A Wonderful Interlude


welcome - With less than a week to go before heading back to California, we lucked out and were able to go to a bach (holiday cottage) at Pukehina Beach. The weather had been  very blowy and not very pleasant but we certainly won't going to give up the interlude opportunity presented to us. So on Saturday, after going to a disappointing Avocado, Food and Wine Festival, we packed out bags, food, books and odds and ends and headed to the beach.

The weather calmed down and we had two-and-a-half wonderful days. The cottage is literally on the beach. Just a few steps across the grass, down a couple of steps and you're on the sand. The beach stretches for miles, is fairly flat and perfect for walking. And the first thing we did, well, actually second as we unpacked the car, was to go for a walk.

The beach

The water is not warm! In fact, it is downright chilly, but perfect for cooling the toes. Cottages line the beach, but with it being almost out of season, there were hardly any people on the beach. The ones that were there were mostly fishing, throwing sticks for their dogs, or just walking like we did.

Cocktail hour on the deck was perfect and later, after a nap, we watched the almost-full moon rise over the water. It was magic! The air is so clear and clean, the night sky sparkled with all the stars.

From the deck

Although the bach has two bedrooms and a sleepout (extra sleeping quarters unattached to the house) I decided to sleep on the couch on the deck so I could be lulled to sleep by the sounds of the surf. The moon was so bright that I had to make a cocoon out of the duvet so it covered my eyes and there was just a small breathing hole!

Nesting area

Next morning, as usual I was the first one up and woke to a brilliantly clear, calm day and went for a long walk to where the estuary pours into the lagoon. On the tip of land we were on, the area was roped off as it is a native bird nesting area. It's amazing how the birds know they are safe in there and completely ignore humans! The variable oystercatchers were in fine form and very visible, but the Adriatic tern and New Zealand dotterel are masters of disguise, blending into the dunes.

Zoze and me

The rest of the day was spent lounging around reading and generally doing nothing - and it felt wonderful. By the end of the day, I was exhausted and once again slept on the couch on the deck, loving the surf sounds.

Monday morning was another lazy day but the weather had changed and we were getting the beginnings of the huge front moving in from the north. By the time we were ready to leave mid-afternoon, it was beginning to rain.

So we got the absolute best weather for the time we were there - it was perfect!

Variable oystercatchers

Now I am sorting through all my "stuff" and deciding what I will leave behind as I have gathered "things" that I need to take back with me. Tomorrow I will do the final packing and then Thursday we head to Auckland for my 3:50 flight. I arrive at LAX on Thursday before I left Auckland, picking up the day I lost at the International Date Line on my flight over.

It's sad to be leaving and I had considered staying longer or going back via South Africa but with the damn lawsuit that has to be handled, I have to head back.

And of course I wouldn't even be here, or had such a wonderful time these last couple of months if it wasn't for Jenni giving Zoze a present for her 70th birthday - my ticket!

Winding Down

Just a week left here in New Zealand. Time has flown by and now I am winding down, getting ready to leave next week. It's really hard to believe I have been here for 2 1/2 months! And even though we haven't wandered far from Tauranga, we have done and seen a lot of stuff! Definitely keeping it local, something that I am working on in my grannytravels blog - which is not up to date because we have been so busy. A catch22! Last week, Zoze and I went back down to Rotorua so I could meet with the people from Volcanic Air Safaris for a Harbors article about the old 1954 deHavilland Otter float plane. They are such nice people and ... drum roll ... I went for a flight up and over Mount Tarawera, the volcano that wiped out Rotorua in 1886. New Zealand is so scenic and viewing it from on high is even more spectacular! I flew right seat which is always a thrill and Angela, our pilot is really good - ex-Air Force - and gave a commentary the entire trip. So I feel very lucky to have been able to do that.


Yesterday, Jenni, Zoze and I went to Looking Glass Gardens, a rather strange place! I definitely admire what these people have done with the difficult, steep hillside. And all the plantings, trees and flowers, but I kept wondering WHY? The concept around the development is to make it a Wonderland, like in Alice in Wonderland, with nursery rhyme themes throughout. There were areas for trolls, and the Three Pigs houses. Little Miss  Muffett was there too, or at least the tuffett and a metal-sculpture of the spider. Stone sculptures of the Trolls, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum and many more are scattered around.

But to me it felt random! Maybe I have gone beyond the fantasy land stage of my life! There is too much reality looming - like the resurrected law suit my *^%$^&  ex has filed against me so that I have to go back to Washington to take care of it. But even that should be relegated to fantasy land  as I cannot figure out what it is he wants. Maybe his third lawyer will be able to clear up some of the confusion, because the whole idea (or what I have been able to deduce so far) is completely illogical. If he is looking for money out of it, surely he knows he is barking up the wrong tree?

My new throne

But he has pulled this sort of stunt before when he sued his father to sell his house that he had designed, built and lived in for years. There was money in it then for Chris, but from me? What a laugh!

So when I get back, I will spend a few days with Ryan, the, fly to Washington via Montana, where I will spend three days with Cody, Mel and the little boys. From there I am flying to Seattle and will drive up to Port Townsend and take up Mardelle and Jim's offer of B&B (as Mardelle calls it, Bed and Booze!) and deal with whatever I have to from there.



Trip to Tirau and More

It's Been a Busy Week!

The Honeys

With Christmas over, the New Year blasted in - and out! And now it is just two and a half weeks until I leave. It's hard to believe I have been here since mid-November. So we are packing in the expeditions, but I don't know if we can accomplish all we have planned. We did get in our trip to McClaren Falls, a lovely 190 hectare park that was originally formed as part of the Wairoa River catchment hydro electricity system in 1925.Then in 1965, the then Tauranga District Council and the Bay of Plenty Tree Society entered into an agreement that the Society would supply trees and maintain them. According to the Tauranga City Council site, "This has subsequently become an annual commitment to the Society, and to date many thousands of trees covering over 500 species and varieties, exotic and indigenous, are established in the park."

At McClaren Falls

Once again, I was amazed at the participation of volunteers in these public areas. This is a huge park, with just one ranger and numerous undeveloped camping sites, meaning camping is in any grassy area! The grounds are maintained, clean, roads and trails clear and from what I can gather, most of this is accomplished by volunteers.

The Lake is a bird haven with lots of black swans and ducks. It's also a popular kayaking and hiking area. We walked a fairly short trail through the natural bush, along a stream to a very pretty waterfall; a loop trail up one side of the stream, over a bridge and back. It felt very jungly, but not quite warm enough to have any monkeys, parrots, alligators or other tropical creatures playing in the vegetation.

We did our usual stop at the local Falls Cafe before heading back. Naturally, another stop on the way. This time at Mossops, a local honey place. This is another surprising fact about New Zealand. There is a huge honey bee industry, something I plan to dig deeper into in the near future. The products that are produced are amazing - all sorts of edibles, of course but also beauty and health products, some even using bee venom! In this area, especially, manuka honey is produced in vast quantities and is well-known for its healing properties. Mossops also makes honey ice cream but as we had just had lunch, we put it on our list to go back and do a taste testing!

Crazy corrugated sculptures in Tirau

Our most recent jaunt was an all-day affair to Tirau, the corrugated town! It's a tiny town, in a vast pastoral area. We drove the windy, windy road over the Kaimai Range, through endless, to-the-horizon verdant, green farmlands, dotted with thousands of sheep and cattle. Grass fed cattle, but how long that will last is anyone's guess.A movement is afoot to fight against the development of feed lots here in New Zealand. There is already an issue with pollution from the animal waste runoff into streams, so hopefully the country will maintain its "green" commitment and do something proactive to avoid the problems plaguing other countries (ahem, U.S.).

Anyway, it was a beautiful drive and as I was a passenger, I was able to take in the scenery.


Once we got to Tirau, which, according to the official site means Ti - Cabbage tree, rau -many - the place of many Cabbage trees, we spent the morning wandering the shops, having coffee (of course) and taking in the bizarre corrugated iron sculptures. Interestingly, in this country, corrugated iron is used in a lot of areas, like fences and exterior walls. When I first saw the fences, I thought they were just sort of temporary but then I realized that they are an architectural feature; some are painted, some just the natural metal. The Tirau sculptures have evolved to a full business for Corrugated Creations, their most prominent pieces being the enormous white sheep and white sheep dog which house the Information Centre.

Next stop is a favorite: The Tirau Museum and Honey Shop. What an amazing place. It's hardly advertised, they have no website and it is very easy to miss the sign on the road. But so worth the effort to find it. Fifty years of collecting has resulted in a vast, rambling, 13,000 square foot "left hand museum," meaning at every chance, turn left and you will make your way through displays of - you name it, it's there. Huge collections of honey tins; masses of old telephones, from the ones you hand crank to old-school black ones; an assortment of typewriters and ancient sewing machines; collectors' cars which desperately need restoration. It was rather sad, though, wandering through there, going "I remember that," or "We had one of those," or "That's just like Mum's old one, where is that?" Made me feel old!

Tirau Museum

The Museum should be on everyone's list. Only a mile or two from Tirau, you're welcome to have a picnic under the trees or on the veranda. Right alongside the museum, the bee hives are humming, producing 3 tons of honey each year. That's a LOT of bees! I bought a small jar to take home with me.

Our day was not done, though. I've been hearing about the Blue Spring for years and as it is out near Tirau, we added it to our day.

The Government web site states: "The Waihou River is fed by many springs and from tributary streams in the Mamaku ranges. Water flows from the Blue Spring at a rate of 42 cubic metres per minute (9240 gallons per minute).

The Blue Spring is internationally acclaimed, with water from the Mamaku Plateau taking over 100 years to reach it. During this long residence in aquifers, particles and light-absorbing matter are effectively removed from the water, leaving it with a very high clarity and characteristic blue-green colour. The water is sold in service stations around New Zealand and supplies the local town of Putaruru, with no treatment necessary before distribution."

Blue springs

We walked probably about 1k to the spring, through pastureland and then along the river and over a bridge. It's amazing how clear the water is - and how cold! Some people there were brave enough to get in but not me! So many of these tourist attractions are off the beaten track, and as accustomed as I am to crowds and very organized and planned places, it's refreshing to see these attractions in more natural surroundings.

It does bother me though, that bottling companies are drawing right from the spring and will be depleting the aquifer - like Nestle is doing all over the world. I haven't dug very deep yet, but it doesn't look like they own the company that pumps from Blue Spring. If I find out anything different, I will definitely be updating this.

So with my time running out, I still have a lot to do and see.

Nearly Christmas

Gourmet Market at the Mount Two days to Christmas and I've been reveling in the warmth - balmy 70-75 every day, perfect temperatures. It's so funny, people are complaining it's too warm and I can't get enough of it, not just because I've been living in Washington too long, but it just feels right for me, anyway! It rained like crazy last night (the veges won't need watering today) and it's overcast this morning, but not cold. We all hope it clears up for Christmas day so we can have dinner around the pool. We've been doing lots of little day trips around the area and being local tourists. There's a lot to see and do in the Bay of Plenty and we've been taking advantage of it, like picking fresh strawberries, which we did again yesterday. I have never had such delicious berries, especially the ones that have been sun-warmed and burst with flavor as you bite into them. And they are huge! One of the biggest I picked took five bites to finish! It was a whole meal in itself!

There is a Gourmet Night Market down at The Mount which was really fun. Laid back, music on the green, lots of food stalls, both cooked to eat there and to take away. Plus locally made things like local olive oil and avocado oil and there were a couple of butchers with real English sausages which we had to buy! The place was jam-packed - kid running around, all barefoot of course; old-timers perusing the wares and every age in between. We sat on the grass ( should have brought a blanket: next time) and enjoyed the atmosphere.

Mamaku Blue wines and liquers

Zoze had a stall at the local flea market for her Sunny Tees - color changing t-shirts - and she did really well. What an assortment of people there! Wild outfits and odd people! But I had one of the best cups of coffee I have had since I got here. Nescafe is popular here but I have found some good beans but they are very expensive.

New Zealand is expensive! Housing is more than my Washington area and that was getting up there. Rents are high and gas is through the roof! But minimum wage here is $15 so there is that to figure in.

A big day trip took us to Rotorua, thermal capital of New Zealand. On the way we stopped in at Mamaku Blue, a blueberry farm and winery. A bit early for wine, but we had coffee and shopped in the little store for everything blueberry!

Our main objective was to go on a rail cruising rideThe little hybrid electric cars cruise on an unused portion of track, taking us through farmlands, through the Dansey Scenic Reserve, over streams and close, but not too close, to a few houses. The cars are fully automated, except for an emergency brake, so cruising is a breeze. They slow down in all the right places, speed up in others and provide narration and a bit of history passing various spots along the track. The only manual part of the trip was at the mid-point where it was spun on the turntable to send us back to the starting point.

Rotorua thermal pools

Then we went on to Rotorua and wandered around the thermal pools, trying not to breathe too deeply as the misty, sulphurous air wafted around us and the mud pools bubbled and burped! Down on the lakefront, I made contact with a floatplane operator there. They have a beautiful old de Havilland Otter with quite a history that will make a nice article!


de Havilland Otter on Lake Rotorua

Talking about old things, there are so many old and classic cars here. We saw an Alvis recently, that is in pristine condition and then a cute little Riley Elf, which the owner calls Elfina!

Riley Elf called Elfina

An old Alvis

Back to doing stuff, I got my 20-year fill of religion when we went to "The Night Before Christmas" at a local shopping center. It was put on by the local Baptist Church and the turnout was huge. Had to have been a couple of thousand people there who brought their

Reuben Simpson on the big screen

own chairs, blankets and picnics. A huge sound stage was set up with an even bigger screen so everyone had a view. It was a full-on musical extravaganza with kids choirs, singers, performers and rock and roll karaoke carols - words on the big screen and everyone singing along. Fortunately no sermon or pulpit pounding. One of Shawn's friends sang, Reuben Simpson, who has an amazing voice and I swear he is the next Michael Bublé!

It's a month til I leave here and as yet, don't have a landing spot. I do have options, though so am not worried. Things generally work out.

Old-School Life in New Zealand

Mosaic gecko It's a pretty laid back lifestyle here in Tauranga, New Zealand.

Jenni's house is a hive of activity every day with the Swim School right here in her pool. Every day, it seems like hundreds of kids, from about 2-years old to 10 or 11 have lessons. She teaches a lot of them but also has a succession of teachers who work with her. The mums, dads and grandmothers either sit and watch the tiny ones or drop the older ones who seem to do better without parents around. Jenni is also spearheading an initiative called TOCS - Teach Our Children to Swim - in the local elementary schools that is having a lot of success. But it means more work for her as it is all volunteer so she is like me, and spends a lot of time in front of the computer!

Village Church

We have done a couple of trips since I last posted - all local which is great. We went to the Historic Village in Tauranga last week. A beautiful place but it was almost deserted! The buildings have all been moved to this location and restored. Some house Ye Olde Gifte Stores but others actually have some cool stuff like the mosaic store. There are mosaics all over this town. Curbs along the streets are decorated, planter boxes too. They show up in random places! Very cool and this store has all the supplies plus fired-glass stuff. They teach classes as well which would be something fun to learn.

The Church is very pretty with quite a history and is surrounded by lovingly-tended gardens and flowers. It's a great wedding venue, but then again, so many places around here are beautiful and ideal for weddings.

A lot of the buildings in the Village house government and NGO offices so at least they don't sit vacant.


On Friday, Ryan's birthday :), we went to Te Puna Quarry Park. We went there last time I was here in 2006 and it has grown up a lot since then. It is an amazing botanical garden completely run by volunteers and any grants they can get. The old quarry is transformed with both indigenous and other flora. The fuchsia garden was spectacular with varieties I had never seen before. And such a wide variety of plants, flowers, trees throughout the park. There is a Kauri grove where this massive tree is being replanted. The South African section is ablaze with strelitzia (bird of paradise) and proteas.

A Tui

And amazingly, coming around corners on the fairly rugged trail, you are surprised by sculptures - of all sorts! It's really fun, as a lot of them are hiding, partially overgrown by the jungle! There's a stone lizard basking on a rock, beautiful freeform stone figures, metal sculptures and whimsical corrugated metal figures. And of course mosaics! The park encourages art or all kinds, the tag line is " A Community Development in the Environmental Arts."

I've got some stories I am going to do, one being the Quarry, one on raising queen bees and one on biodynamically grown olives! Lots to do and fun ones, as well.