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

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.


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.



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.


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.

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.


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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.


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. 


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.

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.


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.

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.

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.


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.



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

Saturday, 17 November 2018

3 Days of Fun – Forgotten World Adventures

Forgotten World Adventures put together a three day custom tour (all inclusive) for our Probus Club.  So we  were part of the 17 strong group ready to  enjoy all the fun and excitement of what was on offer.  Leon, our driver, came down to Levin to collect us all, and we were on our way.


There was a brief stop at Hunterville,  just time to admire the statue of the Hunterway dog.  Hunterway dogs made an immense contribution to the steep farming district of Hunterville, where this breed of dog barks as it gathers and moves the sheep down from the hills.  Big, upstanding dogs with a strong bark, their proud owners often enter them in sheep dog trials held throughout the country where they demonstrate their ability and skill.

Honouring the Hunterway dogs of the region

Back on the bus we drove along the Desert Road and had a great view of the classic cone shaped Mt  Ngauruhoe, which has  been active for at least 2500 years. 

Mt Ngauruhoe

Our lunch stop was at the Lakeland Restaurant, on the edge of Lake Taupo.  A lovely place and the meals were fabulous.


Fish and prawns for her, and steak for him

Group photo at the lake edge

Well fed and watered, it was back in the bus again for our final part of the trip for the day, arriving at the Forgotten World Motel in Taumarunui.

Comfy motel for the next two nights

And this is what we have come for – to do a rail cart tour the next day.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Before the World went PC Crazy

Remember how simple the world seemed when we were children?  I’m sure we all had lots more freedom in the big wide world back then.  Robin was “Club Speaker” at our Probus Club recently and spoke about how different kids lives were back then – much more different than the very protected bubbles modern children live in these days.

At Probus Club

Robin’s family moved to New Plymouth when he was seven, and his Dad bought a milk run. With a growing family, and the milk truck being the only vehicle, the two older boys were seated on the back of the truck, although Dad did add boards to each side for these family excursions.  Carrying children like this would be an offence these days, of course.  Robin remembers family trips up to Mt Egmont in winter, where the boys filled the back of the truck with snow.  Then took great delight throwing snowballs at the passing cars on the drive home.

Summer was a great time, there were streams to be explored, and afternoons spent in the salt water pool - all without adult supervision.  The salt water pool was unfiltered and after a storm all sorts of debris was floating around in the water.  The answer to this was for the boys to stuff their mouths with aniseed balls while they swum and fooled around in the pool, which negated the taste of all that questionable debris floating in the water.

Robin and his scouting mates did (unaccompanied by an adult) weekend tramps up the mountain, and across country, using a compass to find their way.  On one trip after his pack fell into a stream he had to spend the night sleeping in a wet sleeping bag!

There was no local bus service, so the kids biked everywhere – and New Plymouth is full of hills.  They biked to school, to the swimming pool, to footy practice.  All that biking must have built up his stamina, as Robin took up Surf Life Saving in his teen age years.  He hitch hiked to Oakura Beach where he spent the weekend at the local surf club.  After a day of practice and training, the evening meals was freshly gathered mussels from the rocks on the beach, cooked up over a fire and dunked in vinegar.  His parents came out to the beach on Sundays with the younger children to collect him and take home.

A little snap shot of growing up before the world went PC crazy - how many lads would have so much freedom these days, we wonder?

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Caravan Rally at Te Horo

It seemed that Caravan Club rallies were coming thick and fast – it was only two weeks ago since our last one.  This time it was a Combined Rally where members from other clubs are invited to join us.  Held at Te Horo School, it was a lovely venue with a real country feel to it.  Although not too far from the main road, it was like being out in the country.  Plenty of big trees and abundant birdlife, and stock in the paddocks close by.  "Te Horo" in the Māori language means "the landslide".


We arrived in the late afternoon on Friday, which was to allow plenty of time for the pupils and staff to depart without our vans getting in the way.  As promised by the Met Service, the rain came down on Friday night, and kept falling all day Saturday without let up.  It was a cold, miserable day, and although there was plenty of attractions in the local area, most were happy just to stay put and socialize. With such a relentless downpour, the ground got more and more soggy and squelchy.  Wish we had packed our gumboots like some of the other campers had thought to do.

Camping in the rain

Fortunately we had use of the cozy hall to meet in.  On Saturday night tables were set up and we had a combined meal – where everyone prepared and ate their own main course.  Followed by a shared dessert, yummy.  All sorts of delights appeared from the vans, hot desserts, chocolate eclairs, lamingtons, brownies, and ice-cream.  There was plenty for everyone, and some of the blokes managed to fit in seconds.

Dessert table

Many thanks to Dianne and Barry who brought in boxes of grapefruit and lemons from their property.  Some came home with me, I love grapefruit for breakfast, and plan to make some lemon honey in the next wee while. 

Grapefruit and lemons

As often happens during weekends away, Sunday dawned warm and sunny.  So sunny in fact, that our kitten Gemma stretched right out on the window ledge, enjoying the warmth coming in the window.  She still has her plastic cone on, waiting for her wound to heal after being spayed. 

Gemma enjoying the Sunday sunshine 

It was a great weekend – and nice to meet up with fellow campers from other clubs who joined us for the weekend.  There were a few quizzes to test our brains, games of bowls and quoits in the hall for the energetic, and it is always interesting to listen to and take part in the wide ranging topics of conversation when a group gets together.  Maybe we didn't solve the problems of the world, but we always seem to have plenty to talk about!

Camping at Te Horo School