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

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Winter is almost here

What a difference a day makes.  Yesterday was fine and there was a sprinkling of snow on the hills behind our home.  It did look so pretty in the cool autumn sunshine when I was out and about yesterday. 

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First snowfall of the season

Then the rain came down and washed the snow away.   In fact, it’s hardly stopped raining today – it’s wet, cold and miserable.  Both of us had separate Morning Tea get-togethers with a couple of groups we are involved with, and it was nice to stay home in the afternoon all warm and cozy.

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No sign of the hills over the back fence today

It’s just as well we are not away in the caravan at the moment – overnight temperatures have dropped down to the minuses in various parts of the country.  And it’s not quite winter yet, but it’s coming up soon.  The first day of winter will be next  week on the 1st of June.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

An extra fitting in the caravan

There has been a little work done in the caravan over the weekend, accompanied by just a few terse words when things didn't go quite to plan.  But a trip to the local DIY shop to purchase an extra part soon had him working happily again to finally finish the job.  The caravan was now back in it’s allotted park and no power is available around there, so it is fortunate that he had battery drills in the toolbox.

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  Back where it belongs

Robin was fitting a 12 volt battery charger for the cell phones.  I wasn’t allowed to supervise, and just as well, as I had noticed a cupboard door off it’s hinges at one stage.

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Looking good

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And it works well too

The fitting was trialed, and yes, of course it works, I was firmly told.  With the bits of saw dust from drilling holes soon vacuumed away everything was back to normal.  Great job done, I’d say!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Mother’s Day Weekend at Carterton

Carterton Holiday Park would be one of our favourite motor camps, we have to say.  Long time managers Pete and Di have gone, and passed the baton over to Phil and Sharrie, who are doing a great job.

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We soon got settled on site, and had a quick catch up with other caravan club members.  It was great to meet up again with caravan friends Dot and Derek who had just returned from three months travelling around the South Island.  No doubt they will have plenty of adventures to share with us all.

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Ready for the weekend
The welcoming committee came calling – such a big fluffy Persian, although we never did find out it’s name.  He/she wasn’t too keen on being picked up though.  Puss is very heavy - there is a lot of cat underneath all that fur.

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Hello, Persian pussy

The rugby enthusiasts spent Saturday evening gathered in the dining room in front of the camp TV watching the Hurricanes get beaten by the Crusaders.  The camp hosts came and joined us, and many thanks for providing some home baking for supper.

After Robin’s Sunday morning specialty of bacon and eggs for breakfast, I took a walk around the camp.  There were a bunch of happy chooks to see and talk to.

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Hello, chooks

I couldn’t find the elusive turtle in his turtle cage, although I was told that he could well be on the bottom of his pond, looking just like one of the rocks.  The camp owners have two young sheep, who have been sent away for mating, I was told.  Actually, only the female will be mated, her castrated friend was sent with her to keep her company.  The camp looked lovely, with power sites on both sides and large mature trees planted down the middle grassy area.  We really appreciate having both fresh water and a drain for grey water available on these sites, and there is a dump station available too.
 
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The lovely grounds of Carterton Holiday Park

Sunday morning was Mother’s Day and a special Morning Tea was on the agenda in honour of all the Mums amongst our members.  All the men had to do was prepare and bring over tea or coffee as their spouses preferred.

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It’s coffee time

And our Rally organizers for the weekend, Diane and Barry, prepared a scrumptious Morning Tea, although I suspect that Diane did most of the cooking.  The table was beautifully set, and we all tucked in to our home made morning tea.

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All enjoying our Morning Tea

Then it was time to pack up and say our goodbyes, although some of us decided to stay a little later until after lunch.  We hooked up the van, and headed up SH2  to the Pahiatua Track which took us up and over the Tararua Ranges.

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Once safely home, we quickly unpacked the van, and put a load of laundry in the washing machine.  It had been another  great weekend.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Over the Hill to Carterton

There is no straight through trip from Levin to the Wairarapa, there are mountain ranges in the way!  Although we do have a choice of routes.  We can head north and cross the Tararua Ranges, or travel south and cross the Rimutaka Ranges, and both have similar mileages to get to our destination.  On Friday, we took the southern route for a change.  Driving down towards Kapiti we raced along SH1 with a freight train on the adjacent rails trying to outrun us.

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The train is winning this race

Driving down SH58 to SH2 the construction of Haywards Interchange was a hive of activity.  The project was originally scheduled to be completed in mid-June, but due to recent severe weather events, will now be completed about a month later than expected.  Construction work is still being carried out on cycle ways and underpasses, lighting, pedestrian bridge ramps and the Park and Ride car parks.  And the planting of approximately 120,000 plants will soon begin. 
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There were signs on the Rimutaka Hill warning motorists to be prepared to stop for road works.  And stop we did, for about 20 minutes, waiting patiently behind the man on the road side holding on to his “Stop” sign as workmen got on with the job of laying new asphalt road surfacing.  The row of cars and trucks who had the “Go” sign slowly drove towards us, and then were were finally free to continue on our journey.  Climbing higher and higher, we were soon enveloped in mist and could hardly see in front of our noses.

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Nearing the top

Once at the top and down the other side we passed through the small towns of Featherston and Greytown, arriving at our destination of Carterton.  And what’s this we found?  New signs since we were last visited.

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Welcome to Carterton

We came over to have a caravan club rally at the Carterton Holiday Park, one of our favourite camps.  There was a casual get-together on Friday night to catch up, and we took part in a quiz about TV commercials of all things.  Some of us did better than others, seems it proved which of us spent more time sitting in front of the TV at home.  Saturday morning turned out showery and windy, so once again we used the camp dining room to gather in.  Many thanks to Geoff and Eileen who provided morning tea.  It was a double celebration, not only were we celebrating Geoff’s birthday, with a BIG Birthday due next year, but also Geoff and Eileen’s wedding anniversary.  We wish you many more!

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Many thanks for morning tea

The rest of the day was free.  Some visited Masterton for the fair, others drove to the mushroom growers for some of these delicacies, while others lazed about or did what they wanted.  Barry and Dianne are our rally family  wonder what they have in store for us for the rest of the weekend?  We will just have to wait and see.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

New Tangiwai Disaster Memorials

Several weeks ago while on safari we arranged to stop for lunch at the Tangiwai Memorial.  Most if not all of us had been here before, but it is always good to stop and reflect on the terrible train tragedy which happened on Christmas Eve, 1953.  As we pulled up, the site was a hive of activity.  Someone was working on the grounds, pulling a contraption behind his ute to smooth to smooth out the lumps and bumps.  A big truck was parked in the track, and several blokes were busily working away.  Something important was happening here, and we soon found out what was going on.

Preparations were being made to unveil two memorials on the 7th May to honour two railway men who died trying to reduce the scale of New Zealand's worst ever railway disaster.  We spoke to one of the men involved in making the memorials, but sadly didn’t catch his name.  He told us that he has a connection to the tragedy, and through his company, Stone Creations,  has been happy to donate many hours to the memorial site.

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The two new memorials were being covered over until the 7th May and we decided not to blog about them until after the unveiling took place.

The accident happened when the crater lake on Mt Ruapehu collapsed, and around 2 million cubic metres of water surged downstream, collecting rocks, silt, trees, ice and other debris along the way.  It then shattered the Tangiwai Bridge across the Whangaehu River.  Minutes after the lahar hit, the Wellington to Auckland express thundered towards the damaged bridge.  The crew were alerted to the disaster by a man beside the track desperately swinging a torch.

Locomotive Engineer First Class Charles Parker and Locomotive Fireman Lance Redman tried desperately to stop the train.  They applied the brakes and at the same time the fireman was applying sand to the rails to create  friction to try and slow the train.  Their actions meant the train was not going as fast as it otherwise would and three carriages and the guards van survived.

The memorial at Tangiwai.

The memorial to the railway men who lost their lives at Tangiwai Photo: RNZ / Eric Frykberg

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The original memorial has recently added all the names of the disaster victims

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

A Welcome Home with Venison

We’ve been home several days now,  and spent our last night of the two week trip with Bill and Val at the NZMCA park at Marton.  This is always a nice place to stay, and we always like to chat to the friendly custodians who quietly go about the business of keeping the camp spic and span.  Quite often there is excess garden produce to share, and I came away with grapes on our previous visit, and feijoas this time around.  It’s only a short trip home, we left Marton mid morning and were home by lunch time.

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Parked up at Marton

Then came the business of unpacking, and multiple trips from the caravan into our home.  Our friendly neighbour Bruce came to welcome us home with some frozen venison sausages and meat patties.  Bruce loves hunting and likes nothing better than to stalk and dispatch a deer while crawling around the hills.  Put it in the freezer, we were instructed, until you fire the BBQ up.  Thanks so much Bruce – much appreciated.

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Venison from Bruce

Earlier in the week the caravan was taken down for a WOF, so we are all set now for more adventures.  And there is not long to wait, we are heading over to Carterton on Friday for a caravan club rally. Just for the weekend, and then we'll be home bodies again for a while.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Taupo to Marton

There is always a lot happening at the Taupo NZMCA site at the airport.  Planes come and go from the nearby airport, for a small airport it gets quite a bit of traffic.

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Air NZ plane readying for takeoff at Taupo Airport

And across the road, the noisy helicopters rev up their engines before flying merrily away.  What are they doing, I often wonder.  They could well be ferrying a load of tourists around, and maybe businessmen.  What ever they are up to, you would certainly make a “grand entrance” arriving somewhere special in one of these.

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There goes another helicopter

It’s always good to top up the water before hitting the road, and the Taupo site has a handy water point at the exit.

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We travel with fresh water tanks full, grey/black water tanks empty

Friday morning could only be called one of those “Blue dome days”.  We stopped briefly on the hill top as we exited the NZMCA park, and I snapped  photo of Mt Ruhapehu and Mt Ngauruhoe glistening away in the distance.

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View across Lake Taupo

We experienced a heart-in-mouth moment when we met a huge truck taking up more that his fair share on the road charging around a blind corner at Bulli Point Bluff.  Luckily, we managed to pass each other without coming to a sticky end, but these situations are always rather scary, especially from my point of view.

Although I had assured Robin that I probably wouldn’t bother taking any more photos of Mt Ruhapehu on our trip down the Desert Road, I just couldn’t help myself.  “How many more photos do you need of the mountain?”, he asked.  Who knows?  As many as I want to take, I guess.

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View from the Desert Road

After a short stop at the Waiouru Army Museum, we decided to carry on and stop for lunch at Mangaweka.  We parked the caravans alongside the now defunct café in the DC3 airplane.  An icon since 1986, the plane still sits proudly on SH1, watching all the traffic whizz by.

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Lunch outside Mangaweka International Airport

Before too long, we arrive at the Marton NZMCA site, our stop for the night.  After a quick trip to the local shops, we sat outside enjoying the sunshine while having our last 4zees of the holiday.  It seems hard to believe that we  started our safari trip from Marton two weeks previously – we have certainly covered a lot a miles since then.  .  Then in the evening we gathered in our van with Bill and Val for coffee and a liquor or two, a fitting finale to our safari trip.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Rotorua to Taupo

With just trip of about 100km, we were in no hurry to get away from Ngongotaha Park on Thursday morning.  Just as well really, as one rig after another trundled over to the dump station at the park before slowly moving on.  So we had morning tea instead and then it was our turn to dump, and continue on our journey.

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Goodbye to Ngongotaha

We drove past several of the well known tourist places which we had visited in the past, Whakarewarewa, Waimungu Valley, and Waiotapu.  Well worth a repeat visit, I reminded Robin,  next time we are up this way and have time to stay a little longer.  Arrangements had been made to stop for lunch at a rest area just off SH1.  And who should we see parked up enjoying their lunch but our former safari travelers Noel and Lynne.  Bill and Val arrived soon after us, and we had a good catch-up before Noel and Lynne continued on their journey to Napier.

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Three vans at lunch time

Continuing on our travels, we noticed that the wind had picked up quite a bit and gave the van several hard shakes as we drove along.  But not as bad as as a TV  news item we saw a day or two ago when a hire van was blown off the road and down the bank in the South Island.  That must have been a real blow – how scary for the tourists.

Police have issued a warning to avoid the Burkes Pass area after strong winds blew a campervan off the road.
Police have issued a warning to avoid the Burkes Pass area after strong winds blew a campervan off the road.

Once we pass over this bridge on the East Taupo Arterial Road, we know we are almost at our destination. 

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Almost there now

Our two vans arrived at the Taupo Airport NZMCA site and soon found a spot.  Hopefully we would be out of the wind – but who knows, Taupo can be quite a cold and windy place.

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Taupo Airport NZMCA site

We decided to have a night off from cooking and drove down to the Taupo Cossie Club for dinner.  The meals were nice, and I tried something new with my delicious salmon fillet – couscous salad.  Sadly, one of the patrons choked on his food, and there was a lot of drama happening while the staff leapt into action and tried valiantly to dislodge the chunk of lamb (as we found out later) which was lodged in the elderly man’s throat.  A pair of ambulance officers soon arrived and took over, removing the patient to an adjacent room away from the dining room for privacy.  We were so pleased to see him and his dining guests walk out unaided a while later.  It just goes to show how these emergencies can happen in seconds, and it was comforting to know that the staff have undergone training to deal with such an issue.

Oh dear – it was quite frightening to see, and to realise that the outcome could well have been much worse.  There was nothing for it – we ordered dessert to calm our frazzled nerves.  Crème Brule with berries for her, and his all time favourite, chocolate ice-cream sundae for him.

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Two yummy desserts

So, a little somberly, we drove back to camp.  Thanks to Bill and Val for the invitation to join them for dinner, and for providing the transport there and back.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Beautiful Lakes of Rotorua

There are 18 lakes in the Rotorua region, and we went exploring some of them today.  The lakes were all formed by cataclysmic volcanic activity in times past, craters, calderas or valleys blocked by lava flow.  Mokoia Island is located in Lake Rotorua, and is associated with a tale of true love.  According to legend, Hinemoa and Tutanekai were from different tribes and fell in love.  But the two lovers were forbidden to marry, and Hinemoa's father forbade her to travel by canoe to Tutanekai's tribal village on the island. Hinemoa decided to swim 3.2km across the lake to the island, guided by the sound of her lover’s flute-playing.

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Lake Rotorua and Mokoai Island

We stopped briefly at the next lake on our list, Lake Rotoiti.  A flock of swans quickly made their way into the water as we drove up.

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Lake Rotoiti

Our main destination was to travel to Lake Okataina, somewhere I hadn’t been before.  We turned down a narrow windy road, which had tall native trees hugging both sides of the road.  Almost at our destination, we came to an abrupt stop – there were workmen on a truck dead ahead, and another truck slowly inching past.  Not much room at all.  With one of the trucks out of the way, we slowly made our way past and down to the lake front.  Just as well we weren’t towing the caravan.

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Traffic jam on the road

Lake Okataina was raised 12m by the Tarawera Eruption in 1886.  It was also known as The Lake of Laughter when a Maori warrior referred to the lake as an ocean, and this was seen as a great joke by the rest of the men, and their laughter echoed around the lake.

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Lake Okataina

Next stop was the beautiful Blue Lake, often seen as turquoise blue due to reflection from the white rhyolite and pumice bottom.  Also known as Tikitapau, the place where the daughter of a high born chief lost her sacred greenstone neck ornament.

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Blue Lake

It was lunch time and as luck would have it there was a  sleek and shiny Airstream Café van close by.  The friendly owner quickly made us a toasted sandwich and a hot coffee each, while happily chatting away about his custom fitted Airstream.  We sat and ate our lunch with the beautiful view of the lake in front of us.  

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Lunch time at the Blue Lake

The nearby Green Lake is sacred and both lakes can be viewed from a lookout on the narrow isthmus separating the two lakes.  We were last at this lookout on our honeymoon, all those years ago, when we did an all day trip taking in some of Rotorua’s scenic delights.

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At the lookout

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View of the Blue Lake from the lookout

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And we looked the other way to the sacred Green Lake, Rotokakahi

The Green Lake is named after the shellfish, kakahi, and often appears emerald green due to the shallow sandy bottom.  It sacred lake is privately owned by the local iwi (Maori) and boating, swimming or fishing is not permitted.

All the lakes we viewed had wonderfully clear water close to shore.  Rotorua is often called a land of lakes and rivers, and they are all so beautiful.