187. Back in Australia

We’re on the road again. The last few weeks have been busy and as usual I am way behind with this Blog. I started writing this on top of Tamborine Mountain south of Brisbane, not too far from the state border. It was pouring rain, just like on our last visit there about 5 months ago. It was the first time it’d rained there since then, so of course when we went to the Information Centre and mentioned that, they wanted to keep us here. I don’t mind the rain, it cools things down beautifully. So long as it doesn’t manage to find a way through the overhead ventilator and onto our bed… (which of course it did). 

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Even the scrub turkeys were looking a little bedraggled. Most birds were sheltering from the rain but this hopeful kookaburra hung around.

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It was wonderful to catch up with my dear friends Ian and Leonie and Bobbie, my “Brisbane family”, in their beautiful homes with the rainforest right in their backyards.

But back to the beginning ….. We were very fortunate to find the perfect foster family for Penny just before we left Christchurch, and have received various encouraging messages and some photos since then. The latest was: “She is very very good she loves my (dog) grooming clients too – new visitors with different news!!”

We went straight to Nic and Mick’s on arrival in Queensland, well sort of straight, via the efficient overhead monorail from the airport then a train to Caboolture where we were met. Our very grand Jeep Gand Cherokee which had been languishing under cover since last October was fine, the battery had been kept charged by a small solar panel. 

The dogs gave us the usual lovely welcome and the cats were sightly less frosty than before, so we were soon all set to do some serious house and animal sitting for five days while Nic and Mick took off for some much-needed R&R and a birthday celebration.

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The two calves Brie and Cracker only needed feeding from a bottle once a day and only three of the ten or so horses needed supplementary feeding, the rest were off in the far paddocks with the cattle.

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There were the usual beautiful sunsets.

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Dave had fun trying to mow the “lawn” early one morning before it got too hot …..

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When the fan belt of the ride-on mower broke we drove to nearby Esk for a replacement only to find the last one had been sold about an hour earlier. We consoled ourselves with lunch at “Nash” then drove to Toowoomba.

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I felt that the long drive justified spending more than 5 minutes getting a new fan belt, so bought some knitting wool and a pattern and also a new Western-style canvas hat. I was surprised that the local Lincraft was so relatively poorly stocked compared to NZ. We all know the art of knitting has declined but is having a resurgence in NZ; obviously not in Australia though. Well it is a bit hotter here. Also HUMID.

We collected the caravan in Caloundra without mishap, it had been well stored and smelled good, even if the cover was a bit torn. Bad weather, they said. The storage people (who had supplied the cover) tried to get us a replacement from the manufacturer, but no go. Still, courtesy, efficiency – much appreciated.

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Grandy was taken down to Banyo near Brisbane airport for repairs to the rear bumper bar, which someone had run into just before we left Aust. last October. Our insurance company insisted we use their recommended place in Banyo and I was stunned at the efficiency of the whole operation. Arrive at the appointed time, drive into one of two reception bays, welcomed by a smiling lady and in no time an assessor was looking at the car. 2-3 days, he said. They paid for a taxi to the airport to pick up a hired car, we drove back to Toogoolawah, then the very next day they phoned to say it was ready. Back to hand in the hired car, free taxi to the repair shop, here are your keys, sign here ….

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By then I was craving some Queensland prawns so after a hunt we found Morgan’s at Scarborough (not Redcliffe as I had thought) where many years back we would go to order a huge Christmas seafood feast; and enjoyed some prawns in their outdoor area, surrounded by the local birds.

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We left Toogoolawah with the usual regrets, it is a very lovely piece of country; fortunately they’ve had some rain since our last visit. Some local roos were lining the drive to wave us off.

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First stop en route to Ipswich was Lake Wivenhoe, source of Brisbane’s water supply.

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We headed for the Ipswich Showground where we camped for a few days while we caught up with friends and Grandy acquired a new set of tyres. The Showground actually had a welcome kit – first time we’ve received one. There was even a biro. The facilities were excellent. There was a huge old tree nearby, actually only the remnant of a larger one, a stump can just be seen on the left.

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Then off again heading for Tamborine Mountain. And the aforesaid rain.

186. Rarangi again

We had such a lovely time homesitting at Rarangi Beach near Blenheim in a glorious beach house with two friendly dogs and some chatty neighbours. The same place we homesat over two years ago. it was almost like coming home.

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The dogs Nunny (Valhund) and Dudley (Standard Schnauzer) obviously remembered us and Penny too so the transition was very smooth. We all enjoyed the daily beach walks. 

img_5410img_5427img_5428img_5488img_5486Blenheim is always interesting, the rows and rows and ROWS of grapevines occasionally become monotonous but the colours are always changing with the seasons. This time it was late summer, almost everything was still bright green, the variety of ‘haircuts’ was interesting, and the bridal veils for keeping birds off the ripening grapes were only just being brought out – we saw huge rolls sitting by the side of the road waiting to be placed.

We had lots of visitors including Dave’s sister, so we had an excuse for several vineyard lunches, the only problem being which one to choose. Brancott Estate was first, because of its location, with sweeping views of acres of vineyards. The grapes were just starting to ripen.

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Brancott has a small falcon breeding facility, their two birds are unable to fly due to injuries but there’s nothing to stop them doing other things and eventually their progeny will help protect the vineyard from avian grape robbers.

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Another day, the weather not being so good we decided to forego a long drive towards Kaikoura and the Peter Yealands vineyard, instead opting for one of our favourites, St. Clair, where the huge Tastes of Marlborough platter is always excellent. Huge green-lipped mussels, local olive oil, artisan bread …. and so many other delicacies.

The new people next door wanted a couple of ancient pine trees felled, they cast too much shadow over their new Natives garden. The first few came down Ok but the last one needed prolonged discussion. Our house owners were expecting their woodshed to be a fatality but the tree came down perfectly.

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I have long wanted to experience the Marlborough Sounds mail run to various outlying settlements, and at long last we managed to fit one in, albeit only a half-day run in a fast hydrofoil rather than an all-day in a small launch. Penny was allowed along and thoroughly enjoyed it, particularly as we stayed on the top deck and she could lord it over the dogs which occasionally ‘met’ the mail boat, probably eager for the dog biscuits which the helmsman/postie kept handy.

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Penny was not allowed ashore at Ship Cove which Captain Cook visited several times, the only place where we humans were allowed ashore.

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We took Dave’s niece Viv for a long drive to Cape Campbell, north of Kaikoura. There is a caravan/motorhome camp nearby at Marfells Beach, which we inspected for signs of the recent earthquake damage (nothing much obvious) ……

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…… and then continued to Ward Beach where the seabed has very obviously been raised several metres. The road to Kaikoura was blocked a little further along. No fishing is permitted along quite a long stretch of the coastline, until marine life recovers.

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All too soon it was time to pack up yet again, the sunset that last evening was softly beautiful.  The dog owners tell me that Nunny kept on checking our bedroom for me each morning; he was in the habit of jumping on the bed if I was not up by what he considered a suitable time!

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We’d heard our geocache at Blackball was full of water again and needed a new container, so we headed that way, stopping for coffee at our favourite little roadside wheelie cafe in the Wairau Valley and then for diesel and some purchases at a small farmers’ market in Murchison. The road is beginning to show obvious signs of the great increase in traffic since the Kaikoura quake. We spent the next two nights in the Ahaura Domain near Blackball, a pleasant place with free showers at $5/night. A trip to Greymouth for a new container, then up to Blackball. It being around lunchtime when we arrived of course we had lunch at the Hilton! (For non-Kiwis, this old pub was grandly renamed the Blackball Hilton some years ago, then when the Hilton Hotel chain heard about it and threatened to sue, the name was changed to “Formerly the Blackball Hilton” which it retains to this day.)

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And so back to Christchurch via a less frequented road which took us around Lake Brunner (not actually sighted), Arthur’s Pass (nobody told us a new straight road is being constructed there, Dave is not happy, he likes the curvy bits!), the beautiful road beside  the Waimak, a stop for a cuppa, excellent pies from the Sheffield Pie Shop on the way, and  so to our usual haunt in the chestnut orchard. We have just two days to go as I write this, before returning to Australia for three more months. We have found an excellent dogsitter for Penny, she should be happy there in the company of two other small dogs and two cats.

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185. The Message Nobody Wants

One evening recently I found an email on my computer from the Port Macquarie (NSW) police. Dave phoned for me next morning and as expected it was sad news about my brother Barry. He had died peacefully in his sleep on 29 January. Nine days earlier. NINE DAYS.

He’d had bad emphysema, two strokes and a heart attack in previous years, so the news was not unexpected. He was in a very pleasant, caring Retirement Village complex near Port Macquarie, which Dave and I visited last year. At that time we made sure they had all my contact details, both at the main office and the Hostel where he was living.

But the Retirement Village ‘lost’ my contact details. When contacted they claimed to be “unable to explain” why my details were not still on record. They pointed out that if my brother had expressed a wish for me not to be listed as a contact, then they would have been required to honour that. I do not believe that this happened. We were on good terms, plus I doubt he even knew they had my contact details. Two strokes and a heart attack play havoc with short-term memory. He knew me, he introduced me to members of staff as his sister (which eventually helped the police to find me), but once Dave and I left his room I was most likely “out of sight out of mind”. He had named a friend as a contact person, but no mention of next of kin (he also had three grown children), no nothing. The Retirement Village would not release any information to this contact person. They did however get him to remove all my brother’s belongings! They would not recognise him as an executor, hence the police involvement.

The Police Constable was kind. He said they had tracked me down via a number of ways including a member of staff who remembered me, and the NZ Consulate. Still not the best way to receive the news.

So now as the officially recognised Next of Kin I have forms to fill in and cremation arrangements to authorise. Fortunately the police gave me the contact details for several of my brother’s friends who we will meet when we return to Australia in March. We will have a little scattering-the-ashes ceremony then, as Barry verbally requested his friend to organise.

184. Leeston & the West Coast.

We enjoyed the homesit at Leeston with all the animals.

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img_5167The dogs and the demented guineafowls kept us highly amused with their antics; the chooks, vegie garden and berry patch kept us well and healthily fed. With so many eggs to play with I had fun making custards, floating islands, souffles and three raspberry chocolate cakes. Dave did some work on the caravan including getting an auto brake system installed, we had one in Australia and it made driving so much easier. He also tinkered with the farm bike and did various other jobs around the place.

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One evening there was the most fantastic sunset, starting with an incredible glowing golden light. Facebook ran hot that evening with all our photographic friends displaying their best efforts. We had to make a hasty trip down the road to find a clear spot for panoramas as we were hedged in.

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img_5091The Little River A&P Show was wonderful. Very well organised (they’ve been going for a long time!); the whole showground one big gorgeous sward of bright green grass. There were all the usual Show exhibits:

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Too soon the Leeston homesit was over and we were off again, first stopping at the Vet’s for Penny’s annual jabs. Who should be in the car parked next to us but our two cats and their wonderful foster family! They’d also been for their annual Vet visit, the cats that is. I had to be content with talking to them through the doors of their carrying cages but it was a joy to see them looking so well and content. I do miss them. Although I try to find homesits with a cat or cats, too often it is just other animals.

We made it to Reefton in worsening weather and went straight to our usual POP on the heights above town. There was a reasonable amount of traffic on the road, considering it is currently the main route to the north. You always know when you are in Reefton, the smell of burning coal pervades the place. Actually I love the smell, it takes me back to my childhood and riding the steam train to the Blue Mountains outside Sydney.

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img_5212A day trip to Blackball gave us a 100% weather change, from spitting rain to brilliant sunshine, such is NZ weather. The Salami factory was closed but the wee shop opposite had a few salami so we were content. The Hilton has had a facelift. A drive round the back streets is often rewarding.

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We visited the old mine site where we maintain a geocache ……
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……and on the way back spotted a new sign on a previously nondescript building which suddenly became interesting – it was the old bathhouse.

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On the way back Dave decided to revisit one of his old haunts, somewhere down the Moonlight Range. The track went on and on and although we eventually reached a bridge, It STILL went on and on …. so eventually with the light about to fade we thought we’d better head back. 

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img_5275We need to be in Blenheim by early next week so after 2 nights in Reefton headed for Westport. The low-lying cloud which farewelled us persisted for many km and so did the on-and-off rain.

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We headed for another POP where we had stayed about 2 years ago. Amazingly the owner not only remembered our faces, but our names! Yet they may have up to 20 different motorhomes/caravans staying each night. We had a pleasant time catching up with some Christchurch friends who have made their home in Westport. A quick visit to Tauranga Bay and Cape Foulwind paid dividends, there were lots of seals to be seen. Also a lone weka. it still amazes me that Abel Tasman anchored off this Cape.img_5389img_5390

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Penny enjoyed a run on the beach. I do find it odd that it is called Tauranga Bay – very confusing.

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Beautiful red wildflowers seem to be everywhere at present – the West Coast’s equivalent to Tekapo’s lupins. Fiery even in the rain.

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Rain, rain, rain – well it WAS the West Coast. By then we were both well covered with very itchy sandfly bites. So we packed up and set off for Blenheim cross-country, through Murchison and the Wairau Valley. I love the long run alongside the Buller with the one-way stretch under the overhang … we were behind a large tourist bus and could just imagine the scary looks on the passengers’ faces!

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We stopped for lunch somewhere on the way but deferred a coffee until we reached a little highway stopover, just a small food truck really in the middle of nowhere, which we visited two years ago and enjoyed really good coffee plus bacon and egg butties. It was still there with the same chatty Vietnamese lady who remembered us too!!! They are very busy now with all the additional highway traffic re-routed away from Kaikoura.

Three nights at the Blenheim Racecourse ($10/night, must be fully self-contained) and tomorrow we head for beautiful Rarangi Beach and our next homesit. We paid them an early visit to check for caravan access – they have lopped a few tree branches – and were given a very warm welcome. The dogs all remembered each other – and us. I’m looking forward to the next fortnight.

183. Homesitting

Happy New Year!

It’s been a while since I wrote anything. Christmas has been and gone, a highlight the annual Secret Santa with all Dave’s family, and all the usual over-indulging which accompanies the season.

We moved from the Maniototo homesit to one at Swannanoa, about 25 km NNW of Christchurch, just before Christmas. What a contrast. There we were surrounded not by mountains but by towering runs of poplars – they could hardly be called hedges. We were in a comfortable farmhouse surrounded by a lovely extensive garden and our new charges were one placid old sheepdog, three heifers, two chooks and seven goldfish.img_4885

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Going for a drive around the district meant kilometres along the straight Tram Road or similar roads with their multi-height hedges and rather luxurious houses. Cust, Rangiora, Oxford … they were our new destinations when not popping down to Christchurch.

Dave took the opportunity to give the caravan carpet a good clean with the water blaster. What a difference it made. Penny enjoyed helping him mow the grass. I enjoyed the freedom of a large kitchen and the time (and space!) to complete two large jigsaws.

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This property boasted a magnificient cherry tree, absolutely dripping with bright red fruit.

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img_4843We picked some judiciously, waiting until the fruit was fully  ripe. Just before New Years’ I picked a big bowlful, but by New Years’ Day we needed more. Full of anticipation I went out with a huge bowl, to be met by a large GREEN tree, not a hint of red to be seen. It had been utterly stripped! Holes in the netting indicated it was the work of a rat or rats rather than humans. It was amazing – not a single cherry to be seen, even unripe ones, and no fresh pips or bits of half-eaten fruit on the ground either. Nearby is a spa with a wooden surround and when Dave checked inside there were hundreds of dried pips. So that was the end of our cherry season.

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But there were still raspberries, strawberries, even some boysenberries. (memo to self, if we ever grow raspberries, make sure the canes are in an elevated position). Plus zucchini, lettuce and some kale and other vegies.

All too soon it was time to leave, the family came back from their annual camp all suntanned and smiling and relaxed. Lovely people. That was the second year we’d homesat for them at Christmas.

We returned to our usual haunt the chestnut orchard, where the flowering season was well under way. These are the catkins, the ground was littered with spent ones which were constantly fluttering down in any breeze.img_4905img_4906

Mrs. Google tells me that the same tree can bear both male and female catkins.  Some catkins have both pollen-bearing flowers and small clusters of female or fruit-producing flowers. Two or three flowers together form a four-lobed prickly case (calybium) which ultimately grows completely together to form the brown hull. Another interesting fact is that the seeds do not become dormant as with most other plants but start to germinate upon falling to the ground in autumn. The seeds lack a coating or internal food supply so they lose viability soon after ripening and must be planted immediately.  Another fact is that chestnuts have very little protein or fat and no gluten but plenty of carbohydrate which compares with that of wheat and rice. They are the only nuts that contain Vitamin C (which decreases by about 40% on heating).

We went for a walk along the Waimakairi River a short drive north of the orchard…..

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… then did a little off-roading while following the river towards the mouth. As we were leaving Dave thought he could hear something odd. He checked all the tyres – nothing. But a little further on, he stopped again and this time we discovered that one of the front tyres had been sliced and wrecked  by a piece of metal, probably part of a bearing. A perfectly good  tyre ruined.

img_4903 Another day we drove to Sumner Beach and then Taylor’s Mistake, which we have not visited for some time. There is nowhere to stop to take proper photos on the very narrow twisty road down to the Mistake. The Port Hills were looking very dry.

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Then it was time to shift to the next homesit near Leeston. So different again. Our charges are one lovable young dog, a friendly horse with a penchant for carrots, an even friendlier sheep, and a number of peacocks, peahens and chooks. There is an extensive vegetable garden and a totally enclosed berry patch – strawberries, raspberries, blackcurrants – the latter two well-staked and trained so it is a joy to pick them without stooping over. (Another memo to self – grow them in a netted enclosure with a high ‘roof’.) The chooks produced ten eggs the morning after we arrrived – I don’t know what we are going to do with so many.

Homesitting is an absolute privilege. After a couple of email exchanges and sometimes but not always a preliminary visit, perfect strangers are willing to allow us to live in their private home, to a great extent literally living their (non-working) lives. All we have to do is care for their pets as if they were our own and, usually, do a little gardening, watering and/or lawnmowing. We have time to explore the surrounding district in a way not possible with a casual day visit. We always try to leave a property in a better state than we found it. At the Otago homesit, Dave reduced much of the waist-high jungle around the house to a far more manageable level. Here he has just taken off to tackle some Scotch thistles (!).

 

 

182. More Maniototo Attractions

We made  yet another excursion to Alexandra for the Friday market goat’s cheese and venison sausages, and this time I took some photos of the famous MacTavish’s miner’s hut near Ophir, now restored and privately owned. So lonely and isolated. Modern cars thunder up and down the nearby hill; I wonder what McTavish would have thought if he could stand in his doorway now.

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We did not linger in Ophir this time but headed back home via the backroads north  of Omakau, part of the Dustan heritage trail, through newly-mown fields and acres of golden broom and gorse, some of it now changing colour.

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They build strong letterboxes in Otago.

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Matakanui at the foot of the Dunstan Ranges was once known as Tinkers “…. a name possibly derived from the tinsmiths who it is said abandoned their trade of repairing pots and pans and instead used them for washing gold. Another explanation is that when miners were asked how they were doing they responded “Just tinkering about”.”

The original school with its bell tower .

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Most of the remaining buildings are mud brick, in various stages of disrepair.

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Antlers mark the boundary of a nearby deer farm.

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At Drybread there was even less to see, just part of the old hotel now used as a farm building. The legend goes that the name came after a wary prospector, when asked how he was doing, replied “Dry bread, seldom better”.

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Disappointed that there was so little to see, we thought we’d visit the Drybread cemetery, some way off the road.

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It looks rather highly populated…

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. .. by sheep! So many in fact that we did not venture past the gate. We could see some quite recent graves as well as obviously old ones.

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Back ‘home’ again, another lovely sunset ….

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… and too early next morning, outside the bedroom door wanting to come in, were the dogs who’d already been let out for their early morning run.

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Everywhere around us farmers were hay making, making interesting patterns in the fields.

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We paid another visit to the Oturehua shop (Gilchrists General Store), it’s a wee bit  famous for its decor. Nevertheless it’s well stocked with modern groceries (not shown). It is also now a B&B, very convenient to the Rail Trail and opposite the Oturehua Tavern.

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The nearby abandoned Golden Progress Mine 91868-1936), what remains of it, was also visited.

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The entrance was down an avenue of ancient trees. img_4716

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Not much remains.

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Back home again the chooks decided they were tired of foraging and lined up hopefully outside the back door. Or were they trying to tell us something?

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That evening, our last at the homesit, it was c-o-l-d. In the morning there was snow all over the distant ranges. But by that evening most of it had gone.

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181. Around the Farmhouse

The broom flowering season in the Maniototo makes for some wonderful photos. Here are a few from around the farmhouse where we are homesitting for two weeks. I may have posted one or two already 🙂

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The ruins of a rather substantial shed, close to the boundary fence, with the remains of a fireplace on the right. I seem to have a fixation on this shed, so photographic.

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Dave trying his hand with a scythe. The chooks approved.

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Bob the rescue sheepdog (found on the roadside with a shattered leg some years ago) is camera-shy.

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I love exploring the garden …

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In a few weeks’ time there will be roses absolutely everywhere.

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180. Around the Maniototo

img_4390The sunrise promised a beautiful day and so it was, but with bad weather forecast it was time to go for a drive while the weather held. The Maniototo area of Central Otago is a wonderful place to explore, full of remnants of the old gold rush days.  The landscape is claimed to be unique: “Nowhere is there such a wide sprawling plain surrounded by rugged majestic mountains with rocky tors and outcrops interlacing the tawny alpine tussocks that flow golden in the afternoon sun. Five mountain ranges encompass the region…” (The writer obviously hadn’t been here during the broom flowering season).

We have both been here many times before but it is still a delight to revisit those places which captured my attention when first seen.

At the end of our road where it joins the highway is an old cottage with intricate stonework. The adze marks can still be clearly seen. The old fence – so perfect.

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img_4399St. Bathan’s with its famed Blue Lake and moonscape-like terrain. Gold was discovered here in 1863 and just under 3,000 kilos recovered. People still live here.

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Nowadays the Lake is a recreation area but only two other people were to be seen.

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Fascinating weathered outcrops.

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Cute cottages …img_4419img_4421img_4424

St. Bathan’s Domain is a good camping place. The other goalpost is on the other side of a fence! img_4425On the way back to the highway we paid a visit to Cambrians, a tiny village tucked into the mountains, with strong Welsh heritage. “The rivalry and sometimes bitter acrimony between the Protestant Welsh and their Catholic Irish counterparts in nearby St. Bathan’s was known as “the War of the Roses”.”

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The schoolhouse was open this time and full of local heritage records and photos.

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As always, old photos fascinated me. the intricate detail in the dresses and bouquets is amazing seeing this was a tiny little remote village.

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On the way back to the highway we saw a pink pond with 3 happy ducks, duck-diving in perfect co-ordination, you could almost hear the music.

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Typical Maniototo country.

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Feeling peckish we decided to visit the Hayes’ Engineering Works cafe before proceeding further. The food was as good as ever.

Taking the back roads we headed through Ophir for Moa Creek and the Poolburn Lake and Dam.

We missed most of Moa Creek but here is the hotel. A local farming property has restored many old huts and now offers them for backpacker accommodation.

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Then up and up on the famed Dunstan’s Track through awesome country dotted with huge weatherbeaten stones, the ground covered with yellow dandelions and a wild grass with reddish seed pods which transformed whole stretches into pools of blood red as seen through my polaroids.

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img_4485It was quite different to how I remembered it when I first met Dave and we toured NZ mostly by motorbike but in the final week with his 4WD truck. We did the Dunstan Track and Thompson’s then and I will always remember feeling I was on top of the world, in brilliant sunshine, then suddenly descending through cloud to the dismal rainy lowland.

Finally we reached Poolburn Lake. There are a number of baches (holiday homes) still dotted around but any further building is forbidden. The Lake was pretty full judging from the level at the dam.

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There’s a bach hidden among the rocks – what a view.

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It’s harsh country in winter. Even the rough rocky outcrops wore jackets of thick moss.

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img_4488Returning home ….. we had a way to go.

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We surprised this lady riding home with her two ex-racehorses. A little chat and we were off again to a great welcome from the dogs and chooks.

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179. A Homesit in Otago

Our latest homesit at Oturehua, Central Otago is already proving memorable. Our charges are three dogs each with a distinct personality, an aged cat and three chooks. After some initial snarling Penny and Aliyah another foxie are friends and delight to chase the gentle sheepdog Ben all over the yard.

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TJ the ancient cocker spaniel prefers to follow me around when not sleeping or gazing at me soulfully (now I really know what that word means). Charlie the cat is of course the boss of the lot!

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The rooster is a new addition, very bedraggled looking with no tail feathers but seems happy with his harem of two very fat hens who mostly lay two eggs per day. It is an absolute delight watching all the animals interact.

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We are in a comfortable oldish farmhouse down a long drive, part modernised, with a huge deep blue Rayburn wood-fuel cooker dominating the kitchen. Neither of us are familiar with this type of cooker (the one Dave’s mother had was coal-fired) and also being the latest version it has all sorts of bells and whistles, aka levers, dials, etc. (note the plurals).

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Our bedroom has THE most glorious views and catches the morning sun. Currently it is broom flowering time and a huge swathe of bright yellow dominates the landscape.  Over to the other side some snow can be seen on the mountain tops.

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img_4155Yes it’s a wee bit chilly particularly in the mornings!

Two other memorable things happened recently. We had a hideous puncture on our first trip to the Oturehua township, the tyre was a write-off and a new one had to be ordered. The other thing was my cochlear implant went missing for two days. We turned the bedroom and ute upside down and inside out then it was finally discovered in the living room, sitting smugly on top of a book on a bookshelf in plain view, at least if you just moved a chair a little!

Dave has been feeling energetic and eager to try out the big lawnmower and also a huge scythe, so we have been literally making hay for the past two days. The grass around the house was very long as the owner was waiting for the daffodils to die down. Dave needed a bit of a rest afterwards – well deserved.

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Today we took off for Alexandra, about 50 km away, intending to do some shopping. We collected the new tyre at Omakau on the way. The historical store in Oturehua stocks most basic things but it is nice to visit a big supermarket once in a while. I must remember to take a photo of the store’s interior; it is well known to many photographers.

After managing to escape from the house with all dogs bar Penny (who always travels with us) safely inside the gate, we turned out of the front gates to encounter the next obstacle.. ….

img_4178Arriving in Alexandra the first thing we saw  was a Friday Street Market, so instead of going to the supermarket what did we do….?

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We must have spent almost $100 on several goat cheeses, fig and olive tapenade, Dunstan wine, hand-made lamb and thyme sausages, special smoked bacon and a huge pot of manuka honey.  After tasting most of them too. There was just room left for a spot of lunch at the charming little heritage cafe in the main street.

We returned ‘home’ via Ophir and a back road through very productive, newly-mown and ploughed country, something not seen so often from the highway in this particular part of Otago. We’ve been to Ophir before so didn’t stop except I insisted on taking photos of this olde world cottage hospital covered in the deepest red roses.  Beautiful.

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178. On Shaky Ground

  On Saturday 12 November our friends Graeme and Barbara arrived from the north island, having been lucky to catch one of the early Saturday ferries; later ones were cancelled due to rough weather, then sailing resumed in the late evening. 

So we all had a nice dinner and went to bed and then just after midnight were very rudely awakened by the caravan rocking and rolling, far too much to be merely the wind. It felt rather like being in a boat in a rough cross-sea. It was pitch dark outside, nothing to see except the huge Super Moon. Thank goodness for social media, nothing about the earthquake came up on the TV for ages and without being able to listen to the radio, we would have been in some confusion. As it was we knew all about the tsunami threat long before it came up on the TV. The orchard is about 7 km from the coast but not within the danger zone so we decided to stay put, if fully dressed “just in case”, as did most of the other orchard inhabitants. 

Penny, old earthquake hand that she is, soon went back to sleep and the subsequent aftershocks didn’t even wake her.

In this map the orchard is the wider long green oblong near Ouruhia with lots of little green flecks  (trees) and at one end some white objects – that’s us and about 12 other caravans/motorhomes/buses. The second map, smaller scale, shows a corner of the tsunami danger zone where evacuation was ‘advised’ although not required. The coastline is just out of sight on the right.

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it was devastating to follow the news about Kaikoura and the lovely coast road which we have travelled so often. No to mention the seal breeding grounds and in particular the pup nursery and waterfall which we’d visited a scant three weeks earlier. Here are two photos again:

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Barb and Graham were doubly lucky as apart from not being stranded for 12 hours on the evening ferry, they’d had all their belongings shipped south a week earlier. 

Sitting in the caravan in the orchard we’ve barely felt the aftershocks; the caravan moves slightly  when anyone moves around inside so we are all so used to the slight movements we don’t notice any extra ones. 

At least Christchurch was spared this time. The following weekend we went for a great walk on the beach with Asti and her tiny dog Evvie; but signs along the way to Brighton Beach – houses still under repair, red-zoned land, rough roads –  reminded us of those earlier devastating quakes.

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That same weekend the Motukarara Races were on; we’d known about them for years but never managed to be in the right place at the right time before.

The racing was very much a family picnic affair, very relaxed and casual. There were so many family groups. It seemed just about every type of group was catered for, from large marquees with white tablecloths and smart waiters to roped-off enclosures where various shade gazebos were erected. There was not a great variety of food but it was sufficient. The TABs were very popular, there was even a small one for children (!).

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Having spent some time with quarterhorses in Queensland, the trotters with their different conformation and gait were quite strange to see at first. img_3889img_4032img_4050

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There were even some pony trotting races:

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Children were well catered for ….

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It was a lovely day and we hope to make up a family group picnic next year.

Dave is now hard at work fixing up a special WiFi aerial which hopefully will give us the fast access promised by the modem we purchased recently. 

Next week start a two-week homesit down south at Oturehua, caring for someone’s farmhouse, 3 dogs, 1 cat and 2 chooks. 

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