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

Friday, November 17, 2017

A Weekend at Clareville

Home a mere week – and it’s time to hitch up the caravan and take to the road again.  We were off to a weekend caravan rally at Clareville, in the Wararapa.  As the crows fly, this doesn’t seem too far – but with the Tararua Ranges slap bang in the middle, it is a good two hour drive whether we drive south to cross over the Rimutaka Hill, or north and use the Pahiatua Track.  North it was, and off we went, deciding to leave a day early, on Thursday morning. 

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Driving over the Pahiatua Track

With the indefinite closure of the Manawatu Gorge, traffic is now much heavier on this narrow, winding road, and we had a couple of scary times with large trucks whizzing around the corners towards us.  But eventually we arrived at Clareville A & P Showgrounds to stay in the motor camp. 

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We were the first to arrive, and one by one, other happy campers from our club trickled in.  All with the same idea, to add an extra day onto our weekend.  And why not, that’s the beauty of being retired.

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Early bird campers on Thursday

The ducks from the nearby duck pond kept us entertained, and they wandered around happily quacking.  Perhaps they were hopeful of a hand out for a snack?

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Ducks in the camp grounds

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Pretty duck pond

With the hot Wairarapa sunshine beating down we gathered in the shade for 4zees, and caught up with everyone’s news.  Several decided to go to have an easy evening meal and went up town for fish and chips.  Robin got the Weber our and cooked our sausage patties on that – such lovely BBQ smells wafting in the early evening air.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Railcar Trip to Pahiatua

What a great way to spend a few hours on Sunday - taking a vintage railcar trip from Palmerston North to Pahiatua through the Manawatu Gorge.  This fun trip (one of many ran over the weekend) was full of our Probus Club members and we pooled cars and drove up to Palmerston North Railway Station.   And there it is, all ready and waiting for us.

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Waiting at Palmerston North Station

We soon boarded RM31, and sat down to enjoy the journey in the nice comfy seats.  Robin went up the front to check out the controls.  Before too long the carriage was full and we were on our way.

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The refurbished interior

Robin was wearing his “Savannahlander” cap and tee shirt and a couple of volunteers came to talk about this Aussie iconic railcar trip.  The railcar took us past farmland dotted with stock.  Horses, sheep, cattle, even some alpacas looked up from their grazing to watch the railcar whizz by.

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The rain was lashing down as we traveled through the Manawatu Gorge, looking over to the road which has been closed since April.  The Manawatu Gorge road is likely to be remain closed for some time due to fresh fears about another major slip.   The Transport Agency said a large area above the Kerry's Wall rock face was highly unstable, and it had since  removed all contractors from working there. 

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The slip in the Manawatu Gorge. Photo: NZTA

We arrived at Pahiatua and were given a tour through the workshops.  The Pahiatua Railcar Society (PRS) is  dedicated to the restoration of railcars and other locomotives and rolling stock formerly operated by the New Zealand Railways Department. It has the sole remaining examples of the RM class 88 seater and Wairarapa railcars.  We were told of the innumerable hours of work the volunteers undertake to restore these vintage treasures and the efforts to obtain funding.

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Then we were taken into another workshop and it was explained that the two units being worked on are two halves of a railcar.  We could appreciate how these restoration jobs take so many years as they are painstakingly rebuilt piece by piece. Such dedication from the members, and excursions like those held over the weekend put some extra funds into the coffers.

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There's our railcar waiting to take us back again.  We appreciated the request for passengers to swap sides,  as we would get a much better view of the gorge on the return journey – there were too many heads in the way to get good pictures previously.

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The railway tracks are on one side of the gorge, and we looked over at the road propped up on pillars. The road is eerily quiet with no traffic at all for the foreseeable future.

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Views of the Manawatu Gorge road

For whatever reason, the return journey always seems much quicker – I’m sure there is an explanation for that. We thanked the organizer, hopped into the car and drove back to Levin.   We had a great time – what can be better than riding the rails on a Sunday afternoon!

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Friday, November 10, 2017

Farm Dogs, Pet Sheep and Bulls

With our tyre pressures checked by a helpful manager at the tyre place over the road from our accommodation, followed by a visit to the dump station, we were finally ready to say goodbye to Tokoroa.  The plan was to travel along SH32 and along the western side of Lake Taupo -  which took us over the Whakamaru Dam.  Whakamaru Power Station is the fourth hydroelectric power station on the Waikato River.   (Robin has a bit of a thing for power stations so is always pleased when we drive by one of these engineering marvels.)

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Driving over the Whakamaru Dam

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Our travels took us past rolling farmland and we were interested to see some amazing rocky outcrops.  There were plenty of  pine plantations in this part of the country too.

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Rocky outcrops

Changing to SH41 at Kuratau Junction, we climbed up hill and down dale, to get our first glimpse of the southern end of Lake Taupo.  Quite a different view to the one we usually see when we travel up SH1.

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Lake Taupo

And it wouldn’t be a trip along the Desert Road without a mountain photo.  Here is Mt Ngauruhoe peeping out in the distance.

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A glimpse of Mt Ngauruhoe

Our stop for the night was at Makio Farms in Ohingaiti, a CAP (cost applicable property) for NZMCA members only.  As it turned out, the owners had only recently made their property available, and our two vans were their first customers.

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The farm dogs gave us a rousing welcome as we drove onto the property, some were tied up to their kennels and a couple of others were running loose.  But once we had arrived and the owners came out to see what the dogs were barking at, they soon calmed down.  After all, they were only doing their job of guarding the property.

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Farm dogs on duty

Our vans were soon backed into place, the legs wound down, and windows opened up wide to make the most of the hot sunny day.  Our hosts were very welcoming indeed.

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All set up for our night on the farm

The pet lambs arrived – wanting their bottles.  Then one of them checked out the dog house.

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Pet lambs

After a restful night in the country, the next morning we purchased  a dozen fresh farm eggs each, said our goodbyes and started on the last stretch of our journey to take us home.  What’s this – bulls on the loose?  No, it’s only one of several statues which now adorn the town of Bulls.  They certainly need a second glance as you drive by.

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A black bull on the loose in Bulls

Before too long we were pulling into our village.  The van was soon unpacked and put back in the parking area, ready for our next trip away.  We’ll just get our breath back, before we’re away again. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Taking it easy in Tokoroa

We had a slow trip out of Hamilton, getting away much later than we had expected.  Road works along the way made for a slow trip, and we finally arrived in Tokoroa about 6.00pm.  We were staying the night at The Tokoroa Club, which provides power sites for a very reasonable cost.  The bar inside was gripped with Melbourne Cup fever, and we were told to just make ourselves comfortable, and come back later to settle up.

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All set for the night

We like to support the clubs which make overnight parking available to NZMCA members so we took ourselves into the restaurant  for a meal.  Also dining was a very noisy group of Melbourne Cup revelers all dressed in their racing finery – fancy dresses and fascinators perched on their heads.  None of them mentioned backing the winner so I’m not sure if they were celebrating or commiserating their losses.  I was very fortunate to procure the last of the scallops for my meal, which made the revelers even more vocal.

The weather forecast was not at all good, with heavy winds and rain traveling up the South Island and crossing over to the North Island.  We decided to play it safe and have a second night here at Tokoroa where we are nice and comfy on power, and sheltered from the wind.  This gave us a chance to have a look downtown.  Top of the agenda was to check out the wooden carvings on SH1 which we only glimpse as we usually whizz by.  Tokoroa is known as a timber town with forestry being the most important industry to the district. Timber is milled and processed at nearby Kinleith.  The “Pine Man of Tokoroa”, clutching his chain saw was made by Peter Dooley and presented to the community in 2004 by the Rotary Club of Tokoroa.

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Pine Man of Tokoroa

Tokoroa  has many Talking Poles, which proudly showcase the culture of the town.  The Tokoroa Talking Poles symposium is convened every two years at the Tokoroa campus of Te Wananga o Aotearoa where invited artists have several weeks to create their own pole to add to the collection.  “The Green Man”, an English traditional design representing nature was carved by Andy Hancock (Britain) in 2004, and is also found on SH1 by the Info Centre.

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The Green Man

There were many other Talking Poles dotted around the town, and these two took my fancy. “Nga Kete Wahanga” tells the story of Tane-nui-a-Rangi and his journey to gain the three baskets of knowledge.  By Josh Manuel and Anna Anderson.   And secondly “The Needle”,  by Herewini Tamihana, which shows “There is only one way to live, the unwavering good natured way of wholesome kindness”.

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Nga Kete Wahanga and the Needle

Driving up to the top of Colson Hill Lookout we saw the whole of Tokoroa laid out before us – covering a much greater area than we imagined.

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View from the top

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A rather wind-blown selfie shot

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Plaque showing Tokoroa, the centre of New Zealand

The expected bad weather did not eventuate, but it was nice to have the chance to have a good look around Tokoroa, instead of driving past as we usually do.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Back to Hamilton

Luckily our trip to the Leisureline Owners Group get-together in Auckland coincided with our annual caravan service.  So that worked out well.  On our drive back to Hamilton we passed this flag flying on a business roof at Te Kauwhata.  Not the sort of flag we usually see in New Zealand – we have the back view but you can work out what it says.

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Seen at Te  Kauwhata

We had booked to stay overnight at the Leisureline factory, and they have now installed a handy caravan power point for such occasions.  Staying overnight means we are right on the spot  for when the factory opens bright and early.

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Here we are outside the factory, plugged into power overnight

The caravan was whisked around to the rear of the factory for the work to be done and we were free to go with instructions to come back later in the afternoon.  So the best way to start off the morning was to have a “Big Breakfast” at the Jukebox Diner with Geoff and Eileen, who were staying at these premises overnight in the large carpark.

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Back at the diner for breakfast to start the day

Then we filled in our day doing this and that and having a good  look around the city, finally returning to the factory to see if the work on our caravan had been completed.  The van had been moved out to the front of the factory and we thought we were all set to go.  As well as the annual service we had arranged for a new gas locker to be fitted.  Our previous locker only had room for one 9kg bottle, and now we can keep both gas bottles in the front.

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New gas locker fitted

However, there was one more job yet to be completed.  We had asked for a BBQ Bayonet fitting to be installed, and we had to wait for the fitting to arrive.  First a round hole was cut in the side of the van, and then the fitting and cover put in place.

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Then our van was deftly moved around to the back of the factory with the help of a tow ball on the forklift – the strong gusty wind made it too difficult for the gas fitter to work out the front. 

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On the move again

It was much more sheltered around the back of the building and the gas fitter and assistant and finally completed the last portion of the job.  Having this new fitting means that we don’t now have to carry a separate gas bottle when we light up the Weber BBQ.  Finally, we were good to go and get on the road again.

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Two gas fitters working on the van

We’re heading slowly homewards, and decided that Tokoroa would be a good place to stay overnight.  Especially as we had never stayed there before – it’s always good to try new places.