Like migratory birds we often like to take a short holiday after the Summer. After all, why leave our island during the Summer when it's such a perfect place to be, despite the extra holidaymakers.
This year, we are travelling down to Ewen's mother's birthday/exhibition vernissage/book launch in Masterton. The book is the story of the long courtship of her parents before they got married. It's set before, during and after the First World War years and the highlight of the book is the collection of her diaries and his letters from the Western front, which she had kept.
We visited some of the places where Len was in Flanders last year, as you may remember.
We are travelling down the North Island all the way on State Highway 2, which runs from Auckland - Paeroa - Tauranga - Whakatane - Opotiki - Gisborne - Wairoa - Napier - Hastings - Woodville - Masterton, and on to Wellington.
We stopped off at Kawerau, a paper mill town a few kilometres south of Whakatane, where we stayed at Westmead, a gay homestay run by Kevin and Lionel.
The town sits right next to Mt Edgcumbe, a fierce looking volcano. A 25km drive up a private metal road owned by the logging company and a 10 minute bush walk took us to the Tarawera Falls, where the Tarawera river re-emerges from the underground. The earth is so broken and porous here, the river disappears into a sinkhole a few kilometres further upstream. All very picturesque.
Then down the gorge to Gisborne on the East Coast, arriving in driving rain making the visit unmemorable apart from the stay at the local backpackers, called The Flying Nun, which had an earful of eye candy, if you allow me to mix metaphors, consisting of American and English surfies. We watched a movie together, and it was as much fun gauging their reactions as it was watching the movie, which was Jackass Two, normally not my kind of fare. The grossness of the skits, involving mostly pain and humiliation, is in contrast to some areas that remain taboo. The Jackass idiots do a lot of anal stuff but would never involve any male erections on screen - there are hardly any penises (limp or otherwise) on view in the film, compared to the acreage of male arse. John Waters's cameo making the wee man disappear was an inspired moment (if you haven't seen the film, it's not what you may think).
Further south the next morning via the Mahia Peninsula, mercifully devoid of holiday makers this time of year, to Napier for an R&R session with our mates Roger and Ross and their international assortment of hangers-on. Unmissable if you are ever in the Hawke's Bay. And then on to Masterton, where preparations for the book launch are in full swing.