Autumn 2011

Holidays again and it is raining, but I shouldn’t complain because it has been fine most of the time and it does make me sit at my computer and do some work.  Lol!  I am doing anything but work but am trying to catch up with some admin sort of stuff and tidying up of loose ends that I haven’t had time to do during the term.  Must get down to it though so that I am on top of things for next week and I will spend a day in school at the end of the week to get some photocopying and stuff done before Monday!

Aonghas and I had a fun day at the beach at Raglan last week with some girls that came over on an exchange from Hong Kong.  He was the only boy amongst 30 or so girls and managed surprisingly well.  They, of course thought he was adorable and once they all got over their shyness they crowded round him asking him questions and teaching him how to say “I love you” in Chinese!  He also joined in some of their classes during the week and acted as interviewer during one session which we videoed.  They were amazed at how little homework he had each week (he thinks he has loads!) and thought he must have lots of time to sleep if he didn’t have any homework to do!  When asked what they were looking forward to most whilst they were in New Zealand they replied that they really wanted to go to Candyland so that they could make their own sweets and buy lots! So much for the beautiful scenery, the culture, the native flora and fauna…..!  But then, you have to remember that they are eleven year olds!

We had a couple of family walks out over the Easter weekend – nothing adventurous but it was good to get out and escape the house and work for a few hours and to remind ourselves to get out more often.  It is easy to get bogged down in the day to day demands of work and home and forget that we should make time for each other.  On Friday we went over to Pirongia and spent the afternoon on the Nikau Walk and took in Kaniwhaniwha Cave on the way.  The walk itself is not very inspiring – the first part is along a quite wide path that runs along the river – sometimes close enough to see and sometimes you are separated by a swathe of bush. There are some promising places to stop and pic-nic or have a dip in the pools and play but on an autumnal afternoon we weren’t tempted to linger.  It wasn’t particularly cold but the sky was grey and there was a hint of rain.  The second part is in the bush – at the moment they are working on upgrading the paths and the bridges so there are bits of machinery around and piles of gravel.  Autumn is probably not the best time to see the bush – I love the Cabbage Trees, the Nikau Palms and the Tree Ferns but they are all quite dark at this time of year – the freshness of the new light green fronds in the spring and summer has given way to a sombreness which, coupled with an overcast sky, gives the place a melancholy feel.  The bracken is dry and brown, we looked for mushrooms but saw few and the dead leaves lie dank in the undergrowth.  However, the darkness is brightened by the berries on the trees – orange through scarlet to deep red and even purple.  In some places the ground was carpetted with them.  We were also serenaded by the birds; Tui and Bellbirds and the chattering Piwakawaka which hopped alongside us looking for the grubs we might disturb as we walked through the bush.  Lachlan raced ahead, plugged into his ipod in his own world, we caught up with him at Kaniwhaniwha Cave; he had already been round the Nikau Loop Walk three times!  The cave is short – about 20metres!  A short climb down leads to three entrances, the one to the left is silted up and may have once linked to another silted up entrance further round to the left in the dry stream.  To the right a relatively well-decorated hole leads to a drop of about 3 metres maybe – difficult to tell as we couldn’t get in as it has been blocked off with a chain, but it comes out in the main passage.  There are some nice curtains which have clearly been damaged in the past and some flowstone.  The main way lies between the two other entrances; a short climb down leads into the streamway – very little water at present – and a narrow rift passage about 15ft high which is easily negotiable.  A couple of bends and you are soon at a daylight section where it looks like you have to go down on hands and knees in the stream to get under a rock flake but with some thought it is possible to get through without crawling.  There is a wooden ladder here that leads to the surface – that’s it, all done!  We went back the way just so we could have a longer cave- thrill experience and then Aonghas and I went back in to take some photos!  It seems there are no other known caves in the Pirongia Forest Park, but it does seem strange that there aren’t.  There is a cave called Karamu Caves which is on some private land close by; I will be going there next week with our school camp so will report on that later.   On the way over to Pirongia we stopped to find a geocache – Toothbrush – it is situated on the side of the road and is not the usual box  – the picture explains best!  There were a few in the forest too but we couldn’t find them – wonder whether they have been moved or buried by the upgrade work that has been going on?

On Sunday we visited the Taitua Arboretum with some friends, Liz, Chaz, Jamie and Josh.  We have been before a few times and it always an interesting place to visit.  We spent all afternoon wandering round looking at the plants and trees and enjoying the warmth of the Autumn sun.  There are lots of fruit and nut trees, and of course at this time of year they are laden with fruit.  We guiltily plucked some Feijoa and some Quince – well they sort of fell off in our hands so they were ready to drop and would only have gone to waste otherwise, wouldn’t they?  Must Google Quince and find out what to do with them!!  The pomegranites didn’t seem quite so ripe, although some people had clearly taken them off the trees as there were remnants of them scattered around the ground, so we left them to ripen on the trees.
Quite a few mushrooms around and about although non edible; it reminded us that we should try to get out a bit more and go mushroom hunting.

The boys had great fun climbing trees and Lachlan showed that just because he is a “grown-up” teenager doesn’t mean that he has lost the boyish desire to climb.  He can now get frighteningly high up and I have to resist the natural protective motherly urge to cry out! He has always been a good climber but I know from experience how much easier it is going up than down…!  Aonghas is a little more circumspect for the time being.

Photos are on Flickr – not so many as the light was not great but there are a few that serve as a record.

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