Thursday, November 29, 2012

Hanmer Springs and Home


Celia drove to Hanmer yesterday, which not only relieved me of the stress of it but also gave me a much greater chance to see the incredible mountains, streams, rivers and forests - all in abundance!  What a trip that is!  We're still of a mind that the road from Blenheim to Nelson was the most difficult because of the unending twisting and steep decline from its peak (it may be better going the other way) and it was a pleasure to drive on this road because only in a few places were there difficult corners; for the most part it was navigable and not especially steep - even for me as a passenger (when you drive most of the time, you miss the security of not having a brake on your side of the car...)  Scenery wise it would take the cake, I think.  The Kaikoura Coast was lovely and wild, and that had held pride of place till now I think, but yesterday's road via the Lewis Pass has now surpassed it.  The way the mountains loom up ahead of you, as though you could reach out and touch them, is phenomenal, and you feel almost swamped by their massiveness.  But besides these, there were the wonderful natural forests at every hand, and streams and rivers.  There seemed to be two Rough Creeks (rough, I guess, in the sense that the rocks are strewn every which way, and the water tumbles down between them with great gusto), but perhaps it's only one that turns up in two different places.  

We were really glad to be out if the Murchison camp: the last straw was Celia discovering she'd have pay two dollars to take a shower, a real imposition in this place where, with all the kayaking that goes on, hot showers are an essential. The place really niggled us in a number of ways: in spite of the fact that the cabin had a kettle and toaster (and toast rack!) - and a wonky four-legged stool - and an abundance of drawers and shelves, and a porch!, it was badly laid out, with poor use made of the space. The double bed was built in, and you wouldn't have wanted to be over six feet tall, since it was foreshortened by having cupboards on one end.  The lounge area we used was dark and uninviting, though we did spend some time there watching TV, and reading (because there was nowhere to sit in the cabin - the wonky stool was iffy to sit on). And the kitchen we used, as I noted yesterday, was distinctly lacking in cutlery and crockery.  Sometimes a place just doesn't appeal because the weather's not good, or you're not in the right mood, and both of those could have applied to this camp, but in general the price was high for what was there, compared to some of the other camps we stayed in.  However, it's a bit of a lottery this camping business, whether you use a tent or a cabin.  You never quite know what the owners will think are adequate facilities. 

The curious thing is that the cabin in Hanmer, which had a double bed and four bunks in it, and nothing else, was far more comfortable than the one in Murchison.  The kitchen just across the drive was well stocked with cutlery and crockery and pots and pans and everything has its place, with labels all over, and friendly signage. (Compare the signage in Geraldine, for instance, where you felt as though you were being treated like a naughty child.) The lounge next to the kitchen has couches and armchairs that aren't falling apart, and several tables, and plenty of seating.  Just a totally different atmosphere. The place itself is utterly clean and tidy, very well-maintained, and run by a youth trust which has obviously put a huge amount of work into it over many years. (They even had it closed down on them for a year in 1993 when the Department of Health discovered some form of contamination on the site and shut it on the spot, disrupting bookings and people staying here and staff working here.).  The current manager, (I think that's her role), is a delightful young Canadian, whose husband also works there - he's a Kiwi - and they couldn't do enough for you. 

The only other guests in our end of the complex were a French couple with their two children, a boy of eight and a girl of five and a bit.  The kids were bilingual, switching back and forth from French to English without blinking an eye, and the parents spoke good English too.  They've settled in NZ and are contract dairy farmers currently working near Reefton.  They've moved around a bit in their four years here having been in Oamaru and Takaka - possibly other places too.  We talked a lot with them, and the kids played on the iPad and he iPhone and chattered away.  The boyis learning hip hop and wants to be a hip hop star, of course!

We went into the village in the afternoon and walked round a bit.  There was a sale of tools on in a hall, great stuff, all new, and brought in from the UK.  Rolson is the brand name, one we'd never heard of.  (The guy selling the tools imports them himself and travels around town selling them.)  Celia bought a pair of knee pads, though I'm sure she was tempted to buy one of everything!   We also walked around the now mostly unused hospital area (one is used for community gatherings); seems an awful shame to have all these wonderful buildings sitting empty.  The nurses' home is reminiscent of the one at the old sanatorium at Waipiata: sunny rooms with their own built in wardrobes and drawers. 

Home again, after a long drive, all the way from ChCh. Went back through Glentunnel and the Rakaia Gorge – it rained a great deal of the time and didn’t come right till Timaru, where we stopped for about three quarters of an hour. Got stuck behind a very slow and wide truck that was transporting some large piece of machinery. Tried to overtake it by detouring through Morven, but weren't quite quick enough and found ourselves behind it again when we got back onto the main road.  Finally passed it in Oamaru, stopped at the long beach before Shag Point and found ourselves behind it again!  Very tired when we got home.  There's been a lot of driving on this trip, probably getting up to 1800 kms by the time we take in all the detours and running back and forth within cities, like Christchurch and Nelson.  Still, that's not as bad as the trip that one of the people I play Scrabble with online did recently: 6000 miles in two weeks.  Crikey!  They can hardly have ever been out of the car...

Sunday, November 25, 2012

On to, and in, Murchison

17/11/12 - in Nelson
Turns out the kids I mentioned in the last post - boys and girls of a variety of ages, though mostly around the Intermediate level - are up from Christchurch to play in a touch rugby tournament.   They certainly brought plenty of life to the place which was pretty quiet the night before, and they seem well organised.  They're up and about early this morning: I thought there was no one around until I went to the toilet about 6.30 and discovered they were already up and running.  The walls in this place a surprisingly soundproof.

Yesterday afternoon we went for a long stroll/walk on the beach at Tahunanui.  It's glorious: a huge expanse that gets covered with the tide when it comes in, and warm water and sunshine streaming down on it all.  You can see why people like the place.  Nelson seems to have grown hugely since we were last here, but that might be just my view of it.  It's certainly not a little place.

We got some Soov from the chemist yesterday and that's certainly helped ease the itchiness of the mozzie bites.  We could hear one in the cabin just before we went to bed last night but Celia may have frightened it to death or even caught it in a mighty clap she gave!

We're off to Murchison today. Almost missed out on getting a place to stay until Celia discovered, on an iPad app she's got, that there was a place not listed in the AA book.  Hopefully the road isn't totally winding and hilly!

18/12/12 - in Murchison
Restless night after a not so wondrous day.  It rained on and off all the way to Murchison, and then rained more when we got here. Between times it would be quite warm and pleasant, and I actually went for a walk at one point looking for the river on the other side of the road and strangely forgetting that I'd just been looking at it with Celia at the back of the camp!  I'd missed noting the bridge we came over, somehow.

She wasn't in the best of states: the midges are everywhere here and she got very agitated because she was so sure they were all out to bite her, after all the trouble she'd had with the bites she'd got in Picton.  Her ankles are still swollen, and she wants to be at home now, so everything combined to make her feel miserable for a while. The camp isn't very good considering what we're paying for it (only five dollars less than the very good cabin in Nelson) and the so-called double bed in the room is literally just a built in bunk that Celia immediately knew wouldn't be comfortable for the two of us.  So we brought one of the air beds in and she slept on that.  It was stuck in the corner under the little shelf where the cutlery and electric jug is.  The kitchen we used was okay, but whether they're doing some overhauling of it or what I don't know, but it's almost bare of utensils. The jug in it was so foul looking inside that we couldn't bear to use it.  It reminded us of the one in London that had been peed in, though that obviously wasn't the problem with it.*  Still, there's a quite large lounge area and we sat and watched a repeat of Doc Martin and read a bit. Ironically, there's a notice in the office that you should check out the place before you pay as no refunds will be given.  I'm not sure how you'd do that, and what your alternative would be anyway!

The place is geared up for people doing kayaking, and there are wet suits hanging everywhere, and a lot of young people about. Not that we saw them much: they were either out kayaking or cooking in the other kitchen, which had pots and pans galore in shopping bags on the floor.  That might explain their absence in our kitchen.  The toilets, which are next to our cabin, are pretty good and look as though they've been built, or done up, recently.  I guess if you have a place like this you have to work on a bit at a time, depending on finances.  The problem is, as seemed to be the case in Kaikoura, if you let it run down too much people won't come at all and then you've got no money to work with.

We had pottered around in Nelson before we left.  There was a market with a lot of stalls that was worth wandering around, though it was raining lightly, and I went up to the Cathedral to have a look. It's in a beautiful setting, a well-established garden on the hillside, and that's a delight, but the cathedral itself seems rather stark to me, and lacking in much warmth.  The great bell tower is square and open, so you can see the bells, but has a skeletal feel about it, and the building, while imposing, doesn't invite you in.  There was a short-haired cat wandering around inside, a friendly creature, which I thought must have belonged, but neither of the two women doing the flowers knew where it came from, and one of them was shooing it away from the altar, and asking me what it was doing there.

We've booked to go to Hanmer Springs today, though I'm not much looking forward to the drive.  The one to Murchison was a bit winding and hilly but not as bad as the Blenheim to Nelson one; today's drive may be much the same it seems.

*Curiously enough I don't seem to have mentioned the jug/kettle that had been peed in, in London, in the posts I wrote at the time. We'd been in this hovel of a room for three days right near the end of our five month trip, and hadn't used the kettle for one reason or another - probably because the room wasn't pleasant just to sit around in, and we'd eaten out all the time.  On the last night I went to fill it up with water, opened it, and discovered someone had used it for a toilet at some point.  We'd paid £40 pounds for this room, with breakfast in the cafe downstairs included.  That was around $120NZ at the time.  Phenomenal rip off.

Nelson and ships in bottles

Currently the plan is to leave for Murchison tomorrow, spend the night there, and then go to Hanmer Springs for a night and then to our daughter's for Monday night .  After that we may just drive straight home.  Celia didn't sleep well last night as the mozzies that bit her in Picton had left their mark and she was very itchy.  I didn't think I'd been bitten but I noticed, about half an hour ago, that I had three bites. Yet none of those were itchy at all.  I slept pretty well, even though I went to bed about 9.30 and in spite of Celia tossing and turning and going to the loo and reading the iPad under the blanket.

Took us a while to get off the ground this morning because we needed to get the tent tidied up after it was bundled in the car yesterday and the car itself needed some sorting out - something that happens every few days.  We then went grocery shopping as we were running out of some essentials, and then went onto the Founders Park which isn't far from here,  Celia had wanted to go to Högland's glass factory - in fact it had been one of the things she was coming for and then we discovered it was closed for major repairs.  She was quite disappointed, I think. We'd been there last time we were in Nelson, and really enjoyed it.

However Founders Park was well worth a visit.  Celia's convinced it's where the wedding reception was held for a wedding we came up to Nelson for about fourteen years ago, and she could be right, though I don't really remember it at all. The reception would have been the big building called the Granary [picture above], but again it didn't look particularly familiar.  The Park has some lovely old buildings in it, and early in the piece we got into a fun conversation with the people in the bakery shop: the guy is from the States, the woman from Hounslow, and the younger bloke just got on with baking, throwing a laugh or a word in occasionally.  The Cooper who works in the Park was there at the time with another older guy and they'd obviously already been having a bit of a laugh together.  Made the visit start off well.  There weren't many other people working today, but it's possibly too early in the tourist season.

We really enjoyed the Park.  The buildings are lovely, and well preserved, and there are surprises around every corner.  Some of the collections are still in the process of being cleaned up, but there are others that have had a lot of work put into them.  One of these was the vast array of ships in bottles - it's claimed to be the biggest collection of these in the Southern hemisphere.  Some of them are outstanding,  such as the enormous bottle that has fourteen separate sailing ships inside it [see photo] or the ship inside a light bulb.  There are also fascinating crib boards made in the shape of ships, and some enormously detailed sailing ships (not in bottles).

It's another very hot day, alleviated at least by a bit of a breeze.  We're not sure we could live here in the high summer.  Both of us were worn out by all the walking round the park, me because it was all strolling, and I don't find strolling does me much good.  I'm better if I'm striding out and getting my legs moving.  I get very stiff otherwise.  Celia's ankles are swollen so she's uncomfortable from that too.  A huge bunch of school kids arrived at the Tahuna camp in the evening and took over the cabins opposite us.  Thankfully they're not staying on our side, especially the one who screams every few minutes.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Nelson, tents and beach

Absolutely hot day and consequently quite exhausting in the car.  We said goodbye to the noisy trucks and cars going over the bridge and have had them replaced here in Nelson by an aeroplane leaving the airport every half hour or so.  Surprisingly it's not as noisy as it was in Blenheim.

Picton: Sounds and boats.  Difficult to capture the
beauty of this harbour on film. 
The trip to Picton was fine and easy and took less than half an hour.  We wandered around for a while checking it out, enjoying the water and the boats - the Interislander in her berth - and the sunshine.  Found a secondhand shop that also sold antiques and it had a huge range of stuff from all sorts of vintages.  Bought a potato masher for a dollar, since we discovered last night that along with the lack of potatoes we didn't have a masher either.  Tempted by some other things, including the bus outside the building that was offered as a trade-in - it was fitted out as a campervan - but managed to control ourselves.  Also found a secondhand bookshop, a very good done, and finished up buying an Ian Rankin that I don't think I've read: Exit Music.  I think it was supposed to be the last Rebus book, but the most recent book by Rankin brings Rebus out of retirement, and also includes the characters from the two Complaints books, who, curiously, come across as different characters in this new book - it's like they're seen as different because we're seeing them through Rebus' eyes.  Consequently we get very little insight into Malcolm Fox in this new book.  I had a bit of a discussion with the proprietor of the bookshop about the way paper books are being taken over by electronic versions; naturally he wasn't very impressed by the latter and thought a monopoly would eventuate and cut lots of people out.  However I think it's a transition time, like it or not, and we'll have to live with it somehow. Books as such don't seem to be going out of fashion as yet.  There was a good secondhand bookshop n Blenheim as well as a very good new books bookshop, staffed by at least five people.

We checked at the info place about just how hilly and winding the Queen Charlotte road was and, on the basis of what they said, decided it was too hilly.  Just as well, as the road from Havelock to Nelson was not at all pleasant to drive on.  Up to Havelock it was fine, running along through a lovely valley (the Rai Valley, I think?) but a few miles after Havelock it climbed up into the mountains.  That wasn't too much of a problem - it was the endless trip downhill again that nearly drove us crazy with its constant twists and turns, and with trying to keep the car from going too fast.  With all the weight on board I don't much trust the brakes to hold us if we have a problem.  When we were coming back from Christchurch after our last trip there, and Celia was driving, the car was doing an awful shuddering thing as we came down the Kilmog, which made Celia very nervous (not to mention me!)

We stopped off in Havelock for lunch near the water, and were joined by a very fluffy cat who just sat beside us without demanding anything, in spite of the fact that we were eating sardines (not on toast, but on pita bread - we'd run out of ordinary bread).

Tahuna Beach, Tahunanui.  You can just see some of the
dozen or so surf kites people were practicing with.
Anyway after our long trip down the neverending hill, we got to Nelson - and began to breath normally again.  We'd decided to stay at the Tahuna Beach motor camp, which turns out to be 54 acres of campervans, tents, cabins, motels and whatever, all within spitting distance of the sea.  It's a good place but when we tried to get the tent up, the wind just wouldn't let us.  We decided to try a different tent site since we were told it didn't matter which site we used but while that was a little less windy, we still had enormous trouble getting the tent to sit properly. The front kept blowing inwards and in general not looking right.  The rest was okay, but the area round the door bent inwards.  Turned out that one of the rods had split badly, so it's not surprising that it wouldn't take the strain.  Celia had already repaired another one on site and we'd got that in place - she'd repaired several split ones before left home - bit in the end the tent was just plain wonky and was going to get wonkier.  We capitulated and hired a cabin instead, which meant taking the tent down again.  At least that was a much quicker job than the two attempts we'd made to get it up!   The cabin is a standard one but in fact is better than the so-called de luxe one we had in Kaikoura.  It doesn't have a sink, which was an advantage at the other place, but it has a fridge and a telly.  It would sleep four if necessary, so we have a choice of beds.

Celia's happy to start heading home after we've been here for a couple of nights.  She's over tenting for the time being, and in fact, given the relative price of the cabins, it's not worth all the hefting and heaving and shoving and back-breaking that the tent takes to get up, just to save a few dollars.  She'd had plans about going into more remote camp sites, like the DOC ones, but that idea went west after we'd been at Waitaki Waters, and had spent some time at Marfells Beach.  I think she's realised that we're getting a bit past all the hassles of camping, although she enjoys cooking on her gas stove - making pikelets on it near Glentunnel and cooking eggs on the side of the road near Makikihi were both highlights.

Now we have to figure out how to get home without too many mountain roads like the one we went on today.  Looks like we can avoid going back to Blenheim, by going down through the middle of the island but I think that road is a winding as well.  Anyway, we'll see how it goes.  We can stop between here and Christchurch and again between Christchurch and Dunedin if we want.   That'll take us through the weekend and into next  week and that'll be enough.   We'll probably stop overnight with my daughter and her family on the way back as well.

Blenheim and ducklings

We got into Blenheim about four and booked into the Top Ten park, which by the time night fell was fairly full with campervans. Not so many tents - in fact, ours is just about the only one, it think - but it's a very tidy, and large, site.  Only disadvantage is that the bridge on which all the main road traffic travels is over the stream that runs through the caravan park and the traffic noise echoes and reverberates around the place.  When the trains go past, and there seem to be plenty of them, the noise is fortissimo!  In spite of that we both slept pretty well, so that's a plus.  I'm over in the kitchen typing this because Celia is still asleep.  I was awake at four, prayed for a while, and went back to sleep at five I guess, woke again at six, and have been over here pretty much since then.

We did a bit of a tour around Blenheim on foot last night, getting some idea of the place.  Quite a different town to what I expected, though it was very deserted last night.  We'll check it out further today.  The weather has got past its wet and heavy cloud stuff, so it looks as though it's going to be a decent day, always a relief when camping!

Feeding the ducklings, while the
mother duck looks on unconcerned.
Last night we cooked and had our tea outside rather than dragging everything over to the kitchen - the kitchen is up a little rise and then up some stairs (for some reason the facilities near us are in a building where everything is upstairs and nothing on ground level).  While we were eating, a mother duck and her six ducklings - we'd seen them down by the stream before - came over to see if there was anything going food-wise.  I went and got some bread, and while the mother looked on, her six ducklings scrabbled for bits of bread right out of my hand,  I've just passed them again coming back from the kitchen. They show absolutely no fear.

Later. We had a very quiet day all up, spending the morning mostly either reading, snoozing, or doing the puzzles we got from 1066.  I managed to complete three of these including one I hadn't been able to do the other day, but this afternoon I couldn't get my head round them at all.  Maybe I'd worn my brain out.  I finished the latest Ian Rankin tonight; very good read with a nice red herring running through the greater part of it.  I’m not sure that the solution to the serial murders is handled as much of a surprise: the killer is a character who doesn't turn until late in the book, and there's only Rebus's hunch to undo him.

This afternoon we drove into the town centre and wandered around doing our own thing separately: Celia at the op shops, me taking some photos and visiting the Millennium Gallery, which had a couple of exhibitions on (with paintings all for sale) but had no room for any of its permanent collection.  An ongoing problem apparently.

We were going to have potatoes for tea (along with some other things) but the potatoes had vanished out of the car.   Must have left them at my daughter's.  Tomorrow we're aiming to go to Picton and then round the coast road to Havelock and so to Nelson.  We're told that the coast road round the Queen Charlotte Sound is good and not too hilly.  Let's hope that's right!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Kaikoura, rain and more


At present sitting in a rest spot about 18 km south of Cheviot.  Celia's reading her Kindle and I've just been for a bit of a walk, first in a small plantation off the side of the road and then down by the river -  the Greta - which is flowing past at great speed, and is quite extensive in breadth.  There's a large chicken [it was probably a cockerel] wandering around in the rest area by the fence; it doesn't seem to have any connection with the place and yet seems quite at home.

Celia and I left the house yesterday morning about ten am with rough plans to find a church and go to a service before we went to the lunch for Heather at 12.30, but we didn't find a church and in the end sat in the Northlands mall and did another of those puzzles we got in Geraldine.  After a false start we managed to do it before we went to the lunch, but last night, trying to do one at home was just impossible.  My son-in-law figured out the first puzzle and I finished it after having got a number off him to get me started, but the second one I tried was beyond me.  It didn't help that the TV was showing some Ken Follett story -we got through two episodes on SoHo - and it was hard to concentrate.  The story was about one of the King Edwards, circa 1372, and involved a very large cast with graphic brutality throughout and rapes (at least two) and hangings and a spectacular bridge collapse with hundreds of extras and two sinister murders by one member of the cast (she disposed of her sister-in-law and her brother at different times) and monks who shouldn't have been in the monastery and more.  Not ideal viewing, really.

The lunch for Heather was great; there wasn't a large number of people there, and they were all family members: four adult siblings belonging to her sister and her husband, and two of the four adult boys belonging to her brother and his wife.  There were four grandchildren running around as well, and that was it - apart from us, the only non-family members.  It was quite a full-on day people-wise.  We're quite glad to have a bit of space today!  We'll see our kids all again at Christmas and that's not far away.

Later on the same day, at Kaikoura.  We decided in the end to hire a cabin tonight.  It's been raining on and off all day and it rained very heavily overnight in Christchurch, and things here are also pretty damp.  Anyway, this makes a nice change and we'll get back to tenting when it's drier.  The camp site is a bit run down compared to the other two, but the 'de luxe' cabin we've got (at the standard rate) is fine and has a toaster and jug and crockery and cutlery.  What more could you need?  The double bed is comfortable too...!

Celia actually found the bed quite hard, and unfortunately we'd put both the big quilt on over us and a quilt that was supplied which meant we got hot and then Celia got up at two to go to the loo and that woke me and from then on I just seemed to doze and sleep fitfully.  We hadn't gone to bed till reasonably late and we should have been tired but at the moment nothing seems to help when it comes to sleeping right through the night.  The place overall wasn't up to much and we only saw one other woman staying there - and she seemed to retire early; her curtains were drawn by about six pm.  Two Indians or Pakistanis who seem to be staying there long term came home in the middle of the evening and watched a violent movie in the cabin next door.  There was a lot of shooting and shouting and screaming and what sounded like a prolonged rape scene with the woman screaming endlessly.  The walls between the de luxe units don't muffle very much.  It continued to rain through the night and things were very wet this morning.  But it finally cleared by the time we got moving.

We spent quite a lot of time this morning in Kaikoura down where the Whale Watch boats leave from - it's all very new and tidy - and talked to a young man who was whitebaiting successfully.  Celia got her rod out but didn't catch anything more than seaweed.   She's out fishing again now at a place called Marfells Beach.  There's a Department of Conservation site here and we came down to see what it looked like as a possible place to stay but while it's a nice enough beach and there's room to camp, we've decided to go onto Blenheim.  We've come to the conclusion that camp sites in towns rather than out of them are probably what suit us best. (We're townies at heart.) We walked and drove round Kaikoura last night and this morning: there's a great deal more to it than you first think and it's obviously going ahead at great guns.

Marfells Beach is just past a place called Ward where there doesn't seem to be much more than a very good cafe, but apparently there's a reasonable population somewhere handy as the Lake Grassmere salt works employ quite a lot of people - we passed them after we'd left the beach.  We also stopped off at a church in the middle of nowhere called St Oswald's, but it has beautiful, though traditional, stained glass in every window - unlike the church in Cheviot which boasted of its stained glass yet they seemed to consist of nothing more than coloured panels!  Cheviot's church wasn't open, but this one, way out in the country, had a key in the door!  The little graveyard behind it, with only about six grave sites, is beautifully set, with the sea in the distance, and a lovely overhanging tree.

I'm reading the latest Ian Rankin in the car while Celia's still fishing so there's no rush to move off.

3rd Holiday Post

11th Nov, 2012

I missed writing anything for a couple of days because we were at my number three daughter's place, with her family.

We got up on Friday morning - still in Geraldine at that stage - and there was a drip coming off the tent in the front section, though it wasn't raining.  Turned out it was moisture running off the upper part of the door opening.  When my head touched the roof the condensation began to drip as well.  Celia was concerned about what it would be like in the rain, which is forecast for next week, but we dried the tent out in the sun in the end, and we'll have to see how it all works out.

We had breakfast in the camp kitchen and talked for some time to a young man from Idaho who is cycling around the country for three months.  He was going to Fairlie that day, a mere 80 kilometres.  Later in the day I spoke to a bloke who works for one of the electricity companies.  He was lying on the pebble shore in the Rakaia Gorge having his lunch.  He didn't think that long cycling days like that we're much of an idea since you had your head down all the time and didn't see much.  Apart from being exhausted by the time you got to your destination.  Anyway the young man had obviously been enjoying the trip.  He works in IT so can take three - or it might have been five months - off to tour.

After leaving Geraldine we weren't entirely sure that we'd taken the right road - we wanted the scenic route that goes through Glentunnel - but while we were stopped on the side of the road admiring the wonderful mountains, in the near distance, presumably the Alps, a man in his thirties drove up and stopped to ask if everything was all right. He assured us we were on the right track and that we could get petrol in Mayfield, which turned out to be only up the road.  I'd been a bit concerned that we wouldn't make it before we found a petrol station, having forgot to get petrol in Geraldine, so I was grateful for his concern.

After getting petrol in Mayfield, we stopped outside the village's Memorial Hall for a cup of tea, under the shade of an ancient tree - it was a wonderfully hot day - and Celia went for a trek to find the toilets. Though advertised as being close by this turned out to be much more difficult than the sign suggested.

A photo of the Rakaia Gorge as you approach it from the South.
It's a bit hard to get the whole picture of it; as usual I thought I'd
taken more photos than I had!
Our next stop was the Rakaia Gorge itself but Celia didn't feel much like walking at that point because it was so hot and her ankles had swollen somewhat with the heat and she was rather weary - neither of us have been sleeping well: at Geraldine the lights are kept on in the camping grounds all night and there's no real darkness as such. And, as I mentioned previously, the birds like to start singing loudly around 5 am. Anyway the Gorge was a beautiful vast open area with a surprising section of natural erosion where the cliffs had fallen away (the electricity worker said they'd been like that as long as he could remember though they looked like a relatively new scar).  Two bridges cross the two streams of the river coming into the Gorge, along with various other trickling creeks. Not much shelter there so we moved on, and anyway we couldn't light the gas there to make our lunch because of fire restrictions.  We eventually stopped on the south side of Glentunnel in a still unsheltered rest area, got the gas cooker out and made pikelets.   We used the golden syrup packs for flavour that we'd got when all the family went to MacDonald's a couple of weeks ago when the Christchurch family were down in Dunedin.  (One of these packs, the one that got left over, decided to trickle all over the inside of a bag of soups and meat flavourings, leaving everything sticky as.)  Drove on towards ChCh, passing my daughter's old place in Glentunnel, stopped for an icecream and milkshake in Darfield, and drove to my daughter's.  Greeted effusively by the kids and it was full on ever after!

Yesterday we took them out twice because, in part, my daughter had her first University exam for this semester, and in part because it was less exhausting outside than in!  Went to the Botanical Gardens which neither of us had ever been in much before and had a lovely open air time.  We didn't have the smallest of the three with us at that point because he went off to a birthday party with his dad, but on the second trip out, to the park along near their house, we had him as well.  He's as cuddly and smiley as he was in Dunedin, and talks full bore.  His sister, the middle child, who's only five and three quarters, is like a seven or eight year old...very sharp and bright.  Her big brother's no slouch either, so it's like being a house of super brains.  Celia showed my daughter's partner the book we'd got in Geraldine but even he was stumped by the first puzzle in it, although he picked up the idea of the puzzles straight away, as you'd expect him to do, and was soon doing them with ease.

We met up with our friend Heather for a meal last night at the Westfield mall in Riccarton, along with a couple from Dunedin who were up for a weekend of celebrations at their old church; it didn't seem as though they were having much celebration, though; all a bit dry by the sound of things.  Good to catch up with Heather; we'll see her again today for a family lunch celebrating her 60th birthday.  From there we went to see our dearest friends, people who used to live in Dunedin, but haven't done for many years. Within minutes of arriving we found ourselves invited to babysit their house at Christmas, which we were happy to do.  Their daughter arrived for a while with all four of her kids, which quickly demolished any sense of tidiness around the place, and then we watched an episode of Doc Martin on TV One. It turned out to be one we'd all watched on Prime previously, but proved surprisingly re-viewable.  Some viewing of photos from the last overseas trip and then back to my daughter's.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Geraldine: 2nd and 3rd days of the Holiday

Notes written on 8.11.12 

After we left Waitaki Waters, we stopped not much further up the road for a cuppa.  It was an official rest area, situated right next to a river - but I'm not sure what river it was.  It may have been the Waitaki.

After we'd had our drink, we walked down to the river, onto the pebbly beach, and finished up playing at throwing sticks in the water and seeing whether they got into the main current or not, and then throwing stones at them to shift them. This wonderfully childlike operation took quite some time, but as the preacher at church had been saying on the previous Sunday, there are times when Time isn't of any importance.  This was one of those.

We had plenty of time between Waitaki and Geraldine, so we took the detour into Waimate, a place we’ve never given more than a passing glance to before.  We stayed there for about an hour all up; I discovered the lovely church, and Celia bought herself a pair of secondhand jandals for $2 (that she subsequently never used because they hurt her toes; once upon a time the only thing she wore was jandals!).  We went to the supermarket and found the statue of the man sitting on a log of wood; there were two rather aggressive bull mastiff type dogs sitting nearby, chained, but tending to growl at passers-by 
Church in Waimate

We travelled on and stopped in Makikihi (where they make the chips) to have some lunch (I'd always thought the spelling was Mahikihi, but Google tells me I'm wrong).  We could see the sea in the distance but couldn't quite find the road to it, which didn't matter.  In the end we stopped on a bit of grass on the side of the road across from a field utterly full of some wheat kind of growth, still green and only about two foot high, got the new gas stove out (that Celia's been dying to use) and had boiled eggs.  Delicious! (though a little difficult to hold, since we didn't have egg cups.  Celia improvised, as she always does, using a rubber glove that is intended to holding hot items from the oven.  Not sure what that was doing on board, but...)

Gas stove with billy boiling (eggs inside)
We lunched on a long deserted piece of road, but in spite of that two women walked past at different times. One, a Dutch lady, had a relation of Marley, our dog (we'd had to leave him behind with a good friend).

In Timaru I finally managed to get to see the Aigantighe Gallery - it's pronounced Egg and Tie, apparently. I've always missed making the detour to it before.  It had an exhibition of Aoraki Polytechnic students' work on in its main gallery, and that was pretty good, but the permanent collection was more interesting.  Some Frances Hodgkins, which as always didn't greatly appeal, some lovely works by C F Goldie, and three or four Colin McCahon, one of which was four tiny paintings in a black surround: two of them just glowed. Quite the most appealing McCahon I've seen, I think.

And onto Geraldine where the large camping area is in the middle of town (like the other place it's not very full, which is nice) and where this morning the birds have been singing their hearts out since 5.30.  One blackbird was doing a solo about 4.30, which is when I was first awake. It was a glorious phrase by phrase song with each phrase quite different.  (We'd gone to bed about 9.30, I think, so being awake that early wasn't entirely surprising.

This camp is rather more full of signs telling you not to do things than the very welcoming Waitaki Waters (and you had to ask at the office for any cutlery or crockery, rather like kids going to their Mum for permission), but it's a good site, and the weather has been great.  It gets very cold at night at present, so last night we added an extra blanket each - Celia of course insisted on bringing these and of course was right! - and that made a big difference.  We're going to stay another day here: we found that there's a big garden area along by the river with rhododendrons and places to walk and sit so we'll go over there and just take it easy.

Getting the tent up hasn't been fraught with trauma even though it's a bit of task but in general.  It doesn't take too long, though I actually had to lie down after I'd been hammering in the pegs, as I was feeling a bit dizzy.  I lay down on the seat on the outside table next to our tent, got Celia to pull me up because I couldn't manage it myself and then felt as if I was falling off the edge of the world.  Very odd feeling.

The birds are still going strong - it's nearly seven-thirty, and I'm looking out while I type this at the wonderful green grass, the massive trees, the bushes.  What a wonderful spell of weather we've been blessed with considering that it was hailing and raining and utterly cold on Monday!

Later on the 8th (Thursday)

We've just spent about an hour talking to a couple from Cornwall who've been touring around NZ.  They're retired teachers and one of their sons is a teacher by trade as well, although I don't think he's been doing it for some time; it's more lucrative in the IT world into which he fell by default.  They've got a son who's just moved to Qatar as well, and they've spent a big of time in a small town in Uganda with an ongoing project assisting women with adult education.  They were interested the Kiva loan scheme as something that might help them support the people in Uganda.

We've had a fairly quiet day, not going far.  Spent the morning mostly just reading in the sun - it's been beautiful today - and then we walked down by the river and read down there for a bit, and then went and visited the 1066 shop where they sell handmade knitted garments in the front sections, beautiful stuff with a variety of colours woven into them, (as well as the biggest woollen pullover in the world) and in the back is this metal mosaic copy of the Bayeux Tapestry, of all things!  This guy, Michael Linton, has spent 20 years and about two million tiny metal pieces (which came from parts of commercial knitting machines) putting this thing together.  Wikipedia notes that Linton's creation is an approximately half scale mosaic version of the Bayeux Tapestry.  It was created over a period of twenty years from 1979. The work includes a hypothetical reconstruction of the missing final section of the Tapestry—events up to the coronation of William the Conqueror on Christmas Day 1066.

Linton is a man with a mind that enjoys puzzles, and he's included an intricate puzzle in the tapestry copy that no one has solved yet, though a couple of schoolboys made great strides into it one day.  He also invented half a dozen puzzles that are distinctly difficult.  We somehow managed to buy one, as well as the DVD Rom on a pen drive which not only has all the tapestry on it, but all the books he consulted, illuminated manuscripts, puzzles, games, brass rubbings and much, much more.  And then on top of that we bought a book of puzzles in which you have to decode letters into numbers by deduction.  We spent about two hours this afternoon and only finished two of them!

Later a photographer came by wanting some footage for a promo on Geraldine that she's making and so we became temporary film stars. We've also been high on the popularity list of a particular blackbird that's been cheeky enough to sit on the table while we're feeding.

Not the best shot, but it gives some idea of what we saw. 
Before we had our tea we drove up the hill nearby and discovered a walk through the bush.  I went on my own and Celia picked me up at the other end - after she'd discovered a beautiful view of the Alps nearby.  So we haven't gone far but have fitted in quite a bit of reading and talking and puzzling.   And puzzling over the way the camp manager approached us and implied that we'd been using the power without paying for it.  We told him that we'd paid what the person at the desk told us was the cost, yesterday, but he gave the impression we'd tried to hide using it because Celia put the cord away before we went a walk!  I felt quite niggled at being unjustly accused, and even when I went over to sort it out at the office the women there (not the one who'd served us yesterday) still ignored what I had to say and basically gave the impression it was somehow our fault they'd undercharged us!  All this fuss over $3 a day.  It would have been better for their PR if they'd just said there was a misunderstanding and told us to forget about the additional money.

Nice and tidy as this place is, we've been a bit underwhelmed by the kind of 'punitive' attitude the signage takes around the place; this bit of nonsense over the power confirmed our feeling that this wasn't our favourite camping ground....

First stop: Waitaki Waters

We haven't been on a tenting holiday since 2007, when we camped in a number of place in the UK.   At that time I blogged about the trip day by day (pretty much); this time, on a trip around some of the South Island, I kept notes on an iPad, and will use these as a basis for posts relating to this most recent holiday.   We were trying to do the holiday as economically as possible, since neither of us are earning anything, and mostly survive on the superannuation.  I'm not sure that we entirely succeeded in this, but in general we kept expenses down.  Part of our expense-reducing process was reverting to the use of the tent for accommodation.  This was only partly successful, as you'll discover as you read on through these posts.

Many of the places mentioned won't be familiar to some readers, so I'll try and put links in to assist.

6.11.12 First day of the holiday.
The tent up, and ready for business with
the power cord attached to its pole. 
We'd decided to head for Waitaki Waters camp as our first port of call on the way to Christchurch (where we were due to attend a 60th birthday a few days later), and left home about 1.30 after a couple of false starts.  We stopped off at Waikouaiti beach where it was very sunny but there was a nasty chilly wind coming off the sea.  However it was good to have a break and I dozed for a few minutes, which I needed - I'd had quite a busy morning taking someone to the Eye Department at the Hospital.  I don't know that we've ever been to that part of the beach before, only the part down by the racetrack.  It's certainly lovely and would be a good spot when the wind wasn't so fierce.

The manager/owner at Waitaki Waters is Australian though he sounds English; seemingly a lot of people have commented on this.  His father is Australian born but his mother was Eastern European, which maybe has given his speech a bit of a tang.  The camp-site is beautifully clean and tidy; probably one of the best I've seen in this regard.  We camped on a fairly spacious bit of ground - there weren't many people staying - and got the tent up fairly easily, considering we're rather out of practice.  It was very hot by this stage and I thought it was going to be stuffy sleeping in the tent but in fact even with sleeping bags and a blanket each we were both cold on and off during the night.

We met a German couple while they were making their dinner.  The man's English was very good, and we talked about places we'd been in Germany, though I had to think hard to remember which ones they were!  Celia was very tired and was in bed by 8.30 at least.  I read for a while until the moths attacking the tent trying to get at the light got too annoying.  We'd walked the 800 metres down to the beach and found that an enormous bank of river pebbles had been deposited there. Our assumption was that they were to keep the sea from swamping the place.  There must have been tens of millions of them and we presumed they'd all been brought in a truckload at a time.  The tide was high and crashed up against them.

However, I discovered later, in Geraldine, that these pebbles are natural and have always been there. They may have been shored up a bit to keep the tides at bay, but otherwise that's a naturally pebbly beach.  The person who told me this, a volunteer working on the riverside garden in Geraldine, said he was originally from a place further south where they had sandy beaches (as we do in Dunedin, of course), which he much preferred. He also made the interesting remark, in relation the flooding of the river in Geraldine – which was what he was helping to clean up – that every town with a river has a history.  I can believe it, especially if the river is only metres away from the shops and other buildings.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Final post from USA trip

Notes from 12/1/12

Arrived home exhausted yesterday, after spending the day in Auckland with one of my daughters and her family.  (Not exhausted because of the daughter but because of the lengthy flight from San Francisco.)

One of Liz's friends, Keri (she'd come to NZ in October last year with Liz) took Jon Beck and us to a place called Barbacoa.  It’s a bit of an Arabian nights approach in décor, with chunks of art on the walls and strange seating arrangements, and dimly lit.  The food was superb, made even more enjoyable by the fact that Keri wanted to pay for the meal.  I had an Idaho trout (a half trout, I think, in fact) cooked on cedar wood – there were no bones (as specified in the menu) and the flesh just fell away and was wonderfully sweet.  It was served on a some kind of rice which the menu online doesn't identify: this had a bitter tang to it, and was a bit overpowering for the fish, we felt (Celia had a bite or two, of course).    Keri then took us on a bit of a tour around the North End of the city (Boise, in this case, which, by the way is from the French word for trees; hence the city’s name: City of Trees).  She showed us the student campus and the older houses that were being done up and the grass hill on which the house of a wealthy industrialist stands – supposedly the grass on this hill is mown once a week.  Crikey!

Afterwards Celia and I sorted out our bags and got ready for our departure the next morning.  Cindy dropped us off at the airport where we had to repack our suitcases when we went to book in.  Even though the combined total was under the proper weight, one was over and one was under.  In Dunedin they hadn’t worried about this; just put them through.  But the woman in Boise was insistent that it had to be done properly, so we fiddled around with the cases until it was.  These sorts of things really get me frazzled, as do the security places in the US airports where you have to take off shoes and belts and hold your handkerchieves above your head (as happened in LA) and generally make yourself look a prat.  The customs people in LA were very pleasant – indeed they have a charter on their booths telling us they will be pleasant – but the security people take their power rather too seriously I think.  The whole security thing is a farce anyway; it smacks of paranoia, and of course now that it’s in place can’t be got rid of without thousands of people losing their jobs.  In NZ, the security people are much more friendly – at Auckland last night we’d bought a milkshake and a long roll when we realised we probably needed to be on the other side of security.  We stuffed the rolls in one of our bags and I said to the woman, can we take these drinks through?  Yup, no problem.  They were the same at the customs side in Auckland – in LA they’d fussed about a couple of packets of seeds that they didn’t want us to take in; in Auckland we told them we had some lollies for the kids and such and they just put us through without worry.

San Francisco is a different airport altogether to LAX – as we’d been told it would be.  It has life and warmth and visual interest, and is generally much more friendly.  You have to wonder why LAX is so different. 

We got onto the plane for Auckland on time at 7 pm, but then sat for an hour while they dealt with someone who’d become sick and had to be taken off again – and until they found that person’s luggage amongst the hundreds of items.  In spite of that we got to NZ at the time we should have: 5 am.  We were booked in a three-seater; we’d asked if we could change to a two-seater but the women on the counter taking all the boarding passes from people who’d booked through a different airline (they were changing them to AirNZ boarding passes, which seemed like doubling handling) said the plane was full and they couldn’t do anything.  The plane wasn’t full, by any means, and there were spare seats scattered around – including beside us!  So we had three seats between the two of us, which was good.  

The trip from SF was very long.  It’s only an hour longer than the reverse version, but seemed interminable.  I read a lot more – even in the wee hours of the morning – but that didn’t help much.  I couldn’t get comfortable for long, whichever way I sat, so sleep was very intermittant.  I’d picked up a book from a shop in the airport – Nicholson Baker’s The Anthologist – which had been on sale for under $5US.  It turned out to be a treat – a novel in which the narrator, a poet, discusses the need for rhyme, and a host of other things.  I’d never heard of the author, and might see what else he’s written.  This is his tenth novel, I think.   It may be that it suited my taste because of its subject matter, more than anything, but the writing is a delight, full of wonderful phrases, and lots of self-deprecating humour.  It was as well I had this book, as the Michael Connelly thrillers we’d bought for Kindle were all short stories, and Nathan Berma’s Bringing Heaven down to Earth proved to be rather thin.  I got through some of it, but wasn’t inspired.  I’d finished Alan Jacobs’ The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction a day or so before we left.

Anyway, finally into Auckland at 5 am, and after Customs and Security yet again we got out into the main area and disposed of our bags into AirNZ’s care once again.  Libby turned up around six, with Israel, and we headed out to her place.   Zonked.  It was great to be somewhere where you could put your head down if you felt like it, and I did for a while.  We spent the day out, going by train to Newmarket (which was as far as it was going while they did some repairs) getting the bus into Britomart, and then the ferry across to Devonport.  All for free on our Gold Cards. The day was beautiful, and we paddled in the water.  It started to rain on the way back but not enough to bother anyone, and then got very muggy once they rain stopped.  It was a bit of a relief to get to the airport!  And home my daughter Abby picked us up, with her son, Tom ...and with our dog, Marley, who was over the moon at seeing Celia again.  He sat on her lap the whole way, though he did manage to  give me a couple of minutes attention at one point.....

Day after the wedding

Notes from the 8th Jan - day after the wedding. 

Well, the wedding is over and done, and we’re all walking around like zombies.   We went into the church at ten (I’d thought that was when the wedding was starting and wondered why everyone was being so casual about the time) and hung around for an hour until the actual service at eleven.  This meant we greeted people as they came in.  The girls were running around in the background - they get dressed and doodied up at the church, here.   Sarah was visible occasionally, but not Liz, who managed to stay out of sight.    Cathy had made some wonderful 'buttonholes' (I'm not sure what the American word is) for everyone in the bridal party.  These were made out of various bird feathers, including pheasants feathers, and were held together at the bottom so that they formed a kind of miniature spray.   They looked great. 

We got the latest update of the order of things from the pastor, Harold, a lovely man keen to make sure everyone was at ease (I think he found Dom’s shenanaghins at the rehearsal a bit surprising), but Liz had already re-ordered things by that stage by email, and so we finally went with her version! Harold had thought there wasn’t an official run of things and had made one up in case.   Ben and Dan, as well as being part of the bridal party, worked as ushers.  This meant that Ben took Celia down the aisle with me following; a little odd, but what the heck.  Sarah came in by herself, as she was the only bridesmaid - although Daniel was also on Liz’s side up on the altar steps - he spent most of the service with his cap on (except when they were praying) and much of it checking out the congregation.  

The service went well - a fairly pregnant lady played the piano for the songs (we didn’t stand, which would have made them easier to sing) and I read Psalm 103 from the NASB.  Had quite a number of people afterwards asking if I was a Pastor/Preacher because I read it so well!   (I said, nope, just an actor, which bemused them a bit.)  Anyway I was glad it went over well - I was the only non-wedding party person to do anything. 

Both Dom and Liz choked up at points in the vows section - and then Dom didn’t realise, after he’d put the ring on Liz's finger that he was supposed to say an I will at that point (I will accept this woman, or something) so that caused a bit of a laugh all round. 

After the service the two families and Dom and Liz stood in a line and greeted everyone as they went out.  It took at least an hour, and we were all exhausted by the end.   Each person wanted to say something, or felt they should, and then we talked and so it went on.   The grandparents were included in this line, as well as Chris' step-mother, who retired early on.  It was exhausting keeping up with it. 

Home for a snooze or a rest and trying to remember what else was needing to be taken to the reception.   Seems we've spent the last couple of days transporting things hither and yon.   The reception was a bit different to a New Zealand one: for starters all the guests were already there when we arrived and the food ladies were well organised.  And people weren't dressed up, as they had been for the wedding.  Only those 'officially' involved (including the parents) were still in their wedding finery.  

There were supposed to be 200 guests, but there were probably more like150, perhaps less…which meant we had a bit of a crisis when we cleared up later on: there was heaps of food left over. We managed to give away some of the excess food and took the rest home where no doubt it'll get used up fairly quickly. 

Sarah made a speech about Liz, and that was fun, and Jon made one about Dom and explained ‘wench emancipation day’ - at Celia’s behest. I wasn’t sure whether I was supposed to speak, although Dom had asked me too - there wasn’t a master of ceremonies as such - but they called me up and I delivered my somewhat prepared speech; 'somewhat' in the sense that I’d made notes and went a bit beyond them.  I wanted to pray for them too, so I’d written the short prayer out, but got very choked up in the middle of it, as I had briefly while reading Psalm 103. And again all sorts of people congratulated me on the speech - it’s the American way, I think: they’re very encouraging.

There was a bit of uncertainty about whether we were supposed to clean up before we left, but people were starting to leave by 7.30 - 8.00 anyway, so we got on with it.  Chris said he’d never had to clean up after a wedding and I said, just make a start and people will help, and they did.  The chairs and tables were put away in no time, but the food sorting out took longer.  The volunteer ladies had cleaned up the kitchen well, and it was mostly a matter of figuring out how to sort the food.  We had enough hands on deck to do all the work.  In spite of exhaustion Cathy and her family came back to the house and stayed till some early morning hour; Christin and Rick, who were supposed to be leaving about 5.30 am the next day were apparently up till 2 or more; Celia stayed up till 1 am, playing games with the others, and another group were drinking and talking out in the workshop.    

So my baby is married; seems ridiculous, but there it is.  

Friday: the day before the wedding

Some notes from the 6th Jan. 

Another thing that's popular here in Idaho is homeschooling.  Liz and her siblings were homeschooled, and Cathy is still doing it with two of her boys. We met another woman at the wedding reception who homeschools all five of her children. 

Nampa - and Boise to an extent - are places where you need a car.  I don't know how you'd do shopping in Nampa without one.  I discovered later that there's an older part of town (near the reception hall, as it happens) that's more built-up, and where the shops are close to each other like Dunedin.  And Boise has a similar older area.  But in general everything is well spaced-out.  

Last minute things are being done all over the place - small things and big.  Chris is making a 'prop' to take photographs against (I thought it was for the couple, but it was actually for anyone who wanted).  It's a board with a couple of large rectangles cut out for people to stand behind, and a bunch of sepia photos in frames scattered around the rectangles.  It got a lot of use at the wedding reception.   We had been planning to go to the reception hall this afternoon to get things ready for the wedding tomorrow, but there was a funeral arranged at the last minute and the hall was being used.   Curiously, the wedding rehearsal was to have been today (Friday) originally; it had to be shifted to the Thursday because of another funeral!

Anyway, after a sandwich-type tea, put together by Margaret, a friend of Patty, (they're both friends of Cindy’s from way back, we went off to the reception hall for the big sort-out.   We were there for three hours almost, and got huge amounts ready for tomorrow, though there are still some decorating things to do - but they’ll be done by some others.  There were quite a lot of people - maybe twenty - so the work got well done.  Liz wasn’t there (she had gone to stay the night down the road with Sarah at a friend’s house) and neither was Dom, who hopefully got some rest before his big day.

The two sisters, Christin and Cathy got to grips with the thing, along with Cindy and Celia, and labelled stuff and organised and made it clear for the volunteer ladies coming in the next day as to what needed to be done.  Note all these names starting with C - there are more in Cindy's family.   And Chris and Carol (brother and sister) also start with C.  Thankfully, the children's names break the mould!

More from the 5th

More notes from the 5th Jan. 

Another sister has arrived with her family - Cathy and Dave, and their three boys.  This family is staying in a nearby motel (although nearby in Nampa terms can be several miles.) 

We’re supposed to be having a Thanksgiving Dinner (somewhat out of season) and there’ll be a host of people here, though the turkey was taking its time to cook through.  The best man has arrived with two of his brothers and the girlfriend of one of those brothers.   They've been in Houston, Texas for a family reunion, and have made this part of the USA stay.  Liz's brother and sister are here, and her grandparents.  There seems to be people everywhere.  

Most of the men had gone shooting this afternoon, including those who've never touched a gun in their lives. The ones who do know what they're doing gave the others careful instructions, and they were only shooting at targets anyway.   The only accident of any sort was when the gun the best man was holding recoiled onto his face and nearly gave him a black eye to sport at the wedding.  You can see this on You Tube, believe it or not: the video has the title, The Moneyshot. 

Meanwhile, Celia and I were taken into Boise by Sarah to pick up Chris’s sister, Carol, and she came with us while we went around the Capitol (see photo) and some of the streets nearby. (There was even the leftovers of an Occupy movement tent site in the park nearby - and squirrels frolicking.)   This was the first time we'd done any touring around, and it was nice to see a different side of the area: more built-up and not nearly so spread out.  

We met a woman from Glasgow in the Basque museum shop; she’s married to a bloke from Idaho who came over to Glasgow to ask her father for his daughter’s hand (!)  

Carol is from California (Newport Beach) and has a nice wit.  We were talking about Dom being a toy-boy at one point, because he’s six months younger than Liz (whose birthday is the day after the wedding!) and someone else said it was more the other way around. I can’t remember what word they used, but I suggested cougar.  Carol said she’d told someone who said she was a cougar she was more like a sabre-tooth tiger.  

Shopping and rehearsal

Notes from the 5th Jan. 

In the morning, we got onto dealing with the potatoes and coleslaw, and while we were doing that Christin and Rick arrived. They're staying in a caravan parked outside the garage.  Christin is Cindy’s younger sister (one of several) and they’d driven from California, taking some fourteen hours with a bit of a sleep at some point.  They’re a great pair: she’s lively and funny and full of beans.  Rick seems laconic at first, but like all the others he’s full of stories and humour, though he takes more time about the telling. Christin chipped in and helped with the coleslaw sorting-out the moment she arrived. 
In the afternoon we went to the shops again and the three blokes (Ben, Rick and I ) initially went into Wal-Mart with the women, but later on went for a drive around Nampa by ourselves.  It just seems to go on and on, and it would be pretty much impossible without a car.  There don’t seem to be any buses either, so I don’t know how people without cars get on.   We had kind of gone out to see what the place had in the way of ‘tourist’ attractions, but all there seems to be - and no doubt we’re wrong - is retail and more retail and bigger retail. 

Anyway, home for dinner.   Meals here lean towards Mexican-style food, with chilli beans and tacos and ground beef (something like the equivalent of mince) and things like Bell peppers (our capsicums) and Jalapeños (pronounced halapeños).  This last item is another pepper, but dangerously hot if you happen to get the right one in the batch.  I refrained. 

Everyone was up fairly sharply to get to the rehearsal at nine this morning.  It’s the first time the household has really been up early since we’ve been here.  Chris normally gets up at 5.30 am and goes to work early and gets home early after a ten hour day.  So he's finding these late starts a bit disorientating, I think.  

We're expecting upwards of 200 guests to the reception.   Hopefully there'll be enough food (us Crowls always like to have more than enough, just in case - it's one of our traits.)

I slept very badly last night - took ages to get to sleep, and then woke early.   Not enough exercise and too much strolling round shops - getting ‘shopping legs’ as Cindy called them in the process. Chris reckoned it’s a world wide phenomenon: women enjoying shopping; men not.  (I think more that we tend to go into a shop to get something, not just browse.  Although that does happen: in my case in a bookshop, in the case of other men in shops like Cabela's.)

Chris is a brilliant hobby furniture-maker, (his job is carpentry) but he also does a lot of other bloke things like diving and fishing and so on.  Anyway, he dives in the local river every year and collects all the stuff that people lose in the river, or throw away for some reason.   He’s got a collection of sunglasses, and has picked up all sorts of other things, including laptops!   Last night Ben fitted two memory cards that had gone into the river into the two laptops we’ve got here.  Both Dom and mine were struggling with memory (and ours with having far too much loading at start-up)   After a bit of jiggling, both of them worked, so both the computers are running a good deal better.   

We went to the wedding rehearsal this morning: for me it was a bit chaotic with the young people clowning around. The minister was very pleasant - a little fellow called Harold (I think) - and very patient.  Perhaps he’s used to young people these days being so all-over-the-place at the rehearsal.   Liz’s grandparents were there (Cindy’s father and his second wife).  It's their second marriage in each case, and they met at the Sacramento Opera where both of them sang in the chorus.  So we had something in common. 

I’m supposed to be reading a Psalm at the wedding service.  I hadn’t heard about it till this morning, and so checked up on the Psalm that I was supposed to read - Psalm 45 - and found that while it had some connections with the wedding ceremony, it also talked about the groom shooting his enemies with arrows.  Decided there might be a better Psalm to try and eventually we went for Psalm 130, a psalm I know well and enjoy reading.  

I thought I might have to play the piano at the service too, because the church organist wasn't available.  However, a friend is happy to do it, and so that relieves me of that duty. 

Third day in Nampa

Notes written on 3.1.12

Funny day today - woke about 8 and things didn’t get going much before 10.30.  By that time most of the others had gone for a run/walk, and then when Liz got back she realised they had to go to see the Pastor about a kind of pre-marriage talk.   So she and Dom rushed off together in the hired car.   Chris at some point went off to see his physio - he fell off a ladder a while ago and hurt his shoulder - and Celia, Ben, Cindy and I headed into Nampa to go to the thrift stores (op shops in NZ).   

I'm a bit confused as to where we’ve been today, as it’s been a ‘shopping’ day to a certain extent: we went to Cashco at some point, and that must have been in Nampa because Dan was there working (he's the fiancée's younger brother).   It’s massive, and of course, it sells stuff in bulk, so everything seems bigger and bigger.   Then we had lunch, and I’m not sure now if that was in Nampa or Boise - think the latter.   This was at a place rather like Great Taste in Dunedin, but with a much wider range of Chinese food, and little or no European food.   It was buffet, with an eat as much as you want approach.   The food was good, but of course with those sorts of places you need to watch that you don’t each as much as you want, or you make yourself sick.   Anyway, afterwards we went over to the bank across the park to try and get some cash out.  I’d tried to use my HSBC debit card in Cashco but it wouldn’t go.  The bank was very friendly, but couldn’t take the driver’s license as identification because it doesn’t fit into their system, and they weren’t sure where else we could try - though the manager did offer a couple of other suggestions.  I was concerned that maybe my pin number wasn’t the usual one.  Anyway, we could have gone to another bank tomorrow with our passports, as the bank manager suggested, but instead we decided to try the ATM in the same bank…and both of us got money out on our credit cards without problem.   Ridiculous: machines trust us more than people. 

After the bank episode, Chris and Cindy both managed to lock themselves out of the car - Chris then tried the old clothes hanger thru the window thing, and that wasn’t working and then this burly young family came along and said he’d 'done this hundreds of times,' (which could have been ominous!) and after trying the clothes hanger without success and then something else and then something else he finally managed to get the car open.  Great rejoicing.  Dom and Liz, meanwhile, had been running around getting the marriage licence, something that had required them to go back and forward and hither and yon. 

Anyway, while the women went to some shop for something to do with the wedding, the men went into Barnes and Noble.  This was an experience in the sense that it shows that books are definitely not on their way out yet.  Huge, of course, like everything else (including the two thrift shops), and packed with interesting stuff….none of which I bought.  Finally after we’d gone into some other time-wasting shop for no particular reason, the blokes escaped to Cabela's, a real man’s shop with guns and fishing equipment and real fish in an aquarium (trout and catfish) and stuffed animals in a big scenic thing in the middle of the shop and hunting gear and clothes and shoes and everything else.  This was more interesting certainly than the previous place, but I was getting bushed, and finally, after the women arrived I went and sat in one of the cars and nodded off. Celia went back in the shop and said later it would have been her choice for a place to really look around in. 

Lastly, Ben drove Cindy, Celia and me home in the hired car.  He was okay, except he found the fact that the stop signs weren’t highlighted on the road itself with markings rather disconcerting, and at one point he nearly went sailing through one, with all three of us shouting Stop!!   It's nervewracking driving on the right because your brain insists the traffic is coming towards you on the same side of the road, and when you turn at an intersection you seem to be heading towards the wrong side of things.  The stop signs are everywhere - they're aren't any Give Way signs (although there's the occasional 'Yield') and there's this funny rule about turning right when you're on the extreme right of two or three lanes even though the lights are red and the right turn arrow is also red!  

2nd day in Boise

Notes written on the 2nd Jan relating to that day. 

I didn’t wake till Boise time, which was great, because it meant I actually slept very well in spite of the changes of time.  The house didn’t rouse up much until later, in fact, but my older son, Ben (who'd arrived the day before) and Celia and I spent our first ten minutes trying to figure out how to get the water to come out of the shower instead of the bath in the bathroom nearest to our bedroom.  Our hostess, Cindy, arrived and saved the day: there’s a little round disk that needs to be pushed up - that’s all it is; very simple.   

After breakfast - or maybe even before it (with all the guests mealtimes were a bit erratic around here) Chris  (my future daughter-in-law's dad) showed Celia and me his workshop. Massive. Not only the main workshop but a toilet room, an office, a paint shop, and a cupboard in which there are two big pipes for sucking the dust and chips out of the main workshop.  Everything is neat and there are places for everything: he’s in the middle of doing a walnut entertainment cabinet for someone, and has done a host of other similar projects over the years.  He has stacks of spare wood and machines and tools - you name it.  The ’tour’ took nearly an hour by the time Celia has asked about this and that.   And he was pleased to tell her.  They enjoy talking, these Idaho people - everywhere we go they’re happy to talk and tell you stories, and find out more about you.  It’s great, really, and very friendly. 

Cindy, Celia and I went and visited the place where the reception is going to be held.  The colouring of houses and countryside is rather muted perhaps because all the grass is browned off and the trees are bare.   I think it’s the lack of greenery that surprises me, but of course we've come from high summer.  Everyone here has been expecting snow, but there's no sign of it, and the ski fields are getting desperate. 

Celia and Cindy had a big sort out as to what we’d be doing for the meal (pretty much a buffet) for the wedding and have got it in hand.  They went shopping this afternoon and bought in all the supplies.  At the same time Liz (fiancée), Dom (son getting married), Ben and a friend of Liz’s called Heather who’d been at the house organising something else to do with the wedding - and me - all went into Boise, met up with Liz's sister, Sarah, and dropped her car off to her, and coincidentally met her father-in-law. Sarah and her husband Joel have an apartment above where Joel’s dad works, and also above the restaurant Sarah used to work.  Joel has guns, and a massive collection of Lego - which impressed Celia.  Guns are popular in Idaho, as we were to find out. 

Then we went onto the airport and hired a car - Ben seems comfortable with driving and thinks that having an extra car would be good, but on this trip Liz drove back because we had some navigating to do.  

In the end it had got dark by the time we dealt with hiring the car - the guy behind the counter was very friendly and chatty, as was the girl in the next booth, who came in to help - and so we headed onto the tuxedo place where the fittings needed to be sorted out for Dom and Ben.  One of the girl assistants turned out to be from Russia even though she seemed to speak American English with no accent at all.   Curiously she didn’t seem to know about Siberia being used as a prison area - don’t ask me how we got onto that…!