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December 28, 2021 … what lies ahead?

Another year reaches a conclusion, and what a year it has been for the world, and for our country, for my family and for me. Despite the fact that I try to live with hope in my heart, I look forward to 2022 with trepidation. On the personal front, I seem to crumbling at the edges. As well as the cataract, I have now been fitted with hearing aids, and hope to become accustomed to them. Then, following some sort of event that resulted in double vision, vertigo and nausea (unconnected with the cataract procedure), I ended up in hospital for a couple of nights undergoing a CT scan and MRI. No clear causes identified, but nothing sinister found. And thank heavens for free public health care which was superb for me. Nevertheless, with the vertigo and visual disturbances, my doctors say I am not permitted to drive for four weeks. Grrr.

Christmas has passed and family is scattered in Melbourne, Brisbane, Queenstown and Gisborne. Happily youngest son Anthony,, his wife Sarah and our lovely grandkids Maggie and Jack are at home nearby, so we spent some of our Christmas with them. OK, enough with the babble, what images did I get this round?

Black fronted dotterel

Fine days have been rare in recent times, so when one occurs, I select from one of my preferred locations. On this occasion , it was Hokio Beach (again). Since the whitebait season is ended, it was peaceful with no whitebaiters to deter the bird life. In fact, we had the beach entirely to ourselves. Mary went for a walk along the beach to the South while I lay back on the water’s edge and waited. In just a few minutes, I was blessed with a visit from one of my favourite birds, the black-fronted dotterel. These tiny creatures move very quickly and their legs are almost invisible in motion. They appear to hover across the sand and water. Just beautiful.

Also present at Hokio were the bar-tailed godwits, champions of long distance flight. They fly to tidal estuaries in New Zealand from Western Alaska in epic non-stop flights lasting 8 to 9 days. Barring the great albatrosses, they are the olympic athletes of the bird world. And they are handsome birds, aren’t they?

Feed me mama!

It was a great trip. Dotterels, godwits and even dabchicks. In this visit, the chicks have grown too big to be carried around on the parent’s back any longer. In fact they seem even bigger than the parents now, Nevertheless, they are still dependent on the parents for food. As always, the water in the Wetlands at Queen Elizabeth Park is reasonably sheltered and echoes the deep green of the surrounding bush.

Californian Quail

On another damp but windless day, Mary drove me up to the regional waterworks at Kaitoke. I was delighted to spot a small cluster of female Californian quails browsing in the lawns there beside the road. The males are more spectacular, I suppose, but the females as seen here are beautiful in their own way.

Stick insect

Stick insects are always problematic for me. They are interesting but very hard to make an attractive image with. They seem to need a context, so in this case it was moving slowly among the flax and lavender at the back door. It’s the first time I have seen a stick insect with a face.

Gold

It drives me nuts that, every year, the mainstream media are surprised to discover the existence of Metrosideros excelsa aurea. Breathless headlines about “rare yellow pohutukawa” appear without regard that they used the same story last year and the one before that. To be fair, I probably make the same complaint about them each year too. The yellow variety is definitely less common than the more familia crimson variety, but I think they are far from rare. There are plenty of very fine yellow specimens in the Wellington region.

Coat of many colours

This little Hebe moth is, like many others quite spectacular when up close. Mary drew it to my attention on our stairwell, so I switched to my trusty macro lens and got really close. Do click on the image to see it in the larger version. It reminds me of some of the more spectacular weaving that I have seen, though I think it would be a talented weaver indeed who could produce work as beautiful as this.

Rata in the rain at Kaitoke

Like the pohutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa) , the rata (Metrosideros robusta) is a member of the myrtle family and of the genus metrosideros. The flowers are, to my eye, indistinguishable from those of the pohutukawa. If you get close, the leaves of the pohutukawa are larger and a darker green, and have small hairs on the underside. Rata leaves are smaller, glossy on both sides and have a notch on the tip. A good friend alerted me to the spectacular colours of the rata trees in bloom in the rain up at Kaitoke. He was right.

Waterloo railway Station, Lower Hutt

Most people think of somewhere else when Waterloo Station is mentioned. Our local version would probably fit in the cafeteria of the other one. Nevertheless, it is a locally important interchange between the Upper Hutt/Wairarapa railway line and the Hutt Valley bus services. The wind-shelters in the station are an interesting and necessary feature. As I said before, I am not permitted to drive until early January so I decided to use public transport and roam around the region by train and bus for the day.

Wellington commuter traffic

On arrival at Wellington railway station, I made this image. It occurred to me that not much has changed since the first time I passed through here in February 1954. Well, there are no steam locomotives, and the electric units have advanced through two generations. And then there are the face masks, and the cell phones. And the women wear trousers and the men don’t wear hats. No-one is smoking. Apart from that, nothing much is different

Top deck

Part of my day wandering the region by public transport was to take a trip from the railway station to Island Bay by double-decker bus. Like the schoolboy I sometimes am, I grabbed the front row seat on the top deck, and enjoyed the different perspective from up there. A feature of the city at this time of year is the proliferation of pohutukawa trees in magnificent bloom. This specimen is about midway along Kent Terrace.

Back to the station

On my return from the Southern suburbs, I decided to take the train out to Upper Hutt and thence back to Petone Station from where I would catch a bus back up the hill to home. This was all for the pleasure of riding the rails and seeing our city from different points of view. I paused for a pizza lunch in the station before heading North. Since I wasn’t driving, a glass of Pinhead Supercharger IPA helped that go down.

Once was a high school

Through the train windowI was intrigued by the extent of the “Bob Scott Retirement Village”. This was built on the site which was once Hutt Valley Memorial College and before that Petone Technical College. In its latter days as it was rotting, graffitied and increasingly vandalised, it suffered an arson attack and was totally destroyed. It has taken several years but the retirement village that stands in its place is now complete. Despite its somewhat forbidding appearance, I know many people who enjoy living there, and liken it to living on a cruise liner. I am happy for them, but the lifestyle does not appeal to me.

A favourite corner

I am very blessed that Mary works so hard to compensate for my driving prohibition and she made a picnic lunch and drove us over the hill to Lake Wairarapa. We also visited Boggy Pond and had our lunch on the shores of Lake Onoke at Lake Ferry.

Time was when the trip over the hill was a long and arduous journey, especially with kids in the car. Now you wonder why it was such a big deal back then. Heck there was even a greasy spoon cafe at the summit to break the journey. Obviously the places have not got closer together, but modern cars are more powerful, more comfortable and more reliable. The journey from Te Marua to Featherston is a mere 25 minutes. My favourite spot is a corner just to the North of bridge number 6 where there is a bank of trees down a steep ridge. There is no footpath and no safe space to stop to get my desired view. This shot is not what I desired. I should have waited until we got to where that next car ahead is, but it will do as a grab shot. As a passenger I can stick the camera out the window and point it in the right direction.

That is my last blog post for the year. I hope the festive season treated you kindly and you all had a great time. For any who are locked down or constrained by Covid, my sympathies. I look forward to your company in 2022. I enjoyed a cartoon I saw (but can’t find) which depicts the occupiers of 2021 cowering behind a corner in a dark corridor, reaching out tentatively with a very long pole to nudge open the door to 2022. I would like to hope for a much better year than this has been for the world, and I wish all the very best for the new year to all those who share my journey in this blog. Thank you for being with me and for the kind words from so many of you.

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