Saturday 31 October 2015

Party Time

 It's pretty tough when you have to mow the lawns on your 80th birthday.....

and even tougher when you've got to share your party with a big game, trick or treaters...

... and some naked ladies that your son-in-laws found in the shed....

Happy Birthday Dad, it's time to party...

Friday 30 October 2015

Meet the Neighbours

I’ve been sorting through a few photos that I took while we were at the Mount and thought you might like to meet the neighbours.

After our first few days and a busy weekend on the much quieter harbour side of the Mt Maunganui Holiday Park we moved over to the Main Beach and boardwalk side of the park. David could have quite happily stayed where we were but after so many months of deserted camp grounds and freedom camping, when sometimes we went a day or so without seeing anyone, I was ready to watch the world go by.

And go by, the world did! Some of you might remember the running totals I gave you of how many people passed by our humble little abode on wheels the last time we were parked at the Mount. You’ll recall that there’s a people counter at the top of the boardwalk stairs just at the beginning of the Base Track around the Mount and also the start of the steep climb up to the other tracks that lead to the top of the Mount. The counter would probably count 90% of the people that use the Mount each day, there are other less used entry points.

During the first 12 days, 39,200 people passed the counter (we’re talking mid September here). Yes, that’s right, the population of a large town passed by our front door- thank God they all didn’t stop in for a cuppa!

But wait there’s more. On the 13th day alone, 7,650 people stumbled by.

I say stumbled because most of them were taking part in the City to Surf fun run from Tauranga to the Mount, or the shorter Around the Mount Fun Run & Walk.

And the grand count for one month- September 15th to October 15th was…..88,665 people. Enough people to fill a city. Amazing! And weird, I know…that I had to keep counting & checking!  Morning, noon and half the night a continuous stream of people passed by accompanied by the rhythmic ‘thump, thump, thump’ of  feet meeting the wood of the boardwalk; some walking, others running.

And in the stillness of pre-dawn, a persistent chatter reached our ears as groups set off on their daily exercise before their working day started or families arose. Sometimes I lifted the blind to watch the sunrise and I’d see their silhouettes moving quickly past on the boardwalk. There’s something surreal about being tucked up in bed, snug & warm in such a public place.

The campground was very busy for the time of the year, much busier than when we were there for four weeks during last December. I think a winter special, the camp had running, helped with numbers; pay for two nights, get the third free. And it was also school holidays for two of the weeks. Some days the sites either side of us stayed vacant, the office giving us a little breathing space, but mostly we had new neighbours every two or three days.

Occasionally we had fun and games making sure new arrivals didn’t encroach into our site, it’s amazing how many people can’t read a map or markings around the site. Or perhaps they can, they just chose to push the boundaries (literally). I don’t think they bargained on having me as a neighbour!

And I bet the foreign campers below didn’t bargain on having me as a near neighbour. I don’t mind parties, I don’t mind people enjoying themselves, I know people love having holiday fun but when the music, laughter & shrieking is still going on well after midnight it was time to persuade them they should pack up the party.

I’m not sure why the occupants of the nearby vans hadn’t approached them- ‘they are our friends’ one of the partygoers told me in broken English. Meaning I wasn’t. I give them their dues, they were very polite & apologetic and the noise had stopped by the time I returned to the van….by a longer less obvious route. I think my ‘wild woman of Borneo’ silhouette helped sort them out. If only they’d seen me in my fluffy dressing gown & slippers with hair looking like I’d stuck my finger in a power socket. Hmm…perhaps they did.

Most of the time it was a joy watching people arrive to set up camp; seeing friends, families and couples enjoying the quintessential Kiwi holiday lifestyle, even if it was in one of the busiest campgrounds in New Zealand.

It was this couple’s first outing in their recently purchased & restored retro caravan. Living locally, they were trialling it out before getting married in December and taking it to the South Island for their honeymoon. They looked pretty chuffed with themselves, on the first night they sat at their flip-up front window with a drink in hand waving at passing friends and enjoying their new-found camp life.

These neighbours from Auckland struggled to position their set-up on their site. I couldn’t believe the size of the tent that attached to their car, it kept on expanding as they unravelled it. They had trouble putting the tent up not only because the wind was blowing a gale and the guy ropes(more like string) weren’t holding, but they were trying to set it up at 90 degrees to what it is here and overlapping the sites on either side them, one of which was ours.

I helpfully suggested that they put their van at the back, that way the car would protect the tent from the prevailing wind and also the front would open out onto the beach view…..instead of our door!

We are pretty strong on making sure the ‘3 metre rule’ is adhered to. For safety(fire) reasons (and privacy) there’s an unwritten rule that there must be a three metre gap between mobile homes, some camp grounds are pretty strict on it, others not so. The Mount has a marked ‘no-go’ grass strip between each site, but many take no notice of it and with so many different forms of mobile homes, with doors and awnings on either side plus caravans must have their tow-balls facing out, it’s hard to get it right.

I know some of you will now be thinking- we must keep a look-out for that Ultima next time we park up….and make sure we stay well away from that crabby lady! But hey, I am pretty easy going, unless you set-up on my patch or keep me awake all night!  Smile

We had a number of families beside us during the school holidays, fun times and memories for everyone but boy, having kids certainly creates a lot of gear (and noise). It took nearly as much time to set up camp and pack up afterwards as it did to enjoy the two or three days of holiday. I take my hat off to the mothers though, always on call, always on the look-out, taking everything in their stride, providing, comforting and looking after their family while partners went surfing, rock climbing, fishing or just lazing about with a beer in hand!

Sometimes it was hard to get anything done inside the van while the weird & whacky walked by outside- you just don’t expect a tall green man to pass your window while you’re doing the dishes & I nearly choked on my coffee when this guy started doing press-ups right beside me while I was sitting at the dining table.

It was just as well the school holidays had finished and the camp had cleared out a bit when this branch off the Norfolk Pine came crashing down onto the road behind the van. A steady stream of people walk along here throughout the day and often there are cars parked along the verge. I was sitting at the table (typing another blog) when I hear an almighty crashing and banging noise as it fell from the top through all the lower branches before landing with a thump on the road. We had no neighbours on that side for a few days as they cordoned the area off and checked the trees for any more unstable branches.

For a few hours every night just after dark and then again before sunrise a Morepork (native owl) sat high up in the pine behind our van calling and being answered by another owl further up the Mount. The call was clear and very close and even though it does get a bit monotonous after awhile, it was very comforting to know that nature is surviving and thriving in the midst of a busy city, albeit an extinct volcano cone perched at the end of a busy resort and surrounded by water.

Along with the hundreds of rabbits that live on Mauao, many who came down to play around the vans after dark, there’s also a small flock of sheep that keep the grassed areas of the Mount under control. Most of them had lambs at foot and whenever I walked the base track early in the morning, they’d be sitting on or beside the path. The mothers not in the least but worried about people, the lambs not so sure.

On the rocks around the base track there were also a few seal pups waiting for Mum to return from feeding at sea. In the past I’ve only ever seen the odd seal at the Mount, maybe one every couple of months or so but during our recent stay I’d usually see 4-5 pups on every walk. Their numbers must be increasing at the colony on Plate Island out in the Bay of Plenty and now they’re moving further afield.

We didn’t only have people walking by, we had people dropping in too! Launching themselves off the the top of the Mount they’d glide and weave their way down to the beach, landing on a sixpence before folding the ‘chute back up, climbing to the top and doing it all over again.

Main Beach, Mt Maunganui- arguably one of the best beaches in New Zealand and certainly the most popular.

It was great be a part of the Mount lifestyle again but it was also great to know we could move on whenever we fancied.

Tuesday 27 October 2015

Visiting My Favourite Ducks

While I was out walking yesterday I took the opportunity of visiting my favourite pair of ducks which live on a pond not too far from where we're parked at my parent's house.

This pair of Plumed Whistling Ducks are very rare visitors to New Zealand (only 2 or 3 sightings have ever been recorded) and they have made a suburban pond their home for the last four years.

I've visited them each time we've been in Napier; there were three ducks until a year or so ago when, sadly, one disappeared. These two seem to be doing very well and are a lot more confiding then they have been in the past. They live on a very busy pond with a lot of people passing by so they're obviously getting used to all the activity. Although they are still fairly shy and unless you know where to look or stop for awhile, most people passing wouldn't know of their existence. 

It is not known where they have come from but it is thought they are either storm blown vagrants or perhaps illegally imported eggs that have hatched and then been dumped at the pond. Their natural habitat is in tropical northern Australia & Indonesia so they are a very long way from home. 

Of course I couldn't miss the chance of shooting(with my camera) some of the other waterfowl at the pond, especially with all the spring babies about.

A family of Black Swan signets resting beside the path....

With Mum and Dad quick to move close to them when I stopped for a chat.

Another family of teenagers resting under the trees....

While Mum keeps a watchful eye on them from her sunny spot nearby.

Another juvenile Black Swan sits down on the job, grazing as far as its neck can stretch in a wide arc around it's front.

On the other side of the pond a newly hatched Mallard family are out for a quick and wary walk. 

They head for the safety of the water as soon as I approach. Many dangers lurk at the ponds; dogs on the loose, wandering cats from the nearby houses, aggressive geese & swans, shags, eels, rats, pukeko, other male ducks, even other larger ducklings. It's a wonder any babies survive.

Another mother shepherds her ducklings quickly across the grass between ponds.  With their longer bills, these look like they're a NZ Shoveler hybrid.

As I'm about to cross the road and head home, I spot a wayward family of swans dwadling across the usually busy main road. Thankfully it's a public holiday so the traffic isn't too heavy this morning.

And lucky the ambulance wasn't on a call out. Talk about take their time, they even stopped for a break on the median strip. In the end I crossed behind them and shooed them up onto the grass. I hate to think how they made it back later in the day when there would have been many more cars. Someone needs to tell them the grass isn't always greener on the other side!

Thursday 22 October 2015

Trout on the Menu- DOC Glenfalls

Our tentative three night stop-over at the DOC Glenfalls camp on the Mohaka River turned into six nights. The weather was fabulous, the trout biting and people we knew (or they knew of us) kept on arriving!

Chris & Marg called in for a night to say hello. They were on their way home to Hawkes Bay, Chris is a member of a forum I belong to so it was lovely to see them again.

“I hope that’s not steak you’re cooking on your flash retractable BBQ, Chris”

We decided to stay on another night when I discovered my aunty (who is more like a sister) and her husband were about to have a couple days away from their home in Napier. Glenfalls is also one of their favourite camping spots and they often stay here with another aunty and her husband. These are the two families we went camping with at the Tukituki River over Christmas/New Year last year.

It was great to see Pam & Gerald again; we had an extra long ‘happy hour’ catching up and a good few laughs the first night. The next day dawned perfect; sunny and warm with very little wind- good fishing weather, we decided to stay on another night. After a leisurely start to the day, we walked to the top of hill…

…and climbed down a steep goat track to the river….

…where David & Gerald went fishing…

…while Pam & I explored further up the river…

Pam decided to also have a few casts…

and struck gold also most immediately. Catch & release!

Watched by the locals…

We returned to camp and while Pam & I relaxed in the late afternoon sun, the guys went fishing again. By the end of the day we had three lovely fish thanks to Gerald; one for dinner and two, one each, for the freezer (although we’re having our one with Mum & Dad tonight).

They were also a few more fish caught and released.


…smoked trout with our ‘happy hour’ nibbles..

The next day was a stunner too, summer is nearly here. With just a 50 minute run to Napier, we prepared the vehicles for the road and then sat out in the sun enjoying lunch and chewing the fat for another hour or so.

We’re now parked up beside Mum & Dad’s for a few weeks and looking forward to catching up with more family and friends and partaking in some good old Hawkes Bay sunshine…..which happens to have disappeared today!

It’s a tight and cosy fit but great for us to be close to Mum & Dad and still have our own space. Dad had the car port concrete pad extended a year or so ago so we could comfortably fit on it and the poles and sail that usually protect the car were already down and packed away ready for our arrival yesterday.