Thursday, 17 September 2020

An Update from Twizel- Night Sky Cottages


Many of you will already know, but I thought I had better update my blog followers who don't follow Facebook on why you haven't heard so much from me these past few months. I feel very guilty that I have neglected my blog duties and I also feel I'm always apologizing for the delay in posting them. Being parked up in one place for the duration of winter, I actually thought I'd have quite a lot of spare time to catch up on them. Ha! How wrong was I? 

How's this for a great view? Ben Ohau Range

Here's a sneak peak at what's been taking up most of my time this winter. You may recall back in January we purchased a property in Twizel with the sole purpose of letting the two cottages out on the short term accommodation market. This was well before Covid with settlement in mid-April which turned out to be right in the middle of Level 4 lockdown. 

Night Sky Cottages- Kahu Cottage on the left, Kea Cottage on the right 

We eventually took possession mid-May and have been parked beside one of the cottages ever since. We're still living in 'Out There' much to some people's amazement but as we tell them, this is our home (and has been for the last eight years), why would we want to shift, we have everything we need in the van. 

We've had some fabulous sunsets.

We do enjoy using the bathroom & laundry in the cottage though which has been fortunate as we've had frozen water pipes in the van a few dozen times during the early harsh days of winter.

Snow has fallen just twice this winter down around the cottages

We've certainly had our fair share and variety of winter weather while parked up in Twizel (and I've enjoyed every day of it, though I'm afraid I can't say the same for David. Some days have certainly tested his resolve). From two hoar frosts, several days of -11c frosts, thick fog, snow, a few days of rain and plenty of brilliant sunshine & blue sky days when the temperatures haven't moved above zero, we've had it all. 

What you can't see is the crazy lady racing around in fluffy dressing gown
 & gumboots in a -11c frost taking photos

I have so many wonderful photos that I've decided to follow this blog with a quick one on the weather and hoar frosts which I'll post in a few days before I move back to finishing the Northland & Far North blogs.

One lesson learned; don't leave your washing out overnight

We have been away in the rig for a couple of short trips to break up the long days of winter; one to Christchurch to purchase gear for the cottages and another to Glenavy that lasted just two nights before a hoar frost arrived in Twizel (which lasted 5 glorious days). The frost had us racing back up to the high country so I could capture a weather event I have been chasing around the South Island for four of the last five winters. 

Twizel hoar frost- Kelland Ponds

We always  intended to stay in Twizel over winter to prepare the cottages for rental from late October/early November onwards and this is still our plan. And while there hasn't been anything major to do we've had quite a lot of work preparing them for the accommodation market. And that was after unloading and sorting two containers of furniture and belongings that we had shipped down from our storage in Tauranga. We've also come to realization that there's a touch of 'Twizel Time' (similar to 'Island Time') amongst some of the tradies in Twizel. 

One weather extreme to the other...

We're still very positive but realistic and know it'll be awhile before the market returns to pre-Covid times but in the meantime we'll work on attracting the domestic market to this stunning part of our beautiful country. And with Night Sky Cottages ready to roll come summer, we'll then be able to hit the road again (we can't wait, we've both getting very itchy feet!).

Oh and look what I picked up during that trip to Christchurch. You might also recall we were going to be presented with our life membership badges  back in March, while on our way to Twizel. But Covid & Level 4 put paid to that so I gave Bruce Stanger, our outgoing president, a call and said we'd be at Weedons (NZMCA Park in Christchurch) for a few days during last month. 

Bruce & his wife Heather called into the park while we were there and made a presentation of our badges & gift outside the rig. Just the four of us (and just as I like it with no big fanfare) and then we retired inside for morning tea. I did feel honoured that this was to have been one of Bruce's last official tasks before he handed the reigns over to our new president. 

Sunday, 16 August 2020

Wairere Boulders & the Hokianga Harbour

 Catch-up; Northland, Jan 2019 

Another tiki-tour I did while David was taking it easy after his illness was to check out the Wairere Boulders, 50kms west of Kerikeri at the head of the Hokianga Harbour.

Wairere Boulders is a private nature reserve with some amazing rock formations.  

First things first though; a refreshing morning tea from the cute little caravan cafe at the entrance to the Boulder track.

Wairere Boulders also have a lovely camping area for motorhomers, this would be a great place to stay if you're cycling the nearby Twin Coast Cycle Trail. Walk the boulder tracks one day, cycle some of the track the next.

After my cup of tea and cake I headed off up the track which is well signposted with lots of extra information...

...and a few surprises; a Highland cattle bull minus his harem (which were elsewhere on the property). Did you know that a herd of Highland cattle are called a 'fold' after the open, walled shelters that they are kept in over winter in their homeland, Scotland.

The track weaves in and out of trees and through rocky tunnels. There are clear instructions when the going gets a little narrower.

The track heads up the valley alongside a tumbling stream which you can often hear but not see. The scenery is amazing and the rocks are getting bigger. I climb the ramp and follow the track across some very large boulders with similar sized boulders stacked alongside. It looks like a Giant has tossed a handful of marbles down the hillside (click on the photo to enlarge).

Around 2.8 million years ago a volcano, located around the Kerikeri area, erupted. The eruption was so huge that a basalt lava flow spread across a massive area extending to Horeke. In fact there may have been multiple eruptions that extended this far resulting in a deep basalt layer around 30m thick. 
This basalt lava flow started to crack as the ground beneath it was eroded over time by the action of rain. The Wairere Stream formed, widening the gap below the basalt crust, so more and more chunks of basalt broke off. The boulders started to move towards the valley floor.
The underlying soil was clay and as this washed away from under the boulders they moved further down the valley, finally ending up at the valley floor in the river. It has taken the boulders 2.8 million years to get from the top of the hill to the positions they lie in today.
There are also some quirky characters (Boulder Beasts) along the way...

The fluting on many of the rocks is also unique for this type of rock.
Fluting is the name given to the type of erosions on the boulders. Fluting is sometimes also known as lapiez or solution pits and is caused by water running across the rock surface. It is most commonly seen on limestone, and it is very rare for basalt to erode this way. Basalt requires acidic water to cause fluting, and only at Wairere Boulders, due to special set of circumstances, did the water become acidic enough for the fluting to occur.

The track crosses the Wairere Stream and heads back down the other side. Firstly though, I take a side track through a rock tunnel and a lovely Nikau forest....

...down to a swimming hole.

The tannin stained swimming hole water is dark and brooding. There's no way I'd be going in there even if I had my togs with me, I'm quite positive that water hides a several humongous eels. The pool reflections are amazing though and the surrounding bush, still & peaceful.

Back at the junction, I continue on down the stream stopping to check gaps in the bush and rock hop out over the water into the open every now and then.

Even though it's often up hill and down dale, the track is pretty easy going and there are plenty of interesting features along the way to check out, including this giant rata tree on the right. Rata trees actually start life as an epiphyte vine which grows up and entwines a host tree. The host tree is eventually smothered and dies leaving the rata vine (now a tree) standing tall and strong. 

This boulder look like a large Christmas puddings with its fluted top and sides.

The track crosses several of the boulders leaving a well worn path through the moss and lichen.

I come to another junction, this time a side track heads straight up the side of the hill to a lookout. It's an hour return and I'm a little reluctant to head up there as I have other places to visit today. I walk a few dozens metres and when the track breaks out into a paddock and gets very slippery I decide that'll be it for this visit, I turn around and head back down.

Towards the end of the track there's a gap in the bush and I can see across to the otherside of the stream and the large boulders I crossed on the way up. A lady in blue carrying a sunhat comes into view as she crosses over the top of them giving me a perfect shot to show you perspective. I'd highly recommend a visit to the boulders, it was an enjoyable walk with lots of interesting features.

From the Boulders I drove down to the Hokianga Harbour and along to Horeke finding this very cute little Maori Church up a side road. Some of you will have seen this, the cycle trail passes by on the road outside.

Then it's back to the Horeke Hotel to check out the two jetties that reach out into the shallow waters of the upper Hokianga Harbour. The hotel hosts many cyclists for meals & accommodation. The Twin Coast Cycle Trail has helped revive and sustain many of these small rural settlements in Northland.

And then it's onto Mangungu Mission (established in 1828), just along the harbour from the hotel and where in February 1840, the third and largest signing of the Treaty of Waitangi took place.

Mangungu Mission House
Mangungu Mission House

Thousands of Maori, in hundreds of waka, gathered in the harbour below for the historical event.

I walked out to the end of the jetty below the mission too. In this quite backwater of the Hokianga, it's hard to imagine the hustle & bustle of those times long ago.  

It was time to head back to Kerikeri via SH12 to complete the circle. At Taheke, I also added another two churches to my collection, both have seen better days.

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

A Historic Tiki Tour of Waimate North

Catch-up; Northland Jan 2019 

While David recuperated from his bout of shingles I took myself off on several tiki-tours around Northland, the first one on a several squiggly loops to check out a number of churches and historic places in the wider Waimate North area. Northland has a multitude of small & historic churches and I was keen to add a few more to my church photo collection.

My first stop was on SH1 just south of Ohaeawai, at the historic Pakaraka Anglican Church of the Holy Trinity and probably one of the most visited & photographed churches in Northland due to it's location on the main highway. 

The church is Gothic Revival in style and the slim steeple is a replica of the original tower which blew down in a storm in 1946. The new steeple was erected in 2001, 55 years later. The Reverend Henry Williams, one of the first Anglican missionaries stationed in the Bay of Islands and later Archdeacon of Waimate, is buried in the cemetery.

The next church is located on a back street, not far along the road at Ohaeawai, which is a small settlement at the junction of SH1 & SH12. I believe this is an Anglican church but I could find no other reference to it and it's obviously taken a back seat to several other more historic & prominent churches in the area. Like many of the churches around New Zealand, this one is sadly heading to a state of disrepair...

...unlike the nearby Ohaeawai Hotel (locally know as The Crossroads) which looks to have recently had a fresh lick of paint. I bet this grand old lady could tell a few stories if only the walls could talk. 

My next stop is at Te Waimate Mission where the remains of a model English village, built by missionaries is located. The Mission House, built in 1832, is the only survivor of three mission houses built in 1830 on behalf of the Church Missionary Society by the Reverend Samuel Marsden (click photo to enlarge)

The Mission House is also New Zealand's second oldest building. I felt a bit mean about not going inside to check it out; I was in a bit of a hurry. And especially as I was the only visitor in the grounds and the volunteer guide came outside to greet me. I had to tell him I was on a mission (no pun intended!) 

Te Waimate was New Zealand's first farm and had a very famous visitor; scientist & evolutionist Charles Darwin stayed here for the Christmas of 1835.

Nearby and part of the mission station is St John the Baptist Church which was originally built in 1839 and then rebuilt in 1870 using materials from the first church. the new church was much smaller due to the drop in congregation numbers. 

Located between the Mission House & the church is the Sunday School building, built in 1880

Not far down the road, and part of the original mission settlement are the remains of Bedggood Cottage & the Blacksmiths Shop.

The Blacksmiths shop collapsed in 1979 and was reconstructed in 1986 using the original building's materials.

From the mission I next headed to the historic St Michael's Anglican Church at Ngawha.

St Michaels Church was built in 1871 and is located on the site of Pene Taui's Pa, which is where Te Ruki Kawiti successfully defended the Pa against British forces in what is known as the Battle of Ohaeawai. It was built by local Maori as a symbol of peace and a tribute to Pakeha who had died in the battle.
On 1 July, 1845, almost 600 troops and 300 warriors of Tāmati Wāka Nene besieged about 100 men at a pā at Ōhaeawai led by Lieutenant Colonel Despard. Te Ruki Kawiti held off the attack on the highly intricate and fortified pā of Ngāti Rangi chief Pene Taui. The fortifications were ground-breaking in every way, and became one of the prototypes for gunfighter warfare in later engagements. 
The pā had two palisades - including a strong inner fence made of puriri logs set almost two metres into the ground with five metres of log standing above ground. The solid palisades of the inner fence had withstood the artillery attack and remained intact, preventing the British from entering the pā. Meanwhile, the firing trenches proved devastatingly effective against the attackers. "Within seven minutes of the attack beginning, over 47 of the attackers lay dead with about 70 more injured. The attack was an unmitigated disaster."
By 8 July, the pā was found to have been abandoned and the defenders had disappeared into the night. Lieutenant Colonel Despard suffered a defeat. (extract from RNZ)

From St Michaels I headed down the highway towards Kaikohe, stopping to check out the Kaikohe Showgrounds & Equestrian Centre which is a NZMCA CAP (costs apply parking). It's where I thought we'd stop for our first night once David was ready to move and we'd left our friends in Kerikeri. It's a great site, well maintained and with lots of space. There's even a couple of  sites with power.

The Showgrounds are on the corner of the road that leads to Ngawha Hot Springs so I drove off to take a look; I do love it when I'm on my own and I can pick & choose what to visit & where to stop. Poor David does get dragged down a few too many roads, it's nice not to feel guilty about it today. 

Ngawha Pools- there are 16 of them- are fed by a natural geothermal spring and come in a range of temperatures including the 50 degree Bulldog pool which was closed (for obvious reasons!).

The Ngawha Pools will never look like this again, they are going through a major redevelopment and enhancement programme at the moment and have been closed from March 2020 until December 2020. Obviously the redevelopment was needed, the pools are very popular amongst both local & overseas tourists but it's a shame the unique character of the pools will be lost to flashy frontages and further health & safety features.

From Ngawha I drove into Kaikohe and up to the top of Monument Hill where there are great views out out over the surrounding farmland and from where I spotted the second to last church on my visit list today.

Monument Hill is named after the memorial that celebrates Hone Heke Ngapua who was the grandnephew of the war leader Hone Heke. Hone Heke(the warrior) retired & died in Kaikohe in 1850. 

Hone Heke Ngapua (grandnephew) was a member of parliament & active supporter of the Maori parliamentary movement known as Kotahitanga (click on the photo to read)

Hone Heke Ngapua Memorial

I drove down and along the highway to the Aperahama (Anglican) Church which was opened in 1885, the church I'd seen from Monument Hill. The church belongs to the Ngati Tautahi hapu (hapu= a division of a Maori tribe) & is essentially a Maori church although European families belonged to the congregation for many years. 

The church was restored & repainted in 1964 and is not only significant because of it's age but also because of its association with the development of the Maori Anglican faith.

The last stop for the day was at St Catherines Anglican Church near Okaihau.

Information panels across the road from the church tell about the first battle in 1845 of the Northern Wars and the memorial in the cemetery to the 12 fallen British soldiers. The Twin Coast Cycle Trail passes the church which is just as well as these information panels often provide a lot more information than what can be found on the 'net, especially history on the lesser known churches and historic places.

I know I missed a few other churches on my road trip, and in particular the Catholic church just up the road from this St Catherines. I had marked down as many as I could but it was quite hard locating them once I was on the road. Especially when much of the area was out of range to Mr Google when I went to check!  

I told myself that I had to leave some for our next visit to the north. From Okaihau, I took the most direct route back to Kerikeri. And didn't spare the horses, it had been a long day.