Steampunk Oamaru

Oamaru was on the list of places to visit while we were down south so one morning we drove south to check out the steampunk capital of New Zealand. Our first stop, naturally enough, was at Steampunk HQ. It was simple enough to recognise where we were going, there aren’t many buildings with a strange smoke and flame emitting steam engine seeming to launch into the air sitting out front. The bearded and tattooed proprietor was friendly and a good salesperson. For $2 inserted the train would come to life with a huff and puff and screech of its steam powered engine and Alayna got to see it a couple of times due to the proprietor dipping into his pocket for a coin. Inside there was a array of displays and outlandish items to be seen. Flashing lights, angular sculptures constructed out of spare parts, a magical pipe organ that played unexpected and odd noises and various other strange and wonderful pieces.

All aboard!

All aboard!

Steampunk crab

Steampunk crab

All the stars

All the stars

In the yard out the back were more sights, here mostly of the mechanical and slowly rusting variety. I don’t think Alayna knew quite what to make of it all, everything outside her experience or normality. That said there was still time for some playful portraits.

Rusty train portrait

Rusty train portrait

Riding the tractor

Riding the tractor

Huia

Huia

We wanted to head to playground so Alayna could have some play time and through some random zen navigation managed to drive straight to the steampunk themed playground. Sliding, swinging, climbing and running around were the order of the day for a while.

Steampunk playground

Steampunk playground

Sliding

Sliding

Going for a walk

Going for a walk

Moody Oamaru beach

Moody Oamaru beach

For lunch we took a recommendation and drove a short way out of Oamaru to the Riverstone Kitchen, home of good food and a wonderful sprawling playground (not to mention the bonkers castle being built in the middle of a moat next to the kitchen grounds). After some initial issues with service we were soon very impressed by the speed of our food arriving, the quality of the food and general atmosphere. Once we’d eaten there was plenty of time to wander the grounds checking out the shops, gardens and peacocks and also following Alayna as she spent time in the playground and running around the large wooden fort. I don’t think we’d be able to visit Oamaru again without stopping here again.

Lunch

Lunch

Hanging around

Hanging around

Fort time

Fort time

Peacock

Peacock

Timaru for a few days

From Hanmer Springs we continued on towards Timaru with a couple of stops in Christchurch, one to pick up some duplo we’d bid for on TradeMe and a second stop at Riccarton Mall to stretch the legs. We were looking for some new shoes for Alayna and found a pair on big discount at Rebel Sport that did the trick, even if they were a bit more bling than we’d normally buy. Alayna loved for sparkle shoes so that’s the main thing I guess (and they were a good fit and were made well of course).

We arrived in Timaru in the evening and it was good to see Mum and Dad. Not so good was Dad being hospitalised later that evening with what turned out to be food poisoning. This meant in the end that Dad missed being at home fro Mum’s birthday but there was a silver lining of sorts with some planned tests for other complaints being brought forward because of being in hospital already but it was a long week for Dad to be in an isolation room. Thankfully there was plenty of family around so we were all visiting every day, dutifully putting on out gloves and plastic aprons each time before sitting down for a chat. Dad’s much better now which is good.

Alayna loves new places and toys which are different to those we have at home so she was kept interested by the things available at my parents place. Exploring was also on the agenda and Alayna liked looking around and finding things to look at, touch and feel.

Alayna at play

Alayna at play

Checking out cobwebs

Checking out cobwebs

We had a look around the Timaru shops and spend a morning down at the Caroline Bay playground and then playing around at the Timaru aquatic centre where we managed to get the childrens areas mostly to ourselves.

Around and around

Around and around

Horse riding

Horse riding

Drive time

Drive time

My brother’s family is down the road from my parents place and we had a few afternoons there as well and Alayna loved to play with her cousins. Again there was an array of new-to-Alayna toys to check out and play with. There was also a trampoline so it was perfect really.

Keira and Alayna

Keira and Alayna

One night there was a chance of Aurora activity so I ended up picking up my brother and he showed me a good local spot for photography out on Adair Road. While we didn’t get to see or photograph an Aurora it was a beautiful night with plenty of stars which reflected nicely in the hood of the car. We did attract the attention of one curious local who drove past us at least three times, turning around and coming back slower each time while presumably trying to figure out what we were doing.

Star reflections

Star reflections

The kiwifruit incident

We left St Arnaud in the morning with a plan to do a morning walk before lunch. This worked out quite well other than a couple of incidents, one during the walk and one afterwards. Lake Rotoroa was the first stop and we had lovely views from the pier and got to watch a swan family on the grassy area next to the carpark. The fluffy grey signets were very cute. We also came across Fergus again with his pax. Alayna obliged with some cuddles for her doll while I took a few photos and then it was a short drive to the start of the Braeburn Walk, followed closely by Fergus and his passengers. We parked off the road and I thought it odd that the ground was hissing underneath one of the rear tyres but I figured it was just air from the wet ground, I made a mental note to check it on our return.

Cuddles at Lake Rotoroa

Cuddles at Lake Rotoroa

The Braeburn Walk started with a wide path, once an access road, that wended its way through groves of tree fuscia before heading uphill through more beech forest. It was again very attractive in the dappled light, moss and ferns covering the ground between decaying fallen trucks and tall trees. The ground was covered in leaves which came in useful later on.

There was an optional branch in the track which took us up to a tall waterfall and we stopped for a snack while I clambered down the steep slope to try and get a decent photograph. Fergus and his two passengers turned up as well and Fergus adroitly navigated his way to the stream bed, something I didn’t manage with my tripod in hand and camera gear weighing me down. Keryn and Alayna were eating while seated on a convenient tree root and when Keryn got up she knocked over the lunchbox tipping out a couple of kiwifruit. One did a cartoon bounce and tumble done the slope, narrowly avoiding being caught by Fergus before landing in the stream and floating away. All thoughts of the previous days alarm were temporarily forgotten as Alayna contemplated the new disaster and as we walked out of the forest there were constant queries about the missing kiwifruit; would it be coming back? where was it now? could we find it? Sad to say we never say that kiwifruit again.

Playing with leaves

Playing with leaves

We stopped for a while and played with the fallen leaves on the track, piling them up and then throwing them into the air over Alayna. This was great fun and I’m sure Alayna would have happily played the game all day.

Walking the forest

Walking the forest

Glen and grove

Glen and grove

Once back at the car I had a look at the tyre again and it looked a little soft but the wet ground made it look OK. Once we were driving I quickly realised it wasn’t OK and we had an unscheduled stop for lunch back at the lake carpark while I changed the tyre. Other than the attendant sandflies taking a few bites this happened without fuss.

Fixing the flat

Fixing the flat

With a good tyre in place we were back on the road and heading towards Hanmer Springs through the Lewis Pass. We stopped a few times, once so I could photograph an interesting sign and another at Maruia Falls.

No Shooting

No Shooting

Maruia Falls

Maruia Falls

As we climbed Lewis Pass the temperature dropped and snow was visible on the taller peaks, rain falling and threatening to become sleet. Perfect timing for a walk. We stopped at the St James Carpark and had a look at the small tarn and walked a short way along the Alpine Nature Walk. The rain stopped and we got some sunshine but it was still very cold with a stiff breeze ripping along.

Top of the pass

Top of the pass

Family photo time

Family photo time

Cute as a button

Cute as a button

From the top of the pass it was plain sailing down the other side and on to Hanmer. We were staying at the Alpine Adventure Holiday Park and Alayna was once again entertained by a set of bunk beds. They also had a good playground and Alayna got to enjoy a trampoline all to herself. In the future travel accommodation may be booked on the availability of a trampoline I think (if Alayna was deciding).

Out the other side

Out the other side

St Arnaud, Lake Rotoiti, Mount Robert and a fire alarm

Day two of our holiday and more walking in store. We again took the Black Valley walk and had a look around the lake shore. This morning’s destination was the Brunner Peninsula Nature Walk and as we neared the start point we could see a group of people congregated at the lake side taking in the view. They were setting up for a group photo and I was quickly identified as someone who looked like they could take a photo so was chosen to take theirs. I ended up with three or four cameras and took lots of photos. The group was on tour and they were all from Israel and having a great time seeing the sights. We let them start the walk before us and they were soon just the odd voices in the distance ahead.

Flying korimako

Flying korimako

Lake Rotoiti pier

Lake Rotoiti pier

Alayna was again singing songs, things like “Where have all the people gone? I can’t see them!” with verses made up by us all. Alayna seemed less inclined to walk today but still managed to spend some time touching moss and leaves. We sat at a bench in a secluded little bay and had some snacks while we watched a swimmer stroke past, a couple of boats heading back and forth on the lake and the changing cloud covering the distant ridges. Alayna also got some more throwing-rocks-into-the-lake practice.

Touching the moss

Touching the moss

The track we were following eventually branched away from the lake and headed uphill in the direction of the town. We came to a road and followed it back towards the DOC info centre, stopping to watch korimako and tui flying around. At the info centre Alayna enjoyed watching a brief video of some eels in the lake and playing with the toys for sale in the shop.

Tui on a wire

Tui on a wire

In the afternoon we drove up to the Mount Robert carpark where Alayna decided to (finally) fall asleep so Keryn kept an eye on sleeping beauty while I hoped out and took a few photos of the wonderful view. We also stopped on the way back and I had a short walk along Angler’s Walk from the mouth of the Buller River downstream. The forest floor track-side was a thick bed of moss, the water a rich green and it was like walking through a fairytale at times and very easy to imagine a hobbit or two walking by.

Lake Rotoiti from the Mount Robert carpark

Lake Rotoiti from the Mount Robert carpark

Anglers Walk

Anglers Walk

The Buller River

The Buller River

Alayna woke up as we got back to St Arnaud so we made our way to the lakeside again so Alayna could play on the little playground. Before that we watched a duck family wander around and as we sat on a bench the ducklings were happy to wander beneath the seat and around our feet, jumping up to snatch at sandflies. There was a tour guide named Fergus who we’d seen the day before and he was showing his pax the ducks, getting down to greet the duck family. We would bump into him again the next day as well (we must have been heading to all the popular spots).

There was more stone throwing from Alayna and badly attempted skimming from Mum and Dad. Alayna also checked out the kayaks lined up on the shore, once she’s older I think we’ll need to do some paddling somewhere.

Throwing stones

Throwing stones

Trying out a kayak

Trying out a kayak

That evening back at the hostel we were reading stories to Alayna in bed when a fire alarm went off. It was very loud in the room so we wrapped up Alayna and evacuated. It was odd to see everyone else in the hostel staying where there were (their rooms, the kitchen and dining room) rather than head outside. There was a cold wind and the odd spit of rain so we found shelter while the alarm was dealt with. Once the alarm was off a search was done by the staff and a helpful neighbour checking the sensors in each room. It seemed that the girls in the room opposite us may have been cooking something or smoking in their room. Alayna would talk about the loud noise for days to come, always with a very serious expression.

A big boat, driving and a forest walk

Our December family holiday saw us take an early morning ferry from Wellington heading to the South Island. Earlier in the year I had won a return sailing with Bluebridge and our first journey across Cook Strait was taken on the Strait Feronia. We spent a lot of time in the family room which we had nearly to ourselves and Alayna enjoyed climbing over the ride on toys and the furniture.

Climbing into a window

Climbing into a window

Once we entered the Marlborough Sounds it was outside to soak up some sun and wander the many decks. On the top deck there was a large open area that was perfect for running around and jumping. We also had a look around at the different sights and sounds both on the ship and in the Sounds.

Jump!

Jump!

Run around

Run around

Trucks

Trucks

No Entry

No Entry

Marlborough Sounds skyline

Marlborough Sounds skyline

Arriving at Picton we were going to stop to get some supplies but Alayna quickly fell asleep so we just drive onward to Blenheim and did our shopping there instead, Alayna continuing to snooze. Then we were back on the road and heading inland towards the Nelson Lakes region and our destination for the next few nights St Arnaud.

We stayed at Travers-Sabine Lodge which is a tidy hostel. There were not many other people staying which helped keep the place quiet as well. This also meant we could take up a decent amount of shared fridge space without upsetting anyone. We had a private room containing three bunk beds and Alayna had a great time climbing ladders and mucking around on the top bunks. SO while Alayna played we unpacked the car and got ready for a walk.

Heading out the back of the lodge we had direct access to the Black Valley walkway which ran alongside the Black Valley stream towards its source at Lake Rotoiti. Our first wildlife encounter happened soon after we started walking upstream and watched an adult weka walk across the stream closely followed by three juveniles. All four weka seemed none too concerned by us as we watched them wander by.

Lake Rotoiti views

Lake Rotoiti views

After taking in the view down the lake we chose to walk the Honeydew Walk which took us from the lake shore into Rotoiti Nature Recovery Area. A pleasant time was had slowly walking through verdant beech forest listening to the constant chime of bellbirds and marveling at Alayna’s singing from her perch in the backpack.

Lancewood

Lancewood

Out for a walk

Out for a walk

Inspecting the path

Inspecting the path

Trees and sky

Trees and sky

Alayna was walking a lot of the time and enjoying her cruskits and other snacks. We’ve been encouraging her to listen to the sounds of the forest, touch the trees and plants and look at any wildlife we find. One insect that made its presence felt, especially near the lake, was the sandfly. We soon remembered that insect repellent is a must in this area.

Alayna portrait

Alayna portrait

Looking down the path

Looking down the path

Ridgeline

Ridgeline

The rusty gate

The rusty gate

As the evening came one we were on our way back to the lodge, stopping a few times for photos and to check out interesting things like the wee orchids growing next to the track or the lovely old gate that guarded a path leading into a dark grove of trees. Then it was the normal routine of dinner and the “put Alayna to bed” game (I’m sure Alayna thinks its a game anyway).

A photowalk and Bird of the Year

With longer days and the promise of warmer weather we’ve been getting out and about making the most of the opportunities outdoors. Earlier this month was the latest Scott Kelby worldwide photowalk and the Wellington event took place in Petone. This was the first time Keryn and Alayna have joined in and we set off from the Petone wharf as a family.

It quickly became apparent that walking with Alayna meant I would be working any photography around what Alayna wanted to do. Fair enough, as a 2 year old Alayna has a lot of impulses so if Dad wants to take a photograph over there and Alayna would prefer to be doing something elsewhere then Dad needs to adjust. So adjust I did and in the end we adjusted the planned walk around Alayna’s desire to first play in the sand and then play on the playground later on.

Alayna and the sand

Alayna and the sand

Lets all walk on the beach

Lets all walk on the beach

At the playground

At the playground

Taking a seat

Taking a seat

We were never going to make it around the whole walk as planned so we turned back after the playground and made our way back to the end point which was the Sprig & Fern on Jackson Street. There we had a drink or two and ate chips and pizza. Alayna ate chips, lots of chips. Alayna would like everyone to know she likes chips. We caught up with a few friends form the walk and also said hello to Janice and Mike Hay who just happened to turn up as well.

We’ve also been to Zealandia and managed to show Alayna a few interesting animals. First up was a nesting kereru that had chosen a nest site very close to the main track and was easily visible. There was a small group of people having a look and we got to also have a good look and show Alayna the kereru calmly sitting on the nest.

Nesting kereru

Nesting kereru

Moving on we found a chilled out tuatara sunning itself at Tui Terrace. We could get quite close without disturbing the tuatara though Alayna declared she was scared so we made sure to stay at a distance that was comfortable for both wildlife and daughter.

Checking out the tuatara

Checking out the tuatara

More walking took us to bridges that Alayna liked to stomp over and lots of plants and flowers to feel and smell. We saw more birds including a couple of obviously well feed kereru feeding in a small kowhai tree.

Feeding kereru

Feeding kereru

Kowhai in flower

Kowhai in flower

We were running out of time so made sure we were on our way back to the main gate before it closed for the day. Alayna and Keryn checked out the gecko enclosure while I wandered nearby to check out some calling tieke. I was lucky enough to see a pair jumping and flying in-between a couple of trees and ignoring me as they investigated nooks and crannies for bugs.

Looking for food

Looking for food

Tieke calling

Tieke calling

Which leads to the last point, its Bird of the Year time again. Forest and Bird have for a number of years now run a light hearted popularity contest where the public can vote on which New Zealand native bird deserves to be bird of the year. Zealandia has thrown its might behind the kaka this year and currently its a respectable second behind the bar tailed godwit. If you want to see the contestants and perhaps learn a little about our native birds head to the Bird of the Year website and choose a favourite, you’ve got until 5pm on Sunday October 25th to vote.

The Strait Feronia

Recently the Wellington ferry company Bluebridge announced that they had purchased a new ferry and it was sailing its way from Sweden to arrive on the 1st June. There was an associated photo competition to capture the best photo of the Strait Feronia’s Wellington arrival so I figured we’d get out and see if we could get some good shots. With a bit of pre-planning and the help of an app on my phone that tracked ships (MarineTraffic) we set out on the Monday morning towards Seatoun to capture the Strait Feronia as it entered Wellington harbour.

We parked near the start of the Benoit Trail above Breaker Bay and then walked up through the Oruaiti Reserve to the gun emplacements that were part of Fort Dorset. With panoramic views over the harbour mouth this was a fantastic viewpoint for watching the Strait Feronia arrive. The ferry was a dot in the distance as we arrived but soon enough she was cutting past Baring Head following a pilot boat. It was a still and overcast morning and we were surprised by a bit of rain which had us heading back to the car. There was time for a quick few photos of the Strait Feronia nearing Matiu/Somes Island and then we were driving towards Mt Victoria to see if we could catch the ferry reach its new home.

Watching the arriving Strait Feronia

Watching the arriving Strait Feronia

Entering the harbour past Baring Head

Entering the harbour past Baring Head

Sailing past Matiu/Somes Island

The Mt Victoria lookout only had a few people in attendance and we got there in plenty of time to watch the Strait Feronia be introduced to Wellington. There was a tug boat in attendance spraying a fountain of water and two helicopters circled around as well. The cloud was starting to break up and then the sun came out to shine on the harbour. I got a few more photos and then we enjoyed some sun at the summit while Alayna played around.

A proud display

A proud display, my competition entry

This morning I got a phone call on the way to work from Priscilla at Bluebridge telling me that I’d won the photo competition with my entry above! Keryn and I now have some planning to do as we’re won a Britz campervan for 5 nights plus accommodation and petrol costs and of course return ferry fares as well. Goes to show that a little preparation can pay off :).

February highlights

It’s been a busy February so far with lots of things happening including my 40th birthday. Rather than go into any detail here’s a few photographic highlights instead.

Walking at Zealandia:

Taking in the view

Taking in the view

Happy wee girl

Happy wee girl

Curious robin

Curious robin

Takahe

Takahe

Camping at Kaitoke:

Testing the bounce

Testing the bounce

The new Kaitoke arch

The new Kaitoke arch

Dragonfly girl

Dragonfly girl

DInner

Dinner

Kaitoke camping

Kaitoke camping

Breakfast

Breakfast

Chinese New Year:

Year of the Snake

Alayna was born in the Year of the Snake and Keryn is decorating a snake mask

Plimmerton fish and chips:

Plimmerton sunset one

Plimmerton sunset one

Plimmerton sunset two

Plimmerton sunset two

Walking in Wellington on my birthday:

Cricket highlights

Cricket highlights

Performance space

Performance space

The start of something

The start of something

Te Papa art

Te Papa art

Daylight flotsam Venice & The Drop

Daylight flotsam Venice & The Drop

Back to Zealandia:

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

Exploring Zealandia

Exploring Zealandia

Tieke

Tieke

P?wakawaka

P?wakawaka

Korimako

Korimako

Night time at the Pauatahanui Inlet:

Pauatahanui night

Pauatahanui night

Stars and harakeke

Stars and harakeke

The Plimmerton kite festival:

Plimmerton kite festival

Plimmerton kite festival

Alayna's favourite

Alayna’s favourite

Killer whale encounter

Killer whale encounter

Miniature Huts – Part three

A beautiful and breezy Wellington Anniversary summers day was the chosen time for us to complete our Miniature Hut collection. We had so far found five and only had two to go. First up was the DOC Hut located on Matiu/Somes Island and that meant a ferry ride.

We met up with Pauline in Petone and then drove out to Days Bay figuring that it was a shorter journey to the island and we have better luck with parking. The ferry arrived just a little late and it was a short and easy trip over to the island. We were greeted by the DOC ranger and a couple of volunteers from Eastbourne who took us through the quarantine checks (Any seeds? Nope; Any ants? Nope; Anything else like a mouse? Nope) and gave us a quick background on the islands history and what we might expect to see. All done we were on our own to explore.

As suggested we took the track that circled the island and walked in an anticlockwise (and more buggy friendly) direction. There was plenty of wildlife on view with gulls swooping around on the swirling wind, lots of other birds heard but not seen in the low canopy and numerous skinks sunning themselves at the edge of the track and disappearing in a flash as we approached. We also spotted (thanks to a tip from a couple we passed in our travels) a young male tuatara reclining in the shade near one of the lookout points.

A path side skink in the sun

A path side skink in the sun

The relaxed tuatara

The relaxed tuatara

A kakariki hiding in the foliage

A kakariki hiding in the foliage

We diverted to visit the lighthouse and checked out the nearby weta hotel which was fully booked with eleven tree weta all cosy and packed in tight. If we’d been a little more observant we’d have seen the DOC hut in the distance on the track as it continued around the island but it made little difference as five minutes later we were walking right by it perched on the side of the path.

There was a door on the track side of the hut which was unlocked through the use of a small sliding bolt. Inside was the usual log book and a few other bits and pieces including a book called “The Taming of the Crew” which had a nautical theme. Inside was a bunk bed and the huts had windows taking in the view over the little bay below, Wellington Harbour and the city in the distance.

DOC Hut family photo

DOC Hut family photo

A Hut with a smashing view

A Hut with a smashing view

Room for two (dolls)

Room for two (dolls)

Alayna gives the hut scale

Alayna gives the hut scale

Alayna quite liked the pictures of yachts in the Taming of the Crew book and managed to figure out how to open and close the bolt on the door after a bit of playing around. She also wanted to check out the water reservoir that would be filled with rain funnelled off the roof into the guttering if we’d had any rain recently so instead there was a green sludge which wasn’t something Alayna needed to play with.

After a family photo or two we moved on and stopped at the next picnic table in a shady spot for some lunch. Then we spent a few hours wandering around the rest of the island. Alayna’s favourite spot was the concrete fountain in a clearing on the east side of the island that was full of a ducklings taking a swim. They were very trusting ducklings and their mum was unconcerned by our presence so Alayna was able to get very close and watch her favourite birds relaxing in the water.

Alayna, Keryn and Pauline on Matiu/Somes Island

Alayna, Keryn and Pauline on Matiu/Somes Island

The view from the summit

The view from the summit

Ducks!

Ducks!

The ferry ride back to Days Bay was again short and sweet. Days Bay was a hive of activity with a constant stream of people jumping off the wharf and then swimming back to the steps to then repeat their dives. The beach was full of people sunning themselves and the boat shop at the end of the pier had a large line of people queuing for ice-cream. It was summer in a picture so naturally I didn’t take a photo, some things need to be remembered in the mind.

We now had one last hut to find and we ended up driving to an out-of-the-way corner of Aro Valley to follow a path into a leaf strewn forest, it was like entering a sylvan world transported into a corner of Wellington.

Cute Aro Valley House

Cute Aro Valley House

The otherworldly forest

The otherworldly forest

Ethereal butterflies

Ethereal butterflies

The path gently rose up the valley crossing a steam back and forth as the trees got taller and the spots of light passing through the canopy became fewer and fewer. We came to a clearing that had a single chair and a strung rope tied with ribbons and cloth hanging still as there was no wind. In a tall tree we saw fabric butterflies illuminated in a shaft of light. The path continued away from the clearing still following the stream and in a dim area nestled underneath a tree sat the Crystal Hut, we’d found the last one.

As the name would indicate the hut was covered in blocky crystal growths looking like it had grown in place from some strange blue chemistry set. There was a door with a crystal handle and this hinged up to reveal the final log book. Alayna had a go at leaving her mark and then we were done.

Signing the log book

Signing the log book

The Crystal Hut

The Crystal Hut

All I can say is Wellington needs more little artworks of wonder such as the Miniature Hut trail and everyone should visit as least one. You’ll see parts of Wellington you probably never knew existed and you’ll meet interesting people and see things you won’t expect. Kemi Niko & Co thank you very much, I can’t wait to see what you come up with in the future!

Miniature Huts – Part two

After a morning of chores and a little bit of footy practice the afternoon was set aside for some more hiking around Wellington in search of Miniature Huts. There are two huts on the south coast so we targeted them, starting with the Robin Hut to be found somewhere near Red Rocks.

Parking at the Red Rocks carpark has become a bit more difficult lately with the influx of tourists taking advantage of the free camping status. We managed to find a spot and after a quick look at the view it was off walking.

Looking towards the Red Rocks walkway

Looking towards the Red Rocks walkway

The instructions for finding this hut said to take a track up from the beach onto the plateau below the old quarry. The landscape was all grasses and low shrubs, no doubt the occasional gale force southerly discourages anything more substantial. This made finding the hut fairly straightforward and we we further helped by the bright orange colour of the wee building. There was another clever spot for the log book, this time the chimney had a roof that came off revealing the book and few other little nicknack’s like a couple of little plastic animals.

The Robin Hut

The Robin Hut

We let Alayna investigate and once again she was interested in the log book, leafing through and then using the pen to have a play (no drawing this time). Keryn showed Alayna the south side window and Alayna was then keen to have a good look, getting up close to see what was inside. The miniature hut them continued on the inside with a tiny table, bunk bed, pots and pans and other things you’d expect to find in your everyday back-country accommodation. All of the huts so far have had fantastic attention to detail and construction, they’d last well beyond the end of March if left I should think.

Alayna going through the log book

Alayna going through the log book

Taking a closer look

Taking a closer look

The wind was picking up so we got all our gear together, helped Alayna into her backpack and headed back to the carpark.

The view back to the carpark

The view back to the carpark

The next target was near the eastern most point of the Wellington south coast road at Tarakena Bay. We knew that the Tarakena Trail hut was the smallest of the seven and there was a note on the website that people had reported that this hut had gone missing so we were ready for a bit of careful searching. The logbook was housed separately and was easily found on the Tarakena Trail itself but as expected it took us quite some time to find the hut.

The Tarakena Trail logbook

The Tarakena Trail logbook

With little to no cellphone reception we were without our maps so we ended up going too far on the trail. Alayna and I wandered the rocks and checked out every nook and cranny while Keryn stayed closer to the trail and tried to find a view that matched the photos we had seen. In the end we backtracked to the log book and searched the coastline back towards the carpark and this finally brought us to the hut which was perched on a rocky outcrop and fairly obviously with its rich red paint job.

Easy to miss

Easy to miss

Nestled in the rocks the tiny Tarakena Trail hut

Nestled in the rocks the tiny Tarakena Trail hut

A wonderful view

A wonderful view

It was a little tricky getting Alayna safely to the hut but we managed it, Keryn taking a few photos of Alayna having a look while I made sure she wasn’t going to hurt herself on the rocks or fall into the sea. Again the wind got up so there was a lot of just holding Alayna securely in place waiting for a good safe moment to move.

It was windy!

It was windy!

Showing Alayna the details

Showing Alayna the details

Rather than putting Alayna back into the backpack we let her have some free time. She has been enjoying trying to put on Keryn’s sunglasses lately and she took her chance to grab them off of Keryn and tried them on for size. We then helped her walk back to the car, though I’m pretty sure she would have happily sat playing in the sand of the path for hours if we’d let her.

Fun with sunglasses

Fun with sunglasses

Walking the Tarakena Trail

Walking the Tarakena Trail

It was getting close to Alayna’s bed time so we made a snap decision to get fish and chips on the way home and ended up finding a good store in Island Bay. Our crumbed fish and home made chips from Bay Takeaways were really good, we’ll be back again I think. Two more huts left to find, hopefully we’ll get out tomorrow and spend some time on Matiu/Somes Island and then in Aro Valley and we’ll have completed the set.

Miniature Huts – Part one

Recently we heard about an interesting public art project in Wellington created by Kemi Niko & Co. Titled Miniature Hikes the project involves 7 miniature huts that have been placed in off the beaten track locations around Wellington. Each hut can be found after a short walk using the instructions found on the Miniature Hikes website so armed with this information we’ve been setting out to see what we could find.

Our first target was the Mt Albert hut named Portal. Joining us for this mini adventure was Pauline who we hadn’t seen in a few months so it was good to catch up while we walked. Possibly because of the catch-up chatter we missed the side path we needed to take the first time through and ended up walking for about ten minutes longer than we had to. This wasn’t a big issue as it was a beautiful day and there were wonderfully expansive views over Wellington from the ridgeline track we were following. Turning back we soon enough found the track we had missed, an overgrown gorse surrounded little path that was easy enough to bypass if not paying attention.

The Portal hut was sitting on the remains of an old concrete military bunker. Canvas flaps opened up to reveal a shelter containing a pinboard covered in notes written by previous visitors. There was also three jars, one each to hold a pen, some pins and some paper. We all inspected the contents and had a look around. We were soon enough joined by another family also out hut hunting so we left them to inspect Portal and headed back.

Portal found

Portal found

Pauline, Keryn and Alayna

Pauline, Keryn and Alayna

Inside Portal

Inside Portal

We took a diversion past an old reservoir and under a radio mast to another lookout and another bunker. Keryn, Pauline and Alayna had a rest and a chat while I inspected the bunker and checked out the view. There were more photos taken and then we were back on the move and walking to the car, our first of seven huts found and curiosity piqued regarding the remaining six.

Bunker robot

Bunker robot

Chat and a rest

Chat and a rest

Family portrait with a view

Family portrait with a view

Good friends, good times

Good friends, good times

The next weekend we headed back into Wellington for some shopping and then more walking with a chance of hut sightings. Our first target this time was the Trees Hut on Mt Victoria. With Keryn navigating we parked in a location that looked to be close and this proved to be the case with the hut hanging above a path only a minute from the car.

The Trees Hut was suspended from the branch of a pine tree. Constructed from wood with a metal fa├žade on the ends and a metal clad chimney the hut looked like the home of a steampunk fairy. Underneath the hut was a corrugated metal weight and when viewed from underneath the hut itself was found to be a hollow shell with the suspended weight attached by rope to a pulley. Pulling the other end of the rope revealed a notebook with a pen for leaving a message. Alayna was very interested by this strange hanging construction and was trying to get closer for a good look so I took her over for a viewing. She was keen to play with the pen and paper so I let her have the pen for some pretend drawing.

Alayna trying to get a closer look

Alayna trying to get a closer look

Trees Hut

Trees Hut

The hidden notebook

The hidden notebook

Quite the chimney

Quite the chimney

Alayna tries to leave her mark

Alayna tries to leave her mark

As with the last hut there were other people out searching who arrived to have a look while we were still present. This couple were walking between huts and were obviously craft beer fans judging from the slogans on their clothing, out earning their beer today.

It was edging closer to Alayna’s dinner time but we had time to seek out one for hut so with Keryn again navigating we headed towards Mt Cook, home of the Aoraki Biv. The suggested starting point had no room for us to park so we headed up the road and found a good shady spot to leave the car before tramping off in what we hoped was the right direction. This was another walk with great views, Wellington Harbour gleaming sapphire under a clear blue sky with the Rimutakas in the distance shrouded under lenticular cloud cover carved by the blustery wind.

We found the Aoraki Biv, a much larger hut that was spacious enough to allow Keryn and Alayna to sit inside. Even better was a book of nursery rhymes so Alayna was quite content to sit in the hut and look through the book while I took the obligatory photos. Again there was a visitors book and this one had some blank pages so we allowed Alayna to doodle and then entered all our names as a record of our visit.

The Aoraki Biv

The Aoraki Biv

Alayna looking through the Nursery Rhymes

Alayna looking through the Nursery Rhymes

Keryn reads the guest book to Alayna

Keryn reads the guest book to Alayna

The view from Aoraki Biv

The view from Aoraki Biv

Taking in the view

Taking in the view

The information board

The information board

Once again there were more people out looking for huts who found this one while we were there, a young English woman with her two children and then the beer aficionados we had met earlier at the Trees Hut (they had walked from Mt Victoria so definitely deserved a pint or two once they got home). We left everyone to check out the Aoraki Biv and headed home ourselves, three hikes completed and four more to do before the huts are retired at the end of March.

A Summer Holiday – Napier & Hastings

Our last three nights of our holiday were spent in Napier. Travis was also in town having spent the last few nights our tramping so we met up in Hastings at the weekly night market for some good food. There were a few craft stalls and a dozen or so food stalls from which we chose kebabs and for myself nachos, and very nice it all was too. There was a bouncy castle that Alayna was very interested in and she also enjoyed exploring some sheep statues that were just the right height for looking over. Back at the motel once Alayna was asleep we all spent the next few hours playing cards over a few drinks, something we haven’t really done in decades.

Sheep seats

Sheep seats

Exploring

Exploring

The next day was blue skies with fluffy clouds, warm with a gentle breeze, the perfect summer day. We had a look around the Arataki Honey shop and information centre and then drove to a favourite place from a past visit, Birdwoods Gallery. The gallery is stocked full of interesting artwork and outside is a large back yard lined with sculpture brought in from South Africa. We looked around the shop and then ordered some food to eat outside in the shade of a couple of large trees. The food looked wonderful and tasted better and Alayna entertained our fellow diners as she was walked around the back yard.

Yummy scones and desert

Yummy scones and dessert

The garden door

The garden door

I took Alayna to explore some of the sculptures and she loved climbing into a steampunk-style set of chairs and a bench made out of old car parts. There were also more sheep, these one metal and covered in ivy, that Alayna took a liking to and then a short crawl over to a large ball constructed from horseshoes. In the more formal field at the back of the property where there was a gate covered in flowering honeysuckle (a noxious weed perhaps but it looked pretty and smelled really good) and more stone sculpture. There was also an adjacent field which was home to a couple of horses. Alayna was very keen to see the horses but then kept a wary distance as we fed one some grass.

Alayna on her throne

Alayna on her throne

Having a ball

Having a ball

Alayna and the ivy sheep

Alayna and the ivy sheep

Over the next few days we walked around Napier and introduced Alayna to icecream (which was liked very much).

Beach swimmers

Beach swimmers

Playground contemplation

Playground contemplation

We drove out to Pekapeka wetland south of Hastings and wandered the boardwalk and looking at the birdlife including a family of swans, numerous swallows, a pair of dabchick and some little shags. At the wetland lookout Alayna took an interest in one of my cameras, she’s ovbiously been watching me as she knows to put her eye to the back of the camera (even if she hasn’t yet figured out where the eyepiece is or what it does).

Pekapeka wetland

Pekapeka wetland

Friendly swallows

Friendly swallows

Taking after her dad

Taking after her dad

We walked along the coastline at Ahuriri and had more icecream before walking to the small lighthouse where there were a number of people fishing off the point. Alayna spent some time crawling on the grass and then playing in the rocks on the beach.

Afternoon fishing

Afternoon fishing

Boardwalk walking

Boardwalk walking

After Christmas tree

After Christmas tree

Here, have a rock

Here, have a rock

There was a good playground nearby and we helped Alayna swing (a favourite activity), go up and down the slide and crawl around the other equipment.

Swing!

Swing!

Slide fun

Slide fun

Playground adventure

Playground adventure

Our last morning we took a short walk around part of the Ahuriri Estuary and took a couple of family photos as a last momento of the holiday.

Final holiday family portrait

Final holiday family portrait

Our drive home was down SH2 and we had a good lunch in a sweltering Greytown before wandering the shops. I’m pretty sure James Cameron now owns a slice of the town so it was a appropriate that we passed him on the street. The final hours drive to Porirua was without incident and it was good to get back home to some welcoming cats. Summer has been good to us so far, long may that continue.