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

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Two Towers, a Tunnel and a Elevator

Sunday at Wanganui involved a real treat – a trip to Durie Hill.  Although we had been to the top of the hill before, we had never been up in the historic elevator, so were very pleased that a visit had been arranged during our caravan rally.

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To get to the historic elevator we had to walk through the 205 m long tunnel.  Luckily it is painted white and is well lit or it could well be a  rather spooky for nervous travelers.

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Jenny and Dot at the entrance to the tunnel

The vintage elevator is at the end of the tunnel, and entering was certainly like was stepping back in time.  Zena Mabbot has been operating it since 1971 and stands in front of a newspaper article when she started her job – although she now only works 3 days a week, she told us.  We were charged $2 each for the 66m ride up to the top and saved us walking up 191 concrete steps.

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Zena, the long serving elevator operator

The Durie Hill Underground Elevator was built to provide residents of the garden suburb easier access to the growing city. Built in 1919, it is the country’s only public underground Elevator and is still used on a daily basis by locals and visitors.    The Elevator engine is a converted electric Tram engine, which used to use castor oil as lubrication.

Our elevator ride stopped with a shake and a shudder and didn’t line up with the floor – too much weight perhaps, so we hauled ourselves up and out the door.  Several of us took the challenge of walking up the spiral staircase of the elevator tower – and sadly I forgot to take a photo of this interesting building.   It was so windy at the top  I took a quick photo of the river before we climbed down again.

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View from the elevator tower

There is a second tower on top of Durie Hill, the War Memorial Tower which is registered as a Category 2 Historic Place. The tower is the official Wanganui Memorial to the 513 people from the district who died in the First World War and was unveiled in 1925.  It is constructed of cemented marine sandstone containing shell fragments (called shellrock) from a nearby quarry. It is 33.5m high (104 feet) and the rock is estimated to be more than 2 million years old.
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War Memorial Tower

Only three of us climbed this tower, Barry and Derek who were much fitter than me and arrived at the top with no trouble at all.  I was much slower, but really pleased that I made it all the way to the top too, huffing and puffing all the way.   There is a heavy safety frame on top of the tower to stop any accidents.

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Views from the War Memorial Tower

We saw quite an assortment of padlocks attached to the safety frame.  It seems that these “love locks” as they are known, fastening a lock marked with lovers’ names to a public place and the key thrown away symbolizes everlasting love.  Wonder if they come back and cut them off if the love match turns sour?

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Locked in love at the top of the tower

After the mammoth task of climbing all those stairs we were faced with the downhill journey – this seems to use a different set of muscles and I will probably pay for all this exercise!  Many thanks to the Rally Captains for a great afternoon out.





Sunday, September 24, 2017

Kitchen Mishap and the General Election

With Robin’s 70th Birthday almost a mere memory, we decided to have a celebratory morning tea with our caravan club friends on Saturday morning.  That’s where the cookie dough from Yarrows of Manaia came in – we will bake some tasty macadamia and white chocolate cookies to share, we decided..  But we didn’t have a baking tray for our small caravan oven.  Tried to use the the monster gas oven in the camp kitchen, but it wouldn’t light.   So back to Plan B and then we ran out of gas half way through baking the cookies in two lots on the baking pan in the caravan.  Certainly not my finest morning in the kitchen.  Next time, we will bake at home and take the goodies with us.

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My cookies didn’t go to plan

After lunch our group went to visit St Paul's Anglican Memorial Church at Putiki, Wanganui.  Nothing out of the ordinary, just a  plain white church from the outside, it seemed.

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What an absolute delight the church was inside.  No photos were permitted inside so this has come from the web site.  The church features some of New Zealand’s finest modern Māori carving some of which uses paua shell. The church includes a painted rib ceiling which, as with the interior’s tukutuku panels, recalls Māori meeting houses, as well as, two beautiful etched-glass and two stained-glass windows.  Just beautiful, and our guide told us about the history of this wonderful church building.

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Interior of St Paul’s Church

Driving back to camp we crossed my favourite bridge in Wanganui – one of several bridges crossing the river.  The  Dublin Street Bridge looks rather like it was made from a Meccano set, I always think.

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Dublin Street Bridge

With the very important General Election taking place while our caravan club was at Wanganui, everyone took the opportunity to vote early.  With our democratic duty done, we were then free to enjoy the rally without worrying about casting a special vote as we were out of our election areas.  During the evening we were glued to the camp TV watching the results come in.  National seems to have won, but the Special Votes from overseas still need to be counted.  And with MMP here, they will need to form a coalition with one of the minor parties to form a government.  Meanwhile – the country waits.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Wanganui Holiday Park

The rain stopped at last and we are finally experiencing some nice warm weather.  Since we were last here, the camp has new managers and is looking good.  There is an interesting sign pole pointing every which way – both in New Zealand and lands far away.  I’m sure overseas travelers would be looking for their home town amongst the signs.

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The aviary is full of cheeping, chirping, fluttering birds of all sizes and colours.  They look so pretty as they sit on branches in the sunshine or scrabble around looking for goodies to eat on the ground.

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The Wanganui River runs along one side of the camp grounds.  At 290kms in length it is the country's third-longest river, and has special status owing to its importance to the region's Maori people.

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Wanganui River beside the camp ground

It was nice to welcome Don and Pamela back to the rally after quite some time away and they proudly showed off their “new to them” Sovereign RV caravan.  The new van is lovely, and it was so nice to catch up with the pair of them again.

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Pamela and Don with their new van

In the afternoon we went for a drive to visit the very pretty Virginia Lake.  We have been here many times, and it is a lovely peaceful place to return to, whether to walk along the paths, or merely sit and enjoy the antics of the water birds. 

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At Virginia Lake

We were intrigued with the long fronds growing down from the giant pohutukawa trees.Pohutukawa has the ability to sprout root systems  - these adventitious roots form out of trunks and branches, and are able to grow through the air as they search for crevices, pockets of soil and moisture.  Can you see Robin reaching up to one of these dense root systems hanging down on this huge tree?

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Robin and the pohutukawa tree

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View of Virginia Lake

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We had afternoon tea at the nearby Funky Duck Café

We met in the camp dining room/lounge in the evening for a film evening.  With several DVDs to choose from, the popular choice was Mama Mia.  Most of us had seen it before, but still enjoyed a second viewing and loved listening again to all those well known songs.  And the dancing, the costumes, and for me especially, seeing Colin Firth again - sigh.  Being an incurable romantic, I’m pleased that love overcome all obstacles in the end!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Hawera to Wanganui

A trip to Hawera without  visiting the Yarrow’s shop in Manaia is rather like going to Ohakune and not calling in at the Chocolate Éclair Shop!  Always a “must do”, and we took the short 14km drive to Manaia in the morning.  This shop is full of delightful goodies, and we stocked up with a few nice things, leaving the caravans back at camp.  Including some interesting frozen cookie dough – we’ll let you know how that cooks up.

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Yarrows Bakery, Manaia

After morning tea back in camp, we finally got on our way.  No chance of a last minute view of the mountain – the incessant rain and low cloud put paid to that.  Driving down SH3 we passed herds of black and white Friesian dairy cows, which are the backbone of the economy in these parts.  And a never ending stream of milk tankers on the road busy carrying all this milk from the farms to the Fonterra factory.

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Yet another Fonterra milk tanker

Driving through Patea, we passed the large sculpture of a whale skeleton.  This work was created by artist Kim Jarrett and was commissioned by the Taranaki Arts Festival Trust for its annual celebrations in 2006, the sculpture was later gifted to the South Taranaki District Council.

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Whale bone statue at Patea

The Sat Nav took us into Wanganui by way of a windy rural road we had never traveled before, past farms and lifestyle blocks dotted with rather large country houses.  Out in the country we may have been but we were held up by several road gangs working on various stretches on the road.

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Men at work

Then at the end of this little country road, we drove past a skeleton of a building – obviously a factory of some kind in a former life.  Certainly not much left of the building now – and we wondered what it used to be.  (Have since found out that this used to be a Fertilizer Plant.)


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Derelict old building

Turning onto Somme Parade, we soon arrived at our destination, the Wanganui Top 10 Holiday Park, where we will be spending the next four nights with our caravan club friends.  The rain set in and the ground was sodden – we do hope this wet weather doesn’t stay all weekend. 

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At Wanganui Holiday Park

It’s been quite some time since we stayed at this camp, and the young couple in charge have made many improvements, including updating the ablution blocks.  Hopefully when the weather clears we can have a good look around the camp.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

New Plymouth to Hawera

The POP we stayed at in New Plymouth was lovely, with views over farmland beside us.  Mind you, there are houses quite close in the other direction, but we can imagine that we are in the deepest darkest countryside, can’t we.

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Camping with country views

Mt Egmont decided to show herself in all her glory the next morning.  Just as well I was up early enough to snap this photo, and she gathered the clouds tightly around herself not long after, and kept them there for most of the day.

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Mt Egmont

We spent most of the afternoon driving here and there, doing a few jobs, and stopping off to purchase a few extra groceries.  Robin did most of his schooling in New Plymouth, so we had to check out his childhood home, and drove past his primary and secondary schools.  He commented that he used to bike up and down all the steep hills as a boy, and it was no trouble for strong young legs.
 
Later in the afternoon we had an appointment with a Birman breeder, who bred the Champion sire Lord Apollo of our beloved cat Muffy.  Muffy has been gone some time now and we are in the market for a new kitten and want to get one from this blood line, if possible.  Here’s hoping a kitten (female, seal point) comes available soon.  The breeding cats were all outside in their cages enjoying the late afternoon sunshine, but difficult to get good photos through the mesh.

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Birmans at the cattery

The four of us went out for a Chinese meal at Sunworld Restaurant, and invited Robin’s old school mate Gary and his wife Glenys to join us.  It was a lovely night catching up and reminiscing.

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Jenny and Robin, with Gary and Glenys

It was time to move on again, heading down to Hawera with a couple of stops along the way.  Stratford was named after the birthplace of William Shakespeare and many of the streets bear the name of the characters from his plays.  Stratford's glockenspiel stands in the main street, Broadway, and is unique to New Zealand.   Romeo and Juliet, emerge for the balcony scene, reaffirming their vows of love, four times a day.   The life-size figures were created by Nigel Ogel, owner/curator of Tawhiti Museum, near Hawera.  Well worth the time to stop and listen, if you are there at the right time.

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Glockenspiel at Stratford

Our next stop was to “The Cheesebar” at Eltham  to buy some cheese and hopefully pick up a bargain or two.  There was some delicious Kikorangi Blue on special, so I made sure I got some of that, plus a few other cheeses.

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I can’t say no to a good cheese

Not too much further and we pulled into the NZMCA site at Hawera.  Plenty of room for us at lunch time, although travelers often arrive in the early evening.  Not us – if possible we like to get settled on site by mid afternoon at the latest.

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NZMCA site at Hawera

Only one night here for us – on Thursday we are traveling to Wanganui to meet up with our Caravan Club for a  long weekend rally.  It will be great to catch up with the other members again, as we missed the previous rally.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Under the Shadow of Mt Egmont

After a rainy night in Piopio we squelched around in the mud at the Domain and departed this pretty little village.  Sadly, the bad weather put us off exploring but we would be quite happy to return for another visit.  Traveling along SH3 towards New Plymouth, the road took us along the Totoroa Gorge and past magnificent rocky outcrops.

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Cliffs in Totoroa Gorge

We drove past the the little speck of a place called Mahoenui which has a hidden secret.  In 1962 a population of giant weta  were discovered in remnant patches of tawa forest at Mahoenui in the southern King Country. More weta  were found on farmland reverting to gorse in 1987.  The Department of Conservation (DOC) purchased the land at Mahoenui where giant weta was discovered and turned it into a reserve.  The vegetation in the reserve is mainly gorse. While gorse is considered a pest throughout New Zealand, in this reserve it's an important plant as it provides protection from predators such as rats, hedgehogs and possums. Without this protection, the weta  is highly vulnerable to introduced predators.  Wild goats browsing on the gorse help to maintain its regrowth and are important in protecting the weta, and this is the only reserve in the country where gorse and goats are protected.

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Continuing along, and with the Awakino Gorge Road Tunnel coming up quick around one of the many corners, I had my camera primed and ready.  And there it was, quick, snap a photo before it’s too late.

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Awakino Gorge Tunnel

Once through the gorge the country opened up to show this line of trees on the ridge, looking rather like a crest of feathers to me.

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Trees on the sky-line

Then up and over the hill at Mokau, famous for the delicacy, whitebait.  Coming down the hill we see the curving Mokau river bridge.  One of these days we would like to take a trip on the Mokau River Cruise.

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Bridge spanning the Mokau River

We weren’t finished with the hills and drove over Mt Messenger, and through another small tunnel.

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Mt Messenger Tunnel

After a quick lunch stop, we continued on our way, and arrived at our stop for the next two nights, Rosandra Retreat.  We are parked up behind the tennis court.  This is a nice peaceful place with rural views.

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We are almost parked under the shadow of Mt Egmont – such a beautiful view from our camp site.  As they say in these parts, if you can’t see the mountain, it’s raining, and if you can see the mountain, it’s going to rain soon.  Seems that we were lucky to get a glimpse of Mt Egmont between showers.

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Mt Egmont

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Moving on to Pio Pio

We said our goodbyes to friends at the Motorhome, Caravan and Leisure Show – it was time to move on.  That’s what most of our neighbours seemed to be doing – although we could stay till 5.00pm, most of the vans decided to leave in the morning. After refilling the fresh water, we headed off too.

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Driving down SH3 we stopped at the Kihikihi – a Maori name meaning cicada.  This little town has two  businesses of note, the first being the Laundromat on the main road.  After being away since Tuesday, we really needed to visit the laundromat.  Robin left me to deal with the laundry while he went to use the dump station.  Lots of locals use this business too, they came and went with washing, or more often, clothes washed at home which needed drying.  With our laundry washed, dried, and neatly folded up,  we then stopped at the Viands Bakery, home to award winning pies and all sorts of other tasty goodies. 

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Next stop was to have our lunch at the Haurua rest area – a very historic place as it turns out.  There is a large plaque which confirms the selection of Potatau Te Whereowhero as the first Maori King in 1857, and that this would be hereditary to his family. 

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Lunch stop at Haurua

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And behind the rest stop we spotted the Haurua Marae.

Lunch over we continued down SH3, stopping at Te Kuiti to view the recently erected sculpture of rugby legend Colin “Pinetree” Meads, who grew up on a farm in the area.  Colin Meads was not merely the most famous All Black of his era - the Te Kuiti sheep farmer personified a rugged rural masculinity that evoked a bygone era even in his playing days.  His iconic status in New Zealand society was recognized in 2001 when he was made a New Zealand Companion of Merit (the equivalent of a knighthood). In 2009 the government reintroduced the former system of titles and Colin Meads accepted the title of ‘Sir’. He stated, however, that unlike his former team-mates Wilson Whineray and Brian Lochore, he didn't want to be addressed as 'Sir' . They, he argued, deserved the title as they were ‘perfect gentlemen’, whereas he was ‘a bit rougher’.  In June 2017, Sir Colin Meads attended the unveiling in Te Kuiti of a larger-than-life bronze statue of himself with ball in hand. Sadly, he died of pancreatic cancer two months later.

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Statue of Sir Colin Meads at Te Kuiti

Piopio was our stop for the night.  All the streets in Piopio’s town centre are named after New Zealand native birds. Piopio itself is the name of an extinct native bird – thought to be a type of song thrush.

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We are staying at the pretty little Domain, on the hard as the grass is rather soft and we don’t want to get bogged down.  No power, but with toilets and fresh water available we will be quite happy tucked up here for the night.

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Overnighting in Piopio