Saturday, 26 April 2014

Points North

Spent a few days staying with my mother. One evening there in the suburban depths of Palmerston North, we watched the eclipse of the moon, clearly seen from the driveway. 

It was surreal and unexpected; standing there on the flat, grey concrete in the shadow of the street-lights on an otherwise normal early evening, peering above the scruffy outline of Mum's neighbour's shrubs and roof-line, to see the extraordinary sight of the moon turning blood-red. 

Mum has some quaint things in her home, things that have been 'in place' for years. This is a kiwi pin-cushion & cotton reel holder, that my brother made in Woodwork Class, many years ago now.  
I'm pretty sure I made this shell-covered jam jar when I was in my teens. It's been home for the small Christmas cracker novelty for goodness knows how many years now.

I've never fully understood how barometers work - something to do with air pressure ... All I know is Mum taps it daily with a knowledgeable and inquiring expression. 


Mike and Kate travelled over from Taranaki and stayed for the weekend. It's always good to spend time with them. Shame we all live on different islands. 


My sister and her partner came to pick me up and take me back to their place in the Hutt Valley for a couple of days, before I caught the plane back home.

On the way, we stopped at Forest Lakes, near Otaki, for a bit of a wander and some bird watching.

I didn't manage to take a photo of any the of New Zealand dabchicks we could see swimming on the pond, but was rather taken by a spider's nest. I remember as a child opening such nests in order to see the baby spiders pour out like black rain. I was still to learn about the kindness of leaving such beautiful things intact.

 Another stop to look out over the ocean running on to the sands of the Kapiti coast.


 Jill and Dave have chickens and a bountiful vegetable garden that produces very large onions and many other examples of a well-fed garden's glorious munificence. 

 The remainders from a large haul of apples from their apple tree. (Wonky proof of un-modified, organic produce).

Jill managed to pick up an apple peeler and corer at a second-hand shop - for $5. A bargain! 

After peeling and slicing, she boiled the apple pieces and transferred them to jars which were then positioned in a pressure-cooker / canner.

Voila! Stewed apple ready for winter pies.

On Easter Saturday, we drove to a place I had never been before. A place called Ngawai, on the south coast of the North Island. 

On the way to Ngawai we drove through the very green countryside of the Wairarapa. (I've never seen such large mailboxes!)

An extremely photogenic old farm building.


I was intrigued by the line-up of bulldozers and tractors that are used to pull in boats from the sea.

A fan of tractors at the best of times, I thought I had arrived in tractor heaven.


Thursday, 3 April 2014


Last entry re my road trip and then I will stop boring you! 

 Lookout at Tautuku, Catlins

By the time I'd reached my third solo day 'on the road', I was ready to stop somewhere for more than one night. I was looking forward to a two-day spell in the forest with the beach a stone's throw away. I was heading for the Catlins, turning the corner at Invercargill and heading east.

The night in Te Anau had been pleasant enough (great to walk by the lake and acquaint myself again with Te Anau's magic) but the motel's frugal approach didn't really go down too well with me, considering what I was paying. Not top dollar, but enough to expect a little more luxury than it was willing to give. Maybe they thought that having a lake-view makes up for only allowing one hour's internet, no Sky TV and a bathroom dating back to the 70's. It was very clean and tidy and I would normally accept those things, but not when you are paying over one hundred dollars a night.

 patterns on the sand at Kaka Point beach

My third day on the road started with me struggling with the effects of not getting a good sleep in Riverton. I was staying in a nice little ensuite unit at a small camping ground. No problems there. It had an oustanding shower! I liked the manager too - a chatty, friendly elderly woman who reminded me a bit of my mother. (I guess it's the Southland-flavour some people have). And the price was almost half the price of  Te Anau's motel. It was very comfortable and I was looking forward to settling in for a good long sleep. Until my neighbours in the attached ensuite arrived and I realised how thin the walls were.

beach at Kaka Point

They talked on into the night. There was no laughing; it was all pretty intense. I was on tenterhooks waiting for the outbursts of shouting I thought were going to occur at any moment. His voice in particular was a deadly drone I couldn't stop hearing once I'd turned the TV off to settle down for some sleep. I couldn't hear what they were saying, thank goodness, but there was still the constant, annoying, monotonous grumble for me to try and drown out.

I turned on the little radio that in an inspired move I'd included in my luggage, stuck on the headphones which I'd also thought to pack, and tried to let the late-night radio stations block out my neighbour's voices and soothe me to sleep. 

It did succeed in cutting out his persistent bass, interspersed by her whining alto; but didn't send me to sleep. 

FINALLY they stopped their into-the-night deep and meaningful. 

At 2.00 a.m.

My planned early start had been kyboshed by the need to sleep late and I woke feeling decidedly out of sorts. It was already 11.00 a.m. when I headed for Invercargill and brunch at Zookeepers, where toasted sandwiches are still called mousetraps. (None of this panini malarky).

However, just as I was about to leave Invercargill, I received a call on my phone from the camping ground manager. I'd left my phone charger behind. Probably the most common mistake of any traveller.(Well, this traveller anyway). There was nothing for it but to turn around and make the 30-min trip back to Riverton.

sea lettuce on Kaka Point beach

An hour later, charger safely aboard, I looked at the maps we have in the car, trying to work out how to get out to Fortrose from Invercargill. I haven't got the world's best sense of direction, but better signage surely would have lessened the time - it took me nearly an hour. Invercargill; you need more signs pointing to places beyond - especially East. I would have welcomed a clear signpost pointing to Fortrose.

Eventually, a very large, clear, bright sign informed me I had entered the Catlins. Hmmm, yes, all very well, but why did I feel like I'd been put through some sort of intelligence test (at which I'd dismally failed) to get there? I almost expected to see the word, Congratulations!

Kaka Point beach looking towards Nugget Point and lighthouse

By the time I reached my destination, I was weary. I had no time to take the coast route, so the trip wasn't as interesting as it could've been. I'd not allowed myself enough time. That will have to be another trip.

The weirdness of travelling alone had also increased. Sooo, when I couldn't find the guy who had the key for the Lodge I'd booked into (and no phone coverage to read the instructions for collection that were on my phone) it all became too hard. I decided on the spot to simply head back home to Dunedin. It would mean another 2 hours travelling, but now that my  nose was pointing towards home, there was going to be no turning back.I was too near home and the temptation to flee the scene was too strong. (Proving again that by nature I am a bolter).

Fortunately, Kaka Point was on the way to Dunedin. I stopped off there for a welcome barefoot stroll along the beach. It was a much-needed salve for my jaded nerves and dispelled any feeling of being lost in transit. I felt grounded once again.

I stopped at Owaka for dinner where I was served by an earnest young waitress who deserves top marks for her Girl Guide approach to service. However (yes it had been quite a day for the 'howevers') I was served a souless, over-priced beef-burger which consisted of a too-toasted bun soaked in mustard sauce and a couple of pieces of tough beef, all questionably embellished with limp lettuce and too many deep-fried potato chips. The meal was cooked by a cook (again, spectacularly young) who may or may not have been suffering from what the night-before had inflicted upon his person and demeanour. I didn't have the heart to complain to my fresh-faced waitress. When she asked me how my meal was, I choked back the truth and found in me the necesary kindness to muster up a (albeit rather strained) "Good, thanks".

 back to the golden sands of St Kilda beach

Aggie-cat was pleased to see me when I got home. I gave Ruby a pat too when I turned off the engine. She did me proud. All told, we'd been on the road for over 8 hours that day.

Over all, the trip away was great. The time with Chris and Jenny in Queenstown, definitely the highlight.
Having a coffee at 'Aunty Mary's', very, very special.

My writer's tank is full. To the brim. Many impressions, much inspiration  ... I'm ready now to use it all up by writing, writing, writing at a hundred miles an hour. (After another walk along the beach. My beach, this time).

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

There's Life in the Old Girl Yet (Orepuki)

Travelling from Te Anau to the south coast involves driving part of the way, cheek-to-cheek with the ruggedy old Takitimu mountain range.

I stopped off at Clifden Bridge - a notable (the first in fact) suspension bridge over the Waiau river. The bridge has been classed as 'a New Zealand engineering achievement of outstanding heritage significance'. (Is it just me, or is the syntax a bit off there?)

Farther south, at the town of Tuatapere, the Waiau river makes its final leap to the coast.

Sad to see this on the Waiau bridge - about seven years ago a relative of mine drowned here on his 21st birthday.

 Historic railway goods shed ...

 ... and railway station. (Old railway stations seem to be another theme on this trip).

Te Waewae Lagoon on the coast between Tuatapere and Orepuki.

After a little wander around Tuatapere (partly looking for, and failing to find, the maternity hospital where I was born) it was back on the road again, heading for the coast and Orepuki, the town where I lived for the first ten years of my life ...

And continuing with the gate theme ... (see my previous post)

I was really looking forward to stopping off at the new restaurant that has recently opened in Orepuki, mainly because it was my Great-Aunt Mary's old house, a 100-year-old (or thereabouts) wooden villa that has been restored. She was Mrs.Mary Simpson, the daughter of my great-great grandfather, Henry Hirst, a Yorkshireman who founded the original township of Orepuki (calling it Hirstfield).

My Aunty Lorna is also looking forward to visiting the cafe. She wants to tell them that they should have called it, 'Aunty Mary's'. That's what the family on my mother's side have always called the house; we'd struggle to call it anything else.
Mum remembers the gate (in the photo above) well, as she went through it often when visiting Aunty Mary, delivering her mail and sometimes staying to have lunch. She also remembers the people who lived in the house before Aunty Mary lived there. She told me the owners owned a parrot which sat on the gate and spoke to people walking past.

And Aunty Mary also sat (not on the gate!) but on her front porch. From this vantage point she could see what was going on in the town and call out to people going past.

I also remember being with my mother once when she visited Aunty Mary, who was in her 90's by then, dressed in black; a rather formidable old lady.

It felt surreal sitting there thinking about Aunty Mary. 

After talking to Mum later, I can see now that I was probably sitting where Aunty Mary used to sit. It was funny, but at the time I did feel a quiet compulsion to sit outside at that table. The weather was uncertain; there was even the occassional spot of rain; I was asked a couple of times if I was sure I wanted to be out there. (In actual fact, the wind was warm which is unusual for Orepuki. Maybe it was a sign of Aunty Mary's approval?)

I felt an optimism about the town. It's been a long time since I felt that way about Orepuki. Maybe my fears that it would one day disappear completely off the map, have been allayed. A breath of fresh air is blowing into the old town. 

When I lived here in the 50's - 60's, it was a thriving country town. On my many visits over the past six decades, I always thought I was witnessing it slowly die. However, it's apparent that people who have stuck by the place, and worked to keep it alive, are beginning to see results.

This is the end of the road where we used to live. In the distance, Te Waewae Bay. It's a view permanently imprinted on my memory - like an internal tattoo. 

Clocking Out

 I have been neglecting this blog for some months. I think perhaps I should face facts and accept that it is indeed time to retire this blog...