Happy birthday & Easter

April 22, 2019

Another birthday rolls around, and as the number becomes larger we are forever grateful to know that the number is in fact increasing, much like the waistlines!

We left Matata DoC camp on Roy’s birthday, the Thursday before Easter and before Easter madness ensues with everyone out and about hoping to enjoy the last of the good weather. As well, this year the school holiday break is the week either side of Easter so it promised to be a busy old time, especially on the roads. We weren’t going far though, just a few kms down the road to John’s place just out of Whakatane. But first a slight detour to Edgecumbe to dump before we park up at John’s.

Here we are all parked up in relative peace and quiet on the driveway to the house surrounded by fields.

and as you can see, the weather is playing nicely too.

We celebrated Roy’s birthday with a nice rib eye steak for dinner with veg from the garden, all washed down with a Moët.

I really must teach you some decent plating skills John!!!

Cheers!

To finish off there was a Pedro Ximinez, a drink that we introduced to John & Jude some time ago, and one we all really enjoy. So much so that when we were in Spain just over a year ago we just had to make a special trip to Jerez and do a tasting or two.

this picture was taken in Jerez, at the Lustau Bodega where Roy and I enjoyed a very pleasant afternoon tasting 14 sherries, vermouth and Pedro. We came away feeling very happy I can assure you, just as well we were catching the train back to our accommodation in Seville.

A lovely end to another lovely day here in the very quiet surrounds of John’s 10 acre lifestyle block (more about the block in a later blog ).

Chum, the black lab, comes to visit us most mornings. As well as bringing a ball for us to throw he also bring us oranges from one of the many citrus trees lining the long driveway, he likes to eat them but can we peel it for him first…please?

Who could resist those big brown eyes??

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Friends and family

April 17, 2019

It’s not often that I get together with more than one sibling at a time but last week we managed to meet up with two of my brothers.

Steve & Les were staying with John & Jude for a couple of nights so we went in to join them one day.

We all went into Whakatane to get a few things for dinner that evening, but first we had to check out a couple of bike shops as Leslie was getting a new e-bike. Once we had viewed and checked out what was on offer, it was lunch time.

John and Steve waiting for lunch to be delivered. Note, we were sitting outside in glorious sunshine but within 10minutes we were running for cover as the heavens opened, and thunder and lightening crackled and crashed overhead. Then another 10 minutes later we were back in sunshine.

It was then back to the shop of choice for Leslie to have a test ride,

whizzing along

Back to John’s place where Steve had volunteered to cook up a seafood paella or two for our dinner using not only a paella pan that John & Jude brought back from Spain last year, but also some paella seasoning.

Steve with two pans of paella on the go. Seafood paella which included prawns, shrimps, mussels, squid, and scallops.

I forgot to take a picture of the finished dishes, but I can assure you they looked as good as they tasted. And it was very good too, in fact both John and I reckoned that it was much better than the paella’s we had tried in Spain!!!

sitting in the lounge relaxing after dinner.

Roy and I headed up to Tauranga and the Mount for a day of visiting. First was to see niece Jenna and her new arrival, baby Ashlyn.

getting a few cuddles in.

From there it was over to Mount Maunganui where we were meeting up with one of our ex staff members Margaret and her daughter Suzy along with a few of their friends.

Margaret and I deep in conversation (I think I was sorting out her tablet issues for her).

Roy and Ian solving the worlds problems.

Please note the venue though, the house is right on the beachfront and it was a glorious day to sit out on the deck.

Lunchtime, conversation and company, a lovely afternoon.

But we did note some strange creature in the sand dunes in front of the house…..we presume that they were making a film.

the making of a movie?

We had another call to make to Roy’s friends Bill & Estelle who moved to Papamoa from Auckland a couple of years ago. We caught up with them over a cuppa before heading back to Matata.

parked up in the sunshine at Matata, our last day here before moving on. The weather has been very kind to us for our two week stay and with Easter very nearly upon us, it usually heralds a change in the weather. Let’s hope we still get plenty of sunshine before we head to the northern hemisphere.

Magic spray

April 14, 2019

Now I would hazard a guess that many of you have seen an All Black crumble to the ground in an agonising heap only to be restored to full fitness by a quick spray or drink of some “magic water”?

they even label the water deliverer so no one is under any illusion as to what is going on.

They even have the magic spray in football

I hasten to add here that you rarely see this sort of thing going on in netball, just saying!

Well, I can now attest to another magic spray, but it’s definitely not water.

Firstly, a background story of what has been happening within the Vannini Van that requires the attention of some magic spray or lubrication.

For some time now we have been having issues. And this issue has been blighting our travels on and off for a few years now. It doesn’t happen all the time, just intermittently and when you least expect it to happen. As well, it usually occurs at the most inconvenient moments and I have been saying for some time that I thought a bit of lubricating spray would help, however, we never seem to remember it until it’s too late.

You see we’ve been having major issues with our rear view/reversing camera. It is part of the passengers duties to keep an eagle eye on the said camera whilst we are travelling to make sure that the car is indeed following us everywhere we go. But for some reason or other the picture flickers on and off, sometimes more off than on, or the picture fades away but it goes just fine if you tap the contrast button or we go over a major bump in the road. The tapping gently of the contrast button tends to wake up the monitor and the picture becomes clear again for all of a second or two before disappearing again.

the said camera.

The problem has become worse and worse over time, I have complained to the driver who will give it a bit of a bash before grumbling that I am annoying or such like. Recently he tried taping the button down with some duct tape but that didn’t work for more than 5 minutes. So in desperation, I got out the spray can of WD40, attached the tube that gives you a controlled directional spray and gave the contrast button a drop of the magic elixir.

Well, the picture instantly became clear, and what is more it has stayed on continuously for our latest journey making me wonder why we hadn’t tried it before today.

On doing a bit of research, this WD40 stuff has a gazillion uses around the home, from cleaning, to lubricating, to just about anything you can think of. Here are a few uses I have found on the interweb.

1. Lube a shovel. Spray WD-40 on a shovel, spading fork, hoe or garden trowel. The soil slides right off — especially helpful when digging in clay.

2. Clean tile. The spray removes spilled mascara, nail polish, paint and scuff marks from tile floors, and also help you wipe away grime from the grout lines. Clean up with soapy water.

3. Scrub stains from stainless steel sinks.

4. Unstick chewing gum. A squirt makes it easier to pull chewing gum out of carpet and even hair. It’s better than cutting out the gum and leaving patchy carpet or a bad haircut.

5. Soften leather. Oil can help break in a stiff leather tool belt.

6. Free stuck LEGOs. Your kids will thank you.

7. Cleans old muffin tins. I am yet to test out this theory, I just wonder if this is for the underside of the tin rather than anything that would come in contact with food.

8. Prevent flowerpots from sticking when stacked together.

For a full list, read a list of thousands of uses here

In the interim, the monitor continues to function perfectly since we sprayed it a few weeks ago.

Matata

April 9, 2019

We left Taupo initially planning to go to Rotorua, once there we first headed to the dump station before we decided that we would continue on through to Matata as there was nothing in Rotorua that necessitated us staying on.

Now we have been to Matata a number of times so we know the place quite well. On reflection it seems we have been coming here at about this time of the year, every year since 2013 – apart from last year as let’s face it, last year was a s@#* year for us both health wise.

It is usually relatively quiet at this time of the year at the DoC camp, however there are still quite a number of people passing through, both locals and tourists. But can anyone explain to me (yes, even after 8 years on the road I cannot fathom this out), why do people insist on parking right next to you when there is a whole camp to choose from? Beats me. It seems as though this occurs more often at the weekends. Again I cannot fathom why. Must be our magnetic personalities.

We try and park away from others which we have managed quite nicely, for the moment.

with a bit of space around us after the “weekend warriors” had left.

The beach is beautiful although not a safe swimming beach but is usually good for fishing.

Looking south along the beach toward Whakatane

Looking north towards Tauranga

We can attest that it is much warmer here on the coast from what we experienced in Taupo before we left. The winter clothes and duvet have been put away again, in the interim!

Dam Dam Dam

April 4, 2019

And no, that is not a spelling mistake in the title…as if!! Read on, readers, read on!

We tossed a coin and decided we would head straight to Taupo, and again to try somewhere new to park we thought we would try the Equestrian Centre.

With just one other bus here, we pretty much have the place to ourselves.

The Equestrian Centre is located across the Waikato River over the Aratiatia Dam, our third dam stay in succession. This dam is the first dam on the Waikato river just 13km downstream from Lake Taupo. Before construction of the dam and hydro station, the Aratiatia Rapids were a prominent feature on the Waikato River; a scenic reserve from 1906.  The dam construction meant that no water flowed over the rapids. However, several times a day, the Aratiatia dam gates of the Waikato River are opened, which restores the rapids to their normal output. There are several public lookout points on the high rock bluffs that dominate this turbulent stretch of Aratiatia Rapids.

We do the touristy thing and go and watch the opening of the gates and the turbulent flow of the rapids is restored for a short period of time. We watch from the safety of the bridge over the river. Sirens sound to give plenty of warning of the impending opening of the gates, at 8 minutes, 4 minutes, 2 minutes and then a continuous fluctuating siren once the gates start to be raised.

From one side of the bridge are the gates

the glassy, still waters are gradually disturbed by one gate being opened, soon followed by the second. It does not take long for the waters to become a raging torrent.

On the opposite side of the bridge,the start of the rapids.

again, the glassy waters are still and slowly become churned by the rushing torrent of water. You can see how high the water levels are to rise from the staining on the surrounding rocks.

it’s not long before the basin is flooded and water is rushing down the rapids.

This is the view from the other end of the rapids (thanks a Gary for the pictures)

Enough of being tourists, time to catch up with family and friends.

Over the next three days we caught up with my sister Hilary, my nephew Jason (Sue’s eldest) and his twins Caleb & Greer, and friends Barry & Sandra. And on each of these days I did not take one picture – old habits die hard!! But we did manage to spend time with each of them and catch up on news so that was good.

The weather turned a little damp to say the least so we extended our stay here for another couple of days in the hope that it will clear away, besides we have a few errands to attend to.

The rain only lasted a day and we are back to sunshine,however, it seems as though the temperature has taken a definite drop and a very autumnal feel, the slippers may have to get dusted off and brought out shortly.

Gary & Marg joined us for a couple of nights on their way back northwards to their home in Waipu,

We really enjoyed their company and particularly enjoyed playing Kiwi Quiz with them. It such a shame Gary lost so badly!!! And we did not rub it in at all 😂.

and us? Well, we are on our way toward the Bay of Plenty.

Mangakino

March 30, 2019

Now it’s been a few years since we have ventured to Mangakino, probably at least 35years if not more. Mangakino had a bit of a rough reputation in years gone by, but that is now changing.

Mangakino was developed originally as a temporary town to serve the workers who were building the Whakamaru and Maraetai dams after the completion of the Karapiro dam. At its peak in the 1950’s the population reached over 5000, today it has a population of around 1200.

Lake Maraetai is a recreational lake with fishing, skiing and swimming just some of the activities.

There is a lovely large parking area on Matekuri Island which is not really an island, it us more like a headland jutting out into the lake. But swampy areas both sides of a narrow isthmus that the road runs along probably floods at time making it appear an island.

here we are all alone, but it didn’t last long, it became very busy over the weekend.

My niece Fran, her hubby Clive and their two young daughter Bea and Emily have a holiday home here and it just so happened that they were down from Auckland at the weekend. We loved seeing their cute cottage, the girls found a hidey hole in a high cupboard.

We shared a BBQ dinner that evening back at the van.

everyone look the other way!!

Sue & Jeff joined us for an evening on the Sunday before heading back to Putaruru on Monday afternoon. But not before we all got together for a cuppa.

L-R Sue, Bernice, Clive, Bea, Fran holding Emily and Jeff.

Shame I didn’t comb my hair for the photo!! That statement needs a bit of an explanation.

Whilst going through genealogy information with Sue, we came across a photo of me that mum had sent to one of the relations in England. The photo along with others were given to Sue when she was in England 5 years ago. The photo of me is not necessarily funny, but what Mum wrote on the reverse of the photo is. Judge for yourselves.

yes, I know I was cute once…and I thought my hair looked ok!! Knowing me, 5 minutes before the photo was taken I was probably out on the playing field playing bullrush with the boys!

The following day friends Gary & Marg joined us for a couple of nights. We decided to do a bit of exploring around the area to see how much has changed.

Roy got to hang out with Gus in the back seat, the four of us taking selfies and some of us being a bit silly!

Gary & Roy with the Whakamaru Dam in the background.

this is as far as you can go at the Maraetai Dam.

Further down stream from Whakamaru is the local ski club which also has parking facilities for self contained motorhomes so we thought we would check it out for future reference.

top picture is the view from the parking area across the lake and the bottom picture is looking up behind the parking area. Across the lake there is another parking facility however, it is closed at the moment due to logging taking place along the lake front but another one to add to our must-do list.

Back at the vans and Gary discovered an apple tree, so we picked a few to try. And goodness they are great, they fluff up when cooked so we pick a few more and cook up a big pot full of apples. Some we ate with our roast pork belly that evening, and some we had for breakfast, and some I made into a blackberry and apple pie with some blackberries Gary & Roy picked, the rest I bottled.

By Wednesday everyone else had gone, so we think it’s probably time for us to pack up and head off particularly as the weather forecast isn’t that promising. Hmm, where to next I wonder?

Horahora

March 28, 2019

We spent a glorious week at Horahora at AJ’s Park for Self Contained vehicles.

Horahora is just south of Cambridge on Lake Karapiro, one of the many hydro lakes formed along the Waikato River.

The privately owned Park is right next door to the Domain which is also a parking area, the only difference is that the Domain is free and AJ’s has a nominal fee of $5 and has a few facilities. There is a ski club on the boundary of the Park between the two parking areas with a boat ramp at the Domain which makes for busy weekends and provides much entertainment for us to watch.

With Lake front parking and views, you can see why we went from our original plans of staying a couple of nights, to staying over a week.

the view through the front windscreen.

Particularly over the weekends there is plenty of activity, with water skiing through slaloms, there is ski jumping, barefoot skiing and as well lots of families out enjoying themselves with kids being towed behind boats on various items. As well, there were rowing teams being put through their paces going up and down the lake.

We did a little bit of exploring, however this region was my childhood stomping ground so I know the area reasonably well, and Roy is no stranger to these parts either having spent 20 years in Tokoroa. We did check out a few other potential parking areas but with dodgy phone reception we decided to give them a miss.

Lake Karapiro is formed between two hydro electric dams, Karapiro and Arapuni. The formation of the Lake in 1947 at the completion of the building of the Karapiro dam submerged the Horahora Dam – the country’s first large-scale hydro plant built in 1913. Horahora was a privately owned power station with Arapuni the first government built station being finally commissioned to generate power in 1929.

Dams on the river

Karapiro Dam (photo borrowed from the internet)

Probably the most memorable thing about Arapuni Dam is the swing bridge that crosses the river. I have vivid memories of my mean older brothers jumping up and down on it, making it swing and lurch, not a nice thing to do to their much younger sister!

the swing bridge

We spent just over a week at Horahora, a quick trip into Cambridge one day for groceries, and into Putaruru other days to spend time with Sue & Jeff. We will definitely be returning here.

On the move

March 21, 2019

I’d had enough of being crammed in at Ardmore, it seems as though vehicles were jammed in everywhere with over 50 vehicles squeezed in and I guess with the motorhome show due to be held in Auckland later that week, people were starting to head on in to the city. Wednesday morning we had an early start as the van was having the underneath cleaned of surface rust and sealed so at 6.30am we were on our way, not too far to go though, just to Truck & Trailer in Spartan Road, Takanini.

We headed off to get some breakfast whilst the van was being worked on, and to do some shopping and generally keep ourselves occupied. It was 1pm when we got the call to say that the van was finished and we could pick it up. Off we trotted, we got a thorough look at what they had done and came away feeling very happy, especially when the bill came in at nearly half of what we were expecting. We will be back here again if we need any work doing on the van as we were so impressed with them. They do all maintenance work on large vehicles as well as fibreglass repairs and they even do a polishing service. And to top it off they were really friendly and helpful.

We had planned to stay the night at the Papakura Club however we decided to dump the tanks again at Bruce Pulman Park on our way. That’s when plans changed again.

It just so happened that Antony had got us tickets to the netball being played at Pulman Arena that evening (also just happened to be our wedding anniversary) and as we saw a couple of motorhomes parked up, I went and enquired about staying the night there.

the view from the door of the van, not too far to go to walk to the game.

And at the same price as staying in an NZMCA Park, it was a no brainer to stay here for the night.

After an early dinner we headed across the car park to the Arena to get our seats for the game, collecting goodie bags along the way from the sponsors inside the venue.

we ended up being seated around the mid court area, just beind the commentators

It was a good game to watch and afterwards we sauntered back to the van and had a very quiet nights sleep.

We were off the following morning to Hamilton where we ended up staying at the Car Museum, somewhere we had not visited before. Again it proved to be another very busy place to stay as we woke in the morning to find that we had neighbours move in on both sides of us both within spitting distance.

Whilst at the museum we thought we should patronise the facility particularly as though the parking is free so we had lunch in the cafe.

the outside of the museum building and the parking area before it became crowded.

We placed our order for our lunch and were wandering around looking for a suitable table when out of the corner of my eye I spied a familiar couple of faces. I stood looking for a good minute or so desperately flicking through my memory banks to put names to faces before the lightbulb finally went off and I could go say hi. They recognised us straight away. It was Chrissy & Ian, they were longtime friends with my eldest brother Mike & his late wife Ann. Chrissy and Ann were school friends and we had met Chrissy & Ian a number of times over the years so it was lovely to see them and catch up.

We also caught up with our long time friends Wade & Lindsay in the evening over a lovely dinner. It’s always good to see good friends. We also met up with Harry, Kim & family whom we had met a few weeks earlier at Shakespear. They had just been to have some solar charging issues sorted and were very impressed with the service they received from Wayne, so much so that we took his details so we could contact him at some point.

The following day we took off to AJ’s Park on the shores of Lake Karapiro.

the view through the front windscreen.

it is a lovely spot to stay, relatively quiet and peaceful so we thought we’d stay a couple of nights, but a week later we are still here! The place becomes quite busy over the weekend, and we are kept entertained by waterskiers and kids enjoying themselves being towed behind boats on various devices from knee boards to biscuits. It took us a while to figure that there is no tide here, quite a change for us as we spend so much time near the sea.

Sunday was an impromptu get together with a couple of my siblings – John & Jude called in on their way home to Whakatane, and Sue & Jeff joined us from their home not far away in Putaruru. This trip of ours is basically for us to catch up with my north island siblings before we head away to the UK, it seems we have started off quite well. Of course I forgot to take any pictures however it was a lovely afternoon with them all.

I did take some pictures later in the week as we went into Putaruru on a few occasions to spend some time with Sue & Jeff and catch up on family matters including swapping genealogy notes.

this is my sister Sue with the cheese & bacon scones she made one day for lunch……with the wrong mix she had mistakenly used from her pantry. Subsequently the scones were a strange sweet/savoury concoction 😂. And no, sweet savoury scones are not a new thing, they were relegated to the bin! Should have gone to Specsavers Sue 😘.

Roy & Jeff tackling their respective crossword puzzles.

in between visits into Putaruru I had made contact with Wayne Hunt who specialises in motorhome electric/solar systems and it just so happened that he was going to be passing Karapiro on Tuesday morning and he offered to call in. Wayne & Vicki duly arrived and over a cuppa we chatted for some time before getting onto matters we wanted to sort. We want to be able to charge the van battery when we are stationary for any length of time. Wayne designs and builds systems and he came up with a couple of options for us, now we are all sorted with what will work for us. Once we get it, I will do a blog entry on that later. We also gleaned another couple of ideas from them whilst we were chatting so it proved to be a very good couple of hours spent in their company. We can highly recommend Wayne for anything solar/electric/motorhome related, especially as he explains things so well.

Our departure day from here seems to be getting put back more and more, it may be tomorrow…but then again we may be saying the same thing again tomorrow!

And who can blame us with this for a view.

Sad sad days

March 18, 2019

The Ides of March  is a day on the Roman calendar that corresponds to 15 March. In 44BC, it became notorious as the date of the assassination of Julius Caesar which made the Ides of March a turning point in Roman history.

Friday 15th March 2019 is a turning point in New Zealand’s history. The day that one crazy idiotic excuse-for-a -human-being wreaked havoc on the innocent. 50 men, women and children were callously murdered and at least another 50 were wounded, some critically.

To put into perspective how devastating the Christchurch massacre has been on our country, the 50 innocent people who were senselessly murdered is the equivalent per capita in US terms to 3443 people, or 695 people in the UK. Makes you think doesn’t it?

Frontline emergency personnel have our utmost respect, from police, ambulance, doctors, nurses and all others involved, I don’t think we can ever comprehend what you have witnessed.

To those families directly impacted by this tragedy you have our heartfelt sympathies. Words fail.

Moving on….

March 10, 2019

We are very good at changing our plans. Initially we had intended to move on from Shakespear a week ago on Sunday BUT we heard from Gary & Marg that they were coming down to Red Beach to look after their grandkids so we thought we would delay our departure for a few days and take the opportunity to catch up with them before we head out of town.

Meanwhile we are trying to get a few jobs done that we have managed to put off until now….isn’t that always the way, put off the inevitable until we have to do it!!

Our last weekend was a very busy weekend again with campers, with some lovely lovely people in. Some even shared their spoils…

yes, we had fresh fish for dinner that evening.

Inevitably it was time to bid farewell to everyone at Shakespear, after a lovely farewell from the Rangers and some other volunteers we finally headed out of the park on Thursday. But we weren’t going too far as we still had a few chores to get done. So via the LPG filing station at Dairy Flat where, when a truck pulled out from in front of us revealed this special pairing.

I have no idea what it is exactly but obviously it stands upright as there are hydraulic rams on the side near the base. I couldn’t ask the driver either as he was out of there a moment after I had taken the picture.

We headed off to South Auckland heading first to the dump station at Bruce Pullman Park in Papakura. Then it was off to the friendly fellows at VTNZ in Takanini for a COF where we had to wait in line for some time before we had our turn. By this time it was lunch time and time for a cuppa and a bite to eat whilst we waited. We soon had our COF and it was back to the dump station. Why return to the dump station? Because we had half filled the black and grey water tanks with fresh water to slosh around whilst we drive around which helps clean them out a bit, especially required after sitting for so long in one place they needed a good clean out. That all done it was off to a busy Ardmore to park up for a few days.

I had forgotten what it is like to park in a place with other vehicles so close to you, as well as parking on gravel. Give me grass any day but needs must. We are here for a week as we have booked the van in to have the underneath sealed next week, a necessary maintenance job to prevent any rust on the chassis as we so often park near salt laden sea air.

Our son Antony lives just around the corner from Ardmore so it is also a good opportunity to catch up with him, oh and utilise his cooking facilities.

It’s that time of the year again, pickling and preserving time, and first on the list was to make some sauce and soup.

two pots on the boil

And the resulting spoils

Along with the plum sauce I made a few weeks ago, the store cupboard is becoming full again. That should keep us going for some time.