Saturday 2 February 2019

Central Otago - Geraldine, Kokonga and Ranfurly

It's been a lovely few days here as we have made our way down from Rangiora, into Otago and now Central Otago.

We had a couple of days and nights at the Geraldine Top 10 motorcamp and it is absolutely wonderful. Beautifully set out with a mix of shady and open spaces - guess which we opted for?, very very clean facilities, and extremely helpful and friendly staff. I'd recommend it for tenters, motorhomers/caravanners and those wanting cabin accommodation.

We had lunch one day (see previous blogpost) at the Central Cafe - a nice place to be to get out of the extreme heat - well, it was about 28 degrees, I think, and that is a bit too hot for me. We managed to see the giant jersey which is now housed at the Information Centre - slightly smaller than I remember at 7.5'high.
The giant jersey I mentioned in the last post - pretty impressive.

Read all about it here.

While we were at the Top 10 in Geraldine we met a couple who are doing a cycling holiday; they are from central Nelson, and Ann is the age group champion for speed cycling - I only found that out after she had set off to Fairlie leaving Peter to pack up the tent and drive to Fairlie, park up in a camp and then ride back to meet her. I did think he was taking his time a bit ... They are both extremely fit and a very good example to those of us (like me, in particular) who do not do anywhere near enough exercise.

We had found out that we could meet up with Clare at Ranfurly, as her daughter Missy (her weather forecast interpreter and communicator) had informed her it would be wet and very windy on Friday. So Clare scheduled her first rest day in three weeks...

And we made our way there, down to the coast and then inland again, and on the way we ticked over on the odometer from 9999km to 10,000km.

Please note that I did stop to take each of these photos, OK?

David checked out Kokonga, where his Dad was the sole charge teacher back in 1950, 51 and 52, when David was 1 to 3 years old and his sister Ginny was born (1951). There is now a boutique lodge there for the rail trail market, so we organised a night's stay. Very expensive now we are on a pension, but it was worth it for David to sleep on the same site he had lived in as a little one, and lovely for him to be able to go over to the fence that he used to climb on to wave to the steam train going past each morning. He has always said how amazed he was that his mum let him go on his own, through the pine trees to the fence. But unless he climbed through, he wasn't in danger, and he was a good kid. So we took photos of him standing where he used to, and he also went into the old school building.

I am not sure if he remembers, or if he knows because his dad told him, that each week, John had to dig a hole to bury the toilet waste from the school's long drop toilet; and in the winter each week families took turns donating the coal and wood for the school furnace. It is clearly there at Kokonga that John developed his skills, philosophy and knowledge of sole charge schooling that led later to the family going to live in Tanganyika (as it was then) for John to work for Unicef setting up sole charge schools and the system for training teachers to run them.

As we had arranged to meet Clare in Ranfurly before we arranged the only night available at Kokonga Lodge, we checked in at the latter and then drove to Ranfurly to the NZMCA camp and checked in and paid for a night as well. Clare appeared, having ridden and arrived earlier than us, much of the same route was had driven - we'd felt very pleased at how well the motorhome handled the hills (lots of up, up and down getting to a height of 2400 feet, I think). Clare had done 69kms of that on her bike!!! She did say that she had walked up some of the steeper bits, but even so, that is very bloody impressive!

When she came over to us, looking bright and sunny, happy, but very hot, I was just finishing rinsing the washing - I had put it in a bucket (collapsible one from Geraldine Hammer Hardware) before we left Geraldine, and relied on the bumps and turns in the road to agitate the clothes in the soapy water while we travelled. Worked a treat!

So when I had done a couple of rinses, and wrung out the clothes, Clare sat with her feet in the bucket to cool off a bit more. I offered her a wet shirt, but instead gave her a cold wet facecloth to put on the back of her neck. That is a great way to cool off, and less extreme (and more decorous) than the wet shirt ...

We had a BBQ dinner with chicken kebabs (soy and honey) purchased in Oamaru New World plus Waipawa sausages, as well as coleslaw and potato salad and some yummy fresh bread purchased at the Oamaru NW too (northern branch) - I forgot to mention we had lunch in their carpark - the fresh bread, and some very nice fatly sliced ham. I think we need to go back through there ...

There were left overs from dinner so I prepared doggy bags for Clare as a change from her usual fillings in her lunch time wraps... She was very pleased to have fresh homemade salad, bless her.

Over to her little tent went Clare, and it was back to Kokonga Lodge for us.

From our room

Sunset from upstairs balcony

In the morning, David went for a walk around and in the old school building - a very emotional time as he was remembering his mum and dad - when they were in the early and mid 20s, well over 60 years ago.

Standing on the approximate line of the original fence that he used to climb up as a little tacker to watch the steam train go past each day.

Kokonga Lodge's back gate for the rail trail cyclists to enter.
A last look at the school as we left

We called in to see the Ranfurly Hospital where Ginny was born. We saw signs in the town about a new hospital being built, and we were unsure of the fate of this building. It now houses the medical centre as well.
Then back to Ranfurly in the morning to the NZMCA camp again - when they look at the records and the payment history, they will probably wonder why there are 2 entries for contiguous days ...

The promised rain and wind arrived, all of a sudden, as we were setting up - just as we had got the awning out thinking the weather forecast was a bit OTT.  Damn! It is the closest we have come to having the awning fly away - I had to put the legs away while David held the bar, and then we swapped and I held the bar while he wound it in. The sudden change in the weather was instructive indeed, and was accompanied by a sharp drop in the temperature.

Clare arrived and we decided that we would teach her how to play the card game Up and Down the River. She had declared she only played Snap but learned UADTR very quickly - so quickly that she won - bitch!

Mel is a bit unsure ...

More comfortable with me there to protect him ...

By the time we had eaten lunch (fresh corn on the cob which I had been going to BBQ but the wind would not have made that a viable proposition) and played cards, the bad weather had passed through, and we went out for a walk. Clare had already done a scout round at 7am (!!) so knew where we should go. We started out though with a tour of her campsite.

The bike and the tent

The open vestibule and Clare's bed with blow-up mattress and pillow comprised of her down jacket - dual purpose.

This statue is of John Turnbull Thomson - he was the original surveyor of Ranfurly.

Guess who these are for?

The Information Centre here is impressive, and we bought the grandsons' birthday presents which we will post in Dunedin on Monday. David may end up with a piece of Weaving Memories work sorting out their video of Ranfurly's history with the railways. He volunteered to do it for free. I hope the council accepts the offer as the video is getting old and they need to preserve it.
This poster was on one of the buildings and shows many of the former businesses in town - the Knudsons seem to feature.

We headed for a drink in the Ranfurly Hotel and on the way saw something which really pissed me off - a van-load of reasonably local boys on their way to the rugby - they had stopped and were peeing against the wall of an office building right next to the airconditioner - I am fairly sure they had seen the public toilet sign and pulled up a few yards further on and then thought 'nah, here will do.' AAARRRGGGHHH!!! I wanted to go over and suggest they use the toilets, but David wouldn't let me in case I got threatened. But I wasn't worried as I was sure they would respond like naughty little boys rather than aggressive men - after all, the school teacher voice does come in handy ...

Last night's dinner with Clare was chicken wrapped in bacon and with a choice of either apricot and capsicum, or chilli, both topped with garlic butter (purchased, as all good things mentioned in this post were, at New World in Oamaru). I cooked them in foil in the oven, but I reckon I could have done them on the BBQ - I couldn't persuade David to get it out of the garage though.

No leftovers for Clare - well, I did try to give her the 4th chicken thing but she declined, although she'd loved it. Too much to carry and she still had leftovers scheduled for today's lunch. We sent her off back to her tent, and we headed for bed - when we woke up it was about 10 degrees and 7.37am. Clare had already been on her way for about an hour - I bet she was pleased it was cold.

It is a beautiful still sunny day, but still not too hot. We are heading in to Dunedin to stay with Clark and Sue today. But first, lunch - David has come back from a second wander around the town and stopped at the pie shop - we MUST support local businesses, eh?

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