New Zealand…further

IMG_6210The next driving driving driving was up over the pass toward Wellington, with a night at a faux Tudor Motor-Inn Convention Centre-cum motor home park with decor from the early 90s. The resident cat was one of those drooling smoochers, but he was nowhere to be seen when Zoe was looking, much to her sadness. He was a ginger tabby, wide head and coarse fur, and very quickly installed himself on your lap given half a chance. Ripley thought it was great.
We bussed down to the CBD in the late afternoon, on the hunt for an Italian restaurant. Nicollini’s served us a great carbonara, lasagna, potatoes with sea salt and rosemary, and cheesy potato croquettes. Then we bussed back again. It had been a long drive, and ‘tired’ was an understatement.
The next day we parked out front of Ta Papa, Wellington’s museum, and spent the better part of the day there, before driving up the west coast (a magical-scenery tour) to Wanganui. This is a fascinating town; big, grand buildings (c.1920-40s, and some much earlier), but all empty because the cost involved in upgrading seismic rating is prohibitive. The first night we stayed at a park behind ‘Caroline’s Boatshed’ – Wanaganui has/is a big, wide river on which much rowing is done – and the next morning was spent wandering around the town, through all the artist-rented shopfronts that were otherwise empty. The museum itself was undergoing seismic evaluation, and had moved a small part of its collection to the old post office.
A second night was spent out on the Wanganui coast (the town is a little inland) to see the black sands. The holiday park was nestled in a ring of high green hills scattered with sheep. The playground had a flying fox. The kind that was removed from any and all Australian playgrounds twenty years ago. High enough to make your stomach fly up into your throat as you jump from the edge and sail at speed toward the other side over a little rivulet and toward a little cliff before you slow and start back along the cable. The kids thought it was super. I had one go. Actually, it was pretty fun.
[The black sand is not what you would think. It's not just black; in the sun it looks like you're holding the entire night sky filled with stars if you ball up a great heap of it in your hands as Ripley did. This beach had obviously had wild seas beating at it for millenia, where the most recent storm had brought in a whole timber yard (unmilled) and piled it up in a great heaped wall - and along with it a whole sheep and a once-fat hedgehog (both now dead and rather stinky).]
While Wanganui pays to upgrade its buildings, the Whakapapa ski field is dotted with chalets all in the path of any pyroclastic, lava, or lahar flows. No upgrading needed there. If IT happens, then no amount of seismic strengthening is going to save the chalet. A few dollars* more bought a sightseeing lift ticket, and snow pants and boots for the four of us, wholly unprepared for actual snow visiting. The lifts took us to almost the top. No words to describe the enormity and the beauty, up there. It wasn’t long before the forcasted clouds rolled – it seemed – all around. Having lunch in the camper at a lower carpark with a remarkable view, the storm came in. [The night previous was spent at a great holiday park at the moutnain's base, only 6km from the snow line even in Spring. A great many international travellers were also there, with much better gear and much more...bravado. I cooked Hungarian goulash in the camper kitchen. It...helped with the bravado, or lack of it.]
Driving again, driving, toward Hamilton – staying at a tiny town just south. Quiet. Second-last night. The kids are all but done, the only thing staying their patched-together but often-frayed tempers is the prospect of home. I’m pretty tired too. The bed is so damned uncomforatable I feel like it ought to be burned, rather than any other human be doomed to lay on it. Tonight I contemplate laying out on the grass with the local mare across the road, who shares her little paddock with four ewes and their fat lambs.
But…onwards and upwards. Restful sleep can wait.
*”a few dollars more” may not be accurate

New Zealand. Days 11, 12.

Following the sunny morning with the gypsies, the drive back toward the coast also went into driving rain. The driving stopped for afternoon tea at a wonderful cafe in Masterton. *blissfood*
Then. To Castlepoint. The lighthouse was white in the dark grey sky, after walking across a sandbar that had its own resident sandstorm in the 45km winds. Eyes and ears and nostrils were full in seconds. Beyond the lighthouse, on the south side of the bay was an enormous half of a cliff. Grassy on one side, sheer rock on the other.
That climb was for the next day, after a bright sun had dawned, and after another load of laundry, and hot showers (ohhhhh) at the local camper van park (which looks as if it hasn’t changed much in 50 years).
The little 1.5hour trek around Deliverance Cove begins up through a little stand of ~80 year old pine trees, then along the crest of a circlet of hills; dairy farm paddocks on one side of the fence, and the walking track on the other, full of wild flowers (some introduced species as well as native).
At the base of the cliff, the skylarks could be seen up high on the wind singing so loud – so we walked up the grassy side of that cliff. Once at the top of the grassy verge, we lay belly down on its lowest part – the highest point was too far – and peer down at the swell and wash of water far below. The long kelp swirled and washed around the rocks like long hair. In retrospect, a bit more time could have been spent at the top. The view was…so big. I wanted to take big gulps of it into my memory.
Once down at the base of the hill/cliff, the path led down toward the cove, which could be followed around and back to the sandbar leading to the lighthouse path. OH! And BUMBLEBEES. I’d forgotten to mention them up until now, but they are everywhere. The most ridiculously large fat fur balls with a bright yellow section, and the sound of their flying is like…the sound of about 4 or 5 big blowflies all sticky-taped together (no, I’ve never done that).
Apart from a locust or two, there’s not been much wildlife to speak of. Birds, yes – but nothing else. One of the most gorgeous birds was a Caspian Tern and its young. Bright red beak, dark black cap, and white elsewhere- the young one was speckled grey and pleading very convincingly for food. Also, the black backed Pacific gulls are magnificent. And also the Chaffinches.
Tonight there is a Hunter’s Moon. It rose up behind the lighthouse, big and bold. I wont be hunting, except for sleep. And perhaps comfort, because although having collected the Jenga of couch cushions into a duvet cover to stop them sliding around from under oneself whilst trying to sleep, it’s still not…the best bed ever. *sigh* Helps if you’re bone tired.

New Zealand day …the next few days. I think 9, 10.

The sun came out on our last morning at Taupo, and the mountains appeared out of the clouds for my morning run, and stayed a while.
The museum ($5 adults) was a quick stop before the drive over the pass to Napier.
IMG_5839The pass itself was gobsmacking-scale. Google provided the geological basis for the size of the range – apparently it’s all sandstone layers with silt. Hard to imagine that much silt being laid down, and then being lifted up to that extent.
Napier had an extensive full-time transitory population that use the freedom camping sites as their homes. In the morning, the council come and take down number plates to enforce the three-night-stay rule, to move people on.
A visit to the museum/art gallery ($10 adults) and learning about the 1931 earthquake created a different lens through which to view the town… (the seabed rose 1.5 metres, revealing 1300 hectares of new land…gaps in the road of the same height, all the seafront buildings vapourised) looking  at the buildings and houses up on the escarpment looked very much more precarious. Kids were fascinated by the earthquake, and the subsequent martial law when two destroyers arrived two days later from Auckland carrying a swag of nurses and doctors…
A really wonderful art show was being put up in Napier, opening later that night; a ceramic artist who does both high-fired stoneware figurines and large scale woodblock prints. (Here: )…
One night in Napier was enough, then on to Hastings, 20 minutes down the road. An awesome art gallery there – ( – three wonderful shows). Morning run there revealed just as many art deco motifs in the town. The earthquake was almost as big here; a large monument is in the town centre. That evening we constructed St Jerome from driftwood, leather strapping, copper wire (sourced from a dead drive motor copper windings), and pumice. (Soon to be a string puppet, he’s currently hanging from the centre dashboare light in the camper, pics coming soon) He’s hilarious. His facial expression can be expertly mimicked by Zoe.
The following day the was a Gypsy Fair in a local park. Time well spent, according to the kids, who discovered recumbent segues for a gypsy-price and a capitalist amount of time…
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New Zealand day 6 & 7

IMG_5754a full day doing not much in Taupo. Beautiful.  A little construction work on an automata was very satisfying- Jase set up a little hand wind crank so that it struck the wires of an egg slice. So clever. A few bits of driftwood selected from The Beach (see previous post) to amplify the sound.


The next day, an early drive up to where they let go water from the dam to create the rapids on the Waikato River. Then on to a ‘hidden valley’, Orakei Korako cave and thermal park. Really amazing…



managed to get a cheap lobster. (Yeah, that sounds suspect, but we’re all good). Ripley apologised ‘sorry lobster’. Then we ate it on the banks of Lake Taupo, as the local sailing school tacked out, battled a whole black-cloud weather front, and back in again.


On to Napier tomorrow…

New Zealand day 4 & 5

IMG_5593I really did feel disbelieving of the hot water beach. Driving out towards the coast, vast dairy farms were separated by old pine trees, where the only evidence of geothermal activity were very old cold slabs of igneous rock. Surely it couldn’t be hot. Maybe a sort of tepid.
Walking through the rainforest track, still no sign of warmth, anywhere. Tide was out, and lots of people heading towards a patch of beach. Rounding a Sulfur yellow-green rock, steam. Steam, and warm sand. Hot sand. (A little vid here: ) Can’t-walk-there sand. A mass of pink-skinned humans, carefully stepping around eachother to keep personal space, digging down deeper into the sand to get closer to the up-seep of boiling water–but not too close.
The kind of bath water that never gets cold. And you never get too hot, body half in, half out.  as the tide flows further out, the water level settles a bit here and there, allowing more or less flow from the main channel of hot. There was a light sprinkle of rain, but still that deep core warmth. I didn’t want to go.
The walk back through rain and forest was sparkling with glow worms. The hot water beach is one of my top most-enchanting experiences. I wonder what Ripley and Zoe will remember of it.
My #morningrun the next day showed no evidence that there had been any pools dug. Just a steamy trickle up through the sand in a metre-wide patch of beach. Two Americans were digging in vain in several places as I ran, and I had to help. Secrets better shared.
then driving, driving, driving. A museum visit for another time was the Rotorua Museum…
on to Lake Taupo, with many, many other motor homes

New Zealand day 3



big, big walk up between two peaks to find a deserted beach, a quick cold nude swim then a warm up in sand.





We spent all day there. For a while we just sat.

then I started collecting bits of driftwood, mostly pine, and shells; and then constructed some sort of sculpture thingie. Don’t ask me what it is. It was hugely satisfying and when it was finished I left it there in a tiki hut someone else had made before us. Ripley made a decorated bludgeon, and Zoe made a decorated bow.



New Zealand day 2

driving, driving. Up north toward the east coast where the baby offshore islands begin. Not quite as far as the Bay of Islands.

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up early to catch dawn sun on the beach, tide out.

then down the east coast, across the top of Auckland, and up to the tip of the Coromandel peninsula. A tiny town at the end of the road, where a secret beach is a short walk between two tree-covered peaks. That’s for tomorrow’s adventure…

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New Zealand day 1




little travellers were pretty excited…

NZ is so close, really – a perfect first OS destination for the kids. Air sickness claimed Ripley on descent and Zoe’s ears were really painful.


We camped out front of a museum in Helensvile for the first night. My morning run took me past an old co op near the rail line, and a sweet water estuary. The ground underfoot was lively, almost spongy. Skylarks singing high. Spring flowers everywhere. Made up for the serious lack of sleep!

Woollens in the Wash (blanket, or doona/duvet?)


Instagram here


Every year, depending on the weather, I haul the woollen blankets off all the beds, wash the grubby ones, and store them until the cold weather returns. I dig up the cotton cellular blankets for summer. I think last season I didn’t take the woollies off the beds, the summer was so mild.

This year, I ended up with piles of blankets that were all really dusty so I took them to the laundromat. 4 loads, at $6 per load. Done in 22 minutes. Hanging in the not-too-bright sun to kill off all the remaining dust mites.image

they smell fine…so fine.

I read today an article about the blankets v. doona (or ‘duvet’, depending on where you’re from) debate. Apparently (so says the BBC) the royal bedrooms are to move from blankets to doonas. [The article also had a really specky image of a brown bedroom and an astute house-husband 'making the bed' by hoisting the doona into the air as his 'wife' sits at the dresser painting her nails. *snort*]

So why not a doona? Everyone uses them. I used to, as well. I guess I’ve dictated the change in my household because of a personal preference… is that a case of weilding power over the #littlethings ??! I dont know. Doonas cook me. When I used them in my twenties I would stick my feet out to cool down. Now, if I’m in a hotel room (with their ubiquitious doonas), I end up sticking nearly my whole body out to cool down, with a corner of said doona over my kidneys. It’s not perfect.

Every now and again I put doonas on my kids’ bed in lovely doona covers. They complain about being too hot and bad dreams. So blankets.

Truthfully, though, I’m not really sure why I prefer blankets. I’ve tried the light-weight doonas; they’re too-hot too. It’s highly possible I could find a doona that suits. But that would mean buying it. And I have all these beautiful blankets! and they all have history…


Retsol Rug, here for a link to historic info


Some people might be freaked out by the thought that several bodies have rested, coughed, sweated, slept, cried, died, made love, dreamed – under the very blanket they do the same under. I’m not worried about that – in fact it has a kind of settling effect, a comforting illusion of human permanency.



‘Blanket’ is a verb as well as a noun…



My old dog went through a phase of naughtily jumping onto beds while no one was home. In making his guiltily selected spot more comfortable (or to annoy me and provoke attention whether negative or otherwise) he would scratch at the made bed to bring together several folds for comfort. Unfortunately, this resulted in his tearing of several blankets, over several occasions. So I darned them, with woollen yarn. Not invisible stitches of beauty, by any means. But serviceable.



As a result, most of the blankets have great ungainly stiches in places. Mostly, these are colour-coordinated…

I think the most enjoyable aspect of a blanket is in the underlying textiles technology. Such a clever and simple invention – but a dying manufacturing industry in Australia. I’ve visited the Creswick Woollen Mills, which still manufactures blankets (the Waverley Woollen Mill is the oldest, still-operating mill in Australia). The big looms only operate spasmodically…the blankets made per week there would barely cover a sheep’s back. Compared to a woollen doona, the technology required is much more complex to create a blanket. I dont know much about an industrial loom, or an industrial spinning mill – but I think that there a lot of rapidly moving parts in them there machines… It makes me think of pre-industrial revolution times, and how intensive human labour instead created the blankets to sleep under. Clever humans.


Federal Woollen Mills, Geelong. Now real estate for boutique businesses…once the mill was busy enough to have ITS OWN WOMEN’S CRICKET TEAM… wow. Check it out here

So anyway, I now have a stack of clean blankets, ready to fold away into blanket boxes, along with a natural moth deterrent that I found here, because mothballs are bad, bad, bad. That smell NEVER goes away, and it basically kills the critters because the solid naphthalene is constantly creating a poisonous gas. ugh. double ugh. Instead, I’ve chopped a heap of the lemon scented geranium and it’s hanging upside down, drying, after which I’ll bag it into pillow cases to put in the blanket boxes. Nice.