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

Monday, 31 October 2011

Down at the Duck Pond

No complaints about the weather on Sunday – it looked and felt like Summer had arrived.  Together with friends Dot and Derek we visited the Duck Pond in Te Haukeretu Park, adjacent to the Hutt River.  This lovely spot is popular with families bringing their left over bread and crusts to feed the ducks, and we noticed many dog owners with their pets.  Little fluffy dogs seemed to win the popularity stakes, but there were several large dogs too, with all dogs safely under close control on leads, as the regulations states.  All youngsters love chasing ducks, and this little toddler was having a great time, with Mum and Dad looking on to make sure she was safe.  This brought back memories of a lifetime ago when my own two children were toddlers and we took part in the duck feeding ritual too.
DSCF7835 This looks like fun
Across on the far bank was a female Paradise Shelduck, with her distinctive white head.  These birds bond for life so her mate wouldn’t have been too far away.  The pond was rather murky but we spotted several eels swimming around in the muddy water.  (Eels are not my favourite thing, and I would hate to have a close encounter with one of these slithering creatures.)
DSCF7837 Look over there!
DSCF7839Paradise Shelduck
Mallard ducks were the most common at the pond – and the New Zealand flocks were boosted considerably in the 1930s when acclimatisation societies introduced American birds for breeding programmes.  Mallard ducks are the mainstay of the duck shooting season with about a  million birds shot for sport each year.  The males have a beautiful glossy green head, while the females are much plainer in their brown speckled feathers.
DSCF7845 Male Mallard ducks
We wondered if the larger ducks on the edge of the pond were in fact domesticated ducks which had escaped from farm life.  With no bread to tempt them with, they soon made a hasty retreat.
DSCF7844 If there’s no bread, we are not posing for a photo
It was lovely being out and about enjoying the sunshine.  There is something rather peaceful and soothing about being near water in such beautiful surroundings.  After enjoying a cuppa together in Dot and Derek’s motor-home, we parted company.  It was time for us to head home, and Robin had lawns waiting for him to mow.  It wasn’t too far to walk, we just had to cross over the foot bridge and we were back in suburbia on our side of the Hutt River.
DSCF7854 Foot bridge over the Hutt River
A short stroll later and we were home.  Our cat Muffy let us know that she wasn’t at all pleased that we had left her outside all by herself while we were off looking at ducks.  Don’t think she missed us too much, as once inside she curled up and went to sleep.
 DSCF7861 Don’t try and sweet talk me, I’m cross!

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Potty Problems

Oh dear, what can the matter be?  Of all the things to go wrong in the caravan!  The slide valve on our toilet cassette broke last weekend and was not sealing properly (in fact it disappeared) so I was forbidden to use the caravan toilet in the dead of night – or any other time of the day, in fact.  Just as well that where we were staying had toilets available.  On returning back home after our long weekend away, Robin did some internet research to see if we could purchase the necessary fitting.  Donning rubber gloves, he pulled it all to bits, and gave the whole cassette a super duper clean. 
DSCF7818 All in pieces
We could purchase a replacement mechanism from fellow caravanner and parts stockist, Lex from Wards R V Accessories, of Lower Hutt.  “Just bring the cassette down and I’ll even fit it for you but make sure it is clean”, he said.  How is that for service?  It didn’t take him long, either.
DSCF7819 Lex fitting the new part
Our caravan has been parked up outside the house on the grass berm since last weekend, instead of being on  the usual concrete pad in front of the house.  This is so Robin had room to do some maintenance.  He spent some time laying on his back on the grass while re-routing and adding  a protective pipe on the waste hose that empties out from under the caravan.  The hand-basin needed looking at as it was draining slowly, then he also had to fix a kitchen cupboard door.  And having the caravan pulled out on the grass made washing it down so much easier.
DSCF7833 All ready to wash down
We had a little bit of marital discord when it was time to move the caravan off the grass and back to where it usually sits.  Okay, I’ll admit, it was all my fault!  We have a lamp post right beside our driveway, which of course we are well aware of while driving, and/or backing down the drive.  But Robin brushed against the lamp post with the car bumper before I had even noticed!  And I was standing right there to guide him safely past it.  Ooops – was he cross.  Luckily, being made of plastic, the front bumper just popped back into place.  Has he forgiven me?  I hope so. (I suppose so – Robin).

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

An extra long weekend

After spending the three day Labour Weekend at Bridge Lodge, Otaki, it was time to leave.  But we didn’t head home, instead we were invited to spend a night at our friends Geoff and Eileen’s rural property, just a short distance away.  Dot and Derek joined us too, and we just about had a mini rally in the driveway.
DSCF7814 Gypsy Rover and Romany Rambler
After spending a relaxing long lunch hour together, eating, sipping coffee, and chatting, it was time for the guys to get to work.  Derek was doing a little maintenance in his campervan, while Geoff offered Robin a go on the ride-on mower.  Robin was in heaven, riding all around the large lawn, he declared it didn’t feel like work at all.  I’m sure he doesn’t have this much fun cutting our lawns at home.
DSCF7811 He drove this way
DSCF7809 And then that way
Geoff had a much harder job using the motor mower to cut the grass in between the trees and shrubs.
DSCF7813 Geoff with the motor mower
Geoff and Eileen have a large lawn, with many trees of all species, and a grove of fruit trees in a corner of the property.  I noticed a big protea bush, and Eileen kindly let me take several of the large pink flower heads home with me.  This maple growing by the deck was a beautiful glowing red and was just crying out to have it’s photo taken. 
DSCF7817Glorious maple tree in the garden
With the lawns done,Robin and Derek then helped Geoff trim a couple of trees down by the gate.  What busy boys they were.  We enjoyed a nice relaxing evening together, watching a little TV and generally putting the world to rights.  Staying overnight meant that we didn’t have to drive home in the busy long weekend traffic on Monday.  Thanks for your hospitality, we always enjoy staying with you.

Monday, 24 October 2011

After the rugby

Life goes on after the rugby, and the 60th Birthday rally drew to a close.  A bus full of young back-packers arrived in camp on Saturday evening with a trailer full of bicycles towed behind the bus.  The youngsters happily gathered around the the camp fire to unwind, no doubt tired out after spending some time on the bicycles.  They were on the bus again bright and early the next morning, to continue with their adventures.  There were several rather skinny cats in residence so we made sure that our cat Muffy was not outside on her own, in case the resident cats took exception to her.
DSCF7797 Romany Rambler parked by a cabbage tree
Parked next door to us were  Graeme and Heather from the Wairarapa caravan Club.  I found Graeme sitting in his doorway one afternoon making music.  He was playing a ukulele banjo, he told me, and these instruments are not readily available in New Zealand.  Graeme’s barber found this for him while on a holiday in Perth, Australia, and brought it back home for him. 
DSCF7784 Graeme with his ukulele banjo
Further along the camp was a lovely bronze coloured new campervan, only three months old, and was manufactured for the parents by the family company of Freeway Engineering Ltd.   This had a slide-out, which greatly increased the floor space inside.  The proud owners were happy to show us inside.
DSCF7786 Camper with slide-out
DSCF7785 Lots of room inside
Bridge Lodge’s days are  numbered, as the land will be required for a future road development.  The property originally belonged to the Wellington City Mission, and these days offers Back Packer accommodation as well as running as a small motor camp with limited power sites.
PA230393 A few of the 30 vans on site for the weekend
It was great to catch up with old friends from the other clubs again, and to meet some new people.  Sadly, we weren’t lucky with the raffles, and the weather was not conducive to relaxing outside.  Never mind, we had a great weekend helping the Wellington Caravan Club celebrate their 60th Birthday rally. 

Sunday, 23 October 2011

The All Blacks did the job - Rugby World Cup 2011

After 6 long weeks and 40 games, the Rugby World Cup has finally come to an end.  Our happy band of caravanners all  gathered in the hall at Bridge Lodge, Otaki, to watch our team, the mighty All Blacks face the French team in the final game.  At the first bars of our National Anthem, everyone jumped to their feet and sang along with gusto.
DSCF7802 Waiting for the final game to start
The All Blacks started off with their customary haka, which they perform before each game.  The haka is an expression of passion, vigour and identity and focuses the players on the game ahead.  The French team appeared to be not at all intimidated by this display and moved up close to face the All Blacks while they performed.  The All Blacks scored the first try, with the French captain following with one for his side in the second half. The game was bruising, with several members from each team being replaced because of injury.  The French challenged the All Blacks at every opportunity,.  Along with the 60,000 spectators watching the game live in Eden Park Stadium, our group were on the edge of our seats hoping that the All Blacks would prevent the French from scoring as the final minutes ticked slowly by.  The All Black defence held on and the final score was an 8-7 victory.  For Captain Ritchie McCaw, it was the ultimate prize at the end of a tournament in which he dragged his aching body through ruck after ruck, tackle after tackle, to finally claim the elusive Web Ellis Cup for his team, commenting just after the game that he was “absolutely shagged”. 
Figures showed just nearly half the New Zealand population tuned in to watch the Rugby World Cup final, making it the most watched television event ever.
NZ v FranceCaptain Richie McCaw of the All Blacks lifts the Webb Ellis Cup – photo  from Getty Images
The next day Auckland celebrated with a ticker-tape parade, with an estimated 240,000 fans who turned up to catch a glimpse of the All Blacks.   Extra  parades will  follow in Christchurch and Wellington. giving the fans the opportunity to salute their champions.  Further accolades followed at the glittering IRB Awards Dinner, which also celebrated 125 years of the International Rugby Board.  It was a fitting finale to what IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset described as an “exceptional” Rugby World Cup.  The All Blacks were named IRB Team of the Year and their coach Graham Henry IRB Coach of the Year.  Good on you, All Blacks, you did the country proud!

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Celebrating 60 years of caravanning

Thirty or so vans gathered at Bridge Lodge, Otaki, this weekend to join the Wellington Caravan Club in their 60th Anniversary celebrations.  Members from both our club, Heretaunga, and from the Wairarapa Caravan Club were invited, as well as former members of WCC.
Back in 1950 three enthusiastic Wellington businessmen placed an advertisement in the newspaper to see if there was sufficient interest to form a caravan club.  The first rally of 10 vans took place in Kena Kena Motor Camp, Paraparaumu in October 1951.  In these early days, many people started their caravanning adventures in home made vans.  The club grew quickly and the number of members soon out-grew the capacity of Motor Camps, so rallies were held at school grounds.  Entertainment was a big part of the club culture.  Bands were formed, members put on shows, and performed at old peoples homes.  The highest number attending a rally was recorded was in October 1972, with 115 vans in attendance, and 401 people.  The numbers slowly dropped over the years as families grew up, and members moved away or passed on, or their interests changed.  These days the club has a membership of 20 caravans and campers.
DSCF7788It all looks rather tasty
The main event of the weekend was the catered dinner, with place name settings ensuring that all the attending clubs were well mixed up.  We  enjoyed a great meal of roast pork, hot ham carved from the bone, and a good selection of both hot vegetables, cold cuts and salads.  The dessert was yummy too, with the local firm “Raewyn’s” doing the catering. 
DSCF7792 Waiting for our dinner
Speeches were made and it was very fitting that one of the men involved with setting up the club all those years ago was able to talk about his reminiscences of the fun times from those early years.  Then it was time for the cutting of the cake.
DSCF7795 Happy 60th Birthday
I got quite a surprise when I heard my name called out to go up to the front of the hall with another member Marle.  It was announced that we were both celebrating our birthdays this weekend, and we joined in with everyone else singing “Happy Birthday”. 
 PA220390 Bill with the two “birthday girls” singing our hearts out
The after dinner entertainment was the duo Adele and David from Levin, who played all those happy “sing-a-long songs” we all know and love.
DSCF7790 Musical entertainment for the evening
It was a very well run weekend, with President Adele and her helpers doing a wonderful job.  Thanks so much WCC, we really enjoyed ourselves.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Rena on the rocks

Cargo ship Rena started New Zealand's worst environmental crisis when it ran aground on the Astrolabe Reef off Tauranga 15 days ago, spilling oil and containers into the sea.  Up to 350 tonnes of oil and 88 containers have spilled from it, polluting beaches mainly in the Bay of Plenty.  The operation by Svitzer Salvage to transfer the oil to a bunker barge started slowly and was later suspended due to heavy seas, but pumping has now resumed again.  It is hard slow work pumping cold gluggy oil (almost the consistency of tar) the length of two football fields to the barge Awanuia.  The Rena has a large crack through the middle which is slowly getting wider, and hopes are held that the oil can all be removed before the ship breaks apart.  It seems to be firmly wedged on the reef, with the weight of the containers helping to hold it in place.  
Pumping resumes on Rena (Source: ONE News)
Photo courtesy of TV One News
 Salvage and oil recovery operations on Rena
Salvage and oil recovery - photo by John Borren
A Maritime NZ diagram shows how the Rena is grounded on the Astrolabe Reef.
Soldiers from the NZ Army are helping Maritime NZ with efforts to clean Bay of Plenty beaches, with local volunteers coming along to help out too.  More than 4200 people have registered to volunteer, and can help out after training and being issued with equipment and safety gear to protect them from the toxic oil. 

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Zooming in

There are tuis visiting our kowhai tree in the back yard.  They love to feed on the nectar from the hanging yellow kowhai blossoms.  We try to sneak up on the birds with our cameras in hand.  My little pocket sized Fuji Finepix with a lowly 5x zoom is no match for Robin’s Olympus with a 26x zoom, so no prizes for guessing who took these photos.
Tuis appear to be black at a distance, but their feathers are iridescent dark green, with purple and bronze shadings.  They have a ring of fine white feathers which curl around the back of the neck like fine lace.  Their most distinctive feature is the double tuft of white feathers at the throat, the reason the early settlers to New Zealand called them  “Parson Birds”.  Their song ranges from bell like notes, to chuckles, clicks and squeaks and they are known to be good mimics. 
The lawn underneath the tree is covered in yellow as the discarded petals have fallen down.  We have seen a nest in an adjacent tree, so maybe the birds are busy with nesting duties.  A pair usually lay three or four eggs, and are highly territorial, keeping other birds away from their nest sites.  Let’s hope that a  new generation of babies are living in our garden.
PA190372 Petals on the lawn

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Kiwiana Caravan

It was a step back in time when we visited the Taupo Museum last week.  There was an iconic little New Zealand manufactured caravan on display and I was keen to see it.  The museum had the opportunity to purchase this caravan and set it up in the style of the 1950s and 60s.  The manufacturers plaque screwed on to the caravan stated “Anglo Imp, 10ft 6in X 6ft 9in, made in Melville, Hamilton”.
DSCF7735Anglo Imp caravan
Although a bit lacking in the mod cons we take for granted these days, it was well set up and surprisingly roomy inside.  A vintage table cloth lay over the small table which was set with  plastic plates of the era.
DSCF7736 Dining area
The two burner gas hob  would have cooked up many a meal for the family.  Perhaps just a pot of new season’s potatoes and freshly podded peas in the evenings to accompany the BBQ sausages which Dad was cooking outside?  I didn’t notice a fridge but there were plenty of older style kitchen utensils on display.  The knitted tea cosy adds to the home away from home feel.
DSCF7737 Kitchen
The seating area at the back of the caravan had an assortment of magazines and a newspaper from the era.  The striped wool rug would be just the thing to wrap around yourself when the evening cooled down, and the hanging pennants showed all the places the family had visited. .
DSCF7738 Seating area would convert to a bed
And I just loved this – a fine selection of swim suits hanging out to dry after a bracing dip in Lake Taupo.
DSCF7740 Swim suits on the line
This little beauty was the essence of how Kiwis went camping in days gone by.  We camped on the beach, or beside the lake, with a camp table, chairs, and sun umbrella  set up outside.  The kids spent all day frolicking in the water, or playing in the sand dunes, arriving back in camp for meals, tired out from spending the day in the healthy fresh air.  No doubt sun burnt too, we didn’t tend to wear sun hats or use much in the way of sunscreen in those early days.  Mum prepared the meals and Dad cooked on the BBQ.  The kids were in charge of going to the camp kitchen to make the breakfast toast.  Then after the meals were eaten they carried the family’s dishes back to the camp kitchen in a plastic bowl, a tea towel over their arm, to do the last chore of the evening.  Those were the good old days!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

An evening at Waiouru

It was time to leave Maraetai Lake behind and start heading home.  We hit the road and travelled along with Dot and Derek to Lake Taupo – known as the Great Lake.  Lake Taupo lies in a caldera created by a huge volcanic eruption 26,500 years ago.  The eruption ejected a huge amount of material, and caused the surrounding land to collapse and form the caldera.  This eventually filled with water and Lake Taupo was formed.  After a spot of lunch at McDonalds and the use of their free WiFi to upload our latest blog, we had a look around then  parted company with our friends.  They were travelling the Taupo Napier Highway and we were heading down south on State Highway One.  We decided to stop for the night at the Army Museum at Waiouru.  Self contained campers can stay free overnight in the roomy car parks behind the building.  Firstly we were required to let the souvenir shop know we wanted to park up for the evening, who advised that security staff patrol the grounds during the evening.  
 PA150366   All alone in the car park
As we had arrived quite late in the afternoon, there was no time to visit the Waiouru Army Museum.  This houses a permanent collection of historical New Zealand army equipment, photographs and memorabilia, and relates of New Zealand's military involvement in conflict from the Maori Land Wars to the more recent peacekeeping missions in the 21st century.
 Museum Entrance Entry to the museum
There was plenty to look at outside the buildings with various guns and tanks on display, although the cold wind seemed to be blowing straight off the mountains.  Waiouru is situated on the Central Plateau and at 1074 metres above sea level it is always a cold and windy place.
Field Gun
 Tank Guns and tanks displayed outside
Behind the car parks are two Type V Prism road blocks, extremely rare and the last known examples of this type.  These were rescued by the Army Museum as they sat in the path of a new bridge development.  Type V Prism road blocks were first erected in Paremata, Wellington, in 1942, during the expected Japanese invasion scare.  They were made of concrete and poured on site.   After the war years most of the road blocks ended up as land fill or used to stabilise sea walls.
Type V Road Blocks   Rare Type V Prism road blocks
No further travellers joined us in the car park, so we were the only ones staying overnight.  The outside temperature dropped during the night but we were quite cosy tucked up in our caravan.   We noticed the security man come and take a note of our car number plate, and he would have made regular patrols around the buildings and car parks during the night, so we felt quite safe.  This museum is full of interest and we are sure to be back this way before too long to have a good look around.  There is a Cafe on site, and we would qualify for admission into the Museum at senior rates, so that is always a bonus.  The next morning after breakfast we were soon on the road again, driving the final 280km to take us home.  

Friday, 14 October 2011

Whakamaru Dam

What to do on a rainy afternoon at Mangakino?  Perhaps we would check out yet another dam on this hydro system.  We have seen several so far on this trip, and previously didn’t really know much about them at all.  The four of us took a short drive to Whakamaru Dam - the Maori name means “to give shelter to, or safeguard”.  This dam was commissioned in 1956 and is one of several on the Waikato River.
DSCF7712Road on top of Whakamaru Dam on the Waikato River
The heavens opened up but we slogged through the heavy rain down through a steep set of steps to get to the lookout.  This sort of rainfall is not at all good for our cameras, and we had a bit of trouble keeping them dry.
DSCF7730Whakamaru Dam and Powerhouse (2nd Picture through the rain)
By this stage water was dripping off of parkas and running down onto our trousers.  The four of us were sorry sights indeed.  On our way out of the lookout car park Robin spotted something strange by the fence line.  We stopped the car to have a look and this is what we saw.  It was a deer skin hanging over the fence with the head still attached.  Looks like someone has been hunting in the forest, but leaving this skin over the fence seems quite a strange thing to do
DSCF7731 Deer skin on fence
The rain had finally stopped by the time we returned to our camp site.  A group of campers was standing out on the grass and pointing away in the distance – wonder what was catching their interest?  There was a strange looking rainbow over  part of the pine forest plantations that abound in this area.  But instead of the rainbow being the usual half round shape it seemed to be hovering over the top of the trees.  Very strange, and as we watched and snapped a few photos, it faded from view.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Tale of two Lakes

It was a short 27km drive from one side of the lake of Karapiro Lake to the other, leaving the Motor Camp behind to freedom camp at Moana Roa Reserve.  We were awaiting the arrival of Dot and Derek who were driving down to join us from Auckland behind the wheels of their new  motor home, Gypsy Rover.  We had arranged to overnight together here at the Moana Roa Reserve.
DSCF7695 Moana Roa Reserve
It wasn‘t too long before they arrived and we set up our vans looking out over Lake Karapiro, several miles south and from where we had camped the previous night.  It was rather wet underfoot, but the setting was wonderfully tranquil.  There was a lot of catching up to do, as their motor home had only recently arrived in New Zealand, and this was the first time we had seen it.
DSCF7692 Lake Karapiro
We dined together in the new acquisition, and raised our glasses in a toast to welcome our friends and their motor home back to New Zealand.  We are sure to have many happy miles travelling around together.
DSCF7697 Cheers!
It rained and rained all night, making the ground even more slushy than the night before, but the next day was a beautiful morning.  We saw rowers out on a training run on the lake.  There wasn’t much packing up to do, driving through the huge Kinleith Pine Forest, and we were soon on our way for our next stop at Mangakino, .  We had stopped here previously for lunch on our way north, and decided it would be a good place to stay overnight.  There were several others enjoying this site as well.
DSCF7734Lake Maraetai
The 16 ton paddle boat Otunui (built 1907) was hauled out and sitting on top of a double trailer on the grass, waiting to be painted, but the wet weather during the week prevented this.  Quite a crowd watched as the boat was slowly backed down the boat ramp into the lake.
DSCF7714 On the grass
DSCF7715 There she goes
DSCF7719Back on the lake
PA130357The paddle wheel turning
The town of Mangakino originated in 1945 when the government leased a block of land from the local Maori tribe to build a service town.  This became the base for the construction of dams and power stations along part of the Waikato River.  Maraetai 1 Powerhouse was commissioned in 1952, followed by Maraetai 2 in 1970, although both are regarded as a single unit and is the biggest in the Waikato system.  All powerhouses on the Waikato River are remotely operated from the control room in Hamilton, which monitors and controls the output of each station on the river.