Wheel alignment

Saturday 24 October 2020

A wee bit of culture

I turned 73 a week ago and when Jennie asked me earlier what I wanted for my birthday, I struggled to think of anything apart from a Lotus 7 replica.  Got "THE LOOK" so that was a non-starter.  I then suggested an overnighter somewhere interesting and left it to her.

Well, she came up with a cool idea and the first stop was the city of Hamilton, some 160 km from home.  I know it best for being where our eldest son and his family live plus where I have the KTM serviced but it's also known for its World class municipal gardens .  It's been years since we visited them and everything has changed since then.  It covers around 54 hectares and is split up into various themes.  It's also absolutely free to members of the public.  Too big to get round in one go, we settled on a couple of  hours and will go back again in the coming months.  Funnily enough, Flyboy has just posted some magnificent photos and a drone video of Jacaranda trees in bloom on his blog which are well worth seeing.  Onya Dave - who knew that Oz and Kiwi bikers could be sensitive, nature-loving types ;-).

First stop was through the tropical garden.  We have a number of the plants in our own garden such as bromeliads and Bird of Paradise and although Hamilton gets frosts, this garden has its own microclimate.

Lush is the perfect description

Some of the tropical blooms

Next stop was the Surrealist Garden and at the entrance were some characters, cups and saucers from the Mad Hatter's Tea Party; beaten from copper sheet.

Seriously nice work

Walking through what was a labyrinth of corridors, we were suddenly faced with huge tree-like structures covered in creepers.

Weird tree-like structures

Looking outwards from the weird trees, we immediately felt dwarfed with a massive gate  and an equally massive wheelbarrow and fork - seriously impressive construction efforts!

Honey, you've shrunk!

Just the thing for serious garden maintenance

Next two areas were an old-fashioned English country garden packed with annual and perennial flowers and a huge kitchen garden full of herbs and vegetables.  All the produce is given away to the needy.

Packed flower beds

Next up was a replica of an English Tudor period garden.  Very formal with all sorts of mythical beasts on tall poles.

Formal Tudor garden

One of the real delights of this place is that each garden is shielded from view by tall hedges so there's no advance warning of what you're going to find.  In this instance, it was a tethered helium-filled balloon with a boat suspended below - how cool is that?  Looked like something from a children's fantasy story. 

An unexpected find!

The next garden was in tribute to early 20th century Kiwi writer Katherine Mansfield.  The setting was from her short story "The Garden Party".

A transplanted bit of early 20th century society

Cucumber sandwiches and cake, anyone?

By now, it was getting hot and we were in need of sustenance.  With only half of the gardens covered, we decided to enjoy the rest at leisure and come back another time rather than rush things.

More copper statuary (based on the Magic Flute opera I think)

NZ native flax flowers

After lunch, it was time to travel to the nearby town of Cambridge and check into the new apartment/hotel complex that Jennie had booked, then head out and explore all the back roads and other sights that we hadn't seen for years.  We were originally going to walk into town for an evening meal but within 100 metres of the hotel, there was a Malay/Indian fusion restaurant which had only been open for a few months.  The food and service was absolutely outstanding and the range of craft beers  and single malt whiskies was as good as I've seen anywhere.  Being close to the hotel was a bonus after such a heroic meal!  I may have let the side down a bit dressed in jeans with Jennie looking a million dollars in her chic casual gear :-) .

Mrs James looking super-elegant at Koi restaurant

After breakfast, a visit to the local farmer's market was in order.  It's always great to buy fresh local produce at great prices. Cumberland spiced sausage and black pudding from an English butcher were a real find.  It was time to gradually head home and being a national holiday weekend, sticking to the back roads was a good plan.  This is where my motorcycling knowledge came into play as it's an area where my mates and I occasionally come to play for the twisty lanes and stuff-all traffic!  First stop was a little-used park and hill lookout which used to be the site of a tuberculosis sanatorium around 1900.  It gives fantastic views across the Waikato province on a clear day.  There was a bit of low cloud about but the views were still pretty good.

View from Maungakawa Hill

Another short stop was made half way along another superb motorcycling road at reservoir supplying a nearby small town. It's also the home of the Te Miro Mountain Bike Park , maintained by the local authority with trails to cater from experienced MTB'ers through to small children.  A great asset in beautiful surroundings.

Part of picturesque Te Miro Mountain Bike Park and reservoir

A lovely couple of days away exploring.  I've now had the hard word put on me to do the same for Jennie's birthday in 6 weeks so I'd better put my thinking cap on!

Monday 12 October 2020

A bit of variety

There's been plenty going on in our neck of the woods over the last fortnight.  With national school holidays, pretty nice weather and no lockdowns, families have been flocking into our area which is a popular tourist region.  Good for the economy, even if the number of stupid people on the road also increases.  There have been a couple of events too.  One was the annual Illume festival where the village is lit up at night, as indeed are the locals together with a lovely firework display.  Pretty darned good for a static population of around 1600.  The photos are ones I took a couple of years ago as I didn't bother this year.  The fireworks were taken from our deck, about 1km away from the action.

Family fun with an umbrella

Local H-D's festooned with LED's

Shane, the local butcher on his bike

Village shopfronts

Trees in the village

Awwww.... pretty!

It was also the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the visit of the Royal Navy ship HMS Coromandel, after which the village was named.  Naval vessels visited Coromandel and other northern locations on a regular basis to harvest Kauri trees which were knot-free and made wonderful spars for their sailing vessels.  You could call it rape and pillage of natural resources but we won't go there!

Kauri trees near our place

Anyway, to mark the occasion, there was an unveiling of a seriously cool commemorative sculpture.  A young local artist made a representation of HMS Coromandel with a ceramic hull and stainless steel sails.  It was housed in a glass case made to look like a ship in a bottle and the timber surround was made from floorboards from the 1800's local settlers hall when it was recently refurbished.  Pretty darned nice!

HMS Coromandel representation

A really nice commemorative work of art

The climate in Coromandel is benign and the number of (slight) frosts we get in winter can easily be counted on one hand.  It's a perfect climate for growing semi-tropical Bromeliads in the garden.  Two large examples which we planted 5 years ago as just small plants have just developed flower spikes for the first time.  They haven't opened yet but I'm worried that they might turn out to be killer Triffids as per John Wyndham's 1950's post-apocalyptic horror story!  That aside, they're looking pretty cool.

Flower spike 1.5 metres tall

Flower spike 1 metre tall

Motorcycles haven't been forgotten though.  Just over a week ago, I took out a serving Highway Patrol Officer for his Advanced Roadcraft Test.  Trevor drives a patrol car in NZ but in the UK, he was a Class1 motorcycle cop - the best of the best and it showed!  It was a near-flawless ride with a running commentary to match and boy, could he make his ST1300 shift down twisty, narrow country lanes.  Made it look easy, which it wasn't of course.  A really nice chap and a joy to spend the the day out with him - it's a tough life!  He just rides in his spare time here and owns several modern "classic" cars and bikes.

Trevor and his ST1300

Saving the best until last, yesterday was supposed to be an IAM monthly meeting where we do some coaching or go for a spirited social ride in the back blocks.  I should have smelt a rat when Jennie asked me a couple of times during the week whether I intended to go!  

Rocked up at the meeting point cafe some 100 km away and not only were there members from our local group there but a bunch of them from Auckland too.  The common thread was that over the past few years, I'd either coached them directly or had a hand in coaching them to pass their advanced qualifications.  STILL DIDN'T CATCH ON!  It wasn't until my good mate Tony stood up and said that we were all going to have a social ride together on the 200 km Coromandel Loop as recognition of our long association.  Apparently, my face was a sight to behold!  I felt pretty humbled and we had a wonderful time riding one of the great north island motorcycle routes together.  We even stopped at the Coroglen Tavern for lunch.  Not for a beer, but so that I could enjoy my all-time favourite scallop burger!  The ride finished on Coromandel Town wharf, only a few hundred metres from home which was just perfect.  What an incredible day and I'm really privileged to have mates who would do something like that.  Must have a bit of dust in my eye or something..... 

Memorial to Sir Keith Park, a Kiwi who played a major role in the WW2 Battle of Britain

Arriving at the Coroglen Tavern

Some of the team next to a mussel boat - Coromandel Town wharf

Great variety of machinery on Coromandel Town wharf

Some old geezer front and centre with great mates