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

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Temple in the Tararuas

It’s always interesting driving around roads not travelled before, and we came to the entrance of the mighty Tararua Ranges.  This is where good keen blokes leave their cars, shoulder a heavy pack and maybe a rifle,  and start climbing the tracks of the Tararua Ranges.  Perhaps they want to do a spot of hunting, and bag a deer or a wild pig.  Or maybe they just want to test their bush skills and climb up to a hut for the night.  Whatever they do, it will be challenging in these mountains.

P6280017 Entrance to the Tararuas

A drive across the old bridge was quite enough adventure for us.  Especially as Robin then told me that we could well be over the weight limit!  Oh dear – we still had to turn around and drive back over it again.  The foot bridge off to the side wasn’t an option at all, as I noticed all the floor boards were missing, with just the metal struts in place.
P6280019 Driving slowly over the bridge


Just around the corner from the two bridges, we came across a wooden  temple of some sort nestled up against the hill.  At least, we presume it is a temple, or maybe a church, as there was a white painted cross in the grounds.  With no sign at the gate to say what the building is, we are not quite sure what it is.  Certainly not what we expected to find in the middle of nowhere.

P6280023  Temple or church, perhaps?

Heading back towards suburbia, we stopped at the beginning of the Queen Street East Pathway.  The pathway was designed to link the town to the Kohitere Foothills and  the Waiopehu Bush Reserve.     The project was a partnership between the local Council, Levin Rotary, Transpower Community Care Fund and Endeavour Trust.  The pathway was planned to provide a safe and pleasant track for walkers, joggers and cyclists.  And it is certainly popular and well used, we saw runners and walkers galore going by.

P6280026 Queen Street East Pathway

We have been living up this way for just over a year now, but it just goes to show that there is still plenty to discover once you get off the main roads.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Lunch at Denny’s and a new flag

It just wasn’t fair, the blokes felt.  The Caravan Club Ladies have been organising the occasional lunch get-together for a while now, but why should the ladies have all the fun.  So the lunches evolved into a separate ladies and gents lunch, held on the same day, and usually at two different venues in the same area.  But Denny’s Restaurant in  Porirua was quite big enough for the two groups to lunch independently.  Wonder what the staff thought when they set up two large tables each side of the restaurant?  Bet they had a laugh amongst themselves.

P6240007 Lunch at Denny’s

So there we were, the ladies down the back on the right, and the men on the left.  We ladies dithered long and hard over the menu, and eventually decided on our orders.  The food duly arrived, and we were all pleased with our choices.  The only complaint heard was that the roast meal was much too large.  But being resourceful, doggy bags were requested, and the left-overs packed up ready to take home for another meal.

P6240001 The Caravan Club Ladies on their side of the restaurant

After the waitress has kindly taken a couple of snaps for me, I asked if she would go and photograph the men.  We heard a roar erupt from the men’s table as she did what I asked. (They knew exactly who the camera belonged to).  Seems that the men were much quicker deciding what to eat, after all, with no women at the table, they could order just what they wanted with no repercussions about healthy food choices.

P6240004 And here are the men

Both groups enjoyed their independent dining, and gave us a chance for a bit of “him and  her time”. And when the coffees had finally been delivered and consumed, the two groups became one again.  With a 15% discount for Gold Cards, this was a great choice of venue.   It’s nice to have some benefit for being an oldie!   Many thanks to Elaine and Peter for arranging our lunches.

We said our goodbyes and went on our respective ways.  Robin and I decided to visit Pete’s Emporium, always an interesting shop with an amazing collection of goodies to peruse.  Our quite restrained purchases were lace for her, and a new flag for him.  The current New Zealand flag flying at home is getting a bit tatty and  needs to be replaced, Robin decided.  Pete’s Emporium have nylon  flags at very reasonable prices. 

Monday, 23 June 2014

Bagpipes at 60’s Up

It made my Scottie blood proud to hear the sound of bagpipes swirling around the the hall during our 60’s Up meeting this morning.  Peter was our speaker, and we knew him as Peter the Bus Driver.  He had driven our bus full of members on several trips over the last few months since we had joined 60s Up.  But we never knew he was a talented musician.  His talk was about his adventures overseas with the pipe band.

P6230055 Peter the Piper

Peter’s bagpipes are “Horn McDougall” and are over 100 years old.  With silver and ivory fittings they are very special indeed, and worth a pretty penny.  Although he belongs to two pipe bands, the City of Wellington Pipe Band, and the Pipes and Drums of Christchurch City, his talk was about the latter, and the many overseas tours this band has undertaken.

With invitations for the band  to perform in such far flung countries as Dubai, Nova Scotia, and Switzerland, Peter has certainly seen the world.  He told us about his time at the Edinburgh Tattoo, undoubtedly the most famous Tattoo in the world.  (Yes, we are biased, but it was the highlight of our trip to Scotland some years ago, the land of my maternal grand-dad).  The band also played for the Queen at Windsor Castle, and Peter related that each evening a different member of the royal family was in attendance, so they had to be on their best behaviour.  The band’s next adventure is a trip to China.  Peter finished up by playing us another tune – the sound of bagpipes is such a wonderful stirring sound, I always feel. 

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Shortest Day/Longest Night

June 21st is the Northern Solstice and marks the shortest day here in the Southern Hemisphere.  On the 21st the sunrise is around 7:48am and sunset 5:00pm in Wellington, giving just over 9 hours of potential sunshine for the capital.  Here in Levin we are approximately 100km north of Wellington, so the times will be much the same.  Because of the way the Earth is tilted about its axis, the length of the day changes through the year. On June the 21st the Southern Hemisphere will be tilted furthest away from the sun and so it will be the shortest day of the year and the sun will appear at its lowest point in the sky.  After the shortest day, the days will slowly get longer again – roll on summer, we say.

So how did we spend the longest night of the year?  Being an avid All Blacks supporter, Robin hogged the big TV in the lounge to watch the 3rd All Black versus England Rugby Test.  I watched the ABs perform the stirring haka, (Maori War Dance) before departing to the bedroom and the much smaller TV to watch a bit of mindless drivel while the big game was being played. (I’m not the least bit sporty, much to Robin’s disappointment).  Of course we won!

All Blacks hakaGetty Images - The All Blacks perform the haka ahead of the third test.

Then we watched a bit of TV together, (something we had recorded a wee while ago), an action packed episode of an old favourite UK show, The Sweeney.  (Got to love that John Thaw).  This  British police series revolutionised the genre on UK television in the mid 1970s. Jack Regan  played by John Thaw was a hard edged detective in the Flying Squad of London's Metropolitan police (called 'the Sweeney' from the Cockney rhyming slang 'Sweeney Todd' = 'Flying Squad"). He pursued villains by methods which are underhand, often illegal themselves, frequently violent and more often than not successful.

Sergeant Carter and Inspector Reagan

Things were certainly quite different in police TV shows in years gone by.  Wild car chases, then both the goodies and the baddies running hell for leather.  The chases always ended with a punch up or two, guns drawn, shots fired, gunshot wounds and sometimes a fatality.  As it turned out, this was the last episode of The Sweeney ever filmed, and we got to see our old mate Jack spend a night in the clink after a trumped up charge was brought against him. With no support shown by his dippy CO, this was the last straw and he walked away from the force.

So that’s how we spent the longest night  – what did you get up to?

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Over the Paraparas to Wanganui

Leaving mist shrouded Whakapapa behind we travelled south of National Park Village on SH4.  Here the road passed under the impressive Matatote Viaduct, the last and highest of a group of structures built in the classic North American steel trestle pattern.  All these had a series of towers supporting Pratt trusses spanning up to 30 metres each. Makatote Viaduct is 262 metres long and 79 metres high.  Constructed by J & A Anderson Ltd,  the company built a factory in 1906 just north of the site to fabricate all the steel members needed for the viaduct, which was powered by a wood-burning boiler and steam engine.  A water turbine drove the stone crusher and concrete mixer. A cableway had been erected on the centreline of the viaduct. Steel fabrication began  and the last girder was placed on 4 June, 1908, following which the cableway could be dismantled to permit completion of earthworks up to the abutments and subsequent rail track laying. The rail track across it was completed on 3 August, 1908.

P6170028 Makatote Viaduct

Then we travelled over the Parapara Road from Raetahi to Wanganui.  According to Mr Google:  “the Paraparas are rugged limestone hills north of Wanganui town. State highway 4 is a very tortuous road running through the hills and often suffers  flood damage in many places”.  We came across .a couple of instances where the rain had dislodged the soft rock on the hill sides onto the road, and a road crew was busy clearing up a slip. 

P6170037 Typical soft rock in the road cuttings

We stopped along the road at the Raukawa Falls Lookout.  Raukawa Falls is located on the Mangawhero River and visible from an official lookout platform.

P6170036Raukawa Falls
The road goes up and down, up and down, one hill after another.  We towed the caravans quite safely, it’s just a matter of careful driving and keeping the speed down.  Not quite as scary as we had been told, and it obviously needs a lot of maintenance to keep it clear over winter.  It is a beautiful and scenic road, but has always been prone to landslides in wet weather.

P6170031 The Parapara Hills

Our stop for the night was the Wanganui East Club, where we parked up as directed on the edge of the large car park.  And where better to enjoy 4zees but in the club bar.  One of the local blokes approached Robin and asked if our two vans had just come across the Paraparas.  He recognised us as he was one of the road maintence crew clearing up after a slip.

P6180040 At Wanganui East Club

With the railway line right next door, there was a little bit of noise during the night as trains moved around the track.  Fortified by bacon and eggs for breakfast the next day, it was time to pack up again for the last time, and make our way home.  It had been another great road trip, travelling 491kms over 7 days, stopping at Taihape, Ohakune, Whakapapa, and Wanganui.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Pea Soup Weather at Whakapapa

The morning of our High Society High Tea dawned bright and sunny so we wandered up the path from the Whakapapa Holiday Camp to see what we could see.  There are plenty of tracks and bush walks in this area for the more energetic souls.  We walked along the riverside track and stopped and admired the view from the bridge over the stream.

P6160007 Dot and Jenny on the bridge

P6160009 View from the bridge

The weather closed in late afternoon, and it rained so much during the evening we lost our TV reception.  We woke to pea soup conditions the next morning, surrounded by swirling mist.  Not completely unexpected, as the camp is perched on the side of a mountain.  While we waited for Geoff to finish his chores at the dump station we parked up on the side of the road, and I popped across the road to check out the Info Centre.

P6170023 Almost hidden in the mist

P6170021Whakapapa Visitor Centre

The Info Centre gives very necessary  advice to serious skiers and trampers, such as weather conditions, avalanche reports, topographical maps, and bookings for huts.  Stepping into the attractive foyer decorated with hand woven tukutuku panels,  I read the tale of The Sacred Tuku.  Horonuku, Te Heuheu Tukino IV, (Paramount Chief of Ngati Tuwharetoa), passed the guardianship of the peaks of Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and part of Ruapehu to the people of New Zealand in 1887.  These areas were set aside by law as a National Park, the first to be established in New Zealand, and has dual World Heritage status.

P6170019 The Sacred Tuku

If we weren’t almost ready to go I would have liked to sat and enjoyed the two audio-visual shows detailing the park's history and features. Perhaps next time.

Because of the weather conditions, there was some debate whether we would carry on to Wanganui as originally planned, or go home a day early.  As we dropped down in altitude the weather started to clear, so we decided that we would continue on our journey.  It was time to tackle the Parapara Road – feared by some, but we bravely drove on.

Monday, 16 June 2014

High Tea for Six at Chateau Tongariro

Sounds very grand, doesn’t it?  As we were staying close by at Whakapapa Holiday Park for a couple of days, I had persuaded our travelling companions to join us for High Tea at the Chateau.  Not that they needed much persuasion at all.  So we changed into our glad rags and drove the short distance to the Chateau.

P6160011 Derek and Dot, Robin and Jenny, Geoff and Eileen

We weren’t too sure how it would be served, and were pleasantly surprised to find that we each had a three tiers of goodies each.  Plus tea or coffee as required.  Starting at the bottom tier we ate our way through dainty egg sandwiches, cucumber sandwiches (of course) and smoked salmon sandwiches.  Next we tackled our scone smothered in jam and cream.  The sweet treat layer was very rich, and we finished off with a hand made chocolate each.  Plus a second cup of coffee to wash it all down.  All very tasty, and good value for money, we thought.

P6160012 High Tea for Six

The service was excellent, and the surroundings rather grand. Comfy armchairs and sofas were arranged in groups, and the lights of the many chandeliers twinkled throughout the large lounge area.

P6160013 Plenty of comfy seating

Our view through the big picture window was looking straight out at Mt Ngauruhoe, with the mountain top covered by low clouds

P6160010 Mt Ngauruhoe

After we had eaten our fill, had a second coffee, chatted about this and that and put the world to rights, it was time to depart.  We said goodbye to Derek and Dot who were heading on to Tongariro.

P6160014Chateau Tongariro

Then we had a quick drive up to “The Top of the Bruce” to see what we could see.  The ski season has not yet opened, just as well as there was not a flurry of snow to be seen.  Plenty of rocks, and the higher the road climbed, the low cloud cut visibility to practically nothing.

P6160015 “Top of the Bruce” shrouded in mist

Once the snow arrives, this place will be over-run with skiers and snow bunnies, coming up the mountain for a fun day in the snow. 

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Chocolate Éclair Rally comes to an end

There was plenty to celebrate at the Chocolate Éclair Rally at Ohakune.  The weather couldn’t have been better, frosts overnight and beautiful sunny days. Old friends to catch up with, 4zees, eating out in the Ohakune Club restaurant, and those wonderful big squidgy éclairs.  Robin was in his element watching the All Black Test match on the big screen on Saturday night.  I appreciated the big bag (and more) of locally grown veggies for a mere $5 donation, plus we were all presented with a bag of Ohakune brussel sprouts on arrival.  Lots of raffles on offer – we tried really hard to win the whitebait raffle, but to no avail. All in all a fun weekend.

P6140005 Site of the Chocolate Éclair Rally

P6140016View out the window while we were having 4zees

We couldn’t leave town without a chance to purchase a few more of those world famous chocolate éclairs – we must be addicted to them, I think.  Geoff drove Derek and me down town to get our last fix for a while.  Guess what we are having for  dessert tonight?   The shop must have done a roaring trade from all the campers staying at the rally over the weekend.

P6140002 World famous in Ohakune

After an early lunch we packed up, hooked up, and hit the road.  Up SH4 to National Park, turning on to SH47.  Just look at these views as we drove along to our next overnight stop.  The beautiful cone of Mt Ngaurhoe peeped through the clouds.

P6150029 Mt Ngaurhoe

Further down the road and almost at our destination, we came across The Chateau Tongariro Hotel dwarfed by Mt Ruapehu.  This is the western side of Mt Ruapehu, so a different view from the one we saw at Ohakune.

P6150033 Mt Ruapehu

We are staying at the Whakapapa Holiday Park for the next couple of nights.  Lots of empty powered sites, but most of them seem to be geared up for smaller hire vans.  Luckily we found three longer sites to fit our vans on, and settled down for the night.   It is very quiet here at the moment, but once the ski season starts, things will get very busy.

P6150035 Whakapapa Holiday Park

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Goodbye Gumboots and Hello Carrots

We fare welled Taihape, known as the Gumboot Capitol of the World, with a stop at the dump station and a photo stop at the big corrugated iron gumboot.  The name all came about when comedian John Clark was experiencing considerable success as his Kiwi character Fred Dagg singing  “The Gumboot song".  It was decided to attempt to halt the traffic on State Highway One by providing a promotional activity to entice travellers to stop and see what Taihape had to offer, and the idea of Gumboot Day was born.  The first Gumboot Day consisted of gumboot throwing, gumboot races, Fred Dagg look-alikes, decorated gumboots and shop window displays providing a day when town and country alike could get together and enjoy themselves whilst at the same time selling the town to the rest of New Zealand.  This annual event is still very popular.

P6130027 The Big Gumboot of Taihape

Leaving gumboots behind, we drove up SH1 to Waiouru, turned onto SH40 and travelled to Ohakune, and it’s Big Carrot.  The rich volcanic soils are ideal for growing vegetables, and carrots remain the main crop. Potatoes, parsnips, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and swedes also grow very well in this area.  The 7.5 metre erection, “a magnificent monolith, standing tall at the gateway to the central North Island town of Ohakune” – the famous Kiwi icon the Giant Carrot – was put in place by the Ohakune Growers Association in 1984.

P6130039 The Big Carrot of Ohakune

The town of Ohakune comes alive in winter when the the skiers hit town.  Who wouldn’t want to come here with Mt Ruapehu on the doorstep and a view like this.  Even non skiers like us can appreciate the beauty of the mountain.

P6130038 Mt Ruapehu from Okakune

We are staying at the Ohakune Club with about 90 other caravans and motor homes to take part in the NZMCA  “Chocolate Éclair Rally”.  People rolled in yesterday afternoon and early evening, with a few more arriving this morning.

P6140043 Some of the campers on site

Local growers had donated two trailer loads of carrots, parsnips, potatoes and swedes and for a $5 donation we were invited to fill a supermarket bag with these goodies.  We didn’t need to be told twice – I can see a whole lot of veggie soup and hearty beef casseroles being cooked up when we return home.

P6130032 Locally grown vegetables

Did I mention the chocolate éclairs?  The  Chocolate Éclair shop is another Ohakune icon, and makes the world’s best chocolate éclairs, in our opinion.  The shop is only open during the ski season, and people have been known to travel miles out of their way on a journey to get some of these delicacies.  We were all served one of these delights for morning tea.

P6140048Hope there is enough for us!

P6140049Let’s tuck in

There's people to catch up with, the town to explore, and maybe an extra chocolate éclair to eat.  Should be a good rally.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

A coup in Hunterville – then onto Taihape

There we were, minding our own business, quietly eating our lunch in the caravan on a side street in Hunterville.  Before we knew what was happening a whole posse of dark green army utes pulled up one after the other behind us and an empty trailer unit.  One, two three, goodness me, there are six army vehicles.  Car doors slammed as soldiers in camouflage uniforms jumped out of the cars and started striding purposely towards us.  What was happening?  Was it a coup?  Were they here to put Hunterville into lock-down mode and keep us prisoner, or maybe their role was to protect the town from invaders?  The young soldiers kept on walking, on past our caravan, over the bridge, and disappeared into the town.  There was one soldier left on the footpath, who looked like he could well be in charge.  “What’s happening”, I asked, “are you here to take the town hostage?”  “No madam”, he assured me, no doubt wondering what on earth I was going on about.  “We’re from Linton Army Camp and the new recruits are getting some practice in navigation”.  So there was no coup happening in Hunterville after all.  

P6120002 The army came to town

After being reassured that we were safe, the soldiers returned, jumped into the six army vehicles, and roared off back to camp.  With our lunch over, it was time for us to continue on our way too.  Driving north out of town and up the Hunterville hills we noticed three army trucks coming towards us.  No doubt ready to catch up with those young soldiers somewhere down the line.

Then down the hill we passed under the impressive Makohine Railway Viaduct – always worthy of photo, I feel.  It was one of many viaducts designed by engineer Peter Seton Hay  in the central part of the North Island Main Trunk railway. Built between 1896 and 1902, the Makohine Viaduct project suffered numerous delays due to soil conditions, flooding, inclement weather, and a steel strike in England.  It spans a bush-clad gorge, approximately two kilometres (km) south of Ohingaiti.

P6120005Makohine Railway Viaduct

We are stopping the night at Taihape River View Holiday Park.  We knew this camp in earlier years as Abba Camp, probably so named as it is on Old Abbatoir Road.  The camp is situated on the banks of Hautapu River and surrounded by hills.

P6120024  View from the camp - sheep grazing by the Hautapu River

There was only one other caravan in residence when we arrived in the early afternoon.  We were joined by Geoff and Eileen when they caught up with us later in the day.  Plenty of choice for sites so we chose two on the hard standing close to the barn type structure which houses the ablution block. 

P6120026 Our stop for the night

We’re moving on tomorrow, heading to Ohakune for the weekend.  Brrr, might well be chilly up there, it’s close to the mountains.

Monday, 9 June 2014

What’s Inside?

What to take a peep inside our new version Romany Rambler?  Coming in the door the seating area is on the left, 3 way fridge/freezer  to the right, kitchen units straight ahead of the doorway.

P6080015 Lounge area and kitchen cupboards

P6080008 Upholstery and curtains

The kitchen unit with all the usual fittings.  Pull out pantry on the left of the unit, sink, 4 gas hobs on top of the gas oven, extra cupboard tucked around the corner on the right.

P6080009 Kitchen unit

Then looking the other way, the queen size bed and into the bathroom area, which runs across the back of the caravan. 

P6080001Bedroom and bathroom at the back

The bathroom layout was what sold us on this version of Leisureline caravan.  Toilet to the left, separate shower to the right, hand basin and vanity unit, heated towel rail plus lots of cupboards.  Our previous shower was the size of a broom cupboard, with shower, toilet and hand basin all fitted in to the very small space, barely room to swing a cat, if we had a mind to.   It worked OK, but this is so much nicer, and so much roomier.

P6080004Bathroom with vanity unit, separate shower and toilet 

What else?  We requested fly screens on the windows, a gas heater, solar panels, and a wind up TV satellite areal.  Robin copied our friend Geoff’s great idea and asked for outlets on both sides of the waste tank.  Makes life so much easier when we go to a dump station, as we can now empty from either side of the caravan.  These new vans have larger fresh water and waste water tanks to what we used to have and now we have a new toy (for us) a tank monitor to check each day. 
We are very pleased with our new van, and Robin reports that it tows very well.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Mid Winter Christmas

Down here in little old New Zealand, we celebrate Christmas in the summer.  Usually with trips to the beach, barbecues, sun umbrellas and sun burnt noses.  So a mid winter Christmas celebration is always a bit of a novelty to us. 

Helen was in charge of our SLG outing yesterday and her choice for the day was to take us out for a mid year Christmas lunch at the Te Marua Golf Club in Upper Hutt.  The weather wasn’t in the least wintery – lovely sunshine, just cooler temperatures.  The dining room looked out over the fairways where keen golfers were busy hitting that little white ball around.

P6040003 Te Marua Golf Club

As well as our table of ten diners, there was another much larger group from one of the local churches.  One of the ladies was selling raffle tickets for a large rich fruit cake, and our group purchased some tickets too.  I was so keen to win that not only did I buy 3 tickets in the raffle, I also negotiated with Rex to buy the cake from him at a nominal price should he be the lucky winner.  My cunning plan didn’t work when one of the ladies from the church group was declared the winner.  

P6040005 Ready to enjoy our Christmas lunch

The meal was delicious.  We enjoyed roast beef and baked ham  with a full complement of veggies.  Followed with pavlova, fruit salad, and my favourite, Christmas pudding.  With tea or coffee to finish, we all had that rather full feeling at the end of our meal.

Then it was back to Helen and Calvin’s home for “entertainment”, which created much discussion amongst us.  Surely not charades – my least favourite thing to do?  Perhaps some other sort of silly game?  We were pleasantly surprised to find that our entertainment took the form of a slide show put together by our hosts.  Our Super Leisure Group has been getting together and enjoying monthly outings for over 20 years now and there are several photo albums showing all the things we have got up to over the years.  Many of these photos were scanned, captioned, and made into a slide show.  It was very professionally done and  Calvin even added music.

P6040007  Calvin ready to entertain us

Our day finished with pulling the Christmas crackers, donning our silly hats, and reading out the jokes.  It was a great day, many thanks to Helen for organising it this month.

P6040008 Pulling my Christmas cracker

After being out of the work force for a couple of years, we had forgotten how frustrating it is to be caught up in the slow commuter traffic as everyone is heading home.  It was a matter of stopping, starting and merging traffic lines as we drove up the Kapiti Coast.  The sun was going down and Kapiti Island was a dark silhouette off the coast as we made our way home..

P6040014 Kapiti Island at dusk