Tuesday 1 March 2022

Exploring the centre of the island

 It was a long weekend here in NZ on 5, 6 7 Feb - Waitangi Weekend - and we were away in the motorhome. We were careful with socialising and making sure we were only in places with other vaccinated people. Omicron is in NZ and we recognise that we will probably get it eventually, but seriously, we would rather not!

We drove up on Thursday 4 Feb from home to Ongarue to stay with Linda and Graham. Linda is my former sister in law, and we have been good friends for many years.

The drive up had a stuttery start - there were errands to run on the way:

  • Firstly we called in to the Mobil Service Station at Waikanae to check the tyre pressures and lower them. We had thought they had to be at 80psi, which it turns out is the maximum, rather than the recommended level for a comfortable ride. We tried them out at 70psi - pretty good as it turns out
  • We had to call in to Gypsy Caravans in Levin to return a water filler cap that we had bought without taking our original broken one in to compare it with. 
  • Then we stopped at Palmerston North (a bit of an off track detour) to collect an orthopedic cushion - with a gap at the back to save my coccyx from being bounced on. Didn't work but it did raise me a couple of inches higher in the seat - not that cool. Of course, David tried the cushion and loved being elevated - far above his station, if you ask me...
  • Lunch at Sanson.

Considering we had thought (can't actually say we planned ...) we would leave home fairly early, ending up having lunch less than 2 hours away from home at 1.30pm was a bit of a failure ...

And to be frank, I had forgotten how far away the centre of the island is! It may be a long way away, but it is spectacular.

Mt Ruapehu from SH1

Mt Ruapehu from SH4 - having turned left at Waiouru

The Makatote Viaduct - pretty impressive. The roadway goes down the into the valley, around a few corners with a sharp bend at the bottom, and then up the other side. The train, of course, goes straight over the top ...

Looks impressive, doesn't it? It's a massive piece of engineering.
Read all about it, Read all about it ...

I had promised to bring dinner to L&G's, so given our stuttery start, once we were out of Sanson, we had to keep going rather than stopping off to look at places of interest. We decided the trip home was going to be slow so we could spend time investigating.

But the trip was unavoidably delayed just before Taihape. We came around a corner and started down the hill, when three vehicles approached and one of them threw a fairly sizable stone from under its tyre. I know it was sizeable because I could see it coming towards me! It hit the windscreen with a helluva bang. I actually think it may well have been an asteroid ...

So we stopped at Taihape at an auto-glazier who taped it up for us. Then he very kindly gave us a roll of tape and a razor blade in case we need to replace it.

The taped up injury to the windscreen. It turns out that these windscreens have two layers of glass with a sheet of plastic in between. Damn fine idea, I reckon!

Graham is a sheep dog trialist and his dogs are very precious to him, even though he keeps saying he'd like to give up trialing ... The dogs are definitely not pets but they lounge around on their individual blankets on the deck. They are the best behaved dogs I've seen anywhere.

The property that L&G have only owned for a year has been transformed since their arrival. It was apparently covered in blackberry up and over most of the house, all through the formed gardens close to the house and across a fair amount of the rest of the acreage. They have done a huge job in clearing it, and Linda has re-established the garden. The grapevine is amazing and covered in grapes getting ready to ripen - unlike mine! She did say to me in the morning that she should have taken advantage of the fine weather spell and put a coat of stain on the house ... I wasn't quite sure which hours of what night she would have done it in, but she is definitely a hard worker.

Linda and Lu the huntaway heading down to the bottom of the property - the stream, the hole in one, the seat. I doubt that either Linda or Graham has sat down there: too too busy!


The house from only part way down the hill. L&G added the large verandah.


Apparently the river was very low on our first day there - there had been no rain for a month or so. That meant the waterfall wasn't.


Linda had cleared blackberry from everywhere you can see on this photo.


The dogs' blankets. The canines have pride of place on the deck and are so very well behaved.

 We headed back to Taumaranui late in the morning and promised that we would come back to stay again before we headed home - Graham had dog trials in Whangamomona and had said goodbye to us at 6.45am so we hadn't had much time with him. 

Judy had told me of a shop in Taumaranui that she had bought some clothes in the previous week and they had a sale. So of course I had to check that out. Nothing that interested me as I was only looking for shorts in a lightweight material - no shorts at all. But I had passed a place called TMP Fashions that had a nice shirt for David in the window. So I went in to the shop and as I made my way towards the counter I espied Vassalli jeans! Yay!!! And a pair of shorts. Yay again. So three purchases from a shop in the centre of the North Island in a town that most people could not pinpoint on a map.

Then it was hunt for the supermarket - it has moved to a pop-up site because the original one was too small with a very awkward carpark. A new one is being built on the same site with additional space having been purchased; but in the meantime, where the hell was it located now? Google Maps to the rescue.

It was incredibly hot but I still left David in the motorhome while I went in and scooped up groceries that we didn't have, and some that were impulse purchases, of course. Like the watermelon and the several bottles of ginger beer.

Then David was keen to empty the toilet cassette which had only been used for one night, and we did have a spare empty one with us. But sometimes it's not worth arguing about whether it's on the critical path, now is it?

Jim and Judy found us while we were at the dump-station and we followed them to Owhango, stopping part of the way there at the Paritai look out to see the very long train going past below us and beside the river. 


Judy said that in all the time they lived in the area (Owhango where Jim was principal) she hardly ever saw a train going past this point.

Team Tulloch: Judy, Jim and Tom the labrador outside the lodge

Judy had given me instructions on how to find Brock's Farm and I had asked our friend David R if it was the same area as his former trapline (for rats, stoats, anything predatory and small) in the adjoining bush. So I sort of knew where we were going. What I didn't realise was quite how spooked I would be by the farm track that we drove down to get to the Lodge! It was bumpy, gravelly, windy and narrow. And I spent the next few days worrying like crazy about whether I'd be able to get back up it. The fact that we went up and down a couple of times with Jim and Judy in their truck did little to allay my fears. slightly more effective was Bill, the farm owner, telling me it had been the track down to a timber mill and that logging trucks used to use it constantly. But still I worried. And of course, then the large rain storm arrived and kept going for about 36 hours, so I worried about slips ... My imagination is far too powerful!

Anyway, being at the Lodge was lovely. It was just Jim, Judy, David and me. J&J slept in the lodge and we slept in the motorhome. We had electricity, they did not ... 😊😉 Judy had thought there was a generator there, but no. So we lent them a couple of little torches we have in the motorhome. And all cooking was on portable gas camp elements or the BBQ.


Adair and John had arrived. David was checking out the pink cross on the bum of Adair's pants ... There's the motorhome, down where there was a modicum of shade available under the trees. We had scones there...

John has a lung disease which makes him extremely breathless on very little exertion. So he now has two mobility scooters: this is his indoors version. It folds up and can easily go in the back of a car. While we went walking, John was in charge of the lodge ...

Adair and John came to visit on the Saturday and Bill and Carol (the owners) came down for cheese scones, and then later for dinner which was cooked on the BBQ indoors because it was persisting down, and there is definitely an age limit on blokes standing outside BBQing in the rain.

In between scones and dinner, while it was still sunny, we had a walk through the bush to the river and saw in the distance the whio, the native blue ducks. We walked across the lagoon on the boardwalk our friend David R (the aforementioned one of the trapline), we hugged trees, and enjoyed the quiet and the company.

Looking up the Whakapapa River. Good view of Adair's pink cross ...

Somewhere up there in the river, near the rocks there are whio - honestly there are!

Hippy Judy

Hippy Adair

By the totara tree - Jim had gone back by this time because Tom wasn't allowed off the lead in the bush and he was a bit unhappy - he needed a swim in the river away from the possibility of whio, given he's a retrieving kind of dog ...

Back from the walk and the rains came down! Our timing was impeccable! So then it was on to dinner prep - see the women in the kitchen!

A platter of nibbles behind the stainless steel butter dish, and the vegetable kebabs I prepared. Adair and Judy toiling away.

Two photos of the kebabs because I was very impressed with them and I want you to be too!

On Sunday morning, Jim, Judy and I went to the local market in the village hall. Judy found some old friends and acquaintances (somehow I don't think we could go anywhere in NZ without Judy finding old friends...) so while she chatted, Jim and I went next door for coffee at the Blue Hill Cafe.

Then in the afternoon it was up to Bill and Carol's for afternoon tea: Judy had brought a lovely ginger loaf and I had baked a cake and brought it with us. For the life of me, I cannot remember what it was! I do remember that it was yummy though, as was Judy's loaf. Recipe required! 

On Monday when we left, we all had breakfast together at the cafe - David R had recommended it, so we were obliged really... A great place. If you are heading through on SH4, do stop there. Lovely food, great service.

After breakfast, across the road from the cafe, David is at latitude 39 deg south.

These are the Owhango public toilets. The photo on their doors is of the boardwalk we crossed at the lagoon in the bush - our friend David R helped to build it.

I know there have been no photos of me so far but I definitely was there!

Then it was back to Ongarue to see Linda and Graham again. 

David refused to play Pictionary with Linda and me - he had been severely trounced by us years ago. Linda is an artist of some note and I am a good guesser, plus when it's my turn to draw, I don't aim for tentative strokes. After all, I am the teacher who showed kids that almost any person, animal, bird or creature can be drawn as a series of balloon shapes. In the case of sheep, it's fluffy cloud shapes...

So it was 5 Crowns and Up and Down the River. Graham was consistent in that he moaned all the way through each hand and then won lots of them - bastard.

Then it was petanque - they have a petanque court, although avoiding the sheep and rabbit shit was a bit of a challenge at times!

Waterlilies - beautiful!


Getting ready for petanque...

Speaking of rabbits - these two people are so soft hearted that they cannot kill the rabbits! What is that about? Next time we go, I'm going to take poison or traps or something! Rabbits are an anathema. I know people in the UK love them as do people in the US. But here, they are a bloody pest!

Fabulous to spend time with Linda and Graham and we need to do more of it!