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

Monday, September 1, 2014

First day of Spring

Spring in New Zealand officially occupies the months of September, October, and November making today the first day of Spring.  Sunrise today was at 6.41am and the sun will set tonight at 6.00pm.  Roll on, Summer.

Our pot of daffodils on the patio “could do better”  with only one golden trumpet out so far to greet the Spring. Hopefully the other bulbs will produce flowers soon
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P9010001 Spring is here

The yellow Boronia is doing much better with the little bush in full flower.  The perfume is divine.

P9010002 Yellow boronia in flower

We are not known as keen gardeners, but the mild weather has found Robin working in the back yard on the two raised garden beds.  First all the weeds were removed.  Then a bag of pony poo was dug in to the soil, and the rhubarb has been split up and replanted.  The next step is to plant out some veggie plants, cauli and cabbage perhaps, and maybe some beans. And not forgetting some tomatoes when the time is right.  (It’s his garden, he says, and he will plant what he wants to!)   Anything goes, and you can get quite a bit of produce out of these small plots.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Reflections of Christchurch

There must be a million road cones in Christchurch, and I think we saw every single one.  They were everywhere, lined up like soldiers in long rows as they moved the cars to this side of the road or the other.  No matter where we drove, in the centre of the city or out in the suburbs, there were cones everywhere.  Plus workmen digging holes, replacing pipes and resurfacing the road surface.  In the central city alone  there was around $160 million of earthquake damage to roads, bridges, wastewater, storm water and fresh water networks.  This equates to 43km of wastewater pipes, 8km of fresh water pipes, 9 pump stations, 15 bridges and 62km of roading.  This work is being undertaken by SCIRT (Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Team) and  is responsible for rebuilding horizontal infrastructure in Christchurch following the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011.
 P8250012 Just a few of the million or so road cones in Christchurch

P8250001 There were plenty of these signs around too

P8240011Shipping containers are plied one on top of each other holding this building in place.

P8240016 
The steel rods are all twisted and torn

But it’s not all doom and gloom amongst all this damage.  Although many of the damaged buildings have been levelled, there are also new ones are going up.  The Restart Mall (made from brightly painted shipping containers) is buzzing and brings foot traffic into the city. 

P8220033  The Restart Mall

Bright and colourful Wall Art is popping up everywhere in the city, we particularly liked this one of a ballerina.  Paintings brighten the bleak city walls of damaged buildings and bring a little cheer into people’s lives.

P8240014 Very clever wall art

Although Christchurch has a long way to go to get the city back to normal, the people seem to take it in their stride and just get on with day to day living.  That’s the Kiwi attitude, I guess, just knuckle down and get on with it.  What else can you do?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

We’re suffering from Boat-lag

Our time in Christchurch had come to an end, it was time to leave the apartment, pack the car, and drive on up to Picton to catch the ferry home.  The alarm was set to go off at 6.00am and after a shower, a cuppa, and a quick check to make sure that we hadn’t left anything behind, it was time to hit the road.  As we left the city, it was a bit like rush hour in Wellington, with long streams of cars driving into Christchurch.  With so many suburban houses damaged in the earthquakes, many homeowners now live in the large subdivisions which up sprung up some distance away.  Our plan was to leave early, and stop for breakfast further  along our way.  The cafe we stopped at in Cheviot was a good choice, with a “Farmer’s Breakfast” for him, and Scrambled Eggs for her.  There was a lovely old stone church across the street which caught my fancy.

P8260032 Presbyterian Church at Cheviot

It was about here that our plans fell in disarray when we received a couple of texts from the Interislander.  The first text told us that the ferry we were booked on was having mechanical problems and was running late.  Then we were told that our early afternoon sailing was cancelled and our booking had been transferred to the 7.00pm sailing – bother!!  That will make us very late home indeed.  But never mind, at least we were fully informed and could now just take our time.

Driving through Kaikoura we caught glimpse of snow covered mountains so out came my camera.  Robin commented that I seem to have a “bit of a thing” for such scenes.  He’s right, there’s something about such grandeur that really leaves me breathless.

P8260047 Just look at that wonderful view

Then we drove back through the small one way tunnels cut into the rock.  There are two sets of these tunnels quite close together along this road.

P8260040 Dinky little tunnels cut through the rock

As we had plenty of time to kill, we decided to have another stop at Ohau Stream to see if the pool was full of baby seals this time around. But no, we were disappointed again, there was only one lone sea pup swimming all by himself in the pool.  Around and around he frolicked  enjoying himself just under the waterfall.  It was not easy to get a good photo at all with the poor light and the continual movement. 

P8260051 Seal pup in the pool

The bus load of noisy young female tourists squealing in delight didn’t seem to upset the baby at all, he just kept on playing before hauling himself up onto a rock.  There he struck poses this way and that as the cameras went clicked merrily away and the girls talked baby talk to the seal pup.

P8268455  Posing for the cameras

Then as we walked back down the track we were treated to the sight of two seal pups playing in the stream, and wondered if these were the same two we had seen a week earlier.  They were certainly having fun in the water, and then decided it was time to go.  They showed us how to do rock hopping as they made their way down stream.  They followed the stream through the culvert under the road and we spotted them again on the rocky beach. 

P8260092 Time to go back to the beach

And there they are moving down to the sea across the rocks.  Perhaps it’s meal time and they are waiting for their Mums to return.

P8260107 Returning to the sea

P8260108
View of the coast

We continued our journey and arrived in Picton, where we had hours to spare before our ferry was leaving.  So we enjoyed the sunshine and the views down at the marina as we whiled away the time.  There was lots of serious money tied up here, we thought.  It was such a nice calm day there was no concern that we would get a repeat of the rough trip we had coming over Cook Strait a week ago.

P8260115 
Down at the marina

At last it was time to  go and park up in the check-in area with the other cars, vans and motor-homes.  As usual, the railway wagons and trucks were loaded first, and then finally, it was our turn.

P8260112 The way back to Wellington

The Aratere (meaning Quickpath) got away at 7.00pm.  This ship is a version of a “stretched limo”, as it underwent a $52 million refit at the Sembawang shipyard in Singapore in 2011.  The ship was lengthened by cutting it in half to insert a new 30-metre (98 ft 5.1 in) midsection, and  a new bow and stern.  All this work  increased her capacity from 360 to 600 passengers. Isn’t that amazing!

We arrived in Wellington at 9.45pm, and started the long drive up SH1, finally arriving home at 11.30pm.  It had been a long day, and we were exhausted, so the car was quickly unpacked, and we tumbled into bed.   I think we were suffering from “boat-lag”.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Woolston Tannery and Lyttelton

The Tannery of Woolston was built about 1870 from brick by Gustav Lindstrom, an impressive array of buildings indeed.  After operating for 80 years, the tannery closed in 1959 after the company went into receivership and the land was progressively sold off and many of the old buildings demolished.

The Tannery Circa 1901The former tannery buildings

Since 1994 most of the site has been owned by Alisdair Cassels who began restoring some of the old tannery buildings and leasing them to businesses, while also developing the vacant land. The site now contains a mix of buildings, old and new, containing boutique shops, cafes and bars.

P8250009

The historic tannery site has now been turned into a Victorian Arcade, light and airy with glass overhead, wrought iron fittings, and full of interesting and different shops which call you to come and investigate their wares.  We met son Michael there for lunch, and after walking the length of the arcade, settled down outside the cafe.  The deli windows were full of interesting cheeses, sides of smoked bacon, and all sorts of tasty goodies.  It all looked delicious.

P8250008 Let’s do lunch

Saying goodbye after lunch, we took a drive out to Lyttelton, to see how things were progressing in this port suburb.   Lyttelton was extensively damaged with the earthquakes, as we noticed a couple of years ago when we were last here.  Things didn’t seem to have moved along much at all.  Hill side homes still had big concrete blocks in place to stop the land slipping away
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P8250019 Concrete blocks in front of suburban homes

Although there is a little building work being done, there are still a lot of buildings fenced off and left abandoned, just as they were after the earthquake had struck.  It was sad to see that things are taking so long to progress.

P8250024 
Locked up and lonely

The port is still busy with logs piled up ready to go overseas.  After the earthquake the port facilities quickly returned to operation. The overall quake damage was less significant than in Christchurch itself, due it was reported, to the dampening effects of the solid rock that the town rests on.

P8250025 Lyttelton Port is still busy

We drove back through the Lyttelton road tunnel which runs beneath the Port Hills and links the city with its seaport.  It opened in 1964 and carries about 10,000 vehicles each day as part of State Highway 74.   At 1,970 metres (6,460 ft) it is the longest road tunnel in New Zealand.

P8250026 On our way back to the city

That’s enough sightseeing for the day, it’s time to head back to our accommodation for a cuppa and start packing up for our journey home the next day. We are hoping for a nice calm ferry crossing.

Monday, August 25, 2014

50th Birthday Bash

Do all Mums have this thought at a time like this – how could I possibly have a son who is turning 50?  But I have, and he is indeed 50, much to his surprise.  I think it sort of sneaked up on him.  Michael had organised an evening at Becks Southern Alehouse on Saturday night and 30 guests met there for dinner.  It was a mixed group, mostly Michael’s friends, and his two parents, accompanied by  their spouses.  There was much hugging and greeting as the guests arrived, then everyone settled down at the two tables.  Any late comers got to sit at the parents table – that was their punishment for arriving late.  Everyone was very friendly - “oh, you’re the ones with the caravan”, some of them said.

P8230001 The Birthday Boy

There was plenty of choices on the menu, and after a lot of dithering on my part, I had finally decided.  Although I dearly would have liked to try the duck breast for my main, I felt that I couldn’t really justify the high price.  So I did the next best thing and ordered duck won tons for starters, (slightly dissapointing, as it turned out) and had a more realistically priced main course to follow.

P8230005 Michael visiting the parents (and friends) table

Friend Fiona had baked a large birthday cake, banana, Michael’s favourite, spread with chocolate ganache icing in the middle.  She had copied the Star Trek design on the top, and added the words “Captain James T Groovy – Live Long and Prosper”.  When did Michael turn into a Trekkie, I wondered?

P8230002

P8230003
Fiona and Michael

After dinner I stood up and related 10 facts that the guests might not know about Michael.  Such as when his father and I took him on his first camping holiday when he was only 4 months old into the wilds of Lake Waikaremoana, with nothing more than a small car and a pup tent.  And he really, really loved his gollywog and woolly blanket when he was a toddler and carried them everywhere.  He was also very fully informed on the Ottoman Empire and could tell you everything you wanted to know about this subject, whether you were interested or not!


P8230010 Relating some family secrets

After the dinner, everyone moved out to the bar to listen to the music, and danced on the tiny dance floor.  I watched as Michael whirled Fiona around the dance floor.  He never used to dance as a youngster,  I thought to myself, but then he has been away from home for a long time now.  Michael’s group of friends attend the Ceroc Dance classes on a regular basis. 

P8230015 Dancing the night away

The birthday celebrations continued over to Sunday (the day of his actual birthday) with an informal “at home”.  His gift from us was a Photo Book showing his life, from baby, to toddler, schoolboy and beyond.

P8240002

P8240006
Happy Birthday Michael

It turned out to be a very busy afternoon.  Michael’s Dad and his wife came calling.  So did a whole swag of friends bearing plates of food and gifts,   Michael was kept busy at the coffee machine whipping up lattes and cappuccinos as required.  The birthday celebrations had gone very well.   My little boy had turned 50 with style and panache.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Tripping around, Weedons NZMCA Park and New Brighton Pier

Our day trip started with a visit to the NZMCA property at Weedons, a place we had heard of but never visited.  This is situated in a huge grassed area, with plenty of room for those who tow extra large rigs.  There is quite a large space set aside at the back for storage, just the place to leave your motor-home when you embark on that overseas trip, we were told.  The large metal  garage on site is used for get-togethers, and there is both potable water and rubbish skips available, together with several clotheslines.  Arriving in our little car, we soon found a couple of friendly campers to chat to about staying in  the camp.

P8230049 Plenty of room at NZMCA site at Weedons

Previously, members have been able to stay here for up to 90 days in any 180 day period. This length of stay has now been reduced to 21 nights in any 60 day period. The maximum continuous stay at Weedons Park will be 14 nights, and members must be at least 5 nights off site before returning.  This is now a condition of obtaining resource consent.

Curiosity satisfied, the GPS then took us to New Brighton, just because we had never been there before.  Driving in to this area, we were shocked at the amount of empty sections where houses had been severely damaged by the earthquakes and subsequently demolished.  Others were standing damaged and empty to await the same fate.  It seems that the coastal suburb of New Brighton was particularly affected by the earthquakes, but is still a viable place to live. The shopping area and the beach seemed full of people.

The New Brighton Pier (we didn’t know about this either before we arrived) seemed to be unharmed by seismic activity and was just begging us to walk it’s length and get some sea breezes in our hair.  We were surprised to read that it was built in 1997, and had thought at first that it must be quite a new structure.  At 300m in length,  6m wide and standing 7m high it is certainly a sight to see as it stretches out into the sea. 
 P8230055 The New Brighton Pier stretching out into the sea

There were plenty of family groups trying their luck fishing off the end of the pier, with rods and lines.  We were interested to watch as people lowered their crab nets over the side into the water, baited with fish heads, and pull them up again with several paddle crabs trapped inside.  The crabs are good eating, a young Asian lady assured us.  The local surfers were trying their luck too, we noticed, but the waves weren’t really high enough to give them a good run.

P8230057Another view of the pier

Our sightseeing over for the day, it was time to head back to our accommodation and get ready for the evening.  After all, this is the the reason we have travelled down to Christchurch  - to share in son Michael's 50th Birthday Bash.



Saturday, August 23, 2014

What’s happening in Christchurch City

It’s a little strange to be travelling without the caravan, so just for a change we are staying at an apartment block not far from the city centre.  Our studio room is quite nice, with everything we need, including a  big TV at the foot of the bed.  But there is only one chair – is that too much to expect, 2 chairs for 2 people?  There is a dining room/lounge area  available further down the hall, so we have commandeered the dining table from time to time to set up our laptops.  After all, there’s blogs to write, and blog surfing to do to keep us in touch.    And joy of joys,  a laundry just a few doors away on our floor, just in case I get the urge to do a load of laundry some day soon. 

P8220001 Our home for the next 5 nights

We caught a bus into the heart of the city, a free trip courtesy of our Gold Cards.  Things had certainly changed since our last visit a couple of years ago, when much of the CBD was in ruins and fenced off.  Many buildings have been demolished, some rebuilding has started, but we still noticed lots of damaged buildings held up with steel framing.  The poor old Christchurch Cathedral looks a sorry sight indeed.  It seems that it’s fate is still not settled, with quite a lot of locals wanting it to be restored rather than demolished and rebuilt.

P8220006 The partly demolished Christchurch Cathedral

Joining the overseas tourists we jumped aboard the Christchurch Tram for a guided tour from the museum to New Regent Street.  These beautifully restored  trams were built by the J C Brill Company in Philadelphia, USA.  Our driver gave us a running commentary of all the interesting buildings we passed, some damaged by the earthquake which wrecked such havoc in February 2011, and some still in one piece.

P8220017

P8220029
The Christchurch Tram

We exited the tram at the stop closest to the Cardboard Cathedral – or the Transitional Cathedral as the church likes to call it.  Designed by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, it is constructed of cardboard tubes, timber and steel, with a polished concrete floor and polycarbonate roof, and (surprisingly, we read) can seat up to 700 people.

P8220023 Cardboard Cathedral

Although we had seen pictures of this building, I was surprised at how light and airy it was inside.  With no windows, the light filters through strips of the polycarbonate roof showing between the cardboard covered steel girders.  It is a very peaceful place indeed, and we were happy to finally come for a visit.  We were given permission to take photos, if we gave a donation, we were quite firmly told by one of the volunteers on duty.  No problem, we were happy to donate, the church has a lot of fundraising to do.

P8220026 Inside the Cathedral

Boarding the tram again, we continued with our tour, driving down New Regent Street where we saw Spanish style architecture painted in  soft pastel colours.  So pretty, and we had never discovered this street before on earlier visits
P8220028  Spanish style shop fronts in New Regent Street

P8220030 Some buildings are going up

P8220002 
While others are coming down

We had an el fresco lunch in the trendy Restart Mall, made up of small businesses trading out of colourful painted shipping containers.  The food shops were doing great business, and we joined the queue to order our lunch  from Fritz’s Weiners (barbequed hot dog in a bread roll), then sat outside in the sunshine while we devoured it.  Very tasty indeed.

P8220035 Part of the Restart Mall

After all this walking around Robin’s sore knee was giving him real problems, so we slowly made our way back to the car.  Next stop was a visit to son Michael, the reason for our trip to Christchurch.  He is celebrating a BIG birthday on Saturday – he can’t be that old, surely!  I told him I’d probably embarrass him at his birthday bash by relating a few family secrets.  By the look on his face he wasn’t too sure if I was joking or not!

P8220041 Michael and his Mum