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

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Climbing the Ladder

Putting up the Christmas lights is rather like living life on the edge these days, especially with a pair of sore knees.  But Robin persevered over a few days, and the job is done.  It was so much easier once that nasty wind had dropped, and I was there to steady the ladder for him, and pass up the necessary items.  We don’t go overboard with outside lights, just a few strings here and there. This string of pom pom lights, (actually we call them the toilet brush lights) didn’t fare at all well in the wind, and seemed to have snapped a wire or two, so they had to come down.

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This was replaced with a thick string of sparkly red tinsel, entwined with little red lights which come on at night.

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It’s not easy to get photos of Christmas lights flicking on and off, but this will give you some idea of what it looks like.  It’s always better in real life, of course.

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The spiral rope tree sitting outside by the front door looks all white and insipid during the day, but comes alive once it gets dark and the lights are switched on.  This was quite a good buy on sale some years ago and it collapses for easy storage.

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Our spiral rope tree

Some of our near neighbours in the village have lights up outside too, so nice to see others getting into the festive spirit. It doesn’t have to be a lot to make a salute to Christmas.

Thursday, 6 December 2018

It’s the Silly Season

It's that time of the year, the Silly Season and the Christmas break-up get-togethers are coming thick and fast.  We had our last Probus Club meeting earlier in the week, followed by a Christmas Lunch at a local cafĂ©.  It was a good turnout, with about 70 members attending.  We were presented with a little bag of “Old Age Pills”, they are sure to come in handy for our various ailments.

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The tasty meal was buffet style, with hot ham and lamb in gravy served, then we helped ourselves to the veggies and salads.  Followed by Christmas Pudding, custard and cream for dessert, and we heard murmurings around the table that there would be no evening meal served in most households that night.

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As usual when in a crowd, the conversation flowed around the tables, covering all sorts of topics, although we noticed that the sound level dropped dramatically once everyone was tucking into their lunches.  We pulled our Christmas crackers, donned the hats, read the jokes, and had a great time.

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Lots of happy diners

And as it happens, we will be dining back in this establishment on Friday night, for another Christmas get-together. 

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Monday, 3 December 2018

Spit Roast for Dinner

We were parked all over our hosts front lawn for the weekend, caravans and campers tucked in just so, and surrounded with beautiful gardens.  The weather was fine but a little breezy, the birds were singing, and we could hear the stock calling out in the adjacent paddocks.  To remind us we were in rural surroundings  there was a notice up on the driveway explaining country ways to the townies.

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It seemed that our Christmas Caravan Club Rally was all about food.  Which seems to be the way at functions, this time of year.  And the “piece de la resistance” was the spit roast hogget dinner on Saturday evening – our host Don is the master of the spit roast, and he was justifiably proud of his effort .  Yes, it tasted as great as it looked, and the smell of the meat slowly cooking was divine. 

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Spit roast for dinner

On Saturday evening we had a small competition – the correct way to fold a fitted sheet.  Those darn things are not easy to fold neatly, and I always roll my sheets to put them away, so I was not even in the running for a prize.  At the end Selwyn showed us how it should be done, seems rather long winded but it does make it look nice.

Our hostess Sandra had made a beautiful Christmas Cake which was raffled with the funds going to the club coffers.  We were all quite keen to win, but it didn’t come home with us.  Lorraine was the lucky winner, with Don taking second prize.  Many thanks to Sandra for her generous offer, and well done to the winners.

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The raffle winners

There’s something about opening up a bonnet to bring all the blokes over to have a look.  Seems that Robin was showing them the finer points of our new to us Jeep tow car.

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What’s under here?

Our weekend concluded with Christmas Mince Pies for Sunday morning tea out in the sunshine, as the temperatures steadily grew higher.  Just as well most of us had sun glasses and shady hats on.

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Kath with the morning tea

Most of us stayed on for lunch and sheltered under the caravan awnings.  My goodness, that sun was scorching hot.  Gemma was looking for shade too, here she is tucked under the caravan step, with just her head poking out.

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Gemma under the step

It was a lovely weekend rally, our final one for the year - great weather, great company, and great food.  As we departed, we wished each other well for the festive season.  Some of us may well be meeting up again at the “Drop In” rally between Christmas and New Year, a very informal rally, so we will just have to see how the plans go.

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Start of Christmas Rally and a Big Birthday

Our caravan club Christmas Rally was held at rural Koputuroa, at the property of members Sandra and Don.  Most of us arrived on Friday in the early afternoon and were slotted into place on the front lawn.  Selwyn and Kath struggled a little with their big awning in the blustery conditions.  Before too long the poles were in place, the awning ropes secured and they had shade from the hot afternoon sunshine.

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Selwyn and Kath with their awning

As we sat outside enjoying the sunshine, there was a meeting between the two Birman cats in our caravan club, Dot and Derek’s Honey and our little Gemma.  They touched noses to say hello before deciding that enough was enough and they didn’t really want to be lifelong buddies.

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Gemma and Honey

4zees was in the conservatory, and we got the first glimpse of or brand new notice board.  Dennis had made it to replace our elderly blackboard which needed to be retired.  Thanks Dennis, much appreciated.

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Dennis with the new notice board

Dennis was back on duty again helping cook our evening meal in the conservatory, looking after the hash browns and sausages.  Selwyn was in charge of the steaks, and they both did a wonderful job, cooking for 20 or so.  We had all taken along our own salads and extras for the meal.

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Selwyn and Dennis hard at work

Then in the evening we had a game, a version of “Pass the Parcel”.  Everyone was asked to bring along a jar of pickle, relish or sauce, all wrapped up.  Then the fun began – Val read out a long winded tale of the Right family, and whenever the words right or left were mentioned, we swiftly passed our jars the correct way.  Some got a little jumbled with their left and right, and those jars moved merrily right around the table.  At the end of the story we got to take the wrapping off and see  what we ended up with.

There was a special occasion to celebrate at morning tea on Saturday.  Our host Don was turning 80 shortly and was having an early birthday celebration with his caravan club buddies.  Dot surprised him with a birthday cake, the candle was lit and blown out, and then the cake was cut.  Wonder if he made a birthday wish when blowing out that “80” birthday candle?

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Happy Birthday Don

With more fun and games promised for the remainder of the weekend, it should be an interesting rally indeed.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Jet Boating on the Wanganui River – Day 3

Day 3 of our Forgotten World Adventure trip started with another hearty breakfast in the motel dining room.  Before we started the long drive home we had another adventure planned – a jet boat ride on the Wanganui River.  What a wonderful experience this was – we had already had a jet boat ride previously, but for some of the other passengers it was their first time.  Our guide was so knowledgeable about the local history and had a folder full of interesting photos.  Wanganui River was the local highway in earlier years, and goods and people were carried up and down the river  before the roads were built.

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The safety briefing came next, our group was split into two, and and we were given life jackets to wear.  Not that our guide was planning to tip the boat over, he told us, but a necessary safely precaution.

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Once aboard, it was interesting to see that the river was a combination of smooth parts and then many rapids.  Our guide drove the boat expertly around the many large boulders as big as cars in the river, carried down by glaciers, we were told.

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The river banks had very interesting geology and our guide pointed out the layers of  mud and limestone from when this part was previously on the ocean floor before being uplifted.  And there was a huge layer of white pumice ash clearly visible on top of the cliffs from the Taupo Eruption which was the most violent eruption known in the world in the last 5000 years. The eruption plume reached 50km into the air, with areas near Lake Taupo being buried in more than 100 metres of pyroclastic flow. This scorching hot flow spread up to 90 km from the vent and covered all local features except Ruapehu. it is possible that ash from this eruption was the cause of red sunsets recorded by the Romans and Chinese at that time.

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Interesting features on the river banks

The river views were beautiful, and there was abundant birdlife, flying quickly out of the way of the noisy jet boat, or quietly dabbling around the river edges.  Stopping by a small stream running into the river, complete with a pretty waterfall,  our guide told us the gory tale of  two warring Maori tribes when the stream ran red with blood after a battle.  The area seems so peaceful now.

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Pretty river scenes

We  had a great ride, including several “Hamilton Turns” where the boat is turned sharply around before coming to a stop.  The scenery was spectacular and the abundant birdlife showed that the river was in good health.  Then the other half of our group waiting on the river bank finally had their turn in jet boat.  And here they come racing back.

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After all that excitement we piled back into the bus and were driven to Laurens Lavender Farm for morning tea, which we enjoyed under the shady awning.  Such a pretty place, so restful, and it must be a marvelous sight when all the lavender is in flower.  And our bus driver Leon told us that he and his bride were married in these lovely surroundings a few years ago.

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Laurens Lavender Farm

Then we settled down to the homeward journey, travelling back through National Park.  Stopped at Waiouru at the rather flash public conveniences, designed to mirror the National Army Museum across the road.    The public toilet in Waiouru has been recognized as the best of its kind in the country, and won its category in the 2016 Keep New Zealand Beautiful Awards.

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Award winning public loos

One last stop at Taihape and then we settled down with a few nodding off in the bus, till we arrived back in Levin.  What a great three days we had on our Forgotten World Adventure.

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Riding the Rails - Day 2

Day two of our adventure dawned rather misty, and we had an early morning start meeting at 6.30am for bacon and eggs for breakfast in the dining room.

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Misty morning in Taumarunui

But we were assured that the sun would soon break through and we set off to the start of our rail trip.  Into the bus we went, to get taken to the start of our day’s adventure, where we were allocated our self drive rail carts, after a safety briefing.  We were to travel 82kms along the rail line, through 20 tunnels, stopping at long abandoned towns which once were alive and thriving.

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All keen and eager to start

As we had been assured, the mist cleared with the promise of a hot, sunny day.  With a guide front and back, we entered our first tunnel.    Although stopping in tunnels was not allowed, we had been told, there was an exception made for this one, the longest on the line at 1.525km.  Half way through we came to a halt, and the guide told about the history of the tunnel.  Then we were asked to switch the carts off and we sat in pitch blackness, marveling that all these tunnels were dug by hand so long ago – and the fact that starting this one  at each end, the tunnellers managed to meet in the middle.

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The longest tunnel on the track

What’s this beside the rail track?  Shades of “Goodbye Pork Pie”, it’s that little yellow mini trying to get to Invercargill.

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We chugged along, enjoying the scenery, passing sheep, cattle and wild turkeys.  Clattering over a multitude of small bridges, and under road bridges, sometimes with the traffic hurtling above our heads.

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It was sad to think that each little stop along the way used to be a small thriving town in earlier years as the rail line was constructed, but is now desolate and deserted.  As well as housing the railway workers, there were dairy factories and stockyards, schools, sawmills and hotels, even a brickworks utilizing the natural clay.  The Egmont Box Company used stands of Kahikatea (white pine) to make packing boxes to send New Zealand butter exports to Britain.

We stopped at Tokirima for lunch where everything was set out for us – ham, salad and fresh bread for sandwiches, home baking for afters, and hot and cold drinks supplied. 

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Lunch stop at Tokirima

Patrons going on other trips also gathered here for lunch, before we all continued on our respective ways.  We were continuing down the line to Whangamomona while others were heading back to Taumarunui.  Just as well there was a dinky little turntable to turn the carts around.

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The turntable

Continuing on our way we went through tunnel after tunnel, some so short we could see right through them, and over more small bridges.  The cabbage trees were in flower, and it was so nice, chugging along in the sunshine.

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Three decades of back breaking work – interrupted by WW1 and the Great Depression, came to an end on 7th November 1932 when the rail lines from Stratford and Taumarunui were joined at Heao.  4,000 people watched as Prime Minister GW Forbes drove in the last spike.  The first train was ready to leave from Heao’s new station,  and excited spectators placed coins on the track to get mementos.

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The last spike

There was an unexpected stop was further down the line where there had been a recent rockfall.  Our guides made sure that the rail lines were clear before we continued on – so that was why he had the spade with him.

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Rock fall

Care needed to be taken as we crossed over the road just before we reached our destination of Whangamomona.  This was the most difficult and expensive rail line in New Zealand’s history.  The full length of 142km travels over 98 bridges, and through 24 tunnels, using 9000 tons of rail and 260,000 sleepers.  It was started in March 1901 and finally completed in November 1932.

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Our final stop was the historic pub at Whangamomona where we all gathered for refreshments.  And there’s the bus waiting to take us back to Taumarunui along the Forgotten World Highway.

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Day Two concluded with a tasty roast dinner in our motel dining room – what a great day we had.