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

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Free Range and Loving it

Happy chickens are free range chickens, don’t you think?.  It was time for a visit to the “Big Egg” again to get some more free range eggs and we met up with lots of the resident chooks out enjoying the sunshine.  Though to be quite truthful, I was more enamoured with all the free rangers than Robin.  He was despatched into the shop to do the business deal, while I went over to the fence to take a few chooky photos.

DSCF6170 Free Range chooks at the Big Egg

Some of the girls came rushing over to see me – perhaps they thought I had some extra food for them? 

DSCF6173 Cluck, cluck, any food?

The others were indulging in chooky activities, pecking at the grass, flapping about in the dust bowl, or just settled down enjoying the warmth outside.  With nice conditions like this that allows them to spend their days going about their business as every chook should, they must be happy indeed.  And we have got some more tasty fresh free range eggs – bacon and eggs for breakfast perhaps?  Or maybe I'll use some of those eggs doing some home baking? 

Monday, 29 July 2013

Recent trip to Taupo and Hastings

The following is a map of our recent trip to Taupo so that Jenny could get her quilt fix at the recent symposium and then over the Napier-Taupo road to Hastings to visit Jenny’s sister Kathleen and family.

Quilt Symposium and Hastings0001

We were accompanied on this trip by our friends Geoff and Eileen who by the time we reached Hastings were both ill with a very nasty stomach bug, and were not very happy campers.  I think they were happy to get home. Not a very enjoyable trip for them.

We stayed at a couple of delightful places, The National Equestrian Centre at Taupo and a private POP in Hastings. Both places were not at their best it being winter but come spring and summer they would be both very pretty places in their own way.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Homeward Bound

Jack Frost had visited the apple orchard last night and painted everything an icy shade of white.  No wonder the temperatures dropped dramatically overnight.  The electric blankets got turned on to “low” in the early hours of the morning to keep our tootsies warm.  Now that our cat Muffy is getting on in years she seems to feel the cold a lot more.  So she crawled under the blankets and cuddled up pretending to be a furry hot water bottle. 

Our time in sunny Hastings had come to an end – it was time to go home.  Driving southwards we saw glimpses of the snowy ranges in the distance which we had gazed out at from the top of Te Mata Peak the previous day. 

DSCF6154 Grape vines in front of snow capped mountain range on the Takapau Plains

The skies clouded over the further south we drove.  From Woodville we drove through the Manawatu Gorge, not my favourite piece of road at all as it is prone to slips.  In 2011 the gorge was closed after several massive landslips and didn’t reopen until August 2012.  The Manawatu Gorge (Te Apiti, meaning 'The Narrow Passage') runs between the Ruahine and Tararua Ranges,  linking the Manawatu and Hawke's Bay regions.   The wind turbines were visible on the hill tops when we first entered the gorge road,  turning slowly as they changed the wind power into electricity for the national grid.

DSCF6157 Wind turbines at the entrance to the Manawatu Gorge

Safely through that dastardly piece of road, I breathed a sigh of relief.  It doesn’t seem to bother Robin at all, but it has always been a bit of a worry to me.  Then it was an easy travelling the rest of the way  home to Levin.   We wondered what we would find at home, after some reasonably strong earthquakes.  We hadn’t got around to securing our tall timber display unit to the wall – was it still standing or had it crashed and fallen?  Luckily there was no damage at all, but it is always a worry living in an earthquake prone country.  New Zealand is not called The Shaky Isles for nothing!  We unpacked the caravan, washed out the fridge, cleaned the bathroom, and carried in a huge bag of laundry – I’ll deal with that in the morning.

Our elderly next door neighbour had been waiting all day for her furniture to arrive from storage.  She had several friends waiting there to help her with unloading,  and they waited, and waited.  The large truck finally arrived in the dark.  Tire blow-out, we overheard – no wonder it was hours late.  We could hear bumps and noises coming through from outside as the furniture was finally unloaded.  Oh dear, the driver will be glad to get home at the end of his long day.

Friday, 26 July 2013

View from the Top – Te Mata Peak

Up, up a narrow road we drove, climbing high up to Te Mata Peak.  Don’t look over the edge, I told myself, it’s a long way down.  And let’s hope that upcoming traffic is keeping to their side of the narrow road.  Te Mata Park of 242 acres was purchased from the Crown by John Chambers in 1854, and was gifted to the people of Hawkes Bay by his sons in 1927.  We were surprised at just how many cars, people, children and the odd dog  were already up there.   Mind you, it was the school holidays, and the weather was glorious and sunny, without a breath of wind.  Swarms of midges outnumbered the people a hundred to one and buzzed around our heads, but luckily they were not the biting kind.

DSCF6144That's us on the Trig Station on top at Te Mata Peak

The 360 degree views from the top were glorious.  Directly in front was Hastings City with the streets set out in grid formation.

P7268081 Hastings City

P7268080Rolling hills with snow capped mountain ranges in the background

P7268078 A view of Hawkes Bay, looking towards the Mahia Peninsula

The legend of Te Mata Peak goes like this:  the hill is the body of the chief Rongokako, the ancestor of all the iwi of Ngati Kuhungunu.  Although a fierce warrior, he decided against attacking the Heretaunga people when he saw the beauty of the chief’s daughter.  To prove his worthiness, Rongokako was given a series of difficult tasks to perform.  He completed them all except the last, which was to eat his way through the hill.  Looking towards the Peak from Hastings, the huge bite that choked Rongokako can be seen.  The outline of his body forms the skyline.

Robin was keen to supplement his honey supply so a visit to Arataki Honey was on the plan for today.  A little bit of a honey tasting trial ensured he chose his absolute favourite flavour to spread on his toast – rewarewa honey this time.  Plus a cheaper more ordinary clover honey to be used in cooking, I was told firmly, so that I don’t use up his favourite flavour when I cook honey roasted yams next time.  

DSCF6139 Rewarewa and clover honey

A visit to Hastings is not complete without calling in to Rush Munro’s ice-cream parlour.  This Kiwi institution started in 1926 when Frederick Charles Rush Munro and his wife Catherine arrived in Hawkes Bay from England.  A confectioner by trade, he set up shop and began to make sweets.  Later the range included 100% real fruit ice creams, fruit drinks and chocolates, all made to his own recipes.  The business was sold in 1949, but the tradition remains.  We sat outside in the garden area enjoying our ice-cream cones, honey and ginger for her, and two scoops for him, rum and raisin  and passionfruit.  A delicious way to finish off our day in Hastings.

DSCF6146 Finishing off our day with a Rush Munro’s ice-cream

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Camping in the Orchard

We are presently camping in an orchard in Hastings, and very pleasant it is too.  Most of the apples are long gone from the trees, picked, packed, and sent away to the cool stores.  But there are a few left on the trees, and our hosts Dick and Ellie invited us to go over to the orchard pick some Pacific Rose apples.  So we did, some for us, and some for Geoff and Eileen.  There are plenty of windfalls underfoot, no doubt the birds and hedgehogs have been feasting on them.

DSCF6123 Robin picking apples

The owners of the orchard have a great set-up for campers,  with power, water, an ablution block, plus a washing machine and clothes drier.  There is a comfy lounge available, and we were invited to join them there  there for 4zees.  They told us that the orchard was started in 1904, and was one of the earliest orchards planted in Hastings.  A cheeky little gnome lives in a hole in a large walnut tree and keeps an eye on the comings and goings of the guests.

DSCF6120 Resident gnome in the walnut tree
 DSCF6121 In camp, with apples trees behind us

Poor Geoff hasn’t been feeling very well the last day or two, so our travelling companions  took things easy today while we went out and visited the relies.  Eileen declared he was suffering from “Man Flu”.

DSCF6122 Geoff is feeling poorly

He perked up considerably when Eileen produced a batch of cheese scones for morning tea.  They were delicious, thanks very much.

DSCF6125 Cheese scones for morning tea

We have no complaints about the weather in Hastings, it has been a lovely warm sunny day.  However, we may well be in for a frost overnight though, with such calm conditions, but that doesn’t matter when a beautiful day follows.


Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Taupo to Hastings today

We woke to yet another foggy morning at our camp site at the Equestrian Centre at Taupo – that’s three in a row.  We packed up in the drizzly fog, and tracked down the camp manager so that we could pay our fees before we departed.  It was time to move on to Hawkes Bay for the next couple of days.  There is plenty of thermal activity in Taupo with the accompanying smell of sulphur and  we drove past steam rising from fissures in the ground. 

DSCF6104 Steam coming up from holes in the ground

Our route today was along State Highway 5, the Napier to Taupo Road, through farmland with sheep and cattle grazing in road side paddocks.  The road continued on through pine forests and native bush as we drove through wet foggy conditions with the windscreen wipers going flat out, and the head lights on full.  Heavily laden trucks roared towards us out of the fog, and we hoped they would stay on their own side of the road. 

DSCF6105 It’s hard to see in this weather

The fog cleared away by the time we pulled into a rest area for a lunch stop, about half way along the Napier-Taupo Road.  Geoff had stopped here before and knew there was something special to see.  And there it was, the Waipunga Falls, a  40m segmented waterfall featuring three parallel columns cascading down the rock face.  Such a pretty place to stop for lunch, just a pity other motorists had left such a lot of litter behind all over the ground in the car park.

P7248075 Waipunga Falls on SH5

DSCF6112 Lunch stop at the Waipunga Falls Lookout

Fed and watered, we continued on our journey.  We saw glimpses of snow covered mountains away in the distance.

DSCF6116 Kaiweka Ranges

After a journey of about three hours we were almost at our destination, but our trusty Garmin got confused.  “Take the first exit off the round-about”, it told us, so we did.  No, that wasn’t right, as far as the GPS system was concerned that road didn’t exist,  and it thought we were in the middle of farmland.  Seems the the road was new and our system  had not been updated.  So we did a U-Turn, went back to the round-about, and found the correct road. 

We had booked a couple of sites in an orchard for the next few nights, and were warmly welcomed by the owner.  He had been busy topping a couple of very large walnut trees, he told us, to let more sunshine onto the camp sites.   After a reviving cuppa we set off to find a Laundromat.  Five days away and both caravans had large bags of laundry to do – just as easy for us each to put the whole lot through a commercial washer and dryer and get it out of the way.  I was surprised how busy the Laundromat was in the late afternoon, it was full of customers, their children, and various hangers-on.  Darkness had fallen by the time our laundry duties were over, and we trudged back to our caravans.  It will be an early night for us tonight, I think.

DSCF6118 Homeward bound with the laundry

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Lunch at the Prawn Park

That’s another thing ticked off our Bucket List, lunch at the Huka Prawn Park, in Taupo.    Huka Prawn Park was founded in 1987 by Aquatech Farms Ltd and is New Zealand’s only Prawn Park.  Giant Malaysian River Prawns  were chosen as being best for commercial production, and are bred and grown in captivity using waste geothermal heat from the geothermal power station next door.  The  females spawn up to five times per year; and a 50-gram female can produce up to 50.000 eggs. They grow very fast and are ready to harvest at 8 months of age.

DSCF6090This way for lunch

We were shown to a table by the windows, and sat down to check out the menu.  I was having prawns, no doubt about that!  Choices made, we sat back to wait while the busy kitchen produced our orders.
DSCF6095 Ready and waiting

Robin and Geoff had herb and beer battered fish with salad and fries, and it looked delicious.  I enjoyed my crispy battered prawns and salad, and Eileen had prawn chowder, with a whole prawn on the side.

DSCF6099Off with his head!

The restaurant was quite full and large platters of steamed whole prawns were delivered to those diners with very deep pockets.  I was very interested too, except for the price.  Never mind, I really enjoyed my smaller battered prawns.  Out the window we watched as the Huka Falls Jet was put through it’s paces, doing a tight “Hamilton Turn” as it went on it’s way with a boatful of customers.

DSCF6096 Huka Falls Jet Boat

Lunch over, it was back to our campsite.  The men were firmly told that after such a big meal for lunch, they would only be getting a snack meal in the evening.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Out and Around Taupo

Fog enveloped us at the Equestrian Centre in Taupo this morning – everything had that slightly smudged look.  It was hard to see several feet in front of us.   In fact, fog covered quite a bit of the country this morning, with Auckland Airport being particularly affected.  About 70 regional flights were unable to land or take off after fog blanketed the airport from early in the morning.

DSCF5959 A foggy Taupo morning

The fog cleared and we drove into bustling Taupo.  My morning was spent at the Great Lakes Centre checking out the large number of beautiful quilts on display, while Robin decided to tour the car yards, admiring this one, that one, and maybe that other one over there.  A brand new car would be great – but what about the funds?  We’ll just keep buying the Lotto tickets, I think.  Driving back to camp we stopped at Aratiatia Rapids.  Water is released down the rapids several times a day, but we were too late to see the afternoon surge.  It looked lovely and peaceful, but we could see from the wet rocks just how high the water had been.

P7228069 Aratiatia Rapids in a reflective mood

Taupo is a geothermal area and we could see quite a head of steam away in the distance.  Let’s find out if we can get closer, we thought.  Down a country road we drove, stopping at a barred gate.  No unauthorised access, the sign stated, and the area is under 24 hour surveillance.  We were at the site of the Rotokawa Power Station.  Luckily, no guards in full riot gear charged out of the gates to chase us away. 
P7228071 Rotokawa Steam Field

It was just a short drive back to our camp site at the Equestrian Centre.  This is situated 8kms northeast of Taupo on 73 hectares of land, and has three all-weather arenas, four polo-cross fields and a cross country course with 250 obstacles.  Each year the Centre hosts 120 days of local, national and international equestrian events involving an estimated 5000 horses and 20,000 competitors and spectators. A further 100 days per year are used to host other activities such as squad development and training.    There were no events happening during our stay, but luckily there were a few horses close by.

DSCF6078 Horses close by our caravans

This is a lovely peaceful place to stay in the countryside and other than us two, there are only a couple of other caravans down by the stables.  Power is available, with an ablution block close by.  And just a short drive to town, so we have the best of both worlds. 

Sunday, 21 July 2013

The long way to Taupo

Caravan rally over, it’s off to Taupo we go.  We continued up SH1 and under the impressive Makohine railway viaduct.  We’ve travelled over this several times on the Wellington to Auckland express.

DSCF5932 Makohine railway viaduct

We were running a little late as we had a lunch date at the Waiouru Army Museum cafe.  Robin’s sister Kaye and was home from Vietnam for a fleeting visit, and was travelling down from Taupo while we were travelling north.  Meeting at Waiouru seemed the most sensible option if we didn’t want to merely wave as we passed each other driving in different directions.   It was the middle week of the school holidays, the cafe in the Army Museum was very full, the queue at the counter was long, and the orders would take quite some time to arrive, we were told.  Never mind, that gave us plenty of time for a catch-up.

DSCF5934 That’s my baby sister

Kaye had brought Robin was some Vietnamese  “Weasel Coffee”, plus a special little coffee filter in which to make it.  Vietnam’s weasel coffee is made from coffee berries fed to the animals but the beans pass through their system undigested.. It seems the “weasel” is just the local version of the Asian Palm Civet.  We will let you know how Robin rates his weasel coffee.

DSCF5949 Weasel coffee and filter cup

Saying goodbye to Kaye we left Waiouru and took the long way around the mountains to Taupo.  First stop was Ohakune, to the famous Chocolate Éclair shop.  Our travelling companion Geoff has raved about the chocolate éclairs produced by this shop.  Sadly, by the time we arrived mid afternoon, they were all gone.  But there were plenty of other baked goodies to buy, so we all left the shop happy after parting with some cash.

DSCF5937 They had run out of chocolate éclairs

The clouds had disappeared as we turning off at National Park to travel along SH47.  The mountain trio ahead of us looked glorious as the sunshine glistened on their snow covered peaks.  This sight was certainly worthy of a camera stop.  No doubt the ski fields are busy with keen skiers enjoying this good covering of snow.

P7218063 Mt Tongariro and cone shaped Mt Nhauruhoe

P7218066Mt Ruapehu

Turning onto SH46 to Rangipo was a road we had not travelled before, and completed our drive around the far side of the mountains.  We re-joined SH1 at Turangi and continued on to Taupo.   The new by-pass road kept us away from the township and our trusty Garmin GPS guided us down past the Aritiatia Rapids to our stop for the night, the National Equestrian Centre.  It didn’t take us too long to pick a site, hook up to power, wind the legs down,  organise the TV satellite dish.  That done, let’s get the meal on and watch the news.  To tell you the truth, we’re a bit worried about all those earthquakes, seems there has been a bit of damage in Wellington city.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Changing of the Guard

It was time for a change.  After several years on the caravan club committee, we were both standing down from office.  This weekend was our AGM rally, and there was a changing of the guard when the new committee was elected.  New blood on the committee brings enthusiasm and fresh ideas, and that is always a good thing.  With the AGM done and dusted, we could get on with the usual caravan club business of catching up, telling jokes, and enjoying each other’s company. 

We were staying at Levin Holiday Park, only a short five minute drive from our home.  Repi and Debbie run the motor camp, and we became concerned when Debbie announced her baby bump was overdue for delivery.  That didn’t stop her going about her chores around the camp.  Who would appear first, we wondered, Debbie’s babe or the royal arrival?  At least the paparazzi weren't camping outside on the street awaiting for her to produce, Debbie commented.

Thumper the white rabbit had made the camp ground his home, and hopped around the place nibbling on whatever took his fancy.  He hopped underneath a handy caravan whenever anyone got too close.  Such a cute little thing with that pink twitching nose and those dainty ears, maybe Thumper is a girl? 

DSCF5924 Thumper the white rabbit

Thumper wasn’t the only wildlife in camp.  The dove cote in the middle of the grounds in home to several white doves.  These birds flutter around, pop in and out of their dove sized little hidey–holes, and generally keep and eye on all the comings and goings in camp.

DSCF5928 Dove-cote in the grounds

There’s nothing like a spot of healthy exercise to get the heart pumping, is there?  No, not us, we’re sorry to say.  Our prospective members Barry and Diane are keen cyclists and donned their lycra and helmets.  Off they pedalled, into the wild blue yonder, returning just in time for 4zees.

DSCF5918  Barry and Diane ready to go

There was a special presentation made to Kath, when she won a competition at a previous rally.  She put the rest of us to shame with her long list of answers, rattling them out in a never ending stream when most of us could only manage a few.  So she gets to take this very large beer stein home and keep it for a while.  Good – it’s found a home for a while, nobody else wants such a monstrosity. 

DSCF5930 Kath and her prize

We had a mixed bag of weather for the weekend.  Some sunshine, some rain, and most worrying of all, several earthquakes were felt.  Aftershocks are continuing to shake Wellington and the top of the South Island after a 6.5 magnitude quake. The big tremor has been followed by a number of smaller quakes ranging from light to strong.  Reports of damage around the Wellington region varied from falling masonry and broken windows to water leaks and stock falling from shop shelves.  Glass from broken windows fell onto Lambton Quay and street workers were keeping people away from those buildings in case another quake struck and loosened the glass that was left.  Scary stuff indeed.  As people in the know keep telling us, Wellington region is overdue for “the big one”. 

DSCF5929 Our rally weekend at Levin Holiday Park

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Down by the Station

There has been an awful lot of changes since our last visit to Paekakariki Station Museum.  We stopped off for a visit yesterday  afternoon with our SLG friends after visiting the tie factory in the morning and lunching in a local cafe.  Jan was in charge of organising our day, and the lunch service was so slow that she was getting rather concerned that we would be be running late for our visit to the museum. 

P7178061 New signage at the station

We had never been up in a signal box before, so followed the guide up the steps to see what there was to see inside.  The signal box has recently been restored and looks very smart with it’s new paint job.

The signal box

The man in front of all the levers wasn’t really saying much to us as we all crowded into the small box.  The signal box would have been a very busy place in it’s hey-day, as this is the Main Trunk Line, running from Wellington to Auckland. 

DSCF5899Up in the signal box

Back in the museum, I commented to the guide on the changes since our last visit.  There is obviously a keen group of volunteers working hard to keep things fresh and interesting.  The museum is focused on three areas, the local Maori people, the Marines stationed in the area during WW11, and local railway history.

Warrior Chief Te Rauparaha was a brooding presence in the area in the 1800s.  He travelled down from Kawhia with his people, taking large territories and founding a new home for the Ngati Toa in the Porirua and Kapiti region.  From his base on Kapiti Island, Te Rauparaha also controlled his invasion of the top of the South Island and launched devastating attacks against Ngāi Tahu as far south as Kaiapoi.  He composed “Ka Mate”, the well known haka used by New Zealand sporting teams such as the All Blacks. 

The museum has a fine collection of traditional carved wooden pieces, a door lintel, and the prow of a canoe, amongst others.  Also this modern carved kumete (wooden box) made especially to house (replica) teeth of sperm whales which stranded on Paekakariki Beach in 1996.

DSCF5907 Kumete with sperm whale teeth

Paekakariki was home to 20,000 American Marines from 1942, staying at three specially built bases, Camp Russell, Camp Paekakariki  and Camp Mackay.   The Marines were put through their paces with intensive artillery training, marches and exercises in the surrounding countryside, and taking part in amphibian exercises on the beach   Some of them were at the camps for barely a month before heading off to battle again.

DSCF5913 Marine uniform

What does Semper Fidelis mean, one of our ladies wanted to know.  I know that, I told her, remembering my Latin lessons from long ago school days.  Semper Fidelis is Latin for "Always Faithful" or "Always Loyal", and is the motto of the United States Marine Corps and is often shortened to Semper Fi.

DSCF5910The Marines were here

A new interactive display about the Marines and their time here has been installed at the museum since our last visit.  This is the sort of thing that you could spend a lot of time watching, as locals tell of their memories of when the boys were in town.

DSCF5909 New display about the American Marines

The railway part of the museum was also full of interesting artefacts.  Some of the posters and photos made us smile.  Passengers used to jump off the train at Paekakariki and rush into the Refreshment room to purchase a cup of railway tea and a pie, then clamber back on board with their goodies before the train took off again.

Through another door was an interesting second hand book shop, which had many books on history, religion, and old New Zealand books.  There were several books that appealed to me, and I finally made my choice.  For a “Tudorphile” like me, what could be better than “The Six Wives of Henry VIII”, by Alison Weir.  I well may know the stories of these unfortunate women  inside out, but that won’t stop me reading another version all over again.  At only $15 for a hard back copy in excellent condition, I think I’ve got a bargain!

P7178062 My new Tudor book