Monday, March 8, 2010

March 7-9

Once again several days have passed, and we’re now sitting in Fiji Airport, at 8PM on the 9th, waiting for our connection to LA and then Miami, where we will arrive at almost midnight on the 9th. We’ll have traveled over 31 hours in total, from when we left this AM for the airport in Auckland.  It will be good to be home with memories of such a magical trip.

March 7

We were up early again as we had a lot of territory to cover on this our next to last day before traveling home.

Our first stop was at Cape Reinga, an amazing spot. It’s the only point I know of where two oceans meet, The Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean. We have pictures showing waves coming from two different directions meeting and crashing against each other. Wow!!! The walkway you followed was lovely to walk, with signs explaining about how the Maoris view this place. They believe that it’s where their spirits go before going beyond. The flora is different and a bit stunted due to all the salt water. There’s a lighthouse at the point which isn’t very tall in relationship to others we’ve seen, but on this point, it doesn’t need to be, as its light can be seen for miles around.

Once we returned to the starting point, there were a few Maoris asking/selling the planting of about five different types of plants, to help keep the soil from eroding and some had fruit for the birds to eat. It was a package deal of the plant you chose actually planted, a postcard of Cape Reinga, a card with the exact longitude and latitude of your plant, and a pen, all for 20.00 NZ, about 15.00 US. So, after planting the plant we went to our car and found a flat tire. One of the Maori men helped us change to the spare, a donut type thing. It was on Sunday, mid afternoon, and no place was open by the time we could get down to them to fix it, so we had to deal with that tire until Monday. Luckily not a big deal.

Given that, we still went exploring. We stopped at Spirit Bay where we had a picnic lunch. It was a beautiful bay with a gorgeous beach; I found some treasures for my bead embroidery.

On the way down the Cape, we also took a road which lead to the starting point of the Ninety Mile Beach tours, which drive along the sand dunes. It wasn’t at the beginning of the dunes, as you could see sand in both directions for as far as you could see. Quite impressive!

Our drive down to the Ferry across the Hokianga was a very pleasant one. The ferry holds up to about 27 vehicles and takes about 15 minutes to cross. On the crossing, we were parked next to a couple from Montana. Good conversation – this was their third trip to New Zealand.

The views on the road down to Kaihu, where we were staying for the night, were beautiful. Such eye candy all over the place, from the gorgeous water views to the peaceful pastoral ones. It just never stops. No internet at that stopover.

March 8

WE had driven past the Waipou Forrest the night before. Our original plan had been to stop there on our way south for the night, but due to the flat tire, we didn’t arrive at our destination until close to 8PM, so we hadn’t had time to stop to see the Kauri trees. Our goal was to see Tane Mahuta, considered the granddaddy of the Kauri trees there. Talk about massive. In the parking lot, we met a young Israeli man whose camera had broken and had wanted a photo of himself in front of Tane Mahuta. So, now we have to email him the photos we took of them.

Another stop in the forest was at the Four Sisters, four Kauri trees whose bases have grown together but whose trunks are separate. We walked all around them, as it started to rain.

After going north, we then had to go south to have the tire fixed in Dargaville. It was a nice town and it didn’t take as long as I had thought it would to fix the flat, which was due to a nail we had hit.

By that time, it was around 2pm and we wanted to go to Gulf Harbour to see the marina there; it’s a 1000 slip marina. Immense!!!!!!!!

Finally, we arrived back where we had started, with Meryl and Michael, our ATC hosts in Northcote, just north of Auckland. We went out for dinner in Takapuna, about 8 minutes away. The restaurant we tried had a special on Mondays all day, a kilo of mussels done is one of five ways. So, we had one order of mussels and one order of a lamb shank, last chance for NZ lamb. Both were delicious.

March 9

So, today. We had packed last night for the most part, but still needed to tweak it a bit. I travel with my own packer, who is amazing – great spatial vision. We were up early to finish up and then left after breakfast by 9AM, as the airline required that we arrive three hours in advance. We’ve been traveling ever since and still have hours to go. At least this leg is at night, about 11 hours, so we should be able to sleep.

See you soon. We’ll talk.

March 6


This was supposed to be about food as well as thought, and I realize that I haven’t spoken about food very much. But, that’s the way it is.

However, I did mean to mention about the market that was in the town center when we arrived in Paihia on the 4th. There was a woman selling fresh fish;  her husband is a commercial fisherman and had brought in tuna that morning. All I can say is YUM. I put a bit of wheat-free tamari and lemon juice on it and Art grilled it. That with a delicious mix of curried vegetables (broccoli, onion, carrots, red pepper, and a bit of fennel) and a big multi-thing salad made a great meal that night.

On the 5th, the Cunard line’s Queen Mary was visiting on her world cruise. The locals put on an Art Festival in the same city center green area as the fair from the day before. They had some nice art and loads of interesting crafts, from knitted goods, to dyed silk scarves and felted ones, wood carving and turning, and lots more.

March 6

We were up early again in order to have our Maori cultural experience. What a time we had. We were the only people in the group, and our Maori hosts were wonderful. I can’t wait for you to see the waka, or great canoe, in which we traveled. Although we didn’t learn to paddle, as there were only the two of us, registered for that tour, and two of them and they used the faster paddles (small outboard engine, it was more than we ever expected. On the way to their Marae, or meeting place, Hone gave us a history lesson about his ancestors and their travels on the oceans. Judy was handling the faster paddles while we were engrossed. Once there, we were invited onto their sacred space and more info was divulged. We were also invited to talk about what brought to this place in time. It was all very moving. We found out that they’re good friends with Manu and Ata, the Maoris we met when we were at Bruce’s workshop almost two summers ago. While at the workshop, we had dinner with Manu and Ata one night, and on the last day, they did a healing ceremony for me/on me. Both are healers here in their country. Unfortunately, we had not been able to reach them before we arrive in NZ, and although I’ve emailed Ata a couple of times, we’ve never heard back. Judy said that she would call with Manu’s phone number; so, we’re hoping to still get in touch.

While still at the Marae, two others, who tend the land for the tribe, came over with tea and sweets, including delicious kiwis. They have a wonderful garden, tend sheep, and have roosters and chickens.

After leaving the Marae, we continued on the river to Hururu Falls, a local tourist destination. It was great seeing it from the water. It’s a nice waterfall but very short.

The tour was suppose to end between 12:30pm and 1:00. We didn’t get back until 2pm. It was a wonderful time.

On our way out of Paihia and Kerikeri, we stopped at Rainbow Falls, not far from where we stayed. Talk about a waterfall. Wow!!! There were a multitude of different falls from the same source of water, all different amounts. Another set of great photos you'll eventually see.

The ride north and west to Pukenui, where we’re staying tonight, was nice. We stopped in Mangonui, a lovely little town on Doubtless Bay. There was an artist’s co-op we ventured into. Kathy, who was manning it for the day, is a knitter and quite good. She’s also a sailer and Canadian. For years now, she and her husband have been living for 6 months a year in Canada and 6 months on their boat here in NZ. She was full of info on cruising grounds. Very interesting.

We’re at a BBH tonight in a renovated house over a 110 years old. Thank goodness the kitchen isn’t that old. I made a nice stir-fry of veggies and tempee over some rice noodles. I also baked the other Zimbabwe squash we had bought. It was as sweet as the first one. I have enough food for a whole other meal.

Friday, March 5, 2010

March 1 - 5

Can it really be March already? I let this go another day, so today is actually the 5th. We're covering so much territory, all of it great, and time keeps moving forward.

March 1

Before we left Lake Taupo, Peter had us follow him to show us the mural that he worked on in town. It was about 10 years old but still vibrant.  So, after that, off we went away from Acacia Bay towards Whitianga on the Coromandel Peninsula.

Our first stop was at Orakei Korado, a totally natural hot springs, cave, with a thermal mud pools. You arrive at the center and have to take a short ferry ride across the lake to reach it. It's a walking tour that takes about an hour to an hour and a half to do. The place was amazing. It was totally natural and the scape looked so foreign. There were several geysers, none of the bigger ones went off when we were there, but we did see a couple, and the sulfur aroma was not too harsh. Again, great photos. The cave was a real hike both up and down and there were several mud pools, each had different size bubbles which plopped and then radiated out.

From there, we drove to Rotorua for a picnic lunch at the Gardens. We walked around a bit and drove around a bit and left. The architecture was really interesting, but we had decided that we wouldn't go to a Maori experience there. We were planning on doing something in the Paihia area, within the next few days.

We stayed in Whitianga with Servas hosts, Heather and Tony, both in their late 70s. What an inspiration they are! They're so full of energy and life. It was really a wonderful and interesting visit. They're world travelers.

March 2

In the morning, Tony took us around Whitianga, from down to the beaches to up the hill, showing us a fabulous view. It's a cute small town with an organic market - not every town has one. The beaches were lovely. Our next stop with Tony was to a Kauri Grove about 40 minutes away towards Coromadel Town. We hadn't seen Kauris before - they're huge and their bark is very different from everything we've known. It almost looks like scales of a fish. The scales fall off from time to time, and that's how the trees protect themselves from vines growing on them and suffocating them.

Back home to Heather we went. She had been expecting us and fixed us lunch. This is really unusual when you stay with Servas hosts. Usually, they make breakfast and one dinner, and you, as the travelers, either take them out for dinner or cook the second night. Even when you spend the day together, which sometimes happens if they're not busy and your plans can accommodate it, you will rarely have lunch at home. With Peter in Taupo, when he took us around, we took him out for lunch, which is usually what occurs. Heather and Tony were generous with both their time and efforts.

We left them after lunch to go to Cathedral Cove, a truly amazing place. It was about a half hour drive. But then, it's suppose to be a 45 min walk - not for us. It's a bit rocky and steep in certain areas, so it took us a bit longer to get there, and then again, to go back. However, we did make it in both directions, as one woman said to me as we had just started the trek and she was just finishing it. And, of course, we were there for a while, Art taking photos and me practicing a bit of Chi Gung. The beach is beautiful and there is a natural big arch worn through the rock at the end of the beach, which opens onto the next beach. It was a huge archway and really felt like a Cathedral when you were inside it.

It was necessary to go within about 1 1/2 - 2 hrs of low tide, and this was right after the tsunami was expected, after the quake in Chile. We weren't sure what it was going to be like, as we had heard that the tides were faster than usual in turning around. It was fine when we were at Cathedral Cove, but we were a bit late getting to our next destination, Hot Water Beach. We got to see people in the pools they had dug, but the tide was definitely in and started to wash away the pools in which they were sitting. The idea there is to dig a pool out and warm/hot water fills in, so you can sit in your own hot spring pool. So we saw it but didn't get to participate.

On the way back to Heather & Tony's, we stopped at a potter's home studio, advertised on the main road. It was really interesting, as they had built their own home and it was all art. It had been featured in a magazine, and we were able to see the article. We had a great time talking with them but didn't buy anything.

I cooked dinner for Heather & Tony, a very vegetable pasta dish (rice pasta), large salad, and I made an herb butter, but the bread had been made by Tony.

March 3

We left Heather and Tony and drove to Coromandel to explore a bit. It's a neat little town, but we really liked Whitianga better and were glad that we had stayed where we did. We went to see a couple of potters just north of town, and I finally bought something but not a mug, which is what I usually buy on a trip. I have a whole collection of different mugs and really remember buying each one at an art show or on a trip. so, they bring back memories. I bought a neat small rectangular dish and I can't wait to use it. Petra, the artist, uses a couple of different types of glazing techniques, and I particularly liked the salt glaze.

Near Petra, we had lunch at a really great organic cafe; the salad was wonderful with some pear in it and lots of veggies. Art had the vegetable lasagna.

Then, we had to buggy. It was a really long drive, and we didn't have any reservations for the night's stay, as we didn't know where we would end up. We wanted to get as far north of Auckland as we could. We ended up in Orewa, a seaside resort area. It was really tough getting a room, but we finally found one right on the beach. Our room opened onto a lawn, which we had to cross to get to the beach. It was a lovely night but really late when we finally ate dinner.

March 4

Chi Gung was lovely on the beach the next morning. Our room had been like a studio with a sitting area, queen bed, and small fully equipped kitchenette. There were 2 packages of chocolate chip cookies and envelopes for hot chocolate. Art was in heaven.

We left and headed north, sort of. We kept taking the coast roads, which were filled with beautiful agricultural areas and seascapes. We had a picnic lunch under a tree on an estuary in Mangawhai. What a lovely spot. There were several houses sharing the same view.

We had to drive through Paihia to pay for the tour we were going to take on the 5th; it was a full day cruise called the Cream Trip, as they really do deliver groceries, including dairy products, and the mail to the outer islands in the Bay of Islands. We're staying at BBH in Kerikeri, and it's a Farm Stay, an orchard farm. Lovely place and nice people.

March 5

We had to be dockside by 9:15am, for a 9:30am departure. It was a beautiful day today, although it started out cool on board, as the catamaran cruises at about 14 knots and the wind was from the south. Luckily, we had brought something to put on, but quite a few others hadn't. We visited a multitude of the islands in the bay, not getting off but navigating past slowly. Our skipper was not only a great skipper but also gave a lot of history along the way. We went to Hole in the Rock, at the very end of the Bay of Islands, and cruised through it. It was really a treat. We were sitting next to two other couples, a young couple from Melbourne, Australia, and one a bit younger than us from Reno, NV. We had a lot of fun just talking as well as watching the sights. When we arrived at one of the islands, everyone got off. Art and I joined John, the Maori guide, who did a walking tour to give us the history of his tribe and that place. During the trip, we chased to an area where a pod of bottle-nosed dolphins were playing. We must have followed them for almost a half hour. It was great. We could see one baby and its mother; all the others seemed grown. I love dolphins. When we were cruising in the 80s and would see dolphins, all seemed right with the world; it was such a serene feeling.

We're still in Kerikeri tonight.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Feb 21 - Feb 28th

Feb 21

It’s now the night of the 24th and who remembers what happened four days ago. So much, in reality, and all our experiences have been magical. I’ll have go back and see if I can reconstruct our days.

It’s good that I’m keeping an itinerary; otherwise I wouldn’t know where I was on which day. So much is packed into each one.  We spent the 21st in the Dunedin area. There’s so much to do there that it was hard to choose. This will be a stop on our next trip.

All of our stops were on the Peninsula, just outside of Dunedin. We first went to Larnach Castle, the only castle in the whole country. It looked like a castle with a tower, from which the view was incredible, overlooking the Bay and almost all the way to Dunedin. It was really a manor home. The gardens surrounding it were beautifully done. We only had time to visit a couple of them, as we had reservations for the Albatross Experience.

The Albatross tour is run by the DOC (Dept of Conservation) and is situated above the nesting area of the Royal Albatrosses. They study them and have been for years. We saw three nests but weren’t rewarded by seeing any chicks, as the nesting birds never got up to stretch while were there. We did see an albatross fly, as one of the young adults was circling around the area. It’s really interesting, as the birds fold their wings in thirds when at rest. Their wingspans are about 3 meters wide. They had a video camera watching another area we couldn’t see directly, which was of the duck-billed birds. We did see a number of those.

Then, we had about 20 minutes to get to our next tour, Nature’s Wonders, where we were in 8 wheel drive vehicles, on roads where we traveled up it felt like 60 degree roads, so the 8 wheel drive was really needed. All we saw were in natural environments. We saw fur seals with their pups. One pup was so cute – they were all so cute – as it moved from rock to rock, up a steep incline, following some birds. I was afraid it would slip and fall, far to the water, but it was sure footed (flippered). As it approached the birds, they flew away. What a surprise? The little fellow (maybe it was female, but who could tell?) slowly made his way down again. We got to see some blue penguins who were hiding in rocky caves, as they were molting and weren’t waterproof at this point. At another spot, we viewed a couple of yellow-eyed penguins. The land is all owned by one family, who has been giving tours for the last 40 years. They whole family work it, and they were there; we were talking to a man before the tour started who turned out to be Dad. The older son, a real cutie, drove our vehicle. Of course, he paid most attention to the two beautiful young girls from Germany.

It was a full day.

Feb 22

This was a travel day. We did go to the Art Museum in Dunedin in the morning and then left for a long drive. Our ultimate goal was Hanmer Springs, but we didn’t plan on making it until the night of the 23rd.

We did have an interesting experience on the way. We passed a house with wonderful stained glass windows – Art hadn’t seen it, so we turned around and went back. We got out of the car and I was walking towards the house while Art shot some photos. I heard people talking inside, so I called Hello. Turns out that a young couple own this old Church, because that’s what it was. The stained glass windows weren’t the originals, although parts of the originals were used in the new ones. They had bought the property, which included the church, and had built their house on it. Now, they were renovating the church into a guest house. It was fantastic, with Gothic arches throughout. I really loved what they were doing with it. We talked further, and she is an artist with her studio also on their property, just a short walk from the church. So, off we went to her studio. Really nice work.

Feb 23

Hanmer Springs. We got there around 6pm, and after checking in, we dashed off to the hot springs for which they are famous. It was great. Soaking in the hot water, then going into cooler water. The place was so well done and so attractive.

Feb 24

We traveled to Kiakoura, which is on the coast. We got there in time for our Whale Watching tour. We got to see two whales at different times, another seal colony, and a couple of different types of albatrosses. It was a great tour. After the tour, we were going to travel on, but as we hadn’t made any reservations, we decided to stay in Kiadoura. It was charming, and although it was touristy, it still called to us.

Feb 25

We booked for Picton to make the 2pm Ferry across to Wellington. However, we did have time to stop at a scenic overlook, which turned out to be a fabulous spot to watch a seal colony. More pups!!! There was a natural pool made by the rocks, high in the rocks, and there was a whole group of about 8-10 seal pups playing in the pool. They were such a treat!!!

On the crossing, we did some planning on where to go & for how long on North Island.

Once we arrived, we returned to our Servas hosts in Lower Hutt to pick up the bag of foods we (I) had left there when we first crossed to South Island. It was really nice touching bases again with them, but we had decided we wanted to be in Wellington, near Te Papa, the wonderful museum, which we were going to visit on the 26th.

We ended up staying at a BBH, backpackers place, where neither of us liked the energy, but we figured it was only one night. There were also a lot of smokers, which we hadn’t seen before. It was a big place and maybe that had something to do with it. Anyway, it was only one night.

Feb 26

After visiting Te Papa, which was wonderful and took most of the day, we headed out to Palmerston North and lovely Servas Hosts, Robyn and Kevin Salisbury. We really enjoyed their company and were sorry that we only planned on one night with them. We were their first Servas Travelers. They told us they were spoiled for anyone else, a nice thing to say. We’re hoping that they will come visit us in FL.

Feb 27

Before taking off for our next stop, we attended a Farmer’s Market with Robyn and Kevin. It was huge, but they produce wasn’t organic. Still, it was interesting and we did buy some produce.

Then, we headed north to Acacia Bay, next to Taupo, on Lake Taupo, and our next Servas Host, Peter Cox. We took the long way there. Instead of going straight up the inside of the Country, we headed for the coast, going through Hastings and Napier. We stopped at a winery for lunch before getting to those two towns, and lunch was lovely.

I keep meaning to mention Cattery to you. A kennel is where you can board a dog, and a cattery is where you can board a cat. They are separate places, although sometimes one place advertises itself as a kennel and cattery. I just love the word – Cattery. Thought I’d share that with you.

Have you ever had a Black Boy peach? It has a dark skin and is purple on the inside. Neither of us cared for them, but it may have been that they weren’t completely ripe.

Before we got to Taupo, we passed a sign saying Scenic Overlook. That was all. So, we decided to take a look at the scenic part. It turned out to be the most fantastic waterfall – actually it was one source of water for three falls. Incredible. Pictures to follow. Yeah, yeah, I know – where are the photos? They’re coming.

Feb 28

Peter is a dear. He took us around to see Huka Falls. It was a true force of nature. Lots of photos of this one. Then we went to a place where they blow glass, but no demonstrations were going on. We had a delicious lunch there. I had wanted to go to the Mosaic Sculpture Garden, and the artist was a friend of Peter’s. It was incredible, as she had created a whole living room outside made of mosaics!  

Our afternoon was filled with sailing on Lake Taupo in Peter’s 22 ft. boat. The winds were light, but it didn’t matter. He took us to a cove where some years ago an unknown Maori had carved a huge, and I mean huge, Maori face on a tallllllll rock. There were also carvings of a big lizard and other creatures on the rocks at the base of the tallllllll one.

I needed lemons, so Peter went to his neighbors and picked a couple for me. I cooked a delicious stir fry dinner.

That’s all for now.