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

Friday, November 29, 2013

Gentle Annie Trip

It’s always a bit sad when you get back home after tripping around this wonderful country of ours. The main aim of our  trip was to travel across the Gentle Annie Road, from Napier to Taihape, one we had not previously travelled.  This road, known historically as Gentle Annie, (152 kms)  is now a lot gentler on travellers than it used to be.  It used to be one of those unsealed roads which people towing caravans kept well away from.  The steep gradient from the Kaweka forest into the plateau gives the Gentle Annie road its name.  It also marks the halfway point between Taihape and Napier. 

These days the surface is a sealed two lane road, albeit quite narrow, with some very steep parts.  This is a spectacular part of the North Island, quite remote with high-country sheep stations which farm Merino sheep.  We travelled 924 kms on this trip.

Gentle Annie TripMap of our recent trip

The caravan had a wash down today and has now been removed back to it’s parking space, all spic and span ready for our next trip away – in two weeks time so not too long at all to wait.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Moody Weather

It was a good decision not to travel too far yesterday in all that wind, as it blew itself out overnight.  Most of the other vans got on the road much earlier than us – many of them had some serious travelling to do.  We were just wandering slowly home, after a stop at the dump station.  The rain clouds had painted the Taraurua Ranges many shades of misty grey. 
 
PB280014 Tararua Ranges

The closer we got to home, the darker the clouds were above us. 

PB280023 Nearly home now

Luckily the rain held off as we unpacked the caravan, bringing in the food, armfuls of clothes, and a huge bag of laundry.  There was even more laundry when the bed was stripped and remade.  With the fridge washed out, the bathroom cleaned, and the floor vacuumed, we are all ready for the next trip away in a couple of weeks.

The rain really came down in the late afternoon,  just as well the caravan chores got finished and we can put our feet up for a while.  Then there were the answer-phone messages to reply to, and a big bag of junk mail kindly collected by our neighbour to go through.  We put a hold on our “proper” mail while we were away and this will be delivered  shortly.  Coming back from holidays can be so tiring!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Moving on to Marton

After a night out in the wop-wops at rural Rangatira Golf Course we awoke to a blustery morning.  The local lady golfers arrived bright and early and teed off right by our caravan.  “Shhh”, said Robin, “we must be quiet so we don’t put them off their swing”.  He was a bit of a golfer himself in an earlier life, so knows about these things.

PB270006 Sign at the Golf Club

The car park was cleared of golf trundlers once all the ladies were on the greens, so we had room to hitch up the cars and start on our way.  Just a short 37km trip to Marton NZMCA camp.  There was only a single caravan on site when we arrived, closely followed by Geoff and Eileen.  The vans were backed into place, just in time for lunch.

PB270010 Back in Marton again

Then blow me down, three more vans rolled through the gate, one after another.  During the course of the afternoon several more followed, making a total of .11 caravans and motor-homes.  The wind didn’t drop all day, and it was too chilly to sit outside, so we decided on having 4zees in the little recreation room.  Geoff knocked on van doors and invited everyone else to join us too.  And quite a happy group it was too.

PB270011 4zees get together

Some people were embarking on a South Island holiday, and a few South Islanders were all set to do the same thing here in the north.  We swapped ideas, exchanged tips, related favourite places to stay, and reminisced about previous trips.

Marton is a great place to stay, and we have been here several times now.  Not too far from home, just a 75km journey tomorrow.  We just hope that the wind will have abated by then, it's no fun towing in such conditions.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Goodbye Taupo and Hello Ohingaiti

After four days of glorious Taupo weather it was time to pack up and start heading homewards.  But first there were the necessary things to do such as fill up the water tanks, dump the waste water, and top up the 4WD with diesel.  Then we travelled south along the Desert Road, which  ascends onto the North Island Volcanic Plateau,  into the Rangipo Desert, passing the volcanoes of Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro.  The summit is 1,074 metres (3,524 ft) above sea level - the highest point on the New Zealand State Highway network.  No wonder we could barely see in front of us at times.

PB260027 Not much to see on the Desert Road

After a lunch stop at the Waiouru Army Museum cafe, the weather cleared and we made our way to our stop for the night, the Rangatira Golf Club at Ohingaiti.  We had stayed there previously, and the golf club offers power, water, showers and toilets at a reasonable cost.   The golf club is unique as the course is built on three levels, and has an Electric Cable Car, the only one of its kind in New Zealand.  Sadly, the cable car has been out of action for sometime due to safety concerns, and is awaiting parts from overseas to rectify the problem.  All we could see were the rails running downhill.

PB260043 Cable Car rails

Cable car when it was running

After our evening meal Robin and Geoff sat out on the back deck of the club house enjoying a cold beer and the wonderful views.  And no doubt considering where we would travel on to tomorrow.

PB260052 Robin and Geoff reflecting on the day’s travel

PB260048View of the golf club

Volcanic Activity Centre

The Volcanic Activity Centre was a  “must do” while we were in Taupo.  And we got senior discount tickets too, which made it even better.  The Volcanic Activity Centre brings to life the explosive past and present volcanic geothermal features of the Taupo Volcanic Zone.  Yes indeed, this is a very “active” area indeed.

PB240109 Entrance to the Volcanic Activity Centre

The Earthquake Simulator is a real favourite with visitors.  We sat inside, holding on for dear life,  and the little house shook and rattled, showing the amount of force behind the 6.3 earthquake which devastated Christchurch on 22nd February 2011.  It seemed to go on, and on, and on, so no wonder so many buildings were torn apart and lived ruined.
 PB248153 The Earthquake Simulator

The Film Theatre ran films showing the 1995-96 Mt Ruapehu eruptions - we can certainly remember when the mountain was belching dense clouds of ash, spewing rocks up in the air, disrupting air traffic, and ruining the ski season.  There was a film showing the Tangiwai Disaster, which happened in 1953.  The crater lake on Mt Ruapehu collapsed, the water raced down the mountain side, knocked out a rail bridge just before the Wellington to Auckland overnight express was due to cross, with a terrible loss of life.  And finally there were films showing the devastation caused by the Canterbury Earthquakes.  It all made very sobering viewing, reminding us that we live in a country full of seismic activity.

PB240106 Mt Ruapehu blowing it’s top

There was plenty to see and do inside the centre with  numerous wall displays, microscopes, and computerised simulators.  Plenty there to keep you busy and informed for some time, including this large table showing volcanic activity in the region.  We can certainly recommend a visit to the centre.

PB248154

Monday, November 25, 2013

Taupo Airport

PB240112

We are currently staying at the NZMCA park at Taupo Airport and the area has been full with caravans, buses and motor-homes over the last few days.  Most of them have departed and after having neighbours on both sides and across the internal road, there are very few scattered about the grounds today.  That could well change as a lot of campers arrive in the late afternoon, looking for a spot to stay for a night or two.

PB250042 All on our lonesome

The surrounding area is always busy too.  Behind the camp are two sky-diving businesses and they have planes up in the air most days.  As Robin often says, “why anyone would want to jump out of a perfectly safe plane, is beyond me”.  He’s so right, I wouldn’t do it either.  We watch them hurtling towards earth, looping the loop as they go – the foolhardy young things.

PB230060 Tandem parachutists

We have good views of the commercial helicopters taking off and landing, and also the rescue helicopter has had a few trips while we have been here.  Air New Zealand planes take off and land at the adjacent airport, so it can get rather noisy at times, but there is always something to watch. 

PB240067 Coming in to land

A few chores needed doing today and as we drove downtown we could see the steam rising in the air from nearby Wairakei Geothermal Power Station.  The Wairakei Power Station is owned and operated by Contact Energy Limited, and produces 25% of NZ's electricity

PB250025 Steam rising from Wairakei

The sky is a bit hazy today, but we had a good view of Mt Ruapehu away in the distance across Lake Taupo.   There is something awe inspiring about the mountains, we feel.

PB250040Looking across Lake Taupo to Mt Ruapehu

Later in the afternoon we were joined by friends Geoff and Eileen who had been in Auckland visiting family over the last few days.  When they were set up it was time to sit outside in the shade for 4zees and catch up with our respective news.

PB250002 Geoff, Robin, Jenny and Eileen

Then came the big question.  When shall we move on, and where shall we go?  We’ve almost come to a decision, we’ll think again about it tomorrow.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Another Blue Dome Taupo Day

It’s been another beautiful Blue Dome day, as the weather presenter used to say.  It is certainly high summer temperatures here at Lake Taupo, with not a hint of the cold winds which often blow across the lake, down from the mountains.  Indeed, the lake side is looking a little like Taupo Riviera today.  Scores of scantily clad young women sunbathing in their bikinis, lying on the grass or taking possession of the narrow strip of sand.  Some hearty souls were in braving the cold lake water. 

PB240082 Enjoying Lake Taupo

And of course there are boats everywhere.  Little kayaks, motor boats, and much grander ones with sails.  We saw car after car arrive with boat trailers at the boat ramp, ready to launch into the water.  And they all left their cars and boat trailers behind.  At this particular boat ramp, there must have been 70 or so cars and trailers parked up.  And this is just one of many dotted around the lake.

PB240073 Boat trailers galore

There is a smart new large seating area that has recently been constructed on the lake side.  Underneath is the new town supply water intake, hidden away from view.  The seating area is a lovely design, made from timber, concrete tiles, and softened with planted areas. This would be a lovely place to sit and contemplate the lake.

PB240084 New recreational area at the lake side

The cast iron sculpture “Reflection” seems to be doing just that.  Or maybe he just has a headache.  It was made by Max Patte from Wellington, and is on loan from the Taupo District Council.

PB248150 “Reflection” on the lake side

We concluded our blue dome Taupo day with a meal at the Wairakei Resort, chosen purely because we liked the sound of the radio ad.  When we heard about a Sunday roast, just like Mother used to make, we were hooked.  And the price was very reasonable too.  We told the manager that we had booked in because of the power of advertising.

PB240001 Wairakei Resort

The buffet food looked amazing, all nicely set out, and the chef explained what was hiding under the covers.  With a choice of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, or roast pork with lots of crackle, how could we not be happy.  Especially when the chef informed us sir and madam could have both meats if they so desired.  And come back as many times as we wished. 

PB240004 The buffet service with desserts in the background

But no, we weren’t that greedy.  We started off with prawn salad, followed by roast meat (we took both)  and veggies – so delicious.  Dessert was a choice of pavlova, trifle, cheese-cake and fresh fruit salad, all good Kiwi desserts, the chef told us.  Come back for seconds, he said, but no, we were quite replete, thank you very much.  I managed to sip a coffee to finish, but Robin was full to the brim.  At $29.50 each, it was excellent value, in quite posh surroundings.

PB240008  Dinner for two, please

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Round trip to Tongariro

We waved farewell to Geoff and Eileen today, so now we are in Taupo camping on our own.  They set off on their way to visit family in Auckland.  And check out the NZMCA park in Ardmore Airport, we were told.  Then we hit the road ourselves.  Armed with “something we prepared earlier”, our picnic lunch, we set off for Tongariro, pulling off the road at one of the parking areas alongside Lake Taupo.  There were plenty of others with the same idea, including young parents with two kids and a dog.  We watched as the young boy climbed into his kayak and paddled around the lake foreshore.

PB230011 Lunch beside Lake Taupo

Driving down to Turangi, we turned off on SH47, drove up the hill and pulled into another road side stop which gave us quite a different view of Lake Taupo and the surrounding area.

PB230026 Lake Taupo in the distance

Mt Tongariro was devoid of snow, but had steam venting from the sides.  This mountain has had quite a lot of volcanic activity is the last year, and is obviously still rumbling away deep inside
.
PB230034 Mt Tongariro is still very active

Our friends Dot and Derek have been staying at Tongariro Holiday Park, and as we had never visited this camp before, we invited ourselves around for afternoon tea - taking something tasty to share, we hasten to add.  This camp is very busy, with the world famous walking track, the Tongariro Crossing, close by.

PB230038

So we caught up with all the news, had afternoon tea, checked out the camp, and returned the circular route to Taupo via SH46 going past Rangipo Prison.

PB230043 Dot and Derek at Tongariro

We arrived back in Taupo to find a whole new lot of campers at this very busy place, and a very cross pussy cat inside our caravan.  She let us know in no uncertain terms that she had been left home alone yet again, and it must surely be time for her meal to be served.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Waiouru to Taupo

It was Big Breakfast for three plus poached eggs for the (still) poorly one this morning at the Home Fires Cafe at the Waiouru Army Museum.  All under the watchful eyes of the New Zealand Special Air Service Tree Jumpers, Malaya 1955-57 exhibit hanging from the wall adjacent to the cafe. 

PB220023 NZ Special Air Service Tree Jumpers

PB220028 View from the cafe window

We seriously considered cutting short our tripping around and returning home as my bad throat and coughing spells are not improving.  But then thought we would have a couple more days travel and reconsider.  As we got ready to move on, I quickly checked out some other overnighters and their dogs.  Several camper-vans full of agility dogs joined us in the car park at Waiouru the previous night on the way to competitions.  This particular 5th wheeler has been modified with kennel compartments in the base to safely transport the dogs.

PB220005 Border Collie agility dogs

PB220011 Dogs loaded on board and they are off

Of course we had to do the obligatory photo stop along the Desert Road to take photos of the mountains.  Mt Ruapehu had a bit of cloud cover hiding the peaks.  A little further on, Mt Ngauruhoe was looking as majestic, as ever.

PB220038 Mt Ruapehu

PB220039 Mt Ngauruhoe

100kms or so later we pulled into the NZMCA property at Taupo Airport.  This is a very popular park and caravans and motor-homes rolled in one after another all afternoon. The weather was hot and sunny, and tandem parachutists were dropping like flies out of the skies overhead.   Then the blue skies clouded over, and the rain came down.  That put paid to the parachute activity, but they are sure to be back tomorrow.

PB220055 We are staying here tonight

Geoff got his red Honda generator fired up later in the afternoon, safely protected by an umbrella to keep the rain off.  This was to top up the batteries, and more importantly,  so that he could plug in their Nescafe Dolce Gusto coffee machine.  We were invited next door for a cup of Cafe Au Lait, and very nice it was too.

PB220065 All this for a cup of coffee

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Hastings to Waiouru via Gentle Annie

We can tick this road off our list of of things to do – we have tackled the Gentle Annie road which took us up and over the Kaweka Range, and through Kaweka Forest Park.  Fully loaded timber trucks came roaring towards us.  If they can manoeuvre this road carrying such a heavy road, we thought, we should have no trouble towing the caravans through.

PB210026 Here comes another timber truck

PB210037 Another cycle – baby pines planted and growing fast

Our original idea was to stop overnight halfway along the road at Kuripapango.  But the camping area seemed to be a long way down by the river so we changed our minds, staying for just a lunch stop instead.

PB210044 Lunch stop at Kuripapango

The vistas changed from pine forest, to farmland, to misty mountains as we followed the twisty road up and down. 

PB210016View of farmland

PB210051 Bright yellow broom was in full flower beside the road

PB210047Plenty of twists and turns

After 130kms we reached Spooners Hill Junction and joined back onto SH1, travelling on to Waiouru.  We had done it!  Yes, it was windy, very hilly and extra steep in places,  but was two laned all the way.  The former unsealed Gentle Annie used to have a fearsome reputation, but these days, as long as you take your time, there is no trouble towing a caravan up and down all those hills.  It wouldn’t be easy to tackle in the depths of winter though, as the snow would cover parts of this high altitude road.

Then it was a matter of “Waiouru, here we come”, and we pulled into the caravan parks behind the Waiouru Army Museum.  There were just us two for the first couple of hours, then several others pulled in too for an overnight stop.  With regular security patrols through the night, this is a safe place to stay.

PB210086 
PB210084Our stop for the night

It’s been a big day, with challenging driving, so I think an early night is on the cards.  Robin and Geoff have decided that they will be having a “Big Breakfast” at the Museum Cafe in  the morning, that should be a good start to the day.   They won’t be dining alone, Eileen and I will be there to too, although I think a big breakfast might well be a bit too much for me, I’ll choose something a little lighter.