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

Monday, May 30, 2016

Farewell to Muffy

Goodbye dear friend – it was time to let you go.  At 20 years old, your health was deteriorating, your days were uncomfortable, walking was difficult, and we just couldn’t bear to watch you suffer any more.  So after much soul searching, the decision was made to let you go.  We held you as you peacefully slipped away, and spent some quiet time together saying goodbye.  Then we both cried together as the vet took your tiny body away to be cremated.  Sweet Muffy, you brightened our lives, and you will be sadly missed.

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A happy place - curled up in front of a sunny window

Born “Acalyphia Mufasa” on 8th February 1996, Muffy was a Sealpoint BIrman and came into our lives as a beautiful active little kitten.  Full of mischief, as kittens are.  She didn’t become a “caravan cat” till much later in life, when she was 16 years old.  With a 3 month South Island trip planned, we didn’t want to leave her behind, so started to take her away in the caravan over various short trips to get her used to this life.  Her three months travelling “down south” went well, and she continued to come away in the caravan with us from then on.

We know we will expect to see you curled up in your favourite places, catch sight of you out of the corner of our eye, or maybe imagine  we hear your call.  Goodbye sweet Muffy – forever in our hearts.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Moutoa Sluice Gates

With all the very heavy rain falling recently in our area, heavy rain warnings and weather watches, we knew where all that rain fall and run off from the Tararua Ranges had ended up.  So we took a drive along the Foxton-Shannon Road yesterday to check out the Moutoa Sluice Gates.

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Moutoa Sluice Gates

The Moutoa Sluice Gates and floodway were completed in 1962, and are recognised as one of New Zealand’s outstanding engineering projects of the 20th century. They are at the centre of the vast and growing network of drains, stopbanks and floodgates that comprise the Lower Manawatu Scheme and protect the farms, orchards, market gardens and homes between the ranges and the sea.

The gates are able to divert water from the main river into a specially designed 10 km floodway that rejoins the river at Whirokino. The 10km Moutoa floodway bypasses 30 km of meandering channel as the Manawatu River makes its way to the sea at the Foxton estuary. The slow-flowing, meandering channel  can easily flood and pour water over many hectares of valuable land. It is 600 m wide and is bounded on both sides by stopbanks 5.5 m high.

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But it seems that the water has not yet reached the critical level, and the sluice gates remain firmly closed.  Due to flooding, the gates are opened approximately once every 15 months, and local tenant farmers are given warning to move their stock off the flood plain paddocks, and lower their fences to prevent loss and damage.

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Looking over the other side

Meanwhile, Horizons staff keep watch at the sluice gate site to monitor rising water levels and carefully manage the situation.

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Man on duty

Thursday, May 26, 2016

A Day in the Wairarapa

With high winds and heavy rain forecast for the day, we carefully set off for on our journey for a day in the Wairarapa.  We were joining our SLG friends and Anne had planned the day for us.  Travelling over the Rimutaka Hill  and meeting strong wind gusts on the corners can be a challenge, but luckily we were not towing the caravan, but driving our smaller Toyota Corolla.  A radio report had alerted us to a small rock fall on the hill road, and sure enough, the road crew were still busy clearing it away.

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Rimutaka Hill Road

We met at Anne and Les’s home at Featherston for morning tea and a catch up of everyone’s news, then headed back to the main street of Featherston for lunch.  The Everest Bistro was obviously a very popular place with customers coming in to eat or buy takeaways the whole time we were there.  There was great friendly service, with the manager personally greating each and every person who entered the cafe.  The pizza oven was glowing red hot in the corner, and we saw huge pizzas fresh out of the oven taken to various tables – they looked and smelt delicious.

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Everest Bistro

No one at our table orders pizzas, but lots of other tasty meals were delivered.  Robin had a freshly baked pie served with mashed potatoes and gravy, and I enjoyed my big bowl of piping hot Seafood Chowder.  An obliging staff member took our photo for us.

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Our SLG friends finishing lunch

After lunch Anne had arranged a visit to the Kahutara Taxidermy Gallery, run by John McCosh.  The collection is housed in a purpose-built log cabin in South Wairarapa, and is still going strong after more than 30 years.  John McCosh adopted the nickname "Tuatara Ted" which was given to him by visiting high school students, who said he was New Zealand's version of Crocodile Dundee.  They said Tuatara John doesn't sound right so Tuatara Ted it became.

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John McCosh – known as Tuatara Ted

Although Robin and I had visited this museum just a few months ago with the caravan club, this was the first time back for our SLG friends since more than 20 years ago.  Way back then,  we all bravely set off on a canoe trip along the Ruamahunga River organized by Tuatara Ted himself.  He transported us and an assortment of canoes to our starting point along the river, and we paddled downstream, where he picked us up to return to his property.  Those were the days – we were all so much younger and fitter then!  Once safely back, we had a look through the taxidermy museum, looking in wonder at all the exotic animals on display.

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Some of the animals on display

After another cuppa at Anne and Les's home, we thanked our hostess for arranging the day for us all, said our goodbyes, and started off on the 2 hour journey home.  The electronic sign at the bottom of the Rimutaka Hill road warned motorists to take care, due to strong wind gusts.  Together with rain, low clouds and the wind, it was a careful drive back over the hill.
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Wintry conditions on the hill road

We experienced rain off and on all the way home.  The sea was churning along the coast road towards Paekakariki, and Kapiti Island was almost hidden in cloud cover.

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Kapiti Island

A steady stream of workers were on their way home after a hard day’s work, and we were caught up in the middle of them all, reminding us that yes, we used to be commuters too, not so many years ago. We had a great day out, meeting up with friends, but it’s always good to arrive home safely - and slip those shoes off our feet!.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

A few small repairs

As any car owner know, maintenance is an ongoing issue.  Our tow car recently had a mishap when the right front plastic wheel spat came apart from the body of the car – read about it here.  Now, due to a joint venture between the garage, our insurance company and an excess payment on our part, the damaged part has been replaced and everything looks great again.

The windscreen wipers needed replacing, so that was Robin’s job yesterday.  Off he trotted, wiper blades in hand, and had the job done in no time at all.  Another thing crossed off the list.

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Mr Fixit

I’ve needed a repair done too, and after a small op and an overnight stay in hospital, (my goodness, it was noisy) have returned home a little tender but otherwise well.  I’ve been sitting with my feet up, catching up on un-watched episodes of “Big Bang” and laughing the afternoon away.  As a Kiwi, I find British comedy is usually more to my taste, but there is something so endearing about those terribly clever scientists who have trouble relating to people in the real world. 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Weekend Rally at Palmerston North

Our two week holiday concluded with a night staying at the NZMCA park in Marton.  We were joined there by Geoff and Eileen who were returning from meeting their family in Auckland, so it was good to catch up with them again.  The following morning we set off to join up with our caravan club buddies at Palmerston North Holiday Park for the weekend rally. 

The weather was changeable over the weekend, and  couldn’t make up it’s mind what to do, we had both sunshine and rain, and the wind made sure the golden leaves from the large oak trees kept  fluttering down, and blowing this way and that.  As usual, Friday night was catch-up night, and joke night too.  There was a great turn out for this rally, and luckily we had the use of the lounge area to meet in.

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Palmerston North Holiday Park

We came across this poor fellow as we walked around the camp.  An unwelcome visitor, perhaps?

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On Saturday afternoon we went for a walk through the very pretty Victoria Esplanade, a beautiful park covering 26ha which is adjacent to the motor camp.  Toot, toot went the train as it trundled past.  The volunteers on the Esplanade Scenic Railway has  been giving rides to young and old alike since 1969 on the 2.2km long miniature railway line.  Wonder who is having more fun – the driver or the passengers?

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Esplanade Scenic Railway

The walkers met up at the Cafe Esplanade – some a lot earlier that others, as it turned out.  Seems that some took a really long walk, and arrived when we were cosily ensconced sipping on our coffees, or in Robin’s case, trying to deal with a huge ice cream before it melted.  The cafe is housed in a lovely old historic building, which was moved into the park, and had a previous life as a post office.

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Cafe Esplanade, housed in an historic post office building

After coffees and ice creams had been consumed, our walk wasn’t quite over, and we took a turn through the Dugald MacKenzie Rose Gardens.  Opened in 1968, the garden contains over 5000 roses in named beds, planted around a pool.  The Garden has received the Garden of Excellence award from the World Federation of Rose Societies.  There were so many lovely roses on show, in all sorts of hues.  We particularly liked the old style roses, with their heady scent, and did the sniff test to try and find those with a scent.

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Dugald MacKenzie Rose Garden

There were the usual 4zees in the afternoon, and a few  quizzes on  Saturday night to see if our brains were still working.  Before we knew it, the weekend came to an end.  After our two weeks on the road,  it was time we returned home, we felt.  The weekend rally was a great conclusion to our tripping around.  And it won’t be too long till we have another short trip away again.  It’s a hard life being retired!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Now at Wanganui

It was so nice to catch up with old caravanning friends Lance and Ellie in Hawera yesterday.  We called around for afternoon tea, but there was so much to talk about that we ended being invited to stay for the evening meal too.  We have known these friends for many years, when Lance and Robin were both serving on the CCNZ Executive Committee.  You know what it’s like when you are getting older – our friends can’t believe they are now in their early 80s, and I’m sure I don’t know how my 70th birthday  sneaked up on me, and Robin’s isn’t too far away.  True to form, our cat Muffy told us off for being out for such a long time and leaving her in the caravan alone.  She needed to be fed right away, she meowed crossly.

There were 7 or so vans staying in Muller Park last night with us.  The grounds are so nice and roomy there was room for plenty more to park up.  Our fees were placed in the “iron maiden”, I gathered up a few passion fruit which were there for the campers to enjoy, we bid farewell to the mountain, and were soon on our way to Wanganui.

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Goodbye to Hawera

Heading back down on SH3 we passed the little towns of Patea, Waverley, and Kai Iwi.  No time to stop today, we will have to return and explore sometime at our leisure.  With a 90km trip today, it wasn’t too long till we arrived at Wanganui.  I always love driving over the iconic Dublin Street Bridge spanning the Wanganui River, looking like to was made from pieces of a Meccano set.  At 102 years old, this bridge is still going strong.

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Views of the Dublin Street Bridge

And look what we found bobbing in the Wanganui River.  Has anyone lost a giant bright yellow rubber ducky?

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Giant Rubber Ducky

So far, we are the only van camping in the Wanganui East Club grounds, but we may well be joined by others later in the day.    The restaurant at the club is open for business tonight, so we will enjoy a meal from the carvery. 

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At Wanganui East Club

There are freight trains behind us, loading up a rake of logging wagons to keep us interested.    No doubt they will be rumbling past all night, but that won’t bother us.  Who doesn’t like trains?

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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Hawera

You know you are in the country when you have to delay your departure  till the stock is moved.   There was a herd  of heifers which needed to be moved into the cattle yard for weighing and dosing.  How was the young farmer going to move them without any dogs to help, we wondered.  Easy – as we found out.  He walked in front of the animals, calling softly to them, and they followed along at his heels like a bunch of playful pups, right into the yard.

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A cow whisperer in action

With the heifers safely contained, we were soon on our way, heading south to Hawera.  We always like to stop at the Fonterra Cheese Bar at Eltham, looking for a bargain or two.  We came away with Parmesan, Harvati, and a little cheeky blue – that should keep us going for a while.

Our next stop was at White Heather Caravans at Normanby for some much needed “loo blue”, you can’t go too far without that necessity in the caravan locker.  And just a little further along was Hawera, where we were staying for the next two nights.

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Welcome to Hawera

There were no other campers when we pulled into the NZMCA site at Hawera.  But a few others joined us later in the afternoon.  Although we had travelled 85km from New Plymouth, Mt Egmont was still a feature of the landscape.  There has been a lot of work done on the grounds since our last visit, with trees cut down, bark added to the gardens, and a new clothesline installed.

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Camping at Muller Park, Hawera

The following morning we drove to Manaia, known as the Bread Capital.  The biggest employer in Manaia  is Yarrows Bakery so the locals have celebrated by claiming their town as the Bread Capital of New Zealand, and erecting a 3-D double loaf of bread as their welcome sign.  The shop is always busy with customers, and must be a great place to work, as the ladies were all so happy and cheerful.  We purchased a few goodies here, something for lunch, and some for home after we have finished our current trip.

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Yarrows Bakery at Manaia

Not too far away at the tiny settlement of Ohawe we came across a sign for the historical Ohawe Military Cemetery.  The cairn was erected in about 1907, and the plaque, positioned to face the setting sun, lists the names of 19 men buried in the cemetery and acknowledges seven others ‘now lost to memory’.  Many of these men were killed in the battle of Otapawa, the most notable engagement of Major-General Trevor Chute’s West Coast campaign. A combined force of imperial, colonial and kupapa (pro-government Maori) attacked the strongly fortified Otapawa pa, which stood on the Tangahoe River about 8 km east of present-day Hawera, on 13 January 1866.  We had to clamber over a stile, walk up the hill,  then carefully climb over an electric fence to view the cemetery, lamenting that sadly, we are not as nimble as we used to be. 

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Ohawe Military Cemetary

There was a small motor camp down at the beach which we had heard about, so went to check that out, and met up with the very friendly manager, Phoebe.  It seems a nice peaceful place to stay, and the charges are extremely reasonable, so we will have to add it to our list for a future visit.  The coast is just a stone throw’s away, and although we saw a surfer having fun in the waves the beach is not one for family fun.  Warning signs on the cliff edge tell of danger right along this coast.

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The crumbling cliffs of Ohawe

It is always good to discover some little out of the way place like this that we didn’t know about – part of the fun of travelling and exploring.  Back we went to Muller Park for lunch, and there’s Mt Egmont  just behind our van – a wonderful sight indeed.

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Mt Egmont from Muller Park

Monday, May 9, 2016

Over the Bridge and on to High School

There is the most wonderful foot bridge in New Plymouth, part of the 13km Coastal Walkway.  Last time we saw it, the weather was so cold and nasty, that after a quick look and a photo or two, we scurried back to the warmth of the car.  Yesterday, the weather was just perfect, and we joined many other walkers, family groups, kids on scooters and trikes, dog, and the occasional super fit cyclist, all out enjoying the afternoon.  With such glorious conditions, the weather gods must have forgotten that it really should be getting a lot cooler now.  Winter is sure to arrive with a vengeance, but in the meantime, we will enjoy the warmer temperatures for as long as we can.

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First glimpse of Te Rewa Rewa Bridge

The tied arch bridge has a clear span of almost 70 metres and was opened in 2010.  Spanning the Waiwhakaiho River, its iconic form represents the sacred relationship between the land, sea and wind with the Ngati Tawhirikura tribe.

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Views of the bridge

The bridge is perfectly positioned to frame Mt Egmont.  On a clear wintry day, when the mountain is cloaked in snow, it would make an amazing photo. You can just make out the mountain shrouded in cloud in this photo.

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Te Rewa Rewa Bridge

We walked over the bridge and along a small portion of the walkway, enjoying the peace and quiet, punctuated with the sounds of mad keen runners going by, and the ting-a-ling as another sporty cyclist raced up behind us.

Then we drove to New Plymouth Boys High School for a nostalgic memory trip for Robin.  The old school gates were the same.  Day after day for four years he raced through these gates on his bike.

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War Memorial gates at New Plymouth High School

While we were wandering around the school grounds a school master came out for a chat.  When Robin said he was an old boy, the teacher was most helpful and pointed out all sorts of new developments and changes which had taken place since Robin’s time here.

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The school motto: “Comradeship, Valour and Wisdom”

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The old Assembly Hall

It’s many years since Robin was a school boy here, and over time many of the old buildings have been replaced.  But there was plenty to stir up old memories of happy times playing sport and school friends.  He had often related that when boys were in trouble, they were sent outside to cut a piece of bamboo to hand to the teacher for a caning.  That wouldn’t happen these days.
 
Then in the evening, we ate out at Sun World Restaurant, a very popular Chinese buffet restaurant in the city.  Luckily we had thought to book a table, as the place was packed.  As it was Mother’s Day, there were lots of family groups all out enjoying themselves.  We conversed with a friendly couple from Australia who were travelling around New Zealand for a few weeks.  They have a camper-van at home, so of course the conversation turned to campsites, the price of fuel, hints and tips, and our various travels.

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At Sun World Buffet

Sunday, May 8, 2016

New Plymouth

New Plymouth is all about the mountain – known as both  Mt Egmont and (latterly) Mt Taranaki, which sits serenely watching all that happens below.  The early European settlers soon felled the native forests, leaving behind rich volcanic soils which form the backbone of Taranaki’s dairy industry.  The mountain was peeping out of the cloud cover, and hopefully we will get a nice clear shot while we are visiting the area.There’s a saying up this way: “If you can’t see the mountain, it’s raining, and if you can see the mountain,  it’s going to rain!”

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Mt Egmont

One of the things on our New PLymouth bucket list was a visit to the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery.  This amazing building is covered in highly polished stainless steel and shimmers and shines, and was designed by New Zealand architect Andrew Patterson.

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Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

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The inside of the building, showing the convoluted wall

We went primarily to see Len Lye’s moving sculptures, and as we moved through the gallery, we were drawn towards the moving shadows on the wall, and the sound of rattling and shaking, slowly getting closer as we looked through the “Emanations – the Art of the Camerless Photo” exhibition.  Sounds rather strange, doesn’t it?  But these works were made using photo paper, light and heat.  And finally, there it was, the beautiful, fascinating, dancing “Four Fountains”.  We sat and watched, as the rods, lit up with light,  turned this way and that in a never-ending cycle of movement.

Len Lye spent his career pursuing an ‘art of movement’. He wanted to affect people physically and emotionally, so that art became a full body experience. Whether this was with flashing, dancing cinematography, or thunderous, oscillating metallic sculptures, his work stimulated the senses and was unforgettable.

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Three of the Four Fountains

Luckily, we timed our visit to coincide with a film on Len Lye’s life and his thought processes to designing his kenetic sculptures.  We were only sorry that there wasn’t more of this very talented man’s work on show at the gallery at this time.  But we knew where there was another example on the coastal walkway, the famous Wind Wand, so drove down to have another look at this interesting sculpture.    Wind Wand is constructed out of fibreglass and carbon fibre. It weighs about 900kg and has a diameter of 200mm. Wind Wand can bend at least 20m. The red sphere on the top contains 1,296 light-emitting diodes (LED).

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Wind Wand on the waterfront

In the evening we were invited to spend the evening with Robin’s old school friend Gary and his wife Glennis.  After a lovely home cooked meal, there was plenty of reminiscing going on, and out came the photo albums.  Robin and Gary were great school friends and went to Scouts together, the highlight being a trip down to Dunedin to attend a huge Scout Jamboree.  You can just imagine hundreds of scouts on a steam train to Wellington, stopping at all the stations to pick up more and more excited boys.  Then they boarded the Inter Island Ferry to Christchurch, and a double header steam train to take them down to Dunedin.  What a great adventure for them all, and the trip was repeated on the homeward journey.  Robin admits to sleeping curled up in a lifeboat on the return ferry trip.

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Gary and Robin with the photo album

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Next stop, New Plymouth

It’s no fun hooking up the caravan, winding up the legs and emptying the waste on a Friday morning in the drizzly rain  – so it’s lucky that the driver has to attend to that, isn’t it?  Meanwhile, I was busy inside, locking the cupboards so that nothing falls out, and vacumning up all the dust, bits of grass, and cat hair which gets everywhere.  It was goodbye to our fishing neighbour who was going home, and to the sheep in the paddock over the  fence. I suspect that a family of pukekos were running around the rushes, as all sorts of birdy cheeps and chirps were uttered loud and clear. 

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Farm life over the fence

Then we joined all the trucks, cars and motor homes racing along SH3 as we continued on our trip.  Before we knew it we had passed out of the Waitomo area and entering into the Taranaki region.

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The trip over Mt Messenger was slow due to the curving road, but the outlook was so pretty with the hill tops shrouded in low cloud.

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Road over Mt Messenger

Even though I was waiting patiently with my camera, the Mt Messenger tunnel suddenly appeared around a corner, taking me by surprise.    The tunnel originally opened in 1916, and was single-lane, with a sharp, gothic-looking arch. The elegant arch was lost around 1990, when the tunnel was enlarged to provide two-lane access and to allow trucks with big loads to pass through. Mt Messenger is named after Colonel William Messenger, the commander of the garrison at nearby Pukearuhe redoubt during the 1870s and 1880s.

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Mt Messenger tunnel

We are staying at Glenfern in New Plymouth for the next few nights, a park over property on a dairy farm, a place we always enjoy coming to.   The hosts are always most welcoming and remembered us from our previous visit.  Park up by the cattle yard, we were told.

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At Glenfern Pop

Travelling to New Plymouth is just like a home coming to Robin, as he did most of his schooling here.  We have already driven past his old home, Westown Primary School and New Plymouth Boys High School, and shortly we  are meeting up with his old schoolboy chum, Gary.   Robin talked about his happy years growing up in this area,  doing typical boy’s stuff, playing sports and having fun with his old school friends.