Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Rumble in the Jungle or Rush in the Bush

Awake, dressed and ready for the off.  I'd made a small, packed lunch and we had two lidded (and slightly leaky) mugs of water. All we didn't have we're clear directions but Hubby was the lead man.  What could go wrong?

Well, I've always said he was slightly colourblind .  Today just proved it. Very were supposed to follow the orange markers.  The lady warden had said it was a pleasant walk.  The first thousand or so yards were very good, on a well-mown, easily identifiable path.

We passed through a gate with a tricky lock and the path became quite stony, shaded by trees. 'There it is!' announced Hubby, following a pink marker.  Not wishing to disagree, as he was in his Bear Grylls mood, I plodded on.

Underfoot became quite tricky with roots and creepers to avoid.  Occasionally we came across possum and rat traps, marked with the same pink triangle. Are you getting the idea yet?  The paths became steeper.  Sometimes I had to stretch my foot up to hip height to cross an obstacle.

The path at times was narrow with a sheer drop.  Not exactly my image of a 'pleasant walk'.  This pleasant walk was becoming more of a treacherous adventure. 

Now the path took a turn downhill.  At the bottom was a stream where just one small stone poked through.  Fine for a nimble antelope.  Not so good for a plump lady approaching bus-pass age.  Oh - jump, wobble, wobble, grab Hubby's hand - LANDED!!  

Now, where did the path go?  One came to a dead end.  The second took us deeper into the bush.  By this time there were loads of pink triangles and traps but no definitive path.  Hubby noted my panic as I feared that a black creeper was a snake. I squealed out loud.

I voiced my opinion about the walk in a calm manner, considering.  I really did not think that DOC would have prepared such difficult paths for people. There had been no mention of hacking through undergrowth and jungle in their leaflet!  Hubby was inclined to agree.  

We made a joint decision. Reverse mode was put into action.  There was the stream.  Ah, there was the bush where my best 'Prada' sunglasses (bought for two dollars lady in Vietnam) had fallen from my pocket.  I noticed they had gone when we emerged into a rare patch of sunlight.  It had been too dark under the bush canopy to need them before.  

Oh look - the mown grass!!  Oh and look - the ORANGE sign!!!  No worries.  It had been fun in a perverse sort of way and I would have lost a few calories.  We would have to come back another year to try the correct trail.  

After a long, cool drink and a chat to some German tourists, we set off along the dusty road in our mobile home.  We deposited some rubbish in the skip.  Had my arms been longer, I could possibly have climbed in the skip to recycle some of the items deposited there.  Tents.  Chairs.  All manner of useful things and all just out of reach!

On we drove.  Realisation set in.  The dustbins were out.  That could only mean one thing - the dustbin lorry was on its. way.  Fingers crossed that we would meet it on a wide section of the road.  We saw the dust from an approaching vehicle way down the track.  That gave us plenty of warning to tuck into a little left-hand shelter.  So the dustbin lorry passed us by.  Phew!  

What we failed to spot was the Coromandel Postie in his large van.  That was a bit of a shock when he turned up around the next bend.  Speaking of bends, can anyone explain the significance of all the shoes, boots and trainers we see perched on fences by bends with a view??  Never a pair.  There must be an awful lot of people hopping around this island.

At the junction, we took the road towards Kennedy Bay.  We hoped the gravel would stop soon.  It did ......,and then it started again.  And so it continued until we had almost reached Coramandel.  Quiet, clean Tarmac followed by noisy, dusty gravel.

As we approached Coramandel, we noticed a large funeral procession.  We parked up and walked across to the DOC office.  I'd had a bit of a brainwave. Perhaps my DOC pass could be emailed through to here from NZMCA (New Zealand Motorhome and Caravan Association to the uninitiated). 

Slight problem.  A notice on the door  proclaimed that the office would be closed until 1pm as everyone was attending a funeral.  Ah, we must have passed them earlier.  Undeterred, we thought we should buy some much-needed water, a bucket and a bowl before lunch.

As we opened the Motorhome door, things looked different.  The shiny glass hob no longer shone.  It was covered in a layer of gravel dust.  On a not so close inspection, so was everything else!  Methodically we started to clear and clean our sad little home.  Carpets were taken up and out.  So were seat cushions.  They were beaten and brushed vigorously.  Next, everything that could not be moved, was carefully wiped, several times.  My supply of Jiffy cloths was halved in an instant.  Ah that looked better......until we opened the cupboards!

The gravel dust had entered every possible vent.  Over two hours later, the Motorhome was almost restored to its former glory.  Some of the outside would have to wait - but the DOC pass wouldn't .  Hubby left that to me while he rested after the exhaustions of housework.

This time, the office was open but this was not the DOC office.  I was directed around the back of the building and told to look for a door with a keypad.  Just knock and they will come out of hiding.  I did and she did.  The smiling, rhyming Trudie Moody.  

She was so helpful.  She loaned their phone so I could call NZMCA.  When I finally got through, I expected my request to be rejected.  'Hmmm,' said the official,'I've just completed your self-certification too.  Where do you want it sending?'  My mind went blank.  I didn't have my little, black book with all the important things like addresses.  I plucked up the name of the company who had converted our Motorhome.  We would be returning there.  Ah, she knew them and their address.  

And the DOC pass?  Well, once paid for, it was soon emailed across, printed, signed and laminated, all thanks to Trudie Moody.  I left her in peace, while I strolled along the Main Street.  I called in at an Op Shop (charity shop to us).  Hubby found me there.  Evening was approaching and there were a few free places near the Police Station.   The French family beside us appeared to have noisy, young children. I am not sure what they had for tea but they were soon sound asleep.  Très bien mes petits.  Night fell and so did my eyelids.  Bon soir x


Being a wet, miserable day in Dunedin, I have the chance to bring a little sunshine into all those admirers out there who are waiting anxiously for my next blog (ha ha!)

Way back on 21st October, it was Hubby's decision to drive along the narrow, dusty, gravel track on the north-eastern side of the Coramandel Peninsula.  I make a point of saying His decision because, in the past, I have been accused of navigating him onto some terrible roads.  

Today's road was on a bus route.  It looked a little like a 'Roy Road' (named after my brother who is brave enough to go where others fear to tread in his quest for motorhome adventures.). Our track wound in and out, up and down along the coastline.  Mrs Satnav almost had a nervous breakdown.  At one point we appeared to be floating in space, with a large question mark above our vehicle.

Houses were few and far between.  Most had the steepest drives imaginable but their views must have been stunning.  

There was the occasional heart-stopping moment when the van decided to skid on a bad bend.  Nothing that Hubby couldn't handle.  Thankfully nothing was coming the other way.  Indeed nothing came the other way until we had almost reached a place called Port Charles.

In for a penny, in for a pound, we brave Trekkers drove ever onwards.  At last we dropped down to sea level, into an exquisite, little sandy bay called - what else?- Sandy Bay!!  The DOC (Department of Conservation) had a free site here.  We pulled in and had a good walk around. 

 A car drew alongside.  Three Spaniards and one Basque national (What? - More dreamboats!) pulled alongside.  They obviously thought we were locals now Hubby has such a good tan.  They wanted to know where to find the nearest petrol station.  I half-ran, so as not to further damage the dodgy Achilles, back to the van.  Mrs Satnav confirmed that they would have to return to Colville.  They decided they had enough to reach their destination, Stony Bay, with sufficient for the return journey. Ola.  Hasta la Vista and all that.

We checked out a little rackety bridge with a weight restriction of 75% of Class 1.  Not knowing the weight of Class 1, we walked onto the bridge together and thought that if it could hold our weights, it could hold anything.  

On our way back to the van, we met Allan Turner.  Not the character from Emmerdale Farm.  I believe he is deceased.  Well, the actor who played him died.  I am not sure what they did with his character.  He's probably in Spain with Annie Sugden, playing on her maraccas.  No, this Allan Turner was the local Environmental Health Officer.  His work had brought him out here.  We invited him in for a drink.  Oh, look at the time.  He might as well have lunch too.  While we ate, he gave us some tips on places to stay

He suggested we drove over to Stony Bay for the night.  As well as being beautiful, we would hear the Morepork there.  This bird is named after the noise it makes - More pork.  He gave us his card and offered us to 'look him up' if we were ever in town.  I put his card in a safe place, so safe that I cannot find it, so will never be able to 'look him up'.

So, on the recommendation of our new acquaintance, we stowed everything away and left the free, freedom site for the unknown Stony Bay.  As it turned out, that was an excellent decision.  Belonging to DOC, we had to pick up an envelope from the Honesty Box, fill out the details and pay our dues. Where else on Earth could you get a view like this for ten dollars?

We had a choice of sites.  Several years ago I visited a clairvoyant.  She was very good and many of her predictions have come true.  One hasn't.  She had been quite insisted we would live at number 42.  We looked at the spot we had chosen.  Halfway between 42 and 43.  We shuffled the van forward a few yards. Number 42, just for Laura-Sue.  

We checked out the facilities.  It had a 'long drop' toilet which looked like the shed Grandad used in 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang'.  This was slightly upmarket as it had an antiseptic foam hand wash and a twirly air vent.  Hubby was most disrespectful, saying that whilst passing wind, I had almost twirled the top off!!

He went for a walk on the beach, while ii went to 'Meet the Warden' (sounds like the name of a games show).  He was a jolly fellow, all the way from Croyden UK. His wife was from Oregon US of A.  She suggested I contacted DOC and ask them to forward my pass to an address where I could collect it.  

They loved their jobs but knew that Labour Day would be a test.  It was hard to imagine the hundreds of people who travell all that way on that gravel track.  

I returned to Hubby.  We considered a three hour trek to the next cove but thought it better to tackle that tomorrow. Instead, we sat back, watching little ducklings waddle by with their mother and father.  

We listened to the strange sounds of birds we had never heard before.  No sound of 'More Pork' though.  Hubby took out his treasured NZ bird book, a gift from his even more treasured daughter. In just one day, he had spotted a Paradise Shellduck, Fantails, Tui, Oyster Catchers, Pukeko, numerous Kingfisher, White-fronted Tern, NZ Pigeon, Whir and Black-Backed Msgpie, Little Egret, Heron, White Faced Heron and a Pied Shag (apologies for the last word.  It IS the name of a bird).

I wrote up more blogs, read aloud more adventures of Pirate Pete on Radio Hauraki and started to make the bed.  Hubby shouted for me to 'Come outside.  Come outside.  There's a lovely moon out there!'  (Remember that one ??). Not only was there a bright moon, but a brilliant Venus and a myriad of twinkling stars, galaxies and the Universe. One of those heart-stopping moments, made even better when you know you are loved by the person who shared it with you.  Later, we snuggled in bed, listening to the waves lapping against the shore and an owl hooting in the night.  Peace, perfect peace!!

(Typed up especially for Gordon to read on his UK birthday x)

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Back to the Future

Oh this seems so weird.  Here I am in December, typing up something that happened way back in October.  I have been very remiss.  My only hope is that you haven't all abandoned me!!  Here goes then:-

Goodbye Thames.  We headed off along the West Coramandel coast.  The views were stunning.  Poor Hubby missed most of it as he was driving, as usual.  We did stop occasionally so we could take the odd photo or two.  Just hoped they weren't too odd. 

At one stop, a mother and daughter appeared to be searching for something. Curiosity got the better of me.  I had to ask.  They were geo-caching (is that how  it is spelled?  And is that how spelled is spelled??). Using co-ordinates, they were trying to find the hidden treasures. I joined in their quest, having a liking for Enid Blyton type adventures.  Alas, alack - nothing there.  The mother wasn't even sure she had the correct co-ordinates.  So, off they went.  We saw them in another lay-by, still searching.  I just waved and wondered how many lay-byes would be investigated before nightfall.

We stopped for lunch in Coramandel, a pretty little coast town.  The Information Officer gave us plenty of ideas.  He invited us to his Stargazing site, offering overnight parking.  I couldn't resist name-dropping.  I had once received a letter from the late Sir Patrick Moore, the eccentric but loveable 'Sky at Night' presenter and xylophonist.  In his autobiography, he stated that he ways replied to letters, so I put him to the test - and he passed!! A few weeks after penning my letter, I received a wonderful reply which he had typed on his old typewriter.  Some letters were black, others red.  Some were a mix of red and black, others just an imprint where the ribbon had failed completely.  A unique memento of a unique person.  I still have it.  

I could name drop further, but I must fly on.  We made our first visit to the aptly named 'Dump Station'.  I left this department of motor homing firmly in Hubby's hands.  I merely waited until the cassette was removed, emptied, washed and reinserted.  Then I gingerly approached Hubby with the disinfectant gel to squirt on his hands before he was allowed back on board.  

With fresh milk and water purchased from the local store, we drove along, stopping to admire various bays.  The sealed road turned to gravel but it was flat and trouble-free, so we ventured as far as Otuatu Bay Farm Camp.  For a small fee we were allowed to park here with power. 

Our van's rear window faced a sandy beach with a turquoise-blue sea.  There wasn't a cloud in the sky.  The camp owner (as in the man who owned the camp, not the politically incorrect meaning) had thought it too cold to swim.  I couldn't resist the challenge.  Donning my costume, I ventured forth.  I had to walk out quite a while before the water passed my thighs (memories of Skegness there).  Eventually it was deep enough to swim.  Hot-cold-hot-cold.  It was the equivalent of swimming across a zebra crossing.  I stayed in long enough to prove that I was a brave British lass (with blue legs!). 

The onshore shower seemed so warm - for the first ten seconds.  Then the icy jet,that hadn't been heated by the sun beating down on the pipe, hit me with its full force.  I danced and whooped like a scalded cat.  

Of course, I wasn't allowed to enter the van dripping wet.  I shook myself like a mad dog.  I tried to remove as much water as possible with my 24 x 12 inch super fast drying towel ( ha ha!!). Eventually Hubby took pity on me and let me in.  I then performed a ballet routine, hopping from mat to towel to mat to towel before twirling and disappearing into the shower room to complete the dressing process.

Warm and dry, I was ready to cook our evening meal.  Hubby must have liked it. He plugged in his iPod (naughty thoughts there methinks), turned on his music and we danced - or rather shuffled in circles - to the sound of Katie Melua, with the sand, sea and stars as our backdrop.  Ahhh - that's love for you!!!  OUCH - that was my toe you trod on!   X x 

Monday, 2 December 2013

Oh Happy Day

Waking up without my IPod felt so strange.  I usually used it to check the time.  So, today I had to use my watch which I had attached to the curtain tie-back.  What I had failed to notice was the fact that I had fixed it in upside-down.  There I was going full pelt with the morning routine of filling the kettle and warming the washing water when Hubby woke.  He asked me (in a most unhappy tone) why I was making such a racket at that unearthly hour.  Half  past seven had not seemed so early I thought.  I looked at my watch and blinked - I was wearing it upside-down.  I will leave you to work out the actual time.  I crawled back to bed in disgrace!

At a more acceptable hour, we emerged from the covers and had breakfast.  I wandered over to the toilets and congratulated the cleaner on his sterling work.  He was a very amenable chap who gave me some useful tips on freedom camping.  It seemed that having a fishing rod is useful.  One would not then be camping but fishing.  He informed me that one of their councillors was very strict on people sticking to the exact rules and spaces.  Any infringement resulted in her own special warning - a 200 dollar fine.  Ouch!  I made sure we were in the white lines and moved before the moving time.  

I have decided to go with the flow and call our Motorhome a camper over here.  I was once offended when my sister-in-law called it that (apologies June).  So at 9am we moved our camper ten metres to the opposite side of the car park.  We would be allowed to move back later in the day.  What a farce.  

Once the camper was compliant, we set off to collect the iPod.  The shop's safety door was just rising.  I was in like a shot - and out not long after, minus the iPod.  Only one file had been downloaded, so the assistant attempted another ploy on one of the super- duper new computers. Now I had another three hours to kill.  

We were in no hurry, so we went to see what the local street market had on offer.  Small stalls were erected on the pavement outside the shops.  I could not resist the enormous cauliflower and carrots.  Had there been room in my suitcase, I would have purchased the heart-shaped stone decorated with decoupage ( paper napkins had been glued on then varnished ).  All manner of crafts and foodstuffs were for sale.

In the Op Shop, Hubby fell in love with a coat.  He has never been interested in buying clothes and cannot bear to part with his old green jumper.  This, it seemed, was progress.  Having only packed one fleece, I doubled my winter wear and bought a large, kingfisher-blue top with plenty of room for growth.  

At the electric shop we found a neat little device to plug into the cigarette lighter section of the Motorhome.  This would be useful for our iPods.  In the 2 dollar shop, we splashed out and bought a serving spoon and some Blu-tak.  It was the Bakery Stall which had us mesmerised with all the different toes and flavours of bread.  We decided that the Pizza Focaccia was well worth our attention and money.  Our mouths were soon devouring chunks filled with ham and cheese.  (Would you like some?) I did bow to healthy eating by setting up a side salad of tomatoes, cucumber and avocado.

My third and final visit to the Stationery shop was successful.  Success at last and the assistant only wanted the cost of the memory stick, despite all her hard work.  

As I walked back to the camper (it's also faster to type than Motorhome) I chatted to a group of mums with their schoolchildren.  They were here for a competition.  The school children had to sing, dance, recite and perform a Haka.  For the princely sum of two dollars each, our hands were stamped and we joined the queue.

It was only possible to enter during the intervals, so as not to disrupt the performances.  The doors opened and everyone moved forward.  I spotted a couple of seats towards the back of the theatre.  We had a good view of the stage.  

It was a brilliant afternoon's entertainment.  The youngsters were both confident and talented.  Their singing of traditional Maori songs sent shivers down my spine.  Sometimes the audience would erupt with loud cheers.  

The loudest was for a young fellow who stepped forward.  He was a skinny, little thing.  From behind his back, he produced the poi balls and started twirling them.  The audience went wild with enthusiasm as this was normally done by the girls.  He was singled out and congratulated by the female presenter.  She was an actress who had appeared in the 'Whale Rider' film.  I spotted the Maori leader from the film in the audience too.

The hall only seated 500 people.  Later in the afternoon, the presenter appealed for people to leave.  This would allow parents who were waiting outside to watch their children perform.  Heart strings pulled we reluctantly left.  It had been an afternoon well-spent.

Later in the afternoon, one of the school buses pulled in next to our camper.  I was able to get a shot of them in costume.  I was invited to join their photoshoot and had my nose rubbed several times ( a traditional greeting).  They had not won but were in great spirits.  They had a long journey home and waved as they left.

By now, night was falling so we thought another night in Thames was our best option.  I cooked a meal, using some of our new and tasty vegetables.  The van is feeling like home now.  Nighty night x

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Travelling up to Thames

'Time to Say Goodbye' (sing along now). First to Marg who was off to work.  She did make sure i had a good supply of books to read on my travels.  It was sad to see her go.

We felt like we had known this couple for years and we hoped they would stay in touch.  Pete was not letting us leave easily.  He ensured we were set up for the day with a tasty breakfast of scrambled egg on toast.  A question for Marg here.  Where did you find that coffee?  I love it.  

When breakfast was over, we settled down to look at maps, photo albums and a book about the history of Radio Hauraki.

After deciding on our route, I admired the photos of their wedding.  Marg had described her dress yesterday.  She looked a dream in it.  I almost looked a nightmare on mine.  I forgot to tell her yesterday, so I hope she reads my tale here.  I found my dress in a sale.  It fitted and I left the assistant to pack it away while I wandered off looking at other goods.  Two days before the wedding, I took it out to try it on.  I knew I had lost a little weight but not to that extent.  Nor had my arms shrunk!  They had packed a size 18 instead of a 12 !!!! (Those were the Days My Friend). A frantic phone call revealed the size 12 was no longer on the rack.  Bundling the dress into a bag, I took it to work.  Two very talented work colleagues stood me on a chair, wearing the dratted dress (me that is, not the chair).  They pinned and pulled it into shape.  By the end of the day, they had totally transformed it.  Bibbetty-bobbetty-boo!  Cinderella could go to the ball- and her wedding!

But I digress.  That's how my brain works.  Pete's story was far more interesting.  He showed us photos of his pirate radio days.  Look!  There he was with heroes from my past - The Beach Boys!!  Now that did bring back memories of bopping around the youth club in the 60's and n my kitchen this year.  

He held our interest with his amusing and poignant tales.  Now, here is the measure of this gentleman.  He entrusted us with the book about Radio Hauraki to read at our leisure.  Not only that, we were given loads of avocados and some of his marmalade (Pete, it is delicious).  Sad to say, we had to be on our way, but we left with many happy memories.

We drove through Waihi and into Paeroa.  Being known as an antique town, we thought we might find some pots and pans.  We found them and left them.  They were so expensive.  We wondered if they ever sold anything.  A local hardware store had a whistling kettle to replace the one that never arrived.  The good old Salvation Army had a pan with a lip.  Things were starting to look up.

We called at a garage to top up the diesel.  The gent working the pumps wanted to know where we were from.  He originated from Cradley Heath.  He didn't know my Auntie Hilda.  That surprised me.  I thought everyone would have recognised her in her Dame Edna glasses and heard her calling 'Eeh our Cathreen.  Can ee elp me oot of these stays?'  Translation required?? 'Oh Catherine.  Please could you help me out of my corset?'  Anyway, despite not knowing her, he knew lots of places we had visited.  He gave us advice on good places to visit and where to eat.

Using Pete's map and the caravan book, we marvelled at the scenery as we drove along.  The Thames Golf Club was a possible stopover.  We pulled in but thought we could find a better view elsewhere.  As neither of us play golf, we thought it could be disastrous if we tried. Those thoughts in mind, we moved on to the main part of Thames.  

Hubby had downloaded an app which showed us a site where we could park 'free gratis' for two nights.  There were some minor restrictions as to where you could park and leaving times but the ground was flat and, more importantly, the toilets were within easy walking distance.  

Supermarkets and other amenities were close too.  Hubby went a-wandering.  On his return, he insisted I walked over to see the police car near the Information Centre.  Reluctant at first, I relented.  I was glad I made the effort to see the cute little car and other unusual motors there.  

Hubby and I visited the shopping centre. The lady in the Photography Computer shop could not help me download the photos from the IPod.  She suggested the stationery shop nearby.  This was a mix of PC World and Stationery Box.  The staff were so obliging.  Of course they could do it but it would take THIRTEEN hours!!  The shop was shutting shortly but they could leave the iPod downloading overnight.  The assistant saw the anxiety in my face and assured me it would be quite safe.  She would be last out and first in.  Needs must and she did appear trustworthy.  

So, back to the Motorhome for tea then an evening stroll walking along the sea pathway.  We couldn't see much of the sea though because of a thick mangrove barrier.  We did chat to lots of friendly people out on their constitutional and patted a few cute dogs.  

Exercise over, I read some of Pete's book to Hubby.  He likes me to read him a bedtime story when we are on holiday. When my voice gave up, I turned out the light and we settled down for a comfortable night's sleep.

Katikati kindness continued

What a blissful sleep!  Not even a toilet break disturbed my slumbers.  Was gear in hand, I looked to see if anyone was around. 'Kettle's on!' came a cheery voice.  What a welcome and what a shower.  Just the correct temperature and loads of power.  Oh, I felt so clean.  To top it all, the towels were soft and fluffy.  Heavenly.  

Sadly Marg had to go to work.  Pete offered to show us around the district.  We had such a fun time as he took us to local viewpoints, Waihi Beach, a waterfall and local park.  Not only did he show us around, he was able to explain the local flora, fauna and fish.  

We were intrigued to see an elderly lady with a strange contraption on a beach (no it was not a Zimmer frame).  Pete explained that it was a kontiki.  This fired out a line to catch fish.  When the lady hauled in the line, she had caught two snapper and a gurnard.  The latter had particularly attractive 'wings' I thought.  Pete taught us so much in such a short time.

Back to Katikati base camp.  I thought it only right that I should make lunch.  Just a few butties.  Not my usual Croque Madame followed by a roast and ending with Cranachan.  Still it filled a hole.

I was needing some pots and pans.  Pete offered his car key.  What?!  There are few people who would be so generous.  Hubby seemed rather anxious about borrowing the car.  He would have been mortified if he bumped it.  I remembered Pete needed some ingredients for his first attempt at making marmalade.  

That was the solution.  We all went into town.  The antique shop had nothing suitable.  Leaving Hubby behind, I walked as fast as my little legs would take me to the second-hand shop on the edge of town.  It was an Aladdin's cave of knock-knacks.  

I delved into the pile of pans and discovered a steamer with no lid.  I dived into a pile of lids and tried the one by one.  Just like Cinderella, the last one fitted.  Hurrah!  With a shiny corkscrew (at this point I had forgotten that most have screw tops) the grand total came to ten dollars.  My kitchen was developing.

I was sure we had agreed to meet outside the store.  No one was there so I hot-footed it back into town,  like a power-walker I marched on.  CRAMP.  Ouch!!  Ouch!!!!!'  Rubbing, jumping and stomping I tried to stop the spasms.  A young boy offered to help.  He looked very worried.  I told him I would be fine, hobbling away with my toes spread-eagled in pain.  Twenty yards further on the little tootsies were twinkling normally again.

I could tell from Hubby's expression that he thought I had overstayed my shopping expedition.  When I tried to explain that I thought they were coming to the shop, he refuted my suggestion (refuted.  Is that a real word or have I made it up??). I climbed onto the rear of the car like a whipped dog and sulked like for at least three seconds.  I refuse to be a mardy cat on this trip.

Back at the range, Pete set to with making his marmalade.  Dave and I sat on the decking, relaxing and taking stock.of the last month. We had been in some precarious situations at times but had come through them unscathed.

A cheery greeting heralded Marg's return.  After an evening 'snifter', the joint decision was made to visit the local fish and chip shop.  Taking advice from our hosts ( because we didn't have a clue about the difference between a snapper and a groper!) we made our choices.  Whilst waiting for it to be freshly cooked, I checked out the magazines in the corner.  There was a copy of my favourite knitting magazine.  The lady behind the counter gave it to me and fetched a pile of assorted magazines for Marg.  It seems to me that Katikati is a place where everyone knows each other and goes the extra mile to help.  

Eating fish and chips New Zealand style was fun and involved no washing up too. The wrapping paper was opened up, salt and ketchup applied to paper then lid removed from tartare sauce.  Fingers at the ready, away we went.  It was delicious and not a morsel was left.  

Once again the evening conversation flowed easily.  We discovered similarities in our taste for humour - Mrs Brown's Boys and Monty Python forever!  We also learned that Pete used to be a pirate.  That's right.  Your eyes did not deceive you, I did say pirate.  In my youth, just a few years ago, I used to be a devotee of the pirate Radio Luxembourg.  Every evening my ear would be glued to my tiny transistor radio, tuned into the air waves. Through the crackles I could just about make out the latest pop song.  I jiggled around our back kitchen like a groupie wearing my home-made psychodelic (?) trouser suit.  Now I was in the presence of one of New Zealand's equivalent pirates from Radio Hauraki.  Amazing!

Marg brought out some photo albums.  She has presented them in such a way to make them so interesting.  I must remember her style so that my albums will be enjoyable for others and not just ourselves.  

Just before we headed for bed, we watched a video of their son, Chris, flying his plane in Australia.  Another skilled member of this close, skilled and loving family.  Maybe we will meet him one day too.  We hope so.

Outside we looked up to the sky where Venus' bright light and unfamiliar constellations held us on awe.  How lucky were we to be here at this time.  Night all wherever you are, may the stars shine for you too. X

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Katikati Kindness

16th October is always special but today felt very peculiar being so far away from our daughter on her birthday.  It wasn't officially her UK birthday for several hours and we would have to time our phone call carefully. Still, we raised our breakfast mugs and wished her a NZ one.

Although we have a shower in the Motorhome, I prefer to save our supplies of water and energy when on a site.  Clutching soap, shampoo, dental kit and the 'oh so small' travel towel, off I went to the showers.  They were locked with a huge padlock.  Did I need a key?  Going back to discuss the dilemma with Hubby, who should I meet but Mrs Chatterbox from the evening before.  Still wearing her PJs and dressing gown.  Perhaps she was a ghostly figure, doomed to wander round the campsite for all eternity, dressed only in her night attire.

 Actually she was a very helpful lady who put me straight about the showers.  During the quiet season, only the showers inside the toilet block are operational.  These were timed so she warned me to get everything ready to make the most of the allotted time.  I did just as she said and was rewarded with a good shower, timed to perfection.  Hubby followed my advice with the same result. 

Fresh and wearing clean clothes we Sally-ed (Happy Birthday to You) forth into Katikati (remembering to return the now not dusty kettle on the way out).  

Parking in the main street, we were distracted by the unique murals round and about.  It seemed that Katikati was known as The Mural Town.  How strange.  Our neighbouring village in the Highlands has the same idea and wall paintings.  

The bank was open so we popped in on the off chance that our cards were there. As soon as I asked, the teller asked,'Are you in a Motorhome?'  See how quickly our fame is spreading!!  We showed our passports, signed for and signed on our plastic cards before arranging the final payment to Paul who'd helped us to bring the Motorhome over.  Hubby, in his usual enquiring manner, wanted to know about exchange rates and savings' accounts (Am I bored?  Yawn yawn). A queue was starting to build up, so the teller made an appointment with the adviser for later in the day. 

The two ladies in the Information Centre were so helpful.  They loaded us with leaflets, newspaper and a map of the town.  When I mentioned that I was hoping to meet up with a local resident, they both knew the family and where they lived.  Not only that, the phone number was checked and dialled.  The volunteer had a quick word with the recipient , then handed me the phone.

Here, I feel I should explain, I had never met the man on the other end of the phone.  His daughter had helped to make our trip such a success so far with her brilliant organisational skills.  You only had to hear her bubbly voice to love her. Recently I had befriended her Mum on Facebook.  So, phone to my ear and tummy in knots, what would I say?  I need not have worried.  The friendly voice at the other end invited us round for a cuppa.  I explained we had a bank appointment and would call later.

Being unsure of how long we could park on the main road, we relocated to a rear car park.  Returning to the bank we were greeted by a young woman whose name had strong Scottish links.  Her first name was Maree, spelt exactly the same as one of our favourite lochs in Scotland.  As for her surname, it was the same as the Scottish Doctor Who.  She had a great sense of humour.  She needed it to cope with her wicked computer which would only allow three lines in our address.  We narrowed it down eventually.  

The ever-vigilant Hubby noted that the exchange rate had fallen slightly (yawn!).  He decided not to deposit a large amount in a savings account until it increased again.  Look after the pennies and all that.  Bidding Marie farewell we left the bank and popped into a small shop to buy a mat and a can opener.  The former to keep things out and the latter to get things out.

As we crossed the car park, someone called my name.  Surely not.  Then I heard it again.  A man approached.  I knew him not but he appeared to know me.  He enveloped me in a warm, friendly hug before shaking Hubby's hand.  The penny started to drop.  The white-haired, white-bearded gentleman explained that he had seen the Motorhome and put two and two together.  Kerching!! It was Pete, my phone-a-friend.  

'Just follow me.  Hang a right and hang a right.'  Hmmm.  What exactly did that mean?  Were two people named Wright about to be executed??  No silly.  He was giving us directions to his house.

Pete had the qualities to make anyone feel at home.  He listened carefully to our stories of the trip and life at home.  He shared some of his incredible tales too.  

Time flew by.  The sound of a car door shutting announced the arrival of his wife, Marg.  The Gilbert and Sullivan song 'Take a Pair of Sparkling Eyes' (not Gilbert O'Sullivan -he was much later) popped into my head.  Her eyes and smile said it all.  A lady with lots of love and willing to share it.

My British reserve set in.  I thought we should be on our way and leave these good folk on peace.  Not a word of it.  Out came the wine, beer and cheeses along with excellent repartee.  It was wonderful to hear more about the lovely Sassie (May I call her that now?)  we tried to phone her but had no luck.  

Pete prepared steak on the barbecue and Marg made a salad.  We were treated in style.  Dave had a great time in their garden, making his acquaintance with new plants.  Marg showed me Pete's new project - he's building a boat.
A caricature of The Rolling Stones hung on the garage wall.  Isn't it fab when you meet someone who knows the same groups you bopped along to when a young teenager?  

Pete and Marg have opened their home and hearts to many youngsters in the past, through student exchange.  Not all were planned but all had a happy ending.  Their fridge was adorned with smiling faces, including those of a Japanese family.  This was their Japanese daughter whom they rescued from a poor placement.  They remained close and even attended her wedding.

How quickly that evening passed.  I looked at Hubby.  Someone had painted black shadows under his eyes.  Marg had noticed too.  We called it a night and climbed into our little home,   We had one more thing to do before we could rest.  We made a special phone call to our very special daughter.  Happy Birthday Sally.  Even though we're far away, we think about you every day.  Night night.  God bless x x