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

Friday, 31 October 2014

First Stop Featherston and a taste of Southern Comfort

It was first stop Featherston when we met up with our SLG friends yesterday at Les and Anne’s home for a cuppa before we set off on our mystery day. 

PA300005 First stop Featherston

Originally we had planned to take the caravan over the hill and stay with Anne and Les for a couple of nights.  But the warning for gale force winds over much of the country and in the Wairarapa in particular made us change our plans to just taking the car over the next day.  Not so lucky were the Joblins who were setting out on a holiday.

CRUNCH:High winds near Mt Bruce flipped a caravan on its side, rolling the towing ute on to its roof. PHOTO/LYNDA FERINGA
High winds near Mt Bruce flipped a caravan on its side, rolling the towing ute on to its roof. PHOTO/LYNDA FERINGA

The Wairarapa Times-Age newspaper reported that a rogue blast of wind has been blamed for blowing away the holiday plans of a Wairarapa couple after flipping their caravan and vehicle soon after they set out yesterday morning.  Bideford farmer Rob Joblin and his wife Deborah were travelling to Waikato in their late-model ute with a quad bike on the back and a caravan in tow, when a gust of wind lifted the near new 6 month old 6.5m caravan and ute and flipped them over.  What a terrifying experience for these people, and we were so pleased that we had decided to play it safe with the weather and stay home the previous day. 

We drove up to trendy Greytown and lunched at the Corner Cafe, a very busy place with quite a steady stream of customers coming through the door.  Plenty of choice on the menu, from fish, burgers, toasted sandwiches, pancakes and home made pies

At the Corner Cafe

Across the road from the cafe is the “Samuel Oates Gum Tree”, one of three seedlings stolen from a wheelbarrow parked in front of the Rising Sun Hotel in 1856, so the story goes.    Parkvale settler Charles Carter had employed new migrant Samuel Oates and his mate Fairweather to bring a wheelbarrow laden with goods, including two dozen seedling gum trees bought from Sydney over the rough Rimutaka Hill Track.  The men were parched and in dire need of quenching their thirst so stopped for a while at the Rising Sun Hotel.  When they recommenced their journey taking the wheelbarrow to Mr Carter, they noticed that three seedlings were missing.  One seedling was planted here in the grounds of St Luke’s Anglican Church, and the other two planted in the Rakaunui Homestead – since removed as they became dangerous as they aged.  This last remaining Australian Mountain Ash is still going strong and seems very healthy. 

PA300008 Samuel Oates Gum Tree in St Luke’s Anglican Church grounds

Next stop was further north to Clareville to visit Damon at Southern Comfort Beds.  Damon makes his beds by hand and most of the components are sourced from New Zealand.   He talked us through the process starting with the wire spring base, which needs to be checked and tightened as necessary.

PA300014 It all starts with the springs

PA300018 This is covered top and bottom with hessian, then felt is stapled around the edge

Next comes a couple of layers of foam which are glued in place.  Damon didn’t get his trusty glue gun out while we were there – the fumes would make us all high as kites, he  said!  Just as well, as we all had to drive back over the mighty Rimutaka Hill later in the day so would need clear heads for that.  The pre-quilted covering is sewing upstairs.  Damon works on his own and manufactures about 25 or so mattresses a month.

It was very interesting seeing how a hand crafted mattress is put together.  Damon can also make made to measure mattresses of any shape, such as the rounded edge ones often found in caravan and campervans.  We finished our factory tour with a look through the Showroom at the various mattresses on display.  John decided to try one out for size.

PA300013 John in the Showroom

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

The Foxton Godwits

Four larger than life forged metal godwits in flight  welcome visitors to Foxton at the southern entrance.  Designed by sculptor Cate Madison and constructed by Old Foundry in Levin, the birds are fixed to 4 metre high poles representing the wharves which once lined the Manawatu River at Foxton during the flax industry.  Each feather has been made individually before being welded together.  The  art installation celebrates the annual visit of thousands of migratory birds to the Manawatu Estuary, with the godwits being just one of 95 species who arrive at the “Wetland of National Importance”. 

PA260012 The Godwit sculpture

The bar-tailed godwit breeds in Siberia and Alaska and travels half way around the world to the Southern Hemisphere.  They birds leave from Alaska in the northern autumn, and until recently it was assumed they followed a coastal route southwards that would allow them to feed and rest along the way. But there is now conclusive evidence that most take the direct route south across the central Pacific to New Zealand. Unlike seabirds, they cannot rest on water or feed at sea, so this 11,000-kilometre journey is the longest non-stop flight undertaken by any bird. The godwits start arriving in small groups from late September in Foxton and spend the next six months happily feeding in the mud flats.  The plump, well fed birds are then ready to make the long return trip north, returning to Alaska at various stops along the way  so they arrive in good condition to breed in May.

Bar-tailed Godwit

Monday, 27 October 2014

Windy Sunday at Foxton

After our one and only summery day over the long weekend, Sunday was cold and windy again.  Our sun kissed limbs from sitting outside in the sunshine the previous day were no longer on show.  Due to the drop in temperature, our bare limbs of yesterday were covered up again with long trousers and jumpers. 

We took a drive around the local area in the afternoon to see what we could see.  The “River Loop”  behind the shopping area appeared to be full to overflowing.  Flax thrives in this swampy landscape and from 1888 to 1974 the production of flax fibre was Foxton's principal source of income.    Flax  mills abounded and were usually situated in close by  the flax swamp and on the banks of a river or stream, ensuring a good supply of running water which was needed to wash the fibre after it had emerged from the mechanical flax stripper. Most of these early flax mills were powered by steam engines, but some used water wheels, or were driven by horses walking in a circle.  The fibre was then exported to Britain, USA and Australia, where cordage companies spun the fibre into ropes and twines.

PA260019 Foxton River Loop – a hive of activity in earlier years when flax was the main industry

The wind was blowing even stronger down by the estuary and we sat in the car looking out at the birds, while we enjoyed our ice-creams.  A couple of hardy souls were standing on the sand flinging their fishing lines into the water.  Hope they had some success before they were overcome with hyperthermia from the freezing cold wind. 


PA260023 Down by the estuary

We all gathered in the hall later in the evening for a night at the races.  The tote was opened, the dice were rolled, and the horses took off, helped along by Robin and Peter.


PA260027 Waiting for the numbers to roll

Why should the men have all the fun?  Ladies can be jockeys too – who can remember Linda Jones?  She was the first New Zealand woman jockey to gain the right to race against men, in 1977. After she gained equality, her career was short but spectacular: in 18 months she rode 65 winners.  As lady jockeys on the night, Dot and I did reasonably well, especially as our horses were tiny little wooden steeds. At 20 cents a bet, no one really made a killing on the tote, but Geoff and Eileen picked the most winners.

PA260030 Jenny and Dot as jockeys and Peter rolling the dice

It was a  very wild night with wind and heavy rain lashing our caravans, and big puddles everywhere on the ground.  After morning tea we quickly packed up and headed off to our respective homes.  Not too far for us, about 30km down the road.  The traffic on the roads was quite heavy, with people returning home after the long weekend – the last long holiday weekend before Christmas.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Quick – Call the Inspector

It seems that we were getting only one fine,  sunny, and relatively wind free  day over the long weekend at Foxton and Saturday was it.    Our numbers had increased with the arrival of D & D, and unfortunately  two of our other caravan couples couldn’t make the rally due to health issues. Morning tea partaken outside in the sunshine was very pleasant.  Young Birman kitten Honey came to experience her first morning tea gathering with the members, and decided she wanted to check out Don and Pamela’s  caravan.  After a quick look around, she was then quite happy sitting in the doorway where she had a good view of the gathering.

PA250005 Dot and Derek, Honey peeping out the door, Pamela and Don

Eileen had been a bit poorly during the weekend, and people were starting to get a bit edgy - after all, there has been an awful lot of nasty illnesses happening overseas.  The Health Department must have been informed and they sent out an Ebola Investigator to check out her state of health.  He wasn’t taking any chances and we were pleased to see that he was suitably kitted out with gloves, headgear, and eye protection, but did wonder where he was going to poke that lethal looking length of tubing.  Luckily Eileen was declared “Ebola Free”, so she is safe to continue staying with us over the weekend.  (We don’t think she has recently been to Africa, but we know she has been to Auckland, does that count?).   It is great to know that our Health Care dollars are being spent so sensibly to quell any outbreak!

PA250008 The Inspector takes his job very seriously

The day stayed nice and sunny so we spent the day outside, eating our lunches el fresco style.  One of the “Walking Wounded” arrived in time for afternoon tea. bringing cookies for us all.  Kath had been enjoying a family get-together last weekend when she slipped and broke her ankle in two places – ouch.  After many hours spent in the Emergency Room, she was finally admitted to hospital and the damage was repaired with plates and screws.  Kath isn’t one to let a broken ankle slow her down, although that heavy plaster on her foot seems to weigh a ton.  We wish her well – although with broken bones it will be a fairly long recovery process.

PA250009 Hop-along Kath

Making the most of the good weather, the Rally Family declared that we would have a BBQ  - our first for the season.  The blokes set their BBQs up and got cooking, steak, chops and sausages, I noticed.  Meanwhile the ladies organised salads and/or vegetables.  Some lucky campers even had dessert, ice-cream, jelly and fruit.  Not us though, the cook of the house/caravan hadn’t thought of planning for dessert.  But we enjoyed some birthday chocolate (thank’s Eileen) later in the evening.

PA250011 Don and Robin tending their BBQs

In the evening we gathered in the hall, having been instructed to take coloured pens and pencils.  The task for the evening was to do a drawing of our respective caravans.  These were done with various levels of competence, and will be judged be an independent adjudicator.  My drawing level is more of the naive style so I’m not holding out hopes of getting first prize.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Labour Weekend at Foxton

Looks like we are in for a windy old weekend at the Manawatu Caravan Club grounds in Foxton for the long Labour Weekend.  The wind seems to be getting stronger, so we haven’t had a chance yet to sit outside.  Luckily there is a hall available for our Heretaunga caravan club members to use.

Here for the long weekend

The Manawatu Caravan Club is not a touring club like us, but have static caravans on their own sites in the extensive grounds, as well as ten or so sites available for visitors.  Five of our caravans arrived yesterday and we soon got ourselves settled.  Number one priority these days seems to be getting the satellite dish pointing at the right position in the sky – most important if you want to watch a little TV in the evenings.

PA240021 Five caravans in a row

It was my birthday yesterday, so it was only right and proper that I got the evening off from  cooking duties.  So down we went to Mr Grumpy’s, the local take-away, to see what was on offer.  I had my heart set on a dozen battered oysters, but that wasn’t to be.  It’s obviously not oyster season at the moment.  But Mr Grumpy had locally caught whitebait on offer, so we ordered a large whitebait fritter each, served in buttered bread. As well as some delicious blue cod for me, and snapper for him, plus some of those fancy curly chips.  A little bit pricy for a fish and chip dinner, but the cook’s birthday is a special occasion, after all.

PA230016 Look at the size of that whitebait fritter

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

What’s Growing?

Those sulky rhubarb plants have picked themselves up and are growing well in their new raised garden.  They didn’t take too kindly when they were pulled out, roots and all, and then cruelly split in two.  But they have forgiven us now, and are enjoying the application of copious amounts of pony poo which was dug into the soil in their home.   New leaves are unfurling, on the top of nice straight red stalks, so there may be enough to make a rhubarb crumble for dessert sometime soon.  There are some chives and parsley keeping the rhubarb company, and the chives in particular seem to be thriving.

PA220008 Rhubarb plants growing well

After lying empty for a while, growing only a fine crop of weeds, our other raised garden is now looking respectable again.  Out came the weeds, in went some tomatoe food, followed by seedlings.  Robin planted tomatoes, lettuces, some red pepper (capsicum) plants and a row of peas.

PA220009 Baby seedlings just planted

It’s a lovely Spring day, the washing is drying on the clothesline in the back yard, and the flag is flapping lazily over the front fence.  Muffy is enjoying the sunshine through the screen door, wondering if it is getting close to her meal time yet?  Anyone in the kitchen must be there to feed her, she thinks.

PA220012 Is it tea time yet?

Monday, 20 October 2014

Cruising the Arctic

Our 60s Up meetings are always well attended, and today was no exception.  We bought raffle tickets, paid our fees for next month’s trip, and found ourselves seats for the meeting.  After the usual announcements, those having birthdays this month were presented with a Scratchy ticket.  I’m an October birthday girl, but sadly, my Scratchy didn’t win me a fortune, big or small. 

The speaker for the meeting was Jim McIntosh, who talked about his Arctic Cruise experience.  He was ably assisted by our caravan club buddie Selwyn, who provided technical support by operating the slide show.  Jim and his wife did their Arctic Cruise with G Adventures, an adventure travel company offering a selection of affordable small-group tours and expeditions.

PA200002 Jim McIntosh talking about his trip

Departing from Scotland, the adventure commenced with a visit to Skara Brae, on the Orkney Islands.  We knew all about the discovery of the ruins of a Neolithic village through watching the History Chanel on TV.  These were discovered in the winter of 1850, when wild storms ripped the grass from a high dune to expose the ruins of ancient stone buildings. The discovery proved to be the best-preserved Neolithic village in northern Europe.  What a thrill it must have been to see wonderful ruins from such a long time ago. 

Image result for skara braeExcavated Neolithic village of Skara Brae

The tour continued on to the Shetland Islands, through Norway and the Arctic region, with days full of beautiful scenery and wildlife spotting.  This wasn’t an expedition for the faint hearted.  Thermal clothing and tramping boots were the clothing of choice, quite necessary for tramping over rocks, climbing up to view glaciers, and checking out the wildlife.  As the trip took them further north, it became a game to see who would catch sight of the first polar bear.  The trips ashore then meant that the tourists were accompanied to with armed guards for safety!  Much safer to encounter a polar bear in a museum setting – there is no danger there of being eaten alive.

PA200003 Polar bear in a museum

Onboard entertainment on adventure tourism trips is quite different to what is offered on the huge ocean going liners.  No theatres, dances, shuttlecock competitions or dining with the captain.  The entertainment onboard this tour was a series of interesting lectures about the terrain and wildlife, people and places.  The food was excellent too, we were told. The Arctic cruise must have been an amazing experience.

PA200004 Caravan club member Selwyn helped with the presentation

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Wanganui and Home

The last night of our current trip was spent at the Wanganui East Club.  We have stayed here a couple of times before, and the staff are always pleasant and friendly.  At no cost at all to spent the night in their car-park, it is only right and proper to spend a few dollars in their bar, or even better, enjoy a meal in the restaurant.

PA170068 Staying overnight at the Wanganui East Club

We had been told that during the weekend the restaurant was always heavily patronised.  We were there on a Thursday night, and most of the tables were taken.  So that certainly shows how good the food is, we thought.  I was determined to try the Five Spice Pork Belly, which Robin had on our last visit, when he rather grudgingly only gave me a tiny taste from his plate.  We both ordered it this time, and it was delicious, we can really recommend it.  In fact, there was such a big serving of meat, that I couldn’t get through all mine.

PA160063 Ready to enjoy my yummy meal

With the railway line close by, it was interesting to watch the freight trains going by.  This one looks rather like milk tankers going to Fonterra.

PA160061Bulk milk train just behind us

Having a handy dump station on site, disposing of our waste water was so easy.  With the grey water tank empty, and the fresh water tank full, we started the drive back home.  This was an easy run of 100km or so and we were back home in time for lunch.  Better get the first load of laundry into the washing machine, I thought, before I do anything else – the laundry bag was full to the brim!   Unpacking the van and cleaning took a while, then Robin got the hose and brush to wash the outside of the van before putting it away in it’s own space.  All nice and clean again, and we will be away once more before we know it.

Friday, 17 October 2014

New Plymouth to Wanganui via the Cheese Factory

Leaving New Plymouth, we never did get a good view of that elusive Mt Egmont.  The locals say: if you can see the mountain it's going to rain, if you can't see it, it is raining.  This is what it looks like under all that cloud – not my photo, sadly.

Mt Taranaki looms behind dairy cows grazing in a paddock. Photo / Mark MitchellMt Egmont looms behind dairy cows grazing in a paddock. Photo / Mark Mitchell

We drove down SH2, past Inglewood and Stratford, stopping at Eltham, home of the Mainland Cheese Shop.  In fact, last time we called in, we were greeted by a couple of fire engines and the factory staff pouring out of the doors.  This visit was much quieter, thank goodness. The cheese is not a great deal cheaper than the prices you can pay in the supermarkets, so we always look for the specials.  And we found some, a lovely big piece of blue cheese, (love that smelly blue cheese)some parmesan, so nice on pizzas and in cheese sauces, and keeps for ages, plus a big bag of Swiss cheese.  That should last us for a while.

PA170064 Our cheese specials

Since the 1880s dairy farming has been the basis of Taranaki’s economy, and has made a major contribution to the region’s economy.  Due to amalgamation and automation, the many small farms and factories of the 20th century have been replaced by much larger farms and a single massive milk-processing plant, Fonterra.  With a  a moist, temperate climate and deep, free-draining, fertile, volcanic ash soils, the area is particularly well suited to dairy farming.  We drove past many paddocks with grass cut all ready to be packed into silage bags for winter feed.

Our stop for the night was at the Wanganui East Club.  We were joined by a motor-home later in the afternoon, so we weren’t all on  our lonesome this time.

PA160056At Wanganui East Club

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Lunch on the Water-front in New Plymouth

Taking the long way home through New Plymouth was to catch up with Robin’s old school mate Gary.  And the fact that these were Robin’s old stomping grounds made the visit even more worthwhile.  We had arranged a lunch date with Gary and Glennis, but before we went, Robin just had to have a good look at Gary’s pride and joy.  It was a classic Chevy, and there was plenty to see and admire under the bonnet.

PA150042   Checking out the Chevy

Then it was off to lunch, down to the harbour to Gusto.  We had a great table looking out over the breakwater.  Our choices were lovely, two big breakfasts, eggs Benedict with salmon, and mushrooms and bacon on toast.  Looking through the windows we could see plenty of seabirds resting on a rocky break-water.

PA158487 Jenny, Robin, Gary and Glennis at Gusto

PA150044Sea birds galore

After lunch we strolled along the water-front, enjoying the sun shine and the fresh sea air.
 PA150046 Sea view looking north

Paratutu beckoned, that large rocky outcrop which fit and active people climb right up to the top.  Not us though, we were content to drive to the base, and look up in wonder.  The track is so steep that you have to haul yourself ever skywards with the help of a wire rope.  Both Robin and Gary had climbed Paratutu in their youthful days, it was no trouble at all, back then.  Paritutu and the Sugar Loaf Islands are remnants of a large volcano that was active nearly two million years ago.

PA158492 Paratutu

Saddleback and Motoroa  islands are eroded remnants of the volcanic activity.  Upthrusts from the volcanic layers formed the landscape both above and below the sea.

PA150049Saddleback and Motoroa
Returning Gary and Glennis back to their home, they showed is some holiday snaps of their last overseas trip to Los Vegas, a side trip to the Grand Canyon, and back to Hawaii.  What a great trip, something we would like to do too – must get our Passports renewed.  Then it was back to camp, where we are still “Nigel No Mates”, with not a single caravan or camper to keep us company.  Mt Egmont was playing hide and seek under the cloud cover, hopefully we will get a better view tomorrow.

PA150050 The mountain is here somewhere
Time to move on - next stop Wanganui.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Pirongia to New Plymouth

It was goodbye  to the Clydesdales and our charming hosts and we set of down SH39 to skirt around the southern end of Otorohanga, and joined up with SH3.  Driving through the Awakino Gorge, we came across what our road atlas quaintly calls a “road tunnel” – another feat of engineering hewn out of solid rock many years ago.

PA140026 Driving through a road tunnel

Stopping for lunch at Mokau, we briefly flirted with the idea of whitebait fritters for lunch from the famous whitebait cafe.  But no, we saved our money and parked down by the edge of the river, making do with a sandwich and cuppa in the caravan instead, watching all the traffic hurtle across the curved bridge.


PA140033 Lunch at Mokau

Driving along the coast for a while, the road then took us up and over Mt Messenger.  Another road tunnel – this one complete with a workman standing guard. Maybe he knew we were coming and was a one man welcoming committee?

PA140035Mt Messenger road tunnel

Along the coast some more and we soon reached New Plymouth.  Coming to New Plymouth  is always a bit of a home-coming to Robin, as his family moved here from the Hutt Valley when he was 8 years old.  Consequently he did most of his schooling here, and as a teenager spent summers surfing and life saving at the beach.  We are staying at the new NZMCA park  at Huatoki Domain for two nights.  No other campers here so we are in splendid isolation.

PA140039 All alone in camp

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Pirongia Clydesdales

We really enjoyed our time in the rural surroundings at Pirongia Clydesdales – just a shame that we had the time for one night only at this interesting POP.  Sadly the cafe wouldn’t be opening till later in the week, so I missed out on a nice latte.
 PA140004 On site at Pirongia

Parked up in front of the barn we could see the horses in the paddock, black and white fluffy chickens scratching around, the aviary full of birds, and the family dogs wandering around.  One of the cockatiels took quite a liking to Robin, and flew over to make his acquaintance.

PA140007 Hello, Cocky

I rushed out with my camera as the manager, Nick van der Sande, brought the first two of a team of four out from the paddock,  to place in the stables, ready to hitch up to wagon.  He stopped and chatted with us as we admired these beautiful animals.

PA140010 Nick with two of his horses

PA140016Waiting for the other two team mates

The Tack Room was packed full of all sorts of necessary items to run a horse business. Harnesses, bridles, collars, and a large assortment of horse shoes, as well of a collections of ribbons awarded at shows.
 PA140005 Tack Room

PA140008Red Cart

PA140020Ready to move on 

The settlement was founded in 1864 when, at the end of the Waikato Land War, Maori land was confiscated forcing the local Maori  to retreat to the King Country.  Pirongia, or Alexandra as it was called then, was one of a number of military settlements set up to defend the confiscation line.   The extinct volcano Mount Pirongia looks down over the town.  At 959 metres it is the highest peak in the Waikato region, and is popular with hunters and trampers.  We will definitely have to have a return trip to this town, and plan a visit for when the on-site cafe is open.