Archive for March, 2009

Castlepoint and the Wild East Coast

weekend we made our last excursion to the Wairarapa, driving over the Rimutakas
in rather miserable conditions on Friday to stay overnight at Masterton. Saturday
morning dawned bright and clear, and we headed for Riversdale Beach on the east
coast. Only one or two winding roads lead to this region, and the few settlements
there are small and isolated. We went for a walk along the beach, having it pretty
much to ourselves. It got cloudier and a bit blowy, but it was good to stroll along
a remote beach and watch the waves crashing on the rocks offshore. A seal came ashore
while we were there, but then turned back once it got a good look at us.


found the village shop/cafe/everything and had cappuccinos and cakes there before
heading on to Castlepoint, further up the east coast (Typically, this involved driving
some miles inland and then taking another road to the coast – there are no direct
routes.) Castlepoint has some spectacular scenery, including a massive rock which
Captain Cook thought looked like a castle when he sailed past in 1770. There is
also a lighthouse and a reef over which the waves break alarmingly. We did a walk
along the hillside, past Castle Rock and down to Deliverance Cove, and then back
along the sand. By then the wind was blowing strongly, shoving us along and whipping
the loose sand along the beach. We climbed up to the lighthouse, but then it started
to rain, so we drove back to the campground where we had booked a motel room for
the night.


is one restaurant in Castlepoint, so we were spared agonies of choice. It is fairly
basic but pleasant enough, though in typical small-town NZ fashion it shut early
– we were the last customers at 8pm. In the morning the sun came out early on, so
we were able to get some more views of Castle Rock and the coast. Then it greyed
over and began to rain, so we headed back inland to Martinborough. We spent a bit
of time there, visiting half a dozen of the local wineries and buying a bottle or
two of their produce, before driving back over the Rimutakas. Just on the Wellington
side is the Kaitoke Gardens cafe, where we stopped for coffee. Sandie befriended
a cat there by the simple technique of feeding it bits of fruit muffin.


the variable weather, we enjoyed our visit to the Wairarapa east coast and have
managed to tick off another of the places we wanted to see.


Leave a comment

Walking the Abel Tasman Track

Thursday we went to a burlesque show put on in one of the clubs in Wellington,
at which one of Ian’s colleagues was performing as a pole dancer. This was
quite fun, though not terribly risqué, and was largely attended by friends and
family of the performers. It would be interesting to know how many UK civil servants
list pole dancing as one of their hobbies.


Friday we were off for another weekend adventure.  Since last April, when we walked a small
section, we’ve wanted to walk a substantial chunk of the Abel Tasman Track,
which runs along or near the coast of the South Island west of Nelson. This weekend
we put into action our planned two-day hike along the southern part of the
track. We flew into Nelson on Friday evening, picked up a hire car, and drove
to Motueka, the nearest town of any size close to the national park. We had a
meal there in a converted Methodist church call the Gothic restaurant, with
interesting decor inside and out. Later we strolled along the main street and
had some bubbly in a pub rejoicing in the name of ‘The Dodgy Ref’.


Saturday we got up fairly early and drove to Marahau, the little village which
is the entrance to the park, and boarded our ‘water taxi’. This involved
climbing on board while it was still on a trailer on dry land, and then being
driven down the beach into the water. The trip itself was rather rough and
jolting, as it was more of a speedboat than a taxi. We dropped off our case at
the ‘floating backpackers’ where we were to spend the night, and eventually
were deposited ourselves at Onetahuti Bay, ready for a two day walk back to
Marahau. We were lucky with the weather, which started cloudy on Saturday but
brightened up during the day and was really sunny in Sunday, though never
really hot.


started walking south, sharing the track with a few other walkers, but far
fewer than in Tongariro. A lot of them were heavily laden, carrying food and
bedding for several nights, as there is little in the way of accommodation
except for huts and campsites on the track. We also encountered flotillas of
kayakers on every beach, with their craft drawn up in serried ranks on the
sand, or else saw them bobbing about perilously out at sea. We walked steadily,
stopping at Bark Bay for lunch, and reaching Torrent Bay mid-afternoon.


there you can take two tracks: the longer high tide one or the low tide one
which crosses the estuary more directly. At first we though we’d play safe, but
then we saw other walkers on the sands and decided to try the shorter route.  This proved to be a mistake: we soon found we
were sloshing over mud flats and wading through streams. We had to take our
boots off and by the time we got to the other side our feet were disgusting. We
trekked on and reached Anchorage Bay, where the catamaran which was to be our
home for the night is moored. We jumped up and down on the beach and waved,
until eventually a dinghy came to pick us up.


boat had 22 people on it, with just two loos between us. The worst thing was
the dormitories, which were squeezed into the two hulls, and slept 7 people
each side. We had a double bed, but it was squashed up under the ceiling with
hardly room to turn over. Sandie (who is claustrophobic) turned pale when she saw
it. Our strategy was to stay up late, drinking copious quantities of wine and hoping
that we wouldn’t notice the surroundings when we finally went to bed.  We spent a pleasant evening chatting to other
folk on the boat, until the skipper came and told us to be quiet because we were
keeping others awake! After that we carried on watching the stars, and when we finally
turned in the plan had worked and we went straight to sleep. We didn’t need
much encouragement to get up in the morning, and after breakfast we were
deposited back on the beach while our case waited to be shipped back to


started with a bit of a detour to see Cleopatra’s Pool, which probably wouldn’t
have met that luxurious queen’s high standards, and then carried on walking
south. We stopped at Akersten Bay for lunch and a spot of sun bathing, though
the weather was not really hot despite being sunny. We visited a couple of
other beaches (Apple Tree Bay and Coquille Beach) on the way back to Marahau.
Once we reached the park entrance we collapsed in a cafe and indulged in a real
Kiwi muffin. We also visited a quirky local sculpture park before picking up
the case and the car and driving back to the airport for our flight back to
Wellington. We enjoyed the coastal path, despite a few downsides, for its great
coastal scenery and attractive beaches, although it probably doesn’t rate as highly
with us as the Tongariro Crossing.

Leave a comment

Cannons to left of them …

The principal event this weekend was a concert by the Wellington Philharmonic Orchestra at the Basin Reserve, the main cricket ground in the city. This happened on Saturday, from 5.00 till 7.30, and the ground was crowded with people sitting on the grass, many munching their way steadily through extensive picnics. Luckily the weather stayed good, and we sat in the sun and listened to a selection of film music, light classics and operatic arias. For the grand finale they performed the 1812 overture, accompanied by a brass band, carillon, and 18 guns going off. The noise was incredible, and the atmosphere was terrific (once we could see through it).


Saturday was a bit of a cultural day, since in the morning we visited the Te Papa museum to see an exhibition of Monet and the Impressionists. We also saw the Colossal Squid – the world’s biggest helping of calamari, dredged from the ocean’s depths and pickled in formalin – a bit less cultural. On Sunday went to the local festival in Newtown, one of the Wellington suburbs. Every suburb seems to have its summer festival, but this was more interesting than many because of the multi-ethnic multicultural nature of the area. The streets were crowded, with loads of stalls, performers, music and dancing. Because the sun was shining well, we decided to go on to a beach and ended up at Scorching Bay, on the Miramar Peninsula. This was quite pleasant, though it didn’t quite live up to its name.


Our chief concern recently has been trying to get our phone and internet connections fixed, as both packed up last week. This is just as hard in New Zealand as it would be in the UK, subject to the dubious mercies of BT.

Leave a comment

Theatrical, Sporting and Nuptial Events

very mixed bag of events this week, from open-air Shakespeare to underwater
Aristophanes, from Twenty20 cricket to Kiwi wedding ceremonials. To begin with,
on Tuesday 24th February we attended a production of Henry V at the
open-air theatre of Victoria University, just down the hill from our current
flat. This was the full 3-hour-plus version, but very well done in a modern
style by a mostly young cast. We were able to borrow cushions and blankets,
which was fortunate as the night got a bit chilly.


Friday, by contrast, we went after work to the Westpac Stadium (aka the Cake
Tin) to watch an international Twenty20 cricket match between India and New
Zealand. This was quite an exciting event, with the stadium almost filled by an
enthusiastic crowd and the results hanging on the last ball. New Zealand won –
just. In the interval there were dancing girls to entertain the crowd, some of
whom were dressed fairly outlandishly. A far cry from the Members’ enclosure at


Saturday it rained, and rained, and rained. This was a real shame as we were going
to a wedding at Otaki, north of Wellington. The bride was a friend Sandie had
made at NZCER, but unfortunately the plans had to be changed and the whole
event was held indoors. Apart from that, it was a great day and we enjoyed
being involved in a real Kiwi wedding. The ceremony itself was quite simple,
but included a sand sculpture ritual where different family members blended
coloured sand in a jar to form a unique pattern.


Monday we had another theatrical event, also open air but rather different.
This was a production of ‘The Frogs’ by Aristophanes, held underneath the
Wellington waterfront. We had to turn up at a nearby pub, Mac’s Brewery, for a
safety briefing before the performance, and then put on life jackets before
assembling for the performance. This started in the open air, and then we all
got into a line of paddle boats and were serenaded by singing frogs before
being led by Charon under the decking of the waterfront for the main
performance. The play itself has perhaps lost some of its comedy over the
years, but the atmosphere was amazing with the actors splashing in the water.
Eventually we emerged again into the light of day and scrambled out of our
paddle boats. Altogether it was a totally unique theatrical experience, unlike
anything we’ve seen before.

Leave a comment