Meeting the Wheelers from down under

Trip Start May 13, 2010
Trip End May 12, 2011

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Where I stayed
The fruit bowl Orchard (wheelers place)

Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Sunday, September 5, 2010

Thursday 2nd Sep

Napier to Gisborne (wine country)

This is a really nice part of the country, the road across is really hilly and with a couple of gorges on the way as well.

We had a stop at lake Tutira on the way (that is where the chairs picture was), it was such a pretty little lake and Milo did a great Bacon and cheese butty in the van.

Before we left Napier we did some washing so we have nice clean clothes again, mmmm Heaven !

Gisborne seems like a really nice town, we had a long chat with a woman in a jewellers / crystals type shop, and we got Milo some new earrings. The lady was from Wales but had spent a lot of time in the north of England before coming to NZ.

Gotta decide which way we are going in the morning, either round the coast (the long way) or through the big canyon (75 Km long), what a decision.

Friday 3rd Sep

Into the remote parts of the East Cape.

From Gisborne we had 2 choices either a 2 day trip round the coast road or 1 day through a big gorge to Opotiki. The lure of a Manuka oil factory and shop on the coast road sent us that way. It was the right choice the coast road and views our over many bays was very good.

The down side was the site we intended to stay at was flooded and they were not taking any motor vans because they would get stuck in the mud, so we had to motor on to a site further round the coast. The site is fine, we are the only people here tonight and the showers are 1$ a go, and the woman on the desk thinks they last about 3 mins (that isn't enough for a Milo). The area is real Maori homeland, not seen many Kiwis in the area, hope they let us out of the site in the morning, they could eat Europeans out here J.

As we set off out of Gisborne they had a sign on the side of the road to let you know which roads are open or closed, a good sign you are headed into some remote and high country, well the road to Opotiki was showing as closed, we thought it was probably a mistake and decided to ignore it. So far we were right, no sign of the road being closed, although there are loads of "washouts" and “slides”on the way (that is where the road has collapsed because the soil under the road has been eroded, or where a load of mod had slid onto the road).

There is no Radio signal here and no mobile phone signal, but they have a big smoke room in the middle of the camp site for smoking fish. They also have a fish cleaning area at the end of the site, there is a great sign above the area it says “ roll the bloody hose up!”, and that goes well with the sign in the kitchen over the oven “if you are not going to clean it don’t use it!”...Oh Dear!

I don’t think we will be using the oven or gutting fish so we should be ok.

The weather is supposed to be changing quite dramatically today, so far it has been warm and sunny, but it seems we have a return to winter coming our way with high winds and snow down to 200 mtrs. We should be ok we are at sea level , just about and the site is sheltered by loads of high trees.

Tomorrow we are off to Opotiki and plan to visit Doug Wheeler, my second cousin. His Grandfather was a merchant seaman and was ill when his ship passed NZ back in the early 1920’s, so he got off the ship, and decided to stay, his wife and children followed him a few years later. Doug owns an orchard in the area and likes old trucks. I have been emailing him for a few years and we have shared information about our family genealogy.

I wonder how different we are? Just 3 generations from our common ancestor in the east end of London, but both living completely different lives.

Saturday 4th

Well we set off for Opotiki in the morning from Te Kaha our stop the previous night.

We had a look round the town and bought some bits in the local supermarket in Opotaki and then went to find Doug Wheeler’s place “The Fruit bowl Orchard”.

When we pulled up there didn’t seem to be anyone around, but we managed to get Doug out to meet us eventually. He said he was doing the washing up. Well Doug is so Obviously a Wheeler with the same Wheeler nose and the Wheeler (male) hairline.

It was great to meet him and his boys we just talked for ages and then went to get some fish and chips from the town. On the way Carl spotted a hovercraft on the back of a lorry in the petrol station, Carl just couldn’t resist going and having a chat with the guy transporting the craft. Seems it is one of only 2 remaining out of 14 that were made, the other one is in a museum in England.

Doug and Carl are collectors of old Lorries and tractors or any other sort of interesting machinery. My dad would have loved to visit their place and reminisce over all the trucks that were part of his younger days.

On Saturday night we camped on Doug’s drive and it was sooo Cold (just 2 degrees c), it was the first night we had the heating on all night. During the night the neighbours who grow Kiwi Fruit were out in their helicopter doing frost protection, seems the downdraft from the helicopter stops the frost forming on the leaves and the fruit. In the morning we sat and chatted some more and then went off to visit a close friend of the Wheelers, Cathy , she lived in a small valley just 10 mins drive from Opotiki. She is so crazy, but an amazingly interesting and friendly woman, we spent a few hours with her and all her animals, enjoying the wonderful views from her house.

We then went off for a tour of Opotiki and a visit to Mark’s house (wheeler son no.2), he has bought a house in Opotiki and is renovating it and separating it out into bed sit type accommodation so he can rent it out in the future. The house is huge and is such an interesting building, and he is making a great job of transforming it.

Then we set off for Rotarua in the evening and we are set up for a couple of days in the cosy cottage camp site on the shores of the lake at Rotarua.

Good news is it doesn’t seem as cold tonight.
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Doug on

Great to meet up with a lost part of the Wheeler family. Now who is lost, us here in NZ our those trying to navigate around our country?
It was an enjoyable time being with you. Enjoy the ongoing days ahead.
Doug Wheeler

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