Archive for the ‘r&m’ Category

We’re off

September 26, 2017

Oops, sorry to those who received a half written blog entry yesterday, it was a slip of the finger on the screen.

Bags are packed, passports are at the ready, currency exchanged, what else can there be to do? Yes, we’re off tonight, I can hardly believe that the time has finally arrived for us to step onto the plane for the loooong flights ahead of us.

We finished our housesitting duties last week when Jack & Chris arrived home on Thursday. We really enjoyed our housesitting stint as we were able to catch up with lots of friends and family, plus it was a nice change for us. On Friday we headed to the van, quickly got sorted and made our way down to Papakura for a couple of nights. We caught up with friends Bill & Linda for dinner at the Papakura Club on Friday evening which was lovely to see them and catch up on all their news. Saturday we exercised our democratic right to vote, watching the results come in later that evening but gave up watching after 30minutes or so, pretty unexciting viewing. Sunday we headed off to Kopu to where the van is having some R&M done on it whilst we are away, we stayed the night before returning to Antony’s on Monday. Today has been doing all those last minute chores before we head away, getting the last of the washing done, repacking the bags and taking out what we don’t really need, plus Roy had an appointment with the specialist for his final injection ready for treatment to begin next year when we return.

So that’s about it folks, we fly out later this evening (actually in the early hours just after midnight) for Singapore where we have a short 2hr stopover before the flight to London. We shall endeavour to update the blog on a reasonably regular basis where and when we can. In the meantime, stay safe and well out there!

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A glitch or two…

June 9, 2017

Life for the Vanninis ticks along nicely most of the time with only the odd minor hiccup along the way, you know, things like the odd flood, slips, high wind, brakes needing repair, parts for the van, the little things in life.  But occasionally life throws us a bit of a curve ball.  Some of you may have picked up on the fact that recently Roy has been having a number of appointments to attend all around Auckland.   Well, make a cuppa, take a seat and read on…

It started a month or two ago when Roy went for his annual check up with the Urology specialist.  Previously he had a hiccup with his kidneys, which you can recap that story here.  As part of the checkup the specialist does the usual blood tests, flow tests etc, and he said hmmmmm, Roy, your PSA levels have gone up a bit, lets check things out further. So off he went for an ultrasound scan. The scan showed that his prostate was very enlarged and warranted further investigation. So off for a full MRI to see what is happening.  I have to add in here that in between all this Roy also had hearing tests, scans, an auditory MRI, more tests and hearing specialists, as well as eye tests, eye specialists, more visits, laser surgery, checkups.  It’s been a busy old time with lots of appointments all around Auckland.

Then came the results, he needed a biopsy so we went off to have that done at the specialists. 14 samples were taken for testing.  We only had to wait a few days before the results came back, and you hear those dreaded words …”sorry, but you have prostate cancer”.  Knock us down with a feather.  

Regather and press on, we need to discuss options and also get a better idea of what is happening. The next step is to have a Gallium PET scan, which shows if the cancer has spread anywhere else and gives a better idea of what we are dealing with. You can read about this amazing technology here.  Up until just over a year ago this scan was only available in Australia and we would have had to go there for one, but Mercy hospital in Auckland now has the only machine in NZ so off we went there for the scan last Thursday.  Thank goodness for medical insurance as these things are costly and as well as with all the specialist visits, MRI’s etc over the past few weeks we have had our monies worth from our medical insurance already this year. 

But back to the tests.  We came away from the Gallium PET scan with a copy of the CD and of course we just had to have a look at it ourselves….bad idea…..as we stared intently at the computer screen all we could see was that every organ appeared to be glowing and as far as we could tell things did not look good.  However, a bit of googling and research helped alleviate those fears, things were not as bad as what we thought. Best we wait for the experts to fill us in as give us the official report.

We were scheduled to get the results the following day on the Friday, however the specialist had been called away for urgent surgery so our appointment was deferred until the following Tuesday.  Meanwhile, we had already scheduled a visit to our GP for the Monday.   Our doctor has been a very good sounding board and we trust her advice and we wanted to discuss options with her from her perspective, in particular her experience with other patients and their aftercare specifically any problems associated with the different options available. She had the results from the PET scan and could finally put our minds to rest and tell us that Roy was all OK, apart from a very small spot of cancer in the prostate, obviously caught very early.  Phew.   Well that’s a relief.   We came away from our GP armed with lots of good questions for the Urologist.

The folllowing day, Tuesday,  we went off to the Urologist where he confirmed that there is indeed a small bit of cancer in one part of the prostate BUT the size of the prostate was more of an issue at more than twice the normal size.  What was good news was that the cancer is completely contained within the prostate AND the PET scan showed that apart from that he is all good.

I could bore you all here with the details of all of the various options for the next step i.e. do nothing, have radiotherapy, have radioactive seeds implanted or have surgery, all of which have their individual pros and cons but I will spare you all the details of each. However, if anyone wishes to know the ins and outs then give us a call. 

The best and only real option for Roy is to have the prostate removed which will be done on Thursday 8th June. Again, thank goodness for medical insurance as things wouldn’t have been happening this quickly I am sure. The surgery will be done via Robotic Keyhole  Surgery.

We rock up to Southern Cross Hospital yesterday morning at some ungodly hour ready for surgery.  Roy is prepped and tested and is soon ready to be wheeled off to theatre as he is first on the list.all ready to go!

I head off to get some breakfast and to do some shopping as he is scheduled to be in theatre for 4 hours.   However, I soon get a phone call from the anaesthetist saying that they will not be operating today as they found a bit of an irregular heartbeat so they need us to get that sorted.  Knock me over with a feather.  So back I go to pick him up.  By the time I get there they have arranged a cardiologist to see him over at Ascot Hospital, so we head straight on over. We are there by 10am.

Next comes a barrage of tests, upshot? Roy has Atrial Fibrulation which mean his heart beats irregularly and needs to be sorted as the consequences could be dire.  By midday we leave the cardiologist with our heads reeling full of information and with more appointments scheduled.  Next week he will be going in for a CV and a TOE.  What do these mean?  Well a CV is a Cardio Version  which restores the heart to its natural rhythm by shocking it, and a TOE is a transoesohageal echocardiogram whereby a fibre optic tube will be position in the osophegus allowing an ultrasound of the heart.  All will be done under sedation.  The following week he is booked in for an angiogram depending on the results from the previous two procedures will determine what is to be done.

So the next step is to get this sorted, then they will reschedule the prostate surgery and we can then look forward to our trip to the UK & Europe in September.  Stay tuned for the next exciting instalment.

I can see clearly now…

April 25, 2017

It only took ten days from ordering the windscreen replacement from the USA for it to arrive at Stieger Glass  in Takanini.  

This is how it is shipped from the USA.


Franz doing his thing, removing the rubber before he gets the old glass out.


Highlighted is the offending chip!


Windscreen removed, it’s a bit draughty now.


Old screen looking a bit sorry.

New one in, all tidied up.   The other half of the windscreen was reglued into place in the middle join as the old glue had deteriorated.

All taped up ready for the final seal


We can highly recommend Franz for his workmanship, work ethic and ability to source glass from anywhere in the world for any van, vehicle or caravan.  His Web site is here.  

Out of the closet

March 31, 2017

Time for me to finally sort out my closet.  We have made many adjustments to the wardrobe space and made many changes over the years but nothing has ever been totally satisfactory, until we finally came up with the solution.  Wanting to utilise the baskets we already have, we finally found a shelving system that we could put together which would fit the baskets we have as well as being adjustable for the wardrobe space plus leave a little room for hanging garments as well.

First we had to put together the racks, cutting the width down to fit the baskets.  That done, a minor adjustment was needed to the wardrobe space to fit it all in easily.

Roy prepping the cupboard.

Next it was time to check and see if everything worked and fitted.

Perfect.  A good time to sort out the clothes and make a donation to the local charity shop.  It may never t look like there is much hanging space left in the wardrobe but it’s just the silly angle I took the picture making it appear as tho there is no room.  

That job finally completed and ticked off the list.  Another job that has been on the list for a while is painting the blocks we carry around to use for levelling the van.  Roy spent a few days applying coats of paint to the blocks and then attaching straps to them so that when the blocks are in place under the hydraulic levellers, they can be easily retrieved by pulling on the straps.

Painting in progress.
Another job has been to repaint the A-frame used for towing the RAV4.  This necessitated sanding it back, applying masking tape to areas not required to be painted then prepping it with anti-rust stuff (technical term that!), before painting it with the specialised paint.  And damn fine it looks now too.

Note the carefully painted blocks it is sitting on! 

 We have a large inbuilt LPG tank which is in an open locker so gets covered in road grime and the odd stone chip.  When the tank was checked for recertification last year, we thought then that it would need a repainting and treated for the odd rust spots where stones have chipped away the paint. So Roy has also done the same to our LPG tank.  He rubbed it down, sanded it, and painted it and now it looks pretty tidy as well. 

Another important task was to sort out an issue we discovered with the brake lights, as the other day when I followed Roy in the van out to the get the brakes repaired I noticed that the lights were only coming on when full pressure was being applied to the brake pedal i.e. when coming to a complete stop.  Apparently there is a pressure type switch thingy (another technical term) under the dash that had come a bit loose but to access it is a little difficult  to bend oneself over the engine cover, around the seat, under the dash…..apparently ‘one’ is not as slim or as bendy as ‘one’ was!!  To make it easier we removed the drivers seat.
Can you see where the seat was??

Switch fixed, tested, seat reinstalled, all done.  Now we just wait for more parts for the brakes which should be here early next week, then fingers crossed they are well and truly fixed and we can be on our way.




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 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. 

We have data!

January 3, 2017

We have leapt into the real world and now have lots of internet data!  You see, up until a few months ago we have only had limited data (6GB/month) available through the mobile phone network (at exorbitant rates) and to access more we have had to make use of free wifi spots at libraries and the like around the country to satisfy our internet needs or pay through the nose for extra data.  However, a few months ago we became aware that there were other options available.  

We waited until the dust settled on the debates around which options were best and which company to go with before making an informed decision on what was best for us. As loyal Vodafone customers we also approached Vodafone directly to see if they were offering a similar package, however, after many phone calls and checking with many levels of management it seems that yes, they do offer a package for their customers however their modem is geolocked which means you cannot use it outside a specific area.  And yes, they know about the other companies offerings and no, they are not about to offer similar services any time soon!  So guess what? They have now lost these loyal clients, and we have changed our phone plans which means we are saving ourselves plenty, well, enough to boost the happy hour funds!  

With now just the two other options (and yes, we understand Spark is also trialling a similar system) we had to make a choice on which company to go with.   Both options are utilising the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) which is the government’s initiative to provide fast broadband to areas outside the urban copper and fibre networks. It uses long range fixed wireless towers to provide broadband coverage to receivers  within range. 

After much debate and checking out our options we have gone with a company called  Netspeed.  

We rang them to get ourselves sorted which was done quickly and efficiently.The modem arrived the next working day to our designated mail pick up point, where we returned with it to the van, plugged it in, another phone call to Netspeed to activate and voilà, instant internet access. As we already have a Yagi directional aerial set up for Vodafone, if it is required, but at this stage we have had no problems with access to good fast internet anywhere we have been. Although we have put it up whilst we are here at Shakespear as we are parked in a bay which is surrounded by trees and the signal is so much faster with the aerial up.


At the moment it sits on the sunscreen visor at the front and is plugged into the 12v adaptor.  We haven’t mounted it permanently as we have found that depending where we are in the country it works better in different locations in the bus. For example when we were at Rarawa, it worked best when it was located at the rear of the van in the bedroom.  And whilst we are here at Shakespear it doesn’t get moved, nor does it get turned off!

Now we don’t know ourselves, having gone from only having 6GB a month to 120GB peak hours plus another 50Gb off peak (10pm – 6am – perfect for the lark of the touring party), we can watch movies, catch up on TV series and generally waste time to our hearts content 😉 and all for a similar price to what we were previously paying on our phone plans.   

We have also given up Sky TV (until the netball starts again!!), and as a result we have decided not to bother with a Freeview box either so we are a TV free zone and not missing it one iota.  We sometimes have a feed running from the computer to the TV to watch the news on demand, but most of the time we don’t bother.  

So if any of you have any recommendations of movies or series we should watch, then let us know.

First weeks at Shakespear

December 21, 2016

Look – there’s a man on the roof of the van.  

Indeed Roy was on the roof of the van, fixing a small leak we discovered during a recent downpour before it became a major issue and then he gave the roof a good scrub.

Once the roof was cleaned of course the rest of the van had to be washed as the dirty water from the roof had run down the sides of the van making it all look rather messy, especially the windows so they got a good clean.  So that’s another one of the jobs ticked off the list, especially the list that has been made up of ‘when we get to Shakespear’ items.  

The next item on that particular list was to crack open all the Macadamia nuts we had gathered when we were further north at this gem of a place.  There was a large macadamia tree on the roadside and it seemed a shame to let the rats & mice have them all so a container of nuts were picked.  

Macadamia nuts are notoriously difficult nuts to crack open, and after checking with Mr Google and watching a few YouTube clips and trialling many methods of opening them, the best method we could come up with was to hold the nut with a pair of vice grips, and hammer the nut.  But the hammering needs to be done on a firm solid surface, we tried a few things including the the table but that was no good, what did we find to use?   The solid plate metal base of our camp host sign of course!


A close up of the process. 

A few other minor tasks have been completed and we are now looking forward to some good weather, good company, and lots of fun over the summer.  

On our way

November 29, 2016

It’s time we started our journey south ready for us to take up our camp hosting duties at Shakespear park for the summer.  We were due to leave Rarawa this week, however on Monday we were told that we had to leave that day as DoC were about to start their latest assault on the Argentine Ants (See previous post).  But before we left we thought we would have one last fish off the beach.


And just along from us are Pat & Sue


Not too many fish were harmed in this exercise.

From Rarawa it is a short 60km journey into Kaitaia, as we had also heard that our brake parts had arrived.  However through mutual agreement between Roy and Kaitaia Tractors, they are not fitting the part this time.  We have ordered a matching part to come from the USA, and the pair will be fitted early next year after we have finished at Shakespear.  Meanwhile, we are assured everything is safe and we are good to go.

So now we shall meander our way down to Auckland, stopping off at a few selected  places along the way and endeavour to get ourselves into the Christmas spirit.  Thanks Northland for a wonderful few months, we shall be back soon. 

Rarawa – Kaitaia – Houhora

October 21, 2016

The weather gods decided to play in our favour so we could finally get out to do some fishing.  Roy and I had good success over the first couple of days with one or two snapper caught each day which meant we could enjoy fish for dinner nearly every night.  It’s just a short drive from the camp to the other end of the beach where there is vehicle access onto the beach

An overview of the camp area wedged between the curves of the river. 

Last Friday Roy and I decided that we would go down to the beach and have another fish, the weather was overcast with the odd shower coming through but we thought it was worth going to the beach and having a try, besides, it’s better being on the beach than finding jobs to do in the van.  So off we went and we soon had our kite out flying, not too far out though as we know that there is a reef about 900m off shore and we don’t want to get our lines caught on the reef.  We text Pat & Sue to let them know that the wind was going in the right direction for kite fishing so they came down as well and set their kite out further along the beach.  

Once the kite is safely locked off its just a waiting game, when we play the guessing game of trying to determine how long we should keep the line in the water – usually we figure about an hour is good.But what do we do for an hour?  sometimes one of us will  wander off for a walk along the beach and a beachcomb, other times is just a matter of sitting and waiting.  This time however, we came prepared. As we can drive the car onto the beach and sit in the car to wait we had brought with us with our wifi router and iPads with headphones so we could both watch/listen to our individual choices of programmes and dodge the showers.

Waiting….
For this lovely lot to be hauled ashore

6 snapper ranging from 36 -40cm plus a 55cm Trevally

 
Not to be outdone, Pat & Sue caught 3 snapper and a small trevally.  With all this fish to deal with We thought  that it would be a shame to waste the fish frames and heads as there is plenty of edible fish left behind. We sometimes smoke the heads and wings and have lots of smoked fish but this time we thought we could give them away.  I had read about a web site that puts you in contact with people who are happy to pick up heads and frames for their use so we decided to give it a go.  I rang a lady on the list and yes she would love to come and pick up the heads and frames. Within an hour she was at the camp delightedly taking away all the heads and frames.  The website is Free Fish Heads a fantastic initiative as it means there is no waste.   The lady rang me later that evening to say thank you, that she really appreciated having such lovely fresh fish heads and her family really enjoyed them. 

It’s not all fishing and relaxing when we are on the beach though, one day Roy and I were just settling down to wait patiently for the line to do it’s thing when we see a young lady come walking toward us with purpose in her stride.  When she finallygot to us, she was so out of breath and in between sobs, she struggled to talk.  We sat her down and tried to calm her somewhat before she could tell us of her tale of woe.   It seemed that her car had skidded off the road back at the entrance to the camp. She had already walked into the camp area to try and find help but as there was no one around she had then trekked down to the beach to find us.  Poor thing was beside herself. I took her back to her car to see if we could tow it out, but it was too difficult and I did not want to create even more damage to her car by attempting to move it so after much discussion we called a local towing company.  They were with us pretty quickly after only waiting 20minutes, in that time I discovered she was visiting from Argentina and was hoping the car was not too badly damaged as she only had a week left in New Zealand.  Once she was sorted I left her in the capable hands of the tow truck driver and returned to the beach to help Roy pull in our line.

Ooops!
This is not the first accident we have seen on this particular corner, as on previous visits to Rarawa we have seen a couple of vehicles on their side either in this ditch or the one on the opposite side of the road.  

We had to leave Rarawa on Sunday as we had the van booked in at Kaitaia Tractors on Monday to have its annual service, and to have the brake linings replaced and for it to have it’s CoF done Tuesday morning.  So what are we to do all day whilst the van is in the workshop? We go out to Tokerau Beach to catch up with Gary & Marg.  To cut a long story short, we ended up staying the night with them.  During the afternoon we headed off to the beach and collected a bucket of Tuatuas which we will shell and eat later as fritters.   That evening, we all thought it would be a great idea to watch a movie…Gary  & Roy – both of whom spent their working careers in IT – spent a good wee while trying to sort out TV, connections, PC and cables with lots of muttering and mumbling going on…it looked like this

We picked up the van on Tuesday afternoon, initially we had hoped to return to Rarawa but the camp had been closed that day for the next 3 weeks as DoC are treating the campsite for Argentinian Ants.  So plan B was instigated.  Instead we headed back up to Houhora where Pat & Sue were already parked and here we will stay for a week. 


 Pat & Sue wanted to go and do some fishing in their wee boat, and with Houhora having a safe harbour they can easily launch it and go off fishing in and around the harbour.  But it’s only 15 minutes from here to Rarawa so yesterday Roy & I went up to have another fish off the beach.  We sent the kite up, attached the long line and proceeded to wait.  

Roy baiting up the hooks.

On hauling the line back in we only had one fish on the line, a reasonable sized Kahawai  which we decided to use as bait and immediately sent the line straight back out again.  The next retrieve was much more successful with these two beauties landed to take home.

44cm and 62cm
Needless to say we have had fish on the menu most days and as well, the freezer is full of vacuum sealed packs of fish fillets, enough to keep us going for sometime.