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

Friday, 31 August 2012

A Walk on the Wild Side – Part 2

It had been some years since we last visited Wellington Zoo, and there had been many changes made, and areas still under construction.  At the “Wild Theatre” the keepers arrange twice daily talks on different animals – we were between sessions so just walked on, arriving at “The Roost”.  This was another new addition since our last visit.  The incubation room was full of eggs being kept warm and carefully watched over.  Chicks are hand reared, and the staff are careful that they develop only bird behaviours and do not grow up thinking they are human.

DSCF2620 DSCF2617
Lucky for us that the popular red pandas are  active in the afternoon as we were quite keen to catch a glimpse of these pretty little animals.  The red panda was first discovered by Western explorers in 1821, and their Chinese name is “hunho”, meaning fire-fox, due to their colouring and similar size to a fox.  These little animals were real crowd pleasers as they climbed in the trees and walked a circuit around the pathways.

DSCF2632 Red Panda

Two male lions were quite happy sunning themselves on the warm rocks.  Oh, what a life, sooner or later dinner will be delivered.

P8297502 Two big cats

The male baboon was not quite so laid back as we stopped outside his enclosure to check out the family group.  He came running down the hill, raced up to the fence as he muttered and snarled at the onlookers, gave the fence a mighty thump, then raced away again.  Wonder how many times a day he does that?  Guess he doesn’t like all the nosy humans looking through the fence.

DSCF2646 Male baboon

Ostriches and giraffes were sharing another enclosure.  While the birds had their heads down at ground level fossicking around for goodies to eat, the giraffes were enjoying nibbling from their high feeders piled up with leafy twigs.  Giraffes can spend up to 20 hours a day feeding when they can eat up to 66kg of food. 
 DSCF2643Giraffes – standing tall

There is a troop of 13 chimpanzees at the zoo, and Malika, the youngest, was born in 2010.  The chimps were enjoying themselves in the sunshine just hanging out together.  Chimps first arrived at the zoo from London Zoo, and these young chimps used to participate in the very popular Chimpanzee Tea Parties.  I can remember taking my young children along, joining the crowds of people who loved to see the chimps performing.  Zoos are run with much different guidelines these days, with the emphasis on normal animal behaviour.  

DSCF2654 A lazy chimp afternoon

We wandered past the kangaroos and wallabies, the meercats and porcupines, and made our way to “The Tuck-Shop”, which was the Elephant House many years ago.  Time for an ice-cream and a sit down, we decided.
DSCF2622   The Tuck Shop, formerly the Elephant House

“The Nest” is yet another new complex built since our last visit.  The veterinary team have all the top of the range equipment needed to give the best of care to all the animals.  The two main surgical rooms have large viewing windows and visitors are encouraged to watch procedures taking place, and the vets give a running commentary and invite questions.  We saw a white faced heron having an x-ray, to try and determine what the problem was.  Pacific Radiology have very generously donated all the zoo’s x-ray equipment.  

DSCF2657 Vets at work

Last stop was to look at the the otters.  The Asian small clawed otters are the smallest of the otter species.  Their streamlined, sinuous bodies make them marvellous aquatic hunters, and they enjoy a bit of rough and tumble as they play together in their enclosure.  Clyde the otter caused an uproar in 1999 when he escaped from the zoo, and he was found hiding in a household property nearby.  Escape artist Clyde was later moved to Mogo Zoo in Australia.

P8297521 Asian small clawed otters

We stopped for a chat at the zoo shop on the way out to find out how successful the $5 Wednesday promotion had been.  The staff were over the moon, they told us, and 3000 people had come through the gates that particular day.  We reckon that 95% of them were young mothers with toddlers in pushchairs, and pre-schoolers, they were everywhere.  It just goes to show what a combination of nice fine weather and dropping the prices will do – it certainly gets people out and about.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

A Walk on the Wild Side – Part 1

Wellington Zoo was offering a special deal of $5 entry each Wednesday during August.  A pleasant way to spend the day, we thought, so we made a picnic lunch and drove into the city.  Seems like most of Wellington had the same idea.  Not only were parking spaces almost non existent, (we finally squeezed into a park right up the top of a steep hill), but the queue snaked out the zoo entrance doorway and away down by Newtown Park.

DSCF2598 Almost there – just join the queue

Several of the zoo staff had animals in their arms to show to those waiting in the line.  The keeper holding Abel Tasman, the Norwegian rat, wanted us to pet him.  No way – I hate rats and their horrible bare tails.  “Take him away”, I said, “what are you doing terrorising old ladies with your rat?”   The keeper wasn’t offended, there were plenty of little boys in the queue who were only too happy to pet her rat.  Also on show was a blue tongued skink and a water dragon.

DSCF2603 Keep that rat away from me!

Just past the entrance were the kunekune pigs, now that is more my kind of animal, I can’t walk past a pig!  The kunekune is a small New Zealand breed of domestic pig,  their dumpy build is covered in coarse hair, and they can have wattles hanging from their lower jaw.  The kunekune is believed to have descended from an Asian domestic breed introduced to New Zealand in the early 19th century by whalers or traders. The Maori name means “fat and round”. 

DSCF2604 Kunekune lazing in the sunshine

The gibbon enclosure was next, and there was one getting ready to face his busy day, snoozing the morning away in a hammock.  No doubt he had already eaten his breakfast and needed a bit of “chill out time” before he met up with the public.

P8297482 Gibbon in a hammock

The cute little squirrel monkeys were like quicksilver, running, jumping, climbing all over each other.  Rather like a bunch of hyper-active kids.

P8297485Young squirrel monkeys
Another bunch of cuties were the Emperor Tamarins.  These are named after German Emperor Wilhelm 11, who sported a big moustache, just like the little tamarins.

P8297493 Emperor Tamarin and baby

The black and white ruffed lemurs are from Madagascar and we love to see them on TV walking with their rather grand tails held high.  They like to sleep during the day and go out foraging at dusk.  They looked rather like a big black and white pussy cat all curled up fast asleep on a nice warm rock, so we never got to see the lovely long tail.

P8297489 Black and white ruffed lemur

Lunch time had rolled around so we found a spare place on the end of a crowded picnic table to sit and enjoy our lunch.  Yum, home made bacon and egg pie, that was tasty.  Once rested and revived, we set off up the hill to catch up with the larger animals.  More about this tomorrow.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Our Old Girl is all Tuckered Out

Muffy has had a big day today, it was time for her annual vet check.  She is not too upset with going in the carry cage, and having a little car ride into town.  But once we arrived, the vet was running late with his appointments and the waiting room was full of dogs.  We sat down on the bench seat with a dog on either side of us.  Robin had Muffy’s cage perched on his knees to get her away from inquisitive noses.  Each time the door opened, yet another dog dragged his owner into the waiting room, sighted Muffy, and wanted to rush over to say hello. 

After a long wait, we were finally ushered in to the consulting room.  Muffy was lifted out of her cage and placed on top of the table.  As he ran his hands over her body and checked her limbs for movement, he kept asking questions.  How was her appetite, her habits, any stiffness, can she still jump up?  The only thing we had noticed is that she is certainly feeling the cold these days, and likes to keep us in her sight.  In fact, she becomes quite distressed when she can’t find us.  The vet declared Muffy fit and well and said she was doing as well as expected at the grand old age of 16 1/2, then gave her the annual inoculation.  All that was left was to pay the bill.  Why does it always cost more to take your pet to the vet, than your own visit to the doctor?  Probably because doctors visits are subsidised by the government.

We were soon back home and Muffy told us in no uncertain terms that she wanted the gas fire turned on in the lounge.  When we had done her bidding she spent the afternoon curled up asleep on the carpet.  The warmth from the fire is just the thing to sooth her old bones and shattered nerves after a trying morning at the vet’s.

DSCF2597 Muffy resting after her trying morning

Friday, 24 August 2012

Pensioner Picnic at Henley Lake

Caravan Club business took us over the Rimutaka Hill yesterday as we needed to check out a couple of motor camps for up-coming rallies.  It was fine and sunny when we started our drive but we were soon enveloped in cloud at the top of the hill.  This road is well known for it’s twists and turns and the thick cloud ensured everyone was driving slow and steady.

DSCF2547 It’s hard to see in these conditions

Once out of the cloud cover, it was sunshine all the way, although we could see evidence of heavy rainfall with flooding in the paddocks.  Our caravan club business took a little time to resolve, and then we headed to Henley Lake for lunch.  Packing a picnic seemed a sensible idea for this pair of pensioners, and we ate our lunch, washed down with hot coffee, while we gazed out at the many varieties of water fowl which call this lake home.

DSCF2556 Birds at Henley Lake

DSCF2554Snoozing in the sunshine

The heavy rain had raised the lake level so much that the lakeside boardwalk was under water. A group of brown teal ducks were taking advantage of the edge of the submerged board walk to perch on as they gazed across the lake, no doubt thinking of their next meal. 

DSCF2557 Walk way is under water

DSCF2551 Brown teal

A car pulled up beside us and we watched as an elderly man prepared his boat for a sail.  It was a Canterbury J Class, radio controlled boat, he proudly told me, and he belongs to a group who regularly come down to the lake to sail their boats.

DSCF2560 Messing about with his boat

It was great to see so many people making use of this wonderful facility.  Many were like us, just sitting in their cars and admiring the lake views and the plentiful bird life.  Others were enjoying a brisk walk around the lake in the chilly breeze, although the ground was very sodden, we noticed.   After a long, leisurely lunch we headed off for home, and the low cloud had long gone from the top of Rimutaka Hill.  Oh look, here’s the welcome sign, we’re almost home.

DSCF2562 Welcome to Upper Hutt

Thursday, 23 August 2012

A bit under the weather

It was time to visit the doctor.  My sore throat wasn’t going away after hanging around for the last 6 weeks or so, and now Robin was coughing and spluttering too.  As usual in cases like this, the cough is always many times worse at night.  The pair of us were keeping each other awake with coughing fits and getting up to have sips of water during the night to ease the sore throats.  And you can just imagine what all that extra liquid was doing to us.  So we made a double appointment and trotted off to the doctor’s surgery.

Our doctor told us that there was a lot of this going around, a viral throat infection, and it generally lasted about 3 months.  Three months – that’s a bit much we thought.  The virus changes slightly as it moves back and forth, we were told, so we get re-infected, as does anyone else we cough over.  Seems I was suffering a bit more than Robin, as I had a raised temperature and he could see that my throat was very red and sore. (Robin’s temp was normal).  Stay away from those expensive cough medicines and throat lozenges, he advised, you are better off with your granny’s remedies.  Honey and lemon drinks to sip, and salty water to gargle will do the trick, he said, and don’t forget to drink plenty of water.

I was worrying that I might have picked up a “strep throat”.  Most unlikely, Doctor Andrew said, but to put my mind at rest he took a throat swab.  I was really pleased with his manner and the fact that he did everything possible to put my mind at rest, without pooh-poohing  my worries
So here we are, sipping hot lemon and honey drinks and popping Panadol pills to ease the headaches.  Gargling salty water several  times a day is more of a challenge.  Robin  has no problems doing this and delights in making as much noise as he can.  I’m doing my best, but there is no way my gargling will match his more macho version, and I sometimes my salty water has been known to dribble down my clothes, not a pretty sight at all!  Oh dear. how many more weeks to go?

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

We all need a helping hand sometimes

It’s fair to say that Robin is a very keen Four Wheel driver, always ready to hook up and drag some poor unfortunate car driver out of a sticky situation.  But we were the ones needing a helping hand this time.  We spent five days with family on their small holding.  The rain kept falling, the grounds were saturated and the whole area was one big mud bath.  No such niceties as concrete paths or a gravel driveway where we were staying.  The only thing on offer was mud and well churned up pasture. 

On the morning of our departure Robin admitted that our 4WD just wouldn’t get traction to tow the caravan off site and conceded defeat.  Son-in-law Robert was only too pleased to get out his large 4WD tractor and help us out of a sticky situation.  What is it with men and their big machines?  He backed his tractor up to the front of our caravan – but there was a problem.  The tow ball on the tractor was about 15in higher than the coupling on the caravan.  What happens now?

DSCF2531 The tow couplings don’t meet up

Easy – Robert checked out his wood pile and came back with a big log.  This was placed under the draw bar for support.    Winding the jockey wheel up other various lengths of timber were slotted here and there.  Thank goodness, the connection is made.

DSCF2532 Fixing the problem, country style

Robert climbed into the cab of his tractor, gave the accelerator a few revs, and our caravan was slowly pulled free of the sticky mud.

DSCF2535Here it comes

DSCF2539Safely out of the mud bath

Then it was just a matter of reversing all the steps, keeping the draw bar support while the coupling was wound back down.  I don’t know which of the two fellows had the most fun!  

With our car hitched up to the caravan it was time to go.  One last thing to do, and that was to move our cat Muffy from the caravan, and hook her lead up in the back seat of the car.  With all the movement and loud noises going on, I expected her to be rather agitated.  But no – on opening the caravan door there she was, she wasn’t running around demanding to be let out.  She was still curled up fast asleep on the couch, and blissfully unaware of all the drama that had been unfolding.

DSCF2540 Muffy slept through all the action

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Checking out Palmy

The city of Palmerston North, known to the locals as “Palmy” is a half hour drive from our rural weekend stop-over at Kiwitea.  Situated on the banks of the Manawatu River and nestled at the foot of the impressive Tararua Mountain Range, this is a vibrant city of about 80,000.  The city was first named Palmerston, in honour of Viscount Palmerston, a former Prime Minister of Great Britain. The suffix North was added in 1871 by the Post Office to distinguish the settlement from Palmerston in the South Island, though locals still widely refer to the city simply as Palmerston or "Palmy".

We took a walk through The Square, a seven-hectare park of lawn, trees, lakes, fountains, and gardens in the centre of the city.   The War Memorial was dedicated to those who perished in WW1.  The bronze figure represents the mothers of the fallen as she looks in grief to where her sons lie dead in foreign soil.  She carries a wreath in remembrance and the New Zealand Ensign in  triumph.

DSCF2522 Palmerston North and Districts Soldiers Memorial

The Butterfly Lake was officially opened in 1909 and wild fowl were released.  The pretty little bridge is the fourth to cross the lake, and the water jets were installed  in 1960.  We crossed over the bridge and gazed down at the tranquil scene of ducks paddling around in the lake as water bubbled from the small fountains. 
DSCF2527 Butterfly Lake with ducks and small fountains

A handsome white marble statue dedicated to the memory of Te Peeti Te Awe Awe, chief of the Rangitane tribe (1820-1884) also stands in the square.  He was instrumental in the sale of Palmerston North district to the government in 1865, and served with the government forces during the Maori Wars.  He was presented with a sword and Union Jack in recognition of his services.
DSCF2528Te Peeti Te Awe Awe

On the way back to Kiwitea we stopped at a rather plain memorial on the roadside just outside Cheltenham.  We must have passed this concrete plinth hundreds of times and had no idea what it was.  Today was the day to find out what it was all about, and I carefully jumped over a wide ditch filled to the brim with rain water to get close enough to read the sign..  The Historic Places Trust brass plaque is very weathered and relates that the first aeroplane to land in Feilding touched down on this site in 1920.  The Manawatu Aero Club was formed in 1928 and their planes used this site for many years.  The concrete plinth was the base for both the fuel tank and the pole on which the wind sock was flown.

DSCF2454 Memorial to the first air field in Feilding

It is amazing how much history is dotted about in these little towns  - there is always something new to discover.  

Monday, 20 August 2012

50 years young

Turning 50 is certainly an achievement and we are spending several days helping son-in-law Robert celebrate.  Our caravan is parked on a sea of mud on the family’s small holding, with the squelchy stuff getting everywhere and oozing up through our rubber mats laid outside.  And of course some of the mud is getting inside too, but hopefully staying on the old washable mat which we keep just inside the door.  It was so muddy that Robin had to buy a pair of gum boots (known as wellies for those in the Northern Hemisphere).  Young Bounce the pup decided that these were a new toy just for him and took off with the mud covered gum boots while Robin wasn’t looking.  Such is life down at the farm!

DSCF2495Parked in the mud

Robert decided that he really needed two nights out to properly celebrate turning 50.  Six of us drove up to Hansen’s Cafe a few miles up the road at Kimbolton of Friday evening.  A cosy fire was burning in the huge fireplace, to keep the chills away. 

DSCF2468 Large fire place at Hansen’s Cafe

The food was delicious and our choices ranged from steak, prawns, and chicken with Heather having the vegetarian option.  Mud cake and ice-cream sundaes finished our meals off nicely.

DSCF2466 Hansen’s Cafe, Kimbolton

A group of 20 met at Bethany’s Restaurant in Palmerston North on Saturday night.  It was quite moving to read on the menu that the restaurant is so named in memory of the owners young daughter who passed away from cancer at the age of twelve a few years ago.  Bethany’s Restaurant was quite upmarket and the food was wonderful.  Most of us decided against choosing a dessert to finish as the starters sounded so nice.  I had seared scallops for a starter, beautifully presented and oh so tasty.  Robin and I chose the same mains of roasted belly pork.  The servings were so generous we couldn’t do it justice and asked for a “doggy bag” to take the rest of the delicious tender pork home with us.  We certainly weren’t letting it go to waste and I’m sure it will be just as delicious made into a pork sandwich one lunchtime
DSCF2521 Huge servings of pork.

DSCF2514Birthday boy Robert with his siblings

DSCF2506Grand-daughter Emma and daughter Nicky

We were really impressed with  this restaurant.  Having a large group of 20 diners was no trouble to the staff at all.  The food was divine, and the service was excellent, we can certainly recommend Bethany’s of Palmerston North. 

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Pony Club for Grown-ups

When we think of a pony club, we tend to think of youngsters owning their first horse getting to grips with learning how to ride and jump.  “Saddle Up” in the Manawatu caters for three scenarios.  Adults – those who may have ridden when children and since have forgotten all their riding skills, or perhaps adults who have never been on a horse before.  Grand-daughter Megan and her dad Robert were in the third category,  experienced riders who want to school a young green horse.  But first a new girth  and bridle had to be purchased, as none of the existing tack was small enough for the Welsh pony.  It’s an expensive business, outfitting horses.

DSCF2453  Looking for the correct size girth

A group of assorted riders gathered together to put the horses through their paces, and we were invited to come along and take “horsey” photos of Megan and her new Welsh pony Speight’s Gold.

DSCF2471 Saddle Up riding group

Speight’s Gold was reluctant to tackle any of the low jumps to start with, and balked time and again.  But with some gentle encouragement Megan soon had him jumping for the first time.

DSCF2479Will he or won’t he go over the hurdle?

DSCF2488Megan with Speight’s Gold

Son-in-law Robert’s young horse Bella was also new to the niceties of show rings and jumping, but also performed very well.  This was the first time that these two young horses had been in a horse truck or tackled any jumps, so it was a day full of new experiences for them. 

DSCF2484 Robert on Bella

Meanwhile, back on the farm, Henny Penny the chook was keeping young pup Bounce in line.  Henny Penny thinks she is the alpha animal on the property and tolerates no disrespect from the other animals, including the horses.

DSCF2424 Henny Penny and Bounce

Spring must be in the air and the new lambs are starting to arrive and are just gorgeous.  So far a set of twins has joined the single birth, with more lambs due any day. 

DSCF2470 Spring lambs

Friday, 17 August 2012

Curly Potatoe Sticks at the Market

It looks like our extended weekend visit to the family in Kiwitea will be rather wet, it hasn’t stopped raining since our arrival yesterday afternoon.  Perhaps a Friday morning visit to the Feilding Farmers Market will take us away from the mud underfoot which surrounds our caravan parked up on the farm?  Who knows what bargains we may find?  There was something for everyone, local lamb packaged up, vegetable stalls, cakes and biscuits – and what’s this, curly potatoe sticks.  That’s something we hadn’t seen before.  We spoke to a happy customer munching away and asked her opinion.  She was so impressed with her purchase that she gave us a taste to try for ourselves.  That did it – we really need to buy one of those.

Back we went to the stall and watched as the pototoe as prepared.  It was poked through with a skewer,  the machine was turned on, and voilla!  One potatoe cut into a spiral, dipped in batter and then all ready to cook in the hot fat.

DSCF2443 Preparing the potatoe

We waited patiently as Gerry kept turning the potatoe sticks, one for us and one for another customer behind us in the queue.  Another prospective customer came up to the stall to see what was going on.  “I want one of those”, she declared, “and I want it NOW!”.  She will have to wait, we were first in line.  Out came the spirals, on went a shake of salt, and there we were, all ready for our tasty treat.  And the verdict?  Just delicious – next time we will get one each.  Take our word for it, these are worth a visit to the market even if you don’t buy another thing.

DSCF2448 Hope he remembers to share

Robin is a bit of a honey connoisseur so spent a little time checking out the stall selling local honey.  With his mind made up, a large pot of Bush Blend honey changed hands and he is sure of honey on his breakfast toast now.  

DSCF2442I think I’ll take this one

Feilding is an attractive little town and very proud of it’s farming roots.  This busy country town was named after Colonel William Feilding who purchased land in the 1870s on behalf of the Emigrants and Colonists Aid Corp.  The layout of the town was modelled on the city of Manchester, with two central squares.  The handsome town clock tower looks over the market square.

DSCF2450 Feilding clock tower

A statue commemorating the early farmers who settled the land stands at the northern end of town.  The plaque reads:

“Erected as grateful tribute to the shepherds, stockmen and drovers and all who have worked with the land and who for over a century have been the lifeblood of Feilding”.

DSCF2440 Commemorating the stockmen of Feilding