Visit to New Zealand.

Following my trip to Tasmania for the longest Thread competition I made a journey to New Zealand. Before leaving England I had sent a number of e-mails out asking if anyone out there could suggest woolly places to visit, I was overwhelmed with offers of accommodation and suggestions.

Auckland from ferry

Auckland from the ferry

I arrived in Auckland and jumped onto a mini bus that took me to the hotel I had booked into the day before in a place called Parnell Village. This is a very nice area with some very up market shops and some nice woolly and crafty places. On my first morning I shared a breakfast table with an American lady called Michael Onewing.

We got on famously and although she was spending the day sightseeing with a friend we arranged to meet for dinner that evening. Meanwhile I looked through my internet list of spinners groups in New Zealand and discovered that there was to be a meeting on an island in the bay only a short ferry ride away. I called the secretary and she offered to meet me at the harbour when I arrived. The ladies were all very friendly and I was even given some lunch, we discussed the differences in spinning and wool from our two countries and I had a lovely time looking at what they were all doing. Then another lady gave me a lift back to the ferry for my ride back to the mainland.

One day there, one spinning group down!

That evening following an afternoon trying on beautiful jewellery in some nice shops I met up with Michael.

She too had had a good day and we went for dinner and talked non stop for hours, she is an amazing lady and inspired me with her bravery as a lone traveller.

Next day I planned to get on a train and go to Tauranga where I was to stay with Owen and Glynis Poad of Majacraft. They had emailed me and invited me to stay and I was looking forward to a really spinny few days.

After Glynis picked me up from the station she took me to the farm where Majacraft make their wheels. This was in a lovely setting with the large doors on the top floor opening out to look over the Kiwi fruit vines, I met Glynis's husband Owen, and Mary and John McTavish joint owners of Majacraft and had a very interesting discussion about spinning wheels.

I soon discovered that Owen and I also had something else in common, a passion for fly fishing. Owen had not been fishing for a number of years due to pressure of work and offered to take me out the next day and see if we could catch a trout.

Unfortunately the weather dawned wet and stayed that way for the day so we had a nice day spinning instead, Owen showed me the wheel he had used for his own longest thread entry and we discussed the various mechanisms involved, a wheel with a future I thought.

I was treated like a queen and taken out for dinner to a restaurant in Tauranga and was persuaded I should stay for an extra day.

Glynis and I went to a small shopping park which had small units housing craft people. We chatted happily to an Irish glass maker who took our photos and I bought some lovely glass mats with fish engraved on them. That evening Glynis took me to her local spinning group meeting where again I was made very welcome. I discovered that very few New Zealand spinners hand prepare their own wool, most have their fleeces carded commercially, and in fact no-one in the group had a pair of hand carders and had no idea how to use them. The next day Owen and I went fishing, we walked through the river at one point whereupon I dropped my box of flies in the water and hadn't realised until we were a bit further up the bank. Owen was a perfect gentleman and went back and found it and retrieved it even though it was in very deep water. I had a lovely day seeing many of the trees I sell in my job at the nursery back home. It was lovely seeing some of the countryside at close hand and learning something of the history from Owen who seemed to smile all day.

Owen fishing
Owens river Tauranga

All too soon it was time for me to move on and Owen and Glynis took me to Rotorua and introduced me to a lady who ran a wool carding operation. I found that very interesting as the machinery used is ex British and did a very good job of carding some scoured wool in no time at all.

Preparing Flax

Preparing Flax

I found a B & B to stay and said goodbye to my new found friends. Later that afternoon I took a trip out to the Geysers and hot springs that make Rotorua so famous. There was also a Maori woman demonstrating traditional flax weaving. There were many examples of woven skirts, baskets and wall hangings and I was keen to ask many questions but I think she was a little fed up with idiot tourists asking questions as she didn't seem inclined to have much of a conversation. So I bought a book.

Maori Flax Weaving
Maori Flax Weaving

The smell of sulphur was overwhelming and the noise of the water shooting up under such pressure was amazing and a little scary to someone who lives in a country where thunder storms are about the most violent natural phenomena we get. It was also very hot and steamy and the glooping mud pools added to the impression of how uncertain life could be amongst all this natural power.

Geyser Rotorua
Mud Pool rotorua

Time was getting on and I still had to find somewhere to get some dinner so headed back to town. Just round the corner from my B&B was a nice restaurant and as I was the only one there the service was really quick and I had a great bowl of pasta with prawns, followed by a really naughty piece of gateaux.

Rotorua Harbour

Rotorua Harbour

I then took myself off for a walk by the harbour and saw the ferry and sea planes tied up waiting for the next days tourists, there were dozens of black swans paddling around looking for some friendly tourist to feed them.

I finished off walking back through a park and was pleased to note that I am not the only one who ends up feeding stray cats. A lady was feeding 3 small kittens that were hiding in the bushes, it reminded me of the one eyed, starving ginger cat we rescued and re-homed on our trip to Ireland a few years ago.

Next day bright and early I caught a bus to Taupo, it was quite pleasant being driven as I got to see the countryside and the driver was quite good at telling us what we were looking at, and as it was raining it was a good day to travel.

In Taupo I asked the local taxi service where was a good place to stay and the nice lady dropped me at Chandlers Motel quite near to the lake. The owners Lawrie and Carol made me very welcome and I discovered that Lawrie was a keen fisherman who took people out on the lake in his boat and would also take me fishing for trout in the local river.

Maori carving at Lake Taupo
Trout from Taupo

We caught 2 nice trout on the lake and took them back to the motel where we smoked them and had them for tea. The river fishing again produced no fish. Never mind I had enjoyed my stay, and the next day I would travel on again by bus to Wellington and then over to the South Island where I would pick up a car and drive myself gradually down to see Margaret Stewart and her husband Jim.

I had decided when researching New Zealand before my trip that I would like to swim with dolphins if possible so my first priority was to find somewhere to do this. It was suggested by someone that Akaroa was the place to go so after a night in Picton I set off toward Christchurch hoping to make it in one day. It wasn't to be though and by 5.30 pm I found myself so tired I decided to pull off at the next place advertising accommodation and ended up in a beach hut. It had 2 beds and a cooker and sink what more could a person want. I set about eating supper which I had bought on route which consisted of crayfish and a packet of biscuits.

I took a walk on the deserted beach and had an early night.

Next day I made my way to Akaroa the scenery on the way was stunning and the town itself lovely.


Straight away I found the place offering dolphin trips and booked myself on to the next outing in an hours time. I was nervous but determined to do this, I am so glad I did, the Hectors dolphins were very curious and came really close, I took some photos with an underwater camera I had purchased from the shop and just hoped the pics would come out. We had a bit of a scare as we were informed a shark was seen hanging around and we had to get out of the water, I wouldn't have missed the experience for anything though. Later that day I found a jewellers who made rings using the local Paua shell pearls so treated myself to a lovely blue pearl and silver ring. A great memento of my trip.

Hectors Dolphin
Hectors Dolphin

After an evening spent with Dee Dee another American lady met on the Dolphin trip I spent the night in a hotel and next day travelled back up to the main road to Ashburton where I was to meet Roxanne and have a conducted tour of the Ashford Factory. I bought some treats for my spinning friends back home and headed off to my next port of call.

Margaret had arranged for me to spend 2 nights with her friend Nolene another spinner and excellent weaver, as she herself was away for a couple of days. I was taken to a spinners meeting in Timaru where I was asked to give an impromptu talk on my experience of spinning the "Longest Thread" and was even interviewed by the local paper who sent a photographer along too! I had a lovely day and found it very interesting talking with other spinners a surprising number of whom were originally from England. The show and tell was very good too, they were certainly a very busy group of ladies and very enthusiastic.

That evening when Margaret arrived we drove to her farm and in no time at all we were in her wool shed drooling over her lovely fleeces and handling beautiful Alpaca blends.

Mary Stewart, Margaret Stove & Sue

Mary Stewart, Margaret Stove & Sue

I met Margaret through the "Longest Thread" and she came to stay with me when she was in the U.K. last year we spent the evening talking non-stop and next day I went to a Lace Knitting design workshop with Margaret Stove. I learned so much in the day and Margaret is a great teacher making it all so clear, she really knows her stuff.

She signed her book for me, I never thought when I attended her spinning workshop so long ago in England that one day I would attend another in New Zealand.

Too soon the class ended and with it my trip to New Zealand was also nearly finished. I went back to Margarets for a meal and we said our goodbyes as I had to drive back to Christchurch for a 4.00 am check in. The trip back home would again take me back to Sydney then to Osaka for a night and finally home. I met some great Aussies on the way back on the plane and they have been here to visit, they are living in London for a few years so I am sure I will see more of them. Travelling is great, I will definitely go back to New Zealand again and hopefully add to my spinning friends.