Friday, 31 March 2017

Lucy's Gully

Isn't that a pretty name for a place?

I've driven past it many times, always with a shudder as I associate the place with the horrible discovery of a hitchiker's body there many years ago (2007).  The name has stuck in my mostly unreliable memory because of the contrast between the gruesome nature of the murder and the prettiness of the name of the place.

When I was last in Taranaki at the end of February I asked my friend Bev to join me for a trip to see what was there.  Although a local, she had never been there either.  It is, after all, just a little gully in the Egmont National Park which offers many spectacular sights.  But it doesn't have any trouble competing with the other attractions.  It's beautiful and historic, named after Lucy Stevens (a.k.a. Ruhira Matekai) who was born in the Gully around 1820. 

Just 3 kms off State Highway 45, otherwise known as the Surf Highway, up a narrow bush lined road, it's well worth a visit.    At the end of the road is a picnic area surrounded by bush and redwoods and entry to several walking tracks. 

Some time in the 1920s someone cleared the land and planted redwoods.  Now the native trees and ferns are fighting hard to resume their place, amongst the towering redwoods.  

There is wonderful feeling of peacefulness, and a light that is quite different to other native forests I've been in. 


A railcart adventure

Before Christmas I spotted a super deal on GrabOne and quickly grabbed a trip for four adults on a rail tour with Dargaville Rail and River Tours.  I had no doubt I would find three others to share the trip with me as a few friends and I had talked about doing it 'some time'.  Sure enough Chris, Mere and Kinny all jumped at the chance and we set a date.  

Only in two other places in New Zealand can you travel aboard modified golf carts driven on disused railway track.  This is the newest trip and the two guys who own and operate it are full of passion and determination to make it work.  And to extend the run past Tangowahine where it goes to now, to Waiotira, out the back of where I live.  The extended tour will pass through the back of this farm.  Can't wait to do that trip as well.

As you can imagine, I wouldn't be saying that if I hadn't thoroughly enjoyed this trip.

Mere took the responsibility of being our "driver", she even had to produce her driver's licence but all she had to do was control the speed.  With a top speed of about 15km/hour and with our fearless leaders/guides in the lead cart there wasn't much worry about her heavy foot.  Or in this case, hand, on the throttle.

Heading out alongside a farm track.

We slowed for farm crossings and stopped for road crossings but none of the stops detracted from the fun.  We also slowed for bridges, big and small, culverts, cuttings and tunnels.  And there were stops for brief accounts of the history of the line & the area. It’s an old logging track that Kiwi Rail no longer use but it allows a trip that is different and interesting.  

 Little bridge
 Bigger bridge

It was good to  see the three forms of transport side by side - road, rail and river.

At the turn around point the guides whipped out a folding table from their lead cart, flasks of hot water, tea and coffee.  And the most delicious cheese and date scones I've tasted in ages.  They don't advertise that at all.  I think they should.  It was most enjoyable stretching our legs and chatting with other cart-ers. While we the guests were indulged they set to turning the carts around. 

You'd think it might be boring just turning around and going back the way you had come.  But not at all.  We all still had big smiles on our faces. The clattering of the cart on the rails is an oddly comforting sound.  Maybe that's because I grew up in the days of old steam trains and it's the familiarity of the sound that I enjoy so much. 

I hear from a neighbour who overlooks the railway line to Waiotira that the guys have been working on the line, which has been badly overgrown.  It looks like they will be operating the longer trip soon.   Can't wait. 

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Turn left

Back in early February, my good friend Chris offered to save me from my housebound self and take me for a drive.  We decided to head to the west coast as we hadn't lingered when we'd been there a few weeks earlier for a railcart adventure (I'll tell you about that tomorrow perhaps.)

When going west, at the end of our road we come to a T junction and I've formed the habit of turning right there, and taking the road out to State Highway 14 which runs between Dargaville on the west coast and Whangarei.  This day, when we reached the junction instead of automatically saying "Turn right", I hesitated and we debated where the road might lead if we turned left.  It wasn't much of a debate, we turned left, we both like to explore.

We were both very happy with that decision.  As so often happens another world opened before us that you don't even imagine when traveling the main highways.  Wide open, rolling countryside.  It was very dry (we've had good rain since then).

We could see the Northern Wairoa River winding it's way through the valley below.

As we came down out of the hills we were intrigued to see the bridge over the Northern Wairoa from a totally different angle to that which we usually see.  I thought it looked quite elegant.

Our arrival in Dargaville was time perfectly for lunch.  We parked ourselves in the Blah Blah Blah Cafe, had a delicious lunch and had a good old catch up.

Then it was time to decide where to head next.  When you're so close to the coast, the beach in the obvious choice and Glinks Gully was our pick that day.

No, hold on a minute, first we went to the hill on which the Maritime Museum sits and got a couple of shots looking down over the town. Away in the distance are my hills of home.

and in the other direction south towards Tokatoka (that little sharp peak to the right of the shot) and the road to Pouto where once I lived many years ago.

Glinks Gully is a small seaside community of colourful baches. seaside cottages and fresh sea breezes.  It was a beautiful day, warm but a bit windy which meant all my photos are a bit hazy from the sea spray.  

The view was better from up amongst the houses hugging the beach hillsides.

Monday, 27 March 2017

It's been a while ..

Yes, it sure has been a day or two since I felt I had the time or energy to blog again.  I had an accident just after Christmas, nothing too serious and my own silly fault.  You'd think I'd know by now to watch where I put my feet when on uneven ground, where a trip could result in a serious tumble down a bank and possibly into a dam.   The knock on the head meant I couldn't focus long enough to prepare a blog post and with only one working arm it would have been difficult anyway.  And sitting did not agree with my broken rib.  

Time, as they say, is a great healer and proved so in this case.  Time and the healing of physiotherapy.  

Just before Christmas I'd been offered the position of manager at the lodge/school camp in the forest next door to where I live. ( I had been thinking it over, trying to decide whether I had the physical fitness to handle it.   In my knocked about state I convinced myself that when I recovered I'd be as fit as a fiddle.  As it turned out, in my fuzzy head I had a much younger fiddle in mind. 

It's taken me a while to adjust to being so active again, to learn the ropes.  I think I'm right now.  I love the time I get to spend in the bush, the interactions with the teachers and students who come for school camps and the various groups who use the lodge at the weekend.  

Every time I go to the lodge I cherish the moment where I leave the road in to the forest through neighbouring farmland (above), come to the forest boundary and enter the bush.

I just love the times I get to sit quietly by myself, usually while I'm waiting for guests to arrive, and watch the light gently filtering through the trees.

or sitting delicately on a leaf

It's good to be back.  I hope I have time to visit my old blogging friends before too long.