Success is getting what you want; happiness is liking what you get

Monday, February 8, 2016

Kahutara School, Wairarapa

The Wararapa farmland looks dry and parched over the summer season, and Kahutara, approximately mid way between Martinborough and Pirinoa, is no exception.  Last time we stayed at the school, the wind, as we remembered, was relentless.  So strong that several caravan fridges running on gas had their pilot lights blown out, and it was rather difficult to relight them.  When we arrived the hot dry wind was much less severe, thank goodness.  Six caravans and two motor homes parked up on the school playing field for a fun weekend.

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Kahutara School

A group of bobby calves over the fence kept crying for their mothers.  Such cute little faces looking back at me, as they posed nicely for the lady with the  camera.

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Over the fence

50 years of wedded bliss is certainly something to celebrate, and Selwyn and Kath had just returned from Auckland where they celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary.  Our club wanted to acknowledge this milestone on Friday evening, and Val read out a poem she had written, all about the ups and downs of their caravan adventures with our club.

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Poetry reading by Val

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This is your life, Selwyn and Kath

Saturday morning was hot without a breath of wind, and several car loads of campers drove off bright and early to the very popular Martinborough Fair.  People come from far and wide to attend the fairs, held a month apart on the first Saturday of February and March, with stalls crowded in shady Martinborough Square.  Streams of traffic clog the normally sleepy settlement as people search for a car park close to the square, and then jostle with the crowds of shoppers looking for bargains.   We relaxed back at the school, and welcomed Life Members Peter and Elaine who were visiting for the day.

Kite flying was on the programme for the afternoon and we lamented at the windless conditions and wondered if it would go ahead.  But the kite gods must have been listening and by mid afternoon the wind started up and the kites were airborne.  Rally Captain Bill had brought along kits and instructions for those who didn’t have their own kite, and several black plastic sheet variations were soon flying alongside the colourful commercial kites.

Saturday evening was fun and games in the hall, and they were certainly quite a laugh.  Have you ever held a tennis ball tight against you and your partners forehead and tried to walk down the hall without dropping it?  Some couples shuffled sideways very slowly, Dennis and Glenys were much more energetic and held their heads together while their bodies were turned sideways as they strode along the hall. We managed to make it, but found out that you mustn’t turn your head to see where you are going or else the ball will get dislodged.  Just a shame no one was filming all these high jinks!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Can we do it – yes we can!

We couldn’t drive around the coast to Ngawi without a visit to the nearby Cape Palliser Lighthouse, and the nearby seal colony.  The 18m tall lighthouse was built in 1897 to guide shipping around the perilous Cape Palliser, a dangerous place indeed with rocky headlands and more often than not, ferocious weather. 

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Cape Palliser Lighthouse

The steps lead straight up a rocky bluff to the lighthouse perched 78m above the sea.  We needed a group photo so artfully arranged ourselves at the base of the steps.  Most of us had climbed up to the lighthouse on previous visits so had no intention of tackling the climb again.

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Here we all are at the base of the lighthouse

That all changed when Bill declared that he had never been, so was keen to climb up.  With that, Dot, Val and I decided we might as well give it a try too.  So off we went, one step after another, hanging on to the hand rail for support.  Will I make it, I wondered, as I puffed my way to the top, taking many short breaks to get my breath back.  The four of us slogged it out and eventually reached the top – so pleased we persevered and yes we did, we made it!

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We were rather wind blown at the top

Robin decided to give it a go too, sore knees or not, and finally joined us at the top.  Perhaps his knees will make him pay for this exercise tomorrow.

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He made it too

The five of us intrepid explorers felt justifiably pleased with ourselves as we walked back down the 250 or so steep steps.  Then it was off to see if we could find any seals on the rocks.  And there they were, little ones frolicking in the shallows and larger ones standing guard.  They were hard to see as the seals were almost the same colour as the rocks.

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Seals on the rocks

We all needed a treat from the handy food cart operating on our camp doorstep so it was ice-creams all round on our return back to the vans.  Later on we took a walk in the early evening twilight to check out the fishing boats and bulldozers just along the beach.

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On the shingle beach

The sky darkened as the sun sank lower casting a golden glow.  What a lovely finish to a great day.

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The Road to Ngawi

Never let a tap go by when you have stopped overnight – we topped up with water at Featherston before heading on to Ngawi and it was a good decision.  Because close by the tap was a bright red vintage water valve.  The plaque stated “High pressure water supply, opened 1906”.  And the interesting thing was that one of the Commissioners on the Town Board was a Mr W Benton.  Surely one of Robin’s family members, as a branch of the family settled in the Wairarapa. 

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There’s a family connection to this

The road to Ngawi was  a 75km trip taking us past the tiny village of Pirinoa.  Travelling down the hill we caught a glimpse of the coast.

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Coastal view

The most hair-raising part of the trip was travelling along a portion of road which has been falling into the sea over the last few years, taking several houses with it.

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This one’s a goner

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Soft crumbly hills get worn away with the weather

Ngawi is a fishing village and with no sheltered harbour and has some of the fiercest weather in the country. The  boats, a mixture of large and small,  are hauled up onto the rocky beach by a collection of bulldozers.  We spotted a fishing boat returning to shore as we drove into Ngawi, going flat out through the shallows to launch itself onto the trailer in the shallows.  It must take skillful driving indeed to prefect such a landing in all sorts of weather.  The bulldozers are in constant use grading a track on the ever changing shingle beach.

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Bulldozers and fishing boats at Ngawi

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Cray Boats being hauled ashore by Bulldozer

There are a couple of parking areas right on the beach front, great value for a gold coin donation.  There are no fresh water taps, as far as we could see, but toilets are available, rubbish bins too, always handy, plus a coffee cart which also sells ice creams and hot chips.

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Our sea side view

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Geoff and Eileen, Bill and Val, Romany Rambler and Gypsy Rover

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Featherston and the Fell Loco Museum

Time to hit the road again, our journey of 125km took us “over the hill and far away”.  Towing a caravan over the Rimutaka Hill can be a bit of a challenge, depending on weather conditions.  There was no problem with the weather, but a whole posse of workmen were resealing part of the road in the searing sun.  We came to shuddering stop behind a long queue of traffic and the engine stalled!  Oh dear – hope we can get started again.  Luckily the driver knew what he was doing, and we were soon on our way again.

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Hot work on the Rimutaka Hill

We were heading away to attend a weekend caravan rally over in the Wairarapa and if we can, we always like to take our time and extend our trips.  Our plan was to stay overnight at Featherston Lyon Street Pop and right next door was the Fell Locomotive Museum.  So of course we had to go for a visit.

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The sturdy little Fell engines pulled the trains up and down over the notoriously steep incline section of rail between The Summit and Cross Creek, at Featherston.  The Fell engines were two engines in one, one engine driving on the normal rails, and a second engine underneath the loco which gripped and drove on the centre rail.  The centre rail was gripped by the locos on the ascent and used for braking purposes on the descent.    The locos and brake cars were marshalled into the train at each end at the head of their allotted load of 60 tons.  Once through this section, the Fells were removed, the carriages marshalled into a continous train, which continued on in the normal fashion.

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A five engine excursion train on the notorious “Siberia” curve in 1955

The Fell engines toiled away for 70 years with the last train tackling the hill in 1955.  These days trains travel to the Wairarapa through the 8 mile long Rimutaka Tunnel.  Sadly, of the six used in New Zealand, this is the last remaining one in the world.  This was rescued from a playground where it stood for many years, with children crawling all over it.  I can remember stopping at the playground many years ago with my own two children.


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Fell Brake-Van F210 built in 1898 and worked on the Incline for 57 years

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Brake levers inside the van which were constantly adjust on the descent.  Note worn brake blocks.

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Under the loco, brake blocks shown in white and centre rail driving wheels just behind

Each Fell engine had four of these grip wheels suspended within the main frame.  The wheel at the base gripped the centre rail, exerting 6 1/2 tons of pressure.  This pressure was applied by the fireman, who was also kept busy shovelling coal into the fire box.

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Grip wheel

By the time we had finished our musuem visit, our other travelling companions had arrived.  We sheltered under the awning, catching up, and trying to keep cool.  Once the temperatures had dropped in the early evening, most of us took a walk to the local Fish and Chip shop bringing back our meals to eat outside.  The later the evening got, the more pleasant it became sitting outside and chatting, and we finally departed to our own vans once the midges started biting.

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Lyon Street Featherston Pop

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Back on the Treadmill

With peaceful January now  just a distant memory, the month of February has arrived and our calenders are filling up fast.  Clubs have reopened after the Christmas/New Year hiatus, and with them, committee meetings.  So we are back on the treadmill again.  Today we attended our Probus group, and it was good to see such a big crowd in the hall for the first meeting of the year.

Our speaker was Linda Fletcher who spoke about her trip to honour the soldiers and nurses of WW1.  Linda and her fellow travellers to Gallipolli and nearby places were gifted the nurses uniforms used in the four part TV series Anzac Girls.  These were altered to fit, and the worn at various cemeteries and places of interest on their tour. 

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Piped along the beach while dressed in WW1 nurses uniforms

Linda Fletcher has long had an interest in this part of history and has recently researched and written a book which identifies all the casualties named on Horowhenua War Memorials.  “Horowhenua and the Great War 1914-1918” details the lives and deaths of 188 men from the district who died in World War I, telling their stories through letters from the front and obituaries printed in newspapers.

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Linda Fletcher’s book

We enjoyed our club meeting this morning, and meeting up with members not seen for a while.  But our aim this year is to take longer trips away in the caravan for weeks on end, and hopefully overseas for a trip or two, while we are both still fit and healthy.  Something has to give, and after quite some thought, we have decided to both give up our respective committees when the AGMs roll around shortly.  That will give some relief from the feeling we were on a never-ending treadmill and we can plan our trips away without having to rush back in time for yet another committee meeting.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Tiny Tomatoes and long Purple Beans

Although the man of the house would like to be away travelling in the caravan week after week, it’s been nice to have a lazy weekend at home.  Not that we’ve been too lazy, there have been the usual household chores to do.  And places to go, such as down town to get the gas bottle refilled.  Yes, that’s the one, the bottle which ran out of gas last weekend late at night.  Luckily we noticed that the red light was flashing on the caravan fridge before we turned in for the night.   But now its refilled, and it’s always sensible to carry a spare while we are travelling.  The gas was refilled safely inside a shed, and Robin warned me not to get too close with my camera, in case I made sparks.  I certainly wouldn’t want to cause an explosion and blow the place up!

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Refilling the gas bottle

We are enjoying lovely warm summer weather here in New Zealand, and our small garden is doing well.  We have eaten the row of lettuces and replanted some more.  The tiny tomatoes are starting to colour up, these small ones have quite an intense flavour.  And we have planted a row of mixed beans – just look at these purple beauties!  There are green ones growing too, amongst the long purple ones.

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From our small raised garden

And after cutting back the passion fruit vine rather too severely, we are pleased to see a few fruit and flowers appearing.  Nowhere near as many as we had last year, but really, we didn’t expect any fruit at all this year.  He’s learnt his lesson, and next year Robin will prune the vine with a much lighter hand.

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Fruit and flowers on the passion fruit vine

Summer means it’s BBQ season and we have been enjoying cooking outdoors.  We had New Zealand lamb chops cooked on the Weber last night, with mushrooms and sweetcorn too.  And our traditional Sunday breakfast of bacon and eggs, with some of those lovely sweet tasting little tomatoes, was also cooked outside this morning.

Our elderly cat Muffy wants nothing more than to keep up close and personal to one or other of us.  Presently she is squashed up on my lap against the table as I tap away.  It can’t be terribly comfy for her, as she keeps slipping and sliding, and I have to readjust her legs.  But she is determined that this is the place she wants to be right at this moment, and that’s where she is staying, squashed up or not!  At her age, we feel she can have what she likes, anything to keep her happy – and quiet!  Senile vocalisation can get rather trying!

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Muffy on my lap while I’m trying to blog

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Big Day out in Wanganui

The big white bus arrived, with our friendly driver Peter at the wheel, and a bus full of Probus members climbed aboard for a day of adventure travelling to Wanganui.  The first stop on our intinery was to look through the St Stephen’s Anglican Church at Marton.

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St Stephen’s Church, Marton

This lovely old church was completed in 1872, and made from native timbers of totara, rimu and matai.  The interior glows with the dark honey colour of the timber panelling, and light floods in through the stain glass windows.  The bell tower served for many years as a fire warning before the fire station was built.  We were given a potted history of this lovely old building, and then had a cuppa at the adjacent church hall next door.

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Inside the church

Re-boarding the bus, we then drove on to Wanganui, passing a caravan on the road and we noticed something white fluttering in the wind as we started overtaking  We first  thought that perhaps a curtain was stuck in the window, but this was much more serious, and the whole front window was missing.  Whoops, wonder how that happened?

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There’s been a slight accident

Bushy Park Homestead and Sanctuary in Wanganui was our next stop.  Built in 1906, it sits in stately grace admidst lawns, colourful flower beds, and has a wonderful view of the surrounding countryside.  This wonderful property was bequeathed to the Forest and Bird Society in 1962 by Frank Moore, to be preserved in perpetuity in its natural state.The  homestead is surrounded n three sides by a large expanse of forest and an area of  wetlands and is a sanctuary for many species of native birds.  Our group enjoyed a finger food lunch in the dining room, where we were told all sorts of facts and figures,  including the fact that originally 10 gardeners originally worked on the property.

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Lunch in the dining room

We were then free to look around the homestead and beautifully manicured grounds, or take a walk along the many bush tracks.  The homestead is run as a B&B and it would be a lovely place to stay for a special occasion, as I mentioned to Robin, perhaps our next anniversary could be a caravan free zone just for a change?

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All the rooms had original furniture

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Standing on the steps of Bushy Park

In 2005 a 4.8km predator proof fence was completed around the 98 hectare forest, wetlands and homestead grounds.  Constant vigilance is still needed to ensure that the sanctuary remains predator free, including checking numerous traps regularly -  work  done by a large number of volunteers.  Several endangered bird species have been re-introduced: toutouwai, (North Island Robin), tieke, (Saddleback), and hihi, (Stitchbird).

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Driving back down the long bush clad drive, our next stop was just along the road where we visited a Walnut orchard. 

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Following the owner we were taken through the orchard to look at various plantings of walnut trees, but I must admit I was more interested in checking out the free range nut eating pigs.  And here they are – just look at those cute babies!

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Cute little piglets

Heading back on our homeward journey, there was just one more stop to make.  On our way through Sanson we had dropped off an order at Viv's Kitchen, for some of her world famous cream horns, to collect on our way back home.  Yum, guess what we had last night!  It was a great day out.

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Here come the cream horns