Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Oreti Beach- One Fine Day

Oreti Beach was Burt Munro's race track & I can see why, it's a 26 kilometre stretch of perfectly smooth sand and at low tide it would be over 100 metres wide.
Ten kilometres west of Invercargill, Oreti Beach was a key location for the film 'The World's Fastest Indian', which tells the story of Southland's motorcycling hero Burt Munro. The beach provided Munro with a testing and racing site for his modified Indian motorcycle. In February 1957 Munro set a New Zealand Open Beach record of 131.38 mph at Oreti Beach; in 1975 he raised this to 136 mph.
What a magnificent ocean beach Oreti is, it is the middle bay of three that face onto Foveaux Strait & Stewart Island, at the base of the South Island and would be as wild as they come on a stormy day with cold Antarctic air blowing directing on shore. Luckily for us it was a calm sunny day when we arrived with the family for an evening BBQ. We drove about a half a kilometre down the beach until we reached a gap in the sand dunes where Ollie & Ruby could go sledging.
Even this late in the afternoon (5pm) there were still plenty of vehicles parked up & people enjoying the surf. And from the tyre marks it looked like there had been a lot of other vehicles earlier in the day. Approaching the entrance to the beach reminded me of Mahia in Northern Hawkes Bay (where my family spent most of our childhood summer holidays) it had the same grass covered dunes, pine trees and tarsealed roads covered in wind blown sand. It was also a surprise to suddenly drive off the end of the road & onto the beach, I was expecting a large car park of sorts leading onto the beach but I guess when you have a 26kns stretch of beach as a car park a designated park is not needed!

The family set up camp between the cars as the warm breeze started to blow.....

.....while I went with the kids to the other side of the dunes to watch them sledge, the soft sand making it difficult for me to keep up with them.....
....spot the children. I decided I could supervise them from this ridge.....

....and take a few photos of the magnificent panoramic view while I was at it......

A sea of grass........ & Stewart Island in the background.

After sledging the kids went for a swim which was quite a long walk away as it was low tide although the tide was on it's way back in with the small waves pushing far up the sand before retreating again; great for toddlers & children to safely play.....

.....and also to help Dad dig for tautua (shellfish)

The breeze was getting stronger as the farthest reaches of the beach disappeared in a haze of sand & salt spray.

I love this shot, a baby being introduced to the beach by her Dad, every Kiwi child's birth right.

David & Rachel had prepared a BBQ feast for us which we all managed to enjoy before a fine coating of sand began to cover everything as the wind got stronger; there's nothing worse than hearing a crunch when you bite into your dinner. Although I think Ruby managed to eat far more than was blown about, she was clutching a bread wrapped sausage while rolling about in the sand with Ollie!

I would have liked to have stayed to watch the sunset, as it would have dropped off the edge of the ocean but it wasn't practical considering it isn't setting down here until well after 9:30pm. We're still getting used to it being light until around 10:30pm at the moment, it's hard going to bed when it's still light outside.
This will be my final post for 2013, it's New Years Eve & after a few very busy nights with 8-10 motorhomes & up to ten tents located around either side of our van the camp ground is now virtually deserted. Invercargill Central City Campground is obviously not the place to be to see in the New Year.
Happy New Year to one & all, all the best to you for 2014, I look forward to keeping you up to date with our tiki touring.
"Out There" soon

Bluff on a Brilliant Day

It's another pictorial tour for you, this time of Bluff the oldest European town in New Zealand, having been continuously settled since 1824. Bluff is the southernmost town in the South Island and the gateway to Stewart Island, it's where the ferries leave from to get you there. Bluff town is located on a huge inner deep sea harbour and was once a whaling station. It's also world famous for it's oysters, & believe me Bluff Oysters are the best in the world!

The lookout atop the 264 metre Bluff Hill (Motupohue).

Bluff Town & the 5,500 hectare inner harbour, Bluff Port is located on the 40 hectare island in the foreground which was reclaimed from shallow sandbanks in the 1950s.  

Tiwai Point aluminium smelter, which opened in 1971, dominates the eastern side of the harbour, the wharf  is 1.2 kilometres long & is one of New Zealand's longest. Tiwai produces the world's highest purity primary aluminium in the world & is one of NZ's largest industrial facilities. The smelter opens to the public once every 10 years & Rachel & Cameron went to the last open day tour. Rachel said that the buses drove through the cargo sheds that you can see at the centre & the buses were dwarfed by the enormous size & scale of them, the buses were like Matchbox vehicles. By road the smelter is also closer to Invercargill than Bluff, with no boat service from Bluff Port to Tiwai Wharf.

Looking along the south coast towards Riverton with Oreti Beach just visible at the top right. The 27kms road from Invercargill to Bluff follows the inner harbour passing over the small isthmus just before the town.

Mile wide views; Stewart Island (Rakiura) & Foveaux Strait. Foveaux Strait looking very benign & belying the fact that it's our most notorious & treacherous stretch of water. The strait 26kms wide and it takes about an hour to cross in the ferry.  Bluff Hill is surrounded by beautiful native bush with plenty of walking tracks.

Back down at sea level we visited Stirling Point & the entrance to Bluff Harbour where the historical (& disused) pilot station is located
To the right of the pilot station was a small little bay where we had lunch & let the kids explore the rock pools as the tide went out.

There were lots of pretty little stones & brightly coloured shells. Ruby had the find of the day, a very orange starfish.
I took a walk along the track above the bay......

.....to be surprised to find just over the brow the Stirling Point anchor chain sculpture (Te Puka A Maui) which illustrates the mythological link between the canoe of Maui ( a legendary Polynesian voyager with God like powers) and its anchor stone. The other end of the chain link is on Stewart Island.  Maui pulled up Stewart Island to use as an anchor stone for his canoe (South Island) for when he cast his line out & caught a giant fish, the North Island.

A few steps further on after passing through the chain link was the world famous(again) signpost which attracts many thousands of visitors each year. I did a whistle stop tour of the South Island (3 days to circumnavigate the island) over 30 years ago and this sign pole is the one lasting memory I have of it. Maybe that's because I have an old '70s yellowing Kodak photo of me standing beneath it on a cold blustery grey overcast day, the sign pole looks like it was cemented in a pile of rocks surrounded by gravel & boulders. Obviously the area has been landscaped & beautified since then.

And finally the tallest lighthouse in New Zealand, built in 1864 & located on Dog Island in Foveaux Strait. There used to be 3 keepers located on the island until is was automated in 1989. The tower is painted with black and white bands to make it standout during daylight hours. There are only two other lighthouses in New Zealand with stripes. Cape Campbell Lighthouse (we saw this one when we stayed at Marfells Beach in Seddon) which looks similar to Dog Island and Cape Palliser Lighthouse, which has red and white stripes.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Queen's Park Tour

Hello there from sunny & hot Invercargill! I've decided to give you a pictorial tour of Queens Park as I can't stop long because we have things to do, places to go. The last 3 days have been beautifully hot with cloudless blue skies; well for most of the day anyway. Apologies if the load time is slow but.... well....you know me by now, photos tell a far better story than I can (& remember, you can click on any to enlarge)

We went with the family, the kids & dad on their bikes, us walking. It took us over 3 hours to do a circuit with a stop for lunch & we still didn't see everything. This park is amazing, something you'd expect to see in one of our bigger cities not small city Invercargill. It is a wonderful asset for everyone to enjoy.

The grand entrance to Queens Park-

A wide avenue of trees leads down to the band rotunda, it's here that all manner of concerts are held including the "Carols by Candlelight" which sadly we missed because it was cancelled this year due to rain.

There are many ponds, streams & water features...

... great expanses of beautifully manicured lawns with huge log carvings & sculptures, many of them carved into seats..... 

..... wide plantings of perennial beds & border gardens.....

.....just starting to flower...

Many duck ponds & a large walk in double aviary along with smaller ones containing many NZ native birds along with a number of parrots & finches from Australia. We stopped for lunch here on the edge of the pond.

What do you do when you have fallen trees & branches in a such a large park of over 80 hectares & with so many mature trees? You create a Stumpery of course! This isn't just stump & branches dumped in a pile, these are works of art held together with steel wire & bolts.

And a Stumpery is......

Next stop was the humid Winter Garden with some stunning displays of flowers. It was a surprise to see many plants that grow outdoors in Tauranga.

This was just one tunnel, there were a further two, each branching off from the huge fish pond in the centre of the pavilion.

On through the animal park, with deer, pigs, sheep, wallabys, rabbits etc & this laid back goat watching the world walk by...

And then onto the most important park feature of all according to Ollie & Ruby, the childrens playground...

....where we lazed in the sun with an icecream while the kids played.....then one further burst of energy from the kids at the castle just a little further on....

Back past the band rotunda.....

...with Poppa getting weary & striding out for home....

...while Nana lingered at the rose gardens......

....soaking up the heady perfume of a million blooms

I hope you have enjoyed your tour as much as we enjoyed our outing, if you are ever in Invercargill, Queens Park is not to be missed.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Southern Hospitality

Well here’s another first for us. If anyone had told me last Christmas that we’d be parked at a dump station at 7am next Christmas morning I would have said “yeah right!” But that is exactly where we were on Wednesday morning. Christmas day dawned cold & wet here in Invercargill but we were up with the sparrows as we had a date with the grandkids beside their beautifully decorated Christmas tree & monster stack of presents that we wanted to see them open.

We’ve been parked up in the holiday park for the last 12 days and our tanks were full and they needed to be emptied before we headed to the farm later in the morning. The park’s dump station was too tight to get our fifth-wheeler into so we had to find a public dump station close by. There we were driving through a deserted Invercargill inner city looking, firstly for a non-existent station & then locating another one not too far from Rach & Cams’ house.

Duties done we arrived to find two very excited children who had been patiently waiting for us to arrive so they could get started on the second sitting of present opening, they had already opened their Santa sacks on waking. It was fun to watch them attack & demolish the pile of parcels under the tree and see the expressions on their faces as they jumped about & exclaimed excitedly “Wow, I asked Santa for one of those!”, “Look what I’ve got” etc before quickly moving onto the next present Mum handed them.  There was a bit of an interlude when everyone vacated to the bathroom & bath to help fill the bean bags with “beans”. Hmmm…..that went well. Not.  

Santa, Mum & Dad, grandparents, aunties & uncles all did very well in their gift choices this year. I think there’s something extra special about Christmas when there are children involved, especially young children, you can’t beat the excitement & that sparkle in their eyes.  

After a lovely cooked breakfast & a tidy up we headed out to the farm, it was still raining so rather than cut up the grassed area we backed the fifth-wheeler up to the front door which proved to be very handy in transporting food into the house & conducting “tours” of the van! 
What a fabulous day we had, Darnelle & James did a wonderful job in making us all feel very welcome. And the food was outstanding, the ham cooked to perfection, everyone pitched in and there was more than enough to feed 19 hungry mouths for Christmas dinner & tea later in the evening.
And I have to mention the Gingerbread House, this amazing piece of "art" was made from scratch by Bayley, Darnelle & James' eldest daughter. She is obviously as talented as her Mum & I can see why she'd like to be a chef when she leaves school. I don't think I'd have the patience to make this & if I did I certainly wouldn't want anybody to eat it!

Everyone stayed the night in a range of accommodation; a motorhome, a fifth-wheeler, a tent, the lounge room floor & of course bedrooms in the house itself. It was great that we were able to drift off to our own beds when we were ready to retire, some a lot earlier than others. And even thought it rained solid for most of the day the tent was nice & dry inside for the family, thankfully they put it up earlier in the week.

After a slow start for us the next morning, (others were up early cooking breakfast- poor Darnelle) we went on a tour of the farm which both David & I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s a whole different world to the dairy farm I was brought up on.
I took the following photo on the way home because suddenly it all made sense after James offered information on why a lot of hay bales are spaced at regular intervals across paddocks. The paddocks are usually planted in a fodder crop like swede for winter food (this one hasn't been ploughed & planted yet) During winter the paddock would be electric fenced in strips every few days & two (or more) evenly spaced hay bales opened up to provide feed for the herd along with the swedes in that strip. This way there's no carting the bales back & forward from another storage area & because it's usually very wet in winter there's less topsoil removal & wear in the paddock from vehicle movement. Brilliant! Except they are a type of visual pollution dotted all over the countryside.....oh well, you can't win 'em all *wink* < that one's for James.

I might be a farm girl at heart but just to make sure I didn’t get too cocky I got a belt from the electric fence when I was taking photos of these gorgeous Murray Grey calves that were in the house paddock.  I did try to open the gate but it seemed to be tied shut so I climbed over the fence. That was ok, I got into the paddock without realising the wire around the wooden railings was live; it was when I was climbing back out I got a shock! Ye-owl! That’s 3 belts this year; the previous two when I was stalking rare brown teal ducks in the Coromandel.


Aren't they the cutest things out, I love Murray Grey cattle, they look so soft & cuddly, their hair looks like down & those eyes just melt your heart.
One of the chooks (chicken) that provides the family with those elusive fresh free range eggs I keep looking for!
Thanks so much for your hospitality Darnelle & James, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and had a fabulous time.