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

Friday, October 24, 2014

Labour Weekend at Foxton

Looks like we are in for a windy old weekend at the Manawatu Caravan Club grounds in Foxton for the long Labour Weekend.  The wind seems to be getting stronger, so we haven’t had a chance yet to sit outside.  Luckily there is a hall available for our Heretaunga caravan club members to use.

Here for the long weekend

The Manawatu Caravan Club is not a touring club like us, but have static caravans on their own sites in the extensive grounds, as well as ten or so sites available for visitors.  Five of our caravans arrived yesterday and we soon got ourselves settled.  Number one priority these days seems to be getting the satellite dish pointing at the right position in the sky – most important if you want to watch a little TV in the evenings.

PA240021 Five caravans in a row

It was my birthday yesterday, so it was only right and proper that I got the evening off from  cooking duties.  So down we went to Mr Grumpy’s, the local take-away, to see what was on offer.  I had my heart set on a dozen battered oysters, but that wasn’t to be.  It’s obviously not oyster season at the moment.  But Mr Grumpy had locally caught whitebait on offer, so we ordered a large whitebait fritter each, served in buttered bread. As well as some delicious blue cod for me, and snapper for him, plus some of those fancy curly chips.  A little bit pricy for a fish and chip dinner, but the cook’s birthday is a special occasion, after all.

PA230016 Look at the size of that whitebait fritter

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

What’s Growing?

Those sulky rhubarb plants have picked themselves up and are growing well in their new raised garden.  They didn’t take too kindly when they were pulled out, roots and all, and then cruelly split in two.  But they have forgiven us now, and are enjoying the application of copious amounts of pony poo which was dug into the soil in their home.   New leaves are unfurling, on the top of nice straight red stalks, so there may be enough to make a rhubarb crumble for dessert sometime soon.  There are some chives and parsley keeping the rhubarb company, and the chives in particular seem to be thriving.

PA220008 Rhubarb plants growing well

After lying empty for a while, growing only a fine crop of weeds, our other raised garden is now looking respectable again.  Out came the weeds, in went some tomatoe food, followed by seedlings.  Robin planted tomatoes, lettuces, some red pepper (capsicum) plants and a row of peas.

PA220009 Baby seedlings just planted

It’s a lovely Spring day, the washing is drying on the clothesline in the back yard, and the flag is flapping lazily over the front fence.  Muffy is enjoying the sunshine through the screen door, wondering if it is getting close to her meal time yet?  Anyone in the kitchen must be there to feed her, she thinks.

PA220012 Is it tea time yet?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Cruising the Arctic

Our 60s Up meetings are always well attended, and today was no exception.  We bought raffle tickets, paid our fees for next month’s trip, and found ourselves seats for the meeting.  After the usual announcements, those having birthdays this month were presented with a Scratchy ticket.  I’m an October birthday girl, but sadly, my Scratchy didn’t win me a fortune, big or small. 

The speaker for the meeting was Jim McIntosh, who talked about his Arctic Cruise experience.  He was ably assisted by our caravan club buddie Selwyn, who provided technical support by operating the slide show.  Jim and his wife did their Arctic Cruise with G Adventures, an adventure travel company offering a selection of affordable small-group tours and expeditions.

PA200002 Jim McIntosh talking about his trip

Departing from Scotland, the adventure commenced with a visit to Skara Brae, on the Orkney Islands.  We knew all about the discovery of the ruins of a Neolithic village through watching the History Chanel on TV.  These were discovered in the winter of 1850, when wild storms ripped the grass from a high dune to expose the ruins of ancient stone buildings. The discovery proved to be the best-preserved Neolithic village in northern Europe.  What a thrill it must have been to see wonderful ruins from such a long time ago. 

Image result for skara braeExcavated Neolithic village of Skara Brae

The tour continued on to the Shetland Islands, through Norway and the Arctic region, with days full of beautiful scenery and wildlife spotting.  This wasn’t an expedition for the faint hearted.  Thermal clothing and tramping boots were the clothing of choice, quite necessary for tramping over rocks, climbing up to view glaciers, and checking out the wildlife.  As the trip took them further north, it became a game to see who would catch sight of the first polar bear.  The trips ashore then meant that the tourists were accompanied to with armed guards for safety!  Much safer to encounter a polar bear in a museum setting – there is no danger there of being eaten alive.

PA200003 Polar bear in a museum

Onboard entertainment on adventure tourism trips is quite different to what is offered on the huge ocean going liners.  No theatres, dances, shuttlecock competitions or dining with the captain.  The entertainment onboard this tour was a series of interesting lectures about the terrain and wildlife, people and places.  The food was excellent too, we were told. The Arctic cruise must have been an amazing experience.

PA200004 Caravan club member Selwyn helped with the presentation

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Wanganui and Home

The last night of our current trip was spent at the Wanganui East Club.  We have stayed here a couple of times before, and the staff are always pleasant and friendly.  At no cost at all to spent the night in their car-park, it is only right and proper to spend a few dollars in their bar, or even better, enjoy a meal in the restaurant.

PA170068 Staying overnight at the Wanganui East Club

We had been told that during the weekend the restaurant was always heavily patronised.  We were there on a Thursday night, and most of the tables were taken.  So that certainly shows how good the food is, we thought.  I was determined to try the Five Spice Pork Belly, which Robin had on our last visit, when he rather grudgingly only gave me a tiny taste from his plate.  We both ordered it this time, and it was delicious, we can really recommend it.  In fact, there was such a big serving of meat, that I couldn’t get through all mine.

PA160063 Ready to enjoy my yummy meal

With the railway line close by, it was interesting to watch the freight trains going by.  This one looks rather like milk tankers going to Fonterra.

PA160061Bulk milk train just behind us

Having a handy dump station on site, disposing of our waste water was so easy.  With the grey water tank empty, and the fresh water tank full, we started the drive back home.  This was an easy run of 100km or so and we were back home in time for lunch.  Better get the first load of laundry into the washing machine, I thought, before I do anything else – the laundry bag was full to the brim!   Unpacking the van and cleaning took a while, then Robin got the hose and brush to wash the outside of the van before putting it away in it’s own space.  All nice and clean again, and we will be away once more before we know it.

Friday, October 17, 2014

New Plymouth to Wanganui via the Cheese Factory

Leaving New Plymouth, we never did get a good view of that elusive Mt Egmont.  The locals say: if you can see the mountain it's going to rain, if you can't see it, it is raining.  This is what it looks like under all that cloud – not my photo, sadly.

Mt Taranaki looms behind dairy cows grazing in a paddock. Photo / Mark MitchellMt Egmont looms behind dairy cows grazing in a paddock. Photo / Mark Mitchell

We drove down SH2, past Inglewood and Stratford, stopping at Eltham, home of the Mainland Cheese Shop.  In fact, last time we called in, we were greeted by a couple of fire engines and the factory staff pouring out of the doors.  This visit was much quieter, thank goodness. The cheese is not a great deal cheaper than the prices you can pay in the supermarkets, so we always look for the specials.  And we found some, a lovely big piece of blue cheese, (love that smelly blue cheese)some parmesan, so nice on pizzas and in cheese sauces, and keeps for ages, plus a big bag of Swiss cheese.  That should last us for a while.

PA170064 Our cheese specials

Since the 1880s dairy farming has been the basis of Taranaki’s economy, and has made a major contribution to the region’s economy.  Due to amalgamation and automation, the many small farms and factories of the 20th century have been replaced by much larger farms and a single massive milk-processing plant, Fonterra.  With a  a moist, temperate climate and deep, free-draining, fertile, volcanic ash soils, the area is particularly well suited to dairy farming.  We drove past many paddocks with grass cut all ready to be packed into silage bags for winter feed.

Our stop for the night was at the Wanganui East Club.  We were joined by a motor-home later in the afternoon, so we weren’t all on  our lonesome this time.

PA160056At Wanganui East Club

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Lunch on the Water-front in New Plymouth

Taking the long way home through New Plymouth was to catch up with Robin’s old school mate Gary.  And the fact that these were Robin’s old stomping grounds made the visit even more worthwhile.  We had arranged a lunch date with Gary and Glennis, but before we went, Robin just had to have a good look at Gary’s pride and joy.  It was a classic Chevy, and there was plenty to see and admire under the bonnet.

PA150042   Checking out the Chevy

Then it was off to lunch, down to the harbour to Gusto.  We had a great table looking out over the breakwater.  Our choices were lovely, two big breakfasts, eggs Benedict with salmon, and mushrooms and bacon on toast.  Looking through the windows we could see plenty of seabirds resting on a rocky break-water.

PA158487 Jenny, Robin, Gary and Glennis at Gusto

PA150044Sea birds galore

After lunch we strolled along the water-front, enjoying the sun shine and the fresh sea air.
 PA150046 Sea view looking north

Paratutu beckoned, that large rocky outcrop which fit and active people climb right up to the top.  Not us though, we were content to drive to the base, and look up in wonder.  The track is so steep that you have to haul yourself ever skywards with the help of a wire rope.  Both Robin and Gary had climbed Paratutu in their youthful days, it was no trouble at all, back then.  Paritutu and the Sugar Loaf Islands are remnants of a large volcano that was active nearly two million years ago.

PA158492 Paratutu

Saddleback and Motoroa  islands are eroded remnants of the volcanic activity.  Upthrusts from the volcanic layers formed the landscape both above and below the sea.

PA150049Saddleback and Motoroa
Returning Gary and Glennis back to their home, they showed is some holiday snaps of their last overseas trip to Los Vegas, a side trip to the Grand Canyon, and back to Hawaii.  What a great trip, something we would like to do too – must get our Passports renewed.  Then it was back to camp, where we are still “Nigel No Mates”, with not a single caravan or camper to keep us company.  Mt Egmont was playing hide and seek under the cloud cover, hopefully we will get a better view tomorrow.

PA150050 The mountain is here somewhere
Time to move on - next stop Wanganui.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Pirongia to New Plymouth

It was goodbye  to the Clydesdales and our charming hosts and we set of down SH39 to skirt around the southern end of Otorohanga, and joined up with SH3.  Driving through the Awakino Gorge, we came across what our road atlas quaintly calls a “road tunnel” – another feat of engineering hewn out of solid rock many years ago.

PA140026 Driving through a road tunnel

Stopping for lunch at Mokau, we briefly flirted with the idea of whitebait fritters for lunch from the famous whitebait cafe.  But no, we saved our money and parked down by the edge of the river, making do with a sandwich and cuppa in the caravan instead, watching all the traffic hurtle across the curved bridge.


PA140033 Lunch at Mokau

Driving along the coast for a while, the road then took us up and over Mt Messenger.  Another road tunnel – this one complete with a workman standing guard. Maybe he knew we were coming and was a one man welcoming committee?

PA140035Mt Messenger road tunnel

Along the coast some more and we soon reached New Plymouth.  Coming to New Plymouth  is always a bit of a home-coming to Robin, as his family moved here from the Hutt Valley when he was 8 years old.  Consequently he did most of his schooling here, and as a teenager spent summers surfing and life saving at the beach.  We are staying at the new NZMCA park  at Huatoki Domain for two nights.  No other campers here so we are in splendid isolation.

PA140039 All alone in camp