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Posts tagged ‘driving’

Getting to the air show

The weather was absolutely perfect for the day of the air show. We hadn’t planned to leave especially early and got underway at 8am, naively intending to arrive in Ohakea sometime around 10am.

Traffic was free flowing, aside from the common troublespots of Otaki and Levin.

Thanks to the era of the electronic gadget the boys were happily engaged

And then we got to a few kms south of Sanson where we joined the back of a very long queue. Which for long periods of time stood still.

The more onto-it people took an early turnoff down a back road (not us and I began kicking myself soon after) while the majority of us stayed on the prescribed route.

Understandably there were bound to be some hold ups because of the expected crowd numbers and the limited capacity roads. But it began to get a bit ridiculous – and there were no signs, no information.

Resigned to a long slow trip I occupied myself with a camera, finding stuff of interest in surroundings that would ordinarily have been a blur.

As we inched further north, 10am arrived and with it the start of the air displays. We heard the planes overhead and snatched views now and then.

Soooooo disappointed to have missed the F/A-18 display. This was all I had time to catch on the little camera. Better than zip I guess

We creeped closer.

Finally we had another chance to take another shortcut – down the aptly named Speedy Rd – which very few others were taking. Poor them; turned out this saved us at least another hour. Though we still found ourselves in another very slow moving queue.

Our neighbours at a time when none of us were going anywhere

We were clearly going to miss whatever the Hueys were planning to do at the base. But it was great seeing, and hearing, them fly over

This was a cool building but too many cars and whatnot in front - must try to detour past here again another time

Getting rather desperate for a toilet stop, we had no real choice but to hang in there.

Light posts at the northern approach to the runway

On the home stretch now. The speck in the wing mirror could be an insect, but is actually a plane

The trip to Ohakea should normally take around 2 hours. Today it took 4.5 hours. With some amazement we finally turned in to the base access road.

Fiiiiiiiiiinally we were there

We headed on in and rarely have I been so happy to see a port-a-loo. We were surprised to find that those in charge had given up on checking for tickets. About 10,000 tickets had been purchased online, with the 50-60,000 other people to have paid at the gate. That’s a heck of a lot of revenue they sacrificed.

Unfortunately many people stuck in the queues, which were reported to have extended south for about 30kms, gave up and returned home. I can imagine how difficult it must’ve been for some families with children.

I’m glad we persisted as the rest of the day was excellent. See here for my post on the air show.

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New Year Trip: 11~From White to Welly

Back on the boat after the tour Mike and I grabbed the same seats outside as there was still plenty to see. Loads of seabirds for a start.

Gannet? Gull?

The boat puttered away from its anchorage, the skipper giving us a closer look at and some commentary about the island’s coastline and habitat.

On the far hill are trees burned by the volcanic climate; the near hill has a colony of gannets

More gannets. Can anyone else see the face-like thing going on in this photo or is it just me?

Then we headed west back toward Whakatane. No dolphins this time.

Settling in for another 80 minute boat ride

Seabirds behind the boat

One last look back to Whale Island.

Near the Whakatane River mouth you can't help but notice that part of the cliff has slipped in a big way. One of the crew I think commented that it happened about 18 months before in another big rain. Most interesting though: the ex-mayor lives in the house directly beneath and he refuses to leave.

Back on land we checked into our new room, the result of a bit of a muck-up earlier in the day. We did very well out of it as the half-villa was much nicer than our bog standard (though still perfectly adequate) motel room. I eyed up the bath – it and I would be getting better acquainted later on…

First though it was tea time. We walked across the road to order fish and chips from a very popular place on the wharf and then drove down to the end of the road, near the river mouth. Fish ‘n’ chips is best consumed at the beach, or at least with view of the water. It was a bit windy and cool out so we stayed in the car. To the dismay of the locals.

Lurking seagulls but they scored no tidbits from us

Unfortunately the next day was the last of our holiday :(. Car packed and TomTom programmed, we headed for home. The first part of the route included roads I’m not sure I’d ever been on and where other traffic was seldom encountered. Galatea Road extended some distance and revealed a couple of interesting highlights.

Shot past this old garage (<something> Motors on the sign) and did a u-turn so that I could take a couple of quick snaps

Another finding on Galatea Road, the Matahina Dam in the process of spilling water down river. Not massive by hydro power station standards, it is the second largest earth dam in NZ. It was damaged in the 1987 Edgecumbe earthquake and subsequently strengthened.

As if I wasn’t already aware that the holiday was screaming to a halt, with my workplace also being in the electricity industry this stop was another reminder that I’d be back in the office the next day.

Later we diverted to Taupo for lunch – along with half the North Island it seemed. Ugh. And then it was State Highway 1 all the way home.

Home! Work. Sigh.

But what a great week away. Time now to start getting sorted for the big trip in May!

New Year Trip: 7~A 50-year flood

New Years Day started tentatively – but blessedly there was no headache to greet me. A fortunate thing, as it was time to move on again. We packed up and farewelled our hosts. As usual it had been a great visit and I’d be seeing them again in February thanks to a plan hatched the night before.

First order of business was coffee and food. We went back to where we found coffee yesterday and joy of joys, it was open.

That taken care of, the TomTom was set for Whakatane.

The drive started off well. It was a fine day with not too much traffic. Heading over the Bombay Hills I got stuck behind a car in the fast lane going a few k’s slower than ideal. Eventually they pulled into the left hand lane and, with my turn off coming up, I decided to put my foot down a little to jump ahead of the queue rather than follow and continue behind my slow friend. Then rounding a bend I saw with mild horror a police car off to the side. Uttering a stream of curses, I instantly backed off and braked feeling sure my time was up after a number of close calls in recent years. With frequent glances in the rear view mirror I was surprised there was no immediate pursuit. Could I be so lucky???

No.

By the time I got to the turn off the police car was underway, lights a-twinkling. Resigned to my fate, I soon came upon a side road which I pulled into and waited, license in hand. The officer was reasonable and I inwardly gave thanks to the wee time delay before his radar locked on, which resulted in a lower reading and ultimately lessened my fine.

We continued on, perhaps a touch more conservatively than before. Travelling through patches of the heavy rain that had been causing havoc in a few areas, we reached the Bay of Plenty from where we’d continue down the east coast. A random stop was made at a beach access spot along the stretch of road where it hugs the coastline.

Nice stretch of east coast beach, apart from the blue bottles




Whakatane wasn’t far off by this stage. It had stopped raining and had the appearance of a not-too-bad sort of day. But in previous days the area had been dumped on by massive amounts of rain and in some places, flooding and other issues had cut people off and caused roads to be closed.

As we entered the town we came upon huge queues of cars trying to head the opposite way. Thousands of people who had attended the annual New Year music festival over in Gisborne had unfortunately timed their journey home with road closures and it was chaos. But not for us, and we zipped past them as per TomTom’s instructions and found our motel.

The main township is located beside the Whakatane River, near where it opens out into the sea. We noticed the river looked high, really high, and along the riverbank could see where some walkways had been submerged. Near our motel a couple of roads had been blocked off. We checked in then headed out on foot to see what the situation was.

The flood had peaked by this stage and was starting to drop back. It was clear the river had risen above its banks in places and flooded some of the town. Later on when the measurements were in, it rated as a little larger than a one-in-50-year flood. The problem being that this kind of flood happens more frequently than that label suggests.

Mike in a big puddle

My main concern was for the following day. Our reason for stopping off in Whakatane was to do a tour to the volcanic White Island. Although the rain had stopped, water was still flowing into and inundating the river, and bringing with it it huge amounts of debris. The tour boats leave from the river and the trees and logs were a real hazard and so no tours had run for the previous couple of days.

The tour boats went nowhere today - would they tomorrow?

Half a day or so before, doubt we would've been standing here

The saying 'weather for ducks' springs to mind

Just along from our motel the road was flooded

While it was really interesting to see the flood, our tour the next day, which I’d been looking forward to for months, was in doubt. We would find out in the morning.

New Year Trip: 1~To the north!

Twas a quiet morning the day after the day after Christmas. My car was set, packed with 95 octane and the essentials for a week on the road. I set sail to the sounds of Pink Floyd – homework for the Roger Waters show in Feb – as Dario Franchitti started issuing instructions in his charming Scots accent.

I was making the annual end-of-year trek north to see family and friends and do a few other things. Spending all day in the car is one of my favourite pastimes but today there were way too many others on the road. Tis the time of year for it I guess. Another moderating factor was that being a holiday period, there was a lower speed tolerance. Over 104kph you’re a sitting duck.

The routes are very familiar to me but I elected to follow the most direct way according to the TomTom. This was State Highway 1 via the Desert Road then up the western side of Lake Taupo; just like last time, this was blessedly quiet.

Some small towns will forever be linked with high profile crimes and I was reminded of this when passing through Turangi and Tokoroa given events of recent weeks. Tirau was quite the opposite, the busiest I’ve seen it with holidaymakers en route to wherever. I hopped onto SH27 which later blended into SH2 and then joined SH1 again. And then – hello Auckland traffic.

But it’s not all doom and gloom and over the next few days I would be amazed at the motorway developments since I last ventured into certain parts of the city. Once in Manukau it only took a relative jiffy to get to Sandringham where I was stopping briefly to catch up with friends celebrating their son’s birthday.

Parakai was today’s final destination though, via a stop in neighbouring Helensville. Dario directed me via a back route which quickly became my new favourite stretch of road. The rest of the evening was spent with mum, dad, gran and a sunburned brother. While I was too tired to bother with the mineral spa back at my motel unit later, it was at least a comfort that there were no police helicopters overhead this time.

Quick stop on the Desert Rd at the turnoff to the Tukino ski field

The National Grid marching up the country

Over the tussock, the road north

The joy of driving: Welly to Gizzy

Last weekend was spent in Gisborne and I made the 7-ish hour drive on Friday. I love open road touring especially on my own and especially on days when most of the population is at work!

The TomTom took a ride as well and for me the most value in having it was its more accurate speedo – I reckon it saved a few minutes. However it failed for the second time by freezing up repeatedly later in the weekend. It first happened not long after we got it in January and we may have to apply a three strikes policy.

Laybys off SH1 provide clear views across to Kapiti Island

Kapiti Island is conservation land which you can visit though I've not yet organised myself to do this in the 8+ years I've lived down here!

The route taken was up State Highway 1 cutting through back-roads to the outskirts of Palmerston North, through the Manawatu Gorge and onto SH2. Highway 50 in the Hawkes Bay is a brilliant road, long straights and little traffic. Between Napier and Gisborne the road winds more and, provided you don’t come across too many camper vans, trucks or roadworks, is arguably more fun.

The Manawatu Gorge between Palmerston North and Woodville

After the gorge I detoured up to the Te Apiti Wind Farm, the first wind farm in NZ to feed into the national grid

Then there are the times where you come across a vehicle to keep good pace with, or which keeps pace with you (noting that this is not by any means ‘racing’). Rarely do I feel more present and alive than during those periods of driving.

I stopped at a couple of places for photos but passed by many other opportunities. After overtaking traffic the overwhelming temptation is to keep going lest you get stuck behind the same camper van, truck etc again. I especially love the old dilapidated buildings and I often think that I should revisit these rural primary and secondary roads with more time to stop and take photos.

The town of Wairoa, roughly half way between Napier and Gisborne

On the food front: Norsewood is a little settlement with Scandinavian origins just off SH2 in the Tararua region. It has a great little cafe and has become a regular stop on occasion when we’re passing through. I personally recommend their brownie!

Often I like to drive without any aural accompaniment but I did plug in and crank up the ipod for a couple of hours… until my conscience butted in. I have a project management exam in June and had foolishly put some related audio books on my ipod, so subjected myself to a couple of hours of that also.

View from the top of the Wharerata hills looking north to Gisborne

I reached Gisborne late afternoon and made contact with family members in town for the family gathering, which I will describe in the next post.

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