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

Monday, 24 September 2018

First BBQ of the Season

It’s Spring down here in our part of the world, and it was time to fire up the BBQ, our first this season, for our guests, who were staying for dinner.  Gary,  Robin’s old school friend from years ago, and his lovely wife Glenys had come down from New Plymouth for the weekend to catch up with family and friends.  The weather was perfect yesterday, so we spent some time sitting outside under the shady Archgola.

Gary, Robin and Glenys

When the Weber BBQ was up to the required temperature, the meat was placed inside.  We were cooking a pork roast.  The skin was scoured and rubbed with salt to make crispy crackle, and the thermometer was inserted, to tell the cook when the meat was done.

It goes in looking like this

And comes out smelling wonderful and looking like this

While Robin was in charge of the meat, I was busy in the kitchen cooking up veggies and an apple pie for dessert.  We enjoyed a nice leisurely meal together, and caught up with all the respective news.  Robin and Gary had both recently traded in their cars for a newer model, so there was plenty of car talk too.  It was great to see them both again.

The weather today has turned wet with cold spells due,  we have been advised.  Spring can sometimes be a bit temperamental, so we will just have to wait and see what the weather gods bring in the next few days. 

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Wanganui – I am the river, the river is me

Wanganui is one of New Zealand’s oldest towns, established in 1840.  The river is it’s heart and soul, and is very important to the local Maori people.  In the early days, the river  was the main method of transport for both Maori and European settlers.  A Maori proverb proclaims:

“The great river flows from the mountains to the sea, I am the river, the river is me”.

Wanganui River flowing past the motor camp

Eight vans arrived for the weekend, and we were so lucky to experience lovely warm Spring weather.  Selwyn had arranged for some catalogues for the men in the club, chock full of “hard to find hardware” was the claim.  The men had their noses in these little booklets, planning to purchase all sorts of interesting bits and pieces.  And as a thank you to our club members, Selwyn was gifted a whopper Carrot Cake to share with everyone over the weekend. To get though this huge cake, we were eating it at supper, morning and afternoon tea the next day before it was consumed!

Selwyn cutting the cake

Bill and Val had us busy with games and quizzes.  On Saturday afternoon the weather was perfect for a leisurely walk around Virginia Lake, where we saw all sorts of water birds, elegant swans, noisy ducks, some with tiny ducklings paddling hard to keep up with their Mum, even  a terrapin sunning himself.  As we walked slowly along the path, enjoying the sights, we had to step aside smartly as a posse of mad joggers came racing by.


Virginia Lake

Maori mythology tells a haunting story of how young maiden Tainui met up with a bird lover named Turere. They shared a passion and ability to talk with the birds, but jealous and angry Ranginui wanted Tainui to become his wife. He set off to kill Turere where the lake now lies. In her grief, Tainui cried tears adding to the water of the lake.

After our exercise, we relaxed at the nearby Funky Duck Café for refreshments.  Orders of tea and coffee, milkshakes, ice-creams, iced chocolate were all delivered to our group of thirsty walkers.  Later in the evening, the planned entertainment had to be put aside as keen rugby followers settled down in the TV lounge to watch the All Blacks play against the Springboks.  It wasn't our night as the visitors took away the Freedom Cup.

Our final morning tea was held outside in the sunshine, chocolate bars were handed out to the prize winners, then everyone one else got one as well, for taking part.  It was time to pack up and make our way back home.  Another fun and friendly weekend.

What way is home?

Friday, 14 September 2018

Weekend rally at Wanganui

If we can, we like to travel up a day early for a weekend caravan club rally.  So we packed up and drove the 110kms to Wanganui on Thursday.  For part of the trip we were slowed up with a house being moved along.  The width of the house was encroaching on the other side of the road, and approaching cars had to be stopped and parked up off the road to allow the house to continue on it’s way.


Eventually we made it to Wanganui and drove across the intriguing Dublin Street Bridge, one of several spanning the Wanganui River.  Dublin Street Bridge is intriguing to me, looking like it has been made from meccano pieces.


Then it wasn’t too far up Somme Parade and we arrived at Wanganui River Top 10 Holiday Park.  We were the first of our group to arrive, got settled on site in time for lunch.


This is a nice camp ground, well maintained and lovely clean ablution blocks.  Happy birds chirped and fluttered around in the aviary.


And what's this?  Someone had constructed a large moa out of left over branches – very well done, I thought.  Moas were large flightless birds (about as big as an ostrich) and were hunted to extinction over 500 years ago

The early-birds, four vans, were all on site in time for 4zees, with the balance to arrive on Friday.  And just because we could, we pooled cars and went out for dinner at the Wanganui East Club, a most enjoyable meal it was too.


The rally officially starts on Friday, so we will have to wait and see that Bill and Val have organised for us.  Whatever it is, it’s sure to be interesting.  Looks like the weather will remain fine for the weekend, so that is always a bonus.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Visit to Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom

That’s a bit of a mouthful, isn't it?  Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom is a new building in Foxton housing the library, council services, and museum, featuring the history of local Maori, early European settlers, and Dutch immigrants who arrived after WWII and made such an impact in this community.    Te Awahou is the Maori name for Foxton and the waterway which runs under the building, translating to new stream in English, and Nieuwe Stroom in Dutch.  It was Robin’s turn to organise an outing for our SLG friends, so this is where we went.


Dutch explorer Abel Tasman had the first encounter with local Maori when he anchored at Golden Bay in 1642, although he did not come ashore.    After a skirmish, there were deaths on both sides, and Tasman named the bay Murderers Bay and sailed away.  While Tasman had been warned of the possibility of attack, Maori had experienced a number of bewildering firsts – firearms, tall ships and white men. It would be more than 120 years before Maori and European next met, with the arrival  James Cook in 1769.  There is a wonderful painted wall of blue tiles in the museum  relating this first encounter.


After being occupied by the Germans during the war, the Netherlands struggled to reconstruct its ruined economy and society. High unemployment, housing shortages, and a baby boom increased the pressures.  The peak years were between July 1951 and June 1954, and by 1968, approximately 25,000 immigrants born in Dutch territories had come to settle in New Zealand.  Immigrants brought their furnishings to remind them of home.

A little taste of home

“The Great Wall of Bikes” reminds us that the Netherlands is a land of bikes, and cycling culture.  The bikes on the wall were mainly brought over by the immigrants.


Also in display are photos and artifacts from the early Maori times in this area.


The sleepy town of Foxton was once home to a thriving flax-milling industry. Native flax was a vital source of durable fibre for Maori, who made it into baskets, fishing nets and clothing. An export trade began from the 1820s, and a major industry developed, with large mills around Foxton.   For over 80 years - from 1888 to 1974 - the production of flax fibre was Foxton's principal source of income and three generations of workers found employment in the swamps and mills of the district.


Then it was time for lunch, and we had booked a table just next door at the aptly named Dutch Oven Café.  Then on the way back home,  we had to call in to RJ’s for a licorice fix.  Most visitors to Levin like to pop into the factory shop to replenish supplies.

Robin, Ashley and Yvonne

Monday, 3 September 2018

Spring has Arrived

September heralds the arrival of Spring down here in the Southern Hemisphere.  Our winter was not too bad this year, yes, we have had cold spells, wind and rain, plus a little snow on the back ranges, but overall I think winter was fairly mild.  Wonder what that means for summer this year?  As long as we get some sunshine to coincide with caravan holidays, we will be happy.

Someone who is a little unhappy lately is Robin, he has come down with some sort of lurgy, coughing, spluttering, aches and pains.  According to the Medical Centre when he went for his (unrelated) blood pressure check-up last week, it seems lots of patents who have recently returned from Australia have been presenting with the same symptoms.  Probably something picked up in the air flights, we all know that the circulating air picks up all sorts of bugs from travelers.  With a lot of TLC he is slowly coming right.

And this is a sign of Spring – our Kowhai tree is dripping with golden yellow blossoms.  We brought this tree as a young self sown sapling from our garden in Upper Hutt when we relocated to Levin five years ago (is it really that long?) and it has grown well in the back garden.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Reflecting Back

Now home from our Aussie Adventure these last few days, we’ve had time to empty our suitcases and reflect on our trip.  It’s no good dwelling on the Rail Trip which didn’t happen – with the promise of a full refund, you can be sure we will try again,  perhaps for next year.  After all, it is one of the great rail trips of the world, travelling across the Australian Continent from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.

Perth was a lovely city, and one we had never visited before.  We read Perth has the title of the most isolated capitol city in the world.  That being the case, there are plenty of people happy to live there, and plenty more who come over for a visit.  We loved the wonderful Kings Park, and the free buses around the CBD.

Our visit to Rottnest Island was something we had been looking forward too, and seeing those cute little quokkas.  Sadly, with thoughtless tourists bribing them with food for photo shots, their health is suffering.  We stayed overnight, and once the last ferry had left for the day, the place was practically deserted. Rottnest Island has few permanent residents, with most island workers commuting from the mainland.

I often commented that we were probably the only Kiwis who had never visited Sydney – that has now been rectified as we have finally experienced our first visit there.  A huge, busy, cosmopolitan city, our accommodation was just across the road from the busy Central Station.  Trains, buses, and light rail will take you wherever you want to go on your pre-paid Opal card.  As do the ferries down at Circular Quay, what an exciting place that was.  We didn't realize how close together Circular Quay, The Opera House, The Sydney Harbour Bridge, and The Rocks were, just a short walk and you can see them all.  And a few stops on the Light Rail takes you to Darling Harbour, another must-see place.

No shopping got done in Sydney, we didn’t even venture into the main shopping area to visit David Jones or Myers.  Oh no, we were much too busy jumping on and off ferries, trains and the light rail.

So what were the highlights?  The best money we spent on ourselves was upgrading to Premium Economy on the Auckland-Perth leg of our journey.  No where near as posh as flying Business Class, but we were pleasantly surprised at the seating, leg room, attentive service, and just how comfortable those seven and a half hours flying were.  The extra cost might not suit everyone, but for us, it was a good decision.

Best sightseeing trip – the Manly Ferry trip, long anticipated, and Manly Beach was beautiful.

Best wildlife sighting – would have to be those cute quokkas.  Not at all hard to spot on Rottnest Island, as they sat there quietly nibbling on leaves, making them very easy to photograph.  And we were rather impressed with sighting an osprey sitting on it’s huge nest down on the rocky foreshore.

Best Hotel - was the Duxton, in Perth.

Best Meal – at Pan Pacific Hotel in Perth, oh my, those wonderful huge prawns at the buffet.  (This was the hotel our train load of disappointed train travelers were booked into after our trip was cancelled).  We don’t get prawns like these back home in New Zealand, ours are tiny little imported ones.  Mind you, we had a rather memorable meal at “Public House” bar and restaurant in Perth, which would come a close second.

So now we are safely home we have got out of holiday mode where we discussed “where shall we go for dinner tonight?”.  We are now back in every-day life mode where the question is “what shall I cook for dinner tonight?”.  We had a great time, but it’s always nice to arrive home safely again at the end of the holiday, isn’t it?  Back to your own bed, and welcoming little Gemma back home again.  She got a present, a tiny soft kangaroo, which she swats around the floor, chasing it here and there.  We are sure she has grown while we’ve been away, and she has settled back nicely after spending time with the breeder.

Gemma and her baby kangaroo

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Time to gome Home

Our time in Aussie had come to an end.  Another early morning start, much too early for the hotel restaurant to be open, so we only had a cuppa in our room.  Never mind, we are sure to be eating on the plane.  The taxi arrived promptly and whizzed us to the airport, a much quicker trip this time being Saturday morning with not so much traffic around as the night we arrived.  Sydney Airport is rather big and bustling, full with tourists all looking for their particular carriers to book in with.  As we were, and being Murphy’s Law, the Air New Zealand stand was right down the other end of the concourse.  A nice young staff member stepped forward to help us out on the machines – no doubt we were looking rather harassed and elderly by this stage. 

With our big bags handed over we then went through the very busy security area: slide passport in, stand on the yellow feet on the floor, look up, and flash, photo taken.  Put bags, jackets, everything in your pockets onto the trays to be x-rayed, and finally we were through.  The only thing left to do was to go and wait by our boarding gate, pick up a coffee and a paper to while away the time, and wait for the boarding call.  And there’s our plane, waiting for us, to whisk us home to New Zealand.  And yes, we did have lunch on the plane, but we had to pre-order (and pay) when we booked our flights.  Obviously, there is no such thing as a free lunch on these shorter flights.

 Landing at Auckland Airport we collected our bags and caught the free bus to the Domestic Terminal.  More waiting, of course, but that’s what air travel is all about, isn’t it.  Our last plane ride of our trip was taking us to Palmerston North, no air bridge for these regional flights, but a brisk walk over the tarmac, and up the metal steps to board the flight.

It was dark and cold by the time we landed and collected the car from the Long Term Storage area.  Once in our little home town we just needed a trip to the supermarket to pick up some milk and something quick for tea, and we were finally home.  Holidays are great, but it’s always good to come home safely again.  For some added insurance, we had packed a folding walking stick after hurting my knee and needing a visit to the hospital previously in Australia.  And we are pleased to report, that just because we had taken it with us, we didn’t need it.  Just as we had hoped.

Friday, 24 August 2018

Rain at The Rocks

Sitting in a window seat at the hotel restaurant we watched as all the workers scurried this way and that in the rain, winter coats and jackets on, umbrellas up, and walking along briskly as they were focused on their phones.  No need for us to feel so smug as we sat enjoying the last of our breakfast, with no coats packed, we had to make a quick dash over the road in the rain to  Central Station.  A few stations along the line we alighted at Circular

Everyone who has visited Sydney raved about “The Rocks” so we went to check it out. But first, let’s have another look at the view on Circular Quay again, there’s always such a lot going on with all the ferries arriving and departing.

There were several of these birds at the Quay looking for food scraps, which can’t be good for them.  Don’t know what they are, but someone is sure to know.  There are signs up everywhere saying “Don’t feed the birds” but when people leave their rubbish around, it’s easy pickings for them.

A short walk in the drizzle and we arrived at The Rocks, originally a working class area.  And yes, there are plenty of rocks around.  People power saved this area from the bulldozers and redevelopment in the 70s, as the local community was concerned about being moved out of The Rocks, a place they and their families had been living in for generations. They called on the trade union movement and prominent Sydney personalities to help them save The Rocks. 'Green Bans' were imposed on the redevelopment of The Rocks, to be lifted only when residents were to receive assurance from the NSW Government that local people would be rehoused in the area.  In 1975, a compromise was reached and the bans were lifted. All buildings north of the Cahill Expressway were to be retained, conserved and restored.

“First Impressions” by Bud Dumas is a wonderful three sided sandstone relief sculpture symbolising the origins and settlement of the colony, showing a soldier, a convict, and a family of settlers. 

We escaped the drizzle with a visit to The Rocks Discovery Museum, telling of the history of the area.  The continuous loop films were most interesting, and covered the indigenous people, first arrivals, building the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and the protests to save the area.  And did you know that Sydney’s streets were successfully paved in hardwood slabs to combat the dust and mud?

It was lucky we visited on a Friday, as all the Food Stalls were up and running, and doing tremendous business.  The place was packed with visitors, all looking for tasty “street food”.  What a fun place to be.

Thursday, 23 August 2018

More Sydney Sightseeing

It’s a busy life being on holiday –  we have to be up, showered,  and down to breakfast in the hotel bright and early before we head out the door exploring.  There is such a lot to see in the big bustling city of Sydney, and with just a few days here, we can barely scratch the surface.  And we are becoming quite used to the tap-on, tap-off system of using the public transport system.  Circular Quay is busy, that’s where all the many ferries leave from, going to places far and wide, and we have already taken a couple of ferry rides.

Circular Quay

But to me, Circular Quay is forever associated by the haunting song written by Eric Bogle, “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda”, written about the Gallipoli Campaign.  Part of the song goes:

So they gathered the crippled, the wounded, the maimed, and they shipped us back home to Australia.
The legless, the armless, the blind, the insane, those proud wounded heroes of Suvla
And as our ship pulled into Circular Quay, I looked at the place where me legs used to be.
And thanked Christ there was nobody waiting for me, to grieve, to mourn, and to pity.
But the band played Waltzing Matilda, as they carried us down the gangway.
But nobody cheered, they just stood and stared, then they turned all their faces away

Now back to travel adventures – we discovered that we could take a train ride across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and that sounded like fun.  Alighting at Milsons Point, we got a good “up close” view of the bridge from another angle.  People pay good money to walk up this bridge, and we have seen them from afar, looking like tiny ants right up the top of the curve.

Sydney Harbour Bridge, from Milsons Point

It was a different mode of transport today, we boarded the Light Rail to Darling Harbour.  Bright red and shiny, it left just across the road outside Central Station.  We need some of these back home!

Light Rail train

Darling Harbour is a very trendy place, lots of hotels, restaurants and bars on the water’s edge, and surrounded by towering skyscrapers.  Busy during the day, and sure to be even busier in the evenings when people come out to dine.  We had a good look around, saw two policemen on bike duty, droves of tourists wandering around, and had some lunch in the Harbourside Shopping Centre.

Darling Harbour

What’s this?  We found The British Lolly Shop, so had a look in there.  Mind you, we were very restrained and just purchased a couple of Fry's Chocolate Cream Bars.  There was too much choice in all those packets and jars to get anything else.

We did the tiniest bit of shopping here 

Walking back over the Prymont Bridge was interesting.  Pyrmont Bridge, designed by Percy Allan,  is one of the world's oldest surviving electrically operated swing-span bridges. The first bridge began operating in 1857 and the current swing-span bridge opened in 1902. The bridge provided the main transport route between the city and Sydney's growing western suburbs while the swing-span allowed tall vessels to access Darling Harbour.  In 1981 the bridge was closed to all pedestrian and vehicular traffic, reopening for pedestrians in 1988 after  Darling Harbour redevelopment is completed and the precinct opens to the public.  The bridge is generally opened for demonstrations on weekends and public holidays – wouldn’t that be wonderful to see.

The Prymont Bridge

We stopped off at Paddy’s Market on the way back to the hotel.  If you wanted cheap bling, this was the place to be, stall after stall of similar goods.  Robin was offered a massage, but he turned the girls down.  So that’s our sightseeing for another day.  It will be our last day in Sydney tomorrow, and we fly home on Saturday.  

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

The Manly Ferry, and on to Parramatta

We arrived in Sydney at around midnight on Monday, happy to arrive safe and sound and finally get to bed to rest our weary bones.  The hotel is ideally placed just across the road from buses and Central Station, the  largest and busiest railway station in New South Wales.   So we got ourselves an Opal Card each and started exploring.  A few stops down the line, and we were at Circular Quay.

 Rendezvous Hotel
Central Station

Having a ride on the Manly Ferry was high on our list of things to do.  There they were, all yellow and pudgy just as we had imagined them, not at all like the sleek fast ferries docked beside them.  We climbed aboard, and headed over to Manly.

The Manly Ferry

We passed by the famous Sydney Opera House.

30 minutes later, we arrived at Manly Wharf

The Corso, Manly

Manly Beach was perfect – golden sand and warm sun.  We sat in the sunshine watching the world go by, plus the joggers, the dog walkers, the young Mum’s with strollers, and all those tourists taking selfies.
 Manly Beach

After lunch, on our walk back to the ferry terminal, we came across a whole lot of Sulphur crested cockatoos, looks like they were sharing lunch with the young woman sitting in the park.

As we approached the Sydney skyline we pondered what to do with the rest of the day.  Why not take another ferry ride?

So we did – going in another direction across the harbour, this time to Parramatta.

Evonne Goolagong ferry took us to Parramatta

This was quite a different, longer trip, which had plenty of stops along the way, and the latter part of the journey took us up the Parramatta River, where we saw  pelican happily swimming by.  It was rather like being in tropics, with mangroves lining the river banks.

On the Parramatta River

Back on board for our return trip, we had to take the obligatory selfie, just like any self respecting tourist.  This isn’t easy to do with an ordinary camera, I can tell you!

Arriving back at the wharf at 5.00pm, we joined up with all the workers hurrying home as we boarded the train back to our station.  We can’t fault the public transport here in Sydney, and especially the Opal Cards.  With a daily cap of $15.80 on our adult cards, (we didn’t qualify for a concession card as we are not residents here) about half of our travel was free.

We would like to acknowledge Paul and his beloved late wife Elaine, who kept us entertained blogging about their adventures on The Manly Ferry Blog at  Paul is having health issues and we wish him all the best, and want him to know that these two Kiwis have finally ridden a real life Manly Ferry.

PS:  Our computer is misbehaving and we are having trouble posting this blog - hope all will be resolved soon.