Tuesday 29 January 2019

This is the week that was

It is now 9 days since we left home to head down to the South Island.

Leaving Wellington - the CROW is outside in front of the funnel and only part of the front can be seen - third from the left of the vehicles facing to the left.

Approaching Tory Channel at the entrance to the Sounds  - as the ferry heads there it is pretty much impossible for passengers to differentiate the opening, so it's a good thing the captain and crew know where they are going!
Somehow it feels a lot longer than that, but neither of us are sure why. It may be that we have travelled a reasonable distance, although not terribly far really. The odometer has turned over from the 8000s kms to the 9000s kms and we have purchased more Road User Charges (required for diesel vehicles here in NZ). The new certificate is waiting behind the original one until we hit 10,415 kms. As we are not sure how prevalent the options are for their purchase outside of main centres, we bought them in Kaikoura. Thinking it through, of course, as a significant number of diesel vehicles are used in the rural areas, it makes sense that there are plenty of places to purchase them, but it is also true that many post offices have shut around the country and the post shops are fewer and further apart than in previous years; so it is likely people apply on line and have the certificate posted out.

This morning we woke from our first night in Geraldine - we arrived here yesterday afternoon, got set up and had a late lunch followed by sitting outside under the awning, reading, sudoko-ing (me) and watching something on the phone (David), sorting out IT stuff inside (guess who ...).

Dinner was going to be out at a restaurant, but as is often the case, I get to the point where I think 'I could cook something and we'd be just as pleased with it and it won't cost anywhere near as much.' So I made a fish pie that was very yummy. I always used to make it with a bechamel sauce (a fancy name for white sauce ...), but recently kicked that to the kerb and just use a small amount of cream with tabasco sauce. It is much simpler and quicker and probably about the same calorifically (is there such a word?) given the bechamel has butter and flour and milk. I have also started using a small can of tuna to supplement the smoked fish and that seems to add to the flavour too. I put plenty of veg (carrots, peas, capsicum, parsley) plus eggs in with it so it becomes a one pot dinner.

So this morning, the intention is that we will go out for brunch - but that is by no means certain as I'll probably decide I can do it cheaper ... Update - David is finishing off watching a movie, so we are going for lunch instead, no brekkie ...

We have been to Geraldine once before back in 2001, when we did a South Island tour instead of going to the US and the UK after 9/11. I am keen to see if the giant jersey (7 feet tall) is still here and if the replica of the Bayeux Tapestry developed from small pieces of the spindles from old knitting machines is still open to view. It was amazing. If it is still here, I will show you photos later.
Update: OK, the Bayeux Tapestry replica is in Hastings UK for the anniversary of the Battle of Hastings - how about that? So if you are reading this over in the UK, you can find it ingood old Blighty! The giant jersey is now residing in the Information Centre as the people who made it and the Bayeux replica are in the UK with the latter.

But back to the beginning:

Our first stop for two days and nights was at Cowshed Bay where Jim and Judy were acting as camp hosts at the DOC campsite there. A lovely place on the Queen Charlotte Track so lots of hikers would arrive in the late afternoon and evening to set up camp. There were also quite a few motorhomers who had made the long winding drive in along the sound from Linkwater.
On the Grove Track, from Picton to Havelock, we stopped at Shakespeare Bay. This cruise liner was moored up next to the timber port. A strange place to stop but the scenery is wonderful.

On the way to Cowshed Bay after Linkwater

Isn't that beautiful?
There are houses dotted in the hills on the road in - their driveways are the most horrific I have ever seen, and that goes for in Italy too or Wellington! Steep and sloped horizontally as well as vertically ... Some of them looked difficult to walk down, let alone drive down ...

Jim and Judy had saved us a spot down by the water next to them by parking their truck across it so no one would co-opt the space.
I think I was standing at the water's edge when I took this photo.
It's a tough life, eh?

It was a fabulous place to be in spite of the strong wind on one day and night. We found out the next day that the wind on the east coast had gusted up to 170kms per hour, so ours of about 50 - 60kms ph wasn't such a bad deal!
We forgot to take the selfie stick on our walk ...

We are on top of the hill above Cowshed Bay. The road to the right goes down to The Portage and then back to Cowshed Bay (we climbed the track through the bush). Judy and I went back down to the right while David and Jim went left down to Toria Bay on the other side of the sound.

As we walked up the track, stops for photos were required - not at all because I was puffing ...

Another photo stop - honest!
This is where Judy and I swam when we got back - David and Jim arrived while we were still in the water, but David was faffing about getting in to his togs and then deciding it was too cold, so he was too distracted to take a photo of us still in the water, dammit! And it wasn't cold, it was beautifully refreshing, and much warmer than the river at Tongaporutu usually is!
Judy gave us a list of the places they had particularly liked on their South Island odyssey last year, so our first stop after Cowshed Bay was at the beach at Kekerengu south of Ward. Wild and woolly and such totally different terrain and seascape from the Sounds. And breakfast at The Store was very good too - I can make hollandaise sauce, but it is always better when someone else does it!

An oyster catcher, I think - I recognised its sound before I saw it, knowing that the noise was NOT made by a seagull!
And there's the motorhome - couldn't get much closer to the beach, could we?

The drive along the coast was amazing - the road and the railway were devastated (not an exaggeration) by the earthquake in November 2016, and the rebuild of them both was accomplished in record time with the road being re-opened (one lane in places) just over a year after the quake in time for xmas holiday traffic in 2017. Work is ongoing and the results are not yet complete, but it is a wonder to behold. It was very emotional driving on it as the superlative efforts to repair and restore and rebuild were very evident.

The first view of the Kaikoura Peninsula from the north

Part of the new road and the large slip in the distance.
Before the earthquake, all of this was part of the seabed.
And so was this.

We stopped for lunch in Kaikoura, having found a tree to park under.

The Seaward Kaikouras in the distance.

We decided to head in on the Inland Kaikoura Road and had a couple of days at Waikene Lodge - it is a very lovely place, like freedom camping but with facilities and a very reasonable charge. It isn't used as much as it used to be because a couple of freedom camping sites have been opened in/near Kaikoura. Joy and Ross are great hosts and the facilities (kitchen with washing machine, showers and toilets) are kept spotlessly clean. You can even contribute food scraps to the chickens ...
The view from the front of the motorhome at Waikene Lodge

Part of the farm

Trying to get in the shade of the eucalypts ...

It was so hot there that we didn't do any of the walks we had planned on; instead we spent the time blobbing and blobbing. And I did do a load of laundry just to make sure we were clean and that I wasn't being too lazy!

We spent time with the only other couple there - they were coming to the end of their 3 month motorhoming trip around NZ - it's the second or third time they have been here from their home in Hamburg. Sue is American and Wolfgang is German. We BBQed together - we were going to use ours, but I couldn't find either of the BBQ hoses - how could we possibly have left them behind, I asked??? So we used the BBQ built in to the side of Sue and Wolfgang's Britz camper - a very good feature, I think. While the rest of us were sorting food, David did a thorough search and found the hoses in the bag that also holds the outdoor matting - then I remembered putting them in there so they wouldn't rattle and clink ... Doh!

We had a night at Hanmer Springs but it was so hot there that I could not venture away from the awning, so a bit of a wasted trip, apart from the drive which was pretty spectacular in places.

On our way south from Hanmer we stopped at Waipara Valley vineyard and had lunch - well, it was right on the main road, so it seemed sensible. I had a glass of their Equinox chardonnay (2015) and it was very very delicious and oaky, so I was going to buy two bottles. But it turned out that it was cheaper to buy three, so I said I'd have three; then I thought I'd have six as the price for three was a bargain - however there was an even better deal on for six bottles! Yay!! We had to take Derek and Ted's idea of keeping the wine carton in the shower. I think they have more than one carton though so I am going to have to search out more vineyards ...
Waiting for food and wine

I liked these roses

David had spring rolls with a miso and maple spicy sauce - yep, who knew that maple syrup goes with miso? and I had a cheese board, plus a glass of chardonnay. David did have a glass of wine, but he wasn't tempted to purchase more of it to take away.

David has been keen to re-connect with people from the past and had tracked down two of them. One is Jack Morris who was the deputy principal at Wainuiomata Primary, the school that David and I were teaching at when we met. So our next stop was in Rangiora where Jack and his lovely wife Joy have recently moved to after many years on a lifestyle block out at Lowburn. It was excellent to catch up with Jack, but he was more than a little obsessed with his memory of my delaying him getting to the pub at the end of one term because I hadn't balanced my attendance register**. His solution, as I recall, was just to fudge the numbers and put the same number in each column (the two that were meant to be the same). Mine of course, pedant that I was even back then, was to find the error and fix it. I did and Jack wasn't very late to the pub - I made sure of that, because I was ready for a drink too!

** The attendance register (aka the roll) had each child's name in it on the vertical axis and the days/weeks on the horizontal axis; and each half day's attendance was noted by a / and a \, making a cross for each kid who was present for each full day. Attendances had to be added up each week and entered in the appropriate column or row. (of course, that was what we were meant to do, but often it got left until the last moment - my pedant nature doesn't extend that far!) And at the end of the term, the totals of the columns and the totals of the rows were meant to match - as they would mathematically speaking as all the numbers being added in either direction were the same.  Hence my aforementioned pedant nature needing it to be RIGHT, Jack!!!

We parked the motorhome in Jack and Joy's driveway - that was an adventure as we only just fitted through the gate. Getting in was OK but getting out backwards was a bit of a stress. Paul Avery would have been pleased though as he growled at me once in Westport and told me I HAD to be able to reverse wherever I needed to be, and made me do it. This time it was tricky as I had to pull one side mirror in and it is very spooky not being able to use both. Jack of course at first was guiding me on the side where I did have a mirror available, leaving me feeling very vulnerable on the other side ...

It was a lovely evening spent with them both - I had invited them to have dinner with us in the motorhome but their house was lovely and cool (their heatpump was on its cooling function) and the motorhome was hot hot hot inside. So the prep, cooking and consumption were done inside their house. Made sense to me. We had thai chicken noodle salad (veg and chicken prepared by me, marinade and sauce prepared by Joy) and Jack Potter's carrot salad (made by David). As you have noted I am sure, Jack Morris did not contribute at all. He did however contribute by drinking my chardonnay, having told me as a sop to make me comfortable with sharing, that I had very good taste. However when he told his daughter on the phone about the attendance register, I confiscated his glass immediately!
Strangely enough, this is the only photo we took of Jack. He is begging for chardonnay and had to kiss my foot as well.

As a young teacher, Jack had taught with David's dad when John was principal at Harley Street School in Masterton. Jack said that John was one of three principals that he learned from and based his teaching methods and philosophy on. One of them was also the guy who was principal at Wainuiomata when we were there - but his example was everything not to do, according to Jack. As a teacher in the infants, I had very little to do with the principal, because the senior teacher junior classes (STJC) was the person I reported to and she was great - I think she may have shielded her team from him. But David had similar concerns about the principal to Jack's. Of course they both had David's dad as an example of how to inspire and empower teachers and kids, so the differences were stark.

Another friend from the past that David has tracked down is Clark Bragg - we will be seeing him and his wife Sue in a few days. However, in the meantime we are going to to a side trip to Ranfurly to see our Paraparaumu friend Clare who is cycling around the South Island - she is making faster progress than we are ...

Monday 28 January 2019

Nostalgia in the first three weeks of the New Year

We had a peaceful and friendly start to the new year, with a pot-luck dinner where 70s food was on the menu. Such nostalgia … And in some cases, dishes that some of us still make. There were three bowls of Kiwi dip (Nestle’s reduced cream and a pack of Maggi Onion Soup with a dash of vinegar), and a lovely platter of curried eggs and asparagus rolls – made with tinned asparagus of course, as was the way back then! Our contribution was a beef and pineapple casserole – I know, it sounds awful, but it’s yummy – and our favourite dessert from the 70s: Hawaiian cream. That is one thing we haven’t made for ages, and no wonder: it’s whipped cream with chunks of chocolate, marshmallows, chopped canned peaches, and strawberries through it. It is far more decadent (read unhealthy) than Eton Mess, as the cream is at least 70% of the dessert. I used to serve it in glass bowls; this time I served it in champagne glasses and I only managed one. David however had 3 – aaarrrggghhh! To be fair, I only had one because Leith had made a wonderful cheesecake which was also extremely rich.
Garlic bread, salad dressing made with condensed milk, vinegar and mustard, rice risotto, curried sausages, chow mein, ...

A symmetrically decorated salad - straight out of the 70s ... Note that the lettuce under all of the decorations is shredded!

We will do another 70s pot luck when we get back from the South Island – it was a lot of fun and there are a lot more DONs (dishes of nostalgia) to be prepared. One of the interesting things was people’s reactions when I said we were doing it. Both Tim and Kirsty (both born in the 70s, so their long term memories are working) said ‘fondue!’(they meant the chocolate variety), others said ‘ooh, savoury eggs!’, ‘curried sausages!’(Gary did them).
The kereru (native wood pigeon) in our cabbage tree.

I am sure this is one of the hydrangeas that I got from Joy and Grahame - in their garden it was a deep crimson, but here in ours it is a deep purple. Beautiful in either case ...

We came back on Monday 21st from a weekend away that was nostalgia-filled – is this a burgeoning theme as we age, I wonder?

We spent Thursday night at Manawatu Caravan Club, and David had a great surprise in store for me. Way back in 1974 when we were first together, we lived at Okoia, just out of Wanganui. In the flat next door lived Viv with her three young boys. She became a good friend, but we lost touch when we moved to Wellington and she re-married. Viv was an NZ champion swimmer (her specialism was breaststroke, and, boy, was she fast! She did only 4 strokes to reach the end of a 25m pool, and seemed to move her arms and legs slowly – but I couldn’t keep up with her when I walked beside the pool.) David had tracked her down after seeing an article in the Manawatu paper – he got in touch with her brother who contacted Viv, and then David and Viv hatched a plot to surprise me. Viv and her husband John live in Brisbane now but come to NZ each summer, and have a static caravan at the Caravan Club that is their base here.

So much reminiscing and catching up over cups of tea, wine/beer/G&Ts, dinner (in their abode), then breakfast the next morning in the CROW. It was so neat to see them again, and we have all declared it will not be left another 40-odd years! In fact, we cunningly left a dessert plate at theirs, so on our way back from Wanganui on Monday, we had to meet up at a café to collect it …
David, Viv and me in the 'conservsatory' at the back of their static caravan.

Viv with John. I would have recognised Viv, but would not have known John - when we last saw him he had a full head of brown hair ...

After Foxton, our next stop was up the Kaukatea Valley Road at Okoia (with a quick stop to see the old house we lived in and Viv's old flat next door). We had a night with Linda, and her partner Graham. Linda is one of my former sisters in law, and we have stayed good friends. Graham and Linda have 100 acres which they lease out to a sheep farmer for a good rate so that Graham can use the sheep for training his dogs for trials. Linda has redecorated a very old house, and has brought an extremely wild and overgrown garden into shape over the last 4.5 years – she IS a worker, and has done a wonderful job.

The road up the valley is one lane, gravel and a bit scary – actually the drive up was good as the drop-offs were on the passenger side, but coming back was a bit hair-raising in places. The camber probably made it very safe, but it doesn’t feel that way when the motorhome gets a lean on and I’m on the down side…

Hair-raising stuff to one side, it was great to catch up with Linda and Graham again – she and I call each other on our birthdays, but they have no internet up the valley (their choice, I think) and no cell phone service, so emails and texts are not the go.
Linda xx

Linda makes these flowers - she is very clever and crafty and artistic.

Linda cleared all of the overgrown vegetation here, pruned and trimmed all the shrubs and then built the paved area. Did I say she is clever?

She has also repainted the house and the roof.
Linda dug out some of this plant for me - I really liked the little flowers. She doesn't know what it is. Does anyone else know?

And she has cleared all of this area and painted the pool house/shelter. It makes me tired just thinking about it ...

Then it was on to Wanganui where we stayed with Denny and Cheryl – we parked the motorhome in front of their bus, and slept in it but ate with them all weekend. It was just lovely. Cheryl wisely organised David to catch up with people he used to teach with back in the 70s. So Jan Clark came for dinner on Saturday; and we went to visit Baden and Barbara Rountree on Sunday, and popped over to see Mary and Alan Dean who live diagonally across the road from them.
Baden and Barbara in their new place in Kowhainui - Baden was David's syndicate leader when he first taught at Rutherford Intermediate back in 1974. In those days, Baden was a mad keen snow skier, and used to organise ski trips up to Ruapehu to the Wanganui Skiing Club's hut. We went the year I was pregnant with Tim so I was only allowed to slide down the slope on a plastic bag ...

On Saturday, Denny and Cheryl, David and I went in to the city to experience the Vintage and Steam festival. Wanganui is ideal for these events as the main street is long and straight, the side streets are in a grid, and there is a well-developed riverside park.
This is where we got married 44 years ago - the Wanganui Courthouse. David doesn't look much different but I do - the years have told on me. It must be the effects of living with a man ...

I like this flower and wish I knew what it is so I could find it to plant in my garden.

One of the three traction engines that were providing rides around the city streets during the weekend.

That wheel is taller than the wheel of the tractor we used for travelling up to the Alexander mine back in 2017 ...

Towards the end of the afternoon, David and I walked along Taupo Quay to take a ride out to Kai Iwi and back on Mainline Steam’s train. We could have caught the train up from Plimmerton but I didn’t think of that … However that may have been a bit long for an impatient person like me. I was surprised at how emotional I felt watching adults and kids alike stopping to wave, running to be able to get a good view and wave, and a number of people who drove between look out spots to get their tripods out and take photos/videos as the train went past.
Here is our train arriving back at Taupo Quay from its previous trip. Very handsome!

Being pushed backwards

Off we go, through suburban Wanganui

Crossing the Whanganui River

Rounding the bend on the way back to Wanganui from Kai Iwi - the engine was going in reverse as there was nowhere for it to turn at Kai Iwi. A young man standing outside with us happily informed us that last year, the engine couldn't get up the hill on the way back and had to roll back down to Kai Iwi and build up more steam and try again ... AAARRRGGGHHH!!! Not what I wanted to hear! But no worries, this time.

A derelict factory - an old fertiliser works on the outskirts of Wanganui. It is not visible from any road I have ever travelled on. Maybe it is still there because of asbestos, but that is only a guess. The closing down of this factory was one of a number of causes of increased unemployment in Wanganui over the last couple of decades of the 1900s.

On Sunday Denny and Cheryl took us on a tour of bits of Wanganui we hadn’t seen for ages and some of which we had never seen, even though we lived there 5 years from 1974. We had lunch in a great café called Citadel out in Castlecliff. Lovely food, and very clean rest rooms – always a plus, I reckon.
David with Denny and Cheryl. Denny and David were both teaching at Rutherford Intermediate in the 70s. None of the three of them look very different from back then, dammit!

The drive back home was very fast to Sanson with a strong wind behind the motorhome; however when we turned south, the wind continued from the west and rocked the motorhome lots so it was a tight two-handed grip on the steering wheel all the way back to Waikanae.

I was going to have an early night, as we had to get up up at 5.15 on Tuesday morning for a 6.15 departure. But I found there is a fifth series of Grace and Frankie on Netflix, so I binge watched up to episode 7 before heading to bed...

I recently purchased a Shakti mat – it replicates a bed of nails. Sounds scary but it’s not. I am finding that lying on it for the first half hour of being in bed makes me sleep really well. In fact I often fall asleep on it and wake about an hour later. However I haven’t yet laid down on it without my nightie on – I briefly tried it last night and it’s a bridge too far for me on bare skin. Now, why did I mention the Shakti mat? Because I am sleeping through the night most nights now – and I haven’t done that more than once or twice a month over the last several years. So if you’re a bit wakeful or insomniac, check them out. Healthier than sleeping pills, I am sure.