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

Monday, 31 January 2011

Just as well we are not towing today

The Met Service has issued a severe wind warning today.
“Gales ahead of the front are expected to be severe about the hills of Wellington, over Wairarapa, the Tararua District and Hawkes Bay south of Waipukurau through to late afternoon. Gusts around 130 km/h are likely in exposed parts of these areas during this time. Winds of this strength have the potential to damage trees, power lines and insecure structures, as well as making driving hazardous, especially for motorcycles, tall sided vehicles and cars towing caravans.”
7553-12dd814d500-12dd845bfd8.0Image courtesy of Met Service
So it is just as well we are safe at home and not towing the caravan anywhere today.  Those high winds make it extremely dangerous to be out and about in weather like this. 

Saturday, 29 January 2011

The Royal Caravan

Yes, that’s right, caravans have a right royal connection. The National Motor Museum at Beaulieu, UK, features a dedicated caravanning area including a vast array of caravan memorabilia from the Caravan Club Collection.  This rapidly growing collection outgrew it’s former home and was relocated to the National Motor Museum in 2006.  Alongside a specially created 1930s garage, pride of place goes to a 1926 Eccles caravan.    The miniature Royal Caravan, a playhouse on wheels, was presented to Prince Charles and Princess Anne in 1955. They must have spent many happy hours in their little house.  Thanks to my pen friend Rose who sent us a newspaper cutting about this little treasure.  Unfortunately, we never made it to Beaulieu when we visited UK.  Perhaps we will have to plan another trip?
The Royal Caravan 
In former times the surrounding New Forest was the hunting ground of William the Conqueror, and later royalty enjoyed exclusive hunting rights there too.  Beaulieu Abbey was founded in 1204 by Cistercian monks on land given to them by King John. Unfortunately, this abbey was one of the many destroyed at the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries during the reign of Henry VIII.  The name Beaulieu is derived from the Latin "Bellus Locus" meaning beautiful place. The estate has been in Lord Montague's family since 1538 and has been a Motor Museum since 1952. 

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Going, going, gone!

Muffy found the cold wet weather conditions last weekend away in the caravan not at all to her liking.  We had enjoyed many weeks of very hot weather, and she was now sporting her much lighter summer coat.   No problem, to keep warm, she just took herself to bed.  First she had to loosen the duvet which was tucked under the pillows. 
It must be warmer under here, she seems to be thinking, as she burrowed even deeper.

Making herself comfortable, she turned around, with just her head sticking out.  That’s better, I’ll just have a little snooze under here for a while while I warm up.
Good thinking Muffy.  You can rely on a cat to look after themselves and their comfort.  

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Designers to Royalty

It may have been an extremely wet weekend away at Kaitoke Regional Park but at our get togethers in the evenings under the awning and gazebo combination we were kept  busy designing for royalty.  Firstly, in honour of the upcoming royal nuptials between Wills and Kate, we were asked to design a head-dress suitable for the big day.  No gold, silver and precious jewels for us to work with, all we had was an assortment of coloured pipe cleaners.  But we rose to the occasion and produced a range of wedding headgear with Kate in mind.  No doubt she will be impressed with our efforts on her behalf.
DSCF5272 Head dresses suitable for the royal wedding
The following evening the weather was still wild and woolly and the river just over the back from our camp sites was running alarmingly high.  We kept glancing nervously out the windows to check on the river level in case we had to move our caravans quickly away from danger.  That didn’t happen, thank goodness.  Our task for this evening was to design and make a wedding dress to go with our head-dress.  Once again, we were working with alternative materials.  Kate would probably have a gown made with the finest silk, and we had to make do with crepe paper held together with pins and staples, with just a ribbon or two for decoration.  With much hilarity, different styles of wedding gowns evolved.  Because Kate has such nice slim legs, my dress was a mini, with dainty shoulder straps, set off with a golden bow.  Elegant and uncluttered, that was our working brief!  I had modified my head-dress and added a short veil, just the thing for a wedding.  One of our group told me that I looked just like Queen Victoria, and not at all like Kate!  Surely not?
DSCF5284 Kate or Queen Vic?
A couple of male models joined us on the cat walk to show off their wedding finery too.  Let’s hope that we have given Kate a couple of ideas on what to wear on her big day.
DSCF5293  Pamela, Jenny, Bill and Peter all dressed for a wedding

Monday, 24 January 2011

And the rain kept coming down

Wellington Anniversary Weekend meant a three day weekend  to enjoy with our caravan club friends at Kaitoke Regional Park.  This was not too far away, some miles north in rural Upper Hutt.  Being January, we were expecting nice warm weather.  After all, we have had several weeks of hot, muggy weather.  But no, what we got were three days of rain.  It started off quietly enough on Friday, with just a light drizzle. 
DSCF5276 Misty hills at Kaitoke
It is a very pretty area  at Kaitoke, and the tenters were out in full force.  Cars of families arrived on Friday afternoon, to pitch their tents and take advantage of the last week of the school holidays.  Lots of children and dogs were running around in  the light rain, while the Dads started erecting tents, banging in the pegs to keep the guy ropes tight.  As our group needed somewhere to sit together under cover, Don had arranged to bring his caravan awning along.  With a bit of help, it didn’t take too long to put the awning up.
DSCF5255 Up goes the caravan awning
To make it even roomier, we had brought along our gazebo.  This folds up like an umbrella, so needs people on each corner who then walk out extending the legs as it opens up.  The gazebo was placed right up to Don’s awning and the legs roped down  in place.
DSCF5260 Then the gazebo is joined to the awning
What about a few walls to keep us warm and dry?  No problem, a bit of Kiwi ingenuity soon had the walls sorted.  Out came a couple of large blue tarpaulins, and some rope, and before we knew in, the walls were in place.
DSCF5266 Walls are added
We needed something to hold the tarpaulins down.  Out came the thinking caps again – why don’t we use rocks from the river?  They worked a treat, able to withstand the winds as they increased over the weekend.
DSCF5269 River rocks to hold it down
As the weekend wore on the rain kept falling, the wind got up, the grass was saturated, and the adjacent river to our camping spot turned into a churning brown monster. We were quite worried as we listened to the news of flooding in other areas around the country, and kept a watch on the water level.
DSCF5282 The gentle stream turned into a raging river
Many of the tenting families packed up and left on Sunday morning.  It must be quite miserable in a tent in such bad weather.  Luckily our caravans were warm and dry and we had our awning and gazebo arrangement to socialise in.
DSCF5279 Our spot at Kaitoke
The ranger came every night to collect the rubbish.  “How high will the river rise?”, we asked him.  He had only been working at this park for a few weeks so didn’t really know.  But he related the expected rainfall each day as he called by, and told us he would leave the gates unlocked at night, just in case we had to evacuate our sites.  That was not necessary, thank goodness.  As often happens on wet weekends away, by the time we got home, the sun had finally came out.  Never mind, rain or not, we always have fun when we go away.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Stone Masons hard at work

This week Maidstone Park is covered with an assortment of gazebos and sun shades as young and old would-be stone masons get to work carving blocks of stone.  It is the annual “Stoneworks” festival where anyone can try their hand at carving the blocks of soft white Oamaru stone.
DSCF5242 Working under cover from the hot summer sun
We walked around the park and came across the youngest mason, a lad of just 13.  He was happy to chat to us while he was chipping away, working on producing a  stack of coffee cups, one on top of the other, out of his block of stone.  The registration fee includes the blocks of stone, we were told, and all the tools are loaned to the participates. 
DSCF5238 A stack of coffee cups
I was quite taken with these two small items, a sphinx and a small Celtic cross.  Both have been cleverly inlaid with pieces of timber.  This mason had obviously done this sort of work before.
Another man was working away on hollowing out a cube.  His grand plan was to stack all his small cubes one of top of the other.  The stone seems very easy to work with and we noticed that everyone was cutting and smoothing their pieces without too much effort at all.  The white dust was swirling around in the wind.  “I make sure I work so the dust is blown away from me”,he told us.  That seems good advice.
DSCF5240 Working on a hollow cube
The Stoneworks festival lasts all week and culminates in an auction of the sculptures, so anyone can buy one of these hand crafted works of art.  But if I put all that work into shaping a piece of stone, it would be hard to let it go.  

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

What Not to do at the Service Station

Our neighbour called around in a bit of a tizz.  He had just been to get fuel for his 4WD and somehow filled his vehicle up with petrol instead of diesel.  By the time he had driven home he realised what he had done.  Did Robin have any fuel cans so that he could borrow so that the petrol could be sucked out of the tank?  Luckily Robin was only too happy to help out and took over an empty can.  The offending fuel was finally removed, and some diesel added to tank.  The question was - would the car start, or had the engine been damaged?  I went outside to see how they were getting on.  The 4WD was running, but sounded a bit jumpy to me, and clouds of smoke was coming out the exhaust.  It will be OK once more diesel is put in the tank, I was told.  Let’s hope so.  The moral of the story is – don’t talk on your cell phone when you are getting ready to fuel up at the service station, in case you reach for the wrong hose!
DSCF5245 Our neighbour running the engine and Robin helping out

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Kiwi Gumboots to help Queensland

1600 pair of New Zealand manufactured Bata gumboots are winging their way over to flood ravaged Queensland today.  Courtesy of The Warehouse, who were asked if they could offer support to relief fund Operation Angel.  The Warehouse chief executive Ian Morrice said the company was delighted to help, and donated the gumboots, which are to flown out today by Air New Zealand. 
Bata gumboots
Gumboots have been highlighted as a key practical item currently in short supply in Queensland.  They will protect the householders and volunteers against contaminants and raw sewerage, knocks and cuts from debris, and from snakes, as they begin the huge clean up task.  Good on you, Warehouse and Air New Zealand, for your help. Fred Dagg would be so proud of you!
The clean-up begins in Brisbane suburbs. Sightseers have been asked to either stay away or lend a helping hand.
Photo: Nick Moir
The clean-up begins in Brisbane suburbs. Sightseers have been asked to either stay away or lend a helping hand.
We send our sympathies and thoughts to all those affected by these devastating floods that appear to be ruining lives in so many states of Australia.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Hoots, man

Written on our “things to do one day” list was to visit the Scottish shop McPhee’s at Tawa.  (It turns out that McPhee’s is not just Scottish but known as the Celtic Centre, as they cater for all things Celtic).  Did you know that I have a drop or two of pure Scots blood racing through my veins?  My Scottish connection comes from my Grandfather Robert Donald Wilson.  He was born in Glasgow, and emigrated out here to New Zealand as a young man. 
DSCF5227Clothing on display
Stepping inside McPhee’s was like shopping in the Royal Mile.  There were kilts  and jackets on display, and a selection of hats, ties and scarves.  Lots of lovely tartan things, and jewellery too.  Books and badges,  music and stickers, and we noticed giftware including coffee mugs.  We reminisced with the owner Elaine about our unforgettable trip to Scotland and Ireland way back in 1999.  Attending the Edinburgh Tattoo in Edinburgh Castle would have to be the highlight of our trip.
DSCF5228Lots of things to ponder over
McPhee’s also sell food items with a Scottish flavour.  Haggis was available if you really wanted it.  No, not for us, but I did purchase a black pudding to take home.    Black puddings were always served at the B & Bs as part of our “full Scottish breakfasts” while we were tripping around.  Ahh, walking into this shop brought back lots of memories.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Buzzy bees and barbeque time

It was another lovely day in paradise.  The sun was shining and the bees were buzzing.  They love our large native flowering tree, covered in pretty white blossoms.   As well as bees being very fond of our tree, it is also very attractive to the giant puriri moth.  The caterpillars climb the tree and bore into the trunk, emerging through the large holes some time later as giant green moths.  See our earlier post about the life of these moths here.
DSCF5222 Flowering native tree covered in bees
Our colourful fuchsia bush also had plenty of bees visiting the flowers.  These industrious little insects crawl inside one flower after another in search of nectar.
DSCF5224 Fuchsia bush covered in flowers and bees
All this beautiful weather was too good to waste so we decided to cook our meat on the barbeque on the back deck.  Our marinated pork chops smelt divine as they sizzled away, and tasted even better.  We just love our Kiwi summer!
DSCF5226  Robin cooking pork chops

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Farewell to Dot

Was it really a month since Dot had flown in from the snow and ice bound UK?  Yes, it certainly was and it was time to farewell her on her trip back to Derek.  Dot had already said her goodbyes to Don & Pamela the previous evening.  A group of us enjoyed a final meal together on Monday evening at the Hardware Bar and Cafe, Stokes Valley.  Originally the local hardware shop, the proprietors have kept to this theme and there is an interesting  range of tools hanging from the walls.
DSCF5206 Inside the Hardware Bar and Cafe
It was another glorious summer day and our table was by an open window.  The special deal for Monday night was two meals for the price of one,  making it a very reasonably priced evening out.  With a table of four ladies, Robin was our token male for the evening, lucky him.
DSCF5210 Dot, Eileen, Jenny and Kathryn
Then it was the final day, and time to head off to the airport.  Dot waited in line as she wanted to check her bag all the way through to Heathrow.
DSCF5216  At the check-in counter
With that job out of the way, we had plenty of time to sit and enjoy a last coffee together.  The weather again was brilliantly sunny  and the sun was streaming in the large windows.  No doubt Dot will miss all the lovely summer weather she has enjoyed over the last four weeks when she gets back to wintry UK.
DSCF5217First stage of the trip, bound for Auckland
The flight was being called and it was time to say our goodbyes and a last farewell hug.  Bye Dot, have a safe trip back to UK.  The pair of you will be back here in “Gods Own Country” before we know it.
DSCF5218 All ready to go

Monday, 10 January 2011

Red evening Sky

The evening sky was a most marvellous shade of red tonight.  As the saying goes, “red sky at night, shepherds delight”.  With this glorious colour tonight, we can no doubt expect a lovely day tomorrow.  A few minutes later, the red had faded to gold.
DSCF5211 Red sky at night

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Homeward Bound

It was time to say goodbye to our friends and Awakeri  Hot Pools, and start making our journey home.  After pondering over the map, we planned to break our journey for our last night and stay at ABBA Motor Camp, Taihape.  (The camp was so named because it is situated on Old Abattoir Road).  However, since we were last here the camp has changed its name, and and now called Taihape River View Holiday Park.  You may park anywhere, we were told.  As there were just a couple of tents in camp, we were spoilt for choice, and parked up overlooking the river and the papa cliffs.  It was a pleasant afternoon for a short walk down to the lower level to see what was over the other side.  The white cliffs contrasted against the dark green foliage of the native trees. 
DSCF5186Overlooking the river
Far across the river we could see a brown cow standing guard while her cream coloured calf rested in the sunshine.  They must have seen us watching them as they slowly moved away into the shadow of the trees.  A few sheep wandered by, baaing loudly, as sheep do.  It was a very pleasant and peaceful rural outlook.
 DSCF5193 The river at the bottom of the gorge
Taihape is known as the “Gumboot Capital of New Zealand”. Why, you might ask?  In March every year Taihape hosts Gumboot Day.  Gumboot throwing competitions, gumboot marching, and games are all keenly competed, while music and stalls add to the rustic ambiance.  Gumboot Day was first held in 1985 to entice travellers to stop and see what Taihape has to offer, and has been a hit with the public ever since.  Gumboots are compulsory foot wear in the farming community and as Fred Dagg sang in his immortal song, “Where would you be without your gumboots?”  The huge corrugated iron sculpture by Jeff Thompson is the icon of  Taihape, and many visitors like to stop and have their photo taken beside it.
DSCF5194 Taihape is “Gumboot Town”

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Caravan on a plate - Cheddar Valley Pottery

On our sightseeing trip around the Ohiwa Harbour we stopped off at the Cheddar Valley Pottery.  Potters Stuart and Margaret Slade purchased the old Cheddar Valley Co-op Dairy Co building 25 years ago.  They busily work their magic turning lumps of Nelson White clay into pots, plates, platters and garden ornaments.
DSCF5175 Entrance to Cheddar Valley Pottery
Our friends Pauline and Geoff had recently placed an order, and were keen to show us the wonderful work done by Stuart and Margaret.  Pauline and Geoff are keen caravan enthusiasts, just like us, and wanted plates showing their current and previous caravans.  Their order was ready and waiting for them, and they were thrilled with the results.
DSCF5176 Artist Stuart, with Geoff and Pauline, and potter Margaret
Margaret “throws” the clay to make the items, and Stuart hand paints the image using photos provided.  The plates are then fired in the kiln, clear glaze is added, then they are fired again.  Geoff and Pauline’s special  one-off plates and platter will certainly be treasured for ever.  (There is no doubt about it, we will  have to get a Romany Rambler plate made for us).  As well as making individual orders, there is a large range of items to buy “off the shelf”.  We spent a while just browsing to see what else was on offer, and we particularly liked the beautiful New Zealand native bird plates.
DSCF5177 Some of the items on display
Stuart and Margaret are keen travellers too and like to get away in their motor home from time to time.  They also offer a “pop stop” at their property for NZMCA members who wish to spend a night or two in the area.  

Friday, 7 January 2011

Turkeys and Oysters

Gobble, gobble went the turkeys as we drove slowly past after a drive down to a beach subdivision near Whakatane.  Mum and Dad turkey were in the paddock just over the fence.  Was that a baby turkey or two we can see?  We stopped the car and I slowly walked up to the fence line, so they didn’t get too frightened.  There were in fact ten young turkeys grazing on the grass with their parents.
DSCF5174 The Turkey family
Father turkey was watching over his brood, and keeping a wary eye on me as I walked closer.  He spread his tail feathers, puffed out his chest and fixed me with his beady eyes.  “Gobble, gobble, don’t you dare come any closer”, he seemed to be saying.  He was certainly taking great care of his brood.
We got back into the car and continued on with our sightseeing drive around the Whakatane area.  It was getting on for lunch time when we stopped at Ohiwa Oyster Farm on our drive around the coast.  Perhaps they sell  cooked oysters here?  Yes, they certainly did, so we placed our orders for battered oysters and chips, received a number, and waited patiently for our orders to cooked.  Then we sat at the picnic tables overlooking the bay and devoured our delicious lunch.
The Pacific oysters are farmed right here in Ohiwa Harbour and the shop was kept very busy with orders.  Cars stopped across the road, and whole families and groups of friends arrived to place their orders and like us, enjoy their meals in the misty sunshine.  The setting was beautiful, with a flowering pohutukawa tree adding a splash of colour to the tranquil scene.  Sea gulls hovered around waiting hopefully for some left over chips to be thrown their way.
It was truly a magical place and our al fresco lunches were delicious.  Another glorious day on holiday.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Awakeri Hot Pools

About 15 kms from the bustling city of Whakatane, is the delightful Awakeri Hot Pools Motor Camp.  Mature trees offer shade from the hot summer sun, and the plentiful birdlife sings all day.  There are not just birds around, we were solemnly told by a youngster, but possums too, who come out at night, make horrible noises and climb through open windows and we had better watch out for the owls (Morepork / Ruru) that would also get you.  The boy and his dad were bravely going on a great possum hunt, armed with a torch, to find one of these dastardly creatures.
DSCF5162 The office block
Inside the office are a series of photos from the early days before the motor camp was developed.  People used to come to bath at the natural spring in the 1920s, which was then made into a pool.  Later development brought the motor camp and the large pools that are in use today.
DSCF5163 The hot springs in the 1920s
Kids being kids enjoy the pools at any time of the day.  We prefer to go for a dip in the evening and the pool is full of grey headed customers at this time of night.  It is very relaxing and the mineral water eases away any aches and pains.  Casual customers arrive by the car load but there is no extra charge for campers to use the pool.
DSCF5166 In the heat of the day
We are camping here with two other couples from the National Rally and enjoy the relaxed life in these pleasant surroundings.  What can be better than relaxing under a shady tree in the afternoon, or sitting out in the cool of evening and putting the world to rights.  And as a bonus to bloggers, the camp offers free internet connection. 

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Bent like a piece of Wire

What happens when a large earthquake  of 5.2 shakes the ground 10kms underneath a large milk processing factory during a busy working day?  Followed by a second earthquake of 6.3 hit seven minutes later?   The damage to the  building can be seen by the way this steel beam was twisted and bent, just like a piece of wire.
The earthquake took place at Edgecumbe in 1987, and thankfully there was no loss of life.  The ground level at the milk processing centre dropped an amazing 15 metres during the shock, and a fault line formed south east of Edgecumbe.  The steel beam on display was retrieved during construction and erected as a monument to the forces of nature. 
We passed the monument at Edgecumbe on our way to the Awakeri Hot Springs Motor Camp, where we will be staying the next few days.  The steel beam is a chilling reminder of why New Zealand is sometimes called “The Shaky Isles”.