Monday, July 18, 2005

July 16 - 17 2005

Well, this is another of those weekends – a promise of rain, lots of rain.

Left Auckland at half six, breakfast in Dargaville, Opo at midday. THEN it started to rain. Not, you understand, anything of biblical proportions. Just good solid honest rain, more than enough to get you wet fairly quickly if you ventured outside. It stopped and started during the afternoon, but by dusk it was quite obvious that the main event was just over the dunes on the northwest side of the harbour.

About this time too, I sat in the conservatory watching the surf out on the bar. There was not a lot of break, only two of the major breaks seemed to be operating and that only intermittent. It was the combination of outgoing tide and strong easterly winds that created the spectacle.

They must have been three metre waves that built up on the outer side of the break. The strength of the easterly was such that it was holding the crest of these combers almost vertical for a second and the blew the whole top of the wave back in a huge arch of spray. The waves were not so much “progressing over the bar” as they normally would but just disintegrating.

After six I went down and caught some fish and chips from the local. Well fish and kumara chips to be precise. Veeeerrry nice.

The post dinner entertainment was a meterological fireworks display over the upper harbour. One of the biggest (though not overly active) thunderstorms I have seen for a while stamped its way over Kohukohu and Rawene way and off south east toward Whangarei. We sat with the lights off until well after nine when the back end of the front came through.

Later the tail of the associated low came through as well and really dumped. The roar of the rain on the roof woke me, and Shirley had been awake for a while.

Sunday started with a leisurely breakfast, pack the car, and away by midday. There was a very small slip coming down on the road at the start of the Waipoua Forest. It was just a small tree and some clay. Otherwise the drive home was a good steady run until Wenderholm where it all stopped. Took roughly half an hour from there to the end of the motorway. The only likely cause of the holdup was a young guy who seemed to think that his surfie wagon was a bridge demolition device. Anyway, despite that we did the trip in just on five hours including a stop for lunch.

Not bad going all things considered.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Queen's Birthday weekend

It truly has been this long since we last trekked north. April was taken up with our daughter's wedding (last weekend of that month) and for the two middle weekends of May I was suffering from one of the worst bouts of whatever (cold=flu=whatever :) ) that I have had for a very long time.

In the meantime, we have arranged Dene to mow the lawns on a regular once a month basis. Good idea that as one will soon see...

Queen's Birthday Weekend is one of the "picnic days" in the NZ calender. It is not Betty's actual birthday, but just one day in the calends set aside for commemoration of the event whoever may be the Monarch for the time being. When we become a Republic (well off in the future if only because Queen's Birthday sounds eminently better than "Republic Day", or "Bill Bolger's Birthday". But that aside, we had three days instead of just two.

Even then the trip was under threat as it fell smack in the middle of the preparation of end of month reports at work. Reports due Tuesday - Wednesday morning early NZ time if I really get stuck. However, thanks to the boss's management and some excellent planning and preparation that threat came to naught.

Saturday, up at five for coffee and pack the car. Usually the car would be done the night before but getting home at 10.30 is not a good thing to pack a car on... Very heavy showers, strong SWer. Winter in Auckland weather. Good drive right through.

Saturday night - to the pub to the pub. Lions (those moth-eaten funny costumes) and Barmy Army vs the BOP Steamers. This is rugby, not necessarily at its best. Ya go to Ruatoria, or Featherston, or Awanui, or Stratford for that. This is "Britain and Ireland" (the Lions) touring NZ for the first time in about 12 years. There are a few old scores to settle out there as well...

The game? The Lions won by 2 points. But then what do you expect when you pitch a team of professionals like the Lions against a bunch of locals whose training comprised a run on the beach at Mount Maunganui and then waiting for the coach to arrive back from Christchurch. Oh there was speculation that he had stopped off to feed the dogs on the way as well. It was a good game but... As they say, "Rugby was the winner on the day".

Dinner accompanied the rugby - nice homekill sirloin, definitely grass fed because you can just about taste the kikuyu grass in it. Home to bed.

Sunday, still showers but further apart. Invaded the garden. Removed some weeds. Removed part of a dead tree. That kind of stuff. Locked the compost bin down so that it can't walk away.

Spent the afternoon with a good book. The rain and wind went past outside, we were good and snug.

Monday, packing and getting home again. Most places are shut but we grabbed lunch in Kaiwaka. Again a fairly leisurely trip of just over 4 and half hours including stops. Very light traffic really.

And that was about it!

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Easter 2005

Y’know, for some reason I was looking forward to Easter and especially a good couple of days just laxing out in Opo – perhaps even a spot of fishing… ahhh!

Now for the truth –


Left Howick on the stroke of 5, weather partly cloudy with a promise of some rain for the morning. Good traveling with light steady traffic. We had left early with the anticipation that most eateries would be either packed out or closed, so the intention was to breakfast at Opo by about 9. We hit two patches of heavy rain around Warkworth and Dome Valley, so the greasy roads did slow us up a bit.

The first excitement was at Te Hana, an old dairy company village about 90 minutes north of Auckland. Flashing lights, smoke, and the remains of the old dairy co factory smouldering quietly on the corner above the bridge. There was a picture there; two firemen still in full kit stretched out on the bonnet of a car; totally shagged. I didn’t stop – I am not a person who feasts on the misfortune of others.

Breakfast was bacon, eggs and hashes; well worth the wait. A quick survey showed that the lawn did not need mowing, but there was a lot of kikuyu around the place that needed hacking back into some semblance of “tidiness”. So that was Friday morning, up until the day got too hot around 1 or so. Inside for a long rehydration and a beer. Lunch. Then the decision that it was too hot to work outside, and that the lawn could take care of itself for the next couple weeks before Dene mows it again.

It also gave rise to the decision that was to shape the rest of the weekend.

Along the “front” (it is actually the back but it is also the direction the house faces so front it is…) of our place is a hedge of native trees. At present they are all around the 3m mark and very much destined not to get too much taller. There is a saga behind this hedge which we learned much of on Sunday but that is later. One end of this hedge has a climber which at this time of year produces the most magnificent purple blue flowers. It is spectacular. It is also morning glory, which the FNDC has determined (and I totally agree with their judgement) to be a noxious weed.

A word of explanation here. “Noxious” in this context does not imply “poisonous”, although many “noxious plants” are; examples ragwort and foxglove (digitalis). Most of the common thistle varieties are also “noxious”, as are gorse (the Scottish furze) and most of the eliagnus sp.

Oh, and the all plastic new-fangled compost maker was assembled and put in place. S was somewhat concerned that it might walk away when we are not around, so I went down to the garage at Omapere to see if they had a suitable to tie it down with. There was a wire strop, but the swages on it were too big to fit through the lugs on the bin. I was standing there looking at this 2m long piece of 7mm wire rope and a young guy walks up. "Wotchawant that for?" he asked. "I am heading out for a spot of fishing and I was looking for something just a bit heavier for a trace." was my reply. He looked at me, at the strop, then back at me. "You're bloody hopeful aren'tya? he muttered as he walked off. Then the humour in it must have hit because there was a huge giggle and he turned round with this huge grin on his face and gave me a walk-cool wave.


Up bright and early, to discover that there was no milk for breakfast, but the store was open at 7.30 so the holdup was minimal. French toast; easy and delicious and light.

First problem – where to hack into the undergrowth so that I can start getting this hell-weed out. Find an end, pull. Ah, over there by the flax bush. Yep, a good half dozen runners in here. Start hacking. Two hours later I am inside the hedge and out of the sun. But is it getting hot!!! Ah!! Knock off for lunch; and a good rehydration programme as well. The old fashioned ginger beer is good for this – the Aussies (bless their little cotton sox) are making a commercial product every bit as good as my old man made when I was grasshopper high. Another three hour stint in the afternoon and I was ready to knock off for the day. By this stage I was working along the fence line and had gotten about half the area cleaned out.

This is sounding like a BIG deal, and in some respects it is. The area is not big, perhaps 15 feet on one side and 30 feet on the other. The difficulty is that there is only about 4 feet headroom under the trees, and they are all planted fairly close together – I would guess there are perhaps 15 trees in that space. Not a lot of room left for the likes of me to use a grubber and spade or to haul out runners.

Went down to the pub for dinner – big crowd in there and we ended up parking perhaps 50m down the road. Very nice after a hard day.


Much the same deal as Saturday. Spent some time talking with Maryanne from next door. Learned quite a bit more about the “history” of our place and the front boundary. They would like us to cut back two of the trees in the corner that are blocking their view to the west. No promises, just that we will thin the tops out and see how the trees respond.

There are at least four springs in the area around our place, we have at least one under the house which I am going to have to drain at some time. But that is for the future.

The rest of the morning glory came out. There is one GOOD thing – it does not have thorns. But three days later I can still smell the sap on my hands. I have not had the hives this time – yet. But it sure is potent stuff.

To give you an idea - we have a large “garden bag” of about 200 litres capacity, I can just lift it when it is full of wet grass clippings. The volume of the morning glory that I have extracted from the hedge is about 2 ½ to 3 bags full.

I did not sleep well on Sunday night. I went out like a light but from about 2 I kept waking up with my hands arms and back not very comfortable at all.


Another early start, not because of my not sleeping, but we had planned to get away early to beat as much of the heavy traffic heading into Auckland as we could.

Had lunch early at Matakohe, that was about 11.30 or so. Hit slow heavy traffic at Kaiwaka and settled in for a long and very slow trip. Half an hour later (about 10km down the road) we went through Te Hana (remember Te Hana?) and the slow traffic quite mysteriously disappeared. $$#$%!#$ rubberneckers...

The electronic advisory sign at Wellsford (5 minutes further on) recommended SH16 because of long queues and delays on SH1. All of the ten or so cars in front went that way so NATURALLY we went the SH1 route.

From Wellsford to Howick we stopped twice, traffic lights in Orewa and again in Pakuranga, the rest was fast cruising 80-100k.

And that, dear friends, was how our Easter went.

How was yours?

Monday, February 28, 2005

Feb 26-27 2005

Another of our lawn mowing trips.

Feb 26 - Saturday.

Left at 6a.m. sharp. Good clear morning, the roads a little damp after a shower or two overnight but drying in the traffic. Around Warkworth and north there were pockets of mist lying in the crevices and bowls of the valleys. As the sun rose you could see the warm air in the sun start stirring these mist patches and lifting them off the eastern shaded hills.

Breakfast in Dargaville again at 8. Then press onward in the increasing heat. Arrived at just on 10.30.

Good Grief!!!! The GRASS!!! Pushing 40cm and thick. Get out the trusty old B&S and start. By mid day it was up in the 30s in the sun, I was drenched, and those lovely cool mist patches from the dawn were a long away off indeed.

Had munch about 1 o'clock, then followed the trusty and extremely wise Continental (and Vanuatu) tradition of the Siesta. A cold shower followed by a three hour kip in the cool of the ceiling fan running a full tit was bliss indeed. Went back outside at about 5 to finish up and get shot of the mowings. Nothing subtle this time... across the street is a section with very very long kikuyu grass. A large bag of cut grass disappeared in there in no time flat.

Fish and kumara chips and a very nice Syrah for dinner...

Sunday -

Woke at 6 to be greeted by one of those Far North mornings that promises the rest of the day will be stinking hot... a good heavy mist rolling its way down the harbour with a gentle land breeze to help it along. Lovely and cool outside, refreshing. By nine the sun was up over the hills behind the house and the day started in earnest. By 10 the temp was up to late twenties and climbing.

An uneventful drive back. Lunch in Paparoa at 1.30. The disappointment was that our favourite little cafe was closed. No indication why. Just very firmly shut. The two alternatives were expensive at one end and not as nice at the other. Still we fed and watered and coffee'd and back on the road. Took SH16 through Helensville again. It gets frustrating whichever way you go. I will bet my boots that next time I drive SH1 we will spend two hours in stationery traffic because some nitwit has taken a dislike to the guy in front or somesuch trivial nonsense...

Dene is mowing the lawns in two weeks time. We go north again two weeks after that.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

22 - 24 Jan 2005

The first time north in the New Year, as we spent Christmas in Wellington with our daughter.

So the place had not been occupied since just before Christmas when South African friends spent a few days there.

Dean, who "dropped in" to collect his payment, mowed the lawns for us between Christmas and New Year so it was pretty thick when we got up there.

Spent most of Saturday afternoon in very fine hot weather doing chores.

Spent most of Sunday in very fine but cloudy hot weather doing more chores.

Drove back to Auckland down SH1 this time (just for the change) without incident.

And that was about all...

Sunday, November 21, 2004

November 20 / 21 2004

Another of the overnighters. Up on Saturday morning, work hard, sleep the night, work hard, drive back. It gets fairly hard but there are compensations.

Left at 6 on Saturday morning and had a good run right the whole way through. We were going to do the trip non-stop (no breakfast in Dargaville) but coffee deprivation and hunger struck at around Ruawai so it was scrambled eggs and bacon at the cafe in D. They are getting to know us in there now. Even to the extent of having my varicose veins admired and complimented as a "real landscape".

The lawn was cut. Took a whole 2 hours and a full tank of gas, and it was getting hot. I mean 25+ hot. Well, sometimes pissing with rain does have its compensations. Anyway that was done. Had lunch, a bit of a post-prandial snooze, and then we went out as it was getting cooler at about 4.30 and lopped the tops out of three of the trees round the front of the house.

Saturday night (6.30) was dinner (posh fish and chips) at the pub. They were busy, four large parties and people out on the terrace as well. We made straight for the house bar and turned on the netball. NZ vs Aus with the series at 1-1. A well earned beer, glass of wine, garlic bread, and before we knew it was 8 and we hadn't gotten our fish and chips. But what a game!!

Sunday was dragged out of bed to misty rain, low cloud and a westerly. Went out and tidied around the edges, packed the car and set out home. By the time we reached Wellsford the weather was clear once more and hot, particularly in the car.

Saturday night at the pub was fun. One of the larger parties in the restaurant proper was a group of elderly (I would guess 55 to 75 plus) Maori ladies. These ladies were not local, well the conversation when they came into the house bar indicated not, though there were stated family links to the district.

After the netball finished, their conversation (with the world at large) was prompted by a question from Sue (Ian's wife and part owner). It turns out that they are on an extended tour round the north, visiting rellies (extended, one mentioned in particular that the last time she had been in the Hokianga was 2 years back when she attended the funeral of her brother-in-law's niece), and sites of significance.

It turned out that the highlight to date was visiting Bishop Pompallier, a French Catholic who was very active in the north particularly during the 1820's to 1860. He was brought back to this country from France not so long back and now lies in a chapel at Waimate. They described, with respect and with great pleasure, how they had been giving the honour of having the Bishop raised from his crypt so that they could see him.

These ladies were in and out of the bar during the evening keeping in touch with the netball game and then after their meal watching the last quarter or so. They know the game. They know it weel. The commentary from the tv was not needed; just listening to their analysis of what was going on was great. Much cheering from the public bar with the score running within a 2 goal range both ways. Ahh, there is nothing quite like NZ vs Aus for stirring the blood and the passions.

We will NOT talk about the cricket.

Oh, the Aussies won the netball by 2.

Monday, October 25, 2004

17 - 24 October 2004

A whole week!! The boss had been at me all year about getting a decent break (and coincidentally reducing the liability for outstanding annual leave) so I had this booked up for quite a while.

Weather prognostications were not good. First, statistics and history were against us. The Labour Day weekend is the opening of the season for the Mangonui Yacht Club. It is the southwest gales and rain that stick in the mind. There are very few if any with fine days and light winds. Then there is that large low pressure complex sitting and stewing just off the NSW and promising wet and windy for quite a few days....

17 October.

Early Sunday morning is a good time to travel. Very little traffic and good road conditions. Total trip time 4.5 hours almost to the dot. Spent the afternoon on chores. Well I mean to say what is the sense of being on holiday if you spend the whole time working. Get the work done and then holiday.

18 October

Clear calm almost hot. Got out into the garden again and dug the arum lily out of the fig tree. Bit of a mission seeing that the fig has been "cut down" at least twice before. There are suckers coming up all over.

Fay and Ray arrived late afternoon and that was it as far as "work" was concerned.

19 October

Cool, miserable, showers and windy. Much eating drinking and debate.

20 October

Warmer and less wind. Another leisurely day. Took a leisurely trip down to Waimamaku Beach and walked a distance up the beach. Then went around the loop road to Waiotemarama and the falls. The falls are nothing spectacular, it is only a small stream and about a 3 metre drop.

Then down to Rawene and met Jill and Bruce off the ferry for afternoon tea. Very nice. I had sorrel soup - never tried that before. Anyone got a recipe?

Did the mangrove walk as well. First time for that, and it was quite interesting as an exercise in natural reclamation. Most of the area the walk includes used to be sawmill. The outer edges are where the sawdust and scrap "hills" were. They have slowly subsided into the mud but the mangroves are taking over and contributing to the conversion of rubbish to mud.

21 October

A bit windy but fine. Fay and Ray wanted to try the ferry, and to see Kohukohu. I have had a hankering to take a look out through Pangaru so that is what we did. I have now seen the road through from the ferry to Pangaru (surprisingly sealed all the way) and then it is a short distance down to Rangi Point. The view from the end of the jetty has probably only changed to the extent that Kouto on the opposite shore has more grass on it than scrub and bush.

The general consensus was that it was a very interesting trip and there is certainly more to be seen up that way.

Fine and warm enough for a barbeque tea. Steak, sossies and salads.

22 October

A quiet day. Fay and Ray left mid morning. We didn't do a lot. Nice and relaxing.

Oh yes, the forecast was for strong sou'westers, rain and occasional thunderstorms.

23 October.

Spent inside, relaxing. Took rubbish to the tip. Went down and had an icecream at the store. Found that the radio can pick up 1332 AM at night so listened to the analysis of the cricket test vs Bangladesh.

24 October

Clearing up and getting ready for the trip back. Confirmed that sports radio is a night time treat only. At least from home. Drove down to the lookout at about 4 and managed to hear the last 20 minutes of the North Auckland vs Nelson Bays match.

Down to the pub for our traditional dinner.

25 October

Homeward bound. Not a comfortable trip. Outside temp in the low 20s - 23 most of the time - but the car got very hot. Leo quite distressed. Think that the a/c might be on the way out.