Heading South Via Leamington And The Grand Chateau

It’s always a wrench for me to leave Gisborne. It’s the place in the world where I feel the happiest, the most ‘at home’. I never fail to find pleasurable things to occupy any spare time, or friends to visit and chat amiably. I love being by the ocean, and the beaches in Gizzy are unquestionably some of the best anywhere. The high sunshine hours will undoubtedly have a positive effect on the psyche of anyone living there too.

But leave we had to if we’re to fulfil our desire to see more of New Zealand, especially the South Island, while we’re blessed to be here with no foreign tourists! We read with horror what’s happening currently in England, and despair we’ll not get back there this year. We’d be foolish to do so it seems. Time will tell. But it’s definitely not looking promising. Consequently we’ll be grasping opportunities to make the most of living in Aotearoa and the current freedoms it holds. So long as WE don’t change Alert Levels too …

Leaving Gizzy For Leamington

We left Gizzy after over six weeks there and stayed with Andie and Pete in Ormond. For those that don’t know, that’s only a twenty-minute drive, but as we were passing, we wanted to spend an afternoon and night with them. Another midwife surprised us with a visit. Fantastic! I love recalling stories from times past with beautiful wahine/women from the Gisborne Maternity Unit. There are so many to be told. It’s a fine balance between Barry’s stories from his life in Gisborne and mine as we visit different groups of friends.

From there it was a stunning scenic drive through the Waioeka Gorge once again, with a brief stop at the Manganuku Camping Ground. Breathtaking.

At Barry’s 65th birthday party, a lovely bubbly tall woman introduced herself to me. I’d heard lots about Pam and Jack from Barry over the years but hadn’t met them. She said we must come and stay now they’re living in Cambridge. They used to live in Taihape, then Napier. As we were sort of passing (!), I organised for us to do so on our way to central North Island.

They actually live in a place called Leamington – rather different from the English version. What a splendid time we had. We played lots of Five Crowns and Sequence (it’s becoming a regular feature of our stays!). Jack took us for a drive to the National Waka-ama championships at Lake Karapiro (which isn’t truly a lake, but an artificial reservoir perfect for boating). It was a hive of activity (see Barry’s sildeshow for photos).

Another long-time friend of Barry’s lives nearby, Pete, who Barry went to school with, and they managed to get hold of him to come for a drink or two. It was wonderful to meet you all.

Another Tick Off The Bucket List

In July 2002, I tiki-toured the North Island alone before returning to England and an uncertain future. One of the destinations I chose was The Tongariro National Park. The park has three active volcanoes: Tongariro, Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom in “The Lord of the Rings” films) and Ruapehu with its ski slopes. Driving up the road in 2002, and seeing the magnificence of The Chateau, I was blown away by its superb stature and otherworldliness. Often surrounded by snow-capped mountains, I defy anyone not to be astounded. I stopped to take photos (with a camera, not a phone in those days!), and recall wishing someone was by my side to share the joy of Mother Nature.

Since then, I’ve had a desire to stay there. This year I made that dream happen. But damn the weather! Mother Nature decided I wouldn’t explore much further than the building, with Barry by my side. However, we did manage a drive up the same mountain road in the late afternoon on arrival. Before it rained non-stop. I guess She decided we just needed to sit still and enjoy. So we did.

The National Park is owned by New Zealanders as it was gifted in 1887 by the Paramount Chief of Ngati Tūwharetoa, to ensure the area’s protection for all time.

The Chateau was designed by Timaru-based Herbert Hall (1880–1939), architect to the Mount Cook Tourist Company, who modelled his design on the Canadian Resort of Lake Louise. Influenced by the hotels built by the Canadian Pacific Railway such as the Château Frontenac, he designed a neo-Georgian structure of four stories and basement. The style of the building was not European, despite its name, but American Colonial Revival, a variant of the Georgian Revival style popular between the wars. It is possibly the only building in New Zealand made of reinforced concrete but designed to resemble a traditional Georgian brick building.


The building has an incredible presence, standing out majestically with its light blue, ochre and yellow colours. Set amongst the green of the grass, the black and red of the volcanic rock, and the bright white of the snow for much of the year, it’s unmissable.

You’ll see in the images above the weather forecast for Gisborne compared to The Chateau for the full day we were there. Hilarious! Regardless, it was a wonderful, albeit brief, stay. Having to remain indoors here wasn’t a problem. We used the plunge pool and sauna and played snooker. We ate delicious food and drank a few wines and liqueur coffees (me!). We’d have watched a movie or two but none of them attracted us sufficiently.

I’d booked a ‘Celebration Package’, because I was celebrating being able to stay here! Two consecutive nights of three-course dinners was rather too much for us – but delicious and delightful nonetheless.

Now I want to return, when the weather is better, and stay inside the hotel rather than in one of their lodges which was my choice this time. I’m passing that wish onto Barry to organise …

Next Stop Feilding

Leaving the National Park, we travelled through Ohakune and Taihape. Each town in New Zealand has a fascinating history. Carrots for Ohakune, Gum Boots (Wellington Boots for the British!), and farming for Feilding.

It’s not a spelling error honestly! Feilding was named after Colonel William Feilding who arrived in December 1871 to purchase land for ‘The British Immigration Scheme’. By January 1874, 200 British immigrants had arrived to live there. Thankfully the three tribal groups Rangitāne, Ngāti Raukawa and Ngāti Kauwhata retain their identity to this day and play an active role in the social, political and economic development of the region.

We do our best to find ‘free’ camp spots as we travel – otherwise it would become impossible for us to be living in a campervan if we had to shell out $22 each per night at campgrounds. Feilding was en route to Waikanae where we stayed once again with Marily and David, on our way to Wellington to catch the Bluebridge Ferry to the South Island on Sunday 24th January. I needed a couple of nights to catch up with work.

Barry’s marvellous at sourcing our freedom camping spots and the Feilding one was at the huge expanse of land at Timona Park. You can just about make us out in the distance below:

Barry’s Slide Show

As usual Barry’s photography provides an impressive overview of this section of our our journeys. Click on the first image below to scroll through:

One thought on “Heading South Via Leamington And The Grand Chateau

  1. Pingback: Crossing The Cook Strait ~ Barry & Sandra's Adventures

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