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

Friday, May 31, 2013

On to Eketahuna

It was goodbye to Woodville and off we went down SH2 to Eketahuna, just a short 42km drive away.  The snow on top of the ranges glistened in the sunshine. 

DSCF5535 Snow on the ranges

The entrance to Eketahuna Camping Ground was down a very steep drive, and opened out into a nice grassy area.  It is quite some years since we last visited this camp, when it was very overgrown and shaded by many trees.  The trees have obviously been thinned out considerably, making the it a very attractive, although  small  campground. 

DSCF5538
DSCF5539 Here we are at Eketahuna

The camp is set in a scenic reserve on the banks of the Makakahi river.  A rustic building houses the kitchen, ablutions, and laundry, and is “pet friendly” too.  Just as well, as we have Muffy travelling with us.  Mind you, she likes to stay safe and sound in the caravan so is very little trouble at all.

DSCF5545 Amenities block

The sound of clip clop, clip clop attracted my attention, and four horses and riders walked slowly down into the camp.  One of the horses was a beautifully marked  Appaloosa, and the owner confided that the horse was older than her daughter, who was riding him.  It turned out that the horse was 27 years old, and had gone blind, which shows the trust between the horse and rider.  Who would have thought that a blind horse would be happy to be ridden at all?

DSCF5543 Out for an afternoon walk

The camp managers knocked on our caravan doors in the evening to collect our fees.  They do not live on site, and had been down to the big smoke of Wellington for the day, they told us.  However, one of the permanent campers on site had sent a text to alert them that there were visitors in camp.  They were very friendly, the fees are extremely reasonable and the camp is kept nice and tidy.  And best of all, the washing machine is available at no charge.  With a couple of days of laundry on hand, I just had to take advantage of that. 

The expected frost did not happen overnight, so it was not too cold at all when we ventured out in the morning.  Today’s trip of approximately 50km will take us down SH2, past Mt Bruce and Masterton, to meet up with our caravan club friends for a weekend rally at Carterton.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Levin to Woodville

Travelling along the Manawatu Gorge makes me feel rather nervous, especially since the last huge rock slide which kept this road closed for quite some months.  With steep crumbly rock faces on one side, and a long drop down to the river on the other, there is not much room to manoeuvre along this narrow windy road.  Robin took it all in his stride, expertly towing our caravan around the many curves in the road, as one after another fully loaded trucks drove towards us on the narrow road.  Luckily we made it through the Gorge unscathed, and drove into Woodville, our stop for the evening.

DSCF5529 How many Woodville’s in the world?

We spent the evening at the rather muddy Woodville Recreation Reserve.  But it was quite reasonably priced, and provided what we needed in the way of power, showers and toilets.  Geoff had it on good authority from a number of his former contacts in his working life that the local fish and chip shop was one of the best, so we decided to put the statement to the test.  Our verdict?  Not too bad at all, but certainly not a ten out of ten score.

DSCF5524 Camped at Woodville

There were sheep in the adjacent paddocks, and they had worked out in there woolly brains that if they lowered their heads down and wriggled hard, they could squeeze under the fence.  Going from one paddock to another as their fancy took them.   The recycling bins were next to our caravans, and there was a steady stream of locals putting their bottles, papers and plastics in the appropriate bins.  Then the bins were emptied in the early evening and the bags of recycling carried away to the next stage of their journey.  It was good to see such a good effort being made in such a small town.

We took a wander through the town and noticed that the footpaths had been nicely repaved since our last visit.  Sadly, like most small towns, there were many empty shops around.  The local butcher’s shop tempted us with his advertising boards outside his shop, and we came away with some award winning beef and blue cheese sausages, and a nice piece of honey flavoured pickled pork.

The famous artist Gottfried Lindauer settled in Woodville in 1890 and a replica of his studio now stands in the main street.  He was born in Pilsen, Bohemia, and studied at the Vienna Academy of Art.  He arrived in New Zealand in 1874, and soon made his mark as a Maori portrait artist.

DSCF5533 Replica studio of Gottfried Lindauer

DSCF5532 Gottfried Lindauer

We couldn’t leave Woodville without calling in to the bakery to buy a couple of Eccles Cakes for lunch.  Then it was back to the caravans for an early lunch before we moved on.  Next stop Eketahuna.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Snow on the Ranges

Winter has arrived, and there is snow on the Tararua Ranges behind our new home.  In fact, snow fall is causing problems over large parts of New Zealand.   Major roads throughout the North Island remain closed following yesterday's cold snap, however other highways have started re-opening.  No wonder we needed a nice warming plate of hot porridge for breakfast, and hot soup for lunch.

P5298028 A dusting of snow on the Tararua Ranges

We have been busy packing the caravan this morning for our long weekend away.  Plenty of winter woollies will certainly be going in.  There is no snow on the roads in our part of paradise, so our trip today should be hassle free, we hope.  We are meeting up with Geoff and Eileen after an early lunch today and driving north.  Through the Manawatu Gorge, and plan to spend the night at Woodville.   According to Geoff, who seems to be an expert on these matters, Woodville has the very best fish and chip shop ever.  So it will be fish and chips four times for our evening meal.  We will report back next time on just how good they were.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Caravan Help Needed

Our friend Geoff needed to fit a water trap to the shower waste on his his caravan.  Could Robin come and help over the weekend?  This was a “lying on the ground under the caravan” sort of job, so yesterday was out of the question.  The rain would have made it most unpleasant.  Today was a much better day, and the windy conditions would help dry the ground out. 

We drove down to Otaki to find Geoff’s caravan towed out of it’s parking place, and all ready to get pulled up onto a pair of run-ups.  With me carefully watching one set of wheels, and Robin watching the other side, we gave Geoff instructions as the car inched the caravan slowly up onto the ramps.  “Stop!!” we called out in unison when the wheels reached the top.  Robin then placed his pair of trolley jacks under the elevated caravan for added safety.  There, the two blokes should be able to crawl underneath the van without it falling down on top of them.

DSCF5474The caravan safely jacked up

They both climbed underneath the caravan.  Did they want me to stay outside to make sure they didn’t meet an untimely end?  But they were happy with the safety measures in place and didn’t need me hovering around and getting in the way.

DSCF5475 Now, let’s see what’s under here

It didn’t take too long to replace the original water trap which was a piece of flexible hose circled around and inserted into the waste line. With this removed a specifically manufactured one was installed. The new one can be dismantled and cleaned without removal of the complete unit from the van.  Geoff did most of the work, and Robin was there to lend a helping hand, and give helpful advice when needed. 

It took longer to get the van up on the ramps than to do the job. Once completed it was thoroughly tested by running the shower the make sure that the water in the shower tray drained correctly – there – job done, now it’s time to go inside for a cuppa!

Friday, May 24, 2013

A New set of Tyres

The little blue car was fitted with a new set of tyres today.  We were told that the old ones were in danger of delaminating and would not pass the next WOF.  They had been in service for quite some time, so it was certainly time to replace them.  It’s better to be safe than sorry, so the garage ordered in a new set, and the job was done today.  Off came the old ones, on went the new, with the wheels balanced too.  So little Lazuli has a nice new set, which should last for quite some time.
 
DSCF5462 New tyres on the car

In case you are wondering, she is called Lazuli because her paint job is the colour of the gem stone Lapis Lazuli.  Lapis Lazuli’s  deep, celestial blue remains the symbol of royalty and honour, gods and power, spirit and vision. It is a universal symbol of wisdom and truth.  In ancient times Lapis Lazuli was most highly regarded because of its beautiful colour and the valuable ultramarine dye derived from it. Its name comes from the Latin lapis, "stone," and the Persian lazhuward, "blue."
Lapis Lazuli
Lapis Lazuli gemstones

To be honest, I named the car - Robin really thinks naming cars is a bit silly!  But then, it’s my little car, isn’t it? 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A busy kind of day

It’s been that sort of day today, in and out in the car, going here and there, one thing after another.  None of them terribly important, just things that needed doing.  The first trip was a visit to our favourite market garden, “The Garden of York”, where we stocked up on fresh fruit and vegetables.  Rows and rows of silver beet were growing in the adjacent paddock, we noticed.  With a temperate climate and wonderful fertile soil, Levin has many market gardens, orchards and berry farms.  Road-side stalls provide a variety of fresh, locally grown produce, and they are all very popular with the travelling public. 

We were just getting ready for our second trip of the day, to drop our small car off at the local garage for a WOF “Warrant of Fitness”, when the phone rang.   Would we like to join friends out for lunch?  Of course, that beats having a cheese sandwich at home, doesn’t it?  So we drove down to the garage in two cars, left “Lazuli” behind for her service, climbed into the 4WD and drove on to our lunch date.  Ooops – the restaurant was having a private function, so we couldn’t stay there.  Into the cars again and we drove down to our second choice, and lingered over a tasty lunch.  In fact, we lingered so long, there were no other customers left in the cafe when we finally got up to go. “Are you going already, it’s only 2 o’clock”, the waitress called out to us.  I do hope she wasn’t being facetious! 

After that, it was time to stock up on groceries – but guess who had forgotten the grocery list?  But I did my best, as we wandered up and down the aisles, trying hard to remember what I had written down.  A few extra goodies found their way into the trolley, such as a cake of my favourite chocolate, Whitakers Peppermint, so yummy.  Back home again with the groceries, and then we really needed a cuppa, before heading off in the 4WD for our final trip of the day. 

Little blue Lazuli was ready to be collected, and had passed her WOF.  But…… the mechanic was a little worried about her tyres, the tread was marginal and probably wouldn’t last another 6 months until the next warrant.  Robin isn’t one to take chances with our safety, so the car is going back on Friday to get a new set of tyres.  It’s better to be safe than sorry, don’t you think?

Back home once again, Muffy was waiting on the couch for us, and told us in no uncertain terms that it really was time we returned home to feed her.  And just hurry up, she is hungry!

DSCF5451

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Memories of the Milford Track

Four old friends came to visit the other day,  to join us for lunch and to see our new home.  As we lingered over our lunch, Lewis spotted something familiar in the sitting room.  “Isn’t that your walking stick from the Milford Track?”, he asked.  It certainly was,  the decorative walking stick came complete with a map of the famous walking track and a description of the terrain to be encountered on the four day walk.  Out came the photo album of our trip, bringing back lots of great memories.  We all commented on how young and slim we looked, and goodness me, our hair was so much darker back then.
 DSCF5427 Milford Track decorative walking stick

Five of us had an adventure of a lifetime back in the 1980s, 25 years ago.  Robin and I, our lunch guests Shirley and Lewis, and another friend Jim travelled down to the South Island together to tackle the  53.5 km walk over 4 days in beautiful Fiordland National Park. We had done a little training, walking up and down the local hills, but on reflection, not nearly enough, and we should have been practising carrying our packs too.  The Milford Track has long been described as "the finest walk in the world". Since Quintin Mackinnon pioneered the route in 1888, everyone from hardened trekkers to novices sporting their first pair of boots have taken up the challenge of the Milford Track. 

Our trip started when we joined a whole group of other trampers to board the launch to cross  Lake Te Anau, then we had a short one hour tramp to Glade House.  We were taking part in a trip run by the Tourist Hotel Corporation (no longer exists), and stayed at serviced lodges.  The facilities offered were hearty cooked meals, cut lunches, showers, toilets, and the essential drying room for wet clothes and tramping boots, and bunk rooms to collapse into after a hard day tramping through spectacular mountain scenery.
 
Milford Track Trip0001 The start of our adventure

Each evening the ranger gave a talk of what to expect on the day’s tramp, and advised on the weather conditions.  This part of New Zealand is wet, wet, wet, and we saw so many waterfalls coming down the mountainsides that they ceased to be noticed after a while.  Day 2 took us to Pompaloma Hutt.  This map shows the Milford Track from where it starts at the head of Lake Te Anau, to the end at Sandfly Point in Milford Sound. The hill profile image below gives you an idea of the steepness of the track at each stage.
 
We were all rather worried about the next day, when we had to climb up McKinnon Pass.   The track followed a series of switchbacks out of the bush and into the alpine sections.    A little before the top we were stopped by a ranger, who advised us to put on whatever extra clothes we were carrying in the packs.  The conditions were freezing cold at the top of the pass, and we certainly needed those extra layers of clothing.  We stopped for a photo in front of the large memorial cairn that honours the discovery of pass by Quintin Mackinnon and Ernest Mitchell, in 1888.

MacKinnon Pass Sumit We made it to the top - McKinnon Pass summit

Climbing up to the top was not so bad at all, but it was quite a different matter going down the other side.  The track seemed to consist of “steps” all the way down, too high to walk down easily.  It was a matter of balancing on each step with one foot, and swinging the other leg down a two foot drop, all the way down the mountain side.  My back was screaming with pain by the time I had reached the bottom.  We stayed the night at Quinton Hutt but no before we did a side tramp the the Sutherland Falls (NZ highest).

After that gruelling day, our last day on the track was a 18km walk, and we had to hurry along to ensure we didn’t miss the  launch at 2pm.    We made it with time to spare, and waited in the shelter at Sandfly Point.  This place was not named lightly – the West Coast sand flies have ferocious appetites, and just love to attack bone weary trampers who have no where else to go but sit and wait for the boat to take them away.

Waiting @ Sandfly PointWaiting at Sandfly Point – Robin, Jenny, Jim, Shirley and Lewis

What a sense of achievement we all felt as we reached the end of the track.  We were soaked through with the incessant rain, and we had long since given up trying to keep our boots dry, and simply just kept plodding through the mud, puddles, and through streams.  Robin’s woolly hat which I had knitted especially for the trip got so wet it stretched out of shape.  The sodden hat kept falling down over his eyes and ears – I couldn’t help but laugh at him!  It was a lot of fun – thanks for reminding us of that trip, Lewis.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

All about Water

It was a trip back to our old stamping grounds of Upper Hutt today.  The skies were a brilliant blue, the weather was fine and sunny, and the temperatures were lovely and warm.  We drove past a line of oak trees showing off their glorious autumn colours.  Winter is not that far away, so we really enjoyed the lovely warm conditions today.  

DSCF5399 Autumn colours in Upper Hutt

We joined our SLG friends today at the Te Marua Water Treatment Plant.  Calvin had arranged for our group to have a conducted tour of the facility and Phil, one of the six staff members,  welcomed us all.

DSCF5369 Ready for our guided tour

We sat and watched a film showing the history and evolution of the water supply from the earliest years of Wellington’s settlement.  The ever growing population over the years put a strain on the early small reservoirs and dams.

Overview of Te Marua Water Treatment Plant

The water treatment plant, pumping station and storage lakes at Te Marua were built between 1980 and 1987 to treat water taken from the Hutt River at Kaitoke. The plant has a design capacity of 140 million litres daily, but treats around 60 million litres per day on average.  Technical terms such as coagulation, flocculation, separation, filtration and disinfection were bandied around, as our senior brains tried to take it all in.  Phil demonstrated coagulation (mixing a positively charged chemical into the water, which attracts the contaminants and dirt) and flocculation  (water is gently mixed with large paddles and clumps form and settle), and we watched as the water cleared just like magic in the container and the sediment settled after drops of chemicals were added.

DSCF5374  Sediment has dropped to the bottom of the container

Various filters clean the water of impurities.  Phil started up the backwash on a tank of very muddy looking water - a separate air and high rate water scour function and we watched as the water appeared to boil furiously  before falling over the edge and sucked out of the filter. 

DSCF5385 Water being cleaned in filter tanks

DSCF5386Silhouettes against the muddy water in the filter tank

DSCF5379 We walked out to look over the two large clarifiers with their paddles
.
The contaminates, such as viruses giardia, and cryptosporidium are removed from the water and concentrated in the sludge waste.  This nasty looking stuff travels down a conveyor belt and lands “plop” in large waste bins.  Phil dug a shovel in the bin to show us what the sludge looked like.  Don’t touch it Phil, you don’t know what sort of nasty microbes are lurking in there!

DSCF5394Phil with a shovel of sludge waste

Water is piped from this treatment plant to Wellington city, Hutt Valley, and Porirua each day.  The Te Marua plant has earned a “A Grade” rating for water quality, so they can be very proud of that achievement.  Robin and I were shocked to learn that the water quality of our new home town of Levin is a very low “E Grade”!  But things will change, Phil assured us, a water consultant is working with our local council to put plans in place to improve our water quality.  Thank goodness for that.
 
It was a very interesting tour learning all about water – then it was off to lunch to the local restaurant “Porterhouse Blues”.  We were all more than ready for our lunch, and there was a comprehensive reasonably priced lunch menu to chose from.  I certainly enjoyed my Seafood Chowder and garlic bread, while Robin made short work of his beer battered fish and chips.   With a nice hot coffee to follow, we were well satisfied.

DSCF5400 We are all ready for lunch

Our outing finished with a trip to the Upper Hutt Forest and Bird plant nursery.  Calvin spends time here each week with other volunteers and related how seeds and seedlings of native plants and grasses are collected locally, potted up, grown on, then the plants place outside to harden.  They are then planted in reserves and on the edge of waterways, particular areas which the Forest and Bird Society have taken under their care.  Calvin is a keen home gardener and this sideline is a labour of love for him to help improve the environment.
 
DSCF5406 Calvin explaining about the plants he helps grow

Then it was time to say goodbye to our SLG friends, and start the long drive back to Levin.  It had been a very interesting day indeed.  We all take turns organising these monthly get-togethers and next month (June) is my turn.  I thought I had it all sussed out, but it now seems my first choice of where to take the group has closed down and stopped operating.  Bother!  I'll have to come up with a Plan B now, I suppose. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother’s Day in the Antipodes

It’s Mother’s Day today down here in the Antipodes.  The roads were busy, with cars going every which way, to visit or collect their respective Mums.  We headed south down the highway to Waikanae.  Once there, we had a cunning plan.  We called into our cafe of choice to check out the availability of a table for lunch.  Then Robin left me there in charge of said table while he went to collect his almost 90 year old Mum. 

The idea was that I would enjoy a hot drink while I waited for the guest of honour to arrive, but I hit a snag.  Seems that in this cafe one does not usually place orders at the counter, the staff prefer to come to the table to take the orders.  I explained that I was waiting for other guests, and could I please have a drink now, before they arrived.  That seemed almost too hard for the staff to cope with, and after paying for my drink, I waited, and waited, and waited some more, sitting alone at the table feeling  rather like “Nigel No Mates”.  A passing waitress took pity on me and asked if I was being looked after, then hurried away to chase up my drink order.  At last my drink finally arrived – then Robin and his Mum walked slowly into the cafe.

DSCF5352 Bonnie and Robin

After opening her gift, we then all got on with the serious business of studying the menu. Whitebait and Bluff oysters sounded great – but so were the prices for these delicacies, so we sadly passed them by.  I was interested in watching the waiting staff deliver plates of food to the adjacent tables, to check out the other offerings on the menu.  Our choices were finally made, and we sat back and waited expectantly for our lunch to arrive.  And we weren’t disappointed.  We tucked into an omelette filled with smoked chicken for Bonnie, Eggs Benedict with  Marlborough salmon for me, and burger and chips for Robin.

DSCF5353 Our tasty lunches

Melt Cafe was kept busy as the many groups with their Mums in tow arrived for their celebratory lunches.  Bottles of wine arrived at the various tables, the waiting staff deftly delivered plates of food, then coffees, and gifts were given to some lucky Mums. The cafe was a very busy place indeed, doing a roaring business on this special day.
 
Later in the afternoon on our drive back home we stopped off at Koro Ice in Otaki for another treat.  This company makes their own delicious ice-cream, and also sells real fruit ice-cream.  We purchased a blackberry ice-cream for Robin, and a feijoa and crystallised ginger combination for me.  “Ugg”, said Robin, turning his nose up at my choice, “how can you eat something like that?”.  “Just watch me”, I replied.

DSCF5355 Ready to enjoy my feijoa and ginger ice-cream

Happy Mother’s Day to all Mums everywhere – although we realise that this special day is celebrated in other countries at different times to ours down here in New Zealand.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Three men in a car

With a cheery wave, they were off, three men in a car.  Robin, Selwyn and Peter were driving to Rotorua.  Is it safe to let them go alone, the wives probably wondered?  But they are big boys, and should be fine without their better halves there to keep an eye on them.

DSCF5308 Selwyn, Robin and Peter

They will be attending a Caravan and Camping New Zealand (CCNZ) Council meeting tomorrow morning, so it is not just a fun jaunt for them.  Various items need further discussion and clarification, and our club members feel very strongly about them.  There are several points which need to be challenged, so it is much better to do it face to face at a meeting, instead of long winded correspondence.  So with the three blokes putting our caravan club views across, it should be a lively meeting indeed.  Can’t wait to hear all about it late tomorrow, when they return.

DSCF5310 They’re off to Rotorua

Before he left, Robin felt that he should make sure that I could work the new TV.  He has serious doubts about my ability with any new technology!  I had never turned our new TV on or off, and he didn’t want me sitting alone in the lounge tonight, fuming because I couldn’t get it to work.  Of course, the fact that men always hog the TV remotes might well be the reason I have never discovered how to use it.  Anyway, he gave me a run through of what to do, and I have to use three remotes in the right sequence.  Hopefully I’ll remember so that I can watch a bit of telly tonight.  Or else I’ll just have to sit and read my book instead – and admit I wasn’t listening to his instructions properly.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Good Old Uncle Robin

Our 4WD came in handy today.  With the back seats dropped down, there was plenty of room for fetching and carrying.  Good old Uncle Robin was asked if he could collect a new piece of furniture for Suzanne.  This entailed a drive down to Paraparaumu, loading up, then delivering it home for her at Levin.  No trouble all, he assured the family, he was happy to help.   The ever so handy sack barrow came along for a ride too, just in case, but it wasn’t needed.  Suzanne’s new rimu television cabinet was deftly loaded up in the back of our 4WD, and back we drove to Levin.  There always seems to be road works on this stretch of highway, but we made quite reasonable time on our trip.

DSCF5305Carrying in the new furniture

Suzanne and Robin carried the wooden unit into the house between them, and I had the easy job of of carrying in the drawers.  The TV cabinet fitted nicely into the corner of the room – it is a lovely piece of furniture made of native New Zealand timber. 

DSCF5307

It looks like winter has started to snap at our heels. We drove down to the Hutt Valley through freezing cold torrential rain earlier in the week.  And the mornings have a definite chill in the air.  Maybe it won’t be too long till we notice a dusting of snow on the Tararua Ranges, just behind us.  Then we will know that winter has really arrived.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Wild Duck for Dinner

Boom, boom, boom – the sound of hunters guns blasting away reverberated through our caravan in the early morning.  The first Saturday in May is the start of the duck-hunting season, and the camp caretaker had joined his mates for a weekend of sport.    He was hoping for low cloud in the morning, he told us before he left the camp.  Then the ducks fly low, making it easier for the hunters to get good shots. 

European settlers introduced game birds to New Zealand, and Mallard ducks, Paradise ducks and Canada geese became well established. The duck shooting season opens in the first weekend of May and runs for 3 months. A license must be obtained from Fish and Game New Zealand every season, and ducks must be shot with a shotgun while on the wing (flying). The use of lead shot  was banned from use some years ago, and hunters now use nontoxic steel shot as a replacement. The birds  have good eyesight, so hunters usually conceal themselves in a maimai (a hide, usually made of wood, corrugated iron and manuka brush). Decoy ducks made from wood, cork or plastic are placed on the water to attract ducks to land. Hunters also blow on instruments which mimic the birds’ calls and make them think it’s safe to land.

Photo courtesy Don Scott, The Press

The young caretaker arrived back on Sunday while our group of happy campers were enjoying lunch together out in the sunshine.  He’d had a great time away with his mates, he said, and got plenty of ducks.  Then he brought out a big bag of  Paradise duck breasts for us all. (“Breasting” is an alternative to plucking the whole bird, and releases most of the usable meat). We were astounded - what a generous young man to share his catch with us, a bunch of geriatric campers who were just there for the weekend!  Yes please, we said, but how do we cook them?  Wrap them in bacon and cook in the oven, we were told.

DSCF5287 Wild duck breasts

A quick look at Mr Google soon provided a recipe, so that is what we did for dinner.  The duck breasts were rinsed, patted dry, and wrapped in streaky bacon.  Next step was to brown then in the pan, then place them in a hot oven.

P5058015 Brown them first, the recipe said

They took about half an hour to cook, just long enough to prepare and cook some veggies to go with our duck.  The meal was dished up, just hope it tastes as good as it looks. 

DSCF5291 Wild duck for dinner

Our verdict?  Sadly, these were a little tough, but that could well be the fault of the cook.  Perhaps I left them a little too long in the oven.  Surprisingly, the meat did not taste in the least “gamey”, as we had imagined it might.  We will be interested to hear how the others cooked and enjoyed their duck breasts. 

My only other experience of eating duck was at the terribly posh Orsinis Restaurant in Cuba Street, Wellington,  many long years ago.  Goodness knows what the occasion was, or how we could afford it, as Orsinis was the ultimate fine dining restaurant at the time.  I was quite young, newly married, and terribly out of my depth and uncomfortable in such grand surroundings.  But I do remember that my duck tasted divine, and just melted in my mouth. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Caravan Rally at Manawatu Caravan Club Grounds, Foxton

With the threat of rain hanging over our weekend rally at Foxton, out came the porch awning from it’s home (while not in use) under the caravan bed.  This would give us some protection getting in and out the door.  As always, Muffy loves to explore any interesting space, no matter how often she has been there before.  She couldn’t get into the under-bed storage area quickly enough.  Any hidey-hole is an irresistible hole to her.

DSCF5275 I’ve checked it out, Mum.

The expected rain never happened, and we enjoyed the warm sunny weather, without a breath of wind, most unusual so close to the coast.  We stayed at the Manawatu Caravan Club grounds, where club members have static caravans on site.  There are a limited number of power sites available for casual campers, and our club booked most of these for our weekend rally.  The locals are very friendly, and often stop and chat as they go about the camp.

On Friday evening we walked the short distance to the Foxton Bowling Club.  This club offers a very good, reasonably priced meal in their restaurant on Friday nights.  We had been there previously when camping at Foxton, so knew that we could get good value for money.  Several of us chose fried fish, delicious with nice crispy batter.

There was a game of Petanque organised on Saturday afternoon, a knock-out game with simplified rules to suit our lack of sporting prowess.  We weren’t playing with just any old set of balls, but a special presentation set given to Derek as a “going away gift” when he left a previous workplace.

DSCF5278Derek and his fancy petanque set

Names were pulled out and we were paired up with a partner.  Think the technique of most of us was sadly lacking, but a few of us performed quite well.  As we were playing on grass instead of the more usual sand, the balls often rolled further than anticipated.  It was all a good laugh and kept us and the residents in the camp entertained for a while.  I was knocked out in the first round, so sat back and enjoyed watching everyone else trying their best.

DSCF5279 Was that a good throw, I wonder?

DSCF5281Robin did a little better than me, won his first round, then was beaten second time up. 

The final was a closely contested game between Geoff and Elaine, with them both performing very well.  The eventual winner was Geoff, who was duly presented with a certificate.  The current form of the game originated in 1907 in Provence, in southern France. The casual form of the game of petanque is very popular, played by about 17 million people in France, mostly during their summer vacations, and is also widely played in neighbouring Spain.

DSCF5286 Congratulations, Geoff

The rest of the weekend was much more laid back.  We had the use of the hall for our evening get-togethers.  There was a competition or two to keep our brains limbered up, a recipe swap for the ladies, and the men took turns telling jokes.  The resident campers trundled back and forth to the beach.  One of the fisherman had been lucky and we were proudly shown a good sized snapper that he was taking home for his evening meal.  This is a lovely camp, with beautifully maintained grounds, nice friendly residents, and a very accommodating care-taker - but that’s another story.

DSCF5276 The gang at the Manawatu Caravan Club Campground

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Off we go Again

Life’s all go when you enjoy caravanning, that’s for sure.  We moved our Leisureline from it’s RV park around the back, and put it in place across the car parks next to our villa.  The caravan power cord runs across the front yard and is long enough to come through our kitchen window and plug into a power point.  Leaving it here overnight ensures that we can have the fridge on power to cool it down.  It also makes the many trips to and fro as we load up food and clothing so much shorter.  Tomorrow mid morning we will hook up and drive up to Foxton, meeting up with our caravan club friends for a weekend rally.

DSCF5272 Power cord snaking across the yard and into our window

While we were moving the caravan, the gardeners were busy in our village.  A whole lot more trees and shrubs have been planted in the gardens in front of the villas down our end, including along the fence line next to the car park.  When the holes were dug, the gardeners popped in a slow release fertiliser cube.  Not being a good keen gardener, I didn’t know about such things.  It is nice to see so many lovely native trees being planted, and the head gardener told me that she has now spent all of her budget.  Just hope there is a little left over to get us some grass seed so we can have a lawn soon!