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

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Strange Happenings in the Night

We enjoyed our “discounted prices for oldies” meal at the Ashhurst Inn and wandered back to the camp replete and ready for bed.  Must have been sleeping the sleep of the just as we didn’t hear of the disturbance in camp during the night.  After a bout of pruning a bonfire had been burning away all day, smouldering during the occasional shower or two which passed over.  Obviously one of the neighbours in the vicinity got a bit worried and put a call in to the fire brigade.  The fire engine arrived in the dead of night, flashing lights strobing in the darkness (but without the siren, as a courtesy to the campers), and proceeded to douse the bonfire.  All this excitement was related to us the next morning by a young lady in a campervan.  She did wonder when she saw the bonfire burning so close to the cemetery if in fact she had stumbled across some type of Satanic ritual!  And to think that we hadn’t seen a thing.

P5300001 All that’s left of the bonfire the next morning

It was just a short hop, skip, and jump of a drive, just 30km to Pahiatua where we were having our weekend caravan rally.  We arrived, found a nice concrete site to park on, and Muffy decided she would like a trip outside .  She doesn't like to venture out too much these days, and enjoyed a nice roll around on the sun warmed concrete.

P5300004 Muffy enjoying the sun shine

Yet again, someone in the club arrived with a brand new caravan – us this time.  We had to admit that we had been keeping our new acquisition a wee bit of a secret – we had collected it from the Leisureline factory in Hamilton a week ago.  We’ll show the inside a little later.

P5310012 Our new Romany Rambler

There’s a busy weekend planned for this rally, as this is the Heretaunga Caravan Club’s 40th Birthday, so there is a lot happening.  Eating out, a drinkie or two, a birthday cake to cut, reminiscing about the last 40 years, it promises to be a great weekend.  

P5310006 Carnival Park Motor Camp, Pahiatua

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Ashhurst Domain

Things are very quiet here in the Ashhurst Domain, with just our two caravans in residence.  But we have plenty of birds to keep us company.  The pretty little fantails, also known by their Maori name of piwakawaka live in the native trees which border the domain, and busily fly here and there, landing on the fence, on the ground, or in the trees.  But they never seem to keep still long enough to get their photo taken. These birds are easily recognized by the long tail which opens to a fan.

This is a very popular place for dog owners, and a steady stream come through the domain with their dogs, to travel along the walking tracks through the trees down to the river.  Sometimes horse riders take the same trails too, so it is good to know that this area is well used by the locals.

Workmen have been busy in the camp too, with new wall linings being installed in the campers shower block.  And we are pleased that our neighbours (in the grave yard) through the trees slept peacefully and did not bother us last night.  I imagine that some people perhaps would not like to camp so close to a cemetery, but it doesn’t bother us.

P5290019Looking across from the camp sites

Robin pulled the squab off the seat to check the battery today, and Muffy wasn’t going to miss out.  Her philosophy is that an interesting hole of any kind needs checking out. 

P5290018 What’s down here?

The four of us are eating out tonight at the nearby Ashhurst Inn.  The pub offers a Thursday night special for oldies, with a discount off the menu price on presentation of our Gold Cards.  That’s certainly a good enough reason not to cook tonight, wouldn’t you say?

P5290024 We are dining out here tonight

Tomorrow we will be making the short trip to Carnival Park Motor Camp at Pahiatua for a weekend rally with our caravan club buddies.  So it will be great to catch up with everyone again.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Turangi to Ashhurst

With news that the temperature had dropped to minus 7 degrees C over the Desert Road, we weren’t in any hurry to leave Turangi early in the morning.  (No wonder it was freezing cold).  If we waited a while, the never ending stream of trucks would have been driving along the Desert Road and melted the ice for us,  we reckoned.  So we bid farewell to the chickens who were out and about in their run looking for breakfast and started on our way.  In the shady areas there was ice glistening on the banks, we noticed, as we drove past, but luckily none left on the road. 

And as usual, any trip over the Desert Road is worthy of a photo or two.  Mt Ngauruhoe’s beautiful cone  looked wonderful with a covering of snow.

P5280004 Mt Ngauruhoe peeping out

And Mt Ruapehu always looks impressive.  There has been an extra dump of snow since our trip up last week.

P5280006Mt Ruapehu

Lunch stop was in a lay-by at the top of Mangaweka Hill, plenty of room there for our two caravans.  Here we came across a plaque from IPENZ (Institute of Professional Engineers New Zealand). recognising the State Highway system as an important part of New Zealand’s engineering heritage.  “State Highway 1 – Mangaweka to Utiku.  Here, where the road blends back into the landscape, modern engineering skills have created a high road through a hazardous last barrier to the north”.

P5280012  Recognising the engineering on this part of the road

P5280014 View from Mangaweka Hill

We turned off SH1 onto SH54 at the quaintly named Vinegar Hill.  Vinegar Hill is on the banks of the Rangitikei River within the Putai Ngahere Reserve, and is a very popular summer camping spot.  The name came about after an incident in early colonial times.  A bullock cart carrying barrels of vinegar overturned after the bullocks slipped on the muddy track on the hillside, covering the hillside in vinegar from the broken barrels.

Our stop for the next couple of night is the Ashhurst Domain, where we are pleased to be back on power again.  This is a very reasonably priced camp in a lovely setting, as long as campers aren’t put off by the close proximity of the cemetery just through the trees. We have never had any problems with those neighbours, no strange noises, no clanking of chains.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Camping with Chickens

We can’t say we weren’t warned.  The weatherman predicted minus temperatures overnight and we woke to a good frost.  Mind you, by the time we got up and pulled the curtains back at the late hour of 8.00am, some of the frost had already melted in the morning sunshine. The TV news told of really deep snow in some South Island areas so  our little bit of frost was nothing to worry about.  And we got a beautiful sunny day to follow, and we were not disappointed. 

P5270016A bit of a frost in the morning

We had a good drive down to Taupo and just had to stop at the lookout on the hill coming into Lake Taupo to photograph the stunning view of the lake and snow capped mountains in the distance.  What a beautiful sight, and cars full of tourists thought so too.  They drove up, snapped a selfie or two and took off again, to be replaced by yet more cars.

P5270027 Looking across Lake Taupo to Mt Ruapehu from the lookout point

After replenishing the fuel tank and the larder, we made our way down the the lake shore at Five Mile Bay for lunch.  This is a free camping area for self contained rigs, and would be a lovely spot to stay in the warmer weather.  As we munched our sandwiches, we noticed plenty of keen cyclists getting their quota of exercise along the lakeside track.

P5270037 View from Five Mile Bay

Where to stay for the evening – that was the question.  We wanted to keep moving slowly southwards so continued on down the Eastern side of the lake to Turangi.  Our stop for the night is a POP with free range chickens next door to where we are parked up.  If I give them a crust or two, they will love me forever, I was told.  More like cupboard love, I think.  

P5270041    Our neighbours, free range chickens

Later in the day the chickens were let out of confinement and freely wandered around the garden.  They were busy scratching in the garden mulch, having a fine old time.  I find chickens to be quite soothing creatures, with their cluck, cluck, clucks as they forage in the ground.

P5270048 Happy, healthy, free range chooks

As the sun dropped down behind the hills the temperature started dropping too.  There is no power available here, so it is just as well we can fire up the heater to keep us warm.  It could well be quite a cold night.

P5270042 Dusk at Turangi, looking at the sharp outlines, it could be a good frost

Monday, 26 May 2014

Over-nighting in Putaruru

Putaruru, on SH1, is one of those towns we usually drive through on the way further north or south.  But just for a change, we decided to stop here overnight at the local POP and have a little look around. 


The history of the town was based on timber.  In the late 1940s the newly established Putaruru Timber Yards built several mills to process wood from exotic forests which had been planted nearby in the 1920s. The mills were taken over by New Zealand Forest Products in the 1970s, but changes in the industry in the 1980s caused Putaruru’s population to decline.    A further blow came in 2008 when Carter Holt Harvey, the major timber company at the time, closed their mill making over 200 workers redundant.  However, the company offered 80 jobs down the road at its Kinleith plywood plant. 

But the town survived, and is now the commercial centre for some of the most productive dairy farmland in the country.  The Lichfield Dairy Factory - which is one of the newest and largest cheese factories in the world,  is only 6km from the town centre.  Water from the nearby Te Waihou springs is bottled commercially, providing about 60% of New Zealand's bottled water.  With beautiful river walks, and the area being touted as a fisherman’s paradise, there is plenty of outdoorsy things to see and do.  We were keen to visit the New Zealand Timber Museum, but sadly this is now only open during the weekends.  Perhaps next time.

Right next door to our POP is a cute little Shetland pony living all by himself in a large paddock.  He came up to the fence  looking for something tasty to nibble.  By the size of his rotund tummy, it seems that he gets plenty of treats to keep him happy.  I’m sure he would love me to give him a nice juicy apple tomorrow morning before we head off again.

P5260011 Our next door neighbour

Geoff and Eileen rejoined us in the early evening, arriving in darkness as their caravan was manoeuvred around into place.  The caravan had a trip to the factory to have a couple of little jobs attended to.  It promises to be quite a chilly night here in Putararu.  With clear skies and no winds, there could well be a bit of a frost in the morning.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Hobbiton – where the Hobbit Holes are Hiding

Our bus, called Gandalf the White, left The Shires Rest filled with 30 or so LOTR fans and fanatics on the Hobbiton Movie Set Tour this morning.  Interestingly, five of us were Kiwis, and we all hailed from Levin.  American accents seemed to fill the bus, as there was a group of 15 American engineering students, a sprinkling of older people, and an Asian family on board.


Our guide was Benji and according to OSH regulations, he warned us of the hazards involved.  Stay on the paths, all fences are electrified, and keep away from the edge of the pond and the much larger lake – some of his clients had managed to fall right in, he told us, and the water is deeper than it looks.  Our first glimpse of a Hobbit house had everyone oohing and aahing in delight.  They are so cute!  And we all wanted our pictures taken standing in front.  It worked quite well, we took one for that couple, and they took one for us, and so on it went.

P5250071Outside our first Hobbit House

We didn’t actually see and Hobbits as we walked around, but we certainly saw where they lived.  According to Tolkien, they are uncomplicated and ancient little people, shy of Big Folk and preferring well-ordered and well-farmed countryside.  They are no more than four feet tall and seldom wear shoes because their feet have tough leathery soles clad in thick, curling hair.

P5250115   Hobbit houses on the hill

P5250088 Wonder who lives in this one?

We wandered around, admiring the details in the little houses, from gardens, baskets with veggies piled up, even fish hanging up to dry at the edge of the lake.

P5258370And here’s another house

The properties were all out of bounds, with just one being the exception.  We were permitted to step inside the door for a quick-smart photo stop, and Benji took all the photos, to keep us moving quickly along.

P5250084Whose a cheeky Hobbit, then?

Over the stone bridge we walked, past the thatched mill, and into the Green Dragon Inn for a complimentary mug of beer, especially brewed for the tours.  (And I don’t usually drink beer – but I made an exception since I was in Hobbiton).

P5258382 Green Dragon Inn

We chatted with a family from Texas, who were doing a 5 day whizz-bang tour of New Zealand before heading back to the States.

P5250105 Drinking our ales with the family from Texas

Our guide Benji did a great job, full of interesting facts and figures, and stories of some of his more colourful and fanatical customers.  His boss doesn’t allow the guides to partake of a mug of beer in the Inn, he told us sadly.  Just as well really, when the guides are taking tours all day.

P5258390 Our guide Benji

It was a great morning, and we would certainly recommend the Hobbiton Movie Set Tour to anyone, Lord of the Rings fans or not.  You won’t see this anywhere else but in Matamata, New Zealand..

Friday, 23 May 2014

Wet Hamilton Weather

It’s been a wet old day here in Hamilton.  After being teased with a spate of light showers alternating with bouts of sunshine all morning, the weather gods have started playing hardball.  Torrential showers have been falling all afternoon and this evening, and the ground underfoot is now soaking wet and sodden.  Not much fun at all when we in and out of the caravan with soaking wet shoes, but at least it is not too cold today.

We waved goodbye to Geoff and Eileen after lunch.  They were taking their new caravan around to the Leisureline factory to get a few adjustments made, and were leaving it there over the weekend.  Then they were off to Auckland to visit the family for a few days.  They will catch up with us again somewhere down the track – destination to be confirmed.  Who knows where we might end up?

While we are staying here in Hamilton, we have a busy couple of days planned.  A Quilt Show for her tomorrow – that will keep her happy.  And rumour has it that a Hobbit or two may well be spotted on Sunday – we’ll keep you posted.

Muffy rather likes coming away with us in the caravan.  After sleeping peacefully curled up all day,  she woke, jumped down from the couch, and had a big stretch, as cats like to do.  Then she went and sat down by her food bowl and looked daggers at me.  Her double bowl contained fresh water in one side, and dry cat biscuits in the other.  Not at all to her liking.  If she could talk, she would be saying, “I expect better than this, you know!” 

P5230023 Is that all?  Just water and dry biscuits?

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Moving on to Hamilton

Surprisingly, it was not such a cold night camped at Taupo as we expected. NZMCA camps are non power, usually with just a water point available.  Taupo is well known for the cold wind which blows in across the lake from the mountains, and we  were expecting the night to get rather chilly.  As it turned out, we didn’t even need to fire up our diesel heater.  Much of the camping area is still roped off to allow the reseeded grass to get established.  And someone or other has been running rampant with a chainsaw, we noticed.   Quite a few of the pine trees around the perimeter have been cut down, and there is mounds of freshly cut  timber everywhere.    All for sale as firewood, so a big sign says.

P5220002 Firewood everywhere

With the fresh water topped up, and the waste water emptied, we were soon on the road again, heading up SH1.  You can tell the seasons are changing with lots of autumn colours in the trees, golds and reds amongst the many shades of green.

P5220006  The colours of Autumn

P5220010Interesting rock formation

After a couple of hours on the road, we arrived at our stop for the night, Glenview Club, with changes to these grounds since our last visit.  Power is now available, but most of the sites have been taken over by full timers.  Luckily, there were two power sites available, we only needed two, so that suited us fine.   There is a good system in place to stop fly by nighters coming in late, hooking up to power, and leaving early without paying.  Upon registration, you are handed a key which unlocks a cover over the circuit breaker, allowing access to power. 

P5220013 Glenview Club

We are back in Hamilton again as Geoff and Eileen need to drop their new caravan back to the Leisureline factory to get a couple of things attended to.  And, as luck would have it, the cook in our household found out that there is a quilt show on this weekend at Hamilton Gardens.  How fortuitous, wonder what Robin will be doing while she is admiring all the quilts on display?

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Back in Taupo again

Time for another trip, we were all packed up and raring to go by 10.00am.    Hooked up the caravan, secured Muffy in the back seat, and off we went.  First stop was at Flat Hills Cafe for lunch.  Luckily, we seemed to have timed it right, as this establishment caters for bus loads of tourists, and you don’t want to get in a queue behind a large group of hungry travellers.

P5210002 Flat Hills Cafe

Our travelling companions, Geoff and Eileen, met up with us here.  The fire was burning and the cafe has quite a rustic charm.  What’s for lunch?    There was only one choice for Geoff, as far as he was concerned, a Big Breakfast.  The rest of us enjoyed a hot roast meat sandwich each, with coffee to follow. 

P5210003 Painting hanging on the cafe wall

Strong wind gusts buffeted the caravan as we drove along the Desert Road.  Mt Ruapehu peeped out from under a covering of fluffy white clouds.  There’s something magical about the mountains, and I never seem to tire of the views as we drive along this road.

P5210017 Mt Ruapehu topped with fluffy clouds

Further along, a different view, and more of the mountain with it’s dusting of snow can be seen.

P5210024 Another view of Mt Ruapehu

Next stop was to top up with fuel at Turangi, and most importantly, making sure the tank for our diesel heater is full.  We spending the night in Taupo again, staying at the ever popular NZMCA site at Taupo Airport.  It can get really cold here, and we wouldn’t want to run out of fuel for the heater.  A little old house bus on site has a fire place on board, and we can see the smoke drifting out the their chimney – they will be nice and cosy inside.

P5210029 Parked up at Taupo

Monday, 19 May 2014

Magnificent Horse Power

What can be more magnificent than a whole lot of Clydesdales (joined  by the odd cow or two) happily munching their hay in the sun?  We drove past this farm and put on the brakes – just had to take a photo or two.  The farm is not too far away from our home in suburbia either, just a few kms out of town where the houses give way to rolling paddocks.


P5190028 Whole lot of horse power

Friday, 16 May 2014

Full Moon in the Morning

At 7.00am it was time to put the jug on for our early morning cuppa.  From the window I could see the full moon in the sky.  The clear sky was tinged the palest pink – and held the promise of a lovely fine autumn day.  Quick, where’s my camera?

P5160007 Full moon in the early morning sky

Camera in hand, I opened the door, ready to take a few snaps.  But………one of the neighbours outside in the car park getting out of his car  and I was clad only in my nighty.  Hope he didn’t see me.  So I quickly shut the door again, and waited until he had taken his early morning shopping back to his own villa.   Don’t want to frighten the neighbours, do we! Once he was safely out of the way, I opened our door again and snapped a few photos.  The colours in the sky can change so quickly and I didn’t want to miss it.

P5160003 Full moon in the western sky

Later in the morning Robin hooked up the caravan and took it down to get it’s Warrant of Fitness.    It’s been a busy week, as the Land Cruiser was taken in for a WOF too earlier in the week.  So now we will be all legal for our next trip away.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

A Little Bit Posh

We had to get up well up before the sparrows yesterday for our Big Day Out.  In fact, we needed to set the alarm clock just to make sure we woke early enough.  Once we were up, showered, dressed and fed, we drove down town to meet up with the other members of our 60’s Up group.   A full bus of 48 people were travelling up to the Chateau Tongariro Hotel for lunch.  Although our departure time was 8.00am, most of us assembled all bright eyed and bushy tailed at 7.30am.

Our mid morning stop was at Gumboot Manor at Taihape.  However, the logistics of a full bus load of people (mainly ladies) queuing up at the counter to purchase their morning tea, then queuing up to use the bathroom facilities over stretched  the  30 minutes planned stop time quite a bit.  Finally, the last coffees were served, the bathroom queue had finally ended, and we filed back onto the bus again. 

P5140010 Gumboot Manor, Taihape

Then it was Tongariro – here we come!  A couple of ladies sitting close by told us that they had both spent the first night of their respective honeymoons at the hotel.  And had not returned since.  It certainly is an impressive building.

P5140030 Chateau Tongariro Hotel

The Tongariro Park Tourist Company Ltd was formed with a grand vision to build the Chateau, an elegant Georgian structure,   alongside the original Whakapapa Ski huts.  The Chateau was styled after the Canadian Resort of Lake Louise.   Fletcher Construction Company undertook the contract at $78,000 pounds, and work started on the 10th of January 1929. The opening of the well-appointed Chateau hotel revolutionised the atmosphere of Ruapehu as a resort.  The rich and famous came in their droves to ski on the nearby slopes during the day and enjoy fine dining in the evenings.  WW11 brought the glamour to an abrupt end, overseas travellers stopped coming, young Kiwi men joined the forces and both road and rail travel was restricted.  When the Chateau was commandeered by the government as an asylum after an earthquake damaged a hospital in Wellington, the hotel served the needs of a different kind of guest.  It was back in business once more in 1948, when the newly renovated Chateau reopened to provide accommodation for visitors to Mt Ruapehu and the Tongariro National Park.

There was time to check out the elegant surroundings before we went into the dining room.  Chandeliers hung from the ceiling, cosy fires were burning, and those comfy armchairs look most inviting.  Mmmm, this could be my kind of place - pity the funds aren't available to make it happen. 

P5140019 The comfy lounge

P5140017 Is our lunch ready yet?  Lorraine and Charlie, Jenny and Robin

The young staff in the Ruapehu Dining Room served our meals quickly and efficiently.  With such a large group, we were all served the same meal.  Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, veggies and gravy, followed by pavlova for dessert.  All very tasty too, and everyone at our table managed to clean their plates, we noticed.  The rain came down during our meal.  “Perhaps it’s snowing?” someone suggested hopefully.

P5140024 Our dining companions

P5140025 Roast beef for lunch

After lunch the rain had stopped, the clouds had lifted, and what’s this?  A lovely alpine sight of a dusting of snow on the mountain.

P5140029  No wonder it’s chilly, there’s snow on the mountain

Back into the bus we went for our long journey home, stopping again at Taihape for a comfort stop.  How is this for an omen?  A good one, we hope.

P5140035 Rainbow at Taihape

We finally arrived back at 6.00pm.  It’s a long way to go just for lunch, one of the members was heard to mumble when our day's trip was mooted.  Long way or not, it was a great trip to a place most of us had never set in before.  A little bit posh indeed, and most enjoyable.