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

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Anything Goes

Ever wanted to be “some one else”? Just visit the fantasy cave of “Anything Goes”, our local costume hire specialist shop. We called in this afternoon after work to collect our alter ego costumes for Saturday night. Planning ahead, we had visited the shop last week to try on different outfits. We paid a deposit and the items were put aside for us, all ready and waiting to be picked up.

DSCF3111 Anything Goes costume hire shop

The shop is full to overflowing with racks and racks of outfits. Anything from fairies, swashbuckling pirates, military men, psychedelic clothing from the 70s, and anything else you would want. Dresses, skirts, blouses, trousers, jackets and shawls are all there to try on.

DSCF3109 The shop is full of different outfits

There was a whole range if wigs as well, to change your appearance. Even a horses head, for the complete disguise. Hats, beads and bangles, all the accessories you could want to complete your outfit.

DSCF3110 Hats and wigs waiting to be tried on

So what clothes did we collect tonight? We are not telling, that would give the secret away. Check in again in a few days time and no doubt there will be a picture of the two of us pretending to be completely different people. After all, anything goes!!

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

One Foot in Front of the Other

It has not been easy for Robin with his return to work this week. After being off on a week’s Sick Leave for his very painful “plantar fascia”, (that’s inflammation of the heel for those who don’t know), he is still hobbling around. Not quite as bad as last week, but climbing in and out of the truck umpteen times a day is certainly not doing his foot any favours. The doctor said it could take twelve months to come right. Ouch!! Guess it’s just a matter of one foot in front of the other and getting on with life.

Life as a data entry operator has been difficult for me too this week. It’s all deadlines and cut offs and boxes and boxes of items to be keyed. Staff from other areas get roped in to help at peak times. One young lady came and sat down at a spare computer this morning with her head phones on, and we could hear the music blaring out from the ear pieces right across the room. Some staff grumbled about the noise amongst themselves. Not me though - I wasn’t going to put up with that, and asked her to turn it down. I think I’ve got a bit of a reputation at work concerning noisy ear phones.

On the bright side, the Easter break is coming up fast, so we have got that to look forward to. Hope the Easter Bunny can find us in our caravan when he is delivering those yummy Easter Eggs!

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Down by the Station

Saturday morning shopping – don’t you just hate it? It cuts into our precious weekend hours, but there was no way Robin could have come out yesterday with his foot still playing up. So Saturday morning it had to be. Driving past the Station we could see it was a hive of activity. There were men in yellow jackets everywhere, and yellow tape strung in front the station. It looked like a bit of a clean-up was going on.

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Down by the station

Some of the workers looked very young and I wondered if they were in fact youths doing probation work. Several were climbing up on scaffolding painting the facia board along the front of the station building. Others were wielding long handled brushes as they painted under the eaves. There was only one way to find out what was happening, I decided. So I approached a couple of official looking men standing by a van full of paint tins. If anyone knows what’s happening at the station, they looked like they certainly should.

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They were only too happy to talk to me about the project. The group was from the local Mormon Church and they were doing voluntary work to help the community. The Railway Department had provided the paint and equipment for the job. And it turns out that our local Mayor had organised the whole thing. Presumably the church had offered man power for a voluntary community project and the station gets a face lift. What a good way to give something back to the local community.

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Fruit of the Vine

Autumn is on the way and the mornings and evenings are definitely getting cooler now. We still get nice sunny days though. The grapes on our vine are ripening up nicely. Just another week or so of sunshine and they will be ready to eat. Wonder how long it will be till the birds and wasps discover them?

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Good enough to eat

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

To make him feel better

Robin has been suffering from a painful heel since the weekend and finally went to the doctor today. Seems he is having trouble with his “plantar fascia”.

Plantar fasciitis is a painful inflammatory process of the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia is a thick fibrous band of connective tissue originating on the bottom surface of the calcaneus (heel bone) and extending along the sole of the foot towards the five toes. It is commonly associated with long periods of work-related weight bearing. Since Robin climbs in and out of his truck all day, carrying cartons into the customers, it is no wonder that his heel is starting to complain.

Anatomical diagrams illustrating the components of the plantar fascia.

No work till next Monday, was what the doctor ordered, along with exercises and painkillers.

To make him feel better, I came home from work and whipped up one of his his favourite puddings. The golden syrup steamed pudding bubbled away slowly in the big pot for the prescribed time. Served with whipped cream, it was delicious. To tell the truth, it made me feel better to pamper him after all trials and tribulations he has been going through over the last few days.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Getting high on Catnip

We went shopping to buy a small scratching post for our beautiful Birman Muffy – small because we wanted to take it away with us in the caravan. We already have a full sized scratching post so Muffy certainly knows what they are for. We made our selection from the pet shop and the salesman sprayed it with capnip “to get the cat used to it”, he said. Muffy was delighted with her gift. She jumped up and played with the little yellow tassel and bell hanging down.

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She jumped up again and held the central post with her fore limbs, taking in that delightful scent. “I like this”, she seemed to be saying.

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Then she rolled around the base of it, seemingly overcome with ecstasy.

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After a little while, she seemed to have had her fill and left the scratching post alone – to come back to it later on. We read that about 50% of cats are affected by catnip, and those who are, are affected to differing degrees. When a cat encounters catnip, it usually sniffs it, then rubs against it. The sniffing produces the high, which usually lasts between five and ten minutes. We are sure that Muffy will certainly enjoy using her new scratching post the next time she has a weekend away in the caravan.

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Two for the Price of One

A play in a play – sounds a bit strange, doesn’t it? That’s what we were entertained with last night at our small local theatre, The Studio, when we went to see Gosforth’s Fete, written by the incomparable Alan Ayckbourn. Well known as a writer, actor and director, he was awarded the CBE in 1987, and Knighted for 'service to theatre' in 1997.

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Publican Gordon Gosforth is in charge of running the village fete, to raise money for a new village hall. While trying to get the public address system to work, Milly, the village school teacher drops a bombshell. Their one night stand has resulted in pregnancy. Milly is engaged to the gawky Cub Master, and he, together with the whole village, hears the shocking news over the loud speakers. The gala is severely disrupted by rain, and most of the local amateur dramatic society cannot get over the bridge to perform their Greek tragedy. The teetotal Cub Master gets drunk, and his cub pack runs amok in the mud.

But it gets worse. The villagers are roped in to help out in the performance of “Oedocles, King of Thebes”. A what a performance it is. The publican sports a black eye and his arm in a sling, together with his toga. Milly, playing the sister of the recently deceased wife of the King, is attacked and suffers a “fate worse than death”. She exacts her revenge on the king’s masculinity with a with a pair of hedge cutters - ouch!!

As the advertising says, “Gosfoth’s Fete starts as a drama, develops into well choreographed chaos, and climaxes as a full blown farce”. All good fun and full of laughs, just what we all need after a hard week at work.

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Who’s a naughty girl, then?

I should really know better at my age. As the TV ads say – never, ever leave things cooking unattended on the stove. So what did I do? I was heating some oil in the frying pan, and then went and sat down at the table to work on the lap top! Bad move. The oil heated up in no time at all, while I was tap, tap tapping away on the keyboard. Smoke swirled around the kitchen, out into the hall, and set off the smoke alarm attached to our burglar alarm. But…………re-setting the fire alarm is not easy. It has a fail sail device so that you don’t drop off to sleep while a fire could be smouldering away. So the alarm keeps shrieking every 90 seconds until it is reset correctly. Robin urgently flicked through the instruction book trying to find the right page of instructions. There goes the alarm again, so he has to hit the hash key. This is repeated time and time again, till at last, he finds what he is looking for. A few keys are pressed, and then, blessed silence. Did I learn my lesson from all this? You bet I did! And I got severely told off. Seriously though, it all could have ended with the kitchen ablaze. Luckily that didn’t happen, I’ll take more care in future.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Gold Card for Golden Oldies

Planning to be a pensioner – that’s me. On my next birthday I qualify for the Government Superannuation and will be out of the paid work-force quick-smart. The pensioners have one little perk out here in New Zealand, and that is the Super Gold Card, which gives the holders free off peak travel on local buses and trains. So you can imagine my horror when it was announced that the Government is looking at cutting the service back, and I haven’t even qualified for my own card yet! It seems that the Auckland pensioners have blown the budget by all their trips across on the Waiheke Ferry.

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Messing with the Super Gold Card is risky for National as 540,000 people aged 65 and over have them and they were used to pay for eight million trips on buses and ferries last year. Luckily, the Government has now had a change of heart and the free local transport will remain. Roll on October, I say, then I can join all those other golden oldies having a day out in the big city.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Then the Sun came out again

After a wild night with the Southerly Buster bringing chaos to the Wellington Region, we woke to a calm if rather damp morning. Tendrils of mist caressed the trees in the surrounding valleys and it looked like we were going to get nice weather for the weekend after all. By Saturday morning our group of seven caravans and one motor-home were parked onsite ready to join in the fun of our non power rally at Kaitoke Regional Park. It was nice to have two couples from the Wairarapa Caravan Club join us for the weekend.

P3130627 A misty Kaitoke morning

Tents with family groups were dotted around the grounds. We came across this family with their sleeping bags hung out dry. They must have had an extremely wet miserable evening in all that torrential rain which fell the previous night to have so much bedding hanging on the clothesline.

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We had a special celebration on Saturday afternoon. Robin as President did the honours and presented Geoff and Eileen with their 200 Rally badges. It was certainly very clear from their surprise that they did not realize this rally was such a special one to them. As they remarked, “it sneaked up on them”. Congratulations to you both – may you have many more rally weekends away with the Caravan Club.

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DSCF3044Robin presenting the 200 Rallies bars – what a surprise!!

After a BBQ meal in the evening, Peter and Elaine had organised a challenge for us. Our task was to pick out a word from the dictionary and see if anyone could guess the meaning. Not an easy task – just how many words are there anyway in a dictionary? As to be expected from our mob, the words chosen were all rather obscure. There was certainly no use in picking easy ones now, was there? We now know that a Janizary is a Turkish foot-guard, a glume is a husk of grain, and a plastron is a steel breast plate! All this new found knowledge may well come in handy one day while doing the crossword.

DSCF3047Secret men’s talk around the barbeques

We all enjoyed a nice leisurely Sunday morning with some of the more energetic going for a bush walk, or trying a spot of fishing in the Hutt River. Or like me, just chatting and enjoying the lovely weather. All too soon it was time to pack up. We had taken along our gazebo for a bit of shade, and it was a six man operation to take it down. It needed one man on each corner and two in the middle. Everyone had to slide their poles up, then walk into the centre.

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The gazebo folded up rather like an umbrella, but it is next to impossible to do it on your own.

DSCF3052 How many men does it take to fold up a gazebo?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Southerly Buster Wrecks Havoc

It’s only been a week since we were last away in the caravan but Friday couldn’t come quickly enough for Robin. There is no doubt about it - he really enjoys his caravan rallies. It was just a short trip of 15km to our destination and we arrived at Kaitoke Regional Park to find two other caravans already set up. This lovely park is set in the water catchment area of Upper Hutt and is surrounded by hills covered with dense native bush.

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We all caught up with each other’s news as we sat outside in the sunshine. We kept an eye on the sky as we watched the dark clouds rolling in from the south. Flashes of lightening lit the sky followed by the crash of thunder. The surrounding trees started to thrash around as the wind picked up considerably. Oh oh, time to gather up our table and chairs and head inside, we decided, as the rain started to fall. Ping, ping, ping, hail stones rained down all around us, striking the cars and caravans. We had visions of the recent hail storm in Australia which had caused such a lot of damage. Luckily the hail soon stopped and then a deluge of rain started up.

The radio news was full of doom and gloom. A mini tornado had ripped off roofs, tore up trees and cut power to thousands of consumers. Thousands of Hutt Valley and Wairarapa train commuters were stranded when trees fell across the Hutt Valley rail lines. This storm was labelled the “Southerly Buster”, bringing with it winds of 130kmh and dumping a weeks worth of rain in two hours. The temperatures dropped 10 degrees within 10 minutes – no wonder I had to wear some woolly socks to bed! We were at a non power rally, so although we had lights, hot water, radio and refrigeration, we do not have heating when not on power. What a night! We felt sorry for those campers in tents close by.

MetService image showing rainfall intensity

RAIN RADAR: A Met Service image showing rainfall intensity at 6pm on Friday.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

What’s the weather like today?

After all that lovely holiday sunshine, the weather has changed and clouds keep racing across the sky. The sky was covered in dark grey clouds which looked ready to drop a shower or two of rain all over Robin as he set off to work at 6.30am.

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Half an hour later the morning sun was peeping over the Eastern hills and turned the fast moving clouds orange. And is that a bit of blue sky we see there?

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During the morning things brightened up considerably, and it looked like we might have a nice day after all. This is more like the weather we expect this time of year.

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But…. it didn’t last. The clouds kept rolling by, getting more and more grey. That’s a big nasty rain cloud up there. Seems we will get that rain after all. And we did. It rained all over my washing, hanging on the clothesline outside.

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The Maori name for New Zealand is Aotearoa – meaning The Land of the Long White Cloud. The story goes that when Kupe was nearing land after his long voyage from Waikiki, the first sign of land was the peculiar cloud hanging over it. Kupe drew attention to it and said “Surely is a point of land”. His wife, Hine-te-aparangi, called out “He ao! He ao!” (a cloud! a cloud!) Later Kupe decided to call the land after his wife's greeting to it, and the cloud which welcomed them.

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Internet Access while travelling - APNK Network

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We had plenty to blog about on our recent holiday and wrote it all up on our trusty lap-top in our caravan. But where to get internet access to upload the blog (and check e-mails) can be a problem. However, something wonderful has been happening in public libraries throughout New Zealand. Since 2008, 120 libraries have joined Phase One of Aotearoa People’s Network Kaharoa. This provides free access to broadband internet services in public libraries, and is open to anyone, locals and travellers alike. We used this service at Taumaranui, Stratford, Opunake, Hawera, and Waitara. The library staff were very helpful, and showed us to table and chairs, and power points. It was then a simple matter to log on to the Wireless Internet and complete our blog.

A few facts:

  • The managed network includes 515 PCs in 120 Libraries
  • This network of libraries extends from Kaeo in the north to Stewart Island in the south across 39 local authorities
  • There are 94 wifi hotspots used by roughly 1000 users per day

    This programme was initially funded by the Community Partnership Fund of the New Zealand government’s Digital Strategy and by other government funding through the National Library of New Zealand. It is based on a similar programme in the United Kingdom - The People's Network - which was rolled out through over 4000 public libraries. Funded from the Big Lotteries Fund, The People’s Network provided computers, training and free internet access. It boosted new growth and use of public libraries and was a catalyst for the uptake and development of rich broadband capability in the United Kingdom.

    The PCs were always well utilised. Not only by youngsters, we noticed, but older people too are embracing the computer age. Young tourists chatter away face to face in their native language on Skipe. The libraries are certainly getting many more young visitors these days. We certainly appreciate this service as we travel, and hope as time goes by, more and more libraries will join the network.

  • Monday, March 8, 2010

    A holiday for Muffy too

    Our beautiful Birman Muffy has been on holiday too. Unfortunately we had a bit of a hiccough just before we went away. The owner of the previous cattery that we had utilised for several years took ill, and the cattery closed down overnight. We found another local cattery, and after an inspection visit, felt quite happy to book Muffy in for her 2 week holiday, while we toured in the caravan. The separate runs have beds with nice cuddly blankets, and a climbing frame each.

    DSCF2981 I’m ready to go home now

    Follyfoot cattery is set in the Mangaroa countryside, and Marilyn is dedicated in giving first rate care to all the cats. She told us that Birmans are the sweetest of all cats, and so easy to handle. It is not that we are biased, but we knew that already! Looking after animals is a way of life for Marilyn and her husband, as the property is home to rescued horses, sheep and goats. We were greeted by a couple of cheeky goats when we arrived, but only one of then wanted to pose for the camera.

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    We’ve already told Muffy that she can come away in the caravan with us for our next rally, but she doesn’t know that she will be back at Follyfoot for our longer Easter break. It is very important to us that we know she is well cared for when we have to leave her behind. Since we have collected her, she has been following us around like a little puppy. In fact, she is sitting as close as she can get to the laptop, and thinks that I should really be patting her instead of typing. Do you think she missed us?

    DSCF2989 Are you writing about me?

    Sunday, March 7, 2010

    Kai-Iwi

    Our holiday was nearly over, and where would we stay for our final night? Somewhere heading towards the Wellington area, perhaps around Wanganui, was the consensus. The decision was to head to the Mowhanau Motor Camp at Kai-Iwi, a little north of Wanganui. None of us had camped here before, so that was a good reason to try it. The current owners had only taken over in December 2009, and already had made some changes, they told us, with more to come. A new hot water system had been installed in the ablution block, and a large children's play area kept the visiting youngsters happy. Four tourist flats have been ordered and will be installed on site shortly. The camp is nice and roomy, and just a short walk to the beach.

    P3060624 Our last night camping at Mowhanau camp

    Across the large grassy area from us was a large converted bus. The windows and doors were altered to make it look like a gypsy caravan, we thought. The owner had a brand new black Harley motor bike, and he and Robin spent a little time conversing about Harley bikes and motors. We were astounded at his range of outside furniture and can only imagine that he must have had lots of friends coming to visit. Arranged outside his bus was a three piece burgundy leather lounge suite, two wooden church pews, a large wooden table, and a set of blue painted slatted timber outdoor furniture.

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    Geoff had been waiting all holiday for a chance to go out to breakfast, and his luck was in as the camp had a cafe, and served “all day breakfasts”. So four of us decided to go there for lunch. Robin and Geoff chose the Big Breakfast of bacon, eggs, hash brown, sausage, tomatoes and toast, and managed to eat every morsel. Eileen ordered Eggs Benedict, and my choice was French Toast with banana, bacon and maple syrup. With a coffee to finish, we were well satisfied and waddled away from the table.

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    All day breakfast at the camp cafe

    We needed a little exercise after our large lunch, so walked down to Kai-Iwi beach with Peter and Elaine. There was a huge amount of driftwood piled up in the beach. Children were splashing about in the gentle stream which trickled down to the sea, while more hardy souls were swimming in the breakers of the bay. There was a warning stating that the water can rise very quickly so swimmers must take care.

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    Kai-Iwi beach

    All too soon our two weeks holiday had come to an end, and this morning the six of us packed up, said our goodbyes and headed for our respective homes. We had explored new places, and enjoyed each others company. What a shame it is back to work for for us tomorrow.

    Friday, March 5, 2010

    Tawhiti Museum

    Once the Tawhiti Cheese Factory, this building now houses a private museum which tells the story of Taranaki history using both life sized and scale models. The figures are created from moulds cast from real people, friends, relatives and neighbours of Nigel Ogle, designed and cast in the “body shop”. A former art teacher, Nigel enjoys developing new displays for the museum. There is even a display of Nigel himself at work in the “body shop”.

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    The Musket Wars raged between the Maori tribes throughout Taranaki between 1820-30. The lethal effects of muskets on opponents who lacked them upset the balance of pre-European tribal life. This was followed by the 1860 land Wars which saw the encroachment of European settlers into tribal lands. British soldiers arrived to keep the peace. Then the Forest Rangers were set up, locals trained to fight in the tough bush conditions, which were unfamiliar to the British soldiers. As we walked around admiring both the life sized displays and the tiny figurines in show cases, realistic sound effects floated around us.

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    DSCF2927 Life sized displays featuring The Maori Wars

    There are displays on early endeavours such as logging the native bush, and breaking in the bush for farming. The back breaking labours of making a living in colonial times are shown, featuring farm equipment of the times. Displays also showed sheep shearing, brick making, and coal mining. Around every corner was yet another lifelike diorama.

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    There is even a surprise in store for the unwary public. I watched in anticipation as Elaine opened the door on a “shed”, in reality it was an outhouse. She was certainly surprised, and more than a little embarrassed. (I already knew what she would find behind that door, so just happened to have my camera ready!) There he was, reading the newspaper as he went about his business .

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    So sorry to interrupt

    The Farm Power Hall houses a huge collection of tractors, mowers, a steam powered roller and tractor, military vehicles and a host of smaller appliances such as chainsaws and mowers. This display kept Robin’s interest for ages.

    P3050609 Inside the farm Power Hall

    Our visit concluded with a visit to Mr Badger’s cafe for a late lunch. Named after the character from “Wind in the Willows”, Mr Badger was reading a book nice and cosy by the cafe fireplace. A series of scale models illustrate scenes from the book, and various editions of “Wind in the Willows” were arranged along a shelf. There was another surprise in the cafe. Seated at one of the tables was yet another wonderful life sized model, gazing out the cafe window at the passers-by.

    P3050608 Mr Badger in the Cafe

    Our visit to Nigel Ogle’s Tawhiti Museum was a “must see” on our trip, and we were not disappointed. Each of the faces of the life sized models is completely individual, and the expressions range from worry, fear, anger, sorrow, thoughtfulness and delight. We can certainly recommend a visit here to anyone passing through this part of the country.

    Thursday, March 4, 2010

    Yum, yum, Yarrows

    “We must stop at Yarrows”, Geoff advised us, “they have lots of yummy stuff”. With a recommendation like that, we certainly had to break our journey this morning at Manaia, en route to Hawera.

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    Manaia, home to Yarrows bread factory and shop

    We were continuing along Surf Highway 45, driving through one tiny little place after another, with all of them having a long abandoned dairy factory which used to be the heart of each town. Manaia was much bigger, with Yarrows Bakery breathing life and prosperity into the town. We stopped at the shop to each get a little of the yummy stuff for ourselves. There was a steady stream of customers as locals and travellers just like us travelling on their way to somewhere else through bought their bread, pies, cakes and buns. Good customer relations are very important at Yarrows, as the shop had a list of “Happy Tips” for staff.

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    We found our camp for the night at Hawera, ate some of our afore-mentioned yummies for lunch, then went down town to scale the heights of the Hawera Water Tower. For only $2 each, payable at the Information Centre, the door at the base of the tower was un-locked, we went inside, then it was closed behind us. “Just turn this lock to get out again”, we were told, “and come and tell us when you have finished”. The water tower was completed in January 1914 to provide water for fire-fighters after several disastrous fires. However, an earthquake caused the newly constructed tower to list 2ft 6in towards the south. This was corrected by undermining then re-setting the foundations. Major restoration was completed in 2004, and it is many years since the tower has been used for it’s original purpose.

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    Hawera Water Tower, and the narrow steps inside

    Round and round and round we went, up the circular concrete staircase, stopping occasionally to get our breath back. 215 steps later, we had finally reached the top. The wind was fierce as we stepped outside to the observation gallery for the 360 degree view of Hawera. We could see the town spread out below, with farmland and the huge Fontera factory further out. Mt Egmont was partly covered with clouds again. As they say in this part of the country, “If you can’t see the mountain, it’s raining. and if you can see it, it will soon be raining”.

    P3040572 View of Mt Egmont, from the Water Tower

    Another 215 steps later we made it safely back down the winding circular staircase. We must admit that our legs certainly knew we had done all that stair climbing. Surely after all that exercise we had walked off some of the calories from the Yarrow yummies that we had eaten at lunchtime?