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