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

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Tiki Tour for South Island Tourists

Our friends Merilyn and Colin from Dunedin have been to stay with us for a few days.  Colin is one of those drivers who likes to go from points A to B without any deviation while on holiday.  So while they were here we travelled in the slow lane and took them on a little tiki tour around the area.  First up was a quick look around the township of Levin – that didn’t take too long.  Levin is well recognised as a market garden area and to acknowledge this Wellington sculptor Dennis Hall was commissioned to design and make a statue.  This is a tribute to the contribution made by the Chinese people of the development of market gardens in the area.  

P2270010    Merilyn in the Levin township

No trip to Levin is complete without a visit to RJ’s  Licorice  factory shop.  Our guests were licorice lovers too, but had no idea that this delicacy was made right here in our (new) home town.  Just like us, they went away with several bags of this tasty treat.

P2270008  Lots of licorice for all tastes

Then we had a drive around the old Kimberly Hospital site. Merilyn had a rellie who stayed here as a patient for some time before it closed, so was quite interested to see what was happening.  Local builder Wayne Bishop has purchased the 48 hectare site and has plans to develop it into a life style housing village.  While most of the 85 buildings on this huge site would be demolished or removed, some building materials would be recycled.  There are lots of lovely old trees dotted around the property.

P2270013  Part of Kimberly Hospital

After lunch we continued our tiki tour going northwards.  Did they know about the Foxton Dutch windmill, we asked.  No, they didn’t, so off we went to show them. The deMolen Windmill is located in the Main Street in Foxton, and was opened in 2003. This very special Dutch windmill attracts visitors from all over the world, and grinds several varieties of stone ground flour.  The windmill was built and is managed by volunteers from within the Foxton community, and it is run by a charitable trust organisation.

P2270018 The deMolen Windmill in Foxton

Where to next?  How about another local attraction, the Moutoa Sluice Gates.  The gates were built in 1962 and protects over 100 sq km of farmland from the risk of flooding.  The Manawatu River downstream is vulnerable to flooding as the land is low lying and the river flows are very slow.  The sluice gates cause much of the river flow to take a shortcut, bypassing 30km of low capacity river channel, instead being directed down the 10kmm long Moutoa Floodway.   The sluice gates are a bit like the ones making up the Thames Barrier, I told them, but very much smaller of course.  Colin in particular was quite impressed by this clever piece of engineering.

P2270019 Moutoa Sluice Gates

Another engineering marvel we took our guests to see  was the Te Apiti Wind Farm.    The turning blades had quite a hypnotic quality about them as we drove nearer and nearer, finally reaching the lookout.  Meridian Energy’s Te Apiti wind farm is located on Saddle Road north of the Manawatu Gorge, and covers  1,150 hectares of farmland owned by several landowners, including Meridian Energy.  The wind resource near the Manawatu Gorge is exceptional – with the Manawatu gorge acting as a wind funnel, creating consistently high wind speeds.  Parking in the car park, we could hear the swish, swish of the blades as we stood just under a huge wind turbine.  I could just imagine the blades flying through the air and decapitate us.  (Too much imagination, says Robin).

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P2270038 At the Wind Farm Lookout

Merilyn in particular was quite spooked by all the swishing blades.  The wind power increased in speed at one stage and the noise and speed of the blades above us increased dramatically.  She got quite a fright and wanted nothing more than to get in the car and away from the huge turbines surrounding us.

P2270037 Map showing the placement of each wind turbine

After all that excitement we really needed a cuppa and drove to the Bridge Cafe, at Ballance, just over the long bridge at the Woodville end of the Manawatu Gorge.  This is a place I have long wanted to stop at, but we always seem to be towing the caravan behind us as we pass by.  We enjoyed our coffees and slices in a nice shady area of the garden.

P2270045 The Bridge Cafe at Ballance
.100_2148 Robin, Jenny and Colin

Then we climbed back into the car, drove through the Manawatu Gorge, and headed home.  They enjoyed their trip, we are happy to say, as they visited places they had never been to before, or even heard of.  Even driving through the Manawatu Gorge was a first for both of them, surprisingly.  We are pleased that we could extend their geographical knowledge.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Rosebrook Garden Railway

After boarding a bus during the weekend rally and a short drive around suburban Carterton we arrived at Rosebrook Railway.  Lee and Christine Collett purchased their first garden railway  starter set way back in 2005 and decided to set it up under their lovely old silver birch tree which would provide much needed shade during the hot Wairarapa summers.  Four truckloads of soil were needed to form hills, and the layout has evolved with a European flavour – all the buildings were imported from Germany.  

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P2210046Big boys love trains too – the set up is sheltered by the silver birch tree

The rack railway is the most recent addition and climbs from the bottom up a very steep track to an alpine area.  The train is similar to the Fell engine which was used on the Rimutaka Incline.  

P2218577Rack railway starting the steep climb

As any train enthusiast knows, one set-up is not enough, and the Hydrangea Tram Line is a mixture of city culture and country living.  Half buildings were purchased and placed against the house.  The tram whizzes past the busy market in front of the shops, and then continues on around a windmill with bags of flour stacked outside. 

P2210031 Hydrangea Tram Line

Lee was keen to expand his rail empire into an industrial area where he could run his larger trains.  But first a purpose built shed had to be built to store the trains, rolling stock, and movable accessories. 

P2210032 Storage shed

The new layout runs from the storage shed, around an oval in the back yard, then through the fence to pass by the timber mill.

P2210034 Timber mill

There was a lot to look at and admire, and after a while some of us ladies (and a couple of men) were just happy to have a little sit down in the shade.

P2210049We were all trained out -  Lynn, Jenny, Elaine, Kath and Bea

Then we discovered that Lee and Christine show cats.  Just look at this magnificent specimen, a Maine Coon.  He is only young, but already about ten times bigger than our little Muffy.  They also own a couple of American Bobtail cats, but they were snoozing in the shady run and not coming out for a photo shoot.  Read about this interesting breed here.

P2210054 Young Maine Coon cat

After a very interesting afternoon we boarded the bus again and had a bit of a tiki tour before heading back to camp.  Rosebrook Garden Railway is not open every day, only opening up  for groups such as ours from time to time.  We were very grateful to Lee and Christine to opening up their garden railway for our group of happy campers, and sharing their enthusiasm with us. 

P2210056 This sign in Lee’s shed says it all!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Combined Rally at Carterton Rugby Club

How many km to travel from the Golf Club to the Rugby Club on Friday?  Just 5km, as it turned out, around a few corners, drive south down the main road, turn off at the round-about, and we were practically there.  The Wairarapa Caravan Club were hosting the Combined Rally over the weekend, with visitors from Wellington and Heretaunga Caravans Clubs.  This was the first time we had stayed at the Rugby Club grounds, which is now a POP for NZMCA members.  18 caravans and motor-homes were in attendance from the three clubs, all looking forward to a weekend of fun and fellowship.  Plus two cats, Muffy and Honey.


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P2210001Carterton Rugby Club Park Over Property

The “Mix and Mingle” on Friday night allowed us to catch up with caravan friends from the other clubs whom we hadn’t seen for a wee while.  And make the acquaintance of some we hadn’t met before.  We were pleased to have 4zees outside  under the large shady trees which gave us shelter from the strong Wairarapa sunshine.  Heretaunga Caravan Club President had the task of presenting our members Bill and Val with their 300 Rally Awards.  And later in the weekend Derek welcomed new members Sandra and Don into our club.  So our club had a lot to celebrate over the weekend

P2210063 Happy 300th to Bill and Val

Saturday night was Housie Night, and of the three clubs participating in the weekend, our club Heretaunga seemed to make off with most of the winnings.  Not yours truly though, I didn’t win a thing.  Like most, I seemed to be hanging out for the last number or so to be called so that I could shout out “House!!”  Harry did the honours of calling out the numbers.

P2210005 Harry, the man with all the lucky numbers

P2210006Dot was one of the lucky winners

P2210007 I only needed one more to win

We had the use if the Rugby Club hall for the evenings.  Obviously, a lot of Tui beer is served here, as the walls had several Tui ads displayed.  Such as this one, showing one of the legendary glamorous Tui girls doing a quality control test on  a drop of the “world famous in New Zealand” beer. 

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Carterton Golf Club

It’s been a typical “blue dome” Wairarapa day today, just perfect for getting out and about with the caravan in tow.  We headed over to Carterton for a Combined Rally organised by the Wairarapa Caravan Club but came a day early – just because we can.  After hearing good reports about this new POP from friends who had recently stayed here,  we decided to try it too.  It’s certainly very pleasant and peaceful, just look at those heifers in the welcoming committee by the gate!

P2190009 Our stay for the night – Carterton Golf Club

The rural setting is lovely, and with 6 new power points and a great ablution block, it certainly caters very well for overnight visitors.  And at a very reasonable price too.  Caravanners coming to stay at facilities like these boost the club coffers and add a degree of overnight security. 

P2190003 The only visitors so far

The golfers have finished their games, packed up and gone home.  So far we are in splendid isolation and have the place to ourselves, but that could certainly change.

P2190011 Looking out over the greens

What could be nicer cooking and eating outside on such a pleasant evening.   No, not a barbie, while we are on power we are are cooking some sausages in the electric fry pan out in the fresh air.  Not just any old sausages either, these are special venison sausages from friends and intrepid hunters Bruce and Julie.  Bruce goes out hunting in the hills, then carries the deer back to civilisation over his shoulders.  Now that is a “good keen kiwi bloke” if ever there was one.  With the addition of some zucchini fritters and a fried egg also cooked in the pan, we had a meal fit for royalty.  And cooking outside in the fresh air ensures that the aromas stay outside and do not linger around in the caravan.

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There is plenty of birdlife around.  We saw a couple of pukekos, also known as purple swap hens, who scurried away from prying eyes very quickly, flicking their white tail feathers behind them. With a stream feeding into a man made lake close to the clubhouse, they would be perfectly happy living here.   Robin spotted a couple of Eastern Rosellas when he was out strolling around, but didn’t have his camera with him.

P2190002 Two pukekos running into the bush

P2190013 Robin contemplating the greens

We only have a very short trip tomorrow to meet up with our caravan buddies so we can take it easy in the morning.  But perhaps the car park will fill up bright and early with keen golfers who want an early game?  Who knows – we will just have to wait and see.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Birds of a Feather

Who would have thought that a couple of pieces of cooked corn on the cob would lead to a feeding frenzy in our back yard?  After hanging about unwanted and unloved in the fridge for a few days I was all set to wrap up the said corn and put it in the rubbish bin.  But perhaps the birds would like it outside, I wondered.  They certainly did.  A flock of sparrows flew down onto the lawn and attacked the corn with gusto.  How would they know it was good to eat?  We had never put out a cooked corn cob for their dining pleasure before.  They really enjoyed it - both cobs were soon picked clean with not a single kernel remaining.

P2170046 Sparrows in a feeding frenzy

Much more gentle were the chickens enjoying the sunshine at “The Big Egg” when we called there recently to replenish our stock of free range eggs.  The chooks were busily pecking about in the grass looking for bugs and beetles while others were having dust baths.    As I appeared by the fence they all rushed over, gently clucking as they waited expectantly for me to toss something tasty over the fence for them.  They were sadly disappointed as I had come empty handed, clutching only my camera. 

P2160035 The chooks from The Big Egg

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Family Time

Number One Son came to see us today.  He lives in Christchurch so we don’t see a whole lot of him.  But this weekend he had travelled up from Christchurch and came to see his little old Mum for lunch.   We hadn’t met up since Michael’s 50th birthday last year, so there was plenty to talk about.  

This was Michael’s first visit to our new home, so he got the grand tour, and later on we took a walk around the village complex.  After lunch I served some baking which had quite a family connection and brought back some memories.  I used to make batch after batch of Chocolate Crunch for my two ever hungry school kids for their school lunches.  Those were the days!

P2150030 Michael with his Mum

Friday, February 13, 2015

Feilding and Back with the 60s Up

Wednesday was the first 60s Up bus trip of the year and a happy group climbed aboard the bus for our trip to Feilding.  There was a little delay while we waited for latecomers – but finally we were on our way. Our driver was Peter, always a happy chappy who always has a quip for us. 

 First stop was to Ian and Rosemary Malcomson’s rural home on the outskirts of Feilding, to view his wonderful display of begonias.  Ian discovered begonias during a South Island trip in 1999, and fell in love with the gorgeous colours and different variations available.  He purchased some, carefully carried them around as they continued with their trip, and brought them home.  Our host gave us a talk on growing and propagating these plants.  What we didn’t know was that the plants can have both male and female flowers – fancy that!   Some keen gardeners in our group purchased plants to take home.

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P2110004 Beautiful begonias

The lady of the house has a collection too, lots of different Meer cat statues dotted about the garden.  While Ian is pottering about in the shade house with his beloved begonias, Rosemary has taken charge of the other gardens, the lawns, even doing the edges.

P2110011 Meer cats in the garden

Gouldian finches are another passion in this household.  These pretty little birds flitted from branch to branch in their aviary, hardly staying still long enough for us to get our cameras focused before fluttering off again.

P2118566 Gouldian finches

The bus then dropped us off in the town centre and we went our own ways to find a cafe for lunch.  We lunched with our friends Robyn and Barrie who had recently joined the 60s Up group – this was their first trip away with the group.  They had heard that the Rose Bowl Cafe had the best pies in town, and as a keen pie connoisseur, Barrie thought this was well worth a try.  He was right, the pies were very good, and quite reasonably priced too.  As Robin commented, if the local contractors flock there to buy their pies, it certainly is a good recommendation.  We had time to check out a shop or two before heading back to board the bus again.

P2110015 Barrie and Robin waiting patiently outside a shop

On the trip home the bus pulled into Waireka Honey and the queue was snaking out the door as we all lined up for an ice-cream.  All the flavours had added rewarewa honey, we were told – after all, it is a honey shop!  I chose honey and ginger, while Robin tried rum, raisin and honey, both very tasty.  Just what we needed to cool us down on a hot afternoon.

P2110019 Enjoying an ice-cream in the sunshine

P2110020 Plenty of honey for sale

Climbing back on the bus for the last time, we continued on our way home.  With the combination of warm weather, full tummies, and the gentle drone of road noise, there were several heads nodding off, I noticed.  Another interesting trip with the 60s Up.

P2110025 Our transport for the day

Monday, February 9, 2015

Battle of the Playwrights

Our caravan buddies didn’t quite know what they were in for during our weekend away in Clareville.  Robin and I were the Rally Family, so we were in charge of keeping everyone entertained.  It’s very easy really, as long as the old favourites like morning tea, 4zees and a little light entertainment in the evenings are on the list of things to do, people are generally quite happy.

Without a hall or meeting room available for the weekend,  we retreated to a handy implement shed in the evenings, nice and cosy out of the wind.  With the addition of a light or two, and a cover strung up across the entrance, we were quite comfy seated on our folding chairs.  How is that for a bit of Kiwi ingenuity?

P2070020 From implement shed to meeting room

On Friday evening everyone took a trip back to childhood.  We had purchased some little puppets faces on sticks and our caravan buddies got to choose between an owl, a lion, kangaroo or koala, and then decorate them with coloured pens or pencils.  No problem, everyone could manage that.  They then chose a slip of folded paper which put them into two teams, the Heretaunga Players, or the Clareville Thespians.  Their task for the next evening was to get together in their teams and come up with a short skit, using the characters of their puppets.  Oh dear – that got them a bit worried.  But they all rose admirably to the occasion, and the two teams met the next afternoon to come up with a plan and jot some ideas down. 

So Saturday night was a night at the theatre.  A coin toss decided that the Clareville Thespians were the first to take to the stage.   Val was the narrator and she had used the first few lines of Owl and the Pussy Cat poem and continued the adventure story from there.  Val had put a lot of effort into writing her poem, and it goes without saying that the acting was superb!

P2070094The Clareville Thespians -  Dot, Peter, Selwyn, Kath and Val

The Heretaunga Players were up next and their skit was an adaptation of Noah’s Ark and about how Australia became brown and dry. Using a ground sheet as a prop to signify the ark, the animal puppets bobbed about as the story was related.   More excellent acting.

P2070097 Heretaunga Players – Eileen, Sandy, Elaine, Bill, Geoff, and Derek

The Award Ceremony took place on Sunday morning.  The Clareville Thespians got a special award for “Best Adaptation of an Existing Poem”, and Kath got a mention as the “Best Performance on One Leg”- she is recovering from a broken ankle.  The Heretaunga Players received the “Best Historical Drama” award as their ark somehow or other ended up on top of Mount Isa.  They also received the “David Attenborough Award” as their kangaroos with a joey in the pouch miraculously evolved into grasshoppers and blowflies!  It was all a lot of fun and we were so pleased that everyone joined in so enthusiastically.

As often happens, the weather on Sunday morning was the best of the weekend.  Some of us stayed decided to stay on for lunch instead of rushing off home.  The wind had dropped to a gentle breeze, and we sat under the shade of one of the massive oak trees while we ate our sandwiches.  Then it was time to say goodbye, hook up the caravan and start on our way, stopping off at the Masterton dump station.

P2080099 Gypsy Rover and Romany Rambler at the dump station

From here we headed north towards the Manawatu Gorge, where the wind turbines are always turning, an ideal site for wind farms.  The Tararua and Ruahine Ranges provide a barrier to the predominantly westerly winds that flow across New Zealand. Between the two ranges lies a lower range of hills that serve to funnel the wind.

P2080104 Wind turbines turning wind into power

Once through the gorge we travelled southwards, a 168km homewards journey.  The caravan was unpacked, given a quick clean, a load of washing was done and hung outside, and that was that.  All ready for the next trip away.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Gone to the Dogs

There was a whole lot of excited barking going on just over the bank from where we were camping at Clareville Camp over the weekend.  The Wairarapa Dog Agility Club were holding a two day competition and caravans, campers and tents started arriving, some towing trailers full of dogs. They set themselves up around the perimeter of the camping area, many adding a gazebo in front of their caravans and tents to give extra shade from the hot Wairarapa sun.  Then the competition courses were arranged, with hurdles and tunnels put “just so”, ready for the competition to start.

We wandered down to have a look, and dogs all seemed to be having the time of their lives.  The owners got to “walk the course” before each competition  started, and we noticed them raising their arm at each hurdle, and swinging their arm when they came to a tunnel, perhaps to imprint the course in their minds before they take their turn.  The border collies seemed to be the stars of the show, they rushed around the course as quick as a flash, jumping over the hurdles, and rushing headlong into the tunnels.  The owners ran around the course too, shouting commands at the top of their voices.  Some of the owners seemed to have a little trouble keeping up with these exuberant dogs and collapsed in a heap at the end of the course, while the dogs looked like they could easily go another round. 

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Over the hurdle

P2070045Through the tunnel and sighting the next hurdle

Walking back to our caravan we passed by a young woman and her Australian Koolie dogs who were having a bit of R&R between their competition classes.  (As we had never come across this dog breed before we did a little research on our return home - read about them here).  She confirmed that the dogs are entered by size in the competitions, micro, mini, middies and maxi.  That’s what we thought, as we had earlier watched a whole lot of teeny tiny dogs put through their paces, although their small size didn’t seem to slow them down.

P2070089 A couple of Aussie dogs

P2070091 Patting the Blue Merle while the owner looks on

Muffy wasn’t too impressed that we had spent time away patting dogs when we could have been giving her our undivided attention.  So she had a little outing and got to sniff the exciting rural smells of sheep, chickens and all those dogs being put through their paces for a while on our return.

P2070050 Muffy taking in  the rural surroundings

The noise of the excited dogs didn’t worry us, but unfortunately we had a few problems during the weekend with ill mannered  dog owners who kept coming over to our small camping area in front of our caravans to toilet their dogs.  “But we always toilet the dogs here”, they told us.  Our concern was that the dog people could well see that this particular camping area was occupied, and it was common courtesy to take the dogs elsewhere for toileting.  We were also not happy with dogs running free around our caravans.  We had a quiet word to A&P Chairman, who passed on our concerns to the President of the dog club, who was then to inform the competitors not to bring their dogs amongst other campers, but to use some of the other nearby areas.  After all, with 65 acres available, there was no need to upset other paying customers in the adjacent camping area. Did it work?  Not completely – but the dog traffic was much reduced.