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

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Popping down to Piopio

Call it fate, or karma, but just a few hours after we got the fancy new gas bottle cradle installed on the caravan, the gas hobs came to a spluttering stop while we were cooking dinner – we had run of of gas.  That gave Robin the chance to prove that the new fitting was so much easier and simpler to use than the previous one.  I was out there in the dark holding the torch, Geoff came from his van to oversee, and Robin had the job done in no time at all.

The next morning it was time to leave Hamilton and the delights of the Jukebox Diner behind us.  Geoff and Eileen were travelling north to visit family, and we decided to take the long way home, via New Plymouth. 

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Goodbye Hamilton and the Jukebox Diner

First stop was Kihikihi, to visit the laundromat and attend to some long overdue washing duties.  There were washers and driers galore, small ones, big ones and monster sized.  In went our large bag full and we sat outside in the sunshine while we waited and watched the world go by.  While I read my book as the laundry was spinning around, Robin walked down the road to the local bakery and came back with a couple of pies for our lunch.  Not just your “run of the mill” pies either, they were very fancy pies indeed.  He arrived back with a scallop and prawn pie for me, and oxtail and red wine for himself!

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Study of a patient husband

Across the road from the laundromat was a monument erected to the memory of Chief Rewi Maniapoto.  Governor George Grey proposed that the Chief live in Kihikiwi as a gesture of Maori and Pakeha unity.  During his lifetime Chief Maniapoto was a custodian of harmony between the two peoples and held steadfast to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.

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To the memory of Chief Rewi Maniapoto

With the laundry interlude finally over, it was time to get moving along again along SH3, when a “Historic Place” sign got our attention.   Haurua is certainly a very historic place as it was here that the first Maori King was confirmed in 1857.  The sign says:

“At a meeting of the Maniapoto tribe held at Haurua in the year 1857, they announced their confirmation of the selection of Potatau Te Wherewhero as the first Maori King and it was also confirmed that the kingship of the Maori people was to be hereditary in his family”.

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Haurua, site where the first Maori King was confirmed

Our destination of Piopio (pronounced Pewpew) wasn’t too much further on.  The name Piopio relates to the now extinct native thrush.

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Welcome sign on entering Piopio

We are staying for the night in the grounds of the Piopio Cosmopolitan Club, tucked away behind the trees.  The very friendly bar manager welcomed us to the club, and showed us around.  By good fortune, the restaurant is open for business, so there will be no cooking done in the caravan tonight.

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Staying the night at Piopio

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

National Park to Hamilton

It was a misty morning for travelling on Monday as we hooked up the caravan and left National Park, travelling past the famous Raurimu Spiral on the Main Trunk Railway.  We drove up SH4 past Taumaranui, sidled past the townships of Te Kuiti and Otorohanga, and stopped briefly at Pirongia, where we had previously stayed for several days.  Poor old Muffy wasn’t too happy with the road taking us up hill and down dale, and around all those corners – she spent the whole journey stoically lying across my knees with her head hanging down low.

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Misty morning and Muffy’s reaction to travelling along windy roads

We drove past the handsome white Morman church at Temple View.  As well as massive roadworks happening in this area, there was an awful lot of building taking place, new housing and a huge concrete slab hall was being erected.

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Church at Temple View

We stayed for a couple of nights in Hamilton at the Classic Car car park.  This is such a handy place to stay when we have to take our caravan back to Leisureline factory for a service or any other work required.  Geoff and Eileen arrived a day ahead of us and had work done on their caravan on Monday , and our small job was booked in for Tuesday.  Hamilton is well known for fog and mist, and we awoke on Tuesday to find the area enveloped in white out conditions. 

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Misty morning in Hamilton, parked by Classic Car Museum

Our caravan was hooked back onto the car, and we drove through the busy Hamilton traffic to Leisureline factory.  The job was to replace the current gas cylinder cradle with a new model, making it so much easier to remove the bottle.  You know how it goes – the gas bottle usually runs out in the dead of night when it is pouring with rain.  Robin had to remove all sorts of screws to change the bottle, and now the job can be done with one flick of the wrist, rather like those cake tins.  Then the fibreglass cowl was bolted back in place and we were good to go.

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Off with the old and on with the new

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The new gas cradle bolted in place
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While in Hamilton we also took a ride out to Waikato Bedding to collect our brand new mattress topper, made to measure to fit our caravan bed.  Made from memory foam and wool, it certainly makes a difference to a comfortable sleep in the van. 

And to show our appreciation of being able to stay at the Classics Car Museum, we made sure we had lunch there.  Obviously, there has been some problems with campers recently as a new sign has appeared in the diner.  It is such a shame when some people abuse the hospitality offered.

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New sign in the diner

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We enjoyed our American Hot Dogs and ice cream sodas

Monday, May 2, 2016

Lunching with the Lions at the Chateau

These Levin Lions certainly know how to gad about.  Our big night out at the Station Cafe on Saturday evening was followed by Sunday lunch at the Chateau Tongariro.  We could get used to all this high living!  Two mountains dominated the skyline as we drove towards the Chateau.

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Mt Ruapehu

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Conical shaped Mt Ngauruhoe

And it’s always exciting to get our first view of the Chateau Tongiriro.  Built in 1929 by Fletcher Construction Company, and using penal labour, as we have just found out, it has been added to and extended over the years.

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First view of Chateau Tongiriro

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Another view, showing the driveway

The organizers of the Lion’s weekend away had arranged to give our group a “behind the scenes tour”.  Quite easy to arrange when the son of the organizer works as a hotel manager.  Andrew took us upstairs to check out the several types of rooms on offer.  All very nice but the Te Heu Heu Suite at a mere $1000 a night was the one to aspire to.  It was certainly very grand, and roomy, with a huge granite lined bathroom complete with a spa bath, plus a separate bathroom in the lobby for any guests who might come calling.

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The lounge of the Te Heu Heu Suite

Then we were taken downstairs to check out the guests facilities, movie theatre, spa pool and plunge pool, laundry and drying room.  It was really interesting to seeing some of the different areas of the hotel not usually on view to lunch guests, and hearing some of the history of this grand old building.  Tour over, it was time for our carvery lunch.  The dining room was rather busy with our group of 20, two bus loads of Japanese tourists, and a large table full of teachers, who were obviously getting ready to tackle to new school term.  The carvery buffet lunch was very tasty, with soup, salads, roast beef and ham, desserts, cheese and biscuits, and tea and coffee.  Certainly plenty of choices to suit all tastes.

I love the lounge with the plush red curtains, the crystal chandeliers, and the open fires flickering away.  Several groups were enjoying their High Teas as we did on a visit a couple of years ago, read about our High Tea Adventure here.

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View of the lounge

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The pianist tinkling the ivories

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Relaxing at the Chateau

By this stage, the weather had closed in and covered the mountains, and rain falling steadily.   While the others from the Lions group were driving back home, we are staying another night at our camp site in National Park, and continuing our caravan trip tomorrow.  Next stop, Hamilton.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Eating with the Lions

What's with these Lions, you are probably wondering.  Robin’s brother Gary is President of the Levin Waiopehu Lions Club, and some of the members and spouses were planning a social weekend in National Park.  Gary thought we might be interested in joining them too.  The idea worked out well, as we were on the way to Hamilton to get a little work done on our Leisureline caravan.  A detour through National Park sounded great to us.  While the Lions group are staying around a corner or two in motel accommodation, we are at Plateau Lodge Campgrounds.

We met at the Station Cafe for dinner.  At an elevation of 806.8 metres (2,647 ft), it is the country's highest station with a scheduled passenger stop.  Originally the station and town were called Waimarino (calm waters). In 1926 the New Zealand Railways renamed the railway station as National Park.   With the opening of the Main Trunk Line in 1908, 30 saw mills and their small bush railways were soon established in the area.  Caterpillar tractors in the 1930s made extracting the timber from the forests so much easier, and the National Park station had one of the greatest through puts of timber in New Zealand.  Today only one mill is still operating.

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The Station Cafe

We arrived at the Station Cafe well before any of those tardy Lions put in an appearance.  But never mind, it gave us a chance to look around, check out the menu, and for Robin to order a glass of red.  The large table was all set us waiting for us, and looking rather grand.  No paper serviettes here!

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Ready for the Lions

They finally wandered in, we took our seats, and the conversation flowed all evening.  Menu choices were made, drinks ordered, and we settled back to enjoy ourselves.  We both had delicious pork tenderloin for our main, served with blue cheese sauce, rather tasty indeed.  And the tirimasu was calling my name from the dessert menu.   Robin chose something completely different to his normal ice cream sundae, and ordered sweet spring rolls, packed full of fruit, served with butterscotch sauce, this got a “thumbs up” seal of approval too.

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Jenny, Robin, brother Gary and his wife Debbie

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Ohakune to National Park

It was rather chilly parked up at Ohakune overnight – thank goodness for the gas heater and fluffy winter sheets to keep us warm.  Our elderly cat Muffy really feels the cold these days, and spent the night burrowing under the bedclothes, climbing out again and loudly complaining, before snuggling down again.  And so it was repeated, time after time - she does tend to get disturbed and wants us awake to tend to her needs!  Never mind, we made it through the night, and awoke to a bright and sunny, although a little chilly,  morning.

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Parked at Ohakune Club

We drove up SH4 and under the Makatote Viaduct, pulling off at the handy parking area close by to take a few photos.  Work is being done on this amazing structure, and KiwiRail together with TBS Farnsworth are partnering together to refurbish and strengthen the historic viaduct.

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Makatoke Viaduct

A plaque erected by the Institute of Professional Engineers NZ recognizes the Makatoke Viaduct as an important part of New Zealand’s engineering heritage.  One of a family of viaducts carrying the North Island Main Trunk,  Makatoke was completed in 1908.  During construction transporting steel from the manufacturer in Christchurch was highly impractical so a workshop was built on site.  Other equipment was shipped from Christchurch to Wanganui, barged up the river to Pipiriki, then transported by bullock and horse teams to the Makatoke site.  This was the last structure on the line to be completed.

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Pylons of the viaduct wrapped in covering

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Information Board standing behind plaque by Institute of Professional Engineers

Continuing on our way, we drove through the tiny ghost settlement of Erua, formerly the site of a busy saw milling operation many years ago.  Our stay for the next two nights is to be at National Park Village, a busy bustling place in the ski season, and for those wanting to make the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

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It’s a bit chilly up here on the central plateau at this altitude, so we decided to spend the next couple of nights on power, and pulled into The Park Hotel, which also had caravan sites on offer.  These days, most sites are made for small tourist camper vans, not for large sturdy NZ built caravans and a big tow car.  After a lot of manoeuvring, backing up, and almost jack knifing the caravan,  we decided that it just wasn’t going to work.  Robin went to the office to explain the predicament and ask for a refund, as the sites the sites were just too small for us.

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No room to get in and out with a caravan
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So it was on to “Plan B” and we drove around to the Plateau Lodge.  After the management heard our tale of woe with our previous parking concerns, they advised us to make sure we would fit on site before paying the fee.  These sites, although quite narrow,  were a little easier to get on and finally we were settled and plugged into power.  No room for a car on site, or to put an awning out.  Like a lot of camps in tourist areas, they mostly only cater for tourist camper vans.  The outlook is pleasant and the ablution block looks brand new.

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Plateau Lodge, National Park

After a drive around the local area we relaxed back in the van with a cuppa.  The evening should be interesting – we are meeting up with a group of Lions!  More later.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Carrot Country

One week home, and it’s time to travel again – it’s a hard life sometime, being retired.  Our destination today was  Carrot Country, Ohakune.  First stop was Sanson to top up with fuel, and also to buy a couple of “World Famous in Sanson” cream horns from Viv’s Kitchen.  The cafe was humming, the tables full of mainly grey haired persons all chomping down on those delicious cream horns.  I purchased two for us  to enjoy later.

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Viv's Kitchen in Sanson

Just where we were parked on the roadside was a set of Memorial Gates, in front of what we presume was an early school building.  Must admit we had never noticed them before as we had driven past.  The inscription read:

“This fence was erected by the residents of Sanson and districts to the glory of God and in memory of the men who fought and died for their country.  The Motherland called, and they went.  1914 – 1918".

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WW1 Memorial fence and gates in Sanson

Stopping for a late lunch in Taihape we enjoyed our meal – and those delicious cream horns too, trying not to make a mess with dropping pastry flakes all over everything.    It was a great day for travelling, warm autumn sunshine, and coming into Waiouru we caught our first glimpse of Mt Ruapehu.  Not quite skiing season, we noted, as the snow on the slopes was practically non existent.

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First view of Mt Ruapehu

We turned left at Waiouru onto SH49 and pulled into the Tangiwai Rail Disaster Memorial.  This has been refurbished recently and the names of all those who perished in 1953 have now been inscribed.  There was a Benton family who died, we had been told, and Robin was keen to find out more details.  They were not close family members, we believe, but still related in some way.

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Tangiwai Rail Disaster Memorial

From here it was only a short drive to Ohakune, the carrot capitol of New Zealand.  We drove past paddocks full of harvested carrots, all packed away in wooden crates, ready to be sent to market.  The excellent free draining soil and cool climate make ideal conditions for growing crops, and root vegetables in particular.

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The Big Carrot of Ohakune

Driving through town we sadly reflected that another of our favourite shops, the Chocolate Eclair Shop, was still closed.  Sadly, we were just four weeks too early, and this very popular bakery will reopen in time for the ski season.  We are spending the night at the Ohakune Club – off power – so it could well be a cold night.  Wonder what the temperature will drop to overnight?

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View of the mountain from Ohakune Club

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Rally at Raumati School

Towering over our caravan at Raumati School was a lovely old macrocarpa tree.  Macrocarpa (also known as Monterey cypress) was brought to New Zealand in the 1860s, and planted for shelter around farms.  This old tree has obviously had a long life in the school grounds, and recent plans to remove it met with fierce opposition from the locals.  The wind blew fierce and strong on Saturday evening, and I must admit I did have concerns in case the tree came crashing down on top of us.  But old Father Tree was made of stronger stuff, and just shook his branches and laughed at the wind blowing through the foliage. 

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Macrocarpa tree towering over us at the school

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Sunday afternoon 4zees outside in the autumn sunshine.
 
The rally captains suggested a night off from cooking on Sunday night, and we all heartily endorsed this idea.  It was just a short five minute walk down to the local pub, the Boundary Tap and Restaurant.

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Most of us chose roast pork with all the trimmings, and it was very tasty.  Our attentive waitress was doing a great job, taking orders, and had a lovely friendly personality.  Perhaps she thought that she would be able to keep our table of pensioners well in line.  But with a flick of the wrist, she knocked Charlie’s glass of wine all over the table, and all over Robin and me!  It splattered over his shirt and my blouse, and then running over our trouser legs! At least it was a glass of white wine, and not red!   The poor girl was really apologetic, and rushed out with towels to dab our clothing, and deftly cleaned up the table.  She even replaced Charlie’s now empty wine glass.

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Ready for our dinner

The desserts sounded so nice that we just had to order one – it’s not that we needed it, mind you.  Robin can never go past chocolate sundae (boring), and I joined several others who chose bread and butter pudding.  The fruit crumble looked nice too.

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All dabbed dry but clothing still smelling of wine!

With Anzac Day on Monday, it was a three day weekend.  Monday morning dawned nice and sunny again, and after morning tea it was time to pack up and head for home.  The road traffic is always heavy on long holiday weekend, but luckily we were going against the flow of most of the traffic, and only had a short drive home.  It was another great caravan club rally away with friends.