While the cat is away…

Our choice of day for walking the Tongariro Crossing proved to be inspired as the other days of our stay in Ohakune were damp and not suited to any outdoor activities beyond short walks or bike rides.

Having said that, the day we left to head back to Auckland dawned clear, crisp and looked as though it would deliver perfect conditions for a mountain crossing. That is the price we pay for planning ahead. We get our choice of accommodation, seats on planes when we want to fly but, at the cost of not always being able to ‘hang around’ long enough for the best day for an activity. We allow enough time in a destination to compensate for adverse weather but as we have found in The British Isles and New Zealand, when is enough time, enough?

The early morning patches of fog were catching the first sunlight of the morning as we left Ohakune

Maritime” climates are fickle and the cloud and rain can be persistently pesky at times. Fortunately, many areas of the South Island that we visited are sheltered from the prevailing moist westerly quarter weather and create their own “Mediterranean” climate  In these areas we experienced what we have come to call “Cretan weather “, after our experiences in Crete, where we enjoyed clear blue sky, day after day. We never had to consult a weather forecast we just knew it would be a nice day tomorrow.  The few weeks of clear, dry weather that we experienced on our recent travels made a big difference in our final assessment of the trip.

The clear days that we enjoyed to the east of the Alps – in this case – in the Mackenzie Country contrasted with the damp conditions encountered West of the Alps. The picture below is Cape Foulwind near Westport


Once you travel off the volcanic plateau in the central North Island, the scenery becomes pastoral. Having traveled it many times, this (extremely green) pastoral landscape becomes rather monotonous but it did have the effect of changing our mood from one of reluctance at returning home to just wanting to get there.

One herd of dairy cows look the same as the other to me but Ruth, having lived on a dairy farm during her child hood, assures me that they are different.

When we had left Kerikeri the weather was very dry. Water restrictions were imposed shortly after our departure and Ruth was expecting there to be many casualties in her garden that she had spent the last year nurturing after the neglect during our 2015 travels.

We feel that Kerikeri is a bit of a ‘canary in the mine’ when it come to climate change. Over recent years the summers have been marked by the early onset of summer which starts out very dry and then morphs into hot, humid and often damp conditions through through the second half of summer. This summer had seen a more extreme version of that pattern with virtually no rain for three months giving way to bursts of heavy rain and very warm humid conditions in the month prior to our return.

As we drove up the driveway, the neighbours lawn, which had not been cut in our absence, gave an early signal for what we might expect in our back garden. Tigers could have roamed unseen in it.

While I removed the bikes from the car roof, Ruth raced through the front door to be greeted with a vision of our own tropical jungle, sans any appropriate wildlife. Left to their own devices, some plants had been on the rampage. Plants marketed as ‘dwarf’ varieties would have even challenged Jack’s climbing abilities.The sun that usually shines into the area was blocked out by all of the foliage. We would have to cut through the rampant growth of the last month before we would find the casualties of  the earlier summer drought.

The next two days we got a taste of what we had missed. Warm, humid conditions with bursts of heavy rain delayed the cleanup but on day three it was dry. The pruning saws and loppers have worked overtime and a mountain of green waste has been steadily building as the garden again resembles what we left behind. A few of Ruth’s plants had given up due to the earlier lack of water but the latent rain and warmth fueled growth was far greater than what we had experienced during our six month absence in 2015.

But, the beauty of a small property is that it does not take too much effort to restore it and by the time we head off in December, for another extended absence, it should be picture perfect again.

From North to South, West to East  – A diverse country

One thing that we missed on this trip was the experience of life in another country. However, after spending most of the summer below 40° South we now really appreciate the climate here in the far north. – Te Ngaere Bay 35° North, just prior to departure.


Slope point in Southland – 46° South was a chilling contrast, even in mid summer.
The beautiful rain forests in the South West 
Contrasted with the desert like condition in part of central Otago, little more than 100km further east.




  1. We love your little garden and wondered (along with you) how it fare in your absence. How wonderful that most plants made it and you are back to enjoying its beauty. We’re envious.


    1. Being little does mean that we can get it back into shape very quickly. It is also an opportunity to rethink the garden although we are reluctant to invest in the more expensive varieties of plant when we have further travels planned for next summer.

      Liked by 1 person

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