Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Here is the news from Wanganui…..

We’re feeling a bit more ‘at home’ here in Wanganui and, as a result, not doing a huge amount. We’ve had a couple of afternoons looking around the vicinity, but other than that we’ve been catching up on the news, both in newspapers and on TV (what a luxury!) reading a lot and cooking some excellent meals with the help of a kitchen and oven. 
Brinny the cat seems to really like us being around and, as he’s not supposed to be inside, we’ve been sitting outside on our garden chairs on the patio (what a hardship in the clear blue sky and mid 20’s C temperature!). Today we spent at least half the day reading and he was with us the whole time, just chilling out, lying in the sun until it was too hot, coming over for strokes etc and generally enjoying our company. I took a few photos of Mr. Cutie and this was the best.

Wanganui from the top of Durie Tower
The couple of walks we have done have been to viewpoints giving good views of the town and surrounding area. One was up onto Durie Hill via a lift! Built in 1906 it takes you up in a very rickety lift after walking through a 200 ft long tunnel, all for $2. After alighting at the top it’s possible to walk up the 176 steps of the Durie Tower to get very good views of the town, surrounding countryside – and two volcanos (one of them quite active – how scary is that!). 
Another view from Durie Hill. Mount Ruapehu is in the distance
 Mount Taranaki out to the north west I don’t think is particularly active (I hope not as I want to climb to the top of it in the next week or so) and, in the east Mount Ruapehu, very much active, having erupted within the last few years (I want to climb that as well if I’m allowed to!). Today we did another walk (a very easy 20 minute walk) up to another viewpoint on our side of the town, which gave another quite different view of the area.
Wanganui out to the sea from our other viewpoint
 And now for the news: it’s all local stuff, but interesting (I think), except for the last bit as it’s about the BBC series Top Gear (I’ve said that so you’ll read to the end!)

Did you know, New Zealand is in the middle of the worst drought it has had for about 35 years. It’s just hot and sunny here and has been (other than odd slightly cloudy and drizzly days) since early January. This has had a couple of very negative effects and one positive.

 The negatives are on dairy and sheep farming – a big part of the economy, which is likely to cost the country up to $1billion and is causing great hardship to farmers. The lack of rain means the reservoirs are very low and, as up to 25% of NZ electricity is from hydro-electric, it’s had a major effect on prices.

The positive side is for the wine growers who are saying the warm sunny days and cooler nights is the perfect condition for an excellent wine vintage. They are holding their breath that it lasts another couple of weeks up to harvest, which could make 2013 one of their best recent years and will produce many first class wines. They might be disappointed as the weather forecast is hinting it might break by this weekend, with the remains of tropical cyclone Sandra heading our way bringing rain and wind. We’ll see.

Now the bit about BBC’s Top Gear (this is the UK one, not the Australian variant), Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond are here in the North Island filming for the next series and they are being very secretive about what they are doing. Three News (one of the TV channels here) have been following them around trying to find out. They are filming on 90 mile beach, which is right up in Northland above Auckland and is a beach that is very long (it isn’t quite 90 miles, but I haven’t got our Rough Guide in the house which would tell me exactly and I can’t be bothered to go outside to get it!). Today they filmed a race between Jeremy, driving apparently a red Toyota Corolla along the beach (shadowed by a helicopter filming) and a yacht. One guy who saw it wouldn’t say who won, but the general feeling was that the yacht won. Jeremy and James were followed by the TV reporters and got very little out of them, Jeremy walking (gently) into the TV camera and saying ‘no comment!’. Be interesting to watch it when it comes out.

That’s it for now, don’t we lead exciting lives!

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