Friday 24 May 2013

Autumn in the Park

While staying with Mum & Dad in Napier during Dad's recuperation from heart surgery I was able to pop in a couple of visits to nearby Anderson Park & it's multiple ponds where I had heard that there was a rare white heron ( Maori name- kotuku) in residence. Due to it being duck shooting season the ponds were afloat with great numbers & many species of water fowl.

Black Swans
Resident Geese
"Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears"
Some of the hybrid ducks that live on the ponds.
I was lucky enough to find not one but two white herons (kotukus) resting near the ponds & I managed to get some great shots.

Tuesday 14 May 2013

The Best Laid Schemes o' Mice an' Men

It's been awhile & I know some of you have been regularly checking in to see what we're up to, or not as the case maybe. As mentioned a couple of blogs ago after getting home from the Coromandel & tying up a few lose ends we were hoping to head up north for winter. But 'life' has a way of getting in the way & foiling the best laid plans.

A couple of things have happened that have changed our direction for a few months. Firstly, my Dad had quite an stay in hospital, in Hastings for three weeks & then in Wellington where he was flown to have a double by-pass heart operation. All in all 27 days in hospital while he waited for an infection to clear, then waiting for a place in theatre & on the plane to get him there. Much to the family's relief he has come through the whole ordeal with flying colours and is well on the way to being back to his normal self.

During this time I drove to Napier to support Mum & also to drive her down to Wellington so we could be there for Dad during and after the op. And while most of our time was spent at the hospital Mum & I managed to do a little "tiki-touring" of our own driving around the Wellington harbour. We had lunch at the very popular & quirky Chocolate Fish Café in Shelly Bay before we continued around to the harbour entrance and onto the south facing bays of Wellington.
Chocolate Fish Café

Evans Bay Boat Shed

Scorch-O-Rama Café Paua Wall, Scorching Bay
After just five days & very good care in Wellington, Dad discharged back to home in Napier. I stayed on for a couple of weeks to help out with the patient. Dad was a model patient although we had to lay down the law a couple of times! :)

Autumn in Maize Field- Wairarapa
In amongst travelling to Napier & then onto Wellington I did manage to take a good number of photos including many beautiful churches through Southern Hawkes Bay & the Wairarapa. Mum was quite happy for me to stop every few miles to shoot another church & in fact a journey that should have taken us about four hours in the end took seven! We were in no hurry as Dad was meant to be under the knife but when we finally got to the hospital we found him sitting up in bed wondering where we were. His operation had been delayed by 24hrs.

Hawkes Bay Churches
In the meantime I have also decided to have a foot operation I was putting off hoping it wouldn't get any worse. Without going into the gory details I need to have a foot/toe realignment due to hereditary arthritis in my right foot which makes it very painful to do any type of walking or exercise & wear any shoes with a heel. I had a cortisone injection to help out while we travelled the Coromandel & it worked wonders but as it started to wear off the pain slowly returned.

We plan on doing lots of tramping & bush walks once we are on the road full time & especially in the South Island and as there is only a three month window of opportunity before we leave for the South I decided to have it done now. The worst part is that its also three months recuperation with no weight bearing for six weeks & my lower leg in a plaster cast. I know how inconvenient that is as I broke my ankle six or so years ago & it had the same repair time.

So it's now or never & luckily I managed to get got one of the best surgeons in our area and with a little bit of arm twisting of his senior nurse she manage to allocate me a surgery time that suited and one of the last he had available until October!

And because we'll be waiting out this time here in Tauranga we've also finally come to the conclusion that we really need to sell this house (you will remember that this is the one that came as part trade when we sold our original home) rather than keep it as a base or rent it out while we're away. So it will go on the market two weeks after my operation & hopefully not sell too soon otherwise I'll be laid up in the fifth-wheeler over at the Mount beach again.........hmmm.......actually that doesn't sound too bad. David has promised he'll do all the house work before each Open Home, I like that! :)

So there you are, that is now the plan. Just a small hiccup or two in the scheme of things but we will be on the road soon enough. We're just going to miss out on seeing some of the North Island, that will have to wait until we return in a year or two from down South.

Maraekakaho Woolshed, SH50, Hastings, Hawkes Bay

Wednesday 8 May 2013

Beachside at The Mount

There we were settling in for a quiet Saturday night when I saw a short email flash across the laptop screen;

Hello folks, we r in Taupo at the mo but have booked two nights at a camp site we have wanted to stay at for ages. Beach front at the mount, it would be good to catch up. ....... bring that big 5th wheeler onto the camp for a night. C ya Pamela & Gerald

It only took a few minutes to decide & respond;  You're on, beachfront. See you there!! 
I don't think they thought we'd be up for it at such short notice.

Pam is my aunty from Napier but being only 6 years older than me she's more like an older sister. David & I catch up with her & Gerald on a regular basis, they are long time regular campers along with another aunty & her husband and after missing the New Year camping expedition  we were looking forward to this as it would be our first chance to share a campsite since we purchased the 5th-wheeler..

Mt Maunganui is just across the harbour from our house in Tauranga so this was going to be a very short trip, just 8kms to travel, we'll be a tourist in our own town. I'd only just finished repacking the van & giving it a good spring clean so we were ready to go after adding food & our clothes. Another thing learnt, always have the van ready to roll, you never know  when you're going to get a surprise call (or email)

We arrived ahead of Pam & Gerald & were all set up within minutes of pulling onto the site where we were pleased to see we had some big brothers for company. Fifth wheelers are becoming very popular, but after talking to the owners of the other two great looking rigs we decided we still had the best size for our needs. Neither of the other two had been on or wanted to take them on gravel roads. If we had that restriction we would have missed most of the Coromandel.

Baby Bear, Mama Bear & Papa Bear!

Look at the size of that rig!
The holiday park sits at the base of Mt Maunganui, an extinct volcano cone, at the end of a beautiful golden sand beach. Mt Maunganui or Mauao also forms part of the entrance to the huge Tauranga inner harbour & estuaries. It's known colloquially as "the Mount" and is the most popular and one of the most iconic kiwi holiday destinations in New Zealand. For six months of the year and especially over the Christmas & New Year holiday period the beach & camping ground are a mass of people enjoying the sun & surf. The prime camping sites are booked well in advance & usually from year to year by the same families. Thankfully at this time of the year there aren't so many visitors & it's easy to get a beach front site.

Main Beach, Mt Maunganui
Main Beach

Pam & Gerald arrived not long after us & set up their caravan next door. When booking in I had made sure that we got a site beside their booked one & also that we were positioned on the site so that our doors opened towards each other. That way we would have easy access to each others vans & room to sit and enjoy the sun.

During the afternoon the wind steadily increased & there was quite a large rolling surf with plenty of sea spray coating our vehicles (& just after David had given them both a good clean). It was nice and cosy inside the van & I had a great view of the beach and the passing traffic on the boardwalk from the dinette!

Unfortunately the forecast was for a 'significant weather event' happening in Northland, Auckland & the Coromandel with heavy rain, gale force winds & possible tornados predicted. We were located just on the edge of this area and as the afternoon progressed we started to feel the effects. We decided to get in a walk around the base track before the rain started.

The 3.5km track runs around the base of the Mount and is a very popular walkway. Every day hundreds of people, locals & visitors, walk around or up the Mount, a lot using it as part of their daily exercise regime. Over 1 million people use the tracks around & up the Mount every year (there is a counter located near the beginning of the track). It's a tough 40 minute climb to the summit but well worth it for the awesome 360 degree views. We decided we'd just do the base track this visit but here is a photo I prepared earlier :) There are more photos from the summit in my Flickr set here.

Sunrise, Mt Maunganui, New Zealand. by flyingkiwigirl

At the camp we were sheltered by the Mount a little but once we got around the northern side we could see that the storm was approaching. A ship leaving port was crashing through the waves on the incoming tide. I guess the pilot is used to clambering off ships in rough weather but I'm sure he was going to have a hard time of it today.

The storm approaches
Tauranga Harbour Entrance- a ship leaves port

We had very little sleep Sunday night, the wind was ferocious, the van rolled & shook something terrible. I looked out at one stage to see that Pam & Gerald had dropped their awning, luckily they did because I'm sure it would have been gone by morning. We could hear the wind gusts winding up and I'm certain there were a couple of mini tornedos in there, each one grabbed the van & gave it a huge shake. After two or three of those we decided to pull our side in, not that we expected to be picked up or anything, it just gave us peace of mind & allowed us to sleep a little. I think our row of vans in their decreasing sizes provided quite a bit of shelter. Even the big guys said they were unsettled by the force of the wind.

The next morning, which just happened to be my birthday, dawned calm, cool & overcast. After a restless night & a slow start we headed across the road to our favourite café, Slowfish for my birthday brunch which was, as always, delicious. Later we had a wander along the beachfront & through town then back in time for 'Happy Hour" or in our case, & because it was a special day, 'Happy Two Hours'. And then while we could still manage it, Pam & I cooked a lovely birthday dinner for us all. It was a great night with lots of fun & laughter. I'm sure anybody walking past must have wondered what on earth all the hilarity was about. It was a great way to spend my birthday. And because we were due to leave in the morning we all decided that we'd stay another night & hope our last day would be a sunny one. Which it was.

Mt Maunganui Beachside Holiday Park
Being beachfront it was a great place to people watch, there was a constant stream of people of all shapes & sizes and from all walks of life, walking, running & strolling along the boardwalk. It was rather strange though as I kept seeing people I knew walking past, I wasn't quite as comfortable walking around outside in my dressing gown as I have been on other sites that's for sure.  
Our camping site is hidden behind the bush on the right
I managed to catch this guy doing the splits! He'd just come tumbling down the boardwalk doing cartwheels & backward flips. I imagine he was a dancer of some sort or perhaps a circus performer or just maybe he was a regular guy who like to show off!

Pam & Gerald went off to Tauranga city to check the shops out over there and as I know exactly what they are like I had no interest in joining them. David & I decided to visit the hot salt water pools which are located right in the middle of the holiday park. We had a relaxing soak in the various pools although I found most of them too hot for me on a sunny afternoon.

Afterwards I took a walk up the back of the camp with my camera catching this rabbit along the way. It wasn't hard, there were dozens of rabbits around the camp, out feeding on the grass & hopping in around the cabins and long term caravans. There were far too many for my liking & I'm not sure why they aren't being poisoned or trapped. They are a major pest in NZ and going by the mess & rabbit holes around the sheep paddocks they must be eating just as much as the sheep on the Mount.

Sheep & high-rise buildings, not quite the usual scene you'd expect in the middle of a city
After another night of conviviality we retired early enough to get a good nights sleep with nothing but the gentle lapping of the ocean waves reaching our ears. The next morning we were up bright & early & ready to depart well before check-out at 10am. We had a fabulous few days catching up with Pam & Gerald & enjoyed the spontaneity of it all. We did find it rather strange though, being a tourist in our own city.