Welcome to tales of my stitching life, home, family and friends.

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Presidential Highway and Dunedin

We went out exploring one afternoon, driving an oval shaped route from Gore and back through the countryside, a road we hadn’t previously traveled on.  And goodness me, on reaching Clinton we discovered this sign, we had just driven along the Presidential Highway!

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This stretch of highway between Clinton and Gore acquired unexpected fame in the 1990s when Bill Clinton and Al Gore were respectively president and vice-president of the United States. When President Clinton visited New Zealand in 1999, a photograph of the road sign was presented to him by the United States ambassador, Josiah Beeman.

Clinton to Gore

Hello, Mr President

Tiny little Clinton has a sunflower oil business and we drove past many paddocks of happy yellow sunflowers, with their flowers growing brightly in the sun shine.

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Blooming sunflowers

Our stop for the next two nights was Dunedin.  The main reason for our visit to this very Scottish city, was to spend time with my old school friend Merilyn and her husband Colin.  Dunedin was founded in 1848 by the Lay Association of the Free Church of Scotland.   The city has a rich  Scottish connection. It’s name comes from the Gaelic word for Edinburgh, and Thomas Burns, nephew to famous Scots poet Robert Burns, was among the early settlers.

We spent an enjoyable afternoon/evening with Colin and Merilyn at their home the day we arrived, and the following day they came and collected us to go out for lunch.  But first, they took us for a look around the Otago Settlers Museum.  I’m sure I’ve mentioned that I have Scots blood in my veins, from my Scottish grandfather.

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Dunedin was founded by Scots emigrants

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Fire Brigade carriage and early tram

I always enjoy finding textiles in museums, and this was an apron made from sacking, with applique and embroidery on the hem.  Sadly it was displayed above head height so didn't photograph at all well, but I’m sure you will get the general idea.  This is an example of a housewife turning a mundane heavy duty sacking apron into an attractive item.

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Applique and embroidery on a sacking apron

There was also a display of early wedding gowns.  These two were worn by early settlers to the region, and would serve as “best dresses” later on, I’m sure. 

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Early wedding gowns worn by Dunedin settlers

A roast lunch was next, and Colin and Merlyn took us to a local pub – what a popular place,  but luckily we managed to find a spare table.  The roast of the day was pork, so that’s what we all ordered, and very tasty it was too.

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Me and Merilyn in the pub

Next we were taken for a drive up to the headland overlooking St Kilda Beach. We went and peered over the cliff edge at the pretty beach below.  But my goodness, it was blowing a gale, and we could hardly wait to get back inside the car.  That blew any cobwebs away!  Just as well that Robin took his cap off before he stepped outside, otherwise it could have been blown down to Antarctica!.

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St Kilda Beach

We enjoyed a final coffee  together at the local garden centre to finish off our day.   Merilyn and Colin had grand-dog sitting duties to do over the weekend and had to hurry back home.  It was so nice to have such a great catch up with them both, hear all their news, enjoy a lovely meal in their beautiful home, and lunch out the following day.  Old friends are great friends indeed, and Merilyn and I go back to primary schooldays.

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Colin and Robin


Sunday, February 5, 2023

Noah’s Ark Stitchery

Slowly but surely, my Noah’s  Ark stitcheries are coming along.  In between traveling and sightseeing I’ve enjoyed some stitching time outside in the warm weather.  Or I should say “hot”, as some of the afternoons have been very hot indeed.  Here is my latest little finish, two lions and two blue birds  waiting their turn to climb aboard the Ark.  I must say that they seem to be a pair of rather strange looking lions indeed.  But Noah chose them, so they must be OK.

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Stitching outside in the afternoon

The lion block is the fourth one I have done.  Together with kangaroos, rabbits and the dove.

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Noah’s Ark stitcheries so far

Our South Island holiday continues, and currently we are staying at Lake Manapouri which derives its name from a Maori word meaning “lake of the sorrowing heart,” with reference to a legend that its waters are the tears of dying sisters.  It is situated in the World Heritage Site Fiordland National Park, with fiords and lakes all carved out by ancient glaciers.

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Lake Manapouri

We can certainly remember the uproar and the nationwide protests in the 1970s when a plan was proposed to raise the level of Lake Manapouri by 12m to provide more water storage for the Lake Manapouri Power Station.  Eventfully the idea was scrapped, and meanwhile John Hanlon’s song “Damn the Dam” became the rallying call to stop this happening. 

"Damn the dam cried the fantail,
  As he flew into as he flew into the sky,
  To give power to the people
  All this beauty has to die”…

Down at the lakeside is a monument showing just how high the water would have been raised if the plan had gone ahead.  You can see the lake in the distance.

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Fellow campers had recommended The Church café/bistro in town, so we took ourselves there for Saturday lunch, and what a lovely place it was.   Originally Otautau St Andrews Anglican Church St Andrews, this lovely old building was re-sited at Manapouri and found a new purpose in life.  We were joined at our table by another caravanning couple, who, like us, didn't want to eat a meal perched up on bar stools.  At our age, a dining table and chairs suit us much better – oh dear, the joys of getting older.

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Saturday Lunch at The Church

Thursday, February 2, 2023

Cruising about

Something ticked off the Bucket List, and what an adventure we had.  We are currently in Te Anau (which means place of swirling waters) and recently enjoyed a Coach/Cruise/Underwater Observatory combo to Milford Sound and through the Homer Tunnel.  Our adventure started in Te Anau when we boarded the big red coach – with several photo stops along the way.  The scenery here is spectacular. The very pretty Mirror Lakes were just off the roadside, and it was a nice easy 5 minute  boardwalk there and back.  People everywhere, we certainly weren’t the only bus in the car park.

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Us and the big red coach, and the Mirror Lakes

I was looking forward to going through Homer Tunnel.  It is 1.2 km (0.75 miles) long, and was  opened in 1953.   William Homer and George Barber discovered the Homer Saddle in 1889, and Homer suggested that a tunnel through the saddle would provide access to the Milford area.  But work didn’t start till 1935  The tunnel and the associated Milford Road were built by relief workers during the Depression.  The men had to live in tents in a mountainous area where there might be no direct sunlight for half of the year.   Progress was slow, with difficult conditions, and work was also interrupted by World War II and a avalanche.  These problems delayed the tunnel's completion and it was finally opened in 1953.   So there we were, waiting at the red traffic  signal to start our trip through the single lane  tunnel.  And out the other side where we drove under an avalanche shelter, certainly a danger on parts of this road.

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Homer Tunnel

Here we went onboard The Lady Bowen  for the afternoon cruise.  Most people had rushed upstairs to sit on the outside deck, but we secured a table downstairs under cover.

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The Lady Bowen

First things first, we redeemed the ticket for our picnic lunch.  Wonder what was in them?  We were pleasantly surprised – sandwiches, two pieces of fruit, cheese and crackers, two Anzac biscuits, small bag of chippies and a chocolate bar.  There was plenty of help yourself tea and coffee available too.  We ate the sandwiches, cheese and crackers and a mandarin each, and took the rest back to the van for later.

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Our picnic lunch each

Nothing says Milford Sound more than the iconic 1683m high Mitre Peak, named by Captain John  Stokes of HMS Acheron in 1851, who found it’s shape reminiscent of the headwear worn by Christian bishops.  Our Captain pointed out places of interest and wildlife  as we cruised along, as we gazed at awe at the shear granite cliffs, then taking us right out to the entrance of Tasman Sea. 

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Views from the stern

There were several waterfalls tumbling down, and in the rains many more appear.  The Captain nosed into Stirling Falls, giving those on the bow quite a splashing.  Never mind, getting drenched is meant to make you look 10 years younger, we were told.

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Stirling Falls

On the way back we stopped at Underwater Observatory, one of the highlights of the trip.  The Underwater Observatory was built in 1995. The construction project involved building the viewing chamber in 3 sections in Invercargill and assembling them in Bluff. This unique floating underwater observatory is the only one of it’s kind in New Zealand.   After an interesting talk about the facility and wildlife we descended the spiral staircase to 10m beneath the water – 50 steps down.  There were lots of viewing windows, and we all moved around, checking out the marine life.  And to see the black coral, which is actually white.  The fish swimming nearby are not fed, they are just going about their business, and no doubt looking in the windows at all these strange creatures looking out.

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The Underwater Observatory

After climbing back up those 50 steps, it was time to climb aboard the boat, cruise back to the dock, where we all disembarked and made our way to the correct bus for the ride back to Te Anau.  Everyone was quiet, no doubt reflecting on our trip, and I’m sure several nodded off as we drove along.  And why not, it had certainly been a big day out, from 10.30am to 6.30pm with lots of lovely sights along the way.  It was a great trip indeed, we would certainly recommend it.

We booked another short cruise (two hour duration) a day or two later, to visit the Te Anau Glowworm Caves.  Way back in the mists of time (about 35 years ago) we did this same cruise after the completion of our four day Milford Track walk, we were much younger and fitter then, of course.

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All Aboard

The trip took us for a 30 minute cruise to the western shores of Lake Te Anau.  On arrival we walked up to the Visitor’s Centre. There was a full contingent of 72 people, and we were split into groups of 12, and away we went into the cave for a guided tour.  No photos are allowed in the caves, and when in the boat, we must be silent, we were told, otherwise the glowworms take fright and their lights go out!

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Photos from the brochure

Luckily there were handrails to help us walk through the cave, and in some parts we had to bend our head and shoulders to get under the low ceiling!  That was a bit tricky.  What I had forgotten was just how loud the rushing water was in the cave, it was so noisy the guide had to shout to get her messages across.  The rushing water exited the caves, and our boat ride thankfully took us across still waters deep inside the caves.  With just a torch to guide us as we clambered into the small boat and then we moved slowly along in silence and complete darkness.  And there they were, tiny dots of light on the roof of the cave, certainly a sight to behold.  The boats have no motors and our guide told us later that she moves the boat along, standing in the front and  pulling on a chain, all in complete darkness.   What a woman!

After our cave experience we walked back through the wet cave, drip, drip, drip, to return to the Visitors Centre where we helped ourselves to a hot cuppa and listened to a presentation on the life of a glowworm.

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Back on the boat for our return trip to Te Anau, and we decided to take ourselves out for diner after our wonderful trip.  The meals were huge, neither of us could finish them.

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Dinner for two, please

The weather here has been exceptionally hot, up to 30s some days.  Gemma found an ideal way to cool off.  After snoozing away  on the cool grass  under the caravan, safely on her lead, she came inside and we wondered where she was.  Believe it or not, she had curled up inside the hand basin in the bathroom, just her size and obviously nice and cool! 

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Gemma put herself in the hand basin

My knitting is coming along slowly, a few rows here and there as I feel like it.  There is no rush for this, and it is slowly growing.

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Saturday, January 28, 2023

Two Knitting Projects, plus Tripping Around

Why stick with one knitting project when you can have two going at the same time?  Actually, I’ve got a third, but I haven't started that one yet, can’t be too greedy, can I.  I've been knitting away on my second project from time to time for a change in pace.  This one is a little boy’s baby/toddler jumper, using up some spare wool I had at home.  Because it is small,  I’m knitting the back and front at the same time.  I’m almost at the front neck shaping so I’ll work on them separately from now on.  Robin did ask me why I was knitting these two colours together.  The answer, because I want to use up the odds and ends of my wool.

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Little boy’s jumper

We are still enjoying our South Island holiday, stopping here and there for a few nights, and having a good look around.  Moving on to Twizel, we stopped at another “photo stop” sign overlooking Lake Pukaki.  These stops showcase some amazing views, so much better to stop safely for photos in an off road area, rather than try to get a shot out of a moving vehicle.   This one had a huge car park, plenty of room for those towing caravans, and there were cars, campers and another caravan ahead of us.  Just look at that glorious view, with Mt Cook (Aorangi the cloud piercer) looking back at us across the lake.

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View across Lake Pukaki

In the afternoon we stopped at High Country Salmon café for a drink, what a busy place, heaving with visitors.  Many of them were purchasing fish food to feed the salmon in the pools, this was a real favourite with children.   After my coffee I helped out the local economy  and bought some salmon from the fish shop to take back to the caravan.  Have I mentioned just how much I love both fresh and smoked salmon?

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High Country Salmon

The next morning we packed a picnic lunch and set off to see the clay cliffs near Omarama,  up a long dusty drive on  an unsealed road to reach the car park.   The cliffs are on private land  protected under QE2 Covenant, and there is a charge of $5 per car to go in the honesty box as you proceed through the gate.  The information board explains that these eroded cliffs are formed by the active Osler fault line which continually exposes the clay and gravel cliffs.  Wind and rain has eroded into the canyon walls, producing gravel debris which has been washed out during flash floods.  The debris has accumulated in alluvial fans that slope down to the Ahuriri River.

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The clay cliffs of Omarama

It was a stinking hot day, and crowds of people were slapping on sunscreen, hats, and setting off up the track.  After a good look around, and taking some pictures, we returned to the car with the windows wound down, and ate our picnic lunch.  But not before we asked one of the friendly visitors to take our photo for us in front of the info board.  I’m sure I heard him mention “how cute” –  we are a bit old for cute, I would have thought!

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In front of the clay cliffs

We were reasonably close to the settlement of Omarama so decided to drive though and check it out.    This place seems to be thriving, the Wrinkly Rams café was full of customers, they offer a Merino sheep shearing show as well, and we noticed plenty of other cafes and pubs doing very well too.    No wonder the sign for Omarama features a Merino ram.  Merino wool is a bit pricy but wonderful to knit with, and is used in high end knitwear.

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Omarama town sign

The next day took us up and over the Lindis Pass which links the Mackenzie Basin with Central Otago, crossing  a saddle between the valleys of the Lindis and Ahuriri Rivers at an altitude of 971m.  Stopping at this sign at the top, we were now in Central Otago. 

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At the top of the pass

At Cromwell I just had to take a photo of the famous fruit sign, the huge  1.7 tonne apple, pear, nectarine and apricot landmark, designed by Otto Muller and completed in November 1989.    Cromwell  has a well-earned reputation as the fruit bowl of New Zealand. The ideal climate makes  Cromwell’s cherries, apricots, peaches, nectarines and plums  sought-after by high-end export markets, supermarkets, and visitors who call in to buy from the local growers. As we did, buying a box of delicious peaches, and a bag of new seasons apples, then queuing up with other eager customers to buy  a “real fruit” ice-cream.    Absolutely delicious – there is nothing better than an ice-cream on a hot sunny day!

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Giant fruit sculpture in Cromwell

We had a big bag of laundry to do too, so off we went to find the local laundromat.  Round and round and round it went, al last it was done.  Holiday or not, some chores still need attending to.

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Always plenty of this to do

Time to move on again the next morning, to head down to Lumsden, starting with a drive through the steep and  winding Kawerau Gorge.   There is a new bridge across the gorge now, built in 1963, but the old historic 1880 bridge has found a new life when   the bridge became the site of the world's first commercial bungy jump. A.J. Hackett set up operation on the bridge in 1988, with people testing their limits by leaping from the equivalent of a 10-storey building held safe by just a giant elastic band around their ankles. No, not us, we are not that crazy!

We drove alongside beautiful Lake Wakatipu for some time – the name means “place where the demon lies”.  According to Maori legend the curiously shaped lake was created when a giant demon captured the daughter of a Maori chief and took her to his home in the mountains.  After struggling against a strong north-easterly wind, the demon lay down with his head near Glenorchy, his knees at Queenstown, and his feet at Kingston.  The girl’s lover crept up to sleeping demon and set it on fire, and its body burnt deep into the earth.  All that remained was the beating heart within a gigantic trench which gradually filled with water to form an enormous lake in the shape of the demon.  We pulled off the road at a photo stop to capture some snaps of this beautiful lake.

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Lake Wakatipu

Lumsden, our stop for the night, used to be a major railway junction with lines departing to all four points of the compass. Sadly those  days are long gone now.  The  railway station is now preserved as a tourist information centre, and there are some heritage trains on display.  Lumsden welcomes freedom campers and the  railway station offers free parking for caravans and motor homes, sinks available for dish washing, toilets, fresh water and a dump station.

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Who doesn't love an old train

Set up in the former station waiting room was “Five Finger Crafts”, a cooperative craft shop stacked full of all sorts of interesting things. Yarn, knitted hats, scarves and socks,  crochet, baby dresses and bibs, woodwork and even painted stones!  I purchased some home made jam, and hand made chocolates.

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Craft shop at the station

Poor Gemma got into a bit of strife at the cap.  She was minding her own business, happily outside on her lead, underneath the caravan in thee shade, when I heard a lot of hissing and growling going on.  There are two cats running loose from the bus next door who obviously got close and upset her, so I gathered her up and took her inside our van.  According to the rules,cats as well as dogs must be on leads outside.  It took Gemma a while to settle down, and I was upset that she couldn't enjoy the sunshine in peace outdoors, because others don't abide by the rules.

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Robin comforting Gemma