105. Cats!

No this is not about the musical. According to Dave I am now a “Crazy Cat Lady Wannabee”.

Recently we visited our two beloved Burmese cats at their foster home in Christchurch where they have spent the last two years having a lovely time with a family of four. Oscar and Georgie remembered us, it was obvious – our wonderful cats. They are now nine years old. Which has started a bout of reminiscencing.


Since I first arrived in NZ in 2000 we have owned a succession of Burmese or part-Burmese cats – first Saba (who did not know how to climb trees and came from the Cat Protection Society), then Aza (a gorgeous blue with amazing golden eyes) and then Rex (a very cute little cat with one bad habit, he sucked on everything in sight particularly a visitor’s new possum-wool socks and scarf). The latter two were good friends so when Aza had to be put down with spinal cancer at a young age, Rex went looking everywhere for his mate including the road outside where he never normally ventured, and was struck down by a car. it was devastating losing two cats within a few days, but before too long we were looking for some Burmese kittens.

We heard of a litter of six with just one seal coloured male (which we both wanted); they were far too young to leave their mother so for the next four weeks or so we visited them weekly at the breeder’s, rather like new parents visiting their premature babies in hospital. The little seal boy, less adventurous and more timid than his sisters, was named Oscar and his pretty cream sister was originally going to be called Lucinda, after the title of Peter Carey’s book, but her official pedigree name of Georgie Girl seemed to suit her far better. Officially Georgie was a lilac burmese but as she aged it became obvious she was a ‘chocolate’. (Unfortunately all the photos I would love to post here are in storage). 

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Oscar has always been the more cautious, thoughtful one and Georgie the rush-in-and-find-out-later one.

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Georgie got on particularly well with the fox terrier puppy we obtained about three years later; Oscar was always more stand-offish. All three used to curl up together in one basket (ditto re photos – this is frustrating!). When Penny injured a leg and had to wear a ‘collar’ for a while, Georgie kept her company.


Until we started our travels, Georgie and Penny often played chasing throughout the house. Sometimes Penny became rather too exuberant but Georgie never retaliated. If Penny tried to play with Oscar he would just give her a swipe (claws in) and that was that.


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Oscar loved to explore, which was his undoing. when he was a few years old a neighbouring dog grabbed hold of one leg as he was making his getaway over a fence, or so we surmise. Surgery for a dislocated hip plus “bed rest’ in a cage for weeks was his lot. We put the large cage onto a wheeled table so he could sleep in our bedroom and supervise me cooking in the kitchen and watch TV with us in the evenings in the warm living room.

He recovered rapidly but within six months was back in the cage this time with the head of the femur broken off completely. Patched up again by the wonderful Steve at Aldwin’s Rd. Vets, after the obligatory cage incarceration he was soon resuming his former life, jumping fences and all. Today he only has the barest limp if at all. Yet he has no hip joint on one side!

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Georgie meanwhile was doing well until one day I noticed her eyes were looking distinctly weird, glowing with reflected light rather like a space alien. It turned out that she had a rare inherited condition called hyperchylomicronemia caused by excessive fatty substances in the blood. Oscar also had it very mildly. Treatment was simple – a permanent low fat diet (previously I was feeding them mainly raw meat). There have been no recurrences and both cats have been very healthy ever since.


We did briefly consider bringing one of both of them with us in the caravan. A condition of that would have been having them both harness trained. Georgie didn’t like the harness much but was fairly acquiescent, but Oscar refused point blank to be subjected to such indignity, and simply became comatose if the harness was put on him. There are a couple of videos on the web of other cats behaving similarly – being dragged along, totally limp. Oscar however did one better.

Stop attempting to drag him along and he would suddenly twist and turn and be out of the harness in a flash, no matter how tight we made it. Houdini had nothing on him. So – the decision to try to find them a foster home was not difficult to make. Finding the home was; it was only at the eleventh hour that a chance remark to my eye specialist bore fruit. (She has since won a competition for “The most unusual present given by a patient.” – two adult cats !!)

I can’t wait for the day when we can once again offer them a home. This photo was taken just before we took them their foster home.





104. Geraldine

Have caravan will travel – so what is the point of staying in one place all the time? So while we wait with fingers crossed for our Christchurch home to be sold, we took off for a few days in and around Geraldine. We’d heard about a great POP called Peski’s just outside Geraldine and it turned out to be wonderful. A large private property offered ample parking, bush walks, a washing machine and shower etc and delightful owners who showered us with lettuce and rhubarb from the extensive garden.


There is the bush walk which goes down to the river.


IMG_5592We parked up beside a grove of gum trees (prophetic perhaps as we hope to tour Australia in 2016?) When playing with Penny’s ball it somehow became lodged between the spokes of Dave’s bicycle. Penny couldn’t find it for ages.




Determined to explore, we set off one day in the ute for nearby Waihi Gorge but a sign said No Dogs so we headed off for Te Moana Gorge instead. We knew there were a couple of camping spots somewhere along the road, and a very long gravelled road it turned out to be, narrow and twisty, through bush and pine forest.  Not for a large caravan like T5.




We found three reasonably flat and open camping grounds, but the nearby creek was infested with didymo which left white rims round the rocks when they dried out and would have made playing in the creek unsuitable for young children.



We went right to the end of the Te Moana road, through the gorge and upwards again, past a couple of remote dwellings and finally reached the end – a big locked gate to some privately owned forest lots.


Although the weather was not very good we decided to take a day trip to Tekapo. It seemed strange to be driving the familiar road without our boat in tow. We inspected the new NZMCA camp on the lake foreshores. ….


….. and viewed with some awe all the recent building developments in the township. The new bridge is quite imposing.



But the most important thing to see was of course the lupins. Although a little past their prime, they still glowed and lightened up the dull day. The number along the roads seems to have decreased a little but there were still magnificent patches including a spot on the road towards Mt. St. John where Penny spent a happy time chasing after – what?



IMG_5660We thought we’d go to the Observatory cafe for lunch but the sight of a newly introduced road toll for the steep climb deterred us. Fair enough, that road must need a great deal of maintenance, but the views on that particular day were not likely to be very extensive. An indifferent lunch at a newish cafe in Tekapo sufficed.

We headed back for Geraldine but turned off to explore the hinterland around Pleasant Point and find the signposted “Hanging Rock”. After a long drive on gravel roads we found it beside a bridge over the Ophir river. There were also a couple of ducks and some wildflowers. It was a very dull overcast day, not exactly a photographer’s ideal.


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Quite by accident we discovered a wonderful cafe just past the hanging rock bridge. Cafe 1882 is part of an old sandstone homestead once belonging to several generations of a local pioneering family (of course) but this one had links to the early freezing industry down near Timaru. Cattle were brought up to this area to overwinter. There is also a small vineyard. We sampled their pinot noir – delicious – but only available to cafe patrons. Their Death by Chocolate brownie was to die for. We will go there again!


The bed of the Ophir River was awash with wildflowers so next day, with slightly better light, we went back for another look. This time we drove right down onto the river bed and had a lovely time photographing everything in sight.





Then Dave decided to drive a little closer to the hanging rock on the other side of the river, and on the way there we hit a small gully hidden by overgrowth and got stuck. It took 2 hours and much hard slog with shovel, balloon jack and multiple use of the normal jack, plus some considerable rearrangement of the river bed under the wheels, before we got free.



In all that time not a single car went over the distant bridge. A lone fisherman came walking along with his dog, but he only had a small car parked well away.



With bad weather threatening we left Peski’s with regret next day and made it back to the chestnut orchard just in time to set up T5 before the hail started.


103. Scurry Racing at Oxford NZ

After a week or so in Christchurch (and several loads of washing done at Alison’s – thank you!) we were off again.

Since I first saw scurry racing at the Hororata Games two years ago I’ve been keen to see more, and finally we found ourselves in the right place (Canterbury) at the right time. As the racing was over a whole weekend we took T5 with us, and after much trial and error and a surprise trip through the yard of a riding school as it was impossible to turn round at the end of the wrong narrow road, we found the View Hill Domain near Oxford and such a lovely sight – seeming hundreds of ponies (actually about 25) of all shapes and sizes. Horse boxes, carts and light carriages and electric-fenced-off small yards dotted the perimeter on two sides. As it was a public Domain (park) we were free to take T5 right in and park under the trees on one side, but when racing finished for the day at 3 pm and we realised we couldn’t get a signal on the TV, decided to go on to Sheffield for the night and return next day in the ute.




The first day was a fun day, most ponies and carts sported christmassy decorations, and the obstacle courses had christmas themes. We did not arrive till lunch time so missed most of the early races. No matter, what we saw whetted our photographic appetites for more – much more!



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Back next morning, the serious stuff had begun. This was to select representatives for the national racing at the Oxford A&P Show on 2nd April next year.

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Many people had more than one pony and/or more than one cart/carriage. Two competitors had come down from the north island, one of them with a matching pair of greys pulling an elegant carriage. There were fat little ponies pulling people almost as large as them, sleek Welsh cobs, gorgeous piebalds, and one showy black which seemed to have high-stepped straight out of Rotten Row in Victorian England. Some of the ‘carts ‘ were truly elegant, made in NZ or Australia or even imported from the UK.



Only one accident could have marred the day when an ultra-light carriage tipped out both occupants on a turn and the horse bolted, but there was no damage to anything or anyone apart from pride. Dave snapped them just before the tipping-out point.

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We stayed at the back of the Sheffield Hotel for two nights, a surprisingly OK campground with a shower and toilet and power which didn’t always work. We had dinner at he Hotel one night, there were two huge party groups but they managed to squeeze us in and the food was delightful. I was impressed by the table decorations and the atmosphere in general and would recommend the restaurant for a meal on the way back from Arthurs Pass although Sheffield being off the main route back to town probably misses out on much of the through traffic.

So back to an increasingly green chestnut orchard for a few days. A  Facebook entry from an Irish friend showed some of the trauma teddies I knitted recently (the ones with tasselled scarves) plus some knitted by other people. Good to know they made the trip to Ireland safely and are now hopefully with refugee children.


Scurry racing NZ has a Facebook page with lots more action photos.

Here’s a video I found on Youtube from 2013: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwTu3nJqAW0



102. Monsoon Buckets

Everyone has seen photos of monsoon buckets dangling underneath helicopters, but the opportunity to get up close probably doesn’t happen often. So it was rather exciting to see them being repeatedly filled almost under our noses! But sobering too to think of what they were fighting, and of the damage which had already occurred.

We were driving back from a day visit to Picton when we noticed a huge pall of smoke over the mountains to the northwest. That evening the news was about a huge forest fire (and one man’s retirement investment up in smoke, poor guy) plus homes threatened in the Waikakaho Valley.


Next day although sunny the wind blew fiercely and we thought we might get some photos a bit closer. After a few false starts we discovered a track off a back road which led to the Wairau River. Better still there was access to the stop bank and we were able to walk right up to where the monsoon buckets were being filled.

There were up to six helicopters in the air at one time, and another was seen to arrive. The skill of the pilots left me breathless. I lost count of the number of times each helicopter came shooting towards the river towing an empty bucket, turned into the wind and came down slowly to hover while the bucket filled, then off again post haste towards the fire. We watched them for hours.IMG_4729IMG_4771IMG_4773IMG_4778IMG_4793IMG_4817


We could not see any flames but it was clear the fire was still raging and moving up the valley.

Next day even stronger winds were forecast, up to 160km/hr. Thankfully there was also some rain. It was difficult to see in the gloom but it did appear the fire had gone down considerably.


Later news reports said the fire covered 450 hectares and there were at least 40 firefighters on the ground.

Most of the trees which were burnt would have been ready for harvesting in the next two years.  Fire authorities estimated the damage and cost to fight the blaze could reach $$ million NZ dollars.



101. Appleby

We found the homesit at Appleby without any trouble although we DID hesitate near the bottom of the long narrow twisty drive – having a large caravan in tow makes one hesitate sometimes. Luckily the homeowner saw us and walked down with Katie, our lovely charge for the next week or so.




The house was part of a large estate situated on a ridge in the middle of some very hilly country. There were about ten homes separated not by fences but by the contours of the land, and walking paths everywhere on common land. I understand there is a body corporate which deals with such things as keeping the vast tracts of grassland mown and possibly doing new plantings or erecting seats, etc. The views everywhere were breathtaking.



Katie took Penny and me for a rather long walk, I was surprised such an old dog more than half blind and deaf and with obvious arthritis was so willing to go so far – she put me to shame. Another time she took Dave and penny – and as soon as they reached the large duckpond, jumped straight in! Her owners have her well trained about the ‘consequences’ of such swims and as soon as we got back she headed straight for their shower and stood patiently while we rinsed her down.



All dogs have inbuilt alarm clocks and Katie was no exception. Used to receiving a bone for lunch each day and some biscuits at precisely five o’clock each evening (her main meal being breakfast, served by Dave), she did not allow me to forget the time!

Right next to the estate is the Playhouse Theatre Cafe so we went there for lunch one day with Dave’s niece Viv. It was a lovely lunch, but perhaps the timing could have been better as we had earlier attended the Mapua markets and sampled some delicacies there and then enjoyed a large brunch at Viv’s friend’s home! Needless to say dinner was little more than bread and water.

The homeowners have an extensive collection of DVDs which we were invited to sample. We got stuck into Foyle’s War with the admirable Michael Kitchen …. and by the time we left had managed got get through several ‘seasons’ but still had a few to go. Hopefully we can find them at lending libraries during our future travels.

We were at Appleby for nine days and did little of note apart from daily walks and attending the Richmond A&P Show. It was a lovely restful time. There were plenty of bees around for Dave to practice his macro shots.



Although a lovely sunny day, the A&P show was almost blown away by the strong winds. Many stalls were dismantled early and some had trouble displaying their wares at all. There were all the usual country Show events like sheep dog trials, horses, cattle, alpaca, photography, vintage tractors and a children’s section.








I missed the Strongman competition but from the size of the equipment – and the guys wandering around – it must have been spectacular.



There was some curious seat numbering- a hidden message perhaps?


There were some magnificent Clydesdales not pulling actual ploughs but a shot of sledge contraption mimicking a plough. They had to wend their way through what constituted an obstacle course, including doing a 360 d agree turn in a narrow circle. One team accomplished that perfectly but then one of the traces got caught up as they were exiting the ‘circle’.



One innovation was Terrier Racing. Dogs were permitted in the showgrounds and knowing Penny’s speed is second to none we decided to enter her in the races. But Penny had other ideas. She was not interested in the ‘rabbit’ which did not have an interesting smell. She was in several races and although she started well each time (chasing the other dogs and easily reaching the leading group) but then decided to return to Dave as she couldn’t see me standing at the finishing line. A little more training and I’m sure she would have done just fine!



We left the homesit with regret, heading for Christchurch after a few days in Blenheim.