Week Four of the #TandemTA tour of New Zealand begins in the South Island with 110km from Picton to Nelson.

Today, it really is just photographs. 110km from Picton to Nelson, and completed with elegant pizzaz…. Though scroll to the bottom and there are some words too…

Daisy, working hard up Queen Charlotte Drive out of PIcton

Daisy, and Jutta, working hard up Queen Charlotte Drive out of PIcton

Boat houses near Anakiwa on Queen Charlotte Sound

Boat houses near Anakiwa on Queen Charlotte Sound

The Kiwis love their post boxes.

The Kiwis love their post boxes.

What a view! Certainly beats Swindon, whence Lesley and Andy Pincombe moved nearly a decade ago to here overlooking Queen Charlotte Sound just West of Picton in NZ.

What a view! Certainly beats Swindon, whence Lesley and Andy Pincombe moved nearly a decade ago to here overlooking Queen Charlotte Sound just West of Picton in NZ.

Queen Charlotte Sound, looking north-east towards Picton.

Queen Charlotte Sound, looking north-east towards Picton.

General Havelock, one of Queen Victoria's most successful colonialists, left his name scattered all over the Empire, including NZ and our own home road in Sheringham.

General Havelock, one of Queen Victoria’s most successful colonialists, left his name scattered all over the Empire, including NZ and our own home road in Sheringham.

The road to Nelson.

The road to Nelson.

Negotiating Daisy over rocks onto a wonderful abandoned road through the forests into Nelson.

Negotiating Daisy over rocks onto a wonderful abandoned road through the forests into Nelson.

The old, abandoned road through the mountains from Picton to Nelson - quite the most delightful late-afternoon ride.

The old, abandoned road through the mountains from Picton to Nelson – quite the most delightful late-afternoon ride.

One high and cold road.

One high and cold road.

Starting into week four of our ‪#‎TandemTA‬ tour of New Zealand, the South Island has immediately thrilled with stunning views of Queen Charlotte Sound, and of the mountains from Picton to Nelson where we’ve landed brilliantly with some Warmshowers Kiwi colleagues, veterans of their own recent seven-month bike tour through Turkey, the Balkans and Western Europe.

A cool (literally, as the evening turned mighty chilly) 110km today. We started early from an overnight at the Top10 holiday park in the ferry port of Picton, through Anakiwa where we called on friends Lesley and Andy Pincombe with what has to be the most brilliant view of anyone we know from their front-or-house gazebo.

All illustrated in the attached pix, and then it was on to Havelock (yes, we live in Havelock Rd in Sheringham!) and up the Rai valley and a couple of mega-climbs easily mastered by now over to the West and the coast north of Nelson.

Katie Brayne and Carmela Snooks are hot on our heels on their Tour Aotearoa, and after seven days on the road already south of Matamata which Jutta and I took nearly two weeks to reach. Well done girls!

Also, we remain a fair way short of our ambitious, perhaps overly so, target of £3000 for the Rory Peck Trust, so feel free to share our appeal for sponsorship with anyone who might be tempted to chip in.

Kiwis Rock – Daisy’s Wheel is Back in Action, and South Island Awaits

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Leaving Wellington to the South on the Interislander ferry, with the port in the distance. Note the two gigantic, (obscene?) cruise ships tied up in dock.

With enormous thanks to Owen Hughes of Dirt Merchants in Wellington for a Saturday evening wheel rebuild, to Chris Hubbard of Pure Sports for the Rohloff spokes, and to Cameron Burnell and Kim Bonnington for lifts, food, music and two lovely overnights, Daisy is BACK ON THE ROAD, and we’re on our way on the ferry and on time to New Zealand’s South Island.

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Owen Hughes, master wheel builder, of Dirt Merchants in Wellington, with Daisy’s rear wheel on the fine-tuning rack.

Owen didn’t even want to take any payment for a two-and-a-half hour complete wheel rebuild last night.

Wow – Kiwis rock.

Needless to say, we didn’t leave Owen unrewarded for his generosity, so with Daisy once again in fine fettle (couple of new cables, grease and oil applied where necessary, as well as 32 bright and shiny new spokes), a couple of notes changed hands.

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Cameron (Dusty) and Kim, with Jutta outside the amazing Salty Pidgin restaurant in Brooklyn, Wellington, NZ. Note the typically amusing Kiwi sign – this way nice beers, food etc. That way, to the right, scary real life. Only in NZ.

Add to that Kim’s and Cameron’s kindness in feeding and housing and rescuing us from the roadside on Friday with our busted back wheel, we leave the North Island with the warmest feelings towards this country and its folk.

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All assembled to say farewell at chateau DustyAndKim in Wellington. Thanks guys for an awesome welcome.

And (beware bad puns ahead) talking of folk, and of notes, though not of rock….

Alongside his day job as news photographer, Cameron – or Dusty as most know him – is NZ’s best player of the folk mandolin, and while we were a’wheel building, he and Kim were at a gig in Wellington with visiting global banjo superstar young Dan Walsh from the UK, current nominee for the BBC’s Radio Two folk musician of the year.

As the magic would have it, Dan was also staying with us at chateau KimAndDusty, so when we all returned late of the evening, Jutta and I were treated to a late-night post-gig impromptu kitchen concert with Dan, Cameron and Kim, and their amazing guitarist Frank Burkitt.

Another Wow – accompanied, it might be added, by liberal lashings of Dusty’s favourite whisky.

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Walking Daisy onto the ferry to the South Island. Rail tracks to be carefully avoided, having come horribly to grief in tram versions of same in East Germany in 1979 on DaisyOne.

So, back to the cycling, we now have more than 1200km and nearly three weeks behind us, and from tomorrow Monday we set about tackling the same distance again plus a bit, down through the South Island and along its dramatic West Coast and back across the Southern Alps (BIG pass coming) through Wanaka and Queenstown to Bluff.

Our version of the Tour Aotearoa looks like falling just a little short of the full 3000km, as we take tandem-friendly sealed-road shortcuts round the gravelly, narrow and overly steep bits, though in the South’s more benign terrain (long slow rises and falls rather than the shorter but relentless and incessant ups and downs of the North) we’re hoping to hew a little more closely to the official route.

We are now being overtaken fairly regularly by the cycling die-hards doing the full tour including all the mountain-bike trails, and travelling faster, lighter, and all of them a good deal younger than us.

But with Daisy now set reliably (we hope) for the rest of the trip, we’re having the time of our lives, and look forward to both hills and downhills, and to being caught up by Katie and Mela as we head into the second half our #TandemTA adventure.

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MB working away with Owen Hughes on Saturday night, repairing cables and (Owen for this bit) respoking a whole new back wheel.

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Wellington is HILLY. Today’s easy coast down the slope from Brooklyn into town and the Interislander Ferry.

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Sharing the ferry’s Rail Deck with railway trucks.

Best laid plans? Busted spokes prompt back wheel rebuild in Wellington

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If we had to break down on this trip – and with the old spokes, it was pretty much inevitable – it couldn’t have happened at a better spot, with Wellington, bike repair experts and friends within a little more than an hour’s drive.

Nearly three weeks into our Tandem Tour the length of New Zealand, we’ve had to call in some helpful friends with a van, and take a day out from pedalling, to get our rear wheel completely rebuilt after blowing four – FOUR! – spokes yesterday as we approached the capital Wellington.

And it would have been the most gorgeous evening ride, 1200km into our journey now and after nearly 25,000 total feet climbed…

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The offending broken spokes. Daisy’s first breakdown.

We’d had the back wheel rebuilt with a new rim before setting off from the UK at the beginning of the month, and I was a tad surprised at the time to find that our lovely bike mechanic in Sheringham had reused most of the spokes from the old wheel.

“No worries,” he and his fellow bike-building Dad replied when I wondered whether that was wise. “We do this all the time, and have never had any problems.”

Well, they hadn’t rebuilt a tandem wheel before with a Rohloff 14-speed integrated hub, and the most massively tensioned short spokes – and as Greg replied in a very apologetic text, a tandem’s loading has been the ultimate test of their system.

And I guess they won’t use old spokes again!

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Loading Daisy into Kim and Dusty’s people carrier

Many thanks to awesome Kiwi country music star Cameron Dusty Burnell (our daughter Katie’s wedding photographer in 2014) and his singing partner Kim Bonnington for rescuing us from the side of the road.

Thanks too for a couple of nights housing in Wellington while we have found spokes and wheelbuilder – both now achieved, with anticipatory thanks to Chris Hadden for the Rohloff bits, and to Owen Hughes of Dirt Merchants for opening up his store this evening just to rebuild our wheel.

So, tomorrow Sunday we’re moving again, though first on a ferry to the South Island, ready to restart pedalling on Monday.

All going brilliantly otherwise, and both of us are feeling thoroughly fit and loving the open air and the distances.

Many thanks to those who are following us, and especially if you’ve made a donation to the Rory Peck Trust – where we’ve still got a way to go to our target of £3000. Donation button at the top of the page!

And, as ever, let the photos speak for themselves.

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Chocoholics of the world unite…. And on a bike, the calories get worked off.

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Packing up the tent and gear at Eketahuna campsite.

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Eketahuna’s rather oversize Kiwi

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And avoid blasting all that washing with dust as you drive past

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Amazing coach-builders Greg and Ali Lang, encountered on the journey, rebuilding old trams and railway carriages.

125km in one day, and hilliest ride ever! Day17 of #TandemTourTA of NZ, from Mangaweka to Palmerston North

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Daisy, gorgeous, and the gorges of southern North Island.

My goodness me, that was one hilly, long, hard-working, but utterly brilliant cycling day.

From Mangaweka on State Highway One with all its lorries, off east into deepest North Island back country along the official Tour Aotearoa route along which Katie and Mela and the other 300 registered riders will be coming in a few days’ time.

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We lift up our eyes unto the hills, whither ebbeth our strength. 

Jutta and I tandemed 240km in one day through East Germany from West Berlin to the West in 1979, but that was nearly 40 years ago, we were a LOT younger and stronger – and yesterday at half the length but much more height (North Germany is flat!) was pretty much up there with that experience.

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The hills, the hills.

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Backroads clinging to the sides of the gorges near Mangaweka

We’ve now reached Palmerston North, three riding days short of Wellington at the bottom of the North Islsand, and need to nip into the Kathmandu sporting shop this morning to buy a new raintop, after the failure of my Goretex – which proved to still be leaking nastily when I tested it under the shower this morning after its Mangaweka makeover.

Fellow therapist Shawn reminds me that these things have a lifetime guaranteee, so, hello Goretex, one jacket coming back your way for replacement in the spring.

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New Zealand has many of these delightful old steel-girder bridges, often rail but this one road. Cliffs too…

Former BBC colleague Malcolm Brabant asked on Facebook if a tandem, in effect with two to power it and only one wind-resistance, was faster than a single bike.

The answer is yes and no – slower for the bloke as skipper. On my identical Thorn Bikes solo, I average, with the same load, 10mph or so, unless it’s mega-hilly. On the tandem, we average perhaps one or two miles an hour less (fewer?) – but if I’m going slower, Jutta is most definitely going faster than she would on a solo.

Some can do it, like Steve and Annette our delightful cycling hosts in Auckland who visited us in the UK on two solos last summer. But Jutta and I are undoubtedly a better travelling partnership on one bike.

My favourite comment about what tandeming does for a partnership? As well as getting you both fit, it will quite simply drive your relationship further in the direction it is already travelling.

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Noisy little things, these bugs. Chirping away and clicking their legs. Can anyone tell us what they are?

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Jutta showing how crickets use their wing cases to make that clicking noise.

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Windfarms overlooking Palmerston North

As ever, this is a lighthearted blog – we’re enjoying taking a break from the drama and emotional work that comes with weekly psychotherapy, and the journeying up and down to London.

But let me conclude today’s entry with a sad farewell to a long-standing client, a young man who’d had a tough life, but in therapy really began to sort himself out in a most warming and indeed inspiring way, learning to taking responsibility for himself in the here and now.

Fourteen months ago he was diagnosed with an incurable form of cancer, and since then, we’ve in effect (talking weekly for our usual hour, often on the phone or Skype, as he loved Spain) been preparing for his death.

As Jutta and I packed up to leave the UK for these two tandeming months to Easter, my client and I pretty much knew we would not see each other again.

As therapists, we offer a professional service, of course, but the relationships we build with our clients can run very deep.

So before leaving for New Zealand, I decided to drive down to this young man’s home town to say goodbye – while of course still hoping as we both did that, despite the doctors’ advice that he would be unlikely to make it beyond March, his fortunes would turn.

Three weeks later, this last weekend, I heard that, yes, his time came on Sunday.

Therapy, and the EMDR about which I am so passionate and which changed this young man’s life, can be an extraordinary journey. So from one traveller to another now departed, thanks for letting me join you for a while.

Off NZ Central Plateau, and Cooking in a Hot Tub.

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I know the Maoris were said in very early times to have cooked visiting missionaries for consumption, but I didn’t think they were still doing it!

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And this is what the setting is, with logs burning underneath, axe perhaps to ward off unwanted visitors, and sans naked European…

Quite the most eccentric Air BnB place we’ve ever stayed at, with thanks to Lucy for her imaginative open-air hot tub at Mangeweka – a 80km wet but exhilarating ride south, largely along National Highway One (NZ’s equivalent of the M1 in the UK), from our previous overnight at Ohakune.

A converted garage, off-grid with its own generator and solar power, and a long-drop toilet out the back. How very New Zealand!
DSC01200We’re hoping to make it a further, long 120km to Palmerston North today (what an odd name for a city…), though after fabulous if challenging climbs and long descents yesterday on Route 1, we’re hoping to take the back roads along the route which legit Tour Aotearoa riders chasing us from the north will be cycling in a few days’ time.

(By the way, Wanganui however pronounced is no longer on our itinerary – we were running out of time to make it to Wellington at the weekend and the ferry across to the South Island, so have chosen not to follow that part of the official Tour Aotearoa,)

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Taking National Route 1 south had its scary moments pedalling along the hard shoulder as ginormous long-distance trucks thundered by a couple of feet away. But surprisingly rewarding – and we’re finding the hard hill-climbing (this is much steeper and longer than it looks) now much easier.

One of the reasons we took Route 1 yesterday rather than any scenic alternative was to get to a bigger city pdq to buy a replacement for my Gortex rain top, which has failed suddenly and quite dramatically – letting yesterday morning’s heavy rain merrily through what I always thought, for £200, was meant to be permanent waterproofing.

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Our morning view of the Central :Plateau scenery on Day 15 of the #TandemTA. Wit wit wit, as the Kiwis say when they mean wet. (Sorry, I promised not to smile about the accent – that one just slipped through.)

Turns out that Goretex gear needs to be washed and tumble-dried to reactivate the water-protection, which our kind hostess is doing for me overnight as I write these early morning lines.

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New Zealand’s transport cafes do serious old-style greasy breakfasts. Nothing better for firing up the muscles for a long hard day’s cycling slog.

The next and final photo for today – Daisy’s daily photo this time has to be the one above with Jutta – is one I couldn’t resist. Hope it makes you smile as much as it did us.

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We smiled. But also think the sign refers to a rather larger set of premises just out of shot.

 

We survived Mount Doom! #TandemTA Tour Aotearoa sails into third week

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The long straight road through the National Park, with Mount Doom in the background

Time again for Jutta to register her stoker’s perspective from Daisy’s back seat…

Yes, we survived Mount Doom and Mordor.

Our bottoms today, at the start of Week Three of our top-to-bottom tour of New Zealand/Aotearoa, anticipated doomsday, with a relentless climb from Turangi at 1200 feet on Lake Taupo up to 3000 feet through Tongariro National Park -Sauron’s domain in Peter Jackson’s filmed version of Lord of the Rings.

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UP into the native forest of New Zealand’s National Park, at the heart of the North Island.

Actually, we managed the relentless inclines slowly but surely over three hours with a few scenic view stops overlooking beautiful Lake Taupo.

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Daisy full steam ahead, with early morning Lake Taupo as a backdrop. Thanks to Peter Wallis, a young Englishman, for taking the photo for us – it’s his simple Chinese folding bike you can see in the picture leaning against the bench. He’s been touring Oz and NZ on this, with the minimum of hit and, at the moment to stop the spokes breaking any more, without even a back brake! Amazing, and well done – though take care…

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Look carefully, and you can see the steam rising from the left of the two summits.

We circled the three majestic volcanoes of New Zealand’s central plateau – Mts Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe, Tongariro – with constant view of volcanoes and volcanic steam. (Thankfully, peacefully contained and no rumblings.)

Yesterday, our pinnacle was 2000 ft. As we were inching our way up with Mark monitoring our progress on his gadget, we turned our tour into a year-by-year personal and political history lesson, e.g. 1915 my father’s birthday, 1956 Hungarian uprising, 1974 meeting each other in Moscow, etc.

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Clever prop for Daisy, allowing us to enjoy lunch today without her falling over.

We also reflect at times on the similarities between life and cycling, such as having to be in the moment, enjoying the perks, accepting whatever presents itself and dealing with whatever arises as and when.

So, that begs the question, what’s the difference between life and cycling?

After nearly 900 km I have it on authority:  when you’re cycling, it’s fabulous to be going downhill!

What’s really lovely about travelling in New Zealand is their partiality to mineral spas. Apart from municipal ones many holiday parks in this volcanic part of the country include mineral pools or baths, which we relish at the end of our cycling days.

Tomorrow will be another 90 km or so day towards, perhaps, Wanganui – despite what Mark wrote a couple of days ago, the town is written and pronounced like that, while the river and the region are called Whanganui pronounced Funganui. Even the Kiwis get confused.

Though, on reflection, we may cut the corner and head instead south-east towards the official Tour Aotearoa tracks – where, by the way, the organisers have now posted some fabulous video of the departure from Cape Reinga, where we set off two weeks ago, of the first batch of official TA riders.

No doubt they’ll catch us up in the twinkling of an eye.

Back to tomorrow, there is no need to consult a crystal ball as to what the day will bring. The beautifully hilly countryside around us tells me that it will be another day of up and up we go.

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Daisy in shadow profile – she has the last word, of course.

End of Week Two of #Tandem TA Tour Aotearoa, on Lake Taupo at Turangi

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Our first glimpse from the Western Access Road of Lake Taupo – triumph at 2000 feet.

Just 60km today, from Tihoi to Turangi, but we did it in style – gently, powerfully, enjoyably, with inspiration and fun. Despite/because of the hard work.

It was as far as we wanted to go, knowing that a big 90-km ride awaits us on Monday morning, first day of Week Three on the Tandem Tour Aotearoa, as we grind up into and through the Tongariro National Park, around one of  New Zealand’s biggest volcanoes of the same name.

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The view down over Lake Taupo from nearly-Turangi. One weary but pleased stoker.

We’re nearly 800 km into the ride now, and after re-oiling Daisy’s  salt-compromised gear cables for her fabulous Rohloff 14-speed integrated SpeedHub (there are NONE better – ask any long-distance cyclist), the tandem is behaving almost as well as her riders.

We’re keeping in close touch with our daughter Katie and partner Mela (fund-raising for a Kiwi young people’s cancer charity), as they await their own start on the TA on Tuesday from Cape Reinga.

They’re among 300 officially-registered riders from NZ and abroad doing the proper tour, including all the difficult off-road mountain-bikey bits we’ve had to avoid because of our weight and length.

Also, as you can see below, Katie’s bike is much more delicately loaded than Daisy, and just admire those 29-inch wheels! Kat's bike

As ever, as to our own 14th day on the road, let the pictures and the captions speak for themselves – and thanks to many friends and colleagues for the enthusiastic comments on how much they’re enjoying travelling vicariously.

Note, however, that just reading this blog does nothing for your thighs. You have to do the trip to get the effect…

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Volcanic hotpools at Tokaanu – these ones at boiling point, but the customer-friendly ones a delightful 40 degrees or so – our third natural springs hotpool experience of the trip so far.

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They clearly don’t only play rugby in New Zealand. A cricket match spied from above from a winding Lake Taupo road. Note how the boundary is where the grass isn’t mowed. Neat.

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Mark wearing his official Tour Aotearoa Merino cycling top, with thumbnail map of New Zealand positioned right on the nipple. Curious lighting effect – and I thought I was losing weight on this trip. Approaching the junction off the Western Access Road that takes us left and east to Turangi.

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We get through a LOT of this stuff. Up to eight half-litre bottles a day between us. Means carrying a lot of watery extra weight, as there are virtually no cafes or rest stops on the way where one can buy a drink. Photo also illustrating the excellent Western Access Road along Lake Taupo, cut through the contours to give bicycles a most friendly set of gradients, even if some go on for ever.

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More typical North Island riding.

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Proudly boiling our first pot of water for cups of tea at last night’s camping spot. A lot of weight to carry for the return on investment, but worth it.

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Typical central North Island upland pastures. Daisy proudly at home by now – her picture to round off today’s report.