Archive for the ‘flora and fauna’ Category

Singapore

March 3, 2018

There were emotional farewells at Heathrow, it does not get any easier to say farewell no matter how many times we experience it however with tissues deployed we were soon on the plane ready for our journey home. This time we were breaking the journey with a three night stop over in Singapore.

We were met at Changi Airport by our driver who took us into the city and our hotel, giving us a great running commentary along the way pointing out interesting views, buildings and facts.

first glimpse of the Singapore Wheel and Marina Bay Sands

Along one section of road he pointed out that the road was in fact very straight, had we noticed this? No, we hadn’t, then he pointed out that the median barrier between the dual carriageway were in fact large planters, which are in fact removable. It turns out that Lim Chu Kang Road can be used as an emergency runway if required in case of disaster. The large trees lining each side of the 6km motorway can be removed, as can lamp posts as well as the centre planters by the Army in hours to create a large runway. It was used in 2016 as part of a military exercise and as a practise.

Now that is clever.

After settling into our hotel, we found our way to one of the many hawker markets for a bite to eat before heading back for a good nights sleep.

The following morning we were off and out for a tour around the city taking in some of the many highlights and attractions.

the famous Raffles Hotel, closed and completely covered whilst major renovations are undertaken so no Singapore Sling here for us this time.

looking across to the Marina Bay Sands shopping and hotel complex with its rooftop gardens and pools and the lotus flower shaped building in the foreground.

and to prove I was there.

a selection of interesting sculptures on the road sides

plant covered sculpture to hide these vents

this one shows the vent, which is for underground parking, with the plants just starting to climb up the framework.

Next was a visit to the National Orchid Garden with its impressive collection of orchids, I’ll let the pictures tell the story

Then it was off to see the Merlion, the National symbol of Singapore, it’s a mythical creature with a lion’s head and the body of a fish.

To prove that our selfie skills are not getting any better

There was visits to markets, Chinatown, and Little India where we neglected to take photos, and also a visit to Changi Prison to the museum located there. This required a trip on the MRT, Singapore’s excellent (and cheap) train and underground.

Changi prison was built in the mid 1930’s by the British and was designed to house around 600 prisoners. However, during the Second World War the Japanese took control of the island and prison. Following the fall of Singapore in February 1942, the Japanese military detained about 3,000 civilians in Changi Prison. The Japanese used the British Army’s Selarang Barracks, near the prison, as a POW camp, holding some 50,000 Allied soldiers, predominantly British and Australian; and from 1943, Dutch civilians brought over by the Japanese from the islands in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). POWs were in fact rarely, if ever, held in the civilian prison. Nevertheless, in the UK, Australia, The Netherlands and elsewhere, the name “Changi” became synonymous with the infamous POW camp nearby.

Photography is not allowed at the museum and prison area.

Back at our hotel, these impressive glass art works were displayed in the lobby

Soon enough our time in Singapore came to an end, and to be honest, we just wanted to get home. Our flight home was uneventful and we arrived in the early hours of the morning NZ time, where Antony was waiting to pick us up. Although he had left London a day after us he took a more direct route home and arrived the day before us.

It was nice to be back in NZ again after our four months away. Looking back we did manage to pack a fair bit into our time away and we can now look forward to planning the next trip.

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Back in old Blighty

December 20, 2017

We arrived back in London after having had a fantastic trip through Portugal and southern Spain although the temperature change was a little bit of a surprise but it didn’t take us long to get our winter gear out and dress appropriately for the conditions. We have been back a few weeks now and I have to admit that blog writing has not been high on the priority list with most days fairly busy however I shall endeavour to do a bit of a catch up and get back on track, although there will be a a couple of entries out of sequence for Roy’s musings on a few places of interest.

The major happening has been Alex and Ian have had their back garden landscaped and transformed and that meant a group of men were here working for the past two weeks. I was kept busy making cups of tea and doing the odd bit of baking.

This is the before picture

The garden sloped up quite steeply to the back fence which had a line of conifers that blocked out the winter sun and also drew any goodness out of the soil plus they took up quite a bit of space. How much space we were unsure as it was impossible to tell until they cut them down.

The start of the tree removal. We could now see that once the trees were gone they had gained over 3m in their garden.

By the end of the first day all the trees were down and they had started digging out the first level.

Start of the new fence going in….and what’s this? Neighbours? Where were they before?!

Progress was swift over the first few days with plenty of workers on site. By the end of the first week things were looking great.

We had been very lucky with the weather although temperatures were very chilly at least there was no rain however that was about to change with a cold snap due. We woke on Sunday morning to snow falling.

Ian’s parents and 2 brothers Matt & Mike were coming round to visit as well as Mikes partner Sam(antha) and their children Olivia and the new addition to their family 10 day old Beth. Ian took Olivia out to play on the little yellow digger, although we are not sure who wanted to play on it more!!

Then it was Alex’s turn to help Olivia make a snowman on the front lawn

Then it was time to put together a gingerbread house kit with Olivia, although we are not sure that all the decorations made it onto the house.

but she had heaps of fun, as did Alex and I helping her, and she took it home to share with her friends.

Meanwhile, the garden progress slowed somewhat after the snow but by the end of the second week it was all done.

And just to compare, here are the before and after pictures

A great result with lots of usable space, now just to get the neighbours on the right hand side to put in a decent fence. We have learned that here in the UK, the fence on the left hand side of the property is yours to put in and maintain.

It hasn’t all been gardens though, Roy and Ian went to a couple of local football matches….although I think the after match functions are more of a highlight!

Roy with a couple of the players after the game.

Not to be left out of the fun, Alex and I went off for afternoon tea

Roy went out with Ian, father Barry and brother Matt for an afternoon of bowling, although I’m pretty sure a visit to another pub was also on the programme.

Roy in action with Matt and Barry watching on.

And Roy and I went out one evening for a change and had a lovely meal out and we also managed to sneak in a bit of Christmas shopping.

There have been visits to museums and libraries which Roy will be filling in accounts of at some stage. We also met up with Barry & Christine one day for a nice lunch out at a little local pub.

The other news is that our son Antony arrived safely on Friday night, but that update is for another post.

Faro

November 21, 2017

A big day in Faro as we tried to fit in as much as possible in our short time here. As we arrived at nightfall there was only the opportunity to have dinner before heading to bed for the night. Again, we have been very lucky with our accommodation, in Faro it’s just a short walk from the train station and our host Vera was waiting for us to show us around the gorgeous apartment before sitting us down and telling us of places to see and what to do.

After a great nights sleep we were off into town to walk around the old town and to get our bearings. Roy had already been off to the market early in the morning so he roughly knew where we were heading. The following are a few scenes from the market, Roy got there just as they were setting up.

Plenty of fresh, fresh fish of all shapes sizes and species.

Plenty of fresh and dried fruits and vegetables as well.

Into town and the marina area first.

we did not have too far to walk to the outskirts of the old town alongside the marina (checking out boats for you Steve!!).

Just outside the old town walls we came across a tuk-tuk, we thought it was a good oppportunity us to have a quick tour of the old town and parts further afield to orient ourselves.

Church inside the old town walls

the outside wall of the old town

After our short history filled tour with guide Ernesto, we walked along the outside old town wall to our next stop, which was to have a boat trip around the National Park wetland area called Ria Formosa.

There are five barrier islands that protect the wetland area from the ocean. Our boat trip took us throughout the low tidal flats that are home to many bird species, many of which we also have similar species in New Zealand, including the pukeko!

the old town walls as seen from the boat.

There are fish farms located within the waterways and we saw a few small boats out with men fishing. It seems as though there is no size limit and they catch and keep everything.

A flock of spoonbills grazing amongst the growth

Once back on land we went back into the old town to have some lunch at one of the restaurants that had been pointed out to us during our tour. We were keen to try the local dish of Cataplana, a fish dish in various forms that is cooked in a covered dish, similar to a Tagine. As this region was once settled by the Moors, it is no surprise that some of their traditions remain.

It was rather delicious and surprisingly light. And included shellfish and fish such as monkfish, bacalhau, clams, mussels and shrimps.

We even decided to try the local desserts, one of us had a portugese tart (rather like a creme caramel) and the other had a portugese cake which is made of almonds, orange and figs. Both were rather delicious as well.

Now very much replete, we headed back to the main square where we had arranged to meet Ernesto again, this time for a tour through the National Park and out to Faro Beach. Again, we learnt lots of the history of the area and also about local agricultural practises, as we passed many farms growing crops of raspberries, oranges and tomatoes to name a few as well as goat farms. This region also produces a large proportion of the worlds cork. Ernesto explained that you can only remove the cork from the tree once every 9 years, with the best cork for wine bottles taken at the third cut. The men that perform this task are very skilled and in high demand.

Tree with cork removed from its lower trunk.

As well as cork and olive trees there are also acres and acres of pine nut trees.

Also within the park are salt pans, all dried naturally in the hot sun.

Salt pans

The salt is settling around the edge of the pans as evaporation does its thing

and once collected, it ends up in large mounds.

There are a large number of birds that call this area home, including spoonbills and flamingoes, however, the flamingoes were too far away for us to get a decent photo of them, besides they were wearing mostly grey feathers today.

We rounded off the day watching the sun set at Faro Beach

with the knowledge that as it dipped down over our horizon it would be popping up over the horizon in New Zealand. Cheers and good health to friends and family at home 🍹.

Final countdown

September 19, 2017

Eek, one week to go until we head off on our next adventures and there is still so much to organise, I don’t know where the time has gone.

This last weekend we were expecting to have a relatively quiet one with no guests due for the weekend, however, that was soon to change. On Saturday evening we were quietly enjoying dinner with Grant whilst waiting for the rugby to start when I got a cheeky text from my brother John asking what was for dinner tomorrow night as he and his partner Jude were thinking coming to stay! Sure enough they arrived on Sunday afternoon, quickly settled in and then went for a quick tour around the area.

That’s them across the harbour at Pahi….can you see them?

No, we couldn’t really either until we got the binoculars out. Here’s a closer view, you can just make out their grey car parked near the end of the wharf!

It was great to catch up with them and all their news, even though we do keep in contact regularly via a monthly family email, it’s always nice to meet up in person.

We had another visitor this week as well, this cheeky fellow came and sat on the rail just outside the kitchen. We are sure he was eyeing up all the skinks that bask on the warm concrete during the day.

The hens have been keeping us in good supply with eggs and we thought that we had a good lot of ducklings hatched with 12 ducklings swimming on the pond, although at the next count it was only 10. But what do you call a group of ducklings? A clutch? A flock? Well, according to Mr Google, he tells me that ducks in flight are called a flock, ducks on land are a brace or balding (I think I will stick to calling them a brace as balding sounds …..well, just bad!). And ducks on the water are called a raft, a team or a paddling. Who knew?

So here is a picture of a paddling of ducklings.

However, today we discovered that there are actually three distinct groups of ducklings in, on and around the pond ranging in size from very new to a few weeks old with each brace numbering around 10 which means 30 ducklings in total. That’s an awful lot of ducks! I tried to get a picture of them, here are some of them on the bank, can you spot them?

They are hiding on the bank under the shadow of the cabbage tree nearest the pond.

A closer view, there are the two groups here but the tiny newly hatched ones are hiding under a flax bush. They will be a nice surprise for Jacky & Chris on their return. As well, there are a pair of herons nesting in one of the macrocarpa trees, and the tuis, wood pigeons and rosellas have been very active over the last week or two as well, anyone would think that it is spring.

Meanwhile we are busy making lists of things we need to get done before we leave, like making sure all our affairs are in order and up to date, inform those that need to know that we are heading away, getting prescriptions sorted, make lists of what we need from the van to pack, oh and have we got suitcases suitable for the trip?, money is organised, passports, insurance, travel plans are all done, the van is sorted for whilst we are away so hopefully we have thought of most things.

After a bit of a fright the other week when it was pointed out to me that I had misread the date and time of our flight 😳 (Well, it is easy enough to do isn’t it?). I read that our flight departed at 0055 on Wednesday so I just had it in my head that we left Wednesday night just after midnight ……..oops, it actually means Tuesday night check in for an early hour departure on Wednesday morning NOT Wednesday night.

I have checked and rechecked the tickets to make sure we will be at the airport on the right day at the right time, now we just have to hope that the air fuel situation does not impact us to badly. Keep your fingers crossed folks!

Tiki touring

July 16, 2017

It’s not all relaxing and enjoying the smallholder style of life, we have also done a bit of tiki touring around the area.  We headed off for a day trip around the district with our first stop at the Matakohe Kauri Museum which is just a few kms from Whakapirau.  The kauri is a slow growing tree with beautiful timber  

We spent a good hour or two wandering through all the exhibits.

Here are a couple of small sailing boats built of kauri, with a single large plank of timber in the background which stretched the length of the hall.

I was amused to see the following sign inside one of the small sailing dinghys. 

From there we headed to Dargaville and then onto the Waipoua Forest to see Tāne Mahuta, one of the largest living Kauri trees.  Tāne Mahuta is a giant kauri tree (Agathis australis), its age is unknown but is estimated to be between 1,250 and 2,500 years. Its Māori name means “Lord of the Forest”.  

It’s vital statistics are as follows: Trunk girth 13.77 m (45.2 ft),  Trunk height 17.68 m (58.0 ft), Total height 51.2 m (168 ft), Trunk volume 244.5 m3 (8,630 cu ft). Total volume 516.7 m3 (18,250 cu ft).



Alex in front of the tree.

A local Maori guide who happened to be there told us that many many years ago when he was assisting to build a track to the tree, 11 men held hands with arms outstretched to surround the tree.  He also told me that there is an even larger tree but that it is is another part of the forest and a long walk to find it.  We will not be endeavouring to find it this time, besides the heavens opened just as we completed the visit to this tree.

Another day, Mike the friendly local who did the killing  execution bumping off processing of the sheep the other day, offered to take Alex for a jet boat ride around the upper reaches of the Kaipara harbour.

That’s them zooming off across the other side of the harbour, viewed from the deck.  

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!!

Blooming lovely

December 19, 2016

Oh how I love the drive into Shakespear, you drive up the hill to the pest proof fence and wait for the pest proof gates to open and let us in, once through the gates a little further along toward the  brow of the hill we catch a first glimpse of a sign mown into the paddock.


The number 5 denotes the fact that Shakespear has now been 5 years pest free, a great achievement especially for all who continue to work hard to maintain the park.  Early 2017 will see the reintroduction of Kiwi to the sanctuary, congratulations to all those hard working staff and volunteers who are making this happen.

Once over the hill we get a good view down over Te Haruhi Bay and we see the first glimpse of the pohutakawas in flower, it is truly a delightful sight.   

The entrance to the  campground  is lined with the trees and many of them are in full bloom. 

We have a Pohutakawa flowering at the front and rear of where we are parked within the campground, for some reason the trees are putting on a particularly grand display this year.


My favourite tree in the park is this one which is half red and half yellow


Who knew that there was a yellow Pohutakawa? 

In fact there are many colour variations, from almost a pink, through orange tones to red to crimson and there is one that is almost a browny/red.


Whatever their colour, they herald the start of summer and are glorious in all their colours. 

Kairakau & Mangakuri Beaches

April 22, 2016

 

Our next port of call was Kairakau, a short distance as the crow flies, but a much longer trip zig zagging inland first to near Waipawa before then heading back out to the coast. 

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Looking south

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Looking north

Once we were parked and settled in, again no phone reception, as is evidenced by the very large range of bluffs behind the camping area cutting out communications which were at best sporadic all of the way up the coast.

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These bluffs meant that the sun was only on us until mid afternoon.  It would not be a place to be camped during the winter months. The colour is provided by the early morning light.

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The other end of the beach was a river mouth with a number of holiday homes and a small permanent population.

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Looking back from the river mouth to where we were camping looking over the camp ground in the foreground, we are faintly visible in the background.

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Mixed farming!  Geese and sheep sharing the same paddocks.

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Just before the beach there is this chasm cut between the coastal bluffs and a large singular rock formation.

From Kairakau we took a short drive to Mangakuri without camera.  It was a very long sandy beach (which beaches aren’t around here!) with a very small settlement.  However it has no motorhome parking available.  We both felt it would be a very attractive place to come back to and spend some time.

Busy Waitangi weekend

February 10, 2016

 The weather forecast for the weekend was not looking good and it obviously scared off a number of campers as noted of the 160 booked in, we would have been lucky to have in 70 people who eventually braved the forecast.  We did have some rain on friday evening and Saturday morning but by 10am. It was clearing, hot and the sun eventually poked out its head.  Steve & Les arrived on Friday evening, and an evening of food, wine and lively debate ensued putting the world to rights.  As Saturday morning cleared, Steve went back into Browns Bay to pick up their middle grandson Asher 7,  for a weekend stay.  

Ash kept us well entertained for the weekend,

  
  Enjoying  a “dippy egg” for  breakfast
  His favourite Bacon & Egg pie for lunch

We had lots and lots of fun, with plenty of laughs along the way and of course lots of swimming as well. He was a pleasure to have around however you tend to forget how exhausting the constant chatter is but one very happy young man went home on Monday afternoon, and one very exhausted Great Aunty Bernice and Great Uncle Roy had an early night!!!

There was a little excitement in the park when a large part of a Pohutakawa tree at the entrance to the campground came crashing down on Saturday.  Apparently this was the largest Pohutakawa in the park.  Bruce (head Ranger) was quickly on the job clearing away some of it before arborists come in to finish off the task later this week.

    

And if any of you were wondering what happened to my swimming pool, it was given to Ben, Asher and Finn for use at their home.

 Gone to a good home!

Some photos missed in passing

November 15, 2015

The following photos were taken during our visit to Wellington to view the ANZAC Exhibitions.  I have previously written about the exhibit at the National War Memorial but not the Te Papa exhibit. 

But first a picture from the National War Memorial, this first photo created quite an impression as it was taken on the exact day when my father was wounded and in Passchendaele although it is in the Australian sector rather than Abraham Heights where my father was hit by shrapnel in the face and right knee and subsequently invalided back to Hornchurch in England.

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Back to Te Papa.  I have had great difficulty in coming to grips with this exhibition so here are some photos with minimal text.

The following are photos of the models which are 1.8 times life scale.  Each shows a specific individual and is surrounded with displays of letters,  photographs and belongings of the person.  There are detailed biographical notes and also recordings of either the individual or of others who took part in the same action.  All fought at Anzac Cove or in the case of the nurse, supported those who were fighting.

Each of the persons are presented in a tableau representing specific actions on their part,  giving context to their role and action.

The detail in the tableaus is absolutely amazing

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Very expressive of the motions involved

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And that detail includes the conditions in which these persons found themselves

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The last of the tableaus gives a very good sense of  the thousand yard stare and has obviously created a very strong response by attendees as it has become decorated with poppies.

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On a much lighter note at Te Papa, this example of art from tins/cans.  The corned beef cans used were representative of those which were sold throughout the Pacific Islands, New Zealand and a wide range of markets across the world.

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Nearer to our present location the following photo is of a stained glass window in the Whatawhiwhi Church not far from Maitai Bay DoC Camp.  It was first mentioned to us by Stuart Park, a cousin who lives in Kerikeri, who was head of Historic Places in the North and had done research into a large number of churches.  His interest in New Zealand glass art is also represented here as he knew the artist and her work.  We accompanied Stuart and were very very impressed by the window.  It is a very impressive representation of the end of the Karikari Peninsular.  The twin bays at the left are Maitai Bay where the DoC camp is situated and the bottom bay is Waikato Bay.  

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The text at the base of the window translates from the Lord’s Prayer   Thy Will be Done.  The church itself is interesting as it is old but when one approaches it, it turns out that it has a concrete block exterior.  On talking to a very friendly local, it turns out that the concrete blocks are a shell erected around the original wooden exterior in order to preserve the original extrerior.  The interior is original and contains many photos of former clerics, prominent Maori and local people.  A very illuminating historic record.

Meanwhile back on the beach the picture below shows a strange creature? body? piece of flotsam washed ashore.  It consists of connected sacs some of which have filled with sand as they have washed ashore.  Identification would be appreciated, the closest we have come is squid egg sacs?

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And here is an unusual Pukeko showing signs of a malignant growth on the side of its neck.  It appears to represent no hindrance to its growth or abilities.

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Nor on its ability to appreciate an apple a day!