Tuesday, 30 August 2016

From the hill

After all the miserable weather when the sun came out on Sunday I took my camera for a quick trip to town.  The sun didn't shine very brightly or with any warmth but the view from the lookout south of town was clear, the water in the harbour calm.    It's good to be home again, even if ever so briefly.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Mining and a natural bridge

On our last day trip we ventured south with no idea of where we were headed, our map of the area was hopelessly inadequate so we just headed that way to see what we could find.

Our noses lead us to Taharoa township, up a side road then back and up another until we came to the coast - and the Taharoa mine site which covers an area of 1,300 hectares.  Huge - and ugly.  Maybe even more ugly in the rain.  Or maybe the rain dimmed the stark ugliness of it. 

All I can say is I was surprised that the operation existed, I had no idea black sand was mined and exported to that extent.  But it's been happening since 1972 and there is a commemoration sculpture on the other side of the road to testify to that.

The black sand is extracted from a pond by a floating dredge, then conveyed to an adjacent floating concentration plant for processing. The concentration plant produces between 200 and 300 tonnes of magnetic concentrate an hour. The concentrate is extracted from the raw sand in a series of separation processes, then pumped in slurry form to a stockpiling area two kilometres away.
The slurry is pumped via pipeline to an off-shore single buoy mooring where it is transferred to a bulk carrier fitted with special dewatering equipment. The delivery system to the mooring1 is capable of pumping 2,500 dry long tonnes per hour through two pipelines.

Back in the village we stopped at the tiny store to get a drink and a snack bar or whatever was on offer to sustain us and were surprised as we walked in the door by the smell of hot food.  So we bought something to eat then proceeded to eat standing at the counter chatting to the lady behind the counter.  What a privilege it was to spend time with someone so positive, cheerful and grateful for her life and her community.  A life that I thought would be dull and dreary in such uninspiring surroundings is, in fact, full and eventful.  If ever they need to attract more residents to the area, she is the lady for the job. 

Some time later we came upon a sign and parking area at the Mangapuhoe Natural Bridge, which neither of us had heard of before.  There was a Department of Conservation truck in the parking area but no other vehicle, the rain wasn't too heavy, and we figured the trees over the path might keep us from getting soaked.

What we found was the best sort of surprise.  A path through the dense bush, a boarded walk beside the cliffs, across a swing bridge walkway and then a huge limestone archway, formed originally as a large cave which partially collapsed, leaving the Natural Bridge.  

Excuse the rain spots

Looking up through a hole in the archway and steps to the top.  Down below us on the left flows the Mangapohue Stream.


We carried on, eventually coming out on to SH3 at Waitomo, had a cuppa at the coffee shop located in the old railway station, then headed back out to the west coast.

During our last night the weather deteriorated even further with quite a strong wind springing up.  Time to go home.  And wouldn't you know it, the weather started to improve before we even left the coast.  

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Half way up or half way down

Believe me half way down is nowhere near as far as half way up.  I think I could easily have made it to the bottom but I'd still be crawling up those steps if I had.

I don't doubt the Bridal Veil Falls would have been even more beautiful from the bottom but I'm happy to never really know.

There are three natural harbours, close together, down along the west coast of the North Island between Auckland and Taranaki.  My friend, Chris and I stayed three nights last week at Kawhia,  the most southerly of them.  We found a sleepy little coastal paradise, quiet and laid-back.  The people we met were friendly and relaxed.  It is said to have 650 residents but I think the permanent winter population would be less than half that and more than half the houses are holiday homes. 

We had taken our spades to dig a hole and have a soak in the black sand beach which oozes hot water two hours either side of low tide.  That didn't happen, we decided it was too cold.

Despite the rainy weather, we filled our days exploring the countryside and visiting the other two harbours.  Raglan, to the north is a surfing mecca, the town has a great assortment of cafes, bars, surf shops and galleries.  Quite a contrast to Aotea Harbour, the smallest of the three. 


The next four shots are around Aotea Harbour:

A little side road took us down to the tiny village of Oparau on the banks of the Oparau River, which I'm sure wouldn't look quite so dismal in less rainy weather.  There was no hint of the bustling place it once must have been with a dairy factory, flour, flax and saw mills.   The school is closed and I wonder who lives there now, if this doer upper will ever sell.

The nearby Oparau Roadhouse is also for sale and, by contrast, is a thriving business.  There's no other shop for miles around and they have a  cafe, the general store, bar with summer beer garden, petrol pumps, art gallery and, as the owner Bill delighted in telling us, a Lotto counter where a winning ticket was sold a few weeks ago. We each bought a ticket, hoping their luck is holding.  It's not!

We stopped for a photo of the hole in the rock, the old shearing shed was a bonus.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Ah well.

I'm home again long enough to do the laundry and pack my bag to leave again next week. Hopefully the weather in Taranaki will be kinder to me than it was in the Waikato and the northern King Country.

But, on the bright side, the bad weather didn't really set in until the night we arrived in Kawhia.   It was mostly overcast and gloomy on our drive down and I can now be thankful that we stopped to take the photos we did and didn't leave it until the return journey.  

Somewhere around Glen Murray, I pointed the camera out the window when we stopped to check the map. 

We stretched our legs with a stroll around a lovely little roadside cemetery at Opuatia, somewhere near Pukekawa (I think).  I'd never seen a little bouquet like this tied to a cemetery fence before.  There was another on the other side of the gate. 

Every other time we passed this look out at the top of a hill overlooking Kawhia Harbour it was shrouded in mist, you couldn't see a thing.

Looking in the other direction, the road ahead winds its way towards our destination.

Our accommodation had front row seats for harbour views.  There was just a narrow one way road between us and the water.  We arrived in time for a couple of shots before dark of the harbour as the tide drained out.  I thought I had three more days for photos so didn't worry too much. 

The next morning, I got one more harbour shot before the weather closed in completely.

Ah well.

Friday, 19 August 2016


The new calves look keen for a photo shoot. 

Oh darn, there's always one looking the other way.

But when it's dinner time they ignore everyone and everything.  These five are being reared by my grand-daughter, Georgia.  She's doing a good job getting up and feeding them every morning before school and all. 

Elsewhere in the district lambs are arriving. These two were very recently born, having what could well have been their first suckle.  Hope the one on the ground that be bothered getting up doesn't think this will happen every time he's hungry. 

This ewe and her triplets (it's a bit hard to make out the third but it is there) are enjoying the grass and the sunshine.

Meanwhile, behind their fence, the cows are also enjoying the break from rainy weather.

Linking to Teresa's Good Fences.

Monday, 15 August 2016

On guard

I need to go to the grocery store.  But Bambi (yes, it's a goat called Bambi, don't ask) is on guard.  She's sitting there in the middle of the track outside my house, just waiting for me to disappear from view and she will be through the fence and nibbling on something in my garden.

When she's sitting like that you would never suspect she only has three legs.  One of the front legs is gone from the knee down, the only way to save her life when she was a baby.  But don't be fooled into thinking she can't move as fast as she needs to to keep away from me when I'm hot on her tail.  She makes up for in cunning what she lacks in speed.  

Friday, 12 August 2016

Spot the fence

I think I've mentioned a few times lately that it's been raining a lot.  This week there was even more rain.  Not as much here as in other places but enough to cause a puddle or two and too much for the creek to keep within its banks.  

My photos are a bit dark as it was very overcast and raining off and on as I came along the road.  All of them are taken from the car window. 

Just a post -the rest of the fence disappeared in a previous flood.

Thankfully none of these are taken on this farm.

 Some you can see, some you can't.

I'll be linking to Teresa's Good Fences.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Easy access

I have a new phone, courtesy of my son-in-law.  So although, to me, it appears to have all the bells and whistles, I guess it is already outdated. I've only had it a couple of weeks but it's made me cross a couple of times already.  OK, you're right, it hasn't made me cross.  I've got cross because I haven't been able to figure something out.  No matter how many times I check the settings, I still can't hear it when it rings.  Annoying.  And I find getting messages about emails and Facebook all a bit too "instant" for my liking.  

When I was at Jock's funeral (see previous post) at the weekend I was tempted and checked my messages when I went back to the car to get my camera.  Damn!  And double damn, I should not have done that.  It's not good to receive bad news when you are already feeling emotional.  It could have waited until I had been duly respectful to Jock.  I know my limits and knew I wouldn't be able to cope with the catching up with old friends and family that would follow the burial.  

AS I just said, I know myself and a well established behaviour for me is to skulk off by myself when I need to process something.  So that's what I did although I knew I wasn't up to driving home just yet.  So I headed out towards the coast where Jock used to live, in search of a place that fitted my mood.  

Before I left I took a few photos of the Northern Wairoa River as it winds through Dargaville, with the mountains of home in the background.  It's a muddy, muddy river and that day was a beautiful chocolate brown which I didn't manage to capture.

And one in the other direction of the river as it heads towards Pouto and the sea.  

I knew when I took the road down to the beach at Mahuta that I wouldn't be able to go too far as a four wheel drive vehicle is needed to access the beach.  I'd forgotten about the heather that grows on the roadside.            
I didn't go much further than the spot where I took this next photo.  The road turns rather quickly to sand and grows very narrow.  You can see it snaking its way out to the beach in the middle of the photo, to the left of where I was standing. 

I am so lucky to know of lovely, wild, untamed places like this, the kind of place I need when life seems a little bit harder than it needs to be.  When I need to shout out loud, "Oh, come on, life!  Not now!  Give me a break!"

It's amazing how much good a little time in such a place does for me.  I enjoyed my drive back home stopping to take a few more photos further up the river.   If you look carefully you might be able to make out the old railway line which runs between the road and river.  These days there is no rail service but the line can be explored on converted golf carts.  Must do that one day soon.  When summer comes perhaps.  It's far too cold right now.        

Monday, 8 August 2016


You grow older and somehow become more accustomed to death.  I do anyway.  I accept the passing of others a lot easier than I used to.  Sometimes, though, it is harder, when the departed one is young, for example, or dear to the heart or hold a special place in my memory.

Jock belongs in the latter camp.  I first met him not long after I arrived in  New Zealand to live at Pouto, on the Kaipara Harbour.  Not yet 30, I was nervous about meeting all these new farming folk.  We had come from Mt Isa, in north west Queensland, a big mining town with a great mix of nationalities, and its dry harsh landscape.  To a small, predominately Maori community in a lush green paradise. I hadn't yet learned the rules of being a farmer's wife.  I really do think there were rules back then.  Rural life was strange to me and I was worried about how I would "fit".  I now know that others wondered the same thing and doubted if I would "last". 

Jock was one of those people that I immediately felt as ease with.  I knew as long as I could give him a smile, I'd be good enough in his book.  In all the years I've known him, that never changed.  

Funny how the presence of some people weaves itself in and out of our life.  My son became friends with his son, it was my son and another friend who, in the early 70s came across the body of Jock's father when he died while out taking a walk.  In the late 70s my family stayed on Jock's property and milked his cows in return for a place to stay until the purchase of our new farm came through.  That is a very happy time that stands out in my memory.  It was like holiday time to me living right beside the beach, milking his small herd of lovely jersey cows through his quaint walk through shed, beach visits.

I hadn't seen Jock since March, 2009 when my family and I enjoyed a Back to Pouto weekend.  It was a time for my children to share with their children the playgrounds of their youth.

There used to be a sign at the entrance to the beach at Pouto Point (maybe it is still there, I don't know) that proclaimed it as the Place of Hidden Treasures.  That phrase describes it perfectly for me.  One of the treasures is the local people with its share of colourful characters and we are lucky enough to be related to a lot of them and to have lived amongst them for a few years.  Jock is one of those local treasures.  Even amongst the locals he is known as a legend.

He will be remembered also by tourists who ventured off the beaten track and went with Jock on one of his Kaipara Lighthouse tours.  He was a storyteller and had a hoard of stories of the shipwrecks, sailing ships and the early settlers that made that part of the Kauri Coast their home. Tourists were warned not to scream too much when Jock was driving them on his quad ranger dune buggy up and down the sand dunes otherwise he would go faster. I knew him well enough to know not to scream when he took me for a ride but I sure did squeal quite loudly with delight.  Im not sure who enjoyed Jock's tours more, him or his passengers.  He delighed in delighting others.

I have a feeling that Jock has given me a poke in the ribs from the other side, reminding me not to forget the old days.   To remember what it's like to feel the wind in my hair and to survive a pounding heartbeat.

After much pleading from the grandchildren he agreed to let them all pile into the back of his buggy and take them for a little ride.  He set out very sedately but we suspect that he livened things up a bit once he was out of sight of the parents.

Stopping for a chat with my older son and younger daughter. 

This little sand rocket turned 13 during the week.  It must be time we took her back to Pouto or she will forget the thrill of sand hill sliding.  Maybe we will tell her a tale or two about Jock.

Rest in peace, Jock.