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Letters from New Zealand (Part 2)

Jaguar XK120 Drophead CoupéPhilip and Yvonne Haslam are long time Twyford Moors customers having had their XK120 restored by us over ten years ago. Since then they have taken their trusty Jaguar on many trips around the world. Here's an update from their latest journey to New Zealand.

 

"Well, the last time I saw you was in Auckland if I'm not mistaken. 

Phew, such a lot has happened since then  - I barely know where to start. 

So,  in Auckland we did all the things that you are supposed to  - we sailed the harbour,  had long blacks in the Britomart  Lanes, had calamari and sauvignon in Viaduct Basin,  and folded origami paper in the Art Museum. ( Strangely, we proved to be particularly useless at this. Yvonne,  who normally folds my shirts to perfection,  seemed to be particularly nonplussed when presented with a six inches square of paper, and completely went to pieces  ).

We also didn't do many Kiwi " must does ", - bungee jumping from a great height,  drinking beer from the bottle, and hanging from very high buildings by our eyebrows!

Oh yes, here's something I meant to tell you. Whilst visiting Rotarua ( NZ'S Las Vegas ) , we were inveigled into visiting a Maori geyser centre, where they rapidly relieved us of 70 $ to witness the world shattering experience of active steam geysers. Well, we have been fortunate enough to witness Yellowstones  amazing ' Old Faithful ' geyser which blows 40 metres high. Here, there was less action than the steam from our 4 o'clock kettle boiling in Foolow.  Anyway,  on a positive note, we seemed to leave half a dozen local Maoris looking very contented, planning their next continental holiday.

Brilliantly sunny weather saw us heading northwards up the east coast of north island  ( I told you this wasn't going to be easy ).The coastal road is quite spectacular,  with the road rising and falling with the terrain, whilst presenting  breathtaking glimpses of turquoise  blue sea and white sand.it became quite difficult to choose which of these idyllic locations to stop off at for coffee and lunchtime picnics. It is a particularly upmarket area, reflected in the beautiful modern steel and glass houses, and the frequent stalls offering 'Oysters and Chips'.

We passed a Sheep Museum  ( ? ), outside of which were saw bright red ( yes, BRIGHT red) sheep.sad to say, I can't attach photographic proof, as they are on my other camera.

Now, coming to 'sheep', just before we left home, we were at a dinner party discussing sheep, and I was reliably informed that there are 39 million sheep in NZ. Well, strangely enough, we have only seen about 34 so far. The story goes that NZ farmers have worked out that there is substantially more profit in dairy and beef, so have switched to rearing huge herds of cows. I'm told that south island is the place for sheep  -  so presumably we'll see the other 38,999,966 in the next couple of weeks. 

A friend of a friend had offered to put us up in the perfectly named Bay of Islands, and, never having met them before, we were a trifle concerned as to how we would get along. Well, no worries there !! Stephen ( XK 140 owner ) and Didi accommodated us in their  lovely home, and we had quite the best of times. 

Jaguar XK120 on 90 mile beachOver the next few days we ventured further  north (still on North), and took in 90 Mile Beach,  which for some unknown reason is just 67 miles long ! ( the best we managed to establish was that, in days of yore, it was measured by a chap with a bullock, who calculated the distance by the time it took his bullock to travel a certain distance. Apparently he didn't factor in that the soft sand slowed the bullock and therefore over estimated the length of the beach. A regular cock and bullock story if ever I heard one. Anyway, it was astonishing,  as you can see from the photo. Unbelievabley,  a bus service runs along the sand each day.

From there a short trip took us to Cape Reinga,  the very northerly point of NZ  -  or so we were led to believe.  Having achieved this geographical landmark, I was somewhat pee'd off to discover that 40 kms to the east, up a rough track, there was a lump of rock that was one foot six further north !  Oh well, another time.

So, the XK,  I hear you say. 

Well, what about it. It is just flying. The roads here are simply built for it. They must rank as some of the best driving roads in the world. The surface is near perfect, the roads roll and sweep through stunning countryside and coastal wanderings, and, best of all, there is hardly anyone else on the road. To boot, NZ drivers are amongst the most polite in the world. White Van Man and truck drivers ease over as soon as they see you appear behind. Take note Rest of World.

We have had two particularly exceptional drives, one from Cape Reinga , and one from Oponomi to Dargaville, both driving south  -  the sun on our backs, lighting the countryside ahead. 3440ccs of finest Jaguar power effortlessly  floating us along for hours on end. It's just as good as it gets in driving terms.

So now we've turned south, this time hugging the west coast as far as possible. We had been warned many times about the huge difficulties in driving around Auckland,  due to major traffic hold ups. Stories of daily  2 to 3 hours abounded.  Take a look at a map, and you'll see that there is a pinch point  where there are just 2 roads that cross the narrow land between the Tasman Sea and The Pacific Ocean. However, all these doubting Thomas's didn’t reckon on my having a star navigator. Pounding the maps, we wove an intricate  pattern through suburban back streets, shopping malls and playgrounds  etc., and lo and behold found ourselves south of Auckland in a jiffy. Traffic jams  -  pah!!

The further south we travelled, we entered a region of extinct  and live volcanoes, which begs the question of how you are supposed to recognise the difference ? At one stage we were travelling along a coastal road, with the ocean on one side and cows grazing in the fields on the other, in the shadow of a huge volcano. We idly thought that you could get grass fed, ready salted beef, and, under certain conditions, char grilled !

Jaguar XK120 at the home of the republicA fine drive down the Forgotten World Highway,  with heavily striated hillsides ( backdrop for the Lord of the Rings film ), took us to the Republic of Whangamomona. In 1989 there was a heavily disputed regional boundary issue, so 3 blokes in a pub decided to set up a Republic,  and you can actually  have your passport stamped there.

So that's  pretty much North Island  done. The weather, the scenery, the driving have been top notch. Every moment has been memorable  -  right down to last night when we saw the local burger establishment offering their top seller  - ' The Big Bastard  ' !

Phillip and Yvonne"

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