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

Friday, 30 June 2017

Off to Flat Hills

Off we go on another road trip – it’s a hard life but someone’s got to do it!  We left home little later than anticipated, why oh why does it always take us so long to get ready?  We should be experts at this by now!  It didn’t take us too long to travel up SH1 to Sanson – and what’s that away in the distance?  It’s my favourite mountain, Mt Ruapehu.  Not always visible this far south, but obviously the conditions were right to view it today.  Still a little hazy, but clear enough to see in the distance.

Mt Ruapehu from Sanson

After a quick stop for fuel we were soon on our way again.  The number of rental motorhomes all travelling south was tremendous – presumably all those rugby mad Lions supporters travelling to Wellington for the 2nd All Black Test.  We decided to stop for lunch at the Sugar Plum Café, just north of Marton.  And what a popular place it was, buzzing with customers and the food was great too.  With a warm fire burning, a great menu and a cabinet full of tasty items, it was a lovely welcoming place indeed. 

Lunch at Sugar Plum Café

Oh look – here’s another well photographed sight from our travels up and down this road.  Non other than the 72 metre high  Makohine Railway Viaduct.  We weren’t lucky enough to see a train crossing over as we drove underneath, but it is still an impressive sight.

Makohine Railway Viaduct

A little further up the road at Ohingaiti we pulled off the road onto an area of parking for trucks, to wait for our travelling companions to arrive.  Before too long Geoff and Eileen pulled up behind us, and then we were on our way towards our stop for the evening, Flat Hills.

Waiting for our travel companions

Flat Hills Café is a popular stop on SHI and is on the tourist bus route, which must do wonders for their turnover.  They have recently developed a small motor camp so we decided to give it a try.  And with the advantage of a winter discount, the camp fees were very reasonable indeed.

On site at Flat Hills

The Pod Cabins dotted around look like little Hobbit Houses.  I peeped through the windows and they look nice and comfy, but without bathrooms.  Guests have to use the nearby campers ablution block.  And with a campers lounge and kitchen facilities available, campers are well served.

Cozy little cabins

There is plenty of wildlife around.  Behind the cabins we saw a large group of pukeko feeding on the banks of the small lake. Pukeko often live in permanent social groups and defend a shared territory that is used for both feeding and breeding. Social groups can have multiple breeding males and females, but all eggs are laid in a single nest and the group offspring are raised by all group members.  That’s certainly communal living at it’s best.


Pukeko by the lake

I had to go and say hello to the herd of pretty alpacas – all too busy munching away on their hay to bother with me. 

Alpacas at Flat Hills

There was one other campervan in camp when we arrived, and several others came in during the evening.  The hosts are very obliging, and will provide an evening meal, delivered to your van, if required.  That is good to know for future occasions – although we had “something I prepared earlier” for our dinner.  Perhaps we will take advantage of their “Big Breakfast” in the café tomorrow morning before we move on. 

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Hello Wednesday

And what a glorious morning it was too – so nice to wake up to such a pretty sunrise.  Just loved those pretty pinks in the Eastern sky this morning.  So it was out with the camera to snap a few photos bright and early.  It's amazing how the colour can change in just a short time – so the moral of the story is, don’t leave it too long or the colours will fade away.


I was in a bit of a pickle when an unexpected hospital appointment with the specialist came through for today.  Robin was booked up doing a drive down to the Hutt Valley with a patient for the Cancer Society, and I didn’t fancy the long drive to Palmerston North Hospital on my own.  Luckily a phone call to the local Heath Shuttle took care of my problem and I was booked onto the van for the return trip – all sorted.  Caravan club member and neighbour Derek drove up and John was the assistant, then they swapped driving duties on the return trip.

Horowhenua Health Shuttle

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Great White Hunter

Our friend Bruce is a great white hunter and likes nothing better than climbing mountains and doing a spot of deer stalking.  He lies down wind on a breezy hill in the grass cradling his trusty rifle, waiting patiently for just the right time to make a clean shot.  And then – it’s venison steaks and sausages again for the freezer.  But now he has reached the grand old age of 80, the knees and hips are letting him know that climbing hills and carrying a carcass back down over his shoulders cannot go on for ever.   We were there to help him celebrate his special day.

Happy 80th Birthday, Bruce

Here is the Birthday Boy standing in front of a photo board, and wife Julie had done a great job with a selection of photos from days gone by.  There were numerous photos of a proud Bruce posing with deer, pigs, and very large fish, climbing mountains, and staying in rustic huts.  And a memorable photo of a huge Captain Cooker (wild boar) lashed on to his motorbike, ready for the drive home!

The Birthday Cake, complete with deer

Speeches were given by family and friends, plus a few tales from the members of the Deer Stalkers Association, who mentioned that Bruce had been honoured with Life Membership some years ago.  Then it was time to cut the cake, done in special hunter’s fashion as Bruce wielded that large knife around.

Looking for the jugular

Bruce is one of life’s gentlemen, with a ready smile, and always happy to help friends and neighbours with any job that needs doing.  In fact, we well remember when we bought a set of outdoor furniture which needed assembling.  Bruce was at our door, tools in hand, ready and able to give us a hand putting it all together, without being asked.  

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

The Shortest Day

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. The timing of sunrise and sunset varies from location to location, sunrise in Gisborne being almost an hour earlier than in Invercargill. 

Map courtesy of Met Service

But it’s hard to believe that it is winter, as we have been having such gorgeous weather lately.  Warmish sunshine – only up to 15-16 degrees, not too bad for winter.  A little chilly in the mornings and evenings, but that’s to be expected, and we don’t always feel the need to turn the heat pump on once the sun departs over the horizon early each evening.  But the biggest bonus has been the lack of wind, the days have been lovely and calm, with the sunshine streaming through our windows all day.  The clear blue sky and lack of wind means we may well get a touch of frost some mornings – but we can put up with that little inconvenience. 

View over our back fence

And what would winter be without rugby?  Robin is in seventh heaven with the Lions Rugby Team touring the country.  They are playing against provincial teams as well as the mighty All Blacks.  There is a whole lot of rugby to keep him glued to the TV screen, and of course, his New Zealand flag is on show for all the village to see.

Go – the All Blacks

And New Zealand is fighting another sports battle – this time for the America’s Cup off the coast in Bermuda.  Emerites Team New Zealand has got off to a good start – being in the final with Oracle, but we won’t celebrate yet until the final race is a done deal.  This is exciting TV watching too – those boats can fly!

Image result for emirates team new zealand

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Hutt Valley–here we come

It’s a bit grim when retired people have to set the alarm clock to wake us up early in the morning.  But needs must, and our caravan had an appointment for a little maintenance work bright and early down in the Hutt Valley.  The traffic wasn’t too bad, as most of the commuters going to work would have been on the road much earlier than us.  We arrived at R V Dreams to find caravans and motorhomes parked up everywhere – in fact I counted on my fingers and came up with 3 caravans and 4 motorhomes parked beside the business and on the roadside.  Hope there was room for us.

Owner Paul and his staff carefully guided Robin as he backed his caravan through the doorway into the workshop.  To my untutored eye there hardly seemed to be enough room for Romany Rambler inside, but this feat was accomplished with ease.

Inside the workshop

The 4WD was unhooked, and we were sent on our way with instructions ringing in our ears to go and have a coffee, and come back in an hour.  So we did, driving to the nearby Queensgate Mall.  We hadn’t been there since well before the November earthquake centered in Kaikoura did so much damage and the north-east section of the mall had to be demolished.  Back then it looked like this.

A section of the Queensgate Mall is being demolished but four engineers reports have found no problems with the rest of ...
Photo courtesy of FAIRFAX NZ

Shops are up and running in the mall, including several coffee shops so we had to make a choice of which one to give our business to.  And the outside of this section of the mall now looks much tidier.  Guess there is more work to be done yet, to restore the building to it’s former glory.

Demolished area tidied away

We collected the caravan, paid the account, and went on out merry way, driving back over the Haywards Hill and around the Pauatahanui Inlet.  The Inlet certainly looked a picture with hardly a ripple in the water.


Driving back home around the Pauatahanui Inlet

Can I get an obligatory photo of Kapiti Island, I wondered?  Not a very good one, as it turned out, it’s not always easy trying to snap a photo out of the car window as we speed along.  The clouds were darkening the skies, and everything was looking rather moody.

Kapiti Island

Even the sun was having trouble bursting through the clouds

We arrived home safe and sound in time for a late lunch, put the caravan away back in it’s park, pleased with our morning’s venture.  And ……… we won’t be setting the alarm clock for tomorrow morning, we’ll have our usual leisurely morning instead.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Before the Storm

There was a lovely sunset last night – so pretty with the sun dropping down that we both went outside with our cameras.  This is what Robin saw with his camera lens, looking down the street in our village.  The sun was putting itself to bed with the rooflines our neighbouring villas in shadow.

View through Robin’s camera

I decided to zero in on the tree on on front lawn with my camera.  Same subject, slightly different shot.  Isn’t nature wonderful!

Taken with my little camera

There's bad weather coming up from the South Island, and we heard on the news that ferry crossings across Cook Strait have been cancelled for Wednesday.  Just as well we are staying home in the meantime.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Racing Cars versus Chickens

There were a couple of films showing at our small local cinema this week which we wanted to see.  We have found out from bitter experience if we don’t take ourselves promptly to see the films we are interested in, they are soon removed after a few weeks and we miss out altogether.  Robin had his heart set on viewing “McLaren”, the story of Kiwi Grand Prix Champion Bruce McLaren.  While I was yearning to see “Pecking Order”, a “fly on the wall” film about the Christchurch Poultry, Bantam and Pigeon Club and the lead up to the upcoming National Show.  Which one would it be?  The sensible thing to do was to purchase a ticket for each film, go our separate ways, and both of us remained happy.

Image result for picture of bruce mclaren racing

Bruce McLaren was one of the icons of motor racing in the sport's 60s ‘golden age’ – he won four Grand Prix, and joined fellow Kiwi Chris Amon to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The McLaren team he founded became one of the most successful in Formula One.  Ill in his childhood from Perthes Disease, a rare childhood condition affecting his hip, he spent two years strapped to a table while his joint slowly healed.  The film relates stories from the mainly Kiwi crew who ran his London workshop, telling of dangerous hijinks in the workshop, and tales of the many famous races he took part in.  Then came the terrible day when Bruce McLaren lost his life during a test run, aged just 32.  An excellent film, said Robin, with lots of high speed racing to get the adrenaline going.

Image result for photo of film  pecking order

My choice of film was the light hearted documentary  “Pecking Order” about the oldest poultry club in New Zealand, the 148 year old Christchurch Poultry, Bantam, and Pigeon Club.  With the club’s 150th birthday fast approaching,  the dysfunctional committee limps along while a plot to topple the President is hatched.  The  upcoming National Show brings out everyone’s competitive streak, and their desire to win one of the major prizes.  This lighthearted film shows how members prepare their birds for for this very important show, bathing, drying the feathers, oiling combs and wattles, and clipping nails.    Eventually, the aging President is toppled, replaced by a younger  man with more modern ideas, ready to take the club forward.  There are no professional actors here – everyone in the film is a club member.  Funny and humorous, I really enjoyed the film, and who knew there were so many different types of chook breeds?

Thursday, 8 June 2017

A Morning at Probus

We joined the local Probus Club soon after we moved to Levin – Probus groups are clubs for retirees, and are free of the fund raising obligations that other service clubs take part in.  The meetings are very interesting, with usually a club speaker (one of the members) giving a short talk followed by an invited guest speaker, who speaks for a longer period.  Robin was the club speaker this month and related the adventures he had as a 15 year old scout and the epic journey undertaken to attend a Scout Jamboree in Dunedin.

Relating his scouting adventures

For a schoolboy growing up in New Plymouth who hadn’t been out of the area, it was a huge trip indeed.  Boarding a steam train, the excited boys carrying their kit bags, together with their leaders, and all the tents and supplies settled down for the ride to Wellington.  The train stopped at stations along the way, and even more excited youngsters climbed aboard.  But that was only part of the trip – next was a daylight sailing across to the South Island.  In those far off days, the ferries travelled right down to Lyttleton near Christchurch, the trip is a shorter one to Picton these days. Then it was all aboard another steam train, and they travelled down to Dunedin, for a week of fun and adventures. 

The trip back home was in reverse, but once onboard the ferry, Robin decided on a change of plan.  Always a bad sailor, he decided he would try to sleep the journey away.  He lifted up the cover on one of the life boats,  climbed inside to fall asleep tucked under the cover for the entire journey.   Obviously no one did a head count, as he wasn’t even missed.  And on the return train back, once they neared New Plymouth, the last remaining boys gathered up all the pillows they could find and had “the mother of all pillow fights.”  Those with long memories will recall that pillows could be hired from Platform Nine at Wellington Station for travelers comfort when journeying overnight.

Our guest speaker was  Audrey Garret who spoke about her time spent as an Art Teacher in Zimbabwe.  The local children loved to attend school, but could only do so if their parents could afford the school fees and provide a uniform.  Audrey took many photos, and used these as the basis for her beautiful paintings of the youngsters.  She told us that age was no barrier to volunteering, as she was 60 when she took on her assignment.


Paintings by Audrey Garret

There was a luncheon arranged after the meeting, and quite a crowd of us gathered in the adjacent Levin Cossie Club Restaurant.  And what a great lunch it was – hot ham off the bone and roast veggies, followed by apple pie, ice-cream and custard.  Very good value too, at $22.50 each.  After eating a big meal like that for lunch, it was something very light indeed for our evening meal

Mid year Probus lunch at the Cossie Club

Monday, 5 June 2017

Long Weekend at Manawatu Caravan Club grounds

We enjoy staying at the Manawatu Caravan Club grounds, but it is not usual here in New Zealand for caravan clubs to purchase their own land.  Members have static caravans on site, with large permanent awnings and usually an attractive patio area for outside BBQs and enjoying the sunshine.  There are about a dozen spare sites for travelers, or other groups like ours for casual camping.  With large ablutions blocks, a laundry,  kitchen, and large hall,  both members and visitors are very well set up indeed.

Looking across a sea of caravan roofs and awnings

The alarm clock was primed to ring bright and early on Sunday morning and we were off and away.  Dot was all set to embark on the first step of her journey to the UK, and we drove Dot and Derek to Palmerston North airport to see her off.  First stop was the bag drop off area, then on to the café for an early morning coffee.  Check in time is always early, so there is lots of waiting time involved.  The café was very crowded with lots of passengers accompanied by family and friends to see them off


First stop in the journey  – Auckland

Then it was back to the camp grounds to carry on with out weekend.  Some took themselves out to a local café for lunch, and others visited the ever popular Mr Grumpy’s for an evening meal of fish and chips.  Robin did a good deed in replacing a broken part on Lorraine’s awning.  It was only a tiny part, but very necessary indeed.

He replaced that little part right there

We had a couple of evening quiz nights in the hall to test our brains.  My quiz on the Queens of England was more difficult for our club members than I had anticipated, and Val’s quiz on plants had us scratching our heads too.  Most people did very well on naming capitol cities.  My theory is – this type of thing is always easy if you know the answers. 

There was an interesting poster on the wall in the hall, which explains our love of caravanning.  Why travel to France, when you can do it just as well here in Foxton!


The rain came down on Monday morning and we farewelled our visitors who had travelled up to the AGM rally to stay in other accommodation.   It was so nice to catch up with them again – safe travels home.

Farewell to Pamela and Don

The next job was to help roll up the awning on Kath and Selwyn’s van and get it ready for towing.  And it only took most of the male club members to attend to this, I noticed.

What way does this go, they are wondering

Then one by one, everyone headed off for home.  We stayed for an early lunch, and were soon on our way too, calling into the dump station on the way.  It was another great rally, even longer for us as we enjoyed four days away.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Back in Foxton again

Here we were, just a day or two later, back in Foxton again – this time with a different group.  With the long Queen’s Birthday coming up, our caravan club had booked sites at the Manawatu Caravan Club grounds at Foxton Beach.  And we decided to arrive a day early, just because we could.


Our van was the first to arrive, so we had the pick of the sites and were soon set up in splendid isolation.  It was a lovely wintry sunny afternoon, although the temperatures dropped as the day wore on. 

The first to arrive

Selwyn and Kath arrived soon after us, followed by Derek and Dot later in the afternoon.  The early night sky was a picture of colour and meal time was soon approaching.  We talked about our options for dinner and went with Plan B.

Night sky over the camp

A visit to the very popular Mr Grumpy’s Fish and Chip shop is a must while staying at Foxton Beach.  With a lovely piece of battered blue cod each and chips we were happy campers indeed.  For the really keen patrons, Mr Grumpy has tee shirts available for sale.


Our other club members rolled into camp with their vans on Friday, found a site, and settled in.  Friday was a relaxed day and we all gathered for 4zees.  It was good to welcome Life Members Peter and Elaine, and Don and Pamela who were staying for the weekend at local establishments – it had been a while since we had seen both couples. 

All in a row at Foxton

Friday night at Foxton just wouldn’t be the same without dinner at the nearby Bowling Club .  As expected, the place was packed to the gunnels,and we had trouble finding enough seats for our group.  But that was the least of our troubles, as the power went off.  How was the kitchen coping, we wondered, and would the meal still go ahead?  But the kitchen staff were undaunted, and at 5.30 the dining room doors were opened for business.  We moved in to claim two tables, as the lights flickered on and off, on and off.  It seemed that the roast pork and veggies were already cooked, ready to serve, and other orders, such as fish, scallops, or steak could be cooked to order on the gas rings. 

It was yet another clear sunny day on Saturday, and the club’s AGM went off without a hitch.  Reports were read, committee members were voted in, and the fees were set for the next year.  President Selwyn then presented Lorraine a birthday card  - a special birthday this year for Lorraine with a big “0” on the end.

Happy 70th Birthday to Lorraine