Tuesday 23 January 2024

Back at Ambury Park

Last April Martin and I camped at Ambury Park, the only council campsite we can get to solely by bike :-)  We'd thought it'd be a good place to bring people who hadn't been camping before: it's a fairly flat site, has non-smelly toilets and even hot showers(!), is pretty affordable, and is only a 20 minute drive from where we live, so very accessible for many of our friends.

We tried to get a group from church to join us camping there this past weekend. Various things came up that meant we ended up camping on our own, but friends from church came out to join us on both the Friday and Saturday mornings :-) 

Bird-watching walk with our Saturday visitors:

On the Sunday we weren't sure if we were expecting visitors or not, but decided to head out for a bit of a bike ride along the foreshore towards the sewage works.  The tide was well out so we didn't see many birds (although I did enjoy watching some delightfully elegant pied stilts hanging out near a little stream), but it was interesting all the same.

lunchtime :-)

looking across towards the sewage works and reminiscing on the hugely interesting day I spent there for Chemical Processes in New Zealand back when I was at university.

This time camping we had a few new pieces of kit.  In the photo below you can see our new primus pot set (ordinarily we just take a saucepan from home - now, for less space and weight, we have two pots instead of one).  Attached to the pole at the left you can see our new astonishingly effective camping towel (it's smaller than most of our handtowels - and much thinner - but easily dries a whole person, and it dries out startlingly quickly).

It was pretty windy, so the tarp came in handy a number of times :-)

Those were both Christmas presents, as was a 20L dry bag (not really needed on this trip!) and the cool little solar-powered lantern that you can see glowing in the back of the photo below.

It starts out as a little disc, but you inflate it like a beach ball to form a little cylindrical lantern.  7 hours of full sun should power it for 24 hours.  It was nice having a bit of gentle light in the evenings - especially as our tent was uncommonly dark this time (a side-effect of the cooling we were using).

The idea for how to cool the tent was triggered in November, when I got a delivery of chocolate for Just Kai.  The box arrived wrapped in silver-coated bubble wrap - a thing I'd not known existed, but which I quickly realised might be the clue to solving a long-standing problem.  In the summer, our tent is unbearably hot for most of the day.  We usually abandon it and hang out under a tarp instead, hopefully somewhere where there's a bit of a breeze.  But could silver-coated bubble wrap change that?  We'd previously thought that a silver tarp over the tent might solve our problem, but hadn't managed to find anything sufficiently light.  We'd also wondered about those silver car windscreen shades, but buying enough to cover the tent would be surprisingly expensive.  But what about silver bubble wrap?

I found a place in Grey Lynn that sold it by the metre, and last week Martin picked up a piece 1.5m x 3m.  It cost $23, weighed next to nothing, and rolled up reasonably compactly on the bike:

We initially tried putting it over the top of the tent, but weren't sure how to fasten it on - plus turning our entire tent into a giant reflector felt a bit anti-social ;-)  So we duct-taped in a couple of pleats then simply tucked it between the fly and the tent inner:

It proved super-effective.  It was still a bit warmer than ideal in the tent, but I was able to rest there comfortably whenever I wanted right through the day :-)

I didn't take any photos, but we also brought along the original piece of silver bubble wrap that started it all.  I ended up wrapping our food in it to protect that from the sun, which worked very well.  Re-wrapping it each time we wanted to access something was a pain, though; I may end up taping it into a pouch or something for next time.

tarp covering the picnic table we commandeered - handy for both rain and bird protection!

Speaking of bird protection, I tossed this carrot across to the front of the tent so I could take it inside and snack on it later.  By the time I got back to it an enterprising bird had eaten about a quarter of it!

We didn't see all that many shore birds on this trip (although Ambury Park is famous for them), but the campsite was well-provided with pukeko and chooks, many in family groups.  They were pretty loud, but fun to watch!

I also kept hearing a bird that sounded a lot like a yowling cat.  I finally discovered it was a peacock that seems to have taken up residence.  So beautiful :-)

This was as I was resting while Martin packed up on Monday morning.  I hadn't spotted the peacock when this photo was taken

and my view when I realised it was there - it's neck was so velvety.

Right by our tent site there was some kind of pittosporum bush, covered in teeny tiny flowers.  I'd never noticed one flowering before.

the bush as a whole

cool fungus spotted on one of our walks

I think this is a native orchid - also seen on a walk

The weather was pretty dry and clear most of the time we were there, and the skies in the evenings were stunning.

the clouds passing across the moon on the Sunday night were creating a nifty rainbow halo around the moon

There's something pretty magic about being able to get on our bikes and travel to a different world - and even I can cover quite surprising distances on a bike.  Including a detour to the supermarket, we traveled there in 1h13 (actual cycling time - a bit more when you include breaks).  Going home (which included a detour to Ollies ice cream parlour for ice cream sodas) took 1h31, and was a kilometer longer as we went through Onehunga to avoid climbing the big hill to Hillsborough.

Near Monte Cecilia Park at almost the highest point of the return journey, looking back towards where we'd come from.

We've both come back a bit less rested than hoped, I think because of all the people contact over the weekend - both church friends and fellow campers.  We'd hoped to have some time 'just us' beforehand, but our Covidian Christmas scuppered that plan.  It was still a lovely place to be - and remarkably affordable, both financially and from a carbon perspective (the four nights cost us just under $250, and was responsible for the emission of about 28kg CO2e).  We're keen to go back next summer if we can get together a group from church to go with us, but this experience has shown us we'll definitely need a quiet break for just the two of us either before or after if we do that :-)

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