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

Sunday, March 29, 2015

A busy day in Hastings

Sunday morning means one thing only when we are in Hastings – it’s time for a visit to the Farmers Market.  The place was buzzing, so many others, locals and visitors alike,  thought the same as us.  Cars and a fair few motor-homes were all parked up under the trees and we found a spare space to park our 4WD once one of the customers drove away.  The smells were divine.  Robin couldn’t say no to a bacon baguette, and I waited patiently in line for a cup of coffee.  The slight drizzle turned to rain so Robin rushed back to the car to collect our brollies.

P3290016 Coffee in the rain at the market

So what else took our fancy - it seemed to be all about food!  Two Danish pasties for dessert tonight, and a bag of lovely omega plums.  Then there was the black pudding – guess what we will be having with our bacon and eggs for breakfast one morning soon.  And just as we were leaving we passed another bakery and purchased a pie each for lunch.  Steak and kidney for her, and steak, bacon and cheese for him.  We had to assure the baker that we really did know that pies should be heated in the oven and not the microwave.   The rain kept falling, so shopping done, we drove back to the caravan to heat up our pies for lunch.  They were delicious too, just like homemade.

P3290017

After lunch the rain had stopped and the sun came out again so we took a trip 10km out of town to visit the Pekapeka Wetlands.  We have passed by this site so many times but always seem to be towing the caravan behind us so it was never convenient to stop.  Pekapeka is the Maori name for the native bats which lived in a nearby cave, using the wetlands as a source of food.  The wetlands have a very important part to play, filtering nutrients and sediments, and providing a rich source of food for birds, fish, and animals.  They keep water on the land by acting as sponges, slowly releasing moisture back into the surrounding environment.

P3290048

There were plenty of information boards telling of the history, decline, and subsequent restoration of the wetland area.   Flaxes and bull rushes grew prolifically, towering over our heads – and we were several feet up on the boardwalk. 

P3290031 Bull rushes crowding on all sides

We could just imagine that this is what the primeval slime and mud looked like from millions of years ago – wondering what creatures had climbed out of the watery depths to make their new home on land.  The mud was covered in the foot prints of birds,  and tiny breathing holes of little creatures living underground.  Over 30 species of birds make their home here, but most of them must have been well hidden in the swamp during the heat of the day.

P3298658  Bird prints everywhere

AS we walked further along the boardwalk, the swampy water got deeper.  A family of black swans quietly glided amongst the willow trees which used to grow here, and have now been cut down as the wetlands have been restored and replanted with native flora.

P3290037 Black swans

P3298659 On the boardwalk

The construction of both the railway line and SH2 cut through the wetland, and it was common practice in earlier years to use places like this as a dumping ground for rubbish such as unwanted soil and building rubble, from the 1870s up to the 1990s.  Material from the demolished old Mayfair and Pacific Hotels is left visible here, as a reminder of lessons learnt about how not to look after the environment.  Let’s hope it is a lesson learnt and remembered.  This is a very restful and peaceful area and the Hawkes Bay Regional Council are to be commended for restoring this area to it’s present healthy state.  It was opened for public access in 2010 and we are pleased that we have now had a good look around the  reserve.  Well worth a stop if you are travelling by.

P3290045 Rubble dumped in the wetlands

And as a nice finish to our busy day we decided to drive back to get the best fish and chips in town from Hawkes Bay Seafood.  There is a huge selection of wet fish available, from fillets, whole fish, crabs and shell fish.  We ordered snapper fillets, garlic prawns and chips and ate them al fresco on the picnic tables in front of the shop.  It was a great finish to a busy day.

P3290050Someone else is doing the cooking for us tonight

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Camping amongst the Apples

Apple picking is in full swing here in sunny Hastings.  We have travelled up to stay at one of our favourite Pops for several nights, and as repeat customers were warmly welcomed on site.  The small camp is quite full with seasonal workers but owners Dick and Elly found a spot for us and we are parked up in front of rows of trees bearing luscious red apples.  It’s a bit like being in the Garden of Eden.

P3280010 Camping in the apple orchard

P3280007A pile of empty apple crates are ready and waiting to be filled

The hot Hawkes Bay sunshine is beating down and we are pleased with our large sun shade giving us a shady area to sit under.  Poor Muffy seems to be feeling jet lagged as she lay sprawled out on the floor of the caravan when we arrived.  It must be cooler down there than on the couch.  It's a hard life being a travelling cat sometimes.

P3280001 Muffy is worn out

This Pop comes complete with a washing machine (I’ll be sure to use it) and since our last visit a clothes drier has appeared.  That will be handy in the winter, but while it is nice and sunny I’ll put my laundry out to dry on the clothes line.

P3280003 Washing machine in the shed and drier in the cupboard

We will be attending the National Caravan Club Rally at Putorino, Napier, over Easter, but travelled up nice and early.  We have relatives to catch up with, and several places to explore while we are here.  It should be fun.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Better late than never

Robin had a special job to do in the caravan. He needed to secure our brand new fire extinguisher to the wall.  Yes, we know we should have purchased one for our safety when we changed caravans, but we never quite thought of it.   Anyway, it is all done now – so better late than never.  It is tucked away on the end of the kitchen cupboards, by the bedroom curtain.  (Not that we ever pull this curtain across the bedroom end of the caravan).  Unobtrusive, but easy to get to if it is needed in a hurry.

P3270001 New fire extinguisher in the caravan

Our smoke alarm is down in the bedroom end of the caravan too.  It quietly winks away at me in the dead of night, I notice, if I have trouble sleeping. And unlike our previous smoke alarm, the toaster doesn’t set the raucous ringing off.  So hopefully these two items things will keep us safe on our travels.

P3270002 Smoke alarm on the ceiling

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Saturday Night Pub Quiz

To tell the truth, we didn’t actually go to a pub.  Does it count if our Pub Quiz really took place in a school class room during our caravan rally?  Of course not.  And all that thinking certainly gave the old grey cells a bit of a shake-up, I can tell you.

P3210042 A busy old day

The first quiz had a decided political flavour.  Our team of four had to list the 15 political parties that contested the 2014 General Election.  We started well, National, Labour, NZ First (good old Winston who gave us OAPs the Gold Card), The Greens, and the Maori Party.  Then we ran out of steam a bit.  What’s the name of that fellow who always wears bow ties, we asked each other.  And that awful millionaire Kim Dot Com – the name of his political party escaped us for a while, even though it was in the news night after night.  The minutes kept ticking away, and there was no way that we could remember the names of all the fifteen – so there was no way our team was coming first.

Then we were taken back to our childhood days when we were asked to recall Nursery Rhymes in a two part quiz.  First we had to work out the first line from the clue:  Little MMSOAT.  Easy – Little Miss Muffet sat on a Tuffet.  Then we had to recall the second line of the nursery rhyme.  No trouble in this case – “eating her curds and whey”.  Some were easy, and some not, and if we couldn’t get part one there was no way to work out the second line for part two.  We were asked to repeat this exercise 44 times – goodness, who would even know there were that many nursery rhymes.  Geoff and Eileen won this quiz with a wonderful effort of 39 correct answers.

We were blessed with lovely sunny Autumn weather over the weekend, with just a little rain on Sunday.  The school was surrounded with large trees and we listened to the chortling songs of magpies.  And somewhere up high was a tui hiding in the trees who kept us entertained with his singing.   Tui are endemic to New Zealand and belong to the honeyeater family, which means they feed mainly on nectar from flowers of native plants. Occasionally they will eat insects too.  They are important pollinators of many native trees and will fly large distances, especially during winter for their favourite foods.  We finally spotted the tui up on the topmost branch of a large Macrocarpa tree.  Although they appear black from a distance, tui feathers have a beautiful iridescent blue and green sheen.  In this photo you can just make out the curled white feather tufts on the throat.  Because of these white feathers early settlers called the tui the Parson bird.

P3220050 Tui on the highest branch of the tree

And to show you the lovely colours – photo from the internet

It was a great weekend with our caravan buddies, with plenty to keep us entertained, from disc bowls to the pub quiz.  And the blokes were very interested in the cricket match of the day when the Black Caps played the West Indies.  They all huddled together in a group – Barry kept everyone informed with updates on his phone.  But there is nothing wrong with listening the old fashioned way – Dave had his radio tuned to the game and they all listened intently.   Sport is well ingrained into the  Kiwi  male psyche, and there is nothing more serious than international sport.

P3210038 Listening intently to the cricket game

Monday, March 23, 2015

Disc Bowls at Otaki

After a relaxing day at Otaki Beach, we travelled the short distance to Peter Chanel School in Otaki township, where our caravan club was hosting the Combined Rally.  Caravan friends from the Wairarapa and Wellington clubs joined our club, Heretaunga for a weekend of fellowship and friendly banter. 

P3220043 Parked up at Peter Chanel School

There was a little club rivalry too, which reared it’s head during the Saturday games afternoon.  Disc bowls was on the agenda, a bit of a mystery to a non sporty person like me.  But I did my best, and valiantly threw those discs through the air, trying to land as close to the kitty as I could.  Not very successfully, I might add.  Why I was made leader of the team, I’ve got no idea!

P3210020I’ve picked it up, what do I do now?

Robin was in a different team, and had a much better idea of what to do, and used a more professional throwing technique than me.  My method is more like “chuck it and see where it lands”.

P3210032 Robin in action

Surprisingly, my team made it to the semi finals, how on earth did we manage that, before getting knocked out.  The winners were the Wairarapa Team – well done.

P3210036 Harry, Caroline and Bob, the winning team

St Mary’s Catholic Church is adjacent to the school and is New Zealand's oldest Catholic church still in use. It is on the site of what was once a Catholic Mission. A large Maori settlement (kainga) grew up around the mission. The church is in the process of getting a new roof, but that didn’t stop church services being held over the weekend.

P3220045 Work being undertaken on the new roof

P3220048 St Mary’s Catholic Church

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Otaki Beach

What to do when we were going to a “close to home” rally and the site would not be open for caravans later in the day?  It seemed such a waste of the day to stay home all day and not get on the road till later in the afternoon.  So we decided to get packed up early, hook up the caravan, and head down to Otaki Beach for the day.  And what a lovely day it was, warm and sunny, with sea breezes coming ashore.  Apart for a couple of fishermen, we had most of the beach to ourselves.  Kapiti Island was looking a bit hazy in the distance.
 P3200014Kapiti Island from Otaki Beach

We parked up at the Freedom Camping Site on the shingle beach.  Self contained caravans and motor-homes may stay in this area for 2 nights, with restrictions. There are no water or toilets available here, so campers must be self contained and have these facilities onboard.  We weren’t planning on staying overnight, just to while away a few hours while we enjoyed the sea view.

P3200004Freedom Camping site

The adjacent Otaki River Estuary plays an important role for native species and  provides feeding, roosting, and nesting for birds, fish and invertebrates including whitebait (inanga).  There has been a lot of planting taking place in the estuary by “The Friends of the Otaki River” who are dedicated in growing eco-sourced native plants in their nursery for river restoration projects. 

P3200006
Otaki River Estuary

A quartet of horse riders quietly walked their steeds along side the estuary, they were out  enjoying the lovely weather too.

P3200013Horses at Otaki

We were joined by Geoff and Eileen at lunchtime.  After our respective sandwiches, or in Geoff’s case, a meat pie, we shared the  hot cross buns which our guests had brought along, and provided them with a coffee to finish our picnic lunch.   Outside on the shingle beach the fishermen were still trying their luck.  Looks like there is something on this fishing line – hope he has been reeling them in and has something to take home after his morning fishing.

P3200018  Fishing at the beach

Our lunch guests left to complete their preparations for the caravan rally, and we enjoyed another hour or so relaxing at the beach.  What a lovely start to a rally weekend.

P3200005 Parked up on the beach

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Zealandia and more

The day out with our SLG friends certainly started off on an auspicious note this morning.  Just look what we saw in the sky when we met for a coffee and a catch-up at Porirua before driving on to continue our adventure.  A rainbow must mean good luck and safe travels, surely.

P3190010 Starting our day with a rainbow blessing

It was Calvin’s month to plan our SLG outing, and after our coffee, we drove into Wellington to Zealandia Wildlife Sanctuary.  Zealandia, formerly known as the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary, is a protected natural area in Wellington,  where the biodiversity of 225 ha of forest is being restored.  The most crucial aspect of the sanctuary is a pest-exclusion fence, designed to exclude fourteen species of non-native land mammals ranging from deer to mice, cats and possums, which encircles the 8.6 km perimeter of the Sanctuary.  With the construction of the fence completed, all  pests within the perimeter were then eradicated over a nine-month period. Endangered native birds have been re-introduced, and are flourishing and in the predator free environment. 

P3190057 This way to Zealandia

But we were not here to walk the bush tracks and watch and listen to native birds going about their business amongst the trees.  We were here to look through the magnificent Visitors Centre and view the exhibition.  This building houses a functions/education space, an orientation/ticketing hall, a shop, an exhibition space, a cafe and support spaces for all of those functions.  And being a group of OAPs, we all qualified for a reduction in our entry fee.

P3190016 Robin walking up to the Visitors Centre

P3190029Inside the exhibition

The exhibition space covered two floors, and was full of interesting displays.  But the “piece de la resistance”  would have to be the huge movie screen which told the story of New Zealand wildlife.  Before people arrive in this country, birds ruled supreme.  Then with the arrival of the Maori people about 1000 years ago, changes slowly happened to the birdlife and the countryside.  In particular, the mighty moa was slowly killed off, and became extinct.  But the biggest threat to habitat and birdlife was when the European settlers arrived in the 1800s.  Huge swathes of native forests were cleared for farming.  But even more deadly to the bird life was the introduction of pests, such as goats, deer, rats, mice, possums, rabbits and ferrets, all which found their new home a paradise, with out a single predator to keep the balance in check.

P3190041  Giant moa

The displays were very interesting, and I pressed buttons to my heart’s content listening to each species bird call.  Sadly, so many of our beautiful native birds are endangered these days, or have already become extinct.  Such as the lovely Huia, with it’s beautiful long curved beak, and white tipped tail feathers, which were highly prized.  Maori people of high rank wore huia feathers in their hair. The group of 12 feathers from a huia’s tail, usually still joined at the base, was called a mareko, and was worn by high chiefs going into battle. Huia feathers were highly prized and kept in a carved wooden chest called a waka huia,  (treasure chest).

P3190020 A pair of Huia

Another extinct bird which would have put fear into peoples heart was the Haast’s Eagle.  With fearsome talons as sharp as tigers claws, and a mighty  2.5m wing span, these giant eagles could tackle a moa 10 times or even more its own weight.  There is speculation that it could possibly prey on humans as well.  No other eagle in the world has ever grown as big.  But when the moa was hunted to extinction, the eagles lost their main food source and suffered the same fate. 
 
P3190040 Haast’s Eagle

After lunch in the Rata Cafe our next stop was to the Victorian styled Begonia glasshouse  in the Wellington Botanic Gardens.  Calvin is a very keen begonia grower himself, and always has a most amazing display of these in his home.  But first we had to walk through the Lady Norwood rose garden.

P3190058 Begonia House

P3190061Just one of the lovely roses growing

P3190067  Begonias of all colours

Next door was the Tropical Waterlily House, home also to many varieties of orchids.  Les, Robin and Calvin found the water lily pool particularly intriguing, I noticed.  Wonder what is in there which took their fancy?

P3190074 Checking out the Waterlily Pool

We said our goodbyes to our SLG friends and started the long drive home, getting away in time to beat the rush hour traffic.  But what a slow trip it was.  It’s not as if we weren’t warned, signs on SH1 announced that there had been an accident at Otaihanga and to expect delays.  We crawled along in the slow line of traffic for miles and miles, singing along to the songs on the radio to help pass the time.  At last we finally reached the accident site – it was swarming with men in high vis jackets as they tried to put things right.  Oh dear – a truck had tipped over and was blocking one lane of the roundabout.  Workmen were unpacking pallets of goods from the downed truck, and loading them on to another one waiting patiently.   I managed to take a couple of photos as we drove past.    The traffic speed soon picked up once we were past the accident.

P3190087Truck lying on it’s side

We found out later on the news  that the semi-trailer truck had been travelling north in the outside lane on the Otaihanga roundabout, about 1.30pm, when it tipped outward onto a footpath.  It was loaded with 15 tonnes of McDonalds French fries.   The driver escaped the cab virtually uninjured, but was shocked and unable to account for what had happened.  The accident had caused delays for traffic heading north from Paraparaumu, (yes, we know!) and was expected to slow the evening peak traffic. Work to clear the highway would not begin till about 9pm, as a crane would have to be transported to the site, and would be positioned across four lanes of the highway to tip the truck upright, before it could be removed.   Last year three trucks rolled at the same spot within three months of each other – so something certainly needs to be done about this part of the highway.