Your daily blogger is getting a bit tired (I need a day off!) and this post may be shorter than normal. The day started with an impromptu Tech Session on Arthur & LeRae’s Healey that wouldn’t start. After looking under the bonnet (hood), it was apparent that the distributor was soaked from the overnight rain due to the louvers they had in their hood. With Terry’s guidance, Arthur dried off the ignition wires and distributor and a bit of WD40 sprayed inside the distributor did the trick…the car started right away.
This is the first day in over a week that we didn’t have to be somewhere at a particular time, so we had a leisurely morning and departure from Cambridge to Jenner Cargo in Auckland. We packed the cars and then headed out to a breakfast café not too far from the motel. Following breakfast, the ladies went shopping in town, for those last NZ trinkets and gifts, and the guys went to a garage where a Bugeye Sprite was being restored (at an MG garage). We then looped back and retrieved the ladies and headed on to the Auckland airport cargo area, where Jenner Cargo is located.
Traffic through Cambridge and Hamilton was busy, as it was when we approached Auckland about an hour and half later. We had intermittent rain on the 140 KM trip, and arrived there about 1:30 PM. We all set about unloading the cars, transferring luggage and repacking those items we were taking home with us on the flight and other stuff going home in the car. Most of us pulled out our Healey carpets and hung them to dry out, which were pretty wet after all the rain we encountered. We hired Jenner Cargo to load and tie down the Healeys, which we were all in favor of…it’s a lot of work. We had previously said goodbye to Peter & Alexandra and Steve & Nancy, who had previously driven their rental back to the airport for their flight home. We also said out goodbyes to Arthur & LeRae, who were flying out this evening also.
After all the luggage transfer and car prep was completed, the reminder of us headed out in taxis to the Barclay Hotel for our farewell dinner this evening and last night in Auckland.
We walked down to the Hilton by the wharf for dinner. We had a delightful fish dinner and discussed the events and experiences over the past two weeks here in New Zealand. Definitely, a place to visit again…but maybe not in a Healey. The roads and weather took a toll on these old cars (and drivers!) and I have a punch list of about a dozen repairs I’ll have to do upon my return!
This was a travel day, as we had over 250 miles to travel…on the road again, as the song goes.
Winter has set in a little early in NZ. We had strong winds when departing Wellington yesterday. This must have been the calm before the real storm, as about 3:30 AM I woke up to swirling wind and heavy rain. I was lying there in bed wondering how much water is getting inside these British soft-top sports cars and if they’ll start in the morning. The rain and wind continued until dawn…and I suppose I dozed but never really slept well thereafter. However, it could have been worse, as I sit here watching the evening news, it snowed today in the alpine passes on the south island and Queenstown…where we were a few days ago! Last I checked, chains don’t work too well on Healeys!
At 8 AM, the men answered the bell and gathered in the parking lot for our trip to a nearby car museum, the Southward Car museum. Steve had managed that they open the museum early that day for our group. It was very interesting, and contained a good assortment of automobile, bicycle and motorcycles and associated paraphernalia. We spent about and hour and a half there and returned to the motel to collect the ladies and hit the road for Cambridge.
The drive was long and trying, with wind and rain most of the day. It was especially difficult for Ed and Abbe, as their windshield wipers weren’t working. Each time we thought we were driving out of the storm, it caught up and surrounded us again. This front must have been the entire length of the north island, as we never really drove out of it. It’s past 10 PM as I write this post and it is still raining. The only sun we really saw today was when we were heading due west near Cambridge at sunset with the bright sun in our eyes.
We stopped for lunch and shopping in a small town about 1PM. It rained hard most of the time we were there and several of us got soaked…especially Bob trying to secure his malfunctioning side curtain. If you think it’s impossible to change clothes in a Healey, you had better consult with Bob! My big (and about only) purchase of the trip, other than food, motels, fuel, cocktails, etc. was an ammo can, which will make an excellent tool box!
After lunch, we motored on, eventually passing by beautiful Lake Taupo. This lake is similar to Lake Tahoe, and is the caldera of an extinct volcano. Along the way we saw a few beautiful rainbows.
Once we arrived at our motel in Cambridge about 5:30 PM, we were pleasantly surprised with the excellent accommodations, one of the best of the tour. After checking in and settling in, we had a brief cocktail hour and headed off in cabs to an Italian restaurant in town, where we had a very nice meal.
Tomorrow is the last full day of the tour, as we head for Auckland and the cargo depot to drop off and load the Healeys for the return voyage home.
Ed decided to put his top down but the rest of us left them up. We stopped in town for a fast breakfast in town before departing. Then, we hit the road for Picton and the ferry terminal, driving through high winds.
About half way, we stopped at the Yealands winery, one of the largest in NZ. Even though it was before noon on a Sunday, they treated us to a wine tasting and video of the wine producing operations and the vineyard.
When we exited the tasting room, it looked like Cars & Coffee outside, rather Cars & Wine, as about 15 other classic cars had arrived, mostly Jowetts (British cars made in the late 40’s and early 50’s. So, we kicked tires a bit with the Jowett owners, one even from Huntington Beach, CA.
We were then allowed to drive through the vineyard along a circular gravel road, which goes for several miles. We had some spectacular views and took lots of photos. Small sheep and chickens were loose in the vineyard, which help keep the grass low. The chickens were very friendly, and greeted each car that went by!
We then headed another 30 miles or so to Picton, driving through high winds again, and headed to the ferry terminal for the 2 PM ferry to Wellington. There, we reunited with Arthur & LeRae, who had went on ahead of us this morning to rendezvous with the NZ club member who had got their Healy brakes repaired. We’re now back to 6 Healeys again in the group!
The ferry ride out of Picton was smooth and relatively clear. Going through the channel leaving Picton is always interesting. We were up on deck in shirtsleeves observing the exit out to the Cook Straights. On the ferry, we had lunch and some people snoozed, while others were writing blogs!
While nearing Wellington, we encountered high winds again…typical for this city. We said our goodbyes with Mark Donaldson and Jan McLaren, whom we became fast friends with here in NZ. We exited the ferry terminal and headed out of Wellington, about dusk. We headed north on the west coast to Paraparaumu.
Dinner tonight was at the only restaurant open on a Sunday night, one that Steve convinced to stay open beyond their normal closing time to serve us. We arrived a little late after going around in circles trying to find the place…the Waterfront Brasserie. We had a nice dinner and celebrated Peter’s birthday.
The theme for today is “On the Road Again”. Since we had a long travel day, we departed Omaru at 8AM, headed north on the east coast of the south island to Kiakoura. Instead of going on Route 1, on the coast, we opted for the inland “scenic route”. Had the weather been better, I’m sure it would have been spectacular. Instead, we had a low overcast that diminished much of the scenery. We had a good drive nonetheless, going about 275 miles (458 KM). Fortunately, we had little actual rain…just a little mist.
Our first stop, for breakfast, was in a small town called Geraldine, at about 9:30. We had out best breakfast of the trip at a small café in town. We also visited with a few Kiwis who gathered outside to admire our cars, asking question after question. I’m sure they’re wondering why these crazy Yanks travelled thousands of miles, with their cars, to tour New Zealand. It’s interesting that most people here know and have fond memories of Austin Healeys, while in the U.S., most people don’t know what they are…at home, we often are asked “what kind of MG is that”?
Geraldine was like many other NZ towns or villages that have a monument to the fallen soldiers in WWI and WWII. These are nice tributes to those who sacrificed their lives for others. Most of the towns also have a cemetery on the main road into town with Celtic crosses displayed. This part of the south island has a very strong Scottish influence…many of the township and area names are of Scottish derivation. There is even a place called “Scroggs Hill” down near Dunedin!
After Geraldine, we motored on north to Oxford, where we had lunch. Our planned restaurant, Café 51, was too busy to handle us, so we found another, and better, place to eat. Oxford, like many of the NZ towns remind me of years gone by… simpler times of our youth in the 50’s and 60’s. After lunch, we continued on to Amberley, where we stopped for fuel. We then continued on to Kiakoura, a beach city that reminded us of the Monterey Cannery area of an era about 50 years ago.
The weather sure changes fast in NZ! We had a fairly clear afternoon in Queenstown yesterday and it was a spectacular clear there last night. The “Southern Cross” was clearly visible in the dark night sky. Today, we awoke to a low overcast and rain, in fact, the weather report said that most of NZ was covered in clouds, both the north and south islands.
We headed out of Queenstown about 9AM, headed east out of the mountains. After about an hour, we stopped at the Highlands Motor Park, where the guys went through the museum of cars and a couple laps on the racetrack in their Healeys and the women visited the gift shop. The women were going to do a wine tour at a facility nearby but decided against it…too early in the day.
After a 40 minute visit, we continued our day’s journey. We stopped for fuel and lunch about 12;30. After about and hour’s break, we headed on through Omarama and then on to Oamaru, arriving at about 3:30PM.
For dinner, we met up with the NZ Healey club members we were touring with prior to our side trip to Queenstown. We will be departing most of them tomorrow, as we head up the east coast to our eventful ferry crossing back to the north island and Wellington.
Fortunately, the cars ran well today and the group had no mechanical problems…let’s hope that continues for the remainder of the tour!
When we started this Healey adventure, little did I know how exciting it would be…not necessarily always positive. The outcome was positive but the adventure today was one that Kathy and I never wish to repeat. We departed Haast on what looked like a beautiful day, chilly but sunny with partial cloudy conditions. Today, we headed from the west coast through their “alps” to the mountain lake city of Queenstown. We put the top, or “hood” down and departed about 9AM.
Before I describe the exciting part, let me digress a bit and describe the roads on the south island. They are mostly state highways, on the west coast or the east coast and a few that go through the mountains to the other. Because of the mountains, there a lot of rivers and creeks that run down the mountains to the sea. Due to the sheer number of them, the New Zealanders saved a lot of money building bridges by making some of them one-way on two-way highways. As you approach these one-way bridges, there are markers that tell you who has the right of way, and traffic each way must observe these signs and either stop, sometimes abruptly, or proceed over the bridge.
Well, about 30 minutes into our drive through the mountains, Kathy and I came around a pretty sharp corner and the three Healeys ahead of us were stopped before a one-way bridge (Roaring Swine Creek) giving way to oncoming traffic and we approached going about 45 MPH. I hit the brakes and the pedal went to the floor…no brakes.
This was one of those moments in life where you make a split second decision and it has a huge affect on your future. In that split second, I figured I had three choices, plow into the Healeys stopped in front of us, turn sharply into the hillside on our right or swerve around the Healeys and head into the one-way bridge with an oncoming car just about over the bridge. I chose the third option and barely threaded our way through, somehow managing to avoid a collision. Now we were traveling across the 100 foot bridge and had to stop at the other end…without any brakes. By then I had recovered some of my wits to downshift and use the hand brake at the other end to slow down enough to do a 360 degree turn at the other end and slide to a stop going the wrong way on the side of the road.
After sitting there with our hearts in our stomachs, the rest of the group crossed the bridge and stopped to assist. Kathy and I just sat there for a few moments recovering ourselves while adrenalin pumped through our bodies. I wish I had a video that captured this out-of-body experience. Maybe I should get a helmet cam and wear it on our sports car tours?
The group gathered to see how we were, and we began determining what to do. Terry quickly determined that the brake problem was the right rear wheel, most probably the wheel brake cylinder. Kathy and I insisted that the group go on and we would stay behind and deal with the problem. Thankfully, Ed came to our rescue again. He went back to Haast and got a tow truck to come collect us…again, two days in a row!
Once we got back to Haast, we lucked out again, as the garage had a very competent mechanic, Amon, who picked us up with the trailer. He put the Healey on the hoist and immediately we saw the problem…the right rear hydraulic hose ruptured and sprayed fluid out onto the inside of the wheel, which initially looked like a wheel cylinder failure (which may have been caused by improper repairs on the previous day). Amon had an old English Ford in his shop yard that he used as a parts car. After he cannibalized a brake hose from this car, he adroitly machined the connecter on his lathe and installed it on the Healey. After adding brake fluid and bleeding the brakes, we were off after a delay of about 2 ½ hours, not including towing time.
The rest of the group had proceeded towards Queenstown with one car museum stop for the men and shopping for the women, followed by lunch. Once we got going again, we powered right through and arrived at Queenstown only a half an hour later. The group was again reunited!
We had special plans for Queenstown…a river cruise across the lake to a restaurant and sheep farm. We had a delightful dinner followed by a demonstration of dogs herding the sheep according to the sheepherder’s verbal instruction and a demonstration of sheering a sheep.
I am sitting here writing this portion of the blog on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere with what we think is a bad fuel pump…Lucas bites again! We departed Greymouth this morning about 8AM with a long day of driving and sightseeing ahead. We stopped for a coffee break and a quick morning snack in Hokitika. Shortly after leaving there, we stopped for a quick potty break about the town of Ross when we noticed that Bob’s car was overheating. Terry looked at the car and determined that it was either the radiator cap, thermostat, or something more serious, like a blown head gasket. We replaced the radiator cap with a spare, refilled the radiator and ventured on. It wasn’t too far on that it began overheating again and we stopped to do more serious repairs. This time, Terry removed the thermostat and we again refilled the radiator and ventured on.
Not too far beyond, with Steve, Terry and Bob’s cars ahead, my Healey lost power while underway, with what I expected was a fuel problem. We pulled off the road and after a bit of roadside diagnostics, we isolated the problem to the fuel pump. Of course, I didn’t have a spare one, and the only spare one I knew of went ahead with the other three cars. The group was now split up…some ahead and some behind. Fortunately, Ed went ahead to the next town to see if he could get a tow truck to help out. He came back about an hour later and said that a truck was on the way. Ed took Kathy ahead to the next town to wait with Abbe at the Full of Beans café. It is now 2:15 in the afternoon and I’m still roadside waiting for the tow truck. Hopefully, we can get on to the next town and find someone who can help out with the repairs and maybe find lodging for the night.
After a 2 ½ hour wait, a young man named Ben drove up in a tow truck, and I was very happy to see him. He had come from Fox Glacier about 45 minutes south. After loading the Healey aboard, we headed south to the next town and picked up Kathy at the Full of Beans. We, with the Neumeyers in their Healey, proceeded on to Fox Glacier. Waiting for us in town were Terry and Steve, thankfully, with a backup fuel pump. They then proceeded on and Ed & Abbe stayed on with us.
Once we arrived at the garage, and confirmed that the problem was the fuel pump, Ben and his dad Clarke began installing the new one. After about an hour and a half, they completed the installation and we were on to Haast about 6PM. It was almost dark by then and we drove through the most unbelievable sunset. We missed out on the sights of the day because of the weather and the Healey problems, but arrived safe at the hotel in Haast a little before 8PM. We rejoined the group in the restaurant & bar and had a late but very good dinner.