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2nd Three Weeks in New Zealand – this time Greytown

Posting this a few weeks after our trip is over and we are back home – mowing lawn, weeding, finding leaks from the rain that visited more than ever whilst away and left our “garden” as an overgrown plot for a Steven King movie. The front yard – wow! – so in a fit of overwhelming embarrassment we have been trying to make our property appear as if someone has once-upon-a-time lived here. Nevertheless, here is our second stay with Narda’s writing in italics and Terrell’s – being me – in whatever is not italics. Cheers.

Sunday 9th – Left our wonderful stay @ Riverpark Drive, Kuratau on Lake Taupo 8.45 am in search of our next house-exchange in Greytown (they say Greytown-Wellington though it is a couple of hours drive through mountains between the two places – perhaps it is a New Zealand thing to lump places together).

This would be our last drive up the hill through the Tongariro Alpine crossing – National Park – where we could see one last time the three andesitic volcanoes at the heart of the park, the mountains Tongariro, Ngauruhoe (the Hobbit’s Mt Doom) and Ruapehu, forming the southern limits of the Taupō Volcanic Zone, part of the Pacific Ring of Fire. Unfortunately, there was a lot of cloud cover so the volcanos could barely see us, but we did get glimpses on the way out of the National Park on our journey toward the sea. We stopped at, Manawatū-Whanganui. Of course, we drank the coffee we brought from home at the station café. Such cheap-skates.

We took a box load of photos along the way of Mount Ruapehu, and they all looked about the same – I could zoom in a bit to see snow but for the most part, bloody clouds…

And a six-second YouTube video of Mount Ruapehu in our rear-view mirror. https://youtu.be/m8UqKhLNGq8

We packed up and hit the road again. National Park is actually the name of a snow resort town an hour up the road, literally. A nice spot for coffee.

Our next stop was Whanganui, where Leon’s sister lived. A nice town, with a river through the middle.

We checked into the Grand Hotel, only to find no booking. It turned out to be my fault; I had used the wrong date. But they had room for us, in fact the hotel was just about empty. A shortage of cleaning staff, all the doors to rooms were open and left unserviced. We had to wait a bit, but we got a decent room, old, but the beds were comfy and it was really quiet.

Our dinner was amazing. I had pork ribs, so good.

We popped into the Makatote Rail viaduct rest area beside the highway of life we were exploring. The bridge was built in 1905 which I thought was cool as that is the year my father was born, not that there is much more association with him as he was in New York, and this is not NY otherwise what a synchronicity. Also, (not linked with my father) The Makatote River, below the Makatote Rail viaduct, is home to the Whio (or Blue Duck) which is unique to New Zealand. We did not see any such duck, but I took lots of photos of the bridge.

We even found someone who would take a snapshot of us in front of the Makatote Rail viaduct.

See our 15-second videoclip @ https://youtu.be/LyHB-wNo13g

Makatote Rail viaduct rest area

Our room @ the Grand Hotel was not ready until 4.30 pm so we walked around Wanganui for two hours The Grand Hotel https://thegrandhotel.co.nz/   was once a grand hotel – now it needed more work than our “garden” after a few months away. Walking around the hotel all the room’s doors were open and peeking in we saw they were not cleaned yet. Probably had not been for quite some time. A dude at the desk said they had to get someone in to do our room, apparently it has been difficult to get workers post-covid. We heard this throughout our stay in New Zealand. It is the same in Australia. Not sure why, but there are a lot of jobs out there not filled. We were told that due to the high cost of living in New Zealand – inflation and all (of course, Fox not-news blathers on that it is President Joe Biden’s fault, high-inflation all over the world) folks are looking for the highest paid job available and cleaning probably is down the list. I had a very good pasta dinner and since I am taking a week off from measuring my sugar levels, I do not have diabetes for a week. Yumm! Yippie!!

Found a really neat place to sit – now I want one like this at home – if anyone has one – we will buy it for a nominal fee minus shipping. Thanks.

Some photos from the town of Wanganui. It is a good-looking city at the mouth of the Whanganui River. As you would know, Whanganui is the ancestral home of the Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi and other Whanganui Māori tribes. Slideshow of several wall-art pieces:

Saw this dude – told him he looked cool – he said it was heritage month– sure that was something we should have followed up on, but we didn’t but you can at https://www.whanganui.govt.nz/Your-Council/News-Events/Events/Whanganui-Heritage-Month-2022

Last photo of Whanganui. This alley looked worth exploring but we didn’t, if you do, let us know in the comments below (ha ha as if there was such a place on this blog).

We did the number one tourist thingy in town – The Durie Hill Elevator which is a public transportation elevator. It connects Anzac Parade beside the Whanganui River with the suburb of Durie Hill. It is ranked by Heritage New Zealand as a Category 1 Historic Place and is New Zealand’s only public underground elevator. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durie_Hill_Elevator see our 2-minute video @ https://youtu.be/_rnsR-edVrc  It is actually part of the metro system – like a bus ride to the sky (if going up) or toward the centre of the earth (if headed down). The image below is my photo of their photo of the building of the Durie Hill Elevator. Once at the bottom there is a long tunnel (213 metres) see me in the tunnel below with other captives. Then you get to the elevator door at the inner end, ring the bell and, if you’re lucky, you’ll be greeted by an attendant who will press the button that sends the lift shuddering up 66 metres to the top of Durie Hill, where you’ll emerge to wide views all around — and a chance to get even higher. (not by smoking some pot but by climbing to the top of another tower which we did – well I did – Narda is not too keen on heights higher than the top of my hat – see our video).

In the evening after our fine high-carb dinner we went over to the coast to watch the sunset. Parking at Castlecliff Beach (ranked No.16 on Tripadvisor among 37 attractions in Whanganui.) we walked along the shore. The black sand beach was amazing – I suppose it is volcanic rock ground to sand over millions of years. I asked everyone in the room just now, and she didn’t know if that is true, but it seems so. We also learned heaps about what to do if a tsunami came at us as we were grooving upon the shore.

wood drifts up on to the shore where folks gather it and make fires in the evening. Here is what it would look like a few hundred years ago if I were to be burnt at the stake for being a vegetarian.

Our next exchange

Our new house is amazing. Huge. It’s a farm outside of Greytown.

They have a friendly cat called Tilly and six chooks to feed. The chooks can only be accessed through the back paddock which includes close contact with many cows and three bulls. 

Heard on the news on the radio in the car. “Suspected arson attacks on several buildings in the countryside behind Greytown. This happened at 4am yesterday.”

 The next day I am standing in front of the chocolate counter in the local supermarket, eavesdropping. There is a tall bearded scruffy young man nearby talking to an older woman, perhaps his mother. 

“I finally bought a house, it cost me $550,000.”

“Oh wow, that’s really great”

“Hey and did you hear the news about the fires?”

“Yes?”

“That was me. I was trying to put it out with my hose, and I couldn’t. I rang the fire brigade and they sent five appliances”.

NO COMMENT 😆

Little update: we saw in the local paper that they have charged a woman with arson. So much for my story. Moral: you can’t always believe what you hear in the supermarket!

A nice drive yesterday on some unsealed roads using our loaner vehicle, a new Mitsubishi Triton. Drives a treat. We might have to upgrade to one of these.

Behind our property –

This is the bike path leading into Greytown. A nice historical place, Terrell will fill in the details. I bought four books at the second-hand shop which I did not really need but will read. 

Greytown… I am about to add a bit to Narda’s writing – photos. On Greytown. We will come back to her in a moment (if you are a fast reader – or like to scan past my fast pass ramblings.) I recall Narda commenting sometime over the past couple of decades, perhaps more than once; “you’re not as funny as you think you are”. Damn that hurts – well here goes.

Firstly, we were and are surprised that folks around New Zealand have heard of Greytown. Just a very small town, 2500 plus us and Tilly the cat. It was awarded the title of New Zealand’s Most Beautiful Small Town 2017 (pop less than 5,000). After doing a deep dive into how many cities were up for this award, I discovered there were in total, 44 cities in New Zealand – a lot have more than 5,000 – bottom line not too many with less than 5,000. Nevertheless, Greytown is a tidy town. The place claims to have the most complete main street of Victorian architecture in the country, and of being the first planned inland town. It is a fact lots of people flock here on weekends – a very touristy town. We love the place. Not that we spent much time in the actual town; we lived on a farm ten-minute drive away or by bike (which we did once) a half-hour (Google says 12-minutes but what do they know?) – or closer to 45-minutes as we stopped a bit (often) as the bikes were not electric. See slideshow of us doing the one-off one-time only – bike ride into town. Our excuse? The bikes were not the right size.

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The Cobblestone Museum, Greytown.

Much of Greytown is still as it was in the late 1800s. You can do a heritage walk down main street and the houses (still occupied) have plaques with their history on them. 

The museum itself has a “town” of relocated buildings set up, full sized with buildings, full of furniture and artifacts

My favourite place in Greytown is their little museum, the Cobblestones Early Settler Museum. Many of the original buildings from the 1800s have been dragged into an area with a town square giving a feeling of being in the actual town when it was the actual town. As we were the only ones there, getting there close to closing then asked to leave and returning the next day we had free run of the place. A must see is our 2:49 (that’s minutes not hours) video clip for this https://youtu.be/zn9uDbRwuuQ  with Narda playing an old organ from back when and me teaching a class (Narda being the only student – all the others had left as I was so incoherent – or was it the accent?).

Cobblestones Early Settler Museum. – this is one video you do not want to miss – really!

The old teacher me came out and I had to give a lesson in math –

I tried telling one of my favourite jokes to Narda…though in full transparency – I had forgotten the punch line.

We made a quick stop at the dentist…

And an even quicker stop in the emergency room…

And of course, you are invited for tea with us as we are now preparing it for your special visit.

And that was our visit to the old town museum.

We also caught up with our previous hosts in a coffee shop in Masterton, half an hour up the road. Very nice people who generously let us use their car to get to our new place. We drove the two cars to the coffee shop, and then were able to return theirs. Interesting conversation. It’s always nice to meet our hosts, but often not possible with trying to line up flights. 

On Friday we drove to Bogey Bay to check out the wet-lands.

This is an amazing beach in the town of Pirinoa. Again black sand and lots of timber washed up. The story we heard was that loggers let the unwanted timber wash down rivers into the sea, then it washes up into the beaches with the tides.

Slideshow of the wetlands below

This is an amazing beach in the town of Pirinoa. Again black sand and lots of timber washed up. The story we heard was that loggers let the unwanted timber wash down rivers into the sea, then it washes up into the beaches with the tide.

Friday 14th Boggy Bay (Boggy Pond and Wairio Wetland are on the eastern side of Lake Wairarapa, 22 kilometres out of Featherston. Access is from Parera Road, off Kahutara Road.), Lake Ferry, Okorewa Lagoon, Kaaje Ōnoke, Ōnoke Spit, Palliser Bay, town of Pirinoa, Ruamahanga River, Lake Wairarapa, Western Lake Road to Featherston, Western Lake Road

Ōnoke Spit is a four-kilometre-long stretch of sand infamous for its wild, windy weather. Coupled with the dramatic scenery this makes for an exhilarating visitor experience! 

Named Ōnoke because of the worms found there, it was a significant gathering place of local hapū that were dependant on tuna (eels) for food and their economy. Huge numbers of tuna would gather at the lake mouth between January and April, during the heke tuna (eel migration to the ocean to breed). Around this time Ōnoke Spit would naturally extend to block off the opening to the sea, and the water would back up causing the lake levels to rise. This was known as Hinurangi. 

According to legend, Rakai Uru, a totara log that was the kaitiaki (guardian) of the lake was responsible for this seasonal closing.  When the tuna migration was approaching he travelled out to sea, and the mouth of the lake closed behind him.  

Just west of Lake Ōnoke is Kiriwai lagoon, asmall dune wetland and the site of an early Māori fishing village. Kiriwai is the name of one of the waka belonging to Kahungunu. When Chiefs arrived at South Wairarapa, they gave the waka to Rangitāne in exchange for lands on which to settle. 

Lake Ferry is a cute little settlement on the shores of Lake Ōnoke, with breathtaking panoramic views from the lake out to sea. Sometimes wild and windy, this spectacular spot is the backdrop to a fascinating history. 

Lake Ferry was one of the first places settled by Māori in Wairarapa. Ōkorewa lagoon was a fishing village at the mouth of the Ruamāhanga River, and a significant focal point for the harvesting and trade of tuna (eels) and other fish. Tuna were the backbone of the economy for Wairarapa hapū (sub tribes). Since European settlement, numbers of tuna and other native species have dropped dramatically because of flood protection schemes and changes in land use throughout the Ruamāhanga catchment.

Lake Ferry got its current name from the ferry service set up in 1850 by the owner of the first hotel. He could only get a hotel licence if he provided a ferry service across Lake Ōnoke to enable travellers to journey up the Ruamāhanga River. 

As you walk to nearby Ōkorewa lagoon from Lake Ferry you will see community plantings, led by South Wairarapa Biodiversity Group, designed to increase habitat for native wildlife. Native birds often seen in the area include poaka (pied stilt), matuku moana (white-faced heron), pīhoihoi (pipit), and pūtangitangi (paradise shelduck). 

the internet
Our 2.20-minute clip https://youtu.be/cQnuUIoFO4Y  explains this view of the Tasman Sea from Palliser Bay with the stop at Boggy Bay much better than I can with words – but let me. try.

We were having a lovely drive through the wetlands when suddenly there was an electric line across the road – no warning and we had driven down this narrow road for half an hour or more. Sign said something about cows (the small sign said ‘stock on road STOP’ I saw it afterwards.) So, some farmer decided to rope off an area for his/her – their (etc. pronouns) cows to have a feed without a warning for those of us who had decided to drive around Boggy Pond. Turning around and going back to New Zealand’s concept of a main road (two-narrow lanes – like driving through Ireland on those narrow roads – or Holland or Scotland…we’ve done them too) was OK the issue was that I tried to pick up the wire across the road before realizing it was electric. I did get a shock and having a pacemaker/defibrillator stuck in my chest I was lucky to be here writing this and you are lucky being the reader. We are equal lucky folks.

Beautiful countryside to the bay (Palliser Bay), we stopped at the Pirinoa General Store and bought a bottle of water and had sandwiches made this morning at home (big spenders). A lovely spot in the world.

 The shore is fun to be on – being a windy day, we did not go up to the Cape Palliser Light House. There is a pub but we didn’t go in at Lake Ferry (Situated on the shores of Lake Onoke, overlooking Palliser Bay, the Lake Ferry Hotel is one of the oldest licensed hotels in New Zealand. https://www.lakeferryhotel.co.nz/). Some pics of the lagoon/Lake Ononke – Tasman Sea…

We made lots of short trips from our home on a farm in Greytown. Really different for us being so rural. Aside of feeding the  chooks every day and getting such fresh organic eggs negotiating daily living with a cat that we were a guest of and going for walks we would go and talk to the cows every day. Here is a short click of Narda singing to them ‘Narda serenades the herd’ https://youtu.be/3ngFu4BOoWU

Here is a short click of Narda singing to them ‘Narda serenades the herd’

Just a note about Tilly. Not having a cat together (past 20+ years) and Narda never having a cat (I grew up with lots of them in Clifton Park, New York, and my children and I always had a cat or two in the 1980s and 1990s) we were not used to such a critter. Tilly had her routines and was very strict with them. I left her inside one night thinking that she would like that but somehow, she managed to open doors – get into the bedroom and meow in my ear at two am so I put her outside. She liked to be outside at night – hunting. Her owners said she was a good hunter and would catch a rabbit. So, rabbit-breath would meow loudly to come inside about 7 am beg to be picked up and spoken too for a bit then she would go into a closet in the hallway and sleep amongst towels until noonish when she would spend the rest of the day in a window sleeping until late afternoon when she would follow us around and meow a lot until she was picked up. When we would go away for a day or two, she was quite happy to see us and would talk non-stop probably telling us off for not being there for her.

For those waiting in anticipation of our cat-drop – here is nine-seconds of Rabbit-breath upon our return home

Obviously, they are referring to a shopping cart – or a trolley if you are in Australia. We think.

Train to Wellington

train to Wellington New Zealand

In the next week or so, we took 2 return trips to Wellington by train. We have to go through some pretty serious mountains, but there is a long tunnel when you go by train. On the first leg we visited the Te Te Pa museum and saw an amazing and moving exhibition of the WW1 soldiers storming Gallipoli. The story of the futile battles, the huge loss of life is told through the lives and records of 8 actual New Zealanders who took part. It’s incredibly moving, with huge figures displayed, very life-like. Gallipoli @ Te Papa Tongarewa Museum https://youtu.be/C0RpAyO8J_8

Gallipoli @ Te Papa Tongarewa Museum

It was not all gloom and doom at the museum at the Te Papa Tongarewa Museum.

There is a large natural things part. For example, this large whale heart,

We learned about kiwi beaks –

We found a wonderful rain-forest walk – see our video for this place – https://youtu.be/grBA9FWTi24  and I was able to record lots of bird sounds for background noise in my video clips which is fun (for me).

video of of the museum and of the cable car – not to be missed

Narda learned about snails so any questions, she is your source of info –

Then there was the cable car which ended in amazing views of the city – to Mount Victoria. See our wonderful slideshow below

The Cable Car, a funicular railway, between Lambton Quay, the main shopping street, and Kelburn, a suburb in the hills overlooking the central city, rising 120 m over a length of 612 m. The one-way trip takes approximately five minutes. We spent the afternoon wandering around the top – taking selfies as us young people are known to do and saying wow wow wow.

Overall, we enjoyed Wellington. It seems much bigger than Adelaide though the population is about half. Probably because Adelaide is so spread out. A picture containing outdoor, building, sky, street

Description automatically generatedMuch of the dock, Wellington Harbour, seems built in the past twenty-years. I think I even read that somewhere on the internet.  The old dock area is nicely merged with new crap which is good. The Old Government Building (built in 1876) is one of the world’s largest wooden structures. We were there on a market day – which is shown in our video above. Below feel free to groove on our slideshow of a few photos of Wellington from our collection of hundreds.

We had a good smorgasbord @ James Cook Hotel Grand Chancellor with a view toward the bay from the 17th floor.

The next day we hoped a ferry over to Picton on the southern island. I think it was about $35 USD each way per person – quite an inexpensive trip – a bit less than four hours. I liked it and took less than a thousand photos – some are in the sllideshow below.

And of course, obviously, https://youtu.be/NJQt3vadLM8 our YouTube clip.

We got to Picton in the afternoon and wandered around the small town (about 4500 folks – twice as many as our hometown Greytown – which as you would know from reading above was neatest or tidiest or grooviest place in all of NZ a few years ago – when Tilly, the cat, was mayor).

 October 2022, Picton ferry

The second train trip, a few days later, was a little more ambitious and included a return ferry ride to Picton on the South Island. A highlight was meeting two young folks, just randomly really, not a couple. One was a girl who looked just like Mau 20 years ago. We started talking and then switched to Dutch which was fun. Good practice. She, a Dutch girl named Neinke, a veterinarian from Nijmegen, was travelling alone, and had arrived in New Zealand after travelling in Korea.  Then another interesting person joined us. Daniel, a software engineer was Ukrainian, living in Israel. We chatted for quite a while, great conversation. We formed a WhatsApp chat group and decided to meet again for a meal in Picton.  

 here is some stuff to help you on your next quiz night

The ferry ride back was late leaving and so we missed our train on the return to Wellington by two minutes!!!!!

Another over-night stay, this time a backpackers near the station. It was fine. Lucky to find it as the hotels are pricey.

No train, only a bus to go home.

They only send buses in the off-peak hours. No tunnel, a really hairy trip through very steep winding roads, shared with logging trucks and very steep sides. Not my favourite, though the scenery is pretty speccie. One-minute clip @ https://youtu.be/-bRPwni9FQ0  

It’s actually much worse than it looks. 😨

The town next to us, they did not make it into the tidy town winning circle as Greytown did – but still the place is OK, Featherston has seven bookstores in a town of 2500. New Zealand’s ‘only’ booktown.

Wow! Was Narda excited. I am sure we got to at least ten of the seven bookstores during our sojourn in Greytown. And of course, we lugged a pile of books home even though we were pushing the allowable weight limit on New Zealand’s skimpy weight allowance.  My favourite bookshop had a bit of a coffee shop too which made me happy as I could sit with my coffee and keep up to date on social media as Narda read the first twelve pages of every book in the store. This particular shop according to Narda was overpriced charging up to six or seven bucks (New Zealand or a bit over $4 USD) – lucky for our weight limit we (she) found books for a buck or two at another shop in a limited fashion.

Featherston had another bonus. It is ranked as the town with the most bookshops in New Zealand. So naturally I bought 5 and a half kilos of books to transport home. Including 2 wonderful books by Amatov Ghosh. We were still within weight on the trip back but only just!

Fell Locomotive Museum

So, what happens when the rail is too steep? In Switzerland they built a cog train. Here in New Zealand a guy called Fell designed and built a locomotive that uses the cogs, but sideways. So, there is an extra engine underneath all the carriages that clamps onto a third rail from two sides, giving the train the ability to ride on a steeper incline.

The brakes are made of soft iron. They would be white hot at the end of each climb and descent and would have to be replaced with new ones each time. Quite the project. It was discontinued in the 1950s. Now there is a long tunnel instead. We saw all this in a museum in Featherston. Really interesting.

According to Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fell_Locomotive_Museum, The Fell Locomotive Museum in Featherston, New Zealand, exhibits the only remaining steam-powered Fell railway locomotive in the world.  It is all quite impressively really. Before the tunnel, which we had been through a few times taking the train in to Wellington the train had to go up over the mountain range – the same range we went over on a bus a week earlier – we talked about that a few paragraphs earlier.

See 35 seconds of train wheels going around and gasp at the real train sounds I added to the background.

Another one of those things you should know for your next quiz night

Narda has seemed to stop writing. She has gotten into drawing which is nice. I am not permitted to share these drawings (with Narda’s knowledge but meet me in disguise after ten pm in the alley outback and I will share a glimpse.) Saying all that there is not much more to say about our NZ stay except for a couple of other little excursions we took beyond the bookstore town and our local cows and with the non-blessings of Tilly the cat. I will go on about just two of these places. Castlepoint and Waiohine Gorge with NZ’s longest swing bridge high over the Waiohine River which we even crossed (most of the way).

Forget all that she wrote this.

It seems there is white sand on the west coast and black sand on the east. The weather was gorgeous, so we took a drive to Castlepoint Beach, about 1 ½ hours’ drive. Pretty speccie. It has a beach, a lagoon fill by large waves and a huge rock 165 metres tall.  We also saw a fur seal swimming in the shallows. Pretty popular, it was the last day of schools’ holidays and also a sunny weekend.

Here is what we discovered in New Zealand.

  • They call shopping trolleys, trundles.
  • Folks are super friendly and helpful.
  • There is no rubbish on the ground…zilch!
  • The road signs are more gentle, eg,  instead of saying
  • “Drink and drive and you die” the sign says “if you have been drinking it’s better not drive” ….or similar.
  • It’s expensive. 
  • They say cheer instead of chair, sees instead of says, teak instead of tick. Bit confusing really. 😄 
  • It’s basically a huge golf course with many very rugged mountains, weirdly rugged, lots of jagged bits, nothing smoothly predictably rolling.
  • The beaches are covered with firewood.
  • It’s incredibly beautiful. 
  • I have never seen so many landslides! (See photo a bit later in Terrell’s “rambles” – it’s OK, I said that)

I have decided to try to learn to draw. I like a style called Urban Sketching which combines the use of black line sketching with simple watercolour painting. 

This kind of thing. Basically, you draw what you see.  I love the informality of it, and it will be interesting to draw things we see on our travels. 

(Me editing in real time – how modern)

Castlepoint is a small beach side town with a groovy lighthouse. It was about an hour from home. As I say in my video clip, Castlepoint has a fossil-rich limestone reef, safe sandy beaches and features the stunning 162-metre-high Castle Rock, one of the most spectacular sights along the Wairarapa coast.’ See our spectacular or not clip at https://youtu.be/AcsVc_7WWMM

A few of the less than a thousand photos we took:

Perhaps due to a lot of rain or poor road construction, earthquakes, bad drivers – whatever, we found too many roads on our many little trips that had washed away or just fallen off the cliff. What made driving really fun was when coming around a curve and suddenly there was only one lane and for an even greater thrill a logging truck was coming around quickly on the other lane. It was only scary when I was driving as I drive faster than Narda.

The Waiohine Gorge

It was lovely weather, so we took a very scary drive into the nearby mountains to see the nearby gorge. I say scary all the time I know. This time it was a loose gravel, very narrow road, mostly only room for 1 car, and with a significant drop to the left. We didn’t run into anyone, but I did reverse for one soul, and hit a pot-hole on occasion.

I got 67% of the way across before the wind almost blew my hat into the river far below – making me scurry – as I hung on for dear life to get back to some sense of normality which I am almost back to at present several weeks later. See photos below to confirm this tale.

Martinborough

Then there was an impromptu turn off to see a different town, very close to us. It was a bit like the Barossa, lots of wineries (20) and a charming little town with a town square and a nice little pub. We ate dinner there, fish and chips, me with a very impressive cider. Even the local supermarket was very gezellig. We ate at the Pukemanu Pub https://pukemanu.co.nz/ a good feed indeed

Martinborough seemed like a pleasant town – they have less than 2000 inhabitants – and unlike Greytown never got to be tidy town of the year.

One of the last things we did before leaving Greytown to go to Wellington to fly back home was to attend the Carterton Fair. If you don’t watch our other videos, I would suggest watching this one if you want to see a real sheep race at a real rural country New Zealand yearly fair. https://youtu.be/gNEOICnl30Y they had a very fine bagpipe thing happening – it’s on the video above –

the amazing only in New Zealand sheep race

they had a very fine bagpipe thing happening – it’s on the video above –

some old fart played country and western music – quite good I should add and yes it is on the video clip above.

we had a real fun time at the Carterton Fair.  Oh! Almost forgot – it’s in the video above, obviously, I got excited about watching the lawnmower races – really, and the horse jumping. I have heaps of photos of folks jumping around the place these are two I sort of like more than some of the others.

BTW, this dude lost, though I thought he did quite well. I guess it is because his horse knocked over a bunch of those polls. They probably shot him after for being such a fool.

And that is it for Greytown – just wanted to add that at the fair as with all country fairs they had the hall of showoffs – locals showing their flowers, baked goods, stitchings, photos and the like and having them judged. Just between you and me, and I am not bragging or putting myself on another pedestal (beyond the one I have already placed myself upon), or acting like a Yank in another country,  but… my photos are way better than what anyone else showed, the lemons on the tree in our backyard (not really our backyard but the backyard of where we are living at the moment which makes it our backyard as the people whose backyard we are enjoying are in our house in Adelaide with our crappy backyard and dead fruit trees – but that is not the point) are so much better than the stupid dried up little lemons on a plate that won first prize were. This is our lemon tree (if it was truly our backyard)

it has been great – we have had lemon juice everyday – and orange juice too – the orange tree was amazing. And our flowers (if truly they were our flowers) in the yard (our yard if it was truly our yard) are much better than the winners of prizes at the Carterton Show.

see what I mean? BTW here is a shot of their

 and first place flowers –

Thanks for agreeing with me. For a moment there I thought there could possibly be something wrong with my thought patterns.

We will miss our little section of paradise in NZ – when we got home our lawn was terrible – weeds had taken over our home and garden after two-months away – we forgot to hire someone to do anything with our garden the whole time we were away – or maybe we were too cheap – forget which – and it rained in Adelaide most of the time away so the people here wanted to play golf and hike did not get as good a trade as we did in NZ where it was warmer and not many rainy days. Their property was so fantastic – and our friends the cows and Tilly the cat and even the chooks made us feel very relaxed. Our first stay was wonderful too – you have already read all about it in the previous blog. Overall, we loved NZ. A few of the many snapshots of our backyard if it was truly our backyard.

We did the hour and half drive to Wellington over the mountain in five hours – pretty good time for us. We have a video clip of this drive – with all the cliffs and mountain passages included. https://youtu.be/t6Sv2MqBuKY  

We stayed once again at the Brentwood Hotel in Wellington. We were there at the beginning of our trip in NZ and collected the car from the first house-exchange in Taupo. We drove our second car (lovely new Trident 4×4) to Wellington from Greytown and left it at the Brentwood for the people who were at our house to collect when they flew in, the same day as we were leaving. They left our car at the Adelaide Airport which made it easy for us when we got in at midnight to have our car to drive home. At the Brentwood we learned that the Rolling Stones had stayed here too long ago and even wrote one of their songs here. Cool.

GOODBYE WELLINGTON NEW ZEALAND

and this sign we see all over NZ – why?

and this sums up our time in NZ

thanks for coming along with us – our next trip is a month caravan trip to Victoria and within that time a week with my son, Sacha and his partner, Georgia, camping with us – can’t wait

Our next OS trip is Pakistan for February and the UK for two months after – see ya somewhere in the world…cheers Narda and Terrell

New Zealand

Below is our first house-exchange in New Zealand. We are now in Greytown and will post this blog when we get home first week of November. However, to the delight of ourselves…we are continually adding new video clips to our story which can be viewed in our YouTube playlist. We especially like the clip on ‘Wellington to Picton Ferry’, and the one where Narda serenades our cows. Not really our cows but we have befriended them as they live in the paddock next to our house. see these and other amazing New Zealand clips of our stay HERE. Cheers!

Narda’s note are in italics – Terrell’s in whatever that is left. If sometimes our notes sound similar it probably is because they possibly are. Our notes are then tossed up into the air and as they tumble in such random fashions as to confuse the most ardent editor they are embedded into the story below. Good luck!

October 2022 now in New Zealand Our first three weeks at Lake Taupo before our next house exchange back down by Wellington.

Herewego

First things first.

Before diving into this blog – my first story…like how I first saw New Zealand 42 years ago, which led me to having Australian children, getting married a couple of times, both times to an Aussie; 4 years & 22 years and counting and how the reason I first went to Zealand 42 years ago was because I had different beliefs than I do now. Of course, we all should have different beliefs now than we did 42 years ago. Back to that later, or not.

Anyway, returning to first things…lucky me, I am sitting on this Air New Zealand flight typing on my laptop, listening to inflight entertainment (Creedence Clearwater Revival – a great 1960s band) …because I can…Also watched the video Bansky does New York

Ideal watching on flight to New Zealand

Adelaide Airport announcement, “there is a laptop left @ security, collect it now”. Gosh darn, what fool would leave their computer @security. I look down at my bag. Damn! I run off to where we went through security. Yes, we were told to take our laptop out of our bag. I have flown dozens of times around the world, we used to fly New York to Australia every year between 2002 and 2010, China to Australia 2010 – 2014 and many other long-distance flights in the past 22+ years, and yes as an elite flyer (my personal observation) such as me, I know how to get through an airport. Anyway, with fifteen-minutes before boarding I once again had my laptop with me. Maybe it is the ageing process, Narda had a few ‘left behinds’ so far on this trip and we have just started. Though I reckon we are just out of practice – haven’t travelled for five-months. Started off the year OK; DC for New Years, Lahore for Brendan’s and Sofie’s wedding before DC, then Holland for the first three months of this year. Lots of complicated travel, left nothing behind. Maybe we figured New Zealand being so close to home (four-hour flight) we just went off into la la land together. Next year we have six months international travel (Pakistan, UK, USA) so we need to get it sorted. 

Narda’s notes so far…

Narda’s drawing bus with our stuff on the sidewalk – on the right – my bus is on the left…our first time using the pen tool on this laptop…using Adobe ‘sky replacement’ tool for the background – my favourite tool – meaning on a cloudy day I can cheer it up with Adobe.

Leaving our stuff on the footpath.

Off to New Zealand. 

My first time………………….

September 18, 2022

I could have been sitting here in the Riviera Hotel on this rainy Sunday  arvo minus my new back pack. So no kindle, no groovy tablet, and worst of all, no diary. As I stood up to get off, I heard the voice of my beloved  “don’t forget your bag”. I must confess I would have left it on the bloody bus.

Then there was the leaving of the house. We went next door to our neighbours to say goodbye…… keep an eye on our house. We had all our stuff on the front porch to go straight to the bus. Our neighbours were not home. We unlocked the front door and re-entered our house as the bus was not due for another 20 minutes. And here is scary thing number two. The back door was wide open and our new car was unlocked. What the….????

I spend an inordinate amount of time planning, making lists, making lists of lists. I have always thought of myself as a good planner, being organised. My  favourite thing is to plan trips. I am up at 5am full of excitement to continue with my plan, or to start it again because I have just spent half the night thinking about it and have come up with the trip of all trips. I kid you not, I have nearly all of 2023 planned, including flights and budgets and am now working on 2024.

I am reading a very interesting book about ageing. Maybe some tips for me. I must say this whole thing was unsettling. Hopefully not a new modus operandi. I’m only 68 FFS! So much to do, so much to see.

We are on our way to New Zealand. Two house exchanges of three weeks. All on the north island. I have set the bar pretty low. Cold rainy weather, the people are just like Aussies, and everything is expensive. So we’ll see. 
Now the next few days will be telling. This was a trip postponed by covid where Air New Zealand refused to give a refund, despite having cancelled the flights from their end. Here we are ready to use our airline credit.

Terrell on a bus lost already

September 19, 2022

Twenty-five minutes to boarding. Our first time in the new, international, very empty section of the terminal. Last night we had a lovely meal with sisters and brothers-in-law at Marcelina’s. I had the Caesar salad; we had eaten left over cheese all day and this was the only non-cheese option. We both slept well, better than we had for some nights, despite taking turns snoring.

So here’s a nice tried and true exit strategy  from good old Adelaide.

Overnight at the Riviera $90
Dinner with the rels at Marcelinas $51
Brekkie at Macca’s at the end of Hindley St $14

J1 bus at the end of Currie to the airport free 

Could work for the next one.

Wellington Airport lobby – go figure

September 20, 2022

Standing in the rain at Wellington airport waiting for our hotel shuttle. It definitely was a day of delays. Started already in Adelaide, then rolled on to the next two flights as each waited for the previous arrival. We did have brollies though. 

Janie said that her impressions of NZ was it is all still in the 70s. I agree. It’s nice. It’s started with the Brentwood Hotel, which we finally got too, at around at midnight. Our room was large, lots of timber panelling, normal light switches, a regular key to open the door, a very 70s decor, and lots of friendly folk attending a “search and rescue ” conference. So we know who to call when the earthquake starts.

Did you know that the house of a grocer from Virginia was involved in one of the first battles of the American civil war. The grocer then moved to further south to be safe, and 4 years later the final surrender by Robert E Lee occurred in his house again, right on his front porch. What are the odds?

This was the story told to us by Brian Reeve, duty manager of the Brentwod Hotel when he discovered that Terrell was an American! Brian had many similar stories to tell us, as did Terrell, and we were invited to visit him and his wife in a few weeks.

And…….they can both recite Abe Lincoln’s Gettysburg address! “….all men are created equal………”. Men in the widest sense. Of course.

These are things one learns in New Zealand.

Then we got to drive a nice Skoda. Dad would have loved it. Very smooth to drive, and solid….with a CD slot and no beeping alarms!

Another 70s impression was the housing. Nothing new, nothing too square and boxy, with lots of painted wooden slats! Wellington is very nice. Right on the sea with hills rising steeply. Then onto the highway heading north.

A little New Zealand humour – all the trees on this street had one of these witches’ caps on the top –

New Zealand street humour – witch’s cap on a tree top – note: we did not need to use Photoshop ‘Sky replacement’ tool – a perfect day

(Terrell’s part not italicized) Arrived in Auckland – hour late – thought we would miss our flight to Wellington. Auckland International Airport is one of those airports where they do not believe international and domestic should coincide. We had barely half an hour to grab the next flight plus get luggage. The luggage was easy but waiting for a shuttle bus to the next airport made us nervous. Supposed to be every ten-minutes, fifteen minutes later we were impatiently climbing the wall – if there had been one. Slowly one came along we got the domestic airport rushing through letting everyone know we were trying to catch a connecting flight. Folks along the way said it was OK the flight was delayed waiting for the likes of us. We still panicked and let everyone know of the importance of our rushing. Well, it was ten pm and no other flights – the airport shops were all closed. We were starving – well, a bit hungry. Finally, got to our gate. So did everyone else. The flight had been delayed another hour. Bottom line, we got to Wellington after eleven pm. Originally were to arrive about 8 pm. Hungry. Because we did not have a sim card (we were running through Auckland Airport to catch our flight) and all the shops were closed in Wellington Airport we were not able to contact the hotel to send a shuttle to collect our sorry asses. Luckily, Narda spotted a telephone on a wall with some sort of help available notification beneath and got someone to ring our motel which kindly provided a shuttle.

The folks who we are doing our house-exchange with left their car for us at the airport and without future ado we were off looking for food. The hotel-motel manager said all the shops would be closed except for a petrol station he gave us instructions to. Of course, I used my favourite line in these situations when getting a car in a new country, “which side of the road should we drive on?” For some reason I believe that is funny, though Narda doesn’t.

We found said petrol station. We were not allowed inside. A friendly person said through heavy barred window that we can only order from outside. No one is allowed inside after ten pm. Security and all. Nevertheless, the friendly person said that they had food. Pies and sandwiches and sausages. Narda kept asking if we could come inside. “Obviously, we don’t look like we would rob you”. But no. He recited what foods they have. I asked if there was anything vegetarian. That was a showstopper. He basically laughed and wanted to know why. Anyone could look at me and know I don’t eat meat…so I often think. After fifty years on the lamb or not on the lamb I must project a non-meat-eating look. He said he was a Hindu who ate meat, and I was a white person who didn’t. Bottom line Narda had a meat pie, and I had a carrot cake. By then I was too hungry to ask if he had anything low-carb, and already I think he was having a bit of lend of me – hey! How about organic? Narda went to bed full I went to bed hungry. In actual fact I am on a low-carb diet (diabetes), vegetarian forever, and who doesn’t want their intake to be organic?

Narda has talked about the person at the motel who was a civil war buff (my great-grandfather was in the civil war, and I have a whole story about him dying on the battlefield at Gettysburg.) My adopted father, since age three, but still I would say this person was a part of my family. I told the friendly guy I would send him some confederate money when we return to Australia as I have several paper bills. My father collected such things and I have no use for them, and they are not worth as much as I thought they would be, and my son doesn’t want all the boxes of stuff in our shed. Long tale shortened…the buffet breakfast was good, and I got to eat lots.

We bought a sim card for one phone. Realized it did not work and in the next major town, Palmerston North we found a Sparks store, which is our sim card, and a rude dude, who said we ‘were aggressive’ did not take to us blaming him, his company, and half of New Zealand for the failure of our Wi-Fi. After much conversational struggle it seems that we may have not paid for a service in their stupid app that we had downloaded. At the end of it all Narda explained that we are really nice people, and we were not attacking him personally – we just needed some assistance.

After driving all day so far, leaving Wellington at 10 AM – to Palmerston North (142 KM the GPS said two-hours, we took six-hours, go figure) to Feilding – another 20-minutes re. GPS – took us only an hour and a half, where we stopped after our sim card incident, now that we have GPS, we found a nice little overpriced motel. We went shopping at the local New World supermarket and bought fixings for dinner and breakfast and snacks for if we got hungry between dinner and breakfast. We had been upgraded in our overpriced motel, $155 NZD, to a suite with a kitchen and we made full use of it.

A little known fact: Feilding has won the annual New Zealand’s Most Beautiful Town award 15 times https://www.feilding.co.nz/

Next day on our way to our destination of Lake Taupo we saw a windmill alongside the highway. It looked exactly like where we were living the first three-months of this year in Nieuwerkerk aan den Ijssel, Holland.

Our first interesting stop was Foxton, sporting a real working windmill. It still grinds and makes flour.  Some homesick dutchies built it 20 years ago. The ground floor is a very respectable Dutch shop with all the necessary stuff on sale. We stocked up, and then did the little tour, climbing the steep ladders and playing a game of sjoelbak. Of course, I won.

Narda starting the windmill on a bit of a windy day
The windmill in Foxton, in case you thought we had skittled back to the Netherlands.
[‘De Molen in Foxton is a full-size replica of a Dutch windmill, completed and opened in 2003. Two Dutch immigrants, Jan Langen and Cor Slobbe, saw their dream realised that year. This working windmill makes stone-ground flour, available for purchase inside the mill’s souvenir shop. Visitors can also view the mechanical workings of the mill, which are an example of traditional Dutch 17th Century craftsmanship.’]

After indulging in Dutch sweets, we took a route 54 up toward Vinegar Hill stopping at the amazing view point of Stormy Point Lookout. … stretching as far as Mt Taranaki and Mt Ruapehu, and the west coast. You’ll also see one of the best-preserved sequences of river terraces in the world.

Our second long drive took us to Palmerston North, where we headed straight to the Spark store to complain about our not-working sim card. The person who was supposed to help us was a dick and told us we had no right to come and demand a refund. After smoothing his ruffled ego, we managed to get him back onside and it’s all good.

Outa there. Still think he’s a dick.

We drove to a nice friendly hotel in the charming town of Feilding. No this is not misspelt, it’s named after some guy (who clearly had some spelling issues 🙄)

 Some lasagne and the like from the grocery and we did our own dinner.

A serious snow-capped mountain on the way impressed us, though  it was not quite K2. There were two more. Around 2,600 metres. Brendan from Pakistan said that this is a baby.

Mount Ruapeh

You can catch a view of this as well as our stop along the Rangitikei River in our video Wellington to Lake Taupo below.

Wellington to Lake Taupo first days in New Zealand
went to Tokaanu Thermal Walk in The Tūrangi area

The local volcano is now filled with the huge lake you see below, Lake Taupo. It has just a few days ago been upgraded from 0 to 1. The locals say they have only ever known it as a category one in their lifetime.

Here is the scale:

Zero is extinct
One is not extinct
Two is pending eruption
Three is actively erupting. 

We have minimal internet, no TV (have not figured it out yet)

So if we disappear under the molten rock, you will know it made it to 3.

Lake Taupo – @ first sight
Omori – the town right before entering Kuratau, with a lot less houses
My husband, Dr Dolittle

September 22, 2022

Can you imagine falling into a puddle and being boiled alive? Well this is possible in the hot springs. If the volcano doesn’t getcha, the hot springs can. They are all over this area. I’m told to be reassured, as this means the pressure for an eruption is somewhat eased. I’m sure Jessica can add a better explanation.


Steaming cliffs of our local active volcano beneath our feet
A devastating landslide obliterated the Ngāti Tūwharetoa village of Te Rapa on the south-west shore of Lake Taupō. Sixty people were killed, including the paramount chief Mananui Te Heuheu Tūkino II. This remains New Zealand’s highest death toll from a landslide.

Te Rapa sat below the volcanic springs of Mt Kākaramea. The missionary Richard Taylor recorded that an ‘unusually rainy season occasioned a large landslip’ on the mountain. The slip dammed a stream which, three days later, ‘burst its barriers, and, with irresistible force, swept rocks, trees and earth with it into the lake’. The avalanche of debris buried Te Rapa and only a few people managed to escape.

In 1910, another landslide killed one person in a new village near the old site of Te Rapa. After this second event, the village was abandoned. The source of the landslides was an unstable geothermal area known as the Hipaua Steaming Cliffs. This still causes problems for engineers working on State Highway 41, which passes between the cliffs and Lake Taupō. Waihī village now stands at the lakeside. https://nzhistory.govt.nz/new-zealands-most-devastating-landslide-at-te-rapa-lake-taupo

.

Today is day four that I have tested negative for Covid. Only significant as I am supposed to test for five days in a row because Narda tested positive five days ago. Lucky me so far. Only one day to go then I no longer need to test according to latest New Zealand guidelines. Narda is self-isolating for seven-days which given our nice spot in the world is not bad. I went off and bought oodles of groceries – lots of tempeh, tofu, organic and low-carb stuff and some chunks of meat for Narda. We should be good. I have time to write this silly stuff and learn about our area, such as this is where the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit were filmed – 45-minutes away. We are less than an hour to the snow fields and it snowed there yesterday. Chains on tyres are required to go there so we will need to give it all a miss, but we will get as close as we can. I am making lists of all the places we will go to see once out of quarantine.

They are very good about this covid thingy here. Was a two-week quarantine up to a week ago now just one week. At the airport we were given four test kits each. We had to report our situation once arriving and they said we could get more test kits, so I went into town and they gave me five boxes of four each. Now we have like 25 RATS – in Adelaide they wanted like ten bucks per RAT. I was also given a box of 50 good quality masks. Narda has been rung a couple of days – very nice people, wanting to know if we needed anything like food or medicine. Sacha suggested we say we needed wine and cheese, mainly because Narda is Dutch. But we didn’t.

We drove halfway around our Lake Taupo to the town of Taupo and of course the first place we run off to is McDonalds – and on a plane too.

At McDonalds there is a DC3, right there in the carport. You can go inside to eat your burger.

Terrell’s jacket got a taste of my gold texta too. One of my iso projects.

Sidebar: we made a great discovery; Narda asked if they did senior coffee at a McDonald's couple of days past...no to special coffees like latte and crap - but yes to a filtered coffee. So, we are making McDonald stops as we drive around the country getting our free filtered coffee. Seems a bit out of balance we will pay thousands of dollars to go places and look for free coffee but we do.

Knowing that we are a tad bit cultural-ignorant we saw a Māori-Volcano Museum in town. When we realized that the fee for entry was only $6 (seniors) – which translated to $3.60 USD for two we were quick to part with our would have been coffee money. The Taupo Museum https://www.taupodc.govt.nz/community/taupo-museum was both a great museum to learn about Māori culture as well as about the volcanic activity of our local area.

The Taupo Museum

 Narda entering a Māori meeting place, place. Of course, we had profound interest in the idea of caravan camping… and of learning about the volcanic activity in our area – Narda has various thoughts of what we should do if there is a local eruption of one of the volcanic mountains or if the lake goes up as it did once-upon-a-time – like will we get an alert?

And that was our day in Taupo – we didn’t even investigate what the SuperLoo was though I had thoughts about it which I won’t share.

@ home we once again got into our tennis-championship playing mode. We first played tennis when we lived in Noja, Spain https://neuage.me/2019/03/19/spain/ a few years ago. The reason for that then was because our house-exchange for a month had tennis playing equipment i.e. rackets and balls as well as a tennis court – with the special incentive of no one around to watch or see us – it was end of winter and no tourist shuffling about. We played most days for a month. We were so excited about our fastly developing, almost improving, tennis skills that we bought rather expensive (more than ten dollars) rackets and even dozens of tennis balls when back in Adelaide. We drove off to a rather never used tennis court at the end of Perseverance Road (our street and the subtext of our life) and played daily for almost a full week before my elbow began to hurt. Tennis elbow is the unfortunate consequence of us elite tennis players. Then we travelled more, went through the covid thingy and sort of forgot about our world rankings until now. To prove that we were serious, we watched the first ten-minutes of a 20-minute beginner’s guide to how to play tennis then went out and worked on our serve. My return had more bounce that I had expected and went over the very high fence around the tennis court and landed in trees a distance away. I believe in baseball that would be a home run though in tennis probably not. Anyway, because we found tennis rackets and a huge tube of balls, we are playing upwards of 20-minutes a day to work on our world-rankings. (In the low billions at this point but we hope to improve – after watching the rest of the first of the beginner’s video series – if we get around to it)

September 27, 2022

Covid round 2…..done. 

Basically 5 days of tissues and Panadol.

This is a house build for isolating. No-one around.  We were  stocked up with groceries, anticipating living a long was from the supermarket. 

And Terrell never got it! Go figure. Must be those green smoothies.

Pumice is abundant in this place. This is the stuff you can us to sand down the soles of your feet. I think we have found the source. Here’s the story…

Our big day out was driving to Taupo, a nice town, which used to be the “dustiest”,  on the opposite side of the lake. It’s a pleasant drive, following the lake with great views. Lots of scruffy little towns to slow down for. Refreshing to see places that are still not developed to the hilt with million dollar lake front houses. Though in Taupo you do see that too.

We stopped to eat our picnic lunch of sandwiches with cheese and mustard pickles. Not quite the same as the Aussie ones (no gerkins) but still pretty tasty.

view of the steaming cliffs from near our home

Pretty cool huh.

And then there are the extremophiles, microbes that live in the hot springs. The brown ones live in cooler waters, orange and green live in 35 to 65 degree water. The colours come from different chemicals in the rocks. The hard core guys go even hotter, they are white and pink.

1.) Mt Ruapehu is an active stratovolcano located in Tongariro National Park, in the centre of the North Island, New Zealand.
2) Mt Ruapehu is estimated to be about 200,000 years old.
3.) It is the largest volcano in New Zealand and is also the highest point in the North Island.
4.) It has the only major ski fields in the North Island which are the longest ski runs in the country.
5.) An eruption in 1953 caused a lahar which descended on the valley below destroying a rail bridge just as the Wellington – Auckland train was passing which resulted in 151 fatalities.

#MtRuapehu #facts #tongarironationalpark

Mount Ngauruhoe is one of three volcanoes in Tongariro National Park, it is also Mount Doom.

Mt DOOM

September 28, 2022

We have finally figured out that daylight saving has kicked in in this volcano of a country. So the mornings are still darker. My bedroom is pitch dark….I mean black, not a sliver or hint of light. Same with the sound. Nothing. Nada.

Mt Ngauruhoe, elevation, 2,2291 m and featuring as the Mountain of Doom in Lord of the Rings, taken from the car park of the Chateau Hotel where they refused to sell us a buffet brekkie because we were not staying there. Oh well.

Then on the road again to the ski resort at the next mountain, which was mostly still in the clouds, literally. The trip there was strange. Lots of black volcanic rock and no vegetation.

The snow we saw was created by machines, but when there was a break in the clouds you could see the big arsed  mountain with real snow. And a gondola taking folks up to it.

(Mount Doom is a fictional volcano in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium. It is in the northwest of the Black Land of Mordor and close to Barad-dûr. Alternative names, in Tolkien's invented language of Sindarin, include Orodruin and Amon Amarth. [Wikipedia] Other name(s): Orodruin, Amon Amarth, the Fiery Mountain Ruler: Sauron)

Well, let me tell you that is fake news – it is not a fictional volcano but a real one that shoots its load rather often. Maybe today. Mount Tongariro, (the volcano next to mount Ngauruhoe), had a hydrothermal eruption in 2012! Which could have caused a chain eruption of Ngauruhoe. But it hasn’t so far.

(Ngauruhoe first erupted 2,500 years ago, and erupted 45 times in the 20th century, (61 eruptions since 1839) and most recently in 1977. It is one of New Zealand’s most active volcanoes and has the youngest vent in the Tongariro volcanic complex, on the central Plateau of the North Island. 
Explosive and violent ash eruptions took place in January and March in 1974 and February in 1975. The major eruption (which took place on the 19th of February 1975) sent and eruption plume up to a height of 13km above the crater.)

We stopped at the Chateau Tongariro Hotel in Whakapapa Village in the Tongariro National Park. We went in to have breakfast, but it was only available to people staying at the hotel, so we went back to our car and had coffee we brought from home and ate our cheese sandwiches. Probably a bit cheaper. We had hoped to stay at the hotel – looked so fancy and nice but it was booked full – and is booked full for the rest of the time we are here.

Chateau Tongariro Hotel in Whakapapa Village in the Tongariro National Park.

And of course, information on Tongariro Alpine Crossing which is a couple of days of hiking up Mount Ngauruhoe and through craters and scary stuff. I am sure Sacha and Brendan would do it. But not being quite as young and fit as our children Narda and I decided to give it a miss this time.

We drove up to the end of the road, Iwikau Village @ the base of Mt Ruapehu (the largest volcano/mountain) in the range. Thought of hoping on the Sky Waku – gondola, that goes into the now fields but being so much cloud coverage, we gave that a miss too.

Iwikau Village @ the base of Mt Ruapehu

Occasionally the clouds would scoot over and let us get a glimpse of parts of the mountain but nothing to write home about (except here I am doing that).

The area around the base of Mt Ruapehu is pretty rugged filled with volcanic rock and no snow where we were at the bottom. They had the snow blowing machines on for those wanting to have one last ski before the end of the season. There was snow further up and skiing, but my zoom (300 mm) was not quite strong enough to capture it. We had coffee at a nice little café next to the gondolas then went home which is 45-minutes away. If there is a clear day we will come back up but the next week looks quite cloudy until we leave when we will be passing this way on the way to our next house exchange in Greytown.

Tawhai Falls is a 13 metre high waterfall in the Tongariro National Park. The track begins 4km below Tongariro National Park Visitor Centre in Whakapapa Village. It was a fifteen minute hike from the car park – which was a reasonable hike for us in this area, unlike the three – five day hikes people do going up to Mt Doom looking for those bloody Hobbits.

That’s us there in the Cafe. The white stuff at the top is Mt Ruapehu elevation 2,797m

It a big one.

On the way home we took a 15 minute hike 😀 to a lovely  waterfall nearby.

our morning coffee walk along the rain forest along Lake Taupo

One of the more advertised tourist scrambles is the ‘Crater of the Moon‘ caper outside the town of Taupo. We found the free walk around the Thermal Pools near our house more interesting. Still, our video shows our fun time in this area…following the next two or more photos. It was only ten bucks NZ about six Yankee funny money – ten times more than ten free filtered coffees at McDonald, though hotter than their coffee.

Taupo, October 1

Tourists were we. First a tour of “Craters of the moon”. A decent walk through a park with many examples of funicular, which are funnels of hot steam rising up from the hot interior of the earth. It was nice, we were well set up for the constant rain: brollies and rain jackets.

looking for warmth
Craters of the Moon and Huka Falls New Zealand
A large thermal walking area – is saying people are unable to smoke mean? Not like the smoke of a person will interfere with the smoke of all that is around us. Not that I care not having smoked for more than forty years but hey what’s the deal?

Just outside of Taupo, Huka Falls is one of the most visited natural attractions on New Zealand’s North Island. Waikato River’s largest falls are fed by Australasia’s biggest freshwater lake, Lake Taupo.

Next stop was the spectacular water fall called Huka Falls. The picture barely does it justice; the roar of the water needs to be heard!. The river empties into the large lake Taupo. We live on the opposite side an hour’s drive away.

Huka

September 30 and the next couple of days

Lunch at the local Indian restaurant (butter chicken, mali kofta and good naan bread) and we were on our way home.

Those of you who know us know that Terrell, despite his easy going exterior, is actually a meticulous, almost obsessive, keeper of records. He has precise records of all our spending, going back many years. This enables me to make guilt free flight purchases. ✈ . He also keeps records of how much exercise we do. Which means that I get dragged off to do something more often than I really want. So we completed 2 long (hour plus) walks in recent days. Both along a gorgeous track very  close to our new home.

The track follows the lakeside and goes from our town Kuratau and its twin, Omori to Pukawa.

I will let the photos tell the rest.

Magnolias abound, on our walk to the track, everyone has them.

The first walk we took the left turn, and second one we turned right a few days later after a 3″ rainfall over night, so a bit wetter. These days I’m still wearing my crocs, but now I have nifty galoshes to put over them. This is significant in my quest to reduce our luggage. This trip has been the lightest in a long time. Big bags well under 20 kgs and the carry on well under 7. Pretty happy with that. Hence the galoshes  instead of boots.

Trip inside a trip. Rotarua. October 4, 2022

It’s 7am. I’m sitting in the lounge of our little apartment in Rotarua in the charming Victorian style Prince’s Gate Hotel.

Bargain price of around $100 USD for a Tuesday; same room 3 times the price on the school holiday weekend.

We found Hobbitland. Yesterday, a fine sunny day, after 3 days of rain, we got lost (OK,  now you can stop laughing) on our way here, but our hour of extra road miles took us through amazing quirky landscapes that can only be Hobbit country. I would insert a photo here, but his Lordship, the chief taker of photos, is still asleep, despite it being 7.21. I’ve watched the Ukraine  updates, had my first big coffee and caught up on Facebook. What are you going to do?

Yesterday I did a very brave thing. Despite my fear of heights I joined my Terrell on an sky walk through the local, and impressive, Redwood forest. They do have lots of wood here. 90% of the plantations are Radiata Pine, mostly for export. But the old Redwoods have been saved in this charming forest. Not quite the scale of  California, but still rather beautiful.

Pretty scary to not only be on the skywalk, some 30m ( or was it 30 ft?) up, but then to lift ones phone up even higher………

Then there is Eat Street. Quite a civilized town, this.

Eat Street

We had a late brekkie there, Terrell took the bennie (that’s the cool version of eggs benedict) and I wolfed down some bacon with accessories. I’ve been trying to cut down, and I must say, this made me slightly queezy, so maybe cutting down is a reasonable future strategy. I’ve also been cutting down on red wine, a third of a glass max these days ( supported of course by the occasional beer)

We also found some cool geysers, but I’ll spare you more photos of mist plumes.

Local tulips and a bit of a look at the local paper. 

This gorgeous building is very close by. It was a bath house back in the day, now closed for renovations. It’s set in a beautiful  park.

We did go into their thermal pools – actually, pool. There were three pools, each hotter than the one before. We started off in the middle pool and stayed there until we felt cooked – about twenty-minutes. Narda felt a bit faint after. I think it was in the mid-30s (C). The pool above was too hot for us to get into but occasionally someone would come along and go in it and looked still alive by the time we left. Thermal pools -supposed to be of healing quality. The whole city has that rotten egg smell – not bad – just a sulfur odor. Similar to Saratoga Springs, New York, where I grew up (nearby in Clifton Park) – I always love to have Saratoga Vichy water when I am there – very high in minerals –

The springs are the result of a geological fault that allows water trapped in shale layers to surface. Historically, Mohawk and Iroquois tribes drank and bathed in Saratoga waters to celebrate the waters’ supposed strong healing and curative properties. Local lore says that the Mowhawks called the area “Serachtuague” to refer to it as a “place of fast moving water.” Early settlers may have mispronounced this word, leading to the anglicised “Saratoga.” Once discovered by settlers, accounts of its healthful benefits caught on in a big way. Even George Washington was an advocate of its restorative powers…https://www.saratoga.com/waters-of-saratoga/mineral-springs/

We enjoyed our three days in Rotorua – on the drive to there we were excited by the view of Mount Ruapehu in our rear-view mirror. Narda stopped so I could stand in the middle of the road and get a photo

We took the short detour to include the Waimangu Volcanic Valley. Well worth the drive. If we were younger and fitter we would have hiked to the crater, an hour down steep terrain – and taken the bus back up – but we didn’t.

and yes, of course, there is a short clip on our trip to Rotorua

Bye for now. Heading back to our little home in Kuratau.

Back home – we have lots of walking areas around Lake Taupo – see our couple of clips –
Our favourite spot is this bench in the deepest part of our little rain forest…

our local daily stroll
our last walk along Lake Taupo before leaving this space

And that is it for our first three weeks in New Zealand. Our second three weeks – here in Greytown (Wellington) we will write up after we return to Australia and have it up by mid-November. Below is a sample of our trip from Lake Taupo to Greytown. We stopped in Whanganui along the way because a three-hour drive is meant to take a few days. There are already stories to tell but the time is yet ripe for them. See ya in November and if anyone actually read this all the way through – wow – good on ya. Cheers Narda and Terrell

The Durie Hill Elevator is a public elevator in Whanganui, on the North Island of New Zealand. It connects Anzac Parade beside the Whanganui River with the suburb of Durie Hill. It is ranked by Heritage New Zealand as a Category 1 Historic Place, and is New Zealand’s only public underground elevator.

Random postscripts – on the way…

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