Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Conference #5

Day Five: Gym, swim, spa – have to breakfast and checkout by 10am so had to do all in one lump today. I have an instinctive need to make the most of all the facilities even when it’s all for free. I was annoyed at not being able to find anyone keen to play tennis, the courts were great and floodlit until late at night.

Caught a taxi into Taupo and went to the museum, the library, shopped, and coffeeed the day away. Flights home were a bore and my idyllic time away from home was over.


Conference #4

Day Four: Gym session followed by more conference papers and then a coach into Taupo. The seven Mobile libraries that came to conference had a police escort into the park and we picnicked beside them while the public had a chance to see through them.

I went off to swim in Lake Taupo with another girlee who is very keen on triathlons and ended up doing an enormous swim (just a little scary) way out into the lake and back again. Lucky I had been building up my laps in the hotel pool. Beautiful clear water, near the edge of the lake you could wiggle your toes in and feel the heat from thermal activity in the area – a little scary I thought!

After the picnic and trip back to the resort a couple more papers were presented and then the conference wrapped up. I went on another long trek back to the Huka falls trying out different bush tracks with another conference attendee. Bought some honey at the Honey farm for pressies and then home for, you guessed it, a swim and spa. Followed by a wee read and for once an early night.
The ugliest cake I have ever seen!

Conference #3

Day three: Gym session followed by lots of conference papers and then a bus trip and ferry to another active thermal area.

After an hours walk around this area a jet boat ride down the Waikato river with a wee stop for champagne.

Back to the resort about 6 and time for a cooling swim and soak in the spa. Glad rags on and out to the Huka Vineyards Restaurant for the conference dinner. We were entertained to a ‘theatre’ dinner with actors playing Basil and Sybil Fawlty and waiter Manuel from the popular series Fawlty Towers. A little excruciating at times, but I was sitting at a great table and it was a fun night. Followed by a late night at the resort bar.

Conference #2

Day two cont...

The conference got under way with a couple of presentations and then we were free again until drinks at 8. Linked up with another Bookbus chap (or as everyone else calls them - Mobile Librarian) we knew, who had a car, and drove to a place called Craters of the Moon. A geothermal area that looked like…the moon! Very cool – actually, very hot!

Drinkees and socialising ‘til latish and then a moonlit swim, followed by a spa. I was determined to swim, spa and gym each day and I did!

The gym was fantastic, best hotel gym I have experienced. Good solid gear, lots of free weights and a really pleasant outlook.

Conference #1

Ok, well I’d have to say I am now a BIG fan of conferences. This was just fun from go to whoa, and the presentations weren’t too bad either.

Day one: Arrived at 3ish and lazed the afternoon and evening away with swimming and spas, a little reading and then dinner in one of the two restaurants on site.

Day two: The conference didn’t start until 2pm, so after a session at the gym (cleared some equipment and got some karate in as well as weights and treadmill stuff) went for a walk to the Huka Falls, about 30 or 40 minutes away. Found some bush tracks and just meandered the morning away.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Volcanoes etc...

Hardly back at work and I’m off to a three day Mobile Library conference in Taupo. Yippee! My boss, for some inexplicable reason, booked the return flights a day and a half after the conference ends and so I get an extra night in a top class hotel in Taupo and a days sight seeing.

I haven’t been to Taupo since I was seven and so remember little (nothing). As part of the conference we get to visit the Orakei Karaka Thermal area and have a Jet boat ride on the Waikato River. I’m tempted to go on a scenic flight over the Tongariro National park on the spare day. I want to do the day walk another year when I revisit the North Island. It looks amazing!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Sunny days

Funny how the weather suddenly picks up and we get sunny day after sunny day when everyone starts going back to work after the summer holidays. Luckily I only work three days a week and so have time enjoy it with the kids, who are still on holiday.

So far (since my holiday has officially ended) I have been to Brighton Beach for a swim, Taieri River for a swim and gone to the Botanic gardens for a walk with the lovely Phoebe.

Oh, I've also cut the grass, stacked wood and trimmed the lawn edges...

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Fathers and sons

Just back from the tramp and I got a call from my first husband to ask if I would be boat driver while he and my eldest son, Ben, went snorkeling. This is a very odd request as I have never driven a boat and don't really know what to do. But he convinced me that; it would be easy, the sea was really, really flat, Ben wanted to try out the snorkeling gear we had given him for his birthday the week before, and the kicker - there would be a feed of fish or paua at the end of it all.

It turned out to be a nice wee trip. I learnt how to start and stop the boat (quite handy that!) and to keep clear of them while they were in the water - but to watch all the time, in case they get in trouble or called for the boat. I had to negotiate kelp beds and clear the propellers if they got clogged. While those two were snorkeling Seán and Jack had a go at fishing for cod with a line. A lot of bait got stolen, but only one fish caught. The snorkelers came back with 7 or 8 moke they had speared and a large bag of mussels. They found the paua spot the next day.

The scariest bit was driving back. Stephen is very keen to push people past their limits and made me drive the boat back to the launching spot. Now, the zooming along the flat sea was really fun, but the entrance to the tidal lagoon was terrifying, I had no idea were the sand bar was, and no idea how to react if the depth suddenly disappear. He kept saying, ‘It's OK, it's OK, steer for the seagull, no left, LEFT!’ ‘Watch the depth gauge. Are you watching the depth gauge?!’ Anyway, made it back and I'd be tempted to do it again.

Husband with youngest son
Former husband with oldest son

Monday, January 22, 2007


The viaducts were made of Australian hardwood specially imported to build them. Apparently the New Zealand timber that was milled here wasn't hardy enough. Quite ironic I thought.

And some more pix...

Each day was quite different with subtle changes in the forest cover as you ascended or decended: from scrubby bush at the beach to towering beech forests, through moss-laden, knarly old trees and then out into alpine flowers and mosses.

More Pix from the Hump Ridge Tramp.

The first day was the 19 km ascent of the Hump Ridge, climbing from sea level to 890 metres (2920 feet) and staying at Okaka Hut. There was an optional climb to the Hump summit to walk around some tarns, which I did in the mist, rain and wind that night. This was the only mist, wind and rain we got for three days but unfortunately it happened right at the top where the views should have been. The next morning I did it again with Seán and Deborah and while the view disappeared again we were lucky enough to see a flock of keas, a few of which came in close for a look at us.

The second day was the 19 km descent (down a different ridge) from Okaka Hut to Port Craig, an abandoned logging town for the 1930s. This was where the dolphins were, but also many interesting historic relics of its logging past. There was no road access to this village and all supplies were shipped or walked in. There are some great tales told about its history and the people who lived there.

The third day was a 17km meander along the coast back to where we started. This involved crossing three historic wooden viaducts built for the logging industry.

There were quite a few areas of boardwalks, sometimes to protect the ground underneath and sometimes just in really boggy sections. I didn’t like it at all, it was hard on the feet and monotonous, give me dirt and tree roots any time. I particularly liked the moss covered tree roots that resembled prehistoric creatures struggling to free themselves from the earth. This one looks like a tuatara (I think).

On the coastal sections sand flies were a bother, but we were all smothered in insect repellent that worked well. Once reaching the cars though we stripped off our boots and within a few minutes I had six bites around my ankles, where the repellant hadn’t been rubbed. They are still itchy now three days later.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


Oddly, the best thing about my three-day tramp was not; the walk itself, the scenery or the companions I was with, all of which were fantastic, it was the chance to swim with dolphins that was the highlight. I had no idea this was a possibility until at a briefing on the first night when the hut warden said to be sure to visit the beach near the next hut, as dolphins frequent the old harbour piers and it was worth the extra walk to see them.

On arrival at the Port Craig hut the next evening, and after a quick cup of tea, we headed off down to the beach. And there, frolicking around the old piers, were dolphins. With no hesitation I stripped off and ran in.

The water was crystal clear and fairly bracing but it was wonderful to be in the water with these beasties. They are Hectors dolphins, the smallest dolphin in New Zealand and relatively rare (and hard to photogragh - click on the pix to see it bigger). They never let you too close, if you move towards them, they move out, if you move in shore they follow you. If you just stay put they swoop around you. Magic!

I went down there again in the morning to catch the sunset and went in for another swim and the dolphins were there again. My sister-in-law, who was tramping with us, went in for a quick dip too. But, I couldn’t convince my husband to get. He just doesn’t feel comfortable being too close to wildlife in their natural environment.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Humpty Dumpty went for a walk

I’m off for a three day wander. Up, down and along the Hump Ridge Track. I’ve spent all day playing with gear and food. I want to carry exactly what I need, no more no less. It’s the first real tramp I have done for years and I’ve forgotten what is important and what is not when miles from the bright city lights. Hope I have it right.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Bowels? No thank you.

I visited my dad yesterday. He seems miserable and depressed. When I asked how he was he talked about his bowels. I wish he wouldn’t. I’m not a nurse (that’s the other daughter!) I don’t want to know about his bowels. That would be the last thing I would dream of talking about to anyone if they asked me how I was, unless it was a very specific question from a doctor and even then I would be reluctant.

Zoë was there, burrowing for chocolate biscuits (with little success). Dad’s not big on hospitality – he’s not unwilling or incapable, he just doesn’t think or do anything about it. Like maybe; put the kettle on, clear a chair so that you can sit, have a table that has a space bigger than his ‘meals on wheels’ plate. He just doesn’t do anything, and so you learn very quickly to help yourself. You have to guide and initiate the conversation too or it would a short and dull visit. He is quite happy leaving the TV blaring and to watch it with you. Anyway, when we got into the car on leaving Zoë said, “He talked about his bowels didn’t he!” Like what sane person does this? Ugh.

Today’s job, after an hour long talk with my sister (the nurse) last night, is to both go around today and clear away the last years worth of newspaper and junk mail that lies around his chair like a big snow drift. Maybe even clear one of two chairs so visitors don’t have to sit on the floor? He has a cleaner, but she just cleans the bits she can see and since every available surface is occupied that doesn’t leave a lot to clean.

I refuse to be like this when I am old. I refuse, I refuse. I will be active and enjoy my life and live in relative cleanliness. Old does not need to equate with slothfulness. He’s only 75 and that’s not old anymore. Funnily enough we are (and I know you mustn’t compare, but…) going on a three-day tramp/hike with Seán’s dad who is the same age in a few days. My Dad can barely get to the letterbox!

I’m hoping his genes bypassed me. Mind you, my mum died at 67 so I’m hoping her genes bypassed me too. I would like to think I was adopted and bear no resemblance at all to anyone in my family. I am singular and unique – just like everybody else.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Babble, babble

We had twelve here for tea, and a bed, last night. I was super organised with food all made ahead of time – Chicken Pie, yummmm! We even all sat at the table together- I didn’t know I had that many chairs! And somehow managed to find sleeping spaces for everyone.

Seán’s parents, two of his sisters and two nephews joined the six of us that were home. They, plus some of us (not me, not me!), are off to Stewart Island for three nights. They are very good at having family get-togethers every so often and apparently have a riotous time. I am always keen on joining in but know that my naturally hermit-like behaviour (need lots of quiet time) and dislike of some people would spoil it for those that enjoy all that togetherness.

So, another wee respite from family/holiday bedlam, for a few days anyway. Only two children at home now.

Jed arrived at 1.30am this morning after a camping trip in Central Otago with ‘mates’. Their car broke down about an hour away from Dunedin at 10.30pm last night. I couldn’t sleep until he arrived home safely.

Jed is the only one of his friends who has a full license. Meaning, he can now drive carloads of people around; most of his friends only have restricted licenses and can only drive themselves.Jed had rather a bad accident ( see pix) up on the Manuka Gorge road a few months back while driving his dad’s car – writing it off. And I lay awake not really knowing what was happening, on a dark, wet and foggy night.

The parents of the owner of the car (a girlie Jed was holidaying with) ended up going up and bringing them home (I had offered - rather pointlessly as I don’t know anything about cars). I haven’t heard what has happened to the car yet, but at least I know my boy is sleeping in his bed and safe for another day.

Long babble today and it’s still earlier than I have been getting up for weeks! The Stewart Island bound had to leave at 7.30am to catch a ferry at Bluff and I got up to wave goodbye. I was going to go back to bed, but instead got waylaid by Blogging, the world’s biggest time waster!

I have just received a txt invitation to a party! Wow! We just don’t go to parties anymore. Seán will be cross that he isn’t here to go with me. He’s not very keen on me having too good a time without him by my side, are you sweetie? Never mind. I promise not to drink too much and not to dance with any strangers :-) That said, I will probably have my 15 and 16 year-old children beside me, and a whole raft of karate bods will be there. So it will be best behaviour all around. Osu!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

A Silent Scream….

As my house, yes MY house, gets taken over by the other people who live in it. After days of: no dishes on the bench, no toys on the floor, no rumpled beds and no one on the computer (MY computer) when I want on…..

I hate sharing.

P.S... This post only refers to immediate family members returning home - Not visitors!
(Just in case Seán’s family ever find my Blog – “I love you! I love your visits – nothing is a bother!”)
This (silent screaming) is just my customary reaction at general life starting up again after the surrealness of living alone.

Another Couple Shot + 1

Darling Seán and I, with Jack, enjoying a show at Caroline Bay in Timaru.

Kissy kissy

A smooch from my Timaru sojourn last week – the camera stayed on holiday with some of the family while I came home to hibernate.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Berries sans walk

I dragged Zoë, unwillingly this time, off for another walk - after gardening all morning. She wasn't as much fun as yesterday. Moaning all the way and in the end I cut my plans short and just did an hour loop up on top off Flagstaff. I had intended to head towards Swampy summit, but with clouds rolling in and a moaning companion that’s best left for another day (alone) I think.

We headed over to Outram and a berry farm to rejuvenate ourselves with a yogurt and berry ice-cream, yum, and picked up fresh fruit and veges for tea as well; so the outing wasn’t a complete waste of time.

Mt Cargill

Monday 8th

Another hill to climb. 570 m. I did this one this morning with Zoë. An hour of steady climbing and conversation and then yet another spectacular view of Otago Harbour and the Peninsula.

I'm running out of hills around Dunedin to climb. Luckily the tramp I am 'training' for is only a week away.

Sunday, January 07, 2007


If you have to have an Ex you couldn’t do better than one who offers to cut firewood for you. Two boys the right age to help doesn’t hurt either :-)

More up

From Woodhaugh Gardens via Leith Valley, Ross Creek reservoir and the Pineapple Track to Flagstaff summit - 520 metres all up. All good apart from crappy camera.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Home again, jiggidy-jig

Home again from a few days in Timaru, it was pretty chilly up there. Apparently we (New Zealand) have just had the coldest December for sixty years while England has had the warmest December on record. Funny enough, the average temps are about the same. That’s lovely for them being wintertime, but shite for us - 12 degrees is just not summer weather!

No wonder we sunburn so often here; when the sun does finally show, we just don’t know what to do with it. I have had two swims this summer, one in a heated pool and one in a freezing dam that I had to share with an eel. Not good. No more bikini days in sight either, according to the forecast; far too many goose bumps to even contemplate it.

Seán and I went for a lovely run one morning in Timaru. It’s always nice to run in a different place not quite knowing what is around the next corner or how far the run will actually turn out to be. The terrain is far gentler than Dunedin’s, rolling instead of mountainous, which makes for a more sustained level of exertion. In Dunedin we tend to ‘grunt’ up huge hills only to cruise knee-joltingly down the other side. Of course it was a glorious morning too. A vista of snow-capped mountains in one direction and the sparkling, blue Caroline Bay in the other direction. A sprint up the Piazza steps five times finished the run off, Rocky here we come…

Monday, January 01, 2007

The next day

I made it up the right hill this morning. 35 minutes of straight-upness. It was grey and drizzly so no sparkly view.

This is the offending arrow that set me off on the wrong track yesterday. You do not, as it suggests, follow the pointy end; you make a sharp right hand turn and walk at 90 degrees to it.