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.


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.


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.



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:





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.




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.



We visited the old mine site where we maintain a geocache ……




……and on the way back spotted a new sign on a previously nondescript building which suddenly became interesting – it was the old bathhouse.


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. 


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.


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



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


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


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!


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.