Thursday 21 March 2019

Rotorua and Taupo - sadness, happiness and re-connections

A nostalgia stopover was next, at Rotorua's Blue Lake. The Top 10 camp is where the family used to go in the last 2 weeks of January, when I was a teenager. A good place to waterski as there was no tide (skiing all day if we wanted to) and the water was fresh so the boat and skis and ropes didn't need washing down each time ... When we first started going there Dad and Don Riding decided we all needed to wear skibelts as there's less buoyancy in fresh water than in salt. It does make a difference to how far down in the water you sit before takeoff. But Dad and Don's reasoning was that being less buoyant, if we came off and hurt ourselves, we'd be easier to get out if we were wearing a skibelt. Of course my fall there was in very shallow water when I forgot I wasn't coming in to land at the bach and as I was leaning over to perform a rooster tail, when the skeg hit the bottom, I tumbled over and over on my side lots of grazing on my elbows, knees and head. I remember Mum and Dad took me to A&E to make sure I hadn't cracked my skull. And pumice isn't forgiving or sterile ...

It's a really nice camp, much extended now I think, with good facilities. We did a walk around the lake and then went for a swim. David happily tried out his new snorkel, goggles and flippers.
Checking that they fit

We walked around the lake in the morning. The first part is beside the road, the rest is through the bush.

From the parking area you can see both the Blue Lake and the Green Lake - this is the latter. The water does look to be quite a different colour. Something to do with the depth and the material that is on the bottom.

Looking from the parking area back to the beach area at the edge of Blue Lake

In the bush on a well formed path

In places, we could see across the lake, but mostly we were walking in the quiet of the bush.

Preparing the vegetables for dinner - that table is FAR bigger than the bench in the galley.

Ann and Bill Anaru came for dinner - Ann and David worked together in the US and they are one of the couples we will be joining in France for the reunion in early May. For the first time, I cooked nasi goreng in the oven - none of my pots or the frying pan were big enough. It's a successful method, but I forget how hot that little oven gets, so some of the rice was a bit crispy...

Then it was onwards, heading south.

On our way to Taupo we stopped off at Mamaku and took a trip on the little railcars - computer operated, electric on the way down, and petrol driven on the way back. All I had to do was be in charge of the handbrake and the windscreen wipers. David did not want the responsibility ...
It did rain a wee bit

Ready for the return trip - the cars had to be turned. It was a really simple one-person operation: we drove up on to a little turntable and the woman pulled them around, then pushed them off the turntable on to the track. Voila!

There's the turntable behind us.

A couple of nights at the Taupo NZMCA camp followed, both of them marred by the terrorist attack in Christchurch. As I noted in a previous post, it really rocked us and we hunkered down and kept to ourselves, watching news and following the progress of recovering the bodies, updates on those injured and watching how much support and care was being offered by so many people - led by our amazing Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern. Sleep was hard to come by and peace of mind was absent.

The NZMCA park is adjacent to Taupo airport where at least two skydiving firms operate from. On Saturday there were lots of tandem skydivers; judging by the yelling and cheers, they were enjoying falling out of the sky ...

 On Sunday we roused ourselves and decided we needed to get back in to the human race again. So we headed out to Orakei Korako - if you are coming to NZ and if you do one thermal area, make it this one. It is compact, stunning and well run. As Al from Derwent 6 said 'you know you've had a good time when it's 11am and you've already taken 137 photos.' Al and Del stayed in the carpark the night before and were on their own. When we arrived the carpark was heaving, about 20 motorhomes and only a few cars.
And there were more motorhomes on the left side of the carpark.

I think this piece is called the Artist's Palette - very very hot all over it, so it's strictly stay on the boardwalk!

A boiling pool in the middle and the silica flow from the section above.

Hot, hot, hot

Panorama shot

Look closely and you can see that the mud is boiling.
Some welcome shade on the way round - it is a few degrees hotter on the thermal area than it is across the lake at the carpark and cafe.

I had forgotten how up and down the paths are - lots of steps but well-established boardwalks pretty much everywhere. As we got to the cave at the bottom, I saw a little dog that seemed very familiar. Then the man looked at me and pointed (I had already done my 'Hello, good dog' welcome ). It was Dave and Kelly who had been parked up at Tongaporutu a couple of weeks prior. Reconnecting with familiar faces was just what we needed at that time.

I sent photos to Lesley whom we had taken there back in 2008 - she recognised it but couldn't remember the name which is not surprising.

We then had a night in a Taupo motorcamp so we could have David's sister Ginny and her husband Graham around for dinner. I had intended to cook it all down by the lake at a DOC site at Whakaipo near Acacia Bay. However the drive from the road was awful - in narrowboat circles we describe shallow water as having the bottom too close to the top. This access track (not a road) had such big humps and hollows and high spots  that I described it as having too much of it too close to our undercarriage. So once we arrived (no place to safely turn on the way), I said to David that all I wanted to do was leave ...

So on to the motorcamp where I cooked cheese tart, prepared Thai Beef Salad and had a nana nap.
The cheese tart was our starter.

Dinner was a success, and for dessert I conjured up (magic woman, that I am) roasted peaches and pears with whipped cream. There was lots of criticism that we didn't have
a) an electric beater, or
b) a hand beater.

I made do with a whisk, and had to do most if the whipping myself as David doesn't seem to have the knack of getting the air into the cream by lifting the whisk effectively. And, lucky me, I even got to do the dishes myself as David, Ginny and Graham were chatting ... Funny, that.

No photos of Ginny and Graham as I was too busy in the galley ...

Wednesday 20 March 2019

Catch up, you lot!

OK, so here we are, back home again. And once again I have slipped up on the blogging routine. I am not quite sure how to remediate this state of affairs in the future, but I think it may involve David taking over meal preparation when we arrive somewhere so I can exercise my creative bent on something other than food.

Not sure how that plan will work, so don't hold your breath, folks!

We had curtailed our travel plans back in Waitara. The decision was based on my not wanting to spend too much time driving - the Far North is a very long way away, don't you know?

So our aim was the Bay of Plenty and the Coromandel. There is lots to see in both areas and people to catch up with. So after our lovely two days at Tongaporutu, we headed off reasonably early for us on March 6th, to Tauranga. Our intention was to get to the Memorial Park which is adjacent to Barry and Pauline's place and score one of the free motorhome parks there. We got there about noon, but both spots were taken, there were thousands of cars and millions of kids - school swimming sports, I think. We got a recommendation from one of the motorhomers in situ and headed over to Tauranga Tourist Park - a lovely place as it turned out and we scored a site in the shade and beside the estuary - so lovely and it was cooler than the other sunny spots. Have I perhaps told you I don't like the heat?

The laundry method of putting the washing and soap powder into the bucket with a small amount of water and leaving it to vibrate as we travel was successful (I put it in the shower which is right at the rear of the motorhome - site of the most movement and vibration, methinks). So the first job was to rinse it all (under the outside tap by the motorhome), wring it out and peg it on our drying rack. And given there was a laundry on site, we got the sheets and towels washed too. Fortunately, they also have clotheslines so I didn't have to use the dryer or try to hang lots of stuff on the small rack out the window ...

We had a couple of days with Barry and Pauline, they of narrowboating fame on this here blog before they moved back to NZ late last year. One day they led us on a VERY VERY long walk (about 16 kms I think, or maybe 600kms, I can't remember ...) of which we took no photos (too exhausted) and which we survived but only just - a nana nap was required.

Another day they took us on a walk around Mt Maunganui - not so long and very pleasant.
There are large numbers of pohutukawa trees on Mt Maunganui, and their roots are very good at holding on ... In the early summer, they look just beautiful with their bright red flowers - they are known as the NZ christmas tree because they flower about then.

Pauline and I were waiting here on a bench for David and Barry to come past - they were deep in conversation and we thought they may not see us if we kept still ...

Difficult to see, but in the water over by the rock and in front of the woman in the kayak you can just see the flippers of a seal who was basking in the warm water and the attention. I was interested that the school kids were focused on what their teacher had set them to do and observe in the rock pools rather than on the seal - excellent teacher, I say!

This rock has had the addition of a stick to make it look even more like a kiwi.

One part of the beach at the Mount. There were lots of tents set up on the beach (just out of shot) for the junior surf lifesaving champs that weekend.

And we walked further down the beach (after coffee and a bite to eat) - quite a few people swimming, given it was a work day.

We then headed to Waikino to get re-acquainted with Brian who we met once about 10 or so years ago at my cousin Gordon's place in Surrey, where Brian was working for Gordon on house destruction, house building, barn construction. He showed us his photos from his times working with Gordon - he would come home in the UK winter, and as you know, that makes sense to me ...

Brian is an interesting man - he lives simply, drives an electric car, works as a volunteer for DOC and other community based groups with a focus on the environment, pots and nurtures cuttings of native trees and plants and donates them to re-forestation projects. On the day we arrived he had given away 360 plants in pots and there was barely a dent in his potting patch.

He took us to the oldies' dinner down to the local pub where we met several of his friends and neighbours. A good meal with convivial and interesting people.

When we left, Brian gave me two tamarillo plants (and I gave one to Pauline when we saw them again at Papamoa).

We headed back in to Waihi so that David could do the Gold tour - I stayed behind and blogged and blobbed. I parked the motorhome just beside the replica poppet head - made me quite nostalgic for my days working on the Waiuta Mine Remediation - no poppet head there now, but I've seen many photos ... Thanks, Jim!

On his return David took me for a short walk up to show me the open cast mine - now abandoned. It is very deep. Read more here. Mining now is all underground with lots of adits and tunnels under the town - spooky. Apparently the mining company has a policy of paying residents whenever the vibrations from blasting exceed a certain level. Not sure it would be the place for me to live.
The open cast Martha mine

The Cornish Pumphouse which, surprisingly enough, was moved 300 metres - on teflon-coated concrete rails (I think - check it out in the link above).

The replica poppet head - you can see how big it is as the motorhome (2.4m) is parked behind it.

As we were going to stay with Mike and Helen in Tauranga on Sunday night, we decided to stay at Waihi Beach NZMCA camp on the Saturday night - there are lots of carparks we could have parked in along the beachfront, but I am always a bit wary of them on the weekend - local hoons do not fill me with joy.

Then, before heading back into Tauranga, it was back to Waihi - we had been trying to connect with Del and Al from nb Derwent 6 who were in NZ touring in a motorhome. But it had proved quite difficult to coordinate. But persistence paid off and we arranged to meet beside the poppet head, and I promised cheese scones and coffee. At about the time they turned up, a young couple in a car told me that whatever I had cooking smelled yummy. So a couple of scones (buttered of course) were donated to them. That did save the other four of us from total gluttony. But only just - there were still 13 scones among 4 of us ...

Hayley and Rob scored a cheese scone each - you can see them in the paper towels.
Del, Al, D&M plus scones - Del had to take the photos as he has the longest arms for selfies.
And then, for some unknown reason, David tossed my phone back at me and knocked over Del's coffee which went all over my shorts and the blanket protecting the seat. He swears it was accidental and that it just flew out of his hand, but I am not so sure.

If you follow me or Al on fb, you may well have seen this photo. See, I have forgiven David.

Into Otumotei in Tauranga we went, and it was great catching up with Mike and Helen - Mike and I worked together at Waiuta and Alexander on the mine remediation, Mike was site supervisor and Dean's right hand man. Mike and Helen came and stayed with us on the boat in 2017 and he is a great steerer. Hopefully they will come and see us again there, even if it is with a rented boat that Mike doesn't have to share ...

We parked on the sloping bit of lawn at the front of their section and Mike had to find a number of bits of wood to make sure that we were almost level - cannot have me rolling in to David overnight, now can we?

David and Mike on the deck, with beer.

Helen with wine. I think I had some too.
I am not sure if it was the overload of gluten or cheese, but we decided sometime around then not to go to the Coromandel (or possibly it was much earlier when we were trying to hook up with Del and Al and prior to the cheese scone gluttony). So the next stop was a whopping travelling time of an hour away at Papamoa.

Papamoa is a lovely place just a few kilometres down the beach from Mt Maunganui. As it is so close to Tauranga, we knew we could tempt Barry and Pauline, the exercise freaks, with a walk on the beach and a swim. Yep! They came to see us there two days in a row - two walks, two swims, two lunches and one dinner, I think.
David and Pauline at Papamoa Beach

Barry in photographer mode. David and Pauline were well ahead and I left them all to it and headed back to the motorhome - only one problem in that David had the keys in the backpack, dammit! One of those hills in the distance is the Mount - just not sure which one ...
While we were waiting for David and Pauline to return, Barry and I watched the kite surfer - well, more accurately, we watched his kite.

One night we met up with my nephew Jonny and his wife and two daughters over dinner at the Papamoa Tavern. Good food, good chardonnay (the Bastard Series which I had in Dunedin too - good and oaky as a chardonnay should be).

Jonny holding Charlie, Eva in the high chair, and Debs. Strangely enough, this is the first time we have met Jonny and Debs' wee girls. Not sure how that has slipped past us.
The catch up is not yet completed, so stay tuned. More tomorrow, I promise!

Friday 15 March 2019

The saddest days

It is 24 hours now since David and I found out about the terrorist attack in Christchurch by a white supremacist from Australia. 49 people dead, over 40 injured, about a dozen of them critically injured.

This is just the most horrific act ever to take place here in modern history, and it has shaken us to the core.

David and I are usually happy to meet up with other campers, do the social chit-chat, and keep it light. Today, we have kept to ourselves - I am in the mode of if anyone said anything to me about our immigration policy being the root cause of this because we have new immigrants who are Muslim, either my head would explode from the effort of keeping quiet, or their heads would explode from the level of my vitriol.

As anyone who reads about our laws and the policies that underpin them, would know, NZ's immigration policies are really strict. And our refugees policy is also strict - no refugees gets in here without strict screening. So none of the people killed were any threat to NZ. But that white australian f__ker was.

I am ashamed, I am angry, I am so so sad.

Friday 8 March 2019

And plans have changed x lots

We had planned to do a trip to the Far North after a week at home, but our trip had to be foreshortened when David’s cataract operation was delayed until 21 March. We could still do the trip, we thought, so off we set to Taranaki to stay in Waitara Holiday Park which my sister Dee, her husband, son and daughter in law are running now.

While there, we had sought their advice on where to break the trip to be well-positioned to get north of Auckland; and were all set to follow that. But in the shower that morning, I realised that I wasn’t looking forward to so much driving over the next couple of weeks as the distances to be covered would mean that we’d be travelling every day and rushing around – inevitably missing things, not being able to stop at the brown signs and having to stick to a timetable.

So I asked David if he’d mind if we left the Far North until after we come back from the UK, and on this trip just go as far as Tauranga. He was fine with that, so we decided to head that way via the Forgotten World Highway from Stratford. The weather was so beautiful and the mountain was totally clear of cloud, so there was another change of destination and we headed up to the carpark at Dawson Falls, did a walk to Wilkie's Pools (across the swing bridge ...), had an icecream at the cafe, decided not to eat dinner at the Lodge, and stayed in the carpark for the night. For FREE!!!

It was such a gift to be able to park there. 

As a Taranaki person (I lived there from aged 2.5 to 17) I am a bit obsessed with this mountain ... When I was at Woodleigh School (primary), the view of the mountain from our playground was amazing, but it was ubiquitous and I don't remember noticing or remarking on it. Somehow though, it got into my bloodstream, and when I left home, I missed both it and the sea - especially as I moved to Hamilton, an inland city with neither a substantial mountain (I don't count Pirongia, sorry) nor the sea.
In the carpark, this was the view from the driver's seat. The closer peak is Fantham's Peak - it is a volcano in its own right. There is a very interesting exhibit in Puke Ariki (the museum in New Plymouth) about the history of the volcanoes of this province - it is definitely worth a visit.
The view to and across the Taranaki Bight.

Easy to see the tree-line - I am not sure what the height is where the trees stop, but I will get my on-site researcher (pictured) to find that out, in case I am asked by anyone ...

The path to Wilkie's Pools is wheelchair- and pushchair-accessible, and is very well made and maintained. DOC people are great at this stuff.

Fantham's Peak is out of sight but the summit of Taranaki is clear

The stream below Wilkie's Pools - there were no photos taken of the pools. That was for two reasons - mine was that I could not stop on the swing bridge to take photos (a bouncing child I'd had to ask to stand still while I was on said bridge); David's was that he spent a fair amount of time conversing with a Welsh woman who grew up just a few miles from where David's grandmother came from in Merthyr Tydfil
Sunset. Still a fair number of cars in the park - lots of people were tramping and had stayed in the mountain huts overnight. In the morning, I chatted with a guy who had climbed to the summit the day before and come down to a hut on Fantham's Peak, slept overnight (not much - there was a snorer staying too ...) and then come down before 9am. Such energy and fitness!

This was the end of the road down through the forest from the carpark, as we left in the morning - we didn't hang about for breakfast as, given it was another beautiful day, we knew there would be lots of people coming up. And it is a rather narrow road with few places for passing oncoming traffic. We had thought about having breakfast in Stratford, but just out in the sunshine where the treeline finishes, there was a good space to pull over off the road - I prepared a cooked breakfast and saved us at least $40 - yay!!

In the morning sun, the upper and lower boundaries of the tree-line are very clear.

Not easy to see, but to the right of the power pole is Mt Ruapehu which is in the middle of the North Island.

This is the view from the Public Dump Station in Stratford. Fence staples needs replacing, but hey ...

In the late afternoon, up in the carpark, while I was sitting outside enjoying the sunshine, David had the maps out and was comparing distances and travel times that resulted in a further change of plan (I sense a pattern here – again …) – we decided that we would come back via the Forgotten World Highway (always my preference as the mountain is in view on the way west) and travel up via North Taranaki.

So off we went heading on our way to another place suggested by Dee and Murray, on the banks of the Waikato River. But as we came through Onaero, I thought of the still 3-4 hours of driving, and decided I would far rather stop at Tongaporutu. So there we stopped – not just for one night, but for two!
Tongaporutu: I posted several times about this place late last year...

Drinks and nibbles with other campers - all of the others pictured live onboard fulltime. Please note thast neither of the women in the sunshine are actually a trumpian orange, but I lightened the shadows so people were visible. So Rose and Ann look slightly more colourful than in real life. Sorry, ladies.

This was the last of about 10 photos of the approaching sunset - be pleased I spared you those.

Mel with his new friend, Moosli who lives with Kevin and Marilyn from Egmont Village. Lovely people!
The river mouth - next stop Australia ...

High tide - perfect water for skiing. Where is my dad when you need him?

That water is so smooth that it is slippery when skiing.

 I think it is safe to say that I am obsessed with Tongaporutu, as well as with the mountain.

 Jim and Judy called in on their way back from Auckland and Hamilton, to have dinner and bring emergency supplies of chardonnay - I had run out the night before and was reduced to drinking riesling - shock horror!