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.

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