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

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Gidday Sharyn, nice to meet you.

We had a fun day yesterday, showing a stranger around our wonderful capitol city. I had been contacted by a blog reader from across the ditch in Oz, who was arriving in Wellington on a cruise ship and wondered if we could meet up.  Of course we could, so we started off bright and early joining the commuters on the trip to Wellington.  After a bit of a worry about where we would meet up, Sharyn arrived at the pick-up point on a shuttle bus – she had an advantage over us as she had seen our photos on the blog.  Greetings over, we set off on our adventure.

Up, up, up we went, up the narrow winding road top the top of Mt Vic, where we had panoramic 360 degrees views right around Wellington City.  There was a bus full of cruise liner passengers there ahead of us, as well as plenty of others milling about.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t too windy at all.  Sharyn had been warned about “windy Wellington” but we assured her we often get lovely calm days too.

P3038613 Wellington City and Harbour, from Mt Vic

P3030007 Sharyn and Jenny

With two quilters in the car, a trip to a quilt shop was a necessary evil.  Robin did a great job of finding the Kilbirnie shop for us, then waiting patiently while we had a quick browse.  The shop owner recommended a cafe for lunch, so that was the driver’s next quest.  The Spruce Goose was somewhere by Wellington Airport, I told him.  Hardly enough information really, and the Sat Nav was no help at all.  But we drove along, and soon spotted it.  It must be popular, I thought, customers were sitting outside on the sun deck, while others were walking through the door, all intent on an early lunch, like us.

P3030017 The Spruce Goose

As much as I would have loved a dozen new season’s Bluff oysters for lunch, sanity prevailed and we chose from the counter selection.  Bagels with smoked salmon was a good second choice for the ladies, and Robin enjoyed a BLAT.  This was a very busy cafe indeed, so that is always a sign that the food is good.  A helpful young waitress did the honours and took a photo for us.

P3030015 Enjoying lunch at the Spruce Goose

After lunch we took our guest of to Petone,  where the first European settlers arrived in New Zealand on 22 January 1840, on the ship Aurora which carried  25 married couples, 36 single persons and 40 children. The locality was described as, "sandy beach, which is about two miles long ... bounded on either side by wooded hills from 300 to 400 feet in height, covered in high forest to within a mile and a half of the beach, when swamps full of flax and a belt of sand hummocks intervened."  There was plenty of bird life on the beach.  Oyster catchers were busily walking along,  looking for something tasty to eat.  And a group of red billed gulls were keeping a eye out on the comings and goings at the beach.

P3030026 Variable Oystercatcher

P3030029 Red Billed Gulls

Sharyn was amazed at the steady stream of people, householders and several truck drivers too, stopping off at Te Puna Wai Ora (Spring of Life) in Buick Street to fill their containers with pure untreated artesian  water from taps.  The water originates from the Hutt River at the Taita Gorge and it has been naturally filtered through the alluvial gravels and sands of the Hutt Valley over several years. It is free, highly valued and consumers travel long distances to collect the water for drinking purposes.  As Robin did, when he filled up a large container with water to take back home.

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P3030023 Spring of Life, in Buick Street, Petone

We took our time as we drove around the coast to Eastbourne, and related the sad story of the Wahine disaster which took place in April 1968, with a loss of 51 lives.  Robin and I can still vividly remember that tragic day, with pictures of the ship stuck fast on Barrett’s Reef playing over and over again on TV.  Many of the passengers, both dead and and survivors, were washed up on the rocky Eastbourne coast.  The foremast from T.E.V. Wahine (Turbo Electric Vessel) now stands at Eastbourne as a memorial to the tragedy.

P3030037 Wahine Memorial at Eastbourne

After driving around in such lovely warm weather, and ice-cream was in order, and Days Bay Pavilion in William’s Park was the next stop.  We introduced Sharyn to the “world famous in New Zealand” taste of hokey pokey ice-cream.  These were hard to eat before the ice-cream melted.

P3030040 We’re having hokey pokey ice creams

My mother used to relate stories of coming over to Days Bay as a young woman by ferry, and going down the giant slide in William's Park.  Years later when I got to enjoy this park, the slide was long gone.  So  I was delighted to find some old photos of the slide hanging up inside the Pavilion building. 

P3030043 The old slide at William’s Park

It was time to head back into Wellington and return Sharyn to her cruise ship, Dawn Princess.  Sharyn was certainly enjoying her cruise, and was travelling with a group of like-minded ladies.  Who wouldn’t enjoy life on board, with great food, entertainment, and rooms.  There was plenty happening every day, including a daily newsletter, with plenty of information about the next port of call.

P3038619 The Dawn Princess

It was great to meet up with Sharyn and make her acquaintance.  Guess this happens to other bloggers from time to time, who get to meet after exchanging emails for a while.  What a lovely lady, and it was a real pleasure to show her around Wellington.  As the song goes – you can’t beat Wellington on a good day!!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Otaki Kite Festival

The weather was fine and warm, with good blustery winds blowing along the beach.  Just the right conditions for the Otaki Kite Festival.  Crowds flocked to Otaki Beach to view the vast array of kites flying overhead.  These were not those monster kites held aloft with copious quantities of hot air and travelling the skies with their wicker baskets full of excited people.  These kites, in all shapes and sizes, were tethered to an array of tractors parked long the beach.  And try as they might with their fierce flutters, the kites were firmly attached and couldn’t escape to fly away into the wild blue yonder.  And best of all for family groups and oldies like us, the festival was free.  Big ones, small ones, lots with long fluttering tails,  novelty shapes and box kites too.

P2288587 There were large blue whales and colourful octopi.

P2288585 Pegasus flying high

P2288586And a cheeky panda

P2288589 Pigs and puffer fish

People were everywhere, all along the beach, and they walked along taking photos.  And the kites didn’t have to be flying high to get an appreciative audience.  These youngsters were fascinated with the rows of birds standing  fluttering in the sand just in front of them.

P2280088 Look Mum, birdies!

P2288603A realistic seabird kite

P2288607 Rows of smaller kites at this end of the beach

Some people brought their deck chairs to sit on and watch the display.  While others had a brilliant view from the top of the building.  I don’t think I would want to sit up there.  There were food stalls galore, with everything from hot chips, cold drinks, and burgers.  We settled for a blackberry ice-cream and sat down under the veranda, trying to finish our ice creams before they melted.

P2280096 People out having fun

P2280099More people having fun

And we couldn’t get away from Health and Safety warnings.  “Kites can be dangerous”, we were warned.   We can believe that, as we watched a man close by putting his kite through it’s paces.  It was a dual line kite and looped the loop, then seem to head straight towards us.  It travelled so fast and furious we just had to hope that the lines were too short for it actually reach us and bash us in the head, as we wouldn’t have had time to get out of the way.   A couple of youngsters weren’t at all scared.  “Come and stand here”, I heard one boy tell his friend, “and see if the kite gets us”.  Luckily the kite owner seemed to be in complete control, and we didn’t witness any accidents.

P2280095 Warnings were prominently displayed on the beach

It was a fun afternoon down at the beach, and it was great to see so many people out enjoying the kites.  On the way back to the car we spotted this cute  little caravan used to advertise the Kapiti area. 

P2280100Escape to Kapiti caravan

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Tiki Tour for South Island Tourists

Our friends Merilyn and Colin from Dunedin have been to stay with us for a few days.  Colin is one of those drivers who likes to go from points A to B without any deviation while on holiday.  So while they were here we travelled in the slow lane and took them on a little tiki tour around the area.  First up was a quick look around the township of Levin – that didn’t take too long.  Levin is well recognised as a market garden area and to acknowledge this Wellington sculptor Dennis Hall was commissioned to design and make a statue.  This is a tribute to the contribution made by the Chinese people of the development of market gardens in the area.  

P2270010    Merilyn in the Levin township

No trip to Levin is complete without a visit to RJ’s  Licorice  factory shop.  Our guests were licorice lovers too, but had no idea that this delicacy was made right here in our (new) home town.  Just like us, they went away with several bags of this tasty treat.

P2270008  Lots of licorice for all tastes

Then we had a drive around the old Kimberly Hospital site. Merilyn had a rellie who stayed here as a patient for some time before it closed, so was quite interested to see what was happening.  Local builder Wayne Bishop has purchased the 48 hectare site and has plans to develop it into a life style housing village.  While most of the 85 buildings on this huge site would be demolished or removed, some building materials would be recycled.  There are lots of lovely old trees dotted around the property.

P2270013  Part of Kimberly Hospital

After lunch we continued our tiki tour going northwards.  Did they know about the Foxton Dutch windmill, we asked.  No, they didn’t, so off we went to show them. The deMolen Windmill is located in the Main Street in Foxton, and was opened in 2003. This very special Dutch windmill attracts visitors from all over the world, and grinds several varieties of stone ground flour.  The windmill was built and is managed by volunteers from within the Foxton community, and it is run by a charitable trust organisation.

P2270018 The deMolen Windmill in Foxton

Where to next?  How about another local attraction, the Moutoa Sluice Gates.  The gates were built in 1962 and protects over 100 sq km of farmland from the risk of flooding.  The Manawatu River downstream is vulnerable to flooding as the land is low lying and the river flows are very slow.  The sluice gates cause much of the river flow to take a shortcut, bypassing 30km of low capacity river channel, instead being directed down the 10kmm long Moutoa Floodway.   The sluice gates are a bit like the ones making up the Thames Barrier, I told them, but very much smaller of course.  Colin in particular was quite impressed by this clever piece of engineering.

P2270019 Moutoa Sluice Gates

Another engineering marvel we took our guests to see  was the Te Apiti Wind Farm.    The turning blades had quite a hypnotic quality about them as we drove nearer and nearer, finally reaching the lookout.  Meridian Energy’s Te Apiti wind farm is located on Saddle Road north of the Manawatu Gorge, and covers  1,150 hectares of farmland owned by several landowners, including Meridian Energy.  The wind resource near the Manawatu Gorge is exceptional – with the Manawatu gorge acting as a wind funnel, creating consistently high wind speeds.  Parking in the car park, we could hear the swish, swish of the blades as we stood just under a huge wind turbine.  I could just imagine the blades flying through the air and decapitate us.  (Too much imagination, says Robin).

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P2270038 At the Wind Farm Lookout

Merilyn in particular was quite spooked by all the swishing blades.  The wind power increased in speed at one stage and the noise and speed of the blades above us increased dramatically.  She got quite a fright and wanted nothing more than to get in the car and away from the huge turbines surrounding us.

P2270037 Map showing the placement of each wind turbine

After all that excitement we really needed a cuppa and drove to the Bridge Cafe, at Ballance, just over the long bridge at the Woodville end of the Manawatu Gorge.  This is a place I have long wanted to stop at, but we always seem to be towing the caravan behind us as we pass by.  We enjoyed our coffees and slices in a nice shady area of the garden.

P2270045 The Bridge Cafe at Ballance
.100_2148 Robin, Jenny and Colin

Then we climbed back into the car, drove through the Manawatu Gorge, and headed home.  They enjoyed their trip, we are happy to say, as they visited places they had never been to before, or even heard of.  Even driving through the Manawatu Gorge was a first for both of them, surprisingly.  We are pleased that we could extend their geographical knowledge.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Rosebrook Garden Railway

After boarding a bus during the weekend rally and a short drive around suburban Carterton we arrived at Rosebrook Railway.  Lee and Christine Collett purchased their first garden railway  starter set way back in 2005 and decided to set it up under their lovely old silver birch tree which would provide much needed shade during the hot Wairarapa summers.  Four truckloads of soil were needed to form hills, and the layout has evolved with a European flavour – all the buildings were imported from Germany.  

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P2210046Big boys love trains too – the set up is sheltered by the silver birch tree

The rack railway is the most recent addition and climbs from the bottom up a very steep track to an alpine area.  The train is similar to the Fell engine which was used on the Rimutaka Incline.  

P2218577Rack railway starting the steep climb

As any train enthusiast knows, one set-up is not enough, and the Hydrangea Tram Line is a mixture of city culture and country living.  Half buildings were purchased and placed against the house.  The tram whizzes past the busy market in front of the shops, and then continues on around a windmill with bags of flour stacked outside. 

P2210031 Hydrangea Tram Line

Lee was keen to expand his rail empire into an industrial area where he could run his larger trains.  But first a purpose built shed had to be built to store the trains, rolling stock, and movable accessories. 

P2210032 Storage shed

The new layout runs from the storage shed, around an oval in the back yard, then through the fence to pass by the timber mill.

P2210034 Timber mill

There was a lot to look at and admire, and after a while some of us ladies (and a couple of men) were just happy to have a little sit down in the shade.

P2210049We were all trained out -  Lynn, Jenny, Elaine, Kath and Bea

Then we discovered that Lee and Christine show cats.  Just look at this magnificent specimen, a Maine Coon.  He is only young, but already about ten times bigger than our little Muffy.  They also own a couple of American Bobtail cats, but they were snoozing in the shady run and not coming out for a photo shoot.  Read about this interesting breed here.

P2210054 Young Maine Coon cat

After a very interesting afternoon we boarded the bus again and had a bit of a tiki tour before heading back to camp.  Rosebrook Garden Railway is not open every day, only opening up  for groups such as ours from time to time.  We were very grateful to Lee and Christine to opening up their garden railway for our group of happy campers, and sharing their enthusiasm with us. 

P2210056 This sign in Lee’s shed says it all!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Combined Rally at Carterton Rugby Club

How many km to travel from the Golf Club to the Rugby Club on Friday?  Just 5km, as it turned out, around a few corners, drive south down the main road, turn off at the round-about, and we were practically there.  The Wairarapa Caravan Club were hosting the Combined Rally over the weekend, with visitors from Wellington and Heretaunga Caravans Clubs.  This was the first time we had stayed at the Rugby Club grounds, which is now a POP for NZMCA members.  18 caravans and motor-homes were in attendance from the three clubs, all looking forward to a weekend of fun and fellowship.  Plus two cats, Muffy and Honey.


P2210002

P2210001Carterton Rugby Club Park Over Property

The “Mix and Mingle” on Friday night allowed us to catch up with caravan friends from the other clubs whom we hadn’t seen for a wee while.  And make the acquaintance of some we hadn’t met before.  We were pleased to have 4zees outside  under the large shady trees which gave us shelter from the strong Wairarapa sunshine.  Heretaunga Caravan Club President had the task of presenting our members Bill and Val with their 300 Rally Awards.  And later in the weekend Derek welcomed new members Sandra and Don into our club.  So our club had a lot to celebrate over the weekend

P2210063 Happy 300th to Bill and Val

Saturday night was Housie Night, and of the three clubs participating in the weekend, our club Heretaunga seemed to make off with most of the winnings.  Not yours truly though, I didn’t win a thing.  Like most, I seemed to be hanging out for the last number or so to be called so that I could shout out “House!!”  Harry did the honours of calling out the numbers.

P2210005 Harry, the man with all the lucky numbers

P2210006Dot was one of the lucky winners

P2210007 I only needed one more to win

We had the use if the Rugby Club hall for the evenings.  Obviously, a lot of Tui beer is served here, as the walls had several Tui ads displayed.  Such as this one, showing one of the legendary glamorous Tui girls doing a quality control test on  a drop of the “world famous in New Zealand” beer. 

P2210027

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Carterton Golf Club

It’s been a typical “blue dome” Wairarapa day today, just perfect for getting out and about with the caravan in tow.  We headed over to Carterton for a Combined Rally organised by the Wairarapa Caravan Club but came a day early – just because we can.  After hearing good reports about this new POP from friends who had recently stayed here,  we decided to try it too.  It’s certainly very pleasant and peaceful, just look at those heifers in the welcoming committee by the gate!

P2190009 Our stay for the night – Carterton Golf Club

The rural setting is lovely, and with 6 new power points and a great ablution block, it certainly caters very well for overnight visitors.  And at a very reasonable price too.  Caravanners coming to stay at facilities like these boost the club coffers and add a degree of overnight security. 

P2190003 The only visitors so far

The golfers have finished their games, packed up and gone home.  So far we are in splendid isolation and have the place to ourselves, but that could certainly change.

P2190011 Looking out over the greens

What could be nicer cooking and eating outside on such a pleasant evening.   No, not a barbie, while we are on power we are are cooking some sausages in the electric fry pan out in the fresh air.  Not just any old sausages either, these are special venison sausages from friends and intrepid hunters Bruce and Julie.  Bruce goes out hunting in the hills, then carries the deer back to civilisation over his shoulders.  Now that is a “good keen kiwi bloke” if ever there was one.  With the addition of some zucchini fritters and a fried egg also cooked in the pan, we had a meal fit for royalty.  And cooking outside in the fresh air ensures that the aromas stay outside and do not linger around in the caravan.

P2190016

There is plenty of birdlife around.  We saw a couple of pukekos, also known as purple swap hens, who scurried away from prying eyes very quickly, flicking their white tail feathers behind them. With a stream feeding into a man made lake close to the clubhouse, they would be perfectly happy living here.   Robin spotted a couple of Eastern Rosellas when he was out strolling around, but didn’t have his camera with him.

P2190002 Two pukekos running into the bush

P2190013 Robin contemplating the greens

We only have a very short trip tomorrow to meet up with our caravan buddies so we can take it easy in the morning.  But perhaps the car park will fill up bright and early with keen golfers who want an early game?  Who knows – we will just have to wait and see.