Tuesday 25 June 2019

We're Back in the South Island- Blenheim; Part 1


Our first night in the South Island was spent parked beside a vineyard, on the side of a river and all by ourselves. It was good to back.

Damfam Vineyard
But first we had to cross Cook Strait. It rained for much of the night and with a 9am sailing and 13kms to travel from Petone in the morning rush hour, we were pleased when we were ready to leave ahead of schedule. There was a moment of panic though when we found the exit gate at the Workingmen's Club locked. Luckily we were able to squeeze the rig around the sharp corner of the building and exit through the entry gate which was open. In typical Evans style we were first in the queue at the closed gate just before 7am. And first in line to board (although they took the row beside us first).

With a winter storm behind us and another one forecast ahead of us, I had picked a small window of calm weather to cross and thankfully my careful scanning of wind warnings and wave height predictions proved correct and we had a very smooth crossing even though it rained all the way. The mist hung low over the hills as we cruised down Queen Charlotte Sound and when I did venture outside just to check I wasn't missing anything, a pod of dolphins surfaced nearby and rode the wake for a short time! Great timing.

We took the Interislander Lounge Plus option ($45pp) for the second time, which we're finding is a great way to travel. All food & drink is free (we had breakfast, morning tea & lunch), there's a comfy lounge, free wifi and no children. The cost is not much more than we'd spend anyway because we usually purchase breakfast and a coffee.

From Picton we drove the short distance to Damfam Vineyard (CAP #7011) on the banks of  Wairau River near Blenheim. 

We were the only ones staying and it was a lovely peaceful start to our South Island travels. The cooler morning temperatures also reminded us of the cold winter ahead.

 I was also pleased to be back 'Out There' in the open shooting magnificent sunsets again.

We were thrilled to see a bird feeding platform beside the vineyard & not too far from the van. Our hosts feed the local hawks regularly over winter and occasionally during summer to encourage them to stay and scare off the small birds that feed on the grapes during the season. 

Australasian Hawks/Kahu are notoriously shy and are often very hard to get close up photos of. I was able to sneak up on them a couple of times as they were otherwise occupied. They also didn't like eating off the high platform, in the wild it's safer for them to eat on the ground and they can also hide from other birds after their food. Occasionally they'd manage to pull pieces off the carcass and carry it off to the long grass or between the rows of vines to eat.

I followed the Wairau River down to the end of the road where it flows into a huge lagoon and crosses the Wairau Bar into Cloudy Bay. Alongside the track the rusting hull of the TSS Kennedy (1864-1929) provides a good lookout for the local flock of Pied Shags/Kawau. The Kennedy was scuttled to form part of the breakwater for what was once a wharf; rotting piles are now all that's left.

I walked to the end of the breakwater and onto the rocks and was amazed at the amount of water flowing out to sea. I'm not a fan of rushing water and here was no exception. It was very scary watching how fast it was travelling, swirling around in angry pools and catching on the rocks just below me before rushing out over the bar.

Next I went to check out the mouth of the Wairau Diversion which was completed in 1963 to help with Wairau River's flood control. The Diversion carries the water directly across country to the sea whereas the river meanders for several kilometres before it reaches the Bar. There's a large freedom camping site at the Diversion and during the whitebait season the area is full of seasoned campers.

As I was leaving the reserve I spotted alot of activity out in the middle of the river. A large flock of shags; I counted at least 30, were swimming downstream, ducking and diving, chasing & fighting their way very fast towards the outlet. 

They were chasing a school of fish (they look like yellow-eyed mullet) and nearly everytime a shag surfaced it had a large fish in it's bill. And if it didn't it chased its neighbour across the water for his. These are not good photos, I was quite a distance from the birds and they were moving very fast in the flow but look at the photo bottom left, 3 birds with a fish each and one shag behind chasing fast.

Back on the main road at Tuamarina is a memorial and information board in a road side reserve. In 1843 a nortorious & tragic incident occured here. Known as The Wairau Affray or The Wairau Incident it was the first significant armed conflict between Maori & British settlers after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. Twenty two Europeans (18 killed as utu after surrendering) and four Maori were killed in the conflict. Click on the photo to enlarge if you wish to read about the incident.

Afterwards I crossed the road and drove up to the cemetery on the hill above the memorial to find another memorial to some of those killed (I'm not sure if they are buried here). Be warned if you do visit, it's a tiny narrow road with a couple of  sharp corners & not suitable for anything other than a car. The multi layered cemetery itself must be one of the most well tended and tidy cemeteries I've visited, it also has a stunning outlook over the farmland and vineyards below and out to the coast.

I found another interesting memorial opposite the primary school at the bottom of the hill as I left the cemetery. Beside the memorial were a couple of bench seats where people could sit quietly or perhaps read a book, very fitting considering Eileen Duggan was a poet & writer. It's always interesting finding out where New Zealand's famous sons & daughters have come from. Not that I'd heard of Eileen before seeing the memorial, but then it's fun to learn of their history.

The Tides Run Up The Wairau – Eileen Duggan 

The tides run up the Wairau 
That fights against their flow. 
My heart and it together 
Are running salt and snow. 

For though I cannot love you, 
Yet, heavy, deep, and far, 
Your tide of love comes swinging, 
Too swift for me to bar. 

Some thought of you must linger, 
A salt of pain in me 
For oh what running river 
Can stand against the sea? 

After a pleasant few days at Damfam Vineyard we headed off towards Kaikoura, keen to drive SH1 for the first time since it had reopened after repairs following the devastating November 2016 Kaikoura earthquake. 

We did have to pull over for a photo stop just south of Blenheim though. The last few times we have passed by this historic Cob Cottage it has been surrounded by scaffolding as it was painted (it survived the earthquake undamaged). The cottage was built between 1854 & 1868 for the local Riverlands runholder and has been used as a farm cottage, shearers’ quarters, school, a store room and hay shed during its lifetime.

To be continued...

Tuesday 18 June 2019

An Eclectic Mix- Wellington


Pauatahanui Boat Sheds
From Mangatainoka we headed west over the Tararua Range via the Pahiatua Track, into the Manawatu and south to Wellington & the Plimmerton NZMCA Park...

...where, with rain and gale force winds forecast, we tucked ourselves into a corner hoping for a little bit of shelter and also to protect our slide-out from the southerly winds. Others also had the same idea although I think they may not had any TV reception due to the boundary building. The sun also didn't reach them until early afternoon and then only for a short time before it disappeared over the hills behind the park. 

We had a couple of places to visit in Wellington and friends to catch up with so we weren't in any hurry to board the ferry and cross over to the South Island. Which was just as well, what with the weather forecast & a holiday weekend coming up. It was time to do a little exploring.

The first place we visited was the Southward Car Museum at Paraparaumu, 30kms back up the highway. After a casual conversation with Dad when we were in Hawkes Bay, there was one particular item I wanted to see.

Southwatd Car Museum- don't you love the sign.
And here it is. This is Len Southward's speed boat 'Redhead', the first boat in Australasia to exceed 100mph on water, which he did on 22 Feb, 1953 across the Wellington Harbour. Later that year while attending a boat regatta after-function in Wellington, my father (aged 17) was invited with two others to take a ride in the boat with Len.....across the harbour at 100mph! Very cool eh? 

Here's the information and specs on 'Redhead', click on the photo to enlarge.

Once we had finished looking at 'Redhead' and watching the film clips of Len and the boat racing across the harbour, we checked out the rest of the museum's collection...

...which included a number of planes suspended from the ceiling, including this ex RNZAF de Havilland Vampire jet fighter.

We've visited a number of vehicle museums around the country and also attended various events where vintage vehicles are paraded including Napier's Art Deco, the Arrowtown Autumn Festival, the Whangamata Beach Hop and Southland's Crank Up amongst others and it never fails to amaze me how many vintage vehicles there are in this country and how well they are looked after. 

And because I already have hundreds of photos of very shiny vintage vehicles I decided to take photos of the more unusual cars at the Southward Museum. Problem was there were so many, including this 1920 Dodge Coupe 'Copper Car'.

And look at all these weird and wonderful creations! Rather than include photos of the information sheets for each vehicle, I've uploaded all my Southward Museum photos to a Flickr Album, click on this link to check them out.

I had to include this photo purely for sentimental reasons. After my sister & I got our licenses at 15, Mum & Dad bought us a car (living on the farm we used it to get to school, after school jobs, running errands & ferrying friends about). I really wanted a cool Ford Anglia (#2 car in the lineup) so was very disappointed when we only got a blue Ford Prefect (#1). Once we had our own money, my sister bought a Ford Escort (#3) and I bought a Ford Cortina (#4). Those were the days....

I'm sure the young lady who was polishing the cars while listening to her music thought I was taking a photo of her. I talked to her twice (but she didn't hear) and then I waited for so long to see if she would move on down the line but she just kept on polishing and polishing the first four cars.

Tony & Sue Collins 1926 Chevrolet 'Motorhome'- 3-1/2 years, 20,000 miles around the world
We enjoyed the museum, both reminiscing as we came across cars we were familiar with and we were pleased that we visited but we were both of the opinion that the best vehicle museum by far in the country is the Bill Richardson Transport Museum in Invercargill.

We have passed through Wellington many times as we've travelled up and down the country but have never stopped longer than a day or two and that has usually been at Evans Bay near the city centre. Now that we were parked up at Plimmerton I wanted to check out the Pauatahanui boat sheds, something I had wanted to photograph for a long time. 

It was a pleasant surprise to find out that they were only a few kilometres down the road. It wasn't pleasant that the weather packed up and I never got a chance to shoot the reflections and an early morning sunrise over the Pauatahanui Inlet though. I also didn't manage to capture the boat sheds at Titahi Bay, another perfect subject. 

I was quite excited to find a painting of Sam Hunt, his dog and one of his poems. I thought that this might have been his boat shed but on further research I found out that he owned Number 5, and darn it, I didn't take a photo of that particular shed! I'll just have to come back again. And on a sunny day.

We did manage to have one day out of the box, one of those days when Wellington shines with no wind, blue skies and warm sunshine. And as luck would have it, it was the day we decided to catch the train into the city. The Plimmerton Railway Station is just a short distance across the sports field next to the NZMCA Park. 

Luckily we decided to head into the city on the Friday (not only because of the weather), it wasn't until later we saw a sign saying that the trains wouldn't be running over Queens Birthday Weekend due to maintenance.

From the Wellington train station we walked along the waterfront towards Te Papa (Museum of New Zealand)

Photos clockwise- 1) Sealion' has an interesting paint job; hundreds of penguins and a few dozen sealions peering out at people passing by 2) Colourful Public Piano 3) Love Locks- Frank Kitts Lagoon Footbridge 4) Circa Theatre  5) Te Papa 6) Kapa Haka pedestrian lights

I had been disappointed that we didn't make it to see Peter Jackson's Great War Exhibition before it closed so when I heard that Te Papa & Weta Workshops' Gallipoli: The Scale Of Our War Exhibition had been extended I was keen to visit before it too closed (I've since found out that it won't close before ANZAC Day, 2022 at the earliest).

Te Papa- Museum of New Zealand
There was no missing where the exhibition was once we got inside.

No flash photography was allowed inside the exhibition and with it being quite dark and gloomy to suit the solemn atmosphere it would have been hard to photograph many of the displays anyway. I did manage to take photos of the life-like figures by winding my settings out to the max though.

Te Papa, working with Weta Workshops (Lord of the Rings fame), developed 'Gallipoli' into an interesting but sobering journey through the eight- month WW1 Gallipoli campaign in which 2,779 New Zealanders lost their lives.

Weta Workshop spent 24,000 hours of labour on the project, creating eight hyper-realistic (a genre of sculpture) human figures. The exhibition tells the story through the eyes and words of eight ordinary New Zealanders who found themselves in extraordinary circumstances. Each is captured frozen in a moment of time on a monumental scale – 2.4 times human size. The bowl under the last figure's feet is full of poppies that have added as people leave the exhibition. Visitors are invited to make a poppy up and write names on them to remember lost relatives or just the war itself.

It is truly an amazing exhibition, so well researched and displayed with 3-D maps and projections, miniatures, models, dioramas, and a range of interactive experiences that bring New Zealand’s Gallipoli story to life.

Sadly it is so realistic and very distressing to read about some of the experiences, that some people will find they may not be able to follow it through to the end- David included. Oh, the horrors of war.

Afterwards we took some time out to regather our thoughts and bring us back into the 21st century by visiting the revamped (since our last visit) Nature Zone exhibition which is on the same floor. I was pleased to see that the Colossal Squid (the only one in the world on display) has been returned for permanent viewing.

From Plimmerton we took a drive around the Pauatahanui Inlet stopping to get a photo of the beautiful historic St Alban's Church (of course) which was built in 1898...

...before blowing away the cobweds on the Pauatahanui Wetlands track which was just across the road. We walked right to the end visiting the two bird hides but of course at this time of the year there's not much to see on the ponds other than the usual ducks.

Although on the way home we did find a small flock of Royal Spoonbills/Kotuku Ngutupapa sheltering from the freezing cold wind and heavy rain that had begun to fall. Rain that didn't stop for a few days and overflowed the NZMCA Park's boundary stream which flooded the sports field next door.

Once the weather cleared and before the next winter low was due, we shifted 20kms over to the Petone Workingmens Club to catch up with friends on that side of the city. The Petone Club is an NZMCA CAP (costs apply parking), the cost is $10 per van per night and  power is available at no extra cost but it's first in first served; the caravan & bus in the bottom photo are on power.

Larger rigs need to come in the 'Out' gate, keeping an eye out for departing vehicles of course, as they won't get around the Club's building beside the 'In' gate. Also be aware if you are leaving to catch an early ferry sailing the 'Out' gate will be closed & locked. Luckily we were able to squeeze around the building and exit through the open 'In' gate because the carpark was nearly empty.

We had a good catch-up with our friends (fellow 5th-wheelers) and afterwards a lovely meal in the club with them (you don't need to be members, you just have to sign in at reception). 

With a day spare before we were due to cross Cook Strait, I went for a drive over to Wainuiomata. On the way back I stopped at the lookout overlooking Petone. Somes Island and the Wellington harbour are on the left.

Friday 14 June 2019

'Yeah Right'

Real Time

But don't panic, I'm just taking a short break to do the next three blogs before they too become history. I'll be back to do the remainder of the Far North & Northland posts as soon as possible. I certainly don't want to miss those as they take in our travels down the stunning & more remote areas of the Hokianga and the west coast of Northland and North Auckland.

We are now back in the South Island having left Napier nearly three weeks ago. Our first overnight stay was at the 'famous in NZ' Tui Brewery in Mangatainoka in the Tararua District. More on that later, but I think this just about sums up why I get so far behind on my blogs!

We had a lovely time in Napier, parked once again at our own private POP in Greenmeadows- on the concrete pad beside Mum & Dads'. We caught up family & friends, had numerous lunches & dinners out, celebrated a significant birthday and generally had a relaxing time. I'd been a little disappointed that we wouldn't be back in Central Otago for autumn again but in fact Hawkes Bay put on a wonderful display of colour.

My first port of call was nearby Anderson Park, to not only check on the colours, but more importantly, to check up on my favourite ducks. 

It didn't take me long to locate them either; my two Plumed Whistling Ducks were resting on the far side of the pond. Check out the link to find out why these ducks are very special, I have been checking in on them (there used to be three ducks) since 2013. 

While on my walk I also spied two mallard ducks roosting in a tree which is unusual behaviour for them. Duck shooting season had just begun so the ponds had more than their usual amount of waterfowl visiting, perhaps they were looking for some space. A pair of NZ Shoveler/Kuruwhengi ducks (bottom right) kept a wary eye on me as did two cute wee Grey Teal/Tete Moroiti ducks (centre left). On a later walk I was surprised to find one of the whistling ducks all by itself along one of the streams that join the ponds. In all my visits I have never seen them that far away from the top pond or by themselves.

I also spotted two more vagabonds; large (dinner plate size) Red Eared Slider Turtles that quickly disappeared into the murky depths when they spotted me. I've seen them before in one of the other ponds but not in this one, abandoned pets that have adapted to their new lifestyle in a suburban pond. They are regarded by conservation people as a pest, one of the world's 100 most evasive species.

I walked to the south end of the park on the look out for another regular visitor to the ponds; many of the trees along the way had changed colour or were in the process of changing. 

And sure enough, tucked in behind a tree, resting in his usual place on the miniature railway bridge, was another familiar bird; a rare White Heron/Kotuku. This particular bird and sometimes a smaller female have returned to Anderson Park for the winter for many years.

"If I look like a stick she might not see me"

Here's a photo I took of him on the same bridge railing, 6 years ago in 2013. I must have been visiting later in the month back then as the Swamp Cypress had already turned it's rustic red.

I did a couple of tiki-tour drives around the Bay on the lookout for more autumn colour and especially the golden tones in the vineyards. With many of the vineyards planted on the Heretaunga Plains, it was a little difficult to get above them to get an overall view of the rows. I took this one from the side of the road, just south of Waiohiki near Taradale. 

Never one to miss a photo opportunity (or two), I stopped just a little further on at Omahu to shoot these two abandoned houses. Not all Art Deco homes make it to the big time.

The golden colours were much more noticeable as I moved into the open expanse of vineyards near Roys Hill in the famous Gimblett Gravel area. I walked to the top of a small knoll in a reserve to look down on this great swathe of gold.

My next stop was across the other side of Hastings at the Te Mata Estate Winery in Havelock North. Te Mata Estate has some of the oldest winery buildings in New Zealand...

...and also one of the most recognisable houses. Buck House' sits in the Coleraine Vineyard, started by John Buck as part of his Te Mata Estate Winery. The house was designed by the late Sir Ian Athfield for the Buck family, was built in 1980 and is a NZ Heritage listed building. Buck House is an important example of Modern Movement architecture in New Zealand.

On my quest for colour I also travelled to the other side of Napier and managed to shoot more golden hues at the Esk Valley Estate Winery near Bay View (see below).  But of course the best autumn colour has to go to the Acer/Japanese maple trees. I found this magnificent specimen (below bottom) with its beautiful range of colours...

...beside a road side stall that had a ready supply of my most favourite autumn fruit; the humble fig. Ok, first equal favourite autumn fruit, it also sold feijoas!  I think these are Adriatic Candy, they were very sweet and very delicious. Between Mum & I, we kept the road side stall in business for a couple of weeks. I so know where I got my love of seasonal fruits from.

Of course a blog post wouldn't be complete without a church photo. This isn't just any old church though, this is 'The Old Church', near Taradale. Now a restaurant & wedding venue, St Mary of the Assumption Church was deconsecrated in 1972 and subsequently leased to the Taradale Pottery Club of which Mum was once a member and secretary.

I took one last walk around Anderson Park before we left Napier...

...it was amazing to see how much the Swamp Cypress had changed colour in the three week time frame between these two photos. We had a glorious autumn in Hawkes Bay and like summer we had no significant rain during the five weeks we were in Napier. Towards the end of our stay Mum & I were both hoping for a wet day so we could stay in bed for the day. But winter had arrived and it was time for us to leave sunny Hawkes Bay and head south. South to the middle of the South Island for a snowy, frosty winter (hopefully).

So that is how we found ourselves at the Tui Brewery for the night. But not before we stopped just north of Norsewood at Anzac Park (#3946 $2pp per night), for a late lunch with the thought that we might stay here for the night. 
OMG- what's with that photo on the back, now I have to get used to having it in my shots! 
But after a bite to eat and a quick walk through the bush- which I'm afraid didn't inspire me- we decided to continue on south. 

Next stop, Tuiwood!

The Tui Brewery is a POP (NZMCA Park over Property #4930) and the instructions said to drive around to Gate 3. We found the Gate but weren't too sure where to park so drove through the open gate and around the back of the brewery onto a lovely wide open sealed area. Could this be where we park, we asked ourselves.  'OK, stop David' I said, 'I'll take some photos before we turn around and find out for sure'. 

Just as I finished clicking away a ute came speeding up behind us. A lovely young man climbed out and explained that we shouldn't be here, the gate had been left open by mistake and when his boss saw us driving past on the CCTV screen he blew a foo-foo-valve. 

NZMCA parking is back through the gate on the large sealed patch just outside, which we thought was the case anyway but we just wanted to make sure and grab a few photos of the iconic tower without a chain-link fence between us while we were at it! He also gave us a tip on where to park to avoid the nearby security spot lights that burned bright all night.

We left the next morning before the Tui bar & cafe were open but we had a wander through the garden, checked out the brewery and the museum...

...before making our way to the sign board where we make up our signs (which had been on my 'must do' list for awhile).