Welcome, nau mai, haere mai!
Come on in and stay a little while. . . you never know what you might find!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Road trip the first: White's Bay, Marlborough

We made a leisurely drive up from Marfell's Beach to White's Bay, and another Department Of Conservation (DOC) campsite. White's Bay will always stick in my memory as the first beach I visited in New Zealand, and for that reason I have a bit of a soft spot for it.

It did not disappoint this time either. The weather was beautiful until it started raining overnight, and we were even treated to the call of the morepork as we fell asleep, and a visit from a weka - one of NZ's big brown flightless birds.

As well as all the usual beachy stuff like sand and sea, White's Bay has a huge rock which almost begs to be climbed.
If you look carefully, you can see SJ lying belly-down on top of the rock!

On the other side of the beach there is an arch in the rocks which you can scramble around, and explore the little rock pools. See view back to beach from the rock arch, in first photo above.

Dad exploring the rock arch at White's Bay
The next morning we did more geocaching at White's Bay and Rarangi, and then home again . . .

One geocache took us to Rarangi's millennium rock, which was a very interesting find. . .

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Road trip the first: Marfell's Beach, Marlborough

On a whim this morning, I decided to go and join my Dad and his partner (C), who are visiting from the UK and touring the South Island in a camper van. They had got near enough to be not too close but not too far, just less than 3 hours' drive away in Marlborough.

Sonny Jim and I set off in the car with our 2-man dome tent, while Wifie stayed home to look after the dog and do an honest day's work (or two!) We stayed at the Marfell's Beach DOC campsite, for the princely sum of $6.50 per adult and $1.50 per child per night, including flushing toilets, cold showers and water unsuitable for drinking. The campsite is right beside the beach and it is a wonderful secluded spot. Highly recommended for a day trip or overnight stop if you are in the area.

On our way to White's Bay the next morning we did a few geocaches, a kind of real life treasure hunt, but linked to the Internet. See www.geocaching.com for more details. One of the geocaches was placed near the old rail and road bridge at Seddon, which was opened in 1902, and continued to be used by both trains and road vehicles until the new road bridge opened in 2007. For more details try this link, and this one for a picture of a steam train crossing the bridge back in the day! I have lasting memories of once driving across the bridge on the lower deck at the same time as the train rumbled overhead - quite an experience, which made me feel like yelling "The sky is falling in! The sky is falling in!"

We started geocaching in 2006 when my dad and C were last in NZ, but haven't done any geocaching for several years. However, my dad and C are heavily into it, and I fear they may have given us the bug again! Watch this space. . .

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Love. . . Aotearoa (New Zealand)

Lake Tekapo, January 2012
I'm going to use the principle of "A picture says 1000 words," and give you a few photos of the country that I love. It's not mine by birth, but it is my country of choice. I am officially a New Zealand citizen (as of February 2007) yet due to my obviously British accent, I still sometimes get asked in shops, cafés etc "Are you here on holiday?" Sonny Jim has been here since he was a toddler and can't recall living in Scotland at all, but even he sounds like a Pommie! There are so many reasons why I love Aotearoa/New Zealand, and our recent road trip has only confirmed how lucky I feel to live in this country! But I want to let the pictures do the talking. . . so please enjoy! There are so many other places I could have used to illustrate New Zealand's scenic splendour and diversity, but here are a few I had to hand. . .

Lake Rotoiti, April 2011

Mapua wharf, February 2011

Wifie and Sonny Jim river kayaking in Golden Bay, while Frodo swims on. . . Jan 2011

Rainbow ski area, August 2011

Frodo enjoys the snow in the Lewis Pass, July 2011

Moeraki boulders, January 2012

Aoraki (Mount Cook) towers over Lake Pukaki, January 2012

Tewaikoropupu Springs, January 2012
Crown Range Pass, looking towards Queenstown, January 2012

View of Mapua from Moturoa (Rabbit Island), January 2012

Of course, no country is perfect, but "I love you, New Zealand!" and there's no place on earth I would rather live. . .

Knit. . . "show and tell" of what I was knitting when I wasn't blogging!

Mythos cardigan, (shown here unblocked) - my rainbow cardi is my new favourite clothing item!
So, since I was last doing regular blog updates I have done an awful lot of knitting! Here is what I have been up to, in random order. . .

Fulled hexipuff bag
Garden City worsted weight scarf  using Mythral lambswool yarn from HRYC
Darwinia baby doll dress
Simplicity cardigan in lace-weight Misti alpaca yarn
"Baby's Packed Lunch" using Knitted Breast pattern
My 6th pair of Diabetic-friendly socks for my 94 year old Grandad

Baby Santa hat for a December newborn baby in Yorkshire
"Morgan" driving cap for Sonny Jim
Fountain Pen Shawl for my great friend "Gwauambyth" in Wales
"Knotty but nice" hat x 2, one for SJ and one for a friend
"Spoilt for choice" aka Turquoise holey thing!
Penguin suit, for oil-damaged penguins near Tauranga
So there you have it! 4 months worth of knitting! There has been plenty of spinning as well, but more on that another day :)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Eat. . . Cream tea

Many of you will know that I was born in Somerset, and some of you might even know that I absolutely LOVE clotted cream, which is a traditional ingredient of my beloved West Country "cream teas". But clotted cream is something I have never seen on sale in New Zealand, and I have been looking for almost 10 years now! Imagine my delight when I discovered that local dairying business Wangapeka Downs Ltd sells clotted cream, and this culinary delight has been on sale for the last two months just 20 mins drive from home, without me even knowing about it!

The reason I came by this knowledge is because one of my "New Year's plans" for this year is to learn to make at least one kind of cheese reasonably consistently well (not counting paneer which I have been making for years). In order to develop my fledgling cheese-making skills I need a source of raw cow's milk, and those in the know directed me to Wangapeka Downs. This dairy really ticks all the boxes - it has nothing to do with New Zealand's "dairy giant" Fonterra, their goal is to produce "quality products that are completely as nature intended them to be", they have a holistic approach to animal health and welfare, and they are very definitely local. For more details, try reading this article: "A life beyond dairying", from the Nelson Mail newspaper, July 2011.

I arranged to buy an initial 5 litres of Wangapeka raw milk for cheese-making purposes (more on that another time!) and to pick it up from the shop in Appleby, at "The Abbey" on the Appleby Highway. What an array of dairy goodness greeted us when we went to the little shop! Not only the creamiest milk I have ever seen (these cows are Jersey x Shorthorn) but a selection of cheeses, ghee, butter, kefir, quark, Greek yogurt, double cream, clotted cream, and ice-cream all made using their wonderful milk! Sonny Jim literally did a happy dance when he discovered that we could  buy some clotted cream there, as he is as much a fan of it as I am! In the end, we bought clotted cream, natural Greek yogurt and a scoop of blueberry and plum ice cream to share, and all of them are of extraordinary quality! The clotted cream is just the same as the stuff which I have loved since childhood in Somerset. . . deliciously thick, laden with fat and with a wonderful thick crust formed on top (the best bit in my opinion!) Obviously not an "everyday food" as far as health maintenance goes, but a wonderful and decadent treat :)

When we got home with our clotted cream, there was nothing for it - I had to whip up a batch of scones! Luckily a few days earlier I had made some red plum jam, so we were able to have a traditional West Country cream tea in our own little corner of Aotearoa NZ -
homemade scones + homemade jam + best quality clotted cream = Heaven on a Plate!!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Tiki Tour 2012 - Homeward bound

Sonny Jim and me at Lake Tekapo, dreaming of hot-air ballooning?
Well, as you can probably guess, we have still not managed to get airborne over Canterbury! The recorded message at 4 am today was the same as on the 9th Jan - ". . . not happening today, due to unsuitable flying conditions". On the positive side, of course we would rather be "safe than sorry" and I'd far rather stay on the ground if the conditions are anything less than perfect, especially after that tragic hot-air ballooning accident up north earlier this month. Another positive is that we have a few more weeks of anticipation, wondering what it feels like to be floating noiselessly along above the patchwork landscape laid out below like a giant quilt. We have booked for our third attempt at ballooning over Waitangi weekend in early February.

So after a couple of hours of Wifie and I trying to get back to sleep and failing dismally, we made the most of our early start, and bundled a very drowsy Sonny Jim into the car at 6.45 am, still in his pyjamas and sleeping bag! We made excellent time heading north, only needed one toilet/refreshment stop and were back home again by just gone mid-day.  We'll definitely try the early morning thing another time when we are heading up or down the country as once we had shaken off the last vestiges of sleep it was a great time to travel.

Tiki Tour to be continued eventually. . .

Friday, January 13, 2012

Tiki Tour 2012 - Moeraki and Oamaru

Moeraki Boulders
Yesterday we travelled from Queenstown to Oamaru via Arrowtown, Alexandra, Ranfurly and Moeraki.

Old Post and Telegraph building in Arrowtown
Moeraki boulders again. . . or are they dinosaur eggs?!
During our journey, we developed the strong urge to cycle the Otago Central Rail Trail (we kept coming across sections of it). More info here. . .

This morning we called in at the Whitestone cheese factory and cafe and enjoyed sampling some of the cheeses and buying several more! They do a range of cow's, sheep's and goat's milk cheeses and all are supremely delicious!

Here is a link to their website, and there is even an online shop, for those of you within New Zealand!

Today we are off to Christchurch again, hopefully hot-air ballooning in the morning…

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Tiki Tour 2012 - Different lake for each meal!

The view of Lake Wakatipu from the top of the Skyline gondola in Queenstown this morning. Breathtaking!

Yesterday we had a long day of travelling. We bade farewell to Lake Tekapo and the Church of the Good Shepherd and headed for Queenstown via Wanaka. We had a different lake for each meal!

Lake Tekapo at breakfast time

Lake Wanaka at lunch time

Lake Wakatipu at dinner time
Today we decided to have a really touristy day and rode the gondola up to the top of the mountain above our campsite.

Sonny Jim and I rode the luge at the top of the mountain, while Wifie was our chief photographer.

Whilst up at the top of the mountain we also had fun watching some intrepid souls paragliding and bungee jumping! The latter doesn't appeal to me at all, but maybe one day I will be brave enough to have a go at para-gliding. . .

We had a picnic lunch back at the campsite, then cooled off in the Queenstown aquatic centre. The hydro-slides were fantastic fun for children of all ages (even 40 year old ones!)

Sonny Jim and I make a splash in Queenstown!
Finally this evening we went for a cruise on Lake Wakatipu in the 100 year old TSS (Twin Screw Steamship) Earnslaw.

It was a lovely way to end a great day. I am so glad we are doing this road trip at last, after years of contemplating it!

Heading across to Alexandra tomorrow, then north via the Moeraki boulders towards Christchurch again, probably staying overnight in Oamaru. We are all having a wonderful holiday :)