Sinclair Head seals

Sunday seemed like a good day to go for a hike. We’ve got a holiday coming up soon with lots of walking planned so we’ve been wanting to get out a bit more and have Alayna get used to longer treks. With a decent looking weather forecast we set our sights on the New Zealand fur seal haul-out at Sinclair Head past Red Rocks on the Wellington south coast. We also invited some friends and family to share the adventure and we all met up at the Te Kopahou Visitor Centre carpark ready to go.

Out for a walk

Out for a walk

Climbing rocks

Climbing rocks with Arlo

Walking with Aunty Patty

Walking with Aunty Patty

It’s around 8km return and with a few young children it was never going to be a quick journey but even with stops for rock climbing it still only took just over an hour and a half to reach the rock feature called Devil’s Gate and the seals. Curiously there were also a lot of bumblebees around as well, often landing on clothing or in Keryn’s case on her hand and using their antennae to push around looking for what we think was either water or salt, no stings at least. There were dozens if not hundreds of lazy male fur seals relaxing in the sun at the haul-out, obviously enjoying the good weather. For the most part they ignored the watching people, only moving occasionally to get more comfortable or to cough. There was one fur seal that went for a swim and then got growled at when it came back on shore to find a siesta spot.

We found the fur seals!

We found the fur seals!

Arguing over resting spots

Arguing over resting spots

On the lookout

Alayna and Clara on the lookout

All up we had a good time. Perhaps my shoulders were a bit sore from carrying Alayna a lot of the way back but she did well for the most part. Lunch afterwards at the Blue bell cafe in Island Bay was certainly well deserved :).

LUX 2018

The LUX festival is back for another year so we took the opportunity of a dry Friday evening to attend the opening night. The festival covers a smaller footprint this year with no extension into the city laneways. I think this is a pity as there are a few sculptures on display that would look better suspended in the narrow spaces rather than being held up by scaffolding along the waterfront.

Anyway, we spent an hour or so checking out all the sculptures. Alayna is currently wheelchair-bound because of a broken leg sustained while trampolining and this limited her ability to interact with some of the sculptures. Thankfully she was very happy to receive candy floss on a glowing stick and play with that as we pushed her around. It was worth a look but we’ve enjoyed previous years more.

Cube

Looking up at Cube

Glow

Where has the candy floss gone?

Bloom

In amongst Pau Rama

Watching Pom and Pom dancing around

The playground lit up for Capital-E Colourplay

Playing with a marble maze, part of Capital-E Colourplay

Testing the Newton’s Cradle that is called Cradle2Cradle

Just So Festival

A festival aimed at families where we get to camp in the beautiful Kaitoke Regional park and take part in all sorts of events including a madcap tribal tournament? Sounds great! The inaugural New Zealand edition of the Just So Festival took place over the last weekend of February and we had a blast :)

We had left work early so we would have time to put up our tent and get settled before the festivities started at 5pm on the friday night. There were no queues and plenty of parking and from the car it was a short walk over to find our friends and pitch our tent. Once we had somewhere to sleep and everyone was ready it was time to head over to the festival site.

That evening and over the next couple of days we danced, crafted, paraded, rested, ate, marvelled, collected golden stones, played, talked, sang, dressed up, roasted marshmallows, chased bubbles, went inside bubbles, pillow fought and smiled. Hopefully you’ll see below some of the enjoyment and wonder that we experienced. We can’t wait for the next one!

Puppet dinosaur feeding

Puppet dinosaur feeding with String Bean Puppets

Learning some circus skills

Learning some circus skills

Campfire tales

Campfire tales

Kakapo shenanigans

Kakapo shenanigans

Misty morning camping

Misty morning camping

Conga line!

Conga line!

Dress up fun

Dress up fun

Festival buddies

Festival buddies

The lantern parade

The lantern parade

Campfire marshmallows

Campfire marshmallows

Fire dancing

Fire dancing

Inside camp curious

Inside Camp Curious

Inside a bubble

Inside a bubble

Checking out the aliens

Checking out the aliens

Knocked over by Fraser Hooper

Knocked over by Fraser Hooper

The penguin tribe leader

The penguin tribe leader

Pillow fight time!

Pillow fight time!

Let the feathers fly

Let the feathers fly

Tribal tournament

Tribal tournament

Summer days part 2: The Putangirua Pinnacles

Saturday saw us traversing the Rimutaka Hill Road with a destination of the Putangirua Pinnacles on the Wairarapa south coast. We were not alone in our choice and as we sat at a picnic table for an early lunch there was a constant stream of vehicles arriving and departing the pinnacles campsite and carpark.

It was a hot day with little wind and it was refreshing to enter the forest as we took the track up towards the pinnacles lookout. Again we had Alayna counting steps and also introduced a game of hide a seek with various family members dispatched ahead to hide. Alayna enjoyed pretending not to notice people ineffectively hiding behind narrow trees and would be smiling when we walked past her hiding similarly.

Grandad "hides"

Grandad hides

Waiting to be found

Waiting to be found

Who is behind that tree?

Who is behind that tree?

You can't see me!

You can’t see me!

We reached a ridgeline and spent some time walking up, down and around the ridge mostly in the sun and it was a relief to finally reach the pinnacles lookout. We had a good sit down, rest and snack after taking in the view and after a brief discussion headed down the steeper track to the valley floor. It was a direct track and I’m glad we hadn’t walked up it (30 minutes up, 15 minutes down).

Looking out to sea

Looking out to sea

At the pinnacles lookout

At the pinnacles lookout

When we got to the rocky streambed that formed the valley floor I decided to head up to the base of the pinnacles while everyone else started back to the car. We’d been seeing (and passed by) lots of families and groups of tourists and the again there were lots of people around as I trudged upward. At the head of the valley there were two different groups playing around with their drones, filling the valley with a buzz like giant bees. I took a few photos and then took off to try and catch the rest of the family.

Heading down-valley

Heading down-valley

In amongst the pinnacles

In amongst the pinnacles

Up a narrow valley

Up a narrow valley

I caught up with everyone eventually and found Alayna happily throwing rocks into the stream bed. Picking our path alongside the stream we were not long to be back at the fork where we had headed up to the lookout and from there is was only 15 minutes back to the (stinking hot) cars. The road was quieter as we drove to Martinborough, perhaps most of the visitors already heading home.

Playing with rocks

Playing with rocks

The south coast road

The south coast road

Summer at the beach

Summer at the beach

Ice cream time

Ice cream time

The Wairarapa visit was completed with ice cream at the square and we sat on a picnic blanket in the shade feeling content. The ice cream was wonderful and made for a lovely footnote to our day.

Summer days part 1: Otari-Wilton and Titahi bay

The last few days have blessed us with lovely weather so we’ve been out and about. On friday afternoon we took a walk at Otari-Wilton Bush. There was abundant birdlife with dozens of tuis and kakariki flying overhead, plenty of kereru around and also a pair of k?rearea circling around a tree on the other side of a valley. We encouraged Alayna to walk as much as possible partially by having her count the steps we ascended, she did really well and also enjoyed crossing bridges, throwing leaves into streams for races and walking over rocks whenever possible. We ended up at the flax clearing which would have been better described as the daisy clearing for our visit, a carpet of flowers punctuating the dry grass.

Crossing the stream

Crossing the stream

Family in the daisies

Family in the daisies

Daisy Alayna

Daisy Alayna

Keryn made Alayna a daisy head dress and Alayna chased me around the clearing while I snapped away. We took a few family photos after clearing some (but not enough apparently) of the more intrusive grass stalks. We had some of the gingerbread that was left over from Christmas and watched a procession of birds fly overhead. There was a large pohutukawa covered in fading but still resplendent red blooms and the tree positively humbed with its audience of bees. There was time for some silliness and then we were off back towards the parked car.

Fading summer red

Fading summer red

The happy frog

The happy frog

It being such a nice evening we took the opportunity to purchase fish and chips in Porirua and then head over to Titahi Bay beach for a picnic dinner. We sat on some steps near the middle of the beach and watched the people wandering along the beach, the paddleboarders crossing the bay and the brave few playing in the water while the southerly breeze keep the temperature a little cool. We attracted a growing flock of seagulls and Alayna took great delight in chasing them away, at least until the numbers got so great that they just circled around behind her. It was a very pleasant evening.

Titahi Bay

Titahi Bay

The seagulls were persistent

The seagulls were persistent

Alayna chasing seagulls

Alayna chasing seagulls

The North Pole Express

What better time to break the blog hiatus than the lead-up to Christmas? Last weekend we traveled on the North Pole Express, a steam train ride from Paraparaumu to the North Pole (Otaki standing in) and back. We were joined by Kelly, Drew and Clara and all met up at the Paraparaumu train station. We had been advised to arrive 30 minutes before departure time of 7pm and got to out muster point for the Elf carriage at about 6:35pm to find we were the last people to turn up, obviously we weren’t as organised as everyone else. Still, we were early enough.

As indicated by the carriage name we stood with an Elf holding a big green flag and we got our tickets from a cheerful Christmas chef. Our Elf was constantly moving and we were soon on the move to the station platform to await the arrive of the titular Polar Express. Soon enough we could see a puff of smoke in the distance and then the train was pulling in to the platform, a wonderfully restored steam engine pulling equally grand restored carriages and all decorated for the Christmas theme.

Here comes the Polar Express

Here comes the Polar Express

Our carriage chef

Our carriage chef

Decorations

Decorations

Off we go

Off we go

We found our allocated seats and settled in for the journey. There was appropriately themed music for the whole trip and our Elf, Chef and a cast of other characters kept us entertained as we steamed north. There were people watching from their houses or pulled over beside the road to watch the train go past, obviously we were quite the sight! As we got closer to the North Pole our Elf was getting very excited and as we pulled into the station we saw Santa and his assistants waiting on the platform and welcoming us with a wave (Santa) and acrobatics (the assistants).

The conductor pays a visit

The conductor pays a visit

Our elf gets excited

Our elf gets excited

Disembarking we arrived into a winter wonderland with stalls dispensing iced chocolate (it’s been a warm summer so far) and cookies and there was a foam machine pumping out a fare substitute for real snow. Alayna was certainly impressed and this is was the closest she’s ever been to real snow.

Alayna in the snow

Alayna in the snow

The snowing platform

The snowing platform

We had plenty of time to wander about, watch people getting photos with Santa and the other dressed up characters from the other carriages, and then see the steam engine move to the other end for the return journey (returning backwards as there was apparently no turntable available). Then we were called back to our seats and headed back to Paraparaumu. During the return Santa visited everyone at their seats and gifted bells to all. There was more singing, more dancing and general good cheer and even a nice sunset to watch.

Receiving a bell from Santa

Receiving a bell from Santa

Peek-a-boo

Peek-a-boo

Singing and dancing

Singing and dancing

We disembarked, had a chance for one final chat with Santa and then were walking back to the cars. It had been a fun trip and was now quite late which meant Alayna fell asleep on the way home, all excited out.

The train empties at dusk

The train empties at dusk

Merry Christmas everyone and a Happy New Year!

LUX Light Festival 2017

After a hiatus in 2016 the LUX festival was reconfigured and back lighting up the Wellington night for 2017. Starting earlier in the year meant that the installations were powered up earlier in the evening which allowed us to attend with Alayna at a reasonable hour which was a bonus. The works were divided into precincts which was a logical progression and overall the organisation seemed improved on previous years, for instance having two areas set up with food trucks reduced the queues and the crowds.

We attended as a family twice and invited along some of Alayna’s friends and their families and this helped give the visits some variety. Both times we started with some food and then facepainting before setting out to explore the installations beginning with the Playground precinct.

Control No Control by Studio Iregular was a firm favourite and probably my pick for best installation. A large cube with a changing roster of lighting effects linked interactions. Touching the walls caused the effects to change and with plenty of space a large number of people could interact at the same time. Fun to play with and fun to watch it set a very high bar.

CONTROL NO CONTROL - STUDIO IREGULAR https://www.lux.org.nz/control-no-control

CONTROL NO CONTROL – STUDIO IREGULAR

CONTROL NO CONTROL - STUDIO IREGULAR https://www.lux.org.nz/control-no-control

CONTROL NO CONTROL – STUDIO IREGULAR

The little lion

Our little lion enjoying herself with Control No Control

The nearby Social Sparkles by Studio Toer was also interesting with suspended lights like hyperactive little fireflies following people as they moved below. Alayna for some reason wasn’t interested at all in this installation, perhaps the nearby sights and sounds of Control No Control were simply more engaging for a 3 (nearly 4) year old.

SOCIAL SPARKLES - STUDIO TOER https://www.lux.org.nz/socialsparkles

SOCIAL SPARKLES – STUDIO TOER

Capital-E had a couple of shipping containers set up with things to do. One had a sort of VR action game where hand movements influenced (rather than controlled) geometric shapes in front of a large face displayed on large screens. Of more interest to Alayna and her friends was the Electro Jungle where a black light lit container contained fantastical beasts and a forest which could be drawn on using glowing chalk. As with the last LUX there was also an area on the waterside path set aside for glow-in-the-dark chalk activities but it was much warmer (if cramped) in the container.

Alayna enjoying drawing on the walls of the electro Jungle with her friend.

Alayna enjoying drawing on the walls of the Electro Jungle with her friend.

Black light friends

Black light friends

Nearby was a totem-like installation named St Elmo’s Fire Tree created by Nelson local Anthony Genet. Four chaotic balls of fluorescent tubes sparked to life in glowing red. When the wind was blowing strong the straps helping to keep the piece in place would thrum adding to the almost ritual feeling of the piece.

ST ELMO'S FIRE TREE - ANTHONY GENET https://www.lux.org.nz/st-elmos

ST ELMO’S FIRE TREE – ANTHONY GENET

Walking on to the Te Ao Mārama Precinct there were a couple of highlights. Tane Te Wānanga by Hemi MacGregor & Mara TK was a giant waterscreen in the middle of the lagoon which was captivating to watch and the amphitheatre seating at the edge of the lagoon made this a perfect spot to sit and take in the projections. Geometric shapes and dancers appeared and moved set to music and sounds while the wind through the water screen changed the size and intensity of the projection.

TANE TE W?NANGA - HEMI MACGREGOR & MARA TK https://www.lux.org.nz/tanetewananga

TANE TE WĀNANGA – HEMI MACGREGOR & MARA TK

Neaby was another intriguing installation. Kaokao by Bob Jahnke. Two large Xs side to side and with red neon tubes enclosed in glass were striking from a distance and then close up the internal reflections made the neon appear to duplicate to infinity. It gave the piece a hidden depth and led to many people wandering around trying to figure out the optical illusion. I played around with shutter speeds and manual zooming to give an added effect to some of my photos.

KAOKAO - BOB JAHNKE https://www.lux.org.nz/kaokao

KAOKAO – BOB JAHNKE

KAOKAO - BOB JAHNKE https://www.lux.org.nz/kaokao

KAOKAO – BOB JAHNKE (with added zoom)

We also happened to see the returning Lux Cats near Kaokao. First featured in 2015 these cats wandered around the Lux precincts in mysterious fashion. They happened to stop nearby and just stood there, occasionally turning there heads and appearing to stare at people. After a period of time and with no warning they started walking again, very enigmatic.

Light cats

Light cats

The Circus Precinct took in Civic Square and the City to Sea bridge and was our next destination. To one side of the bridge in the grass space fronting the Michael Fowler Centre there was an installation called Passing Me By created by Christopher Welch & Makers Fabrication. For a static piece this one was quite playful. If you stood in one place it was simply a wall with different colours glowing under the black lights. If you walked in parallel to the work the colours changed with the change in perspective. Many people were just standing and staring without realising how fun it was to view while moving and try to figure out what was going on.

PASSING ME BY - CHRISTOPHER WELCH & MAKERS FABRICATION https://www.lux.org.nz/passingmeby

PASSING ME BY – CHRISTOPHER WELCH & MAKERS FABRICATION

Then on to the big display projected onto the council building. Circus of Light by Ocubo was a circus illustrated in an animated cutout style and involved a variety of animals performing (generally lame) tricks and most often failing in an unamusing fashion. Alayna summed it up for me when she asked after a few minutes “when does the real show start?”. It was pretty but overall for me and Alayna just boring. Plenty of other people seemed to find it enjoyable. The artists and acrobats entertaining between screenings were much more fun to watch.

CIRCUS OF LIGHT - OCUBO https://www.lux.org.nz/circus-of-light

CIRCUS OF LIGHT – OCUBO

Civic Square hula hoop

Civic Square hula hoop

Also found in Civic Square and then wandering around the festival were a pair of woman wearing Little Sun solar light dresses promoting the Little Sun project. Again this was a return from 2015 where there was a static installation of Little Suns displayed on a grid and it was good to see them back in a different form.

Little Sun solar light dresses

Little Sun solar light dresses

I was hoping for a night of rain during the festival but this didn’t happen during any of my visits. I like to photograph the reflections and reflected glow of the installations and I think the work Drawn by Lisa Munnelly & Angus Donaldson would have become even more interesting in those circumstances. Pretty much just some net curtains drapped over a large lightbox Drawn was interesting to watch when there was a wind blowing, the interferance patterns created by the fabric covered light were mesmerising at times.

DRAWN - LISA MUNNELLY AND ANGUS DONALDSON https://www.lux.org.nz/drawn

DRAWN – LISA MUNNELLY AND ANGUS DONALDSON

Near Drawn was Augmented Geometries by Erica Sklenars, another projection mapping work. I liked the contrast with the grafetti covered wall below and the sequence was a lot more interesting (albeit on a smaller scale) that something like the Circus of Light.

AUGMENTED GEOMETRIES - ERICA SKLENARS https://www.lux.org.nz/copy-of-imperial-ghosts

AUGMENTED GEOMETRIES – ERICA SKLENARS

My other favourite installation was Into the Underscore by Anita Dykes. A series of light emiting hoops suspended between buildings off Opera House Lane the colours and sequenced noises created an interesting if slightly disquietning show. Many people would approach and stand underneath mesmerised and looking like they would be transported up and away to some alien spaceship. This would have been another piece that would have looked great in the rain with reflections but the most I got was a section of hoops reflected in a tiny puddle.

INTO THE UNDERSCORE - ANITA DYKES https://www.lux.org.nz/into-the-underscore

INTO THE UNDERSCORE – ANITA DYKES

INTO THE UNDERSCORE - ANITA DYKES https://www.lux.org.nz/into-the-underscore

INTO THE UNDERSCORE – ANITA DYKES

INTO THE UNDERSCORE - ANITA DYKES https://www.lux.org.nz/into-the-underscore

INTO THE UNDERSCORE – ANITA DYKES, using the zoom technique again

Stretching Light by Joshua & Sam Lewis was a suspended lightwork above Opera House Lane. A number of neon strings navigating through a series of geometric frames it was diverting and an interesting addition to the laneway.

STRETCHING LIGHT - JOSHUA LEWIS & SAM LEWIS https://www.lux.org.nz/stretching-light

STRETCHING LIGHT – JOSHUA LEWIS & SAM LEWIS

Over the road above just past the entrance to Eva Street was The Light Launder by Rayzordoll. A larger than life washing line with suspended linen was used as a medium to project slides of family memories. Eva Street is now home to a number of light installations that had their beginnings in past Lux festivals so it’s always interesting to have a look around.

THE LIGHT LAUNDER - RAYZORDOLL https://www.lux.org.nz/thelightlaunder

THE LIGHT LAUNDER – RAYZORDOLL

So that’s a selection from this years LUX festival. I’m looking forward to the next one already and in the meantime there is a new light event planned for the Hutt Valley taking place later this year. The more the merrier I say :)

An autumn escape – Arrowtown to the Catlins

Last year I won a camper van trip in a photo competition organised by Bluebridge. We planned an Autumn escape down south and seeing as we were given a 6 berth campervan we invited Keryn’s parents along as well. We flew to Queenstown and picked up our vehicle then headed to a supermarket to get supplies. Finally we drove to Arrowtown to spend the night at the Arrowtown Holiday Park.

Our first evening and night was all about getting to know our new mobile accommodation and figuring out thing like who would sleep where and where to put all our stuff. One thing decided fairly early was that we wouldn’t be moving Alayna’s car seat from where we had installed it and it was a right pain to get in securely. The car seat was fitted to a seat that was in an area that converted to a bed. Thankfully Alayna still fitted in the bed with the seat in place. The beds were not the most comfortable given the mattresses were mostly seat cushions but it was good enough. We also discovered that we wouldn’t be easily getting Alayna asleep during the day (she normally has a midday siesta) and that meant she slept longer at night. The knock-on effect was we all ended up sleeping in each day, not the worst thing to happen on holiday.

The morning was largely overcast and the visible hillsides were to the east so there was no chance of a dazzling sunrise and then sunlight lighting up the autumnal colours of the trees. Still, the foliage and hills were still worth a photo or two.

Morning light on the hills

Morning light on the hills

Colour in shadow

Colour in shadow

Leaving the camp site we found a place to park nearer the town centre and went for a walk in the Arrowtown Recreational Reserve alongside the Arrow River. There were plenty of trees showing nice colours and the walk was very pleasant but Alayna wasn’t overly pleased to be walking and probably hadn’t had the best nights sleep either (everything being new and different). We didn’t get very far before the weather started turning and we walked back in a light rain. I ended up walking Alayna around town in her pram to give her some quiet time and we had some fun wandering through a few shops while dodging heavier bouts of rain.

Crossing the bridge

Crossing the bridge

Remains of a tree hut

Remains of a tree hut seen on the walk

Eventually it was back to the campervan and we left Arrowtown and started our journey south to the Catlins. Unfortunately we had a little mix-up with some over-reliance on the satnav that came as part of our hire package and we took a rather roundabout and longer than necessary route to our next destination. We had dinner in Gore and drove though the wet night to get to the Catlins Kiwi Holiday Park.

Part of the prize had been vouchers for Kiwi Holiday Parks but I’d accidentally left them at home. A quick conversation with my sister Catherine had the vouchers picked up and sent by courier down to the Catlins but they were going to take a few days to arrive. The staff at the Catlins Kiwi Holiday Park were very understanding and trusting in allowing us to sort out the costs of the stay once the vouchers arrived.

Our home for the next week

Our home for the next week

Te Araroa: Pukerua Bay to Paekakariki

The new Paekakariki Escarpment track, a recent addition to the Te Araroa NZ trail, has been open for a few weeks now and we’d been thinking about giving it a go. The fabulous weather continues and we decided that Saturday morning would be our time. The only concern was my football in the afternoon so we had to leave early, as it turned out earlier than we normally leave for work. We decided to walk north and this found us driving and parking up at Paekakariki Station to then catch a train back to Pukerua Bay to start walking. It also helped get Alayna excited, she likes public transport a lot.

Travel by train

Travel by train

Train station playing

Train station playing

Here is my ticket

Here is my ticket

Everything went to plan and we started our trek at the right time of 8:30am. The walk is meant to take 3-4 hours and we thought we’d probably be a little slow but would get back to Paekakariki around lunchtime. From Pukerua Station the path took us through some streets and then a small park before joining the new trail at the now closed Muri station. We had a couple of trains pass by as we walked along beside the train tracks and Alayna got a few waves and a small toot from train drivers, they must be a friendly bunch.

Escarpment Track

Escarpment Track

Lets begin

Lets begin

We were soon rising up the hillside and getting grand views both of the Tasman Sea to the west and the farmland and coastal scrub to the east. The stands of trees all bore evidence of the often harsh climate with windblown branches leaning away. It was a calm day with only a slight southerly and out to sea there were a number of kayakers out fishing. The South Island was hidden behind a bank of cloud but Kapiti Island was a strong, familiar presence. Every kilometre of the track was marked with an iron signpost, we seemingly quickly covered the first 2 kilometres but then the steps started.

Landscape

Landscape

2 kms done

2kms done

Looking down to the shore

Looking down to the shore

Views north

Views north

When we didn’t have steep stairs to walk up the trail was often quite narrow, winding around the hillside. I’m normally not too bad on this kind of track but with Alayna in the backpack on my back I was very concious of the drop to our left and I concentrated on just one foot in front of the other at times rather than looking out at the view. It was also good that we didn’t meet many other people for most of the first half as the steps and track didn’t have a lot of rooms for passing. There were a few small bridges but the highlights were two swing bridges that spanned valleys that rose steeply above the train tracks below. It was disconcerting approaching the first swing bridge with a dark tunnel entrance seemingly filling the view ahead just above the stairs.

Sihlouette

Sihlouette

Steps and the first bridge

Steps and the first bridge

Over we go

Over we go

Brendon and Alayna

Brendon and Alayna on the second swing bridge

There were a few steps

There were a few steps

After the second swing bridge there was a series of steps leading up a steep slope. We slowed right down, taking one flight at a time and resting before moving on up. At the top of this section we had a break and talked to some other people coming the other way who let us know that this was only a taster for what was to come. Thankfully the next step climb was a while away and first we got to walk through some nice stands of trees, the forest a quiet and easy stage to recharge and ready ourselves.

Some were very keen

Some were very keen

A gap in the canopy

A gap in the canopy

The longest stretch of stairs is called the stairway to heaven and it was quite tough to ascend. We were passed by a very fit older man who was counting steps as he walked, reaching 200 when he passed me. He got to the top of the steps and then turned around to come back. We kept going.

The stairway to heaven

The stairway to heaven

More steps

More steps

At the top and just past the halfway mark was a lookout with some good seating and a glorious view out to sea. We had some snacks and got Alayna out of the pack to stretch her legs. There were more and more people reaching the top, almost all coming from the north, and there was plenty of friendly banter and laughs at the top. I got a few comments on how keen I was to have carried Alayna all the way so far on my back, further on we would come across a few others also carrying children in similar fashion.

Feet at the top

Feet at the top

The lookout

The lookout

Brendon and Alayna at the top

Brendon and Alayna at the top

Watered, fed and a little rested we got our gear together, helped Alayna into the pack again and walked on. The way down seemed easier, though tougher on the knees. There were plenty more stairs but a lot of the downward path was sloped across switchbacks. Time passed more quickly it seemed and by the time we neared the end of the track we were in good spirits while still ready for a proper meal. Alayna slept for the final 20 minutes or so, waking up as we approached Paekakariki.

Starting to head down

Starting to head down

More downward steps

More downward steps

8kms completed

8kms completed

It took us around 3 1/2 hours in the end which we thought was pretty good considering we had stopped a few times. We had lunch as planned in Paekakariki and didn’t have to hurry which was nice. Then it was back to the car via the train station and Alayna was full of beans, revelling in walking herself. She was exploring, running around, playing with her shadow and the writing on the ground. So all in all we enjoyed ourselves, completed a challenging walk with no issues and in very good time. We’ll have to return once Alayna is a little older and ready for a longer walk under her own steam.

Ready for lunch

Ready for lunch

Happy times

Happy times

There's my shadow

There’s my shadow

A for Alayna

A for Alayna

Crossing the tracks

Crossing the tracks

Arquitectura de Feria

It’s been another NZ Festival year and included as part of the events this year was a travelling playground named Arquitectura de Feria (the Architecture Fair). Originally from the Catalonia region of Spain and created by performance group Antigua i Barbuda the fair consists of traditional fairground rides and entertainment but created out of scraps and spare parts. So there is a small ferris wheel with seats made out of toilets, a roundabout with seats made out of children sized vehicles like a small tractor, a plane and a rocket and a swing set where the seats are re-purposed sleds. And all of the rides are people powered and in most cases the people come from the audience. Alayna loved it.

We’ve visited a couple of times and Alayna never wants to leave. If it wasn’t for the popularity and the queues to ride she’d stay on each one going around and around (or up and down or forwards and back) indefinitely I’m sure. Everything is simply but fantastically made with wonderful detailing. For the ferris wheel a simple crank is hooked up to a tyre and a rubber belt connects to another tyre that pushes the wheel around through friction. There is a person sitting behind the seats at the bottom of the wheel and they provide instructions to the volunteer cranker via a tube and traffic cone. It’s also their job to add weights to each seat to balance out the wheel. Each child is weighted and gets a chalkboard hung around their neck with their name and weight so there is a bit of maths to help decide who sits where. Generally it was larger children on the toilets and smaller on the alternate metal seats.

Ready to ride

Ready to ride

Brendon powered

Brendon powered

Alayna also had a run around the existing playground at Frank Kitts Park and enjoyed climbing to the top of the lighthouse to then take the slide. This was fine until one particularly fast decent which got a little out of control at the bend in the slide and Alayna bumped her head. An ice cream was offered as a distraction from the head bump so we wandered along the waterfront for Kaffee Eis.

Ice cream time!

Ice cream time!

We wandered around a bit and checked out the flags that made up the Fly Me Up to Where You Are New Zealand project by Tiffany Singh. We also spent time on the city to sea bridge where Alayna got to climb over the various wooden seats and booths before heading back to the playground for more rides.

Under the flags

Under the flags

On the bridge

On the bridge

Back for more

Back for more

Arquitectura de Feria has now ended in Wellington and will continue to travel the world. If it pops up near where you are I thoroughly recommend a visit.

The roundabout

The roundabout

Lets go to Newtown!

The Newtown Festival came around again so we had an afternoon walking around the stalls and checking out the sights and sounds. We parked up near Catherine and Paul’s (amazingly finding a park quite quickly) and went for a quick visit to say hi and because Alayna likes visiting her Aunty and Uncle.

Checking out the cats tail

Checking out the cats tail

Later on at the fair Alayna was interested in many different things including every dog that walked by, any stalls with toys, all the other children and babies and balloons. She also wanted to take a ride on the first thing we saw at the fair, the giant inflatable slide (or the big! big! slide! as Alayna described it).

The Newtown Fair

The Newtown Fair

We returned to the slide as our last fair activity and Alayna eagerly took off her shoes and with a quick boost up was heading up the stairs. Turns out the stairs were a little bit long for Alayna to comfortably reached so it was nice that another girl on her way up slowed down to help. Once at the top Alayna got a big grin on her face and launched herself down the slide…only to find it was a lot steeper and faster than she was expecting and she tumbled down to end up in heap at the bottom. She was a little unhappy but shook it off quickly and after a bit of a snuggle was almost ready for another go. Deciding that it possibly wasn’t the best idea we instead headed back to New World for an ice cream treat to help cool down.

Balcony party

Balcony party

Back to the quiet of Catherine and Paul’s and we were treated to pikelets and a relaxing sit down. It was nice to have a quiet break before the drive home.

Boxing Day at Queen Elizabeth Park

The extended Christmas weekend has been a period of stunning weather in Wellington. I’ve been forgetting what wind is like, no doubt I’ll be reminded soon enough. We took advantage on Boxing Day and took a walk up the coast at the Mackays Crossing end of Queen Elizabeth Park, specifically the Wetland Walk and the Bush Loop (not the most imaginative names). I can’t find a decent website link for the walk but you can view a PDF map here.

We parked at the park rangers office and got ourselves ready. I took Alayna to have a look at some horses across the road and we stood and watched as one of the park trams passed by. As we started our walk two horses were led by by their riders and Alayna had a good look without getting too close. Horse inspection complete we were off into the meadows.

Walking the meadow

Walking the meadow

Pukeko signage

Pukeko signage

Blowing dandelions

Blowing dandelions

The track circumnavigated a large paddock populated with cattle and a couple of wetland areas. Being quite dry recently there wasn’t a lot of water to be seen near the southern end of the track but we still saw a few pukeko and a heron. Alayna got to check out various wildflowers and blow dandelions with Keryn and also inspected a couple of rabbit holes. The track interseccted with an equestrian course and there were lots of different jumps dotted around. Outside of the Bush Loop there were a few stands of manuka and young cabbage trees popping out of the grass.

Horse course

Horse course

The lollipop cabbage tree

The lollipop cabbage tree

Vibrant ponds

Vibrant pond

The wetland area at the northern end had a decent sized pond and as we approached we could hear a chorus of frogs which quietened by the time we were at the waters edge. We did see a couple of frogs resting in the water along with the ducks and a couple of dabchick. The walk ended back at the park road and passed by a US Marines Memorial. Information on the history of the US Marine camps on the Kapiti Coast can be found at the Kapiti US Marine Trust website.

US Marines Memorial

US Marines Memorial

Reading the boards at the US Marines Memorial

Reading the boards at the US Marines Memorial

We drove down to the end of the road and had a brief look. There were plenty of people around enjoying the good weather.

Kapiti Island

Kapiti Island