Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Yes to shorts!

On Saturday as we drove (with not a logging truck to be seen on the road - yay!) from Tokomaru Bay (beautiful) to Te Araroa (also beautiful), we stopped in a few places.

I've mentioned these trees before - they are beautiful.

We stopped here for lunch.
At Te Araroa  we stayed at a lovely Park over Property (a POP in NZ Motor Caravan Association parlance) and were ably cared for by Mairi and Brian. It was just up the road from an NZMCA park, but for an additional $9 we had water, toilets and showers - and grass to park on and no highways right beside us.
The NZMCA park at Te Araroa

Morepork's Rest - and just us!

We had the benefit of a local tabby cat making its way through the door screen, unasked, uninvited, but in the way of tabbies everywhere, just assuming its welcome was assured. And of course it was ...
Is there any food before I leave?

We had gone for a walk earlier into the village - on the way, we saw the only good kind of possum ...
Squashed head, lying completely still, not at all disturbed by the flies coming to feast on its corpse - A good possum!! The rule is in NZ that if you see a possum in your headlights at night, you have to hit it and kill it. They are voracious eaters of native flora and fauna - they are responsible for eating native bird eggs, native insects, stripping leaves and buds from native trees. They are an Australian import. But I cannot blame the Australians for their importation - I am fairly sure it was the English who did the deed, dammit!

The houses in these places may be stripped of their paint by the sun and salt, but always, always, the schools and marae are impeccable, lawns are beautifully mown and you can see the pride people take in their communities.

Te Araroa has a Four Square shop (a bit like the Coop or Spar in UK villages) - Four Square is the chain (locally owned and franchised) that stays in small places that the big supermarkets won't touch. Every town we go into, whether on the boat or in the motorhome, we shop locally  - it's our meagre contribution to keeping these shops going. Four Square was here long before the big supermarkets came along and it is great to see them still going strong in these communities.

This logo is instantly recognisable to any NZer

Te Araroa also has the most amazing pohutukawa tree that is 350 years old and just huge. Its diameter is about 21 metres.  Read about it in the photo below. We talked about the tree with Brian, the POP manager, this morning, and he explained that it is a local treasure. He told us that one day recently some tree trimmers contracted by the local council came along to trim the branches that were overhanging the road. Apparently the contractors didn't even get out of their truck. They were told in no uncertain terms to leave it alone. 'But it overhangs the road' the council contractors said. 'So move the road' was the response from the locals. The compromise position is a sign saying 'Large Tree ahead. 4.1m clearance' Sounds about right to me.
Now that is a tree! Te Waha-O-Rererkohu

Clearly, it's well-loved

I'm not sure why this beach in particular is covered in logs.

A shorts day today - bright warm/hot sunshine and that was at 9.30am! So up in the cupboard I start rummaging, and pull out a pair of shorts. Yikes, screaming and yelling - along the back of the cupboard runs a VERY large cockroach - at least 2 feet long. OK, not 2 feet long, but at least an inch long. Far too big for a benign insect, in my view, if there even is such a thing ...

So out come all of the clothes in my cupboard and I try to catch the offending demonic beast. Coward that it is, it hides in between the cupboard and the end wall. Bastard - that is just above my head when I am in bed - of course it is going to then creep down and crawl all over me while I sleep! In a murderous rage, I get the flyspray out of the pantry and spray the shit out of the wall at the back of my clothes cupboard, hoping the cockroach will at least retreat. Off we go to say goodbye to Brian and Mairi, then back we come to head away. I need a pee before we go so I come in the habitation door, and there, lo and behold, joy of joys, is an upside down lying on its back twitching its legs in the air, in its death throes, larger than life (3 feet long, 1 foot wide ...) cockroach. OK, still not that big, but of a size that I can capture in a paper towel, squeeze the living shit out of, and dispose of OUTSIDE the motorhome, in case it gives birth to countless more in its dying moments.  Someone told me that when you squash a cockroach it exudes thousands of eggs which instantly hatch out into baby cockroaches. I am pretty sure that is not the case, but I am taking no chances - hence the battered squashed corpse was left in Te Araroa.

It's been a longish drive today both close to the coast and inland, mostly winding, with a huge amount of ascending and descending. So that I didn't get tired, we stopped for lunch beside the sea.
I must have finished lunch already but there is still tea in that mug...
A good lunch stop
The blue circle shows where we were, across the road from a marae. The road between Waihau Bay and our lunch stop was a big climb up and the big descent.
Seen on the way

The view from one of the high spots
Stopped at the high spot - for a change, I am the one taking the photos! Hence the driver's door is open.

Then on to Opotiki where we stayed at a POP again on Sunday - such fabulous views from there and, even though the hosts are away, their tenant Shirley took good care of us.

Not long before bedtime ...

The other two motorhomes that were here for the weekend also have lovely owners. Jim and Marion, Ash and Jacqueline. Four of the six of us were formerly teachers ... Shared drinks and nibbles then dinner separately, and off to an early bed for me - how surprising!

Friday, 1 November 2019

No shorts yet

because it's not summer, and the last few days have been windy and almost cold.

And I have discovered that parking within 20 metres of the high tide mark when the wind is also coming in from the sea makes for a very noisy night!
See how close we are and the tide isn't right in yet ...

But once again I am ahead of myself ...

The area we are exploring now, the East Coast, is quite sparsely populated - and when I tell you that NZ has the population of Birmingham living in it and is the same size as mainland Britain, you will know that means a very small number of people per square kilometre and slightly more per square mile.

However the East Coast appears, while driving through it to have a smaller population than almost any area of NZ I've ever been to. And given the terrain, the small population is not surprising. David and I often mentioned Clare, our intrepid cycling friend, who last year cycled the road we are traversing, being overtaken by logging trucks (hundreds) climbing and descending very steep and winding hills. When I had to get down to second gear at times, the thoughts would be expressed:
  • how the hell did Clare get up this?
  • mmm, a good one for Clare, and
  • she told me she'd get off her bike and stand on the road shoulder when she heard logging trucks coming - she must have been on and off constantly on any week day!
After we left Mahia, we headed for Tolaga Bay, an amazing place with a wharf that is 633 metres long. It was restored some years ago, as it was seen to be significant for both Maori and pakeha communities, and it is bound up significantly in the history of the area. Getting in and out of this region would have been a long, arduous journey, so coastal shipping was prevalent - that too, was not without risk. This coastline is quite inhospitable with jutting out cliffs shaped by the seas and the wind, with bays that look lovely, but have vicious reefs that show from mid low tide to mid high tide.
(There is a boat ramp here in Tokomaru Bay near the pub - in my uninformed opinion, it is a triumph of optimism over reality - when we walked along the beach yesterday, there were reefs everywhere - how do the boats get out and back in? They would need to not have very deep Vs, that is for sure, and timing would be everything ...)

We parked up at Blue Waters, a Gisborne District Council camping area. The small fee ($35 for up to 9 nights' camping) that we paid for the permit at GDC is a boon, AND they give you maps, a pamphlet, and a number of large paper rubbish bags. They have really thought through the freedom camping thing here - all the camps appear to have toilets, and an above ground, freestanding (but chained to a building structure - sensible because it is amazing what people will nick) septic tank for emptying toilet cassettes into.

Where we parked in the expansive two level area was right next to the Surf Life Saving Club, because that had the best view of the sea and coast. Just after 6pm a car drove up containing a couple who had come to do some coaching of a dance team who were entered in a competition but hadn't yet perfected their routine or practised much. Practice was meant to start at 6pm, the tutors were late, but no one else showed till about 6.30. Practice wasn't long (all cars were gone by 8.30pm) but in the meantime one young man was practising outside with his taiaha** - he looked very competent to my untrained eye.

[**A taiaha is a traditional weapon of the Māori of New Zealand; a close-quarters staff weapon made from either wood or whalebone, and used for short, sharp strikes or stabbing thrusts with efficient footwork on the part of the wielder. Taiaha are usually between 5 to 6 feet in length. Wikipedia]

In the morning, we drove back along the bay to the wharf - had a long blowy walk along its 633 metres. David was under strict instructions NOT to approach the edge at the end where there were no guard rails - he may have better sight now, but I still don't trust him not to misstep. The wind was blowing strongly from the shore and the tide was running out - if he'd fallen in he'd have been halfway to South America in a jiffy!

Craggy coastline part of the way along the wharf

About 580 metres from the beach. Coastal ships used to tie up on each side.  In between the diverging railway lines for moving cargo to and from the ships, there used to be a wooden hut which had the points for switching the tracks.
Looking out to sea - next stop South America's west coast. I was wearing a t-shirt, a merino jersey and my lined coat, jeans and SANDALS! I needed a beanie to keep my ears warm but as this is a summer holiday, I didn't bring one, DOH!
Looking back to the beach. The CROW is parked parallel to the beach (incorrectly) and two other motorhome drivers were better behaved and parked at right angles using the official parking spots. We arrived much earlier than them and there was no one else there so there was plenty of room, and we didn't jut out - that's my excuse anyway.
Those cliffs have been effectively carved by wind and sea.

Looking back to the beach. No, the cliffs aren't the beach but they do bookend it most effectively.
The carving at the entrance to the wharf.
I was feeling poorly (I think I am doomed to get UTIs on holiday) so I made an appointment at Te Puia Springs Hospital and medical centre to see a doctor; D-Mannose and cranberry not having proved efficacious in this instance. We had planned to stay overnight at Tokomaru Bay, and Te Puia Springs is about 9kms further on - not a big distance to travel 3 times - especially as we are not Clare on a bike ... So we checked out Tokomaru Bay on our way, and had their famous fish and chips - yes, they are very very good. I am not a fan of fish, but this hoki was lovely and the chips were wonderful - all I really needed but didn't have, was a couple of slices of white bread slathered with butter to make a chip butty. But no, not happening and Vogels bread for a chip butty doesn't quite cut it, dammit!

The doctor in Te Puia Springs was efficient and I came away with a short course of antibiotics that already seem to be making a difference.

So back to Tokomaru Bay we came and found a spot to park where the sea is 20m away from the motorhome at high tide. (OK, now I am back to the second statement that opens this post. I remind you of this so you know I am keeping an eye on it. I am not like Billy Connolly though who could start a story, hive off in five different directions and then come back to the original - most often, I forget what I started off with ...) We then did the aforementioned walk, and there is definitely something health-giving about getting out in the fresh air even if it is moving at 20mph. Is it positive ions or something? Please tell me.
I took this photo from the beach beside the sea wall. These trees with their silvery leaves are ubiquitous along this coast and they are beautiful - light and feathery and change colour when the leaves turn over in the breeze.

Seaweed on the sand. Not at all the same but it reminded me of the Still Life on the Water photo that I took before we left Sawley back in September.

David's laundry had been soaking and being jostled in the bucket as we travelled yesterday, so he had to rinse and wring it out and get it hung out to dry. I do my own by hand when we are away (except for when we stay with people who have a washing machine, thanks, Dee and Willie), so I think it's only fair that he does his. I know he thinks it's fair, but that doesn't stop him putting it off in the hope that I will get frustrated and do it for him. Not falling for that trick, mate! I did give his socks and underpants an additional wringing out because for some reason he'd used the strength required to squeeze a tea-dunked biscuit and there was still heaps of water to be excluded so things would dry sometime before December comes round.

As we'd had avocado on toast for breakfast, fish and chips for lunch, we had breakfast for dinner: stewed tamarillos, yoghurt and muesli. And no wine, because I'm on antibiotics (just letting you know in case you've not been paying attention 😜)

And I learned from David this morning that:
  • the All Blacks won the game against Wales (David watched on his phone through some techie trickery he sorted, given there is no TV repeater station anywhere near this area - everyone has satellite dishes); and
  • Kirsty rang and said she's coming to NZ for a weekend in February and would like to do a road trip with us to see Murray and Dee. 
And scoping a plechinette trip in The Netherlands with Ann and Salvi next boating season is underway. User requirements will be gathered in a trip that Ann suggested they should make to visit us in Waikanae. Yay!! Cost, quality and timing (duration and dates) will be discussed as well as where to go.

So today we will drive back past Te Puia Springs and head for Te Araroa which is where the most eastern state highway in NZ goes through. We have booked a spot at the Morepork's Rest, a Charges Apply campsite where we can refill with water and have showers. David will also be able to watch the RWC Final - I would like to, but I may not be able to stay awake, surprise surprise!

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

On holiday again

This retirement is a good lark, innit then?
Our view last night.

And first thing this morning.
Here we are in Mahia on the East Coast, having had Labour Weekend in Waimarama with good friends Chris and Willie who came to stay on the boat with us last year. Read about it here: http://nbwakahuia.blogspot.com/2018/08/a-fabulous-couple-of-days-with-nz.html

Since returning from their retirement trip, Chris and Willie have acquired a dog. Carlos is a beaut.
They tell me that Carlos doesn't like having his photo taken, but I am not so sure. I also think that Chris needs to have his name added to: he needs to be called Laughing Chris, much like Laughing John, as he spends a lot of time chortling and guffawing. By the way, that is Carlos's blanket on the floor by the table, but I never saw him sit on it ...

Moored up at Waimarama. See the little red reflectors I've stuck on below the indicator array? That was on advice from the VTNZ guy in Levin who told me that I needed reflectors within 150mm of the side of the van. The standard ones on the Swift are well outside that tolerance.

2C&W's house from the front. Note the clear blue sky.

The Weekend with 2C&W was cool - but far too much food and wine ... Excellent food and very good wine, mind you, but too much of each, I fear.

Part of the problem is that Chris makes all of their bread and it is amazingly yummy, with the result that I ate far too much of it. The other part of the problem is that Willie is a fabulous cook, so her meals had to be consumed in quantity. And the remaining part of the problem was that David and I bought a lamb rack and fillet steak from the Waipawa Butcher's shop in Havelock North on our way to Waimarama.

Of course the overriding problem is that David and I are gluttonous!

I have come away with some of Chris's sour dough starter and his recipes, plus a link to a baker whose youtube video he recommended to me. When I can find a ceramic casserole with a lid and some rye flour, I am going to get started making the sour dough in the motorhome - Chris and David tested the temperature of the oven herein and it gets plenty hot enough. Of course, Chris has a gadget for that test - of course he does! Why would you doubt that? Note to readers: David and Chris are ideally suited as they are both techy nerds and both love techie gadgets (did you notice then that I hedged my bets about how to spell techy/ie? I am sure there is no right answer actually, given it's a made up word of pretty recent origin, linguistically speaking...)

We did get some exercise to counteract some of the comestible consumption though - we are interested in a bit of capital expenditure in terms of e-bikes, and decided to try them out in Napier. So David borrowed Willie's bike and she found out that Fishbikes hires e-bikes for people with the shortest legs in the world - that is exactly what she said to the woman on the phone, but to be fair she was quoting me! So Willie stayed home with Carlos, David had her bike, Chris had his and I hired a small one.

As we were waiting for me to be served (the kind woman had put one aside for me), who should come biking past but the lovely Clare and Les, who were camped in their caravan along the foreshore. Given they were the ones who had recommended Fishbikes to us, it was a bit of a cool coincidence that we saw them there.***

We did a 14km return bike ride along the foreshore, and I did have to adjust the seat height (up, by the way) and the handlebars (also up) but of course, Chris had the required allen key in his pocket - of course he did! My bum did get numb but the legs weren't sore - the power assist seems to help a fair bit! So we will look for other hire places in Gisborne and Tauranga on this trip, all the while researching the bikes that will suit each of us.
I am going artificially slow in this photo of David and me riding together. In general, I was always a couple of hundred metres ahead of the guys, mainly because I find balancing is easier with a bit of speed on. Note the clear blue sky ...
 It is many years since I drove the road between Napier and Wairoa (back in SWIFTT days, I think [early 90s], with Sarah Heyward when we were developing some of the training modules). Yesterday's drive up the coast through and past Wairoa to Mahia felt totally new and unfamiliar. When Sarah and I drove it, it wasn't long after Cyclone Bola had ravaged the countryside. Much of the scarring from landslides has grown over, but a number of hillsides have now been clear-felled and look particularly crappy. Regenerating these is a bit of a struggle with all of the detritus from pinus radiata which is famous for restricting any undergrowth.

But it's stunning countryside and quite varied, with the native bush being prevalent closer to the Napier start of the journey.
This terrain is very similar to the Rangitikei

I think that cliff-edge has slumped in the last few years.
Farmland above Wairoa

And down the other side of the big climb out of Wairoa to the north
A clear felled hillside - no wonder logging trucks are ubiquitous on this highway!

On the way to Mahia - looks like parts of Rangitkei too.

*** Clare had thought we would be much further north-east by Labour Weekend, but no, as we spent 3 nights in Palmerston North staying with Dee and Murray.
Murray in consultation with Dr Mel who is an AP Specialist.
I thought both messages on this board outside a cafe in PN were clever and funny ...
As we left Waikanae early last week (we're retired and days of the week mean very little), we decided to make the trip up as we go along - one night in PN morphed in to 3 - see, we can be spontaneous!

And yesterday was our son Tim's 44th birthday - we sang to him, as is our parenting tradition... I am not sure either of the kids appreciate it, but being long suffering and knowing we won't change the habit, they valiantly put up with it. πŸ’–πŸ’žπŸ’

Saturday, 26 October 2019

The ABs lost to England

OK, I know, the All Blacks lost - I only know because David told me, as I cannot cope with the stress of watching the ABs play.

I gather they were totally outplayed. Hats off to the England team.

Ah well, it IS only a game, and there are far more important things going on in the world than rugby ...

Friday, 25 October 2019

Dredging up the recent past: being on shore in the UK before we headed home

In our last week in the UK, we caught up with family and our lovely friend, Lesley.

We left the boat and headed to Kingston on Thames to stay a couple of nights at Warren House, a lovely hotel which is close to the centre of KoT but is in lovely extensive grounds.
Beautiful staircase

David on the spare bed in Warren House

David's niece Sarah and her husband came for a drink with us on the Friday night before they headed off to Norfolk for a wedding weekend.

On Saturday David and I went out for breakfast to a great cafe that felt very much like an NZ cafe. Really nice food, excellent service.

We then went and picked up Lesley (ODS) from Staines and took her out for a long afternoon. We started off by visiting Runnymede, a place we have driven through several times and boated past once but not stopped at. Such an important place in England's history.
At Runnymede there is a sculpture called The Jurors, a set of 12 chairs with a 'story' on the front and back of each chair. This one was about education. You can read an article about it here: https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2015/jun/15/hew-locke-sculpture-jurors-runnymede-magna-carta-against-injustice

This is the Magna Carta (corrected from original posting ...) memorial at Runnymede

Lesley at the Magna Carta memorial - she is in much better shape and was able to walk comfortably all around the park.
Lesley is on a very strict cancer-killing diet at the moment, so while David and I had cake (him) and a scone with jam and clotted cream (me) at the cafe, Lesley valiantly just drank water ... The new diet of almost exclusively raw fruit and vegetables is doing her lots of good - her skin is beautiful and she is losing weight. As she says, if it's doing as much good to her insides as it is to her outsides, she'll be very happy!
Lesley's huge bowl of salad - two of these a day. See the size of the Olivia container beside the bowl: yes it IS a big bowl of salad.
 We then decided to go and visit my aunt Molly who lives in Leatherhead - not far from Runnymede, in fact just a short way around the M25. All was going well until we got off that and I stopped looking at the GPS and winged it to find the required roundabout exit - bad mistake!! We ended up going all the way to Oxshott and then turning around and going back to get off the M25 exit again. Of course, when we looked at the map a few days later, if we'd kept going another half mile or so, we would have approached Leatherhead from a direction we weren't familiar with - DOH!!

Catching up with Molly in a surprise visit was great - she and Lesley met some years ago, so it was old home week.

We delivered Lesley back to her brother's place and then headed out for dinner in KoT. A big fail, as we could not find where was sensible to park. So back to the hotel we went and had another bar meal - the food was fine and the cost was reasonable, so no real worries.

On the Sunday, we made our way back to Surrey, to Abinger Hammer this time to stay with my cousin Gordon and Sharon for a few nights.
Josh, Gordon and Sharon's latest grandson. A little cutie.

The dining room - love that table!

Molly, Gordon, Sharon and me - David took the photo - out for dinner at The Plough.

Gordon didn't want downpipes, so they found these decorative chains made of plastic. The water flows out of the guttering down the chain into the gully trap. Practical and very attractive!

A slight frost on the day we left.

Our last night was in Beckenham with Lionel and Carole - they had just come back the night before from a wedding in Croatia, I think, so there was no late night revelry!
We went out for a walk around the lake at Kelsey Park - a beautiful resource there in Beckenham

I think the two geese on the rock are Egyptian - Irene?
 On the flight to Vancouver, I took these photos over Greenland, I think.

And my seat on the Air Canada flight had a massage function ...
OK, the next post will be about being in NZ, I promise! No more harking back to Old Blighty!