Sunday, 31 March 2013

The First Stop, Kawakawa

Kawakawa is famous because of its toilets:  the Hundertwasser Toilets about which I blogged on The Great Adventure in 2010.   To be honest, apart from its location on State Highway 1 and with some decent cafés and the said toilets, Kawakawa has little to offer except, and it's a big except, for the fact that it has a railway running down the middle of the main street and into a sidings with a rather well maintained station and a steam locomotive which should appeal to Mark and Adrian.

A real live steam loco built by Peckett and Sons Ltd of Bristol in 1925 and numbered 1730.  It's a 4-4-0T 3ft 6 in loco run by the Bay of Islands Vintage Railway.  The engine is one of five similar 4-4-0T engines and was originally one of two which went to the Schull and Skibbereen Railway, Ireland, named "Allen" and "Gabriel" (after Mount Gabriel).  Regauged in 1926 to 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) and sold to Portland Cement, Whangarei, New Zealand.  It was given to Bay of Islands Scenic Railway in 1985.  If those dates are correct I'm not sure why the nameplate on the locomotive bears the date 1927.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Keeping Up


Not only am I away in Northland but the cottage in which we are staying in Houhora has no cellphone signal and therefore, for me, no Internet - it is truly cut off. I am writing this on Tuesday evening in the hope that I will be able to post it when I get a cellphone signal in the morning.

I flew from Napier at 0800 this morning and arrived in Whangarei at 1115 and since then we have driven up the East coast via stops in Kawakawa and Taopa until we arrived just before 1800 hrs at almost the last rentable accommodation before the Northern tip of New Zealand.

Houhora appears to be about as and peaceful a place as one could wish for for a holiday break.


No success in posting today. We went over to the West coast (about 10 ks at this part of New Zealand) and I actually walked on the legendary Ninety Mile Beach. 

I'll be posting on the experiences of the day after I have got back home to The Cottage but that won't be until late on Saturday night


No luck. No signal.


Arrived this evening at Pauline's and have a phone signal which enables me to communicate with the Internet and with you my friends. I am here in the Outer Waiotira. We've had a brilliant few days exploring.

Tomorrow night I shall be back home and on Sunday I shall be back on line with lots and lots of things to post about.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Still Here

I woke this morning around 0500 after a horrible nightmare.  I walked around for a bit and then went back to bed only to have an even worse nightmare.  The odd thing is that I can't remember a single thing about the earlier one but I managed to reduce the later one to words and I can recall it even now.  Instead of getting up at 0600 as I would usually have done once I was properly awake I lay for a while thinking about all the emails and blog posts (I've lots planned) and readings and so on I was going to do today having been involved in a tournament and up to 10 hours play a day for the last week or more.

For reasons I won't bore you with I wasn't able to do any of those things and so late this evening I am writing this before a relatively early night and an early start in the morning.  I am off to Northland and my annual pilgrimage with Pauline. I will not be taking my laptop just my iPad and iPhone so there may not be any posts until next week after I get back.

I will leave you with a few photos from the tournament.  They are strange folk these croquet people.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

A Journey to Cape Kidnappers

Having lived near Napier for every summer since 2005 I am ashamed to think of the number of local attractions to which I have not been [Thanks Winston to those of a grammatical bent].  One such attraction is the gannet colonies at Cape Kidnappers.  I remedied this omission last Thursday with a trip with Gannet Beach Adventures.  The company operates tractor pulled trailers along the shore from Clifton the 7 or so kilometres along to the end of the Cape from whence one can walk the further kilometer or two up to the headland and the principal gannet colony.  There is lots to see and lots to learn about the birdlife and the stunning and important geology of the area from the knowledgeable driver/guides who also provided lots of fun for the young and old alike.

Cape Kidnappers was so named after an attempt by local Māori to abduct the servant of a member of Captain Cook's crew aboard HMS Endeavour, during a landfall there on 15 October 1769.  The crew member was Tiata, a Tahitian accompanying Cook's interpreter Tupaia. Cook's journal states that Tiata was in the water near Endeavour when a Māori fishing boat pulled alongside and dragged him aboard. Sailors from Endeavour′s deck immediately opened fire on the fishing boat, killing two Māori and wounding a third. Tiata promptly jumped overboard and swam back to Endeavour, while the remaining Māori paddled their craft back to shore. A 4-pounder cannon was fired after them from Endeavour′s quarterdeck, but the Māori boat was soon out of range.  Cook described the cape as having steep white cliffs on either side, with two large rocks resembling hay stacks near the headland.

I have been trying to imagine what the UK's Health and Safety people would say.
We are off along the coastline - the journey has to be timed to take account of the tides
We all set off.  Adrain would hate this but, in reality, everyone dispersed very quickly
The Cape's tip with the Ranger's House in its isolated splendour
The path to the Cape head and the gannet colony
The last leg
Looking back from near the top the tractors are on the beach furthest away from where I am taking this photo
The Colony
The return journey starts here
Looking at the Cape from the end of the walk
That's all for this post.  There's still the gannet pictures and the geology to come.  Soon.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Why Make Plans?

David aka Marcel frequently quotes Spike Milligan's saying that if you don't have a plan then nothing can go wrong.  I'm not at all sure that in real life that's particularly accurate but I can't recall a day in the recent past when everything I planned came to fruition.  Take today for instance.  There is a croquet tournament on at our Club for four days starting today.  I'm not playing today nor tomorrow so I decided that today I would catch up with correspondence and reading a friend's draft degree dissertation.
Last night The Family were here for dinner and Wendy said that she was experimenting with a new dish for dinner today and would I like to accompany them all on their afternoon walk, a swim and dinner.  Of course I would.  After all it's the perfect outdoors weather ....... provided that you are not a farmer.

So we went for a walk:

How does he do that?
and then a quick back flip
OK let's just walk
or perhaps plank
no, walking's too simple
and finish off with a little exercise

And then some swimming.  Actually the amount of swimming was minimal.  Why do youngsters never just get into a swimming pool?

Dinner was excellent and all in all it was a splendid day and I even managed to read the dissertation twice so tomorrow I will be able to concentrate on digesting it properly.  Unless, of course, things turn out differently....

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Thankful Thursday

In this wonderfully exciting world in which we live humans have, certainly in recorded history, always been explorers.  By that most people would, I think, immediately think of the great explorers who have shaped our modern world by discovering new lands and inhabiting them or trading with them.  Anyone reading this blog is also likely to be thinking in terms of the European explorers but, in fact, people have explored from their home country everywhere in the world.  Now we have a vehicle on Mars some 35 million miles (56 million km) at the closest point in its orbit from the Earth.

The first explorers I can actually recall learning about were the Phoenicians who were accomplished seafarers and traders around 1200 to 500AD.  In contrast New Zealand was only inhabited by Europeans around 200 years ago - very recently.

Explorers change the world with each new discovery.

However geographical explorers are but a minute, though very significant, part of the phenomenon of exploration.  Every thing we have in our modern world owes its existence in our world to exploration in one form or another.  We explore from the moment we are born and when we are young we explore anything we can reach with our chubby little hands and when we can't reach it without crawling we crawl, then walk and then the world is our oyster and our world gets ever larger as we get older. 

In the greater scheme of things most of us are not explorers of note nor of things likely to change the world.  We explore new subjects to learn, new books, new experiences, new foods, new loves and new lives to name a few of the more obvious things.  We do it without ever thinking of ourselves as explorers.

A few days ago Wendy mentioned Spotify.  I'd never heard of it.  Some of you may know that one of my greatest loves is music.  I constantly search for new composers and new works.  Despite what is often said about the retraction of the classical music industry more and more works are being made available every month and I keep up to date via the Presto Classical newsletter.  However buying a CD just to listen to a work one has never heard before in the hope that it will be a new treasure in one's library can be an expensive and frustrating business.

Enter Spotify and I have now discovered a way of listening to those very CDs legally and at minimal cost.  The way I buy and keep my music might be about to change dramatically.

So today I am truly thankful for the opportunity to explore musical pastures new.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013


I have tried for several weeks to get a decent photo of a mare and her foal on the road into town.  Unfortunately whenever I've stopped the car she has immediately positioned herself between me and the foal.  When I took this photo she was right at the road fence but as soon as I stopped she did her usual trick and then walked over to the other side of the paddock sheltering the foal.  When she was far enough away she lost interest in me and clearly thought that they were far enough away for the foal to be let loose.  The result was that these are the best photos I've managed and they were also on a rather dull morning (good old Murphy's Law - we've hardly had a dull morning since Christmas).

For those who don't know who Trotty is see "I Did It, I Jumped The Fence" Explained .

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Hawkes Bay Hills in Evening Light

The hills of Hawkes Bay and South towards the Manawatu Gorge hold an intense fascination for me.  On the way to and from Wanganui last weekend I took the opportunity to take photos out of the car rear side (and not too clean) window.  The photos were all taken in the evening with the light at it's distorted richest.  They are not brilliant but they will serve as a record of the hills that I love so much.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Off to Wanganui - Again

I shall shortly be leaving the safety and comfort of The Cottage and venturing forth into the bandit country that is the Manawatu (with the Gorge where doubtless highwayman ambushed the stage coaches in years gone by) and thence to Wanganui.  What am I on about?  If it wasn't for the fact that it's mid afternoon I'd think I'd had more than my two glasses of the Red stuff.  As it is it's just that I've been reading Adrian's post and that always has a strange effect on me.  Especially after  reading one of Frances's.  I always feel such a staid former bureaucrat when I read their blogs.  Oh yes.  I am a staid former bureaucrat.  I forgot.

Actually I'm off to an Association Croquet tournament.  Please stop yawning.  I love them.

I shall return.

PS This will be the first time ever that I will have been separated for a whole weekend from my Macbook.  I'm just taking the iPad and iPhone.  Pray for me please.  The trauma may be too much.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Thankful Thursday

My 'landline' is terrible.  It frequently does not work.  Years ago that might have driven me demented.  Imagine not being able to contact or be contacted immediately. 

Now, however, I communicate less by my 'landline' phone than by a myriad of other methods.

My cellphone, an iPhone, lives with me and on it I can communicate in such a variety of ways it still amazes me.  One can Skype (which is the ability to talk with or without video to anyone else on Skype anywhere in the world - free - or one can send text messages to anyone on Skype - free - or one can send text messages to any cellphone in the world for a few pence/cents as compared with the expensive inter-country cellphone provider texts).  I can Facetime (free video chat between any Apple product anywhere).  I can iMessage (free texting between iPhones anywhere).  One can text chat for free when playing a variety of on-line games like Words With Friends (a sort of Scrabble for two).  Then there is good old texting between any two cellphones anywhere (but, internationally, at a price).  There are emails - usually used for longer messages and not necessarily requiring an immediate response - to which can be attached photos or documents.  There is messaging on Google, Facebook, Twitter.....the list and the possibilities are endless.  There are doubtless many things I have forgotten to mention and, oh, I nearly forgot, the iPhone can be used to make phone calls as well.

In addition I can do many of those things from my Macbook and from my iPad.

I love the ability to communicate with friends and play games like Words With Friends and chat with people on the other side of the world.

Just imagine if (when?) the internet is compromised and all that becomes impossible - even for an hour. 

So today I am thankful for all the means of communication that are now available to enable me to share the lives of my friends wherever they, or I, may be.

Note: 'Free' means no costs additional to those incurred in linking to the internet.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

It's Happened Again

I came home a few days ago to find a Silvereye or Waxeye on the deck after having, presumably, managed to fly into the ranch sliders.   After the same thing happening last year I decided just to leave it alone and, sure enough, after a few hours it was gone.

This has given me the opportunity to post a picture I took of another Waxeye which, when cropped, gives rather a good closeup of the head and neck feathers.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Starlings v Mynah Birds

It always struck me as odd that starlings, which appear to be a universal bird, are not one that I have seen here near The Cottage nor, indeed, around Napier.  According to Kiwi friends the two species do not co-exist.  The mynah birds have the warmer North of the North Island and the starlings have the rest of the country.  I just accepted the local wisdom. 

In fact it is not as simple as that.  I did not, however, know that until today.  Apparently starlings were introduced in the late 1800s to reduce the plagues of insects which, to use the words in an old agricultural bulletin, “crawled over the land in vast hordes" as a result of the wholesale destruction of the bush to make farmed land.  The starlings quickly colonised the whole country except for the dense forest areas.  Mynah birds were introduced to the South Island from the Indian Sub-continent for a similar reason.  They spread North.  As they went North they died out in the South and now I don't think they are found South of Hawkes Bay.

There are less mynah birds around here this year.  They live for a considerable time so I couln't see them having died off.  Nevertheless I was taken aback a few weeks ago when I thought I saw a small gathering of starlings in the paddock near the orchard.   They returned and yesterday I managed an identifiable photo of them in the orchard.  There is now a sizeable murmuration of them - there are a number of collective noun: chattering, clattering, cloud, congregation or murmuration - in a nearby tree. 

I shall be interested to see how these two birds - both members of the family Sturnidae -  develop here over the next few years.

Mynah Bird
Starlings in the orchard eating the thinned out apples

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Random Scenes of Drought

Drought has now officially been declared here.  I was driving along the road home from Napier a few days ago when I noticed a scene off to my left which does not usually register with me because they are just green fields and hills and a study of them would necessitate me taking my eyes off the very windy road.  It struck me, though, that the fields were no longer green.  So I parked the car and walked back for some photos.

The same hills a few days later.  The photo was taken an hour or so later in the evening which makes a difference to the light.

I've included this photo of the irrigaters in front of The Cottage simply because of the contrast and the fact that I like the light coming through the water.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Is That My Blood?

I was quietly sitting reading my emails yesterday morning first thing when a mosquito casually and rather slowly flew between my face and the computer screen.  Occasionally when they do that it's possible to squash them in flight with a clap.  I missed.  The mosquito landed on the window and before I'd had time to think I picked up a piece of paper and squashed the mosquito.  Oh dear.  It had obviously just had a large feed of blood.  Given that I was the only blood source in The Cottage I assumed that it was my blood.  Now there wasn't much but I did rather resent sharing it with a mozzie.  More to the point I knew that, whilst I was unlikely to feel the sacrilegious (well I think my body's sacred) act of invasion by its blood sucking proboscis, it was likely to cause me considerable irritation later on.

The blood on the window.  The scale is shown by the mozzie's leg.
The blood on the paper I squashed it with together with the remains of the mozzie.
I thought that there was a certain irony in the words on the piece of paper I picked up.  I had written those words some time ago in relation to FWKTM.  I never told her.  I'm not sure she'd appreciate the bloody end the paper came to.