura, on the banks of the Ongarue River, their son Alexander being born in August of 1919. Keho retired at the age of 65 from the bullocks and began breaking in horses which were reared on the farm his son Alexander was establishing. The farm is known as Manu Ariki (Bird of Paradise), and Alexander gifted 120 acres of this farmland to his people on which to establish Manu Ariki Marae.

Alec, also known as 'Tau' (year) by the old people because his mother was said to have carried him for twelve months, was educated at the Okahukura Primary School, finishing his schooling when he was in Standard 4 starting work on the farm. He loved sports - playing rugby and excelling in boxing and wrestling.

In his 30's he had his first experience with faith healing and quickly became in demand for his skill; a few years later people were knocking on his door day and night begging his services. During 1961 he formed the Kotahitanga Church Building Society with the aim of uniting all people, all denominations, all nationalities. Committees were formed and they commenced building their marae.

This marae is not the traditional type, a centre for the Maori community. It's administered by a Board of Trustees and is rather a multi-functional place, promoting not only all facets of Maori culture and traditions but also education, health awareness and cross-cultural interactions. The founding philosophy is "Unity to All Beings", emphasising the preservation of traditional values especially of a spiritual nature - focusing on man, nature and the supreme architect of the universe.

In 1960 a dining room was completed and since then further facilities have been added. Many people come and work voluntarily on the marae, searching for Alec's counselling and faith healing. Some people stay more or less permanently in the huts, or use huts as their 'private space', sleeping in the great house; which is what I chose to do. There were others already in bed : Aroha, one of the ministers and on the Board of Trustees, a lovely woman with a special aura that you could sense... a feeling of serenity around her.

The great house, Te Mana O Te Aroha was opened in January 1993, having taken eight years of volunteer labour to construct. It's a modern, multi-storey complex which can sleep and provide meals from the well-equipped kitchen for about 1,000 people. The decorations at the main entrance represent the Twelve Tribes of Israel.

The buildings amazed me - it had the makings of a small township. I met some of the Board members and was told how six years ago some of the elders had been on a world trip to retrace the origins and migratory route taken by ancestral Maori thousands of years ago. I was told how the group believed that the female side had a sacred place in their worship, and although their faith encompassed all religions, their blessing included 'the Mother'.

The marae had hosted the first Indigenous People's Conference and in February 1997 would be hosting another meeting, with guests from overseas, when the Global House would be opened. This building has been designed in the shape of the cross and is dominated by a centrepole and carvings from all points of New Zealand, the east, the south, the west, and the north.

In February 1993 a magnificent temple was opened high up on the hill, the Temple of God - quite unique in its decor. It was designed as an eight-pointed star with a door at each tip, each 'wing' representing a fruit of the spirit: love, faith, gentleness, peace, joy, meekness, goodness and strength of heart. I attended a service there and was moved by the fellowship or the worshippers.

It was a little spooky staying at the marae - not because of anything I saw or was asked to do, but rather the 'difference'. It was like being in another country - or walking in on another culture.

Later, when I took Doug by truck to Te Pahu, I drove over the Kurukuru Hill and stopped to see the Madonna Falls. Alexander Phillips had seen the image of the Madonna on the rocks behind the fall and in 1975 the Kotahitanga Church Building Society had founded them in the name of Te Whaea o te Rere (Our Lady of the Waterfall). It was estimated that 1,500 people attended the pilgrimage in August of 1980, when the waterfall was dedicated to Te Whaea o te Rere in a religious service. During the pouring rain the flow increased from the fall and worshippers bathed in the waters in the rock pool for healing.

Whether you believe that the waters are healing or not, it's spiritually moving - a beautiful waterfall and rock pool, and well worth stopping for a visit.

During my stay at Okahukura the horses grazed in a lush paddock nearby and Brae stayed with Evelynne and David Keenan and their delightful teenage family. They made me feel very much part of the family and as I seemed to appear at their place at the best time for meals, I ended up eating there too!

In researching the history of the marae, fate brought me another stroke of luck. It seemed that no-one in Taumarunui had any information about the marae itself, but I was directed to a Ron Cooke who published magazines about local history. Although the name rang a bell it wasn't until I made contact with him that I realised this was the same man I had submitted an article on my grandfather, Dot Woodcock, for his magazine, almost a year previously.

When I caught up with Ron he showed me the article which had just been published, and it did my grandfather proud, with seven or eight photographs of him in action. Dot Woodcock had founded a service car business in the early 1900's and became well known for transporting actors, musicians and other celebrities around the country. I was thrilled to have caught up with another part of my family history.

© 1996/97 Jacqui Knight, all rights reserved.

previous page || next page

Main Page   |   Introduction   |   The Diary [ PARTS: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 ]   |   More Pictures   |   Thanks   |   The Book   |   Brae's Book   |   This Site