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

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Out and About in Ongaonga

What a strange name – what on earth can it mean?  The small township of Ongaonga, named after the nearby stream, shares the Maori name with the native stinging nettle Urtica ferox, a tall plant sprouting fine poisonous hairs on the leaves and stems.  Reportably described in an 1892 newspaper as “a more ferocious affair than the English nettle”, the early settlers would have discovered to their cost.

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Ongaonga was founded in 1872 by run holder H Bridge – he built a school and church and provided land for a recreation ground.  Some of the old historic buildings still remain in the town centre, but it looks rather like a town which time forgot, with only a small store and pub seemingly still in business.  Sadly there were many  “For Sale" signs dotted about, including one on the pub.  The well photographed Coles Bros building was recently featured in the Historic Places Trust magazine.  We last visited this lovely little village several years ago – read more info about it here.

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Coles Bros Building – they used to do it all from funerals to plumbing

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General Store and Tea Rooms

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Lovely little church

There were back roads to explore too, and we drove along looking for a DOC “Free Parking” area off the rather posh sounding Ashley Clinton Road.  When we arrived, we came across a fellow putting his clothes on while sitting in the back seat of his car.  Robin was sure he had a lady friend in there with him, but I wasn't going to peer in the windows to make sure. Goodness – no sense staying around here, we felt, although we did have time to notice that the ground was rather undulating and not really suitable to park a caravan on.

Driving along we came to an abrupt halt – Christmas was obviously well celebrated out here in the rural countryside.  Looks like all the family names are written on the car, so Santa knows whose stockings had been hung up.

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Good children live here, Santa

That’s a very festive sign, but can you see what is hidden in the grass?  Looks like Santa’s sleigh has been grounded, and we know why!

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Santa sleigh down in the long grass.

Just look at this – we watch enough History Chanel on TV to know what a Trebuchet (Siege Engine) looks like.  And this household has a great supply all lined up, ready and waiting, to hurl at anything passing by, such as poor old Santa on his sleigh.  Perhaps we should tell the authorities?

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Great big grand-daddy catapult


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Quite a selection of smaller ones

Perhaps it is not as bad as it looks, and the family is into medieval war games?  But we weren’t taking any chances and high tailed it out of there.  Especially when we noticed the neighbour over the way seems to build armour for his protection.

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The iron man

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Next stop Ongaonga

As expected, we were all alone in the Dannevirke Club car park last night – not a single van or motor home decided to join us.  These clubs are ideal to stay overnight, but we would not be comfortable to stay for too long.  For example, these are not the kind of places where we would light up the BBQ, or lounge about outside on our folding chairs, and certainly not have the week’s washing strung about.  Perhaps some campers do these things while parked up at clubs in the middle of town in suburbia, but to us, it just doesn’t seem right. So we were quite happy to move on, but not before we visited the local laundromat.

As planned, we had another short drive today, just 45km to our next destination at Ashcott Park, Ongaonga, not far from Hastings.  This POP is situated on a rural farm, and somewhere we had never stayed before.  Just the sort of place we were looking for, a “new to us” venue to experience.  We had phoned the owners the previous evening to make sure the POP was available, keyed the destination into the Garmin, and we arrived at the sun dappled driveway.

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Arriving at Ashcott Park

There was a nice grassy area to park in, and the caravan was soon in place, legs wound down, fridge turned onto gas, and we were all set.  There is water and a toilet available, but no electricity.  That doesn’t really matter this time of year, as the solar panels provide power for the caravan batteries, and both the fridge and hot water can work off either gas or electric.  The laundry was soon hung out to dry, no problems here  in such a rural setting, and was soon dry in the hot sunshine.

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Romany Rambler in a lovely rural setting

The owners do not live in this part of the farm, and we haven’t met them yet.  There are several old barns dotted around and the paddocks over the fence are growing Chou Moellier (we think it is, but could well be wrong) for stock feed.

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There are paddocks full of plant feed

The afternoon was hot and rather somnolent, so much so that the man of the house, or should that be caravan, nodded off after lunch while sitting under the awning, and had to creep inside for a Grand-dad nap.  And why not?  Revived later in the day with a cool beer, he then fired up the BBQ and produced a beautifully cooked meal of Scotch fillet steak, char grilled asparagus and cheese topped zuchinni.  Served with some tasty Jersey Benne potatoes, and peaches and custard for dessert, we were a couple of very happy campers indeed.

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Meal cooked in the fresh air

What shall we do tomorrow?  More of the same perhaps, plus a little exploring too.  We’ll have to see what we feel like doing, won’t we?

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

International Police Museum, Dannevirke

It was a wrench to leave the camp at Ashhurst – it is such a lovely peaceful place we could have happily stayed there for much longer.  But the open road beckoned, and we continued on our travels.  We travelled safely through the Manawatu Gorge, (this stretch of road has always a bit of a worry for me, I’m sad to say) and continued up SH2.

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The Manawatu Gorge

After a short 40kms drive we pulled into the car park behind the Dannevirke Services and Citizens Club.  We were more than welcome to stay for a night or two, we were told, at no charge. We were the only van in residence at the time, but others could also have the same idea as us, no doubt.  But so far no other vans have turned up, so we will be alone in the car park all night, it seems.

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Staying overnight at Dannevirke

We had a good reason for a stop-over in Dannevirke, the International Police Museum has been on our list of places to visit for some time.  Usually only open at weekends, we were so pleased to find that that the museum was open for extra days open over the holiday period.  And we qualified for pensioner rates too.

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Owner Bruce Lyon was a law enforcement officer for 36 years before leaving the force to open his own museum.  On display were a wide range of vehicles, uniforms and memorabilia from around the world as well as items gathered from New Zealand.

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Display inside the door

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Police caps from around the world

There was plenty to see, uniforms from many police forces around the world, cabinets full of all sorts, including nasty looking items confiscated from criminals.  There was even a cabinet stuffed full of cuddly little toys all dressed in police uniforms.

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Police bikes

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And a selection of police cars

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Tee shirt - sad reminder of the day which shocked the world

I was quite taken with this piece of prose, The Traffic Officer’s Lament.

If I check your license I’m intruding
If I take your word for having one, I’m inefficient
If I arrest a violator, I’m showing how rough I can get
If I give him another chance, I’m showing favouritism
If I labour night and day to protect people, I’m a tyrant
If I relax at all, I’m a shirker and a crook
If I don’t, I’m not interested in the job
If I accept suggestions or advice, I’m incompetent
If I work out my own problems, I’m a wise guy
If I act like a gentleman, I’m too soft and easy
If I act firm, I’m a tough guy and a brute
So, ashes to ashes, dust to dust
If the motorists won’t do it, the officer must!

Ashhurst Domain

We awoke to another “blue dome” day – and it promised to be another scorcher.  Not that we are complaining, holidays always seem so much better in good weather.  After a leisurely breakfast and morning tea we said our goodbyes to those at the Drop-In Rally, leaving D & D behind.  They planned to stay in Foxton for a couple more days before travelling on.  Our first priority was a visit to the dump station, then we were on the way, a short 62km drive, arriving in time for a late lunch.

Ashhurst Domain is one of those pretty little camping areas, surrounded with lovely old totara trees, and very reasonably priced too.  But we weren’t sure if there would be room for us over the busy Christmas period.  Luckily there were just a couple of power sites available, and we soon claimed one for ourselves. 

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Parked up at Ashhurst Domain

There were family groups in tents, young girls travelling together and sleeping in their car, and a couple of cyclists camping overnight in a pup tent.  We noticed that they were off and away extra early, so do hope they had not departed without paying their camp fees.Camping right next to us  were  a group of campers who had been coming here over the holiday season for quite a few years.  They had a good set up, some were in caravans, and some in tents, and they had joined two gazebos together to provide a nice roomy area to relax and eat meals together.  We joined them under their  shady gazebos for 4zees,  and I was kindly offered a glass of bubbly.  (I just had to accept – after all, it is the only type of wine which doesn’t leave me with a headache).  Camping stories were bouncing around the table, good places to stay discussed, the merits of various NZMCA camps debated, South Island trips relayed, and a good time was had by all.   It was a very pleasant hour or so indeed.

Just through the trees from the camping area is a grave yard – the very quiet neighbours, Robin calls them.  I went for a walk though the lovely old head stones, and there on the hill caught a glimpse of the wind turbines slowly turning.

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The old and the new – old head stones looked over by new technology

The Domain was full of family groups enjoying picnic lunches, and cooking up huge quantities of sausages on the BBQs.  Youngsters were hooping and hollering as they climbed up the steps to the Flying Fox and seemingly launched themselves into space as they were carried speedily along to the end of the ride.  It is great to see the Domain so well used with families and groups of friends.  A couple of pohutukawa trees were in bloom.  Fondly known as the “New Zealand Christmas Tree”, it is said that the red blooms signify a long, hot summer.

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Pohutukawa flowers

It was a lovely relaxing day staying at this great little camp, then we are heading up SH2 towards Hawkes Bay.  Where shall we stop next?  There are a couple of possibilities we have in mind, we shall just have to wait and see what the Christmas crowds are like, and if there is room for us too.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Drop-In Rally at Foxton

Our first job, or should I say, Robin’s first job  of the morning on Boxing Day was to dismantle the exterior Christmas lights.  With them safely put away in their various plastic crates, the next job was to pack the caravan.  It was a stinking hot day, and took us ages, but we really mustn’t grumble about having glorious hot sunny weather over the Christmas holidays. Finally we were on our way to the Drop-In Rally at Foxton School.

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This is an annual event run by the Horowhenua NZMCA group, and is a casual, do what you like kind of rally, with not too much organisation going on.  Most people attend Morning Tea and 4zees, and there is occasionally some type of activity organised in the evening.  Families, couples with the obligatory small white fluffy motor home dogs, and a few cat owners were in attendance.  We stayed for a couple of days: this rally is a good stopping off point to rest and relax, and let all the mad Boxing Day drivers get on their way before we take to the roads ourselves.

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Romany Rambler parked on the dry school grounds

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We enjoyed 4zees sheltering under the large shady trees

Caravans and motor-homes trickled in each day, but numbers seem way down to those who have attended on previous years.  Our caravan buddies Dot and Derek arrived yesterday so we spent some time together under the shady awning.  That didn’t stop us all receiving a touch of sunburn though.  No matter how well protected you think you are, sun hats firmly on heads, and sun screen lotion applied to noses, that hot summer sun still manages to pinken any skin left unattended – such as lily white knees poking out of summer shorts!

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We took an early evening walk once things had cooled down a little, nothing too strenuous, just a walk around the block.  But we could still feel the heat of the day radiating up from the footpath.  Stopping at a home all lit up with sparkling lights, but it was still a bit light to see them at their best.

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Christmas lights on display

So where to next?  The plan is to drive slowly up to Hawkes Bay, and stop at a couple of “new to us” places.  Of course, our plans could be put into disarray if our original choices are full to overflowing with other campers with the same idea.  In that case we’ll just have to go with Plan B, whatever that may be!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Christmas Day

We awoke to a beautiful fine and sunny Christmas morning.  So what better place to have our breakfast than outside on the patio at the picnic table.  Our traditional Christmas breakfast is croissants,  filled with the first few slices cut off our newly opened Christmas ham, and slices of tasty cheese,  warmed in the oven till heated through and the cheese goes all yummy and runny.  Followed by a pot of freshly brewed coffee, and cream.  What a great way to start the morning! 

Then came the serious business of opening the presents.  Don’t know why, but our family insist on buying us copious quantities of chocolates!  There was a big box from grand-daughter number 1, a large tin of choccies from granddaughter number 2, and Hershey’s Kisses and Bailey’s chocolates from daughter Nicky.  We are not saying that we won’t enjoy eating them – but do we really need them?  We also got a couple of themed mugs to use in our caravan, and Robin was presented with his very own Christmas decoration, an All Black Santa.  What does he do with that, he wanted to know.  Just hang it up each year, was the answer.

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Merry Christmas Robin

Then there were fresh peas to pod – as far as Robin is concerned Christmas Dinner isn’t the same without  fresh peas. He is an expert doing this chore, and remembers many pea podding times as a youngster helping his Mum in the kitchen.  The rest of the veggies were done, and once our rolled stuffed turkey breast was placed on the piping hot Weber BBQ things were well underway.  The  thermometer was inserted into the turkey roll, to let us know when our turkey was cooked to perfection.

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Podding the peas

Our friends Dot and Derek came to share Christmas Day with us, and brought contributions for the meal, including some freshly dug potatoes from their own garden.  We settled down to wait for it all to be cooked, sitting comfortably under the shade of the sun umbrella. The Weber BBQ beeped to tell us the turkey was cooked, and we “rested” it  under a covering of tinfoil (the TV chefs often use that term, we’ve noticed).  The veggies were cooking, Derek attended to chicken and mushrooms on his own BBQ, and we were almost there.

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Derek relaxed while cooking marinated chicken

Our meal was so tasty, the turkey cooked to perfection, and we raised our glasses of bubbly in a Merry Christmas toast.   And for dessert we dined on pavlova with fresh berries, and trifle.  What a lovely casual Christmas Day, enjoying a wonderful meal out in the sunshine, and shared with good friends.    It couldn’t get better than that!

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Robin, Derek, Jenny and Dot

Friday, December 25, 2015

MERRY CHRISTMAS

Have a very merry and happy Christmas to all our readers.

May you be safe in your journeys over this festive season whether it be on land, water or air.

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Merry Christmas from Robin, Jenny and Muffy

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Flags in the Mail

The courier van came calling today with a parcel – no,  not a Christmas gift, but two new flags from the Flag Consideration Project.  As some of you may know, here in New Zealand we have been given the option to change our national flag.  We have just had a referendum to choose between five alternate flags.  The second referendum takes place in March for the public to choose between the existing flag or the winner of the first referendum.

Places within a community who are able to fly the two flags alongside each other on separate flag poles were asked to send in a photo, and then given the opportunity to request two new flags (on loan) from the Flag Consideration Project.  When the parcel arrived today, our own flags were soon taken down, and the two new flags put in their place.

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Up goes the first choice in the referendum

This gives people the opportunity to see the flags flying together, the current flag alongside the first choice in the referendum.  This may well  help them with making the choice of which flag will get their vote in March.

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Which one would you choose?

Changing our county’s flag is a big decision, and there are strong views either way.  But everyone will get the chance to have their say shortly – that’s what democracy is all about.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Avenue of Christmas Trees

Imagine 50 or so Christmas Trees all decorated and sparkly – that’s what the Avenue of Trees was all about in our home town.  After a break for a couple of years, local businessman Harvey Bowler had teamed up with the Salvation Army to bring the event back for the community to enjoy.  Local  businesses, organisations, clubs and schools were invited to decorate a (supplied) tree.  Entry was an item or two for the Salvation Army Food Bank to assist families in need.

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Just a few of the trees on display

We walked up and down the hall, checking out the trees.  Each tree was accompanied by a sign stating which organisation had done the decorating.  There were trees from all sorts of local businesses, such as this one by a local plumbing store, and hung with tiny baths, basins, and no doubt a toilet or two as well.  Who would have thought that plumbing could be Christmassy?

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There were not one but two trees from the School of Ballet, and lovely young ladies dressed up in their ballet costumes were pirouetting around the hall.  Trees decorated by local kindergartens, schools, Jenny’s Quilting Club, and the local Embroiders Guild, even one from our Vet, hung with rubber gloves, little medicine bottles, pill containers, and  dotted with cotton wool balls.

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From our Vet practice

We both liked the Anzac themed tree, decorated by the Levin Home for War Veterans.

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Anzac Tree

There was even “Build a Tree”, with visitors invited to hang a decoration or two from a supply in a basket.  It was felt that some families would not have a tree at home, and this would give children a chance to help trim a tree, maybe for the first time.

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Staff member from Harvey Bowler Ltd with Trim a Tree

We stopped at the Memorial Tree on the way out, wrote names on tags and hung them on the tree.  One for Robin’s Mum, and one for our next door neighbour who recently passed away.  Such a nice touch, we felt.  And we were kindly given a couple of packets of wild flower seeds, which will be planted in a pot sometime soon.

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Adding names to the Memorial Tree

The trees were all so nice to see, and it was great that this event was sponsored this year, bringing joy, happiness and Christmas cheer to the local community.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Carols in the Car Park

Christmas Cheer is alive and well in our little hometown, as hundreds gathered into the Salvation Army car park to enjoy an evening of Christmas Carols.

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Members of both the Palmerston North and Levin Salvation Army Bands combined to provide the necessary musical component of the evening, and a choir of little angels sang their hearts out.  This was made of up children from several local schools, and many of them were sporting halos and looking particularly angelic.

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Youngsters sat on the mat in front of the chairs, and two little girls sporting Santa Hats caught the eye of the photographer from one of the local newspapers.  After clicking away, and asking them questions, the journalist then went to check with their Mum if she could use their photo in the next issue.  Permission was given, and everyone was happy.  Imagine the excitement when the two little ones see their photo in the paper!

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The crowd sang along to all the well loved Christmas carols, such as Away in the Manger, The First Nowell, and Silent Night.    Readings were made by the MC, our Mayor, and the Headmaster of the local High School.  And the combined forces of well known Super Heroes made an appearance.  They had heard that a new hero who would be combating evil was on the way, but they didn’t know who it was or where to find him.

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Super Heroes out looking for someone special

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Eventually, they worked out who he was and tracked him down in the manger.

As well as enjoying the carols, we were entertained by several young performers.  Come and see them before they are famous, the programme said.  One young lad, aged 13, had the most wonderful voice, and will be a heart throb to many young girls, I’m sure.  And this young lady, with her powerful voice, had me enthralled with her version of Leonard Cohen’s wonderful composition “Hallelujah”.

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Most of the audience didn’t let a few rain sprinkles dampen their evening, although some of the parents and their families left early.  It was a wonderful night, and the Salvation Army ladies kept everyone supplied with hot drinks and home baked shortbread.