Sunday 24 January 2021

Visit to Ōtaki and Wellington

Straight after Christmas, Martin and I headed off with his parents to Ōtaki, a bit north of Wellington (where his sister lives) then on to visit some university friends in Wellington itself.  We were away for two weeks, getting back two weeks ago.  It was a bit of an exhausting time, as we don't get down that way very often and there were a lot of people we wanted to see, but it was fun, too :-)

Us celebrating a belated Christmas with Martin's parents, his sister Sandra and her grown-up kids Michaela and Nathan (our brother-in-law, Chris, is taking the photo)

Sandra and Chris's 'tiny house'.  They live on a property that offers informal accommodation to a number of people who have trouble getting housed.  Their place is right at the size limit for an unconsented structure and is remarkably roomy!

Sandra's garden - well-established flowers and vegies just getting going.

Chris, Sandra and Dad taking a break from working on the path and garden.  The house is still a work in progress, although they've been living in it since March-ish.

I took all the opportunities I could find for swimming!

There's a creek at one end of the property Sandra and Chris live on.  It's way too shallow for actual swimming, but was lovely to float in.  The lady who lives in the cabin nearest to the creek was also super-hospitable, and has made an amazing job of her home - lots of cool decorations, a lovely porch and a gorgeous flower garden.

With Mum and Dad and Sandra at Ōtaki Beach.  Martin came in for a swim with me there and we had fun having a go at body surfing :-)

Me swimming at Ōtaki river mouth

We were super-close to the sea (just where the two rocky banks almost meet at the middle of the picture) but the water tasted totally fresh, which surprised me.

No one else was keen on swimming, but the games we brought proved popular :-)



Sandra and Chris's place had room for us to stay (as well as Mum and Dad), but I was keen to find somewhere else to sleep so I could go to bed early and have some time out during the day.  We'd thought to take our tent, but God had better plans!  Some of the neighbours were away and, when they heard we were coming, offered their place to us :-)

The house we were staying in.  It was lovely to eat breakfast looking out over the paddocks.

It was just a couple of minutes walk from Sandra and Chris's - you can see it at the top centre of this photo of Sandra and Chris's.

The front part of the house was one big room, with lots of windows and a lovely wood floor.

Our only responsibility was to feed the chooks, in exchange for eggs.  Most days one particular chook came out to make sure feeding was on our plan for the day!

After Ōtaki, Sandra drove us to Upper Hutt, to visit Louise, a good friend from university.  Last time we'd visited, she'd taken a video of her favourite walk near her house.  This time, sans wheelchair, I was able to walk it with her :-)

Then we met up with Beth, another university friend, who lives right in Wellington.

One day she took us up Mt. Victoria, then around the coast past Oriental Bay.

Some of the view from Mt. Vic.  I don't think I'd been up there before, and it was helpful to work out how different familiar bits of Wellington related to each other.

Martin and Beth, I think at Oriental Bay.  It was neat seeing all the beaches well-used on a hot day :-)

Oriental Bay.  'Well-used' by New Zealand standards, at least!

I loved the public toilets/changing sheds at each bay we walked past.  Each with a brightly-painted front (that you can see a bit of here) and jutting out over the sand.  A great solution where there's not much flat land!

You can see how they just out a bit better here.

Another day, we met up with Michaela, our niece, and went for an explore of Somes Island.  I'd been there with my parents more than 20 years ago, when (I think) they'd done a lot of pest eradication but not much planting.  I remember it as being mostly paddocks and soaring black-backed gulls.  It's still full of black-backed gulls, but with bush over much of the island now.  Mostly fast-growing mānuka, kānuka, kawakawa etc. but with plenty of tōtara, too, that will grow huge in time.

They were very serious about keeping pests off the island.  Everyone had to go to a hut at the beginning where, amongst other things, we had to check our pockets and the crevices of our bags to make sure we weren't bringing any seeds with us - let alone mice!

One of the black-backed gulls was nesting right by the track

Michaela and I looking at the nest

As well as black-backed gulls we saw zillions of skink (two kinds, one maybe 6 inches long, the other more like 8-10cm), a little flock of kākāriki and some teeny schooling fish, but no tuatara).

It was a stunning day and a lovely location.  After Michaela headed back to the city, Martin and I went for a swim in the bay here before a rest and the ferry to Days Bay.

My Aunty Elspeth and cousin Karlene met us off the ferry and took us around to the place they were staying in Eastbourne.

En route, we took a look at my Gran's old house where my dad grew up.  The people who live there now are doing a lovely job of looking after the garden.

The next day we spent the morning with Michaela, seeing a bit of her world.  I don't have many photos from that, but I was intrigued to spot this as we were walking to her place:

A free bike maintenance station, with a pump and various screwdrivers and spanners.  We saw a few of them around Wellington.

As we walked to Michaela's favourite bookshop, who should we bump into but Chris!  The farm where they live isn't the best place for uninterrupted work, so he often comes into Wellington for that.

And then, walking home from the bus that day I heard a bird I couldn't quite place - perhaps a tūī, but I wasn't sure.  I eventually spotted it - a bellbird!  I saw them at Zealandia a few years back, but that's the first one I've seen in the wild :-)  It was just on the power lines, with a kererū in a tree behind it :-)

Then it was a quiet day at Beth's before making our way home!

Since then I've had two very quiet weeks, and am hoping to start getting stuck back into things in a week or so - we'll see!

Once every three years we do a holiday where we fly domestically.  This time we only flew one way (we drove down with Martin's parents) but it was still a pretty carbon-intensive holiday.  We reckon we generated about 505kg CO2/e (about the amount the planet can absorb per person over five months!!).  110kg of that was food and other sundries, but almost 400kg of it was transport - mostly the flight but also a great deal of driving and the ferry to Somes.

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