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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177. A Couple of Local Shows

We’ve been sort of vegetating in the chestnut orchard since returning from Picton with Penny. When we first returned to Christchurch some of the trees wore little green flecks but 3 weeks later the orchard is a glorious sea of young vibrant green leaves. There are pukekos, ducks, quail, a pheasant and some rabbits in the sea of grass which has grown incredibly fast since it was mowed only a few days ago.

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Dave has been busy bringing our water pipe system up to the new compliance standards. That involved replacing just about all the piping under the caravan. Penny tried to assist.

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We went to the Canterbury Motorhome and Caravan Show (dismal – all the dealers were too busy selling vans out of their yards to attend), then the Hororata Highland Games which was as wonderful as ever. I always enjoy the drive towards the western mountains through the Spring countryside with flowering gorse and broom. There were all the usual events plus the spinning/knitting competition again and another ‘new’ attraction, bicycle polo …..

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img_3594We missed the pie-eating contest last year so had to have a look. The winner, after several heats and a tomoato-sauce-no-hands final, was the young woman at the right end of the table.
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I tried to photograph the winner of the Kilted Mile (which involved several obstacles along the way including eating a pie) but he was too quick for me.

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Then there was the annual Canterbury Agricultural Show on a dull grey day where we gorged on THE best whitebait patties made by some people from the Chatham Islands, watched the showjumping, inspected some exotic farm animals, and Dave bought himself not one but two distinctive hats. (No photos of the hats yet but keep an eye out for them!).

Beautiful well-turned-out horses …

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Lots of alpacas …

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This is a Cape Barren goose, a threatened species in its native Australia. It’s not strictly speaking a goose but more like our Shelduck.

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A young African pygmy sheep.

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A cute little cart.

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Lots of wool, including a knitting display.

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This is a Highland Pony stallion named Finglenny out of Blaven by a stallion in the UK, Hirstmund Beaujolais. He is a rising 3 years old.

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A cooking demo …. mouthwatering aromas wafting everywhere in the food tent.
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It was such a long walk back to the car park that we took the courtesy bus. We must be getting old!!!

176. Collecting Penny

We arrived back to a wet and windy Christchurch on the usual midnight express. Despite the announcement soon after take-off that we might be in for a bumpy ride, the bumps did not eventuate, and the journey was further enlivened for Dave by finding he was sitting right next to his old Christchurch doctor (and the husband of mine).

Next morning it was straight to Swannanoa, where our friends’ driveway welcomed us with a brilliant display of old apple trees (the property used to be an apple orchard).

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 Both T5 and the red truck had survived the winter very well despite not being under cover. T5 was dry and smelled fine, perhaps due to the three containers of dessicant we left inside plus a liberal distribution of dry tea bags. One bag tucked inside some clothes had burst which gave me a bad moment till I realised what all the little black things were! But the clothes smelled fine, unlike the towels which had been in another cupboard without any tea bags and simply smelled of disuse.

The truck had become home to a starling family who somehow constructed a nest in the engine bay. Our friends discovered it about a week before our arrival when they opened the bonnet to check the battery. They removed as much of the straw as they could but by the time we arrived the nest had been rebuilt. Luckily there were no eggs.

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Within two hours of regaining our ‘home’ we were on the road. We headed straight for the chestnut orchard, still looking very wintry with mostly bare-branched trees; at this time last year, according to a reminder from Facebook, it was a sea of green branches, not just green grass and flowers. This time at least there’s a pukeko’s nest in the long grass and some quails skittering about. 

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After stocking the pantry, collecting Penny the foxy was our next focus. Penny’s foster dad David J was happy to make the trip from Taumarunui to Wellington so he could spend time with his granddaughter there. (We received a text message the day before we arrived: “Penny wants to know why I would rather have a baby on my knee instead of her?”) We headed for Blenheim with T5 in tow, planning to take a day ferry over to Wellington with just the truck (so Penny could travel back on the ferry in the truck and not in a cage beside lots of strange dogs).

After outback Australia and in particular the very dry country around Nic and Mick’s in the Somerset area north of Brisbane, the green Canterbury plains dotted with lambs, flowering trees all along the highway, occasional foals (including one particularly striking ‘paint’ foal which eluded my camera), snow-clad distant mountains and in particular the surprisingly green hills of the Kaikoura Ranges were a welcome revelation. We were back home!  Even if it was a grey rainy day ….

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One sobering moment was on the Ranges when we came upon a huge semitrailer laden with cars which somehow overturned after negotiating a particularly tricky curve.

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We stopped at Domett for the usual delicious lunch…..

img_3469…. and also visited the seal pups north of Kaikoura but it was too early in the (new) season for them and only a few older pups were around.

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img_3490Arriving in Blenheim we made the snap decision to try a new POP site near Picton, which turned out to be a rather nice huge green paddock.

We were at the ferry terminal by 8 am next morning, this time doing the crossing on the newer Interislander “Kaiarahi” which has very comfy reclining chairs in the huge viewing lounge with large windows on three sides (why didn’t I take a photo?).

Once off the ferry, a quick trip to Animates to get Penny some treats, and we were at David J’s son’s place in seemingly minutes. Penny shot out as soon as the door was opened, did a double-take and instead of her usual who-are-you bark, immediately started dancing and climbing over Dave, then me, then Dave, then me …. definitely she knew who we were after 6 months. A lovely reunion. Our very grateful thanks to David and Marion for looking after her so well. I’m sure if Penny could talk she would have some wonderful tales to tell, of rat hunting on the woodpile and visits to the neighbour (and his fire) whenever left at home alone, and helping in the woolshed, and … and …

here’s the photo David J took of us as we were leaving. Obviously taken in Wellington …!!

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The trip back to Picton was without incident, although we were expecting a very rough trip judging from the wind and waves in the Wellington inner harbour.img_3505img_3508img_3509 But it was a smooth journey, with a beautiful sunset as we entered the Marlborough Sounds. An outgoing ferry was lit by golden light but by the time Dave had grabbed his camera and scooted outside the light had gone.

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Penny seems happy to be back in T5 but I do think she misses the large warm farmhouse kitchen at Taumarunui, not to mention expert ball-thrower David.

It rained again most of the way back to Christchurch. We stopped at Nin’s Bin for some mussels and crayfish but the hefty price tag for a tiny little cray hardly big enough for the two of us and the lack of mussels due to the bad weather spelled disappointment.

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So here we are back in Christchurch, waiting till the long weekend is over and we can get our special caravan TV re-tuned to the Geosynchronous orbiting satellite. Apparently the satellite’s position has been changed and the TV/Caravan repair places have been inundated with irate people.

Wikipedia says:

“A geosynchronous satellite is a satellite in geosynchronous orbit, with an orbital period the same as the Earth’s rotation period. Such a satellite returns to the same position in the sky after each sidereal day, and over the course of a day traces out a path in the sky that is typically some form of analemma.”  ……  These satellites are commonly used for communication purposes such as radio or television networks, back-haul and direct broadcast.  There are also some weather satellites and classified military satellites. GPS systems do not use this type of satellite.

Is it really Spring?? I keep on thinking it is time to get out more warm clothes ….

Postscript: Six months living in another caravan with a different layout has consequences. Too often one of us says – Where is X? and the answer is – I know exactly where it is … in (this cupboard or that) … in the Australian caravan!