Wednesday 24 February 2016

On the beach at Hokitika

Photos from Saturday evening on an after dinner walk down to the beach.

Paddling - it was lovely and refreshing, particularly on my ankles which had been bitten by sandflies on the way down

One of the driftwood sculptures - not part of the competition as it was done by a professional artist

Jimmy and Maggie from Edinburgh with their son Ian who lives in Tauranga with his NZ wife - it was their accents that made me have a chat with them.

Be grateful I have only posted a few sunset photos out of the squillions that got taken ...

A very impressive sculpture
And there it goes - there were lots of people down on the beach that evening waiting for this moment. There is something magical about the sun setting over the sea, and it seems to me we have a primal need to watch it.

Sunday 14 February 2016

Weekend Adventures - Part 2

Saturday's adventure was David's visit to the Waiuta mine site. Given it is locked off, even though I am project managing its remediation, I had to ask permission of Dean, EnviroNZ's South Island project manager, as EnviroNZ have taken over responsibility for the site and effectively 'own' it until the remediation is complete and they hand it back to Dept of Conservation. Going on site means being kitted out in safety gear: arms and legs fully covered, high vis jacket, hard hat, boots for me, sturdy sneakers for David. Dean and Phaedra were up there on Tuesday and said the bees were busy, so we applied insect repellent on our faces, necks and hands - it removed some of the anxiety of having them buzzing about our faces as they are wont to do ...

All kitted out. I hadn't realised how David's  hard hat (borrowed from Kevin) was perched on his head like half a jaffa (a chocolate orange mouthful, well known if you're an NZer)

Some of the relics on the Waiuta site and the wonderful view over the valley.

The yellow sections are the worked out areas of the mine. On the right hand side looking carefully with your magnifying glass, you can see the words Sea Level - so when the men were down at the bottom of the shaft, they were 300 metres below sea level ...

After walking around the Waiuta site, we headed down to the Blackwater which has been cleared up and established as a visitor site. I was really pleased to see that some of the old stuff was left in situ, even though some of it comprised rusty old iron and bits of timber. I liked that the place wasn't so pristine and clear that it lost all meaning - I guess what I am saying is that H&S hasn't gone mad and people have to take a bit of care for themselves when walking around - the ground isn't particularly even either.
The foundations of the ball mill building.The photo was taken from the site of the old assay office. The mine shaft was on the rise near the skyline in the middle of the picture.

The aerial ropeway tower - the ropeway was self acting and  carried full containers down the hill and empty ones back.

David washing just before we left the site in case he'd absentmindedly touched anything or got any dust on his hands.
Down at Blackwater - a big hole fenced off. The building in the background is the visitor toilet block.

That's the bath-house, built in the late 1940s. Apparently the chimney was 124 feet high (38m) originally

This is what I mean about the site not being so pristine that it loses interest
That chimney served 4 fireplaces. Jim tells me this building was the mine office that shared it with the bowling pavilion.

Maybe the bowls were valuable and needed to be kept in the strongroom which has walls that were about a foot or more thick...

It was a beautifully clear day and the views from up there are wonderful, and David was pleased to see what I am working on, so even though it was a long drive (2 hours each way from Hokitika) it was worth it.

On the way back we stopped off to see the engine that Jim Staton was instrumental in having restored - doing the maths it seems he took that on back when he was in his mid-twenties; so his interest in preserving historical artifacts and places is obviously longstanding.
Jim's engine ...
The restoration has been done beautifully and it is a credit to him and the people who participated. The engine sits up on the old siding and has a parking area, picnic area and toilet as well as a walk. It seems that people often stop overnight there in their campervans.
Here it is unimpeded by me pretending to be an engine driver ...

I was pleased to be back in Hokitika - it was a long day driving in the heat - but it was certainly hotter at the mine site. No wonder the remediation activities won't be happening during the summer!

Weekend adventures - Part 1

Well, the weather across the South Island has been much more conducive to weekends away than it was in Tauranga last weekend! David arrived down here in Hokitika early on Friday evening and it has been lovely - in terms of being together, being in holiday mode, and weather-wise.

Friday evening we stayed at Stations Inn up the Blue Spur Road just out of Holiktika. It's a pretty new place, and the room was large, the bed extremely comfortable, and the view was lovely. The rooms have a long verandah in front of them out the sliding doors, and each room has a lovely table and chairs - we sat out there after dinner finishing off the wine that we had not consumed at dinner.
After dinner, sitting on the verandah

Sunsets over the weekend have been beautiful - this was on Friday from Stations Inn

David's luggage seems to ooze out over the floor ...

Not sure what these birds are, but they were happily checking out what they could eat on the lawn early in the day.

A cup of tea in bed. On the table in the foreground is the brekkie for two - not really good value and not up to the standard of the rest of the Stations Inn experience.

The Stations Inn  restaurant is lovely - and has beautiful food. My only two complaints are that the room we were in has no artwork on the walls so it looks a little bare, and the continental breakfast had fruit salad from a can - a definite no-no as far as we, former B&B hosts, are concerned. Doesn't matter what time of the year, fresh seasonal fruit can always be found to make the salad fresh, and with lemon juice and honey mixed and drizzled over it is just yummy!

If we have to stay anywhere apart from the Heritage Highway Motel in future I will book Blue Spur B&B - it looks and sounds lovely. Booking is through airbnb.

Wednesday 10 February 2016

The latest Zero Degrees Club meeting

David and I missed the latest meeting because of fog/low cloud in Tauranga and because of my inability to travel with any degree of equanimity with bratty kids (see previous post for more details). My bad ...

Anyway, it looks as though the Zero Degreezers had a fab time without us, and I am very pleased - mainly because at the time they were eating and imbibing, I was probably asleep! I do have a well deserved reputation for sleeping through parties (I once slept on a sofa bed in Jim and Judy's lounge while a ZD party was raging around me with very loud music and lots of singing and dancing, and even as recently as Friday, I slept in one of the lazyboy chairs at Kevin and Wendy's while waiting for my ride home. That time David and Bruce were also reclining and sleeping, so it wasn't only me as it usually is ...)

I wanted to post this picture so that you weren't left with the impression that the weather in Tauranga (or Katikati to be precise) is always rubbish - you can clearly see that they are eating outside and none of them look chilly.

The lovely ZD club members (not all of them but a goodly few!) From left to right:Jim, Pauline (aka Wind Me Up B*tch, as that what she does to David all the time), Jenny, Chris (these two both caringly nursed my aged aunt in her last weeks back in 2007), Helen the hostess with the mostest, Alan the host with the most, Mark and Jeff from Te Kuiti, and the inimitable Barry. Missing because she was doing her Anthony Armstrong Jones impression is Judy.

We knew some of these people before we went to the UK to live back in 2004, but all of us were in the UK together doing our silver** gap or elderly OE, and the friendships expanded to incorporate new members. The Zero Degrees Club was formed when we realised that we were all living near the meridian and none of us had a degree.
** Trust me, anyone in that group with non-grey hair uses products to make it so ...

I am going to request a copy of the minutes shortly to make sure that meeting standards were maintained.

Tuesday 9 February 2016

Catching up

(I wrote this post on Sunday, but life has got in the way in the meantime. Rather than go through and change it, I decided to post it as is.)

I am now at the end of week 4 of being back into full time working and I am finally feeling as though I have a handle on the project - well, most of it! There are still bits that I don't understand but I am now standing more on my own feet instead of having to ask Mark, the former PM, what I should be doing about particular things.

I had been dreading flying down to Hokitika - little plane, Alps to cross - but it has been lovely, although I do get anxious when it's bumpy. However the bumps always seem to be as we fly over the plains, mainly because of the prevailing winds.
Mountains out the window

Those alps go on for miles!

Hokitika has had a run of fabulous weather since I've been going down there and the place is beautiful. A small town that is a tourist destination and very full in the summer months with a whole range of people coming through and staying over. It has the lovely wine bar I have posted about before and a great pizzeria called Fat Pipi's - for the non-nzers, a pipi is an edible (to some!) shellfish, collected from a short way below the surface of the sand between low and high tide marks. I haven't seen them down in Hokitika, but in North Taranaki, there are middens up in pa sites (fortified villages) with lots of discarded pipi shells. Anyway, Fat Pipi's pizzas are lovely and the service is great. Last week Kevin and I ordered a pizza, went for a walk along the beach to check out the driftwood sculptures still standing from the local competition, then walked back, picked up the pizza and went to the wine bar to eat it along with a bottle of a very nice local chardonnay. The wine bar provides plates, cutlery and serviettes, and gladwrap (clingfilm to you northern hemisphere people) and paperbags for carrying away the leftovers. (I took two pieces to work the next day for the guys on the team...)

It was the overall winner - Sea Diver. Really well done and made only with driftwood. There were lots of entries, many of them to do with mines. But this one was amazing.

If you want to see more of Hokitika, follow this link here: This is the motel that I stay at. It's not on the beachfront, but it's across the road from the Dept of Conservation office where I work, and it's a two minute stroll to the river.
Across the river looking south-east, and a small part of the Southern Alps

Another small section of the Southern Alps looking north-east - the motel is back along the road to the left.
From the other side of the road is the view out to the river mouth. Next stop Australia.

It is a long weekend here in NZ - Waitangi Day (6 Feb) has been Monday-ised, so we have a three day weekend. David and I had planned to go to Tauranga to catch up with our fellow Zero Degreezers - the weekend was chosen because Barry and Pauline who have featured on the blog numerous times, are in NZ for a wedding. It was a good opportunity to have a rip roaring gathering and a very well-run meeting - we set an agenda, record everything in the minute book and then chairing the meeting is like herding cats ...

Because I am now in fulltime work, we decided that we would fly to Tauranga rather than drive as part of an extended roadtrip. So, in full sunshine here in the Wellington region, we took off for Tauranga. The air was clear and flying conditions were excellent - apart from the three loud bratty uncontrolled and ill-disciplined daughters of an incompetent loud mother sitting in the row in front of us. The youngest was about 3 years old and squawked and brayed past her dummy ... The older two scrapped and shouted and kicked the seats in front. The mother ineffectually spoke to them all, mostly saying that the steward or the lady/man in front of them 'would growl them'. AAARRRGGGHHH!!!

So as I say, off we go towards Tauranga. The pilot did say that the weather was marginal there and he may not be able to land, but they'd arrange to take us to Hamilton and then put us on a bus over to Tauranga. But when we get ready to land in Tauranga, it's too cloudy, so we circle for a bit and then the pilot tells us they are taking us back to Wellington as they cannot get us a bus for us from Hamilton. AAARRRGGGHHH!!!  They'll put us on another plane to Auckland and then a bus to Tauranga - that's a one hour flight and approximately a three hour bus trip in holiday weekend traffic.  And all in the company of three loud bratty uncontrolled and ill disciplined kids and their incompetent loud mother. AAARRRGGGHHH!!! Now I could have coped with them on the plane to Auckland, but sharing a bus with them? I don't damn well think so...

It was a pretty easy decision to abort the weekend's arrangements when faced with those travelling conditions. So home we came - to fantastic weather in Waikanae while it continued to rain in Tauranga for the next day or so.

That evening we reinstated an invitation to dinner at Kevin and Wendy's with Gary and Bruce and met two of K&W's friends. Then on Saturday Kapiti had the highest temperature in the country, but I spent most of the afternoon in the armchair watching movies - it was too hot to be outside, I was tired and blobbing was just what I needed. On Sunday morning I went to a couple of open homes nearby with Lynne who is staying with us at the moment, and David and I spent the arvo at Ted and Derek's in Otaki Beach meeting Ted's brother and sister in law who are out from the US on holiday.

And in the evening I had a call from the Zero Degreezers who have assembled in Katikati at Helen and Alan's place. They sent us a photo to be posted on here. It hasn't arrived yet, so don't hold your breath!
                        A ZERO DEGREES PHOTO SHOULD BE HERE!

Oh, and I forgot to say that last weekend we went to Edward and Chris's place for lunch with Gary, Bruce and Peter. David was very enamoured of the two dogs - well, any dog who likes its tummy tickled gets David's vote.
Glass of muscato on the coffee table, lovely dog to tummy rub - what more does a man need? I know: being able to wear a lime green floral shirt while seated on a Grace Kelly couch!

After lunch and a bottle of muscato, David decided to make me a cup of tea. I think it was the fact that their electric kettle is the same colour and shape as our one (not electric) on the boat that fooled him into thinking he should put it on the electric hob - or maybe it was because it is (was) branded Russell Hobb. Who knows? Whatever, it was the cause of great hilarity, once the smoke had cleared ...
Now what looks wrong about this?

Oh dear!

Dear reader, a new electric kettle has been purchased even though, amazingly, the newly moulded one with the re-shaped bum still worked,

Monday 1 February 2016

Fly, Beach, Pool, Beach, Beach, Drive, Farm, Beach, Drive, Fly

OK, so the grandsons arrived in NZ on 30 December, and then on 30 January, they headed back to Scotland. They had a pretty good holiday, I think, spread between Waikanae and Taranaki - Opunake and Tongaporutu.

Our son, Tim was keen to have a summer holiday with real sun and warmth, not what has passed as summer in Scotland over the last couple of years.

They had more than 50% sunshine and heat, with some rainy days - just enough to balance out the possibility of extreme sunburn if the kids want to be outside all the time - and allowing time for some of the homework to be done.

We had a wonderful week with them at the beginning. 

I picked them up from the airport after 30 hours travelling and on arrival back in Waikanae the first thing Tim wanted to do was go for a swim at the beach even though it wasn't particularly sunny and warm. Cases out of the car, and off we went. Of course, I took them to the beach car park right next door to Kevin and Wendy's so while they swam and played I could go in for a chat and a drink. Then it was off to Bruce and Gary's for a shower - ours was non-operative until the following day. Home for dinner, but Karol was already asleep and it was a very early night for everyone.
That's them heading for the water - Olek is already getting in. Tide was out.

Brekkie on the first morning - see how sunny it was outside?
Grammy and Olek selfie - so good to be able to cuddle these boys!
As the boys had been taken out of school for this holiday, there was HOMEWORK!!! Olek's required ues of The New Shorter  Oxford - both volumes ...
Over the next few days it was a succession of beach and Waikanae pool visits interspersed with eating and the occasional homework session.

David and I had a lovely day with the boys at Queen Elizabeth Park near Raumati South - I am so pleased I have lost weight and am fitter, as I would not have had anywhere near as much fun, running around with water cannon, being doused and dousing in return - no photos exist of this extraordinary event as David was being an OLD granddad sitting up on the logs looking after the bags ... His excuse anyway!
Heading for the tram station stop with two shopping trolleys filled with beach gear and food.

Here comes the tram that will take us to the beach
Magnum icecreams on the tram - yum!
The happy grandparents
Olek is ready for action

Beach cricket was hilarious - both boys are accurate batters and good bowlers, and getting Olek out was difficult, dammit. However I did manage, by some fluke, to bowl him out with ball bowled on the full - it seemed to drop down on to the bails from over his head - obviously too high to whack at with the the bat.

Then it was off to Taranaki - Kirsty went with them up to Tongaporutu and she and Tim relived their childhood days there. My family have been going to Tongaporutu from when I was about 4 years old (a year or so after we arrived in NZ) and Dad and Mum built a bach there in 1960, they bought a smaller one (less maintenance) back in the late 80s which I took over with a niece when Dad decided he needed the capital. I then gifted my share to Tim and Kirsty, but as they are both now living overseas but paying two thirds of the costs and not getting any use out of it, they decided to sell. Their hearts are still there though.

Kirsty came back to Wellington and then back to Sydney and back to work; and Tim, Marta and the boys stayed on in Opunake for a couple of weeks until it was time for Marta to fly back to Scotland and back to work. While Tim was taking Marta to the airport, David and I took the opportunityto take the boys for a short walk up in Hemi Matenga - a reserve in the hills behind Waikanae. We barely scratched the surface, but will do more another day.
It's a well formed track in beautiful bush.
We played 3 Billy Goats Gruff and the Troll at most of the bridges that Karol or Olek could get under.
Checking out the pongas and birds - we saw a big fat kereru flying from tree to tree - a kereru is a native pigeon - not  rat with feathers but a beautiful bird that is protected.

Then it was back to Taranaki for Tim and the boys for the last bit of their holiday and the last opportunities for sunburn, sea and swimming. I wonder if all the homework got done ...

On Saturday 30 Jan they returned here from Taranaki and flew out that afternoon - back to the cold and rain and dark. In St John's Town of Dalry at that time it was 6 deg and windy with an average 57.5% chance of rain over the next 4 hours and 90% chance of snow after that ...