217. Riccarton House

Dave is a member of the NZ Founders Society, which represents descendants of the early NZ settlers who arrived before the end of 1865. Established in March 1939 to honour the work and achievements of NZ pioneer ancestors “… whose contribution helped shape our nation and its history”,  it now has various branches including Canterbury.

We were invited to join a group on a guided tour of Riccarton House in Christchurch.  “Riccarton House and Bush / Pūtaringamotu is a unique New Zealand heritage site consisting of two historic buildings, flanked by beautiful open parkland and ornate gardens, bordered by Ōtākaro / Avon River and set against extensive native bush forest featuring kahikatea trees up to 600 years old. This tranquil 12 hectare reserve is located just 3.5 km from Christchurch city centre.” 




The House was badly damaged in the February 2011 earthquake and $2.5 million was spent on the full restoration over 3.5 years. Past Manager Rob Daly was in his office at the time of the earthquake and is quoted as saying at no time did he fear for his safety as he had “faith in the robustness of the Old Lady”.

Our tour started in the entrance hall with its fabulous carved wooden walls and ceiling. The majestic moose heads did not dominate but enhanced the space.




The guide, despite being rather oddly dressed in tails, cravat, stout modern shoes, a machine-hemmed breast pocket handkerchief and modern lapel buttons (one featuring a silver fern?) was nevertheless very knowledgeable and entertaining. First we were shown an incompletely renovated room with some glorious old wallpaper, an exposed wall ands various other bits and pieces related to the earthquake and subsequent restoration.


A quick inspection of the library followed. This is part of the oldest part of the house, built by Dave’s GGGrandfather James Johnstone.



Then on to the kitchen with its beautiful William Morris wallpaper, a modern version close to that of the original.





A quick tour of the dining room, scullery and pantry ….



…. then up the magnificent stairway with its huge acorn-topped newel posts; a figure entirely carved from one piece of wood stood guard at the top.



Carving around lintels; and an old heater.

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Various bedrooms followed, each with its own distinctive wallpaper, matched where possible to fragments of the old. The ceiling fixtures were newly gilded.


A commodious commode! Flap up, then circular lid removed …. Much more aesthetic  and easier to use one would imagine than a bedpan kept under the bed.


Part of the main bedroom. Not shown is a trapdoor giving access to the cellar, in case of fire.


Up narrow stairs to the attic, which was used mainly as a children’s playroom. The Deans were enlightened employers who did not expect their employees to live in cramped attic accommodation but provided good-sized rooms – as shown by the Nanny’s room (shown later).






Here’s an array of old posters with luggage underneath. A surprise find for Dave and me was a trunk used on the “Merope” which brought the first Gibb family to NZ – did John Gibb know the owner of the trunk, Walter Heavem? P1010607P1010612

Back down the stairs to more beautiful bedrooms and a bathroom and toilets (not shown). Almost all wardrobes were built-in. Some bedrooms have been turned into offices, there were originally 13.




In a wardrobe:  a christening gown worn by generations of Deans and their descendants and relatives.



A gentleman’s study…..


Lace, ornate pots, gloves …..



Part of the nursery, complete with potties….  and in a nearby linen cupboard, a package of early disposable nappies.



The Nanny’s room, with narrow iron bed, sewing machine and views over the garden.


Back downstairs to the tea room with its particularly ornate ceiling rose. One member of the Founders recalled having tea there when he was eight! Another had his wedding reception in this room. Here we had restorative cups of coffee and cake.


Outside for an inspection of Deans Cottage, the oldest building on the Canterbury Plains. Built for pioneering Scottish brothers William and John Deans in 1843.  


“Built from timber cut in Riccarton Bush and pit sawn into boards, the cottage was the first home shared by the Deans as they strove to establish their farming vision at Riccarton. The brothers lived in the cottage until their early and tragic deaths. William drowned in the shipwreck of the barque “Maria” when she struck a rock near Cape Terawhiti off the Wellington Heads in July 1851. John, who travelled to Scotland in 1852 to marry Jane McIlraith, returned to Riccarton in February 1853 and died in the cottage from tuberculosis in June 1854.

“Jane Deans and her son John continued to live in the cottage until the building of the first stage of Riccarton House was completed and they were able to move to their new home in March 1856.”

Dave’s GGGrandfather James Johnstone (1807-1870) is believed to have been one of the builders.

Then a quick tour of Deans Bush with its majestic Kahikatea trees. The Bush is a remnant of the vegetation of the early Canterbury Plains. It is enclosed in a predator-proof fence.

“As Canterbury’s sole remnant of kahikatea floodplain forest, Riccarton Bush has national significance. For 300,000 years, the shifting gravels of the Waimakariri River triggered a changing mosaic of podocarp forests across the Canterbury Plains. In response to a continual cycle of flooding, forests established wherever suitable conditions were created, only to be destroyed in their turn. These 600-year-old kahikatea trees are the latest generation of a forest that established on this site 3000 years ago. They have survived through two cultural periods, Maori then European, that saw widespread fires sweep the Plains and native vegetation give way to pastoralism and cropping.”


216. Collecting “Chummy” at Kaikoura

Recently we received a surprise email from an Auckland friend – could she come and stay with us in Christchurch and hitch a ride to Kaikoura to inspect and probably buy a tiny little vintage Austin tourer circa 1927? But of course! And so it was arranged.

We were keen to see Kaikoura where there was a major earthquake last year; the coast road was blocked by landslips etc exacerbated by wild weather for almost a year and is still being repaired so it was interesting to see how it was going. That stretch of coast is a favoured seal habitat and also Kaikoura is a well-known whale watch centre; very fortunately the sea life has all returned even though the sea level is now about a metre lower than it was before and the seabed near the coast has some new topography.  (Some photos taken on the return trip).



Jacqui had recently posted a number of photos of the Napier Art Deco weekend festivities on Facebook, posing in gorgeous vintage dresses against various beautiful old cars. I took the opportunity to offer her some 20s and 30s dresses and accessories which once belonged to my Aunt Betty (why had I kept them for so long?) and peacock feathers collected at a homesit last year, while Dave contributed his mother’s crocodile skin handbag and some jewellery and long white gloves. We both produced beautiful old silky stoles with metallic embroidery and long fringes – not worn nowadays but perfect for Vintage occasions. To transport all this new finery Dave added an old leather suitcase and me a small tin trunk. Everyone was very happy – I felt sure my Aunt would be too, knowing her carefully hoarded ‘best’ was being put to good use again.

We set off for Kaikoura one rainy morning (after first feeding the cats and giving Oscar his twice-daily insulin injection – so we had to be back in time for the evening one). The weather wasn’t too bad but did not improve as we approached Kaikoura despite a hint of blue skies.  Recent wild weather had caused numerous slips on the top of the range as well as the coastal highway so it was occasionally slow going.


We had time for a warming cup of coffee at our favourite Kaikoura cafe  and for Jacqui’s Knight in Shining Armour (as will be seen) to turn up, having arrived on his motorbike by a devious route after leaving his ute and trailer at Wellington. Crossing the Straits with just the bike he was not content to ride to Kaikoura by the newly-opened coast road but elected to ride mostly in the rain (hence he arrived shiny despite a thick layer of mud!) via the Molesworth Track to Hanmer then North-East to join the main highway not far behind us. Not that we knew!

After coffee it was just a short walk in the rain (!) to inspect the Austin “Chummy”. An enchanting little red car with a fabric hood.


Jacqui immediately took it for a short run – after a push-start as the battery was flat – without the side windows of course, no rear view mirror, and a split windscreen.


P1010378Then back into the shed and, transaction concluded, the side windows were fitted (sort of) and the little car loaded up. Our old leather trunk slid into the space behind the driver perfectly. Jacqui had brought an assortment of useful tools including special rare Austin spanners, which all fitted into the small tin trunk.


A quick lunch then it was out onto the road – and another less successful push-start down the road and a section of the footpath to the nearest garage. Petrol was poured straight into the engine, or so it appeared (the tank inlet is under the bonnet), tyre pressures were checked and adjusted, then with some more huffing and puffing and pushing from various helpful males finally the engine fired and Jacqui was off!


Pete followed behind on his bike, to pick up the pieces (surely not). We followed too for a short way, then turned back for the run back to home, a diabetic cat, another cat and a foxie dog who had managed not to wreck the place in our absence, apart from a little pile of tissues (her specialty – always in a pile, not scattered) and some mysterious doggy footprints on the forbidden bed.

P1010386Meanwhile “Chummy” had decided to misbehave. First the hood literally blew off or rather backwards; Pete following on his bike helped secure hood and windows down with tape. Then at the 60 km mark, or was it 90 km, the engine decided it had had enough. In fairness it was the first real run it had had in a very long time. A helpful policeman stopped and enlightened them where they were and was most cooperative. Then the AA arrived with a trailer, they got to Picton and not only got a berth on the late ferry but a tow into the bowels of the ferry. The ferry staff enjoyed helping offload such a cute little vehicle at Wellington, where Pete AKA the KISA speedily went off to collect his ute and trailer and arrange with a friend for a bed.  Next day we were told they managed the long haul all the way to Auckland. 

We hope to see “Chummy” again one day, back in the south island in a Vintage car rally or two.

215. Old e-Mails for Cat lovers

I’ve been cleaning up a huge selection of old emails dating back to 2002, preparatory to deleting everything from my old computer.

Background: I’ve always been a cat lover. Here’s proof:

N ast 6 mths with cat

Other photos will have to wait till I can dig them out from storage.

When I left Brisbane in 2000 I gave my aged little Burmese cat Babouche, too old and arthritic to bring to chilly NZ, to a friend who already had another cat affectionately named Fleabag. After a cat-less year in NZ Dave and I adopted Saba, a youngish female Burmese of unknown history. Dave already had a little Miniature Pinscher named Tahi. Now read on ….

Great to hear from you and quite surprised to learn that Fleabag and Babouche are now friends. It would be good if we could induce the same happy state between Saba and the deaf white cat next door. Unfortunately at their first encounter, they had a staring match then White strolled awayand Saba the friendly extrovert took this as an invitation to play chasings… bounded after, surprised White who naturally attacked…. sigh…. Saba now spends much time following White’s outdoor explorations of OUR garden via various windows, growling now and then …..

This weekend Dave and a friend attempted the mammoth task of clearing out the garage, full of FIVE motorcycles or at least bits of them, plus god knows what else … Saba had an absolute ball, flirting with the men, playing with the dog occasionally, and continually inspecting all the wondrous things brought outside specially for her inspection. Never seen her occupied so continuously for so long! She must have been a motorcyclist in a previous life.

When we got back from our 10 days down south, and went to collect Saba from the cattery – right beside her in the next cage (in the cattery section mind you) was a familiar little dog – Tahi! Apparently Dave’s sister who was looking after Tahi had to take him there for the last 2 days and Saba went wild when she saw him, raced up and down her cage, and they were allowed to play together too …. the cattery/kennels is run by a very nice understanding person (!).

Those 10 days were wonderful. There was snow on all the mountain tops but it wasn’t particularly cold – just as well as we camped a few times. Attended a famous vintage air show, explored old gold mining towns, saw a petrified Jurassic forest on the shoreline at one of the furthest points south, and got stuck for 4 hrs in a very cold river at the bottom of a chasm. (Yesterday was a 4WD show and we went and bought something called an exhaust jack as Dave only had an ordinary jack which was one reason the rescue operation took 4 hrs.) Of course the moment we got back to dry land another 4WD appeared around the corner of the river – he could have got us out in 5 mins. He was lucky though as he would likewise have become VERY stuck.  Dave only admitted to me yesterday just how serious it could have been – as I’ve become used to the madcap antics of the 4WD Club where
people get stuck and towed out continuously, and of course ‘cos I had total faith in Dave, I wasn’t particularly concerned. We stayed together with the other truck for the rest of the day, got back to the town at dusk, went to the pub for the best ever meal of lamb shanks, then fell into our tent and slept for 12 hrs!

Tried out my brand new trout rod but no luck. We’d hoped to do some serious fishing towards the end, but the weather didn’t cooperate.

11 Dec 2002.   Our Saba continues to enchant and infuriate. She is soooooooooooo friendly – sits in the front yard and gallops out to say hello to people walking past. She took a fancy to a lady recently and followed her for 10 houses! – I had to go and fetch her back. Another time she was discovered by a home owner about 5 doors down, sitting in the middle of his driveway, saying Hello!  We think we should get another cat (yes yes yes yes yes) to keep
her company. Tahi is a bit too old to want to play with her all the time and anyway he goes to work with Dave each day (!)

A short time after that we acquired a darling little half-Burmese ‘blue’ (ie grey) with golden eyes, who we named Aza. I wrote to the breeder:

It’s hard to believe the change two days makes.  The kitten Aza now comes dancing out from her hiding places, tail sticking straight up, when we enter her room, and makes straight for our laps. She’s less inclined to play and more inclined to snuggle up, which means I spend much less time at my computer – a good thing?? … She’s showing increasing interest in the big wide world outside the door and it won’t be long before she makes a bolt for it.  I intend to introduce her formally to our other cat Saba tonight. Saba has seen Aza and growled a bit but not threateningly. The dog doesn’t seem worried so long as he knows where Dave is.

A week or so later:

Our new kitten Aza is just amazing. So spunky and lively and friendly for such a little rat-sized creature. The dog Tahi was intrigued from the start but Aza would have none of him at first – but they are friends now. Saba took longer, it was very funny seeing her suddenly adopt the dignified older cat pose ….. after a week of swearing at the little blue rat she was discovered curled up inside Aza’s carrier cage with Aza beside her, and although some of their wrestling games seem a little rough, all is now
well. Aza is being surprisingly submissive and I keep on wondering if it is all a ploy!  Aza is actually only the second kitten I’ve had – Babouche was the first – I’ve always had cats but usually they adopt me or come to me half grown.

But then in Dec 2003:

We have lost our Saba, the seal Burmese. She was out ‘visiting’ and was attacked by a dog, rescued by a young neighbour, but died on the way to the Vet “from shock”.  The neighbours buried her for us at the foot of our garden, with a wooden cross decorated with her collar and name tag and bell, their names all over the cross (9 children aged 2-13), 3 adults) and flowers at the foot.  I think they are Maori. All this while we were out of contact for 4 days, trying to catch fish over on the West coast.

It seems this family were Saba’s second family, she visited them often and occasionally spent the night in one of their beds, but always refused food and returned home for it.  She probably had a couple of other families around too.  Aza the blue Burmese-X is less inclined to wander thank goodness.

It is really moving to think they gave her a Maori-type send-off, and
what’s more they could not have picked a better place to bury her, near her favourite apple tree from whose branches she launched herself into her secret world!!  It seems that the neighbours on our other side also helped – the burial was their suggestion as nobody knew when we would be back, and our cat-feeder Lesley didn’t catch up with events until the next day.

To replace Saba we went back to Aza’s breeder and were chosen by  Rex, who sat quietly in the middle of a room swarming with kittens, and gave me the eye.

Just over a year later, more sadness:

I have some sad news, our Aza the blue Burmese-X (Arzani Shaku Blue, from Arzani Black Lucifer and Rothrose Shaku according to the pedigree you gave us) has just been put down.  Two mornings ago a neighbour came round and said she was in her garden, looked like she had been hit by a car. However after 5 X-rays ($$$!) the Vet still couldn’t find any real evidence, and nothing to indicate a dog attack either. We are now 99.9% sure she had a spinal tumour which I understand is fairly common in young cats; there were actually some indications about 6 months ago that all was not 100% but as she seemed to recover we ignored them. With paralysed hindquarters and very poor prognosis I had her put down while I literally held her paw. She’s now been buried under the apple tree next to her mate Saba the Seal Burmese we got from the Cat Protection Society.

Rex, the seal Burmese (Arzani Shaku’s Deter) is however going full guns – really adorable.  He’s the most laid-back cat I’ve ever known!!

3Rex & Dave

21 Feb. More drama, Rex did not come in late last night and hasn’t been seen since.  I expect he has been accidentally locked up in a garden shed etc where he was looking for Aza.  At least I hope so.  I’m trying not to panic (crooked grin).  He has been prowling around looking for her everywhere.

But it turned out Rex had ventured out onto the road where he never normally went, looking for his mate, and was hit by a car. A neighbour heard something, saw a car stop, the people examined something on the road then put it in a sack and took it to a rubbish bin opposite. Rex was wearing a collar with a tag bearing his address and our phone number, but we never received a call.



214. The Mike Pero Southern Classic

By Dave.

Last weekend was really busy with the Classic Motorcycle racing at Levels Raceway over a 3-day weekend and the Canterbury branch of the New Zealand Founders Association Christmas dinner on the Saturday evening. With the Liberals Raceway being 160 km south of Christchurch and the founders dinner 70 km north of Christchurch it involved a bit of driving.

Also I had to be home to talk to the fibre guys about installing fibre into Roydon Drive on Friday morning.

Nancy and I returned from our Invercargill trip on Thursday, cleaned up and restocked T5. After the fibre guy had left on Friday morning I left Nancy at home with Penny and headed for Timaru. I went to the caravan park at Seadown where Nancy and I had stayed before and dropped off T5, then to Levels Raceway to meet up with old friends and check out all the bikes.

After checking out all the old bikes I found a good spot to take photos and spent a couple of hours getting back into practice at shooting motorcycles. Then when wandering through the pits I found a friend having trouble with the clutch and spend some time offering advice and then getting my fingers dirty. After a couple of beers and some greasies I headed back to T5 for the night.

05Levels 2017 TranstionShaun Mills. The clutch seems to be working OK now.

01Levels 2017 TranstionDennis Charlett, the man to beat.

03Levels 2017 TranstionPete Dowman and Brian Greenlees ahead of Jarrad and Keli Winter.

After an early night (I had parked T5 under some trees so did not have TV) I was awake and at the track early on Saturday where it was already hot and promising to get hotter …

After checking out some more of the machinery I spent some time taking photos until midday when I had to pack up and drive back to Ch’ch. After a shower and a quick change Nancy and I picked up big Sister Alison and headed for a property at the back of Loburn.

04Levels 2017 Transtion John Blaymires and Charles Bilby. 

06Levels 2017 TranstionJohn Blaymires and Charles Bilby again, showing the MotoGuzzi motor.

We arrived about 4 pm and found some people already sitting under the shade of some magnificent old trees where the nibbles were plentiful and the talk was flowing …  The potluck dinner was excellent and the company was good and a great time was had by all I think. We left Loburn in brilliant moonlight from the nearly full moon.

Next morning I was away from Templeton early …. again …. and heading back to Levels where I arrived in time to check out some more lovely old bikes and also a few not so old bikes before the racing started …. then spent most of the rest of the day taking photos. After helping Rob pack up (which mainly consisted of holding my beer and trying to keep out of the way) we headed down to the prize-giving at the track bar.07Levels 2017 TranstionKevin ? and Michael Dowman. 

08Levels 2017 TranstionCampbell Stevenson leading inside Jeff Cameron.

Luckily Seadown was not too far away from the track so I was back at T5 in time to get all hooked up and move a bit forward to get some TV reception so I could watch “Blue Planet” before hitting the sack.

Monday morning I was on the road extremely early, so early that I was too early to see the Aviation Museum at Ashburton, so I that flagged that and headed straight home. (To a rapturous welcome from wife, dog and cats, I might add – Nancy).

213. Tekapo

I have fallen behind again with this blog – we’ve been back home over a week.

Leaving Clyde we set off for Tekapo, with a quick stop at Cromwell to buy some berries.


Lake Dunstan looked beautiful.


At first there were only Southland yellow lupins lining the road, but then colours started to appear. By the time we were in the southern foothills of the Lindis Pass there were swathes of brilliant colour everywhere, sometimes well inland along the waterways. It is fortunate that lupins are not poisonous to stock and in fact can be used as feed for sheep at least.

P1000714 lumP1000778fixed

Thanks to recent rain the normally brown hillsides of the Lindis seemed to be clothed in green velvet, rather ancient velvet perhaps, discoloured in places and occasionally moth-eaten. Then downhill again and more lupins.


At Twizel we stopped for lunch and to visit the Ulysses tree. It was planted a few years back to mark 25 years since the first AGM was held in Twizel.  Any members going past give it a good watering.


On past Lake Pukaki with its views of Mt. Cook.


And so to Tekapo. The town continues to enlarge; there is now a new supermarket. It always seems strange to be there without our boat (sold when we started caravanning). Those chilly days when we trolled slowly for salmon and trout, rugged to the eyebrows, gazing at the snow-covered hills as we circumnavigated little Motuariki Island  – they seem so long ago. But it’s always good to be back.


The NZMCA (Motorhome & Caravan Owners’ Assoc.) has a good camp on the foreshore, among the pine trees. It took us time to find a reasonably open patch of ground open to the north so we could receive TV reception. A later arrival tried several positions before he found one to suit. The only drawback of that camp was the heavy load of pollen which drifted down from the trees; it covered the truck and got in my hair!

An evening walk yielded some photos a little different to the usual lupin-laden ones!


There were lots of rabbits to be seen, including this black one which is surely an escapee..


That evening there was a phone call from Graeme and Barb in Clyde – their TV was on the blink again. They’d been so thrilled when Dave got it working for the first time in weeks.  We decided to go back to Clyde for a day, leaving the caravan at Tekapo. Another reason was that Penny had left her favourite ball behind at the camp site beside the Dam (!).

We did not stop to take lupin photos on the way but I did manage to get a few through the windscreen. There was a cattle muster going on and at one stage we rounded a bend just as a helicopter landed beside the road. No time to take a photo – so I was amazed when I discovered the helicopter, presumably the same one, in one of my slightly earlier photos. Some cattle are visible too.P1000764


On arrival we went to the Dam first and there was Penny’s ball lying in short grass in full view of anyone walking their dogs – amazing it wasn’t snapped up particularly as it glows in the dark! Definitely a good omen.

G and B gave us a lovely lunch, the TV was fixed again and at last report was behaving, and it was back to Tekapo with coffee at Twizel on the way and more photos of Mt. Cook, which must have been busy making more clouds. I have been experimenting with some photo-enhancing software so these photos have different textures.




NOT a wasted day, the scenery alone on the drive is always fantastic. This time I remembered to take a photo of the poplar trees beside the river between Clyde and Cromwell. Compare with an earlier photo taken in 2013 at a very different time of year.


There were some interesting clouds and then just past Lake Pukaki we encountered a terrific rainstorm, it came up very fast and the rain was so heavy it was almost impossible to see the road. Luckily it did not last long.



Next day – home! We arrived around lunchtime to a transformed garden (amazing how plants respond to warmth and water) and a lovely welcome from the cats. Even Penny seemed happy to be back home.



212. Clyde

Where to after Te Anau? Well we have to be back home in 5 days’ time so Asti our wonderful home-garden-cat sitter can take off.  Clyde and our friends Graeme and Barb beckoned. We first met them some years ago in the North Island, travelled with them for a while, spent one memorable New Years’ Eve with them and their daughter near Cambridge, and have kept in touch ever since.

The drive from Te Anau to Clyde took us through some of the changing Otago countryside which I love.


First  through Mossburn then mostly north to the outskirts of Queenstown where we were lucky to get straight across the bridge, still under repairs, with long delays due to one-way traffic. Then east again alongside the Kawerau river to Cromwell and then south-ish again through the Cromwell Gorge to Clyde. Hard to believe that the Kawerau is part of the mighty Dunstan scheme.



The Dam is indeed impressive.



Graeme had told us of a free camp near the Clyde Dam, right beside the water. We were soon set up and ready to explore. The water was very clear and a secluded bay with a little beach was popular with people and dogs alike. We stayed there three nights with very variable weather.



Early one morning I saw a long orderly line approaching: Those little ducklings could move very fast if needed!


0017The first day was overcast with a few drops of rain, yet 35 km or so south Roxburgh had some of the worst floods in living memory! We had a wonderful dinner that evening with our friends at the Post Office in Clyde – highly recommended.


The next day was fine and hot, but thunderstorms in the evening developed into heavy rain and as we’d left a couple of windows half open plus one roof vent, we thought it wise to make tracks back to the caravan soon after a delicious dinner at Graeme and Barb’s. It was our 13th wedding anniversary – one to remember!  Thankfully the caravan was still bone dry.0023



211. Te Anau

We had an invitation to camp on new-found friends’ deer, sheep and cattle property some way out of town, but first we did a quick tour of the Lake itself and had lunch near the small boat harbour which was showing the signs of a lowered Lake level; the entrance channel was very shallow indeed.


Spotted in town; the latest in bicycles, a 5-seater ‘Spider’.


We had thought to do a Nature Tour boat trip up Milford Sound if we could find a place to leave Penny for two nights. The plan was to put Penny in a Kennel, tow the caravan part-way and leave it in a camp before the Homer Tunnel, spend a night there, drive the rest of the way to Milford next day, do a day boat trip and return to the caravan late afternoon/evening and back to Te Anau – and Penny – next morning. There is only one Kennels business in the area, out towards Manapouri, so we took a drive to have a look then phoned them, and booked Penny in for next morning. But on the drive back ‘home’ we realised we didn’t have Penny’s vaccination record book, and without that the kennels would not take her. I thought of finding a dog sitter through ‘Pawshake’ similar to the one who looked after Penny for us when we were last in Australia but it seems there are none in the Manapouri – Te Anau area, rather surprising considering the number of pets travelling in motorhomes. So we decided to leave Milford Sound for another day (we have both been there before) and instead concentrated on a Glow-Worm Cave experience, a 2.25 hour adventure during which time Penny would be happy to stay in the well-ventilated truck. As she did.

To reach the glow- worm cave one takes a 20 minute or so catamaran ferry trip up the Lake. Plenty of time to admire the clouds! 


Once at the Cave, photography is forbidden. One must keep silent, rather difficult I think for several young tourist children who were with our group. The adventure itself involves a short bush walk before entering the caves. The walking platform is very good and there are plenty of handrails, which I appreciated as I have almost no balance in pitch dark! After going up and down and admiring the rushing water everywhere, our group of about 10 embarked on a boat ride in total darkness (and hopefully silence) through wondrous caverns twinkling with millions of glowworms. The tours are so well organised that there must have been about 5 or 6 groups all at various stages of entering or leaving the tunnel and two boats at a time being silently propelled along by the guides holding ropes. Afterwards we were given tea or coffee and treated to a short presentation about the glow-worm lifecycle. 


Our friends’ property was about 25 k out of town, a long drive heading west and then north through wonderful scenery with views of the mountains. We set up  the caravan for a few days, surrounded by sheep and, in the next paddock, deer.





We had views of mountains on one side and a huge stand of trees on the other, and free use of a little house nearby, thus sparing our black water tank!



Not far away was a  public access road to the Upukerora River but when we finally reached it after fighting our way through long grass, it was not particularly imposing.


After a few days, although Te Anau, our friends’ property and indeed the whole region are wonderful, it was time to move on.

210. Manapouri

it wasn’t a very long drive from Clifden Bridge to Manapouri but how the weather changed. We went from overcast, drizzly and chilly to brilliant sunshine as we climbed the range. Round the corner, what a lovely sight – blazing gorse and distant snow-capped mountains. So very NZ.


Downhill we soon came to the Waiau Dam, at first sight not particularly imposing but of very great importance, as the signs show.


On to Manapouri, the most beautiful lake. Low cloud contributed to the moody scene. We stopped to inspect a large turbine and then noticed this sign on a huge rock. Another sign said that the lake level would have been right up to that rock if the full scheme had gone ahead.


 Seen in a local garden – a seal rather far from home! It was sitting in a little pond.


When I first visited Manapouri on the back on Dave’s huge MotoGuzzi all of 17 years ago, we took a boat across Lake Manapouri then a bus to the power station then another boat to Doubtful Sound, and return. Motorbikes can be left behind for the day, but live fox terriers cannot, so we decided to forego nostalgia and go for a coffee instead. We had coffee and the inevitable whitebait pattie – an especially good one – in a converted church. An old organ sat in a corner.


After a quick look round the near-deserted town – all the tourists were out on boats and the carparks were full to bursting – we continued to Te Anau.

209. Colac Bay and Clifden Bridge

We left Invercargill on a lovely but slightly chilly day and headed west, through Riverton to Colac Bay where there is free seashore camping but in a very exposed position, so after taking various photos and admiring the multicoloured beach pebbles, we pressed on.


Colac Bay must have some very artistic residents. The village’s name sign is a surfer in relief …..


….. but the piece de resistance to me was this school bus shelter, thoughtfully turned around to really give shelter from the prevailing wind. The strength of the wind can be judged by a shrub growing in a garden opposite the bus stop. 

0005000600070004Next along the coast was Monkey Island. Actually the shore near the Island, which is rather small! But although the camping area was much more sheltered, it was also very cramped and Dave had quite a time backing and turning the caravan around not once but twice as we tried to extricate ourselves. 


So we headed on and finally found shelter in a free park at Clifden Bridge. 


This is a wonderful old bridge which deserves the accolade given by the Society of Engineers: every inch demonstrates the workmanship of the early builders.



A very curious thing, C H Howorth/Howarth (the name is spelled both ways) was the artist whose three works were donated to the Invercargill Art Gallery by my Great Aunt. At least I think it’s the same man. The artist definitely died in 1945. What a coincidence!

The bridge spans the Waiau River. Below the bridge is a tramper pick up/drop off point for  a jetboat. There were quite a number of people there when we arrived and also a little coffee/food caravan, probably hired to meet them. Good coffee!

01Clifden Bridge


The Wairau cuts through limestone, which is still visible just below the bridge. It used to be NZ’s second largest river. 0025


Much has been done since then. The river flow is now reasonable. I will give more information in a later blog when we have been to Manapouri.

There were lots of semi-tame birds hopping around the food cart.  There was also a rooster from a  nearby farm strutting around, particularly  among the parked motorhomes and caravans. Some overseas tourists took many photos of it, I wonder what they though it was!

05Clifden Bridge04Clifden Bridge03Clifden Bridge


There was an interesting-looking cave in the limestone at the far end of the bridge. Also a rather mysterious “underground stream toilet” (according to Dave)

06Clifden Bridge02Clifden BridgeTomorrow we head for Te Anau.


208. Invercargill

No visit to Invercargill would be complete without a trip to the Museum to pay our respects to Henry the 100+ year old Tuatara. Here he is, plus some other Tuataras almost as big as him, so probably not his offspring. The Tuatara breeding program at the Museum is one of the best  (the only one?) in the world.


There is a wonderful display of Victoriana too – I wonder if any of the articles once belonged to my great grandfather and his second wife?   


Next, a quick trip to the temporary Art Gallery (Anderson House is closed for repairs) to view two of the three paintings which Great Aunt Fonna bequeathed to the gallery in 1965. At that time the Gallery was entirely run by volunteers. She had asked that a plaque be fixed to each saying “In memory of my parents Frederick Wentworth Wade and Ada Wade, presented by their daughter Florence Ada Beere.”

But what the plaques actually say, apart from the titles, are “Bequeathed by Ada Beer.” Aaaaggh.  The Art Gallery has offered to fix things though, more credit to them. They were delighted I’d visited – “We love having family members and loved ones of people who bequeathed works coming in to see them; it just adds another layer of context and history!”

136_CH Howorth_Amalei Riviera

Southland Rugby followers are an avid lot. These hay bales in the team colours (well, pretend the black is maroon) were spotted on the way back to the Lgnite Pit.  We’ve also seen a few bales in bright turquoise and purple but most of them are now back to a pasty green.


We left the Lignite Pit next morning. Here is the view looking down from the caravan – I took a photo in the previous blog on the footbridge in the far right distance.


We had another essential visit – to the grave of Great Grandfather Frederick Wentworth Wade and his wife Ada. Last time we visited, the cross with Ada’s name on it had been shifted to another grave, but I retrieved it. I was glad to see it had not migrated again. I really do hope to get the monument repaired soon and a plaque attached because my Great Aunt Fonna is also buried in the grave with her parents.  The cemetery is well looked after, the grass freshly mown. 00110013

Ada’s sister Constance (Macloskey) Tothill is also buried nearby. Her story is in “The Macloskey Wives of Invercargill” published here: https://nancyvada.me/genealogy/the-macloskey-wives-of-invercargill/