It's good to get out of town once in a while, even if it's sometimes hazardous.

On two occasions recently, the Manawatu Gorge collapsed on the road within days of us hauling our caravan through.

We should have stopped and taken photos, because it looks like the scenic gorge road may be closed for good, although I think they should explore the idea of building a concrete tunnel with a sloping roof through that section -- think of the savings in carbon emissions by going through the gorge instead of over the top.

Read more: First the snow, now slip closes central North Island highway
Weather forecast: 1000 still without power in Taihape, rain and wind to go on in many areas


Last week, we ventured out to Wellington and into the teeth of a southerly storm. We were passing through Waikanae when we heard on the car radio that there had been a rockfall in the Ngauranga Gorge.

We diverted over the hill at Paekakariki and arrived in the capital about the same time as the storm.

Talk about Windy Wellington ... going out on foot meant sheltering back from the corner with a huddle of locals in coats and hats as a cold wind knifed past.

Eventually that became too unpleasant and, with the windscreen wipers on full blast, we ventured into the city centre. The good thing was that, for once, there were plenty of available car parks.

In the best of times, a bookshop is a good place to shelter from the storms of the world, and in Unity Books I found Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist (2017) by Paul Kingsnorth.

The book was a collection of essays and I read A Crisis of Bigness while sheltering inside, as outside the driving rain was turning into hail.

Kingsnorth, in turn, was quoting Leopold Kohr in The Breakdown of Nations (1957).

"Kohr's claim was that society's problems were not caused by particular forms of social or economic organisation, but their size. Socialism, capitalism, democracy, monarchy -- all could work well on what he called 'the human scale': a scale at which people could play a part in the systems that governed their lives. But once scaled up to the level of modern states, all systems became oppressors," Kingsnorth paraphrased.

I bought Kingsnorth and made a mental note to read Kohr because of the resonance with my "millisphere" human geography model -- a millisphere being "a discrete region containing roughly 1000th of the total world population, a bit over seven million people, but anywhere between 3.5 million and 14 million will do".

I was in Wellington to interview Johnny Blades from Radio NZ who had recently been to Papua New Guinea. When "doing a millisphere", I like to talk with people who have been there.

"Was the island of Papua one, two, possibly three millispheres?" was my query.

I was also in Wellington to pick up solar panels for Dr Ropata (our caravan), and the boats were seriously lashed to the Seaview marina when we called in at the ships' chandlers to pick up a couple of 100-watt flexible solar panels, glue and a control panel to fit to the flowing, art deco lines of our heritage aluminium caravan.

That night the storm continued north, closing all the roads up on the Volcanic Plateau with snow. Here and there trees came down, taking out the power to thousands of homes. In Wellington, the power had been knocked out in a couple of places by flying trampolines.

On the drive home, John Campbell was talking on the radio about "resilience" as people coped with the lack of heat and light.

In terms of "resilience", Dr Ropata is equipped with a deep-cycle battery that runs LED lights, a car radio recovered from an old Holden and a phone-charging USB port.

Up the river, on our road frontage, I had just completed my annual prune, and there were no branches anywhere near the power wires, but somewhere a tree had come down and our power had been out for a day.

However, I had set up the tanks at home so we could get water even if the pressure pump wasn't working, and we cook on LPG. Inside the shed is a wood stove, which we had just cranked up when the power came back on.

When Fred Frederikse is not building, he is a self-directed student of geography and traveller.