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

Friday, January 30, 2009

Summer in Paradise

Another hot summer day here in Paradise.  How hot?  Well, Jenny’s little blue Astra car (called Lazuli if you please!!) has a  thermometer fitted to record the outside temperature.  Jenny is hard at work all day in a huge hanger type building with the air conditioner going.  When she left for home this afternoon the temperature (according to Lazuli) was 30 degrees.  The TV weather report  stated that the temperature for Wellington was in the high 20s today.  So 30 degrees for Upper Hutt must be right on the button!!

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A message from Muffy

Hi, Muffy here. You know me, I am the beautiful blond one of the family. I thought I would tell you all about the fun I had last night. It was another one of those hot summer days. It was too hot for me to eat my dinner so I went and stretched put on the bed. Robin and Jenny opened up all the doors and windows, and had the fan blowing too, anything to cool the place down. They went outside and sat on the deck in the early evening as it was cooler out there than in the house. I had enough of resting at this stage and ran outside onto the back lawn. "We'll have trouble getting that cat inside tonight", I heard Robin say.

I had a nice luxurious roll on the concrete path which was still quite warm from the sun. The birds were twittering as they put themselves to bed and I chased a few moths as the dusk slowly changed to night. "Muffy, Muffy", I heard them calling me. I wasn't ready to go in so I ran away and hid. "She'll just have to stay out then", I heard them mutter. They went inside, shut the doors and windows, and turned all the lights off. Must be time for bed.

Not for me though. There were lots of interesting smells to sniff and check out. And little scurrying sounds under the deck. I was really enjoying myself outside in the warm evening. After an hour or so I heard the door open and Jenny came out. As she walked up to me I thought, "No way am I going in, it's much to early". I waited till she reached out, then, quick as a wink, away I ran. "You can't catch me", I thought. Back she walked inside, and off went the lights again. Oh, this is such fun.

Another hour went by and I heard her at the door, calling me. I don't think she could see me, but she was perfectly clear to me. Us cats have really good eyesight at night. I moved quietly away in case she spotted me, but I don't think she did. Bang went the door, then all was in darkness again. Once more she came out, padding down the concrete path in her bare feet. I was getting just a little bit lonely by this stage, so I stayed where I was and let her pick me up and carry me inside. "You really are a naughty girl, Muffy", she said, "keeping me up half the night, worrying about you being outside". Guess it was time for bed by then, but I certainly ran rings around them, didn't I?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Blue Dome Days

We have had wonderful weather this weekend.  “Blue Dome” days as the weather presenters say.  Hot days with perfect blue skies,  without a cloud to be seen. We went to Wellington yesterday and came across this band of Palestinian expats.  They were performing on a corner with a big sign asking for donations to provide medical aid for the people of Gaza.

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Collecting for medical aid

Coming home we took a detour through Island Bay.  Hard up against the hill was this replica lighthouse, built as a family home.  Imagine walking up the steep stairs in this house.

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Fancy living in a light house?

Looking out to sea we saw the inter-island ferry in Cook Strait, returning to Picton in the South Island from Wellington.  It would have been a great day for a trip.

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Muffy finds all this hot weather a bit much to cope with.  She likes to stretch out on the bed and snooze the afternoon away.  What an easy life she leads!

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Walk in the Wind

Last weekend six intrepid campers decided to brave the wind and walk around to Turakirae Head.  The name means   “headland coming down to the sea”.  Access is gained by way of covenant on private property and visitors must keep to the seaward side of the fence-line.  We can remember visiting the beautiful old Riddiford homestead which stood on this property.  It was burned to the ground in 1990 in suspicious circumstances.

We drove down from the camping ground, parked the cars and walked over the Orongoronga River Bridge.  It was easy walking at the start with the strong wind at our backs.   We had the  rocky shoreline on one side, and rough farmland bordered by the Rimutaka Ranges on the other. 

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The start of our walk

We soon passed the sign which denoted the start of the Turakirae Head Scientific Reserve, which has five earthquake raised beaches.  These provide a continuous record of geological upheaval over the last 7000 years.  The most recent uplift occurred in 1855 which raised the beach 2.5 metres.

imageAerial view of earthquake raised beaches

The rocks on the track made walking difficult at times as they moved under our feet.   There were a few New Zealand fur seals on the rocks close by the beach, basking in the sunshine.  During winter up to 500 seals gather here building up condition before moving on to breeding colonies.

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The ruggedly beautiful coastline

After a particularly heavy gust of wind which felt like hands on our backs pushing us along the track we decided that enough was enough.  It was time to turn around, head into the wind, and make our way back.  Bill was keen to show us some cactus that he had noticed earlier.  We clambered over rocks and around boulders and there they were, several lethal looking spiky cactus which you really wouldn’t want to brush against.

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Watch out for these spikes

After plodding along into the head wind which seemed stronger than ever, we were pleased to see the end of the track in sight.  We passed several young men in wet suits who were going to try their luck in gathering shellfish and maybe a crayfish or two.  Then it was back to camp for a cool drink and to rest our weary feet.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Easier said than done

How many people did it take to erect our awning in the weekend?  We started off with two.  Jenny was feeding the rope edge into the awning track while Robin pulled it through.  But she wasn’t doing a terribly good job so then Bruce stepped in to help.  Bruce brought the number up to three.

Robin then slipped the poles into place, no trouble there.   The next step was to peg the awning down.  This was easier said than done, as we were camping in an alluvial river valley.   Bang, bang, bang went the hammer on top of the metal pegs.  “This ground is full of rocks, my pegs keep bending”, Robin exclaimed angrily.  Bang, bang, bang again to straighten the pegs out  before tried again.  Then Peter came to the rescue.  He poked about with a pole trying to find a rock free area of earth so that Robin could  get the pegs in easily.  Peter was number four.

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Finding out where the rocks are

The awning was flapping madly in the wind and at  last the pegs were all finally hammered in.  Other club members wandered over to see what was  going on.  They like to see work being done by others and generally call out all sorts of unhelpful advice!! 

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The porch awning is finally up

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Birds of a Feather

The Rimutaka Forest Park covers a large area of natural habitat and is home to many bird species, both native and introduced.  The  melodious song of the Tui rang out all day long.  Early settlers named the Tui the “Parson Bird” as it has a white tuft of feathers at the throat.  The most noisy birds at the park was a small flock of Sulphur Crested Cockatoos.  These raucous birds fly around the tall trees screeching and sounding  like they are all in the middle of an nasty argument!!  These native  Australian birds  were brought into New Zealand as cage birds and the wild population are either escapees or have been released.  

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Sulphur Crested Cockatoos

On Saturday afternoon we wandered along one of the  many walking tracks through the native bush.   Overhead we heard the clumsy Kereru (New Zealand Pigeon) landing heavily in the trees as it searched for karaka berries.  Standing quietly, we peered up through the foliage and were amused to see the birds hanging upside down as they gobbled up the berries.  

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View of Rimutaka Forest Park

Rimutaka Forest Park is part of the  Kiwi Recovery programme.  Eggs are taken from nearby Mount McKerrow and the chicks are raised at the Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre.  When they are big enough to defend themselves against predators the Kiwis are fitted with radio transmitters and released.  A regular check is made on their whereabouts to determine their safety.

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We were surprised to see some Californian Quails looking for titbits around the BBQ area early on Sunday morning.  They looked almost comical with their plumes bobbing about as  they pecked around in  the grass looking for insects.  These birds were introduced into New Zealand in 1860s as game birds and are obviously well settled in this area.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Boulders, Bollards and Birthdays

Catchpool Valley, in the Rimutaka Forest Park was our venue for the three day Wellington Anniversary Weekend.  This Department of Conservation Park has basic camping facilities and the setting is unspoilt. 

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Catchpool Valley Campground

The first mishap of the weekend happened on Friday evening when Graeme and Kathryn came hurtling down the dirt track.  Several boulders have been strategically placed on the side of the road to stop people cutting corners and driving over the grass.   Their caravan ran over one of the boulders and we all thought it was going to flip over.  As he drove the car and caravan slowly towards us the strangest sound emanated, it was just like a squealing pig.  Once on site, Graeme took the wheel off to find that he had dented the rim.  The strange sound was air escaping through the damaged rim as the wheel turned around.

DSCF0563 The damage

Then on Saturday evening the second mishap happened.  Eileen got into her car to drive back to the caravan, when bang, bang!!  She got the wheels tangled up with some low bollards, which were  invisible in the dusk. 

In between all this motoring mayhem, we had a double birthday bash to celebrate.  Graeme and Barbara's birthdays are one day apart so they decided to join forces and have a double birthday celebration.  We toasted them with  birthday cake and wine on Saturday evening.  Then on Sunday morning we had even more celebrations with a Champagne Breakfast. 

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Birthday Celebrations

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Weta Cave

The highlight of our day out on Sunday was a visit to the Weta Cave in Miramar, Wellington. Not just any old dank, dark cave with those horrible creepy crawly wetas just waiting to pounce on unsuspecting visitors. No, this was the showcase of those very talented pair of Kiwis, Peter Jackson and Richard Taylor. Peter Jackson is known world-wide as the director of the epic Lord of he Rings trilogy, and King Kong. Richard Taylor is the head of the team who brought the film characters to life with make-up and prosthesis. The creative genius of the staff at Weta Workshops also produce film miniatures and digital film effects.

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The Weta Cave

The Weta Cave has a tiny movie theatre. Fires glowed and the walls were adorned with masks and skulls. The film related how the co-founders met up, and the start of the company up to the present day. We saw “behind the scenes” footage of the artists breathing life into the many interesting characters.

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Gollum – from Lord of the Rings

As we wandered around the museum we came face to face with Gollum, that horrible skulking hairless creature whose one aim in life was to own “My Precious”, the gold ring whose power can change the world. And there by the door was one of those monsters ready to smote us in two. Everywhere we looked there were characters and artefacts fromPeter Jackson's movies.

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Weta, the multi Academy Award winning company can be justifiably proud of this new attraction in Wellington, and attendance is free. We found it extremely interesting and very well done. Congratulations, Weta!!

Monday, January 12, 2009

From Feathers to Tentacles

On Sunday we went out and about with our SLG friends visiting some of the attractions that Wellington City offers.  First up was a paper craft lesson for our group.  We cut  and measured, stamped and embossed, and got covered in glue.  The end result was a nifty little book for photos.  Robin spotted this fine looking bird in residence and was delighted when the owner let him hold it.

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Who’s a pretty boy?

Next stop was Te Papa Museum to check out the “Colossal Squid Exhibition”.  This 495 kg specimen was caught by the long line vessel San Aspiring fishing for Argentinean tooth fish in Antarctic waters, and was pulled up intact on the long line, alive and still holding on to a tooth fish.  The squid was immediately frozen for safe keeping, and gifted to the museum.

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Te Papa Museum

Once the colossal squid was thawed and examined, it had to be stored in preservative.  For safety reasons, formalin cannot be used in public spaces, and the scientists decided to use glycol.  As glycol has not previously been used before for such a large specimen, samples of the fluid must be monitored regularly.

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The squid is 4.2 metres long and we joined the crowds of people walking slowly around the specially built tank.   The large squid eye seemed to be watching us all as we filed past.   The tentacles are covered in lethal looking hooks, spikes and suckers, just right for catching prey.  We certainly wouldn’t want to meet up with him in his natural environment!!

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Beautiful Babies

We  have said many times that we really enjoyed listening and watching all the wonderful bird life while we stayed at Paekakariki Motor Camp over the Christmas holidays.  We discovered this bird nest in a tree just by our caravan site.  Have a look at these two beautiful little babies.  They were keeping very still and we were careful not to upset them.

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Can you see these two baby birds?

Friday, January 9, 2009

Happy Campers

Whatever takes your fancy is the rule when camping.  Our preference is a caravan, and there are certainly plenty of these at camp.  Vintage models, nice shiny new ones, and all sorts in-between.  Most have an awning attached to give extra living space over the summer holidays.  A free standing gazebo is also another option.  We noticed this tiny little aluminium model – not many windows in this one.

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Bright and shiny but few windows

Then there are the “tent cities” in camp.  Often friends and families come camping together and put their tents up close together so they all share the common areas.  Some of the modern tents are huge and are a good buy for families with young children.

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Tent City

After a day spent at the beach, kids covered with sand are showered and beach towels, swim suits and wet suits hang out to dry on rope clothes lines strung between tents and a handy tree.  The washing machines in the laundry block are kept busy when Mums do the family laundry – at only $2.00 a load it is good value.  Each evening  the barbecues are fired up and the delicious smell of sausages and steak waft around.  Kiwis love a Summer camping holiday and each camp site is a home away from home.

Our time in camp is coming to an end.  We have taken down the Christmas lights that were strung around the outside of the caravan, packed up the rope light Christmas tree, and put away the fibre optic snow scene that sat on the kitchen bench.  “Where have the lights gone?”, we heard a boy ask his Mum last night.  The Christmas decorations certainly did look pretty twinkling away in the evenings.  Next Christmas we will do it all again!!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Paekakariki Town

Paekakariki is a small coastal town of approximately 2000 residents.  The town’s Maori name means “Perching place of the Kakariki (green parrot).  The parrots and the dense tree cover is sadly long gone.   Campers staying at the Paekakariki Motor Camp swell the numbers over the summer period and day trippers enjoy visiting the adjacent Queen Elizabeth Park and the beach.  This is ably patrolled by volunteers of the local Surf Club.

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Surf Rescue ready and waiting

The tiny shopping  area boasts a small assortment of shops housed in vintage buildings.  The local hotel has been rebuilt and now offers apartment living as well as bars, a cafe and restaurant.  The railway line and State Highway One mark the eastern edge of the town. 

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Paekakariki township with a train going through

Paekakariki’s history and the railway are well linked.  There is an interesting Rail Museum to visit and the privately owned “Steam Incorporated” restore engines and carriage stock and run frequent steam rail trips.  In 1886 the Wellington to Manawatu railway was completed, and Paekakariki became an important stop on the journey.  From 1917 until the 1960s, Paekakariki Station became  a very popular refreshment stop on the journey north, before on board refreshment was available.

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Down at the Beach

Prior to European settlement, the area had a violent history.  The Maori warrior leader Te Rauparaha led raids from nearby Kapiti Island, an impregnable stronghold.  These days, Kapiti Island is a bird sanctuary and is home to many endangered species.

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Kapiti Island

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Four Minute Showers.

As a way of conserving water, the management here at Paekakariki Motor Camp (where we are staying over the holiday period) has installed timers in the shower blocks to limit the hot water to four minutes. Then there is a four minute delay before the hot water will run again. The button to activate the flow of hot water has been placed on the outside of each shower. As imagined, this has brought about all sorts of reactions from different folks. Four minutes is ample time for us to attend to our ablutions but not necessarily for others.

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Two children were in adjoining showers recently with their Mum hovering nearby. They were most concerned as they went about the business of hair washing and showering. “Mum”, they repeatly said, “you just don’t know when the water goes freezing, do you?”

The teenage girls are not worried by the four minute time limit. They usually arrive en masse and take over the shower stalls, with three ensconced in the showers and one outside on button duty. After their four minutes of hot water, they merely stand there inside the showers while their friend outside counts down the time and activates the hot water again.

Leaving the ablution blocks can sometimes be a dangerous procedure. You have to peer carefully around the door to make sure all is safe. Kids on bikes like to ride around and around the nice flat concrete paths at high speeds and are not worried about middle aged campers like us getting in their way!!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

On our own again

We have gone from a happy bunch of  five club caravans in our own little part of the camp down to just ourselves.  All the others packed up and left on Sunday morning.  We watched as they dismantled awnings, packed up all their belongings, hooked the car up to the caravan and drove off home.  The mass exodus was not without some drama though.  Crack……it sounded just like a rifle shot and brought everyone outside to see what had happened.  Graeme’s stabiliser had snapped in two.  He unhooked the offending object and vowed to deal with it in his workshop at home.

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Ooh – it’s broken

We decided to stay an extra week and commute to work from the camp, which means we have to be up especially early and ready to leave at 6.00am each morning.  But then we have the late afternoons and evenings to enjoy ourselves in camp.  There is plenty of wildlife here in this area.  The mature trees attract a large number of birds, which delight us with their song from dawn to dusk.  We have noticed  a few rabbits hopping around.  The nearby stream is home to eels and trout.  One of our group was concerned about the very steep banks of the stream and told a youngster to keep away “as there were alligators lurking there”.  She wasn’t the least bit impressed with this statement, looked  him in the eye and loudly declared, “There are no alligators in New Zealand”.  Quite right too.