The Great Compost Heap Inferno

On
Saturday we had a shock and a reminder of our ignorance of some basic
technology important to those living in New Zealand. We returned home in the
afternoon, and soon afterwards someone turned up at the front door, which is
pretty unusual in itself. It turned out to be one of our neighbours, called
Leon, to announce that at 11.30 he had returned home to find black smoke and
flames billowing up from behind our fence. He spent some time with a garden
hose over the fence quenching the inferno, which was in the plastic composter
in our garden. He told us with relish how lucky we were that he came home when
he did, or else our hedge might have caught fire as well, with a lot more
damage. We thanked him profusely, but said that the people from whom we’re
renting the house had told us to put dead ashes in the composter. The last fire
we had was on Wednesday, and the ashes went in on Friday, so we had assumed
they were thoroughly dead. It goes to show that our lack of knowledge of open
fire technology can be quite dangerous! The composter is a sorry sight, almost
completely melted.

The
weather last week in the whole of New Zealand has been pretty apocalyptic, with
a large storm moving from north to south. There have been floods, power cuts,
main roads closed by landslides, and houses sliding down hills. We got off lightly
in Wellington by comparison.  However, Thursday
and Friday were wet and windy, and more of the same was forecast for the weekend.
 So we were surprised on Saturday
morning, when we awoke to discover that the sun was shining and we had the
opportunity to do the Northern Walkway, a 10-mile route from Johnsonville to
the Botanic Gardens in Wellington. We took the little train from Wellington to
just short of Johnsonville and began walking in bright sun. We climbed steadily
up to the lookout point on the top of Mt Kaukau, from where we got great views
across Wellington and the bay. It was very windy up there, but the view was
well worth the climb.

From
there we descended to Khandallah and on to Ngaio, another suburb with a nice
cafe where we had lunch. The route took us on to Wadestown and then up Tinakori
Hill, on the north-western edge of the city. The weather had got cloudier by
then, but from the path you look down on to the centre of Wellington, including
Parliament and the Prime Minister’s house. By the time we finished the walk it
was raining again, but we were glad we’d taken the opportunity of a break in
the weather to set out in the morning – even though when we got home we were
greeted by news of the great compost heap inferno.

Saturday
night and Sunday morning went back to storm conditions, but it suddenly cleared
up at lunchtime on Sunday. We took the chance to go for another walk, up to the
top of Mt Victoria with more fine views over Wellington and the Bay, and then downhill
(by circuitous routes) to reach the coast at Evans Bay, and then back via Newtown.
The weather here is amazing – one minute storm and wind, the next calm and sunny.
We’re hoping this week will bring more of the latter and less of the former.

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