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

Saturday, August 23, 2014

What’s happening in Christchurch City

It’s a little strange to be travelling without the caravan, so just for a change we are staying at an apartment block not far from the city centre.  Our studio room is quite nice, with everything we need, including a  big TV at the foot of the bed.  But there is only one chair – is that too much to expect, 2 chairs for 2 people?  There is a dining room/lounge area  available further down the hall, so we have commandeered the dining table from time to time to set up our laptops.  After all, there’s blogs to write, and blog surfing to do to keep us in touch.    And joy of joys,  a laundry just a few doors away on our floor, just in case I get the urge to do a load of laundry some day soon. 

P8220001 Our home for the next 5 nights

We caught a bus into the heart of the city, a free trip courtesy of our Gold Cards.  Things had certainly changed since our last visit a couple of years ago, when much of the CBD was in ruins and fenced off.  Many buildings have been demolished, some rebuilding has started, but we still noticed lots of damaged buildings held up with steel framing.  The poor old Christchurch Cathedral looks a sorry sight indeed.  It seems that it’s fate is still not settled, with quite a lot of locals wanting it to be restored rather than demolished and rebuilt.

P8220006 The partly demolished Christchurch Cathedral

Joining the overseas tourists we jumped aboard the Christchurch Tram for a guided tour from the museum to New Regent Street.  These beautifully restored  trams were built by the J C Brill Company in Philadelphia, USA.  Our driver gave us a running commentary of all the interesting buildings we passed, some damaged by the earthquake which wrecked such havoc in February 2011, and some still in one piece.


The Christchurch Tram

We exited the tram at the stop closest to the Cardboard Cathedral – or the Transitional Cathedral as the church likes to call it.  Designed by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, it is constructed of cardboard tubes, timber and steel, with a polished concrete floor and polycarbonate roof, and (surprisingly, we read) can seat up to 700 people.

P8220023 Cardboard Cathedral

Although we had seen pictures of this building, I was surprised at how light and airy it was inside.  With no windows, the light filters through strips of the polycarbonate roof showing between the cardboard covered steel girders.  It is a very peaceful place indeed, and we were happy to finally come for a visit.  We were given permission to take photos, if we gave a donation, we were quite firmly told by one of the volunteers on duty.  No problem, we were happy to donate, the church has a lot of fundraising to do.

P8220026 Inside the Cathedral

Boarding the tram again, we continued with our tour, driving down New Regent Street where we saw Spanish style architecture painted in  soft pastel colours.  So pretty, and we had never discovered this street before on earlier visits
P8220028  Spanish style shop fronts in New Regent Street

P8220030 Some buildings are going up

While others are coming down

We had an el fresco lunch in the trendy Restart Mall, made up of small businesses trading out of colourful painted shipping containers.  The food shops were doing great business, and we joined the queue to order our lunch  from Fritz’s Weiners (barbequed hot dog in a bread roll), then sat outside in the sunshine while we devoured it.  Very tasty indeed.

P8220035 Part of the Restart Mall

After all this walking around Robin’s sore knee was giving him real problems, so we slowly made our way back to the car.  Next stop was a visit to son Michael, the reason for our trip to Christchurch.  He is celebrating a BIG birthday on Saturday – he can’t be that old, surely!  I told him I’d probably embarrass him at his birthday bash by relating a few family secrets.  By the look on his face he wasn’t too sure if I was joking or not!

P8220041 Michael and his Mum

Friday, August 22, 2014

Seal Pups at Ohau Stream

There is a delightful place to stop on the coastal SH1 route, close to Half Moon Bay.  If you time it right, you may well see some baby seals frolicking in the Ohau Stream Rookery.   It is just a short easy walk into the bush.   We had stopped here on a previous trip, but it was the wrong time of the year.  Perhaps we would be lucky this time?


Although there was not the crowds of young seals that we were hoping for, there were a couple dotted around.  Mind you, it was very late in the afternoon, so perhaps they had moved down the stream back to the sea, to await their mother’s return.  We saw one lonely one hiding in the rocks.  But he hardly moved when we walked up the path at all, and we wondered if he might be sick.  Walking back down the path, we spotted another one beside the stream.  What a little cutey!  Back into the stream he slid, and swum away.


One baby seal in the stream

As we quietly waited on the path, he reappeared with a little friend who had been hiding under the bank,  We watched in delight as the the two of them played in the water, rolling around and swimming on their backs.  They were having fun.  There can be hundreds of these babies at the peak of the season, but we were happy just to have caught a glimpse of these two happy little seals, going about their business and enjoying their time in the safety of the Ohau Stream

P8210050Two babies playing together

P8210052 Swimming this way

And upside down

We continued on our way, driving through a couple of tunnels hacked out of rock.  What a job that must have been.


There was a light covering of snow on the Kaikoura Ranges.  No doubt we will see plenty of snow while we are here in the South Island.

P8210060 Snow on the ranges

It was a long day travelling, and we entered Christchurch City at 7.00pm, tired and hungry.  We were pleased to have finally arrived.

Travelling Cook Strait on the Arahura

Beep, beep, beep, it shrilled, calling us out of our slumbers at the ungodly hour of 5.30am.  We had a busy day ahead, and needed to set the alarm clock to make sure we were up bright and early. It was a matter of getting up, showered and dressed, eat breakfast, have a very quick tidy up (dishes and make the bed), throw the bags in the car, and off, off, and away.  We were travelling across the Cook Strait down to Picton (South Island) on the Interisland ferry Arahura, then drive down to Christchurch but first we had to travel down to Wellington in the peak hour traffic.  As it happened, we made very good time, and then we were informed that the ferry was running 30 minutes late.  Never mind, we would rather arrive in plenty of time than be running late.  The check-in operator handed us a  free copy of RV Lifestyle magazine to while away the time.

At last the ferry arrived.  We watched while the captain manoeuvred it into position on the wharf, then  trucks, cars and railway wagons disembarked.

P8210008Arriving in port

Then it was our turn.  We may well have been in starting position on lane 4, but the big trucks went on first, followed by those cars in lanes 1, 2, and 3.  It seemed strange driving our little Toyota Corolla on board, as last time we boarded a ferry, we were part of a group of eight excited people, three caravans and one motor home embarking on a three month trip.  This time we are going “down south” for a mere five days.

P8210010 Follow that car in front

I watched as the crew chained down the wheels of the trucks.  They don’t bother with the cars, one of them told me, just rely on the hand brakes to hold them in place.  Then we climbed up the narrow steps to the lounge area, where another crew member welcomed us aboard.  With 90km winds blowing, it didn’t promise to be an easy trip.  The captain made an announcement warning that the seas would be rough, and to be very careful if we walked around, better to remain seated, he advised.  And that sick bags were there for our use.  Oh dear – will we be in trouble?  It certainly seemed like it as big waves hit the front windows with force, and as the bow ploughed up and down through the open sea.  Robin is not a good sailor at the best of times, and decided that he would try and and sleep through the worst of the trip.  My way is to immerse myself in a good book, and concentrate on the story – even better if it is about serial killers wrecking havoc and the smart detective who is closing in fast to save the day.

The Arahura (meaning Pathway to Dawn) is the oldest and smallest boat in the fleet, and was built in 1983 in Denmark for $45 million.  The 148 metre long ship is powered by four diesel electric motors, and can carry a total of 60 rail wagons, 125 cars, 12 trucks and 550 passengers

The rough seas were left behind as we entered the beautiful Marlborough Sounds.  The Marlborough Sounds are an extensive network of sea-drowned valleys at the north end of the South Island.  According to legend, the Marlborough Sounds were formed when Kupe, a great Maori warrior, was chasing a giant octopus and finally caught it in Cook Strait. The battle that ensued formed the waterways and headlands of the Sounds.  Most of the properties dotted along the shore line in this part of paradise are only accessible by boat.


P8210031 Views of Marlborough Sounds

It didn’t take too long to disembark at Picton, then we were on our way to the next stage of our journey, driving down the coast to stay in Christchurch for a family birthday celebration.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Lambs and Daffodils - Signs of Spring

Signs of Spring are all around, we noticed, as we drove along rural roads to Ashhurst.  We were meeting up with daughter Nicky at the Herb Farm Cafe for lunch, and to pass over some goodies  for her upcoming birthday.  As we can’t be with her on the actual day, a lunch out together was the next best thing, we decided.  Nicky is Production Manager in the laboratory at the Herb Farm, in charge of mixing up all sorts of 100% natural lotions, oils, creams  and soaps.  We enjoyed a tasty lunch, and had a good catch up with our respective news.  Nicky told me that her BFF always takes her out for High Tea on her birthday.  How I’d love a special friend like that!  Perhaps I can start a new birthday ritual like this for my special day too?

P8180001 Herb Farm Cafe and Shop

P8180002 Herb Farm gardens

Just down the road we saw lots of new lambs in a paddock, so the driver was under instruction to stop the car.  The ewes weren’t staying still for this strange woman brandishing a camera,  and quickly moved their lambs away from the fence.  There were several sets of twins, and this cute little dark set of triplets.

P8180004 Quickly, move away from that strange person

Daffodils were planted en mass along the road frontage of another farm close by, making a lovely splash of colour.  With new lambs bouncing around the paddocks, and  these beauties in flower, we could be forgiven for thinking Spring must be here.

P8180007 Daffodils planted along the roadside.

The bulbs were also planted up the driveway to the farm house.  It was then that we noticed the large painted sign on the gate.  Perhaps they grow daffodils commercially?


Monday, August 18, 2014

Seeing Double

It was a bit like seeing double over the weekend.  There was one pussy cat in our caravan, and another looking almost the same in the motor-home.  Our Muffy is an old hand at these caravan weekends away.  After the travelling is done, she is quite content to snooze the weekend away curled up tight.  Although she doesn’t like to venture much outside these days, she told us in no uncertain terms that yes, she does want to have a quick look around.  Perhaps she knew there was another Birman close by – who knows?

P8160014 Muffy checking things outside

Five minutes outside in the big wide world was more than enough for our old girl, and with a flick of her tail, she quickly hopped back inside the caravan again.  There she goes up the steps, she couldn’t get back inside quick enough.

P8160015 I want to go inside again, she’s thinking

Dot and Derek were parked beside us and we called in to how their new kitten Honey had coped with her first trip away in the motor-home.  She was a little upset with the travelling, but once on site at the motor camp was quite content.  It won’t take her too long to get the hang of this travelling lark.

P8150004 Honey and Derek

Both cats are Seal Point Birmans, so it is no wonder they look alike.  And by coincidence, this is the camp where we took Muffy for her first caravan experience several years ago, as it was a first also for Honey was over the weekend.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Bring in the Puds!

Before the all important  steamed pudding affair, there was 4zees to enjoy.  Robin decided to relive his visit to Hobbiton and arrived wearing his Hobbiton Movie Set hat and knocked the top off his bottle of “Girdley Fine Grain Amber Ale”, brewed especially for the Green Dragon Inn at Hobbiton.   As I am only an occasional drinker, my bottle of  Hobbiton “Sackville Cider”  got the better of me, and I passed the remainder over for Robin to finish.  Give me a nice coffee any day!

P8160019Ready for his Hobbiton beer

All the ladies disappeared after 4zees, there was a communal meal to prepare and puddings to cook.  We gathered in the dining room to eat our main course together, then popped back into the caravans to check on our steamed puddings bubbling away.  Camp Mother Diane sent over a luscious pavlova and a big bowl of fruit salad for our group to enjoy, how kind is that!  Then the hot puddings started arriving.  There was certainly something for all tastes, we could choose from chocolate, sticky date, jam, and golden syrup. My contribution of a jam steamed pudding almost came to a sticky end as we tried to get it out of the pudding bowl and onto the serving plate without it falling to pieces.  Luckily it tasted OK.  With so many choices, some of us just had to fill our pudding plates up twice. 

P8160021 Jam steamed pudding and a home made pav

Or maybe you would prefer some sticky date or chocolate pudding?

Sunday soon rolled around and after morning tea and an early lunch, it was time to pack up and head home. We decided to go back home through the Wairarapa and over the Rimutaka Hill.  All the snow and ice which shut this road on Friday was long gone, and the strong winds had abated, thank goodness.

P8170025 Start of the Rimutaka Hill at Featherston

Then it was up and over Haywards Hill, and along SH1 up the Kapiti Coast.  We’ve been following that caravan travelling in front for some time, – it’s Geoff and Eileen heading home too.

P8170031 That caravan looks familiar

On arriving home, we soon unpacked the van, cleaned it out, and parked it up on it’s allotted space.  It was a great rally weekend, we’ll do it all again soon.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Settled Weather at last in Carterton

The weather for yesterday could only be described as a bit of a  “wash-out”.  Four of us early bird caravan arrivals were sitting safe and snug on site at the Carterton Holiday Park for the weekend rally, thankful that we didn’t have to deal with the bad driving conditions.  The remaining vans arrived with tales of snow on the top of the Rimutaka Hill.  In fact this mountainous road into southern Wairarapa had been closed for a while and we really wondered if the others would make it over the hill.  But fortitude and courage are traits of our members.  None would allow the challenge of blustery wind, rain or snow stop them in their tracks!  With the hard surfaced sites in hot demand, half of us are parked up on one side of the camp, and half on the other.   Friday night was spent huddled around the heaters in the dining room, relating jokes as we usually do, to keep ourselves amused.

We awoke to a much brighter day today, the blue sky and wintery sunshine made us all feel better. 

P8160009 It turned out a much better day on Saturday

Still too chilly to sit outside, so we all gathered in the dining room for morning tea, followed by a Special Meeting.  The rest of the day is free, until 4zees.

P8160011Some of us at morning tea

Something a little different is planned for the evening.  After a communal evening meal back in the dining room tonight,(bring and eat your own) everyone has been instructed to bring a Steamed Pudding along to share.  Nine steamed puddings will be making a grand entrance and placed reverently on the table.  Then we will get to try a little of this one, and maybe some of that one.  Sounds like fun, doesn't it!  I’d better get busy and start mixing my pudding, and pop the basin inside the big pot of boiling water.  Hope I didn’t leave any crucial ingredients behind.