Tuesday, 28 January 2020

Princes Road

For my sisters' last night in New Zealand we stayed with my daughter at the house with the river view in Ruakaka where she is house-sitting at the moment.

I visited Leone again on Sunday.  It was a hot day so we went looking for a tree to sit under near the water and have our lunch.

This prettily decorated tree was waiting for us.  There were Christmas tinsel and baubles, and hand made decorations as well as someone's little treasures.

It was simply the most delightful place to enjoy our fish and chips.

I hope those responsible know how much pleasure they brought to others. 

Sunday, 26 January 2020

What's that cloud called?

Wikipedia gives descriptions of various clouds but I need pictures.

It appeared in the evening gloom as I was watering a few struggling plants.  Those dry paddocks could do with some water, too.  

Friday, 24 January 2020

And I go nowhere

I recently booked a flight to Australia with Air New Zealand, my airline of choice.  They then felt obliged to let me know my statistics for the past year.
You took 17 flights in 2019.

You travelled 5,691 kms.
I know there's no point arguing, but I did have a good long think about how that was possible, if you asked me I'd say I never go anywhere, I'm a real stay-at-home.  Except, it would seem, when I'm not visiting my daughter in Taranaki or making a trip to Australia to visit my family.  No wonder I'm always saving my pennies.  I will have a grandchild born in Brasil this year (oh joy) so I'll need to save a bit more than pennies.

Thursday, 23 January 2020

Going north and coming home

This sign amused my sisters, especially the pair of old boots left under it.  We'd stopped at the Mungamuka Gorge Scenic Reserve where I'm pretty sure there was once a lookout but the bush had grown and all we could see was bush all around us - and a truck stopped to assist broken down foreign tourists.  

I'd chosen to drive north to Kaitaia via the Mungamukas because it's a good road, never has much traffic and is a delight to drive if you enjoy driving.  It's said by motoring buffs to be the fourth best road in NZ to drive.  It could well have been designed by a motorbike rider.  It twists and turns so effortlessly.

We'd stopped earlier at the Twin Bridges where two rivers meet.  I knew my sisters would enjoy a little walk along its banks - we grew up with a creek as our holiday playground.

We took the long way home on the return journey, visiting the east coast beaches.

GB, this is for you.  Graham may remember that when I took him to Russell I missed the turnoff to the lookout on the hill overlooking Russell.  I made extra sure I was going slow enough to make the turn this time.  
One of my favourite spots - Te Ngaere Bay

My sisters have gone back to Brisbane and the heat now.  The house seems strangely quiet without them. They enjoyed the cooler climate.

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

The Far North

Until a couple of years ago I would drive my visitors roughly (in distance but some might say my driving) 4 hours north to the lighthouse at the northerly most tip of New Zealand.  I'd give them a glimpse of 90 Mile Beach on the West Coast and visit a few of the beautiful East Coast Beaches, looking down my nose a bit at the poor tourists in their big buses who couldn't stop to take photos whenever they chose.  

Then the day came when I wanted to take two grandchildren there and I couldn't face all that driving so I booked us on one of those buses.  Now I'd never do the trip any other way, I tell anyone who will listen what a wonderful experience it is to travel with Harrisons, the Kaitaia local bus company.  Their driver/guides are local Maori men who love their land and know their culture and history and delight in sharing it.  They also know the west coast beach which can be as treacherous as it is beautiful, and can navigate it safely. 

When I made the trip last week with my sisters, the tide was rushing in leaving only a narrow strip of sand 'road' and the driver was in a hurry to get safely past the Bluff, the only rocky outcrop along the full length of the beach.  No time for photos.  Ah well.  I'd left my camera behind and only had my phone anyway.

The bus slowed to give us a look at a long dead whale that had been washed up onto the beach in recent rough weather. The whiff of it from inside the bus was enough to keep us happy to keep moving.

We finally got out to stretch our legs when we reached Te Paki Stream where the bus leaves the beach and the driver felt safe from the incoming tide. 

Which way to point the camera?

Looking up Te Paki Stream and the sand dunes

There was very little water in Te Paki Stream, so most people who took part in the dune riding didn't get very wet when they reached the bottom.  

There were a number of Chinese children on our bus and they had a delightful time on the Beginners Slope.  You can see from the footprints in the sand that a few of them got braver after a few short slides and ventured to the top.

Before heading to the lighthouse we had a light lunch under the trees at Tapotupoto Bay.  A few hardy souls went for a swim. Harisons have a fleet of powerful all terrain 4 x 4 truck to bus conversions.  There is another one in the background.  I was delighted to see they had three busloads going to the cape that day as when I went last in September there were no tourists around and they weren't running but being the amazing company they are, they ran a small bus for my niece and me and a young English couple.  

I was happy to photograph my sisters walking down to the lighthouse.

While I was taking a photo of the flax flowers I overheard a man telling someone about harakeke and it took me a while to remember that is the Maori word for it. It is endemic to New Zealand and had played an important part in the history of both the Maori people and European settlers. 

Monday, 20 January 2020

Three sisters

I've just had two of my sisters from Australia to visit.  

But before that I had a bout of pneumonia which was just getting better when they arrived, so I got off to a slow start in entertaining them.  I was lucky to have my two daughters around to help for the first couple of days which we spent in Auckland.

Three sisters

I can't remember which daughter came up with the idea of visiting the Wintergardens at the Auckland Domain, perfect for someone who is feeling a bit breathless but also for anyone who loves flowers.  So that's where we headed after a quick trip to Bastion Point to take in the harbour views.


The wintergarden is two Victorian styled glasshouses - one is heated, the other is cool.  There is also a delightful fernery.  Between the two glasshouses is a Japanese looking pool surrounded by a roman looking building and statues.  At least that's how they looked to me.

I think my favourite was the tropical room with so many strange plants I've never seen or heard of before.  I just enjoyed them visually, didn't take note of their names.  The colours were so vibrant.

The gardens are owned and maintained by the Auckland City Council.

Monday, 6 January 2020

Love of country

Say what you like about nuns and education (and I often do have a lot to say about it) but, along with love of God the nuns of my schooldays drummed into us love of our country.  There was a fair bit of fear of them involved which is an odd way to teach love.  But most of what they drummed into us has stuck.

I was born and bred in Australia and to this day, although I live in another country, I love Australia in a way that would make those nuns proud.

When horrible things happen in Oz I console myself with old classroom poems that I still remember, or to be more precise, lines from those poems because there are only a couple that I can remember from start to finish.  One of those poems, is by Australian poet Dorothea Mackellar 1885-1968.  Her family owned substantial properties in the Gunnedah district of New South Wales which currently has bushfires not far away.

These are the verses of "My Country" that sustain me.

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror
The wide brown land for me!

Core of my heart, my country!
Her pitiless blue sky,
When, sick at heart, around us
We see the cattle die
But then the grey clouds gather,
And we can bless again
The drumming of an army,
The steady soaking rain.
An opal-hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand
though Earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly.

There are lines from another poem by the same poet (yes, she is a firm favourite of mine) titled "Colour" that comes to mind when the countryside gleams after a good downpour of rain.
Great saffron sunset clouds, and larkspur mountains,
And fenceless miles of plain,
And hillsides golden-green in that unearthly

Clear shining after rain;

Yesterday, when our skies changed colour to a weird, murky colour causing near darkness by mid afternoon, it was a  horrible and powerful reminder of those bushfires in Oz, a new level of awareness to us who live 2,000 kms from the danger zone.  Later in the day the sky turned almost orange but my camera simply refused to acknowledge the colour.    I can't imagine the horror for those who know there is fire coming towards them when their world changes colour.

I hope the horror doesn't continue for much longer and the hillsides are once again golden-green in that unearthly clear shining after rain.  But I fear for the future of Australia and what will be it's new normal because I'm sure it won't be the normal of it's past.

Thursday, 2 January 2020

The mountain and the creek

After a couple of easy days with very little exercise, my family were ready for some outdoor pursuits.  Justine shared one of her favourite walks with us, the Maude Track to Mangakotukutuku Falls.  One of the things I appreciate about my family is they encourage me to do what I can but are not disappointed when I can't keep up, one of them always drops back from the leading group to keep me company.

From the parking area at the end of the road we crossed open farmland with magnificent views back to the coast.  I'd had enough by the time we reached the bushline but they found me a lovely shady place to sit under a tree while they carried on.  I didn't have my camera but took a few shots with my phone.

They weren't quite so perky when they returned.

It's a bit embarrassing to admit I couldn't keep up with a three year old.  Little Lexis tramped along with great determination, walked the whole way to the waterfall and back, 5.6kms.  

I was really keen to get down to the creek that forms the boundary of my daughter's property.  If you've been following me for a while you will know how I love a rocky creek.  I don't know which I love most - the sound of water tumbling over rocks or the sight of it.   I think I will have to settle for the sound because try as I might I just couldn't get right down to the water.  My kids and grandkids all helped me but I would have distressed them if I'd crept any closer.  I don't think they relished the idea of trying to get me back up that bank if I fell.

The little one was not impressed with being left with her mother and grandmother to keep me company.  Mind you, she managed to fall over in the creek and was happy after that, despite the fact she was shivering with cold.  That water comes from melting snow on the mountain.  

My son-in-law has promised to cut steps into the bank to make the creek more accessible.  I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, 1 January 2020


It's quite a long drive from here to my younger daughter's home in Taranaki but it was easy travelling for me in the passenger seat with my older daughter at the wheel.  Traffic was light all the way, even through Auckland which is usually a nightmare. We arrived after about seven hours driving plus a couple of comfort stops.

My son and his family arrived on Boxing Day.

Santa's little helper was all smiles.

 although it was hard to be constantly enthusiastic

For me, any Christmas is better with little children.  My little great-granddaughter was a delight to watch.

At the end of the day, as her grandfather worked the barbeque, she finally convinced my daughter's little dog she was harmless.  I was quite surprised how the dog accepted her attention as he isn't used to little children.

Ahh, it was a long day for a little girl - and a little dog.

At the end of the day we decided to take a quick walk up the road for a breath of fresh air.  The air was a bit fresher than we had anticipated so we didn't go far. 

A happy Granny and her six grandchildren.  The little one was having a nap.