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Archive for the ‘Wairoa’ Category

No specs please…

We spent the bulk of our day at Splash Planet, a water park with bells and whistles. It only opened a month ago, and we’re most impressed with the facilities, the range of activities and the lack of overzealous health and safety restrictions; it’s safe, but not to the point of sucking out all the fun (e.g. the swings in the USA that were chained to the ground to stop them – er – swinging).
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So both girls had the chance to drive a mini jeep around a dirt track – not just some plastic electric kiddy cart but a small petrol-engined metal vehicle with pedal accelerator and brake. Okay, the top speed wasn’t that alarming but a collision would have caused some damage to the bodywork.
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Also a zip line starting from a fair old height – again, you are trusted to look after your children and make sure they play safely. (In our case, the girls opted out.)

We also tried a challenging round of mini-golf (Hannah got the only hole in one early on) and a ride on the little train around the perimeter of the grounds (and this provided the bells and whistles).
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Then we got down to the serious business of splashing around in the water. Heated indoor pools, an everlasting river, numerous water slides ranging from the sluggish (i.e. I ground to a halt half way down) to the rip-the-glasses-from-your-face raging torrent. Indeed, I thought that my specs were gone for good until Kirsten donned her goggles and located them on the bottom of the outlet pool. (At least this mishap justifies the spare pair in my rucksack.)
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But the girls’ favourite activity was drifting around the infinite stream on piles of big floaty foam pads – and being entertained by my inability to maintain any balance on a flimsy purple dolphin.

After a good six and a half hours there under an unusually cloudless sky we returned to our accommodation via a New World supermarket where Kirsten replaced the shampoo and shower gel that we accidentally left behind at the farm (we’re usually good at remembering everything) and bought some tasty pastries for breakfast tomorrow.

We’ll aim for an early getaway in the morning, given our longish drive to Wellington. We all regret not being able to spend more time in the Napier area, a whole week preferably, because it has a bit of everything – the seaside, the countryside, fresh fruit and veg, wine, good shopping…

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Blackberry

We had a very lazy start to the day with breakfast after 9.00am, which was then followed by some last minute packing.

Hannah and Ellen wrote a lovely thank you note to Colleen for showing them the calves and the sheep and for letting them milk Star.  At the end of their note they each wrote down six names for the little black calf and they were absolutely chuffed when Colleen picked the name “Blackberry” off Hannah’s list.

Colleen then said a quick farewell to us as she had to rush down to her son’s farm nearby to hand over a birthday present for her eldest granddaughter, after which we also decided to make our way towards Napier.

The SatNav worked out it would take us nearly three and a half hours, but that time was reduced considerably as we were driving down the gravel track and by the time we reached the main road 20 minutes later it indicated it would only take us just over two hours!

The drive went very smoothly, apart from being stuck behind slow lorries on a very windy road.  There never seems to be much traffic on New Zealand roads and the scenery is just so stunning you don’t mind too much driving a little slower.

Shortly after 1.00pm we arrived in Napier, parked our car and went in search of lunch and i-site (information centre), in that order.  We had lunch in a little cafe where the girls each chose burger & chips (neither could finish their plate), Tim opted for a huge BLT and I had a triangular tortilla slice with ham, sweetcorn, courgettes, etc; small but extremely filling.

We decided we would like to have a look around Napier first before heading out to our accommodation.  We found the i-site just around the corner near the sea and enjoyed a little walk around the centre.  Tim had picked up some leaflets, one in particular was about shops & cafes in Napier and the girls and I spotted a very interesting shop called “Humbugs” – an old fashioned sweet shop.  After a lot of umming and ahhing the girls finally settled for a small colourful lollipop, Tim chose some vanilla fudge and we also bought a large tub of old fashioned hard sweets (to last us over the Christmas period and to be shared with grandparents!).

Art Deco Napier.
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Attention to detail.
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Napier seafront.
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Sweet little girls.
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Before heading back to the car we popped into Farmers, a large-ish department store which had a special offer on where only today everything was reduced by 20, 30 or 50%.  Worth having a look then!  Tim came up with the brilliant suggestion for the girls to choose an outfit for the festive season and they both settled for a very colourful skirt and beautiful t-shirt.  Hannah also chose some knickers and I found a nice sleeveless crumpled top (I won’t have to bother ironing it!).

Born to shop.
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The time on our car park ticket was running out so we returned to the car and drove to a Countdown supermarket to get some juice, cereal, sausages and bread before finding our accommodation.  The instructions were a little vague and when we reached the corner of Riverbend and Bledisloe streets Tim and Hannah got out in search of Riverbend Family Lodge.  No luck, so Tim gave them a quick call, only to find out that we were parked pretty much opposite them.

Greg, the owner, welcomed us and introduced us to Tess, the noisy dog, before showing us our two-bedroom bungalow.  The girls immediately loved the place as they found a massive trampoline right outside our front door.  They were on it straight away, only to come off for supper and then they were back on it.

As Tim and I were unloading the car I suddenly heard my mobile phone ring.  I’m not used to people phoning me on the mobile so it always takes me a while to realise where the music is coming from!  It was John (Tim’s dad) to let us know they too had arrived in Napier and could we meet up for supper.  The girls were over the moon when we told them and Hannah immediately went inside to put on her new clothes.

It was such a pleasure to see the grandparents again and to finally catch up properly on their New Zealand news.  It won’t be long now before we see them again as in three days’ time we’ll be catching the same ferry from Wellington to Picton to spend the festive season together.

We let the girls spend more time on the trampoline instead of writing their diaries, we’ll see if they can catch up tomorrow.  Unfortunately no such luck for us grown-ups.  As we don’t have internet access again (!) we can’t afford to fall behind on the daily blog entries, we’re already two weeks behind with our photos.  Apologies again to our readers, we will do our best to upload theem as soon as we have a chance.

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Lazy blogger

The girls have done a fine job of covering today’s events; these are their longest diary entries thus far. We can now take it easy this evening before the rush of the next few days – two nights in Napier, a long drive to Wellington and then the InterIslander ferry to Picton early the following morning.

Sheep for dagging.
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A pleasant and active morning on Mahia Beach (deserted but for nine visitors); an excellent consistency of sand for major construction works, but we didn’t feel the need to brave the waters.

Kirsten’s arty shell shot.
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Mahia beach.
Mahia Panorama

Osler’s Bakery was as outstanding as we had hoped; regularly replenished sizzling trays of freshly-baked award-winning pies, a tempting array of cheesecakes, carrot cakes, caramel slices, chunks of Rocky Road (the girls’ overambitious choice), lofty stacks of iced and beSmartied gingerbread stars cunningly contrived to resemble a Christmas tree.

So we are now relaxing on the sofa, glass of local wine in hand, eating up any ‘leftovers’ – for example, our Whittakers chocolate bars. We have one slab each, and Kirsten and I keep a sneaky eye open to see how much the other has eaten so far, keen to avoid any large discrepancy in consumption. (Well, you wouldn’t want to have polished yours off while your partner has a good third of a bar left, would you?) I can report that at this point we are level pigging.

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Milking cows

Today we got up at seven thirty to go and milk the cow called Star. She is a black and white cow and she had a black head with a white heart above her eyes on her forhead. We all had a go at milking the cow. I also stroked a black bit of fur. Mummy Ellen and I could actually get some milk out of the teat. I only squeezed one of the back teats but Daddy tried one front teat and one back teat but no milk would come out.

Next we went to the calves. This time Daddy came instead of Mummy. When the cows went out into another field next to the other one, all the calves wanted to go with them. Also the black calf and one of the brown and white calves bumped heads.

Then we went to see the sheep. The sheepdogs were there, two were tied up with chains and one was on the loose. With six people it takes eleven days to shear all the sheep. Today they were cutting dirty bits of their bottoms before they started shearing the sheep.

After that we went to the best bakery in all of New Zealand (that’s why it’s so busy). We had a sausage roll and chips, then we went to the library and I started reading a book about ponys in a haunted house.

By Hannah

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Ellen’s farm day

I milked Star the cow. It was very hard and Daddy could not get any milk out. Then Hannah, Daddy and I went to see the sheep being sheared on its bottom.

And then we went to the beach where we built a city and I drew a boat and a castle. I had a sausage and I shared a pot of chips with Hannah. After the library we played tag in the playground.

By Ellen

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Triangle

We all got up in time for the milking, only for Colleen to apologise later on for milking Star earlier as she was spending the day in Gisborne.  Well, we can try again tomorrow …

We decided to have a quiet day of rest and reading.  The girls each finished yet another “Baby Sitters Club” book and then were happily working on a show for us for most of the day.  I finished a book I found in the bookcase here about adoption and its different viewpoints depending on which role one plays in the adoption (i.e. birth mother, adopted person or adoptive parents).  The book was very well written and most interesting.  I then sat down and typed some emails ready to be sent next time we can connect our laptop.  Tim spent time sorting out more photos for the blog and flicking through some magazines.

Our farmstay.
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Before we had our cheese/ham on toast lunch, we all enjoyed a good bounce about on the trampoline.  I certainly felt pretty shaken up, but had loads of fun!
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After quite a wet morning the weather was finally beginning to clear, so we opted for a walk around the Triangle field (which is not at all triangular in shape).  Kevin, the farmer, caught us on our way out and advised us to head down the road first and do the walk in clockwise direction.  Follow the road past the hay barn, then turn right on the little path, across the swing bridge (we call it a suspension bridge) and through the wooden gate.  All we had to do was to keep following the path to the right, close gates where necessary, don’t scare the cows and it should take us about an hour.
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We found the barn, swing bridge and wooden gate alright and for the first few minutes nobody talked and we enjoyed the peace and  quiet.  All we could hear was the wind rustling in the trees and the cows mooing in the fields.  The scenery is absolutely stunning, the air so fresh and the grass so green.
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The girls had a great time staring at cows, watching them doing a number two as we walked past and exploring.
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Before we knew it we turned right and spotted our house across the road.  We walked downhill through a field with cows and calves and finished our walk in about 40 minutes.  It felt good to have some exercise, especially after the big dinners and the amount of chocolate we have eaten recently.  We rewarded ourselves with a little more chocolate and some biscuits … Does that make sense?

Later on the girls performed their “Snow White” show in which Ellen was Snow White, Hannah was the queen and a dwarf and Tim was invited to be the prince and save Snow White.  Everybody (apart from the queen) lived happily ever after!

As I flicked through one of the magazines here I came across the following poem written by Diane Loomans :

 If I had my child to raise all over again,
 I’d build self-esteem first, and the house later.
 I’d fingerpaint more, and point the finger less.
 I would do less correcting and more connecting.
 I’d take my eyes off my watch, and watch with my eyes.
 I’d take more hikes and fly more kites.
 I’d stop playing serious, and seriously play.
 I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars.
 I’d do more hugging and less tugging.

Taking the girls on a trip around the world is almost like being given the chance to raise them again. The girls are increasing their self-esteem and will have a much better view of what the world looks like and be more aware of what is going on around them.  As a mother I now feel much more relaxed and stress free and know that as a family we have become even closer.  We are getting to know each other much better and I simply love watching the girls.  I feel very lucky that they enjoy each other’s company and get on so well (we all do have our down days as well, though).  Today showed that we all had time to play, we connected with each other while going for a walk.  There was no need to watch the time and we certainly had plenty of hugs …

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Ant army

A good roast dinner certainly helps to restore the spirits (and cooking the chicken brought to mind the apocryphal graffiti ‘skinhead basted’ underneath which another hand had added ‘but pan-fried with a touch of coriander – ahh, what piquancy!’).

This morning’s bird-flutes played a steady ascending E-C-E and later on a rising B-D#-A with the final note repeating and tailing off. [Do all flies of a given species buzz at approximately the same pitch, under normal flying conditions? I’d say house-flies are roughly in A, but I’m sure NJH will have noticed…]

Anyway, today was more restful; a short drive to wairoa to use the free internet at the library (even if we had to book a slot and wait our turn). Kirsten checked and sent emails on one machine while I uploaded six blog entries on the other; even so, the permitted 30 minutes only just sufficed (forget photos for now).

We planned to get something delicious for lunch from an award-winning bakery, Oslers, but a notice in the door explained that they were closed today as a mark of respect for one of their staff who had died quite unexpectedly. We explored off the main street and soon found a cafe, Tickled Pink, where we chose little salmon quiches and sandwiches followed by some filling coffee, caramel and fudge slices to share.

Next stop, Morere Hot Springs. Well, technically the next stop was the fruit farm shop where we were compelled to pause to get fresh nectarines and peaches; walking in was the olfactory equivalent of plunging into a warm, relaxing pool. We plumped (the apposite verb here) for the ‘seconds’ fruit; nothing wrong with them, just a bit smaller or with marked skins.

Onwards to our spa destination. Now my earliest memory of hot springs is when my cousin John grabbed one out of a bonfire at our grandma’s where they were burning an old sofa, but today’s experience fortunately involved more temperate temperatures. Several pools – indoors and outdoors – in a native bush setting, with options from decidedly chilly through to *$%& that’s hot. We changed, only to discover that Hannah didn’t have her swimming stuff (she took it out of the bag last night for dressing up), so she did no more than dangle her legs.

Morere Hot Springs.
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Woodland around Morere Springs.
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Changing rooms.
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We began in ‘baby bear’s pool’ (just right) and chatted with our fellow bathers, a Canadian couple on an extended seven-month honeymoon (doing our trip backwards, approximately) and an older lady who emigrated here from California three years ago. In both cases the East coast surfing brought them to this part of New Zealand (the husbands being the surfers). It seems that we bring living proof to various young couples we meet that extended travel need not cease with the arrival of children; ‘we’re picking up what you’re putting down’ was the novel phrase they used, I think.

The occasional dip into the ‘brrr’ or the ‘ouch’ pool before reverting to the middle way. Ellen and Hannah preferred to stay out, playing games with floating leaves across one of the unused pools. (Incidentally, these were all stainless steel, as are all the shower trays we have encountered so far – a peculiarly NZ thing?)

Back to the farm in time for tea, despite the 14km, 20-minute careful rally drive up the access track (watching out for stray sheep on the road and oncoming school buses). We lost our last bit of Swiss roll to an army of ants who discovered it overnight, so we are now hiding anything sweet in the fridge (or in our stomachs); it really is Bug City here.

Leeks and ham tonight – an opportunity to do some good home cooking here, now that we have a proper hob and oven. And all washed down with the bottle of Gisborne Pinot Gris we picked up yesterday. While Kirsten is cooking, the girls have been engrossed in their ‘Babysitters – Little Sister’ books (we picked up three more today from the library’s ‘withdrawn’ box, and at 10p each, why not?) and Hannah has finished one already.
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Name that calf

We returned from Gisborne in time for Colleen to take us down the road to watch the calves being fed.  The girls and I hopped in her car, whilst Tim offered to stay at home and look after the roast dinner.

Once near the field we were advised to stay outside it while Colleen went to collect both mother cows from the adjacent field and encouraged eight calves to join them in the nearby field.  Each cow had their own little calf and three other calves to feed.  These cows were feeding the extra calves as their own mothers couldn’t or weren’t interested in feeding them themsleves. 
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The calves fed for about 10 minutes and as a treat were allowed to suck Colleen’s and my hand afterwards.  Fortunately they didn’t have many teeth yet, and their tongues were very rough.  Colleen explained it was a little like a baby comfort sucking.  The girls enjoyed watching the calves but didn’t feel brave enough to stroke them or have their little hands sucked.

On our way back to the farm Colleen told us about Star.  Star is a black and white cow which she keeps as a house cow and milks her everyday.  As Star is getting a little older now, Colleen would like to keep the black calf as a house calf/cow and she asked the girls if they could come up with a good name for the little one. 

Some of the girls’ suggestions were:

Ellen : Lily, Black Star, Rose, Ellie, Blackbird

Hannah : Lucy, Rose, Tulip, Lavender, Coco (my favourite), Daisy, Poppy, Blackberry

We’re hoping to watch Colleen milk Star one morning before we leave …

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Macro not working

One slight casualty among our panoply of electronics is our digital camera, which has recently decided that it will no longer take any close-up shots (of flowers, mosquito bites, etc.); you press the ‘macro’ button but everything still comes out blurry. Fortunately we can fall back on the girls’ cameras if we need to capture near foreground details.

A similar fault has developed in my own perception at around the same time; I have reached my limit for taking in the minutiae of the trip, and I feel that experiences are washing over me without my being able to do them justice. A bit like the Far Side cartoon of the plump, bespectacled schoolboy asking ‘Please may I be excused? My brain is full.’ Certainly it’s a tall order on a trip like this, attempting to squeeze the whole world into a space no bigger than a man’s head. Something has to give. And perhaps the camera analogy offers some hope – the girls may still be benefiting, hoovering it all up with their inquisitive voracity, even if details are hazy for me.

So today’s three-hour-long return drive to Gisborne left me in low spirits, despite the sunshine and pristine scenery. Standing on the vast arc of beach along Poverty Bay I wanted to appreciate the reality of being there, but it was a detached, forced act of making myself notice things. There’s a stretch of sand, a huge flowering pohutukawa tree, an expanse of blue sky – but the dots didn’t join up to make anything. Okay, so this is the first city in the world to see the sun each day, and Captain Cook first came ashore here – how am I supposed to feel about that? A quote from a brochure we picked up today rings true: “Nature’s true wonders don’t disclose themselves to day-trippers. It is a place to linger.” [Explorer Charles Douglas – who he?]

Pohutukawa tree.
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Gisborne beach.
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On a more practical level, we failed to get wireless internet access despite our 120-mile journey. The tourist office gave us a list of locations: the Library (closed on Sundays), a laundrette (not the best place for the girls to entertain themselves) and the World Cafe, on the outskirts of town. We tried the latter, only to be informed by the surprised staff that they don’t have wi-fi. So it was Subway (yet again) for lunch, then the beach and a runaround for the girls in an ‘adventure park’ (i.e. conventional play area) to compensate for all the time sitting in a car. We called it a day around 2.30pm with the aim of getting back to the farm for tea, calling in to buy petrol and food on the way. Hannah and I independently came up with the idea of a Sunday Roast, so we bought a ‘size 16’ chicken, parsnips, carrots, a large onion for baking (we already have a bag of roasting potatoes) and various other healthy and not so healthy treats (from apples, grapes and watermelon to three large bars of Whittaker’s chocolate – we like…).

The big supper went down well – lots of empty plates – and cheered us up. The only, er, fly in the ointment here at the farm is the constant battle with bugs. A couple of mosquitoes somewhere in the room as I type, and Kirsten doesn’t want to collect any more bites. Last night the bathroom filled up with winged beasties that somehow got through between the closed slats of a louvre window; dead and alive, they coated the basin and shower tray. I have a vague recollection that eating lots of chocolate is good for repelling them, so we’ll give that a try…

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15,000 sheep

Quite a broken night due to the stormy, windy weather outside and due to the 20 or so big mosquito bites I have on my feet!  The “zapper click” thingy to stop mosquito bites from itching too much doesn’t seem to have any effect, either I have become immune to it or these are pretty bad mosquito bites …  Later today I put some of Mrs Brewer’s Anthisan Bite & Sting cream on my feet and that seemed to soothe them nicely!

Anyway, our packing didn’t take long at all as we only stayed here for two nights and didn’t unpack properly.  So after breakfast we handed in our key and in return were offered a bag of sweets to take with us – perfect timing as we had finished our sweeties yesterday (we sometimes use them as rewards for the girls finishing their diaries).

Today was a short drive to our next destination, less than two hours.  We drove down more unsealed gravel roads and reached the nearest town Wairoa after a good hour’s drive.  Here we stopped and went in search of an internet place and/or information centre.  Walking past the library we spotted a couple of boxes with books for sale and both girls each chose two books, which cost us 80 cents altogether!  Whilst in the library we took advantage of the free internet use to check up on messages, I had 17 messages all of which were junk/rubbish! (slightly disappointing)  The good news is that we received confirmation of our remaining flight dates which are now correct and updated (no thanks to Travel Nation!), so we can relax about that now..

We decided to let the girls run off some steam before heading to the fish & chips shop across the road for a picnic lunch of very tasty fish and slightly salted chips, it all went down really well.

Before heading on to our next destination, Tangiwai Station, we popped into a supermarket called Write Price Food Barn and stocked up on fresh bread, milk, veges and fruit, yoghurts and some drinks.

A good half hour later we arrived at Tangiwai Station, a very remote sheep and cattle farm amongs green hills.  The view is stunning, the self contained flat very nicely done up and the area peaceful and quiet.  This also means no internet access or mobile phone signal, we will have to head into Gisborne or Wairoa to keep in touch with family and friends (a 40 mile round trip!).

Our friendly host, Colleen, welcomed us and assured us that we could just ask her for any information or help should we need any.  We also met Jimmy, a sweet but slightly mad dog, who barked quite noisily which had Hannah hiding behind a bush with her hands covering her ears.  All he wanted was for someone to throw a stone he could then retrieve, he spent some time lying in the sun just outside our french windows.

We all settled in really quickly and flopped on the sofa or floor with some books.  This was followed by a jammy swiss roll for tea and ham sandwiches for supper.

When the girls finished writing their diaries for today, we headed out for a half hour walk around the farm.  The size of the farm is absolutely massive.  Kevin, the farmer, told us he had 1300 cattle and 15,000 sheep (including the new born lambs).  Tim and I simply couldn’t begin to imagine the size of it.

Tangiwai Station.
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Back home and wind down time for the girls and blog time for us.

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