Sunday, June 4, 2017

Ohakune

I love the Queens Birthday. Every year by this point we always really need a break from the winter slog. This year was no exception, although this time we were lucky enough to get away for the long weekend to Okahune.


On the edge of Tongariro National Park, this lovely little town is clearly a busy mecca for skiers and snowboarders once the snow has fallen. This weekend it was bitterly cold at times but no snow appeared, so the town was full of walkers and families escaping the working week for a bit.


We were also lucky enough arrive on the weekend of the Ohakune Carrot Carnival. The town was full of food and craft stall plus live music and lots of carrots!


We took a walk up the "old coach road" which takes you to Hapuawhenua Viaduct. The old coach road winds up through beautiful countryside until you get to the old viaduct which was built over 100 years ago.


The old cobbles that made up the surface of the road are still visible in many places.


It took us about 1.5 hours to reach the viaduct and we travelled through farmland, forest and into an Alpine wetland.


The track must take a lot of maintenance as the wetland is clearly a fragile environment.


Being winter meant that by the time we headed back down the sun was low in the sky and the moon was out.


The lack of light made the landscape that much more stunning.


We also managed to find a bit of snow up at Turoa ski field. 


Just enough to have a snow ball fight :)



Saturday, May 20, 2017

Cold

It's been cold this week. We haven't seen snow in our area of Wellington, but it has covered some of the surrounding hills. I think we are just too near the coast for any of the white stuff to settle near here.


It has been bitterly cold though and I have been a  bit worried about our outdoor Guinea Pigs. Errol is over five years old, which is getting on a bit in Guinea Pig terms. He is well over pensionable age! So I have stuffed their hutches with hay and insulated them with cardboard and newspaper. They seem to be coping alright at the moment. 


I will start giving them hot water bottles when the temperature starts hitting minus numbers at night.


I have said many times before on these pages that New Zealand houses aren't really designed for winter weather. There is something in the Kiwi psychology that makes them unable to admit that it can get a bit chilly during the winter here. So many blokes over here still insist on wearing shorts and t-shirts when the temperature is not even hitting double digits. Maybe its a male thing. But then the houses aren't designed for cold weather either. We have just been to Mitre 10 again to purchase another heater to try and keep the downstairs of our house warm in the evening. Like most houses over here we do not have central heating and the heat from our wood burning stove unfortunately does not travel down stairs.


My eldest bravely played netball in the freezing hail on Saturday morning and understandably lost that game 23-1. However in the afternoon game (once the sun had come out) she won 37-nil. The rest of the weekend has been spent buying winter coats and thermals.



I also had a cold walk along the seafront withe the dog and had a wander around the garden to see if there was anything still alive after the cold nights we have been having!



Saturday, May 13, 2017

Mothers Day

Mothers day started with netball practice this morning, way too early as we had to be at the courts by 8.30. Thankfully the rest of the day was much more relaxing.


As it was Mothers day, I had the choice of activities this Sunday, and I chose to go to my favourite place for a stroll, Queen Elizabeth Park in Paekakariki.


It was chilly but still stunningly beautiful as always. 



The other half has decided to try and make a lamp shade out of the drift wood. Beautifully soft, white polished drift wood is found in abundance on this beach. So this morning we collected armfuls of suitably interestingly shaped wood to bring home and sculpt.


The coastline here is being eroded at quite a fast pace. The sand dunes have already moved back by at least a couple of metres in places since we have been in New Zealand. I should probably stop the kids from adding to the erosion by climbing them!


I was treated to lunch at my favourite cafe the Perching Parrot. The food here is always tasty and I love being able to sit outside and watch the world go by.


All in all, I have had a wonderful Mothers Day and we ended up with a very unusual new light fitting in our bedroom thanks to the drift wood!



Saturday, May 6, 2017

Netball in the sun

Winter sports season is here again and for us that means most of our weekends are now devoted to netball.

I believe I have said this before on these pages, but sport is a national obsession over here. On a Saturday, parents all over New Zealand ferry their kids between the rugby fields, netball courts and hockey games. Our local sports fields are heaving with parents, dogs and kids in various different sporting outfits and the odd coffee cart doing a roaring trade.


Our kids have graduated from doing soccer when they were younger to being devoted to netball. So Saturday mornings now involve cheering them on from the side of various different netball courts and taking the dog for a walk in between games.


Thankfully this Saturday was gloriously sunny, I am sure I am going to be less enthusiastic once the weather gets colder.


I was never involved in any team sports during my childhood, something which I regret greatly now. I love the opportunities they have over here and the enthusiasm and support they get from the volunteer coaches and the clubs that organise all the competitions. I shall be very sad when the kids get too old to be involved in this anymore. Either I will have to join a team or I'll have to wait until we get some grandchildren!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Trampolines and cars

Its been the last week of the school holidays this week. The other half has had to go back to work for most of it, but me and the girls have spent the week at home. I've been mostly marking assessments and the girls have been enjoying time just chilling and doing the odd bit of crafty stuff around the house.


On Friday we met up with friends and went to a trampoline park in Wellington. Things like this didn't exist when I was young (in the dark ages!) but they look such fun. I am extremely jealous that they don't seem to make these places for forty year olds.

It's basically a large warehouse filled with as many trampolines as they can squeeze in plus the odd foam pit and climbing wall.

On Saturday we went to the Car Show of the Century at the TSB Arena in Wellington. We spotted the first car on the harbour before we even entered the Arena. Obviously an amphibious design.


I love cars and was a huge Formula 1 fan when I was younger, so the opportunity to see the Maclaren from 1973 was fantastic.


The other half's favourite car was the "Treka". A New Zealand attempt at making a practical rival to Land Rovers and other farm off road vehicles. Although weirdly it was not a four x four. I personally couldn't see the appeal. I think is looks like a metal box on wheels.


I did like the modern Maclaren!


The girls liked the "driverless" cars. You apparently have the option of driving it from either side of the vehicle (as the steering wheel moves) or not driving it at all and allowing the  car to drive itself.
I do not understand the appeal of this. I enjoy driving and would not enjoy relinquishing control to a computer.


The whole exhibition prompted a lot of heated debate about the future of cars and we ended the morning at the Crab Shack. 


A good ending to the holidays.

(I am not happy with the quality of the photos in this post. All of them were taken on the i-phone. I think I will go back to my normal camera next week!)




Friday, April 21, 2017

Antler Lodge


Ever feel like you just need a break from the high speed fibre connection of life? That things are zipping by just a bit too quickly to catch your breath or read the signs?

I have felt an awful lot like this since Christmas. So in an effort to give us all a chance to reconnect with each other, before the kids grow up too much to want to spend any time at all with us, we booked four nights at Antler Lodge.



Antler Lodge is only about an hour from us but it is still remote enough and isolated enough to enable you to disconnect from the rest of the world for a short time.


It is nestled in the Rimutakas just north of Wellington and surrounded by forest. You have to drive for a good 10-15 minutes up a woodland track to reach it and the lodge itself is apparently higher than the summit of the Rimutaka hill road. You certainly feel like you are living amongst the clouds.


We spent four nights here, disconnected from modern life for a brief spell. It was bliss!


We explored the surrounding woodland and kept an eye out for deer and wild pigs that are said to roam the area. We failed to spot anything other than possums. I think the dogs noisy exploration of the undergrowth everywhere we went, kept them away. 


The lodge was built by the present owner and is clearly a labour of love. It has obviously seen many happy family holidays. Ours can be added to the list. Despite the expected moans from the kids about having to be disconnected from the wifi for an extended period, they soon began to enjoy the many, many, board games and new books that we cleverly brought with us.


The lodge also has a rather large outdoor bath. If you have never had an outside bath before I can thoroughly recommend it. Staring at the stars on a chilly night from a steaming bath in the middle of nowhere is an experience everyone should have!


But the best thing about the lodge, by far, was the amazing views.


If you are interested in staying at the lodge, the website link is here.






Thursday, April 13, 2017

Cyclones and bugs.


Cyclone Cook has been causing havoc across New Zealand over the last few days and we expected it to reach Wellington last night. I dug out and checked all the batteries in our torches and made sure nothing was likely to freely blow around in the back garden. I even brought the Guinea pigs inside in case they ended up mimicking the cows in Twister.


We woke up this morning to a bit of an anticlimax. The cyclone appears to have completely bi-passed Wellington. We had a bit of rain overnight but nothing out of the ordinary. There was very little wind, and certainly no where near the ordinary Wellington gusts that can take the unsuspecting off their feet. All in all it was a bit disappointing. However I shouldn't complain. Some areas of New Zealand had uprooted trees and flooding again, a repetition of the week before.


So once I had taken the Guinea pigs out of the bath (they spent the night there as it was the only emergency indoor accommodation I could find) and put them back in their hutches we headed into the city to look at the bug exhibition at Te Papa.


This is the last weekend that his exhibition is on, and it is rather cool.


Although I wouldn't recommend it if you have a fear of everything creepy crawly. There are huge models of praying mantises and bees devouring other bugs. It's all rather gruesome. The kids loved it.


I think the bit that really stuck in my mind was this huge model of bees attacking a hornet. Apparently 30 hornets can destroy a hive containing many thousands of bees. However some bees can defend themselves by working together to raise the temperature of the hornet above its tolerance levels so it basically cooks alive. All rather cleverly gruesome.


Although the cyclone didn't cause any problems in our region, it certainly appears to be creating some interesting and rather menacing clouds above the city.










Saturday, April 8, 2017

Chainsaws and sunlight


After heavy rain blue sky emerged.


We had the remnants of Cyclone Debbie crossing New Zealand this week. Luckily Wellington really only got the edge of the weather. Other parts of New Zealand were not so lucky. Edgecumbe in particular was hit hard, with roads and houses completely submerged.


The heavy rain also brought plummeting temperatures and we have had to rush out and buy wood for our stove. Next door are clearly better organised than us as the smoke from their fire this morning confirmed.


We still have a few brave roses in the back garden reminding us that we did have a bit of summer this year. Not sure how long they will last.


Our Guinea pigs seem to be oblivious to the weather and I saw Sydney here wondering about in the middle of the rain storm this week. I think he prefers basking in the sun though.


The bottom of our garden is still a bit swamp like but looks good in the sun.


We had to chop down one of our big trees again this weekend. It had fallen 6 months ago and was leaning against the car deck. Worried that it would eventually damage the deck we climbed up it and cut it down bit by bit. At least that was the plan. What actually happened was a bit more dramatic. The other half was sitting on it at one point using a chain saw to cut the main branch in half. He felt it move beneath him so jumped off and the whole thing sprung up raining branches and leaves as it fell. I may have screamed a bit at the point. 
I think we will be getting the professionals in next time.


Our car deck is about 30 feet up in the air as this picture shows. So the tree had quite a way to fall. They certainly don't build houses like this in the UK.


Our house looks good in the sun. I do love living in a forest.


It's just the falling trees I don't like.