Success is getting what you want; happiness is liking what you get

Friday, January 19, 2018

Caroline Bay

Caroline Bay in Timaru was on our list to visit, and what a pretty place it was.  The sun was shining and people were out and about enjoying the beach.


There has been extensive planting done to restore the sand dunes and they were awarded the Best Dune Re-vegetation Project trophy in 2010 after they were revegetated with native sand binding plants. A long wooden walkway protects the fragile environment, and a colony of penguins are now established in and around Caroline Bay.


Protected sand dunes

The wide sandy beach looked inviting, and as school holidays are still running there were plenty of youngsters about.  And dogs, we noticed, sadly taking absolutely no notice of the “No Dogs” signs on the beach put up to protect the penguins.  This beach is the only sandy beach between Oamaru and Banks Peninsula. The beach is bounded by housing on one side and a very busy port on the other.


Lovely sandy beach

Black Billed Gulls were happily going about their business.  With a slimmer build and not as common as their Red Billed cousins, they usually nest on the shores of inland lakes and along the braided river banks in the South Island.
Black Billed Gull

The Piazza straddles the railway line and provides access for pedestrians via a grand staircase or via a lift which is unique for a public park in this country.  We drove up to the top to see what was up there.  The stair case is an amazing structure indeed.

The Grand Staircase

Water trickles down from bubbling fountain at the top.

The Piazza overlooked lovely gardens

And views of the bay

There was an interesting double sided bronze circular statue on the Piazza – goodness knows what that represents.  “Encircling the Baroque” was completed by Llew Summers in 2017.

Encircling the Baroque

On our way back to camp we passed some signs which led us to Waipopo  Orchards where we came away with a box of freshly picked apricots.  The tiny shop was busy with several cars pulling in at the same time as us.  Just a shame we are on holiday as I would have loved to purchase a big carton and make some apricot jam – no chance of doing that while travelling around in the caravan.

We also passed some signs on fences from locals who embrace the Phar lap legend so stopped for a few snaps – a play on words it seems.


More memories of Phar Lap

We were invited to a BBQ at Lou and Tony’s home in the evening.  Lou is a quilter too so there was a lot of catching up to do.  Many thanks, it was great to meet you at last and we appreciated your wonderful hospitality.

Tony cooking our dinner

So ended another great day in the South Island, we certainly are having a wonderful time.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Timaru – home of Phar Lap

We feel we should be celebrating today.  When we arrived at our stop for the next three nights, our odometer for our South Island trip just clicked over to 2000kms.  And that’s just towing the van behind us, from Picton, to Invercargill, through Otago and finally here to Timaru.  Plus another 1300kms off and about tiki-touring around.  As for that celebration, perhaps Robin can have a beer at Happy Hour!

Lovely grounds at Old Seadown School

It’s a lovely place here – Old Seadown School in Timaru.  Now privately owned, there is plenty of room to park on the former playing grounds, and the CAP (charges apply parking) provides water, toilet, shower and a washing machine.  Fresh eggs are available for sale, so we will be sure to buy some before we leave, plus there is also a selection of jams on offer.  Lewis the owner has a wonderful vegetable garden, plus quite a range of fruit trees.

On site, and part of the large veggie garden

The legendary race horse Phar Lap was born in this area, and I grew up with hearing tales of his racing prowess from my parents, who were both rather keen on a flutter or two.  (Not me – the gambling gene has passed me by).  The street sign Par Lap Road directed us to an early statue of this great race horse.


Phar Lap was born on the property where the statue stands in October 1926, and died in California on April 1932.  This statue was officially unveiled on October 1988.

Phar Lap – born on this property in Seadown

There is a later monument to this great horse at the Phar Lap Racecourse in Timaru, created by sculptor Joanne Sullivan Gessler, and unveiled in November 2009.  It depicts a life sized bronze of the horse, galloping over a map of New Zealand, with his front hoof placed squarely over Timaru, a reminder of his South Canterbury heritage. 


The horse’s original track work did not seem promising, and his exotic name originated from a pun on his slowness.  The name Phar Lap meaning Lightning   in the Zhuang Dialect of Southern China.  A Chinese medical student present at the naming episode provided the translation and trainer Telford accepted the name.

Phar Lap’s pedigree

HIs wins were legendary – Phar Lap raced mainly in Australia, winning 37 of his 51 starts, including the 1930 Melbourne Cup. He died in mysterious circumstances (possibly poisoned) in California in 1932.   His feats, even today, remain incomparable, and his great achievements lifted the spirits of people everywhere throughout the Great Depression.
There was another, much smaller, monument nearby – remembering all the horses sent overseas in WW1.  Only ten days after the declaration of war the first contingent of the Mounted Rifles left Timaru for their final training.  During the course of the war 104,000 men and women left to serve overseas – around one fifth never returned.  More than 10,000 horses went with them, and only four horses returned home to New Zealand.

Monument to the horses in WW1

The rain had been falling while we were out and about, and wouldn’t you know it, the rain stopped, the sunshine came out again, just in time for Happy Hour under the shade of a nice old tree.  It was so nice sitting there in the shade, chatting to the owners and the other campers.

Happy Hour at Old Seadown School

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Waimate, Horses, and the Waihao Box

The NZMCA Waimate Park is a lovely place to stay – and has dramatically increased in size since our previous visit.  And it is lovely to be surrounded by lush green grass after all the dried yellow grass we saw in Otago.  We are staying two nights, and although the other two vans who took part in yesterday’s Happy Hour have moved on, there are sure to be more arrivals as the day wears on.

Plenty of room for new arrivals

And here’s a photo from the archives.  Dot and I were taking advantage of the warm sunny weather to keep the washing up to date here in Waimate way back in 2012.  It was hands down in a bucket of water, while Muffy watched on.  We have learnt our lesson now, all that hand washing and wringing out is much too hard on our hands, and these days the holiday washing gets a trip to the laundromat.

The bucket brigade from 2012

Waimate has it’s own version of a White Horse, situated high up on the hill, and looking down over the town.  The monument was the inspiration of Mr Norman Hayman and modelled on the Whitehorse of England, to commemorate the work done by the Clydesdales in the agricultural development of Waimate.   When we were here in Waimate in 2012, we travelled up to the hill and tried in vain to find that dratted horse, only to almost trip over it almost by accident.  Read all about that our frustrating afternoon here.

The White Horse of Waimate

There are a couple of horses over the fence behind our van and they were getting most excited when they spotted a man approaching with his ute.  They were running this way and that, and kept looking to see where he was.  Their owner perhaps, with some extra feed for them?

Two horses getting all excited over the fence.

And still on the subject of horses – as we were exploring today we came across another monument on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere.  This rather unassuming stone marks the site of the first New Zealand Grand National Steeplechase held on 18th May 1875.  This was unknown to us, but it’s amazing what you discover when you stop to check things out.

Monument to the first NZ Grand National Steeplechase

We drove into Knottingley Park not really knowing what to expect.  The native reserve was formed on 169 acres in 1854 and the Park was opened in 1890.  These days many sports clubs make use of the lovely grounds and it is a popular place for picnics and weddings.

Knottingley Park grounds

And then we discovered a lovely little motor camp tucked away, with plenty of power points, all the usual facilities,  and what’s this, even a washing machine.  All for $24 for two people, which isn’t too bad at all  these days.

Knottingley Park Campgrounds

The main aim of our exploration today was to find the Waihao Box on the gravel beach.  After a couple of false starts  (compounded by roads closed with bridges no longer there) and and back tracking, we finally found the correct road to view this simple but effective engineering marvel.


The Waihao Box is an ingenious structure that helps create an opening through the gravel beach to the sea for the Waihao River. It has proved vital in preventing flooding over tens of thousands of hectares of valuable farmland and helps maintain the health of a natural wildlife habitat of national importance.  There are warnings to keep right away off the gravel banks as sliding gravel is unstoppable, and there have already been fatalities there.

The Waihao Box

Financed by local farmers, the Waihao Box was built in 1910 to replace an earlier 1896 structure.  The purpose of the box was to assist drainage and reduce the risk of flooding.  Coarse sand and gravel slip down the banks beside the box as the water is flowing. Because there is no permanent river mouth to the Waihao catchment, the strongly-built timber box culvert prevents the shingle barrier from completely blocking the Waihao River. Therefore, the box culvert assists with drainage and reduces the risk of flooding.


It is believed that the Waihao Box is the only functioning one of its kind in New Zealand and possibly in the world. In 2010 a wooden monument was unveiled “To commemorate 100 years of benefit to drainage and recreation for the community”.  We saw two elderly kayakers paddle around the calm waters of the lagoon while we were there, and Freedom Camping is permitted on the area.

Commemorating 100 years

Monday, January 15, 2018

On to Waimate

Just a short drive today, from Oamaru and on to Waimate.  We crossed over the Waitaki River Bridge which was undergoing bridge strengthening with workmen beavering away down one end of the bridge. The Waitaki River is another example of a braided river, consisting of a network of river channels separated by small and often temporary islands called braid bars.

Waitaki River

This part of the country has many dairy herds, and this lot seem quite happy chewing their cud in the sunshine.

Dairy herd in Canterbury

Once we spot the big yellow shed, we know we are almost there.  “Hop in for a Visit”, and is that a kangaroo?  Believe it or not – but Waimate is famous for wallabies.  In 1870, several wallabies were transported from Tasmania to Christchurch, and two females and one male from this stock were later released about Te Waimate, the property of Waimate's first European settler. Freed in the Hunters Hills in 1874, their numbers soon increased dramatically.  They are declared an animal pest and land occupiers must contain the wallabies within specified areas. The wallaby is now widely regarded as a symbol of Waimate.

Waimate – hop in for a visit 

The town has many interesting old buildings such as this one – the wonderful old Arcadia Theatre.  The building that housed the Arcadia Theatre was built around 1906 as a shopping arcade, and then ten years later the arcade was converted into a motion picture theatre and billiard room. On June 29, 1955 a fire destroyed the theatre portion of the building.  Plans are underway to restore the building for retail use.

Arcadia Theatre, built in 1906

And the very impressive St Patrick’s Basilica certainly makes a statement.  It was built in 1909, with the tower added in 1912.

St Patrick's Basilica

With the temperatures climbing up, we decided to take a trip to visit Butlers Berry Farm to get some fresh fruit, and maybe an ice-cream.   This must be the right place, just look at the size of those berries!


We purchased a punnet of raspberries, another of strawberries, and a pot of jam.  The jam was a little different, we chose blackcurrant and raspberry.  And then we settled down to a gorgeous mixed berry sundae each – yummy indeed.

Berry ice-cream sundaes

Back at camp (Waimate NZMCA Park)  we joined our neighbours for Happy Hour, sitting under the shade of a Weeping Willow tree to get some protection from the hot sun.  Then it was time for Robin to get the Weber BBQ out and cook some tasty beef, pepper and thyme flavoured sausages, while I made a salad.  After our meal we sat outside in the cool of the evening and contemplated just how lucky we are to live in our little piece of paradise.


Sunday, January 14, 2018

Oamaru, Victorian and Steam Punk

Oamaru, the largest town in North Otago, really embraces it’s past.  As well as priding itself as being a modern town  there is a very interesting Victorian Precinct to explore, complete with people in period costume and a penny farthing bicycle waiting for brave souls to clamber up on.




Lovely old buildings in the Victorian Precinct

And one of us did clamber up on the penny farthing bicycle, a little difficult but I’m pleased to say I persevered and finally made it.  Just as well the bike was on a stand and not going anywhere.


That’s me way up on a penny farthing

Oamaru is also very much into “Steam Punk” and the town is now known as the Steam Punk Capitol of the World, with enthusiasts arriving en masse for regular get togethers.  The term coined in the 1980s and is based on imagining inventions the Victorians might have created for the modern world. Started by science fiction novels and has branched out to incorporate art and fashion,  typified by embellished hats and goggles.


The Friendly Bay Playground down by the harbour has a steam punk flavour too, with all sorts of weird and wonderful items to clamber over.


At the Playground

The Oamaru Harbour, we tread, is one of the best surviving, unmodified, Victorian/Edwardian styled deep water ports.


Down by the Harbour

In this area is a large mural commemorating the visit of the ship Terra Nova to Oamaru in February 1913 bringing news of the deaths of Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s polar party to the world.  The mural was completed in time for the Scott 100  Celebrations in 2013.


Mural depicting Terra Nova arriving in Oamaru

A little further around the coast we came across an amazing sight – hundreds of pied shags resting on the old derelict wharf.  They were all quite happy, sitting in the sunshine and preening themselves, and not at all  disturbed by the paparazzi .


Pied shags on the old wharf

The Oamaru Steam and Rail were running train rides but sadly their steam engine was under repair.  We stopped the watch as the carriages full of happy people was pulled by a 1939 diesel shunter.


Oamaru Steam and Rail excursion

Robin found a Model Railway display and was up the stairs as quick as a wink – at only $2 entry it was certainly good value.  Run by volunteer members of the Whitestone Model Rail Group, it was a marvelous display indeed.


Model Rail Exhibition

Oamaru has many magnificent stone buildings in the main street, and quite a number of beautiful churches, all built in the creamy white Oamaru Stone.  Just beautiful, and an important part of this lovely town.




Beautiful Oamaru buildings and churches

After all this architectural grandeur, our camp site at the A & P Showgrounds  seems very low key indeed.  We have a flock of sheep over the fence to keep us company, together with several other vans and campers.


Our home for two nights in Oamaru