Rocks, Wrecks and Scarecrows

On
Sunday before last, after our big house clean the day before, the sun shone, and
we took the chance to explore the Ngaio Gorge which runs just below the house.
We walked down into it, and explored the path that runs alongside the stream.
On the way we saw and managed to photograph some of the bird life – a
kingfisher and a tui. Later we climbed out of the gorge and visited the Village
Cafe in Crofton Downs for drinks in the sunshine.

Events
on weekdays included a quiz night at the Ministry, when Ian persuaded his
colleagues to dress up smartly for the ‘team theme’ – just an excuse for him to
wear his DJ, and for them all to look very unKiwi. (The team came second.) On
November 5th we attended the big Wellington firework extravaganza
down on the waterfront, with aquatic displays and live bands as well as the
fireworks themselves, which were quite impressive. In many ways the show was similar
to the annual one in Slough, but enhanced by the fireworks being reflected in the
Bay.

Last
weekend we returned to the Wairarapa. We drove over the Rimutakas on Friday
night, and after exploring the shores of Lake Wairarapa and the coast, ended up
at the Lake Ferry Hotel. This is pretty isolated, on the coast at the end of a
road to nowhere, just past Paranoia. We were the only guests staying that
night, but we had a nice meal and a couple of drinks. The place is 50s decor
and has seen better days, but we had a pleasant time there. On Saturday morning
we walked down to the sea, and along a big sandbar which separates Lake Okone from
the sea. This was interesting, and we enjoyed views along the coast, the cliffs
and over the lake.

From
Lake Ferry we headed north to Gladstone, for the Scarecrow Festival at the
local school. In honour of this they decorate all the roads round about with a
wide variety of different scarecrows, and it was quite fun trying to spot as
many as possible. We visited the school fair and bought some stuff from the stalls,
before having lunch at the local inn. In the afternoon we drove round to
Stonehenge Aotearoa. This is a kind of replica/recreation/Southern Hemisphere
alternative of the original, in concrete, which is a mildly interesting
concept. Unfortunately the guy doing the tour was too fond of his own voice and
kept wittering on about astrology and all kinds of junk. We quit before the end
of the tour and went to do a walk round a nature reserve at Frensham, close to Carterton.
It’s called the ‘Forest and Bird’ Reserve, and deserves the title because of all
the varieties of trees and plants, and all the birds singing in the branches.

In
the evening we went to the wine and tapas bar in Carterton and were serenaded
by an old guy in torn jeans playing rock music on the guitar and singing. The
word ‘quirky’ comes to mind, as often here. That night we watched the New
Zealand election results on TV – the National (i.e. Tory) party won and ended 9
years of Labour government.

On
Sunday we drove eastwards towards the coast, the last 20 kilometres on a gravel
road which dropped steeply to the shoreline. We parked at the start of the
Honeycomb Rock Walkway, in the middle of an isolated sheep station. The path
was marked, but led us along crumbling cliff edges, through quaking bogs and
herds of cows. Eventually we abandoned the official walkway and followed the (private)
track along the coast. We reached Honeycomb Rock, which was most impressively
eroded into bizarre shapes and holes. Next to it was the wreck of a freighter,
and nearby was another weird rock formation where we had lunch. It was an
interesting and enjoyable walk, provided you didn’t try to follow the official
route. That was our final experience in the Wairarapa this trip – all we had to
do then was drive all the way back to Wellington.

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