85. Blenheim

Penny the foxie seemed happy enough to enter the Kennels where she was to spend 24 hrs while we attended the air show. Did she remember her last visit? We warned the staff about her escapologist tendencies which was just as well as she tried to climb the wire fence of the exercise yard not once but three times, cunningly waiting till the attendant’s back was turned before starting her run!


The Omaka air show started with a concert and fireworks on the Friday evening; we did not officially attend but enjoyed the fireworks from a great viewpoint on the river bank opposite the airfield with Robyn and her friends. I tried out my new shooting stick but fell off it when one foot slipped on the sandy soil. Maybe not such a good buy after all!


Saturday we were up bright and early but even so all places at the front fence were already taken. Not that it mattered, the great thing about air shows is that most of the action is ‘up there’ and as the day wore on the whole area was covered with deckchairs, rugs, and people. It was good to see some children wearing ear mufflers. I had been prepared for a very hot day but as it wore on the wind blew harder and harder and I was glad I had some warm clothing with me too. Fortunately the wind was not strong enough to cancel the wonderful spectacle of 15 WW1 places all fluttering slowly around, some with British, Russian and German markings.



A WW1-themed ground spectacle was also interesting, particularly the number of old vehicles including penny farthing bicycles, a very early ‘half-truck’ and many people in period costume.





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An early unmanned V1 flying bomb was successfully launched – and then landed gently rather to the commentator’s amazement.



The planes were many and varied, from the earliest NZ Pither (on the ground only) ……


….. to the latest NZ Airforce acquisitions which showed off some of their capabilities.


In between were a bewildering array of aircraft which Dave can probably all name individually.

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An amazing display of aerobatics was given by a tiny brilliantly coloured MX2 and then another by a graceful white glider with wide upswept wings. i did not think gliders were capable of such manoeuvres, and all directly above the airfield. 



Omaka14There was some particularly good food available too, not just the usual meat pies and chips. And of course Marlborough wine. People were really in the mood. Two little girls danced unselfconsciously.


I spotted these earrings on one lady.


Two people were plucked from the crowd, given great-coats and taken for the (land only) ride of their lives in an old Bristol Freighter.


IMG_1041Dave went back to the river bank with Robyn next morning for some more photos of the vintage planes but I stayed “at home” revelling in Robyn’s lovely warm comfortable home next door to a vineyard and the company of her little Burmese cat Kassia aged 16. Penny and Kassia got on well, they had met before and established a state of apparently unconcerned slight wariness (!). I think Penny’s upbringing by our two cats is largely responsible.

Another day we went with Robyn to gather more river rocks for her garden.

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This involved a long drive along gum-tree lined ‘Spy Road’ past the surveillance domes which were the subject of sabotage a few years back (one was partly deflated). The domes looked rather odd among all the vineyards.

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Further on was a memorial to a large WW2 Air force training camp (3,686 personnel at its peak), where a young AC Edmund Hillary trained as a navigator.


Almost 100 years earlier it was also the site of the first European overland exploration of NZ’s south island. The photo shows what they confronted, minus the road (!).


IMG_1111A visiting photographer from Australia was the excuse we needed for a trip to Robyn’s favourite lake (where we spotted some huge fungi)…..


IMG_1127….. and then another long drive more or less along the course of the Awatere River to the start of the huge Molesworth station. The weather was not too good, very strong winds whipped up huge clouds of dust from the river bed…….

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…… and any loose vines in the vineyards whipped around madly. The road wound up and down (mostly up) giving fantastic glimpses of the river every now and then.


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At one point the road crossed Cow Creek guarded by two majestic black bulls which were joined by two others when we passed them again on the homeward journey.


IMG_1164It was interesting to reflect that the whole area was once under the sea, as evidenced by the exposed faces of road cuttings.


It was 126 km from Renwick to the start of Molesworth where there is a pretty little restored cob cottage near the gatekeeper’s house (the road is closed in winter due to snow and ice). Autumn colours were beginning to appear everywhere.

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That afternoon we paid a visit to a Menzies Clan researcher who has published a book about all the Menzies families in NZ; both Dave’s and my Menzies have a mention. I had a lovely time mostly glued to my computer entering new data and making copies of all I had to pass on. Thank goodness for pen drives/USB sticks and PDF format, they certainly make data exchange between different breeds of computer easy.

I was sad to leave Bleheim and Robyn ’s hospitality. Having been in the caravan for so long, always having to keep an eye on power and WiFi usage, it was wonderful being able to use my computer at any time inside the house with full internet access, and also to enjoy unrationed hot showers, not to mention the presence of a dear little sometimes noisy cat, strongly reminiscent of our Oscar and Georgie. Robyn also introduced us to the delights of Pretzel products particularly their butterscotch and peach schnapps. www.prenzel.com. The main distillery is right in Blenheim. We visited the owners’ property with Robyn, it is nestled in a huge orchard and a building site on the hillside above gives glimpses of the coastline. I would love to build a house there but we’d need that elusive Lotto win first.

84. Back to the Mainland – Marlborough Sounds

After the excitement of Horse of the Year we had 4 days to get down to Wellington to catch the ferry back to the mainland (for non-Kiwis, that’s the South Island). We headed back to Marton for one night then down to Wellington and the usual Petone POP site, not particularly salubrious but handy to Wellington city and the ferry. Except that Petone only allows two night stays now, so we went to another Club POP at Lower Hutt for the first night then Petone for the next two.

Collected mail, did washing, tried in vain to meet up with Dave’s great-nephew (couldn’t find the shop where he worked) and great niece (very busy) and my distant cousin (ill with flu), drove around the city for some time and got thoroughly fed up with all the traffic.

We did have one highly productive afternoon when we visited the NZ Archives in Wellington and were able to find all Dave’s father’s employment records which showed where he had worked and for how long during most of his working life. Here’s the last of several cards:


I was also able to find several records pertaining to my Great Uncle Robert Wentworth Wade of Hokitika who was appointed the Deputy Official Assignee in Bankruptcy (a NZ term for Official Receiver, a Government position authorising him to act as a receiver, trustee or liquidator during Bankruptcy proceedings) in 1891. It was interesting to discover that his posting was not without controversy, not on his own account but because his predecessor was accused of withholding government funds and protested vigorously about his innocence in the local newspaper – there were even some newspaper clippings in the file. P1130943


We arrived early at the BlueBridge ferry terminal and initially parked in the wrong place as there was nobody to guide us, resulting in Dave having to reverse the caravan for some distance, no mean feat. The rest of the ferry experience passed without comment, the sea was very calm despite the usual weather forecast predicting otherwise. A flock of colourful little butterfly yachts were whirling around as we arrived at Picton.P1140033


We drove straight to Robyn’s welcoming backyard in Blenheim where we will stay until after the Omaka air show over Easter. As usual there was a great sunset that evening.


A visit to the Blenheim ‘recovery centre’ was enlightening. Very little waste goes to landfill.P1140054

So far we’ve made two all-day trips with Robyn, the first to Ruby Bay where we had a picnic lunch with Robyn’s old school friend. The beach at Ruby Bay is as glorious and unspoilt as ever and we would love to live there, but prices in the area are rather high.  First discovered by French explorer Dumont D’Urville in 1827, it was described by Captain Arthur Wakefield who camped on the beach  in 1841 as “… having all the necessaries of a NZ beach: Good shelter, dry wood and water in abundance.”

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Blenheim is a very welcoming place, particularly at present where the grape vines are still ripening. In a few weeks’ time they will be mostly bare of leaves.

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We made another day trip with Robyn to Kenepuru Sound, which runs parallel to Queen Charlotte Sound but is not linked to it. Although the distances were not really great, the time taken to drive the narrow exceedingly twisty roads certainly was! Some 40 minutes later and half way between Havelock and our destination near Kenepuru Head, we turned off for some welcome coffee at Te Mahia, one of the original resorts in the Sounds. Early travellers would have had to arrive via boat up Queen Charlotte Sound then an overland journey.  www.temahia.co.nz  A cheeky weka wandered around pecking at things … including my posterior! The coffee was excellent.

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We had lunch at the DOC recreation reserve and campsite at Kenepuru Heads, with its very clean facilities including a shower and open kitchen. There were many flat, cleared spaces suitable for large caravans and motorhomes although I did wonder how many would attempt the long narrow road to get there. One week before Easter there was only one caravan ‘in residence’ – plus a walking threesome who, we learned, had walked all the way from Bluff! They were near the end of their three month journey, one of the men wearing a Black Stewart kilt which had faded to brown. I’m hoping they will send us the URL of their blog which they have promised.

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On the return trip to Blenheim via Havelock we stopped off at Sandy Bay, admired the signpost at the Portage, decided not to investigate some land for sale any further despite the fabulous views, and stopped off at Te Mahia again for more coffee. I would NOT recommend any large vehicles such as a towed caravan trying to descend from the main road and then negotiate the hairpin bend at the end – we had to do a 3-point turn even with just the ute.



At Double Bay Reserve which wasn’t even on the map we discovered one more lovely little bay with yellow sand and a camping area. All along the way there were wonderful glimpses of the Sound.



Finally we reached the outskirts of Havelock and were able to head back to Blenheim, sunburnt and happy and photographed out – well, I was anyway.

The Omaka air show is due to start tomorrow. As I blogged on it last year, this time I am going to sit back and watch the pretty planes and not attempt to take photos, I’ll leave that to Dave and his telescopic lens.