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

Friday, February 28, 2014

Caravans and campers Galore at Mystery Creek

It was almost overwhelming looking through the brand new caravans and campers on display inside the complex here at Mystery Creek.  We looked through well known brands such as Trail Lite, Jayco and the lesser known Baileys and Dethleffs.  Climbed in and out of the huge 5th wheeler Rockwoods and Ultimas with their slide-outs and all the bells and whistles.  It’s fair to say we were all caravanned out.  And for something completely different, we listened as the salesman extolled the virtues of the Krappatowa.  Aimed at tenters, we presume, this is a tow along full size portable toilet and shower combination at the back, and a kitchenette with a small sink and gas rings in the front.  Will it catch on?  Who knows.

P2280047 Tow along mobile bathroom

Just as well we have purchased three day passes into the show, as it really is too much to take in the first time around.  A few small purchases were made, some Aqua Green for our chemical loo, and a new mat for outside the caravan door.  It looks huge, but this was the smallest size available.  According to the blurb, this matting will not kill the grass – this grass where we are camping looks pretty dry and almost dead already, we notice.

P2280059 Robin putting our new mat in place.

While we were away checking out the merchandise, people still kept arriving with their vans, and our relatively roomy area has been filled up with even more people here to enjoy the show.  We heard unofficially that there are about 450 rigs on site.

P2280057 Filling up fast

In the afternoon Robin went to catch up with members of his on-line forum who he often exchanged messages with.  He was pleased to finally meet Neddy, Zukiwi and Dene and others, after chatting on-line to them for some time.  There was excitement in the evening when we found out that there was to be a human interest story about the Camper Care Show on TV1.  Our new found friend who drives Fredrock Cafe was featured, and there was a quick flash of me walking into our caravan carrying my pink laundry bucket.  Must admit I felt rather like a TV celebrity when I started to receive texts from friends back home!  Blink and you missed it, but with the wonders of modern TV, we could replay the programme an hour later, and we sat and watched my 5 seconds of fame again.

We will be back at the show again tomorrow checking out the things we missed the first time around, such as the retro caravans on display.  And Robin is keen to attend a couple of seminars too - so it will be another busy day again tomorrow.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Arriving at Mystery Creek for Camper Care Show

It was goodbye to the farm at Morrinsville and on the road again today for the 40km trip back to Hamilton to attend the Camper Care Motorhome and Caravan Show at Mystery Creek.  Just as well we were bright and early as the first 60 to arrive received a bottle of wine in the goody bags.  The reasonable cost to plug into power for the four days seemed too good a deal to miss, so here we are, all on power, and quite close to the ablution blocks too. 

P2270003 Parked up at Mystery Creek

Today was a free day, and the Heritage Village on the grounds was opened up for those interested to look through this slice of history.

P2270005 Geoff and Robin at the Heritage Village

The buildings had all had a useful life in days gone by, and later moved onto this site to be preserved.  There was a Blacksmith’s forge, and old garage, school building, church, hospital, and gaol.  Just the sort of buildings that would be found in a small village.  The small wooden church was built in 1924  for the parishioners of Ngatea.  Since being moved it has been rededicated and weddings are often held here.

P2270017The former Ngatea Church

P2278273“Father” Geoff in church

This building was used as the first Waikato hospital from 1886, and was moved to the Heritage Village in the 1970s.  Inside are beds, an operating table, and surgical instruments.

P2270015The first Waikato Hospital

P2278271Early implements 

Ducks were splashing happily about in the small lake next to the Heritage Village, a nice shady spot on such a hot day.

P2270024The village lake 

We had read that fellow blogger Frederick who writes “Travels in Retirement” would be at the show today, so we went to make his acquaintance.  We had a good chat, and he invited us to have a look through his bus, which he calls “Fredrock Cafe”.  After reading his interesting blog about life on the road, tramping and kayaking, it was great to finally meet him in person.

P2270028 Hi there, Fred!

Frederick is also a skilled potter, and had recently blogged about making small slab sided boxes.  He kindly offered me one of these little treasures to take home, how kind indeed.  Thanks so much, it is gorgeous.

P2270041 My little pottery box

The different rigs rolled in all day long, and the grounds soon filled up with caravans, 5th wheelers, motor-homes and buses.  The show itself doesn’t start till Friday, so the organisers and merchants must be thrilled with so many keen people already on site.  There are sure to be even more arrivals tomorrow.

P2270032 Early arrivals at Mystery Creek

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Matamata, Te Aroha, and back to the farm

It was whistle-stop sightseeing today when we did a 100km round trip to Matamata, Te Aroha, and back to Morrinsville.  Matamata is well known as the home of the famous Opal Hot Springs.  But it’s identity seems to have been hi-jacked these days and the town is also known as Hobbiton. 

P2268262 Hobbiton – aka Matamata

Visitors come from far and wide to take guided tours of the Hobbiton movie set, from the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  The local Information Centre has been reborn as a Hobbit House.  We would have loved to have done a Hobbiton Tour – perhaps next time we are up this way.

P2268260  Hobbit House Information Centre

It was time for lunch and where better than the Kamai Cheese Factory and Cafe at Waharoa, a new building masquerading as a replica 1920’s butter factory.  In 1886, after laying the foundation for the Waharoa settlement, Josiah Firth built the first Waharoa Dairy Factory. That first year of production at the Waharoa Dairy Factory saw 25 tonnes of butter and cheddar manufactured on the site. There has been a factory on this site since those early years.

P2260020 Kamai Cheese Factory and Cafe

We love cheese so spent a little time choosing some to purchase, and finally decided on Creamy Blue, and Camembert.  Now, what to have for lunch?  Robin chose a bacon and egg croissant, while I chose something quite different, potato and cheddar cheese dumplings, known as pierogies.  This is a Polish delicacy, we were told, and is particularly popular in Canada and USA.  They were delicious too, yummy and cheesy.  Robin didn’t miss out, as I generously gave him a couple of my tasty little dumplings to try.

P2260022 Inside the Kaimai Cafe

Royalty came calling way back in 1929 with a visit from Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.  What an exciting time for little old Waharoa that must have been when the royal entourage arrived.

P2260026

Replete after our tasty lunch, we made our way to Te Aroha, a beautiful historic spa town.  According to legend, the son of Arawa chief, Kahu-Mata-Momoe was on his way home from visiting a kinsman at Kaipara.  He climbed to the top of the mountain, and was overjoyed to see the familiar landmarks of his tribal home.  He then decided to name it “Aroha ki tai – This shall be called the Mountain of Aroha.  Herein shall forever repose the great love of Kahu-Mata-Momoe”. The legend continues that in time the spirit of Kahu-Mata-Momoe caused a stream of crystal water to flow from the heart of the mountain. Where the stream emerged there appeared hot springs with healing qualities.

Te Aroha is home to the world’s only hot soda water geyser, Mokena geyser.  It erupts every 40 minutes or so, and as we sat patiently to wait, we could hear noises as hot water bubbled out of a underground hole in the hillside.  Then with a burst, the geyser started to play.  It was a little dissapointing,  barely 2 feet high, but fun to see as it coughed and spluttered into life.

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P2260036 Hot Soda Water Mokena Geyser

It was hot work doing all this sightseeing, so we decided to head back to our POP in Morrinsville.  With any luck we would be just in time to watch the cows come in for the afternoon milking.  Then it would be time for 4zees under the shady silk tree.

Camping here on a dairy farm in Morrinsville, it was time to check out the milking shed.  Although we had been staying here several days, we hadn’t really seen the cows come in for milking.  Twice a day, the herd of about 240 cows walk up the race into the milking shed, with the contract milk man putt-putting along behind them riding the farm bike.  The cows at the front of the herd walk into place in the herringbone stalls, while the others wait their turn in the yard.

P2260055 Cows in the herringbone shed

Music is often played in the milking shed to sooth the cows, but a different sort of music can be heard in this shed.  The contract milk man is an Indian bloke, and the sounds of Indian music waft out in the breeze.  Goodness knows what the cows think of this particular ethnic music, perhaps they tap their hooves in time to the Bollywood beat? 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Morrinsville

Morrinsville   calls itself “Cream of the Country” and is in the Waikato, situated between the Kaimai Ranges and the Waikato River.  Set on easy rolling terrain, surrounded by some of the best farmland in New Zealand, just the right sort of country for dairy herds. 


 
We are currently camping  on a POP on a dairy farm, and have power, water, and toilet available.  Our friendly hosts Graham and Fiona have made us feel most welcome.  Fiona is a very keen gardener, and we whiled the hot afternoon away today sitting on the lawn under the shade of the three large shady Silk trees.  What bliss to be sheltered from the hot sun, while enjoying the fresh country air.

P2250001 .Our POP in Morrinsville

Poppy is the resident house dog, a tiny bundle of energy.  A miniature Fox Terrier, she is on the go all day long.  She is quite happy to have campers on her property, and brings her chew toys along to worry while she keeps us company.

P2250004 Poppy, alert as always

The town is named after the brothers Samuel and Thomas Morrin, from the Scottish town of Lockerbie, who purchased land as an estate and to house the estate's workers in the late 19th century. The brothers hired Irish navvies from the gold fields to dig an extensive network of drains to dry the land, enabling it to be used for intensive agriculture.

P2250011Morrinsville Centennial Clock,  donated by the Rotary Club

We took a trip downtown to replenish the fridge and see what Morrinsville has to offer.  The main street is decorated with colourful pots of flowers.  It seems a very prosperous town, without any of those rows of empty shops which other towns seem to have in abundance.  With a population of 6500, it certainly seems quite a go-ahead place.
 
P2250005 Downtown Morrinsville


Monday, February 24, 2014

A busy day in Hamilton

After a stinking hot day, the temperature dropped dramatically overnight.  Brrr – it was chilly, so cold that we could see our breath in the air while we were talking in the morning.  It was pitch black when we got up today, after setting the alarm clock really early.  We had arranged to drop our caravan back to the manufacturers to get some work done, and were worried about arriving  late.  Just before we left the Glenview Club grounds to tackle the early morning rush-hour traffic across town, we noticed a hot air balloon high up in the sky.  It was going to be a beautiful day – lovely and still without the troublesome wind that we had yesterday, which made towing the caravan a bit difficult.

On arriving at the Leisureline factory Robin was informed that we couldn’t replace our original water tanks with larger ones as we wanted, as there was insufficient room under the chassis.  The boss man suggested that they add a second fresh water tank to match our existing one, which doubles the capacity.  We also wanted an extra locker door fitted to the right hand side.  With the instructions noted down on the work sheet, we unhitched, and left Romany Rambler to their ministrations.  “Call back later in the afternoon”, we were told, “and it should be ready for you”.  We certainly hoped so, or else where would we sleep overnight?

Then we backtracked right across town again, to leave Muffy at a cattery for a few days.  Oh dear, the cattery lady didn’t have us written in her book, but she did remember us phoning, so that was OK.  Originally we were told that the work on the caravan would take three days to complete, so it seemed sensible to leave Muffy at a cattery while this was happening.  We are going to miss her company for the next few days, but certainly will not miss her current habit of waking us up several times during the night.

Next was a trip out to Gordonton so I could visit a quilt shop.  Robin waited patiently in the car reading the paper while I got my fabric fix.  Our Garmin had a little trouble with the new roading system and showed us travelling across empty land for a while, until it found the road once more.  Looks like we need to update it again.

P2240019  Where has the road gone?

Back in car again for a return trip to the city.  We bought some lunch and decided to eat it alongside the lovely Hamilton Lake.  This picturesque spot is popular with visitors and locals alike.
 
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P2240041 Views of Hamilton Lake

There were plenty of mallard ducks about, and we noticed several which were quite different.  Referring to our bird book, we found out that they are Australian Coots, dark sooty gray, with a distinctive white frontal shields and beaks.  They came over from Oz, and have established themselves on lakes and lagoons throughout the country.

P2240047   Australian Coot

Pukeko were also quite plentiful, and came rushing up looking for handouts whenever someone offered leftovers from their picnic lunch. They are quite colourful birds, with royal blue chests, and red frontal shields and beaks.
 P2240045 Pukeko looking for lunch

There is a very popular cafe overlooking the lunch and we needed something to wash our picnic lunch down.  I waited, and waited, and waited some more for my coffee to be delivered, while Robin made short work of a large ice-cream.  It was very pleasant sitting comfortably in the shade at the cafe looking out over the lake, and watching the people go by. 

P2240049 Yum, an ice-cream on a hot day

The hours slowly ticked by and it was finally time to go and collect our caravan.  We had to wait a little while till the paperwork was completed, then came the hard part, paying the bill.  Reunited with our caravan once more, we hooked up and decided where we would spend the night.  Morrinsville was suggested, and why not?  We had never stayed there before, so that seemed as good a reason as any.
 
P2240050 Leisureline factory at Hamilton

It seems that we have been driving to and fro across Hamilton all day, so what was another 40km or so at the end of the day?  We are now staying at a dairy farm, with very friendly hosts.  It’s been a long day, more about Morrinsville tomorrow.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Moving on to Hamilton

The rain has stopped, the sun is out, and the cicadas are calling loudly all around us.  What a shame we have to move on today, we could happily spend several more days in this lovely camping spot.

P2220026
Camping at Katikati

Our host Robert has farmed here for 30 years, he told me, and feels it is probably time to move on.  As well as growing kiwifruit, he runs herds of  both beef cattle and deer.  He added the camping facilities as an extra interest, and brings a little extra into the coffers, no doubt.  The camp has it’s own brand of rustic charm and the notice hanging crookedly on the wall of the utilities block reminds everyone that this is a “Self Service Camp”.  The fees for a powered site are very reasonable, and the washing machine is free to use, so we can certainly help and mop the shower floors after use.

P2210079 Our Self Service Camp

There are several permanents in camp, two couples who are camping here while their  new houses are being built.  Up on the rise by the ablution block is a large blue and white bus named Temptation.  And on the back of the bus is written these words:

P2210084 Temptation

The lady from Temptation used to own Birmans, she said, and cooed over Muffy.  She was taking her  ginger Maine Coon kitten for a walk on a harness and lead around the camp and called by to say hello.  The kitten was a beauty, with huge paws, a sure sign that he will be a very large cat when he matures.  They have two other Maine Coons spending time in a cattery, we were told, while they are waiting for their house to be completed.

Then it was time to hook up, say goodbye to the others who we will meet up with later in the week, and continue on our way to Hamilton.  We drove through the Karangahake Gorge, and noticed many cyclists were enjoying the cycle track beside the river.  At one stage the track took them across the bridge over the river, to disappear into the hillside, and they exited out of the tunnel quite some way further on.

P2230004 Karangahake Gorge

Must admit that it is a bit disconcerting when you use the public loos and they talk to you.  That’s what happened when we stopped at Ohinemuri Park at Paeroa.  “You have a maximum of ten minutes” the disembodied voice said once we had locked the door and going about our business inside.  Wonder what would happen if you overstay your allotted ten minutes in the loo?  Once safely outside again, we couldn’t resist posing with the “World Famous in New Zealand” Lemon and Paeroa bottle.
 
P2230007Kiwis love L&P

Just down the road a little we found what we had been looking for, a roadside stall selling avocados.  At only $2 a bag for ten, that’s a bargain!   They are great in salads, as a dip, and also on a slice of breakfast toast with lashings of freshly ground pepper.

P2230010  Great value

We finally reached Hamilton, and the Garmin directed us to our overnight stop at the Glenview Club.  There is a huge area for parking.  About a dozen motor-homes were already parked up, with room for twice that number.  Great facilities too, including a laundry room – guess who made a bee-line for that?  There is also a shower and toilet available for the campers.  We are off power tonight, however, there are plans to put several power connections in shortly.

P2230012  Must be laundry day again

It’s a shame we will only be here for one night, but tomorrow morning we have to be up bright and early and on our way to drop our caravan off at the Leisureline factory to get some work done. 

P2230013 At Glenvue Club, Hamilton

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Murals and Haiku at Katikati

Katikati is a pretty little town with colourful hanging baskets in the main street.  A group of residents got together in 1991 and decided to paint the history on the walls of the town.  The town now boasts over 50 pieces of art, from murals to sculptures and carvings.

P2220001 This way to Katikati

Murals are painted everywhere on walls, all telling their own story.  Like towns throughout the country, native bush had to be cleared to make space space for homes and farms.

P2220004 Early settlers in Katikati

P2220005 George Vesey Stewart, founder of the Ulster settlement in Katikati in 1875

In October 1883 a battle of wills took place outside the newly built St Peter’s Anglican Church which was to be consecrated by Bishop Stewart of Waiapu.  But Presbyterian builder William Gray was not handing the keys over, locking out the Bishop and the congregation,  until the church building committee made the final payment of 30 pounds.  The matter was not resolved until May 1894.

P2220021Builder locks Bishop out

I had read about the Haiku Pathway in Katikati and was very keen to view it.  This was one of New Zealand’s Millennium Projects, and is the largest collection of haiku 'stones' outside Japan and the only haiku pathway in the Southern Hemisphere.  The pathway meanders along both sides of the Uretara Stream just behind the town’s main street, and  features a specially designed footbridge across the stream.  So just what is a haiku, you are probably wondering?  The definition of a haiku is a Japanese verse poem of unrhymed lines which are (usually) written in a structure of 5 syllables for first line, 7 syllables for second line, then 5 syllables for third line.  Sometimes there are two separate themes in one poem, surprising the reader with an unexpected link.  Although I have tried to write a few haiku in the past, mine were less than memorable.

P2220009 One of the haiku stones

P2220012Bridge over the  Uretara Stream

It had been a very hot and humid day, and the rain had done nothing at all to lower the high temperatures.  No chance of sitting outside under the trees like we did yesterday, when we returned to camp.  We are currently staying on a working farm full of kiwifruit trained to grow on timber frames.  The kiwifruit plants are heavily laden with brown furry fruit, so we presume that it is not too long before the crop gets picked.

P2220024 Kiwifruit growing on timber frames

P2220025Ready to pick

We will be sad to leave this lovely camp tomorrow, but Hamilton is calling.  We are taking our Leisureline caravan back to the factory where it was made, and the water tanks will be replaced.  More about that later.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Taupo to Katikati

The small plane made many trips up high, and the skydivers continued to jump out, one after another.  We watched with our necks craned, as the tiny dots in the sky fell earthwards, then on releasing their chutes, wafted slowly down.  Some did tricks, looping the loop time and again, while others were more sedate.  One girl was screaming so loudly as she came down, whether it was from fear or excitement we will never know, but supposedly it was her first jump.  All part of the fun while staying at the NZMCA park at Taupo Airport.

P2200057 Tandem skydivers

P2210059Skydiving operators just behind our camp

It was time to move on again, and this morning we took the Taupo bypass road, crossing over the interesting metal bridge at Wairakei to join up with SH5.

P2210064 Bridge at Wairakei
 
Seems to be cattle country in these parts, as we saw both milk and beef herds but very few sheep. This striking skyline looked most impressive with the line of trees planted along the ridge.
 
P2210071 Rural skyline
 
And just to remind us that we live in a country whose economy is based on farming, we passed several rural contraptions being towed slowly along the main road, like this lethal contraption with those dangerous spikes sticking out each side.  Although the driver had pulled over to the edge of the road, there was no way we could overtake him with all the corners coming up and no clear line of sight.  That didn’t stop some idiot overtaking the both of us, however.  No wonder accidents happen.
 
P2210072 Ahead of us on the road
Nearing Rotorua, the stench of sulphur filled the air – smelling just like rotten eggs.  The city of Rotorua is an interesting mix of  Maori culture, hot springs and mud pools, beautiful lakes and forests.  But sadly we were not stopping in Rotorua this time, on this trip we were only passing by on our way to Katikati.

Just as well Robin had made sure he regularly updated his Garmin GPS, as the roads around Tauraunga had changed considerably since we were last up this way.  Our trusty GPS may stumble over the pronunciation of Maori street names, but it never faulted as it took us along new streets, and past huge new subdivisions as we bypassed the city.  The only spanner in the works was when the road we were travelling was closed due to extensive road works, and a diversion was in place, taking us up and down a narrow hilly road till we finally rejoined the selected road.

We pulled into our stop-over for the next few night, a kiwifruit orchard.  There are numerous power sites  available, water taps on site, an ablution block, and (joy of joys) a washing machine (it’s free, what a bonus) for those like me who like to keep their laundry up to date.  It is a very peaceful setting, with a lovely rural outlook.

P2210080 A washing machine – just for me

We’ve got rellies to call on tomorrow, and we want to check out what’s on offer in the small town of Katikati.  There are many murals decorating the town, we believe, so that will be well worth a look. 
  
P2210083