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

Sunday, 5 July 2020

Where has this week gone?

Here we are, and it’s Sunday again, just where did this week go, we wonder?  It’s been rather a cold, miserable week, as far as the weather was concerned.  Just as well we now have a brand new Heat Pump, so we are warm and cozy inside.   Robin has recently purchased a “Minimum Maximum Thermometer” and makes a point of checking it each morning.  So far the coldest temperature recorded here overnight  this week was –3.

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New thermometer

The cold conditions brought  a dumping of snow on the Tararua Ranges, it does look pretty in the background.  Snow closed the Desert Road for a while, fell on the Rimutaka Hill, and plenty more down in the South Island, the ski fields in particular where certainly pleased.  And we were so pleased that we had traveled home from our trip earlier in the week and were not caught up in snow and ice on the roads.

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Snow on the Tararua Ranges

Traditionally, our Sunday mornings start with a bacon and egg breakfast, cooked by Robin.  Always nice and tasty, especially on a chilly morning.  And talking of cold weather food, the crock pot is simmering away with some tasty pumpkin soup for lunch.  It’s a hard life being retired, and we certainly never seem to go hungry, either!

Sunday, 28 June 2020

Caravan Club Weekend at Mawley Park

During the night at Ashhurst Domain the weather turned to custard.  Down came the rain, and the wind blew through the trees sending debris down on our caravan roof. Not a peaceful night at all.   We did wonder how the bad weather would impact on our trip the following morning.  Luckily the wind wasn’t an issue and we drove over the rather narrow Saddle Road.  With the Manawatu Gorge permanently closed this is one of two alternative roads over the Ruahine Ranges.

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Up and over the Saddle Road

The higher we got, the more the mist was swirling around, and the wind turbines on the Apiti Wind Farm appeared ghost like at the top of the hill.

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Wind turbines

We were the first to arrive at Mawley Park camp, Masterton, and soon settled down – in fact, we arrived a day early on Thursday, just because we could.    These sites seem to be made for tourist motorhomes, as the one we are occupying is actually two sites.  Luckily there is little wind over this side of the hill, but plenty of rain.  This area, the Wairarapa is always drought prone, so sustained rain will be great for the farmers.  Maybe it will be wet all weekend, we will have to wait and see what the weather gods decree.

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Another rainy day

The other members arrived, some on Thursday, like us, and the rest on Friday.  The local fish and chip shop was visited by hungry caravan club members who wanted a night off from cooking duties.  There was a great turn out, with only two couples unable to join us for the weekend.

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It was a rather wet weekend

This was our first caravan club rally since lockdown, and everyone was happy to get together again after so long.  Lots of catch ups took place.  The days were fairly free, and several took the opportunity to have a nice lunch out downtown, while others did a grocery shop, all helping out the local economy.  The usual club Morning Teas and 4zees took place, and in the evenings Dave had organised a few quizzes for us, to see how our brains survived lockdown. 

There was a special occasion on Saturday morning when we had a Flag Breaking Ceremony, for our new club flag.  Selwyn had ordered the new flag but going into lockdown slowed things down and the order was put on hold.  But we had it for this weekend, and we looked outside early on Saturday morning when we heard  a lot of clanking going on.  It was  Selwyn, sheltering from the rain under our awning while he replaced the halyard as the one originally on the pole as not suitable for the new flag.

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Selwyn getting things ready for the flag ceremony

As our longest serving members, Eileen and Geoff were asked to pull on the cord to unfurl the flag.

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Our new club flag

After rain showers on Sunday morning, the skies cleared and the sun came out, isn’t that usually the way when it is time to go home?  Visitors came calling to join us for Morning Tea  – it  was so nice to welcome Dave and Rae from the Wairarapa Caravan Club.  Our two caravan clubs have quite a long association and meet up together from time to time.  Then it was time to pack up and head for home, and we drove over the Pahiatua Track on our return journey, looking out over Palmerston North and we descended the hill road.

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A visit to the Dump Station, and then we were heading for home, and unpacking after our three weeks away.  All in all we travelled a fair way, we clocked up 2000km on this trip.

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Vinegar Hill and Ashhurst

It was another longish day towing today, we traveled 262km from the Equestrian Centre to our next stop for the night at Ashhurst Domain.  Down the side of Lake Taupo, through Turangi where we stopped on our trip northwards, along the Desert Road and Waiouru.   No chance of a photo of Mt Ruapehu this time, the mountain was covered in low clouds.  Shall we pull in behind the Army Museum for a lunch break, we wondered?  No, as we were a little later getting on the road than planned, we decided to carry on to Taihape.  Half an hour later, fed, watered and rested, we were on our way again.

Turning off SH1 we took the road over Vinegar Hill.  Vinegar Hill was named after an incident in early colonial times: a bullock cart carrying barrels of vinegar overturned after the bullocks slipped on the muddy track on the hillside, covering the hillside in vinegar from the broken barrels. Putai Ngahere Reserve is a very popular summer camping area at the bottom of the hill, situated on the banks of the Rangitikei River.

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Rangitikei River

Before too long we arrived at our destination.  Ashhurst Domain has sports grounds, play areas, a pretty little camping area set amongst plenty of mature trees, and is extremely popular with families over the Christmas/New Year holiday season.  Some families return here year after year we have been told.  But plenty of room at this time of year, with only a few camping in winter.

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Pretty spot for the night

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And just across the way through the trees is a peaceful cemetery

We decided on a “no cooking” evening meal and took ourselves off to the local Ashhurst Inn.  Being a Wednesday, we reasoned, it wont be too busy, will it?  What we didn’t realise until we arrived that Wednesday night is “Kids eat Free” and most of the tables were booked for family groups taking advantage of this offer.  But the staff managed to find us a table and we perused the menu.  It was steak for him and bacon wrapped scallops for her, both delicious meals indeed. 

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No cooking or dishes tonight

Tomorrow we are on the road again, moving on to Masterton for the weekend.

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

Moving on from Island View

It’s always Murphy’s Law isn’t it.  No matter how much bad weather has been while you are away, the last day is always gorgeous.  And so it was on our last day at the ICA Rally at Island View Motor Camp.  Our group had Happy Hour in the sunshine, so nice to sit outside after all that rain.

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ICA Happy Hour

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And just look at that wonderful sunset later on, so pretty.

The next morning we packed up, said out farewells and started off on our slow return journey southwards.  We heard on the news that there had been a bad accident and the road we had planned on taking was closed.  So we went with Plan B and took another road which added 40km to the trip, stopping beside Lake Rotoiti for an al fresco lunch. 

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Lunch stop at Lake Rotoiti

It was quite a slow trip for part of the way – stopping and starting for multiple roadworks, and following slow trucks and hire motorhomes for miles and miles.  Eventually, after traveling 230km we made it to our destination for the night, the National Equestrian Centre at Taupo.  This is a very reasonably priced place to stay, only $15 a night on power.  With clear blue skies and no wind, it will probably be rather chilly overnight, it is winter after all.

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Only a couple of us here tonight

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Equestrian Centre indoor arena

Gemma investigated all the fallen leaves on the ground for a while before she decided enough was enough and she wanted to go inside the caravan.  She was then peacefully sitting inside of screen door looking out when a silly little dog came to the door and barked it’s stupid head off at her.  Go home, we shouted, but he was rather persistent, so where was his owner, we wondered?  Gemma wasn't too upset with the barking but I’m so pleased she wasn’t outside on the end of her lead when the dog arrived – that might have been a completely different outcome.

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Gemma on her way inside

As we are heading to Masterton to attend our Heretaunga Caravan Club Rally over the weekend, the  plan is to travel southward again tomorrow and then head over to the Wairarapa.  With any luck the weather will stay nice and calm.

Sunday, 21 June 2020

ICA Rally at Island View Holiday Park

We arrived a couple of days early on Wednesday for the ICA rally, and the rest of them trickled in over the following two days.  A total of 20 motorhomes and 2 caravans in attendance.  The rain has been bucketing down and the Bay of Plenty area has been under a weather watch/warning for several days.

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Luckily we had a covered area we could use for Morning Teas and happy Hours to shelter under.    The sun finally came out for our special celebration lunch on Saturday.  Several of the men brought their BBQs out and the smell of roasting pork and lamb filled the air.  Together with salad, peas and carrots, and lovely fresh bread rolls, it was certainly a meal to savour.  Plenty to go around and no one went hungry.  It was a joint effort with most helping as required.

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Our tasty lunch

This weekend was the annual  “Big 0 and 5 Rally” to celebrate major birthdays and anniversaries.  Two couples were celebrating their 60th Anniversaries, such a wonderful achievement.  And five had big birthdays this year, myself included when I turn the ripe old age of 75 in October.  Cathie presented us all with beautiful hand made cards.

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Thanks so much Cathie

Sunday dawned rather wet once again.  No surprise really as it it also the “Shortest Day”.  You know what that means, it is now a slow countdown to Summer.  There was so much food over from the celebration lunch the previous day that we were all invited back at lunchtime to finish it off.  The roast veggies and boiled spuds were fried up, and together with sliced cold lamb and pork and buttered rolls, there was plenty to go around.  With a glass of bubbly,and a piece of chocolate cake for dessert we did very well, thank you!

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Tasty left overs for lunch on Sunday

With a break in the weather, a few keen fishermen from our group took their rods down to the beach.  David sent his drone out with the line attached.  Then buzz, buzz, back it came, landing in the right place.  I stepped back quickly as I’m always a little worried the drone will come and get me!   Sadly, no fish were hooked this time, guess the rough seas might have had something to do with the nil results.

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Fishing at the beach

It was great to catch up with everyone again, and make the acquaintance of those we hadn't met before.  The ICA members are always such a nice friendly group.

Thursday, 18 June 2020

Awakeri Rail Adventure

Awakeri Rail Adventures - this looks like the place.  We drove 50kms back to Awakeri today to “ride the rails” on one of those dinky little  rail carts, traveling along the former Taneatua Branch Line.

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This historic rail line opened in 1927 and was part of the east coast main trunk line terminating in Taneatua.  When the Kaimai tunnel opened in 1978, the terminus was changed to Kawerau and this line then became the Taneatua Branch Line.  Rail traffic declined over the years and the line closed in 2001.  Awakeri Rail Adventures was set up by former NZR engine driver, Paul Francis in 2014, after hard work clearing the overgrown track.   We were to travel on modified golf carts, although we weren’t going anywhere until we were given the necessary safety briefing.

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Golf carts ready and waiting

As we were the only booking for the day, we had an exclusive trip with the boss man.  Robin was given instructions on how to operate the cart, and I was given responsibility of becoming the radio operator.  This notice was firmly attached to the steering wheel, which incidentally, does no steering at all!

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Read and take note of the sign

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Ready for our rail adventure

The wheels on the cart made a delightful “Clackety Clack” railway sound as we trundled along, slowing at the Slow and pausing at the Give Way signs as the railway line passed over bridges and farm tracks.    The two way radio crackled to life instructing Robin to “Pull up here by the orange cone”.  My goodness, just look at all the birds racing to meet us, chooks, ducks and geese.  They know it must be feeding time, and we were handed a container of corn to feed them.  I’ve never had such a crowd so happy to see me!  There was some rather handsome plumage on the roosters, together with very sharp looking spurs, I noticed.

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Here, chooky chook

Our next stop was at the 4.5 hectare  White Pine Bush Reserve, a rare example of untouched lowland kahikatea forest.  We took a bush walk into the reserve and our guide pointed out a 600 year old kahikatea tree so tall we couldn't see the top.  How wonderful that this piece of forest has been saved from the axe for all to enjoy.

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White Pine Bush Reserve

Our next stop was  in the middle of nowhere at a rather rustic shelter.  The billy was boiled, tea,  coffee, and biscuits produced, and we settled down to enjoy our afternoon tea.

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Afternoon tea time

Just around the corner was the Ladies Loo.  Oh my, just what is Donald Trump doing in there?  He’s obviously waiting to pounce on the next lady to walk through the door!  Luckily Paul jumped to my defense, gave Donald a short shift,  and rescued me from a fate worse than death.

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Out you go, Donald

Climbing aboard again we trundled up to the  end of the line at Pekatahi.

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End of the line

Paul had built a very clever turntable and both carts were soon turned about for the homewards journey.  It was very easy to operate and he could do it single handed.

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Turning the carts around

It was much quicker on the return trip with no stops on the homeward journey.  We spotted several pheasants and quail on the side of the track as we traveled along, they soon flew off when we came too close.  And look, here we are, back we we started from at Awakeri Station.

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The driver and the radio operator

It was a wonderful trip, something we had wanted to do for a while, and we certainly enjoyed our afternoon riding the rails.  Thoroughly recommended and such good fun.

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Next Stop – Opotiki

Saying farewell to our friendly Pop hosts we had one job to do – visit the dump station, then we were on our way.  Another relatively short trip again, just 49kms.  We drove through the very popular seaside town of Ohope, well known for safe swimming and good fishing.  Then through the Cheddar Valley, passing by the famous fish and chip shop on the estuary and Cheddar Valley Pottery.  We can remember coming here with friends Pauline and her late husband Geoff when they collected a very special hand painted platter featuring their motor home some years ago. Lovely coastal views as we drove on to our next stop, Opotiki.

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We are here at Island View Holiday Park for an ICA Rally starting Friday but decided to come a little early, as we have a special trip booked for Thursday – more about that next time.    Previous to coming here,  we had get permission to bring our cat Gemma, so she became a “pre approved pet”.  And sign a Dog Policy when we checked in, (yes, we know she is a cat) agreeing to keep Gemma on our own site,  and not walk her around the camp.

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Keep to the rules Gemma, and you wont need to hide your head

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Sign at the camp office

Ours camp  site is great, just a hop, skip and jump to the beach.  As we are a couple of days early, no one else from the ICA group has arrived yet.  I’m sure we will enjoy some beach side solitude.

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Island View Holiday Park

At the beach we got a glimpse of the volcanic island Whakaari / White Island, which erupted on 9th December 2019.  There were 47 people on the island at the time. This tragedy left twenty-one people dead, including two who missing and declared dead, and a further twenty-six people suffered injuries, mainly severe burns.  We took a trip out to the island some years ago, it is a weird place with the smell of sulphur in the air, I remember we had to wear hard hats and gas masks.

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Whakaari White Island off the coast