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January 5th 2011 - Ness Valley

HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone! Here's to a happy, prosperous and healthy 2011 to one and all!

So, what's been happening since the last blog?  Well after I had posted it on 27th  December Lindsey, Clive and I headed off to Auckland's Botanic Gardens with Radar and Phillipa's lovely dog, Saffy.  We had a wonderful day exploring the gardens and seeing all the wonderful plants that grow there, it was a lovely experience. Fortunately it was a little overcast initially so it wasn't too hot but the sun came out later in the afternoon, it was a good job we were well slathered with sun tan lotion!!  I took a lot of photos and some of them will be in the gallery. 

Whilst we were walking amongst the trees at one point Lindsey noticed an Australian Magpie take off from one of the trees and then she spotted what it had left behind, a fluffy fledgeling! He sat there in his tree and watched us and posed beautifully for the camera!

Young Australian Magpie

All in all it was a really lovely day out and we all enjoyed it very much, especially Radar and Saffy!

The next day, December 28th it was raining! It actually rained all day and then finally brightened up in the early evening.  We piled into the van, Lindsey driving, me in the passenger seat and poor Clive in the back of the van on the cushion again with the dogs!  The plan for the evening was to head over to Phillipa's and drop the dogs off, go out for dinner in Auckland then on to the Arts Cinema to see The Disappearance of Alice Creed.  We drove to Clevedon where Mary was waiting for us, parked Lindsey's van and transferred to Mary's car for the journey to Howick, where Philly lives then we headed into the city.  We had a great meal in the Tapas bar and thoroughly enjoyed the film in a tiny little cinema with room for about 16 people and a screen not much bigger than a large flat screen TV, it was quite an experience!  As Philly and Ann were heading off in the campervan the following day for about a week Ann had very kindly offered us the loan of her RAV 4 whilst they were away, we were very grateful to her as it meant that Clive wouldn't have to ride in the back of the van!  So we drove back to Lindsey's in the RAV.

December 29th dawned warm and reasonably sunny so we decided to go out for the day.  We packed a picnic and folding chairs and headed off to the Tapapakanga Regional Park.  We found a lovely spot under the Pohutakawa trees looking out to sea and had our picnic.  The beach there was quite stony and pebbly so we decided not to go swimming there and after we had finished our picnic we packed everything up and headed back to the car.  Some years ago Auckland Regional Council put "picture frames" in various places of natural beauty and there are quite a few of them still around.  There was one overlooking the beach so I made use of it!


Pretty as a picture!

We headed off around the coast and had a lovely drive, stopping off at the Miranda Shorebird Centre for a browse around the shop, then we continued on to the Miranda Hot Pools!  We had all brought our swimsuits with us (or togs as the kiwis call them!) and we were soon ready for a swim.  On entering the complex you see a large swimming pool, it looks quite normal, nothing out of the ordinary, until you step into it, it is really, really hot! I'm talking hot bath kind of hot! The water is not heated by any man made means, it is all geothermally heated, in otherwords we're talking volcanoes here!!!  We had a great time swimming in the wonderfully hot, mineral rich water.  It makes your skin feel all silky soft.  There is also another pool which is called The Sauna, which Lindsey and I tried but it really was too hot and we couldn't stay in for more than a few minutes without feeling as if we were being boilled alive!!  On the way back home from Miranda Lindsey just happened to mention that we were about to pass a renowned fish and chip shop - that did it, Clive (who was driving) immediately pulled over into the car park, forget the salad tea we were planning he fancied fish and chips!  They were awesome!!  The fish was absolutely divine, not your average cod or haddock but a lovely New Zealand fish called a Tarakihi. The chips were pretty good too!!

The next day, December 30th was overcast but very warm.  We decided to go off on another expedition, this time to Piha Beach (pron. peehaa).  This beach is a surfers paradise as the waves are really quite big.  It is also quite a dangerous beach as there is a strong undertow and several people have been swept away and drowned and lots of people have needed rescuing!  There are flags on the beach showing where you are allowed to swim when the Lifeguards are on duty.

Piha beach

As you can see the sand here is very dark, that is because it is volcanic!  We had a great time beachcombing and walked the full length of the beach.  There were some strange bugs on the beach, which I photographed and you can see some of these in the gallery.  We did paddle and the sea was really warm, I would have liked a swim but didn't have my togs with me this time!  There were also great clumps of some kind of kelp on the beach and Lindsey grabbed the end of one and pulled and pulled and pulled till she had it stretched out to its full length - it really was long!

Really long seaweed!

The next day was December 31st, New Year's Eve!  It was absolutely glorious when we got up so we decided not to waste it, packed a picnic, packed our togs and headed off to Maraetai Beach.  There was a good reason for going there, we had been reliably informed that there was going to be an air display on Waiheke Island, which is directly opposite Maraetai!  Well we sat and ate our picnic and waited and waited and waited!  In the end we gave up and went swimming.  The water was a bit chilly at first but once you were in it was absolutely lovely!  We even to Radar in for a swim but I don't think he was very impressed!  He swam straight back to the beach and wouldn't come in again!  It was very hot at the beach and although we had put suntan lotion on we still ended up getting a little crozzled!

It was soon time to head back home to get ready for the evening's festivities.  We had been invited to a New Year's Eve party at the home of a friend of Lindsey's who is also called Lindsey!!  We had also been asked to take our instruments with us to add to the entertainment.  We had a great time and just before midnight everyone went out onto the lawn and to a CD turned up really loud danced the Gay Gordons!  It was hilarious, everybody seemed to be doing a different stage of the dance all at the same time, it was total chaos but great fun!

Gay Gordons on the lawn!

(our hostess Lindsey is the lady in the middle in the black leggings)

So, goodbye 2010 hello 2011!  Can't believe how fast this year has gone!  It doesn't seem a whole year since we were celebrating New Year's Eve with our good friends Heather and Les Welch up in Nantwich when Lady Arwen was stuck in the frozen canal!!  It is certainly a very different story here in New Zealand!

We had a quiet day on New Year's Day but the following day we headed into Auckland, Lindsey had suggested (as we were all sunburned!) that we do something indoors so we went to an Art Gallery.  We spent an hour or so wandering around the gallery admiring some wonderful paintings of Maori people by two artists Gottfried Lindauer and Charles F Goldie.  They are the most incredible paintings, almost photographic.  After that we went down to the quayside and Clive found the shop where he had purchased his favourite pair of shorts back in 2000!  These shorts had the logo of the Americas Cup which was taking place at the time.  The shorts, which originally were navy blue, are now faded to almost beige and he most definitely needed a new pair!  The shop is now selling everything relating to the Rugby World Cup which takes place here in New Zealand in September.  Clive managed to find and identical pair of shorts to his old ones but this time with the Rugby logo on instead of the Americas Cup - he's delighted! With a bit of luck these will last for ten years too!  After buying his shorts we found a waterfront restaurant where we have been on a previous visit to New Zealand and ordered lunch.  We all decided to have the cheeseburger and fries but were staggered by the size of them when they arrived!!!


Needless to say we were all absolutely stuffed and didn't bother to have any tea when we got back!

The next day, January 4th, was Lindsey's birthday!  We had a lazy morning, Lindsey got quite a lot of phonecalls from all over the place from people wishing her a happy birthday!  Then we decided to go into Onehunga (pron. onny hung a).  Lindsey took us to an amazing second hand bookshop - one of those places where you could just spend hours poring over all the books, it was very quaint and quirky inside.  Then we went to a large shopping centre called Dressmart as Clive desperately wanted to more tee shirts.  He managed to find just what he was looking for eventually then we headed off home again to get changed into our gladrags as we had been invited to Mary's house for dinner to celebrate Lindsey's birthday.  We had a lovely evening with Mary and another couple of friends, Jenny and Dave.  Mary had cooked an amazing dinner of venison, pheasant and quail - delicious.  This was finished off with the most amazing cakes, one of which was a plumcake to die for!  Just as we had finished our meal I had noticed a loud chirping which seemed to be coming from the corner of the dining room! Dave looked behind him and found a young bird sitting on the lamp table.  I dashed off to grab my camera and when I got back Clive had picked up the little bird - we think it is a baby Bell Bird!

Possibly a baby Bell Bird, a native New Zealand bird with a wonderful song

He very carefully took it outside and placed it on a branch of the Jacaranda tree in Mary's front garden in the hope that its parents would find it.  A short time later when we were all going home it had disappeared off the branch so we do hope it found its family!

Well that's about it for now, we are just about to head off for a walk up into the hills near Clevedon, need to get my hiking boots on!  There will be another bulletin next week.

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