A Day Out on the Train

We are travelling back to Hamilton from Wellington on the Overlander train, a journey of about 580km which takes 9 and a half hours at an average speed of, shall we say, slow!  It gives us the opportunity to relax, spend quality time together as a family and admire the scenery (much of which is not visible from the road – or so the spiel from the train crew goes).  I jest; it is indeed a very pleasant journey and the scenery is stunning.

As we travel along the coast out of Wellington we have but a short time to admire the morning light on the harbour and the tall buildings reflecting the sun like huge mirrors before we plunge into the tunnel that takes us through the mountain to the other side. We emerge into misty mountains to our east but clear blue sky to the west. This is the pattern for the next few kilometres; we go through Levin and the sun is shining through the heavy clouds over the mountains to the east. Levin (rhymes with “begin”) was founded in 1906 and named after William Hort Levin, a director of the Wellington and Manawatu Railway Company. The town’s Maori name is Taitoko but I have still to work out what it means – tai is something to do with tides or ocean I think.

Heading northwards we see cows and rolling plains to the west and still the misty mountains to the east.

We are just approaching Palmerston North which according to the train crew “allows visitors to participate in a large variety of adventurous activities”. There is a five minute stop here to take on passengers and let smokers off for a fag break!

Fielding – built along the same plan as Manchester, “so those of you that may hail from there will easily be able to find your way around” – but I bet that if you come from Fielding you would not be able to find your way around Manchester!  Onwards through the flat lands to Marton – beer brewing land –  and we start the climb up country to the mountains.  New Zealand is indeed a green and lush land, and as we trundle through it the sheep and the cows munch away contentedly and Aonghas chews on a meat pie, most of which he is wearing down his front as he is concentrating more on watching the DVD of Return of the King than looking at where his food is going!  Every now and then there is a small graveyard seemingly in the middle of nowhere but I presume they are Maori burial places. It is not easy to type and I will have to make extensive use of the spelling and grammar check, as the train rocks and rolls and makes me miss the keys.  This is certainly not a sleek Intercity 125, and even further removed from the smooth and aerodynamic movement of the TGV.  It takes me back to childhood train journeys, and it is sort of comforting to feel the rails beneath the wheels and all the bumps and trickety trick, trickety trick as the train bowls along.  The carriage has filled up as we have travelled north and it is always fascinating to observe our fellow passengers. We are sitting by the door so are frequently stared and glared at by people as they steady themselves to open the door – good old-fashioned handles that have to be turned, not pressure pad technology that magically opens the door as you approach.  Now there is the confident youth, then there is the mother and young child, the elderly, but determined lady and the portly middle aged man (not Nigel!). They all negotiate the awkward journey that takes them from one end of the carriage to the other.  Thrown from one side of the aisle to the other, grasping the head rests for balance and all but falling into a stranger’s lap, they achieve their goal of the door or the safety of their seats.

Just passed through the small town of Hunterville founded in 1884 by George Hunter who walked from Wellington .  It is famous for its Huntaway dogs which are a unique Herding dog which uses its bark to herd sheep.  There is a festival each year which starts with a dog barking competition and features The Shepherds Shemozzle – a race with man and dog. Shepherds travel from all over New Zealand to compete up hill and down dale and through the town obstacle course – fascinating the things you find out! The landscape is now very green and lumpy like upturned egg boxes. To the East the valleys are flat and the cliffs are getting more sheer, and to the east the many hillocks are more rounded.  The lush green fields are dotted with the white of the sheep and the tussocky grass.

This is the Rangitikei region – farming country with lovely native bush.  The Papa cliffs are spectacular, steep sided, impressive gorges and a sparkling white; the water is clear and looks refreshingly cool below as the river meanders through the gorge.  We cross it several times – there are 10 viaducts over the next 50 km we are told and our stewards reel off the names, heights and lengths of them too quickly for me to make notes – I will have to look them up later!   See this link for more details on the viaducts – http://trains.wellington.net.nz/bridges.html

However one of them is the Makohine Viaduct ( 229m long and 73m high ) and we dashed down to the front of the train to get a better view from the open air platform behind the engine.  It is very noisy but good to have fresh air and the wind in your face – as long as you face the right way and don’t get the fumes from the diesel.  We have picked up a bit of speed now and are almost faster than the cars on SH1 which runs alongside the track.  The boys were devastated on the way down that the cars outpaced the train, but when we are in the car they always want to race the trains and revel in the fact that we drive faster than them.  The sheep scurry away in an arc across the fields as the train goes past, three brown cows sit in a row unmoved by the noise and the deer continue to graze and then blackness as we enter a tunnel. It feels strange to be hurtling along in complete darkness, a bit like the old ghost trains at the fairground – what ghoul will pop out round the corner, what gooey, sticky strands will sweep across my face…?  But no, we are back out into the light again all safe and no surprises.

We pass through Mangaweka which from the train seems like a tiny little place and as we whizz through it I spot a sign for the Mangaweka International airport (this has to be a joke, surely!)– there is an old plane parked next to the sign and close by there is the General Store and then a Gospel Hall.  According to good old Wikipedia “The town also hosts the controversial annual “Fakes & Forgeries Art Exhibition and Festival” in October and November”.

The odd colonial style house stands alone in a field, surrounded by the remnants of a once well-manicured garden, run down but still evocative of times past, the native bush reclaiming the space it used to occupy. On to Taihape which is a small town founded in 1894 and a centre for the timber industry.  The once busy sawmills are nearly all now closed but were the reason for the existence of the town when the native forest was cleared up until the 1940s. Famous now for its annual gumboot throwing competition and on the edge of the town there is a large corrugated gumboot to commemorate Taihape’s 100th anniversary.

Did you know that before the arrival of people on NZ 85% of country was forested?  In the 1200s Maori felled and cleared the land to make way for crops and to build houses and waka and so by the time the European settlers arrived in the mid 1800s only 55% of the land was forested. Maori lived mainly along the coastal areas on both Islands but some iwi moved to the geo thermal areas around Rotorua in the winter. In a very short space of time between the mid 1890s and early 1900s the European settlers cleared huge tracts of land for grazing and farming as well as felling the mighty Kauri trees to be exported, so that nowadays only 25% of the land retains its forest and much of the native trees have been lost.  There are huge campaigns and efforts now to regenerate the native bush and re-introduce endangered species of plants and birds.

We continue on over the viaducts; The North Rangitikei viaduct is (I think) 181 m long, 77 m high, then the Toetoe viaduct (59 m long 58 m high) with a pretty waterfall to the west.  We are travelling through rolling country with hills to the east and west and we are steadily rising with the help of “gradings” shaped like horseshoes which help the train climb the inclines – you can often see the track above us as we snake around.  Onto the plains of Waiouru which is where the NZ army has its training grounds.  It is the highest point on the journey at 814m above sea level and the furthest point from the sea on our journey.  It is also the home of the army museum and memorial –where you can find out about the national military heritage.

We continue across the plains and then come to Tangiwae.  This is the site of New Zealand’s worst rail disaster when on Christmas Eve night in 1953 a lahar swept down the valley and washed the train off the track.  The last two carriages were left teetering on the track which allowed many passengers to escape but 151 died.

We stop at Ohakune for half an hour for lunch, a coffee, a wander round to stretch the legs and a trip to a loo that doesn’t move out of the way just as you descend onto it!  The railway cafes at National Park Village and Ohakune must make a killing for half an hour each day as a train load of passengers disembarks for a break from the journey.  Ohakune is 2027ft above sea level, a big skiing area on the southern side of Ruapehu, and also a famous for its vegetable growing.  It is home to the Giant Carrot – we have noticed that NZ towns like to have some sort of quirky “thing” for which they can be recognised – giant carrots, giant corrugated kiwis, Golden Shears, giant apples and so on.  We have not been back to Ohakune since our campervan was broken into when we were on holiday here 5 years ago.  Although Lachlan came for a week’s skiing with the school ski team and is keen for us to return as a family – maybe we can get over the break-in now and put that episode behind us!

We approach the historic HapuaWhenua viaduct which is built on a big curve 414m long.  First opened in 1908, it was replaced by a new concrete viaduct in 1987.  Earlier this year renovations of the old viaduct were complete and “now it is an exciting and safe experience to walk along the deck, study the construction and design of the viaduct, marvel at the new concrete viaduct and enjoy the serenity of the bush and the antics of the native birds”.  In 1987 AJ Hackett ran NZ’s first Bungee Jump off the old Hapuawhena viaduct.  As we travel over the viaduct we can look into the gorge below onto the crowns of the bright green spring fronds of the Ponga ferns and the darker spikes of the Cabbage trees.  And now the rain starts – no views of snow-clad Ruapehu, Ngaruahoe or Tongariro today.  Travelling through the native bush towards National Park Village we will climb steadily and will soon negotiate the Raurimu Spiral.

The Last Spike – marks the completion of the NI main trunk line and the creation of the Auckland to Wellington link.  There is a sort of obelisk that marks the spot and a sign post – the Prime Minister of the day was presented with a silver spike which is now in the Te Papa museum in Wellington.

The Makatote Viaduct is the highest one on the journey and the 3rd highest in NZ. It is 79 metres tall and 262 metres long – on a good day you can see Taranaki to the West and Ruapehu to the East.  It spans a forested gorge and we can see a small river meandering through it.

Now we have come to a halt and are waiting at Makatote just south of National Park Village for the southbound train so that crew can swap over. Alongside the track there is toetoe, ox-eye daisies, pine trees, birch, flax, gorse and broom, totara, bracken … and lots more that I don’t know the names of.  I was here just a few weeks ago with the Year 10 girls from my school on Outdoor camp and we mountain biked through this forest in glorious sunshine.  Unfortunately today we do not have the views that we were treated to then.

We go through National Park Village and then onwards to the Raurimu Spiral.  It is an amazing feat of engineering and quite bewildering to travel round.  Basically the station at National Park on the south side was 714 feet above Raurimu Station on the north side although a straight line of only about 7 km separated them. The problem was to join up the two places with a workable grade.  This was done by means of the spiral and now the distance travelled between the stations is 11km. It is said that if the aeroplane had existed when reconnaissance surveys were made then the Raurimu spiral would never have been built. A guy called James Cowan described the spiral thus; “The line is run as an ascending spiral, a complete circle (which passes over itself at a higher level), and two tunnels. The fashion in which this mountain railway ties knots in itself is rather puzzling on first experience.”  Earlier on in the year we had stopped on the road at Raurimu where there is a lookout and a model of the spiral – looking at it there and trying to spot the track through the bush, it was quite difficult to work out how the spiral worked but now that we have travelled it all has become clear!

The boys are getting tired; we have been up since 5.30am and they are flagging and getting tetchy.  Nigel played a few games of Uno with them before the Ohakune break.  A hot chocolate and a poke of chips revived them temporarily but they are getting on each other’s nerves now. Aonghas had a go at trying to sleep but can’t get comfortable.  I know, I thought – let’s have a game of Tantrix – it distracted them for a while but Lachlan lost interest when it looked like he wasn’t going to win and Aonghas didn’t like Lachlan “advising” him where to put his tiles.  Oh dear!  Game over and the blue line won – nobody was playing blue so we all lost which makes life simpler, I suppose!

270 km into the journey and we are at Taumarunui which is 171m above sea level and has a population of 26,500.  Taumarunui means giant sun screen in Maori. Apparently as the great Maori chief Pehi Turoa lay dying on the plain he asked for a sun screen to be erected to shield him from the harsh rays of the sun. Originally a Maori settlement at the confluence of the Ongarue River with the Whanganui, where important canoe routes linked the interior of the island with the lower Whanganui River settlements, it then became an important trading post in the 19th century and is now the gateway to ski areas and water sports on the Whanganui river which is the 2nd longest in NZ.

My computer battery died on me so I decided to take a break and read my book – an hour later I awake and the seats around me are deserted!  My family have gone awol!  The sun has come out and although there are still plenty of grey clouds, there is a freshness in the air.  We are in Te Kuiti – Sheep Shearing Capital of the world – I just love the labels they give their towns here! There is a huge statue of a man shearing a sheep at the edge of town and an honours board of world champion sheep shearers.  We stop here regularly for a break when we drive down to Taumarunui.  Founded in 1897 it is a railway town in the heart of land which is very similar to the Yorkshire Dales.  The road from here down to Taumarunui is one of my favourite areas to drive through and certainly a place earmarked to explore more thoroughly in the future.  Otorohanga (meaning food for a long journey), known for dairy and sheep farming and marketed as NZs Kiwiana town,  has based its tourism on the quirky kiwi icons that decorate the shops and businesses down the main street – Buzzy Bee, Hokey Pokey Ice cream, kiwis, pukeko, jandals to name but a few.  Lachlan has returned – they have been out on the viewing platform behind the engine.  Aonghas and Nigel are back now too – they were on an anti-sickness mission! All good now though!  Only an hour now before we arrive in Hamilton and we are in familiar country.  The novelty of a train ride has sort of worn off now after 9 hours and we have seen the scenery outside plenty of times though it is still quite interesting to see things from a different perspective.  We come to Te Awamutu which means – the end of the channel – or the river’s end.  Te Awamutu was a major site during the New Zealand land wars of the 19th century, serving as a garrison town for the colonial settlers.

As we approach Hamilton we are told that it is the fourth largest in New Zealand and is famous for its beautiful gardens and Mystery Creek where you can get “hands on” with a cow!  (The mind boggles!)  Its Maori name is Kirikiriroa which means long stretch of gravel, but the settlement of Hamilton was founded on 24 August, 1864 and named after Captain John Charles Fane Hamilton, the popular Scottish commander of HMS Esk who was killed in the battle of Gate Pa, Tauranga.

We step off the train into the early evening sunshine, grab a taxi and head home.  We have had a great trip and I would really recommend the train journey.  The desire to stay awake and make the most of the stunning views is strong – but then I don’t like missing out on anything – but it is a long time to be on a train with two active boys!  Fortunately we had table seats so we had space to play games and watch videos but that would have been less easy if we had been in two sets of forward facing seats.  There is the option of going to the observation car at the back of the train and spending some time there, which we did on the way down to Wellington.  There is a huge panoramic window at the rear of the carriage from which you have the most amazing view.  However the boys preferred the tiny open air platform directly behind the engine – much more exciting and it provides an opportunity to get some fresh air!  A fascinating journey but it’s always good to be home!

(thanks to Wikipedia for clarifications on the info I heard and half-heard on the train!)

Christmas message

Lachlan, Aonghas and Nigel, Castle Point December 2009

Merry Christmas everyone!

I am making use of a long ride on a train to pen this seasonal missive.  We are travelling back to Hamilton from Wellington on the Overlander train, a journey of about 600km which takes 9 and a half hours at an average speed of, shall we say, slow!  It gives us the opportunity to relax, spend quality time together as a family and admire the scenery (much of which is not visible from the road – or so the spiel from the train crew goes).  I jest; it is indeed a very pleasant journey and the scenery is stunning.  On the way down I recorded some video footage of the journey, but you will be pleased to know that you won’t get to see it as I inadvertently deleted it from the camera card when transferring the data onto the computer!  But wait, I have another 7 hours to go on the return journey – more opportunities for videos, so maybe you will have the pleasure of sharing our adventure after all!  I ramble on and you have probably lost the will to live already so maybe I should get on with telling you some of our news.

Aonghas weetbix tryathlon feb 2009We have survived a second year in NZ and time certainly seems to have flown by. The boys, especially Lachlan, have developed a bit of a Kiwi accent.  A sort of defence mechanism, I think, to fit in with his peer group as he can slip back into “Yorkshire” when his Dad doesn’t understand him! Aonghas has adopted the antipodean inflection but his vowel sounds haven’t changed yet. (Scenery update: Misty mountains to our east but clear blue sky to the west just north of Wellington) Lachlan will start Year 11 in February and the spectre of NCEA Level 1 (equivalent to GCSE) looms at the end of that year – he will have to study a bit harder than he has this year, although to be fair he has developed more maturity and independence this year and has grown into a fine young man.  (I’m not biased – I’m his mother!)  Aonghas starts his last year at Primary school and is excited that he is in Mr Peart’s class – the only male teacher in the school and very hip and cool! (Bleached blond hair and trendy clothes!)

Both boys are involved in lots of sport.  Squash is a new pursuit this year – after a 25 year break from the game I have started playing again and Lachlan and Aonghas have both taken to it so we are trying to persuade Nigel to have a go too!

10th Birthday - Aonghas 2009

Duathlons, Triathlons and Fun Runs have been a big part of our sporting events this year too.  They are good fun and as competitive as you want them to be – of course we don’t worry about our times or where we come in the order – participation is the name of the game, isn’t it?  (However Lachlan has been consistently in the top half of his age group (U17) and I have usually managed a top ten placing in my age group,and he can now beat his mother by about 4 minutes over 10km!).  Aonghas has started swimming again this summer and is in the Development Squad at the local swimming club which he grudgingly enjoys. He doesn’t like the idea of going as he would prefer to play, but once he is there he admits that it is good!  (Scenery update: Just coming up to Levin and the sun is shining through the heavy clouds over the mountains to the east) Lachlan has continued to play rugby as his Winter sport, but has got more involved in volleyball during the Spring, and was lucky enough to go with them to the North Island Volleyball Champs in Rotorua.  Aonghas decided to play hockey this year instead of rugby and has really enjoyed himself scoring several goals and proving to be a useful member of the team.

We haven’t got out into the hills walking as much as we would have liked as life has been pretty hectic.  Nigel and I have both been busy at work – Nigel has been off to several conferences about the country and also spent a couple of weeks in Australia. I have been settling into a new job at Waikato Dio and trying to make myself indispensable – a worthwhile investment of time as I now have a permanent full-time position there!  It will be a challenging year ahead as although I have a relatively small teaching load, I continue in my role as Teacher IT Coach, and take on a new responsibility of organising the Outdoor Education Camps.  Three of the five year groups (about 140 girls in each year group) go on camp for a week at a time, so it is quite a logistical undertaking and a huge responsibility too.  Fortunately, I am taking over from someone who had everything well set up so I don’t aim to change anything major next year, just get my head around the job.  I managed to go on all three of the camps this year (Yr 9, Yr 10 and Yr 12) and got the opportunity to try out white water rafting, surfing (in the freezing cold ocean in winter!!), archery and also to do the awesome Tongariro Crossing which is

Tongariro Crossing, November 2009

an iconic kiwi walk – it’s a bit like doing the Three Peaks in terms of a must do walk. I have also got my caving count up to 4 NZ caves now – just need to get the rest of the family out to them now I know where they are.

Talking of the Tongariro Crossing – it traverses a volcanic area about 2 hours south of Hamilton where we have had our first forays into family skiing.

"Snowplough king understudy"

Whakapapa is a great ski resort on Mount Ruapehu – an active volcano which last erupted in the 1990s.  The boys, of course, got the hang of planks on feet pretty quickly, and Nigel’s body took a long hard look at the memory bank and realised that it had been there too, so we were away!  To our amazement (and his!), after just 3 days skiing, Lachlan was asked to be in the school ski

"snowplough king"

team and so he had the opportunity to spend a week away training with a crowd of very good skiers and participate in the North Island Secondary School Ski Champs.  He went as a travelling reserve so didn’t really get a chance to ski in any races but had a great time nonetheless, and it was an invaluable experience for him.

Now that summer is here (and Lachlan isn’t playing tennis every Sunday this summer) we aim to get away for some weekends and walk or mountain bike.  We have joined the Hamilton Mountain Bike Club and go every Wednesday for race night – fun for all the family, though we have yet to get Nige to join in

Pukete Spaghetti 2009

( he is using a broken chain as an excuse at the moment).  We have also had a couple of trips to the Redwoods in Rotorua where there are some awesome tracks.  Aonghas has really taken to it despite having to cycle on a rigid bike with dodgy gears!  (last heard shouting “Mum, my balls hurt – I don’t think I’ll be

Pukete Spaghetti, 2009 Aonghas

able to have children when I’m older!)  Maybe Santa will have heard?!  (Scenery update: Cows and rolling plains to the west, misty mountains to the east)

The main obstacle to getting out more regularly at weekends is the garden.  It has been great to have our own house this year with space to develop the garden and grow veggies.  Nigel spent a good few weekends in late

Veggie bed, October 2009

winter/early spring digging the ground and then building two raised beds which he has filled with a huge array of vegetables.  We have inherited an amazing watering system – a network of plastic pipes and sprinklers which is operated electronically so we can set it to water when we aren’t there.  Fantastic – no more standing around with a hosepipe!  The major drawback for Nigel is that I keep sticking a fork through the pipes when I get a little

Aonghas, October 2009

over-zealous with the weeding so he spends more time locating the leaks and fixing the holes than he really wants to!  We have already harvested and eaten broccoli, silverbeet, spring onions, carrots, green beans and courgette and are looking forward to cucumber, capsicums, artichokes (globe), beetroot, rock melon, fennel, tomatoes and more that I can’t remember!  Stuff grows so fast here but that also includes the weeds, so every silver lining has a cloud!  (Scenery Update: Just approaching “Palmerston North which allows visitors to participate in a large variety of adventurous activities”. A five minute stop here to take on passengers and let smokers off for a fag break!)

We are looking forward to a quiet Christmas together in our new home – last year we moved in and then headed straight down to Wellington for Christmas with Nigels’ family.  So this year we have spent a very pleasant week before Christmas in Wellington and Greytown with Aunty Chris and Aunty Moi catching up and being spoilt.  We will spend New Year with our friends Liz and Chas and their two boys Jamie and Josh at a house they have rented at Manukau Head and then we plan to head further north towards the Bay of Islands for a few days to explore.

We had a few visitors from the UK this year and it was great to see them – Ben and Samuel Davis turned up out of the blue and we spent a delightful evening with them, and then Aunty Margaret came to stay for two weeks which was just lovely.  So hopefully 2010 will see a few more of you!

Well, once again a Merry Christmas to you all.  Hope that 2010 brings all that you wish for and lots of pleasant surprises.  We look forward to seeing and hearing from you – e-mail, text, skype, phone or in person!

Round up of Aunty Margaret’s visit

Aonghas, Lachlan, Anne, Margaret, Nigel in Babaganush, Hamilton East

The boys said Goodbye to their Great Aunt Margaret on Tuesday evening and I took her up to Auckland to get the plane to start the last leg of her trip. She still couldn’t get her head around the fact that she was going on a 12 hour flight to Los Angeles which would arrive 3 hours after she set off from Auckland. I must admit I find it bizarre too – time zones are strange things.  Anyway she was looking forward to going to Vancouver and still trying to decide whether to get the flying boat over to Vancouver Island or go on the ferry. I think she was quite taken with the flying boat as we saw a couple at Lake Taupo and was attracted by the idea of flying in and landing on the water!

She had a good time in Wellington with Chris and Brian.  They spent a couple of hours in Wellington itself and then had a drive round the coast.  Wednesday they went over the Rimutuckers to see Moi and Terry and spent a pleasant afternoon looking round the  beautiful Awaiti gardens in Carterton, and then fish and chips in in the White Swan in Greytown before heading back over the mountains to Upper Hutt.  Thursday they had the compulsory visit to Te Papa which as usual was a source of fascination and wonder, before heading back to Hamilton.

We had a damp last few days but made it to Rotorua on Saturday.  Lachlan and Nigel went mountain biking in the Redwoods whilst Aunty Marg, Aonghas and I went to Whakarewarewa.  Aonghas was given the choice of mountain biking but when he heard that we were going to Whakarewarewa he said “Is that the place where we had the sweetcorn?”  (5 years ago when he was 5yrs old) and when we said that it was, he decided that he would forego the bike ride in favour of sweetcorn!

Dinner at Whakarewarewa

It all started off so promising, the sun was shining and despite a bit of a breeze it was quite pleasant. We dropped the boys off at the Redwoods and embarked on our tour. Margaret was fascinated by it and I have to say that I too learnt something new and am always intrigued by the the place.  This was the third time I have been round and I have had 3 different guides.  Since they all live or have lived in the village and have all been different ages,  they all bring their

kapahaka show Whakarewarewa

own stories, memories and anecdotes to the tour.  We saw the Kapahaka show and Aonghas went up to do the Haka! Had a nosey round the shops and were just about to get a coffee when we got an SOS from the boys – Nigel’s chain had broken at the top of the hill – so I left Gus and Aunty Margaret in the cafe and headed out to pick them up just as it started to pour with rain!  They were like a pair of drowned rats, looking very miserable sheltering behind the entrance sign to the car Park!

The rain continued so we headed to the Fat Dog (where else?) for a (big) bite to eat.

It was a rather damp weekend and plans for a trip out to the beach on Sunday came to nothing when we woke to torrential rain.  However, we spent a lovely day chatting and Aunty Margaret told me more tales about our family so that I could fill in some of the gaps in the family tree.  It was fascinating and I really want to get down to some real research and work on our genealogy.  Time, time, time – there is never enough of it!  She had a quiet day on Monday when I was at work, but it brightened up in the afternoon and we managed to get out to Hamilton Lake to see the Pukeko and the ducks.  We went out to Babaganush on Grey Street on Tuesday evening – well worth a visit – great food and reasonably priced too.  I managed to manage my day on Wednesday to squeeze in the trip to Auckland airport to see Margaret off which was great – luckily there were no traffic problems en route and so I got back in time for my afternoon  classes!  It really was lovely spending some time with Aunty Marg and having someone to talk to about Mum.  Quite a few weepy moments too but it was all good.  It will be difficult to remember everything she told me but I memories are always subjective and I am sure that some of hers were her personal interpretations of events which others may not see in the same way.  Isn’t that the nature of history?