Wednesday 31 December 2014

'Out There' Having Fun

Apologies for the lack of blog posts recently but as you can see I've not had much time! I've been far too busy enjoying the fabulous Hawkes Bay weather; brilliant blue skies & sun soaked days- summers like they used to be in the Bay.

Happy New Year everyone, wishing you all the very best for 2015, stay safe wherever you are.  

Sunday 21 December 2014

Catch & Release

Can it still be called ‘catch & release’ when the trout manage to release themselves?

So far four trout have released themselves without any help from David. And it's no fishy tale either; I was watching when two of them got off. One took off downstream jumping for joy- boing, boing, boing! And I’m still waiting on trout for dinner!

The weather has been brilliant and the expected influx of vans and people over the weekend hasn’t happened and other than a couple of small vans at the far end, we’ve had the place to ourselves. It's been lovely to relax in the sun and watch the world go by. It's also been rather warm & humid and I've had my first swim of the season. A rather hurried splash & dip as the water was ice cold!

While David continued to chase the elusive fish this morning, I walked up to the top of the valley before it got to hot. That’s us beside the river and if you look carefully you can see a tiny speck in the water near by, that’s David.

Deer are such loopy creatures. There is a couple of deer paddocks at the top of the hill. They were milling around and chasing each other near the fence as I approached and then they spotted me and the alarm went out.

They took off in such a rush that they were tripping over each other to get to the other side where they rounded up and stared me down. I stood still for a long while hoping they’d come back to have a look. They snorted and stamped and a few brave ones trotted out a few paces before loosing their bottle and racing to hide behind the others. I gave up after awhile and carried on. As soon as they saw me returning down the road they raced off again to the other corner. Talk about skittish.

Friday 19 December 2014

The Eye of the Storm- Glenfalls

Dare I say it? We are parked in the 'eye of the storm' for a couple of days, a speck of quiet peacefulness between the hustle & bustle of Mt Maunganui & the Christmas chaos that will be Napier.  We're at one of our favourite DOC camps; Glenfalls, which is not far off the Napier-Taupo Road alongside the Mohaka River.

It’s very peaceful with just birdsong & the gentle burbling of the river in the background as company (oh and a few insect sounds, I just heard my first locust for the season & chased out a mighty big blowfly). Only a handful of vans were here overnight and they had all left by mid morning just as the sun came out from behind the clouds. We now have the place to ourselves.

Or so I thought. Around the corner of the van came a cocky ‘Bear Grylls’ and his phone full of trout photos. We had spoken to him last evening when we arrived; he was parked near the spot we wanted but was just leaving. His tent was further up the road at one of the other DOC camps along the Mohaka. He called in today to show David what he’d caught; the photo was of a trout being cooked in a frypan, the head & tail overhanging the sides. David couldn’t decide if the frypan was small or the trout large!

No doubt later this afternoon we’ll be joined by more overnighters and perhaps a few weekenders escaping the pre-Christmas rush.

Approaching Glenfalls last evening
It’s great to be back in Hawke's Bay, it’s obviously been a good winter as it’s so green everywhere and the paddocks are overflowing with lush pasture, there'll be some haymaking to be done soon enough. A little different to the last time we came through when all the hills were dried to a crisp tinder.

I'm sure there's going to be a few frustrated travellers on the Napier-Taupo Road over the holiday period. The Mohaka Bridge is down to single lane with lights on either end and a speed restriction as they strengthen the bridge. We waited around five minutes for the lights to change and there was quite a queue forming behind us. I doubt that everyone would get through on a light change during the busy times.

Wednesday 17 December 2014

A Wet Farewell

After four weeks of good weather with just a few showers and a little bit of wind the drought has well and truly broken, the heavens have opened up and an awful lot of water has been dumped on us over the last couple of days. It’s hard to hear yourself think inside the van- the thunderous rain on the roof is joined by the continuous rumble of the crashing surf outside. Just a few silly buggers have ventured past on the boardwalk and the campground has emptied out. Only the hardy &/or mad are left to fight the elements including a number of young travellers in small tents, some had been pitched on the bare patches in the sun a few days ago but this morning were in ankle deep water.

Another Ultima fifth-wheeler arrived over the weekend, Brian & Pauline live locally and take a week off from their business every month to recharge their batteries. This week they’ve come to the Mount to stay, it’s a pity the weather has packed up for them.

‘The long and short of it’- the family of 5 in the cute little retro caravan  on the site beside the other Ultima have been having an exciting time camping, until today that is, when the kids couldn’t play outside.

Tonight is our last at the Mount campground, we’ve said goodbye to the family this evening Sad smile  and will be ready to break camp early tomorrow morning. The energy resource manager has the van booked in for an extra solar panel to be added tomorrow morning before we leave town. The entertainment manager (and energy resource user) has had a new TV fitted in the bedroom. Ready for those long winter evenings and extra cold mornings down south next year.

And one final photo of another ship arriving in port and the beautiful red of the pohutukawas that line the Mount walking tracks. Sadly the heavy rain over the last few days will have battered the flowers, now the paths will be lined in red instead.

And I am pleased to report that after 4 weeks my camera has finally been returned. To Napier. But that’s another story……So now I’ll have to wait until we arrive there before I can get clicking again.

Tuesday 16 December 2014

Lewis Road Creamery

I finally fell for all the marketing hype and purchased a very rare bottle of chocolate flavoured milk today. Although I had no intentions of doing this, I don’t particularly like chocolate milk. It is true, I like milk and I like chocolate but together they have never had much appeal. Now if it was strawberry or lime or even banana or coffee flavoured milk, that would be a different story. I LOVE flavoured milk. Just not chocolate.

But as I was wheeling my trolley around the supermarket religiously ticking off the items on my shopping list- you have to do this when living on the road, otherwise you get back to the van and spend the next half hour trying to find places to store the extra items, then you forget where you've put the extra items and end up buying the same things all over again!

Anyway, I digress, I was walking around the supermarket and there on the shelf beside the regular milk supply was a whole shelf of Lewis Road Creamery Chocolate Flavoured milk! There was a large sign stuck to the front of the shelf- ‘Limit- two per person’. There were only 300ml size bottles left, right next door was a large empty shelf which would have held the 750ml bottles earlier this morning- they were now gone……but wait, I spied one lonely 750ml bottle hiding at the back pretending to be a little brother. I reached in to select it and it was whipped away in front of my eyes. A young ‘lady’ leaned in from the left and grabbed it. It has been known for supermarkets to employ security guards to make sure customers stick to the limits and don’t end up fighting each other, I can see why. Oh well, I didn’t really need the bigger bottle so I settled for the smaller one.

What a dream marketing job Lewis Road Creamery has done, imagine introducing a new product and from the get go not being able to meet demand. Lewis Road Creamery uses only organic Jersey milk and I think this has a lot to do with it’s appeal. Jersey milk is known to be richer & creamier in taste and texture. I know this for a fact, I was brought up on a dairy farm with a Jersey herd, the cream was sold and the skim milk fed to the pigs.

I did nearly forget to take a photo of my purchase today, I had downed half the bottle before I remembered.

And the verdict? Well, it did taste lovely, it was smooth and creamy and I could definitely taste the Whittakers chocolate (a NZ brand). It was very sweet though and when I checked it out I can see why, it has a very high sugar content, one of the highest of the flavoured milks, 29g of sugar or more than seven teaspoons per 250ml!

This could well be my first and last bottle of Lewis Road Creamery Chocolate flavoured milk, it's not available in the South Island.

Sunday 14 December 2014

Coffee Art

We had breakfast yesterday morning with some friends at Pronto Café which is under the Towers & just across the road from the Main Beach at the Mount. While I enjoyed my bacon & scrambled eggs, it was the flat white that impressed me the most.

It may only be frothy foam but this, in my opinion,  is an incredible work of art by a talented barista. I’m sure a high degree of patience is needed to produce this; patience & a short queue!

Pronto Café also do seriously good burgers.

Thursday 11 December 2014

Mount Mixture

I hope I haven’t kept my regulars waiting too long for this post but as you can imagine it’s been a very busy time catching up with family & friends and seeing to all the various appointments we had arranged before we arrived in town. The time has flown by and we only have one more week here at the Mount before we head off to Napier & family for Christmas.

I’ve really enjoyed being back on the front row beside the boardwalk at the Mount campground. There’s always something interesting happening or someone interesting walking by. Mind you, I think we’re leaving at the right time, the campground is starting to pick up pace, the sites down here on the ocean side are nearly always full and there is a definite increase in the numbers of walkers passing by on the boardwalk. This is probably because there has been a cruise ship in port just about every day for the last week. When out on my walk, I’ve even taken to politely telling approaching walkers to “keep left, keep left, just like you’re driving” and looking silly by demonstrating steering a car in case they don’t understand English!

We have had some brilliant weather, hot and sunny days with very humid nights- which isn’t so pleasant.

There’s been a few overcast days with scattered showers, luckily most of the rain has fallen overnight. A good number of school groups have been spending time either in school camps at the Mount campground or visiting by bus. I felt sorry for this group; they disappeared up the stairway to the Base Track, happily chatting and excited only to come rushing back in a torrential downpour about 30 minutes later.

And then there have been those windy days, those days that most of the country have been experiencing on and off over the last few weeks. We even had our own Nor’west arch for a couple of days. And one morning when I was walking along Pilot Bay in a howling westerly, I spotted this yacht with a broken mooring rope & buoy beached.

I thought surely someone would have phoned the harbourmaster but then I thought perhaps not and if it was our boat I’d hope somebody would follow it up. So I ducked behind a car out of the wind and called the afterhours harbourmaster number. He hadn’t been called so then I had to go down to the yacht and find some identification for him & the number on the buoy. Luckily for the owner the tide was going out and the wind had actually flattened the waves quite a lot so it wasn’t going to get battered about in the surf. But it did look like the keel had been broken off as it hit the shallow water.

The constant parade of people past our kitchen window have included a hundred or so Santas on the Great KidsCan Santa Charity Fun Run.

And the first race of Tri NZ Tinman National Series.

And nearly every evening the surf club members are out, either training on the sand or paddling their boards or kayaks off the beach or around the Mount and back. Some at least 4-5 times! On the weekends the nippers come out to ‘play’.

I now know why the Main Beach looked so white that first time I saw it after we arrived back in the Bay. It gets groomed a couple times a week, before and after each weekend up until Christmas and then everyday over the holiday period. Which is great. Except if you are parked up on the front row of the campground. From about 2am I can hear the low rumble as the tractor pulling the groomer moves up and down the beach. That actually isn’t so bad. It’s the thousand & one spotlights he has across the top of the roll cage that shine in my bedroom window as he turns for his next run!

There’s no going back to sleep after that so it’s up at the crack of dawn and off on my walk marvelling at the early morning light and hundreds of rabbits scurrying about- the paddock in front of me is a moving mass of bobbing white tails. If I look out the van at night there are dark moving lumps in every direction, some take no notice when you walk by but stop, and they scatter in all directions. 

I have been watching these starling chicks grow in leaps and bounds over the last two weeks. Their nest is at eye level in an old rotten hollow right beside the Base Track. At first they stayed back down in bottom of the hole and all I could see was their fluffy heads and bright yellow bills. I was alerted to them by the squawking and a parent departing right across my face. They’ve now lost all their fluff and have moved up to the edge of the hollow, it won’t be long before they’re gone.

I just wish I had my camera back to catch some of the lovely sights I’ve seen on my walks, my camera phone doesn’t quite cut the mustard especially if I need to zoom in a little. My Nikon is not due until mid next w$$k!!

I also wanted my camera so I could catch up to date on my favourite street artist’s latest artworks- . Nelson Mandela has joined Johnny Cash and now adorns the wall across from OD’s (Owen Dippie) studio. There are also another couple of artworks in Tauranga city that I have yet to shoot. Sadly OD is moving to Auckland so there won’t be too many more done on the walls around the back lanes of the Bay’s industrial buildings. Here’s the blog post from last year with some of his other amazing artworks.

Last Friday evening we walked to Coronation Park at the other end of town for the first Gourmet Night Market of the season, this being the 2nd year that they've run. From December to February over 6000 locals & visitors head to the park every Friday night for an evening of fun, entertainment & delicious gourmet street food.

I can tell you, choosing dinner from over 50 food stalls set up around the perimetre of the park is extremely hard! We loved the family friendly atmosphere and the amazing choice of food. There’s also live music from a local band or musician playing each evening.

We were also very impressed with the custom designed waste stations set up for recycling along with willing helpers making sure waste made its way into the right bins.  Last year the market diverted 94% of its waste  away from the landfill, this year their target is 99%. I can see this market will become one of the ‘must dos’ when visiting the Bay of Plenty and a regular night out for the locals- we’ll certainly be going again this Friday.

For the last few days we have been enjoying the company of another Ultima. Judy & Craig from Otaki took delivery of their brand new Ultima Series II and have been parked here at the Mount while their Ranger had the fifth-wheel hitch fitted and they learnt the ropes before heading home. David has been able to give them some good tips and talk them through various things. I know how overwhelming it is when you first take possession, it all seems foreign and the van seems so HUGE. Eventually it all falls into place and it becomes second nature. There have been at least 3 other Ultimas parked up at the Mount at various times during our stay here; 2 other new vans and our friends Bruce & Barb from Kerikeri who came down to see us before we left.

And finally, a selection of our beautiful NZ Christmas tree. The pohutukawa are blooming all over the Mount now. The red is so intense up close, I wish I had my camera…….

Sunday 7 December 2014

One Article, Two Covers

I hit the jackpot!

Not only did I get an article in the latest NZMCA Motor Caravanner magazine (sent to all 56,000+ members) but I also got the front cover. And not only did I get an article and the front cover, I got the front cover of the members handbook too, which was sent out in the same pack!

It was a huge surprise to get the magazine front cover because- what a laugh- I didn’t even recognise the shot until I read the credits! Here’s the original; it was taken on the The Road to Walter Peak Station in Central Otago.

I have been sending photos to NZMCA's IT & Social Media department for quite awhile and when they needed a handbook cover photo I sent a selection to Ryan and 5 of them were chosen as possibles, Ryan put them up on the NZMCA Facebook page where members voted for their favourite. It was nearly an unanimous vote, they chose autumn at Butchers Dam, Alexandra. It just happened that the handbook was sent out with the magazine. And here's that original

And here is the article, hopefully you’ll be able to read the text. Enjoy.

I enjoyed writing and putting together the article, especially as I had the huge benefit of being able to use my blog posts on each of the 'hidden gems' that I had selected. But I had to condense them quite a lot as I had a word limit for each item- hard for someone who talks 'types' so much! 

If you'd like to see more photos (and read more) about each of the places in the article here are the links to their blogs-

Wednesday 3 December 2014

To the Top of the Mount- Part 2

Continuing on from Part 1.....don't forget to click the photos to see a larger version

I catch up to David & Maddie who are looking out over the Bay towards the Coromandel Peninsula to the right, on the horizon. Kaimai Range is to the left, Matakana Island with it’s golden beach stretches off up towards Bowentown & Waihi Beach. The inner Tauranga Harbour can be seen out behind Matakana & that’s Karewa Island centre right- an island we’ve spent many an hour fishing beside.

Down below we watch a container ship exit the Tauranga Harbour entrance with the pilot boat alongside.

It’s a steep drop down this side of the summit and far below, near the rocks, we can see short sections of the Base Track. The track across the paddock is a little higher up.

Spot the idiot? Another guy playing with fire.

Further around the lookout and the view is out over the Entrance to the harbour with Tauranga City behind. The pine forest on Matakana Island pokes out on the right.

We head off carefully down the 4WD track , it’s very steep near the top and covered in the same loose gravel that caught me out the other day. My camera phone decides to switch to black & white for a few shots- don’t ask- I have no idea, though I’m sure it was all my fault.

Where were you the other day?!

We turn off the vehicle track onto the Oruahine Track which cuts back along the north face about half way down the side of the Mauao (Mt Maunganui). The views are magnificent, this time we can see Mayor Island on the horizon.

The track is narrow and the sides extremely steep. Lose your footing or take a tumble here and there would be no stopping until you reached the bottom. Regenerating bush is slowly taking hold, a devastating blaze in January 2003 destroyed 16 hectares of vegetation on the north face, including many huge old pohutukawa - much of the fire burning what had been replanted by the community following the previous big fire in 1997.

Our house overlooked Tauranga Harbour & Mauao and I remember the 2003 fire well, the terrible sense of loss & destruction as a huge pall of smoke rose from the Mount and as the afternoon turned into night, the horrible red glow that we could see creeping around the side. Due to the lack of a water supply, it took a few days for them to get it under control and when finally they did, the whole north face was burnt and scared black. It was heartbreaking seeing the blackened slope from the sea whenever we came back into the harbour from fishing and it took many months for it to turn even slightly green.

We pass by a couple of rock climbers and even with the ropes and safety gear you’d have to have nerves of steel, especially when the view takes in the whole cliff face down to the water far below.

A short time later we join the main track again and head for home- just down the slope and over the grass. Not too many people would be able to say that, I'm sure. I high-five Maddie and tell her she did great & that she’ll remember her first walk to the top of the Mount for a very long time.

I then walk out to the edge to see if I can get a photo of the van, but all I can manage is the back end peeping out from behind the trees.

David picked Maddie up from school Monday afternoon and I bet you can guess what her teacher told him Maddie’s morning talk was about.

And don't take any note of the time below, it takes that just to get to the top! :)