About John Cooney

John Cooney and his wife Robyn have enjoyed more than their fair share of travel. They hesitate to call themselves ‘experts’ – but they’ve grabbed every chance that’s come their way to explore new countries, cultures and customs. They’ve had the privilege (both on their own and as the leaders of numerous successful group-tours) to sample many stunning destinations: Europe, the UK, Singapore, Vanuatu, the USA, Israel, Egypt, Africa, Dubai, China, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. And their recent (and most pleasant) memories are of the places ancient-and-modern that border the Mediterranean. John and Robyn are at-home in airports, hotels, cruise ships, and the like … and they know how to make the most of a unique travel opportunity. Travel, they reckon, is an all-five-senses experience – a chance to see, feel, smell, hear and taste the world. And they’ve done it often enough to know for sure: sightseeing with a group of laid-back Kiwis is DOUBLE the fun – lots of laughs, great company, and memories that last forever!


Gypsy Jottings #6

“I began to realise how important it was to be an enthusiast in life. If you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it full speed. Embrace it with both arms. Hug it. Love it. And, above all, become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good.” (Roald Dahl)

I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU DID this summer just past (before the rains began). But Robyn and I grabbed a couple of weeks with friends, and enjoyed a leisurely motorhome meander through Hawkes Bay and the Wairarapa.

  • We sunned ourselves (when the wind wasn’t blowing) down the southeast coast of the North Island – at choice spots (like Te Awanga, Kairakau, Porangahau, Castle Point and Cape Palliser).
  • We did some serious bird-spotting at Cape Kidnappers and Mt Bruce.
  • We spent a reflective moment in the tiny town of Tinui (site of the world’s first Anzac Day Service in 1916).
  • We took photos of the metres-long road-sign and tried in vain to pronounce the world’s second longest place-name: ‘Taumatawhakatangihanga …’ etc etc etc – loosely translated as “the place where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, who slid, climbed and swallowed mountains, known as ‘landeater’, played his flute to his loved one.” (Phew!)
  • We drank coffee, walked streets, sampled history and soaked up ambience in one small town after another (like Waipawa, Waipukurau, Dannevirke, Eketahuna, Masterton, Carterton, Greytown, Featherston, Martinborough).
  • I devoured a novel about the 100 Years War (1300s and 1400s), savagely fought between the English and French.
  • We took in two heart-warming movies (grab the DVD if you haven’t seen them already): Collateral Beauty – which reviewers hated but we all loved, featuring Will Smith, Keira Knightley, Kate Winslet, Helen Mirren … and Lion – the scary, wonderful, tearful, hopeful, real-world story of a little lost boy, Saroo.
  • And, in one historic main street, we gazed in astonishment at a giant eucalyptus tree …

YES, I’VE SEEN TREES THAT WERE older and bigger. But it was this tree’s STORY that caught my attention. You see, back in 1856, Wairarapa settler, Samuel Oates, spent three exhausting days lugging a wheelbarrow full of goods and gum-tree seedlings all the way from Wellington. On the way, pushing that old wheelbarrow, he walked up and over a mountainous dirt track through the treacherous Rimutakas. And one of those seedlings survived.

Today that gum-tree still stands, mighty and massive, in front of St Luke’s Anglican Church, Greytown. An amazing sight, for sure … and an equally amazing story!

We read similar stories beneath faded photos on walls and in museums throughout this vast east-of-Wellington region. And I was forced to concede that the early immigrants, the men and women who turned this untamed wilderness into what it eventually became, were tough and committed and courageous. They weren’t scared of hard work. And the principle they operated on seemed to be: Nothing worth doing is ever achieved without effort and sacrifice!

Worth remembering, eh?


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Gypsy Jottings #5

“Bravery and adventure! That’s the ticket! Don’t sit and gather moss. Get up, get out, do what you dream of doing. And if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, and you don’t need to make that particular mistake again. But at least you won’t get old wondering what if you had.” (Garrison Keillor)

It was 18 months ago that we took the plunge and embarked on this gypsy adventure … 18 months ago that we traded our four-bedroom suburban house for a handsome 9-metre-long TrailLite … 18 months ago that we joined other Kiwi nomads, roaming the highways and byways of Godzone, and having the time of our lives.

It’s hard to describe the sense of freedom we feel each time the big diesel roars into life and, with a grin and a high-five, we rumble off on yet another adventure. It’s hard to miss the stressful can’t-stop-now-gotta-go rush, plus the mind-numbing traffic hold-ups that we previously took for granted. And it’s hard to remember all the oh-my-gosh highlights we’ve encountered thus far in New Zealand’s nifty nooks and crannies. We’ve already explored selected bits of this gorgeous country – Northland, East Cape, the South Island’s stunning West Coast – and could do it all again tomorrow, we’ve had so much fun!

But, in between our more serious expeditions, we’ve also enjoyed heaps of shorter stopovers, one-nighters and longish weekends in places that deserve a mention. Like what? Well, like the Paeroa and the Highland Tattoo … the oh-so-lovely Taranaki Coast … Whanganui, Ohakune and spectacular National Park … rural Waiuku, where we park up with family and catch up with friends … Whangamata and the Coromandel, which we return to again and again … and the North Wellington/Wairarapa region, which we eyeballed this year for the first (not the last) time.

Here, for the record (and at the risk of boring you silly), are some random pix from those in-between moments over the past 18 months. (Hold the cursor over a photo to check where it was taken. Click on it to enlarge.) Enjoy …


P.S. If you’d like to respond by ‘posting’ us a note or question, idea or suggestion, just click on the little speech bubble at the top of this entry, and add your message! (Make sure you say who it’s from.) And if you want to receive future ‘Gypsy Jottings’ in your INBOX, just sign-up (top-right) for your free Email Subscription!



West Coast & Mt Cook: photo-diary

(Jan/Feb 2016)

Franz Joseph Glacier – Fox Glacier – Haast Pass – Mt Cook – Lake Hawea – Wanaka – Mt Cook – Lake Tekapo


Opotiki to the Cape: photo-diary

(December 2015)