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

Monday, April 24, 2017

Ohakune to Piriaka

Peeping outside the caravan at 7.00am rewarded me with a wonderful view of Mt Ruhapehu in the early morning light.

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Mt Ruhapehu in the early morning

And then the mist came down, which was just as pretty, with the sun trying to peep through.

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Then the mist came down

With the morning chores done of emptying the waste water and topping up the fresh water, we were on our way.  Some decided to stop of at Horopito Motor Wreckers to see the thousands of cars in various stages of being wrecked.   The NZ films Goodbye Pork Pie, Smash Palace, and more recently Hunt for the Wilderpeople  have had scenes filmed there.
Our first stop of the morning was to view the place where the final railway spike was driven into the Main Truck Line at Pokaka.  We had seen this fleetingly out the window on various train trips, but never actually visited the memorial by road.

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Then a little further up the road was the lookout for the magnificent Makatote Viaduct.  Last time we passed this way the viaduct was covered in plastic sheeting as it was undergoing repairs and painting.  The new paint looked great in the sunshine.  The viaduct was completed in 1908 and is 77m high and 262m in length.

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The lookout at the Makatote Viaduct

The sleepy little village of Raurimu was next on our list of places to stop and visit. We remember posing in front of the tiny station on our last steam train trip up to the spiral.

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Raurimu at the foot of the spiral

We had heard tell of a horse sculpture made entirely of horse shoes tucked away in a tiny place in the middle of nowhere – certainly well worth a visit.   Off we went, along a steep, windy, narrow country road for 18km to finally arrive at Kaitieke.  Sponsored by the Wheeler Family and the local community, the sculpture was erected in 2015, the Year of the Horse.  It commemorates the horse history in Kaitieke and the ANZAC Centenary, acknowledging the contribution by horses to mankind in earlier times of war and agriculture.

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Wonderful horse sculpture made of horse shoes

Bill and Val had arrived shortly before us, and we decided to have a picnic lunch in the sunshine.  But the wasps were so pleased to see us and share in our lunch, that we quickly moved back inside our caravan.

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Lunch at Kaitieke

Our stop for the night was the NZMCA site, Piriaka Park.  The entrance was a bit tricky, and necessitated a sharp turn off SH4 and along a dusty track.  Our other travelling companions had arrived before us.  But there was no time to spare, once we were settled on site, the gas and the fridge turned on, we jumped into Bill’s car and drove back to Owhango Park.  There was no way we could have visited earlier with both caravans in tow. 

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Pillars of bridge at Owhango Park built into huge rocks

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Two happy campers on the bridge

The four of us had intended walking along the lagoon boardwalk, but we weren’t quite sure where that particular  track started.  So we had a pleasant walk in the bush instead, admiring the tall native trees, and the abundant ferns everywhere.  On the way back to camp we stopped at the Piriaka Lookout – great views down the river valley.

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View from the lookout

Arriving back in camp just in time for 4zees, we settled down with the others and related our day’s travelling and different adventures.  Piriaka Park covers quite a large area and the several chickens came to visit us from the adjacent house.

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Piriaka Park

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Marton to Ohakune

We awoke to another beautiful sunny morning, so our intrepid group of enjoyed morning tea in the sunshine, plus a short drivers briefing of the drive ahead.  Friendly NZMCA members arrived bearing gifts of garden produce for all campers to enjoy – there were carrots and feijoas, following on from the grapes of yesterday.  Then off we went on our day’s travel, agreeing to meet at the Tangiwai Disaster Memorial for lunch.  We passed a road marking truck, spurting out just enough white paint to renew the white line on the side of the road – the first time we had seen one of these in action.

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Road marking

It was all happening at the Memorial site when we arrived, where work was being done to tidy up the surrounding area.  We all pulled up one behind the other and ate our lunch out in the sunshine.

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Lunch at Tangiwai

There were new memorials (under wraps) which were due to be officially opened shortly, and we had a chat to this young man from Stone Creations NZ who had a lot to do with them.  His Dad was only 15 when he was on the ill fated train in 1953, when a rupture in the wall of the crater lake on Mt Ruapehu sent a torrent of water down the Whangaehu River damaging the rail bridge.  The bridge collapsed as the Wellington to Auckland Express crossed shortly after, sending 11 carriages into the raging waters below, with a loss of 151 lives.

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The names of all who perished have now been added to the original memorial

We took a walk up the track to the lookout and passed a section of chassis from car number 3 on the train, which was ripped away and washed 80m down stream.  This was recovered in 2014, and the second photo shows how the metal has been twisted with the force of the accident. 

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Recovered piece of chassis

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View from the lookout

Looking at the peaceful Whangaehu River today it is hard to image a torrent of water so fierce that it could damage a rail bridge so severely and the carnage which happened when the train started it’s journey across.  Tangiwai remains the worst rail accident to happen in New Zealand.

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Whangaehu River

A family visiting the memorial arrived in their Cadillac Eldorado.  Such a magnificent car, and not many of them here in this country, we were told.  Our blokes were happy to admire it and talk cars to the proud owner.

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Every man’s dream, a grunty American gas guzzler

It wasn’t too far from here for our stop for the night, the Ohakune Club, passing the Big Carrot on the way.

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Welcome to Ohakune

We were soon on site at the club, five cans all arranged neatly down the side of the car park.

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Five Leisurelines in a row at Ohakune

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Bill went off on a 12km bike ride

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And Sandra cooked up whitebait fritters for 4zees

The temperatures soon dropped, the skies darkened, and everyone went inside to start cooking their evening meals.  It was a very interesting day.

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Sunset at Ohakune

Saturday, April 22, 2017

We’re on a Safari – Day 1

There is a safari brewing, starting from Marton NZMCA site – and we arrived a day early.  Keen Leisureline owners are heading up to Bowentown for the inaugural Leisureline Owners Rally.  Why not take a leisurely week to get there?  Robin decided to plan a safari trip, first stop Marton.

While we waited for the others to arrive we enjoyed a couple of peaceful sunny Marton days.  I took a walk around the view the church that we could see peeping through the tall trees.  St Stephen’s Anglican Church, designed by George Frederic Allen, is said to have been modelled on Salisbury Cathedral, England, although shortage of finance led to modifications.

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St Stephen’s Anglican Church, Marton

Merv and Joan, the friendly custodians called around to do their checks and cleaning.  They are such hard workers and the nice tidy camp is a credit to their endeavors.  With the kettle whistling we managed to convince them to stop work for a wee while and join us for a cuppa in the meeting room.  It was great to catch up with their news and hear some interesting campsite tales.  They had kindly brought along some grapes from their vine at home for the campers to help themselves.

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Merv and Joan, camp custodians

We sat in the sunshine to eat our lunch, and watched as a friendly little sparrow splashed around taking a bath in one of the puddles.  He was certainly having fun.

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Bath time for the sparrow

The first of our safari team, Geoff and Eileen arrived soon after lunch.  They told us they had been coming to   Marton for 39 years – this MZMCA site used to be the local motor camp.  Then during the afternoon Don and Sandra rolled in, followed by Bill and Val.

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Our four Leisurelines in a row

We had afternoon tea in the meeting room,closely followed by 4zees.  It just happened to be Sandra’s birthday, which one, we asked, but she wasn’t saying.  Sandra had a chocolate birthday cake to share, thanks very much indeed.

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Happy Birthday Sandra

Noel and Lynn arrived a little later and had to move their van several times to ensure they could find the satellite for their TV reception.  With that finally achieved, they joined us for 4zees, or maybe it was closer to 5zees by the time they arrived with glasses in their hands.  Most decided on the easy option of Fish and Chips for the evening meal and a delegation travelled into town.  Robin had been told by a camper earlier in the day which was the best Fish and Chips shop of them all – so that’s where they drove off to.

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And the sun goes down in Marton

Friday, April 21, 2017

Off we go again

It’s not a bad day for a trip.  There is a clear blue sky, and the early morning sunshine is kissing the hills behind our home.   We are away for two weeks, and taking the driving in nice easy stages.

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A good day for a road trip

But first the caravan had a bit of a spruce up yesterday to wash the dust and dirt away.  Robin cleaned high and washed the top of the awning, and then all the paintwork got washed down.

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Getting ready for another trip

First stop today was Sanson, to top up with fuel, then on to Marton, just in time for lunch – a 70km drive today.

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We are staying at the NZMCA site at Marton, quite a favourite of ours.  When we arrived, the camp was quite empty, with all the overnighters moving on in the morning before we arrived.  We found ourselves a site, signed the book, paid our fees, and settled down in the sunshine.

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Here we are at Marton for the next two nights

The camp is surrounded by many mature trees, the sun is shining, and the birds are singing.  Down the far end of the camp we could see the bell tower of the local church just peeping through the trees.

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Church bell tower

With a little shopping to attend to in the afternoon, followed by a visit to friends, we didn’t return to camp till 5.00pm or so.  And as to be expected, the numbers at the camp had increased dramatically while we were out and about, up to about a dozen or so, and no doubt others will trundle in later in the evening.

We are expecting caravan buddies to meet up and join us tomorrow (Saturday), and then our adventure will begin.  The pair of us decided to arrive a day early, just because we could.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Over Stayers and Fire Engines on Easter Monday

It wouldn’t be a long weekend away without running out of gas, would it?  Being off power, both the fridge and hot water were quietly gobbling up the gas, and sure enough, the gas refused to light when I was all set to make our breakfast cup of tea.  It could have been much worse, when the beep, beeps and the flashing red light on the fridge lets you know the gas has run out in the middle of the night.  Robin soon replaced the empty cylinder with a full one, and kitchen service was resumed.

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Changing the gas cylinder

We met in the hall for morning tea, the final raffles were drawn, but no, we weren’t lucky enough to win one of the prizes.  Then the National Rally was officially closed and we enjoyed a cuppa together before people packed up and went home.

There was some new technology to check out – Geoff and Eileen have just purchased a new “Motor Step” to make things easier getting in and out of their caravan.  With the a push of the button, it gently glides up, or down.  Such a clever idea indeed.  Reminds us of “Are you being Served”  Level 3 – Lingerie perhaps?  I had to have a try too, stepped on, pushed the button, and glided up to the doorway!

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Coming down

Campers were soon hooking up their vans, saying their goodbyes and setting off on the homeward journey.  There was also the option for “over stayers” to stay over on Monday evening, and about half decided to take advantage of this offer – including us.  The rain came down in a deluge, and when it finally stopped,  I climbed up the staircase again to get another photo of those remaining for an extra night.

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Half full, or half empty?

The heavy showers continued off and on all afternoon, and the drains couldn’t cope with all the water.  We ended up paddling to and fro through water inches deep!  But a rainbow made an appearance, promising that the rain would soon stop.

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Rain, rain, go away

Preparations got underway for the Over-stayers Dinner in the late afternoon.  Cooks were busy in the hall kitchen cooking up pikelets for dessert while the rest of us were enjoying 4zees.  Goodness knows what they were getting up to in the kitchen but the cooks set the fire alarm off.  As the alarm was ringing in our ears a disembodied voice kept repeating, “evacuate the building, evacuate the building”, and we stood outside the hall in the drizzly rain.  Sure enough, sirens sounding, a fire engine soon arrived.

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Fire engine to the rescue

The crew donned their heavy tanks, and entered the hall, to check things out.  Goodness knows what they thought of our bunch of geriatric campers all milling around.  They had to search through the other rooms attached to the hall, just to make sure that nothing else was amiss, and in doing so, set the burglar alarm off as well.  Then a second fire engine arrived.

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Then there were two

After all that excitement, we were finally allowed back into the hall, and the fire engines departed.  Luckily the blokes cooking our shared evening meal of sausages, meat patties and onions out on the porch didn’t make enough smoke to recall the engines.  With the addition of coleslaw and bread and butter, it was a simple but tasty meal indeed.  With pikelets, jam and whipped cream to follow, yummy.

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Grub’s up!

The Gisborne club did a “wooden spoon presentation” to one of their members, all taken in good spirit.  Sorry, but I didn’t catch the name of the giver, or the receiver, but it seems that this was the bloke who set the fire alarm off while cooking the pikelets in the kitchen!

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It was all his fault, it seems

It was a great weekend, and so nice to catch up with people from other clubs whom we hadn’t seen for a while.  Although we had no luck with the raffles, but we did receive Easter Eggs and Easter Buns.  And staying an extra day meant that we missed most of the Easter road traffic.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Easter Sunday at Foxton

The Easter Bunnies came calling on Sunday morning at the rally, complete with a basket full of golden eggs.  Thank you very much!

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Judith and Alan, masquerading as Easter Bunnies

As usual at these sort of rallies over the Easter Weekend, a church service was arranged for Easter Sunday.  Our very own caravanning Reverend, Derek Keatley, took the service, and a fair sized crowd of campers gathered in the hall.  Thank you Derek, for providing this service for your fellow caravanners and friends.

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Later in the morning I climbed some stairs up the side of a building which gave a good view of all the assorted caravans and motor homes attending.  There were a few more vans parked around a corner or two, but this was the bulk of them.

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Birds eye view of the campers

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Our spot in the school grounds

Sunday evening saw us gathered at the local RSA for a meal out, just a short walk across the grass, squeezing through a gap in the fence, and we were there.  With 90 or so guests for dinner, the kitchen staff did very well indeed to get us fed.  To make things simpler, the chef offered a choice of two mains, roast beef or fried fish, plus desserts.  We both enjoyed the roast beef, melt-in-the-mouth tender beef, tasty rich gravy,  with a great selection of roast vegetables.  Those who had ordered fish said it was delicious too.  It was a great night out indeed.

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Waiting for our meals

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Two more happy diners