Sunday, 24 November 2019

Kapiti Coast ride

On Wednesday last week (20 November), we went on a ride we have done many times before, but John took some interesting photos, so here we are with another blog. It promised to be a lovely warm day – or so the Met Office said – but it was still cool enough to need a jacket. This spring, Wellington has been several degrees cooler than elsewhere in NZ, making us feel hard done by …

We parked in Paekakariki, had coffee and a scone, and set off down the Parade, along the waterfront, to make our way to the entrance of Te Ara O Whareroa, through Queen Elizabeth II Park.

Along the Parade at Paekakariki (photo by John)

We were surprised at how very brown the waves were, as they were rolling onto the beach. On other days when we’ve been here, the sea has looked a pristine bluish green.

The waves were unusually brown (photo by John)

On Te Ara O Whareroa, I was delighted to see, and smell, the flowering lupins. At this stage of their flowering, they exude a gorgeous sweet fragrance that you get whiffs of when you ride past large patches of it.

The lupins were in full bloom … (photo by John)

… punctuated by the occasional drift of purple daisies (photo by John)

Over the past year, many areas have been cleared of blackberry and bracken, and have been planted with natives. It looks a bit barren for now, but I am sure it will look very different in a year or two.

Some areas were cleared of weeds, and planted with natives (photo by John)

Riding through the lupins – to the tune of “Tiptoe through the Tulips” … (photo by John)

We biked all the way to Pekapeka. Near Paraparaumu, we stopped to look at the activities of the “world's most famous” Moscow Circus. Four big poles, which were to support the big top, had been erected with the tent still lying on the ground.

The centre cone of the big top is being attached to the cables to raise it (photo by John)

The caravans of the circus people are lined up along the edge of the site (photo by John)

By the lagoon just before the Expressway turn-off to Waikanae, we came across this goose, on the edge of the path, doing a lot of head nodding – stretching and contracting his neck – at another goose hidden in the grass. He looked quite threatening when we biked past, hissing at us. On our way back, we found out why …
Goosey, goosey, gander … (photo by John)

We made our way to Pekapeka, where we had a very satisfying lunch at Harrison’s Garden Centre café – chocolate waffles with ice-cream for John, and sautéed mushrooms for me.

At the corner of Pekapeka Road, there is a cyclepath with a sign post pointing towards Otaki, and before our return trip, we thought we would see how far it would take us. We biked up about 100 metres, but then decided we should do that on another day, setting off from perhaps Waikanae or Paraparaumu, so as not to add too many more kilometres to today’s 52 km.

On our way back past the geese, we saw why the one we saw earlier was acting threateningly: he was there with his mate and a couple of downy goslings, which he was obviously wanting to protect. John took a series of photos of them, slowly moving a little closer each time, without panicking them.

The geese were still at the same spot as we saw them before … (photo by John)

… but now we saw something else – they were protective parents … (photo by John)

… of two fluffy goslings (photo by John)

When we got back to the circus, the big top was in the process of being raised. We stuck around to watch proceedings until the four corners of the tent were fully at the top. While the whole canvas was probably being hoisted by some motorised means under the tent, there were men stationed at intervals around the outside of the tent, hand-winching the guy ropes.

The big top is making its way up (photo by John)

Halfway there. Note the chap in the orange vest in the bottom left of the photo and two men in front of the tent, who are hand-winching some of the guy-ropes (photo by John)

All done! (photo by John)

An advertisement for the circus, on a truck at Raumati (photo by John)

Finally we rode back to Paekakariki. The wetlands along Te Ara O Whareroa seem to be changing in size and shape every time we go past. The hills are still wonderfully green and lush. Towards the end of summer, they will probably be all brown (hoping we will get a nice warm summer …).

Wetlands below Te Ara O Whareroa (photo by John)

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Alastair Smith

This afternoon I received the sad news that Alastair Smith, the leader of the Folding Goldies Group, and staunch Wellington cycling advocate, had passed away today, 20 November 2019.

I first “met” Alastair online, in August 2013 when I found a website called Great Harbour Way, on which he was one of the main contributors.  On this website he was advocating for a continuous cycleway to go all the way around Wellington Harbour, from Eastbourne, around the Miramar Peninsula and as far as Sinclair Head.

We had recently got our folding bikes, and started this blog, and I was trying to find more areas to cycle. I contacted him and sent him a link to my blog post about a recent ride along the Wellington Waterfront. He replied, saying he was interested in folding bikes too, and he sent me a link to his blog about a trip in Europe, during which he and his partner had used folding bikes, because they were easy to take on the train. 

We met Alastair in person during the Cyclovia in February 2014, where he was one of the organisers, and I recognised his folding bike. I introduced myself, and he actually remembered my name and my email. 

A few months later again, we met him and a cycling friend on the cycletrack along Cobham Drive, where we had a brief chat. This must have triggered something in his mind, for a week or so later, I got an email from him proposing a group called "The Folding Goldies”. The idea was that people who were in possession of both a Gold Card (entitling them to free public transport) and a folding bike, would be able to take the folded bikes on the train to a more distant destination than one would normally bike, and bike back to another station along the line.

The inaugural ride of the Folding Goldies took place on 18 July 2014, on a very cold and somewhat damp day. Five of us took the train to Upper Hutt and biked back to Lower Hutt. It was the start of nearly four years of mostly monthly Folding Goldies rides, organised by Alastair. We got to meet a good number of other folding bike owners, as well as some of Alastair’s longtime cycling buddies (who came along on regular bikes).

Alastair on that first Folding Goldies ride (photo by John)

Lunch at Janus Bakkerij at the end of our inaugural FG ride. (photo by John)
From left: Desiree, John Baldwin, Alastair, Russell Tregonning 

By May 2018, the group had grown to more than a dozen participants, when we took the train to Waikanae, and rode back to Paekakariki to catch the train back to Wellington.

Alastair on our last Folding Goldies ride – 10 May 2018

Sadly, that was our last Folding Goldies ride, because soon after that Alastair’s health started to deteriorate, and he was no longer able to take on the responsibility of organising further rides.

During the time we knew him, he was a real inspiration to us. He introduced us to not only many local rides, but also inspired us to travel around New Zealand and bike in many wonderful places.

Many thanks for the good times, Alastair. You will be missed by many.

Monday, 11 November 2019

A Wairarapa weekend

It’s been a busy year for me with lots of Scottish country dance activities, but not quite so many bike outings. We have been biking, but only short local rides – not worth blogging about. Also the weather has not been very conducive to getting out on the bikes.

But this week I got a nudge from a friend, who complained that she hadn’t had any interesting blog reading to go with her morning cup of coffee. So since we had an interesting couple of days in the Wairarapa last weekend, here we are with another blog!

The prime reason we went to the Wairarapa was that we wanted to attend a dance in Carterton, at which special Scottish musicians were going to be providing the music, on the Saturday night. Also happening in Carterton that weekend was the Wairarapa A&P Show,  and I love an A&P show. And we had never yet biked around Masterton, so we decided to stay overnight and bike on the Sunday.

We set off nice and early on Saturday 2 November, to get to the A&P show by 10 am. For readers outside of New Zealand – an A&P show is a region’s Agricultural and Pastoral (and nowadays Industrial as well) show, where the farming communities get to show off their skills in various fields, and related industries show their wares.

Right near the entrance to the large Clareville showgrounds were the miniature horses and their little carriages. Delightful, dapper little horses were being driven around the field and being judged on their driver’s skills, the appearance of horse and rig, speed, behaviour and the like. I watched as a carriage pulled up near their supporters, and used baby wipes to clean down the harness, reins and the horse’s shoulders, ears and face. It was obviously very important to look perfect!

Beautiful miniature horses and their drivers compete for skills and looks (photo by John)

Then it was off to see the dog trials. Farmers and their special sheep dogs compete to manoeuvre three often very willful and obstreperous sheep around a course involving gates, a bridge and finishing being herded into a pen – all within a timeframe of nine minutes. The teamwork between man and dog is wonderful, and watching the dog anticipating the sheep’s break-outs and the man’s commands is supreme entertainment.

There’s always one that tries to escape! (photo by John)

The next stop was the “Strong Man” and “Strong Woman” competition. They had to lift a big dumbbell-type object, into which extra weights could be threaded in the ends. They had to lift it up onto their shoulder using both hands – an enormous effort in itself – and then had to lift it above their head with one hand until the arm was at full stretch. Some had to have several goes at this last effort, not all of them successful. We watched some women lifting unimaginable weights, cheered on by their coach, co-competitors and supporters on the sidelines. Impressive!

Yesss! (photo by John)

Shearing is always a favourite with the crowd. There are two simultaneous competitions going on: one for the shearers, who have to shear five sheep in a minimum of time, ensuring they do a clean job, with no skin cuts, of course; the other is for the woolhandlers who take the fleece, fling it onto the sorting table, clear all the mucky bits off it, roll it up and place it in the right basket while racing against the clock. There is lots to look at and it's really exciting to watch.

The shearers and their time-keepers (photo by John)

Always a magical moment, when the fleece is thrown onto the sorting table (photo by John)

The woolhandlers remove the ‘daggy’ bits in record time

All that walking around and watching people work so hard makes one hungry, and it was a long time since breakfast, so we stopped for a French crêpe – with lemon curd for me, and sugar and cinnamon for John – yum!

The skill of the crêpe maker (photo by John)

With crêpes in hand we wandered around the agricultural machinery on display – huge tractors, even bigger tractors, farm-bikes, both adult-size and child-size (well explored by the kids!), electric farm-bikes and more.

One of the huge tractors

Other delights to be had were a children’s ‘train’ ride, show jumping competitions, ride-on lawnmower races (very noisy and smelly!), and livestock in pens – ponies, Clydesdales, Highland cattle, alpacas, coloured ewes with lambs, pigs with piglets, and fancy chooks.

Train ride (photo by John)

You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours … (photo by John)

Coloured sheep - mum and her offspring

This little girl won a ribbon for her handling and presentation skills in showing off her beautiful Highland calf (photo by John)

By 2 pm, we’d seen all we wanted to see, and we headed to Masterton for some lunch and a wander around the town centre. Eventually we made our way to the motel where all the other units were also occupied by Scottish country dancers, so we met up with lots of people we knew.

In the evening, we all headed off to the dance, which was being held in the Carterton Event Centre – a very nice venue. The dance had been dubbed “The Scarecrow Caper”, because another Wairarapa event that happens in early November is the Scarecrows’ Big Day Out in and around Gladstone, a short distance away from Carterton. 

In keeping with the theme, the stage had been decorated with small scarecrows, which had been named after dances.

Scottish duo Marian Anderson and Max Ketchin share the stage with a bunch of scarecrows (photo by John)

The venue had plenty of room for the 80 or 90 dancers (photo by John)

It was an excellent dancing night, with a great programme of dances and wonderful music. We got back to our motel tired but satisfied.

The next day, Sunday, we planned to bike around Henley Lake in Masterton in the morning, and in the afternoon, we thought we would ride the Woodside Trail in Greytown. We drove to Queen Elizabeth II Park, where we started our ride.

After having suffered the coldest and wettest October for several years in Wellington, this was the first time we were able to ride in short sleeves, and without jackets. It turned out very warm indeed.

We parked near Queen Elizabeth II Park to begin our ride (photo by John)

We had a vague idea of which direction Henley Lake was – through QEII Park and out – but were not sure how to get there. Anyway, we rode off into the park, past a children’s playground and a bowling club, and ended up riding on wide paths through a cemetery. We were obviously not going in the right direction, so we asked a gentleman walking his dog, and he told us to go across a large field to Colombo Street, and across the road and bridge to the Henley Lake track.

The track to Henley Lake (photo by John)

We arrived at Henley Lake just in time to see three dragon boats arriving to line up for the start of a race. What luck!

A dragon boat crew receive instructions to paddle backwards into place

Three crews line up for the start of the race

We watched the start of the race, then pedalled as fast as we could around the lake (which is not very big) to see them arriving at the end, then turning around to go back to the launching place.

We rode around the lake to the other end (photo by John)

At the launching place we found several crews awaiting their turn – all kitted out in team t-shirts and matching life jackets. There was also a coffee cart, so we got ourselves a coffee and stayed for a while to watch proceedings.

The bow of one of the dragon boats, adorned with the head of a dragon … (photo by John)

… and the rear, the tail of the dragon (photo by John)

Enjoying a cup of coffee in the sun (photo by John)

The next lot of competitors arrive back (photo by John)

Back on the bikes, leaving the excitement of the dragon boat racing behind us (photo by John)

A final look at Henley Lake (photo by John)

On our way back to the car, we found another track alongside the Waipoua River, and we ended up on Opaki Road, and back to the entrance to QE II Park, on Dixon Street. We had biked just 10 km.

The Waipoua River

By the time we got back to the car, it was very hot. Although we had originally thought we would do more biking on the Woodside Trail in Greytown, we decided that it was too hot for that. So we had lunch in Greytown and headed off home.

It had been a lovely weekend, with lots of variety. And it was so good to have fine and warm weather – but we're now back to the less than wonderful Wellington climate. While the rest of New Zealand had been basking in temperatures in the mid-to-high 20s during that weekend, Wellington had barely made it to 16 degrees!

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

World Bicycle Day − 3 June 2019

Yesterday, 3 June, was World Bicycle Day, so declared by the United Nations in April 2018. The resolution recognises "the uniqueness, longevity and versatility of the bicycle, which has been in use for two centuries, and that it is a simple, affordable, reliable, clean and environmentally fit sustainable means of transportation."

World Bicycle Day has not been widely publicised, but I found out about it on Facebook. I follow several bike-related FB pages, one of which is The NZ Cycle Trail, which listed this United Nations link.

Being Dutch (by origin, at least), I also look at two Dutch Facebook pages relating to cycling, and both mentioned World Bicycle Day today.

“Fietsen123” had a link to an amusing little video about the development of the bicycle. The commentary is in Dutch, but some of the images are interesting or amusing. There is a picture from an exhibition about cycling in a Rotterdam Museum, which shows an African version of the vélocipède, in which the chain consists of a rope with knots that engage with the chainwheel. Also interesting is the clip of the pre-war Netherlands Army bicycle battalion, complete with the band playing while cycling. The thousands of bicycles in towns caused parking problems, resulting in police removing offending bikes, which, if not claimed, ended up being crushed (ouch!), and eventually becoming an “art” exhibit in that Rotterdam Museum. Bikes have inspired artists, and many bicycle variations have been invented. Check out the water-bike with 15 peddallers, which made a “serious” attempt to cross the Channel from Holland to England!

The other Dutch Facebook page, “Nederland Fietsland” ("the Netherlands, Bike Country") had this timeline of the development of the bicycle since 1817. I was interested to see that the first folding bikes were developed in the 1890s for military use, and the e-bike dates back to 1992.

Nederland Fietsland, by the way,  is a great website about exploring the Netherlands by bike. The brilliant network of cycle paths and suggested cycle routes would make any cycle tourist drool. I would love to take John biking in the Netherlands, if only I could get him onto a plane!

Finally, I regularly look at the Cycle Wellington Facebook page. It is a source of interesting information on the bicycle front in Wellington, though I think it is too often a forum for people (mainly cycle commuters) grizzling about the status of Wellington cycle lanes/tracks and attitudes of motorists.

Personally, not being a commuter, I usually have no problem with the behaviour of motorists because we tend to avoid biking in places where the car is king. Having said that, we also do use our bikes to get around our own suburb – down to the supermarket or the local café – and we do have to be wary of cars trying to overtake where there isn’t enough room, especially when cars are parked on both sides of the road on streets that are too narrow for this.

The battle between motorists and cyclists rages on, as discussed in yesterday’s article in the Dominion Post, “Road rage and bikelash: the battle for our city streets”. Some of the comments make for interesting reading. It does seem like a battle − how much better would it be if everyone would try to see things from the other person's point of view and be a little less selfish.

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Clutha Gold Trail and other adventures – Part 4

Here is Part 4 of our recent trip to the South Island. This covers the last few days of the trip, travelling from Lawrence to Dunedin, Ashburton and home.

We were away for 13 days all up, so I have written up this story in four parts. Here are the links to Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

Friday 26 April – Lawrence to Dunedin

We had planned to stay in Dunedin for two nights so that we could do some biking around Dunedin. We like Dunedin, having walked around most of it twelve years ago, when we spent time there for John to get radiation treatment. We had arrived without a car as we were expecting to be there for only two weeks, but we ended up being there for seven. We got to know Dunedin quite well.

It’s only about an hour and a half to drive from Lawrence to Dunedin, and we were there by about 11 am, even taking the scenic coastal route. We couldn’t get into our accommodation until 2pm, so we stopped at The Customhouse, a very nice café/restaurant near the port, right next to where the Monarch ship is moored. We had coffee and scones, and looked out to the harbour. Very pleasant.

The Customhouse (photo by John)

We decided we would cycle the Port Chalmers side of the harbour. We knew there was a new cycle track along there but weren’t sure where it started. We were told it might be somewhere near the new stadium. So we found our way to a quiet street near the University. The University was on holiday also (like the schools) so it was easy to find a park.

A quiet street near the Stadium and University (photo by John)

We unloaded the bikes, and pedalled off towards the roundabout on the way to Port Chalmers. At first the cycle track seemed very good, nice and wide. After several crossings to get to the other side of the roundabout, we headed off towards Port Chalmers, but then the cycle track disappeared, there was just a narrow footpath, which we rode on, but didn’t like it much. Then at a gap in the shrubbery I noticed that the track we should have been on ran well below the road we were on, alongside the water’s edge. So we turned around, and eventually found the place where the track proper started.

The start of the Harbour Cycleway (photo by John)

The Harbour Cycleway had been opened almost exactly a year ago, and was wide and sealed, running between the water and a railway line, for some distance, then later on the other side of the railway tracks. There were parklike areas with gym-style fitness machines in several places. We went under a ramp of the Ravensburg Factory (fertiliser, we think) which had a long jetty into the harbour.

A strong easterly wind was blowing, and though the track went as far as St Leonards, the headwind was getting so fierce as we came around the point about a kilometre short of there, that we decided to turn around and go back. This was where you could see the end of the harbour, out to sea, hence the strong wind.

Back at the beginning of the Harbour Cycleway, we continued on another track towards the central city, through the University. We ended up riding up George Street and turning into Union Street, and back through the University grounds, back to the car. We did 14.5 km.

The motel I had booked was in Musselburgh, on the Otago Peninsula side of the harbour, as we thought we could ride the cycle track skirting that side. It was a bit of a disappointment all round, because the motel was a dump. They put us into a unit behind the office, in the shade, through a carport with a hazardous surface and filled with building materials! If I hadn’t already paid for two nights, we would have left the next day, as the weather turned to rain, and we weren’t able to bike anyway.

Access to our abysmal motel unit (photo by John)

Saturday 27 April – Dunedin

It was raining quite hard when we got up, so no biking today. Instead we went to the Otago Museum. An excellent place to spend a few hours.

The rain abated a bit in the afternoon, so instead of biking around the Otago Peninsula, we drove out to Taiaroa Head, where the Royal Albatross Centre is. It is a beautiful area, but it was a bit bleak on this rainy day.

On the way there, we noticed that the cycle track is intermittent, with some sections looking really good, others still being constructed (lots of roadworks) and some sections where there is no shoulder, let alone a cycle track. So it was perhaps just as well we didn’t try cycling there. Maybe in a year or two, when the track is completed.

The lighthouse at Taiaroa Head (photo by John)

Pilot’s Beach is home to some Little Blue Penguins (kororā), but we didn’t go down there (photo by John) 

Speaking of pilots (Pilot's Beach, above) − John’s grandfather was a pilot (the seafaring kind) at Taiaroa in the early 1900s. His mother recalls that when she was a child, the local school had to close, when the lighthouse keeper was transferred. He had eleven children and without them, the school was no longer viable …

Sunday 28 April – Dunedin to Ashburton

The only interesting thing that happened on our way from Dunedin to Ashburton, was our stop in Oamaru. Because it was Sunday, all the little shops in the historic precinct were open, and we explored the bookshops and other shops.

At one of the bookshops, Adventure Books, there was a large collection of books on Antarctica, which was of interest to John. He has been to “the ice” on four occasions, on scientific research programmes, and like many people who have been there, fell in love with the place. He has a reasonable collection of books about Antarctica and its early explorers. 

While we were there browsing, the owner of the shop came and introduced himself − Bill Nye − and asked if John was an “OAE”. A what? An “Old Antarctic Explorer”. We had quite a long conversation – American, he had been an engineer on the ANDRILL drilling  project (to do with geology). He asked John what his connection to Antarctica was, and  asked if he knew so and so, or such and such. John knew some of them. 

In the shop was a full-scale replica of the James Caird. The original James Caird was a 23-foot lifeboat in which explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton, his captain Frank Worsley of Akaroa, and four other men made a voyage of 800 nautical miles in tempestuous open seas to summon help for the rescue of 22 men left behind on Elephant Island off the coast of Antarctica after their ship was crushed by pack ice on the Endurance expedition. The replica was used in the filming of the TV movie “Shackleton’s Captain

A full-scale replica of the James Caird

John had picked out a book of beautiful photos by Elliott Porter. When we went to the counter to pay, Bill showed us his “book of explorers”, a visitors’ book, and insisted that John should sign, and say something about his project or favourite thing about Antarctica. [PS - when we got home, John found that he already had a copy of that book!]

After that visit, we drove through to Ashburton, where we arrived in the mid-afternoon. The plan had been to bike the Lake Hood Trail – 9 km each way, beside the Ashburton River to Lake Hood. However, it was pretty windy, and we were tired, so we didn’t bike in the end.

Monday 29 April – Going home

The trip home stands out for two reasons: visiting the Milltons of Waipapa in the Clarence Valley, and a dreadful ferry crossing.

From the Kaikoura Coast road, John wanted to have a “quick look” at the Clarence Valley, to see if we could find the people who owned the farm where, in the 1950s, his Uncle Charlie worked and had a pack-cow called Hesperus

Hesperus, the pack-cow (photo by Charlie Patterson)

There is quite a back-story to this. When John was a boy, his shy and solitary Uncle Charlie used to send photos of his life on the farm on the Clarence River, and of his holidays at the back of the farm taking his pack-cow, Hesperus. John and his sister had always been fascinated by this story.

When the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake struck, there was a news item about some cows that got marooned on an “island“ of grass that had slid down the hill, while all the rest of the paddock had disappeared from around them. 

Subsequently, Jane Millton, on whose farm this had happened, wrote a children’s story about this – “Moo and Moo and the Little Calf too”. John’s sister Diane (resident in Germany), who had been researching Uncle Charlie, suspected that this was the same area where Charlie had worked, and got in touch with Jane, who confirmed that this was indeed the same farm.

John was keen to meet these people. So we turned off SH1 just before the Clarence Bridge, and drove down the valley road. We met a man in a ute, whom John asked about where to find the Milltons. He told us to follow him, and then pointed out their homestead.

When we drove onto the property, Jane was picking up walnuts and Derrick was blowing autumn leaves in the courtyard. John introduced himself - “I’m John Patterson, the nephew of Charlie Patterson, who worked on this farm in the 50s”. Yes, they immediately knew what it was about, and even said that John looked like Charlie. John said he would like to show them some photos of Charlie. They invited us in, made tea/coffee, cheese toasties for lunch, and we were there for about two hours!

John showed them his website, which they were very interested in. Jane had known Charlie when she was a girl, and pointed to a corner of the house “we still call that Charlie’s room”. She showed us the letter she had received from Diane, and the photos she had sent – some of which John had never seen – and she had a photo of Charlie and her father. John took photos of the photos, and Jane gave us photo-copies of Diane’s letter and her German translation of “Moo, Moo and the little Calf too” – it’s a very nice translation, I think.

Jane Millton checks out John’s photos of Charlie and Hesperus (photo by John)

Derrick and Jane (photo by John)

While Jane was making copies of the letters, Derrick told us about the earthquake − how scary it had been, and the damage that had been done to the farm. He was actually in Blenheim when the quake struck, on a business trip, and when he heard that the epicentre of the quake was 41 km north of Kaikoura, he knew that was their place, so he returned in a hurry, over damaged roads, and had to walk the last few kilometres because of a slip on the way. He said that before the quake one could see the top of the roof of a building above the trees, but when he got back “there was something wrong, I could see the whole roof. The land had risen by 10 metres!”, and other bits had dropped. Some paddocks had been split apart, and plastic drainage pipes had been stretched to a very small diameter. Some of his neighbours whose land had risen said that it had felt like going up in a lift! The farm land sustained a lot of damage, which after months of work is now almost back to usable land.

The farm seen from the homestead, extends into these hills. The white hillsides are limestone (photo by John)

Jane and Derrick were absolutely lovely people, so welcoming, and so interested in Charlie. They showed us Charlie’s room ­– the outside is the same, the inside now different, of course – and around their garden, pointed out various features of the landscape, and the hills where Charlie had worked, and taken his “holidays” with Hesperus the pack-cow. Jane thought that he must have trained Hesperus from a calf, that had possibly been “mis-mothered”. She was a Hereford cow, and still had horns. Horns were later bred out of the Hereford breed.

After a good two hours, we had to leave as we had a ferry to catch. Jane gave me a large box full of walnuts to take away. It had been a lovely visit. Since we came home, John has updated the Hesperus story on his website

Back on the road, and we arrived in Picton with enough time to have a coffee and muffin at a café, before lining up for the Bluebridge.

I had figured that driving all day, we would be tired, and since it was an option on this particular ferry, I had booked a cabin for the trip, even though it was supposed to be only three and a half hours long. I thought it would be nice to have our own private space to be able to stretch out and perhaps sleep. At $40 for a two-berth cabin with ensuite, clean linen and towels, this was very good value.

And, boy, was I glad we had booked that. It turned out to be a very rough crossing.

As we pulled up to boarding queue, I looked for my sea-sick pills (I'm a very poor sailor), but couldn’t find them. It was a flat calm in Picton, and it had generally been a calm day, no wind, so I didn’t worry too much about not having them. BIG MISTAKE! Because we hadn’t seen or heard the weather forecast

We were among the early cars to board. Our little car was dwarfed by the huge double-decker trailer trucks full of cattle, in front and on either side of us. We immediately went to our cabin. It was lovely – small, but with two (low) bunks with crisp clean sheets and duvets, a small drop-down table between them, a window, and an ensuite with a toilet, basin and shower. White robes on a hook, and clean towels on the beds. Perfect.

Our cabin on the Bluebridge ferry (photo by John)

We didn’t wait for the ship to leave, but immediately lay down and I tried to sleep, but sleep didn’t come. I think we left later than scheduled. The journey started out quite nice and smooth – while we were in the Sounds – but as soon as we hit Cook Strait, it started to pitch and roll. I managed to stave off seasickness for perhaps an hour, but then it got so bad that I had to rush to the toilet to throw up. Yuck! Feeling terrible, I went back to lie down, but not for long … I was sick several times during the trip. Thank goodness I was able to be sick in the privacy of our own bathroom! It must have been mayhem up in the public areas ...

Even when we were in Wellington Harbour, it stayed rough. The trip took much longer than it should have. We were supposed to arrive in Wellington at 10:30, but it was after midnight before the ferry had docked. It seemed to take an inordinately long time to dock. We had been called to return cabin keys, but it was another hour before we could go down to the car to disembark.

When we were told we could go down to the cars, the announcer said “We hope that at least some of you have enjoyed your journey with us” … Yeah, right!

We finally got home at 1am. Aaah, my own bed – bliss! It had been a great holiday, but what a finale!