Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Pukekura Park

After chasing a reflection at Lake Mangamahoe and driving through Te Henui cemetery, the clouds were rolling in but it was still too nice a day to be inside.  Pukekura Park is just around the corner from where my daughter is living at the moment, so I headed there, to the little cafe in the park, for my lunch.

A stroll around the grounds is always a delight.  The colours of spring were everywhere and, to add to my pleasure somehow or other a group of four high school boys came to be walking along with me.  They came up behind me on a pathway and when I moved aside to let them go by, one said they weren't in any hurry and they slowed their pace to walk alongside me, and for a few magical minutes we chatted so easily and happily, I was left feeling elated.  If the youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow, our future is in safe hands.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Mangamahoe and the cemetery

I don't know what I've been doing with my time since I returned from Taranaki but there hasn't been any left over for blogging.  

Whenever I'm visiting Taranaki I become obsessed with the mountain.  Slowly over the last 6 years or so I've managed to photograph it from many angles but there was one shot that evaded me.  Lake Mangamahoe with the mountain reflected in it.

The day before I was to return home, when I dropped my grandson off at school, the mountain was clearly visible and there was little wind so I scampered along the road to check out the lake.  I didn't have my camera with me so used my phone.  There were slight ripples on the water but this is the best result I've had so far.

Lake Mangamahoe supplies drinking water for New Plymouth District.   No boating or swimming is permitted in the lake so there is little to disturb the wildlife, it's duck heaven.  They were everywhere enjoying the sunshine.

Obviously they weren't hungry.  Although quite a few were gathered near the picnic area, they didn't bother to see if I had anything for them.

Male mallard

I think this is a young female mallard.  Her colours were softer than they usually are.

Kowhai lining the road into the lake

By the time I had rushed back to my daughter's house and grabbed by camera, the wind had got up and cloud was drifting across the mountain.  But it was too nice a day to not be outside so I decided to go to the cemetery.  As you do.  

There's a certain magic to Te Henui Cemetery that makes it unlike any other I've seen.  It covers 36 hectares and is maintained by volunteers.  It's very tranquil and beautiful and the volunteers look up from their weeding or mowing to greet you.  I could only drive through and stop to take a photo out the car window when I wasn't impeding traffic, as there was a funeral in progress and no parking spaces available.

Friday, September 20, 2019


Reminders that spring is here are all around.  My favourite shot this spring was taken up north at Houhora Harbour where I spotted these managing to survive in a dead tree stump in the harbour.  Not a great photo but I admired the tenacity of the plants.

My rhododendron tree has finished flowering but they were everywhere, in all their glory, around New Plymouth where I spent the  past ten days. Usually it's cooler there but this morning, my first back home, I wasn't so sure.  It felt like winter was giving it one last shot.  

The azaleas which line my driveway are abundant this year.  Maybe I'm imagining it but the flowers seem pinker than in previous years.

While in Taranaki last week I was reminded of walking around in Dingle in Ireland and spotting a plant I didn't recognise.  I asked several passersby if they knew what it was but each one suggested I ask the guard, he was the local gardener.  Except I wasn't quite sure if they were saying the guard or something else, and if they were saying the guard, who the guard was and where he/she lived.  Finding the guard led to a few more conversations with locals but I still had no idea I was looking for the local policeman which may have explained why some of those conversations seemed a little odd, to me at least.  I was wanting to identify a plant, why were people so concerned for my wellbeing and offering assistance if I needed it?

Anyway, the guard was delightful and only too happy to engage in his favourite subject - plants.  I was given a personal tour of the guard house gardens.   Turns out the plant was Gunnera and the ones I saw in Dingle were huge, much bigger than the plant I found in the back yard of my daughter's rented home in New Plymouth.  I can't recall seeing them here in the north of the country, I guess it is too hot and dry for them.

I also learned from the guard that the rhododendron is on the Irish Invasive Species List.  It really thrives in their climate creating dense thickets, blocking the light and reducing biodiversity.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Back down the east coast

After our day trip to the North Cape we had a leisurely all day trip back home via the east coast beaches.  We took the scenic route all the way.

After the horrid weather of the previous day this day was bright and shiney.

Finally, at Paihia in the Bay of Islands, Digby got to touch the water.

We took the ferry from Paihia to Russell.  Digby is a landscape gardener so appreciated the huge old Moreton Bay Fig,  planted in 1870, on the front lawn of Russell's first police station building.

We took a short drive to the Waitangi Golf Club:

We arrived home just as the sun was setting on my hills of home.  And dark clouds were gathering again.

Tired but nothing a cold chicken dinner,  a glass of wine and good company couldn't fix.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Harrison's of Kaitaia

Kaitaia is the last major settlement on State Highway 1 as you head north to Cape Reinga, the northern most tip of the country.  The population is around 5,000 and the main industries are forestry and tourism.  Tourist numbers to the area have been exceptionally low lately, so low that the tour buses along Ninety Mile Beach to the cape have often not been running due to lack of passengers.  

When I was planning an activity for a visitor from Australia, a trip to the Cape was top of the list.  I've done the bus trip before with the local Kaitaia company, Harrison's and was rather devastated when I was told they didn't have a tour going the day I wanted to go.  I thought I might be able to go with one of the tour groups from the Bay of Islands but their tourist numbers are also down and they weren't running either.

But all was not lost.  I had chosen to stay two nights at Norfolk Motel in Awanui and I was about to witness what Kim can accomplish to keep her guests happy.  I had asked her to book the tour for me so it was she who had to ring me to tell me there were no tours running.  None at all - for the first time in her 10 years at the motel.  When she told me I went quiet, mainly because I was so disappointed but also because I was trying to think of a way I could juggle the time still available to us to fit in a drive to the Cape.  It seems not many people go quiet when they hear similar news because it was that quietness that, when she reported it to Harrisons, prompted them to say they would run the tour for just the two of us and another couple who were keen to go.  

I still can't explain my surprise and gratitude to Harrison's for doing that.  How many companies would run a truck/bus from 9 am to 4.30 pm, over 200 kms with nearly half of that along the beach for just 4 customers?  

Harrison's have designed and purpose built a fleet of powerful all terrain 4 x 4 truck to bus conversions.  They are fitted with huge super single tyres and are the first in New Zealand to have this feature. This makes for safer beach operation and passenger comfort. The seats are ordinary bus seats and large panoramic windows ensure you see everything there is to see.  

Harrison's photo of their truck bus Cape Runner heading down Te Paki Stream

Depending on the tide, a tour to Cape Reinga will go north along the beach and back down the road or vice versa.  The day we went the weather was foul but the atmosphere on the bus was bright and cheerful.  It's hard not to be happy out on that magnificent wild west coast beach in the company of Selwyn Subritzky, driver/guide extrordinaire.  The wind was strong, forcing the waves well up on to the beach, although it was low tide, and leaving just a narrow strip on which to drive the bus.  In conditions like that it's comforting to know you are in the hands of one who has been born and bred in the area and who knows every dangerous quirk a west coast beach has to offer.  Forecasted intermittent showers were actually intermittent downpours, there was hail and lightning and every minute of it was fantastic!

The Subritsky Family are almost legendary in the Far North and Selwyn shares their story of early settlement in a way that brings history alive and his love of his land shines through. 

I found it difficult trying to stand still out on the beach with my back to the wind to take a photo.  My guest managed it on crutches!

Waves as far as the eye could see - and a little seal

One of the features of the tour is departing the beach by driving up Te Paki Stream to the sand dunes just south of the cape which are like a huge natural sandboarding fun  park.

Heading up Te Paki Stream
The hardy young English couple were keen to have a go at tobogganing but were beaten by a  sudden hailstorm.

 A long climb up the dune

and a quick run back down to the shelter of the bus

Usually the walkway to the lighthouse at Cape Reinga is crawling with people but this day there were only a handful of people, all of them friendly and laughing at the silliness (but fun) of it as we struggled to stand up straight.

Te Werehi Beach with Cape Maria van Dieman barely visible 

We ate our lunch in the bus at Tapotupotu Bay as more hail fell but the weather cleared just enough for a quick hop off the bus for a photo.

That was the story of the day really.  Deciding whether to wait for the rain to pass or take a walk and be prepared for a quick dash back to the bus.

Every photo was a quick point and shoot.  This one at Rarawa Beach on the way back.

I love this part of the country and thank Harrison's and Selwyn, for showing us the best of it - in comfort.  I hope the tourist numbers pick up soon and that you both prosper.

Monday, August 26, 2019

By the beach

I had a night at the beach which is only 40 minutes away but the lifestyle is a bit of a contrast.  I stayed with my daughter in a renovated old house sitting right on the harbour.  Road access was up a little side street I've driven past for years and had no idea the beach was just on the other side of the houses.  

Most of the houses along that side of the road have gates opening on to the grassed verge to allow boat access to the harbour.

Saturday was a changeable day.  Brilliant sunshine one minute, then dark clouds, blustery winds and heavy showers.  

Looking to the left towards the marina entrance

Around a bit to the right is the Marsden Point Oil Refinery.  There was a huge container ship at the wharf.

The light constantly changed throughout the day.

The interesting, craggy peaks on the other side of the harbour are Mt Manaia at Whangarei Heads.  The legend is they represent the family of a Maori ancestor who were turned to stove through ritual chants in a dispute over the infidelity of his wife.  

Sight of the weekend for me was seeing this magnificent sight going slowly down the channel heading out to sea.  I'm pretty sure it is the R. Tucker Thompson, an iconic tall ship which is usually based in the Bay of Islands.  A few minutes after I took this they had another two sails up and were picking up speed quickly. 

Sunday, August 18, 2019


I don't know how there are any flowers left on my rhododendron tree, there are so many carpeting the ground below it.  The wind has been strong today and the little flowers being blown against the windows are making little pitter patter sounds.

I have lovely flowers inside the house, too, thanks to my younger daughter who I met in Matakana for lunch on Friday.  She had been in Auckland to speak at an event she organised and we'd arranged a catch up along with Caralee, her guest speaker from the Gold Coast in Australia and Caralee's mother.  

Justine and Caralee are Instagram bloggers (I think that's what's they're called). It's a whole world of stuff I don't understand.  They both write about healthy eating and lifestyles.  And the number of people who read their posts and follow them is astonishing.  Caralee has published a few cook books and has 12,100 followers.  My daughter has 3,900 which I thought was pretty out there until I met Caralee!  

Anyway, I now have a lovely, modern cook book - professional photos, high quality paper with pretty basic, healthy recipes and Master Chef presentation.  I think it belongs on the coffee table more than in the kitchen where I'd worry about getting it messy.

Mothers and daughters enjoyed a first class lunch at the restaurant at the Sculptureum in Matakana.  If I close my eyes I can still see (and taste) that beef cheek.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Spy camera

My camera is still being temperamental.  I suspect the 'fix' was temporary.   The cell phone takes OK photos but doesn't perform as binoculars as well as the camera does.  With my eyesight not as sharp as it used to be, I'm now in the habit of reaching for the camera when I want a closer look at something.

Something caught my eye on the farm the other day.  A flash of white where there shouldn't be any.  I used the phone and the result was no help whatsoever in identifying the white thing - it had moved!  So my guess was it was a vehicle across on the side road.

But I quite like the photo I got anyway.  The little white you can see on the left is a puddle from recent rain. 

Oh yes, there has been a lot of rain.  Today we're having several seasons in one day.  This morning was warm and sunny.  I heard the roll of distant thunder as I was heading home from the lodge.  An hour or so later a poor excuse for a storm passed over us,  now it is dull, overcast a bit windy and getting cold.