Escape tunnel

March 21, 2017

Dickie Attenborough, Steve McQueen, James Garner  – where are you when I need you? I need help in digging our escape tunnel from Shakespear!  The uniforms are being stitched together,  the forged passes are being printed and the clever devices are sewn into the trousers ready to surreptitiously dispose of the diggings onto the parade ground whilst the Germans stand guard ………. well, perhaps that’s going a little too far but it does feel a little like we need to tunnel out of here, you will see why shortly.

It was our 35th wedding anniversary last Monday, and we celebrated in our usual manner in that we exchanged our perpetual cards – these are the same card we give each other, each year, once given they go back in the drawer ready for next year! 

Tuesday morning and Roy had an appointment with an ophthalmic surgeon to have a small hole lasered into each eye.   After the initial consultation, he was 5 minutes in the chair and it was all done with little fuss and with no after effects or problems.  

Wednesday was pack up time for us to leave the SCC (Self Contained) parking area at Shakespear as the van was going in to have the brakes sorted…. We hope.  We stayed with Leslie (Steve was away) for the night before heading back to pick up the van on Thursday afternoon.  But oh dear, the brakes are not fixed properly as we need to replace the calipers and of course there are no available parts here in NZ so these need to be sourced from the USA which of course means we wont be leaving here anytime soon whilst we wait for their arrival and then of course the fitting of them.  But brakes are pretty important so best we get them sorted once and for all.  Heavy sigh, I was never very good at being patient but never mind, there could be worse places to be stuck. 

So here we are back in the main campground at Shakespear where we will be for at least the next two weeks whilst we wait for the parts to arrive.  We are told that it’s no problem for us to stay on and as we are continuing with our camp host duties as it’s a huge help to the staff here.

On top of the brake issues, Roy has more appointments to keep with various specialists, we seem to visit one specialist after another which then necessitates another appointment for scans or MRI’s or tests for further investigations and then further appointments.  At least we are getting everything sorted relatively quickly but it does seem as though the goal posts are forever shifting or should I say, the escape tunnel seems to be getting longer and longer!  

A little damp around the edges

March 9, 2017

There has been a little bit of rain falling around the region and apparently it’s not about to stop anytime soon over the next few days, although we have had a welcome reprieve for a few hours but we are all high and dry managing to keep away from most of the wet stuff.

 I was a little surprised to see a creek had appeared at the back of the van yesterday morning….there hasn’t been one there before

The view through the rear bedroom window.

And compare the same view taken just a couple of days apart

Today we would have been lunching in the wet!

Today it’s back to this 


There is a road under there somewhere 

Today all of the lakes have disappeared however with more rain forecast to add to the already sodden ground it won’t be long before they reappear.

Roy braved the elements to take the RAV in to get a new windscreen fitted after a few too many stones from roadworks attacked the windscreen ….but that’s another story.


Lakes formed all through the park with the only ones enjoying the deluge were the pukekos.

We haven’t ventured into the campground since the rain, but apparently there are some lakes and rivers forming there as well but it has not put off one school who arrived today with four bus loads of children to camp over the next two days.  With the near gale force winds and more rain forecast, I’m sure it would not be me in a tent!

A Busy week

March 7, 2017

Summer may have officially slipped in autumn this last week  but the temperatures are still saying that it’s definitely summer time with lots of sunshine and warmth although I think that is about to change.   It’s also been a busy week what with one thing or another. Friends Brian & Marj came to join us for a few days, funnily enough it’s almost 6 years to the day since  we first met them.  We were real greenhorns then with just one days experience of living full time in the van but they were very kind to us and gave us lots of useful advise about living full time on the road including happy hour etiquette which you can read about here.  However this time I neglected to take a single picture of us together, I must have spent too much time chatting!

It felt as though we were constantly on the go as it was a busy week of appointments, most of which involved fighting the Auckland traffic….groan.  First off Roy had an appointment for a scan, no problem, it was not too far away in Wairau Road which is not too far from Shakespear , just 35km down the motorway.  So one hour and 35 minutes later he arrived for his appointment!  I don’t know how, or why, people commute through the madness of traffic everyday, it would drive me nuts.  But lesson learnt, don’t make any appointments during the commuter/school traffic peak times.  The next day we had another appointment but this time just down the road at Silverdale where the van was getting its brakes sorted and it was 9.30am that the van had to be in so it was a quick trip down the road.  We then went on to Steve & Les’ in Torbay for the day and also to get a bit of shopping done at Albany.  We picked the van up in the late afternoon and headed off to the dump station at Hatfield Beach to take care of necessities before heading back to Shakespear.  

But it wasn’t the end of our running around, the following morning we were both off to the Doctors in Mt Albert for our annual checkups.  This time we allowed plenty of time to get there and with a late morning appointment we had a good run through with it taking us just over an hour. From there we headed to Manukau to meet up with Antony to collect our mail and to have lunch with him before we headed back to Shakespear.  It was another  reasonable run taking just over an hour and a half this time. According to the newspapers the traffic problems are set to continue to get worse with “March madness”  occurring this month.   I think we will try and avoid travelling across the city especially at peak times.  

By the time Friday came, we were both ready to have a day without travelling anywhere!  Not that I was idle mind you, no, it was time to bottle a huge pot of beetroot!

Beetroot getting ready to be bottled.

We had visited our favourite market garden in Mangere last week when we were over that way to stock up on lovely outdoor tomatoes and lots of lovely fresh vegetables picked straight from the ground.  Soon it will be time to make  relishes, pickles and chutneys with supplies from these gardens, in particular using their flavoursome (ugly & mishapen) outdoor tomatoes. 

More visitors through the week, with Gary & Marg calling in for a catch up on their way through Auckland before heading to their home in Tokerau Beach.  It won’t be long and we will be back up their way again where we look forward to sharing some fishy tales as well as some fish!  

Colin & Ed came visiting at the weekend, and it was great to catch up and relax in the sun.  This time I did remember to take a picture 

Meanwhile, a graffitiI artist has been secretly at work as we found two labels stuck on the van, one under the passenger side wing mirror and the other on the back of the van

After extensive investigations we are pretty sure we have discovered the identity of the phantom labeller …….let’s just say that a certain bald Ranger, currently on a road trip around the South Island may get a surprise one of these days!  All in good fun of course. 

Another week of visitors

February 25, 2017

We received a phone call on Monday from Andrene & Lyall, these are friends we met when both of us lived in Oamaru, they moved to Christchurch around 11 years ago, which was probably the last time we caught up.  They were in their motor home having a look around the north island and knew we were at Shakespear so they came to stay with us for a couple  of nights.  It was a though time had stood still with the conversation flowing freely and into the night,  besides,  we haven’t changed a bit and none of us have aged at all!! 

The afternoon started with a few drinks with some fellow motorhomers who kindly took a photo of the four of us.L-R: Roy, Bernice, Andrene, Lyall

It just so happened that we had some fresh snapper ready for our dinner, caught by Roy and Steve the previous morning, as well Lyall is a keen whitebaiter and had whitebait in their freezer which resulted in a fabulous shared dinner with Whitebait patties for entree and snapper for our main and I made some focaccia bread.  Along with a salad or two it all washed down with a suitable beverage or three, a meal to savour.


We sat outside until it bacame too dark  then continued chatting in our van until it was time for bed.  

The next morning it became eveident that Andrene and I have very good tasteSome of the more observant of you may notice that the previous day we both had a liking for blue and white stripes! 

We offered Andrene & Lyall the use of our car so that rather than taking their van off to do their shopping they could nip around in the RAV4.  Lyall had ordered an inflatable boat so they were off to pick it up.  Of course on their return we had to have a trial run at putting it all together.

Roy having a dry run!

We left them to their own devices Tuesday evening as we had arranged to rendezvous with Steve that evening for a fish off the beach with Steve’s torpedo.  Once we had set the line out to fish we sat on the beach watching the sun go down as we ate pizza accompanied by a suitable beverage. Bliss.   The haul of fish was not great, we did manage to bring in four fish but only one was a keeper but we also managed to drag in an awful lot of weed so we will not be fishing off that beach again in a hurry! 

Wednesday evening we headed into Torbay to Steve & Leslie’s place for a meal and get together with Leslie’s two sisters and all the extended family.  Leslie’s youngest sister Gill & I were best friends right through primary and secondary school so it was great to catch up again with her and her daughters who were over from Perth.  Although it was only a couple of years ago since we last met.  This time was a little more restrained however it was great to have everyone together.

Steve was heading north for a couple of days for work, so Roy went along for a ride to keep him company and they just so happened to take the fishing gear with them so that they could have a fish in the evenings.  By all accounts a few fish were caught and a good time was had by all.  

Meanwhile I stayed at the van at Shakespear, helping out a few stray travellers and in particular those who do not read the signs about how to unlock the padlocks! Some people.  I even had a visit from the Jehovah’s Witness…they got the short sharp shrift and were quickly sent on their way.  

Last week of camp hosting

February 20, 2017

You know when it’s time for our camp hosting duties to finish when this is the view of the campgroup…..


For most people work beckons, schools and university have begun, and it’s just the odd tourist or three coming in to stay plus it’s the start of school camps coming into the park so it’s time for us to pack up and ship out.  Although most weekends are fully booked with campers, like this last weekend, although not so many have turned up.  The rain that we had prior to the weekend seems to have put a lot of people off,  apparently it rained heavily in the city Friday and Saturday whilst we were bathed in sunshine out here on the peninsular.

But there have been a few different sights this week.  What’s this I see on the horizon?


A closer look reveals a paraglider with a blue chute 


And friend with a red chute


They just so happened to pick the one day when the wind was a very gentle breeze, typical, they should have been here the day before when we had very strong winds, but perhaps they are just beginners so they may have only wanted a gentle zephyr.

We have enjoyed our Camp Hosting role, it brings with it all sorts of interesting people, most of them lovely and with only a couple of minor incidents in which we have to nicely tell people off for their inconsiderate behaviour.  But mostly it has been advising people or helping campers with everything from jump starting cars to lending them gear including cutlery and a portable gas cooker, a pump or power to pump up beds and numerous other bits and pieces.

This is the sign that I made for the entrance to the camping area this year which made for lots of positive comments.  


Usually there is a reminder of some of the rules but I thought that this year we would change tack and remind people to have fun, on the whole I think it worked…..although I’m not sure whether the kids do dishes rule worked all the time!

But we haven’t moved far, just to the Self Contained Parking area in the main part of the park, which is where we are now.

Here we shall remain at least for the next week or two whilst schools take over the camp ground.  

We have made a little money for SOSSI, Shakespear Open Sanctuary Society Incorporated, from taking donations and running the Junior Ranger Program.  

Here we are in front of our faded sign wearing our SOSSI hats (we weren’t wearing our t shirts) with our honorary Junior Ranger Badges pinned onto them and holding the booklets that the children complete to earn their badge after I have marked their booklets.

A very successful year for raising a few funds for SOSSI from the Junior Ranger program as well as from donations made for people to charge up their phones and devices by plugging into our solar generated power.  This year the funds from the power  is going to the initiative to bring Kiwi back into the park.  This will happen in April this year which will mean when we come back next year we shall be able to listen to Kiwi at night time.

Another week or two

February 13, 2017

Another week or two has slipped on by, where oh where does the time go? Apparently this is what happens when you give up the nose-to-the-grindstone life,  all perception of time moves to another dimension. 

 I spent a week with Antony post surgery and managed to keep myself very busy, filling his freezer and fridge with meals even doing a bit of housework and laundry in between, however most evenings we watched a movie together as well as some TV shows which passed the time quite quickly.  

I returned to Roy at Shakespear in time for the long Waitangi weekend when summer finally came out to play which is typical, as soon as the long school holidays are over and when kids head back to school to sit in hot classrooms does summer seem to appear.  Not that I am complaining, now everyone has returned to work/school, the campground has emptied, we have gone from being full wih 160+ people to 18  booked in this week. Of course the weekends go back to being full again but I can tell you it is nice and  quiet now and I have just about the whole beach to myself apart from the odd dotterel or oyster catcher to keep me company.

Roy did a week at Antony’s, it’s his turn to be nursemaid and help out whilst he is recovering from surgery.  However, our plans for the next couple of months have changed slightly as we had always planned to leave Shakespear at the end of February however Roy now has a couple of appointments to keep in March.    One is for some laser surgery on both eyes, the other for a hearing specialist….apparently both are what is called “age related” issues.  So now the plan is to leave here at the end of March, but then again that could well change!  Of course we asked if it was OK if we stayed on and the positive response was an invitation to stay on as long as we like.

Of course this glorious weather means that the beach beckons most days and I have been swimming two or three times a day mainly for it’s cooling down effect but also because it is just plain lovely to swim in the warm ocean.  

More visitors this week with Steve & Leslie coming on Friday to stay overnight, their granddaughter Bea aged 3 1/2 came along to keep us all amused, and that she did making us all laugh at times. I neglected  to take a single picture, we were all too busy enjoying the moment.  It was also time for Steve & Les to take down their tent, the grass had grown a little although it was mowed all around the tent, the evidence of where the tent had been was plain to see.

Can you tell where the tent was?

As well, this week the gazebo had to be handed back, so we have gone from this ;-

To this ;-


Niece Natalie was in Auckland  up from Wellington and on Sunday she came to visit.  By this time Roy had also returned so it was a great chance to catch up as we haven’t seen Natalie since last year when Natalie & I went to the netball.  We spent a lovely afternoon with her and her aunt & uncle, Carol & Alan, catching upon all their news and generally putting the worlds to rights.  We are looking forward to another catch up at around Easter time when Natalie is heading north for a family visit and as we will undoubtedly be in the north somewhere, it’s another opportunity to meet up.

This will be our last week as Camp Hosts in the camp ground, but we are not moving far, just to the Self Contained Parking Area which is about 500m from where we are now.  Thsi is the time of the year when school groups are coming into the camp ground over the next few weeks and we are not required.  Another year as Camp Hosts comes to a close, we shall return but not until next year.

Friends

February 6, 2017

As we become a little more mature, it seems to us that friends and family become even more important in our lives.  As well as rekindling old friendships, it’s also good to make new friends and of course family is also right up there in the mix.  We’ve had a few visitors since we have been here at Shakespear,  from family to friends.  Some folk we have known for a looooooong time and it’s fantastic to meet up again and pick up from where we last met.

Glennis & Robin came to visit after we caught up with them last week at Cathy & Wayne, we last saw Glennis & Robin  when they came to visit with other friends two year ago which we blogged about here

L-R Roy, Wayne, Cathy, Glennis & Robin

Now we met Glennis many years ago when Roy & I lived in Tokoroa and we had taken up playing scrabble competitively in the mid 1980’s then continued playing when we moved to Auckland a year or two later. Over the years the inevitable happened…Roy became Chairman of NZ Scrabble, and I was at varying times, treasurer or secretary.  As well, Glennis & Rob’s daughter Rachael became our regular babysitter over the next few years but more recently in 2010 we caught up with Rachael and her family who now reside in France – which you can read about here

Cathy, Roy, Glennis, Robin & Wayne discussing the problems of the world over coffee and cake.

Cathy was also a scrabble player whom we met all those years ago, but we haven’t seen Wayne & Cathy for nearly 20 years so we had a fair bit of chin wagging to do!  It’s lovely to meet up again after all that time to reminisce.

Other visitors were niece  Sarah and her three boys.  It was Asher’s 8th birthday and he came out for his his birthday treat which included  to have his favourite lunch (Bacon & Egg Pie), a surf, and of course to see his favourite great Aunty! What more could a boy ask for?

Ben, Asher and Finn in the surf.

It was also a good opportunity for the boys to enlist Uncle Roy to help them fly their pirate ship kite which they got on a recent family holiday to Bali.
Uncle Roy, Ben and Finn set the kite flying 
Roy watching the kite fly.

It was a lovely day, albeit it very windy but good for kite flying!

Our next visitors were dear friends Wade & Lindsay, whom we knew from our Tokoroa days.  Roy and Wade were friends long before Lindsay and I came onto the scene.  Subsequently we had our children at around the same time and we shared many times together in each other’s company when the children were preschoolers and before we moved to Auckland.  As well, we spent many a lovely holiday together, sharing the childcare and giving each other precious timeout on our own, so it was lovely to meet up again as it’s been four or five years since we last met up.  Their eldest daughter Caroline lives at Gulf Harbour so it was a great opportunity to spend some time together….just like old times.

They came for dinner on Saturday afternoon, and well, one thing led to another, and they ended up staying the night in the tent (thanks Steve & Les for leaving your tent up).  I took a couple of photos with my phone, but by the time I remembered to take a picture the odd bottle or two had been emptied, the light was fading and the quality of the photo & photographer is not great!


A great way to celebrate Wade & Lindsays 39th wedding anniversary – wow, have we known each other that long?  It was  fantastic to meet up again and we look forward to our next get together in a few months time.  

Mum’s the word

January 30, 2017

When your son is 32 and about to have surgery for his ACL and MCL repairs on his knee then a Mum does what a Mum does best, she hops into the car and heads to the other side of the city to look after him.  Antony was scheduled for surgery on Friday afternoon and with it being Auckland Anniversary weekend I knew the roads would be busy so I headed off down to his place in Papakura on Thursday ready for an easy trip into the hospital in Epsom on Friday.  

Midday Friday and we arrived at the hospital in plenty of time however we both commented on our way in that the southbound traffic on the motorway was starting to build up which made us think that the better way for me to return to Papakura would be through Mt Eden and onto the southwest motorway.  It’s just as well I know my way around Auckland reasonably well and can try and circumnavigate any traffic issues.   First, we got Antony admitted into the hospital and ready for his surgery which would be happening in a couple of hours time.  There was the usual medical things to attend to but  also the menu to fill out for his evening meal and breakfast tomorrow.

This was his evening menu choice….


Not bad eh? Mind you, I’m not so sure that dinner is high priority in ones mind after surgery, but as he had not eaten or drunk anything since the previous night then I guess he may be a tad peckish.

I left him in the care of the medical staff as there was no point in me waiting around as I could not really do anything and the surgeon would call me once Ants was in recovery to let me know how he got on.  I headed back throuh Mt Eden and onto the the south west motorway.  It was a trouble free, traffic free, run all the way along the motorway until approaching Manukau where, luckily, the electronic motorway info board was telling me that the southern motorway was blocked from Manukau south and I could see the traffic queued ahead of me for the on ramp.  So quick decision time, get off and head to Papakura over the back road.  Just as well I took this option  as the following was the sight from the Manukau overbridge looking north.


Looking south was even worse but I didn’t have time to take a photo of that. I found out later that there was a car on fire further south and all lanes were blocked.

Even so, my return trip took just over an hour whereas it is usually a 30minute journey.  It didn’t seem as though I had been back very long before the surgeon rang to tell me all was well and everything had gone to plan with the surgery and I could pick him up the following morning.  

It wasn’t too long after that that Ants rang me to tell me he was ok just a little groggy.  Later on he sent me a pic of his dinner…

And it doesn’t look bad either.

I returned the following morning, following the same route, and after been given all the instructions for wound dressing and with prescriptions to fill on the way home, we were soon on our way.

He has been a very good patient, and I am very sure that my calling in life was definitely NOT as a nurse,  especially the wound dressing stuff!  But I steeled myself and did the brave thing and changed the dressingbefore and during

 I am much better at other things and I have kept myself busy with washing, cleaning and lots of cooking as well as running around making sure He has everything he needs.  His freezer is now full of meals for when he’s back on his own and I return to the van.  But then it will be Dad’s turn to have a few days playing nurse.

Windy summer

January 24, 2017

It was a little windy over the weekend, well, let’s be honest it’s been damn windy for the past couple of months or so it seems.  But the past weekend we were well warned of the impending weather “bomb” bringing with it torrential rain and high winds.

We took our awning down on Saturday afternoon, even though we are reasonably sheltered in our parking bay, everything else was put away in readiness for the forecast rain and wind.  Some campers who were scheduled to leave on Sunday, packed up a day early so they had dry gear to return home with…sensible people.  Steve came up for the evening as he and Roy were planning to go fishing in the morning, at this stage the wind was annoying but nothing too serious.  After dinner, we settled in to watch a movie, then the rain started and the wind started to pick up.  We watched campers scurrying around tying down tents with extra ropes, hammering in pegs and generally battening down the hatches.  

Time for an early night as the blokes were going to be up by 5.30am to go fishing.  By early evening the rain had settled in, the wind was buffeting us occasionally but generally speaking all was well. However I cannot sleep when the winds are so strong as I hear every creak, groan and crash, besides, I was concerned that the gazebo we had borrowed was getting a buffeted.  I was up and down I don’t know how many times, checking on it, then watching campers torch beams light up flapping tents with loose ropes flying.   At around 1am there was a huge gust of wind, the van rocked and I was sure I heard something so I get up yet again to investigate.  Sure enough the gazebo has been lifted, I yell at Roy to wake him up (who has slept through everything so far – the joys of being able to remove your ‘ears’), whilst he puts on some clothes I dash outside in my nightie.  Outside,  I find Steve trying to grapple the flipped gazebo and hold it away from his car as the legs of the gazebo just missed his car by millimetres.  Roy joined us and we wrestled the gazebo back to its rightful position and proceed to figure out how to take it down.  Not an easy task, in the dark, in the rain, with the wind at near gale force and none of us really knowing how the damn gazebo worked as when we had put it up on Christmas Eve we both had left it to others in th family to put it up !! Once we figured out that we could just snib the clips on each corner leg, we could walk the four corners in and fold it up nicely.  

It must have been strong gust of wind to pull these anchoring pins out of the ground!

A clothes peg used for size comparison

Roy then went on to help some of the campers whose tent had collapsed, taking with him extra ropes and  pegs.  I should admit here that I have Roy on a bit for collecting bits and pieces, especially tent ropes, the odd pole or two and a plethora of tent pegs, but I have to admit that the large bag of ropes, ties and pegs have now come in handy!!!!  These were used for the same campers who earlier in the day we had loaned our spare inflatable bed as they had forgotten the vital part for their air bed….the plug!  Poor people, apparently their tent leaked, then it collapsed,  in the end, they got in their car and went home leaving everything behind only to return in the morning to retrieve what remained.  Many other campers also decamped during the night as tents leaked, some got large rips in them and others just had had enough.  
By the time we got back to bed it was nearly 3am, the alarm went off at 5.15am and no, Roy does not hear it as he has his hearing aids out, so I wake, wake him up and then try and get back to sleep.  Needless to say very little sleep was had on Saturday night and Sunday night was definitely early to bed. But they guys did catch some snapper so all was not in vain.

Wildlife

January 20, 2017

It’s fair to say that being in a Sanctuary means that we are surrounded by lots of wildlife in one form or another.  Currently there are 4 pairs of Dotterels nesting on the beach, they build their nests right on the high tide mark which necessitates the nests having to be sandbagged to protect them from extra high tides and also to be roped off from humans who may decide to have an extra close look.  Dotterel are a threatened/nationally vulnerable species, here at Shakespear there have been 16 chicks hatched, of which 5 have been lost and 6 have fledged.  Some eggs were lost due to high tides, hooligans and other creatures so protection of their space is important.  The other day we had to move one lot of fencing which was protecting their patch as the dotterels had, in their wisdom, moved further along the beach.  

Can you spot the well camouflaged adults?

A close up view

 But first the had to get their chicks across the small creek…who knew that they could swim?


And a blurry close up

After we had set up the fencing, put up the signs, and made sure they were safe, the adult birds with chicks in tow, then proceeded to head back to their previous haunt further along the beach.  Since then they have moved between the two areas daily I guess trying to decide which one is best?

The Kereru, NZ wood pigeon, are feasting on the ripe Karaka  berries on the tree in front of our van, gorging themselves until they are almost too heavy to fly before taking off with the unmistakable sound of their wing beats to gain enough height and momentum to get back to their home.  

They also seem to enjoy the new growth on the kowhai tree growing at the rear of our van but they have not been left in peace to eat the leaves as we have seen Tui chasing and dive bombing the much larger Kereru until the pigeons fly off out of their way.  We have also seen Tui exhibiting similar behaviour toward a magpie, chasing it in a menacing manner, diving and swooping on the magpie until it’s forced from its flight to land, and then continually harassing it until it finally leaves the area.  

In the past two years two species of birds have been reintroduced to the Sanctuary, the Whitehead – which I wrote about its release into the park here, and Robins which were reintroduced last year and you can read a little about them here.  This year in the autumn Kiwi are being reintroduced into the Santuary which is fantastic news for all, but in particular, reward for all the hard work done by the rangers, staff and the numerous volunteers who put in hours of work throughout the year.

It’s not all bird life here though.  This fellow was dragged onto the beach after being found dead in the shallows by some undoubtably surprised swimmer.


It’s a bronze whaler shark, about 2m in length.  It was later recovered by DoC  and taken away for reasearch purposes.  It’s not something I would personally like to find whilst I am swimming!!